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All Hail Miguel Cabrera -- Triple Crown Winner
October 4, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Miguel Cabrera has won the Triple Crown. The list of Triple Crown winners is quite short (considering that Major League Baseball is 136 years old).

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in.

He is the first Latin American (and American immigrant) player to win the Triple Crown.

He is the first Triple Crown winner since the pitcher's mound was lowered in 1969.
posted by Groundhog Week (273 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a Pirates fan who was hoping Andrew McCutchen had a shot at this (which looked possible mid-season) - good job
posted by kgasmart at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


But he's only 7th in doubles. Gotta step your game up, son.
posted by delfin at 8:53 AM on October 4, 2012


I'm very glad I clicked the link and disambiguated for myself, because I couldn't stop wondering how he beat all those horses.
posted by ilana at 8:54 AM on October 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wow, those pitcher's mound articles are truly fascinating. Who knew five inches could make such a difference?
posted by troika at 8:54 AM on October 4, 2012


This is a very exciting day for Cabrera. Lots of athletes get their own candy bar or whatever, but the last time someone won the Triple Crown, they named a birth control pill after him!
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oddly enough, there is a pretty strong debate as to whether he was the AL MVP, as rookie Mike Trout by most advanced metrics had a better season.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:02 AM on October 4, 2012


Awesome!
posted by Thorzdad at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2012


Very nice! Cabrera has been a great player ever since he got called up to the big leagues. I still remember the 2003 World Series when this baby faced kid just rips a home run against Roger Clemens and the Big Bad Yankee Empire like it ain't no thing. That whole postseason run for the Marlins was just incredible.
posted by kmz at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2012


It's a great achievement, but I am sort of astonished at the batting average and home runs for the American League. Batting average-wise, it's rather low over the last few decades (on average), and the home runs count is low enough that you have to go back to the 1980s to find a span of years where its on average in the ranks of the highest. All in all, I suppose it shows how dominant pitchers have been this year.

For comparison, here's a list of a good chunk of the former Triple Crown Winners, which actually puts him about the same standing as many of them:


2012 AL Miguel Cabrera DET .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI
1967 AL Carl Yastrzemski BOS .326, 44 HR, 121 RBI
1966 AL Frank Robinson BAL .316, 49 HR, 122 RBI
1956 AL Mickey Mantle NYY .353, 52 HR, 130 RBI
1947 AL Ted Williams BOS .343, 32 HR, 114 RBI
1942 AL Ted Williams BOS .356, 36 HR, 137 RBI
1937 NL Joe Medwick STL .374, 31 HR, 154 RBI
1934 AL Lou Gehrig NYY .363, 49 HR, 165 RBI
1933 AL Jimmie Foxx PHA .356, 48 HR, 163 RBI
1933 NL Chuck Klein PHI .368, 28 HR, 120 RBI
1925 NL Rogers Hornsby STL .403, 39 HR, 143 RBI
1922 NL Rogers Hornsby STL .401, 42 HR, 152 RBI
posted by Atreides at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2012


Er, that Yahoo article telling me that RBI totals tell next to nothing about a player's worth? Beg to differ.

Hate sabremetrics with a passion
posted by kgasmart at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, there is a pretty strong debate as to whether he was the AL MVP

There's nothing so odd about it. The Triple Crown stats are, if not the absolute worst way you could pick which MVP candidate to choose, certainly among the worst. RBI is a team stat, not an individual achievement at all; by choosing AVG and HR you're basically proclaiming a total disinterest in doubles and triples and walks; and this is to say nothing of defense and positional adjustment and park adjustment, all of which matter a lot, presuming that the Value that this person is supposed to have the Most of equates to "how much he helps his team win games." Not that this isn't a neat accomplishment by Cabrera, and he certainly had a great season — but it's absurd that in 2012 anyone is still acting like these numbers are the best measure of a ballplayer's value rather than a nifty but not super-meaningful numerological coincidence. Cabrera is a great hitter, maybe the best pure hitter in the game right now; but Trout is the MVP.
posted by RogerB at 9:09 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oddly enough, there is a pretty strong debate as to whether he was the AL MVP, as rookie Mike Trout by most advanced metrics had a better season.

The funniest thing about that debate is how the positions have changed over the last few years. It's not that long ago that the sabermetrics people were all about fat guys who hit home runs and the traditionalists were all about fast guys who stole bases. Now it's the exact opposite. There's a longer trend where the traditionalists have tended to overlook leadoff men and guys who score runs (see: Tim Raines) in favor of sluggers who drive them in (see: Jim Rice), too, so maybe the late 90s was the anomaly.
posted by Copronymus at 9:19 AM on October 4, 2012


I'll also say that given two guys with very similar batting lines, I'll take the one who plays centerfield really well and steals nearly 50 bases over the one who is maybe OK at 3rd and led the league in grounding into double plays.
posted by Copronymus at 9:23 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not that long ago that the sabermetrics people were all about fat guys who hit home runs and the traditionalists were all about fast guys who stole bases.

This has never been true. To the smallish extent that these are even meaningfully different camps and not pure caricatures, the difference that they're "about" is not a single type of player but whether we should look for new numbers and seek to better measure players' value, or use a combination of observation, gut instinct, stereotype, word-of-mouth, and the old baseball-card numbers to discuss it.
posted by RogerB at 9:27 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mike Trout by most advanced metrics had a better season.

Absolutely, as did Ryan Braun. If you include non-offensive value contributed, the list expands to include Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, David Wright, Chase Headley, and Robinson Cano.

Hate sabremetrics with a passion

RBIs, to a high degree are directly related to the performance of the batters ahead of a player in a lineup. This isn't debatable.
posted by clearly at 9:30 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I confess my ignorance. Obviously "triple crown" doesn't mean the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. So what does it mean in this context?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2012


How come no one steals 100 bases anymore like Rickey or Vince Coleman? What gives?
posted by Mister_A at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2012


Hate sabremetrics with a passion

I especially hate the metric that all the "experts" are using to evaluate Trout - WAR (Wins Above Replacement). A fan, in the stands, watching Cabrera can appreciate his home runs, his hits, his RBI, runs, etc. They are observable & known instantly. But NO ONE is going to say "Wow, that was a hell of a win above a similar replacement-level player today!" It something only calculated after the fact, against an relatively unknown data sample.

I don't see how you have a guy win the triple crown but vote for another guy as MVP (unless Zombie DiMaggio is playing).
posted by mattbucher at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hate sabremetrics with a passion

Yeah, trying to determine quality of performance more accurately, BLEAH.
posted by grubi at 9:34 AM on October 4, 2012


Er, that Yahoo article telling me that RBI totals tell next to nothing about a player's worth? Beg to differ.

Hate sabremetrics with a passion


How in the holy hell can you hate numbers and be a baseball fan?
posted by srboisvert at 9:36 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, if you lead the league in all 3 categories you are a bad-ass hitter (and sure you have to have guys on base to drive in 140 runs but you also have to smack the shit out of the ball). I'm amazed that anyone ever throws a guy like Cabrera a hittable pitch.
posted by Mister_A at 9:38 AM on October 4, 2012


Certainly a massive accomplishment. The fact that nobody has done it since Yaz despite a huge amount of talented players during that massive time period definitely indicates that it's still an important achievement.

Yes RBIs is a dubious stat but people love HRs and batting average while inferior to OBP as a stat is still relevant.

Sabremetrics is valuable but a lot less tangible to the average fan. Stuff like BA, HR, and RBIs are easy to see and follow and I don't mind accolades still being attached to them.
posted by vuron at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2012


My prefernce for sabremetrics notwithstanding, yeah, Cabrera had a great year.
posted by grubi at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2012


How in the holy hell can you hate numbers and be a baseball fan?

Because baseball seems to be continually inventing new "metrics" to measure a player's value, and I'm dubious whether they actually tell the informed observer anything he/she doesn't already know.

Football doesn't do that. What new metrics has the NFL developed over the course of the past 20/30 years on par with WAR?

And as to the idea that the guys who get on base are way more valuable than the guys who knock 'em in - I call bs. As a long-time little league coach who has seen way too many batters stranded, let me tell you that you can have all the baserunners in the world, and it doesn't matter a hill of WAR if they don't cross the plate
posted by kgasmart at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2012


What new metrics has the NFL developed over the course of the past 20/30 years on par with WAR?

Not the NFL, but ESPN came up with QBR and introduced it last year.
posted by grubi at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2012


FYI, for people who don't follow baseball:

"In Major League Baseball, a player earns the Triple Crown when he leads a league in three specific statistical categories.

When used without a modifier, the "Triple Crown" generally refers to a batter who has led either the National or American leagues in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI).[1] The Triple Crown epitomizes three separate attributes of a good hitter: hitting for average, hitting for power, and producing runs. It has been accomplished 16 times, with Miguel Cabrera accomplishing the feat in 2012, the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967."
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:46 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because baseball seems to be continually inventing new "metrics" to measure a player's value, and I'm dubious

This has more to do with your personal tastes than anything else, then?
posted by grubi at 9:48 AM on October 4, 2012


kgasmart: "Er, that Yahoo article telling me that RBI totals tell next to nothing about a player's worth? Beg to differ."

Well, that's a bit of a straw man. Of course RBIs tell you something. But an RBI is dependent on two things-the batter getting a hit, and someone already being on base. Two players could perform exactly the same at the plate, and the one playing for the 1927 Yankees will have far more RBIs than the one playing for the 2012 Houston Astros. It's not the guy's fault he plays for the Astros, but his RBI stat looks worse.

This is why it makes more sense to look at a stat that is more purely affected by the batter, such as on-base percentage or slugging percentage.

Same story, largely, for pitcher wins-it's too dependent on what the rest of the team has done (i.e., run support).
posted by Chrysostom at 9:48 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will say this. Cabrera has always seemed to get that hit the Tigers needed all year. His late and close numbers this year are much better than Trout's. (late and close is defined as plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.)

Cabrera's close and late numbers: 102 plate appearances, Batting average .337 OBP .422 Slugging .618 Ops: 1.040 with 21 RBI

Trout: 74 plate appearances BA .277 OBP .338 Slugging .446 Ops .784 with 11 RBI.

With the game on the line I'll take Cabrera everyday.
posted by zzazazz at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


This has never been true. To the smallish extent that these are even meaningfully different camps and not pure caricatures, the difference that they're "about" is not a single type of player but whether we should look for new numbers and seek to better measure players' value, or use a combination of observation, gut instinct, stereotype, word-of-mouth, and the old baseball-card numbers to discuss it.

I'll admit that I was oversimplifying, but there's been a very real re-evaluation of the value of defense in the sabermetric community. The Moneyball-Era A's got a bunch of slow guys who couldn't field in part because they were going to deliver more bang for their buck, but also partly because they believed that defense was a small enough component of a player's contributions that it could safely be overlooked. Now, of course, the valuations have changed and many of the progressive teams have switched over to a pitching-and-defense-heavy model and would never run out a Ben Grieve-Terrence Long-Matt Stairs outfield.

The other factor is that evaluating defense is still really hard and was even harder ten years ago, so there was a very strong inclination to just ignore that stuff and focus on offensive evaluation which could be done with much more confidence.
posted by Copronymus at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2012


They are observable & known instantly. But NO ONE is going to say "Wow, that was a hell of a win above a similar replacement-level player today!" It something only calculated after the fact

This really is total bullshit. When you're sitting in the stands, you notice a lot of things that aren't AVG, HR, and RBI. You say things like "Man, Trout made an extraordinary catch to save a run there" or "The way Trout went first-to-third on that Trumbo single really helped his team scratch out an extra run against a tough pitcher." Then you have two choices: you either combine these observations into an ad-hoc gut feeling about how much they helped the team win, or you try to come up with an empirically justifiable way to express it quantitatively.
posted by RogerB at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This has more to do with your personal tastes than anything else, then?

No, it's that the NFL hasn't come up with anything "new and improved" in terms of measuring statistical performance since the quarterback rating, and scouts and management are still somehow able to determine players' value and worth.

WAR tells me nothing as a baseball fan that I don't already know.
posted by kgasmart at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2012


kgasmart, you're ignoring the new statistic QBR I mentioned. it's not the same rating we've become familiar with for the last 25 years, it's brand-new.
posted by grubi at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2012


I think that there is a fundamental disconnect here. The disconnect seems to be between using sabermetrics to sus out the relative value of different players, and what fans enjoy most watching baseball.

RBIs are very important to the fan for several reasons. One, they can pretty fucking exciting. When David Freese hit that triple in game 6 of the World Series last year, I lost my shit I was so excited. Two, if my team has more RBIs than your team, my team wins. Getting hits with runners in scoring position is fun to watch. When you are watching the game as it unfolds, RBIs are important. This is an individual, subjective experience.

After the game, or after the end of the season, if we are having a discussion about the most valuable player we have to turn towards more objective measures. These discussions can also be fun, but it is ultimately disconnected from the best part of baseball: watching the game.
posted by Groundhog Week at 9:56 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kgasmart, stop being so hard on everyone. Sabremetrics is a great way for people with absolutely no baseball instincts to appear to be knowledgeable about the game.
posted by any major dude at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are RBIs Valuable? Because without them you can't win.
posted by jmd82 at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a very exciting day for Cabrera. Lots of athletes get their own candy bar or whatever, but the last time someone won the Triple Crown, they named a birth control pill after him!

I've got it - Miguel Cabrera's "F you, Do you know who I am" Scotch Whiskey.
posted by incandissonance at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2012


With the game on the line I'll take Cabrera everyday.

You know there is more to the game than batting, yes?
posted by empath at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2012


Wow: Ty Cobb did it in 1909 with just 9 homers. The game sure has changed.
posted by jetsetsc at 10:00 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kgasmart, stop being so hard on everyone. Sabremetrics is a great way for people with absolutely no baseball instincts to appear to be knowledgeable about the game.

