It begins: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, round two

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Expect a lot of columns of this nature over the next few months until a winner is announced. MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, using the two home runs Miguel Cabrera hit last night and this afternoon as a springboard, writes that Cabrera is “transcending” the AL MVP debate, which is once again boiling down to Cabrera and Trout as it did last year, with all due respect to Chris Davis.

Last year’s debate cast baseball traditionalists (pro-Cabrera) against proponents of Sabermetrics (pro-Trout). The pro-Cabrera crowd used the third baseman’s Triple Crown and sizable lead in the traditional stats as the reason why he is more deserving of the AL MVP award. The pro-Trout crowd cited his gigantic lead in Wins Above Replacement, which factored in less-obvious facets of the game like base running and defense as well as offense.

Baumann writes in his column:

As great as Cabrera’s Triple Crown season of 2012 was, his numbers this year are even better. Any argument against his American League MVP candidacy this season will require both a search party and considerable imagination.

With 48 games to go, Trout has already compiled 17 WAR (per Baseball Reference) in his career, good for 16th in Angels history.  He will likely move into at least 13th place by the time the season is over. Cabrera may well be putting up historically-great numbers — and he is — but so is Trout. And let’s not forget that Trout contributes in more ways than one, by running the bases well and playing decent defense. To ignore Trout’s greatness because of Cabrera is woefully myopic (and vice versa). We have more than enough space to appreciate both — and Chris Davis, too!

So, over the next three months, we’ll again be treated to a litany of columns about how numbers are scary and math is hard and you have to watch the games with your eyeballs instead of poring over a spreadsheet, and this is why Cabrera is great and Trout is not. Controversy is king. Acknowledging the greatness of more than one player at a time is, while the right thing to do, not very controversial.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.