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November 6, 2012

Out of Left Field

Can We Make Adrian Beltre the MVP?

by Matthew Kory

I’ve wanted to write about Adrian Beltre for a long time, but with the Rangers' quick playoff exit there hasn’t been a good excuse. Then today, at the sports bar, standing at the urinal, I thought, "You know, Adrian Beltre should be the MVP." Because that’s what I think about in the bathroom, standing at the urinal: Adrian Beltre and the MVP race. And nothing else.

The MVP votes have already been cast so this is as effective as a political advertisement on November 7th, but hey, sometimes the candidates have money left over and what are you gonna do? Besides donate it to a homeless shelter or something all moral or whatever.

While we don’t yet know* the winner, we know the AL MVP will be either Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera. Nobody else is going to win. It’s going to be one of those two guys. Adrian Beltre, to rip off a phrase, isn’t even in the discussion. But maybe he should be. And maybe he shouldn’t be. Either way it’s a good excuse to remember how awesome Adrian Beltre is.

*We don’t know know that, but we know that, ya know?

So, here are 10 reasons Adrian Beltre should be MVP this season. OK, there aren’t really 10 reasons Adrian Beltre should be the MVP this season. If you look at our numbers the MVP should be Mike Trout. If you look at just about anyone’s numbers the MVP should be Mike Trout. He has a higher TAv, plays a more important defensive position, and does it much better than Cabrera (and maybe Beltre). But if you read the mainstream press, the favorite seems to be Miguel Cabrera. Why? Well I can’t speak for the Mainstream Press, but if I had to hazard a guess, and I’ve backed myself into a corner here so I do have to hazard a guess unless I want to use the backspace key which I inadvertently spilled tomato soup on so I’m not keen on touching it right now, my guess would be because Cabrera won the Triple Crown. So RBIs.

Not that the Triple Crown isn’t neat. It is. Neat! It’s neat in the same way a no-hitter or hitting for the cycle is neat. They are isolated feats that, while neat, aren’t of tremendous overall value in the course of a season and thus aren’t good indicators of a player’s value. But whatever. Let’s use all of that and compare the MVP favorites: the stathead favorite (Trout), the mainstream favorite (Cabrera), and my favorite (Beltre) and see what we learn.

Defense
If you watched baseball this past season you would know that defensively Mike Trout is the greatest thing ever in human history. He climbs walls, steals home runs, and generally thieves things from hitters. He’s a batted-ball thief. Adrian Beltre, meanwhile, wins Gold Gloves and actually deserves them. 

If we were to rank the three players defensively I think I'd be on sturdy ground saying this:

  • 1. Trout (or possibly Beltre)
  • 2. Beltre (or maybe Trout)
  • 3. Cabrera

In fact, I doubt many would even argue with this ranking:

  • 1. Trout (see above)
  • 2. Beltre (see above)
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
  • 7.
  • ...
  • 17. Cabrera

But now we come to a small problem. If you rank the players by our generally excellent FRAA, you get this:

  • 1. Trout: 8.6
  • 2. Cabrera: -2.3
  • 3. Beltre: -7.0

In his career, most of which has come at first base, a decidedly easier position to play, Miguel Cabrera’s FRAA is -76.2. Adrian Beltre’s at third base is 64.6. That’s a difference of 140.8 runs, which without looking it up, is twice as many as the Astros scored this season. I think it’s fair to say that, watching Beltre and Cabrera play, Beltre was the better defender this season. Some may disagree, and I’m completely open to disagreement on the topic as long as those disagreeing realize they’re completely wrong.

So let’s fall back on the original ranking.

  • 1. Trout
  • 2. Beltre
  • 3. Cabrera

Also, Adrian Beltre does stuff like this:

(GIF used with permission via Baseball Time In Arlington)

So. Yeah.

RBIs
RBIs are, I think, worthless in terms of determining player value. But since some MVP voters will be voting on them, here are the rankings.

  • 1. Cabrera (139)
  • 2. Beltre (102)
  • 3. Trout (83)

Let’s all ignore that all of Mike Trout’s plate appearances save one were in the leadoff position (he hit fifth once and didn’t even get one RBI!). We’ll further ignore the fact that Adrian Beltre batted clean-up in 633 of his 654 plate appearances. We’ll further further ignore the fact that, according to ESPN’s park factors, both Beltre and Cabrera played in hitters parks while Trout played in the fourth-most difficult park to score runs in.

Cabrera 2012!

Home runs
I’ve already blown the ending to this one by including park factors in the RBI part. Whoops. So, time to fall back on cliché! They say chicks dig home runs, but I’m far more partial to them than my wife. Give her a great defensive play or a well-executed bunt every time, that’s what my wife says! Not a day will go by in my household where the words “Lay it down, baby! HELLS* YEAH!” doesn’t echo through the house. Even during the offseason. It’s like her superhero cry. It’s kind of tiring.

* Sure, my wife says “hells.” Why not.

So, homers. Here:

  • 1. Cabrera (44)
  • 2. Beltre (36)
  • 3. Trout (30)

Things I’m ignoring: park factors, number of plate appearances, overall level of competition, the guy with the pink mullet and trench coat going into the porno theater across the street.

Getting On Base
This isn’t Adrian Beltre’s strong suit so let’s disregard it completely!

No, we can’t do that. Beltre’s on-base, while above league average, isn’t in the same stratosphere as Trout or Cabrera. So we get this:

  • 1. Trout (.399)
  • 2. Cabrera (.393)
  • 3. Beltre (.359)

If the Triple Crown meant anything it would include this stat. But since it doesn’t, who cares!

Getting Mad When Someone Touches Your Head

  • 1. Beltre
  • 2. Trout
  • 3. Cabrera

Batting Average
It’s difficult to argue that batting average is important, so I won’t because as an internet baseball writer, I don’t like difficult things. It’s just that the end product isn’t necessarily entirely the fault of the hitter’s true talent. But, again, since this will be used liberally in the actual MVP voting, here it is.

  • 1. Cabrera (.330)
  • 2. Trout (.326)
  • 3. Beltre (.321)

That’s about it. So, totaling up the final standings* (you didn’t even know there were standings!) looks like this:

  • 1. Miguel Cabrera (13)
  • 2. Mike Trout (12)
  • 3. Adrian Beltre (11)

* Three points for first place in a category, two for second, and one for third

So, as you can see, by this utterly ridiculous measure, Miguel Cabrera should be the MVP. And that is the best argument against Miguel Cabrera as the MVP that you will ever read.

Adrian Beltre for MVP! Don’t forget to tip your waitress. 

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

Related Content:  MVP,  Adrian Beltre,  Mike Trout,  Miguel Cabrera

12 comments have been left for this article.

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