The Unique Greatness of Mike Trout

As I’m sure you know, there are scores of internet writers who write exclusively about baseball, and dozens more who write about baseball in addition to other topics.  To the best of my knowledge, none has written a word about Mike Trout this season.

In case you haven’t heard, Mike Trout is a rookie outfielder for the California Angels of Orange County, and he’s got a pretty good chance of winning the Rookie of the Year this year.  In fact, if super slugger Miguel Cabrera hadn’t already locked up the AL MVP, we might be talking about Trout for that award as well.  Click below to see why.

Fangraphs breaks its version of WAR for position players into three components: value from batting, value from fielding, and value from baserunning.  At the moment, Trout leads the AL, and indeed all of baseball, with 51.5 batting runs above replacement.  He leads the AL in baserunning runs above replacement.  And he’s third in fielding runs above average, trailing only Mike Moustakas and Ichiro Suzuki.

Baseball-Reference tells us that Trout trails Cabrera by a tenth of a run in batting runs above average.  This is presumably because fangraphs includes stolen bases in its batting runs, while B-R includes steals in baserunning runs (in which Trout has been almost as valuable as the next two players combined).  B-R also has Trout leading the league in fielding runs above average.

What does this tell us?  Almost certainly, Trout has been the best hitter in baseball this year.  B-R tells us that Cabrera has created one more run, but he’s done it in 60 more plate appearances.  It’s really not that close.

Almost certainly, Trout is the best baserunner in baseball.  Jason Heyward has a .1 run advantage in fangraphs baserunning, which excludes stolen bases, where Trout leads Heyward, 45-19.  In case you were wondering, Trout’s four caught stealings are half of Heyward’s.  B-R gives Trout ten baserunning runs above average, eight more than Heyward and three more than anyone else in baseball.  It’s not really that close.

These numbers don’t necessarily tell us that Trout is the best defensive player in baseball.  The eye test certainly supports his candidacy, as he’s probably made more highlight-reel catches than anyone  in the game.  B-R thinks he’s brought more value relative to his position than anyone else, but he’s played almost as much left field as center, so it’s hard to make a case that he’s a better defensive player than the best shortstops in the league (Brendan Ryan comes to mind) or the best catchers (Yadier Molina, for instance).  Defensive numbers also fall prey to sample size issues, as a player’s UZR can be boosted by more opportunities and his zone factor can be disproportionately affected by one or two misplays.  Still, we can’t have a conversation about the best defensive outfielders in baseball without mentioning Trout, and by extension, he’s in the best defensive player discussion.

Should Trout finish in the top three in his league in each component, how unique would that be?  Fangraphs’ baserunning runs only go back to 2002, since the elements that comprise it haven’t been tracked forever.  In the past ten seasons, no player has finished in the top three in his league in each component. Stretch it to the top five (I’ll stick to fangraphs because B-R adds a fourth component, double play runs, which are calculated separately from fielding runs), and we’re still not particularly close to finding anyone.  Five players have finished in the top ten in their league in all three categories: Grady Sizemore in 2006, Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in 2008, Chase Utley in 2009, and Carl Crawford in 2010 (Crawford’s been worth half a win since then- has anyone written about him?).  Utley’s season, in which he was sixth in batting, third in baserunning, and seventh in fielding, was the most balanced between the three disciplines.

If we limit the requirement to two of three categories, we still don’t find a single player since ’02 who led either league in two.  Crawford was second in fielding and third in baserunning in ’09; Matt Holliday was second in baserunning and third in hitting in ’07.

If we dig back a little further and ignore baserunning, the last player to finish in the top three in hitting and fielding was Cal Ripken in 1991, who finished first in fielding with 23 runs and second to Frank Thomas in batting runs, with 50.7.  The last player to lead his league in both?  Barry Bonds in 1990 (55 batting, 28 fielding).  Bonds stole 52 bases that season, good for third in the NL, so this seems like a good comp for Trout’s season.   Bonds earned 10.1 fWAR (9.5 rWAR) and won the MVP.  Someone should write a blog post about him too.

I’m willing to reserve the Greatest Player in Baseball tag until Trout has kept this up for a few more seasons, but it’s hard to argue that he’s not already the most well-rounded player in the game.

Now that this has been written, does anyone want to tackle the Orioles outperforming their peripherals?

98 thoughts on “The Unique Greatness of Mike Trout

  1. 1
    MikeD says:

    I was wondering when the East Coast bias and the love for Mike Trout would finally make its way to HHS. Sure he plays for the Angels, but he was born and raised in New Jersey, and grew up a Yankee fan. Clearly East Coast bias!

    Miguel Cabrera is the real MVP.

    Signed, all fans from Detroit.

    Seriously, though, what an incredible season. As Keith Law likes to say, the narrative has been building around Trout for MVP, so he will win it, and certainly should, yet I am hoping Miggy can somehow pull out a triple crown. It shouldn’t impact his chances at all, yet we know we know it will. I enjoy the crazy debates that fans come up with to support their candidates while trashing everyone else!

    • 4

      Cabrera just got 2 homers and six ribbys – it’s on!

