Tagged: Awards

The *Historical* Case Against Miguel Cabrera For MVP

The World Series wrapped up last night, which leaves baseball fans with one thing to look forward to in November- awards. The  National League MVP Award has all but been handed over to Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, but there is still much debate around who deserves to win in the American League: Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout.

There are cases to be made for both Cabrera and Trout. The most glaringly obvious case for Cabrera is his Triple Crown (the first since 1967). For Trout, it is his WAR (Wins Above Replacement). As evidenced by Felix Hernandez’ 2010 Cy Young Award (a season in which he “only” won 13 games), the voters are making a decided move away from counting stats (such as wins) and towards more advanced metrics.

Over the past month, talking heads and fans alike have seemingly submitted to the “Cabrera won the triple crown, therefore he will win the MVP” argument. This argument, however, is historically inaccurate.

The Batting Triple Crown has been won 17 times in Major League Baseball history. Since 1931, the year the MVP award as it is known today (ie voted on by the Writer’s Association) came about, the Triple Crown has been won ten times.

Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein both brought home Triple Crowns in their respective leagues in 1933. While both men were MVPs in 1932, only Foxx repeated in 1933. Klein lost the award to Carl Hubbell who posted an impressive 23 wins. While WAR as we know it wasn’t a calculated statistic in 1933, it is interesting to note that Hubbell did have a higher WAR than Klein, and in fact, had the highest WAR of any of the 1933 National League MVP vote getters. While Foxx won the MVP award, he also had an impressive WAR of 9 that season.

Lou Gehrig earned the Triple Crown in 1934. Despite this, and an impressive WAR of 10.1 (the highest of any vote getters), he did not go on to win the MVP. In fact, he only came in fifth place in voting that season. The Triple Crown was won again shortly thereafter, by Joe Medwick in 1937. Medwick also boasted a vote receiver’s best 8.1 WAR, and went on to win the MVP Award.

The next two Triple Crowns were won by Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947. Ted Williams was a two time MVP. However, neither of Williams’ MVP seasons were in years he won the Triple Crown. Instead, in ’42 and ’47 Williams finished second in MVP voting. The 1942 award went to Joe Gordon, and the 1947 award went to DiMaggio, despite Williams besting them both in WAR.

In 1956 switch hitter Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown, posted an impressive 11 WAR, and was voted MVP of the American League. Similarly, in 1966 Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown, had a 7.3 WAR (the best of all NL vote recipients that year), and won the National League MVP award.

Prior to this season, Carl Yastrzemski’s 1967 performance was the most recent. And Yastrzemski did go on to win the MVP award that year (along with a Gold Glove). Yastrzemski,much like Mantle and Robinson before him boasted a 12 WAR that season, 5.6 games higher than any other American League vote recipient that year.

In the nine times prior to 2012 that the Triple Crown was won since 1931, only five players have gone on to win the MVP award. Perhaps more importantly for this argument, all five of those players also posted the highest WAR of the vote getters in their league. Although winning the Triple Crown and besting your competition in WAR does not guarantee one an MVP award as evidenced by Williams’ campaigns. As mentioned previously, WAR is a new stat, however, there may be more to winning the MVP in a Triple Crown year than meets the eye- especially in an era where the voters are acutely aware of this statistic.

While Cabrera’s season was impressive, it does not make him a sure fire MVP. Especially because his 6.9 WAR is pale in comparison to Trout’s 10.7.

Of the 9 previous Triple Crown winners being examined, only Mantle and Yaz’ teams went on to the postseason (although, it must be noted that Cabrera is the first Triple Crown winner since the introduction of the Championship Series, Division Series, or Wild Card). While Cabrera’s team did go to the playoffs, and made it to the World Series, his story is not analogous to Mantle’s or Yaz’ as he didn’t beat his competition’s WAR.

Cabrera is a fine MVP candidate, however is significantly lower WAR will likely hurt him when it comes to the Writers’ votes. At the end of the day, winning the Triple Crown, however novel an accomplishment it may be, does not guarantee an MVP award. And there is historical precedent to prove it.

All statistics can be found at baseball-reference, as of October 29, 2012.

