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Stats Tuesday: A statistical case for Miguel Cabrera as American League MVP + Should a runs involved stat replace RBIs?

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English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium.

English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The AL MVP race is the most interesting in years due to the debate of traditional stats vs new age sabermetrics, as many have pointed out. As of October 1st, 2012, Miguel Cabrera is in position to win the Triple Crown of leading the league in the traditional hitting stats Batting Average (BA), Home Runs (HR) and Runs Batted In (RBIs), but Mike Trout holds a significant lead in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), 10.7 to Cabrera’s 6.8 according to baseball-reference.com, a massive gap.

Trout’s gap in WAR comes from two places. One, he is given 2.3 points in defensive WAR due to excellent fielding in center-field, while Cabrera’s score is -0.2 at 3rd base. Secondly, Trout’s offensive WAR (8.6) beats out Cabrera’s score of 7.4 on baseball-reference. This is interesting because it is clear that Cabrera is the better hitter statistically, leading in OPS, batting average, slightly trailing in on-base percentage, and having a sizeable gap in home runs. A fascinating statistic is that Cabrera has 137 Runs Batted In (RBI) to Trout’s 83.

RBIs have of course lost favor in recent years for obvious reasons. They’re simply too context based. A player’s RBIs depends on the ones in front of him who get on base. In this case, Trout’s offensive value is more reliant on scoring from the bases than Cabrera’s is. For one, he hits lead-off, a position where where worse batters behind him mean there’s less chance of players to be on base – and the first bat of the game no players can be on base. Secondly, Trout is a fantastic base-runner and base stealer (Leading the AL in stolen bases at 48, amazingly only being caught 4 times). Third, by the fact that less of hits are home runs than Cabrera’s despite a higher on-base percentage, this is another reason why more of his hits end up with him on the bases, waiting for the batters in front of him to hit him in. RBIs of course can’t measure the value Trout brings by getting into scoring position. When a batter in front of him hits Trout in, they are credited with an RBI, while he is given a Run Scored, which is tracked but not given much weight in awards voting. Trout, unsurprisingly, leads the AL in Runs Scored by far with 129 – Cabrera coming in 2nd at 109. Trout leading Cabrera in offensive WAR comes down to favoring this “scoring from the bases” advantage Trout has over Cabrera, outweighing the extra damage Cabrera does at the plate.

We know Trout’s Run Scored nor Cabrera’s RBIs advantage over each other isn’t indicative of their value. Their roles are different, Trout’s favoring scoring off the bases and Cabrera with the bat. This is concerning because fundamentally, we should want to measure how much runs a player actually scored in a game, in a same way we want to know how many points a basketball player actually scored.

So what I came up with a little stat to try and incorporate both runs batted in and runs scored off the bases for a player. I can’t be the only one who’s tried this, but nonetheless here’s what I did: I took a player’s Runs Scored and subtracted Home Runs, as when a player scores a Run off a homer, it’s counted as an RBI. A good term for the total Runs Scored not counting Home Runs, is “Baserunning Runs Scored”. I then added this number to RBIs. The stat thus is simply (Runs Scored – HRS) + RBIs, or Baserunning Runs Scored + RBIs.

Thus this counts the “Total Runs Involved In” for a player, accounting for the runs a player scores either with his bats or from baserunning Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

October 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm