Monday, November 12, 2012


Those Most Valuable Player awards are coming soon--very soon (in fact, in three days). Rookie of the Year awards were announced today: baseball's two youngest wunderkinden, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, were the winners. (Trout was a unanimous pick; Harper edged out Arizona starting pitcher Wade Miley.)

Trout's ROY award turns up the heat on a controversy that had been boiling since early September. At least as much division within the little world of baseball pundit-dom had swirled around the American League MVP award as that evidenced by the Presidential election campaign, which finally pushed the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera showdown off center stage in mid-October.

We are not here to rehash that protracted fusillade of argument: it will unquestionably heat up all on its own in just a few days, as tradition is likely to trump the brave new world of "advanced metrics." (That's our guess, at any rate.) We cobbled together the Ptolemaic MVP method from an old acquaintance, a soothsayer on the lam who has remained inordinately fond of serpentine motion; it takes seven relatively mainstream statistics (four rate stats: OPS, OBP, SLG, BA; three counting stats: R, HR, RBI) and assigns values to each measured against a series of two-month performance snapshots.

The results for the American League will boil the blood of one faction, while leaving the other in that oddly pleasant twilight state that often occurs at opportune moments when one is conveniently near distilled spirits.

While we recognize that the argument for Trout includes his defense, we doubt that the BBWAA is going to focus much on that. And, frankly, we consider the non-offensive measurements in "advanced metrics" too problematic to endorse. Our personal view is that you could throw a blanket over the top two candidates. We're not going to lose sleep over either man being named MVP, and neither should you.

We've broken out the rate and counting stat totals separately, and we've highlighted the hitter with the most points in each of the categories. (Notice that it's Prince Fielder with the most points for OBP, and Edwin Encarnacion is tied for most points in HRs.) However, Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown, led or was tied for the lead in Ptolemaic points across five of the seven stats. Mike Trout led in one (runs scored).

Now if we'd added a one-vs. zero ranking for net stolen bases, Trout would have crept a good bit closer: there were a total of 22 two-month snapshots taken for the Ptolemaic MVP in '12, and Mike would have gotten a point in at least sixteen of those, while Cabrera would have gotten none. (However, Cabrera would still have about a twenty-five point lead.)

We will be curious to see what the vote totals look like, as we've tried to tailor the number of snapshots to get the system within shouting distance of the voting structure used by the BBWAA. We suspect it will be about as close as what we see here.

Over in the NL, we're actually expecting to see the Ptolemaic leader, Andrew McCutchen, fall short in the voting as a result of a significant second-half decline by his team (the Pittsburgh Pirates). The general expectation is that the Giants' catcher, Buster Posey, who had a strong second half as his team pulled away from the NL West and went on to a World Series win, is going to win the award.

"Ptolemy," however, suggests that Buster is only ranked third in the overall scheme of things. McCutchen scored highest in five of the seven stat categories (tied with Posey for BA). Defending MVP Ryan Braun, who arguably had a better year this season, isn't given much of a chance due to the controversy surrounding his positive drug test last winter, but he should receive a sizable vote total nonetheless: he led in the HR and RBI categories.

As we like to say: