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November 19, 2008

Prospectus Today

The Tool of Ignorance

by Joe Sheehan

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On Tuesday afternoon, the Baseball Reporters Association of America announced that Dustin Pedroia had won its American League Most Valuable Player award, the last of the BBRAA's eight awards for the 2008 season.

Before we go any further, let me make this point: "Reporters" and "BBRAA" are not terms of derision, but rather of description. Last winter, when deciding who to admit and not admit to its ranks, the organization drew a line that made it clear that it was an organization of reporters, and that it existed to facilitate access to parks and personnel, to ensure that those people for whom that access is important had an advocacy group.

Now, in practice, it looks a little bit different. You can be a beat reporter and not be allowed to be a member, as the talented staff of MLB.com knows too well. You can also be an editor, or cartoonist, or general columnist, or statistician, or a guy who once wrote about baseball, or one who does so as often as I write about NASCAR, and have a card. The standards for members once they're inside the group seem to involve the ability to grow fingernails, while the standard for new members now involves a number of tests that may continue to evolve, but which have less to do with baseball writing and more to do with baseball quote-gathering.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this; the organization can admit anyone it wants to based on the criteria that it defines. What it cannot do, however, is lay claim to the word "writer." You can be a professional baseball writer while defining your job in a way that doesn't involve passing on the banalities of ballplayers, or running sourceless rumors, or doing soft-focus features that make it easier to get those banalities and rumors. The job of being a baseball writer is not so limited in the year 2008 as to exclude many people for whom access to parks may well enhance their ability to do their job, but who, even if it doesn't, nevertheless should be brought under the organization's umbrella. The informed-outsider position is in some ways superior, and in some ways inferior, to the insider one, but it is no less qualified for its status as "new."

Until all professional baseball writers (where "professional" meets reasonable objective standards) are invited into the club, and until the standard for inclusion is something other than "do you take down quotes," I reserve the right to call the organization what it has aggressively defined itself as: the Baseball Reporters Association of America. I do so not to be snarky or insulting, but to make the point that the group aggressively excludes baseball writers for whom reporting is not a central or even tertiary part of their job description, but who nonetheless meet every other possible standard for inclusion.

The debate about who to include leaks into the awards that the organization hands out, and into the coverage of those awards. See, they end up being more about journalistic concerns than evaluative ones. If the people who will actually get the hardware this year are by and large the right guys, it doesn't take much of an examination of the votes to see that the narrative, the story, is more important to the voting pool than an accurate evaluation of the players. It also doesn't take too much digging to find out just how hidebound some of the voters are. In the same breath in which they deride the analytical approach and the accurate metrics that have come out of it, they will justify their own vote by pointing to a number or three, generally the same numbers that have been proven to be disconnected from performance and value a hundred times over.

Ignorance of new ideas, generally a good way to become obsolete in any field, actually allows you to call yourself a maverick in the world of baseball reporting. I do not understand this, and at this point, I don't even hope to change it. I'm just waiting for evolution to run its course.

Anyway, here's a wrap-up of the eight votes. As Greg Spira pointed out, this was the first time that the eight BBRAA award winners matched the eight Internet Baseball Awards winners. It's not clear to me what, if anything, that means.

Managers of the Year

They landed the right guys, more or less, in weak fields. The Manager of the Year award is ill-defined, and seems largely to be a matter of working down a list. "Did a playoff team come out of nowhere?" "If no, who was the best team in the league?" "If that team is always good, or the answer to that question is unclear, what team was perceived to have overachieved the most?" I've never seen any evidence at all that the managers' processes are evaluated, so a guy who manages a bad team to a less-bad record-I'm thinking of Manny Acta last year here-has no chance even if he manages better than anyone.

Joe Maddon was always going to be the guy in the AL, and rightfully so. While the work of the front office was key in Tampa Bay's turnaround, Maddon did work around a lot of in-season injuries, got good work from his bench and bullpen, and, for whatever it's worth, he showed a thoughtfulness about the game. He also intentionally walked Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded-no one's perfect. The down-ballot results reflected the weak year in the AL, with the answers to questions number three and number two above filling the next two spots. I'm hard-pressed to find exactly what Ron Gardenhire or Mike Scioscia necessarily did this year, and it's probably easier for me to find specific things they did wrong that hindered their teams' progress.

In the NL, it was the manager of the best team, Lou Piniella, who was the default pick. Fredi Gonzalez was this year's Acta, managing a flawed team to fringe contention, but only showing up on half the ballots, and finishing just three points ahead of Joe Torre. Three voters thought Torre was the best manager in the NL this season, which is just aggressively ignorant. Torre had an awful year, riding Juan Pierre in the leadoff spot for 10 crippling weeks, running Russell Martin into the ground, and managing a team expected to win 85 games to 84. The best thing Torre did was change divisions and end up standing there when Manny Ramirez moved to the weaker league, and he even almost screwed that up, taking five days to figure out that maybe Pierre and Andruw Jones shouldn't play any longer. Again, though: good narrative.

