And yet, when the vote comes down Thursday from the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- on MLB Network and MLB.com at 3 p.m. PT -- it's almost a certainty that Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera will come away with his second straight American League MVP, with Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the game's best all-around player at age 22, basically dueling for second place.
Not only is Cabrera's team the only one that made the playoffs -- Cabrera actually followed up a Triple Crown campaign with an even better year at the plate.
Cabrera's 2013 season (.348/.442/.636) topped his 2012 season (.330/.393/.606) in all three triple-slash-line categories, which he led the Majors in. He added 44 homers, drove in 137 runs -- only Davis, with 53 homers and 138 RBIs, had more -- and once again proved he's the best hitter in baseball.
But Trout cemented his case as baseball's best player, his combination of speed, power and defense still rivaled by no one.
His 10.4 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs) easily led the Majors in 2013, after his 10 fWAR easily led the Majors in 2012. The list of players with back-to-back double-digit fWAR seasons is short and as distinguished as it gets. It includes Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. And none of them did it in their first two seasons.
Trout batted .323/.432/.557 in 2013, almost mirroring the .326/.399/.564 he put up during a historic rookie season. He led the AL in runs (109) and walks (110), set a franchise record for on-base percentage 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.
Cobb and Rickey Henderson are the only other AL players with 75-plus steals before age 22. Mantle and Al Kaline are the only players with 65 doubles, 15 triples and 50 homers before age 22. Williams and Wade Boggs are the only others since 1935 with at least 360 hits and 150 walks in their first 300 games. And Mays is the only other player to put up a .320 average, 25 homers and 30 steals in two seasons at any point in his career -- never mind his first two.
All of them are Hall of Famers.
And Trout may have to keep waiting for his first MVP Award.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.