Trout and Cabrera: Here We Go Again

Last year, the AL MVP debate turned into something resembling a culture war, with Miguel Cabrera representing the traditional methods of player evaluation while Mike Trout was the darling of the sabermetric community. In the final tally, Cabrera won in a landslide, receiving 22 of the 28 first place votes, but Trout and Cabrera were #1 and #2 on 27 of the 28 ballots submitted, with Trout sliding to third on just one ballot. While there was disagreement over which of the two was more valuable, there was broad consensus that they represented a tier unto themselves, with everyone else looking up to their excellence.

Well, it’s happening again. If you pull up the leaderboard for American League hitters, there’s Mike Trout at #1 (+6.9 WAR), followed more closely than last year by Miguel Cabrera at #2 (+6.4 WAR). While Trout blew away the field by WAR last year, Cabrera’s having an even better season in 2013 than he did a year ago, while Trout is just a little shy of last year’s remarkable pace. This year, instead of the big gap in WAR being between Trout and Cabrera, the gap is between Trout/Cabrera and everyone else; Chris Davis, at +5.1 WAR, is a distant third.

Once again, though, Cabrera has the advantage in all of the things that WAR ignores but voters do not. The Tigers are 64-45, first place in the AL Central and likely headed to the postseason, while the Angels are 51-59, fourth place in the AL West and only headed for a list of the most expensive flops. For those who use a team’s place in the standings as part of their MVP calculation, the Tigers success and the Angels failure will almost certainly push the needle in Cabrera’s favor.

Then, of course, there are the RBIs. No single stat correlates better with MVP votes throughout history than runs batted in, and if there’s a big time RBI guy on a first place team, then you have a favorite to take home the award. Cabrera isn’t running away with the RBI crown like he did a year ago — thanks to the aforementioned Chris Davis, who currently leads with 102 — but he still blows Trout out of the water in a heads up RBI comparison, 99 to 67. If one still believes that RBIs are a useful metric, then it is not a difficult leap to favor Cabrera once again.

In fact, if the MVP voting were actually held today, I doubt Trout would get more than one or two first place votes, and maybe not even any. Last year, the numbers made a strong case for Trout, who hit nearly as well as Cabrera while playing center field, and stole 49 bases just for fun. This year, Trout hasn’t hit as well as Cabrera and has played a lot of left field, and he’s only stolen 23 bases with a lower success rate.

The defensive metrics don’t love Trout’s performance this year either, which is the primary reason his numbers are simply best-in-the-league rather than who-set-this-video-game-to-rookie-mode. On the one hand, critics of WAR can’t really downgrade Trout’s performance based on attacking the validity of single season defensive metrics, but on the other hand, Trout’s supporters don’t have as strong of a case that the defensive gap between the two is dramatic enough to offset Cabrera’s offensive advantage. Trout is unquestionably a better defender than Cabrera, and he has still played more center field than left field this year, but there have been fewer ridiculous home run saving catches and jaw dropping plays from the Angels outfielder this year.

So, instead of having the stats guys trumpeting his historically great season, we’re left with two players well within the range of any kind of measurement error. Both are having superlative seasons, but trying to argue that one season has been obviously better than the other is a difficult task, given their respective performances. And when the nerdy numbers have it as close, you can essentially bet that the traditional numbers will be used as a tie-breaker, leaving Trout without any real firm support barring a monster finish — or Cabrera collapse — down the stretch.

My guess is that if the voting was held today, Trout wouldn’t even finish second. Davis leads the league in home runs and RBIs, and the Orioles in a playoff race. Despite the fact that Cabrera has been significantly better and his team has a better record, Davis is probably the more real threat to Cabrera winning a second straight MVP award. If the Orioles end up winning a wild card spot and the Tigers miss the playoffs, then Davis might actually be the frontrunner at that point. Regardless of what Trout does in the season’s last two months, the Angels aren’t going anywhere, and he probably can’t improve his case much at all because of that.

So, for the second straight year, the best player in baseball has little chance of winning the MVP award. Despite the logical flaws associated with basing an individual award on team performance, Cabrera is certainly a worthy MVP candidate, and I won’t have a problem with him winning the award. Depending on how the Tigers and Orioles finish, we might even find ourselves on the side of advocating on Cabrera’s behalf, which would be a fun turn of events given last year’s accusations of an anti-Cabrera slant to our coverage.

At the end of the day, awards balloting isn’t really that important, and Mike Trout doesn’t need a trophy to cement himself as the premier player in the game today. I do wonder, however, how long it will take before the rest of the Angels are good enough to help Trout get officially recognized as the great player he already is.




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


204 Responses to “Trout and Cabrera: Here We Go Again”

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  1. catswithbats says:

    I hope they finish tied in WAR just for everyones heads to explode.

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  2. Semi Pro says:

    For people that have watched Trout: has his defense been visibly worse this year? On Fangraphs he’s been about league average this year, but BR has him at -15 runs. Has the added weight slowed him down, or does it seem more like a natural regression in the fielding stats department?

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    • Spencer D says:

      As someone else has suggested (and it holds up to my eye test), when playing left field, his massive range doesn’t give him as much of an advantage. As well, he doesn’t quite seem to have the cannon arm that you might expect from a corner outfielder.

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    • IZZY2112 says:

      I’m not a big fan of DRS to be honest. Produces wacky results rather often.

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  3. Shankly says:

    I think this year lots of writers will opt out of the argument that happened last year and vote for Davis as the compromise candidate.

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  4. Menthol says:

    May I respectfully point out that after you carefully and convincingly documented Trout’s “regression” and Cabrera’s “improvement” from 2012, you are being a little glib in then flatly suggesting that Trout is “the best player in baseball”?

    I don’t want to be misunderstood. I like WAR a lot despite its imperfections, and would definitely have voted for Trout last year. But as you say, if (when) he loses this year, it won’t be a travesty. Which kind of implies that it’s not so clear he is in fact the best player, at least this year.

    Although I’d probably still vote for him.

    Also curious who everyone thinks is the NL MVP if the season ended today. That’s going to be an exciting choice.

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    • chuckb says:

      One player is slightly worse than last year and a second player is slightly better than last year and you have a hard time understanding how the first can be the best player in baseball? The best player can’t be slightly worse than he was last year? That makes no sense.

      Suggesting it’s understandable when the 2nd best player wins the MVP this year means that Trout can’t clearly be the best player? Trout’s the best player in the game but he has no chance, none, of winning the MVP and, as Dave pointed out, Cabrera’s a distinctly better option than Chris Davis.

      It’s too bad that the Angels can’t put a good enough team around Trout to get him the respect he deserves.

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      • AJT says:

        “It’s too bad that the Angels can’t put a good enough team around Trout to get him the respect he deserves.”

        The idea that he needs that to get recognition is pretty silly. I understand it, but it still seems ridiculous.

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      • Menthol says:

        “One player is slightly worse than last year and a second player is slightly better than last year and you have a hard time understanding how the first can be the best player in baseball? The best player can’t be slightly worse than he was last year? That makes no sense.”