    • 10
      Nash Bruce says:

      Mike, a few weeks ago, I looked up Mike Trout’s page on B-Ref…..and my jaw went through the floor. Rather than growing up in “New Jersey”- by which I mean, when I tell anyone out here that I “grew up in New Jersey” they start in with the awful Sopranos/Jersey Shore accent, or ask about city life, etc.- Mike Trout grew up in Millville, New Jersey, a town that from all accounts has 20,000 residents or so…..a town that I lived in, during my teenage years. I absolutely **** hated it. Nothing was going on there, except for pine trees, and sand dunes, and a couple of crack houses and ghetto apartment complexes. I had already dropped out of school, and spent my time pretty much trying to score funds to try and get booze, weed, etc. Our landlord pimped girls, some in our neighborhood, and he finally wound up getting busted when one of his girls stole his state-issued pistol(oh yeah, he was also a state prison guard). The future wasn’t looking too promising, and the present….well, yeah.

      It wasn’t anything close to as bad as the ghetto towns in North NJ, closer to NYC, I’m sure(I’m not really familiar with up there at all), and definitely nothing at all like Camden. Just a small town. But, it was lame, and I got out of there, finally, when I turned adult age. Since then, life has certainly been up and down, as it is for most. But it is waaaaay better than I ever imagined that it could have been during those days.

      I’ve done the best that I could to forget about Jersey. But I do carry growing up (wasting time)in NJ (lived my little kid days in Vineland, the next town over) with me, despite my best efforts. And so, when I saw where Mike Trout was from, wow. I’m still trying, weeks later, to comprehend it. Amazing. Small town, small world.

      I don’t know if this is an appropriate comment for this forum, but MikeD’s comment was along non-saber lines as well, so if you are still reading, thanks. (And, thanks for not deleting me–smiles–) I hope that Mr. Trout cleans up every award, for years to come.

      Because, hell, if he could make it, maybe there’s hope for me even yet:)

      • 13
        MikeD says:

        I’m reading! And I sure hope that there isn’t some guideline on HHS that I missed that all postings have to be along sabermetric lines. If so, I’ve been violating the guidelines for quite some time, mixing in saber with general baseball observations, or the ocassional bit of humor.

        Sounds like you have an interesting story yourself. Yet I find the description of pine trees, sand dunes, and a couple of crack houses and ghetto apartments an interesting contradiction of images. Now, in the middle of it all, I see Mike Trout, best baseball player on the planet, at least for 2012.

        • 33
          nightfly says:

          New Jersey is very diverse… we have urban hellholes, dead-souled suburbs, and many charming hick towns! Something for everyone!

          (More seriously, NJ is also surprisingly beautiful and interesting in many places. There’s a lot to do that doesn’t involve crime or stereotypes.)

  2. 2
    Jim Bouldin says:

    It was the 49 for 53 in SB attempts that really caught my eye. That ain’t easy.
    Dude’s a phenom, no question. Not sure why you think Cabrera has the MVP locked up though, I don’t.

    • 26

      Jim, the first two paragraphs were sarcastic. I’m new here- we’ll all get on the same page soon.

      Honestly, I thought Trout had the MVP locked up, but Cabrera’s building a case for himself with the non-SABR crowd.

    • 26

      Jim, the first two paragraphs were sarcastic. I’m new here- we’ll all get on the same page soon.

      Honestly, I thought Trout had the MVP locked up, but Cabrera’s building a case for himself with the non-SABR crowd.

  3. 3
    EstebanNotYan says:

    Mike Trout? Sounds fishy, or just a fluke. Must have a long way to swim upstream before being considered the Greatest Player in Baseball.

    • 5
      John Nacca says:

      Trout is the best player to come down the pike. He plays the game with a porpoise not seen in years. Anyone who attempts to tackle this argument, well their outlook seems bleak, since he doesn’t seem to be floundering at this point in the season. I mean holy mackerel, this guy is the reel deal…so confidently perched on the steps of the dugout being chummy with his teammates, the sole reason the Angels are still alive. All you suckers who think otherwise, you mullet-wearing hippies being bullheaded…SCAT!

      • 6
        John Autin says:

        I hate to carp, but….

      • 8
        Jim Bouldin says:

        You tried to sneak a salt water mammal by us there didn’t ya?

      • 11
        Nash Bruce says:

        He’s still so young….Walleye be around to attend his HOF induction?

      • 15
        Doug says:

        Trout seems to have that Gary Carter-style boyish enthusiasm. Great to see.

        If Trout wins the SB and batting titles this year, he will join Ichiro as the only rookies with that distinction.

        I see that Rajai Davis is right on Trout’s heels in the SB race. If Davis should win the SB title and maintain his current sub-.300 OBP, he would be just the 4th player with that combination and 40+ SB, joining Brian Hunter, Luis Aparicio and Bert Campaneris (Campy did it twice).

      • 49
        GrandyMan says:

        He’s the best Angels outfielder since the likes of Tim Salmon. Even Catfish Hunter would’ve clammed up in fear of facing him. Walking him would not be the solution, as he can steal bases just for the halibut. Oh, and good luck getting anything past him – he’s a shark in the outfield. People in Anaheim look at his numbers and think, “I can whistle to the tuna this.” He’s only 21, but in the sea of professional baseball players, he’s no shrimp.

  4. 7
    John Autin says:

    Tigers fan though I am, Trout gets my vote in a heartbeat, as of now. Still 15 games to go; Trout’s WAR lead is unassailable, but it’s conceivable that someone could go nuts enough from here in to change the playoff races and change my mind — like what George Brett did in the final week of ’85.

