AL MVP Debate: We Did This Two Years Ago

While I wrote most of what I had to say about the AL MVP discussion a few days ago, I do have one more question I want to ask – what’s so different about Cabrera this season compared to 2010?

Most of the case for Cabrera’s candidacy rests upon the idea that he’s having an historic offensive performance, and that denying him the award would be some kind of historical injustice. But, if we look at his 2012 season and his 2010 season side by side, can we really make the case that this year is all that different from what he did two years ago?

Because he has almost identical amounts of plate appearances between the two seasons, it’s easy enough to just compare raw totals side by side, so we’ll start there.

Season PA 1B 2B 3B HR BB GDP
2010 648 96 45 1 38 89 17
2012 646 112 38 0 41 63 28

Cabrera has 16 more singles and three more home runs, but he has eight fewer non-HR extra base hits, so the overall net in total bases is just +11. In other words, while his batting average is slightly higher, he’s actually hitting for slightly less power this year than he did two years ago, which you can see in his seasonal rate statistics.

Season AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2010 0.328 0.420 0.622 0.429 169
2012 0.333 0.398 0.613 0.421 169

A five point increase in average and a nine point decrease in slugging are, for all intents and purposes, a tie. There’s no real meaningful difference in those numbers. The one area where there is a meaningful change is in his walk rate, as Cabrera has drawn 26 fewer walks this year than he did in 2010, which is the main driver of his 22 point drop in OBP. However, that’s swallowed up almost entirely by the change in offensive run environments over the last two years.

And, just so you don’t think we’re obscuring the issue by only looking at “sabermetric” stats like walks, doubles, and double plays grounded into, here’s a comparison based on his “run production” stats.

Season Runs RBI
2010 111 126
2012 102 130

In reality, Cabrera’s 2010 and 2012 offensive performances are almost exactly equal no matter what kinds of metrics you use. In terms of something more accurate like batting runs above average, Cabrera was at +54.9 in 2010 and is at +54.3 this year. Even if you want to evaluate his performance strictly by RBIs, there is essentially no difference between this year and two years ago.

And yet, in that race, Cabrera finished a distant second in the MVP voting behind Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, a center fielder who also had a tremendous season, received 22 of the 28 first place votes that year despite the fact that he only played in 133 games — 17 fewer than Cabrera — and had inferior home run and RBI totals to Cabrera. However, voters decided that Hamilton’s superior defensive value outweighed the extra quantity of playing time for Cabrera, and gave him the award in a vote that wasn’t even close. And I don’t recall much in the way of controversy surrounding that pick, as Hamilton was pretty clearly the AL’s best player that year.

In reality, the only real differences between the 2010 and 2012 races are Cabrera’s change in position — which WAR gives him credit for, by the way — and the relative win-loss records of the teams on which the contenders play for. Cabrera’s case might be billed as being about his amazing offensive performance, but he had this same offensive performance in 2010, and there wasn’t a strong push to give him the award then. A case for Cabrera as MVP this year, but not two years ago, essentially rests on one of these three arguments:

1. Cabrera’s defensive value has dramatically increased due to his move to third base, such that an equivalent offensive performance is now worthy of a first place vote.

2. Cabrera’s individual value has dramatically increased because the Tigers have a .530 winning percentage as a team this year, as opposed to the .500 winning percentage they had in 2010.

3. Trout’s 2012 season has been less valuable than Hamilton’s 2010 season, so while Cabrera was beat out by a stronger contender two years ago, that kind of candidate doesn’t exist this year.

You can’t make a case for Cabrera over Trout without leaning heavily on several of those as foundational beliefs.

There’s actually some evidence supporting point #1, as Cabrera’s total fielding rating compared to league average (UZR + Positional Adjustment) this year is just -8.1 compared to the -17.5 he put up in 2010, so WAR is giving him credit for an additional win of value with the glove because of the move to third base and how he’s played there this year. So, that’s an argument that actually has some teeth, but the problem is that you can’t simultaneously lean on that piece of data as a pillar of your argument while dismissing Trout’s value because of the unstable nature of single year defensive performance. If you go with argument #1 as a pillar of Cabrera’s foundation, you’re essentially also locking yourself out of #3, because any consideration of defensive value will elevate Trout’s 2012 season over Hamilton’s 2010. Point #1 and Point #3 are essentially mutually exclusive – you can’t argue both at the same time.

And point #2 is just kind of silly. The Tigers are on pace to finish with 86 wins and miss the playoffs, so it’s hard to see how that’s drastically better than the 81 wins and no playoffs that they achieved two years ago, especially considering that it’s easier to make the playoffs this year due to the addition of the second wild card. In both 2010 and 2012, the Tigers have the eighth best record in the American League. Basing his MVP case on team performance just doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny.

Again, as Paul said in his piece a few hours ago, none of this is meant to disparage Miguel Cabrera. Winning the Triple Crown would be a pretty neat historical accomplishment, and the fact that Cabrera has had so many seasons at this level speaks to his amazing consistency. The unfortunate reality for him, however, is that Josh Hamilton was clearly better in 2010, and Mike Trout has been clearly better in 2012. Two years ago, Cabrera had this exact same season, and everyone agreed that the guy doing it in center field was more valuable. There’s no reason to change our minds two years later.




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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


138 Responses to “AL MVP Debate: We Did This Two Years Ago”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    Knobler, please read this.

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    • yolo says:

      Agreed. Carson Cistulli too.