Because "grit" is a way to determine an MVP? Jesus fucking christ.
posted by grubi at 10:01 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Football doesn't do that. What new metrics has the NFL developed over the course of the past 20/30 years on par with WAR?

THe NFL hasn't come up with anything because the analysis is too hard. It wishes it could be parsed the way baseball can.

Why are RBIs Valuable? Because without them you can't win.

No you can't win without runs, you can't get runs without base runners. RBI is essentially a function of the OBP of the players ahead of the batter in the order and the batters own OBP and Slugging %, so therefore to compare players across teams, RBI is meaningless.
posted by JPD at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


grubi: "Because "grit" is a way to determine an MVP? Jesus fucking christ."

Don't forget "heart" and "effort." Bonus for old announcers/writers: moxie.

Where have you gone, David Eckstein, our nation turns it lonely eyes to you.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:05 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sabremetrics is a great way for people with absolutely no baseball instincts to appear to be knowledgeable about the game.

Yeah man totally....

(Nate Silver's new book has a nice chapter about the intersection of traditional scouting and sabremetrics, and when one is superior to the other. Both have their moments in the sun.)
posted by JPD at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2012


No, it's that the NFL hasn't come up with anything "new and improved" in terms of measuring statistical performance since the quarterback rating, and scouts and management are still somehow able to determine players' value and worth.

This is a weird analogy because baseball scouts and management absolutely use advanced metrics.
posted by nave at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


To clarify what JPD said, you can basically derive your RBI statistic through a function that combines the OBP of OTHER players, and your own slugging percentage. If you remove the part of the RBI statistic that has nothing to do with you, you're left with slugging percentage, which is an individual statistic that actually matters.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2012


you're ignoring the new statistic QBR I mentioned. it's not the same rating we've become familiar with for the last 25 years, it's brand-new.

And maybe in 20 years time we'll be talking about it, but that's one measurement compared to the many, many sabremetric measurements
posted by kgasmart at 10:07 AM on October 4, 2012


Congrats to Cabrera. After watching Pujols miss getting one with the Cards for several years, I seriously began to suspect this wouldn't happen again in my lifetime.

Now the list of Baseball feats I'll never see met is just DiMaggio's hitting streak and a 30 win season.
posted by DigDoug at 10:09 AM on October 4, 2012


And maybe in 20 years time we'll be talking about it, but that's one measurement compared to the many, many sabremetric measurements

Dude, you said there hasn't been one new stat in the NFL ("What new metrics"). I pointed out there has.

Way to move the goalposts.
posted by grubi at 10:09 AM on October 4, 2012


Heh... the only way we'll see 30 wins again is if a closer blows 30 saves in the top of the ninth, only to have the team win in the bottom of the ninth.
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:11 AM on October 4, 2012


Er, that Yahoo article telling me that RBI totals tell next to nothing about a player's worth? Beg to differ.

If you're going to pick a hill to die on, please don't make it the absolute stupidest measure of a hitters' worth.

No, it's that the NFL hasn't come up with anything "new and improved" in terms of measuring statistical performance since the quarterback rating, and scouts and management are still somehow able to determine players' value and worth.

There's ton of work on advanced statistics for football. Check out Football Outsiders. It's harder to do, but people try, and general managers look at them. The fact that you don't know about them doesn't mean they don't exist.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:12 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


getting guys on base without driving them in is pretty much the same as not getting anyone on base. OB% and RBI are the two most important stats in baseball. Neither is superior to the other.
posted by any major dude at 10:12 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Groundhog Week: "Two, if my team has more RBIs than your team, my team wins. "

Okay, this is a completely pedantic point, but this is not necessarily true. Runs ≠ RBIs in official baseball scoring. 2012 Official MLB rules, section 10.04:
(b) The official scorer shall not credit a run batted in
(1) when the batter grounds into a force double play or a reverse-force double
play; or
(2) when a fielder is charged with an error because the fielder muffs a throw at
first base that would have completed a force double play.

(c) The official scorer’s judgment must determine whether a run batted in shall be
credited for a run that scores when a fielder holds the ball or throws to a wrong
base. Ordinarily, if the runner keeps going, the official scorer should credit a run
batted in; if the runner stops and takes off again when the runner notices the
misplay, the official scorer should credit the run as scored on a fielder’s choice.
So, while MOST runs are from an RBI, they don't have to be. You could lose a game, and yet have tallied more RBIs than the other team.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because "grit" is a way to determine an MVP?

Pete Rose runs over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, and I want to know where that shows up in sabremetrics. I want to know where a desire to win is statistically measured. Kirk Gibson hits that home run in the '88 series, and sabremetrics will give me the cold statistical analysis of what it meant - and that will miss the entire fucking story.

All statistics, but particularly sabremetrics, are an antiseptic means of measuring value. And in terms of Trout vs. Cabrera, I'll question whether the Tigers could have won that weak division without Cabrera's bat - and the Angels didn't even MAKE the playoffs!
posted by kgasmart at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2012


Also walking in a run ≠ RBI IIRC.
posted by Mister_A at 10:15 AM on October 4, 2012


So, because there are intangibles, the tangibles aren't good enough? The fuck?
posted by grubi at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2012


getting guys on base without driving them in is pretty much the same as not getting anyone on base. OB% and RBI are the two most important stats in baseball. Neither is superior to the other.

the empirical evidence disagrees with you.

Kirk Gibson hits that home run in the '88 series, and sabremetrics will give me the cold statistical analysis of what it meant - and that will miss the entire fucking story.

If Gibson hits that home run in the third and the Dodgers win was it less valuable?
posted by JPD at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, because there are intangibles, the tangibles aren't good enough?

No, it's the argument that newly measurable tangibles are better/more important/tell us more than intangibles, or values that have been measured for decades
posted by kgasmart at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2012


This RBI tangent is amazing to me. Who's a better hitter a guy who hits singles 30% but has a guy on second 50% of the time or the guy who hits doubles 35% of the time but only has a guy on base 25% of the time? Bearing in mind that a guy on second is considerably more valuable to the teams ability to score runs than a guy on first is.
posted by JPD at 10:19 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it's the argument that newly measurable tangibles are better/more important/tell us more than intangibles,

They actually do. They provide a more detailed picture of what happened than any previous statistics. and they get better all the time.

or values that have been measured for decades

Oh, Jesus. That's just a poor argument. "It's been around; how could it be wrong?"

You've got a personal preference and you're making it a religious issue.
posted by grubi at 10:19 AM on October 4, 2012


Chrysostom, I know. But the point I was trying to get across is that what makes watching baseball fun, and what makes discussing baseball fun, are two different things. Watching baseball is in the moment, discussing baseball is based on reflection after the fact. These are fundamentally different ways to enjoy baseball.
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:21 AM on October 4, 2012


values that have been measured for decades

You realize that outside of fielding statistics nearly all of the inputs are things that have been measured for decades right? That most of this stuff is just parsing the same data in a different way?

It isn't saying an RBI isn't valuable, its saying 100 RBI from a guy who batted 400 times with someone on base is less impressive than 90 RBI from a guy who batted 300 times with someone on base.
posted by JPD at 10:21 AM on October 4, 2012


JPD,

Have you ever pitched? Did you pitch the same to a hitter with no one on base as you did with 2nd and 3rd?

Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability? If the Yankees had listened to that "wisdom" Jeter would have led some other team to the best record in the AL this year right? Baseball players are not robots. They have good years, they have bad years, they have good months, they have bad months, they have good days they have bad days, they go on streaks. Only a living breathing human can tell the difference. The stats can tell a story, but will never tell the whole story.
posted by any major dude at 10:23 AM on October 4, 2012


Pete Rose runs over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, and I want to know where that shows up in sabremetrics

In a footnote about exhibition games? Kidding aside, it shows up as a run. If Pete Rose keeps doing that it keeps showing up as runs, and sabermetrics will tell you he's a better player. Whether it's because he has a "will to win" or not, sabermetrics will tell you that what players are better at (among other things) scoring runs. Once that information is captured, it doesn't really matter why they're better. If they're not (objectively, statistically) better, then their will to win doesn't matter, from the perspective of winning games.

Narratives are absolutely a legitimate way to appreciate baseball, not even the most stat obsessed fan would disagree. If you're looking to assess value, building teams, figure out who is better; you've got to have stats. If you're looking to sit and enjoy a game, focus on the narratives; they have different roles.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


How in the holy hell can you hate numbers and be a baseball fan?

Just keep your eye on the ball.
posted by chavenet at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2012


Watching baseball is in the moment, discussing baseball is based on reflection after the fact. These are fundamentally different ways to enjoy baseball.

And the day that someone, anyone in the entire world, uses this (perfectly reasonable on its face) argument as a reason for preferring WPA or WPA/LI over WAR, rather than coming to it after the fact as a convenient justification of their preexisting fondness for baseball-card stats, I'll take it seriously. It's certainly true that an RBI is a record of a potentially exciting thing that happened in a game, but there are better ways of numerically keeping track of that, too.
posted by RogerB at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2012


All statistics, but particularly sabremetrics, are an antiseptic means of measuring value. And in terms of Trout vs. Cabrera, I'll question whether the Tigers could have won that weak division without Cabrera's bat - and the Angels didn't even MAKE the playoffs!

Yeah, I mean, if Trout was so valuable the Angels would've finished with a better record than the Tigers, I'm sure. Oh wait.
posted by zempf at 10:27 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability?

Worst fielding SS, not worst SS.

Did you pitch the same to a hitter with no one on base as you did with 2nd and 3rd? Your ability to do that or not do that shows up in the data, as does your ability to keep people off the bases to begin with.
posted by JPD at 10:28 AM on October 4, 2012


Bulgaroktonos: "Narratives are absolutely a legitimate way to appreciate baseball, not even the most stat obsessed fan would disagree. If you're looking to assess value, building teams, figure out who is better; you've got to have stats. If you're looking to sit and enjoy a game, focus on the narratives; they have different roles."

This is EXACTLY it. There's how I enjoy watching the game ("Holy crap, did you see that hit?!?") and there's how I like to play manager/GM ("Why are they still playing Smith, he can't draw a walk to save his life.").
posted by Chrysostom at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean, if Trout was so valuable the Angels would've finished with a better record than the Tigers, I'm sure. Oh wait.

By one game, dude.

Cabrera had 63 more at-bats than Trout but kn ocked in 56 more runs, batted .330 to Trout's .326, had a slightly lower on-base percentage, had 40 points on Trout in terms of slugging percentage, and 30 points in terms of OPS - and Trout is the clear MVP candidate?
posted by kgasmart at 10:31 AM on October 4, 2012


Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability?

He was the worst defensive full-time SS in the game as measured by actual outs made (http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/fielding/_/position/ss/sort/rangeFactor/order/true).
posted by nave at 10:32 AM on October 4, 2012


Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability? If the Yankees had listened to that "wisdom" Jeter would have led some other team to the best record in the AL this year right? Baseball players are not robots. They have good years, they have bad years, they have good months, they have bad months, they have good days they have bad days, they go on streaks. Only a living breathing human can tell the difference.

Statistics can do two things, they can describe what happened, and they can help predict likely future outcomes. A couple years ago Jeter was a liability, at least defensively. That's a correct assessment (using statistics) to describe his ability that year. Based on that, you could infer that he was going to continue being a liability, but no one with a grasp of statistics would tell you it was a certainty. The "good months, bad months" thing is also a total red herring because it's not like non-statistics based analysis has a better grasp of outliers and regression to the mean than analysis based on statistics.

I'd also suggest that you're wrong about living breathing humans being able to tell the difference between players having bad streaks and player in decline. The Yankees didn't keep Jeter around because they looked at him and judged him to be about to rebound; they kept him around because they've paid him an assload of money, he's a cultural icon and team hero, and kicking him to the curb would have pissed off their fans. By the same token, for every Jeter, there are plenty of players who human analysis will ignore because their value is hard to see, but will get picked up by teams looking at statistics.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on October 4, 2012


Stop comparing your apples to my oranges! No, you stop comparing YOUR oranges to MY apples!

There's not a limited number of statistics we're allowed to care about. You may think the (traditional) Triple Crown is inferior to sabremetrics as a measure of a player's worth, but it has some weight due to history, and according to the ESPN poll I saw last night, 80% of the people polled thought Cabrera was the MVP over Trout. So, y'know, people care about it, even if there are probably better sabremetric measures of a player's individual performance. You can give Trout the Sabremetrics Triple Crown in WAR, SB, and OMGWTFBBQ.
posted by axiom at 10:33 AM on October 4, 2012


Oddly enough, there is a pretty strong debate as to whether he was the AL MVP, as rookie Mike Trout by most advanced metrics had a better season.

I find it pretty funny that Jeff Passan uses the descriptor "Gold Glove-caliber" unironically when touting Trout over Cabrera.

Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability?

Uh, it's still true. Jeter is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. I don't think there's much debate there.

The Yankees success is not directly proportional to the defensive abilities of its shortstop.

Worst fielding SS, not worst SS.

Exactly. Last I checked, dude still hits OK.

Trout is the clear MVP candidate?

The strongest argument (IMO) being that Trout plays a difficult and important defensive position very well. My vote still goes to Cabrera. It's stupid to make the MVP about the "best" player. It's symbolic. Win the Triple Crown, the MVP is a given. I'll stake dollars to donuts on it.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I miss arguments about the DH and wildcard teams.
posted by TedW at 10:37 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Statistics can do two things, they can describe what happened, and they can help predict likely future outcomes.

Yes, and the "traditional" stats purport to measure the first, newer measurements the second. But past performance is not always a guarantee of future results. This Pirates fan would refer you to Blass, Steve.
posted by kgasmart at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2012


Cabrera had 63 more at-bats than Trout but kn ocked in 56 more runs, batted .330 to Trout's .326, had a slightly lower on-base percentage, had 40 points on Trout in terms of slugging percentage, and 30 points in terms of OPS - and Trout is the clear MVP candidate?

