Re-inventing the AL MVP race

Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. The AL MVP race is pretty much a two-horse race at this point. It’s the explosive rookie phenom vs. the man chasing the elusive Triple Crown. Those who decry baseball as “boring” would be hard pressed to explain the tension present in this sudden rivalry. Almost overnight, it seems every sports media outlet in existence has their cameras trained on this sprint to the finish.

The Most Valuable Player award is an honor held by less than 1% of all MLB players, past and present. To receive the award is to have been recognized as the the absolute cream of the baseball crop. In being named the MVP, you are raised as the pinnacle of the game, a sort of concept model for the dream player everyone wishes they had on their team that season.

Basically, it’s kind of a big deal.

To break such an honor down to raw statistics seems a bit coarse, and yet that is what must be done to take an objective look at these two players. Cabrera, fighting for the first triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski, clearly leads the race when considering the holy baseball trinity of RBIs, HRs and batting average. Trout, however, leads in the oft-maligned sabermetric statistic of WAR (or “Wins Above Replacement” for those who stopped keeping track of sabermetrics after watching Jonah Hill in Moneyball). Purists argue that sabermetric stats aren’t a good representation of a player’s skill and contemporaries counter that baseball’s history of statistics must evolve with the game.

The only solution to this debate? If we can’t agree on which stats to use, then we must throw out all of the current statistics.

No Triple Crown, no sabermetrics. Now all we’ve got is two guys that are clearly great ballplayers, but have no way to measure their greatness. 40-yard dashes and mile times seem so played out, we need to create new and hot statistics. In measuring athletic ability, we can create the statistic SRT “Sack Race Time” measuring the time it takes each player to hop through a 100 foot sack race track. Furthermore, we can measure a bit of functional athletics by implementing the NTM stat, or “Number of Twister Moves”. This number tracks how many moves each player can make in a game of Twister, thereby giving an indicator of balance and flexibility. Athletic ability doesn’t make a player, and so we need statistics from actual games as well. RTB or “Runs Thrown Back” shows how hated a player is by tracking how many of his home run balls are thrown back onto the field. HRS or “Hecklers Removed from Stadium” displays a player’s focus in shutting out the crowd. Moving on from athleticism and play, we can measure each man’s character with statistics like AGR “Average % Garbage Recycled”. We track dental health with ATL “Average tartar level” and follow overall hygiene with TSS “Time Spent in Shower”. By utilizing these new measurements of a player, selecting the MVP should be a breeze!

Obviously, the new stat suggestions are parody. They serve to show both sides of this coin. Living and dying by the game’s statistics is an extreme, but weighing intangibles too heavily is another. The only solution is to walk the fine line that separates the two. Officially, the MVP is simply awarded to an “Outstanding player”. Given that description, both men deserve this award as their play has been exemplary this year. Fans may be disappointed, but cannot rightly be angry at either outcome.

Besides, if we kept up with the 3-letter stats, we’d eventually get to DUI and BAC. In which case, Miguel Cabrera wins in a landslide.