        Please don’t put words into my mouth. I never said that the best player can’t be slightly “worse” than he was last year. I’m just pointing out that Dave made the convincing case that the difference between Trout and Cabrera this year is basically statistical noise. I happen to agree with him that Trout is the best player in the game, but I don’t think you can easily make that case based on their performances this year.

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        • Jason B says:

          Totally agree with this. Well said. There are wide enough error bars around their respective WAR measures that there is plenty of overlap (this year).

          It’s something for us all to keep in mind, not to become too reductive when we say “X is better than Y, 3.4 WAR to 3.2!” or “X had 4.0 WAR, he’s worth $20,000,000 in the free agent market!” WAR is a very useful shorthand/framework, but we try to put too fine a point on player performance at times.

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    • IZZY2112 says:

      David Wright and Carlos Gomez have probably been the two best players in the NL this year. McCutchen probably wins, but it’s really a toss up.

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      • olethros says:

        Yadier Molina says hello.

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        • SKob says:

          Paul Goldschmidt might have a say in this! Maybe Brandon Phillips?

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        • stich09 says:

          Brandon Phillips? dear god…. he’s a below average hitter. 93 percent runs created to the average….

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        • Bronnt says:

          From when I’ve seen the Cardinals on national broadcast, the national media seems to think that Allen Craig is that team’s MVP candidate, not Molina.

          More seriously, though, is how the missed time is going to affect Molina’s case.

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        • SKob says:

          @ stich09
          Phillips was more of a reference to the articles emphasis on RBI’s, He’s 3rd in the NL. It was a reach, but if that’s what the ‘old school’ voters look at, he’ll get plenty of votes!

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        • olethros says:

          @Bronnt: The national media, especially that portion paid to talk about nonsense during baseball games, is in love with RBIs, which Craig has bucketfuls of due to his .400 avg with men on. Anyone with a modicum of baseball knowledge would say that Molina is the better player.

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    • Turk's Teeth says:

      Although there really has been no real regression, documented or otherwise, with Trout this season. Set aside his slash line, which is virtually identical to that of 2012, save for a 20 pt boost in OBP. Hs walk rate has increased by 2 percentage ponts, and his K rate has decreased by 5 percentage points. That’s phenomenal improvement at any age.

      The rest is circumstantial, and largely dictated by the field manager. Trout has been stealing fewer bases this year because Scioscia has taken him out of the leadoff spot and chained him to Pujols, where he’s been tacitly or explicitly discouraged from stealing so as not to take a pitch away from the vet. Too much respect for legacy. And his RBI total is lower than it could be, because the Angels have had no adequate leadoff threat to replace him, so the bases are often empty when he hits.

      Meanwhile the Angels outfield has been a volatile mess, with Hamilton, Bourjos, Trumbo, Shuck, Cowgill, Calhoun, etc and Trout ping ponging between CF and LF any given week. Communication has been poor as a result, with a lot of fieldable balls dropping between players.

      In sum: Trout is actually a better hitter this year than we was last year, his SB totals are diminished largely as a result of suboptimal management, and his defense has been bruised as much by roster management as any inherent flaw or actual regression.

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  5. Steve says:

    This was Trout’s award last year, and Trout’s award this year. Guy got screwed because of RBIs… and here I thought baseball fans knew which stats were important. Ugh.

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    • Guest says:

      Surely this is a joke, right? You sound like a moron.

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    • Wonluh says:

      It’s a bit of a strawman to say RBI count was the reason Trout lost. There were many narratives Cabrera defenders took, including (among others) that the 1. Angels didn’t make the playoffs while the Tigers did (which leads to the definitional “Valuable” argument), 2. The defensive value difference wasn’t the “fault” of Miggy since he changed positions to accommodate Prince Fielder, and 3. that UZR isn’t particularly valid or reliable over 3/4ths of a season and thus WAR shouldn’t be quoted as a precise measure, but rather as an interval.

      Again, not as an endorsement, but it’s worth considering the “good teammate” defense. It’s a familiar argument and one that Edgar Martinez supporters who want to build his 3B credibility implicitly employ. It’s that a player doesn’t fill the lineup card and that the best position for maximizing individual value isn’t necessarily the best for the team.

      If Cabrera supporters are/were able to neutralize the defensive value part of the debate–and I will interject that I think this happened–then the rest of the Cabrera narrative follows pretty easily…Cabrera did out-wOBA Trout last year and is doing so again this year (in a particularly impressive fashion). While we may not condone the use of RBIs as a proxy for offensive value, they happened to reach the same conclusion as wOBA: that Cabrera was the better hitter in 2012 and again in 2013.

      Which is why, I think, the vote last year is being miscast as a debate about the relative value of RBIs/new offensive stats and more about soft factors and defensive value measurement.

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      • Mr. Jones says:

        Look at wRC+, not wOBA. Their offensive contributions were equal once park factors were accounted for.

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      • NeilS says:

        You’re right, but I think you’re over-stating the case. Cabrera won the Triple Crown, Trout didn’t. It was really that simple – at least, it was that simple for a lot of the voters.

        Given the way the TC has been fetishized, Trout would have needed Rickey-like stolen bases and 150 runs scored to even open the door for consideration.

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  6. Bart says:

    What about using WPA? It is a very poor stat for fully assessing how good a player is, or predicting his future value. But could it do the best job of measuring how valuable a player was to his team over the course a given season? A walk-off home run is more valuable than a solo home run when your team is down 8. It does not make you a better player, but it adds more VALUE. Thoughts? (PS Chris Davis leads and Miggy is in 2nd)

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    • tz says:

      If we’re looking at historic “rules” for MVP votes, we should look at WSPA (World Series Probability Added).

      I’m sure Davis and Miggy are 1-2 in either order…..

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      • Youthful Enthusiast says:

        Is there any easy place to find something like this?

        I wanted to use it when evaluating deadline deals, but couldn’t come up with anything.

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    • Jamie says:

      WPA would not really account for defense or base running, and would put far too great an emphasis on RBIs.

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      • EricR says:

        It also doesn’t penalize a batter for opponents’ errors, it rewards them! In game 3 of the 2012 NLDS, Joaquin Arias hit a slow roller to Scott Rolen that should have been the 3rd out in the 10th inning of a tied game. But Rolen flubbed it, the eventual winning run scored, and Arias got a .331 WPA boost for what should have been an out.

        I know a playoff game wouldn’t count in MVP voting, but those kind of WPA boosts happen all the time in regular season.

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    • RationalSportsFan says:

      Quick, anecdotal response: The AL leader in WPA last year was Jim Johnson.

      Longer, non-anecdotal response: Players can not control what the players in front of them do. Using WPA to decide who is most valuable gives players credit/discredit for what the players in front of them do. If someone has amazing on-base guys in front of them, they are likely to have many more high-WP situations in which to excel than someone who has low on-base guys hitting in front of them.

