Miguel Cabrera and Intentional Walks

With the Rangers having opened up an insurmountable lead on their AL West competitors, they’ve given Josh Hamilton a lot of rest lately. He has exactly six plate appearances in September, and when he’ll return is anyone’s guess. With a 99.8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, the Rangers have no incentive to hurry him back for meaningless regular season games.

Due to his absence from the field, people (most notably Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi) are taking the opportunity to re-open the AL MVP discussion that was basically closed at the beginning of the month. Hamilton lapped the field for the first five months of the season, leaving no real argument for anyone else. Now, though, as he stands on the sidelines, people have begun to make a case for Miguel Cabrera. Since most of the people arguing for Cabrera will reject any kind of argument based on WAR out of hand, let’s just stick with good old fashioned traditional counting stats, comparing them heads up.

Hamilton vs Cabrera:

Singles: Hamilton +20
Doubles: Cabrera +4
Triples: Hamilton +2
Home Runs: Cabrera +3
Walks: Cabrera +41
Hit By Pitch: Hamilton +2
Double Plays: Cabrera +8
Steals: Hamilton +5
Caught Stealing: Cabrera +2
Outs: Cabrera +25

Overall, its pretty close, with most of the differences in the single digits. The categories that stand out are singles, walks, and outs. Hamilton has the lead in the former, while Cabrera has more of the latter two (only one of which is a positive). Their OBP and SLG end up being pretty similar, with most of the differences coming out in the wash.

However, Hamilton’s wOBA (which is just the calculation of the run values of the individual events added together and scaled to look like OBP) is .449, while Cabrera’s is .433, a pretty decent difference in Hamilton’s advantage. Why is Hamilton’s wOBA superior, even though his lead in singles is mostly offset by Cabrera’s lead in walks?

Because there’s a dirty little secret about Cabrera’s walk rate – 30 of the 84 walks he’s been issued this year have been intentional, and intentional walks simply are not as valuable as non-intentional walks.

This is actually an intuitive conclusion, even though it might seem a little bit strange at first. Intentional walks are issued in situations where the opposing team believes it is more valuable to have the batter on first base than at the plate. It is a strategic move, based on the situation at hand, that is aimed at reducing the offense’s chance of scoring a run, or multiple runs, in a given inning.

Thanks to the play log on Cabrera’s page here, we can actually look at the situations where he’s been intentionally walked. Here are the base/out state for each of those situations:

No Outs

No intentional walks issued

One Out

First only, first and second, first and third – no intentional walks
Second only – 6 intentional walks
Third only – 4 intentional walks
Second and Third – 3 intentional walks

Two outs

First only – no intentional walks issued
First and Second – 3 intentional walks
First and Third – 1 intentional walk
Second and Third – 1 intentional walk
Second only – 7 intentional walks
Third only – 5 intentional walks

In all 30 instances where opposing managers chose to put Cabrera on, it was in a situation where he otherwise would have had a chance to drive in a man already in scoring position. In addition, only four of the 30 walks actually advanced runners, as IBBs are generally issued when first base is already open.

The end result? These walks weren’t all that beneficial to the Tigers chances of winning the games in which they occurred. The average win probability added of the 30 intentional walks is just 1.5 percent. The average win probability added of the 54 non-intentional walks Cabrera has drawn this year? 3.3 percent.

Cabrera’s walk rate is heavily influenced by the IBBs that have been issued when he’s up, and those simply aren’t particularly helpful to the Tigers chances of winning, because they come in situations where Detroit would be better off with Cabrera at the plate than on first base. They help his OBP and OPS, but they don’t really contribute to the Tigers scoring more runs, which is why Hamilton’s wOBA is significantly higher, even with similar rate numbers.

In this case, Hamilton’s singles trump Cabrera’s walks. Even though Cabrera has a .003 edge in OPS, Hamilton’s been the more productive hitter this year. That could change if Hamilton sits out the rest of the year and Cabrera has a monster finish to the year, but it’s going to be tough for him to pull away enough offensively to offset the pretty big gap in defensive value. Barring something crazy, odds are pretty good that Josh Hamilton will end the season as the AL MVP, even if he doesn’t play in September. He was that good from April through August.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


87 Responses to “Miguel Cabrera and Intentional Walks”

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  1. Locke says:

    Nice piece. I’m kind of surprised that his IBBs have about half the value of a regular walk. I’d have guessed maybe 1/4, but I suppose he is getting IBBed in some borderline situations (compared to league IBBs) since he has been mashing so hard this year.

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  2. the fume says:

    I think I get the point: wOBA treats IBB and BB differently, and that’s why there’s more of a difference between their wOBA than there is between their OPS?

    One counter argument for Cabrera here, IMO, is that despite having fewer opportunities to hit in high leverage situations (due to the increased, strategic IBB), Cabrera still has a higher WPA and WPA/LI than Hamilton.

    I think it’s close, personally. Miggy has played more of the season, but Hamilton is playing for a division winner. I think those offset each other, which leaves Hamilton the edge due to being a better defender.

