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WAR is stupid, people are stupid (Or, Trout vs. Cabrera)

Aug 17, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT

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Well, as expected, Los Angeles’ Mike Trout is beginning to open up his WAR lead on Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, not that anyone really cares or should expect it to make much of a difference in the MVP race. I’ve been saying for a couple of months now that by the time the season ends, Trout will have a higher WAR than Cabrera. I would argue it’s because while Cabrera is the best HITTER in the game, Trout is the best PLAYER in the game, But you could certainly make the argument that it’s about the WAR stat itself.

First, the numbers right now:

Baseball Reference WAR
Mike Trout: 7.2 WAR
Miguel Cabrera: 6.3 WAR

Fangraphs WAR
Mike Trout: 8.2 WAR
Miguel Cabrera: 7.5 WAR

Baseball Prospectus WARP
Mike Trout: 8.2 WARP
Miguel Cabrera: 6.7 WARP

Basically every version of WAR I’ve seen has Trout ahead at the moment, and I suspect that the gap will widen before the year ends. The reason is simply this: Cabrera has only one way to add to his WAR — by hitting baseballs. Trout has multiple ways to add to his WAR — with his hitting, his fielding, his speed, etc. If you have two stores that are selling Diet Coke exclusively, and for the same price, the store that sells more always will make more money. But if one store also sells Diet Pepsi and Coke Zero while the other doesn’t, well, obviously, what you have is a strained analogy but I’ve got this caffeine headache and really need a Diet Coke right now.

Trout just puts more stuff into the WAR bucket. You might not like how WAR adds up such things, but that’s the simple fact here. WAR, in all its forms, tends to look past the context issues and anomalies of basic statistics like batting average and counting RBIs.

Here’s a quick example: You probably know that Cabrera is hitting a rather extraordinary .358 with a .450 on-base percentage. Trout is hitting a slightly less extraordinary .330 with a .428 on-base percentage. So, Trout is great … and Cabrera is better. Seems obvious, no?

Well, sure, except for this: Trout has reached base nine times on error. Cabrera has reached zero. Now, I don’t want to go off on a rant here about errors and their statistical absurdity — but let’s just say that as far as baseball value goes, reaching on error is just as good a reaching on a hit. In both cases, you hit the ball into the field of play and you reach base. Same thing. We can argue from now until forever how it should be figured statistically, but it is inarguable that they are of equal value when it comes to the actual game.

Batting average and on-base percentage count reach-on-error as OUTS. Everything I think about this, it drives me crazy. It’s one of the dumbest statistical tricks in all of sports, maybe the dumbest, it is not unlike not giving a shooter credit for a three-point shot because he made it off the backboard or taking away not giving a receiver credit for a catch and yardage because the defender slipped and fell down. If you hit the ball and reach base it should absolutely NOT be counted as an out. It’s not an out. No out was recorded. IT IS NOT AN OUT. Sorry, I am going off on a rant here.

If you give Trout credit for the times he reached base on error, his batting average jumps to .350 and his on-base percentage jumps to .444 — suddenly very close to Cabrera.

This, I think, is one of the benefits of speed. Here’s another one: Cabrera has come up in a double-play situation 118 times and hit into 16 of them. Trout has come up in 92 double-play situations and hit into just six. So that’s 10 fewer outs for Trout. That should be figured in somehow when considering a player’s value, no? Throw it into the WAR bucket.

Home field context should be considered. Trout plays in a brutal hitter’s park. Cabrera plays in a very good one. Speed should be considered. Trout has stolen 27 of 31 bases and he leads the American League with eight triples. Cabrera has three stolen bases (though he has not been caught) and one triple. Throw it into the WAR bucket.

Trout has, by the numbers, had a tough year defensively. Last year, the numbers showed him to be a defensive superstar, but this year Baseball Reference has him with a negative defensive WAR and the Dewan Plus/Minus shows him to be minus-7 — about seven plays worse than the average center fielder . But those numbers have climbed rapidly the last few weeks and I suspect they will keep going up, Trout is simply too fast, too hard-working and too talented to be a defensive liability. I fully believe he’s had some defensive issues, but class eventually rises.

