By In Baseball

The Trout Chronicles

From NBC SportsWorld:

Upon further review, Mike Trout got jobbed.

Playing the Numbers

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21 Responses to The Trout Chronicles

  1. Anon says:

    The MVP award is poorly defined and I think it’s intentionally poorly defined so that people will continue to argue about it. Even more than RBIs, the MVP goes to someone on a playoff team unless something like the NL this season happens where 1 guy dominates and the playoff teams don’t have an obvious candidate. Given that, it’s really hard to argue against Donaldson. They’re both great players who had great seasons.

    Carew may not have won for RBIs but he won in the only season he ever drove in 100. Carew was probably the best player in the AL from about 72-77 but only once finished top 3 in large part because he didn’t drive in runs until he finally had 1 year that he did. I’ve often thought the same was true of Jeter- if he had hit 3rd or 4th his whole career rather than leadoff (& he absolutely had the bat to do it most of his career), he would have won an MVP or three and probably would have driven in close to 2000 (3/4 gets about 50% more RBI than leadoff).

  2. sbmcmanus says:

    Meh, it’s not like the last 4 years was a voting disaster. In each of the 4 years the AL MVP went to a deserving player (WARs in the 7+ range) and Mr. WAR finished at or near the top of the voting. The evolution in statistical thinking has successfully crowded out the really stupid votes, like Morneau winning an MVP with 4-point-something WAR or Dante Bichette finishing 2nd with a WAR of 1 or Juan Gonzalez winning two MVPs over superior alternatives. It doesn’t mean that the MVP should be established every year using a “sort by WAR” methodology. Maybe they should just give out a separate Sabrmetic award to the top WAR player each year, call it the Golden Calculator.

  3. There’s actually a pretty simple reason that Josh Donaldson won the MVP award over Mike Trout. It was August.

    In August, Mike Trout batted 218/352/337. He grounded into more double plays (2) than he hit home runs (1) and went 0-3 in stolen base attempts. His OPS+ was 91. The Angels went 10-19, fell out of first place, and never recovered.

    In August, Josh Donaldson batted 324/408/724 with 11 home runs, plus he was 2-2 in SB attempts. His OPS+ was 202. The Blue Jays went 21-6, charged into first place and never looked back.

    And that, Charlie Brown, is what MVPs are all about.

    • Mike Monk says:

      That is true about August. Trout hurt his wrist diving for a ball and wouldn’t let them take him out of the lineup long enough to get healthy.
      The Argument against what you said is that without that August for the 2, the stats aren’t close. The other 5 months Trout hit 11 more HRs. Also, even without Donaldson, I am not sure Toronto wouldn’t have still made the playoffs once they added Tulo and Price. That month shows what the Angels were without Trout, and that is what most VALUABLE player means.

    • Dr. Doom says:

      So, wait, Rick Rodstrom – your claim is that August is the most important month, not September/October? Because here are their numbers for the NEXT month, which I think most people would argue for as being most important. And here are THOSE splits:

      Donaldson – .294/.366/.538/.904, 2 DP, 5 HR

      Trout – .315/.430/.648/1.078, 1 DP, 8 HR

      I’m not inclined to say that one player is responsible for his team’s record over the course of a month, so I’m not really sure how that’s relevant.

      • To Trout and the Angels credit, they did stage a September/October surge, going 20-11, finishing 3 games back. They were never able to overcome the hole they dug in August. If Trout merely played at a replacement level for August, maybe they win 3 more games, but he didn’t, and they didn’t, and the Angels missed the playoffs.

        Donaldson, on the other hand, went from superhuman in August to merely great in September/October, but by that time the Jays were cruising, going 19-12 to win the division by 6 games.

        If you believe, as I do, that the point of the season is to reach the playoffs, and that is what the term Valuable is about, so that Bobby Thompson’s home run against the Dodgers to send the Giants to the World Series is more valuable than a home run hit for a last place team in a blowout, then these things matter. Sure, some of it is unfair, being dependent on the quality of your teammates and the level of opposition and so forth. This is the same problem presented by MVPs in any team sport. But in sports, where the goal is so clearly about winning a championship, then it is natural to favor the champions.

        If you believe the award is about counting statistics, and context is immaterial, then Trout is your man. But as we can see, there is a blind spot in just piling up numbers. Let’s say a guy hits 4 home runs in a game, plus a single, a double, and a triple for good measure, drives in 12, scores 6, as his team wipes out the opponent 20-0. That’s good for 1 win. In his next 3 games he goes 0-12 with 12Ks, as his team loses all 3 games 1-0. For those 4 games, the player still has a great line—7 for 19 with 4 home runs, but the team has gone 1-3, partially because the player sucked when it mattered most. So value is not just what you do, but when you do it, who you do it against, the extent to which you make your teammates better (or worse), and a whole host of unquantifiable emotional factors that exist when flesh and blood human beings compete against one another.

        So if you want to change the MVP award to the WAR award and eliminate all argument by plugging numbers into an algorithm to see who comes out on top, but don’t be surprised if fans stopped caring about it.

        • buddaley says:

          Since you are using arbitrary cutoff points-i.e. months-and linking one player’s stats to the team’s success, let’s add to the figuring.

          In June, Donaldson hit .269/.322/.398 with 3 home runs, but his team still went 18-9 to finish the month 1 game back. That month, Trout hit .320/.412/.660 with 8 home runs, but his team was 4 games back on June 30, after going 14-13 for the month. So how do you evaluate the value of each player?

          In July, Donaldson recovered to hit .287/.370/.606 with 7 home runs (although he did hit into 6 double plays). But at the end of July, the Jays had gone 12-13 to fall to 6 games out. Trout exploded in July hitting .367/.462/.861 with 12 home runs, and L.A. picked up 2 games, going 14-10, to be 2 behind.

