AL MVP Race Heating Up, With Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera Leading the Way
If there was any doubt that Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout could repeat their incredible 2012 seasons, it's been dispelled by now. Cabrera and Trout are exceeding even the wildest expectations, on pace to reach levels of production that haven't been seen in the past decade. With both players scorching at the plate, the MVP debate is in the forefront. Though we're still less than 50 games into the season, these two stars have separated themselves from the pack and will once again battle it out for the AL MVP Award.
We'll start with Detroit Tigers' 3B Miguel Cabrera. The owner of the 2012 Triple Crown, Cabrera finished last season with a staggering 44 homers, 139 RBI, and batted .330 in 161 games. Cabrera's defense, though not gold-glove worthy, is a non-issue considering what he means to the Tigers. Cabrera has heated up of late, smashing 6 home runs in his last 5 games. He's currently on pace to surpass his Triple Crown season. Cabrera is hitting .388, leading all eligible AL hitters by more than 40 points. The Tigers' slugger has 14 homers, and even though he's not leading the AL in that stat (16, Chris Davis), Cabrera could reach 50 homers by season's end. The most impressive stat that will set Cabrera apart from Trout is RBI. Cabrera has a ridiculous 57 RBI through 46 games. At his current pace, Cabrera will reach 200 RBI. That number would set the MLB record for RBI in a single season, currently held by Chicago's Hack Wilson (191). Of course, Cabrera is unlikely to reach 200 RBI, or even touch 175 RBI. Even at 150 RBI, which is a realistic number for Cabrera, he could solidify himself as the best hitter in the game and add another MVP Trophy to his mantle.
Cabrera's Tigers are currently leading the AL Central at 27-19, a half game up on the surprising Cleveland Indians. His recent surge has lifted the Tigers to 4 straight wins, 2 of those against the Indians. The difference between Cabrera's gaudy stats and someone like Baltimore's Davis is that Cabrera is protected by Prince Fielder who in his own right is an all-star slugger. The bottom line is that Cabrera will continue to see good pitches and should not suffer a significant drop off this season.
The only other player that could seriously challenge Cabrera for the 2013 MVP is the Angels' Mike Trout. Trout shocked the baseball world last year, hitting 30 homers, swiping 49 bases, and staying above .300 all season. Not to mention, Trout reached these numbers after an April 29th call-up, effectively missing an entire month of the season. This season, some may have expected a sophomore slump for the young outfielder. Trout has shown zero signs of a slump and has put up terrific numbers through 48 games. At his current pace, Trout could reach 30 homers, 120 RBI and Runs, and steal 30 bases all while batting over .300. Trout also plays tremendous defense even after moving from CF to LF for the Angels this year. He has 11 multi-hit games this month, 8 homers (only 2 in April), and has led the Angels to a 6 game winning streak. Trout, similar to Cabrera, benefits from a star-studded lineup. Hitting immediately ahead of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, Trout should see pitches all year.
At this point, there is no doubt that Miguel Cabrera is a better hitter than Trout. Trout is only 21, but with seasoning he could be on the level of Cabrera. The debate, like last year, comes down to whether Cabrera means more to the Tigers than Trout does to the Angels. They are both the catalysts of their respective offenses, but Trout provide much more in base-running and defense than Cabrera. There is still a long way to go, and injuries could derail one of these players. Also, a dark-horse candidate like Davis or the Yankees' Robinson Cano could enter their name into the debate. But right now, there is no touching Cabrera or Trout. Baseball fans, enjoy the show that these two stars are putting up. We may not see comparable seasons for a long, long time.