Player’s View: Who’s the Best in the Game?

A question was recently asked of  14 players. It doesn’t have an easy answer. Given the subjectivity involved, it doesn’t even have a right answer.

Who is the best player in the game?

Their responses are listed below in alphabetical order.

——

Michael Bowden, Chicago Cubs pitcher: “Miguel Cabrera.” [No elaboration.]

Jackie Bradley, Jr. Boston Red Sox outfielder: “The best player in baseball is Mike Trout. He’s got the overall package. It’s not just hitting — and he can definitely hit — but also his defense and his base paths. He’s got the whole package.”

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles infielder: “Miguel Cabrera. We’re talking about a guy who might win the triple crown again this year. It’s ridiculous that he did it last year and might do it again. He’s hitting about .350 and he’s not even 100 percent healthy. I’d say he’s definitely the best player in baseball right now.”

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins infielder; “Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter. He separates himself from every other hitter in this league, because he hits for both power and average, which is tough to do. As far as offensive categories, he’s definitely the best. As good as Mike Trout is, he’s also only in his second year. Miggy has been doing it for 10 years. It’s not like he plays a bad third base, either. I‘d have to go with Miggy as the best player in the game.”

Brian Duensing, Minnesota Twins pitcher; “Miguel Cabrera. Personally, I don’t know if it’s possible to get him out. He plays a decent third base. He has a lot of power and can hit to any part of the field. It’s tough to say [best] in all of baseball, because we don’t see the National League guys as much, but Cabrera is the first player that comes to mind.”

Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder: “Mike Trout. He dominates in all three facets of the game: hitting, baserunning and defense. He looks and runs like an NFL linebacker but possesses as good a set of baseball skills as just about anyone in the game.”

Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers infielder: “Miguel Cabrera. Absolutely. He’s the best hitter, and he’s pretty good defensively, too.”

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher: “I’ve got to say Miguel Cabrera. He’s the biggest threat there is at the plate, and he plays a good enough third base. He puts the team on his back. He has presence. When you play them, you circle his name on the lineup card.”

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher: “Mike Trout. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game, no doubt, but Mike Trout is the best player.”

Adam Lind, Toronto Blue jays outfielder: “Mike Trout, I guess, if you’re going to go with overall. He does everything.”

Nate McLouth, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “I think Mike Trout is. He can do everything. There are a handful of guys you could pick, but as far as all-around game, he’s the best there is.”

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants outfielder: “I think it’s safe to say it’s between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. WAR? I think it’s kind of a silly statistic. I don’t even know what factors are involved. I remember reading about it a while ago and seeing that you can lose points for the position you play. I don’t understand all that stuff. If I was to look at what I think helps wins games, it’s run production: RBI and runs scored. OPS is a powerful stat, and stealing bases, and defense. That’s what I would look at. It’s fun to analyze that stuff, though.”

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants catcher: “Can I have two? Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. Is that a pretty common answer? It would be a tough call there.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox catcher: “If you’re talking all-around player, it’s Mike Trout. He plays good defense, steals bases, hits for power, hits for average. If you’re talking best hitter, even if he’s mediocre at his position, you’ve got Miguel Cabrera. He’s just an unbelievable hitter. But best overall player, Mike Trout.”

——

FINAL TALLY

Mike Trout: Seven votes (Bradley, Fuld, Kershaw, Lind, McLouth, Pence ½, Posey ½, Saltalamacchia)

Miguel Cabrera: Seven votes (Bowden, Davis, Dozier, Duensing, Gonzalez, Janssen, Pence ½, Posey ½)

——

Note: Thanks to Eno Sarris for procuring the quotes from Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, and to Brandon Warne of ESPN Minnesota for procuring the quotes from Brian Dozier and Brian Duensing.



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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Froglegs Jackson
Guest
Froglegs Jackson
2 years 11 months ago

Legitimately surprised by how many players said Trout. I would have guessed it’d be unanimous or close to it in favor of Cabrera.

eddiegaedel
Member
eddiegaedel
2 years 11 months ago

Me too, I am also shocked that no one else got a mention other than those two.

Dan T
Guest
Dan T
2 years 11 months ago

I’m legitimately surprised that nobody named a pitcher.

attgig
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attgig
2 years 11 months ago

I was thinking the same thing.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
2 years 11 months ago

Is it especially controversial that at any given time, the best pitcher in baseball is almost never as valuable as the best everyday player? Certainly Trout is more valuable than any active pitcher; you’d need Kershaw-like numbers in maybe 75-100 more innings to match his production.

baseballbaseball
Guest
baseballbaseball
2 years 11 months ago

me too. especially when kershaw seems like he is comfortably ahead of all the other pitchers. id go with him, honestly

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
2 years 11 months ago

These type of questions almost always imply a position player. Unless someone asks about the best pitcher, it’s usually assumed one is talking about a position player.

