The Diminishing Value of Valuable

Today, the Baseball Writers Assocation of America — an organization to which I belong — will wrap up their awards announcements by handing out the MVPs for both the AL and NL. Andrew McCutchen is very likely to win the award for the NL, and Miguel Cabrera is going to get his second consecutive trophy for the AL. The only drama surrounds how much of a landslide each will win by; it’s probably not going to be close in either case.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t other worthy candidates. Clayton Kershaw had an excellent season, as did Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Carlos Gomez, and you could make a case for any of those four. In the AL, obviously, there’s Mike Trout, who was the best player in baseball this year and would win this thing in a landslide if voters saw it as the Best Player award. But, as you’re going to hear numerous times today, this is not the Best Player award; it’s the Most Valuable Player award.

So, we’re going to sit through another day of explanations for why best and most valuable aren’t the same thing. To be honest, I have no real interest in those explanations, or in arguing about them, because the discussion is almost entirely removed from the game of baseball. Few of the people who cast their votes for Miguel Cabrera actually think he had a better year than Trout this season; they just believe they’re answering a question that deals with more than how a baseball player performed for his team over the last year.

I’ve noted before that I think a good way to test the validity of a metric is to explain, in english, what question it is answering. Some of them are obvious and clearly answer a question that people should want to know the answer to, while metrics like Wins for pitchers answer things that no one would ever ask or care about if the metric didn’t first prompt the question. When the question the metric is attempting to answer is a question that no one cares to ask, the metric is basically useless.

I think the same principle can be applied to awards. An award is useful for as long as it honors a person or thing for an achievement that is worth honoring. If the BBWAA gave out an award for Peanut Vendor of the Year, no one would pay any attention to it, because with all due respect to peanut vendors everywhere, the public at large doesn’t really care about concession sales efficiency. Awards hold importance to the amount that they reflect the public’s desire to honor someone for the thing they did.

The Gold Gloves, for instance, used to be pretty important. Then they started giving them out to guys who couldn’t play defense, and made a farce of themselves by awarding one to Rafael Palmeiro in a season where he spent most of the year at DH. The public no longer had any reason to believe that the results actually measured the quality of defense being played, to the point that a second fielding award has been created by Baseball Info Solutions and has gained some real traction because it actually does honor the best fielders in most cases. When the Gold Gloves stopped giving out awards on the basis of a player’s performance, people stopped caring about them.

The MVP isn’t in imminent danger of being displaced by a second award, but the further the BBWAA gets away from honoring the season’s premier player, the less credibility it will have. The credibility of the award takes a hit every time it is given out for reasons not related to baseball performance. It can only take so many hits before people stop caring about the results in a meaningful way.

The BBWAA needs to give Mike Trout an award that recognizes his historic performances more than Mike Trout needs an award to validate what he’s actually accomplished. Over the last two years, we have seen two of the very best seasons in baseball history, and they’ve gone essentially unrecognized by the organization that has been tasked with recording history. We have been lucky enough to see an in-his-prime Mickey Mantle in modern times, and instead of celebrating that, we’ve spent Novembers explaining why his teammate’s inferiority should keep him from winning an individual award.

To justify the selection, voters have to draw a very clear line between Best Player and Most Valuable. But as the award distances itself from Best Player, it becomes less and less obvious why the MVP should be baseball’s top individual award. We honor the best rookie, and the best pitcher, and the best manager, but we have nothing to honor the best player? Why not? If we’re going to create this divide between Best Player and Most Valuable, why is there not simply an additional award for Best Player?

Because if there was, people would wonder what the point of the MVP award still is. If we’re going to completely divorce the MVP from the Best Player of the season, then I’m already wondering what the point of the award is. I will happily congratulate Miguel Cabrera for being the best RBI guy on a playoff team, since that’s the award he’s winning tonight. I will also congratulate Mike Trout for being the best player in baseball, and wonder aloud why we don’t have an award for that.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Guest
Guest
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

First sentence it looks like you couldn’t decide whether to say “an organization to which I belong” or “an organization of which I am a member”. Obviously it’s a minor quibble, but I just thought you might want it pointed out. Great post otherwise.

Slats
Guest
Slats
2 years 9 months ago

There are several counter-arguments that point out pretty clearly how silly it is to say a player isn’t really valuable because his team isn’t making the playoffs anyways.

1. Flip it. If a team wins their division by 10+ games, then they couldn’t possibly have an MVP winner, because they’d have won their division anyways. How valuable is their best player, really? They’d likely be in the same position either way.

2. Play it out further. If a team wins their division by 1 game, then literally every player who helped them win a single game is more valuable than Mike Trout. Because each of them made the difference between making the playoffs and not, whereas Trout did not. Ergo, using this logic, Brandon Inge was more valuable than Mike Trout last season.

Here’s an analogy to consider. We each want to buy something that costs $1. I’ve got a quarter, 8 nickels, and 10 pennies. My “team” of coins is worth 75 cents and falls short of being able to buy the item. You have one dime and 18 nickels. Your “team” is worth $1, and you successfully buy the item.

If your dime more valuable than my quarter simply because it led to a successful item purchase?

Hendu for Kutch
Guest
Hendu for Kutch
2 years 9 months ago

What is up with my old post getting ripped off all over Fangraphs today?

Old School
Guest
Old School
2 years 9 months ago

I respect the data and research. How many different ways will fangraphs show Cabrera being unworthy of the MVP. Just like two years ago, Verlander was also unworthy of the MVP, right fangraphs. This has devolved into clown journalism.

Walkoffblast
Guest
Walkoffblast
2 years 9 months ago

Just like last year where Cabrera was the “right” choice because he played more games and had a better September? What happened to those criteria this year? Oh right, one side gets to selectively choose their criteria each year, after they pick the player that “should” win of course. What happened here confirmed that anyone who argued last year that the award was accounting for fielding and baserunning opposed to just playoffs and RBI over Runs was wrong.

Alex D
Guest
Alex D
2 years 9 months ago

To help speed the process along, this is Bill Ballou AHL email wballou@telegram.com I invite you all to send him your thoughts regarding his MVP ballot

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 9 months ago

If there were a “Best Player Award” or a “Most Outstanding Player Award” instead of the MVP, Cabrera would still win, and we’d all still be scratching out heads.

Brian
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I agree with this. Or at least I’m not willing to concede Dave’s point that Trout would win a “Best Player Award” in a landslide. I think it’s just as likely that Cabrera would win and we’d all be parsing the meaning of the word “best” rather than the meaning of the word “valuable.”

I’ve always liked this analogy from Bill James via Joe Posnanski: say you’re playing Texas Hold’em. You’re holding an ace and a queen and your opponent has a king and a jack. A king gets turned over on the river, and your opponent wins with a pair. Now what is the most valuable card?

It may SEEM like it’s the king, but obviously that’s just a product of the environment. An ace is always more valuable than a king. Always. The king never wins when matched up with the ace. Two kings loses to two aces. An ace-high straight or flush always beats a king-high straight or flush. If you and someone else have the same two pair, a fifth card ace beats a fifth-card king every single time. The ace is the most valuable card.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 9 months ago

To be fair, the Bill James question depends: Are we talking about in that specific hand or overall?

Over all poker games, the ace is more valuable than the king. But when taking into context, the King was more valuable on that specific hand, because the King got paired up and the Ace didn’t.

Think of it this way: A player starts with Two Aces. Another player starts with King Queen. The hand unfolds to get another ace, a ten and a jack at some point, meaning King-Queen wins. The aces are more valuable overall, but the King-Queen will still win the hand and nobody will say “But the aces are the higher card!” in response to it.

It’s kind of like context vs. context neutral: You should look into context neutral stats overall because context is difficult or impossible to measure/reasonably repeat…but once it’s happened in a year, you take it into account when deciding how a player did, just like how while you will project a non-fluky BABIP when someone BABIPs good, you won’t say “They lose 1 WAR because that’s what they’d have if their BABIP was normalized”…or at the least, that’s what I think.

RJ3
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RJ3
2 years 9 months ago

You are way overthinking this.

Bradley
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Bradley
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t think you understand the analogy, so lets simplify:

ace is better than king = trout better than cabrera

2 kings are better than an ace,which is true, but also like saying 2 cabrera’s are better than 1 trout, which is true

Its an individual award, therefore you only have 1 card, whats the card that’s most valuable?

stating the king is more valuable paired is equivalent to giving co-mvps to cabrera/fielder because combined they were more valuable than trouts single performance, which is probably true(haven’t checked the numbers)

Brian
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

This is exactly right, Bradley. If a straight beats a three of a kind, it may be better to be holding a king and a queen than an ace. But all that means is that 5 cards put together are more valuable than 5 other cards put together, which is analogous to the Tigers being better than the Angels. But when asking which single card is the best, it’s still the ace.

