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Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera a proxy battle in a larger cold war

Nov 15, 2013, 8:33 AM EDT

Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera has beaten out Mike Trout for the AL MVP award for the second straight year. It’s not a surprise.

Cabrera dominated offensively for most of 2013 and a consensus about him being the MVP front-runner was firmly in place by mid-summer. By the time he was injured at the end of August, there was no going back in the minds of most voters. Trout only had one bad month too. The difference? His came in April, when he stumbled out of the gate. While his dominating May-September ended up putting him right back to the top of the leader boards by the end of the year, in the minds of MVP voters, Trout was swimming against the current for most of the season.

But, at least on the surface, it shouldn’t have been as hard as a swim in 2013 as it was in 2012, should it have? After all, last year Cabrera did something pretty rare and extraordinary: he won the Triple Crown. And last year Trout, in the minds of some at least, came out of nowhere — he wasn’t in the big leagues until the end of April after all — and had not burst into the public consciousness as an MVP candidate until the season was well underway. Give Trout a full season of overall dominance, take away Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown and add in a dash of people’s general preference for new faces and new stories and, at the very least, the 2013 MVP vote should have been a lot closer than the 2012 vote, yes?

Apparently not. This year Cabrera was listed first on 23 of 30 ballots cast by and second on the other seven ballots. Trout received five first-place votes. The rest of his support was spread out: he got 19 second place votes, three third place votes, and single votes for fourth, fifth and seventh place. In 2012 it was around the same. The numbers were a tad different because, by virtue of the Astros moving to the American league, there were 30 voters in 2013 and only 28 in 2012, but Cabrera nabbed 22 of 28 first place votes and Trout got six. He received more second place votes, however, and none of that crazy down-ballot support he got this year.

In short: Cabrera didn’t miss much of a beat with voters, while Trout’s support, if anything, weakened and became more diffuse. What the heck is going on?

A short and simple answer is mere variance. A different group of voters were pulled out of the pool in 2013 than in 2012. Stuff happens. But I think there is more than mere variance going on. I think that that MVP award voting, at least in the American league, has taken on political and philosophical overtones, and that this year’s result was a function of that.

The philosophical differences are pretty clear. The Cabrera people have come to believe that the MVP award should go to baseball’s best hitter on a contending team. The Trout people believe that the MVP is the best all-around player regardless of where his team finishes. I say “come to believe” in the case of Cabrera, because one look at the history of MVP award provides plenty of examples of people other than the best hitter on a contending team winning. Pitchers, like Justin Verlander in 2011. Big sluggers on last place teams like Andre Dawson in 1987. singles-hitting speedsters like Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. Relievers like Rollie Fingers in 1981 or Dennis Eckersley in 1992. Players who had good seasons but whose primary argument was couched in terms of his emotional or inspirational impact like Kirk Gibson in 1988 and Terry Pendelton in 1991. Historically, anything has gone for the MVP award, but in the past two years the notion that the MVP award must go to the best hitter on a contending team has been the primary argument for Cabrera and the primary disqualifier for Trout in the minds of the voters.

This philosophical divide is not unprecedented, of course. We’ve seen tastes and dispositions in awards change over time. Sometimes Cy Young winners are guys who win a lot of games, sometimes they’re ERA/strikeout-first candidates. Occasionally Rookie of the Year awards will go to late-bloomers who finally got called up and did well and sometimes they’ll go to hot prospects. Manager of the Year has always been all over the map. The prevalent thought on the MVP award just happens now to strongly favor hitting over defense and base running and strongly favors contenders over players on bad teams.

But I think the political overtones of all of this are far more interesting and far more decisive. More than just a preference for certain stats over others, the Trout vs. Cabrera debate has come to serve as a proxy war between baseball’s old guard, represented by established baseball writers with BBWAA credentials and attendant awards votes on the one hand and a newer guard, consisting of baseball fans and, increasingly, writers, whose voice and opinion has come to flourish on the Internet. There is some crossover here, of course. Many Cabrera backers can be found on Twitter and in online message boards and some of baseball writing’s most recognizable and established names such as Ken Rosenthal and Joe Posnanski cast first place votes for Trout this year. But, those exceptions notwithstanding, the contours of this battle are pretty familiar by now.