You have to understand the workings of inside baseball culture. Pitchers are viewed as a breed apart, mostly because they play much less than the other players and are not in the same athletic shape as the position players.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 11 months ago

Hunter Pence: “WAR? I think it’s kind of a silly statistic. I don’t even know what factors are involved. I remember reading about it a while ago and seeing that you can lose points for the position you play. I don’t understand all that stuff.”

That notion, that something’s “a silly statistic” despite the fact that people “don’t even know what factors are involved” really speaks to the Trout-Cabrera debate over the last couple of years. So many people view WAR the exact same way Pence does. They don’t understand it. They just see it as silly or stupid or … whatever.

dixie_flyer
Member
dixie_flyer
2 years 11 months ago

Something tells me that Pence was not a Rhodes scholar.

Brian
Guest
Brian
2 years 11 months ago

In fairness, Oxford’s baseball programme stinks.

Dusty Baker
Guest
Dusty Baker
2 years 11 months ago

Spelling correction: only one m in programe.

Brian
Guest
Brian
2 years 11 months ago

Not if you’ve been to Oxford.

Or as we prefer here, the other place.

Stuck in a slump
Guest
Stuck in a slump
2 years 11 months ago

you’re fired!

wtf?
Guest
wtf?
2 years 11 months ago

For some reason these guys are proud of their ignorance. It’s their livelihood–they should know a lot about how almost all competent major league front offices evaluate them.

Ian
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Ian
2 years 11 months ago

Maybe people inside baseball value different things.

mooks
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mooks
2 years 11 months ago

Determining better ways to value players has nothing to do with being good at baseball. Taking time to study that stuff would probably be a bad thing to do as a ballplayer because it would be distracting.

Spit Ball
Guest
Spit Ball
2 years 11 months ago

Not if you are Yasiel Puig and running into an out at third base every night. While I would grant you that studying advanced hitting numbers MIGHT screw up the hitters approach it’s not like they do not already look at skewed numbers such as batting average. If a player is comfortable in their own skin and mind, saber metrics only serve as helpful short of LD% becoming an obsession.’

suicide squeeze
Member
Member
suicide squeeze
2 years 11 months ago

What’s really weird is that he just released that goofy video where they quote his fWAR, wOBA, and UZR.

Blasphemous
Guest
Blasphemous
2 years 11 months ago

Yeah, but he doesn’t talk about that stuff, the narrator does. And I think they’re poking fun at the whole statistical thing. The joke is that Pence is a successful major leaguer when nobody would teach their kid to play the way he plays..

Jaack
Guest
Jaack
2 years 11 months ago

Hunter Pence is also an insect, so cut him some slack.

Will
Guest
Will
2 years 11 months ago

He also goes on to add that base running (well, SB) and defense is important. So it seems as though he believes in a component system. Like, I dunno, WAR…

I don't get it, sorry.
Guest
I don't get it, sorry.
2 years 11 months ago

Could you explain the joke? Does he have a nickname related to insects or does he look kind of insect-like?

Menthol
Member
Member
Menthol
2 years 11 months ago

Giants fans affectionately refer to Pence as insect-like or even alien all the time, based in part on his awkward style, strange stare and occasional tics. See the mccoveychronicles site for more details.

Sky Kalkman
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Would be fun to ask him about the positions he’d like to be able to play in order to earn the most money, given his current hitting talents.

scatterbrian
Member
Member
scatterbrian
2 years 11 months ago

“Batting average? I think it’s kind of a silly statistic. I don’t even know what factors are involved. I remember reading about it a while ago and seeing that if you make an out, it counts against it, but when you make an out on purpose, it doesn’t count against it. I don’t understand all that stuff.”

olethros
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olethros
2 years 11 months ago

The number of players who think Cabrera plays average-ish defense is rather frightening.

Lakeside
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Lakeside
2 years 11 months ago

I couldn’t agree more and I assume thats why they think he is the best. They appear to be assuming Miggy and Trout both play great defense and since Miggy is a slightly better hitter.

It was hard not to laugh at some of the responses.

sinewiz
Guest
sinewiz
2 years 8 months ago

Talk about laughable? Slightly better hitter?lol
By your argument Trout is slightly faster than Miguel.