    One little thing for Cabrera — he leads in WPA/LI, by an eyelash.

    • 17
      Hartvig says:

      If Miguel (and JV) can lead the Tigers to the promised land over the White Sox with a big finish to the season I agree an argument could be made. Otherwise…

      I’m too tired to come up with an appropriate response to the string of fish(ing) related puns above but I am certain that there has to be a chum-bucket one in there somewhere.

      • 20
        Ed says:

        I tend to think the AL MVP vote will show the split between the SABR crowd and the traditionalists. What Cabrera might due this year is fairly unique and is hard to overlook. Only 40 times has a player put up .330+, 40+ HRs, 130+ RBIs. 27 of those seasons occurred between 1920-1940, so it’s only been done 13 times in the past 70+ seasons.

        • 21
          Ed says:

          Oops…”what Cabrera might do” not “due”.

          • 22
            Ed says:

            One more note on Cabrera’s season…assuming he pulls off .330+, 40+ HRs, and 130+ RBIs, he’ll only be the 3rd non-outfielder, non-firstbaseman to do it. The others being Hornsby in ’22 and Al Rosen in ’53. Again, Cabrera’s season is hard to overlook even if he has a lot less WAR than Trout.

          • 24
            bstar says:

            OK, but there have only been 34 players to put up a 10.2 WAR season or better, which is where Mike Trout is at right now. When you qualify the season to less than 125 games (Mike has 124), Trout stands alone as the only player to ever accumulate that much WAR in so few games.

          • 31
            Ed says:

            Oh I agree Bstar. If I had a vote it would go to Trout. That being said, I felt it was important to acknowledge what Cabrera might do. He’s obviously not up to Trout’s level but he’s also not Juan Gonzalez in ’96 and ’98.

        • 28

          Kind of sad that one has to be in the “SABR crowd” to recognize that when two guys hit equally well, the guy who’s the best baserunner and maybe the best defensive player in baseball is better than the guy who’s awful at both. That said, you’re probably right, particularly if Cabrera wins the triple crown and/or carries Detroit to the playoffs.

        • 39
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          #22 – Ken Caminiti came close in his MVP year of 1996 as a third baseman:
          .326 BA/ 40 HR/130 RBI

    • 38
      Brent says:

      Not that Brett’s final week in 1985 helped him beat out Mattingly (145 RBIs) for the MVP. Glad to know that you would have voted for Brett though. (although THE Rickey probably was the best candidate).

      And that final week was special. In the 6 games that pushed the Royals into the Playoffs (they went 5-1), the Royals scored 22 runs. Brett either scored and/or drove in 13 of them.

  5. 9
    mattmaldre says:

    Yahoo has him ranked as the #1 player based on his performance thus far in the 2012 season.

  6. 12
    no statistician but says:

    Before the coronation, it might be well to look at Trout’s recent slowdown. The last 28 days show a .270 BA, .728 OBP., 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB. I’m not suggesting that he’s not an excellent player, but there have been other great rookie seasons that led to unfulfilled expectations. Give the kid a chance. Don’t put him on a pedestal too soon.

    In terms of batting performance, right now his stats resemble somewhat those of Fred Lynn in 1975. Lynn’s career was by no means a failure, but he had only one more really high octane season.

    • 14
      birtelcom says:

      On the other hand, Fred Lynn was 23 not 20 when he had his great rookie season, he had 10 SBs and 5 CSs and he was not quite as impressive in center.

      • 41
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        OTOH, Lynn played all of his 144 defensive games in CF, whereas Trout has 97 CF/60 LF/4 RF; also Lynn had a higher OBA and SLG.

        OTOH, if you run them both through Neutralized Batting, Trout beats Lynn by in those categories by 13 and 21 points, respectively.

    • 18
      Hartvig says:

      Other good comps might be Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds & Grady Sizemore. Sizemore is the closest in terms of numbers but, like Bonds, was a couple of years older. Junior didn’t quite match the power (yet) and certainly not the stolen bases.

      But I think the best comp of all might be Cesar Cedeno. Like Trout he started at 19 but unlike Trout his breakout season was at 21. But at that point his numbers are pretty similar: 55 stolen bases, 22 home runs (playing in the Astrodome in 1972!), Slugging % of .537. OPS+ of 162. The biggest difference was that he led the league in times caught stealing with 21 and he was only a good center fielder, not a great one.

      So I think you are right in holding off the the coronation for a little while yet even if he’s outperforming Junior and Bonds at the same age. But if he can stay healthy- something that Sizemore and Pete Reiser and even Mickey Mantle had trouble doing- who knows. Maybe we are seeing the next Willie Mays.

      • 30

        I’ve been tempted to write the “Trout is the next Willie Mays” piece all season, but I’m careful to consider the possibility that Trout is just a very good player who went on an extended hot streak at the beginning of his career, rather than the middle. If he stays healthy, I think Fred Lynn is probably his floor. His ceiling may be something we’ve never seen.

        • 32
          Ed says:

          Bryan – Let’s hope Trout can stay healthy. We’ve seen so many CFers careers derailed by injuries….Lynn, Sizemore, Eric Davis, Griffey, etc. Not sure how CFers compare to other positions but it does seem a lot of them struggle with health.

