Miguel Cabrera Deserved To Win The MVP

Admittedly, when we held our very own TYA awards, my MVP vote went to Mike Trout. Why? Because by all measurable statistics, no matter how you crunch the numbers, Mike Trout had the best season in baseball. No matter what awards he loses, no matter how many critics unwittingly joust against WAR, wRC+, and ISO, nothing will change the fact that scientifically, Trout was the best player in 2012. And to steal one of my favorite quotes from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Yesterday, Miguel Cabrera was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award. As you would imagine, the sabermetrics nerds didn’t exactly embrace the results.

Looking over the MVP results, some of these ballots didn’t even have Robinson Cano in 10th place vote, meanwhile Raul Ibanez made a list the star second baseman didn’t. The NY Daily News’ Mark Feinsand included Derek Jeter (3rd) and Rafael Soriano (8th), but completely left out Cano. Despite earning the 2nd highest fWAR in the American League, Feinsand argued that both Jeter and Soriano were more important to the Yankees because Cano was impotent in the clutch. I pointed out that despite his presumption, Cano OPS’d .957 with a wRC+ of 155, a triple slash of .316/.399/.558, all with runners on base.

I don’t think he was trying to be condescending, but arguing how many games you’ve watched  isn’t the best way to win an argument. Perhaps he’s assuming that his opinion means more because he watched the team everyday and I/we/the sabermetric nerds didn’t, we’re just looking at numbers. To be honest, I didn’t actually attend all this year’s games like he and the rest of the beat did. Unfortunately, I was never offered a working media pass for the major league team. However, I did was watch every single game, usually multiple times a day, doing PITCHf/x research and composing GIF’s for my readers.

This blog averages around 3,000 readers a day during this time of the season. This is where Feinsand and I differ. He writes for a tabloid that averages close to 600,000 papers a day, and they aren’t buying a newspaper to read stat lines everyday, they’re buying a paper to be entertained by a narrative.

There are two types of baseball fans. The objectivists and the subjectivists. Sabermetrics tries to objectify every asset on the baseball field, and your newspaper’s sports section tries to subjectify it. Mark Feinsand’s job is to cater to his audience. His job is to create narratives. He needs to tell a story. His job is to take a subjective look at baseball. He has to turn a sport about grown men swinging a stick into a romance, and that’s something I cannot do.

The MVP award is presented by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America, it’s a composite of 28 baseball writer’s ballots. The majority of these writers have the same exact job as Feinsand, and they’re just as subjective about the sport. For that reason, the MVP award is a subjective decision.

Sure, awarding the award to a rookie would be a nice storyline, but the Angels were not a playoff team. Without Miguel Cabrera, I don’t see a way that the Tigers make the playoffs. His bat carried the team for the majority of the season, when their offense was otherwise barren. He had one of the best seasons in baseball, and despite his weaknesses, he brought the Tigers to the playoffs, and then to the World Series. In the end, no one who reads a news paper cares about Mike Trout in October.

I have respect for the baseball writers, they do something they enjoy and their readers enjoy it as well. They paint a picture of baseball, and there’s still a couple of generations who’s knowledge of the game is mostly from sports page narratives. But as the generations move on, there’s no doubt baseball has grown more statistically oriented. Baseball fans are growing less enamored with the human element, because science has proven that almost everything in the game is pretty damn close to quantifiable.

When it comes to this type of sports writing, I am not that sort of fan. I love baseball, but reading a subjective sports columns is gritting. When you know the numbers and the unimportance of a single game, when you know that clutch hitters don’t really exist, reading a  writer’s narrative is like pulling back the curtain to reveal the true Wizard of Oz. You’re surprised that he’s no longer that ominous figure, he’s old and frail, beyond his time, and although he’s a good man, he’s a very bad wizard.