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    • Matt Hunter says:

      I wouldn’t use WPA because it gives more credit to a walk-off home run in the 9th than to a leadoff home run in the 1st, despite both having equal significance on the end result of the game, all else being equal. In other words, WPA evaluates plays based on the context of the game at the time of the play, not the context of the game as a whole. I wrote more about that here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/1/7/3807716/wpa-importance-plays-clutch-sabermetrics

      If you want to use context-dependent statistics, I’d strongly suggest using RE24, which, like RBI, gives hitters credit for performing well in important situations, albeit only within the context of the inning, not the game. Dave wrote about this last year here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/trout-versus-cabrera-offense-only-context-included/ and I wrote about using it to replace FanGraphs’ Batting runs a few weeks ago here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/7/16/4527290/mvp-first-half-miguel-cabrera-mike-trout-yadier-molina

      I promise, this comment wasn’t for self-promotion. I just understand the thought process behind using WPA, but think RE24 is a more useful solution.

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      • If I might add says:

        RE24 from the player pages:

        Trout: 54.27 in 2012, 51.84 in 2013
        Cabrera: 47.43 in 2012, 56.43 in 2013

        Cabrera appears to be doing a bit better than he was last year, situationally-speaking. Maybe grounding into double plays less often, etc.

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  7. attgig says:

    The one thing you failed to mention that I believe was a huge factor was the fact that Cabrera won the triple crown….first time since almost half a century ago. That type of historical stuff really gets voters going.

    If Cabrera hadn’t won a triple crown, I think the vote would have been a LOT closer than it was.

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    • RSquared says:

      Every radio and TV MVP argument usually went: Trout? Cabrera? First Triple Crown in 45 years! END OF STORY!!!

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    • MJ271 says:

      I completely agree. I think the voting this year between Cabrera and either Davis or Trout will be much closer than last year, even though there isn’t any reason it should be.

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  8. funketown says:

    Anybody know how many players have ever posted back-to-back 10+ WAR seasons?

    Just looking through the career WAR leaders, this has been done by Ruth, Bonds, Cobb, Mays, Williams, Hornsby, Mantle…Probably a few others as well.

    Trout is once again on pace to be right around 10 WAR, and he’ll probably join this list if he finishes the season strong.

    It’s just incredible how good this guy is at such a young age.

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    • Jonathan says:

      I think that’s most of them.

      The other day, I did put together the full list of players who compiled at least 1 10-fWAR season before their age 25 season. Only 3 players have done it twice before age 25 (Mantle, Cobb, Williams). It’s what you might call pretty elite company:

      Babe Ruth

      Lou Gehrig

      Mickey Mantle (2)

      Ty Cobb (2)

      Ted Williams (2)

      Rogers Hornsby

      Jimmie Foxx

      Eddie Collins

      Tris Speaker

      Mike Trout

      Here’s the same list with career fWAR totals and all time fWAR rankings for each player:

      Babe Ruth (168.3) (1)

      Lou Gehrig (116.7) (12)

      Mickey Mantle (112.1) (13)

      Ty Cobb (150.0) (2)

      Ted Williams (130.3) (8)

      Rogers Hornsby (129.5) (9)

      Jimmie Foxx (102.4) (19)

      Eddie Collins (121.4) (11)

      Tris Speaker (130.6) (7)

      Mike Trout (17.7)

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      • MDL says:

        Don’t forget Mike Trout’s all time fWAR ranking… 956.

        (fun fact: Mike Trout has nearly as much fWAR as Justin Upton does, in 1/3 as many PAs)

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      • cs3 says:

        Interesting that all tnose seasons occured so long ago, and there were not any modern players to do it. Possible that WAR is not accurately calculating replacement level for that time period?

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        • funketown says:

          I also wonder how much that’s driven by the size of the talent pool. I know there were fewer teams and competing sports back then, but without international players and non-white players I imagine the “replacement-level” player of 1910 was probably pretty horrible. That is curious though.

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        • olethros says:

          Smaller talent pool, fewer teams, probably ends up being a wash as far as replacement level player quality goes.

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    • BIP says:

      Honus Wagner just missed consecutive 10+ seasons a couple times, but he did have a six-year period where he averaged just over 10 WAR per year!

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  9. I’m a Tigers fan, but I want Cabrera to narrowly edge Trout in WAR and easily beat Davis, but with Davis leading the league in RBI. That would be so much fun. The fact that Cabrera would be the saber-darling would make Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams’ ears bleed.

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    • MikeS says:

      I have been making the completely baseless argument that Cabrera can’t possibly win the MVP if he doesn’t win the triple crown for pretty much the same reasons.

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      • Jeff says:

        He’s quite clearly done worse this year because Chris Davis has more HRs than him. What’s baseless about that?

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  10. Stringer Bell says:

    Are we just ignoring the elephant in the room, ie Miggy has dominated him (unlike last year) in offensive stats? He’s up 204 to 175 in wRC+, .471 to .420 in wOBA, 1.123 to .988 in OPS and so forth. There is literally not a single mention of any of this in the article, that’s a HUGE difference this year. Don’t just mention that the traditionalist thing winning out when Miggy is dominating in those nerd stats you think will be ignored.

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    • Guest says:

      Yes, Cabrera is having an even better season than last year by all measures. But this site has an agenda to try and prove.

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Even as a Tiger fan, I argued for Trout to win the MVP last year. But turning a blind eye to Miggy’s massive superiority in nerd stats minus WAR and UZR bothers me.

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        • Al Dimond says:

          Cabrera has massive superiority not in “nerd stats minus WAR and UZR”, but in hitting stats. Fielding, baserunning, and positional components of WAR simply quantify something everyone knows: that Trout is a vastly superior defender and baserunner.

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      • Daniel says:

        Cabrera is having a better season than last year. Trout is not having as good of a season as last year. Yet Trout is still having an arguably better season. There’s your perspective.

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      • Rally says:

        “Cabrera’s having an even better season in 2013 than he did a year ago”

        That was in the second paragraph.

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      • Hallbillyburton says:

        Man, Guest has really been getting killed in this thread. I’m just pointing it out, and he probably deserves it for being a dick.

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      • Garys of Olde says:

        An agenda like “accuracy?” Or “comprehensive analysis?” You’re right.

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      • Za says:

        “Despite the logical flaws associated with basing an individual award on team performance, Cabrera is certainly a worthy MVP candidate, and I won’t have a problem with him winning the award. Depending on how the Tigers and Orioles finish, we might even find ourselves on the side of advocating on Cabrera’s behalf, which would be a fun turn of events given last year’s accusations of an anti-Cabrera slant to our coverage.”

        Please read that and explain which agenda you’re referring to.

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        • miffleball says:

          The one in the next sentence that says that despite all that trout is to any reasonable person by far the best player in baseball today:

          At the end of the day, awards balloting isn’t really that important, and Mike Trout doesn’t need a trophy to cement himself as the premier player in the game today. I do wonder, however, how long it will take before the rest of the Angels are good enough to help Trout get officially recognized as the great player he already is.

