By In Stuff

Trout, Miggy and the MVP

I have to say that, personally, I have come to enjoy the “Trouble With The Curve” grumpiness about advanced statistics that is re-emerging because of the MVP tug-of-WAR between Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and the Angels’ Mike Trout. I came across several stories making the case that Cabrera should be the MVP, because (a) you would have to be insane to NOT give the Triple Crown winner the MVP, (b) the Tigers look to be going to the postseason when the Angels do not and, (c) the arguments for Trout are so often built around an evil statistic, WAR, that you can’t even calculate without a physics degree and help from the guy in “A Beautiful Mind.”

I’ve already written that I think it does a great disservice to Mike Trout’s MVP case to pin it on advanced statistics. His case as the league’s most valuable player is as old-school as Jim Leyland’s mustache. His case is that he’s having a great offensive season in different ways from Cabrera (he leads the league in runs and stolen bases, and his on-base percentage and OPS+ is actually HIGHER than Cabrera’s), and he’s a much better defender and base runner. His case is that when you take into account the whole ballplayer, he’s more valuable than Cabrera, Triple Crown or not.

In a league filled with people who have been badgering us with “you win games with pitching and defense” and “you can’t tell what kind of ballplayer you have based on his batting average” for 100 years, it seems odd to me that so many old-schoolers cannot see that Mike Trout is the very essence of what they’ve been talking about.

Now, this is not to say that Trout should win the MVP. That’s an opinion, and it’s well worth arguing about. But the arguments should be ARGUMENTS, not absurdities. To say Trout’s obvious MVP case is all about manipulating numbers or trying to trick the masses with some fancy-shmancy new statistics is crazy. Cabrera’s a great player. Trout’s a great player. Cabrera happens to be leading in categories that have historically been packaged into a neat container we call the Triple Crown. That’s amazing. It really is. But if the Triple Crown was stolen bases, runs scored and OPS+, then Trout would be leading. And we still would not have started talking defense.

Let’s break down the three things some are saying about why Cabrera should absolutely be MVP.

1. Cabrera should be MVP because he’s leading in numbers that are tangible — home runs! RBIs! Average! We know these numbers, they are our friends — not this confused WAR nonsense.

WAR is confused. Absolutely. You can’t figure it out at home using basic stats. And there are various versions of WAR out there, which definitely hurts the opportunity for WAR as a statistic to go mainstream. If there were two different versions of RBIs, it would never have taken off.

That said, there is something about WAR that people don’t seem to be noticing. It is consistent. And, more often than not, it tells people exactly what they might expect.

Here’s what I mean. Here’s a chart of all the Triple Crown winners since 1900. See if you notice something:

1967: Yaz won Triple Crown. Yaz led with 12.3 WAR (Frank Robinson was second at 7.3).
1966: Frank Robinson won Triple Crown — Robinson led with 7.3 WAR (Tony Oliva, 6.0)
1956: Mickey Mantle won Triple Crown — Mantle led with 11.0 WAR (Al Kaline 6.4)
1947: Ted Wiliams won Triple Crown — Williams led with 9.6 WAR (Lou Boudreau 7.2)
1942: Ted Williams won Triple Crown — Williams led with 10.2 WAR (Joe Gordon 7.8)
1937: Joe Medwick won Triple Crown — Ducky led with 8.1 WAR (Dick Bartell 6.4)
1934: Lou Gehrig won Triple Crown — Iron Horse led with 10.1 WAR (Jimmie Foxx 8.6)
1933: Jimmie Foxx won Triple Crown — Foxx led with 9.0 WAR (Joe Cronin 7.1)
1933: Chuck Klein won Triple Crown — Klein led with 7.3 WAR (Arky Vaughan 6.7)
1925: Rogers Hornsby won Triple Crown — Hornsby led with 10.1 WAR (Kiki Cuyler 6.6)
1922: Rogers Hornsby won Triple Crown — Hornsby led with 10.0 WAR (Dave Bancroft 6.0)
1909: Ty Cobb won Triple Crown — Cobb led with 9.5 WAR (Eddie Collins 9.4)
1901: Nap Lajoie won Triple Crown — Lajoie led with 8.3 WAR (Jimmy Collins 6.6)

OK, do you see what I see? As confusing and baffling and new-agey a statistic as WAR might be, the truth is that EVERY SINGLE TRIPLE CROWN WINNER led the league’s everyday players in WAR. Every single one. Most of them led by a lot. This is the same statistic being used now.

