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Monaco: Best overall player deserves MVP (Sept. 24)

Mike Monaco | Monday, September 24, 2012

The Triple Crown.

It’s a historic award, up there in the pantheon of sporting achievement with feats like hitting .400, completing a Grand Slam and breaking 60 on the links. And it hasn’t been done in 45 years, when legendary Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski topped the American League in batting average, home runs and RBI, the three categories making up the Crown.

Since Yaz, no one has done it. But this year, with just 12 games left in the regular season, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is first in batting average, tied for first in home runs and first in RBI. Cabrera’s shot at the Triple Crown has fans and media members everywhere asking if he should be the hands-down MVP if he completes such an historic accomplishment.


Don’t forget about Mike Trout.

Simply put, the Angels rookie has been the most valuable player in baseball. If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown that will be an undisputedly amazing feat, but it won’t make him the most valuable player in the game.

Let’s start with what would seem to be Cabrera’s strongest (or, rather, only strong) area of the game. His supporters will cite the fact that he is the best hitter in all of baseball. They’ll note his batting average, home run and RBI totals and his position in those categories on the AL leaderboard. But the problem with those three numbers is that they don’t show who the best hitter in baseball is.

FanGraphs.com, a baseball website that provides advanced statistics for every player in MLB baseball history, has a stat that measures the total offensive performance of a player by adding the runs created by his hitting to the runs created by his base running, the two components of offense. The stat is then compared to the average offensive performer to provide context in plus/minus format. Going into Sunday’s action, Mike Trout’s offensive performance was +58.5 runs better than the average player, while Miguel Cabrera’s work was +52.2 runs better. And not that it should aid his candidacy, but Trout has also played 21 fewer games than Cabrera, as he was still dominating the minor leagues.

According to FanGraphs, Cabrera has been the better batter. Slightly. He is +55.1 runs batting while Trout is at +52.4 runs. But Trout’s elite base running adds more than six runs to his offensive total. Trout has the ability to score from second base on a ball to the outfield. He steals bases at a prolific and efficient rate (46 steals in 50 attempts) and he can go from first to third on a base hit.

Cabrera, on the other hand, has a few pianos parked on his back. Listed at 240 pounds, the big fella has cost his team nearly three runs on the base paths.

It’s the same song and dance in the realm of fielding. Trout has captivated fans everywhere with his web gems. But on a more quantifiable level, Trout has been a top outfielder, adding 13.0 runs to his Angels squad with his glove work.