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The Triple Trout

People seem to think that when you make a big deal out of just how extraordinary a season Mike Trout had with the Angels, that you are somehow downgrading what an extraordinary Triple Crown year Miguel Cabrera had with the Tigers.

It shouldn’t be like that. This isn’t a presidential debate. Big Bird isn’t at stake. Cabrera’s Triple Crown year is amazing, it is historic … and it is also obvious. As I’ve written, everybody understands the Triple Crown numbers. We grew up with them. We have soaked in them. I know that there is a sense out there that Cabrera is not getting enough credit for doing this incredible thing, and while I don’t exactly buy that — it seems to me that everybody either is talking about how amazing the Triple Crown was OR is complaining that nobody else is talking about it — I guess it’s possible because there’s an MVP award at stake, and every vote for Mike Trout is a vote against Miggy.

If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy to admit it … but I’ll be surprised if Cabrera gets fewer than 80 percent of the first-place MVP votes. I think he will win, and he will win in a runaway, and all this chatter about the travesty of the MVP not going to the Triple Crown winner will have been pointless. We’ll check back in a month to see how it turns out.

Mike Trout’s year is amazing and historic, too. And as far as I can tell, not enough people are talking ABOUT THAT. For instance, one thing that people keep talking about is how amazing a year it is “for a 20-year-old.” But this is downgrading his brilliance. Trout’s season is amazing for any age, any time, at any point in the history of baseball.

For another, people like me keep referring to Trout’s defense as being the key to his great season. Trout’s defense has been, by all measurements I know of, otherworldly. But the guy had a historic OFFENSIVE year.

Mike Trout led the league in three categories that almost never go together: He led the league in runs scored, stolen bases and OPS+. Well, runs scored and stolen bases do go together … but OPS+ changes the dynamic. Very few can also lead the league in that category. Adjusted OPS+ is a player’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) adjusted for ballpark and how the league hit that year. It is a statistical effort to put the player’s season in context.

Take Carl Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown year. He hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBIs. Well, since 1967, 14 players have had years in which their numbers in each category are as good or better. Albert Pujols has done it three times, Barry Bonds twice, Todd Helton, Mo Vaughn, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez …

But we know, instinctively, that there was something special about Yaz’s season. For many, it is that he won the Triple Crown. But I would say, more to the point (and the Triple Crown demonstrates this too), is that he was remarkable in context, remarkable when compared to the rest of the league in that era of the pitcher. So his 193 OPS+ is significantly better than Mo Vaughn’s in 1996 (150 OPS+) or Vlad Guerrero’s 2000 (162 OPS+) and even a touch better than Albert Pujols’ 2009 (189 OPS+), even though Pujols had a slightly higher average, hit more homers and drove in more runs.

Put it this way: Every single Triple Crown winner also led his league in OPS+. Until this year …

Yes, Mike Trout’s OPS+ (171) is higher than that of the guy who won the Triple Crown (165). This happened because:

  1. Trout had a higher on-base percentage, which is the most important part of OPS (and probably the most telling single offensive stat in baseball).

  2. Trout finished third in the AL in slugging — a not-insignificant 42 points behind Cabrera, but still an amazing slugging year.

  3. Cabrera played his home games in a generally neutral ballpark, one that might lean slightly toward hitters. Trout played his home games in one of the worst-hitting parks in baseball. You have to note this:

Cabrera on the road: .327/.384/.529, 16 homers, 64 RBIs, 43 runs.

Trout on the road: .332/.407/.544, 14 homers, 44 RBIs, 65 runs.

And this is with Trout playing 11 fewer road games than Cabrera. He out-hit Cabrera. He out-slugged him, too. Again, this might sound hostile toward Cabrera’s season, but that’s not how I mean it. The baseline is that Miguel Cabrera’s season is historic. I mean it to show you just how unimaginably great Trout’s season was.

So, getting back to the point. Trout led the league OPS+ — first guy ever to beat a Triple Crown winner. But he also led the league in stolen bases and runs scored. Rare.

Here are the players who have won the Triple Trout:

2012: Mike Trout: 129 runs, 49 stolen bases, 171 OPS+.
1990: Rickey Henderson: 119 runs, 65 stolen bases, 189 OPS+.
1958: Willie Mays, 121 runs, 31 stolen bases, 165 OPS+.
1945: Snuffy Stirnweiss, 107 runs, 33 stolen bases, 145 OPS+.
1915: Ty Cobb, 144 runs, 96 stolen bases, 185 OIPS+.
1911: Ty Cobb, 147 runs, 83 stolen bases, 196 OPS+.
1909: Ty Cobb, 116 runs, 76 stolen bases, 193 OPS+.
1902: Honus Wagner, 105 runs, 42 stolen, bases, 162 OPS+.

Stirnweiss’ name stands out. His achievement was accomplished in a war year, with Ted Williams at war, with Joe DiMaggio at war, with Hank Greenberg at war, with Mickey Vernon at war and so on. When they returned, Stirnweiss — a good player — never again led the league in any of those categories, and never again finished in the top 10 in OPS+.

The other four — Wagner, Cobb, Mays and Henderson — are, of course, all-timers and leading the league in all three of those categories were transcendent moments in their careers. And now we list those seasons in order of Wins Above Replacement, which tries to take into account defense as well:

  1. Mike Trout, 2012, 10.7
  2. Ty Cobb, 1911, 10.6
  3. Willie Mays, 1958, 10.0
  4. Rickey Henderson, 1990, 9.8
  5. Ty Cobb, 1909, 9.5
  6. Ty Cobb, 1915, 9.3
  7. Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1945, 8.2
  8. Honus Wagner, 1902, 6.9

You might or might not buy the effectiveness of WAR, but you might admit that’s a pretty heady list to be at the top of.

When it comes to the MVP award — and I say this now, after the voting is over — I think it’s too easy to tilt the argument toward the player you want to win. I’m as guilty of this as the next guy. The Brilliant Tom Tango (more from him in our next post) thinks the problem with the MVP argument is a lack of honesty.

Did Mike Trout, all things considered, have a better year than Miguel Cabrera? Did the fact that he got on base more and score more runs despite playing in a tougher hitting environment, steal many more bases, and play demonstrably better defense more than make up for the fact that Cabrera hit more homers, drove in more runs and hit for a higher average? Others are more fervent about this than I am, but I still say unequivocally yes: I think they both had off-the-chart seasons, but Trout’s was better. Trout’s season is the best overall year in baseball the American League, I think, in about 20 years, or for just about as long as he has been alive.

The Barry Bonds years are a whole different category.

Now, if you disagree, make that argument in the comments. I’ll post the best Miggy For MVP arguments. But, again, as Tango says, make the argument so that you will stand behind it next year and the year after that and the 25 years after that, when at some point the argument crushes YOUR MVP CHOICE. So saying that Cabrera’s team made the playoffs (when Trout’s team finished with the better record) won’t cut it here. Saying that Cabrera’s Triple Crown should guarantee him the MVP because it’s such a rare and cool feat won’t cut it here, either.

Make your best argument why Cabrera was the better player in 2012. And we will put it up there and see if people buy it.

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155 Responses to The Triple Trout

  1. 88 says:

    Cabrera led all of MLB in Total Bases by a clear margin and also led MLB in Extra Base Hits. -Any- player who leads MLB in those 2 categories should not have an argument why they aren’t MVP.

    • Kyle Litke says:

      What if the person who had all these extra base hits also had 30 walks on the year, didn’t score or drive in a lot of runs because of a bad team around him, and DHed or played bad defense at first? Cabrera doesn’t fit those, but I’d have to disagree with stating flat out leading MLB in TBs = MVP. No one stat (including WAR I think) tells the entire story.

    • B.E. Earl says:

      That happens a lot. Last year Jacoby Ellsbury led MLB in both categories and didn’t win MVP. In 2010, Jose Bautista led MLB in both categories (actually tied with Carlos Gonzalez for Total Bases) and didn’t win MVP. 2007 Matt Holliday. 2005 Derrek Lee. Etc…

      And the question wasn’t whether or not there should be an argument that the player that led MLB in those two categories should be MVP. It was whether Cabrera, specifically in this year, deserves it over Trout.

      If your answer is that it should always go to any player who leads all of baseball in those two categories…then fine. That means you would have given it to Lee in 2005 over Pujols. Or Holliday in 2007 over Rollins. Or Bautista in 2010 over Hamilton. Is that correct?

    • PL says:

      I like TB because it doesnt have anything to do with RBI or BA, its just simple…output.

      Yes I would have given it to all those mentioned above. Ellsbury was absolutely the MVP last year and they give it to a pitcher, ugh.

    • PL says:

      All things considered, it just should be a tie. Both guys had A+ seasons and an A+ isn’t better than an A+.

    • clashfan says:

      PL, I’d prefer Total Bases if it included walks.

