Sabermetrics (Society for American Baseball Research Metrics) drew attention last year after the release of American movie “Moneyball” starring Brad
Pitt. Derived from the acronym SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), it is the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence.
For a long time, traditional baseball statistics have been used to evaluate the performance and contribution of individual players. Those include
batting average, home runs and runs batted in (RBI) for fielders, and earned run average (ERA), wins and saves for pitchers. However, one basic question has been posed. Can those numbers
precisely and fairly measure the players’ capability and contribution to their team? Here is an example, the batting average. It is obtained by dividing the number of hits by the number of at
bats. But the number of hits covers both singles and home runs. While both are hits, they are clearly different in terms of contribution to a team.
Thinking this way, one may wonder if a batter is really excellent just because his batting average is
high. Furthermore, is there any difference between a single hit and a walk in terms of value? You may take this as nitpicking, but the more you think, the more you will find the conventional
statistics inconsistent and open to question.
A new index based on sabermetrics has come to be widely used in recent years to improve the situation. It numerically measures a player’s overall
contribution to his team in terms of not only batting and pitching abilities but also running and defense abilities. This index is called WAR (wins above replacement), which is an attempt to
summarize players’ total contributions to their team in one statistic.
Today, WAR is more popular in the United States than in Japan. But the country is still divided between pros and cons -- the “sabermetricians”and the
“old guards” who stick to the conventional stats.
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers attained the triple crown for the first time in 45 years this year.His batting average .330 (runner-up .326), 44 home runs (runner-up 43) and RBI 139 (runner-up 126) are more than wonderful. Since the
Tigers won the American League champions, many people say he deserves MVP. But he ranks third at 6.9 in the AL in terms of WAR, which takes his low running ability and poor defense
ability into consideration.
Ranked top in WAR in the AL is Los Angeles Angels super rookie Mike Trout. His batting average .326, 30 home runs and RBI 83 may look pale as
compared to Cabrera’s. But Trout placed top in the list of AL stolen bases at 49 and got 16.2 in UZR/150, an index of defense ability, which is the highest among all center fielders. His
WAR was as high as 10.7.
To sum it up, MVP will go to Cabrera according to the conventional index and to Trout according to the new index. The winners of the annual MLB
tiles are determined by voting by eligible Baseball Writers’Association of America (BBWAA) members. And the result may depend on which of the two, thesabermetricians and theold guards, will form a majority in the voting. If you will vote, who can be your choice? Cabrera
or Trout? The voting on both AL and NL MPVs is scheduled for November 15.