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    • Locke says:

      “I think I get the point: wOBA treats IBB and BB differently”

      Right, though if I’m not mistaken, wOBA is using the linear weights value of an IBB, which is essentially the league average value of an IBB, whereas Cabrera’s IBBs have been slightly more valuable than average. A minor point but it would narrow slightly the gap that Dave has pointed out.

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  3. craigtyle says:

    This shows why OBP would be a more useful stat if IBB’s were excluded. That, and having sac flies count as AB’s, would be two good changes and make traditional stats like OBP and SLG more meaningful.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      OBP measures how often you get on base. If you exclude IBB’s, it would be less accurate. We don’t need to change old stats to make them better. OBP does what it does perfectly. If you are looking to get a better picture of value, use wOBA.

      Also, OBP does count sac flies as AB’s. It doesn’t count sac bunts though, and that is the only thing that could possibly make sense to change.

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  4. Ray says:

    I didn’t think wOBA made the distinction between IBB and UIBB?

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  5. Gerard says:

    Why is having more IBBs a bad thing? Miggy has no way of avoiding IBBs, in fact, the better he performs, the more likely he is to draw them. Isn’t the increase in IBBs just a casualty of hitting in a weaker lineup than Hamilton? The fact that Cabrera has the bat taken out of his hands in so many run-producing situations would lead me to think that the wide gap between Cabrera and Hamilton’s wOBA isn’t necessarily all Cabrera’s fault. Were he able to swing the bat in some of those IBB situations, it’s likely that we would have created more runs, thereby raising his wOBA, no?

    It’s almost akin to Morosi’s CY Young argument that Felix can’t win because he’s not in a pennant race. In a sense, aren’t you saying that Miggy’s wOBA is suffering because he hits in the middle of a weak offense?

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    • don says:

      IBBs are still a positive, they’re just not as much of a positive as regular BBs.

      Maybe his numbers would have been better if he had been free to swing away instead of getting walked those times, or maybe he would have grounded out.

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      • Weak Argument says:

        Based on what he has done all year he would be increasing those stats. A hypothetical like “he would have grounded out” is pretty stupid when we can look at a pretty big sample size throughout his career to see that he would have hit.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Mr. Argument,

        You need to learn to read the whole sentence. He said maybe his numbers would have been better, or maybe he would have grounded out.

        If you are trying to say that he would never have grounded out, well, then I think you are the “pretty stupid” one.

        But that’s just my opinion.

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  6. Tigerdog says:

    I dispute the premise that Hamilton has been the more productive hitter. Cabrera has scored more runs, driven in more runs by a 20% margin, has more home runs, has a better on base percentage by a decent margin, has more extra base hits, and has a higher WPA than Hamilton.

    I further dispute the idea that IBB’s are inherently not as valuable as UIBB’s. While some managers may think that is the case, it’s not necessarily true. “Baseball Between the Numbers” has a good chapter on this topic.

    The bottom line in the question of who is the better hitter this year is in the raw production. The guy that scores more runs, drives in more runs, and creates more runs gets the trophy. The better argument to make for Hamilton is that the value to his team is greater because his contribution put them into the playoffs. You apply the old “but for test”. Whether Hamilton had that impact is debatable. If Morneau finished out the season with anything like the numbers he was on pace for, the argument would surely be made that he helped the Twins to win the division, which we now know is not the case. But Miggy didn’t help the Tigers to the playoffs this season. Stick with that, because when you try to come up with the conclusion that Hamilton had a better season at the plate, you lose.

    And yes, I am a Tiger fan!

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    • Hunter says:

      If the MVP were just a trophy for best hitter, you might have a point. Unfortunately, there is the topic of defense. Hamilton plays a premium defensive position very well. Cabrera mans 1st base, probably the least demanding defensive position. Cabrera’s hitting would have to CLEARLY trump Hamilton’s (which it doesn’t) in order for me to discount Hamilton’s superior defensive contributions. Hamilton gets the MVP.

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    • Mike Rogers says:

      Tigerdog, if you remove Cabrera’s IBB’s from the OBP equation, their respective OBP’s become .396for Miggy and .409 for Hamilton.

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      • Mike says:

        I understand this, and I’m in no way arguing for Cabrera to be the AL MVP. Hamilton deserves it for his positional value and his defensive value added on top of that.

        However, you can’t just take away Cabrera’s IBBs and replace them with nothing. Something would have happened in those 30 ABs that would be added to that data.

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      • Tigerdog says:

        I got that, Mike, but Cabrera has those IBB’s and they have value. But for those IBB’s, he has another 30 plate appearances, all with runners in scoring position, yet this argument somehow twists that fact against Cabrera!

        Does the little park in Texas get any consideration, here? Put Hamilton in Comerica park and Cabrera in Arlington, or both in the same park and see what happens!

        Hunter- that IS my point. But this article makes it sound like Hamilton is the better hitter this season, and to me he clearly is not. The award is for the most valuable player “to his team”, not to some generic team. If I have to take one or the other for a season, I take Cabrera, every time. As for Hamilton’s defense- he ain’t all that. It’s not like he’s an Austin Jackson out there!

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  7. Matt says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but by this logic, wouldn’t we have to go through all of Cabrera’s walks(intentional and non-intentional), as well as Hamilton’s, to see how many of them actually benefited the team? I don’t get why you single out just Cabrera’s IBB’s.

