Why Do We Care?

You’ve probably read part of the kerfuffle from the weekend regarding Mark Teixeira, the MVP award, UZR, defensive statistics in general, and the usefulness of valuation metrics like WAR. It feels like half the world has weighed in on the issue, with pretty much every possible viewpoint represented. Instead of weighing in on that discussion, I wanted to branch off it just slightly.

The annual debate over what the Most Valuable Player is comes up every year. Because the BBWAA gets to vote on the award, and the rules governing how they should vote are vague at best, we are treated to a yearly exercise in listening to people attempt to define value. For many years, the majority of the BBWAA has defined value as “driving in runners on a winning team”, which is why high RBI sluggers on playoff teams almost always win the award.

With the advent of the internet and the coalescence of passionate, enthusiastic baseball fans who like to quantify everything, that definition has come under fire, and rightfully so. As a result, every fall, we see the same articles pop up, just with different names. Stop me if you’ve read this sequence before.

Beat Writer: “Joe Ribbi proves he’s the MVP with another clutch home run. Where would Team Win-All-The-Time be without him?”

Sabermetric Blogger: “Look at this ridiculous article about Ribbi being the MVP. What a moron. Deosn’t Beat Writer know that Sam Shortstop is the one getting on base all the time?”

Beat Writer: “I’m at the games, I travel with the team, I talk to the guys in the clubhouse, and we all agree – it’s Joe Ribbi. Sometimes, you just have to realize there’s more to the game than numbers.”

Sabermetric Blogger: “When does this fool retire? If I had a subscription to the paper, I would cancel!”

Reasonable people take swipes at each other, bridges are burned, Joe Ribbi wins the MVP, and life goes on. Rinse and repeat, every September.

In the end, it isn’t an argument about baseball. It’s an argument about the perspective of how the game is seen through various lenses, and in many ways, a disagreement about the progress of a generation. Most of us see baseball in a way that is very different from how our fathers and grandfathers saw it, which is not unlike the generational gap in almost every other area of your life. Does your dad use twitter? Is your grandpa a frequent visitor to the local tapas bar? Do you yell at them for their “ignorance”?

This isn’t meant in any way to disrespect people like Tyler Kepner (who I met briefly when he worked at the Seattle P-I, and I have heard is a good guy and a smart man), but I’m just not sure why we engage in annual argument about how he and his peers define the word valuable. Really, why does it matter to us?

I get why baseball players might care, since they have financial incentives tied to who actually gets the award and such. I get why their families might care, as shiny trophies are always fun to hand down through the family. I get why the writers care, as it gives them a chance to have their opinion heard. I just don’t know why we’re supposed to care.

With the invention of the internet (thanks Al!), we don’t need to look back through a list of MVP awards to remember who was good way back when. We have baseball-reference for that. History isn’t recorded in trophies, but in data and stories, and we now have the capability to store a massive amount of both. No matter who wins the AL MVP award this season, we’re going to have a ridiculous amount of information about what happened on the field in 2009, and we’ll be able to show our kids and their kids just how much fun it was to watch Joe Mauer play baseball. The history of the game, as told by us, won’t be changed one iota by how the BBWAA votes in six weeks.

If they want to think that Teixeira was the most important player to his team in the league this year, that’s fine. Most of us probably disagree, and we’re under no obligation to report that as any kind of factual statement. I’ll be telling people that Mauer was the most valuable player in the American League for 2009, and I’ve got a mountain of information to back it up. How other people view the definition of the word value has no real world impact on me.

Twitter isn’t dying because people over 50 aren’t using it, and Tapas bars are doing just fine without an early bird special. Mauer’s legacy, and the history of the game, will be just fine without Tyler Keper’s vote, too. We’ve got better ways of capturing what happened on the field than through an award based on an esoteric argument about the definition of a vague word.

Let them vote for whoever they want. I don’t care.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


110 Responses to “Why Do We Care?”

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  1. Will Stanley says:

    I have read numerous articles of yours both here and over at ussmariner, and this is the first time I was compelled to leave a comment. Wonderfully written, and I couldn’t agree more than throughout all facets of life there is too many generational gaps that are being honed in upon. Baseball is just another one, and it is easy to clearly point out that Tim Lincecum is the best pitcher in baseball with statistics, as well as respecting what he does on the field. Nice work.

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  2. Deel says:

    We care because when it comes to Hall of Fame time, we’d like the actual best players to get in (since MVP/CY voting seems to matter so much in that arguement), so when I tell my son 10-15 years from now “hey you should have seen Bert Blyvelen” he doesn’t retort “if he’s so good why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame.” Not to mention that most fans, despite the advancement of analytics, take a great deal of worth in awards and those are the ones passing history down to the next generation. It’s worth arguing over now for the hope of not having to argue quite so much in the future.

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    • Bill says:

      Great point.

      Plus we like to argue now because it’s fun to point out the flaws of old-school baseball writers, of course. That and it’s fun to argue in general.

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    • Mr. S says:

      Why the hell isn’t Bert Blyleven in the hall of fame? Is Jim Rice really that more deserving?

      Same goes for Kaat, Tommy John, etc.

