So, what would Cabrera’s WAR be if he stayed at 1st or was a DH?
Comment by mdccclxix — September 21, 2012 @ 12:06 pm
I think the problem is that people are arguing: Cabrera might win the triple crown, therefore he is great and should win the MVP. That’s just faulty logic. I’d have no problem celebrating the rareness of the feat if it wasn’t used as the basis of Cabrera’s MVP argument.
What I really want to know, is do the people who think that Miggy should win the MVP if he achieves a Triple Crown should NOT win it if he comes up say 2RBI short. In their minds, is that the difference between an MVP and second place? Because that position is indefensible. THAT is why I am so opposed to the Triple Crown argument.
” But rather than cutting down the triple crown, we really should be praising Trout’s season.”
This is how that conversation goes:
Person A: Sure, maybe Cabrera has been more valuable as a pure hitter than Trout is. But when you incorporate defense, baserunning, and positional value, Trout has to come out on top. Reasonable argument, no?
Tigers Fan: BUT CABRERA MIGHT WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN!
It’s interesting how Cabrera’s triple crown season might be the “worst” one of all time.
Comment by Izzy Hechkoff — September 21, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
I’m not sure anyone thought the triple crown was bad or evil…just that it’s an arbitrary collection of numbers. I’d put a bit more stock in it if it measured three numbers that were less connected. Home runs and RBI go together in large measure, as many times, hitting a lot of home runs will lead to a lot of RBI (not always, but many times). The two numbers are in some way measuring the same thing. If it were, say, batting average, home runs and stolen bases…well, I’d be a lot more impressed. Though I guess that would verge on an impossibly wide breadth of skills being measured.
Anyway, the triple crown is cool just because it’s cool to lead the league in several things.
Comment by Minstrel — September 21, 2012 @ 12:15 pm
*are in some ways
Comment by Minstrel — September 21, 2012 @ 12:16 pm
I hope this is a response to Ken Rosenthal’s video claiming that sabermetric people are attacking Miguel Cabrera which is something I haven’t seen at all.
agreed. let’s say Hamilton goes crazy on the last day of the year and overtakes Cabrera in HRs. So that would suddenly confirm Trout is the MVP over Cabrera? It doesn’t make any sense.
Comment by gator32301 — September 21, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
I personally think Trout should run away with the MVP, but it’s certainly not indefensible to say that those 2 RBI in any other year could legitimately be a basis for deciding the MVP award. There’s inherent financial and off-the-field value in winning the Triple Crown — the Red Sox are still able to do promotions based on Yaz’ 1967 TC — and that financial value to a team should, in my view, be factored into MVP voting. It is, after all, the most “valuable” player award.
you’d have to assume 1B, he probably wouldn’t get as much discussion if he were DH. at first, his fld would probs be around -4, a bit less than half of what it is now at third. idk what this translates to for WAR, but im sure someone can figure it out.
I think Trout deserves to be the MVP and is having the better all around season than Cabrera. As a sports fan i’m really hoping Miguel pulls it off, it’s one of the all time great accomplishments in sport, and we might not see another one in our lifetimes, you never know.
I disagree with the premise of the article. Yes, it’s something that correlates with good players, but we have way better ways of measuring that now. Wins used to be the best pitching stat, and it does correlate with good pitchers, but that doesn’t mean we should still be using it today. Batting average has no less than three better rate stats that are just as easy to calculate, and RBI’s are useless — the Triple Crown is an obsolete achievement.
Comment by Eminor3rd — September 21, 2012 @ 12:40 pm
First Base: -12.5 runs
Third Base: +2.5 runs
Designated Hitter: -17.5 runs
Comment by Michael — September 21, 2012 @ 12:48 pm
I’m still the best rookie!!! I do all the little things right!!!