    • B.E. Earl says:

      @PL – Total Bases is a great stat. But it doesn’t reflect all of their offensive output. No walks in that number. Or stolen bases (net of CS). Or how often they GIDP. Taking into account that they both walked around the same number of times, that Trout led the league in SB (at a 91% clip) and Miggy led the league in GIDP…I think their output is just around even.

      Ah….but what about defense? That’s where it slides firmly into Trout’s favor, in my opinion.

    • roughan says:

      That argument has already been countered, see Tom Verducci’s article titled: “Cabrera chasing Triple Crown, but it’s not what it used to be”. In it he adds up the GIDP, extra bases taken on hits, stolen bases, caught stealing, walks, HBP. The real total bases comes out to:

      Cabrera: 425
      Trout: 435

      note that this was written on 9/25, but I don’t think Trout has given up the lead by the end of the season.

      full article here:

    • B.E. Earl says:

      @roughan – Yeah, I think I saw that. I did the same calculation leaving out extra bases taken on hits (was being lazy about finding it/thinking it might be subjective) and Trout led 425-424 at year-end. Basically even…offensively.

    • Fred Urshgur says:

      I am still waiting to see how Cabrera’s sacrifice in moving to 3B to accommodate Prince Fielder is factored in with all of your flashy new stats. Want to diss Cabrera for his 3B fielding record? Fair enough. Then you must also credit him for the staggering increase in productivity at that position over last year (with Brandon Inge et al at 3B).

      You’d also have to debit him for the overall decrease in play @ 1B with Fielder, mostly on the defensive side. But seriously, when EVER has a player moved to a far more difficult position, and generated such productivity? How do your new stats measure that?

      Again, I like these stats, but believing they tell the whole story is just as myopic as believing batting avg. tells it all. I’m waiting to see how such intra-team transactions can be factored in, as they are without question crucially relevant. Too much to ask? Well then, shut up about how new stats tell all.

      P.S. I like what one cat said about Cabrera’s lack of stolen bases: Cabrera had 13 more doubles, so was on 2B without needing a steal. And 52 more total bases? Hmm., do the math…

    • The threat of the steal and its influence on the pitchers has to be included in the argument. Yes, Cabrera did hit more doubles, but the players hitting behind him didn’t get him in as often (fewer runs scored) and the players trying to get Trout home after a single benefit from a pitcher which will expend a lot of energy trying to keep him close, and inevitably not pitch as well. So it is not only the stolen base, but the threat which is important.

      My problem with modern stats is that I don’t understand how they are calculated. Since I can’t do them myself (some of them) I am automatically more skeptical.

    • I am a die hard Tiger fan and I will say that Miggy more than made up for all those extra base hits with his glove. We are awarding the mvP here, not the most valuable offensive player. Trout had a monstrous offensive season as well, and is also an incredibly able CF. Trout deserves the MVP. No question.

      @Fred Urshgur – Being willing to move to a position at which you are demonstrably bad should not be a factor IN FAVOR of a MVP vote. He would have helped his team by moving to the DH (he would have helped his team even more if he could have convinced Fielder to DH and stayed at 1B himself!).

      I recently came across a very good piece that addresses this topic. Essentially it argues that by not being willing to DH, Cabrera made room not for Fielder but for Young to DH which created playing time for the OF platoon employed by the Tigers this year. A great quote: Had Cabrera been willing to actually take one for the team and DH, those are the guys (Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Quinton Berry, and Andy Dirks)who would have lost playing time, not Prince Fielder. Does anyone seriously want to argue that the Tigers are better off because Cabrera decided to become a bad defensive third baseman so that that group could get more playing time?” The entire piece is here:

  2. Tyler Marsh says:

    Great article, only thing I disagree with is Trout having the best season in 20 years. Umm, Bary Bonds.

  3. Flax says:

    Kind of unfair, as there is no such argument. The only arguments I’ve seen for Cabrera are (a) Triple Crown (a neat achievement but not necessarily indicative of value and not, historically, a guaranteed MVP; (b) Tigers made the playoffs and Angels didn’t (ignores the records, the divisions, the fact that the Tigers’ division win was made possible at least as much by the White Sox collapse as their own play); and (c) the MVP is about hitting, not defense (ignores the fact that many historical MVPs have been awarded partly on defensive grounds, and all the pitchers who have won).

    • bigbuff_guy says:

      This is a ridiculous argument. A Triple Crown is a bit more than a “neat accomplishment,” as it immortalizes a player. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. Also, it might not be necessarily indicative of the *most* valuable player in the league, but to say that it isn’t indicative of value at all is simply asinine. It is impossible to win the Triple Crown without being an extremely valuable player.

  4. JMW says:

    This is the reason all the little leaguers get a trophy. The arguing is just exhausting.

    Best reason I can find: Cabrera gets a 200k bonus for winning, Trout doesn’t have a MVP bonus clause in his contract. Cabrera has a charitable foundation and will likely donate some or all of that bonus to those in more need of this focus.

  5. Which war do you use????? there are 3 of them and each accomadates players differently, Miggy sacrificed himself for the team to play third base, if he had played first base his war( any of the three would be higher), lets see trout play first base next year and see how he does

    • Mak says:

      It’s not sacrificing for the team when he could have just switched off between 1B/DH with Fielder and not forced his team to start players like Delmon Young at DH while also carrying his mediocre defense at 3B.

    • Brandon Gray says:

      Horrible argument. It’s not like he hasn’t played third base before. Cabrera’s WAR is improved by playing 3B, and Trout playing first base…. I can’t even begin to argue that, such an ignorant statement.

    • Patrick says:

      I don’t get how if Cabrera played first base is WAR would be higher. Using Fangraph’s WAR as an example the positional adjustment for third base is +2.5 runs and the positional adjustment for first base is -12.5 runs. That means that Cabrera would have lost over 1 win from his WAR had he played first base. His defense might have been better but historically he has been lost runs on defense (even at first base).

      Also, to say that if Trout played first base his WAR would go down missing the point. Trout plays one of the premier defensive positions in the game and he plays it well. That should be acknowledged.

    • a_labeck says:

      Baseball-Reference: Trout 10.7 – Cabrera 6.9
      Fangraphs: Trout 10.4 – Cabrera 7.2
      Baseball Prospectus: Trout 9.1 – Cabrera 6.1

      No matter which one you use, the clear winner is Trout. As for the positional argument, WAR does account for what position someone plays. Cabrera was given about 1.5 WAR for switching from first base to third base and actually was rated as having played third base just as well as he had been playing first base. The switch benefited him in terms of WAR.

    • Thank you Mak! Let us not forget that Miggy himself said, after Fielder was signed, that he would return to his “natural position.” Why would he get a break for playing 3B then?

      That was a sad day.

  6. ThWard says:

    Joe, Trout’s season was amazing. But I find the 22 extra games (NOT Trout’s fault, of course) to be compelling. That also cuts towards just how amazing Trout’s overall WAR is, but it is telling that Cabrera’s WAR was a higher percentage of the Tigers’ team total vs. Trout’s WAR % of the Angels’ team total.

    You can’t go wrong with either; but give me the guy who played the whole season and had over 1/3 of his team’s total WAR – the added romance of the Triple Crown is what it is.

    Something tells me we might have this debate a few more times in the next 5-7 years; lucky us.

    • Roger Fan says:

      If % of team WAR was the measuring stick, then you’d have to pick good players on bad teams a LOT more than it actually happens. In that case, someone like David Wright (who also had a higher fWAR than Cabrera) should be your pick.

      Rewarding players for playing on bad teams is just as stupid as rewarding players for playing on good ones.

    • Scott says:

      I’m pretty sure the Mets are still in the NL this year.

    • Matt says:

      “You can’t go wrong with either; but give me the guy who played the whole season and had over 1/3 of his team’s total WAR – the added romance of the Triple Crown is what it is.”

      What? Miggy 6.9 WAR, Verlander 7.5, AJax 5.3, Prince 4.5. He’s not even the most valuable player on his team let alone ‘over 1/3 of his team’s total WAR’

  7. LargeBill says:

    I got nutt’n.

    Shame voters can’t collude to manage a 1979 style tie. Or can they? mmmmm

  8. Brandon Gray says:

    Joe, first I want to say that I believe Trout is the MVP.

    Here is where I believe the Cabrera supporters should come from. You can swing the offensive winner to Cabrera if you try hard enough. You may be able to negate much of defensive difference by using past defensive metrics. When you quote WAR from decades ago, we know the defensive metrics were different then 2012. If we used the 1950 defensive and baserunning metrics, what would each player be? I still don’t think this changes the outcome, but it may close the gap a bit.

    Then maybe you try to make some ridiculous case that if Trout were truly more valuable, he would have been more valuable to the team than Vernon Wells in April and been on the roster, and thus been a bigger part of their season. Use the games and AB difference in a way like IP for Dickey vs Kimbrel or peak years vs longevity like Pedro vs Clemens.

