Defending Law

Note: This is not in defense of Keith Law’s voting order. Please don’t confuse it as such because my points have little to do with how Javier Vazquez or Chris Carpenter pitched in comparison to each other throughout 2009.

Let’s get this out of the way before someone spoils it in the comments: I am a fan of Law. I do not always agree with his analysis but I find his takes interesting and usually thought-provoking if nothing else. The same can be said for Dave Cameron, Sky Kalkman, Rob Neyer, Tom Tango, and whomever else. Law and I have exchanged some emails over the years. He’s always been personable and honest. With that said, none of it comes into play with what I’m writing here.

Law made a decision on his National League Cy Young ballot that has blown up into something ridiculous. You have fellow BBWAA writers taking shots at him (after breaking BBWAA creeds by announcing the winners early themselves), you have at least one crazed Missourian searching for his home address, and there’s just a general sense of distaste for someone who didn’t make that big of a transgression on his ballot no matter what you use to judge pitchers.

Let’s consider a few things:

1. Keith Law worked in a front office.

Whatever you think of his job there or his credentials to land that job, he does have that experience. This doesn’t mean he’s automatically correct. What it does – or rather, what it would mean – if he (hypothetically) chose Rick Porcello for rookie of the year is that some of these people slamming him for the Cy Young pick would use his opinion in their arguments as an appeal to authority. “Oh, so you’re saying you with your fancy FIP are smarter than a former assistant GM? Hah, right.”

2. Other, less defensible, voting choices

Law’s perceived gaffe:

Name	Wins	IP	ERA	FIP
Vaz	15	219.1	2.87	2.77
Carp	17	192.2	2.24	2.78

The real mistake of the voting process:

Name	        W	IP	ERA	FIP
Greinke	        16	229.1	2.16	2.33
Verlander	19	240	3.45	2.80
Hernandez	19	238.2	2.49	3.09

Someone voted Justin Verlander first over Greinke and Hernandez. If everyone is going insane and willing to burn Law at the stake for taking Vazquez’s 0.6 runs higher ERA then pass the tar and feathers and let’s get the sucker who voted Verlander first. Verlander is the same guy with an ERA nearly a full run higher than Hernandez and nearly a run and a half higher than Greinke. Can anyone tell me who made that vote, because I haven’t seen it anywhere, but go to Jon Heyman’s twitter feed and you’ll find quite a few Law quips.

3. Bias

The Law backlash isn’t merely from his vote. He’s a snarky internet writer and some perceive him as a holier than thou critic with a God complex. Even if you do think of Law in that capacity, why is he the martyr for supposedly “dumb” voting decisions? I am by no means a BBWAA awards historian, but using Baseball-Reference and Google I found two decisions that reek of far more incompetence than any ballot Law could create using the top four choices. Last year Brad Lidge and Francisco Rodriguez received first place MVP votes. Lidge actually received two. CC Sabathia received zero NL MVP votes. Let’s compare their numbers:

Sabathia (NL only): 130.2 IP, 1.65 ERA, 11 W
Lidge: 69.1 IP, 1.95 ERA, 41 SV

Did anyone ask Buck Martinez what he thought of those voters?

Whether you use WAR, WARP, ERA, or flip a coin, this isn’t the worst voting decision ever. Hell, it’s not even the worst of this awards season. For those members of the BBWAA (and please note it’s a select few) making a fracas over this when you stood silent in the past: shame on you. Any progress seemingly made on the Greinke vote is being undone because of sour grapes by folks hoping to keep the BBWAA an old boys club.




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123 Responses to “Defending Law”

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  1. Steve says:

    http://www.mlive.com/tigers/index.ssf/2009/11/detroit_tigers_justin_verlande.html

    Steve Kornacki, Detroit writer voted for Verlander.

    not sure if it’s the same guy who voted for Ordonez over A-Rod in 2007

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  2. Bryz says:

    He mentions that Verlander’s play at the end of the season helped force a one-game playoff with the Twins in that article. He is correct though, Verlander helped by losing two games to the Twins late in the season.

    At least the guy congratulated Greinke for winning and felt that he did pick the correct pitchers, even though they should have been rated differently.

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  3. Perkins says:

    I can see voting for Verlander 2nd over Hernandez, but Greinke should have been a unanimous first.

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  4. Keith Law says:

    Thanks, RJ. It really has been blown quite out of proportion, as the only direct criticism I’ve heard from a BBWAA writer is from Heyman.

    The Martinez comment is hilarious, since we never worked together on anything.

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  5. Joe says:

    First, Keith is easily one of my favorite writers, probably my favorite. But I have to think that at sometime in the past he has taken a shot or two at the BBWAA as a whole because of the way they thought in regards to baseball. But maybe I am mistaken…

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    • Zack says:

      He did, when Morneau won the MVP he mentioned how writers couldnt even pick the most valuable Twin so how do you expect them to pick the MVP of the league

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  6. walkoffblast says:

    They would have really hated my ballot, I would have been tempted to go Lincecum, Vazquez, Haren. I find it amazing how many people seem to think there is an obviously correct way to rank the 4 pitchers after Lincecum. Quite honestly if Heyman does not “understand” how someone could leave Carpenter off their ballot he is even worse at his job then I thought (which is remarkable considering how lowly I already regard him).

    This is going to quickly turn into one of the most annoying trends in sports. Someone uses modern analysis correctly to make an unconventional move, chaos ensues.

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  7. Not David says:

    Jon Heyman, horrible “analyst,” Boras lackey, gigantic tool.

    The End.

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  8. PhillyFriar says:

    Well stated, RJ.

    I’ve lost any remaining respect I had for Heyman and Martinez with those comments. And Heyman even went so far as to apologize to Will Carroll, but not Law. Just absolutely classless.

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    • Andrew says:

      Not to mention the fact that Buck tried to pot shot Law when everyone this side of Trey Hillman knows that Martinez was an awful hire. Christ, when they bring in a faux Vietnam vet without doing the background check, you KNOW they wanted your ass out.

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  9. cpebbles says:

    Anyone know the wording of the Cy Young ballot? I’m guessing that if you include the little things (Batting, defense), the final “best” result would be something like Lincecum > Haren, Wainwright > Carpenter > Vazquez. It’s become a slight annoyance that we’ve started to disregard everything a pitcher does when he doesn’t have the ball in his hand. Almost insignificant in comparison, sure, but the sky is falling over Vazquez being judged a run or two better than Carpenter.

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  10. Paul says:

    Man, that sucks that Keith Law’s vote gave Vazquez the Cy over Carpenter… oh wait a minute…. I’ll figure out what this is all about eventually.

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  11. acerimusdux says:

    Why are so many people using FIP to discuss Cy Young voting anyway? FIP is a good forecasting stat, but it’s not as much performance stat. For actual productivity, I think you need to use something more context sensitive. For pitchers, especially, all runs are not created equal. The object is to win the most games, not allow the least runs. I want to see which pitcher’s contributions gave his team the best chance to win.

    WPA
    5.41 Carpenter
    4.26 Lincecum
    3.60 Wainwright
    3.35 Jurrjens
    3.16 Jimenez
    3.12 Cain
    3.05 Johnson
    2.95 Haren
    2.94 Kershaw
    2.41 Vazquez

    Or, how about checking out B-Pro, for support neutral value adjusted value above replacement:

    SNLVAR
    8.5 Wainwright
    8.2 Lincecum
    8.0 Carpenter
    8.0 Jurrjens
    7.5 Cain
    7.4 Vazquez

    The same top three seem to show up, in some order, a number of ways I look at it. Using RE24 or support neutral win percentage, for example. And Vazquez just isn’t in that group.

    In the AL, the clear winner is Greinke, but the next three, Hernandez, Halladay, and Verlader, are close and show in varying order.

    WPA
    6.07 Greinke
    4.19 Verlander
    3.52 Halladay
    3.26 Hernanadez

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    • acerimusdux says:

      Hmm, cpebbles mentions above, rightly, that we ought to include batting, at least in the NL. That does slightly change the WPA order:

      WPA
      4.85 Carpenter
      3.50 Lincecum
      2.81 Jurjens
      2.81 Johnson
      2.70 Wainwright

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      • TCQ says:

        FIP is NOT a predictive stat that doesn’t measure actual contribution. That’d be something like xFIP. FIP simply measures controllable aspects of a pitcher’s performance, which is what really matters.

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      • acerimusdux says:

        FIP measures SOME controllable aspects of a pitchers performance, those for which there is less noise in smaller data samples and thus which are more useful for predicting future performance.