Comment by Bryce Harper — September 21, 2012 @ 12:52 pm
I know that RBIs are a context dependent statistic but they are far from worthless. Games are won by the team that scores the most runs. Players that are responsible for the scoring of runs are more valuable than their counterparts. There are times when a player excels in traditional stats and is not the player that he appears to be (the author used Dante Bichette). Still there are also players like Brandon Marrow who are less good than their advanced stats suggest they should be. This is because any stat is only a partial description. Runs batted in is a partial description of the year that Cabrera is having and it accurately points out that he is having an excellent year.
Comment by j cheatman — September 21, 2012 @ 1:03 pm
Absolutely agree with this entire article. Trout SHOULD run away with the MVP. But thinking ahead to what actually WILL happen, if Cabrera wins that Triple Crown I think the writers will (undeservedly) give him the MVP.
Which is why I’m rooting for Cabrera not to win the Triple Crown, despite the fact I’d like to see it happen. I’d rather have him fall short and have Trout win the MVP he deserves.
Most people concede that RBIs have some value in individual player evaluations. It has value the same way a horse buggy or a typewriter still has value. The point is, it is a completely obsolete tool. If there are metrics/statistics better suited at valuing players, why do RBIs ever need to be mentioned?
If people want to hang on to RBIs for the novelty and tradition of it, then fine. But don’t pretend it has any relevance in the modern era of baseball evaluation.
I think the triple crown could actually hurt his MVP chances based on the backlash. We should be talking about his other offensive numbers. He’s leading or top 3 in runs, hits, home runs, rbis, average, obp, slugging, and ops. That is a hell of a season. I believe Trout should win (which pains me to say as a Tigers fan), but it’s because what Trout has done and not what Cabby hasn’t done.
This MVP talk is taking away from the fantastic stretch that is happening. Cabrera has a sizable lead in AVG and RBIs, and is ONE HR away from tying with Hamilton. Call the feat arbitrary, but this is going to be an awesome couple weeks down the home stretch.
Why do we get excited about a horse going for the triple crown in the third race after winning the first two? Why do we get excited about Mcguire-Sosa HR race? Or Armstrong’s winning streak? Or Phelps breaking medal records?
Because we love to see people do things that no one else can do. The only thing better, is putting a time table on the process. Cabrera has 13 games to hold his lead in AVG and RBIs, and to overtake Hamilton in HRs. What if he pulls it out with 2 HRs on the last day? What if he’s tied on the last day, and loses the lead to a Hamilton HR?
Either way, this Triple Crown Race is heating up, and when it’s all said and done, it will be epic.
Comment by DowntownChico — September 21, 2012 @ 1:49 pm
Both league’s MVP races are really interesting this year, I think. I would vote for Trout, but I think some of the writers will be impressed by the (possible) Triple Crown, so I anticipate a fairly close vote, even if it really shouldn’t be. But I think the NL race between Posey, Cutch and Braun is even more exciting – a strong case can be made for any of them.
At what point were batting average, HR, and RBI recognized as the defining “Triple Crown” statistics? That is, when Lajoie won the triple crown in 1901 and Cobb in 1909, was it recognized as such – a “triple crown” performance? It would be easy to understand how the earlier players on the list may not have garnered the same MVP attention if those three specific categories weren’t looked at as the defining factors in a player’s value during that era. Recognizing those three categories as the triple crown statistics and speaking of the triple crown in such a reverential, hallowed way seems to inflate their value in a way that, for example, runs scored or stolen bases are not.
This is a bit beside your point, Paul, but while we are judging the Triple Crown’s value towards the MVP race I’m also interested in WAR’s value. I’m thinking of a guy like (placing homer hat firmly on head) Adam LaRoche who has only a third the WAR of Trout but carried an almost-worst-to-first ball club for about half the season. Without LaRoche it’s fairly easy to say the Nationals would still have a ways to go to reach the playoffs, the same can not be said about Trout.
This is not a proclamation that LaRoche should be the MVP (I certainly don’t think so) but it makes me wonder if there’s not a better way to explain why TC ≠ MVP other than “WAR!”. WAR, to my eyes, does not show how valuable a player is to his specific team.
Comment by fresheee — September 21, 2012 @ 2:02 pm
And yes, I understand LaRoche is in the NL and we are talking about the AL here, my point is about the measurements not the players (and I ♥ ALR).
