So, we’ve finished off the rest of the awards, and it’s time for the big one: MVP. The great thing about this award this year is that there isn’t a clear choice in either league – at least at first glance. As with the others, I’ll give you my top 5, in ascending order. But, don’t overlook the fine seasons turned in by guys like Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz. I think some will have Ortiz ranked higher, but I just can’t see placing that much “value” on a guy that only plays about 1/6 of each game he’s in (as a DH), and only played 137 games this season. Ortiz had a great year, but when compared to those who also play defense, and have comparable numbers – I’m always going to choose the position player.
#5 – Josh Donaldson (OAK). I’ve heard so much talk about other players, but almost none about the A’s excellent third baseman. In many ways, Donaldson was the difference between the 2012 A’s who often struggled to create offense, and the 2013 team that finished 3rd in the AL in runs and OPS. He finished the season 5th in wRC+ (148), 6th in OBP (.384), 9th in SLG (.499), hit 24 HR and drove in 93 RBI. And, if there wasn’t such a plethora of excellent fielding third baseman (Beltre, Machado, Longoria, etc.), Donaldson would probably get more credit for his excellent play at the hot corner.
#4 – Robinson Cano (NYY). I know a lot of people were down on the Yankees this year, but while they were an incredibly inconsistent team, Cano quietly put together another excellent season. He finished the year ranked 8th in wRC+ (142), 7th in OBP (.383), 7th in SLG (.516), hit 27 HR and finished 4th in the league with 107 RBI. He also had the 3rd best OPS in the AL with RISP (1.026). All this, combined with being a Gold Glove finalist made for a fine season for Cano – especially leading up to a free agent contract.
#3 – Mike Trout (LAA). Don’t get me wrong – I love Mike Trout. I wish he were on my team. He really has the total package. And, one day, he will win this award. But, this should not be the year. Even I have begun to shy away from the WAR statistic (due to its inconsistent calculation, as some of you have pointed out to me before), and this seems to be the one stat that Trout supporters are hanging their hat on. Yes, he led the AL with a 10.4 WAR (at least, the way fangraphs.com calculates it), but that’s about it. He finished 2nd in wRC+ (176), 2nd in OBP (.432), 4th in SLG (.557), and 6th in SB (33). He also hit 27 HR and drove in 97 RBI. So, why do I have him this far down the list? I was trying to find something that really separated the top 3 candidates, since they all have such great stats. And there’s one area where Trout trails the other two significantly: batting with RISP. He isn’t bad. But, his OPS is .993, which is good – but 200 points behind both of the other two primary candidates. He also has nearly 20 fewer RBI in those circumstances than either of the other two, despite having just 1 less AB with RISP than Davis.
#2 – Chris Davis (BAL). Davis really came into his own this year – in every facet of the game. He was a gold glove finalist. And, he led the league in HR (53) and RBI (138). But, he only bat .286 (21st), which led to him just finishing just 12th in OBP (.370). But, his 2nd best SLG (.634), helped elevate him to the 2nd best OPS in the league (1.004). And, he had the 3rd best wRC+ (167). His stats with RISP were also quite good, as he put together a 1.192 OPS. But, as great as his stats were, I just can’t see giving the award to anyone other than . . .
#1 – Miguel Cabrera (DET). In spite of playing in 12 fewer games (mainly due to some nagging injuries toward the end of the season), and getting more than 20 fewer AB’s than Davis, Cabrera finished just 1 RBI behind Davis for the league lead (137), and also finished 2nd in the league with 44 HR. Cabrera led the AL in batting (.348), OBP (.442), SLG (.636), OPS (1.078) and wRC+ (192). He essentially led or finished 2nd in every significant offensive category – all while striking out just 94 times (more than 40 fewer than Trout, and more than 100 fewer than Davis). But, what really got my attention was his ridiculous stats with RISP. He didn’t just do well – he punished opposing pitchers whenever he got the chance: batting .397, hitting 18 HR, driving in 99, and putting together an unbelievable 1.311 OPS (.529 OBP & .782 SLG)! I don’t see any reason Cabrera shouldn’t win back-to-back MVP’s.