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November 23, 2010

Prospectus Perspective

The NL MVP Rout

by Christina Kahrl

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On Friday, I struck a cautionary note about the nature of progress in voting. It's a great, good, and happy thing, of course, but one vote is just that. It was a lone data point, not a trend, and certainly not evidence of some massive shift in the electorate, either generationally or as a reflection of the broader use and applied knowledge of the better pitching metrics most of you reading this are already aware of. Admittedly, a lot of that was rooted in my natural capacity to nag and counterpunch—I'm often a scrupulous bore when it comes to pointing out silver linings or lone storm clouds. It's a way to make conversation, after all.

Playing a cautionary note is all well and good, but little did I anticipate the need for a cautionary howitzer to blaze away at the suggestion that progress would be linear, let alone universal. Because with Monday's stupefying announcement of Joey Votto's landslide victory in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player, what else is there to say, but that progress happens one vote at a time?

I do not say this to diminish Votto's season, which was superb. Beyond leading the league in OBP and SLG and finishing second in batting average, he posted the highest True Average in the game (.350), and narrowly trailed the two-time defending MVP, Albert Pujols, in VORP, 81.8-78.2. That was a function of playing time, of course, as Pujols notched another 50 plate appearances while finishing behind Votto with a .344 TAv. And those extra PAs helped make sure that Pujols led in homers, and Pujols' teammates contributed to his winning the RBI title by providing him with 30 more at-bats with runners on base than Votto got with the Reds. In terms of the offense they created, it's a fairly narrow argument—Votto was marginally better in his at-bats, Pujols got more of them because he started 12 more games. So, fair enough, it's a debatable argument over the virtues of rates versus counting stats, and narrow enough that reasonable people can agree to disagree.

Of course, that's not all either man brings to the table. Pujols is the best defender at first base of his generation, at a time when the game isn't overstocked with Dick Stuart types. While BIS has Pujols and Votto roughly even in the field in Runs Saved, Pujols comes out ahead in terms of plays made; the system evaluates Pujols' 2010 as much less effective in the field than he was in his MVP seasons. Fair enough, switch over to Colin Wyers' nFRAA, and Pujols' 2010 ranks behind his 2008 and 2009 seasons, but that's in part because those were the two best fielding seasons by any first baseman in the last three years; his 2010 ranks sixth overall, better than every season Votto has had at first. Evaluations from Total Zone generally concur: Pujols was a lot better in the field in '08 and '09, and slightly better in '10.

Taken broadly, offense and defense together, and you wind up with a fairly narrow gap between the two best position players in the league. A total-value counting metric like WARP2 probably overstates the difference in giving Pujols a decisive advantage, 8.9-7.7. It's a fairly narrow choice. There's an honorable argument to make on behalf of Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright, that they deserved consideration as well, since both pitchers outpointed Pujols and Votto in WARP, but there's a large body of opinion that pitchers already have their own award, and we gave that hardware out last week.

So naturally, with a choice between two evenly-matched candidacies, Votto got 31 of 32 first-place votes.

You can ascribe all sorts of rationales to this. Votto's team won the division that Pujols' team was in, and that was an upset outcome. Add in that Votto had his best season, while Pujols had what might have merely been his fifth-best in a 10-season romp that might already make him the best first baseman in big-league history. Via WARP2, Pujols' 2008 and 2009 performances rank among the 25 best seasons ever in NL history. His 2010 doesn't even crack the top 100, rating a mere 166th. Sheesh, what a bum. For completeness' sake, Votto was 387th, but he was a hero on an underdog, not a demi-god flirting with mortality.

Votto was an entirely credible victor over Pujols, just not in this sort of landslide. While it's entirely possible that 31 of 32 electors could all independently come to the same conclusion, and prefer Votto's campaign to Pujols—a position I might well have taken myself with a few days' consideration—the sad conclusion there for many to draw from the wisdom of this particular crowd of 31 is that framing these stories potentially played a too-large role. In the abstract, you would have expected a broader distribution from an electorate judging Pujols strictly in direct comparison to Votto.

Instead, this outcome suggests that Pujols was being penalized for what he had been before and did not then do yet again, and not judged strictly on what he had done just this past year with reference to what everyone else did in this “year of the pitcher.” So he handily won 21 second-place votes beyond the one brave ballot from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with his name first, and just a little bit ahead of the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez on points. CarGo won the batting title and led the league in total bases and hits, which is nice. Per WARP, he rated behind Votto and Pujols, and Matt Holliday and Adrian Gonzalez, and Jay Bruce and Jayson Werth and Ryan Braun, not to mention his own teammate, Troy Tulowitzki. Like Preston Wilson or even Dante Bichette before him, Gonzalez's ability to make hard contact at altitude and derive an outsized individual benefit from what Denver does to breaking stuff is all well and good; his strikeout rate drops steeply at home, and he gets extra opportunities to do damage in Coors Field. That's a good thing, and he's a very gifted outfielder, but also who nevertheless hit just .289/.322/.453 in normal offensive environments. He nevertheless got mistaken for one of the three best position players in the league in 2011.

Working down the ballot, it's nice that Adrian Gonzalez wound up fourth and Tulo fifth—squint a bit, and maybe you can see the flip side of the argument about park effects, that the same voters who put a park-inflated CarGo third could make room for simultaneously park-handicapped A-Gonz on their ballots. It's also noteworthy that Halladay's superb campaign got him onto 26 ballots. But then there are still things like Ryan Howard getting second-, third-, and fourth-place votes, when he wasn't even the fourth-best first baseman in his league; if Pujols was getting punished for not being divine, how do a few voters in the very same electorate manage to completely overlook Howard putting up his worst full season?