          • 59
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Good point Ed. The human body was not meant to run into walls or other players at high speed, nor make swan dives to the turf, all while extending one arm as far as it will go. Fortunately, they do play on grass now, but I believe the walls and other players are still out there.

        • 42
          mosc says:

          It’s interesting to look at trout compared to Mays and Mantle. Mays is the more logical for for the eye because Trout bats Right and has the good arm. I’m not convinced trout has the power of either. History isn’t kind to outfielders who don’t hit gobs of home runs. They can be positive contributors, but not legends. I get it, he’s 20. Mays and Mantle didn’t break 30HR until age 23. That said, people want to say he’s already arrived as baseball’s best player and will be the face of the game for a decade. I just don’t see that from the stats he’s put up, they’re missing the power. Josh Hamilton comes to mind but hasn’t shown much plate discipline. Granderson’s a Mantle like power bat with lots of strikeouts and walks, decent speed. Clearly not as good at making contact though. Trouts value seems to be inflated by defensive metrics I would hardly call valid in today’s world let alone back-calculating 50 years.

          • 47
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            Trout,at age 20, has hit 27 HR in 125 games. To me, that is _extremely_ impressive…

            How many other 20 y.o’s have hit 25+ HR? A-Rod had 36, Tony C. 32, Ted Williams 31; Kaline 27, anyone else?

            I do agree about the the legitimacy of +25 for defensive runs; this would be one of the all-time great defensive OF seasons. If he is valued at, say, a +10 (still excellent), his WAR goes from being in the Top-35 all-time to outside the Top-100.

            I just can’t believe his season of 125 G so far, is greater than most of the best seasons by the all-time greats.

          • 60
            mosc says:

            Lawrence, I agree but we’re not talking about the player with the most potential or the best prospect here, we’re talking about the best player. More than that, people are jumping to talking about him as the best player of his era. He is clearly a very very good player and perhaps more exiting than that is the likely chance that he’ll reach historic heights sooner than later. Still, leaving out suspect defensive metrics, he has not put up a significant historically dominant year. Maybe he deserves the MVP this year, I’m not taking that away from him. I tend to think Cabrera will win if Detroit gets to the playoffs and Trout will win if the Angels get in.

            I just want to see 40+HR power before I say the guy is Willy Mays, Mantle, or if he’s just a guy who matured a few years early. The more I study baseball metrics, the more I learn that not much you do on the baseball field matters more than putting a ball into the bleachers.

          • 61
            mosc says:

            Any teenager hitting a home run off of major league pitching (as both Harper this year and Trout last year have done) is going to stir plenty of comparisons. You’re talking about guys who have one in a million potential. Don’t get me wrong, if I were the GM of any of the other 29 teams I think I’d happily trade any player I had for him straight up. All that said, Trout the prospect is different from the age-independent Trout the player analysis. I think Trout the player is in the MVP discussion this year, but not a runaway candidate and certainly nobody this year is going to break open the record books. Encarnacion’s RE24 is higher. Cabrera’s a better hitter overall, I don’t trout he could hack it as a middle infielder, Steals are over-rated even if he’s been very efficient on the basepaths, and Trout’s home ballpark is far more hitter neutral than people think.

            Would I vote for him for MVP right now? Yeah, yeah I would.

          • 66
            Doug says:

            Lawrence @47.

            Also Ott (42), Frank Robinson (38), Cepeda (25) and Mathews (25).

  7. 16
    Dalton Mack says:

    Great piece, however I couldn’t disagree more about the “none has written a word about Mike Trout this season” line. Since May there have been scores of articles written about Trout and his magnificent year, often in sabermetric circles.

    • 19
      Ed says:

      Dalton – I sensed extreme sarcasm in Bryan’s comment.

      • 25
        bstar says:

        I think there was definitely sarcasm there, but I do believe this is the first time we have discussed Trout’s season in detail. Credit Bryan for tackling two issues which have been ignored all summer long on this site: Steven Strasburg’s shutdown and Trout’s historic rookie season.

        If somebody could possibly discuss Chipper Jones’ last season and his iconic status in the game… the very least, he’s a dying breed as far as playing for the same team at such a high level for so long.

        • 29

          I guess I’m being exposed as a newcomer at HHS. In the general chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I’m fed about 10 pieces about Trout’s amazing season and 12 about the Orioles’ luck every week. I had noticed that nobody on HHS had touched on Trout recently, but didn’t realize I was the first all season. So, yeah… lots of sarcasm.

  8. 23
    Timmy Pea says:

    Four games down with 14 left I think the Phillies may have run out of gas, but the Brewers still might sneak in because of the hot bat of one Rickie Weeks. Also I’ve seen Troutdog written about in newspapers and magazines and such, maybe not on the internet.

    • 40
      Brent says:

      The Cardinals have 8 games of Astros/Cubs in the next week and a half. That should mean that the chasers are going to have a very difficult time catching them. And Chris Carpenter starts on Friday.

  9. 35
    mosc says:

    Bryan, more charts! You want to say a guy’s third in a stat, give us a chart with the top 10 or something. That way we can see the context for the type of players that succeed in that stat and understand more specifically what it’s talking about.

  10. 36
    Chad says:

    Full disclosure: I am a Tiger fan also.

