The theory for the Most Valuable Player award stems from a player's performance in situations most likely to garner attention in highlight reels. These are situations with the game on the line, or those where runs are scored in general where the player is the batter responsible for those runs scoring. The original post discusses the theory in more detail. Here are the final tables showing how the top three MVP candidates from each league performed in highlight situations in 2012:
|AL MVP Candidates, High Leverage and Runner in Scoring Position Batting Average, 2012|
|NL MVP Candidates, High Leverage and Runner in Scoring Position Batting Average, 2012|
If this theory is correct, then the voters will select Miguel Cabrera as AL MVP and Buster Posey as NL MVP, as each of them raised their performance to much higher levels in these highlight situations than their elite peers.
Of course in the American League, this is perhaps the most talked about and debated MVP race in recent memory. Cabrera held on to win the Triple Crown, a feat not accomplished for 45 years. Trout had a rookie season for the ages, becoming the first player (not just rookie) to record 30 home runs, 45 stolen bases and 125 runs in one season. The vote will come down to those who cherish the longstanding baseball metrics along with the mystique that is the Triple Crown against those who believe we have better, more complete metrics with which to assess who is the best all-round player in the game. Both of these players received a lot of media attention, and so it will be interesting to see who ends up taking the award. If the theory proposed above holds true, then the media will be swayed in favor of Cabrera in 2012.
The National League also has an interesting back story, as strong candidate Ryan Braun had to endure a reported failed drug test in the offseason heading into 2012. While Braun managed to wiggle off the hook by citing inappropriate handling of the sample, many people believe he did so on a technicality, and that he was in fact guilty of failing the test. Whether or not this will weigh into voter decision making remains to be seen. Another interesting note is that aside from Posey, Yadier Molina also should garner many votes for NL MVP, likely putting two catchers in the top five spots. Catcher defense is one aspect of the game that is widely accepted to be under accounted for in even the most advanced defensive measurements that we have today. Perhaps years from now if this is better measured we will look back on this season and rate the 2012 performance of these two backstops in a different light.
Moving on to the Cy Young races, we also suggested a simple model to predict the winners of these awards from each league. The model was built by looking at the winners from the previous eight seasons, just after the last reliever won the award in 2003. The original post goes into more detail about how the simple predictive model was generated. In general, in the AL, ERA appears to have much more significance than SO with respect to the award. In the NL, SO appears to have much more significance than ERA. With that said, here is the updated table for the 2012 season from each league:
|AL Cy Young Candidates, Big Three Category Performance with Cy Young "Score", 2012|
|NL Cy Young Candidates, Big Three Category Performance with Cy Young "Score", 2012|
Price held off a late charge from Verlander, who finished the season on a strong note. Price holds on to the top spot primarily because of his extra three in the win column, which appears to be of particular importance in AL Cy Young voting.
Dickey was the only player to overcome the lead over the final weeks since the tables were first calculated, as Cabrera, Posey and Price were all in the lead when originally measured. Dickey and Gonzalez were neck-and-neck, and in the end the superior strikeout total by Dickey overcame his one win deficit to Gonzalez in the NL Cy Young Award predictive model.
One assumption made in the model is that a relief pitcher will not be in the running for the Cy Young Award. While in most seasons this is true, in 2012 there will be a reliever from each league that will be in contention for significant numbers of votes. In the American League, Fernando Rodney broke the all-time single season relief pitcher ERA record, coming out of oblivion before the year began to shave Dennis Eckersley's 0.61 from 1990 down to a sparkling 0.60. In the National League, Craig Kimbrel became the first reliever in history (with a reasonable innings pitched threshold) to strikeout more than half of the batters he faced, finishing the season with a 50.2 K%. Both of these record-setting seasons will receive considerable attention among the voting public, but will it be enough in either case to result in a Cy Young Award victory? Likely not, although they may both finish higher in the vote standings that many of the starting pitchers listed in these tables.
How many of these four will be correct? What do you think?
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[Credit and thanks to Fangraphs for data upon which this analysis is based]