Let’s try to set aside the heartwarming story lines of 4 leading candidates for the American League’s 2010 MVP: Josh Hamilton’s sympathetic rehab story; Cabrera’s assault on the Triple Crown; Beltre’s mercenary performance for the Red Sox; Cano’s continued ascendance as a Yankee great.
Now, let’s consider only objective statistical analyses. We’ll examine 3 vital (although mind-expanding and far from conventional), comprehensive offensive categories that will convincingly reveal to us the candidate most deserving of the MVP.
1. OPS – On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage, minimum 500 Plate Appearances (Statistics Provided by ESPN) — Rankings are amongst all qualifying AL players —
Josh Hamilton: Rank 1 (1.044)
Miguel Cabrera: Rank 2 (1.042)
Adrian Beltre: Rank 5 (0.919)
Robinson Cano: Rank 6 (0.914)
Of course, baseball aficionados realize that BA (Batting Average) alone is an insufficient gauge of offensive production because it does not take into account the value of extra base hits – doubles, triples and home runs. So we must turn to SLG (Slugging Percentage) for a less myopic look.
Even more egregiously BA doesn’t factor in one of the most important aspects of an offense: getting on base, including walks and hit by pitches. To factor this we must inject OBP (On Base Percentage). Now adding these two valuable metrics – SLG and OBP – we get OPS, a far more insightful and comprehensive analytic.
Hamilton wins in this valuable, broad gauge of offensive contribution, squeaking by Cabrera 1.044 to 1.042. Beltre’s .919 places him 5th, and Cano’s .914 ranks him just below Beltre, both well off Hamilton’s percentage.
BA RISP — Batting Average with Runners In Scoring Position, minimum 100 Plate Appearances ( Statistics Provided by ESPN)
Josh Hamilton: Rank 1 (.369)
Miguel Cabrera: Rank 12 (.322)
Adrian Beltre: Rank 7 (.338)
Robinson Cano: Rank 13 (.322)
A player’s offensive value to his team can also be gauged by his “clutchness” — his ability to produce when presented with the opportunity, i.e., when runners are in scoring position.
RBI, “your father’s Oldsmobile” approach to measuring productivity, is an old-school number that fails to reflect the fact that some players are presented with more opportunities to knock in runs, given their teammates’ ability to get on base. BA RISP, on the other hand, removes this innate bias of RBI, and presents a more objective representation of opportunistic, personal productivity.
Again, Hamilton wins – this time by a convincing margin, exhibiting his league-leading ability to deliver timely hitting.
RC27 – Runs Created per 27 Innings (Statistics provided by ESPN)
Josh Hamilton: Rank 1 (9.59)
Miguel Cabrera: Rank 2 (9.09)
Adrian Beltre: Rank 10 (6.75)
Robinson Cano: Rank 6 (7.15)
We’ve saved for last perhaps the most compelling statistical argument: RC27.
ESPN defines RCP27 as simply “runs created per 27 outs (estimating) how many runs per game a team made up of nine of the same player would score)”.
RCP27 might be considered the most comprehensive assessment of a player’s offensive contribution because it takes into account so many offensive categories, as further defined by ESPN.
So who wins in the calculation of this so-convincing statistic? Again, it’s Josh Hamilton. He leads the AL, slightly over Cabrera, soundly over Beltre and Cano.
And the Winner is….
Together, these 3 comprehensive metrics should convince even baseball’s biggest “homer” that Josh Hamilton deserved the MVP award in 2010.
– Dispelling the Strikeout Myth
– One More Statistic for Baseball Conventionalists
One reason I hear for dismissing a player’s run for MVP is “He strikes out too much.”
This argument simply should not resonate. After all, an out is an out. It’s already reflected in BA, SLG, OPS, BA RISP.
In fact, one can present the irrefutable case that a strikeout precludes the possibility of grounding into a double play, a far worse act for a player to commit. (What’s worse than a batter making an out with his at bat? Making two outs, of course.) We will analyze this statistically in a moment.
First, for the record, here are EPSN’s 2010 strikeout figures for our 4 candidates:
Hamilton 95, Cabrera 95, Beltre 82, and Cano 77.
To help quantify the argument I have defined “BA aGDP” — Batting Average adjusted for Ground into Double Plays. This metric decreases a player’s BA based upon the number of GDP’s he hit. Specifically, I increment AB by one for each GDP, thereby representing an additional, hitless AB, i.e. a GDP changes from an 0 for 1 to an 0 for 2 at bat.
According to Data Provided by ESPN / Elias Sports Bureau…Beltre had the most GDP’s at 25, with Cano 2nd at 19. Here are my resulting calculations.
BA aGDP – Batting Average adjusted for Ground into Double Plays
Josh Hamilton: .352
Miguel Cabrera: .319
Adrian Beltre: .308
Robinson Cano: .310
By a quick comparison you can see that Hamilton’s adjusted BA fell just 7 basis points, while Beltre’s fell 13, with Cabrera’s and Cano’s falling 9. Welcome to the BA aGDP!
If nothing else in this argument I trust I’ve given enough reason to debunk the myth that a strikeout is the worse out a player can commit.
And finally, for any fans who don’t deal well with the new-age acronyms like OPS and BA RISP, you can take a quick look at good-old fashioned BA.
BA – Batting Average (Data Provided by ESPN / Elias Sports Bureau)
Josh Hamilton: Rank 1 (.359)
Miguel Cabrera: Rank 2 (.328)
Adrian Beltre: Rank 4 (.321)
Robinson Cano: Rank 5 (.319)
Based upon 500 minimum plate appearances, Josh Hamilton’s .359 BA leads the pack, a convincing 31 basis points over Cabrera, thus short-circuiting Cabrera’s Triple Crown effort. Hamilton and Cabrera were the only 30+ AL home run hitters. Cano hit 29 HR’s but his .319 BA ranks 6th.
…All of this just in case you still needed another reason why Josh Hamilton deserved the MVP Award in 2010.
Sources: ESPN, MLB Player Batting Stats – 2010
ESPN, MLB Statistics Glossary