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Point/Counterpoint: Who will be the 2014 American League MVP?

By Matt Zampini and Dan Madigan
On March 26, 2014

Dan: As Opening Day approaches, many writers, magazines and websites release their predictions for the upcoming season. Just like the past two years, the most controversial topic regards the two-man race between Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and the Angels' Mike Trout for MVP. Cabrera has won the award for the past two years, and Trout has finished second to him in both of his major league seasons. Despite Cabrera's offensive prowess, Trout's all around excellence should finally be recognized this November by naming him American League MVP.
Matt: When it comes time to vote for the AL MVP at the end of the season, there is one name that is always at the top of the list in Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers. Cabrera has won the award the past two seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down over the past five seasons. In my opinion, he is once again the front-runner to win the MVP award because he is the best and most consistent hitter in baseball.
Dan: Cabrera is without a doubt one of the MLB's best hitters, but this is not a Silver Slugger award, but rather an award for the best overall player the American League. Trout can certainly hit, as his .314 career average and 57 home runs in his two full seasons show, but he also contributes in numerous other ways. In his two full seasons, Trout stole 82 bases and led the American League in runs twice. This combined with his superior outfield defense makes him much more valuable than the one-dimensional Cabrera.
Matt: Trout may be better in the field but let's be honest, when people go to vote for the MVP, all they are going to be looking at is the offensive numbers that each player puts up. That is why Cabrera is always at the top of the MVP list every single year. In the last two seasons, both in which Cabrera won MVP, he has hit an average of 39 homers and 127 RBI's. Those are absurd numbers. He won the Triple Crown two years ago and if not for Chris Davis hitting 53 home runs last year, he would have won it again. The point is, Cabrera has shown no signs of slowing down and he will have another great season.
Dan: Although Cabrera is a better hitter, hitting alone doesn't win baseball games. Defense and base running, though often overlooked, are very important. A stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR) compiles offensive production, base running, and defense to show how many more wins a player is worth to their team than a league average player at their position. Last season, Trout was worth 10.4 Wins Above Replacement, while Cabrera was only worth 7.6, per FanGraphs. To put it in perspective, some other players that have had 10+ WAR seasons include Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. Simply put, Trout is a once in a generation talent that is immensely valuable to his team, and needs to be recognized for it this season.
Matt: I don't think that WAR is taken into account for the MVP voting, or Mike Trout would have won it last year. MVP voting is tough because like you said, it should be about the all around play but that isn't what is looked at. The numbers that Cabrera puts up on a yearly basis are awfully difficult to ignore and if not for him, the Tigers would not be getting nearly as much run production. I look for Cabrera to once again, be atop the leaders in every Triple Crown category and the two-time MVP will become a three-time MVP at the end of this season.

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