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November 14, 2013

Skewed Left

Why Deserving MVPs Don't Win

by Zachary Levine

When Mike Trout—okay, fine, if Mike Trout—gets robbed of the American League MVP award tonight for the second straight year, the explanation won’t be so easy. Last year, the excuse for excusing one of the best seasons of all time, not just by a 20-year-old but by anybody, was readymade. He was going up against the Triple Crown—an achievement that, while not all that indicative of overall value, is still so steeped in historical value that it can be blinding.

This year it’s not so simple. The voters won’t have one obvious reason for dismissing the best super-young position player in the history of the game again.

But according to research on more than six decades of MVP voting patterns conducted with the help of some Baseball Prospectus colleagues, they will have several less obvious reasons for dismissing him. Combine the biases exposed by an examination of some of the worst votes in history, and you can basically pre-construct the case against Trout.

Trout was the best player in baseball this year, and since I would pay more to have his season than anyone else’s season, I consider him the most valuable player.

However, he is everything that BBWAA voters have hated in the years when their results have been most misaligned with what the numbers say. He plays the wrong position for the wrong team, doing so with the wrong skill set and yes, it can be shown, at the wrong age.

The following is a look at all the history he’s fighting against that’s arguably more powerful than a triple crown, and some insight into the biases of MVP voters over generations of head-scratching results.

***

It’s hard to define a bad vote, especially so far after the fact when we’ve lost sight of all the lesser elements of value that could be tilting judgment away from statistical performance, whether rightly or wrongly.

I’ve tried to go about this in the most lenient way possible. In coming up with the 25 MVP robberies from the WARP era of 1950-present, I’ve ignored any year when a pitcher won the award, mostly to avoid a mess. And while a comparison of WARP vs. the vote would be a simple way to go, I’ve given my peers in the BBWAA a little longer leash. To count as a bad vote, a different position player not only had to lead all of that league’s position players in WARP, but he also had to do so in Fangraphs’ WAR and Baseball-Reference’s WAR, and he had to beat the named MVP by at least 1.0 win above replacement in all of them.

That brings us to a list of 25—13 in the NL, 12 in the AL—with a nice lull of some pretty good voting in the 1970s and 1980s.

AL best position player vs. actual MVP

NL best position player vs. actual MVP

2012 – Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera

2006 – Albert Pujols vs. Ryan Howard

2002 – Alex Rodriguez vs. Miguel Tejada

1998 – Barry Bonds vs. Sammy Sosa

2001 – Jason Giambi vs. Ichiro Suzuki

1995 – Barry Bonds vs. Barry Larkin

2000 – Alex Rodriguez vs. Jason Giambi

1991 – Barry Bonds vs. Terry Pendleton

1993 – Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Frank Thomas

1974 – Mike Schmidt vs. Steve Garvey

1987 – Wade Boggs vs. George Bell

1971 – Willie Stargell vs. Joe Torre

1985 – Rickey Henderson vs. Don Mattingly

1964 – Willie Mays vs. Ken Boyer

1970 – Carl Yastrzemski vs. Boog Powell

1962 – Willie Mays vs. Maury Wills

1963 – Bob Allison vs. Elston Howard

1960 – Willie Mays vs. Dick Groat

1961 – Mickey Mantle vs. Roger Maris

1955 – Willie Mays vs. Roy Campanella

1958 – Mickey Mantle vs. Jackie Jensen

1953 – Duke Snider vs. Roy Campanella

1955 – Mickey Mantle vs. Yogi Berra

1952 – Jackie Robinson vs. Hank Sauer

1951 – Jackie Robinson vs. Roy Campanella

The biggest victims jump right out immediately given their clustering on the page. Two-time MVP Willie Mays was robbed of four more over a full decade of dominance. The other greatest Giant, Barry Bonds, was robbed of three more that would have given him an unbelievable 10 trophies over his career. Mays’ contemporary over in the AL, Mickey Mantle, was robbed of three, including two that were given to his lesser teammates.

