|.329/44/137 (plus 1.001 OPS and 375 TBs) as of 10/01/12|
I paint with the broad-stroke stylings of the arguers in question, because, I mean, come on, straw men are so much easier to kick down. Am I right?
|.325/30/83 (plus 48 SBs and 129 Runs) as of 10/01/12|
Now debate ensues as to who rightfully deserves the accolades. But put all of that aside for a moment.
The sabermetricians and baseball writers, long involved in an escalating race to arm their respective soapboxes, are preparing to go to battle over WAR (wins above replacement). In essence, WAR attempts to calculate the number of wins a given player is responsible for as opposed to some schlub pulled from AAA (not solely AAA—the notion is that it’s a guy who’s better than you or I, but not very good by MLB standards).
The arguments tend to go like this:
Fedora Wearer: The MVP is Miggy. I know because I watch him play. I understand baseball.
Guy with a computer coming out of his hands: Miggy?! Have you seen his dWar?
FW: Speak English. Miggy is the first Triple Crown winner since Yaz.
GWCCOHH: Yaz is so yesteryear. Besides the makers of Yaz (Bayer AG) are getting their pants sued off because it turns out Yaz isn’t so wonderful. But enough already. Trout is besting Cabrera by 12 in oRAR.
FW: (mumbling something about Dave Parker and Daffy Dean)
GWC…: If you skew for Wins Above Average, it’s not even close.
FW: (rolling up sleeves, mush-mouthing a Dutch Masters) I’m gonna beat you like Max Bear did Frankie Cambell.
GWC: (runs from room) Not now, Big Bang Theory is on!
Here’s the thing, as of this writing Cabrera is hitting .327/44/137 with an OPS (if you’re so inclined) of 1.001. Detractors point to his 28 GIDP. They conveniently neglect to recognize that he’s a three-hole hitter who will never be asked to lay down a sac bunt, and therefore, yes, he will hit into double plays. They’ll also point to his insufficient defense. It is insufficient...if by that you mean completely adequate. He’s got good hands, a great arm, and little range. He’s paid to produce the first set of numbers I listed, not for his RF/9. He also happens to be the premiere hitter in Major League Baseball.
What’s sad is that, if he’s awarded the MVP, people are going to complain.
But Mike Trout's WAR is among the best in HISTORY, the sabermetricians will say. It's a full 4 points higher than Cabrera. You're an impossible idiot if you can't see that, they'll say. Then they'll make fun of you for thinking batting average, HRs, and RBIs mean jack.
They are extremely defensive about challenges to their beloved WAR. Just point out that there are competing versions of WAR (an impediment to wide acceptance among baseball fans), and they're sure to point out that you don't have an advanced statistics class on your college transcript. Point out that many of the metrics involve human inputs, such as assigning ~52 wins (why not 41?) for the hasbeen/neverwas that is this statistical apparition known as replacement player, and you'll quickly be reminded of how much smarter they are than you.
To them, there can be only one true winner and WAR makes the difference. So they tout Trout.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout, who leads in a significant number of SABR categories, has become the most rounded, intimidating player since Rickey Henderson. He flat-out terrorizes opponents: he’ll club you to death, run you to death, and leap a wall in a single bound, all in the confines of a 9 inning frame. Play that out 162 times a year and see where you wind up. And Trout is only 21.
Yet, if he wins, people are going to complain.
Writers will bemoan the mercurial WAR upon which many have based the Trout-for-MVP campaign. They’ll flack the old-timey stats like RBIs and Batting Average, praising their comprehensibility. They’ll criticize fielding statistics as woefully inept (which even many fans of sabermetrics concede). They’ll foresee—like end-time prophets—a day when games on the field cease and games on computers are aired on TV. The writers will hype this false dilemma and threaten that if you even so much as look at a hitter's BABIP, they'll break you in half, you pencil-neck geek.
To the writers, if Miggy pulls off something only the likes of which were achieved by guys like Joe Medwick, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams, then he's the only viable choice. They'll dismiss the defensive part of the equation, citing it has never really factored in before (which, just because it's accurate, doesn't mean it's right).
[Note: my BBWA stereotype is sadly outdated. I wish the baseball writers were still the robust giants of the 1930s press boxes. Today, there's no discerning the dweeby scribes from the geeky stat gurus. Note within a note: FWIW, not all BBWA suck. Ray Ratto, is decent, but he's moving to television. He also looks like a younger, fatter Wilford Brimley. If Peter Gammons can ever stop talking about the goddamn Red Sox for one goddamn second, he's tolerable. Bill James, on the other side, introduced a new approach to understanding an old game, which is commendable. However, he has shown himself to be an ignoramus. He is largely responsible for Dick Allen's clubhouse reputation—a reputation disputed by virtually every teammate Allen ever had. Digression over.]
What’s sad is that the argument over baseball-worldviews is going to drown out the acknowledgement that we just bore witness to two of the greatest performances in the history of the game.
We won. We, the fans, who are drawn to this game for its poetry as much as its bookkeeping, walk away winners.
As a White Sox fan, I wish like hell Miggy didn’t have the season he had. But as a baseball fan—first and foremost—I know what I saw was nothing short of historic.
As for watching Trout play, if you don’t get 6th-grade-boy-asking-a-crush-to-the-dance butterflies, then you’ve lost the boy inside that's necessary to appreciate the game of baseball. It has always been a kid’s game, after all, and I hope it continues to be.
I’ll always look with interest toward new metrics as they’re defined (and refined, and refined again [WAR undergoes revisions on a near-monthly basis]), but I’ll never trade the outcomes of equations for the spectacle itself.
Now if any writer with a vote has someone other than Trout or Cabrera in the top slots, I'll beat them like Max Baer did Ernie Schaaf (in Baer v. Schaaf II).
|Ring Magazine's #20 Heavyweight Champ of All Time|