Defining Valuable

Every year without fail, the MVP debate stirs up controversy. It’s all too predictable, considering the Baseball Writers Association of American (BBWAA) doesn’t define what they mean by “Most Valuable” and leaves that distinction up to each individual voter’s discretion. Each voter has their own interpretation, leading to different ballots and debates that go around in circles. It’s old and tired, and yet we can’t help but fall for it every time.

I’m assuming the vast majority of you already know this, but there are two schools of thought on what “valuable” means: the old-school belief that a player’s team needs to make the postseason for them to have been “most valuable”, and the new-school thought that value is value regardless of if a player’s team makes the playoffs or not. Why penalize a player having a spectacular year simply because the rest of their team wasn’t any good?

So how should we define valuable? Value is a word intrinsically tied up in sabermetrics — what else is WAR supposed to be measuring? — so you’d think we’d be able to properly define it. Oh, the English language — that so much controversy can be caused over something as mundane as an imprecise definition.

But this weekend, I had an epiphany. As much as it pains me to say it, you know, those old-school baseball writers might actually have a point.

Full disclosure: I have a tendency to be behind on the times. I sometimes realize things that seem like such common sense, that I’m sure everyone else must already know them…but man, they still utterly blow my mind. Like when I found out that Queen was a British band. Or the time I realized wraps didn’t use bread as the outside wrapping. Mind. Blown.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if this revelation isn’t really an epiphany to anyone else — both Ken Davidoff and Bill Simmons made similar points recently, actually — but the more I think about it, it’s perfectly legitimate to consider if a team made the playoffs when talking about a player’s value. In fact, if we criticize writers for voting with that premise in mind, we’re simultaneously attacking a sabermetric concept: the win curve.

The win curve essentially states that all wins aren’t created equal. It makes little difference to the Orioles this season if they finish with 74 wins or 76 wins*, while a two-game difference can have much more importance for a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. Teams keep this concept in mind when making personnel decisions, paying more for the players that will help put them over the top and into the playoffs. There’s lots of money to be made in the playoffs, so if you’re close, it makes sense to give up more for a chance at those elusive wins.

*This reminds of the old anecdote about Ralph Kiner. After having an All-Star year with the Pirates, he went to GM Branch Rickey and asked for a raise on his salary. Rickey’s response was short and unequivocal: “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you.”

But can’t this same concept be applied toward the MVP Award? If a team fails to sniff the playoffs — or, similarly, makes the playoffs by a mile — doesn’t that make standout performances on their club “less valuable”, as little would have changed if that player hadn’t been on the club? And if a team is clawing tooth and nail for a playoff spot, wouldn’t performances by their stars take on an even greater significance?

All this sounds like good, rationale saber-talk, but it also somewhat validates the old-school “The MVP can only be awarded to players on playoff teams!” line of thought. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the most valuable player can only come from a playoff team, but I do think if we want to be intellectual honest about the word’s meaning, we can’t completely ignore a team’s place in the standings. Looking at WAR and how much value a player created is one part of the process, but you can’t forget to consider the greater context as well.

To put it another way, consider this: Jose Bautista has 7.9 WAR this season, and Justin Verlander has 6.4 WAR. That’s a decent difference, right? Not huge, not insignificant, but somewhere in the middle. But then, who do you give the award to when the Blue Jays are 15 games out of a playoff spot, while the Tigers seem headed to the playoffs almost entirely on the back of Verlander. Kudos to Bill Simmons for this nugget:

Basically, the Tigers give up five runs per start unless Verlander is pitching. They’re 21-8 when he starts and 54-54 when he doesn’t.

I used to be firmly in the “Give the MVP to the best player, period” camp, but after thinking all this through, I don’t know which way to come down. Considering that the award is used retrospectively for things like Hall of Fame voting — and as a memory aid for casual fans — I still want to give credit to the best player in each league. If I had a vote, that’s probably what I’d do. Probably.

But at the same time, I can certainly see the logic in considering a team’s position in the standings. If you want to stand true to the name of the award — we’re back to that whole “value” thing again — I think you have to consider a team’s playoff status to some degree, even if it’s just a little bit. In the end, it comes down to what you want the award to be. Both positions are defensible, as long as writers stay consistent to their logic throughout and don’t take either position to the extreme.

Is this an epiphany? Well, maybe not for others, but for me, it was a shock to realize that the traditional definition of the MVP Award had a saber nugget of wisdom embedded in it. The old school and the new school — they’re a lot more similar than you’d think.



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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


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tbad
Member
tbad
4 years 9 months ago

Really like this. Lends credence and logic to the old-school view

Larry
Guest
Larry
4 years 9 months ago

I don’t think it does. I see where Steve is coming from but this essentially means that the MVP can only be won on borderline playoff teams and will eliminate at least 2/3’s of the league from contention. Not only that but if you are measuring marginal wins produced don’t you also have to go into every game and check where and when the production is coming. Basically if you don’t want to give credit for individual excellence in a context-neutral way, you must evaluate their contributions differently: hitting 3 HR’s in a blowout is mostly meaningless right? Same with throwing a shutout when your team wins by 9 like Cliff Lee did the other day. If you are willing to make the effort into examining every game and result and evaluating it consistently by such a principle, then i can support this. Otherwise, the old-school view seems lazy to me.

Example: Let’s say that Detroit plays .500 ball w/o Verlander and is 21-8 with him starting. That is fine, but you must look deeper into the results for anything meaningful. Verlander is a great pitcher, but how about the stats for other elite pitchers (Sabathia, Weaver, Hernandez…etc). What if he gets a lot more run support than other pitcher’s on his team? What if a lot of his victories are 7-2 affairs? What if every game Verlander pitched was a blowout for the Tigers? Is he still valuable?

Mr. Jones
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Isn’t this what WPA is for?

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
4 years 9 months ago

By WPA:

AL MVP: Joey Bats
NL MVP: Joey Votto

AL Cy Young: Verlander
NL Cy Young: Jonny Venters

I think the only choice that would give anyone pause is Venters. But maybe he has a case?

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 9 months ago

WPA sucks. In a one-run win, the solo homer in the 1st is exactly as valulable as the solo homer in the 9th, but WPA says the latter was far, far, far more valuable.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 9 months ago

By this reasoning, all the MVP candidates last year were SF Giants, who reached the playoffs by one “marginal” win and went on to win the World Series.
The award makes no sense at all unless it goes to the best player.

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi
4 years 9 months ago

While the increasing value of marginal wins does seem to lend credence to “old school” MVP thinking, it seems unfair to devalue a player’s performance due to his teammates’ inability to put him in a position where his wins become more valuable.

Larry
Guest
Larry
4 years 9 months ago

Can we also ignore factors like contract, blocking prospects, attendance boosts…etc? I can’t imagine an argument that claims only wins/production that help a team barely make the playoffs matter for MVP discussion.

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
4 years 9 months ago

So wait, which one are you claiming? That nothing but individual performance matters, or that nothing but being the marginal difference in your team making the playoffs matters?

Oh, you’re arguing for some sort of measured “gradient” between extremes… Haha Steve, good luck getting human beings behind that plan!

boxiebrown
Guest
boxiebrown
4 years 9 months ago

I don’t necessarily have a problem with Verlander winning the MVP, but is it just me or is the “21-8 vs. 54-54” stat really not that impressive?

Also, I understand the win curve argument, but to me it still comes down to giving Verlander (or Pedroia or whoever) credit for what their teammates do, which doesn’t seem right for an individual award.

Also, what if the Tigers make the playoffs by a margin greater than Verlander’s WAR? Than the argument could be made that he provided no extra value based on the win curve, as they would have made the playoffs without him. Ultimately, I just don’t think using the win curve is a good strategy for awarding the MVP, except maybe in very close races.

Mike
Guest
Mike
4 years 9 months ago

Yeah, play offs should be tie-breakers, and that’s all.

David
Guest
David
4 years 9 months ago

re: Giving credit for teammates.

If Joey Bats were on the Houston Astros, his destruction of baseballs wouldn’t be particularly valuable. They’re still going to stink.

If Joey Bats were playing RF for the Red Sox or Yankees, his destruction of baseballs also wouldn’t be all that valuable. They’re possibly the best teams in MLB even without him.

If Joey Bats played for the SF Giants. Oh woe. Oh now THAT would be valuable indeed.

Welp
Guest
Welp
4 years 9 months ago

‘If Joey Bats were on the Houston Astros, his destruction of baseballs wouldn’t be particularly valuable”

…TO THE ASTROS’ TEAM PERFORMANCE

You’re assuming a specific definition of value without arguing for it. A .450 wOBA has an objective on-field value that transcends context. If you substitute it into one context or another, you likely get different results because – surprise – the contexts are different. That has nothing meaningful to do with the individual performance, though, and I don’t see why it should be reflected in what is an openly individual award.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 9 months ago

Oh, man, if Joey Bats played RF for the Red Sox, the Red Sox would be flirting with a 110-win season.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 9 months ago

The word value, is defined as “relative worth”. It simply doesn’t make sense to use the word without context.

Welp
Guest
Welp
4 years 9 months ago

“The word value, is defined as “relative worth”. It simply doesn’t make sense to use the word without context.”

Don’t be dense. I’m not talking about “zero context”. “Objective on-field value” already stipulates a context – one that transcends the particulars of any one team’s circumstances. That’s the point.