Trout also stole 45 more bases & played a more demanding defensive position better than Cabrera played 3B. Look, I don't even hate the idea of Cabrera winning MVP, I just think citing a bunch of numbers to prove your point while similarly decrying "statheads" is somewhat hypocritical.
posted by zempf at 10:40 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a silly point though about Trout vs Cabrera. The model that says OPS (or whatever Sabremetric tool you are using) correlates to runs has an error term in it. Just because Trouts stats on advanced hitting metrics were slightly higher than Cabreras doesn't mean we can unequivocally say he had a bigger hand in his teams wins than the Cabrera did. If you want to make the argument that great season at the plate + playing Centerfield well makes you MVP, or winning the Triple Crown makes you the MVP - either are perfectly fine. Whomever wins will have deserved it.

Yes, and the "traditional" stats purport to measure the first, newer measurements the second no, they don't. I'm not sure what Steve Blass has to do with this either.
posted by JPD at 10:42 AM on October 4, 2012


the DH and wildcard teams.

I don't care for either.
posted by grubi at 10:43 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


RogerB, all I'm saying that when I'm am watching a game unfold, I don't really pay attention to stats. I pay attentions to the exciting events that happen (and I consider a RBI, as I am watching the game, to be very exciting, plus the potential of a play at the plate). But I know that if we are discussing the relative value of different players, some statistics do matter more than others.

Cabrera, with his 139 RBIs, provided over 100 exciting moments at the plate for Tigers' fans. That has value for the fans who witnessed them, but I also agree that the value of those moments don't matter as much when we compare different players in a more objective manner.

All I'm saying is that when someone devalues RBIs (legitmately according to sabermatricians, and I agree) for the purpose of comparing different players, we need to be clear about that context: that we are comparing different players. If one were to say that "RBIs are a junk stat" without indicating the context of comparison, you run the risk of offending someone who enjoys watching RBIs unfold during a game because they are being told that their expericence doesn't matter. Hence, my original comment about there being a fundamental disconnect in this discussion.
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2012


It's weird. Some folks turn their preference into hate for another preference.
posted by grubi at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2012


Weren't the Sabremetric statheads arguing a couple of years ago that Jeter was the worst SS in the game and that statistically he was an actual liability? If the Yankees had listened to that "wisdom" Jeter would have led some other team to the best record in the AL this year right?

Echoing megrim and Bulgaroktonos, they wouldn't have acted on that wisdom, but not because it's inaccurate. Jeter's offensive skills (with the solid defender he is when he gets to the ball - the chief criticism of his fielding being a lack of range) coupled with his tremendous drive and work ethic mean the Yankees (and this Yankee fan) are content to allow a few extra ground balls to slip "pastadivingjeter" (the statement Michael Kay has uttered so frequently it's become one word) in exchange for everything else he brings to the game -

Let stats enhance your view of the game, not dictate it, and you'll be less inclined to dismiss the science.
posted by jalexei at 10:46 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


If we're going to talk about the DH and wildcard teams, then can we also talk about the monstrosity that the one game play ins are? I mean, really, you play the whole fucking year, 162 games, and then you can get knocked out by one game? I don't like it, not one bit. I guess it makes it more important to win your division, but, come on. That's going to suck a lot for a couple of teams.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2012


Yes, and the "traditional" stats purport to measure the first, newer measurements the second. But past performance is not always a guarantee of future results. This Pirates fan would refer you to Blass, Steve.

If you find me a baseball statistician who tell you that past performance is a guarantee of future results, I will eat my hat. I will eat your hat. I will eat all the hats. NO ONE THINKS THIS. Some people think that using sufficiently detailed statistical information, you can make informed predictions that will be generally speaking close to accurate. That is all they think. No one thinks they make infallible predictions about the future based on statistics; that would be crazy. Outside of baseball this is barely even a controversy; no one is arguing that weather forecasts fail to account for the determination and grit of nature's fury.

I see the anti-sabermetrics people as a piece with the general backlash against and distrust of science in society. It's complete with appeals to traditional wisdom and authority, reliance on vague impressions in place of empirical data, and make fun of the types of people that use science (calling them eggheads) and the tools they use (acronyms and formulae.)

I'm not sure I see the significance of Steve Blass since being completely unable to hit the strike zone will show up in advanced statistics.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Let stats enhance your view of the game, not dictate it, and you'll be less inclined to dismiss the science.

This.
posted by grubi at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2012


When did third base become an easier position to play than center?
posted by hangingbyathread at 10:48 AM on October 4, 2012


I will eat my hat. I will eat your hat. I will eat all the hats.

Remind me not to let you near my hats.
posted by grubi at 10:48 AM on October 4, 2012


Who knew five inches could make such a difference?

Hiyoooo!
posted by kirkaracha at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2012


If one were to say that "RBIs are a junk stat" without indicating the context of comparison, you run the risk of offending someone who enjoys watching RBIs unfold during a game because they are being told that their expericence doesn't matter.

Hmm - as individual stats RBIs are junk stats. As Team stats RBIs / Runs are the essential stat.
posted by JPD at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2012


How come no one steals 100 bases anymore like Rickey or Vince Coleman?

Billy Hamilton stole 155 bases in 132 games in the minors for the Reds this year. When he makes it to the show, he is going to be a terror on the base paths.
posted by clearly at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


When did third base become an easier position to play than center?

Sabermetrics people will tell you between 1920 and 1945.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let stats enhance your view of the game, not dictate it, and you'll be less inclined to dismiss the science.

I think you just won the thread.

Some people think that using sufficiently detailed statistical information, you can make informed predictions that will be generally speaking close to accurate. That is all they think.


Uh, no. Some people may think that, but it's pretty clear that other people think that "sufficiently detailed statistical information" gives you a "better"/more legitimate assessment of a player, and older statistical measurements are now irrelevant (look upthread for those comments).
posted by kgasmart at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2012


Hmm - as individual stats RBIs are junk stats. As Team stats RBIs / Runs are the essential stat.

That's it dude. I'll tell my kids next spring, I don't care if any of you get any RBIs. But as a team - we need to score runs!
posted by kgasmart at 10:56 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


JPD, do you find RBIs to be exciting as you watch them happen? If so, then it has value. Where it doesn't have as much value is when we look at the broader picture of baseball.

In the game, as it is happening, an RBI is exciting, and therefore valuable.

I agree with you that RBIs are a junk stat, in the context of discussing which player is more valuable. But, in the game, as it is happening, RBIs are not a junk stat becasue they are fun to watch.
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:56 AM on October 4, 2012


It's pretty clear that other people think that "sufficiently detailed statistical information" gives you a "better"/more legitimate assessment of a player, and older statistical information is now irrelevant

Nobody said anything about these stats being used to accurately predict. They are making it easier to get a more accurate picture of what is going on, partially because they more clearly use the available information AND use new information that wasn't quantified until recently.
posted by grubi at 10:57 AM on October 4, 2012


Hmm - as individual stats RBIs are junk stats.

In what way? Batting in runs is kind of the whole point of the game.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:00 AM on October 4, 2012


How'd it get so fighty and hat-chewy in here? All I wanted was Carl Yastrzemski with the Big sideburns!

*cries*
posted by gompa at 11:00 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


How'd it get so fighty and hat-chewy in here?

This.
posted by grubi at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2012


Batting in runs is kind of the whole point of the game.

No it isn't dude. Sitting behind a computer after the fact and crunching numbers is the new Great American Pastime.
posted by kgasmart at 11:03 AM on October 4, 2012


No, it's pretty much your petty bitching.
posted by grubi at 11:04 AM on October 4, 2012


No it isn't dude. Sitting behind a computer after the fact and crunching numbers is the new Great American Pastime.

Which is why fantasy sports have grown so much over the past two decades.
posted by Groundhog Week at 11:04 AM on October 4, 2012


Billy Hamilton stole 155 bases in 132 games in the minors for the Reds this year. When he makes it to the show, he is going to be a terror on the base paths.

He's an amazingly fun player. And only around 900 stolen bases to go before he's the Billy Hamilton who's stolen the most bases in the majors!
posted by Copronymus at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that came off meaner than I meant it. But it is tiring that you're refusing to see the value, and making weird strawman claims in your effort to refuse to see the value.
posted by grubi at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012


Uh, no. Some people may think that, but it's pretty clear that other people think that "sufficiently detailed statistical information" gives you a "better"/more legitimate assessment of a player, and older statistical information is now irrelevant (look upthread for those comments).

But they're still not claiming to be able to know the future (what you claimed initially). Advanced statistics are not inherently predictive; they're just ways of measuring what value a player had over some period of time (just like regular statistics). RBI is a statistic, just like WAR; both claim to measure the value of a player. The only difference between them is that sabermetricians think that a players value can better be judged by a statistic invented by a statistician with access to more data and time to come up with ways to judge players, and traditionalists would like to judge players by numbers invented by teams that haven't existed for 120 years for seemingly no reason other than that they're uncomfortable with change.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2012


In what way? Batting in runs is kind of the whole point of the game.

Yes, but as a bunch of us point out up the page your ability to bat in runs is more dependent upon the ability of your teammates to get on base than your own ability to get a hit. So the point of the game is to score runs, and you can't score runs without baserunners but a batter only has control over his own ability to get on base.

Runs Batted In obviously matters, Runs Batted In as a way to measure a players skill is problematic.
posted by JPD at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2012


Which is why fantasy sports have grown so much over the past two decades.

Don't get me wrong, I love fantasy football. But if you, maybe a 49ers fan, were to say to me - man, Frank Gore is a great back - my response most emphatically would NOT be, well according to my statistics he's less valuable than Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew or whomever.

Which is what goes on when someone says, "Man, what a great season Miguel Cabrera had!" and someone ELSE chimes in with - yeah he's good and all but those stats mean nothing and Mike Trout actually had a better season.

This idea that we can know precisely the value of a player just strikes me as wrong, incomplete. But that's the lure of technology, of statistics, and the basis of sabremetrics - Bulgaroktonos, as you note, statisticians inventing statistics are now going to tell us what's what in terms of a game that's been around for more than a century. Numbers are going to save us; advanced statistics are somehow going to reveal what the coach on the field, the fan in the stand, can't possibly measure.

Organic vs. inorganic. Technological vs. pastoral. Conservative (the old ways are most valid) vs. liberal (the new ways are necessarily better). Take your pick, though they're all basically the same. Sabremetricians proclaim that they're reinvented the wheel. I just didn't see that the wheel needed to be reinvented.
posted by kgasmart at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2012


Sabremetricians proclaim that they're reinvented the wheel.

Nope.

I just didn't see that the wheel needed to be reinvented.

"I just didn't see" being the operative words, right?
posted by grubi at 11:18 AM on October 4, 2012


Which is what goes on when someone says, "Man, what a great season Miguel Cabrera had!" and someone ELSE chimes in with - yeah he's good and all but those stats mean nothing and Mike Trout actually had a better season.

But if you're deciding who should be MVP, don't you necessarily have to compare players? And given they play different positions, and one is a leadoff hitter and one is a cleanup hitter, don't you need some different stats than the ones that favor cleanup hitters and consider nothing else?
posted by nave at 11:20 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


This idea that we can know precisely the value of a player just strikes me as wrong, incomplete.

But wait - no one is possibly saying that. No one.

advanced statistics are somehow going to reveal what the coach on the field, the fan in the stand, can't possibly measure.

Actually yes, but why do you reject that? Don't you want to understand the game better? Don't you won't your team to construct the best possible roster given their constraints? Old-school scouting and statistical analysis are not an either/or proposition. There are things scouts can reveal that statistics cannot.

Humans are bad at intuitively parsing statistics. We're actually sort of hardwired to be bad at it.
posted by JPD at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Go Tigers! All season long I kept waiting for them to pull away from the Sox, and all season long they kept not. What an exciting finish.

Also, a big congratulations to Miguel Cabrera. What a great accomplishment. I hope he wins the MVP. He definitely deserves it.
posted by kbanas at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nave, this is why they have the baseball writers vote on the award, and not a computer because they actually SEE the players play. A player's value to a team cannot be quantified with stats alone. People who consider stats a religion will never agree but there are players in sports that can absolutely raise the level of play of their teammates. Valuable players are like artists. The game is their canvas. They know when a splash of red is needed and when to dump half a can of black on it and start over. They play hurt and lead by example, raising the standard of play of the entire team. No observer can truly know the value of one player like those on the team but in my opinion, a pair of eyes will always do a better job than a stat sheet.
posted by any major dude at 11:33 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anything, stats is atheism. You're the one going on and on about the intangibles.
posted by grubi at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


this is why they have the baseball writers vote on the award, and not a computer because they actually SEE the players play.

I haven't heard anyone arguing that the MVP should be an automatic award based on highest WAR. What I have heard some people saying, despite Cabrera's historic year, that Trout might be the better, more valuable overall player given his defense and baserunning ability, as backed up by advanced metrics. It's the start of the argument, not the end that the anti-sabermetrics crowd seems to be decrying.
posted by nave at 11:38 AM on October 4, 2012




yeah, atheists NEVER get bent out of shape when confronted with an abstract concept
posted by any major dude at 11:38 AM on October 4, 2012


I haven't heard anyone arguing that the MVP should be an automatic award based on highest WAR

I have. But mostly I hear people arguing that Trout has had a better defensive year, yet no one seems to be mentioning that Cabrera is playing his first year at 3rd base and he selflessly moved to third so Detroit could add Prince Fielder to the team as a free agent which undoubtedly helped their team make the playoffs. No stats to quantify that either. Being selfless is the essence of what it means to be a valuable player.
posted by any major dude at 11:43 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sabermetrics are best applied when comparing the middle-to-marginal players.

Have your oldest old-timer baseball guys rank their top 10 players for a given period (now, all time, 90's, whenever), then have your saber guys do the same thing. You'll end up with 90% of the same players.