  9. Because Miggy Cabrera did all this as a right handed hitter. It’s hard to lead the league in hitting when you are batting from the right and are not fast enough to beat out infield grounders.

  10. According to w.a.r. manny ramirez and david ortiz were below average, yet without them the red sox would have never won any world series. WAR disregards clutch hitting and any person who has played competitive sports knows the importance of playing under pressure.
    Playing in September down the stretch when there is more pressure and there is more pounding in the body MATTERS, the final two months when Trout felt pressure and pitchers knew how to pitch to him, he became an average player.
    Trout had a great season but everyone who saw Angels games knows that Torii Hunter carried that team down the stretch.

    • Roger Fan says:

      Trout had a wRC+ of 158 over the last two months with a .289/.400/.500 line. I don’t think hitting better than Cabrera’s career average while still being a phenomenal base runner and playing plus defense in center is considered average.

    • Patrick says:

      If you look at two stats, WPA (Win Probability Added) or RE24, both of which measure how much a player contributed to his teams ability to win and both of which include context (players on base, clutch situations, etc) you see that Trout actually leads baseball in both statistics.

      If you want to talk about clutch how about the fact that Cabrera lead all of baseball in grounding into double plays.

    • Trout hit .289/.400/.500 in September. Hunter hit .345/.400/.496. Yes, Hunter hit for a higher average, but Trout had the same OBP and a higher slugging percentage, in 10 more plate appearances with more extra base hits (12 to 9). Your logic does not compute.

    • WAR disregards clutch hits because clutch hitting is not a predictable skill. Players who are good hitters will get clutch hits, but clutch hits, like RBIs, are based on the opportunities those hitters receive, and their performance in those opportunities has not shown itself to be repeatable. David Ortiz went on a crazy run of walk-off hits in 2004 and 2005, but how many has he had since?

    • Paul Zummo says:

      According to w.a.r. manny ramirez and david ortiz were below average,

      Huh? Manny Ramirez had a sub-2 WAR in 2007 (thus below averg=age), but was significantly over that through most of his career. Ortiz was 4.# WAR (FG) in 2004 and 6.3 WAR in 2007. So you don’t even have your basic facts right.

  11. Unknown says:

    Ok, i’m too lazy to research the numbers and such but here’s framework that could get cabrera close(i vote trout but find the conversation is fun).

    Based off WAR, but since you can argue there is a lot of noise in the defensive numbers, players can only be +/- 1 Win for the UZR.

    Deem valuable to be in revenue generating terms regarding wins. So basically determine the general $/win number but then apply an extra bonus for players on playoff teams since, splitting up wild cards from division winners. so a team can expect $X extra revenue from getting a wild card, and $Y from division (these are not team specific). So estimates on revenue from the playoffs and increases in attendance/revenue in the next handful of years from the playoffs.

    Take that extra revenue number and multiply by % of teams total WAR (so luck is out of the equation).

    might give the cabrera lovers camp a method to get him close or beat Trout. would need to be a big revenue number though, although the defense limitation helps him as well.

    • Mike H. says:

      Of course, Miguel Cabrera is earning a salary of $21 million, as opposed to Trout’s $480,000. So Cabrera starts out in a pretty big hole, if we’re going to look at financial impact.

  12. I have nothing to add, other than that I hope we all, whatever side we fall on here, can take a moment to revel in the name Snuffy Stirmgeiss.

    I might name my next dog Snuffy Stirmgeiss.

  13. Beecher13x44 says:

    Trout, had the advantage of being green and having every pitcher see if he really was THAT good. Angels had three 30hr hitters. One being Trumbo (the forgotten stud) and the other being the highly anticipated and always feared Pujols who notably only totaled 2 less bases than Trout. Lets not forget the quietly solid year Hunter had, either. The Angels,on paper did not expect Trout to have this amazing of a season. They anticipated him being an excellent run producer for Pujols. Trout excelled in every possible way. All the while Pujols had a mediocre year by his own unrealistic standards and received most of the national media’s attention for the better part of the year because of his recent contract and relocation. Not to mention, the Angels didn’t make the playoffs.

    Miggy led the league in AVG two years in a row, had a less balanced offensive squad around him and also had to switch positions at the ripe age of 29. His team, minus his stats, would not have won the central. Opposing players expected him to be the slugger, and he was in every way. His job wasn’t to get on base, it was to clear them. He did just that. The acquisition of Fielder provided Miggy with enough protection to see the pitches worth creaming. He also totaled more bases than Trout with 377.

    Defense goes to Trout all the way. BUT, I cannot overstate the difficulty of the switch to 3B for Miggy. I would like to think he took that challenge and channeled it into his offense.

    Miggy lived up to the burdensome expectations that come every season for the highest paid superstars. Trout simply made the best argument to hold him to those same standards for the rest of his career. Ask Albert, exceeding expectations once you’ve set them soo high for soo long can be an astronomical feat.

    Miggy for MVP.


    • Adam says:

      So, the argument is that Miggy is more valuable because he was expected to be more valuable?

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Yes. The Angels expected to succeed without such a stellar performance from Trout. Detroit new Miggy had to have an great year, and he did. Miggy and Trout filled very different roles for their teams. Miggy was supposed to drive in runs, Trout was expected to score them. I think the greater burden to perform lied on Miggy. Then he went ahead and won the Triple Crown on top of totaling 377 bases to Trout’s 317 and posted a .999 OPS.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Trout also struck out 41 more times and only had one more walk. Miggy isn’t payed to walk, Trout is. Miggy also played in 161 games to Trout’s 139. Miggy is more valuable to his team.

    • Unknown says:

      so switching positions = MVP?

    • This is a good point. If a starting pitcher that throws 200 innings is more valuable than a reliever that throws 60 innings, than Miggy has to be more valuable than Trout considering he played 22 more games.

    • Adam says:

      The idea that Miggy is more valuable because of preseason expectations ignores everything we learned during the season. Awards aren’t doled out because of preseason expectations. They’re to award what actually happened.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Afterall, the MVP is about a player’s value to their team. Miggy is a perennial AS/MVP canidate. Yet, he was able to exceed these expectations in the prime of his career. Trout had the best debut season EVER. We’ll see if this was in fact the perfect combination of statistical circumstances or if he really is a new breed of athlete. He deserves the ROY, GG, and SS… but not the MVP. Miggy carried an unrealistic burden and then some, he deserves it.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Expectations are set because of previous performances, exceeding them is noteworthy. Trout has set his quite high, but Miggy exceeded an entire career’s worth.

    • Adam says:

      Maybe, then, we should set a preseason list of players eligible for awards. Like every team submits its three best players, before the season, and those are the only guys eligible for the MVP? This seems to me to fit what you’re arguing.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Not at all, my point is that Miggy did exactly what he was expected to and more on a team with far less offensive talent surrounding him.

    • Adam says:

      So Trout shouldn’t win because his numbers were more unexpected, but if next year he has the exact same numbers he should win the MVP?

      I prefer to judge based on performance, not some overly subjective definition of “expectations,” and to base yearly awards on one year, not on previous performances.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Expectations are relevant because pitchers pitch differently to All Stars then they do rookie CFs. Once te league realized Trout was legit, pitchers adjusted and his numbers dipped below Miggy’s. All the while Miggy stayed steady.

    • Mark says:

      So to distill this argument into a set of principles that could be reused in future years:

      If two given candidates are somewhat close, we give the MVP to the candidate who:
      1) had higher expectations coming into the season
      2) got more media attention
      3) had fewer teammates who also had high expectations and got lots of media attention
      4) switched positions (if applicable)

      I’m going to be honest – this does not seem like great criteria to pick an MVP.

    • Beecher13x44 says:


      Miggy had the more difficult task at hand. Various factors reflect said difficulty. I know it is counter intuitive to the saber-metric minded fan, but expectations and media attention do weigh on players.

      As for the team argument. Trout scored a ton of runs on a team with a pretty loaded lineup. No surprise,hes young fast and it took the league a few months to adjust to his numerous abilities. Other teams game planned against Miggy and yet he still dominated and maintained very consistent numbers.

    • Adam says:

      I’m not willing to concede your point about Miggy’s season being more difficult. However, I think it’s moot. We’re talking value, not degree of difficulty.

    • Owen Ranger says:

      I love that all of a sudden Cabrera is a selfless hero for switching to third base when that’s what he grew up playing, and played until 2007 (and not particularly well at that). Beecher, an MVP award is supposed to reflect what happened during the season, not expectations or past performance. In any case, I would argue that the Fielder signing relaxed expectations of what Cabrera “needed to do” to carry the Tigers.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      It is. But i often believe people undervalue the difficulty of consistency with a season/career. Hence why i am placing importance on Miggy’s history of awesomeness and his ability to produce his best season to date.


