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Revisiting Trout vs. Cabrera MVP debate — with a twist

Mar 4, 2013, 1:24 PM EST

g-sport-121116-troutcabrera.nbcsports-story-612 Reuters

So, get ready for a bit of a shocker. I was on a panel with Farhan Zaidi of the Oakland A’s. He’s a great guy. A’s general manager Billy Beane often calls him “Emotional Stat Guy,” which he says will be the name of his fantasy baseball team (though I personally think it would be a better band name.*) Zaidi is utterly brilliant — economics degree from MIT, Ph.D from Cal Berkeley in economics — and a lot of fun to talk with about baseball.

*Zaidi told a great story about his interview with Billy Beane, who he idolized. It was 2003, and he was doing some consulting and fantasy sports work — basically, he was overqualified for whatever he was doing. He heard about an Oakland opening. He fished out an old resume and, without really reviewing it, sent it off to Billy Beane. One thing he had forgotten was that in the personal section of the resume, he had mentioned that he liked Britpop — you know, Suede, Sleeper, Oasis, a bunch of those Wonderwall bands that were cool in certain circles in the mid-to-late 1990s. Unfortunately, it was now 2003.

First thing Beane said to Zaidi was, “So, I understand you like Britpop.” Zaidi felt his face go white hot as he sunk into his chair. He started to hem and haw about how he had not updated his resume in a while and that, you know, er, well, it’s just kind of …

At which point, Billy Beane said: “I am the biggest Oasis fan.”

How that scene was left out of Moneyball, I’ll never know.

So before the panel began, we were talking about all sorts of things, when the 2012 American League MVP argument came up. Yes, we’re still talking about it. In very general terms, the argument seemed to split baseball fans between those who embrace the new baseball metrics and those who do not.

That’s a sweeping generalization and does not tell the full story — there were brilliant mathematicians in the Cabrera camp and staunch traditionalists in the Trout camp. But in general terms, the traditional statistics (Triple Crown!) and general principles pointed to Cabrera. And the advanced statistics seemed to show that Trout wasn’t just better than Cabrera but markedly better.

Baseball Reference WAR

Trout: 10.7 WAR
Cabrera: 6.9 WAR

Fangraphs WAR

Trout: 10.0 WAR
Cabrera: 7.1 WAR

That isn’t all that close. Basically WAR — and some other advances metrics — showed that whatever advantages Cabrera had in terms of power and batting average and timely hitting were swamped by Trout’s advantages as a fielder, base runner and player who gets on base. The argument made sense to many of us who champion the advanced statistics and their power to get closer to a player’s true value.

The Cabrera arguments, for the most part, were more about gut instinct, intangibles and the power of old statistics. Cabrera won the Triple Crown. Cabrera hit better down the stretch. Cabrera’s team made the playoffs. These arguments made sense to many baseball fans.

The two sides basically talked around each other for months. The gut arguments meant nothing at all to the sabermetric people, who feel like those gut arguments are shallow and often wildly off. The sabermetric arguments meant nothing at all to the people who do not trust a lot of these new statistics and feel like they are draining the fun out of the game. Back and forth it went, but neither side seemed to move any closer together.

Zaidi and I were talking about this when he told me something that I found utterly staggering. He said that Oakland’s objective model for measuring a player’s value — remember now, we are talking about the Oakland A’s, the Moneyball people, Jonah Hill and so on — found that Miguel Cabrera, NOT Mike Trout, was more valuable in 2012.

More from Sloan: Finding peace with WAR

Well, that’s not exactly right. He was quick to say that the difference between the two was so slight as to be almost invisible — they were, for an intents and purposes, in a virtual tie. But their system did have Cabrera ahead by the tiniest of margins.

I thought that was a pretty big deal. I know last year, a lot of people were spending a lot of energy trying to find a convincing statistical model that showed Cabrera was better than Trout. If there was one, I didn’t see it. Now, it turns out that Oakland (Oakland!) has such a statistical model.

We did not have time to get into details — and Zaidi might not have done that anyway since the A’s model for measuring players is proprietary — but I think the point comes through. Statistics are tools. People use tools differently. People see the world differently. Give someone a pen and paper, she or he might sketch out a breathtaking mathematical formula … or scribble a prescription … or write down the amazing story of a young boy who has discovered he is a wizard … or a sketch of a flying car … or draw a Calvin and Hobbes panel  … or a million other things.

Give a lot of different smart people the Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout data, you should get different ways of using that data. And you just might get different answers. It’s an important thing to remember, I think.

My sense, based on my reading of the numbers, Trout was better than Cabrera. I also readily concede Zaidi and the people in the Oakland front office are a lot smarter than I am.

  1. jarathen - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    I wonder if Oakland takes into account their own depth. A player like Cespedes is pretty valuable, but I don’t recall the A’s really fielding anyone super great at 3B, so even a slower Miggy would be a vast improvement there. So it may have improved their team by a relatively higher amount than Trout would have based on what they had in place at the time.

    • darthicarus - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      The A’s put Inge out at 3B last year!…oh you said super GREAT, nevermind.

  2. El Bravo - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    One thing is for sure, at this point, Trout is a much bigger bang for the buck!

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Leave sex out of this discussion.

      • El Bravo - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        Perhaps I will, but John Buck stays in.

    • Kevin Gillman - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      For now, but you better believe that price tag will go up.

  3. APBA Guy - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I think most teams have proprietary systems of player evaluation, based on a totally non-scientific recollection of GM interviews on this season of Clubhouse Confidential. But because they are proprietary, a valuable feedback loop to the stat community outside MLB is not available. Conclusions by Zaidi and the A’s are useful for this purpose. However, expect people like Bob Ryan to draw the totally incorrect “I told you so” inference from this and continue to blast WAR and all other advanced metrics indiscriminately. Part of science is evidence based reasoning. Have a thesis, test it, modify the thesis based on factual observations. The huge gap in WAR between Trout and Cabrera last year certainly made me wonder. But without input from the MLB clubs, the process of re-evaluation is slower.

  4. hardballtalkusername - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    How could you omit Blur when referring to Britpop?

    • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      How can Britpop be about 90’s music?

      • El Bravo - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        And after allllllllllllllll, you’re my wonderwalllllllllllllllllllllllll

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

      • jwbiii - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        The funniest Britpop thing I’ve ever read was the B-Pro epitaph for John Vander Wal’s career.
        Today is gonna be the day he’ll slap a single right past you. . .
        You’re my Vander Wal

      • hardballtalkusername - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:32 PM

        Ummm, because that’s when this subgenre started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britpop

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        You mean that’s when some people decided to label it like that. How old are you?

      • hardballtalkusername - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:04 AM

        Did you even click on the link? It’s a subgenre of alternative rock which drew upon earlier influences of British guitar pop music in the 60s/70s (i.e. the British Invasion). Most people that pay attention to music, would correctly identify this term with the 90s music. Hence why you have 2 positive and 6 negatives when asking “How can Britpop be about 90’s music?”

      • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:06 AM

        hahahahahahahaha

        Seriously, you must be young.

  5. metrocritical - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Once upon a time, I was a philosophy major and had a professor allude to scenarios where select philosophy geeks would argue about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Some of those philosophers must have grown up to become baseball statisticians.

    • albertmn - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      While I think I get the general gist of your argument, the two things you compare couldn’t be more different. Angels on the head of a pin is entirely unquantifiable. Some will even argue non-quantifiable, if they don’t believe in Angels. But, baseball stats are entirely quantifiable. It is just how different people/teams prioritize the value of different stats that varies.

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Do not forget that Trout is an Angel and is much beloved by stat-heads..

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        You can quantify Angel mass. It just requires monads.

  6. carbydrash - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    My issue with it was simple and you are fully allowed to ignore sabermetrics to make it.