OPS is the best starting point stat for any offensive comparison, and Cabrera led the league in OPS with almost 30 more points than Trout. If you win the triple crown, you're going to be leading most statistical categories anyway.

WAR is not a purely statistical category because it still uses human judgment in its defensive (and baserunning?) metrics, so while very useful, it's not quite ready for primetime. Once we have cameras that allow us to truly quantify defensive performance and runs saved, I think WAR will be more useful.

Back to my original point, the rise of advanced stats really does help us tell two seemingly similar medium-to-margin players apart. The greats are still the greats.
posted by cell divide at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2012


AMD - take a look at AL players ranked by OPS then tell me how that isn't narrowing down the pool to the very best players in the league? What "Artists" are we missing from that list?

I mean really advanced stats don't really tell us much about the best players in the league. Its easy to see Cabrera's stat line and say he had a great season - even if you ignore his RBI total. Outliers are outliers, its not very hard to parse them. I mean 8 WAR or 10 WAR, both are great seasons.

Its when you are closer to the "average" player where you see the biggest marginal benefit to statistical analysis. Especially when it comes to overcoming certain innate biases that have evolved through time.
posted by JPD at 11:46 AM on October 4, 2012


Doesn't seem like a joke, especially when you throw in extra jabs like that. I mean, I get it: you don't like that there are people who watch baseball differently from you. You're going to have to adjust to that.

but to disparage these methods is silly, to say the least, when you obviously don't understand them at all.
posted by grubi at 11:46 AM on October 4, 2012


Actually yes, but why do you reject that? Don't you want to understand the game better? Don't you won't your team to construct the best possible roster given their constraints? Old-school scouting and statistical analysis are not an either/or proposition. There are things scouts can reveal that statistics cannot.

Agree that it's not an either-or proposition.

"I just didn't see" being the operative words, right?

From the "Moneyball" Wikipedia entry:

Nevertheless, the impact of Moneyball upon major league front offices is undeniable. In its wake, teams such as the New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians,[1] and the Toronto Blue Jays have hired full-time sabermetric analysts.

Of this group, the Yankees, Cardinals and Nationals made the playoffs - Mets, Padres, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Indians and Blue Jays did not.

But why not? If advanced statistics are such a superior method of judging baseball talent and predicting on-field success - how is it possible that teams that value the concepts, employ them, assemble rosters at least in part on the basis of those statistics, aren't uniformly meeting with more success than those who don't?

Where is the proof that sabremetrics allow teams to assemble "better" rosters and impart a "better" chance of winning?

Sure, use the stats as one means of measuring on-field talent. But only one means
posted by kgasmart at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2012


This idea that we can know precisely the value of a player just strikes me as wrong, incomplete. But that's the lure of technology, of statistics, and the basis of sabremetrics - Bulgaroktonos, as you note, statisticians inventing statistics are now going to tell us what's what in terms of a game that's been around for more than a century. Numbers are going to save us; advanced statistics are somehow going to reveal what the coach on the field, the fan in the stand, can't possibly measure.

So WAR is an "invented" stat, but RBI is what? Passed down from the heavens? All stats are invented. RBI is just as much invented as OPS or WAR or VORP. Thats why it has weird rules when it comes to sacrifies flies and double plays. The fact that Triple Crown stats have been in use longer shouldn't grant them some elevated position above anything more recent.

The whole idea of stats is to be able to compare different players using an objective measurement. Sabermetrics is just about finding which numbers match up the closest with winning games. If you were able to assemble a team with the 9 highest RBI leaders and play against the 9 highest OPS leaders, the OPS leaders would on average score more runs. That doesn't mean OPS is a perfect stat, or that it measures every possible way a player can contribute to winning, it simply means its a better way of measuring a hitter. Finding ways to extract more knowledge from the game you love really shouldn't provoke so much anger and bitterness.

And by the way, nobody is saying that Cabrera sucks. Being the second best player in the league is still pretty damn good.
posted by parallellines at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2012


Again, this is a case of people making their preference an excuse to hate on another preference. You don't have to like it they way I like it, but just admit you have no real reason to hate it, that it's purely your feeling.
posted by grubi at 11:50 AM on October 4, 2012


Batting in runs is kind of the whole point of the game.

This is half right. Scoring more runs than your opponent is the point of the game.

Trout might be the better, more valuable overall player given his defense and baserunning ability

Trout (and Braun) were more valuable than Cabrera based solely on their offensive output this season. That is to say that a team made up of 9 Mike Trouts or 9 Ryan Brauns would score more runs than a team of 9 (RBI leader) Miguel Cabreras. When defense and base running are included in the analysis, the more valuable argument isn't even close. Of course, Braun isn't eligible for the AL MVP, but Trout should win it as the best offensive, and all-around player.
posted by clearly at 11:51 AM on October 4, 2012


But why not? If advanced statistics are such a superior method of judging baseball talent and predicting on-field success - how is it possible that teams that value the concepts, employ them, assemble rosters at least in part on the basis of those statistics, aren't uniformly meeting with more success than those who don't?

1) At this point everyone is using advanced metrics. Once that happens the advantages to using them to construct a team is arbitraged away, just like some model used in the financial markets. Moneyball is a great example. The one big insight Lewis beats away on is that OBP is undervalued - well the end result of that was that OBP was re-priced by the market so it was no longer a cheap way for small market teams to add potential baserunners to their roster.

2) Baseball is not an even playing field, different teams have different constraints. That and rosters have a very high degree of path dependency.

3) The proof is the wins/$ of payroll, not just wins.
posted by JPD at 11:52 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So WAR is an "invented" stat, but RBI is what? Passed down from the heavens? All stats are invented.

I think that this is an oversimplification. Certain statistics describe a specific event that happens in a game: hit, RBI, strikeout, etc.

Other statistics are compiled trends of a series of events: batting average, ERA, etc.
posted by Groundhog Week at 11:52 AM on October 4, 2012


So what's the explanation for this not happening for 50 years? Do the home run leaders usually have lower batting averages? Do the batting average and the RBI stat kind of work against each other, since some percentage of RBIs are sacrifices, which ding your batting average?
posted by yarrow at 11:58 AM on October 4, 2012


no one seems to be mentioning that Cabrera is playing his first year at 3rd base and he selflessly moved to third so Detroit could add Prince Fielder to the team as a free agent which undoubtedly helped their team make the playoffs. No stats to quantify that either. Being selfless is the essence of what it means to be a valuable player.

Umm... He's playing 3rd base because he refused to DH. That doesn't exactly scream selfless to me.
posted by parallellines at 11:58 AM on October 4, 2012


Do the home run leaders usually have lower batting averages? Do the batting average and the RBI stat kind of work against each other, since some percentage of RBIs are sacrifices, which ding your batting average?

Yeah, Generally high batting average does not correlate with power hitting.
posted by JPD at 12:00 PM on October 4, 2012


Do the home run leaders usually have lower batting averages?

Not as a rule, but if you're free-swinging enough to knock a bunch out, you're likely going to strike out a lot too. The best example I can think of is Rob Deer.
posted by grubi at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2012


Do the batting average and the RBI stat kind of work against each other, since some percentage of RBIs are sacrifices, which ding your batting average?

Sacrifices do not count against your average.
posted by nave at 12:02 PM on October 4, 2012


So what's the explanation for this not happening for 50 years?

Here are a few reason why I suspect it hasn't happened in a while:

1. There where more Triple Crown winners before integration than after, meaning that there is more talent competing. We can extend this to the influx of Latin players too.

2. The lowering of the mound in 1969 aided hitters, again increasing competion.

3. Just a random statistical anomoly.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:04 PM on October 4, 2012


Rob Deer for reference. He could regularly hit 25 HRs a year and lead the league in SOs.
posted by grubi at 12:07 PM on October 4, 2012


Dave Kingman
posted by kgasmart at 12:08 PM on October 4, 2012


Umm... He's playing 3rd base because he refused to DH. That doesn't exactly scream selfless to me.

Where is your cite for this? It was Fielder who didn't want to be a DH. The Tigers had Victor Martinez and Delmon Young on their roster who are bigger liabilities in the field.
posted by any major dude at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2012


Mark Reynolds is the current incarnation.
posted by nave at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2012


(BTW guys like Rob Deer and Dave Kingman is where the Sabre vs Trad arguments are the most interesting)
posted by JPD at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2012


Excellent example. And on the other hand, Mr GH Ruth had a lifetime .342 batting average and even led the league one year. (But he still led the league in Sos four times. How 'bout that.)
posted by grubi at 12:11 PM on October 4, 2012


I raise you an Adam Dunn.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:11 PM on October 4, 2012


Not as a rule, but if you're free-swinging enough to knock a bunch out, you're likely going to strike out a lot too.

And I think that with the rise in specialized strength training, this has become more true over time. Back in the day, the HR leaders were almost all guys who were hitting .300+, who were hitting HRs because they were really good hitters, and every now and then one went over the fence. Now there are a lot more guys who are specialized power hitters, in the top 10 in HRs while only hitting .250, simply because they are freakishly strong, and when they make contact, the ball usually goes a long way.
posted by parallellines at 12:13 PM on October 4, 2012


Sacrifices do not count against your average.

Thanks, reading wiki entry for "at bats" now.
posted by yarrow at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2012


I raise you an Adam Dunn.

WOW. 41 home runs, 222 strikeouts. That's wild.
posted by grubi at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2012


Mark Reynolds is the current incarnation.

Ouch
posted by kgasmart at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2012


Are there major leaguers who choke up on the bat with two strikes anymore?
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2012


Wait, so let me see if I understand.

One group of people thinks that Miguel Cabrera is the MVP because he led the league in three statistical categories.

The other group thinks that Mike Trout is the MVP, because he was nearly as good a batter as Cabrera, and on top of that was thrillingly aggressive on the basepaths and made tons of electrifying plays in center field, things which, while hard to quantify, are definitely thought to provide value to a team.

And the group that's ignoring the real game on the field and blindly obeying numerical rules like a bunch of big giant computer nerds is... the first one?
posted by escabeche at 12:15 PM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Google is pulling a blank for (bill james no more triple crowns) which surprises me. I thought one of his best known speculations was we would never have another triple crown winner, or at least it was very very very improbable. He had a convoluted statistical argument based upon the number of other players a guy had to rise above with the bigger leagues in comparison to the good old days.

The last time I looked at his website almost all his stuff was behind a paywall so I won't be going there again any time soon.
posted by bukvich at 12:17 PM on October 4, 2012


I raise you an Adam Dunn.

I believe I read somewhere that he's the first person ever to have fewer than half of his plate appearances in a season end up with a defensive play. It's HRs, Ks, and BBs all the way down. As a devotee of weird outliers, I love him as much as I love Billy Hamilton and Jamie Moyer. (I do not, however, love Craig Kimbrel because the Braves are terrible.)
posted by Copronymus at 12:17 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mark Reynolds

2009 44 HR 102 RBI. I wonder what the highest level of batting oneself in as a % of RBI is?
posted by JPD at 12:18 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


at least it was very very very improbable.

And it was. Just because it happened doesn't mean the stats were wrong.
posted by grubi at 12:19 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If advanced statistics are such a superior method of judging baseball talent and predicting on-field success - how is it possible that teams that value the concepts, employ them, assemble rosters at least in part on the basis of those statistics, aren't uniformly meeting with more success than those who don't?

The top 10 major league teams in RBI, in order, are Texas, New York, Milwaukee, LA Angels, St. Louis, White Sox, Colorado, Arizona, Detroit, and Boston. Only four of those teams are in the playoffs, two as wild cards.

If RBI are such a a superior method of judging baseball talent and predicting on-field success - how is it possible that teams that excel in producing RBI aren't uniformly meeting with more success than those who don't?
posted by escabeche at 12:19 PM on October 4, 2012


Oh, and: it's spelled sabermetrics.
posted by escabeche at 12:20 PM on October 4, 2012


Groundhog, There was an article in the Times on the lost art of bunting back in April. I coach little league and I insist that kids choke up and go up the middle/opposite field with two strikes if for no other reason that if might become their only exposure to it in their career! If you want a blame for it look no further than the fact that each kid now has their own personal bat with a length and weight tailored to their exact specifications.
posted by any major dude at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't AJ Burnett bunt a ball into his own face during spring training this year?

Also, thanks for the link... so far a good read.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:24 PM on October 4, 2012


"lost art of bunting" should read "lost art of choking up".
posted by any major dude at 12:24 PM on October 4, 2012


Didn't AJ Burnett bunt a ball into his own face during spring training this year?

Yes; came back to win 16 games, tho
posted by kgasmart at 12:24 PM on October 4, 2012



The proof is the wins/$ of payroll, not just wins.


I made a chart of exactly this using the 2011 data. Go Rays!
posted by clearly at 12:25 PM on October 4, 2012


I say give the MVP to Cabrera -- it will give him a lift after the A's eat the Tigers' lunch.
posted by brain_drain at 12:28 PM on October 4, 2012


Where is your cite for this? It was Fielder who didn't want to be a DH. The Tigers had Victor Martinez and Delmon Young on their roster who are bigger liabilities in the field.

Yeah, obviously it took both of them refusing to be DH, otherwise Cabrera could have stayed at 1st. But Victor Martinez hasn't played since 2011, and Delmon Young is a terrible baseball player, so neither was a good solution at DH for 2012. They had Brandon Inge, a fantastic defensive 3B, but let him go so Cabrera could take over.

But admittedly, I don't have a cite, but its been a rumor floating around since the beginning of the season, and you can find plenty of mentions with a google search. I think it would be pretty bad PR for anybody in the Tigers organization to admit that their players refuse to play where they are asked.
posted by parallellines at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2012


Actually, here is an article where they reference it, but no quotes or anything.
posted by parallellines at 12:32 PM on October 4, 2012


As somebody who is a romantic about baseball, who loves the stories, loves the history, and loves to watch players who are often described as "gritty," and so forth, I appreciate what people are getting at when they say that sabermetrics can't capture, for instance, Rose running over Fosse. But the aesthetics of baseball and player evaluation are two very different things. And honestly? I'm tired of listening to people argue as though liking one means you can't like the other.