Rookies of the Year

The winners, of course, were easy to find. Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto got 59 of 60 first-place votes combined. The guy who listed Joey Votto ahead of Geovany Soto, well, you stay classy. Actually, let's also nod to the guy who had Kosuke Fukudome as the second-best rookie in the league, ahead of Votto, Jair Jurrjens, and 15 other players. Remember, folks, these guys are the professionals.

Then again, all of those players are rookies. Edinson Volquez, as you all know by now, was named on nearly 10 percent of the ballots, getting three second-place votes. It's been mentioned to me, explicitly, that citing a knowledge of baseball or a credibility in voting for awards or the Hall of Fame is not a valid argument for inclusion in the BBWAA. Now I understand why.

This has been picked apart by any number of people online, but here's my question: how hard would it be to see the ballot, catch the mistake, pick up the phone and say, "Hey, toolshed, there's this whole other league, and this guy was pitching in it for years. Re-do your list." If you do that, the entire story is... actually, there is no story. It's three phone calls, some private embarrassment and probably a joke that gets retold in press boxes next spring. By allowing the votes to stand though, the organization made itself look incompetent, and forced the three writers into a public shaming.

I'll tell you right now, I think the vote counters missed it. If you look at the announcement on the BBWAA site, there's no reference to the mistake. I think the organization tallied the votes for Volquez, released the results, and not until they were alerted to the problem did they go into spin mode. They could have solved this privately, and it's my opinion that they didn't do so not because they elected not to-when you think of how easy it would have been, how could you not go that route?-but because they themselves didn't see the error.

It kind of makes the biggest mistake in the AL-that at least half the pool thought Alexei Ramirez was better than Mike Aviles-look quaint. My god, that's a huge error. They're direct comps, and Aviles did essentially everything better than Ramirez did. Aviles had a better argument for edging out Longoria than Ramirez had for beating Aviles. Jacoby Ellsbury was also kind of a joke, since he was terrible for five months. Stolen bases, home runs, RBI... these shiny things just aren't going away, and they'll be cited by the voters at the exact same time that they're talking about how baseball is played by people and can't be reduced to statistics.

Cy Young Awards

You can't get too riled up here. In the AL, Francisco Rodriguez didn't get a single first-place vote, which speaks a little bit to the seasons Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay had, and a little to the electorate properly evaluating his performance. On the other hand, three people didn't think Halladay was one of the top three pitchers in the league, and six couldn't accurately identify Jon Lester as the best pitcher on the Red Sox, as Daisuke Matsuzaka was named on that many ballots, and Lester none. At least two voters had Matsuzaka ahead of Halladay. Wins! Winning percentage! It's 1912!

Tim Lincecum was hard to argue with as NL Cy Young, and if I landed on Johan Santana's name, but just by a hair, I have no beef at all with the 23 people who went the other way and had ballots.

On the other hand, at least four voters had Brandon Webb ahead of both pitchers, and many had him ahead of at least one of them, and that's just wrong. Wins! Winning percentage! We're all lobotomized! It just doesn't seem possible that this message is still struggling to get through to some people: that wins for pitchers are an accounting tool-not a metric or a statistic that measures performance. There have been, and I am not exaggerating, tens of thousands of pieces written explaining that run prevention, strikeouts, walk and home-run rates, and ground-ball rates are how you evaluate pitching performance. These articles have all repeatedly stressed the notion that the "wins" category fills up based on factors out of the pitchers' control, so much so that using that category at all is going to lead you to the wrong place. And yet...

I thought Webb's victories stood out to me more than anything, and Lincecum didn't have the victories. Twenty victories was a big deal. We had a stretch there where no one was hitting 20.

That's Chris DeLuca of the Chicago Sun-Times, as quoted by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, justifying not only his decision to list Webb first, but his leaving Lincecum off of his ballot entirely. DeLuca didn't get the memo that starters get not only fewer wins, but fewer starts and fewer decisions these days, in addition to the two dozen other reasons why using wins as a criterion is galactically stupid.

Most Valuable Player Awards

Well, Albert Pujols won, and if he didn't do so in overwhelming fashion, those of us who were screaming for him to win should be happy enough to shut up about it.

You'd think, but frankly, the distribution of votes in the NL looks like something generated by a 20-sided die. Just more than half of the voting pool identified the best player in the league as the league's MVP. One felt he was just the seventh-most valuable player in the league. That was Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who published his ballot:

1. Ryan Howard, Phil
2. CC Sabathia, Mil
3. Manny Ramirez, LA
4. Carlos Delgado, NY
5. Aramis Ramirez, Chi
6. Prince Fielder, Mil
7. Albert Pujols, Stl
8. Ryan Ludwick, Stl
9. Ryan Braun, Mil
10. David Wright, NY

There's almost certainly a 15,000-word column in just that ballot alone. I'll leave it at this: that ballot is everything that is wrong with the current state of award voting. It weights everything but the measurable performance of the player over the course of the season, including teammate performance, timing of performance, narrative, and as far as I can tell, actual weight. It tried to parse the word "valuable" so finely that it loses all meaning. And it puts Prince Fielder ahead of Albert Pujols, which may be the single worst individual vote I've ever seen.