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  3. Matt Harms says:

    The only reason that I care is because awards like MVP and Cy Young carry such significance in the canon of baseball history. Call me crazy, but I want the next generation to realize how freaking good Joe Mauer is, but that’s a lot tougher if he isn’t vaulted to the top of the end of year awards.

    And it wouldn’t bother me too much that writers ground their decisions in RBI and batting average, except that many of them do so while actively kicking dirt on the idea of sabermetrics at the same time. I understand that the newspapers are in dire circumstances right now, but the way to get me to read your column isn’t by saying “Teixera is the MVP, and oh, by-the-way, UZR is dumb.”

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  4. erich says:

    Deel- Replace the word “MVP” in Dave’s article with “Hall of Fame” and re-read. The point is still valid, “Why do we care?”

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    • Nick says:

      Because we fucking do. If we didn’t care about recognition for great play, and about a goal at the end of it all, why we care about baseball? Replace the word “MVP” with “World Series”…

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      • NadavT says:

        Except that the World Series isn’t decided by a vote.

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      • Nick says:

        Who cares? It’s still the highest form of honor a team can receive for their great play. The MVP and the HOF are the individual player versions of those awards, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Maybe they shouldn’t be decided by a vote…

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      • erich says:

        Dave isn’t arguing that we should be dispassionate about baseball, only that the lens that we channel our passion through has changed (for some). Sabermetrics can help us enjoy baseball, just like an MVP trophy has helped fans enjoy baseball over the years. Why not get excited about these new “awards,” which are far less objective?

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    • joser says:

      Ever been to Cooperstown? Ever thought of going? Ever cared that it existed? A lot of people here will answer yes to at least one of those questions, even as they agreed with Dave throughout the article.

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  5. Boomer says:

    Here’s what I tell my lil bro (who is just getting into baseball thx to fantasy games) and maybe I’m off, but seems good to me!

    If you can re-do your fantasy draft and you have the #1 pick, who would you take? That’s probably the MVP.
    As for the rest of us, we can do the same thing, but removing the *fantasy* element.

    If you can go back to April 1st and had the 1st pick of any player this season; who would you take?

    Joe Mauer in the AL.
    Albert Pujols in the NL.

    NO ONE would take Tex #1. So how could he be MOST VALUABLE?

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  6. Tim says:

    Joe Ribbi was pretty good around his peak but he’s about to hit a steep decline faze. His range is way down in LF and his component stats simply can’t sustain that lofty BABIP much longer.

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  7. Jayson says:

    I care because I am frustrated with ignorance and/or resistance to change. Baseball is among the most trivial examples of a much broader crusade, the fight against the misinformed and/or intellectually sedentary.

    I guess my question would be less “why do we care?” and more “how does caring make a difference?” I think there is no question that well-informed blogging like Fangraphs plays a big part in raising a new generation of baseball fans. By its mere existence, Fangraphs ensures that with the passing of the old guard a new (and hopefully somewhat improved) guard will take its place.

    Can “caring” accelerate that process? Or is it sufficient to put the tools and education channels in place and simply wait for evolution to take its course? I have no good answer for that. Perhaps it is foolish to rail against the BBWAA members that think Teixeira is the AL MVP, because we all know that those who “get it” will be in power someday anyway. But perhaps that frustration, that caring, really does get the word out and helps that transition take place.

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    • James says:

      There are a few words to describe the way you just characterized yourself as a noble “crusader” against the great lumpenproletariat of the “intellectually sedentary”. Actually, “Intellectually sedentary” springs to mind. So does “narcissistic”.

      I’m sorry to take this into the territory of a personal attack, but if you take your love of sabermetrics and conjecture that it means something about your overall position of enlightenment in a society of sheeple, then you’re a bigger prick than every MLB.com commenter crossed with every New York Post beat writer who ever lived. Don’t do that. It is precisely that kind of equivalence that you have to avoid.

      Don’t be the nerdocrat that perfectly intelligent “misinformed” people love to hate. The only fair way to treat advanced baseball statistics is as tools to do the same thing that our fellow humans are doing: appreciate baseball. Our tools are suited to our desires. They are also largely suited to the desires of front offices, which is why slowly, all the front offices are starting to use them. There is no need for a crusade.

      That is, unless such a vast and far-reaching holy war is the only thing that accommodates your towering ego.

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      • Jayson says:

        “I’m sorry to take this into the territory of a personal attack”

        How is this at all consistent with the philosophy you advocate in your post?

        And to clarify: I’m sure there are plenty of old school baseball writers that were simply brought up a different way and deserve all the patience and explanations we can spare. But there are also many that simply don’t try, don’t care, and yes, are intellectual black holes. If you’re not the least bit frustrated by this, then you’re a better man than I.

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    • PhD Brian says:

      everyone on earth is resistant to change including you.

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  8. Kyle Boddy says:

    I care because people who are idiots should not be in charge of things. You should not be rewarded for being dumb.

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  9. Edwin Nelson says:

    Awesome stuff. I cared very little about the MVP, but now my emotion for the award has completely disappeared.

    My grandfather saw Joe Ribbi play and says he was the greatest player of his generation, and went on to explain that statistics are for “commies”. He said something else after that, but I was twittering my wife about how ignorant he was and missed it.

