The AL MVP race came down to a two-man contest between Triple Crown-winner Miguel Cabrera and rookie sensation Mike Trout.
On the Cabrera side were those favoring standard offensive statistics and on the side of Trout were those focusing on advanced statistics that take into account defense and baserunning.
When the votes were counted, the Triple Crown held more weight and Cabrera was named the AL’s MVP in a race that was not as close many projected.
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“I’m very excited,” Cabrera told MLB Network. “I don’t have any words to explain how excited I am right now. I never expected to win because Mike Trout, he had an unbelievable season. I’m very surprised.”
He became the first Venezuelan to win by getting 22 of 28 first-place votes.
Cabrera was the 11th man to win the Triple Crown and the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Yastrzemski won the award by hitting .326 for the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox. Cabrera also joined Frank Robinson (1966), Mickey Mantle (1956) and Joe Medwick (1937) as Triple Crown winners to win the award.
Cabrera was the second Tiger to win the award in as many years after Justin Verlander won it last season following a pitching Triple Crown. He was Detroit’s first position player to win the award since Charlie Gehringer in 1937.
Cabrera finished second to Josh Hamilton two years ago when he led the AL in RBI and on-base percentage. This year he edged Hamilton in the home run and RBI races while also leading the league in slugging (.606) and OPS (.999).
He also helped the Tigers down the stretch by posting an OPS of 1.079 and hitting .353 over his final 22 games. The Tigers won 15 of those games and overtook the White Sox to win the AL Central by three games.
“I think winning the division and winning games they helped me win the Triple Crown because baseball is about winning and not personal numbers,” Cabrera said. “I think this MVP is about all my teammates because without my teammates I wouldn’t be able to do what I do in the field. To me, the more important thing is winning games and trying to bring a championship to Detroit.”
Trout won the rookie of the year award Monday and he was a strong contender for MVP after finishing second to Cabrera in the batting race with a .326 mark. He also hit 30 home runs after not playing in the Angels’ first 22 games of the year. Also working in favor of Trout were his league-leading 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored.
Trout’s candidacy also ranged into advanced statistics such as wins above replacement (WAR), which measures how many more wins a player gives a team as opposed to a replacement-level player at his position. Trout’s WAR of 10.7 was the highest since Barry Bonds (11.6) in 2002 and the ninth to surpass 10 since 1969.
The Angels were also 83-54 after promoting Trout — a better winning percentage than Oakland’s 94-win division title season.
While the race in the AL appeared to be a raging debate between two schools of thinking, Buster Posey turned out to be a clear cut winner in the NL after returning from a serious leg injury and leading the Giants to their second world championship in three years.
Posey received 27-of-32 first-place votes and 422 points overall. Ryan Braun, who led the NL in home runs, placed second with three first-place votes and 285 points overall.
“It’s tough to put into words,” Posey told the MLB Network. “I think it’s an accomplishment that is shared with the whole Giants’ organization.”
“It’s a great place to come and play ball every day. I’m just very fortunate, it’s a great environment. I think we’ve seen over the past couple of years how passionate our fans are, so I’m very fortunate to play in San Francisco and I couldn’t be more honored to have my name alongside the previous winners.”
Like Cabrera, Posey achieved something that had not been done in quite a while. He was the first catcher to win an NL batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942 and his .336 average was achieved with a .385 average after the break when the Giants went from being a half game out to winning the NL West by eight games.
Besides having the league’s best average, Posey also shined in other areas. His .408 on-base percentage led the league and Posey also hit 24 home runs, drove in 103 runs and batted .340 with runners in scoring position. And, after Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, Posey batted .348 with a .973 OPS
Posey was already named NL Comeback of the Year after making a successful return from his violent collision at the plate in May 2011. He returned to play 114 of 148 games behind the plate in 2012.
Posey became the first catcher to win the award since Johnny Bench won his second MVP in 1972 and eighth overall. Other catchers to win it were three-time winner Roy Campanella, Ernie Lombardi, Elston Howard and Yogi Berra
Rounding out the top-five in the AL were Adrian Beltre with 210 points, Robinson Cano with 149 points and Hamilton with 127. Overall, 24 players received at least one point including Yankees Derek Jeter (73), Rafael Soriano (five) and Raul Ibanez (one).
Rounding out the voting in the NL was Andrew McCutchen, who received 245 points without getting a first-place vote. Yadier Molina received the other two first-place votes and finished with 241 points. Chase Headley finished fifth with 127 points.
Overall, 35 players received at least one point, including Mets third baseman David Wright (86 points) and NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey (16 points).
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for all your offseason news.