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.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.