One of the arguments being used to support Miguel Cabrera’s candidacy for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award centers around the fact that his Detroit Tigers are making the playoffs this year, while his main competitor, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, will see his season end at the conclusion of the regular season. To me, this argument gives more credence to Trout’s cause than Cabrera’s because it means that while the Tigers third baseman plays the majority of his games against the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox; the Angels center fielder is playing more games against the superior competition of the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. Oh, and Los Angeles has a better record than Detroit, anyway.

Such an argument might not have worked in Trout’s favor at the beginning of the year, when no one considered that the A’s might eventually be competing not only for the Wild Card with the Angels, but also the division championship with the Rangers. And yet, after 161 games, Oakland has the exact same record as Texas, with one final regular season game between the two teams scheduled for today.

This exciting prospect was made possible by last night’s come-from-behind victory for the Athletics in front of 30,000 people at the Oakland Coliseum. Starting pitcher Travis Blackley, who only five days ago was pulled from a game against the very same Rangers team after giving up five runs in a single inning, allowed only one run on three hits and two walks over six innings, striking out five on Tuesday night.

Texas got their only run of the game on a Josh Hamilton double in the third inning that knocked in Ian Kinsler. The A’s responded in the home half of the fifth with Derek Norris hitting a single to right field with runners on second and third. Both Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss came in to score when Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball before throwing it back in to the infield. The next inning, Jonny Gomes, who has been used perfectly this season by manager Bob Melvin, hit a solo home run for insurance.

While the offense came up with the runs, the real story of the night – perhaps the real story of the season – was Oakland’s bullpen who shut down the frightening offense of the Rangers like they were jarring a rather violent jam. In addition to shutdown innings from Sean Doolittle (More like Doomore, amirite?) and Ryan Cook (More like Ryan Master Chef, amirite?), Grant Balfour (more like Strithree, amirite?) closed out the ninth inning for the fourth game in a row, inducing a ground out to second and striking out two. The three batters he faced to end the game: Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.

Which brings us to this afternoon, 3:35 PM ET to be specific, when Ryan “Demopster” Dempster takes the mound for Texas against A.J. Griffin for the Athletics. A win for Oakland would not only represent one of the biggest upsets of the season, it would also mean that the Rangers would have to win a one game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles or New York Yankees to advance in the 2012 post season, a startling proposition given where the team was for the first two thirds of the season. If Texas wins, tvice versa, the A’s get one chance to advance against whoever doesn’t emerge as the American League East champions.

Now, if only baseball was more exciting.

And The Rest

The St. Louis Cardinals, despite losing once again to the Cincinnati Reds, have finally clinched the final playoff spot in the National League. They’ll play the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card game on Friday. [Viva El Birdos]

That’s because the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the San Francisco Giants, due to some questionable managing tactics by Don Mattingly. [Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness]

Meanwhile, in the American League East, the New York Yankees won an extra innings walk off against the Boston Red Sox thanks (twice) to Raul Ibanez. [Pinstriped Bible]

The Yankees win maintained their one game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays last night to ensure that tonight’s finale is meaningful. [Camden Chat]

The Rays loss last night was through no fault of starting pitcher James Shields, who was amazing. []

The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs game last night marked the first time in 50 years that two 100-loss teams faced each other. Congratulations, I guess. [Huffington Post]

Television analyst and former pitcher David Cone referred to Ichiro’s bat as a chop stick on Tuesday night. [The Big Lead]

Adam Greenberg struck out on three pitches in his first, and only official Major League at bat. [Baseball Nation]

And you thought this season couldn’t get any worse for Bobby Valentine. [SB Nation Boston]

Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown watch. [Baseball Musings]

The already hurting Max Scherzer suffered an ankle injury while celebrating the Detroit Tigers clinching the division on Monday night. [Big League Stew]

If the New York Mets want David Wright to stay, does that mean that they’d consider shopping R.A. Dickey? [ESPN New York]

A particularly endearing unit of measurement is set to go on hiatus. [Old Time Family Baseball]

A lack of leadership continues to be referenced as something to fix in Toronto with the Blue Jays. [Toronto Sun]

