Gordon or Butler for Royals MVP? Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Who is most valuable?

Another season of Royals baseball has ended short of the playoffs. All the talk will now be

about the postseason or arguing over who should win the awards this year – specifically the AL MVP race, pitting Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels against Detroit Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. That’s an interesting topic, though being a Royals site, I will bring the argument to Kansas City and we’ll look more at the argument of Billy Butler vs. Alex Gordon.

The Royals version of the argument is a similar one – though on a smaller scale. Trout is the all around player, the stat geek darling who, according to Fangraphs, has a 10.4 WAR, versus Cabrera’s obvious dominance in the three “big” or, some would argue “old school” categories this season, leading to his winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years – since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

Bringing it back to the local level, we have a similar argument in Kansas City. Billy Butler was the guy swining the big stick all season, and won the KC Triple Crown with his .313 AVG, 29 homers, and 107 RBI. Gordon, on the other hand had the highest WAR on the team with a 5.8 (tied for 5th highest in the American League this year), which of course takes into account his increased value as a defensive player and base runner.

When you flip over a Billy Butler baseball card and see those stats on the back, you probably assume he was far and away the best Royals player this year. Gordon’s stat line, by the way, is .294 with 14 homers and 72 RBI. Not even close really. However, grading on WAR, you can see Gordon is far higher than Butler in the AL rankings this year.

 

Name G PA H HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG Fld BsR WAR
Mike Trout

