November 14, 2013
Internet Baseball Awards
AL Player of the Year
As far as the Internet Baseball Awards AL Player of the Year race is concerned, the 2013 MLB season might as well not have happened.
For the second year in a row, the two frontrunners for the award were Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. For the second year in a row, Trout won. Even the exact voting totals are eerily similar to last year’s, as Trout received just 21 fewer first-place votes than in 2012, while Cabrera received only two more. (The remaining first-place votes were scattered among Chris Davis, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, David Ortiz, Max Scherzer, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adam Jones, Koji Uehara, and, um… Fernando Rodney.) And, as with last year, the crux of the debate between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout boils down to a simple binary: power hitting vs. all-around performance.
Following Trout’s simply ludicrous performance in 2012, analysts all over the map expected him to regress at least a little bit. In spite of these forecasts, Trout absolutely demolished his 2013 PECOTA projections, delivering something close to a 97th-percentile season for the second consecutive year. Admittedly, Trout did slip some in the field, but some of that regression can be attributed to diminished opportunities—an outfielder can rob home runs only if they’re there to rob—and the vagaries of defensive data.
Trout’s improvement on offense, though, helped make up for his diminished glovework. Trout boosted his walk rate nearly five percent while striking out three fewer times in 18 more games played, transforming himself into one of the most difficult outs in the league: his .432 OBP was third in the MLB, behind only Cabrera and Joey Votto. And based on VORP, Trout was actually the best offensive player in the league by a full 16 runs. His prowess at the plate, combined with disciplined baserunning and decent defense, allowed Trout to turn in the highest single-season WARP since Albert Pujols’s ludicrous 2009 campaign.
Like Trout, Miguel Cabrera also built on his stellar 2012 season. A series of September injuries prevented Cabrera from contending for a second consecutive Triple Crown, but that did not stop him from leading the league in batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage, despite Chris Davis’ season-long power surge. Unfortunately for Cabrera, though, the other facets of his game are what sealed Trout’s victory. Cabrera’s -12.8 FRAA was the eighth-worst mark among qualifying players this year, and his baserunning—measured by a -2.7 BRR—wasn’t much better. As his numbers at the plate demonstrate, Cabrera’s raw hitting ability is second to none, but his performance once he leaves the batter’s box leaves a lot to be desired.
You can view the full results of this year’s IBA AL Player of the Year voting here.