Category: history

Bonds, steroids, and the Hall of Fame

A follow up to my previous post: The Hall of Fame Ballot: returnees

This will be my first and only post about Barry Bonds and/ or steroids issue, barring any new news that happens to come out in the futre.  I’m over this whole decade long discussion that always ends up running around in circles.  However, with the Hall of Fame ballots mailed out earlier this month, and with Bonds being among the names, I have to post on this.
Unlike my last article, where I broke down each candidate on their Hall of Fame merits, this one I will spend more time discussing all the first years as a whole, as with most of them, the debate centers on the steroid issue.  Despite that, each of them have varying stories regarding their career accomplishments and their steroid involvement that obviously could get some in and others out, so let’s look at that:
First of all, the following names are obviously not Hall of Famers and won’t even get the 5% needed to remain on the ballot in 2014, so let’s just get them out of the discussion right away: Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White, and Woody Williams.
That leaves six names: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio.  Everyone has their own opinions based on how much steroids affected their performances.
Barry Bonds: Widely believed to have started using in the late 90’s.  At that point, he was already a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, the player of the decade, and one of the all time greats.  Following that, his accomplishments make him arguably the best player ever if you take away the dark cloud.
Roger Clemens: Believed to have been clean during his Red Sox years, only believed to have started using when he went to the Blue Jays and had a career resurgence.  While whether or not he was a Hall of Famer at that point is more debatable than Bonds, in my eyes he was still a Hall of Famer at that point.  His “tarnished” years puts him among the best pitchers ever.
Sammy Sosa: The only guy on this list to have actually tested positive, he’ll have the hardest time getting in.  While a solid 30/30 player, he never would have come close to being a Hall of Famer prior to hitting 332 home runs over six seasons from 1998-2003.
Mike Piazza: The greatest offensive catcher of all time, Piazza’s case may be the most complicated.  He denied using steroid, but has admitted to using androstenedione at the time it was a legal over the counter dietary supplement, although if taken a certain way has the same effect as steroids and is now looked at by the FDA and pretty much all sports organizations (including MLB) and doping agencies as an illegal steroid.  And while there have been no actual evidence compiled on him, circumstantial or otherwise, he has been implicated by others on multiple occasions, included an off the record admission and other players and writers have said that he was an obvious user.
Craig Biggio: One of the greatest second basemen of all time and not having any implications (although it is suspicious that his power numbers peaked at 38/39), he has the best shot of any of these guys.  
Curt Schilling: Schilling shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, with or without the steroid discussion.  His vocal bashing of anyone involved in steroid use has enabled him to dodge suspicion, despite the fact that he didn’t become a top pitcher until 2001 at the age of 34 and a growth of about 30 pounds during the peak of the steroid era.

I’m not going to get into details about breaking down which years these guys were supposedly clean, which years they were using, or trying to figure out what their accomplishments would be without steroids.  I’m simply going to look at the steroids issue and the Hall of Fame as a whole.

Knowing what we know and what we don’t know, there are only two rational stances to take on the steroid issue regarding the Hall of Fame voting:
1. Ignore the steroids issue and take all the statistics at face value
2. Omit the entire era.

