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  1. I think you had a crucial flaw in your end result in that you forgot to include Delmon Young for consideration.

    Comment by Michael Scarn — July 12, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  2. Me agrees with Trout, but Joey Vottomatic takes my vote in the NL. I also tend to agree with discounting guys surrounded by stars. It hurts a team a lot less when one of these guys gets injured. That said, Cincy would be down around Milwaukee’s neighborhood without Votto.

    Comment by beevis — July 12, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

  3. This is clearly an article that belongs on NotGraphs – I mean really, you give the readers all of these ‘facts’ and ‘analytical observations’ and ‘contextualized statistics’ and you STILL don’t end up with Michael Young as AL MVP? He’s only the most grit-soaked player on a first place team. D’uh…

    Comment by Mr. Observant — July 12, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  4. Would the writers give Trout ROY and MVP?

    Comment by Miguel Arias — July 12, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  5. MVP is about performance, not talent level, and thus the defensive numbers should count equally. While they are less predictive of future performance, they still accurately represent what has actually occurred.

    Comment by TKDC — July 12, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

  6. It is amazing both how far Josh Hamilton has fallen in the last month and a half, but also how his numbers still look as good as they do. As an Angels fan I’d love to see our boy Trout become the youngest MVP ever, but it is also difficult to imagine Hamilton not turning it around and at least getting to 40+ HR and 120+ RBI; couple that with a .300+ BA and the likelihood of the Rangers winning the division, and I think he gets the nod from the voters, unless the Angels steal the division and Trout is even better in the second half.

    Comment by Angelsjunky — July 12, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

  7. I don’t agree with trying to find a definition of “valuable” other than “best”. It is clear that when this award was established, it was meant to go to the best player, but an unfortunate word choice was used, which was not intended to have the meanings that people, unfortunately including voters, attach to it.
    Nit-picks over the definition of valuable are counter-productive, as each person will have his own definition.
    Just give the award to the best player, as originally intended. “Best” itself leaves plenty of ambiguity to nit-pick about, but is at least clearer than “valuable”.

    Comment by Baltar — July 12, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  8. When deciding on an MVP, I would include contextual stats. That’s just me.

    Comment by Eddie — July 12, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  9. I am astonished by how good Carlos Ruiz has been this season. He has been the only reliable hitter all season in the Phillies lineup. He’s a fantastic defender-hey, he can even catch a knuckleball! I look forward to seeing if he can maintain it.

    He’s my vote simply because even great catchers have never been even close to this good-and there he is, near the top. Too bad the Phillies stink. He’d be a household name otherwise.

    Comment by jirish — July 12, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  10. Minor nitpick, it should be the player with the best season, not the best player. If in-his-prime [pick your choice as greatest player ever] missed half a season with an injury, the fact that he’d still have been the best player (no real argument otherwise) does not mean he’d still deserve the MVP.

    Comment by TKDC — July 12, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  11. How is “it clear that when this award was established, it was meant to go to the best player”?

    I personally prefer defining it as stated, value. Its much more interesting to reward a player for his value in helping his team win than simply saying player X is the best player in year Y. The best player is already rewarded by winning batting titles/ HR crowns, etc.

    Its preferance to be sure, there is no “right” answer.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — July 12, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  12. Yeah, the award was not intended to be context neutral, that’s a bias that is applied by statisticians.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — July 12, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  13. This is not true. There is massive measurement error in the defensive numbers. They do not accurately reflect what happened. The defensive numbers are much different than the offensive numbers. We never miscount home runs. We have no idea if any single defensive play credited as being difficult is actually difficult or routine.

    Comment by Jason H — July 12, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  14. When it comes to MVP—which is loosely defined as “What player was most integral to the success of his team?”—I like to operationalize this as the player whose actual (context dependent) results on the field had a high impact on his team’s chances. I like WPA for this, and you’ll notice this approach implicitly gives a player more credit to the player when other teammates’ success makes this player’s performance less critical. It penalizes production that comes at meaningless game contexts. And it also (at least partially and implicitly) takes into account league and ballpark effects.

    Whether or not “clutchness” actually exists is debatable, but I consider the MVP a wholly results-oriented award. And call me naive, but if two players each have 40 HR, but player A’s were literally all walk-off homers and player B’s all came in the 9th inning of blowouts, I’m giving the MVP to player A.

    I will concede that this approach doesn’t take into account defensive and positional considerations, the way that a stat like WAR does. That’s a problem, so it’s fairly clear to me you can’t *only* look at WPA. But WPA shares a strength of WAR, which is that pitchers and hitters can be compared.

