If you disagree with me, it is unlikely that you’re a moron or an idiot. I, like you, have been wrong many, many times. What I try to do in forming an opinion is to take the data that’s available to me and then interpret it through my admittedly limited understanding. For the most part, argumentative adversaries have done the same thing, it’s just that their interpretation is different.

Take, for instance, my belief that Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout is the Most Valuable Player in the American League this season. I have formed this opinion based on his status atop the leader boards of several offensive categories combined with his abilities to play a defensively demanding position in a manner that is well above average by any metric and most observations.

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports disagrees.

At this point, the American League Most Valuable Player award should be a formality, a signpost on Cabrera’s increasingly realistic route to immortality. He’s removing doubt about the MVP race with each passing day, smashing two home runs Tuesday in a 12-2 win over Oakland that his Tigers had to have.

He leads Trout in the batting race, .333 to .327. He leads Josh Hamilton in the RBI race, 129 to 123. And now that he’s clinched his first 40-homer season, he’s only two behind Hamilton at 42.

That’s fine. We both have similar amounts of viable information at our disposal. The information that I interpret suggests that Mike Trout is better than Miguel Cabrera; his interpretation of that information suggests the opposite.

If we can manage to dismiss terms like “formality,” and “obvious,” which Mr. Morosi uses later in his piece, as nothing more than hyperbole, a sort of cosmetic for his underlying argument, we can probably all agree with the writer that there is a case to be made for Miguel Cabrera’s MVP candidacy. After all, he’s a very, very good hitter, and the majority of his counting stats are superior to Mr. Trout’s this season.

But then, there’s this:

This, to me, suggests that it’s not just a difference of interpretation informing myself and Mr. Morosi. There’s more to it.

Mr. Morosi is willing to dismiss wins above replacement, which take into account Mr. Trout’s defensive success and Mr. Cabrera’s lack of defensive success this season. In fact, he suggests that an argument dependent on the statistic is shortsighted. His statement to this effect comes mere hours after an article that he wrote was published suggesting that Miguel Cabrera was deserving based solely on the possibility that he would win the American League Triple Crown – finishing first in the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.

So, Mr. Morosi believes it to be wrong to rely on a statistic that represents value based on overall offensive and defensive contributions, preferring instead to rely on three specific metrics, two of which are largely dismissed by front offices for their antiquity and lack of meaning when it comes to determining a player’s value.

And this is where frustration sets in. The argument over who is the most valuable player, at some point, must bring up numbers as part of the discussion. The same people who dismiss wins above replacement or ultimate zone rating or defensive runs saved or weighted on base average as illegitimate or too esoteric to be of any good, will easily quote the batting average or number of RBIs or whatever statistic supports their preferred candidate’s chances at the award.

Such arguments literally translate into: “Your numbers are wrong, while mine are right.” However, they’re dressed as: “Numbers? There’s so much more to consider.” This of course is humorous because the costuming of such arguments often includes accusations that the other party is doing the exact thing that they themselves are actually doing.” They’re the ones listing the numbers that fit their own narrative, while dismissing others that do not.

At least those supporting Mike Trout, in this specific case, are ready, willing and able to also defend the metrics that they’re using as superior to the ones that their opposition are using, rather than merely dismissing them. Metrics labelled as “sabermetric” are waved off as something beyond comprehension, instead of being seen as a more reasonable way of measuring value.

This is what we get from Mr. Morosi as an example:

The sabermetric analysis favors Trout. I understand and respect that. Any MVP voter for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — as I was last year — should consider statistics such as Wins Above Replacement.

Do you believe “sabermetric analysis” to be more reasonable than the analysis that Mr. Morosi uses to support his argument? If so, imagine the above quote from Mr. Morosi when we replace “sabermetric” with “more reasonable.”

Trout didn’t play his first game in the majors this year until April 28. That means something. MVP voters are instructed to consider games played. Well, Cabrera had given the Tigers 20 games of value before Trout took his first at-bat. Cabrera has appeared in all but one of Detroit’s games this season.

Indeed. This is true. And if Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton didn’t win the MVP award in 2010, having played less than half of his team’s games in September, I might be inclined to put a similar amount of importance on games played as Mr. Morosi. I also might be more willing if Mr. Cabrera offered anything remotely resembling increased value over Mr. Trout in those extra 20 games that he’s played.

