Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Silver: The Statistical Case Against Cabrera for M.V.P.

It might seem as if these statistics make Cabrera, the first triple crown winner in either league since 1967, a shoo-in for the M.V.P. But most statistically minded fans would prefer that it go to another player, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

The argument on Trout’s behalf isn’t all that complicated: he provided the greater overall contribution to his team. Trout was a much better defensive player than Cabrera, and a much better base runner. And if Cabrera was the superior hitter, it wasn’t by nearly as much as the triple crown statistics might suggest.

It is an argument enabled by the improved ability to measure different elements of the game – defense, base running, and situational hitting – that were once weak points of statistical analysis.

 

kthejoker Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, awards, awards and honors, mvp, sabermetrics, tigers

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Davo Dozier Posted: November 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4302282)
I hate it when political pundits try to write about sports. It just comes off so hackneyed.
   2. I Fought Vance Law and Vance Law Won Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4302345)
It's about time somebody gave us the statistical case against Cabrera and for Trout.
   3. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4302384)
It's about time somebody gave us the statistical case against Cabrera and for Trout.


I get the sarcasm, but really, Silver's success in the election predicting business probably increased his general readership by orders of magnitude, so I'm glad more regular folk have now been exposed to this argument.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4302388)
I don't think it's an argument that will convince anyone who isn't already a believer.
   5. Mark S. is bored Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4302408)
I don't think it's an argument that will convince anyone who isn't already a believer.


Exactly. The first comment on the article is:

The Triple Crown is an achievement worthy of a statistical category of itself: there is certainly "value" in terms of good publicity to baseball, the Tigers and Cabrera. It tips the balance from Trout to Cabrera. As thrilled as I was to read your analysis of pre-election polls, I'm thrilled to have you doing baseball again.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: November 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4302415)
I don't think it's an argument that will convince anyone who isn't already a believer.

Probably not, though I'd imagine that at this point an Orange Country Republican might feel severely conflicted.
   7. OsunaSakata Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4302450)
I would now like to explain why you love Nate Silver. Pure confirmation bias, gussied up with statistics. Don't blame you. Wish us real baseball fans had one. </satirical comment>

These words by John Heyman appear to be written by someone who knows just enough baseball lingo to look totally foolish:

I like nate silver but in saying trout shd be mvp, what # did he ascribe to cabrera giving up 1B to play MUCH harder 3B?
   8. dr. scott Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4302456)
Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, when evaluations of base running, defense and clutch hitting were murkier, stat geeks would have argued that Cabrera deserved the M.V.P. on the basis of the hard evidence.

Now that some of the “intangibles” have become measurable, we know that Trout did more of the little things to help his team win.

It’s the traditionalists who are using statistics in a way that misses the forest for the trees.


I find this the most interesting part of the article, and I was talking to my wife about these concepts just 2 days ago. When analytics finally catch on with the mainstream, be it marketting, baseball, etc, what catches on is often 10-15 years behind the modern analysis.

Question then, given the tools that the average baseball stat person had 10 years ago, do they/we (as Nate suggests) still trumpet so loudly for Trout? I imagine the people at the front may still have but what about the average stat fan.
   9. JJ1986 Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4302460)
I like nate silver but in saying trout shd be mvp, what # did he ascribe to cabrera giving up 1B to play MUCH harder 3B?


Looks like about 11 runs.
   10. puck Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:32 PM (#4302472)
I like nate silver but in saying trout shd be mvp, what # did he ascribe to cabrera giving up 1B to play MUCH harder 3B?

Looks like about 11 runs.

I guess we have to credit Cabrera with his own numbers, a Triple Crown bonus, a playoff bonus, and the difference between Fielder and someone like Inge.
   11. dr. scott Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4302485)
Yea, but the intangibles of Inge make this calcuation nearly impossible... grit, intensity, tatoos, playing with a disslocated shoulder twice... these are metrics that could take decades to develop.
   12. Danny Posted: November 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM (#4302515)
I find this the most interesting part of the article, and I was talking to my wife about these concepts just 2 days ago. When analytics finally catch on with the mainstream, be it marketing, baseball, etc, what catches on is often 10-15 years behind the modern analysis.

The traditionalist focus on AVG/HR/RBI was around long before the improved metrics Silver mentions.
Question then, given the tools that the average baseball stat person had 10 years ago, do they/we (as Nate suggests) still trumpet so loudly for Trout?

