Will Transparency Destroy Us?

The Baseball Writers Association of America, whose contract with Major League Baseball references as many third-party transactions with Satan as Fox’s World Series contract and the liner notes to a Robert Johnson collection combined, has declared its intentions to make future baseball award votes more transparent than in the past.

Sure enough, the BBWAA released all individual ballots for last night’s Rookie of the Year voting.  While it seems like transparency can only help to legitimize a process that has been under scrutiny longer than Strom Thurmond’s voting record, a glance at the RoY voting suggests that we may be in for some trouble.  See why after the jump.

No NL Rookie was so far ahead of the pack as to make this one a foregone conclusion, as Mike Trout did with the AL Rookie of the Year (along with the Oscar for Best Actor and the Nobel Prize in Physics).  Bryce Harper (5.0 rWAR, 4.9 fWAR) and Wade Miley (3.2, 4.8) were roughly each other’s equivalent in opposing disciplines, while Norichika Aoki (2.9, 3.3), Zack Cozart (2.4, 2.7), and Todd Frazier (1.9, 2.8) compiled resumes worthy of a long look for a third place vote.

Predictably, Harper and Miley split the majority of the first place votes, with Harper taking 16 and Miley 12, and the majority of the second place votes, of which Miley received 13 and to Harper’s 8.  If you know there were two voters representing each NL team, you may have noticed that 15 of them missed the memo about the two-man race.  I’m not here to judge them, or at least to judge those who were more impressed by Frazier’s 120 wRC+ (one point shy of Harper’s) than by Miley’s season.  Several even put Frazier ahead of Harper, perhaps giving a nod to his 21-point edge in slugging percentage (though I’ve seen the argument that Frazier single-handedly kept the Reds’ season alive during Joey Votto’s injury a few too many times in the past two days).

One voter, Enrique Rojas, even saw fit to bestow a first place vote upon the Rockies’ Wilin Rosario, who hit well for a catcher (111 wRC+), but was the worst defensive catcher in baseball, at least according to Matt Klaassen at Getting Blanked (a must-read), leaving him with 1.9 rWAR and 1.8 fWAR. I’m not particularly bothered by differences of opinion in the voting for this award.  What stands out, though, are some of the chapter affiliations of the voters whose votes were more suspect.  Check out this chart, courtesy of CBS Sports:

Three voters found a reason to vote for Frazier ahead of both Harper and Miley, which is perhaps not insane, but requires a general disregard for fielding metrics (Harper’s had 9.9 FRAA to Frazier’s -1.9) and stolen bases (18-3, though Frazier had an edge in non-steal baserunning) and a willingness to attribute far too much team success to a single player (and perhaps to ignore some of the Nationals’ MLB-best 98 wins).  One of the three was Cincinnati’s representative.  Cincy’s other voter put Harper and Miley first and second, but made room for Frazier.

Aoki would have been my third choice, and wasn’t a crazy option for a second-place vote, but you’ll note that of the two voters who placed him second, one represented Milwaukee.  Rosario got a second-place vote from a Colorado voter.  The other Colorado voter put Jordan Pacheco, a .2-win player with below average offense (93 wRC+) and atrocious defense (-11.3 FRAA) third on his ballot.  Yonder Alonso’s only third-place vote came from a San Diego voter.  There’s a vote for Matt Carpenter on there too.  Oh look, that guy’s from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Both Washington representatives voted for Harper.  The Arizona voters split their votes, but wait- one of them is Keith Law?  Former Blue Jays employee and current ESPN snarkster Keith Law takes one of the spots for an Arizona writer?

There’s no reason to throw a fit over a local writer throwing a third-place vote to a hometown guy in a race where third place was wide open.  But after seeing the individual ballots for a relatively controversy-free award, I’m not sure I trust the process more than I did before.  Is there an expectation that every voter will skew his picks toward his hometown team?  If so, does a player suffer if one of his hometown guys issues an objective ballot and leaves him off?  The two Cincinnati candidates had two Cincinnati Enquirer writers on their side (though Cozart was still somehow shut out), while most other teams seemed to be represented by one local writer and one national writer who was shoehorned into a jurisdiction.

This may feel like a non-story, but we’re two days away from Miguel Cabrera winning Mike Trout’s AL MVP Award.  If the voting is close, and all the Detroit voters put Cabrera at the top of their ballots, fans looking for a target for their travesty-induced rage will have names at which to spew their vitriol, rather than a faceless take-back-the-RBI movement.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

114 thoughts on “Will Transparency Destroy Us?

  1. 1
    Dr. Doom says:

    I don’t understand… I’ve ALWAYS assumed that hometown guys give their own players a little bit of a bump. And frankly, if everyone’s doing it, it’s really not a problem. And ROY is such a mess anyway, I don’t particularly see that it matters. But that’s just me, I guess. This does nothing to convince me that voting is any better or worse than I already assumed – it’s pretty much exactly what I expected.

    • 3
      Forrest says:

      This though, proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a bias based on non-baseball playing skill, definitely affects who wins an award that rewards baseball skill. That’s the problem, and that’s really a big problem.

    • 4
      MikeD says:

      It only works if all local writers show bias toward their own players, in essence cancelling each other out. It doesn’t necessarily work that way.