    I agree that Trout has had a more complete season and is more deserving of the MVP, but if Miggy can pull off the Triple Crown and somehow lead the Tigers to the playoffs while the Angels stay home, I think it will be an extraordinarily interesting vote. Of course, even in that scenario the Angels missing the playoffs would probably not have happened had Trout played the whole year instead of missing April.

    I’m hoping we get to see that interesting vote play out.

    • 52

      Chad, I’m willing to entertain Cabrera’s candidacy if he keeps up the pace he’s on, the Tigers come back to make the playoffs, and *we can obviously connect the two*. Of course, Trout would have to fade some as well, since the difference between them as of today is pretty staggering.

      I couldn’t care less about the Triple Crown, since those are three arbitrary, interrelated hitting stats. Give me the guy who leads in batting, fielding, and baserunning value. That’s a Triple Crown.

      • 53
        Jim Bouldin says:

        Good point Bryan, but scratch “the Tigers come back to make the playoffs” That’s even less relevant than a player’s past history, triple crown run etc.

        • 57
          Chad says:

          I don’t think all the voters think it’s irrelevant. I agree that the award should go to the best player … but my point (and I think Bryan’s) is about how the voters will view it.

          • 74

            Actually, Jim and Chad, while I don’t think we should consider how well a player’s teammates play in evaluating individual seasons, I won’t completely dismiss the role of the Tigers making the playoffs in deciding whether Cabrera *should* win the MVP.

            There’s a reason WAR starts with a W. Everything a player does well has value only if it leads to his team winning more games. If WAR were a perfect measure of how many wins a player added, it would be the only place we need to look to pick an MVP. Right now, Trout is so far ahead in both versions of WAR that team performance is irrelevant, since we know Trout has added more wins to the Angels than Cabrera has added to the Tigers. But if Cabrera keeps hitting like this and finishes with, say, 8.5 WAR, while Trout fades and finishes around 9.5, there’s enough gray area in the defensive metrics embedded in both versions of WAR that we can reasonably look at things like the timing of Cabrera’s run, the leverage index of some of his September successes, and the much-abused “without him, would they have made the playoffs?” meme.

            Now, if the Tigers make the playoffs with 89 wins and the Angels win 89 and don’t get in, there’s no reason to give Cabrera extra credit for his weak division. But it’s pretty clear that the Angels were bad before Trout came up, were great when he was raking and robbing homers, and have flatlined as he’s faded some. If the Tigers win a bunch of 4-2 games down the stretch in which Cabrera hits 2 homers, I might be willing to give him more credit for those wins than WAR would.

            That said, right now, it’s Trout. By an ocean. Regardless of their records.

          • 79
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Very well stated and comprehensive Bryan. If all the voters looked at it that way, we’d be in fine shape on these award things.

      • 56
        Chad says:

        My point was how the voters would react to a Triple Crown + playoff team scenario vs. a better season on a non-playoff team.

        That’s fine you don’t care about the TC, and we’ve made staggering headway in valuing players beyond the traditional statistics, but a TC is still a mighty impressive feat to me and most people. Since the turn of the last century it has been done 13 times by 11 players – Hall of Famers all.

  11. 37
    Dr. Doom says:

    Hands-down, THE funniest post in the history of the HHS/B-R blog history. You cracked me up yesterday, and I came back to read it again today, just ‘cuz. Good stuff. Keep it coming.

  12. 45
    John Autin says:

    Nice post, Bryan.

    However, the question “How unique would that be?” has only two possible answers: “unique” or “not unique.”

    As for the Orioles — I caution you that the baseball gods are watching us scribes with a very protective eye towards their anointed birds. The merest hint of skepticism directed at the orange & black will only spur an acceleration of their outperformance.

    • 48
      Jim Bouldin says:

      What I want to know is how a cold water fish is thriving in LA climes and Bryan’s not even remotely touched on it. This post is a failure.

      Also, why haven’t you posted anything about how the Orioles record in one run games is due to luck? This post is a failure.

      And for the sarcasm recognition challenged /sarcasm usually works.

      • 54
        tag says:

        Jim, I think if salmon can be introduced into the Yemen, or whatever that lousy book/rom-com had happening, then Trout can survive in the only semi-arid climes of SoCal.

        • 58
          Jim Bouldin says:

          Fair enough tag. However, you’ll note that Bryan never even mentioned Yemen in his post. Complete and utter failure in all respects.

          Coincidentally, I believe Tim Salmon played a couple years in the Yemeni winter league. Of course, that was the norm back in those days.

          • 69
            tag says:

            Agree on the failure; you just gotta be culturally nuanced in these posts.

            I remember those Salmon winter league years in the Yemen. He kind of spawned a huge Yemeni baseball cult for a while.

          • 78
            Jim Bouldin says:

            You’re right on there tag. It was an awesome Salmon run there for a few years that Salmon spawned. I believe even the Marlins got involved, and man I’m telling you–have you ever seen the Marlin run up those Yemeni rivers?

        • 64
          Jonas Gumby says:

          tag, I completely agree with you that Ewan McGregor is a dreamboat.

    • 55
      tag says:

      Completely agree, John. At every mention of the *uck word they reel off another six or seven one-runners in a row. It would not surprise me in the least if they captured the WS by sweeping every series by scores of 3-2, 5-4 and 10-9 in extras at this point.

      • 80
        Jim Bouldin says:

        You asked and the Icturids delivered….

        3-1 win in 11 innings last night.

        • 92
          Jim Bouldin says:

          Good God there’s been a latin spelling error identified. Make that “Icterids”

          We wish to emphasize however nothing in the phylogenetic analysis or fundamental points of the work are affected, nor is there any truth whatsoever to the rumor that said Icterids are proceeding by what is colloquially referred to as “luck” by certain elements.

    • 63

      John, I appreciate the distinction that uniqueness is absolute, rather than relative, but since something can be unique within certain guidelines, I think “how unique” applies in this case. I had established that Trout’s accomplishment was impressive, then evaluated whether it was unique in the era during which fangraphs kept BRAA, then whether it was unique over a longer period. Am I wrong?

      And I’m with you on the O’s. They’re winning for the “grit and hustle” crowd, in spite of the SABR people.

      • 71
        tag says:

        Since John’s going all prescriptivist on you, I’m gonna gang tackle you by agreeing with him. English isn’t German and we’ve got enough words to be able to use synonyms that enable us to retain the unique flavor of words like “unique”: in this case “distinctive” or “remarkable” would have worked fine.

        But since I don’t like playing the grammar dweeb and am a descriptivist at heart, I’ll concede that language changes and “unique” is coming to lose its “one-of-a-kind” character. There are many who argue that “unique” can be used as a non-absolute. What I like about the argument of the guy below is that it is far more dweebish than any of the arguments of the Grundyish grammarians he rails against:

        “If you were to consider every aspect of any two things, they would differ in at least one. Two distinct physical objects are in different places, were made at different times with different raw materials, etc. Two abstract ideas are different by definition, else they’d be considered one idea, not two.

        “Considered in its entirety, everything is unique. Either that makes uniqueness a trivial and uninteresting property to observe, or that’s not what uniqueness is about.

        “When people say something is unique, they’re not just saying that there’s nothing else identical to it; they’re saying there’s nothing else like it. But what does it mean for one thing to be like another? It means that they are similar in some important ways. The more ways (or the more important the ways in which) they’re similar, the more similar they are. A wooden chair is like a wooden table, but it’s usually more like another wooden chair.

        “When someone says something is unique, they mean that nothing else is like it in a bunch of ways they think are interesting. For example, the chair I’m sitting in is unique in that I’m not sitting in any other chair at this moment, but that’s not very interesting. I’d be more likely to point out the uniqueness of a chair that was made of titanium and had a fuzzy pink cushion in the shape of a wombat.

        “The uniqueness of something is more apparent and more interesting when it is unique in ways that most things (or most similar things) are not. All people are unique, but a person made of marmalade would be unique in a way that most people are not, material composition.

        “Uniqueness is also more interesting when there are a number of such interesting feature subsets. A person made of marmalade would certainly be unique, but if that person were also six meters tall, they’d probably be unique in three unusual ways! (In addition to the obvious two, I’m guessing they might be the only six meter pile of marmalade.)

        “When people say that something is very unique, they’re saying that it’s unique in an unusual way, or that it’s unique in an unusual number of interesting ways. I don’t know a better way to say that, nor do I find the phrase ambiguous, so I think it’s a fine thing to say, except around people who think they know better.”

  13. 46
    Brent says:

    Bah, I think we should be voting per really old school lines, which means players from teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs, like the Tigers and Angels, should be eliminated. That makes it a two horse race, Cano and Beltre.

    • 62
      John Autin says:

      Uh, if it’s old school, then it’s Hamilton, according to the “outfielder with gaudy HRs & RBIs” clause. Cano would be eliminated by his crappy RBI total.

  14. 67
    Doc_Irysch says:

    How about imagining Trout as a slot receiver in the Patriots offense. . .

    • 68
      tag says:

      And since Hernandez might be out for a while, installing LeBron James as a TE. If b-ball also-rans like Gates and Jimmy Graham can succeed wildly at the position, image what the King could do.

      • 81
        Jim Bouldin says:

        He played receiver in high school before hanging it up for the hardwood. My nephew had the balls to go up to him on the sideline during a game in his sophomore season and ask him to autograph a basketball, which he did.

  15. 73
    Ed says:

    I’m going to go ahead and say it…Cabrera will win the AL MVP. For the following reasons:

    1) Much stronger finish (which will likely to continue given the Tigers competition for the rest of the year – except for today’s game against the A’s, the Tigers only play the Twins and the Royals the rest of the way).

    2) A lot more Black Ink.

    3) Much of Trout’s lead in WAR comes from defense but it doesn’t seem like even the SABR crowd completely buys into his defense being that good.

    4) I’ve said before that I don’t think prior career should play into the MVP vote but I wouldn’t be surprised if some voters favor Cabrera because he’s been doing it longer whereas Trout will have plenty of chances in the future.

    Anyway, should be an interesting vote. I’d be surprised if any voter doesn’t have Trout and Cabrera as their 1-2 in some order.

    • 76

      Ed, I’m afraid may be right about Cabrera being the favorite. I will challenge your last point though. Some voter will give a nod to Cano, Beltre, or even Hamilton based on their teams making the playoffs. Cano and Verlander also lead Cabrera in rWAR, so a Keith Law-type voter might take a hard stance on Cabrera’s defense by putting one of them second.