Rich Mahogany
Guest
Rich Mahogany
2 years 9 months ago

This is exactly right. Many voters would still consider Cabrera the “best player” because they would overvalue his offensive contributions while undervaluing Trout’s defensive and baserunning contributions.

The vote often comes down to run scoring, particularly RBI. That’s why Morneau won over Jeter and ARod won while on the last-place Rangers. Voters like “production” above all. Since run scoring is team-dependent, it often overlaps with the MVP’s team making the playoffs.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 9 months ago

It also completely discounts baserunning and on base ability, as if driving in runs is the only way to produce runs. So the guys getting on base to be driven had no role in the run production?

KDL
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KDL
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t think any of the folks up-thread are making that argument. I’d assume that each shares your incredulity before I assumed they were “RBI guys”.

lesmash
Member
Member
lesmash
2 years 9 months ago

As Bill James has noted, runs scored is a highly undervalued statistic.

rea
Guest
rea
2 years 9 months ago

It also completely discounts baserunning and on base ability, as if driving in runs is the only way to produce runs

You do know that Cabrera’s OBP was ten points higher than Trout’s, don’t you? Cabrera is very far from a one dimensional RBI producer.

Old School
Guest
Old School
2 years 9 months ago

90% of managers and players believe Miggy should win the MVP….you know, people that have actually played the game.

MustBunique
Member
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Those who have done it, or are doing it should have their opinion count the most is what I get from your comment. I know you’re rabble rousing, but this is the type of thinking that never furthers the progress of anything through new or innovative or even just different ways of thinking about things.

Classic Lynyrd Skynyrd Reference
Guest
Classic Lynyrd Skynyrd Reference
2 years 9 months ago

Alex Rodriguez had a 9-win campaign in 2003. He out-produced everybody in the AL. He should have won the award without question. He was a positive defender, a positive base-runner, and had a .416 wOBA and a 151 wRC+ at a premium position. He was the best player not named Barry Bonds.

2006 was a pretty awful outlier, but it wasn’t as if Jeter was a runaway for the award. Grady Sizemore blew the competition away (7.8 WAR), and Joe Mauer recorded a very productive season as well.

It shouldn’t matter if your team is in last place, or if you’re the “leader” of the New York Yankees, the best player should be awarded.

Jeremy
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Jeremy
2 years 9 months ago

How many OF assists did Trout have last year? His defense is vastly overrated.

Andy
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Andy
2 years 9 months ago

But his offensive WAR alone was greater than Cabrera’s. Not his hitting alone, but his hitting + base-running. So unless you think Cabrera was a better defender than Trout, he still wins.

Scallywag
Guest
Scallywag
2 years 9 months ago

So the problem therein is the voters themselves. What solution would you propose that might alter the outcome opposed here by so many?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 9 months ago

I think this is unfortunately true. Even if the MVP was renamed the “Best player” award and voters were instructed to only consider individual performance, the “If Mike Trout was really so valuable, why didn’t his team win more games” fallacy is still pretty rampant. I don’t understand what they think players are capable of. Do they think a real MVP would turn a 70 win Angels team to a 90 win team singlehandedly? If the Tigers lost Cabrera, would they have been under .500?

Old school
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Old school
2 years 9 months ago

WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!

Old-er school
Guest
Old-er school
2 years 9 months ago

Defense and baserunning! What are they good for: preventing and scoring runs, respectively, thus increasing the chances that your team wins games.

Sorry that didn’t fit with the song.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

Son, talk to me when there exists more than a handful of plays difference over an entire season between terrible fielders and good ones.

I have no problem with WAR, once it’s tweaked for accuracy, anyway: O=80% B=10% D=10%

Old-er school
Guest
Old-er school
2 years 9 months ago

It’s wonderfully convenient that under your formulation, Miguel Cabrera baaaarely edges out Trout by ~1 run. I have no idea how you could have chosen those coefficients. None whatsoever.

If you have a problem with how baserunning or defensive runs are allocated, I suggest you offer some substantive criticism with their formulas, instead of naming a set of weights which just so happens to favor your chosen player. Where did you get those weights? Why did you choose them? If you have a rational basis, I am all ears.

Finally, I’m not your son, and where I come from, calling someone that is a sign of disrespect. So try to keep it classy, troll.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

If the difference between Trout and Cabrera’s offense was just one run Trout would not bat 2nd. His responsibilities are different because he’s a different type of player than Cabrera is. And the voters votes are in: they prefer the big guy.

And don’t talk about patronization while you are trolling “Old school”

JS7
Guest
JS7
2 years 9 months ago

I think it’s fun that the general tenor of the debate has the “spreadsheet crowd” advocating on behalf of the player whose game is more complete and encompasses the “small ball” attributes, while the “it’s about tradition crowd” advocates for the one-dimensional offensive player.

For years, the “traditionalist” knock on the “stat geek” (recognizing that pretty much everyone who is actually employed in the game falls in the space where those two supposedly distinct camps overlap) is that they don’t value the things that make the game great. Like taking the extra base, and cutting off a ball in the gap, and disrupting the pitcher by being an exceptional base-stealer.

I wonder if the stat fans in the pro-Trout camp would be more convincing to people on the other side if they stopped appealing to the authority of the WAR tables and instead resorted to prose.

Drew
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Drew
2 years 9 months ago

Yeah, it’s really weird. Not enough people point out that inconsistency.

Murray Chass says he loves RBI and Wins because he’s old school and likes intangibles… Yet RBI and Wins are among the most tangible statistics.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 9 months ago

That’s because that line is and always has been utter nonsense. In reality, many of these people just aren’t very bright. They use “intangibles” as a way of explaining how a pitcher with a high ERA still has a lot of wins. They use “intangibles” to describe how player A (on a much better team) has more RBI than player B. They’re too dense to understand that these are ridiculous statistics to judge players on, so they just use meaningless terms like “intangibles” to fill in the gaps.

MustBunique
Member
Member
2 years 9 months ago

I agree with your assessment of the analytical skills of these people, but I wouldn’t say they are overall not very bright. Most of these people know exactly what they need to do or write to appeal to the majority of the population and to increase the circulation of their specific media, whether that be rabble-rousing, straw-man-ing, or relying on “intangibles” to create conversation and debate.

BenH
Guest
BenH
2 years 9 months ago

Here’s a solution. If it’s the Rawlings Gold Glove awards, have Home Depot or Lowe’s sponsor the Five Tools award. More money for MLB, too!

Ed
Guest
Ed
2 years 9 months ago

Love it DC

John Elway
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

If only Trout would win the Triple Crown.

Toughest feat in sports, IMHO.

Just neighing……..

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Joke? It’s only hard because there are just 5-10 guys who can realistically get it. You have to the the 3/4 hitter in he lineup of a top offensive team. It’s a mix of talent traits that are hard, environment, and the coincidence that they align.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

In ’10 and ’11 Cano had more TB, more ‘pop’ in his bat than the Yankees 3rd and 4th batters.

Feel free to call Girardi an idiot, but instead you may want to ponder what professional field managers, such as he is, consider the requirements for the position really are.

The set-up
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The set-up
2 years 9 months ago

Is this even funny anymore?

Sarah Jessica Parker
Guest
Sarah Jessica Parker
2 years 9 months ago

NNNEEEEIIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

John Elway
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

^^^^ Reason #1 why I am a Fillies fan.

Warriors
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Warriors
2 years 9 months ago

Ted Williams won the Triple Crown twice but finished second in the MVP voting each time. And I thought batting average and RBIs were overrated stats.

big red machine
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big red machine
2 years 9 months ago

Lou Gehrig had a triple crown .363/.465/.706 (49 HR/165 RBI) year in 1931 and finished 5th(!) in the MVP voting lol

nada
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nada
2 years 9 months ago

very well said.
Here’s to Mike Trout, and kicking ass at your job at a historically impressive level.

Johnhavok
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Johnhavok
2 years 9 months ago

Agree 100%. It’s really sad, but necessary that this conversation happens every year at this time.

John
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John
2 years 9 months ago

I love a nice, calm evisceration.

tz
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tz
2 years 9 months ago

The big issue is the perceived meaning of the award.

Over time, it has become customary to treat this as the “Position Player Contributing the Most to His Team’s Playoff Chances”. This basically rules out pitchers, and stars on non-contenders such as Trout this year.

Unless baseball literally changes the criteria to raw value, not adjusted for the “leverage” of the games each player participated in, we will keep having this same argument every year.

Persona non grata
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Persona non grata
2 years 9 months ago

Which is literally what the article says.

Preston
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Preston
2 years 9 months ago

No, the point of the article is that at some point we will stop caring to have this argument. And the MVP will become an obsolete meaningless award, like the Gold Gloves.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

No, the big issue is exactly how full of themselves is the saber community. Put the vote to all baseball fans and Cabrera wins maybe easier.

the following is so preposterous it’s funny (I actually chuckled):
“Mike Trout, who was the best player in baseball this year and would win this thing in a landslide if voters saw it as the Best Player award”

No, given the numbers the majority of baseball fans would definitely vote for Cabrera.

