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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miguel Cabrera wins back-to-back American League MVP awards

Usually, it’s less about how you start than how you finish.

At least that’s how the old adage goes.

In the case of the 2013 American League Most Valuable Player race, Miguel Cabrera wasn’t penalized for a injury-plagued slow finish to the season. He won his second straight award based on his historically strong start, one that allowed him to cruise to his third straight AL batting title.

He beat out finalists Mike Trout of the Angels and Chris Davis of the Orioles, who won the other two legs of the Triple Crown, leading the majors in RBI and home runs in his breakout season. Cabrera was listed first on 23 of 30 ballots, and won by more than 100 points (385-282). [Full voting results here.]

Cabrera was also the only one of the finalists to help his team to the postseason, as the Tigers won their third straight AL Central title. But his late season swoon — he hit .278 with one homer and seven RBI in September and .262 with two homers and seven RBI in 11 postseason games — were a large part of the reason the Tigers fell short of their World Series aspirations.

His torn groin required surgery to repair in the offseason.

“He wasn’t 100 percent for the whole last month and a half. In my book, that makes him every bit more the MVP than it would’ve otherwise,” teammate Justin Verlander said after the Tigers’ loss in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. “I think 90 percent of baseball players would’ve been sitting on the couch, not playing, dealing with what he’s dealt with this year.”

The Tigers have now claimed three straight MVP awards (Cabrera’s two, coupled with Verlander in 2011) for the first time in franchise history.

Cabrera is the first Detroit Tiger to repeat as AL MVP since Hal Newhouser in 1944-’45. The last repeat AL winner was Chicago’s Frank Thomas in 1993-’94.

The only other back-to-back AL winners were all Yankees: Roger Maris (1960-’61), Mickey Mantle (1956-’57) and Yogi Berra (1954-’55). Chicago’s Ernie Banks (1958-’59), Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan (1975-76), Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt (1980-81), Atlanta’s Dale Murphy (1982-’83), Barry Bonds (1992-’93 and 2001-’04) and St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (2008-’09) all won consecutive MVP awards in the National League.

Only eight players have won three or more.

Cabrera won his third straight AL batting title (.348), but Davis far and away led the majors in home runs with 53, and edged Cabrera (138-137) in RBI.

Davis led all of baseball in total bases (370) and extra-base hits (96), and isolated power (.348).

The Tigers’ slugger also led the majors in slugging percentage (.636) and OPS (1.078).

Trout led the majors in WAR (wins above replacement, 9.2) and paced the AL with 109 runs scored. He was second only to Cabrera in on-base percentage (.442-.432), but led the big leagues in runs created (145.1).

[Trout’s WAR lead over Cabrera was 9.2-7.2 in Baseball-Reference’s version, and 10.4-7.6 in Fangraphs’ calculations.]

Cabrera’s Cy Young-winning teammate, Max Scherzer, got one third-place vote and six more down-the-ballot votes, finishing with 25 points, 12th overall. Torii Hunter got one ninth-place vote.


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