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Friday, November 30, 2012

Fred Whitfield: Platooned Slugger Answers Some Questions

The phrase “hitting the ball a country mile” is a maxim that has been frequently used in baseball to describe the raw power of players. A player who personified that phrase to a tee was Fred Whitfield, a slugging first baseman, who came to professional baseball from the little town of Vandiver, Alabama.

Whitfield was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956 as an 18-year-old. They liked what they saw from the left-handed slugger and felt that he could develop into another cog for their already potent lineup.

Whitfield began his professional career in 1958 in the low minors and immediately proved he had walloping power. In his first three seasons he hit 23, 28, and 22 home runs, at a time when 20 home runs still meant something. His batting average also climbed as he was promoted through the system, culminating in the .323 mark he posted in 33 games at Triple-A in 1963, which caused the Cardinals to call him up to the majors.

Getting to the majors was only part of the challenge for Whitfield. When he arrived, star first baseman Bill White was entrenched at the same position, leaving less opportunity for the rookie than he would have preferred. But Whitfield ran with what he was given and played very well in the 73 games in which he appeared. Although he only had 158 at bats, he hit .266 with 8 home runs and 34 RBI.

Following the 1962 season the Cardinals realized that they had to do something about their abundance of talented first basemen. The solution they hit upon was trading Whitfield to the Cleveland Indians for Jack Kubiszyn and Ron Taylor.

While Whitfield never became a star, he blossomed into a very effective player for the Indians. His best season came in 1965 when he hit .293 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI in 132 games. He was limited in his career because of his struggles again left-handed pitching (.231 career average) and was often benched when southpaws were on the mound.

Whitfield was traded back to the National League after the 1967 season, when he was shipped to the Cincinnati Reds. He was never a regular starter again, playing two years with the Reds and four games for the Montreal Expos before calling it a career after the 1970 season.

In 817 career major league games over nine years, Whitfield hit .253 with 108 home runs and 356 RBI. More information on his career statistics is available at While he never became a star, he developed into a very productive player and is still thankful for the time he was able to play professionally. He recently shared some of his sentiments and memories with me, showing how fondly he regards his time in baseball.

Fred Whitfield Questionnaire:

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I was blessed to be able to play; very blessed.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Joe Schultz, Dave Bristol, and Birdie Tebbetts.

What was the strangest play you ever saw during his career?: I hit a ball off the center field fence when two runners were on base. The outfielder played the ball off the fence and threw home and the catcher tagged both runners out.

Who was the most competitive player you ever played with or against?: Stan Musial and Pete Rose.


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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alex Meyer- An Interview with the Minnesota Twins Newest Prospect

Earlier today, the Minnesota Twins finalized a trade that sent outfielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospect, Alex Meyer. I had an opportunity to interview Meyer last fall, and believe he will end up being a great pitcher in the majors. Check out that interview, which was done for by going here.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Michael Ynoa: High Expectations, 40-Man Rosters, and the Agonizing Burden of Waiting for Greatness

The legend of right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa began the moment he signed a then-record $4.25 million contract with the Oakland A’s in 2008 as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Because of recurring injuries, he has pitched only a total of 39.2 innings in the five seasons since landing that landmark deal, assuming the identity of a real-life Sidd Finch. Already cursed with having to bear the weight of so many expectations, the load just got even heavier for Ynoa, who despite his rawness was just recently added to the A’s 40-man roster. Earlier this summer I had a rare opportunity to meet this enigmatic player, but left feeling like I had even more questions about the intriguing prospect and what his future ultimately holds.

Ynoa had no shortage of suitors as a youth in the Dominican. His agent, Adam Katz, supposedly had a $2.7 million handshake deal in place with the New York Yankees before attempting to renegotiate after finding other teams were willing to pay more, and the Bombers pulled put.

The Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers each offered more lucrative contracts, but Ynoa ultimately chose to accept the A’s offer because he believed they could help him develop quicker, telling’s Enrique Rojas, "After careful thought, my parents and I decided that Oakland has a better pitcher development program, and that will be more important for my career in the long haul."

