In the winter of 2013, I was in the middle of a Masters program, teaching full time and my wife was pregnant. I didn’t have much time to write. So today, I’m going to write up the Ty Cobb Awards (which I started to do in 2011) for both 2013 and 2014. Not that anyone was knocking down my door for the 2013 article, but my OCD won’t let me simply skip a year.
Keeping in mind that this is a strictly offense-oriented award, we have to ignore defensive abilities and any sense of this as an “MVP” award. No, this is just a recognition of the Best Offensive Player. Ty Cobb was not particularly great in the field, but at the plate and on the bases he was a terror.
With that reminder out of the way, the 2013 Ty Cobb Award would have to go to Miguel Cabrera (again). While Cabrera is a liability on the base paths, nonetheless he had a monster year at the plate (even better than his Triple Crown season). For starters, his wRC+ of 192 was the highest since 2001. Looking way back, that’s a Lou Gehrig/Stan Musial type number.
Looking at some of the more traditional stats, Cabrera also lead baseball in all three parts of the classic slash-line (Batting Average, On Base% and Slugging%). He slashed .348/.442/.636 and finished second only to Chris Davis in Home Runs and Total Bases. For those who love the slightly more eclectic numbers, he also lead baseball in RE24 and was third in WPA.
The player most deserving of the 2014 Award is much more difficult to discern. I usually begin my search by looking at wRC+. However, in 2014, four players (Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Abreu and Victor Martinez) all finished between 165-168. Of these four, McCutchen and Martinez had the higher OBP, while Abreu and Martinez had the higher SLG. And while Martinez is mentioned in both OBP and SLG, he also has by far the worst Fangraphs’ baserunning score of the four… so bad, in fact, that he tied with David Ortiz for worst in the league.
Mike Trout lead all of baseball in both WPA and RE24, which gives him the edge in “clutch” hitting, for what it’s worth. He also lead baseball in Total Bases and has the highest baserunning score of the four.
I am worried that this Ty Cobb Award might just become the Trout-Cabrera Award, as they seem to be alternating years. Still, it’s tough to not give the award to Mike Trout again, as he was the only one of the four to demonstrate exceptional power and good baserunning. In addition to having the best baserunning score, he also had more doubles and triples than the other guys, and tied with Abreu for most homers.
For anyone thinking I am simply going with Trout as the “Saber-Favorite” again, remember that Trout lead the AL in RBI this year, and lead all of baseball in Runs scored.