Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Repost: Why didn’t Carlos Gomez get more NL MVP support??


Why didn't Carlos Gomez getting the same attention for MVP that Mike Trout gets?  Photo Denis Poroy/Getty Images via

Why didn’t Carlos Gomez getting the same attention for MVP that Mike Trout gets? Photo Denis Poroy/Getty Images via

[Editor’s Note: I posted this initially on October 29th, 2013, and didn’t get a SINGLE comment.  Maybe it got lost in the World Series hoopla; maybe all the readers of this blog were taking a post-season Nats break.  I’m reposting this and changing all the cases to past tense in the wake of 11/14/13’s MVP voting.  I’d like to get some discussion here; if you are an ardent Mike Trout supporter and use WAR as part of your argument, i’d like to hear your thoughts on this post].

The title of this post says it all.  It is a simple question.

Brewers break-out star Carlos Gomez led the NL in bWAR in 2013.  Gomez played for a non-playoff team.  He augmented his 24-homer/.506 slugging bat with speed on the basepaths (40 SBs) and plus defense in center (he was just named to Bill James Fielding Bible Team as the best defensive Center Fielder in the game and won a Gold Glove).  Yet Gomez lost out on the MVP award, which went to Andrew McCutchen, a player who trailed him in the bWAR standings but who played for a playoff team.

Sounds an awful lot like the Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera comparison, doesn’t it?

Gomez didn’t just lose out; he wasn’t even named a FINALIST for the NL MVP, meaning he wasn’t even in the top 3 candidates in the NL.  In fact, Gomez came in NINTH!  He wasn’t even close to winning despite leading the league in one version of WAR.

Why did nobody talk about Carlos Gomez for the NL MVP?  In fact, in the litany of post-season award prediction pieces I read, he was never really even mentioned.  You heard about McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw and Paul Goldschmidt as the top 3 NL candidates, then you heard about guys from the other playoff teams (Yadier Molina or Matt Carpenter from St. Louis, Joey Votto from Cincinnati, or Freddie Freeman from Atlanta).  Where’s Gomez on this list?

If you are a critic of the Miguel Cabrera pick and maintain that Mike Trout deserves the MVP in the AL and use “WAR” as a basis for your argument … then are you similarly arguing that Gomez should have won in the NL MVP right now?

I think the entire Trout-Cabrera argument is tired; I’m tired of hearing it and I’m sure people are tired of talking about it.  The critics of those who support Cabrera for MVP like to talk about the “narrative” of the MVP, how the award criteria definition on the ballots seems to imply that the winner “should” come from a playoff team.  But I’m of the opinion that those who blindly live by the WAR stat and support Trout but do NOT similarly demand support of Gomez are falling victim to their own “narrative” as well.  And that narrative is continued obstinance to a cause without looking up to see what else fits their world-view.

Ask yourself; if you think Trout is the AL MVP (this year or last year) … then what’s your argument that Gomez is NOT the NL MVP this year?  Where’s all the narrative-driven arguments about how “you shouldn’t lose the MVP because your teammates were bad” or that “the MVP doesn’t have to come from a playoff team.”  Because if you make those arguments in favor of Trout and not in favor of Gomez, then you’re a “narrative hypocrite” just like someone who says the reverse and supports Cabrera and McCutchen BECAUSE they played on playoff teams.

4 Responses to 'Repost: Why didn’t Carlos Gomez get more NL MVP support??'

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  1. Well, I’ll offer a few thoughts. The MVP is first and foremost an offensive award. Sure, it can also include other areas like base running and defense, but only after the player establishes his offensive cred. When you look at Trout’s numbers, over 90% of his WAR comes from his offense. Base running and defense may have put him over the top in some people’s minds, but offense to offense value compared to Cabrera was already very close. Under Fangraphs, they actually rated him higher than Cabrera in offensive WAR.

    For Gomez, too much of his value came from non offensive sources. It looks like roughly half his overall value came from defense, and people just don’t trust those numbers as much as the offensive numbers. So while I think he was also hurt by what you have said, and also playing in relative obscurity in MIL, he also didn’t have enough offensive in his overall value mix.

    He deserved higher than 9th, but he needed more offense if he was going to be a serious MVP contender.


    15 Nov 13 at 10:08 pm

  2. Thanks for responding Wally. So, complete devil’s advocate response here: shouldn’t the “most valuable player” take into account the entirety of a player’s contributions? Not just offense, but also defense and base-running? That’s the point people constantly harp about when they put Cabrera’s and Trout’s numbers side by side. Basically Cabrera and Trout end up being nearly a complete wash offensively … but Trout’s superiority in the other two factors easily put him over the top. Why isn’t it the same case with Gomez?

    Look, I freely admit that I have a hard time saying some is the “most valuable” player for a last place team. I like to say things like, “well, they would have come in last place with or without him.” But I also admit that you can turn that around and say something like, “well, the Tigers have a very strong team and probably would have come in first place with or without Cabrera too.”

    Todd Boss

    16 Nov 13 at 11:28 am

  3. But Wally isn’t saying that defense doesn’t matter at all; it’s that, even when counting defense, Gomez doesn’t crack the top echelon. You can argue WAR all day long, but even most sabre types acknowledge that defensive metrics are imprecise/unreliable, especially in a single season. I don’t think WAR can be ignored anymore, and generally isn’t. But it is a tool, with weaknesses as well as strengths, and isn’t the final word.

    John C.

    16 Nov 13 at 1:29 pm

  4. I’d vote for an MVP from a last place team, but his numbers would have to be solidly better than the next guy, and his offensive numbers would need to be strong. Gomez had an excellent year, but didn’t quite do it for me this year. All in, I’d probably have had him in the 4-5 range.

    There was an anecdote attributed to Bill James that has made me think. You are playing poker, and trying for a flush. You already have a K, J, 7 and 4, and the last card you pull is a 9, completing your flush. You win the hand because another player has a flush too, but Q is his high card. What is your most valuable card? The 9 is what most people say, but that really just rewards sequencing. The K was most really the most valuable. That kind of put me over the top on excluding RBIs, runs scored, pitcher wins from being completely meaningful, since they all share importance in large part to sequencing. From there, I have been sliding towards best = most valuable, but the analogy isn’t perfect (he won the hand, after all). But I get there because when you tie most valuable to winning, what if the Tigers won by 15 games, well eclipsing Cabrera’s WAR. Was he really the difference maker? Or, if they won by two games, and there were 5 players with > 2WAR, which one was most important?

    It gets pretty complicated at that point, and I have kind of started picking the highest card in the hand.


    16 Nov 13 at 7:40 pm

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