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Friday, November 16, 2012

Mitch Albom: Miggy’s award a win for fans, defeat for stats geeks

Tuesdays with Morrie Arnovich’s Era.

But Trout excelled in the kind of numbers that a few years ago weren’t even considered, mostly because A) They were impossible to measure, and B) Nobody gave a hoot.

Today, every stat matters. There is no end to the appetite for categories—from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

So in areas such as “how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim” or “batting average when leading off an inning” or “Win Probability Added,” Trout had the edge. At least this is what we were told.

I mean, did you do the math? I didn’t. I like to actually see the sun once in a while.

...Which, by the way, speaks to a larger issue about baseball. It is simply being saturated with situational statistics. What other sport keeps coming up with new categories to watch the same game? A box score now reads like an annual report. And this WAR statistic—which measures the number of wins a player gives his team versus a replacement player of minor league/bench talent (honestly, who comes up with this stuff?)—is another way of declaring, “Nerds win!”

We need to slow down the shoveling of raw data into the “what can we come up with next?” machine. It is actually creating a divide between those who like to watch the game of baseball and those who want to reduce it to binary code.

Thanks to Crosseyed and Painless.

Repoz Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:24 AM | 91 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tigers

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   1. Gotham Dave Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM (#4304121)
Stats geeks: not fans.

And “saving runs by being a super fast outfielder with great instincts” is the same thing as Elias junk stats. Sure thing, Mitch. I said in the other thread than I didn’t care that Cabrera won but now I just wish he hadn’t so we could see Mitch whining instead of this smug bullshit.
   2. Crosseyed and Painless Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4304124)
Hey, my first link on BBTF! And I used my shot to make you all suffer through Mitch!
   3. JJ1986 Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM (#4304125)
I love how people who are obsessed with the triple crown are not "stats geeks".
   4. Bug Selig Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4304126)
It is actually creating a divide between those who like to watch the game of baseball and those who want to reduce it to binary code.


I would bet my pay for the next year that the average "stat geek" likes to watch the game of baseball far more than Mitch "I chatted with some people who weren't there" Albom. What a dick.
   5. SG Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4304129)
This is ridiculous. A player's underwear color does not reflect their true talent.
   6. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM (#4304136)
Which, by the way, speaks to a larger issue about baseball. It is simply being saturated with situational statistics.


"Cabrera led his team to the World Series and Trout faded down the stretch" was the main argument for Cabrera on a non-baseball site I visit. Well, technically, the argument was pro-"Cabrerra."
   7. fra paolo Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4304143)
It's a win for Cabrera, too. This earned him an extra $200k (per Cot's). He could probably buy my old neighbourhood in Detroit for that!
   8. kthejoker Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:16 AM (#4304155)
Situational statistics like stolen bases, walks, putouts, double plays - to hell with all of them!
   9. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4304156)
How are the similarities to the 1990'AL MVP vote not one of the dominant topics of this discussion? The issues are so similar yet in 1990 the vote went the other way.
   10. Mattbert Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4304157)
As a fan, I would rather watch Mike Trout play baseball than Miguel Cabrera any day. And that's no knock on Miggy, who I have no problem with as the MVP. He's a terrific player.

Mike Trout is a more exciting, dynamic, and just plain fun player. And that sense of fun and entertainment has, ironically, been overlooked by many who've framed him as the darling of the stats shut-ins or whatever in order to argue Cabrera's case.

Mitch Albom can take his tedious straw man horseshit and go crawl up his own ass. Where he'd no doubt continue to watch less baseball than the nerds he impugns in this priggish festival of nonsense he calls a column.
   11. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4304165)
I love how people who are obsessed with the triple crown are not "stats geeks".


This MVP result was significant because it was the first time that people who should have known better -- such as most of the people who post here -- threw their tacit support to a player they knew to be undeserving because of the silliness of something like the triple crown.
   12. The District Attorney Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4304167)
We just can't kill this "looking more closely at stats = how the guy hit on even-numbered Thursdays" thing, can we.
   13. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4304168)
10 - I would love a study that breaks down the number of games sports writers watch in their free time compared with the number of games stat geeks watch. Hell, how many people were checking in on Brazil-Panama last night? I wonder if Mitch Albom knows that game was played.
   14. Nasty Nate Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4304171)
This MVP result was significant....