And it’s clearly about more than baseball. If one, as I do, reads just about everything written on the Trout vs. Cabrera debate, one quickly realizes that baseball has become secondary to the discourse. There’s more written about the very debate itself than these two players’ baseball bonafides, which are usually assumed. There’s talk about the allegedly strident tone of the Trout backers, who are claimed to be dogmatic in their adherence to sabermetrics (never mind that one can and many do make great cases for Trout without a single reference to a stat less than 100 years old).  There’s talk about the hidebound and luddite disposition of the Cabrera backers, who are claimed to be stuck in the past and unable to follow basic logic (never mind that the intelligence and baseball acumen of the overwhelming number of Cabrera voters is beyond question).

In my view it’s a debate about a debate. And it’s an argument an altogether different thing than which player is most valuable. It’s about the future of media and baseball coverage. The evidence for this is the tone the debate has taken.

It’s not, as many say, nasty. Others who talk about it say it is, but really, I’ve not seen too many examples of actual hateful rhetoric from Trout or Cabrera backers. To the extent that exists it has been on the margins or from people who don’t actually write about baseball as either their profession or as a significant avocation. People who do are generally civil about this stuff if, for no other reason, most of the discourse takes place on Twitter, and people who are hostile and rude on Twitter get blocked by other users, and people don’t want to get blocked.

No, it’s not about hostility. It’s about defensiveness and insecurity. And there is plenty of that to go around.

Cabrera backers among the baseball writer establishment are defensive and insecure about their place as authorities on the game. Their newspapers have cut back or gone under, their competition for the eyes of readers and viewers has grown intense and the most basic facts and assumptions underlying the enterprise of sports journalism have undergone a sea change in the past decade. It’s a pretty rough world, and even if their position is secure, they’ve seen dozens of friends and colleagues lose their jobs.

There is defensiveness and insecurity on the side of the Trout backers too. These people — and I speak from personal experience — are defensive and insecure about being taken seriously as baseball authorities. About wading into a world that, a few short years ago, would have barred the door and which now only allows them in begrudgingly. To the extent they are allowed in its with caveats and, in some cases, as second-class citizens. Some are rejected for the BBWAA. Some are let in the BBWAA, but their status is lesser. Some are let into the press box, but not the main part of it. And, even if they get a good gig in the new world of baseball media there’s always someone telling them, usually implicitly but not always, that they didn’t earn their way there.

While, 25 years ago, the Old Guard/Cabrera people may have been more accepting of a differing view about who should be the MVP, when the source of that differing view are people seen to be threatening their very livelihoods — people from the Internet — there is far less consideration and far more reaction. Yelling, or something close to it, directed at the threat and borne of a fear that their position on the matter is more than just an opinion — it’s the very thing separating me, the authority, from them, the threat. By the same token, while, if just talking among friends, New Guard/Trout people would never call someone a luddite or question their reason and intelligence, when putting forth their arguments in baseball media, there is far less congeniality and far more yelling. A concern that, if their arguments aren’t made painfully loud and exceedingly clear, they will be lost in the noise of the Internet and their desire — to actually be an authority — will be thwarted.

This is why we are where we are. This is why the rhetoric from some on the Trout side has turned, frankly, silly, what with references to “the intelligentsia” and “enlightened” people. They’re compensating. This is also why you see silly things like seventh place votes for Trout from the Old Guard/Cabrera folks. They’re compensating too.  Everyone is so damn worried about their place in the world that they’ll say and do the silliest things in order to justify it. And, for the moment anyway, the Cabrera folks have a greater hold on the BBWAA, so their reaction — and Cabrera’s attendant solidification as MVP despite no triple crown and a full season from Trout — is worth more in the voting.

This dynamic won’t last forever, of course. For one thing, the people involved in it are generally pretty smart and reasonable people and, if they haven’t already figured out that these skirmishes are dumb, they will eventually. This happens with all proxy wars. They are mere footnotes to and offshots of the larger cold wars which encompass far greater and far more fundamental political and philosophical differences.

But those end too and a new way of organizing the world is eventually agreed upon. It happens with things as large and as important as nation-states. It’ll happen with something as small and relatively unimportant as the world of baseball journalism too.

  1. deadeyedesign23 - Nov 15, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    What primate had Trout 7th on their ballot? Surely that couldn’t have come from a human being who’s learned to walk upright.

    • scapistron - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      Bill Ballou of the Worcester T&G

      • aceshigh11 - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        I went to college in Worcester…not exactly a surprise.

    • chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      He happens to be an endangered ring-tailed lemur.

    • km9000 - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Why even bother with 7th? The same goes with everyone who voted him 2nd.

      “Wins matter, and the Angels would’ve missed the playoffs even without him. But he’s still the second most valuable guy in the league!” How does that work?

    • Glenn - Nov 17, 2013 at 2:08 AM

      Craig – this post was so long and intelligent that I thought Joe Posnanski wrote it. That’s a compliment to both of you. Thank you for the clarity and intelligence – as always.

  2. tc4306 - Nov 15, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Mike Trout is the best “overall” player. Miggy was the best hitter.
    It is the generalist vs the specialist.

    Trout plays better defense and is better on the base paths.
    But Miggy is not paid to steal bases or play any more than pylon defense.
    He is paid to hit for a high average, hit home runs and drive in runs.

    This is a vote about players being evaluated on what they are paid to do as opposed to being evaluated on what they are not paid to do.

    If the sabremetric community wants WAR to be generally accepted as the primary evaluation tool for such things as HOF entry and MVP selections, they are going to have to find a way to include RBI’s in the formulae.

    Hardball Times suggested developing a metric that evaluated how well players do when presented with the opportunity to drive in runs.

    Something like that is going to have to happen before WAR is gains acceptance outside the hard core sabremetric community.

    • indaburg - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      Why RBI? RBI is not a good measure of how well a hitter performed when presented with opportunities to drive runners in. Let’s say you have two players. Player A has 150 RBI. Player B has 100. Clearly, Player A is better, right? Not so fast. Player A plays for an awesome team with hitters that have a high OBP. He had 1000 opportunities with men on base to drive them in. Player A drove in 15%. Player B plays for a terrible team. He only had 500 men on base to drive in. He drove in 20%. Now which hitter is better?

      • bravojawja - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        Just to play Devil’s Advocate here, why not include the kind of metric you’re talking about? Instead of a counting stat like RBI, why not some sort of efficiency stat, similar to (or even) avg w/RISP or inherited runners scored for relievers?

        This new stat would reward guys like Joey Votto, who didn’t drive in many runs this year, but only because he didn’t have any runners to drive in.

      • natstowngreg - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        Let me take the Devil’s Advocate theme a step further. There is much discussion about RBI, and the context around that stat (are there runners to drive in, etc.?) The bottom line, obviously, is producing runs. However, I’ve thought that, while driving in runs was critical, the other half–scoring the runs–is also critical, and somewhat underappreciated.

        Cabrera scored 103 runs. He reached base by hit, walk or HBP 288 times (.442 OBP). He drove himself in 44 times (homers), and improved his scoring position 3 times with steals.

        Trout scored 109 runs. He reached base by hit, walk or HBP 309 times (.432 OBP). He drove himself in 27 times, and improved his scoring position 33 times with steals.

        Of course, this isn’t a clean comparison between a leadfoff hitter and a cleanup hitter. Neither is it an attempt to say that one is better than the other. Offensively, this is a choice between two great seasons. Just suggesting another dimention for consideration.

      • tc4306 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        That is the whole point of the Hardball Times article.
        Create a component that evaluates the player based on
        how he performs with the opportunities that are presented to him.

        Turning runners in scoring position into runs, or failing to do so,
        is a big part of winning and losing baseball games.
        To me, it does not make any sense to ignore that reality
        and pretend that it does not exist.

        Do I use metrics? Yes, I do.
        Do I believe in WAR as an argument ender? No, I don’t.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        Do I believe in WAR as an argument ender? No, I don’t.

        Who says it is though? The first people to bring up WAR were the ones disparaging it.

      • km9000 - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        I don’t think very many sabermetrics types start and end their arguments with WAR.

        The notion is that Trout was the 2nd-best hitter (and not a distant 2nd when looking at all the numbers), who also was much better in other facets. Cabrera’s contributions were limited to the batter’s box, even if they were substantial.

        Trout’s a guy you’d also want on base when you’re up, and a guy you’d want behind you if you’re on the mound, and he uses up one roster spot. That sounds like value to me.

    • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      If you haven’t been paying attention, slowly, and more quickly all the time, the community at large is growing more accepting of advancements in baseball understanding, because that is what we are talking about here, changing how people understand the game and what contributes to winning or losing. Even “old guard” journalists are being required to keep up and adapt because in conversations with players, managers, and even moreso with front office personnel advanced statistical approaches are becoming the norm in discussions….and if you want to understand what the GM is talking about or what he values in his team, then you have to learn the new material…and once a person starts to learn it, they just keep doing it….it is getting started on that path that is the barrier to many.

      Look at the change over the last decade of how Gammons talks about the game. Because he is in Boston and covers the Red Sox, he was essentially obliged to learn if he wanted to keep up with the conversation, and he did so.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        and if you want to understand what the GM is talking about or what he values in his team, then you have to learn the new material

        Unless you’re talking to Ruben Amaro Jr.

      • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        I honestly thought about putting that parenthetically, but I didn’t want to be accused of trolling and had 100% confidence that someone would add that.

        Well done.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      If the sabremetric community wants WAR to be generally accepted as the primary evaluation tool for such things as HOF entry and MVP selections, they are going to have to find a way to include RBI’s in the formulae.

      Name this player from 2013:

      I have a 91 wRC+, good for 117th (tied) in all of baseball in qualified batters
      I had 103 RBI, tied for 10th in all of baseball

      Who am i?

      And please explain why this should be a metric in evaluating how good someone is.

      • chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        In Brandon’s defense, Joey was busy clogging the basepaths.

      • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        Exactly, how in the world are you supposed to get on base when the guys in front of you are occupying all of them?

  3. rbj1 - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    “No, it’s not about hostility. It’s about defensiveness and insecurity. And there is plenty of that to go around.”

    I don’t see it that way. And anyone who’s being defensive & insecure about the MVP award in baseball is taking things way too seriously. You aren’t being shelled in Syria nor gone through a typhoon in the Philippines.

    Most Valuable Player is a nebulous award. It’s not the Highest WAR award. Silver Slugger awards are easy, MVP isn’t. Most Valuable. You have to have value, but to whom? To your team. So I do take in to consideration whether or not one’s team is in playoff contention — which would take Andre Dawson out of contention, but if you’re ridiculously good such as Steve Carlton in 1972 it must be acknowledged.

    Has Mike Trout over the last two years done everything he could to help his team win? Yes, and done it very well. So has Miguel Cabrera. And last year Miggy embraced moving to a position where he’s defensively challenged to help his team offensively. And had an historic season (and while the triple crown may be an anachronism, baseball is built on its history.) And he had an even better run this year despite playing the last month with a surgery needed injury. That does show leadership by example, which I take into account when deciding who is the single most Valuable player to his club. It’s not the best offensive player or the best all around player, but the most valuable player. You can’t quantify that.

    • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Feel free to take a look at the Silver Slugger winners, many were not anything like the best offensive players at their positions.

      The weird thing about the MVP award is that it is the only award that people refuse to use “best” to describe. Every other award is for the “best” pitcher, rookie, manager, or GM.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    I know this is being a bit pollyanna-ish, but how about some logical consistency? Find a reason why you’d vote a certain way for MVP, and stick with it. Is it really that hard?

    For instance, the guy who gave Mike Trout a 7th place vote is Billy Ballou. While I don’t agree, it’s fine if he thinks Trout was the 7th most valuable player last year. However, how can he justify that when Ballou wrote this in ’05 during the Arod/Ortiz MVP debate?

    For those who can’t read it, it says:

    Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram, who has an MVP vote and is a BBWAA member since 1987:

    “I don’t hold it against Ortiz being a DH, but on the other hand, I do believe that defense has value, even if it is hard to quantify. So while I won’t penalize Ortiz for being a DH, I won’t reward him, either, by ignoring the value that good defensive players bring to their teams. I read a Lou Piniella comment that DH was a position just like any other position. Oh yeah? Who won the Gold Glove at DH last year, then? DH definitely is a different type of position.”

    “There is also a school of thought that the MVP has gone to traditionally the best offensive player, but I don’t buy that. I still think it means the most valuable player overall, not just the best hitter.”

    So if defense has value, and it’s not just the best hitter, and it doesn’t have to be from a first place team…

    • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      …and this is actually the main difference between many (but not all) of the old school and new school approaches. Even realizing that no metric is perfect, always referring to metrics that quantify performance will keep you from lying to yourself and help ensure logical consistency….of course, people can still lie to themselves, but it is harder to do when you choose an approach to estimate production and stick to it.

