8/23/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
AL MVP race again inspiring debate
Miggy, Trout, Davis having historic runs in quest for hardware
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
At first, Mike Trout downplayed the notion.
"If I win one eventually, I win one," he said. "If I don't, I don't."
Then after a few more seconds to think, Trout acknowledged the idea that as long as Miguel Cabrera continues to terrorize opposing pitchers in the American League, Trout faces a giant roadblock in his quest for an MVP Award.
"It's tough," the Angels outfielder said.
Cabrera received 22 out of 28 first-place votes last year to earn the hardware, though many familiar with sabermetrics and more advanced statistics -- and those vying to give more credence to defense and baserunning -- campaigned for Trout, who stuffed the stat sheets in his first full Major League season.
This year, Cabrera and Trout are both compiling even better numbers, and they are often joined by Orioles slugger Chris Davis in the discussions for the honor.
Last year, the Angels missed the playoffs, despite boasting one more win than the AL Central champion Tigers. Trout grasped a sizable advantage over Cabrera in WAR and defensive metrics, and each player held an edge in various offensive measurements. Cabrera, though, claimed baseball's first Triple Crown in 45 years -- a distinction that carried weight with voters.
"It's awesome to hit in front of actually the best hitter I've ever seen," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said of Cabrera. "Barry Bonds was really good, probably one of the best I've ever seen. But this guy, what he's doing right-handed, when you have a right-handed pitcher every day? I think that's impressive."
Perhaps most impressive this year is how three players in the same league are en route to submitting historic seasons.
On pace for: .306 average, .387 on-base percentage, .689 slugging percentage, 117 runs, 59 homers, 149 RBIs
Only five players have socked 59 or more homers in a season: Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. Only four players since the turn of the century -- Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Miguel Tejada -- have driven in 149 or more runs.
Davis has said that he thinks Maris' feat of 61 homers in 1961 should be considered the home run record, and he may challenge that total. He likely poses less of a threat, however, to Cabrera in the AL MVP Award race. Baltimore's involvement in the AL Wild Card and AL East battles could aid Davis' cause.
On pace for: .333 average, .430 on-base percentage, .574 slugging percentage, 114 runs, 27 homers, 101 RBIs, 36 stolen bases
Trout said he has "a lot of things" to improve upon, though his numbers do not support such a claim. His stats look similar to his 2012 totals, which included a .326 average, 30 homers, 129 runs scored and 49 stolen bases in 139 games. Last year, Trout posted a WAR of 10.9, a mark he may fall just short of this season. The 10.9 WAR trumped all Major Leaguers last season, and his 7.4 mark at this juncture paces both leagues as well.
Still, the Angels' struggles could cost Trout in the ballot box. At 55-71, they sit closer to the AL West basement than the top of the division.
"We're losing, so it doesn't really mean much," Trout said.
On pace for: .354 average, .447 on-base percentage, .676 slugging percentage, 116 runs, 52 homers, 159 RBIs
Only 23 players since 1900 have tallied 159 or more RBIs in a season. No player has captured consecutive Triple Crowns. Only Rogers Hornsby (1922, '25) and Ted Williams (1942, '47) have accomplished the feat twice. Cabrera led the AL with a .330 average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs last year to end the 45-year Triple Crown drought.
This year, Cabrera appears headed to top his numbers in all three categories, which begs the question: Doesn't anyone who voted for him to win the AL MVP Award last season have to repeat his or her vote this year?
Cabrera said he tries not to think about the numbers he compiles and that he cares more about the Tigers' prominence in the AL Central. He said he would trade in all his individual merits for a World Series ring.
"We're in first place," Cabrera said. "That's all I think about. I don't want [pitchers] to catch me every day thinking about what I did the day before or what I did the years before."
Cabrera could become the first player to win consecutive MVP Awards since Albert Pujols in 2008-09.
"A lot of hitters, you have certain ways you want to try to get them out. With Miggy, there's not really a way," said Indians reliever Cody Allen. "You just have to make pitches and hope he gets himself out. If you hold him to a single or a walk, you're doing your job."