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.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.