    Also, wouldn’t this go into the category of something Cabrera can’t control? It’s like using pitcher wins. It’s not Cabrera’s fault the Tigers’ lineup around him is not very good.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      No, Cabrera can’t control it. That doesn’t really matter. What we are trying to find is the value of his plate appearances. The IBBs weren’t that valuable.

      Pitcher wins isn’t a bad statistic just because the pitcher doesn’t control it. It’s a bad statistic because it doesn’t measure the value of the pitcher accurately.

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      • Daniel says:

        I just find it strange that wOBA almost penalizes great hitters because they’re so dominant this way. The situations where hitters like Cabrera are so frequently walked intentionally occur when they are most likely to do damage. I’m not sure whether all walks and intentional walks are valued equally, respectively, but it doesn’t make sense to me to differentiate walks when there are many different levels of intent in different situations.

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      • Nadingo says:

        Here’s another way to look at it — it’s not that wOBA is penalizing Cabrera for being so intimidating to opposing pitchers. Rather, it’s that pitchers are restricting Cabrera’s value by being strategic about when they give him a chance to hit the ball. There’s a reason why intentional walks are issued (though they don’t always work out) — the idea is to limit the hitter’s ability to harm you. It’s kind of like bringing in a LOOGY for a tough left-handed hitter. That’s also beyond a hitter’s control, but it ends up limiting his offensive value. wOBA isn’t a measure of true talent as much as it is a measure of true offensive performance.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Nadingo.

        Perfect. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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      • Tigerdog says:

        Regardless of whether Cabrera could control the IBB’s or not, he still drives in more runs by 20%, scores more runs, and does more to help his team win that Hamilton does, IBB’s and all. Miggy’s only problem is that his contribution didn’t result in the team winning their division.

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  8. Max says:

    IBB’s may be issued when the pitching team *thinks* it would help the win the game. But does it really? This piece should have win expectancy values included. How much does Cabrera help his team by being such a huge threat that teams feel compelled to give him a free pass rather than let him swing the bat?

    That being said, I think the MVP still has to go to Hamilton, but not necessarily for the reasons you said. It is because his team. Both players have been so great, but Hamilton has been good enough that his team now doesn’t have to play him due to their big lead in the AL West. Cabrera’s Tigers were marred by injury, including his protection (which would have helped against the IBB’s), and as a result, he was not able to lead his team to the playoffs. Cabrera was my preseason MVP pick, but now I would have to go with Hamilton.

    A similar situation is happening on the NL side. The race seems to be coming down to Pujols, Votto, and Carlos Gonzalez. All three have been having great seasons, cutting each other off from the triple crown. And all three are playing for contending teams. But in all likelihood, only 1 or possibly 2 of them will make the playoffs. And I think that that should be the deciding factor in the MVP voting. If the Rockies don’t make it, then it should go to whichever of Votto/Pujols makes the playoffs. If they do, then I would consider Gonzalez, but I would still probably go with Votto or Pujols.

    This is the MVP award, and so in my mind it must go to the player who has most helped his team reach its regular season goal of making the playoffs. For that reason, I give my non-existent votes (at this point in time) to Hamilton and Votto.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Um, did you read this paragraph?

      The end result? These walks weren’t all that beneficial to the Tigers chances of winning the games in which they occurred. The average win probability added of the 30 intentional walks is just 1.5 percent. The average win probability added of the 54 non-intentional walks Cabrera has drawn this year? 3.3 percent.

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      • Hugh Williams says:

        I’m sorry, but his is utterly fallacious thinking. The reason why a team walks Cabrera is to guarantee that he won’t contribute to the team’s win. Now, who’s having the better season: the guy they won’t pitch to or the guy they try to get out? Clearly the guy they won’t pitch to AT ALL is the better hitter. However, there is some pushback available on this point in determining the MVP, which may or may not be a different question from who is the more dangerous batter.

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      • Nadingo says:

        Here’s some of that pushback you expected: wOBA doesn’t measure who’s a more intimidating hitter. It measures who makes the greatest offensive contributions. Pitchers may respect Cabrera’s hitting ability enough to walk him intentionally, but in doing so, he is — by definition — less able to contribute offensively. If you think the MVP should be more about talent than performance, that’s a reasonable argument to make, but then why not choose a guy who has one awesome month and is injured the rest of the season?

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  9. jklender says:

    In addition to the many good points already made — and maybe I overlooked if it’s been mentioned already — but are we not missing the obvious park factor as well?

    If I had an MVP vote it would be for Hamilton, but I don’t see the logic in claiming this isn’t a close race. I can’t say the representation of the data in this article alters my opinion of that in any way.

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  10. Non Angry Tiger Fan says:

    I don’t understand why some fans can come up with so many reasons why their player is better than the other when the stats say otherwise. Hamilton is clearly having the better year all around. “But Miguel Leads In CLUTCH FACTORS and RISP on Thursdays and Fridays!!!” Hamilton is having an amazing year. Does that take away from the great year that Miggy has had? No. Miguel has been one of the best hitters in the game since he joined the league at 20 possibly the best batter who isn’t a machine over that time. He is incredibly consistant as one of the best but he just hasn’t had “his year” to win it yet. There have been players with better seasons every year. Big deal that he won’t win the award this year. I just wish there was a way to get better park factors. Hopefully hitFX will show this.

