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November 21, 2011

Resident Fantasy Genius

Voting Outrage

by Derek Carty

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We’re not out of the woods yet, fellow awards-voting onlookers. Last week, the Baseball Writers Association of America made several errors in handing out year-end hardware—some arguable, some egregious. While many thought 2010 to be a turning point when voters gave Felix Hernandez—he of 13 wins—the American League Cy Young award over CC Sabathia (21 wins) and David Price (19 wins), 2011 shows that we’re only looking at a tiny step forward, if that.

The target of my ire this season falls upon the National League Cy Young voting and the American League Rookie of the Year voting. While I don’t have a big problem with Clayton Kershaw winning the NL Cy Young award, my beef is with the fact that he ran away with 27 of 32 first-place votes, while Roy Halladay received just four and Cliff Lee failed to secure a single one. Check out their ERA estimators for this season without names attached and tell me who was better.

Pitcher

FIP

xFIP

SIERA

Candidate A

2.47

2.84

2.81

Candidate B

2.20

2.71

2.79

Candidate C

2.60

2.68

2.72

It’s not an easy call, is it? Not nearly the kind of parity that should lead to one candidate receiving 85 percent of the first-place votes. Now we’ll attach the names and throw on some more traditional metrics:

Pitcher

IP

W

ERA

K/9

FIP

xFIP

SIERA

oppTAv

Clayton Kershaw

233.1

21

2.28

9.6

2.47

2.84

2.81

0.265

Roy Halladay

233.2

19

2.35

8.5

2.20

2.71

2.79

0.267

Cliff Lee

232.2

17

2.40

9.2

2.60

2.68

2.72

0.269

Kershaw runs away with the traditional categories, and it seems to me like all the voters needed was to see that Kershaw won the “Pitching Triple Crown” before they called it a day. If that wasn’t the case, we would have seen a much more even split among the three candidates. Given that Cliff Lee was best in xFIP and SIERA while facing a slightly tougher schedule than the other two, I think he makes for a very strong candidate, and I’d venture to say that he’d get my vote if I had one (he did get it in the Internet Baseball Awards voting).

My qualm isn’t that Lee didn’t win—it’s obviously very close, and I wouldn’t begrudge a vote for any of the three—my qualm is with people claiming that Kershaw was the obvious choice, and his win coming in such a landslide. In fact, he’s quite obviously not the obvious choice and is made out to be solely as a result of his surface stats—namely his wins, where he holds the greatest edge over his competitors, and his ERA. Maybe voters have moved beyond using wins as their sole measure of pitcher effectiveness, but they obviously still place a great deal of weight on it, and when they see a pitcher with the most wins and lowest ERA, that combination gets them salivating like a fat kid around cake.

Moving on to the AL Rookie of the Year award race, amid two worthy corner-infield candidates (Eric Hosmer and Mark Trumbo), three pitchers finished in the top five of the voting—and they may well have finished in reverse order of what they deserved.

Pitcher

IP

W

ERA

K/9

FIP

xFIP

SIERA

oppTAv

Jeremy Hellickson

189

13

2.95

5.6

4.44

4.72

4.78

0.277

Ivan Nova

165.1

16

3.70

5.3

4.01

4.16

4.29

0.276

Michael Pineda

171

9

3.74

9.1

3.42

3.53

3.36

0.277

As we all know, Jeremy Hellickson won the award (netting 61 percent of the first-place votes), but not as widely known is the fact that Ivan Nova finished fourth—one spot ahead of Michael Pineda. If there were ever a piece of evidence proving that the writers still rely heavily upon wins, this is it. Despite nearly identical ERAs and vastly more Ks for Pineda, Nova’s Yankee-induced win total netted him a first-place vote and a greater share of the total votes than Pineda earned. You could argue that the AL East provided a tougher environment, but you’d be wrong, since the two faced a virtually equal quality of opposition. And, of course, the peripheral stats are ever in Pineda’s favor.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this disgraceful result. I challenge anyone to give me a single reason why Nova is a better choice for Rookie of the Year than Pineda. Just one.