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    • chuckb says:

      I fail to understand people’s sanctimony here when they feel as though their favorite player or team didn’t get the respect he deserves in a single post. It was mentioned that Cabrera’s having a better season than he did last year and I think we all know how great he is offensively. As you should know, there’s more to baseball than offense, however, and it’s worthy of mention that Trout is much better defensively (though too many Tigers’ fans dispute that) and much better on the bases which, as you doubtless know, IS NOT factored into wRC+ or wOBA.

      Complaints like this get so focused on what they feel is their favorite player or team being slighted that you fail to see the forest for the trees. Read the article as a whole and get a sense of what it says. Is there really any point to nitpicking to the point where you figure out the exact sentence that could have been inserted? If it had been, you’d have found some other source of your indignation.

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        But it’s a stat based site. Cameron is arguing that Miggy would only win based on the traditionalist view, and that they’re ignoring nerd stats. Again, Miggy’s MASSIVE advantage in offense did not exist last year, but it does this year.

        FYI, Miggy is not my favorite player. Once again, I argued for Trout as MVP last year because he was the better player. But Trout’s mediocre D this year does not erase the offensive difference between the two.

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        • jonnybardo says:

          Stringer, I like what you’re saying but you’re ignoring the third factor – baserunning. Obviously its not as important as batting or defense, but it is part of a player’s total offensive (and defensive) contribution. Trout’s 23-4 in SB attempts, and with a 6.1 BsR is currently the 5th best baserunner in baseball.

          So you have Miggy being significantly better (although not “massively” so, as you imply) than Trout in the most important of the three (batting), but Trout being significantly better in the two others (fielding and baserunning).

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    • dtpollitt says:

      Offensive stats are not being ignored; they are only one component. The other being defensive value, of which Trout is vastly superior to Cabrera. I would think FanGraphs is sensitive to the latter, considering most baseball pundits have traditionally overvalued offense while ignoring defense. In other words, FanGraphs has helped usher in the consideration of both sides of the coin, and when this is done, Trout was better last year and this year.

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    • Otter says:

      Here’s the other elephant in the room: Miggy is the worst defensive third baseman in the league.

      I know other sports give MVP awards to players who don’t play defense (Steve Nash won two in the NBA for example), but it’s the one part of Miggy that’s hard for me to get around. I do wonder if MLB had an awards system more like the NHLs if Trout would win the Hart* and Miggy would win the Art Ross/Richard.

      *Hart goes to the player judged most valuable to his team; if you take Miggy off the Tigers, they’re still right there in the playoff race. Anyway, I’ve now changed how the voters vote on these awards, so I’m stopping…

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      • Nathan says:

        Maicer Izturis, Michael Young, and (quite surprisingly… wild UZR swings I’m sure) Ryan Zimmerman would like to thank you for your support. :p

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    • Daniel says:

      Offensive (batting + base running) runs above average components of WAR

      1. Miguel Cabrera 54.3
      2. Mike Trout 49.1
      3. Chris Davis 42.0
      4. Joey Votto 37.0
      5. David Wright 32.9

      Cabrera only has an advantage over Trout in offensive runs by 5.2. That’s close to 1/2 a win. He is not dominating him. They are dominating everyone else though.

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  11. Guest says:

    “On the one hand, critics of WAR can’t really downgrade Trout’s performance based on attacking the validity of single season defensive metrics”

    So people aren’t allowed to use Trout’s defensive metrics against him when they aren’t phenomenal due to being a one year sample, but they are allowed to use a one year sample to make their case last year?

    Thats good logic.

    “If one still believes that RBIs are a useful metric…”

    Because you dont need to bat in runs to win games?

    Its funny how the guy hitting in the middle of the order knocking in all the runs plays on a winning team. By the way, Chris Davis, the leader in RBI, also hits in the middle of the order on a winning team.

    Are you not aware that runs win baseball games? Thats how the score is kept.

    For all your talk about RBI being dependent on people getting on base ahead of you in the order; lets look at your defensive metrics and how dependent they are. The defensive rating gave Trout more WAR last year, but “there have been fewer ridiculous home run saving catches and jaw dropping plays from the Angels outfielder this year.” So his defensive rating is based on the batted ball profile of his opponents?

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    • Kermit says:

      More WAR!

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    • Andrew says:

      As is usually the case, Dave’s “on the one hand” construction included an “on the other hand” that was much more balanced than you give him credit for.

      It is not a coincidence that the two players who lead the league in RBI hit in the middle of the order for teams that score lots of runs. However you are mixing up the causation a bit to say the least.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Guest says:

        Check the causation between scoring more runs than your opponent and winning the game.

        -22 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Andrew says:

          At least we finally flushed out that you are just trolling here

          +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Guest says:

          Andrew: Im not trolling (whatever that means.) I’ve played and watched and studied this game my entire life. There are aspects to all parts of life that are outside numbers created by humans to represent real life. This site does some very good things in terms of new numbers. I refer people to it and tell them about the valuable information here. However, I think some people rely too much here on numbers and not actually watching/ studying lots of baseball. I think there are 2 sides to this debate, and its not much of a debate if both sides aren’t represented.

          -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Garys of Olde says:

          If the problem is a too large reliance on numbers, as you say, then why are you making arguments for RBIs being weighted higher than other numbers? (I would posit that Trout’s WTW is higher than Cabrera’s anyway…)

          People assume you are just trolling here because your arguments are inconsistent, and incomplete, to the extreme.

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        • AnthonySoprano says:

          The only people ever to claim to now know what trolling means are trolls …

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    • Spencer D says:

      That’s an interesting thought. Would extreme flyball pitchers give the outfield an increase in runs saved? Would swing for the fences low babip guys (ie Jose Bautista) similarly boost runs saved, particularly with men on base?

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      • Al Dimond says:

        Defensive metrics usually measure against average. Extreme fly-ball conditions give outfielders more chances. For great fielders that’s more chances to be great; for lousy ones it’s more chances to be lousy.

        It’s like plate appearances. Any outfielder would expect to catch more balls in more chances, as he’d expect to get more hits in more plate appearances. He’d expect a UZR farther from zero in more chances, as he’d expect a wRAA (or WPA or WE24 or any other stat where differences from average are summed) farther from average in more plate appearances.

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        • Spencer D says:

          But they might also induce flyballs from guys that generally don’t hit flyballs, like freddie freeman or allen craig, and aren’t as effective in hitting flyballs –> a higher relative chance of an out (adjusting for the difference between batted ball types).

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    • chuckb says:

      “On the one hand, critics of WAR can’t really downgrade Trout’s performance based on attacking the validity of single season defensive metrics”

      So people aren’t allowed to use Trout’s defensive metrics against him when they aren’t phenomenal due to being a one year sample, but they are allowed to use a one year sample to make their case last year?

      No, but nice strawman. His point was that last year people like you downgraded Trout by suggesting that defensive metrics such as UZR aren’t reliable. Since Trout’s UZR is lower this year, the RBI crowd isn’t likely to complain about UZR’s validity.