Cabrera meanwhile — he fought third base to a draw last year through sheer stubbornness, but he has always been a defensive liability and from everything I can tell he’s been pretty terrible there this season. The numbers also indicate he has been pretty terrible this season.

So we are once again in a situation where Cabrera’s superior batting average and power numbers face off against Trout’s very good batting average and power numbers, great speed and better defense. Of course, Cabrera’s team leads the American League Central while Trout’s team is dreadful and has been all season. I think we know where this is going. Trout will once again win the hearts and minds of those who like the advanced stats. Cabrera will once again win the MVP.

184 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. dondada10 - Aug 17, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Great article.

    Big difference this year is that the end results, the wins, haven’t been there for Trout and the Angels this year. Last year they won more games than Detroit.

    Miggy’s the MVP hands down this time.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      And, he’s playing injured. He can’t run and his balance is off. MVP!!!!

    • okwhitefalcon - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      WAR is the baseball equivalent to a credit score.

      Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Reference are the Trans Union, Equifax and Experian of baseball.

      Non of which can agree on a universal equation, each of which take themselves way too seriously.

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        How serious do you want these sites to take themselves? Why should they agree on a universal equation?

  2. proudlycanadian - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    I agree that WAR is stupid and is a stupid name for an alleged stat.. In honor of the anti war movement, I propose a new stat called Peace.

    By the way, without Cabrera, Detroit would not be in first place. Without Trout, the Angels would still be a mediocre team. Another MVP for Miggy!

    • aceshigh11 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Damned peacenik hippie…

      This is AMERICA…we only do WAR here, you Canadian longhair.

      I propose that the un-USA Jays be excised from MLB once and for all.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 17, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        Relax! I did delete the words “Peace, Love, Groovy” before I entered the post.

        I am still trying to come up with the words to describe my stat “Peace”. “Perfectly Equalized Analytical Contribution Equation” is the best I can come up with so far.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      “I have seen WAR. … I hate WAR.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt

    • uuddlrlrbastart - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      If they didn’t have Cabrera the Tigers, in all likelihood, would have spent several million dollars on another third basemen. Probably not a superstar, but figure a 2-3 WAR player. Make that swap and the Tigers are still in first place.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 17, 2013 at 5:20 PM

        Not really. They would have been stuck with Inge.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 17, 2013 at 7:45 PM

        That ahole!

  3. cavemanna - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Ya if you hit a simple ground ball to first a d the man pulls a Buckner, you don’t deserve a hit. It’s great of the game to be able to judge whether or not the play I’d routine. War is ridiculous .

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      ROE is a skill

    • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      Do you think if you hit a pop-up to shallow LF and the LFer falls down you should get a hit? Because you do.

      What if you hit a fly ball and the fielder breaks in 3 steps before realizing it would go over his head? Also a “hit”….both of those are mental/physical errors just like a ground ball going through a fielders legs.

      In addition, research shows that reaching base on an error (ROE) is a skill. Skills are repeatable, and guys that ROE a lot, do so year after year, guys that don’t ROE much, don’t do so year after year.

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        Great point, and when a guy skies a can of corn to right and the RF loses it in a high sun that’s also a hit.

      • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        The list of things hitters get credit for that is really no different than an error is pretty long.

        GB to 1B and pitcher fails to cover = base hit

        OF takes horrible route to ball, falls down, loses it in the sun or is just big fat and slow = base hit

        The only difference between hits and outs is most often if the ball was hit at or near a fielder…and really nothing special about the hitter’s abiltiy per se (which is why hitter BABIP generally varies by less than 100 pts league-wide). ROE are more of a skill than most variation in BABIP.