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  10. MU789 says:

    It’s funny but I bet you would find more GMs than baseball writers that would pick Mauer . If you have to actually put a wining team together rather than than write stories using batting averages and runs batted in, it concentrates the mind on what’s important.

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  11. B says:

    It looks like you’ve started a very good debate, Dave. Lots of well thought out opinions out there. My own is that our fond memories of baseball history do weigh things like Cy Young awards and MVP’s strongly, and when we look back 20 years from now we’re more likely to remember how good a player was if he won the MVP than if he didn’t (or how weak last year’s AL MVP was, for instance). As a Giants fan, I’m always going to remember Timmy’s Cy Young performance to win the award, and Schmidt losing out to Gagne will always stand out in my mind, too. For whatever reason, we’re just wired to care about these things, even if the logical part of us tells us it shouldn’t matter.

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    • JH says:

      Agreed. As a Cards fan, I’ll never forget that Joe Ribbi stole the 2006 NL MVP from Albert Pujols.

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      • JLProck says:

        But will the fact that Pujols didn’t win the award in ’06 make you forget about how great he is? Would you think of him as a better player if he had won the award then? I doubt it. The thing that will help you remember Albert Pujols, The Great Ballplayer is being treated to season after season of his excellent play, not whether or not he won an award.

        I, for one, will never forget how great Edgar Martinez was, and the closest he ever came to an MVP was third (and I even had to look that up because I couldn’t remember if he had ever won the award or not).

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  12. Bill B. says:

    When you step back and look at it all, everything is freaking pointless. Why do we care about who Brad Pitt is dating, or what drugs were in Michael Jackson (or Barry Bonds), or which corporations bribe politicians, etc.? It’s a distraction from our monotonous, mostly miserable lives, especially today with the financial strain everybody is experiencing.

    Everybody distracts themselves in different ways. Some use drugs, some play World of Warcraft, some read every article posted on FanGraphs and BBTF (cough cough), and so on. None of it really matters. Chase Utley hitting a game-winning home run, to me, is a huge deal and I get way too excited when it happens. If some smarmy, anti-intellectual d-bag sports reporter comes along the next day and says, “stats are stupid, how can Utley be the best player when Miguel Cairo is in AAA with his veteranosity helping the Phillies’ Minor Leaguers learn how to play the game the right way: with grit and hustle and steely determination” — you can bet I’m gonna blog about it.

    Baseball on the Internet would be very boring if it wasn’t for stat-heads and sports writers going at each others’ throats. And if stat-heads and sports writers weren’t here, you can bet there’d be another two groups going at each other. It’s natural. You always have a protagonist and an antagonist. Conservatives and liberals, Yankees and Red Sox, normal people and furries. The circle of life.

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  13. Andrew says:

    Excellent piece, Dave.

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  14. Steve Shane says:

    “I get why baseball players might care, since they have financial incentives tied to who actually gets the award and such.”

    good article, just one oversight on your part. The BBWAA changed there procedures to not allow anyone to vote for any player that has a contract incentive for MVP/Cy Young awards. I think it was schilling who had a $1mil bonus if he got any cy young votes, and didnt pitch at all, and joking said i will give a BBWAA writer half if he votes for me.

    The one thing I never understood was why does a MVP/Cy Young “have” to play on a winning team. IMO MVP=best player, if pujols was doing his thing on a crappy team, its more likely the teams crappy pitching and lack of other batters that caused them to lose 100 games. not pujols’ lack of MVP worthiness.

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    • RPMcSweeney says:

      The so-called Schilling Clause doesn’t go into effect until after 2013. At the time it was resolved, there were still prominent players with awards incentive clauses in their contracts–which would have led to the BBWA prohibiting voters from selecting, say, A-Rod or Pujols.

      Anyhow, it seems like a pretty ridiculous clause. The stated reason for the decision was that the BBWA didn’t want to “taint” awards by allowing players to profit from winning. Except winning–or even finishing in the top 10–pretty clearly leads to profit, through increased leverage during future contract negotiations.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      The MVP doesn’t always mean best player on a winning team.

      Matter of fact, in 1987, a slugger on a last place team beat out a defensive specialist (11 1st place votes to 9) on the NL pennant squad.

      It applies here but I was actually going to bring it up elsewhere because it’s likely the closest a guy with zero HRs EVER came to beating out a guy with 40+ (Dawson had 47 or 49).

      … and this was likely 20 years before sabermetrics started becoming more commonly seen.

      To the topic of the OP … we care because we’re baseball freaks. Most people just watch the game and cheer a HR here and there, cheer on the home squad and/or favorite player, and leave it at that. We don’t. We love all aspects of the game, even (perhaps especially) the numbers.

      Also, everyone loves to be a critic and voice their opinion. We see this in ALL aspects of life. Everyone knows what the president, quarterback, head coach, gm, ceo *should* do, and we/they voice it as often as possible to anyone willing to listen or at least be present. *grin*

      Baseball, for my family, is something that we primarily “do” … and do together, but the discussions of who’s better, what our fav team should do to improve, etc are fun. I choose to talk about baseball rather than aspects of life such as religion, politics, and celebrities.

