Faceoff: Who should win the AL MVP?

On April 28, in the midst of a 6-14 start for the perennial AL West contenders, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim called up Mike Trout. After 139 season games and a stellar first-year season, Trout is the easy choice for American League MVP.

A quick look at Trout’s stats confirms his candidacy for the award. Trout trails only Miguel Cabrera, Triple Crown winner and Trout’s only real competition in the MVP race, in batting average (.330 to .326). While Trout does not have huge RBI or hit numbers, he placed first in runs scored with 129, slugged 30 home runs, and showed dazzling speed with a league-leading 49 stolen bases and eight triples.

These numbers would be impressive for any player, but for a kid who hit the legal drinking age just two months ago, they are pretty incredible.

Naysayers might point to the Angels’ lack of a postseason as a reason Trout should not win. As Bleacher Report’s Brandon Wheeland wrote, “You do have to wonder what type of impact on the standings Trout could have made in those 20 games he missed,” referencing Trout’s toils in the minor leagues during April.

With Trout, the Angels were 83-59, earning a .585 winning percentage. If Trout had played in those first games and if his impact was the same, the Angels could have ended up 95-67, good for first in the division.

The chances are slim that this would have happened, but it is conceivable that Trout’s presence could have earned a few wins, especially in the eight games during the stretch in which the Angels lost by two or less runs.

Finally, even with Trout playing fewer games, the Angels’ record would have been enough for a division title in the AL Central, where Cabrera’s Detroit Tigers won with a record of 88-74. The Tigers, had they played in another AL division, would not have been a part of the postseason discussion.

In addition, the AL West was unusually strong this year, as the Oakland Athletics won the division for the first time since 2006 over the consistently strong Texas Rangers. If the upstart Baltimore Orioles and the Athletics didn’t have remarkable seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Angels likely would have claimed the two AL Wild Card spots.

While both Trout and Cabrera have been outstanding, it is Trout who has meant more to his team. Without the young phenomenon, the Angels could have been doomed to disappointment.

Instead, Trout took a team headed nowhere and turned it into a contender. While he could not control how other teams fared, Trout’s impact on the Angels, combined with his excellent rookie season stats, shows why he deserves the AL MVP award.

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