As a fan of the game, I love to see bunts and stolen bases because they are exciting. But there is strong, empirical data dissuading stealing a base in many situations and as much as I'd like to see a guy get 100 stolen bases again, I respect that the game has changed with the advent of new methods of player evaluations. Frankly, I think RBIs are a dumb stat because, home runs aside, a given player has no control over whether he gets one or not. It's not his job to put the guy in front of him in scoring position. Hypothetically speaking, Cabrera could have come up to bat 600 times and never had a guy on in front of him. He could have got the same number of hits, the same number of total bases, but no RBIs from runners on base. That is totally unrelated to his ability or talent as a baseball player or a hitter. And so, RBIs are, in my mind, not a very useful tool if I want to see how good a ball player is.

I have to give Trout the MVP, and to me, it's not even all that close. Winning the Triple Crown is very, very impressive, but it gives us a very, very limited perspective. It does not take into account, for instance, that Cabrera also grounded into more double plays than any other player in the American League this season. So how many runs did he cost his team? Apparently a few. It also does not take into account that Cabrera was a defensive liability at third base. I've heard people say he should get credit for being willing to do that for the team, but in a way, he was actually hurting them by agreeing to it, so the argument doesn't wash with me. Trout, on the meanwhile, is objectively a fantastic defender. He's also a superior baserunner.

And then, there's the simple fact that without Trout in the line-up, the Angels were awful. Since he got called up at the end of April, they had the best record in the American League. If only they could not count that first month.

And really, isn't that a mutually agreeable basis for this argument? He made that much of a difference. Sure, there are other things happening. Pujols started to hit better after the first couple of months. But the only other player who had such an obvious impact simply by being in the lineup is not even Cabrera but Yoenis Cespedes, without whom the A's were... Well, the A's they were expected to be. And Cespedes' numbers, otherwise, aren't even in the argument.

You don't have to buy WAR. You don't have to care that, by every version of WAR that is out there, Trout had not just one of the best seasons in baseball this year, but in many, many years. But I can't buy any argument that's only basis is three statistics, one of which has very little do with the player who produced it.

Next thing you're going to be telling me pitching wins are a good measure of a pitcher's value.
posted by synecdoche at 12:37 PM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


But the aesthetics of baseball and player evaluation are two very different things. And honestly? I'm tired of listening to people argue as though liking one means you can't like the other.

Thank you! That's what I've been trying to say all thread. But you seem to have done it in a more artful manner than I have.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2012


But why not? If advanced statistics are such a superior method of judging baseball talent and predicting on-field success - how is it possible that teams that value the concepts, employ them, assemble rosters at least in part on the basis of those statistics, aren't uniformly meeting with more success than those who don't?

For one thing, because every team is using them to some degree now. For another, because it is not the be all end all. I don't know why people seem so insistent that people either use advanced metrics or don't. It's not the case at all. They use advanced metrics, and they use scouts' eyes. They work together.

When the A's used sabermetrics, as exhibited in Moneyball, it was not because it was somehow superior to all other methods of evaluation. It was a way for them to identify players who were undervalued by traditional methods, who they could afford. It wasn't like they said "Screw every other stat! Let's just sign all the guys with the best OBP we could find!" There were players who got on base (so those valuable RBIs could be driven in!) but because it came in the form of an under-valued stat, they were cheap. That's pretty much it.

And, baseball's not a computer. A player can excel in some areas one season, and completely tank the next.
posted by synecdoche at 12:42 PM on October 4, 2012


well argued, synecdoche.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on October 4, 2012


Yes; came back to win 16 games, tho

Pitcher Wins, yet another stat thhorus a horrible indicator of individual performance.
posted by clearly at 12:43 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the best stats-savvy baseball writers around, Dave Cameron, explains that Trout had a better season based on offensive contributions alone.
posted by synecdoche at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2012


Frankly, I think RBIs are a dumb stat because, home runs aside, a given player has no control over whether he gets one or not. It's not his job to put the guy in front of him in scoring position.

It's not?

Then why are there bases? If the only runs that matter are home runs, why not just have a mound and a plate and be done with it?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:52 PM on October 4, 2012


That's cricket.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2012


This metric is called RE24. It’s been on the site for years, and is available as part of our Win Probability section. We don’t use it a lot, because in general we prefer to talk about players from a context-neutral perspective, but for the purpose of this discussion, it might just be the perfect metric.

RE24 is essentially the difference between the run expectancy when a hitter comes to the plate and when his at-bat ends. For example, September 16th, Cabrera came to the plate against Joe Smith with runners at first and second and two outs, a situation where the Tigers would be expected to score 0.33 runs on average. Cabrera hit a three run home run, so they actually scored three runs, and RE24 gives Cabrera credit for +2.67 runs, the gap between what they were expected to score and what they actually scored.


Oh brother.

Why don't we just poll all the AL managers - you get one player or the other, Trout or Cabrera. Whom do you choose?
posted by kgasmart at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2012


parallellines, the only place rumor parallels fact is FOX News, so do yourself a favor and others a favor and not post rumors as facts here in the future, I've wasted enough time today. There are plenty of players that make statements on the record regarding where they will or will not play. I can't find anywhere online where he definitively states it. Oh and Inge was a fantastic fielder but a Mendoza line hitter, that's why he was released, not to make room for Cabrera.
posted by any major dude at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2012


It's not?

Please explain to me, using however many words you like, how Miguel Cabrera is supposed to get a guy who hits in front of him on base. I'll wait.
posted by synecdoche at 12:55 PM on October 4, 2012


Oh brother.

HOW DARE THEY TRY TO DETERMINE WHO IS OUTPERFORMING EXPECTATIONS
posted by grubi at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I think RBIs are a dumb stat because, home runs aside, a given player has no control over whether he gets one or not. It's not his job to put the guy in front of him in scoring position.

It's not?

Then why are there bases? If the only runs that matter are home runs, why not just have a mound and a plate and be done with it?


Huh? He's not saying that at all. He's saying that if someone is on base when Miguel Cabrera comes up to hit, that's the guy on base's contribution, not Cabrera's. Cabrera did nothing to put him on base.

The point about home runs is that home runs are an RBI that you get purely through individual effort.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:58 PM on October 4, 2012


Why don't we just poll all the AL managers - you get one player or the other, Trout or Cabrera. Whom do you choose?

Look, if you actually believe that a gut feeling is superior to overwhelming empirical data—none of which is really half as mystical as anti-sabermetrics guys want us to think—I'm not going to be able to convince you of otherwise. You can look at the data and see that Trout had an objectively better season, or you can take Cabrera because he did well in three statistics. I really don't care.

But in answer to your question, would you really take a 29-year-old defensive liability over a 21-year-old who ranks among the best defenders (by the eye or by the numbers) in the game, who can move on the basepaths, and just had one of the best seasons ever by a rookie? Seriously?
posted by synecdoche at 1:00 PM on October 4, 2012


any major dude, this isn't a political policy discussion, I think the bar for relevent discussion should be pretty low. But I apologize that a post in a Metafilter thread about a baseball statistical oddity might have wasted your time.
posted by parallellines at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2012


Why don't we just poll all the AL managers - you get one player or the other, Trout or Cabrera. Whom do you choose?

... ?! Weren't you arguing in support of Cabrera for MVP? Every manager in the MLB would take Mike Trout first.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:09 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that this is the open baseball thread, is this where we gather to celebrate the firing of Bobby V? BECAUSE I AM SO EXCITED THAT THIS FINALLY HAPPENED THAT I CAN'T *NOT* CELEBRATE!
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:09 PM on October 4, 2012


(Excepting Jim Leyland.)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:10 PM on October 4, 2012


if someone is on base when Miguel Cabrera comes up to hit, that's the guy on base's contribution, not Cabrera's. Cabrera did nothing to put him on base.

No but if the guy scores via a Cabrera hit, this line of reasoning devalues that. Great that he got a hit - but comparably insignificant that he knocked in a run because Cabrera did nothing to put him on base.

I want a guy on my team who, in clutch situations, can get that hit. RBIs are a measure of that - a runner is on base, and you are able to get that run across the plate.

Every manager in the MLB would take Mike Trout first.

Really! I hadn't seen that poll.

I suppose this means every baseball writer will vote for Trout, except for the Philistines
posted by kgasmart at 1:11 PM on October 4, 2012


is this where we gather to celebrate the firing of Bobby V?

Sure! I hope he goes back to broadcast analysis because I really enjoyed him in that role.
posted by Groundhog Week at 1:12 PM on October 4, 2012


I want a guy on my team who, in clutch situations, can get that hit. RBIs are a measure of that - a runner is on base, and you are able to get that run across the plate.

Then you don't want an accumulation stat like RBI; you want a tendency stat, like slugging percentage.
posted by grubi at 1:13 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want a guy on my team who, in clutch situations, can get that hit.

We have millions of statistical history to look at that we now know that over a long enough period of time, almost everyone hits exactly the same with runners on base as they do with runners not on base. Whether you have someone on base when you come up is luck. The skill involved in hitting a baseball is exactly the same if someone is on base or not, and the stats prove this time and time again.
posted by cell divide at 1:13 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every manager in the MLB would take Mike Trout first.

are you sure about that? Not even a full year sample vs almost a lock HOFer? How many people enshrined Fred Lynn after his epic '75 MVP rookie season? In 16 more season he batted .283 and reach 100 rbi only one other season. You'd think statheads would be wary of small samples...
posted by any major dude at 1:16 PM on October 4, 2012


Sure! I hope he goes back to broadcast analysis Japan because I really enjoyed him in that role not being in the country.

I think that more accurately matches the feeling of most Red Sox fans.
posted by parallellines at 1:17 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want a guy on my team who, in clutch situations, can get that hit. RBIs are a measure of that - a runner is on base, and you are able to get that run across the plate.

But this does not indicate that said player is better at doing that. It just says that more of his hits happened to take place when there happened to be somebody on base who was capable, for one reason or another, of scoring. Again, this might not even be because of the hitter's ability, but because the guy on first is a really good base runner and legged it out from first to home. An RBI says far more about the ability of a guy in front of the guy credited with an RBI than it does about the guy who actually gets the RBI. That's the point we're making. You can't isolate an RBI from its context and use it as an objective measure. There are two many other factors to take into account that the statistic cannot reproduce.

Nobody here is saying Cabrera's a bad player. Nobody's saying he had a bad season. In fact, you'd have to be an idiot not to think that Cabrera is one of the best players in the game today, and has been for the last few years. All we are saying is that Trout was the more valuable player, overall.
posted by synecdoche at 1:17 PM on October 4, 2012


Stats with runners in scoring position (min. 100 ABs) for 2012.
posted by Groundhog Week at 1:17 PM on October 4, 2012


are you sure about that? Not even a full year sample vs almost a lock HOFer? How many people enshrined Fred Lynn after his epic '75 MVP rookie season? In 16 more season he batted .283 and reach 100 rbi only one other season. You'd think statheads would be wary of small samples...

But after that year, you honestly think a manager in 1976 would have said No to Fred Lynn on their team? i don't think so.
posted by grubi at 1:18 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


grubi, you need to step away from the keyboard for a while...
posted by Chuckles at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2012


Huh?
posted by grubi at 1:21 PM on October 4, 2012


How do two players from Philadelphia win the triple crown in the same year!??!

And don't get me wrong, I know HOW, but why didn't I know about this before, and where are the stories about it :)
posted by Chuckles at 1:22 PM on October 4, 2012


Stats with runners in scoring position (min. 100 ABs) for 2012.

Cabrera #9, Trout #24

The skill involved in hitting a baseball is exactly the same if someone is on base or not, and the stats prove this time and time again.

The stats can't take into account the pressure of a situation.

Reggie Jackson's 3 HRs in Game 6 of the '77 series - statistically, wouldn't those have been scored the same as 3 HRs in a mid-April game? Or do we now have stats weighing home runs on the basis of which month they were hit in?
posted by kgasmart at 1:23 PM on October 4, 2012


are you sure about that? Not even a full year sample vs almost a lock HOFer? How many people enshrined Fred Lynn after his epic '75 MVP rookie season? In 16 more season he batted .283 and reach 100 rbi only one other season. You'd think statheads would be wary of small samples...

If I were a GM I'd take Trout, no question, because he's younger*. He's going to be cheaper and going to last longer (assuming you can keep him). Cabrera's great, but he's in his prime; this is probably his peak or close to it. You overpay if you go after people who are peaking because you pay for the performance of their peak year, but get the declining years. Not saying he'll decline immediately, or even soon, but it'll likely happen way sooner than Trout.

*Obviously, this is why who you really take is Bryce Harper. Go Nats!
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:23 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


But this does not indicate that said player is better at doing that. It just says that more of his hits happened to take place when there happened to be somebody on base who was capable, for one reason or another, of scoring.

This is why you have batting orders. It's why you have certain guys bat cleanup, because the guys in front of them are able to get on base, and you want that big bat - i.e. capable of getting a hit with runners on base - in the 3-4-5 spot.

If it's all just arbitrary - hey, whether there's a guy on base when you're hitting or not, it's all just the same - why not bat Cabrera 8th, or leadoff?
posted by kgasmart at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2012


The stats can't take into account the pressure of a situation.

They don't need to, they just need to tell you what the person did. You just need enough plate appearances to make a meaningful comparison between batting with runners on base and without. The same goes for playoffs or other pressure situations, the numbers can be skewed by small sample sizes but over time they equalize. Over a long enough period, the two numbers for any given player will likely will even out.
posted by cell divide at 1:27 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


See here I was hoping for some discussion on the wonderful comeback nature of the A's this year. Ah well, still an interesting discussion nonetheless.
posted by Carillon at 1:27 PM on October 4, 2012


If it's all just arbitrary - hey, whether there's a guy on base when you're hitting or not, it's all just the same - why not bat Cabrera 8th, or leadoff?

