Will 2014 Be Mike Trout’s Year?
Mike Trout: widely regarded as baseball’s best player, most complete five-tool talent since Bo Jackson and sought after by every team in the majors. Why is it then, that this 22 year old phenom has never been officially recognized as baseball’s best?
Having shown glimpses of his undeniable talent in a 40-game stint in 2011, Trout arrived in astonishing fashion a year later, recording 30 home runs, 83 RBIs, 49 stolen bases and a .326 average on his way to Rookie of the Year honors and a second-place finish on MVP voting.
2013 was much of the same as he hit 27 home runs, 97 RBIs, stole 33 bases, hit for a .323 average and drew 110 walks. Perhaps 2012 was a slightly better season, but last year was still good enough to win most valuable player, surely?
So what was it preventing this “can do it all” player from being accepted as baseball’s best?
Cabrera, a twelve-year veteran, had been knocking around among the league’s top producers for the last decade. Having won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 2003, Cabrera flew under the radar a little in terms of our recognition and appreciation of his world-class talent. We knew he was good, but what has turned out to be arguably the greatest two-year stretch by a hitter in the history of the game, nobody could have predicted.
In that period, the Venezuelan combined for 88 home runs, 276 runs batted in, 66 doubles, 156 walks and a batting average of .338. Perhaps the greatest achievement ever was the completion of the Triple Crown in 2012, a feat last achieved in 1947.These numbers were of course more than enough to earn consecutive MVP awards, and a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame and history books along the way.
As we advance into July, it appears that the very man to get the better of Trout for the last two years is having a down year, for his standards anyway.
Their numbers are once again very similar, but this time around, Trout leads his foe in a number of key categories. He leads the battle in home runs by five, and his .1014 OPS is 104 points higher. Their similar batting average shows reason why Trout may finally topple the reigning MVP at a third time of asking, but that is not to say he has this year’s award wrapped up. Not by a long shot.
Career years from Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and rookie sensation Jose Abreu have casted doubts on whether the Los Angeles Angels man will win for another year. Here’s how the top AL MVP candidates rank:
HR RBI AVE SB OBP OPS WAR
Jose Abreu: 26 67 .280 0 .331 .955 2.2
Nelson Cruz: 26 68 .278 2 .348 .914 2.4
Edwin Encarnacion: 26 69 .281 2 .369 .967 3.4
Jose Bautista. 17 51 .303 3 .429. .964 3.9
Mike Trout: 19 62 .314 10 .406..1017 5.0
Melky Cabrera: 14 67 .316 0 .374 . 925 2.7
Despite better overall numbers for Trout over Cabrera, the former is certainly no cert for MVP this year. After slugging his 26th dinger in a walk-off win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Encarnacion retook the RBI lead and proved his importance, once again, to a division-leading Toronto Blue Jays ball club. In the month of June he batted .305, raising his average by 12 points. If he continues to improve to a .300 average, you have to think it is his MVP to lose, despite a lower WAR than Trout.
The WAR statistic is highly debated and one many voters around the league take with a pinch of salt. 2012 was a perfect example of this cynicism when, despite a superior WAR, Trout still lost out to Cabrera. It also raises the question of: how could a Triple Crown winner not be the best player? The same could happen in 2014, where traditional numbers that display power, production and an ability to hit for average prevail over a new era of data.
What we do know is that there is currently no two-horse race as there has been in the past couple of years. As we tick over the halfway mark of the calendar, a collection of six hitters lay claim to a significant chunk of the voting. As for Mike Trout, he will need to climb to the top of the more traditional voting measures to feel more confident of winning his first MVP title.