After a spirited and lengthy debate between those who subscribe to the sports’ advanced statistics movement and those who don’t, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was crowned on Thursday the American League Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, topping super rookie Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in one of the most discussed voting campaigns in recent history,
The voting wasn’t as close as expected, with Cabera receiving 22 of 28 possible first-place votes for a total of 362 points. Trout received six first-place votes and 281 points and Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers finished third with 210 points. The Tigers won back-to-back MVP titles, with starter Justin Verlander claiming the distinction last season. Cabrera is the first Venezuelan to win the award.
“I don’t believe it,” said Cabrera on MLB Network after winning the award. “I’m very exited. I don’t have any words to explain how excited I am right now. Mike Trout, he got an unbelievable season. Man, I’m very surprised.”
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, was honored as the National League MVP, dethroning last year’s champion Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who finished second, and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Posey received 27 of 32 first place votes and won by an overwhelming margin of 422 points to Braun’s 285 points. He is the first NL catcher since Johnny Bench in 1972 to win the award, and first Giant since Barry Bonds in 2004.
At the heart of the debate over the AL MVP award was how “value” can be measured. Cabrera claimed the most coveted single-season hitting achievement, the first triple crown winner in 45 years, by leading the AL in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139), while leading his team to the playoffs. But those who had voiced support for Trout, who produced one of the finest rookie seasons in baseball history, cited his superior outfield defense and base running as major reasons why he deserved to claim the prize.
While those aspects of baseball have long been evaluated by traditional scouting methods, Trout became a poster boy for the sabermetrics movement because newer baseball’s advanced statistics that account for defense and base running proved that the rookie had the major’s biggest impact even though his team narrowly missed the playoffs. Trout, who hit .326 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI while leading off, led the majors in stolen bases and runs scored despite not being called up until late April. Cabrera, on the other hand, led the majors on-base plus slugging percentage and extra-base hits.
Posey, who led the NL in batting average and on-base percentage while playing the premium and demanding position of catcher, was crowned the NL MVP. In only his third full season in the majors, Posey has already won two World Series rings, a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 and now an MVP. He bounced back from a devastating ankle injury in 2011 after sustaining a collision at home, and led the Giants back to the playoffs with a dominant second-half of this season. Braun, despite posting a magnificent season at the plate by leading the NL with 41 home runs and a .987 OPS, was likely penalized for last season’s overturned suspension for a positive drug test and for Posey’s defense at a demanding position.
Even though they had the best record in baseball, the Nationals didn’t land a MVP finalist – likely a tribute to their overall team depth instead of reliant on superstar standouts. But five Nationals players received votes.
First baseman Adam LaRoche, for the first time in his career received MVP votes, finishing tied for sixth with 86 points, including six fifth-place votes. He led the Nationals with 33 home runs, 100 RBI and Gold Glove defense, the team’s mainstay in an oft-injured lineup. Despite missing 25 games with an oblique injury, shortstop Ian Desmond finished with 15 points, good for 16th place tie, for his breakout season in which he vaulted himself among the best shortstops in baseball with a 25-home run, 73-RBI and stellar defensive performance.
Left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez, who led the majors with 21 wins, received one fifth-place vote and finished 20th and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman got one fifth-place vote and finished tied for 24th. Even rookie outfielder Bryce Harper received one ninth-place vote, ahead of retiring veteran Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.