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A victory for the forces of reaction



As a Tigers fan, I’m happy for Miguel Cabrera, but I’ve also been a card-carrying baseball stats geek since Bill James’ Abstract went national in 1983, and this is ridiculous.

Not so much the result per se — although I think the arguments for Cabrera over Trout as AL MVP are weak, they’re not absurd — but rather the margin. 22 of 28 AL voters picked Cabrera over Trout (one voter, 783-year-old Sheldon Ocker, who started sports journalizing for the Beacon-Journal the same year Yaz won the triple crown, put Trout third). The advanced stats, in other words, which all indicate Trout had a much better year than Cabrera, appear to have made almost no impact on the voting.

(Interestingly, the linked USA TODAY story was originally headlined “Cabrera Edges Trout For MVP,” even though as MVP votes go this was a very one-sided one.)

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  • John

    This is completely unsurprising. Trout probably had the better year overall, but Cabrera was the better hitter, and of course he’s going to win in a year where he wins the Triple Crown.

    • Timb

      One million times THIS

    • djw

      He was not a better hitter.

      • I guess that depends on how you define “hitter.” Trout had a better wRC+, but wOBA incorporates stolen bases, and given Trout’s prodigious totals in that department I’d have to assume that, if you take that out completely, Cabrera’s number would be higher. But, of course, hitting and baserunning are both components of offense, and treating them as two totally different facets of the game in order to overstate Cabrera’s case is stupid, so we shouldn’t do that. In that case, Trout is the better offensive player, and the MUCH better defender.

        • djw

          My point was a bit more epistemologically modest. When I look at advanced metrics measuring hitting, I see ties, and very small leads for either of them, depending on which one I’m looking at. That’s sufficient data for me to conclude that any confident assertion that one was a better hitter than the other isn’t warranted. On hitting alone, it’s too close to call; existing measurement tools can’t tell us which of them was (slightly) better.

          • Well, which numbers specifically are you looking at?

            • djw

              I dunno, wOBA, wRC+, OPS+, probably others. Nothing rigorous, but when the advanced numbers are this close, calling it a tie seems the most reasonable thing to do with the data we’ve got.

              • Alright, I was just curious, because there’s some differences there. Namely, wOBA (and wRC+, obviously) includes stolen bases and double plays hit into in the metric, while OPS+ doesn’t. If you’re looking for a metric of pure hitting, something between OPS+ is probably your best bet, but it’s not perfect since it doesn’t weight the outcomes properly like wOBA.

                • [Ahem]

                  Cabrera led the AL in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139), baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967. He also led the league in total bases, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging.


                  Please tell how he was not a better hitter.

                • He didn’t lead the league in OBP or wRC+, for one thing, both of which Trout led in. Also, as I said above, I find arguments about “best hitter” to be fundamentally silly, as hitting is but a component of offense, which baserunning is as well. Put the two together, as you should, and Trout is the better offensive player.

                • I mean, if we were talking about basketball, absolutely no one would say “well Player X is the better passer, all around scorer, and defender, but Player Y is the (slightly) better three point shooter so we just can’t tell which one is the better basketball player.”

                • Nate 538 had his post about it, which included thinking about ball parks. It was a no-brainer. Trout.

                • Trout didn’t lead the league in OBP. He was third, behind Mauer and Fielder, with Cabrera fourth.

                • djw

                  The short version, without reference to fancy stats I admittedly don’t entirely understand, is that the park effects swamp Cabrera’s 40 point slugging advantage. Also, if you must use a team stat like RBIs to evaluate individual hitters, at least please refrain from using RBIs when comparing a leadoff hitter to a cleanup hitter.

          • Two sets of areas where there were no ties, where Cabrera was far and away the better–and more valuable–player. First, check out all the pressure situations: late and close, tie game, 2 outs RISP, high leverage, all of those: Cabrera was superior in every one of them, and some of Cabrera’s numbers were laughably, absurdly great. 2 out, RISP, Trout has no HR, 16 RBI, .286 BA, .782 OPS, 3 IBB and 15 SO. Cabrera, with 5 fewer plate appearances, had 4 HR, 29 RBI’s, .420 BA, 1.211 OPS, 6 IBB and 7 SO. And late and close, Trout was 3/11/.277/.784, while Cabrera was 7/21/.337/1.040.

            The other thing I think is important is how they closed the season in the pennant race. Frankly, with the way he was closing out the season, if Trout had played all year he might have played himself out of 2nd place in the MVP voting. From Aug 1, Cabrera hit 19/54, in August he hit .357/1.092, and Sept/Oct he hit .333/1.071. Trout from Aug 1 hit 12/29, in August he hit .284/.866, and while for Sept/Oct he hit .289/.900, those numbers are padded by big games the last 6 games of the season, when the Angles were pretty much eliminated from the race.

            One other thing I’ll add: Trout is an excellent outfielder, no doubt. But I find a lot of the defensive statistics dubious. Last year Austin Jackson had the best runs defense of whatever it’s called among CF’s in the majors. This year his number was OK. I watched probably half of the games each of the last two years, and damned if I could see how he didn’t have as good as season this year as he did last year. And related to that, again, Trout is excellent, but are his numbers influenced by who played on the sides of him, in particular one guy with a gold glove and another guy with about eight gold gloves?

