Talking AL MVP with Shane Battier

Shane Battier taking batting practice
Shane Battier took the time to talk a little baseball during HEAT training camp.
Sarah Glenn

With the regular season over, the Tigers in the playoffs and the Angels just outside of them, there is a heated discussion going on about who should be the Most Valuable Player of the American League. So, after a day of Miami HEAT training camp, we asked noted baseball fan Shane Battier for his thoughts. What follows is a direct transcription of that conversation:

You were tweeting about Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown last night. Is he the MVP is your mind?

Yes. He led his team to a division championship and Mike Trout had a great year, the new sabermetrics say he was very valuable. I give the fact that Cabrera put up the numbers that he did under the stress of a Division Crown, because if they lost the division they didn’t make the playoffs, the fact that he did that with a lineup that was not that great outside of Fielder and Jackson.

It depends on what you have to say about lineup protection.

That has a big thing to do with it. But he produced. It’s clear cut. There’s not an argument this year.

But they lost more games than the Angels. Angels actually won more games. That doesn’t matter?

The goal is to win the division, get into the playoffs.

OK. What about defense?

He played third base…

Not well…

He won the Triple Crown not DH’ing, not playing first base, in a field position that takes a lot of stress. Trout probably had a better year defensively. I would change my tune if [Cabrera] DH’ed, but he didn’t. I would change my tune if [Cabrera] played first base, but he didn’t. He was on the hot corner.

He was still a negative there.

I just don’t think there’s an argument. I just don’t think there is.

We don’t need to bring up WAR. How about baserunning?

Baserunning is overrated. Even the sabermetricians will agree that stolen bases is an overrated stat. You’re actually putting your team more in jeopardy than you are helping them by trying to gain an advantage on the basepaths.

But he had over a 90 percent success rate trying to steal.

Yeah, but if you go by the numbers, he put his team at risk. So I don’t believe that stealing bases ultimately helps your team win.

By that same concept, though, Trout being able to score from first or second on a single against Cabrera simply advancing to second on a single, that’s still creating a run, right?

Yeah, but he led the league in total bases, which means it’s not like he was a slouch. It’s not like he was hitting singles and wasn’t moving. He had a higher slugging percentage. He had more game winning, game tying RBI’s than anyone in the league.

So the clutch thing is important to you?

Yeah. You can stop the argument at the clutch performance of leading his team to the divisional crown with the stress of a Triple Crown, no question you can stop there and he wins the argument. Trout’s a great player, don’t get me wrong.

I feel like if we were talking about basketball clutch statistics, you would be bringing up sample sizes [being too small].

If anyone averages a triple double, I don’t care, that is an MVP.

This is where I was going next. Is averaging a triple double the closest thing to a Triple Crown, or would it be leading the league in points, rebounds and assists?

Triple double.

So if a guy goes 10/10/10 but he’s shooting 38 percent from the floor and he’s not a good defender?

It’s different. That’s apples and oranges. Triple double hasn’t been done in what, over 45 years? When was Oscar Robertson’s last triple double average year?

…’67? (It was 62, but Robertson came incredibly close the next three years)

So 50 something years. Those are kin because of the rarity in the sport.

But just because something hasn’t happened in a long time, should that necessarily correlate to the MVP?

Well, we talk about this every year, it’s the MIP (Most Important Player) vs. MVP. That’s a whole different discussion.

What if Rondo averaged a triple double next year, but for whatever strange reason had an incredible falloff defensively…

Well, let’s talk about Cabrera. You take Cabrera off that team, they are a middle of the pack team in the central division.

Yeah, sure, but you can do the same thing with Trout.

Angels have a little more talent than the Tigers do.

Pujols did not have a very good year, though, Fielder had a much better year than him.

That’s what I’m saying, though. Top to bottom, the Angels have a way better staff.

Verlander was the best of all of them, though.

Yeah, aside from that, though, and [Max] Scherzer had a pretty good second half, top to bottom, the Angels have a better team than the Tigers. You take Trout off that team, the Angels are still pretty darn good, they’re still competing for a playoff spot. You take Cabby off that team, there’s no chance they even come close.