The baseball world buzzed after Ynoa finalized his deal with Oakland. Raymond Abreu, then Oakland’s Director of Latin America Operations, announced his opinion that Ynoa was the best Latin prospect since Felix Hernandez. He also gushed about his tools, stating, “As a pitcher, he has effortless mechanics with loose arm action on all his pitches and a clean, easy delivery. He's an exceptional athlete and he throws a very heavy fastball."

At the time of the signing, Baseball America reported that a number of scouts believed Ynoa was a “once-in-a-generation talent,” with an arsenal of a mid-90’s fastball, breaking ball and changeup that put him on par with pitchers far older and more experienced.

The high hopes for Ynoa stalled as quickly as they started. Instead of making his pro debut in 2009 as expected, he missed the entire season with elbow problems. The A’s decided it was prudent to be cautious with the teenager and not risk major injury. Unfortunately, that strategy couldn’t prevent what was to come.

Ynoa struck out 11 batters in 9 innings in 2010 with Oakland’s instructional league team in Arizona, but was once again shut down with arm injuries. This time it was discovered he needed Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of the 2011 season.

At the age of 20, Ynoa finally got his professional career underway in 2012, four years after first signing with Oakland. He started in instructs, but was moved up to the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters in late July to get his first real taste of minor league baseball.

Since Vermont is my home team, my excitement knew no bounds when I initially heard Ynoa was making his way to the Green Mountain State. Having eagerly read about him for years, but having virtually no tangible information to go on, his arrival for a baseball nerd like me was akin to getting an opportunity to see a unicorn rubbing his horn against a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

If you only go by the sheer numbers, Ynoa struggled with Vermont. In 8 games, he went 1-3 with a 6.97 ERA. Although he struck out 19 batters in 20.2 innings, he also issued nearly a walk per inning.

Despite the lack of consistency and results, Ynoa’s vast potential was easy to see. His fastball varied between 88-95, and his breaking ball occasionally made hitters look absolutely foolish, while at other times being flatter than an expired Miller High Life. Because of his lengthy time off from any meaningful baseball activities, such results were not only excusable, but expected.

Being a curious sort, I determined that I was going to do whatever it took to speak with Ynoa and find out more about the mysterious pitching savant. It was easier said than done.

Vermont’s players are typically on the field at least an hour before game time, stretching, playing games of pepper and generally unwinding before first pitch. However, unless it was his day to pitch, Ynoa rarely emerged from the clubhouse until mere moment before the ceremonial call of “Play ball” echoed over the loudspeakers.

One evening I decided to wait until after the game, when players finished showering and wandered off for the night. I silently congratulated myself when after about 30 minutes I saw an impossibly tall and lean figure slightly duck to exit out of the clubhouse and on to the concourse.

The first thing that struck me about being that close to Ynoa was his imposing presence and size. He has piercing grayish blue eyes that literally make it uncomfortable to make eye contact with him. At 6’7”, he towered over me. The program listed him at 205 pounds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were 20 pounds lighter than that. His comically long arms put the goofy thought in my head that if we were on the playground and he decided to snatch off my cap, I would have virtually no chance of getting it back.

After I introduced myself and stated that I hoped to ask him some questions, I could tell he was quietly sizing me up. When he spoke, his voice was a methodical and deep rumble, reminiscent of famed professional wrestler Andre the Giant. He agreed to speak with me, but asked if we could chat after the game the following night. I agreed but assumed I would never speak with him again.

Before walking away, Ynoa shook my hand, with his enormous paw engulfing mine so fully that it made me feel dainty for the first time in my life.

Following the next game I dutifully waited by the clubhouse, as Ynoa had requested, determined to give it only 10 minutes past the deadline, before giving up on my quest as a lost cause. For some reason I just knew I was going to get blown off. However, Ynoa strode outside precisely at the time he had made the appointment and walked right up to me.

English is not Ynoa’s first language, but since being in the States he has learned enough to competently communicate. Despite being happy to find out we would be able to talk, it didn’t take long for it to become obvious that he is a man of few words.

I first asked Ynoa the obvious question of how he was feeling, now that he was finally able to really start his career. He gave me a big smile that belied his happiness about finally being able to pitch, before replying, “I feel great after surgery and everything that happened to me. I just want to pitch and keep doing well and throwing my fastball without problems.”