Comment by fresheee — September 21, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
Thank you for being the only voice of sanity in this thread.
I feel that the “rational” influence of Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Think Factory, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, etc. has completely deconstructed the game so that in 2012 the “community” is absurd to devalue Cabrera’s accomplishments.
I, for one, am rooting for a Triple Crown season, which should equate to an MVP.
Comment by I Agree Guy — September 21, 2012 @ 2:54 pm
There would still be plenty of “single-handedly leading them to the playoffs*” talk, circa Verlander-2011.
*nevermind the fact they’re currently out of the playoffs
Comment by I Agree Guy — September 21, 2012 @ 2:56 pm
I just don’t understand poo pooing RBI and runs when we are trying to access value. A hit in an inning where no runner score just isn’t that valuable. It does usually result in some extra wear on the starter and it does help turn the line up over and both of those things are potentially valuable, but the point of offense is indeed to score runs and to score runs one needs to create, then take advantage of those opportunities.
We aren’t then trying to access how good a player was but how he contributed to their teams wins and losses, and artificially removing players from a real world context just doesn’t do that. I mean if we were really interested in determining value, wouldn’t we instead of going by seasonal stats (which is an easy short hand) actually look through the games inning by inning, looking at both positive and negative contributions in games a player’s team won, and only negative contributions in the games a player’s team lost. (A positive contribution in a loss really has no value.) And find a way to actually attach these contributions to a real world context.
I respect what WAR does. It is certainly a useful tool, but it only suggests the value a player is likely to have, all things bring equal. But all things are not equal. In life they never are, even if over a long enough period of time, they approach equality.
In baseball a season just doesn’t happen to be a long enough period of time. Luck exists in any number of ways. Players play over their true talent level or happen to hit better with runners in scoring position than stats predict they should (and these hits are more valuable.). And all these instances of luck, or unluck, contribute to value.
Comment by Crumpled Stiltskin — September 21, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
In the MSM (the voters), Trout has never had the MVP locked up. Even if Cabrera doesn’t get the triple crown, he will win the MVP if the Tigers make the playoffs and the Angels don’t. Not saying its right, just that’s what will happen. All I was saying is being close to the triple crown has sparked all this talk about how the triple crown is cute but doesn’t mean anything (see all Daves articles).
“The Detroit slugger leads the AL in OPS, wOBA and batting, but OPS is the only category in which he has a sizable lead. He’s second in wRC+ and WAR”
The only reason why trout’s woba is close to cabrera’s is because of Trout’s gaudy sb/cs totals. If you remove sb from the equation, I’m sure that cabrera would handily be leading in woba. Not saying that Trout isn’t as good as woba says, im just saying that his value is more tied to baserunning and less in batting.
Shouldn’t it be the Nationals catcher and not LaRoche? There is no way the Nats would be successful without a catcher, once a guy got on base they’d almost certainly score.
Comment by schlomsd — September 21, 2012 @ 3:23 pm
This makes me wonder:
I believe it is important to look at a pitchers stats with runners on base. The reason it is important is because w/out runners on, the pitcher is throwing from the wind-up, whereas w/ runners on, he is throwing from the stretch. Due to the differences in approach, a pitcher may be more/less effective depending on windup/stretch.
However, until now, I had never thought about this is terms of the hitter. I always assumed a hitters stats with runners on base was just a way to measure ‘clutch’. But, now, I am thinking that certain hitters may hit better against the stretch than the wind-up, and vice-versa.
So, while RBIs may not be the best stat, isolating statistics to runners on base does tell us how well a batter hits against a pitcher throwing from the stretch. And that is a vital skill for a great hitter to have.
Comment by DowntownChico — September 21, 2012 @ 3:24 pm
Well played. Let’s take Trout out of the outfield and move Hunter and Trumbo to the gaps. Do the same with the Tigers’ infield. Now who’s more valuable?