      Like the “his team didn’t make the playoffs” argument. If you really think that players from non-playoff teams shouldn’t win the MVP, then NONE of them should show up on your ballot….instead, many that say such things gave Trout 2nd place votes each year, which makes no sense at all under that paradigm.

      Essentially, everyone that says the best player is not the most valuable is just trying to keep their options open to vote based on narrative or whimsy rather than baseball value.

  5. stoutfiles - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    MVP has always been mainly about the hitting. Cabrera had the better hitting line across the board so he won.

    Here’s a question…if you’re an Angels fan do you even want Trout to win? It’s going to make his next contract that much pricier. Will he be less hungry if he wins it?

    • nbjays - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      Only if you cherry pick your stats in the “hitting line”. Trout actually had more doubles, triples, walks and sac flies.

      And if it is all about hitting, how did Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley or Justin Verlander win the MVP?

  6. chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    My dog and I argue about the definition of MVP and the utility of WAR all the time. I think its about understanding the real underlying value a player represents while Brody, my dog, firmly believes the story and advancement of the team means more. I pointed out that the Tigers have a fantastic pitching staff and would have won lots of games whereas the Angels were basically a mess with Trout being the only constant. I think they could have been competing with the Astros for last place if not for Trout. Brody, who frankly doesn’t understand advanced metrics at all, tells me I spend too much time on Fangraphs.

  7. andreweac - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Old, out of touch white news reporters for newspapers with circulations less than the the daily viewership of Hardballtalk revolt against the audacity of their readers abandoning them in favor of better written baseball material in sites Ike this, Fangraphs and BP.

    Old white newspaper reporters are modern day Luddites that history will not look kindly on.

    We need to pool competent minds together and create awards to directly compete against the sheer aggregate madness of the BBWAA.

    • tc4306 - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Ahhh, a little racism fed into the comments. How nice.
      May I assume that the “pool of competent minds” would exclude you?

  8. andreweac - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Stating WAR should accommodate RBIs is like stating a cancer genetic researcher should ignore the preponderance of evidence of evolution and instead work of the ridiculous belief the Earth is 10,000 years old.

    RBI is a junk stat. So is pitcher wins. So is saves.

  9. happytwinsfan - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    much of this best hitter versus overall value debate is new, but not all of it. in 1942 and 1947 ted williams won the triple crown but came in second in the mvp voting. part of the justification for this was that joe dimaggio was an excellent center fielder while williams was an at best adequate right fielder. and like now it had its politics, some of the writers found williams unlike the “senator” to be prickly and hard to interview. it appears that some of the new guard is also part of the old, old guard.

    Joe Dimaggio- 97 R, 20 HR, 97 RBI, .315 Avg, 168 H, 31 2B, .391 OB
    Ted Williams- 125 R, 32 HR, 114 RBI, .343 Avg, 181 H, 40 2B, .499 OB

    • Panda Claus - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Ted was equally hosed in 1941, but Joe won purely on the 56-game hitting streak most likely.

      Joe Dimaggio- 122 R, 30 HR, 125 RBI, .357 Avg, 193 H, 43 2B, .440 OB
      Ted Williams- 135 R, 37 HR, 120 RBI, .406 Avg, 186 H, 34 2B, .553 OB

  10. Carl Hancock - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    It’s pretty simple. Voters don’t care about base running or defense when it comes to the MVP award. It’s all about who is the best hitter and offensive player. Is it really that difficult for saberheads to comprehend? If the MVP award truly was the MVP the Yadier Molina would have won it hands down, but sabermetric stat heads won’t come to that conclusion either because all of their stats have no way to quantify Yadier’s entire game and the impact he has on the pitchers and the players on the base paths during the games he catches. He’s the definition of an MVP. They seem to bring up defense with Trout in the argument against Cabrera, but where is it with Yadi? Last I checked Yadi’s pitch calling influences every single pitch. The bottom line is Cabrera was the better hitter this year, last year and probably every year for the foreseeable future. That’s what most writers vote for. They have Gold Glove’s for defense. The MVP award has always been about hitting. I believe that saber metrics are a good thing, but they aren’t the end all be all because they don’t quantify everything and never will. That’s why numbers alone and made up statistics combining other statistics don’t paint the full picture. Hell, you can make up a stat that combines other stats to make all kinds of players appear to be amazing. Trout is a fantastic player. But Miguel Cabrera is Miguel F’n Cabrera. Deal with it.

