Major League Baseball gets its first Triple Crown winner since 1967, and yet there's a huge debate as to whether the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera should win the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
How is that even possible?
Cabrera finished with an amazing stat line of a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. And it's not like the Tigers were also-rans in the AL Central. They won the division title, and Cabrera's hitting was probably the biggest reason they were able to rally and overtake the Chicago White Sox, who had led the division for most of the summer. From August through October, Cabrera batted .344 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs.
Among all AL hitters, Cabrera posted the top OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging percentage). His .999 OPS easily beat the runner-up, rookie Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels (.963).
Trout, however, is being touted as the most deserving candidate by many observers. After opening the season in the minor leagues, Trout came up to the majors and hit .326 with 30 homers, 83 RBIs and 49 stolen bases. He also led the AL with 129 runs scored.
Trout's season would be deserving of the MVP in many other seasons, but not when someone wins the Triple Crown and leads his team to a division crown. Although Trout is hardly to blame, the Angels didn't qualify for the postseason (despite having a record that was one game better than Detroit's).
Perhaps the most popular reason for those who favor Trout in the MVP chase is that he led the AL in the sabermetric category Wins Above Replacement (10.7). New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was second (8.2) and Cabrera was third (6.9).
Basically, the stat attempts to rate a player's contribution in every phase of the game (batting, fielding, base running, etc.), and the number is supposed to indicate how many wins a player was responsible for above the perceived value of a replacement-level player at the same position.
Trout has the highest WAR total because he plays excellent defense at a critical position (center field) and is a top-notch base runner. Cabrera's no defensive whiz, but he moved from designated hitter to third base out of necessity this season and didn't hurt the Tigers at all with his .966 fielding percentage.
Trout is going to have a great career, and he's sure to be in the middle of MVP discussions quite a few times in the future. It's just that giving him the 2012 MVP would be a real slight to a Triple Crown effort from Cabrera, who has somewhat quietly been the Frank Robinson of his generation.
WHICH TEAM WILL WIN THE WORLD SERIES?
This has been a particularly unpredictable season. How many people thought Baltimore and Oakland would hold on and get playoff berths? How many thought prior to the season that the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies would be sitting out the postseason?
Had the Angels made the playoffs, they had the kind of starting pitching and well-rounded roster that could have won a championship. They didn't get there.
Had the Texas Rangers held on and won the AL wild-card game, they probably would have been considered by many to be the World Series favorite. They lost the one-game playoff to Baltimore, however.
The San Francisco Giants had been a popular championship pick, since they won in 2010 with mostly the same pitching staff they have now. Dropping two home games against the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Divisional Series probably squashed those hopes.
A Cincinnati vs. Washington NL Championship Series would be interesting. The Reds were held back in previous seasons because they lacked a true No. 1 pitcher. Johnny Cueto developed into one this year, but he left in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS with back spasms. If his health is OK, the Reds might be the NL favorite, although it looks like he is going to be sidelined for at least the rest of the Giants series.
The Nationals are really good all around, but it still seems like shutting down Stephen Strasburg for the postseason could cost them dearly. It's not that Gio Gonzalez isn't a solid No. 1; it's that the Nationals' starting rotation depth is diminished. Edwin Jackson is so-so as a No. 3, and Ross Detwiler is untested as a No. 4.
It seems lazy to pick the New York Yankees, especially since they couldn't really put the Orioles away in the AL East race in September. Still, the Yankees have a lot of players who have been there before, and they were 6-4 in the regular season against the Detroit Tigers, who would likely be their AL Championship Series opponent.
New York was also 1-1 against Detroit ace Justin Verlander, but he got beat up a little bit in a no-decision on April 27, allowing four earned runs in six innings. If Verlander can't shut down the Yankees, the Tigers would have little chance to beat New York in a best-of-seven series.
WERE THE ONE-AND-DONE WILD-CARD PLAYOFFS SUCH A GREAT IDEA?
Whether it would have changed the outcome of the game or not, the questionable infield fly ruling in the eighth inning of the National League wild-card playoff certainly demonstrated one thing: The chance of a bad call deciding a one-and-done playoff is far greater than it would be in a playoff series.
The Atlanta Braves were six games better than the St. Louis Cardinals during the regular season, and they were just four games shy of having the best record in baseball. Still, Atlanta was instantly eliminated with a loss to the Cardinals on Friday night.
OK, the Braves have no one to blame but themselves, as poor infield defense was the main contributor to their early ouster. It's just questionable whether it's a good thing to not have the four best teams over a 162-game schedule as the representatives in the divisional playoffs.
It seems like one of Major League Baseball's main goals with the additional wild card was to make it much more difficult for a wild-card team to win a World Series. If so, that was probably achieved this year, but was it really better to have an 88-win St. Louis team in the divisional round than a 94-win Braves team?
Is it a good thing that arguably the most talented team in the postseason - the Texas Rangers, who spent all but three days of the 2012 season in first place in the American League West Division - were sent packing on the first day of the postseason?
A "LIFETIME" ISN'T AS LONG AS IT USED TO BE
Last offseason, the Colorado Rockies made a handshake agreement to give manager Jim Tracy essentially a "lifetime" contract - an extension that general manager Dan O'Dowd said at the time "can be for whatever number of years Jim wants it to be for."
It's probably safe to say that O'Dowd wasn't expecting things to go so sour for the Rockies in 2012. They finished 64-98, which was the third-worst record in baseball and the worst record in franchise history.
Sure, the Rockies had a dreadful pitching staff, but Tracy didn't help matters when he took the radical approach in June to not only switch to a four-man starting rotation, but also to limit those starters to a 75-pitch count. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca eventually asked to be reassigned within the organization, presumably because he did not believe in Tracy's philosophy.
On Sunday, Tracy's "lifetime" contract came to an end when he announced his resignation. His replacement won't succeed, either, unless the organization can develop quality young pitching. Still, when the Rockies were hopelessly out of the playoff chase (which was in July), limiting young hurlers who were learning on the job, like Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, for instance, to 75 pitches probably wasn't helping them grow.
Jeff Saukaitis is a former Sports Network writer/editor who has been a professional sportswriter since 1985.