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    • Doug says:

      What is Valuable in choosing a MVP Value equals Performance and there are statistics that every manager has that few people hear about. How does a player perform in critical at bats. In other words close ball games. Miguel is the best in baseball at a mind boggling .360 average while Trout is floundering below .250. While teams are willing to pitch around Cabrerra, Mike Trout in midst of a pennant race has 3 RBI in 21 Games while batting below .240 with 2 home runs. This MVP race reminds me of if you prefer Mickey Mantle as Cabby or Trout resignating visions of Ed Brinkman and his flawless defense. I want a MVP carrying the team down the pennant stretch not having the team carrying the MVP to the finish on a stretcher.

      -22 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Doug says:

        Thursday when the Angels were in a scoreless game and Trout was at the plate with runners on 1st and 3rd with ONE out he ended up striking out and was in the same situation a couple innings later trailing by ONE Trout once again struck out. Value isn’t the amount of opportunities a player receives but how the player performs when the opportunity arrives. Trout performs like a MVP when the pressure is off. I believe Trout has had a Monster rookie summer but ESPN is sheltering his faults. MLB network never cut away or said a word about his failure to deliver in either opportunity but his home run that he hit when the score was 5 to 1 was broadcasted not only on the show but on the radio all morning long. Does ESPN have shares of Trout stock.

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    • Doug says:

      How has Trout performed for the Angels during their 21 – 10 record in their last 31 Games. 120 at bats and 28 hits under a .240 average with a slugging percentage in the .390s. Trout does have a whopping 6 stolen bases and even more mind boggling 6 RBI. Trout has been the Achilles heel in the lineup but receives undeserved adulation. Kind of reminds me of his first 10 games with Angels. He went 7 for 30 .225 average with 1 stolen base and 2 RBI and is regarded as winning 7 of 10 games. Funny, the ngels didn’t play him on May 2nd or the 7th and won both games.

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      • Doug says:

        The Angels have gone 28 – 13 Though Trout didn’t play in two of the victories when he has had 150 at bats with 35 hits. Roughly a .237 average with a slugging percentage hovering just over .400 with 8 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Funny how he is regarded as the player who turned the team around. Please Look at Albert Pujols and see during this time who was the Angels MVP or anybody else. I’m not the ESPN Trout Hype machine.

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      • Doug says:

        His average is .233, slugging percentage is .358 and OPS at .718 in the Angels last 31 Games.

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  2. Matt Hunter says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    But, but, he’ been better in September!

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    • Matt Hunter says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      he’s*

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    • Doug says:

      Is this young talented phenom by the name of Mike Trout is hands down the Rookie of the Year. He was sensational for his first 3 months then above average in August but he has been carrying in Pujol’s and Hunter’s jock strap for the last 4 weeks. Would it not be fair to say that having more strike outs than hits over the past 2 months indicates that not only does he struggle in the clutch he has become a burden with his lack of stolen bases and power. I just hope he can pull his OPS within 500 points of Cabrerra in September.

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  3. Rey22 says:

    If Cabrera takes the Triple Crown, who do you think wins the MVP?

    Completely agree with all you said, it should be Trout by a landslide, but will the writers get it right?

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    • yolo says:

      I think Trout wins it no matter, I haven’t heard anyone seriously make a case against him.

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      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Did I miss something? The author doesn’t address #3, which seems to be the most important argument against Trout winning. In 2010, Hamilton had a higher OPS than Cabrera. In 2012, Cabrera has a higher OPS than Trout. Now you can factor in defense and SBs, sure, but it’s hard to ignore the pretty stark disparity between Hamilton’s 2010 OPS and Trout’s 2012 OPS. But that’s precisely what this piece does.

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      • El Vigilante says:

        Re: Bob Loblaw

        Who still looks at OPS?

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      • Mark says:

        I’d rather see a triple slash line then wOBA to be honest. I like to know where the production comes from, whether it’s OBP or power. And most people should be smart enough at this point to look at two triple slash lines and figure out which player is more productive.

        Nothing wrong with looking at OPS or triple slash lines.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Mark, there are only 2 slashes. Get it right!

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      • Mark says:

        Unless you do BA/OBP/Slug/OPS :).

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      • Ben says:

        @Mark – except that shit ain’t park-adjusted. Angels stadium is more of a pitcher’s ballpark and Com park is a slight hitter’s park. Trout and Miggy are basically equal when you look at adjusted offensive production.

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    • Ben says:

      woops, meant @Bob Loblaw. Sorry mark.

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      • JH says:

        Since when is Comerica a hitters’ park?

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      • BlackOps says:

        @JH

        Since this year: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

        Comerica 9th, Angels Stadium 27th

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      • rEc says:

        @ BlackOps

        Maybe it’s time to realize that the fluctuations in which parks are “hitter’s parks” and which are “pitcher’s parks” really only pertains to how the particular players who are playing in those parks perform in a given year or given group of years.

        The dimensions of Comerica are still the same as when it was a “pitcher’s park”. If Dodger Stadium found itself moving up the rankings without altering its dimensions, would you assert it’s now a “hitter’s park”?

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      • catswithbats says:

        @JH: Comerica Park is indeed a hitters’ park. It was actually in the top ten in runs in 2011.

        Without looking at the park factors data, I’m guessing it probably doesn’t yield a ton of homers, but gives up a fair amount of triples.

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  4. Fan of Baseball says:

    Bravo, Dave.

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  5. BronxBaumer says:

    I don’t have any insight as to exactly why voters gave Hamilton the 2010 MVP award, but it strikes me as unlikely that it was primarily a nod to his defense. Hamilton out-hit Cabrera (.359 to .328) and out-slugged Cabrera (.633 to .622) and because his averages were higher and his team won and his injury time came after the race was decided, it seems more likely that voters gave him a pass on playing time and counting stats. I’m sure some also preferred a CF to a 1B, but I don’t recall a lot of hype surrounding his defense.