I’m even willing to give more leeway with defining Rookie of the Year than I am for MVP or Cy Young. While the latter two should pretty clearly go to the player/pitcher who was the most valuable, I’m okay with giving RotY to a player who might not have been the most valuable, given certain conditions. If the guy played in the minors for a couple months (lowering his overall value) but was better than a player who was in the majors the whole season, I’m okay with that. If a guy’s numbers weren’t phenomenal but he showed great stuff or still has a lot of upside, I’m okay with giving him a vote. The award is for the best rookie, and that shouldn’t be restricted to the player who was the best this season. It’s just as much about deciding who will continue to be great players and who will be tomorrow’s MVP and Cy Young candidates.

This is why I’m not outraged at Hellickson winning. Yes, his peripherals aren’t great and his BABIP was incredibly lucky, but I think he’s a better pitcher than those numbers reflect. Yes, Pineda was even better and has a greater ceiling, but Hellickson will still wind up as a very good pitcher. And to some extent, one comes to expect that the voters will be drawn to Hellickson’s sparkly 2.95 ERA, the same as a fish is drawn to anything shiny. It’s par for the course. I just can’t see an argument for Nova. His numbers, aside from wins, were significantly worse than Pineda’s. He doesn’t have top-notch stuff (nowhere close to Pineda’s), and he’s already reached his ceiling. But he won 16 games and plays in the national spotlight in New York. I’d hope that the voters didn’t merely vote for him because he’s more familiar than Pineda, being a Yankee, and I don’t think they did. I do give them more credit than that… but not much more. It seems again that the wins combined with the practically equivalent ERA and perceived tougher competition won the day.

 To those who say the voters have moved beyond wins, citing King Felix: you’re going to need to reassess. Indeed, there still appears to be a heavy weight placed upon wins, and for those voters who are looking at something else, it doesn’t appear to run much deeper than ERA, which is almost as bad.  

Related Content:  The Who,  Ivan Nova,  Award Voting

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Michael
(736)

You wrote: "There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this disgraceful result. I challenge anyone to give me a single reason why Nova is a better choice for Rookie of the Year than Pineda. Just one."

Ivan Nova had a slightly lower ERA than Pineda despite pitching in front of a worse defense in a home ballpark that doesn't help him as much as Pineda's ballpark does.

It is reasonable for writers to believe that the awards should be about past results, not demonstrated skills such as SIERA is designed to indicate.

Nov 21, 2011 06:22 AM
rating: 10
 
jrmayne

This.

Plus, over enough time (way more than one year), ERA is a better indicator of skill than the estimators. (See: Rivera, M.) It's also an actual result.

Nova's B-R WAR is 3.6, while Pineda's was 2.8. That's a huge difference. That's "one reason." If you look at the actual run prevention results - the thing that helped their team win games - Nova was just better.

Is Pineda the better bet going forward? Absolutely. But Michael's argument is completely sound, and while you can disagree with it reasonably, it's unjustifiable to paint the other side as dumb and crazy.

Nov 21, 2011 07:04 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, you can look at actual run prevention results, but why? I’d rather give the players credit for what they actually did and actually have control over. Sure, ERA is better over time, but we’re not looking at a long period of time here. We’re looking at 150 innings for rookie pitchers, one of which clearly has better stuff. I mean, if you want to take into account hits and such, you could regress all of the components and throw it all together, but Pineda would still come out ahead. Dumb and crazy seems too strong, though, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say that.

Nov 21, 2011 09:09 AM
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

That’s a reasonable response, Michael, and it makes sense for why they actually chose him. If you’re going to focus on results, then sure, Nova probably has a better case. I don’t think that’s good reasoning for why he should have been chosen, though.

Nov 21, 2011 09:07 AM
 
therealn0d

You cannot be serious. If you're going to focus on results? What would you have the awards based on if not results? Did you actually think before you wrote that _and_read it before you hit submit?

Nov 21, 2011 11:01 AM
rating: 4
 
John Collins
(110)

Because the results often have much to do with luck or the skills/work of others, and this is about the skills/work of the pitcher in question. Not so absurd.

Nov 21, 2011 11:58 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I would have the awards based on the pitcher's own merits, not on circumstance and randomness. Reward the pitcher for what he can control, ignore what he cannot.

Nov 21, 2011 12:03 PM
 
thegeneral13

In my mind these end-of-season awards are designed to reward accomplishment, not skill. If that is the goal, it doesn't matter what *should* have happened, it only matters what *did* happen. When evaluating skill and thus expected future performance, it matters more what *should* have happened, because over time that's what *will* happen.