            Trout had a great season, and one of the greatest ever for a rookie. But focusing on WAR and not on the role his production played in actually winning games is kind of like making a big deal about Romney’s national polling, which never mattered, because it was about the swing states. Not a perfect analogy, but I think there’s something to be said for looking not just at the aggregate but also at the situations in which the players did and didn’t produce. Trout was good in pressure situations (although more at drawing walks, which never advances a runner from first to third or scores a guy from second). But Cabrera was superb, and a huge reason a flawed team managed to make the playoffs (and had the second best record against winnings teams in the ML, after only the Nats), while Trout, hitting in front of Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales, wasn’t able to get his teams to the postseason.

            • BTW, one of the things I find funny about the moneyball types making a big deal about the baserunning and fielding differences between Trout and Cabrera: a lot of the moneyball people have typically said stealing bases is stupid and fielding is overrated. I mean, not giving a shit about a guy’s fielding was in the trailer for Moneyball.

              • Monday Night Frotteur

                You didn’t understand Moneyball.

                The dullards used to wax endlessly about Ichiro’s defense and baserunning. “Sure Giambi is better at hitting, but you can’t ignore defense or baserunning.” (they virtually spat the word “hitting”).

                Now they don’t care about defense or baserunning at all because you (or they, or someone) “can’t quantify it.”

                • Who said I didn’t care about baserunning? But is baserunning the same as speed? FWIW, Jim Leyland and the other Tigers coaches say Cabrera is the best baserunner on the team. That game against the Yankees in the ALCS where he advanced from first to third on a squib that barely cleared second base was a great example. He’s just not fast.

                • I notice you’re vehemently avoiding talking about all the clutch stats. I guess you like advance stats that favor Trout, but ignore the others.

                  OK, thanks, got it.

                • That’s not right either: people paid too much attention to defensive heuristics (like foot speed and grace) without a good sense of who was actually turning outs, and they overvalued the defense at certain non-premium positions (why it was crazy to move Hatteberg to first base). This had the effect of making that stuff too expensive for Oakland, so they had to figure out something different.

                  And, of course, the premise was also that hitting and pitching had a lot more impact on the game than defense, which is true, but that doesn’t tell us much in this case, as Trout is also a great hitter. We’re not making a case for Cesar Izturis or something.

              • mark f

                Nobody ever said that successfully stealing a base is stupid. It’s just that you have to have a very high success rate for the aggregate result to have positive value. Trout’s 91% success rate on 54 tries certainly qualifies.

              • Monday Night Frotteur

                Perhaps you didn’t read the Silver article. It’s an accessible version of the same thing that people on BP, Fangraphs, etc. have been arguing:

                In fact, there are now systems, like Win Probability Added, that measure all aspects of clutch performance in a comprehensive way. They account not just for the number of runners on base and the number of outs, but also the game score and the inning. A grand slam when a team trails by three runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth turns a near-certain loss into a win, giving a player maximal credit by this system. A grand slam when a team already leads 7-0 gets little credit, since the game is already in hand.

                According to this measure, Trout was actually slightly more valuable than Cabrera as an offensive player.

                So even by clutch stats Trout wins.

            • Monday Night Frotteur

              1) Citing RBI=instant lack of credibility.

              2) As mentioned by Silver (and others), Trout was actually “clutchier;” his WPA was higher. Even by that absurd metric Trout should win.

              3) Trout’s team won more games than Cabrera’s in a tougher division, even though it had a 6-14 “head start” before Trout was called up. The team-accomplishment arguments support Trout, not Cabrera.

              I guess the dullards successfully unskewed the MVP vote.

              • Right, because runs aren’t important to winning, and carry whether you actually drive them in makes you a fuddy duddy driving your dad’s Packard and drinking a sassperilla.

                And having Hunter, Pujols, Morales et al had nothing to do with Trout’s success, just as having only Prince Fielder behind Cabrera didn’t matter, because Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch were offensive machines.

                • Monday Night Frotteur

                  We have better stats than RBI or Runs to measure the traits that facilitate offense, just like we have better stats than pitcher-wins to measure pitchers’ contributions. You and 22 voters rely on discredited, outdated stats. Bully for you. Big win for irrationality. Bob Welch 1990 FTW!

                • Reasonable 4ce

                  Cabrera and Trout were both worthy candidates. Cabrera winning the award is less absurd than, say, LaMarr Hoyt winning the ’83 Cy Young Award.

                  I do think, though, that Cabrera’s performance on the road is one compelling argument aginst him. His numbers were somewhat inflated by playing in Detroit. He had 28 homers and 75 RBI in Detroit, just 16 and 64 on the road. Cabrera hit .327 on the road with a .384 OB% and a .529 Sl%. That’s pretty damn good, but Trout on the road was .332/.407/.544 with 65 runs and 44 RBI in 11 fewer games.

                • Cabrera’s Detroit numbers are only halfway what you’re suggesting. Comerica is a good park for average hitters and doubles and especially triples. Cabrera uses the big gaps for lots of doubles. But it’s a horrible park for hitting home runs. It’s really remarkable that he’s twice led the league in HR’s, but right-center field is a couple miles from the plate.

                  And what I find interesting here is a lot of the sabermetrics zealots remind me of the more obnoxious election modeling people, who if you point out that there are things like contingency and historical change and small sample size they treat you like you’re an imbecile. There’s some of that here, that if you don’t see that it’s obvious Trout was better you’re, as I was called, a dullard. But the other piece of it is that I think a lot of folks like me who think Cabrera deserved the MVP still think Trout had an incredible year, just tremendous. But some of the sabermetrics people won’t acknowledge that Cabrera’s year was also amazing because they’re too busy waging jihad against the RBI.