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    • TX Ball Scout says:

      You aren’t remembering it well then.

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      • BronxBaumer says:

        Then please help us out by showing us your evidence of the voters stating that Hamilton’s superior defensive value otutweighed Cabrera’s extra playing time in 2010.

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      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Hamilton had better nominal (not park-adjusted) offensive numbers than M-Cab in 2010. To pretend that wasn’t an important factor (particularly to MVP voters, who are stereotyped as being “old school”) is not just stupid, it’s disingenuous.

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  6. SeaWolf says:

    Dave says “However, voters decided that Hamilton’s superior defensive value outweighed the extra quantity of playing time for Cabrera”. Dave portrays this as a statement of fact. If it were a statement of fact it could be supportable by evidence.

    Dave, other than assumptions on your part, can you please provide evidence to support your statement (i.e. that voters voted for Hamilton based upon his defensive value”)? Links to articles/comments/tweets by the voters would be sufficient.

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    • Richie says:

      His statement is basically wrong. Actual MVP voters absolutely loved Hamilton’s narrative.

      +27 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tom says:

        And what I can’t believe went unmentioned in the article:

        – Hamilton’s team won the divsion; the Tigers finished 3rd.

        But that and the Hamilton narrative surely were non-factors and the vote was clearly symbolic of voters choosing defense.

        This is as bad as folks saying Felix winning the Cy Young was symbolic of a shift of voters looking at advanced stats. It was voters exchanging wins for ERA in terms of importance.

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      • Colin says:

        @Tom

        Good point re: Felix. Verlander actual led the AL in WAR that season for pitchers. (He’s actually led three years in a row and finished second in 09 to Greinke’s unreal campaign which is pretty amazing). Felix got very fortunate with his ERA and JV didn’t, hence Felix won the Cy easily.

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      • Tom says:

        The Cy Young stuff is a pet peeve; I think it’s the SABR community wanting some validation and not objectively looking at the voting patterns

        Last year JV and CC were close (fWAR ) – CC was a distant 3rd (or 4th?) with I think Weaver and his shiny ERA second.

        Heck the year Felix won it – he was FOURTH in fWAR (substantially behind both Lee and Verlander and in a virtual tie with Lirinao) – yet the narrative became “advanced stats catching on because Felix had so few wins and still won. Second that year? Obviously David Price and his shiny ERA! Advanced stats or just a shift from wins to ERA?

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      • bstar says:

        Felix dwarfed the field in rWAR in 2010. You don’t really think Francisco Liriano was better than Felix that year, do you?

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  7. BronxBaumer says:

    Put it another way, if Trout was hitting .350 and slugging .630, there would be less debate about the 2012 MVP as well.

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  8. The problem is that you only mention the Triple Crown in the very last paragraph. As little as that means to you, it means quite a bit to some people, whether rightly or wrongly. I’m going with Trout myself, but you are making something of a straw man argument when you bury the Triple Crown point like this. It’d be really, really cool if he won it, and style points count.

    But to be honest, both guys are having incredible years. I’m cool with either.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Keith says:

      No, it’s not a straw man argument. He’s not arguing for the belief that others hold over the Triple Crown’s value. He’s arguing that Cabrera’s not better than Trout. The Triple Crown has no real value within the context of a game. You don’t get an extra base for leading the Triple Crown race, nor do you get wins for it.

      What you DO get wins and bases from is hits, steals, walks, and the like. His argument is that Mike Trout has outplayed Josh Hamilton of 2010, who beat Miguel Cabrera of 2010, who is almsot identical offensively to Miguel Cabrera of 2012.

      This article is not about who Dave Cameron thinks voters will prefer, it is an article (really, a few articles at this point) on who he believes should win and why. If Dave Cameron’s analysis does not find the Triple Crown to be useful in determining overall player worth, then he doesn’t need to assess its worth in the article.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Agreed. The Triple Crown is probably the most likely reason he’ll win the award (assuming he wins it, and gets the Triple Crown). Dismissing it in the last paragraph, and not mentioning it before then, is no better than an old-school writer making a case for Cabrera and finishing the article with “Some will say his WAR isn’t high enough, but that’s not enough to swing the argument”.

      Keith, I disagree when you say the article is not about who he thinks they’ll prefer. The whole article is basically “He didn’t win 2 years ago when he was just as good, so what’s changed that will make him win now?”. Ummm…a triple crown, maybe?

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  9. Furf says:

    Consistency is extremely valuable to GMs for team-building purposes!

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  10. ralph says:

    Random thought about WAR: How team-dependent is it?

    On the hitting/offense side: The better the other hitters are, the more PAs everyone on the team gets. Plus, the higher in the lineup the manager puts you, the more PAs you get. So I’m guessing an amazing cleanup hitter on a terrible hitting team would get maybe as many as 60 fewer PAs than a terrific leadoff hitter on a fantastic hitting team. That could easily account for a 0.5 WAR difference right there, right? Plus a good baserunner’s SB value can be heavily influenced by managerial/organizational philosophy that could either limit or encourage SB attempts.

    On the defense side: The more strikeouts the pitching staff gets, the fewer opportunities for defensive WAR compilation there are. And of course a good OF on a GB staff would accumulate less WAR than the same OF on a FB staff. I have less of a feel for how much WAR might be affected here, but it seems like it could easily be another 0.5 WAR (with the caveat that a bad defender will lose less WAR on a high-K team whose batted profile steers balls away from the bad defender).

    So in some ways, WAR is what really happened, just like ERA is what really happened. So I guess I’d really like to see someone create an effective context-neutrailized xWAR.

