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SBN Awards: Player of the Year

SB Nation is giving out its own awards this off-season and the results are in for Player of the Year in each league. Casey Kotchman may or may not be involved! (...he's not)

Jason Miller

Please note the absence of the word "valuable" in the title of this SBN Award. I think people who try and argue that the MVP should go to one guy instead of another "because it's most valuable... not best" are intentionally missing the point, but for this award, the possible grey area of "value" has been eliminated (I hope).

Let's Go Tribe had two ballots for the American League award, one of which was filled out by me (Ryan had the other). As I mentioned in my write up on the results of the Pitcher of the Year Award, I think voters should be willing to stand by their choices, so here is the ballot I submitted at the end of the regular season:

2012 American League Player of the Year
1 Mike Trout Angels
2 Miguel Cabrera Tigers
3 Robinson Cano Yankees
4 Justin Verlander Tigers
5 Adrian Beltre Rangers
6 Austin Jackson Tigers
7 Ben Zobrist Rays
8 Alex Gordon Royals
9 David Price Rays
10 Edwin Encarnacion Blue Jays

The Trout vs. Cabrera debate has probably had more digital ink spilled over it than any other baseball topic this year. I think the points on each side are pretty well known by now, but here they are, in short:

TROUT: the value of incredible base running and fielding in addition to hitting; the impact of different stadiums on any player's hitting; a player is not responsible for the quality of his teammates or opponents; WAR

CABRERA: the significance of winning the Triple Crown; his having agreed to change positions; a strong second-half; the Tigers making the playoffs

I'm much more convinced by the arguments in Trout's favor. I think Cabrera had a tremendous season and I believe he's the best hitter in baseball. Furthermore, I think it's incredibly cool that he won the Triple Crown. Batting average and RBI are far from the best ways of evaluating a player, but the Triple Crown is still a significant part of baseball's history and lore, and no one had ever won it in my lifetime. His name belongs on the list of winners and that list is a very impressive bunch.

BUT, it doesn't automatically mean he was the best player in the league. Trout had an historically good season, plenty good enough, in my estimation, to make him clearly a more productive, BETTER player than anyone else in baseball in 2012. If you're still not convinced, don't take my word on it, America's new numerical guru, Nate Silver has his take on the issue available in the New York Times.

Further down the ballot, Cano actually finished second in both bWAR and fWAR. I suppose that will cause some to think WAR is no good, but since even the creators of WAR wouldn't claim it's meant to be used as the final word, instead of being put off by it, I find it interesting food for thought. If you're going to debate Cabrera vs. SOMEONE, a battle against Cano is probably a more legitimate argument.

Some people don't think pitchers belong in the MVP/Play of the Year discussion, but I'm not one of them (though I'm not sure of the last time I'd have supported a pitcher for 1st place in such a balloting). For the second year in a row, Verlander was one of the very best players in baseball, not just the best pitcher.

Adrian Beltre strikes me as one of the more underrated players in baseball, someone who's putting together a Hall of Fame career before our very eyes, without many people taking notice.

I won't go into more detail on the rest of my choices, feel free to disagree with me on them in colorful language below! In the meantime, here are the full SBN A.L. Player of the Year results:

Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels 22 4 344
Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 4 18 3 1 249
Robinson Cano New York Yankees 1 14 8 2 189
Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers 3 6 8 6 2 177
Justin Verlander Detroit Tigers 2 6 8 1 1 115
Josh Hamilton Texas Rangers 2 6 1 4 2 70
Ben Zobrist Tampa Bay Rays 1 6 3 3 2 3 64
Adam Jones Baltimore Orioles 1 4 2 6 2 58
David Price Tampa Bay Rays 1 7 1 3 44
Prince Fielder Detroit Tigers 2 2 3 1 3 1 44
Edwin Encarnacion Toronto Blue Jays 4 3 1 3 2 43
Alex Gordon Kansas City Royals 1 2 2 3 1 29
Felix Hernandez Seattle Mariners 2 3 3 25
Joe Mauer Minnesota Twins 1 1 3 2 2 24
Austin Jackson Detroit Tigers 1 2 1 4 19
Torii Hunter Los Angeles Angels 1 1 7
Fernando Rodney Tampa Bay Rays 2 6
Josh Reddick Oakland Athletics 1 4 6
Albert Pujols Los Angeles Angels 1 2 5
Josh Willingham Minnesota Twins 1 1 4
Chris Sale Chicago White Sox 1 2 4
Alex Rios Chicago White Sox 1 3
Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox 1 2
Yoenis Cespedes Oakland Athletics 1 2
J.J. Hardy Baltimore Orioles 1 1

Did the picture I ran fool you? Unlike the BBWAA, which I expect to choose Cabrera for A.L. MVP, Trout won the SBN Player of the Year award handily. I suspect that the average SBN voter is younger than the average BBWAA voter, and I think that the metrics that favor Trout have been more widely accepted by younger baseball fans (with exceptions on both sides, of course).

Sadly, even with 25 different players receiving at least one point in the voting, not a single Indians was mentioned, making them the only team in the American League without a player listed. Sigh...

No one from Let's Go Tribe had a vote in the N.L. If I had, my 1st place choice would have been Buster Posey, though Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen would both have been very, very close to him. Here are the SBN results for National League Player of the Year:

Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Buster Posey San Francisco Giants 26 6 3 442
Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers 7 16 6 4 2 330
Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh Pirates 2 7 14 8 3 277
David Wright New York Mets 2 6 5 10 6 2 1 1 204
Chase Headley San Diego Padres 2 13 6 7 3 1 1 190
Yadier Molina St. Louis Cardinals 4 2 2 7 10 5 3 1 189
Jason Heyward Atlanta Braves 2 1 5 7 4 5 90
Aramis Ramirez Milwaukee Brewers 1 1 3 5 3 4 48
Michael Bourn Atlanta Braves 1 4 5 4 3 47
Matt Holliday St. Louis Cardinals 1 2 1 5 1 28
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 1 1 1 4 25
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers 1 2 1 3 24
Gio Gonzalez Washington Nationals 1 1 2 1 21
Aaron Hill Arizona Diamondbacks 3 4 4 21
Ian Desmond Washington Nationals 2 3 2 19
Jay Bruce Cincinnati Reds 1 1 1 14
R.A. Dickey New York Mets 1 1 1 2 14
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins 1 1 4 11
Carlos Ruiz Philadelphia Phillies 1 1 10
Adam LaRoche Washington Nationals 1 1 7
Matt Kemp Los Angeles Dodgers 1 1 6
Johnny Cueto Cincinnati Reds 1 1 6
Martin Prado Atlanta Braves 1 1 1 6
Carlos Gonzalez Colorado Rockies 1 5
Chipper Jones Atlanta Braves 1 5
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals 1 1 5
Allen Craig St. Louis Cardinals 1 1 5
Melky Cabrera San Francisco Giants 2 4
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals 1 2 4
Carlos Beltran St. Louis Cardinals 1 3
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 1 2
Alfonso Soriano Chicago Cubs 2 2
Paul Goldschmidt Arizona Diamondbacks 1 1

Posey won more comfortably than I expected. 33 different players received mention here, so obviously there are a few I think look a little silly, but in the end a 9th or 10th place vote doesn't matter all that much.

I think SB Nation did very well for itself in its Player of the Year voting, better than the BBWAA is going to do when its MVP awards are announced tonight.

Congratulations to Mike Trout and Buster Posey!