Triple Crowns and MVPs

by Michael Scully

As we all know last night Miguel Cabrera right after Granderson was pulled from the Yankee game, the first player to do so since Carl Yazstremski in 1967. So with this achievement he’s made the AL MVP water even murkier than before.

The Consensus is pretty much clear on whom the AL MVP is; if you’re a new aged stats nerd, then Trout is your clear winner. However, if you’re an oldie, then you’re probably leaning towards Cabrera. The debate is moot at this point as the sides are more divided than political parties in America are. What really saddens us here is that this debate may linger through the postseason and that’s the last thing we’d want to happen. Therefore, we’ve decided to write a reconciliation piece now, which will run when the announcement of AL MVP occurs. We will explain to the stats guys why Cabrera won, and to the oldies why Trout won.

Cabrera Wins the MVP:
It’s clear by whichever WAR metric you use; Trout was three full wins better than Cabrera. What is three full wins in player terms? Derek Jeter! (3.3 Wins, so I’m cheating a little, but that’s also the Trout Cabrera difference on Fangraphs, so we’ll call it a wash. Cool? Thanks!) So in a perfect experimental world, we’re making a team, and at the end, our teams will be identical, by let’s say WAR total. I hide the rest of the teams from you, but tell you that for the particular season, Mike Trout will have 10.5 fWAR, Miguel Cabrera will have 7.2 fWAR and Derek Jeter will have 3.3 fWAR. For simplicity sakes, we’ll say our teams are rather good and will accumulate 45 total fWAR.

Okay, we’re going to assume both teams will perform within reason to what they’re fWAR win percentage should be, and so I’ll set the threshold for +/- 5%. Which team would you choose? You’d probably be indifferent, and wouldn’t care. What if I told you both Miguel Cabrera and Derek Jeter will be chasing historical achievements, while Mike Trout will just have a historical season by numbers, but nothing record breaking? Are you still indifferent? Good, cause I’ll take Cabrera and Jeter!

I miss the singular player amassing small hall stats, but I do get great storylines and marketing possibilities. See, sometimes a player can be more than just the sum of his parts! See we don’t watch this game because of numbers we watch it because we love stories and narratives. We want the small town kid from Saint Louis to win the World Series MVP, we want to root for that scrawny feisty shortstop that never quits, and we want to root for the Triple Crown, perfect games, because we want to be caught up in the magic of baseball. The game never ends until it ends, it’s long and boring and suddenly it becomes exciting and magical, and when it’s over you’re left in awe. That’s what happened with Cabrera’s Triple Crown and the Tigers’ playoff hopes; they magically appeared.

Trout Wins the MVP:
A couple of days ago, Mike Trout won the AL Rookie of the Year. Many deserving candidates would have won if Mike Trout didn’t exist. I’d like to congratulate Scott Diamond, Yu Darvish, along with Jarrod Parker and the A’s pitching staff for magically pitching performances. Also, Brett Lawrie and Yoenis Cepesdes played wonderfully, and if they could have avoided the injury bug, it might have been closer. The point is Trout becomes the third player to win the MVP in the same season as winning the ROY, (Fred Lynn 1975, Ichiro Suzuki 2001) the 21st to win both awards.

In April, the Angels were abysmal [8-15]. Mike Trout was waiting in the minors so that the Angels could have an extra year of control over him. Similar situation in Washington, except the Nationals were good all year. After his call up, the Angels went 81-58 and missed the Wild Card by four games. Calling Trout up at the beginning of the season wouldn’t have changed this as no one on the team was hitting, but it would’ve been fun to see what his stats would’ve ended up at.

In the AL, Trout was the best fielder and runner by far. He even put up a 30-30 season (read 30HR-49SBs) the first ever for a rookie. He was also one of the best hitters in baseball. It’s rare we see this completion in a player at such a young age. We’ve seen this before in Mays, Mantle, Griffey, Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and well the only other player I could think of is Carlos Beltran. A good list if you ask me; four small hall guys, and a fringe Hall-of-Famer at worst. [We ignore Bonds until we know what the BBWAA will do with him.] Ichiro would fit here too, but he came from Japan so we knew he was going to succeed, but on the other side, he lacked the power category that the rest had.

Only time will tell if Mike Trout continues on his career to the Hall-of-Fame. He could limp to the end due to injuries like Griffey, Mantle and Beltran, he could get caught in a scandal like Bonds and Rodriguez, or he could flash brilliance into the setting sun like Mays and Ichiro. We only know one thing, if he hasn’t expanded his trophy room yet, he should start; and rather quickly.

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