Game 2013.128: Tigers at Mets

74-53, 1st place, 5 games up.

“WAR – What is it good for?”

Well, evaluating players, for one thing. Or so we think.

As we all know, the WAR debate dominated the MVP race last year, with Cabrera and his old school hitting stats (summarized as “the best right handed hitter in our generation”) beat out the sabre-favorite Mike Trout and his 1st to 3rd ability and low GIDP. So where are we in 2013? Well, even with the historical season that Cabrera is having this year, Mike Trout is dominating him in WAR.




Mike Trout




Miguel Cabrera




That’s an average of 1 additional win. Worth about $4-5M in salary in the theoretical FA market where WAR sets salaries.

But anyway, Joe Posnanski posted a great blog about the Trout/Cabrera debate and seems to reluctantly admit that Trout is a better player because of his overall skill in spite of Cabrera’s prodigious numbers. (Though did you know that Mike Trout is a below average center fielder this year?) It’s a good read, and I would encourage you to read the comments as well. One of the commentors noted that Cabrera is better than Trout in the Smoking Loon threesome of RE24, WPA and RBI%.

I used to like WAR because it was new and complicated and I wanted to be cool. Now that I’m a dad with two kids, a mortgage, car payments, and Dora the Explorer placemats, I know I’ not cool, and I’m much more concerned about being right. And WAR is a good tool, but it’s not everything. And I’m starting to understand that the guys who live and die by WAR are greatly uninformed.

There is no doubt that Trout is a better WAR player. But WAR just happens to be a shiny tool in a chest full of dozens of useful ones used to measure the value of a baseball player.


On to the Mets. The Mets are the Mets. 3rd place in the NL East this year, and they actually have a worse record at home (26-33) then they do on the road (32-34). The Tigers have struggled on the road (33-30), so this could be interesting. Tonight the Boys draw new Met Dice-K.  So, if like me, you’ve been wondering where he went, the answer is “NY Mets.”

Lineups coming later today.


  1. Coleman

    August 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Good WAR write up. The very chart itself raises a big question: how can anyone use WAR as THE number, when people can’t even agree what the WAR number is? At any rate, if we are using WAR…I’ll agree that Trout is better than Cabrera, if you’ll agree that Don Kelly (0.5) is better than Victor Martinez (0.3).

    • Coleman

      August 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Although a little sound clip would make the first line even better…

      • Kevin in Dallas

        August 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm

        I need to figure out how to do that.

        • Smoking Loon

          August 23, 2013 at 10:19 pm

          I agree, good WAR write-up.

          Kevin, re sound clip:

          I think you would want to put the sound file where we put the images and insert that URL into the link html. Although this may be obvi.

          Not a big fan of WAR. However statistically valid the “replacement player” concept may be (and I’m not so sure), I don’t find it particularly useful as a game-impact performance measure, somehow. I think of it as more of a fantasy GM tool. Maybe I’m wrong. Still not a big fan.

          • Coleman

            August 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm

            I just checked Fangraphs WAR numbers, and my example above becomes even sillier. According to WAR, it would be reasonable to pull the trigger on a Don Kelly (0.9) for Victor Martinez (0.2) + Jose Iglesias (0.7) trade. Also, Kelly needs a raise–he is supposedly worth 4.3 million, and is only getting a mere 900,000.

            • Smoking Loon

              August 23, 2013 at 10:52 pm

              More evidence that:

              a) There is no THE number

              b) There’s no substitute for watching the games in evaluating players

              c) WAR is one of many stats that will tell you what a good bet would have been… if only you could go back in time and place it

              That Kelly has yielded more bang for the buck in terms of the whole season, I’ll buy. That he’s a more valuable player than Martinez overall or even in the context of overall usefulness to the team, well… I don’t think he’d be putting up Martinez numbers in the same amount of PA.

  2. Coleman

    August 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Victor will be catching tonight.

  3. Coleman

    August 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Wow (yeah, but, Trout can go first to third!)

  4. judpma

    August 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Exactly the start we needed…Twins loaded bases no one out 3 straight K’s..i bet Jiminez didn’t throw 5 strikes to get those 3 k’s either

  5. judpma

    August 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    heres the best way to decide who is better…would you trade Cabrerra for Trout….never…would you trade Trout to get Cabrerra…heck yes….stick that in your WAR table

    • Kevin in Dallas

      August 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      Great question. Keith Law would undoubtedly say yes he’d take Trout, but then again, he’s not a GM anymore…

      • Smoking Loon

        August 23, 2013 at 10:25 pm

        The Trout for Cabrera trade wouldn’t be happening in a vacuum. There’s the rub.