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  11. Randy says:

    I still haven’t made up my mind yet. I’d probably vote for Hamilton if the vote was today, but I think the difference between Hamilton and Cabrera is much smaller than seems to be the general consensus. Arlington isn’t Coors, but it’s generally around +10% for run scoring, where Comerica typically plays more neutral. Dave just made the point earlier this week that runs have less value at Coors; not sure why the same argument wouldn’t apply here.

    Hamilton’s big advantage is that he’s started 30 games in centerfield, and played it capably. Is that enough to make him my vote? Yes, it probably is. But if he sits out the next two weeks, I’m not sure it’s enough any longer.

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  12. Two points here:
    1.- The HUGE OPS split of Hamilton Home/Away (1205 vs 894) makes me think that Hamnilton is not as good hitter as Cabrera out of his friendly hitters park (Cabrera splits: 1040 OPS at home/1063 OPS away!).
    2.- The value of an IBB would be not the same as a UIBB if the hitter finally score a run anyway? In how many of those IBB Cabrera score a run?

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      The home road splits don’t matter.

      It doesn’t matter what he WOULD HAVE DONE if he played in a different park. It only matters what he did.

      This is basically the same thing with the IBB’s, it doesn’t matter if Cabrera WOULD HAVE hit a home run every time he was walked. What matters is what he did, whether or not he had any control over it.

      You DO need to adjust for park, because runs in Arlington are easier to come by, and therefore less valuable, but the fact that Hamilton has taken advantage of his home park is irrelevant.

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    • joe says:

      1) Is Josh Hamilton just getting rest or is he hurt and can’t play? What I’ve seen is he still can’t swing the bat without pain. The “getting rest” makes it sound like it’s by choice. A cynical person might think it is the author coloring the situation n favor of Hamilton in case people consider playing time as a factor for MVP.

      2) “most people who favor cabrera will reject WAR out of hand”. Why does Dave continue to predict/project sweeping generalizations to people who might have a viewpoint other than his. Maybe they just don’t look only at fangraphs war?

      BR WAR has Hamilton at 6.0, Cabrera at 6.5 Not saying BR has it right – given the variability in defensive stats (especially in 1 year UZR which fangraphs uses), maybe the WAR is not as much a slamdunk as it appears on Fangraphs?

      I think it’s fairly close:
      - offensively they’re similar, and if you consider the Hamilton home/road splits Cabrera may have an edge (if this argument is going to be used for CarGo it needs to be considered here too – not as extreme as CarGO, but Hamiltons ISO is **nearly double** at home vs on the road).
      - Hamilton is better defensively but the question is how much better? The same UZR that has Cabrera near the bottom of the AL for 1st baseman, has Mark Teixera WORSE than Cabrera. Given that I have to wonder how good 1 year UZR #’s are for 1st baseman. The defensive #’s are driving the large fangraph WAR delta and I have to wonder what the error bar is on the WAR #’s when it is being fed by 1 year UZR #’s. (And what the impact would be if it we used say a 3 year regression)

      If Hamilton continues to ‘rest’ (or what some might say can’t play), I can see a strong case for Cabrera if he continues to hit over the last few weeks.

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  13. isaf says:

    Cabrera’s bat has been drastically more valuable than Hamilton’s this year to the tune of 1.4 wins. Obviously Hamilton has more defensive value, but 1.4 wins? I don’t think so.

    Anyway this is the MVP award not the “most skilled player award” so looking at things like batting WAR is tremendously stupid. WPA is the obvious choice with RE24/REW being a distant second.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Tremendously stupid?

      Way to completely overstate your case.

      You can’t ignore defense and positioning because you are looking at value. If Cabrera could still play third base, the Tigers could have signed someone like Aubrey Huff or Adam Laroche for cheap. They are both better hitters than Inge, so the team would have been better off that way. The fact that Cabrera can’t play third anymore hurts the team, and decreases his value.

      Or, for another hypothetical, if Hamilton couldn’t play outfield, and needed to DH, the rangers either couldn’t have signed Guererro, and lost all of his production, or played him in the outfield, where he’s a terrible defender. Either way, the fact that Hamilton plays a good outfield, and can handle center, makes the team better, and is part of his value.

      If you want to use WPA, fine! But you still can’t ignore positioning and defense. What you should do then is replace “batting runs” with WPA*10 in the WAR equation.

      If you do that, you end up with Cabrera at 7.4 WAR, and Hamilton at 8.4.

      Cabrera only has a 0.8 win advantage in WPA, and the defense and position more than make up for that.

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      • isaf says:

        1 WPA = 2 wins, not one. Using your WPA to batting runs conversion (with 9.73 runs per win, roughly the current conversion rate) Cabrera is worth 13.9 WAR and Hamilton is worth 14.0 WAR. That’s basically the same player. Add in the fact that the Tigers minus Cabrera are a shit team, and it seems pretty obvious that Cabrera is more valuable.

