# Determining the “Value” of “Valuable”

When the FanGraphs staff voted for the major postseason awards, I was the only guy who cast an MVP vote for Justin Upton.

I made my choice after calculating the Diamondbacks’ playoff probability with and without its 24-year-old star outfielder. With Upton, Arizona makes the playoffs 92% of the time. Without him, the figure drops to 30%. The success gap is impressive, and is the largest for any player in the National League.

And that’s why he’s the MVP.

I know that the world doesn’t need another “what does valuable mean” column, but I want to quantify a concept that has been around for years. Many writers and fans think that the MVP award should be something more than simply who’s the best player in a league. Among the most prominent, Grantland’s Bill Simmons, wrote about MVPs: “In my mind it means had this player not been involved, his successful team would not have achieved the same success.”

The NL WAR leaders in were Matt Kemp and Roy Halladay, who each had 8-plus wins above replacement. The reason neither of them got my vote is simple: The Dodgers weren’t going to make the playoffs with or without Kemp — and the Phillies would have won the division regardless of whether Halladay were making his living in Philadelphia. I’m not saying that these players were inconsequential to their teams, but they didn’t substantially swing their teams’ playoff chances.

Upton’s 6.5 WAR ranked seventh in the National League this season. But the crux of this theory is that wins are not created equal — and Upton’s 6-plus wins helped the Diamondbacks go from a team with little chance at the playoffs to one that would make the postseason 92 times out of 100.

If wins aren’t created equal, then which wins are worth what? Using regular-season results since the wild card was instituted in 1996, the probability that a team will make the playoffs once it reaches a certain win total looks like this:

The blue line shows the probability of a team making the playoffs with a certain win total. The reason it has this shape is that teams have almost no chance of making the playoffs with fewer than 81 wins — and teams will almost always make the playoffs with more than 98 wins.

The red bars show the marginal value of each win — or in other words — that win’s leverage. For example, a team going from 84 wins to 85 would gain roughly four percentage points of probability. This effect peaks at wins 89 and 90, which add about 12-percentage-points each.

To calculate the “value” of the player, you simply find the probability that his team’s record will put it in the postseason, then subtract that player’s WAR and calculate the probability again. The difference is the contribution of that player to his team. Upton’s looks like this:

No player moved his team further up the curve than Upton (+62 percentage points). Second most was Ryan Braun (+59) and third was Albert Pujols (+50).

I’m not suggesting that other MVP opinions are wrong. Those who buy into to the “best season” school of thought will probably vote for Kemp, Halladay or Braun. Historically, many voters subscribe to the “best player on the best team” theory, which would also benefit Halladay or Braun. Different criteria will result in different votes, and that’s fine.

Let me also say that this methodology relies heavily on WAR — so those who have issues with the statistic or question it’s accuracy likely won’t buy into my concept. I definitely think that there needs to be some common sense factored into what the numbers describe, and a few decimal points one way or another probably don’t amount to much. Even using this methodology, you could easily vote for Braun over Upton, considering there are only three percentage points between them (the gap was more than 10 points a week ago).

Although I fully support the idea that Upton should be the NL MVP, I wouldn’t use my methodology to fill out a top-to-bottom ballot. Kemp and Halladay would definitely get votes from me, even though they increased their team’s playoff odds very little (only +3 points for Kemp).

Perhaps the biggest critique I can foresee is the argument that this methodology is not specific to the 2011 season. After all, the D-backs did make the playoffs, so how can I say that their playoff probability is 93%? And even if you subtract Upton’s WAR from Arizona’s record, they still would have won NL West.

My counterargument is that each team can only control its own destiny, and a player’s MVP resume shouldn’t be rewarded or penalized for how other teams finish. The playoff probabilities are calculated using aggregate data from the past 15 years. In the same way that FIP is calculated using linear weights — which are the average value of a walk, strikeout and home run — I’m calculating linear weights for the average value of win number 85, 86, etc.

In the American League, things get really interesting. Using the same methodology, the top-five-most-valuable players are:

At the time of the FanGraphs staff vote, Ellsbury was the leader, and I gave him my vote. The final week of the season threw everything around, and now Ben Zobrist leads the rankings. Although Zobrist was super-valuable to the Rays, the top-five players are bunched so closely that there there is no clear-cut favorite. You could make a case for any of these five players and this methodology wouldn’t argue with you.

