Several Brilliant Readers have written in to ask -- I think in a curious and serious way -- how it is possible for Mike Trout to lead Miguel Cabrera in WAR. They readily concede that Trout is a faster baserunner and a better fielder. Still, they wonder (and I’m lumping seven or eight people together here, so I’m generalizing) how 30 more points in on-base percentage, 100 more points in slugging and 20 more home runs could not POSSIBLY make up that ground.One BR sums up the question neatly: “Last year, I understood the difference,” he writes. “Trout had a better on-base percentage, was only 42 points behind in slugging, hit only 14 fewer homers -- I could see how his defense and base-stealing might make him the better overall player. But this year, it makes absolutely no sense to me at all.”I think it’s a fair question and so I went to the incomparable Tom Tango for some assistance in explaining the math here (and by this I mean explaining it to ME). And let me say up front that, I readily admit it’s possible you will come away certain that WAR is just wrong and Cabrera absolutely is having the better season. I know a few BRs have come to think I don’t like Cabrera -- and I don’t mean to protest too much, but it’s really not true. I don’t like Bowie Kuhn very much. I don’t like the NCAA very much. I don’t like white chocolate at all. But Cabrera: Love the guy. I think he’s the best hitter on earth. I love watching him play. I also love Trout, love watching him play, and I’m fascinated by the question of which one is better.We’re going to break down Baseball Reference WAR by runs -- that is, runs gained and runs saved. So let’s start with the obvious stuff first, the stuff Trout excels in.
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