      For the most part, though, I think making the voting more transparent will force a greater degree of bias out of the system. If a BBWAA knows that one of his off-the-charts votes will be published and that he’ll come under fire, it may force them to think more. I know. Crazy thought. Let’s see what happens.

      • 10

        Exactly, Mike. A player shouldn’t be cheated because his local writer voted objectively, rather than pariochially. Miley wasn’t quite close enough to win anyway, but if a second Diamondbacks reporter, rather than Keith Law, got a ballot, there’s a good chance one first-place vote would have swung his way. That doesn’t feel right.

        I hope you’re right about the bias being forced out by transparency, but I wonder if we’re just giving these writers an opportunity to make a bold statement and get a little more press for themselves and their papers. How many more clicks will the Detroit Free Press’s website get if one of its writers leaves Trout off his ballot completely and a thousand bloggers whine about it (as I probably would) the next day?

    • 18
      Tmckelv says:

      I agree with the Doctor. I too assumed that the hometown guys got a bump. So that is no real shock. I always figured anyone with 1 or 2 points in the voting received them from a hometown voter.

      It is not great of course, and I think that over time the transparency (and subsequent backlash on individual voters) will change that.

  2. 2
    Doug says:

    Bill Center, the San Diego voter who liked Alonso, also had Miley 4th or worse. He was the only voter who didn’t have both Harper AND Miley in the top 3.

  3. 5

    In the long ago days when I was in the newspaper business, I voted for things like this (though not, obviously, this) — awards, football polls, etc. This voting is not unusual in any way, shape or form.

  4. 6
    Ed says:

    Re: Keith Law voting for Arizona. Here’s a link to the BBWAA FAQ about voting. I assume this is how Law got in:

    “Typically, the writer votes in the chapter where he resides, but sometimes national writers vote as part of smaller chapters that don’t have enough qualified voters.”


    • 11

      This makes as much sense as any other way to integrate national writers into the previous system, but if the BBWAA cared about integrity as much as it seems to care about transparency, wouldn’t it do away with the local writer votes altogther? Fifty years ago, it made sense to have writers in each city comparing the players they saw every day to the guys who came through town a few times a year, and accumulate those votes. In the Internet age, there are thousands of national writers/bloggers/analysts who have access to every MLB team and are therefore more qualified than any local beat reporter to tell us who the best players are. Transparency is one way to remove bias. Evolution is a better way.

  5. 7
    Ed says:

    Check out the AL vote:


    Two voters, one representing Seattle, one representing Chicago, write for Japanese news organizations. Weird. And one of the Oakland voters comes from the San Francisco Chronicle. Again, a bit strange given that Oakland has its own newspaper.

  6. 8
    JT says:

    I’m more disappointed in Rosario’s lack of support than anything. While I was pulling for Frazier to pull off the upset, I expected Harper to run away with it. But I think Rosario was grossly overlooked.

    As for the AL MVP, as much as I like Trout, I don’t see him winning it over a Triple Crown player. If Cabrera had faltered in just one of those three stats, yes I believe Trout should have won. But as it stands, Miggy is the man.

    • 12

      By “if Cabrera had faltered”, do you mean “if Josh Hamilton had stayed healthy and hit two more home runs” or “if Trout and Cabrera switched ballparks and Trout won the batting title”?

      • 32
        JT says:

        Perhaps faltered was not the right word, but yes that is the gist. If Cabrera had not come out on top in all three categories, I believe Trout would have won. As it stands, I’m for Cabrera.

        • 35
          RichW says:

          That completely baffles me. If Cabrera’s performance merits the MVP Why would another player popping 2 home runs change it?

          Of course I think Trout is the MVP with no doubt. We obviously approach the analysis differently.

          • 39
            JT says:

            Because it’s not *just* the home runs. It’s the combination of HR, RBI, and BA. Cabrera led in all three categories. I know those are dirty stats these days, but those are the traditional stats and I’ve never hidden the fact that I like tradition. There are very few things about the game today that I prefer over the game of the 1970s and 1980s.

            Trout is my #2 pick. He had an awesome year, especially as a rookie. I hope he continues to do well and wins the award in the future.

          • 45
            no statistician but says:

            If I preferred Cabrera to Trout it wouldn’t be because of the triple crown. It would be based on the difference between how the two players performed the last two months on the season in close battles for their teams respective division titles.

            In those two months Cabrera’s dominance in RBIs is 54 over 28, around 50 points in BA, and 180 points or so in OPS. Trout’s fielding and base running superiority can’t make up these deficits.

            I personally think both players deserve the award, but for different reasons. So here’s another flaw in the voting system, being unable to vote a tie.

          • 46
            Ed says:

            The popular perception is that Cabrera was better than Trout down the stretch. But as this article from fangraphs shows, it’s simply not true. The key quote:

            “By this measure, Mike Trout was the best player in May. He was the best player in June, July, and August, and he was the second-best player in September, behind Adrian Beltre.”

            Of course, whether or not you agree with the quote and depends on your belief in WAR.


          • 49
            mosc says:

            There is an award for the best offensive player, the Hank Aaron award. Give it to trout and leave the MVP for a guy who carried his team into the playoffs. The equivalent of the Cy Young should be the Hank Aaron award. The MVP is different. Trout’s MVP case to me is not that strong.

          • 52

            My favorite part is that the Angels actually won one more game than the Tigers.

