BBWAA, Get Your Act Together!

< rant >

Earlier this week, I poked some good-natured fun at the BBWAA for their Rookie of the Year award voting. See, Edinson Volquez of the Reds finished fourth in the balloting, yet he is not a rookie. Just because nobody heard of him prior to this year does not automatically deem him eligible as a rookie. I mentioned how numerous bloggers, myself included, had been running a year-long ballot for the three major end of season awards, and we knew from the get-go that Volquez did not qualify. I thought a transgression like this could forgotten, but after seeing the voting totals for the AL Cy Young Award today, I legitimately felt like finding the addresses of some voters and berating them until they gave solid enough reasoning for their selections.

Cliff Lee deserved to win, so let’s clear that up right now. My anger has nothing to do with his victory. He would have had my vote if I were so privileged. He may not repeat this performance next season, but a 2.54 ERA, 2.83 FIP, and K/BB above 5.0, combined with a 5.96 WPA and league best 4.76 WPA/LI is definitely worthy of an award honoring the best pitcher of the season. Halladay may faced stiffer competition, and twirled nine complete games, but honestly, Lee deserved this.

My anger stems from the balloting after that, even though a correction ultimately would not have changed the result. Roy Halladay finished in second place, which is appropriate. In any other season, Doc likely would have run away with the award, with his 2.78 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 246 innings logged, K/BB above 5.0, and 4.27 WPA/LI. He even received four first-place votes, meaning four writers and voters felt he legitimately had a better season than Lee. Lee, of course, finished in second place on each of those ballots.

Given how these two pitchers were, far and away, the cream of the crop in the junior circuit, I expected to see Halladay register anywhere from 20-24 of the remaining second place votes. How many did he register? 15. A little math shows then that, of the 24 remaining ballots that did not put Halladay as the top candidate, nine voters felt someone else was legitimately better and more deserving.

Now, given that Francisco Rodriguez broke the saves record this season, I then expected that those remaining nine second-place votes belonged to K-Rod. A quick glance at the total tallies showed that K-Rod only received seven of those nine second-place votes. So where did the other two go? Thanks for asking, they went to Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox. Yes, the same Daisuke that posted a 2.90 ERA, lower than Halladay, a 4.03 FIP, a full run lower than Halladay, a K/BB ratio under 1.70, and who didn’t even record 170 innings pitched.

Two voters felt that Daisuke had a better season than Halladay. Even using the W-L record, Daisuke did go 18-3, but Halladay won 20 games and did it on a team with an offense considerably worse than the Red Sox. Clearly, voters have to know this, right? Further, Daisuke wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team, as Jon Lester ran away with those honors. And Lester received NO votes at all! In essence, we have a situation where two second-place votes were given to a pitcher who not only did not deserve them over the rightful owner, but had no business receiving more votes than another pitcher better than him on his own team.

With my anger brewing, my eyes shifted to the third-place column, where I expected to see that Roy Halladay had racked up 9 votes. After all, there are 28 ballots, and he received 4 first-place and 15 second-place votes. I haven’t taken arithmetic since the second grade, but that leaves nine unanswered ballots for Halladay. Guess how many third place votes he had. Six. Nine minus six equals three. That means… wait for it… three voters felt that Roy Halladay had no place on their ballot?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I mean, seriously, are you kidding me!? I don’t even care if Mariano Rivera had a much better season than K-Rod, or that Lester had a better year than Daisuke, or that Ervin Santana had a better year than BOTH Lester and Daisuke. No, what I care about is that three voters filled in a name under first place, second place, and third place, and none of those names were Roy Halladay. Three writers filled out AL Cy Young Award ballots with some combination of Lee-Rodriguez-Santana or Lee-Rodriguez-Rivera, or Lee-Rodriguez-Daisuke, or Lee-Daisuke-Mussina, or any of the other possibe combinations sans Halladay.

To me, this is absolutely atrocious, and if I were in charge, it would be grounds for revoking voting privileges. Even the caveman baseball stats peg Halladay as better than pretty much anyone other than Lee. I write two articles per day here at Fangraphs, 1-2 per week at Statistically Speaking, 4-8 a month at Baseball Prospectus, and chime in every now and then at The Hardball Times, WHILE managing the workload of a graduate business student, responsibilities as a screenwriter, a tax preparer, and a few other web-based jobs, and I was still able to find 10-15 minutes to really analyze the numbers of all of these candidates. None of this is designed to toot my own horn, but rather to show that I am equally as busy, if not moreso, than those with voting privileges.

