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Tigers fans: please remain consistent in your MVP voting outrage

Sep 22, 2012, 9:40 AM EDT

Miguel Cabrera Getty Images

Last year there was a lot of indignation on the part of Tigers fans when an MVP voter —  Jim Ingrahm of the News-Herald — left Justin Verlander off of his MVP ballot, arguing that he didn’t think pitchers should be eligible for the award.

The source of the indignation: pitchers ARE eligible! It says so right on the MVP ballot itself!  While it may have been defensible to not have voted Verlander number one on his ballot, Hughes’ political statement — that he thinks pitchers shouldn’t be eligible so he didn’t include Verlander at all — was wholly illegitimate. There’s no reasonable argument that Verlander wasn’t a top-10 player in 2011.

Fair enough.  But I have this feeling Tigers fans won’t feel the same way about voters reading extra criteria into the MVP award this year.

I say this because I have been besieged by people — mostly Tigers fans — making some variation of this argument:

You can’t? Really?  Why not?  Show me where on the MVP ballot it says that you should take a team’s playoff status into account? If anything, the ballot instructions tell voters to ignore such things:

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2.  Number of games played.

3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4.  Former winners are eligible.

5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

Granted, there is no penalty to voters who do, in fact, consider the playoff status of a candidate’s team. It happens all the time, just like people leaving pitchers off the ballot and the BBWAA has decided, wisely I think, that it’s not going to get into the business of policing such things.

But make no mistake:  a voter giving Miguel Cabrera a bump over Mike Trout if the Tigers make the playoffs and the Angels don’t is doing the same thing that the guy who left Justin Verlander off his ballot last year did.  He’s reading in his own criteria. He’s ignoring the guidelines that the very organization which sanctions the award has established.

If that pissed you off when the guy left Justin Verlander off the MVP ballot last year, you have no standing whatsoever to demand that voters take the Angels and Tigers playoff position into account this year in the event that such a thing favors Miguel Cabrera.

  1. skeleteeth - Sep 22, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    Even if you just consider offensive WAR, Trout’s 7.9 is better than Cabrera’s 7.2.

    • philliesblow - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      • Detroit Michael - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:22 PM

        It’s so cute to see a mainstream writer criticize WAR and then try to argue that triple crown statistics are the best way to evaluate batters.

        It’s not that Ave. / HR / RBI are worthless. The point is that whatever you are trying to measure (batting proficiency, hitting especially well in situations when it produces runs, etc.), there are much better statistics available today. If one wants to take the time to be analytical about it anyway.

  2. largebill - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:02 AM


    I’m not a Tigers fan, but I do have to disagree slightly with your assertion that considering whether player’s team made the playoff is the SAME thing as completely leaving off pitchers. Voters guidance says “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.” “Need not” doesn’t mean can’t take into consideration.

    As to the the two players being considered I can see viable arguments made for both players and neither could complain too loudly if the other is selected. Both Trout and Cabrera should be near the top of every voters ballot. I’m sure we’ll hear some outrage in November as a voter or two will list a player (Jeter, Hamilton, Beltre, whoever) other than them in the top two spots. However, the odd homer ballot or two won’t affect the outcome unless they also drop either Trout or Cabrera down the ballot. With both this award and the AL Cy Young the last week of the season could change the vote.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 22, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      As of today (saturday) Cabrera is now tied for the HR lead. By the way MVP stands for Most Valuable Player rather than the best player. WAR with all its faults and warts due to suspect weightings tries to measure best player rather than most Valuable player. .

      • DJ MC - Sep 22, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        You don’t think the “most valuable” player is the one who provides the most to help his team win games? Because that’s what WAR measures, as best as it (or anything right now) can.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 22, 2012 at 8:31 PM

        WAR is a rather artificial stat created by weighting other stats. The weightings used are quite subjective. Different weights give different results. Not surprisingly, there are at least 2 different versions of WAR which have different results. Nobody can prove which set of weights are best. Both of the commonly used sources are severely flawed because the weightings are so subjective. Whenever I see the term “advanced metrics” I laugh as the term is completely pretentious and self serving.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:18 PM

        The weightings used are quite subjective

        No they aren’t. Defensive ones are, but as there are other components that aren’t, for instance batting runs are based on linear weights, subjective.

  3. dondada10 - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    It seems as if the most valuable player in the A.L. is Mike Trout and the most valuable player in the N.L. is Ryan Braun.

    Bet ya neither wins.

    • cur68 - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM

      Its been said before, and it’ll probably be said again:The AL MVP is Mike Young’s to lose. Or something.

  4. largebill - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    One element of comparing the two players I have not seen mentioned is that Trout missed first few weeks of season and has more than 50 less at bats. Folks site the difference in WAR as though it ends the entire conversation. It is starkly in Trout’s favor, but there are other stats to consider. Cabrera has a higher OBP & SLG and higher totals in most counting categories except stolen bases. Both players should be proud of having great seasons regardless of vote outcome.

    • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      Yes, but the difference in OBP is tiny (0.003). Despite playing 20 fewer games and having 58 fewer PAs. Trout has scored 18 more runs than Cabrera and 31 more runs in which he didn’t drive himself in (i.e. HRs). Once on base Trout is far more likely to score because he is an excellent baserunner, whereas Cabrera is a very poor one (remember when he got thrown out trying to score on a fly ball hit to the bleachers?).

      In addition, defense matters….and trout is a Willie Mays type HR and XBH stealing CF phenom….whereas Cabrera is a bad 3B. If you take all contributions on the field into account, it really isn’t close at all despite Cabreras extra playing time.

      • philliesblow - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        Trout doesn’t score more runs than Cabrera just because of base running skills. In order to score a run you need to have competent batters hitting behind you. Trout has better support there with Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols than Cabrera has with Prince Fielder and the corpse of Delmon Young.

      • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        Have you not watched Trout on the bases? He advances through the bases far better than would be expected based on ensuing events, that is what makes a base runner a good one. Yes, some is dependent on what happens once he reaches base and the number of outs when he reaches, but Trout steals/advances much more often than an average base runner. In contrast, Cabrera is dog ass slow.

    • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Forgot to note that Cabrera plays in a far more hitter friendly environment than Trout. Once you normalize for that, Trouts combined offense is better (wRC+ 174 to 169)…and that is BEFORE taking into account base running. In other words, Trout has been better even if you only consider offense….the defense just makes the “race” a rout.

      • dondada10 - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        You’re exactly right on both points.

        Baseball is a game where the team with the most runs wins. Taking runs away from the other team, and scoring them in situations where other players might not of, is extremely valuable.

        The fact that Trout has play in such fewer games and has such a higher WAR is startling considering WAR is accumulated over games played; it isn’t an average of sorts.

  5. datdangdrewdundunituhgin - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    obv i don’t read all the tweets and such that tiger fans send you… but from my observation it seems to be you, craig, that is indignant about people crying for cabrera over trout. every day it seems to be a new post about why mike trout is better deserving (or why cabrera is not). i really don’t have an opinion other than if cabrera wins the triple crown, i think that’s impressive enough.

    but yeah, enough already with this trout campaign. the kid’s been great this year, i don’t see how voters can screw this award up.

    • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      See…here’s the thing. It is Craig’s blog, so if we don’t like the content we can just leave…there are plenty others to read. People complaining about free content is….well….distasteful.

  6. hoopmatch - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Let’s make it Adrian Gonzalez in both leagues. In other words, who cares? It’s a meaningless award.

  7. scoregasmic - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Thanks for the lesson…I being a tigers fan really needed to hear that because I am a hypocrite and I am exactly like shaun. Not every Tigers fan is like that do don’t generalize us because it gives us a bad name the media did the same thing with the lions. 4 guys get arrested and suddenly the whole team is a bunch of scumbags. I for one think Miggy should win MVP purely because he means more to the tigers than trout does to the angels. Without Miggy the tigers are no where near the playoffs, but without trout the angels are still pretty good. I’ve never understood WAR to me it feels like the QBR in football. All I know is that Miggy comes through every time and that’s why I think he should be MVP. Not because the angels might not make the playoffs, heck the tigers might not even make the playoffs

    • largebill - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      The playoff thing will be irrelevant. Very likely that neither team will make playoffs.

  8. bleedgreen - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    I would say the difference is that there IS already an award for the best pitcher in each league, being the Cy Young. There is no award for the ‘best player who made the playoffs’ vs the ‘best player who didn’t make the playoffs’.

    So leaving pitchers off the ballot is actually defensible in some way, however, voting based off playoff appearance is not.

    • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      Well, there is already an award for best rookie, too. So I assume you think it is defensible to not consider rookies for the MVP or CY, right?

    • theawesomersfranchise - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      Silver sluggers = Cy Young

      MVP is on it’s own and included everyone

      • dondada10 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:40 PM

        Cy Young = Cy Young
        MVP = MVP
        Silver Sluggers = Silver Sluggers.

        I think baseball did at one point offer a solution: The Henry Aaron award should go to the hitter, Cy Young to the pitcher, and MVP to the better of the two.

        Thing is, nobody ever cared about the Henry Aaron.

      • theawesomersfranchise - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:03 PM

        Pitcher is a position, the best at pitching gets Cy Young, Silver Sluggers are for the best hitters at their position.

        MVP’s are for the more valuable player in the league

        Not sure how much clearer it needs to be said

    • frank433 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      That is like saying “the gold glove award is for defense, therefore you shouldn’t consider defense when picking the MVP.”

