The debate over the word “valuable” between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout raged for the second straight season.
And once again, it was Cabrera who prevailed, capturing his second straight American League MVP award.
Cabrera received 23 of 30 first-place votes and outpointed Trout by a 385-282 margin.
“Oh man, this is unbelievable,” Cabrera said. “I’m so excited right now. The whole day I was so nervous because it was a great competition. This is fun.”
Last year he won the award by getting 22 of 28 first-place votes. This year marked the first time the same players were first and second in MVP voting in consecutive years since Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols (2002-03) and the first time in the AL since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (1960-61).
Cabrera’s won his first MVP award after becoming the 11th player to win the Triple Crown and first since 1967. The second came after he seemed poised to get another Triple Crown before a groin injury hampered him in September and in the playoffs. Cabrera was still smarting about losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS as he spoke to the MLB Network surrounded by his family at his home in Venezuela.
“What we do this year, it’s about teamwork,” Cabrera said. “We went all the way to the playoffs. We came up short [in] the playoffs. We lose to the World Champs — Boston. I think we did a very good job this year but we need to do something better next year to go all the way and try to win a World Series for Detroit.”
Before September, his .358 average, 178 hits and 130 RBIs led the AL while his 43 home runs ranked second. At the All-Star break, he had 30 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Overall, Cabrera finished with a .348 average, 44 home runs and 137 RBIs and put up those numbers while playing hurt in September. During the final month, his .OPS slipped to .729 while Detroit’s runs per game dropped from 5.1 to 3.7 as their division lead slipped to one game.
Cabrera’s victory marked the fifth time the same team has won three straight seasons and first time since the Yankees claimed four straight MVPs between 1960-1963 (Maris, Mantle and Elston Howard). Tigers starter Justin Verlander won the award in 2011.
Cabrera also became the first AL player to win the award in consecutive seasons since Frank Thomas did so for the White Sox in 1993 and 1994. Overall, Cabrera is the seventh player to claim consecutive MVPS.
Trout received five first-place votes and followed up his rookie season by setting an Angels record with a .432 on-base percentage and nearly mirrored his rookie season with a .323/.432/.557 line. He also led the AL with 109 runs, 110 walks and ranked second with 75 extra-base hits while producing 27 home runs and 97 RBIs.
In terms of the advanced numbers, Trout’s 10.4 WAR led the majors. Trout far outpaces Cabrera due to strong defense and stolen bases in advanced metrics. The Angels were 83-54 after promoting Trout last season but this year’s team won 78 games due to disappointing performances by Josh Hamilton and key injuries to Pujols and Jered Weaver.
Chris Davis was the third finalist and finished with 232 points after getting one first-place vote. Davis was the third player to hit 50 home runs and 40 doubles while also becoming a Gold Glove finalist.
Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson received the other first-place vote and was fourth with 222 points. Robinson Cano placed fifth with 150 points.
Overall, 25 players received at least one point, including World Series MVP David Ortiz (47 points) and AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (25 points).
While Cabrera’s victory was based on his dominant play for the first five months, Andrew McCutchen seemed to have won the NL MVP simply by producing good enough numbers to help the Pirates to their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.
McCutchen claimed the award in a relative landslide as he totaled 28 of 30 first-place votes and 409 points, beating Paul Goldschmidt by 167 points.
“I’m very happy for those guys,” McCutchen said on the MLB Network awards show. “I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of said, 'Whatever happens, happens,' and just to be put in this position is definitely an honor.
“I’m very happy. If I could get up and dance I would but I don’t have enough room to do that, so when we get off-camera, I’ll probably be doing that.”
McCutchen became the first Pirate to win the award since Barry Bonds in 1992, which until this year’s 94-win showing was Pittsburgh’s last winning season. The Pirates flirted with winning seasons in the previous two years and their success seemed to be dictated by McCutchen’s production.
In 2011 and 2012, the Pirates went 18-38 over the final two months as McCutchen batted .227 and .253 respectively during those months. This year, Pittsburgh was 29-26 and McCutchen batted .360.
Last year, McCutchen received 245 points and was a runner-up to Buster Posey. That came after he led the NL with 194 hits but this season, McCutchen was seventh with a .317 average, third with a .404 on-base percentage, sixth with a .508 slugging percentage and third with 185 hits.
Among the most notable advanced numbers, McCutchen led with a 7.5 offensive WAR and was second with an 8.2 WAR. His adjusted OPS-plus of .158 was second in the NL and his 4.5 win probablity was fourth.
McCutchen often heard MVP chants during his late-season at-bats in Pittsburgh and, after hearing them, he wound becoming the fourth center fielder to win the award and first since Willie McGee in 1985 for St. Louis.
He also is the seventh player in Pittsburgh history to earn an MVP. Paul Waner was first in 1927 followed by Dick Groat (1966), Roberto Clemente (1966), Dave Parker (1978), Willie Stargell (1979, split with Keith Hernandez) and Bonds (1990, 1992).
“It definitely did pass my thought process at points,” he said of the award. “For myself, I’m not a selfish player and I definitely wasn’t thinking for myself for the majority of the season. I was just trying to be the best player that I can be for my team. So that’s definitely what I tried to do every single day in and day out. There were times in the game where I’d come up to bat and you’d hear everybody standing up just cheering ‘MVP, MVP,’ and it was awesome to be able to hear something like that.”
The 27-year-old also won despite having 84 RBIs, the fewest for an NL MVP since Kirk Gibson won it with 76 RBIs in 1988 for the Dodgers. However, both were considered driving forces on winning teams.
Goldschmidt’s second full season with Arizona concluded with him leading the league with 36 home runs, 125 RBIs, 332 total bases, a .551 slugging percentage and .952 OPS but he did not get a single first-place vote.
Yadier Molina, who posted career highs of .319 and 89 RBIs while leading a pitching staff with six rookies on the World Series roster, received the other two first-place votes and finished with 219 points.
Molina’s teammate Matt Carpenter was fourth with 194 points and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman was fifth with 154 points.
Overall 24 players received at least one point, including Clayton Kershaw (146 points) and Yasiel Puig (10 points).
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.