Friday, 24 September 2010

Point of Order

We've heard, over the course of the last month, a considerable amount of rhetoric floated about the interwebs concerning whether or not Josh Hamilton or Miguel Cabrera should be the MVP. Occasionally this buzz is invaded by some enterprising soul, engaging in the ever-present and always annoying effort to make the Yankees the center of every discussion, who insists that it is really Robinson Cano who is worthy.

Many's the time the case is made that the Tigers would be the Mariners without Cabrera, while the Rangers have a potent lineup. Others delve into the relative value of various stats, or the comparable values of their defensive positions (this is where the Cano crowd really turns up the volume).

What you NEVER hear in these discussions is any mention of the man who now has not only 52 homers, but 41% more homers than his closest competitor: Jose Bautista.

For all the good it will do me (i.e. none) let me guide you, gentle reader, through the logic which leads me to call that omission a travesty.

First, let's take the comparisons individually. Since Cabrera seems to be the slight favorite, I'll start with him. As of the end of play on Friday, September 24, 2010, here are the stats (no WAR or anything because the voters won't look at the advanced metrics anyway) with JB on the left and MC on the right:

Avg - .268 - .329
OBP - .387 - .420
SLG - .635 - .619
OPS - 1.021 - .1039

AB - 534 - 535
R - 105 - 108
H - 143 - 176
2B - 34 - 45
3B - 3 - 1
HR - 52 - 36
XBH - 89 - 82
RBI - 118 - 122
BB - 98 - 87
K - 106 - 93

Note that if JB had TEN more SINGLES he'd have the same OPS as Cabrera.

I ask you fair minded reader, even if you allow that Cabrera's season is marginally better (coming into tonight, his OPS+ was slightly ahead) does it make any sense to you that Cabrera is the marginal favorite and Bautista is not even in the damned conversation?!

Perhaps you prefer Hamilton?
(parenthesis is Hamilton's rate pro-rated to same number of AB as Bautista)

Avg - .268 - .361
OBP - .387 - .414
SLG - .635 - .635
OPS - 1.021 - .1049

AB - 534 - 507
R - 105 - 94 (99)
H - 143 - 183 (193)
2B - 34 - 40 (42)
3B - 3 - 3 (3)
HR - 52 - 31 (33)
XBH - 89 - 74 (78)
RBI - 118 - 97 (102)
BB - 98 - 43 (45)
K - 106 - 95 (100)

Again, the major difference here is fueled by batting average. Fifteen singles and they have identical OPS figures. Again, Hamilton is in every MVP story, Bautista can't get a mention.

Cano? don't get me started!

Avg - .268 - .319
OBP - .387 - .380
SLG - .635 - .536
OPS - 1.021 - .916

AB - 534 - 595
R - 105 - 100
H - 143 - 190
2B - 34 - 39
3B - 3 - 3
HR - 52 - 28
XBH - 89 - 70
RBI - 118 - 104
BB - 98 - 55
K - 106 - 74

I'll deviate from my "old school stats" format here to point out that even if you factor in defense, Cano's WAR (6.5) is slightly below Bautista's (6.7) - you irrational Yankees fans can now exit the room.

Now, to go back to the front runners, the argument in favor of Hamilton is superior stats (and he does lead this group with a WAR of 8) and if that's your position, cool. But are you willing to say that his stats are SO superior that a man who's about one single every two weeks away from him isn't even in the top 3 candidates? Still, I tip my hat to the Hamilton argument - if total stats are your bottom line then fine, vote Hamilton #1 and Bautista #2 and we have no quarrel.

My real beef here is with the folks who say "Where would Detroit be without Cabrera?" First, let's specify that both teams have exactly the same W/L record as of tonight. Next, let's look at each team's statistical totals with the player in question factored out.

Without Cabrera, the Tigers' team OPS drops from .753 to .722 (-.031) and their rank in the league drops from 6th best to 10th. Without Bautista, the Jays team OPS drops from .763 to .737 (-.026) and their rank drops from 4th to 9th in the American League. Defensively, by the way, Cabrera fills the second easiest position in the lineup to replace (next to DH) and Baustista saved the Jays a lot of grief by being flexible enough to play two key defensive positions (neither man is a gold glover).

