Why are people voting for Mike Trout for MVP?
Some jerkface rookie spent Sept 7th to the 23rd hitting a measley .241 / .313 / .431. He watched his team get swept by the team they were fighting with for playoff position and lose 3 games in the standings at a crucial time of year. You want us to celebrate him? The guy had already tanked coming out of the All-Star break hitting .195 / .266 / .314 for over 40 games. Under .200 for 42 games! Four homers and only 12 RBI in a month and a half of baseball? Hell, even his vaunted speed wasn't much of a factor. The kid only stole 3 bases during that stretch and got caught twice. He was KILLING his team.
Ok now back to the opening question. People are voting for Mike Trout because... shhh now... you see he had a great season from the start. Since the Angels brought him up they've gone... hmmm? What do you mean I already addressed the opening question? No no no. You misunderstood. I segued. That 2nd paragraph was all about Bryce Harper.
Yep. Bryce Harper, he who carves his bats from fallen branches of the Norse World Tree Yggdrasil, did those things I spoke of. It's funny right? Because all you've heard about him recently is that he's the best thing since bread (not sliced bread, bread bread) carrying the team single-handedly into the playoffs while lesser talents have withered under the glare of September spotlights. In reality though, all that talk about him being the best player in the league that's just a trick, same as the one that I pulled, in making Bryce look like the worse thing since... I don't know... rice cakes.
You might have noticed that when Boz (or anyone) is talking about Bryce's awesome finish to the season that they say "since August 29th" or "in the past 5 weeks" (basically the same thing). Why? Because on August 29th Bryce went 2-5 with 2 homers. The next game he'd go 2-5 again with another homer and all in all it was a hot 8-18 stretch with 3 homers a double and 8 RBI over 4 games. Miss those games and Bryce's recent weeks are a tad less impressive.
There's no harm in including them though. At this point all they are trying to do is capture how well Bryce is hitting since he got out of his funk. August 29th is inarguably when he broke out. End of story... except it isn't. The problem is they then equate it with something bigger, like the pennant race. They want you to believe that Bryce is leading the team through the most important games of the year. (We'll ignore the truth that the games in May count as much as the games in September) The "pennant race" is a nebulous time frame. Did it really only start on the 29th of August? Why not September 1st, or Labor Day? Why not post All-Star break? Of course the reason is obvious - the pennant race needs to fit when Bryce Harper was hot.
I did the opposite. I molded the important time frame to be Sept 7th through the 23rd, which included the Braves sweep, because Bryce wasn't hitting well then. It's the classic mistake of fitting the data to your assumptions rather than making an assumption and seeing what the data tells you.
In the interest of full disclosure
July13th - August 28th : .195 / .266 / .314
August 29th - Sept 6th : .400 / .462 / .943
Sept 7th - Sept 23rd : .241 / .313 / .431
Sept 24th - Sept 29th : .500 / .538 / .917
So how should you look at game by game stats? Well, first make your assumption. If you think Bryce has hit well during the pennant race, define the time frame first, without looking at his stats. Once that is done look at his stats, but don't make it a cursory glance. A .350 average with 5 homers and 15 RBI over 13 games can be accomplished with a big hit in every game or it can be one phenomenal series followed by a complete tanking. Those two scenarios mean different things and would inspire different interpretations of how a player is doing.
What do I want to say about Bryce? Well I think we were worried during that long stretch after the All-Star break that he had fallen into a funk that he couldn't get out of. It's apparent now that's not the case. He can still break out for periods of time, 5,6,7 games, with stats that are as good as anybody can produce. He also did this against some good teams and while it was mostly against bad pitchers (which is to be expected if you look at good stretches for ANY player) he did hit against some playoff quality starters. I'd take that to mean he could possibly win you a post season series. That's all you can ask of any star player.