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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Passan: Stats revolution doesn’t have enough political muscle to reward AL’s true MVP: Mike Trout

The political world is where baseball was almost two decades ago, beginning to see that reality. The most stubborn pundits believed that Silver’s interpretation of polling data was wrong. They believed the presidential race was a dead heat. Maybe they did so because a runaway would draw far less interest and viewership throughout the night of Nov. 6 – that their place in a television landscape riddled with choices becomes far less safe with diminished ratings, and that the idea of television punditry, already a swampland of blah, blah and more blah, would project as increasingly inconsequential.

There was some of that, sure, but Nate Silver’s truths, in baseball and politics, found people’s psyches were collateral damage from the attack of their flawed ideas. The comforts of what we know – of what we’ve been told, of what we believe, of what we want that truth to be – are a soft pillow, a warm blanket and a Tempurpedic bed. Abandoning what we think is right for something different takes curiosity and courage the likes of which so many don’t have. Nobody wants to be wrong, and Silver happens to be in a business of proving as much.

...Like those who ignore the truths of climate science and evolution – of fact – the people who dismiss Nate Silver allow their preconceptions and egos to get in the way of the ultimate goal: the truth. If the best path to that is subjective observation, may our eyes be forever honest. Should we find otherwise, however, may our pride step aside to let the greater authority guide us.

My colleagues in the BBWAA failed to do that, and when Cabrera wins – I’m guessing he gets at least 20 of the 28 first-place votes – it will not be a travesty, a sham, a mockery or a traveshamockery. It will just be wrong. A fight 15 years in the making will continue until not just the electorate but the public beyond accepts that when it comes to appreciating baseball, math is not some scary android trying to take away our game. It’s here, more than anything, to help us understand it and love it even more.

Thanks to FG.

Repoz Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, tigers

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   1. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4301695)
So we should identify BBWAA members who are likely Trout voters and make sure they vote? Is this what he's getting at?
   2. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 13, 2012 at 06:18 PM (#4301729)
I'm not sure what direction this thread will go, but it could be good.
   3. shoewizard Posted: November 13, 2012 at 06:42 PM (#4301764)
12-15 years ago Cabrera would have been the favorite of the "stat guys" and the writers would scoff at this and vote for the "all around" player with 5 tool skills.
   4. Danny Posted: November 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM (#4301812)
12-15 years ago Cabrera would have been the favorite of the "stat guys" and the writers would scoff at this and vote for the "all around" player with 5 tool skills.

No way, Trout led the majors in the one stat that mattered: VORP.
   5. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 13, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4301814)
12-15 years ago Cabrera would have been the favorite of the "stat guys" and the writers would scoff at this and vote for the "all around" player with 5 tool skills.

I don't know if that's necessarily true. Trout would have at worst been considered almost as good a hitter as Cabrera. I don't remember the stat heads favoring Giambi and Carlos Delgado over ARod back in 2000 even though they were clearly the better hitters.

Looking at rec.sport.baseball it does look like ARod was the consensus choice that year, though folks did say that Giambi was probably closer than they had thought due to the big hitting advantage. WAR's defensive metrics, which were not around back then, wind up giving ARod a big advantage over Giambi but not as large as they give Trout this year. I think it's fair to argue in both cases that you could err on the side of caution a bit with those defensive numbers and shrink the gap a little.

I don't think statheads ever thought the defensive contributions didn't matter, just that you couldn't make up a gap between a guy with a 1.000 OPS and an 0.800 OPS. I think anyone who is skeptical of Darwin Barney's defensive WAR still thinks that way.
   6. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 13, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4301834)
Cabrera will be voted the MVP because of the triple crown, simple as that. If Trout had won the batting title or Hamilton had ended up with more HR's, then Trout would be voted the MVP. The triple crown, to most baseball fans, is the pinnacle of batting achievement and this will see that Cabrera takes home the hardware. Baserunning and fielding be damned! It's really not that complicated.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: November 13, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4301847)
12-15 years ago Cabrera would have been the favorite of the "stat guys" and the writers would scoff at this and vote for the "all around" player with 5 tool skills.

As others have noted, I'm not so sure of this. I'm not ruling it out either but ...

a) we were quite big on positional adjustments in those days. (but then CF and 3B are quite close so maybe not such a big factor)
b) without "proper" defensive stats, we'd have probably all assumed that Cabrera was the butcher we expected.
c) while we disdained the SB, we have always loved the high %age base-stealers.

Trout looks like a Rickey with more power or an AROD in CF. He did lead the league in runs and we had already discounted BA and RBI. But we would have thought it was a lot closer 12-15 years ago.