Mike
Guest
Mike
4 years 9 months ago

“Basically, the Tigers give up five runs per start unless Verlander is pitching. They’re 21-8 when he starts and 54-54 when he doesn’t.”

I don’t really like this quote making it seem like he has more value than he does. If they the same value as MCab, Avila and Peralta as SP instead of position players, the Tigers would be like 16-12 when he starts and 59-49 when he doesn’t.

Just like if the Giants had Cain and Bumgarner as position players instead of SP, all of a sudden Lincecum would have a great win% compared to the rest of the Giants games even tho he didn’t get any better.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 9 months ago

FYI, the awards ballot sort of does define “most valuable.”

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

DD
Guest
DD
4 years 9 months ago

It’s mentioned in this blurb a few times – the value of a player “TO HIS TEAM”. So Welp, there is a team context included, despite it being an individual award. So the question is, in what ways is the value of this player measured? By team or pitching wins? Run differential when in the lineup? RBIs? The following two numbered items (value of his “strength of offense and defense”, games played) all, for better or worse, point to position players, as they provide the most offense and supply the most defense (interpreted strictly as fielding). If these are truly the criteria for which to vote on, as well as a direct quote proclaiming he need not come from a playoff qualifier, then Bautista is the choice over Verlander.

joshcohen
Guest
joshcohen
4 years 9 months ago

i read this as saying, by definition, both context-dependent and context-independent factors can be weighed in the mind of an MVP voter when making a decision.

moreover, the guidance it seems to be giving is less about taking the person with the highest WAR, but rather *not* merely picking the best player on the best team. distinct ideas, no?

Robert J. Baumann
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

I wouldn’t call that a “definition” of value, but it does shape the idea of the award a bit. Still very vague.

Value can also mean “return on investment,” in which case, as Dave Cameron’s trade value articles suggest, Evan Longoria might be a run away victor in many years.

Griffin
Guest
Griffin
4 years 9 months ago

The Tigers are 18-9 when Porcello starts. They are 18-11 when Scherzer starts. They are 5-2 when Fister starts. For those three pitchers, that’s 41-22. It’s about .500 (13-14) with Penny, and DEATH with all the people that attempted to pitch before Fister was acquired. That nugget Simmons had on Verlander didn’t account for the Tigers actually winning a lot of games when a lot of different people pitch, but basically losing every game pitched by what used to be the 5th best slot in the rotation. Now that Penny is the 5th best in the rotation with Fister replacing the revolving door spot, the Tigers have significantly upgraded their chances of winning more games. That being said, Verlander is still a stud.

Jim
Guest
Jim
4 years 9 months ago

Yes, but the trouble with this logic is that it assumes the Blue Jays wins/losses matter to no one but the Blue Jays. In a highly competitive division, that is not the case.

The Yankees and Red Sox will likely both make the postseason, but you can bet each one prefers to be the division winner (and have home field throughout the AL playoffs) vs. the Wild Card (and be the away team throughout). As a Yankees fan, I can assure you i was rooting for Toronto wins last weekend.

More relevant are the years in which the Rays are more in the mix, where the third team is out of it completely. You think that if two of those teams are battling for the playoffs, and one of them is playing the Blue Jays, that the Blue Jays winning 80 games vs. 82 games doesn’t matter to anyone? You think sitting Bautista for that series wouldn’t rile the other team? It’s true that the relevance of those wins and losses may not be much to Bautista’s team, but they matter to the integrity and credibility of the sport, and its pennant races, because every win or loss by the Blue Jays against one of the pennant contenders matters. Therefore, if Bautista has the most impact on his team’s wins over the course of the season, he should be the MVP.

tdotsports1
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Plus being .500 or better in the AL East is essentially like being the AL Central division winner.

If the Jays and Tigers suddenly swapped divisions, this now makes Jose Bautista a LEGIT MVP contender?

That doesn’t seem right. If you are valuable, you are valuable, period.

The Nicker
Member
Member
The Nicker
4 years 9 months ago

I think Bautista should be the MVP, but let’s not get carried away with Jays = Tigers.

Jays do not = Tigers.

tdotsports1
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

The Jays are pretty damn close to the Tigers and considering some of their injury troubles and off seasons for SPs (Morrow, Cecil, Drabek) they have more than held their own in the AL B-East.

Some more matchups with KC/CHW/MIN as opposed to NYY/TB/BOS can do magical things to a W-L record.

eric
Guest
eric
4 years 9 months ago

they should just name it the Best Player Award, but then ESPN writers will start to go on about how the best player can only come from playoff teams

adohaj
Member
adohaj
4 years 9 months ago

i just about pissed myself laughing

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb
4 years 9 months ago

Right you are. Everyone on ESPN is a prick except for Jayson Stark, Buster Olney, and Mike&Mike. Terrible network.

SC2GG
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Jayson Stark is very much one of those, “Baseball is way more important than every other sport because of (insert really lame, suspect and bias reason here)!!!” types. There are quite a few of these types. They’re like the baseball version of tennis writers who keep defending Serena Williams for being a poor sport bitch all the time. They say things like, “This guy got hit in the head and died, this proves that baseball is the most dangerous sport there is!” sort of thing, and expect people to legitimately believe it.

Stark isn’t quite that bad, but he’s pretty annoying. Olney is pretty reasonable. The Sweet Spot guys, even in absence of Neyer, are reasonable. On the whole, ESPN writers are significantly less vomit inducing than BleacherReport.

Robert
Guest
Robert
4 years 9 months ago

Yes, but saying ESPN is less vomit inducing than Bleacher Report is like saying CNN is less biased in their news coverage than Fox News. It’s just not that big of an accomplishment to be better than the worst.

ESPN is like the Yankees: they have so much money they can hire everyone in the business. They’re so big you have to check on them once in a while, because they don’t just report the news, they create the news. They’re so big they’re bound to find a really quality writer once in a while.

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb
4 years 9 months ago

At least the Yankees didn’t hire Tedy Bruschi.

I never really liked Rob Neyer, and I don’t really like the current Sweet Spot guys. They just seem to report statistics a lot, which I don’t find very interesting. I find the analysis of statistics interesting, and it doesn’t seem like they do that much.

studes
Guest
studes
4 years 9 months ago

Well, you may have a point–in fact, I tend to agree with you–but you don’t present a good argument for it, IMO. The Verlander stats are cherry-picking goofiness.

The good rationale is this: Writers like a good story. Heck, all baseball fans like a good story. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, good stories are the lifeblood of the game, even more than stats. Giving the MVP to the player who is the best “story” is as sound a reason for an award as giving it to the best player. And stories tend to congregate around pennant races.

It’s just a preference, a legitimate one, not something you can “prove” with stats.

Mac
Guest
Mac
4 years 9 months ago

So glad someone finally wrote an article discussing the problem with the word “valuable” in MVP. That’s really where all the digital ink gets spilled, it’s debates over a nebulously defined word. Within each person’s chosen definition of value, it’s usually fairly clear who the MVP is.

Regarding the “common sense I didn’t know about” comments, I spent a long time not knowing that name of the TOGO sandwich chain really meant “to go”, as is get that meatball sub to go. There was also a This American Life (great NPR radio show) episode where they explored the phenomenon. My favorite story was the girl who grew up thinking unicorns were real.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 9 months ago

Thanks. I’m 64 and have eaten many sandwiches from TOGO without realizing what it meant.
I vote you for MVP.

Tony
Guest
Tony
4 years 9 months ago

Who is to say where the Blue Jays would finish in the AL Central? They play in the toughest division in baseball. Put the Jays in the Central and they’re competing for the division.

As for Verlander, the Simmons’ article completely ignored the fact that Valverde is PERFECT in safe opportunities this season. HE HASN’T BLOWN A SAVE. Also, they have Miguel Cabrera on offense. He, himself, will finish top 10 in the MVP race.

Verlander has had a great year, but it’s not historically great. Pedro’s two best seasons were muchhhh more impressive. If he didn’t win the MVP, then Verlander shouldn’t. Bautista leads the majors in WAR (as mentioned), but also homers, OBP, slugging, and OPS. Put him in the middle of the Yankees lineup and he puts up historically great numbers. period.

Ian
Guest
Ian
4 years 9 months ago

Really? His numbers aren’t even as good as Pujol’s in 09. He’s been great. But not that great.

Mark
Guest
Mark
4 years 9 months ago

You sure you want to argue that Jose’s #’s aren’t better than 09 Pujols?

Pujols 09: 449 wOBA, 181 RC+
Bautista: 445 wOBA, 186 RC+

Bautista’s slumping right now, so if that continues then it’ll be fair to say he isn’t better. But as of today, when I’m writing this post, Bautista is out hitting Pujols. Keep in mind that league wide offense is lower than it was in 09, which is why despite a lower wOBA, Bautista’s performance compared to league average is better than Pujols.

When we factor in that Bautista is doing it from RF and Pujols from 1B, it’s pretty clear that not only is Bautista out hitting Pujols, but he’s providing more value because he’s doing it from a tougher defensive position.

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb
4 years 9 months ago

In terms of defensive value, doesn’t it matter that Pujols is a very good 1st baseman while Bautista is an average left fielder? I don’t think moving Big Papi to LF would increase his value. Any boob can stand in the field and play terribly.

SC2GG
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Bautista plays RF or 3B, not LF. For the next 5 yrs, he’ll be manning RF though.

Bautista plays in the AL East.