    .330/.393/.606
    .326/.399/.564

    Miguel Cabrera was a *slightly* better hitter. He was also *slightly* better with runners in scoring position, so the RBIs is much more of a reflection of their respective positions in the lineup.

    So, Cabrera was a slightly better hitter. Can anyone, with a straight face argue that Trout was not a *much* better fielder and baserunner? As in, not even close! How does his wide gap in those two aspects not make up the small amount of ground in hitting?

    • albertmn - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      Depends on how much weight you give to each area. Your assumption is that base running/fielding carries just as much weight as hitting. I’m not saying that is incorrect, but if someone values hitting at 85% and the running/fielding and 15%, then that lessens what you view as a disparity. Add in that one team made the playoffs and if you give Cabrera bonus points for being willing to move to third base to allow the team to add Prince (even as he knows he won’t be a Gold Glover there), then it can narrow the margin much closer than most seem to think it was. But, it is up to each person/team to put that weight on each category.

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        You just hit on the key component of the argument when you mention “weight”. It is my suspicion that Oakland has done a regression analysis that has resulted in much different weights and possibly different components than those used by WAR. In other words, Oakland might just have a more sophisticated model than either version of WAR.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:24 PM

        Totally agree. Look at the year that Morneau won the MVP over Mauer. I don’t remember the details, you could argue that Morneau was a better hitter but it was close.

        The only way to choose Morneau was to say that all of Mauer’s advantages (mostly from playing a much, much more demanding position) were literally irrelevant and worth zero.

      • carbydrash - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        “I’m not saying that is incorrect, but if someone values hitting at 85% and the running/fielding and 15%, then that lessens what you view as a disparity.”

        If one value running/fielding at 15%, they would be terrible at evaluating baseball. Also, it would make Mike Trout 13% better since Cabrera was about 2% better at hitting.

        “Add in that one team made the playoffs and if you give Cabrera bonus points for being willing to move to third base to allow the team to add Prince”

        Umm…the Angels won more games. So Cabrera gets bonus points for being in a weaker division? That makes all kind of sense! Also, why would he get bonus points for moving to third? *How well does he play third* (good enough to justify his bat there, don’t get me wrong. Obviously he’s crazy amazing). Does Trout get bonus points for switching to center when needed?

    • Roger Moore - Mar 4, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      I’m not even sure you can conclude that Cabrera was a better hitter. Baseball-Reference lists Comerica as a moderate hitter’s park (BPF=104), while Angels Stadium is a strong pitcher’s park (BPF=92). That means Trout might have been a better hitter in spite of his slightly worse raw numbers. If Cabrera has a real advantage, it’s that he got into 22 more games and had almost 10% more plate appearances. 22 extra games of a hitter of Cabrera’s caliber is worth quite a bit.

  7. The Dangerous Mabry - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    I’m a huge fan of modern statistical analysis. And in my opinion, the primary value of a complex megastat like WAR (or anything along those lines, which is designed to pull together disparate data from many sources measuring many things), is to draw your eye to something you might want to look at more closely.

    So take the MVP discussion here. The first thing you might do at the end of the season is say “Hey, that Cabrera guy won the triple crown! That’s fantastic!” But then maybe you look at WAR, just to see if anyone else should be in the picture, and you see this Trout character coming out well ahead of Cabrera. The reaction at this point should be “I’m going to look deeper into this and first of all, figure out why Trout is so far ahead in this WAR thing, and then second, determine if I actually think he’s more valuable based on all of the various information I have available.”

    In short, WAR (and other compound stats like it) is great for starting the discussion. But it’s not the way to finish the discussion.

    At least, that’s how I use it.

    • 18thstreet - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Great post. The fact is, I read this piece (as a stat geek) and think, “I would like to learn more about this!” while stat detractors say, “I don’t want to hear anything that disagrees with my opinion.”

  8. stinkfingers - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Oasis sucks.

    • El Bravo - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      You ain’t kiddin’. 12 thumbs downs proves that at least a dozen deaf people read HBT. Good for them, but they don’t know shit about Oasis.