139

639

182

30

129

83

49

10.50%

21.80%

0.326

0.399

0.564

13.3

6.8

10.4

Robinson Cano

161

697

196

33

105

94

3

8.80%

13.80%

0.313

0.379

0.55

8.2

-0.5

7.7

Miguel Cabrera

161

697

205

44

109

139

4

9.50%

14.10%

0.33

0.393

0.606

-9.2

-2.3

7.2

Adrian Beltre

156

654

194

36

95

102

1

5.50%

12.50%

0.321

0.359

0.561

9.8

-1.5

6.5

Ben Zobrist

157

668

151

20

88

74

14

14.50%

15.40%

0.27

0.377

0.471

6.2

-1.7

5.8

Alex Gordon

161

721

189

14

93

72

10

10.10%

19.40%

0.294

0.368

0.455

13.3

1.9

5.8

Austin Jackson

137

617

163

16

103

66

12

10.90%

21.70%

0.3

0.377

0.479

3.3

1.2

5.5

Torii Hunter

140

584

167

16

81

92

9

6.50%

22.80%

0.313

0.365

0.451

9.9

3.7

5.2

Joe Mauer

147

641

174

10

81

85

8

14.00%

13.70%

0.319

0.416

0.446

-3.7

1

5.1

Prince Fielder

162

690

182

30

83

108

1

12.30%

12.20%

0.313

0.412

0.528

-1.8

-5.9

5

Josh Hamilton

148

636

160

43

103

128

7

9.40%

25.50%

0.285

0.354

0.577

-9.4

4.5

4.7

Adam Jones

162

697

186

32

103

82

16

4.90%

18.10%

0.287

0.334

0.505

-6.6

1.5

4.6

Josh Reddick

156

673

148

32

85

85

11

8.20%

22.40%

0.242

0.305

0.463

15.4

2.9

4.5

Dustin Pedroia

141

623

163

15

81

65

20

7.70%

9.60%

0.29

0.347

0.449

9.5

-1.6

4.5

Edwin Encarnacion

151

644

152

42

93

110

13

13.00%

14.60%

0.28

0.384

0.557

-7.5

0.2

4.4

Alex Rios

157

640

184

25

93

91

23

4.10%

14.40%

0.304

0.334

0.516

0

3.7

4.2

Elvis Andrus

158

711

180

3

85

62

21

8.00%

13.50%

0.286

0.349

0.378

8.4

3.4

4.1

Matt Wieters

144

593

131

23

67

83

3

10.10%

18.90%

0.249

0.329

0.435

9.3

-4.8

4.1

Denard Span

128

568

146

4

71

41

17

8.30%

10.90%

0.283

0.342

0.395

9.4

2.5

4

Josh Willingham

145

615

135

35

85

110

3

12.40%

22.90%

0.26

0.366

0.524

-7.4

1.1

4

David Murphy

147

521

139

15

65

61

10

10.40%

14.20%

0.304

0.38

0.479

7.3

1.7

4

Nick Swisher

148

624

146

24

75

93

2

12.30%

22.60%

0.272

0.364

0.473

3.2

0.9

3.9

Albert Pujols

154

670

173

30

85

105

8

7.80%

11.30%

0.285

0.343

0.516

6.5

-6.6

3.9

Kyle Seager

155

651

154

20

62

86

13

7.10%

16.90%

0.259

0.316

0.423

3.7

-0.1

3.7

Desmond Jennings

132

563

124

13

85

47

31

8.20%

21.30%

0.246

0.314

0.388

11.4

3.2

3.5

A.J. Pierzynski

135

520

133

27

68

77

0

5.40%

15.00%

0.278

0.326

0.501

-1.8

-2.8

3.5

Erick Aybar

141

554

150

8

67

45

20

4.00%

11.00%

0.29

0.324

0.416

-1.7

3

3.5

Mike Moustakas

149

614

136

20

69

73

5

6.40%

20.20%

0.242

0.296

0.412

16.2

-0.7

3.4

B.J. Upton

146

633

141

28

79

78

31

7.10%

26.70%

0.246

0.298

0.454

-2.5

1.7

3.4

Carlos Santana

143

609

128

18

72

76

3

14.90%

16.60%

0.252

0.365

0.42

-1.9

-3.3

3.4

Ben Revere

124

553

150

0

70

32

40

5.20%

9.80%

0.294

0.333

0.342

16.3

3.5

3.4

Derek Jeter

159

740

216

15

99

58

9

6.10%

12.20%

0.316

0.362

0.429

-15

2.4

3.3

Billy Butler

161

679

192

29

72

107

2

8.00%

16.30%

0.313

0.373

0.51

-3.4

-5.7

3.1

 

Looking at the numbers above, it’s not as easy to just chalk up a victory for Butler (or Cabrera). We are trying to figure out the most valuable PLAYER…not the most valuable HITTER. That being the case, winning the Triple Crown – while a huge accomplishment, and obviously vey rare – does not necessarily make someone the MVP (of the American League or the Royals). While Cabrera accomplished the feat in the traditional sense, you could argue that Trout won his own Triple Crown, leading the league in runs, steals, and WAR. Not as conventional, but still a “Triple Crown”.

In this case, the value of guys like Trout and Gordon are obviously bumped due to their defensive skills and ability to run the bases. The base running thing comes much more into play for Trout than Gordon, obviously – but still, the point here is that both of these players are more quick on their feet than either Cabrera or Butler.

Looking at Butler vs. Gordon, we have Butler leading Gordon in OBP, SLG, OPS, AVG, HR, RBI. He also struck out at a lower rate than Gordon (a 3.1% difference) meaning he at least put the ball into play more often. Gordon of course stole more bases (but only 10 to Billy’s 2) and walked more often (2.1% higher rate than Butler). In addition, Gordon played Gold Glove caliber defense in left field again and has a higher base running score with a 1.9 while Billy put up a -5.7.

WAR says Gordon is a more valuable player but in looking at the raw numbers, Billy is the more valuable hitter by quite a bit, in my opinion. Both guys have their obvious value. Considering Billy was in a lineup spot that enabled him to collect RBI, where Gordon was leading off most of the year, the RBI comparison isn’t really a fair one. On the flip side, Gordon scored quite a bit more runs than Billy for the same reason. Looking at those numbers, we can easily come up with runs produced for each player (runs + RBI – home runs), which comes out to 151 for Gordon and 150 for Butler.

It’s a simple way of looking at things, but balances out the difference a bit for guys when they play different roles due to their lineup positions. You don’t expect Gordon to drive in 110 runs while batting leadoff, just as you don’t expect Butler to score runs like a leadoff hitter. Looking at the 151-150 runs produced, the two are very even with run production.

Given that he (barely) wins with number of runs produced, and has the clear advantage in the field and as a base runner, I’d give the nod to Gordon. WAR was apparently correct in valuing Gordon higher in this case. He’s been the best all around PLAYER this year, and I’d say that makes him a bit more valuable.

October 03, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers fans show their support for Detroit Tigers third basemen Miguel Cabrera

On the national level, it’s a similarly close case. Cabrera did win the Triple Crown of course, which is hard to ignore. Looking at runs produced for the two players, as we did for Gordon and Butler, Cabrera wins that battle as well by a score of 204 to 182. Trout does lead the way in WAR, as Gordon did over Butler with a 10.4 to Cabrera’s 7.2 and his defensive numbers are quite a bit more impressive with a UZR of 13.3, while Cabrera had a horrible -9.2 at third base for the Tigers. Trout also wins in base running (duh) with a value of 6.8 to -2.3 for Cabrera as well as 49 steals (leading the league) to just 4 for Cabrera.

I’m not sure how the MVP ballot will shake out this year…or, for that matter, who will win the Royals Player of the Year.

The baseball writers certainly have a tough job if they want to dig into things a bit. Or they could just take the easy way out and give it to the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. My guess? Cabrera takes home the MVP hardware and Trout gets the nod for Rookie of the Year (in a landslide).

For the record, Trout and Gordon get the slight nods on my ballots, but I’m not sure there are any wrong answers here.

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Tags: Alex Gordon Billy Butler Kansas City Royals

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