To all of you who are saying that the only argument Trout supporters have is WAR, let's go through the arguments that people are making for Cabrera to be the MVP. And I'll do it on hard-mode by not even mentioning WAR one time.
Let's go through the arguments that people are making for Cabrera to be the MVP. And I'll do it on hard-mode by not even mentioning WAR one time.
"He won the Triple Crown! That hasn't happened in so long! He must be better than Trout!"
Well, that's nice. I understand it's rarity and difficulty, but the Triple Crown is just an arbitrary, seemingly random, collection of 3 stats. One of which tells you nothing about individual effectiveness and is completely opportunity-based (RBI) and one of which is very misleading and again tells you very little about individual effectiveness (.AVG). If you want to pull the Triple Crown card, though, Trout had a collection of 3 random stats that were even rarer than Cabrera's (30 HR, 45 SB, 125 R, which has never been done in the history of the MLB). Winning the Triple Crown does not automatically equate someone to be being the best offensive player that year.
"Well he leads the league in OPS! That includes all the aspects of hitting. His OPS is over 1!"
While an OPS of 1+ is very impressive, OPS is kind of a flawed stat in the sense that it treats OBP and SLG as the same importance, when in reality each point of OBP is worth more in terms of creating runs than each point of SLG.
A better stat to look at is wOBA (weighted on-base average), which is similar to OPS but weighs every individual offensive outcome (1B, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, CS, BB, HBP) based on their true run value. SLG assumes that a double is worth twice as much as a single, which is actually false as a single is worth about .44 runs to a double's .77. 2 singles are better than 1 double. This year Trout posted a league-high .421 wOBA to Cabrera's .417.
"But he had so many RBI! He had 50 more than Trout! He's such a better run producer!"
While the RBI totals would tell you Cabrera is better at driving in runners, it's a lot closer than the numbers suggest. See, RBI is the most flawed and useless stat that constantly gets thrown around when comparing player performance. What resulted in his misleading RBI total was a league-high 444 runners on-base during his plate appearances. In terms of actual effectiveness of knocking runners in, they were close to equal. Cabrera this year drove in 31% of his runners on base to Trout's 28%, a lot closer than the 50 RBI margin would have you think. In addition, Miguel batting 3rd meant most of the time his baserunners were Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry, the two fastest players in Detroit's lineup, making them easier to drive in. Most of Trout's baserunners were slower bottom of the order hitters like Chris Ianetta and Vernon Wells.
But if you want to play the RBI (opportunity) game, you must also consider the other side to having the most opportunities with men on base, with the fact that Cabrera grounded into more double plays (28) than any other player in baseball this year.
So you can either ignore the gross difference in opportunities and give Cabrera credit for driving in many more runs while also penalizing him for creating many more outs, or adjust for opportunity and realize that Cabrera hasn’t actually been that much better than Trout at bringing his teammates home once they get on base.
"OK, well maybe his offensive numbers aren't any better, but Miggy is so clutch! He gets the big hits when it really matters and carried his team down the stretch!"
Although "clutchness" is hard to quantify, WPA (win-probability added) does a pretty good job of it. It uses win probability, which takes into account baserunners, outs, and what inning it is -- all the things people used to describe "clutch" -- and measures the win probability before and after each player's at-bat, crediting them with the difference in win probability that resulted from their at-bat. It essentially measure's how much each individual player contributed to their team's win (or loss). For example, the highest single-game postseason WPA of all-time was David Freese in Game 6 of last year's World Series. I don't think anyone would deny that he was as clutch as they came in that game.
So let's look at Trout and Cabrera's season WPA this year:
Trout - 5.67 (1st in AL)
Cabrera - 4.55 (4th in AL, behind teammate Prince Fielder and Edwin Encarnacion)
So Trout actually contributed (offensively) to more wins, even taking into account context-based (clutch) situations for his team than Miggy this year.
WPA by month
-0.08 - April
0.89 - May
1.63 - June
1.42 - July
1.45 - August
0.36 - Sept/Oct
0.86 - April
0.83 - May
-0.28 - June
0.99 - July
1.05 - August
1.11 - Sept/Oct
So yes, while Cabrera was more clutch and effective over the last month, does it really make up for the previous 4 months that Trout consistently beat Cabrera? After all, a win in June is worth just as much as a win in September at the end of the year. I don't buy that Cabrera playing better during a one-month window of time that's deemed "more important" (when in reality every win is worth the same) outweighs the previous four months that Trout had.
So now we've come to the conclusion that they were virtually equal in runs created for their team, with the slight edge to Trout, they were virtually equal in driving in baserunners, with the slight edge to Cabrera, and Trout was consistently more clutch throughout the course of the season, with the edge going to Cabrera in the final month. I think it's safe to say they were virtually equal offensive contributors for their teams, you really can't give an edge to either one.
But wait, there's more! (to the game of baseball than just offense). You have to play defense too. And while we couldn't really decide upon who has the advantage offensively, I don't think anyone would really debate that Trout has a MASSIVE advantage over Cabrera defensively, while playing the hardest position in the game. (Although I'm not a huge fan of defensive stats in baseball - and you don't really need them in this situation for it to be clear who the advantage goes to - the defensive numbers are there to support Trout pretty soundly as well).
One more thing to consider is Trout's obvious, and again MASSIVE, speed advantage over Cabrera. Yes, we already included this earlier as SB and CS are included in wOBA, but let's even take steals out of the picture. Trout added so much more value to his team by all the times he used his speed to go from 1st to 3rd, scoring from 2nd on singles and taking extra bases by just being faster and better base runner. This is something that Cabrera simply cannot offer to his team, and frankly, he hurts his team (takes away value) by his deficiency in this facet of the game.
So let's break it down:
Offense: No clear advantage
Speed: Huge advantage Trout
Defense: Huge advantage Trout
So how can Trout not be the Most Valuable Player this season?
"Well Cabrera's team is in the playoffs! And Trout's isn't! Ha! See? Cabrera is MVP!"
Well, the Angels winning percentage when Trout was in the lineup was the best in the MLB, plus they had a better record overall than the Tigers. So Cabrera should win the MVP because he plays in a weaker division than Trout and his teammates are better? What else did Trout have to do to make up for his team's shortcomings and his stronger division? Should he have played the other 7 positions and pitched like Justin Verlander?
He added more value to his team than Cabrera, plain and simple. Player value to me does not change based on what team you are on. That implies that your team has something to do with an individual award, and that's not the case. It's not the "Most Valuable Player plus other valuable players around you" award, it's just "Most Valuable Player". And Trout was the Most Valuable Player to his team in the entire MLB this year
Cabrera had an incredible season, no doubt, and I'm glad he won the Triple Crown (for both my fantasy team and my wallet, not to mention the sport of baseball), but he was not the Most Valuable Player to his team this year.