In other words, WAR is not out to suppress the value of those comfortable statistics, it is an attempt to take in the whole ballplayer. If you win the Triple Crown, WAR will tell you — you’ve had one incredible season.

This year, though — because Cabrera is limited in ways other than those three Triple Crown numbers, and because Mike Trout is so good in so many ways — WAR is saying that Mike Trout is quite a bit better. It could be an anomaly. It could be that the statistic is malfunctioning. It could be that that the statistic is horrible and was always useless and just so happened to get every other Triple Crown year “right” by pure luck.

But make no mistake, WAR as a statistic has never before undervalued Triple Crown winners.

2. Cabrera should be MVP because he is carrying the Tigers to the postseason while Mike Trout is not doing the same for the Angels.

This one has me more confused than any of the other arguments. We are aware that the Angels have a better record than the Tigers, right? I mean, people haven’t just missed that, have they? The Tigers happen to play in a crummy division and because of that look like they will go to the playoffs, but certainly we’re not going to hold it against Mike Trout that his team has a BETTER RECORD than the Tigers?

And to take it one step further: The Angels were 6-14 before they called up Trout. That means they are 81-56 since his call-up, which happens to be the best record in the American League over that stretch. To give Cabrera the nod because the Tigers make the playoffs and the Angels do not would be a level of loopy logic perhaps unmatched in recent memory.

3. Because he could win the Triple Crown, and that’s one of the rarest feats in baseball history.

I am on record saying that I think Cabrera is a virtual lock to win the MVP if he wins the Triple Crown. And I think he’s probably going to win the MVP even if he doesn’t win the Triple Crown. But the question here is not “will he” but “should he.”

I think it’s an open-ended question with good arguments both ways. But I don’t think the “he won the Triple Crown so he should win the MVP” award argument flies. Here’s why:

Let’s say that Miguel Cabrera hits three home runs in the Tigers’ last four games and wins the Triple Crown. I think it goes without saying that the vast majority of voters and baseball fans would think he deserves the MVP.

OK, now let’s say that Miguel Cabrera hits three home runs in the Tigers’ last four games, but Josh Hamilton hits four and Miggy LOSES the Triple Crown. Nothing really changed there except someone else took the Triple Crown away from him. But now, suddenly, without the Triple Crown, you might wonder: Hey, didn’t Trout have the better season?

Turn it the other way. Let’s say Cabrera goes 0-for-15 down the stretch, barely holds on to his batting title victory and ties for the home run lead — so he still wins the Triple Crown. Is he MVP? He won the Triple Crown, so you would have to say yes.

Now let’s say Cabrera goes 0-for-15 down the stretch, loses the batting title (to Mike Trout, let’s say) and gets passed by Josh Hamilton AND Edwin Encarnacion in home runs. Suddenly, he doesn’t look very good as an MVP candidate.

And none of this has anything to do with how valuable he is as a player. He will put up the numbers he puts up. Whether or not they are good enough to win the Triple Crown will have to do with other people’s performances. But it’s kind of ridiculous to say that a .327, 43-homer, 133-RBI season IS MVP-worthy if it wins the Triple Crown, but not MVP-worthy if it doesn’t.

I’d love to see Cabrera win the Triple Crown. I was one of those kids who would score the daily leaders in the morning paper and try to figure out what Jim Rice or Fred Lynn or George Foster had to do to get to the Triple Crown. In some ways, I still am. But let’s not turn this MVP race into yet another argument about traditional stats and modern ones, between fossils making outdated arguments and pointy-headed, basement-dwelling bloggers with slide rulers. It’s none of that. Miggy Cabrera might win the Triple Crown! Mike Trout is having a season for the ages! One of them won’t win the MVP, which is a shame. But one of them will.

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70 Responses to Trout, Miggy and the MVP

  1. chrisbid says:

    You touched on the mindset of a voting body earlier when you discussed back-to-back MVPs. I think this discussion also applies here. How many voters will give their MVP vote to a vet over a rookie becasue rookies have their own award (or a position player over a pitcher as pitchers have the Cy Young award). It’s not that rookies and pitchers cannot win the MVP, it’s a matter of the bar being set higher for them.

  2. David says:

    Great stuff, Joe. Beautifully written. And it captures the argument in an accessible way. Thanks a bunch!

  3. Jeffrey says:

    It would be great if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, and Trout wins MVP. That way, both players’ amazing seasons are forever remembered and recognized.