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  14. The Nicker says:

    As someone who thinks Hamilton should win the MVP based on position and defense, I find it interesting that Fangraphs docks points from Sabathia and Cahill for unsustainable BABIP and HR rate as pitchers, but does not penalize Hamilton for being “lucky” and hitting WAY over his career BABIP.

    Can someone explain the difference?

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    • Dwight S. says:

      Thank you for posting this, I was gonna ask the same question. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

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    • Michael says:

      While I generally agree (and thus tend to use rWAR over at B-Ref instead of fWAR for pitchers), there’s a reason why this is acceptable. A hitter will, on average, face a defense that is close to league average, so there’s likely not to be a persistent defensive bias in BABIP; it boils down to the hitter/pitcher matchup. Pitchers, on the other hand, play in front of a defense which is going to be biased because it isn’t representative of an average defense, and thus may have some effect on a pitcher’s stats.

      In other words, a pitcher’s defense affects his BABIP more than the average defense in front of a hitter will affect his. This effect is large enough that major leaguers don’t exhibit a strong ability to control BABIP, so there is some thinking that says you should ignore that aspect for the purposes of finding pitcher value.

      Do I agree with it? Not really, in terms of past value. But that’s the argument.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        That’s not the whole argument, but that is part of it.

        The other part is that BABIP is a repeatable skill for hitters, and is generally not for pitchers.

        Personally, I think BABIP should be regressed some for hitters, because obviously there is some luck involved with Hamilton’s BABIP this year. But we can’t regress it all the way, because a lot of it might just be that he’s hitting the ball really hard.

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      • The Nicker says:

        Maybe he is hitting the ball harder Steven, but the data we have doesn’t show that. His LD%, GB%, and FB% are all at about his career average.

        Why doesn’t it make sense to regress his wOBA to his xBABIP when taking into account his season? That should adequately remove what we think is “luck” in the same way we discount pitcher’s BABIP performance.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Nicker,

        I understand what you are saying. And I agree that Hamilton is almost definitely seeing more than his share of seeing eye singles this year. I am basically in between the two sides on the issue.

        I think his BABIP should be regressed, and it should probably be regressed to some sort of xBABIP equation, but not regressed 100% like in FIP. xBABIP doesn’t explain everything, and line drive rates are subjective, and have been shown to be biased.

        So, I think something like BABIP +xBABIP / 2 would be what I would go with. I just don’t trust xBABIP enough to go the whole way.

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  15. Hugh Williams says:

    Actually, Dave, I think your analysis is mistaken. It is not Cabrera’s fault that he’s intentionally walked. Cabrera should get full batter’s credit for drawing a walk when he’s walked intentionally, assuming your purpose is to determine which batter is superior. The fact is, it is a compliment to the hitter that he’s walked. An inferior batter is not as likely to be intentionally walked. The idea that you’d assess Cabrera’s skills as a hitter based on the paltry value of the intentional walk is erroneous. It shows his great value. Perhaps to assess it more accurately, you should try to understand what result the pitching team was trying to avoid. Code for that result, which they apparently believed they could not reliably avoid, and you’ll have a better approximation of the value of the intentional walk.

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    • Mike says:

      While I don’t agree fully with Dave’s breakdown, there is a difference between an IBB an a regular BB, and it does take away some of the ability to point toward the edge in OBP for Cabrera (because he was given 30 times on base, and regardless of what would have happened to Cabrera in those other 30 ABs, it’s pretty safe to suggest that he wouldn’t have reached every time, even if they were attempting to pitch around him in each case).

      Nobody is saying it’s Cabrera’s fault. The point is more that IBBs aren’t a performance stat, like the ability to draw a walk is. I think the fact that he’s good enough to draw 30 IBBs means something, but the 30 IBBs do bring about something different statistically, so you have to kind of put those to the side when looking at stats like total BBs and OBP.

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      • AdamM says:

        It seems like people are implying that Dave’s inventing the idea that IBBs are less valuable than BBs, which is just not true. it’s in the formula for wOBA.

        The real question is, what is the linear weight of an IBB? I can’t find this info.
        If the weighting is less than than Miggy’s wOBA, than Miggy’s wOBA is suffering from being in a weaker lineup.
        If it’s greater than Miggy’s wOBA, then it would be foolish to assume that Miggy would have produced any more *theoretical* runs in those 30 plate appearances.

        Of course, he would have produced more *actual* runs, but apparently that’s a moot point.

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      • Hugh Williams says:

        Good points, Mike. However, I have to quibble with this: “IBBs aren’t a performance stat, like the ability to draw a walk is.” Actually, getting an intentional walk is a sign of a good hitter. In a way, it shows more excellence than a walk does. I recall some (Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Kent Hrbek, Barry Bonds) receive a free pass with no one on base. That doesn’t happen to a guy who can’t hit his weight. Rather, it indicates some kind of unusual talent in the hitter.

        2. I don’t think it’s a strong point that wOBA formula includes some number for IBB. I regard that as circular logic in this context.