Comment by fresheee — September 21, 2012 @ 3:33 pm
Most yankees fans fervently believe he’s been robbed of 13 mpvs anyway
And why should that matter? The stolen bases are still there, so they should count.
Comment by Chris Headley — September 21, 2012 @ 4:51 pm
I get your point but the issue still comes down to individual performance. As a hitter, the only thing you can control is your own at-bat. RBIs and runs tend to be produced by a string of at-bats, involving multiple players and multiple outside factors.
Not even the staunchest of sabermetricians will argue that RBIs and runs are meaningless. Of course RBIs and runs are important for teams to win games, but it fails as a tool that aims to isolates individual player performances — which is what the MVP debate is about.
It seems odd to me that there’s such a fight over using different points of reference (subjective or objective, triple crown vs. sabermetrics) when the MVP is such an ill defined award. The V in MVP isn’t exactly a scientific benchmark, you know. Lots of MVP votes are handed out to players because that player’s team made the playoffs. Not because he was statistically the best player in the league far and away. Maybe there’s room in MLB for a FanGraphs roto-nerd math award? We can call it the Technically Statisitical Superior award?
A Cabrera Triple Crown would certainly influence my future theoretical HOF vote, if Miggy were to suffer a Vlad Guerrero-type decline in a couple of years. I could see a Triple Crown as a sort of tiebreaker in that case. It’s a glorious, historic achievement, and not at *all* akin to a one-off, like hitting for the cycle or throwing a perfect game (sorry, KLaw).
But MVP? Even if the Tigers squeak into the playoffs, the huge advantage Trout has in defense plus baserunning is just a bridge too far.
Now, if Trout ran off to join the circus tomorrow, and Miggy hit .500 with 6 or 7 homers over the final week, heroically lifting Detroit to the division title…then I could maybe be persuaded to vote Cabrera.
Umm, they kinda are. Didn’t Dave Cameron insinuate the other day that Cabrera forced the Tigers to move him to 3rd base (didn’t happen; Leyland and Dombrowski asked him just before the Prince deal was finalized and he agreed) and that he has hurt his team’s chances of winning there? (he’s been more valuable as a 3B as people in this comment section have already outlined)
There’s a certain segment of sabermetric fandom (please note that I’m not even coming close to generalizing every person that likes sabermetrics; I post here for a reason) that gets pissy every time a player gets a little more mainstream media attention than they deserve. See Ubaldo in 2010 and Jeter from the dawn of internet blogging to the present. Verlander also kinda fit last year, but it was mostly just Yankees fans who didn’t believe he was the best pitcher in the AL.
Good article. For the record, Trout is clearly the more complete player. Defensive performance, base running, you name it. Cabrera simply cannot match Trout’s insane skill set.
However, let’s consider what ‘MVP’ means. Note that the award itself does not mean ‘highest WAR player in baseball.’ If it did mean ‘highest WAR player in baseball’, than the award would be much easier to hand out.
With that said, Trout is likely the best position player in baseball. But, again, MVP does also does not technically mean ‘best player in baseball. “Value” and “greatness” are related but not necessary in defining one or the other.
To make a relatively contrarian argument, Cabrera is clearly the offensive motor and veteran leader of Detroit. Without his contributions Detroit is probably the outside of the wild card race looking in. Despite the double plays, less-than-stellar defense and general portliness, Cabrera has been an offensive monster down the stretch for the Tigers. His numbers agains the A’s in a crucial series went a loooong way toward keeping them in the hunt. That’s valuable – picking his team up and, along with verlander, puttin the team on his back. Also, he is making Fielder look like a role player, which is no mean feat in itself.
In any case, if I had a vote, Trout would be a strong choice for AL MVP. Trout will win the RoY walking away, and will likely have his name in many MVP discussions to come. But even look at the year Jered Weaver is having – I’d argue that his pitching has been a a greater stabilizing force for the inconsistent Angels, despite how much excitement Trout has brought to the team and baseball in general.
The triple crown is one of those things like a perfect game that I just like, I remember as a kid when we still had newspapers looking through the box scores and seeing how Sheffield/McGriff were doing for SD and hoping one of them would get it.
