Originally posted by HVbaseballDAD:
"I heard this quote from a listener this morning on the radio, which sums up my thoughts on the matter, 'If you take Mike Trout off of the Angels, they go from being third in the AL West to being third in the AL West. If you take Miguel Cabrera off of the Tigers, they do not make the playoffs.' He then went on to say 'put that in your pocket protector and smoke it', bit I do not endorse that comment."
I'm glad you do not endorse the last comment, but I hope you'd reconsider your endorsement of the first one, too, because it is an absolutely ridiculous claim.
The irony, too, is that making that statement is an implicit endorsement of WAR, or some form
of WAR. The argument is that, since the Tigers won by 3 games, and Cabrera's performance was worth 7 wins, they couldn't have won the division without him. And by extension, that even though Mike Trout's performance was worth almost 11 wins, since the Angels finished in 3rd place, 5 games back but 14 games ahead of 4th place, Trout's performance somehow did nothing to change his team's fortunes and was less valuable than Cabrera's,
Of course, that is some pretty twisted logic, and WAR doesn't work that way. Not to mention, by this logic, any player with a plus-3 win season on any playoff team was more valuable than Mike Trout's 11-win season, which is crazy. It also ignores the fact that if you took away any one of Prince Fielder, or Justin Verlander, or Austin Jackson, or Doug Fister, or Max Scherzer (all of whom had at least +3 WAR), they ALSO don't make the playoffs, even with Cabrera. So how valuable is he now? It's ridiculous how shallow this thinking is.
Bottom line: It's a team game, and it's high time we stop conflating team performance with INDIVIDUAL value. Obviously, individual value is hard to measure and there are lots of subjective opinions about intangibles that can be legitimately considered, but team performance as an indicator of individual value is not one of them - we can already measure individual contributions to team performance pretty accurately!
One last thing about WAR.... It is not the be-all, end-all stat, but it is a great starting point and an even better baseline. If there is a significant difference in WAR between your candidate and another with a higher WAR, you've got an uphill battle to show your guy was better without ignoring or rationalizing away a significant part of the other guy's performance. There are a lot of other things you can (and should) look at, and I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it would be a rare case where the argument could be justified.
And that's fine. Some people don't like, and will never use, WAR. But this is what gets me about that:
In taking a position in an MVP debate, anybody offering an opinion is taking a bunch of different pieces of information, and using them to come to a single decision. That's what WAR does! The difference is, WAR goes about it scientifically, in an open and transparent process that applies a consistent method of weighing those pieces of information while trying to eliminate biases, and stands by the result of the process regardless of the outcome, whereas the average person offering an MVP opinion looks at the same information
(though maybe through less accurate statstical measures), indiscriminately omits some bits and overemphasize others, weighs them DIFFERENTLY (and without reasoned esplanation or research, just subjective opinion) in order to justify a pre-determined outcome. Oh, and then next year they'll do it again, but DIFFERENTLY.
And yet, WAR is bad and this other method of coming to the same kind of "best," single-number decision is GOOD?
I've said this before, but all I want is consistency, completeness, and comphrehensiveness. If you think performance in high leverage situations should count more (or something else - whatever), design that in to your system of evaluation - just do it without eliminating the negative performances while overemphasizing the positive (for instance, looking at Cabrera's late-inning HRs and RBI's in close games, while ignoring his rally-killing DPs and strikeouts, and his inability to effectively go first-to-third, etc.). Same with looking at games down the stretch as more important - really look at the player's contribution to those wins and losses, consistent with that position (i.e., higher-leverage ABs matter more), and make sure you count the negative as well as positive contributions.
Whatever you think is important, that's fine. Put it in your own little WAR-like system of evaluation, use whatever stats you want, but three things: (1) be consistent, (2) be ready to defend your decision to include some things and not others (for instance, for offense if you aren't including some measurement of defense, baserunning, and all aspects of hitting, don't be surprised if people attack and don't trust your results or opinion), and (3) don't work backwards from the result you want; start with the things you think are important and work TOWARDS the result they lead you to and stand by the results. Don't tweak the system because it spits out a name you don't like.
If you can't do that, IMO you have no justification for criticizing WAR. You're doing the same thing, just in a far less consistent and complete way.