        3. How to measure the skill implied by an IBB? Dave’s method doesn’t seem right if the purpose is to determine who’s the best hitter. For example, imagine a player who hits only home runs. He would always be walked intentionally. The measure of his extraordinary skill is that no one will pitch to him. The same applies to Cabrera.

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      • Stuart says:

        (Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Kent Hrbek, Barry Bonds)

        One of these things… is not like the other ones.

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    • Nadingo says:

      Again, the issue is whether you want to base the (offensive parts of the) MVP on who’s a better hitter vs. who makes the greater offensive contributions to his team. If it’s the latter, then it’s certainly relevant to take into account the value of an average IBB vs. an average UIBB. If it’s the latter — if all you care about is “who’s the superior hitter,” then why bother factoring in playing time? Why not just give it to Justin Morneau?

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  16. Joe says:

    Josh Hamilton has *extreme* home/road splits. How is this being overlooked? Also, he’s played 236 innings over 39 games in CF, not 150 games. Saying he plays a “premium position” is inaccurate. He simply played a “premium” position for 39 games. I don’t know that Hamilton isn’t the MVP, just think he is getting more credit than he deserves.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      The home road splits don’t matter. All that matters is how valuable his plate appearances have been. In a hitters park, like in Arlington, they are a little less valuable than in a pitchers park, like in Detroit. So that does need to be taken into account. WAR adjust for the run environment of the home park, and Hamilton is still way ahead.

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      • frank says:

        Does WAR consider that there might be a run factor which doesn’t matchup up with say a HR factor?

        I’m not familiar with the WAR park factor calculation but if Arlington was say playing at 8% above average but was playing 15% above average for HR’s does WAR take that into account or is there some error if the HR and run factors aren’t matched?

        If I’m not mistaken Arlington plays at a much higher HR factor than simple run factor; does the WAR park factor adjustment take this into consideration? (or does it not matter?)

        Thanks in advance…

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Frank,

        Again, it doesn’t really matter if the extra runs are coming from a HR factor or not. If Hamilton is perfectly suited for Arlington, and is taking advantage of the park, that simply means he is MORE VALUABLE there.

        Is Adrian Beltre less valuable to the Red Sox because he is perfectly suited for that park? No.

        When the Twins would bring up and/or sign “Dome” players, did it make them less valuable to the team because they wouldn’t have been as good for another team? No.

        The ONLY thing you should adjust for is the run scoring environment of the park. This is just one large adjustment, and doesn’t take factors like HR rate into account at all.

        If another team was going to trade for Hamilton, then they definitely would need to look at component factors of the park, and try to figure out how much he’d be hurt by moving to their park. But when we look at VALUE, none of that matters.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      But yeah, the premium position is misleading. He has a negative positional adjustment on the year.

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  17. Dave W says:

    According to baseball-reference, Cabrera’s WAR is 6.5 compared to Hamilton’s 6.0. People keep talking about Hamilton’s superior defensive skills, but his defensive stats are below average as well. B-R has Hamilton’s rFIELD at -.6 and his rPOS at -.5, while Cabrera’s is at -.5 and -.9 respectively. That’s not much of a difference.

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    • dnc says:

      So Hamilton and Cabrera being similarly mediocre relative to their peers at their positions doesn’t change the fact that Hamilton’s being judged against a superior group, and, thanks to the position(s) he plays, brings more defensive value.

      Its counter-intuitive to think otherwise, and thanks to the great work done on positional adjustments, counter-intellectual as well.

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  18. Steve says:

    Does wOBA take park factors into account?

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    • JTJ says:

      It does when it’s converted into wRAA under the “Value” section. If you want to park-adjust wOBA, just divide by the square root of the park factor.

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      • Steve says:

        So if hamilton has a higher wRAA its pretty much impossible to say miggy has had a better offensive year?

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      • JTJ says:

        wRAA takes into account playing time, whereas wOBA is a pure rate statistic. It depends on whether you want to look at rate of production or “true” value provided.

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  19. Lombard says:

    The rules of the MVP voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

    1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
    2. Number of games played.
    3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
    4. Former winners are eligible.
    5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

    #1 is almost too close to distinctly call. I’d go Cabrera based on #2. I want my MVP playing a full season.

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    • Andross says:

      Since games played is a defined point of the award, I would say that you are correct. 1/6 of the season is too much to miss, in my opinion, especially when value is quite similar.

      Should the MVP award care about playing time? That is another question altogether…

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    • Tigerdog says:

      Okay, since we’ve beaten every other aspect of this discussion to death, let’s have a nice, long discussion about factor # 3 General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

      Discuss….. (how long before the word “alcohol” comes up?)

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  20. Bill says:

    I think WAR has this one correct.

    Hamilton 8.0
    Cabrera 6.1

    Bye, bye!

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    • anonymous says:

      So you’re using Fangraphs WAR calculation (which many have noted might disproportionately favor defense and the UZR statistic–which is a flawed stat to use for a single season) instead of Baseball reference’s which has Cabrera with a 6.5 WAR compared to Hamilton’s 6.0? Definitely not as clear cut as you think. One single stat from one site does not conclusively determine the best hitter, kid

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  21. Fiddogg says:

    “Hamilton lapped the field for the first five months of the season, leaving no real argument for anyone else.”