Certainly I would not equate it directly to ‘value’ in the sense that it is used on fangraphs, but it’s still pretty freaking sweet if Miggy does it.
Heck, as a Tigers fan I might rather have Miggy win the TC and Trout get MVP than vice-versa. In fact I think I would.
Comment by the fume — September 22, 2012 @ 5:30 pm
Yeah I’m still waiting for the investigative reporting on that one that contradicts 99% of what was reported at the time. Research on things that aren’t numbers still matters.
Comment by the fume — September 22, 2012 @ 5:33 pm
I agree Trout should get the MVP, altho I think Miggy might pass him if there were another month. The ground he’s made up on Trout the past month or two (both in the BA title and MVP) is staggering, and as someone who watches Miggy almost nightly, it’s really not that surprising. He’s that good.
Comment by the fume — September 22, 2012 @ 5:36 pm
this is true, because if he wasn’t in line for the triple crown, he wouldn’t be so completely dominating the game of baseball like he currently is
Comment by Nicolas08 — September 22, 2012 @ 8:57 pm
Ty Cobb, 1909. That’s it.
Comment by Dr. Doom — September 22, 2012 @ 10:45 pm
Cabrera should have advocated for a move to center. Then he would have gotten the extra points awarded to center fielders simply for playing there, and as long as he didn’t drop any fly balls, his WAR would have been up near Trout’s.
Sorry, guys, but the sabermetrics issue is about who the best player in baseball is, not who the MVP is. The MVP is fascinating because it’s almost intentionally subjective and subtly based on team and opponent performance as much as your own. The fact that Cabrera is doing something that players have been striving to do (and failing) for the past 45 years is not something, should he succeed, that voters are going to overlook.
Cabrera is almost single-handedly keeping one of the most disappointing hitting teams in baseball in the playoff hunt. Give Trout AP Player of the Year, Cabrera MVP. Problem solved.
“Cabrera is almost single-handedly keeping one of the most disappointing hitting teams in baseball in the playoff hunt.”
And there it is, was only a matter of time.
Comment by I Agree Guy — September 23, 2012 @ 2:32 am
Ok, I went ahead and looked this up, thinking there might be an article in it. I don’t think there is, but here are the results. Players that led the league in SB and either AVG or HR in same year:
1949 NL Jackie Robinson
1945 AL Snuffy Stirnweiss
1932 NL Chuck Klein
1922 AL George Sisler
1917 AL Ty Cobb
1915 AL Ty Cobb
1911 AL Ty Cobb
1908 NL Honus Wagner
1907 NL Honus Wagner
1907 AL Ty Cobb
1904 NL Honus Wagner
And the only AVG-HR-SB Triple Crown winner ever is …
I know I shouldn’t bring character into this but Miguel Cabrera is a dick, and if I was given the choice I would really rather he not win the triple crown. Mike Trout winning the TC would make me vastly happier, even being a Dodger fan.
I’m a Tigers fan, and I think Trout should win the MVP, no contest. ;-)
The interesting thing about the Cabrera discussion is really that this is just a statistical quirk he’s sort of lucked into. Cabrera has had seasons that are better than this one (especially when you account for positional adjustment) and hasn’t been close to a triple crown. It just so happens that the big-time homer numbers are down overall, Jose Bautista got injured, twice, Josh Hamilton cooled off and has then been out of the lineup lately, etc.
In Cabrera’s defense, none of this is to say he isn’t a great, great player, on a track to the HOF (by any measure, new school stats or old school). Cabrera really is like the younger (and less physically fit) Albert Pujols. We can all count on him coming out every year and logging a 6 win season behind 35 homers, 40 doubles, and a 0.300+ average with an always near 0.400 OBP.
But of course, career accomplishments shouldn’t matter to the judgment of the MVP. Trout is the MVP, by a longshot. Cabrera looks to be one of those players that A) is just deficient enough in his defense and B) played at a time where there was always someone having a better single season than him, to where he won’t win an MVP.
