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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Posnanski: Alex Gordon and the M-V-P chants

We do need a modern Foster Brooks.

Every time Alex Gordon steps to the plate at Kauffman Stadium these days, fans chant, “M-V-P, M-V-P”... At the moment, Alex Gordon is hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nothing at all about that looks MVPish… [but] Look around baseball these days… There’s a chance this will be the first full season in baseball history without either a 40-home run hitter or a 20-game winner… There are players – [Jose] Abreu, [Mike] Trout, [Giancarlo] Stanton and Victor Martinez – who are putting up what you would call traditional MVP type numbers. They’re all hitting in the general range of .300, are on pace for 30-plus homers and 100 plus RBIs. But those are the only four, as of right now, who are good bets to get there, which is crazy…

[Gordon] plays spectacular defense in left field (and it really is special defense). He’s also an excellent base runner. We’ve already pointed out that his offensive numbers, in context, are better than they look. When you add it all up WAR style – you get a legitimate MVP candidate.

Or do you? This, to me, becomes a more and more interesting question. I’m working on a piece now about the statistical revolution in baseball, and among the statistical people I’m speaking with there seems to be a growing concern that we as a so called “advanced-statistics community” are beginning to make many of the same leaps of faith and broad generalizations that doomed the old statistics. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it’s fair to say there’s a growing sense among some that WAR is becoming the advanced version of RBIs or batting average or pitcher wins – that is to say that people, to quote Vin Scully, are using WAR the way a drunk using a lamppost, for support and not illumination. Heck, I might be the Foster Brooks of WAR.

So, I’m not sure of the answer on that one. I’m a huge Alex Gordon fan and have been for some time. I really do believe he has been one of the most underrated players in baseball because he does a lot of things well. I think he SHOULD be an MVP candidate. That said, is his defense in left field SO GOOD that it makes up for the 25 or so more runs that Jose Abreu and Victor Martinez are creating offensively? Can you even BE that good in left field to make up such a gap?

WAR says yes. I want to believe it’s true. So I believe WAR.

That’s definitely support and not illumination.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 06:14 PM | 64 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: alex gordon, joe posnanski, royals, sabermetrics

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   1. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 28, 2014 at 07:56 PM (#4781216)
I think we all know who is going to win the MVP....

Derek Jeter
   2. Davo Dozier Posted: August 28, 2014 at 07:56 PM (#4781217)
There’s a chance this will be the first full season in baseball history without either a 40-home run hitter or a 20-game winner…
Well that is surprising. I guess it shouldn't be, but it is.
   3. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: August 28, 2014 at 07:58 PM (#4781221)
Yeah, more proof that baseball is dying.
   4. Moeball Posted: August 28, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4781236)
Actually, the really weird thing to me is this - if Mike Trout picks it up again and has a good September - with the Angels headed for postseason play unlike the last couple of years - he could end up winning his first MVP award in what would be his poorest of the last 3 seasons!
   5. McCoy Posted: August 28, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4781244)
I had no idea that nobody was really close to 40 home runs and that we might very well get a season with no 40 home runs or better hitter. The last time that happened was in 1982 and what a godawful year that was. I'm guessing someone is bound to get hot and hit 10 or more homers through the end of the season to get over the hump.
   6. God Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:03 PM (#4781246)
Can Kershaw win four out of his last five starts to reach 20 wins?
   7. Danny Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:05 PM (#4781248)
I mentioned one other player who could (and I suspect will) get some MVP consideration — that’s reliever Wade Davis. There’s precedents for relievers having absurd statistical seasons getting a lot of MVP love (and, in the case of Jim Konstanty, Willie Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley, actually getting the away). Davis is having an absurd statistical season. He went 38 straight appearances without giving up an extra base-hit, which is truly absurd. He has not given up a run since June. The trouble with Davis is that he will probably throw just 70 innings this year, which just isn’t much and (I suspect) willl prevent people from giving him the award. That said, I’m wagering he gets some real MVP consideration, especially if he keeps pitching like this through September. On the sabermetric side, he does lead all relievers in baseball with 3.2 WAR.