Nov 21, 2011 15:08 PM
rating: 7
 
thenamestsam

I think it's more complicated than either side of this argument is making it seem. If we base it entirely on what the player controls and eliminate randomness entirely then you're basically just talking about skill. If that's what you think it should be based on then should Pujols win the NL MVP this year? He didn't get the best results, but he is probably the best player and if we could completely eliminate randomness (say we sim this past season 10000 times and take the average result) I bet he was the best skill wise this year too.

If you go entirely to the other extreme, the "what did happen, not what should have happened" result, you're basically taking the age old argument for wins and applying it to ERA instead. Wins are what happened, but we've all agreed that we shouldn't use those, because there is too much noise in that stat that is outside of the players control. ERA incorporates more of whats under a pitcher's control, and less outside of it, but it still includes a healthy serving of the latter. The "it's what happened" argument does not automatically make it correct, just like it doesn't make the argument for using wins correct.

Basically the argument is about what portion of the reward should be for what the player controls and what portion for what he doesn't control. We've definitely been trending more towards the control and lots of SABR people seem to prefer that, but taken to its logical extreme it leads to awkward results. If we were able to determine that some injury was completely random (outside the players control) should we ignore time missed for the purpose of awards voting?

Nov 21, 2011 15:53 PM
rating: 1
 
thegeneral13

I see what you are saying, but I think a pretty reasonable line can be drawn. Wins are heavily influenced by events that happen when the pitcher in question isn't even on the mound and thus has zero control over, either directly or indirectly, i.e. run scoring by the offense and run prevention by the bullpen. ERA may incorporate things that are not directly in the pitcher's control, but these things are at least indirectly in the pitcher's control (if your defense stinks and a hit will allow a run, you can try harder to get a strikeout). I agree that one should more heavily weight those things the pitcher controls directly, but I would rather do this by looking at K and BB rates and to a lesser extent GB rate independently than by relying on a smattering of DIPS as the ultimate arbiter, as doing so normalizes some things (BABIP and in some cases HR rate) that shouldn't necessarily be normalized, particularly for players at the extreme end of the talent spectrum like most of those who warrant consideration for these awards.

Nov 21, 2011 18:40 PM
rating: 0
 
wilsonc

For looking at past results, though, it's essential to consider the pitcher's role in creating the circumstance. If we accept both HR and BB as elements a pitcher has control over, then we must treat a BB, HR sequence differently than a HR, BB sequence - the manner in which the pitcher performed in each independent event is different, and the order of these performances is relevant and not dependent on his teammates.

Following from this, the fact that Nova didn't allow any HR with runners on base and thus saw his FIP dip dramatically in these situations, while Pineda saw a rise in HR rate and FIP with men on becomes relevant. Nova created more bad situations for himself by pitching worse with the bases empty, but he reduced the impact of this by performing dramatically better once men reached, in components that FIP credits to the pitcher. It may not be repeatable, but is does reflect his 2011 performance beyond the raw results.

What's the best way to adjust for this, starting from a DIPS approach? I'm not sure - but it's the type of thing that should be addressed before coming to the conclusion that the voting results are disgraceful.

Nov 22, 2011 07:01 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

To be honest, I totally get the Kershaw thing. Sure, it can be argued that Halladay had a slew of mitigating factors to make his numbers even better. But when the advanced numbers were so close (as you pointed out with the table of their ERA estimators), why shouldn't the across-the-board basic-stat dominance sway the vote?
And why assume the wins carried the day? It could as easily have been the K's, or the dominance on an otherwise putrid team (Kemp, notwithstanding).

Nov 21, 2011 06:25 AM
rating: 8
 
Dan W.

Or the four head-to-head victories against Lincecum, with no more than 2 runs of support per game. That sort of stuff impresses itself on the consciousness, and I don't think it's at all wrong for voters to take it into account. It's not as though it runs contra to the advanced stats; it just amplifies them.

Nov 21, 2011 06:52 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yeah, I can see some of this kind of thing coming into play. It just seems arbitrary, though. I’m not saying that voters didn’t consider something like this, but what do four head-to-head victories against Lincecum mean? It’s not as if Lincecum being on the mound when Kershaw isn’t will have much, if any, impact on how Kershaw pitches. I get how it plays into the wins thing with the limited run support, but run support shouldn’t have a place in voting, at least in my opinion.

Nov 21, 2011 09:12 AM
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I didn't say it was solely wins, and I don’t think it was. I think they played a big part combined with the ERA and strikeouts (the Pitching Triple Crown). Surely there were some other things that were taken into account as well, smaller things like the LA environment that ndparks mentions, but I think these things were weighted much less heavily in voters' minds than. There was a good post at The Book Blog the other day that points out how Ws and ERA are the prime determinents. http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/bbwaa_votes_1_era_2_w_l_3_ip/

Nov 21, 2011 09:11 AM
 
BillJohnson

I'll give you two reasons for preferring Nova over Pineda. One, Pineda benefited from an impossibly, unsustainably low BABIP that was the only thing keeping this "close" (sic).

Two, Nova had a considerably better ERA+, not just ERA. Yes, I am aware that the second reason arguably isn't as strong as it looks, when you look at actual opponents faced. It seems to me as though your real argument here is that the voters didn't look at "the right" advanced statistics, rather than that they just fixated on wins.

Nov 21, 2011 06:26 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, Pineda had a low BABIP, but he also posted a low LOB%, which should regress as well.

ERA+ is pretty much just ERA with a few small adjustments, so it doesn’t surprise me that Nova bests Pineda here. He has a tougher park, so that would push his ERA+ above Pineda’s. I suppose there are “advanced” stats like ERA+ that paint Nova as better than Pineda, but I don’t really consider ERA+ a viable advanced metric for short-term analysis (long-term is a different story). Not that I believe they really looked at ERA+, but maybe I am arguing that they didn’t look at the right advanced stats. But I don’t know that that’s necessarily wrong. If these are the people tasked to select the best pitcher, shouldn’t they be expected to look at the right data?

Nov 21, 2011 09:13 AM
 
BillJohnson

Look. You're basically saying that the only stat (at the minimum, the key "peripheral") really worth looking at is K/9, and that Pineda should have finished above Nova because he was better at striking guys out. Essentially all of your other arguments for Pineda have been met by one or another objection here.

K/9 is a pretty good metric for a pitcher's raw stuff, and has some degree of predictive power going forward. To claim it as the thing that makes this comparison "ever in Pineda's favor" so that preferring Nova is "disgraceful" is just silly. You can do better than this, Derek.

Nov 21, 2011 11:02 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that Pineda was better at nearly everything. K%, BB%, any ERA estimator ever. Better stuff. I said that the peripherals were ever in Pineda's favor (and they are), not that it was impossible to find the voters' reasoning for voting for Nova over him.

Nov 21, 2011 12:02 PM
 
jrmayne

Not that it was impossible to find the reasoning?

[Begin quote]

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this disgraceful result. I challenge anyone to give me a single reason why Nova is a better choice for Rookie of the Year than Pineda. Just one.

[End quote]

Further commentary seems to indicate (via your reliance on FIP) that you don't believe pitchers have any control over BABIP, which is a provably false statement. If you're going to FIP, you are ignoring a real skill variance. Granted, that variance is often obliterated by luck in a single season, but there's still a skill component.

The reason this sort of argument irritates me so is that it can only set back stathead arguments. We, in fact, have come an enormous way. Park effects matter. Defense matters. Wins matter very little. These principles are making progress.

But when you argue that just because Nova had better results than Pineda is not a reason to vote Nova ahead of Pineda.... that's alarming. FIP has known flaws; shouldn't we agree that those are flaws? Fangraphs' WAR for pitchers really crushes the value of guys like Mariano who routinely outperform their peripherals, because it bases WAR on an ERA simulator.

Let's not take a bite out of a writers' group that I have to believe would not have made some of the Burroughsian mistakes of the past, unless we have a real argument to make. I don't think the heat shed by this article brings much light to the proceedings. We don't want to be an insular little club scoffing at the stupid; that's one of the fastest ways to get stupid.

I think Nova was better than Pineda. I think Kershaw and Halladay were better than Lee, even if not by much.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Nov 21, 2011 14:17 PM
rating: 10
 
Michael
(736)

It seems odd for a BP writer to complain about Kershaw's landslide victory given the results of your advanced metric:

Kershaw - 7.3 WARP
Lee - 6.2 WARP
Halladay - 4.8 WARP

Of course, it's unlikely than more than a small fraction of the 32 NL Cy Young voters looked at WARP, but it doesn't make sense to me that you omitted it from this article.

