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Trout v. Cabrera, Redux

I didn’t think there was anything new to add to the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera MVP debate. There might not be. But I did find this very interesting.

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13 Responses to Trout v. Cabrera, Redux

  1. Chad says:

    Very interesting, indeed.

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  3. Living in LA, I got a chance to see a lot of Mike Trout, and I imagine it was like watching a young Mantle, a young Mays. Midway through August, he was the best player I’d ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly.

    But then came those last 6 weeks of the season, when Miguel Cabrera earned his MVP to go along with the Tigers championship (to say nothing of the Triple Crown).

    It wasn’t just that Trout struggled. It was how he struggled. Trout crushed low pitches and off-speed pitches, but he couldn’t catch up to the good letter high fastball, the one at the top of the strike-zone, the one most pitchers can’t throw because it’s so easy to hit out of the park. As word got around, more pitchers gained the courage to throw the heater by him, and Trout’s production went into freefall just when the Angels needed him most.

    The worrisome thing is, not being able to get around on the high fastball is the old hitter’s disease, not the 20 year old phenom’s. After all, pounding the high hard one year after year is what got Pujols those millions of dollars. It remains to be seen whether Trout simply tired late in his first big league season, playing more games than he ever had in his life, or whether there was something more sinister at work, and Trout will spend the rest of his career sniffing cheese as it flies by his bat.

    So I think the writers did Trout a kindness in not voting him MVP in his rookie year. If he struggles as a sophomore, as I think he will, at least he won’t have the Curse of Fred Lynn adding to his burdens.

    • Mike says:

      He still hit .289/.400/.500 in the final month while playing great CF defense and running the bases quite well. Yeah, he “cooled off”, but only because no one can keep up that level of insanity forever.

    • One of the things about watching a team on a regular basis as opposed to checking the stat line is seeing who a player is doing his damage against. Was it against front line pitchers from division rivals in the heat of the race, or against September call-ups after the Angels were essentially eliminated? Tori Hunter was the horse who the Angels rode in September, while Trout disappeared against teams like the A’s who they were chasing. His speed and defense remained constant, of course, and his eye at the plate gave him some walks, but Trout’s inability to catch up to high heat from guys with some zip on their pitches was a major red flag.

    • Mike says:

      Torii Hunter hit .345/.400/.489 in the final month, so the main difference between the two is BABIP, which is some combination of skill and luck. So Hunter was probably slightly better at batting in the final month, but I doubt that was enough to overcome Trout’s advantages in other areas.

      I don’t understand the high heat issue. Isn’t that how most power pitchers rack up strikeouts? I would imagine that most high-K hitters (which Trout was last year) have the same exact problem.

    • It may seem an unfashionable stat these days, but a 56 point difference in batting average is still significant (if anything, Trout’s speed will always make his BABIP skew high). One player was getting hits and one wasn’t during the crucial games of the pennant race against divisional rivals like Oakland. Hardly an MVP performance, even on his own team (where Hunter’s speed and defense weren’t shabby either).

      As for high heat, there’s a difference between chasing an eye-high fastball and hitting one just above the belt. One nobody can hit, the other can be driven a long way. The reason pitchers are told to keep the ball down is that an elevated delivery gets hit in the air, sometimes out of the park. This is a mash zone for guys like Pujols, Bonds and Williams—and Miguel Cabrera. It was Death Valley for Trout, as he kept getting busted up in the zone. In fact, Trout liked them at the knees or below, unusual for a right handed batter. He saw fewer of these lowballs as the season progressed, and his hitting suffered.

      The key question is whether it’s a trend or can Trout make the adjustment? If he can, then the sky’s the limit for Trout. Last year was just a taste of what he might do. It’s Mantle/Mays time. But if he can’t, then he goes from being a great player to being a good player—one of those many hitters you mention with very high k rates—whose speed and defense are guaranteed pluses, but one who never comes close to duplicating his rookie success.

  4. Scott says:

    I find it interesting that Oaklands model doesn’t give Trout an advantage. I assume this is because they weigh defense and baserunning differently than WAR (less value). Is this any surprise? As I have pointed out both here and on my blog, if you look at what teams pay for in position players it’s 1)slugging, 2)hitting, 3)more slugging and hitting, and 4)oh btw, a little speed and defense are a nice value, as long as you aren’t an injury risk (and you probably are from all that running)

  5. Nick O says:

    Based on the A’s personnel decisions I would have to think their model values defense and baserunning highly, so that explanation seems lacking to me. My bet is there is a batted ball data component to the A’s model that is suggesting Trout was lucky to have his high BABIP, while Cabrera’s slash numbers were more accurately reflective of his true hitting ability (or underrating him). The A’s system may also take into account that the stock of MLB CFers is pretty good right now, while the stock of 3Bman is relatively poor. WAR uses historical data for its positional adjustments.

    • Scott says:

      Nick the market sets prices and speed and defense are cheaper than hitting and slugging, much cheaper. Oakland’s system may still value them while trying to find “B” players that match their budget. If you want real empirical proof of what teams value in the end go by what they pay out, they all vote with dollars. The key defensive positions are catchers, shortstops and centerfielders. They tend to make less on average than first basemen, right fielders and DH’s, traditional slugging positions. Look into it deeper and the numbers are skewed even more because generally the best paid C SS and CF’s are the ones with unusually strong offensive stats for their position. Teams promote and/or buy bats, they all have plenty of + defenders moldering in their farm system who can’t hit.

  6. Mark Daniel says:

    The A’s must not value speed and defense as much as WAR does. Those are the two big advantages Trout has over Cabrera. Cabrera is a better hitter (similar BA and OBP as Trout, but higher SLG).

    In fact, since Trout’s .326/.399/.564 and Cabrera’s .330/.393/.604 are very similar, it seems that Oakland gives virtually no significance to speed and defense. Or, whatever positive contribution speed and defense do give, it wasn’t enough to overcome a modestly higher SLG.

  7. JP says:

    Wow , this article is interesting, but more than that, frustrating. I would love to get some idea of how the As are valuing players. Maybe it’ll be in Moneyball 2.

  8. this is so interesting, thanks


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