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A hotly debated topic among my baseball friends has been the discussion of whether or not Miguel Cabrera is the AL MVP. Interestingly, it almost seems like an overwhelming majority of the public thinks that Cabrera MUST win if he wins the triple crown. I saw a poll on ESPN this morning that shows just how brainwashed the general public is about the stats that they’ve known their whole lives. Am I surprised? Not really.
Even when I have had individual discussions with people regarding the facts behind why Mike Trout is the clear and overwhelming favorite, I face a ton of resistance with one underlying theme: “He HAS to be the MVP, he’s going to win the triple crown!” Believe it or not, we once thought the earth was flat. We even used to be able to live without Facebook. I know, shocking! All sarcasm aside, what people need to consider is the actual award and what it stands for.
1. having considerable monetary worth; costing or bringing ahigh price: a valuable painting; a valuable crop.
Something that needs to be considered when looking at the MVP discussion is how much that player is being paid vs. what his actual performance is for that particular season. MLB salaries haven’t been a secret for many years, so much like sabermetrics tell us about performance, lets start to use all of the available information to us. I work in advertising in my day job. A big proponent of what advertising vehicle you choose to use is by the value it has to your business. You assess that value by determining the cost to reach X% of your target market. If a certain medium reaches a large portion of your target market, you’re creating value and ROI for your business by using that instead of something that misses your demo entirely.
You may be saying “hey, the player doesn’t control how much money he makes! That’s the agent’s job!” You’d be right in that, but front offices are determining a players value at all times. The Red Sox determined that Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford were not performing up to their relative cost, and likely will not perform at a level that’s consistent with what they are getting paid. Once you make that decision, it’s your job to find value in other ways to create a better product on the field. With that said, the point is that when a player outperforms his compensation, he’s created value for his team.
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Now the actual $/WAR equation is incredibly complicated and still being worked on. It’s likely we will never find a true “solved” version of this because we are still dealing with human beings. After all, baseball isn’t played on a spreadsheet. When looking at value in a business sense, you wouldn’t find anyone more truly valuable in the game compared to Mike Trout. Looking at pure $/WAR, Trout is at $480,000/9.5WAR (Fangraphs). Cabrera rings in at $21,000,000/6.7.
Trout: $50,526 per win above replacement level.
Cabrera: $3,134,328 per win above replacement level.
Trout’s salary is going to skyrocket when he hits arbitration, there’s no doubt about that. Is it fair to look at it this way? Probably not to the player. However that’s pretty irrelevant because we’re looking at value. Even if you look at it from a pure production standpoint, you’re still going with the better player if you pick Trout. RBI’s don’t matter people, because neither Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera are responsible for the players getting on base. They’re also not able to somehow “raise their game” when players are on base either. Don’t believe me? It’s okay because the numbers tell the story over plenty big enough of a sample size.
In the end, it’s the writers who decide who wins the award. All I can hope is they learn along with us and relay that information to the masses in a way they can understand. I’ve come to enjoy the game in a totally new perspective through a more honest evaluation. Hopefully the rest of the world will too some day.