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  11. Clogged says:

    Cabrera deserved it last year as well, over his teammate, Verlander. A year in which he had a higher BA of .344 and a higher wRC of 177 of either this year or 2010. Well, perhaps even then maybe Ellsbury had a better case. Cabrera needs a career MVP award that says “I am better than your centerfielder.”

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    • I Agree Guy says:

      Non-sense, Verlander single-handedly lead the team to the playoffs last year.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        Yep, once every five days

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      • MDZ says:

        @Eminor3rd

        2011 Miguel Cabrera : 688 Plate Appearances
        2011 Justin Verlander: 969 Total Batters Faced

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      • The Indians Make Me Sad says:

        I don’t get this “once every five days” argument. It’s not like Cabrera went 4-4 every game of the season. He had 35 hitless games. And 60 games where he did not have an RBI or a Run. So yeah, he played in more games than Verlander. But Cabrera didn’t factor into sixty of those games.

        Also, keep in mind, the Tigers lost 67 games Cabrera played in. And he hit .345/.466/.522 in losses (10 HR, 31 RBI, 80 H).

        The Tigers lost 5 games Verlander played in. They won 24.

        Compare 24/5 to Cabrera’s 94/67. That’s nearly 5/1 compared to less than 2/1.

        I’m not saying Cabrera’s numbers weren’t impressive, or weren’t crucial to Verlander’s success, or weren’t MVP worthy. I’m just saying I don’t think Verlander pitching once every five days makes what he did less important than Cabrera playing 161 games.

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  12. Zack says:

    Dave – Big fan, but aren’t you ignoring the fact that there are two weeks left in the season? Yes, Cabrera’s 6.3 WAR in 150 games in 2010 is comparable to his 6.8 WAR through 148 games in 2012, but he still gets to play 13 more games this year and is therefore on pace for 7.5 WAR (vs. 6.3 in 2010), 45HR (v. 38), 210 Hits (v. 180), and 140 RBI (v. 126).

    Despite my Tigers loyalty, I’d advocate Trout for MVP (based mostly on WAR and the defense/base-running/ballpark it incorporates). That said, comparing 2010 counting stats to 2012 counting stats without considering the 13 remaining games seems like a badly flawed analysis.

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    • nick says:

      Okay, that’s a fair point. But Trout also gets the next two weeks.

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      • Zack says:

        Yes, which is why in a Trout 2012 argument v Cabrera 2012 argument, I vote Trout.

        However, the post makes a Cabrera 2012 v Cabrera 2010 argument, and ignoring the next two weeks seems like a glaring oversight.

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  13. Steve says:

    The fact that all these articles about Cabrera always seem to include some sort of footnote saying “…none of this is meant to disparage Miguel Cabrera,” means that you are doing exactly that. If you truly didn’t mean to disparage him, you wouldn’t have to keep writing a clarifying statement like that.

    I think this is all going to depend on one’s personal definition of “MVP”. Is it simply the best all around player in the league? Then Trout should probably win this year. Or is it who is move valuable to their respective team? Cabrera has a stronger argument for winning in this case. Using WAR, he has made up a larger percentage of his team’s total WAR for position players than Trout has. And yes, that includes both base running and defense statistics. He has also only missed one game all year and has provided consistent production from month to month.

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    • Ryan says:

      Could not agree more. Right up there with “no offense, but…”

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      • indyralph says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        It is necessary because there are people who read “He is not the best player. He is the second best player.” as “He is the scum of the earth.”

        Lots of them. Dozens, scores, masses, multitudes, etc.

        Also, any argument that depends on % of team WAR, but conveniently leaves out pitchers’ contributions requires some kind of mental gymnastics. Especially since that removes the impact of, you know, the best pitcher in baseball.

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    • Derek says:

      I really wish the organizations involved in the MVP award for all sports would just change the award to “Best Player”. Parsing the word “valuable” opens up the field for people’s ridiculous arguments based on their own personal definition of value. That’s what led people to argue that Drew Brees was the NFL MVP last year because of how much he meant to the city of New Orleans. Strict definitions are sometimes a good thing.

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      • Steve says:

        Why are those other people’s arguments any more “ridiculous” than yours? If one takes the meaning of MVP literally, your viewpoint of “best player” could be seen as “ridiculous”.

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      • Steven says:

        You’re right Steve. All people’s opinions are equally valid.

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      • PalousePirate says:

        Throwing for an NFL record 5400+ yards didn’t hurt Brees’ cause either.

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      • Baltar says:

        You are right, Derek, except that people will also come up with ridiculous interpretations of the word “best” to suit their own prejudices.

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    • Matt Hunter says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      And yet again, it boils down to what you mean by “valuable”. Is a $10 bill more valuable to someone with $100 total than a $100 bill is to a millionaire? Yes. Is a $10 bill more valuable than a $100 bill? Hell no. Would you reward the $10 bill for being the “Most Valuable Bill” just because it’s ‘owner’ is poor? I wouldn’t. The $100 bill has the most objective value, despite the fact that it is less valuable to the person who holds it than other, smaller, bills.

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      • Jamie says:

        The problem with your analogy is that the MVP award actually is the most valuable to his team. That gets overlooked. So its not objective value (i.e. $100 > $10) but value to the team (or in the case of your analogy the vaue to bill holder)

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  14. payroll says:

    The argument I hear over and again is “cabrera is playing well when it counts, and Trout is fading,” as though a. Trout is actually fading (granted, Darvish made him look pretty silly last night), and b. his performance in other months wasn’t stellar or didn’t contribute as meaningfully.