                • mark f

                  Who denied Cabrera’s great season? Citations please.

                • Well it certainly didn’t take long for that facade to come off.

                • sharculese

                  And what I find interesting here is a lot of the sabermetrics zealots remind me of the more obnoxious election modeling people, who if you point out that there are things like contingency and historical change and small sample size they treat you like you’re an imbecile.

                  I don’t know that much about baseball, (although LGM’s baseball discussions fascinate me), but it feels like what you’re mad about here is that people who aren’t you managed to be right about a thing without having to resort to cliches?

                  I mean, the ‘obnoxious election modeling people’ were right, so why are you all huffy that they didn’t take your criticisms more seriously?

                • Hey Sharculese, I’ve been predicting an electoral college blowout for four years, and never wavered from it and was quite public about it. I said Obama would win 347, he won 332. It wasn’t close, just as I’ve predicted all along. So, thanks for your data-free conjecture that’s completely wrong. Boosts your credibility as someone devoted to impartial, empirical data.

                • In fact, if you want to psychologize my position on this, I’m not the guy complaining because he was wrong, I’m the obnoxious guy flaunting that he was proven right.

              • Bill Murray

                OTOH, Cabrera had a slightly greater situational WPA

            • Miguel Cabrera was so awesome in pressure situations in the last two weeks of the season, he made the White Sox finish 4-11 without even playing against them! Surely this herculean effort deserves the MVP, and I am absolutely NOT scratching for any goofy and transient reason I can rip from noted unbiased observer Jon Paul Morosi to justify giving Cabrera the MVP award despite what all of those stat nerds think. Put down the spreadsheets and look at his batting average dweebs!

            • djw

              if Trout had played all year he might have played himself out of 2nd place in the MVP voting.

              What the hell kind of reasoning is this? He also might have hit wonderfully in those couple of weeks, bring his counting stats close enough to win over more voters. He also might have broken his leg. It’s all meaningless speculation.

              I also find carving out certain parts of the season and weighing them more heavily to be utterly arbitrary. It remains true that wins in May count every bit as much as wins in September. The sequencing of your contribution to winning isn’t relevant to your value. This kind of reasoning is an artifact of sportswriters’ need for a narrative.

              The point about his clutch hitting isn’t irrelevant, but as Nate Silver notes if you pay attention to run expectancy charts you realize it makes good sense to treat leading off an inning as something of a clutch situation, and Trout blows Cabrera out of the water here.

              But focusing on WAR and not on the role his production played in actually winning games is kind of like making a big deal about Romney’s national polling, which never mattered, because it was about the swing states.

              I have no idea what this means.

              But Cabrera was superb, and a huge reason a flawed team managed to make the playoffs (and had the second best record against winnings teams in the ML, after only the Nats), while Trout, hitting in front of Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales, wasn’t able to get his teams to the postseason.

              This, also, is utterly bizarre. The Angels won more games than the Tigers against a tougher schedule. You’re giving Cabrera credit for the shittiness of the Indians/Royals/Twins.

              I find funny about the moneyball types making a big deal about the baserunning and fielding differences between Trout and Cabrera: a lot of the moneyball people have typically said stealing bases is stupid

              No, the argument is that for most players stolen bases add little value because they get caught to much to net much value. Trout has a near perfect success rate, giving his baserunning a fairly unique value level. This is not a complicated insight.

              • “I also find carving out certain parts of the season and weighing them more heavily to be utterly arbitrary. It remains true that wins in May count every bit as much as wins in September. The sequencing of your contribution to winning isn’t relevant to your value. This kind of reasoning is an artifact of sportswriters’ need for a narrative.”

                Note, for example, that the Angels ultimately missed the postseason in large part because of their record at the beginning when their best player was in Triple-A. Which also, incidentally, shows how unseriously people take the notion of “if you took Player X off of the team, they wouldn’t be a playoff team.” That’s more obviously true of Trout than anyone in the race.

                The baseball gods truly have a wicked sense of humor.

              • NorthLeft12

                The fact is that Cabrera did play more games than Trout, and that is an important factor in the voting. Trout played in 139 games and Cabrera played in 161. While you can project what Trout may have done in those other 22 games, the fact is he missed one-eighth of the season that Cabrera played.

                As a side note; people are upset that Trout did not get the gold glove for CF when he only played in CF for 110 games? Does that not suggest he is not even the best CF on his own team? At least in his manager’s opinion.

        • timb

          Stolen bases are stupid

      • Reasonable 4ce

        BREAKING: Mitt Romney accuses Cabrera of doling out “gifts” to baseball writers.

      • John

        Better SLG, nearly identical OBP, 60 more at bats. I suppose it’s arguable, but I think there’s a strong case for Cabrera on hitting alone.

        • djw

          You can’t evaluate hitters without considering park factors. Angels play in a much tougher park to hit in.

    • Not that he was a better hitter, but that he accomplished something, the Triple Crown, that’s a really tough achievement.

      Yes, Trout had the better season in production for his team and yes, you can make a very strong argument that ought to trump anything else in an objective argument.

      So? If the MVP was an objective measure, it wouldn’t be voted upon by humans. We’d run numbers and award it.

      Sorry. Cabrera earned it, full stop.