What is completely hypocritical, is to vote no to some players because they are known/ implicated users while to vote yes on others.  What we do know is that steroid use was widespread during the era, and even accepted within baseballs inner circles, both in the clubhouses and front offices, until the public and media became more aware of it’s use.  It’s pretty obvious that there are many stones that have been unturned, and that there are many of these players that haven’t been implicated that were also users.
In the upcoming ballots, there are over a dozen players that have never been implicated, busted, or accused that are likely or definitely headed to Cooperstown.  You’d be downright stupid to believe that many, if not most of them, were using.  The problem is, we don’t know which ones were and won’t.  So if you vote all of them in, while leaving out those that are known/ implicated, you will obviously be voting in some steroid users while leaving others out.
Don’t forget that, at one point, everyone believed guys like Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, David Ortiz, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and many other now-known users were clean.  So how many other users out there do most people still were clean?  I already mentioned my suspicions with Biggio and Schilling, but what about others?  Ken Griffey had a series of injuries known to be caused by steroid use.  Pedro Martinez’ career dwindled after they started testing when he was at an age many players reach their prime.  Is it too farfetched that Albert Pujols suddenly went from being a non-prospect in the minor leagues to one of baseball’s elite players in a little over a year because of steroids?  And who knows, maybe steroids helped Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record.
The thing that really irks me are those that concede (as anybody else that isn’t completely blinded by their biases) that Bonds would be a definite Hall of Famer without steroids, but aren’t voting for him because of the character clause.  This is the same Hall of Fame that has included Ty Cobb, the biggest scumbag in baseball history, known racists who caused the blacklisting of black players in the 19th century and those that were openly against integration in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  It includes Mickey Mantle and Jimmie Foxx, whose performance at times was hampered because they were too drunk or hungover to play.  It includes Babe Ruth, who took illegal drugs and drank during prohibition.  It includes pitchers such as Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, and others who have doctored baseballs in various ways (which is more cheating than steroids since it actually was against the rules).  The character clause is basically an excuse for the writers to say “I didn’t like this player, so I’m not going to vote for them, regardless of whether or not they deserve it”.
And if you want to get into the hypocrisy, what about all the known amphetamine users, including Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, and Hank Aaron, who took them in an attempt to enhance their performance, even after they were banned by the FDA in 1965?  Can someone explain to me how they are any different from steroids?  Both are illegal, potentially harmful substances that players took to make them play better on the field.  Another example of the hypocrisy.
Where do you draw the line?  Do you only leave out those that tested positive and/ or have admitted to steroid use?  Under that criteria, all these guys, except for Sosa get in.  Do you vote based on circumstantial evidences?  Well the truth is, that is subjective, and no matter how damning it may be, who are you to play judge, jury, and executioner?  Do you leave off anyone where there is anything about them, being their body mass over the years, their career trajectory, or any other factor?  Well in that case, I could make an argument about anyone that would make them look suspicious, so let’s just leave them all out.
Perhaps you can leave a borderline Hall of Famer off the ballot because of steroid suspicion.  Perhaps you can single out Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez because they were actually suspended after testing positive.  But as a whole, you have to lump the entire era together.  Yeah, it may not be fair to the few guys who were clean to be punished for the sins of others.  But it’s not as unfair as leaving some users off when others get in.  But considering how it was such an integral part of baseball culture at the time, the best thing to do is to take everything at face value and ignore the steroid issue altogether.
Which is why Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Biggio, and Sosa all belong in the Hall of Fame.  Schilling isn’t a Hall of Famer just because his numbers aren’t good enough.  This should be one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes of all time.  Instead, there is a good chance that none of these guys will be inducted.
That is the greatest injustice of all.

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The Hall of Fame Ballot: The returnees

With the Hot Stove burning slowly, much of the attention has shifted to the Hall of Fame discussion.  What possibly could have been one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes has shifted to a controversial one, in which many players who have used or been implicated as having used are eligible.  Over the next month or so, this debate will heat up.
Since I have a lot to say on the subject, I will break this down into two parts: The returnees and the first year eligibles.  On this one, I will give my thoughts on each of the returning players on the ballot.
Obviously I don’t have a vote (even though there are a lot of people that do get to vote that are clearly less qualified than I am, but that’s how it goes):, but this is what I would do if I have a ballot, in order of how many votes they received in 2012:

Jack Morris:  It seems likely that he will get in this year.  The record for highest percentage of anyone that didn’t get the eventual 75% percent needed to get in in future years was Gil Hodges 63.4% in his final year on the ballot in 1983.  Morris received 66.6% last year, and has this year and next year to get in.
Does he deserve it?  Not really.  He was a good pitcher, but not great pitcher.  His career best in ERA was 3.05, and his lifetime ERA was slightly below 4.00, never finishing in the top ten in the Major Leagues.  His lifetime record of 254-186 averages out to about 14-10 over 18 seasons.  Good, but not great.  Morris did manage to make the All Star team four times, but for most of his career was nothing more than an average pitcher.  His 104 ERA+ is slightly above average. 
His supporters cite his five championships and post-season performances as the reason as to why he should make the Hall of Fame, but 18 seasons in which he was a little above average outweigh a few post-season gems.
And in reality, he wasn’t as great a post-season pitcher as he was made out to be.  Yes, he was 3-0 in the Tigers 1984 run, and pitched the classic 10 inning complete game shutout in game seven of the 1991 World Series.  But look outside of that.  His lifetime post-season record was 7-4.   That’s good, but not enough to be considered one of the greatest post-season pitchers of all time.  He got rocked in game 2 of the 1987 ALCS and didn’t get to pitch in the World Series.  In 1992, he pitched horrible in all four starts, going 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA in 23 innings and the team won despite him.  In 1993, “Mr. Clutch” was left off the post-season roster entirely.  So all in all, he had two really good post-seasons, and two horrible ones.  Doesn’t sound like a Hall of Famer to me.  If that makes someone a Hall of Famer, does that make Josh Beckett one? 
Definite no to Morris.