So I ask you, in all sincerity, are the Jays without Bautista - in the AL East no less - really a better team than the Tigers without Cabrera by any appreciable margin?

If not, then I demand justice. By any measure, Bautista is in the same conversation as either Hamilto or Cabrera in terms of offensive production. By the most obvious standards, Bautista was as valuable to the Jays as Cabrera was to the Tigers. if you start talking about the respective teams being contenders, I'll ask you whether it's Bautista's fault (or Cabrera's accomplishment) that the Tigers are not in the AL East.

On shear production, Bautista is the second most valuable hitter in the American League this year. Factoring in the more uncertain factors of value in the context of his particular team, Bautista's claim in that regard is every bit as good as Cabrera's.

Should he win?
Frankly, given that the latter consideration is a draw between Bautista and Cabrera, I'd be inclined to vote for Hamilton. But any voter who puts Cabrera in the top three and not Bautista doesn't deserve his ballot.

(if you think I've made a good case, make sure that the "big name" writers see it and let's see if we can create some late buzz)


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Great, great, great post. Brilliant, really. You know why? Because if Cano garners more MVP votes than Bautista, we'll know exactly what's going on. Because you have essentially disproved his case as an MVP candidate.

While Bautista may not deserve to be in, it's a travesty he's not in the conversation and, really, what else can we blame but the fact he plays in Toronto? Unless this team is winning, he's not going to get consideration.

I'd vote:

I can't wait for the MVP award, and the Cy Young, to be handed out.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

That second paragraph should start: "While Bautista may not deserve to WIN ..."

Commenting fail.

SP said...

Excellent. It always comes down to AVG, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I think you have Bautista between a rock and a hard place. You are correct traditional voters are going to like Cabrera's BA and take him over Bautista. But at the same time more stat-oriented fans are going to look at Cabrera and Bautista having very similar OPS+ and Bautista being a -17 runs in the field to Cabrera's less bad -5. (As per B-ref).

Bautista's had a great season and I can see the argument for MVP (which would have to stand on the fact that the defensive numbers are argument I can well believe as Bautista has seemed like at least an average defender all year and defensive numbers are far from exact). But Cabrera's got the BA on him, and Hamilton, Cano (by just a hair), Longoria and Cabrera all have the WAR on him. Not to mention all of them except for Cabrera having the playoffs thing going for him...

It's a long shot case for MVP I think. I think there is a compelling argument that Bautista has been better than Cabrera, but I can't see putting him past Hamilton or Longoria.

Drew said...

I'm with you, it's Hamilton's award to lose. Playing a premium defensive position is important. Great post.

Escaped Lab Rat said...

Fantastic post. I was already on board with this train of thought. It's nice to know that the statistics support the idea that Batista should be mentioned up there with the big boys.

Ian Hunter said...

This might be a stupid question, but do you think voters take defense into account when voting for MVP, or do they solely look at offense?

Now with Cabrera out for the last week of the season, I have to put Bautista ahead of Cabrera in that sense.

Anonymous said...

the fact that you keep saying that Bautista is 10 or 15 singles away from having the same OPS is ignorant...heres the issue he doesnt have the hits...its all production here bro...if he had those 10 or 15 hits then maybe you can consider it but he doesnt so stop playing in fairy tale land and come to the real world...the mvp is clearly hamilton...joey bats drops bombs but thats about it...hamilton is an all around beast

Rob said...

Great post,
you only touched on it briefly but having a whopping 40% more HR's than Konerko has to be a factor.

Also, he currently has the 19th best HR season in history and if you took out the steroid era guys, he'd have the 9th best year.

i thought a couple weeks ago Bautista would new 52+ HR's to have an MVP chance. Now im thinking he'll need 56-57 and the league lead in RBI's. It doesn't seem as though he has any MVP hype right now but getting into Ken Griffey/Hack Wilson territory would be hard to ignore.