Perhaps Votto's one-sided win is coincidental, and perhaps it doesn't have anything to do with Pujols' previously set standards of performance. Maybe CarGo's relatively rare set of skills deserves this much due. We can call the final outcome just, certainly, but whatever you call it, one thing the outcome of the NL MVP vote is not is further evidence of progress.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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75 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Marco

Thats a good point Christina....I saw it like the voters until now. Pujols was definitely penalized for being Big Al, or in this case, for not being Big Al.

Nov 23, 2010 05:23 AM
rating: 0
 
nschneider

There was undoubtedly a case of ennui, in writers not wanting to vote for Pujols yet again, given a roughly even choice. (Of course, Votto also had the better back-story, at this point in time.) In terms of not voting for the guy who had already won an MVP award, at least the result wasn't as egregious as giving it to Terry Pendleton over a clearly superior Barry Bonds in 1991. Bonds had only won once before, but should have ended up with two streaks of four MVP's in a row to bookend his career.

Nov 23, 2010 08:30 AM
rating: 3
 
Brian Kopec

I think the take-away is this...
The writers, and by extension the general baseball public, are not ready to accept advanced stats. What they are willing to do is to re-evaluate the traditional stats.

Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young not because voters were looking at advanced stats. He won because voters were willing to put ERA, K's, and IP above Wins.

Nov 23, 2010 06:08 AM
rating: 14
 
dodgerken222

I believe Pujols was primarily penalized because, quite simply, a comparable candidate was available from a playoff team. Which is not a bad thing. A voter who considers this factor is not someone who should be criticized, or chided for his/her lack of progress on the evolutionary scale in the brave new world of WARP2s and VORPs. A voter who takes the term "valuable" to mean someone who greatly contributed to a team's success isn't someone who needs to be sent to a re-education center. Three divisions, a wild card, playing in the Central..it wouldn't have been that difficult for the Cards to contend better than they did.
By the way, Votto hit .349/.452/.641 on the ROAD, with nearly identical home/road splits for HRs and RBIs. That is the kind of excellence and consistency for a division winner that is fully deserving of the MVP. Unlike you, Christina, I salute the voters on the landslide vote. Sometimes you have to see the forest for the trees.

Nov 23, 2010 06:28 AM
rating: 4
 
jlefty

I see no difference in voting for a pitcher with a lot of wins and voting for a player on a playoff team. In either case, a player is rewarded for the efforts of his teammates, rather than his own. I suppose the difference comes from an interpretation of the names of the awards and the assumption one makes that "Valuable" is decidedly not context-free. Ironically, this is probably the same mistake most pitcher-wins proponents make in that they equate pitcher-wins with team-wins.

If context is fine for the MVP award, but not the Cy Young, does this mean you'd have CC ahead of Felix on your MVP ballot, but not your Cy Young?

Nov 23, 2010 07:00 AM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

I'm with Joe. Swap Votto and Pujols, and you probably increase the Red's margin of victory by maybe half a game on average, nothing dramatic. Swap Scott Rolen for the collection of junk the Cardinals ran out at third base, and a different team wins the NL Central (assuming Rolen and TLR don't kill each other first). But it's Votto who gets the credit for being the "valuable" guy who "leads" his team to the post season? What's wrong with this picture? And no, that doesn't mean I endorse Rolen as MVP.

Nov 23, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 1
 
deeswan

I think you're reading way too much into the vote. In an evenly matched race, which this essentially was, I don't think it's unreasonable for voters to go with the individual who was on the team with the most success. Look at it this way. If you stacked the numbers against each other anonymously, you would likely get an even distribution if people were asked to pick the better player. But, the MVP vote is not anonymous and I think the results are simply a reflection of 2 players who had similar seasons, but one was a member of a playoff team and the other wasn't.

Nov 23, 2010 06:33 AM
rating: 3
 
BillJohnson

That doesn't explain the ludicrous Howard vote, though.

Nov 23, 2010 08:31 AM
rating: 3
 
jballen4eva

Christina - Just so I understand, is your argument that because the votes on Pujols and Votto were so similar, it's highly unlikely that the voters chose Votto rationally? In other words, it's not that voting for Votto first is by itself irrational, but that it's highly unlikely that all the voters voted for similar, rational reasons? [Sort of like everyone picking "heads" for a coin-toss.]

Ultimately, the vote between Votto and Pujols may have come down to irrational predilection, but at worst, I see this is non-progress, as opposed to a step back. Shouldn't saberers be stoked by the fact that arguably the two best players in the NL finished first and second?

Nov 23, 2010 06:50 AM
rating: 8
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

As I said in the piece, however unlikely it might seem that 31 voted Votto, there were reasons to. While I'd be inclined to agree that this, in itself, wasn't a step back, a result like CarGo's third-place finish is sufficiently bizarre to make me feel like this wasn't just standing still either.

Nov 23, 2010 12:52 PM
 
dodgerken222

By the way...if this vote irks you, brace yourself for the AL MVP vote. I see Hamilton getting 28 first-place votes, Cano 3, and Cabrera 1. Which I think would be an excellent, reasonable outcome.

Nov 23, 2010 06:52 AM
rating: -1
 
dodgerken222

Sorry...28 votes in the AL. Make that 25-2-1.

Nov 23, 2010 06:53 AM
rating: 0
 
nateetan

Two things: Expecting the voters of a small sample all being consistently exposed to the same discussion to behave independently is wrong. If the "conventional wisdom" is that one player is say 52-48 better than another, the 52% guy will have a much larger share of the votes.

Also, Howard's votes do indeed stand out as peculiar. He was named on only 8 ballots, but an average position of 4.75. If you order the players by number of ballots and plot the average position (or score), you get a nice fairly linear relationship with two exceptions: Howard, and Ubaldo's lone 4th place vote.