I was curious about what it was like for Ynoa to have left home at 16 to start his professional life so far away from home and unable to speak the language. It’s a foreign concept in today’s America, but so commonplace among Latin ballplayers. He admitted his naiveté after signing his first contract. “I didn’t know how to do it because it was my first year in professional baseball. I felt a little bit afraid the first time.” These challenges are often ignored or glossed over, as people tend to focus on his injury since joining the Oakland organization. It’s clear Ynoa had to deal with even more significant challenges than his physical ailments.

Ynoa revealed only a little of how he felt these past few years about his inability to be on the field, when he described this inner turmoil after the injuries started popping up. “The first surgery was a little hard,” he explained. “Every night I was praying; praying to God.”

Through healing, luck or divine intervention, Ynoa is finally back at the starting line, four-plus years after he expected. Being added by the A’s to their 40-man major league roster added even more weight to the already-onerous burden he has borne since being signed by Oakland. The move protects him from being chosen in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft by another team looking to snipe talent on the cheap. The A’s are obviously not ready to give up on their already substantial investment, and believe that Ynoa can still develop into a major league pitcher.

Teams view 40-man roster spots like gold nuggets. The A’s designating Ynoa to one of those closely guarded spots speaks volumes about in how much regard they hold the pitcher. They clearly believe that he can still live up to his vast potential despite the many bumps he has encountered since entering pro ball.

About to enter his sixth season since signing; which most minor league players would consider an eternity, Ynoa still has plenty of time to get where he wants to be. He will only be 21 during the entire 2013 season, still relatively young by prospect standards. Now that he has health and the clear backing of the A’s, what he needs moving forward is game experience. Pitching on a regular basis will be the best way for him to grow and hone his pitching skills.

Ynoa may fall by the wayside like so many prospects before him, or he might make good and justify all of the A’s support and investment. The important thing right now is that he finally has a chance, and the outcome largely lies in his massive hands.

One can imagine a 16-year-old signing a multi-million dollar contract would be over the moon simply having the money in-hand, but it’s obvious that Ynoa wants more, and has yearned to prove he was worthy of his huge bonus and accolades. “I feel excited that I am 100 percent,” he told me emphatically. “Everything is good. The point is to do my work and be what I want.” What he wants is to be a major league pitcher. Only time will tell if he can fulfill that goal, which was once seen as a foregone conclusion.


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Monday, November 26, 2012

Baseball Notes for November 26, 2012

More moves and rumors are starting to come in now that the baseball offseason is in full-swing. It’s always interesting to see the jostling that takes place, as teams seek to set their 2013 rosters, while battling other teams for resources. Despite Thanksgiving dominating this past week, there was still a flurry of activity that provided a lot of fuel to the hot stove fires.

***A week after pulling off a stunning trade with the Florida Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays finally named their manager for next season. The fact that it was John Gibbons surprised many. Gibbons managed Toronto for parts of five seasons from 2004 to 2008, before getting fired after finishing with a 305-305 overall record.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, who joined the Blue Jays after Gibbons initial termination, cited wanting to hire someone with organizational familiarity as the reason why he chose to recycle his manager. With a number of intriguing managerial candidates currently seeking jobs, including Brad Ausmus, who received rave reviews when interviewing for Boston’s vacancy, it’s perplexing that Toronto wasn’t willing to think more outside the box with such an overhauled team. Re-hiring Gibbons to manage the Jays new squadron of talent is the equivalent of buying an expensive painting and putting it in a frame that had previously held a family photo.

*** The Red Sox made their second free-agent signing of note, inking outfielder Jonny Gomes to a two-year, $10 million deal. Calling Gomes and his career -10.1 dWAR an outfielder is generous, but he can at least mash left-handed pitching, putting up a .284/.382/.512 split for his career. The problem is that he is nearly unplayable against righties, as his split spiral to .223/.307/.425 against them. He has been especially helpless against righties during the past two seasons, batting just a combined .181.

It’s clear that the Sox believe Gomes can help them against the star southpaws like C.C. Sabathia and David Price within their division. However, one has to wonder if his one specialized talent is worth the contract he received. The Red Sox faced just 51 lefty starters last season, and only 29.8 of the team’s total plate appearances came against left-handers. For a player who clearly can’t be a full-time starter or even a regular, the money given to Gomes seems excessive.