      Some logically dishonest people may try to, in fact, do as Dave suggested they couldn’t — question the validity of UZR last year and then ding Trout this year for having a lower UZR.

      I just don’t understand why people like you get so indignant about stuff like this, as though someone kidnapped your only child.

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      • Guest says:

        Hey nice strawman. I dont downgrade Trout to defensive performance. Middle of the order run producers are more valuable to a team. Thats why they hit 3rd or 4th behind high obp players to have the maximum number of opportunities to drive in runs. The score is kept in runs.

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        • Guest says:

          The Tigers as a team play terrible defense and are slow baserunners, except for Austin Jackson, yet they went to the WS last year and are winning lots of games still this year. Great individual defense is over-rated here when compared to clutch hitting (driving in runs.) How can a player win a game on defense if no balls are hit to him? Come playoff time, when the best pitchers bear down with men on base late in games, getting clutch hits to drive in runs is the hardest thing to do in the game. Thats why the MVP correlates to high RBI guys for a hundred years.
          With 2 outs and a man in scoring position in a tie game, there’s only one batter. There are 9 fielders.

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        • Andrew says:

          There are also 7 hitters on the bench. How much value is Cabrera providing if he is one of those? Or if he the guy on second who can’t score on a marginally hard-hit single?

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        • Guest says:

          Andrew: You’re right about the SBs and the baserunning. I do find that extremely valuable. I don’t debate that at all and they make it a very close race. Cabrera leads in wRC+ and wOBA while hitting in a run producing spot in the order. The higher leverage at bats with men on base make it even harder to produce those superior numbers. All batting orders have nine players so that aspect doesn’t really add much here. Trout and Cabrera have a relatively equal number of at bats where they are on the bench.

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        • jrogers says:

          Why not say this?:

          “High on-base guys are more valuable to a team. That’s why they hit 1st or 2nd in front of the run producers to have the maximum number of opportunities to score runs. The score is kept in runs.”

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        • Andrew says:

          Guest: You are misinterpreting my latter point with regard to defense. You argue “there’s only one batter. There are 9 fielders,” presumably to imply that hitting is more important than fielding. This is inaccurate. There are 9 batters, and only one of them bats at a given time.

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        • Guest says:

          jrogers: Because the game isnt decided by who gets on base more?

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        • Baseball says:

          Guest – You claim that getting on base more doesn’t determine the outcome of the game. I was curious, so I looked at each AL team’s OBP and OBP against, taking note of the differential between the two.

          DET .345 .304 (+41)
          TBR .331 .300 (+31)
          OAK .320 .294 (+26)
          BOS .345 .322 (+23)
          CLE .330 .321 (+9)
          TEX .320 .313 (+7)
          LAA .330 .326 (+4)
          SEA .312 .313 (-1)
          KCR .312 .317 (-5)
          TOR .319 .328 (-9)
          NYY .302 .311 (-9)
          BAL .314 .326 (-12)
          CHW .299 .315 (-16)
          MIN .312 .334 (-26)
          HOU .296 .350 (-54)

          Notice anything? The best teams in the league (Detroit, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Boston) get on base much more than their opponents. The worst teams in the league (Chicago, Minnesota and OMG Houston) get on base much less than their opponents.

          Obviously this isn’t perfect. Baltimore shouldn’t be anywhere near contention by this sort of analysis (which goes to show that having a lot of power can make up for having fewer baserunners than your opposition). I’m also aware that it’s an imprecise analysis because the denominators are different – you can’t just subtract OBP allowed from OBP – among other issues.

          Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that, in the aggregate, getting on base more than your opponent influences the outcome of games plenty.

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        • Nathan says:

          Let’s do a real simple thought experiment. Pretend that Trout hit third in the lineup every game this year, with Kendrick in the leadoff spot, and one of Trumbo/Pujols in the two spot, and the other of Trumbo/Pujols in the four spot.

          How many vaunted RBIs do you think Trout would have?

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    • RationalSportsFan says:

      Your post betrays a misunderstanding of how runs are created. They do not magically fly off the bat of the hitter who gets the RBIs. Rather, they are created by a confluence of events involving players getting on base in many distinct ways, advancing bases in many distinct ways, and reaching home once again in many distinct ways.

      Giving the bulk of the credit to the batter who sometimes happens to be on the tail-end of this process leads to mis-evaluations of value.

      +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Guest says:

        Then why do teams hit their best hitters 3rd or 4th to maximize their opportunity to drive in runs? (Behind high obp guys.)

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        • LK says:

          Are you really going to argue that MLB managers deploy their teams optimally in all situations? Because if not, your point doesn’t really matter.

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        • Guest says:

          LK: Are you really going to argue that you wouldn’t hit your highest wRC+ or wOBA batter 3rd or 4th?

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        • RationalSportsFan says:

          Because teams’ best hitters contribute greatly to the overall scoring process. As do the the great hitters who are getting on-base at a high-rate. Stats like wOBA and wRC+ parse out these contributions and assign credit to how much each player contributed. RBIs ignores the accomplishments of those who got on-base and gives credit to those who knocked them in. Why use a stat that only tries to tell a sliver of the story, instead of a stat that tries to tell the whole story?

          +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Guest says:

          Rational Sports Fan: Cabrera leads Trout in wOBA .471-.420 and in wRC+ 204-175. I like those stats and use them. But what some people call “sequencing,” I call clutch hitting. Pitchers try harder to make better pitches in higher leverage situations. With nobody on base they are more likely to pitch to contact, whereas with RISP and less than 2 outs, they will look to get a strikeout. The fact that Cabrera leads in wRC+ and wOBA while hitting 3 hole rather than leadoff means something. I understand that Cabrera gets more RBI opportunites than Trout and that those opportunities are not dependent on him. However, he knocked in those runs, which is how the score is kept.

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        • Cargo2 says:

          That’s not always the case. Last year, for instance, the best offensive player in baseball batted in the lead-off position, where he created more value than Cabrera.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • LK says:

          Guest: I would hit my 2 best hitters 2nd and 4th, with the better on-base hitter 2nd and the better power hitter 4th, as virtually every study on the subject suggests you should do.

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        • Guest says:

          LK: Can you post a link to your studies that say 2nd and 4th? I have not heard of this and would like to see what kind of logic is used.

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        • LK says:

          Guest: You can google pretty much any batting order study and find similar results. Most of these studies conclude that you should actually bat your 5th-best hitter 3rd – the reason being that the 3rd hitter bats with the bases empty and 2 outs (the least important situation) more often than any other lineup spot.