Lee Smith: Having retired as the all time saves leader, Smith lost a lot momentum on the path to Cooperstown after the saves record was broken twice, once by Trevor Hoffman, and again by Mariano Rivera.   However, many feel his 478 career saves are sufficient enough for him to make the Hall of Fame.
Considering the scarcity of relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame, for one to make it to the Hall of Fame, he should have had to pitch at an elite level for an extended period of time.  Hoyt Wilhelm was ahead of his time, being the first dominating reliever, and one of the first have his role not because he couldn’t make the rotation, but because he was so valuable in the bullpen.  In addition to many outstanding years in the bullpen, he also served as a stellar starting pitcher for several seasons.  Roller Fingers became the first reliever to win an MVP, after already having been far and away the best fireman in baseball for over a decade.  Dennis Eckersley revolutionized the position, and retired as the greatest ever in that role.  Goose Gossage was somewhat iffy, but was a dominating for over a decade, and after Bruce Sutter got inducted two years prior despite arriving to the big leagues later, retiring earlier, spending a much shorter time as an elite reliever, and being less effective than their respective primes, Gossage had to get in.  Sutter was the one that really wasn’t deserving, but letting one guy lower the bar for everyone using the logic “if player x is in the hall, so should player y” set’s a dangerous precent and slippery slope that eventually devalues the hall altogehter.
Smith was never an elite closer.  He was just good.  He was consistent and had a lot of longevity, which enabled him to get the saves record, but consistency and longevity alone is not enough for Hall of Fame worthiness.
Perhaps if the saves statistic wasn’t essentially worthless, perhaps holding the record at one point would make him a hall of famer.  But it is, so he’s not.  Plus, what if John Franco broke the record?  In the middle of the 1999 season, Franco was just 62 saves away from the saves record.  But the Mets wanted to promote the up and coming “stud” Armando Benitez to the closer role (it seems laughable now, but at the time everyone thought he was going to be one of the greatest closers ever).  Franco was still an effective closer, and could have very easily demanded a trade, or bolted elsewhere when he became a free agent in the off-season.  But he didn’t, he chose to stay with the Mets, and only got eight more saves in his career.  Had he left, he likely would have easily broken Smith’s saves record long before Smith was eligible for the Hall of Fame.  Smith likely would have been off the ballot in a year or two, and people would be clammoring for Franco to get inducted into the hall instead.
The day someone gets inducted in the Hall of Fame based on saves alone is the day it should be closed down.  So Smith is definitely not a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Bagwell: The first of likely many victims of the “steroid era” in Hall of Fame voting.  Even though he will eventually get in, the baseball writers will make him wait because he was a power hitter during the steroid era, even though he was never actually implicated.
At face value, Bagwell is definitely a Hall of Famer.  From 1993-2002, he was consistently one of baseball’s best hitters, and that was while playing most of that time in the Astrodome, one of the toughest ballparks in baseball for hitters.
That being said, and this may become a recurring theme, but the era he played in cannot be ignored.  You can’t assume that Bagwell is innocent now that we know there was a wide scope of the players that have been used and there are likely many more that haven’t been caught or implicated than there are that have.  So if you’re going to excommunicate any known or suspected steroid user from the Hall of Fame, you have to leave out the whole era.  Otherwise, you are basically sending the message that it was ok to use as long as you haven’t gotten busted, and leaves open the possibility of someone being outed as a user after being inducted.
That being said, the era was what it was, and steroids were such a widespread aspect of the game that weren’t even against the rules, and even accepted within baseball’s inner circles, both in the front offices and the clubhouses, until the public become more aware of it, the accomplishments of any player from that era need to taken at face value.  Therefore, Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines: He certainly wasn’t on the level of Rickey Henderson, but he was still one of the greatest leadoff hitters ever.  Someone who has a lifetime batting average of .300 over a 23 year career is pretty much a lock for the Hall of Fame.  Raines may have fallen just short of that (.294), but he was a leadoff hitter, and a leadoff hitter’s primary job is to get on base.  The OBP equivalent to a .300 batting average is .375 (approximately the number of players who get that is about the same as the number of .300 hitters during a typical year).  Raines had a .384 OBP, in over 10,000 plate appearances.  Only 22 players have a higher OBP in that many plate appearances.  Six of them are active or not yet Hall of Fame eligible.  The other 16?  All Hall of Famers. 
If you’re one of those old school people who still think a leadoff hitter’s job is to steal bases, well, Raines had 808 of those, making him fifth all time, fourth since 1901.
There’s no doubt  Rains belongs in the hall.