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  15. Nick says:

    Agree 1000% percent. At this point, outrage from smart people about this kind of stuff irritates me more than any Bartolo Colon winning the Cy Young. I mean, you’re dealing with people who think W-L record is a good measure of a pitcher, or that it even has any redeemable value. And if an alien came down from Mars he would probably have different religious views than you.

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  16. terry nau says:

    I’ve been a newspaper sports editor in Triple-A towns for 37 years. And a baseball fan for 55 years. I don’t care who wins the MVP! I love statistics, grew up memorizing the Sunday newspaper’s agate page, but it has always been about the team for me. I’m worried about tonight’s game.

    Who drives this argument about awards? I think all of us are involved. Newspapers, bloggers, great websites. And you know what? All of the awards mean nothing. The World Series champion is all that matters.

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    • PhD Brian says:

      it matters to the players!!!

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    • SBG says:

      I hate to break it to you, but the playoffs are essentially a crapshoot.

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    • B says:

      The World Series only goes to one team, though. Some fans have never in their lifetime seen their own team win the World Series. A player winning an MVP or Cy Young award is something to get excited about, as it engrains what a season they had in your memory for years and years, similar to what winning the World Series would do. For some fans, that’s all they have…

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  17. brian recca says:

    So, how long before sabermetrics begins voting for major awards?

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  18. The Kardinal says:

    Brian Recca – I dont like your tone.

    I could be reading this wrong. Perhaps, your question is just asking: when do the readers feel that sabermetrics will be significantly used to aide in the decision of MVP? that is anyone’s guess. My answer: ~6 years +/- 2yr.

    But I believe your question is: so when are we just going to let the computers tell us who is the MVP? If this is your question, then I say this:
    No one (!) is saying that a computer should pick any award. All that sabermetrically-inclined readers are saying is these are additional tools to help you pick an MVP. To turn a blind eye to new ways of evaluating a player (that can be scientifically proven to be “better” descriptors of someones talent) is immature and idiotic.

    For instance, imagine the extreme early days of baseball. Its easy to imagine the first stats that existed were cumulative (i.e. # HR’s, doubles, etc.). Imagine a writer back then picking an MVP. It’d be easy. BBWA pick the person with the highest RBI’s & HR’s = winner.

    But then nerd went and invented batting average. And it was clear that despite “Person X” having 5 fewer HR’s and 15 fewer RBI’s than “Joe Ribbie”, “Person X’s” batting average was nearly .150′s higher.

    The old writers would guff, “we don’t need that fancy-pants batting average. We have our tried-and-true stats that we’ve been using for years!”

    The invention in batting average in this (elementary) example is not going to decide who gets the MVP. Its only another factor of which can/will help those that are judging (e.g. the BBWA).

    Those who ignore innovation stand in the way of progress. Which in this case it is progress in accurately deciding who is the most valuable player in the game for a given year.

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  19. fifth of says:

    Good post, Dave.

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  20. fanOFdefenseAGAIN says:

    It is funny to me that you mention Mauer– he of the 390 BABIP and a 24% HR/FB rate.

    Regress both of those numbers back to the mean and then we will see who is MVP. I am not arguing that he does not qualify under those conditions, but let’s have some intellectual honesty here for a second.

    If we are going to take a statistical approach, perhaps we should go all the way. Perhaps we should consider the MVP the player with the best expected WAR (I certainly would).

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    • BlackOps says:

      Why would we go to a computer-projections system to determine the MVP? That sounds like the exact opposite of what we should doing and exactly why ignorant people continue to bash new-age statistics.

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    • Colin Wyers says:

      If we take Mauer’s stats and regress them to the mean, and then take Teixiera’s stats and regress them to the mean – and remember this, because this part will be on the test – Mauer will still have better stats than Teixiera. Regression to the mean will not change the ordinal ranking of players with similar levels of playing time, it will just make the gaps smaller.

      (And of course there is a much greater spread of BABIP and HR/FB talent for hitters than pitchers.)

      And of course the premise is silly. We regress to better estimate true talent. But the most talented player isn’t always the most valuable in a single season.

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    • Bill says:

      All those stats say is that Mauer has been relatively lucky this year compared to normal, and will probably not continue to be this successful.

      However, some people have trouble understanding this but… predicting performance and past performance are not the same… MVP’s are given on actual performance, not how good somebody might be next year.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      The phrase “better lucky than good” is perhaps overused, but when it comes to end-of-season awards, it’s quite justified. Things like BABIP, HR/FB, etc are leading indicators, or “predictive” stats– they try to figure out what someone is going to do in the future. For what they’re doing in the present, we have EqA, wOBA, UZR, RZR, WAR, etc etc.

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    • B says:

      “Perhaps we should consider the MVP the player with the best expected WAR”

      Seriously, why bother looking at what actually happened, that we measure with exact accurately (at least on the level of singles, doubles, triples, etc.), when we could come up with an estimate for what a player should have done based on our best guesses as to what the appropriate precedent to use is…? And why not just give the World Series trophy to whoever Zips or some other projection system determines is the best team before the season and not waste our time actually playing the game?

      Sarcasm aside, I have no original points, other people have pretty much covered my feelings on the issue…

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  21. Xavier says:

    “If we are going to take a statistical approach, perhaps we should go all the way. Perhaps we should consider the MVP the player with the best expected WAR (I certainly would).”