          • 57
            Ed says:

            Funny cause I’d say the opposite…Cabrera’s case just isn’t very compelling. In fact, one could argue he wasn’t even the MVP of his own team. Verlander was.

          • 58

            Mosc at 49, I’m not sure if you’re serious that Cabrera “carried his team into the playoffs”, but I’ll take the bait. The Hank Aaron is an offensive award. It could easily to go Cabrera or Trout, who were comparable offensive players (though Trout has an edge if we consider baserunning part of offense). The MVP includes defense, where Trout makes further gains. Team context shouldn’t come into play at all, but as Adam mentions at #52, the Angels won more games than the Tigers against tougher competition, so that’s another edge for Trout.

            Cabrera is a car that drives 120 mph. Trout is a car that drives 119 mph with brakes and a steering wheel. Which is more valuable?

          • 60
            Jim Bouldin says:

            To be honest mosc, the White Sox ineptitude down the stretch, combined with the Tigers’ relatively soft schedule, is what “propelled them into the playoffs”. And the Angels played in a *much* tougher division than the Tigers did. So you really can’t use the “made the playoffs” argument.

            Cabrera is definitely the best hitter in the game right now, and it seems that he typically gets stronger as seasons progress. Whether that merits him the MVP over Trout, I don’t know, but he certainly did finish stronger, and I do think he is likely to win it.

          • 75
            mosc says:

            y’all are talking about a season long award like the entire season matters equally. It doesn’t. Cabrera’s numbers in September are noticeably better than trout’s. Defense considered.

            Why does the latter part of the season matter more? That’s a good question. I can understand arguing that it shouldn’t but MVP’s are as much about situational leverage as accomplishment. If you toil away in irrelevant games, it takes more to get value.

            I guess MVP is more like value to the league. A marque player (who got that way from being good) succeeding on a visible team down the stretch and affecting the post season picture in a meaningful way.

          • 79
            bstar says:

            mosc, please read Ed’s link @46. You’re just flat wrong about Cabrera being better down the stretch than Trout. He wasn’t. The data is from Fangraphs’ WAR, but I doubt very seriously, if B-Ref had monthly WAR splits, that they would show a different outcome because there’s an even bigger spread between Trout and Cabrera in rWAR than fWAR.

            I can respect anyone having a reasoned opinion that’s different than mine. But that reason needs to have some truth behind it. If you want to proclaim Cabrera was better than Trout this year, I don’t think coming up with an argument that is supported by facts is too big of an ask.

          • 81
            mosc says:

            bstar, you believe in DWAR, I do not. I believe in the value of defense, I do not believe the DWAR statistic is a particularly reasonable mathematical representation of the value of defense. My objection is mostly positional. The stat works well for comparing players at the same position but is horrible at adding in overall value to a player into a position independent contribution on the field.

          • 86
            bstar says:

            OK, let’s exclude defense entirely.

            oWAR(rWAR – defense)
            Cabrera 7.4
            M Trout 8.4

            Trout still wins if you zero out both of their defensive contributions.

  7. 9
    Mike L says:

    This might sound a bit recidivist, but I’m not sure I care. All these people bring their own special biases into the process. There are plenty of sportswriters who don’t embrace the new statistical measures, there are some who value one type of player over another. It’s not all that different from the Hall of Fame vote. So, whether I see who voted or not…

  8. 13
    no statistician but says:

    Just a reminder:

    The awards are titled Rookie of the Year, not Rookie with the Best Stats; Most Valuable Player, not Player with the highest WAR. The subjective evaluation is invited, in other words—not that claiming that nothing counts but a statistical formula isn’t just as subjective as alternative views. People see what they see, some with blinders on to one thing, some with blinders on to another or several, and some with a view of all things. Even the last group may disagree among themselves.

    I don’t don’t see how questioning the integrity of this or that voter gets us anywhere.

    • 20

      I’m not questioning the integrity of the voters so much as I’m questioning the suitability of this electorate to adequately reward the top rookies. I agree that the definition of RoY is nebulous, and perhaps I’m jumping the gun a little to project regional bias in the MVP voting based on regional bias in this election. But it’s clear to me that there’s a natural and generally accepted bias applied inconsistently in the balloting, which could be reduced or eliminated by removing regional writers from said electorate.

      This is not a call for an immediate overhaul- just a suggestion that making the votes transparent is likely to invite more controversy, rather than to diminish it. We will see the integrity of many voters questioned in the coming days. In some cases, maybe that will be the beginning of a move toward more integrity, but other cases are likely to be unnecessary witch hunts and fodder for the tiring stats vs. scouts debate.

      • 21
        Gary Bateman says:

        I think transparency in voting could actually have the opposite effect. If I work for a team’s local paper and have to continue to cover that team, I may be more willing to vote for a (less deserving) local player to publicly show my allegiance to the team than if my vote were secret. I would hope not, but from the writer’s viewpoint, it might be “greasing the skids” for better access.

        • 22

          That’s kind of terrifying. And very possibly true.

          • 23
            JDV says:

            Almost certainly true, but not so terrifying…just human. Subjectivity (with a selective sprinkling of objective evidence — subjective in itself) will always be the norm. Even your suggestion of going all ‘national’ wouldn’t change that. Everyone grew up somewhere. Everyone rooted for somebody when they were eight. Everyone is more beholden to one aspect of the game over another. It’s just a trophy.