As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes:

Cabrera’s additional playing time has earned him an additional 60 trips to the plate, but in those 60 extra plate appearances, he’s made 54 extra outs.

Again, we’re presented with a more reasonable argument that counters Mr. Morosi’s point. Instead of other data or proof or evidence being brought up to counter the counter argument, it’s instead dismissed as “the sabermetic viewpoint,” and labelled as condescending.

No, anyone who makes any statement is branded an idiot in the modern age, whether you fall under the strange classification of “old school,” “mainstream,” or “stathead.” I would suggest that there’s an added emphasis to being called an idiot by some when you’re proven wrong by others, but those two actions are unlikely to come from the same person.

In this case, it’s done out of convenience. Blindly attacking credibility and claiming condescension is an easy way around actually facing a counter argument to which a stance cannot recover. The odd thing is that no one legitimately arguing for one player over another based on reasonable metrics is out for blood as much as we’re merely in favor of accuracy. Most of us would embrace the idea of agreeing with others given the chance. I don’t know if I can say the same of those who are far too ready to continue quoting a player’s RBIs and batting average as being at all meaningful.

It’s time to become more reasonable in the supply of arguments because the demand for the current brand of unreasonable arguments coupled with unrelated accusations against those who don’t agree with the accuracy of the data being used for interpretation is slipping.

Comments (35)

  1. I always hate when these MVP arguments come up. Everything I’m reading is either one side or the other. The saber crowd says Trout doesn’t even compare to the rest of the league (not true) and the old school crowd dismisses “statheads” because they don’t know what the game is all about (also not true) Can’t we all just get along?

    • I think there’s a case for Cabrera, but you’d have to ignore fielding. I can’t do that.

      • Yeah I don’t think he’s the MVP. I just think he shouldn’t be brushed aside so easily. He’s having an amazing year with the bat and leads Trout in a number of categories. I still think Trout is the MVP of the AL.

      • Trout isn’t exactly Ichiro in the field either though… you’d have a point if he was but average vs below average isn’t an MVP decider in my mind

        • Trout isn’t exactly Ichiro? Have you seen him play the field? He’s been great, making a least 3 home run-stealing catches while making enough “regular” plays to sport crazy defensive numbers.

          You don’t have to love the way in which they estimate them but +13 runs/+25 runs speaks pretty loudly. Oh, he’s also one of the fastest runners in the league, which surely helps his case (as a good fielder.)

          • I know that the idea of a statistic like WAR which measures defensive value is a beautiful idea, but come on; Derek Jeter has a lower bWAR than Yunel Escobar! Holy skewed sample Batman!

            Which isn’t to say Trout doesn’t still deserve it (his oWAR is still higher). But if Cabrera gets the triple crown, its over. If the Tigers make the playoffs, even more so. And I don’t see why that’s not fair. The triple crown is pretty rare.

        • Umm do you even watch baseball?? Trout is the best defensive centrefielder in the game by far!

          • not sure what bWAR is…do you mean dWAR? I see Jeter is maybe average defensively at this point in his career. He is very old to be a short stop remember. On the flip side, I see Yunel as an above avg defensive SS.

  2. Jon morosi is the reason I’m pro-choice

  3. Sorry but Miggy is the best player in the league and would deserve the award, he’s been Mr Clutch and Mr Consistent AGAIN, i’m a huge Trout fan but he doesn’t deserve the award just yet and has been pretty poor the past 2 months (for his lofty standards).

    • Trout has a better WPA and WPA/LI, indicating he’s been more CLUTCH than Miggy. It’s a one year award, and over this year, Trout has been a better player.

      • I don’t agree and as for the defensive metrics arguement then does this take into consideration that outfield is an easy position to play then say 3rd or SS for example?

        At the end of the day Baseball is about scoring runs/producing runs, nobody has done that better then Miggy.

        Again would just like to stress that when it really matters (past month or so), Trout has started to regress.

        • Every game counts no matter what the calendar reads. A win on May 1st is just as important as a win on sept 1st.

        • Miguel Cabrera has scored 100 runs, Mike Trout has score 118. Trout’s wRC+ is 174, whereas Cabrera’s is 169. To say no one has done it better than Miggy is inaccurate.