Pos seems to ignore the fact that Davis is a middle reliever rather than a closer. Is there any precedent for a middle reliever getting MVP votes?
   8. McCoy Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:19 PM (#4781258)
Arthur Rhodes got a vote. So did Dave Robertson, Jesse Orosco, and Carlos Marmol.
   9. The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:22 PM (#4781259)
Is there any precedent for a middle reliever getting MVP votes?
Mariano finished 12th as a setup man in 1996. But Mariano both got a lot more publicity than Davis, and, by virtue of pitching 107.7 IP, really was more valuable.

There is a weird thing where generic closers are more likely to show up on the bottom of MVP ballots than Cy ballots. Apparently, some voters think closers are "more like everyday players", and/or are more "valuable" than they are "the best pitchers." I suppose it makes sense once you accept certain axioms that don't make sense. But anyway, that's closers. I'd be surprised if Wade Davis appeared on a single ballot. That was a strange point.
   10. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:30 PM (#4781261)
Wait, I'm confused. Are we accepting single season defensive metrics as gospel now because they are part of WAR or we still looking for a 3 year thing to get a better understanding?
Is Gordon really that much better in LF then Trout in CF(too lazy to look up basic, indy defensive stats for both).
Barring the same offensive output, my questions are these...
Would you rather have Trout in CF or Gordon in LF?
Can Gordon play CF as well as Trout?
Can Trout play LF as well as Gordon?

Not trying to be snarky. Most regulars here know I'm pretty much the least sabermetricky person here...
   11. Davo Dozier Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:31 PM (#4781262)
Arthur Rhodes got a vote. So did Dave Robertson, Jesse Orosco, and Carlos Marmol.
Jeremy Affeldt, too.
   12. Davo Dozier Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:40 PM (#4781267)
I'd say Mike Trout has about a 98% chance of winning the MVP, since I can only come up with two scenarios in which he won't:

1) The Angels miss the playoffs;

2) Jose Abreu wins the triple crown. (He's 5th in batting average at the moment, but just 18 points behind Altuve...but Abreu is trending way up! He's hitting .346 since returning from injury on June 2nd.)
   13. Ziggy Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:03 PM (#4781276)
Single season defensive statistics don't have much predictive value, that's why we use three seasons worth. But the balls that he caught this year are still the balls that he caught this year, even if he's not likely to catch them again next year.

As for Trout: yes, he's probably got it. But he's really been scuffling in the second half, and Abreu has turned into a cross between a beast and a monster. If Trout continues to slip he might end up giving it away, even though the White Sox aren't any good.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4781281)
He caught them but because of the issues of defensive metrics we don't really know if that means he's +18 runs or +12 or -1. There is just a lot going on and it isn't always so easy to figure it all out.
   15. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:18 PM (#4781284)
Assorted thoughts:

1. Among Royals, I am fairly certain that Salvador Perez will do better in the MVP voting than Wade Davis. He was touted as an "MVP candidate" early in the season (at least by the Tigers' announcers), he got off to a hot start, he started the All-Star Game, and he'll probably win another Gold Glove. He hasn't hit at all in the second half, but sometimes people don't notice that. His overall (raw) offensive numbers, for a catcher in 2014, are still OK. He's 3rd among AL catchers in HR, 2nd in runs, and 1st in the oh-so-important RBI category. (Noted, however, that by most standards, Yan Gomes -- who no one is talking about -- has been more valuable than Perez.)

2. Tim Wallach finished 4th in the NL MVP voting in 1987, and he pitched exclusively in the 8th inning. ;-)

3. I know I'm not alone here, but it's very hard for me to believe that anyone can provide as much defensive value from LF as WAR says Alex Gordon does.

4. What happened to Jose Abreu? Home runs were flying off his bat all year, and now he's only got 33? I agree that he's a dark-horse MVP candidate if he gets close to a Triple Crown. (Though he probably has to win the Triple Crown to have any real chance at the MVP.)
   16. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:28 PM (#4781290)
The current WAR leaders at ESPN.com (I believe that's bWAR) are Josh Donaldson (.253/.343/.460, 25 HR, 87 RBI, 80 R) and Jason Heyward (.269/.350/.391, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 67 R). Donaldson is having a good offensive season, but not what you would normally expect from an MVP. Heyward's offensive numbers are as blah as it gets (but not bad). Alex Gordon, of course, is also high on the WAR board, as is Juan Lagares.