Go to school
Guest
Go to school
2 years 9 months ago

You need a better hobby.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

Is not the conversation at least progressing? I cannot foresee a player like Ryan Howard garnering twelve 1st place votes again like he did in 2008, when he was 5th best position player according to WAR (2.7) on his own team.

Big Toucan
Member
Big Toucan
2 years 9 months ago

So basically the award is no longer serving its intended purpose, and exists only to define which player most meets the standards previously set by the award.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 9 months ago

The problem is more that the “intended purpose” was not very clearly defined. I see little reason why we can’t have a MVP and a most oustanding player award. The NHL does it with the Hart trophy and Ted Lindsay award. Last year Ovechkin was MVP, but Crosby (who missed a big chunk of games) was the Lindsay winner for most outstanding player. There is merit in an award for both things.

Blueyays
Member
Member
Blueyays
1 year 8 months ago

I think the point of having those two awards is to have one voted on by the media and one (Lindsay) by the players. I think that’s the real difference there.

Matthew
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Matthew
2 years 9 months ago

What I love is that Trout being on a team that didn’t make the playoffs (not even a “worse” team, since the Angels had a better record last year) means his contributions and performance weren’t “valuable.” The Angels still competed and had a massive impact on the landscape of baseball both this season and last, regardless of if they themselves made it to the post-season. Mike Trout’s other-worldly performances have an impact, and any team that played the Angels would have been impacted by his presence or lack-there-of. As far as I’m concerned the award has already lost too much credibility, especially since defense and base-running apparently don’t matter at all as long as the guy hit a few more home runs.

Harry
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Harry
2 years 9 months ago

one could argue that w/o Trout the Angels are not playoff team and with Trout the Angels are not a playoff team, so what value did he actually provide? If the point of playing in the regular season is for a team to make the playoffs, then his value is 0, bc they didnt make the playoffs.

While I do not agree with that line of thinking, Ive seen/heard it used before.

paperlions
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paperlions
2 years 9 months ago

Last year, one could have correctly argued that with Cabrera Detroit was a playoff team and without him they would still have been a playoff team.

This year, one could correctly argue that without any one of Scherzer, Jackson, Cabrera, or Sanchez the Tigers would have missed the playoffs….so…which was the “valuable” one?

Eric F
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Eric F
2 years 9 months ago

The argument could also be made that even without Cabrera, the Tigers are still most likely a playoff team. They had an unbelievable rotation and played in one of the weakest divisions in baseball, so I could easily see them making the playoffs with a replacement level player instead of Cabrera. Therefore, does that make him less valuable since his team didn’t need him to make the playoffs?

Well Bearded Vogon
Guest
Well Bearded Vogon
2 years 9 months ago

If the Tigers replaced Cabrera with Trout in 2012 or 2013, they would likely have won the World Series in that year. They didn’t, though, and they didn’t win either World Series.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 9 months ago

I agree that Trout has been the best player on the planet in each of the last two years, but that overstates the case a bit. No single player is likely to single-handedly swing a playoff series. Short playoff series are a near-total crapshoot, with or without Subway sammich-eatin’ Mike Trout.

Brett
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Brett
2 years 9 months ago

Well Bearded Vogon, Cabrera had a 122 wRC+ in the 2012 WS, so it’s not like you could expect Trout to have played much better. Even when you add in Trout’s baserunning and fielding, that’s not enough to swing it from a Giants sweep to a Tigers win.

The only difference with Trout is that maybe he would have gone down swinging. Romo!

Matthew
Guest
Matthew
2 years 9 months ago

You’re missing my point. It doesn’t matter if the Angels make the playoffs or not; Trout’s performance doesn’t just affect the Angels, it affects every team that comes into contact with the Angels. His performance has “value,” who cares if it was for a losing cause in and of itself. It’s fruitless to speculate how a team would be with or without a player because you don’t really know what their replacement would do in any given situation.

And for my own two cents no one really cares about and this was already argued to death last year, too: a player’s performance should be evaluated based on all categories. Trout is a better all around player and is noticeably better in two of them. This year, he played more games, accumulated more plate appearances and made up for the noticeable but not shattering discrepancy in offensive output with superior defense and way superior base-running.

Tigerdog1
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

And Cabrera’s contribution “to his team” was more valuable because of the impact that it had on the team. That’s the definition of the award and how it has always been interpreted by the voters of the BBWAA.

The point of baseball is not to isolate individual performances, but to win a championship.

That is not to say that other players don’t provide value. Nobody has argued that.

Bryan
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

If the only point of playing the regular season is for a team to make the playoffs, why don’t the bad teams stop playing once they’re eliminated, mathematically or logically? Why have the Astros fielded a team the last few years?

Oldest school
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Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

His contributions were less valuable because his team sucked. Because that team sucked he was walked 39% more times than his prior year, leading to 15% less chances for him to do something valuable.

It certainly wasn’t his fault but, it ain’t rocket science kids!

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 9 months ago

Well done.

Mike Jones
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Mike Jones
2 years 9 months ago

Personally, I’d like to see the criteria spelled out as “if you were starting a league from scratch and could guarantee that every player would perform exactly as they did last year, which player would you choose with the #1 pick?” To me, that captures the essence of “most valuable” without any of this “to his team” nonsense and gets rid of the “do pitchers count” question.

dl80
Guest
dl80
2 years 9 months ago

Totally agree.

I play in a 24-team replay league using Diamond Mind. If you asked all of our owners who they would pick 1st if we were doing a one-year non-keeper season (we actually do a dynasty), everyone would pick Trout. It’s a much better way of thinking about the award.

Not An Angels Fan
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Not An Angels Fan
2 years 9 months ago

I bet Trout would be picked first in any dynasty league too, for that matter.

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
2 years 9 months ago

Wouldn’t that just rule out old players who you would never take because even if they repeat next year they will be declining or retiring soon?

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

so you’d include the additional qualification that this hypothetical league only runs for one year.

Perhaps a better way to say it might be this: if we went back in time to the beginning of the year, knowing that players would repeat their performance exactly as it actually occurred, and you were allowed to select players in a sequential draft-like format (all salaries being equal) in which you had the first pick, which player would you choose to start your team with?

Given this format, who wouldn’t choose Mike Trout?

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

Just make it retrospective. You are building a team based on one season’s (this last one) performance.

Incidentally, this thought experiment is exactly what WAR is about. Everyone uses WAR in answering this question; they just don’t make their personal formula explicit.

6 since 2000
Guest
6 since 2000
2 years 9 months ago

You’d also have to include the qualifier that salaries are eqaul for the entire league…

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

The most assenine thing to me about the “how valuable is trout if his team wouldn’t make the playoffs either way” is that you are being anal about value without fully doing it. Mike Trout makes 1/40th what Cabrera makes, so if we really want to dissect the word “value” it’s trout in a landslide.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 9 months ago

Financially it’s not that simple. The Revenues could vary similarly. Perhaps the tigers make 40 M $ from having Cabrera (all sources included). The Angels might make 15 M $. I’m not saying that’s the case, but a simple evaluation of talent vs. salary doesn’t express value.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Unless Miguel Cabrera generates 40 times the value (which he sure as hell doesn’t) then Trout is more valuable if we’re dissecting the word “value”

yf223
Guest
yf223
2 years 9 months ago

Wrong. That definition of value only works if numerous replicas of Trout and Cabrera exist and are readily available. Because there’s only one of each, you consider surplus.

Imagine you can choose between two investments- one where you pay $1 today and get back $2 tomorrow, and another where you pay $1,000,000 today and get back $1,999,999 tomorrow. Both have 100% certainty. By your logic, the first would have more value, because the second costs a million times the first, and doesn’t generate a million times the return of the first.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

What are you talking about? If I’m selling you a car and I give you two options and they’re both similar but one costs 1/40th, the one that costs 1/40th gives you more value.

Your stock analogy is faulty because both trout and Cabrera return about he same. So it’s more like both stocks will hit he same end price but one starts out at 1/40th.

yf223
Guest
yf223
2 years 9 months ago

You clearly stated that Trout is more valuable unless Cabrera generates 40 times the value of Trout.

LTG
Guest
LTG
2 years 9 months ago

I’m sure there’s a coherent concept, let’s call it ‘schmalue’, that includes the contributions a player makes to a successful-on-the-field team in a given year and excludes the contributions that player makes to the team’s financial bottom line. Moreover, schmalue looks like a version of value, a refined conception of the general concept. We can be anal about value and not consider fiduciary matters. We’re just using different anuses.

Not that I’m advocating that the ‘V’ in ‘MVP’ should be ‘schmalue’.

jessef
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

doesn’t the fact that you have to create a new term for “schmalue” suggest that you’re arguing a point that makes no sense?