The essential Cleveland manager rant. [Walk Like A Sabermetrician]

Ben Sheets will start the final game of the season for the Atlanta Braves and then retire. [MLB Trade Rumors]

Glen DuPaul continues his look into how predictive FIP is. [The Hardball Times]

The Baseball Prospectus end of season awards. [Baseball Prospectus]


Comments (17)

  1. The legend of Bobby V just grows.

  2. So the possibility of playoff baseball today, tomorrow and Friday before the divisional series even begin. Now that’s what I call quite good. So when does the “Texas Rangers/Choking Dogs” narrative hit the main stream media? At about 4.45today when Demopster gets pulled after giving up 6?

  3. I really wouldn’t be upset if either Trout or Cabrera won the MVP, they have both had remarkable seasons. However I have a question that seems to be ignored with all of the debates; what’s more valuable to a team, an average defensive 3rd baseman, or an average defensive center fielder?

    • Your not calling Trout an average center fielder are you? I think he would fit the above average label….and its a bit of a stretch to call Cabrera’s d at 3rd average…

      • No, that’s not what I was suggesting. It’s just that most of the stats are comparative to the average at that position, however what if the average of one position is more valuable than the other?

        • 3b is lower on the “defensive spectrum” – which is generally thought to measure what positions are the most difficult to field well or even adequately enough to play during a ML season.

          The problem is – although pitching/hitting stats can be isolated with a pretty compelling degree of success, defense is far more influenced by context. So much of who gets to a ball depends on who is around them and how much they have to compensate for (or, on the flip slide: be compensated for by) their teammates in terms of positioning prior to the pitch being thrown, etc.

          A lot of people didn’t recognize the things JPR did well: many of those bullpens prefigured what the Rays are doing now – 2008 was a good solid pen top to bottom with no one other than BJ Ryan making any money…AND the team had elite defense around the diamond. also worth noting: in 2008, Rod Barajas’ .294 OBP was the worst (and only under 300) of all the starters

  4. Yeah, I really don’t get the whole “this guy made the playoffs, ergo, he’s better” argument.

    The Central Division has a winning percentage of .468
    The West has a percentage of .510

    Obviously this will change next year when Houston sets a single-season loss record, but 2012 is 2012.

    Additionally, Cabrera also had the advantage of not having to face the best 2 pitchers IN the Central, while Trout had to face guys like Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez and the vaunted Oakland staff all year, and even missed a month.

    It should be a no-brainer, however, the BBWAA has consistently proven to be brainless.

    • If record of division is the best reason to give Trout the MVP – then it is a weak case

      Against the great West pitching (not including Anaheim ) – Cabrera’s line
      .335 / .388 / .611

      I don’t think playing 20 more games against them would hurt Cabrera

      Also – look at interleague –
      Trout beat up on the NL West to the line of .395 average, .592 slug
      Cabrera in playing the Reds and Cards (different than Trout) had a interleague line of .236 / .313 / .375

      Sounds like the schedule hurt Cabrera more than Trout

      • No one is suggesting that this is the best case for Trout’s candidacy, it’s just that people bringing it up in favor of Cabrera are actually unknowingly supporting Trout.

    • Also people seem to forget the following:
      - while on a per game basis Cabrera and Trout have been fairly close offensively, Cabrera has played 22 more games than Trout, that’s 16% more games
      - Trout has only started 107 games in CF this season
      - Trout plays for a team that scored more runs than Detroit
      - and as I mentioned elsewhere Cabrera’s runs produced represent 28.1% of the total runs scored by Detroit, while Trout’s runs produced represent 23.7% of LAA’s total runs scored.

  5. What ticks me off is when people say that RBIs are only a function of who gets on base ahead of you.

    If that is the case, then aren’t runs purely a function of who drives you in? It works both ways.

  6. Can you post an updated breakdown of the potential tiebreak scenarios for the AL.
    For instance, if BAL wins and NYY loses, they’ll both have the same record as whoever wins the OAK/TEX game. Yanks then play O’s for East title, but does the win in that game count for the season and automatically give them the best record in the AL overall… Thereby giving them the privilege of facing the wildcard winner?

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