- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Like most fans, I don’t always agree with whom the Baseball Writers of America Association picks for the Major Leagues’ Most Valuable Player Awards and whom the managers and coaches pick for the Gold Glove awards.
But this year I think they made all the right choices, despite some self-proclaimed baseball sabermetricians’ complaining loudly that Los Angeles Angels rookie center fielder Mike Trout was robbed for both awards.
Sabermetrics has been described as “the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records,” a movement largely founded by Bill James.
Sabermetricians reject the value of traditional statistics such as batting average and runs batted in and insist that batting average on balls in play and nebulous statistics such as wins above replacement and weighted on-base average give a truer indication of a player’s value.
Thus the fact that this year’s American League MVP winner, Miguel Cabrera of Detroit, won the Triple Crown—the first in the majors in 45 years—meant nothing to the sabermetricians because they think two of the three statistics it is based on are practically worthless.
However I think Mark Twain’s quote about three types of untruths, “lies, damned lies and statistics,” applies just as much or more so to the sabermetricians’ favorite stats as to traditional stats.
In 1980 Al Kiplinger was hitting .250 five games into the season for Tell City’s Double-I League semipro baseball team, and all but one of his outs had been recorded on strikeouts.
Thus he was hitting .800 on balls in play. So I suppose the sabermetricians would have considered him the best hitter on the team.
The fact is that if one looks at all the traditional statistics closely and uses a little common sense interpreting them, they give as true an indication of a player’s value as one can get.
Sabermetricians decried the fact that the last four Triple Crown winners—Cabrera this year, Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Frank Robinson in 1966, and Mickey Mantle in 1956—won MVP awards, implying that meant the voters were blindly putting too much weight on traditional statistics.
But all four of them also led their teams to pennants, and that’s more than a coincidence.
With about a month left in the season this year, it appeared that Trout would win the AL batting title and lead the Angels to the playoffs. He slumped late, though, and did neither.
Cabrera, on the other hand, used clutch hitting down the stretch to lead the Tigers past the Chicago White Sox to a division title and eventually the pennant.
He may not be as good a defensive player as Trout, but he was adequate at third base after not having played there regularly for five years.
Many also think Trout was robbed for a Gold Glove, as he made several highlight-reel leaping catches at the fence to rob opponents of home runs.
But Baltimore’s Adam Jones, who won the award, averaged 2.71 putouts per game while Trout averaged 2.45.
Could it be that Trout played a little deeper than Jones, giving him a better chance to get to the fence to rob home runs but meaning he gave up more hits on balls hit in front of him?
Fred Lynn, the only center fielder to ever win MVP, Gold Glove and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season, averaged 2.81 putouts per game when he pulled off that trifecta for Boston in 1975. (Ichiro Suzuki played right field when he won all three awards for Seattle in 2001.)
Trout is an outstanding player and will likely win an MVP trophy and Gold Glove before his career is over. But he didn’t deserve either one this year.