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Paralysis By Analysis: A Look At Statistics In Modern Day Baseball

Mike Trout was the best player in baseball this season. You know, I know it. We know it for a variety of reasons – the least of which is the sabermetric craze.

The big sports media outlets are waging a debate on a near-presidential scale of whether Trout or Miguel Cabrera deserves the MVP this year.

Cabrera, as you likely know, won the Triple Crown. That’s an incredible feat. It hasn’t been done in 45 years. Clearly he is the best hitter in the American League this year, and most likely the Major Leagues.

But he’s not the best player.

One way to prove that is by looking at stats. I love stats. Sports are one of the reasons I am good at mental math. Growing up I could always quickly figure out that if someone was 10-for-16 at the plate during a playoff series, that guy’s hitting .625. Likewise I knew a QB that was 7-for-9 for 105 yards in the first half was completing .777 percent of his passes and averaging 15 yards per completion.

But sometimes stats can go too far.

I read this story on Grantland.com this morning and it made my head hurt. No one is guiltier of the new infatuation with stats more than baseball fans and analysts. In my lifetime they have created more different statistics than World Series champions.

Seventeen different teams have been crowned champions in my life. When you look at made-up stats like wOBA, WAR, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, UZR, FIP and all the other acronyms which I am proud to say I don’t understand, it’s ridiculous. (I realize I only listed seven, but all seven of those came from that article. I’m sure there are at least 10 more formulaic stats out there that exist).

I’m interested in what players have done. I want to see it tangibly without having to do long division and solving for X. That’s why I love Cabrera winning the Triple Crown.

That’s an awesome feat: More home runs, better batting average and more RBIs than any other player in the American League. Something that hasn’t happened since 1967. 1967!

Sadly everybody is discrediting Cabrera’s performance. All of these sabermetrics are making people look to the flaws in his game rather than accept the genius of it.

The guy can flat-out hit. He proved he is the best hitter in all of baseball this year.

Everywhere I have looked, I’ve seen some variation of the following: Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, but he doesn’t deserve the MVP — Trout does.

But you don’t need any new age acronym to figure that out.

Looking at the traditional offensive stats – batting average, home runs, RBIs – it’s clear Cabrera and Trout’s numbers are similar when you factor in Trout spent the season’s first month in the minors:

Cabrera .330, 44 HRs, 139 RBIs

Trout .326, 30 HRs, 83 RBIs

Then factor in Trout stole 49 bases and made a ton of highlight-reel catches. Name one time Cabrera made you say “Wow” with his glove.

Trout’s comparable offensive production and far-better base running and defense make him a much better MVP candidate than Cabrera.

We really don’t need to go into all of the analytical categories like WAR and UZR and defensive runs preserved. The only thing analyzing these freshly invented stats will do is make my head spin. I’d rather just watch either of the players play. That way we can just see all the bases Trout steals, see how often he moves from first to third on a single, and how many homerun-saving catches he’s made.

No need to compare those numbers to a replacement. No need to project what would have happened if all of his at-bats came against left-handed pitchers throwing ankle-high sliders. No need to overanalyze every single number.

There’s no need to create these Moneyball-style sabermetrics. Just stick with good old-fashioned production numbers and have fun with them.

Or, better yet, watch them play a game and simply enjoy both of their genius.

Then you can compare those basic stats as well as what you’ve seen with your eyes and make judgment that way. It’s a novel concept, I’m aware.

Just realize Trout put together a better stretch of genius in 2012 than Cabrera did, no matter how you measure it up.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Oregon Sports News.

By The Baseball Page
Saturday, 6 Oct 2012

 

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