      • posterkid88 - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Billy sure was current on his music. 2003 and still lovin’ Oasis.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        Booooo!!!!!

        /throws mix…digital files…urgh…

      • wlschneider09 - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:55 PM

        Really Historio? You thought Dave Matthews was pretentious and now you’re defending Oasis?

        /throws bread pudding

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        Yea!

        num num num num num

      • paperlions - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        FWIW, I never thought Dave Mathews was pretentious (I find his music rather boring, but whatever)…..I just thought his fans were pretentious….to me, they were like pre-hipsters.

  9. manute - Mar 4, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    Does the pen and paper analogy make any sense? Just asking.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Since this article brings up Moneyball, maybe someone, somewhere, anywhere can answer a very simple question for me. I watched the movie for the first time a little while back and I can’t seem to figure something out. Maybe I missed it, but maybe it just wasn’t there.

    As far as I can tell, the movie follows the successful regular season of the 2002 Oakland A’s. It makes a big point of their 20 game winning streak. It talks about Scott Hatteburg, Eric Chavez, and David freaking Justice!! It contains a few scenes related to the trading of Jeremy Giambi for God’s sake.

    But three little words are missing…the most important three words to the regular season success of the A’s during the Moneyball period. The book didn’t mention them…which was insane. You figure the movie would try to be more true to real life but it too failed.

    Three little words…without them, the entire book and movie are nothing more than a sham.

    Hudson.
    Zito.
    Mulder.

    • jarathen - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      The movie is about the narrative of Billy Beane finding undervalued players and putting them to use to fill in gaps in his personnel. He didn’t need to find new aces- he had three of them.

      You really do have to forgive a lot of the narrative, though. It glosses over the tremendous starting efforts by those three, it uses the win streak as something more than a statistical anomaly, and, most importantly, it leaves out the Angels.

      Because dangit, they won that year, and i still smile about it 11 years later.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:24 PM

        @jara…But both the movie and the book want you to believe that the main reason the A’s had success was this nonsense of finding undervalued players when in actuality the main reason the A’s had their success was Hudson Zito and Mulder. Once they were gone, so was the success.

        Shit, last year was more worthy of being “Moneyball” related than ANY of the years from when Moneyball was actually written.

        @craig…I read the book. The three names come up exactly once. And yes, I know the way the book said that they draft players who are older and have played in college…thus their picks of Zito, Hudson, and Mulder. But they book and the movie purposely leave those guys out of the story because to put them in would change it from “Moneyball” to “The Oakland A’s success in the early 2000’s: How three Aces turned a struggling franchise into perennial contenders…oh and they also looked for undervalued players to keep the budget low but this didn’t effect their success all that much”

      • florida76 - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        Yes, the A’s won that year, but the achievement just didn’t justify a movie. Of course, bad ideas are still being made into films, but winning the AL West and getting killed in the playoffs wasn’t
        a great, compelling year.

    • craggt - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      A large section of the book Moneyball was about Oakland’s approach to the draft and scouting which led them to draft players like Zito; however this doesn’t make for a particularly good movie so it wasn’t included. I found the section of the book about how they draft and scout to be the most interesting part of the book, you should check it out.

    • clydeserra - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      so, since the word “money” and “ball” are mentioned in a piece you feel the need to bring this up for the 8000th time?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        There’s an 8,001st time for everything, isn’t there?

    • Reflex - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      Your criticism seems to be of how the Moneyball approach is portrayed in the movie and book. I get that, it did not focus much on the pitching aspect of it. That said, the signings of Hudson, Zito and Mulder were themselves part of the Moneyball system even if not well documented. Moneyball is about exploiting market inefficiencies, and college pitchers were being undervalued which permitted the A’s to grab them at lower stages in a draft than their talent warranted. This is the epitome of the approach.