You're looking at it the wrong way. Miguel Cabrera doesn't bat 4th because he's good at driving in runs. He bats 4th because he gets big hits. Bat him 8th and he'd also get big hits, but you wouldn't reap the rewards of having people on base when he does so.
posted by cell divide at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2012


This is why you have batting orders. It's why you have certain guys bat cleanup, because the guys in front of them are able to get on base, and you want that big bat - i.e. capable of getting a hit with runners on base - in the 3-4-5 spot.

You're going to really hate what the stats tell us about batting order, then.
posted by grubi at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're going to really hate what the stats tell us about batting order, then.

I'm sure I already do
posted by kgasmart at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2012


Bulgaroktonos,

Trout is just finished his first year. The guy steal A LOT of bases and runs into a lot of walls. Ask Brett Gardner what that does for your "longevity". The biggest difference between great professional athletes and streaks in the sky is ability to play hurt - and everybody plays hurt. Cabrera has played 157+ games every year of his career. Knowing you can pencil someone in to the lineup day in and day out counts for a lot.
posted by any major dude at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2012


Or do we now have stats weighing home runs on the basis of which month they were hit in?

Regular season stats and post-season stats are kept separately.
posted by Groundhog Week at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2012


He bats 4th because he gets big hits.

Because the definition of "big hits" is DRIVING IN RUNS.

Gah.
posted by kgasmart at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2012



The skill involved in hitting a baseball is exactly the same if someone is on base or not, and the stats prove this time and time again.

The stats can't take into account the pressure of a situation.

Reggie Jackson's 3 HRs in Game 6 of the '77 series - statistically, wouldn't those have been scored the same as 3 HRs in a mid-April game? Or do we now have stats weighing home runs on the basis of which month they were hit in?


Those stats are easy enough to compile, I mean it's not like all advanced statistics exist in a vacuum where no one has any idea what month it is. People have done studies to see if certain players perform better in high pressure situations, if certain players are "clutch." By and large the evidence shows that they don't. It's not like this is an impossible question for statistics to answer. Your problem seems to be that the data doesn't correspond to what you already believe, which usually isn't a sign of a problem with the data.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2012


The proof is the wins/$ of payroll, not just wins.

I made a chart of exactly this using the 2011 data. Go Rays!


I think you mean "Go A's!" ;)

Using 2012 payrolls and records (I'll go the other way and show $ per win) with wins | payroll | $ per win, Oakland is the huge winner.

Oakland - 94 | $ 55,372,500 | $589,069.15 per win
Washington - 98 | $ 81,336,143 | $829,960.64
Cincinnati - 97 | $ 82,203,616 | $847,459.96
Atlanta - 94 | $ 83,309,942 | $886,275.98
Baltimore - 93 | $ 81,428,999 | $875,580.63
San Francisco - 94 | $ 117,620,683 | $1,251,283.86
St. Louis - 88 | $ 110,300,862 | $1,253,418.89
Texas - 93 | $ 120,510,974 | $1,295,816.92
Detroit - 88 | $ 132,300,000 | $1,503,409.09
New York - 95 | $ 197,962,289 | $2,083,813.57
posted by mrgrimm at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is why you have batting orders. It's why you have certain guys bat cleanup, because the guys in front of them are able to get on base, and you want that big bat - i.e. capable of getting a hit with runners on base - in the 3-4-5 spot.


Yes this is precisely right. That's basically the point being made. If you have more runners getting on base you have more opportunities to collect RBI. You are unwittingly making our point for us.
posted by JPD at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2012


If it's all just arbitrary - hey, whether there's a guy on base when you're hitting or not, it's all just the same - why not bat Cabrera 8th, or leadoff?

It's not arbitrary; we are debating what a statistic actually tells you and what it does not, and how valuable it is in evaluating two players against one another. The argument for Cabrera is primarily based on three statistics: home runs, RBIs, and batting average. He did do very well in these categories. However, they are far from the only statistics in the equation and one of them has too much to do with the players who bat before Miguel Cabrera even steps into the box to be used as a point of comparison against another player. Miguel Cabrera is a very good hitter. There is no question. But as an all-around player, taking into account the whole game—defense, baserunning, fielding—Mike Trout had a better year.
posted by synecdoche at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2012


Because the definition of "big hits" is DRIVING IN RUNS.

ONLY if someone is on base at the time. Something the hitter has ZERO control over... Bat him 9th and watch him hit 40 hrs but only have 90 RBIs. Is he a worse hitter now?
posted by cell divide at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bat him 9th and watch him hit 40 hrs but only have 90 RBIs. Is he a worse hitter now?

He is a less valuable hitter to the team if hitting in that position.

Example: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates had somewhat of a breakout year this year, hit 30 HRs. But batted 6th or 7th most of the year; apparently Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believed Alvarez was unable to bat 4th or 5th. A bat that hits 30 HRs ought to be hitting 3-4-5; as a result of Pedro's position in the order, he only knocked in 85 runs.

Now - had he been batting fourth of fifth (because McCutchen bats 3rd), had he hit those 30 dingers, he might have had more RBIs; and if the Pirates had scored more runs, perhaps they might have won more games, rather than collapsing yet again.

Example #2: Bucs first baseman is Garrett Jones, who had a career year, for him, at the plate - 27 HR, 86 RBI, .274 BA, .832 OPS. But he's platooned at first because statistically, he can't hit left-hand pitching. He's platooned either with Travis Snider or Gaby Sanchez, both of whom posted dismal offensive numbers compared to Jones.

So - we keep Jones off the field on the basis of his statistical deficiencies, and replace him with... deficiency. As he was having a career year - why be so beholden to the statistics? Why not give him a shot against lefty pitching, if he fails then OK, the stats predicted it. But there's an example of where the statistical approach can make a team too "smart" for its own good
posted by kgasmart at 1:41 PM on October 4, 2012


ONLY if someone is on base at the time.

Is there a statistic that tracks RBI opportunities (perhaps ROB, but maybe different - for example plating a runner on third with no outs is certainly less valuable than knocking in a runner from first with two outs...) vs. RBI? That seems like it would balance the arbitrary nature of the RBI stat.

RBI Production? Is that tracked?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:42 PM on October 4, 2012


Why not give him a shot against lefty pitching, if he fails then OK, the stats predicted it.

Heh, that would be 2010 and 2011. I'm all for ignoring the L/R pitching matchups in favor of the better hitter (see: Mike Joyce), but Jones has been horrible against lefties for several years now.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2012


Bulgaroktonos,

Trout is just finished his first year. The guy steal A LOT of bases and runs into a lot of walls. Ask Brett Gardner what that does for your "longevity". The biggest difference between great professional athletes and streaks in the sky is ability to play hurt - and everybody plays hurt. Cabrera has played 157+ games every year of his career. Knowing you can pencil someone in to the lineup day in and day out counts for a lot.


You're right obviously, stealing a lot of bases at a young age is a sure sign that you're going to have a short career. If you, say, stole 100 bases at the age of 22, you'd definitely wouldn't be able to expect to have much longevity.

In seriousness, it's possible that Mike Trout will turn out to be a flash in the pan, will get injured, or otherwise not reward a team's decision to play him; it's also possible that Miguel Cabrera's skill will plummet off a cliff or he'll suffer a career ending injury; you could almost certainly find an anecdotal case in which that happened to a similar player. The point of good statistics is so you don't have to use those anecdotes that prove anything.

As for which you'd take (Trout vs. Cabrera) they're both great players, so it's really a judgment call. There's not a wrong answer.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That seems like it would balance the arbitrary nature of the RBI stat.

The thing is, you don't need more stats to understand it, you just need to remember that over a statistically significant amount of time, all plate appearances are equal. So whether someone is on base or not doesn't matter when you're analyzing the hitter's ability. If a guy tends to hit doubles, he's going to tend to hit doubles or homers when runners are on base, those runners are going to score.
posted by cell divide at 1:51 PM on October 4, 2012


Rickey was a freak of nature, just ask him.
posted by any major dude at 1:54 PM on October 4, 2012


Example #2: Bucs first baseman is Garrett Jones, who had a career year, for him, at the plate - 27 HR, 86 RBI, .274 BA, .832 OPS. But he's platooned at first because statistically, he can't hit left-hand pitching. He's platooned either with Travis Snider or Gaby Sanchez, both of whom posted dismal offensive numbers compared to Jones.

So - we keep Jones off the field on the basis of his statistical deficiencies, and replace him with... deficiency. As he was having a career year - why be so beholden to the statistics


This is baffling. The only way to know he's having a career year is through statistics. You're arguing that they should value one set of statistics (this year's numbers) over another (presumably his career numbers against lefties), but either way you're arguing for basing that decision on statistics. Looking at his splits from the season, he was below his career averages against LHP (I think, I might be overlooking something), so platooning him might still have been the right call, but either way it's a matter of interpreting stats.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:55 PM on October 4, 2012


The only way to know he's having a career year is through statistics. You're arguing that they should value one set of statistics (this year's numbers) over another (presumably his career numbers against lefties), but either way you're arguing for basing that decision on statistics.

Yup.
posted by grubi at 1:57 PM on October 4, 2012


if someone is on base when Miguel Cabrera comes up to hit, that's the guy on base's contribution, not Cabrera's. Cabrera did nothing to put him on base.

No, but he did something to score a run, which is the thing that wins games.

If that's worthless, well, fuck.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:26 PM on October 4, 2012


Well yes, but as we've said, that contribution is already rolled up into other more individual stats like batting average and slugging percentage.
posted by empath at 2:30 PM on October 4, 2012


Wow, I posted the "Trout is probably the MVP" thing way at the top of this page thinking it was probably going to start a shitstorm of discussion, then forgot about the thread. Just came back, and it turns out I underestimated the magnitude of the shitstorm.

I'd vote Trout for MVP for a variety of reasons, but I think he has absolutely no shot against a triple crown winner for a division winner. No chance at all.

An aside, Angels had Pujols, Trout, Jared Weaver, traded for Greinke, and didn't make the playoffs. That's an unreasonably horrible outcome.

Just to put oil on the the sabremetrics-haters' fire, the Angels had the 4th highest 2012 payroll (even before Greinke). Their division was won by the moneyballing sabremetrics loving A's, 2nd from the bottom.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:52 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rickey was a freak of nature, just ask him.

And Trout isn't? Regardless ...

I think he has absolutely no shot against a triple crown winner for a division winner. No chance at all.

Agreed. Again, I would take almost any bet here. I'd probably give 5x odds if you ask nicely.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:05 PM on October 4, 2012


If that's worthless, well, fuck.

Of course a hit that drives in a run isn't worthless. Each plate appearance by a player is treated as an event independent of the actions of other players.

To emphasize this, say a leadoff guy hits a double, steals third, and then scores on a groundout by the batter behind him. By emphasizing the value of RBI, you're attributing the run scored to the guy who grounded out.

This is a very basic example, but should give you a picture of where deeper analysis comes into play.

Sabermetrics 101 at Lookout Landing is a good crash course of you're interested in learning more.
posted by clearly at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2012


...Cabrera also grounded into more double plays than any other player in the American League this season.

It would be interesting to see how often the RBI leader in a given year was also among the league leaders in GIDP. I'd guess that it happens pretty frequently, because those two outcomes have one key thing in common: runners on base. If I have time in the next few days, I might pull up a reference and see if I'm right in that guess.

I've heard it noted a few times that teams that score the most runs in a season usually are very high in runners left on base and GIDP as well. Wonder why that is?
posted by zoog at 3:18 PM on October 4, 2012


No, but he did something to score a run, which is the thing that wins games.

If that's worthless, well, fuck.


You're still missing the point. The point is that RBIs are (bizarrely) used to evaluate how good an individual player is; if you're evaluating how good an individual player is, you want to focus on their achievement, not other people's. RBIs are a measure of how good a hitter you are AND how many men are on base in front of you. That second component is a measure of other people's skills, not yours, and that makes it a bad measure of how good an individual player is.

Every player gets a certain number of plate appearances with men on base, and a certain without, but those numbers aren't equal. Players hitting behind guys who get on base a lot, players on good teams, those guys get more chances to get an RBI. By looking at RBI you overstate the comparative individual ability of players who have men on base in front of them. A player with the same number of plate appearances could hit a home run every 5 at bats, and have fewer RBIs than Cabrera if there was never anyone in front of him, even though he would be a better player. Take that same player and put him on a team that loads the bases every time he hits; he would have an outlandish number of RBI, obviously, but he's not a better player even though his team is scoring more runs. He's exactly the same player, but on a better team.

Think about the absurd results produced by the triple crown. If a player comes up with a man on third and hits a single his offensive contribution (per the triple crown statistics) is identical to if he got up there and hit a triple. Effectively, relying on RBI and batting average says that that triple is worth the same thing as a single. People focus way too much on the contributions that advanced statistics allegedly miss, when there's a ton of contributions they make clearer instead of obscuring.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The funny thing about the Trout for MVP argument is that it doesn't need WAR -- hell, it doesn't need any advanced stats. Trout beat Cabrera by 4 points in OBP and Cabrera beat Trout by 40 points in SLG. Cabrera, however, played in a more hitter friendly park against worse competition (the AL Central is a joke compared to the AL East this year). OPS+, which scales OPS by park and opposition, puts Trout ahead of Cabrera. Trout bats leadoff so obviously he's not piling up the RBIs.

So, a reasonable person might take Cabrera over Trout on batting alone, but the difference is somewhere between small and non-existent.

When you factor in base stealing and defense, it's not close. I mean for chrissake, he hit 30 HRs, stole 49 bases and played Gold Glove defense. Trout should be the guy the old-timey anti-stats crowd are drooling over. He hussles!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:23 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a guy who knows very little and cares even less about baseball, this thread has been fascinating.