  4. Paul White says:

    Logic is great, and really fun to apply in cases like this. For instance…

    Are any of those arguments for Cabrera being made by members of the BBWAA? Well yes, of course some of them are. And as Joe points out, many of those arguments disparage the very notion that a Triple Crown winner isn’t the de facto MVP of the league, and that anyone who thinks otherwise clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    Well, an obvious extension of that logic would require those BBWAA members to rip their own organization, which denied Ted Williams the MVP despite winning the Triple Crown not just once, but twice. Which means that BBWAA award voters, by extension, therefore don’t know what they are talking about. And if BBWAA voters don’t know what they are talking about, that would render all their opinions meaningless. And if their opinions are all meaningless, that means any columns they write are meaningless, which elminates any reason to read them.

    Therefore, any member of the BBWAA who argues that Cabrera should be MVP simply because he won the Triple Crown, is also arguing that we should stop reading any columns written by members of the BBWAA.

    Thankfully, Joe isn’t making that argument, so we’re all safe here.

  5. Devon Young says:

    Hey Joe, who was “THE” 1979 NL MVP? Wouldn’t it be kinda cool if that kind of thing happened in the AL this season? Personally I think Trout should win, but maybe they both have a good enough case to share the award.

  6. BobDD says:

    Miggy will win the MVP and the fossils will then try to use that as additional proof that traditional (RBI) stats are better than the newfangled alchemy (OB%) called WAR, WARP, VORP, etc.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Miggy can’t run or play defense. That’s what WAR is telling you when a guy with Miggy’s offensive numbers trails someone else in WAR. He’s a one dimentional player, not the five tool player that Trout is. You can argue that Miggy is a great power hitter and has had a trancendent season. Great. The MVP criteria is undefined. Trout is still overall a better player this year. But let’s not let facts get in the way.

  7. prophet says:

    DiMaggio (in addition to being a fantastic ballplayer) had an unfathomable singular achievement that drove his MVP award (over a guy who hit .406, no less) – that hitting streak.

    It seems quite reasonable that the first Triple Crown in my lifetime (almost; I was days old when Yaz won his) would be that kind of singular achievement. MVP awards are about narratives, and Cabrera would have both that and the “selfless” move to a more difficult position on defense and wrestling it to a draw at the same time as he “upped his offensive game”.

    Trout “merely” has the draw-droppingly awesome defense, all-around offensive game and the fact that he did most of the damage in a historic campaign before he was old enough to drink … but that tends to cast his performance not as worthy in its own right, but as a harbinger of future awesomeness, which in turn allows voters to think that we shouldn’t award this, we should wait and award his really ridiculous season-to-come. (Or that he’ll have plenty of time to get his award – Cabrera may never be this awesome again.)

  8. rwisdom says:

    Why do people keep mentioning Cabrera’s move to third as a net positive? If he were really interested in helping the team, by any means necessary, then he would’ve offered his services at DH, and let Detroit field a real third-basemen. His ‘selfless’ move is really an act of extreme selfishness.

    • clashfan says:

      It’s easier to find a DH than a reasonably talented 3B. They asked him to play third and he did, without complaint. I’m not sure that him not volunteering to make the team worse is an example of selfishness.

    • rwisdom says:

      The League average OPS for DH is 773. Detroit has a DH OPS of 696 (with Miggy taking some of those AB’s). If it is so easy, why haven’t the Tigers done it?

    • clashfan says:

      And if Cabrera DHs, who plays third? Seems like the dropoff would be pretty steep, in terms of hitting prowess.

    • nightflyblog says:

      Along with this, Cabrera’s defense has been something better than terrible this season. He’s still no Brooks Robinson, but by some measures he’s at least treading water out there.

    • JHitts says:

      Who would have played third? Brandon Inge? No way a lineup featuring Inge is better than the lineup they have now featuring Delmon Young.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Cabrera’s DWAR is -.3. Below average. But close to average. Ironically, that’s better than his -1.3 at firstbase, an easier position, last year. So, he hasn’t been terrible in the field. But it sure doesn’t help his MVP argument. And he can’t run at all. Cabrera’s OWAR is a healthy 7.2. Meanwhile, Trout has a better OWAR of 8.3 AND an almost incredible DWAR of 2.4. This owing to his 48 of 52 stolen bases, to go along with his OPS of .952, league leading 127 runs and 30 HRs…. not to mention unwordly defense. So, do you vote for the overall beauty or the brute power (with not much else attached)?

    • rwisdom says:

      A few things…Cabrera’s dWAR is better this year than last because of positional weighting. He gets ‘credit’ for being a 3B. D Young has been worth -0.5WAR offensively this season. While Inge (if he is the 3B) has been worth about 1.5 wins above average defensively the last 8 years. The move might cost a few runs offensively, but it makes the defense much better. The team would be better off. If Cabrera wins the MVP, that’s fine. But this idea that he should get extra-credit for moving positions ‘for the good of the team’ is laughable and has no data to support it.

    • Eric H. says:

      He did what his team asked him to do, willingly and enthusiastically. The Tigers didn’t get much value out of the move because they wasted the DH slot on mediocre hitters, but Cabrera certainly gave them the CHANCE to improve the team — theoretically it’s easier to find a productive DH than a productive 3B. The Tigers failed to do so, but that’s not Cabrera’s fault.

      One of the central tenets of sabermetrics is that you try to isolate the player’s personal contributions, independent of how good/bad his teammates are. That’s why saber fans don’t care so much for RBI or pitcher wins. I think Cabrera provided “value” in much the same way a batter hitting a triple provides “value” (and helps his WAR) even if he gets stranded at third because his teammates are lousy. Why shouldn’t we give Cabrera credit for “setting up” the Tigers, even if they failed to capitalize by, figuratively, leaving him stranded at third?

      The best solution probably would have been Cabrera at 1B, Fielder at DH (Cabrera is a better defensive player than Fielder, I’m pretty convinced of that), a great defender (but who?) at 3B, and Delmon Young in some other city. But it’s not Cabrera’s job to make personnel decisions. (Why would you call him “selfish” for agreeing to do whatever management asked him to do?)

    • Chad says:

      Rwisdom, I don’t think you realize how awful Inge had been offensively over the past few years. Defensively he had regressed to about average, to the point where I don’t think he’s an improvement over Cabrera. The Tigers are a MUCH better team with Cabrera at 3rd and Young at DH than they would have been with Cabrera at DH and Inge at 3rd.

  9. Unknown says:

    MVP awards are so often about the narrative of the season, and the players’ careers in consideration, not precisely identifying the most worthy award winner. Cabrera has been a great player for a long time, he may never have this kind of season, and I bet he’ll win – its a lifetime achievement award. Mike Trout, it will be thought by voters, will win a couple of his own over the next 15-20 years.

    It reminds me of Robin Yount’s 1989 MVP award – a great season, but Ruben Sierra had a lot of evidence in his favor that year. As a Brewers fan I was very appreciative of the recognition Robin received.

    • Eric H. says:

      “Cabrera has been a great player for a long time, he may never have this kind of season”

      Actually, this is the third year in a row he’s had “this kind of season.” In many respects, 2010 was even better. Possibly 2011 too. That’s how consistent this guy has been.

  10. Dinky says:

    I was thinking of Unknown’s point about Ruben Sierra myself. At the time, a lot of the thinking was it was Yount’s last shot at an MVP (probably) and the young Sierra would have more. That was unfair to Sierra, and of course didn’t work out so well, and I say that as a high school classmate of Yount. This may be Trout’s best year ever, and to give it to Cabrera just because of experience is the worst kind of thinking.

    I also point out that some of the Triple Crown winning MVP losing players were generally unpopular for reasons off the field, such as Teddy Ballgame. Which leads me to: Trout is not just a great center fielder; he also routinely moves over to left field because Peter Bourjos is even better, even though it’s harder to switch fields. Compare to Matt Kemp in center field, even though for the Dodgers their best defensive alignment is Victorino (gold glove winner) in center, Kemp (another gold glove winner) in right, and Ethier in left. So Trout is clearly a team player.

    Cabrera moved to third, yes, but also had some notable drinking problems this last off season, whereas Trout, the younger man, seems far more mature and dedicated to the game.

    Finally, the Angels are a team which has such strength in the slugging positions and relative weakness at the top of the lineup that they can ask a guy with 30 homers to bat leadoff. Is it Trout’s fault that he is leading off? Or does it go to his character and team spirit?

    Cabrera is having a great season. Trout is having a season for the ages. By bRef War, Trout’s is one of the hundred best seasons of all time (with three games to go and a bunch of games missed before he was called up). Cabrera’s not even the MVP of the Tigers, a full point behind Verlander.