          In my mind, RBIs don’t count, because Miguel Cabrera didn’t put the runners he drove in on base himself. If more Angels could get on base, Mike Trout’s numbers in that category would be higher.

          Trout the best.

  4. 2 thoughts I had while reading — first was that Miggy and Trout are reasonably close in WAR, which I was surprised to find that Trout is a full 4 bWar ahead of Miggy, and almost 3 fWar ahead of him.
    Second, that Miggy is additionally punished by WAR for playing 3rd and being really bad at it, where as if he had stuck at 1st he would not suffer as badly in terms of defence. Also not true – moving to third has actually helped Miggy. Whether that’s because he’s trying/training harder because of the demands of the position, I have no idea.
    In the end, I understand why different camps see these two players as strong MVP candidates, and Miggy certainly represents the sort of player that has often won, but the days of winning the award because of anything to do with RBIs has got to stop.

    • Second, that Miggy is additionally punished by WAR for playing 3rd and being really bad at it, where as if he had stuck at 1st he would not suffer as badly in terms of defence.

      This isn’t exactly how it works. Any gains he makes on a pure runs basis are lost in the positional adjustment from third to first. WAR punishes first basemen more than third basemen, so being good at first isn’t as “valuable” as being bad at first.

  5. Hey Parkes, help me out here:

    So in 2012, when we talk about Trout v. Cabrera for MVP, Morosi is basically considering the offensive numbers, and any defensive metrics that can add to the debate can be basically set aside. But in 2005, when it was Ortiz v. Rodriguez for MVP, didn’t the debate revolve around defensive numbers (which Rodriguez had [at 3B] but Ortiz not so much [at DH and the occasional 1B]), and that you can’t judge the MVP solely on offensive numbers?

    Or am I misremembering history here?

  6. sadly, the same writers that will pull out “pitching and defense” arguments for verlander last year, will use trout’s amazing defense against using WAR to determine MVP in order to favour cabrera more…even though drunky has still had a less amazing year just looking at what he’s done with the stick…

    it’s going to be a moot point because the tigers have looked terrible…that said they’re pretty much only playing the chisox from now to the end of the year so…we’ll see.

    • The fact that Verlander won the MVP last year does not compute. He has very similar numbers this year but won’t get to 24 wins and, therefore, is not an MVP candidate.

  7. Does it really matter in the end? They both will miss the playoffs and you can’t possibly vote for player on a non playoff team so Robinson Cano, come on down!

  8. “Mr. Morosi is willing to dismiss wins above replacement, which take into account Mr. Trout’s defensive success and Mr. Cabrera’s lack of defensive success this season.”

    I disagree with your assessment. I, like him, just believe that we shouldn’t rush to put WAR on a pedestal, just like we shouldn’t put batting average or RBI totals as main criteria for MVP. a healthy combination of all stats available is best

    But, who are we kidding though? The MVP without question is Mike Trout.

  9. Is it nuts to think that Drew Fairservice writes all these articles and the guy who shows up as Dustin Parkes on any of the vides is just a paid actor? I mean, this guy can’t actually be a real human being right? I think it’s a good marketing strategy to create such a shallow creature to act as the villain of this blog if that is actually the case. It’s just hard to imagine encountering a caricature like him in person… or, honestly, even in a cartoon.

  10. Well, the writers screwed Ted Williams both times he won the triple crown….Maybe the moron writers can screw Cabrera over also…. How about the theory of the 60′s? Pick a middle infielder on one of the division winners…. Alexi Ramirez would make a great MVP

  11. I’ve watched miggie run out ground balls this season. He should be eliminated just on that basis.

  12. Defense, stolen bases, Trout.

  13. I find it funny that Morosi also claims that games played matters here, but he was pushing Verlander as the candidate last season. Obviously games played means something different for a fielder vs. a pitcher, but that daily contribution did not factor in when a pitcher was up for it.,

  14. Fascinating and well-written article.
    How come steals isn’t mentioned , I wonder?

  15. It’s not troll friday yet but I couldn’t resist pointing out how many times you referred to the parties involved so formally. Mr. Parkes, I hate to admit this, but you sound like a cleaning lady.

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