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It begins: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, round two

Aug 10, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT

Miguel Cabrera AP

Expect a lot of columns of this nature over the next few months until a winner is announced. MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, using the two home runs Miguel Cabrera hit last night and this afternoon as a springboard, writes that Cabrera is “transcending” the AL MVP debate, which is once again boiling down to Cabrera and Trout as it did last year, with all due respect to Chris Davis.

Last year’s debate cast baseball traditionalists (pro-Cabrera) against proponents of Sabermetrics (pro-Trout). The pro-Cabrera crowd used the third baseman’s Triple Crown and sizable lead in the traditional stats as the reason why he is more deserving of the AL MVP award. The pro-Trout crowd cited his gigantic lead in Wins Above Replacement, which factored in less-obvious facets of the game like base running and defense as well as offense.

Baumann writes in his column:

As great as Cabrera’s Triple Crown season of 2012 was, his numbers this year are even better. Any argument against his American League MVP candidacy this season will require both a search party and considerable imagination.

With 48 games to go, Trout has already compiled 17 WAR (per Baseball Reference) in his career, good for 16th in Angels history.  He will likely move into at least 13th place by the time the season is over. Cabrera may well be putting up historically-great numbers — and he is — but so is Trout. And let’s not forget that Trout contributes in more ways than one, by running the bases well and playing decent defense. To ignore Trout’s greatness because of Cabrera is woefully myopic (and vice versa). We have more than enough space to appreciate both — and Chris Davis, too!

So, over the next three months, we’ll again be treated to a litany of columns about how numbers are scary and math is hard and you have to watch the games with your eyeballs instead of poring over a spreadsheet, and this is why Cabrera is great and Trout is not. Controversy is king. Acknowledging the greatness of more than one player at a time is, while the right thing to do, not very controversial.

  1. proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    The Cabrera vs Trout debate pales compared to the never ending cake vs pie debate.

    • unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      It’s Miggy’s boli-bread pudding, hands down.

    • raysfan1 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:06 PM

      All right-thinking people know cake is superior to pie.

      • anxovies - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:27 PM

        Exactly. Let them eat it.

    • tfbuckfutter - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:43 PM

      I like croissants.

    • tfbuckfutter - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:01 AM

      “Your favorite type of cake can’t be birthday cake. That’s like saying your favorite type of cereal is breakfast cereal.”
      “Ooohh, breakfast cereal is good.”

      • threedelite - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        I like birthday suits…

  2. shipitplease - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    One player has his team in position to not only go to the playoffs, but as a front runner for the World Series.

    The other, while having a great statistical season, is watching his team fall behind Seattle in the standings.

    Sorry, but MVPs should never be from teams that are 4th in their division.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      Did you know that last year the Angels actually had a better record than the Tigers? Why should Trout be punished because he plays in a tougher division?

      • Shawn G - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:11 AM

        Tougher division? Last I checked the woeful Twins have only 2 less wins than 2 teams in the Angels division(including the Angels) and the Angels division includes the hands down worst team in baseball the Houston Astros. The AL Central is better than the AL West.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        See that note about last year? Jesus the inability to read is reaching epidemic proportions…

      • shipitplease - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:15 PM

        Remember how this was a debate regarding this year’s MVP, thus, what the division was last year is irrelevant? The AL West is a joke of a division. Watch Oakland get KO’ed in the first round again

    • dondada10 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      But value should be connected to wins. Does any player contribute more toward the effort of winning games than Trout? Is it is fault the rest of the team hasn’t contributed enough?

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:35 PM

        Does everyone in the circle contribute an equal share to the Doobie? Should the folks who don’t pitch in be subject to reverse-rotation skipping? These are the questions that vex the soul.

        And what is the penalty for the first to Bogaert?

      • dondada10 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

        Yuck yuck yuck.

        You should try some weed, Unc. Might just jostle that stick out from your ass.

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:47 PM

        Whoa don – I’m in the Trout camp. Friendly fire – duck and cover – duck and cover (and inhale deeply.)

        Firstly, my bowels are immaculate. Secondly I just finished a really nice vapor bag of blue cheese. Thirdly – half my best friends are Stankee fans as I live in disputed territory.

        All the best.

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        Wow – crack a weed joke – get shat on by a pothead? Is that a Brooklyn Steamer?

