From my Wordpress Blog. http://avadisputableevidence.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/war-debate/
Every argument I’ve read in the weeks leading up to the American League MVP announcement centered on two things. Both candidates had historic seasons that might not be replicated again for a long time, and both guys were very deserving of the award. Yet, everyone had to take a side in this “old school” meets “new school” debate. I personally don’t care for the new advanced metrics in baseball. I watch baseball as a fan, and just because you were personally responsible for an additional 6.2 wins during the season does not mean you are shooting up my fantasy draft board (I’m talking to you Alex Gordon). If WAR was that important in my fantasy decisions, guys like Denard Span and Tori Hunter become first-round options in the outfield and Ben Zobrist gets picked ahead of Albert Pujols. I have an appreciation for what these statistics measure and I think it does a great job shedding light on how valuable someone is, but the term “valuable” is vastly different to a GM than it is for me. I’m not paying someone millions of dollars to be an above average fielder who also produces runs. That’s also why I don’t make those decisions at any level above the waiver wire.
When someone tells me that Mike Trout was responsible for 23 runs above average saved my first thought is pretty simple. “Well, as long as it wasn’t against my team.” When these analysts string off sets of numbers and percentages to explain how elite his defense was this season, I wonder why didn’t he win the Gold Glove. Sure that’s a weak argument, and the basis for his MVP candidacy was based primarily on how remarkable of an offensive season he had, but what it really does is force myself to openly question how far we could actually go to support any candidate using these advanced metrics in both directions. Should Ryan Braun be penalized because his ability to save runs is just two north of the league average? What happens when a new measure is developed that is able to identify value at a much greater level than what we have currently? Are we supposed to throw out WAR and view it as an “old school” approach to looking at individual statistics? I am not sure what the answer is. I just firmly believe that a player’s value isn’t hard to determine without these metrics.
As a Tiger’s fan of course I am biased towards Cabrera in the result, but I watched enough baseball to adamantly say he was the most valuable player in the American League. The reasons Miguel Cabrera won, I believe, ultimately came down to his team making the postseason, his performance in the later months compared to Trout’s, and the fact that he won the Triple Crown. While I don’t believe that the Triple Crown should automatically grant you the league MVP, I think that it certainly should play a major role. It’s also quite ironic that the same reasons Tiger’s fans argued for Justin Verlander last year in the MVP and this year in the CY Young were the exactly same reasons they argued against Mike Trout this season. That’s my final point in attempting to clarify my thoughts on advanced metrics in baseball. When fans of a certain organization can argue for a player based on them and against another as well, there in lies the problem. Here’s a perfect scenario.
Player X: .313 AVG 16 HR and 92 RBI
Player Y: .313 AVG 29 HR and 107 RBI
I believe you can make a convincing case based on those numbers who the more valuable player was. Throw in a little WAR and you’ll find out that Player X had a 5.5 WAR versus Player Y’s 2.9. Obviously looking deeper you find that Tori Hunter (Player X) plays a harder position, but he only had 7 more runs scored and Billy Butler (Player Y) had more hits, doubles, walks, and less strikeouts. Ultimately I don’t think this MVP race was hard to decide for anyone. What Trout delivered in sheer excitement and a historic season offensively, Cabrera brought fear to opposing pitchers and did something we haven’t seen since 1967, a Triple Crown. I don’t need WAR to tell me how many wins he was worth to the Tiger’s this season and for the argument that the Angels won more games (just one)? Chalk that up to the one game Miguel Cabrera missed this season.