Those two points alone should be plenty good.

As for putting some boob in LF, well, Thames is currently in LF and that’s a bit of an adventure… oh, right, how could I forget about THE MAN IN WHITE. :[

SaloF
Guest
SaloF
4 years 9 months ago

and why being comparable to Pujols isn´t historical? Pujol is one of the gratest ever.

Skittls
Member
Skittls
4 years 9 months ago

If you are talking about saves as an indication of value, I think you are on the wrong site. The rules surrounding saves are too convoluted to properly convey a players level of skill.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 9 months ago

His point was in response to a Bill Simmons article cited by Steve Slowinski above: the Tigers are 21-8 when Verlander starts and 54-54 the rest of the time.

I’m assuming that Tony’s point was that the 21-8 record has a lot to do with the fact that Valverde hasn’t blown any leads.

adohaj
Member
adohaj
4 years 9 months ago

Brad Lidge was robbed of the 2008 MVP 41/41 saves with a sub 2 era HE WAS ALSO UNDEFEATED. Anyone who voted for Pujols was obviously bias against the phillies because of world series jealousy

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 9 months ago

“Bautista leads the majors in WAR (as mentioned), ”

For another 6 hour or so. Ellsbury went 4 for 5 with a HR and a 2B tonight.

Ian
Guest
Ian
4 years 9 months ago

I feel that this post covers the above argument well:

http://baseonbonds.blogspot.com/2011/09/verlander-and-mvp.html

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

While not directly relevant to the current post, I stopped reading the linked commentary after this passage: “Toronto has played 24 more games against New York, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Texas than Detroit has. They’re nine games back of Detroit in the standings. By all likelihood the Jays—or the Rays, or the Angels—would be winning the central with a better winning percentage than the Tigers have now if they played there with the same schedule.”

Detroit is 4-3 vs. NYY, 1-5 vs. Boston, 6-1 vs. TB, and 6-3 vs. Tex (not to mention 4-2 vs. Toronto). So the Tigers are a combined 17-12 this year against the “best” teams in the AL. Small sample size caveats aside, I don’t see any reason to assume that Detroit would be performing far worse than Toronto if it played the same schedule.

Everett
Guest
Everett
4 years 9 months ago

I think the point is that if the Blue Jays had played the AL central teams instead of the AL East teams, that their record would be significantly better, not that Detroit’s record would be worse.

Skittls
Member
Skittls
4 years 9 months ago

In my opinion, I view “most valuable” as that one guy they could not have made it to the playoffs without. A real difference maker, if you will. If the Blue Jays were anywhere near contending for a playoff spot, I would absolutely pick Bautista for MVP. If that were the case, they probably would not have made it without him. Replace him with even an average (average, not replacement level) player, and they just fall short. I believe the award should not go to the “most valuable” player in the traditional sense, but rather the most indispensable player. If put in those terms, I would vote for Verlander without hesitation. Without him, the 2011 Tigers chances to make the playoffs would be very, very slim.

Just my two cents.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

The fallacy of requiring a player to be on a contending team in order to be the MVP is that it rewards or punishes a player for how good his teammates perform. By the “must be on a contender” logic, Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada are more deserving of MVP votes than Bautista is, simply because they play on the two best teams in the league.

That’s ludicrous.

My criteria for determining who should be the MVP is based on the following question.

If on March 31st it was possible to know exactly how every ballplayer would perform during the yet to be played season, which player would be chosen 1st in a draft.

Obviously players such as Bautista, Joey Votto, and Matt Kemp would be snapped up high in the first round, proving that they are more valuable than good but not great players such as Ryan Howard and Nick Swisher. But by your criteria, Howard and Swisher are more deserving of MVP consideration due to playing for the Phillies and Yankees, respectively. Does that make sense?

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
4 years 9 months ago

Exactly.

It pains me that the meaning of “MVP” is still debated. It’s the sports world’s equivalent of the “debates” on subjects such as global warming and evolution.

Skittls
Member
Skittls
4 years 9 months ago

No, what I meant to say is that the award should go to the player that their team could not manage without. I am sure the Phillies would still be a playoff team without Howard and likewise with Swisher and the Yankees. Sure, maybe they fall a few games without them, but those players are not absolutely crucial to their success.

Skittls
Member
Skittls
4 years 9 months ago

I forgot to note that I did not say anything about the MVP having to be on a contender. At this point in the season, I would say that 10 games back is close enough to be considered decent. In Jose Bautista’s case, the Blue Jays are 17.5 games out from the division lead and 15 1/2 out from the wild card. If the team isn’t even above .500, I just don’t see that as even remotely close enough.

“By the ‘must be on a contender’ logic, Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada are more deserving of MVP votes than Bautista is, simply because they play on the two best teams in the league.”

Also, similar to what I said in my previous reply, Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada are not crucial to their teams’ successes. Would the Yankees and Red Sox still make the playoffs without Posada and Varitek? You bet your ass they would. They are but minor cogs in the machine. Bautista is, by-and-large, magnitudes more important to his team than the aforementioned players are to theirs.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Skittles, the problem with trying to pick which player a team could least afford to lose is that it’s like asking which leg of a 3 legged stool is most important.

You say you would consider Bautista for MVP if the Blue Jays were in contention. So if they were able to add a player or two in June who helped them win an additional 12 or 14 games this year, you might then vote for Baustista? Do you see how insane that is? You’re implying that Bautista becomes move valuable once the Blue Jays add a couplle OTHER players to strengthen the team. The only way that makes sense is if Bautista was also the Blue Jays GM and thus responsible for the trades.

I get so tired of this kind of bizarre logic.in which support for a major award like the MVP is based on the performance (or non-performance) of a player’s teammates! Wake up people! MVP is not a team award, it’s an INDIVIDUAL award!

jared
Guest
jared
4 years 9 months ago

Yes. “Who would most like to have (or pay the most to have) on your team?” is the clearest, most straightforward definition of “most valuable” that can be applied to an individual player. Really, this definition applies to everything: Which is more valuable, a $100 bill or a $50 bill? Does it matter if the $100 bill is on a team with 24 $1 bills and the $50 bill is on a team with 24 $10 bills?

BIP
Guest
BIP
4 years 9 months ago

So if a team ever plays a one-game playoff, the best player from that game should automatically be the MVP?

Skittls
Member
Skittls
4 years 9 months ago

How did you get that from what I said? I didn’t mention anything of the sort.

BIP
Guest
BIP
4 years 9 months ago

Sure you did: “In my opinion, I view “most valuable” as that one guy they could not have made it to the playoffs without.”

By that logic, a superlative performance in a one-game playoff should earn a player the MVP.

SC2GG
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Maybe Bautista can win the 2011 MVP Award in 2012 or 2013 when the Jays make the playoffs. They can retro award it or something.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 9 months ago

Thus, Andres Torres was clearly the NL MVP last year.

Santos
Guest
Santos
4 years 9 months ago

So what their saying is they’d like to give out an award to a player who doesn’t come from a bad team with no shot, doesn’t come from a great team with a playoff spot sewn up, but comes from one of the remaining teams that are arbitrarily identified as ‘contending’? Who would create an award like that with such a specific pool of players to choose from? No one in their right mind was thinking ‘we ought to give out an award for the best player on the handful of remaining teams still fighting it out!’. .

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
4 years 9 months ago

Way to talk out of both sides of your mouth here, Slowski.

ayjackson
Guest
ayjackson
4 years 9 months ago

Well the objective of player contributions is not to make the playoffs, any more than it is to contend for the playoffs, win a round of the playoffs win a pennant. It’s to win the world series. So lets give an MVP to the player on the WS winning team that provided the most value to achieving that objective.

Oh wait, we already do.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

“…In fact, if we criticize writers for voting with that premise in mind, we’re simultaneously attacking a sabermetric concept: the win curve. The win curve essentially states that all wins aren’t created equal. It makes little difference to the Orioles this season if they finish with 74 wins or 76 wins*, while a two-game difference can have much more importance for a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. Teams keep this concept in mind when making personnel decisions, paying more for the players that will help put them over the top and into the playoffs. There’s lots of money to be made in the playoffs, so if you’re close, it makes sense to give up more for a chance at those elusive wins.”

This is the only argument for the conclusion and it conflates two different conceptions of value. Only on the basis of the conflation does the conclusion follow but the conflation is non-sense. Here are the two conceptions:
1) Player’s Performance measured by runs created and saved
2) How that performance mattered to the player’s present team

1) is what we use to answer questions about which players are better than others. 2) is what we use to answer questions about what teams should do to put together the best teams now and in the future in light of a player’s performance.

So, denying the “old-school view” does not entail an attack on any sabermetric principle. Sabermetricians can and should keep the two conceptions distinct, just as we keep distinct the values of family and friendship from money.

Without a valid argument for the conclusion, are you still willing to say that which conception of value to use in MVP voting is just a matter of preference.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

That should have ended with a “?” not a “.”

joshcohen
Guest
joshcohen
4 years 9 months ago

this is why i continue to read the comments section. however…

succinctly, you argue: “Sabermetricians can and should keep [those sabrists and old media’s] conceptions distinct.”

you base your argument on this assumption. is that warranted? the first line from the 1931 definition of the award weakens this assumption:

“There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team.”