      • dondada10 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        My bad, Mo. Didn’t know you were down for the cause.

        But you think I’m a Yankee fan?

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 11, 2013 at 8:01 AM

        Naw man – just that I’m not anti-New Yawkers.

      • dondada10 - Aug 11, 2013 at 8:51 AM

        My bad again, Mo. I was back from the gym and I think my pre-workout still had a grip on me.

    • badvlad - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      Why should a player’s team have any consequence on an individual award?

      • shipitplease - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:39 PM

        Besides Torii Hunter, there has only been one truly consistent bat in the lineup for the Tigers: Cabrera. Prince is struggling, Victor was cold for the first 2+ months, Jackson hasn’t been healthy, and the rest of the team is flaky. Cabrera’s bat outweighs the rest, just like Trout’s bat outweights the rest of his team. So, again, who’s in playoff position and who isn’t?

      • badvlad - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:42 PM

        So it’s Mike Trout’s fault that one team’s GM assembled a world class pitching staff and the other put together a staff consisting of such worldbeaters like Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, and Jerome Williams?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        Besides Torii Hunter, there has only been one truly consistent bat in the lineup for the Tigers: Cabrera. Prince is struggling, Victor was cold for the first 2+ months, Jackson hasn’t been healthy, and the rest of the team is flaky. Cabrera’s bat outweighs the rest, just like Trout’s bat outweights the rest of his team. So, again, who’s in playoff position and who isn’t?

        Qualified hitters on the Tigers:

        wRC+
        Cabrera – 203
        Peralta – 125
        Hunter – 119
        Fielder – 117
        Jackson – 106

        Where 100 is league average. They have 5 above average hitters with 4 better than 15 of the league. Oh, but there’s another side to the game:

        Pitching – FIP
        Scherzer – 2.69
        Sanchez – 2.37
        Verlander – 3.33
        Fister – 3.30
        Porcello – 3.49

        By FIP, which is actually benefiting Verlander since he has a .332 BABIP, he’s the 2nd worst pitcher in that group. Look at that starting 5. They are f’ing absurd!

  3. gothapotamus90210 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I’m more of a believer the MVP was intended to go to a player on a winning/contending team. With that said, I look at it from this perspective, “How would team X do if player Y was replaced with a 0 WAR player?” The Angels still wouldn’t be a playoff team applying this perspective, while the Tigers would no longer be a playoff team. (No slight to Chris Davis, I omitted him from this post to focus on Trout/Miggy debate of last year.)

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:21 PM

      while the Tigers would no longer be a playoff team.

      The Tigers are 7.5 games ahead of 2nd in the ALC. If you took away 6.7 fWAR or 6.2 rWAR, and replaced him with a AAAA player (would accumulate about 1 f/rWAR so far), the Tigers would be 6 or 5 games worse. They’d still be at least 1.5 games up in the standings.

      • tc4306 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:34 PM

        And if WAR actually measured what it purports to measure, there might be some merit to this debate.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:54 PM

        I know it doesn’t, but it’s a quick way to disprove what I quoted.

      • biasedhomer - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:46 PM

        How does it disprove what you quoted when you yourself admit that what you said is not accurate?

        You can’t look at WAR and believe it literally means wins a team gets. If that were the case, the Tigers would only have around 20-25 wins (as WAR itself varies from source to source).

        I’m all for advanced stats, but some folks take it too far.

      • eightyraw - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:03 PM

        @BiasedHomer: Tigers team WAR is closer to 42 (you must be looking at batting or pitching only, not both). And that isn’t 42 wins, it is 42 wins above the replacement level. Team WAR totals are unsurprisingly a solid measure of a team’s performance.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        How does it disprove what you quoted when you yourself admit that what you said is not accurate?

        Because i was an idiot and figured people would take the comment at face value, rather than try to dive into the calculations. So instead I should have said that’s pretty much what r/fWAR is for, with some stipulations.

        As eightyraw mentions, you have to factor in what a team of replacement level players would do and add that to the total. Here’s a post on baseball-reference that goes more into detail:

        http://www.sports-reference.com/blog/2012/08/the-relationship-between-war-and-team-wins/

        Basically it does what it stands for. Each player provides X number of wins vs a replacement level player.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:38 PM

      Was it really? Then how come in 1932 was the NL MVP given to a player from a 78-win team and the AL MVP given to a player from a team thirteen games out of the pennant? How come the 1933 AL MVP went to a player on a team twenty games back? The 1937 awards went to players on teams 13 and 14 games back. In ’38 they went to players on teams 7 and 11 games back. And this is all just from the first decade of the award being under the stewardship of the BBWAA, when, presumably, the writers would have known who the award was intended for.

