Joe Posnanski breaks down MVP race between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera

The results will be announced later today, but the AL MVP race is still a contentious issue

11/15/12 in MLB   |   Pat   |   5135 respect

Oct 16, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) during game three of the 2012 ALCS against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park.  Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsThe argument has been raging for months now. Should Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season automatically hand him the MVP award? Many people think so, particularly baseball traditionalists.

The "new" wave of saber-oriented analysts lean heavily towards Mike Trout as their MVP candidate, citing things like Trout's peripheral numbers that rival and even surpass Cabrera's in many ways.

Joe Posnanski, one of the greatest baseball writers of our time, broke it down by incorporating many different metrics and looking at the "big picture," so to speak.

Posnanski began with an interesting anecdote about another Triple Crown winner, Ted Williams in 1942, who lost the MVP to a far inferior player who was viewed as a better leader with more "intangibles."

Back then, it was the "progressive" analysts that were firmly in the Williams camp, but it was to no avail. It wasn't the only time Williams lost out on an MVP award due to what appears to be nothing short of media bias.

Now, the progressive people are the ones voting AGAINST the Triple Crown winner, and going with a guy who filled the stat sheet in many other ways.

The MVP finalists this year in the American League are Trout, Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, and Robinson Cano. Make no mistake, however, this is a 2-man race. The question is not about which of the 5 to choose. It's whether to pick Trout or Cabrera.

Based on Bill James' formula, Mike Trout is significantly ahead of Cabrera as an overall MVP candidate. Trout is responsible for 173 total runs, compared to only 150 for Cabrera.

At first glance, most people would assume that Cabrera had a solid edge offensively, and that Trout's baserunning and defense closed the gap and helped him surpass Cabrera.

In reality, the offensive gap was a lot smaller than people think. According to James' formula, Cabrera was responsible for 131 runs, and Trout was responsible for 126. That's not much of a difference at all, especially when you consider the fact that Cabrera played in 22 more games than Trout.

The defensive numbers are where the real disparity lies. Trout saved 21 runs, while Cabrera's defense actually cost the Tigers 4 runs, according to James' formula.

The last two categories that Posnanski mentions are baserunning and position value. Since Trout's league-leading 49 stolen bases are included in the offensive category, this really only includes baserunning while the ball is in play. Trout was worth 4 runs, while Cabrera was worth 0. In terms of position, James' formula places slightly more value on 3B in general, so Cabrera gains 1 run on Trout.

When you put it all together, Trout is the clearly more valuable player. Virtually every WAR metric available supports this. Yes, Cabrera won the Triple Crown. But Trout's statistics across the board were great as well, and he created more total runs than Cabrera while making fewer outs.

Still, it's highly likely that Cabrera will win the MVP. In fact, I'd be shocked if he doesn't.

Despite the immense progress that we've made in statistical analysis, there's still a huge premium placed on certain statistics above all others, despite the fact that they're really not the great gauge of performance that people believe them to be. RBI, for example, is an extremely flawed stat, and depends as much on teammates and situations as it does on the player credited with them. Batting average is a nice stat, but there are a lot of other productive things that someone can do with an at bat that can't be measured in terms of simply a hit or an out.

Check back later this evening to find the MVP voting results here on FanIQ.


Source: Value Added [Posnanski]
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11/15/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Nicely done, Pat, so much so that I don't really have much to add. You rightfully point out for the stat guys, it's not Trout's WAR is better so he wins. No, that's not how it should work, just like Triple Crown = Cabrera wins should either. As you point out, Cabrera's advantage with the bat isn't as great as one would think, and Trout just overwhelms Cabrera with baserunning and defense. It's funny. During the Moneyball era, the knock on stat guys is that they didn't pay enough attention to running and defense. Now it's the stat guys arguing on the basis of running and defense.

11/15/12   |   jaysinw   |   4839 respect

I do not put much faith in the WAR simply because no formula can truly measure the importance of a player on a team. I would not hand the MVP to Cabrera because he won the AL triple crown, which if traditionalists are saying he should because of this. Should look at his stats only against the AL teams the triple crown would not have gone to him, and he did not lead the ML in all three so is he a true triple crown winner. If we take Cabrera off the Tigers and Trout off the Angels which team would be 20+ games below where they ended up this year. which ever player wins people could argue that another was just as good or better that year.