In the absence of Spring Training 2022, we bring you another edition of MLB Monday as we look at a season from 10 years ago. As we went through these awards analyses, it was hard to grasp the fact this season was so long ago—the blink of an eye for some, an eternity for others. What a world! By the way, we’re also introducing the greatest player of our era in today’s column, so look for that, too.
Enjoy today’s stroll down Memory Lane in baseball …
2012 AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (original), Mike Trout (revised)
In the first of many complicated scenarios this week, we present to you the AL MVP candidates: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rookie center fielder Mike Trout (10.5 WAR), cheating New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Canó (8.4), Texas Rangers third baseman Adrián Beltré (7.2), and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera (7.2), the Detroit Tigers 3B with a negative-value glove.
Yes, there is a dilemma here, as Cabrera won the vote: He’s a Triple Crown winner, but his -0.2 dWAR should cancel him out. Plus, Trout had a historic season with the double-digit WAR mark. At the time, we remember supporting Cabrera’s vote win, but with time and perspective, we see that was wrong. This MVP Award should have gone to Trout, despite the Angels’ missing the postseason by 4 games.
The Tigers won their division by 3 games, but the Angels won 1 more game than Detroit did, actually. Either way, Trout’s 10.5 WAR is the kicker, despite Cabrera’s amazing bat (.330 average, 44 HRs, 139 RBI). It’s hard to deny a TC winner the MVP, but rules are rules. Trout’s stat line: 129 runs and 49 SBs, which led the league, in addition to 30 HRs, 83 RBI, 67 BBs, .326 average, .963 OPS, and 2.0 dWAR.
2012 NL MVP: Buster Posey (original), Yadier Molina (revised)
This situation is also complicated as we have outlined the case against NL MVP vote winner Buster Posey (7.6 WAR), catcher for the San Francisco Giants, multiple times, and the circumstantial PED evidence just piles up so obviously. The facts may never be known, but one piece of circumstantial evidence is an anomaly; two a coincidence; three a pattern. And there’s a lot more than that there.
So, the remaining NL MVP candidates are as follows: St. Louis Cardinals C Yadier Molina (7.2), New York Mets 3B David Wright (7.1), Pittsburgh Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen (6.9), cheating Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (6.9), and San Diego Padres 3B Chase Headley (6.4). All finished in the MLB Top 10 for WAR among position players.
McCutcheon was a negative defense (-0.2 dWAR), and Braun is obviously out. The Cards clinched the last wild-card slot by 2 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the Mets finished way under .500 for the year as did the Padres. This means Molina wins by default, bolstered by his 2.9 dWAR and an .874 OPS. His offensive numbers—22 HRs, 76 RBI, 12 SBs—were the best of his career at age 29. No surprise.
2012 AL Cy Young: David Price (original), Justin Verlander (revised)
We have 7 real contenders for this trophy, although two of them—southpaw Chris Sale (5.7 WAR) and veteran Jake Peavy (5.0)—played for the same team that missed the playoffs (Chicago White Sox). A third—Seattle Mariners ace Félix Hernández (5.3)—pitched for a losing team, and the vote winner—Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price (6.6)—didn’t get his team to the postseason, either.
That leaves us with Tigers workhorse Justin Verlander (8.1), Texas Rangers star Matt Harrison (5.8), and Yankees import Hiroki Kuroda (5.3). The Tigers won the AL Central by 3 games over the White Sox, while the Rangers tied for the wild-card spots with the surprising Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees won the AL East by 2 games over the Os, so all these pitchers had serious value to their teams.
Therefore, it’s hard to overlook Verlander’s season this time. What’s fair is fair, and while we think he started using PEDs later, he was still in his natural prime here in his age-29 season. His pitching line: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 6 CGs, 238 1/3 IP, and 239 Ks. That’s a workhorse for an 88-win team that probably didn’t deserve to be in the postseason at all. He almost carried them all the way, too.
2012 NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey (original), Clayton Kershaw (revised)
This is our simplest analysis so far, with three clearly candidates: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (6.4 WAR), Mets journeyman R.A. Dickey (5.7), and Cincinnati Reds phenom Johnny Cueto (5.2). Slim pickings, for sure, as New York won just 74 games; Dickey won some kind of sympathy vote at the time, too, which makes no sense even now. The Dodgers missed the playoffs by 2 games, while the Reds …
Cincinnati won the NL Central by 9 games, which means they would have done it without Cueto. And Kershaw was a lot better on the mound, too:
- Kershaw: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.023 WHIP
- Cueto: 19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.171
Kershaw led the NL in ERA, WHIP, and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.7). Cueto tied Kershaw for the league lead in starts, although Kershaw beat him out in IP (227 2/3 to 217) and Ks (229 to 170). So, the Dodgers never would have been close to sniffing the playoffs without Kershaw, and he was clearly more valuable, anyway. This is our second straight nod for the southpaw superstar, by the way.
2012 AL ROTY: Mike Trout (original, confirmed)
No need to even discuss this one, of course. For the record, no other AL rook topped 4.0 WAR, as the next-best candidate was Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Céspedes (4.0, including -1.0 dWAR). Trout’s rookie season was clearly the best one in MLB history. It also means we confirm at least award winner this week!
2012 NL ROTY: Bryce Harper (original, confirmed)
There was an interesting field for this award, won at the time by Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (5.2 WAR)—a great rookie season in itself, and for a division winner, too, by 4 games over the Atlanta Braves. For the record, Arizona Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley (3.3) and Brewers OF Nori Aoki (3.2) also had good seasons.
But Arizona finished right at .500, behind the Dodgers by 5 games, while Milwaukee won just 83 games—and Aoki was 30 years old, with 8 seasons in the Japanese pro leagues under his belt already. So we confirm Harper’s award for the following stat line: 22 HRs, 59 RBI, 18 SBs, 56 BBs, and an .817 OPS … all at age 19, which is pretty impressive.