Ha ha, who some writers vote on for some honor they created is significant (not only that, but significant because of the reactions to those votes by people here) but actual postseason games and series are meaningless exhibitions? your obliviousness is hilarious.
   15. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4304173)
This MVP result was significant because it was the first time that people who should have known better -- such as most of the people who post here -- threw their tacit support to a player they knew to be undeserving because of the silliness of something like the triple crown.

He led the league in SLG and OPS and his team won the pennant. It wasn't just the Triple Crown.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:33 AM (#4304174)
I wonder if Mitch Albom knows that game was played.


Know about it? He was there in the crowd, with Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson!
   17. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4304179)
It wasn't just the Triple Crown.


Yes, it was.
   18. President of the David Eckstein Fan Club Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4304180)
I feel like this is Bizaaro world where the candidate favored by "stat geeks" is getting that boost because of things like defense and baserunning that the "non stat geek" people allegedly appreciate more than the geeks.
   19. stanmvp48 Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4304181)
By the way: Did any of you read "Tuesday's with Morrie" What a pile of overrated cliche riddled drivel.
   20. Blubaldo Jimenez (OMJ) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4304194)
Today, every stat matters. There is no end to the appetite for categories—from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.


This straw man makes me want to stab myself in the eye. This is the exact thing they parade out in game broadcasts and the like, and the exact thing "stats nerds" are railing against.
   21. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4304201)
He led the league in SLG and OPS and his team won the pennant

One of these is irrelevant to the discussion because of the timing of the vote.
   22. Dale Sams Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4304211)
Today, every stat matters. There is no end to the appetite for categories—from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.


Kind of like "First Triple Crown in 45 years"...so if someone got the TC last year, then Cabrera doesn't deserve to be MVP. Yeah that makes sense.
   23. bobm Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM (#4304214)
An unsurprising piece from a panelist on The Sports Reporters


[5] This is ridiculous. A player's underwear color does not reflect their true talent

Jason Giambi's magic gold thong says hi.

[12] We just can't kill this "looking more closely at stats = how the guy hit on even-numbered Thursdays" thing, can we.

Blame Elias Sports Bureau.
   24. Dale Sams Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM (#4304218)
Remember kids:

Selective advanced stats=bad.

Avg, 7th inning and on in September and August=good.
   25. AJMcCringleberry Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4304221)
Stats are dumb, vote for the guy who led three stat categories! Wins are important, vote for the guy who played on the team with fewer wins!
   26. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4304224)
I do not feel that my beliefs about statistical analysis were well represented by Mr. Albom.
   27. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4304232)
I do not feel that intelligent thought is well represented by Mr. Albom.


FTFY
   28. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM (#4304233)
This straw man makes me want to stab myself in the eye. This is the exact thing they parade out in game broadcasts and the like, and the exact thing "stats nerds" are railing against.


Concur.
   29. Scott Ross Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4304242)
What does a "stat geek" have to do to qualify as a fan? Agree with Mitch?
   30. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4304245)
I'm still waiting for Mitch to team up with Troy Polamalu for a Head and Shoulders commercial.
   31. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4304252)
If Albom is going to start a career as a pitchman, it should be for toques, earmuffs, or hoodies.
   32. I Am Not a Number Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4304260)
The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

Hello Dunning-Kruger effect. A statement like this is symptomatic of widespread societal innumeracy. Far too many people are unable to grasp what should be fairly basic mathematical concepts and they betray this ignorance with statements that are 180 degrees from what "stat geeks" truly think. Where would you even start to educate someone like Albom?

I know the rules forbidding political talk in non-political forums, but this same innumeracy was behind the "unskewing" of polls that made several prognosticators look foolish a week ago. Math as art rather than science.
   33. The Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4304266)
Where would you even start to educate someone like Albom?

Since he's already disproven the maxim that 80% of succcess is showing up, I'd prefer to start on an easier case.
   34. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4304267)
Hello Dunning-Kruger effect. A statement like this is symptomatic of widespread societal innumeracy. Far too many people are unable to grasp what should be fairly basic mathematical concepts and they betray this ignorance with statements that are 180 degrees from what "stat geeks" truly think. Where would you even start to educate someone like Albom?

When "stat geeks" are so insistent that Trout was not only better, but "HE'S NOT THE MVP, OH THE HUMANITY!!!" better, I'm not sure Albom's the one in need of being "educated."

   35. Steve N Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:12 PM (#4304277)
I have to agree with the article that there are too many situational stats. Most seem pretty random to me with very limited. sample size. I'd be hesitant to use them to judge a player.