  11. Joe how did they measure defense for wars in those long gone years?? Does not seem possible unless you are going off fielding percentage which would negate the value of war

  12. Dave Hogg says:

    I don’t think that Cabrera leading the Tigers to the postseason while the Angels miss out is a factor. I *do* think that Cabrera hitting .332/.403/.658 in August and September, while Mike Trout hit .272/.373/.479, with both teams in pennant races, is a factor. Yes, a win on April 1 counts the same as one on October 1, but there’s no question that these are higher-pressure, higher-leverage games.

    Also, the season didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a fact that Cabrera played for a team who had no player to replace him. If he gets hurt, the Tigers are playing Don Kelly/Ramon Santiago at third, while the Angels have Peter Bourjos.

    Mike Trout has had an incredible season. If he wins the MVP, I won’t lose a second of sleep. I think Cabrera belongs in the discussion, with or without the Triple Crowd. If anything, my irritation has been the unwillingness of WAR fanatics to even consider any argument against Trout, as well as the “we’re old-school – we don’t care what any newfangled statistics say!” articles. Both sides need to show an open mind and actually listen to each other.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I like the new stats and take into account WAR. That said, Miguel Cabrera will win the MVP if he wins the Triple Crown… or even if he barely misses. I’m OK with that. However, he will win only because the writers still tilt towards the rarity of a feat like a Triple Crown and still do not take into consideration the overall game & the impact a player has on their team.

    • Scott says:

      Why single out writers? Writers are English and Journalism majors who likely took only basic college math classes and don’t understand statistics very well at all. Baseball GM’s on the other hand have entire staffs of highly skilled statisticians to back up their decision making process and they consistently indicate that defense is worth only a fraction of offense by voting with their dollars. Look at Adam Dunn and Jeff Francoeur. Dunn is probably the worst defensive player in baseball over the last decade, while Francoeur, a pretty bad hitter, has a legit cannon and is a one man baserunner holding and putout machine. And Dunn makes over twice what Francoeur makes. Look at the way managers build teams. Every team in the majors has a great defensive center fielder in their farm system who can’t hit, and a couple of great infielders who can’t hit too. Everyone who can hit gets promoted regardless of position. The fact is, with their jobs on the line, baseball managers and GM’s value offense greatly and defense not so much.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Francoeur is not a great fielder. He has a great arm and an accurate arm, but he’s not particularly fast, nor does he get to balls that an average player gets to. So, using Francoeur is not a good analogy. I think the dollars overall are put towards players that the fans want to see. Watching Dunn club HRs is infinitely more interesting to fans than watching Franklin Gutierrez flag down a line drive in the gap.

  13. LargeBill says:


    Great article. I’m of the opinion that either player would be a fine choice and I refuse to get upset about which one wins. I will get mildly upset by the arguments that will be made on behalf of both players, especially the ones that denigrate the player that writer doesn’t support.
    Separately, while these two players are rightfully getting all the MVP talk, quite a few players merit some consideration. There are 10 lines on the ballot and it will be interesting to see who is listed in those last 8 spots. Three days left and not one division has been clinched in the AL. That means quite a few teams are in contention and a player or two from each has 2012 story worth telling. Take the Yankees. Rivera goes down in spring training and Soriano eventually takes the job and does a pretty good Rivera imitation. Baltimore more than a decade removed from serious contention has a closer with 50 saves. Oakland comes from out of nowhere. Texas always has about a half dozen players putting up great offensive numbers. I could see as many as 20 players getting at least a 10th place vote. Kansas City could never have reached 3rd place without Billy Butler’s fine season. Cleveland definitely rode Jiminez arm to last place. Okay, okay, scratch that last one.

  14. Schlom says:

    What’s great about the Cabrera backers is that they completely ignore the context of the offensive numbers – like it matters not at all that Cabrera plays half of his games in a hitters park while Trout plays in a extreme pitchers park (plus all those games in the more extreme Oakland and Seattle).

    However I expect that those Cabrera backers writers would look at a $100 bill and a 500 yen note and take the Japanese note as the number on front is bigger.

  15. Dave says:

    Quick question: don’t some of the WAR measures have a somewhat questionable record when it comes to CF defense? I’m thinking of 2009, when Franklin Gutierrez and Nyjer Morgan were in the top 25 in WAR.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Gutierrez had 3.6 DWAR in 2009, leading some to say that his defense won ballgames… which it did. And he was in the discussion about the importance of defense in the post steroid era. Morgan was not in the top 25 in WAR in 2009 or any other year, so I’m not sure where you get your info. He had a .5 DWAR, which is pretty good, but not amazing.

