MLB Network program Clubhouse Confidential is back. Host Brian Kenny does a great job. Suggestion: drop Harold Reynolds. Larry Bowa is OK as a traditionalist but Reynolds is pathetic.
In a recent program the main topic was the Most Valuable Player award in the American Conference (AC) of the Major Baseball League (MBL). Not directly addressed was the issue that tends to lower the quality of the discussion: the criteria. In my view the MVP is the every day player who was the best during the regular season. No, not a pitcher like Justin Verlander who won in 2011 despite playing in only 34 of his team's 162 games. It's the Most Valuable PLAYER award. Pitchers just don't play enough.
More to the point MVP is the best player, not someone who fits into some sloppy sliding scale:
- player is good
- team does well
- teammates are not too good.
Just give it to the best player. Now, how to judge? The current central committee (yes, a reference to communism) view is to simply use Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is a total, not an average. Generally there are competing arguments for total v. average but that will not be addressed here. I'm not nuts about WAR, mainly because of the fielding component. I have written about that previously.
In the Clubhouse Confidential program the subject was framed as a classic conflict between traditional v. new thinking with archetypal players: Miguel Cabrera v. Mike Trout. Cabrera is a classic great hitter who does not contribute in any other significant way. Trout is a rookie whom I've compared to Mickey Mantle.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Mike Trout: Mickey Mantle 1952?
Cabrera entered the 2011 season with a career triple crown having led the AC: home runs (HR) 2008, RBI 2010, batting average (BA) 2011. In 2012 Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to lead in all three in the same season, the traditional triple crown. I slipped into traditional mode and considered Cabrera my MVP, which I stuck to as recently as Sunday when I discussed it with two friends who were split: one very traditional, the other a very central committee WAR advocate.
Yesterday the Clubhouse Confidential program pretty much convinced me of the error of my thinking but it didn't really need to. While watching a recording of the program I stopped it a couple of times to look up stuff. For some reason Brian Kenny only showed their numbers in BA, on base percentage (OBP) and slugging (SLG). He didn't even show OBP + SLG (OPS). He should have shown in addition to those: OPS+ (OPS adjusted to park and season, which in this case is irrelevant).
See baseball-reference.com 2012 American League Batting Leaders
Without all the fancy and interesting stuff discussed Trout beat Cabrera at his own game, leading the AC in OPS+ with 171. Cabrera was second with 165 and his Tiger teammate and protection in the Detroit lineup, Prince Fielder, was third with 152. The main problem for Trout in looking at this average, which is what OPS+ is: Trout played only 139 games with 639 plate appearances (PA). Cabrera played 161 games with 697 PA.
NOTE: WAR, advocates: which player contributes more? Player A: 160 games, WAR 10. Player B: 120 games, WAR 9.
Trout didn't play his first game until April 28 by which time his Angels were 7-14. Since the Angels won 89 games, one more than Detroit, it looks like Trout had a positive impact, especially since he led the AC in runs scored with 129. Cabrera was second with 109. Maybe that's why Angel teammate Torri Hunter had 93 RBI.
But here's the point that none of us has considered: money. How much money did their respective teams allocate to each of these individuals and what players could have been on the Tiger and Angel rosters because of that difference in money spent to pay Cabrera and Trout.
baseball-reference.com does not show how much Trout was paid in 2012 but let's assume half a million. It does show that Cabrera was paid $21,000,000. Let's say that the difference is about $20 million. We know that for the 2012 season the Angels added former Texas pitcher C.J. Wilson to its starting rotation; Wilson was paid $10 million in 2012, about half the difference of the money paid to Cabrera and Trout. So let's guess that a team could add at least two pretty good starting pitchers for that $20 million difference. Or Albert Pujols: $12 million, WAR 4.6.
And even though I do not embrace WAR let's try it for this purpose: determining a dollar value for wins. Let's use WAR as calculated by baseball-reference.com. What, you thought there was one intergalactically accepted WAR? And since Cabrera is ranked third because his fielding is considered below average, let's throw in the number two player, Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano who was paid $14 million.
salary / WAR = $$$ per WAR:
Trout $500,000 / 10.7 = $46,729
Cano $14,000,000 / 8.2 = $1,707,317
Cabrera $21,000,000 / 6.9 = $3,043,478
Well, that puts MVP into an entirely different perspective.