I think VORP was likely the most prominent metric around then, and it ignored the stuff Silver talks about (fielding relative to position, non-SB baserunning, and clutchiness). VORP had Trout ahead 76.6 to 59.4.
   13. vivaelpujols Posted: November 14, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4302521)
Haha, difference in positional adjustment between 1B and 3B is like 15 runs in the WAR calculation. #### you Jon Heyman, die in hell.
   14. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 14, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4302545)
I guess we have to credit Cabrera with his own numbers, a Triple Crown bonus, a playoff bonus, and the difference between Fielder and someone like Inge.


But then Trout should get a bit more of a bonus since his team won more games than Cabrera's.

In fact:

Angels with Trout: .583
Angels without Trout: .348

Tigers with Cabrera: .540
Tigers without Cabrera: 1.000

   15. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 14, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4302555)
Question then, given the tools that the average baseball stat person had 10 years ago, do they/we (as Nate suggests) still trumpet so loudly for Trout?

Well like I said yesterday in a different thread, the consensus on rec.sport.baseball back in 2000 was for ARod over Giambi, and that gap probably wasn't quite as large as the gap between Trout and Cabrera. The only two really big changes (on the position player side) from now since then is the emergence of Baseball Reference and the use of dWAR (though we still had stuff like Zone Rating).

I've mentioned before that there's reason to still hold onto some skepticism about dWAR and so the argument that there's a massive gap between what statheads believe now compared to then is probably not really true. Trout actually hit almost as well as Cabrera ignoring things like baserunning and defense. I don't think things would have been seen much differently in 2000.
   16. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 14, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4302737)
Nate Silver is diminutive in stature and does not have a deep voice. Therefore Cabrera is the MVP.
   17. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: November 14, 2012 at 05:13 PM (#4302784)
Nate Silver claims that the stats show Trout to be the MVP, but actually, according to UnskewedStats.com, once you properly account for pancake flops and adjust for ZiPS projections from 2 years ago (Cabrera led Trout by a margin 57 OPS+ points!), you'll find that the stats actually favor Cabrera. As a Stat Truther and dynasty-league Cabrera owner, I'm inclined to agree.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: November 14, 2012 at 05:54 PM (#4302843)
I've mentioned before that there's reason to still hold onto some skepticism about dWAR and so the argument that there's a massive gap between what statheads believe now compared to then is probably not really true.

Probably not massive but one thing WAR has done is put to rest the argument you often saw then (often from me) that "sure X is a better defender/runner than Y but no way he saves enough runs to make up the offensive gap." I'm pretty sure that in 2001 nobody was willing to give Ichiro credit for 3 wins from running, DP and fielding. I recall us scoffing at Ichiro over Giambi but, while Giambi still wins by more than 1 WAR, that was a lot closer than we gave it credit for.

Similarly, 10+ years ago, "we" would have seen Jose Molina as a complete suckhole. Heck, I think 2 years ago we saw Jose Molina as a complete suckhole. We'd have scoffed at Darwin Barney the way we scoffed at Pokey Reese.

There are questions around Rfield and UZR in terms of measurement error and, given the smallish samples, predictive value. But, as far as I know, there's not much question about the way they value plays made vs. plays not made (except the silly shifting thing) and there's not much question that some players are making a lot more plays. I no longer find it hard to believe that a guy might save 20 runs in a given season or that he might be a true +10 defender at his position. It would be nice to factor out positioning but there is real value there (I'm just not sure the player deserves credit for it).

Where I tend to draw the WAR line are cases where two players are pretty much identical within a season but one of them is -2 on Rbase and -3 on Rdp and the other guy is +3 on Rbase and +2 on Rdp. That adds up to 1 win difference but both of those numbers are close enough to league average that I suspect it's pure random bounciness or number of opportunities and I wouldn't want to hand out an MVP award (or whatever) on that basis -- i.e. they'd be low on my tiebreaker list.
   19. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: November 14, 2012 at 06:13 PM (#4302874)
We'd have scoffed at Darwin Barney the way we scoffed at Pokey Reese.

And who did Pokey Reese play for in 2004?

And I still scoff at Darwin Barney. 4.6 WAR for him in 2012 does not pass the smell test and if there are teams out there that actually buy that this is the kind of value expected from him, he should be traded immediately.
   20. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 14, 2012 at 06:26 PM (#4302884)
It is an argument enabled by the improved ability to measure different elements of the game – defense, base running, and situational hitting – that were once weak points of statistical analysis.

