COMMENTARY | The BBWAA announced the winners of the American League and National League Most Valuable Player Awards.
This marks the third year in a row the BBWAA gave the AL MVP Award to a Detroit Tigers player when someone else deserved it -- and the second time in a row they gave it to Cabrera when the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout had demonstrably more value.
I feel bad for what's happened to the city of Detroit as well, but this is getting ridiculous. The award is for the most valuable "player," not just the best hitter. Cabrera's batting numbers are better than Trout's -- not by much, but better. He has more home runs than Trout, but Trout has more doubles and triples. We could go back and forth all day.
It's a little silly for adults to spend time debating who should be the true and rightful winners of baseball awards that have no impact on any aspect of society whatsoever.
Maybe it is silly, but people get upset when there are injustices and while on the world scale this is a drop in the bucket, it's always an injustice when the rightful winner is left empty-handed.
So just what is 'most valuable'?
When a team wins a game, it's clear to see that it won because it scored more runs than the other team. It's a finite result. But even from game to game, it's hard to say exactly who the "most valuable" player was. One guy hit a three-run home run and another guy pitched seven strong innings. Choosing an MVP of the game becomes subjective.
Baseball has always been a statistically extensive sport -- more so than any other -- and those statistics have been used for decades to tell us who the best players are. We all grew up thinking that home runs, RBIs and batting average were the only really important non-pitcher stats. But newer, more advanced metrics allow us to look at all aspects of a player's performance.
Mike Trout out-distanced all of baseball with a 10.4 WAR and Miguel Cabrera comes in with an excellent 7.6 WAR. In most years, a 7.6 WAR would be all you need to win the MVP Award, but not with Mike Trout around.
But what is WAR? And what is it good for?
Wins Above Replacement is an advanced statistical measure that attempts to combine all aspects of a player's game and come up with one number to demonstrate how many more wins he would provide his team than just some replacement player.
Many of the voters in the BBWAA hate it -- as do many fans. They cleverly accuse the statistics' supporters of being nerds and living in the basements of their mothers. It doesn't matter to them that the management of the teams to which they give their devotion uses these advanced metrics to actually determine player values.
The guys that came up with these metrics are the same kind of guys who developed the computer, tablet or smart phone you're reading this on. Sure, they're nerds, but they're also baseball fans.
Even if you're a Detroit fan who swears up and down that there's no better player than Miguel Cabrera and you know because you've seen every game, it's almost impossible for your mind to actually process all the tiny aspects of the game for each individual player -- let alone compare those to another player on another team that you've only seen a couple times.
WAR isn't perfect, but it gives you a much better idea of how much value each player brings to his team. And this year, like last, there is no one in the league more "valuable" than Mike Trout.
Last year, Trout out-produced Cabrera 10.0 to 6.9 WAR and Cabrera still took home the award. I don't think the award should ever be based strictly on WAR. However, since WAR factors in all aspects of an individual's game (hitting, fielding and baserunning), it's a better guide than things like RBIs and runs that are more dependent on one's teammates.
This year, comparing Trout and Cabrera, they're offensive numbers are almost even -- thanks in part to Cabrera being injured the last month of the season.
It's when we factor in the rest of baseball activities that Trout surges ahead. He's an exceptional base runner and while his defense rated as only slightly above average this year, it was light years ahead of Cabrera's defense.
Many advanced defensive stats like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) have Cabrera as one of the worst fielders in the league.
And the argument that his fielding percentage isn't that bad is kind of silly because it doesn't factor in just how many balls that get by him that even an average defender would get. That means he's giving base hits to the other team. And that doesn't sound very valuable.
One way to argue that Miggy is the Most Valuable Player is if you factor in all the runs he helped score for his team plus all the runs he allowed other teams to score.
I get asked a lot "Would you rather have Cabrera or Trout at the plate with the game on the line?" Great question. It's pretty close, but Miggy's got the edge.
But I've got some more questions: Who would you rather have on defense with the game on the line? Who would you rather have running the bases with the game on the line? Ouch, that decision just got a lot easier. Grab a seat, Miggy.
Then there's always the argument that a player from a losing team shouldn't be the MVP. OK, great. So that means that part of being the league's most valuable player is that you have magical powers to make your team's GM make better player acquisitions and then, once they arrive, transform those players to superior production.
Having great teammates is not a skill. The MVP Award should go to the player who was the most valuable in the league.
Of course, the MVP isn't just "who has the best WAR?" There are other factors to look at -- most of which are somewhat subjective. And that's OK. It should never just be a mathematical award -- unless that math says 10.4 to 7.6.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball.
You can find him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Miguel Cabrera
- Mike Trout
- Detroit Tigers