  4. louhudson23 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    So RBI’s are contextual and dependent upon the actions of others,but reaching base on error is not and in fact should be equated with hits or walks for the purpose of individual assessment of a players offensive numbers…??

  5. micknangold - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    I’d feel a lot better about WAR if there was only one universally accepted way to calculate it. Also, Trout plays on a garbage team while Cabrera carries a playoff team. It’s not most outstanding player.

    • Bryz - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      It’s not Trout’s fault his team is terrible.

      • bjbroderick - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        “It’s not Trout’s fault his team is terrible.”

        It’s also not Cabrera’s fault, or Detroit fan’s fault that Trout’s team is terrible is it?

      • jeromepc01 - Aug 18, 2013 at 10:54 AM

        And Trout isn’t even the best outfielder on that “terrible” team. The Angles own manager would rather have Bourjos in CF. Yet everyone keeps giving Trout credit as being this Gold Glove CF. What a joke.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      I’d feel a lot better about WAR if there was only one universally accepted way to calculate it.

      There is one way to calculate it. Offense + defense + position + play time. What you should be complaining about are the components of each part are calc’d differently. But even then, there are many things in real life that use different components to reach the same conclusion, and we don’t care.

      How far is this distance? Well depends if you are using kilometers or miles. How much fluid is in that bottle? Depends if you are using liters or gallons. How much does this weigh? Are you using grams or pounds?

      There are plenty of legitimate arguments against WAR. Defensive measures that need at least 3 years to stabilize are given full credit over the year is one. Neutral context is another.

  6. reggietfromda623 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    So I’m guessing Joe like trout?

    • proudlycanadian - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      I prefer walleye to trout.

      • philliesblow - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        Salmon is better for you, lots of omega 3′s. Also played a decent RF.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:24 PM

        I eat a lot of salmon sushi, but still miss the fishing trips for walleye.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Aug 17, 2013 at 8:00 PM

        You mean you prefer brown trout

  7. bigblue86 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    I disagree partially. I don’t think getting on base do to an error should count towards your avg, the theory of an error is that if the defender hasn’t screwed up the batter would be out. But the fact of the matter is that the batter reached base, so it should count towards OBP.
    I like advanced statistics, but I have an issue with WAR. The fact that you can list the same statistic from 3 sites and they all have different #s means that it’s a flawed stay. I do agree that Trout is a better overall player, and I think MVP voting puts too much emphasis on offense and not enough on defense, but I don’t think WAR is a solid enough statistic for the argument.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Find me a stat that isn’t “flawed.” That argument is totally hollow. WAR does what it proposes. Most importantly, WAR isn’t a statistic, it is a framework (hence the existence so many different versions).

    • Bryz - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      “The fact that you can list the same statistic from 3 sites and they all have different #s means that it’s a flawed stay (sic).”

      That’s because each site disagrees on how to calculate it and thus each uses their own calculation. Simple as that. Doesn’t mean it’s flawed, it just means that multiple groups think they have a better way to find it.

  8. hcf95688 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    WAR. What is it good for?

    • obpedmypants - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      I have never seen this comment posted on HBT before. Thank you for sharing your creativity with us all.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Boooo!!!!!!

      • mustbechris - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Good God, yall.

  9. mustbechris - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    I feel like you wrote (and I read) all those words in vain, because Cabrera is of the most value to a great team, while Trout is of the most value to an awful team, and we know how that goes with the voter people.

    • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      I don’t think the argument is about who will be given the MVP trophy, but rather, who actually has been the most valuable player.

      • mustbechris - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        You can’t have one without the other. As he noted at the very end, one was widely perceived, at least by the stat types, to be the MVP, but the other won. So he’s breaking down in this article why one should win, but why the other WILL win. Which is my point – it’s a lot of words (good words – it was a great article) to just say that Cabrera will be the MVP.