  16. One of the things that has me leaning towards Cabrera if he wins the Crown is rarity of the feat. Trout will end the season with a 10.0 + WAR, which is nice. But 10 players have posted a 10.0 + WAR since the last Triple Crown. Winning a Triple Crown is *harder* than posting a 10.0 WAR.

    Also I look at OBI%, which is ignored by WAR, and I see that Miggy has driven in 21% of his ducks, while Trout is at 17%. I am in the minority here I’m sure, but I still believe in the sanctity of the RBI (or at least in its normalized percentage).

    And while we all know that Trout’s defense and position ranks over Cabrera’s, since when did defense matter in MVP voting? It’s an offensive award, when it ain’t a pitching one. So in that view, all those WAR points Trout accumulates by being that UZR vacuum that he is, are kind of invalidated.

    Ditto running, sorta. Neither here nor there, but funny how people like the running game now that it’s Mike Trout. I kind of dug it back when it was Juan Pierre . . . .

    I hear what you’re saying Joe, but still, I can’t see giving Cabrera the MVP if he doesn’t win the Triple Crown, and I’m very near to not seeing how we can deny him it if he does.

    Another thing that strikes me: Those who find in WAR their best resort will find the state of affairs produced by electing the wrong MVP a normal one. While Williams had, what, two MVP’s denied him, I think the outrage from fans of the conventional stat should be Miggy be denied would be much louder. You think the arguments are loud now, wait til the guy who wins the Triple Crown doesn’t get the hardware.

    None of this is conclusive, but like I said, I lean towards Cabrera

    • Evan says:

      No, winning the Triple Crown is rarer than posting a 10 + WAR, but that does not make it harder. The reason is that there are more ways to post a 10 + than there ways to win a Triple Crown, which, by nature, is limited to 3 statistical categories. If you wanted to, I’m sure you could pick a combination of Trout’s statistics that would prove rarer than winning a Triple Crown (I’m not going to do the research necessary to test this, but I suspect that leading the league runs, stolen bases and OPS + would be a good place to start).

    • Chris says:

      Well how about somebody going 30-50? Only happened twice. Rarer than triple crown.

    • You can pick just about any threshold to make your point, seems to me. But at the heart of 30-50 is Power Speed Number. Trout’s Power Speed number is currently 36.9, which was bested as recently as 2006. Triple Crown remains much rarer than that.

      But again, why the sudden love of the stolen base? Coz it’s a statistic that can be harvested to make a point about Trout?
      To stay with Alfonso Soriano, he led the league in stolen bases and led in runs in 2002, but finished outside the top ten in OPS+ and WAR. So just how important are these stolen bases again?

      Say that Trout leads in OPS+, you’ve got a good argument . . . just realize that Cabrera’s second.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • My post was unclear abut Soriano; it was he who had a 40.00+ PSN in ’06

    • Chris says:

      I agree with you. I merely brought up the 30-50 to point out the absurdity (IMO) of factoring in the triple crown in the discussion. Lets evaluate their season in totality without trying to boil it down to 2 or 3 categories. I’m usually not particularly fond of the SB. But in this instance, it is his success rate that is impressive.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Rastronomicals: Stolen bases are interesting when they lead to runs, as they have with Trout. The usual complaint about stolen bases is that the runner gets thrown out at least 1/3 of the time (for a good base stealer). The thing about Trout is he gets thrown out less than 10% of the time. With a 90% success rate, stolen bases turn into a lot of runs instead of killing runs. If he stole 30 bases, and was thrown out 20 times, then the run scoring would be about a wash. But Trout is 49 of 54 with 129 runs scored. That’s huge!

  17. The following is NOT an argument for Trout over Miggy.

    Nevertheless, one of my friends, a devoted Tiger ran, wrote me with a passionate criticism of Cabrera’s conduct in the 6th inning of the Detroit-Twins game on Sept. 28. Miggy hit a drive off the right-field wall which was held to a single because he didn’t run it out — and then, two singles later, Cabrera was thrown out at home.

    There is no way to measure this at-bat in RBI, almost-home-runs, or WAR. But if it were common, wouldn’t a failure to “play the game the right way,” by any star, likely have a negative effect on how his teammates played, and thus make him less valuable?