  9. vallewho - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    why all the fuzz about a glorified popularity contest?

  10. thefalcon123 - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    Lord, so I hate the “has to be from a playoff team” argument. What you are saying is that the MVP has to have really good teammates to win the award. Which makes zero sense for an award that is given for *individual* performance.

    Secondly, people are so damn inconsistent about it. It seems like the playoff argument matters as a additional reason to vote for your guys, but when it’s Cal Ripken (1991), Andre Dawson (1987), Albert Pujols (2008), Larry Walker (1997), it suddenly doesn’t matter.

    …which it shouldn’t.

    • largebill - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      “Lord, so I hate the “has to be from a playoff team” argument.”

      Has anyone ever made that argument? I think people have said that a last place team could have finished in last without Kiner or whoever so how valuable could he have been. Regardless, that argument even if it existed wouldn’t apply in this case. Both players contributed greatly to teams that are at least somewhat in contention. Also, when people argue about inconsistency they act as though the group of voters are just one person. No the seeming inconsistency is the fact that each season is different and the voting is done by dozens of people. When a player from a losing team has won in the past usually no one on a contending team had anywhere near as good a season.

      • paperlions - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        Yes, people (many of them with votes) make that argument all the time. Using the argument, no player from a dominant team should ever with the award because his team would have won his division without his contribution.

        The logical extension of the illogical argument is that only players from teams that just squeak into the playoffs should be considered, because they are the players that really made a difference between playoff – no playoffs….but then which player do you pick? Because it is likely that there are at least 2 players on each team that barely made without which the team goes home…because the team needed the contributions of ALL of its players to win the necessary games.

        The argument is simplistic, contrived, and disingenuous.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        Check out the MVP discussion on this here blog right here over the next several weeks. The argument that an MVP has to be from a playoff team, and the related argument that a player from a playoff team should get an advantage for MVP, are very much out there. I don’t agree with those arguments, but they are part of the MVP debate every season.

    • hisgirlgotburrelled - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:06 AM

      I was going to say the same sort of thing with those guys, but there’s one more with Ryan Howard (2006). But then considering that year you’d being saying WAR doesn’t matter as much with Howard’s -1.8 dWAR and being .8 being Pujols in oWAR.

  11. shzastl - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    Craig, you are misinterpreting the phrase that you highlighted. It doesn’t say you CAN’T take into account the fact that a team made the playoffs, just that you are not limited to ONLY playoff teams. Whether a team had success MUST be relevant to determining which player is “most valuable.”

    The equivalent would be if, instead of saying affirmatively that pitchers are eligible, it said ‘you need not vote for a position player.’ It’s not saying you can’t still choose a position player, if you believe playing in 5 times as many games makes him more valuable than a pitcher. Similarly, the language you highlighted does not prohibit voters from taking into account that the player led his team to the playoffs; it simply means that is not a prerequisite for the award.

    • ptfu - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      “Whether a team had success MUST be relevant to determining which player is “most valuable.””

      You must have made a typo, because that sentence completely contradicts everything else you’re saying.

      All it says is, “a team making the playoffs” does not have to be relevant to whether someone is eligible for MVP. It might be relevant; it might not be. It’s deliberately open-ended. So you can’t then say, it MUST be relevant, because that is simply not supported by the voting instructions.

      • shzastl - Sep 23, 2012 at 7:28 PM

        It absolutely is supported by the voting instructions, specifically the very first criteria:

        “Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.”

        Since a baseball team’s goal is to win games, “the value of a player to his team” is shown most significantly by how much he contributes to accomplishing that goal. Therefore, among two MVP candidates, everything else being equal (i.e. each has a similar supporting cast), the one who leads his team to the playoffs by definition is more valuable than one who does not.

  12. plseattle - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    teams have an award for their merit, they’re called the playoffs. i think they’re both having such great seasons one of them will win MVP even if they don’t make the playoffs but i really hope voters don’t give cabrera an edge for (possibly) winning the weakest division in baseball.

  13. dsmaxsucks - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.”

    When someone tells me I need not wear a suit it absolutely tells me I better consider wearing a suit. So though team success is not dispositive it is relevant. This can go on forever. “The MVP need not have a high WAR” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider WAR.

    Also, Tigers fans are being consistent. When it was Verlander they wanted Verlander of the Tigers to win. Now they want Cabrera of the Tigers to win. Its hard to miss the consistency there. Its just not the consistency the math guys want, but it is a consistency that every fan is well familiar with.

    • Mark - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      “When someone tells me I need not wear a suit it absolutely tells me I better consider wearing a suit. ”

      That’s got to be awkward when you show up in a suit and everybody else is in a t shirt and shorts.

  14. detroitr1 - Sep 22, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    I read an interesting stat is that prior to last night’s game (thank you Angles) is that Trout averaged.284 in August and .254 in September. Cabrera is batting .360 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 44 games.

