COMMENTARY | The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) provides awards for each of the following each year in the AL and NL: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.
Notice that none of those pertain to Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, as he is the best player in the American League, and the baseball writers don't have an award for that.
Last year, the writers had an award for Trout, for he was a rookie, and they have the Rookie of the Year Award. Whatever Rookie of the Year means -- best rookie, most valuable rookie, most game-changing rookie, most exciting rookie -- Trout was undoubtedly that rookie in 2012.
As for some kind of recognition from among the awards that Trout was the best player, in 2012 or 2013, the same kind of problem has arisen each year. There's no such award. It often happens that a player widely considered the best or most productive player will win the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. But it's not a cinch, and the reason is stuck in that word, "valuable."
When we start talking about value and values, we're getting into philosophical questions, though they're pretty easy in baseball, because there is no question about what is the primary and foundational value. It's winning, which, to steal one way of putting it, values all of the other values and makes them valuable. Winning is, then, the very realization of value, the life of true felicity itself.
Wins, of course, result from scoring more runs than the other team. And a run scores, we know, when a batter reaches base and progresses through all three bases before returning home. However, recent enrichment to the baseball lexicon have offered new entities called "runs" and "wins" that bump against the runs and wins that have been around for a while, especially in consideration of decisions like the MVP Award.
The runs and wins that we've observed and discussed for several generations are natural occurrences in baseball games. The newer versions, in a well-aimed attempt to better distill and assess player performance, boil a player's contributions across the game into a statistical entity called "runs," and 10 of these, to make a long story short, amount to a win for that player.
Trout finished second to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in the American League's MVP voting for the second straight year. Just from looking at the batting statistics, one can see how Cabrera could come out on top. Cabrera hit 44 homers with 137 RBIs with a long slash of .348/.442/.636/1.078. Trout hit 27 homers with 97 RBIs and a long slash of .323/.432/.557/.988. Cabrera has the better batting numbers.
But when we add together all the events of a baseball game and cook them into the metrical version of runs, Trout comes out way ahead, because he obviously is much stronger than Cabrera on the field and the basepaths. Trout comes out of the calculations with so many runs, in the newer sense, that he once again led the American League in WAR with 9.2. Cabrera finished well behind Trout, fourth in the league, at 7.2
But there is more to consider. It's that old kind of win that we've loved for generations. Cabrera was involved in a lot more of them, largely because, as we've often discussed, the Angels haven't been very good for the last couple of years while Trout has been around. During those last couple of years, Cabrera's Tigers have won two divisions and twice advanced to the American League Championship Series, winning it once.
Cabrera, helping the better team to more frequent victory, will do well with those who insist that a player's value must be tied to that most valuable of all values, which is actual wins in actual baseball games. Trout is bound to do poorly with that group. Blame that group of baseball initiates, which happens to include the AL beat writers, if you believe they excessively value those wins on the field and insufficiently value those wins on the spreadsheet in their assessments of who is the most valuable player.
However, it is entirely a question of value, and it is hard to say someone is wrong for valuing those wins in the standings more than he values any other kind of win.
Mike Trout is the best player in the American League. Hands down. Officially, though, he's not the MVP. Officially, perhaps, that win on the field remains more highly valued than that win by calculation. That argument about values, no doubt, is to be continued.Bill Peterson has covered and written about Major League Baseball for more than 30 years in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Texas and Los Angeles, where he now lives and writes a baseball blog, Big Leagues in Los Angeles. He is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mike Trout
- American League
- Miguel Cabrera