Trout has been compared to at least a couple of those guys, and his career is starting out just like theirs—impressive, yet largely unrecognized in the postseason awards.

***

But what specifically is the cause? Before even seeing the names, we went into this exercise wondering what these robbed players might have in common, and whether there was any characteristic we could isolate that voters tended to either react badly to or ignore in snubbing these players.

We went into it with five hypotheses from myself and the editors:

  • Players robbed of MVP awards were on bad teams
  • They played challenging positions that they weren’t given credit for
  • They walked a lot, and this went unrecognized
  • Their value was piled up in defense and baserunning
  • They were young, and voters don’t like giving the award to young players

These five didn’t all hold true, but there are clearly some patterns in the writers’ voting—and even with only 25 pairs of players, some statistically significant ones.

1. Were players robbed of MVP awards on bad teams?
Actually, they were on very good teams, which appears to be the first blow to the hypotheses. The 25 players who were robbed of MVP awards were on teams that averaged 92 wins. So it’s not just the guys on 2013 Angels-like teams who are getting overlooked in favor of players who played with teammates of the caliber of Cabrera’s.

However, that’s not the whole story. The 25 players who won the award over them were, on average, on great teams. Here’s the first of a few tests of significance (t-tests) for these samples.

Of the 25 players robbed of MVP awards:

Six were on better teams than the MVP’s
Six were on teams with the same record as the MVP’s (mostly teammates)
13 were on worse teams than the MVP’s

Average win total of players robbed: 91.88
Average win total of those 25 MVPs: 97.76
p=.012 – Reasonably significant

Voters will often admit that team accomplishment—often disguised as “playing in high-pressure games”—had something to do with it, but there are hidden biases ahead.

2. Are there positional biases?
Oh, absolutely. It’s no coincidence that Mantle and Mays were Trout’s forerunners in the biggest part of the pasture. Center fielders have come out on the wrong side of these anti-evidence decisions 11 times and have never benefited from one.

Position

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

Robbed

0

3

2

2

2

4

11

1

Undeserving MVPs

5

6

0

4

4

2

0

4

Contrary to the hypothesis, it’s not really true across the spectrum that voters don’t value premium defensive positions. There have been more undeserving winners at shortstop than there have been players robbed at shortstop. Same thing behind the plate, by a huge margin.

Now, there’s a possibility that the voters have been right, that none of the three major value metrics has been putting the right numbers on catchers’ huge defensive value and that all of them have been overrating center field. But there’s obviously a huge disconnect historically between how the statistical community sees center field and how the voters do, and that’s not going to help Trout either.

3. Do walks go unrecognized?
Not surprisingly, yes, and this will hurt Trout once again as the American League walk leader. Voters don’t seem to have much interest in bases on balls, while the value metrics love them.

Of the 25 players robbed of MVP awards:

22 had a higher walk rate than the MVP
Three had a lower walk rate than the MVP

Average walk rate of players robbed: 14.98 percent
Average walk rate of those 25 MVPs: 10.13 percent
p=.00001 – Very significant

4. Is the value loaded up in defense and baserunning?
Ben Lindbergh posed a variation of this question to add to the list, and it’s an interesting one (not just because he’s my boss.)

Just like we didn’t expect voters to value walks or necessarily know how to adjust for position, it can be easy to ignore defense and baserunning in the face of offensive mismatches. This certainly happened in the KO that was Cabrera-Trout I.

Using our BRAA statistic in conjunction with WARP, the robbed players’ batting accounted for approximately 66.9 percent of their value, while the undeserving MVPs’ batting accounted for 69.0 percent of their value. While this isn’t a huge difference, and isn’t something that’s noticeable to the naked eye or that I would consider “loaded up,” it is indeed in the direction we would expect.

5. Is there ageism in MVP voting?
Sam Miller wanted to know this one, and if you’ll allow me to quote his email:

Age age age! My hypothesis last year was that Trout lost entirely because of his age, and that had McCutchen had Trout's year and Harper won the Triple Crown, McCutchen would have won the MVP. I have no idea if this is true, so I'm glad you're going to tell me.