MustBunique
Member
Member
2 years 11 months ago

There could be a factor of not wanting to call out a fellow player for being absolutely atrocious at something.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

Not if you’re Salty, apparently. His response was keepin’ real.

NeilS
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NeilS
2 years 11 months ago

Yeah, this. My guess is that most players would never call another below-average or bad – publicly, at least. So, you have to make adjustments: calling someone ‘adequate’ is effectively calling them ‘awful’. I’m sure that if you pushed them on it, they’d admit that they think his hitting outweighs the defense, regardless.

Now, whether they’re conscious of all this is another question altogether.

olethros
Guest
olethros
2 years 11 months ago

I wonder if we’re seeing some of the same bias that shows up in GG voting.

Choo
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Miggy’s “presence,” as Casey Janssen mentioned, explains why many players view him as a better defender than he really is. Show up early for batting practice at any ballpark and the players just flock to him. He is the god which all other gods worship, and just an absolute mountain of a man. The fact he can move a bit and has a strong arm is more impressive and memorable than the 190-pound guy who makes more plays.

Classic Lynyrd Skynyrd Reference
Guest
Classic Lynyrd Skynyrd Reference
2 years 11 months ago

Mike Trout is not 190 pounds. He’s closer to 230.

Choo
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Trout’s neck alone could weigh 190. I was comparing Miggy in the general sense to other 3B.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

To be fair, according to FanGraphs defensive stats, Miguel Cabrera has been worth more and a better defender at 3B than 1B. (Positional adjustment! So silly.)

Not that he is /good/ either way, but he is actually providing more production there than 1B…

Poopypants
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Poopypants
2 years 11 months ago

I think because of the way it seems players evaluate each other, they think Cabrera is adequate/not bad or whatever at 3rd due to his ability to generally handle what comes to him. He might not have a lot of range but he’s not leading the pack in errors either. If not for this site I would have no idea he is as “bad” as he is.

sinewiz
Guest
sinewiz
2 years 8 months ago

What’s even more frightening is that your obviously clueless as to the fact that he is at least average defensively. Cabrera while limited with range because of his size, has very soft hands, a great arm, and tremendous baseball instincts. Do a little research before you embarrass yourself.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler
2 years 11 months ago

Hunter Pense: WAR? I think it’s kind of a silly statistic. I don’t even know what factors are involved.

Doesn’t that loosely translate to: “This movie is silly, I didn’t see it and don’t know the plot, but it’s silly anyway.”

John
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John
2 years 11 months ago

Yes, yes, it does.

wtf?
Guest
wtf?
2 years 11 months ago

“It’s not like he plays a bad third base, either.”

Brendan
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Brendan
2 years 11 months ago

Am I reading into too much by noticing all the outfielders picked trout and infielders picked Miggy? (Pitchers and Catchers split)

uniqueusername
Member
uniqueusername
2 years 11 months ago

4 of the 5 pitchers said Miggy. Salty said Trout. JP Arencibia would have said Chris Davis.

uniqueusername
Member
uniqueusername
2 years 11 months ago

3 of 4*

maguro
Guest
maguro
2 years 11 months ago

4 out 5 dentists prefer Mike Trout.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

So Arencibia would have swung at missed at the question, too.

Just like everything else.

Rich Mahogany
Guest
Rich Mahogany
2 years 11 months ago

There is a mistake in this post. The quote attributed to Hunter Pence actually comes from Brian Sabean.

Izzy Hechkoff
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

RE: Hunter Pence

I think he makes a statement that illustrates an issue I have with WAR; the positional adjustment. Right now, since it’s based on PA, it is more of an adjustment based on the expected offense from each position. However, many of us define it as being because certain positions are more difficult than others. If that’s the case, it should be based on innings spent at each position, not PA.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
2 years 11 months ago

“The position adjustments are then scaled to match the games played at each position for a particular player. This way, players that spend time at multiple positions get a hybrid adjustment based on their playing time at the respective spots.”

…and how the adjustments are built:
http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/fielding_position_adjustments/

Dave
Guest
Dave
2 years 11 months ago

I think WAR might need an adjustment for utility players. There’s a lot of value in having one guy who can backup 3rd base, shortstop, and second base, and yet, even if he’s a terrific defensive SS, he’s losing value every time the team needs him at 3rd base instead.

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
2 years 11 months ago

I totally agree, although it’s hard to measure the value of positional flexibility. We typically analyze a player’s performance only, but a player who plays multiple positions can provide value beyond his own performance by creating roster flexibility.