***One of the superlatives being hurled around the most in regards to Gomes is his identity as a “great clubhouse guy.” I wish people would quantify exactly what that means. Surely baseball players enjoy teammates who tell great jokes, spring for the occasional dinner and give good hugs, but is that really worth $5 million a season? Personally, I feel “good clubhouse guy” is a label that ranks right up there with “scrappy” and “knows how to win” as clichés that have little actual value.

*** Although Dustin Pedroia is signed to a team-friendly contract that still has two years and $20 million, plus a 2015 club option for $11 million, the Red Sox are reportedly interested in exploring an extension with their second baseman. If this is true, chalk it up to yet another questionable move by GM Ben Cherington. The Sox have zero incentive to extend Pedroia now, other than making him incredibly happy and rich.

The Philadelphia Phillies probably wish they could re-do the five-year, $125 million extension they gave Ryan Howard three years before his contract was up. The Red Sox could very well be in the same boat if they decide to capitulate with Pedroia. 

Assuming Pedroia’s 2015 option is picked up, he will enter the 2016 season as a 33-year-old infielder with 10 major league seasons under his belt. Feeling confident enough to give him a long-term extension three years before that time is utter madness. It is a much sounder financial move for the Red Sox to have Pedroia play out his current deal and start negotiating closer to the time when he will be a free agent, so they can evaluate if he will still have enough value to be worthy of a substantial extension.

***If you’re looking for tangible proof that mediocrity pays, look no further than the three-year, $25 million contract Jeremy Guthrie just received from the Kansas City Royals. Guthrie has pitched exclusively for second division teams during his career, but that only partly accounts for his 55-77 career record and 4.28 ERA.  He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher and allows a lot of home runs, which is a curious combination for the Royals, who are desperately trying to establish a legitimate starting rotation.

The Royals will have to hope that Guthrie can duplicate the results he had with them over the second half of last season after coming over in a trade from the Rockies. He posted a 3.16 ERA in those 14 starts, along with the lowest home run rate of his career. Since he is never going to be an ace, The Royals are paying lot of money for a mid-rotation starter, but it’s reflective of the premium being placed on pitching around baseball.

***In the wake of being part of the epic salary dump trade from the Marlins to the Blue Jays, pitcher Mark Buehrle claimed he was lied to on multiple occasions by Miami. Presumably he is referring to an unofficial no-trade agreement he believed he had with the team. However, as Dan Szymborski pointed out on Twitter, if there was any sort of side-agreement, it would have been a violation of the CBA.

If Buehrle did have an illegal side deal in place, then shame on him, and he needs to stop his grousing. When you sign a $58 million contract like Buehrle did last off-season, you get everything you want on paper, or deal with the consequences. He had no official no-trade clause and shouldn’t be surprised that he has been moved. After all, quoting another of my favorite clichés, it’s just part of baseball.


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Eric Chavez and the Baltimore Orioles Could Be a Great Match

During baseball's offseason there is nothing I enjoy more than trying to match up available players with teams with whom he might fit the best. Although not among the top free-agents on the market, third baseman Eric Chavez offers a lot of value to the right team. Check out my B/R article about why I think that might be with the Baltimore Orioles.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How John Farrell Can Win Over Red Sox Players ASAP

New Red Sox manager John Farrell has an uphill battle to right a ship that went off the tracks in a major way in 2012, as the team finished an uninspiring 69-93. Here are six things the new skipper can do to get off on the right foot.


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Chatting with St. Louis Cardinals Pitching Prospect Nick Greenwood

It’s hard enough to succeed as a professional baseball player, but imagine if it’s not even your favorite/best sport. That’s what faced St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitching prospect Nick Greenwood, who grew up loving soccer and baseball before finally having to choose one sport.

Greenwood was a soccer star for Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut. He finished his career as the second leading scorer in school history, behind only Houston Astros’ legendary first baseman, Jeff Bagwell, a fellow alum. 

Greenwood played American Legion baseball during his “down time” and also for Xavier. As Greenwood progressed through high school it became obvious that his best opportunity lay with baseball. His talent was obvious, as he went 16-2 for his career and earned a scholarship to the University of Rhode Island.