I don’t know about the McCutchen-Harper hypothetical, but it does appear to be true in our most egregious examples that the voters have favored the older player. The robbed players were on average more than a year younger than the undeserving MVPs, which is a big difference with these small deviations around players’ general peaks.

Of the 25 players robbed of MVP awards:

13 were younger than the MVP
Three were the same age as the MVP
Nine were older than the MVP

Average age of players robbed: 27.68
Average age of those 25 MVPs: 29.12
p=.038 – Reasonably significant

Often, there are multiple factors at play, and I must admit that there’s some potential for confounding variables here, so this hasn’t been statistically rigorous. There is a correlation between youth and playing center field, for instance, so those factors can get in the way of each other.

Just like Trout is nine years younger than Cabrera, a 24-year-old Mays should have beaten a 33-year-old Campanella in 1955, but he had to wait his turn for a second MVP. And besides, the Dodgers had overtaken the Giants that year and this was the 1950s, when catchers were hoarding MVPs and outfielders largely need not have applied.

Mays should probably have three times the MVP awards that he actually retired with, and there’s a good chance we’ll say the same about Trout someday. There is no Triple Crown to contend with this year, but history tells us there will be plenty working against him.

Notes:
Team win totals were adjusted to 162-game seasons before 1962 and in strike years
Disclosure: I am a BBWAA member and have voted on one MVP ballot ( 2012 NL).
Thanks to Andrew Koo for research assistance.

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  MVP,  Mike Trout,  Bbwaa,  Most Value Player

42 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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hcaeb2000
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Okay I don't want to go all crazy but these are the kinds of articles that drive me nuts! WAR or WARP no matter what site it comes from is a "SUBJECTIVE" number. Notice I did not say stat. There are subjective overtones when arriving at that number especially when it comes to Defense. Now I am not a SABR hater but I am someone who believes the human element and common sense is being lost with SABR metrics. I don't mind them for statistical trends and things of that nature but choosing an MVP based on WAR is plain silly.

Mike is a great player but he wasn't robbed of anything last year. Cabrera was deserving of the MVP, triple crown or not...

What is happening here is the SABR guys trying to prove their existence matters, see Trout as their gateway to over throw the old school way of thinking which is baseball is a game that produces stats but the real game is played on the field. SABR on the other hand thinks baseball is played on a spreadsheet without the charm and emotion of the game.

Like I said I like to look at some advanced stats but really all a a lot of them are is complicated formulas to tell me something I can deduce from looking at a few of the more traditional stats.

In the End Cabrera deserves to be MVP again this year for three reason. Offensively he beat Trout in almost every category even more so than last year. Defensively Trout is not what he is made out to be...not awesome but Average. Throw out a runner anytime? Lastly because the Angels didn't play a meaningful game after opening day. Now I don't always believe the MVP must come from a winning team when a player is clear cut above the rest however that is not the case here.

Nov 14, 2013 07:26 AM
rating: -9
 
bobbygrace

I see where you're coming from; I'd choose a different word than "subjective" to describe WARP and related numbers, though. These numbers seek to remove the subjective from consideration to the extent possible, by defining and measuring aspects of the game that can be defined and measured. The whole intent of such an exercise is to remove the viewer's subjective biases when assigning value to a player. This exercise is, of course, incomplete; there are aspects of a player's value that cannot be measured. Few here would argue otherwise.

What WARP and related numbers are is assumption-based. For one, they assume accuracy in the underlying measures. Some of the measures may be more reliable than others. I would agree with your suggestion, for example, that defensive metrics have their problems.

I agree even more with your second paragraph. Although I expect that Miguel Cabrera will win the MVP again this year, and I agree with the author that Mike Trout should have won in 2012 and should win in 2013, it's a stretch to suggest that Cabrera has (or will have) "robbed" anyone. He plays a poor third base, but he's good enough there to hold down a valuable defensive position and free up space for Prince Fielder in the lineup. He's arguably the best pure hitter and the best power hitter in the game. He was a key piece of a championship-caliber team. Trout is a deserving MVP candidate (and again, I think he should win and should have won), but Cabrera is no Jackie Jensen.

So, I don't think the measures evoked here are subjective. I also don't think that there's really a SABR-versus-the-world fight going on anymore in the places that really matter--be it front offices or the pages of leading baseball publications such as BP. But I can see why the piece provoked your reaction. For my part, I think that our statistically-minded community advances its cause more effectively when arguing something positive--such as its advocacy for Bert Blyleven's inclusion in the Hall of Fame--than when trying to knock something down.

In short, I'm with this piece as far as it's pro-Trout, and against it as far as it's anti-Cabrera.

Nov 14, 2013 07:51 AM
rating: 6
 
Behemoth

It's not even particularly about Trout/Cabrera. Let's not get away from the simple fact that, as far as we can currently measure, Trout has been better than Cabrera over the last two years. Nobody says this makes Cabrera bad, or not good at baseball, so it's not anti-Cabrera in any way.

Nov 14, 2013 08:50 AM
rating: 0
 
bobbygrace

I don't think this single piece is particularly anti-Cabrera. But it's part of a larger Trout-versus-Cabrera narrative, the underlying question of which plays into the hands of whatever you want to call people that have a bone to pick with WARP and spreadsheets and the like. Put it this way: Why not write write this article about Paul Goldschmidt (1B, 7.5 WARP) versus Andrew McCutchen (CF, 6.1 WARP)? (Perhaps McCutchen didn't meet the multi-source criterion, winning out in others' metrics. But the question is still revealing.)

Assuming McCutchen wins--and I think he'll outdistance other NL players in the MVP voting more than whoever the AL winner is--he provides an interesting counterexample, in hypotheses 2 and 4 in particular. There's a narrative element to the MVP voting that's harder to measure but,I'm guessing, even more important than the factors considered in this piece. The MVP award usually goes to a player that plays exceptionally and is part of a feel-good story. He's on a successful team; he's a good guy; he's been a solid player for a while and this is "his year" (the "Paul Newman's Oscar for The Color of Money" argument); and so forth.

Trout is part of a feel-bad story. Goldschmidt is part of a feel-meh story. That's a key reason they won't win. And to be sure, it's unfair and illogical.

Nov 14, 2013 09:25 AM
rating: 2
 
bobbygrace

P.S. Fangraphs put McCutchen ahead of second-place Carlos Gomez by 0.6 WAR and ahead of fourth-place Paul Goldschmidt by 1.8 WAR. (Matt Carpenter came in third.) Baseball-reference put Gomez in the lead, 0.2 WAR ahead of McCutchen and 1.3 WAR ahead of third-place Goldschmidt. So, the article's criteria don't apply to the 2013 NL MVP race.

Still, to my larger point, there will be no hue and cry in our community when McCutchen wins the NL MVP this year. Not that there should be.

Nov 14, 2013 09:37 AM
rating: 0
 
therealn0d

there's so much misdirection and misunderstanding in this post that I'm left wondering why it's author left it here of all places. I will not be one of the people down voting this.

Nov 14, 2013 07:52 AM
rating: 1
 
Behemoth

I son't believe in down-voting posts because I disagree with them, but this just translates as "I like Cabrera more than Trout, and I don't care about any reasons why I'm wrong."

Nov 14, 2013 08:46 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

I'm a SABR member and never considered that baseball was played on a spreadsheet, but it might explain how Shelby Miller could have been hiding in Column CX, Row 9378 during the World Series.

I agree with you that it is an award that should be based solely on metrics and that WARP/WAR is dependent on its author. But that's why I made the player be better in all three measures and by a significant amount - to try to weed out the differences among the number and make sure there was a clear difference between the players.

Nov 14, 2013 08:56 AM
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Didn't think the Shelby Miller MIA meme would persist into November, but there were several quite legit reasons he wasn't given innings in the postseason (a few articles have spelled out the logic behind the Cardinals' thinking). It's all very harmless and of course not a big deal, but I'm not sure why this has been the go-to joke among seamhead types for so long.