      Yes, the movie could have portrayed it better. But its besides the point, the only reason the A’s could have three aces signed to reasonable deals was because of that market inefficiency and their willingness to exploit it.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        Oh stop it now!! That is just ludicrous. You mean to tell me the ONLY team to draft college players was the A’s? Give me a break. Yes, I get the concept that they would only draft college players because they were being undervalued. But that was a very small part of the entire Moneyball concept. The fact is that the A’s got lucky getting those three studs all within a couple years of each other and almost all of their success was directly related to those three studs pitching as well as they did.

        Much like the Phillies of 2011 actually…studs pitching well, but getting knocked out early. Of course, the difference is that the Phillies paid a fortune for Halladay, Lee and even Oswalt whereas the A’s drafted them.

        If you want to say that the only reason they got pitchers of the quality of Hudson, Mulder and Zito was Moneyball, then you are blindly following the sheep. Moneyball is a nice concept, but with regards to the A’s early 2000’s success, it had a very minimal effect at BEST.

      • jwbiii - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:26 PM

        Reflex, Barry Zito was a first round #9 pick, Mark Mulder a first round #2 pick, and Tim Hudson a sixth round #185 pick. Not many teams passed on Zito. Two which did picked Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett instead. The Phillies chose Pat Burrell ahead of Mulder. You could argue that Hudson fell due to college pitchers being undervalued, but the A’s had high picks in ’98 and ’99 and chose and developed well.

        If the A’s were able to turn sixth round picks into players of Hudson’s quality, they’d win the World Series every year. The A’s have gotten some decent players from the sixth round, but Sal Bando and Jim Sundberg were drafted before Beane was 10 and Alvin Davis was drafted while he was playing A ball in the Mets system. (I missed him by a few years. I spent a few weeks in Lynchburg in the summer of ’79 and took in a Lynchburg Mets game. Ron Gardenhire was good.)

  11. blacksables - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I still Adam Jones was the real Most ‘Valuable’ Player.

  12. losanginsight - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Who cars about the new espn made up stat WAR? Trout couldn’t even get his team in the Plaoffs and Miggy was in the World Series.

    • Jeremy T - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      ESPN? Really? You pretty much have to be trolling, right?

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      edit function?

  13. historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    For the one billionth time, it’s most valuable player — not best player.

    • El Bravo - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      So pie right? You vote pie?

    • paperlions - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      For the one billionth time, the more productive players is always the most valuable player.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        You are wrong. That is not always the case. Get over yourself, paper bag. You’re just trying to get me to throw my leftover fried okra from lunch at you.

      • paperlions - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        Then give me an instance in which the better player would not be the most valuable player….or give me that okra. Please.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        depends on your definition of “value”. Some people think if your team doesn’t make the playoffs, then the team had no value that year and thus, the players had no value either. If they lost 90 games with him, they could have lost 110 without him and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

        Others think that 20 game difference, even though it didn’t mean squat with regards to the playoffs, is “value”.

        Me? I don’t care. MVP is a made-up award voted on by people who use 100 different methods and reasons for voting so why would I waste my time debating that? Same with the CY. Same with the HOF. It’s all a big waste of time as long as the BBWAA controls the awards.

      • atlrod - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        Wait, so games only acquire value when a team makes the playoffs? A player, in your hypothetical, is contributing 20 games of winning to a team, but because his team sucks, all of those games equal zero? Do people actually think like this? That’s entirely irrational. “No, I saw them play the games. I get it. Those games just don’t exist anymore because they didn’t win enough of the games. If they had won more of the games, all of those games would now instantly count. But sorry… they just don’t mean anything now. It’s all a zero.”

        “Most Productive Player” is always the “Most Valuable Player” only in universes in which both logic and the English language are functioning properly. Otherwise, you’re right. There do exist scenarios where those two terms are not equivalent.

      • paperlions - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:14 PM

        Yes, people really think that….no, we currently do not have the technology to reach their distant galaxy to infuse logic into their mental processes.