Debating postseason awards is an annual ritual, and one that I enjoy. My opinion isn’t intended to be an argument-stopper. If anything, I hope it adds another data point to argue about.

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Jesse has been writing for FanGraphs since 2010. He is the director of Consumer Insights at GroupM Next, the innovation unit of GroupM, the world’s largest global media investment management operation. Follow him on Twitter @jesseberger.

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Tim Westfield
4 years 10 months ago

Jesse,
One problem I have with your method is how much can hinge on the placement of the team win total. Because if the Sox had one more win, Jacoby would have got approximately 10% more playoff value added.
I like the statistic idea very much though, and agree that it does show quality of the wins added, but the cumulative values seem affected too much at the extremes. But then that may be the point.

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Kyle H
4 years 10 months ago

great article one of the best on here in a while

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I agree. I believe most of the naysayers here are nitpicking and miss the point of the article. It is an attempt to quantify the V in MVP according to one established view of what an MVP should be.

Saying you disagree with the view is completely missing the point.
Duh.
Great article.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

So, you’re saying that if your team had no chance to make the playoffs, your individual performance is therefore worthless?

Shouldn’t this be the MVPOATTHACTMTP award then?

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suicide squeeze
4 years 10 months ago

On one hand, I like this a lot. It really quantifies the “he helped his team make the playoffs” argument. (Although it does kind of penalize players from really good teams.)

On the other hand, making the playoffs is kind of an arbitrary endpoint to team success, and one that often comes down to a difference of one team game.

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suicide squeeze
4 years 10 months ago

Furthermore, you’re penalizing guys like Matt Kemp for not having better teammates. If Miguel Montero played for the Dodgers instead of the Dbacks, then those teams would have had nearly similar records (in theory).

I do like this article, but I still think you have to tear away team performance when voting for MVP.

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Josh
4 years 10 months ago

Upton’s 24, not 27.

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The Nicker
4 years 10 months ago

“Perhaps the biggest critique I can foresee is the argument that this methodology is not specific to the 2011 season. After all, the D-backs did make the playoffs, so how can I say that their playoff probability is 93%? And even if you subtract Upton’s WAR from Arizona’s record, they still would have won NL West.

My counterargument is that each team can only control its own destiny, and a player’s MVP resume shouldn’t be rewarded or penalized for how other teams finish.”

Yes, you successfully address an important contention (methodology not specific to 2011), but in doing so you just completely exposed yourself to everyone else’s main contention, which is that when you say one player should not be penalized for how other teams finish, you’re basically saying that one player should not be penalized for how ANY teams finish. What if Ben Zobrist just so happened to be playing in a Bizarro World for the same 2011 Rays team that finished as a 90 win team. However, in this Bizarro World the Yankees still won 97 games and the Red Sox (Team of the Century!) didn’t screw the pooch but in fact won 115 games (!). The Rays weren’t even in the playoff picture in the Bizarro World, but under your system Zobrist is still just as valuable as he was in the real 2011.

In this Bizarro World, the Rays would essentially be like the Blue Jays in the real 2011, except Ben Zobrist would have slightly better teammates. I mean, what is the real difference besides that Zobrist has better teammates? They were both playing under no spotlight or pressure for most of the year. They both did not actually help their team get to the playoffs, as both teams basically had no shot. They both had great seasons, but Bautista’s was better.

I appreciate you coming into this debate with a new point of view, I just disagree that this opinion is helpful. Either you believe that we should look at player value largely in a vacuum or you give a player bonus points for ACTUALLY helping his team make the playoffs. To award points for a player that hypothetically helps his team make the playoffs seems like the worst of both worlds.

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Mitch
4 years 10 months ago

This is really interesting from the perspective of a front office determining whether to spend a marginal dollar or acquire a player, but I don’t think it’s necessarily relevant to the MVP ballot. Why is the “Best Player On An Otherwise Marginal Team” get more credit than the “Best Player On An Otherwise Crappy Team” or “Best Player On An Otherwise Awesome Team”? That’s why people get frustrated with the playoffs approach to voting. This is just a more rigorous application of the same fallacy.

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mike wants wins
4 years 10 months ago

So a player could be the best player in all of baseball, in every possible measurable way (as applied to an individual), but if the rest of the players on his team are AA quality, he gets no MVP votes? That does appear, to me, to be the weakness of your approach. I know some people don’t agree (bill simmons among them), but that’s really a problem with the “definition” of the award, isn’t it?

