Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Twins_vs_tigers_ad35
The MVP awards are announced tonight. Buster Posey is going to win, and deservedly so. Miguel Cabrera is also going to win, and he’s not the worst choice the voters have ever made. Cabrera had a fantastic season. This isn’t Juan Gonzalez in 1996 or anything. But, as you almost certainly know by now, I happen to think Mike Trout was both better and more valuable this year. I’ve already written extensively on their respective seasons, so if you want to know why I support Trout, I’d suggest any of these three articles from a couple of months ago. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Measuring Value The AL MVP Debate: We Did This Two Years Ago Trout Versus Cabrera: Offense Only, Context Included I’m kind out of things to say about Trout and Cabrera, though. Everything that could possibly be covered has been covered. Anyone who could possibly be swayed has been swayed. At this point, everything else is just arguing for the sake of arguing. I do hope, however, that tonight isn’t seen as kind of referendum on WAR. Because the pro-Trout people tend to also be pro-WAR people, there’s a tendency to see any argument for Trout as being based on accepting WAR at face value. Really, though, the pro-Trout argument has nothing to do with WAR, because the disagreements between the two sides aren’t about how we should weight their relative offensive performances, how we should handle position adjustments, or whether replacement levels and park factors are arbitrary or accurate. The pro-Trout argument essentially boils down to two main points: 1. The Most Valuable Player can come from a non-playoff team. 2. RBIs aren’t a useful indicator of a player’s value. And guess what – these exact same two arguments have been going on every year since the beginning of time. Or, at least, since the beginning of Bill James‘ time. These are the arguments about the MVP race every single winter. They were the arguments last year, when Ryan Braun beat out Matt Kemp in the NL MVP race. They were the arguments in 2003, when Alex Rodriguez won the award on a last place team. They were the arguments in both 1996 and 1998, when Juan Gonzalez racked up two MVP awards that he didn’t deserve. While WAR has become the symbol for the pro-Trout argument, at the end of the day, this is really the same argument that has been going on for 20 or 30 years. If the Tigers hadn’t made the playoffs, or Cabrera hadn’t led the league in runs batted in, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. This entire discussion is about the validity of those specific points, and those two points have been at the heart of nearly every MVP argument since. The names change, but the discussion remains the same. A lot of voters — an overwhelming majority, I’d say — put a lot of stock in whether a team makes the playoffs, and a good chunk of those are happy to defend the virtues of RBIs. Until and unless WAR incorporates those two factors, it’s never going to be a persuasive argument for that bloc of voter. And WAR is intentionally designed to not include those factors, so for a large population of the BBWAA, WAR will never be a useful tool in determining the MVP. And that’s why this vote really has nothing to do with WAR. WAR is essentially a proxy in this whole thing, just like cell phone usage is a proxy in presidential politics. Young voters tend to use cell phones, and young voters tend to vote for democrats, but young voters are not voting for democrats because they own cellphones. In the same way, young voters tend to prefer Mike Trout, and young voters tend to like WAR, but they’re not preferring Mike Trout simply because he has a higher WAR. They’re preferring Mike Trout because they’ve discarded the ideas that an MVP has to come from a playoff team and that RBIs are useful measures of a player’s value. Without those two boxes to check, Cabrera’s MVP case falls apart. Team divisional placement — I can’t even call it team wins, as I originally wrote it, because the Angels won more games than the Tigers this year — and RBIs are the foundation of Cabrera’s case. Those of us who have an affinity for WAR don’t put a lot of stock in those things as measures of value. People who have distaste for WAR generally do put a lot of stock in those things. And, just as is the case pretty much every year, the winner will be decided based on how many voters still believe in the value of RBIs and whether a team makes the playoffs or not. This debate has been framed as WAR vs Traditional Stats. But it’s really not that at all. No one who would vote for Mike Trout simply looked at the WAR leaderboards and decided that it was case closed. No one who voted for Miguel Cabrera looked at the WAR leaderboards and decided to vote for Cabrera to stick it to the nerds. The AL MVP is not a war on WAR. It’s a continuation of the same argument we’ve been having as long as I’ve followed baseball. And until we come to some kind of agreement on RBIs and whether an MVP can come from a non-playoff team, we’ll continue to have these same arguments every winter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Celtics looking to make LeBron's life difficult in playoff series

WATCH: Luke Rockhold chokes out Lyoto Machida

WATCH: Masai Ujiri fires up Raptors fans with expletive

Andre Johnson: Signing with Colts not about revenge

Pete Rose joining FOX as baseball analyst

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce around time of relapse

Isaiah Thomas once peed himself to avoid subbing out

Report: ESPN employees want Britt McHenry fired

WATCH: Raptors fans shower Paul Pierce with vulgar taunts

Report: Vikings want first-rounder, starting CB for Peterson

Jarret Stoll arrested for possession of drugs

Report: Todd Gurley's knee checks out well in evaluation

WATCH: All 286 3-pointers Steph Curry made this season

WATCH: Devan Dubnyk makes great save while leaving net

Sabres GM not happy about losing draft lottery

Yordano Ventura ejected for plunking Brett Lawrie

Five early takeaways from the 2015 MLB season

WATCH: Cubs fan catches foul ball in beer cup, chugs it

WATCH: Cardale Jones throws ball 74 yards during contest

Shaka Smart was quite popular at the Texas spring game

Ohio State sets spring game attendance record

WATCH: Bubba Watson raps on Christian rap track

WATCH: Jags mascot wins closest to pin at Sawgrass

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce from wife

Report: McHenry's coworkers want her fired

WATCH: Raptors fans taunt Paul Pierce

Five things to watch in NBA Playoffs

Jarret Stoll busted for drugs

CJ Wilson: Hamilton is 'ready to go'

Leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase preview

Home runs ruined our ability to appreciate production

Why we love the NFL draft

The "worst" player on each NBA playoff team

Jim Harbaugh showed up at Ultimate Frisbee practice

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.