Nov 23, 2010 07:03 AM
rating: 2
 
dodgerken222

If CC and Felix had had as similar stats (excluding wins) as Pujols and Votto did then yes, I would have given CC the edge because he pitched for a contender. I would not have worried that one or the other had a slightly higher WARP2. In his great years Barry Bonds took Giants teams that were a lot weaker than the 2010 Cards and made them contenders in a tougher division than the 2010 Central. Going into September there were at least seven teams in post-season contention this year in the NL. Is it too much to ask that the MVP, who is supposed to be an impact player, come from one of those teams?

Nov 23, 2010 07:22 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

But why are pitcher-wins bad? Because they're accredited to the pitcher despite being largely out of his control, no? So then why is being on a contender good? It's probably even more out of a players control than garnering a win.

You want Pujols to be worth an additional 5 wins so that his team would contend for a playoff spot before he is worthy of an MVP vote?? All else being equal, it would have required Pujols to put up the best season by a player in over 100 years (arguably ever) just for the Cards to have forced a 163rd game against the Reds.

Nov 23, 2010 07:53 AM
rating: 1
 
ostrowj1

With all due respect, you are putting words in DodgerKen's mouth and then ridiculing them.

Nov 23, 2010 08:35 AM
rating: 2
 
jlefty

This was not my intention, and I don't think I have.

He explicitly denies the use of wins as even remotely credible, but the team you play for is OK. However, I feel they are both invalid for the exact same reasons.

He also explicitly said he'd prefer the MVP to come from a playoff team, my counter was that for Pujols' team to be a playoff team, all else equal, he'd have to have the best player season ever. I think that is an unfair standard to hold over poor Albert.

Nov 23, 2010 10:46 AM
rating: 1
 
Ben Solow

But that's not exactly his argument, and I think you'll recognize that if you reread it. His argument is that being on a playoff team is a valid "tiebreak" conditional on two evenly matched players. Your response is that, in order for Pujols' team to be in the playoffs, he would have had to be superhuman this year. But that's not an indictment of the original argument; were Pujols to improve by less than 5 wins, such that there was a clear difference between the two but the Cards didn't make the playoffs, I think he'd vote for Pujols.

It comes down to which of the characteristics of the problem you're holding constant and which you're varying. He's saying fix the level of performance as is, then consider the context. You're saying to vary the level of performance in order to compare them in similar contexts. That's not the same argument, i.e. when you say "all else equal," you're not actually holding all else equal.

Nov 23, 2010 16:52 PM
rating: 1
 
conwell

The difference between this case and the AL CY is that we're starting with two roughly even players in Pujols and Votto. In a case like that, it's certainly reasonable to look at the context of their seasons. In the AL CY, it wasn't close. Sabathia was the 4th best starter by VORP and a full 19 runs behind. If Felix and CC were within a run or two in VORP, then I wouldn't think it unreasonable to look at the fact that CC had more Wins and played for a playoff team to give him the edge.

Pujols/Votto outcome is not surprising or in my opinion indicative of an underinformed electorate. The Ryan Howard voters and perhaps the CarGo voters are much scarier to me. I also find it a little unnerving at how poorly Halladay performed. He was the best player on a playoff team. I think it's time for the writers to consider pitchers again for the award.

Nov 23, 2010 10:21 AM
rating: 0
 
jlefty

That's a pretty arbitrary line though. For you, Wins are a distinguishing factor if two pitchers are similar in VORP, but to a BBWAA voter, Wins might be distinguishing enough between the best and 4th best pitcher in the league (a stance he'd surely get blasted for). I personally believe it to be much more logically consistent to never introduce team based contexts into individual awards.

If two players have similar VORP, there are plenty of things left to consider about the individual without resorting to "well, who had a better supporting cast?" their performances in clutch situations, pitchers they faced, hell even the dreaded unquantifiable intangibles like clubhouse personality and leadership and whatnot. They might not be repeatable skills or their impact may be overblown, but at least they can be credited solely to the guy being considered for the vote.

Nov 23, 2010 10:42 AM
rating: 1
 
deep64blue

So what would the difference between "Most Valuable Player" and "Best Player" be for you then then?

Nov 23, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: -3
 
Meurso

I agree this is overthinking a bit.

Faced with two very similar candidates, voters nearly unanimously chose some combination of two biases: which guy's team made the playoffs, and which guy's mantelpiece isn't already full.

As a tiebreaker, I just don't see that as a big deal.

If the Cardinals had also made the playoffs, eliminating the first bias, my guess is that Votto still wins based on the second bias but it's somewhat closer.

Now if Christina's point is that based on the unanimity of the vote, Votto may well have bested Pujols even if there was a very clear case that Pujols had a better season -- I can't really argue that, could be.

Nov 23, 2010 07:35 AM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

This is spot on. All else being (roughly) equal, A) candidate 1 was on a playoff team, and candidate 2 was not; and B) candidate 1 was playing at his peak and had never before been awarded, and candidate 2 was not at his peak and has been awarded previously.

Human bias is to reward the candidate 1. And since all else was (roughly) equal, there's really nothing wrong with that. Groupthink voting aside.

Nov 23, 2010 08:41 AM
rating: 7
 
stimetsr

This may well have been the thinking, but I don't see either argument as being valid in determining "who is the most valuable player?" If this is what the voters were voting on, then all they have decided was either which good player happened to be lucky enough to play on a good team, or which good player's "turn" it is to win the prize.

I would probably end up arguing the opposite way on the second question anyway. If one can't conclusively decide which of two players is really the most valuable for their services this season, then the player with the better history ought to get the nod.