Oh, and I still don’t know why anyone cares who wins what award…..

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cs3
4 years 10 months ago

Oh, and I still don’t know why anyone cares who wins what award…..
========================================

The players certainly care.
its often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in incentive pay, not to mention the value it adds to their next contract or arbitration case.

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Angelsjunky
4 years 10 months ago

Nice idea and well reasoned, although I think this is a good example of where “on paper” doesn’t match “on the field.” There’s just no telling what any of those teams would have done, who they would have played, if their team MVP went down.

That said, I agree with the gist of your argument and have felt for sometime that the MVP should be divided into two separate awards:

The Barry Bonds Award – for the best position player
The Kirk Gibson Award – for the player that had the most impact on the pennant race and/or making his team win a playoff berth

That way you can give the Barry Bonds Award to Matt Kemp and Jose Bautista (or Jacoby Ellsbury) and the Kirk Gibson Award to the Ben Zobrists, Ian Kinslers, and Justin Uptons of the world.

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byron
4 years 10 months ago

Wow, what a fancy way of penalizing or rewarding players for the quality of the other players on their team. This is just “most RBIs” with graphs and a preference for mediocre teammates.

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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

Byron gets it.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

It isn’t most RBI, but rather who accumulated a lot of WAR but got just enough RBI to be viewed as good by the general public.

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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

So… you put a lot of work into this, and it’s well done.

But it is horribly, horribly reasoned and thought out. Literally retarded. But, before you flame me and thumb me down which is inevitable – show me this…

Show me the graph of Babe Ruth’s 15 WAR season playing on the 03 Tigers, or even this year’s Astros.

Upton is still your MVP. Congrats. This is useless.

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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

Ok, so this is too harsh. It’s just not my cup of tea. While I like some Bill Simmons stuff, he sucks at math. Don’t listen to him.

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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

Also, posters apparently had already chimed in on this exact point before I did. So I didn’t mean to pile up.

In the future, when you do something out of the box like this, why not acknowledge the very obvious flaw (that 100 people have pointed out), and refute it somehow to make your article stronger, instead of leaving it for everyone to bash. Pretty standard.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I wouldn’t say useless. But instead interesting

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joe
4 years 10 months ago

“literally retarded”… as opposed to what? “figuratively retarded”

Have to love when people use the word literally as merely a way of saying “I want to make a point and make the point seem more fact based by using the word literally”

Using it in this matter and in front of the word retarded is a bit… ironic? (or at least pretty dame funny… though I guess I should literally funny!)

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Notrotographs
4 years 10 months ago

One of these days you’ll work on your delivery, and get to your point without insulting people along the way.

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Woodrum's UZR Article
4 years 10 months ago

no, he wont

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cs3
4 years 10 months ago

Telo, do you always try to be a dick?
Or does it just come naturally?

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Woodrum's UZR Article
4 years 10 months ago

he’s a sox fan. he hates the world right now.

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Jacob
4 years 10 months ago

…and you missed the entire point (which I don’t necessarily agree with) congrats

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Jason
4 years 10 months ago

I think if voters are intent on taking team performance into account when selecting the MVP, then what you’ve proposed is a good solution. I see this as a rebuff for those writers who might vote for, say, Curtis Granderson — not only was Granderson not the best player (team independent), he also didn’t make the biggest difference to the team’s ultimate outcome.

Obviously your approach is irrelevant for someone who is a believer in the “best player” view of the MVP. It’s kind of like asking “who is the biggest player in MLB?” — your choice of metric (height, weight, displacement, ego, …) will change the answer; but given the metric, we should at least answer the question correctly.

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The Nicker
4 years 10 months ago

See but Jason & Jesse:

My point above was that Jesse’s argument was irrelevant for someone who is a believer in the “best player” view but it’s also mostly irrelevant to someone in the marginal value view because it’s measuring hypothetical marginal wins, and not actual marginal wins.

In other words, voters will give additional credit to a player that helps his team make the players by 1-2 games, not a player whose team accumulated 90-95 wins.

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JayT
4 years 10 months ago

I’m not so sure that’s true though. Bonds won the 1993 MVP because the giants won 103 games, but they still missed the playoffs. There are definitely times that guys get award consideration just because their team exceeded expectations.

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Sky
4 years 10 months ago

I really enjoyed this as an objective measure of one view of the MVP. If you think X, then here’s your Y. Nicely done.

