I’ve taken some shots at Jon Paul Morosi’s recent writings on post season awards — specifically his choice of Miguel Cabrera over Josh Hamilton for MVP and CC Sabathia or David Price over Felix Hernandez — so I would be remiss in not linking to a post in which he explains how he reaches his conclusions. It’s here, and there are interesting things in it.
Short version: Morosi reads the rules sent out by the BBWAA with the ballots. In this column he takes on the MVP. The two principle rules for the MVP: “number of games played” and “actual value of the player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.” Again, his choice on these grounds is Miguel Cabrera.
I get the games played rule, and I agree with Morosi that you have to discount a player to some degree in the MVP voting if he doesn’t appear in that many games. I’m not sure where you draw that line — a .390 hitter like George Brett in 1980 would get my vote even if he only played in 114 games or whatever — but it’s a consideration. This could matter for the Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton debate.
Where Morosi loses me, however, is not with his ultimate choice, but with his interpretation of what “value” is. Sure, it can be a vague term — people have been arguing what it truly means for years — but given the “strength of offense and defense” language he cites, how Morosi can then say the following is beyond me:
BABIP, VORP and WAR were not, are not, and probably never will be part of said criteria.
Those metrics — and others — are specifically designed to measure the value of a player’s contributions. How can he simply read them out of the decision making process? Sure, the BBWAA guidelines predate those metrics, but scientists don’t discard new data simply because the scientific method was developed earlier. There are new ways to calculate value. While we should all be skeptical of any one statistic and not rely on it too heavily, to simply ignore advanced metrics altogether is to engage in poor analysis.
But Morosi does this. And in their place he substitutes the “which team would be the most screwed without player X” argument. Sure, we’ve all used that one before, or at least considered it. But Morosi relies on it to an excessive degree. Taken literally you’d always have to give it to a catcher, right? Without him there’d be a ton of passed balls!*
Morosi then goes on to add a couple more factors for spice: home parks of both Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera and the “lineup protection” each man has received. Never mind that park factors, a more precise way to judge a player’s yard, are, like many of the advanced metrics he dismisses, a post-BBWAA-rules creation. Also never mind the fact that the concept of lineup “protection” has been debunked.
Look, I don’t really care where Morosi ends up on the MVP vote. The case for Cabrera is not a frivolous case, especially if Hamilton doesn’t play again this season. What I object to are the odd and inconsistent standards he uses to get there, and his seeming dismissal of those who use different ones.
I more strongly object to the fact that, inherent in his column, is the appeal to authority: the BBWAA has always done it this way, he’s saying. While what a voter may consider to be “value” is subjective, if you’re using modern stats, you’re doing it wrong, because that’s not the way the writers thought about it in 1931.
That’s not reason. That’s madness.
*Let us also note that in discounting Felix Hernandez’s win totals in earlier writings, Morosi contradicts himself. In that case he’s penalizing Hernandez for not having better teammates. In the MVP voting, he considers it a plus.