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Miguel Cabrera Leads AL MVP Race

Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera

Jun 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) looks on during the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, Miguel Cabrera won the American League Most Valuable Player award with a Triple Crown performance – the first player to accomplish the feat since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Crazy as it sounds, the slugger, quickly approaching legendary status, is on pace to have an even better season than last year.

Cabrera may not win the Triple Crown again because Baltimore’s Chris Davis is setting a monster pace in home runs. But if he continues producing the way he has so far, winning the MVP award a second straight season is a strong possibility.

His 20 home runs put him on the same pace to reach the 44 he hit last season. Cabrera’s batting average of .368 heading into Sunday was significantly higher than the .330 he posted in 2012, and he is on pace for more runs batted in. Currently, Cabrera is second in the league home runs behind only Davis, and is first in batting average and runs batted in.

Speaking of Davis, he’s firmly entrenched behind Cabrera in the MVP race. He’ll have a chance to catch him, though, and if Cabrera falters, Davis likely becomes the leading candidate to win the award. His 27 home runs lead not only the league but the majors, and he’s also second behind Cabrera in batting average and runs batted in. Simply put, if Cabrera stumbles this year, Davis could compete for the Triple Crown.

Davis does have an advantage over Cabrera in some categories. He has more doubles and currently holds a higher slugging percentage and OPS. Davis not only leads Cabrera in those latter two categories, but also the American League.

Defensively, Davis holds a slight edge as well. His near-perfect fielding percentage of .996 is tops Cabrera’s .957. Davis has a total of only two errors all season while Cabrera has six. To be fair, though, while Davis mans first base, Cabrera is stuck at third where there’s a higher propensity for errors.

Another area where the two are neck and neck? The trending WAR (Wins Above Replacement) category. WAR is becoming one of the favored statistics among voters and was a big reason that 2012 rookie Mike Trout fared so well in the MVP vote last season. The reason it’s so popular is because it determines a value of a player’s contribution to his specific team. Basically, it is exactly what it sounds like – a player’s value over a replacement player at that same position. Since the statistic attempts to determine a player’s importance to his team in actual wins, it really can be a true indicator of just how critical that player can be.

In the battle of WAR, Cabrera has a slight advantage over Davis, 4.4 to 3.9. That could be something that separates the two by the end of the year.

Another thing that could ultimately be a separator is how their teams perform down the stretch. Cabrera’s Tigers lead the AL central while the Orioles are tied for second with the Yankees behind the Red Sox. Assuming the two go down the home stretch neck and neck, voters will place a lot of stock in how their teams are performing.

I’m taking Cabrera for now. With about a half season still to come that can easily change. Other candidates can emerge, such as Edwin Encarnacion, who currently ranks in the top three in home runs and RBI in the American League. But Cabrera would get my vote if the polls closed today.

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