This Means WAR

TAGS: Baseball, MVP
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It’s been 45 years since Major League Baseball had its last Triple Crown winner. The length of the drought is more fascinating than the fact that we’ve filled the vacated title. What was going on between 1967 and now? Did hitters become too specialized, with power guys and guys who got on base separated like church and state? Did the steroid era nullify the importance of batting averages? Perhaps most confusing of all, how did Barry Bonds not trip and fall into one?

When you consider the instances prior to Yaz’s Triple Crown, that each decade had at least one player lay claim to all three crowns; it appears that it is just dumb luck that it has taken so long. And worse luck for the man who would be king to win it in the era of sabermetric statistical analysis.

Three categories comprise the Triple Crown: home runs, runs batted in and batting average. While still decent measures of productivity, the value of such numbers is now weighted against the additional stats created by Bill James and his ilk. Today batting average is just a poor man’s on-base plus slugging, the venerable RBI has proven to be as telling of the quality of batters in front of a player as it is of the batter bringing them home and home runs are just one of the three “true outcomes”.

In other words, the Triple Crown is now the long form version of hitting for the cycle – surely impressive but ultimately unintentional. We’re left with, appropriately, a horse race.

Even before this shift in statistical analysis, an MVP was never a promise to the winner of a Triple Crown. Just ask Ted Williams or Lou Gehrig. But this year, Miguel Cabrera’s MVP credentials are in question exactly because of the new methods of measuring a player’s value. Sure Cabrera leads in the big three, but not in on-base percentage or isolated power or wins over replacement player or runs created over 27 outs.

Because of this, and a number of other reasons, Cabrera will unwittingly become the figurehead for “old school” baseball fans as nothing gets old-schoolers chili running hotter than home runs, RBI and batting average. Angel’s rookie Mike Trout will be the emblem on the flag of the new bred of stat geeks who’ll be chanting WAR as the ballots are handed out. On the sidelines are the hippies who keep asking what “value really means, man.”

The length of time since the last Triple Crown has bloated its mystique. After it finally happened we’re wondering what we were waiting so long for.

The King is dead, long live Yaz.

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TAGS: Baseball, MVP

Comments

But this year, Miguel Cabrera’s MVP credentials are in question exactly because of the new methods of measuring a player’s value. Sure Cabrera leads in the big three, but not in on-base percentage or isolated power or wins over replacement player or runs created over 27 outs.

Sorry to be a hater, but this is kind of weak. Miggy isn't first in each of these stats, but he is elite in all of them.

  • He's 4th in on-base, just 6 points behind Trout.
  • He's tied for 2nd in isolated power, and is 39 points ahead of Trout, who is 8th.
  • He's 2nd to Trout in runs created over 27 outs, but is also 1st in total runs created.
  • Batting average may be a poor man's on-base plus slugging, but Cabrera is 1st in both. By any measure, old or new, Cabrera was an elite offensive player and maybe the best hitter in the AL.

    The debate over Mike Trout and WAR is mostly over whether defensive contributions (and to an extent baserunning) should be valued with equal weight in determining the MVP. The ideology on MVP voting may be shifting towards overall contribution, but the same argument for Trout could have been made 45 years ago, without any modern stats.

    (There are other stats one can use to show that Trout was the better player, but looking at the stats you cite doesn't diminish Cabrera's numbers).

    Well, also not to be a hater, but what you are saying is _precisely_ the thing that this article is discussing. This article (speaking as the person who edited it) is about how both sides will use the winner (regardless of who wins) as either a wronged martyr (for the side they are for) or a hollow figurehead (for the side they are against) in the future, which is what the "Cabrera will unwittingly become the figurehead for 'old school' baseball fans [...] Mike Trout will be the emblem on the flag of the new bred of stat geeks" paragraph is all about.

    Within that discussion, is the idea that the Triple Crown itself no longer has the meaning it once did (which is why the tease is "With the sabermetric revolution, the value of the stats that encompass the Triple Crown has greatly diminished, but what does that mean the value of the Triple Crown itself?" and not "MIKE TROUT FOR MVP") and how the perception that the Triple Crown is a guaranteed ticket to an MVP is a false one, no matter who you are.

    The point, if I can summarize my summarization (which is now longer than the piece itself) is that this argument isn't about who is more valuable (I personally believe Trout is, for a number of reasons not all of which have to do with advanced stats or his defense, like for instance the # of games his team won or the fact that he had 12 times the amount of steals and 18% more runs despite playing 16% fewer games, but I would think it extremely well deserved if Cabrera won it too) but about how we will interpret value into the future, and how this means "WAR" in certain segments of the sports analysis world.

    Finally, if you think that this isn't about advanced stats vs. the importance of tradition/narrative, you don't watch nearly enough ESPN (which is probably good for you). When Mike Greenberg tweets: BASEBALL ISN'T PLAYED ON A SPREADSHEET. END OF STORY, CABRERA IS MVP #TRIPLECROWN, that tells you everything you need to know about what's going on out there.