Last week we looked at Ryan Braun's NL MVP campaign, and now, with under two weeks left in MLB's regular season, the AL MVP race is down to two contenders. And a what a race it is: By any measure, Angel's rookie centerfielder Mike Trout is having a year for the ages, and throughout most of this season (or at least once Josh Hamilton came back to Earth) he's been the favorite to become the first rookie to win an MVP since Ichiro Suzuki in 2000 - which should really come with an asterisk since Ichiro was already a veteran star in Japan before landing stateside. Trout, in contrast, started the season as a 20-year-old prospect in the minor leagues. When he was called up three weeks into the season, the Angels were a middling 6-14, this despite high-profile off-season signings like Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson.
How good has Trout been? He's second in the league in batting, with .323 average. He has 28 home runs and 78 RBIs, despite hitting leadoff. He's practically lapping the field with a league-leading 122 runs. And his 46 stolen bases lead the majors. On top of that, Trout has played the outfield like Willie Mays, seemingly offering up Sportscenter highlights nightly. But the stat that has the numbers geeks truly salivating is Trout's 10.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which would make him the youngest player in history to tally a WAR of 10+. So, yeah, the kid's good.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty | Dave Reginek/Getty
In almost any other year, he'd be a clear favorite for the MVP. But as Trout has begun to cool off with the weather, Tigers' third baseman Miguel Cabrera is arguably having an even more historic season. Unlike Trout, Cabrera hasn't come out of nowhere. Far from it - Cabrera has established himself as the majors' best hitter, finishing in the top five in MVP voting the last five years, putting up the kind of numbers we used to expect from Pujols. This year, Cabrera has raised his game even higher, and has an excellent chance to win the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Cabrera's .331 average leads Trout by eight points, his 42 homers is tied for the league lead with Hamilton, and his 133 RBIs, .614 slugging and 1.010 OPS lead the majors. If he holds on and wins the Triple Crown, it will be extremely hard not to give him the MVP.
Essentially, this comes down to philosophy. Cabrera is clearly the best offensive player in the majors this year, but Trout is pretty clearly the best all-around player. Both of their teams have proven disappointing, and it's certainly possible that neither will make the playoffs. So who's the MVP? If the season ended today, Cabrera would most likely win, give old-school sportswriters' love of counting stats like homers and RBIs. But the game and how we analyze it is changing, and few players in recent history have personified this shift like Trout.
So who would you vote for?