David Appelman
Admin
Member
2 years 11 months ago

The positional adjustment is calculated off innings spent at each position, not plate appearances.

Angelsjunky
Guest
Angelsjunky
2 years 11 months ago

Is it just me or are the responses that vote for Trout a bit more thoughtful? At the least they take into account more aspects of the game.

I’d give Pence a break, btw. Hey, at least he’s heard of WAR. If we want to stretch his point a bit, he’s got something valid to say – that WAR is an abstraction and doesn’t represent what actually happens on the field in the way that more conventional stats do, except in a secondary (or even tertiary) way. I’m not saying that I agree with him, but I think it is important not to lose sight of the more conventional stats.

For example, I don’t think you’ll find anyone other there except WAR diehards that actually think Josh Donaldson or Carlos Gomez were equally valuable players to Miguel Cabrera this year, despite what WAR says.

Will
Guest
Will
2 years 11 months ago

But he didn’t even make a real argument. What he said was, first and foremost, that it was a silly stat, and his “support” was that he didn’t even know what went into it. “I don’t like x. I don’t even know what x is.” That is not something one should give a break for.

Mister
Guest
Mister
2 years 11 months ago

I’m no “WAR diehard” but I definitely think that Donaldson and Gomez were about as valuable as Miggy this year. Basically, I think WAR does a decent job of at least approximating overall value, but I’m skeptical of its ability to nail down a player’s value to the 10th of a win. When I see Trout with 10.4 and Miggy with 7.6, I think it’s a no-brainer that Trout is better. When I see Miggy, Gomez, and Donaldson all clumped together at 7.6 and 7.7, I think that they had similarly valuable performances this year, but that we are splitting hairs trying to decide who was really the best of the 3. As for who would I want on my team next year though, I’d go with Miggy over Gomez and Donaldson for sure based on the longer track record.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
2 years 11 months ago

This is a nice point. Baseball players are very unlikely to see how you can commensurate first base and short stop in terms of value, after all, every team needs one of each on the field. How can you penalize a guy, the argument goes, for being the one who plays first? I’m not saying that argument works, but it’s not like your totally stupid if it occurs to you.

I am actually fairly skeptical of the reliability of positional adjustments. None of the 1B/Cs I know are +25 run defenders at first base….

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 11 months ago

Amazed noone said Kershaw.

That guy is on another pitching planet right now.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 11 months ago

Maybe they were asked “who is the best baseball player on Earth?”.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

The question they are asked in this series, as far as I know, is always exactly what they say in the article: “who is the best player in the game?”

I think it is up for debate how many of these guys thought that did not include pitchers.

MustBunique
Member
Member
2 years 11 months ago

…on earth. These are the jokes, kid.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

Well now I feel stupid.

Angelsjunky
Guest
Angelsjunky
2 years 11 months ago

p.s. I think you have to give extra point value to Clayton Kershaw, as the best pitcher in the game. So Trout wins.

Billy
Guest
Billy
2 years 11 months ago

I found it interesting that speedy outfielder types like Fuld, McLouth and Bradley Jr. picked Trout, while clunky hitter types like Chris Davis and Adrian Gonzalez picked Cabrera. I wonder if this trend would continue if we polled more players.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 11 months ago

I dont think thats interesting, I think that’s obvious.

They value that side of the game more, so they pick the best one at that role.

Who won on WAR anyway?

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael
2 years 11 months ago

I noticed that too, but then Adam Lind break form: he’s kind of an offense only player but picked Trout, who has a broad mix of skills.

Terrible Ted
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Terrible Ted
2 years 11 months ago

Adam Lind, my hero.

Jim Price
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Jim Price
2 years 11 months ago

Tigers fan so strong Miggy bias here. I would agree Trout is the best all around player at the moment and its probably not very close. But Miggy has 10 years in the league now and every one has been excellent, there’s just no one else right now who can claim that (OK, Pujols could have said it last year, A-rod before that, but not now). That has to carry some weight when you ask “who is the best player”.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 11 months ago

’04 and ’08 were average seasons, not excellent ones. This is hardly a damning criticism, but since you were making a case based specifically on every season being excellent, it’s worth pointing out.

He’s been excellent *offensively* every year of his career, though.

wtf?
Guest
wtf?
2 years 11 months ago

We are not giving a lifetime achievement award–we are looking for the best player NOW. Alex Rodriguez has had a great career; does he get extra bonus points now just because he used to be amazing? No, he is about a 2-3 WAR player now.

