NEW YORK – Miguel Cabrera has a Most Valuable Player award to go with his Triple Crown. And Buster Posey has an MVP prize to put alongside his second World Series ring.
The pair of batting champions won baseball’s top individual honors Thursday by large margins.
Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, won the A.L. MVP by receiving 22 of 28 first-place votes and 362 points from a panel of Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The Detroit third baseman easily beat Los Angeles Angels rookie center fielder Mike Trout, who had six firsts and 281 points.
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs to become the first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Cabrera also led the league with a .606 slugging percentage for the A.L. champion Tigers.
More sabermetric-focused fans supported Trout, who hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBIs, leading the majors with 129 runs and 49 steals. He also topped all major league players in WAR – Wins Above Replacement. Trout won A.L. Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.
“I was a little concerned. I thought the new thing about computer stuff, I thought Trout’s going to win because they put his numbers over me,” Cabrera said. “I was like relax. … If he wins, it’s going to be fair because he had a great season.”
Posey, at a charity event at his mother’s school in Leesburg, Va., followed the A.L. debate and searched online to find out the winner.
“I think it intrigued everybody,” he said. “As a fan of the game, it was a fun race to watch.”
With three fewer hits or two fewer homers, Cabrera would have fallen short of the Triple Crown. The last four Triple Crown winners (Yazstrezemski, Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Frank Robinson in 1966) have been voted MVP.
“I think winning the Triple Crown had a lot to do with me winning this honor,” he said.
Cabrera became the second-straight Detroit player voted MVP, following pitcher Justin Verlander in 2011, and was the first Venezuelan to earn the honor.
Before the season, Cabrera switched from first base to third to make way for Prince Fielder, who signed with Detroit as a free agent.
“I focused too much in spring training about defense, defense, defense,” Cabrera said. “I forgot a little bit about hitting, about getting in the cage like I normally do.”
In spring training, Posey’s focus was just to get back on the field. His 2011 season was cut short by a collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins on May 25 that resulted in a fractured bone in Posey’s lower left leg and three torn ankle ligaments.
Posey not only returned, he became the first catcher in 70 years to win the N.L. batting title and helped San Francisco win its second World Series championship in three seasons.
“I definitely have a deeper appreciation for being able to play baseball,” he said.
“I’ve seen that it can be taken away quick.”
The first catcher in four decades to win the N.L. award, Posey got 27 of 32 firsts and 422 points to outdistance 2011 winner Ryan Braun of Milwaukee, who was second with 285 points.
Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen (245) was third, followed by St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina (241).
Posey, a boyish-looking 25, was the 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year as the Giants won their first World Series since 1954. This year he set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBIs as San Francisco won another World Series crown.
Posey took the N.L. batting title after teammate Melky Cabrera requested a rules change that disqualified him. Cabrera, who hit .346, missed the final 45 games of the regular-season while serving a suspension for a positive testosterone test and would have won the batting crown if the rule hadn’t been changed.
Ernie Lombardi had been the previous catcher to capture the N.L. batting championship, in 1942.
“I think anybody that has caught before understands the grind of catching, not only the physical, the nicks, the wear and tear of squatting for nine innings night in, day out, but just the mental grind of working a pitching staff,” Posey said. “It’s demanding.”
In his first season with the Angels, Albert Pujols didn’t finish among the top 10 for the first time in his career. While with St. Louis, he won three times, was second four times and also finished third, fourth, fifth and ninth. … Catchers have won the N.L. MVP just eight times, with Posey joining Gabby Hartnett (1935), Lombardi (1938), Roy Campanella (1951, 1953, 1955) and Johnny Bench (1970, 1972). Posey became the first Giants player to win since Barry Bonds was voted to his record seventh MVP award in 2004.