Jon Paul Morosi explains his awards voting criteria

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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.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.