I’m also a tigers fan but incredibly objective. And even if you didn’t believe in advanced metrics due to ignorance or stubbornness, Trout wins out easily.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

It’s not a lifetime achievement award, true, but having a history of great past performance does carry some weight in a “who’s the best player now?” debate. Players who have been great for several years are more likely to continue to be great (unless they’re on the wrong side of the aging curve, but Cabrera is still only 30) than players who’ve only been great for a short time.

I’d still pick Trout just because his two seasons have been so mind-blowingly awesome, but longevity is a legitimate argument in Cabrera’s favor.

DJG
Guest
DJG
2 years 11 months ago

Agreed. We never really know how good somebody is and there have been many cases of good, but-not-best-in-the-game players putting up two or three outstanding seasons throughout their careers. It could be Mike Trout happened to do this in his first two seasons.

With Miggy this isn’t an issue, so this is a point in his favor. Although Trout’s past two years were SO good, he’d still be my pick, but I get the longevity argument.

Zach
Guest
Zach
2 years 11 months ago

If the question was “who should win the MVP?” then past years shouldn’t factor in. But last year I would have picked Trout for MVP because he had a better year, even though I would have said that Cabrera is the better player. If the season had gone on 50 more games, I would have been much more confident in Cabrera continuing his offensive performance than Trout.

Since Trout has put up even better offensive numbers in 2013, striking out less and walking more, I would go with Trout as the best player in baseball at this point with Cabrera second. I would say in 2013 that Chris Davis had a similar year to Cabrera, but I think Cabrera is a much better player than Davis.

For what it’s worth, I am a Tigers fan as well.

IZZY2112
Member
IZZY2112
2 years 11 months ago

At a certain point, you get diminishing returns from years of past excellence. Saying Miggy has been great for ten years isn’t much different than him being great for four years. That’s certainly past two years of excellence, but I would say that the regression applied to Trout’s last two years when projecting forward is not enough to cancel out Trout’s significant edge over the past two years.

Dino
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Dino
2 years 11 months ago

This series is awesome.

Brandon
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Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

“If I was to look at what I think helps wins games, it’s run production: RBI and runs scored. OPS is a powerful stat, and stealing bases.”

Well, that just about sums up everything wrong with how ordinary people evaluate players. I think OPS is the worst stat of all of them, since it misrepresents player value in a way that makes most people think they’re using a clever stat.

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael
2 years 11 months ago

It’s actually a pretty decent statistic for overall batting production, at least among those not park-adjusted. OPS is so much better than just looking at batting average & homers.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

It just makes some ridiculous assumptions though:

a single is just as valuable as a walk (hint: it’s not. A single is worth about .456 runs, while a walk is worth .301). A double is twice as valuable single (hint: it’s not. A double is worth .756 runs, while a single is worth .456). I could go on, but we all get idea.

And even if you don’t understand the whole linear weights thing, you’re still making the assumption that .SLG is just as important for run production as .OPB (hint: it’s not. Each point of OBP is about twice as valuable as each point of SLG percentage).

All of my data is taken from full year 2012 samples. Also note that those linear weights are for AL, although the NL numbers are close to that.

Big Daddy V
Guest
Big Daddy V
2 years 11 months ago

You’re forgetting that a single will increase both your OBP and SLG, while a walk will only increase your OBP. This gives the single a significantly higher value when it comes to OPS. Similarly when comparing a single to a double, both of them affect OBP the same, so the double is not twice as valuable as the single.

If you actually look at the correlation between OPS and runs scored, it’s a pretty good approximation. There are better stats, but OPS gets you 90% of the way there.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

True true, I guess I forgot that the OPS combination accounts for some of these things (even though it does it sort of mistakenly).

Slugging percentage remains horrible, but when you combine it’s errant factors with the errant factors of OBP, the numbers do tend to get relatively close to what they should be.

I’m still not willing to hand OPS any intellectual credit (it now says that a single is twice as important as a walk, for example), but I will admit that there are some merits for it’s results even thought the formulation is crude.

baseballbaseball
Guest
baseballbaseball
2 years 11 months ago

i agree with you. but ops and wOBA turn out to be pretty close, even if it is just by luck. so its still a good number to look at

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael
2 years 11 months ago

I wouldn’t give it much intellectual credit either, but in a world where players use pitching wins and RBIs to evaluate performance, using OPS is a giant leap forward in accuracy.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

Since there are tons of people who look at RBIs and batting average instead, I’ll give the false prophets using OPS a break. I think you should also refrain from assuming just how clever they think they are being.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

True, OPS is probably a better estimator of value than what mos people look at. My main problem is that a lot of people think they have the ultimate answer for offensive production when they look at OPS (because it incorporates everything, you’ll hear them say).