During his three years at Rhode Island, Greenwood increasingly improved his production, finishing his career with 15 wins. In 2009 the San Diego Padres made him their 14th round selection in the MLB Draft. He pitched well as a starter, but in 2010 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals as part of a trade for outfielder Ryan Ludwick, and was converted to the bullpen full-time.

Greenwood pitched in Triple-A all of this past season with middling results. For his professional career he is 15-12 in 163 games, with a 3.63 ERA. More information on his statistics is available at

Now that Greenwood has reached the highest level of the minors, he has little left to prove. This past off-season I caught up with the lefty and found out a little more about his time in baseball. If you want to keep up with him and his quest for the majors, make sure to also give him a follow on Twitter.

Nick Greenwood Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: My favorite team has been the New York Yankees since I was little. My family members are huge Yankee fans and it rubbed off on me.  

My favorite player when I was little was Don Mattingly because I liked the way he went about his business and his style of play.

What made you decide to give up your favorite/best sport (soccer) in favor of baseball?
: It was a tough decision, but I realized I could go further in baseball. I knew it was where my future would be. In college I signed for baseball but I still had plans to play soccer even after I had committed to URI.

Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: I was surrounded by family and friends for the two days the draft took place. I wasn't expecting a call on the first day, but knew I had a good chance of going on the second day.  Until you get that phone call, it is still just a dream.  It was pretty nerve wracking as you watch the rounds go by, but then once you do get the call, there is a huge feeling of relief and excitement. It’s funny; I got a call from the Cardinals in the 8th round letting me know they were getting ready to take me and it just didn't happen. San Diego called in the 14th round.

Please describe your feelings upon learning you were part of the Ryan Ludwick trade that brought you to the St. Louis organization?: I was sleeping on the bus going to Great Lakes when my trainer woke me up and told me I had a phone call.  I answered and it ended up being the farm director for San Diego.  He let me know I had been part of a big league deal and thanked me for everything, letting me know it was a hard choice, but good for everyone involved.

It felt good to be wanted by an organization like St. Louis, knowing they had traded a big leaguer for me.  Everyone on the bus didn't really believe me when I told them, but started to realize the news was true when I started to call my agent and my family. It didn't seem real until we got to Great Lakes and I sat down and saw my name on the TV. The toughest part was leaving all the friends I had made, knowing I might not see them again, but it's fun to play against them.

What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?
: I throw a fastball, curveball, and change up.  My best pitch would be my sinker, and the one that needs the most work would be my curveball. Right now I'm working on dropping down side arm a little to lefties, knowing that is where my future is going to be.

How difficult was it to transition into a full time reliever?: It was definitely different, starting my whole life, but the transition was easier than I thought it would be. Now, instead of pacing myself, I can let it all go 1 or 2 innings at a time.

What is the toughest part of minor league life?: One really difficult aspect is finding work in the off season. Also, the really long bus rides can be grueling.


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Monday, November 19, 2012

Baseball Notes For November 19, 2012

It’s unclear why the baseball offseason is referred to in such a way. It seems that just as much goes on when games aren’t being played, and often times to greater excitement. This past week saw some a lot of action that stirred the passions of fans across the continent.

*** Miguel Cabrera topped Mike Trout for the 2012 AL MVP in one of the most hotly debated races in recent memory. Proponents of Sabermetrics, including myself, confidently believed that Trout provided substantially more value than Cabrera because of his superior defense and base-running skills. In the end, Cabrera’s old school Triple Crown helped him to a shockingly easy landslide win.

Cabrera is obviously a great player and had a tremendous season. However, his win should ultimately be remembered for the incompetence of the voting writers, who still value old maxims like stats on the back of baseball cards and relying on conveniently constructed narratives that excuse shortcomings (defense) and create beneficial exaggerations (single-handedly leading  the Tigers to the playoffs).

Although the MVP is literally an award bestowed by the writers, perhaps the time has come to minimize its value because of the questionable knowledge of many of the writers/voters. Taking a look at some of the most questionable award ballots should remove any doubt of the incompetence of some of the writers/voters.

A final musing is wondering how many of the voters who voted Cabrera for MVP will refuse to throw their support behind Hall of Fame designated hitter candidates like Edgar Martinez.

*** In stark contrast to the AL, the NL MVP elicited almost no fanfare or controversy, as Buster Posey took home the award. Three years into his career, the Giants catcher has a Rookie of the Year, and blown out knee, and an MVP; quite a remarkable beginning.

