A Thought Regarding Player Value

We all know what WAR, or Wins, is. According to baseball reference Mike Trout provided 10.7 wins above replacement to Miguel Cabrera’s 6.9. When I heard people captaining this fact as the one leading the army of reasons that Trout should win the MVP I didn’t think much of it. As you all know, I felt Trout had the more valuable season but I also consider defense and base running into the equation.

But if Trout had been hurt at some point during the season his “replacement” would be Peter Bourjos, an excellent defender and more than adequate bat at the plate. In 2011 he had 552 plate appearances and post a Win of 4.8, roughly 5 wins over a 0 Win player.

Cabrera, on the other hand, would be replaced by some unicorn hybrid of Don Kelly/Danny Worth, players who have, in their combined careers of 997 plate appearances, produced Wins of 0.7. Given their skill set, we would most likely see a drop in that production the longer they play on an everyday basis.

This isn’t predictive nor is it a reason for Cabrera. That’s done. We all beat that topic dry yesterday. It’s what I think is an interesting comment regarding WAR or Wins that people don’t normally bring up and I would think one should at least consider when vehemently thrusting that WAR Flag in the air. What exactly are you replacing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lee-Panas/724536412 Lee Panas

    I’ve heard that kind of comment frequently and it’s a valid perspective. However, I’d rather compare all players to the same replacement level. It is not Trout’s fault if he has a better replacement than Cabrera. I don’t want to give a player value for something he didn’t do. The GM gets credit for having better depth at the position.

    This is similar to the “his team made the playoffs” argument. Again, I think it’s a legitimate criteria to use, but I don’t agree with it. I don’t want to give a player credit for something he can’t control – weaker division, better teammates, etc.

    • http://www.walkoffwoodward.com/ Josh Worn

      I’m with you this. Excellent point.

  • natesos

    In economics the primary method for measuring value is opportunity cost. In a very general sense economists define enough parameters to convert the two sides of an exchange into a common set of units, usually money. If I update my machinery, I can produce W more widgets over X years which, assuming Y dollars a widget is Z dollars total. This will cost me J dollars in capital improvements plus K dollars in lost production – is the upgrade worth it?

    How many more parameters can you imagine for that example in 10 seconds?

    So understanding “value” is tough even when you can boil it down to dollars (or, say, wins) because it’s nearly impossible to capture all the parameters.

    In that sense I’d prefer looking at a player’s actual replacement when considering WAR for the MVP because it measures the total net value a single player brings to their team. On a team of ten Trouts, each one adds incrementally less value to their team than a superstar on, say, the Astros.

    Still though, I’m thinking that’s not quite what folks are looking for.

    • http://www.walkoffwoodward.com/ Josh Worn

      There are two valid points when looking at this, in my opinion. The first is a purely statistical point of view which Lee highlighted in the first comment. In terms of a players value in the overall sense you can’t cripple a player for having a better replacement. That much is obvious when you are trying to distinguish “who had a better season”. Now when we throw “Who was more valuable to their team” into the mix one has to look at who he would be replaced with.

      Even as I was writing the post I knew this is the argument that would be presented (if not argument then discussion). There are two basic beliefs and we can break this down all day. We aren’t going to find a solution because there isn’t one.

      Who is better?

      That’s a silly question IMO.

      What if Cabrera was on the Angels and Trout were on the Tigers?

      What I’m getting at here is there’s no real way to figure this out. And that’s why this is a fascinating discussion.

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