If we take a step back to argue about what MVP should be, I have a tough time aligning the following quote with the idea that a player’s value should be tied to other players on his team:

“My counterargument is that each team can only control its own destiny, and a player’s MVP resume shouldn’t be rewarded or penalized for how other teams finish.”

It’s not that far to the following paraphrase, is it?

“My counterargument is that each player can only control his own performance, and a player’s MVP resume shouldn’t be rewarded or penalized for how other players perform.”

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TonyC
4 years 10 months ago

I was thinking the exact same thing. I also felt that this was a contradiction:

“Kemp and Halladay would definitely get votes from me, even though they increased their team’s playoff odds very little”

In other words, the criteria for being the MVP is different than the criteria for being the 2nd or 3rd MVP.

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ATom
4 years 10 months ago

This. Is. Absurd. You basically boil the MVP award down to the best player on a marginal playoff team. If the 2001 Giants had won 115 games, would Barry Bonds not have been worthy of the MVP?

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The Nicker
4 years 10 months ago

Additionally, if the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees had 99, 100, and 101 wins respectively, Zobrist’s season (with the same WAR) would be less MVP-worthy under this point of view than what actually happened. I emphasize that if you are going to use the added marginal value view to determine an MVP, that’s fine, but there needs to be context involved.

Use the actual 2011 percentages, not generic percentages.

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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

“the best player on a marginal playoff team”

Sounds like a good idea to me, actually.

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Jacob
4 years 10 months ago

…yep. That does appear to be when performance is the most valuable. Good job!

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JP
4 years 10 months ago

This is silly. The MVP is the highest individual honor in baseball, other than induction to the Hall of Fame. Why on earth should we tie up this highest of individual awards so tightly with so many factors that are completely out of control of the player?

It’s just giving the game’s highest award to the best player who happened to play within a cohort of 5 teams or so, who were right on the cusp of making the playoffs. It turns the MVP into the “Best Player on Marginal Playoff Teams”. And really, who cares about such an award?

When people talk about a player’s greatness, MVPs often come up. A lack of MVPs, or lack of strong MVP vote finishes is often used as an argument against Hall of Fame candidates.

But using MVPs to gauge player quality is like using Wins to gauge pitcher quality if we apply these kinds of standards.

Give the MVP to the best player. It’s the most fair, and the award becomes more useful as a short hand measure of a player’s peak performance.

Member
4 years 10 months ago

Unfortunately, Upton was responsible for wins #73-79.

It was the combined efforts of Aaron Hill (1.6), Henry Blanco (1.2), Dan Hudson’s bat (1.1), Paul Goldschmidt (.6), Zack Duke’s bat (.5), Willie Bloomquist (.3), Joe Saunders’ bat (.3), Geoff Blum (.3), Ian Kennedy’s bat (.3) and Collin Cowgill (.3) that gave the DBacks the wins that you were referencing.

Co-MVPs

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

it doesn’t work like that

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vivalajeter
4 years 10 months ago

I guess you didn’t get the joke. I thought it was funny though.

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bender
4 years 10 months ago

lol

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Matt H
4 years 10 months ago

Interesting article. Well-written, well-reasoned, and thought-provoking. However, I just can’t buy into this definition of valuable. I made this metaphor on a different post a few weeks ago, but I’ll say it again.

Mike is trying to buy a car that costs \$5,000. He currently has \$4,500 to spend. He decides to sell his TV for \$500, giving him just enough to buy the car.

Bill is also trying to buy a \$5,000 car, but he only has \$3,000 to his name. He sells his TV for \$600. Unfortunately for him, this doesn’t get him enough to buy the car.

Now Mike’s TV was, in one sense of the word, more valuable because it allowed him to buy the car. The marginal utility of Mike’s TV was greater than that of Bill’s. However, Bill’s TV was more valuable in that it was worth more money. The former type of value is what Jesse is arguing for here, at least as I understand it. The latter is the more traditional conception of value, and the one I believe should be used for MVP voting. I would rather have Bill’s TV than Mike’s TV. Contextually, Mike’s TV is more valuable, but if I’m giving out an award for “Most Valuable TV”, I’m giving it to Bill’s TV, not Mike’s.