Nov 24, 2010 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt

I think you make Christina's argument. All else is not equal if you dig around like Christina did. The fact that you and all the writers said it's a tie means that they are not trying very hard to look at what distinguishes them.

Nov 23, 2010 12:05 PM
rating: -1
 
Meurso

I don't really think so. She dug around, and found some evidence that Pujols had a better case based on his defense, but it was far from definitive.

Her own conclusion was: "Taken broadly, offense and defense together, and you wind up with a fairly narrow gap between the two best position players in the league."

"Taken broadly" is all you can really ask of the writers -- when you start getting too granular, especially as regards defense, there's just not enough certainty to ascribe too much value to those differences. (If they had identical batting lines but Pujols played a very good third base while Votto played an okay 1B, fine, I think it's reasonable to expect the writers to credit that.)

I continue to think that Christina was absolutely fine with the result of Votto winning, but that she would have preferred the electorate to gnash and figure and argue their way to a close result rather than seeming to do a knee-jerk default to the guy whose team made the playoffs.

And not that she needs my approval, but I won't fault her for holding out hope for that, any more than I'll blame the writers for going with the "story."

Nov 23, 2010 19:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Jamey
(208)

Quite the sturm und drang on this one. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, even though I came to the same conclusion as Christina.

The groupthink of the media (sports and otherwise) can be interesting at times.

Nov 23, 2010 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Agent007

You concede that Votto's season was close to Pujols, so it's not surprising (or even alarming) that voters would place him first. There's no way to split the ballot, giving, say Votta .6 of a first place ballot and Pujols .4. Not voting Pujols second is perplexing -- he had just an ordinary superstar season for him. Besides, Votto is Canadian -- the exchange rate has to come in there somewhere.

Nov 23, 2010 08:11 AM
rating: 7
 
Richie

This is a bit silly, as many posters have noted. Agent007's post being the clearest explanation of 'why'. You can't give Votto .6 and Pujols .4, so if you accept that 'playing for a post-season qualifier' ought to carry some weight, than Votto clearly is the better choice. And so gets the whole vote.

If you want to argue against 'team actually wins' counting, than do so.

Nov 23, 2010 09:07 AM
rating: 1
 
ddufourlogger

The Reds won the division, in NO small part due to Joey's excellent year. The Cardinals did not, DESPITE Albert's year. Both were flawed teams, but the Reds put it together and the Cards never could. Even if Pujols had a 2008/2009 season, they probably don't make up the 7 or 8 games in the standings. All things fairly equal, with probably a little of the "Albert wasn't REALLY Albert this year" thrown in, I can see 31 of 32 firsts for Votto.

Nov 23, 2010 09:49 AM
rating: -3
 
Ogremace

Are we really so devoted to the idea of neutralizing all outcomes of context? Yes, "in a vacuum" Pujols was better. By a bit. But the MVP has never been about exactly who was the most valuable, regardless of how the voting has changed or not. Whether you go by HR or WARP, the voters are interested in what actually happened in baseball in any given year. This year, the Cards weren't a good team and in their own division were upset by the upstart Reds and their just barely worse than Pujols first baseman.

If you wanna know who led the league in WARP, which I often do, look at the leaderboards. You can even do that on different websites that have different ways of calculating it. But if you want to give an MVP award, which is absolutely contextualized by a baseball season, then you're not worried about shorting Pujols an award he'll undoubtedly win again in the future.

The MVP is a narrative, and while I want that narrative to include an understanding of stats etc., to denounce it because there was a rather obvious and compelling story line as opposed to a rather ho-hum Pujols-did-it-again "actual" outcomes, is not "helping" stats at all.

Nov 23, 2010 10:29 AM
rating: 2
 
jlefty

Then why give Felix the Cy Young? I don't understand why people hate pitcher-wins but love guys on playoff teams at the same time. Shouldn't we hate them both? Or love them both? I wouldn't agree with you if you loved them both, but I'd at least understand you.

Nov 23, 2010 10:51 AM
rating: -1
 
bbienk01

"I don't understand why people hate pitcher-wins but love guys on playoff teams at the same time. Shouldn't we hate them both? Or love them both?"

My guess is that this is because the MVP and the Cy Young Award are commonly viewed as inherently different. The latter is for the best pitcher in the league, but the other is not seen by most people as the "best player" award.

Whether this should be the case is another question, but so long as people have differing views about what we mean by "valuable," it is easy to both hate wins (in the context of an award for the best pitcher, because they don't measure individual achievement) but love guys on playoff teams (in the context of an award that many define as measuring something different than the best individual achievement by a player).

Nov 23, 2010 15:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Meurso

Well, or the fact that the AL Cy race was different. Generally speaking, people didn't say "Felix and CC (or Price) were pretty equally valuable" -- they decided that Felix was better.

Had the consensus been that Felix and CC or Felix and Price were effectively tied in effectiveness, I have little doubt that the guy with more wins would've gotten the nod. (i.e. pitcher wins would have been the tiebreaker in the same way that the playoffs were in the MVP)

Nov 23, 2010 19:26 PM
rating: 0
 
JasonC23
(97)

To me, you've hit the biggest question here, that hasn't really been stated explicitly yet.

Should the MVP be a narrative?

In practice, it often is a narrative, but that's because those voting on the awards are writers who naturally want the best story to write about. This leads to a self-fulfilling award. But is that really the best way to decide?

Nov 23, 2010 11:23 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

An excellent point, and one related to the problem of the process, or more properly, the processors. We like creating stories almost as much as we like identifying (or inventing) patterns, but why *this* story?

What's interesting here isn't that Votto won--it's not an unreasonable result. What's interesting is how essentially everyone with a vote latched onto him, responded to that narrative or created it, taking their part, actively or unconsciously, in completing a compelling story arc.