    • nbjays - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      “The MVP award has always been about hitting.”


      What did Verlander bat in 2011? Or Eckersley in 1992? Or Fingers in 1981?

      Your Miggy-love has blinded you to any facts beyond the fact that Cabrera can hit a baseball well and do precious little else to help his team win a game. The award is not called the Most Valuable Hitter.

  11. justanothersportsjunkie - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Curious to know if anyone can find out what the players’ WAR (and who they were) when Trout & Cabrera were the ‘R’eplacements?

    • justanothersportsjunkie - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Really – a thumbs down for asking a question?

    • jwbiii - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I think I understand your question, and my possibly incorrect interpretation of it amuses me anyway.

      The Tigers’ alternatives at 3B were a Jose Iglesias for 30 innings and bunch of pretty random utility guys: Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Hernan Perez. I’ll estimate their collective WAR as -0.1.

      The Angels’ alternates in CF were quite a bit better. Peter Bourjos is a good fifth outfielder and Josh Hamilton is a good baseball player (Off season or new level of performance? Stay tuned!). Collin Cowgill also picked up 37 innings. I’ve got them at 0.7.

      We’re getting awfully close to “Hello, I’m John Paciorek and I’ll be your host for Small Sample Size Theatre this evening.”

      • jwbiii - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        Meh. Angels should be .8. Extra 0 in Hamilton’s line.

  12. tc4306 - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Any time I read through comments on an article like this, I’m amused by how much the sabremetric community has in common with the religious right.

    Both will stake out territory on high ground, attributing qualities like “informed” “intelligent,” ” forward thinking,” “superior,” “correct,” etc. while implying or that anyone who disagrees with them has none of those qualities. Often, it quickly degenerates into outright name calling.

    I find both groups to be dogmatic and completely devoid of the notion of compromise. They are right, everyone else is (insert your dismissive here) and that is all there is to that.

    It seems inconceivable to them that anyone could understand what they are saying and reject the outcomes.
    Religious groups that knock on my door have much the same outlook.

    I (1)understand the capital punishment debate,
    but I don’t believe in capital punishment.

    I (2)understand the abortion debate
    but I believe in a woman’s right to choose.

    I (3) understand WAR and all of its components
    but I reject it as the primary method for choosing HOF or MVP winners.

    I guess that makes me
    (1) a left wing nut job
    (2) damned to eternal damnation
    (3) archaic and uninformed.
    Isn’t it nice to be loved by everybody?

    • ashot - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      What is your primary method for choosing HOF and MVP and why do you reject WAR as your primary method?

    • km9000 - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      I didn’t know the religious right dubbed themselves as “forward thinking.”

      Considering how much conservatives scoffed at Nate Silver’s work with poll numbers (and other science-driven issues like global warming), I’d think they’re the ones more likely to scoff at sabermetrics.

      “Pitchers wins and RBIs matter because it’s always been that way!”

  13. joerymi - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    While I certainly consider myself a follower of advanced metrics, I have little time for this internalized victim-hood as a way to push an internet “US vs THEM.”

    While there is zero doubt the resistance to advanced metrics hurts Trout, other things do as well. And while these are bad arguments, they have little to do with numbers. Last year, the power of the triple crown and the rookie status of Trout put the MVP in the bag for Cabrera. Not quite the “these old people hate math” rhetoric. This year? People looked at the Angels and thought that they could have been only slightly better than the Mariners and Astros even without Trout.

    I am justifying neither argument. But people’s attempt to install themselves as the sole intellectual in the debate is giving me nausea. Trout not having at least one MVP is about as annoying as people proclaiming themselves to be the ones “on the right side of history.” History will decide that, thank you.

    • happytwinsfan - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      “history” is what the people who weren’t around when it happened, think happened.

      • joerymi - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        I haven’t smoked enough pot to think that is an insightful comment, maaaannnn.

      • happytwinsfan - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        you may not have pot smoke in your head but i bet you have plenty of historical myths that you regard to be unquestioned facts bouncing around in there.

      • joerymi - Nov 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Let me guess: We didn’t land on the moon.

        Love the internet

  14. tved12 - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    This is the way I see the “value” debate.

    If you take Miguel Cabrera off of the Tigers they most likely aren’t a playoff team. If you take Trout off of the Angels, they don’t make the playoffs still?