Most Valuable Player. I can't decide what it means but it would definitely seem to imply that they are not, necessarily, the best player. This is sort of the "We could have finished last without you", syndrome.

I have no problem with Cabrera and would have had no problem with Trout.
   36. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4304282)
Most Valuable Player. I can't decide what it means but it would definitely seem to imply that they are not, necessarily, the best player. This is sort of the "We could have finished last without you", syndrome.


There is absolutely no reason that an analysis of who was the most valuable player should focus on how valuable the player's teammates were.

It is not the Most Valuable Team award.

Nor is it the Most Valuable Player Who Has The Most Valuable Teammates. Nor is it the "most valuable player on a good team." Nor is it the "most valuable player on a team that made the playoffs by the least amount."

Nor is it "most valuable player who happened to finish first in a silly grouping of three categories."

People want to focus on everything except the actual question. That is diseased, irrational thinking, and should be called out as such.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4304287)
I hope I do not meet people like Mitch Albom in heaven.
   38. Sean Forman Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4304300)
Imagine if an anonymous poll of front office personnel showed 80% found Trout more valuable? How much would that move the needle? Imagine someone actually asked front office personnel what they think of stats like WAR and what do they do to estimate player value? And we find out they actually use WAR-type numbers and defensive numbers like UZR and DRS to make decisions.

Thinking about it I’m getting a bit miffed now that they benefit off our work and then do nothing to validate our work to the general public. Screw you Theo Epstein!
   39. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4304309)
That is diseased, irrational thinking, and should be called out as such.

"Diseased"? I can see irrational (pretty clearly), but "diseased"? Really? "Diseased"?
   40. dr. scott Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4304310)
Sean, call Nate, have him do a poll....

its the only way.

Even with an anonymous poll, though, they will say what is in their best interest to have people think rather than what they really think.
   41. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4304311)
Thinking about it I’m getting a bit miffed now that they benefit off our work and then do nothing to validate our work to the general public.

Sean Quixote. I like it. Has a nice ring to it. :D
   42. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4304314)
"Diseased"? I can see irrational (pretty clearly), but "diseased"? Really? "Diseased"?


Yes, diseased. If I asked you which home on your street had the highest value, would you add up all the furniture, possessions, money, and cars inside each house and base your answer heavily on that?

That is what people do with their bizarre interpretations of the words "most valuable." It is not sane.

   43. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4304318)
Sean, I heard Buster Olney on M&M this morning saying that "all" the GMs and FO people were telling writers that they were out of their minds if they didn't vote for Trout. But the voters apparently listened to "all" of the players, coaches, and managers who told them they were out of their minds if they didn't voter for Cabrera.
   44. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:49 PM (#4304319)
now that they benefit off our work


This is the important point I think. For all the ######## that the Alboms of the world want to do sabermetrics or whatever you want to call it has made substantial inroads in the business of Major League Baseball. There are varying degrees of influence but every tea, in baseball uses this stuff to build their roster.
   45. Austin Kearns: The Spy Who Shagged Flies Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4304320)
If GMs and FO personnel are more likely to see Trout as more deserving of the MVP than Cabrera, does that necessarily mean that they're putting a greater emphasis on advanced stats, or that they see value on more economic terms (salary, years of cost control, etc.) than a sportswriter or player would?
   46. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4304322)
How are the similarities to the 1990'AL MVP vote not one of the dominant topics of this discussion? The issues are so similar yet in 1990 the vote went the other way.


I don't think it lines up too well for four main reasons:

1. Rickey had 48 points of BA on Fielder, and it's not hard to imagine a sportswriter saying "the higher BA balances out the RBI difference and the steals balance out the home run difference" and so arriving at the right answer for the wrong reasons.

2. An argument that Trout was as good or better than Cabrera as a pure hitter requires some adjustments for park effects that are both somewhat complicated and somewhat uncertain. In 1990 no one would've had to argue that Oakland was a lot tougher place to hit than Detroit, and Rickey had a higher unadjusted OPS than Fielder anyway (not that anyone was looking at OPS).

3. In 1990 Fielder was some unknown guy who'd only hit in Japan and Rickey was an established star, just the opposite of the 2012 situation. I'd bet that if Trout was an established star he'd have won the thing.

