We all thought it would happen years ago.
Mark Mcgwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds; they all shattered home run records, driving in runs at ease. However, they couldn't match the batting average.
Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols were among the next wave of stars that led the league in all three Triple Crown categories at one point, but couldn't put it all together in the same season. In fact, over 40 times in the past half century have players led the league in at least two of the three triple crown categories, only to fall just short.
Finally, after years of speculation that it would never be accomplished again, we have another Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera finishes first in all three triple crown categories with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. The last player to accomplish a Triple Crown in any league was Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Obviously this elusive title should only mean that Cabrera should be the AL MVP by default, right?
I say think again.
Although I commend Miggy on a tremendous season, my pick for the AL MVP this season is non other than Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout. And I have plenty of handy stats to back it up.
Mike Trout 2012 Resume
- Trout: 326 AVG (2nd), .399 OBP (3rd), .564 SLG (3rd), 129 runs (1st), 27 doubles, 8 triples, 30 home runs, 67 walks, 49 steals (1st)
- First player in history to steal 45 bases, score 125 runs and hit 30 home runs in a season
- First player in history to hit .320 with 30 HRs and 45 SBs in a season
- First rookie ever with a 30 HR/40 SB campaign.
- Trout joins Ted Williams, Mel Ott and Alex Rodriguez as the only players to hit .320 with 30 HRs during their 20-year-old seasons.
- He is one of only five players in the Live Ball Era (post 1920) to score at least 130 runs in less than 140 games. Remember, Trout didn't get called up until a few weeks into the season.
- At 21, he is the youngest player to steal 40 bases in a season since Ty Cobb in 1907.
- Successful in 49 of 53 stolen base attempts this season (92.5%). Since 1920, only two other players have accomplished a better stolen base success rates in a season.
- The kid will likely win a Gold Glove, according to FanGraphs, he's saved 22 runs on defense this year which ranks fifth in the Majors.
And now for my favorite part; looking at WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a statistic which computes a players all-around contribution including hitting and fielding, ballparks played in, league scoring levels and era in which he played. The numbers are then calculated to give an approximate number as to how many wins that player was personally responsible for the entire season, given upon who would have been a replacement-level player via waivers or call-up at the same position.
Let's put it into context.
While Cabrera — Triple Crown and all — had a great WAR of 7.2 this year. Trout had an absurd WAR of 10.7.
In fact, Cliff Corcoran of SI.com posted this table below, showing that Cabrera's 2012 Triple Crown season is actually the worst of it's kind. Out of all the Triple Crown position players in the modern era, Cabrera's WAR is last.
According to ESPN – The best Triple Crown season, according to OPS+ (which is on-base + slugging percentages, then added adjustments for ballpark factors and an applied percentage scale, 100 being average), was Ted Williams’ 1942 season, when he posted the 23rd-best mark in major league history with a 216 as a 23-year-old. It’s one of the seven Triple Crown seasons with an OPS+ over 200.
Again, Cabrera's 2012 ranks last in Triple Crown seasons according to OPS+ at 176.
Now I'm ready to give out the real shocker.
Below is a list of positional players with the highest WARs of all time. Not only does Trout make this list of hall-of-famers, but if you don't include a drug user and a guy named Babe Ruth (who makes the list a ridiculous 6 times), Trout's 2012 WAR ranks 12th all-time!
1923 – Babe Ruth – 13.7
1921 – Babe Ruth – 12.3
1927 – Babe Ruth – 12.1
1924 – Rogers Hornsby – 12.0
1967 – Carl Yastrzemski – 12.0
2001 – Barry Bonds – 11.6
2002 – Barry Bonds – 11.6
1927 – Lou Gehrig – 11.5
1920 – Babe Ruth – 11.5
1924 – Babe Ruth – 11.4
1991 – Cal Ripken – 11.3
1908 – Honus Wagner – 11.3
1917 – Ty Cobb – 11.1
1957 – Mickey Mantle – 11.1
1926 – Babe Ruth – 11.1
1956 – Mickey Mantle – 11.0
1965 – Willie Mays – 10.9
1975 – Joe Morgan – 10.8
1948 – Stan Musial – 10.8
1964 – Willie Mays – 10.7
2012 – Mike Trout – 10.7
1946 – Ted Williams – 10.7
(Miguel Cabrera in 2012 – 7.2)
And if you don't like the way I framed my previous point, guess what, Trout is still 20th all-time. That's insane, folks. The kid is 21 years old.
Only three other players in MLB history posted a better WAR at age 25 or younger: Babe Ruth – 11.6 in 1920 (25 years old), Lou Gehrig – 11.5 in 1927 (24 years old), Mickey Mantle – 11.1 in 1957 (25 years old), Mickey Mantle – 11 in 1956 (24 years old)…The last center fielder to post a WAR 10.5 or above was Willie Mays with a 10.9 in 1965.
If Trout were to win the MVP, it would also not be unprecedented. Four other times have a Triple Crown winner not won the league MVP award.
Let me also conclude by saying that although my vote is for Trout, Cabrera is a very worthy MVP as well. It's unfortunate that two historic seasons of such epic proportions would occur during the same season. If anything, I would encourage the Baseball Writer's Association of American to split the vote, giving each of them a share of the AL MVP when it is announced next month. Such a move would also not be unprecedented. The 1969 AL Cy Young was shared between Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain.
But baseball isn't in the business of fair. At worst, we know the AL Rookie of the Year award is locked for Mr. Trout. Not to mention, this could only be the beginning of more incredible things to come from a young kid from Millville, NJ.
By: Stephen Dunn Collection: Getty Images Sport