      • 77
        Ed says:

        Bryan –

        I think this year’s AL vote will give us a sense as to how many SABR vs. non-SABR voters there are. I would think that a SABR voter HAS to vote for Trout. Whereas a non-SABR voter HAS to vote for Cabrera. I suppose a non-SABR voter could make a case for someone else though since there aren’t any other standout non-SABR candidates, that might be difficult. Anyway, wish we didn’t have to wait 2 more months to find out the result.

    • 83
      John Nacca says:

      I dare say we could be looking at Miguel Cabrera the same way we look at Eddie Murray, Manny Ramirez, and Derek Jeter. Three all-time greats who had big years over and over again, but years that were not out of the realm of their own consistency, and never big enough to win an MVP because there was always someone who had a year/years that transcended stats (Murray in 1981 and 1984 when Fingers and Willie Hernandez won; Jeter in 1998 finished behind Juan Gone and Garciaparra; Manny in 1999 finishing behind Pudge Rodriguez). Cabrera just routinely cranks out seasons that are virtually interchangeable stat-wise (like Murray, Jeter, and Man-Ram did).

      • 93
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        Interesting that the four AL MVP awards you cite are considered amongst the more questionable selections, particuarly the two years that relievers won, in 1981 and 1984.

        There are a some other unquestioned HOFers who put up many great seasons, but never won the MVP:

        – Mel Ott
        – Eddie Mathews
        – Wade Boggs
        – Al Kaline
        – Paul Molitor
        – Johnny Mize
        – Dave Winfield
        – Gary Carter
        – Tony Gwynn

  16. 82
    Bill Johnson says:

    As a Tigers fan let me at least mention one more thing- though I am not saying voters will or even should take it into account.

    When the Tigers picked up Fielder to offset the loss of Victor Martinez- Miggy made that work by agreeing to play third. Not only did he not pout about it, he came into the Spring having lost weight, and in his best shape in years.

    The Tigers’ team defense is awful and playing Miggy at third has been part of that, but he actually has not been as bad as I though he would be and his effort (at least during the many games I have watched) has never wavered. He hustles for foul balls, charges the slow rollers etc.

    If I had a vote (and I am very biased), I’d give him 1 extra-credit point for this.

    • 84

      From this piece by Dave Cameron:

      “Morosi makes the argument that Cabrera deserves credit for his defense because he was willing to make the move to third base to accommodate the acquisition of Prince Fielder. His hard work and selflessness in changing positions should be seen as a net positive in terms of defensive contribution, even if he is objectively bad at playing the position. However, there’s a pretty serious problem with this scenario – Cabrera didn’t have to move to third base for the Tigers to sign Prince Fielder. Instead, he could have simply agreed to become a designated hitter. Instead, Cabrera decided he didn’t want to retire his glove and become a hitter-only, so the Tigers were instead forced to move him to third base, since neither Cabrera nor Fielder was willing to take the DH role at this point in their career.

      “In reality, Cabrera’s switch to third base made room not for Fielder, but for Delmon Young to spend a majority of his time at DH, which freed up an outfield spot for the likes of Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Quinton Berry, and Andy Dirks. Had Cabrera been willing to actually take one for the team and DH, those are the guys who would have lost playing time, not Prince Fielder. Does anyone seriously want to argue that the Tigers are better off because Cabrera decided to become a bad defensive third baseman so that that group could get more playing time?”

      The problem with giving Cabrera credit for getting in shape is that you’re looking at one player in isolation, rather than comparing him to other players eligible for the award. Trout is in better shape, as evidenced by his defensive ability at a more demanding position. Everything Cabrera did to get himself in shape to play a harder position is baked into the numbers, which still favor Trout by a landslide.

      • 87
        Ed says:

        Thanks for the link Bryan, I was just trying to work this through. I think it goes like this:

        1) Cabrera’s significantly taller than Fielder so he stays at 1st and Fielder DHs.

        2) The Tigers keep Inge.

        3) Young stays in the OF.

        4) Less OF playing time for the various players mentioned in the link.

        Are the Tigers better or worse off in that scenario? Hard to say, though it probably isn’t more than a +/- 5 runs one way or the other.

      • 88
        tag says:

        The counter-argument to this is that someone had to play 3B for the Tigers, and Brandon Inge, coming off two terrible seasons, started this one hitting less than the temperature in Texas. I don’t know enough about the Bengals to say if they had anyone better available (do Infante or Worth, who I don’t think are an upgrade over Dirks or Berry, play 3B? Is there anyone in Triple-A?) – John or Hartvig might be able to help here – but I think the Miggy move to 3B is very defensible despite not resulting in excellent defense. What is not defensible is having Delmon Young on your team.

        • 90
          Jim Bouldin says:

          Betemit was gone, Infante didn’t arrive until August, Kelly and Worth did not appear likely to be the solution, Santiago is not really a 3rd baseman, and Inge was Inge.

          Solution: Miguel Cabrera.

      • 89
        Jim Bouldin says:

        “Does anyone seriously want to argue that the Tigers are better off because Cabrera decided to become a bad defensive third baseman so that that group could get more playing time?””

        Yeah, right Cameron, we want to argue that Cabrera decided to be a bad third baseman. Obviously.

        It’s not as simple as Cameron makes it out to be. If Cabrera plays DH, somebody has to play 3rd base I do believe, and the only body really available for that was Inge, whose days appeared to be numbered, because he couldn’t hit and even his fielding prowess had been sliding.