          • 26

            You’re right, JDV- it’s just a trophy. And hundreds of thousands of dollars of bonuses and contract leverage and fodder for Hall of Fame voters. And we’re all just cells and we’ll all be buried in the ground someday.

            There’s no reason to take these awards too seriously, but I bet the players and their agents do and fans probably care a little too much, and it seems like MLB owes the players and the fans some level of integrity in handing out these awards. Transparency is a nice gesture. But it doesn’t make the process perfect.

          • 27
            JDV says:

            I anticipated a response regarding ‘future stakes’, but that is more of an indictment of those agents, GMs, and arbitrators who ‘weigh’ the trophy, than of unavoidably subjective voters.

  9. 14
    Hartvig says:

    Rookie of the Year is a little bit like the Heisman Trophy in that over time I think that there’s maybe been a subtile but very winding shift towards what the voters are looking for. With Harper’s selection I think it shows a current trend towards a) likely prospects for the future and b) advanced metrics verses traditional although in his case the advanced publicity may have factored into the first consideration as much as his historic performance at his age did.

    While it’s hard for me to fathom how Tony Conigliaro is not one of Harper’s 10 closest comps as a 19 year old in B-R (I mean- Paul Hines? Really?} he’s the second player that I can remember sports writers mentioning his relative youth frequently when talking about him (good old Steady Eddie Kranepool was the first) yet in his first season he didn’t garner a single ROY vote. Although to be fair it was all or nothing voting back in those days and he was up against a MONSTER season by Tony Oliva (even if he was 6 years older) and one voter did vote for a 19 year old rookie even if it was the wrong one (Wally Bunker)

  10. 15
    Brent says:

    The most amazing thing I see on the list is that the 2nd St. Louis writer is from the Belleveille News Democrat.

    Belleville, IL has a population of just short of 45,000 people, according to the 2010 census. It’s daily circulation is just north of 53,000 papers.

  11. 24
    kds says:

    One thing that interests me is that all of the most prestigious national papers are absent. No NY Times, no Washington Post, no LA Times, no Chicago Tribune, no WSJ. I think most or all of these are due to policies by the papers that their writers may not vote, to avoid conflict of interest issues.

    I think this transparency will be more important for HoF voting, where there will be less pressure to vote for the local guy. I think you could make a strong case that this years ballot will have more than 10 well qualified candidates, (not including Morris or Lee Smith), and that it would be appropriate to criticize those who only vote for a few.

    • 29
      mosc says:

      You better believe I’d throw Bernie Williams or Don Mattingly at the bottom of my HOF ballot as a NYY fan for their first year. It would be unforgivable to me that those guys get zero votes. Do I think they’ll get in? No, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t represent them. If 75% of the people feel the same way than I have no problem with them getting in either. Would I write them in during subsequent years? No.

  12. 25
    Josh says:

    Easy solution. With this new transparency, the BBWAA has a responsibility to remove certain writers who blatantly show bias from future voting. In the future, I would also suggest that each voter pick two players who get honorable mention, but not points towards the award. So, for example, if no other voters had Jordan Pacheco in their 5 names, except for the two Colorado based voters, to me that would be proof of bias/not taking the voting seriously/etc.

  13. 28
    mosc says:

    They aught to add some fan voting to remove one writer every year. Bill Center, you showed poor objectivity and a hometown bias. You ARE the weakest link, goodbye!

    • 30

      I like it. MLB identifies five candidates like the final man voting for the All-Star Game. Each of the five gets 250 words to justify his ballot, open to the public. Based on the ballots and the narratives, fans vote online to permanently strip the worst one of his/her voting rights.

    • 31
      mosc says:

      It may sound crazy but it’s perfectly reasonable. Turnover on these things is small anyway and the award is supposed to be about who is getting it not who is giving it. It would also be a good bit of fun.

  14. 33
    bells says:

    I don’t really see it as much of an issue. Yes, there is certainly a hint of bias here and there, but really, even if the voter is ‘objective’, there is a huge amount of possibility for bias. One of the reasons baseball depends on stats so much to make arguments is because they just play so many games, it’s impossible to see day in, day out what all the players do on all the teams. I think that if you cover a team, there’s a natural context that gets put in place around the players you cover, that you’re more nitpicky about them. While that can go either way (ie. you could be harder on a player because you’ve seen what they do poorly or more likely to forgive their shortcomings because you’ve seen what they do well), presumably with good players you’re likely to be biased into thinking they’re better (because they do more good things than bad). And if you’re voting for an award, you’re voting for a good player. So it’s easy to see how ‘hometown bias’ can happen even if a writer isn’t aware of it.

    The two solutions to this, if it is indeed a problem, would be to a) make the vote stats-based and b) not allow writers of one region to vote for players on a team within that region. The first will never happen (that’s why we have sites like this), the second might be problematic in that there might be more teams in a certain district, giving things their own bias. But it seems like an alright solution.

    Just wait for the HoF vote if you want to be angry; if they publish the votes for that, I don’t even want to look at it.

  15. 34
    bells says:

    I should say ‘two possible solutions’ rather than ‘the two solutions’; I’m just hypothesizing, I’m not actually sure I know what I’m talking about.