Nov 21, 2011 06:27 AM
rating: 10
 
fantasyking

Yeah, I guess I'm looking for the argument that Halladay had a better season than Kershaw, and I'm not seeing one. Certainly, Lee did not.

Nov 21, 2011 06:48 AM
rating: 2
 
RotoAllah
(453)

Forget stats for a minute. Kershaw put up the season he did in spite of an absolute circus out in LA. Kershaw also didn't have the benefit of the best rotation of the generation pitching behind him. Frankly Kershaw WAS the obvious choice - apparently your head is buried so far into the stats sheet that other intangible things escaped your attention.

Which brings us to Pineda. Post all-star break he was 1-4 with an ERA over 5 and only 58 IP. I am guessing if he didn't completely crap himself in the 2nd half, he would have gotten more consideration.

As for Nova, you could make a good argument for him, but frankly if Hellickson had that lineup behind him, he probably wins 20 games. Granted the XERAs are similar, but at the end of the day, "lucky" or not, Hellickson's season was consistent throughout, and he was better in all meaningful stats outside of Wins, which is by large part determined by run support. Nova even had the media advantage by pitching for the Yankees - the fact that the New York hype machine didn't turn out strong for Nova should tell you everything you need to know from the guys who watched him fling it every 5th day.

Sorry but this article is much to do about nothing. You are pretty much trying to create issues where there aren't any. I am the first guy to say the BBWA gets it wrong a lot, but not this time. Certainly there are better arguments to be made elsewhere.

Nov 21, 2011 07:11 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Maybe Kershaw is the choice, but I don’t think he’s the obvious one. Yes, LA was a circus, but how much did this really affect him? We can't say for sure, and I imagine it's a pretty small effect.

Start-to-start consistency is largely a myth, though I can see Pineda’s second-half costing him votes. I don’t necessarily believe it should (why shouldn’t his stellar first half have netted him just as many positive reviews?), but I think that played a part.

Nov 21, 2011 09:15 AM
 
John Collins
(110)

The problem I have with Derek's analysis is that he seems to think it is rational for any particular voter to pick Kershaw, but not for most of them to do. Who says Kershaw's landslide victory reflects a belief on the voter's part that he is *much* better? It reflects a belief of most of the voters that he is at least a little better.

If everyone were fully rational, *every* vote would be unanimous, as they would all reach the same conclusion about candidates who might be only thinly separated.

Nov 21, 2011 07:16 AM
rating: 17
 
jrmayne

Hey, Aumann's Agreement Theorem strikes at BP! Cool.

To be clear, rational actors with the same knowledge should always agree. Differing knowledge may lead to non-unanimity. But the general point stands well.

Nov 21, 2011 07:28 AM
rating: 4
 
BillJohnson

No. If every voter used the same basis for deciding on his/her votes, the voting would be unanimous. That's a very different statement. There are many entirely rational criteria for determining votes, based on different weightings of things. "Correct" weightings are not holy writ inscribed on a stone tablet somewhere.

Nov 21, 2011 08:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

While it’s possible that most of the voters simply think “that he is at least a little better,” my thinking is more that the decision should have been very close. And if it was essentially a coin flip, why did most of the coins come up heads? Why weren’t there more tails? This lends evidence (though definitely not certainty) that voters thought it more obvious than it should have been.

I agree with BillJohnson that rational thinking wouldn't necessarily lead to a unanimous vote.

Nov 21, 2011 09:16 AM
 
therealn0d

Precisely, he is arguing that too many of them got it right, implying there;s a problem that more of them didn't get it wrong.

Nov 21, 2011 11:16 AM
rating: 3
 
jrmayne

Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay played for the same team. I don't know that they faced equivalent teams, but it strikes me that the reason Lee may have faced slightly stronger players is because he's left-handed, which is a quality of him, not of luck.

You leaned very hard into the voters because no one voted for the guy with the lowest ZpHX or xFIP or something, but if you do that, you'd best be taking everything into account yourself.

Did you account for this handedness issue? It doesn't appear that you did. And if the platoonmates vs. lefties were stronger, it's very hard to give Lee a bonus for that.

