Dewan: Who was the real AL MVP in 2013?

From SABR member John Dewan at ACTA Sports on November 15, 2013:

For the second year in a row, Miguel Cabrera was named the AL MVP, and for the second year in a row, his selection sparked controversy. Statistically speaking, Cabrera’s 2013 season was similarly productive to his Triple Crown season in 2012. He improved his batting average from .330 to .348, his on-base percentage from .393 to .442, and his slugging percentage from .606 to .636, but his defense declined. He cost the Tigers an estimated four runs at third base in 2012, and that number more than quadrupled to 18 runs this season. All told, Cabrera’s better offensive numbers mostly offset his worse defensive ones. After compiling 150 Total Runs—which measures a player’s offensive, defensive, pitching, and baserunning contributions in terms of runs—in 2012, Cabrera fell slightly to 143 Total Runs this season.

In both 2012 and 2013, Cabrera trailed the overall Total Runs leader, Mike Trout. Last year, Trout outpaced Cabrera by 23 runs. This season, the gap was 17 runs. We typically estimate that 10 extra runs is worth an extra win, so Trout has added about four wins more for the Angels than Cabrera has for the Tigers over the last two seasons.

Of course, wins may well be what these results are all about. Each of the last two seasons, Cabrera’s Tigers won enough games to reach the playoffs, and, despite Trout’s excellent play, the Angels fell short of the postseason both years.

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Originally published: November 15, 2013. Last Updated: November 15, 2013.