Dissecting one writer’s AL MVP ballot

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won the American League’s MVP vote with a 23 first-place votes. But for me, the vote was much closer than that.

As a voting member of the Baseball Writers’ Association, September was an interesting month of debate and discussion about this award. At one point, I thought I was going to vote for the Orioles’ Chris Davis. On the final day of the season, when ballots were due, I figured my vote was going to go to Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. And I gave serious consideration to Los Angeles’ Mike Trout.

But I settled on Cabrera, Davis, Donaldson, Boston’s David Ortiz and Trout in my top five.

Cabrera had a better season than 2012 when he won the AL Triple Crown, finishing with a .348 average, .442 on-base percentage, 44 home runs and 137 RBI. He had an abdominal strain the final two months, but he was still an influential factor in the Tigers lineup. Cabrera’s presence changed how pitchers went after the Tigers, even when he was playing injured.

He hit 11 home runs in August, and while he hit .278 in September, Cabrera still had a .395 on-base percentage while leading the Tigers in walks, a sign that opposing pitchers had respect for the damage he could inflict. Cabrera was consistent throughout the season.

Davis won two-thirds of the AL Triple Crown and was a strong defensive player, but his fade in the final two months coincided with the Orioles falling out of contention. His inconsistent bat hurt his chances, too - he hit .211 in July and .216 in September.

Donaldson didn’t have eye-popping statistics, but he was the best hitter on a weak-hitting championship team that wouldn’t have been playing in October without him. The A’s were in second place in late August, but Donaldson’s .337 average and .454 on-base percentages in September carried the offense in the A’s charge to winning the AL West. Outside of statistics, Donaldson had all the intangibles.

Of all the players, Trout is the best all-around player, but that doesn’t make him the logical MVP. An MVP vote is subjective, but players that lead their teams to titles have an edge. Last year, when Trout was called to the majors in late April and the Angels took off, Trout was a legitimate MVP candidate and the debate between Cabrera and Trout raged on.