The Los Angeles Angels are coming off a very disappointing week in which they went 3-4 on the road against two of the American League's top teams in the Rangers and White Sox.
They can't blame Mike Trout, though. The Halos rookie phenom hit .300/.405/.633 with three homers, nine RBIs and 11 runs scored in those seven games. He crushed this monster home run off Philip Humber on Friday night and turned in his second incredible wall robbery of the year on Saturday night. If he doesn't take away that homer from Gordon Beckham at the wall in the second inning, there's a possibility the Angels never get to take home an extra-inning win that night and they head to Oakland towing a five-game losing streak.
Trout turns 21 on Tuesday and, at this point, it's hard to imagine he won't become the youngest MVP award winner in history come fall. Paul White of USA Today wrote a post on Monday morning asking if Trout and NL leader Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates already had their awards locked up. Both definitely have an iron grip on the race, though I'd rate Trout as a slightly bigger favorite between the two since the National League has a deeper pool of potential challengers for McCutchen.
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Trout currently leads the American League in batting average (.346), stolen bases (33), runs (86) and OPS+ (182). He tops the Fangraphs WAR chart with 6.7 wins. So is there any way he doesn't become only the third player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, joining Fred Lynn in 1975 and Ichiro in 2001?
Here are three reasons he might not take home the MVP — though they admittedly don't seem all that plausible right now:• Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano: These two are arguably the best two AL players to have never won an MVP award and they're near the top of the league's WAR leader list. Neither are close to Trout right now, though — Cano's at 5.1 while Cabrera is at 4.5 — and both would have additional hurdles to overcome. While the rest of us are probably loathe to admit it, an anti-Yankee bias in the AL MVP race sets the bar really high for any Yankee not posting A-Rod in 2007 type numbers. As for Cabrera, he might not even be the MVP of his own clubhouse with Austin Jackson holding a 4.7 WAR of his own.
Nevertheless, both are in a position where a few bad weeks from Trout combined with a few good weeks of their own could make the voting decision a much harder one.
• Albert Pujols: It's been a few months now, but Josh Hamilton was once considered the odds-on favorite for AL MVP. And since Hamilton has apparently switched places with Albert Pujols, it's possible the well-compensated first baseman could stage a late push for the award if Trout falters any. The key, though, is that Trout has to struggle and a downfall in his production isn't going to help Pujols' output any. While Pujols has been his old self since the middle of May, it's the promotion of Trout in late April that has been frequently (and correctly) cited as the biggest reason for the Angels turnaround this season. Pujols is battling such a gap in both perception and actual production (his WAR stands at 3.0) that it's hard to believe he'll be a serious threat to take the award away from Trout.
• Angels miss the playoffs?: This might be the real wild card. For all the hype that Trout and the Halos have received, they still wouldn't be in a postseason spot if the season ended today. (They trail Texas in the AL West by six games and are a half-game off the race for the two AL wild cards.) If the Angels miss the postseason, do you trust today's voters to not dock Trout any points for the miss on the playoffs?
I don't believe Trout will be punished if he maintains his current rate of production, but Ryan Braun winning over Matt Kemp last season clearly shows that a postseason appearance can be used as a tiebreaker if it comes down to that. It'll be up to Trout to not open the door to the rest of the field over the final two months of the season.
What do you think? Will Mike Trout win AL MVP this season?
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