  16. 36
    Ed says:

    Looking over the NL Cy Young award votes, it’s interesting to see that the “contrarian voters” (i.e., those that did not have Dickey first) tended to come from online sources. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN had Kershaw first; and Tim Kurkjian of ESPN had Kimbrel first.

    Meanwhile, Cueto, who finished fourth overall picked up his lone first place vote via one of the Cincinnati voters…


    • 37
      bstar says:

      Glad you broached the subject, Ed. Cueto would’ve gotten my vote, too. I have a long explanation as to why, but I’m not sure it’d be fair to hijack Bryan’s thread right now.

      I thought Dickey would win, but not by this much.

      • 48

        Hijack away, bstar. I don’t expect a post here on every award vote, so I’m happy to provide the forum for all HHS award voting discourse.

        And I agree with every word of your last sentence.

      • 53
        mosc says:

        I think Dickey was a good choice. I value total innings more highly than most folks I guess. I want to nominate Bill Center, AGAIN, as the worst ballot. He voted for Chapman but not Kershaw. 2 guys left off Kershaw, Bill was the one that put an overhyped closer ahead of an absolute stud front line pitcher. No homer SD pick like he did in the ROY voting, but equally damning leaving Kershaw completely off.

        • 59

          Totally agree that Bill Center’s ballot was the worst again. He’s the guy who comes out looking the worst in this new transparent world. But a lot of people who had never heard of him on Monday know of him now.

    • 50
      Brent says:

      I think the AL vote is a much more interesting topic. Verlander would have tied Price had the two LA writers not placed Weaver 2nd instead of Verlander (they were the only two writers who thought Weaver should be in front of Verlander). The outlier vote for Rodney 1st (from the Texas writer??) really had no effect because if you move both Verlander and Price up one spot (they were 2nd and 3rd on that writer’s ballot), they each get two more points so it is a wash.

      • 51
        Brent says:

        Sorry, I mispoke because I misread the current scoring system. If the two 3rd place votes by the Angel writers were 2nd place votes, it would only be 2 more points for Verlander, so it would not have been a tie. Therefore, the outlier vote for Rodney is also important.

        • 61
          mosc says:

          Right, if you swap verlander and rodney on that guy’s ballot (1 verlander 2 rodney 3 price), it’s 3 points for verlander. Move them both up and it still gains verlander 2.

  17. 38
    John Autin says:

    Since the transparency we’re talking about is fairly new, I’d like to wait and see how the voters themselves are affected by it. Sunshine=disinfectant, that sort of thing.

  18. 40
    Josh says:

    JT…so, let’s say if Hamilton had been healthy, played in 10 more games (for a total of 158), and hit two more home runs…you would vote for Trout because Cabrera no longer led the league in home runs? Or in other words, Hamilton’s injury cost Trout your MVP vote?

    • 41
      JT says:

      That is correct. Of course, there’s no telling if Hamilton had remained healthy that he definitely would have hit those two home runs. In 1954, Ted Kluszewski hit only 1 home run in his last 10 games. Who’s to say Hamilton wouldn’t have gone in a similar power slump?

      • 42
        Josh says:

        Okay, just as long as we are clear that because Cabrera happened to lead in three arbitrary categories, including one which is heavily dependent on another, he was in your mind more valuable than if he had the same numbers and didn’t lead one.

        • 43
          JT says:

          Arbitrary or not, they have been traditionally seen by fan and writer alike as important and exciting. I’ve already stated that I like tradition.

          • 44
            Josh says:

            I believe in tradition too. I hate the DH, interleague play, and the fact that Milwaukee switched leagues in the 90s and Houston is switching now. At the same time, I have accepted the inevitability of changes. The DH isn’t going away, so I would rather see it in both leagues rather than in one.

            By the way, traditionally, the Triple Crown has not guaranteed the MVP. Since 1931 (the first year of the BBWAA award), only 5 of the 9 TC winners prior to Cabrera actually won the MVP.

      • 63
        mosc says:

        Triple crowns should mean less than the playoff push. Cabrera meant the most on a team that needed it to go from out to in. Trout fell off when his team needed it most and was unable to get the job done team wise.

        Better player? Trout. MVP? Cabrera.

        • 67

          Let’s make two piles of cash. On the bottom of pile A, put a $50 bill. On the bottom of pile B, but a $100 bill. Then stack a bunch of $1s on pile A until it totals $124 and stack a bunch of $1s on pile B until it totals $125. Now tell someone they have two seconds to pick a pile and it’s theirs. They’ll probably pick the taller stack. The $50 was the most valuable bill in the pile that satisfied some random criteria. Does that make the $50 bill more valuable than the $100 bill?

        • 70

          Trout fell off to a .900 OPS in September/October. That’s pretty bad.


          • 77
            mosc says:

            and Cabrera had a 1.071 in a bigger ballpark. That makes up for a whole lot of “defense”. Outfielders have over-hyped defensive contributions. If trout had a glove, you wouldn’t put him in center and you know it. Not that 3B is the most challenging position either, I just think DWAR is overly kind to Trout compared to more fairly applied to Cabrera.

            Overall season was close, but Trout was better. Last month of the season (Cabrera’s tear started much earlier in fact), was not as close. Cabrera.

  19. 47

    This is juat another reason why the Hall of Stats will never consider the awards that a player won during his career. They are as flawed as the run batted in.