4. Rickey didn't have anything like Trout's defensive reputation. He was probably undervalued, but he also wasn't ever as good as Trout is at the moment.

EDIT: Reason #5 is that Oakland won 103 games and Detroit only won 79, proving that Rickey is more of a winner or something.
   47. The District Attorney Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4304326)
I heard Buster Olney on M&M this morning saying that "all" the GMs and FO people were telling writers that they were out of their minds if they didn't vote for Trout.
No link because I don't feel like going there, but apparently ESPN polled their writers and like 20 of the 27 said they'd vote Trout first, which is interesting.
   48. villageidiom Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4304327)
Imagine someone actually asked front office personnel what they think of stats like WAR and what do they do to estimate player value? And we find out they actually use WAR-type numbers and defensive numbers like UZR and DRS to make decisions.
Well, obviously such front office personnel don't like baseball.

More seriously, sports columnists already know they're smarter than their team's front office. Polling front offices to find that they use WAR or similar metrics would only prove their point.
   49. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4304329)
Where would you even start to educate someone like Albom?


I think this might be a good starting point for discussions.
   50. TomH Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4304331)
Trout actually getting SOME first-place votes is progress! In 1980 or 1990, Cabrera would have been unanimous or at most 2 votes shy. Old schoolies, we will hunt you down one by one until the last Jedi is dead.
   51. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4304332)
Yes, diseased. If I asked you which home on your street had the highest value, would you add up all the furniture, possessions, money, and cars inside each house and base your answer heavily on that?


Voting for the best player on a playoff team rather than the best player is like answering Ray's question by arbitrarily crossing off all the homes that aren't in the top eight neighborhoods by average property value. It's just asinine, particularly given that the ballot instructions explicitly say that the winner doesn't need to come from a playoff team.

Next year, the BBWAA should just mail out a sheet that says "VOTE FOR THE BEST PLAYER, YOU MORON" 500 times. Maybe then, a few voters might get the message.
   52. Blubaldo Jimenez (OMJ) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4304341)
Trout actually getting SOME first-place votes is progress! In 1980 or 1990, Cabrera would have been unanimous or at most 2 votes shy. Old schoolies, we will hunt you down one by one until the last Jedi is dead.


Except in 2001 he would have won! We are losing ground, not gaining it!
   53. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4304347)
Again, the surprise here was not the vote; it was the fact that otherwise knowledgeable people, such as the ones posting here, were distracted by a shiny object comprised of a silly grouping of three stats.

   54. BDC Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4304359)
I have to agree with the article that there are too many situational stats. Most seem pretty random to me with very limited. sample size. I'd be hesitant to use them to judge a player

There is – I'd say literally nobody – on BBTF (using us as shorthand for thinking-geek fans) who puts any store into what somebody is hitting in the sixth inning of home day games or whatever. Nobody; in fact the practice is ridiculed.

Sean's B-Ref (and Fangraphs and other such sites) count and post such things, true. But that's because they're there. More knowledge in more detail is always better than less and making a WAG about something. If nothing else, one can use the situational stats to dispel arguments for the specialness of somebody who's hitting .400 in the sixth inning. It's not that there are "too many" such stats; the stats are simply facts. Facts are good.

It tends to be only on broadcasts that one sees a flash of a number like "In home day games after a night loss, Adrian Beltre has hit .400 this year" – with implied claims that this means anything at all and that it tells you that something big will come of Beltre's PAs today.
   55. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:42 PM (#4304382)
I feel like this is Bizaaro world where the candidate favored by "stat geeks" is getting that boost because of things like defense and baserunning that the "non stat geek" people allegedly appreciate more than the geeks.

That's pretty much my reaction, too. And I can't believe that anyone would need much more than to look at Trout's SB numbers and watch him play in the outfield to see how much better an all-around player he is than Cabrera. But then I've always favored the 5 tool player over the wooden Indian, even if Cabrera wasn't quite on that low level of fielding.

That said, I only wish they could have given two awards here. It's just kind of a sad coincidence that the first triple crown winner in 45 years eclipses one of the best half dozen or so seasons in the past 50.
   56. stanmvp48 Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4304404)
Does anyone know who first thought of "The Triple Crown"? How did BA, HR, and RBI come to be considered more important than any other stats.
   57. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4304410)
I assume because they were the shiniest of the few stats they had. Of course homers are obviously better than doubles or triples. BA, Runs and HRs would have been better though.
   58. TDF, situational idiot Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4304417)
Gotta love Old Hoss Radbourn.
   59. TomH Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM (#4304446)
There seems to be agreeent here that Cabrera would NOT have won the trophy if Granderson had hit 2 more HR, and the TC had eluded Cabrera.