      • atlrod - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:46 PM

        To be fair, I did try to think of scenarios where “Most Productive” would not equal “Most Valuable.” The only way I could I come up with a viable scenario is if there is a separate category that that’s entirely sentimental which would be a calculation of productivity. In other words, it’s entirely subjective and nebulous. But seeing as how no one is saying, “Yes, but player X has 10 quozarks of emotional productions, so they are then more productive” I still can’t come up with a consistent rationale. It’s always, “Yeah but numbers I like AND the number of lots of other players besides the one we’re trying to reward.” It’s never, “Yeah but number AND imaginary category mean most productivity.”

        i can’t handle this. It makes no sense. I wish people would just say (not in this circumstance because, obviously, someone here is using an apparently objective tool) “I just FEEL like this other one is more.” At that point you can’t be argued with. Fine. You’re entitled to feel that way. It doesn’t mean that you’re right or even that your feeling is equally as valid. It’s not. It’s irrational and incomplete and inconsistent. But it IS how you feel. So… vote away.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:06 AM

        Oh, yeah, I totally remembered why I don’t have this conversation with you guys. buh-bye

  14. randygnyc - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Albertmn – I agree. I think the really professional analysis considers WAR a component in the equation. And the components that make up WAR, may very well be weighted. IMO, its much easier to be a great defensive player than offensive. And of course, defensive stats are subjective. Than you have the intangibles, and the playoffs.

    MLB network has trout rated as the top player in baseball. Kind of silly after only 130+ games. We’ll have to see how other teams/pitchers adjust to him this year

  15. paperlions - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    I bet the reason that Oakland’s value metric comes up with them being relatively equally valuable is that they regress defensive metrics toward the mean rather than use the raw data from one year, which would give Trout less defensive value and Cabrera more. That would be a perfectly reasonable adjustment to make.

    • hackerjay - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      I think this probably explains most of the difference. Though, one other thing to keep in mind is that the major league teams have access to Field FX, and therefore they have much more fielding data then any of the Sabermetric sites. It’s possible that their fielding stats found Miggy to be much better then people thought, and Trouts wasn’t as good as people thought. That could very easily close the gap between the two.

      • clydeserra - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        the measure also may be “Trout v Bourgouis” rather than “Trout v League” and “Cabrera v Inge”, instead of “Cabrera v. League.”

        which is what was brought up earlier in the comments

  16. wlschneider09 - Mar 4, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Or it’s as simple as albert says, they just don’t weight the defense and baserunning as highly.

  17. pappageorgio - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    it would make sense, based on what we know of Oakland, that baserunning might be weighted less. Getting on base or getting to second is just that in oak. In WAR I believe that a single and a SB is valued higher than getting a double.

    Oakland also might not believe in the idea of a “replacement player” that lives in AAA, under the bridge, or at the end of a rainbow. The A’s seem like a team that places hard values on stats…….not making comparisons to fictional replacments with arbitrary positional values.

  18. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 4, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Lol, Posnanski the troll is back at it. Last year on NBCSports he picked Trout for MVP based solely on WAR, even though Baseball Prospectus and fan graphs analysis say that it just one tool to be used, but when asked by Eric Kuslieus, Mr. Posnanski didn’t know who the WAR leader in the NL was. So WAR is only relevant in the AL? Like the people who are the major proponents of WAR say it is only A tool, not THE tool, ‘cuz Mr. Posnanski is clearly THE tool.

    • atlrod - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      Are you drunk? Just be honest. I’m not judging you. I just want to know if you’re drunk-posting.

  19. Jonny 5 - Mar 4, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    I’d say any team out there using statistics is going to weigh the values according to their needs. A team with a stronger offense using the same formula as the A’s would probably come to a different conclusion than the A’s did here and they’d value Trout more so. War is measuring an average of everyone but few teams have average offense and defense causing them to value different aspects of a players game. Teams with a well below average offense, say the Cubs are going to possibly value Miggy more. I don’t see how this effects the MVP vote because it shouldn’t. It’s hard for me to see how Miggy gets my vote but it is just an award and people do value team success in these things for some reason, so ehhhh… Whatever. Very nice to see this type of article written, I like it. It gives people something to wrap their brain around while blasting team decisions based solely on war. It’s a good measure but things are even more complicated than war values when looked at on a team by team basis using their needs as a contributing factor in their equation for value instead of plain old war.