    • 64
      mosc says:

      You’ll also ignore post season accomplishments too, which is silly. You should compute some kind of WSWPA or somesuch and use that to leverage post season performances. Game 7 of the world series up by 1 in the 9th? The closer’s got a season worth of leverage on him.

      • 80
        bstar says:

        To be fair to Adam, his earlier versions of wWAR DID have some sort of postseason WPA metric for every player. Adam didn’t like its implementation and chose to leave it out for this version.

        • 84
          mosc says:

          Certainly didn’t mean to be an Adam specific comment. Stat guys are terrible about including post season data, mostly because of format complexities it poses. Even fewer take into account any kind of increased importance compared to the regular season that snapshot represents. Post season play is also an opportunity for the lucky few which gives added opportunities disproportionate to the far more player balanced regular season.

          Still, addressing variable time windows of a player’s season would have other side benefits. We’d be able to better analyze the cost/benefit of players who miss games regularly, better factor in war service and strike shortened seasons, etc.

          • 85
            Ed says:

            Personally I disagree with including postseason for two reasons:

            1) When discussed in reference to a player’s HOF candidacy, only positive performance ever seems to be discussed. Take, for example, Tony Perez. Perez was a borderline HOF candidate who has poor postseason numbers. And yet I never once heard someone mention Perez’s postseason numbers in the context of his candidacy. Yet, had the opposite been true, if Perez had positive postseason numbers, I’m sure they would have been used as evidence to boost his candidacy. I find the lack of consistency troubling.

            2) If two players have the exact same regular season stats but Player A never played in the postseason and Player B got to play multiple times, how do we factor that in? Player B gets to go into the HOF because he played well in the postseason but Player A is on the outside looking in because he never got to play in the postseason? I don’t buy that.

          • 87
            bstar says:

            Fair points, Ed. I actually DO like the “talk about the postseason only if the player performed well” rhetoric. It may not be totally fair or consistent, but if there’s one thing that induces the gag reflex in me it’s someone taking a small sample size of postseason ABs and forming a negative argument about that player (such and such is 1 for 14 in the series, he really needs to get it going, blah blah blah). I just can’t stomach that stuff. If we don’t even look at BA until maybe the first of June until it semi-stabilizes, why would anyone look at 15-20 postseason AB and form an argument around that ridiculously small of a sample size?

    • 66
      Luis Gomez says:

      What is wrong with the Run Batted In?

      Sincerelly, Joe Carter.

  20. 55

    Let’s eliminate the egg-salad-sandwich-eating word grinders from the equation.
    No more reporters.
    The reporters can report on what happened.
    They should never be the story itself.

    First thing:
    Bring the Henry Aaron award up into equality with the Cy Young.
    This allows for the built-in subjectivity of the MVP to exist without argument.

    The Hank and Cy awards will be determined by the top 50 Sabermetricians in the country (the voting for who those 50 should be delightfully complicated).

    Each of those 50 will not only be transparent, they will be required to publish a lengthy analysis of how they came to their decisions.

    These 200 articles will all be published on one website, which will give the nation a proper outlet to discuss baseball to death for the 135 days until opening day.

    As for the Most Valuable Player…
    This has to be in-house.
    I suggest 60 votes.
    The Manager
    Bench Coach
    Hitting Coach
    Pitching Coach and
    Top Utility Player
    from each team gets the vote.

    They’ve all got the best seat in the house, for every single game.
    And by definition of their roles, they supposedly know what they are looking at.

    • 56
    • 62

      So the sabermetricians, much of whose work is devoted to comparing players’ value, get to vote on the Hank Aaron Award, but not the MVP? I’d be more inclined to reverse those two, with those inside the game better suited to argue about talent (assuming that’s what the Hank Aaron rewards) and those analyzing it better suited to argue about value.

    • 68

      Here’s how the Hank Aaron award is determined:

      This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the American League and National League. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

      Unlike the MVP or other awards, the Hank Aaron Award is given by Major League Baseball, while the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year are awarded by the BBWAA and the Gold Gloves are given out by Rawlings.

      The Hank Aaron Award’s selection process has changed over time. The first season, 1999, it was based on a points system, using hits, home runs and RBI. The next season, voting was introduced. Currently, fan voting counts equal to a five-man panel that consisted of Aaron himself, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount. That group chose from one candidate from each team and then chose a winner for each league.

      • 71

        Miguel Cabrera won the Hank Aaron Award this year, and he’s going to win the MVP. Even if it was somehow decided that the Hank Aaron Award become a more prestigious award, my guess is he would still win both. I get your point VZ, but when one of the awards is most outstanding offensive player and the other is most valuable player, it doesn’t change much because all those guys voting for Cabrera for MVP certainly aren’t factoring in defense.

    • 83
      bstar says:

      Actually, Voomo, the players have been really bad (just as bad as the fans) at picking All-Stars and the managers haven’t been noticeably better either at picking the reserves. I wouldn’t trust any major award to them. They’re far too busy watching their own team. And they only play two-thirds of the league 6 times a year.

  21. 65
    Jim Bouldin says:

    “..references as many third-party transactions with Satan as Fox’s World Series contract and the liner notes to a Robert Johnson collection combined.”

    I think it’s pretty well known that a lot of those guys listen to Stairway to Heaven backwards on a regular basis.

