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Angels Mike Trout Far More Valuable Than Tigers Miguel Cabrera in AL MVP Race

If Mike Trout does not win the American League MVP, I will lose all faith in humanity.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. The Most Valuable Player in the AL has been one of the hottest topics in baseball with the subject becoming scorching hot over the past few weeks.

For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you have the phenom and without-a-doubt choice for this year’s Rookie of the Year award-winner in Mike Trout. The center fielder, at 21 years of age, is setting himself up to be the winner of MVP awards for years to come.

On the other side, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has the opportunity to accomplish something on a baseball diamond that fans haven’t seen since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967: win the Triple Crown.

Before going into my reasons for why Trout should come out on top, I want to give full and complete disclosure that I believe both have had seasons deserving of the award. Please do not take my higher admiration for Trout’s season as a knock on Cabrera’s accomplishments in 2012. Both are incredible.

This is, however, an article on the most valuable player, not players.

A decision must be made.

And although I don’t have a vote, if I did I would select Trout.

While the numbers speak volumes, the numbers themselves aren’t the entire basis of my argument, but it’s still a good place to start.

Cabrera leads all three major batting categories of batting average, home runs and runs batted in over Trout with just two games left in the season. Cabrera’s stats would earn him the first Triple Crown in 45 years, and that is nothing to just brush off.

Cabrera has a stat line of .329/44/137 and helped earn the Detroit Tigers their first consecutive division titles in 77 years.

At .325/30/83, Trout’s season will end on Wednesday with the Angels failing to make it to October baseball.

These numbers are a tad deceiving for a variety of reasons.

Again, no knock on Cabrera. Any GM in baseball would love to have a guy playing for their team who put up those numbers. Just as I’m sure the Angels would have loved to have had Mike Trout for an entire season as opposed to calling him up in late April when the team was 6-14. Hindsight is 20/20, but for those who value the “did (player) lead his team to the playoffs” argument, you do have to wonder what type of impact on the standings Trout could have made in those 20 games he missed.

Even without those extra 20 games, Trout still managed to do something no rookie has ever accomplished: hitting 30-plus home runs while stealing 40-plus bases in the same season. Currently sitting at 48 steals, if Trout were to swipe two more bags by the end of his season Wednesday, he would join Eric Davis and Barry Bonds as the only players in MLB history with a 30 HR/50 SB season.

Trout has eight triples this season compared to zero by Cabrera and has also scored 129 runs compared to Cabrera’s 109.

Where they bat in the lineup plays a decent-sized role here. Trout is a leadoff guy, so it is assumed he would score more runs than someone like Cabrera who bats in the middle of the order. On the other side, Cabrera typically bats with runners on base more frequently than Trout and that gives him an advantage in the RBI count. Looking at these numbers, the case for Cabrera to win MVP is not huge in my opinion, but from the basic stats alone he would get my vote.

This isn’t your grandfather’s game anymore. The entire hierarchy, from ownership to general managers, to fans like ourselves have new stats and tools to evaluate talent in a much more accurate way than in the past.

Because of this I believe the Triple Crown is overrated.

Since 1909, the award has been won 12 times, including both leagues having Triple Crown winners in Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein in 1933. Yes, it was a different era back then, but the whole “once in a lifetime” argument is a bit tired in my opinion. Let’s save that phrase for a Cubs World Series title.

On that same thought, I am not a huge saber metrics guy. I believe the game has done an excellent job at integrating technology (okay, minus the replays) and bringing the game along while still holding on to the romanticism of the good old days of baseball. When determining an MVP, I believe the old school stats and saber metrics should be mixed in with watching the games themselves.

This is where Trout takes over the vote in my opinion.

As mentioned earlier, Trout is much quicker than Cabrera as seen by stats such as stolen bases (48 to 4). What doesn’t show up in the cookie-cut stat sheet of is how frequently Trout has advanced from first to third on a shallow fly ball and how often he is able to score from second on a ball that routinely wouldn’t allow a run.

By watching Trout play, you realize just how much of an effect he has on the game that pen and paper could never tell you.

Sure, in the box score it may just say “F-8,” but in reality Trout has made numerous plays this season that should have been singles, doubles in the gap or even home runs, and turned them into outs.

Cabrera is not too great of a defender. And while the move to third, where he is an average/slightly below average fielder in my opinion, was done in order to accommodate Prince Fielder’s arrival in Detroit, the defensive aspect has me swaying heavily toward Trout.

Miguel Cabrera is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. If you disagree with that, I am not entirely sure why you are still reading this. When that guy has a bat in his hand, the game could change at any moment.

Mike Trout, on the other hand, is the ultimate five-tool player.