    Understandably, the counter-argument to any head-to-head comparisons of those current stats is the WAR argument (along with defense). The curious thing that I find about WAR is that I just read that FanGraphs’ WAR stats show Rick Porcello as having a higher value than Jered Weaver. (2.9 to 2.7). Would anyone in the pro-WAR crowd choose Porcello over Weaver in a one game playoff match-up or use that to determine who has more value to their team?

    To avoid any further generalizations of Tiger fans’ opinions on this site, I want to state that this Tigers fan really respects the Angles as team and recognized how good their team is and how their outfield defense drove the Tigers nuts in the last series. The Angles as a whole are the better team.

    Count me as one baseball fan who would start throwing hay-makers if Trout doesn’t get ROY.

    • frank433 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Trout may miss out on some ROY votes just because of principle. He isn’t a rookie based on the rules, but MLB gave him an exemption.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      The curious thing that I find about WAR is that I just read that FanGraphs’ WAR stats show Rick Porcello as having a higher value than Jered Weaver. (2.9 to 2.7). Would anyone in the pro-WAR crowd choose Porcello over Weaver in a one game playoff match-up or use that to determine who has more value to their team?

      There’s a reason for it. fWAR for pitchers is based on FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was essentially uses peripherals (Ks, BBs and HR) instead of Runs Allowed (RA/9) that Baseball-Reference war (rWAR) uses. In this, Weaver has the better peripherals than Porcello. However, fWAR normalizes BABIP for all pitchers, which helps Porcello (.347 BABIP) and hurts Weaver (.237). There are certain types of pitchers that have been shown to have lower than normal BABIP (Rivera, Weaver and Cain are a couple, knuckleballers as well) so they are dinged a bit on fWAR. Here’s the matchup using rWAR:

      Weaver – 3.4
      Porcello – 1.5

  15. eddiec36 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Has anyone taken into account Cabrera’s batting average with risp compared to Trout? How about the fact that Cabrera has had several seasons that he could’ve been MVP. Trout has had a great year and certainly deserves Rookie of the Year honors by a landslide, but MVP over Cabrera? I think not.

    • crpls - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:02 PM


      …oh, you’re being serious? Avg w/RISP? Past years where he “could’ve won?”

      Stop it.

  16. 4cornersfan - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Although Trout and Cabrerra are worthy candidates, Jeter has carried his team like no other player in baseball this year. “Most valuable” means just that, the player who was most involved in whatever success his team has had. Logically, the more success a team has had the more valuable the player to that team. While I don’t rule out a player who carried a team from the bottom of its division to respectability, the player who is most instrumental in getting to the playoffs or the league championship is the most valuable. If the Yankees go to the playoffs this year, that player is Jeter.

  17. Mark - Sep 22, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Cabrera’s had a phenomenal season offensively, but he still hasn’t hit as well as Trout. Then you consider Trout’s a plus plus fielder at an up the middle position vs Cabrera’s below average fielding at a corner position and it’s a no brainer.

  18. Detroit Michael - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Headline writer: Don’t be a Troll by Lumping an Entire City’s Fan Base Together in One Stereotype

    Not all Tiger fans are acting outraged at MVP voters, including many who leave comments on this website.

  19. hypefree10 - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Miggy did switch positions this year and has risen above expectations. His defense is solid, he has a cannon for an arm, and has some of the best baseball IQ in the game. His 7th inning or later numbers are disgusting at the dish.

  20. kalinedrive - Sep 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    Miggy hit HR #42 today. Not that anyone’s counting, because counting stats don’t count. And besides, the Tigers would have won by 7 anyway. And besides, Hamilton is out so he would have hit #43 so let’s just add that to his pHR — pretend home runs, the latest in true performance measurements.

    Tu ere MVP, Miguel. Si!

  21. brockw82 - Sep 22, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    So wait…if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown how is he Not the MVP?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:44 PM

      because there are far better measures of a player’s ability than three random statistics.

    • nbjays - Sep 23, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      Because it is not automatic that a Triple Crown winner is the MVP…. for reference, see 1934, 1942 and 1947.

  22. lgwelsh1 - Sep 23, 2012 at 2:43 AM

    The MVP should be more about just batting, you have to look at game changing plays made by the individual over the course of the entire season that helped his team win more games.

    Look at how many game changing plays outside of hitting that Mike Trout had vs. the rest of the potential candidates. It’s not even a contest, the guy clearly carried his team since he was called up
    from the minors.

    Trout’s fielding, throwing, base running has the same impact as his bat IF not more so. This kid is the future of baseball and he didn’t even play a full year.

    To me, it’s not even a contest who should win the MVP.

  23. jayscarpa - Sep 23, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    They are both valuable to their teams and they are both prolific run producers. The defensive value is spectacularly one-sided.

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