The BBWAA members who are voting Cabrera make the claim that it’s because he’s more “valuable” to his team rather than because he’s the best player. AB’s point above is that he’s not actually anywhere near as “valuable” when you consider the actual definition of the word. You’re somehow arguing that’s not true by creating a new word that has a significantly different definition than the word “valuable”?

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

This post is hilarious given what Trout’s team has done with the hypothetical savings of owning him instead of Cabrera! Seriously, money has no place in this discussion.

jeff schwitzer
Guest
jeff schwitzer
2 years 9 months ago

I play a lot of golf, when i am playing casually i tend to score well. When i play in tournaments with pressure i dont play nearly as well. Is it possible that this is part of the reason the award is normally given to guys on winning teams? You camt tell how good a player is unless he does it with PRESSURE. Maybe Trout and Cabrera can join me at my next tourney?

Josh
Guest
Josh
2 years 9 months ago

I didn’t realize you were a professional. The people like you who buckle under pressure are weeded out in high school, college and the minors. If you can’t perform in front of a crowd in a big game you won’t make it to the majors.

Rick Ankiel
Guest
Rick Ankiel
2 years 9 months ago

Hey there, man. You might want to think about that for a second.

Zack Greinke
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Guess the Dodgers shouldn’t have given me that contract, then, huh?

Donnie Moore
Guest
Donnie Moore
2 years 9 months ago

You guys are killing me.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
2 years 9 months ago

Josh, I’ve read that line of thinking before and it’s simply not true. Some people can make it to the big leagues based on their talent, and they can still be held back due to mental issues. Greinke went through a period where he dealt with anxiety. Lucas Duda has clear confidence issues that limit him as a player – but he wasn’t weeded out in HS, college or the minors. Not everybody has the same emotional frame of mind.

Naliamegod
Guest
Naliamegod
2 years 9 months ago

Greinke’s problems had little to do with baseball (he was actually quiet an arrogant SOB when he came up originally) but mostly dealing with dealing with the fact he didn’t have freedom as an adult that he did as a younger student. He would have had the same problems if he did any other career.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Jeff that’s really shitty logic. Baseball is a team sport. So instead, let’s pretend you are on a team scored golf tournament. In situation 1, your teammates are tiger woods and Phil Michelson. In situation 2, they’re me and Charles Barkley. In which one is more pressure on you?

Put the Tigers starting rotation on the Angels and the Angels on the Tigers. Trout has more pressure because he’s by far the best player on his team with no support. If Cabrera goes 0-4, maybe fatass hits a 3 run HR and Scherzer pitches a shutout. Trout can be 3-3 with a home run, 2 steals, and rob a home run and still come up in the 9th and have to get a big hit.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 9 months ago

While it might not be the winning team, being with you and Sir Charles sounds like where the party is at.

Full Disclosure: I have only played mini-golf. Do you think that will be a problem? Should I be matched up with Tiger or Michelson?

Go to school
Guest
Go to school
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t think you can equate “pressure” with “expectation” or “responsibility” like that.

Naliamegod
Guest
Naliamegod
2 years 9 months ago

I think Joe Posnanski had the best counterargument for this: There is a crapload of pressure for those who aren’t winning either. Nothing can kill a player’s desire or confidence more than playing a season where they know they will go nowhere.

fromthemachine
Guest
fromthemachine
2 years 9 months ago

I call it the ESPN effect. More and more awards go to ‘biggest star’ rather than ‘best candidate.’ It’s really sad that in recent years this has even leaked into Hall of Fame voting.

What do you call a home run, a steal, and a walk in the same game? That’s a Mike Trout hat trick.

Snow Leopard
Guest
Snow Leopard
2 years 9 months ago

I imagine that part of it also is a “wait your turn, kid” issue.

Miggy was in the majors, putting up a bunch of 5-6 WAR seasons, for eight full seasons before earning his first MVP. He’s thirty now, and the (conscious or unconscious) understanding may be that his decline phase will start next season or so, and these may be his only two MVP-ish seasons in a HoF career.

Meanwhile, Trout is still 21. Nothing is certain, of course, but if we assume that he has room for improvement and growth, then it’s easy to imagine five or six MVPs waiting for him.

So, “valuable to winning a playoff berth” may be one distorting factor from a pure and simple “best player in the league” question, but so also may be “lifetime achievement recognition”. (I do not endorse this thinking, but it does seem to me to be something voters consider)

BVHeck
Guest
BVHeck
2 years 9 months ago

RIP, MVP award.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

Yep, because the entirety of fans care what the .001% think

Helladecimal
Guest
Helladecimal
2 years 9 months ago

While this could be a likely scenario, it would be repeating the same problem. By the time he hits 30, Trout would invariably lose footspeed and fielding ability, meaning he would win an MVP based on his batting prowess.

The whole idea here is not that Trout will eventually win an MVP; it’s that he should have won two in a row for being excellent in every phase of the game.

triple_r
Member
2 years 9 months ago

explaining why his teammates inferiority

I believe there should be an apostrophe somewhere in there.

grammar police
Guest
grammar police
2 years 9 months ago

He added one, but in the wrong place.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
2 years 9 months ago

Cheryl Spielvogel (Citizen’s Bank Park) is easily the Peanut Vendor of the Year. There is no one that could compare… that’s why they don’t have an award for it.

PEEEEEEEA-nuts!!!

Rivercats Fan
Guest
Rivercats Fan
2 years 9 months ago

I would nominate the Churro Dude at Raley Field myself.

goateesonly
Guest
goateesonly
2 years 9 months ago

The “KET-TUL CORN!” guy at AT&T/O.co

dose17
Member
dose17
2 years 9 months ago

This was excellent. A calm, calculated dismembering of an award that has lost a lot of its credibility in the past 2 years for me.

Peter S.
Guest
Peter S.
2 years 9 months ago

I think we can distill this essay down a bit:

“Because I don’t agree with the winner, the award seems to have less credibility.”

Is Most Valuable subjective? Yes. Try as we might to shoehorn it into whatever statistical framework we want, you can’t get away from that. People have disagreed for decades on who was most valuable – and those disagreements have involved statistics and other measures. I think that would happen regardless of whether it was “Most Valuable” or “Best Player” or whatever.

MVP is not losing credibility. It’s actually a more entertaining discussion than ever.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Nicely said Peter.

Dan
Guest
Dan
2 years 9 months ago

I disagree. There’s not much entertainment in a discussion that goes nowhere. Count me among those who already don’t care about the award.

Peter S.
Guest
Peter S.
2 years 9 months ago

I appreciate that, Dan. But I wonder if that’s because you’ve already settled on how Most Valuable should be measured, and you feel the award doesn’t share what you value most.

What’s entertaining to me – and this the “more than ever” part I mentioned – is that we’re really examining what greatness is. It’s not just HR and RBI any more. But it’s never going to be just WAR, either. It’s becoming a better blend of statistics and subjectivity. I like that. Then again, I still believe in hot streaks.

olethros
Guest
olethros
2 years 9 months ago

Everybody believes in hot streaks. They’re an observed fact. What no one rational believes is that players have a mystical ability to decide they want to have a hot streak, or a cold streak, at any given point. Sometimes you hit ’em where they ain’t, and sometimes the bar eats you.

rogue_actuary
Member
Member
rogue_actuary
2 years 9 months ago

Hot streaks are only observable after the fact. Nothing about a hot streak has predictive value.

In this case, the problematic heuristic is something like survivor bias (I think). We only become aware of “streaks” when they reach some tipping point of public interest.

People have a really hard time with 1a) randomness, and 1b) things they don’t understand. The result is the ascription of some arbitrary meaning. It’s why we have religions. And Ryan Howard racking up the highest MVP points per WAR in history.

Phil
Guest
Phil
2 years 9 months ago

“People have a really hard time with 1a) randomness, and 1b) things they don’t understand.” – A bit pretentious, no?

And Peter, your response to Dan was right on. Our bias will always put us on one side or another of a debate. To say that there is no debate seems pretty closed minded, imo.

BJsworld
Guest
BJsworld
2 years 9 months ago

What’s entertaining about the MVP being handed out to inferior players?

Is the Gold Glove (as Dave cited) more entertaining because the voters use fielding %, errors and reputation as the primary means for actually determining who is the best defender? I’d find it much more entertaining if they actually just picked the best defender.

The award needs to be clearly defined. If the MVP is only eligible to go to a player who performed really well on a playoff bound team that’s fine. We should just come out and say it (and rename the award). As it stands there is far too much latitude. And if you ask most fans (not guys that read this blog) they would assume that the MVP is going to the best player in the league.

Peter S.
Guest
Peter S.
2 years 9 months ago

Well, maybe it is.

Brad
Guest
Brad
2 years 9 months ago

Thanks for your comments, Peter. I found them quite insightful.