The real WAR conundrum this season wasn't Trout over Cabrera, it was Cano over Cabrera and it's not particularly close (1.3 WAR).
   8. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4301861)
Trout deserves it but I can't get worked up about Cabrera winning. The triple crown has historic value and if the voters choose to reward that so be it.
   9. UCCF Posted: November 13, 2012 at 08:18 PM (#4301893)
Trout deserves it but I can't get worked up about Cabrera winning. The triple crown has historic value and if the voters choose to reward that so be it.

I agree with this, but am bothered by the notion that Cabrera would be less worthy if Curtis Granderson had hit 2 more HRs.
   10. Moeball Posted: November 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4302100)
Actually I think you have to go back 40 or 50 or more years to find writers rewarding what they view as multidimensional players (offense, defense, baserunning over big hitting numbers). 1973 the NL gave an MVP to Pete Rose. 1962 they gave it to Maury Wills over Willie Mays. 1965 the AL MVP went to Zoilo Versalles! The most famous examples, however, are Ted Williams' 2 Triple Crowns & no MVP either year.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM (#4302108)
I agree with this, but am bothered by the notion that Cabrera would be less worthy if Curtis Granderson had hit 2 more HRs.


That's how sports work, right? Are you bothered by the notion that Usain Bolt would be less worthy if someone else was faster than him?
   12. DanG Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM (#4302109)
Trout looks like a Rickey with more power
The 1990 MVPs are probably the closest statistical comps to Trout.

Rk             Player WAR/pos OPSHR SB   BA  OBP  SLG  PA Year
1          Mike Trout    10.7  171 30 49 .326 .399 .564 639 2012
2    Rickey Henderson     9.8  189 28 65 .325 .439 .577 594 1990
3         Barry Bonds     9.5  170 33 52 .301 .406 .565 621 1990 
   13. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:09 AM (#4302113)
I am somewhat bothered by the notion that Tim Raines would be in the Hall of Fame if Rickey Henderson didn't exist.
   14.   Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:43 AM (#4302134)
That's how sports work, right? Are you bothered by the notion that Usain Bolt would be less worthy if someone else was faster than him?


A false analogy. Usain Bolt is not less worthy of winning the race just because another guy happened to better at one specific component of the race.
   15. Cooper Nielson Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:44 AM (#4302135)
Interesting comps, DanG.

For those of you scout types who have seen a lot of Trout, do you think his power potential is more like Rickey's or Barry's? Is he going to develop into a 40+ HR hitter in the future, or was this a year where everything just sorta came together? In other words, is this year's 30 HR closer to his floor or his ceiling?

I know that power usually increases with age and Trout is so young that it seems extremely likely that he has room to grow. But sometimes guys reach their peak early and their power never really increases (Al Kaline) or sometimes great all-around hitters simply have random out-of-character HR spikes -- Joe Mauer 2009, Wade Boggs 1987, Barry Larkin 1996 (though this doesn't typically happen when they're 20-year-old rookies).

Henderson had pretty good power, but only topped 20 HR four times, and peaked at 28 (twice). What is the likelihood that Trout follows a similar path -- that this was just one of his "good" HR years, and he settles in as a 20-25 HR hitter (who hits .340 with 80 SB)? He didn't show a ton of power in the minors, but, again, he's so young that it's hard to judge him by his track record.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:54 AM (#4302141)
Actually I think you have to go back 40 or 50 or more years to find writers rewarding what they view as multidimensional players (offense, defense, baserunning over big hitting numbers).


Ichiro and Jimmy Rollins were both examples of this type. Ivan Rodriguez was also, to a lesser extent.

Considering the certainty of the Passans of the world, I'll be amused if Trout does end up winning (which I still think is a distinct possibility).

   17. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:56 AM (#4302142)
I am somewhat bothered by the notion that Tim Raines would be in the Hall of Fame if Rickey Henderson didn't exist.

I'm not sure he would be. Of course the fact that it is a notion is undeniable. Alan Trammell might or might not be in the HOF if Robin Yount and Cal Ripken didn't exist too.
   18. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:56 AM (#4302143)
The thing is with Trout is that unlike a lot of speedsters he's built like a freakin' truck. His neck is the size of a redwood. I think he's as likely to develop more power and lose the speed as he gets older than he is to become more of a Rickey type with great speed and a little above average power.
   19. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: November 14, 2012 at 07:06 AM (#4302190)
I agree with this, but am bothered by the notion that Cabrera would be less worthy if Curtis Granderson had hit 2 more HRs.