    At a certain point, what SHOULD happen is no longer relevant. Sure, a screaming line drive right at a fielder is bad luck, and “deserves” to have been a hit more than a bloop down the line, or a 14 foot nubber that just barely stays fair.

    But they’re not. And part of the beauty of sports is that sometimes things that shouldn’t work do, and sometimes the best laid plans go asunder.

    I’m of the camp that when voting for season-end awards, they should be reflective rather than predictive. Jason Bartlett might never have a BABIP that high again, but those are his hits. Give him credit.

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  22. Jeremy Reed Is Better Than Youk, Dave Cameron Told Me In '03 says:

    844 words and you don’t care? Really?

    And I know you don’t care but it’s Kepner (not Keper… you got it right once, I guess 50% is good, eh?). And if you cared to google the cause of your hulabaloo, you’d notice Kepner is not wearing adult diapers nor is he in search of prunes at the grocery store or an early bird special at his local restaurant.

    Sure, Tapas bars are doing fine… but so is the old local dive bar on the corner.

    And for every great example of how using statistical analysis is better than some idiot who can’t take a look at the Media Guide before he casts a vote for Edinson Volquez for rookie of the year, there’s proof that some statistical analysis isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. (See the OLIVER projections housed right here at FanGraphs!)

    It’s pretty sad when we can be on the same side of an argument but you can make your point so poorly that I doubt my own stance.

    “With the invention of the internet (thanks Al!), we don’t need to look back through a list of MVP awards to remember who was good way back when. We have baseball-reference for that.”

    You mean where you can find… A LIST OF MVP AWARD WINNERS?

    “I’ll be telling people that Mauer was the most valuable player in the American League for 2009, and I’ve got a mountain of information to back it up. How other people view the definition of the word value has no real world impact on me.”

    The Drama King strikes again! “Mountain” of information? “Real world” impact? If Mauer doesn’t win the MVP, he’s not the MVP… IN THE REAL WORLD! That should be written “no ‘my own li’l small world where I am (drama) king’ world’” for future reference.

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    • MPC says:

      LOL. I hope no one else is taking this post seriously.

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    • Tim says:

      Somebody has a man crush! It’s cute in an ewwwww you sound more arse than intellectual kind of way….

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      • joser says:

        Yeah, that’s exactly the impression I got. I wonder if he’s ever actually met Cameron, or just lusts after him (or lusts to be him) entirely over the internet?

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    • SBG says:

      Sure there is a list of MVP winners at b-r.com, along with lists of stats leaders. So we can all look at that list and say WTF were the voters thinking/smoking in 1942 when they named Joe Gordon MVP, when Ted Williams was clearly the most valuable player in the league? Or how about looking for all the MVPs that Babe Ruth won. Only one? Because they had a rule that disqualified former winners? So, then Babe Ruth was only the most valuable player in the AL ONE TIME because a bunch of sports writers with arbitrary rules decided to disqualify him from the award because he’d won it before? Yep, the list of MVP winners is the FIRST PLACE I look when I want to figure out who the best player in the league was for a given year. Heh.

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  23. Dave Davidson fan says:

    What are the odds of Greinke getting screwed when the year-end awards come out? 80-90%? I’d bet a million bucks it will be CC.

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    • John says:

      Personally, I don’t see C.C. raining on Greinke’s parade. His ERA’s too high (compared to Greinke (11-7, 2.33) ) even for the BBWAA to choose C.C. (13-7, 3.64). Halladay (13-5, 2.65) is a different story in my mind. Note that I am using the (W-L, ERA) numbers because that is 90% of what the BBWAA cares about (concerning the player). Since Halladay seems like a much better shot for close to the league lead in wins.

      I’d give Greinke 3-2 odds and Halladay 10-3 odds, and 30-1 odds to the competition.

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      • Dave Davidson fan says:

        It will depend on whether Halladay and Greinke ends up with more WINS!

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      • John says:

        The BBWAA isn’t blind to ERA – here are some examples
        2008 NL – Linececum (18-5, 2.62) over Webb (22-7, 3.30)
        2000 NL – R. Johnson (19-7, 2.64) over Glavine (21-9, 3.40)
        1999 NL – R. Johnson (17-9, 2.48) over Hampton (22-4, 2.90)

        Is it really hard to believe that even a group as backwards as the BBWAA would pick 2 wins extra over 1.33 fewer earned runs per 9? They didn’t with Lincecum last year, and the ERA thing was less extreme (51% the difference).

        I think that Greinke has the advantage, but Halladay could easily pull it out. Some of the BBWAA are blind believers in wins, but most have brains enough to look at ERA, if not FIP, RAR, and WARP-3.

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      • JH says:

        K’s are shiny numbers to BBWAA much like wins. In each of those Johnson/Lincecum seasons, the K difference was a chasm. It’s likely that Halladay and Greinke will finish within 40 Ks of each other. May not be a big enough gap to overcome a 3-5 W advantage for Roy.

        If Verlander can get his ERA under 3 to go along with his K and W edge over Zack, he may be the biggest threat.

        Lincecum should have no problem repeating this year due to the K edge.

