By Bob Vorwald – WGN Sports
As we hit the home stretch of the season, it’s fun to cast an imaginary vote for MVP and Cy Young, while acknowledging this privilege is the sole province of the Baseball Writers Association of America (which includes several members who believe that by typing these words in a blog I have automatically consigned myself to do so in my pajamas in my mother’s basement). Plus, it’s a chance to work in lots of the different numbers we’ve discussed throughout the season. Feel free to look at this as a reading week review session before our end of the season final exam. (I’ll let Professor Kasper write that one. I’m just the teaching assistant that doesn’t really know the ropes but cam impart enough knowledge to be dangerous.)
Let’s start with the American League MVP, also known as the “if you’re not for Miggy, you are number-cuddling idiot” debate, starring Mike Trout as the sabermetric contender for the second straight year. We’ll throw in Robinson Cano for fun, but this is again a two-horse race and a slam dunk in most circles.
Player/Batting Average/HR/RBI/Hits/OPS/Adjusted OPS+ (numbers as of 9/6 from baseball-reference.com)
So naturally it goes to follow that when it comes to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Trout holds a healthy lead over Cabrera 8.4 to 6.8 with Cano a tick behind at 6.7 . What?
Not that you always would know it from previous voting, but baseball also involves fielding and baserunning. In both areas, Trout is far superior to Cabrera. Cano kicks tail on both of them with a 1.9 Fielding WAR, Miggy’s defense is a putrid -1.4, and Trout doesn’t get much defensive love at -0.6. But Trout’s 31 steals (Cabrera has 3), baserunning skills, and all-around offense make him as valuable as Cabrera in the offensive WAR world.
But wait, there’s more. Team performance is factored in by the majority of writers in the MVP vote and Cabrera’s team is coasting to a division title at 81-59 while Trout’s Angels are underachieving at 64-75. Cano’s 75-65 Yankees would boost his chances by sneaking into the last wild card spot.
So what will happen? Cabrera will win in a landslide and you should take the over on “baseball belongs on the field not the calculator” self-congratulatory columns that follow.
On the Cy Young front in the junior circuit, before Boston’s recent going-away gift of blown saves to Mariano Rivera, there might have been a push to give Cy Young to Cy Old if the Yankees climbed into a playoff spot, but even that would have been a stretch because this year has been about about max effort or rather, Max’s effort.
In a long-ago era, (before 2010 when King Felix won the AL Cy Young with a 13-12 W/L record), Max Scherzer’s 19-2 record would result in a runaway win for the Tiger righty. But now that the win statiistic has been dispatched to the relevancy of Pluto, it’s going to take more than “Hey 19” to give Max the hardware. Fortunately, he’s put together a nice resume that can let the win lambs lie down with the sabermetics lions: tops in the league in WHIP (0.94) second in WAR at 6.0 (behind Chris Sale’s 6.4), second in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.84, trailing his teammate Annibal Sanchez’s 2.42), second in Adjusted ERA + (behind Sanchez again), and since his team is winning the AL Central in a walk, Max can make dinner reservations with Miggy for a table for 4 and let their trophies take the extra chairs.
Since MLB loves to add wild cards, let me add one here: Boston’s Koji Uehara has retired 27 straight hitters as I write this and has some legit Cy Young stats: 64 1/3 IP, 3-0, 18 SV, 89 Ks, 1.12 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, .132 BAA and his 3..8 Win Probability Added is second in baseball only behind Clayton Kershaw’s 4.6.
Note to you budding sports talk show producers out there: you can never go wrong with the awards debate. It gives us something to go round about until several twits in the BWAA leave Greg Maddux off the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot. Then, there will be blood.