Limitless ballots could make for Hall of Fame overkill, but maybe there's a simple solution.
Former New York Times writer and current blogger Murray Chass recently wrote about why he turned in a blank Hall of Fame ballot. In the piece, he shares an e-mail he sent to ballot-tracker Ryan Thibodaux:
Teaching the meaning of the replacement level to old sportswriters and other children.
Integral to those numbers is something called WAR, which stands for wins above replacement. What replacement? A replacement player, of course, but he’s mythical.
Statistics zealots apparently love to deal with mythical or hypothetical players. The problem for those of us who prefer dealing with reality and actual human beings is we can’t buy into the idea of using mathematical formulas instead of real players.—Murray Chass, September 5, 2010.
I have considered WAR and VORP (“value over replacement player;” yes there’s that replacement guy again), and I have a basic problem with them. The replacement player isn’t real; he’s a myth, and I’ve never seen a myth play baseball. It’s like fantasy baseball. That stuff isn’t real either. —Chass, March 6, 2011
Before we begin, a disclaimer of sorts, or at least a plea for indulgence. I know we hit ol’ Murray quite recently, and at that time some of the comments suggested that we stop shooting at this fish and leave him in his Hall of Fame barrel. I’m sympathetic to that point of view to the extent that I suspect we in the sabermetric community are the only people paying the slightest attention, and unsympathetic because (a) the existence of retrograde thought offends me, (b) battling ignorance is part of my job description, and (c) attacking it is so darned fun.
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Quality starts have value, despite the cavils of retrograde thinkers.
Murray Chass is at it again, or perhaps he never stopped. I'm not sure, as I'll admit an aversion to reading the blog of a writer who years ago declared his loathing for the form and its practitioners, but now dwells in that very ghetto himself since being laid off by the New York Times. Chass has made noise twice in recent weeks via missives bemoaning the diminishing primacy of pitcher wins and assailing the so-called "new-age thinking" of anyone who would introduce more modern measures, be they VORP, WAR(P), or quality starts. Even the latter, which was introduced by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Lowe back in 1985, is too newfangled for Chass' tastes.
What the rankings don't tell us is just as important as what they do.
The end of the season brings with it a lot of miserable things. It brings about the playoffs (and trust me, for a Cubs fan, that’s about as miserable as it gets), and soon thereafter the end of baseball altogether for the season (well, this may be more miserable). It also brings with it awards voting season.
The Astros haven't lived up to expectations this season. Albert Pujols has posted another monster year for the Cardinals. The Rangers are on fire. These and other news and notes out of Houston, St. Louis and Texas in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Give them credit, they gave it a shot with the Carlos
Beltran trade, but things just didn't gel, and the Astros are going
to end up with their worst finish since they stumbled to a 72-90 record in
2000 after three consecutive division titles.