Rounding Third: No more debate, Cabrera is the AL MVP

It's not a matter of Sabermetrics. It's not a case of new stats versus old stats. It's not old school versus new school.

It's common sense. Miguel Cabrera is the American League MVP.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim super rookie Mike Trout had a season for the ages, especially for someone who turned 21 back on Aug. 7. But Cabrera won a Triple Crown and basically carried his team to a playoff spot in September.

In case you don't know, Trout's Angels will be watching the playoffs this year. Of course, the Halos finished with a better record than Cabrera's Tigers, but as they say, don't hate the player, hate the game.

With a batting average of .330 along with 44 home runs and 139 RBI, Cabrera led the American League in all three categories and finished tops in both leagues in homers and RBI. It's the 14th time in major league history that a player has accomplished the feat and the first since Carl Yastrzemski turned the trick in 1967 with the Boston Red Sox..

Yes, there have been other players to accomplish that feat without nabbing an MVP, but it won't happen this time.

Anyway, those awards will be announced in a little over a month and we can debate this even further then. Now, though, we turn our attention to the 2012 postseason, which gets underway on Friday with two one-game, do-or-die, wild card contests.

Whether you like the new format or not, you have to admit, it's going to be exciting. So without further ado, let's take a look at the two games:


The Texas Rangers are back in the postseason for a third straight year. But, it's not the way they wanted it.

Texas was denied its third straight AL West title and a chance at the top overall record in the league on Wednesday when it was swept by Oakland, capping an epic turnaround for the Athletics.

The Rangers had been in first place since April 8 and led Oakland by 13 games after finishing off a sweep of the A's back on June 30. The gritty A's clawed their way back, though, and the Rangers lost nine of their final 13 games to seal their fate.

While the Rangers may not be happy having to play this extra game, you won't hear many people in Baltimore complaining, as the Orioles are back in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Buck Showalter's group finished 93-69 and still had a chance to win the AL East title up until the final day of the season. The O's, though, closed the regular season by losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Playing away from home won't intimidate an Orioles team that had an AL-best 46 road wins, although they went 1-2 in Texas and lost the season series, 5-2.

Texas will hand the ball to rookie right-hander Yu Darvish, who was 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in his first year since coming over from Japan. Darvish was particularly effective down the stretch for the Rangers, going 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his last eight starts.

Baltimore has yet to name a starter, but veteran Joe Saunders could get the nod ahead of rookie Steve Johnson.

How much will the events of the past few weeks impact the Rangers? It could go one of two ways. They could use it as a huge motivational tool, or they could go further in the tank.

Having the game in front of their fans will help, but the Orioles have that team-of-destiny thing working in their favor. I expect a high-scoring game, but in the end it will be the Orioles who will be hosting the New York Yankees on Sunday.

PREDICTION: Orioles, 10-8.


The Atlanta Braves haven't lost when Kris Medlen starts a game in more than two years.

If that trend continues against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, the Braves will be hosting the Washington Nationals in the NLDS on Sunday and Chipper Jones' career will be extended by at least a few more games.

Atlanta's epic collapse last September allowed the Cardinals to overcome a 9 1/2-game wild card deficit, paving the way for their 11th World Series title. This year, though, it's been a different story for the Braves, who were 20-10 down the stretch and claimed the NL's first wild card spot with a 94-68 record.

A big reason for that success has been the emergence of Medlen.

Since making the conversion from reliever to starter in late July, Medlen has pitched to a 0.97 ERA and the team has won each of the past 23 games he has started dating back to May 29, 2010.

He was 10-1 overall this year with a 1.57 ERA.

Medlen will be opposed by right-handed veteran Kyle Lohse, who was 16-3 this season with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts this year. His .842 winning percentage was tops in the majors and he set a career high with 211 innings pitched, while ranking eighth in the majors with a 2.86 ERA.

St. Louis, for the most part, did not skip a beat without Tony La Russa or Albert Pujols, winning just two games less than last season, and ended the year 88-74. Although, it wasn't quite the furious finish they needed last year, the Cardinals still won 12 of their final 16 games, but did not secure the second wild card spot until the second to last day of the season.

The Braves have won five of the six games played against the Cardinals this season and that should continue on Friday.

PREDICTION: Braves, 5-3.