Q) How can you tell a Mike Trout for MVP partisan?
A) He’s the guy claiming speed and defense make all the difference.
Speed and defense just don’t matter. At least not the way Trout fans want the rest of us to believe. Sure you’d rather have them than not, and teams that stockpile DH’s and play them instead of athletes usually suffer as a result, but in the end speed and defense are still secondary to hitting, and not in a really close way. I say that as a fact, not an opinion because there’s ample proof that this one is beyond debate.
Look at the make up of baseball teams. Teams don’t promote speed and defense, they promote hitting. Teams don’t overpay for speed and defense, they overpay for hitting. Even Mike Trout is evidence here. He didn’t miss the first part of the season so he could work on his speed and defense in the minors you know. He went back down to work on hitting. He had speed and defense the day he was drafted and if speed and defense were what he was getting paid to do he would have started his first game in Anaheim. He started his career in the minors instead to work on hitting, because pitching and hitting are what baseball is really about, at least in terms of real value.
The professionals responsible for assessing value to players are arbitrators, managers, and GM’s, and none of them pay very much for speed and defense or value it above hitting when assembling a roster. I think the 4 best defensive shortstops in baseball are Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro, Jed Lowrie and JJ Hardy. They barely made more combined than Adam Dunn this year ($15.525m to $14 mil).
Looking at it in terms of real world value, you have to compare bat to bat and look at the speed and defense as a bonus for Trouts case, and weigh accordingly. Anything else is being dishonest, because the parameters for valuing players are so well established and weighed so heavily towards hitting, and specifically to the slugging portion of hitting (and ability to plate runs, aka RBI’s which suck for isolating a players hitting from a team but have very real value to weighing that players contribution to team success). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t steal bases, his defense is average at best, and while he leads the league in actual OPS he doesn’t lead the league in OPS+, if that makes a difference. What he is is a slugging and RBI producing machine, and since he’s been the best this year at what dollar for dollar is the most valuable skill for position players in baseball it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t get the MVP.