Is it possible that the defensive WAR formulas need to be re-calibrated to today's offensive environment? These numbers/rankings just don't seem sensible to me. They seem to be massively overvaluing outfield defense.
   17. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4781292)
Abreu has turned into a cross between a beast and a monster. If Trout continues to slip he might end up giving it away, even though the White Sox aren't any good.


I feel like the question I'm about to ask has come up within the last few years, but has any team as bad as the White Sox ever had both the MVP and Cy Young winner (Sale) - and, of course, if Abreu wins the MVP, he's also winning Rookie of the Year (which he'll do anyway)? I don't actually expect either Abreu or Sale to win but they lead in HR/RBI and ERA right now.
   18. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:51 PM (#4781325)
I feel like the question I'm about to ask has come up within the last few years, but has any team as bad as the White Sox ever had both the MVP and Cy Young winner (Sale) - and, of course, if Abreu wins the MVP, he's also winning Rookie of the Year (which he'll do anyway)? I don't actually expect either Abreu or Sale to win but they lead in HR/RBI and ERA right now.

As awesome as he is, I don't think Sale has any chance of winning the Cy Young simply because he missed so many starts. He's 6-7 GS and 30-50 IP behind his competition and I don't think he can make up for that.

The 2012 Mets were pretty bad (74-88, 24 GB) but they had a Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey) and a 6th place MVP finisher (David Wright) who could have easily finished 2nd or 3rd if his team was better.
   19. Loren F. Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:52 PM (#4781326)
I think the time Sale lost to injury this year will keep him from winning the Cy, unless he is incredible in September while King Felix fades. Felix is ahead in the still-important category of Pitcher Wins (13 vs 10), and is way ahead in IP and Ks, while he's a close second in ERA. Plus, Felix is part of the "OMG Seattle is good again!" narrative that incredibly got Jack Z. an extension.
   20. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:01 AM (#4781331)
Your 2014 AL MVP just homered to tie the Angels 3-3 in the 6th.
Josh Donaldson is hitting better than Gordon, and is darn good defensively too.
   21. DKDC Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:46 AM (#4781348)
WAR is a great concept that risks becoming more of a laughingstock because the defensive metrics are so erratic.

Here's a simple test - if you ignore the defensive metric completely, and you don't get a list that is clearly worse, then maybe the defenstive metric is not worth much for determining MVP.

AL bWAR Leaders
Donaldson
Trout
Beltre
Gordon
Cano
Seager
Pedroia
Pearce (yes, Steve Pearce)
Brantley
Abreu

AL oWAR Leaders
Trout
Cano
Abreu
Brantley
Altuve
Bautista
Beltre
Donaldson
Seager
Reyes
   22. PreservedFish Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4781353)
The Dodgers had the best pitcher and hitter in the league a few years ago, Kershaw and Kemp. I forget where they actually finished in the voting. IIRC Kemp was the subject of several of those "I cannot vote for a loser for MVP ... therefore Kemp is #2 on my ballot" articles.
   23. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:00 AM (#4781356)

Your 2014 AL MVP just homered to tie the Angels 3-3 in the 6th.
Josh Donaldson is hitting better than Gordon, and is darn good defensively too.


Gordon homered to tie it in the 8th (they lost, but its not his fault Bruce Chen sucks). Alex has a better OPS and wOBA than Donaldson FWIW.
   24. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:08 AM (#4781360)
The Dodgers had the best pitcher and hitter in the league a few years ago, Kershaw and Kemp. I forget where they actually finished in the voting. IIRC Kemp was the subject of several of those "I cannot vote for a loser for MVP ... therefore Kemp is #2 on my ballot" articles.


1 and 2. Kemp lost to Braun. The Dodgers spent most of the season under .500, but rallied to finish 82-79.
   25. DKDC Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:10 AM (#4781361)
Steve Pearce also homered today.

If you pro-rate Pearce's bWAR for the time he missed while sitting on the bench and the period of time when he wasn't on a major league roster because he was DFA'ed and released, then he's clearly the bWAR AL MVP.
   26. Baldrick Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:29 AM (#4781428)
At the moment, Alex Gordon is hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nothing at all about that looks MVPish. He is not in the American League Top 10 in any offensive category, save hit by pitch. On this Royals team he does not lead the team in batting average, he’s tied with Omar Infante (yeah, Omar Infante) in RBIs, and he has just one more home run than Mike Moustakas, who spent time in the minor leagues this year.