    • Scott says:

      You know baseball teams have coaches signalling players whether to run or hold, right?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think Cabrera allowing himself to get fat and pick up a DUI is another factor. His career will tail off in the next couple of years because he doesn’t take care of himself. He will therefore end up in the Hall of Very Good.

    • Rob Smith says:

      BTW Scott, a base coach has no choice but to hold a player at first who didn’t run out a hit. The larger point, besides the 3rd base coach making a poor decision, is that if Cabrera had run out his hit, he would have been a base ahead of where he ended up and would have scored easily.

    • Chad says:

      Not sure if you’ve ever seen Cabrera hit a ball, but he tends to hit it … very … hard. If you hit a screaming line drive that goes off the wall and the fielder plays it right, it is not uncommon for someone to be held to a single or thrown out at 2nd.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Chad, I didn’t see the play, but if it’s as described, Cabrera didn’t hustle & therefore didn’t make second base. It wasn’t because he hit the ball too hard, except maybe he thought the ball was going to be a HR. Seeing Cabrera as often as I did when he was with Florida, I don’t think that’s an anomoly. Cabrera often didn’t hustle & often looked like a fat POS (even though he was always able to rake).

  18. S.E.B. Joyce says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Gary says:

    The Triple Crown is far more about luck than skill. Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown with a .316 batting average – there were only two other seasons in American League history where that would have led the league. There are only two other seasons since 1990 that Miguel Cabrera’s current .329 average would have been the league leader, only seven seasons since 1990 that his current 44 homers would have led the league (one of those the strike-shortened 1994 season) and 11 seasons where his 137 RBIs wouldn’t have led. Don’t get me wrong, Cabrera is posting impressive numbers this year, Triple Crown or not, but if he wins that title it’ll be more about getting lucky than the numbers he’s putting up.

    • Chris says:

      The problem that I have with Cabrera people putting so much stock in the triple crown is that he is not particularly dominant in any of the 3 stats. Only in RBI does he have a decent lead. There are several battling him in homers and avg.

    • Chad says:

      You do realize that the time frame you are referencing was the heart of the PED era, right? Convenient that you are comparing it to the highest scoring era since the ’30’s.

    • Yeah, what Chad said. We look at normalized stats, just so that we can accomodate for different leaguewide levels of offense in different eras. Triple Crown numbers are, I guess, pre-normalized for you. You have the comparison–the league they played against–right there. Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown in the ’60’s. Faulting him for hitting .316 the year he won the Crown is like saying Pedro Martinez wasn’t as good as Lefty Gomez coz Gomez had more complete games, or wasn’t as good as Orvall Overall because Pedro had a higher ERA.

      Chris, beyond discounting the rarefied air this guy is breathing, you make a point of a sort. But are you willing to give Miggy credit for *winning* these battles?

    • Chris says:

      Sure of course he gets credit. My point was more about how much TRIPLE CROWN makes his case. If Hamilton edges him by 1 in homeruns or Trout somehow tops him by .001 in Average, does that make his season as a whole any less impressive simply because he didn’t win the triple crown. It’s almost like he has a 50/50 chance of being the MVP with no triple crown, but it shoots to 100% guaranteed if he does with a slight edge in 1 or 2 categories.

      I look at it like this.
      BA/OBP: Equal
      Power: Cabrera
      Speed: Trout
      Generating runs (RBI, R): Equal
      Defense: Trout

      I agree with those who say we shouldn’t just choose based on WAR, but isn’t the flipside to that picking an RBI leader from a playoff team?

      For me Trout wins because offensively the two are of equal value, with the tie breaker going to defense. The tigers being a playoff team is not a factor this year given the disparity of the divisions the two teams play in and the fact that the Angels will finish with a better record.

  20. Robert says:

    I’m happy to see defense and base-running become important again. I had thought we threw those in the trash for good during the Andre Dawson HoF debate.

  21. Tampa Mike says:

    One thing I think is a little lost here is how you define the award. The MVP is the most VALUABLE player… not the best all around player. There is a big difference between the two if you think about it.

    I think about the team if that player was removed. Take Miggy off the Tigers (or even lower his numbers to a more normal level) and there is no way they make the playoffs this year. He moved very unselfishly from 1st to 3rd when they signed Prince.

    I like WAR and the advanced stats, but Miggy is the MVP to me.

    • Chris says:

      Angels without Trout: 6-14
      Angels with Trout: 83-59

      I would say that Trout helps his team.