This IMHO is a mistaken notion.

Voitng patterns over many, many years show that Cabrera won the MVP because he led the league in RBI for a playoff team. The TC; yes, that probably helped the narrative some. But it did not swing 12 ballots or anything like that.
   60. Spectral Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM (#4304447)
I'm glad I'm not the only one who's gotten vertigo from the "old school" telling us stat nerds that we're overvaluing defense and baserunning.
   61. vivaelpujols Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4304452)
So in areas such as “how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim” or “batting average when leading off an inning” or “Win Probability Added,” Trout had the edge. At least this is what we were told


Die in hell Mitch Albom, die in hell.
   62. Sean Forman Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4304457)
I looked up the Triple Crown in The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, turns out that it started as Hits, BA, and Runs. First reference according to Dickson to current triple crown was related to Gehrig in 1936 going for a second triple crown.

Cobb in his autobiography mentioned he was a 3x winner from 1907-1909 for leading in RBI, Hits and Avg.
   63. TomH Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4304459)
#56: Western Australian in the 1850s.

oh, wrong sport.
   64. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4304473)
Wonder if Cabrera will note in his biography that he won the Quintuple Crown in 2012?
   65. TomH Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4304478)
Sean, was that the ghostwritten autobiography that has since come under scrutiny (Wild last 9 months)?
I suspect this is something Ty or his ghostwriter acknowledged WELL after the fact.

Great mini-research to find the "Gehrig's 1936" answer!
   66. TDF, situational idiot Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4304479)
So considering the Angels swept the Sox Sept 21-23, helping the Tigers win their division, shouldn't Trout get credit for that?
   67. Dan Szymborski Posted: November 16, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4304493)
No link because I don't feel like going there, but apparently ESPN polled their writers and like 20 of the 27 said they'd vote Trout first, which is interesting.

I was one of the Trout voters, which I guess isn't surprising to anyone (ESPN, not BBWAA). I was considering putting Trout for NL MVP, too and waiting to see how long it would take for that editor to get mad at me.
   68. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 04:43 PM (#4304546)
Albom should stick to writing books about his dead relatives and teachers or whatever and try not to dredge up the old "triples on even numbered Thursday" crap, and presenting that as if its a pearl of wisdom and that no one else had ever beaten that dead horse before.
   69. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 16, 2012 at 04:45 PM (#4304547)
There seems to be agreeent here that Cabrera would NOT have won the trophy if Granderson had hit 2 more HR, and the TC had eluded Cabrera.

This IMHO is a mistaken notion.

Voitng patterns over many, many years show that Cabrera won the MVP because he led the league in RBI for a playoff team. The TC; yes, that probably helped the narrative some. But it did not swing 12 ballots or anything like that.


Since 2000, there have been 10 RBI leaders who played for playoff teams. Two won MVP: Arod (the legitimate best player in the league that year) in 2007 and Cabrera in 2012 (the TC winner). Whatever historical correlation there is between that single category and the MVP is not present in 21st century voting patterns.

It was the Triple Crown.
   70. Every Inge Counts Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:11 PM (#4304569)
I think the Triple Crown helped. And the Tigers winning the AL Central with Miguel being very very good in September helped.

I also think the fact that he has never won the MVP before and had such a great season probably helped as well.


I am going to just enjoy my favorite baseball player on my favorite team get some props. Wish it was not so bitter on both sides of the argument. I am sure in 2 or 3 years when they change the WAR formula perhaps Trout wasn't that much better than Miggy this season.
   71. Dale Sams Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:18 PM (#4304576)
Heh. Had things swung a little different I could be playing Mitch Albom in "Tuesdays with Morrie", a scant few weeks after calling him an idiot. Small world.
   72. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:22 PM (#4304578)
I am going to just enjoy my favorite baseball player on my favorite team get some props. Wish it was not so bitter on both sides of the argument. I am sure in 2 or 3 years when they change the WAR formula perhaps Trout wasn't that much better than Miggy this season.