    I think someone is forgetting Hamilton only hit .265/.351/.494 in Mar/Apr while Cabrera hit .344/.427/.615. Hamilton did improve in May, but .294/.322/.505 wasn’t even in the top 10 and it sure didn’t lap Cabrera who turned in a .344/.410/.700 performance. The question is, does three months of super great performance count the same, more, or less than six of just great performance?

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  22. Ian says:

    What about the times when opposing teams pitch around Cabrera (or Hamilton) but the catcher doesn’t stand up and call for pitches outside the strike zone? I know you can’t really ascribe intent to these situations, but this seems like it might be a problem when separating IBBs and UIBBs – there are lots of “unintentional” walks that are probably intentional.

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  23. anonymous says:

    Put Hamilton in the Tigers lineup playing half his games in spacious Comerica and put Cabrera in the heart of that Rangers lineup with half his games in Arlington and I would bet a lot of money Miggy would win the MVP in a landslide voting.

    As others have noted, I’m confused as to why Cabrera’s IBB should count against him. How can you penalize a guy for the weak lineup around him? His numbers were even more impressive with Magglio hitting in front of him.

    Also, Cabrera was the number 1 player on the player rater for much of the first half of the season…. since when was Hamilton “lapping” him?? Please show me those statistics, Dave

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    • MV says:

      Ehm wRC+ is park-adjusted and it still gives the edge to Hamilton, so maybe you should check out some statistics by yourself instead of asking Dave for them.

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      • anonymous says:

        I’m asking him to back up his claim that Hamilton was far and away the best hitter for the first 5 months of the season. He certainly wasn’t close to Cabrera’s level for the first two months and it looks like he might not play during this month… Meanwhile Cabrera has consistently raked since April.

        There is a greater than .300 point differential between Hamilton’s home/away splits for OPS (1.205 home vs. .894 away) while Cabrera has a 1.040 home OPS and a 1.063 away OPS. Clearly, the calculation isn’t taking his home park into effect enough.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Anonymous does make 2 great points.

        How quickly we forget Cabrera and the “chase for the triple crown” around mid-season. Cabrera was THE hitter in the AL for much of this season.

        For some reason this site hates Miggy Cabrera. I cannot figure out why. He turns out “Manny Seasons” like they’re cookies.

        Albert Pujols, the greatest hitter of this generation, has 9 straight seasons of .300-30-100 to start his career. cabrera has basically done the same thing for the first 7 full seasons of his career.

        Guys, Miguel Cabrera is 27 years old. No matter what stat you look at it’s impressive. He’s a genuine 5-6 WAR player, and there aren’t many of them.

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  24. CircleChange11 says:

    In all 30 instances where opposing managers chose to put Cabrera on, it was in a situation where he otherwise would have had a chance to drive in a man already in scoring position.

    Well, duh. When else would an IBB be issued?

    So much of the talk around here is how dumb it is to issue an IBB. Yet, when it’s Miggy cabrera, the IBBs don;t really matter because they don;’t advance a runner and/or the runner was already in scoring position.

    So, I come back to my original comment “duh”. That’s generally the only time manager’s IBB a hitter.

    I agree with your assessment that the IBBs to Cabrera minimally help th eoffense. My position is that when the IBB is issued by the defense, they are essentially coneding that they are in a situation where runs are likely to score. They’re also in a position where they feel they need to get out of the inning without giving up a run, in order to stay “in the game”. The only way to do that is to issue an IBB and hope for 2 outs on 1 play. The additional runner on base really just decides whether the defense loses by 4 or by 5, which doesn;t matter in the long run.

    I’m glad to see that maybe we’re moving past this idea that IBB’s are giving the offense crucial runs. No, when they score, they are just “padding” runs.

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    • Dwight S. says:

      So much of the talk around here is how dumb it is to issue an IBB. Yet, when it’s Miggy cabrera, the IBBs don;t really matter because they don;’t advance a runner and/or the runner was already in scoring position.
      ———————-

      Yeah it is kinda interesting. There have been more than one articles on here that mention the fact that an IBB is almost never a good idea and they hurt your teams chances, yet according to this piece they are essentially meaningless? Which one is it?

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  25. Mike says:

    A lot of the voters use Sept. as a big influence. If you remember in ’04 when Vlad won MVP, and when Morneau in ’05 or ’06, I can’t remember, it was almost purely because they had monster Sept. Voters remember Sept since it just happened when they are voting. I think this will have a bigger influence than you think.

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  26. Miguel says:

    I think the author missed a huge point, He is mixing performance and value and in some cases they aren’t the same. The IBBs aren’t computing in performances stats because the player didn’t do anything to get the base, but the value of a free pass in a high pressure instance is very high.

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  27. MV says:

    Hamilton’s wRC+ is 184, Cabrera’s is 175. Go figure.

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  28. Efrain says:

    What a silly article. Lets blame Cabrera because the Tigers dont have anyone to hit behind him. Like they will gave all those 30 IBB to any hitter. If they actually gave him that many IBB, you can assume that they were going to pitch him around anyway…

    This sound A LOT like those people blaming Felix because he is with that terrible Mariners team…

    “Because there’s a dirty little secret about Cabrera’s walk rate – 30 of the 84 walks he’s been issued this year have been intentional, and intentional walks simply are not as valuable as non-intentional walks.