  4. RoyHobbs39 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    On an unrelated related note…

    Years ago I saw an end-of-the-year column that went through each team and gave that teams candidate for the League MVP. Not that team’s MVP, but that team’s best possible League MVP candidate. I am not sure how they worded the difference, but it made sense at the time. From the Division leaders all the way down to the lowly Devil Rays. With the increase of Sabermetrics as a measuring tool, would this be possible today? Could you look at maybe the Orioles and say Davis is their best MVP candidate, but Manny is the team MVP?(not that I agree with that) Or Pedroia and Ortiz for the Sox. I am thinking the article compared A-Rod(AL MVP) and Pudge (Rangers MVP) at the time. Is there any team where this is possible today? Could a reliever or DH be a team MVP? Or do stats play too an important role in determining who is “most valuable”?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      Depends on what you are trying to measure. If you just want to know who provides the most value to a team, than f/rWAR is going to give you the same results. You could try to make other arguments, like Machado’s clutch hitting outweighs Davis’s dominance (example here, no clue if true), but I’m not sure that’s where you are trying to go.

      One note if you did, f/rWAR(p) is context neutral. Two batters who put up identical 1 for 3 with a HR and a walk lines will have the same WAR. But you can use things like Win Probability Added (WPA) to determine if they were different. The guy who went 1/3 with a walk off HR would have provided more WPA than the guy who hit a leadoff HR.

  5. unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    I can’t think, WAR is dancing the forbidden dance with BABIP in my mind, and SABR is practically running me through.

    Miggy goes Boom! Mikey goes Zoom! If only the Feesh had paid Miggy, this debate would never have started in the first place. It would have just been a long streak of AL and NL MVP’s for each of them.

    How’s that for revisionist hystory?

  6. chrisdtx - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    This is boring.

    • unclemosesgreen - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      So did the headline fail to alert you to the content of the post or do you like reading things that you know ahead of time will bore you?

  7. joerymi - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    This is little more than internet rabble-rousing.

    Even as a Tigers fan, I would have voted Trout last year. But knew it wouldn’t be close, and it wasn’t. This year? This isn’t a race.

    Cabrera only doesn’t win this award if he falls down a flight of stairs.

    Last year, the debate was somewhat interesting for a couple weeks, now it doesn’t have legs. I am sure the Angels could slot one position higher than the Astros with or without Trout.

  8. acdc84 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    As a fan of an NL team I dont have a dog in the fight (and with that said I realize I dont have have a great perspective on this). All that said, it seems like Miggy is the clear (though close) choice. He’s easily the best hitter in the game today, and even though he’ll likely fall a handful of HRs short of the triple crown, its been a while since we’ve been able to say that about a hitter for 2+ years running. If Miggy was one of the worst fielders in the game, and Trout was top 5 in fielding and SB, then it might be 50-50. But the Tigers wouldn’t be AL frontrunners if they didn’t have Cabrera, and while Trout shouldn’t be highly penalized for being on a non-contender its not like he’s playing next to a team full of Marlins.

  9. thebigtebowski - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    Pie takes down cake every time

    • nbjays - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      Try convincing these cake-eating barbarians of that.

  10. billymc75 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    and Beltre is in third again!

  11. smorrow66 - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Cabrera hands down. I believe that part of MVP is your play is outstanding but also elevates your team. Not to say you have to be in a pennant race, but Cabrera and the Tigers are just rolling and hes a huge part of that.

    Trout, great season again, but is he leading his team to greater things. Other than leading his team in wondering “why am I languishing here?” his influence does match Cabrera’s.

  12. Kevin Gillman - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    All of this is crazy because Jason Kipnis will win MVP.

    • Rick Cosmo - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      oy vay

      • Kevin Gillman - Aug 11, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        I seriously can’t believe 25 people put a thumbs down on my sarcastic tone. You guys take things way too seriously. Put them thumbs down on this.