Guest
Guest
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Yo BJ, go call Miguel Cabrera an inferior player to his face.

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 9 months ago

Great reasoning, so Milton Bradley should have won the MVP every year he was in the league because he was most likely to beat your ass if you called him an inferior player to his face?

That Guy
Guest
That Guy
2 years 9 months ago

No Preston. He was suggesting that he should get the contact high from the BAC by standing directly in Cabrera’s face.

Lenard
Member
Member
Lenard
2 years 9 months ago

Just to be on the safe side, I voted for Kyle Farnsworth for every award.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 9 months ago

Not buying this argument.

At least with the Hall of Fame, you can make the argument that “fame” is a legitimate component of who gets in or not.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

Fittingly, the year I most disagreed with the MVP was when Verlander won it and the saber community loved it.

Should have been Ellsbury in a landslide but, nope, the lessor WAR in this case was better.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Nice article Dave. It looks as if many, most of you want simply to look upper right…..most war wins. Dave and the rest at FG I’m sure would disagree with this. The sabermetrics just aren’t accurate enough yet. They may never be on the fielding and speed side. I don’t think age or experience has anything to do with it. Trout does not have to earn it through experience. And Cabrera did hit more than just a few more home runs. The general public…..and I’m sure the BBWAA still dig the long ball, the meat and potatoes. Offense will most assuredly dominate the MVP voting for the foreseeable future. Good job Mike Trout. And good job Miggy Cabrera. Both are truly playing at levels we seldom see. And I’m quite satisfied with Cabrera winning the MVP.

BJsworld
Guest
BJsworld
2 years 9 months ago

1. WAR isn’t the only statistic that should be considered.
2. We can absolutely quantify the value of a HR vs other offensive contributions so that the value of a HR isn’t overstated. This isn’t magic – it’s math.
3. We have awards designed to honor only the offensive side of the game. To say that the Most Valuable Player should exclude defense, position, and baserunning is beyond silly. MVP is about the entire performance and contribution of a player.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Are you trying to insult me or what I wrote BJ? I don’t know why you think anything I wrote implied magic. Someone above mentioned that Cabrera had a few more home runs than Trout. It wasn’t just a few. Seventeen is very significant. And there are only a few metrics out there used for fip or xfip or xera. And home runs are used significantly. Limit home runs and strike out batters and you limit your runs allowed. Or that anything I wrote dismissed defense and baserunning. First off, offense (hitting) is the major number in WAR. And the general public AND the BBWAA still value this higher than defense and baserunning. That is neither silly or magic. I can’t prove it as fact. But it’s close without being able to calculate it. Sullivan has a nice article tonight that gives an opinion that things are changing a little. I agree. But it ain’t changing fast and offense and the home run will rule for quite some time. And that ain’t magic.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 9 months ago

No, he’s pointing out that the things you are saying are factually incorrect.

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 9 months ago

“First off, offense (hitting) is the major number in WAR.”

You’ve already erred in equating offense with hitting. Offense includes base-running. And that is a vital distinction to make here, because while Cabrera was definitely a better hitter than Trout this year, Trout was a better offensive player. The stats clearly bear out both of these claims.

Offense is not just about getting on base. It’s also about advancing when you are on base. Because advancing also increasing the probability of runs. Not just base stealing, but going from first to third on a single, scoring on medium deep fly balls, and so on.

To repeat: Trout was a better offensive player than Cabrera. Throw out the defensive differences, don’t consider them at all, and he still was better.

“And the general public AND the BBWAA still value [hitting] higher than defense and baserunning. That is neither silly or magic.”

Yes, hitting is valued more than either base-running or defense. And none of this changes the argument that Trout was a better player. Trout’s superior defense and base-running is what makes his overall value greater than Cabrera’s. Most people, I think, understand this argument that sabers make. But the other argument, that is often lost, is that Trout’s excellent hitting makes him more valuable than other players with better base-running and defense.

E.g., the stats say that Jacoby Ellsbury was a much better defensive CF than Trout this past year, and also a significantly better base-runner. But Trout was a better hitter, and because hitting counts for so much more, comes out on top easily overall.

Base-running and deefense is what makes Trout more valuable than Cabrera. Hitting is what makes Trout more valuable than Ellsbury and several other CFers who were better defensively.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Thank you Andy. That was what I asked for and polite. I kept on wondering what was wrong with what I wrote. OFFENSE, OFFENSE, OFFENSE!!! Bad choice of words there. Let me please sum up where I wanted to go with that because only a little was my thoughts.
1. Someone above stated that Trout needed somehow to earn the MVP through experience/years in the league. I disagree with that.
2. Someone above stated that Cabrera hit a few more home runs than Trout. I think we all disagree with that.
3. Offense (specifically hitting) will dominate the MVP voting for a long time still. I’m not saying it should. The general public and most specifically the BBWAA value that, or seem to value that the most. My guess is most of you will agree with that statement.
4. Most FG readers, and probably many writers simply want to look at the statistics (specifically WAR) and decide on the MVP. WAR isn’t complete and isn’t accurate enough (especially on the fielding side) to make these distinctions. If you read ALL of these posts (I haven’t), you will see it asked many times for some definition or specific rules to decide on the MVP (that’s a terrible sentence). My opinion is that whittles down to, give me the data (WAR) and I will agree with your choice.
Good job, Cabrera AND Trout. I don’t think it’s a travesty that Miggy won this. And adding just one more sentence, it doesn’t somehow diminish the award at all in my opinion.
Thanks again Andy. And BJ. I hope this makes my thoughts a little less silly or magical. I was a little insulted by those words.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

What things are factually incorrect Simon? Please teach me. Like many others here, I am stating my opinion. I’m just not certain how you can prove them as incorrect with any facts. And I don’t think my thoughts are silly or imply any magic.

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 9 months ago

I think the only factually incorrect remark you made was equating offense with hitting. I might not call it magic, but you move from correct premises to insubstantiated conclusions by ignoring some important facts.

E.g., you note that Cabrera had a lot more HRs than Trout. True. But Trout had more extra base hits, and walked more (limit your walks and you also limit runs scored), so his wOBA, e.g., was not that much less than Cabrera’s. That and other stats indicate that Cabrera’s edge as a hitter, while unquestionable, was not huge.

You also note that hitting is considered more important then base-running and defense. Again, this is true. But it doesn’t follow that someone who is a better hitter is a better player. It depends on the margin in each of those categories. The margin between Cabrera and Trout in hitting was rather small. The margins in base-running and defense were much larger. It is these large margins in less weighted categories that overcome the relatively small margin in a more weighted category.

Roger
Guest
Roger
2 years 9 months ago

Ironically, the actual (not figurative) had some head scratching MVP vote omissions as well. And by and large Willie Mays’ MVP vote tallies from 1955-1965 were mostly just some variation of bizarre. I don’t really think what Dave’s describing here is a particular new, changing, or diminishing really at all sadly. Which is why I’ve never thought post season awards were important, or worth sussing about really. They’re at best a sort of pop culture snapshot of a baseball season, possibly taken at random by a camera no one much bothered to frame up. Like the Oscars (which have a tendency to honor howlingly awful examples of the industry’s work), their only true value is keeping the sport in the spotlight and that all the debates, whether intelligent or not, do quite well.

Roger
Guest
Roger
2 years 9 months ago

Sorry, first line meant to say “actual (not figurative) Mickey Mantle…

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 9 months ago

In previous generations people didn’t have access to the information they currently do, so the writers antiquated arguments made sense to people. Now it’s pretty obvious to anyone that cares to see that the voters are getting it wrong.

Carl
Guest
Carl
2 years 9 months ago

The difference in the 2 player’s WAR is their respective parks. Before park effects, they’re basically the same player w Cabrera having slight difference. However, w Pujols and Hamilton having awful seasons, (Pujols for 2 in a row) the park adjustment favors Trout. Of course, if the Angels scored more runs, then the park impact would decline and the team’s place in the standings would rise.

BJsworld
Guest
BJsworld
2 years 9 months ago

Sorry but no. Park factors do not account for nearly the 3 WAR difference between Trout and Cabrera.

Teej
Guest
Teej
2 years 9 months ago

That’s not how park effects work.

Brendan
Guest
Brendan
2 years 9 months ago

“The BBWAA needs to give Mike Trout an award that recognizes his historic performances more than Mike Trout needs an award to validate what he’s actually accomplished”

Amen

jpg
Guest
jpg
2 years 9 months ago

There is a problem and a problem within the problem. The problem is that the award has historically been given to the best hitter on a playoff with all other factors like defense and base running being largely ignored. If that were the only issue I think people would be more accepting. The problem within is that the writers still pick the wrong guy even using “best hitter on a playoff team” as the criteria, which should narrow the vote. Whether it’s Juan Gonzalez winning two MVP awards in years where he wasn’t even the best hitter on his own team, Vaughn over Belle, Gibson over Strawberry, Pedroia’s MVP, these past two Cabrera MVP awards and countless others…These writers can’t even follow their own interpretation of what they think the award should mean. That’s what kills me.

