Voting for Trout as MVP was no philosophical choice


Voting for Trout as MVP was no philosophical choice

What if they held an awards vote and, instead, a philosophical debate broke out?

That's how the American League Most Valuable Player balloting -- the results of which will be revealed Thursday night -- is being viewed in some circles.

It's not about the central question: Which A.L. Player was the most valuable to his team in the 2012 regular season? No, it's somehow devolved into something much more complicated. More than any award in recent baseball history, it's become generational and political.

To some, it's not about value at all, but rather, methodology. It's not about Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, the two favorites. It's about evaluation, analytics, historical precedent and other variables.

But not to me.

As a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America's Boston chapter, I get to vote, on a rotating bases, on one of the four BBWAA-sponsored awards each season -- Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award, Manager of the Year and MVP.

Sometimes, the voting is clear-cut and obvious, like this year's Rookie of the Year balloting which, predictably, Trout won unanimously. Sometimes, it's an incredibly close vote with two great candidates, as was the case in both the manager (where Bob Melvin edged the equally-deserving Buck Showalter) and Cy Young (where David Price narrowly defeated a worthy Justin Verlander) balloting.

The MVP race, on the other hand, has become something else. This isn't about two qualified candidates. It's become a watershed moment, a What-Side-Are-You-On? debate.

Generally speaking, those who support Cabrera cite the more traditional statistics -- batting average, home runs and RBI, all categories in which Cabrera led the league, resulting in the A.L.'s first Triple Crown winner since 1967 -- and the more advanced metrics, such as WAR, or wins over replacement.

It's boiled down to this: Are you old-school or new-school? Are you traditional (or a dinosour)? Are you cutting edge (or a stat-driven geek?).

All of which, frankly, seems pretty silly to me.

After great deliberation, I voted for Trout first and Cabrera second. But I didn't do it to make a statement. I didn't do it to further the cause of advanced metrics. I didn't do it to change people's minds about how we evaluate players.

I did it -- get this -- because I thought Trout was . . . the most valuable player to his team.

I neither ignored Cabrera's Triple Crown achievment, nor overdosed on Trout's advanced metrics. They were both part of the evaluation process.

I believe there's some nuance to all of this, and that seems to have gotten lost in the increasingly contentious debate. While Cabrera's Triple Crown is a significant achievement, it doesn't, by itself, guarantee an MVP. Four times in history, a Triple Crown winner has failed to win the MVP, so if Cabrera loses -- and for the record, I don't think he will -- it won't be some historical rejection of traditional statistics. It's been done before.

At the same time, we now view more traditional baseball statistics differently, and to suggest otherwise is foolhardy. Let's face it: Batting average is no longer regarded as the primary indicator of a hitter's skills, thanks to our understanding of the importance of on-base percentage and other meaningful measures of a player's offensive performance.

Don't think so? Quick, name the batting champions in both leagues in 2011. In the past, identifying the batting champ of a season ago would been an easy task for most serious baseball fans. Today, I doubt many could quickly come up with the answers. (For the record, they were Cabrera in the A.L. and Jose Reyes in the N.L.)

Now that we have begun to appreciate offensive performance using different measurements, is it not backward to reward what we know now is less important?

Which isn't to suggest that Cabrera's season wasn't a great one. Of course it was; he had a terrific year. But it was also largely one-dimensional.

And that's where Trout comes in.

As good as Cabrera's offensive numbers were -- by any measurement, new-school or old -- the other components of his game were far less impressive. He's a fringe defensive third baseman, and a decidedly below-average baserunner.

Contrast that with Trout, who was probably the game's best outfielder as well as a terrific baserunner (an astounding 49-for-54 in stolen bases, with a league-leading 129 runs scored).

If we've learned anything about measuring performance on the field in the last two decades or so, it's this: Baseball is far more than hits and homers and runs knocked in. It's also about preventing runs (in the field) and scoring them, or the very least, getting closer to scoring them (on the bases).

Trout did far, far more of both of these things than did Cabrera. That makes him, in my mind, a far more complete player, and thus, more valuable.

You may have noticed that I haven't yet mentioned WAR (wins above replacement), so often cited by many of Trout's backers and so derided by those who support Cabrera. For the uninitiated, WAR seeks to quantify how many more games a player helps his team win over the equivalent of a minor-league player.

In 2012, Trout's WAR was 10.7, compared to Cabrera's 6.9.

I incorporated that into my decision-making -- it would be foolish to ignore it -- but it was far from the determining factor. Instead, it was a useful measurement that, along with other factors, I utilized. For instance: It was impossible to ignore the fact that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took off when Trout was promoted from Triple A. Trout was the 'X' factor in their season. Without him, they struggles; with him, they became contenders.

I'm not taking a stand here. Nor am I representing some faction, or spearheading a movement.

Instead, I took as many variables -- statistical and otherwise -- into account to determine who was, truly, the most valuable player to his team and came down on the side of Trout.

Now, was that so hard?

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.