I think that the general argument that A and B are close so A should get about as many votes as B is flawed at the outset. If we're voting for Most Giraffes and Steve has 198 and Joe has 199, we're all going to vote for Joe. (Christina Kahrl made the a similar baffling argument re: Votto's MVP, which I understood to say that Votto probably deserved it but so many people voting for him was a crime against math.)

I'm far from a supporter of the voters; I'm still mad Alan Trammell didn't win the MVP when he obviously deserved it. But the tenor of the article is unjustified by the actions of the voters.

Nov 21, 2011 07:19 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I can see what you’re saying, but it’s not so clear-cut that Kershaw has more giraffes. If we all agreed on one specific number and Kershaw came out a hair ahead, then yes, he wins. But it’s not so black and white.

My argument isn’t that Lee is absolutely the best choice; you’re right that I haven’t looked at everything to say that for sure. My argument is merely that it’s close. If I were one of the ones casting a real vote, naturally I would look into the quality of opposition thing more and run a much more rigorous analysis. The point wasn't to say that this is the guy who should win. Just that there were a few who deserved more recognition.

Nov 21, 2011 09:18 AM
 
BurrRutledge

What, now you expect the BBWA voters to count the spots on the giraffes, too?

Last year, Felix Hernandez had every 'advanced' metric lopsidedly favoring him, including several conventional stats like Ks. The Ws didn't follow, but the voters responded to his case. Halladay and Lee didn't have the same slam-dunk case, and Kershaw is certainly deserving, too.

VORP agrees - and so too did the Internet Baseball Award voters, apparently. There's no controversy here.

Nov 21, 2011 15:39 PM
rating: 3
 
timber

I'm surprised that you didn't also address the AL ROY voting between the two corner infielders, and the lunacy of Mark Trumbo coming in ahead of Eric Hosmer.

Nov 21, 2011 08:34 AM
rating: 2
 
wilsonc

The problem I have with this article is this: Even people who have a strong understanding of the different run estimators disagree on whether or not they should be used when assessing past value, which is what we're looking at for awards.

While it's entirely possible, if not probable that many voters still rely too heavily on wins, this year's voting doesn't lead to that conclusion. You could also make the blanket statement that the results show a prevailing preference for value estimators that use runs allowed as a starting point over those that are based on defense-independent estimators. Or, you could suggest that the voters look at a variety of advanced metrics, but fall back on their intuition when the advanced metrics disagree or are inconclusive.

If anything can be gleamed on how much the voters still value wins from parsing this year's voting results, I'd point to the fact that Ian Kennedy, who had the NL's best W-L record, only finished fourth, behind all three sabermetrically viable candidates. If wins still carried the degree of weight implied in this article, that would be an unlikely result.

Nov 21, 2011 08:44 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I'm not saying just wins, I'm saying wins and ERA make up the vast majority of the weighting still. Fewer innings and a significantly higher ERA explains a lot of Kennedy, I think.

Nov 21, 2011 09:23 AM
 
wilsonc

When it comes to results-driven performance metrics, though, do we really have a properly vetted tool that does a better job than ERA and its adjusted derivatives?

The defense-independent estimators are a good method of getting a better understanding of a pitcher's performance, but they also fail to preserve things like sequencing. That's a problem even for a lot of people who understand the metrics. There's nothing wrong with taking a component-driven approach to looking at value to eliminate unknowns, but the implication in the article seems to be that this is the only valid approach.

The alternative philosophy: Virtually all award-winning seasons have some combination of luck and sustainable performance. What's the best method to preserve that element of luck for pitchers' performances (to be consistent with other awards) while stripping out the performance of his teammates (defense, bullpen, etc.)? Until we have a better answer to this question, is it really fair to be overly critical of voters for using a tool like ERA rather than a more advanced tool that answers a completely different question than they're asking?

Nov 21, 2011 12:29 PM
rating: 0
 
surfdent48

It's way too early to say Hellickson will "still wind up a very good pitcher" with just one very lucky year completed.

Nov 21, 2011 09:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

We can never say who's going to be good in the future with certainty, but it's my belief that Hellickson will be good, and there are a lot of scouts and talent evaluators who would agree. I absolutely agree that he had a lucky year and isn't a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, but one lucky year isn't damning either.