      Miggy’s more valuable to his team because he accounted for 248 of the tigers’ 726 scored. Trout accounted for 212 of the Angels’ 767. With a large chunk of Trout’s numbers coming earlier than later in the season. Miggy was more valuable to his team in the most basic sense, he accounted for more runs and a higer percentage of his teams runs than Trout.

    • Adam says:

      One, you’re arguing that the most important stat is percentage of a team’s runs created. That’s more esoteric than WAR and less coherent.

      Two, your analysis completely ignores defense.

      Three, you argue that Trout’s numbers came early in the season and are therefore less valuable. A) Wins in May also count, and B) Trout had more RBI and runs in the second half of the season than he did in the first.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Owen, Fielder deserves some credit for Miggy’s success. But hes about it on the Tigers. Trout has: Pujols, Trumbo, Hunter and Morales to give ample credit to.

      Y’all are making quite the stink about what expectations do and don’t mean. My point is that Miggy exceeded them, meaning he put up MVP like numbers. People are amazed he won the triple crown, not that he achieved any one of those league leading stats individually. It is the accumulation of all three that makes it special. We expected a good year from him, but not THIS good. That is why i think expectations are relevant.

    • Adam says:

      I’m “making quite the stink” because I don’t understand your logic. Saying “we expected Miggy to be good, but he was great, therefore he’s the MVP” ignores the possibility that someone was even greater.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Adam, he is more valuable if he scores more than trout AND that is a higher percentage. Simplistic? Yes, but Miggy also won the triple crown on top of that. Trout doesnt have a shot IMO.

      Being a rookie, pitchers did not know Trouts tendencies. Trout’s second half OPS was 100-200pts lower than his first two months. His by month OPS ended somewhere in the 800s (as shown in a post further down) Miggy stayed steady for a playoff team. I honestly can’t see an angle in which Miggy is less valuable to his team. Trout put up historic numbers, but was not more valuable to the Angels than Miggy was to the Tigers.

    • Adam says:

      Again, you’re completely ignoring defense. A good CF is more valuable than a medoicre 3B.

      Also, the triple crown is historic and pretty and cool, but that doesn’t make it the best judge of value.

      Trout’s OPS in Sept/Oct was .900. For the full season, his OPS+ was higher than Cabrera’s. The whole season counts.

      Runs created is flawed because it’s too dependent on teammates. You’ve talked about Trout having better teammates and that should detract from his MVP argument. Trout hit leadoff. Of course his RBI numbers will be lower. Last I checked, Austin Jackson (.377 obp) et al were on base a lot for Cabrera. Cabrera did a good job of getting guys home, but those guys have to be there in the first place.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Agree his D is better. But this is the Al, if it were the NL I’d make a bigger deal of it. Angels had a better lineup, it is simple as that. Trout early numbers dont matter as much to me, just my opinion. Jackson did his job. The point is Miggy did more for is team, Trout did more numerically, but less comparatively for is team IMO.

    • Adam says:

      Wait, defense is more valuable in the National League? I’ve never heard such an argument, mostly because it’s patently ridiculous. There are *more* ball put into play in a typical American League season — there aren’t all those pitchers striking out and the higher run scoring environment leads to more at-bats overall.

      The Angels lineup might have been better overall but Cabrera had more at-bats with runners on base than Trout did. What do I care in this debate what the average at-bat looked like for Mark Trumbo?

    • mraithel13 says:

      if you want to talk expectations, did ANYbody think Trout would have the season he had? What he did was far and above what anybody thought. Cabrera had a great year, but it was much closer to expectations than Trout. The argument doesn’t work anyway.

      by the way, you could argue that he had a better year last year (and the year before that) as his WAR,BA, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+ weren’t even career highs.

    • Bottom line for me is that Trout is just a better all around player, period. Trout raised the bar for baseball in his rookie year. I would surely pick him over Cabrera to be on my team next season. But what do I know, I am a Seattle fan. =)

  14. Beecher13x44 says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. George says:

    I’m in Cabrera’s camp.

    First, we should be very, very cautious about thinking our current measurements of WAR reflect reality for two basic reasons. A) We don’t even have agreement on what it means to be good defensively and as a result any statistic that measures it carries within it problematic assumptions about that task. B) The positional adjusments are heuristic only and not based on any sort of theory. You know this, by the way, because of how clean the weights are. Measuring with a micrometer and cutting with a hatchet is foolishness. All that to say is that while we THINK Trout had a better year it may well turn out in the future that we overrated his defense. Sabermetricians would do well to remember the embarassing focus on slow power hitters being “such good values” several years back.

    Second, and to me determinative, is that baseball this year exists within a framework of history and our recognition structure should reflect that and not diverge wildly from past practices. Winning the Triple Crown is a Big Deal. It has been a Big Deal since before any one of us were born. granting the MVP to the first guy to accomplish it in nearly 50 years is a tip of the cap to our place in that tradition.

  16. If one buys the argument that “September matters more,” especially in a pennant race when you talk about “clutch games” and so forth, here are the offensive numbers for Cabrera and Trout after the All-Star break:

    Cabrera — 75 games, 94 hits, 57 runs, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 1.074 OPS, 186 total bases, .327 BABIP, 192 tOPS+.*

    Trout — 75 games, 94 hits, 72 runs, 18 HR, 43 RBI, .966 OPS, 170 total bases, .374 BABIP, 165 tOPS+.*


    A couple of things pop out immediately.

    a. Trout’s BABIP is massive, which means he was getting on base more often and in a position to score more runs. We don’t know what his BABIP should be, of course, as he’s only played one full season, but that .374 number is off the charts compared with the league as a whole.

    b. Trout’s power numbers are below Cabrera’s, as they should be, and the OPS in particular is way behind. 100 points is a significant difference. (The total bases are closer than the OPS difference would indicate, with Trout having a slight lead in walks and HBP.)

    c. Cabrera’s 192 tOPS+ is also significantly higher than Trout’s 165, although certainly I’d take either for my ballclub.

    [If you want to take a look at team records, you can do that as well:

    Detroit — 44-42 before the All-Star break, 44-32 after
    LA Angels — 48-38 before the All-Star break (42-24 with Trout), 41-35 after

    Now, there are all sorts of reasons why those are different, and only some could be directly attributable to Trout/Cabrera. For whatever reason, Detroit was three games better than the Angels in the second half. But that’s secondary to the player discussion.]

    There’s also been a big push to discount RBI as a meaningful statistic and inflate runs scored in its place. I don’t quite understand this argument, because both are team-dependent. To score a lot of runs, you need people to drive you in. To have a large amount of RBI, you need people on base. It’s hard to have one without the other. Detroit had 726 total runs scored; the Angels had 767. Detroit had two players with more than 80 RBI; the Angels had four. Detroit had five players with 100+ OPS; the Angels had seven. The Angels as a group had more opportunities to score runs, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Trout has a huge amount of runs scored. He got on base, they knocked him in to the tune of 129 runs. Cabrera drove in 139 runs of his own on a team that scored 41 less runs than the Angels. That’s eye-catching as well and shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

    There’s also an argument that because Trout put up the numbers he did while missing the first month, what could he have really done playing the entire season. We don’t know, obviously, but his second-half numbers dropped off from his monster numbers in July. He would have scored more runs, certainly, but his batting average and OPS might have started dropping earlier. We don’t know. What we do know is that Cabrera stepped his OPS by 136 points and tOPS+ up by 35, whereas Trout’s OPS/tOPS+ numbers in August and September were his two lowest of the season.

    Cabrera OPS (July, August, Sept/Oct) — 1.086, 1.092, 1.071
    Trout OPS (July, August, Sept/Oct) — 1.259(!), .866, .900

    Trout had one monster month, a Bondsian-type month…but Cabrera was more consistent.

    I’ll take the guy who was more consistent.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      “Detroit had 726 total runs scored; the Angels had 767. Detroit had two players with more than 80 RBI; the Angels had four. Detroit had five players with 100+ OPS; the Angels had seven. The Angels as a group had more opportunities to score runs, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Trout has a huge amount of runs scored.”

      Thankyou for quantifying this point. Miggy did more with less…

    • Brandon Gray says:

      You guys are wasting your time on the team stats. Trout scored a lot of runs because he batted first, Cabrera knocked in a lot of runs because he batted third, end of story. Both had good lineups.

      “There’s also been a big push to discount RBI as a meaningful statistic and inflate runs scored in its place”
      – This has to be fabricated as no logical person who thinks RBIs are overrated would try substituting runs scored.

    • Mark says:

      You’re still only looking at hitting, though. This is a solid argument that Cabrera was a better hitter than Trout during the second half of the season. That’s not the same thing as an argument that Cabrera deserves to be the MVP.

      Any argument for Cabrera as MVP has to acknowledge (and mitigate) the massive advantages Trout has in defense and baserunning.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      Big Miggy still scored 109 runs.

    • Baserunning can be directly related to runs scored, though. Trout gets on base, he gets himself into scoring position, he gets knocked in and scores a run.

