Miguel Cabrera might be on his way to winning the first Triple Crown since 1967, but by using Wins Above Replacement to judge a player’s overall contribution to his team, Mike Trout has been by far the most valuable player in the MLB this season.
Essentially, the metric considers three areas in which a position player can contribute: hitting, defense and baserunning.
This season, Trout has 10.4 WAR compared with 6.8 for Cabrera. Trout has compiled that number in 21 fewer games than Cabrera.
Trout and Cabrera are outstanding hitters; their averages and on-base percentages are very close. Cabrera’s big advantage is in his power, but Trout is no slouch there, either.
One stat people consider when comparing the two is Cabrera’s gaudy RBI total compared to Trout's, but that’s not entirely fair because Trout is a lead-off hitter while Cabrera bats third.
Trout has done nearly as well as Cabrera with RISP, batting .327 compared to Cabrera’s .355, he’s just had fewer opportunities to knock in runs. He also doesn’t have the benefit of Prince Fielder batting behind him.
If baseball were simply a hitting contest, Cabrera would be the victor. But players can make a huge impact on the other side of the ball, as well as on the base paths.
Most Defensive Runs Saved, 2012
The defensive portion of WAR is calculated from Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) statistic, which is formulated from video review. Over 80 types of good fielding plays and defensive misplays are considered (not just errors) and a player is credited for making plays the average fielder makes. Likewise, they are debited for not making plays an average fielder makes.
The gap between Trout's and Cabrera’s fielding ability alone is worth roughly three wins per season to a team.
It’s well accepted that Mike Trout is an outstanding baserunner, while Miguel Cabrera leaves much to be desired.
Most Runs Added Baserunning, '12
Putting some numbers behind it, Baseball-Reference.com estimates that Trout has produced an additional 12 runs for the Angels this season with his feet alone. This includes his ability to steal bases without being caught (league-leading 46 stolen bases to four caught stealing), to avoid double plays (just seven this season) and to go first-to-third on singles and score easily from second.
Cabrera, on the other hand, has cost the Tigers about four runs with his feet. A large portion of that can be attributed to Cabrera’s league-leading 28 GIDPs (grounded into double play).
At right are Trout’s and Cabrera’s percentage of advancing when given an opportunity. The GIDP % is per opportunity.