ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball just announced the winners of the 2013 Hank Aaron Award. It’s Miguel Cabrera in the AL and Paul Goldschmidt in the National League.
The award is intended to honor the best offensive performers in each league. Which, given that the MVP Award has become almost exclusively the province of hitters and given that the MVP voters have had the habit of not including defense in proper proportion, it’s a defacto hitting award too, but let’s leave that for another day.
We’ll also leave advanced metrics at the door, as the Award is voted on by a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron, with a fan voting component added on for good measure. This is not the stuff of WAR leaders and the like.
If we are looking at offense and offense alone, and if we are looking at more traditional metrics, it’s hard to go wrong with Cabrera in the American League. He had another fantastic year, hitting .348/.442/.636 with 44 homers, 137 RBI and 90 walks. He led the league in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS and OPS+. Same with Goldschmidt in the NL. He hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 homers, 125 RBI and 99 walks. He led the NL in homers, RBI, slugging, extra-base hits, OPS and OPS+.
Each of these two will be contenders for the MVP Award, with Cabrera likely the favorite in the AL. Advanced metrics will matter there a bit more, but probably not enough to carry the day for those who look better under said metrics’ illumination.
Mike Trout may not win another MVP award, because Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays had a great season and voters seem to be leaning his way, but the Angels center fielder just completed his fourth MVP-caliber campaign in four full seasons as a major leaguer.
Trout has now either won the MVP or (presumably) finished runner-up at age 20, age 21, age 22, and age 23. And there were certainly cases to be made that he was deserving of all four MVP awards. It’s been an incredible start to a career. But how incredible?
Here are the all-time leaders in Wins Above Replacement through age 23:
37.6 – Mike Trout
36.0 – Ty Cobb
34.2 – Ted Williams
31.4 – Mel Ott
30.1 – Ken Griffey Jr.
29.7 – Mickey Mantle
27.7 – Alex Rodriguez
27.5 – Al Kaline
26.7 – Arky Vaughan
26.5 – Rogers Hornsby
I mean, just look at the 10 names on that list. Ridiculous, and Trout sits atop all of them.
Trout has been the subject of intense MVP-related debates in three of his four seasons, but regardless of which side of that coin you favor don’t let it obscure the fact that we’re witnessing something truly special here. There’s certainly room to quibble with the exact rankings–WAR is merely one prominent and easy way to do such things–but however you slice it Trout has been one of the best handful of players in the history of baseball through age 23.
Last week impending free agent Chris Davis expressed frustration that the Orioles had not approached him about a contract extension during the season, pointing out that the team had previously locked up other players like J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones mid-season.
Now that the season is over and Davis had another monster year Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun that re-signing Davis is “a top priority” and added:
He’s had a great year and he’s been a great player for us, so obviously, we’d like to have him back. Whether we can do that in the market, that remains to be seen, but we’re going to try.
Davis is 29 years old, has some defensive versatility, and has led the league in homers in two of the past three seasons while posting an .891 OPS during that time. He’s going to get plenty of huge multi-year offers and based on some of Duquette’s other quotes within Encina’s article it sure sounds like the Orioles are preparing for life without him.