At least they’re trying though, and at least they’re further towards the goal than some.

As an added side note, we here should also be careful not to think we have the ultimate answer either. wOba is good, wOba is really good, but there are still things it misses and we need to be working to find and incorporate these things.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 11 months ago

Nothing to do with this article whatsoever (ive posted above), but I wondered if we could have an article blaming lead off hitters for the very low offense this year around the league.

I’ve looked at all the high OBP guys from this season, nearly all of them are sluggers over lead-off guys (the sluggers OBP seem fine). The best table-setter OBP after the big 3 guys (carp, trout, bass I mean choo) was Dexter Fowler, whaaat? Even Ells who we thought would’ve been great only had a .355 OBP. Other pathetic lead off men this year to name and shame them:

Bourn- .316 OBP (and only 23 steals). Way to make your mark in Cleveland. Pathetic.
Andrus- .328 OBP
Altuve-.316 OBP (does he realise a walk is as good as a single?)
Rollins- .318 OBP
L Martin- .313 OBP

All leadoff guys/ table setters. None of them deserve to be leading off or batting 2nd for their clubs.

Shows why runs were down this year, only 9 guys topped 100 runs, whuut? Lead-off guys just couldnt get on base well enough this year, and yet Matt Carpenter scored 126 runs despite no speed (3 SBs). Time for managers to value on-base over speed at the top of the lineup?

And the low runs totals explain the low RBIs totals for nearly all players this year, table setters just werent on base enough for sluggers this year, so no wonder RBIs are down. It’s your fault lead off guys, we’re all looking at you! Only 4 guys (4!) went 30/100/100 this year: Davis, Miggy, Jones (despite his abysmal .318 OBP) and Goldy…crazy.

And there you have it, finally reached a meaningful conclusion. Offense was down because lead-off guys couldn’t do their job this year.

So I ask the question again, are teams better off loading the top of their lineup with high OBP guys over rabbits who can’t take a walk, even if that means leading off with sluggers? It sure hasn’t done the Cards and A’s any harm.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

In fairness to Jose Altuve, his .316 OBP was actually the fourth-highest on the Astros (among qualified batters, that is). Also, he wasn’t Houston’s primary leadoff hitter this year – Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar did most of the leading off, and they both had higher OBPs than Altuve.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Whoops, just noticed that you said ‘leading off or batting second.’ Okay, fair point, but the Astros still didn’t have any especially good options. Jason Castro was the only guy on the team with a relatively high OBP, and he was busy batting third.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

There’s definitely a trade-off here. I’ll take OBP over speed most times, but there has to be a significant enough trade-off. It’s hard to quantify just how much basepath speed helps run scoring, but you could at least use UBR as a useful proxy.

As a general rule I’d use this formula to determine my leadoff hitter: One of my three best hitters based on wOba+UBR, who also has the highest OBP but NOT the highest .Slg (I’d used a linearly weighted slugging percentage for this).

And also in the NL I’d have my pitcher hit eighth, for a better chance of setting the table for one of my three best hitters.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 11 months ago

Good idea about batting the pitcher 8th. I remember Tony doing it and it seemed bizarre at the time, but I see the logic behind it. Amazed more managers dont try it.

Dino
Guest
Dino
2 years 11 months ago

A walk is as good as single only when nobody is on base.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
2 years 11 months ago

Are you saying Coco Crisp isn’t a slugger? Boom! Leadoff bomb baby!

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 11 months ago

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants catcher: “Can I have two? Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. Is that a pretty common answer? It would be a tough call there.”

Can I have three? It’ll always be tough for a catcher to put up the kind of WAR it takes to be on this short list. Separating, for a moment, “most valuable” from “best” (that is, doing whatever it is that you do well, including all the little things about catching that don’t pile up WAR but require lots of practice and technical knowledge), Posey maybe deserves to be in the conversation.

Anyway, don’t want to start a semantics argument. Trout should be MVP, in my opinion, because as far as we can tell he has the most “value”, in terms of doing things that give his team the ebst chance to win. But as long as we’re talking about “best”, there’s no reason to be beholden to this idea of value. The most valuable player in baseball history is Babe Ruth, I’d guess, but the best was probably Honus Wagner or Joe Morgan or someone like that.

Though Ruth did pitch, so there’s that.