Nov 21, 2011 09:20 AM
 
dodgerken222

The only way to determine if the voters really thought Kershaw was such an obvious choice or not would be to change the system of voting. Give each voter ten points to allocate among no more than five pitchers. Thus, a sample ballot might have Kershaw 3.3, Halladay 3.0, Lee 3.0, Lincecum 0.5 and Kennedy 0.2. Then total up the points. It would have been closer I guess, but Kershaw still would have won, and deservedly so. To criticize any individual voter (or number of voters) for voting for Kershaw this year is really going overboard in the non-traditional direction. God knows the writers' votes deserve criticism sometimes, but Kershaw winning this year ain't one of them times.

Nov 21, 2011 10:26 AM
rating: 3
 
dodgerken222

I suspect you would only feel that we have come out of the so-called dark ages if wins and traditional ERA were held against contenders. I know pitching wins have been over-rated, but would you ultra-advanced stats people really enjoy baseball more if we eliminated pitchers' wins altogether? If they add absolutely NOTHING in evaluating awards, would you eliminate them if you were baseball czar? RBIs too? Would we just be left with SIERA, xFIP, FIP, tAV etc? What a fun box score that would be to read! I personally love sabermetrics, but in any movement there is always the danger of extremists. Someone who would consider a landslide victory by Kershaw an "outrage" would fit into this category.

Nov 21, 2011 10:33 AM
rating: -3
 
dodgerken222

A voter is swayed because somebody led the league in ERA, strikeouts, and wins.......OUTRAGEOUS!!!

Nov 21, 2011 10:37 AM
rating: 2
 
dodgerken222

This concept that "rational" thinking would lead to a unanimous result sounds kind of elitist and fascist, ya know? If all voters were rational in a political election, does that mean one candidate would win 100% of the votes? That anyone who voted the other way is irrational? I know a lot of people who think they know the ultimate truth, and that others should be re-educated to think the "rational" way, but they're kind of dangerous.

Nov 21, 2011 10:55 AM
rating: -3
 
thegeneral13

It's a mathematical question and only sounds fascist when you politicize it. The point is simply that if it was possible to objectively measure the best at something, 100% of rational voters would choose that person even if he was only fractionally better in that objective metric. The distribution of votes is not representative of the relative merits of the candidates, and shouldn't be interpreted as such.

Nov 21, 2011 11:24 AM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

Your screed here (last 4 comments) started off measured and reasonable. And then, comment after comment, you descended into a very political, very angry diatribe. I could almost picture you getting yourself worked up the more you wrote.

Nov 21, 2011 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

....and Verlander wins the MVP! A blow against those who irrationally discriminate against pitchers. Kudos to the voters who again got it right. If Kemp wins tomorrow (and I think he will by a good margin), which would be a blow to the irrational thinking that an MVP must come from a contender, then I think the awards have all come out exactly right. A happy meeting where sabermetrics and traditional common sense (Kershaw) both play a part.

Nov 21, 2011 11:13 AM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

where are all the down-ballot votes for pitchers?

Nov 21, 2011 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
gtgator

So if I get this argument correct, because the three pitchers have similar estimated ERAs (such that they are all "coin flip" choices), we are to presume the voting should have been closer?!?

I don't know about the writers, but if I had to vote and my primary voting criteria didn't answer the question, I would look to secondary criteria. And, in this case, W, K, ERA and WARP all favor Kershaw - and IP is effectively even (1 IP separating the 3).

Is it then that surprising that 27 of 32 voters saw one pitcher who led in many categories while a wash in others and voted that way? I mean, who votes their 2nd choice 1st because they know their 1st choice will win and they want the vote to be closer?

As such, it isn't surprising that 27 of 32 voters were able to find a single stat that swung them to put Kershaw 1st on their ballot - because they had so many from which to choose. And even if they felt it was 1a and 1b, only one person can get that 1st place vote.

Nov 21, 2011 11:15 AM
rating: 2
 
McLovins

Maybe some progress has been made though that everyone here can agree on. After all, how long ago would someone who played on a team barely over .500 go up against 2 other players whom played on teams with over 100 wins yet still be given the award? There might be a debate here about player independent evaluation for handing out hardware and what a reasonable voting outcome should be given the closeness of the three players' performances, but it used to be that many players didn't even get considered because of the quality of the team mates they played with. I don't have time to quantify the theoretical proof to that statement, but when I look at the AL Cy winners list I think I see a fairly remarkable shift over the last 10 years. Before that, everyone I see on the list pretty much played for a team with a strong record in that given year.