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    • Clogged says:

      Trout has a .720 OPS in September. In August, it seems that teams adjusted the way they pitched to Trout by throwing him more fastballs and consequently less offspeed stuff. I’d say the league has made an adjustment to Trout and he has faded because of it

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      Trout is absolutely fading. .274/.360/.452 since the start of August. Even with the 15 steals.

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  15. alex says:

    Am I missing something? How do you get the -17.5?

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  16. J6takish says:

    I think the triple crown is drawing attention to Cabrera despite the fact that he is putting up a pretty typical season for him. He has a case almost every year to win an MVP so he often gets overlooked because that’s just what he does every year, but the allure of the triple crown is telling the mainstream media what everyone else already knows. Miguel Cabrera is really good at baseball

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  17. Klaus says:

    One unmentioned factor: In 2010 Cabrera ranked among history’s greatest monsters, his drinking have persuaded millions of disillusioned little leaguers nationwide to put down their bats and gloves forever. Now Cabrera stands inches away from basking in the golden glow of such excellent dead white men as Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby: his MVP-ship is assured.

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    • Richie says:

      I thought the factor was that millions of little leaguers started swilling Boone’s Farm in emulation of their hero? Let’s get our factors straight here.

      Oh, and do they still make Boone’s Farm? Or is another part of my childhood deservedly dead?

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  18. Richie says:

    The title says “we”, but the article seems to address “they”, the actual MVP voters. Whom, though more SABRery than 25 years ago, still vote more in line with Bill James’ “Black Ink Test” than they do WAR or UZR or what have you.

    Miggy’s chase of the Triple Crown is huge, Black Ink wise. The defensive difference counts, but only a little. And while I do and we may think Trout’s narrative is darn good, too, I’m not sure actual MVP voters will. I can see them figuring Trout’s tailing off some ‘when it most counts!’, that he’ll get his MVP awards in the future, that it’s time to make it up to Miggy that they haven’t yet voted him one.

    I say it’s there for Miggy to win. If the Tigers squeeze into the playoffs with Miggy just doing even OK along the rest of the way, they’ll give it to him.

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  19. Steve says:

    Wow, Cabrera’s stats are only “slightly better” this year than 2010. Too bad there’s still 2 weeks left of the season to pile on.

    As for “most valuable” player to his team/lineup, here’s one for you. How many players on both the Angels and Tigers have at least 15 HRs, 80 RBI and a batting average of at least .265 (excluding Cabrera and Trout)? Angels: 3, Tigers: 1. How many players are on each roster with at least 200 total bases (excluding Cabrera and Trout)? Angels: 7, Tigers 3. You tell me which team loses more if Cabrera or Trout are taken away.

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    • Derek says:

      “You tell me which team loses more if Cabrera or Trout are taken away.”

      Nobody can answer that, including you.

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    • lewish says:

      Oh, I like that argument, fresh…but if we look at it that way do we need to put it into context of how high the bar is set in order to do your team good.. I mean AL West higher winning percentage >AL central lower winning percentage?…maybe yeah.

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    • fireal20 says:

      This feels like an attempt to justify a position that was already decided upon, rather than evaluating before making a decision

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  20. Steve says:

    Oops, make that 6 for the Angels, not 7. Forgot to subtract Trout.

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  21. grant says:

    Two things:

    1. There’s still >5% of the games left for Cabrera’s numbers to create a bit of space between his 2010 and 2012; and

    2. On a related note, slightly better numbers in 2012 are in a tougher run environment, so slightly better becomes somewhat more meaningfully better.

    Coupled with the defensive shift there is/will be enough of a gap here that 2010 Cabrera << 2012.

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    • ralph says:

      The decline in BB% pretty much offsets every other improvement so far, since as Dave showed, his wRC+ is the exact same in 2010 and 2012 so far. Of course, the 2012 wRC+ could still move up or down based on these upcoming last two weeks.

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      • ralph says:

        And of course above, I’m talking strictly value on offense.

        As Dave was nice enough to point out this time, given that Cabrera appears to be worth an extra win at 3B over 1B, he probably wasn’t actually hurting the team by “insisting” on playing 3B. (Side note: Miggy came up as a SS originally and briefly, and I bet he’d be thrilled to play SS if the Tigers would let him.)

        So overall, barring a major slump these last two weeks, 2012 should pretty be easily be more valuable overall.

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  22. miffleball says:

    This argument also ignores the fact that hamilton put up three phenomenal months (OPS of 1.297, 1.172 and 1.078) before getting hurt, leaving many to assume that he would have blown away cabrera offensively had he not missed so much time

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  23. Michael says:

    Dave/All,

    What if the MVP is just one for both leagues, does Trout win it decisively?

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  24. Rob says:

    As much fun as this debate is, there’s still time for change. Trout could go 0 for 34 in the next seven games, and Cabrera could hit eight home runs.

    Or the opposite could happen and Cabrera could lose the triple crown.

    Really don’t understand why some voters make up their minds before the season finishes, especially when some of the most exciting games of the year are happening right now.

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  25. miffleball says:

    the other fun part of this debate the dave has ignored is the validity of baserunning and single season fielding to WAR since trout gains nearly two wins that way and miggy loses 1.2 wins (or more than the entire gap between the two of them)
    While i’m not saying which one is better, and they’re clearly having great seasons,
    and without question trout is a better fielder and baserunner than miggy, it’s disingenuous to assume that these statistics are perfect and therefore clearly define trout as by far the better player this year

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    • Steven says:

      “it’s disingenuous to assume that these statistics are perfect and therefore clearly define trout as by far the better player this year”

      Ummm, who has actually claimed this?

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      Baserunning is pretty concrete, they ran the linear weights and they have concrete results to work with.

