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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Slusser: Why I voted for Miguel Cabrera

I don’t use the word “hero” very often, but Brandon McCarthy is the greatest hero in American history.

Mike Trout had an off-the-charts season, a historic season, and I certainly will not argue that [Miguel] Cabrera is the better all-around player. Trout is an astonishingly great all-around player, the “best” player, if you will.

Postseason, though, is the ultimate goal for every team. We more “traditional” baseball journalists do tend to weigh postseason appearances highly when it comes to the MVP because, really, what else is value for?  Cabrera got his team to the playoffs. Trout did not. There are lots of variables involved, I realize that, many of them out of each player’s control, but this was the area that made just the slimmest bits of difference for me: In August, Cabrera had an on-base percentage of .429 and an OPS of 1.092 and September .395 and 1.071.  Trout’s August numbers: .366 and .866 and September: .400 and .900.

Many of the stats brigade argue that looking at arbitrary dates, say from Aug. 1 on, isn’t valid, and many note that games in June and July – when Trout was putting up absurd numbers – count the same as those final two months. I believe, and this is just my own opinion, that the pennant race does mean something extra. I absolutely expect that Mike Trout will have some extraordinary stretch-run performances in his career. This year, that guy was Cabrera.

Now, along with looking at all the measures possible, including WAR (which this year probably will reflect more in my votes for the 3-10 places), I also talked to lots of people in the game: scouts, execs, players. I talked to baseball-crazed friends, just about anyone who might have an interesting take, and this year everyone does. My husband, Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, is a BBWAA member but did not have an AL MVP vote; he would have voted for Trout, though, as he indicated in the paper on Sunday. So even our household is split.

Every player I spoke to, and I talked to at least a dozen A’s and other AL players, leaned toward Cabrera – except for one: Brandon McCarthy, the A’s starter and a man with such a deep knowledge of advanced metrics, he has used them to redefine his career. McCarthy is among the smartest, if not the smartest, athlete I’ve covered in 24 years in the business, and I respect his opinion enormously when it comes to sabermetrics. He doesn’t just understand them, he puts them into actual practice.

McCarthy argued vehemently for Trout, and he said he tried to find every possible reason to vote for Cabrera as an intellectual exercise, but he just couldn’t do rationalize it.

The District Attorney Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:16 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, awards, miguel cabrera, mike trout, mvp, susan slusser, tigers

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4304144)
Posnanski:

Slusser gets docked a few points because she admits talking to Brandon McCarthy who TOLD HER that Trout was MVP, and she decided to listen to other players. Susan, listen: Brandon McCarthy is smarter than all other players. All of them. Listen to him. Always. You should know this by now.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4304151)
I don't get why so many voters are using the "I'm listening to the players" argument. There is a creeping abdication of critical thought in journalism, where writers are throwing up their hands saying "this is too hard for me, let's just listen to the supposed experts and trust them" that has really deteriorated the state of writing, much to the detriment of the readers.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4304160)
I'll bet players would pick the more veteran guy 9 times out of 10.
   4. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM (#4304170)
So Miguel Cabrera is the MVP because the White Sox collapsed? Mike Trout is not the MVP because the Angels had to play a tougher schedule?

"OMG TRIPLE CROWNZ!!!!!" is actually a better argument.
   5. Poster Nutbag Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM (#4304188)
Susan, listen: Brandon McCarthy is smarter than all other players. All of them. Listen to him. Always. You should know this by now


A thousand times this....hope he stays in Oakland...
   6. peewee Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4304213)
We more “traditional” baseball journalists do tend to weigh postseason appearances highly when it comes to the MVP because, really, what else is value for?  Cabrera Cano got his team to the playoffs. Trout did not.


Susan Slusser's MVP ballot

1. Cabrera
2. Trout
3. Cano

???
   7. Baldrick Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4304292)
Yeah, I read this one last night and it really drove me nuts. Cut out all the non-essential stuff and here's what you get:
In the end, I settled on Cabrera, barely. I based that on his stronger performance down the stretch, helping the Tigers into the playoffs. Yes, Trout’s Angels won more games than Detroit, and no, Trout shouldn’t be penalized for playing in a stronger division, but at the same time, Cabrera shouldn’t be dinged for playing in a weaker one.

The central argument over the BBWAA’s MVP awards always has been this: Should the award go to the best player? Or to the most valuable player, whatever that means? ...Trout is an astonishingly great all-around player, the “best” player, if you will.

Postseason, though, is the ultimate goal for every team. ... In August, Cabrera had an on-base percentage of .429 and an OPS of 1.092 and September .395 and 1.071. Trout’s August numbers: .366 and .866 and September: .400 and .900. ... Cabrera got the job done at crunch time, and that, in the end, made just the slimmest of differences to me.

She voted for the guy because the White Sox lost a couple games. That's it. That's all the substance that there is here.

The argument here is that Cabrera was better over the final two months (when it counts!) and Trout was better over the whole year. But she doesn't even prove that. She just proves that Cabrera hit a bit better over the final two months. But we already KNOW Cabrera was the better hitter. He hit better over ALL the months, too. But Trout is the more valuable PLAYER because he is better at literally everything else, and by a lot. So really all she's saying is that Cabrera's team made the playoffs and Trout didn't and that's all there is to it.