    Comment by Peter 2 — July 12, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  15. Trout has been amazing this season. It would be pretty cool if he won the MVP. It’s fun to think about what a 20 yo rookie on pace for a 9 WAR season could do in his prime, which is still 3 or 4 years away from even starting.

    Comment by Billion Memes — July 12, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  16. I appreciate the disclaimer that we all have our own definitions of value, but I don’t find the “WARdiff” charts particularly informative. Has Robinson Cano been more valuable because Curtis Granderson can’t catch a fly ball? Granderson has certainly shared the offensive load, and while Cano’s league-average defense may be needed more with a statue playing to his right every day, I don’t see how he’s more like an MVP because none of his teammates (except Sabathia, whom you ignore here) have been worth more than 1.8 WAR. wRC+ may be more useful here, but I still don’t see how Cano’s differential advantage trumps Trout’s absolute advantage.

    Or, in short, I’m glad you picked Trout. I would too.

    Comment by Bryan — July 12, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  17. Trout has been amazing this season. It would be pretty cool if he won the MVP. It’s fun to think about what a 20 yo rookie on pace for a 9 WAR season could do in his prime, which is still 3 or 4 years away from even starting

    Comment by Billion Memes — July 12, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

  18. So the belief that, in a 4-3 win, a first-inning home run is just as valuable as a ninth-inning home run is a bias?

    Comment by Bryan — July 12, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  19. See my comment 2 slots down from here…I could not agree more.

    Comment by Peter 2 — July 12, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  20. I think it’s amazing how good Austin Jackson has been this year. If he hadn’t missed 20 games or whatever it was he’d have a 5+ WAR already. Crazy considering he was the joke of baseball last year.

    Comment by Cory — July 12, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  21. Ichiro got it.

    Comment by Semi Pro — July 12, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

  22. I’d like to see the award split into two:

    Barry Bonds Award – best player in the league
    Kirk Gibson Award – player most integral to their team’s success

    That way the first would be relatively straight-forward, while the second could have all sorts of fun things going on, and probably a lot more pitchers too.

    Comment by Angelsjunky — July 12, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  23. They gave Verlander the MVP, when he didn’t even have the best ERA or FIP in baseball…

    Comment by Pacoheadley — July 12, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  24. You don’t know if a homerun was a laser over the CF wall or a pop up down the line (well, we might, but no one cares). There is uncertainty in everything. The stats we have to differentiate the actual performance of defensive players are pretty good and the offensive ones aren’t perfect either.

    Are we discounting for BABIP?

    The fact is defense is valuable and mistakes in valuation can go one way or another (just like with hitting), but to ignore it or place less weight on it is foolish.

    Comment by TKDC — July 12, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  25. You’re forgetting the difference between the AL and NL average ERA. Verlander did have the best ERA- in baseball!

    Comment by Big Daddy V — July 12, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  26. I agree with your philosophy in the intro, but I’d (respectfully) suggest a slightly different criteria to get at the “relative value” you talk about. Instead of comparing the WAR and wRC+ of the “absolute” best players to the second best player on their teams, why not look at their percentage of the total team’s WAR? (and wRC?). That could be a better way to capture the “relative” value of each player to the whole team.

    Using your methodology above, Cano should win first half MVP since he is further ahead of the second best player than Trout is for both WARDiff & RC+Diff. However, Trout has accounted for 19% of his team’s WAR, while Cano produced 15% of his team’s WAR (including pitchers). In other words, Cano’s whole “supporting cast” is better than Trout’s (not just the second best player), and Trout’s contribution to his team is much more important than Cano’s.

    The same applies in the NL – McCutcheon accounts for a whopping 25% of the Pirates total WAR, Wright is 23% of the Mets, and Votto 21% of the Red, even though he is having the best “absolute” season of the 3. So, while the argument “the Reds would be nowhere without Votto” is true, the Pirates would be even worse off without McCutcheon (and they’re in first place because of him).

    I’m not sure whether “percentage of team WAR” is the best method, and there’s more math needed for wRC+ (you’d have to remove that player & see where the team’s offense would be without him). But I do think it’s better to compare a player’s contribution to the whole team, not just the second best player, to get at relative value.

    Comment by Jonathan S — July 12, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  27. TKDC,

    There is difference between home runs to be sure. But we are talking about what actually happened. We measure the number of home runs that were actually hit (whether they are “good” home runs or not) with absolute certainty.