      (I guess you could argue that you can’t have a context-neutral stat for something as context dependent as baserunning, though…)

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    • TKDC says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Please give me your argument that Trout is not the far superior defender/runner. I’m watching for a straight face.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        “without question trout is a better fielder and baserunner than miggy”

        Did you miss that part, bro?

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  26. schlomsd says:

    What I don’t understand is why RBI’s are so much more important than runs. If you just add up runs and RBI’s, an admittedly crude measurement which would probably appeal to MVP voters, you get 1.57 for Cabrera and 1.54 for Trout. There is essentially no difference – and that’s ignoring the fact that Cabrera plays in a better home ballpark. And since everyone knows that Trout is the far better fielder and Angels have been a far better team with Trout on the team than Cabrera’s Tigers, how could anyone vote for Cabrera?

    Except to spite “stat” guys?

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    • Kris says:

      This argument boils down to:

      Trout has way better teammates, how could anyone vote for the player providing the same production when surrounded by worse players? Except to spite “stat” guys.

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  27. Mario Mendoza says:

    Hold on a sec. Hamilton was clearly better in 2010, by like 20 wOBA points. Trout’s couple points is not “clearly better” with two weeks to go.

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  28. Sam says:

    Cabrera : 422 runners on base
    Trout: 279 runners on base

    Cabrera: Others batted in % (21.1)
    Trout: Others batted in % (17.9)
    (RBI-HR…baseball prospectus)

    Adjusted RBI totals if you reversed their situations:
    Cabrera: 279*.211+41 (home runs) = 99.87 RBIs
    Trout: 422*.179+27(home runs) = 102.54 RBIs

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    • Big Daddy V says:

      Have you adjusted for number of runners on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base?
      Not that I think the difference is likely to be very large. But there is a big difference between runners on first and runners on second.

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    • Kris says:

      This is interesting. You show that Cabrera bats runners in at a higher percentage than Trout, and then somehow turn that into a positive spin for Trout.

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    • Eric says:

      That’s actually insane that Cabrera would have almost the same number of RBI with 279 runners on base as Trout would with 422…. you inadvertently made an argument for Cabby!

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  29. Dan says:

    Dave – winning the Triple Crown would be more than “pretty neat” as you describe it. Seeing a triple play is pretty neat. Doesn’t happen often. A Triple Crown winner would be historic and something most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

    That doesn’t mean he should or shouldn’t win the MVP. That’s a separate discussion. But as a fan of baseball, don’t act like it wouldn’t be phenomenal to see a triple crown winner.

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    • Baltar says:

      I’m also a fan of baseball, and I couldn’t care less about the so-called “Triple Crown”. (Except, I guess I’d rather Cabrera doesn’t get it so I don’t have to read it all the time.)

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  30. MikeS says:

    So what you are saying is that Trout would be the runaway winner if only he had a history of substance abuse or some other compelling narrative to add to his big numbers?

    (Only half kidding here)

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  31. Bryan says:

    “A case for Cabrera as MVP this year, but not two years ago, essentially rests on one of these three arguments:”

    Nope. A case for Cabrera rests on a narrative. “He kept the Tigers in contention down the stretch with his Triple Crown numbers.” Just like Hamilton “turned around the hapless Rangers franchise with his long home runs and clutch hits”.

    I may be wrong, but I think voters make up their minds in August or September, whenever a strong narrative emerges, and there’s no turning back. Hamilton stormed out of the gate and had a strong summer and when the Rangers clinched (or effectively clinched) early, the voters didn’t care about Cabrera’s surge. This year, Trout dominated all summer, but he faded a little in September, when Cabrera built his narrative.

    Trout’s better by an ocean, but I’m not confident he’ll win it.

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  32. PackBob says:

    Dave makes good arguments, as always. It seems also to be a subtle argument for a stats-based only MVP. Set the program to determine value at the beginning of the year, add the numbers, out pops the MVP. I’m not sure I’d want all subjectivity taken out of awards such as this.

    Trout has had a spectacular year, but Cabrera brought something to the table that Trout couldn’t, which is the expectation by the Tiger’s team of a great year, a carrying the team-type year, for which he delivered. There is value in that. In that sense, I think Cabrera’s consistent excellence from year to year is a factor, and it can’t be measured to add or subtract from the raw numbers.

    If this were a BBPA, Best Baseball Player Award, I’d probably go with Trout. As an MVP award, I lean toward Cabrera.

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    • schlomsd says:

      I don’t see how you could think anything else. I mean Cabrera should get bonus points for playing in a crappy division. So what if the Angels record is better with Trout in the lineup than the Tigers is with Cabrera, the Angels are in 3rd place!

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    • Curtis says:

      If thats the case Trout should get the same value (that you just shit out of the blue) for having an unexpected HOF type season. His season has just been bonus points for the Angels considering he is making the minimum. In all seriousness your argument is idiotic and reeks of homerism.

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  33. Paul says:

    Wow got a shout out in an article! And in good way, even better.

    Any honest vaguely analytical view will come to the Trout MVP conclusion, that being said, Miggy has a case based on narrative

    I think the issue is one of timing, you don’t want your worst month as your last month (aka don’t outstay your welcome because people remember fist and last impressions most) and Miggy is dong the business in sept, swap trouts sept for July, and he’s winner.

    The other view is just how much value is placed in hitting by the voter, the hitting gap is increasing, and if a voter ascribes more value to that attribute than fan graphs war does, then a defensible vote for Miggy can be made

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  34. Troy says:

    Yes we did and it appears once again Cabrera will be overlooked in the MLB annual most popular award. Cabrera is the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball, simply no respect.