They are still the weak points of statistical analysis. Anyone who takes defensive numbers at face value and weights them equally with offensive numbers is not someone to be take seriously.

   21. Baldrick Posted: November 14, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4303051)
My favorite thing about this post is the comments.

People who scoffed at the idiots who doubted Nate Silver have now decided that statistical modeling is nonsense. People who thought it was ludicrous that the right wing was relying on 'feelings' to call the election now think that Silver needs to get his nose out the spreadsheets and pay attention to the game. Suddenly everyone is an expert and Nate Silver is just a rube.

Motivated reasoning is a powerful thing.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: November 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM (#4303098)
And I still scoff at Darwin Barney. 4.6 WAR for him in 2012 does not pass the smell test

Eh, who knows? I certainly don't expect him to repeat it and I wouldn't be surprised if an inordinate amount of measurement error bounced in his favor ... but of course he doesn't need to be worth 4.6 WAR to be a perfectly decent 2B. Barney could have been +10 on defense this year and still have been above-average.

And do you believe Utley had 31 Rfield in 2008? Or Counsell +30 in 2005. Or Zobrist +29 in 2011, or Reese in 1999 or Grich in 1973? In the last 8 seasons there have been 13 2B with 20+ Rfield -- that seems too high but I don't have a problem in thinking Barney was one of them. Utley and Zobrist have had two such seasons -- are you certain Barney is not as good a defensive 2B as those guys? (Some of Zobrist's Rfield may have come in RF).
   23. jingoist Posted: November 15, 2012 at 04:11 AM (#4303167)
The round table at MLB netork got worked up into quite a lather about this very topic last night.
Harold Reynolds, Larry Bowa and Billy Ripken basically scoffed at the relevance of modern stats; they began going into the "best player versus most valuable player" discussion to push the Triple Crown trumps all scenario.
It was a conservative vs liberal type of discussion; the old BA - HR - RBI guys sticking to their way of looking at the world versus Kinney. Rosenthal, Gammons, et al taking the advanced metrics approach.
My wife turned it off when I went to the bathroom and began watchin "The Big Sleep" with Bacall/Bogart on TCM and that was that; I never heard their collective final decision.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Sebastian
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogTony Oliva turns 76; Gardenhire: 'He should be in hall of fame'
(47 - 7:48am, Jul 23)
Last: Bruce Markusen

NewsblogChase Headley traded to New York Yankees from San Diego Padres - ESPN New York
(93 - 7:45am, Jul 23)
Last: Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq.

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread- July 2014
(826 - 7:40am, Jul 23)
Last: Bitter Mouse

NewsblogAs shifts suppress offense, time has come to consider a rule change
(44 - 7:39am, Jul 23)
Last: Greg K

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 7-23-2014
(2 - 7:35am, Jul 23)
Last: Eric J can SABER all he wants to

NewsblogSports Reference Blog: 1901-02 Orioles Removed from Yankees History
(29 - 7:23am, Jul 23)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October

NewsblogOTP - July 2014: Republicans Lose To Democrats For Sixth Straight Year In Congressional Baseball Game
(2721 - 7:04am, Jul 23)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October

NewsblogRangers' Yu Darvish Pushes for a Six-Man Pitching Rotation - NYTimes.com
(17 - 6:02am, Jul 23)
Last: Curse of the Andino

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread July, 2014
(321 - 4:25am, Jul 23)
Last: The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott)

SABR - BBTF ChapterWho's going to SABR??
(46 - 3:02am, Jul 23)
Last: Mess with the Meat, you get the Wad!

NewsblogCowboy Monkey Rodeo taking the Minors by storm
(9 - 2:27am, Jul 23)
Last: stevegamer

NewsblogOMNICHATTER 7-22-14
(53 - 2:05am, Jul 23)
Last: AT-AT at bat@AT&T

NewsblogTrading for Price would be right move for Cubs | FOX Sports
(73 - 1:52am, Jul 23)
Last: Mess with the Meat, you get the Wad!

NewsblogMLB: Astros telecasts catching on to advanced metrics
(12 - 12:24am, Jul 23)
Last: jwb

NewsblogFSAZ: D-backs cut off McCarthy’s cutter controversy
(26 - 11:08pm, Jul 22)
Last: billyshears

Page rendered in 0.3645 seconds
52 querie(s) executed