Thank you, sports nerds and data nerds, for being the nerds that you are.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:32 PM on October 4, 2012


I'm a Tigers fan who believes Trout deserves the MVP over Cabrera. I don't buy the carrying your team to the postseason mantra, because there were numerous times Miggy hit into those league leading double plays, and the Angels won one more game than the Tigers, in a tougher division to boot. In fact, the AL West was pretty much tied with the AL East as the toughest division in all of MLB and had baseball's best cellar dweller, the Mariners. Bottom line for me is I believe the MVP should be the best player, period.

The Triple Crown is rare, but overrated. Any number of guys could have done it over the years by simply hitting a few more homers or having better teammates.
posted by jkafka at 4:58 PM on October 4, 2012


Trout should be the guy the old-timey anti-stats crowd are drooling over. He hussles!

And this apparent incoherency is a good tip-off that anti-saberism isn't a coherent stance about baseball at all, but rather a cultural politics, fueled by the same anti-intellectualism and resentment of science/empiricism's encroachment on tradition that we also see in the more obvious forms of religious conservatism.
posted by RogerB at 5:14 PM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Example: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates had somewhat of a breakout year this year, hit 30 HRs. But batted 6th or 7th most of the year; apparently Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believed Alvarez was unable to bat 4th or 5th. A bat that hits 30 HRs ought to be hitting 3-4-5; as a result of Pedro's position in the order, he only knocked in 85 runs.

Now - had he been batting fourth of fifth (because McCutchen bats 3rd), had he hit those 30 dingers, he might have had more RBIs; and if the Pirates had scored more runs, perhaps they might have won more games, rather than collapsing yet again.


Did you intend to show why raw number of RBIs is a lousy statistic for evaluating individual player talent?

(I had a rant about Hurdle, but I deleted it. Suffice it to say, Hurdle is not a sabermetric type, and I was not happy to hear that he's coming back next year.)
posted by dirigibleman at 6:02 PM on October 4, 2012


I'm pretty sure the Royals had at least one pitcher win the Triple Crown of Shame (fewest wins, fewest strikeouts, and highest earned run average). It's too depressing for me to look up though. If I had to guess, I would say Jose Lima came the closest.

Oh, and dirigibleman, Clint Hurdle is an ex-Royal. You're welcome.
posted by reenum at 6:40 PM on October 4, 2012


You're still missing the point. The point is that RBIs are (bizarrely) used to evaluate how good an individual player is; if you're evaluating how good an individual player is, you want to focus on their achievement, not other people's. RBIs are a measure of how good a hitter you are AND how many men are on base in front of you. That second component is a measure of other people's skills, not yours, and that makes it a bad measure of how good an individual player is.

There are two outs - you're the pitcher - Miguel Cabrera is on deck. Do you pitch the guy at the plate the same way you do if say - the number 8 hitter was on deck? Hell no. You do not want to face Cabrera. It alters the way you pitch. Getting the guy out at the plate becomes the most important thing. You want to talk value? This is one of the ways that Cabrera changes the game. The batters in front of him face better pitches. Different than say if Inge was hitting next. Like Jordan with the Bulls, he makes his teammates better just by being a presence in the lineup.

MVP? I think so. He's not playing his natural position, he played a more aggressive game at the plate this year. 42 less walks than 2011 and still manages to raise his slugging percentage 20 points (from .586 to .606). Yea, having Fielder hitting behind him is a big part of it - but the stats do not lie. He altered his approach due to the circumstances of the lineup. Frankly, I'd be swinging for the fences if I knew that there was a chance that they would walk Fielder to get to (shudder) Demon Young (no. 5 hitter - .296 OBP - 508 at bats batting 5th).

Hell, Fielder was walked 18 times intentionally - tied for league lead. (85 walks total, not to mention 17 times hit by pitch). They avoided Fielder to get to Young. Miguel was well aware of this and altered his game. Cabrera had a place in the lineup where he was forced to hit. Many players would have folded under that kind of pressure. He didn't fold. He hit the living crap out of the ball. He should buy Delmon Young a freaking Rolex for helping him win The Triple Crown

(He also is one of baseballs premier in-game trash talkers - but that's another thread entirely)
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:46 PM on October 4, 2012


When you factor in base stealing and defense, it's not close. I mean for chrissake, he hit 30 HRs, stole 49 bases and played Gold Glove defense. Trout should be the guy the old-timey anti-stats crowd are drooling over. He hussles!

Or maybe we'd like to see a body of work for hell, call me crazy, maybe a whole season before we start drooling over a player and give him an all-time award such as an MVP? This award has more often than not gone to the best of the best of not just a season but an era. Did you know that prior to 1931 there was a rule in place that no player should have the honor bestowed on them more than once? That why Babe Ruth only has 1 MVP award to his name. There are plenty of other awards that crown a player for having superlative stats - the silver slugger for instance - but the MVP is special should remain the type of award that recognizes the greatest players of the era because when you look back on the list, sure there are some outliers, but by and large it chronicles the greatest players who played the game. In a couple of years I might be right back here arguing for Mike Trout to win the award when some young upstart has a similar MVP-type season for the same reason I vote for Cabrera this year. The man has done it year in and year out and deserves to be recognized and immortalized along with the greatest who ever played the game. It's his time.
posted by any major dude at 6:51 PM on October 4, 2012


You want to talk value? This is one of the ways that Cabrera changes the game. The batters in front of him face better pitches.

Funny thing about that: it's not true at all.
posted by RogerB at 6:54 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


the MVP is special should remain the type of award that recognizes the greatest players of the era because when you look back on the list, sure there are some outliers, but by and large it chronicles the greatest players who played the game.

This is not what the MVP means today. The MVP is the player who is voted by the BBWAA to be the most valuable to his team in the past season. Sorry. That's just what it is. I agree that Cabrera deserves recognition. He's a fantastic ball player. But, he's just not the MVP THIS YEAR. Rookies have won the MVP award before. More have won it in their second or third season. You can't just change the criteria for the award to suit your argument. It might be what you think it means, or should mean, but it isn't what it does mean in practice.
posted by synecdoche at 7:04 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or maybe we'd like to see a body of work for hell, call me crazy, maybe a whole season before we start drooling over a player and give him an all-time award such as an MVP?

This argument falls flat on it's face. Trout racked up more contributed value than anyone in baseball while playing ~20 fewer games.

It's his time.

Cabrera was a "young upstart." Ask Roger Clemens. No season Cabrera has had has come close to Trout's performance in 139 games this season.

There are plenty of other awards that crown a player for having superlative stats - the silver slugger for instance

Silver Slugger: the Derek Jeter award for mediocrity and big market media bias.
posted by clearly at 7:07 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny thing about that: it's not true at all.

Here's a 2012 MLB link. There are two sides to the lineup protection argument. It's not a resolved debate by any means. To me, and I'm sure others - Cabrera's stats tell the story. (in relation to Fielder and Young in my earlier post).
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:13 PM on October 4, 2012


This award has more often than not gone to the best of the best of not just a season but an era.

This should go on a plaque awarded to the winner of the Most Valuable Jeter Award for excellence in the field of Jetering and give it to the guy with the most heart (it's Jeter).

So we have to fight against RBIs and average, we have to convince people that defense matters, we have to explain why the most valuable player doesn't have to come from a playoff team ... and apparently now the MVP doesn't even have to be the best player in that year! He has to be the best of the era! Talk about moving the goalposts.

but by and large it chronicles the greatest players who played the game

That's because the greats have seasons where they were hands down the best player in the league. Like Trout.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Re: RBI's as a poor means of measuring the caliber of a player -

Let's say you had two players, both who batted .300 for a season. One player hit 2 home runs and had 134 RBIs. The other player hit 65 home runs and had 65 RBIs.

Which player would you say is better? I'm pretty sure its the second guy, even though he had fewer than half the RBIs of the first guy.
posted by shen1138 at 7:33 PM on October 4, 2012


clearly, outside of Mariano Rivera, he's the greatest player I've ever seen play the game. Day in and day out the guy does whatever it takes to win the game and infuses every teammate with that same kind of selflessness it takes to be a playoff contender. If you consider that mediocrity, then you know nothing about the game.


synechoche, can I see that memo that seemed to have crossed your desk and not mine? The MVP IS an all-time award, the same statheads were arguing for Ellsbury last year over Verlander. Verlander has done it year in and year out and Ellsbury had his first mvp-type year. The award went to Verlander. My argument is that if Trout runs into a wall in the 2nd game of next year and ends his career, 10 years from now people are going to be saying who the hell was Mike Trout just like the say who the hell was Zoilo Versalles? He had a great season but for that award to go to a rookie either he'd have to have an all-time season or he'd have to be far and away the best player in the league for the year. Neither of those two occurred.
posted by any major dude at 7:35 PM on October 4, 2012


Cabrera's stats tell the story.

Cabrera's stats in 2012 are pretty much exactly in line with what he did in 2010 and 2011.

He did walk less, strike out more, and his slugging percentage benefitted from leading all of baseball in home runs hit just far enough. I'm not seeing it.

42 less walks than 2011 and still manages to raise his slugging percentage 20 points (from .586 to .606)

Walks have nothing to do with slugging percentage.
posted by clearly at 7:36 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


outside of Mariano Rivera, he's the greatest player I've ever seen play the game.

You might as well admit that you root for the Empire when you watch Star Wars.
posted by clearly at 7:49 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


(OK, so I'm way late on this, but...)

no one seems to be mentioning that Cabrera is playing his first year at 3rd base

That's because it's not true. Cabrera was a full-time third baseman in 2006 and 2007, and played a few games there in a few other seasons. Third base is not an unfamiliar position for him.
posted by key lime guy at 7:57 PM on October 4, 2012


I can understand being jealous of Yankee fans, and can even understand the hate since Yankee fans are legion and a small minority (which probably equals the fan base of most small market teams) are obnoxious but what I cannot understand is how ANYONE who loves baseball can hate on Jeter or Mariano. I doubt there have been two more humble and gracious superstars in the history of sports.
posted by any major dude at 8:00 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


42 less walks than 2011 and still manages to raise his slugging percentage 20 points (from .586 to .606)

Walks have nothing to do with slugging percentage.

The point is - he managed to maintain contact. Was forced to, with Fielder being walked/hit by pitch over 100 times. That left Delmon Young as the number 5 hitter. Cabrera's walks went down as he was forced to swing - or end up standing at second (with Fielder walked - on first) while watching Delmon Young flail with his .296 OBP. The Tigers had a crappy number 5 hitter. Cabrera carried the team. His slugging percentage (an unreal .606) should have gone down if he was in a position where he was forced to hit at a greater rate than the previous year. Nor could he take as many walks. The numbers show that. He was not as able to work a count with Delmon in the shadows. Instead of a regression, you see a progression. - .606. That's freaking unreal considering the Fielder walk/hbp situation.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 8:11 PM on October 4, 2012


synechoche, can I see that memo that seemed to have crossed your desk and not mine? The MVP IS an all-time award, the same statheads were arguing for Ellsbury last year over Verlander. Verlander has done it year in and year out and Ellsbury had his first mvp-type year. The award went to Verlander.

Are you serious? Fred Lynn won MVP in his rookie year. So did Ichiro. Dustin Pedroia won it in his second season. So did Ryan Howard. So did Cal Ripken, Jr. Johnny Bench in his third. Same with Jackie Robinson. Pujols in his fourth. Ditto Willy Mays.

I'm just looking at a list of guys won both MVP after winning RoY. Ellsbury had an MVP-calibre season, but Verlander did, too, and was a deserving winner. The argument I heard back then was that Ellsbury lost because of the Red Sox collapse. Whether that should matter in an MVP debate is an entirely different kettle of fish that I'm really not willing to get into with you, because you're clearly making up your own rules about what some of the terms of our discussion mean.

(I'm leaving now, because I can't be sure you're not just trolling at this point.)
posted by synecdoche at 8:57 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point is - he managed to maintain contact.
Instead of a regression, you see a progression. - .606.

Miguel Cabrera had pretty much the exact same numbers in 2012 as he did in 2010 and 2011. The .020 increase in slugging percentage can be accounted for by the amount of "just enough" home runs not being recorded as long fly outs, and his .606 is less than the .622 he put up in 2010.

His slugging percentage (an unreal .606) should have gone down if he was in a position where he was forced to hit at a greater rate than the previous year.

I'm not buying the argument that having Prince Fielder and Delmon Young batting behind him in 2012 provides any more incentive for him to hit more than having Victor Martinez/Jhonny Peralta/Delmon Young/Brennan Boesch/Alex Avila behind him in 2010 and 2011. He is a really good hitter who continued to hit really good, except with perhaps less plate discipline this year than in previous seasons.

Miguel Cabrera is a great player, but he doesn't make Austin Jackson any better when he knocks Jackson in for a run, or Prince Fielder any better when he scores after Prince gets a hit.
posted by clearly at 9:02 PM on October 4, 2012


Oh my God, this thread is full of so much protracted stupid. I don't know whether that's because I'm a Tigers fan who lives in LA (so I get to see Trout's games too), but there's just so much wildly crazy bullshit in here — bad arguments about stats, bad definitions for awards, misrepresentations of both players' records… Ugh.

"Yeah, obviously it took both of them refusing to be DH, otherwise Cabrera could have stayed at 1st. But Victor Martinez hasn't played since 2011, and Delmon Young is a terrible baseball player, so neither was a good solution at DH for 2012. They had Brandon Inge, a fantastic defensive 3B, but let him go so Cabrera could take over."

You have no idea what you're talking about.

Delmon Young was added last year, then extended after a great playoff streak. Twins fans laughed at us. At the time, he was an outfielder, under the Jackson-Rayburn-Young-Boesch plan. Victor Martinez was the DH and backup catcher.