***The Toronto Blue Jays attempted to shift the balance of power in the AL East by completing one of the largest trades in years. They acquired Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck for a package of mediocre prospects.

Despite Toronto’s bravado in making this move, they took on a lot of risk for a relatively smaller chance of reward. All of their new players are either aging or have worrisome injury histories. The Blue Jays are certainly in the hunt for the playoffs, but could just as easily come up just short. Personally I think they are still an 86-88 win team at best as the roster currently stands, which is no guarantee of post-season play.

*** Because of a disgruntled tweet from Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the wake of the trade being announced, it’s widely assumed that he will demand a trade. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath expecting that to happen this offseason, as he is under club control until 2017 and made just $480,000 last season.

The Marlins need somebody to bring a few bodies to fill the seats in their beautiful publicly funded stadium and nobody on the current roster fits that bill better than Stanton. Oh, it’s likely he will get traded in the next couple of years, as his salary continues to rise. However, the Marlins have no incentive to do so now. His teammates were shuffled off to Toronto as a salary dump, but with Stanton currently being one of the best values in baseball, he should get comfortable in Miami for the near future.

*** The Blue Jays also picked up disgraced free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera on a two year, $16 million deal. Because of last season’s 50 game suspension for PED use Cabrera may get a lot of flak from fans, but it’s a shrewd move by the Blue Jays. Prior to the suspension it was estimated that Cabrera could command a new contract in excess of $50 million, so he is coming on the cheap at relatively little risk.  As long as he is kept away from pharmacies and HTML tutorials, Cabrera could be a great pick-up.

*** The Detroit Tigers obviously believe they are still within their World Series contention window of opportunity. Signing free agent outfielder Torri Hunter two a two year deal worth $26 million adds another veteran bat to their lineup. Hunter will turn 38 mid-way through the season, but still plays good enough defense to man one of the corner spots. If he can continue hitting the way he did in 2012, when he batted a career-high .313, the Tigers will have a relative bargain.


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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Josh Hamilton Isn't a Good Fit For The Red Sox

Josh Hamilton remains as the top hitter on the free agent market. With tons of money to spend, the Boston Red Sox have recently been linked to the slugger. I just did a piece for Bleacher Report, where I explain why the team would be wise to pass on him.


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Friday, November 16, 2012

Why the Pittsburgh Pirates Should Trade Joel Hanrahan

I recently wrote about why I think the Pittsburgh Pirates would be better off trading their closer, Joel Hanrahan, this season.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mike Trout Is The 2012 AL MVP Any Way You Look At It

WAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing; at least within the confines of this article. While they aren't the end-all, be-all, I am a major proponent of advanced baseball stats because I believe they greatly enhance the understanding of many components of the game. Not everyone agrees, and traditionalists prefer more time-honored metrics like batting average, home runs, and RBIs in lieu of WAR, UZR, and other acronymic gauges. The 2012 American League MVP, which has already become the most hotly debated baseball topic in recent memory, is hurtling the two sides of the baseball stat spectrum to their Antietam and promises to last well after the final vote is announced tomorrow.

Los Angles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is my MVP pick over Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown in 2012. Trout’s remarkable production as a hitter and defender gave him overwhelming stats (advanced and otherwise), solidifying his status as the most valuable player in the AL to stat heads like myself. I have argued with many Cabrera supporters, and no matter how many times I boxed them about the ears with my statistical artillery, I am fairly certain I failed to change even one mind- a blow to my ego and to common sense. With that in mind, I decided the best strategy is that if you can’t beat them, join them. Using only standard baseball stats and refuting popular narrative, I will show that even by traditional standards, Mike Trout should be your 2012 AL MVP.

Myth 1: Cabrera should be MVP because he won the Triple Crown: Winning baseball’s Triple Crown is a rare feat, having been accomplished just 13 times prior to Cabrera’s monster season. But the rarity of the feat is not synonymous with the MVP award. Ted Williams’ two Triple Crowns resulted in two second place MVP finishes. The same fate befell Chuck Klein in 1933. Poor Lou Gehrig only finished fifth in the MVP race when he had his Triple Crown in 1934. In fact, only six of the 10 players with Triple Crowns during seasons with an MVP award actually took home the hardware; hardly the sure thing Cabrera supporters make it out to be.

