November 2012

More on Cabrera

A colleague wrote to me about my last blog, claiming that Miguel Cabrera’s feat this season was an “incredibly weak” Triple Crown. Huh?

A Triple Crown is a Triple Crown. That analysis just defies the vagaries of everything coming together correctly in a given year and is a reason why the statistical analysis only goes so far.

Here’s what I consider to be the best season of all time: In 1921, Babe Ruth hit .378 with 59 homers and 171 RBIs, but he didn’t win the Triple Crown. He led in homers and RBIs and the 59 homers was by far the single season record at the time. But the .378 average was not good enough. Harry Heilmann hit .394.

Was Ruth better than Cabrera comparing 1921 to 2012? You bet, statistically, although you have to take into account the differences of playing in the eras. Just like you have to do that when comparing different decades. No blacks, changes in bullpens, no DH, higher mounds prior to 1969, dead baseballs, the division system, no night baseball, no airplane travel, wool uniforms, smaller leagues. You name it.

Cabrera had the best numbers he needed to win the Triple Crown this season. There’s no such thing as a “weak” Triple Crown. In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski hit .326 and tied Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers. He had 121 RBIs. All those marks were either matched or bettered by Cabrera this year. I don’t remember anyone calling the Yaz Triple Crown weak back then. Why would anyone call Cabrera’s weak now? Similarly to the Tigers, the Red Sox won the pennant late in ’67 and lost in the World Series. Yaz was the MVP.

Finally, Nate Silver misses one on Trout over Cabrera

Love, Nate. Great analysis about the AL MVP race in his Nov. 14 FiveThirtyEight blog.

Unfortunately the “traditionalists” overruled him by a huge margin as Miguel Cabrera won 27 of the 30 AL first place votes and defeated Mike Trout. Can’t take what Cabrera did out of context. His numbers were good enough THIS YEAR to win the Triple Crown and the Tigers won THEIR division and went to the World Series. Trout did none of this and neither did the Angels.

It was just the luck of bad timing that the rookie was sick during Spring Training and had to play his way into shape in the Minors in April. With Trout playing all season the Angels MIGHT not have opened 7-15. He might have had better numbers than Cabrera and the Angels might have gone to the Series. Then he could have been the MVP. Didn’t happen.

Easier to aggregate polls and pick the presidential winner than trying to determine what a diverse group of baseball writers are thinking. And many of them are stat geeks who evidently this time ignored many of the analytic numbers and voted for Cabrera. In the past, these same guys have given the Cy Young to Tim Lincecum with 16 wins and Felix Hernandez with 13.

Right or wrong, the fact that Cabrera was the first pure Triple Crown winner since Frank Robinson in 1966 proved to be overwhelming.