Still, people chant “M-V-P.” And they SHOULD chant M-V-P. Why? Well, I think it really comes down to three reasons:

Poz is being inconsistent. As per his last column, the only answer to the question "should they chant MVP" is "they did do it; so there."
   27. BDC Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4781498)
I always say that the advanced defensive metrics are compiled by people who pay more attention than I do, so I should trust them till proven otherwise.

That said, they surely can get weird. The past couple of years, it seems to me that Adrian Beltre has lost a step at third base, and that's reflected in the metrics. (He's +8 at third base in RField, but that's not great for him.)

It doesn't seem to me that Elvis Andrus at SS has lost anything. Yet RField says that he's completely collapsed this year, is really dismal. His oWAR is about where it was last year, but he's lost three wins on defense. I can't see it. It may well be true, but I watch the Rangers a lot, and it's utterly invisible to me. In fact, I was assuming, since his offense is pretty stable, that he was still the same highly useful 3-4 WAR player as ever, but now he's well below average. I don't know whether to be grateful to the metrics for their insight or assume they're a hallucination.
   28. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:32 AM (#4781508)

It doesn't seem to me that Elvis Andrus at SS has lost anything. Yet RField says that he's completely collapsed this year, is really dismal. His oWAR is about where it was last year, but he's lost three wins on defense. I can't see it. It may well be true, but I watch the Rangers a lot, and it's utterly invisible to me. In fact, I was assuming, since his offense is pretty stable, that he was still the same highly useful 3-4 WAR player as ever, but now he's well below average. I don't know whether to be grateful to the metrics for their insight or assume they're a hallucination.


I have always wondered how you'd perceive a player's offensive ability if we didn't have access to stats all year. Like would you just kinda assume a guy was having a good year just because he was a name? Would a guy failing to get hits in key opportunities weigh more heavily in your mind making you think he was having a down year when he wasn't?
   29. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4781530)
Single season defensive statistics don't have much predictive value, that's why we use three seasons worth. But the balls that he caught this year are still the balls that he caught this year, even if he's not likely to catch them again next year.

He caught them but because of the issues of defensive metrics we don't really know if that means he's +18 runs or +12 or -1. There is just a lot going on and it isn't always so easy to figure it all out.
I once asked MGL on The Book Blog about yearly defensive metrics, and that was essentially his reply - one year's worth of stats doesn't tell you a thing.

Which, to me, makes WAR much less useful. I'm just asking - would it be better to regress defensive stats? Or are you then throwing the baby out with the bath water?
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4781542)
Single season defensive statistics don't have much predictive value, that's why we use three seasons worth. But the balls that he caught this year are still the balls that he caught this year, even if he's not likely to catch them again next year.

To expand on McCoy in [18] this is just not true. The defensive stats not only include the balls he caught/missed but an estimate of how difficult the chance was, i.e. what % of the time is that type of ball (grounder, fly, liner, fliner, etc.) in that zone converted into outs by the average fielder..

If a fielder receives a distribution of chances that is easier or harder than average for that ball type/zone the metric will be wrong. All advanced defensive stats are an estimate, not a record of what happened.
   31. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4781554)
Is it possible that the defensive WAR formulas need to be re-calibrated to today's offensive environment? These numbers/rankings just don't seem sensible to me. They seem to be massively overvaluing outfield defense.
A quick look at the top 10 in dWAR shows a bunch of people who are great defensively, good defensively and having a great year, and Jhonny Peralta. And remember that those numbers are compared to average - for every Jayson Hayward there's a Matt Kemp.
   32. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4781572)
It doesn't seem to me that Elvis Andrus at SS has lost anything. Yet RField says that he's completely collapsed this year, is really dismal.

Speaking of odd results in the defensive stats, by FanGraphs' defensive ratings, Jhonny Peralta has been the second best shortstop in baseball this year, behind only Zack Cozart, and (barely) ahead of acknowledged defensive god Andrelton Simmons.

So what's going on here? I don't think I've seen a single Peralta game all year, but I watched him quite a bit when he was when the Tigers and I always thought he was just kinda "solid" -- certainly not an elite defender. Is he actually playing better defense than ever at age 32? (Actually I see now that FanGraphs rated him highly in 2011 and 2012 too.)
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4781578)
So what's going on here? I don't think I've seen a single Peralta game all year, but I watched him quite a bit when he was when the Tigers and I always thought he was just kinda "solid" -- certainly not an elite defender. Is he actually playing better defense than ever at age 32? (Actually I see now that FanGraphs rated him highly in 2011 and 2012 too.)

