In some ways, the decision between Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Angels center fielder Mike Trout seems like a tussle over old- and new-school philosophies.
With two weeks of regular-season baseball left, Cabrera has a very legitimate chance at the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. He came into Wednesday leading the American League with a .333 batting average and 129 RBIs, then hit his 41st homer against the A's, putting him one away from leader Josh Hamilton in that department.
Trout leads in runs (118) and stolen bases (46), ranks second in batting average (.327) and has hit 27 homers. But it's the sabermetric components that really set him apart. Like his defense at a premium position, or his seismic lead in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) -- Trout is at 10.3, with the second-place Robinson Cano at 6.6.
Cabrera can't help but admire Trout from afar.
"He's amazing, man," Cabrera said. "You need to give some credit to him. At that age, what he's done is very amazing. That's why everybody talks about him. That's unbelievable, man. There's nothing we can do, him and me. We've both got a great year. We can't control that. We go out there and play hard, win some games. He's focused on winning some games with Anaheim. I'm focused on winning some games here in Detroit. We'll let you guys decide what's gonna happen."
For a while, it seemed like Trout would run away with the hardware, thus becoming the youngest MVP in baseball history. But the 21-year-old phenom has tread water recently, posting a .274/.375/.403 slash line this month. Cabrera, meanwhile, came into Wednesday with a September slash line of .373/.426/.797.
Trout says he wouldn't be too disappointed if the MVP didn't end up in his hands.
"I mean, your goal, when you come here, you want to be the best player in the league, obviously, and he's having a great year, too," Trout said Wednesday. "But first on the list is getting to the playoffs. All the other stuff can wait until after the season."
Trout claims he isn't getting caught up in any scoreboard watching for the AL MVP -- "Oh, no, no, I don't pay attention to that stuff," he added -- but Jim Leyland apparently is. And the Tigers' skipper recently said he would be "shocked" if Cabrera didn't win the MVP.
"It would blow my mind," Leyland added.
Mike Scioscia's opinions aren't as strong. The Angels' manager says he gives significant weight to the player who helps his team reach the playoffs -- granted, it's very possible neither of these two do that -- but believes the competition between Cabrera and Trout will come down to what voters value most.
"The guys who are voting, sometimes the beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Scioscia said. "Some guys are going to put more weight on how a team finishes. Some guys are going to put more weight on just pure stats. Some guys are going to have a combination of those. They're both putting up extraordinary numbers in some different areas. As far as if you look at Mike's full body of work, there's no doubt that it compares to what Miguel Cabrera is doing. It's going to be interesting to see how it works out."