Alan Trammell: When he was first eligible, I probably would have supported him in the Hall just on the basis that he was eligible for the first time the same year as fellow shortstop Ozzie Smith, who was a shoo-in to get inducted based solely on his tremendous offensive prowess.  While he wasn’t the defender Ozzie was (although he wasn’t no slouch himself), his offensive superiority more than made up for it.  However, it has been over a decade since then so Ozzie’s induction has become irrelevant to Trammell’s candidacy.
You can pretty much sum everything up the same way as most of the remaining players I’m about to mention: He was a pretty damn good player, but there is nothing about him, be it his stats, accomplishments, career body of work, or “intagibles” that make him a Hall of Famer.

Edgar Martinez: In the past, I have always believed that anyone who spent the majority of their career as a designated hitter should automatically disqualify them from the Hall of Fame.   Over the years I have come to realize that even though I hate the DH, it is a part of the game, so I’ve softened my stance to that where if someone’s offensive numbers are among the best of their era, they belong in the hall.  That isn’t the case with Edgar Martinez
He may have been the greatest designated hitter of all time before David Ortiz came along (Paul Molitor doesn’t count since he did in fact play the majority of his career in the infield before becoming a DH in his mid-30’s), but he still wasn’t an elite hitter.  He only reached 30 home runs one time, playing most of his career in the home run friendly Kingdome.  In his 12 years as a DH, he only won four silver sluggers, so for most of that time, there was some DH that was better than him.  On top of that, he was injury prone, only playing seven full seasons without at least one stint on the disabled list.
In addition, even though I stated that everything from the steroid era should be taken at face value, it can come into play on someone that is a borderline or questionable Hall of Famer, so in the case of someone like Martinez who already has a weak case, gets completely knocked out due to being implicated having used steroids.

Fred McGriff: In any other era, 493 home runs would have been more than enough to get someone enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  When he made his MLB debut in 1986, only 13 players had hit more home runs than that.  Now that number is at 25.  Taking out two players from previous generations (Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray), there are ten players from his era or later that have hit more homers, making it no longer an automatic trip to Cooperstown.
So the question is, are his other numbers and accomplishments enough to make McGriff a Hall of Famer?  The answer is a simple no.  Like I said for Trammell: He was a pretty damn good player, but there is nothing about him, be it his stats, accomplishments, career body of work, or “intagibles” that make him a Hall of Famer.

Larry Walker: Read my last line on the Trammell and McGriff entries.

Mark McGwire: More so than anyone else, the steroid issue hurts McGwire’s hall chances more than anyone else.  And while there is a lot of hypocrisy and inconsistencies to go along with way
For one, aside from getting a bunch of walks, McGwire was the one guy that was nothing but a home run hitter.  Accurate or not, most people associate steroids with home runs.  McGwire was a lifetime .263 hitter and hit very extra base hits other than home runs- his 22 doubles per 162 games are unimpressive for anyone, but especially low for someone with his kind of power.  Aside from somehow managing to win a gold glove award, his defense was subpar. 
And McGwire wasn’t just a user, he, along with his fellow Bash Brother Jose Canseco, were the players responsible for bringing steroids into the game.  And it was the 1998 home run chase that motivated many of the players all across baseball to jump across to the dark side.  So if anybody deserves to be punished, it’s him.
That being said, like I said, we need to accept that it was an integral part of the era and take everything at face value.  And McGwire put up the greatest power numbers of all time.  He averaged 36.4 home runs in his 16 seasons, second only to Ralph Kiner’s 36.9 over 10 seasons.  Per 162 games, he averaged 50 home runs, as well as one homer every 10.4 at bats, both major league records, by a longshot.
It wasn’t all steroids either.  According to Canseco (who, as pathetic as he is, has proven to have a lot of credibility over this after being proven to be right time and time again), McGwire began juicing during his second year in the big leagues.  So what did McGwire do when he was a rookie, without the steroids?  He lead the major leagues with 49 homers, still the record for a rookie.
So because he was the greatest power hitter in the history of the game, McGwire belongs in the hall.

