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For a good example of how the MVP has been traditionally decided, let’s go back to the 1995 season. Mo Vaughn is declared the American League (AL) MVP despite significantly under-producing Cleveland’s Albert Belle in almost every statistical category. If we take a look at the sabermetric stats under the hood, the picture gets even crazier. Vaughn’s WAR of 5.2 pales in comparison to Belle’s AL-topping 7.4 WAR – Vaughn didn’t even crack the top 15 in overall WAR that year. However, while WAR is good at measuring individual performance out of context, it is often unreliable when evaluating a player relative to the league, or relative to another player. The statistic Weighted Runs Created Plus”(wRC+) measures precisely how many runs a player has created relative to the league average of 100. For example, a 125 wRC+means a player created 25 per cent more runs than league average. In 1995, Mo Vaughn won the MVP with a wRC+ of 138 in the same year that Albert Belle posted a wRC+ of 174 – that’s a 36 per cent gap in run creation.
So, how did Belle create 36 per cent more runs than the league’s “most valuable player” and receive no recognition? For one, Belle’s surly personality and short temper earned him no love. He frequently attacked fans for shouting racial slurs and making light of his drinking problem. By the infamous 1995 season, his volatility had antagonized the media, who chalked up their MVP decision to “character.” Later, commenting on the MVP debate that year, Vaughn said, “People are looking at the whole thing, and that it’s not just numbers.” This is the common debate over the MVP – is it numbers, or numbers and intangible characteristics like leadership and character?
Will it be “not just numbers” this year? Can we throw things like character and leadership and hustle out the window now that we have shiny new stats like WAR and wRC+?
...However, WAR tells us a different story. Trout’s rare combination of power, speed, athleticism, and the ability to hit for average makes him a valuable contributor in every aspect of the game. He leads the majors with 47 stolen bases, makes spectacular catches in center field seem routine, his arm is a cannon, and his bat isn’t too shabby either. Superlatives aside, Mike Trout has been the life of Anaheim’s team since his debut, and even if Anaheim doesn’t make it into October, he deserves the AL MVP.
Posted: October 01, 2012 at 08:25 AM | 21 comment(s)
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