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        • Guest says:

          LK: I looked through the top 4 studies that were provided by a search. They all admit that these models don’t factor in that hitters are pitched to differently due to lineup protection or the psychological effect on moving hitters out of their traditional historical order. They also make assumptions about non-pitchers not bunting and players never stealing bases other than second. It is interesting to note that the NL studies do seem to back up LaRussa hitting pitchers 8th, something that I do actually like in theory as it can provide an “extra” leadoff hitter after the first time through the order as in the AL. The studies also show that hitting the ‘best’ hitters 2 and 4 only increases the expected runs per game by about a tenth. An extra run every ten games or so doesn’t seem to me like that is worth messing with traditional batting order that can screw with professional hitters’ mental approach. Interesting stuff tho, thanks for the reads.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Nathan says:

          There’s a very convincing argument that if you put one of your three best hitters outside of the top 3 spots, you’re stupid. The top three hitters get the most PA, it’s almost as simple as that. There are more detailed analyses available on this site and others that take a deep quantitative dive into the topic.

          Also, I think you’ll find with some simple searches on this site that most teams are not putting the best OBP guys in the top two spots in the lineup (rather in the three thru five spots), so that would indicate a spot where we should agree — managers are often doing a poor job of putting high OBP guys in front of their so-called “run producers,” in part because the traditional mold of the slap hitting, base-stealing leadoff hitters has been hard to kill, and in pat because they are (in many cases, erroneously) hitting their best OBP guys outside of the top three slots.

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  12. psualum says:

    why is it so terrible for MVP voters to consider team performance? I understand it shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but honestly how VALUABLE is Trout to the Angels right now? They are a bad team well under .500 with him, I think they would be there without him. If anything he his hurting their draft stock, since he (or anyone else) can’t pull a crappy team up from the doldroms by themselves, but can keep them from a top 10 draft pick (and qualifying offer protection).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Spencer D says:

      He can bring thousands of fans to the ballpark. That’s worth something.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Daniel says:

      Then how valuable is any player if the team doesn’t win the World Series?

      Are you seriously arguing that Trout being good makes him less valuable?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Atreyu Jones says:

      Do you want the MVP to be a team award or an individual award? Teams already get a postseason spot as a prize.

      If Miggy was on the Angels instead of Trout, they would still be a bad team well under .500! That proves that Porcello is more valuable than Miggy blah blah blah.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      Why are the wins that Trout provides to the Angels not valuable simply b/c his teammates suck? By that logic, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, and Austin Jackson all have better MVP arguments than Trout. Let’s face it, Jackson’s probably a 3-4 win player this year. If they win their division by less than 3 games, they wouldn’t have won it without him so maybe he’s the MVP.

      What if the Tigers win the division by 10 games and Cabrera’s an 8 win player? Then they didn’t need him at all and, in fact, his wins weren’t at all valuable, right? So he shouldn’t be the MVP?

      Whether or not a player wins the MVP should not be determined by how a player’s teammates play, nor should Trout’s candidacy for the MVP (for example) be determined by how the Indians play.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Well, if you are going by true “VALUE”! Mike trout is getting paid something in the neiborhood of 1/50th what Cabrera is. Also, if you only consider playoff teams, you cheapen the award because the you don’t have to beat out as many players. “Man Miggy won the MVP award but he’s sure lucky his teammates were better than Mike Trouts”. Is that really how a most valuable player should be seen?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • HenduforKutch says:

      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?

      +54 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Antonio Bananas says:

        The dollar analogy is the best rebuttal I’ve ever read to the “shit in the bath tub” level stupid playoff only argument.

        +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RationalSportsFan says:

        This is a tremendous post. I will likely steal the coin analogy in the future. My apologies if I forget your name and simply credit you as “some intelligent Fangraphs commenter.”

        +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Hendu for Kutch says:

          @RationalSportsFan – that’s fine, I’ll somehow get by if noted internet philosopher HenduforKutch doesn’t earn all the plaudits due to him.

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        • Nick says:

          The coin analogy is terrible guys, I’m sorry. If only for the fact that anyone who thinks “MVP = on a winning team” wouldn’t be able to do that math in their head.

          The other two are great.

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      • Pirates Hurdles says:

        This analogy can be flipped to support the other side of “value” easily. The value of money relies on its ability to be traded for goods. In you example, your quarter has no value because it cannot get you the prize, while my dime is worth far more because i get the prize.

        The MVP rules are written in a manner to allow for interpretation, there is not black and white answer as you state. “Value to his team” is inherently vague. It doesn’t even limit it to statistical value as we have see leadership components involved in past situations.

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        • BIP says:

          Except not everything costs $1, and at any rate, you would always choose the quarter over the dime when accumulating money for a purchase.

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        • ndavis910 says:

          BIP – especially when you don’t know the cost of the items until you get to the store. In baseball, a team cannot be sure how many wins it will take to reach the playoffs until the last day of the season. In your example, the quarter is the most valuable piece regardless of whether or not the item cost $1 or $0.75.

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        • MikeS says:

          I have some dimes I can sell you if you have any less valuable quarters lying around.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Adam R says:

          It isn’t vague at all. It clearly says offense and defense.

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      • Slim Pickens says:

        Someone needs to go back and get a shitfull of dimes!

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  13. AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

    The MVP award isn’t awarded to the best player. What fangraphs should do is have a player of the year award. You could open source it and then announce it. After a few years people would weigh in on the player of the year award rather than the MVP award which means different things to different people. Recognize the best player every year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Doug Gray says:

      But the award should go to the best player. There is no logical argument that can be made where someone can be more valuable than the best player. The best player, by definition, brings more value than anyone else.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

        By definition from the BWAA:

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

        1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

        2. Number of games played.

        3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

        4. Former winners are eligible.

        5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
        – See more at: http://bbwaa.com/voting-faq/#sthash.VMJGw2E8.dpuf

        Nowhere in that does it say the best baseball player in the league.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Daniel says:

          4. and 5. are extra rules.

          1. and 2. are WAR, (i.e. best player)

          3. is awfully subjective. I doubt any score here ever decides the voting unless it’s to punish someone discovered as a cheater, etc.

          Are we missing something here. Best player = most valuable offensively and defensively. What else would you want your best player to be? Good at handstands? You’re not proving your point at all.

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        • AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

          The key is in line one… to his team. Nowhere does it say the best player in the league which I think should be recognize. The BWAA difination is broad and allows them to not vote for the best player but to vote for the best player on a playoff team.

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        • LK says:

          “The key is in line one… to his team.”

          Right, you’ve got to exclude all the value a player’s accumulates to other teams from the calculation.

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        • KG says:

          #1 defines value as strength of offense and defense. It says, right there, that the actual value of a player to his team is defined by the strength of offense and defense.

          The words are right there.

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        • Nick says:

          ” Actual value of a player to his team, THAT IS, strength of offense and defense.”

          These are not two separate statements, it is one statement divided into two parts. The latter part DEFINES the first part more specifically.

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        • Adam R says:

          6. RBIs and DINGERS, baby! Chicks dig the long ball!!

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      • vikedawg says:

        So lets talk about value to the team. Isn’t Trout tremendously more valuable than Miggy? Trout is paid monumentally less money than Miggy for comparable production. So right there is a pretty reasonable alternative meaning of value to the team. Should the MVP always be a good to great player on a cheap contract, essentially WAR/Salary?

