Friday, November 16, 2012

Baseball tradition trumps trend in MVP vote

Baseball tradition carried the day in the final voting results for the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player Award, which Miguel Cabrera won in a relative landslide over Mike Trout in a showdown of old school versus new school statistical analysis.
By a margin of more than 3-1, baseball writers gave more weight to Cabrera's Triple Crown than they did to Trout's WAR, or wins above replacement - a more all-encompassing statistic that measures baserunning and fielding as well as hitting. There's nothing wrong with advanced science, but batting average, home runs and runs batted in still resonate with the overwhelming majority of fans and within the baseball community. They're not outdated notions in the same sense that denying women the vote or using hot plaster smeared with pigeon dung as a treatment for kidney stones have been discredited.
Baseball traditionalists don't reject the new way of looking at things as much as they resent the unchecked arrogance of the sabermetric community. It's perfectly legitimate to argue the case in Trout's favor, but to call Cabrera's MVP win an embarrassment or a travesty is the height of pretense, and smacks of the worst kind of know-it-all attitude - one that not only presumes to know better, but summarily dismisses dissenting opinion regardless of its legitimacy. That's a special brand of pomposity, and it's gratifying to see it put in its place.

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