(* – current statstics used before the games of August 15, 2013)
No, not that. (Although, there is never a bad time to post a Marvin Gaye song.)
Thank you, Mills Lane.
Last year’s biggest debate wasn’t between Barack Obama against Mitt Romney, it was Miguel Cabrera versus Mike Trout.
Cabrera, the game’s best hitter since Albert Pujols in his prime, captured the game’s first Triple Crown since Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in 1967. Meanwhile, Trout burst onto the scene with the first 10.0 fWAR (Fangraphs) season since Barry Bonds posted a mark of 11.7 fWAR in 2004.
(Sidenote: Bonds’ .609 OBP in that season would be impossible to recreate on varsity difficulty in MLB 13: The Show.)
Traditionalists sided with Cabrera, while sabermetricians took Trout’s side. The debate still rages on months after Cabrera won his first AL MVP award, but if everything holds right, we’ll end up discussing these two again come fall.
If you’re new to my views, let me just say that I thought Trout should have won the award last year. I definitely consider myself more of a sabermetric guy, but I don’t completely discount traditionalist statistics like RBI.
There were two views I hated the most about last year’s debate, but the one I’ll briefly cover is the Triple Crown. Cabrera captured the crown after hitting just one more homerun than the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson. Hamilton played 13 less games than the AL MVP. If Hamilton were to hit two more homeruns, would Trout suddenly have a stronger case? It was an incredible accomplishment and something I had always wanted to see in my lifetime, but it was silly to give the award to Cabrera partly because Hamilton or Granderson couldn’t hit two more homeruns.
This year Cabrera most likely won’t repeat as the Triple Crown winner, due to a six-homerun disadvantage to Orioles slugger Chris Davis. And yet, he has a better argument this year for the award than last year.
Cabrera is destroying his competition in the basic hitting categories. His .360 batting average is .023 higher than Trout’s and there’s a .028 difference in his .453 on-base percentage with the Angels outfielder. And even though Davis holds the aforementioned advantage in homeruns, Cabrera’s .685 slugging percentage is actually .006 higher than Baltimore’s first baseman.
Let’s compare that to last year. Cabrera defeated Trout in batting average by .004 (.330 to .326), finished fourth in on-base percentage (.393) behind Twins catcher Joe Mauer (.416), his Tigers teammate Prince Fielder (.412), and of course, Trout (.399). Cabrera did, however, finish with a .029 edge in slugging percentage (.606) over Josh Hamilton.
Now let’s get into some sabermetrics. Cabrera’s .477 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) is .039 higher than Davis’s and .052 better than Trout’s. Miggy’s 207 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) is the only mark in the 200 level, and it sits 28 and 29 points better than Davis and Trout’s respective marks.
Last year? Cabrera held a .008 edge in wOBA (.417) over Trout and tied the Angels phenom with a 166 wRC+.
Trout was almost equal with the bat last year, and dwarfed Cabrera in fielding and baserunning statistics. Trout posted a mark of 21 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and a 13.3 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) in the outfield. Cabrera, meanwhile, had a -4 in DRS and a -9.7 UZR at third base. Fangraph’s BsR (Base Running) statistic gave Trout a mark of 12.0 last season, while Cabrera was at -2.9.
However, Trout has struggled in the field this year, evidenced by a -12 DRS and a 2.2 UZR. Cabrera has been much worse than last year as well (-13 DRS, -10.6 UZR), but the gap between the two hasn’t been nearly as wide this year. (The gap is still pretty wide, though. Anyone who watches games can see that.) Trout obviously holds the edge on the basepaths again, but the difference of 6.6 BsR and Cabrera’s 0.1 mark isn’t nearly as colossal as 2012’s.
Granted we still have over a month and a half of season left, but Miggy’s advantage with the bat this year makes up for his disadvantages on the basepaths and in the field. Trout has been absolutely outstanding and even better at the plate than last year, but Cabrera has been so unreal that it’s harder to deny him of the AL MVP at this point.
And if it holds up like this come November, then I will be supporting the traditionalist’s choice – even if sabermetrics are what strengthens his case.