    I don’t see how anyone can say 2010 wasn’t even close. I find a superstar that is always available, in your lineup and producing more valuable than the star on the shelf all the time. I also don’t think defense was the deciding factor and he won on the sympathy vote…ah Josh look what he went through and over came, blah blah

    He shouldn’t have received credit or speculation on what his stats would have been if he wasn’t injured, nor should Trout b/c he was in the minors. In fact, much of that is Trout’s doing. If he would have hit .300+ in his 40 games last year instead of .220 he would have contributed to his team all year like Cabrera.

    I do know that Cabrera is hitting well over .400 when it matters and Trout is below .300. He has driven in nearly twice as many runs in the same number of ab’s with 2 outs and runners in scoring position and that is when they actually pitch to him, unlike in 2010 when he was intentionally walked all the time, while the Rangers lineup provided Josh with a huge advantage.

    This won’t be the first time the MVP goes to the wrong player, it happens often, similar to all star snubs. Like anything that is voted on, there are flaws and popularity often wins out…this year will likely be another example.

    At least in time, Cabrera will be recognized as one of the all time best players and will put up career numbers few will be in the same company and he may be the only one with no MVP awards.

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    • Baltar says:

      “When it matters” is any time all year long. A win in April counts exactly the same in the standings as a win in September. I wish this totally absurd “when it matters” meme would go away.

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      • Nicolas08 says:

        I must have missed the part when Trout played in April?

        But seriously, winning baseball games in September is more meaningful. Think of it as analogous to a 9 inning baseball game. If the opposing team scores a couple of runs in a tie game in the second inning you say ‘Damn, but we have plenty of time’ which is true. If the opposing team scores 2 runs in a tie game say in the 8th inning you say ‘Well, that probably lost us the game’. This is because each team has a finite number of outs, and as those outs dwindle each at-bat becomes more important. The same can be said of the regular season. It’s not that those early innings aren’t important (they can be really important if you fall into a huge hole early). But if everything stays close, the late games matter more.

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  35. Tom says:

    What’s so different about 2010 and 2012? Really?

    The guy in front of Cabrera had the media narrative (recovering addict) and was on a playoff team… Cabrera’a team finished .500 and in 3rd.. You mention the Tigers record, but fail to mention how the team of the guy he was up against was/is doing.

    You’d think someone covering baseball would mention this. Whether folks agree with these factors or not, they do impact the voting and to not even mention them to support the pre-formed conclusion of “this is no different than 2010” is pretty shoddy analysis. Cabrera’s performance may be similar, but the environment around him is clearly not.

    I also don’t understand the conclusion that voters chose Hamilton’s defense – you know this how? Talking to some of the voters? This is speculation and some of the factors I mentioned (Hamilton’s team making the playoffs and his personal story) could have had as much, if not more impact on the voting.

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  36. Ed says:

    He should have won it in 2010 too. Don’t see how it went Hamilton when he missed so much time late when his team was pushing for the post season. And the reason Cabrera’s BBs are down this year vs. 2010 can be summed up in two words – Prince Fielder. Miggy is a machine.

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    • TKDC says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Ya, it’s too bad he missed all that time and caused the Rangers to not make the playoffs.

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  37. Colin says:

    Did this really require another article?

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    • the fume says:

      For the 3rd and final article, I’d like to see Cabby 2011 compared to Hamilton 2010 and Trout 2012.

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    • JG says:

      Just like Verlander (and Braun, to a lesser extent) last year. Find someone who is getting too much media attention and write an article a day about how they’re not as good as they’re made out to be.

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  38. the fume says:

    I look forward to having this debate again in 2014. What do you guys think, does Jurickson Profar’s defense and position carry him to the MVP over Cabrera?

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  39. Steve says:

    Guys… Ellsbury… come on now.

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  40. JG says:

    This is a slightly off-topic question: it was mentioned in the article that the Tigers are projected to finish with 86 wins. Is that just their pythag extrapolated out to the rest of the year?

    Because it doesn’t seem terribly likely that the Tigers just go 7-6 against the Twins and Royals the rest of the way. They look to be in only a slightly more precarious situation than the White Sox, who still have series with the Angels and Rays.

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  41. DR says:

    new historical insight on Mr. Trout-
    Just watched the A’s tie the Yanks up 1-1 in the 9th.
    Coco Crisp steals 2nd and the announcer says:
    “Wow, Coco Crisp just stole his 35th base, and he’s only been caught 4 times”

    Trout’s #’s- 46 and 4.
    Less than 5 MLB players all time have stolen 50 bases or more with less than 10% caught stealing. I’m guessing the over and under now on Trout’s SB’s are 49.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      How is that historical insight? Coming into this year, only 5 MLB players have accomplished this. Going into next year, only 5 MLB players will have likely accomplished this.

      It’s one thing to give him credit for something he achieved – but you don’t need to give him credit for something he hasn’t achieved.

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  42. rea says:

    Well, the article’s argument seems to be that because Cabrera wasn’t the MVP in 2010 despite having a better season than Hamilton, he ought not to get the MVP in 2012 for a similarly amazing season.

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  43. deadhead says:

    The fact that an award handed out by writers rests on a narrative is stupid. Why aren’t these writers devising complex mathematical formulas to derive a normalized expectation of performance. Writers are so stupid. The audacity of writers liking compelling stories is offensive to me. I wish I never read about baseball as a kid. I should have only looked at stats. Words are for idiots.

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    • Tom says:

      bstar: Yes, clearly that is EXACTLY what I was stating.

      You read my comment and that was what you got out of it? Good grief man. Are you just trying to antagonize or did you completely misread the comment?

