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Friday, September 28, 2012

Carleton: A Sabermetric Case for Miguel Cabrera’s MVP Candidacy

A square rooted slice of Detroit-style pizza from Carleton.

In high school, I had a very wise history teacher whose motto was that the best way to win a debate was to be able to make the argument for the other side better than your debate opponent. So, I decided to challenge myself. Can I make a case that Miguel Cabrera deserves the American League MVP over Mike Trout using sabermetrics?

...The problem is that in order to make the case that Mike Trout wasn’t quite as good as Cabrera, I had to completely bury my head in the sand on Mike Trout’s defense. (I also had to cherry pick where I made my adjustments to their respective values.)

And that seems to be the crux of the debate. The only universe in which Miguel Cabrera wins the AL MVP is one in which baserunning and defense have no value. In order to swallow my own argument, I have to believe that Mike Trout either is a merely pedestrian center fielder, or I have to assume that there is precious little difference between outfielders in their ability to play defense. Oddly enough, this sabermetrician now encourages people to watch an Angels game or two.

There’s a deficit of language in how to express that a player is good at playing defense. I can rattle off stats both flawed (*cough* batting average *cough*) and advanced that describe offense. Personally, I think most of it goes back to playground days where defense was the boring part, but that’s another article. As a sabermetrician, what I worry about is that when I come to a deficit of language, I will act like, well, an American, and just yell louder. But what I have to realize is that my own language is not very coherent, and even if it were, I’d still need to teach people how to speak it.

Miguel Cabrera might win the AL MVP when the ballots are counted, even though Mike Trout was the better player. And the sun will rise the next day.

Repoz Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:55 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4248133)
Create a TV show, "Domino's Pizza Presents The American League Most Valuable Player Selection Show, Powered By Intel", where a blind pig runs towards two acorns, marked "Trout" and "Cabrera". The one the blind pig selects gets the MVP; the loser is summarily executed.

You know it makes sense.
   2. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4248144)
I think the path to the best stathead argument for Miggy is to show, if valid, some combination of:

1. Trout's park adjustments are off and are making his offense look too good.
2. Trout isn't this good defensively.
3. Miggy isn't this bad defensively.
4. Trout isn't this good in non-SB baserunning.

And while I think there is not much room for challenge on these grounds:

5. Trout isn't being penalized enough for playing a fair number of games in LF.
6. Trout isn't being penalized enough for missing the first month.

   3. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4248157)
The only universe in which Miguel Cabrera wins the AL MVP is one in which baserunning and defense have no value.


Given that Carleton later notes that Miguel Cabrera might very well win the AL MVP in this universe, and given that baserunning and defense do have value in this universe, this would seem to be yet another place where a deficit in language has presented itself.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:16 PM (#4248183)
This is an idiotic article. The writer starts with a defensive system that give Trout 7 fielding runs and then deducts 20 from his value because other defensive systems give him that.

edit: I know it's a 'joke'.
   5. JJ1986 Posted: September 29, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4249003)
I've spent about four hours trying to construct an actual case for Cabrera (based on stats), and it still comes up short, but:

• Trout is hitting 1st, while Cabrera is hitting 3rd. Cabrera's deployment may be sup-optimal, but it's his manager's choice, and not his fault. Trout would lose about 8 runs if he hit 3rd.

• We need to regress defense. Trout is worth around 15 runs on defense, while Cabrera is worth around -5. I think defensive numbers still need about 3 times as much data to be accurate, so regress the 20 run difference to 7. 13 runs.

• Real replacement: To be generous, Cabrera is replacing Brandon Inge, to be accurate, if he missed a few days it would be Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago taking his spot. Mike Trout is replacing Peter Bourjos (or Vernon Wells when Bourjos is hurt). Bourjos projects to more than 2 WAR over a full season, while Inge is at about 1.5 even if you ignore his horrible time in Detroit this year. Maybe you can get 10 more runs here.

Cabrera is 38 RAR behind Trout. If you can knock 30 off that, I think you're within the margin of error.
   6. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: September 29, 2012 at 07:17 PM (#4249019)
• Trout is hitting 1st, while Cabrera is hitting 3rd. Cabrera's deployment may be sup-optimal, but it's his manager's choice, and not his fault. Trout would lose about 8 runs if he hit 3rd.


Fewer runs? How so?
   7. Der-K is at full whelm. Posted: September 29, 2012 at 07:47 PM (#4249029)
Less opportunities.
   8. JJ1986 Posted: September 29, 2012 at 08:07 PM (#4249036)
Sorry, Runs created or whatever offensive measurement you use for WAR. Not runs scored.

It's about 8.5 for fewer PAs (less 4 for replacement level) and 2.5 for double play opportunities. So, closer to 7 runs.
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 30, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4249224)
Yes, WAR gives credit for the manager decision to bat a hitter leadoff. That's wrong.
   10. Gaelan Posted: September 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM (#4249226)
Completely agree that War overvalues leadoff hitters. Voting for Cabrera isn't crazy.
   11. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: September 30, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4249230)
Yes, WAR gives credit for the manager decision to bat a hitter leadoff. That's wrong.


Well, so does RBI. Put Cabrera in the leadoff position and WAR might be a little higher, but his MVP case falls apart (from the mainstream perspective), because then he's nowhere near the league leaders in RBI.

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