    • jwbiii - Aug 17, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      The Angels have the best offense in the AL (by OPS+) and the worst pitching (by ERA+). The Tigers, by the same measures, have a very good offense, third, and the best pitching. So the logic of your argument is that if they traded pitching staffs, then Trout would be the MVP leader? I’m not saying Cabrera shouldn’t win it, but the “he plays for a playoff team” argument is kind of irrelevant to a particular player’s contributions.

  10. obpedmypants - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    However, Trout looks like a significantly worse hitter when you include slugging percentage (0.677 vs 0.572) and home runs (38 vs 21). Trout may be able to get on base as well as Cabrera, but he doesn’t have the power. There’s more to hitting than just getting on base, Joe.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Cabrera’s wOBA: .473 (1st in MLB)
      Trout’s wOBA: .426 (3rd in MLB)

      This is not adjusted for park factors. Yes, Cabrera is the better hitter. But he is a statue at thirdbase and cannot run. Is the advantage in hitting enough to make up for these significant deficits? A hit saved on defense is equal to a hit provided on offense.

    • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      No one is arguing that Trout is as good a hitter as Cabrera, obviously, he is not, but he actually does a lot of little things that add to a team winning that Cabrera does not and that he receives no credit for, even in the framework of value-based metrics.

  11. chiadam - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Once again proving that WAR is not directly linked to a stat called PLAYOFFS. Cabrera is the MVP.

    • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Obviously Scherzer should be the MVP, without him they are in 2nd place.

      Giving players credit for being surrounded by other good players is stupid.

      • dangle13x - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        Right, like how Scherzer has the highest run support in the league. His ERA isn’t even top 5 in the AL. Next time you make an argument, don’t contradict yourself in the same sentence.

      • paperlions - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        It was sarcasm, and should have been somewhat obvious…based on the fact that I pointed out that you judging an individual award by team performance.

      • philliesblow - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        dangle – you’re right, Scherzer isn’t in the top 5 in ERA. He’s 6th. But he does happen to be 1st in WHIP & 2nd in K’s.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      Why give an individual award for team performance? The point is, of everyone is baseball, player X did more to help his team win. If everyone else on team X sucks, why does player X get punished for the individual award.

      Example: 2008. Albert Pujols was far and away the best player in the NL. His OPS was 70 point higher than 2nd place Chipper Jones and 128 points higher than 3rd place Lance Berkman. The Cardinals finished 4th largely because they’re pitching kinda sucked. Is Albert now not a valuable player because his team can’t pitch?

  12. okwhitefalcon - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Awards discussion is as mind numbing as “All Star snub” talk these days.

  13. amaninwhite - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Great article, but I have to disagree with your view of reaching base on an error. From a single game perspective, reaching on an error is ultimately as valuable as reaching on a single. But the stats that you listed, BA and OBP, aren’t there to quantify the game itself, but rather the value of that particular player’s performance. If a player has ten at-bats, hits five routine balls to short, and each one is misplayed, that player’s performance is not as valuable as the guy who hits five legitimate singles. Of course there can also be a lot of gray area as to how to classify the type of errors that result in a player reaching, but ultimately I have to disagree with your assessment of the ROE.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      But ROE is a skill.

      • amaninwhite - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        I honestly can’t tell if you’re being serious.

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        Of course I’m being serious. Look at the leaderboards. Research has proven that it is a skill. Common sense will tell you that certain players will more frequently ROE than others, year in and year out.

      • amaninwhite - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        I think that’s more indicative of how flawed scoring errors is than how much of a skill ROE is.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM

        One component of reaching base on an error is having speed. The faster a runner is, the more pressure he puts on the defense. When a grounder is hit to any infielder, they know who hit it and who is running. When a fast runner hit the ball to them they know they have to be quicker with getting to the ball, charging it instead of staying back and taking it on a hop etc…

        This pressure, of having a fast runner, causes more fielders to make mistakes, or more errors than if a slow, plodding runner is going down the line.