    This is not true of defensive plays. It is a routine occurrence for a player to be docked for missing a play that is judged that 20% of players would have made, but in reality no one could have made, etc.

    So, if a player hits 12 home runs, we know with certainty that his team scored those runs, whether all 12 were lucky Green Monster pop-ups, or whether all 12 were no doubters. They actually happened either way. With respect to the fielding numbers, all we know for sure is if the player made or didn’t make a play. But because we have no good way to evaluate what it means to make a play, we then guess about whether other players would have made the same play. Sometimes the guess is good, sometimes the guess is bad. At any rate, we are not accurately representing what actually happened.

    No doubt defense is important. But we have to take the difficulties associated with evaluating it into consideration. It is not the same as hitting, and we have to accept that.

    Comment by Jason H — July 12, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  28. No way, never happens.

    Comment by Fred Lynn — July 12, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

  29. The writers gave Verlander the MVP when he didn’t have the best FIP in the majors? O RLY??? Do you think the writers even know what FIP stands for?

    Comment by bada bing — July 12, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  30. That’s what you said to your girlfriend, right – massive measurement error. Hiyuah!!!

    Comment by Mr. Observant — July 12, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  31. You could say the same thing about Mike Trout, except he wasn’t the joke of baseball last year (also, either was Jackson…), because he wasn’t even playing Major League baseball.

    Comment by bada bing — July 12, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  32. I was referring to the tendency around here that the guy with the best WAR should be MVP regardless of team performance.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — July 12, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

  33. Pigs will fly before MLB names an award after Bonds ;-)

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — July 12, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  34. “He’s my vote simply because even great catchers have never been even close to this good”

    Um…Mike Piazza? That was a more offensive environment, but even if you wouldn’t call Mike’s ’97 performance better than Ruiz’s ’12, you certainly can’t say it’s “not even close.”

    If you want to make the claim that catchers get routinely underappreciated in MVP consideration, then I’ll be the first to agree with you.

    Comment by ZenMadman — July 12, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  35. And, he’s classy.

    “Have some class, don’t be an ass.”


    Comment by CabreraDeath — July 12, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  36. Interesting methodology. I quibble though–there’s only one win between Ruiz and Molina, and that doesn’t include their (IMO) substantial differences in defensive ability.

    Comment by Uncle Randy — July 12, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

  37. Seriously, dude, ever heard of Babe Ruth?

    Comment by TKDC — July 12, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  38. I like your approach.
    25% for McCutcheon. Nice.

    Comment by J — July 12, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

  39. Agreed. I count three Piazza seasons that are either better or, at least, “close” to Ruiz’s current season. Joe Mauer in 2009 was probably better and certainly in the same neighborhood too.

    Of course, Mauer won the MVP so maybe that helps your case.

    Comment by Omman — July 12, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  40. In a ten team ten keeper league I was offered

    Granderson, and A-Gonz for Cargo, I have Harper, J Upton, Rasmus, and Rios in OF, and Cuddyer and Ike Davis at 1st. Is this a smart trade for me from a keeper perspective?

    Comment by jT — July 12, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

  41. Thank you for not writing a single line about Austin Jackson. No, seriously- one sentence would have been pretty exhausting for you, and we don’t want anyone getting hurt out there.

    Comment by kw — July 12, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  42. I would take that trade if I were you. Granderson and Agonz in your lineup is much better than Cargo and Davis.

    Cargo has the most value long-term, but Granderson and Agonz should be good for a few more years.

    Comment by Angelsjunky — July 12, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  43. I think Ruth would win both. Point is, one is for best player regardless of how his team finishes.

    Comment by Hamilton Marx — July 12, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  44. While Trout and Cano on paper look like the most deserving candidates, I think voters are going to have a tough time turning away from Hamilton. Barring injury he should still finish with big numbers, even with injury aka 2010 he’s shown he’s very capable of being elite if not the best.

    Comment by AJP — July 12, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  45. But it HAS happened, with Ichiro.

    Comment by BurleighGrimes — July 12, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  46. Just as importantly, it’s not as though it *should* happen all the time but writers just don’t like doing it; Trout is a legit candidate this year and I think he will be treated as such should he put up as monstrous a 2nd half as his first.