    • Mark says:

      There are much, much, much better measures of baserunning ability than runs scored, and Trout is much, much, much better than Cabrera in all of them.

    • Scott says:

      @Brandon I can understand why team stats shouldn’t count when trying to isolate a players performance from yeam influenced variables, but I think when you are talking MVP you have to weigh the players impact on team performance. RBI’s would seem a useful metric in that case.

    • Ian R. says:

      While it’s true that there are much better baserunning metrics than runs scored, they ARE a better stat than RBI because a given player can only score one run at a time. RBI can inflated easily because of multi-RBI opportunities – if a batter hits a single with runners on second and third, is he really twice as clutch as a batter who hits one with a runner on second only? They’re both base hits with a runner in scoring position.

    • vernon1953 says:

      When Trout walks and then steals a base, he has accomplished the same thing as Cabrera has when Cabrera hits a double. Unless there was somebody on first .. or second .. or third .. or first and second .. or first and third .. or first, second and third.
      If you add up runs and RBIs (taking out the double count of home runs), Cabrera produced 204 runs, Trout produced 182.
      Just some things I think ought to be taken into consideration.

  17. Although off topic, I go Yoenis Cespedes. The A’s are 12-22 when he is not in the lineup. They are 82-46 with him in the lineup. He was clearly the most valuable Athletic, and, I’d argue, the most valuable player in the AL. Without him, the A’s have the season everyone expected (68-94, rather than 94-68). With him, they win the division and are the team people least want to face going into the playoffs. The award is most valuable, not best season (sorry, Joe, you’re just wrong about this). As for the best season award? I think I go Trout.

    • Beecher13x44 says:

      I always assumed the best season award was the GG/SS combo. MVP should be the most valuable, very much agree.

    • Unknown says:

      so the framework would be biggest differential in winning percentages when a certain player is in the lineup?

    • Not always, but it is the “most valuable.” Indeed, if Cespedes had not spent part of the season injured we would not have this fact to cite. However, had he played 162, the A’s, presumably, would have somewhere north of 100 wins. There may be different things to look at in different years. There does not have to be a defined formula for this award, and there shouldn’t be. Value can have different meanings in different years.

    • Chris says:

      The Angels without Trout were 6-14, and 83-59 with him. I would say both benefited greatly with their guy in the lineup.

    • Ian R. says:

      If that’s the framework, how do you handle a guy who plays in all 162 games? Clearly taking the field every single day is pretty valuable.

    • invitro says:

      You claim that without Cespedes, the A’s would be 68-94, which means Cespedes was worth 26 wins this season over whomever would replace him. If this were correct, I, and I believe everyone, would happily choose him for not just MVP, but the greatest season ever, and by a wide margin.

    • drunyon says:

      Sports Injuries: Since you seem to favor “team record with/without a player” so heavily, I calculated each team’s record over 162 games with and without Cespedes and Trout, based on the win-loss records you cite above. Personally, I think this is a terrible way to judge MVP, but you’re the one who wants to use it, not me.

      57.2 wins without Cespedes
      103.8 wins with Cespedes

      Added wins with Cespedes: 46.6

      48.6 wins without Trout
      94.7 wins with Trout

      Added wins with Trout: 46.1

      So the players are both essentially identical by that “stat” (using the term very loosely), and you already admitted Trout had the better season, so… what does that tell you?

  18. First of all Joe, you are unfair. You tell us to make the case for Cabrera, but you also tell us not to use the biggest points in his favor – the triple crown and the playoffs. Those are valid points indicating his value, and you just cast them off, pretending they are meaningless.

    That said:

    Look at average with RISP. This is a valuable statistic.

    Look at situations – clutch hitting, two outs, ninth inning, late season hitting.

    Look at number of games played.

    Look at the teams. Detroit’s offense is nothing without Cabrera. Angels offense is still pretty good from top to bottom without Trout. Cabrera literally carried the team in stretches this season in a way Trout never did. We know that being surrounded by good hitters is good for all stats.

    Hey stat geeks, get over your RBI hate. Nothing wrong with RBIs. In fact, its quite nice for my team when a player drives someone home. I like that even more than regular, non-run producing hits.

    Trout’s 30/125/45 thing is amazing. Only player to ever do it. says 13 players have been very close (within 5 in each category). Of course, 1000 players have done the runs/HRs combo. It’s just that Trout is the first power hitter who also happens to steal bases. That’s great and cool. Not sure it makes him more valuable than the guy with even more power.

    • Chris says:

      How can you say that the playoffs are a valid point in this discussion. The Angels finished with a better record overall and had a better record in Sept/Oct. than Detroit. Its great that Tigers won their division, but I’m not sure how its valid to hold that against the Angels who were a better team for the season and down the stretch.

      So Prince Fielder is nothing? Interestingly he was third in the AL in OPS+(behind Trout and Miggy) and batted behind Cabrera all season. You don’t think that improved the quality of pitches Cabrera saw? But he’s nothing. Nevermind Austin Jackson, often on base in front of Cabrera.

      Was it quite nice when Miggy was hitting into his league leading double plays? Not exactly a rally starter.

      Doesn’t your last paragraph counter your support for Miggy. Miggy had a great year duplicated by more than a handful in history vs. a great year only done once. Hrm….

    • It’s also something to point out that the Angels won 89 games and the Tigers won 88 games. It’s not like the Giants winning 103 games in 1993 and still not making the playoffs.

    • Hank Cole says:

      “Detroit’s offense is nothing without Cabrera.”

      “Detroit’s offense is Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder, two top-10 WAR position players, without Cabrera.”

      Fixed that for you.

  19. invitro says:

    I am following this debate with a lot of interest, for many reasons, but perhaps mostly to see just how far correct analysis of hitters has come. I’m rather depressed that Cabrera seems a lock to win, but also thinking wait, it’s not all that bad, as he’s probably a strong second. I can remember MVP races where the winner was nowhere near a strong second, like Dawson 1987 and Hernandez 1984 (I’m trying to improve my baseball knowledge, so those may not be great examples).

    So I’m curious to know just how bad Cabrera’s certain MVP selection will be historically. I’m now going through b-r looking for players who exceeded the MVP by at least 2 in WAR. (FWIW, I’d like to see an article with a similar list of worst MVP winners.) Here is what I can find, broken into five-year groups:

    2012 AL: MiCabrera bettered by Trout.

    2009 AL: Mauer by Greinke.
    2007 NL: Rollins by Pujols and Wright.
    2006 NL: Howard by Pujols, Beltran, and Utley.
    2006 AL: Morneau by Santana, Sizemore, and VWells.

    2004 AL: VGuerrero by Ichiro, Santana, Schilling, and ARodriguez.
    2002 AL: Tejada by ARod.
    2000 AL: Giambi by PMartinez and ARod.

    1999 AL: IRodriguez by PMartinez.
    1998 NL: Sosa by KBrown.
    1998 AL: JGonzalez by ARodriguez, Clemens, Jeter, Garciaparra, PMartinez, and Belle.
    1997 AL: Griffey by Clemens.
    1996 NL: Caminiti by Bonds.
    1996 AL: JGonzalez by Griffey, ARodriguez, Knoblauch, Thome, BAnderson, McGwire and IRodriguez.
    1995 NL: Larkin by Maddux.
    1995 AL: MVaughn by RJohnson, Valentin, EMartinez, Belle, Knoblauch and Salmon.

    1993 AL: FThomas by Appier and Griffey.
    1992 AL: Eckersley by Clemens, Mussina, Puckett, FThomas, Alomar, EMartinez, McGwire, Baerga, Griffey, BAnderson and JMcDowell.
    1991 NL: Pendleton by Glavine.

    1989 AL: Yount by Saberhagen, RHenderson, and Boggs.
    1987 NL: Dawson by Gwynn, EDavis, Murphy, Raines, OSmith, Strawberry, and Schmidt.
    1987 AL: GBell by Clemens, Boggs, and Trammell.
    1986 NL: Schmidt by MScott.
    1985 NL: McGee by Gooden.
    1985 AL: Mattingly by RHenderson and Boggs.

    1984 AL: WHernandez by Ripken, Stieb, Moseby, and Murray.
    1982 NL: Murphy by GCarter.
    1981 AL: Fingers by RHenderson and DwEvans.

    1979 NL: KHernandez by none; Stargell by Winfield, Schmidt, Niekro, DParker, GCarter, Bench, Sutter, JRRichard, Foster, Concepcion, and LarParrish.
    1979 AL: Baylor by Lynn, Brett, DPorter, BBell, Guidry, Rice, JKern, WWilson, Grich, and Molitor.

    Conclusion: a two-WAR deficit winner happens all the time. But not in five years, other than Mauer/Greinke, which may explain any extra energy given to this year’s argument.

  20. invitro says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Scott says:

    Q) How can you tell a Mike Trout for MVP partisan?
    A) He’s the guy claiming speed and defense make all the difference.

