By: Noah Wright
Baseball was a bit different back in 2012. There was no instant replay, different slide rules, and the sabermetrics was yet to boom into Major League Baseball. But during that season, one player performed a historical feat, and something that hadn’t been done since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera batted for a triple-crown, leading The American League in home runs (with 44), RBI’s (with 139), and batting average (at .330), while also carrying home a .999 OPS (also league leading). This obviously led to him winning The AL MVP, but did he really deserve it over some other player that season? Well I’m here to argue that Miguel Cabrera wasn’t the most valuable player in The AL that season.
The major flaw in Cabrera’s game in 2012 I want to point out is his fielding/defense. Cabrera started all but 7 games at the hot corner. In a total of 1322 innings over at third, Cabrera was worth 0 DRS, -1.6 UZR, and -.2 dWAR. One of the best defenders at third base, and finishing 3rd in MVP voting at the time was Adrian Beltre. Even though he had 0 DRS like Cabrera, he had a 7.6 UZR, and was worth a total of 1.4 dWAR in 1125.1 innings. Plus, while it’s not an accurate reflection of a player’s defensive ability, Cabrera did commit more errors at third than Beltre. Beltre even more than held his own when it came to batting. Beltre batted a nice .321/.359/.561 with 36 home runs, 102 RBI’s in 654 plate appearances. His wRC+ and ISO were also pretty high at 142 and .240. Adrian Beltre would finish with a higher bWAR than Cabrera, having a 7.2 bWAR compared to Cabrera’s 7.1 bWAR.
Beltre wasn’t the only player that may have deserved it more than Miggy. Another player in The AL West, a young rookie named Mike Trout, also made a big splash onto The MLB scene in his first full season. And a big splash would be an understatement. In 639 plate appearances, Trout batted .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs, 84 RBI’s. Not only was his OBP .006 points higher than Miguel Cabrera’s, but he also ranked higher than Miggy in wRC+ (166 to 167). But Trout brought in much more value than just good batting. Defensively, he was ranked pretty high. He had 19 DRS in the outfield, and 21 in his primary position of centerfield. That, along with a 10.4 UZR, Trout’s defense was worth 2 WAR. His base running is another thing to note. Trout led the league with 49 stolen bases, being one of two players with at least 30 home runs, and 30 stolen bases. In total,he was worth 14.3 baserunning runs above average, and added to his offense, and defense, all combined, Mike Trout was worth 10.5 bWAR, and 10 fWAR, both of which were higher than Miggy’s, who had a 7.1 bWAR, and 7.2 fWAR. Trout even slingshotted past every other Major League ball player that season, as his bWAR was 2.1 higher than the guy in second place, Robinson Cano.
Most valuable player should go to the player who gives their team the most value, with the bat, glove, and baserunning skill and speed. Cabrera definitely provided a bat, but that’s it. Adrian Beltre also provided a good offensive force, along with a gold glove level glove. Then Trout did everything Beltre did but in centerfield, and added some speed into the mix. And Trout probably should have won MVP that season, but why did Cabrera? Well like I stated in the first paragraph, sabermetrics weren’t used/weighed as much in 2012 as to 2018. The main stats for a triple-crown are batting average, home runs, and RBI’s. Today, those stats aren’t weighed as much as they were, unless it’s for something like milestones. The Triple Crown also probably had a lot to do with it, since the last guy to win it was a Hall Of Fame player in the 1960’s. But I think what really swayed votes was the fact that The Tigers went to The World Series, and The Angels didn’t even make the playoffs. But in the end, being really good at hitting and average to below average in everything else should not land a player The MVP. Trout and Beltre excelled in places where Miguel Cabrera didn’t, and did it all while being way above average batters. If you ask me, Trout got robbed of The 2012 MVP, and he should have been the third rookie in MLB history to win MVP.