Cabrera better 'late' than ever

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Miguel Cabrera became the 10th different player in baseball history to win the Triple Crown, but will that be enough to be named the American League's Most Valuable player?

Mike Trout was unanimously named the American League Rookie of the Year on Monday and many believe he will garner support for the Most Valuable Player Award as well. While Trout’s season was impressive, Miguel Cabrera compiled numbers in 2012 that few in baseball history have ever compiled before.

Cabrera finished the season leading the AL in batting average (.330), RBI (139), and home runs (44), becoming the 10th player to ever win baseball’s Triple Crown (12th occurrence) and the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

He was the first player to hold the outright league-lead in those categories since Frank Robinson in 1966 (Yastrzemski tied for the home run lead a season later) and became the first infielder to win the Triple Crown since Lou Gehrig in 1934.

He was also the fourth winner of the Triple Crown to play on a first-place team. Each of the previous three—Yastrzemski in 1967, Robinson in 1966, and Mickey Mantle in 1956—all went on to win the MVP award that season.

Although impressive, the 2012 season was no fluke for Cabrera as he leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories since the beginning of the 2009 season (.331 BA, 146 HR, 473 RBI).

2012 also marked the second-consecutive season in which Cabrera led the American League in batting average, making him the first Tiger to do so in back-to-back seasons since Ty Cobb did it three straight years from 1917 to 1919.

Looking back, one theme for Cabrera during the 2012 season was the term “late,” be it late-game production or his late-season push for Triple Crown and potential MVP honors.

Cabrera hit an AL-high .337 in the seventh inning or later this season with more home runs (17), RBI (43), and runs (38) than any other player in baseball. His 26 extra-base hits were tied with the Yankees Mark Teixeira for most in MLB and his .411 on-base percentage ranked third in the American League.

Triple Crown Winners
On 1st Place Teams Since 1920

When runners were in scoring position in those situations, his batting average and on-base percentage spiked to .370 and .464, respectively. Cabrera also hit an MLB-high six home runs and had seven extra-base hits (T-2nd in MLB).

During regular season games in September and October, Cabrera seemed to truly peak. He hit .333 and tied for second in MLB with 11 home runs. His 30 RBI over that span led the American League (2nd in MLB).

Only the Yankees Robinson Cano had as many extra-base hits (18) in the AL as Cabrera did during those final four-and-a-half weeks and only Cano (27) and the Orioles Adam Jones (25) scored more runs that Cabrera (23).

Will all these numbers culminate in an MVP award for Cabrera? History suggests yes as the last three Triple Crown winners were named MVP. Unfortunately for Cabrera, however, those seasons took place in 1956, 1966, and 1967. Only time will tell whether his production is valued in the same manner 45 years later.

--Contributions from Scott Beaman were used in this post

For a look at Mike Trout's candidacy, click here.