Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP voting in a contentious debate that occurred between stat guys and other stat guys. In the end, a majority of the stats guys won. What’s that you say, the stat guys weren’t in favor of Miguel Cabrera?
Everyone is a stat guy in baseball. Regardless of how you choose to couch it, every argument is based on some sort of stat. Did anyone out there watch every play by both players all year long? I doubt it.
The issue is which stats you use, and whether you are consistent in your use, going with whatever the stats that you find most important tell you, or whether you tailor your choice to the stats that happen to bolster the outcome you desire.
The Miguel Cabrera backers pointed to the batting average, runs batted in, and home runs. They pointed to the statistics related to the period of time since a player had led a league in all three of those categories. They did not point to defensive numbers, or to times grounded into double plays. They pointed to playoff appearances, but not win totals.
The Mike Trout backers pointed to WAR, or breaking it down further, his defensive numbers, his highly successful stolen base numbers, and how his offensive numbers weren’t far behind Miguel Cabrera, as Nate Silver did here today.
I went through the history of the Triple Crown last month, where only five men including Cabrera, of the seventeen listed as having accomplished it, were actually celebrated as such. I also went back through similar seasons, finding that those old gruff sportswriter types who didn’t know what WAR was good for actually awarded more MVP seasons to Mike Trout type years than Miguel Cabrera types.
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition, much like how the political parties shift their specific stances on a topic depending on the outcome. Those espousing the virtues of old time baseball and the eye test are actually blindly overlooking the all-around player who stole bases, ran the base paths well, played an important defensive position well, and did a lot of everything offensively.
They are going with the beer league uber-star slugger, who would have been the envy of Billy Beane if he could have afforded to drop him in the middle of his roster in Oakland, where they were willing to overlook defense to get a high on base and slugging guy.
It’s interesting how positions change. In the end, it was the Triple Crown that swung it. The Triple Crown’s history is far less noble than we make it seem, with Ted Williams often getting screwed and the category basically invented by sportswriters trying to point out how much better he was than his Yankee antagonists. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, though.
So in the end, the stats guys who pushed home runs, RBI’s and batting average won out. Miguel Cabrera, 2012 Triple Crown Winner, 2012 MVP, and Future Hall of Famer, congratulations.
[photo via US Presswire]