    Comment by BurleighGrimes — July 12, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  47. Maybe I am not reading this right but on the leaderboards Bourn’s wRC+ is only 127, not 142

    Comment by Snoth — July 12, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

  48. I see your point. Although hitting-wise, there is already such an award (the Hank Aaron award).

    There is also award you get when you are considered to be the best player in baseball (context-independent) and are anticipated to continue to be a great player in the future. It is called the Alex Rodriguez award, and he won it once in 2000 and again in 2007. The design of the trophy is somewhat “out there” and creative, it is a pile of cash you can’t even see over, made entirely out of legal tender.

    Comment by Peter 2 — July 12, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  49. Mike Piazza, I’ll give you. I just don’t recall him being as good defensively and Ruiz is just as fantastic behind the plate as he is at the plate. I’ll agree that catchers ARE routinely overlooked, forgotten, unappreciated, the one player that no one seems to pay attention to. Whatever.

    I still vote my mid season award to Carlos Ruiz.

    Comment by jirish — July 12, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  50. Burleigh: It happened with someone else too… hint hint

    Comment by Joe — July 12, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  51. Wouldn’t this method, taken to its logical conclusion, mean giving MVP’s to decent players on incompetent teams? Or would we limit it to playoff contenders, so only good players on decent teams in lousy divisions (or a league with parity and two wild cards) would get a boost?

    Comment by Jon L. — July 12, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  52. Gibson’s rWAR in 1988 was just 0.6 behind the league leader, giving him a pretty sound argument for best player in the league, grit and leadership aside.

    Comment by Jon L. — July 12, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  53. Subtracting the WAR of the second best player from that of the best? That’s not analysis, that’s arbitrary silliness.

    If you want to talk about player value in context of the season then put in the effort and build a “Playoff Percentage Added” metric. If you’re not going to go that far, at least put in the time to consider whether the cheesy metric you’ve derived actually means something.

    Comment by Al Dimond — July 12, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  54. Is Molina a good defensive catcher too?

    Comment by jmb4028 — July 12, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

  55. We miscounted Hack Wilson’s 191st RBI for a half-century, but otherwise your point stands.

    Comment by Alex Remington — July 12, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  56. (Or if you don’t believe in extremely timing-sensitive stats but want to add some team/season context there are lots of other ways to do it that aren’t just ridiculous on their faces.)

    Comment by Al Dimond — July 12, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

  57. burleigh, that sound you’re hearing is the joke going over your head

    Comment by jim — July 12, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  58. remember when ryan zimmerman was dave cameron’s MVP candidate in 2010? that was funny

    Comment by jim — July 12, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

  59. do we reward ruiz for being absurdly lucky, as his BABIP 70 points above his career BABIP, and HR/FB more than twice his career rate would seem to point towards?

    Comment by jim — July 12, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  60. who’s mccutcheon?

    Comment by jim — July 12, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  61. Folks really need to stop the “UZR is what happened on the field” narrative.

    UZR is a MODEL and compares the difference between balls that the fielder played vs an aggregate distribution of balls across three (?) years of major leaguers.

    So outside of any bias issues, UZR is assuming that the distribution of balls that a fielder in a particular zone is similar to what Joe Average sees… as the sample gets larger this is a fairly reasonable assumption. Over a small sample it is not (which is why UZR is “noisy”). If the zones were infinitely small you wouldn’t have to worry about zone size, but they aren’t so a fielder over a 1 year sample may see a greater frequency of balls at the edge of the zone of in the center of the zone, so the delta calculation is not exactly a fair representation of “what happened on the field”

    UZR is an APPRXIMATION of what happened on the field, not a direct measurement of what did… and the key is whether the distribution of plays in a specific zone is really representative of the aggregate distribution.

    Comment by Tom — July 12, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  62. why waste his time on Jackson?

    Comment by cs3 — July 13, 2012 @ 12:28 am

  63. even as a Yankees fan I have to admit that right now there’s no way Trout doesn’t win the MVP award. Cano was been awesome but Trout has been an alien so far. As a fantasy player I’m still mad about myself for not picking up Trout in any of my leagues, I thought he isn’t ready yet. I think I was slightly wrong ;)

    Comment by Bavarian Yankee — July 13, 2012 @ 6:27 am

  64. yona? lol

    Comment by brez224 — July 13, 2012 @ 8:22 am

  65. try looking at his numbers?
    considering his well documented batting mechanic change resulting in much increased power, those numbers are almost definetly going to stay where they have been and he has been an absolute force out of the leadoff spot.
    Now if only Leyland would let him steal a base or two….

    Comment by brez224 — July 13, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  66. I have to ask, realistically, do Trout or Jackson really deserve it?