        It may capture MOST of a pitcher’s contribution, but still leaves many significant aspects out, such as inducing IFF, inducing bad contact and generating outs on balls in play, and performance in clutch or high leverage situations, including stranding runners.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      There are three problems with WPA:

      1) It doesn’t include any park adjustments
      2) Like ERA, it gives the pitcher full credit for defensive support (which is why we use FIP in the first place)
      3) It doesn’t include a replacement level adjustment

      The last one is overlooked too often I believe. Since WPA is the change in win probability for an AVERAGE team, a replacement level player will have negative WPA. So Carpenter’s innings need to be taken into account when using WPA. He gets full credit for his WPA, but you also have to include the 33 some odd innings of replacement level WPA that is the difference between him and Lincecum and Vasquez or Wainwright.

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      • Kincaid says:

        I think Tango mentioned on his blog that WPA on FanGraphs is somewhat park adjusted, in that it is aware of different run environments (i.e. parks), which makes sense since it is based on Markovs and you could input different values to get the different win probabilities for different parks. I agree on the other points.

        I think you could also add that WPA is overly sensitive to LI and overly aggressive in assigning value to certain plays, especially compounded with the issue of not splitting up defense and pitching. As far as I can tell, a booted ground ball, passed ball, and a swinging bunt where the third baseman charges and throws a ball into the outfield letting the winning run score can be a crushing blow to a pitcher’s WPA. There are also times when a player can add more than a full team’s share of a win, which makes no sense as far as actual value translated to the standings. Not that WPA is without its uses, but if someone is thinking its a perfect translation of performance to actual impact on the team’s record and that nothing else adds any additional information in that regard, that’s not true.

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    • Neil says:

      I can appreciate why everyone loves FIP so much, but the Cy shouldn’t be solely based on “controllable aspects” of the pitcher’s game, at least as they’re defined here. A good pitcher also knows when he can rely on a good defense to bail him out and when he needs to go after the batter himself, and pitches accordingly. (Greinke suggested this himself, in fact, when he said that he pitched in order to get the ball hit in Dejesus’ direction.)

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  12. Zack says:

    This is the problem with having voting for these awards.
    Verlander got 1st place vote from the Detriot writer- because you know that wasnt done to kiss his ass and hoping to get some interview/inside info at a future date.
    In 2008 Evan Grant (from TX) left Pedroia off his MVP ballot, and voted KRod SECOND IN MVP! You can argue Pedroia because of his OPS, but KROD for 2nd?! Come on.

    Old baseball writers base their vote on out-of-date stats that dont truly represent the ability of the pitcher, yet they say KLaw voting process is ‘wrong’? Funny.

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    • Joe R says:

      Seriously, K-Rod even got a first place MVP vote last year.
      Thinking K-Rod was the most valuable player in the AL in 2008 ranges from idiocy to sociopathology.

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  13. giantsrainman says:

    I don’t see why those bitching are even bithing. Even if both Law and Carrol had voted for Carpenter he would have still lost. Another 2nd place vote from Law and another 3rd place vote from Carrol would have only raised Carpenter’s points from 94 to 98 and he would have still lost to Lincecum by 2 points.

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    I think one can say that Keith Law is wrong for leaving Carpenter off his ballot AND state that some others are wrong for some of their decisions.

    We are not 12yo junior high kids that are forced into a false dichotomy of “If Keith Law is wrong, then everyone else is right”.

    Law leaving Carpenter off the ballot reminds me of Bill Belichick going for it on 4th and 2. Sometimes guys are too smart (or think they are) for their own good and basically think anything they say or do must be right, regardless of it’s accuracy or logic. When that person is (or perceived to be) “self-righteous”, then yes … the backlash is going to be severe. That person can likely live with it, because soon enough they’ll be right back on top of the mountain (either real or perceived).

    What bothers me is the rank and file positioning of ones opinions based on affiliation. All of the stat heads are backing Law because of a perceived (perhaps) attack on sabermetrics or using less common stats to make a decision, rather than just examining the situation and seeing that many are questioning how a couple of ESPN dudes left off completely the former-cy young pitcher that the rest of the country thought had the 2nd best season.

    Personally, I ask “Vasquez over Carpenter, really?” I mean seriously …

    Let’s lay out all of the stats comparing Vasquez and Carpenter and let the “cards fall where they may”. My initial feeling is that a whole LOT of statitical gymnastics is required to support a ‘Vasquez>Carpenter’ situation, and numerous stat connections or links is generally evidence that the decision/conclusion is “not a good one”.

    I’m still waiting to be convinced that Vasquez outperformed Carpenter. I’m not seeing it, while admitting that Vasquez was under the radar all year (which his career history shows that’s good for him).

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    • Doug Melvin says:

      “My initial feeling is that a whole LOT of statitical gymnastics is required to support a ‘Vasquez>Carpenter’ situation,”

      Yeah. Writers should vote for the pitcher whose jaw most closely resembles a square.

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    • Rob says:

      Not sure that it requires that much to see 219 is more than 192.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Sorry.

        When I said, “Let’s lay out ALL the stats” and “let the Cards fall where they may” … I should have known that someone would post ONE stat comparison.

        I agree that 219 is more than 192. Point to Vasquez.

        I am assuming you did not vote Wainwright #1 and Lincecum #2 b/c Waino threw more innings?

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    • H says:

      Law mentioned three factors in comparing Carpenter to Vazquez. Vazquez’s FIP being slightly lower than Carpenter’s puts them in the same ballpark. Once they’re in the same ballpark, Vazquez’s extra 4 starts and 26 2/3 innings puts Vazquez ahead of Carpenter. Finally, Law felt that Vazquez pitched in the more difficult division. The five teams in the NL Central excluding St. Louis averaged 4.25 runs per game. The four teams in the NL East excluding Atlanta averaged 4.59 runs per game.

      I don’t know if this convinces you, but it convinced Law to vote in the way that he did.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        My 1st question would be whether FIP is the ‘BEST’ initial seperator among SP’s? (Is it?)

        Under 200 IP (IMO) is a BIG negative for Carpenter. But, theoretically, it is still possible for a guy to “kick more butt” (just to use a colorful phrase) in 192 IP than another did in 219 … especially if he has an edge in the other measures of “kicking butt”.

        Vasquez being in a “tougher division” can be countered by “Being in a pennant race all year and leading the division”. I would lean toward the former, and voting has traditionally gone in favor of those involved in division winners or being highly involved in the post-season. IMO, Law is going against the grain in this aspect a little too far.

        If he’s going to use non-traditional means to evaluate a situation, the onus is on him to show how his method is demonstratably superior to the norm.

        My BIG question though is “In Law’s voting history, is there consistency in his voting methodology?” or is this just more of the “Pick the guys you like and THEN look for reasons to support it?” The latter is just far too common, in many variations, in everything we, as humans, do.

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      • H says:

        This is Law’s first actual vote as a member of the BBWAA. That being said, his methodology seems pretty consistent using sabremetric tools like FIP and WAR. I don’t think he likes to be different as much as he is different because he views things differently from the masses. I doubt that he picked his order first, then sought stats to back them up.

        I don’t know if FIP is the BEST initial separator among SP’s, but I surely believe that (a) Law is entitled to think so and (b) FIP > ERA in this regard. Further, if you think that they both kicked butt (again accepting FIP over ERA), 219 > 192. I do buy your counter to the tougher division argument.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I do give a lot of credence to “Innings Pitched”. Seriously, when one is looking at who had the most influence (other stats being similar) then “being on the mound” is sorta one of the “most important things”.

        I do support Law’s ability and opportunity to use whatever criteria he chooses. But, if it does run counter to common thinking (which isn’t always so common), then it does rest on him to demonstrate why his methodology is superior, outside of the shoulder shrug “It works for me” type of explanation.

        I do question some of the statical leaps taken to “isolate a pitcher’s performance” from the team. Certainly it should be explored, but it should be understood that it is “Mission Impossible”. Umpire’s strike zone, manager’s pitch calling tendencies, team scouting and defensive poistioning, catcher’s “receiving skill” (framing pitches, etc) will all factor in and have no statistical representation. And that’s without even acknowledging that “baseball is a team game”, so who really cares what a pitcher does in isolation, when it’s “how a pitcher performs as part of the team” that counts?

        But, I would prefer such stats such as “Quality Start %” that gives you an indicator of how many games the pitcher pitched well in. I don’t need a 15K performance against PIT to skew the stats, nor should one be overly panelized for 10ER game, where the manager kept a SP in game far too long because the BP was trashed from the 17-inning game the night before. That great game and that bad game should still factor in as just “one game” (unless the games had post-season implications).