Nov 14, 2013 10:18 AM
rating: -2
 
SabreTorres21

I completely understand getting tired of the Miller jokes. I actually think they're still funny. I respectfully disagree that Miller's lack of use was harmless. It became a waste of a roster spot that could've been better used on somebody else. I would've went with Adron Chambers or Ryan Jackson instead.

Nov 14, 2013 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I meant the jokes are harmless. And yes, I'd've preferred the Cards used Miller's roster spot more optimally, but I can see how an emergency long reliever might be more valuable than Chambers or Jackson. Either way you're talking about moving the WPA needle fractions of centimeters, so I can't get all that exercised about it.

Nov 14, 2013 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
SabreTorres21

I apologize for misunderstanding! If Miller was used properly then I would agree that it would be a better use of a roster spot than Chambers or Jackson.

Nov 14, 2013 11:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

So one issue to you is the team he is on? So if Mike Trout had been drafted by the Red Sox and was still playing for them this year, he'd be more deserving of the award? But since the Angels had a poor pitching staff, his accomplishments are lessened?

To put it another way, is the award, "The best player whose team's front office did a good job of building the team, whose owner/market is generous on payroll, and whose team had some good breaks, award."? It seems if that is the case, you are largely determining which player wins the award by using performance areas that lie outside of the player's control.

It seems the award is an award for a "Player," so it should be based on the accomplishments of the player. Mike Trout did not construct the Angels, and Miguel Cabrera did not construct the Tigers. So why would those teams' performances determine which deserve the award?

Nov 14, 2013 09:48 AM
rating: 5
 
SabreTorres21

You're right Tarakas. I still don't see why people don't get it. Confirmation bias perhaps? The MVP is an individual award. MVP = best player. If you're going to factor in criteria that is beyond a player's control, such as team performance, then it is a worthless award. Congratulations Mr. Cabrera on your award that you wouldn't have won even if you were twice as good but played on the Astros! As we've all seen, narrative does a great job of clouding judgement.

Nov 14, 2013 10:32 AM
rating: 2
 
hcaeb2000

So voters of the MVP are given this as the criteria to vote on:

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2. Number of games played.

3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4. Former winners are eligible.

5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

So really the way I see it the criteria fits my argument as well as the masses here who are obviously WARP supporters.

Now I don't put as much stock into winning team theory as you think I did. It should be considered. Pressure is a part of the game and hitting in those situation may not be a skill but it passes the "valuable" test to me. Last year Trout did not perform great down the stretch and the Angels missed the playoffs, could that have been the reason why? Who knows...but once again taking hitting in the clutch out of your equation for MVP is once again taking the human element out of the game. Spreadsheet only, how many meaningless doubles in no pressure situations did Trout get?

Nov 14, 2013 16:14 PM
rating: -1
 
SabreTorres21

I have a lot of problems with the "pressure" argument. It's completely subjective and full of post hoc analysis. A player who can't handle pressure never makes it to the majors in the first place. Think about it: a player has to play in high school and college in front of scouts. A bad day can cost you a lot of money in the draft. Then in the minors a player is competing with everyone else to make it to the show while constantly being evaluated by scouts. Finally, in the majors, a player plays in front of tens of thousands of people live everyday and who knows how many millions more on TV. There's ALWAYS pressure.

For somebody like Trout, nonperformance would get him cut or demoted, while continuing the way he's been playing would result in >$200 million contract someday. How's that for pressure? See how easy it is to make the pressure argument say whatever you want?

The bottom line is that we have no idea what a player is feeling, and we have no idea how much or how little his emotions are affecting him. You could ask him, sure, but you'd have no way of knowing if he's being honest. Even if he is, psychology isn't that simple. I don't discount the human element, but it's impossible to assess its impact.

Nov 14, 2013 20:17 PM
rating: 4
 
kozysnacker

Is this a long-winded trolling effort, or is it meant to be a sincere comment?

Nov 14, 2013 12:43 PM
rating: 2
 
nickkappel

Excellent. Thanks, Zach.