    Speed and defense just don’t matter. At least not the way Trout fans want the rest of us to believe. Sure you’d rather have them than not, and teams that stockpile DH’s and play them instead of athletes usually suffer as a result, but in the end speed and defense are still secondary to hitting, and not in a really close way. I say that as a fact, not an opinion because there’s ample proof that this one is beyond debate.

    Look at the make up of baseball teams. Teams don’t promote speed and defense, they promote hitting. Teams don’t overpay for speed and defense, they overpay for hitting. Even Mike Trout is evidence here. He didn’t miss the first part of the season so he could work on his speed and defense in the minors you know. He went back down to work on hitting. He had speed and defense the day he was drafted and if speed and defense were what he was getting paid to do he would have started his first game in Anaheim. He started his career in the minors instead to work on hitting, because pitching and hitting are what baseball is really about, at least in terms of real value.

    The professionals responsible for assessing value to players are arbitrators, managers, and GM’s, and none of them pay very much for speed and defense or value it above hitting when assembling a roster. I think the 4 best defensive shortstops in baseball are Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro, Jed Lowrie and JJ Hardy. They barely made more combined than Adam Dunn this year ($15.525m to $14 mil).

    Looking at it in terms of real world value, you have to compare bat to bat and look at the speed and defense as a bonus for Trouts case, and weigh accordingly. Anything else is being dishonest, because the parameters for valuing players are so well established and weighed so heavily towards hitting, and specifically to the slugging portion of hitting (and ability to plate runs, aka RBI’s which suck for isolating a players hitting from a team but have very real value to weighing that players contribution to team success). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t steal bases, his defense is average at best, and while he leads the league in actual OPS he doesn’t lead the league in OPS+, if that makes a difference. What he is is a slugging and RBI producing machine, and since he’s been the best this year at what dollar for dollar is the most valuable skill for position players in baseball it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t get the MVP.

    And OK, this was a bit long, so I’m publishing it on another blog here if you want to cuss me twice:

    • mraithel13 says:

      I don’t think anyone’s arguing that Cabrera was the best hitter this year – it’s just Trout is closer than you think. The problem is, as important as hitting is, that’s where Cabera’s case for MVP ends. Trout’s vast advantages in speed and D – while not as valuable as hitting – do make him a more valuable all-around player than Cabrera.

      by the way, Ozzie Smith made a lot of $ playing great D at SS.

    • Chris says:

      I think you answered your own question. Trout bested Cabrera in OPS+, the quickest way to evaluate a hitters performance compared to his league. So whatever value you do associate with speed and defense, it is a bonus and the deciding factor for Trout over Cabrera. Their effectiveness as hitters in terms of generating runs are roughly equal, Cabrera with his power, and Trout with his speed, thus defense pushes Trout over the edge.

    • Ian R. says:

      “I think the 4 best defensive shortstops in baseball are Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro, Jed Lowrie and JJ Hardy. They barely made more combined than Adam Dunn this year ($15.525m to $14 mil).”

      Castro is only making about half a mil this year, but he just signed a seven-year extension worth $60M.

      Andrus’ salary will more than double next year (to $4.8M) and increase again in 2014 (to $6.475M).

      Lowrie is underpaid because he was a first-year arb-eligible player this year. He’ll get a substantial raise for next season.

      Of the four you listed, only Hardy is being paid anything close to his value. Meanwhile, Dunn is a post-free agency player. Of course he’s making more.

    • roughan says:

      Speed most definitely matters a lot since it impacts many facets of the game from defense, baserunning, and infield hits. Starling Castro and Jed Lowrie aren’t anywhere near the best defensive shortstops in baseball. Moreover none of the players you list has ever hit free agency, and you are comparing them to a veteran who has hit free agency several times. GMs most definitely care about defense and pay for it. If they didn’t then why did Adam Dunn never came close to sniffing as large a contract as Carl Crawford? Dunn is clearly the better hitter.

  22. Wes says:

    At the All-Star Break…
    The Angels were leading the Wild Card chase.
    The Tigers were a few games behind, and in third place in their division.

    After the All-Star break:
    Cabrera – .337 BA, 1.074 OPS
    Trout – .312 BA, 0.966 OPS

    In the month of September:
    Cabrera – .308 BA, 1.032 OPS
    Trout – .257 BA, 0.835 OPS

    Miguel Cabrera stepped it up when his team needed him the most. And his team got into the postseason. Trout will be polishing his Rookie of the Year trophy at home.

    • Chris says:

      Except down the stretch the Angels were the slightly better team, they just happened to play in a much tougher division, without a leader collapsing.

  23. Unknown says:


    Trout was the one with a higher OPS+, so even if you don’t care about defense Trout was better offensively

    • Scott says:

      Higher OPS+, but lower OPS, lower BA, lower SLG, less HR, 2B and RBI’s, but since he had the edge in OPS+ he was better offensively?

    • Unknown says:

      So your method for MVP is to be better at OPS (but not OPS+ since fields don’t matter), BA, SLG, HR, doubles and RBIs. got it.

    • Scott says:

      Not really. I’m not trying to establish the perfect MVP formula here, just think it’s absurd to cherry pick one stat and call it the deal breaker for either of them.

    • Evan says:

      Trout had more total runs and a higher OBP (generally considered the most important offensive stat). Joe mentions this in the article. You should re-read it.

    • Scott says:

      Evan, I are god enuff at reading to comprehendz dat. I did however miss the section where I am compelled to agree with the author in all ways at all times. I disagree with the idea that OBP is the most important offensive stat, particularly as relates to this discussion. OBP doesn’t account for scoring, and to me scoring matters, especially when we are discussing a players impact on his team’s performance. Does anything help a team more than consistently plating runs?

    • Chris says:


      How do you plate runs without guys getting on base? Unless you can get a homerun every single at bat, you might have to rely on the guys ahead of you to reach base and be in scoring position. Scoring runs is a two way street. Guys have to get on and guys have to knock them in.

      Both Trout and Cabrera excelled in their roles in the lineup.

  24. Gregg says:

    Speed and defense don’t matter? Its most valuable PLAYER, not hitter. If you’re a great hitter, you impact the game directly maybe 4 or 5 times per game. A great player (hitter and fielder, and baserunner) gets those 4-5 at bats as well as making more plays on the field. And being able to turn singles or walks into doubles and triples, or scoring from first..thats all added by guys who can run, things that Miggy can’t do. Miggy hit, and had a great season. His numbers are great. But they’re special because of this season, and in other years, they’d look less impressive. Trouts #s are just insane no matter what season you put them in.

  25. List of players in AL over past 20 years with seasons just as good as 2012 Trout:

    Cabrera, Verlander, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemons, Mariano Rivera, ARod, Jeter, Ichiro, IRod, JuanGon, Griffey, ….

    I love what Trout did this year. He is an amazing ROY and MVP runner-up. But let’s not get carried away and proclaim him the GOAT yet.

  26. Gregg says:

    Speed and defense don’t matter? Its most valuable PLAYER, not hitter. If you’re a great hitter, you impact the game directly maybe 4 or 5 times per game. A great player (hitter and fielder, and baserunner) gets those 4-5 at bats as well as making more plays on the field. And being able to turn singles or walks into doubles and triples, or scoring from first..thats all added by guys who can run, things that Miggy can’t do. Miggy hit, and had a great season. His numbers are great. But they’re special because of this season, and in other years, they’d look less impressive. Trouts #s are just insane no matter what season you put them in.

  27. Saying that any argument that is based mainly on Cabrera winning the Triple Crown and making the playoffs is baseless is unfair. There is a consistent way to vote for the MVP that factors these things in.

    Personally, I believe the MVP of a league is not the player who is most valuable to his team — this would result in decent players from terrible teams winning the MVP. Instead, it should be the most “important” player in the league. Which player’s stellar play excited and invigorated a team that impacted the narrative of that league’s regular season?

    There’s an argument my “most important player” still is Trout. He sent me to to watch highlights more than any other player.

    However, Cabrera’s Triple Crown win and push to get the Tigers into the playoffs has, at least for me, pushed Trout’s story into the background. Cabrera historic season is more valuable to the league, than Trout’s impressive (and statistically superior) performance for his team.

    • Chris says:

      Look the problem with the Playoff argument is well documented.

      If the Angels and Tigers were competing down the stretch for a division title, I could maybe see the argument.

      The fact is, however, that despite how the divisions shook out, the Angels finished with a better record than the Tigers.

      What I find fascinating is that regardless of the two restrictions put in place by Joe, that you and many other still cannot come up with a compelling argument. You would think that if the choice were that obvious, then there would be a variety of things to point out.

      Joe is simply wanting to avoid narratives, because they can so easily be slanted in any direction you want. But numbers are numbers.

  28. Phil says:

    Mike Trout was the best player in the AL this year, the best rookie ever, and he should win MVP.