        Now of course an error may still happen when a slow plodding runner is going down the line but over time, 162 games each season, year after year, faster runners will reach base more often via error than slower runners.

      • amaninwhite - Aug 17, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        That’s more a flaw in how errors are recorded than an overall skill. You’re equating a rushed throw with just a normal terrible throw. If you wanna do it right, you have to account for each one properly.

        So by extension, if there is then no such thing as reaching on an error, does that mean that fielders are no longer credited with fielding errors? If the skill of the hitter led to them getting on, then how can you fault the fielder for it?

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM

        amaninwhite

        There is more to it than that. When a fast runner is at the plate and say he hits a grounder into the hole at short, many times the SS will backhand or try to backhand the ball instead of taking the time and extra steps to run behind it and field the ball in front of him as he does when it’s a slower runner.

        Now, I’m talking about the balls hit like a rocket where the SS has no chance to get in front of it and HAS to backhand it. I’m talking about those grounders in the middle so to speak in terms of how hard they are hit.

        So, with the faster runner, more times the SS will backhand the ball or attempt to in order to save time so he may get the throw off sooner. But backhanding the ball is more difficult and leads to more errors than fielding a ball in front of you.

        On the very slow rollers where a fielder has to charge the ball, when they know it’s a fast runner many times they attempt to field or pick up the ball with their bare hand, their throwing hand in order to save time. With a slower runner, they use their glove. It’s far easier to misplay a ball while trying to pick it up bare handed while running in towards it than it is to use one’s glove.

        Speed, a Mike Trout running down the base path to first base or any other fast runner puts more pressure on the defense than slower runners.

        Trout will reach base more often each year than Miggy will simply due to being a faster runner.

        Don’t make it more complicated than it is. Yes, normal regular errors happen, bad throws, the ball going under your glove etc… But there ARE errors that arise due to trying to play the ball differently because a fast runner is going down the line and it these instances that I’m talking about. The times when the fielder has to alter how he’d go after the ball in a way he wouldn’t if a slow runner was going down the line.

        It works for fielding too. Trout and other fast defenders cover more ground and get to more batted balls. And while running hard and stretching for a ball, they might misplay it but the slower fielder would have been steps away and watched the ball hit the ground and roll to the fence.

        Same at 3rd base or SS. Slower players like Miggy can’t get to as many batted balls as others. That great rookie kid on the Orioles who plays 3rd base, Manny Macado gets to many more balls than Miggy does at 3rd base.

        So it’s possible to have fewer errors and yet not be as good as a fielder who gets to many more balls than the slower fielder. I mean some guys are making errors on balls that others don’t come anywhere close to reaching.

      • amaninwhite - Aug 17, 2013 at 11:29 PM

        I agree. Speed puts pressure on defence. My issue is that JoePo argues that all ROE’s should count as hits, which I disagree with.

        ROE is not a skill. Speed is a skill. ROE is getting lucky.

  14. roanboon - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Mike Trout < Tim Salmon

    • dangle13x - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      >Mike Carp

  15. trickleuppoverty - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    WAR is for guys that can’t lead in the traditional categories. Trout leads in none. Runs scored – nope, RBI – nope, Stolen bases – nope, HR nope, Fielding % – nope, assists -nope, batting average -nope, on base % – nope. So lets make up something he can be the leader in.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      ARod’s 2000 season was terrible. No black ink in sight. And then a bunch of nerds invented some junk stat to make it seem like he wasn’t terrible.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:02 PM

        This is sarcasm right?

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        Figured it was a smart of a response as the original comment earned.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        In these threads (WAR debate), stuff is said so insanely that my sarcasm meter just breaks.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      Yes, WAR is all a big ruse to make not so good players look better. That’s why most of the players who on the All-Time WAR leaderboards never lead the league in anything. I mean…Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron,…who are these guys? And God’s sake, Carl Yastrzemski had one of the best seasons in baseball history in 1967 according to WAR? What did he even lead the league in that year? I’m not gonna look it up, but I assume nothing. They just made up WAR so he could lead the league in something!

