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.
@mbonzo31 that’s all fine. Watching the team every day, I see no way to argue he had an MVP season. But you’re entitled to your opinion.
— Mark Feinsand (@BloggingBombers) November 16, 2012
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.