The best baseball player I’ve ever personally seen might be Chase Utley. He’s still pretty darn good, but he did not have a single weakness when he was right in his prime. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t anything that he wasn’t particularly good at. Anyway, enough digression…

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

I’ve always thought that WAR undervalues good catching a lot.

Do we know if WAR includes pitch framing statistics like these? http://statcorner.com/CatcherReport.php

Because those RAA numbers are significant (And I think for catchers we can assume that replacement level pitch framing is not too far from average level).

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
2 years 11 months ago

Or do catchers generally have lower top-end WARs because they don’t play as much?

This year, the average catcher had 2.1 fWAR per 600PA and the average non-pitcher/non-catcher had 1.9.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
2 years 11 months ago

I think that’s probably correct. The best catcher will almost never be as valuable as the best non-catcher because the catcher can’t field his position for 155+ games. I’m not sure to what extent WAR considers the built-in playing time issue in calculating the catcher positional adjustment.

Bubba
Guest
Bubba
2 years 11 months ago

I think you people are being too hard on Pence. His knowledge of WAR does not impact his ability to put up 5.4 WAR. Each player tries (I assume) to maximize his performance based on his skill set. Whether or not they need to know this specific stat to do that is unclear. Especially when they have a dozen coaches and scouts providing them personal information.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

We’ve got nothing against Pence as a player. I don’t think a player has to know much about advanced/accurate statistics in order to be successful.
There are a few exceptions, such as a player should know that he has to be successful on steals roughly 75% of the time to make that a viable part of his game, and that he shouldn’t sacrifice bunt in the vast, vast majority of situations.

Anyways, when it comes to Pence as an evaluator of talent that’s where he falls mighty short. But then again, that’s probably because he spends a lot of time playing baseball instead of sitting in front of a computer figuring things out.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

The amount you need to be successful on steals, IIRC, is much less than 75% right now.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

I just did the actual research on this (silly me). It appears to be at 57% now.

Dusty Baker
Guest
Dusty Baker
2 years 11 months ago

No votes for Brandon Phillips?

Walt Jocketty
Guest
Walt Jocketty
2 years 11 months ago

Get out.

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

I think players view Cabrera as a good defender because he makes most of the plays he gets too. He’s got great hands and a great arm. When you face him, that what most players notice. His range, which ruins his value, isn’t the things guys notice from the opposing dugout. Just a thought

baseballbaseball
Guest
baseballbaseball
2 years 11 months ago

im curious how sabermetric minded fans would look at cabrera if he played first base, like he should be playing.

consider if miguel was considered an above average firstbaseman, would any of you by into him being considered the best player? or because trout plays a more difficult position he still would get the nod?

baseballbaseball
Guest
baseballbaseball
2 years 11 months ago

and then consider how often i say consider

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

Cabrera was a bad first basemen when he played 1B.

He’s had more value at 3B defensively, according to FanGraphs stats.

Metsox
Member
Member
Metsox
2 years 11 months ago

This was a great post

Surprised Trout got such strong support. Perhaps the MVP voters will take notice.

Nah……

tbonemacd
Member
tbonemacd
2 years 11 months ago

Odd the criticism of those who voted Cabrera, as if they must be stupid, in spite of no other evidence to support that conclusion. Yes, let’s disregard opinions of guys who actually play the game, but only if they disagree with your opinion. After all, you simply enjoy following statistics, you’re not a major league executive, and you certainly don’t play the game. Get over yourselves.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

Easy on the criticisms mate.

“in spite of no other evidence to support that conclusion.”

This is where your argument starts to crack. The whole business of what we do here on fangraphs is to gather evidence to support our conclusions. We’re trying to find the least arbitrary ways to evaluate players that correlate most with player value (read: actual run contribution).

BJsWorld
Guest
BJsWorld
2 years 11 months ago

It all comes down to whether you believe a guy like Pence, who has probably seen 50 or less defensive plays by Cabrera this year, is in a position to comment on a players defensive capabilities.

To answer your question – NO. I do not think a player (or anyone for that matter) who has viewed a tiny sample size of plays is in a better position to judge contribution than the defensive metrics that evaluate EVERY play. Especially in the case of a guy like Cabrera. A player that we have years of bad defense to look at.

Rickey Henderson
Guest
Rickey Henderson
2 years 11 months ago

The Rickey.

AC of DC
Guest
AC of DC
2 years 11 months ago

When was this poll taken? I ask because I note that Chris Davis suggests Cabrera might win a second consecutive Triple Crown, when it is Davis himself who prevented that from happening. Were there still many games left to play, or is this guy just being so humble as to discount his own presence?