  • JMG

    As a life BBWAA member (ex-writer), I should point out that Cabrera’s performance down the stretch for a team in a pennant race was probably the deciding factor, not the Triple Crown per se. On MLB.com, the house organ, the article on the vote went into great detail comparing Cabrera and Trout’s stats from August 1 and September 1 until the last game of the season.
    That may not be statistically valid, but it is human nature to remember the last act of a drama more than the first.

    • BangZoom

      If we’re going by WAR, Trout still outperformed Miggy in the last two months of the season.

      • And Mitt Romney polled better nationally than in the swing states

        • BangZoom


        • BangZoom

          …point being that Trout was actually more valuable than Miggy in August, contrary to public perception. This is really not that hard to figure out.

    • mark f

      LAA finished a win ahead of Detroit and was only 5 games out in the AL West.

    • BangZoom

      A good summary

  • FWIW, I don’t get focusing on the margin, as number of first place votes really doesn’t tell you anything about how close each voter thought the race was, and Trout finishing second on most ballots suggests that they thought it was close. The disappointing fact is that it was a “debate” at all, and that Trout wasn’t the consensus winner.

  • Monday Night Frotteur

    Trout was the better hitter (adjusted OPS=Trout 171, Cabrera 166).

    It’s completely unreasonable for Cabrera to win. Trout was better at the plate, better in the field, and better on the basepaths. He was the MVP.

    Old dumb people don’t like the fact that their stats (RBI, BA) have been invalidated. So they’re sticking a thumb in eyes of smarter, younger people.

    This is like what would happen if the only people who could vote in the Presidential election were George Will, Michael Barone, and Peggy Noonan.

    “Something Old is Roaring Back” indeed.

    • Scott Lemieux

      697 PAs of a 166 OPS+ seems obviously more valuable than 639 PAs of a 171 OPS+. It’s at least possible that Cabrera created more runs, but not enough to make up for Trout’s vastly better defense.

      • John

        Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous not to take into account the fact that Cabrera’s offensive stats were achieved while playing in more than 20 more games than Trout.

        • Erm, why?

        • NorthLeft12

          Cabrera playing in 22 games more than Trout is a big positive for Cabrera.
          Kind of ridiculous that a lot of people are having trouble processing that.

          You can project what Trout may have done all you want, but the fact is that Cabrera played those games and contributed on the field, base paths, and at the plate. Trout did not.

          • But this contradicts the “Cabrera’s team made the playoffs and they wouldn’t have without him so he’s da MVP” narrative, if nothing else.

            • Scott Lemieux

              But to borrow Bill James’s argument, the Angels’ play without Trout reveals value but it doesn’t constitute value. The missing games, while not his fault, are the biggest argument against Trout. Cabrera probably had more total offensive value; for an MVP, total value matters, not rate value.

              But given his vastly greater defensive contribution, 22 fewer games of Trout was still almost certainly more valuable, which is really amazing — it’s not like Cabrera is a weak MVP season or anything.

              • NorthLeft12

                I was actually thinking of Bill James and his analyses of other players’ performances and how he normally valued players that played a lot and for a long time.

              • Perhaps. My point being that the two arguments can’t co-exist with one another.

  • Steve H

    Do all of the “advanced stats” really indicate that Trout had a “much” better year? This is not one of those cases where a guy just had a tons of easy RBIs and average numbers in the other categories. It looks like Cabrera did pretty well in all of the offensive categories that matter.

    For example, Cabrera’s OBP was essentially the same as Trout’s, and his OPS was better. Though maybe I’m stuck in 2006 and those are no longer advanced statistics.

    And I know that total bases is not an advanced stat, but Cabrera had 66 more total bases than Trout.

    Even if you look at offensive WAR (on BB Ref), Trout was better, but it was pretty close.

    Basically, the big difference is defensive WAR, which I have a hard time accepting as a “statistic”.

    To me, Cabrera was close enough in the stats that matter (including OBP and OPS), so that winning the triple crown is enough to get him the nod.

    • Steve H

      Oops – just realized (after reading MNF above) that I was looking at unadjusted OPS and not adjusted OPS+. Still, even adjusted OPS+ was pretty close.

    • Monday Night Frotteur

      This makes sense only if you completely disregard (like say it’s 100% meaningless, has no effect on outcomes, etc.) baserunning and defense.

      Yes, if this is just “Hitter of the Year” it’s a tossup. It isn’t.

      • Timb

        Sure, also clubhouse presence, autograph signing, heart, and many other metrics which are hard, if not impossible, to measure definitively

        • He’s also white, has a brush cut and gives interviews in English and has never had a DUI, all of which works in his favor against Cabrera, especially with the BBWA-types. I’m happy but honestly surprised Cabrera won.

          You know who has the highest or second highest career WAR of HoF-eligible players, excluding the controversial guys like McGwire, who’s not in the Hall? He’s right behind Yount and Molitor and Bench, a bit ahead of Barry Larkin and well ahead of Ryne Sandberg: Lou Whittaker. Lou Whittaker also never gave interviews. Ever. You know how many votes for the Hall Lou Whittaker got his first year of eligibility? Zero. That dropped him from all subsequent ballots. Ryne Sandberg gets in on the second or third ballot, and a guy whose career numbers are almost identical didn’t get a single vote.

          A lot of the BBWA are to baseball what a lot of the worst DC journos are to politics.