The staggering dissonance in the voting leaves you speechless. At least 26 writers honestly believed that Ryan Howard was more valuable than Chase Utley. At least four believed that Brad Lidge was more valuable than Utley. Two believed that in a league with Pujols, Utley, Lincecum, Santana, Hanley Ramirez, and a million other guys, that two months' of excellent hitting by a poor defensive left fielder was worth more than all but one player's work over the course of the season. Four felt that 131 innings of excellent pitching did much the same. Two people thought a pitcher who threw 69 1/3 innings was the single most valuable player in the league. Let's see... Carlos Delgado meant more to the Mets than Santana, Jose Reyes, or Carlos Beltran... Derrek Lee was, in one voter's eyes, the fifth-most valuable player in the league...

If the credibility of the voting pool comes from being at the park every day and the knowledge gleaned from talking to people, I'm comfortable staying as far away as possible. Being that close to the game is clearly causing a break with reality, and that break with reality is now ingrained forever in these votes. It's an abomination, and if the hardware is going to the right person, it doesn't mean that the thought process displayed here shouldn't be picked apart over and over until it's made right.

Ryan Howard was listed first on 12 ballots, in the top three on 26, and on 31 of 32 total, finishing second in the voting. Chase Utley's highest ranking was fourth, he was named on just nine ballots, and he finished 15th in the voting.

Make better decisions.

That Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP doesn't bother me that much. He wasn't the most valuable player in the league-that was Cliff Lee-but the field was just so weak that no winner was going to be inspiring. It is disappointing to see Justin Morneau dust Joe Mauer so decisively. I know I'm becoming shrill on this, but it's the "stat guys" who are looking at the complete picture of a baseball player and what he does for his team, and the "non-stat guys" who are swooning at home runs and RBI. Until and unless that changes-and again, that's an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one-we're going to get silly award votes. Joe Mauer is the most valuable Twin by any measure that isn't merely a counting stat developed five generations ago.

Not a single person with a vote believed that Grady Sizemore was among the five most valuable players in the league. Just two believed that Lee was. No one thought Roy Halladay was, while 23 thought that Francisco Rodriguez deserved mention.

One last thing:


Hero to the Rescue       PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  EqA  VORP  WARP   Points
Mark Teixeira w/Angels  234  .358 .449 .632 .359  34.9   4.4        1
Manny Ramirez w/Dodgers 220  .396 .489 .743 .398  49.8   5.3      138

The gap in the first seven columns doesn't add up to the gap in the eighth. That difference may encapsulate the problem, and until that problem is solved, this is a broken system.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

SaberTJ

One of my favorite columns of yours ever Joe. Nice Work.

Nov 19, 2008 13:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Terry

Seriously, this is unbelievable work. You hang reporters by their own words and thought processes, once again proving that reasoned factual analysis trumps all. Anyone that can't plainly see what is wrong with award voting and baseball reporting today through this article will never be able to do so. The column was captivating, poignant, and revealing. Keep preaching, Joe.

Nov 19, 2008 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
misterdelaware

Good stuff, Joe.

You could probably also mention the inconsistency of voters going with Pedroia over his teammate Youkilis (weighing positional scarcity against raw numbers) but then Morneau over his teammate Mauer (ignoring positional scarcity and voting strictly with raw numbers). The whole process sucks.

Nov 19, 2008 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

Just when I thought the BBWAA was beginning to join the 21st Century, Joe reveals that they are still living in 1968. Well done, Joe.

Nov 19, 2008 14:25 PM
rating: 0
 
cdamon

I liked the article and agree with most of it, but ...

I even happen to agree with Halladay > Lester > Matsuzaka, but I think you can make a cogent argument for the opposite order that is not based on wins and winning percentage

Look at some "good" stats from the DT pages:

NRA DERA (adjusted for all time)
Halladay 3.09 3.43
Lester 3.03 3.29
Matsuzaka 2.85 3.09

As rate stats go, it looks a lot like the opposite order.

But if you consider counting stats

IP PRAA PRAR
Halladay 246 30 102
Lester 210 26 80
Matsuzaka 168 27 76

This one gives support for the "preferred" order, although the difference between Lester and Matsuzaka in value is very small (and still debatable).

Nov 19, 2008 14:26 PM
rating: 1
 
josher464

I think that one of the problems with understanding pitching wins in MSM is that people don't seem to distinguish between "wins" the things that teams collect to determine who is better than who and "wins" the pitching statistic that attempts (and fails) to measure pitching value. Yay language ! As long as people continue to confuse the two, that's gonna be an issue.

