Most people already have Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera penciled in to win the American League’s most valuable player award.
He won the first triple crown — the player who leads the league in batting average, has the most homeruns and accumulates the most runs batted in — since Carl Yastrzemski did it as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1967.
Cabrera was also able to lead his team past its division rival, the Chicago White Sox, and into the playoffs. The White Sox surprisingly led the division for most of the season, despite the fact that the Tigers had a much higher payroll and were picked by almost everyone to win the AL Central. Cabrera, or Miggy as he as become known as recently, played some of his best baseball during the last few weeks of the regular season.
During the season’s last seven games, Cabrera powered the Tigers to a 6-1 record — performing as an MVP should.
But one other player had a more productive season and meant more to his team’s success.
Rookie Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout dazzled and awed spectators with not only his batting skills but also his track-like speed and elite defensive capabilities.
This season, Trout compiled a .326 batting average, 30 homeruns, 49 stolen bases, 8 triples and a .993 fielding percentage at center field.
I’m aware there is a rookie-of-the-year award, and he should indeed win that award, too.
Being a rookie shouldn’t detract from winning the accolades an athlete deserves. That’s like being beaten out of employee-of-the-month just because of seniority.
Trout is in the MVP conversation after starting the season in the minors and having to deal with the completely new environment that is “the show.”
Byron Taylor, a sophomore from Chicago studying art, said he was impressed with the rookie’s ability to compartmentalize life and baseball.
“It must be tough being a rookie and having so much success. I can only imagine how much pressure he has from the media to succeed, and he is still very young,” Taylor said. “I just hope he doesn’t get into any trouble.”
The chances of a rookie winning the MVP are rarer than someone winning the triple crown. There have been 16 instances of a player achieving the triple crown, and only two rookies have ever won the MVP.
Nate Stickel, a senior from Bourbonnais studying early childhood development, said Trout is the more talented player and will probably win multiple MVPs during his career, but Cabrera will be the MVP this year.
“Trout will only get better,” Stickel said. “He still is young. Cabrera has been performing like this for years now and he got his team to the playoffs.”
Playoff contention is usually an indicator for the MVP, but Trout’s team won more games than Cabrera’s Tigers. Can we fault Trout for playing in a stronger, tougher division? Or for the fact that the division leaders gain playoff spots and not the teams with the most wins?
MVP is an award for the player who dominates in all aspects of the game. Trout’s offensive production seems to pale in comparison to Cabrera’s, but his other skills do more than make up for that. Trout’s plate awareness was better than Cabrera’s last year, as Trout was able to draw 67 walks through 139 games. Trout’s on-base percentage was 5 percentage points higher than Cabrera’s and Trout had 20 more runs than Cabrera.
A.J Gaines, a senior from Chicago studying physical therapy, said Trout’s wide range of abilities separates him from most players in the league.
“Trout is a five-tool player, and is really good at all five things … he can run as well as he can hit and play defense just as well as he can run,” Gaines said. “Trout was better for his team than any trade could have been. I mean he came up and performed when Pujols was really struggling.”
Trout even statistically meant more to his team. According to ESPN.com, Cabrera’s wins above replacement, which takes a player’s offensive and defensive performance and combines them to give an estimate of how many wins a player accounts for over a replacement (terrible) player, was only 6.9. Trout had a WAR of 10, which was the highest since Alex Rodriguez had 10 in 2002.
Cabrera had an incredible season, but Triple crown does not equal MVP.