There will probably be a time when subjective analysis has been relinquished, but yesterday was not that day. The Triple-Crown winner carrying his team to the playoffs is a more romantic storyline than the amazing kid who’s team didn’t have enough to make the postseason, and that’s why Cabrera deserves the MVP. Not because he was a better player, but because he was a better story.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

5 thoughts on “Miguel Cabrera Deserved To Win The MVP

  1. hawaii dave

    Actually, the best thing about science is that it proved the world was flat, until it wasn’t. Also, science knew that the atom was smallest thing in the universe….that is until science knew otherwise. Oh, what about ulcers being caused by stress, thats always a good one. The best thing about science is that it’s right whether you believe it or not, until the day its not right…but then there will be a “new” right that will be “right” whether you believe it or not.

    But thing does remain constant since the dawn of time…scientists and religious fanatics are identical twins. The only thing worse than a scientist is in fact a religious fanatic….and that has been scientifically proven.

  2. Lazlo's Other

    Actually, it was thought by some that the world was flat, until science demonstrated that it was round. Ancient Greek, Persian and Asian cultures discovered it was round long before Europeans, through scientific observation. The Greeks also originated the idea of the atom, around 500 B.C. People didn’t “know” the atom was the smallest thing in the universe, this was the working hypothesis until technology caught up enough to test it. If it was “known”, it wouldn’t have required a test. Stress caused ulcers was another “best answer at the time” that science proved incorrect through testing.

    You need to be able to differentiate between an answer that is accepted until proven wrong, and “belief”. If you can’t, you end up as one of those people who equate science with religion. Tyson was referring to the scientific method in his statement, which is true in that it is supported through hypothesis, observation and measurement – It’s self correcting. As opposed to religion which corrects it’s beliefs slowly, reluctantly, and only when it has been absolutely forced to by outside parties.

    The only thing worse than a religious fanatic is an idiot who equates dogma driven zealotry with reasoned thought.

  3. Steve

    I know your comment is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I have to respond anyway. The point that deGrasse Tyson was trying to make is not that scientists never get anything wrong. It’s that the scientific method, which involves constantly reassessing one’s assumptions by testing them, is incredibly robust. Those with preconceived notions they are unwilling to look at critically, whether they are scientists or the religious, are ultimately likely to proven to be fools. Never fall too deeply in love with an idea; you’ll get your heart broken.

    Also, Mike Trout should have been voted MVP.

    • hawaii dave

      Of course it was tongue in cheek, just button pressing to stimulate some thought. Now that I made my comment, guys like Lazlo start calling names behind the safety of their computer screen….real brave Laz…but actually backtrack on my statement, which I stand by. Science does not declare their results facts, “until” better technology finds the real truth. Science does not proclaim their results “the best we can do under the circumstances”. Science is bold…bold like Lazlo, calling names and making statements from behind the safety of a 1000 miles of secret cyberspace. Science declares “fact” to anything it wants, hiding behind its PHD. The process of science, the method of continuous rechecking and rethinking, and reassessing and challenging former theory…is as you say, incredibly robust….BUT that is not what Eder is saying…Eder, being Eder, is taking an arrogant position for the sole purpose of insulting those who are slower to embrace his beliefs.
      What Eder needs to remember is the the greatest minds in the history of the world have been wrong, many, many, many times and will continue to cheat by mixing a bit of theory in w some facts and hope no one is looking till a century or 2 after they are dead.

  4. gehrig27

    I have read a lot about this year´s MVP and who deserves it more; I sincerely do not understand why both “views” -the objective, and the subjective- cannot be combined to make the choosing.

    Although everybody must acknowledge all the improvements in the evaluation and analysis of the game thanks to sabermetrics etc., hopefully the subjective part will never be put aside. Because, after all, we are still humans, and subjectivity is an important part of who we are.

    By the way, I would have voted for Cabrera for MVP. In fifty or more years, he will be remembered for having won the Triple Crown (especially if we have to wait 45 years to have another Triple Crown winner). On the other hand, Trout´s season, no matter what the final numbers say, in the end was not good enough to be remembered…I think that before September, he was a clear winner of the MVP. But Cabrera excelled in September, while Trout didn´t.

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