Peralta is likely the definition of average SS.

My guess, he's getting an unusually easy distribution of chances this year.
   34. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4781585)
A quick look at the top 10 in dWAR shows a bunch of people who are great defensively, good defensively and having a great year, and Jhonny Peralta. And remember that those numbers are compared to average - for every Jayson Hayward there's a Matt Kemp.

I owe you a Coke on the Peralta comment.

But my point isn't the dWAR rankings, it's the absolute value. Even if we agree that Jason Heyward is the best defensive right fielder of all time, does that really turn a guy hitting .269/.350/.391 into the 4th most valuable player in baseball?

I know that WAR does not equal oWAR + dWAR, but Heyward's dWAR is 3.1, which suggests that his defense alone (playing exclusively in right field) has made him as valuable as Miguel Cabrera or Nelson Cruz or Melky Cabrera. It just seems unlikely.
   35. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4781586)
I just want to say that I'm a sucker for a good "M-V-P" chant. Whether or not it is deserved for the player in question if people are chanting M-V-P I am going to gleefully and enthusiastically jump in.
   36. Jeltzandini Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4781588)
I have always wondered how you'd perceive a player's offensive ability if we didn't have access to stats all year.


Pretty sure almost everyone would be hilariously terrible at it. I go to minor league games sometimes but don't actually follow it. I'd never know if the guy who just homered is really a good HR hitter without looking at the scoreboard to see how many other ones he's hit this year.





   37. BDC Posted: August 29, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4781607)
I have always wondered how you'd perceive a player's offensive ability if we didn't have access to stats all year. Like would you just kinda assume a guy was having a good year just because he was a name? Would a guy failing to get hits in key opportunities weigh more heavily in your mind making you think he was having a down year when he wasn't?

This is an important principle, and that's why I say I tend to give defensive metrics the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes there's a player (as with Andrus) that you watch closely and continuously for years, and perceive no difference in what he's doing, or capable of doing, and the year-to-year variation in the defensive metrics is wacky, turning him from a star into a waste of space or back again. That's where the "one year tells you nothing" principle comes into play, of course.

If Andrus is indeed having a down year in some defensive respect (it could be positioning alone, perhaps), then one would expect it to have little predictive value, and little effect on his trade value. One would be much more concerned about his stagnation offensively, about which we're surer, than a year where the defensive numbers went weird. (Although at that, long-term glove men at SS may tend to be consistent in not developing much as hitters. He is what he is and one should be glad to have him.)
   38. Ziggy Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4781649)
"To expand on McCoy in [18] this is just not true. The defensive stats not only include the balls he caught/missed but an estimate of how difficult the chance was, i.e. what % of the time is that type of ball (grounder, fly, liner, fliner, etc.) in that zone converted into outs by the average fielder..

If a fielder receives a distribution of chances that is easier or harder than average for that ball type/zone the metric will be wrong. All advanced defensive stats are an estimate, not a record of what happened."

If it records what percentage of the time the balls that he got to/didn't get to are converted into outs, that is precisely a record of what happened. Now, the problem may be that the zones are too big, or the fly/liner/etc distinctions not sufficiently fine-grained. Fair enough, and no doubt we should work on shrinking in the zones and getting more precise characterizations of the balls hit (perhaps using angle off the bat?, is hitFX a thing?). But since these zone-based metrics are the best defensive metrics we've got, until we get smaller zones and more precise hit characterizations, we just don't know if the zones/characterizations are insufficiently fine-grained, or if defensive performance is subject to wild year-to-year variation.
   39. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:30 AM (#4781665)
But my point isn't the dWAR rankings, it's the absolute value. Even if we agree that Jason Heyward is the best defensive right fielder of all time, does that really turn a guy hitting .269/.350/.391 into the 4th most valuable player in baseball?

I know that WAR does not equal oWAR + dWAR, but Heyward's dWAR is 3.1, which suggests that his defense alone (playing exclusively in right field) has made him as valuable as Miguel Cabrera or Nelson Cruz or Melky Cabrera. It just seems unlikely.
Well again, it's based on averages, so yes.