The Hall and Major League baseball in WW2 books

So I have been giving this whole Hall of Fame debate a lot of thought. It has made me realize that there are really 3 different types of Hall of Fame caliber players. Firstly there are the type of players, as I explained before that truly change the face of the game, more or less have an impact on the nation (your Cobbs, your Ruths, your DiMaggios, your Williams, your Aarons, even to an extent you’re A-Rods), the guys that make baseball popular throughout. Then you have your solid career guys (your Yaztremskis, your Fisks, your Mays). And lastly you have the guys who fall into either one of those categories, sometimes both, but were banned from the game (your Roses, your Jacksons, and possibly even your Weavers).

To cement my point about the first and second type of player you need only to look at Mantle vs. Maris. Mantle falls into the first category, he was a poster boy. He took over the Yanks when DiMaggio left. He was the kind of player that made baseball popular. He hit homeruns, he hit RBIs, he had Speed, he was the kind of player that could sell out a ballpark on his own, the guy was a triple crown winner. Not to mention he had power from both sides of the plate, and transformed what it really meant to be a switch hitter. Then you have Maris, also a good player, not quite the producer that Mantle was. Obviously Maris wins out in the 1961 quest for Ruth’s record (although he played in… 12 more games than Mantle), and I’ll concede to the fact that he was also the MVP in 1960. But despite all of those accomplishments, even being part of the M&M boys, Maris has not had the impact on American culture, or American baseball that Mantle has. In fact ALMOST all of Mantle’s stats for the 1961 season were better than Maris’ with the exception of homeruns (and strikeouts). But all and all Maris had an above average career.

And to be perfectly honest I believe that Rose and Jackson should be in the Hall. Yes, they put a blemish on the game of baseball, but we have recovered. Hey, Shoeless Joe’s BA was higher during the series than it was during the regulars season. And you will probably point out that the list of players in this category is relatively short. HOWEVER in today’s era there is bound to be more. This would be the category you put your McGwires, your Bonds, your Sosas, and your Palmeros. All of these guys have had a great careers, but put a blemish on the game. Yet people aren’t willing to write them off and discard them as Hall of Fame players.

Now I realize that this is completely unreasonable. To suggest that there are three different kind of Hall of Fame players. How would one vote on that? I suppose in theory you would have your initial vote to say who gets in, and then your vote to see where the player goes after he gets in. Obviously this isn’t a functional option, but if you look at how I’ve divided the players apart there is no denying the fundamental truths behind it,

ADDITIONALLY…

I am currently enrolled in an archaeology/social history of World War Two in San Diego. I thought this course would be interesting considering Ted Williams was born and raised in San Diego, and was a prominent Major League Baseball player in the war. We have to read an “outside” reading book for this course, and I have decided to persuade my teacher to allow me to read a book on baseball in World War Two. The fact is it is a social history class, and what could be more social than baseball? Also if you will recall the ever important letter from FDR to Kenesaw Moutain Landis that encouraged Major League Baseball to continue during the war years.

The point is I think I have made a decision as to which book I would like to read. I’m thinking Bullocks They Played for Their Nation, however I am not certain. Does anyone have a better suggestion as to which book I should read? I’d like to focus on all of the Major Leagues, not one team I particularly.

Lastly I don’t know why everyone loves the Babe so much. He didn’t even post his best numbers at “The House that Ruth Built,” he posted his best figures at the Polo Grounds.

Predictable

Wow, I really didn’t see this one coming. Honestly. Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn being elected and countless others being left behind?!?! Shocking. I know. That wasn’t predictable at all.

I bet you couldn’t sense the sarcasm there. Why do we get so excited for Hall of Fame day? Its always predictable. You know before the ballot is even announced who is going to be on it. And then once it is announced you can easily guess who the BBWA will elect. So why get so excited for something you already know the outcome of.

Yes we could have hoped that Jim Rice would be elected. Or Goose Gossage. Or Lee Smith. But that would have been in vain. Yet another predictable Hall of Fame year.

When I do baseball research I see men who didn’t get voted in back in the 50’s and ask how such outstanding players could have been stood up. And now I get to see it happen in my era. Men who were clearly at the top of the game not being voted in.

I’m not suggesting that the Hall become a free for all. There are many players who should never be considered for the Hall, and never will be. But at the same time there is a large number of players who should be in the Hall and, most likely, will never make it.

MVP Voting

I wrote this about a week ago, but thought it was good enough to post on my new blog. So I apologize for any information which may seem old.