Nov 14, 2013 07:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Sussman
BP staff

I'm seeing a lot of East Coast over West Coast picks too, at a glance

Nov 14, 2013 08:12 AM
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

Longitude would be another good test. I've had a couple come in. At the risk of some serious overfitting, which was perhaps already the case with today's exercise, maybe I'll try a sequel.

Nov 14, 2013 08:50 AM
 
Geoff Young

Good stuff, Zach. Given the apparent bias against catchers in Hall of Fame voting, I'm surprised to see the opposite hold true in MVP voting.

Nov 14, 2013 08:45 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

Good point. Most of the pro-catcher votes were in the earlier end of the time frame. Though while Ivan Rodriguez's MVP wasn't a robbery by this liberal definition, the numbers didn't really agree with it.

Nov 14, 2013 08:49 AM
 
bhalpern

Also true of 3b.

Nov 14, 2013 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
RedsManRick

Good stuff, but I'm shocked to see RBI omitted from your hypotheses. It is such a huge part of the narrative today. That traditionalists have tried to avoid using it in the face of sabermrtric critique only underline's it's historically significant role.

Playing CF and having defensive production undervalued go hand in hand (that is, voters don't have anything CF, they simply fail to account for the defensive value of the position, let alone the superlative defense played by some on that lair). Similarly, I imagine that once you properly control for other variables, walks come at the expense of some RBI. Additionally, I imagine it is likely that players on better teams tend to have more RBI opportunities.

Just surprised to see this dynamic omitted, particularly given the Cabrera/Trout context.

Nov 14, 2013 08:57 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

RBI is another good one. I thought about it and was more interested in getting walks in there as the one addressing how their offensive value was distributed and didn't really want both. I thought the walks difference was really clear, but maybe RBI would have been a more interesting study.

Nov 14, 2013 09:46 AM
 
SabreTorres21

RBIs are a big one. It makes for great narrative since nothing gets a crowd more excited than to see runs get driven in. I wouldn't be surprised if RBIs had the biggest correlation with MVP awards. The problem, of course, is that RBIs are not a skill. It is a context dependent stat that falsely assumes that hitting with RISP is a skill. The RBI as a poor measure of player performance didn't come to light until 10 to 20 years ago I'd say, maybe more. I don't think it's fair to hold that against voters before that.

Nov 14, 2013 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
therealn0d

It came to light far before that. Lke, way far before that. Like almost from the advent of RBI.

Nov 14, 2013 12:58 PM
rating: -1
 
SabreTorres21

You're probably right. I was just taking a guess. Thanks!

Nov 14, 2013 20:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Chaful

One more hypotheses to consider: The losers tended to be all time great offensive players (Mays, Mantle Bonds)so their accomplishments were taken for granted. The voters paid more attention to a great season from a lessor player.

Nov 14, 2013 09:05 AM
rating: 5
 
bline24

That begs the question though, doesn't it? No one knew in 1955 that Mantle and Mays were going to be inner circle Hall of Famers (or Bonds in 1991). At the time, the guys who won were all considered the superior, if more seasoned, players.

Nov 14, 2013 09:42 AM
rating: 2
 
therealn0d

It's the Establishment Clause.

The young kid will eventually "earn" his if he's really that good. The established veteran has proven himself over the years. I'd liken it to the perceived hazing young players go through in regards to calls on close ball/strike safe/out plays.

Nov 14, 2013 13:05 PM
rating: 1
 
Tarakas

This is a great article.

