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Monday, August 18, 2014

Neyer: Grains of salt

Get that dunce cap off your head and put it on Pedro Guerrero’s!

If I gave you a choice of any non-Kershaw major leaguer for the rest of the season, who would you choose?

Right: Mike Trout. Get that dunce cap off your head and move a little closer to my desk, right this minute.

And your second choice?

I’m not going to make you put the dunce cap back on if you don’t immediately think of Alex Gordon. But by this measure, he’s actually been the best player in the major leagues this season... [but] There’s no functional difference between 5.7 fWAR and 5.6 fWAR. Better to say those two have been the two best in the majors this season…

this is where I caution everyone, quite carefully: None of this means that the people at FanGraphs believe Alex Gordon is one of the two best players in the majors, or is as valuable as Mike Trout.

Every method has limitations, and we’re simply looking for the method with the fewest limitations. Wins Above Replacement is really good. But this version, anyway, seems to overrate really good corner outfielders like Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward. I think Gordon’s a great player. I’m just not sure he’s this great.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:26 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: alex gordon, angels, mike trout, rob neyer, royals, sabermetrics

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   1. puck Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4773760)
So, does Neyer get the dunce cap for uncritically accepting Gordon's +19.5 runs on D in the Fangraphs system, or for assuming Gordon's performance the rest of the season will match what he's done so far this season?
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4773774)
NOPE, too late. Alex Gordon's fWAR is higher than Mike Trout's. Can't take it back. No backsies. ALEX GORDON IS THE CHAMPION!
   3. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: August 18, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4773808)
Question: who is the AL MVP? Trout? Donaldson? Will it come down to who wins the AL West?
   4. James Kannengieser Posted: August 18, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4773818)
I would amend this passage:

What's interesting is how they get there. Trout's been the best hitter in the American League, but a poor fielder; Gordon's been the best fielder in the American League, but just a really good hitter.

To:

What's interesting is how they get there. Trout's been the best hitter in the American League, but has a poor UZR; Gordon's had the best UZR in the American League, but just a really good hitter.
   5. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 18, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4773832)
It's Trout's to win, Cano's to steal, and that's it. There are no other contenders.
   6. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: August 18, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4773840)
Is Felix Hernandez not a candidate?
   7. theboyqueen Posted: August 18, 2014 at 04:39 PM (#4773938)
I don't see how anyone but Trout could win. As an A's fan, that dude seems to homer in every single freaking one run victory the Angels get. He seems to get an inordinate number of these in the first or second inning which must just be demoralizing to the opponents.

Whenever I look at his overall stat line, I'm surprised it's not better than it is.

Donaldson and Gordon have similar arguments, based entirely on what you think about their defensive numbers. Both seem like excellent defenders to me.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4773970)
Alex Gordon really is a sensational fielder. He's not the most valuable player by a long shot, but it is really remarkable how well he's taken to LF converting from 3B (kinda like another MVP candidate, Josh Donaldson, took to moving to 3B very well!)
   9. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4773979)
Assuming Trout wins, how many other players have had three consecutive years with at least 2nd place MVP finishes? Barry Bonds had streaks of 1, 2, 1, 1 and 2, 1, 1, 1, 1. Musial had 1, 2, 2, 2. Mantle had 2, 2, 1.
   10. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:20 PM (#4773989)
Yogi had 2,1,1,2. Hal Newhouser had 1,1,2. Dizzy Dean had 1,2,2.

ETA: Pujols had 1,1,2.
   11. Danny Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4774001)
Pujols went 2, 2, 3, 1, 2, 9, 1, 1, 2 from 2003-2010.
   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4774009)
Pujols run is incredible.
   13. DKDC Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:33 PM (#4774010)
It's Trout's to win, Cano's to steal, and that's it. There are no other contenders.


Steve Pearce and Darren O'Day say hello.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4774012)
#5: Robinson Cano
#28: Dustin Pedroia


I wonder what Kevin thinks about this. (smile)
   15. BDC Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:38 PM (#4774019)
I love watching Gordon play, too. In a sense I could care less what his WAR is compared to Trout. They are both stars and dangerous to Texas Rangers.
   16. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 18, 2014 at 05:58 PM (#4774042)
Ted Williams had finishes of 2, 2, WW2, 1, 2, 3, 1
   17. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 18, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4774057)
So, does Neyer get the dunce cap for uncritically accepting Gordon's +19.5 runs on D in the Fangraphs system, or for assuming Gordon's performance the rest of the season will match what he's done so far this season?


In fairness, his BBRef rField for the last 4 years is 19. 24, 16, 20. 20 for 4/5s of a season this year doesn't seem out of line.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: August 18, 2014 at 06:25 PM (#4774062)
Alex Gordon really is a sensational fielder. He's not the most valuable player by a long shot, but it is really remarkable how well he's taken to LF converting from 3B (kinda like another MVP candidate, Josh Donaldson, took to moving to 3B very well!)


I've been to one game in Kansas City. Alex Gordon pretty much won it for the Royals by catching a couple balls Andruw Jones style - they looked like singles off the bat. Also I got to watch Tim Collins and Jonathon Broxton warm up next to each other.
   19. Dan Posted: August 18, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4774130)
bWar has Trout at 6.0 and Gordon at 5.0. I'm more inclined to believe those numbers, especially as I think DRS is a more reliable indicator of actual fielding performance than UZR. Your mileage may vary.

BPro's WARP has the gulf even larger, at 6.7 WARP vs. 4.6 WARP, respectively.
   20. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 18, 2014 at 09:26 PM (#4774143)
Question: who is the AL MVP? Trout? Donaldson?

I've heard "Josh Donaldson IS your 2014 AL MVP" here so many times that I believe it must be true.
Josh Donaldson is your 2014 AL MVP.

Will it come down to who wins the AL West?

If either has some kind of '67-Yaz type of September, that one would probably be MVP.
Since Josh Donaldson IS your 2014 AL MVP, it stands to reason that Josh Donaldson will have a '67-Yaz type of September.
IT'S SCIENCE.
   21. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 18, 2014 at 09:47 PM (#4774162)
too late to EDIT:
1967 actually might be a good analogy. Even if the Twins won Game 164, nobody was taking the MVP from Yaz that year.

Good Lord: over the last 12 Twins games that year, Killebrew raked a .488 / .580 / .951 - hits in 11 of the 12, 3 walks in the one hitless game.
   22. The Duke Posted: August 18, 2014 at 10:32 PM (#4774206)
many of the guys ahead of pujols were 'roiders or suspected 'roiders during that time.
   23. Booey Posted: August 18, 2014 at 11:16 PM (#4774223)
Re: Josh Donaldson -

I know that offense is way down this year and he's a great fielder and plays for the best team in the league, but I have a hard time seeing a guy with a .252/.340/.466 line winning the MVP.

It's Trout all the way.
   24. Danny Posted: August 18, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4774232)
   25. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 18, 2014 at 11:38 PM (#4774234)
I know that offense is way down this year and he's a great fielder and plays for the best team in the league, but I have a hard time seeing a guy with a .252/.340/.466 line winning the MVP.

It's Trout all the way.

See, this is where you're wrong, because Trout might be the best player in baseball, but
Josh Donaldson IS your 2014 AL MVP.
   26. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:26 AM (#4774249)
many of the guys ahead of pujols were 'roiders or suspected 'roiders during that time.


Phew, glad we cleared that up as Pujols was of course clean the whole time!

   27. baxter Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:35 AM (#4774254)
The Angels have a better winning % right now than Oakland. Indeet LAA has the best record in baseball. If you want to give the MVP in the Al to a 3rd baseman, please give it to Beltre. Donaldson must be the 10th coming of Brooks Robinson with a stick to match Robinson's 1964. If the Angels make the playoffs, no excuse exists to deny Trout the MVP (which he should win even should LAA fall short)
   28. AROM Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:57 AM (#4774265)
I know that offense is way down this year and he's a great fielder and plays for the best team in the league


Donaldson was traded to the Angels? Awesome. How'd he even get through waivers?
   29. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 01:36 AM (#4774278)
many of the guys ahead of pujols were 'roiders or suspected 'roiders during that time.