I read that definitional ambiguity as saying that context-dependent stats/factors, like the place on the win curve, most assuredly can be weighed in a voter’s mind when they cast their ballot. the modern sabrist needn’t conceptualize value as rigidly as you suggest.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

I have a couple arguments against simply citing the old rule.
1) The definition of MVP has developed through the practice of playing, studying, and pontificating about baseball since 1931; those results are relevant to what we think the MVP criteria are today; some of those results could show that there is a clear-cut definition. (I doubt it is true, but it is at least possible so citing the rule is insufficient evidence.)

2) While there might not be a clear-cut definition, there might, nevertheless, be ways to delimit what MVP does not mean. For instance, we might be able to say that it does not refer to team-contextual value in terms of significance of performance to team outcome without giving a “clear-cut” definition (whatever the hell that is anyway; not even stipulated definitions are perfectly clear-cut except maybe in pure maths; clear-cut definitions are not the same as clear-cut applications of a concept to a case; I digress).

3) The rule says it is up to the individual voter to decide who the MVP is, not what the relevant criteria are. Of course, the voters will probably have to decide for themselves what some of the criteria are in order to make their votes. But that is not to say all of the criteria are up for grabs, and even if some are up for grabs, “preferences” are not necessarily what justify (if preferences even can do that) the choices.

Finally, everything you say could be correct and it wouldn’t affect what I said in the post. I did not conclude that contextual conceptions of value are irrelevant to the MVP selection process. I only concluded that the only explicitly stated argument in favor of permitting contextual conceptions is bogus. The final question really is a question, although it sounds rhetorical because I obviously think that 1) is the measure of MVPs and 2) is something else.

Let me know if you disagree with any of these points.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

I should also point out that I wouldn’t label 1) as “saberist” and 2) as “old media.” Steve’s reference to the win curve shows that 2) is also conceptualized through a sabermetric approach.

Ryan
Member
4 years 9 months ago

I’ve been toying with a model that would factor WAR by the player’s place on the Win Curve, and I was excited to see this post (and more excited that you didn’t do this lol).
Essentially, if Justin Verlander finishes with 7 WAR and his team’s place on the Win Curve qualifies their marginal win value at say $6.5 million then his value is $45.5 million.
If Bautista ends the season with say 8.5 WAR and his team’s place on the Win Curve qualifies their marginal win value at say $4.5 million, then his value is $38.25 million.
Now, thats the simple formula, and I think it probably has some validity, but I’m not comfortable with the fact that very bad teams AND very GOOD teams will be hurt by this formula. I would argue regressing te marginal win to some sort of average to the mean might be the best formula.
I’ll keep working on it, and send a post with my results.
(Also, if anyone knows of any work done like this, I would appreciate it).

cherub_daemon
Guest
cherub_daemon
4 years 9 months ago

You said:
“…I’m not comfortable with the fact that very bad teams AND very GOOD teams will be hurt by this formula.”

Why not? A 116-win team probably could have done without one good player and still made the playoffs. One player’s great season has as little value to a world-beating team as it does to a terrible one, if you want to argue that “Value” should be defined in terms of dollars.

I would argue that the fact that this counterintuitive result shows up once in a while justifies the analysis. I’ll butcher the quote, but I think Bill James said something like, “A stat that never surprises you is a useless stat.”

Ryan
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Oh I totally agree. I guess, I’m thinking this more as a projector for MVP voting, but I see your point. I think the regressing, whether down or up, will be the best move.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Two major flaws in your suggesting that Bautista is a less worthy candidate than Verlander because, “Blue Jays are 15 games out of a playoff spot,
while the Tigers seem headed to the playoffs almost entirely on the back of Verlander.”

First the diffeence between the Blue Jays and the Tigers is currently 10.5 games. A lot of that is due to the Blue Jays being in a division with 3 outtanding teams (Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays) while the Tigers are in a division with 2 .500 clubs (Indians and White Sox and two lousy teams (Royals and Twins). Switch divisions and their records would be very similar to each other. So the suggestion that the Tigers are a much better team than the Blue Jays is hardly a slam-dunk.

Second, the perception that the Tigers seem headed to the playoffs almost entirely on the back of Verlander is a gross over-statement. Miguel Cabrera is having an outstanding season (.332/.434/.562). Victor Martinez (.326/.374/.461), Alex Avila (.301/.391/.516), and Jhonny Peralta (.307/.354/.487) are also having excellent seasons, helping to put
the Tigers 4th in the league in runs scored this year.

The 2011 Tigers are hardly the 1963 Dodgers, who rode Sandy Koufax and his 25 wins to the pennant despite finishing 6th out of 10 teams in runs scored. Verlander has been great, but he’s had a lot of help in getting the Tigers where they are today.

A better example of a team riding their ace to playoff contention might be Jered Weaver and the Angels, who are only 3 games behind the Tigers despite having scored about 80 fewer runs. Switch Weaver with Verlander and I think it would not have a significant impacton the playoff hopes of their teams. The Tigers would still have a good lead and the Angels would still be a little behind the Rangers.

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

Posted this above, but I’m sick of this argument that Detroit couldn’t hold up to the schedule that the Blue Jays and Rays play. Detroit is 4-3 vs. NYY, 1-5 vs. Boston, 6-1 vs. TB, and 4-2 vs. Toronto. Sure it’s a small sample size, but there is no reason to think that Detroit wouldn’t be in better standing that TB or Toronto right now if it played in the East.

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

As a follow-up, one potentially relevant metric here is BP’s Adjusted Hit List, wich accounts for schedule strength. There the Tigers do trail the Rays by .008, but are ahead of Toronto by .55. While Detroit will be the weakest AL playoff team by that metric, it ranks better than all but the Phillies from the NL.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/standings/

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Sorry but there is most definitely a reason to think Detroit would not be significantly better than Tampa or Toronto, and it’s called the strength of their divisional competition.

For example, in games played against the other two AL divisions, AL East teams (excluding Toronto) are 25 games above .500.

On the other hand, in games played against the other two AL divisoins, AL Central teams (excluding Detroit) are 26 games BELOW .500. This proves that Toronto is in a much tougher division than the Tigers are, and it would be irrational not
to conclude that the Tigers’s record hasn’t benefitted from the disparity.

See what happens when you use larger sample sizes? :>)

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

That doesn’t contradict my point at all stratobill. I never contested the fact that the AL East is a better division. But the point is that Detroit has actually played quite well against the AL East this season, especially outside of its horrific record vs. Boston, so it doesn’t follow that Detroit’s record would be significantly worse if it played in the East rather than in the Central. Moreover, Detroit has dominated both Tampa and Toronto head-to-head, which again is admittedly a small sampl size, but provides an additional basis to believe that the Tigers are simply a better team.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

I never said the Tigers would be significantly worse if they played in the east, but is it a stretch to believe that they might have 3 or 4 fewer wins at this point and that Toronto would have 3 or 4 more wins? That would narrow the gap between the two teams to about 4 games, hardly insurmountable with more than 3 weeks left in the season.

And I don’t understand why you apologize for using small sample sizes but then continue to use them to defend your position. That seems kind of schitzophrenic to me.

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

It’s hardly “schitzophrenic”. Just because a small sample size is less relevant does not make it irrelevant.

As for the Detroit vs. Tampa/Toronto comparison, sure the difference would be closer, I never said it wouldn’t. But the argument being made was that the teams records would be nearly identical, which I disagree with. Detroit has played .563 ball against the AL East, so the suggestion that this is a team that is simply feasting on the Central is faulty. That’s my (and THE) point.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

There you go again. To say that just because it’s a small sample size doesn’t mean that it’s not relevant is to show a lack of understanding of why the term, “small sample size” is used.

You keep going back to your small sample size because they support the position you are taking, rather than looking at larger sample sizes that don’t support your position. In what universe is that an objective way to analyze something?

Natty G
Guest
Natty G
4 years 9 months ago

You have yet to disprove my point. You just are throwing other stats out, that have nothing to do with the point I’m arguing. Your reading comprehension skills need some serious work.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I think it comes down to small sample sizes. Ask yourself, if Detroit played New York 100 times, would they really win 57 of those games? Or even a more pertinent question if they played the Yankees an additional 10-12 times, would you predict that they win 6-7 of those? I personally don’t think so. That’s what small sample sizes do, they give you a warped perception of true abilities.

Pete Sorice
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

great post Steve! I see both sides of the coin.

Is there value in the Blue Jays finishing 4th instead of last? Bautista’s 2011 performance provides hope for Toronto to make the playoffs in 2012. Without him they would have zero chance next year.

Seems like this alone is valuable but how would it be quantified?

Darren
Guest
Darren
4 years 9 months ago

but the award is for value in 2011 regular season games only.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

I made much the same point in a Dave Cameron chat a week or so ago (i.e., that not all wins are equally valuable, and hence WAR contribution isn’t the be-all, end-all of determining an MVP), but he dismissed it as “specious”. He never explained why it is specious, and I don’t think he can. The contribution of a player who’s team is easily going to qualify for the playoffs, or easily miss the playoffs, is not equally valuable as that of a player providing the same WAR to a team barely qualifying for October. It just isn’t. That’s not to say that the player on one of the former teams can never be more valuable than a player on the latter team, but it is a relevant consideration for the MVP.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Of course some wins are more valuable than others, but that value must be determined in context.

For example, early in the season when the Pirates, Indians, Raysand Cardinals were thick in the battle for first place, every win had a lot of value. Now that we’ve reached September and none of those teams are
likely to win 85 games, each win is basicly window dressing.