    This is actually an intuitive conclusion””””””

    AN INTUITIVE CONCLUSION¡¡¡¡¡

    Fangraphs.com of all places¡¡¡

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      On back-2-back nights, wasn’t MC IBB’d in a situation that did push a runner into scoring position? (1st and 3rd, 2-outs) … and this was with the defense having a small LEAD, and not just trying to keep the game within reach.

      Both nights Boesch ended the inning in the next at bat.

      If I recall correctly, in both instances, the Rays [1] had a small lead and the [2] IBB pushed a runner into scoring position.

      The same things happened to Pujols when StL had the worst 4-hitter(s) in baseball (Ankiel/Duncan/Ludwick platoon).

      I would just like some consistency in the analysis. In a previous discussion, ANY IBB was regarded as being about the dumbest thing a manager could do, and in this thread, an IBB is not so bad.

      It cannot be both extremes.

      My view is that it ain’t that bad. If the IBB’d runner eventually scores in the inning, he does so when the game is already “lost”. So, big deal, the losing team lost by 4 instead of 3.

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  29. Efrain says:

    “Cabrera’s walk rate is heavily influenced by the IBBs that have been issued when he’s up, and those simply aren’t particularly helpful to the Tigers chances of winning, because they come in situations where Detroit would be better off with Cabrera at the plate than on first base”

    Can anyone explain why is that Miguel Cabrera’s fault and why shall we penalize him?

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    • anonymous says:

      Nope, I think we’re all waiting for Dave Cameron’s response to why he hates Miguel Cabrera so much. Some of the stuff in his article (specifically Hamilton being the far and away best hitter for the first 5 months) is just flat out wrong. He doesn’t seem to like Cabrera very much

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      • dnc says:

        As someone who’s read Dave Cameron for years, I can vouch that he’s been a HUGE Miguel Cabrera fan from at least his second year in the league (and probably before).

        He rated him as the first or second most valuable property in baseball at one point in time.

        Dave Cameron does not hate Miguel Cabrera.

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  30. Ernesto says:

    Are this Cameron for real?? the BBI doesnt count? 1/4 of a BB? in what world you live sir? BBI are superior in moust cases that the BB!! For example take a wild pitcher (there are a lot of them) what is the merit of taking a BB when that kind of pitcher pitch? When Halladay pitches he gave no BB; in that case the BBI taked by someone is a super value thing for teh team because no body receive even one!!! What happen to you Cameron is that you try so hard but so so hard to probe “YOUR POINT” that uses this kind of ilogics arguments to make a point! and you lose the path my man!! Maibe Hamilton is going to be the MVP but Cabrera Put that kind of numbers (the real ones) playing at Comerica (dead Park) without any kind of proteccion and supporting the psicilogical pressure of 90 wals and 30 BBI!! if that you can get it, you are in the wrong sport (move to football please)

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  31. hank says:

    If the author is arguing about the value of IBB’s in terms of context of the walk and value added to the team, I wonder if he considers overall WPA meaningful? (where Cabrera has a significant lead)

    If the argument that the IBB’s aren’t adding as much value to the team , shouldn’t all hits be considered? Does a HR in a 10 run game have the same value to the team as a HR in a tie game? I realize this punishes the player for things outside his control, but isn’t that what IBB’s are doing as well?

    Should WPA be considered?

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  32. I love internet. I found a very related comment (#5) with this issue in the following post http://triplesalley.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/do-batting-runs-overrate-ichiro/ and the author (terpsfan101, a very sabermetric oriented reader of The Book´s blog) that I would like to add here:
    “The win value of an IBB is approximately the same value as an average plate appearance for that batter. MGL says “we use run value as a proxy for win value.” IBB have a positive run value, but as a whole they have marginal win value very close to zero. The same thing applies to the sacrifice bunt. Sacrifice hits have a negative run value, but their win value is very close to zero. Another reason you don’t want to include IBB and SH in your linear weights is that they are outcomes that are out of the batter’s control. Managers decide when to issue an IBB and when to attempt a SH.
    So here is what you should do. Let’s say Pujols has 65 batting runs in 650 plate appearances (not counting his IBB). His LWTS per PA are .10. He was intentionally walked 30 times. What you do is assign a run value of .10 to his 30 intentional walks. So Pujols gets credited with 68 batting runs in 680 total plate appearances. ”
    For me sounds very as a common sense way to fix this issue an being fair with the batter.

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  33. Trenchtown says:

    Dave, your next article should be on why Intentional Base on Balls are just as valuable as those that are unintentional. Maybe I’m just in a cynical mood today but I have a feeling that the comments would be just as critical

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  34. Trenchtown
    I understand why IBB are not so valuable as UIBB creating runs, what I dont understand is why that must be use to punish the batter as if IBB was perfomed by him and replace those IBB AP with the average AP marginal run value of the batter looks the most fair for him.

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  35. Hello there, I found your site by means of Google whilst looking for a related subject, your web site came up, it seems to be good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

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