Nov 19, 2008 14:27 PM
rating: 4
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

As someone who has worked in the public health domain, the abbreviation 'MSM' refers to "Men who have sex with men," and is used in discussions of STD epidemiology. I know it means mainstream media here, but it always catches me off guard when I see it.

Nov 19, 2008 14:34 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

All jokes are unprintable.

Nov 20, 2008 06:36 AM
 
Dr. Dave

This is why, when talking about pitching stats, I always say "Ws" (dubyas). I reserve the word 'wins' for what teams do.

The Reds won; Cueto was credited with the dubya.

Nov 20, 2008 07:49 AM
rating: 0
 
imataqito

Hey Joe, there's an entry in MLB trade rumors that you're leaving. Say it ain't so!

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2008/11/odds-and-end-10.html

Nov 19, 2008 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
vtadave

Don't see that in your link.

Nov 20, 2008 17:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

they deleted that rumor. It was there, I read it, and now it's gone.

Nov 21, 2008 13:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Adrian

Excellent stuff, Joe. I thoroughly enjoyed your systematic deconstruction and breakdown of all eight awards.

The contrast between this sort of reasoned, intelligent analysis and the knee-jerk, fallacious critiques of modern baseball analysis is astounding, and really shows up the lack of understanding present in a lot of writers who really ought to know better (see: Joe Posnanski's similar breakdown of Tom Boswell's piece about how Pujols shouldn't have been NL MVP).

Nov 19, 2008 14:38 PM
rating: 0
 
DisposableHero88

Great article Joe.

Nov 19, 2008 14:51 PM
rating: 0
 
Jay Taylor

My personal favorite part of the voting this year is that, by WARP, Ryan Howard was the ninth best player...on the Phillies.

WHERE IS ALL THE JAIME MOYER FOR MVP TALK?!?!

Nov 19, 2008 14:52 PM
rating: 2
 
jeffbarton

"Stolen bases, home runs, RBI... these shiny things just aren't going away"...
Maybe part of the problem is that fantasy baseball is played by millions of fans, and most of them play games based on Roto scoring, where RBIs, runs scored, Wins, saves, steals and HRs are what matter. Its too bad we did not have millions to spend on advertising when we started Scoresheet Baseball in 1987, since Scoresheet, where teams play simulated games rather than adding up points, emphasizes slugging percentage, on base average, ERA etc., and not the 'counting stats'. Maybe if we'd had money to publicize Scoresheet more folks would be considered with those non-counting stats, and then baseball reporters would be writing more about them?

Nov 19, 2008 14:57 PM
rating: 3
 
ostrowj1

Maybe, but maybe it has the opposite effect. It doesn't take to many years of playing to figure out that RBI's and wins are as much a part of the team around a player than the player himself.

Nov 19, 2008 17:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

I'll concur completely with this. You can't play fantasy baseball without figuring out how incredibly team-dependent those stats are. Give roto-geeks the vote, and we'll do a great job!

Nov 19, 2008 18:06 PM
rating: 0
 
jwdinnin

Here's something that wasn't addressed in the article: CC Sabathia finished ahead of all other pitchers in NL MVP voting, but finished 5th in Cy Young voting.

So, this particular pitcher was more "valuable" than any other pitcher this season, but he was not the best pitcher?

Nov 19, 2008 15:00 PM
rating: 2
 
straightoutofhxc

The pitchers actually placed in a nearly perfect opposite fashion in the MVP voting as compared to the Cy Young voting.

Nov 19, 2008 16:34 PM
rating: 0
 
Keith Law
(13)

Different voters on different awards. Yet another issue.

Nov 19, 2008 18:19 PM
rating: 2
 
WCE

Nice to see Lance Berkman didn't even make the top ten of that voter's list. Sigh. What does a Big Puma have to do to get love?

Nov 19, 2008 15:11 PM
rating: 2
 
darrinkozak

Thanks for a great article.

Nov 19, 2008 15:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Aaron/YYZ

One of the things I find most disheartening about the poor job the voters do with single-season awards, is how the results from these awards are then heavily leaned on as evidence for a large number of other avenues such as arbitration and eventually Hall of Fame discussions. When we're 15 years removed from this season, will voters hold up Joe Mauer's or Chase Utley's lack of an MVP award and/or poor showing in the voting as evidence to deny them entry into Cooperstown?

Nov 19, 2008 15:58 PM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

This is possibly the biggest reason I still care as much as I do, because this is now the historical record. Bill James has written that the awards voting shows how contemporaries viewed a situation, and because of that, it has value.

I'm here to say that's nonsense, because it's pretty clear that in the 2000s, the contemporary view has been ridiculous in many cases. Just because you were there doesn't mean you had a clue, and I think the voting for BBRAA and Gold Gloves, not just the winners in the former case but the voting, shows that.

But it's all part of the historical record now. That's a problem.