        But, just because something is “modern” or “new” does not, by itself, mean it is superior. That does not need to mean that the former method is perfect, but just being “new” is not proof.

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      • acerimusdux says:

        When arguing “pitched in the more difficult division”, why look at that so subjectively? Why not look at Pitchers Quality of Opponents, available at B-Pro?

        OPS
        .721 Carpenter
        .731 Vazquez
        .733 Wainwright

        The biggest problem with Law’s arguments seems to be that if he applied those criteria objectively, he would have chosen Wainwright, who faced (very slightly) tougher opponents than Vazquez, and also pitched two more starts and 13.7 more innings.

        Of course the big strike against Wainwright is that he also won 19 games, and thus his selection would have seemed terribly conventional.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Well, let me be a man about it and back away from some of these comments. When I’m not ‘principaling’ a junior high, I’m coaching pitchers, and thusly making an arguement against Vasquez would be to argue against everything I value as a pitcher and coach. In short, I won;t and can’t do it.

      Vasquez and Carpenter actually had very similar rates in terms of not giving up many hits or walks, with Vasquez topping Carp in IP by 25+ … and that is significant enough in my book to give the edge to Vasquez.

      My only hang-up with Carpenter situation is that his performance elevated significantly when the Cardinals needed him to the most, but I also acknowledge that IMO, he wasn’t even the “most valuable Cardinal pitcher”. I would like to see the 6-1 2.22 performance at the end, including dominant wins against COL and LAD, get more credence, but I don;t even feel that overshadows the deficit in IP. Waino would be the more comparable pitcher in terms of IP, etc … but his much higher H/9 and BB/9 (or WHIP) rates detract a bit from his performance.

      So, I retract my “Law screwed up” comment and offer my apologies to the guy.

      I have also commented previously on Haren;s unfortunate situation in Arizona (and I followed that club for personal reasons).

      In 09 we had essentially 5 very deserving pitchers, and really one cannot go wrong with selecting any of the 5 as a “Top 3″. They both have pros and cons to their performances, and we would all likely struggle to get it “just right” in terms of the ‘Top 3′.

      But, it makes for interesting discussion.

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      • Sky says:

        The Cardinals won their division by 7.5 games. Sure, they pulled away starting mid-August. But Carpenter didn’t even provide 7.5 wins worth of value all season, let along in a month and a half.

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  15. Tom says:

    The crime that is overlooked is the fact that Wainwright got more first place votes than Lincecum. I think Law’s willingness to debate with media about his ballot make him a lightning rod for controversy in a very slow news week. It doesn’t help that he wronged a Cardinal. One of the more ‘protected’ and revered organizations when it comes to the mainstream sports media.

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  16. Dan R. says:

    Carpenter and Wainwright are the simple stats favorites, Lincecum and Vazquez are the advanced metric Fangraphs picks. Neither take is necessarily wrong (or “dumb”…good grief), it’s just a different way of looking at their performance.

    I would have gone Lincecum-Vazquez-Haren based on strikeouts, FIP, etc. That would have really spun some moby sportswriters into a tizzy. I agree with the other poster that no one ever has a problem with putting a relief pitcher on their MVP ballot, so this is ridiculous.

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  17. CircleChange11 says:

    RJ,

    In direct response to your written information …

    It can be essentially summed up to “Maybe Law did make a huge mistake … but his mistake wasn;t as bad as these mistakes these two other guys made.”

    The “Hey, what is that over there?” defense strategy is not something I would expect from the so-called intellectually elite of the baseball world (i.e., guys that think they’ve found the ‘best way’ or that they’re smarter than everyone else).

    I’ve loved, played, coached, and followed this great game for a long time … and there have always been some goofy choices out there, such as a regional BBW throwing a hometown player a bone (1st place vote) when the winner was going to be unanimous. Pointing out those situations and using them as an aplles to apples comparison technique to a situation in a very different category is ridiculous.

    The REASON why Law’s decision (and the other ESPN writer) is getting so MUCH attention is because: [1] It’s likely the closest (overall, 1st through 3rd) Cy Young race baseball has ever had, [2] they completely left off the guy that ended up being the ’2nd best’ pitcher, and [3] …that guy finished 2nd by the 3rd narrowest margin.

    That’s a pretty darn important position and it’s completely different from pointing out that someone voted for XYZ, even though Lincecum was the obvious and dominant CY last year … or … pointing out that a regional writer used their vote to cast Verlander 1st in a year when the AL CY was a foregone conclusion. Those situations and the “Law-Carpenter” thing aren’t even in the same realm of situations.

    I would support a process that reviewed voting history and could be used to add/remove voters from the process. But, I don’t support the “hidden ball trick” or “diversion” discussion strategies among educated adults.

    Law screwed up. We can point out ALL of the other screw ups in the BBWA voting history, and the current (important) situation will be the same. Law screwed up … and he screwed up when it was 4th and 2 in a close game, not when it was 3rd and 15 in a blowout. See?

    Note: If the other commenter was right, that the 2 votes of the ESPN writers would not have changed the final outcome … then we should just drop it, and discuss while MLB waits until Thanksgiving to announce the awards of “The Boys of Summer”, because that is incredibly goofy.

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    • H says:

      Convince me that Carpenter deserves it more than Vazquez.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Really?

        Did I come to the wrong forum for interesting and researched discussion?

        I have no problem doing the leg work to demonstrate why I feel Carpenter has a better case than Vasquez, but the onus isn’t on me (and I have no interest in doing others’ work for them).

        For those defending Law’s decision, I am simply asking for a logical supporting of that decision, not something that is analogous to the ‘Shell Game” by appealling to other bad decisions.

        If I were the one making the initial statement or the initial defense, I would certainly be willing to defend it at length. I wouldn’t put the onus on the other guy to “prove me wrong”.

        Is this the point where I’m suppossed to call someone a name, make a weak attempt at humor, or say “No, you convince me first?”

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    • Bob R. says:

      I really think you are misstating the R.J.’s point and the reason that many are “defending” Law.

      In the first place, it is not a question of whether he is right or wrong. It is a question of whether he has reasonable arguments for his position. And the fact that the distinctions between the top 4 or 5 pitchers is so thin is one of the reasons Law should not be castigated. As Carroll pointed out, in his view, he was pretty certain of his #1 and 2 votes but felt that Carpenter and Haren were very close at 3-4. He ultimately selected Haren.

      Further, there is no one sabermetric answer. There are many stats available and different analysts stress some more than others or focus on one combination more than others. What distinguishes Law and Carroll from traditional voters is that they explain their thinking, trying to account for the subtleties involved, rather than mouthing nonsense about clubhouse presence or toughness on the mound in clutch situations. And they try to use accurate stats rather than hypothetical or imaginary ones.

      Not that those intangible factors cannot be considered as well. But if someone does refer to them, he needs to make a case, not simply assert that so and so A is tougher than so and so B. And if someone can make a case that wins really are a significant stat for this sort of discussion, go ahead and do it. But it does not take any mental gymnastics to defend Law’s position. He lays it out quite clearly. He did not screw up. I may come to a different conclusion, but I appreciate his reasoning as well.

      Mentioning cases where voters really did screw up is in no way meant to justify a supposed Law error. It simply notes that the same media personalities who get livid over a rational decision seem entirely satisfied with obvious stupidity.

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    • Mark says:

      “Law screwed up”

      No, he didn’t. You disagree with the methods Law uses to determine his Cy Young vote, which is one thing. Going strictly by WAR for pitchers, the top 3 guys in the NL are Linc, Vazquez, and Haren. WAR isn’t the be all or end all stat, but it’s a better start than ERA or W/L record or clubhouse presence. Or, you know, arbitrarily picking the last 10 starts because “it’s the heat of a playoff race”.

      Other people have shown that Linc outpitched Wainwright & Carpenter (and make no mistake, Linc was the best guy in the NL), so I’m not going to bother doing it right now.

      That being said, this isn’t a screw up at all. Picking Adam Jones over Franklin Gutierrez for gold glove – that’s a screw up. Picking anybody over Chase Utley for GG at 2B in the NL – that’s a screw up. Picking Tim Lincecum, the best pitcher in the NL, as the Cy Young award, is not a screw up. Neither is leaving Carpenter off the ballot, who while he was a top 4 or 5 pitcher, a reasonable argument can (and has been) made that he’s not a top 3 guy this year.

      You don’t agree with how Law decided Linc was #1 and Carpenter wasn’t the top 3 pitchers in the NL. That’s a different story altogether, but it isn’t a screw up. I don’t agree that it’s a mistake, because as good as Carpenter was, there were a couple of guys (about 3-4) who were better than him, and pitched more inning than he did.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Good points.

        I just mentioned in another post that Vasquez was every bit as dominant as Carpenter (actually very similar WHIP numbers), and pitched 25+ more INN than did CC. That’s significant.

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      • Matt B. says:

        I think we have learned that most fangraphs readers do not use WHIP (at all) to evaluate pitchers anymore…

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  18. H says:

    Actually, earlier, you asked to be convinced that Vazquez > Carpenter. I provided a response to which you responded. I posted this prior to your response. However, I just want to see what statistics you are using to say Carpenter > Vazquez or are you just going with the fact that the majority of the BBWAA voted that way?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Fair enough.

      I posted this is another thread, but I look at season stats, individual performances in important games, perfrmance when it matters most,

      — Here’s how each of the 3 leaders fared in their final 10 starts with both teams in pursuit of the playoffs …

      Linc = 3-4 3.15 ERA, 68.2 IP, 45 H, 27 BB, 70K
      Wain = 6-1 2.38 ERA, 68 IP, 59 H, 13 BB, 66K
      Carp = 6-1 2.22 ERA, 69 IP, 55H, 19 BB, 57K

      Linc’s last 10 games featured a game where he allowed 5 runs to CIN in a ND, 3 good starts against COL (2-1), 2 G v. LAD (1 good, 1 horrible) where he went 0-1. He lost a game he could’ve won (PHL), but also got a ND in a game he could have lost (CIN).

      Wain gave up 2ER in 7IP v. LAD in a ND, pitched well in all games but one … where he earned a win despite giving up 6R to PIT, beat COL on 2ER over 8IP.

      Carp beat LAD with 2ER in 8IP, and got a ND v. COL with 1ER over 7IP, pitched well in each game except for a 7ER effort against ATL, which accounts for his only loss over the last 10 starts. —

      Actually, these stats would be more for an argument in favor of Wainwright than anything else. *grin*

      Anyway, after the kiddos go to sleep, I’ll lay out a Vasquez-Carpenter comparisons and let the stats lead where they may. I have no emotional attachment to anything other than all little leaguers should throw a change-up.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Ya wanna show how each pitcher did in their first 10 starts?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Not really. I stated quite plainly that I view what a pitcher does “in the heat of playoff race” to be more important than not.

        Granted there’s not a stat that measures “importance of game” or “mental stress” or anything like that, but of course that does not mean that it does not exist or is an important part of an athlete or performance.

        I also explained I had the CY race “even at the start of August” and that’s why I posted the results of the last 10 games.

        If you feel that information is critical, it is available.

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      • Doug Melvin says:

        “Not really. I stated quite plainly that I view what a pitcher does “in the heat of playoff race” to be more important than not.”

        I forgot that a team earns two wins for games they win in August and September. Silly games in April and May, only counting for one…

        +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BIP says:

        “Granted there’s not a stat that measures “importance of game” or “mental stress” or anything like that, but of course that does not mean that it does not exist or is an important part of an athlete or performance.”

        You’re right, it could exist and be imporant. However, there’s no evidence for it existing, because if it did–or at least, if it had a measurably large effect–researchers would be able to find it. You can’t found an argument on these vague (and wholly arbitrary) concepts without giving some evidence that they matter, espeically since your argument involves arbitrarily truncating the sample of each pitcher’s performance.

        Frankly, the whole idea of “pressure” or “stress” in professional sports makes zero sense to me. These are the world’s best baseball players who regularly play in front of tens of thousands of people every day (more if you count TV, less if you consider the Marlins). Not to mention, these players have constantly had to prove themselves to reach the level they’re at.

        I think what’s happening is simply that fans are projecting their own experience of pressure onto the players. We’ve all sat on the edge of our seats during a big game, so we just assume that the players are going through what we are… but if they really were, they’d end up on the couch next to us, not on the field.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Doug,

        I stated in another post that statistically each game should count as “one game”, but that’s not reality. We, as fans, don’t treat each individual game the same. We consider opponent, time of the year, etc. I’m not saying that’s “how it should be” only “how it is”.

        But, personally I do place some weight on what happens “in crunch time”. I do that primarily because of my experience as a player and a coach.

        So, when fans & Media call ARod “Mr. April” or “Mr.May” they’re actually paying him a compliment for getting the team off to a hot start?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        BIP,

        My comments of “pressure” “stress” “importance” of games has nothing to do with my fanhood, but is a reference to my playing days. There is a significant difference in pitching in games that are essentially ‘meaningless’ in terms of post-season effects versus pitching in games where the outcome is of utmost importance.

        I’ve pitched in games where the W-L outcome is negligible and in games where one mistake means “the season is lost”. There is VERY much a BIG difference in the two scenarios, and how one feels, and how one goes about their business.

        Certainly it cannot be quantified or measured, but that does not negate its existence.

        Certainly a made free throw in the 4 quarter of a game counts the same. But, the made free throw in a blowout in a game between two losing teams and a made free throw at the end of tie game between two teams playing for the conference title are not comparable scenarios. Anyone who has any type of competitive experience knows this is the case, even if we are not able to put a numerical factor on it.

        The same tension, potential for humiliation & failure, is there whether you’re pitching for the state-title, to make it to the CWS, or to make it to the MLB playoffs. It’s all relative (without saying there is the exact smae pressure in each situation).

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      • acerimusdux says:

        There should be a stat called “playoff probability added”. Maybe it could be calculated from the daily change in the playoff odds report.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        acerimusdux – Check out this years THT annual.

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      • BIP says:

        “There is a significant difference in pitching in games that are essentially ‘meaningless’ in terms of post-season effects versus pitching in games where the outcome is of utmost importance.”

        You’re assuming that without offering any evidence.

        Look, I don’t doubt there’s pressure involved in high school or college-level athletics, but major-league players already had to go through all of that, plus proving themselves in the minors. If they ever allowed the pressure to get to them, they wouldn’t have made it to the majors.

        “Certainly it cannot be quantified or measured, but that does not negate its existence.”

        If it can’t be quantified or measured, then it can’t have a significant effect, otherwise we’d be able to, you know, quantify or measure it. Your entire argument is nothing more than speculation, and yet you ask others to provide “interesting and researched discussion.” Maybe you should take the initiative in that if you want your arguments to be taken seriously.

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      • dprat says:

        Risking going seriously OT (and old news to most Fangraphs readers), but the CW about ARod being Mr. April is about as valuable as the CW that values September wins over April wins. Acc. to B-Ref, March/April is almost his best “month” (but actually, let’s just conveniently ignore that his best month is really August). And Sept/Oct is his worst – with a pathetic 929 OPS. So his career pre-ASB OPS is 955 – and post-ASB, when wins finally start to matter,… it’s 956.

        (Amusing aside, by contrast the Captain of course does do his best work in Sept/Oct. So while ARod out OPS’s Jeter 1002 to 828 in the season’s first month, everything changes by the last month when Jeter’s all the way up to an OPS of 879. Oh, wait, still 50 points below ARod’s.)

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        BIP,

        You’re essentially asking for a calculation to compute a final number for an “emotional state” or declare it doesn’t exist? Sorta reminds me of scientist demanding that one be able to quantify “love” or stop saying it exists.

        I cannot mathematically prove that there are “pressure situations” in games. Actually, I can’t believe I’m asked to statistically prove they exist. I guess I figured everyone has experienced it at one time another whether it be on an athletic field, an academic competition, or asking a hot girl on a date.

        I would also posit, just from personal interactions with both former teammates and former players (that played MiLB and MLB), that many of the established major leaguers did not face “dramatic pressure” in the minors, and the difference between those that make it and stick in MLB has more to do with talent desparities than whether they could handle the “pressure”.

        Most established MLB’ers followed a career path that would better be decribed as “cruised through the minors”. In many cases, I’d go so far as to say that quite a few guys only faced “real obstacles” once they made it to MLB, and that baseball was “pretty darn easy” for them up until that point.

        Again, I cannot statically prove this, so I’ll just have to be content knowing that the situation does not exist and when guys tell me “Man, these dudes are from another planet” or “Justin Upton is unreal”, they either have no idea what they’re talking about or they mean “They can just handle the pressure better than the rest of us”.

        Take it seriously or not … I have no control over that.

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      • Tom says:

        I have it on good authority from famous English professors that April is the cruelest month.