  13. brannu23 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    And no one brings up the man that is leading in home runs and tied in RBI … Chris Davis. If the Orioles get into the post-season … it should be Chris Davis Vs. Miguel Cabrera with Trout in third. Seriously.

  14. Rick Cosmo - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    unless it’s a fish taco, everyone knows that Trout is better for you than beef..Seriously tho’, enjoy their talents, why compare them? We are priveliged to watch these rare talents.

  15. umjm13 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    There are lots of people who are never going to be comfortable with stats that integrate Park Factor. They probably don’t even know it, but that’s what they’re reflexively disliking in this debate.

    I think most people accept advanced defensive metrics, for example. Those are attempting to quantify something that actually happened, and everyone can understand that. Park Factor is different. It’s essentially theoretical. Sure, that’s the best way to judge value “fairly,” but it still requires people to accept comparisons based on things that didn’t actually happen.

  16. beelza - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    HorseShit. The headline, the article, the thought that begat this sham idea. Trying to induce more page views.

  17. jocama66 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    The only player that has an argument for taking the MVP crown from Miggy at this point in the season is Chris Davis. Trout’s still hoping he might be a contender before the season is over.

  18. bubbalynch - Aug 11, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    What the hell you mean it begins? Because you wrote the article and made it begin! GTFOH

  19. zeeman911 - Aug 11, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    Pie butt rapes cake dry no lube!

  20. fukpittsburgh - Aug 11, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    This is the same guy who tried to compare Adam Jones to….Colby Rasmus. You already sunk your credibility with that one. Quit trying to draw things up out of thin air with off the wall statistics. Cabrera is unanimous over Trout.

  21. gerkenflu - Aug 11, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Baseball has always been the white mans sport. Records should only be awarded to and broken by whites. Cabrera was clearly the better player last year when he won the MVP just as Matt Kemp should have won the MVP over Ryan Braun and Pujols over Votto. Jackie Robinson had to break the “Color Barrier”. Hank Aaron received death threats. Mark McGwire gets a job coaching and Bonds gets banished forever. I grew up playing baseball in a major baseball town and I am now thoroughly disappointed that even today the “Great White Hope” mentality still exist today especially when non-white players start dominating the sport. Give credit where credit is due. If Trout deserves it, he’ll get it but if Cabrera wins it, stop with all the complaining.

    • km9000 - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:46 PM

      Which is exactly why Chris Davis gets left out of the conversation. Shame, really.

  22. wpjohnson - Aug 11, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    How are the Tigers doing? How about the Angels? For MVP, if these two are the choices, it is no contest.

    • eightyraw - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      Why does the team matter for an individual award? Because you have some silly interpretation of “value”?

  23. Carl Hancock - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Trouts been doing this for not even 2 full seasons. Cabrera for a decade now. Cabrera is in his prime. He’s the MVP. Hell he could win another Triple Crown! Trout’s time will come. It’s time for Cabrera to cement his place in history and his future as a first ballot Hall of Famer. I’d love to see him win another Triple Crown. Could you imagine? Two in a row? Unreal. No disrespect to Trout, he’s a gamer. But he’s not Cabrera.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      Trout’s time will come.

      I’ll take, “the exact same argument that was used last year to give Cabrera the MVP” for $200 Alex.

      When will it be Trout’s time? If he puts up five or six more 10 rWAR seasons, will he finally win it then? Or does he have to get traded to a contender first?

    • km9000 - Aug 11, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      It’s not a lifetime achievement award. And he’s been putting big numbers for a decade, okay, but has he been doing it on playoff contenders for a decade? Because apparently that’s a major factor in MVP-ness.

  24. highlndr41 - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    rWAR is not used to determine MVP’s sorry for your disappointment. HR, RBI’s and batting average are the stats most accepted by everyone. take in consideration that Cabrera also plays half his games in spacious Comerica Park (a known pitcher’s park). Think what his home runs would be in Yankee Stadium. Another item that most people don’t know is Cabrera is a lot better thirdbaseman than he is given credit for.

    • Alex K - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

      Angel Stadium is actually a better pitchers park than Comerica. So that line of reasoning fails. And Cabrera is a terrible third baseman. He has a strong arm and catches stuff that comes to him, but he doesn’t get to a lot. So while he might look okay because he doesn’t boot a lot of balls it’s because he’s not getting to a lot of balls.

  25. andreweac - Aug 11, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Trout > Cabrera

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