    I’ll admit, I don’t fully understand all the metrics, but I love statistics. I just think it’s hard to give MVP to somebody who’s team didn’t come close to making the playoffs.

    In fact, you could argue that he was hurting his team because without him you could have gotten a better draft pick! (sarcasm font)

    • km9000 - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      It’s a legitimate line of reasoning, as long as you’re consistent. Would you still have Trout in your top three?

      Because it shouldn’t be about player X being your MVP, followed by a list of honorable mentions. It’s your ranking of MVP candidates.

      • tved12 - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        This is so tough, because you do want to reward a guy for a great season. That said, in terms of value to his team making the playoffs, I wouldn’t keep him in the top 3. There are 5 teams that make the playoffs and the Angels weren’t one of them.

        When I equate this to a real life scenario, I’m a salesman. Who’s more valuable;

        Salesman A: Top performing salesman for a company that goes out of business the end of this year.

        Salesman B: Top performing salesman at a Fortune 500 company.

        As much as I love the drive and the performance of Salesman A, in fact I would hire him, I can’t say he’s more valuable that Salesman B.

    • nbjays - Nov 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      “If you take Miguel Cabrera off of the Tigers they most likely aren’t a playoff team. ”

      The Tigers won their division by a single game. There were 7 pitchers and 5 position players on the team with 2+ WAR. Take any one of those players off the Tigers and they likely don’t make the playoffs. Lets correct your statement:

      “If you take Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante, Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly or Rick Porcello off of the Tigers they most likely aren’t a playoff team.”

      This invalidates your argument about Cabrera being the reason the Tigers made the postseason.

      • dtownmytown - Nov 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        And that is where you are incorrect, as most of the players you mention did not contribute in ways to the teams playoff success that you imagine they did. Sanchez did miss more than a month of the season due to shoulder problems and the Tigers survived his absences quite well, just as they would have any other starter or pitcher. Jackson also missed over a month due to injury, Infante missed 2 months and again they survive their absences. the only player they did not rest due to injury was Cabrera, as they knew the extent of his injuries suffered first back in June, not August as has been reported. Injuries that if he had played for the Angels they would have shut him down for the season since they were not playoff bound, as would any team out of the playoffs. What also invalidates the Trout better than Cabrera argument is that people keep bringing up his speed advantage and how that leads to more runs, but Trout played about 10 more games and had more at bats than Cabrera yet only scored 6 more runs, 109 to 103. The advantage should have been much larger than that being that Cabrera is a human pylon, or so the saber-metrics people would like you to think.

      • nbjays - Nov 16, 2013 at 11:25 PM

        Ok, so runs scored is indicative of speed? Perhaps some are, but not runs scored via home run, which require zero speed (and no, Cabrera didn’t hit any inside-the-park HRs).

        So, if we subtract those numbers we get Miggy with 59 runs scored (103-44) and Trout with 82 (109-27). So Mike Trout scored 39% more runs than Miggy that required speed on the bases. That is a significant margin based on 10 more games played.

        Next you are going to tell me that Cabrera is the better base stealer because he went 3 for 3 but Trout only went 33 for 40.

        Bottom line: compared to Trout, Miggy IS a human pylon.

  15. Gabbo - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    If it’s this close in consideration between Trout and Cabrera looking at stats, this shouldn’t even be close when actually considering value. Cabrera make ~40 times more money. Trout is locked into his contract UNTIL THE END OF 2017!!!! As a Tigers fan, I sure as hell would rather have Trout and then use the other 20 million A YEAR to lock up Scherzer, Fister, Benoit, and Austin Jackson, all of whom the Tigers are contemplating letting go or trading RIGHT NOW. Every GM can only wish they could trade 1 for 1 to get Trout.

  16. weaselpuppy - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Fat ol’, slow and broken down Miggy…can’t even move, terrible fielder, DH with a glove hur hur hur….dWAR? -1.5

    Shiny riding a Pegasus ridiculously photogenic Fielding GOD Mike Trout’s dWAR?


    (picturing Scooby Doo turning head to camera)


  17. macjacmccoy - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Dont forget to add to the sabermetric side their reliance on conspiracies to explain why they lost a given argument. How they would rather study the void and come up with big ideology affirming reasons why they might of lost, like a cold war perhaps, instead of actually using that time to study what the debate was about, and understand how their logic might have been wrong.

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