Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mike Trout, Alex Gordon and the MVP race

Alex Gordon (4) is pretty clearly the best player on the
first-place Kansas City Royals. Does that make him
the MVP?

Alex Gordon had himself an impressive series this week against the Twins: A game-winning walk-off homer on Tuesday, a run-into-the-fence catch on Wednesday, a game-tying seventh-inning homer on Thursday.

Production and drama make a potent combination. Narrative, for better or worse, tends to drive MVP voting, and the rise of the Royals provides a first-rate narrative.

This led the great Joe Posnanski to compose a pair of blog posts -- here and here -- on the topic of Gordon's MVP candidacy.

(Posnanski was at those games, and I was home with the TV and/or radio broadcasts, but I have to say: I didn't notice the "M-V-P" chants he cites. But I keep the TV turned down now that Bert Blyleven is back on the broadcasts, and the crowds weren't so large as to force me to take notice.)

Pos makes a variety of great points, among them mentioning in the first post how some in the sabermetric community see the WAR stat being used (in the great Vin Scully line) as a drunk uses a lamppost (for support rather than illumination).

Mike Trout's glovework is not as
highly rated these days as it once was.
But it's the theme of the second post -- that Mike Trout, the best player in baseball the past two years but not recognized by the BBWAA vote as the MVP, is morphing from an incredibly broad talent into something closer to a Miggy Cabrera skill set -- that had me nodding my head in agreement.

Trout is an incredible player -- but he doesn't run as well, or at least as often, as he did two years ago, and the defensive metrics aren't as kind to his fielding. This flies in the face of the nearly omnipresent MLB ad that boasts: Mike Trout can do anything. All you have to do is ask. The anything is fading.

Bill James wrote decades ago that players who do a lot of things well tend to be underappreciated, and those who do one thing very well tend to get more recognition than they should. Trout in 2012 and 2013 did everything very well. Miguel Cabrera did a few things even better, and got the awards.

Trout's skill set is narrowing, and now he might finally win the award. There's an irony in that.

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