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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.