    Having said that, I’m on a message board where it’s not enough that you concede the fact that Mike Trout was this year’s MVP. You have to also take a blood oath that the Triple Crown is a largely meaningless achievement. If you were rooting for Cabrera, you get caricatured as Mr. Baseball Digest of 1974. You’re expected to say things like, “RBI, lol.” So here’s my best argument for why Cabrera should win: it will mortify the more hysterical Trout supporters. It will be, for them, a national tragedy from which we may never recover. I will greatly enjoy that. More than arguing about who should be MVP, which is rapidly becoming no fun anymore.

    • bigbuff_guy says:

      Nice. I completely agree with this. The statheads have been more insufferable during this MVP debate than I can remember in a long time. When Cabrera wins (I’d be shocked if he didn’t, and apparently, so would Joe), I’ll be looking forward to reading all the whining from the statheads across the Internet.

    • Phil says:

      Just to clarify, nothing to do with Joe P. His “Trout, Miggy and the MVP” from the other day was excellent. Like all the smartest commentaries I’ve read on the AL MVP the past week, he was able to differentiate that this is A, and this other thing over here is B, and that if you feel you have to denigrate A in order to prop up B, then you’re missing the point–and that people were talking past each other in both directions.

    • Rob Smith says:

      bigbuff_guy – who are you saying is the stat head? The one who loves the Triple Crown, which means higher NUMBERS in HRs, RBI’s and Batting Average. Or, do you mean the people who think there is more to baseball then just those three stats? Are more than three stats just too complicated to process? Besides, a lot of it isn’t just stats. Trout is a much better player to watch on the field. He can amaze us in every imaginable way. Hitting, Power, Speed, Defense. Cabrera is a masher. He amazes us only with his hard hit balls. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t measure up to the eye test compared to Trout.

  29. marshall says:

    Joe presents this challenge in a tricky way. First, he says to present your case for why Cabrera was BETTER than Trout, then he says he’ll post the best arguments for Cabrera for MVP. I know Joe believes that Best Player = Most Valuable Player by definition, but historically, that is not how it works. The MVP typically goes to the player with the best narrative.

    I doubt anyone can make a reasonable argument that Cabrera was the better player this year (I think the advantage in playing time is the most promising avenue, though). People who are arguing for Cabrera are doing it because of the narrative, but Joe specically rules out the most compelling aspects of the narrative.

    I wish that people who believe Cabrera should be the MVP would simply admit Trout had the better year, then say why they find Cabrera’s narrative to be more compelling (and aknowledge that their MVP vote is driven by narrative). I have no problem with people like Rollins, Dawson, etc. winning over players with demonstrably better years, in the same way I don’t have a problem with the celebration of stats like RBI and wins. We celebrate silly things in baseball, but celebrating baseball is not much less silly.

  30. bigbuff_guy says:

    Honestly, trying to discount the fact that Cabrera made the playoffs while Trout didn’t (yes, I know, on a third-place team that won one more game than the Tigers did–by that “logic,” we should just do away with divisions entirely) strikes me as deeply disingenuous if not outright dishonest on Joe’s part. They both had great years, obviously. I’m not a huge WAR guy, but I do love OPS+, and the fact that Trout led the league in that category gives me more pause than anything else about supporting Cabrera’s MVP case. But it was close enough that the playoffs were the tiebreaker for me.

    There are a lot of ways to interpret what exactly “Most Valuable Player” means, but I’ve never bought that it should simply go to the guy who had the best season from a statistical standpoint. Most Outstanding Player, yes. Most Valuable Player, not so much. Making the playoffs should be the goal of every player and every team, and if a player fails to make the playoffs (regardless of who was at fault), that is almost disqualifying for the MVP by itself unless there isn’t another obvious MVP-worthy season. This year, there was such a season, as Cabrera won the Triple Crown for a division champ. Obviously, not everyone agrees with me on this, but a lot of people do, as evidenced by the consistent 80 percent or so support Cabrera is getting for MVP in online polls. If Trout had made the playoffs, this would be very, very close, and I might be persuaded to vote for him. But he didn’t.

    And I completely agree that we have to be consistent with our arguments. Put it this way: I’m a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan. I hate the Tigers more than any other team other than the White Sox and maybe the Red Sox. I hope Cabrera goes 0-for-12 in a first-round sweep. But if Trout had been on the Indians this season, had the exact same year, and the Indians missed the playoffs by just a few games, I’d still vote for Cabrera over Trout. I’m consistent about this. I think the playoffs matter. I think playing well down the stretch matters (Edward Quentin’s comment above does a great job making this point). And taking everything together, I just think that Cabrera is more deserving of the MVP than Trout.

    • Unknown says:

      Consider the scenario that the White Sox do not collapse and the A’s do not find their magic. In this case, the Angels and Tigers would have been competing directly for a wild card birth in the playoffs. With no changes to their records, the Angels would have made the playoffs and the Tigers would have gone home.

      Would you then be arguing for Trout? Should the performance of Chicago and Oakland down the stretch really be a determining factor in this?

  31. Feralad says:

    I liken the MVP race between Trout and Cabrera to chess. I think most logical people would look at the stats and say Trout had the better season. Especially if WAR is up your alley. The MVP is a different duck though. It’s relatively impossible to define. I think chess might do it the most justice. Trout is the Queen. By all accounts, the best piece on the board. But Cabrera is the King. (He’s got the Triple Crown if we’re getting really silly.) While Trout as the Queen possesses the amazing ability to go vertically, horizontally, and diagonally as far as he wants (offense, defense, base-running), he doesn’t have the trait that will win the game.

    Cabrera is the King. Though he may be one dimensional, he is the most valuable piece on the board. As a chess-player, if you lose the King, you lose. Those are the rules of chess. The fact that the Triple Crown winner is automatically the front-runner to win the MVP is kind of the rules, right? (I know winners haven’t won the MVP before, but it’s different in the modern.) It may be conventional unwisdom, but nevertheless.

    The last time a Triple Trout happened was in 1990. The last time a Triple Miggy happened was in 1967. That to me signifies that Cabrera’s accomplishment was greater.

    And of course some stats: well how about for starters the Triple Crown stats. Cabrera had more HRs, more RBIs, and a better batting average. He beats Trout in Slugging %, regular OPS—not OPS+, Hits, Total Bases, Doubles, Strikeouts, Plate Appearances, Games Played (161), and At-Bats. Before the Trout enthusiasts attack me, “HE GOT CALLED UP IN MAY basically.” It doesn’t matter. Extrapolation isn’t part of the MVP voting process. This is what Miguel Cabrera did. This is what Mike Trout did.

    It’s easy to say that Trout is the best player. Your queen in chess often decides the win. But the King in chess ultimately decides if you will not lose. Cabrera is a perfect case of being an MVP. He’s not going corner to corner on the board. He’s moving up and down, side to side, winning the categories we have over time brushed away from our faces. But those categories win the game…the MVP. Trout’s categories just snatch rooks, take out bishops, and tease checkmate. Trout’s numbers speak pizazz. Cabrera’s numbers mean win.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think it’s just easier to ask, if you were drafting today for an MLB club, which would you take first. One guy hits, fields, runs, throws, gets on base, hits with power and for average and is a great guy. The All American boy. The other guy hits homeruns, hits for average, is slow, tends to be fat, gets DUIs in the off season and barely speaks English.

    • Greg C says:

      You’re right. We should just be racist when we decide the awards.

  32. prophet says:

    The easiest way to make the case for Cabrera is to focus entirely on offense. Traditional statistics and any counting stat, advanced or not, will favor Cabrera – and rightly so, that extra month matters.

    The counterpoint that Trout partisans can make is that even that edge isn’t as big as you might think, because baserunning is part of offense and Trout’s edge on the bases almost cancels Cabrera’s edge at the plate. This evaluation is relatively easy to discount for me, as the impact of Trout’s decidedly better baserunning isn’t as consistent, or as “certain” as the impact of the two player’s offensive games; for the sake of argument let’s leave it as slight edge to Cabrera.

    The big edge that WAR provides Trout is almost entirely defensive – Trout is viewed as a superlative CF, while Cabrera is viewed as a below-average 3B (although not horrific, which was a surprise). Essentially, you have to either discount those evaluations, or you have to discount the impact of that difference.

    Personally, I would be comfortable with the latter, and making the argument that while Trout is a better defender, we can’t definitively say that his better defense makes up for Cabrera’s better offense, because our defensive numbers aren’t as reliable.

    This boils down to saying that whoever produces the most offense is the MVP, and that defense and baserunning are tiebreakers for the most part (barring something extreme like a DH versus Yadier Molina or Ozzie Smith).

    That position probably results in a few oddball choices from past years, but a quick scan doesn’t suggest anything that would look too stupid in later years.