Don Mattingly: Here was a guy that was destined for greatness. From a 23-year-old in 1984 up until 1987, he was consistently one of the best hitters in baseball, making the All Star team every year up until 1989, the top year being his 1985 MVP campaign. On top of all that, he was the best defensive first baseman in baseball and the most popular Yankee since Mickey Mantle.
Then he started to suffer from back problems, and even though he could still field, his bat began to deteriorate, forcing him to retire following the 1995 season at the age of 34.  What could have been one the greatest careers ever turned out to be a huge disappointment.
Regardless, his combination of offense and being arguably the greatest defensive first baseman of all time gives him a strong case towards the hall.  Overall though, I’d have to say no.  What he did in his prime was not sufficient enough to make up for his lack of longevity.

Dale Murphy: Thankfully this is his last year of his eligibility.  I really don’t get how this guy even continues to get the 5% needed to return to the ballot every year.  Murphy was a decent player, but had extremely underwhelming numbers for the Hall of Fame to the point where he doesn’t really belong with the other returning candidates, let alone those enshrined in Cooperstown.  Huge no.

Rafael Palmeiro: Nobody in baseball went from sure-fire Hall of Famer to no chance in hell as fast as Palmeiro did when a positive steroid test caused him a 10 game suspension.  The big difference between him and the rest of the users is that he got busted for using after it got banned, and actually served a suspension.
It would be one thing to overlook if he was, in fact, one of the greats, but he wasn’t.  He achieved the rare combo of 3,000 hits and 500 homers, but it was because he was a consistently solid player for close to two decades.  
He would have been a classic “milestone” Hall of Famer, which is a player that gets into Cooperstown solely on the backs of one (or in his case, two) of those milestones that nets a player automatic enshrinement.  However, it has gotten to the point where the numbers no longer make it automatic, and without those milestones, Palmeiro isn’t a Hall of Famer.

Bernie Williams: Read my Larry Walker entry.

So of the returning candidates, only Bagwell, Raines, and McGwire belong in Cooperstown.  Within the next couple days I will do the main write up on the first year inductees, particularly Barry Bonds.

