The nominations for the American League MVP were announced yesterday and two of the five are members of the Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. Also nominated were Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano.
Now if I was a member of the BBWAA (BaseBall Writers Association of America) I might be biased and give my first place to a Rangers player, specifically Adrian Beltre. But for the sake of being fair I will select who I believe will be the MVP. I could think with the old school train of thought and base the winner on statistics such as batting average, home runs and RBI. That would mean that Cabrera should win hands down because he won the Triple Crown this year and those are the three components. This is why I’m not an old school thinker.
I understand that winning the Triple Crown is a rare accomplishment but it’s really an overrated feat. I know, you must think I’m crazy but hear me out. Writers and fans tend to overvalue RBI. Leading the league in runs batted in isn’t a “solitary” feat. By that I mean it’s dependent on others getting on base first. In that sense it should be labeled a “shared” statistic. If you want the Triple Crown to mean more then remove RBI and replace it with runs scored. That proves offensive worth even more.
With that out of the way I will present the nominees but with different statistics to look at when determining the winner. They are runs scored (R), on base percentage (OBP), stolen bases (SB), batting average of balls in play (BABIP), home runs (HR) and fangraphs.com wins above replacement (fWAR).
95 R, .359 OBP, 1 SB, .319 BABIP, 36 HR, 6.5 fWAR
109 R, .393 OBP, 4 SB, .331 BABIP, 44 HR, 7.1 fWAR
105 R, .379 OBP, 3 SB, .326 BABIP, 33 HR, 7.8 fWAR
103 R, .354 OBP, 7 SB, .320 BABIP, 43 HR, 4.4 fWAR
129 R, .399 OBP, 49 SB, .383 BABIP, 30 HR, 10.0 fWAR
Based on the above numbers it is clear that Mike Trout is the winner. Combine his offense with his defense and there was nobody better than him this year. Using those stats my order of voting is the following:
1. Mike Trout
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Robinson Cano
4. Josh Hamilton
5. Adrian Beltre
Now I would like to knock down some other defenses in favor of Cabrera. Besides the Triple Crown fans will argue that Miguel should win MVP because he led his team to the playoffs. A case could be made but one must consider the fact that the Angels played in the AL West which was a much tougher division than the AL Central this season. Plus the Angels finished with one more win than the Tigers. That means that Trout led his team to a better record. Shouldn’t that count for something? And it’s not as if Cabrera’s three hits in the World Series helped (too soon?). And ask any Yankees fan about Cano’s .074 batting average in the playoffs. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to tell you how valuable he was.
I realize that not everybody out there (fans and writers alike) have embraced sabermetrics for what they are. You can continue to base players on batting average, home runs and RBI all you want but you won’t be seeing the whole picture. This is 2012 after all, not 1912.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, clawandantlernation.com and a member of SABR. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.