          • mark f

            I have never seen a comment in such tension with itself.

            • My point is things like WAR is invoked selectively and ignored when convenient.

              • [My god, I need to slow down, I think I’ve got some glaring typo or mistake in every comment I’ve posted]

              • Monday Night Frotteur

                Very few people actually rely solely on WAR to support Trout. That’s a red herring.

                Give an example of somebody from the Baseball Prospectus community (like Silver) “ignoring” WAR, or other modern stats. Your argument reminds me of Buzz Bissinger’s Romney-endorsing article.

                • I’m not responsible for whatever associations you may make. And the fact that you make them is separate from whether they’re valid.

                  But have fun insulting instead of persuading.

                • Monday Night Frotteur

                  Like Bissinger, your attribution is wildly misplaced.

                  Please cite BP/Silver/et al. “ignoring” advanced stats.

              • mark f

                Cabrera, the Hispanic guy with a DUI and fewer WAR, won. And not thanks to a landslide among people who spend any time thinking about the finer points of bWAR vs fWAR.

    • djw

      Yes. The best gloss you can put on the offensive performances is that they’re basically too close to call.

      That leaves the baserunning gap and the defensive gap. Those are not insubstantial.

    • Yeah, this makes no sense. “Cabrera was at least close to as good at hitting as Trout, but Trout was the better baserunner and wahhhh defense, so Miggy the best!’

  • rea

    As a Tiger fan, let me point out that price won the Cy Young over Verlander. Price was better on a couple of traditional stats (wins and era), but the advanced stats clearly showed that Verlander was better.

    Well, okay, we could live with that, but only provided the same approach was taken with the MVP award. To their credit, the voters did that, and gave the award to Miguel.

    And if you want a more subtantive reason to give it to Cabrera, see JMG above.

    • mark f

      As someone who hated the Verlander MVP, I agree.

      • rea

        A Tiger has won the mvp award 10 times. 5 of those went to pitchers (Newhowser twice, McClain, Hernandez and Verlander). Pitchers can be MVP, if they are Tigers.

        • NorthLeft12

          Sounds fair to me.

          Smiling Tiger fan.

      • JKTHs

        And I agree with Mark f on both points

    • “Well, okay, we could live with that, but only provided the same approach was taken with the MVP award. To their credit, the voters did that, and gave the award to Miguel.”

      Not totally on topic, but for what it’s worth I’m totally amazed at how often people say this, apparently totally unaware that each award has a different set of voters casting ballots.

      • rea

        I did not know that, and looking it up, I see that’s true up to a point:

        Two writers from each MLB city are recommended by the local chapter chairman and approved by the national secretary-treasurer to vote for each award. Writers from NL cities vote for NL awards, and writers from AL cities vote for AL awards, making 32 voters for each NL award and 28 for each AL award. Most traveling beat writers will vote for at least one annual award each year. In some chapters, columnists or backup writers may also vote. Any active member of the BBWAA is eligible to vote for annual awards, regardless of his or her number of years in the organization.

        So there may well be some overlap, but you’re right, the two sets of voters aren’t identical.

        • I don’t think there’s anything that precludes someone voting for two awards, but there are enough BBWAA members that, so far as I know, no one had a vote on more than one award this year.

          • JMG

            Nobody ever gets to vote on more than one award per year. And only beat reporters are eligible. Columnists and the national BBWAA guys don’t get votes.

            • rea

              Man, I quote and link the BBWAA site to you on who can vote, and you tell me I’m wrong?

            • Um, columnists and national reporters vote all the time. As do “honorary” members. Beat writers typically get slotted in first, but your own post is contradictory here: there aren’t enough beat writers such that only they can vote and no one gets more than ballot.

  • Fighting Words

    On a related note, congratulations to Buster Posey on his N.L. MVP Award.

    • Indeed. At the beginning of the season, I was just hoping Buster would be okay. He did a lot better than that.

      • pete

        Likewise. I am so glad he got the national recognition, and handily (27 out of 32 first-place votes). Plus:

        “It’s an accomplishment that’s shared with the whole Giants organization,” Posey said.

        He’s unbelievable, a throwback to a mystical past that never existed. Heaven knows what kind of future he’ll create, but it’s obviously up to him.

      • Mike Schilling

        +1000. MVP and Comeback Player the same year.

  • Reasonable 4ce

    I’m not saying I’m convinced Cabrera was better (overall) than Trout, but anyone who wins the triple crown is an odds-on favorite to be MVP. Also too, Cabrera’s performance in clutch situations was off the charts this year (at least until the World Series).

    • “anyone who wins the triple crown is an odds-on favorite to be MVP.”

      Ted Williams’ frozen head would like a word with you.

      • efgoldman

        Two words.
        Or one word: “Twice!”

      • Reasonable 4ce

        I know Ted Williams didn’t win the MVP when he had the triple crown. But most triple crown winners are, in fact, MVPs.

        • That’s something of a meaningless statement though, given that there hasn’t been one since 1967. Ya know, small sample size and all that.

          • rea

            Although in 1967, there hadn’t been a triple crown winner since . . . the year before.

            • Also, Miggy’s Triple Crown this year would not have been a Triple Crown winner in a lot of other years, so just saying.

              • Maybe not, but he’s one of only four guys to ever win a Triple Crown and in separate seasons lead the league at least once in all the TC categories. The others are Rogers Hornsby, Jimmy Foxx and Ted Williams.