  20. kvanhorn87 - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    Only stat that matters to billy beane when players are close is salary. No way any team would have rather had Cabrera over trout. With trout you could still afford a top ace and some middle relief help.

  21. xjokerz - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    ” My sense, based on my reading of the numbers, Trout was better than Cabrera.”

    yet he destroyed Trout in the MVP voting.

  22. anythingbutyanks - Mar 4, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    I would really like to see a Total QBR equivalent stat for baseball- something that measures the value of an at bat against the total possible value, with context an important component of the statistic. As an (unsophisticated) example, assign a point (.100) for each base gained for an at bat (.100 for an empty-bases single, .200 for a double, .600 for a triple with runners on second and third). If the bases are loaded, the optimal value of the at bat is 1.000, and a bases clearing double is worth .800, or 80% of the optimal value of that at bat. An additional point can be earned for each base stolen, and outs would be worth .000 points for getting out with bases empty, or .100 for each base than a runner is advanced. Negative points would be assigned for GIDPs, LOBs, CSs and so forth. By the end of the season you could simply add the points earned and the points possible over the course of the season to find out how much of the optimal performance a player had. For example, if a player had 400 at bats with an average optimal value of .475, their max value would be 400*(.475) or 190. If they averaged slightly less than a base per PA (including advancing other players), say .080 points for the season, then they earned 400*(.080) or 32 of the possible 190 points for a contribution equal to 16.8% of their maximum possible value at the plate. Since the final data point is standardized to a player’s own maximum value, it would allow all batters to be compared with a single number that fairly represents their value and allows apples to apples comparisons of players who bat 1st or 4th or 9th, on good offensive teams or poor ones. This would obviously need a lot of refinement, but am I missing some reason why this is completely unworkable?

    • jarathen - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:54 AM

      The problem with such an approach is that you’re assigning more value, by default, on a player who has people getting on base ahead of them. That doesn’t have much to do with their skill. It’s like the old “clutch” argument. If a player is so good in close situations, what’s he doing the rest of the time?

      • anythingbutyanks - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:13 PM

        I don’t think it does assign more value. Each at bat has a maximum potential value that depends on the context (empty bases vs runners on, and also where the runners are). Each base that can be gained is worth .100 points, so a home run with empty bases= 4 bases, or .400 max value. If there are runners on second and third, then the max value for the batter is to hit a home run which is four bases for himself, 1 for the man on third, and 2 for the man on second, or a total of .700 for that at bat. If he hits a deep fly ball that gets an out but advances both runners one base, then he has gained .200 of the maximum possible value of .700, or about 28.7% of the optimal value of that at bat. The final statistic doesn’t reflect the net added value, but the percentage of the optimal value that a batsman ears. Because the optimal value changes with the context, where the batter is in the lineup or what situations he faces when he bats do not increase or decrease the final value of the batter compared to those who face other contexts on a regular basis. The other thing about this stat that would be cool is that the % of optimal value achieved can be calculated for different situations fairly easily. For example, one can quickly calculate the %OV achieved for batting with runners in scoring position, which would be a way to differentiate who is the best batter to have batting 3rd or 4th. Likewise, you can determine who achieves the highest %OV with the bases empty (when the highest OV is always .400) and that would be your best bet for a leadoff batter. Make sense?

  23. dabirdguy - Mar 5, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    What I have NOT seen from the stats guys is the third part of this argument no one discusses….

    Most valuable to WHOM?
    On a team with 4 serious home run guys Cabrera would be a nice piece, but Trout would be a huge asset because of his OBP and base running skills.
    A team with a bunch of rabbits would have more need of a Cabrera type hitter to drive them home.

    All the current systems I have seen do not factor in team need.

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