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Jacob
4 years 10 months ago

The difference between the two definitions is whether we’re rewarding who gave the most value to their team or who would give the most value to any given team

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Scott_Hayter
4 years 10 months ago

I want to see this stat for LVP… which player really screwed their teams chance of making the playoffs the most… I’m guessing its Mike Cameron and Scott Proctor, but I could be wrong…

Actually, it’d be more interesting to see this calculated as a WBE (wins below expectation), so you could see who was the most disappointing player for a playoff run…

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Blast Femmy
4 years 10 months ago

Well I don’t agree at all that MVP has to come from a winning team or that the teammates performance or team record should matter a lick. But I would still highly prefer this method to the typical Jon Heyman method of just using the same definition of MVP (which I hate) but ignoring WAR and somehow ending up with Josh Hamilton or Michael Young on his ballot rather than Ian Kinsler. In other words, I’m glad that this method is using WAR and has a repeatabale process that is applied to everyone equally. You aren’t just guessing that, for example, Longoria is more valuable than Zobrist because he’s a big star and hit that homerun in Game 162, and so he must be the MVP of the Rays.

And it is nice to see that even in this sense of MVP (which I still hate and think is absurd) that Miguel Cabrera is just as valuable (if not more) than Verlander. I can’t believe how much Cabrera is getting swept under the rug (in general) in favor of Verlander in the mainstream MVP discussion.

.

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Jacob
4 years 10 months ago

While I wholeheartedly agree with your point and want Kins to get more love, there’s arguments to be made for Hamilton

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Statement
4 years 10 months ago

Too all the people saying this is absurd.

This is simply applying a methodology to the typical “he was the player who put them over the hump” stuff that is espoused in the media.

This is a good attempt to quantify that point of view, not support it.

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JP
4 years 10 months ago

Did you read the article? You are wrong, unless you think the author does not mean what he says.

The author opens the article stating that he voted for Upton as NL MVP. He goes on to say “The NL WAR leaders in were Matt Kemp and Roy Halladay, who each had 8-plus wins above replacement. The reason neither of them got my vote is simple: The Dodgers weren’t going to make the playoffs with or without Kemp — and the Phillies would have won the division regardless of whether Halladay were making his living in Philadelphia.”

So this article both quantifies, AND supports the “he was the player who put them over the hump stuff.”

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Tom
4 years 10 months ago

For those who think that a player’s value shouldnt be affected by the quality of their teammates, my question is why not?

Does it make sense for a 70 win team to offer the same salary for the same FA as an 80 win team?

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Mike
4 years 10 months ago

I think the point here is that “value” can be absolute and it can be marginal. Those of you who think that the player with the highest WAR (i.e, the “best” player) is by definition the most valuable are looking at absolute value. Jesse’s article appears to be trying to suss out the marginal value of the players in the MVP race. Both of these approaches have merit and to suggest that one is clearly right and one is wrong is to suggest that you know the precise definition of the word “valuable,” which is silly.

To an extent, this is just more of the semantic argument that people have been having for generations about what constitutes the most valuable player. Previously who was “best” and who was “most important” or “most valuable” or whatever was left to the whimsy of sportswriters. Now, we have been able to settle on an agreed-upon standardized metric for measuring absolute value, namely WAR (differences between fWAR and rWAR notwithstanding). This article attempts to put a quantifiable number on the marginal value of players, which is an interesting and probably worthwhile goal, if not perfectly executed here.

Nice article, Jesse.

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David Stewart
4 years 10 months ago

You, sir, are my hero. During the big debate over what “valuable” meant in the MVP discussion, this is what i was saying. What player could the team absolutely not do without?

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Hank
4 years 10 months ago

Jesse… should you be using generic playoff probabilities in the model or specific playoff probabilities? (that account for the win totals in the division or in the wild card race)

If you are trying to make the case for a specific player on a specific team, shouldn’t the team’s specific playoff probabilities be used? (I realize this would be a lot harder to do)

The one problem I see is 90 wins (or whatever win total) has a lot different playoff probabilities in the various divisions. You indicate the DBacks playoff probability drops to 30% without Upton… not this year, not in the NL West.

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Chris
4 years 10 months ago

More to the point, if you’re actually trying to take context into account — i.e., figure out exactly how much a given player contributed to his team’s playoff probability — why wouldn’t you use Pennant Probability Added (WPA * delta playoff probability for given game) instead?