So was Pujols.
   30. baxter Posted: August 19, 2014 at 01:44 AM (#4774279)
Re #21, Killebrew is undersold, but in 1967, Yaz won the triple crown (tied w/Killebrew for HR) for the pennant winner; just looking at the conventional stats, Yaz was far and away the best position player in the Al (for what turned out to be the top team). Still, if the Twins had won the pennant with Killebrew having one more homer and ten more RBI's, one could see him receiving the MVP. But let us not deal with ifs.
   31. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: August 19, 2014 at 03:29 AM (#4774285)
What goes through my head in every one of these WAR threads:

You are trying to figure something out. You have two data points that will help you. One data point you have a good amount of confidence is giving you an accurate assessment of value, the other you have significantly less confidence. So when you are making your assessment, why would you give them similar weight? Why does WAR and it's fans? If someone who worked for me went down this path they would be reassigned. You would never do this if the outcome were actually important.
   32. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 19, 2014 at 04:14 AM (#4774288)
But this crowd would do a better job hashing out what is actually important that the people who have been doing it, so there's that.
   33. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 19, 2014 at 05:03 AM (#4774290)
"Steve Pearce and Darren O'Day say hello."

Sit down friends, you're not ready for the big tent

"I don't see how anyone but Trout could win."

"It's Trout all the way."

Trout's post All Star stats are pedestrian. Look at the splits. It's his to win, but he's definitely opened the door the past month. He hit .265 in July, and Dude's hitting all of .234 in August, OPS .749. It's like he wants to make a party of it.

   34. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 19, 2014 at 07:44 AM (#4774304)
Trout's post All Star stats are pedestrian. Look at the splits. It's his to win, but he's definitely opened the door the past month. He hit .265 in July, and Dude's hitting all of .234 in August, OPS .749. It's like he wants to make a party of it.

I'm waiting for Miguel Cabrera to have a huge six weeks and steal another one. :) (Because, man, the Tigers desperately need it!)
   35. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4774308)
Seriously, though, I agree with Mom makes botox doctors furious. Trout is again the WAR candidate, he's certainly having a fine year, and for once his team is also playing well. He could very well win the MVP, but he doesn't look like a shoo-in to me.

His stats, visually, are not eye-popping. It's very possible that he won't lead the league in any major (non-saber) category. The only one he's currently leading in is total bases, though he's pretty close in runs scored and RBI. His average is below .300 (16th in AL), his OBP is below .400 (5th), and he's currently "only" 4th in OPS. He's also sitting between Chris Davis and Chris Carter on the strikeout list (albeit with many more AB), which may not mean much but is kind of embarrassing.

Once again, it seems like a significant part of his WAR value is coming from park factors and positional adjustment. Maybe those are accurate and maybe they're not, but I don't think the voters have historically taken them much into consideration. I do think he's going to need a strong finish to win the MVP. Since the All-Star break he's hitting just .235/.316/.429.
   36. DavidFoss Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:39 AM (#4774312)
@30
Totally. Yaz was head-and-shoulders better than anyone else in the AL anyway you slice it (traditional numbers, WAR, etc). Even if Killebrew spoiled the triple crown with one extra HR and the Twins won the pennant, the lead is simply too great.

But in addition to having better full-season numbers, a narrative element is usually added to Yaz's story where they talk about his great September. Its just fun to read the Killebrew was also lights out the last two weeks. Yes, if the Red Sox wouldn't have won both of the final two games of the year the Twins would have won the pennant. And yes, there are a lot of what-ifs associated with a race where only 92 wins takes the pennant, but the 67 Twins weren't the 64 Phillies. The two teams were back and forth in the standings the final six weeks of the year (with the Tigers & White Sox only a couple of games behind).
   37. BDC Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4774316)
The big thing that Trout has going for him in the actual voting is the lack of better candidates. If we assume that the MVP will come from one of the three division leaders, and the current leads hold up, his most viable rivals are Gordon, Nelson Cruz, and from his own club, Garrett Richards. Which is to say weak company for an MVP race. But if the Angels collapse and Josh Donaldson has a great September and leads the league in RBI or comes close, though, then Trout may be foiled again. Too early to call, I reckon.
   38. DavidFoss Posted: August 19, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4774326)
@35
Once again, it seems like a significant part of his WAR value is coming from park factors and positional adjustment.

