Monday, October 27, 2014

Stanton, Trout Deserved Hank Aaron Award

Trout (left) and Stanton earned some much-deserved hardware (SportsPyder)
While MLB awards season is not quite yet underway, there was some notable hardware handed out the other day. Before Game 4 of the World Series, Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton were named the 2014 winners of the Hank Aaron Award, presented by none other than Hammerin' Hank himself. Aaron votes for the award, as do the fans and a panel of Hall of Famers comprised of Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas, and Robin Yount.

The award, which serves to recognize the best offensive performer in each league, was an easy call in the Junior Circuit. Trout was once again the most valuable position player in baseball, leading the sport in WAR and oWAR for the third straight year. His 137 runs created and 8.7 oWAR led both leagues, as did his 115 runs, 338 total bases, and 84 extra base hits. In addition to his American League-leading 111 RBI, he also swatted 36 home runs and 39 doubles to go along with his .939 OPS, good for a 167 OPS+. He unseated two-time defending champion Miguel Cabrera and should do the same in the MVP award as well.

Stanton was not quite as dominant as Trout but still had a phenomenal season in his own right, posting the fourth-highest OBP, SLG, and OPS in baseball. His 37 home runs, .555 slugging percentage and 299 total bases were tops in the National League, as were his 14.6 AB/HR ratio, 69 extra base hits, and 24 intentional walks. Per Baseball-Reference, only Andrew McCutchen--Stanton's closest competition for the award--had a higher Adjusted OPS+, more runs created, and a higher oWAR total than Stanton among National Leaguers. Had he not been beaned in the face with 17 games still remaining on the schedule, Stanton would have likely finished the season with around 40 home runs, 120 RBI, 100 runs and walks, and well over 300 total bases--gaudy totals that reflect just how dominant a year Stanton was having at the time of his injury.

One could certainly make the case that McCutchen was slightly more deserving in the Senior Circuit, but the numbers say they're a virtual toss up. Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference rate McCutchen as the slightly more valuable offensive player, and since he played just one more game than Stanton it's not like that difference can be chalked up to Stanton's injury. And while McCutchen only led Stanton by two points in OPS, the former's OPS was significantly more valuable after adjustments for league and park (eight point difference in OPS+, nine in wRC+) and when OBP and SLG are properly weighted (with 'Cutch ahead in wOBA .412 to .403). In terms of baserunning they come out about even, so that doesn't move the needle either way.

All things considered, McCutchen was probably more deserving by the slimmest of margins, but he and Stanton are so close that I can't blame the voters for being seduced by the latter's titanic big flies and monster power figures. Those kinds of numbers, especially in today's offense-challenged climate, are impossible to ignore. Stanton's season definitely felt more dominant, and with the benefit of a healthy September I think he beats McCutchen by a nose.

Just to wrap things up quickly here, Stanton and Trout are first-time winners but are likely to repeat given their age. Stanton is not yet 25 and Trout is just 23. Two of the most exciting talents in the game, both appear to have many fine seasons ahead of them.

1 comment:

  1. redneckbaseballboneheadOctober 29, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    When reading your posts, I have noticed a couple of references to baseball being in a power-depleted state, and I have never quite understood how that could be, but now I do. Only one 40-homer guy all year, and only a single-digit number of players have topped 110 RBIs(a liberal guess). Obviously, considering my name tag I'm not smart enough to figure that out myself. Thanks for enlightening me. Congrats, Trout and Stanton, you earned the hardware.