Faceoff: Who should be the AL MVP?

While Mike Trout completed a fantastic rookie season, Miguel Cabrera’s incredible offensive performance led his team to the playoffs and earned him the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. These feats make him the superior candidate for the American League MVP Award.

Cabrera finished the season with 44 home runs, 139 RBIs and a .330 batting average, leading the AL in all three categories. Trout, at age 21, finished with 30 home runs, 83 RBIs, 129 runs, 49 stolen bases and a .326 batting average; he also provided fantastic defense in center field. These were two extremely impressive seasons worthy of recognition: Cabrera as AL MVP and Trout as AL Rookie of the Year.

Trout played with the talented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that, despite Trout’s individual performance, were still not able to make it into the playoffs. Last offseason, the Angels signed two of the premier players on the free agent market: first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. The team also traded for high-profile starting pitcher Zack Greinke during the season. These investments resulted in the third-highest payroll in the majors at nearly $155 million.

These significant additions along with Trout’s emergence still were not enough to vault the Angels from an 86-76 season in 2011 to a postseason berth in 2012. If Trout sparked a young, nondescript team to even contend for a playoff spot, he would have been deserving of the MVP award. He was unable to do so, though, even with a team full of established, high-paid veterans to the playoffs.

The MVP award generally goes to a player on a team that makes the postseason. Only three players on non-playoff teams have won the award in the last 22 years; the last player to achieve this feat was Alex Rodriguez in 2003. Cabrera led his team to the playoffs down the stretch, batting .344 with 19 home runs and 54 runs batted in from Aug. 1 through the end of the season.

Over the same stretch, Trout hit .287 with 12 home runs, 28 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Trout’s numbers over this span were undoubtedly impressive, but Cabrera’s two-month stretch to end the season was one of the best to close a season in recent years. Most importantly, Cabrera was able to do what was necessary to lead his team to the postseason.

Trout will undoubtedly win the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he will likely be in the running for many MVP awards in the future. Along with teenage phenomenon Bryce Harper, Trout represents the next generation of baseball.

At this time though, the best pure hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, should win this year’s AL MVP award after his historic Triple Crown feat and his team’s postseason berth.

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