Why do we have to argue about this people? It is pretty clear that Trout is having the best season in the AL. That is NOT a slight to Cabrera. Cabrera is, as usual, having another stellar year. Cabrera has really been a model of consistent offensive dominance. Nobody is trying to take that away from him by stating the fact that Trout is having a better season.
Since I can’t resist though, just to play devil’s advocate, I think we all agree a season’s worth of defensive ratings can be misleading. So perhaps the WAR difference (not that this is the only argument for Trout) is much closer than it appears. But then again, even so, Trout is still ahead if you nullify the wins he’s gained from his D and base running.
Personally I am routing for Miguel Cabrera to get the Triple Crown. I’m a Rangers fan, and although I would love to see Hambone with the HR lead. I would rather see Miggy make a little history. As far as the MVP argument goes personally it is without question that Mike Trout has done more than anyone could have ever hoped for in helping the Angels offense. MVP is for the best player, not just the best offensive player. Mike Trout has speed, instincts, offense, and defense. Seems pretty well rounded to me. It goes without question to me that Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, but thats not all being an MVP is about.
Comment by WilltheGM — September 24, 2012 @ 9:38 am
In one part of your response you make a point of not generalizing saber-fans, then make this statement: “…but it was mostly just Yankees fans who didn’t believe he was the best pitcher in the AL.”
Baseball is so rich in history and lore that it is a tough thing to dismiss a classic achievement. Right off the bat, I will make it clear that I think Trout should win the MVP, with the possible exception of a 10-homer flourish by Miggy in the final 10 games of the season.
Certainly, there are better ways to measure a hitter’s performance than RBI, yet there is a LOT to be said for recognizing tradition. Willie Mays’ famous world Series catch wasn’t the best of all time, but it WAS the first amazing catch seen on a televised World Series.
Would some of you intentionally ignore a televised game of a player trying for his 57th consecutive game with a hit, just because there is no sabr value to it and a big dose of luck? I wouldn’t.
Anyhow, I have to say that I will not be miffed if Cabrera wins the MVP after winning the TC. If writers favor tradition, so be it. I mean, the entire process is relatively arbitrary and subjective anyhow. And I am mostly glad of that. I would NOT want an MVP chosen solely according to fWAR. The “narrative”, as some here have called it, should count.
Comment by I Agree Guy — September 24, 2012 @ 1:17 pm
The wOBA formula for the 2011 season was:
wOBA = (0.69×uBB + 0.72×HBP + 0.89×1B + 1.26×2B + 1.60×3B +2.08×HR + 0.25×SB -0.50×CS) / PA
Comment by deathsinger — September 24, 2012 @ 2:50 pm
Do PAs include IBB for wOBA purposes?
Comment by ajkreider — September 24, 2012 @ 4:04 pm
How were the defensive components of WAR determined for the historical TC winners? I ask because the article seeks in part to show some correlation between the two.
Comment by Upstate — September 25, 2012 @ 12:17 am
“Without LaRoche it’s fairly easy to say the Nationals would still have a ways to go to reach the playoffs”
That was a leap, and then some. The Nats are 11 games in the playoffs right now (5 ahead of the Braves, who are 6 up on the Cards for the first wild card). Laroche has single-handedly been worth 11+ wins? At the sake of repeating myself…whaaaaa?!?!?!?!
You seem to be saying one answer to your question is indefensible but then you argue against that answer. The actual answer is Miggy gets a close vote because even if Hamilton catches him in one category Trout has caught him in none. Plus he played all year and SB are overrated, Trout tapered off and Canters came on, and The Tigers are in the playoffs. You can disagree with that position, but at least argue against a defensible position.
A hit has a certain run value in WAR when a runner is on base, or in scoring position. It has the exact same value when there is no one to advance, right? So, RBI still catches something that WAR misses, just like WAR encapsulates tons of data that RBI and runs scored miss. Totally dismissing either runs or RBI is foolish.
Comment by Moves Like Munenori — August 14, 2013 @ 4:58 pm