      • jeromepc01 - Aug 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        Ben Zobrus?????

      • cohnjusack - Aug 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        You clearly didn’t read the post below which clearly explained why a good fielding, good baserunning 2nd baseman who ranked 3rd in OPS would could rank 1st in WAR.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      And being good, consistent in basically all aspects of the game, say #2 to #10 or so, give or take isn’t better than one leading in two or three categories but being no where near close in others?

      How about a Nascar driver never winning an individual race but ALWAYS finishing in the top 5.

      Sure another driver may win 2 or 3 races but also finish 32nd, 28th, 19th etc…

      Just because Trout isn’t currently leading in any one stat doesn’t automatically mean that another player who is leading in one or two but is way behind in others aren’t comparable.

  16. ltzep75 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Can’t we go back to calling it “VORP”. I mean, the word “value” is right in there! Surely dunderheaded spawrtsrighters can even understand the concept then.

  17. garrison1981 - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Miggy is tearing it up and been injured all season! Give me a break with all these stats!!

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      How about this – don’t look at any stats

      Hitting: Miggy is the best hitter in baseball; Trout is somewhere in the top 5

      Fielding: Miggy is below average at 3B; Trout is at least average at a more difficult position

      Running: Miggy is slow; Trout is super fast and incredibly efficient at stealing bases

      • highlndr41 - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        CF is “a more difficult posistion than thirdbase”???? seriously? you are clueless

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        Fine, make them trade positions and see how that works out. Or just google “defensive spectrum”

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 17, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        The “up the middle” defensive positions have always been the main concern of team’s priority wise defensively.

        Catcher, shortstop and 2nd base and center field.

        Here is some other info on 3rd basemen…

        Some third basemen have been converted from middle infielders or outfielders because the position does not require them to run as fast. (Wiki page on 3rd basemen).

        In the early years of the sport, these expectations were similar to those for shortstops, the third baseman being merely the less skilled defensive player.

        There are fewer third basemen in the Baseball Hall of Fame than there are Hall of Famers of any other position.

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      FYI, Trout has been tearing it up all season. And he’s been healthy enough to play without missing games lately.

  18. tc4306 - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Yes, RBI’s are context dependent. But to completely disregard them in a metric designed to identify the best player plays directly to someone’s narrative. One can make the argument that RBI’s are, in some ways, a measure of one’s ability to perform in the clutch..which, of course, is not important.

    They’re important at the pay window and mainstream baseball will not any time be soon be accepting of an evaluation system that ignores them.

    Also,
    WAR contends that a base hit in the 8th inning of a close game that MIGHT produce a run is more important than a hit that ACTUALLY produces a run.
    Ridiculous.

    Is Mike Trout more valuable standing in CF than in LF?
    The calculation of WAR assumes that he is.

    One can make the argument that he is more valuable in LF..less wear and tear on the body, crashing into walsl etc.

    And with Bourjois in CF and Trout in LF, the Angels may be a better team than with Trout in CF and whomever at the corner. Of course, that brings context into play and we can’t have that.

    In 2010 according to Baseball Reference, Ben Zobrist was the MVP of the American League. Even Ben’s mother would have raised a Spockian eyebrow over that one.

    I’m not saying WAR is useless. If you look at the top guys in any year, most of them are at the top of the list. It is one of several indicators of performance. But to use it as an argument settler for MVP or HOF entry is a misuse of statistics.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Yes, RBI’s are context dependent. But to completely disregard them in a metric designed to identify the best player plays directly to someone’s narrative. One can make the argument that RBI’s are, in some ways, a measure of one’s ability to perform in the clutch..which, of course, is not important.

      They’re important at the pay window and mainstream baseball will not any time be soon be accepting of an evaluation system that ignores them.

