By: Eric Thomas
Miguel Cabrera is the unquestioned best hitter in baseball, but Austin Jackson is more valuable to the Tigers right now. Since Jackson’s return, the offense has had more spark, more guys on base, more opportunities to win and score runs. Not trying to pile on after Miggy’s bad game against the Orioles on Tuesday night, where he left six runners on base—including the game-ending double play. You live by Cabrera and you die by Cabrera. It’s worth wondering, however, would the Tigers have been in the game at all had Jackson not drawn a walk in the ninth? Let’s have it: Who’s the MVP of the Tigers right now: Austin Jackson or Miguel Cabrera?
The Miggy argument is an easy one. It’s always a bonus to have the best hitter in the game. Triple Crown, future Hall-of-Fame, we know the drill. He’s the actual MVP from last year. However, Miggy isn’t a likely gold glove candidate at third base; certainly not the liability that many feared going into 2012, but his defense can be a sore thumb.
No one will ever question Austin Jackson’s ability in center field, arguably the most important defensive position outside of catcher. A-Jax is a five-tool player on a team bereft of them. His bat has improved immensely since his strikeout laden season in 2011. He gets on base, and once he’s there he has speed.
Without the emergence of Jackson, there’s no Triple Crown winner last year. Cabrera obviously led the league with 139 RBI. Austin Jackson stepped on home plate 106 times last year, up from 90 the year before. Jackson also hit .300 last year for the first time in his major league career, with an OBP of .377 (he drew one more walk than Miggy in 2012).
As we saw in the last few weeks, it’s a different team without Austin Jackson. He makes everyone around him better. Torii Hunter largely disappeared in his absence, which often brought Miggy up with no one on base. In the last few games the Tigers have Jackson and Hunter on first and second on a regular basis. With Austin Jackson in the lineup, the Tigers score early and often. With Cabrera, you’ll get a solo home run.
As far as individual achievement, Miggy has no equal. There is no better player that Cabrera. Austin Jackson makes the guys around him better. When you’re talking about someone who is an MVP, a cog in the wheel, the crank on the mousetrap, you’re talking about Austin Jackson. When he’s out of the lineup, his absence is cavernous.
Let’s all hope that we will never see the side by side comparison, where Miggy is out like Austin Jackson was recently. You could make an argument that Prince Fielder might slide into the third position with VMart comfortably in his number five spot from 2011. It could work, but I’d rather not find out.
It’s an interesting discussion. Is Austin Jackson the MVP of the Tigers right now? What do you think?