And yet, someone who “doesn’t live in their mother’s basement,” who is “around the players” and “at the ballpark,” with nothing to do other than meet their deadline with an article full of drivel, cannot do the same? I honestly don’t know what else to say on this one. If Albert Pujols doesn’t win the NL MVP award, well…

< /rant >




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


27 Responses to “BBWAA, Get Your Act Together!”

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  1. Isaac says:

    I didn’t bother to look at any of the results for this very reason. I had a feeling that the voters did some bad, bad things, but I never guessed Ervin Santana would enter the mix, or even Dice-K for that matter. Wow.

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  2. dan says:

    I second that. All of it.

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  3. Derek Carty says:

    Excellently written, Eric. It’s simply inexcusable. And you’re right that Ervin Santana had a better season than most give him credit for.

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  4. Bill B. says:

    I don’t get why the BBWAA hands out the awards anyway. What kind of money are they paying MLB?

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  5. Bill B. says:

    Meant to add that this was a great article, Eric. Loved it from start to finish. I was planning to write something like this myself, but you beat me to it and did a much better job than I would have, and you barely resorted to sarcasm. I would have been hard-pressed to repress the snark.

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  6. SP says:

    Eric, I appreciate you standing up for Doc, but everywhere I go I keep hearing the same argument. It goes something like, “Yea Halladay was great, he had better peripherals than Lee, faced better competition, threw 9 CGs, but come on, you gotta give it to Lee right?” I just heard the same thing from Jayson Stark on ESPN, arguing that Lee’s combination of W-L record and ERA are just too much for the rest to matter.

    I don’t get it. What makes smart baseball people look at Halladay’s dominance but then end up ignoring the facts anyway? Eric, I don’t want to accuse you falling back on the the same primal “ERA and W-L is king” instincts like the BBWAA idiots, but I would like to see someone actually make the case for Lee instead of just giving it to him by default because his surface numbers fit some antiquated rubric.

    Here’s why I bring this up. Halladay did this…

    9 CGs vs 4 for Lee
    4.72 run support vs 6.13
    2 more GS
    lower WHIP
    23 more IP
    36 more Ks
    better K/BB
    better K/9
    lower P/PA
    lower P/IP
    way better GB/FB ratio
    lower opp. OPS and OBP
    way lower opp. BA
    higher AGS (avg game score)
    highest PRC (pitching runs created) – tied with Lee
    best adjusted FIP – Lee was 6th
    2nd most quality starts in AL with 23 – tied with Lee
    better ERC (Component ERA) and ERC%

    Meanwhile, Lee only beat Halladay in ERA, DIPS ERA, VORP, and W-L.

    You can see these stats at:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching?sort=avgGameScore&split=0&league=al&season=2008&seasonType=2&type=pitch5&ageMin=17&ageMax=51&hand=a&pos=all&minip=0

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/thtstats/main/index.php?view=pitching&linesToDisplay=50&qual_filter=1&season_filter0=2008&league_filter0=1&Submit=Submit&orderBy=prc&direction=DESC&page=1

    So there it is for everyone to see. I don’t see how anyone looks at that kind of dominance and gives it to Lee instead. Let’s ignore the idiot BBWAA guys because they’ve shown they are irrelevant. But even smart baseball writers and bloggers like Stark, Law, yourself, etc., have sided with Lee and I just don’t get the reasoning. Is the VORP, DIPS, and ERA really enough to put Lee over the top?

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  7. Eric Seidman says:

    SP, do a search here or at Google and you will find that I felt for most of the season that Halladay deserved the award over Lee, and that both Dave and I had a fun post debate here discussing the merits of each winning the award. Also, I wrote that if I were building a team, I would, without question pick Doc, but this season alone, If you read my work here you will know I am the farthest from the BBWAA primal stats around. The point of this post was to show that, EVEN using the primal stats, Doc is still far and away better than everyone other than Lee, and he even gives Lee a run for his money.

    Let’s take a look at their end-of-season numbers:

    ERA: Lee 2.54, Doc 2.78
    FIP: Lee 2.83, Doc 3.03
    K/9: Lee 6.85, Doc 7.54
    BB/9: Lee 1.37, Doc 1.43
    K/BB: Lee 5.00, Doc 5.28
    WHIP: Lee 1.11, Doc 1.05
    LOB: Lee 78.3%, Doc 74.5%

    The reason to include LOB with WHIP is that even though Lee allowed SLIGHTLY more baserunners, he stranded more than Doc, so it’s essentially a wash there.