      Also,
      WAR contends that a base hit in the 8th inning of a close game that MIGHT produce a run is more important than a hit that ACTUALLY produces a run.
      Ridiculous.

      This isn’t what WAR tries to do at all. It doesn’t control for who is on base, or what the base out situation is, or any other context. It’s a flaw. However, giving full credit to the hitter for the run scored is also a flaw, because unless that hitter hits a HR, why should he get full credit for what the guy in front of him did?

      Is Mike Trout more valuable standing in CF than in LF?
      The calculation of WAR assumes that he is.

      It’s not an assumption. CF is harder to play than LF. WAR uses a baseline against all other players of that position. If LF is known as a bad defender/good hitter place, it’s harder to score “above replacement” with that criteria. If CF is known as a good defender/bad hitter place, and you have someone whose a good defender AND great hitter, he’s going to look better against his peers because of that. This isn’t an assumption, calculations are made every year to determine this.

      One can make the argument that he is more valuable in LF..less wear and tear on the body, crashing into walsl etc.

      Since WAR factors in playing time, this is accounted for.

      In 2010 according to Baseball Reference, Ben Zobrist was the MVP of the American League. Even Ben’s mother would have raised a Spockian eyebrow over that one.

      Zobrist rated out extremely high at every position he played. This is a legitimate argument against single season WAR. I also assume you mean 2009 vs 2010, when Zobrist also put up a 152 wRC+ which is really good for a hitter (it’s Miguel Cabrera’s career wRC+). So it wasn’t that far fetched he’d put up an MVP type season.

      But to use it as an argument settler for MVP or HOF entry is a misuse of statistics.

      You’ve made two legitimate complaints against WAR. I can make many more against traditional metrics/triple crown. Yet no one has any issue using the latter.

    • trickleuppoverty - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      Very well thought out comment.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      If you want a context-dependent stat, look at a context-dependent stat. OBP “contends” that a BB is as valuable as a HR. Is this a flaw? No OBP does what it proposes. There is no illusion about WAR ignoring context. You have to choose how/when to give credit.

      Who is saying that WAR should exclusively decide MVP and HOF decisions?

      • jwbiii - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        OBP doesn’t “contend” anything. It just says how often that you don’t make outs.* Of course hitting a home run and drawing a walk do not have the value. But they are equivalent in measuring how often that you don’t make outs.

        *Except for reaching base on an error thing, which Posnanski already covered.

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        @jwbiii

        ummm … thanks for making my point more clear? WAR doesn’t “contend” anything either, like it was said to in tc4306′s comment (hence my use of quotes in the above comment).

  19. APBA Guy - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Delete all spammers, please.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Did you know you can earn up to $2,000 a week deleting all spammers from home?

  20. biasedhomer - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    The problem is many people use WAR as the “ultimate” stat to end any argument.
    You have to look at multiple stats plus the context (such as competition, the team they are on, etc.)

    • raysfan1 - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      True enough, which means said person does not understand statistics to begin with. Fangraphs even says as much about its WAR stat…
      http://www.fangraphs.com/library/misc/war/

  21. trickleuppoverty - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Church, Zobrist as the MVP based on WAR metrics just proves how stupid it is. If you can’t compete change the way the game is scored.

    • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      Disagreeing with one outcome is a great reason for dismissing an entire framework.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      I always love when someone disagrees with me showing zero evidence to their conclusion. Let’s look at how the AL field shaped up in 2009:

      fWAR:
      Zobrist – 8.5
      Mauer – 7.7
      Longoria – 7.5

      Now let’s look at the components

      offense via wRC+
      Mauer – 170 (1st)
      Zobrist – 152 (2nd)
      Longoria – 132 (14th)

      Ok, so Zobrist was the second best hitter in the AL that year, seems MVP worthy.

      baserunning via BsR (none of the top 3 placed highly in this, but we get)
      Mauer – -1.6 (56th)
      Zobrist – 2.9 (21st)
      Longoria – 3.6 (14th)

      Defense and positioning
      Mauer – -0.4 (catcher defense is a big question, so take this with a grain of salt)
      Zobrist – 22.8 (2nd)
      Longoria – 19.7 (3rd)

      So Zobrist rates out 2nd, 14th and 2nd in the thre components all the while playing 152 games. What’s so bad about him being in the MVP discussion? Even if you assume the 22.8 defensive value is high, he rated extremely high from ’09 to ’12. If you drop a full 10 pts on that value, he drops from 8.5 to roughly 7.5. That’s still right up there with Mauer and Longoria.