        Current circumstances: The Tigers don’t need Trout, and the Angels don’t need Cabrera.

        We’re talking real baseball trade, not fantasy teams, right?

  6. Kevin in Dallas

    August 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I’m guessing we don’t need to see the lineup anymore.

  7. Coleman

    August 23, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    The Mets announcers are talking about Max Scherzer, and it’s making me uncomfortable (“he has one brown eye, one blue eye…you’ve got to just look at him, I mean he’s fascinating just to look at”).

  8. judpma

    August 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    a serious DP from two guys that are far from 100 physically…nice!!

  9. Vince in MN

    August 23, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I guess it’s official now: Benoit is the “Closer”, Veras is “The Setup Man”, and Smyly is “The LOOGY”.

    • Coleman

      August 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

      I guess that makes Alburquerque the White Flag.

      • Coleman

        August 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

        Speaking of which, I wonder what Brad Thomas is up to.

        • Vince in MN

          August 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm

          I’d forgotten about him. With a career ERA of 5.80 and a WHIP of only 1.731, I wonder why?

  10. StorminNorman$

    August 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    CLE getting ready to lose to the Twinkies and KC just blew a 6-1 lead over the Nats, the Nats now lead 8-6 after putting up 7 runs in the 4th

    • Coleman

      August 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      I’m not writing KC off yet on that one. Some good games tonight! (Watching Baltimore/Oakland, 9-7 in the 8th).

      • Coleman

        August 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

        Wow, 11-10 final on that one (Wash wins), fun game to watch.

  11. Coleman

    August 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Avila pulled from his rehab game after experiencing headaches. Not good.

    • Smoking Loon

      August 23, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Victor looked pretty sharp at C. Very good.

      • Coleman

        August 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm

        I don’t really think Avila has that much to contribute to the team this year. He was struggling most of the season, staged a minor comeback, and then got beat up. I think it would be overly optimistic to expect him to come back at anything better than his slumping 2013 self. So I am fine with it, lineup-wise, if he can’t come back. Just worried about this in terms of his health, and for his future.

        • Smoking Loon

          August 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm

          I wish Alex Avila nothing but the best, while at the same time feeling the same pessimism about anything he’s liable to contribute from here on out. As I’ve mentioned, although it’s mere speculation, I do wonder about how much he *wants* to go on playing these days. (So watch him have an All-Star season in 2014. That’s baseball.)

  12. Smoking Loon

    August 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I see my affection for WPA, RE24, and RBI% has not gone unnoticed. I admit it. I love them. Especially the first two, especially for hitting performance. Still don’t have a real handle on how to apply them to pitching – there’s a different scale at work there.

  13. Smoking Loon

    August 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Amazing stat of the day: Tigers hitters are 4th best in MLB – *MLB* – at not striking out. Average is just a tick above 5 per game. If you are not amazed by this, I will be amazed for you.

    • Coleman

      August 24, 2013 at 12:22 am

      Here’s one for you: how many times did Joe DiMaggio strike out during his 56-game hitting streak?

      5. As in FIVE. The last 34 games of the streak he struck out once.

      • Smoking Loon

        August 24, 2013 at 12:48 am

        He also had exactly 2 GIDP during the streak. 2. In 247 PA. And yet, remarkably, his WPA and RE24 were both flat at 0.00. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go with Kelly over DiMaggio here.

        • Smoking Loon

          August 24, 2013 at 12:54 am

          Joe DiMaggio hitting streak OPS: 1.181

          Miguel Cabrera’s last 56 games OPS: 1.156

  14. Smoking Loon

    August 24, 2013 at 1:00 am

    I absolutely agree with Posnanski’s take on ROE being counted as outs.

  15. Smoking Loon

    August 24, 2013 at 1:35 am

    MVP is a pretty ambiguous concept, irrespective of the Trout/Cabrera debate reprise. Felix Hernandez might be considered somewhat more valuable to the Mariners than Miggy is to the Tigers. (Cue the pitchers vs. position players debate. Starting pitchers might start only once every 5 games… but they are typically involved in more plays in the game they pitch than position players over 5 games.)