We’re Doing The Trout vs. Cabrera MVP Thing Again?
Last season Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout exemplified the old school vs. new school with their MVP battle. The Cabrera supporters pointed to his winning of the triple crown. Trout’s supporters pointed to his wins above replacement (WAR), great defense, speed and overall game. Even the idea of “value” was inserted into the argument in support of Trout’s candidacy – almost as a conciliatory, condescending measure – by saying that the Angels turned their season around from 6-14 without Trout to 81-58 with him in the lineup.
Here is the criteria for voting on the MVP from the BBWA website:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
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.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
In other words, vote for who you think is the MVP based on what you believe to be important. Because of that intentional phraseology, the discretion of the voter is paramount. The likes of Keith Law are entitled to their opinion as to why Trout should be the MVP over Cabrera, but it doesn’t have to be an indictment on another person’s intelligence if they disagree and present a logical case for their side.
Last season, there was more of a justification for Trout to be the MVP than Cabrera because of aforementioned factors. Now? Trout’s defense in center field is worse than it was. It’s unknown whether that’s due to the Angels early-season decision to move him to left in favor of Peter Bourjos or because of Trout’s weight gain. The extra size hasn’t harmed him on the basepaths which lends credence to the idea that measuring defense is still in its nascent stages and needs to be looked upon with some hesitancy before crediting or debiting because of it. Cabrera’s defense at third base is what it is and isn’t going to get any better. He’ll field what he can get to and his issues are in large part because of his lack of range.
A year ago, I said that Cabrera deserved points for even agreeing to move to third base because it’s something that many star players on his level would steadfastly have refused to do. Trout complained about moving to left field. Does that enter into the equation?
If you want to look at pure old-school numbers, Cabrera has actually been better in 2013 than he was in 2012 when he won the triple crown. He’s going to end the season with more homers, more RBI, has a higher batting average, a significantly higher on-base percentage, higher slugging percentage, higher OPS and higher OPS+. He’s leading the majors in every single one of those categories. Trout is leading the American League in runs, hits and walks.
We can debate about how useful WAR is forever, but like the number of hits that Ichiro Suzuki has padded his numbers with, it’s an accumulation that doesn’t take into account the other important points regarding a baseball player’s usefulness. It’s a compiled stat that very few seem to understand its calculation and even fewer truly know how important it is.
Last season, given that the Angels won more games than the Tigers did, you could say that the value given to the team was similar or even tilted in the direction of Trout because of the Angels’ record with and without him. This season, the Angels have been awful from start to finish and the Tigers are marching toward the playoffs.
The MVP is not the WAR award. It’s not a piece of stat guy or old-schooler randomness that adheres to the criteria they decide it does. The rules that writers follow are listed above and because someone like Law disagrees with the way certain people make their choices doesn’t make them wrong.
Last season there was a real case for Trout as the MVP over Cabrera. This year, it’s a professional boxing style, intentionally promoted rematch without the cachet and legitimacy that accompanied the first bout. They’re trying to right a wrong that was never actually a wrong in the first place. I don’t know where that fits in the mathematical, Latin-infused logical theorems that Law is fond of referencing to prove how much more erudite he is than the rest of the world, but it’s still doesn’t make Trout the MVP. Because he’s not. Cabrera is. Again.