Troy
Guest
Troy
2 years 9 months ago

Not sure Pedroia’s MVP is actually a “problem”… he was second in the AL in WAR with 6.5 to sizemore who had 7.2, which is a narrow enough gap that you could very reasonably argue that team success should play some minor role in the vote (sox won 14 more games than the indians). Now, when the gap between two players is THREE wins, we’re talking an egregious error, but less than one win is such a small difference that you can make a rational argument for either player (especially since WAR is influenced by one-year defensive flukes and BABIP luck).

KDL
Guest
KDL
2 years 9 months ago

How much of Pedroia’s WAR was defense and baserunning related? The OPs point was…even if we assume the writers are only using offense…even THEN they get it wrong. In which case, Pedroia is a good example of that particular point.

jpg
Guest
jpg
2 years 9 months ago

Exactly what KDL said. I wasn’t challenging Pedroia’s merits as MVP. My point was that Pedroia’s candidacy didn’t meet the criteria that most writers use. That the big bat/good team approach is applied at best inconsistently and at worst selectively. For that reason, it’s hard to fathom how a writer could have voted for Pedroia one year and not vote for Trout a few years later if their voting based on set ideals of what an MVP should be. The mistake I made was some of the examples I used were controversial then – namely Vaughn/Belle and Strawberry/Gibson – and, in hindsight, now as well. So I can see why Troy took it that way.

Troy
Guest
Troy
2 years 9 months ago

Good points. The BBWAA has been horribly inconsistent. It seems to me if anything they gravitate towards narrative and/or historical achievement (i.e. Triple Crown), or failing that, just pick the guy who blew everyone else away in a particular hitting category (for instance juan gone’s RBIs). Pedroia’s win seems like a case of picking a scrappy guy who “plays the game the right way” and “gets his jersey dirty” on an excellent team that had recently won a title. There’s no way to predict what will catch their fancy but you’re right that it’s very confusing that Pedey won in large part due to his defense while Cabrera doesn’t get punished for his atrocious defense.

Alby
Guest
Alby
2 years 9 months ago

As this comment illustrates, the writers have given the MVP to the “wrong” player many times over many years. Why should we be especially worked up now over Mike Trout?

Phil
Guest
Phil
2 years 9 months ago

It sparks interest in Baseball which is in it’s offseason from people who are serious and casual baseball fans. MLB wins regardless of who MVP is.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

Why are you assuming anyone is “especially worked up”?

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

I’m not worked up. I agree with the MVP choice this year.

EricR
Guest
EricR
2 years 9 months ago

Gibson had a higher bWAR and fWAR than Strawberry. The only thing controversial about that is Will Clark and Brett Butler should have been just as much in the discussion.

Mr Punch
Guest
Mr Punch
2 years 9 months ago

But … for many years there were two widely-recognized awards, MVP (BBWA) and Player of the Year (Sporting News – for all I know this still exists, but you never hear about it). The latter was the award you’re calling for. As it turned out, fans didn’t care all that much. By the way, it used to be possible to win the Triple Crown and by POTY but not MVP; ask Ted Williams when he thaws out.

Troy
Guest
Troy
2 years 9 months ago

I agreed generally with Dave, but my problem is, what is the point of the MVP if every year we just hand it to the player with the most WAR? I’m not sure that’s a great process – highest WAR equals auto MVP win? Don’t get me wrong, I love WAR (even though its not a perfect stat and needs improvement – in particular the DH penalty seems excessive and I’d like to give hitters some credit for sequencing), but is it really the ONLY method of comparative player evaluation? It’s silly to make team success such a big part of the MVP conversation, but isn’t there some room for subjective judgement apart from sabermetric analysis?

ssj316
Guest
ssj316
2 years 9 months ago

But that’s the thing. Nobody’s saying that we should give the MVP to the player with the highest WAR. People use WAR (or rather, the difference in WAR) to summarize just how much better Trout is than Cabrera. Even if you remove “WAR” from your lexicon, the argument should be “who produced the most value with the bat, on defense, and on the basepaths?” Because ALL those things contribute to player value. I would never say to anyone “Trout should win the MVP over Cabrera because he has more WAR,” I would say “Trout should win the MVP over Cabrera because he’s nearly as good with the bat, but is leagues ahead in defense and baserunning.”

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t disagree with anything Dave said, but do wish to point out a bit of an oddity. Not only did Cabrera win the Triple Crown, but he also won the slash line triple crown. Nonetheless, Trout created more runs with his bat alone because he had an additional 64 PAs.

Nonetheless, I don’t think that the writers would have any difficulty with the vote if Cabrera had played for the Twins and driven in 25 fewer runs. They would have recognized that Trout’s durability and baserunning and fielding prowess far outweighed Cabrera’s superiority with the bat.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
2 years 9 months ago

Ray Schalk is in the HOF because he was a “valuable” player. (he even got almost as many HOF votes one year as Rogers Hornsby) “Valuable” is subjective and always will be, no matter how objective you try to make it.
Having a objective argument every year on a subjective award is pointless.

Milli Vanilli
Guest
Milli Vanilli
2 years 9 months ago

This. Grammy-worthy comment.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

By that standard, virtually everything ever posted here is pointless. Pointing that out is pointless.

That’s a bad standard. Having objective arguments about subjective awards not only has a point, it is literally inevitable.

Old School
Guest
Old School
2 years 9 months ago

Bottom of the ninth, down one run, two outs – give me Miggy over anyone else on this planet.

Warriors
Guest
Warriors
2 years 9 months ago

Why stop at games? Why not consider only the hitter’s contribution in innings in which the team scored? Heck, we can go even farther than that. Let’s consider only the hitter’s contribution on plays in which runs scored. Conveniently we already have a stat for that, and it must be the ultimate sabermetric stat for evaluating MVPs, right?

Here’s the leaderboard.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 9 months ago

Because this is the only situation that ever occurs in baseball, right?

Los
Guest
Los
2 years 9 months ago

Bottom of the ninth down 1 with a runner on first, I want that runner to be Trout over Miggy any time.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

Deep fly ball to centerfield! It’s going, it’s going, it’s gone! No – wait! Trout brought it back! It’s an out! Game over. Tigers lose. Trout wins the game. With defense.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

There you go. Inarguable (although they’ll try)

Rippers
Guest
Rippers
2 years 9 months ago

I love Angels’ scout Greg Morhart’s initial report on Trout, when he was 17: “Best athlete. Best player in the world—period. Best player on the planet.”

JS7
Guest
JS7
2 years 9 months ago

Does anyone else wish Mike Trout would refer to Mike Trout as Ricky Henderson referred to Ricky Henderson? “Mike Trout is the greatest of all time.”, Mike Trout. I’d love to see that quote.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
2 years 9 months ago

No. never. that was so annoying.

the fume
Guest
the fume
2 years 9 months ago

Hey, at least Cabrera beat Trout in WPA this year.

By 2!

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 9 months ago

Don’t understand why people have trouble understanding the difference between MVP and Best Player (Cy Young is best pitcher award.)

Value is subjective. For a person dying of thirst in the middle of the desert a bottle of water is more valuable than 1000 dollars, while the opposite is true in the city. Cabrera was more valuable to his team than a better player like Trout may have been to his own team. Have to think a bit more to come to his conclusion, and some if its subjective, but that makes it more interesting than spitting out a list ranked by WAR

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

you’re arguing that value is context-dependent, not that it’s subjective. There’s a difference. For instance, in your argument, it would be possible to calculate the value of water to the man dying of thirst in the desert; it would be a different value than for a man sitting beside a river, but in both cases the value would be calculable.

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

Rather, your *example is an argument for context dependence. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth.

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 9 months ago

Yes, and as soon as we recognize context-dependence, we are admitting that the award is not actually individual. It should go also to Miggy’s teammates, without whom the Tigers would not have made the postseason.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

No one has trouble understanding it. It’s amusing that you’ve had some trouble understanding that.

MGL
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

(something ornery)

PackBob
Guest
PackBob
2 years 9 months ago

In many ways it’s the “Most Valuable Player Contributing to a Sportswriter’s Daily Grind Award.”

If Cabrera takes advantage of opportunities that the Tigers as a team create to contribute to a win, that’s a story. If Trout hits lights out, runs down flies, and steals bases, but the Angels lose anyway, there’s no story there (even if there should be). Simplification, but writers can’t resist a slam-dunk story.

Duncan McElroy
Guest
Duncan McElroy
2 years 9 months ago

What a crazy world we live in when a league MVP’s play is considered to be so valuable on the field that he is pulled late in a playoff game for a defensive substitution. In essence saying the team is better with him not on the field.