Angelsjunky
Guest
Angelsjunky
2 years 11 months ago

Its worth noting that Andrew McCutchen wasn’t mentioned. He’s the only player, other than Trout, that has a higher WAR over the last two years than Cabrera:

2012-13 WAR
20.4 Trout
15.0 McCutchen
14.4 Cabrera
13.7 Cano
13.4 Wright
12.5 Posey
11.8 Votto
11.8 Molina
11.5 Beltre
11.3 Zobrist

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

I think the main reason is that in every facet of the game Trout is just a bit better.

Doc Daneeka
Guest
Doc Daneeka
2 years 11 months ago

I think it’s safe to say, as we already knew, that there isn’t anything wrong with either answer. Awesome to hear player’s takes on the topic though.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

I guess there is nothing technically wrong with an opinion; one of them is much more supportable with the available evidence however.

Much like asking “Are you of the opinion that Weekend at Bernie’s 2 was superior in quality to Citizen Kane?” Couched as such one can’t technically be wrong, but one may struggle to defend a particular opinion.

garrett hawk
Guest
garrett hawk
2 years 11 months ago

I was also surprised to see nobody mention McCutchen, especially amongst the NL guys who were polled. Like Trout, he’s a legit 5-tool player, and the likely NL MVP this year.

I like WAR, but it does not seem to to give extra-credit to utility guys (like Zobrist). However, if you polled the 30 managers, I’d bet 29 of them would state that they’d LOVE to have a multi-position star on their team.

And some of you have touched on the fact that, while WAR does a good job at equalizing positions, for some reason it undervalues catchers. WAY undervalues them, to the point where I think there’ll be an adjustment in the future. (look at the career score for the greatest ones ever, like Bench and Yogi…they’re not remotely close to the top WAR guys at every other position. And has there EVER been a season where a catcher led the league in WAR? I can’t find one, despite the fact that catchers have actually won a whole lot of MVP’s). For that reason, I think that you could throw Yadi Molina’s name into this discussion (along with Posey, as someone earlier mentioned).

garrett hawk
Guest
garrett hawk
2 years 11 months ago

OK, to answer my own question:
Gary Carter in 1982 (though he came 12th in the actual MVP voting)

garrett hawk
Guest
garrett hawk
2 years 11 months ago

Oh, and Posey, just last year. But it’s really rare. Neither Berra nor Campanella ever came particularly close to leading their league in WAR, despite winning SIX awards as Most Valuable, between them.

NONE of the greats ever led the league in WAR, despite most of them having won the actual MVP award: Bench, Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Piazza, Ernie Lombardi, Munson, Elston Howard, Gabby Hartnett, Pudge I and Pudge II…I guess they just don’t play enough games to pile up numbers.

But the value of a star catcher is huge (and widely accepted as huge), which is why I believe there should be a WAR adjustment.

lightitupbaby
Guest
lightitupbaby
2 years 11 months ago

Right now it IS a toss-up between Cabrera and Trout. And the only reason it is a toss-up is because of something that isn’t even brought up: ninth inning presence. Trout doesn’t have it yet. He’s yet to have a dramatic ninth inning.

Cabrera’s done it many times. Twice in one series against Mo Rivera late this season he hit 9th inning home runs. Josh Hamilton had three ninth inning game winners this year.

Manny Rameriz, ARod, Pujols all had that ninth inning presence. All the truly greats had it. And they were all pitched around. Yes, Trout gets pitched around but he doesn’t have a 1.000 OBP in close and late and high leverage situations.

This isn’t to put down Trout. He’ll get there. And when he does there will be no question as to who is the best player in the game.

Brian Cartwright
Guest
Brian Cartwright
2 years 10 months ago

Kershaw said it best – Cabrera is the best hitter, but Trout is the best player. Does it take ten years to figure that out.

I have to chuckle at the players defending Cabrera’s defense. Maybe he didn’t make an error int he games he played their teams. The best 3B will make 80% of the plays, the worst still make 70%. About 95% of professional players (including minors) play a better 3B than Cabrera.

sinewiz
Guest
sinewiz
2 years 8 months ago

It amazes me how in vogue it’s become by those that are so enamored with Mike Trout to dismiss Cabrera as this bumbling buffoon at the third base to justify their man love for Mike Trout. Cabrera is absolutely at least an average major league third baseman. Short on range because of his size but exceptional hands and great throwing arm. So quick to dismiss the best player in baseball because some kid has put together (2) yes that’s (2) exceptional seasons.

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