He combines hitting for average with power, can field outstandingly with solid arm strength, as well as change the dynamic of the game with his speed.

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, is a great way to calculate just how a player affects a game based on everything they do on the diamond.  To simplify a rather complex formula, it assigns a numerical value to how many wins that player earns a team compared to a “replacement level” fielder at the same position.

Mike Trout has a WAR of 10.3 while Miguel Cabrera is at 7.1. Trout has led in AL WAR ranking every full month this year with the exception of September, when he was second behind Adrian Beltre. As I’ve stated, I’m not a huge fan of saber metrics, but that stat is very impressive.

There is value in leading your team to the postseason. There is value in the Triple Crown award. There is also value in an outstanding member of a team who virtually carried the organization on his shoulders starting in late April and fell just short of October.

You can’t take a team to the promised land all alone. It takes the entire roster.

Mike Trout didn’t single-handedly fail by not getting the Angels in, just as Miguel Cabrera was not the sole contributor to Detroit’s division title.  For what it’s worth, the Angels have a better record.

At the end of the day, both guys are deserving.  Had the rest of the Angels lived up to expectations and made the playoffs like Detroit, I feel that the conversation would be much closer.

When I eliminate the thought of the team and consider who is the Most Valuable Player?

Mike Trout. Hands down.

Brandon Wheeland is a staff writer for Climbing Tal’s Hill where he covers the Houston Astros. Read his thoughts on all things sports at his blog Wheeland On Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonWheeland

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Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz Represents Last Chance for Playoffs

Big Papi is a big need in Boston.

DH David Ortiz has been one of the few consistent bright spots during the course of this season for the Boston Red Sox. At 49-51 entering Saturday, there hasn’t been much to cheer about for the Fenway faithful.

Let’s be honest. Whether you are a giant Red Sox fan, or you hate them with every fiber in your being, it is somewhat strange to see them staring up at so many teams in the standings.

The Red Sox are currently 5.5 games back in the AL wild card and 11.5 games behind their arch rival, the New York Yankees.

The rivalry has been virtually non existent this season, and with 14 percent of the Red Sox remaining schedule to be played at Yankee Stadium, their chances of making the playoffs appear to be slim to none.

Ortiz has hit to the tune of .316/.414/.609 this season, and was a large reason why the Red Sox were able to play as well as they did.

Injuries have plagued the team during this season and are a huge reason why they have been unable to contend.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia have all missed significant time at some point this year.

Not to mention, their starting rotation has been somewhat of a headache as expectations have not been met by Beckett or Jon Lester.

A trade would be huge for the Red Sox, but the market is beginning to get a tad bit weaker. There are plenty of players who could still make an impact, both pitchers and position players. Bobby Valentine has said there are no gaping holes on the team, and I agree with him. The problem isn’t that there’s no talent on the roster, the problem is the talent is not producing.

Ortiz should be back sometime next week. If they don’t suffer any other injuries, it will be about as healthy as the Red Sox have been all year. 

With a healthy team plus Ortiz, the Red Sox have a strong shot at claiming a second wild card spot and earning a “win or go home” game in October. The Red Sox are 3-7 since losing Ortiz and have fallen below .500.

Red Sox fans, be prepared for the clutch narrative to return in August and September. When Big Papi makes his return, the absolute final shot for Boston to make it to October will begin. There will be little room for error.

Follow Brandon Wheeland on Twitter @BrandonWheeland for MLB news/analysis and more. Staff Writer for Check out the newly launched blog Wheeland On Sports

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New York Yankees: Why Ichiro Suzuki Isn’t Worth the Hype He Is Receiving

Let’s slow down the massive hype on this “Ichiro to the Yankees” deal.

News broke yesterday that Ichiro had been acquired by New York in exchange for two minor league players, as well as cash.

Let’s be honest, if it were a guy named Bob Smith this deal would not even be worth mentioning.

Ichiro is having his worst season in recent memory. Both his batting average, as well as his on base percentage, are under .300. He is 38 years old and his best days (and possibly generally productive days) are behind him.

Put me in the camp that considers this deal a gigantic victory for the Mariners.

Seattle has never really had a gigantic superstar stay with them throughout the duration of their career. Yes, there have been some great talents, but none remained with the M’s from sunrise to sunset. Ichiro didn’t even arrive until he was 27.


Looking at another year outside of the postseason, ownership knew fans would be pulling strongly for re-signing the guy who has never known a MLB team other than the Mariners.

Ownership also knew that, for a small-market team, a declining outfielder would not be producing the numbers that the money he demanded would be worth.

The Yankees are absolutely running away with the AL East and likely would have made the playoffs with or without Ichiro.

Why give up ANYTHING in order to land a declining outfielder who hits nothing but singles when you were (in my opinion) the favorite to land him next year?