      So what’s the issue?

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        But how many RBIs?

      • trickleuppoverty - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        When you can’t compete change how the game is scored. Yawn….

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        When you can’t compete change how the game is scored. Yawn….

        When you have no argument, speak in generalities.

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM

        @Trickleuppoverty

        Who is “you” in this sentence you keep repeating? Players like Ben Zobrist? Do you think he invented WAR? Or is it the strongest and smartest baseball fans who come up with these new methods to measure their favorite sport? What are they competing for?

    • cohnjusack - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      Are you arguing that it’s stupid for someone to say that a middle infielder posting a 149 OPS+ with great defense and baserunning might be the best player in baseball in that season? The guy was 3rd in the league in OPS for fuck’s sake while playing largely middle infield.

      Mauer was better, sure. People have long maintained that WAR seems to undervalue catchers. But Zobrist was certainly the 2nd best player in the league that year and it wasn’t terribly close.

      Oh, and a note on RBIs. Teixeira tied Zobrist with a .948 OPS. But Teixeira knocked in 31 more runs, which is largely the reason he finished so much higher in the MVP voting. Mark was just more clutch, right?? Turns out, Mark hit an okay .264 with an 872 OPS with RISP. Zobrist? He hit .320 with a 1.046 OPS with RISP. Now, can someone please explain to me again why RBIs are a skill and not largely dependent on your teammates?

      • ftghb - Aug 20, 2013 at 3:17 AM

        @cohnjusack— that makes insanely good sense.

  22. raysfan1 - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Gotta do something about these spammers, guys–even if it is just blocking them one at a time

  23. delsj - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    I always thought OBP should simply be the number of times a player reached first base over plate appearances.

  24. scoregasmic - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    When did comerica park become a good hitters park?

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 17, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Consistently in the top 10 out of 30 MLB parks in its effect on runs in 2011, 2012 and YTD 2013. Certainly an easier park than Anahaim:
      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

      • highlndr41 - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        CF is “a more difficult posistion than thirdbase”???? seriously? you are clueless

      • highlndr41 - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        You dont think the Tiger’s line-up has more to do with the runs scored than the ballpark does????

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        Just wanted to point out that “highlndr41″ can’t reply to the correct comment, yet had the temerity to call me clueless for repeating a widely held belief.

      • eightyraw - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:40 PM

        @highlndr41

        You don’t think the people who determine park factors are too dense to control for this factor (and many other factors) do you???????

      • Detroit Michael - Aug 18, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        Park factors are computed based on runs scored by both teams at Comerica Park compared to runs scored by both teams in Tiger road games. The fact that the Tigers have an excellent offense shouldn’t affect the calculation.

  25. butchg1965 - Aug 17, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Look, even if you don’t understand (or don’t agree with) the WAR stat, the legitimate debate is should the MVP go to the best *hitter* (Cabrera) or the best *baseball player* (Trout). While this is purely a subjective debate, I think the notion of “Value” in baseball should incorporate ALL aspects of player performance. Hitting performance should probably carry a significantly higher weighting than other categories, but it should be just one of many. Any evaluation (whether objective or subjective) would likely show Trout is a much more complete player than Cabrera, and that he has a broader positive impact on team results than Cabrera. That’s VALUE to me. No doubt Miggy is an all-time great hitter, but also no doubt that Trout is the Most VALUABLE Player…

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