              • John

                Cabrera was equal to Yastrzemski in home runs and better than him in RBIs and BA. He was slightly behind Robinson in HRs but ahead of him in RBis and BA. Better than Ted Williams in HRs and RBIs. His stats are perfectly respectable compared to other Triple Crown winners.

  • Jim Lynch

    “..of course he’s going to win in a year where he wins the Triple Crown”.

    Right. Had Cabrera been denied the MVP award, an argument that echoed the great Williams-Dimaggio debate of 1941 would have ensued. Maybe it still will

  • Richard Cobeen

    I would suggest that ten years ago Cabrera would have been the unanimous choice for MVP. Triple Crown winner for a first place team is an automatic win. Things change slowly.

  • Mudge

    We are discussing MVP, which never has had any definition. It’s what the voters feel. I’m happy that the new statistical methods made this a debatable decision. Get new voters if you want Trout (and in time they will). But the controversy is what baseball has always been about, arguing quality.

  • Paul Gottlieb

    This is a wonderful topic! Lots and lots to argue passionately about. and none of it is important at all.

    FWIW, the Triple Crown, like hitting for the cycle, is inherently cool, and cool stuff probably carries more weight with the voters than it should.

    • +2

    • rea

      Why shouldn’t cool stuff carry great weight with the voters? Cool stuff is the entire rationale for the existance of major league baseball.

  • efgoldman

    I too started reading the “abstracts” in the 80s, and stopped only when James turned them into Rotisserie guides. Not for the stats (hell, I got a “D” in high school algebra2, with good reason) but for his prose conclusions. So when the equations start, I duck, and I freely admit it.
    Nevertheless, having seen the last triple crown winner more or less up close and personal, its a statistical quirk that commands some respect on its own. Also, I think most local BBWA chapters are still biased in favor of the older stats, at least from what I hear and read of the Boston guys.
    Hell, I remember the great Ernie Banks winning for the fourth and fifth place Cubs. I don’t care if he had the best statistical season in history – how the hell is anyone on a below .500 team “valuable?” What, without him they’d have lost 20 more games and finished 6th?

    • A great argument for making it the player of the year award already!

    • JMG

      Of course a player on a last place team has value. A team can always be worse. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that players having great years on bad teams have MORE value because they are basically carrying a club with four or five regulars with WAR of zero or not much more.

      • Steve Carlton will support that theory, winning 27 of his teams 59 games with a sub 1.00 WHIP, 30 CG, 8 SOs, 346 IP. WAR 11.7.

        Only 5th in MVP voting.

        • Bench won, WAR of 8.5, Reds finished first and made it to the Series losing to Oakland.

  • Alex

    It is the least surprising outcome ever. It may not be the right choice, but as rare as triple crown winners are — given the 45 year gap since the last time it happened in the AL — it was utterly predictable.

    Also factor in the Rookie of the Year award already in hand and Trout’s opportunity over the next 12-16 years to add MVP, and the fact that Cabrera is a veteran and perennial second or third choice in the MVP derby, and this one was easy to predict.

  • dollared

    Imagine my agony to learn that the best player on any team that went to playoffs won the Most Valuable Player award.

    I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

    • Yeesh, I like Posey a lot, but that might be overdoing it. He might not have even been as good as Cabrera, and really probably wasn’t as good as Verlander or Cano.

      • His WAR was better than Cabrera.

        Cano’s was the highest of those you mentioned. But his playoff performance against top tier pitching was somewhat, say, lacking.

        • JKTHs

          Well they vote before the playoffs, so irrelevant

  • rea

    Ultimately, it’s a subjective award. Cabrera was a great player having a splendid season.

    And all these advanced metrics conclusively establish . . . nothing. We build models of the game to help us understand it, but the game is more complicated than our models. Cabrera and Trout are two very different players with very different roles, and you can’t measure them against each other except subjectively.

    • That’s a key point: Trout’s WAR is a function of comparing him to other CF’s. But are all positions equally valuable to winning? I have yet to have anyone answer me on this, but assume league average at all other positions on each time, which would you rather have, league best at 2B and CF and league worst at 1B and DH, or the opposite? Anyone who would take the league best 2B and CF and worst 1B & DH is a fool, and probably destined for fourth place.

      • Scott Lemieux

        But are all positions equally valuable to winning?

        No. CFs are more valuable than third basemen. I’m not sure how this advances your point.

        • You are correct on that score.

          I think the combination of Cabrera winning the Triple Crown, that he is a proven professional hitter over his entire career in both leagues, and the Tigers won their division was what did it.

          If Trout repeats his performance or any thing close to it, he’ll win it the next time.

          • R A Dickey would like a word…

            I agree that Cabrera should have won the MVP because of the Triple Crown. It’s really hard to justify Trout when he didn’t lead the league in any of the three most significant offensive categories. That’s what people look at and had Trout had even three more points on his BA, his closest category, there might have been a real case to make to overcome the Triple Crown stigma

            • RBIs aren’t anything like an important individual offensive category, and BA is less important than OBP . . . and Trout beat Cabrera in OBP.

              • Right, anyone who considers batting average and RBI important metrics in their own right, let alone two of the three most important categories, is just completely blowing smoke out of their ass at this point.

                • Excuse me, but the papers list three statistics when they list league leaders, correct?

                  And those are the three criteria for the Triple Crown, right?

                  So you’ll pardon me for blowing smoke out my mouth, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmK?

