Mar 4, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
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
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.
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.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT
CSNNewEngland.com’s Sean McAdam reports that outfielder Shane Victorino may be activated from the disabled list Wednesday if he makes it through his third minor league rehab game Tuesday night at Triple-A Pawtucket without experiencing any issues.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright landed awkwardly while trying to chase down a high-chopper off the bat of Chris Young in the seventh inning Tuesday at Citi Field and left the game with a hyperextended right knee.
Apr 22, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT
Angels fan Tim Sherrill, a resident of Ponoma, California and a member of the United States Air Force, caught Albert Pujols’ 500th career home run on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital …
Apr 22, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT
Albert Pujols hit a three-run shot to left field off Nationals starter Taylor Jordan in the top of the first inning and then crushed a two-run bomb to deep left-center off Jordan in the top of the fifth for the 499th and 500th home runs of his 14-year major league career on Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.
Apr 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT
Manny Machado will soon be one phone call away from rejoining the Orioles’ active major league roster. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, the young third baseman has been cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment this Friday with the High-A Frederick Keys.
Apr 22, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT
Watch as Albert Pujols hits his 499th career home run Tuesday off Nationals starter Taylor Jordan …
Apr 22, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports that Rays left-hander Matt Moore underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery, as scheduled, Tuesday on his pitching elbow. The procedure was conducted by Dr. James Andrews and deemed a success.
Apr 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Ivan Nova was diagnosed Sunday with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is expected to undergo season-ending Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. That leaves a big gap in the Yankees’ starting rotation — one that will be filled, at least initially, by left-hander Vidal Nuno.
Apr 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Or when Napoli gets out of the sleep room so that I can have a turn. Jeez, what’s up with that guy?
Apr 22, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
Some folks would say never enough. I’d agree.
Apr 22, 2014, 4:18 PM EDT
Ivan Nova went for a second opinion after being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and another doctor agreed with the initial verdict, recommending that the Yankees right-hander undergo season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery.
Apr 22, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
MLB has handed out suspensions for the Easter afternoon brawl between the Brewers and Pirates.
Apr 22, 2014, 3:08 PM EDT
Baseball has survived “threats” like Carlos Gomez before. And has even thrived because of them. Should guys like him respect the game? How sad that’d be.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
And talking about baseball stars going “head-to-head” is kinda meaningless.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT
No official word from MLB yet, but Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado has been suspended five games and fined $2,500 for his role in Sunday afternoon’s brawl with the Pirates.
Apr 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
MLB Network now has approximately 3,457 major leaguers on staff. Ryan Dempster is the newest.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT
Guess what: it’s not in the front row.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Yankees closer David Robertson is back from the disabled list after missing the past two weeks with a strained groin.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Left-hander James Paxton has been on the disabled list since April 9 and Adam Jude of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners rookie is unlikely to rejoin the rotation until at least late May.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Batting practice can be a dangerous place, as Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz unfortunately learned Monday when a Salvador Perez line drive broke his wrist.
- Albert Pujols becomes 26th member of 500 home run club 20
- MLB suspends Martin Maldonado, Carlos Gomez, Travis Snider, and Russell Martin for Easter brawl 44
- “Respect the Game?” Phooey. 101
- The MLBPA is serious about investigating leaks to reporters regarding Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales 31
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 59