Don't sweat it, he led the league in a bunch of important offensive categories and is an entirely deserving MVP. The WARriors are basically talking to themselves at this point.
   73. Walt Davis Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4304582)
There is – I'd say literally nobody – on BBTF (using us as shorthand for thinking-geek fans) who puts any store into what somebody is hitting in the sixth inning of home day games or whatever.

True but ...

“how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim” or “batting average when leading off an inning” or “Win Probability Added,”

Two of those things are essentially arguments that we do bring up. The current stat geeks (the real ones) are quite deep into the weeds. Park effects are easy and straightforward but there are guys who look at "how many of his HRs would have gone out if he played in ..." And now we're also adjusting for (or raising in arguments) quality of defense behind a pitcher, the average OPS of a batter faced by a pitcher, pitch framing, umpire effects, leverage (for relievers). Somebody at fangraphs did write a big article on Trout's lead in WPA (rather some adjusted version of it). The pitch guys are now looking at how batters/pitchers fare on fastballs, curveballs, etc. The defensive stats are essentially just a sum of small samples (he caught x% of fly balls in this zone and y% of fliners in that zone). And of course things like Rbase and Rdp are based on a miniscule number of opportunities.

I'm not saying we shouldn't -- if it's significant, it's significant -- but the story stat geeks tell is increasingly detailed. That is the appeal of something like WAR -- they've tracked down and incorporated those pesky "trivial" factors so you don't have to.

It shows up more in pitching that hitting as you can see above so take a look at the Verlander vs. Price discussion.

   74. Baldrick Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM (#4304585)
I am sure in 2 or 3 years when they change the WAR formula perhaps Trout wasn't that much better than Miggy this season.

I know this is a throwaway line, but...it kind of gets at the whole thing.

That this ended being some knock-down fight about WAR is just crazy. Trout was really really really obviously better this year. It doesn't have anything to do with WAR. It has to do with him hitting almost as well as Cabrera, running the bases as well as anyone in baseball, and playing stupendous defense.
   75. TDF, situational idiot Posted: November 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4304616)
That this ended being some knock-down fight about WAR is just crazy. Trout was really really really obviously better this year. It doesn't have anything to do with WAR. It has to do with him hitting almost as well as Cabrera, running the bases as well as anyone in baseball, and playing stupendous defense.
Exactly. Unless you think defense and baserunning are completely without value, Trout was better. And if defense is completely without value, why didn't Detroit just stick Fielder at 3rd and leave Young in LF?

My buddy and I are having a different arguement. He agrees that Trout was better, but argues Cabrera was more "valuable" because of Aug/Sept and late/close games (if he can really step it up when it matters, what about October?), Tigers made the playoffs (despite LA winning more games in a tougher division), that stuff; essentially, the "value is however I choose to define it" arguement.
   76. Bob Tufts Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4304657)
How does a guy like Albom get to call someone else a geek? Seriously!
   77. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:11 PM (#4304667)
This MVP result was significant because it was the first time that people who should have known better -- such as most of the people who post here -- threw their tacit support to a player they knew to be undeserving because of the silliness of something like the triple crown.

Tacit support = "I would vote for Trout, but if/when Cabrera wins, I'm not going to mail a box of rattlesnakes to the BBWAA offices."
   78. alilisd Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:12 PM (#4304668)
Screw you Theo Epstein!


Amen, Brother!
   79. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:19 PM (#4304673)
I feel like this is Bizaaro world where the candidate favored by "stat geeks" is getting that boost because of things like defense and baserunning that the "non stat geek" people allegedly appreciate more than the geeks.


How come this angle isn't getting much, much more play?
   80. TomH Posted: November 16, 2012 at 08:49 PM (#4304714)
OK, maybe I did not SAY it well enough, but it absolutely true that "leading the league in RBI for a winner" has been, and CONTINUES to be, a large factor in MVP voting.

There seems to be agreeent here that Cabrera would NOT have won the trophy if Granderson had hit 2 more HR, and the TC had eluded Cabrera.
This IMHO is a mistaken notion.
Voitng patterns over many, many years show that Cabrera won the MVP because he led the league in RBI for a playoff team. The TC; yes, that probably helped the narrative some. But it did not swing 12 ballots or anything like that.

Since 2000, there have been 10 RBI leaders who played for playoff teams. Two won MVP: Arod (the legitimate best player in the league that year) in 2007 and Cabrera in 2012 (the TC winner). Whatever historical correlation there is between that single category and the MVP is not present in 21st century voting patterns.
It was the Triple Crown.


