OT: AL MVP Race - Cabrera/Trout

Submitted by Ron_Lippitt on August 8th, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Interesting debate on 97.1 going on regarding who the stronger MVP candidate is today:  Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. 

My immediate (homer) response was that Cabrera is the obvious selection.  But in looking at the numbers as of today:

The contrasting elements in Trout's favor is the speed (base stealing), combined with his possible Gold Glove defense.  Trout has higher on-base and slugging %.  Cabrera's RBI totals are staggering, however.

I think it'll come down to how their respective teams finish that'll determine the vote.  Very close call today.



August 8th, 2012 at 4:34 PM ^

so I look at this as a close race.  If I'm an Angels fan I don't see a race at all because of defense.  That said, I think Miggy finishes the season much stronger than Trout and wins the thing fair and square.


August 8th, 2012 at 4:46 PM ^

Seriously I don’t think they will give MVP to a rookie again unless it is special situation. (ie. Japan or other country import, like Ichiro.)

Many people were unhappy with Fred Lynn getting it and I can’t see it happening again to a “true rookie” in near future.

singler makes …

August 8th, 2012 at 4:35 PM ^

You forgot WAR, and that's all trout.

Trout: 6.9 (While not playing the first month)

Cabrera: 4.8


I don't think it is going to be close, even if Cabrera substantially outplays Trout the rest of the year. The media (and hence voters) love Trout's story, and how the Angels played better once he got called up.


August 8th, 2012 at 5:39 PM ^

That may be, but that doesn't mean that WAR alone constitutes a "case closed" argument.  There are a lot of people who blindly refer to a guy's WAR, like it's a statistic that came down from the heavens.  

I don't like that WAR is so position-dependent.  Under WAR, slugging first basemen are compared to other first basemen, which to me is only part of the comparison.  They should also be compared to other sluggers, regardless of what position they play in the field.  Every team needs a slugger, and every team needs a first baseman, but the two don't have to be combined.





August 8th, 2012 at 5:44 PM ^

WAR doesn't "compare" first basemen to other first basemen.  It's designed to be a tool that compares players across positions.  It takes raw numbers and then makes a positional adjustment to account for defensive difficulty and how hard it is to find a guy who can play a certain position.   Miguel Cabrera's WAR isn't calculated by looking at other first basemen.  It's calculated by looking at his numbers and then saying "we're going to adjust it X amount to account for the fact that first basemen are easy to find and defense doesn't matter that much there."  


August 8th, 2012 at 5:52 PM ^

I don't pretend to be well versed in the baseball stat field, I know how they calculate the newish (WAR etc) stats and that's about it. I do agree with you about pitcher wins and saves, but RBI? Isn't that still runs batted in? Aren't a lot of them still a great measure of how good a hitter you are? Pitcher wins have so many other factors involved, but RBI means you hit a guy in when he was on base. That seems like one of the best possible measures if how good a hitter you are no?


August 8th, 2012 at 5:55 PM ^

Hitting with runners on base is not a different skill than hitting generally (though all hitter perform better with men on base because pitchers are pitching out of the stretch).  Hitting with runners on base is just "hitting" with a giant confounding variable added in (the more often the guys in front of you are on base, the more RBI opportunities you will have).  


August 8th, 2012 at 5:57 PM ^

As another poster mentioned, was Ruben Sierra a good hitter in 1993 when he drove in 101 runs? He was actually HORRENDOUS that year. He hit .233 with a .288 OBP and a .390 slugging. Those are nearly identical to Brennan Boesch's numbers this year.


August 8th, 2012 at 7:08 PM ^

you fail to mention that when i dug into sierra's #s, he was 31-101 with 10 HRs with multiple men on base.  that's why he drove in so many runs.  he was clutch that year.  he made his hits count.  if you were to ask his manager what sierra's main responsiblity was on that team, i guarantee he would say "drive in runs".  and he did.  he also had 50+ more runs + rbi than anyone else on that team.


August 9th, 2012 at 12:41 AM ^

far fewer.  because like i said he was ridiculous with multiple men on base.  in 101 AB he drove home 71 rbi, which blow your birds-eye view avgs away.  you can argue that he had a "lucky" year driving in runs compared to his avgs, but he did it.  an avg guy probably drives in 25-30 less runs in those 101 ABs.

the As scored about 15 runs per 100 outs, so those 25-30 extra rbi by sierra noted above would buy him a lot of outs.

WAR is a summary of a guy's avgs, on an avg team, in an avg ballpark, against avg pitchers, etc, etc.  it's a good tool, but i sure wouldn't want to argue who had a better year based on that alone.  it gives no credit for being a clutch hitter, great baserunner or any other intangibles.


August 8th, 2012 at 6:09 PM ^

The problem with WAR is that it's defensive component,  UZR (assuming you're using fangraphs WAR), is largely useless in the sample size of a season.

Take Brett Lawrie for example, his UZR/150 is 15.7 right now, that is highly inflated because he has 59 OOZ plays on the season. That isn't because he has some ridiculous range, it's because of the shit the Blue Jays employ that allows him to make plays that a SS would normally get to, even though that play may not require even above average range to make, because of where he was positioned he gets credit for an OOZ play, boosting his UZR and boosting his WAR.

For the most part, I don't bother looking at WAR, as it is far from perfect.


August 8th, 2012 at 6:14 PM ^

Fangraphs also had an article talking about, for example, Andrew McCutchen having a negative UZR this season. His longer range sample size indicates he has a positive defensive value. This is the same as Jeter hitting in the .340's that one season. He wasn't actually a .340 value hitter, no matter what his season numbers indicated.