  22. 72
    Jim Bouldin says:

    This is fairly off topic I suppose, but I just thought I’d note that if you hold a calendar at the right angle, it’s not really all that far from November to April.

  23. 76

    Some of you guys are able to go to baseball reference and see how many players had certain minimum number stats.
    I was wondering how many players had the stats that Cabrera had this year;
    So with at least a minimum of 109 runs, 205 hits, 40 doubles, 44 homeruns, 139 rbi, .330 BA, .606 Slugging, 165 OPS+ 375 total bases, 139 Runs Created, 84 XBH’s, 57 adjusted batting runs, 5.6 adjusted batting wins, 6.0 Situ. Wins Added (WPA/LI).
    How many times have these numbers been duplicated by a player in a season?
    Curious how many of those times it happened before and after the alleged era with the steroids/peds. Thanks in advance if this can be done.

    • 78
      mosc says:

      You’re asking for the 7 degrees of separation between a player and some historic baseball legend. If you can’t find one, you’re not looking hard enough. You can just adjust a cutoff here or there until you group Cabrera in as elite company as you like. The better stat task would be to link him to the other triple crown winners without using hr/rbi/ba based on single season performances with as few extra other players as possible.


    • 82
      Richard Chester says:

      In answer to your question I have found that only Lou Gehrig (1927 and 1934) has matched or beaten all of those stats. There is no data available for Gehrig on WPA/LI.

    • 88
      bstar says:

      Cabrera was actually better in 2011. He posted higher BA, OBP, OPS, OPS+, 2B, runs scored, batting runs, WAR, fewer strikeouts and more walks.

    • 94
      Doug says:


      Moving the thresholds down slightly to rounder numbers, these are the players with seasons of 200 hits, 40 doubles, 40 HR, 100 Runs, 125 RBI, .325 BA, .600 SLG, 150 OPS+, 125 RC. Gives a bit more context to Cabrera’s season. (This is an amended post as I botched the original list. The new list below is significantly more exclusive. Thanks to Richard Chester for alerting me to my error.)

      Player ▴ HR H RBI OPS+ RC BA Year Age Tm R 2B 3B BB SO OBP SLG OPS Pos
      Albert Belle 49 200 152 172 158 .328 1998 31 CHW 113 48 2 81 84 .399 .655 1.055 *7/D
      Babe Ruth 59 204 171 238 229 .378 1921 26 NYY 177 44 16 145 81 .512 .846 1.359 *78/13
      Babe Ruth 41 205 131 239 209 .393 1923 28 NYY 151 45 13 170 93 .545 .764 1.309 97/83
      Chuck Klein 40 250 170 159 193 .386 1930 25 PHI 158 59 8 54 50 .436 .687 1.123 *9
      Chuck Klein 43 219 145 153 165 .356 1929 24 PHI 126 45 6 54 61 .407 .657 1.065 *98
      Hank Greenberg 40 200 183 172 172 .337 1937 26 DET 137 49 14 102 101 .436 .668 1.105 *3
      Larry Walker 49 208 130 178 187 .366 1997 30 COL 143 46 4 78 90 .452 .720 1.172 *9/38D
      Lou Gehrig 49 210 165 206 189 .363 1934 31 NYY 128 40 6 109 31 .465 .706 1.172 *3/6
      Lou Gehrig 41 220 174 203 192 .379 1930 27 NYY 143 42 17 101 63 .473 .721 1.194 *3/7
      Lou Gehrig 47 218 175 220 208 .373 1927 24 NYY 149 52 18 109 84 .474 .765 1.240 *3
      Miguel Cabrera 44 205 139 165 139 .330 2012 29 DET 109 40 0 66 98 .393 .606 .999 *5/D3
      Rogers Hornsby 42 250 152 207 202 .401 1922 26 STL 141 46 14 65 50 .459 .722 1.181 *4
      Todd Helton 42 216 147 163 192 .372 2000 26 COL 138 59 2 103 61 .463 .698 1.162 *3
      Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
      Generated 11/15/2012.
      • 95
        bstar says:

        In other words, Cabrera’s season has been matched by others, though not many times. I don’t think that’s a big surprise.

        All you need is three metrics to have Mike Trout stand alone.

        -only player ever with 30+ HR, 45+ SB, and 125+ runs scored.

        -only player ever with 30+ HR, 45+ SB, and OPS+ over 170.

        And we haven’t even talked about defense yet.

      • 96

        Richard Chester, BStar, and Doug, Thankyou for the informative posts. That is pretty elite company that Miguel is with.

        With my SN you should know how much I appreciate an all-around player like Mike Trout, and his great 5 tool season, but my lifelong allegiance to the Tigers, a hitter with Power and Average like Cabrera, is a thrill that hasn’t happened often in Tigers history.

        • 97
          bstar says:

          Kaline, I was surprised to hear it’s the first MVP for a Tiger position player since 1940. I’d have sworn that Cecil Fielder won one when he led the league in RBI three straight years, but nope. He finished second twice.

          • 98
            Doug says:

            On the other hand, of the 14 times an AL pitcher has won the MVP, it’s been a Tiger 5 times (Verlander, Hernandez, McLain, Newhouser twice). The two by Newhouser were back-to-back and followed Spud Chandler, for three pitchers in a row.

            Four others (Grove, Shantz, Blue, Eckersley) have been Athletics (as was Fingers for the most famous part of his career, but not his MVP season).