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      • BIP says:

        “You’re essentially asking for a calculation to compute a final number for an “emotional state” or declare it doesn’t exist?”

        Um, no. I’m asking for some evidence that this “emotional state” has any affect on performance (if it even exists at all). You want to argue that Lincecum succumbed to some mythical late-season pressure when you can’t even establish that he was feeling any pressure, let alone that it tangibly hindered his performance. You’re making baseless speculations about the character of someone you don’t even know when we have the much more parsimonius explanation of randomness over a small sample. Not to mention you used terribad stats like W-L and ERA.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        ~~~ Um, no. I’m asking for some evidence that this “emotional state” has any affect on performance (if it even exists at all). ~~~

        While I would like to move away from the “pressure” aspect of the discussion, because it seemingly is moving us away from the more important aspects being discussed … I will say that it does seem baseball is making attempts to quantify this type of thing by looking at things such as “intense pitches” and “intense situations”, namely in regards to pitch counts and the like, and make correlations between the physical and emotional tolls they take … with the understanding that all 100 pitch outings are not equal in the amount of effort they required. I really have no interest in trying to prove to someone that different situations involve different levels of pressure. I might as well try and prove Jimi Hendrix was creative or Selma Hayek is attractive.

        ~~~ You want to argue that Lincecum succumbed to some mythical late-season pressure when you can’t even establish that he was feeling any pressure, let alone that it tangibly hindered his performance. ~~~

        That would be your inference. I have been direct in my comments, and I haven’t hinted at, let alone speculated, that Lincecum succumbed to any pressure. MOF, I did point out that toward the end of the season TL55 was battling an injury, and IIRC missed a start because of it (his back?). I’ve pitched well when feeling poor, and pitched poorly while feeling great. I know there are many reasons why a pitcher might not “put it all together” on a given date, and neither the pitcher nor coach (nor statician) may be able to explain it.

        What I did positively state is ….

        [1] Not all games are of equal importance. (I suppose one could compute the importance of each game given the W-L records of the teams involved, Games back in the standings, games left in the season, etc.)
        [2] Fans, media, players, and coaches do not treat all games of equal importance, hence the phrases “big game”, “must win”, etc. Whether or not it can be or is represented with numbers is secondary to the reality that it does exist in the minds of those involved.
        [3] I also stated that fans, media, players, and coaches, often treat games at the end of the year as being more important than at other times of the season.
        [4] As such, we could/should view these games with some attention in voting for awards.

        ~~~ You’re making baseless speculations about the character of someone you don’t even know when we have the much more parsimonius explanation of randomness over a small sample. ~~~

        I think if you read my direct comments you will see that I am not, but that you are reading that into my comments.

        ~~~ Not to mention you used terribad stats like W-L and ERA.~~~

        I posted a whole stat line of numbers, of which (yes) W-L and ERA were included. While acknowledging that they can be viewed as “team stats”, I don’t completely discount them as such because [1] a pitcher is part of team and it is a team game, and [2] the better pitchers generally have the highest win totals, win %, and lowest ERA … as compared to the other pitchers on their team that pitch against the same opponents, in the same parks, and with the same team. I’m not saying they’re the “best” stats, only that I don’t discount them completely.

        What I also did post was this …

        Linc = 3-4 3.15 ERA, 68.2 IP, 45 H, 27 BB, 70K
        Wain = 6-1 2.38 ERA, 68 IP, 59 H, 13 BB, 66K
        Carp = 6-1 2.22 ERA, 69 IP, 55H, 19 BB, 57K

        … and when I look at those numbers I notice …

        [1] TL55′s walk rate is WAY up, Strikeout rate is down, and as a result his ERA is higher and his win percentage is down. So the 2 factors that pitcher’s have a direct effect on (walks and K’s) were in a “decreased state” during the time of year that we (as baseball society) generally place greater importance.

        [2] The other 2 pitchers listed did pretty much the opposite. They walked fewer batters and struck out more (compared to their season totals), resulting in lower ERA and higher Win %. (AW50 moreso than CC29, because Carp seemed to walk more and give up more hits, yet K batters at a higher rate).

        If one wanted to compare these stats in the last 10 games, to the previous 22 or so, they could. I didn’t feel compelled, because one could do simple math in their head and see that if TL55 pitched like this all year he would have had around 90 walks and 210 K’s, and we know that he had much fewer walks and a lot more K’s than that.

        I did not attribute any of this to rising or succumbing under the ‘pressure’, only stating that in the games that we usually attribute to being “in the playoff chase” or “being of greater importance” (accurately or not), AW50 and CC29, pitched better than TL55 did. I also mentioned that “I only brought this up because ‘in my mind’ the race was pretty much ‘even’ going into August” (while CC29 had a major obstacle to overcome with the fewr total IP, but that he -theoretically- could have done that with his awesome finish). I didn’t mention this as the “deciding characteristic”, but just one item to look at in the voting.

        Hopefully, that clarrifies (even somewhat) what I am and am not saying.

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      • Justin says:

        Linc = 3-4 3.15 ERA, 68.2 IP, 45 H, 27 BB, 70K
        Wain = 6-1 2.38 ERA, 68 IP, 59 H, 13 BB, 66K
        Carp = 6-1 2.22 ERA, 69 IP, 55H, 19 BB, 57K

        Well I don’t know how good you are at math but
        that comes up to:

        Linc 72 Batters allowed on (in .2 innings more than Wain)
        Wain 72 batters allowed on
        Carp 74 batters allowed on

        Now you failed to show stats such as xTRA to show how hard these pitchers where hit, and still failed to notice that linc put away more batters via strike than the others. And yet his ERA and W/L is still greatly different. You just showeded an example where W/L and ERA fail to show a pitchers true talent level.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Justin,

        My objective was not to find their “true talent”, as it’s a no-brainer, TL55 has more talent than AW50, and perhaps more than CC29, but to try and figure out who was more valuable down the stretch, because I viewed it as an even race in August.

        One can fault me because I still value wins as an important stat (as guys that give up a lot of runners and runs don;t generally post a good W%), while acknowledging that it is not “solely under the pitcher’s control”, but I still place some value on it, and I don’t try to completely isolate a pitcher’s performance from the team defense aspect because it is a team game, and pitcher and defense work together.

        If you want to show that TL55 was the CY this season because of his WHIP (or any stat representing him not giving up many hits or walks), IP, and K’s … I could not argue with that. AW50′s gives up more hits and K’s less, it’s not even close.

        The big difference seems to be that I give a player on a division winning (or playoff) team a *nudge* UNLESS the other player’s stats are so darn dominant that you cannot ignore it (like Grienke). I think a case could be made that TL55 was that dominant.

        The difference between TL55′s dominance & AW50′s team + individual success is so razor thing, that I can accept either TL55 or AW50 as CY. I concede that CC29 misses out because he is 25+ IP shy of the others. His performance was not dominant enough to overcome that.

        Now, I am split on whether JV or DH dominance was enough to trump CC29′s individual + team success for 2nd or 3rd place votes, as I look at the cards offense as not dominant, nor was their defense spectacular with “tryouts” at 3rd and OF at 2nd, Duncan in LF for a time, and Ankiel trying to dive through walls, and Ludwick is just plain average. Khalil Greene broke down, and a 1B can only do so much defensively.

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    • Terry says:

      *******Sorta reminds me of scientist demanding that one be able to quantify “love” or stop saying it exists.**********

      Love is best understood through metaphor; the measure of pitching prowess is amenable to metrics….

      Pitching isn’t poetry-it’s sweat and muscle and numbers.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Terry,

        Any part of athletics involves some mental/emotional aspects, whether they can be statically recorded or not.

        We should leave this part out of the current discussion, because I do not think anyone is saying that any single pitcher did or not rise or succumb to the ‘pressure of the situation’.

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  19. Mo Wang says:

    Jon heyman has no clue how to analyze baseball.

    I believe that heyman was someone who supported KRod for MVP when he broke the saves record. I don’t know if Heyman had a vote for that award that year, but he listed his potential ballot and had KRod first.

    Also, he has dropped Prince Fielder and Miguel cabrera out of the top 10 for this year’s MVP awards.

    he also doesn’t have Ben Zobrist in his top 10. The guy probably doesn’t know who Zobrist even is.

    And finally he has Howard 3rd and Utley 9th for this year’s MVP. We all know that Chase utley has been the most valuable player on the hpils for many seasons now. But heyman thinks Howard is underrated. heyman also picked rollins for mvp a few years ago.

