FanDuel - WFBC

September 22, 2012

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 18 comments

So... can I make the case that while the names like Johnny Cueto or Gio Gonzalez (or even Clayton Kershaw) are bandied around- traditional hurlers, all of them- the most deserving Cy Young in the NL this year is RA Dickey (link goes to sortable NL pitcher stats)?

Granted, there's still ~2 starts each, and whoever blinks first or cedes ground in key stats like ERA or SO is probably out of the hunt. But as of today's games- when Dickey and Gonzalez both pitched and won, and Cueto pitched two days ago- Dickey is currently:

  • #2 in the league in Wins (19, behind Gonzalez's 20)
  • #1 in the league in ERA (2.66)
  • #1 in the league in strikeouts (209)
  • #2 in the league in WHIP (behind Kershaw, 1.02 to 1.04)
  • #1 in the league in Innings Pitched and Games Started
  • #1 in Complete Games (5)
  • #1 in Shutouts (3)
And this is on a team that honestly, isn't very good: the Reds and Nationals are at 92 and 91 wins respectively, while the Mets are at 68-83 (a look at the run support does show Dickey gets more run support than Cueto, but fewer than Gonzalez).

If Dickey wasn't a knuckleball pitcher... would there even be any debate as to who is the current frontrunner for the NL Cy Young?

posted by hincandenza at 06:05 PM on September 22

If Dickey wasn't a knuckleball pitcher... would there even be any debate as to who is the current frontrunner for the NL Cy Young?

Only if you're only looking at starting pitchers. If Kimbrel wasn't a relief pitcher would there be any debate as to who the current frontrunner for the NL Cy Young is?

posted by LionIndex at 10:45 PM on September 22

Well, and in semi-related news... Miguel Cabrera just hit his 42nd homerun. Why this is noteworthy:

PlayerAveragePlayerHRPlayerRBI
Cabrera.332Cabrera42Cabrera131
Trout.326Hamilton42Hamilton123
Mauer.323Encarnacion40Willingham110
Jeter.321Dunn39Encarnacion103
Beltre.315Granderson39Fielder102
If the season ended today, Miguel Cabrera would win the Triple Crown- and his chances of actually winning it at season's end are very good. I can't recall the last time we've seen someone this close, this late in the season. Every two or three years there's a guy who even in mid-July is tearing it up, leading in all categories... and then drops off in one or more category.

But Cabrera has been actually on his way up to finish the season, pounding the crap out of the ball in September and especially in the last few games. By comparison, Josh Hamilton has missed 4 games and is not going to play Sunday either, with an unknown illness. In all likelihood- with Texas having basically locked up the AL West- they'll play it very safe with Hamilton to get him plenty of rest, and a couple of tuneup games before the playoffs.

Trout might go on a tear and eke out the batting title, or Dunn/Encarnacion go on a barrage to win the HR title... but Cabrera is completely in the driver's seat. The last Triple Crown winner was in 1967 (Yastrzemski) so I've never been alive to see a Triple Crown winner- and I think we're fairly likely to see one in 2012.

posted by hincandenza at 10:59 PM on September 22

If Kimbrel wasn't a relief pitcher would there be any debate as to who the current frontrunner for the NL Cy Young is?

If Kimbrel was a starting pitcher, he wouldn't even qualify for the ERA title, and therefore would probably be WAY out of the debate.

With three very good starting pitchers in the mix, and two of them possibly ending up over 20 wins (an indicator that I abhor, but the voters love), there shouldn't be any reason to expect Kimbrel to finish any better than 4th overall in the Cy Young voting. There is a HUGE difference in throwing around 65 innings compared to throwing 200 innings.*

The knuckleball is going to hurt Dickey's chances because some voters don't give it any respect ("It's not a REAL pitch. It's a trick pitch and he just gets lucky."). I'm pulling for him to win, mainly because he doesn't get the opportunity to pitch AGAINST the Mets (a below average offence).

If Dickey doesn't get 20 wins, the voters will simply use the easy way out and give it to Gonzalez. If Dickey ends up with a (shared) pitching Triple Crown (tied in wins, but leads in ERA and K), then I think he'll win the Cy Young.

* To fill in the difference between Dickey and Kimbrel (based on stats before today's games), you'd need a pitcher who threw about 155 IP for around 3.25 ERA. Or, to put it better, the difference between Dickey and Kimbrel is Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

posted by grum@work at 11:19 PM on September 22

If the season ended today, Miguel Cabrera would win the Triple Crown- and his chances of actually winning it at season's end are very good. I can't recall the last time we've seen someone this close, this late in the season.

In 2011, Matt Kemp finished 1st in HR and RBI, and 3rd in AVG.

Other than that, you have a bunch of guys that led the league in HR/RBI, but were way back in AVG, or were Barry Bonds (big HR and AVG totals, but nobody to knock in).

You have to go back about 20 years to find Gary Sheffield in 1992, who led the NL in AVG, but finished 2 HR and 9 RBI back of the other spots.

posted by grum@work at 11:36 PM on September 22

I agree with grum: if Dickey can win the pitching Triple Crown, it'll be absolutely criminal of the voters to not give him the Cy Young award- but sadly, it might be what he'd need to do. In fact, since the Cy Young Award was started in 1956, 13 of 13 pitching Triple Crown winners have won the Cy Young award.

Regarding Cabrera: if he pulls it off, is he the MVP? Both he and Trout have had amazing seasons, but Trout is playing on a team that won't make the playoffs, while Cabrera's Tigers might not win the Central (as I type this, they are one game back pending the outcome of the White Sox/Angels game).

Interesting facts about the Triple Crown:

  • 14 players have won the Triple Crown, two did it twice (Hornsby and Williams)
  • All players who have won a Triple Crown in the modern era are in the Hall of Fame
  • Since the creation of the MVP award in 1931, there have been 9 Triple Crown winners, yet only 5 of which took home the MVP award:
    • Jimmie Foxx, 1933 (AL): 1st
    • Chuck Klein, 1933 (NL): 2nd
    • Lou Gehrig, 1934 (AL): 5th
    • Joe Medwick, 1937 (NL): 1st
    • Ted Williams, 1942 (AL): 2nd
    • Ted Williams, 1947 (AL): 2nd
    • Mickey Mantle, 1956 (AL): 1st
    • Frank Robinson, 1966 (AL): 1st
    • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 (AL): 1st
However, the TC winners who didn't win the MVP did so while a) the MVP award was new, and b) winning a TC wasn't seen as a huge statistical accomplishment. I have to think any player who did it today would be a shoo-in winner, regardless of his team's place in the standings (or barring a close competitor on a winning team).

posted by hincandenza at 11:36 PM on September 22

If the season ended today, Miguel Cabrera would win the Triple Crown- and his chances of actually winning it at season's end are very good. I can't recall the last time we've seen someone this close, this late in the season.
grum@work: In 2011, Matt Kemp finished 1st in HR and RBI, and 3rd in AVG.
Yes, but that's how Kemp finished- there have been plenty of HR/RBI champs who did well in the batting title race. Like I said, I can't recall the last time we've seen someone this close, this late in the season: Cabrera is actually leading in all 3 categories (tied in 1) with only 12 games left. This isn't saying "With a push, he could win", it's saying "Unless he falters, he will win".

By comparison, Kemp- who had a great 2011- was hitting .321 on September 1st to eventual winner Reye's' .335 (they'd finish at .324/.337). Although he narrowed the gap at times, he was never in front and I'm not sure how his HR/RBI numbers were through September, compared to the leaderboard- was he leading the whole way? Not sure if you have some premium baseball reference access and can graph the HR, RBI, and batting title races in 2011.

posted by hincandenza at 11:49 PM on September 22

Regarding Cabrera: if he pulls it off, is he the MVP? Both he and Trout have had amazing seasons, but Trout is playing on a team that won't make the playoffs, while Cabrera's Tigers might not win the Central (as I type this, they are one game back pending the outcome of the White Sox/Angels game).

Here is how I see it:

Trout is far and away the best player in the American League this year.
Hell, he's the best player MLB this year.
He's having a season that some have measured as being one of the best of all time.

He has 10.3 WAR (wins above replacement) when you take into account his hitting and fielding (defensive WAR is a bit shakey, but let's go with it) so far this season. That would put him 11th all time in the past 60 years, and top 25 of the past 111 years.

What is important to note:

- his season isn't done
- he didn't play in the majors this year until LA's 41st game

So his numbers are even more impressive in a pro-rated context.

I hate the idea of not giving a deserving player an MVP award because his team mates sucked. There is no doubt in my mind that the most valuable player in the majors is Mike Trout.

That said, however, the Triple Crown is a rare event.
AVG and RBI are two measuring sticks that I hate when writers use them to compare players, but it's a famous one that I recognize as still an amazing feat to achieve.
If Cabrera achieves the Triple Crown, and the writers decide to be blinded by that fact, I'd probably just grit my teeth and smile. I know that Trout is more deserving, but I'd use a "illogical exception" clause as a sports fan and not complain too much.

(I've used the "illogical exception" clause when the Maple Leafs used to make the playoffs, picking them to win series against superior teams at the time.)

posted by grum@work at 11:55 PM on September 22

Not sure if you have some premium baseball reference access and can graph the HR, RBI, and batting title races in 2011.

Not really. They have standings on specific dates, but not leaderboards. I do remember the Triple Crown talk being bandied about on the baseball chat sites because Kemp was leading in two of the categories and was within a slump/streak combo of taking over the third one with a couple weeks left.

posted by grum@work at 11:58 PM on September 22

Trout is far and away the best player in the American League this year. Hell, he's the best player MLB this year. He's having a season that some have measured as being one of the best of all time.

He has 10.3 WAR (wins above replacement) when you take into account his hitting and fielding (defensive WAR is a bit shakey, but let's go with it) so far this season. That would put him 11th all time in the past 60 years, and top 25 of the past 111 years.

What is important to note: - his season isn't done - he didn't play in the majors this year until LA's 41st game

Actually, he played in the 21st game of the season, not the 41st game; he came up on the 28th of April. From those 20 games, plus 3 days off, he's played in 129 of the Angels 152 games played, so will likely finish with 139 games played (as they are only making the playoffs if they go on a 10-0 run, there's no reason he'd get a day of rest).

Also, I'm only passingly familiar with WAR so I'm not clear on the exact calculations (and they differ by site), but my problem is simply this: I think it weights way too heavily towards positional replacement value. Don't get me wrong: Mike Trout is having a terrific season, and an amazing rookie season: for 20 year olds to have a season like he's having suggests perennial All Star and future Hall of Famer.

But here's the line of three 20-year-olds in what was for all intents and purpose their rookie years (the second player technically didn't qualify as a rookie, as his 19-year-old season was short enough, but he also had a 17-game stint on the September roster as an 18-year-old):

PlayerGamesPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOTBBAOBPSLGOPSoWARdWARWAR
CF, 20 years old128588518120169256287846458124290.326.395.560.9547.92.510.3
SS, 20 years old1466776011412155413612315459104379.358.414.6311.0458.31.79.2
LF, 20 years old1496755651311854411311452110764344.327.436.6091.0456.3-0.46.6
Player 1 is clearly the weakest of the bunch; while he steals a LOT more bases, he walks less, strikes out more, has the lowest average, on base percentage, and slugging, and while he might pass Player 3 for average and homeruns by the time the season is over, he's otherwise lagging severely behind the other two in basically every stat line, even when you consider he'll have played in 7-10 fewer games.

So I'll be honest, I'm not grokking the WAR numbers here, as WAR does not equal oWAR + dWAR. Also, the 10.3 for Trout that you mention is 26th highest in history, not 11th (according to baseball-reference). That said, the same table lists Mike Trout at 26th all time with 10.3- in a shortened season- yet lists our second 20-year-old way down at 88th, with 9.2. Our third rookie, who actually set a still-standing rookie record of 145 RBI (admittedly, RBI numbers can't be controlled by a batter), doesn't even chart historically with a WAR of 6.6 (although according to his dWAR, he was a net negative in left field).

By now you've surely guessed that the second player was Alex Rodriguez in his 1996 season, and the third was Ted Williams in 1939. So I'll ask: while I think Trout is having a great season, and shows every sign of being a superstar for years to come- I mean, his rookie season is comparing in some ways favorably to that of Ted Freakin' Williams what exactly does WAR even mean at this point if he is somehow leading these other two Hall of Fame hitters?

One of the reasons I started comparing to Rodriguez is that SS is hardly a slouch position; while I get that CF is a tough position, is it so much harder than SS- and trout playing it so much better- that we have to discount the massive advantage Alex Rodriguez or Ted Williams have at the plate?

posted by hincandenza at 01:16 AM on September 23

As a complete baseball novice, but nonetheless somone who tries to watch and learn as much as possible, can I thank you guys for having these discussions here? I'm really enjoying them.

NB: My baseball education is otherwise through the TV - currently my Mandarin language skills let me down as the only broadcast I get is through Formosa Television. Lots and lots of the Nats, by the way.

posted by owlhouse at 01:20 AM on September 23

Is Mike Trout's WAR higher simply because most center fielder's suck in this current era? I agree with Hal with respect to his position to the extent that it seems to inflate his stats when compared to other historic seasons. I'm a big fan of OPS as an indicator of offensive strength, and Trout's isn't that impressive (relatively speaking).

However, the kid plays an amazing center field and I don't mean to diminish it. He is a world class outfielder - and that should matter. As should his stolen bases and, perhaps largely under-appreciated, his runs (kid leads the league in runs, despite not playing the first month). But, he has fallen off a bit in the last month or so, whereas Cabrera has flourished. If the vote were at the end of August, I don't think you could vote against Trout - as of today, I have Cabrera with a slight, but certainly definite, advantage.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:01 AM on September 23

Bradman's War.

Or why hostilities resumed.

posted by owlhouse at 04:53 AM on September 23

Alex Rodriguez's season was in 1996. The Runs/Game rate was 5.39 in the AL that year.

Ted Williams' season was in 1939. The Runs/Game rate was 5.21 in the AL that year.

Mike Trout's season is in 2012. The Runs/Game rate (so far) is 4.45 in the AL this year.

When you bust out the Baseball-Reference neutralized batting, and put Trout's season in 1996 American League (neutral park) setting, his line becomes:

.372/.446/.635 for a 1.081 OPS

When you put him in the 1939 American League (neutral park) setting, his line becomes:

.367./440/.627 for a 1.067 OPS

That's why Trout's numbers are so mind-blowing.
Even if you just go by his batting numbers, he's in legendary territory for someone his age, and simply awesome compared to all of history.

posted by grum@work at 10:45 AM on September 23

...so I've never been alive to see a Triple Crown winner...

I've been alive to see every one of them since (and including) Williams, and since all were in the AL for at least a part of their career, I've actually seen all of them live on the field. Why do you guys constantly remind me of my ability to receive senior discounts?

Omitting the idea of a pitcher being the MVP, just for the sake of argument - I'm not saying that pitchers should not be considered, I'm just trying to make a point - what should make a position player the MVP? The first attribute might be defensive prowess, but the "good field no hit" shortstop is just not going to be considered, no matter how many runs he saves with his glove. Pitchers might love this guy, but MVP voters probably don't even know his name. One thing that defensive skill will do is to limit the DH from being considered. The bias that this guy can't play in the field, while probably not fully valid, will keep the Ortiz types off the ballots despite gaudy numbers. Another thing about defense is that if it were to come down to a coin-flip for MVP based on offensive numbers, the thing that might push the vote one way or the other might be the player's defensive ability.

Now let's consider triple crown hitting statistics and their weight in a vote for MVP. First look at the high batting average. While this number frequently belongs to a solid hitter with good power, it might also belong to the "Punch-and-Judy" singles hitter. This type could well be the MVP by getting on base, having a lot of steals, and scoring runs in bunches, if he does not also hit for power, he'll be downgraded. Next let's look at RBI. Here again, the power hitter has an edge, if for no other reason than extra-base hits are more likely to drive in runners than are singles. By itself, this will not guarantee an MVP vote, since RBI numbers are also dependent upon your teammates getting on base. It is a number that is more likely to draw attention than batting average.

This brings us to home runs. There is no play in baseball that draws more attention in as short a time as the home run. One pitch, one swing, and a game might be won or lost. No-hitters take 9 innings, 3-run rallies without the home run require several batters to complete, but the home run is instantaneous. If you are the league leader in home runs, unless you are the DH, are in the top 10 (or bottom 10 as you prefer to list it) in strikeouts, and generally can do not much more than hit the long ball, you are in the MVP chase.

So given the above arguments, what will most likely sway an MVP voter. I would say the triple crown. You can do all sorts of things with WAR, comparisons by age, and the like, but winning a triple crown, or even being on top in 1 or 2 of the categories and very close in the others will tend to influence the MVP selectors. True, Mike Trout is an awesome player as has been well-demonstrated by some of the comments above, but I just don't believe he'll be the MVP.

One other note pertains. Williams was MVP in 1942 and 1947. Boston (AL) finished in 2nd place in '42 and 3rd place in '47. So much for the theory that Trout might be deprived of an MVP award because his team disappoints.

posted by Howard_T at 01:28 PM on September 23

My senior status has betrayed me and my thought processes. I just realized that I confused triple crown with MVP in my last paragraph, above. It should read that Williams won the triple crown in 1942 and 1947, but was MVP in neither year. He lost to Joe Gordon (NY AL) in '42, and to Joe DiMaggio (NY AL) in '47. This lends some credence to the idea that playing on a less than successful team does have some basis in losing the MVP. It also lends some weight to the idea that playing in the larger market has an influence, but that is spoken as a long-time NYY disliker. (I know, I know, we had a rather lengthy discussion over that sort of comment, but at least I'm honest.)

posted by Howard_T at 01:57 PM on September 23

Some more thoughts on Trout v. Cabrera. Do not read the comments.

posted by yerfatma at 04:29 PM on September 24

One question I'd ask about that article: if we can discount RBI as less important than some other stats because hey, a hitter can't control who's on base... then why does the author ding on Cabrera for hitting into far more double plays? After all, a hitter can't control who's on base when they hit.

GIDP is just a simple ground out where someone else was on base; if Cabrera is getting more opportunities with men on base (and thus more RBI) then he's also getting more opportunities to GIDP. You can't declare one meaningless and readily discounted, and then immediately declare its twin to be legitimate.

posted by hincandenza at 05:56 AM on September 25

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