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What to expect when you’re not expecting Mike Trout to win the AL MVP

Today, the BBWAA is going to announce the winner of the 2013 American League MVP. We know that Mike Trout is one of the three "finalists" for the award. We also know that he is not going to win it. Miguel Cabrera is going to win. It is pretty much the same exact story as last season only with less intrigue and less vitriol.

In 2012, there was at least one small shred of hope that the BBWAA members would see the error of the RBI-loving ways and wake up to smell the sabermetrics. We hoped against hope that maybe the writers weren't the dinosaurs we all believed them to be. Then the results came out and…. NOPE. Miggy and his Triple Crown carried the day to an easy AL MVP win as the below voting results demonstrate.

Player, Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
9th
10th
Points
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 22 6                 362
Mike Trout, Angels 6 21 1               281
Adrian Beltre, Rangers   1 16 9 1   1       210
Robinson Cano, Yankees     6 10 1 1 3 2 1   149
Josh Hamilton, Rangers       3 6 5 8 2 3 1 127

(I'll be honest, I didn't need to show the top five in the voting, but I am a sadist and wanted to remind myself that Josh Hamilton was very, very good in the very recent past. Dammit.)

I'm not here to convince you that Trout deserves the MVP in 2013. If you didn't buy it last year, you won't buy it this year. What I do want to look at is whether or not Trout can at least close the gap in the voting.

On the surface, Trout has a lot going for him. Many of the things that worked against him in 2012 no longer hold true. Cabrera's big selling point was that he won the Triple Crown. He failed to do that this season, obviously. But during the voting last year, several writers stated that even if Miggy's stats had been the same but he didn't win the Triple Crown, they wouldn't vote for him (or they'd at least think twice about it). Lo and behold, Cabrera had much better stats in 2013 but no Triple Crown to show for it. It is worth noting though that his stats are clearly better from an advanced metrics point of view, but his "old school" counting stats like homers, runs and RBIs are virtually identical to 2012. Meanwhile Trout saw his numbers improve over 2012 as well.

Trout was also knocked in 2012 for being in the minors the first month of the season. He played a full season in 2013 and actually played in nine more games than Cabrera.

Trout lost point with voters in 2012 for having a relatively down finish to the season, you know, because those games somehow count for more. In 2013, Trout finished incredibly strong while Cabrera actually collapsed a bit (.729 OPS in September) down the stretch due to injury.

Finally, the biggest fact cited in 2012 by BBWAA voters after the Triple Crown was that Trout miseed the post-season but Cabrera didn't. That happened again this year, though the Angels were at least still an 89-win team in 2012 versus 78-win in 2013.

If you really look at it, Trout's 2013 campaign addressed all the flaws of his 2012 season. Logically, one would think that would make his case much, much stronger. Perhaps not strong enough to win the MVP, but strong enough make it a close vote. Yet there is litle actual reason to believe that will come to pass.

Cabrera winning the 2013 AL MVP is such a foregone conclusion that it can only mean that he will win in a landslide once again. So a case for Cabrera that will be marginally weaker for some voters and marginally stronger for others plus a much stronger case for Trout could somehow lead to a bigger margin of victory for Cabrera? Yep, absolutely. I'm actually counting on it.

This coming vote is only going to serve to magnify the hypocrisies of the BBWAA. With most of the various arguments and narratives they tried to force down our throats last season being invalidated this year, at least some of the writers should change their votes. I would even think it would be easier for them to change the votes since the debate is so much less heated this year and there is less of a need to vote Cabrera just to show us nerdy, basement-dwelling blogger types what's what. This just isn't the polarizing event that it was last season which theoretically should allow opinions to drift back towards the middle.

What I anticipate more is the narrative to shift to that of a victory lap. For the WAR-loathing contingent of the BBWAA, seeing Cabrera replicate his 2012 campaign proves to them just how correct they were to back him last season. Even though the shift of the Astros to the AL means that there will be two more ballots being cast, I would be surprised if Trout didn't get fewer first place votes than the year before. In fact, I think there is a very good chance that one random voter will give a first place vote to Chris Davis while a handful of others will vote Davis second over Trout in order to prove some bizarre point that I doubt they even fully understand.

Again, I don't have any expectation that Mike Trout should win. In fact, I am not even 100% certain I would vote for him myself as Cabrera's offensive advanced numbers were really so prolific. I'd probably still hedge towards Trout because of his defense and baserunning advantages, but it is definitely close, just as it was last season. What I do hope to see, though I doubt it will happen, is that the voting results tighten up this year just to show that the sabermetric community is fighting the good fight and making progress. Sometimes that progress has to happen incrementally and if that means just changing the minds of a few mainstream media voters, that would please me and other like-minded folks greatly.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the Supreme Overlord of Monkeywithahalo.com and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.

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