    Oh and Heyman thinks Jack Morris is a no-brainer hall of fame selection and cannot even fathom why people might not ant to vote for him. heyman is also anti-blyleven because “no one though he was a hall-of-famer when he played” and “he is a compiler”

    Basically heyman is the type of guy who loves Wins and RBIs and giving his entire top 10 mvp ballot mvp to guys on winning teams, and this is reflected in his terrible analysis of baseball.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      Perhaps Zobie should become a Boras client.

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    • Joe R says:

      Heyman is pretty much the biggest douche of all the baseball writers. He will not talk to you about baseball. He will talk at you.

      And because he once broke Barry to the Giants about 1 minute before everyone else, he knows more than you.

      Heymanism.

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  20. Mo Wang says:

    sorry ’bout all the typos. need to put the caffeine down

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  21. Tyler says:

    I’m from STL, been a Cardinals fan my whole life. At the beginning of September, a couple of us were debating about the Cy cause Waino and Carp were pitching so well. I said that I thought you have to rule out Carp cause he missed a month. I still feel that way. He pitched unreal this season, but I feel that his missed time was enough to make me consider TL or AW.

    Now if you do not think so, my thing is this: Take all 3 (TL, CC, AW). I think the majority of us can agree that they pitched the best. Now, if they are actually all equal and a coin flip, how do you start to narrow down the choices? I say it’s pretty simple in that the one of the 3 of them that threw considerably less innings has to be eliminated.

    I thought Law was probably reaching a bit with the JV vote, but at least he justified it with his article which is a whole lot more than I can say about the others.

    And Jon Heyman needs to stick to the hot stove, he knows nothing about baseball.

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  22. CH says:

    I can’t believe Buck Martinez would say that or that Jon Heyman would think it’s acceptable to repeat it. That’s bush league from two guys who belong there.

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    • Mo Wang says:

      Yeah Heyman is trying to disparage Law’s character, but it is obvious that Heyman is the slimy condescending assface in this picture.

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  23. Mo Wang says:

    This is one thing that doesn’t make sense: heyman is complianing so much about Carpenter being left off the ballot, but both of the voters said they had Carpenter 4th. Its not like they thought carpenter was the 12th best pitcher or something.

    So heyman has no problem at all with the 7 guys who put carpenter 3rd, yet he has a huge problem with 2 guys who put him 4th? Talk about nitpicking. It is obvious from those tweets that Heyman has a personal agenda against Law.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Y’know what …. that is a very solid comment/thought.

      Everyone is saying how close this CY race is, including myself …

      yet we’re getting hung up on the detailed criteria each one used to rank the pitchers, including myself …

      I don’t know anything about Heyman v. Law, but I do know fans love to debate players, teams, and stats .. and the internet is full of grow men acting like small barking dogs or hissing cats.

      The actual difference between the order of the pitchers likely lies in preference. So, IMO, rather than arguing about how the actual performances line up … in actuality, we’re debating which aspects of a pitcher’s performance deserve the most weight or importance.

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      • Everett says:

        Exactly. What if the Cy Young vote was done on a 1-5 basis instead of 1-3? Then Law has CC as 4th (or possibly 5th behind Haren) on the ballot, so nobody has left him off, and are we even having this discussion? I think that this year Lincecum was number 1, and any number of arguments could be made with the other 4. Given the egregious decisions that have been made in other BBWA awards, this is nothing. The only reason this is getting so much pub is because Law is a “stathead,” never mind the fact that he also spent time in an MLB front office.

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      • chikceroo says:

        Yeah, Law and Carroll already stated that they would have had carpenter 4th if the ballot were longer. So I don’t see what the fuss is over.

        Heyman said he wouldn’t vote Fielder in the top 10 of this year’s NL MVP ballot since the Brewers had a losing record. That seems like a much much much more questionable voting choice than voting carpenter for 4th place in the cy young ballot.

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  24. Knox says:

    I think Law is a tool, but I don’t have a problem with this vote. And just because he is an ex-front office employee should carry zero weight/cred/etc. I know lots of former traders on wall street that are former traders because they couldn’t cut it, lost money, lost lots of money, lost obsene amounts of money, and if you want to follow their advice because at one point they were employed by an investment firm would be a stupid reason.

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    • Everett says:

      The point is, traditionally people who don’t like stats appeal to authority as the alternative – the whole “living in the parent’s basement” argument. This argument isn’t valid with Law, as he’s not “just a stathead.”

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  25. Tim says:

    If you stack up the individual game scores* of the top 5 pitchers…

    http://timday.net/gamescores2009.jpg

    3 things stand out.

    1) Lincecum was really good more often than everyone else
    2) Carpenter’s missed starts killed any chance he had at keeping pace with Lincecum
    3) Haren and Vazquez belong in the conversation

    *I realize this metric makes no adjustments for defense, opposition, or ballparks – I challenge anyone to come up with an ‘adjusted game score’ metric that I can use instead

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  26. Marc Hulet says:

    The amount of thought that Keith put into his choice was refreshing. He clearly analyzed the two players, with an educated opinion, and made the choice he wanted to make. We have certainly seen some far more controversial choices made by individuals, and the masses alike. Law has earned the right to vote based on his own opinion, not based on what the group with the torches and pitchforks want. And when it comes right down to it, a vote for Vazquez over Carpenter is of minor importance.

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    • Nate says:

      I definitely agree with this. I generally enjoy the stuff Law writes, so I’ll say that to get it out of the way. But the way Law did the whole process seems to reflect that he took his vote with a significant level of responsibility to get it as correct as he could, and I’ll even say with a level of recognition that it is an honor to vote for something like this, as 99% of baseball fans don’t get to. Law refused to publicize his decision until after the award was announced (unlike many other writers) and he gave a thorough explanation of his thinking (also unlike most others). The explanation showed that he gathered data and spend significant time trying to determine who was the best.

      When the Gold Gloves were announced, there was some discussion about the season awards becoming irrelevant. The way that Law and Carrol approached the voting process shows at least there is some hope that the awards won’t be high school prom queen contests in the future.

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  27. gary says:

    “Some” perceive him as having a God complex? How about anybody with a brain perceives him that way. And what did he do at Toronto? Whatever it was it didn’t help them win games. Maybe he re-arranged the office furniture or tracked office supply orders.

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    • Michael says:

      I don’t understand. KLaw was the assistant GM under Ricciardi in Toronto. We can’t really determine what else he did, just because we weren’t there.

      It sounds like you don’t like his attitude. He does come off as somewhat arrogant in his chats, for example, but the writing I always see is very good. He understands the stats quite well, and I respect his opinion in a scouting sense. Also, he’s been on the radio more often these days for ESPN, and in every interview he’s come off as very courteous.

      I sort of forgot what my point was, but I’m still quite confused as to what yours is.

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  28. Klaus says:

    Law’s 3rd place vote for Vasquez is defensible even *if* it can be said definitively that Carpenter pitched a better season. The lower orderings of the Cy Young vote are a kind of honorarium. If Law voted for Vasquez as a way of signaling recognition for a person who is otherwise being overlooked–to put him on the roll–then that’s perfectly fine. It didn’t skew the proper outcome–Lincecum won, as he should have–and it gave testament to Vasquez’s nearly Cy Young worthy season, which is what he indisputably had.

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    • Ender says:

      Lincecum isn’t really the ‘proper outcome’ even. A strong argument can be made for any of the top 4 pitchers.

      Vazquez had a better xFIP than Lincecum. Carpenter had a better RA and WPA. Wainwright had more innings and wins while giving close to the same stats and was on a playoff team. Any of these 4 could have been voted CY and it wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

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  29. chris says:

    “Quite honestly if Heyman does not “understand” how someone could leave Carpenter off their ballot he is even worse at his job then I thought (which is remarkable considering how lowly I already regard him).”

    Not much more to say really

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  30. chonb says:

    r.j., thanks for writing this. i appreciate your use of massive dripping sarcasm as the way to deliver your critique of the reaction to law’s votes–excellent way to use form and content in a complimentary way. if heyman is the only one on record, the internet chatter has been obnoxious over this.

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  31. nate says:

    A lot of the problem is due to having only 3 slots for the Cy Young as compared vs 10 for the MVP. Bumping the number of slots up to 5 would improve things a ton, it’s a lot harder for people to get worked up over 4th vs 3rd as opposed to 3rd vs off-ballot.

    And it would be a lot fairer for things like Vasquez acheiving a contract bonus solely based upon a single vote.

    Also would help more in consideration for future HoFs as Cy and MVP placements are good considerations there as well.