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      • JP says:

        In the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, James created a formula that would determine the Cy Young Winner most of the time.

        (((IP/9)*(5-ERA))) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + SHO + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + 12 pts for team winning division

        Currently, it has six guys in a group at the top

        F. Hernandez (124)
        Halladay (123)
        Sabathia (123)
        Beckett (120)
        Greinke (116)
        Verlander (115)

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      • JP says:

        Oops.

        Verlander should move up to 127, I forgot to put the Tigers’ bonus for being in first in the Central. And Jered Weaver has 115 pts also.

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  24. Nick says:

    “At a certain point, what SHOULD happen is no longer relevant. Sure, a screaming line drive right at a fielder is bad luck, and “deserves” to have been a hit more than a bloop down the line, or a 14 foot nubber that just barely stays fair.

    But they’re not. And part of the beauty of sports is that sometimes things that shouldn’t work do, and sometimes the best laid plans go asunder.

    I’m of the camp that when voting for season-end awards, they should be reflective rather than predictive. Jason Bartlett might never have a BABIP that high again, but those are his hits. Give him credit.”

    So Daisuke should’ve gotten serious Cy Young consideration last year? Not only am I fully aware of all his stats, but I saw just about every game he pitched, and to me that’s a joke. I’m a little bit more hesitant to punish a hitter for a high BABIP, but it’s not like Mauer’s OBP is average-dependent anyway.

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    • Colin Wyers says:

      What you have to remember is that baseball is based on the premise of double-entry bookkeeping – every hit is charged both to the team on offense and the team on defense.

      For the team on offense, the ONLY person it can be credited to is the hitter – much of the time he’s the only player from the batting team on the field, and nobody thinks baserunners have an appreciable (I said appreciable!) affect on whether or not a batted ball is a hit.

      For the fielding team, though, there are nine players on the field, and we need to decide how to split up the credit for the hit. We want to avoid judging a pitcher’s actual production based on his BABIP rate because frankly his fielders have vastly more control over that than the pitcher does – the rate at which the pitcher gives up hits on BIP is almost entirely a product of what his fielders do. (Certainly a pitcher should be held to some account for allowing the batter to put the ball in play at all, of course.)

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    • SBG says:

      Just for the record, despite having missed a month, Mauer’s 21st in the AL in extra base hits and 9th in home runs. His isoP is almost .300.

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  25. Jon says:

    Do you guys remember when Al Gore kicked Global Warming’s ass?!?!?!? Man that was such an epic battle for the ages.

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  26. walkoffblast says:

    I think why we care is usually the tone it takes. I rarely care if my dad wants to view the game different than I do, it is after all a game which I am theoretically following for enjoyment. What I do care about is when someone goes on the attack against my beliefs. It is kind of like religion, if no one felt the need to go preach it and convert others we would all get along just fine, even those who do not believe at all. Yet, the arguments by traditionalists in baseballs case are often even odder in that they feature the anti-religion. They employ the I refuse to believe that is true no matter what and you cannot change my mind instead of the I believe this is true and you cannot change my mind. If they simply stuck to having faith in their system, instead of feeling the need to breakdown dangfangled new ideas that they unfortunately feel threaten their way of viewing the game, we probably all would just get along.

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  27. Yanks09 says:

    This has to be the stupidest article I’ve ever read. Why do we care about sports at all? Would you not care if a bad call by an umpire ends game 7 of the world series in favor of the wrong team because you know which team actually won? No, you would be on here complaining about it. The real question is why do we care that Dave Cameron doesn’t care who wins the MVP award?

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  28. PhD Brian says:

    You guys do realize that roughly about one in 4 voters lives in NY, NJ, eastern PA, and southern CT. Add in the remaining AL east metro areas and you are about half the voters. How many votes come out of Minnesota? Not very many. These gusy aren’t dumb, just biased towards the guys they see play everyday. Which is shown through behavioral research to be normal human behavior. This is also what your doing, because your watching the game through numbers and Mauer plays the best through numbers. Numbers based on models that could in fact be inaccurate measures of true baseball value and thus wrong.

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  29. j reed says:

    Well pitchers don’t typically receive it on grounds that they aren’t everday day players. So if were talking labor here, then anytime you have a catcher in the running they definitely win that category. Labor as a category might serve as a good tie breaker. I’m all for catchers getting the mvp…I mean your squatting for at least 2 hrs in the heat dressed up like a frickin’ armadillo only to have a projectile fired towards you at 90+ mph an hour. Also I like seeing SS get MVPs.

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  30. Rob in CT says:

    I, for one, care because the willful ignorance and gleeful rejection of (not simply resistance to) change shown by the most retrograde of the sportswriters irritates me. It irritates me in other parts of life as well. It’s a bit of a pet peeve.

    IF he and the rest of us can actually manage to not care, that would be the smart call. I doubt it, though, because it pisses too many of us off. Nice try though, Dave. ;)

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  31. Joe R says:

    Now THIS is a good read, Dave. Non-abrasive, reasonable.