    IP: Lee 223.1, Doc 246
    CG: Lee 4, Doc 9
    WPA: Lee 5.96, Halladay 3.71

    The reason WPA is important is because pitchers essentially create their own situations, and the “clutchiness” factor is built in. Based on that, Lee was 2 wins better than Halladay.

    WPA/LI: Lee 4.76, Halladay 4.27

    Even if we look at the WPA from a context-neutral standpoint as above, Lee is 0.5 wins better than Halladay. Overall, it’s extremely close. Halladay faced stiffer competition and racked up more raw totals. I don’t know. I think it’s a situation where if I had a vote I’d initially be inclined to vote for Lee, and at the last second would second-guess like crazy.

    EITHER WAY, Halladay would be no further down the ballot than 2nd place, which is the lowest he should be on any sane ballot.

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  8. Eric Seidman says:

    Oh, and one other factor we forgot to mention is that Doc played behind a MUCH better defense than Lee.

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  9. Chanbara says:

    I’m tired of everyone talking about 2nd place.

    Nobody ever remembers who comes in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th.

    1st is what counts

    Soto, Longo, Timmy, Cliffy Lee all got their awards and I thank the BBWA for getting it right for once.

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  10. Eric Seidman says:

    This is not a post about second place. This is a post about how some writers legitimately felt that Roy Halladay was not better than everyone in the AL not named Cliff Lee. It signifies a problem greater than the voting, one involving a system wherein people who aren’t really qualified to make evaluative decisions are the ones with voting capacity.

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  11. SP says:

    Eric, well argued. I don’t know how much I trust WPA though.

    And just to clarify, I wasn’t at all putting you in the same crowd as the BBWAA. I just wanted someone to lay out their reasons for choosing Lee.

    “Oh, and one other factor we forgot to mention is that Doc played behind a MUCH better defense than Lee.”

    FIP covers that, but Doc does have a much better GB rate so at least he deserved to have that defense behind him.

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  12. Eric Seidman says:

    Yeah, my point with the defense is that we would expect a pitcher with a worse defense behind him to post a higher ERA. Doc had a much better defense behind him, and even though the ERA defense was a quarter of a run, Lee was able to get that 0.25 run advantage with a worse defense. Ultimately, whether they voted for Doc and Lee, they get it right. I just hate when we have seasons like this, where two players clearly deserve one award. It happened with Pujols and Bonds from 2001-2004. It’s kind of shocking that Albert has won just 1 MVP award isn’t it?

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  13. Ballwriter says:

    As a member of the BBWAA, my first inclination is to defend my brethren. However, even with the pool of voters growing more shallow each year because of job cuts and more news agencies forbidding their employees from voting, there was no excuse for three different writers to give Volquez votes.

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  14. Eric Seidman says:

    John, it’s not even the entire entity of the BBWAA that I have an issue with. It’s the whole idea that so many of these writers will be quick to put someone like myself down, and yet some of their own don’t even know Volquez isn’t a rookie, or legitimately felt Daisuke was better than Lester, that Ervin Santana wasn’t as good as Daisuke, that K-Rod is better because he had more saves, etc.

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  15. SP says:

    Point taken on the defense thing. I would still argue though that Doc pitching against much better competition, with much less run support, and thus in higher leverage situations mitigates the ERA difference a little bit.

    Check this out: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=1012

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  16. PaulDeReno says:

    Save your anger for when Ryan Howard wins the NL MVP.

    I’d bet $100 on it. (Though I’d need 4-1 odds)

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  17. PaulDeReno says:

    What I hope is that one day, the BBWAA will:

    a)Give the Rookie of the Year award itself to non-rookie.

    b)Give the NL MVP to someone in the AL

    c) Give a Gold Glove to someone who spent 3/4th of his innings as a DH.

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  18. PaulDeReno says:

    Strike through was used for 2 reasons, one of which is the full acknoledgement that BBWAA does not decide the Gold Gloves, BTW

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  19. Matt says:

    Great read. I am sorry, but Halladay should’ve won this award outright. Look at his total starts vs Bos, NYY and Tampa Bay (arguably the top 3-5 teams in the AL last season) well Halladay faced them 5 times each (I believe). With Boston and NYY being the toughest ‘grind’ for a starter, as both lineups are deep and very patient. In fact, Tampa’s free swinging approach has actually worked the best against Halladay, a team he consistently has struggled against in his career.