Nov 21, 2011 11:23 AM
rating: 0
 
carlbrownson

Slightly different topic, but in response to the Verlander winning MVP comment above: I think it would be more fair if the hitters had their own equivalent of a 'Cy Young', as prestigious as the CY Young and MVP are now, for which only position players were eligible. And then throw everyone into the MVP discussion - hitters and pitchers - on equal ground.

It would eliminate the "Pitchers already have their own MVP award!" meme. It would allow for a rational discussion of - and dismissal of - the "Verlander only played in 21% of his team's games" meme. After all, Verlander was involved in more plate appearances than any position player, though when defensive plays from a good center fielder or shortstop are factored in, the needle can swing the other way. And most of all, it really would make it more fair, given that pitchers are in fact eligible for two prestigious and *financially lucrative* awards, where position players are only eligible for the one. (Both are eligible for Gold Gloves; Silver Sluggers are pretty meaningless.)

Nov 21, 2011 14:14 PM
rating: 0
 
dodgerken222

Here's the outrage in the AL MVP vote....some idiot writer from Cleveland didn't even list Verlander on the ballot and a home-town bonehead from Dallas gave Michael Young a first-place vote. I urge a baseball IQ test before some of these jokers are allowed to vote for awards.

Nov 21, 2011 14:22 PM
rating: 2
 
silviomossa

Wow, a DH with all of 11 HRs gets a first place vote. No, those aren't the advanced stats that I'd normally use, but.... DH?.... 11HRs?.....in Texas? I guess he must have a "heart" that would put Secretariat to shame.

Nov 21, 2011 17:53 PM
rating: 0
 
louisbarash

Can't wait to see what you have to say about Verlander winning the MVP. The PVORP and WARP numbers strongly suggest he wasn't contributing nearly as much value to his team as Bautista and Ellsbury.

As to the NL CY, one must also consider how people vote. While it is true that the difference between Kershaw and the Phillies duo was small, it does not follow that the voting results would be close. There seemed to be wide agreement (including by you) that Kershaw was marginally better. Thus, a small difference in value turned into a voting landslide.

I also can't get as excited about who finished fourth and fifth in the AL ROY. While Pineda's performance statistics show him ahead of Nova, they weren't as dominating as King Felix's, and you have to give Nova a fair amount of credit because, even with all those runs the Yankees scored, New York is a much harder place to pitch (heck the Yankees even sent the guy to the minors in mid season so that Bartolo Colon could stay on regular rest). I can't even get too excited that one voter actually placed Nova first on his ROY ballot. While his peripherals were clearly below Pineda's, his FIP, xFIP and SIERA were all materially better than Hellickson's, and K/9 was close, so it's not clear that his advantage in wins was the sole factor in that vote.

Nov 21, 2011 16:23 PM
rating: 0
 
cordially
(917)

Oh pleeeeeaze. The Sheehanesque outrage just doesn't fly. This is not a Vukovich moment. A reasoned article consisting of your opinions on topic would be fine, but "disgraceful"? It makes BP look curmudgeonly. Perhaps it's a page view thing.

Nov 21, 2011 17:38 PM
rating: 4
 
davinhbrown

I'd like to hear John Perrato's view on the voters for these awards, their bias, and rationals.

Nov 21, 2011 18:00 PM
rating: 0
 
jssharo

Are folks really getting worked up because BBWA voters seem to be ignoring FIP, xFIP and SIERA? Come on now, guys. I'm happy that they are finally kind of getting OBS. Next stop WARP.

Nov 21, 2011 20:19 PM
rating: 0
 
gerrybraun

I'm confused, as at the beginning of your article you used WINS as the only barometer for why King Felix shouldnt have won the Cy Young in 2010, and then say that WINS is a bad measure to use when you are talking about Nova over Pineda. Confused

Nov 22, 2011 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
qwik3457bb

I'm fine with the selection of Kershaw. It's real simple; Lee, Halladay and Kershaw are about evenly matched, so let's minimize the difference and call it a three-way tie.

But then, Kershaw wins the pitching triple crown pitching for a substantially inferior team (albeit in a substantially better pitcher's park), and for me, that's enough. Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and a deserving one, even if by an overwhelming margin.

Nov 22, 2011 22:02 PM
rating: 0
 
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