Nov 20, 2008 06:41 AM
 
Richie

Your view is pretty ridiculous in some cases too, Joe. Mine also. And Bill James'.

His point was that contemporaries know/knew/saw things that are later lost. So we should acknowledge that they had some information we no longer have, when it comes to much later analysing just how good a player ol' Ralph was.

With the explosion of sports coverage, I wonder if perhaps that will no longer hold going forward from here? Or leastwise hold less? That an electronic database is now permanently stored for later mining, so that 50 years from now folks will know exactly what we saw with respect to the guys we're watching, if they go to the trouble of clicking the appropriate button on the search engine.

Nov 20, 2008 09:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Camp WitRios

Jay Taylor: "My personal favorite part of the voting this year is that, by WARP, Ryan Howard was the ninth best player...on the Phillies."

I'm not even going to check to see if that's true, because I'd probably vomit if I saw it on the page. You just ruined my night, man. That's unbelievable.

Also, I've been making that exact same point about Teixeira/Ramirez for the last 2 months, and everyone I know has called me an idiot. People fall in love with the storyline, the drama. If we're voting on "Most Impactful Player Over a 2 Month Period" I would certainly agree that Ramirez and Sabathia deserve heavy consideration there. Not MVP though.

This year officially marks the end of my interest in these awards. What a joke. The system is beyond broken.

Nov 19, 2008 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

One of your best columns, Joe. Right up there with this column and any number of others:

"Sixteen pitches later, the whole world had been turned upside down. In 16 pitches, the game was tied. In 16 pitches, 80 years of history came crashing into the ballpark, making a racket so loud you had to scream to be heard over it.

In 16 pitches, Grady Little lost his job."

Nov 19, 2008 16:15 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

It seems, Joe, that you've made a conscious decision to Name Names in this column, moreso than in the past. Whether that's because the BBWAA slammed its doors to worthy writers, or for some other reason, this is a trend that I hope continues for Baseball Prospectus.

I remember a decade ago when Gary Huckabay took the time on this site to pick apart Peter Gammons's Sunday column every week, and frankly it's unfortunate you guys got away from that, whether that was through the desire to forge alliances with other outlets or for some other reason. But if the BBWAA is going to close its doors to worthy writers, and these writers themselves have no problem heavily criticizing players for not being "winning" enough of whatever, I don't see any reason for BP itself to pull any punches.

--Ray

Nov 19, 2008 16:21 PM
rating: 4
 
TCHaag

I agree completely. Someone needs to hold these people accountable for their sheer stupidity, and BP is doing a great job to contributing to fighting the good fight.

Maybe sometime in the future, all these pricks will have retired and we can read knowledgeable analysis in the mainstream media...maybe...

Unfortunately, smart people who are into journalism don't go into sports journalism. :(

Nov 19, 2008 16:27 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

The BBRAA and MSM cater to the "average" fan, who's never even heard of VORP or WARP. Awards travesties will continue until those fans actually know something about the game and won't accept the slop they're currently getting. Progress in that regard may seem slow, but the comments to this article prove awareness is a quantum leap ahead of where it was 10 years ago. Those of us who know and love the game are fortunate to have BP and others leading the charge; but we, too, need to spread the gospel.

Keep givin' 'em Hell, Joe.

Nov 19, 2008 20:47 PM
rating: 0
 
straightoutofhxc

Excellent point. Agreed completely. And we lost a soldier with FJM shutting down :(

BP does a good job, though, just without the over-the-top comedy of FJM

Nov 19, 2008 16:36 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I named names because I happened to have them handy and they were somewhat germane to the story.

As a personal policy--and since I have a significant say in BP editorial policy, this is reflected on the site--I think it's my job to write about baseball, not about other people's content

This is also why I don't write many follow-ups or mea culpas, despite the frequent demand for them. "Yeah, I got that wrong." That's not interesting content. Baseball is interesting. Keeping score...you guys can do that.

It's not absolute--this piece is, to some extent, about baseball media, and I do an article each year looking back at my picks to see what can be learned--but in general, I feel like the focus should be on the game, not on what other people are saying. If I don't stick to that perfectly, it is, at the least, my guideline.

Nov 20, 2008 06:46 AM
 
DTrain82

Joe, great article but I was hoping you would've mentioned how Jason Bartlett (JASON BARTLETT!!!!!!!!) received a 5th place vote. This is patently insane! He wasn't even one of the top dozen players ON HIS TEAM!

The perpetrator: Marc Topkin, St. Petersburg Times:

1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
2. Joe Mauer, Twins
3. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
4. Frankie Rodriguez, Angels
5. Jason Bartlett, Rays
6. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
7. Justin Morneau, Twins
8. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
9. Carlos Pena, Rays
10. Grady Sizemore, Indians

Nov 19, 2008 16:29 PM
rating: 0
 
bheikoop

Joe,

If I'm not mistaken, you represented BP on ESPNews for the handing out of the Gold Glove Awards. During your analysis you made note that the Gold Glove Awards are based on 'looks'. With this most recent string of awards, it appears as though the 'reporters' are not putting any 'research' into their nominations and are simply 'reporting'.

