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October 2, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Putting the V in MVP

by Colin Wyers

Every year, at this time, there is a debate over what "valuable" means, in terms of Most Valuable Players. The instructions to voters say: "There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team." The rules of voting do provide some guidelines:

1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2.  Number of games played.

3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
 
4.  Former winners are eligible.
 
5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

Is there any recourse, though, to clarify the first point? Why, as a matter of fact, there is:

1.00—Objectives of the Game.

1.01 Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.
1.02 The objective of each team is to win by scoring more runs than the opponent.
1.03 The winner of the game shall be that team which shall have scored, in accordance with these rules, the greater number of runs at the conclusion of a regulation game.
 
So. It seems pretty clear about what the point of baseball is: "The objective of each team is to win by scoring more runs than the opponent." Value is being good at helping your team do the things that lead to scoring more runs than your opponent. We can debate until the cows come home about how to measure that value and the tangible versus intangible components of it, but as far as what value is, that seems to be pretty clear.

 

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Shankweather

It's clear from those guidelines that value comes from being the player with the most counting stats on a team that gets into the playoffs but doesn't clinch before Sep 28 or so. End of argument.

Oct 02, 2012 08:27 AM
rating: 6
 
Michael
(736)

It seems to me that value can be measured in at least three ways.

(1) Value in producing runs disregarding the context of each plate appearance. bWAR, fWAR and WARP all chose this method.

(2) Value in improving teams' probability of winning based on the game context in which players' perform. Win Probability Added is a measure of offensive contributions viewed this way, although there is no comparable metrics for measuring position players' defense this way.

(3) Value in improving teams' probability of winning a playoff slot (with a divisional championship worth double a wildcard berth). This isn't widely reported anywhere, but a couple folks especially Dave Studeman have looked at it in the past. The most valuable player viewed through this method will come from a small handful of teams who are in the hunt during the last week. The results of this method don't match anyone's expectations of who an MVP should be, if one really follows the logic and doesn't just give bonus points to hot September performances.

I usually use an amalgam of these three perspectives when filling out my Internet Baseball Awards ballot.

I tend to see "valuable" and "best" as meaning the same thing: both terms can be interpreted in at least the same three ways.

Oct 02, 2012 09:04 AM
rating: 2
 
craigburley

"Value is being good at helping your team do the things that lead to scoring more runs than your opponent."

Sure, that's a motherhood and apple pie kind of statement. Unpacking that, well, that's tricky.

Oct 02, 2012 09:36 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

Unless baseball is a business rather than a game and value should be measured in dollars.

Oct 02, 2012 10:36 AM
 
jrmayne

I think I don't understand this post.

To the extent I do understand it, it seems to say that measurements of run and win values and valuation of intangibles is at issue, but that if you agreed on that, you'd clearly agree on who was the most valuable. If that's the assertion, I disbelieve it.

Value's a particularly hard problem even if you have good quantitative valuations. I don't understand exactly what "Value is being good at helping your team do the things that lead to scoring more runs than your opponent," means, but let's try some out:

1. Most wins added. This seems a good way to do it, but there's a fatal problem: A guy 90 runs over replacement adds more wins to a .350 team than to a .650 team. So, if "Value is being good at helping your team do the things that lead to scoring more runs than your opponent," means "Most added wins," it's not quite right.

2. Most runs added/subtracted from enemy. Not good enough, and by a longshot. Leverage matters. By my view, if you have a team with 93 wins and a zero run differential, some players on that team should get credit for the 12 wins over Pythag. But you don't have to agree with me.

3. Most runs added/subtracted from enemy, adding a Pythag adjustment for overperforming or underperforming teams and adding some small bonus for playoff teams. That is not "pretty clear" to me.

So we're going to disagree on value even where we agree on the accuracy of the numbers, the precision of the numbers, the value of intangibles for any given player... we're not reaching a place of agreement. How is "what value is" "pretty clear"? I'm baffled.

Oct 02, 2012 11:09 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I agree on the definition of value qualitatively. I don't think the hammer, while close, hits the nail on the head quantitatvely.

Oct 02, 2012 13:55 PM
rating: 0
 
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