Nov 14, 2013 09:49 AM
rating: 0
 
SabreTorres21

Great article Zachary. I think all your points can be boiled down to one word that has applied to MVP voting since it was first started: Narrative.
1)Giving the award to a player on a better team makes for a better narrative.
2)Positional bias is a little more difficult. I think it's a year to year thing that changes based on whatever trends make the best story.
3)Walks make for bad narrative. They're not nearly as exciting as a big hit. I'm reminded of a terrible article that Tom Verducci wrote that blasted Joey Votto and the general rise of players being more patient at the plate, most likely because it's hard to write an exciting story about a player walking a lot. (Of course he would never actually admit that)
4)Like with walks, baserunning and defense don't make for great narratives, and they have the extra liability of being difficult to quantify, especially for the anachronistic writers who like to ignore or berate advanced metrics. People get excited about exceptional defensive plays, but ask your average fan if he'd rather read a story about Andrelton Simmons or Miguel Cabrera and I think 95% pick the latter.
5) I'm guessing that the writers think the narrative favors veterans over their younger counterparts and/or the younger player will have his chance someday. To be honest, I think the ageism correlation may just be a coincidence.

Obviously Cabrera provides for a much better narrative than Trout, and when your voters are primarily journalists who make a living off their narratives disguised as analysis, you're going to get a lot of lousy results. As the old saying goes: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Nov 14, 2013 09:59 AM
rating: 3
 
jdeich

Another testable hypothesis: Size of team's market and/or media coverage. Does a player get more consideration if they play for a team like NYY/BOS/LAD, vs. the same performance in a less media-friendly town?

Might also want to include runners-up in some of these tests. There area lot of examples of a deserving player not only failing to win, but ending up inexplicably low on the ballot. (Willie Mays coming in 6th in 1964, etc.)

Nov 14, 2013 10:49 AM
rating: 1
 
Pinson

Well, finally a few guys hit on what all of us outside the NE Megalopolis know: There is EVERY kind of prejudice against anybody who plays in "flyover country," and West Coast games are too late for most of us and worst for those who believe the USA revolves around Megalopolis. For sure, park effects that were not quantified and thus underrated even by those in the game who knew how severe they could be (read: Polo Grouds and Candlestick and thus: Mays) skewed even the "old stats." The prize-winning Mays bio of a few years ago made this point over and again by the testimonials of interviewed players, and the author was not ignorant of at least some newer metrics.

Nov 14, 2013 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77
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"P.S. Fangraphs put McCutchen ahead of second-place Carlos Gomez by 0.6 WAR and ahead of fourth-place Paul Goldschmidt by 1.8 WAR. (Matt Carpenter came in third.) Baseball-reference put Gomez in the lead, 0.2 WAR ahead of McCutchen and 1.3 WAR ahead of third-place Goldschmidt. So, the article's criteria don't apply to the 2013 NL MVP race."

As long as sabermetrics puts out this crap (Gomaz NL MVP), it is really hard to take any arguments for Trout seriously.

Nov 14, 2013 16:09 PM
rating: -9
 
frampton
(870)

I doubt that baseball-reference.com is making a case for Gomez as MVP. Like any other stat, WAR is one measurement, not a be-all end-all. Sabermetrics is about getting as much information as possible. And accurately determining the relative, actual values of those various pieces of information, to come up with a decision actually supported by the evidence. As opposed to, say, appeals to authority (like relying on Rivera's opinion).

Nov 14, 2013 18:46 PM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

This is really the problem. Sabermetrics suggests that he is one of a number of reasonable contenders for NL MVP given that his offence is good, his baserunning is good and he plays elite defence at an important defensive position. Yes, it's possible that his defence isn't as good as all that, but maybe you'd do better to explain why you think that an all-star who had 24 homers, 40 steals and won a gold glove in CF is not a credible candidate for MVP.

Nov 15, 2013 02:09 AM
rating: 3
 
sbnirish77
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Miguel Cabrera was the AL MVP.

Mariano Rivera

Nov 14, 2013 16:10 PM
rating: -7
 
Behemoth

Dear God. You actually thought that was worth posting?

Nov 15, 2013 02:10 AM
rating: 3
 
frampton
(870)

Re the 1962 NL MVP result, I'll never forget the impassioned plea for Mays in "The Steagle", an otherwise pretty forgettable movie about the Cuban missile crisis.

Nov 14, 2013 18:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Andy Cochrane

Thanks for this. Great stuff.

Nov 17, 2013 04:22 AM
rating: 0
 
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