Wednesday, September 19, 2012

About the Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera and his shot at winning the AL MVP Award

History would suggest Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera needs one of two things to occur in order to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award: The Tigers making the postseason and/or Cabrera becoming the first triple crown winner (leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI) since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Since the advent of the wild card system in baseball, 17 seasons prior to this one, there has been just one MVP awarded in the American League, and five in the National League, to players whose clubs didn't reach the playoffs. These are those players, their basic statistics (batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS) those years and the records of their respective teams:
-  Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 2008: .357-37-116-1.114; 86-76 and 4th in NL Central.
- Ryan Howard, Phillies, 2006: .313-58-149-1.084; 85-77 and 2nd in NL East.
- Barry Bonds, Giants, 2004: .362-45-101-1.422; 91-71 and 2nd in NL West
- Alex Rodriguez, Rangers, 2003: .298-47-118-.995; 71-91 and 4th in AL West
- Barry Bonds, Giants, 2001: .328-73-137-1.379; 90-72 and 2nd in NL West
- Larry Walker, Rockies, 1997: .366-49-130 1.172; 83-79 and 3rd in NL West
Cabrera's projected numbers for 162 games this season are .333-44-142-1.008. The Tigers are on pace to finish 86-76 and 2nd in the AL Central.
A couple things about the above-mentioned players. The one MVP that really standouts as not belonging is A-Rod in 2003. That was an awful team. His OPS wasn't even 1.000 nor his batting average .300. Rodriguez won a close race for MVP that year with Toronto's Carlos Delgado, who actually had a better season statistically (.302-42-145-1.018), but his Blue Jays didn't make the playoffs, either. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was third and Toronto outfielder Shannon Stewart was fourth. It wasn't exactly an "A" list season for AL MVP candidates. Regardless, in hindsight, it seems ridiculous A-Rod was named MVP given his team was also 20 games below .500.
 All the other non-playoff team MVP winners since 1995 were better than Cabrera has been this season in OPS. Otherwise, the numbers are comparable. There were a couple ridiculous numbers in there power-wise from Howard and Bonds.
When I was a beat writer, I did vote for MVP on occasion (I forget, honestly, what years). If I were voting this year, this is how I'd look at it:
- If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, it would be automatic he'd go first on my ballot. It would be a rare accomplishment that cannot be overlooked. I wouldn't care if the Tigers lost their last 15 games.
- If Cabrera doesn't win the Triple Crown and the Tigers do get into the playoffs, and his remains on this relative pace the rest of the season, and Mike Trout doesn't do something extraordinary from this point forward, I'd likely vote for Cabrera.
- If Cabrera doesn't win the triple crown, and the Tigers do not make the postseason, I likely wouldn't vote for him. Same with Trout. It's not like those two are not on really good teams overall. They are. How valuable can they be then if they don't lead their teams into the postseason, especially when there has been a wild card team added. The Rangers Josh Hamilton would probably get my vote. Hamilton's red-hot start this season did propel the Rangers so far in front of the rest of the AL his team's spot in the playoffs hasn't been in question for months. However, the one number I do find disconcerting about Hamilton is his OPS. It is below 1.000, but not that much off from Cabrera at this stage.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your stats leave out a lot. While Cabrera's a marginal 3rd baseman, Mike Trout has been a spectacular defensive outfielder that also steals a lot of bases. Triple Crown or not, MVP should go beyond what happens in the batter's box, and look at the whole body of work. It's Trout.

12:50 AM 
Blogger Farris Khan said...

1. What if the Tigers make the post season, but have a record that is worse than the Angels, who do NOT make the post season?

2. What if Cabrera finishes with an amazing 45 HRs (for Comerica Park as his home park)... but it is still just one short of Hamilton?

8:22 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Okay - I love Cabrera - but Pat =- he has Fielder hitting right after him. We expectyed / anticipated / predicted these numbers back in March in Lakeland.

Most valuable picks the team up and carries them on his back - like Verlander did all last year - and like Cabrera has don these last two nights - like Hamilton did in the first half.

It would take the Tigers overtaking Chicago - on the coat tails of Cabby - every game won by a Cabby RBI or diving play down 3b line.

So the odds are definitely in Hamilton and Trout's favor for now - in my book anyway.

12:43 PM 

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