    That being said, I kind of agree / kind of disagree. I know 20 years from now it won’t matter, and everyone will look back and see how great a year Mauer had. However, there’s a sense of fairness I think that many MVP voters tend to balk at. The MVP is an individual award, yet voters continuously want to make it about team, clutch, etc, and eventually make it about them (they do the same thing in Hall of Fame ballots, the “doesn’t matter how he actually played, what matters is MY opinion”). Obviously Teixeira and his 141 OPS+ is good (and yes I know OPS+ kind of stinks, but it’s easy to look up and understand for most everyone), but Morneau has a 151, more RBI’s, almost as many HR in a tougher offensive ballpark and no one’s in his corner for MVP (Morneau and Teix are about the same in the field, too). Mauer has a 193 OPS+. This is steroids Barry Bonds with top tier catcher defense. The gap is ridiculous. Sure Mauer will only end up with like 130 or so games, but I-Rod played 144 in his MVP year. 10-15 games missed overall vs. 193 OPS+. And for clutch lovers, Mauer has a 200 OPS+(!!) in the 2nd half.

    MVP voting is just insane. If the Yankees go 85-77 in 2010, will it be because suddenly Mark Teixeira is a jerkass who hits team killing home runs? No, he’d still be the same great player.

    And of course, if you “see a guy play” everyday, bet you my truck that you don’t see the other guy play everyday. That point is stupid. I see Youkilis play every day. He hits awesome, so eff everyone else, MVP!

    Of course, making a campaign for something that should be a merit based award is idiotic, too. You shouldn’t HAVE to, all the facts you need are available through here, baseball-reference, baseball prospectus, espn, mlb.com, ANYWHERE. This belief that a single player makes all the difference in 12% of a team’s plate appearances is stupid. The best teams have their own awards (division titles, pennants, WS rings). Individuals win MVP.

    Unless a qualification is still “ability to turn Nick Punto into Derek Jeter”.

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    • B says:

      “Mauer has a 193 OPS+. This is steroids Barry Bonds with top tier catcher defense.”

      Why does everyone everywhere always feel the need to take cheapshots at Bonds when talking about subjects completely unrelated to him? In 1992, Bonds posted an OPS+ of 205, followed by 204 in ’93. The alledged “steroids Bonds” was up in the 250+ zone. So this line was unnecessary and not really even true to begin with.

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      • walkoffblast says:

        Because MLB went to great lengths to try and pin all the problems in the game on him with more success than they should have had because of his personality.

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      • Joe R says:

        And to be fair Bonds didn’t hit the 200′s until the 00′s.

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      • B says:

        “And to be fair Bonds didn’t hit the 200’s until the 00’s.”

        I’m assuming we’re still talking in OPS+ here. I pretty clearly stated that he did. By 1996, Bonds had put up two seasons of 160+, one of 170+, two of 180+ (one was the strike year), and two seasons above 200. Yes, his he didn’t do anything like his 4 year run from 2001-2004 previously (and testing was in place for the 2003 season without punishments and 2004 season with punishments), but like I said, he did break 200 twice in the early 90′s.

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      • Joe R says:

        Yep, I am an idiot.

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      • B says:

        Eh, everyone makes mistakes. I respect people that admit to them, especially in an anonymous internet forum where they really don’t have to…

        The only reason I bring this up is even in an educated place like Fangraphs where pretty much everyone knows better than to just blame Bonds for everything, you still see people take shots at him for no reason. As a Bonds supporter/Giants fan, I see it all over the place and I just think it’s almost become a subconscious habit, and it’s just unnecessary. If a subject has nothing to do with Barry, there’s no reason to mention him. :)

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      • D-Luxxx says:

        You bring up a good point. It shouldn’t matter what team they are on. Who was the most valuable to their team, not who has the best team (which is decided in the post season)? With that in mind, RBIs shouldn’t even be in the equation. Basically this is a stat that is almost completly influenced by your teamates. If you don’t have anyone on in front of you, how are you supposed to knock anyone in?

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  32. kevinM says:

    As usual in life, the answer resides somewhere in the middle of the 2 positions. I think it’s a legitimate question for a voter to ask how “valuable” is a player on a below .500 team. On the other hand, that shouldn’t matter when we’re dealing with a player whose numbers relative to his position and other players in his league are atmospheric.

    I think the past few seasons should’ve made the point about “high RBI sluggers on playoff teams” unnecessary. Among the last 4 winners of the MVP Award are a SS, 2B, and clearly the best player in a league despite his team not making the playoffs.

    I find statements like, “I don’t really care who baseball writers vote as the AL MVP, because we pretty much all realize it’s Joe Mauer, and it’s not particularly close.” to be just as annoying as the tripe we hear from members of BBWAA.

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    • Joe R says:

      I try to check win shares to provide another viewpoint of the MVP.
      Interestingly, Berkman had more win shares than Pujols. At least I think he did on The Hardball Times.

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  33. Stephen says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this article. And I don’t think the answer is anywhere in the middle.

    Forgive the melodramatic metaphor, but my grandparents are probably a little bit racist, and I’d like to think myself to be less so… but does that mean we have any choice other than to combat racism whenever it appears? We should instead let the old timers slide and continue for just one more year? No.

    We have to fight baseball ignorance wherever it appears as well– and this is one of the prime prime battlegrounds. MVP voting is sheer idiocy.