Nov 23, 2010 11:32 AM
 
dodgerken222

I was asked earlier if I would have Felix over CC in the Cy Young but have CC over Felix in the MVP. Actually, I would. Someone who worked as many innings as CC and led the league in wins pitching for a post-season team had a great impact on that team's season. That's what I'm looking for in an MVP. In the Cy Young, I'm looking for pitching excellence, and I'd be inclined to give a closer look at the stats which determine pitching dominance.
If there were an everday-player equivalent of the Cy Young I might have a difficult choice between Votto and Pujols. In a vote for MVP, (where pitchers are eligible too), I want players who had an impact on their teams' season. This is not the eight-team American League of the 1950s. It does not take top-to-bottom team talent to contend. If poor Albert is being penalized because the Cardinals couldn't reach that level in 2010, the odds are he will have years in the future where the Cards are winners and he'll get extra credit for it.
Felix over CC for Cy Young. CC over Felix in MVP voting (though I'd put neither in the top 10). In baseball awards, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Nov 23, 2010 10:50 AM
rating: -1
 
dodgerken222

Memo to Mr. Lefko: Because Felix was the better, more dominating pitcher last year, all other things being equal. If I needed one pitcher to pitch one game in 2010, I would take Felix. That's the Cy Young.
CC had the bigger impact on his team's success, and his stats weren't exactly chopped liver, by the way. His team contended and he was a big, if not a major, part of it. That's the MVP. I don't hate pitcher-wins. I loved it when Steve Carlton went 27-10 for the 59-103 1972 Phillies. But I would not have supported him for MVP. I have different standards for the two awards. Obviously some voters do too. I can live with the inconsistency.
I don't hate pitcher-wins. I liked it when Steve Carlton went 27-10 for the 59-103 1972 Phils.

Nov 23, 2010 11:23 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

I was on a tenure committee, and we voted for a junior faculty to get tenure on a 5-2 basis. However, all five yes voters were very on the fence, and the two voting against were adament "no" votes. But we just have a yes or no choice. Thus, the person got tenure.

If the voting system had proportional voting, and 5 voted 60% yes, 40% no, and the two voted 0% yes, 100% no, this person would have been denied tenure, on a 300 points for 400 votes against basis.


This same phenomenon probably explains the Votto landslide. With proporotional voting, most voters would probably vote 60% Votto, 40% Pujols, leading to a closer decision. However, these 60/40 Votto voters had to vote Votto #1, leading to the landslide.

This happens all the time in baseball awards.

Nov 23, 2010 11:31 AM
rating: 2
 
flyingdutchman

Sorry, but that makes no sense. I think Joe Lefko has clearly explained why it makes no sense, and I don't feel like going back through it too much, but if this kind of tortured logic is going to be the norm, maybe we should go back and all try to agree on what the definitions of MVP and Cy Young are.

A perhaps clumsy analogy: Imagine two bags of coins. In one bag you have 19 nickles and 1 dime, $1.05 total. In the other bag you have 19 pennies and 1 quarter, 44 cents total. What is the most valuable coin? If you don't think this analogy applies, then you need to explain why without using vague notions of "leading the team" to this and "having an impact" on that, because it doesn't really address the issue. The nickle bag (please excuse the expression) is worth more overall, but if you replaced that bag's one dime with the other bag's one quarter the nickle bag does even better. What is the purpose of overcomplicating this? If you want a good story, pick up a Dickens novel.

I agree with Joe Lefko. If we have a very close call, let's bring the quality of the player's answers to the press and his SAT scores into it before we start taking one player's crappy second baseman into the mix. It's an individual player award.

Nov 23, 2010 11:37 AM
rating: 8
 
deep64blue

"maybe we should go back and all try to agree on what the definitions of MVP and Cy Young are"

I think you've put your finger on the problem here, to mind MVP does not equal best player, value means how a player contributed to a Team which had some level of success, if you have a different definition you'll come to a different answer.

Nov 23, 2010 12:28 PM
rating: -1
 
flirgendorf

I think that most people have already agreed on a definition of MVP that takes into account team context. As evidence, Votto took home twice as many first place votes as Pujols in the Internet Baseball Awards, despite their very similar stat lines. It is possible that the IBA voters were penalizing Pujols for failing to clear the high bar he set in previous years, but I think the playoff story is a more likely explanation. Also, you should really pick your battles. MVP voters have made some horrible choices in the recent past, and even if you prefer Pujols I don't think you can call this one a bad choice.

Nov 23, 2010 12:34 PM
rating: -1
 
flyingdutchman

Sorry, my response was meant for dodgerken222.

Nov 23, 2010 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

I think if Mr. Lefko and the Dutchman had their way, we could do away with the awards voters altogether. It wouldn't be hard to have objective analysis on all the stats, vorps, warps et al fed into a computer and just hand out the awards on that basis. How neanderthal that a player's performance might also be judged considering the team's performance that year, or the "story arc." We don't need no bleeping story, that's for a Dickens novel. Just the stats ma'am, the cold, hard stats.
I love stats, and sabermetrics has helped me to understand and enjoy the game more than I did pre-Bill James. But I hope I never "evolve" to the point where I fail to see that each season, each race is a story. Each one amazingly a unique story after all of these seasons. To assign some weight to the "story" isn't a weakness of the MVP vote..it's part of the beauty of it.
I've read Dickens. I'll take the stories that baseball unveils during the course of each season every time.

Nov 23, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: -1
 
jlefty

I just have trouble seeing the reasoning behind saying that Cy Young awards go to the best pitcher independent of his team, and MVP awards go to the player with the best story line completely intertwined with his team. So far the "reasons" offered have been "Because that's the Cy Young" or "That's the MVP", but WHY is that the MVP? Why is this assumption made? If there is no reasoning behind it other than "that's the way it is" than why argue for it as if there were?