Nov 19, 2008 16:29 PM
rating: 0
 
straightoutofhxc

Excellent article Joe. Loved it.

Nov 19, 2008 16:37 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Joe: "...in addition to the two dozen other reasons why using wins as a criterion is galactically stupid."

Tell me you weren't thinking of Tom Cruise's character in A Few Good Men when you wrote this.

Regardless, while I agree that trying for a revolution is not very interesting at this point, perhaps Naming Names will force BBWAA members to show the faintest interest in coherent analysis.

Nov 19, 2008 17:05 PM
rating: 0
 
husier
(90)

Bravo, bravo and bravo again ...

Nov 19, 2008 17:26 PM
rating: 0
 
alobar9

Boom! I had my fist in the air reading that piece, Joe. Thanks for echoing a lot of the frustration in the whole messy enterprise. It's funny to imagine some of the voters reading each other's headlines across the country and formulating their "own" narrative. One, some writers seem to vote in a "20-sided dye" way to create their own narrative on the season, rather than the one that ACTUALLY HAPPENED. And two, there seem to regional biases in some cases, writers favouring players on the home team they saw with their free accredited badge.

And why does the acronym BBWAA/BBRAA have two B's? Major League Base Ball?

The BBRAA winers awards matching up with the Internet Awards does seem to be a fortunate fluke. Until the voters can get over themselves and their yearning hard-on for narrative and inanely dated counting stats, this won't be the last discussion of this ilk.

Nov 19, 2008 17:31 PM
rating: 0
 
anderson721

Simply sublime.

Nov 19, 2008 18:34 PM
rating: 0
 
WCE

Great article. It strikes me as this is a good direction for BP. Most of the readers are fairly convinced of efficacy and validity of the approach here. Maybe the thing to do now is work to direct the national conversation on baseball in the direction BP has been headed in all along. Not that this hasn't happened to a large part already.

I don't know if it will be possible to revive all of the crusading spirit of the past, but I've always felt BP was best when it was not merely a cool voice of reason laying out the facts, but when it pounded the table, demanding an opponent find some, or any, justification for his point of view.

Nov 19, 2008 18:52 PM
rating: 1
 
duncan2m

Best damn piece of analytical reportage I've read in a long while. Thanks for making my day.

Nov 19, 2008 19:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Jmast7

While I readily endorse the preceding accolades, I'm wondering if I'm the only one who finds the column's parting shot an oversimplification. The difference in WARP between Ramirez and Teixiera is admittedly small. However, we have a much more concrete idea of what replacement level in these particular cases is. What we're really looking at is the difference between Ramirez's Wins Above Juan Pierre (WAJP) and Teixiera's Wins Above Casey Kotchman (WACK), no?

Additionally, by the time the Angels acquired Teixiera, they'd already effectively slammed the door on the NL West. The Dodgers were tooth and nail with the D'Backs when they picked up Ramirez. Aren't the marginal wins that Ramirez contributed more valuable in their specific context?

I'm not disputing the larger point; Ramirez's contribution was greatly overvalued in the MVP voting. While I would cheerfully concede that 138 to 1 radically exaggerates the difference in contribution between Ramirez and Teixiera, I nevertheless suspect that 5.3 to 4.4 understates it by more than a hair.

Nov 19, 2008 20:52 PM
rating: 3
 
ScottyB

Meh. Sorry to be contrary here, but an article like this would have a bigger impact if the Baseball Writers and the BP readers who vote in the Internet Baseball Awards didn't AGREE ON EVERY SINGLE AWARD RECIPIENT THIS YEAR.

Nov 19, 2008 20:55 PM
rating: -2
 
eighteen

Using the BBRAA's ballots, logically explain how the similarity of outcome is anything other than pure coincidence.

Nov 19, 2008 21:22 PM
rating: 2
 
bheikoop

Also keep in mind that the WINNERS aren't the only important names on the lists. Players bonus' and contracts are reliant on even being named on an MVP ballot.

Nov 19, 2008 21:54 PM
rating: 3
 
Matt L.

If anyone runs into Rich Campbell, of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, who left Ryan Howard off of his ballot altogether, buy that man a beer.

http://fredericksburg.com/blogs/view?blogger_id=34&p=1227053479

(Not that I endorse everything in his rationale, but the man at least put some thought into it and is willing to back it up.)

Nov 19, 2008 21:06 PM
rating: 2
 
ruben398

Never understood why the Cy Young is simply understood to be solely about individual achievement (even if it uses wins in its analysis), thus allowing players from non-playoff teams to win, while the MVP virtually requires the player to lead his team to the playoffs or blow away the field. I didn't think there was such a big difference between someone who is the "best" and someone who is the "most valuable".