But that doesn’t mean that those wins back in May and June have suddenly become less valuable. I don’t think you can judge the value of an early season win based on where the team stands when the season ends. The value of a win needs to be judged in the context of how it impacted a team’s playoff chances AT THE TIME of the game, not 5 monthes later.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

Of course its a matter of context. But that just goes to support the argument that a team’s standing IS relevant to the MVP award.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Here’s why I have so much trouble accepting the notion that players on teams that finish out of contention aren’t as deserving of as much MVP consideration as players whose teams make the playoffs.

Imagine that on August 31st the Cardinals and the Reds are tied for first place with identical records of 77 wins and 56 losses. Furthermore, imagine that their star first basemen, Pujols and Votto are each having excellent seasons but Votto’s stat (.354/.454/.669) and defense are better than Pujols (.341/.424/.638).

Now imagine that Pujols and Votto both suffer season ending injuries
while warming up for their September 1st games.

The Cardinals move Berkman to 1st Base and win 21 of their last 29 games to win the division. The Reds move Alonso Yonder to 1st base and win only 9 of their final 29 games to finish 12 games behind the Cardinals and out of the playoffs.
If you were voting for MVP, would you vote for Pujols since his team won the division? Based on the logic of using a team’s final standings determine the ‘value’ of their wins, wouldn’t you have to vote for Pujols?

But that flies in the face of reason since in this scenario, the Reds and Cardinals were dead even at the time Pujols and Votto were injured and Votto had the better season. You’d be giving the award to Pujols based soley on what his team did AFTER he was injured!!

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

Hello, Strawman.

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

@stratobill I don’t know what the voters would do, but personally I wouldn’t vote for a player who missed almost 20% of the season to injury at all.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Vilified,

You say you would not vote for a player who missed almost 20% of the season. How can you say that without knowing what the competition was? In the last couple of years two players have won AL MVPs despite missing a lot of games.

In 2009 Joe Mauer started only 109 games at catcher (plus 27 as DH) and won the MVP. In 2010, Josh Hamilton started only 116 games in the outfield (plus 13 as DH) and he won the MVP. Are you don’t think either of them deserved serious consideration for MVP?

But all that is missing my point. My point was, that if you are choosing between 2 players whose teams had very similar records with them in the lineups, why should it matter how they perform when those same two players are NOT in the lineups? The success or failure of the teams when their stars aren’t playing is attributable to other players, not to the missing players!

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

@Stratobill In 2007, Barry Bonds had a 1.040 OPS while missing 36 days (probably what Pujols and Votto would miss in your scenario) and posted a WAR of……. 3.7.

So, let’s correct that for position, D and baserunning. You’re MAYBE at 5 WAR. There are currently 14 players in the NL above 5 WAR. There is a near 0% chance that a player missing 20% of the season will be the most valuable player in their league. Only the very very best of hall of famers in their best seasons would even have a chance.

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

If Hammilton were an above average 1B instead of an outstanding corner OF, he probably wouldn’t have won. Joe Mauer played in 140 games! The vast majority of them at the most valuable position on the field!

I can see the argument for giving it to Hammilton, but only because he A) plays a position of much higher value than 1B/DH, and
B) was so far above the field that year.

I suppose in your scenario if no one was remotely close enough to those two to make up the value (agian, this is doubtful), I’d vote for one of them.

But even still, I think your response shows you don’t really understand the argument. It’s absolutely not a raw “Team A won more so their wins were more valuable” or even “Team A got in the playoffs so their wins were more valuable”.

Think of it like leverage index for relievers: The closer the race, and the closer to the end of the season, the more valuable the contribution.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Jimmy, you need to look up the meaning of a strawman argument, because it doesn’t apply to what I wrote. The scenario I described involving Pujuls and Votto was an illustration of the logical failure of your position. A strawman argument is when one mis-represents someone else’s position in order to attack it. That’s not what I did.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver
4 years 9 months ago

I think a large point people are missing is the fact that if a team has one player who is doing very, VERY well their attendance goes up regardless of their place on the win-spectrum. A 78-84 team where everyone plays at a similar, mediocre, level would (I would think) not fare as well as a team with the same win-loss record but with Joey Bats playing for them. While the team around him may be worse, his presence in the lineup should draw more fans just to see him play, regardless of the team’s place on the win curve.

Now this is more of a thought-experiment than a well-researched piece of data, and I don’t mean to suggest that teams should splurge for a top-notch player during rebuilding just so they can draw some fans to see him play. I just mean if two teams have the same W/L record and one has a fantastic player, doesn’t his presence help his team financially beyond the W/L record?

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
4 years 9 months ago

So now we’re down to rewarding players for signing with good teams.

What a bad argument. That’s really all this comes down to. Did you sign with a team that you know is going to win at least 80 games a season without you? Then you’re MVP. If you decide you’d rather play for the Orioles, then good luck, fucker.

shred the gnar
Guest
shred the gnar
4 years 9 months ago

Hypothetically say you’re a GM starting a new MLB franchise and have unlimited money for one free agent signing. The owner tells you to get the most valuable free agent based on the last season. You’re going to pick up the guy who put up the best numbers right? The guy with the most VALUE. The context of which the value is applied (team) shouldn’t matter right? This is an individual award. The award for teams doing well as a whole is called the World Series.

Adam W
Guest
Adam W
4 years 9 months ago

How is the best player in baseball not the most valuable?

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

Simple hypothetical:

Let’s pencil in Joey Bautista as an 8 win player. Add him to the 2003 Detroit Tigers, and they still lose 110 games.

In contrast, let’s say that Evan Longoria is a 7 win player. Add him to the 2009 Detroit Tigers, and they win the division, rather than lose Game 163 to the Twins.

If you compare Bautista’s hypothetical season to Longoria’s in the abstract, Bautista wins solely on the basis of his WAR. But in reality, the 7 wins that Longoria would have added to the 2009 Tigers are vastly more valuable than the 8 wins Bautista would have contributed to the 2003 Tigers. Not all wins are equally valuable.

Admittedly that is an extreme example. And that isn’t to say that only players on playoff teams should be eligible for the MVP, or that you always have to pick an MVP from the team that comes closest to missing the players. But when the margin between two candidates is slim, I don’t think that taking the context of each player’s performance into consideration is improper. Rather, it’s essential to truly determining which player is most valuable.

Adam W
Guest
Adam W
4 years 9 months ago

Accrued WAR is appropriate when looking at individual players, which is what the Most Valuable Player award is designed to do. We have stats like WPA to determine the context of a player’s performance. Team Wins aren’t an accurate measure of that.

Unless, are you suggesting that the hypothetical 2003 Tigers are somehow better off with the 7 WAR guy? Or that the hypothetical 2009 Tigers are somehow worse off with the 8 WAR guy? You are comparing things will different denominators.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I guess my question then is, where do you stop with context? I think someone already articulated this well, but if we’re taking the context of the team’s position in the standing into play, then shouldn’t we take the context of every single plate appearance. That’s going to to whittle this argument down to runs and RBI, and I don’t think we want to take that route.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 9 months ago

The point of MVP voting is to allow me to look oh-so-much-smarter than people who earn a living doing what I ought to be doing in their place. To which end I’ll use “Slowinski is saying guys from losing teams should NEVER!!! win MVP!!”, and any other Straw Man arguments as needed.

Mike Jones
Guest
Mike Jones
4 years 9 months ago

My thinking on the subject has led me to this: if you could play GM in the ultimate fantasy league, where you’d have actual players play out the season at their actual level of performance from the season just finished. It’s a straight draft, you don’t have to pay players or negotiate contracts. You have the first pick in the draft. Who do you pick? IMO, that player is the MVP.
I don’t find any of the arguments about playoff position convincing, because they make an *individual* award highly contingent on the performance of a player’s teammates. The argument is that you would have to be on a team that would win enough to be in the playoffs, but not enough so that they’d still make it without you. I just don’t find that any sort of rational criterion.

stratobill
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

A kindred spirit!!!!

Matt Hunter
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

(Full disclosure: I read only the first few comments on this article, so I apologize if this is repetitive)

Maybe a simple metaphor is helpful.

A one hundred dollar bill is much more “valuable” (in on sense of the word) to a homeless person than it is to Bill Gates.

It is also more “valuable” to a person saving up for a $1000 car who has $900 than a person saving up for the same car who has $500.

Nevertheless, it has the same value in the economic, literal, context-neutral sense, regardless of who is holding it. If I’m a vendor, I don’t care who is giving me the bill; it has the same value whether it’s coming from the homeless guy or Bill Gates.

I’m not trying to make any point here, just giving people a possibly different way to think about the issue.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

The problem with this analogy is that unlike a $100 bill, wins are not equally valuable in a context-neutral sense. In a year where a team needs 88 wins to qualify for the playoffs, it’s 88th win is more valuable than its 90th or 95th. In contrast, the $100 bill provides equal purchasing power regardless of the overall wealth of its holder.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy
4 years 9 months ago

Just to clarify, the 88th win is more valuable in the sense that it generates greater revenue for the team via playoff ticket sales, than does the team’s 87th or 90th win. Thus, some wins have greater monetary value than others, which isn’t the case with a $100 bill, which has equal monetary value for all.

sc2gg
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

In a year where cars are at a surplus and therefore worth only $800, that $100 isn’t as valuable to the guy who has $900 and is trying to buy a car. In a year like this, the car is much more valuable to the guy who can now get paid for delivering pizza than otherwise.

