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Rounding Third: Cabrera eyes second straight AL MVP Award

By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera may not have won another Triple Crown, but by Thursday evening he could have a second straight American League Most Valuable Trophy on his mantel.

The Baseball Writers' Association of American will close out its postseason awards slate when it names both the AL and NL MVP.

Cabrera was an easy winner last year after he became the first player since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win a Triple Crown. He may have fallen short of becoming the first player to accomplish that in back-to-back seasons, but it was through no fault of his own, as Cabrera had a better statistical campaign than he did a year ago.

He hit a career-high .348 to become the first player in more than two decades to win three straight AL batting titles. His 44 home runs were second to the 53 by Baltimore's Chris Davis, and he finished second in RBI, one behind Davis' 138. Nobody in the league had more go-ahead RBI than Cabrera's 37.

Last year, Cabrera batted .330 last year with 44 homers and 139 RBI.

Still, he saw a jump across the board in other statistical categories, including slugging percentage (.636) and on-base percentage (.442). Plus his 1.078 OPS not only led the majors, it was 74 points ahead of his nearest competitor.

Not to mention he did all that in 13 fewer games than he did in 2012, as he played the final month of the season with an abdominal injury that eventually required surgery once the Tigers were eliminated from the postseason.

Cabrera's other two finalists are Davis and Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout.

Trout, of course, finished second to Cabrera last year and may suffer a similar fate on Thursday, despite another terrific season for the underachieving Angels.

The 22-year-old outfielder hit .323 with 97 RBI and 27 home runs with 33 stolen bases, while playing a nearly flawless outfield. Quite simply, his combination of speed, power and defense was matched by nobody.

Trout led the AL in runs (109) and walks (110), set a franchise record for on- base percentage (.432) and ranked second in the AL with 75 extra-base hits, all while adding 27 homers, 97 RBIs and -- here's where he distances himself from the field -- 33 steals.

If advanced statistics are your thing, Trout had a 10.4 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) to lead the majors, topping the 10 fWAR he had last season. There have only been a small handful of players to post back-to-back double- digit seasons in that category and they include Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. And none of them accomplished that in his first two seasons.

Enough said.

Over in the National League, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen appears to be the frontrunner after helping his team get back to the postseason for the first time since 1992.

Although McCutchen was only hitting .238 at the start of May, the three-time All-Star ended the year hitting .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, with a .404 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage in 157 games.

He became just the fourth major league center fielder since 1947 to have consecutive seasons of hitting .300 with a .400 slugging percentage and .500 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.

Should he win, McCutchen's 84 RBI would be the fewest of any winner of this award since Kirk Gibson knocked in 76 in 1988.

McCuthchen's other finalists are Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina.

Goldschmidt, who is trying to become the first Arizona player to win this award, was tied with Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez for the NL lead with 36 home runs and topped the league with 125 RBI and a .551 slugging percentage.

He's also no slouch in the field and was recently rewarded with his first Gold Glove award and he won the Hank Aaron Award as the top hitter in the NL.

Molina, meanwhile, set a franchise record for doubles by a catcher (44) and ranked fourth in the NL with a .319 batting average and sixth with his .373 average with runners in scoring position. He ranked in the NL's top seven in multi-hit games (50), three-hit games (14) and four-hit games (four) despite missing time due to a knee injury

He also established season-best marks in RBI (80), runs (68), hits (161), go- ahead RBIs (19) and game-winning RBIs (10).

Not to mention, he's also the best defensive catcher in baseball and recently won his sixth straight Gold Glove Award.

THE SPORTS NETWORK PICK: AL MVP - MIGUEL CABRERA, DETROIT

NL MVP - ANDREW MCCUTCHEN, PITTSBURGH

11/14 09:10:37 ET