The Sabermetric WARs

In 1977, Bill James sparked a revolution in baseball thinking that challenged what people have always believed about the game.  He started to gain a cult following from readers of his annual baseball abstracts, to the point where his work has effected the way every single team in baseball is run today.  In the process, it has sparked a major debate between old school and new school that has been a central point in many baseball discussions, coming to a major head in the Mike Trout/ Miguel Cabrera debate.
I know I’ve already mentioned this in my previous post, but baseball writers are idiots.  Not because they voted for Cabrera, as he was equally deserving as Trout.  Neither one winning a travesty, a joke, or even wrong.  It was their reasoning, which is rooted in the troglodyte old school thinking that was a complete joke and shows their stupidity.
However, after reading the complaints about Trout not getting MVP, it is clear many of the people who rely on Sabermetrics aren’t any smarter than those who rely on antiquated and misleading stats such as batting average, RBIs, wins, etc.
There has been a long misconception about the true purpose of sabermetrics on both sides of the debate.  Statistics have been deeply rooted into the game of baseball since it’s inception.  What Bill James (and the many that have come after him) did was simply figure out which statistics are most reliable, and how to compile various data into new statistics that are useful to evaluate players.
The problem is, there are people within the sabermetric community that simply don’t have the mental capacity to take all things, statistical or otherwise, into consideration, and rely on what they perceive to be a be-all/ end-all statistic and something that can end all arguments.  At the moment, that statistic is wins above replacement, or WAR.
The original statistic was total player rating (TPR) back in the 1980’s, in which each event by a hitter, baserunner, or fielder was assigned a value based on the probability of how often whatever happened led to a run, or decreased the chance of a run.  However, TPR was so heavily flawed the Bill James came along with equivalent average (EqA) in the mid 90’s, a stat that combined walks, steals, total bases, sacrifices into a percentage stat in which the league average was the same as batting average.  As sabermetrics became more mainstream in the late 90’s/ early 2000’s, it was simplified for those new to it and combine the two most valuable traditional statistics (OBP and SLG) into one statistic, on base plus slugging (OPS), which later lost favor to advanced OPS (OPS+), taking into account ballpark factors and league averages.  Since OPS and OPS+ are more or less an arbitrary statistics since OPS is based upon simply adding two separate statistics together, they went again looking for something less arbitrary and came up with runs created per 27 outs (RC27) which uses the same stats as EqA but converts it into a number similar to ERA so that hitters and pitchers could be more compared.
When the trend became looking for value, win shares, in which every team is allocated a certain amount of points (three for every win) to their players, became the most popular statistic.  As that was too heavily reliant on team performance, they turned to value over replacement player (VORP) which was the number of runs added to the team compared to some scrub that can easily be found via free agency or the minor leagues.  VORP eventually gave way to wins above replacement (WAR), which is where we are now.
 WAR, and many other sabermetric statistics, are inherently flawed mainly because it attempts to statistically evaluate things that you can’t put into numbers and can only evaluate subjectively. Among them:
*Accurately determine how many games a player won for their team.  There are way too many intangibles to evaluate that.
*Combining offense, defense, and pitching numbers into the same statistic.  These are completely different aspects of the game that cannot be quantified within the same stat.  You might as well create a WAR formula for basketball so you can compare Lebron James to Trout or Cabrera.
*Statistically altering a players offensive value compared to others in their position.  Obviously, a middle infielder’s bat is more valuable than a first baseman with similar numbers, but again, there’s no true way of knowing
*Even though it’s not part of WAR, ballpark factors are taken into account for other notable formuals (such as OPS+ and ERA+).  For starters, every ballpark affects every ballplayer differently. Secondly, the ballpark factors can randomly fluctuate from year to year, so it’s not uncommon for a hitter to have a better year than the year before but do worse in stats that take into account ballpark because the other hitters on his team did better at home while the pitchers did better on the road than the previous year.  Third, even if every ballpark affected every player the same, and the numbers didn’t fluctuate, there is still no way to accurately calculate how much better someone Buster Posey would have done outside of AT&T Park.
According to WAR, Robinson Cano was better than Miguel Cabrera this year.  Considering both players had the same exact number of games plate and plate appearances, it’s pretty easy to compare them.  Cabrera beat Cano pretty easily in nearly every category, except for having just two more strikeouts, eight fewer doubles (although Cabrera had 11 more homers).  Yet, because Cano was a second baseman, he had a higher offensive WAR (oWAR) by nearly a full point, and a better overall WAR by over a point.  And Mike Trout may have been the better player from May through July, but you can’t tell me that he came close to Cabrera the last two months of the year, especially in September.  Yet, WAR will try to tell you.  Any stat that has Mike Trout’s mediocre September being better (1.8 WAR) than Miguel Cabrera’s (1.5 WAR) cannot be taken seriously.
And if going by WAR, do you know whose had the highest among position players in the American League since 2009, leading the league twice?  Ben Zobrist.  Not Miguel Cabrera.  Not Robinson Cano.  Not Josh Hamilton.  Ben Zobrist.  This offensive line sure looks like a superstar to me.
And don’t even get me started on wins probably added (WPA).  WPA, which has been around in various incarnations since long before Bill James came long, but has received more and more attention lately in wins probability added (WPA), calculates the difference between the team’s likelihood of winning before and after each of the player’s at bat.  All I have to say is this: if a player hits a home run in a game, and his team wins by one run, it doesn’t matter what the score was, what inning, or how many outs there were at the time.  At the end of the game, that home run ultimately counted the same and won the team the game.
Trying to say that Trout was a better hitter than Cabrera, citing oWAR and WPA as the reasons why, is equally as dumb as saying Cabrera deserved MVP because he won three arbitrary statistics or that the Tigers made the playoffs with one less win than the Angels.
Overall, the debate has pretty much devolved into two groups of idiots.  On one hand, you have the old school people who  are two stubborn to admit that what they’ve been taught and grown up believing is wrong.  They still rely on batting average, which basically means they believe that a single, double, triple, and home run are all worth the same and walks don’t mean anything.  They rely on stats like runs, RBIs, and win-loss record, which are heavily reliant on how their team performs.  They ignore factors that show whether or not a pitcher is as good as their ERA indicated.
Then you have those that embrace the newer stats, but lack the mental ability to look at a player’s entire stat line and form their own conclusions, so they have to rely on a formula they probably don’t even understand and use it as the definitive stat as if it’s the ultimate answer to end all arguments, be it TPR, eQA, OPS, win shares, OPS+/ ERA+, RC27, VORP, or WAR.    You can’t even debate with these people, as they are convinced that everything they think is fact since WAR (or whatever else they use) say so.
All these newer stats are good for baseball, as long as you know how to utilize them.  There will never be a definitive formula, no matter how hard people try to come up with one.  Instead of trying to combine them all into one formula, look at everything individually.  Look at all the numbers on the stat line, and yes, include everything from the antiquated statistics to the pointlessly convoluted formulas.  Take into account intangibles that cannot be statistically evaluated, be it park factors, how they compare to others in their position, etc.  Then come up with your own conclusion. That’s what Bill James has always done with his evaluations and predictions.