    Both of them are beneficiaries of vastly inflated BABIPs. Do we want to reward luck in MVP voting?

    Should Jackson and/or Trout really get MVP just because a few more of their grounders found their way through the middle?

    I argue that while it’s important to look at wRC+, it’s important to look at it in context – and try to determine if that’s a “true” number or if that is really measuring what the player did + some luck.

    Comment by AndyS — July 13, 2012 @ 9:25 am

  67. My sense coming into the article was that McCutchen and Trout would probably be at the top of my own lists. After reading, Votto and Wright are serious challengers in the NL, but I’m not sure anyone could resist giving Trout the ROY/MVP combo if he keeps things up in the second half. If he tails off to “merely awesome,” then it’s anyone’s guess.

    Comment by Jason — July 13, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  68. If they keep it up all year, then yes. For two reasons:

    a) Luck is an inextricable element of the game, and very valuable.
    b) BABIP isn’t “inflated” just because it’s an outlier. Elite hitters have maintained elite BABIPs over long periods of time. For some recent-ish examples, look at Tony Gwynn Sr., Wade Boggs, Rod Carew.

    Comment by Jason — July 13, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  69. Gibby was far-and-away the league leader in Jason’s patented, ultrasecret Grit Units Above Replacement (jGUAR) with 1.63/100 appearances. A lot of that was accumulated in the postseason, however.

    Comment by Jason B — July 13, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  70. “giving MVP’s to decent players on incompetent teams”

    This is at the crux of MVP arguments a lot of years. (“WHATTAYA MEAN, JOSE BAUTISTA?!? THEY’RE IN FOURTH PLACE!!1!” is the common refrain.) Personally I don’t have an issue with regarding the “best” player with the MVP award, whether his teammates are awesome, awful, or somewhere in between.

    But interpretations of what constitutes “value” or who was “best” may differ widely, and reasonable minds may still disagree even if they are working from the same definition of “value”.

    Comment by Jason B — July 13, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

  71. And I would add that just because the numbers say a player got “lucky” with their BABIP and/or may be overdue for some heavy regression, it shouldn’t matter a bit in the voting (in my mind, anyway). I would cast my vote based on what *did* happen, not what *should have* happened.

    I would think most MVP candidates in most years are playing unsustainably well or “over their heads” to some extent, but they’re still putting up awesome numbers nonetheless.

    Comment by Jason B — July 13, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  72. To Jon L – I’d still start with a list “absolute” best candidates, as Bill did above (my preference is by WAR & WPA) to avoid the mediocre players on poor teams. My method/goal was trying to narrow down the list of “best” players to show which one showed the most “value” to his team. I.e., for McCutch, he’s one of the top five players in the NL, AND provides the most value to his team, AND they’re in playoff contention because of him.

    Comment by Jonathan S — July 13, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

  73. Yes, he certainly has benefited from some degree of good fortune, but he also has a career-high line drive rate which is probably another factor in his higher babip. Additionally, his line drive rate has been progressively climbing for the last four seasons.

    Comment by Mcneildon — July 13, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  74. Do we start voting against unusually high or “lucky” HR/FB ratio’s too? If that’s the case, then Cano shouldn’t be considered either. This site seriously needs some batted ball f/x so that we can analyse BABIP better. Otherwise, these short-sighted BABIP generalizations are going to continue to rule the land.

    Comment by Jim Gleeland — July 13, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

  75. That should have been my first point. Not to mention I doubt anyone ever got voted MVP because they hit the most singles!

    Comment by Jason — July 13, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

  76. Just to be a homer and stuff the ballot box again, Melky has to get some consideration.

    Comment by Hurtlockertwo — July 13, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

  77. If Jackson’s BABIP regresses to his career average, he’s still on pace for 7 or 8 WAR due to the walks, power, and great defense. Trout obviously has less of a career track record of elite BABIP, but he definitely fits the mold of being someone who can sustain very high BABIPs – maybe not as high as it is now, but certainly much higher than the lazy regression standard of .300.

    Comment by ThePartyBird — July 13, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  78. WAR, wRC, etc, are all approximations of a player’s value in the batters box. I’m not sure I see a meaningful distinction here.

    Comment by RC — July 16, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  79. Actually he is on pace for 10.4 WAR (as of today) if you project WAR/G over remaining games.

    Comment by Actually — July 16, 2012 @ 11:50 am

  80. How dumb do you feel now?

    Comment by Chavo — August 10, 2012 @ 5:16 am

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