And so on.

Matt Hunter
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Yes, but that’s what I’m trying to say with the car example. For the guy with $900, the $100 is basically worth a car, because without it, he could not afford a car (just as that 88th win is worth so much more than the rest of the wins because it gets the team to the playoffs). In this way, the $100 is, in a sense, worth more than $100 because of what it allows the car buyer to do.

By specifying which win it is (88th vs 90th or 95th), you are adding context. The idea of context neutral value is that Bautista is adding 8 wins, and we don’t care about whether those wins got the team to 70 wins, 88 wins, or 100 wins.

stratobill
Guest
stratobill
4 years 9 months ago

Your money analogy is fine. It shows how value is a relative thing.

Extending it to baseball, if say, Tom Seaver in his prime had been available last spring, how much would he have been worth to the pitching rich Phillies compared to what he would of been worth to the Dodgers or Mets.

But the MVP is a LEAGUE award, not a team award, so shouldn’t it be given to the player with the most absolute value (objective)?

Mike Jones
Guest
Mike Jones
4 years 9 months ago

Except that once each person has the $1000, isn’t it kind of silly to say that the last $100 is the “most important”, because he wouldn’t have enough to buy the car without the first, or third, or last $100. At that point, they’re all equally important. Each $100 increment moves him equally closer to buying the car, so they’re all equally important because he can’t get there without *all* of them. It’s not quite the same in baseball, but you have to remember that players are fungible. There’s no particular reason that, say, Joey Bats isn’t a Royal or Justin Verlander a Blue Jay. A player who is worth 10 wins ($100) is always and everywhere more valuable than a player who’s worth 8 wins. They could well have been traded for each other before the season (at least in theory), and the team would finish with a better record (or better be able to survive injuries or subpar years from other players) with the 10 win guy in the lineup.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I think someone pointed out the “three-legged stool” argument. If a team won the division by 1 game, and had seven players with 1+ WAR, then all seven players were almost equally valuable. Which one is the MVP? The one whose WAR came mostly during the 86th, 87th and 88th wins?

Or a player that makes a game-winning three-pointer in basketball. His three points likely made up 3% of the team’s total points in the game. So if you think it matters more that it comes in “crunch time,” then wins at the end of the season should be valued much more highly than wins at the beginning of the season.

I don’t agree with this, but just trying to follow this idea to its logical conclusion, which doesn’t seem very logical to me.

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

@Matthias that’s because reducto ad absurdum (which is what you’re doing) is a logical fallacy. Of course the conclusion isn’t logical, you specifically set it up to not be logical.

This whole debate boils down two one thing IMO: Disagreement on whether the MVP should be the WAR leader or the WPA leader.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Ok, I may have taken it a little too far, but not hyperbolically far. I think I just made that word up.

If we want to measure context, then as someone has already done here, make a function that measures value of wins based on context of playoff odds, and weight each game’s WPA by the PPA (Playoff percentage added?)

Grebe
Guest
Grebe
4 years 9 months ago

I prefer different people having different views on what it means to be the MVP, rather than some rigid definition. Otherwise, what would be the point of putting it to a vote?

The biggest problem with the “old school” way of handing out the MVP though is the inconsistency. You want the MVP to be the guy who carried his team to the playoffs, that’s fine. But don’t then vote for a player on 102-win team that could have won the division without him.

Sean
Guest
Sean
4 years 9 months ago

How about the sum of the “Win Probability Added” by a player over the course of the season. Then the MVP would go to the player that came through at the most opportune times. Fluky, but accurate.

PS. Is WPA anywhere on the leaderboards?

Sean
Guest
Sean
4 years 9 months ago

Found it! Verlander does lead all pitchers, but contributed only 4.49 WPA, while Bautista earned 6.80. There were actually 6 position players more valuable than Verlander when you measure only how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a play-by-play basis.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron
4 years 9 months ago

Instead of WPA, do we need a PPA stat (Playoff Probability Added). This would weight performances by where they are in the season and in the context of whatever races the team was involved in at the time.

For simplicity you would probably have to consider each game in isolation (i.e. using the standings at the start of the day (or at time of first pitch, if available).

This might unduly credit final-day performances (or one0game playoffs) where WPA = PPA, but you could artificially adjust for this by capping individual games’ import if you wanted.

This idea could be extended into the postseason by using WSPA (World Series Probability Added) which during the season is simply 1/8 * PPA (for now). Blown saves in Game 7 of the WS are very bad news for a closer’s WSPA.

jploflin
Member
jploflin
4 years 8 months ago

1) I personally am in favor of calculating WSPA for all postseasons; I think it would be very interesting and it’s relatively straightforward to calculate. I recently posted a compact lookup table of all postseason game values on fangraphs.

2) To the point about Verlander, WPA vastly underestimates the value of a starting pitcher who throws TONS of innings… if your starter throws 251 innings of average quality (even with a season WPA total of 0.0) it’s much more valuable than throwing 193 innings of the same quality. The value of those 58 extra innings from Verlander is that it rests the bullpen, and those 58 rest innings aren’t taking away from Valverde’s playing time with his 2.24 ERA… those 58 rest innings trickle down to Enrique Gonzalez (10.00 ERA), David Purcey (7.23 ERA), Jacob Turner (8.53 ERA)… Verlander’s extra 58 innings, even if the WPA of them is zero-ish, keep the BOTTOM of the bullpen IN the bullpen, and possibly it additionally opens up a roster spot to carry an additional slugging pinch hitter, utility infielder, or speedy pinch running.

For hitters, they don’t tire out the same way; hitters can do 7 atbats in a game and there’s no need to pinch hit on behalf of fatigue.

So for pitchers, WPA is a great framework, but when comparing starting pitchers (to hitters or to other starting pitchers) we need to credit the workhorses something extra for a high number of Innings Pitched (even if those additional innings added zero WPA).

jploflin
Member
jploflin
4 years 8 months ago

3) I would concur that WSPA could be extended to the regular season…

The “simpler” approach would be to use the standings at the start of the day, and then calculate the player’s team’s chances of making the playoff assuming a win and alternatively a loss, and the weight would be the difference of those two probabilities.

The “complex” approach would be the same, but would factor in schedules for the remainder of the season, in addition to current standings. Coolstandings.com calcs exactly this probability each night (they call it their “Dumb” probabilities, and I think in this WSPA context, we’d prefer to use the “Dumb” probabilities). At the current time, coolstandings does not publish game impact weights, but I believe it would be simple for them to do so since they have all the data and algorithms built.

The nice thing about PPA or WSPA is that it will weight head-to-head (sox-yankees) games very high, as the winner not only improves his own record but also forces the most likely alternative team into a loss. It will also weight late-season pennant race games high.

Incidentally, for teams like Houston, it will weight April games the highest because the models will show a slight chance that they make the playoffs early in the season before the loss column overwhelms them.

4) One of the most interesting applications of PPA (or WSPA) would be to re-define the Clutch metric in those terms… so that Clutch isn’t just measuring high performance in critical game situation, but factors in additionally how important the game itself is.

SOB in TO
Guest
SOB in TO
4 years 9 months ago

I’m wondering if a case can be made for a player who didn’t play all season, and his team barely missed the playoffs. They probably would have made the playoffs with him. So, he’s the MVP. ?? Yeah, screwy logic.

Now, that is the most extreme, so let’s allow him to play great baseball until the final week, and he’s beaned by a pitch and cannot play the last six games, They were ahead by four games before the injury and they miss the playoffs due to his absence. MVP? Maybe.

Now, let’s look at Manny and his half-season with the Dodgers….

For a completely different argument, let’s see who has the relatively suckiest substitute….wouldn’t that player be the most valuable??

Mike Jones
Guest
Mike Jones
4 years 9 months ago

This is the argument I would title “Jim Rice for MVP in 1975”. The Series that year was so close that if Rice hadn’t been HBP and broke his hand coming down the stretch, the Curse might well have ended a lot sooner than it did.

Jon S.
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Ok. Everybody who is arguing against this article needs to read about the win curve and the marginal value of a win. Now, let me explain this very clearly: WAR is a value stat because it is in units of wins. Wins are valuable because they mean money for the club. Not all wins have the same value, as explained by the win curve. The MVP award, while an individual award, has context built into the definition – “most valuable to his team.”

The ideal MVP is a truly outstanding (top 3 or so) player on a team that barely made the playoffs. This isn’t a player that exists most years, but using the sabermetric concept of marginal wins, players on teams in close races do deserve extra consideration based on the definition of the award and the marginal value of wins in those close races.

Jon S.
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

Mike Jones: the player you choose first in that draft would be your vote for player most likely to be MVP.

Matt H: I love the car analogy. Very apt and relevant.

Matt Hunter
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Thank you. However, I think your assumption that MVP is “most valuable to his team” is a unfounded. As Steve said, the definition of MVP is very debatable, and I think one could very reasonably argue that it is really measuring value in the third sense that I mentioned in my post above.

Another thing to think about is at what point a monster season becomes an MVP season no matter what team he is on. To go back to the car analogy, is $200 more valuable to the guy with $500 than $100 to the guy with $900? Probably. But if the goal is to get a car, then how could you say that the $200 is more valuable?