The voters got the NL MVP vote right. Ryan Howard was by far the best player in the National League. He almost lead his AWFUL team to the playoffs, even after Bobby Abreu was traded away to the Yankees. Not to mention that Howard lead the league in Home Runs, while only in his sophomore season. But Pujols was a close second. Pujols team was far superior to the Phillies, and still almost missed the playoffs (I’ll concede that the Cards won the Series, but they almost missed the playoffs as a whole to the Astros). Now it is not that Pujols is not a great player, and its true that he was injured for about three weeks this season, but he was not the best player in the league, thankfully the BBWA realized that.

Even as an American League style baseball fan, I am glad that a National League team won the Series. At the All-Star break I’m sure many of you remember my excitement when Rivera pitched that final out to win it for the American League, but that was when the season was only ha lf way over, and there was still a glimmer of a hope that the AL had a chance to turn things around. However that was not the case. The American League was awful this year. Usually I can justify a low winning percentage posted by the Angels by stating that the Angels face the AL West teams frequently they also lose frequently, but this year I couldn’t even sell that to myself. The American League West was possibly the worst division in baseball. Had the Angels not had the always over hyped Jeff Weaver in the rotation, and just given his position in the rotation to his younger brother from the beginning, very well could have won the division. I went to an A’s game this season, in Oakland, and it was pathetic. Huston Street was not as great as he had been in his rookie season, a sophomore slump perhaps. Frank Thomas was the most revered player on the team. That is really saying something. The fans in Oakland don’t even cheer for who should be considered their best position player, Chavez. Ok but enough about the two AL West CA teams. Texas was so bad that they fired their manager, and it looks like Blalock is on the chopping block, they never should have let Delluci go. And the Mariners don’t even count. Then the AL East, every year this promises to be exciting, right? Nope, well at least not in 2006. The Blue Jays always threaten to be a force in the ALE, but they also always disappoint, even with Glaus and Molina. And then the Red Sox, oh the Red Sox, how I wish they would have done something. After a disappointing 2005 postseason, they had an even worse 2006 regular season. With Varitek out the team faltered, only to see Papelbon be put on the disabled list (he’s going to start next season so that is rather exciting). You would think that with Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez you would see some great productivity, but no. And then Manny was, yet again, Manny. And I don’t even want to talk about the AL Central. Many would argue that this was the most exciting AL division, but I would say they are wrong.

So in an underwhelming American League who really stood out? To be perfectly honest no one. There is no one that really deserved to be deemed "most valuable," no one in the American League did what Ryan Howard did for the Phillies. But since we need an MVP Derek Jeter was the best amongst the mediocore class of 2006 American League nominees. Jeter batted over .300, had 14 home runs, 97 RBI and 34 Stolen Bases. Now these numbers are not wonderful. They don’t look anything like the numbers most MVPs post. In fact Jeter struck out 102 times in 623 AB’s, I’ll give you that. But Jeter is a leader. Jeter lead his team to ALCS. Jeter made up for all of AROD’s errors. Jeter kept his team together with talk of Torre being fired. Jeter is the glue that kept the 2006 Yankees together. And that is why he deserves the MVP. He was the most valuable Yankee. In his 11 year career he has never been named MVP, and this was perhaps (in those great 11 years) his best. Not because he put up great numbers, but because he showed his leadership skills, took his team to the playoffs, and still posted numbers that are above decent. Justin Morneau did not deserve to be this years MVP. Yes he lead his team to the playoffs. But look at his starting pitchers. Santana. Liriano. Imagine if Jeter had that kind of starting pitching. Morneau also plays first, a position much easier to field than short. And he has Tori Hunter, one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all time, playing behind him. And his batting statistics are not that much more impressive than Jeter’s. He batted over 20 points lower than Jeter, and yes he had 20 more home runs than Jeter, but I’ll take getting on base (as a number two hitter) over those homers. Home runs are exciting, but I’d rather win than see a bunch of homers.

Now its not like I’m a Yankee fan. Quite the contrary. I loathe the Yankees (classic Yankees are the exception). And its not that I’m rooting for my favorite players. Jeter isn’t even in my top 20 players. I just spent hundereds of words telling you about how awful my favorite divisions were. I’m just a fan that was disappointed by the regular season, and then let down again by the BBWA. Those guys should really get their stats straight.