Yes, the Yankees land a first ballot Hall of Famer and, from a marketing aspect, this deal may make a bit of sense. But, this is the New York Yankees we are talking about. They can acquire a one-armed, one-legged blind and deaf third baseman and he would still be revered as a superstar from most members of the media.

Many other options were available to the Yankees as far as upgrades go, including one who was already on the team. DeWayne Wise, the player the Yankees DFA’d to make room for Ichiro, has a higher OPS than Suzuki has had in the last three seasons.

If Ichiro isn’t hitting, which he hasn’t done consistently all year, it creates an awkward situation for Joe Girardi when he has to bench him.

And, don’t give me the “But Brandon, Ichiro said he doesn’t care if he plays every day, he just wants to be on a winner” line. It’s New York. Everything from Derek Jeter’s dating habits to Alex Rodriguez‘s RBI total is a story. Don’t be foolish and tell yourself that if Ichiro started riding pine it wouldn’t headline your favorite baseball news show.

I think the Yankees made a mistake here. I see it as them giving up a potential future starter, and possibly a bullpen guy, in order to have a declining player for two extra months who they could have signed next year anyway.

By no means does this mean the Yankees are out of contention. This doesn’t mean they aren’t the likely victors of the AL East. Ichiro is not going to cost them a World Series.

I see it as a move with a microscopically small upside, and a rather annoying narrative should it not be a success.


Brandon Wheeland can be found on Twitter @BrandonWheeland for MLB News and Analysis, as well as read on his brand new website, Wheeland On Sports.

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MLB All Star Game: Why Fan Voting Frequently Vote Wrong Players in

What exactly is an All-Star?

After seeing the latest All-Star Update (NL/AL) and talking with experts such as Danny Knobler, I decided to take a closer look at this year’s possible selections.

I watch quite a bit of Major League Baseball. While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means, I believe I could pick out the guys truly deserving of a position on the field when Kansas City hosts the Mid-Summer Classic come July.

In some areas of voting, I couldn’t agree more. Take Josh Hamilton for instance. With over 3.8 million votes at the last official voting update he has virtually guaranteed himself of patrolling the outfield as the highest vote-getter in the MLB this year. He’s made quite the case for himself.

With 61 RBI and 22 HR (including an impressive four-HR game) he has solidified his likely selection en route to not only an All-Star selection, but a potential Triple Crown run (batting .338 at the time this is being written).

In most cases however, I feel the fans are voting too much with their heart and not on talent.

How often do we hear the phrase, “I couldn’t have done it without some great teammates?” For Hamilton, his great teammates could be right there with him as catcher Mike Napoli, 2B Ian Kinsler, 3B Adrian Beltre and OF Nelson Cruz are all in position to claim starting spots on the roster as well.


Is A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox not having a better year than Napoli? He has an average 30 points higher, 11 more hits, five more doubles, nine more RBI and strikes out far less frequently than the Rangers backstop (58 compared to just 22).

Quick comparisons of other Rangers players: I agree with the tight race that is currently Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano. If either were selected, then fan voting succeeded. At 3B, Mark Trumbo of the Angels has either close or better numbers (outside of strikeouts) in every major category than Adrian Beltre in 30 less at-bats. Sounds more productive to me.

As far as outfield goes, it’s easy to make a case for the stellar play of Mike Trout of the Angels although he hasn’t been in the Majors too long. I have gone on record multiple times saying he will be the best player in the MLB within a year though, so I’ll accept his All-Star selections will come later. Baltimore’s Adam Jones will most likely not be voted in, although I feel he deserves a spot there.

Though Cruz and Curtis Granderson may not be the most deserving, should they be voted in as starters I wouldn’t have too much of an issue.

To finish out the remaining two positions yet to be discussed, I have no issue with David Ortiz at DH, and would also agree with a selection of either White Sox Paul Konerko or Tigers Prince Fielder at 1B.

Let’s take a look at the National League:


Catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals was passed by Giants catcher Buster Posey in the latest voting update. Molina is batting .330 compared to Posey’s .290, has more speed on the base paths, 11 more hits, 15 less strikeouts and has an OPS of .900 compared to Posey’s .810

For what it’s worth, Phillies Carlos Ruiz may not deserve to be starting for the National League behind the plate, but I believe he has the talent to make this voting much closer.

The Reds Joey Votto has a lock on the 1B spot in the NL as he should. Although Lance Berkman is one of my favorite players, the fact he is in second in voting while playing in only 13 games this year is a joke.

My biggest objection to the voting this year is the fact that Dan Uggla leads all second basemen, while Astros Jose Altuve is fourth in voting.

