Trout and Cabrera (not pictured) bonding Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
We’re roughly at the midway point of the 2013 season and the AL MVP race is, once again, led by Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Perhaps I should be more clear in case anybody in or around Baltimore happens to read this. I mean, you guys have a commanding lead in crab cake MVPs. Cabrera and Trout sit atop the Wins Above Replacement leaderboard at Fangraphs going into Monday’s light schedule with Trout mere tenths of a win ahead of Chris Davis, Evan Longoria and Manny Machado. (It’s a totally different story if you want to use Baseball-Reference WAR but this is my post) If the rules of ridiculous voting apply, the teammates will split votes and Longoria will get overlooked anyway so let’s focus on Miggy and Mikey.
Trout trounced Cabrera last season by a 10.0 fWAR to 6.9 fWAR margin but even Trout’s otherworldly rookie narrative couldn’t beat out a Triple Crown for Cabrera’s eventual MVP. By the looks of it, Cabrera is after the nerd vote this year too instead of just the old school home run/RBI crowd. Cabrera leads baseball with a 5.4 fWAR and inconceivable .373/.461/.680 line to go with 25 homers and 82 RBI. Of course, the transformation Chris Davis has made into a super-strikeout version of Barry Bonds is endangering Cabrera’s shot at another Triple Crown (Davis 31 hr, 80 RBI). Cabrera is playing his usual kick-the-ball-around-the-infield defense at third but this could go down as one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of throwing a ball toward a stick.
Trout is second with a 4.7 fWAR. His .315/.392/.545 line, 13 homers and 20 steals are off from his blistering 2012 pace but it’s almost unfair to compare last season to anything but a few Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays seasons. I have a poster of Trout’s 2012 season on my bedroom wall, from the time my girlfriend goes to work until she comes home. So we can all agree that Trout is suffering no ill signs of a sophomore slump unless you believe the average to below average defensive grades he’s getting from Fangraph’s 0.4 UZR and Baseball-Reference’s seemingly unfair -1.3 dWAR. Defensive stats are best used in three year clusters anyway. With Peter Bourjos on the disabled list, Trout probably has some defensive value swinging his way while he’s back in center to help close some of that WAR gap.
That’s where we are currently-ish. But this post wouldn’t be as much fun unless we checked in on just how great Trout and Cabrera have been. If we go back one calendar year, Trout leads baseball with a 10.9 fWAR edging out Cabrera’s 9.9 fWAR by a full win (10.9-9.9=1, I’m getting good at the math stuff, you guys). Buster Posey comes in third in this scenario with an 8.6 fWAR.
Two calendar years gets Cabrera back on top but it also illustrates Trout’s jaw-dropping awesomeness even more. And isn’t that why we’re all here? Considering two calendar years, Cabrera has accumulated a 15.7 fWAR with Trout right behind with a 15.4 fWAR. Robinson Cano at 13.2, Ryan Braun at 13.1 and David Wright at 12.6 round out the top five position players in Fangraphs WAR over that time. Trout played in 60 fewer games and had 251 fewer plate appearances than Cabrera and 20 games/51 pa’s fewer than Braun who has missed some time lately and obviously.
My point? Well, I’m rarely sure I ever have one. But unless you’re using Miggy Cabrera, I can’t see an argument against Mike Trout being the best player in baseball. Let’s check back on Davis and Yasiel Puig in a calendar year and see where they stand. I’m willing to *bet it’s more than a few wins behind Trout and Cabrera.
*winnings bets are only redeemable for “happy birthday tweets” or oversized combs from a Malibu Grand Prix circa 1990