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  32. Joel says:

    Funnily enough, Lidge and K-Rod got a combined 3 MVP votes, but a combined 0 CY Young votes. huh?

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  33. lol says:

    I find it rather humorous that the same people who are using the “look at how he pitched under playoff pressure” card never mention that he got embarrassed by the Dodgers in the actual playoffs.

    I guess he just ran out of clutchness.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      First things first …

      You guys need to read what is written rather than what you think is being said. If I want to say something specifically, I will certainly come right out and say it. Way to go fellas, you have completely dismantled a comment/idea that I never said. *clap**clap**clap*

      But, just to be fun, both CC29 and AW50 domintaed LA in Aug/Sept, while TL55 gave up 4ER in a 4IP start in a game that, if won, could have been a 2-game swing in the standings for one team that was chasing the other.

      If playoffs counted for regular season awards, I would leave Carpenter off the top 4. Waino held LAD (the same team he beat in Aug) to 1ER in 8IP and won game 2 of the LDS. What you should be doing is mocking the StL offense for not being able to hit left-handed pitching (worst in the league), and I’m still pissed at Holliday for taking 3 straight called strikes after Wolf IBB’d Pujols to load the bases (way to be aggressive).

      FWIW, I have AW50 as #1 for CY, but can accept TL55 as winner. I reward AW50 and CC29 for pitching in a playoff race AND pitching very well in it. Haren and Vasquez, IMO, needed to have more dominant stats (in comparison) to get the nod over players that were in a playoff chase or played for teams that were division winners (i.e., like Grienke did).

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  34. chris says:

    “I stated quite plainly that I view what a pitcher does “in the heat of playoff race” to be more important than not.”

    This is goofy, it calls your credibility on the subject into question.

    No one is denying that those games are more important, they are.

    The fact of the matter is there is no special switch that a player can flick in a big game … there just isnt. The guy is going out there trying to do his best every start, sometimes he does well, sometimes not so well.

    You are essentially awarding “extra points” based on random occurences….

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      ~~~This is goofy, it calls your credibility on the subject into question.~~~

      I don;t mind my credibility being called into question for something I have said, but you’re doing for something that YOU are inferring.

      I said that Wainwright and carpenter pitched better toward the end of the season. I also said we, as a baseball community, often treat these games as being more important.

      I did NOT say that AW50 and CC29 turned their “Kick @$$” switch to “On”.

      No one is denying that those games are more important, they are.

      The fact of the matter is there is no special switch that a player can flick in a big game … there just isnt. The guy is going out there trying to do his best every start, sometimes he does well, sometimes not so well.

      ~~~You are essentially awarding “extra points” based on random occurences….~~~

      Sure, I am. I don’t hide it at all. Are you going to refer to such incidents as “important games” or “random occurrences”? Earlier in this post you said some games are more important than other, and I then later (at least by my interpretation) you’re questioning me giving a player “extra points” for doing better in these instances?

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  35. The Baseball Idiot says:

    If two non-sabermetrically inclined voters had left Lincecum off of their ballot, based solely on the decision that he didn’t have enough wins, there would have been a $h!t storm. Led by Law, as he’s done many times in the past.

    So why is Law (a sabermatrically inclined writer) allowed to leave Carpenter off of his ballot based on stats of his choosing, and think he shouldn’t have to face criticism also.

    It’s a great example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. The hypocrisy and arrogance is astounding.

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    • Not David says:

      You don’t think there’s a difference between, a.) taking all of the information available, making an informed decision, then rationally defending that position, and b.) basing a decision on a single largely meaningless statistic that everyone and their dog recognizes as such?

      Really?

      I fail to see the hypocrisy, or the arrogance.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      I don’t think the issue is people questioning his vote. He’s explained, at some length, why he voted the way he did. People responded. That’s fine. The manner of the response matters, though. As does the obvious care Law took with his vote, even if you disagree with his decision.

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      • The Baseball Idiot says:

        As you said, I’m not questioning his vote. That’s his right.

        I’m questioning his habit of complaining about the way other writers vote (and highly criticizing them) and then refusing to accept that he can be crticized himself.

        He has criticized other voters for basing their vote on certain stats, then picks the ones he wants, and refuses to accept the same criticism. Not everyone, whether right or wrong, agrees, nor do they have to, with his choice of statistics.

        Law’s argument is that he is above criticism because of the choice of stats he used. That’s where the hypocricy and arrogance come into play.

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      • BIP says:

        That’s not arrogance, it’s called being correct. It’s not his fault dumb voters insist on having inferior opinions.

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  36. Joe R says:

    And of course, Heyman’s NL MVP ballot:
    1) Pujols
    2) Tulowitzki (!?)
    3) Howard (!?!)
    4) Ethier (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
    5) Hanley Ramirez (.315/.391/.535 SS vs. .272/.361/.508 corner OF. Good analysis)
    6) Kemp
    7) Carpenter (?)
    8) Wainwright (??)
    9) Utley (Yes, folks, to Jon Heyman, Adam Wainwright was more valuable than Chase Utley)
    10) Matt Holliday

    And of course, 9 of the 10 guys on his ballot were from playoff teams. No Zimmerman, or Fielder, or Gonzalez, or Lee, or Sandoval, or Lincecum.

    And my personal favorite:
    2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Spectacular talent could have won Comeback Player. Playoff failures don’t count.

    So being on a playoff team is crucial to Heyman’s valuation of a player, but performance in the postseason doesn’t matter. -_-

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    • Joe R says:

      And as much as some of you guys dislike bp, know who’s right ahead of Ryan Howard in WARP-1?

      …Casey Blake.

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      • Rolo says:

        Ah, Yah, and I think that is a pretty good reason not to like bp.

        I don’t understand the knock on someone for voting mainly (notice I said mainly not always) for players on teams that make the playoffs. I can understand the knock on which order guys get placed, but there isn’t a standard definition of value that everyone can subscribe too, so what if they bias guys because of how their team performs. Its not like its an individual award right? oh, you mean it it, alright nevermind

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  37. Stan S. says:

    I have three problems with this: First, I read pretty much everything Law writes (about baseball, not cooking) and it was pretty clear that he was leaning toward Lincecum throughout the year. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I strongly suspect that he knew that “stats guys” would be split between Lincecum and Carpenter and intentionally left Carpenter off to throw it to Lincecum.
    Second, it seems that he made this decision solely through stats rather than through first hand observation and analysis. No one has invented the perfect cyberstat yet (thanks for trying fangraphs), yet the only thing Law can point at is FIP and WAR in defending his choice. I believe that neither is any more accurate than ERA at this point. WAR is so dependent on quantity of performance that Carp might as well have been eliminated from consideration as soon as he was hurt in April. 192 innings is a full season and is plenty for him to be considered yet it wasn’t “enough” for Law because he did nothing but put guys in a spreadsheet. No seamhead would claim that we’re close to a perfect statistic to measure fielding, yet FIP starts with those imperfect measures and then tries to graft them onto pitching performance. That makes it a very, very imperfect measure at this point.
    Third, if you follow Law enough, you know that the “god” complex you reference is more than just an act. I wouldn’t doubt that he did this just to feel important and make more of a name for himself.
    Your defense of him seems to be that 1. there have been hometowner votes in the past and 2. that he was in a front office. To those I would say: 1. did the hometowners intentionally downgrade their guys’ competition? and 2. getting a front office job isn’t as hard as you might think. I speak from experience on this (I’m not half as good a scout as Law though).

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    • Everett says:

      “the only thing Law can point at is FIP and WAR in defending his choice. I believe that neither is any more accurate than ERA at this point.”

      If you don’t believe that FIP and WAR are more valuable are accurate than ERA you’re reading the wrong site and there’s nothing we can do for you.

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      • Everett says:

        correction should be:

        more valuable OR accurate

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        More valuable or accurate how? … and for what purpose? (I’m not asking you to necessarily explain FIP to me, there’s plenty of information about it. It’s just a thinking exercise)

        For league award purposes, I do not understance the priority for seperating a pitcher’s performance from the “team defense”. As if we have always treated the CY and MVP as completely “individual awards” (we haven’t, nor should we really … it’s a team game).

        The pitcher and defense work together in harmony. We see it in positioning, pitch selection, catcher setup, in essentially every new at bat (or even in the same at bat when the count changes). Using FIP for award evaluations seems analogous to penalizing the “best” QB in the league for having a good offensive line or talented receivers.

        FIP only looks at BB’s, K’s, and HR allowed? Why? Why not GB%? or LD%? Why not OOPS?

        I do completely understand the relevance for FIP is trying to predict whether a player’s performance will translate to the following season or in another league or on another team, etc.