August 8th, 2012 at 4:40 PM ^

...but Trout, and its not that close.  I am a Braves fan, so I have no dog in the fight.  And offensively Cabrera is as good as anyone in baseball.  But based on position and defense Trout has been a significantly more valuable player this year, by anyone's WAR-type metrics.  And RBIs are dumb.


August 8th, 2012 at 4:55 PM ^

He means that they are dumb when trying to determine the value of a player. Case in point: Josh Willingham. He is currently #3 in all of baseball in RBIs, but would you say he's a top 5 hitter? Top 10? Top 20 even? Or how about Adam Dunn, who currently ranks #8 in RBIs. Is he even a top 50 hitter?


August 8th, 2012 at 4:59 PM ^

What I meant is that they are horrible at determining an individual player's value because they are so massively dependant on what the other guys on the team do.  Similar to runs, pitcher win-loss record, etc, etc.  There are just much, much better statistics to look at if you are trying to determine an indivual's value (OBP, Slugging, ISO, etc).

snarling wolverine

August 8th, 2012 at 5:06 PM ^

Can't you make the same argument for most, if not all, batting statistics?  If you're a great hitter in a terrible lineup, you're not going to get many good pitches to hit, which will probably depress your average and slugging percentage, and so forth.  


singler makes …

August 8th, 2012 at 5:28 PM ^

Cabrera has driven in 20.8% of the runners on base during his at bats.

Trout has driven in 21.2% of the runners on base during his at bats.

Cabrera is crushing Trout in RBIs because he has had 237 plate apperanes with runners on base. Trout has had only 134.


In other words, Trout and Cabrera have performed equally in terms of driving runners in who are on base during their plate appearences.


August 8th, 2012 at 5:28 PM ^

batting average isn't appreciably affected by what people above you do, but RBI's are very largely based on what people do in front of you.

RBI opportunities correlate strongly with RBIs.

Austin Jackson's had a great season by any metric, but he has only 50 RBI - because he hits leadoff instead of 4th.


August 8th, 2012 at 5:32 PM ^

no one is saying rbi is the most important metric.  but it is easy to obtain and it is important.  to say rbi is a dumb stat, is a dumb statement.

i guarantee that every hitter that lead his league in rbi had a good year.

all said, i think trout deserves the mvp right now.  it's obvious he sparked that team, has stats better than ricky henderson's best year, and he plays solid D in CF.


August 8th, 2012 at 5:35 PM ^

had 101 RBI with a triple slash (batting average/obp/slugging) of .233/.288/.390.  He was a terrible, terrible baseball player, but he had 100 RBI because the stat is so context dependent as to be meaningless.  


August 8th, 2012 at 6:19 PM ^

lead the league with 129 rbi, so sierra wasn't even close to him.

that said, sierra played on a bad oakland team in 1993.  the fact that he drove in 101 runs is a great credit to him, despite those #s you show above.    he was 31-101 with 10 HR with 2 or more men on base.  the guy was clutch that year.  he diserves credit for that production.  the trouble is, you give no credit for actual production.

you could have 2 teammates:

player1 - .300 .400 .500 with 90 runs and 90 rbi

player2 - .280 .370 .450 with 100 runs and 100 rbi

you would say player1 had the better year based on WAR yada yada yada.  i would say player2 because they were on the same team yet player2 had better actual production - scoring and driving in runs, which is how games are won.


August 8th, 2012 at 6:28 PM ^

player 1 made less outs for his team. Is this a hypothetical scenerio? Because in your hypothetical, player 2 probably had more RBI's because he probably had more guys to drive in.

Are you the type of guy who would say that a player hitting a sacrifice fly did more for his team than the guy who gets a lead off single? Because the sacrifice fly is actually more damaging to run scoring than avoiding an out with nobody on.


August 8th, 2012 at 6:40 PM ^

question 2 - no.  i've never been a fan of the sacrifice fly.  it should just be an out.  but i do give him credit for driving that run in.  i will ask you, are you the type of guy that gives no credit for guy hitting a sacrifice fly?  i would say you don't because WAR, etc does not address that.  it would say an out is an out, and the rbi is just a fluke.


August 8th, 2012 at 8:33 PM ^

This is why I will disagree with just this comment. If there happens to be a guy on 3rd base for both players and the one player strikes out and the other gets a sac fly...Isn't the 2nd much better? 

If you don't think so because "an out is an out", then wait until your team is tied late in a game with 1 out. RBI is a bad stat for comparing two different players but it is a good stat when combined with multiple different stats. WAR is a better stat for comparison but has major flaws as well. 

I'm a Tigers fan but right now Trout is the better MVP candidate. Period.


August 8th, 2012 at 5:45 PM ^

as a team stat. Take this example as a problem from an indivdual standpoint though. Nelson Cruz and his 107 wRC+ has 67 RBI's this year. Robinson Cano and his 146 wRC+ has 64 RBI's. In reality, Cano is having the superior season by a healthy margin, but RBI's would lead you to believe otherwise.


August 8th, 2012 at 6:31 PM ^

that said, cruz and cano's #s are nearly identical with men on base.   and cruz has been better with 2 or more men on.  so cruz is has been much more "clutch" than cano.  he's getting hits when you want your guys to get hits.  i choose not to penalize a hitter for that.  you do.

snarling wolverine

August 8th, 2012 at 5:03 PM ^

I'm sure you can find anomolies here and there, but in general, when the objective is to outscore the other team, I don't see how you can downplay RBIs.  Home runs, OK.  Maybe even batting average is overrated.  But RBIs . . . I disagree.  We talk about how important on-base percentage is, but what good is it if the guy behind you in the order leaves you stranded?