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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.