Mike Trout expects Miguel Cabrera to win the AL MVP award

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout isn’t expecting to go home with any hardware this off-season. The winner of last year’s AL Rookie of the Year award and a runner-up to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in AL MVP voting, Trout told Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that his team’s poor season, and the successful season for the Tigers, will allow Cabrera to win his second AL MVP award in as many seasons.

“I think it’s going to be another thing like last year,” Trout said before Sunday’s season finale against the Texas Rangers. “I can’t take it away from Cabrera. He won the division and is going to the playoffs, and we’re heading home after the game. That’s a big contribution, being on a winning team.”

Cabrera leads Trout in many of the “traditional” statistics, like batting average (.348 to .323), home runs (44 to 27), and RBI (137 to 97). Trout provided value in many ways aside from his bat, like stealing 33 bases to Cabrera’s 3 and playing above-average defense at a premium position. He leads Cabrera by a wide margin in Wins Above Replacement, 10.3 to 7.7 per FanGraphs, and 9.2 to 7.2 per Baseball Reference.

Not much has changed in the AL MVP race since last year. There are a couple new wrinkles in Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, but Trout and Cabrera are expected to be the heavyweights in the balloting. Furthermore, for as great as the analytical side of baseball has looked, what with the success of the Athletics, Pirates, and Cardinals this year, the media has not evolved from last year’s defense of Cabrera. So, it seems that Trout is right — it is inevitable that Cabrera will win another AL MVP award.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.