      Is it unselfish to move to 3rd if you are a mediocre fielder at best? Why not DH then?

      Isn’t what you are suggesting precisely what WAR aims to quantify? That if you were to replace a player on a given team with a low level player, how many fewer wins would the team have? WAR isn’t perfect, but I’ll trust it more than a gut feeling.

      And I find it strange that Tigers act like the only guy worth anything on their team is Miggy. You realize that you brought in Prince Fielder, which in addition to his own abilities probably improves the pitches Miggy sees by following him in the lineup.

      Not to mention the reigning MVP/Cy Young winner.

    • Tampa Mike says:

      Trout is a great player and definitely helps his team, I just don’t think as much as Miggy this year.

      The decision to move to 3rd was probably not Miggy’s decision. I’m sure he didn’t ask the Tiger’s to pick up Prince because he was eager to change positions. And if they would make a move to DH, it would have been Prince. Prince is terrible defensively. Are you suggesting that he should have refused to move?

    • Chad says:

      @Chris “Why not DH then?”

      Because their other “options” at third were Inge, Raburn, and Don Kelly. None of them is any better defensively, and all are MILES behind Cabrera offensively. Cabrera at 3rd base gave them the best chance to win day in and day out.

    • Chris says:

      @Tampa Mike

      All am saying is that I think he’s getting too much credit for this “unselfish” act. He moved to 3rd because his organization signed Prince Fielder, who’s only spot on the field is at first base.

      A case can be made for Miggy without these kinds of narratives.

    • Tampa Mike says:

      He certainly would not have moved if the Tiger’s hadn’t signed Prince, but he could have pulled a Hanley Ramirez and whined and complained about moving. He doesn’t need it for his MVP case, but it is a positive footnote.

      Jeter didn’t move when the Yankees got A-Rod even though he should have for the benefit of the team.

  22. Runs Produced + Defensive Runs Saved R + RBI – HR + DRS

    Cabrera: 200
    Trout: 204

    TB + BB + HBP + SB – 2*CS – GDP
    Cabrera: 423
    Trout: 417

    Anyone who says the race is clear cut on either side is grinding an ax. I’m beginning to think they should be co-MVP’s

    • Chris says:

      I agree. I think what gets lost in all the arguing is that regardless of your side, it doesn’t mean that the other guy is garbage. I think there are cases for both players which means that even though I fall on the side of Trout, I still think Miggy had an incredible season and I will feel bad that once again he falls just short of the award.

    • thrillho says:

      So basically a tie? What about baserunning (non-SB)? Cabrera is a bad baserunner and Trout is one of the best in the league. That’s important. I’m not grinding an ax but I think it’s pretty clear to me.

  23. Alejo says:

    WAR is scientifically solid and a great stat. Unfortunately, it is as sexy as Windows Vista.

    It certainly lacks the symbolic power of a Triple Crown. Just think: advanced stats got Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame (again: unexciting unless you are an accountant)

    WAR and the other new stats shed a powerful light on the game… but man, aren´t they boring. I mean, I´m happy I grew up during the pre-sabermetrics era, otherwise I may have as well gave up on baseball and embraced soccer or other sport that didn´t require calculus to be enjoyed.

    And I think it does matter that the Tigers will play in October, while the Angels don´t. It´s not the fault of the Tigers to play in a less competitive division. It´s the fault of the Angels not to be competitive enough. I mean, did you check Cabrera´s September numbers?

    • thrillho says:

      Yeah Bert should really be thanking those advanced stats like strikeouts and ERA and wins. Thank god for sabermetrics.

      So, just to clarify, Cabrera should get credit for the other 4 teams in his division being worse and Trout should be discredited because the other teams in his division are better? The MVP vote should take into account things that the player has ZERO control over? Great. Lets add these to the list of things to consider in the MVP vote.

      Mike Trout comes from Millville (9 letters), Miguel Cabrera from Maracay (7 letters). Advantage Trout.

      Miguel Cabrera was born on the VERY SAME DAY as the US Embassy bombing in Beirut. 66 people died. Mike Trout was born on the same day that former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar was assassinated. Advantage Trout (65 less dead).

      If you really think you need calculus to enjoy baseball you’re watching it wrong. If you don’t want to know more about the sport, don’t pay attention to sabermetrics. If you’re really interested in having as much information as possible, pay attention to sabermetrics. Why this is difficult to understand is beyond me.

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