            Nine pitchers have won ten NL MVPs, including 3 Dodgers (Vance, Newcombe, Koufax) and 3 Cardinals (Dean, Cooper, Gibson).

            Pitchers were MVPs in both leagues in 1924 and 1968.

          • 99

            Greenberg won in 1940 as a Leftfielder. Previously won the MVP at First base iirc 1935. Kaline finished 2nd twice, in 1955 to Yogi, and 1963 to Elston Howard. Trammell, as Tigers fans still say, got screwed in 1987, and Fielder did finish second twice as well.

  24. 89
    bstar says:


  25. 92
    Chad says:

    I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – I am a Tiger fan, and think Cabrera deserved to win. That being said, it is undeniable that Trout had a fantastic season, and was also deserving, and I would not have been outraged had he won the award.

    If you feel Trout had a better season and should have won, fine; I would hope you could also agree that at least it went to someone deserving. I doubt we will be talking 20 or 30 years from now about what a travesty the vote was, and how the award went to some clod. There are definitely far worse award votes than the 2012 AL MVP award.

    • 93
      RichW says:

      That specific comment I agree with. Trout however was the MVP by quite a bit IMO.

    • 102
      Jim Bouldin says:

      Personally, I cannot remember any year in which two such phenomenal (and difficult-to-compare) seasons were compiled in the same league.

      I do think consideration must be given to how much of the season one plays, and this factor tips the balance in favor of Cabrera IMO. It’s no fault of Trout’s that he missed a month of course, but if you’re not playing, for whatever reason, you’re not contributing value.

      If Trout stays healthy and the Angels stay good, he’s going to win the award, likely multiple times. Cabrera is now at his peak most likely, so the future trajectory is likely downward for him, and he’s put up excellent numbers for several years now without winning it.

      So, all things considered, I see no real travesty in this vote at all, nor do I think it’s some kind of statement regarding the influence of sabermetric thinking.

      • 103
        Richard Chester says:

        Ruth and Gehrig were mighty close in 1927. The rule at the time was that a player could win the MVP only once so that eliminated Ruth due his MVP award in 1923.

      • 105
        brp says:

        I have always *hated* the “well, he’s young so he’ll win the award later” type of argument. It’s completely irrelevant to what happened on the field and there’s no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow. Trout could rip up his knee or get hit by a pitch or a thousand other things and never be the same player again.

  26. 100
    Timmy Pea says:

    Speaking of baseball writers, when is the Hall of Fame going to get rid of any reference to Bill Conlin. You can go to their web site right now and see a picture of him and read fawning words written about him. What Bill Conlin has done is on par with Sandusky. Joe Paterno had a statue removed for looking the other way. I guess we live in a society now where things like the statute of limitations means more than the truth.

    • 101
      no statistician but says:

      Good point. I’d guess it is because no one pays any attention to the non-player and non-manager HOF members after they get in. Gee, let’s go to Cooperstown and look at Jack Brickhouse’s likeness and record as an announcer? Listen to a record of him plugging Meister Brau, the custom brew?

      • 106
        Timmy Pea says:

        Tennis HoF suspends Bob Hewitt for messing with little girls. The baseball HoF should scrub Conlin as well. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/tennis/news/20121116/hall-of-fame-suspends-bob-hewitt.ap/?sct=obnetwork

        • 110
          John Autin says:

          I can’t decide which is worse — ignoring the wrongdoing, or going so far as to expunge all mention of the individual, as described in the SI link. As far as the Tennis Hall of Fame is concerned, B– H—– is now an unperson.

          I think our Halls of Fame should simply add a “Disgraced” wing.

        • 112
          bstar says:

          Timmy, thanks for jogging my memory on the Bill Conlin thing. I spent a few hours reading everything I could about the situation the other day. It’s eerie how similar it is to the Sandusky scandal in that so many people knew about it but swept it under the rug. Of course, times were different then. Sad stuff.

          • 114
            Timmy Pea says:

            I think it’s easier to scrub a non-player type. It’s hard to ignore the great feats of O. J. Simpson or Pete Rose, or just to pretend they never happened. College sports does that a lot by retroactively forfeiting games and such and for the most part I don’t like it. This Conlin stuff is terrible. If OJ would have copped a plea and spent 20-25 years in jail he would get much more sympathy than Conlin or Sandusky.

  27. 107
    RJ says:

    So I go on holiday for a week and in the meantime somebody gives Hunter Pence an MVP vote. What.

    • 108
      Timmy Pea says:

      Are you from England RJ?

      • 109
        RJ says:

        What gave it away Timmy?

        • 111
          Timmy Pea says:

          Regular Americans go on vacation. I was under the impression that baseball was not very popular in England. The more popular soccer is, baseball suffers. For example take the Caribbean vs. South America, or the far east vs. the middle east.

          • 113
            RJ says:

            Hah, after scanning that sentence I would never have guessed it was “holiday” that gave it away. It’s usually the use of an extraneous “u” that reveals my true colours.

            Baseball is not popular in the UK, although the websites of some mainstream newspapers are starting to pay it some attention during the playoffs at least, though I suspect this is more to do with international readerships than anything. Personally speaking, I have some family in the US, and caught the bug after watching games out there, despite the inauspicious start of having a late 90’s Royals-Tigers matchup as my first game.

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