Mike Jones
Guest
Mike Jones
4 years 9 months ago

This is why: if you have $500, getting $200 moves you closer to getting the car than $100 does. That’s “more valuable”.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I think a lot of people are making those arguments. Unless we’re talking about different arguments. Like you said before, it’s a context vs. context-neutral argument. I choose context-neutral, and some have supported the other.

Matthias
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

I think most people here understand that IN CONTEXT, Verlander’s wins are more important to Detroit than Bautista’s are to Toronto. However, I think I speak for many when I say we still don’t want the award being very context-dependent, if at all. There have been many, many examples articulating how this line of logic could hypothetically lead to a 3-WAR player getting the MVP over Bautista.

I understand the win curve very well, but I don’t want to use it. That’s my prerogative, and that’s the leeway baseball writers are given when voting, I think.

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

No one is actually making those arguments Matthias.

BillWallace
Member
BillWallace
4 years 9 months ago

By this logic, the MVP should be given to the player who comes out highest on a formula involving the player’s WPA and his team’s margin of making the playoffs.

The current answer in the AL would clearly be Josh Hamilton, the only player in the majors who’s WPA (4.61) exceeds his team’s playoff margin (3).

The current answer in the NL would have to be Ian Kennedy with his 4.39 WPA against a margin of 6. Runners up are Prince Fielder with his 5.61 WPA against the Brewers’ margin of 9.5, Bruan (4.86 WPA) and Upton 2.82.

Of all of those names, only Hamilton is a travesty of an MVP pick. A substitute AL MVP is Miguel Cabrera and his 5.75 WPA vs 8.5 margin. Verlander’s 4.49 WPA also rates.

BillWallace
Member
BillWallace
4 years 9 months ago

Of course a good counter to this line of thinking is that, ONLY Josh Hamilton can make a sabermetric argument that he was the difference between his team making the playoffs and not making the playoffs, and he obviously shouldn’t be the MVP based on an injury shortened, down year with 3.0 WAR.

One could conclude from this that the argument must be stupid. You can’t argue Verlander put the Tigers in the playoffs unless the White Sox make a late charge, so we should just give the award to the best player, Bautista.

joe
Guest
joe
4 years 9 months ago

The record in Verlander starts vs the .500 in non-Verlander starts also assumes the distribution of runs Detroit has scored in those two data sets is similar and thus without Verlander they would have gone roughly .500… for some reason the mainstream media is just throwing that # out and not even bothering to verify it (as does the author of this article).

Given the sample size involved this is a dangerous assumption without checking the distributions.

As an example (I’m too lazy to look at all the starts) over Verlanders last 7 starts the Tigers have score at least 4 runs in every game and 6+ runs in 4 of the 7 games… while the Tigers are 7-0 in those games, is it fair to say they would have been roughly 3-4 or 4-3 if Verlander had not pitched? (I’m not sure it is). I think a key piece of record in Verlander starts vs non -Verlander starts is verifying the Tigers run scoring distribution is similar enough where it is useful to compare the two.

BTW – If I look at the leaderboards on this site…. is Verlander even the most valuable PITCHER in the AL? (yes I know there is noise in that #, but this seems to be taken as a given)

Robert
Guest
Robert
4 years 9 months ago

I think you’re overthinking this.

Another definition of “value” is the amount something is worth. 8 > 7 because 8 is a higher value than 7.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
4 years 9 months ago

I think Simmons is making this reason to justify one of his beloved Red Sox getting the award over Bautista. Funny thing is, it makes it harder to justify anybody from Boston or New York since those teams are so deep that if you take away any one player they are still probably a playoff team this year so how valuable can any one guy be to them?

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
4 years 9 months ago

If a) Adam Dunn and Alex Rios weren’t each having abnormally godawful seasons and b) Ozzie Guillen weren’t insistent on playing Juan Pierre every day (or nearly every day) and pencilling him in as the leadoff hitter, then Justin Verlander’s team is in second place and nobody is making this “Justin Verlander for MVP because he is the most valuable player to his team” argument.

Justin Verlander has no control whatsoever over a and b above, so why is he being rewarded? Jose Bautista has no control over how lousy his team’s pitching staff is, so why is being penalized? Why reward or punish a baseball player, or any individual, for that matter, for things beyond their control?

And isn’t it fairly obvious that the reason why we have to be subjected to this same dumb argument every single year over a topic that is, in my view, as “controversial” as, say, global warming or evolutionary theory (that is, not controversial at all, since the matter has been settled), is simply because it sells newspapers (or generates hits, if online)? And therefore allows the purveyor of this “story” to generate more advertising dollars?

Ryan
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Hey, here’s the MVP spreadsheet I came up with that bases MVP on WAR and Marginal Wins. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AqainmM9OVJIdFZINWlBUDJOc25NZlMzVEUteFJYdEE&hl=en_US

I submitted an article that hopefully get’s picked up, but for now if you have any notes please e-mail me at hoffmry@gmail.com

Viliphied
Guest
Viliphied
4 years 9 months ago

I like it a lot. Hopefully this could put to rest all the people making the crazy argument that someone using marginal win value could actually vote a 1 WAR player MVP.

The Nicker
Member
Member
The Nicker
4 years 9 months ago

This is great! I hope this is parsed out and other people look at this.

Tom
Guest
Tom
4 years 9 months ago

I’ll throw out another strawman (just because they are fun).

Someone shows you 3 diamonds and asks you to pick out the most valuable one.

Some people would look at the size (carats), cut/imperfections, color, clarity etc and try to come up with a way to aggregate a bunch of attributes (similar to a WAR model). There would be disagreement of how do do you value size relative to clarity but most people would analyze the diamond itself to determine which was most valuable.

How many people would determine which was most valuable diamond by assessing the following:
– What’s the net worth of each of the owners of the diamonds – marginal/relative value, similar to the how many wins does the team have and is the diamond (wins) making a substantial difference
– How much did they pay for each diamond (surplus value or how much profit is the owner going to turn on it or as a stretch how much revenue is the player generating in addition to onfield conttibutions for the marginal wins)
– Which of the owners has reseverve diamonds that aren’t on display – the scarcity/replacement value… this is the the “he’s the only valuable piece on the team” thus has more intrinisic value, or the opopsite end of the spectrum of there mutilple MYP types- how could any one really be that valuable?

I’d just be evalutaing the diamonds themselves…. if I was given the choice to pick one to keep or declare the most valuable , I’d probably not pick the 6 carat diamond over the 7 or 8 carat diamond because the owner of the 6 carat diamond has a lower net worth and thus the diamond has a relative higher value. Similarly I would not simply pick the 6 carat diamond simply because that owner had no other diamonds or valuable assets and thus it was extremely valuable to him while the owners of the bigger diamonds had other stockpiles behind the ones on display.

It’s not the MRVP award (most relative value player)

Billion Memes
Guest
Billion Memes
4 years 9 months ago

Long time saber fan, since the days of Neyer writing about OPS and pythag as innovation. I’m not sure this viewpoint will get much traction here, but here it goes. Not everything needs to be measured! The awards are VOTED on hence an inherent degree of subjectivity. I am fine with voters making their own determinations on what the voting instructions mean and how those determinations can be applied. Surplus value, attendance figures, and the like have no place in the MVP discussion. The current framework for MVP voting, vague and open to interpretation, is fine the way it is. I also don’t think that individual voters need to be consistent in the framework they apply. Prevailing thoughts change over time and a voter should be flexible enough to change his/her mind on how they want to vote. In the years to come there will be more saber friendly writers voting on these awards and they will be free to vote as they see fit. There is no right or wrong answer to who the MVP is. The best way to spend payroll? There are absolutey right and wrong answers.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

There is no wrong answer to who the MVP is? So, (I don’t know) Lyle Overbay is just as good an MVP vote as Justin Upton? Just because there is no right answer does not entail that there is no wrong answer; there can be a set of right answers with multiple but not exhaustive members. And just because something is controversial does not entail that there is not a right answer.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 9 months ago

There are answers. That is the only certainty.

If we’re going to get philosophical, then we need to stop there in regards what is.

How those answers are interpreted, labelled, evaluated, etc is up to subjective processes and the norms of the culture.

That’s why the same answer can be “right” in one time period, and “wrong” in another.

And just because something is controversial does not entail that there is not a right answer.

Who sets the criteria or standard? Why them? Why that criteria or standard?

The fact that something is confroversial is a key indicator that there may not be a right or wrong answer. Right or wrong depends on a universal standard.

We don’t have a universal standard, so how can we have right or wrong?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 9 months ago

Oops. I wasn’t being pedantic, but rather trying to make a point while being humorous or satirical.

I just wanted to illustrate that without a universal standard, there won’t be a right or wrong answer … just as you can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist.

In this context/discussion, it’s even moreso.

g
Guest
g
4 years 9 months ago

glad that you are looking at value in more complete terms. now how valuable is a $ 100M contract guy to his team compared to a guy making a fraction of that and producing at a high level/cpl so mvp is the awesome and cheap ellsbury cuz he makes his team able to contend and because he is cheap his tram can have money to get guys like Agone

Billion Memes
Guest
Billion Memes
4 years 9 months ago

@LTG Taking my point and saying that Lyle Overbay could be MVP is the definition of a straw man. I don’t see how any voter could have a framework that produces Lyle Overbay as MVP and I’m sure you don’t either. On the other hand I do think a voter could reasonably vote for Verlander, Bautista, Granderson, or others. I’m simply stating that I don’t think we need to objectively measure a subjective award. Different people apply different frameworks. We don’t need a uniform framework.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

It is not a straw man. You definitely asserted “There is no right OR WRONG answer to who the MVP is.” Perhaps you meant something else by what you said, but that is what you said and it has the absurd consequence that I pointed out.