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  14. james wilson says:

    Most Valuable Player is an ambiguous term. A great player on a contender is more valuable than his exact clone on a losing team. And so on.

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Rick Rivas says:

      See HenduforKutch above

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    • steve says:

      …a player like Cabrera on a team like the Tigers is responsible for a smaller percentage of his team’s runs than a player like Trout on a team like the Angels. Would Super Bonds have been less valuable if he were playing on the 2012 Astros?

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  15. bookbook says:

    The article says that both players are within measurement error of each other in terms of their contributions to their teams, and the author has no problem with either player winning. Yet, the Cabrera-traditionalists still jump down Fangraphs’ throat? Why?

    I do disagree with Dave and feel RBI is a useful stat… less useful than Runs or obp or slugging, but still not meaningless.

    Cabrera’s an awesome offensive force, and quite possibly the second best player in baseball today, which is nothing to sneeze at.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      What is the use of RBI? It’s not useful for determining runs created or clutch or productivity. Waaaay too much noise. If Cabrera bats first all year, his RBI numbers drop dramatically. Dishes get worse at creating runs? Did he get less clutch?

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      • Cargo2 says:

        It’s somewhat difficult to be less clutch than Miggy. Look at his clutch stat here on Fangraphs. He fails in high pressure situations.

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        • Guest says:

          Im not sure what is used here to get that clutch number. BR says Cabrera has knocked in 22% of the runners on base when he has come to bat over the last 2 years.
          The MLB average is 15%
          Chris Davis is also at 22%
          Carlos Gonzalez is at 18%
          Mike Trout 18%
          Joey Votto 13%

          I cant find a leaderboard for this, but that certainly doesn’t make a case that Cabrera not clutch.

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        • Daniel says:

          @Guest That wouldn’t even be proof of clutch. You could be good at hitting in general and knock in a better than average % of runners on base. No is disputing that Cabrera is a good hitter. We have stats that quantify that. But RBIs aren’t one of them.

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      • Spencer D says:

        Because Clutch matters. Perhaps not in the sense that most think of, where exists a direct relationship between pressure and performance, but at least in terms of the relative mental reaction/stasis of a player. A pitcher busrting with adrenalin might add a few mph over their normal and go into “the zone” literally, throwing a 1-2-3 inning.

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    • Ian R. says:

      There’s a difference between ‘meaningless’ and ‘useless.’ No stat is truly meaningless. If you ask me to pick between Player A and Player B, and all you tell me is that Player A drove in more runs, sure, I’ll take Player A.

      The problem is that we don’t live in a world where RBI are the only available measure of player value. We have other, better stats that measure what RBI try to measure (that is, the player’s ability to drive in runs and his ability to come through in ‘clutch’ situations). Thus RBI, like pitcher wins, are effectively useless.

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    • Jeff says:

      To be fair, a good number of other commenters are saying that Trout should win hands down.

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  16. TigerTown'68'84 says:

    Miggy is having an All Century type season. Trouts #’s are good but not on the level as last year. While Trout is wayyyy better defender, Cabrera’s defence could be a lot worse then it is. He makes the plays needed to win games. His batting is what will win him the secoand MVP, along with the fact the Tigers playoff position is better than LA. If her can start on another tear too he may have a shot at a secoand Triple Crown as well. (Given Davis slows down a bit witch, at this point, isnt happening)

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    • Daniel says:

      Cabrera is the 5th worst at defense this year of qualifying batters. It can’t be that much worse since it’s basically the worst.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      You are evaluating 2 businesses for an investment. They sell copier equipment. So you not only have the equipment sale, but the supplies billed mo they as a residual.

      Company Cabrera has huge revenues on the initial sale of the box. Company Trout also has huge sales, but less on the initial sale, however, company Trout sells a lot more in supplies and service because of how fast their technicians get out there (base running value). So overall, their revenue is close with a sleight edge to company Cabrera.

      However, company Cabrera has a lathargic inventory system and a lot of nepotism keeping practically useless employees on payroll. Company Trout has excellent inventory management and a streamlined workforce with the best sales force in town. Company Trout has significantly less expenditures and thus, higher overall profit.

      You wouldn’t analyze business decisions with short sided, narrative-driven arguments. Why would you with baseball?

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      • Cargo2 says:

        “You wouldn’t analyze business decisions with short sided, narrative-driven arguments. Why would you with baseball?”

        You clearly don’t get to witness many modern business decisions.

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    • LK says:

      “Miggy is having an All Century type season. Trouts #’s are good but not on the level as last year.”

      For your first sentence to be true, you have to consider offense only (and even then you’d need some qualifiers), but that would render your second sentence completely untrue, as Trout is having a better offensive season.

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    • Snag says:

      My defence could be worse than it is too. Can I win the MVP please?

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  17. Rick Rivas says:

    In NCAA football, the yearly controversy has always been about whether the 3rd of 4th ranked team should have played in the championship game against the number one ranked team. It hasn’t really been the case that a 5+ ranked team is considered unjustly ignored.

    Likewise in the case of MVP in MLB. Every year there seems to be only two or three players in each league who play in a league of their own according to WAR.

    In Mr. Cameron’s article, only 3 players are mentioned as the possible MVP winner. No one is seriously considering, and rightly so, the 4th+ ranked players. I propose that MLB recognize each year the two or three players in each league that each season lap the field. This would end the debate, but it has been often stated that an attractive feature of the game are the debates that it generates.

    If two players in each league are recognized, this number represents only .53% of all MLB players on the active rosters. Even if three players in each league are awarded, this number would still be less than 1% of MLB players on the active rosters (.80%).

    Just like Mr. Cameron wouldn’t have a problem with Cabrera winning the MVP award if he finishes slightly below trout in WAR, I believe most of us, every season, don’t complain if #2 in WAR gets the MVP. So lets make this indifference official. My vote is for two MVPs in each league. Three is debatable, but, really, I’ll debate anything out baseball with you.

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    • Spencer D says:

      What about a seperate supra league mvp in addition to the two league MVP awards.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Your proposed solution would work well if the top MVP contenders were always the best 2-3 players in the league. That was the case last year with Trout and Cabrera, and it will likely be the case this year with Trout, Cabrera and Davis, but it isn’t always so.

      If Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter had shared the 2006 AL MVP, there would have been just as much (correct) screaming that Morneau deserved the award less than Ortiz and Sizemore and Mauer and a half-dozen other guys.

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  18. IanStew23 says:

    I honestly see Davis winning it if the Orioles make the playoffs and he has 50+ HR.

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  19. DrFarmer says:

    The only gripe I have is that Dave lays out a well rounded argument as to how there is basically no statistical difference between Trout and Cabrera, and then says that Trout is the best player in baseball in the second to last paragraph. It’s important for the precision of the text to follow the precision of the statistics.

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  20. Dylan says:

    When Ryan Braun was suspended, Dave said: “Their 2013 season is obviously finished, and the marginal value of Braun’s contributions this year weren’t really going to matter to the organization. Without him in the line-up, they might even end up with a better draft pick than they would have otherwise in a year where the amateur talent is supposed to be pretty good.”