Nov 23, 2010 13:09 PM
rating: 1
 
bbienk01

I don't think that there is reasoning beyond that's the way its been historically, and the ambiguous meaning of the word "valuable." The problem is there isn't really reasoning supporting the position that the MVP is for the best individual achievement either.

It certainly makes more sense to me to reward an individual achievement. But unless and until there are rules about the qualifications voters should consider, people are just going to talk past each other based on their different opinions about what the awards should be about.

Criticizing Cy Young voters is much easier. The voters agree that the award should go to the best pitcher, so when they award a pitcher who was clearly not the best, they've failed to correctly apply their own criteria for the award.

But while I'm all for making the argument that the MVP should go to the best player, it is pointless to criticize voters for not selecting the best player when the majority of them don't even believe that being the best is decisive to who wins the MVP award.

Nov 23, 2010 15:43 PM
rating: 0
 
RedsManRick

Is this really that complicated? The MVP voting model (for position players is something like this:

Up to __ points:

6 for overall offense (Relative performance -- 6 for best, 5 for next tier, etc.)
2 for winning team (Playoffs = 2, Winning Record = 1)
2 for defense (Notable asset = 2, Not a negative = 1)
1 for "clutch" offense (yes/no)
1 for narrative elements such as novelty (yes/no)

In this James-esque model, Votto gets 11/12 (6/2/1/1/1) whereas Pujols gets 10 (6/1/2/1/0). At the top end, there's not a whole lot of grey area. Votto has the slight, but clear edge. Easy decision.

Obviously that's not the exact model, but I bet it's functionally close to that. Short of actually doing the math (and we know the writers aren't doing math) t comes down to some sort of mental calculus. I don't think they spell it out quite this clearly, but it's a handful of 5 or 6 considerations with a very simple scale that get added up.

So it's not that it was really close and given the wide array of methods used it should have looked like a virtual coin flip. It's that writers generally care about the same few things and all "did the math" pretty much the same way, the simplest version being that both guys were equally productive but Votto led his team to the playoffs.

Sure, the novelty element most likely plays a role here too, but I think that's primarily a tie-breaker and the writers simply didn't see this as a tie needing to be broken.

Nov 23, 2010 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

This is just an excellent post

Nov 23, 2010 18:58 PM
rating: -1
 
stimetsr

I'm sorry, but I don't see how a player becomes more valuable simply by playing on a winning team.

Nov 24, 2010 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

But he doesn't become more valuable. His value becomes more easy to understand.

Nov 24, 2010 14:43 PM
rating: 1
 
Richie

I'll bring in the Big-Gun-Guru. 'Those who think the team's winning/losing should have absolutely nothing to do with it are ding-dongs' Bill James (paraphrasing lightly)

Nov 23, 2010 13:47 PM
rating: -1
 
flyingdutchman

Okay Richie, but that's not Joe Lefko's point. His point is to say that people are applying one standard to pitcher Wins where the Cy Young award is concerned, and another standard to team wins where the MVP is concerned, and no one is able to adequately explain why this apparently arbitrary distinction exists.

Either we are voting on an individual award or we're not. Which is it?

Nov 23, 2010 14:50 PM
rating: 1
 
RedsManRick

You don't even need to bring playoff status in the equation. So long as voters look at RBI, they're considering team performance. And Ryan Howard's continued MVP voting success suggest RBI are still a strong factor.

Nov 23, 2010 15:34 PM
rating: 1
 
Jeff Evans

I,ve enjoyed reading all these arguments with a cold beverage at home on my computer as if I were enjoying them among people in a local bar. They're all reasonable, but maybe it's simply up to each individual what this award really means. I would think that a 'Best Damn Player in Baseball award would go to Pujols (perhaps on a perpetual basis).'Most Outstanding Season' award should go to Votto. The Reds don't win the pennant without him and he really was that team's most valuable. But I'd also like for someone to figure out Team WARP divided by Player WARP (and/or VORP) to come up with the position player with the highest percentage of his team totals. And if his team was at least contending, maybe he deserves that MVP award also.
I'm sure someone has already figured this out or that I could dig it up somewhere, but I think it would make for an interesting article. And I'm just guessing, but could that guy be Adrian Gonzalez? Pujols is probably close, but he has Holliday for a teammate. And if we included pitchers, this would also be pretty interesting.

Nov 23, 2010 15:29 PM
rating: 0
 
RedsManRick

So we should recognize greater players with great teammates (contending team) as well as great players with crappy teammates (highest % of wins added). But what award do we give the great players with mediocre teammates?

That sort of highlights the silliness of giving a player award based on team performance, doesn't it?

Don't get me wrong, I find that analysis interesting, but at the end of the day, the only logically coherent way to do is to frame it as "what player produced the most", isolated from the performance of his teammates.

Nov 23, 2010 15:40 PM
rating: 3
 
flyingdutchman

"'Most Outstanding Season' award should go to Votto. The Reds don't win the pennant without him and he really was that team's most valuable."

The Cardinals don't win the division without Pujols either. They didn't win it with Pujols, actually. They didn't win it, and Pujols wasn't the reason. The reason was that they had too many other sucky players.

Nov 23, 2010 15:46 PM
rating: 0
 
flyingdutchman

"I think if Mr. Lefko and the Dutchman had their way, we could do away with the awards voters altogether. It wouldn't be hard to have objective analysis on all the stats, vorps, warps et al fed into a computer and just hand out the awards on that basis. How neanderthal that a player's performance might also be judged considering the team's performance that year, or the "story arc." We don't need no bleeping story, that's for a Dickens novel. Just the stats ma'am, the cold, hard stats."