This seems like splitting the baby. You’re not looking at player value “in the abstract,” but you’re only looking at one specific piece of context — the player’s overall team quality[*] — while ignoring the more specific context of the quality of his opposition (by using generic instead of specific playoff probabilities) and the specific situations in which he performed (by using WAR rather than WPA or PPA).

[*] And I’m not entirely sure how you are measuring team quality anyhow. Are you taking Arizona’s actual 94 wins as the “with Upton” baseline and then subtracting his WAR? Or are you adding up the WAR of everyone else on Arizona’s team? If the former, aren’t you mixing apples and oranges from the start, combining a team’s actual wins with a player’s estimated contribution via WAR?

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The Nicker
4 years 10 months ago

Yes! This was exactly the point I was trying to make above.

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Hurtlocker
4 years 10 months ago

Simply subtracting the wins that Upton contributed would work if all the players WAR on that team equaled the total number of wins, right?? I don’t think that is the case. WAR equals wins above a replacement player, not the sum total of all WAR. The Dbacks had a horrible pitching staff, and then they got a lot better
this year. I’m thinking the pitching put them over the hump, not Upton.

Member
4 years 10 months ago

WAR is not predicated on the number of wins that the team actually had. That’s the approach that Bill James took with win shares.

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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

And a Win Shares-based analysis would be an even better use of this approach. WAR works in a pinch, however.

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Dan
4 years 10 months ago

Nonsense. I do not say “nonsense” because I disagree with the meaning of the word value. I say nonsense because that’s what I call stuff that doesn’t make any sense. Then subsequently, microseconds later, I disagree with it.

Honestly, this is just dumb.

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Dan
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I apologize for being too harsh and not being constructive. I voted myself down.

For a more constructive response, please see all of the posters who patiently (or even semi-patiently) described why this doesn’t make sense. No need to rehash it here. It’s just very, very obvious.

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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

Of course it “makes sense.” Disagreeing with the premises doesn’t mean the logic is flawed.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Apologies don’t count for squat if the next sentence begins with “But,” explicit or implied, and you back away from it.

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Jacob
4 years 10 months ago

What doesn’t make sense?

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Dan
4 years 10 months ago

Of course, Blue, and this is why I worded it the way I did. I fully admit that I didn’t outline WHY this “system” doesn’t make sense, but that’s only because it is fully and completely outlined by a bunch of people before I chimed in. Do you really think it makes sense to define “Value” the way that the author defines it? Do you not see the major, obvious, glaring problem with it?

The problem lies in being too fussy about the word “value”, to the point of sheer absurdity. If you follow this to its logical conclusion, you’ll realize that it’s fundamentally ridiculous. If we insist on determining value the way Jesse does, there is no reason not to take it way further than he is taking it. What about the player who makes a big contribution to a playoff team for a relatively small salary? The team has a certain budget, and if it has a 5-win player being paid, say, a million bucks, or a 4-win player being paid the league minimum, does this not allow the team to pay for other needs in pursuit of a title? Isn’t that more “valuable”?

It makes no sense. The only way the award would make sense would be if we all made a good faith effort to determine and vote for the player that played the best, the one that dragged his team to more victories than any player, above and beyond what a theoretical but reasonable baseline alternative player would have provided. If we start out-smarting ourselves with all sorts of subjective, anal-rententive definitions of the word “value”, a giant mess is inevitable.

And before we get the obligatory “who cares who is MVP” responses, let me just say that yes, I see your point, but it matters to someone. It matters in contracts, in MVP voting, etc, and that is someone’s life’s work. Yes, I know school teachers are underpaid, but it still matters.

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vivalajeter
4 years 10 months ago

Maybe I misread the article, but can someone clarify something for me? Let’s say a team wins 91 games and misses the playoffs by a game. By using the methodology above, they would have actually made the playoffs 95% of the time with this player and 20% without him.

Does this guy get extra credit for the 75% gap, even though his team actually missed the playoffs? Simply because “if the season was replicated 1,000 times, they would’ve made it 95% of the time…”?

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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

And maybe that’s a better way to approach it. Rather than restricting the universe of players to those on playoff teams, use all players and how much playoff percentage chance their marginal contribution added to their team.

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vivalajeter
4 years 10 months ago

I just can’t get behind a voting process that gives someone extra credit for putting their team in the hypothetical playoffs, even if their team doesn’t actually make the playoffs. Especially since you’d be putting a lot of faith in a ‘playoff odds’ calculation that may or may not be accurate.

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Will H.
4 years 10 months ago

So I’m guessing that you also like RBI?