    He directly said that marginal value in a season in which the team’s fate is sealed does not matter to the organization, and may even be a bad thing. And a lot of people here felt that Braun got off too easy because his suspension, in a year that was essentially finished for the Brewers, didn’t matter. Very few people disagreed with that sentiment.

    That goes directly against arguments supporting Trout for MVP. In one context, we agree that marginal value for a bad team is unimportant? Why not in this context too? Trout is a great player, but marginal value for a bad team has very little value.

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    • RationalSportsFan says:

      Treating value in this way leads to counter-intuitive results. HenduforKutch mentioned a couple above. Here’s another theoretically possible one:

      Imagine Player X is on a team where, outside of X, every player is replacement-level quality. Imagine X has the greatest season in MLB history, accumulating 35 WAR. However, X’s team finishes 80-82, well out of the playoffs. Outside of X, the highest WAR in the league was Miguel Trout, who finished with a splendid 8 WAR season for a team that won their division by two games.

      According to the understanding of value laid out above, Miguel Trout should be awarded the MVP. This seems clearly wrong.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dylan says:

        I agree that Miguel Trout is the MVP. Dude is a monster.

        But seriously, you weigh all factors. Sure, if one player completely blows the other out of the water, that’s one thing. But this race is close. In fact, it’s close enough that a stat that has plenty of error to it and fails to accurately measure a lot of factors, including both those that are measurable (defense, which we still can’t really accurately measure for a given year) and unmeasurable (things like leadership that we can’t measure, but probably exist, considering the fact that they exist in every other field in which people work together) may not be accurate. In that case, it pretty clearly makes sense to also consider the marginal value of the player’s performance on his given team, which is where his value is going.

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      • Dylan says:

        All that being said, there is nothing clear about who should win. WAR is far, far from perfect, to say there is any clear winner based on any one stat is clearly wrong.

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    • LK says:

      I think it comes down to a simple fact – “best player” is a far more interesting (and prestigious) award than “best player on a playoff team”.

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    • Spencer D says:

      Trout’s worth a hell of lot more to the angels monetarily than Braun to the Brewers this year. The Angels have basically no one that is performing at even an all star level outside of Trout. The Brewers have Gomez and Segura.

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      • Ian R. says:

        Braun is also paid a lot more than Trout is. That’s immaterial to an MVP discussion, but it’s quite relevant to Dave’s comments quoted above.

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  21. pitch says:

    /sucks

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  22. Ruki Motomiya says:

    I think what we should all take from this article is something to the effect of…

    “Holy shit Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout”

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Devon says:

    Dave, you should check out their RBI %’s, ’cause it tells more about a batter than RBI totals. Right now, Cabrera’s driving in about 21% & Trout’s only driving in 17%.

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    • Daniel says:

      Where did you conclude that RBI%’s tell you something about a player? RISP differences are almost always determined by luck.

      Why in the world would you only want to look at one thing anyway? I wasn’t aware that they changed the rules of baseball so that all you have to do is bat a runner on 2nd home.

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    • placidity says:

      Cabrera doesn’t have to hit with noted slow guys Cabrera and Fielder on base. Ever. He should be well above average just given that.

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  24. Kevin says:

    Me I’m just enjoying two superlative players. I wondered if Trout could do it again, and for the most part he has. And miggy is just an incredible hitter.

    I wish i could study it closer by watching both of them in person as often as possible.

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  25. derp says:

    To every voter who picked Cabrera last year because “Hurrdurr he’s been around forever and he deserves the recognition, Trout has his entire career to win it.”

    Shame on you.

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  26. Jeff says:

    A little unrelated, but how does the positional adjustment for Trout work? He splits time between CF and LF, so is it a weighted average kind of thing?

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  27. AnthonySoprano says:

    The only thing more tedious and boring that the annual Trout/Cabrera debate is the Biogenesis/ARod debate zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  28. statsman says:

    Trout really has no business being in the MVP conversation this season.

    -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. jorgesca says:

    So who gave the respective weights in the WAR formula to BsR and Defense? If the way Cabrera is outhitting Trout this year is not enough for him to have a higher WAR something’s wrong with it.

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  30. That Guy says:

    Just last year someone (I really can’t recall who, exactly) from the A’s front office noted that they had Cabrera rated as more valuable. They look at defense and base running a little differently in-house, I guess.

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  31. Reuben says:

    I would like to point out that at his current pace, if he had played a full season, HanRam would also be knocking on 10+ WAR’s door.

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  32. No MVP for MCAB says:

    Miggy shouldn’t have won the MVP last year and shouldn’t win the MVP award this year.

    Miggy has poor character (which is listed as one of the determining MVP factors), which has been clearly displayed by his egotistical, drunk driving tirade from a few years back. What makes things worse is that he isn’t even American. He is a foreign drunk driver. Yeah, same crime as an American drunk driver, but way to slap the country in the face that pulled your life out of the gutter.

    I’d rather give the award to a proven cheater than a guy who endangers people’s lives and doesn’t give a care about it.

    Trout and Davis have never had reported incidents like this. One of them should win.

    -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Hurtlockertwo says:

    If Davis ends up with 55+ homers he gets more votes than Trout I bet.

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  34. rustydude says:

    Why not do both an MVP and an MTA, i.e. Mike Trout Award. It will be given annually to Mike Trout, or any player who out Trout’s Trout.

    More seriously, Trout was a consensus top 3 fantasy pick this year. With Braun presumably falling out of the top 3, and no clear replacement for him, are we down to a consensus top 2 as the top tier?

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  35. Adam R says:

    I would bet money that Trout gets a few more first place votes this year because I understand the logic of the Old Farts Club that does the voting. They’ll say “Ah, Cabrera won last year, so I will vote Trout this year.” That is just a good a reason to them as “Well, the Tigers are in first, so Cabrera is more valuable.” Last year’s “race” solidified my belief that these awards are shams. Trout still loses in a landslide though.

    I believe Cabrera has been better this season, but Trout has been gaining stream the last few weeks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. phoenix2042 says:

    Miguel Cabrera has been a better defensive third baseman this year than Ryan Zimmerman. I never thought I’d see the day…

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  37. Brian says:

    I’d love to see an “RBI’s above average” stat. calculate out the average number of RBIs that hitters get in each of the 8 situations (empty, loaded, first and third, etc), strip out walks that don’t lead to a run (with the bases not loaded), and have a stat that we can show people who are big RBI fans that is encompassing of opportunity or lack of opportunity. Obviously guys like Cabrera would still be at or near the top, but I would have loved to have a tool like that back in the “Ryan Howard is a top 3 first baseman” days.

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  38. MacDaddy says:

    McCutcheon is the NL MVP. Not even close.

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  39. SamForsyth says:

    I think the most annoying thing is that the writer assumes that nobody thinks Mike Trout is great because he didn’t win MVP. Get over it. They’re both great and every baseball fan thinks so.

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