Last year, the race for the AL MVP award between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout was heated, and often times grew personal between the proponents of either side. The arguments really boiled down to "Triple Crown" versus "historical, five tool, balanced season". In the end, Cabrera won the award rather handily, and the internet grumbled.
This year, there really isn't much of a contest between the two.
TOC's midseason winner of the AL MVP award is Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers.
At the All-Star Break, Cabrera is leading the American League in two out of the three Triple Crown categories, and is in send (albeit a distant second) in the third). His lead in batting average over Trout is a whopping 43 points, and he leads Joe Mauer and David Ortiz by 56 points in on-base percentage. Contrast that to last year, where Cabrera actually had a lower OBP than Trout, and only beat him in the batting race by six points. Cabrera is one of two players in baseball with more than 25 homers (he has 30), and he also leads baseball with an eye-popping 6.0 fWAR through 93 games. Yeah, he's still an awful defender and baserunner, but Cabrera is hitting so well that his deficiencies there don't even matter in the MVP race.
Trout finished as our runner-up to Cabrera once again. But just because people aren't talking about Trout incessantly doesn't mean that he's not having a great year. Trout's .410 wOBA and 166 wRC+ are just about identical to his .409 wOBA and 166 wRC+ from a year ago. Trout has homered 15 times and stolen 21 bases at an 84% clip. He's already hit more doubles than he did last year, and has matched his triples total. He's walking more and striking out less. After a pedestrian April, Trout has caught fire, and he's reaffirmed his status as one of the best players in the game at age 21.
Our third place finisher is one of the best stories in baseball this season: Chris Davis of the Orioles. Davis has hit 37 homers in the first half, a lead of seven over Cabrera for the AL's top total. Davis has always had insane power, and he's finally put it together in Baltimore. This year, he has a .402 ISO, which is not only higher than his on-base percentage (a rarity), but also the highest mark we've seen in the league since Babe Ruth, excluding the Bonds-McGwire-Sosa trio of doom and destruction. The seasons Davis is putting together is just goofy and historical, but it's not as complete as those that Cabrera and Trout are having.
In fourth is Davis' teammate in Baltimore, Manny Machado. Machado just turned 21 a week and a half ago, and he has been a huge catalyst for the Orioles. Machado's .310/.337/.470 line might not look overly impressive, but his defense at third base has been absolutely unbelievable. Machado is also putting together a serious challenge to the single season record of 67 doubles, held by Earl Webb since 1931. Machado went into the All-Star Break with 39 in Baltimore's first 96 games, and his quest for 67 in the second half will be the second record that Orioles fans are focusing on after Davis' quest for 61, or 70, or 73, or whatever.
Rounding out the top five is impending Yankees free agent Robinson Cano. The 30-year old second baseman has picked up the slack for New York this season after the neverending list of injuries suffered by the team, and with 21 homers at the Break, Cano is set to surpass his career high of 33 set last year. Cano is also walking at a rate higher than he has over his entire career, and dollar signs will be flashing in his eyes if he continues to dominate in the second half.
Finally, we have the scrum of players who are received votes from our staff. Dustin Pedroia is doing typical Dustin Pedroia things for the Red Sox to lead their resurgence, but the 29-year old isn't even the best second baseman in his own division. Josh Donaldson didn't get an All-Star nod for the A's, but has broken out in a big way with 16 homers to lead Oakland to the AL West lead. Adam Jones is having a pretty similar season in comparison to last year for the Orioles, but he *really* needs to walk more to become a more complete player. Finally healthy, Evan Longoria threw the Rays on his back in June to push the team back into contention and might end up with the best season of his career. David Ortiz is also healthy for the Red Sox, and has continued to provide the thunder in the middle of Boston's lineup. Assuming he stays healthy, he'll end up with his best season in five years.
FINAL BALLOTING (5-4-3-2-1 point system)
Cabrera (44 points, eight first place votes)
Trout (32 points, one first place vote)
Davis (29 points)
Machado (12 points)
Cano (7 points)
Pedroia (4 points)
Donaldson (3 points)
Jones (1 point)
Longoria (1 point)
Ortiz (1 point)