When the 2012 season is remembered in terms of individual achievement, no player will be recalled more than Miguel Cabrera. The Detroit Tigers 3rd baseman averaged .330, crushed 44 homers, and drove in an eye-popping 139 batters. These gaudy numbers added up to becoming the first player to win baseball's famed 'Triple Crown' since Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox accomplished the feat in 1967. The rare accomplishment, which requires leading a league in batting average, home runs, and RBI, has only been captured 17 times in nearly 150 years of baseball history.
Like Yastrzemski, the 29 year-old Cabrera also led his team to the World Series and is widely expected to be named the American League MVP by the Baseball Writers Association of America on November 15, 2012. If so honored, it would surprisingly represent the 1st MVP Award of the 10 year player's historic career. Yet, despite Cabrera's lofty achievement, he faces competition in meriting recognition from some of the game's elite athletes. Here is a look at 5 competitors from both leagues who attempted to challenge "Miggy" in serving as baseball's most dominant player in 2012.
1.) Mike Trout, OF, LAA -- Some favoring sabremetrics believe the rookie center-fielder for the Los Angeles Angels may challenge Cabrera for the AL MVP. While I do not anticipate him earning that award, expect Trout to accumulate substantial hardware during his career, beginning with the 2012 Rookie of the Year. Despite not making his season debut until April 28th, Trout posted the American League's 2nd best average at .326, while blasting 30 home runs with 83 RBI. Even more impressively, the 21 year-old accomplished all this while hitting leadoff, where he led all of baseball with 129 runs and 49 stolen bases.
2.) Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX-- The soon-to-be coveted free agent and 2010 AL MVP represented Cabrera's stiffest roadblock in earning the Triple Crown. Though averaging a modest .285, Hamilton finished as the American League's runner-up in both home runs (43) and runs batted in (128). Propelled by an incredible 4 home run game on May 8th against the Baltimore Orioles, the 31 year-old was the early leader in these power categories, as he slammed 21 homers in the season's first 2 months alone. Only a frustrating 2nd half slump enabled Cabrera to pass the Texas Rangers outfielder by season's end.
3.) Buster Posey, C, SF -- Many expect this 2 time World Series champion will be named the National League's MVP and he certainly proved his value by leading the San Francisco Giants to the title. Posey has already been awarded the Comeback Player of the Year for overcoming a devastating broken leg suffered during a collision at home plate in May 2011. While playing the taxing position of catcher, the 25 year-old bounced back to lead baseball with a .336 average and top the NL with a .408 on base percentage. The rising star further posted an impressive 24 home runs, 103 RBI, and 78 runs scored.
4.) Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT -- Though this 26 year-old has steadily improved throughout his 4 year career, 2012 appears to represent McCutchen's breakout season. Named to his 2nd consecutive All-Star game, the outfielder helped the underdog Pittsburgh Pirates serve as one of baseball's better stories for much of the season. Though slumping late in 2012 like his team, McCutchen finished runner-up in the NL with a .327 average and his defense was recognized with his 1st Gold Glove. The 5 tool player additionally racked up 31 homers, 96 RBI, 107 runs, and 20 stolen bases.
5.) Ryan Braun, OF, MIL -- After fighting allegations of performance enhancers, the 5 time All-Star got exactly what he needed in 2011. Braun captured the NL MVP last season, but the honor was clearly tainted and the 28 year-old was driven to bounce back strongly to silence critics. Although likely to be ignored by the voters this time around, Braun arguably enjoyed a better season than his MVP campaign. The Milwaukee Brewers outfielder lost the benefit of Prince Fielder in his lineup, but still finished 3rd in the NL with a .319 average, while smacking a career-best 41 home runs, 112 RBI, 108 runs, and 30 steals.
Yahoo! Sports, Bbwaa.org, MLB.com.
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