Friday, October 5, 2012

MLB Awards - 2012

Greetings! I'm making a triumphant return to blogging for the MLB Playoffs, and that kicks off with this awards post, and a big-time preview of the Braves 1-game playoff game coming Friday pre-game. Let's do it...

AL MVP - Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels - This is the award that everyone is arguing the most about and with good reason. Miguel Cabrera won the batting triple crown, marking the first time that had been accomplished in nearly 5 decades... and he still isn't winning the award if I have a ballot. First, the "triple crown" of batting statistics (batting average, home runs, RBI) has pretty much been shown to be non-indicative of player performance. RBI is an "opportunity" stat, and while there is certainly a correlation between performance and # of RBI's (a bad player has a ceiling of these, etc.), there is certainly not causation there. In addition, batting average is significantly less important than on-base percentage statistically, and while, again, a high batting average is certainly a good thing, I'd rather have the guy with a .280 BA and .400 OBP than the guy who hits .310 with a .350 OBP. Done and done. With that said, here is a list of offensive categories that Mike Trout outperformed Miguel Cabrera in: Runs, On-base percentage, stolen bases, triples. In addition, Trout was basically identical to Cabrera in batting average (.330 to .326) and walks (67 to 66) in 70 less plate appearances. However, if the award was "most valuable hitter", Cabrera would win a slight edge with the extra power (40 HR to 27 HR) and overall OPS advantage (.999 to .963). See where I'm going with this? The award is much more than just hitting statistics, and Trout utterly dominates Cabrera in every other aspect of the game. On the base paths, Mike Trout stole 49 of 54 bases to lead the entire league, while Cabrera produced negative value on the basepaths overall according to advanced metrics. In the field? Mike Trout's UZR ranked him 6th in the entire AL in defensive runs saved (while not even playing the whole season) and Cabrera actually cost his team nearly a full win in the field with -9 runs saved. Even if you agreed to excuse Cabrera's defense to a "push" with league-average because of his position change (and I still wouldn't), he gets wiped out by Trout's elite glove at a premium position. Oh, and here's the "big gun". In FanGraphs WAR (wins above replacement), which is designed to assess overall player value, Trout emerges with 10.4 additional wins vs. 7.2 for Cabrera. In baseball-reference WAR, the gap is even larger, with Trout pulling a ridiculous 10.7 to 6.9 for Cabrera. Statistically, it's not even close. And for everyone using the narrative of a playoff appearance for Cabrera and the Tigers while the Angels are going home, please consider this. The Angels have a better record than the Tigers, and they did so in a much, much tougher division. Thank you and good night. Here's my top 3:

  1. Trout
  2. Cabrera
  3. Robinson Cano
NL MVP - Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee - This is a tough one. Braun and Buster Posey are neck-and-neck in WAR on fangraphs (8.0) and Posey has a slight lead in BB-Ref, but this is one where the integrity of defensive metrics may be the swing. Offensively, Braun has been ridiculous, posting a .987 OPS to lead the National League, blasting a league-leading 41 homers, and scoring a league-leading 108 runs. In addition, Braun stole 30 bases in 37 attempts, which lends significant value over Posey who only stole 1 base. The edge that Posey gets over Braun comes in 2 ways. First, Posey's team is significantly better than Braun's and they are headed to the playoffs whereas the Brewers stalled out with 83 wins. I'd throw that away for the most part, as Braun's teammates simply aren't as good as Posey's, but even if you want to grant it a small victory of Posey, that's fine. The other "edge" is defensively. That said, Braun's defensive metrics seem to wildly fluctuate year-to-year, which indicates to me that most systems have no idea how to grade him out, and Posey's defense falls prey to the fact that catcher defense is basically untrackable by defensive metrics unless you strictly use the ability to throw out runners. With that, Posey is granted a huge edge in WAR because of defense that I don't particularly value. There's no wrong answer here, but I feel like Braun would be the runaway winner if the steroid cloud wasn't hanging. Since I disregard that completely, he's the champ. Here's my top 3:

  1. Braun
  2. Posey
  3. Andrew McCutchen
AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit - Remember when Verlander was the runaway winner last year and no one even questioned it? He's been virtually as good this year with one big change. His win-loss record was 24-5 in 2011 and 17-8 in 2012. What does that tell us? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Win-loss record is meaningless for a starting pitcher, and because of this, let's not talk about it again. Verlander was 2nd in the league in ERA, 2nd in WHIP, 1st in strikeouts, 1st in innings, and 1st in both sets of pitcher WAR. It's pretty clear-cut for me. Here's my top 3:

  1. Verlander
  2. David Price
  3. Felix Hernandez

NL Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw, SP, LA Dodgers - This one may be controversial, but I firmly believe the numbers back me up. Led the league in both pitcher WAR stats, 2nd in strikeouts (1 K behind RA Dickey in 1 less start), 2nd in innings, 1st in WHIP, and 1st in ERA by 1/5 of a run. That's a dominating line, and if Kershaw had a better win-loss record than 14-9, he'd be the consensus winner. Because that doesn't matter (at all), he still wins for me despite 20 win seasons from Gio Gonzalez and RA Dickey. Sorry, gentlemen. With all that said, you'll hear a lot of chatter about how Craig Kimbrel should win the Cy Young, and while I'm as big of a Kimbrel supporter as anyone, that's just ludicrous. Kimbrel did strike out an absurd % of hitters and was generally lights-out, but he threw only 62.2 innings on the year. If you're scoring at home, that's less than 1/3 of the innings of the starting pitching contenders, and the "value" that Kimbrel can bring simply can't match that of the starters in 1/3 of the innings. Here's my top 3:

  1. Kershaw
  2. Dickey
  3. Gonzalez
AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels - The biggest no-brainer in the history of the Earth. Literally. Instead of talking more about Trout, let's break down the rest of my top 3. Yu Darvish comes in 2nd place for me after posting a 4-win season. 221 strikeouts in 191 innings is ludicrous and while his control suffered at times, he still posted a sub-4 ERA in a bad ballpark and led all other AL rookies in WAR. Yoenis Cespedes rounds out the top 3 after a break-out year for Oakland. An .863 OPS with 23 homers and 16 steals would often run away with ROY honors, and he can't be faulted for being in the "Year of Mike Trout". Top 3:

  1. Trout
  2. Darvish
  3. Cespedes

NL Rookie of the Year - Bryce Harper, OF, Washington - Another tough call. Bryce Harper and Wade Miley are dead-locked in Fangraphs WAR while Harper has the slight edge in BB-Ref. Harper posted a really impressive .817 OPS with 22 homers and 18 steals as a 20-year-old in a pennant race. Scary stuff. Miley finished in the top-15 in the NL overall in pitcher WAR, WHIP, and ERA and was easily the best rookie pitcher in the National League. I'm taking Harper based on his surge late in the year and the fact that Miley leveled off a bit, plus the upside of the position player over a pitcher. Both are quite deserving. Here's the top 3:

  1. Harper
  2. Miley
  3. Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati
And there it is! Argue away...

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