Look, I see the strawman you're trying to put together here, and I appreciate the effort, but again you're missing the point. No one said there aren't stories in a baseball season, and no one said they didn't like those stories. I didn't say it, and Joe Lefko didn't say it. I relish those great stories, year in and year out, but I take them as they come. There is no need to squeeze an extra story out of something if it isn't there.

When two great players have great seasons, I think reasonable people can disagree as to whom should win the MVP award, especially when the value of those players, looked at from different angles and examined closely, appears to be very close. Our metrics are better every year, but they’ll never be perfect. If you have reason to believe that Player A did something specific in the clubhouse, in terms or guiding young players or legitimately lifting his team up so that the others were made to play better, great. Present it as evidence and show me that Player B either failed or didn't try to do it.

Team wins, by and large, don't tell us that, no matter how much we want to romanticize baseball. Team wins are basically the product of having a good squad made up of individual players who are working together to win. If you believe that Player A is so awe inspiring to his teammates that, through his sheer countenance and the strength of his aura, made the rest of his team play better baseball, then great, give him the credit for his team being better than Player B's, but be prepared to show some evidence for it. It’s been my experience that most of that sort of talk is nonsense, and I'd be willing to bet that, in most circumstances, the effect is either too small or elusive to measure, or Player B is also doing the same thing for his team because he’s also a professional doing his best to win. The difference probably isn't the players at that point, it's the fact that Player B's team's shortstop has an OPS+ of 57, and their 4th and 5th starters are Kyle Lohse and Jeff Suppan. You'll notice that, should the Reds fail to make it next year, it's much more likely to be because some player like Rolen went down or the bullpen fell apart or whatever, and not because Joey Votto suddenly failed to possess the special essence that makes ball teams win division titles.

"I love stats, and sabermetrics has helped me to understand and enjoy the game more than I did pre-Bill James. But I hope I never "evolve" to the point where I fail to see that each season, each race is a story. Each one amazingly a unique story after all of these seasons. To assign some weight to the "story" isn't a weakness of the MVP vote..it's part of the beauty of it."

In your opinion. See, there is nothing in the BBWAA instructions about that. To be fair, the original instructions did say 'There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means...,' but they also said, 'The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier....actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.' The implication is pretty clear.

"I've read Dickens. I'll take the stories that baseball unveils during the course of each season every time."

I wish I could be soulful about baseball, too. Instead...sigh...I'm mired in this cold, harsh, torpid world of baseball as numbers within a computer simulation. Someone get me outta here! It’s like the movie Tron!

Let me ask you and any other where-the-team-finishes-matters-a-lot-for-MVP proponents something: Is it essential that the MVP come from a division-winning team? If so, does it still matter if the division winner is 84-78, while the guy with the better numbers was on a team that went 86-76 but finished second in a better division (perhaps behind a team that had a great story, if not any truly exceptional characters)?

If the MVP should but doesn’t absolutely have to come from a division winner, what if a player hits .360/.480/.700 for a team that goes 72-90 because it has no pitching? What kind of season does it take for a player on a losing team to tip the scales so that you are suddenly ready to consider him? In short, where and how do you draw your line?

Is it an individual award or not? It seems to me that we have plenty of awards for teams. Winning is the ultimate goal in baseball, and everyone knows it, even us eggheads who hate stories. That's what the game is about. That being said, if you're going to hand out individual awards and inscribe individual players' names on it, I still fail to see how it should be based on team performance.

For the record, I don't care that much whether it was Votto or Pujols. It was a relatively close call, and I probably would have gone with Albert, but Votto seems like a fine choice. That's not what I'm arguing against here.

Nov 23, 2010 15:38 PM
rating: 7
 
grandslam28
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Look at it this way. W/o Pujols the Cardinals still are in the same position. W/o Votto the Reds do not make the playoffs. Votto's production while maybe not as good, but close, was much more valuable to his team. To win the MVP without your team being in contention, you need to have an amazing year. It's called the Most VALUABLE player not the best player. The The Cy Young has previously cared about individual wins and not the performance of the team.

Nov 23, 2010 16:13 PM
rating: -6
 
flyingdutchman

Okay, let's follow through with this definition. Let me make sure I have it straight. The league MVP is defined as "the best player on a division-winning team, unless another guy had an amazing year". Do I have it right?

Nov 23, 2010 16:29 PM
rating: 4
 
grandslam28

No. If your team is in contention for a playoff spot you can also win it w/o having to outclass the field.

Nov 23, 2010 18:44 PM
rating: 0
 
flyingdutchman

Can a player from a team not in contention win? If you say no, we have nothing to talk about. if you say yes, tell me what that season needs to looks like. Don't tell me you don't understand what I'm getting at here.

Nov 24, 2010 09:52 AM
rating: 0
 
grandslam28

It's all relative to the season at the time. There is no definitive stats that says a person will win. The point is when its somewhat close, the edge will go to the guy who had a bigger impact on his team.

Nov 24, 2010 12:48 PM
rating: -1
 
flyingdutchman

Okay, but don't you see what the problem is with this? I am sorry to keep asking that question, but this is what happens in this argument, every time. The pro-MVP-should-come-from-a-playoff-team camp has to constantly move the goalpost when their reasoning is challenged.

I admit that we can't find a 100% accurate objective standard for the award, but what you're talking about now would introduce an absurd amount of off-the-cuff, subjective elements, and it could be wildly different from voter to voter. By your definition, what would "somewhat close" even mean? What is the point of bothering to use any careful statistics like WARP or VORP or Win Shares or anything like that?