For those who believe Cabrera deserves the MVP because of the rarity of his achievement, consider that Trout was the FIRST player in major league history to have 30 home runs, 45 stolen bases, and 125 runs scored in the same season. Those are not unimportant numbers. They are the mainstream, old-time baseball stats embraced by so many Cabrera supporters. By the logic of scarcity, if Trout’s achievement had never been done before, isn't that even more deserving of MVP than the relatively common Triple Crown (14 times)?

Myth 2: The Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels didn't  thus giving the edge to Cabrera: The Tigers may have played in October while the Angels were busy on the back nine, but it’s also not that simple. The Tigers won the AL Central, but their 88 victories came in a weaker division and were one less than the Angels’ total of 89. Detroit feasted on the lowly Royals, Indians and Twins, who posted three of the five worst team ERAs in the American League. Their record against these teams was 31-23- a full one third of all their games! By comparison, every team in the AL West had an ERA in the top half of the league.

The Tigers’ record would have been good enough for just fourth place in the AL West, but the Angels’ win total would have won them the Central Division. For those believing that a player’s impact on their team’s won/loss record should help determine the MVP, consider that the Angels were 81-58 with Trout playing, while the Tigers were 87-74 with Cabrera; an approximate 6 games difference in the standings over a full season.

Myth 3: Cabrera single-handedly dragged the Tigers into the playoffs: You can’t take anything away from Cabrera when it comes to his performance down the stretch, as in 57 games after August 1st he hit .361 with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs. However, it is pure myth that he was the sole hero of the Tigers post-season bid. Big Prince Fielder practically matched Cabrera’s production over the same two-plus months of the season, hitting .337 with 14 home runs. Gritty Andy Dirks hit .317.

The most valuable Detroit player(s) from August 1st may not have even been a hitter. Justin Verlander was 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA, while Max Scherzer was also 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA. In games started by other pitchers during that span the Tigers were a mediocre 22-22.

The Tigers also benefited greatly from their final 13 games of the season, which came against the Twins, Royals, and Indians; three of the four worst teams in the American League. None of this is meant to discredit Cabrera, but rather is proof that casting him in the role of a savior is more window dressing for his MVP candidacy than actual reality.

Myth 4: Trout slumped down the stretch, which should preclude him from winning: Baseball is a game of streaks, both hot and cold, but the ability to bounce back determines a player’s value. Trout hitting .257 for the month of September has been cited as a slump that carried him out of MVP consideration, but such an assertion is shortsighted. Despite his lower batting average, the Angels tore through their September schedule, going 18-9. Trout played in all 27 September games, hitting five home runs, walking 20 times, scoring 21 runs and stealing six bases. 95% of major league players would kill to endure such a “slump.” Clearly Trout’s September production didn't derail the Angels, and he actually helped them to their best record for any month. It also can’t hurt to mention that 19 of those September games came against the A’s, Rangers, Tigers, and White Sox; all contending teams fighting to get into the playoffs.

Myth 5: Defense is too hard to measure to count… Third base is a much harder position to play than outfield… The award for good defenders is the Gold Glove… Defense has nothing to do with who should be MVP: The easiest way to address the question of defense being appropriate criteria is by going straight to the guidelines given to the voters. They state- “The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.” 

I won’t violate the terms of this article that I set disallowing the use of advanced stats, but I challenge anyone to say with a straight face that Cabrera is anywhere near the quality of a defensive player as Trout. Cabrera surprised many by being somewhat adequate when he was moved to the hot corner this season, but Trout was truly electric, patrolling the outfield like a hyperactive Frisbee dog. His defensive value must be part of the MVP discussion.

Even if you don’t understand or value advanced baseball stats, it’s hard to contest that many of the most common arguments being made in favor of Cabrera’s MVP candidacy don’t hold much water when explored in more depth. In baseball, if an elaborate narrative is needed to bear out what the numbers don’t, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your position. Miguel Cabrera had a terrific season; one for the ages, but he is not the 2012 American League MVP. The logical choice is Mike Trout, by Sabermetric or traditional standards, or any other way you may choose to look at it.


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