I wanted to entitle this article: “Why the MVP Vote is Wrong,” but I didn’t want to make you think this was another one of those tired “Mike Trout should be the MVP” articles. He should be, but that is besides the point of what needs to be gotten at here.
I am begging to suspect that the conversation needs to turn from “what is valuable” [or more valuable] to just how valuable is players. Case in point, the other day MLB Tonight was on in my house (I know, I know I am a masochist) and Harold Reynolds was decrying the places that some people ended up in the order of balloting. To no one’s surprise, Harold is a Freddie Freeman guy. And, who isn’t? His .319/.396/.501/144OPS+ in 2013 was delicious. If you like counting stats, his 23 home runs and 109 RBI’s were nothing to sneeze at either.
He is a good player who may have broken through into All-Star player (his jump from 1.7 WAR, to 2.3 WAR, to 5.4 WAR over the last three seasons indicates that he has, at least for one season jumped from worthwhile everyday player to one with significant value. He was an All-Star level player who deserved some back end MVP consideration. He was very good.
Very good is not a good enough understanding for Harold Reynolds. Harold dropped this bomb on the literally tens of people watching the show along with me: “The Braves may not have won the division if they did not have Freddie Freeman in the lineup!”
For those of you with short memories, the Braves won the NL East by 10 games and had it locked up, for all intents and purposes, in late August.
Now, recall, Sabrmetrics valued Freeman’s whole body of work to be worth 5.4 wins over a scrub off the heap of America’s Triple-A ballparks. Meaning the ghost of Jack Cust or, if you will, Ryan Howard played 1b for the full 162 games for the Braves, they still would have won the division by 4 or 5 games.
But, that is still not the real issue as to why analysts and talking heads are so bad these days. They still assign more value to players who are MVP quality who make the playoffs because, by transitive property, they think Miguel Cabrera is worth 15-20 wins on his own. The truth (or at least Sabrmetric truth) is that he was was worth 7.2 wins over a replacement player.
Now, if the Tigers did not have Cabrera’s 7 wins, they would not have made the playoffs. But, they also would have $22 million dollars (Cabrera’s 2013 salary) to redistribute for the sake of making the playoffs.
The bottom line is this: the voters, analysts and talking heads of the baseball world need to re-school themselves on just how much value a player can possibly provide. They need to understand the quality of player that would have precluded the Braves from the playoffs with their final record would have been a Mike Trout. His elite package of defense, base-running, and hitting is the only package in today’s game that is worth the sort of value that the Harold Reynold’s of the world casually ascribe to the Freddie Freeman’s of the world.
The conversation is no longer about WAR, counting stats, Sabrmetrics, bloggers, or even Murray Chass. The conversation needs to become about exactly how much can one ball player be worth in terms of wins. If WAR has it wrong, that means something. If it is right, and simple math makes a case that it does, then our famous baseball analysts need to fess up to how they come up with their numbers (i.e. that Freeman is worth 10 wins). Until we can see a rational conversation about how many wins Miguel Cabrera is worth to a team (above, below, or equivalent to Mike Trout or others), we cannot come to an evaluative
If, on the other hand, analysts assume that Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutchen, and Miguel Cabrera are all worth roughly the same amount of wins to a team (based on grit or skill or counting stats or whatever), they would then need to admit that they are handing out awards to players who simply have (a) better teammates and/or (b) a better General Manager. And frankly, those awards (pennants in stadiums, World Series trophy, etc. and the Executive of the Year award) already exist.
Let’s stop giving those awards out twice.
Of course, it is sexy to talk about this problem in terms of MVP voting or Hall of Fame theories, but let us remember this as we head toward free agency as well. Jacoby Ellsbury is likely gone. But fret not! His 5.8 bWAR means he was worth roughly 6 wins more than the 2012 version of Marlon Byrd we were throwing out there (heck…6 wins more than the Marlon Byrd that Ruben Amaro likely signed, but that is another story for another day). Jackie Bradley, Jr. most likely will not be a replacement player. It would be reasonable to hope that he is a 2 win player in his rookie season. He is, after all, a potential plus plus defender. If he continues with his discerning eye and shows some doubles power he will reach that goal. Therefore, we would only need to find four more
wins with the $2o million dollars we would save in order to spend elsewhere. Much of thiswill likely be recovered in replacing Will Middlebrooks/Brock Holt/Brandon Snyder at bats with a full season of Xander Bogaerts. If Bogaerts plays SS, then we need to replicate the WAR of Drew at 3rd base.
Anyway, you get the point. We need to understand that even elite players are rarelyworth 10 wins more than a player off the waiver wire. Ignore the hype Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams want to sell you. They are wrong, but then you knew that.