Nov 19, 2008 21:07 PM
rating: 1
 
HRFastness

I live in Milwaukee.
Hardicourt fancies himself to be Peter Gammons.
My radio station of choice had Hardicourt on damn-near every single gameday for the Brewers. Just awful.
I would welcome very, very much a 15,000 word column on how blatantly idiotic he is.

Nov 20, 2008 00:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Christopher Miller
(88)

another BP reader in Milwaukee? Can you join me in my annual demand for a Book event here for once?

Nov 20, 2008 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
ksalmon

I can't see that it's blazingly obvious that Lester is better than Matsuzaka. Their PRAR, PRAA, and WARP (all 3 varieties) are nearly identical. Lester leads in a very important category for SPs, Innings (210.1 to 167.2); and his BB/9IP is much better (2.82 to 5.05); but if these were such a strong indicator of dominance, why are their WARP essentially the same?

BTW, Matzusaka's DERA is better: 3.13 to 3.34.

Nov 20, 2008 05:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

The difference is 42 2/3 innings in which Lester allowed 20 runs. (Matsuzaka minus Lester.) Lester had Matsuzaka's season, then tacked on six or seven above-average starts. That's the argument for him, and it's a very strong one.

Nov 20, 2008 06:36 AM
 
ksalmon

Then why doesn't Lester's WARP reflect this? If Lester is Matsuzaka with 6 or 7 additional above-average starts, surely we should see this in Wins above Replacement. Instead, Lester and Matsuzaka's WARP numbers are almost identical.

Rather than your interpretation, I see it as a situation in which Matsuzaka pitched much better on a per-innning basis, but Lester's additional innings allowed him to catch up over the course of the season.

Nov 20, 2008 09:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Now that someone paying more attention than me (thank you) has mentioned this, it sounds near logically-inarguable. If it isn't, doesn't that then mean you've got a big hole somewhere in the WARP rating?

Nov 20, 2008 09:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Wharton93

Albert Pujols deserved the award.

But no need to hate on Ryan Howard so much. It's not the Most Vorp Player or the Most Warp3 Player (although it would be nice if it was, since we could track it daily in September like a pennant race instead of waiting until some sleepy November Tuesday night).

The MVP award is generally linked in voters minds to HR, RBI and a division title and Howard led the way in HR and RBI (and won a division title). He's going to get lots of consideration---get over it. Great players like Pujols should continue to beat him, even well into 2011 when Howard vanishes into the night like Mo Vaughn.

Nov 20, 2008 05:17 AM
rating: -1
 
SaberTJ

The point is Howard wasn't even the best player on his team. Utley was by far the superior player.

Nov 20, 2008 05:44 AM
rating: 2
 
Lou Doench

"The guy who listed Joey Votto ahead of Geovany Soto, well, you stay classy."

I'll buy that guy a Christian Morelein. C'mon, they were separated by 4 points of VORP. I'm glad The right guy won, but that vote wasn't as slam dunk as Pujols over Howard. Interestingly, when I went to look up the stats I noticed this.

Player A:.272/.343/.531, 35.7 VORP
Player B:.297/.368/.506, 35.3 VORP
That's Evan Longoria on top, and Our Pal Joey on the bottom. I know Evan has a higher ceiling due to youth, but I was struck by how similar the seasons are. Longoria picked up 38 downballot votes for AL MVP, Soto picked up 41 in the NL, and Joey, a player just as good as either of them, got.....zero.


Nov 20, 2008 05:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I'll throw something else into the mix--Votto, at least by one measure, was fantastic defensively. Longoria was a +11, in plus/minus, at third. Votto was +19 at first. The gap in downballot MVP votes can be explained pretty much entirely by team performance and a deeper field of candidates.

I have no idea how Soto and Votto can be so close in VORP. Votto has about 25 more PA, but they had basically the same season and basically the same rates, and there's the massive positional difference. Soto has a huge edge in PMLVr. I'm vexed. And I still say that voting Votto ahead of Soto is silly--two guys have the same season, one's a catcher and the other's a first baseman. You vote for the catcher.

The real story here is that Dusty Baker gave Joey Votto a full season of PAs. I didn't see that coming, and he deserves credit for it.

Nov 20, 2008 06:31 AM
 
Lou Doench

"The real story here is that Dusty Baker gave Joey Votto a full season of PAs. I didn't see that coming, and he deserves credit for it."

That was a real nail biter here in the Queen City. Remember, Scott Hatteberg started the season at 1b with Joey on the bench for the first couple of weeks. At first I thought Krivsky was trying to showcase Hat. Then after hitting like a little girl for 34 games, Hat just...Dissapeared! I expected all season for him to pop up on somebody's roster as a platoon dh/1b or pinch hitter. What happened?

Dusty did much better by the young players than anybody here expected. Despite his fascination with Corey Patterson, he played Joey, rode through The Bruce's midseason slump, and he didn't kill Edwin Encarnacion. Maybe this is the first time Dusty has had an actual rebuilding team on his hands. In SF he always had Bonds, and in Chicago he was put in charge of a team expected to compete for a title right away. Here in Cincy the pressure is less to win now so he has the leeway to let the kids play?

