Stan Musial Award Ballot, 2012 Edition

This is it. Night five of my five-night series of Baseball Bloggers Alliance-demanded postseason award ballots. I’ve covered managers, rookies, relievers, and pitchers. Now let’s take a look at the game’s best players, or as I interpret the Stan Musial Award, position players.

We’ll start with the easy one.

American League
1. Mike Trout
2. Robinson Cano
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Adrian Beltre
5. Alex Gordon
6. Ben Zobrist
7. Prince Fielder
8. Austin Jackson
9. Joe Mauer
10. Adam Jones

I don’t have much interest in further debate about Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, but I’m not sure I can post this ballot without touching on it. Both had phenomenal seasons. One or the other was the best hitter in the game, depending on how you measure hitting success. They finished with identical wRC+ of 166 (after fangraphs adjusted this stat to remove the effect of stolen bases. Trout was by far the best baserunner in the league, stealing 49 bases in 53 tries and accumulating 12 baserunning runs above average, 45% better than runner-up Alcides Escobar. Trout was one of the best defenders in the league, trailing only Ben Revere among center fielders. This debate has somehow turned into a referendum on WAR, but whether you care about WAR or not, it’s easy to see that Mike Trout brought far more value to the Angels this season than Cabrera brought to the Tigers. You like Cabrera’s league-leading 139 RBI? Trout led the league with 129 runs scored. You like Cabrera’s .004-point batting average advantage? Trout led by .006 points in on base percentage. You like Cabrera’s 14 more home runs? Trout stole 45 more bases. You like Cabrera’s positional flexibility? Trout played all three outfield positions well. This is like comparing a car that drives 130 mph to a car that drives 129 mph and has brakes and a steering wheel.

Now that I’m done not talking about WAR, I was tempted to put Cabrera ahead of Robinson Cano despite both versions of WAR preferring Cano. After all, Cano led the league in RBI opportunities, while Cabrera led the league in actual RBI, suggesting that Cabrera was more clutch. Indeed, Cabrera was third in the AL with a 4.82 Win Probability Added, trailing only Trout and teammate Prince Fielder, while Cano was 17th at 2.32. But Cabrera’s 13-run advantage with the bat is obliterated by Cano’s 20-point fielding advantage. Cabrera had a truly great season. Just not as good a year as Trout or Cano.

Adrian Beltre might have been a legitimate Musial contender in a Troutless year, but he’ll have to settle for fourth despite hitting .321/.359/.561 with Brooks Robinson-esque defense at the hot corner. Zobrist and Gordon are two of the most underrated players in the game. Mauer would be worth a closer look if he were still a decent defensive catcher. Adam Jones faded late in the season, but when a team wins 93 games without any good players, one is tempted to dig for a token ballot-filler.

National League
1. Buster Posey
2. Yadier Molina
3. Ryan Braun
4. Andrew McCutchen
5. Chase Headley
6. David Wright
7. Jason Heyward
8. Aaron Hill
9. Joey Votto
10. Carlos Ruiz

A week or two before the season ended, I had no idea whom I would choose from among the first four names above. I was tempted by the possibility that Yadier Molina does even more with his glove and arm than stats give him credit for. Braun was having the same season he had last year, when he won the MVP Award, and if you care about steroids, we know very well he wasn’t using any this year after the offseason fiasco. McCutchen carried a team with no other discernible talent to within six weeks of a playoff spot.

But Posey, who hit and fielded well all season, ran away with this title down the stretch, and may be a near-unanimous pick for the BBA’s Musial Award and the BBRAA’s MVP Award. Posey led the NL with a .336 batting average and a .408 on base percentage. He hit 24 home runs in a park that suppressed homers by 47.8%, more than any other park in baseball, and played excellent defense at the most important position on the diamond. Catchers often deserve a little extra credit for things they do that don’t get captured in WAR, but Posey went ahead and led the league in both versions of WAR anyway.

The two WARs are split on Braun vs. McCutchen for the second spot, so I’ll let Molina jump in and steal it. WAR gives Molina a lot of credit for his defense (2.1 wins per fangraphs, 2.6 per baseball-reference), so I won’t try to argue that his skills are sold short, but we rave so much about his defense that we tend to forget how hard it is for anyone, let alone an everyday catcher, to hit .315/.373/.501 over a full season.

Headley would get Beltre’s press, if not ARod’s, if he didn’t have to hit in San Diego. Wright had such a huge first half that he’s still worthy of a place on the ballot after hitting .258/.334/.416 in the second half. Heyward went from an overhyped prospect to an underappreciated star in two years. Did anyone else notice Aaron Hill hit .302/.360/.522 this year? Joey Votto is still perhaps the best hitter in baseball, with a .474 OBP in 475 plate appearances. And I chose Ruiz over Michael Bourn for the last spot because while I do believe in Bourn’s other-wordly defense, I can hardly believe the third-best catcher in the NL had a .394 OBP this year.

Those are my ballots. Disagree? Tell me in the comments. Just please don’t talk about the Triple Crown.

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This entry was posted in Angels, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Postseason Awards, Rangers, Rays, Reds, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stan Musial Award Ballot, 2012 Edition

  1. Nick says:

    Ya know, no horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978

  2. W.k. kortas says:

    I don’t know if you saw it, but some un-named mook at ESPN put together some horrible sliced-data combo–I think it was something like 43 2B, 44 HR, and 137 RBI–to show that only Ruth, Gehrig, and Cabrera had ever “achieved” those particular milestones, which “proved” that Cabrera was having a historic season. It was just embarrassingly stupid and transparent, even by ESPN standards.

    • Bryan says:

      We can call a lot of things “historical” if we lower our standards, and it doesn’t take a crazy lowering of our standards to consider Cabrera’s 2012 historical- he hit the cover off the ball all year. But Trout’s season was much more rare in baseball history, whether we’re just scraping the surface (30 HR, 49 SB) or digging through the components of WAR and finding that the best (or 2nd best) hitter in baseball was also its best baserunner and one of its best fielders.

  3. Pingback: BBA Gets ‘em Right | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

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