Who Will vs. Who Should

Around this time of year those who write or analyze, be it in the mainstream media or the blogosphere, tend to get involved in posts discussing end of season award-winners. Heck, even Dave and I joined the fray yesterday in discussing the AL Cy Young Award with regards to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. In the comments sections of both of our articles, the conversation surrounding who will win the award vs. who should win the award began to surface. Conversations like this seem to sprout up all over the place so I figured a post was in order to attempt to figure out why they exist and where they come from.

For starters, the idea of someone who should win something vs. someone who will win the same thing implies that the eventual winner is not deserving of whatever it is he is winning. In our case, an award like the MVP or Cy Young. Those in the camp of the former are seceding that their guy is not going to win the award but that he should. And, when they say he should, it really means that if they were voting, the results would be much different.

This then implies those voting are wrong in their decisions.

Some of the time they are, but really, do those voting on the awards get it wrong all the time? And who is deciding the criteria with which to gauge their decisions? These awards are voted on by mainstream writers, ones who generally are not well-versed in much other than batting average or win-loss record. Most of the time, us in the sabermetrics community mock their lack of statistical prowess but, for me at least, I don’t truly get bothered unless the author blatantly misuses or quotes numbers out of context.

Saying, for instance, that Adam Dunn lacks value because he has a .230 BA annoys me because the writers are making a definitive claim about his worth while using a metric that does tell us something, but nowhere near enough to make such a claim. On the other hand, if someone says that Player X could win the MVP award because he made the most impact on a good team and has a lot of home runs, RBIs as well as a high batting average, I really do not get that bothered. Sure, I know that there are plenty of other, better metrics out there to truly measure worth, but I don’t really care much about the awards. It isn’t going to effect me if someone “undeserving” wins.

See, for us who analyze stats and base judgments on a series of metrics, awards just aren’t that meaningful other than for posts discussing, for instance, why David Wright or Matt Holliday was more deserving than Jimmy Rollins… or why Johan Santana should have won instead of Bartolo Colon in 2005. Do I wish those making these decisions were a bit more educated with regards to evaluating players? Of course… but I’m not going to let it ruin my day that they vote for the wrong person, unless of course the losing player had planned on splitting his award bonus with me.

I guess my point here is that those of us who understand how to evaluate a player better shouldn’t care so much about the awards and should leave it to the people who care more about impact on the game from what they see rather than what some numbers may suggest. As in, why get involved in something or get bothered by something we should care about very little, if at all? Leave the WPA/LI, VORP, BRAA, and UZR to us analysts to do our jobs and properly gauge the true talent levels of players, but let’s not bring them into MVP or Cy Young discussions when we know that the percentage of voters who utilize and understand these metrics is likely much lower than Adam Dunn‘s percentage of hits/at-bats.

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

9 Responses to “Who Will vs. Who Should”

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  1. Rajmond says:

    While all that rational analysis the other day was all well and good, the Cy Young winner is rarely decided by rational analysis.The only things that matter are W-L, ERA, and team performance, and two thirds of those things are largely out of a pitcher’s control.

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  2. Tomas says:

    What about Daisuke??

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  3. Jack says:

    Good post. And Daisuke’s got no shot at the Cy Young.

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  4. Eric Seidman says:

    The Cy Young winner is somewhat decided by rational analysis relative to what those voters know and utilize. To expect everyone to suddenly use VORP, BRAA, WPA/LI etc is just unrealistic. I would prefer some more mainstream stats were used other than ERA or W-L, such as K/BB, WHIP, K/9, etc, but I’m not going to get supremely upset over it because the awards are not true barometers of quality.

    One thing that does annoy me, however, is the idea that you need to be a playoff team to get an award, or “deserve” one.

    To me, it doesn’t matter if you made the playoffs, so long as you kept your team competitive. For instance, I think Pujols should have won the 2006 MVP over my man Ryan Howard, but it has NOTHING to do with the Cards making the playoffs and the Phillies not. The Phillies were a better team and the Cardinals barely snuck in. Pujols was more deserving because a lot of his numbers were better.

    Ultimately, like I said, though, I don’t care. I would just like us all to realize that these who should vs. who will arguments are kind of useless.

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  5. Isaac says:

    I pretty much feel the same way about the voting. Just another part of baseball that just doesn’t make much sense. I guess this helps keep the tradition of getting things wrong alive. After all, isn’t that what baseball is all about?

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  6. Trenchtown says:

    “I guess my point here is that those of us who understand how to evaluate a player better shouldn’t care so much about the awards and should leave it to the people who care more about impact on the game from what they see rather than what some numbers may suggest.”
    I vehemently disagree with this statement. If you are discontent with mainstream media using improper modes of evaluation then the best way to change it is by showing them that you disagree with their conclusion. You really think that BP alumns like Keith Law would have ever been picked up by ESPN had it not been for some public outcry of some sort. i believe that the best way to change their conclusions is by criticism of outside sources like fan graphs or others. Yes, it might cost you a job but does it not make the sport that you love better?

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  7. Isaac says:

    Trench, I think he is saying that although the voters get it wrong nearly every single time, he doesn’t give it too much thought because those awards don’t help him come to his conclusions as to who are the best in the game at their respective positions. If somehow he was forced to accept their CY Young and MVP award winners as the best in the game, then he would voice his discontent, but since that isn’t the case he doesn’t. He can make his own judgments using more accurate metrics so the voters’ collective ignorance isn’t an issue.

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  8. Eric Seidman says:

    Isaac, yes, exactly. The point is that for those of us who understand that the Cy Young isn’t truly a measure of the best pitcher in a league, we shouldn’t care who wins or get upset because we know that the award is essentially meaningless in evaluative terms.

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  9. Grayson says:

    But it still matters to some people, and it’s got to be frustrating for fans of Santana (or Rivera) who felt that their man was jobbed out of a Cy Young in 2005, and it’s for those fans that the voters should be more conscientious than just saying “Well, Santana’s ERA is better but Colon has five more wins and only one more loss so he was worth four more wins than Santana” or whatever twisted logic they use.

    1996 was even more egregious when Kevin Brown and his sparkling 1.89 ERA lost out to John Smoltz and his less-sparkling 2.94 by virtue of Smoltz’s 24-8 record against Brown’s 17-11. Of course it helped that the Braves won 16 more games than Florida and the division, but you know the voting would have been the same had the two teams been even. Since the Braves took the division by 8 games over Montreal and Smoltz was 8 games above average at 16 games over .500, it would not surprise me one bit if someone, somewhere, maybe even a professional sportswriter, employed the logic that if Smoltz had been replaced by an average pitcher, the Braves would have finished tied with Montreal and that Smoltz single-handedly won them the division.

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