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OC Register: Why I voted Angels’ Mike Trout second to Mookie Betts for AL MVP


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Over the past several years, voters for the American League MVP award have basically fallen into two camps: those who think the winner should come from a contender, and those who think Mike Trout should win because he’s always the best player.

This year, Mookie Betts has introduced a third option.

Imagine if someone actually had a better year than Trout, regardless of the performance of their teams?

I listed Betts first, ahead of Trout, on my MVP ballot this year, but it had nothing to do with the Boston Red Sox winning the division and the Angels finishing fourth.

I, for one, don’t really care about how good a player’s team is. It’s an individual award. I don’t think a player should be punished or rewarded for the quality of his teammates.

To me, the most valuable player is the player who provided the most value to his team, regardless of what the other players did.

If you are looking at two cars or two watches or two paintings, and someone asks you which is the more valuable, you judge it based on its own merits, not on its surroundings.

I don’t know when the word “valuable” ended up meaning something else. Somewhere along the way, this got more complicated than it needed to be.

So, the most valuable player is the best player.

But the Most Valuable Player – the award winner – is the player who was the best that year.

Here’s where Betts enters the picture.

Although everyone agrees that Trout is the best player in the world, based on his career, it is possible that, for one given season, someone could outperform him.

This year, Betts did. Barely.

When I’m judging who had the best season, I use a variety of metrics, but value rate stats more than counting numbers. The only counting number I care much about is games played, which can be a good separator for players whose performances are otherwise similar. Obviously, playing more games provides more value.

Offensively, Trout had edged Betts in OPS, 1.088 to 1.078. That’s practically a tie, though. Betts had the edge in both batting average and slugging percentage, but Trout had an edge in on-base percentage.

Much of Trout’s OBP edge, however, can be traced directly to him having 25 intentional walks, compared to Betts’ eight. That is probably a factor of the lineups surrounding the two players more than their individual skill, so it has to be considered with an asterisk.

In any case, Trout gets a narrow edge offensively, based on his OPS.

Defensively, Trout certainly improved, but Betts is perhaps the best outfielder in the major leagues. Most of the metrics show this, but because I’m not a huge believer in defensive metrics, I also asked around. Other big league outfielders told me that, yes, Betts is the best.

Betts also had a slight edge over Trout in terms of baserunning, according to FanGraphs.

The offense, defense and baserunning added up to Betts having the edge in WAR according to both sites.

Finally, I like to add a contextual component when I am considering the MVP.

Since we’re looking back at the value of performance – not necessarily pure skill – the timing matters.

Win Probability Added (WPA) essentially measures how much the timing of a player’s performances improved his team’s chances of winning individual games. A tie-breaking homer in the ninth counts more than a homer in a blowout.

Betts also led the league in WPA. Trout was fifth.

Add it all up – a slight edge to Trout offensively, but edges to Betts in defense, baserunning and timely production – and my conclusion was that, for 2018, Betts was the most productive player in the league.

I picked Trout second.

Although Trout didn’t quite have the best year, he’ll have to settle for simply being the best player.

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Yep, agreed (Betts deserved it, not the turncoat part).

But how amazing is this? Trout's MVP finishes, 2012-18 (his seven full-time years):

2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 4, 2

That "4" was his injury year in which he played only 114 games.

Or how about this:

# of top 4 AL MVP finishes in Trout's Seven Years:

7 Trout

3 Donaldson

2 Cabrera, Altuve, Betts

1 10 other dudes

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It's insane, Mike Trout has had the most dominant seven year run in the modern era (clean run), and has only two MVP's to show for it.  Every single year, folks looks for a reason not to vote for the best player.  Personally, I think you put Trout in Boston's lineup and allow him to play his home games at Fenway and the vast majority of his season in the hitter friendly parks in the AL East, he probably hits .330 with 50 HR's and a .500 OBP. And likewise, if we put Betts in the Angels lineup, away from the AL East, he probably only hits .320 with 25 HR's. 

But this isn't an award about what would happen or even an award for who the better player is.  It's simply who had the better year.  Mookie Betts did.  He had everything going for him that Trout didn't, but he still had a better year nonetheless. 

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4 hours ago, Second Base said:

It's insane, Mike Trout has had the most dominant seven year run in the modern era (clean run), and has only two MVP's to show for it.  Every single year, folks looks for a reason not to vote for the best player.  Personally, I think you put Trout in Boston's lineup and allow him to play his home games at Fenway and the vast majority of his season in the hitter friendly parks in the AL East, he probably hits .330 with 50 HR's and a .500 OBP. And likewise, if we put Betts in the Angels lineup, away from the AL East, he probably only hits .320 with 25 HR's. 

But this isn't an award about what would happen or even an award for who the better player is.  It's simply who had the better year.  Mookie Betts did.  He had everything going for him that Trout didn't, but he still had a better year nonetheless. 

Regardless of what advanced metrics try to tell us about it, I feel like at a certain level of talent in a lineup, it makes everyone better regardless of where they hit.   I don't think it's because any one person is protecting another, but a pitcher will stop being as careful on just one or two players when there are more guys to be careful with.    If Trout were to have 4 guys behind him who can actually do damage, pitchers might actually pitch him a little differently.  Not all the time mind you, but enough to where .312 might become .320 and 39 hrs might become 42 etc.  

I know this has never been proved, but it's just something I believe.  

Also, I feel like adjustments often underestimate the impact of certain parks.  

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14 hours ago, Dochalo said:

Also, I feel like adjustments often underestimate the impact of certain parks.  

I feel the same way. It's because most of the park effects are regressed pretty heavily, and generally based off an aggregate of outcomes that are mostly made up of events that aren't really impacted by the park. 

 

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1 hour ago, AngelsLakersFan said:

Has Fletcher ever actually voted for Trout to win an MVP?

He's had 4 chances to do so - 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018 - and did so twice ('14/16).

2013 and 2018 were close value-wise. I think Trout deserved the vote in both, but they are legitimate disagreements. Interestingly, he also voted Brantley 2nd over Martinez (who finished 2nd) in 2014 and Donaldson over Betts in 2016. 

You want to know who has a hate-on for Trout? Morosi. Dude has voted against him all 3 times he had a vote (2013, 2016, 2018). While you can argue (as above) that 2013/2018 were coin flip votes, he voted Trout 5th this season and absurdly voted Betts over him in 2016. Best I can say? He's a Detroit guy and is still bitter that people think Trout was better than Cabrera. That or he's just a dunderhead. (Or both).

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2 minutes ago, Sean-Regan said:

You want to know who has a hate-on for Trout? Morosi. Dude has voted against him all 3 times he had a vote (2013, 2016, 2018). While you can argue (as above) that 2013/2018 were coin flip votes, he voted Trout 5th this season and absurdly voted Betts over him in 2016. Best I can say? He's a Detroit guy and is still bitter that people think Trout was better than Cabrera. That or he's just a dunderhead. (Or both).

Morosi obviously hates America.  He probably doens't like apple pie either.

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