Campus Clash: Trout’s Glove Should Reel in MVP

Miguel Cabrera is, without question, the best hitter in baseball. Rookie sensation Mike Trout, however, is the game’s best player.

Both Cabrera and Trout deserve the American League MVP honor, but they are unfortunately undergoing historically good seasons at the same time. With a .329/.394/.609 slashing line (as of Wednesday night), 42 home runs and 133 RBIs, Cabrera has claimed Albert Pujols’ throne of the game’s top batter with Ruthian numbers.

Unfortunately for him, Trout is closing out an all-time great inaugural season with his bat and glove. Picking one of these two is a tough endeavor, but the full picture shows that Trout deserves the award.

If only a stat existed that measures a player’s complete value, calculating his offensive, defensive and baserunning prowess. That might aid this decision-making process.

Well, it does. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) estimates a player’s merit by calculating his value over an average replacement player at his position. According to FanGraphs, Trout’s 9.5 WAR shatters Cabrera’s 6.8 mark. Nobody else in baseball owns a WAR higher than 8.0.

Trout’s offensive numbers are also amazing. The 21-year-old is hitting .324 with 28 home runs, 78 RBIs, 122 runs and 46 steals. His defense, however, truly separates the outfielder from the pack. Constantly leaping the wall to steal homers away from the opposition, Trout fields his position as well as any other center fielder in baseball. Cabrera, who was forced to move back to third base to make room for Prince Fielder, is a liability on the field. 

For all the times that fans rattle off the phrase “defense wins championship,” it’s crazy to think that nobody considers it when determining the most valuable player (not just hitter).

Cabrera’s pursuit of the Triple Crown is impressive, and just might secure the award for the slugger. But is the feat really remarkable enough to seal the MVP trophy for Cabrera?

His .329 average is swell, but Trout’s isn’t far behind at .324. The neophyte’s .395 on-base percentage, a better indicator of a player’s worth since it includes hits and walks, tops Cabrera’s mark by .001 point. Cabrera has driven in the most runs, but Trout ranks first with 122 runs scored. That’s just a product of their respective position in their team’s batting order.

A fundamental problem exists with how voters determine the MVP. They see the word “valuable” and go crazy figuring out just exactly to determine a player’s value. They often decide to just go with the guy whose team made the playoffs, which makes no sense.

If the Detroit Tigers earn a postseason bid with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sitting October out, some writers will sway to Cabrera’s side. Why? The Angels have a better record and a higher run differential. 

Why punish the young star simply because his team plays in a better division? Stud pitchers on last-place squads aren’t ignored when determining the Cy Young winners. Whether or not they make the postseason, Trout has provided an immense amount of value to the Angels, who started the season in a tailspin before Trout arrived in late April.

He’ll probably win plenty more, but give Trout the award he rightfully deserves.