'since 2000' conveniently cuts off before 98, when Sosa stole an MVP from McGwire, simply because of this effect.

Some examples since then:
2000AL Edgar (WC) lost to Giambi - who has ALMOST as many RBI, and more HR, and better SLG, & played for a division winner. The RBI/win thing helped Edgar.
2001AL Boone lost to Suzuki - for other reasons; his teammate had the cool many hits plus many SB plus he was new luster.
2004NL Rolen lost to Bonds. Well, the BBWAA noticed that 232 walks were a bit of an outlier maybe? Rolen got far more votes than he should have. The RBI/win thing helped him.
2005AL Ortiz (WC) lost to ARod, who was on a div winner, and who had other bigger ##s than Papi. Papi finishd higher than he 'should' have.
2005NL Jones lost to Pujols. Well, yes, Pujols hit 67 points higher than Andruw. Pujols would have won by more if not for the RBI/win thing.

So if I could word it more carefully, leading the league in RBI for a division winner is a very large factor in MVP voting. It seems to be less important now than it was from the 60s thru the early 90s, maybe because of the new playoff format.
The TC had likely little effect.
   81. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: November 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4304730)
Since 2000, there have been 10 RBI leaders who played for playoff teams. Two won MVP: Arod (the legitimate best player in the league that year) in 2007 and Cabrera in 2012 (the TC winner). Whatever historical correlation there is between that single category and the MVP is not present in 21st century voting patterns.


Yes, that was true from the mid 50's till the mid 90's. Thing is, during that period there were only 2, then 4 playoff teams. When they went to 8 and now 10, it's not surprising the affect has disappeared.
   82. Srul Itza Posted: November 16, 2012 at 09:39 PM (#4304734)
The TC had likely little effect


Well, most of us respectfully disagree. Given all the buzz about Trout, I think it had a huge effect. Everywhere you went, when people were discussing it, the traditionalists said "Cabrera - Triple Crown - case closed".

If he had not won the Triple Crown, I think he still gets some buzz, but does not win.

And as these things go, 2000 is a long time ago.
   83. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 16, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4304739)
'since 2000' conveniently cuts off before 98, when Sosa stole an MVP from McGwire, simply because of this effect.


Or he stole it because his Maris-breaking homers resulted in a playoff berth and Mac's didn't. Just because you link RBI titles/playoff berths (where convenient) as if they're inseparable doesn't make it so.

But even if you're right that it was Sammy's RBIs that did it, it doesn't have much to do with my claim, since I'm specifically talking about changes in voting habits. Whatever correlation that existed in earlier years (and, I agree, a correlation is pretty obvious) isn't as strong any more. The 20 percent MVP rate for RBI-leading, playoff bound ballplayers from 2000 on should be pretty damn strong evidence of that.

Some examples since then:


Some more recent examples:

Granderson led the league in RBIs, as a centerfielder with a decent defensive rep, for a playoff team last year. He finished fourth, behind two postseason non-invites and a pitcher.

Teixeira led the league in RBIs in 2009 for the league's best team. Mauer ran away with the award.

Holliday led the league in RBIs in 2007, led the Rockies on one of the all-time great pennant surges in MLB history, won a playoff berth in a single-game playoff and lost the MVP to Jimmy Rollins.

So if I could word it more carefully, leading the league in RBI for a division winner is a very large factor in MVP voting. It seems to be less important now than it was from the 60s thru the early 90s, maybe because of the new playoff format.


Being really good is a big factor. Guys who drive in the most runs in the league tend to be really good.

Playing on a playoff team: Very important. No question. If the Tigers don't slip into the playoffs, Miggy's TC may not be enough.

Having a narrative: Way too important. And winning the Triple Crown is a ####### A narrative.

Don't get me wrong. Driving in runs has been and continues to be overvalued relative to other stats (Howard and Morneau's MVP support are exhibits A and B in this regard).

But the idea that RBIs=MVP is simply not the case today. Sure, they were 1/3 of Miggy's MVP case this year, but they were only meaningful as part of the set. If he's just the RBI leader, while finishing behind Trout in BA and Grandy in homers, he's not taking home the hardware.
   84. AndrewJ Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM (#4304749)
It is actually creating a divide between those who like to watch the game of baseball and those who want to reduce it to binary code.