                • Toss

                  RBI and BA are both stats and in the paper they are not however two of the most significant offensive categories. If you are not bullshitting then you are uninformed.

        • How are they more valuable if a CF with offensive stats equal or inferior to a 3B can have higher offensive WAR? The presumption is, despite some exceptions like Kemp, Trout or McCutcheon, that you get less offensive production from a typical CF than from a 3B, that that they’re not as important to your offense as is the typical 3B.

        • NorthLeft12

          Is a 110 game center fielder and a 29 game left fielder more valuable than a 154 game third baseman?

      • “But are all positions equally valuable to winning? I have yet to have anyone answer me on this”

        Remember when you were trying to pretend you weren’t a disingenuous idiot?

        • Again, another example of how most of the Sabermetric zealots Just. Can. Not. Stop. Telling. Everyone who doesn’t agree with them that they’re fucking morons and inferior to the sabermetrics people in every way.

          You guys are like the stereotype of losers who play D&D and think everyone is inferior to them. Instead of “Worst. Episode. Ever,” you’re saying “Worst. MVP. Ever.”


    • wengler

      Not really. Cabrera’s a good power hitter at the peak of his career. He’s a terrible fielder at a non-premium position and is also a negative on the base paths.

      Trout probably had the best rookie season of any player in the history of baseball. He is a great fielder at a premium position. He steal bases. He hits for power and average.

      It’s really a no-brainer who is more valuable. Not that it really matters. The BBWAA is full of dinosaurs.

      • rea

        He’s a terrible fielder at a non-premium position

        (1) 3B is usually regarded as an improtant defensive position.

        (2) He is not as bad defensively as you suggest, although he won’t be winning any golden gloves soon.

        • 1. That’s…not really true. At best it’s considered a middle of the pack position, behind SS, C, CF, and 2B, but obviously ahead of DH and 1B. There’s some level of subjectivity on where it ranks relative to LF and RF, but still, no one would have it higher than fifth amongst the nine A.L. positions.

          2. I have no idea how anyone makes the “he wasn’t that bad of a defender” argument with a straight face.

          • Scott Lemieux

            3B is pretty clearly a more valuable defensive position than the corner OF positions. But since we’re comparing a pretty bad 3B to an outstanding player at a genuinely premium position, it beside the point in this case.

          • Over the previous three years, his fielding pct has been over .990. 2012 was a decline, to be sure.

            • djw

              Except for the outliers at the low end, fielding percentage tells us nothing about actual defensive value. Error scoring is wildly inconsistent, and it gives you credit for not getting to balls that would be difficult plays.

              • Still, the comment was “terrible defender” when it’s clear he was not terrible.

                • djw

                  Having a .990 fielding percentage at first base is not evidence he’s not terrible.

                • Right. And as for sabermetric measures of defensive performance, he’s going to be dinged on range–which is fair, his range isn’t very good–but he also had no help on his side, since Perralta’s range is so limited. A lot of balls that got through the hole because he didn’t get to it might have been snagged by a shortstop with better range.

                  This is something I wonder about wrt Trout’s defensive numbers. Obviously he’s very good, but are the fielding numbers influenced by having a very good fielder on one side and one of the top few outfielders of the last 15 years on his other side? I’m not saying that if you put him between Delmon Young and 37 year old Magglio Ordonez he wouldn’t still be very good, and maybe even more valable (which may explain why Jackson’s metrics weren’t as good this year as last). But still, I wonder.

                • Sherm

                  Having bad fielders around you should improve your defensive metrics bc it gives you the opportunity to field more balls out of your zone.

                • Hypothetically, yes. But it may also lead to you attempting to field more balls that you wouldn’t usually touch, and maybe ending up with more errors, misplays, etc. Higher reward could be offset by higher risk.

            • Sherm

              Apples and oranges. Cabrera played first in 2010 and 2011.
              I’d have a .990 fielding percentage at first too.

              And he’s an awful and, to be kind, a very indifferent defender. If I were a Tigers fan, my first thought this year whenever there was a hard hit ball to third would have been “I hope Cabrera can get out of the way so he doesn’t hurt himself.”

              Trout deserved to win. But Cabrera was a worthy candidate so his winning is not really worth all the spilled ink and outrage. There have been much worse decisions in the past, and the mere fact that there was a debate this year whether a triple crown winner on a playoff team actually deserves the MVP award shows how far we have advanced in evaluating players. Just a few years ago, there would have been no such debate, and players such as Hamilton, Cano, and Beltre would have stolen a lot of the second place votes which Trout received.

              • The astounding thing to me is that he had such a good season when he traded up in difficulty of defensive position. James points out that usually the opposite occurs, especially in the first year learning a new spot.

              • NorthLeft12

                How about looking at the numbers for a change? Yes, the fielding numbers.

                From ESPN.
                Cabrera-of all seven qualified third basemen he was first in games and innings played, second in chances, first in put outs, third in assists, fourth in errors, second in double plays, third in fielding %, and fourth in range factor. Those are not the numbers of a “terrible” fielder.

                Trout- of the eleven qualified AL CFs [which Trout barely makes it at 110 games and 886 innings] he was eleventh in GP, tenth in innings, tenth in chances, tenth in putouts, eleventh in assists, fifth in errors, tied for fifth in DPs, fifth in fielding %, and fourth in range factor. Those are not the stats I would expect for a “fantastic” center fielder. Then again I did not watch him play and all his catches may have been highlight reel plays.