WAR's positional adjustment worked slightly against Trout relative to Cabrera in 2012 and 2013. The positional adjustment does not appear to be an issue this year, either. All CF's, 2B's and 3B's on the WAR leaderboard except for Alex Gordon. Where did this myth get started? And historically, voters used to give MVP's to SS's and C's with lesser hitting numbers all the time. They'd refer to those guys as being "better all around players". Writers don't seem to like these positional adjustments being quantified, though.

The park factor in Anaheim does make one wonder because it doesn't seem that different of a park than it was ten years ago when it played more neutral. But year after year more runs are scored in Angels road games than Angels home games and Trout himself hits better on the road than at home.
   39. AROM Posted: August 19, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4774337)
If we assume that the MVP will come from one of the three division leaders, and the current leads hold up, his most viable rivals are Gordon, Nelson Cruz


Cruz hasn't hit much of anything since May. His season numbers still look good (but not MVP level for a left fielder - OBP in the .320s, SLG just a bit over .500) but it's all due to a hot start.
   40. BDC Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:16 AM (#4774357)
Sure, AROM, that's kind of my point. Baltimore is close to the best record in the league, well up on their division, and they're doing it without an MVP candidate, Pearce and O'Day and the like notwithstanding :) Cruz is still easily their HR/RBI leader, which usually brings a few votes and this year probably won't.
   41. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4774371)
People have been talking up Kershaw as a MVP candidate. I don't understand why Felix Hernandez can't be a candidate as well.
   42. AROM Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4774392)
If Trout slumps to under .280 and Donaldson doesn't get hot and take it, I could see Hernandez taking home 2 awards.
   43. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4774457)
Nobody round here have any love for Cano?
   44. BDC Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4774480)
I am awash in affection for both Cano and Hernandez, but their team is in third place. (Just trying to handicap the actual vote here.) I guess last year's win by McCutchen shows that leading a team to a share of the wild-card game is good with current voters, though, so if Seattle plays in it, they might have a candidate in the mix.
   45. Booey Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4774519)
I stand corrected. Angels have a better record than the A's. I hadn't looked at the standings for a week or so. Apologies, Angels fans. :-)

So that's even more reason why Donaldson won't beat Trout.
   46. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4774566)
I stand corrected.

You weren't incorrect.
   47. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4774577)
The big thing that Trout has going for him in the actual voting is the lack of better candidates.

This is probably true, and he's got the "always a bridesmaid" factor as well, like Pujols in 2005. But part of the reason there is not a slam-dunk MVP candidate in the AL is that Trout himself isn't having a transcendent year, especially compared to the high standard he set in his first two seasons. He's hitting more home runs this year, but every other element of his game is arguably declining (hitting for average, getting on base, making contact, stealing bases, playing defense). So I don't know if he's really making a big impression on the average MVP voter or the average fan.

I think Cano and King Felix have a decent chance this year, along with Donaldson, and I wouldn't completely count out Jose Abreu (don't laugh!) either. His team's irrelevant and he's way down in the WAR rankings, but he's a dark-horse Triple Crown threat, and a good "story" as a Cuban defector. (Though I just noticed that he's been in a massive power slump since the All-Star break.)

Abreu would probably have to actually win the Triple Crown to get serious MVP consideration, but for argument's sake, let's say he got hot and ended the season with a line of .320/45/125 compared to Trout's .285/35/110 (and the Angels finish behind the A's). Old-school voters who don't care about/believe in park factors or sabermetrics might not see this as a reason to vote FOR Abreu, but a reason to NOT vote for Trout -- both are slugging outfielders, Abreu is "clearly" (in their eyes) the better hitter, and Trout's speed and defense advantages aren't as pronounced as they have been in previous years. (He'll end up with around 15 SB, and his defense has been below-average by some metrics.) And that could open the door for a totally different candidate, like Felix Hernandez or one of the infielders.

WAR's positional adjustment worked slightly against Trout relative to Cabrera in 2012 and 2013. The positional adjustment does not appear to be an issue this year, either. All CF's, 2B's and 3B's on the WAR leaderboard except for Alex Gordon. Where did this myth get started?