Altuve has the highest batting average of any 2B in the MLB this year. He has more hits, doubles, triples, multi-hit games, stolen bases, and less strikeouts than Uggla. Altuve’s biggest crutch besides popularity is the fact that Uggla is killing him in HR and RBI totals. And well, fans love the long ball. I still believe he deserves this spot.

No issue with David Wright starting at 3B. He’s earned that with a great season thus far.

Chicago Cubs SS Starlin Castro is, in my opinion, having a potential All-Star season. The fact he is on one of the worst teams in the MLB and he strikes out far too much will kill any chance he has. Jed Lowrie of the Astros also has a strong case to start over current vote leader Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies. His OPS is 50 points higher than Tulowitzki and he also leads the Major League in HR by a shortstop.


Melky Cabrera doesn’t have a starting spot secured in the outfield? Oh, all right. That’s cool. Well, enjoy your 200+ hit season Melky, you obviously have no business being an All-Star.

Dodgers Matt Kemp (who when healthy does deserve a spot in the outfield), Cardinals Carlos Beltran (yes, he deserves his spot), and Ryan Braun are the current leaders to start.

Along with Cabrera, I could also make a strong case for Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins to be starting. In the same boat as Trout, expect Bryce Harper to be a staple in this game for years to come although neither have had time to solidify their spot on a Major League club.

I suppose this is the “beauty” of the All-Star Game. After all, it is nothing more than an exhibition for the fans, chosen by the fans.

In a game that holds the importance of home field advantage, I do have to wonder…just what would this game be like if the true All-Stars found their way in?

I guess that’s just something we will continue to wonder. Enjoy your game next month folks.

Follow Brandon Wheeland on Twitter @BrandonWheeland for news, analysis and more concerning the MLB and all things sports.

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Houston Astros: Why Brett Myers Would Best Serve Team as a Starter, Not Closer

With your guess being as good as mine for the makeup of the Houston Astros’ starting rotation in 2012, Brett Myers has one of the few pitching positions locked in as the closer for this season.

If the Astros were smart, however, they would rethink their decision on Myers’ role.

Let’s be honest for a moment. The Astros will not only be hanging out towards the bottom of the NL Central this September, but more than likely the entire National League. In the midst of a full scale rebuilding of the roster, not much is expected of this team. Full of youth and hopefully a promising future, pundits will not exactly be calling for anyone’s head this season if the team does not produce.

I’ve read projections from various sources saying this team will finish with about 100 losses in a best case scenario, with more pessimistic sources projecting as many as 120.

For the following reasons, I believe that Myers is a better asset to the team as a starter rather than a closer, and that such a role would also benefit him in the long run.

In 2011, during the worst season in franchise history, the Astros’ bullpen accumulated a total of 25 saves. Keep in mind that a number of these saves came despite the contributions of offensive talents such as Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee.

Lee, who drove in 94 runs last year, will not duplicate that performance in 2012. While he is still the best bat in the lineup, he will not have the benefit of speed guys such as Pence and Bourn (both of whom were traded last season) getting on base and rounding the diamond in front of him in 2012.

This team is substantially less talented on the offensive side this year, and run production (the Astros scored 615 runs and allowed 796 runs last season) will drop significantly even from the woeful production of 2011.

Less runs scored means less leads late in ballgames. Less leads means less save opportunities and less save opportunities successfully converted.

I’m not saying that moving Myers to the starting rotation is going to fix any of these problems. As a starter rather than a reliever, here is how Myers could benefit the team.

He will be on display. Teams will be able to see what Myers brings to the table, and more importantly, decide what they would be willing to give up to bring him to their roster.

If Myers were a starter, he could log anywhere between 55 to 90 innings during the first half of the season. As a reliever, you could see him in as little as 15 to 20 innings before the July 31st trade deadline.

As detailed above, the Astros are not in a position to win in 2012. Wouldn’t it make more sense to display the veteran talents of your roster as frequently as possible in hopes of a proposed trade to acquire more prospects for the future?

Myers could be a fifth starter for a solid playoff rotation, and he could become the third or fourth starter for a team lacking depth but having a solid lineup. As a reliever, Myers has a 3.41 ERA in 58 career appearances. As a starter, he has a 4.27 ERA in 249 career starts.

If I were the GM of a team preparing for a playoff push, what sounds more valuable? A guy with a mediocre ERA in the bullpen? Or a guy who could approach the 200 IP mark as a starter and preserve the health of a bullpen?

Let’s face facts, folks. When the Astros becomes competitive, Myers will not be a member of the roster. If the Astros were smart, they would display his talents while they were still valuable as a starter and get as much for him on the trade market as they possibly could.

Follow Brandon Wheeland on Twitter now @BrandonWheeland for the perfect mixture of news, opinions, and sports satire

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