        Although Cabrera is not Brooks Robinson, he did play the position for several years and therefore understands the basics of what is required there. If he could lose some weight, who’s to say he couldn’t play 3rd again? It’s not like he’s 39 years old.

        Now, Delmon Young and Ryan Raburn with a glove on their hands–THAT’s criminal and you want to avoid that more than Miguel Cabrera at 3rd, especially when Boesch is also just mediocre.

        So, I’m more than willing to criticize Leyland, but not on this one, and I think Cabrera does deserve some credit for his move to third.

        • 98
          bstar says:

          I’m with you on this one, Jim, and FWIW Dave C. got roundly blasted in the comments section of the article for his strange personal take on Cabrera’s move to third.

    • 86
      John Nacca says:

      I am NOT a Tigers fan, but it sure seemed like Hanley Ramirez bitched a lot when the Marlins picked up Jose Reyes, and he had to switch positions. And I still remember Cabrera’s attempt to save Gallaraga’s perfecto…he VERY easily could have said to himself “I’m not gonna be the goat who makes an error now”. The guy may….and I say may…have off field issues, but it sure looks from afar that he comes to play every day. And if you haven’t seen the clip where he takes the “Fire Leyland” sign from the fan and signs it (along with a bunch of other balls and stuff before a game), check it out, it is classic.

  17. 95
    Jim Bouldin says:

    The “Most Diverse Post of the Yet-To-Be Specified Timeperiod Award” hereby goes to…

    Topics mentioned or discussed in this thread include:

    Natural History (quite heavy on aquatic environments):

    marine mammals more generally

    Icterids, particularly Orioles
    pine trees
    sand dunes


    New Jersey
    Los Angeles
    Rivers in Yemen


    crack houses
    philosophical discussion of uniqueness
    the potential flexibility of the use of the word “unique”
    the actual or potential uniqueness of various definitions of the word “unique”
    chairs, wooden
    chairs, titanium
    tables, wooden
    seat cushions
    giants made of marmalade
    giant piles of marmalade

    bunch of baseball stuff, players etc and related nonsense

  18. 96
    Fireworks says:

    I like advanced statistics. I like Mike Trout as much as I can possibly like him while knowing that the Angels picked him with the pick they got from the Yankees when the Yanks signed Mark Teixeira as a free agent, and that Yankees claim that he was high up on their board.

    However, if Cabrera continues killing the ball and the Tigers win the division, I’d vote for him for MVP. Instead of criticizing advanced stats like the “purists”, I’d focus on something else that has value, though it is not quantified: Cabrera moved to third base to allow the Tigers to sign Prince Fielder. Fielder had no interest in primarily being a DH at this point in his career, and analysis of Fielder’s defense notwithstanding, there’s no reason to believe any team would be better off DHing Fielder (we have ample evidence that many, perhaps most players don’t hit as well when they DH). Further, one could point out that the Tigers defense hasn’t been all that good overall. But Cabrera has been solid/decent at third.

    We know what Prince Fielder does at the plate, doesn’t do playing first, and that his contract is too long and for too much money. But he has the talent and potential to end up being worth the money (when you factor in ratings and attendance and the value of a player like him getting you to the postseason or possibly deeper into it several times during his contract, or even being “the difference” in having a ring or two or not).

    Cabrera did something for his franchise that made them better. Cabrera, who had grown older and fatter, moved to third, got into better shape, played the position decently, and continued to perform at the plate for his team. He didn’t gripe about playing third like Hanley, and he didn’t fail to be a suitable option like Trumbo.

    You can’t measure that with traditional or advanced statistics. You can’t quantify what it means that the Tigers have awful production behind Fielder, and that minus Fielder there’s no telling how pitchers go at Miggy. You can’t measure how Detroit got to embrace a player who had never been a Tiger like he had always been one of their own, because his (estranged still, I think) dad’s slugging feats two decades earlier forever endeared him to Tigers fans. You can, however, give it some sort of nebulous weight in your mind and either it gives Cabrera (he of the league-leading 28 DPs) an edge over Trout, or not.

    I know, I know, the Tigers have disappointed. But let’s not forget that the Angels weren’t merely “bad” before Trout came on the scene–they were the season’s BIGGEST disappointment. People said they had the best rotation in the AL and then they signed the man whom is perhaps the best hitter alive. So it’s not like Trout lifted a team of bums onto his back, and it’s not like you can give Trout credit for Scioscia’s poor managing of the bullpen turning into gold due to acquiring Frieri and Downs’ brilliant first half, any more than I can give Cabrera credit for Jackson coming into his own.

    But I can and will give Cabrera credit for being the team player and doing what ultimately has been best for his team.

    Someone might want to point out that Trout’s brilliant play (or even if he had merely been a competent starter this season) allows the Angels to put Wells and Bourjos in the lineup that much less, and that that has value, because they both are out machines. But that doesn’t really count. Mariano Rivera’s injury doesn’t make January 2011’s 3-year $36M signing of Soriano wise, merely fortuitous. Cashman shouldn’t be telling those that wanted to proceed with the signing against his better judgment that they were right.

  19. 97
    Fireworks says:

    I kinda ended abruptly there but even I tire of reading my inanity.

    Miggy for MVP!

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