Notice that the words 'Triple Crown' do not even appear in the piece, but you know that if Trout had three more hits in May (thus ending up with a higher average, despite compiling this hits in the Unimportant Months of the Season), she would have voted for him.
   8. dr. scott Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4304330)
So how much of her vote is a bit political given her new position? She claims she went back and forth, and really likes the arguments of the stat guys, but in the end went with the majority, who she has to represent for the next (year? two years?)...
   9. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4304335)
I certainly will not argue that [Miguel] Cabrera is the better all-around player. Trout is an astonishingly great all-around player, the “best” player, if you will.

Postseason, though, is the ultimate goal for every team.


She could've just written, "I voted for Cabrera because I didn't read the ballot instructions," and saved a lot of virtual ink.
   10. vivaelpujols Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4304360)
There is a lot of dumb in that article. For one, I don't know how you can mention playoffs without mentioning that the Angels won more games than the Tigers. That's batshit insane. Even if you attribute team performance to an individual player, you can't attribute performance of other teams to that player! Tigers actually had the 7th worst record in the AL. They we're so lucky to be playing in a dogshit division so that they could make the playoffs. Again, using the playoff argument in this instance is batshit insane.

Secondly, he writes that Trout is an all around better player, but when he's taking about the september splits, he only looks at offense. If Trout has a .900 OPS and Cabrera has a 1.000 OPS, they are still likely around equal players because of defense and baserunning. This is essentially the Ryan Howard method of voting. Give it to the guy who had better offensive stats in September.

Finally I don't know why other players have any idea about Cabrera's value. That's like expecting patients to be good doctors.
   11. Baldrick Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4304370)
There is a lot of dumb in that article. For one, I don't know how you can mention playoffs without mentioning that the Angels won more games than the Tigers. That's batshit insane. Even if you attribute team performance to an individual player, you can't attribute performance of other teams to that player! Tigers actually had the 7th worst record in the AL. They we're so lucky to be playing in a dogshit division so that they could make the playoffs. Again, using the playoff argument in this instance is batshit insane.

Secondly, he writes that Trout is an all around better player, but when he's taking about the september splits, he only looks at offense. If Trout has a .900 OPS and Cabrera has a 1.000 OPS, they are still likely around equal players because of defense and baserunning. This is essentially the Ryan Howard method of voting. Give it to the guy who had better offensive stats in September.

RTFA

1. She's a woman.

2. She does mention that the Angels won more games:
In the end, I settled on Cabrera, barely. I based that on his stronger performance down the stretch, helping the Tigers into the playoffs. Yes, Trout’s Angels won more games than Detroit, and no, Trout shouldn’t be penalized for playing in a stronger division, but at the same time, Cabrera shouldn’t be dinged for playing in a weaker one.

How in the world that means Trout was less valuable, I have no idea. But she does mention it.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: November 16, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4304647)
Cabrera shouldn’t be dinged for playing in a weaker one.

Nobody was arguing he should be dinged for playing in a weaker division*, people were saying he shouldn't be rewarded for playing in a weaker division. Using the fact that Detroit made the playoffs while winning fewer games in support of Cabrera as MVP is rewarding him for playing in a weaker division.

I do have my doubts that Trout could close the offensive gap in Aug and Sept. Cabrera was a beast down the stretch. So, yes, she should have also brought up defense and baserunning in the late season comps but Cabrera had an OPS+ near 200 in those two months while Trout was down around 145. (Why doesn't b-r give us monthly splits on WAR?)

*There was a bit of dinging due to lots of PAs against crappy ALC pitching but not a lot that I saw.
   13. Darren Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:18 PM (#4304670)
In the end, I settled on Cabrera, barely. I based that on his stronger performance down the stretch, helping the Tigers into the playoffs. Yes, Trout’s Angels won more games than Detroit, and no, Trout shouldn’t be penalized for playing in a stronger division, but at the same time, Cabrera shouldn’t be dinged for playing in a weaker one.


Blaming a single player for his team's failure is fair. Considering the difficulty of divisions is "dinging" someone. (And, of course, she does "penalize" Trout.)
   14. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4304677)

Or to the most valuable player, whatever that means?

If you don't know what "most valuable player" means, coming to a conclusion on that question should probably be your first exercise before casting a vote.
   15. dr. scott Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:40 PM (#4304685)
If you don't know what "most valuable player" means, coming to a conclusion on that question should probably be your first exercise before casting a vote.


Behavioral economists will tell you that when we are presented with a hard question, we will instead answer an easier question, and use that as the answer to the hard one.

In this case, instead of figuring out what most valuable means and articulating it, they simply answer the question, what player was really good, and got to the playoffs.
   16. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: November 16, 2012 at 07:56 PM (#4304693)
So if the White Sox hadn't collapsed, would Beltre or Cano have been MVP? Or would that have freed the writers to either a) vote for the best player, or b) admit that they voted for the triple crown?
   17. Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling Posted: November 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM (#4304698)
She voted for the guy because the White Sox lost a couple games. That's it. That's all the substance that there is here.


Since the Angels went 5-5 vs the Tigers, and 5-3 vs the white sox, you could even (almost) say she voted for Miggy because the Angels beat the white sox a couple of extra times.

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