Phil
Guest
Phil
2 years 9 months ago

Crazy that he was hurt throughout the last month of the season and it gave his team the best chance to win by making the sub. It’s not all about Defense, you know?

Duncan McElroy
Guest
Duncan McElroy
2 years 9 months ago

No but it is half.

40/40club
Member
40/40club
2 years 9 months ago

” We honor the best rookie, and the best pitcher, and the best manager, but we have nothing to honor the best player?”

You make it seem as if these awards are actually given to the most deserving person in each of these awards. Yet in 2009, there was a legitimate case against both Bailey and Coghlan (in favour of Elvis Andrus & Andrew McCutchen).

And as far as best manager, it always goes to a manager of a playoff team. Yet if Bo Porter had expertly managed the bullpen, pinch hitting, defensive replacements and rotation, leading the Astros to an 80 win season, I would think he would have been most deserving. Yet a manager not in the playoffs (let alone without a losing record) will NEVER win the award ( and as far as I’m concerned, if Joe Maddon doesn’t win every year, then it’s not the right pick).

Also, Cy Young award was also pretty skewed (Bartolo Calon over Johan Santana in 2005), though the weight placed on Pitcher wins has definitely been looked at a lot less since King Felix won in 2010.

Just sayin..

jessef
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

You missed the point of the article. It doesn’t matter whether the award always goes to the best candidate; it would be impossible to weight candidates against one another in such a way to do that.

Rookie of the Year awards almost always pit some rookies that played a full season against others who didn’t. Depending on how you value rate stats vs. counting stats, etc., you’re going to end up with different answers. Similarly, in the case of the Cy Young Award, you often have one pitcher who compiled better rate stats in 190 or 200 IP against a workhorse who didn’t save as many runs per inning but who managed to pitch 230 innings. Should a pitcher’s own defensive contributions be included in the Cy Young voting? Which pitcher saved more runs is very much a case of bullpen.

Best manager awards, again, it’s impossible to make a definitive decision of who the best manager was.

The point of the article wasn’t that those awards are perfect. It’s that they’re purported to be given on the basis of who is the best. The Cy Young Award often goes to the pitcher with the most wins but the voters gives it to him on the (albeit asinine) argument that the pitcher with the most wins was the “best”. The MVP voters make no such claim and, in fact, often admit that they are not voting for the best player.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

Yeah, NO. The reason BBWAA and saber agreed on Felix that year is because, amongst a very weak field, he led the league in K’s. Saber thinks that’s extremely special because they refuse to accept batted ball data as anything but luck on a good pitchers part. So BBWAA got it more right because Feliz over two lightweights was an easy decision.

mangraphs
Member
mangraphs
2 years 9 months ago

Sportscenter chooses the mvp before the season is over in MLB, NBA, and NFL

Bill Peper
Guest
Bill Peper
2 years 9 months ago

The assessment of who should win the MVP for the American League this year is a Mary Ann/Ginger debate. Last year, I would have voted for Trout, this year Cabrera.The assertion that Trout clearly had a better year or that only neanderthals who don’t understand baseball could vote for Cabrera is absurd. The players voted Cabrera MVP as well. They don’t understand either?

Mike Trout had 81 “high-leverage” at bats in 2013. I feel comfortable in saying that those at bats (more than 11% of his total) were the most important to his team’s success in 2013, and that his performance in those at bats is a critical factor in determining his value to his team and MVP consideration. In those 81 at bats, he had ONE extra-base hit, a double. His slugging percentage in those at bats was a staggering .290 — less than one would expect from a decent-hitting pitcher. His OPS for those at bats was .710. Yikes. When the game was on the line, he did not perform like an MVP. Does that matter?

Are there statistics from this year that show that Trout played well defensively? If so, I cannot find them. Trout had ZERO assists this year, the only outfielder who qualified statistically who did not get one. Yikes. His DRS was -9, tied for 53/62 among outfielders. Yikes. His UZR/150 for 2013 was 29/62. Is that spectacular? Is UZR determinative as it is the proxy used in the WAR calculation? Does it matter that is it is seemingly impossible for Trout to play the most outfield innings and not record an assist? It seems that claims of Trout’s great defense this year is by acclamation and on-field performance. Last year, he was incredible — this year, not so much from what I have read.

I watched more than half of the Tiger games, and by my eye test, Cabrera was generally adequate at third this year. The UZR explanation on FanGraphs states explicitly that UZR does not necessarily reflect actual fielding performance. Does he deserve a horrendous UZR? No, in my opinion. I only can recall one game in the regular season where Cabrera’s poor fielding played a huge factor in a Tiger loss — and the Tigers lost that game in 15 innings. Were there others? Please list them. I am more than willing to change my opinion in light of evidence to the contrary.

I think Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and he was fantastic this year. But, in my opinion, he did not have as good of a season as Cabrera, especially given that Cabrera played on one leg for 2 months. If anyone thinks that I am an idiot for hold such an indefensible opinion, that is fine. Justin Verlander absolutely is the pitcher I would want pitching if my son’s life were on the line, but Max had a much better 2013 and deserved the Cy Young. Cabrera had a better year and won the MVP.

I hope Miggy wins next year as well. If he does, no matter how well he plays, I am sure that it will only be because those baseball writers just don’t get it.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 9 months ago

Thank goodness for your eyes. Now we can junk all the statistics.

Bill Peper
Guest
Bill Peper
2 years 9 months ago

What statistics show that Trout had a good year fielding this year?

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 9 months ago

Trout did not have a good year fielding this year. But Miggy had a very bad year. Mediocre trumps bad.

Phil
Guest
Phil
2 years 9 months ago

MVP is subjective. Your snark is cute though.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

The implied message here is that the basis for one’s opinion doesn’t matter; “it’s all subjective”.

That’s false. Every opinion is not equally valid. Almost all of the arguments for Cabrera have internal contradictions.

Bill Peper
Guest
Bill Peper
2 years 9 months ago

I would never advocate junking all statistics. My background is in econometrics, and I have done advanced statistical analysis throughout my 25-year career as an attorney and business consultant. Just curious, are there any statistics that show that Mike Trout hit well in high leverage situations this year? Is that relevant to the MVP race? Trout’s .710 OPS/104 wRC+ in his 81 most important plate appearances doesn’t seem as impressive as Cabrera’s 1.012 OPS/163 wRC+ in high leverage situations. But then again, I am among the unwashed who view WAR as data to be evaluated rather than determinative.

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

if you really know statistics, then you know that taking a sample of 81 at bats from a larger will result in a sample mean different from the population mean. Taking many random samples of 81 at bats would result in a range of wRC+’s, and the fact that Trout’s actual wRC+ falls within that range suggests that he was merely the victim of bad luck — and not systematically bad performance — in high-leverage situations. The same argument applies to Cabrera, who, by the way, also performed worse in high-leverage situations.

In summary, we have no evidence that either player demonstrates any special high-leverage hitting ability, which makes this a criterion not worth contributing to our definition of value.

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

should say larger _population_ in that first sentence.

lightitupbaby
Guest
lightitupbaby
2 years 9 months ago

Sample size just doesn’t matter in looking at game winning hits 7th inning and beyond. These are events that have great meaningful value to a team. Cabrera had quite a few (2 in one series off Mariano). Trout didn’t have them.

I’m sure Trout will come though often in pressure situations once he matures a bit more.

LK
Guest
LK
2 years 9 months ago

Cabrera had 2 game-TYING hits off Mariano. The Tiger actually lost both games.

lightitupbaby
Guest
lightitupbaby
2 years 9 months ago

You’re absolutely correct, Bill Peper. Cabrera won games 7th inning and beyond. Trout didn’t. That’s where the “valuable” part comes in. Trout is the best player in the game but Cabrera was the most valuable, so says this Angel and Mike Trout fan.

There seriously needs to be a Best Player award for all of baseball. Call it “The aWARd” given to the best player in the game as determined by WAR.

It may well be that Mike Trout is awarded his 7th MVP at the age of 30 even though some 22 year old compiled a higher WAR.

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

I’m inferring from your comment that you believe one of two things:

1) There is a clutch or high-leverage ability, and it should be weighted into MVP voting.

The problem being, we have no statistical evidence, based on the line of argument I developed above, that there is any clutch or high-leverage ability. If you can find some evidence for this ability and prove that MCab had it and Trout didn’t, I’ll begin to believe you. Otherwise you are just assuming that such an ability exists and then using crappy, unreliable statistics from small samples to justify picking one over the other. That’s no good.

or

2) We should reward players who get especially lucky, since that’s what the statistics in high-leverage situations probably represent.

I have some difficulty with this perspective; on the one hand, I don’t want to reward players who happened to have absurdly high BABIPs or pitchers who outperformed their DIPS stats for entirely luck-based reasons.