Think Votto's defense translates to LF when Yonder Alonso shows up?

Nov 22, 2008 06:01 AM
rating: 0
 
Steve D.

Agree with Jmast. After years of electing the wrong guys, did we really expect 60 voters to suddenly see the light? This is an evolutionary process and we should be thrilled that it's gotten far enough to where the right (or reasonable) guys are winning.

There are always going to be stupid ballots by reporters who over- or under-think. Can we stop recycling the same criticisms every year and just enjoy the tide changing?

Nov 20, 2008 08:43 AM
rating: 1
 
Richie

It's always fulfilling to crow about how much smarter we are than those guys. Much more enjoyable than watching a tide change.

Nov 20, 2008 10:04 AM
rating: 0
 
tdrury

>>>Then why doesn't Lester's WARP reflect this? If Lester is Matsuzaka with 6 or 7 additional above-average starts, surely we should see this in Wins above Replacement. Instead, Lester and Matsuzaka's WARP numbers are almost identical.

One interesting detail is that the difference does seem to be a WARP one rather than a VORP one, which shows about an 8 run difference (probably about what we'd expect... 8 runs plus 20 in 42.7 gives us a replacement RA of 5.9ish). So I would guess at first glance that it has something to do with the specific differences between the two.

Where each metric sets replacement level is certainly a possibility (although 20 runs in 42.7 innings should certainly still be on the happy side of it). Matsuzaka also gets a little more credit for defense in WARP (looks like about 2 runs). Any other thoughts regarding how the two metrics are calculated that can shed some light on this?

Nov 20, 2008 10:10 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Murphy
BP staff

Not sure if everyone is aware of this, and without getting into calculation details, it is important to know that WARP (Clay Davenport) and VORP (Keith Woolner) were developed by different people, so they will naturally differ.

There are some key differences between the two, like replacement level definitions (as mentioned), that lead some to prefer one or the other (sometimes strongly).

Nov 21, 2008 09:29 AM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I haven't dug too deeply into the numbers here but it's something I've come across before. The reason they're closer in WARP than they appear to be based on their similar ERAs across a wide disparity in innings is founded in their strikeout rates, because WARP divides credit between a pitcher and his defense. Matsuzaka's higher strikeout rate (8.5 EqK9) accords him a larger share of credit for his innings pitched than Lester's (6.6) rate does for him.

I'm not saying that looks 100% right from here without a closer look, but that's where the ground is going to be made up between those wide totals.

Nov 21, 2008 20:37 PM
 
Mike888

Wow, Joe! My first thought when I finished your article was that it made me view the BP website in the same light that I view fivethirtyeight.com. In other words, narrative with a shrill, biased agenda overlaying a fantastic database & set of tools that lends itself to impressive and accurate predictions by extremely intelligent people.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Seriously, that was a fantastic read - one of my favorite BP articles ever and that is saying a lot - and should be required reading for every member of the BBRAA. Of couse, said reading would be extremely counter-productive but still . . .

Nov 20, 2008 11:23 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

The title should be "The Ignorant Tools."

Nov 20, 2008 12:36 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

What were the chances of someone with 17HRs winning the MVP ten years ago in 1998?

Repeat after me ....

Perfomance enhancing drugs have no effect.
Performance ehhancing drugs have no effect.
Performance enhancing drugs have no effect.



Nov 21, 2008 07:49 AM
rating: -1
 
John Collins
(110)

Uh, you mean like in 2001 when Ichiro won the MVP with 8 homers, or in 1995, when Barry Larkin won with 15?

Nov 25, 2008 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
Tuck
(667)

Taking your animus toward BWAA up a notch this year, nicely done. I was wondering how you'd handle it, since this annual rite of fall had gotten so stale it was growin' mold! But wishing for 15,000 words to break down one voter's ballot... bravo. Considering they got most of the calls right, I guess you were left to attack the organization itself, or one ballot in particular. Not surprising. Not insightful or interesting, but definitely not surprising.

Personally, I don't have feelings one way or another about the BWAA, but I do know that the arrogance of the BP writers will cost them now and into the future. Your brand is good, but it has flaws. You all try too hard to be contrarian, then cry when you're not allowed into the mainstream. But whatever. I look forward to seeing what angle you'll take next year in this space--"BBWA wants to teach sex ed to kindergartners!"--but regardless I'll stick around to try to bring you back to earth. Francoeur in '08!

Nov 21, 2008 16:25 PM
rating: 3
 
calhounite

Santana over Lincecum, Volquez, Votto

1+1 =...big numba

okay, passed and don't give me the bullcrap about having to be able to spell P-u-j...whatever

email me my ballot...got my address.




Nov 27, 2008 01:04 AM
rating: 0
 
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