Miguel Cabrera was named the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday night. The recognition capped off the Detroit Tigers third baseman’s incredible season and put an end to any speculation that the Venezuelan might be edged out by rookie Mike Trout.
In fact, for the all the debate during the season and in the lead-up to the MVP announcement, the final results weren’t even close. Cabrera received 22 of 28 first-place votes. The other six went to Trout.
Miguel Cabrera, baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, also became the first Venezuelan player to be chosen MVP in the major leagues.
Cabrera’s victory proves that, for all the Moneyball-inspired shifts permeating baseball over the last decade, the analytic approach is not the end-all, be-all of evaluating a player’s worth.
If the MVP were decided simply by computers spitting out the more advanced baseball statistics like UZR (ultimate zone rating) and WAR (wins above replacement), Trout would have had the advantage over Cabrera.
But at the end of the day, the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America make the calls. They found Cabrera to be a clear choice.
Cabrera’s MVP candidacy begins with some key, indisputable facts, which coincidentally are also much easier for the average fan to grasp.
First of all, Cabrera won the Triple Crown, an accomplishment that no one in baseball has done in 45 years – and a milestone many fans and experts alike had begun to speculate might never be reached again.
And speaking of stats, it’s not like Cabrera didn’t have the numbers. He hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. Defensively, Trout is one of the best fielders in baseball, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome Cabrera’s tremendous impact in Detroit. Call it an old-school perspective, but the team that scores the most runs still wins.
Cabrera also displayed the kind of intangibles that, try as they might, sabermetricians have yet to find a way to fully quantify. Cabrera showed himself an unselfish player, shifting from first to third base with the addition of Prince Fielder to the Detroit roster. Cabrera played through an ankle injury during the final months of the season. He helped lead his team not only to the postseason, but all the way to the World Series.
And in what should go down as the season of the Venezuelan ballplayer, Cabrera was his homeland’s brightest star. A record seven Venezuelan players, including Cabrera, were selected for the All-Star Game. The World Series alone featured nine Venezuelan players, including Cabrera and series MVP Pablo Sandoval. Cabrera’s Triple Crown was the first for a Venezuelan player. His MVP award is another national first.
In a country as baseball crazy as Venezuela, Cabrera already was a superstar. Now he’s a conquering hero.
Actually, he’s one better than that. He’s a conquering hero with an MVP award.