On the other hand, taking the no-luck approach to its logical conclusion, we would have to seriously consider the fact that Cabrera was very unlucky to have injured himself, and was in all likelihood going to accumulate nearly as much value as Trout if he had continued on the early-season pace (i.e. had not sustained an injury).

I can respect the luck-based perspective on MVP, and if you want to arbitrarily award additional points for the fact that Trout’s crappiest at-bats happened to be the high leverage ones, I guess that’s OK. But it doesn’t seem like you should put so much weight on those 81 at-bats to justify the enormous difference in baserunning and defense in Trout’s favor. But again, how much weight you put on luck is largely a matter of preference, not of fact.

WilsonC
Guest
WilsonC
2 years 9 months ago

I’d welcome more of this kind of argument rather than the semantic discussion of what “value” means. And it’s very much in line with what the article advocates, regardless of the conclusion. The core of the article’s critique isn’t that Cabrera won over Trout, it’s that the award is basically a fuzzy conglomerate of two distinct interpretations without any consistent unambiguous criteria being applied.

There’s no fuzzy notion of value being applied here in this post. It’s an opinion on who the best player was. It’s an assessment of the available information that reaches a different conclusion than the one held by the sabermetric majority, and a conclusion I disagree with, and that’s fine. Disagreement isn’t what takes away meaning from the award. Inconsistent criteria where voters are essentially picking witch of two awards they want to vote for, then blending the votes together to decide a single ambiguous award and then focusing the debate of a battle of semantics is.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 9 months ago

“The players voted Cabrera MVP as well. They don’t understand either?”

Have you read the player interviews on this site about player evaluation? They almost universally do not understand.

Oldest school
Guest
Oldest school
2 years 9 months ago

“The players voted Cabrera MVP as well. They don’t understand either”

NO!! only these liberal arts geeks who have never played even a inning of whiffleball understand all! Silly.

LookItUp
Guest
LookItUp
2 years 9 months ago

“And as far as best manager, it always goes to a manager of a playoff team…”

“…a manager not in the playoffs (let alone without a losing record) will NEVER win the award…”

Ahem. In the last 15 years, 6 managers have won Manager of the Year despite their teams not making the playoffs – 20% of the MotY awards given out over that span. Two of the teams in question didn’t even finish second, and one had a losing record:

1999 McKeon, Cin
2001 Bowa, Phi
2003 Pena, KC (finished 3rd)
2004 Showalter, Tex
2006 Girardi, Fla (finished 4th, with a losing record)
2010 Black, SD

So much for ‘always’ and ‘never’.

weaselpuppy
Guest
weaselpuppy
2 years 9 months ago

Someone still needs to, after 25 years, explain 1987 to me.

Trammell has the much higher WAR. He still hits some old school metrics of 20HR by a MI, 100+ RBI and hits .343 He plays GG caliber D at SS competing against Ripken and Yount and Fernandez for the hardware, that he does at least get 3x in his career. His team runs down George Bell’s team after being behind by 3 games the last week of the season in no small part due to his game winning HR in one of the matchups in head to head meetings with Toronto where Bell craps out at 1-10 O RBI that weekend.

Bell hits 47 HR (not even leading the league) and wins MVP.

This is travesty. Trout vs Miggy is a difference in opinion.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
2 years 9 months ago

I’ll explain 1987 to you. The good people of Toronto were so heartbroken that the writers offered up the MVP award as a consolation prize. I can assure you that it did no good, and our hearts were not healed until 5 years later.

No word yet on what our prize will be for the Rob Ford era (Leafs winning a Stanley Cup?), but it’s a good bet that it will similarly not help us.

nada
Guest
nada
2 years 9 months ago

The prize for the Rob Ford era is getting to hear Rob Ford talk about being Rob Ford.

sixto lezcano
Guest
sixto lezcano
2 years 9 months ago

Well, Trammell only barely lost to Bell. And keep in mind, the writers had had Bell and his RBIs penciled in as MVP for some time. 1987 is probably better remembered as the year the sportswriters picked Andre Dawson – of the last place Cubs – over champion STL’s Jack Clark or Ozzie Smith. They broke their own rule, poorly!

It’s fun to look now at the stats from 1987, a season when I probably was as obsessed with baseball as I ever was in my life – 14 years old, playing APBA every day, and to top it off I had declared myself a Twins fan at the start of the year. Even as baseball crazy as I was, I didn’t personally have access to 1987 statistics until the December Baseball Digest came out. I didn’t have a subscription to TSN until a few years later.

I didn’t even know TSN had stats. How could I have known? I had never seen a copy. My dad wasn’t a big sports fan. It’s so hard to remember how hard information was to come by pre-Internet. Anyway, that season was one thing to experience, and it is another thing looking at it on the screen. Watching games today, when we have both the power to observe and analyze, we can more readily adjust what we think we see, based on what we think we know. We did not have the power to make such powerful adjustments in thinking in 1987.

There was of course a detachment of data-driven fans in 1987 who knew that Bell was comparatively weak in terms of stats, but even they wouldn’t have known what we know now. Particularly about defense. And anyway, they had for a voice a few mimeographed newsletters.

You can well imagine a 1987 baseball columnist explaining his choice of Alan Trammell for MVP: “Sportswriters will look at the stats and choose Bell. But those who are looking for the intangibles will look at scrappy Alan Trammell.” For my own part, I remember desperately hoping Mark McGwire would not hit 50 HR because a rookie did not deserve to break such a sacred barrier. Was I an idiot? Or were they just different times? Not for me to say.

wrinklebump
Guest
wrinklebump
2 years 9 months ago

Every year we all murmur in solemn tones and grimly acknowledge the slow death of the MVP, but we remember and argue about snubs as much as we salute MVP winners that actually deserved it, because this has been happening since journalists first started debating numbers over boilermakers.

And if you really think it’s just awful to award the MVP to one of the best right-handed hitters you’ve ever seen, imagine what Ted Williams felt like after watching America’s sweetheart Joe DiMaggio win the award in ’41. All Ted did that year was hit .406, get on base over half of the time, smack 37 dingers and walk 147 times (!).

Joebrady
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I suggested about thirty years ago that we have an award called the Babe Ruth award for the best player in BB. But it got bogged down for two reasons.

1-The 30 different writers for FG, using 30 different metrics, came to the conclusion that 30 different players were the best players of all time.

2-Ruth was white, and other groups wanted a black or Latino.

3-And the #2 objection could be dealt with, but NOW wanted to have a woman chosen for the Best Player award, since a guy was chosen for the Cy Young.

All kidding aside (and there should be a Best Player award), I have to object to Dave’s characterization of ‘the further the BBWAA gets away from honoring the season’s premier player’. McCutcheon was the best player in the NL, and Miggy probably 2nd in the AL. He had a 1.078 OPS. I’m not sure how either player qualifies as getting ‘further away’.

tbonemacd
Member
tbonemacd
2 years 9 months ago

Enjoying this commentary very much. Schadenfreude is unhealthy for the soul, but it is so pleasing in the moment. I think Trout is a terrific player and well-deserving of an MVP, but these arguments about an ill-defined award are really silly.
Looking forward to more unhinged comments, please continue.

Desdroia
Guest
Desdroia
2 years 9 months ago

This will probably never be seen, but one thought I’ve had reading through the comments is that one reason trolls always come by and accuse sabermetricians of being biased is that it’s like a one way mirror of understanding. I would think most sabermetricians started off as “old school fans” for at least a short period of time, but at some point they opened their minds to advanced statistics, they admitted ignorance and allowed themselves to grow. It’s like childless people complaining about baby photos on facebook, because until they have a baby they have no way of understanding what it’s like to be a proud parent and that almost every other use of a facebook newsfeed is stupid in comparison. The trolls in this comment section (or the sincere old school fans) have repeatedly accused us of being biased or just making up excuses for “our guy” not getting the award, but they don’t understand how empty their claims and invalid their opinions are because they never second guess their opinions. It’s the same reason why we can refute their claims that “former players understand the game better than everybody else,” because former players are likely to be the people that have the least amount of doubt in their understanding of the game. Same with BBWAA members old enough to vote for the awards, they must resent this new force in the game that questions everything they do or say. Every sabremetrics fan has gone through the looking glass where they admit there’s a huge amount about the game that nobody understands yet; it’s not biased to say that people who haven’t even come to that conclusion are further from the answer than we are. People that resent sabremetricians for being inquisitive will suffocate the game in its intellectual infancy. This was a great article, Dave.

weaselpuppy
Guest
weaselpuppy
2 years 9 months ago

More ‘splainin needs being done as well.

Fat ol’, slow and broken down Miggy…can’t even move, terrible fielder, DH with a glove hur hur hur….dWAR? -1.5

Shiny riding a Pegasus ridiculously photogenic Fielding GOD Mike Trout’s dWAR?

-0.9

Ruhhhhhhh?

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