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Teddy
4 years 10 months ago

My one critique of this sort of thing, is it might devalue the Ian Kinsler’s, the Granderson’s of the world. I believe that helping your team make the playoffs is what makes a player valuable, but this stat would punish players that were on teams that won their division by 10+ games. Just because they didn’t carry a mediocre team to the playoffs, doesn’t mean they weren’t just as valuable.

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Tim L
4 years 10 months ago

I think there is validity to approaching the vote this way, but it basically means guys who play on teams that are otherwise good, but not great, get an edge in MVP consideration.

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Steven Ellingson
4 years 10 months ago

I think this would make sense if you were using WPA instead of WRAA when you calculate WAR.

I just think, in general, there is a lot of mixing context neutral stats with context dependent stats.

What it comes down to is there isn’t one right way to adjust for playoff probability.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Well diagnosed. It’s exactly the mixing of context-neutral and context-dependent that people seem to be having a hard time with.

Being one whose command of the English language is sufficiently nuanced not to automatically consider “best” a perfect synonym for “most valuable,” I rather like what you’ve done here. The real issue comes down to varying definitions of what constitutes “value.” Your algorithm tries — does not fully succeed, but tries — to build on a definition that says approximately that “value” in the context of the MVP award is predominantly context-dependent. That is a minority position among analytically-minded fans. That doesn’t make it wrong.

A modification, however: Instead of comparing the candidate to a replacement player, it might be better to compare him to ANY player at his position. Instead of picking a replacement-level player to compare to Upton, compare him to the next best right fielder in the league. If Arizona had “replaced” Upton with Lance Berkman or Hunter Pence or even Carlos Beltran, their success probability not only wouldn’t have taken a huge hit, it might even have gone up a little. By contrast, no center fielder in the American League could have replaced Jacoby Ellsbury without doing damage to Boston’s chances of reaching the post season. Taking a view like this may be one way of accommodating context dependency within a framework that’s still based on objective performance.

Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 10 months ago

No-one will ever convince me that playing for a Bad team is easier than playing for a good or great team. Kemp had an unbelievable year eventhough the next best allround non-pitcher on his team was Jamie Carroll. I’ll gant that Upton also had little true top talent around him, but his team was winning most of the time which makes it allot easier to get up to play than losing does. When you play for a loser it is much harder to care. When your team is down 5 runs all the time then it gets harder to give that extra 2%. It is much harder to play for a bad team than a good team. It just is much much harder!!!!

Guest
MC
4 years 10 months ago

Why not just find the total percent of a team’s WAR that a player’s WAR is? [WAR(player)/WAR(team)]*100

So for Upton, it would be (6.5/47.4)*100 = 13.7%
For Kemp: (8.7/40.6)*100 = 21.4%

Doing this, it looks like Kemp was more valuable than Upton. This measure takes away the added value given to borderline playoff teams in your measure. However, it is still team dependent, so that those on worse teams get a bump over those on better teams (i.e. Kemp vs. Halladay).

Guest
vivalajeter
4 years 10 months ago

MC, so you’re essentially giving it to the best player on the worst team? Geez, we’ve come a long way from “MVP must come from a winner”…

Guest
Eric R
4 years 10 months ago

Dmitri Young, 2003 Tigers
(2.1/-0.6)*100 = -350% ?

:)

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awy
4 years 10 months ago

what part of upton’s valued made him good enough to move himself to the dbacks?

Guest
SOB in TO
4 years 10 months ago

By this logic, Justin Upton would get the MVP if he played only half a season, since the DIFFERENCE in DBacks’ playoff prob is still the same whether he plays or not. That he doesn’t play would be proof of it.

Guest
Dan
4 years 10 months ago

Every individual player on the the 2001 Mariners, the 1998 Yankees, the 1906 Cubs, the 1954 Indians and maybe even the 1927 Yankees had no “value”. Awesome.

Guest
Chris
4 years 7 months ago

The way I view the MVP is simply this. Knowing the outcome of the players’ individual season, which player would you have wanted on your team on April 1?

My pick would be Matt Kemp hands down. His combination of speed and power and run production, and defense, at a premium position. Nothing more valuable than that. That is the definition of valuable in it’s simplest form. I don’t believe the true nature of the award was ever supposed to be so complex, to where we can even have this argument to begin with.

Ellsbury would be my AL pick for same reasons.