What you're missing here is that, ultimately, you are not suggesting we give it to the guy who had the biggest impact on his team, I am. So an 8-win player should get it if he leads his team to a 91-71 record and a Wild Card berth, but a 10-win player who drags an otherwise dreadful squad to an 82-80 record hasn't earned it? Why? You still haven't even come close to answering that question. No one has.

The 10-win player had a bigger impact on his team. If by "impact" you mean "value as I subjectively apply it, based on the situation and varying from season to season", fine. Jsut admit that there is nothing even remotely rigorous or logical about that, and we'll move on.

Nov 24, 2010 13:56 PM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

But there's a BIG difference between a 10 win player and an 8 win player. The argument being made is if you have two more or less 8 win players, and on what basis to choose between them. At some point, subjectivity of some kind is going to have to come into it, unless we simply want a computer to spit out an award. But part of the value of the award is that it is recognition. With better stats, recognition can be distributed more fairly, but you can never remove subjectivity from it.

Nov 24, 2010 14:54 PM
rating: 0
 
flyingdutchman

Go back and read my posts, because that's not what I'm arguing. I have no problem with a subjective element being used to decide between two 8-win players. I have a problem with people saying that an MVP shouldn't come from a division winner or a non-contender, unless the player from a non-contender has an "amazing" season. That doesn't make any sense, and I think things should make sense in so far as they can.

Nov 24, 2010 15:20 PM
rating: 0
 
flyingdutchman

Also, for the record, that wasn't even the argument of grandslam28 or dodgerken22.

Nov 24, 2010 15:22 PM
rating: 0
 
grandslam28

Do you not understand that there is a big difference between a guy that causes his team to be 84-78 and not make the playoffs instead of 80-82. and a person who causes his team to be 89-whatever and be close to making the playoffs than whatever87 wins??????and not making the playoffs is there not a big difference. A player that pushes a team into the playoffs is worth a lot!!!!

Nov 25, 2010 01:54 AM
rating: -3
 
flyingdutchman

Okay, so you're saying it should not, strictly speaking, be an individual award. That is what you are saying. It is based on how good you were AND how good your teammates were. If that is what you think the Most Valuable PLAYER award should be, fine. I think it's totally ridiculous and unjustifiable, but I guess that's just me.

Nov 28, 2010 15:51 PM
rating: 0
 
lesmash

In professional sports, winning matters. It matters more than individual awards, more than batting titles, and more than setting records. Players will confirm this. Winning matters more than anything else.

So, to me, in an otherwise very close MVP race, I am very comfortable with the tiebreaker going to the guy who played for the division winner. (This is especially true here since both players are in the same division.) If the players themselves place such a high value on winning, I think it is fair for the voters to consider it, too.

Joey Votto winning the 2010 MVP over Albert Pujols is no travesty, folks. Andre Dawson (2.7 WARP for the last place Cubs) beating Ozzie Smith (7.1 WARP for the first place Cardinals, in the same division) in 1987 definitely was.

Nov 23, 2010 18:25 PM
rating: 0
 
lesmash

BTW, all voters lose credibility when the one MVP vote for Albert Pujols came from St. Louis (let's not be blind and call this a coincidence . . .) and the one MVP vote for Jose Bautista came from the Canadian Press (. . . any more than this is a coincidence).

Nov 23, 2010 18:31 PM
rating: -1
 
rrvwmr

Joe Strauss knows better than the other voters the value that Pujols provides his team beyond the stats.

Nov 23, 2010 20:06 PM
rating: 0
 
tikester

I just want to know who the (fill in your own derogatory adjective here) writer is who voted Pujols SIXTH. Sixth? Are you kidding? Five other NL players were more valuable than him?

Nov 23, 2010 21:35 PM
rating: 1
 
grandslam28

Well Votto won, you can definitely make a case for Adrian Gonzalez playing in that ballpark(division of bat killing ballparks)and being the offense for a team that almost made the playoffs, Cargo was potentially a winner. And Halladay was the nuts the second half of the season to help jolt the Phillies into the playoffs.

Side Note I wonder if the guy that voted Pujols 5th also voted Cargo 6th, and Adrian Gonzo 7th, and the Ryan Howard 2nd. hahaha

Nov 23, 2010 22:38 PM
rating: 0
 
FLeghorn

I'm not really sure why CarGo's third-place finish is considered, in CK's comment, 'bizarre'. I don't think he should have won or anything, but the fellow had a great season--yes, I understand home/road splits and all that, but he was hardly anemic on the road, and was a dynamic player for a team that was struggling year-round with a lot of injuries, wayward pitching, and, aside from Tulo, a lineup that was barely above replacement level itself. I am also curious why it's only players who play in Colorado who are penalized for 'park effects'. The humidor has affected the games at Coors appreciably, if my eyeball test is any thing to go by, and while it's still an ideal hitters park for good hitters, I don't see how it's that much different than the band boxes in Philly or Cincy. But, I'm a homer, so my opinion probably doesn't mean anything.
As to Votto/Pujols, this reminds me of a few years back, when Karl Malone won the MVP over Michael Jordan. I think certain players ( MJ, Albert ) are so dominant that, when the voters can, as some have argued, follow a narrative in a different direction, they'll jump at it. Writers get just as bored with things as anything else. I'm not justifying it, just saying that this seems like a plausible explanation. That being said, I have no problem at all with Votto winning the MVP, although he does put up big numbers in a homerun haven. But, since it's not in Colorado, that makes it entirely legitimate.

Nov 24, 2010 21:06 PM
rating: -1
 
grandslam28

Votto did beat him in OBP and OPS. I understand that Warp and Vorp he didn't but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. Warp and Vorp are not prefect.

Nov 25, 2010 01:47 AM
rating: 0
 
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