    Another point: When Joe loses to Tex, why don’t you email him this article and see his reaction? It won’t be “man I lost out on financial incentives,” he’ll make mounds anyways. His response will be “*F* that, I want to go down in history as the AL MVP for 09 because I was.”

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  34. robert j. says:

    you are losing out, Dave. the tapas place that i go to has an early bird special.

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  35. swyck says:

    “Twitter isn’t dying because people over 50 aren’t using it, and Tapas bars are doing just fine without an early bird special.”

    You should check your facts. People over 50 are among the biggest users on Twitter, and the average age is 37.

    If you don’t like awards that’s fine, but a lot of people do. Not a real good article without much focus or point, and mostly an opinion screed.

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    • B says:

      True, to quote that very article:

      “Now, let me be clear — there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the American League MVP this year is Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, and nobody else is even close, and I feel so strongly about this that I am doing daily updates about it on my blog.”

      I think you misread it a bit…

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      • Rob in CT says:

        That’s a darn good article. The key point, for me, as a fan of Jeter, is the last bit. If you want to make the case that Jeter is a great player, you do not need to make shit up. You don’t have to pretend that he has supernatural powers. You can just point to his accomplishments as they are recorded (and this includes defensive numbers, which in total still show him as below average) and rest your case. He is tangibly great.

        As a Yankees fan, I always found it incredibly irritating that people would build Jeter up in ways that made no sense. Usually, when people do stuff like that, what they’re really saying is “I’ve got nothing.” They can’t make a case, so they start making shit up. I would watch this and wonder why the heck they needed to do that for a future HOFer.

        Good on Poz. Preach it, brother.

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      • Joe R says:

        I fully agree (I’m a Red Sox fan). Why make shit up about magical clutchiness, lie about his quality as a fielder, or talk about how he elevates his team?

        How about he’s a SS with a career 121 OPS+ with exactly 2100 games and closing in on 10,000 career PA’s? That kind of offense from a SS for that long. Do people really need to sugarcoat that? He’s 4th of all SS’s w/ over 1000 PA’s in wRAA of all time, and is 2 average-ish Jeter years away from passing Cal Ripken Jr. for 3rd among SS’s in wRC (A-Rod’s 2nd and at this point may be better considered a 3B, so grain of salt 2nd place). Who needs to make shit up when you have that to go off of?

        Maybe if you’re trying to say he’s the best ever you do, he’s clearly not the best ever. But even with shaky defense, he’s easily top 10. And top 10 is easily in the Hall of Fame based off of merit. It’s just funny what a stat-nerd whipping boy he’s become for absolutely nothing but the ridiculousness of the media and NYY fans that do ascribe crazy superman powers to him.

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  36. jb says:

    Good article. I find myself caring despite the arguments made. I care because *gasp* I like baseball and therefore baseball players. The fact is people do care. The question is why should the BBWAA care about getting it right, because they obviously don’t.

    People that are paid to cover a game should feel extremely lucky to have a job that is based completely on a game played by players and on fans of that game reading their columns. Somehow the BBWAA has come to think that baseball is dependent on them and not the other way around. MVP is an award that is meant to honor a player for individual performance, and both the fans and players to whom the writers owe their livelihood deserve a decent effort from them.

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  37. Broker says:

    I know I read this whole thing about a year ago and am sure it is a reprint. I wonder who took the time to change all the names .

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  38. Slick says:

    Didn’t Pedroia win the AL MVP last year with holding the highest (6.6) WAR rating?

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  39. Dewey's Mustache says:

    This is one of the reasons that I have avocated (and will continue to) for scrapping the MVP and replacing it with the Ernie Banks Award (best season by a player) and Yogi Berra Award (player who most helped his team win in the postseason). Not as sexy, no doubt, but more accurate.

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  40. noseeum says:

    You know what this made me think? Why not create a separate award, as voted on by the prominent SABR oriented websites, issue a press release, and if sponsorship is available, attach some award to it?

    Why can’t there be a SBWAA (Sabermetric Baseball Writers Association of America)?

    I mean, the BBWAA was just a bunch of hacks at some point. There’s law that says they’re the end all be all. And of course this SBWAA MVP award would be obscure at first, but who knows what the future brings?

    If I had a website, I would actually be pushing this idea.

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  41. Pinball1973 says:

    People – and I’ll include “sportswriters” as a group among them this time just to be sociable – can believe anything they want unless they insist I take their fantasy with seriousness I don’t think it deserves. That goes especially for stuff of no importance like baseball.

    That said – many of these people aren’t content with having the right to vote for someone I think is a poor MVP selection, they insist on being total assholes about it. That I feel no need to shrug off unless I want to.

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  42. Logan says:

    And it all works out! Twins make the playoffs (probably gonna be a short stay, but who knows?), Mauer can get his hardware, all is right with the world…

    In all seriousness though, the BBWAA needs a sabermetric infusion, lest Felix (and his 19 wins) steal the Cy Young from my fantasy league championship team hero Greinke.

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  43. RKW84 says:

    This article seems to fall under the “I get why the writers care, as it gives them a chance to have their opinion heard” category.

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  46. Joe R says:

    Well, this is an original troll-angle.

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  47. bknight47 says:

    Great article…hit the nail on the head…

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