                I wonder how this narrative of his fielding prowess squares with Trout playing the equivalent of 98.4 games in centerfield [by innings] while being on the roster for 139 games. Was he replaced often? Or did he not start playing CF until later in the season?

                I don’t profess to completely understand DWAR, etc. but I am struggling to square the perceptions of Trout and Cabrera as fielders with their stats. A little help here?

                • Sherm

                  Those fielding numbers reveal little. His uzr was minus 10. He sucks in the field.

                • djw

                  This is an incredibly silly assessment of defense. First: of course the person who plays more does better in counting stats, and vice-versa. Defense in baseball involves a lot of plays anyone and everyone who a team would actually put in the field would make. Furthermore, anyone serious about using statistics to evaluate defense would not ignore actual batted ball data, now that we have it. Range factor, dubious to begin with, is now utterly obsolete.

  • JMG

    A tie would’ve been a perfectly just result, but Trout wasn’t the first and won’t be the last guy who had an historic season and still didn’t get MVP. Check out Hank Aaron’s numbers from 1963 sometime. Maybe best year of his career. He lost to some nobody named Koufax.

    • Maybe an even better example:

      Pedro didn’t win because since a decade or so since Koufax until last year, pitchers supposedly weren’t valuable.

      • rea

        1984. Just sayin’

      • since a decade or so since Koufax until last year, pitchers supposedly weren’t valuable

        Is this a clumsy complaint about the not-officially-separate-from-MVP-but-often-regarded-as-such Cy Young Award, or are you again conflating the Murray Chass wing of the BBWAA with your Strawbermetricians?

  • What’s the sabermetric measure for a catcher’s game calling?

      • djw

        But it’s a junk stat with no predictive value or consistency. Which suggests that game calling either a) isn’t a skill that MLB-calibre players have at measurably different levels, or b) is a skill, but one we haven’t yet figured out how to measure. I don’t presume to know whether a or b is true, but they both seem plausible.

        • The problem with game calling, as I see it, is that there’s basically no concrete value in it. Say you have a catcher who isn’t very good at calling pitches: how hard would it be to have the bench coach relay signals to him? Or to have the pitcher take more responsibility for it (which a lot of pitchers do anyway)? Is there any reason to suspect there’s an inherent advantage to having the guy wearing catching gear deciding what pitch to call for?

          • That’s a good point. And test case: Jason Varitek was one of the most praised “game manager” catchers of recent memory, and he was behind the plate for arguably the most dominating multi-year stretch by any one starting pitcher in history. I don’t recall anyone ever giving Varitek the credit for Pedro’s craftiness and location, though.

        • I’d tend to lean towards B, but of course, as Brien points out, it’s less important than it might appear.

          Here’s the thing: about all a catcher can really have control over (e.g. something that’s not taken out of his hand) is actually catching the ball.

          Let’s say the bench coach calls the pitches. About all the catcher can do to better the pitching performance is steal pitches with framing and positioning, giving the umpire the illusion of strikes (or not) or more likely, giving the umpire reasons to stick with a strike call by not flailing his glove around.

          Apart from that, it’s pretty much out of the catcher’s hands.

          Err, no pun intended.

          • So catchers neve set up in a different place?


  • dollared

    But who is it in the portrait? Metternich? It’s not James I….

    • Morbo

      That’s what the alt text says.

  • rea

    This call for unfriending Cabrera fans may seem somewhat familiar (although on baseball sites, people who pay no attention to the political blogosphere are asking WFT?)


  • Guys, Mitch Albom is on the case:

    There is no end to the appetite for categories — from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

    How often does a guy get on base? Who gives a shit what’s his batting average????

    • Because walks are for pussies, and I’d rather have a guy with a lower OBP who forces fielders to throw the ball hurriedly than a guy who walks 150 times in a season.

  • Pepper

    Why was Trout in aaa for the first month of the season? Bad spring or just viewed as not ready.

    • Sherm

      Most likely because they had a bunch of overpaid veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.

      • NorthLeft12

        Why did Trout only play CF for the equivalent of 98.4 games? Do the Angels have a better fielding CF on the bench who spelled Trout?

        Peter Bourjas has some eye popping numbers that I would more likely call those of a “fantastic” centerfielder. No wonder Trout was often replaced.
        Hard to give Trout the Gold Glove when he was not the best CF on his own team.

    • They brought him up last year before he was ready and he didn’t play well, probably over-compensating for that this year.

      • Sherm

        That was certainly part of the equation, but they were content with Wells, Borgous, and Hunter in the outfield backed up by abreu.

  • Dead thread, but one question: where were all you guys in 2010 when Cabrera had far superior sabermetric numbers to Josh Hamilton, but Hamilton got the MVP?

  • Thlayli

    Quoting, of all people, Steve Sailer:

    Mike Trout is exactly the kind of “Five Tool Ballplayer” who looks good in his uniform that traditional baseball scouts salivated over, while Miguel Cabrera is very much the kind of big, clumsy oaf that Bill James campaigned for on the grounds that fielding really isn’t all that important compared to power and walks.

    • NorthLeft12

      Except Trout also hits for very good power and gets on base a lot.

      Look, Trout is an outstanding player who had an outstanding season. Is there any shame in losing the MVP to a guy who wins the triple crown and is a perennial top three or so candidate for the MVP in the AL?

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