      Do you seriously think voters are using rWAR (or fWAR)and haven’t simply just placed a higher importance on ERA over wins? How do you explain Price finishing 2nd in the voting that year? (or the last few years of results). While I’m sure some voters might look at it, the facts (actual voting results) don’t fit the narrative that many have been spinning since 2010.

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  44. detroit4lyfe says:

    Any extra perceived controversy can easily be chalked up to the possibility of him winning the Triple Crown this year, but a cursory Google search brings up plenty of Miguel Cabrera MVP talk in 2010

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  45. zigs says:

    And the unbelieveable trout worship continues

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  46. Enough, Dave says:

    Why does Dave continue to feel the need to stump for Trout winning an MVP? Does he have money on this or something? “Mike Trout is so much better it’s aburd…blah..blah”

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  47. Josh says:

    I mean just as the voters did in 2010 you have to look at the off field stuff as well. Just stick with this i’ll get to my point. Question if Prince Fielder was not on the tigers how much worse would they be? Cabrera would still be hitting 4th behind Young, A combination of Bosch, Peralta, Availa etc would of been batting 5th. Before the Tigers signed Prince the asked Cabera if he would move positions. that man WORKED HIS ASS off to make the transition to third base. as everyone has been pointing out Cabrera puts up MVP type numbers every single year. The man can flat out hit, he is a genuine superstar and a hall of famer. HE OFFERED TO SWITCH POSITIONS knowing he could look like a fool if he failed to make the TEAM better. No he is not the best third base man in the league but i’m sure if you asked any GM in the game they would take Cabby at 3b over anyone else. Mike Trout is an amazing talent, and deserves to win the award for the best position player in base ball but MOST VALUABLE PLAYER i think not. Not only is Cabby the teams best hitter and most irreplaceable asset, he is an all around team guy. You take him out of detroits line up and they are not even sniffing 80 wins, you take prince out they are probably endin up with 75-80. Cabrera is the reason Prince is here, and about to accomplish a feat that hasn’t happened in 45 years. the man is the most valuable player in the league.

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  48. Joel says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’d find it pretty hilarious if the top WAR player, who has built his MVP case on a once-in-a-lifetime offensive performance and additional baserunning and defensive value while playing center field, loses to a Detroit Tiger based on narrative two years in a row.

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    • Dan says:

      once in a lifetime offensive performances 2 years in a row? By who? Trout doesn’t even lead the league in wOBA so it’s hard to be that once of a lifetime.

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  49. dougiejays says:

    Is there’s something to be said for MVP as a lifetime-achievement award? You’re the second-best player in the league for 4 years in a row and it’s a different player who’s better than you every year. Come HoF time, you don’t have an MVP on your mantle.

    It’s basically the same situation as 2005-2009 Halladay for CY. (Difference being that he already had an earlier award.) He was steadily the second-best or borderline best pitcher in four-five years when he didn’t win and by the time Greinke came out of nowhere in 09 it felt like it was about damn time for Halladay to get some hardware.

    Of course then he walked away with it in ’10 as a Phillie. Who knows if Cabrera will find another level.

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  50. Joe says:

    Are we sure that voters chose Hamilton because of his “defense value?” I think it was more to do with the fact that he batted .359 too, and blew away the competition in batting average. There are still plenty of voters who are going to “go for” a .359 BA. And Hamilton started 29 games in CF that year, yet people keep saying he was a “CF” in 2010. He was much more of a LF.

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  51. Tim says:

    The real problem with Trout’s narrative is that if he gets better from here, he’ll get plenty of MVPs, and if this turns out to be a freak season and he gets worse, giving it to him will look embarrassing in retrospect. Plus he’s certain to win one major award already. There’s no upside to the voters in giving it to Trout, only downside.

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    • wrinklebump says:

      The idea of MVPs going on to suck is kinda fun, but the only one I can think of offhand is, interestingly enough, a Tiger. Denny McLain was a monster for a couple years but then adroitly defined ‘average’ for the rest of his not-so-long career. MVP voters usually don’t get it right, but they very rarely pick one-shot-wonders. The only real atrocity in recent memory was Tejada over A-Rod in 2002, but even then Tejada has been an above average player for years before he got the award.

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      • Doug B says:

        the number of players who were playing at an MVP level at age 20 and became average players is rather short.

        Tony Conigliaro? – hardly embarassing to say a person thought he was a future hall of famer. we all know what ruined his career.

        Dwight Gooden and Vida Blue? – hardly embarassing to say a person thought these guys were future hall of famers. we all know what hurt their careers. Even through drug troubles they both flashed brilliance throughout their careers.

        I don’t know… I can’t think of others. Guys like Cesar Cedeno, Fred Lynn… they dropped off but were hardly average players.

        If I was a writer the idea of worrying about whether these guys would be considered good 10 years from now would not enter my mind.

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  52. Doug B says:

    If the Tigers make the playoffs while the Angles don’t, OR Cabrerra gets the triple crown then I think we all know what the writers will do. Trout’s only chance is if neither of the above happen.

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  53. Doug says:

    Everybody seems to be aware of WAR but nobody has the calculations that define Marginal. This WAR calculation is the Koopakagra of statistics. People seem to identify it but nobody can verify its DNA. Love the fact that Billy Butler is at 2.2 on the WAR calculation that alone makes this stat a KOOPAKAGRA stat.

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  54. WahooManiac says:

    How about the fact that Miggy gets to hit vs a lot less talented pitching? Im too lazy to do the research tonight, but batting in the AL Cent vs batting in The West has to be accounted for IMO. Miggy, as great as he is, gets to beat up on a bunch of bums, where Trout is facing much superior pitching. Add in defensive greatness and this should be Trout in a landslide to me

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