I may be misunderstanding positional adjustments, so please correct me if I'm wrong. But I thought that if two teammates (to control for park factor) put up identical offensive numbers, but one played CF and the other played 1B, the CF would have a higher oWAR. So, in other words, Trout gets a WAR boost (relative to corner outfielders and 1B/DH types, who are generally the guys with similar statistics) simply from playing center field, regardless of how well he plays there.
   48. DanG Posted: August 19, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4774591)
Wrong thread.
   49. DavidFoss Posted: August 19, 2014 at 01:30 PM (#4774607)
@47
So, in other words, Trout gets a WAR boost (relative to corner outfielders and 1B/DH types, who are generally the guys with similar statistics) simply from playing center field, regardless of how well he plays there.

Yes, but Trout hasn't been losing MVP's to 1B/DH types. Cabrera played 3B in each of his MVP seasons. The adjustment between 3B and CF is very small. With Trout spending some time in LF because the Angels had Peter Bourjos, then he was losing a run or two a year to Cabrera in that column of the WAR table. Trout had large WAR advantages over Cabrera each season, but none of that was due to positional adjustment. The same thing is happening this year with Josh Donaldson (3B) and Robinson Cano (2B). The positional difference is tiny. 1 run between Trout/Donaldson and none between Cano/Trout.

To take the mystery out of these adjustments, look at the table for this year:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2014-value-batting.shtml#players_value_batting::15

"rPos" is the positional adjustment. "rField" relates to how well that position is played relative to the average player at that position. If you look at that table, there's not big rPos bonus for Trout relative to other contenders. And the fact that Trout isn't a GG-er out there is being compensated for with his -5 rField. His 6.2 WAR this year is not because of positional adjustments at all.
   50. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 19, 2014 at 08:30 PM (#4774946)
His 6.2 WAR this year is not because of positional adjustments at all.

Well, sure it is, technically speaking. Every single player is subject to a positional adjustment (though in some instances that adjustment is 0) before the WAR number is spit out.

But more importantly, his WAR compared to the rest of the competition is a collective result of positional adjustments. Part of the reason Trout looks so much better in WAR than, for example, Jose Bautista or Jose Abreu or Victor Martinez (who have been comparable to him in raw, unadjusted hitting numbers) is the positional adjustment. But you are right, it also works against him when comparing him to Cano or Donaldson or Salvador Perez or Jose Altuve, and it doesn't ultimately make much of a difference in his individual WAR value.

What I was trying to say is that, sure, for saber-friendly fans or people who rely heavily on WAR (but don't fully trust the defensive component), Trout is a pretty obviously an MVP favorite or co-favorite. But for people who rely on the "baseball card stats," it's not nearly as clear. There are a bunch of guys who are ostensibly comparable to him in hitting (via AVG, OPS, HR, etc.), and this year the "but Trout's better at defense and baserunning" argument isn't as strong as it used to be. I think the high strikeout total is going to work against him a bit as well. He's a front-runner, but he's not necessarily THE front-runner.
   51. Baldrick Posted: August 19, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4775013)
I may be misunderstanding positional adjustments, so please correct me if I'm wrong. But I thought that if two teammates (to control for park factor) put up identical offensive numbers, but one played CF and the other played 1B, the CF would have a higher oWAR. So, in other words, Trout gets a WAR boost (relative to corner outfielders and 1B/DH types, who are generally the guys with similar statistics) simply from playing center field, regardless of how well he plays there.

Derek Jeter gets a huge boost for playing SS, and then gives a bunch of it right back because he's not a very good SS. You don't get an unfair advantage from positional adjustment. You get an advantage if you are actually better.
   52. PreservedFish Posted: August 19, 2014 at 09:58 PM (#4775019)
But I thought that if two teammates (to control for park factor) put up identical offensive numbers, but one played CF and the other played 1B, the CF would have a higher oWAR. So, in other words, Trout gets a WAR boost (relative to corner outfielders and 1B/DH types, who are generally the guys with similar statistics) simply from playing center field, regardless of how well he plays there.


Yes, sort of. oWAR has a positional adjustment. So does dWAR. oWAR + dWAR does not equal WAR, because that would be double counting the positional adjustment. Basically the stat is just presented somewhat clunkily.

Of course Trout gets a boost for playing CF. As he should. That doesn't mean he's considered a bottom line better offensive player, exactly. He's a better offensive player with regard to his position.

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