        I think I, too, might be at the wrong site. I’m not seeing the point in placing so much emphasis on “isolating” performance stats, outside of purposes for predicting future performance.

        We’re seemingly unnecessarily blending our “fantasy sports tools” and our “MLB analysis tools” to possibly be looking at things in a way we shouldn’t … or don’t need to. I don;t have the perfect alternative, but just that “something here doesn’t seem right” feeling.

        Granted, I completely understand where and to whom I am making these comments, and expect a whole onslaught of “negative votes” (hilarious, really), but I think we’re (as stat geeks) vastly over-estimating how accurate we are in terms of both [1] coming up with REALLY accurate measures, but also [2] our accuracy in both reasoning and apoplication of such “isolating the pitcher from the team” stats. Basically all we’re doing there is measuring how good he is at getting strikeouts while keeping walks in check.

        I have a pretty good idea at who is going to lead in FIP in each league for the next 6-8 years, we should just go ahead and pencil them in for CY’s.

        The thing is, those same two guys are likely going to be among the league leaders is such “horible” stats like Wins, ERA, WHIP, etc .. as disgusting as it must be for some here.

        I’m not sure everything we come up with is as great as we suspect or applied as well or as appropriately as it could/should.

        On the other hand, I agree with Will Carroll. *grin*

        As a side … FIP, to me, seems to be like the perfect tool to give a healthy Rich Harden a Cy Young Award, despite winning 13 games for a last place Cubbie team. *big grin*

        It would be like primarily basing MVP voting on HR to K ratio … and we could just give it to Albert for next 8 years.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      So, because FIP and WAR are imperfect, we should use more-imperfect stats that happen to have been around longer?

      Oh, and the likely-landslide winner of the AL MVP missed roughly the same amount of time as Carpenter did. The difference is, Mauer blew everybody else out of the water. Carpenter didn’t.

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    • BIP says:

      “No seamhead would claim that we’re close to a perfect statistic to measure fielding, yet FIP starts with those imperfect measures and then tries to graft them onto pitching performance.”

      Um, what? You do know what FIP stands for, don’t you?

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  38. Mike says:

    What people are missing in all this is that Law isn’t a journalist. He’s a talent evaluator. Whether people agree or disagree with how he evaluates talent is irrelevant to the argument, because the biggest issue is that he’s coming from a completely different perspective in terms of how he goes about judging the best players/pitchers in the game.

    For example, 30 of the voters that voted for Carpenter have journalism backgrounds. It’s what they do. Every journalist is taught to always look for the story in everything. With that being the case, isn’t it pretty interesting that the stats the the BBWAA voters have long obsessed over come awards season are the following: wins (pitchers, saves and RBI)? Each displays some sort of virtue that makes the game more than a statistic. To them, a win can’t be random, an RBI has to be relevant, and a save is the ultimate in true character because the three outs have to be the hardest. All these stats are overvalued because people attempt to use them to bring out the human condition and to tell a narrative, rather than look at a number.

    On the other side, people like Keith don’t look at those human conditions. They look at the tools. If you’re building a baseball team, you don’t care about how many wins someone got last year. You want to know why. You don’t care how many RBI someone got the year before. You want to know how they got them. To a talent evaluator, the question isn’t always about the result (numbers like ERA, wins, etc. in this discussion) as it is about how that result came to be (numbers like Ks, K/9 IP, FIP, etc.). There is a fundamental difference in the way the two sides see the game, and the fact some are surprised that there is a difference in opinion on the two sides shows how dumb some of really are.

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  39. Stan S. says:

    @ Mike
    I think Law’s a great talent evaluator. I think that’s what he does best and I’m happy to read about his evaluations of minor leaguers. Is the Cy Young about talent evaluation or performance evaluation though? I was so thoroughly underwhelmed by Law’s explanation and methodology that I wonder if he’s better at performance evaluation than half the posters on this board.

    I mean, all he did is compare the candidate according to WAR and FIP. Couldn’t we get a computer to do that and be done with the guesswork?

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    • Mike says:

      I’m not necessarily saying that he was solely basing this off a “who is more talented” type deal.

      My point is that, when you work as a talent evaluator, your value system is different than that of a writer. When you look at the things that everyone points to for Carpenter (wins, performance down the stretch, ERA and the like), those are the kinds of things that writers eat up.

      When you look at the things that Law points to for Vazquez (more innings with similar performance, much higher K rates, pitching in a tougher division with worse defense, etc.), you can see it’s coming from the viewpoint of “why are these guys good, and how do I separate them,” rather than “Carpenter won more games and had a better ERA, which means he’s the better pitcher.”

      I don’t think he would have been wrong either way. But there’s a really good argument to be made for Vazquez and he made it. The reason he made it, IMO, is that he’s not looking for the story. He was looking for who he thought were the best pitchers. It’s not his fault that he only got to name three people on the ballot, or that nobody else seemed to look at Vazquez.

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    • Boozer says:

      And what do the writers of the BBWAA look at? ERA, Wins?

      Yet here we are bashing Law? This is a step forward.

      And LOL at thinking Law left Carp off his ballot so Lincecum could win it. WTF is wrong with people today? He had him 4th instead of 3rd. BFD!

      Heyman leaves Prince off his MVP and has Howard 3rd, yet we won’t hear any screaming there will we?

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      • The Baseball Idiot says:

        It doesn’t matter at all who finishes between 4th and infinity. Only the top 3 pitchers get votes.

        Saying he put Carpenter 4th on his ballot, when he knew that he wouldn’t recieve any points, doesn’t make any difference at all. And Law knows that.

        But he’s smarter than everyone else, so he probably figures we’re all idiots and wouldn’t understand.

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  40. wobatus says:

    Lincecum tRA* 3.31
    Carpenter 3.45
    Greinke 3.48
    Vazquez 3.60

    I go with Carpenter at number 2 for Cy in the NL, despite fewer innings. vazquez qwas pretty good though and not that big a deal one way or the other.

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  41. chris says:

    ~~~You are essentially awarding “extra points” based on random occurences….~~~

    Sure, I am. I don’t hide it at all.

    How can you possibly expect to still be in this conversation after that response?

    More to the general discussion, though, its scary that Haren wasn’t even in the picture on so many ballots…

    223ks

    38bb(!!)

    1.00 WHIP

    SLG% against: 375

    FIP: 3.26

    in 229 IP

    The strike against Carpenter here ( as others have mentioned) Is the IP discrepency… ( 193 for Carp) The fact of the matter is that Haren was excellent for a longer period of time, this kind of stuff has to come into play here.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      ~~~How can you possibly expect to still be in this conversation after that response?~~~

      Because, IMO, many people place “extra points” on performance in big games (or for playoff contending teams), in all sports. I’m just up front about it. I think that’s reflected in much of the voting with Wainwright and Carpneter being placed higher than Vasquez and Haren. While some of AW50′s stats do not measure up to some of the other CY-candidates (while other stats do), I give him “extra points” for pitching very well in the playoff chase, against strong opponents, and having a dominant season for a division winning team.

      My voting (for conversation sake) would have been [1] AW50, [2] TL55, and [3] Any of the 3 (Carp, Vasquez, or Haren). But, I cannot argue or oppose TL55 as CY, that dude is as dominant and exciting as anyone since Doc.

      I followed the Dbacks season closely and Haren’s season was OUTSTANDING. I believe at one time he had a streak of 16 straight games allowing 3 runs or less (maybe even 2 runs or less). The DBacks had 8th inning BP nightmares that killed that team. I know we cannot (or should not) award “points” for “what could have happened”, but really Haren *could* have won possibly 25 games with some bullpen help and a tad more run support. He was amazing. Obviously what hurt Haren was playing for a last place team without being overly dominating over the other contenders for the award.

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  42. chris says:

    Earlier in this post you said some games are more important than other, and I then later (at least by my interpretation) you’re questioning me giving a player “extra points” for doing better in these instances?”””

    Yes, it sounds like you missed my point a bit.

    The games themselves are more important but the pitcher cant do anything about that… to him, it is just one start out of many.

    It would be like me saying “On june 18th so- and so pitched a great game put team x in first place for the first time, therefore that game should be weighted more heavily.”

    its nonsensical thinking

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  43. vilhelm says:

    I like Law’s vote. The award is ambiguous, intentionally so I gues. Valuable and in what context. Wins, pennant titles, pennant contention weigh but how much?
    Linc, Haren Vaquez. And Greinke, Verlander, Hernandez seems reasonable if Valuable equals performance..

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