Debate over – Cabrera deserved the Most Valuable Player award

Miguel Cabrera is the first Tiger position player to win the Most Valuable Player award since Hank Greenberg in 1940.

The great debate of 2012 — Triple Crown vs. Triple Threat for MVP — is over.

Miguel Cabrera received 22 first-place votes, keeping the award in the D., while Mike Trout received the other six. What’s interesting is that ESPN polled 28 of its writers and Trout won, 21-7, nearly the reverse of how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America saw it.

Over the summer, a number of online forums debated who should be MVP. Some were, at best, heated, while others were, at worst, downright nasty.

The Trout fan base touted the Angel center fielder as a three-way threat: great defense, hitting prowess equal to Cabrera, and a threat on the base paths. “He creates his own scoring opportunities,” they claimed, “by getting on base and stealing bases.”

They had a point. Ty Cobb, who knew a thing or two about hitting, thought the home run overrated. “My sister could hit home runs in Yankee Stadium,” he once said, referring to the short right field fence. Cobb, who revolutionized base stealing as an offensive weapon, could coax a walk, steal first, second, third and home, and beat a team 1-0. Cobb was the definition of most valuable player.

But Cobb played in the deadball era, when eight or ten home runs typically led the league.

Cabrera supporters countered that Cabrera creates his own scoring opportunities, too, by hitting the big fly — more than anyone else in the league — and driving in runs by finding the gaps and hitting from chalk line to chalk line. He won the Triple Crown.

“But Trout is a better defender,” they argued. “He takes runs away from the opposition. Cabrera is a liability at third base.”

Third base is a more demanding position than center field, and Cabrera was not the liability at the hot corner many feared when the season began. He’s never going to win a Gold Glove, but considering he hadn’t played the position for several years and was moved over to make room for Prince Fielder at first base, he played a steady if not spectacular third base.

Trout supporters went on to talk about computer numbers like WAR and BABIP and a host of other, to them, important numbers. If you’re old school, a purist, you look at batting average, RBI total, home runs and slugging percentage. Cabrera bested Trout in all those categories.

Cabrera supporters argued that the Angels finished in third place in the Western Division, which is where they were when Trout was called up from the minors. Take Cabrera out of Detroit’s lineup and it’s very likely the White Sox win the A.L. Central.

Throw in that Trout did most of his damage, offensively, before the All-Star break and that his numbers slipped significantly in September, while Cabrera saved his best for last, and it’s a no-brainer: Miguel Cabrera deserved to win MVP.

“But Trout’s the better player!” his supporters cried.

But MVP is not about the best player. It’s about the player who contributed most to his team throughout the season. In 2012, that player was Miguel Cabrera.

Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said it best: “If this guy doesn’t get the MVP, then there should be no such thing as an MVP.”

8 replies on “Debate over – Cabrera deserved the Most Valuable Player award

    • Dan Holmes

      According to the defensive spectrum created by baseball researcher Bill James, center field is slightly more difficult than third base. The spectrum goes from difficult to least difficult:

      Shortstop, Second Baseman, Center Fielder, Third Baseman, Right Fielder, Left Fielder, First Baseman, DH.

      This version of the spectrum excludes Pitcher, Catcher, and DH, because they have specialized defensive skills. I wanted only to look at pure defensive play in the field of play.

  • Sheldon Stone

    Muggy has proved he is most valuable by his consistent high level of play over several years. It will be interesting to see what type of year Trout has next year. He is an excellent talent, but will he be able to replicate his performance year-in and year-out? I hope he stays healthy so we can find out.

  • Gary Steinke

    Any one whose played the game of baseball knows that playing in the infield is harder then playing in the outfield. The BBWAA got it right (all but 6 of them). If you need a computer to figure out a stat, that stat shouldn’t even matter (baseball is a laid back, simple game, let’s keep it that way). I can’t wait to see what Trout does next season after some pitchers have faced him 4 and 5 times. Remember when Boesch first came up? Well I’m rambling on so let me just say congratulations to both Buster Posey and my favorite player Mr. Miguel Cabrera for winning the MVP in their leagues. Good article.

  • Gary Steinke

    Dan, from what I just read, this is the research of one person. I’d like to know how he came up with his information. (I’m not asking you for this info Dan) Even J. Conrad Guest feels 3rd base is a more demanding position then center field. This is another topic that could be debated, and debate I will, especially when that person says a DH has specialized defensive skills.

  • J. Conrad Guest

    Demanding does not equate to difficult.

    I, too, would like to know the criteria Bill James used to determine that center field is more difficult that third base. Is this opinion or some hard science?

    In my opinion, the fact the third base position is more reactive and requires quicker reflexes makes it more demanding.

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