I am not bothered by this event the tiniest bit.
   20. TomH Posted: November 14, 2012 at 08:30 AM (#4302204)
Normalcy for BBWAA/HoF voters; 20 wins is mch better than 19. .300 avg and 200 hits are vastly improved over .299 and 199. Three batting titles won by .003 each over multiple others is better than A batting title won aby a lot; unless of course, you hit .400. And we all know most wins in a 10-year period beginning with 0 and ending in 9 is crucial. Winning a division by a geme is better than winning more games but not making the plyoffs.

Why can't the Trout lubbers simply point out over and over that the man led the league in SCORING RUNS, the most basic measure of WINNING GAMES, by TWENTY, even though he was not even called up until late April. It burned Rickey!, who had a great year in 1985 but the writers gave Mattingly the MVP because RBI >> RUNS. The voters have inched away form RBI-worhsip over time, but it's still there, a little god in the closet who needs some rubbing and ah-ooming once in a while to make sure he doth not smite the voter with plagues.
   21. UCCF Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM (#4302239)
Are you bothered by the notion that Usain Bolt would be less worthy if someone else was faster than him?

That's different - if Guy A is faster than Bolt, then Guy A wins. I have no problem with that. If Trout had 48 HRs, and thus he was the reason Cabrera didn't win the Triple Crown, I'd have no problem with that as an argument for why people should choose Trout.

But here - if Player A (Granderson) hit 1 more HR than Cabrera, then Player C (Trout) should win the award. If you want to compare Cabrera vs Trout - great. But this is saying a third party's skill (or lack thereof) should be the deciding factor.
   22. AROM Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4302251)
Give this vote to the 1990 AL voters and I think Trout has a shot. AL West leadoff outfielder vs. a 270 pound or greater Detroit corner infielder. Rickey, like Trout, had the all-around contributions. Fielder didn't win a triple crown but did win 2/3 of it, and his hitting 51 homers was a huge deal at the time, nobody had topped 50 for the previous 13 years, and only 2 players had done so in the 3 decades between Maris and Fielder. Looking back 51 homers isn't that overwhelming, as guys like Brady Anderson and Greg Vaughn added their names to the list, but in 1990 it was big.

Rickey went to the playoffs and Fielder didn't, so that worked in his favor. Fielder finished second in a fairly close vote, and made a big stink about being disrespected, with many of his media supporters joining in the chorus.

There are plenty of BBWAA who will vote Trout. Looking at the ballots published for rookie, you've got ESPN people (some who got their start at Prospectus) and voters from Baseball Prospectus. You still have plenty who will vote for the triple crown. Does anyone know who specifically voted for AL MVP? If you've got the names you can probably figure it out.
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: November 14, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4302268)
There are plenty of BBWAA who will vote Trout. Looking at the ballots published for rookie, you've got ESPN people (some who got their start at Prospectus) and voters from Baseball Prospectus. You still have plenty who will vote for the triple crown. Does anyone know who specifically voted for AL MVP? If you've got the names you can probably figure it out.


I haven't seen any MVP voter identify himself (I saw one Cy voter do as much - he was voting for Price, htough he said his hypothetical MVP vote would have gone to Trout). The season-ending voters are far more open to advanced metrics (as demonstrated by the Cy wins for Greinke and Hernandez, the MVP for Verlander), which is why I think it can go either way.

But, as Hugh says, if Cabrera wins, it's because of the Triple Crown. That's it. I don't think it's an all-around player vs. big slugger thing. It's not an RBI thing (I guess it's 1/3 of one, but it's not an RBI thing in the same way RBIs were a driving force in voting not too long ago). It's not playoffs vs. sitting home. It will be because Cabrera did something baseball hadn't seen in 45 years.
   24. AROM Posted: November 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4302314)
I'm quoted a few times in the article, from an interview I did with Jeff about a year ago. What's silly is following the yahoo link to my name, going to a 5'8 college football player, which is total BS. The only team I play football for is the Miami Dolphins.
   25. alilisd Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4302457)
Trout deserves it but I can't get worked up about Cabrera winning.


But Ray insists that you must!

The triple crown has historic value and if the voters choose to reward that so be it.


Mother of God! Won't someone think of the children!
   26. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:33 PM (#4302478)
What's silly is following the yahoo link to my name, going to a 5'8 college football player, which is total BS.

I'm sure they have a script that does that, I know a certain other media website does. Even if it's wrong, at least it's connecting people to another yahoo page.
   27. UCCF Posted: November 14, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4302591)
Mother of God! Won't someone think of the children!

Careful - that's almost what got Elmo in trouble.

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