          So is that what MVP is all about or is that what narrative is all about? Yes, Trout cratered in August, worse than Donaldson played in June, but each had a poor month, and the difference seems to be in the overall team play, not in one player’s contribution. No matter how badly Donaldson played for that arbitrary (month) stretch, Toronto survived and even excelled. No matter how brilliantly Trout played, L.A. could never exceed mediocrity.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          You assume that the only value is making the playoffs. But people pay money to see teams that don’t make the playoffs. I think you can at least make an argument that a player on a lesser team that helps the team’s record more is more valuable than someone on a playoff team that would have made it anyway. To take an extreme example, if Player A’s team would have won 70 games without him but won 80 with him, while Player B would have won 92 without and 95 with him, why isn’t Player A the more valuable player? I’m not sure if this is exactly an argument for WAR, but it seems logical to me.

    • Paul S says:

      And that, Rick Rodstrom, is what Player of the Month is all about.

  4. Letal says:

    Whether August should be the reason Donaldson won the MVP is less relevant than it likely IS the reason he won the MVP. All the online trackers had Donaldson surge ahead in August. (Many of them are what-have-you-done-lately type things.) Then, in September, Trout didn’t do enough to overcome Donaldson since Donaldson didn’t go into the tank. While the reasoning behind it may not be sound, it’s likely what put Donaldson over the top: not his RBI total.

    To me, Trout has been the best player in baseball over his 4 years. At his current pace, he’s not only going to be a hall of famer, but an inner circle guy…even if he never wins another MVP award. It’s not like the guys who won it over him were bad or undeserving choices. Their overall excellence lead to high RBI totals, etc. But, they were much better overall selections than we’ve seen in the past. And, until things like park effect and defensive value are more widely understood, guys like Trout may not get the full recognition they deserve.

    But, if MVP is the WAR award, then there’s no debate around it. Without debate, what fun is it?

    • dfj79 says:

      “To me, Trout has been the best player in baseball over his 4 years. At his current pace, he’s not only going to be a hall of famer, but an inner circle guy…even if he never wins another MVP award.”

      Exactly, and really, the year-to-year excellence over the long haul will make his number of MVP awards a trivia question and nothing more. Do most fans care, or even know, that Hank Aaron only won one MVP? That even Willie Mays, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial only won two apiece–the same number won by Dale Murphy and Juan Gonzalez?

      If Trout goes on to have a 100-WAR career but has “only” one or two MVP awards to show for it–well, that won’t make him any different from most players with careers like that. Rickey Henderson has one MVP, Joe Morgan has one MVP, Frank Robinson has two . . . Most Hall of Famers, even most inner circle Hall of Famers, only end up winning one or two MVP awards, and a few lucky ones like Mantle and Schmidt win three–though Schmidt didn’t win his first until his age 30 season. A-Rod has three but his first didn’t come until his age 27 season. Pujols has three; the first came in his age 25 season. Mantle’s first came in his age 24 season. Trout’s age 24 season will be next year.

  5. heaveecee says:

    This isn’t as bad as those Cabrera MVP years where Cabrera was the 4th or 5th best player behind guys like Cano, Beltre and even Donaldson. At least the MVP went to a top 2 guy with a reasonable case.

  6. pjr1427 says:

    “The knock on WPA has been that, like RBIs, it is driven by the other members of the team. ”

    Well, yes and no. To get a really good WPA in a game, it does indeed help if you have the chance to drive in a walk-off run. But if you have the chance and you fail, then you get a big negative WPA: over a season, this may all even out a bit. The difference with RBI is that there are no negative RBI for leaving a man on base.

    As I often do, take Derek Bell in 1996, when Craig Biggio kept getting into scoring position for him. Bell had a season OPS+ of 98 (that’s about average), 113 RBI (that’s a lot) and a season WPA of +0.4 wins (that’s about average).

    The main flaw with WPA in its present form is that it’s all about offense: on defense, the pitcher gets 100% of the credit or blame for everything. But hey, “all about offense” is a pretty good place to start, if only because it tends to repudiate claims that someone’s favourite player “always delivered when it mattered”.

  7. zeke bob says:

    Honestly, I find it weird that when faced with two sets of statistics, one that rates Trout as a little better vs. one that says he’s 33% better than Donaldson, you would go with the second set. It’s fine if you think Trout is better, but do you really think he’s THAT much better than Donaldson?

    If you place that much weight on a speculative statistic, why exactly are you still beating the drum for Trout over Cabrera in 2012? Miggy played 22 more games than Trout, and sure Trout had a bigger advantage on D than Cabrera had over him at the plate, but Cabrera still undeniably influenced 7.4% more games that season. And yet bizarrely Joe and others still regard this MVP vote as a travesty, rather than just a close vote between two deserving players.

    And regarding defense, I think Trout is a good center fielder, but I do still find it interesting that when faced between starting Trout or Bourjos in CF, Sciosia seemed to prefer the latter. If he had a better stick and hadn’t gotten hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels had retained him and kept Trout at a corner position.

  8. Chris says:

    It really is a little strange to have such a strong opinion this year for Trout. Josh Donaldson is a solid all around player just like Trout. He was already known for being a plus defender and he added an excellent offensive year to go along with that. I like Trout and probably would have voted for him as MVP, but I don’t feel nearly as strong about this season as I did in the two with Cabrera.

  9. Nick Hegge says:

    2003: Shannon Stewart sparks the Twins into the playoffs after a meh start. ARod hits 1000 home runs for a last place Texas team and wins the award. I gave up on the MVP award after that.

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