  33. Hank Cole says:

    I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t all due to some linguistic confusion. Wouldn’t it all make more sense if what was being said was not:

    “A player who leads his league in average, HR, and RBIs should be the Most Valuable Player.”

    but rather:

    “A player who leads his league in average, HR, and RBIs should be the most valuable player (but curiously, this time he’s not).”

    I find that possibility far less confusing.

    Best arguments for Miggy:

    (a) The Triple Crown is an unquestionably historic benchmark for excellence, and it should get an automatic MVP the same way 3,000 hits gets an automatic HOF. Yes, this may result in an injustice this year. Yes, this may result in an injustice in a future year. I am willing to live with that one, because at this rate I’ll be dead and my team will be playing in Novosibirsk before it happens to gore my own ox.

    (b) Your mother didn’t teach you about sharing? Justin Verlander already had hardware last year, so the MVP should have gone to an offensive player (who couldn’t have won the Cy Young). Mike Trout’s already going to get ROY, which Miggy can’t get, so Miggy should get the MVP. (You will note the implication that Most Valuable Player is really the consolation prize in this scenario.)

    (c) The standards for MVP are famously vague and include consideration for moral character, leadership, and off-the-field contributions. Just think how many young lives Cabrera has saved from being corrupted by the liquor that Cabrera heroically drank before they could get their hands on it.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I like C. I imagine it’s possible that Cabrera could drink every margarita in the state of Florida during the off season. He’ll then show up to training camp 25 pounds overweight like he used to do every year when he was with the Marlins.

  34. Brian says:

    Best argument I can make for Miggy is to look at each man’s batting average with RISP and 2 outs. Miggy’s jumps over .400, Trout’s falls below .300. That’s a pretty strong argument for how much better Miggy is in the high pressure situation.

    Still hard to say it cancels out Trout’s defense and base running.

  35. dabbler says:

    Strange thing: This discussion takes me back to 1987. Except the Tiger fans have switched sides.

  36. I’m a Tigers fan…so I’ll get that out of the way…so I believe Miggy deserves MVP…am I biased? absolutely. I think the WAR stat is a great stat and I follow it closely throughout the season…but it is not the tell all for everything (even if some claim it to be). I do wonder if all the fans (especially Angels fans) that are saying Trout deserves MVP are the same fans that believe Weaver deserves the Cy Young even though Verlander had the higher WAR

    • Daniel Flude says:

      I’m an Angels fan and Trout clearly deserves the MVP, him being much more valuable than Cabrera (who had an excellent season, don’t get me wrong). Weaver clearly does NOT deserve the Cy Young. Verlander was the better pitcher this year, and it’s not particularly close.

  37. I’m foolishly sentimental about these things. Foolishly. Cabby is my MVP, not necessarily because of numbers, but because I’m foolishly sentimental about what he meant to the Tigers beyond his numbers. I know it’s stupid, but…

    If Miguel Cabrera doesn’t selflessly agree to switch from 1B to 3B, the Tigers probably lose out on Prince Fielder, which leaves them without a suitable replacement for the numbers Victor Martinez put up last year. Not only that, it makes 3B an unenviable mix of Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, and/or Ryan Raburn until a potential mid-season call-up of Nick Castellanos. Obviously it’s unfair to claim somebody as MVP because a superstar baseball player agreed to switch to a position he played averagely at best, but Cabrera didn’t schlub his way through the position this year. He lost weight. He defied prognostication and was effectively neutral at the hot corner. Given the pre-season panic in Detroit when he caught a ball to the eye, this qualifies as a minor miracle.

    Like I said, foolish. Sentimental. No stats, advanced or otherwise, support sentimentality, and there’s a good argument to be made that Trout doing this at age 20 (or any year) is just as sensational as Cabby hitting for the triple crown while not being the albatross he was predicted to be. Probably more so.

  38. Alejo says:

    I´ll just let Tom Verducci answer this one for me:

    “Cabrera, who proved he is the best hitter in baseball and the better choice in a great race for MVP. Take out the Triple Crown for a moment; the dude separated himself from Trout, who is the player of the year, in April and especially September. He had more big moments down the stretch for a first-place team than Trout did for a third-place team.)”

    • Chris says:

      So a season long award should be based on one month of play then?

      Nevermind that the Angels had a better September than the Tigers or that they unfortunately didn’t get the benefit of a collapse by their division leader.

      This is exactly why narratives are stupid. The hide facts to make a story sound good. Ignoring their actual records allows to trump up the Tigers as a 1st place team and cast the Angels as a lowly third place team.

    • Alejo says:

      Yeah… Very good Chris. You are a very sharp fellow, I can say that from here. Only, the Angels are a lowly third place team. I mean, baseball is about winning right?

      I propose to change how the standings are calculated in baseball. Let´s substitute collective WAR for wins and losses. That way the TRUE statistical champions would prevail. That would be fairer for fantastic teams like this year´s Angels, who play better than anyone but finish third.

    • Chris says:

      Was there somewhere in my post that I suggested that we use collective WAR or are you just putting words in my mouth.

      This is called a straw man argument. Look that up please.

      Baseball is about wins and losses and in the interest of that, please visit any of a number of baseball websites ( for example) and take a look at the final 2012 standings. It would appear to the naked eye that those pesky Angels actually finished with more wins than the Tigers or am I mistaken?

      You can also check out each teams records by month or various other splits. Check out September, where once again the Angels finished with a better record than the Tigers.

      Now given that the Angels tallied more wins both over the course of the season and also “when it counts”, please explain to me how great the Tigers 1st place finish was in their crappier division.

    • Alejo says:

      I said “I propose”. It´s my idea, not yours. Don´t take credit for something I said.

      I have news for you: we are currently in 2012 AD. If we were, say, in 1949, before division baseball, then the best record would be the supreme. Not the case now. The Tigers won enough games to take their division, the Angels didn´t.

      I have another idea, lets change the meaning of “Triple Crown”: instead of AVG, HR & RBIs; we will have OPS+, SB, SLG (away). That way we can say Trout actually won the Triple Crown, and not Miggy.

      By the way, sabermetricians demeaned stolen bases for years, but now they are super-hot. Go figure.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Wins? That’s a weak argument since the ANGELS WON MORE GAMES THAN THE TIGERS. So what you’re saying is that Cabrera should win because the Tigers are in the weakest division in baseball!!!

    • Alejo says:

      Boys, you seem to look at the tree while missing the forest: Last time I checked the objective, the goal, of a baseball team during the regular season is to go on to the playoffs (NOT to have a better record than the neighboring division leader). Preferably by winning its division. That´s the meaning of “winning” in baseball.

      The Tigers were third late in the season, Miggy carried them to first. That´s value.

      Trout was fantastic (surely all-time fantastic), but he couldn´t pull out quite the same feat. Sorry, but this is division baseball: context, who you play against, matters.

      Now, don´t fell bad about Trout: he will win ROY in a rout.

    • Chris says:

      What about Wildcards? They make the playoffs without winning their division.

      How did Miggy carry them to first? The Angels were actually better down the stretch but couldn’t benefit from their division leader collapsing. The Tigers winning the central had just as much to do with the White Sox falling apart as it did the Tigers winning.

      You say “this is division baseball: context, who you play against, matters.”

      Doesn’t this work against you. The Tigers play in the worst division in the AL and THAT matters. Both in terms of them winning that division and the fact that play against weaker competition. The Angels played in a much tougher division and still finished with a better record.

      Regardless, you have failed to make an argument abiding by the rules Joe set forth.

    • Chris says:

      Also by your second sarcastic suggestion of a new Triple Crown, you actually point out the absurdity of holding so tightly to that. Why should the MVP of the league boil down to any three stats?

      Everyone wants to jump on sabr people and call them stat nerds, while propping up the Triple Crown which is nothing more than a collection of stats.

  39. john calvin says:

    Your blog is very interesting to read about the “The Triple Trout “you gave a clear explanation about that,keep sharing such a nice post.

    Ford Auto Glass

  40. Brett Gardner leads the American League in stolen Bases last year and Mike Trout leads the A. L. this year. – It’s Hard to believe but there are still some fast white guys out there.

  41. John Autin says:

    I’m a Tigers fan for Trout. But let’s compromise and call his feat a Triple Cobb, since Ty did it 3 times.

    Trout’s 129 runs are 18.6% of his team’s total measured from his first game. That’s a historic percentage. When Babe Ruth set the modern record of 177 runs in 1921, he scored 18.7% of his team’s runs. Sammy Sosa scored 18.8% of Chicago’s runs in 2001 (146/777), while hitting 64 HRs. Cobb in 1915 was at 18.5%. These are all-time great seasons.

    Trout’s brilliant baserunning is not only reflected in his SB total. He went 1st-to-3rd on a single 28 times, 6 more than anyone else. He scored from 2nd on a single 20 times, tied for the MLB lead. His rate of taking an extra base on a teammate’s hit was 65%, trailing only Elvis Andrus (66%) among AL regulars. These things create runs.

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