Martinez got hurt; the Tigers went searching for the best bat they could find. They got Fielder, though Fielder didn't want to play DH. Delmon Young is a decent hitter, if streaky as hell, and an abysmal defender. But he's still better than Inge at baseball.

Inge has been a terrible player for a few years now, the Eckstein of the Tigers. He's been around since we were truly terrible, and his vaunted defense has been getting worse and worse each year.

The big hole in the infield was 2nd base — ever since they let Polanco go, it's been a rotating cast of mediocre players, and the plan for this year — after a terrible 2011 — was to platoon Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. So, with that working out about as well as you'd expect (shitty), they moved Inge into second, where he was an abortion.

A couple other things to know about the Tigers: Their manager is one of the anti-stats guts and grit kinda managers, and it leads him to make some really dumb moves pretty regularly, like batting Delmon Young fifth. It also means that a lot of the context-dependent stats (like RBI) have to factor that in. He values RBIs so he's setting up Cabrera to have a lot of them.

As far as the predictive ability of stats: Things like BA and RBI tell you what happened, but they don't tell you if it's consistent. They take a huge sample size to stabilize. On the other hand, things like OBP and slugging stabilize earlier. As such, the variance is lower and they're more predictive. That's why they're handy discussing value going forward. Things like WAR are a mix of reportage and prediction, but are worth being wary of because different people weight their formulas different ways. But when you look at things like PECOTA, which is a simulation of projected seasons based on saber stats, it's pretty accurate pretty regularly (it's essentially the same thing that Nate Silver still uses for 538).

On the MVP:

Giving it based on a Triple Crown is kinda dumb. Arguing that it's like a Best Director Oscar and recognizes based on who's got the better career? Also dumb.

The way I always parse MVP is to try to figure out who was the most valuable to his team, and I tend to think of it as best defined by the person whose absence would be missed the most from the team. I'm sure that there's a good set of numbers that'd be calculable and give a quantified answer and if someone wants to do that, that's fine., but I tend to think that with the team the Angels have, They wouldn't have lost that many more games if Trout hadn't been playing for them. I tend to think there's less distance between Trout and the production of the average Angel than there is between Cabrera and the average Tiger. I think that makes Cabrera more valuable, even though it's a negative context argument.

But I'm totally open to being wrong on that.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 PM on October 4, 2012


synechoche,

I'm going to post this again because it's obvious that you didn't even finish reading the post that you are quoting from:

He had a great season but for that award to go to a rookie either he'd have to have an all-time season or he'd have to be far and away the best player in the league for the year. Neither of those two occurred.

all but two of those players you mentioned had far and away the best seasons of that year, Ichiro batted .350 and had the most hits in a season since 1930! Pedroia was a controversial pick but he was coming off a ROY and a World Series victory. Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play major league baseball and was also coming off a ROY. If you feel you are being trolled maybe you are in denial that you are just over your head as are most people who try to tackle complex subjects armed only with statistics. I'll leave you with this quote I heard once from Vin Scully, I recommend you take it to heart:

Statistics should be used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination
posted by any major dude at 10:27 PM on October 4, 2012


he'd have to be far and away the best player in the league for the year

Mike Trout was far and away the best player in the league this season. It isn't close.

Statistics should be used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination

You don't need stats to recognize Mike Trout as the best, most electrifying player in baseball.
posted by clearly at 11:17 PM on October 4, 2012


This thread has set the record for most comments in a thread tagged with "baseball" or "mlb"!!

*puts on goggles*
*shakes bottle*
*pops cork and sprays everyone with champaign*
posted by Groundhog Week at 5:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly,

you have devolved from talking sports to man crush. If he was far and away the best player in the league this season there wouldn't be this kind of discussion on every sports forum on the internet.

Let me see if I can put this into to the only kind of terms you can understand. When you take into account that Trout’s lack of durability earlier in the season ( virus/tendinitis) only allowed him .89875 the ABs that Cabrera accumulated (and probably kept his team out of the playoffs as a result) here are their head to head numbers when adjusted for that:

Cabrera led with:
2 more hits
9 more doubles
10 more HRs
42 more RBI
51 fewer strikeouts
4 pts higher AVG
42 pts higher SLG
36 pts higher OPS

Trout led with:
8 more triples
8 more walks
45 more SB
6 pt higher OBP

How in holy hell can you describe that as "far and away the best player in the league?"
posted by any major dude at 5:54 AM on October 5, 2012


The Road to the Triple Crown is Paved With Sacrifice
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:03 AM on October 5, 2012


any major dude,

Your accounting is a bit misleading. Hits, AVG, walks, OBP are basically washes. Doubles/triples don't really change the overall equation. You're left with Cabrera's 10 HR edge (which is directly responsible for his edge in SLG and OPS... I don't see why this should count 3 times) versus Trout's 45 stolen base edge.

RBIs are context-dependent: Cabrera bats 3rd while Trout hits leadoff. (Trout has more runs scored.) Strikeouts aren't really worse than flyouts or groundouts, but Cabrera hit into 21 more double plays, which is 21 extra outs.

It's fairly close on offense, it's not as close on defense.
posted by leopard at 9:32 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How in holy hell can you describe that as "far and away the best player in the league?"

You just quoted Vin Scully about stats being used like a drunk uses a lamppost, then took the time to quote only statistics adjusting, even normalizing for At Bats while completely ignoring every aspect of the game.


If he was far and away the best player in the league this season there wouldn't be this kind of discussion on every sports forum on the internet.

Discussion?


For park adjusted offensive production see WRC+ at fangraphs and OPS+ at baseball reference. For the complete picture, look at the WAR columns on each site. Again, it isn't close, and I could not care less about RBIs.
posted by clearly at 9:40 AM on October 5, 2012


Jeez, Buster Posey led both leagues in adjusted OPS+.
posted by grubi at 9:46 AM on October 5, 2012


"RBIs are context-dependent: Cabrera bats 3rd while Trout hits leadoff. (Trout has more runs scored.) Strikeouts aren't really worse than flyouts or groundouts, but Cabrera hit into 21 more double plays, which is 21 extra outs."

RBIs and GIDP are both context dependent — a leadoff batter will have fewer of both than a cleanup hitter.

(Also, to the person that raised batting order earlier, one of the big reasons why you might have a hitter hit higher in the order is because they get more ABs over the season, though I think Trout's injury ended up giving him less than Cabrera.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2012


(Which is me saying I didn't realize he had such a good year. Shame on me for not playing closer attention.)
posted by grubi at 9:53 AM on October 5, 2012


one of the big reasons why you might have a hitter hit higher in the order is because they get more ABs over the season

Precisely. Statistically speaking, it just makes more sense to put your best hitter #1, second-best at #2, and so on. The out-of-date (and mistaken) traditional way of doing it hinges on a false sense of "strategy".

You do whatever you can to get more runs. Best batters first gives you a better chance to get runs.
posted by grubi at 9:55 AM on October 5, 2012


Nice try, using Baseball Prospectus as an authority for who is going to win the MVP is like using FOX News as an authority for who is going to win the election. Here's Prospectus' predictions for 2011. Not one reporter picked Verlander to place higher than 3rd.
posted by any major dude at 10:03 AM on October 5, 2012


"Precisely. Statistically speaking, it just makes more sense to put your best hitter #1, second-best at #2, and so on. The out-of-date (and mistaken) traditional way of doing it hinges on a false sense of "strategy"."

I totally hate Leland's idiotic traditionalism, but there's actually more stats nuance than that; Beyond the Box Score has a decent rundown, which is mostly based on leverage. But the numbers say that outside of some terrible fucking lineups (which Leland puts out pretty regularly), it only accounts for about one win per season.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2012


Predictions are never guaranteed. Statistics are still better for predicting outcomes than "gut".
posted by grubi at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2012


If we're going to talk about the DH and wildcard teams, then can we also talk about the monstrosity that the one game play ins are? I mean, really, you play the whole fucking year, 162 games, and then you can get knocked out by one game? I don't like it, not one bit. I guess it makes it more important to win your division, but, come on. That's going to suck a lot for a couple of teams.

The one-game wild card is stupid, yes, but the wild card in general is pretty damn stupid, IMO, *if* you like pennant races, which were always my favorite part of baseball, checking the scores every day from July to September to see how your team and the division leader did.

Now, some of the best division races are "ruined" by the wild-card system, in as much as if two of the best teams in the league are neck-and-neck in their division, the second-place team is gonna get in anyway as a wild card.

You're *never* going to get a team like the 1993 Giants again, who win 103 games and get shut out of the playoffs. And as a Giants fan, I think that's a bad thing.

So, I guess they tried to increase the value of winning the division this, but it still sucks. Look at how the season would have broken down under the old system.

AL East:
Yankees - 95-67 (2)
Orioles - 93-69

AL West:
A's - 94-68 (1)
Rangers - 93-67

NL East:
Nats (I would suppose) - 98-64 (10)
Cards - 88-74

NL West:
Reds - 97-65 (3)
Braves - 94-68

3 fairly exciting pennant races. Now we get none, really. The A's-Rangers was the most exciting ... and the loser can still get to the WS via wild card.

I'm not old-fashioned nor conservative (DH is A-OK with me), but I don't like the wild card one bit, and am confused why all the traditionalists aren't up in arms over it. It is the biggest change to post-season baseball since the advent of divisions, and has completely changed the end of every season.

(Which is me saying I didn't realize he had such a good year. Shame on me for not playing closer attention.)

I would figure we're agreed that Posey is the clear NL MVP.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:16 AM on October 5, 2012


there's actually more stats nuance than that; Beyond the Box Score has a decent rundown, which is mostly based on leverage.

That's a pretty good condensation of it. It's not rocket science. That site also posted an interesting MLB's Most Valuable Players: 2012 article that weight performance vs. salary.

That's not really a factor, but obviously, at $480K, Trout kills it.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on October 5, 2012


I would figure we're agreed that Posey is the clear NL MVP.

I prefer to think of it this way: Florida State University's Own Posey is the clear NL MVP.
posted by grubi at 11:34 AM on October 5, 2012


MetaFilter has been an unlikely front in the Trout-Cabrera War, and in our isolation it's easy to lose track of reports like, "New flare-ups were reported in Boston, Denver and Chicago overnight as both sides continued to engage in snarky Twitter "@ replies" and small-arms fire."

Keep your wits about you, gentlemen.
posted by Copronymus at 12:06 PM on October 5, 2012


There are no winners in a war of this type. WAR war is the worst.
posted by grubi at 12:11 PM on October 5, 2012


Threads like this are why I miss Fire Joe Morgan.
posted by grubi at 12:21 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"New flare-ups were reported in Boston, Denver and Chicago overnight as both sides continued to engage in snarky Twitter "@ replies" and small-arms fire."

Based on the URL (which says Melky Cabrera instead of Miguel), I figured that would be a hilarious spoof that mocks baseball fans obsession with pointless arbitrary awards like MVP, Cy Young, and HoF.

It would have played better if they kept the idiot writer/Melky joke running throughout ("I mean how can you vote for a guy who was suspended for PED use?!")
posted by mrgrimm at 12:27 PM on October 5, 2012


WAR war is the worst.

Note to self: do not engage in conversations about advanced statistics with those who do not acknowledge RBIs a poor indicator of performance. Also, Yankees fans.


Outside of that, between this thread and the Orioles thread, I'm ecstatic that baseball is being discussed on MetaFilter.
posted by clearly at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note to self: do not engage in conversations about advanced statistics with those who do not acknowledge RBIs a poor indicator of performance.

Hey, excellent. Doesn't include me.

Also, Yankees fans.

...

Shit.
posted by grubi at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's just be clear here. If you are from NY there is not a lot wrong with being a Yankee fan, just like Lakers fans from LA or Cowboys fans from Texas. But if you aren't geographically pre-ordained to be a fan of those teams, but yet that's who you support. Well yeah - like cheering for US Steel as they say.
posted by JPD at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are from NY there is not a lot wrong with being a Yankee fan

This is not entirely true. There are bandwagon-jumping frontrunners in New York too, they just blend in better with the genuine lifelong fans (and often even claim to be them) while the team's winning and depart silently when it isn't.
posted by RogerB at 2:31 PM on October 5, 2012


If you are from NY there is not a lot wrong with being a Yankee fan

I'm from New Jersey. Guess which two teams are my favorites. ('Mets' is a wrong answer.)
posted by grubi at 2:47 PM on October 5, 2012


Oh, and to address RogerB's stipulation: I became a Yankees fan when they were the worst team in the AL.
posted by grubi at 2:49 PM on October 5, 2012


There are bandwagon-jumping frontrunners in New York

There are bandwagon jumping frontrunners everywhere though. I mean Gillette Stadium holds 68k+ at least 8 times a year.
posted by JPD at 3:24 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm from New Jersey. Guess which two teams are my favorites.

Yeah, I thought NY rooted for the Mets and NJ rooted for the Yankees.

I became a Yankees fan when they were the worst team in the AL.

Those were good years.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2012


Yeah, I thought NY rooted for the Mets and NJ rooted for the Yankees.

No. The only areas of NY where Mets fans (and maybe Jets fans) outnumber Yankees fans and Giants fans are Queens and Long Island. But even then plenty of fans of those teams all over the tri-state area. There are other stereotypes at play as well but I'm not sure how true they are (Jews are supposedly more commonly Mets fans for example, Latinos Yankee fans, etc, etc.)
posted by JPD at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2012


The only areas of NY where Mets fans (and maybe Jets fans) outnumber Yankees fans and Giants fans are Queens and Long Island.

Manhattan? Or was that just the 1980s, when the Yankees sucked...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:38 PM on October 8, 2012


Just the 80's. Yankee Stadium is way closer to Manhattan than Flushing is.
posted by JPD at 2:18 PM on October 8, 2012


Decent column from Kurt Mensching on saber stats and MVP.

Comes to a homer's conclusion, but I thought the framing was thoughtful.
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on October 9, 2012


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