AL MVP Race Comes Down to WAR

When it come to the AL MVP race, there are only three players in contention in my mind: Miguel Cabrera (DET), Justin Verlander (DET), and Mike Trout (LAA).

Cabrera is wrapping up a season where he is leading in each batting category considered for the Triple Crown title with a .325 batting average, 43 home runs, and 136 RBI’s. If Cabrera were to finish the season leading in all of these categories, he would be the first triple crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski, BOS), and I believe if Cabrera can hold his lead he should be a proverbial shoe-in for the MVP title. The only thing that holds me back from anointing Cabrera at this point is his wins above replacement (WAR) number. This statistic presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player would add. Frankly, Cabrera is tenth in the MLB in regards to this statistic, and only adding 6 1/2 games to your team total doesn’t blow me away. Detroit did end up winning their division, but this next player may have had more of a direct impact on that.

Justin Verlander is coming off a 17 win season and still has a few games left to pitch. His late season ERA of 1.2 is incredible, and having that kind of poise for his team this late in the season shows the value that he brings to the Tigers. Verlander has near 1972 Steve Carlton-type of value (out of the Phillies 67 wins that season, Carlton was a 27 game winner) for his team because Verlander’s WAR number is 7.6, and for him to only impact his team for 17% of their games makes his WAR number all the more impressive. He’s no doubt the Cy Young winner, but a solid candidate for MVP.

Last, but not least, is Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Trout is by far one of the most talented rookies to enter the major leagues in recent memory. He has already hit a major rookie landmark by becoming the first rookie to have at least 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases, and he is in position to get to 50 stolen bases. This kind of play reminds me of an up-and-coming Ken Griffey Jr., and if Trout can stay relatively injury-free throughout his career, he has the tools to have a Hall of Fame career. Trout has also posed an astonishing 10.5 WAR number on a star-studded roster, and even though it seems as if the Angels will not make a post season appearance, Trout is undoubtedly the player who has made the largest impact for his respective team in the MLB.

The AL MVP race is not only close, but an entertaining one to watch unfold. I do not envy anyone who can cast a vote for this race because these three players are extremely talented and all of them make major contributions to their teams. But there has to be a winner, and if the vote occured today I would give the MVP award to Trout. He is a true all-around athlete that brings power and athleticism to every aspect of the game of baseball. The Angels organization should consider themselves lucky to have such a talent on their roster, and I foresee many MVP seasons ahead of him.

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2 thoughts on “AL MVP Race Comes Down to WAR

  1. Heya Shawn, good stuff here too. I don’t follow baseball like I once did (the days before the world moved on to social media), but I’m not completely in the dark either. I knew all the stats growing up, but I’ve never until today heard of a WAR #. Very interesting, how do they calculate it? Any man who wins the triple crown gets my vote automatically, great feat that.
    One little nit, the Phillies only won 59 games the year that Carlton posted 27 wins, which makes that the best year by a pitcher in the modern era in my book.
    Great bit of writing here, Shawn, I’ll bookmark you and drop in for a read from time to time.
    Thanks, Steve

    • Thanks Steve! I will make sure to check in with Pro Sports Blogging to read some of your articles. If you ever want to do a guest post or vice versa I’d be happy to do it. The WAR stat is a little tricky because it differs between the positions, but here’s a little explanation of the logarithm. While WAR values are scaled equally for pitchers and hitters, the result is calculated differently for pitchers versus position players. This is because position players are evaluated using statistics for fielding and hitting, while pitchers are evaluated using statistics related to the opposing batters’ hits, walks and strikeouts in Fangraph’s (it’s a website that calculates baseball statistics) version and runs allowed per 9 innings with a team defense adjustment. This is an attempt at explaining why Verlander has a higher WAR number than Cabrera. Thanks again for the mention on Twitter too!

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