    Cliff Lee played in a terrible division this season, look at the lineups he got to face, not to mention he pitched in very few (if any) meaningfull games (ok, none). While Halladay and the Jays played atleast a few very stressful meaningful games (a few, when they were pretending to contend). Roy takes the ball every 5 days and gives you his all, doesn’t want to get pulled, finished more games himself than most pitching staffs in the game.

    3.03 FIP, 5.3 K/BB, 1.4 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9 (Rogers Centre gives up more than average HR totals – and that takes into account the pathetically powerless Jays lineup for 81 games). Halladay threw harder this year, raised his K/9 to a respectable 7.5 and as always produced a fair share of groundballs (top 10 gb%). His defense is league best and converts more balls in play into outs, but he plays to this strength game in and game out – by design.

    Halladay got his generic standard “20 wins” that atleast gets him into the argument of the ‘cavemen stat’ followers. Well, the cavemen should atleast know the RS/G numbers as well, which was more a product of Lee’s 22 victories. He pitched well, very well actually, but I give the nod to Halladay – his peripherals were just a bit better.

    In closing, if Cliff Lee does this next year, give him the award, but the fact that this one year wonder came out of nowhere (stats wise) to win this while Halladay has been doing this for years is another factor.

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  20. Jim says:

    Eric, I agree, but just something small to add: Cliff Lee had a higher LOB%, which does make the WHIP numbers a wash, but Halladay’s better WHIP means he pitched better, and Lee’s better LOB%, when it is that high, just means he got luckier.

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  21. Eric Seidman says:

    Jim, the gist of what you’re saying rings true, but Lee’s high LOB does not portend luck. Sure, I would rather have the 1.05 WHIP and 74.5% LOB pitcher over the 1.11 WHIP 78.5% LOB pitcher simply because a 78.5% LOB is not going to be sustainable whereas 74.5% isn’t that much above league average.

    Lee had the ability to get out of jams he found himself in this year that wasn’t 100% luck. Halladay created less jams for himself. Lee isn’t a super-duper pitcher who can get out of any jam he gets himself into, but his change in approach to more of a GB pitcher this year definitely helped him increase his skill in getting himself out of situations.

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  22. Eric Seidman says:

    Essentially, it isn’t luck, persay, but rather the result of a tremendous season. There have been many 78%+ LOB seasons in the past… it’s just that these aren’t generally sustainable. He rose way above his true talent level on that one and it will definitely regress, but that doesn’t make it luck in my book. If it were Halladay with the 1.11 WHIP and 78.5% LOB, who has a stellar and already established reputation, no way anyone here would chalk it up as luck. Instead it would be described as more of Halladay’s mastery. Not to say you’re wrong, but just that luck is the wrong word.

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  23. Steve says:

    Matt:

    You’re calling the BBWAA “cavemen,” but you want to make the Cy Young a vote based on years of performance and not just the season being voted on?

    I don’t care how someone did the past three years. If next year Tug McGraw rises from the grave and wins 30 games with a .50 ERA, he deserves the CYA.

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  24. SP says:

    Doesn’t Lee’s FIP-ERA difference and DIP% ratio being higher than Doc’s mean that Lee was the one who got luckier as far as defense?

    Lee:
    ERA: 2.54, DIPS: 2.95, FIP: 2.92
    FIP-ERA: 0.38, DIP%: 1.16

    Halladay
    ERA: 2.78, DIPS: 3.07, FIP: 3.09
    FIP-ERA: 0.31, DIP%: 1.11

    This is all of course independent of the fact that Halladay faced much better competition. In addition to the BP blog I linked above, check out Rob Neyer’s take on the competition gap: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=3700775&name=Neyer_Rob

    So basically, Lee’s biggest advantage over Halladay (ERA) is completely mitigated when considering competition.

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  25. Matt says:

    Neyer makes some good points…. Good read…. Lee was awesome, but it should’ve been Halladay, nuff said.

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  26. SP says:

    And one more qualitative thing to add. Halladay had 5 tough losses (loss in a quality start). Lee had none. Halladay has 0 cheap wins (win in a non-quality start). Lee had one.

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  27. Thx for this blog. Very good.

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