As an Asperger's friend of mine once said, "The world is divided into 10 groups -- those who like binary code, and those who don't."
   85. Rough Carrigan Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4304770)
Yeah, but Mitch's columns are a victory for diminutive toupee wearers, payroll frauds and producers of low grade shmaltz writing everywhere.
   86. TomH Posted: November 17, 2012 at 12:01 AM (#4304775)
Look, I agree with most of what you said, SoSH. Yes, narrative is key, and the TC IS A Narrative. But I am not trying to say RBIs=MVP. I am saying that just 'being on a winning team', while PERCEIVED to be a big voting factor, in actuality has NOT been a big factor *in and of itself*; it tends to be a factior when coupled with some specific other factors, such as playing shortstop or catcher (which is why Mauer won in 09, because he hit three-freaking-sixty plus for a division winner while catching!), or stealing a pile of bases (ooh, a sparkplug; he must have spurred on the winner! Which is why Rollins won in 07, altho being a Rockie understandably also costs some MVP points)... or leading the league (or even finsihing close) in RBIs.

Go ahead, create a MVP voting system based on stats, and you will find, even if only using the last 15 years, that tying RBI-lead to division winners makes the correlation BETTER than leaving it out.

I believe it is true that no RBI leader on a division winner has ever lost an MVP award to a player whose team did NOT win (I have not checked pre-1946). Miggy would have been the first. Ergo, how can I NOT conclude that the TC was not The Thing which pushed him over? Unless, of course, a number of voters come out and say that it was the swaying criterion. In which case I will admit I am wrong :)
   87. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 17, 2012 at 12:28 AM (#4304781)
Go ahead, create a MVP voting system based on stats, and you will find, even if only using the last 15 years, that tying RBI-lead to division winners makes the correlation BETTER than leaving it out.


I wouldn't be surprised. Guys who play for division winners fare better in MVP races. And the guy who drives in the most runs in the league tends to be among the league's best players, and is frequently reflected in other stats (BA and homers and SLG).

I believe it is true that no RBI leader on a division winner has ever lost an MVP award to a player whose team did NOT win (I have not checked pre-1946).


In 2008, Albert Pujols was the MVP as a member of the fourth-place Cardinals, finishing comfortably ahead of Ryan Howard of the division-winning Phillies. Howard's 146 RBIs were 22 better than the NL runner-up.

You won't find many other examples because MVPs (particularly in the expanded playoff era) predominantly come from playoff-qualifying teams. But it was just last year where an RBI leader from a division champion RBI leader, Granderson, finished behind two guys from also-rans (Ellsbury and Bautista) in the AL MVP race. It just so happened that those two guys finished behind a pitcher.

   88. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 17, 2012 at 12:37 AM (#4304784)
This MVP result was significant because it was the first time that people who should have known better -- such as most of the people who post here -- threw their tacit support to a player they knew to be undeserving because of the silliness of something like the triple crown.

Tacit support = "I would vote for Trout, but if/when Cabrera wins, I'm not going to mail a box of rattlesnakes to the BBWAA offices."


Strawman. No box of rattlesnakes was involved. In the past, people would express their disagreement on the internet. That is all that was at issue here. In the past, people wouldn't say "I'm ok" with a clearly undeserving player winning. That is what happened here. And why did it happen? Because of the silly grouping of three stat categories. As people specifically stated.
   89. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 17, 2012 at 01:07 AM (#4304801)
Strawman. No box of rattlesnakes was involved. In the past, people would express their disagreement on the internet. That is all that was at issue here. In the past, people wouldn't say "I'm ok" with a clearly undeserving player winning. That is what happened here. And why did it happen? Because of the silly grouping of three stat categories. As people specifically stated.

As people also specifically stated, this was merely resignation to an incorrect but understandable (coming from the BBWAA) result, which, since everyone you're referring to specifically stated that, given the opportunity, they would have voted for Trout, can hardly be construed as any kind of support for Cabrera's candidacy (apart from the kind that comes from fondness for Cabrera as a player, which was expressed in some cases).
   90. TomH Posted: November 17, 2012 at 09:02 AM (#4304846)
I missed 2008 Pujols/Howard. Thanks.
   91. Lassus Posted: November 17, 2012 at 09:33 AM (#4304856)
First reference according to Dickson to current triple crown was related to Gehrig in 1936 going for a second triple crown.

I hope nobody in Washington or Colorado is reading that sentence, because I'm dead sober and it's even freaking me out a bit.

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