Again, reasonable disagreement does not entail that there is no right answer or that a decision is subjective. Juries can reasonably disagree over whether a person is guilty or innocent, but that the jury votes one way or another does not entail that the person’s guilt or innocence is subjective or decision relative anyway. The jury can get it wrong. So why is the MVP voting not like the jury deciding guilt or innocence?

Billion Memes
Guest
Billion Memes
4 years 9 months ago

It is a classic straw man. If you are incapable of reading context from my comments and just quote one line taken at face value without the context of the rest of my comment, then you are misrepresenting what I am saying to bolster your position.

To take you analogy, “juries can reasonably disagree” pretty much sums up what I was saying. The fact that a jury votes makes a person’s guilt or innocence subjective. Not everyone approaches things in the same way and so could arrive at different positions. Where the analogy fails however is that ultimately the person committed the crime or didn’t regardless of trial outcome. The same cannot be said that a player is or isn’t the MVP regardless of voting outcome.

I’m fine if you disagree with my position but don’t ignore context and make ridiculous assertions about my point to strengthen your position. Let your point stand on its own merit.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

I didn’t take a position. Nor did I characterize your position in general. All I did was point out a part of your position that is absurd. All you need do to respond is revise and perhaps actually argue for rather than just assert the subjectivity of the MVP award.

Straw men are general characterizations of positions for the purpose of refutation. I neither generally characterized your position nor sought to refute it. Showing as yet undischarged burdens in another’s position is not refutation. If you can’t limit your reading to what I write and insist on inferring things from what I write that I didn’t write, then you are misunderstanding the author. This is why it is important to write clearly and choose words carefully.

Billion Memes
Guest
Billion Memes
4 years 9 months ago

I’d say you took a position “The jury can get it wrong” (with context, you’re saying MVP voters can get it wrong). I’d also say you mischaracterized my position “So, (I don’t know) Lyle Overbay is just as good an MVP vote as Justin Upton” to then assert that my position is absurd. My main point which was the first relative sentence of my post was “Not everything needs to be measured”. We don’t need a WAR like framwork to decide MVP voting, yet many readers here assert just that. To me, it is a vote, so individuals will and should make up their own framework to vote. Maybe that’s 5 minutes looking at traditional stats, maybe its just a gut feel, maybe its in depth research on all the relevant stats, maybe its just sorting the WAR column. With the large number of voters, the winner has almost always been a reasonable choice. Obviously there are exceptions. But that is sort of my point. The MVP of the league can’t be proven by measurements or frameworks because its a subjective vote by a large group of people. I don’t agree with the people who say it has to be Bautista and cite only WAR (lots of those people) and also don’t agree with the people who say it has to be someone on a playoff contender (lots of those people too). I definitely don’t agree with the multitudes of authors over the years who say they know how people should vote and bang the drum for their line of thought. Anytime their is a vote involved, the matter becomes politics. There are no truths in politics. I’d vote Verlander, Bautista, and Granderson in some order for the top 3 in the AL and I have no idea in the NL for what its worth.

Jeroen Blok
Guest
Jeroen Blok
4 years 9 months ago

I think the old school writers actually agree that the MVP should be for the best player. Their main contention I guess is that putting up stats for a contender is more difficult than for a team out of contention and thus that a player for a contender is better than the one on the none contender. They will also argue the valuable argument just to win the discussion but I doubt whether this is really there point.

LTG
Guest
LTG
4 years 9 months ago

I tend to believe this is true as well but a survey of some sort would be interesting to read.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 9 months ago

And presto, we wake this morning to see that the AL fWAR leader is now on a playoff team. New school and old school agree – Jose Bautista is not the clear-cut MVP. Can we now put this tired debate to bed and get back to the important issues, like whether a guy who only plays every 5 days can be as valuable as one who plays every day? (ducks)

joe
Guest
joe
4 years 9 months ago

Hooray misusing fWAR!

Or do you believe in 1 year UZR and BSR samples have accuracy good enough to discriminate the curent WAR deltas?

CC for Cy Young!

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 9 months ago

That’s exactly my point – all the hand-wringing over Bautista also relies on fWAR as the sole measure of value. And 1 year UZR and BSR samples also go into his fWAR value. There have been several people bunched at the top of the fWAR leaderboard since the All Star Break, at least, and because of the inherent lack of discrimination in some of the components of fWAR, this simply indicates that there have been several people who have been very valuable this year, not just Bautista. My point is that one can’t cite fWAR as definitive evidence that Bautista is MVP one day, and then turn around and poo-poo it now as definitive evidence that Ellsbury as the MVP.

For the record, I have no idea who I would vote for if I had an MVP vote. I’m just tired of seeing all the hand-wringing over an end-of-season award when the season isn’t over.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 9 months ago

Also, intentional misuse of fWAR was my (apparently weak) attempt at a joke (“New school and old school agree” – I guess it sounded funnier in my head). Hence the subsequent joke about pitchers vs. batters, too.

Pat
Guest
Pat
4 years 9 months ago

Do you want to reward a playoff-bound player? Then, you know, let him to go to the playoffs. That’s the reward. The MVP award is an individual award, and the standings and playoffs are the context, the what-actually-happened rewards. Why bring context into the MVP award? That’s what the standings are for. If Verlander had been traded for Sabathia before the season, would Detroit be in a different position right now? If you believe not, then Verlander is not the MVP.

Jim
Guest
Jim
4 years 9 months ago

Still- Bautista had a double, two walks, two runs scored, and two RBI in a victory over the Red Sox- a game that matters little to Toronto, but has some significance to Boston (and New York). Value should be measured according to whether a player’s performance helps his team win games. Every game the Blue Jays have played against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Indians, Angels and Rangers has impacted the division standings, and just because they aren’t as valuable to the Blue Jays, that doesn’t mean the Red Sox don’t care about losing last night.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 9 months ago

And yet Bautista is now not the WAR leader, so why are we still talking about him?

I’m being slightly facetious, but only slightly. Ellsbury and Bautista are well within a reasonable error band of each other in terms of WAR, but that only highlights the fact that Bautista hasn’t been a runaway WAR leader since very early in the season. So why are we all so sure that he will prove to be the “true” MVP as measured by WAR, destined to be “screwed” in the MVP voting? There’s still a good amount of baseball to be played, so even if you dogmatically believe WAR is the end-all-be-all measure of a player’s value in a given year there is no guarantee Bautista will end up on top of that list.

Confused
Guest
Confused
4 years 9 months ago

Does this article add anything new to the conversation?

db
Guest
db
4 years 9 months ago

There are legitimate reasons to look at whether a team is in contention in discussing value. (I note that making the playoffs is arbitrary, but being in contention matters)

1. For a team in a race, every game, every at-bat has a bigger meaning. When was the last time Carlos Lee took an at bat that meant anything to the Astros’ chances? May? Performing exceptionally with a team that is way out of contention is not as valuable as performing exceptionally for a team where every game matters. There is also far less pressure and, because an abysmal team is likely not in as many close games, there is a better reason to pitch to a great player on a lousy team because it is unlikely to affect the game outcome. This also means that it is harder to be the MVP on a team that runs away with the division.

2. The award is for the “league” m.v.p. Who is the player that is most valuable in the league? I think it legitimately can be the player that has the most impact on the outcome of the league. This doesn’t preclude Bautista from winning it, but I do think it is somewhat harder to be the most impactful player in the league while playing for a team that is dreadful.

There are counter arguments that value should simply measure how good the player is and how much that player would help a team win games, regardless or context.

Personally, I think competitiveness matters, but I think there is a legitimate counter-argument. It simply is another way of putting the context of the player’s performance in the equation, the way we do for park effects and other adjustments.

jds
Guest
jds
4 years 9 months ago

Well, I’d first like to point out that the MVP is not the most valuable player to the league. The voting guidelines clearly state that the MVP is the player most valuable to his team. And while you might not agree with the guidelines, you can’t ignore them. The MVP is an award invented by the baseball writers so they can define it however they wish.

Also, there is a lot of discussion about whether context should be taken into account. This seems to be the major sticking point. I would like to know if the people that disregard context do so out of a feeling that is in someway unfair to the players involved. I actually don’t care if it’s fair or not. Life’s not fair so I don’t know why MVP voting should be. I think that context should always be considered. In what other situation is it better to take something out of context? This is an extreme example but suppose two guys each have a car, a Ferrari and a Veyron respectively. Clearly the Veyron is the better car. But suppose the Veyron is stuck on a deserted island and the Ferrari is cruising the autobahn. Which car is more valuable to the driver? So in regards to MVP, I think marginal wins should be taken into account.

Also, I would like to point out that even if you believe that the best player should just be the MVP, it’s not that easy to figure out who that is. It seems that WAR is mentioned often in this discussion, and while WAR is a useful stat, it is not the be all and end all that some people make it out to be. The acknowledged uncertainty in the defensive data alone (which can swing as much as a win or more for some players year to year) means that even using WAR there is a certain subjectivity that needs to be used when determining the best player unless one player is at least a whole win or two ahead of the competition (which is not the case this year). So no matter how you define it, there is always going to be a healthy debate on this issue.

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