League-average in the NL is .259/.326/.415 for RF, so in that sense Heyward is about average but he also plays in a pitcher's park. So despite the ordinary looking numbers, he's adding value with his bat.

On the other hand Cabrera, who is adding lots of value with his raw stats, looses value almost everywhere else - he plays in a hitter's park, he gives up value on DPs, and he's a below average fielder at the easiest position on the field. Oh, and he's not Miguel Cabrera this year - his OPS is down 200 points and his OPS+ is down over 50 points (to 136) from last year.

Cruz is the same way - he's having a good year with the bat, but nothing crazy (131 OPS+) while almost everything else is a negative - baserunning, DPs, and (especially) position; he's actually +2 runs when he plays in the field.

And Melky Cabrera - good offense (129 OPS+), bad at everything else (baserunning, DPs, defense, position).

Finally, remember that Heyward is a very good defender (+15-20 runs every year; last year he was +16 in just 104 games) who's having a better than usual year so at least (opposed to Peralta) you could see him having one "best in MLB history" type of year.
   40. Ron J2 Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4781676)
#29 I think it's likely throwing the baby out with the bath water.

My approach has always been to rank players initially strictly by offense (with park and positional adjustments. Think VORP or oWAR), and see how much defensive value is required to move a player up. Basically what WAR does, but with human intervention at the last step.

Or to put it another way, I generally won't move a player up if the difference is 5 runs or less and the player has an extremely high or low defensive rating.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4781681)
If it records what percentage of the time the balls that he got to/didn't get to are converted into outs, that is precisely a record of what happened. Now, the problem may be that the zones are too big, or the fly/liner/etc distinctions not sufficiently fine-grained. Fair enough, and no doubt we should work on shrinking in the zones and getting more precise characterizations of the balls hit (perhaps using angle off the bat?, is hitFX a thing?). But since these zone-based metrics are the best defensive metrics we've got, until we get smaller zones and more precise hit characterizations, we just don't know if the zones/characterizations are insufficiently fine-grained, or if defensive performance is subject to wild year-to-year variation.

The problem is that there are easier and more difficult plays lumped under "flyball zone 432".

Whether the play was made is only half the run estimation. The other half is what % of the time that play is made on average. If the play is not of average difficulty for a "flyball zone 432" the result is wrong.

Given that an OF only gets 200-250 chances a year, and a huge % (80%) are completely routine, the range of error on those 40-50 chances is pretty bit.
   42. PreservedFish Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:57 AM (#4781685)
The argument against regressing the defensive numbers is that you are suddenly conflating a value measure with an estimate of ability. It's a Frankenstein's monster statistic. But I'm cool with that, personally. I always used to die exactly what Ron explained: start with the VORP leaderboard and make mental adjustments for defense. But I think I usually capped it at +15 for great defenders. (Peralta I would guess at -5)
   43. Ron J2 Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4781696)
#42 I'm fine with 20-25 provided it's consistent with past years. There's nothing particularly surprising about an elite defender putting up numbers at that level.

I'm not confident with an out of the blue +25. Particularly if only a single defensive metric sees the guy at that level.
   44. BDC Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:17 PM (#4781712)
In addition to my other wonders, I wonder if VORP and oWAR are too narrowly conceived by precise position. Perhaps it would make more sense to think of four groups for such purposes: C, 1B, the three OF, and the three obligatory RHT infielders. In practice, there wouldn't be much difference, as the two larger groups there tend to have internal "spectra" that trade offense for defense. But it strikes me that shifts, and the tendency for bench players to back up multiple positions in either IF or OF, mean that in practice players are part of larger groupings than the refined value metrics see them as being.
   45. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4781721)
peralta has had several years running of good defensive performance. i know he looks tubby but he's not. he has a very good arm. he is clearly good at positioning. peralta is at minimum an above average defensive shortstop
   46. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4781725)
pos is clearly not paying attention because everyone i read/hear in the 'community' is openly questioning not just gordon's but other defensive contributions that appear overinflated by war

the only people taking this stuff at face value are a few writers and the scattered landscape of 15 year old fan bloggers.

alex will get some mvp votes based solely on the 'best player on a good team' condition. not necessarily FIRST place votes. but down the ballot. and he should.
   47. PreservedFish Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4781735)
Peralta also makes fewer errors than just about anyone. That's worth something. I do think that he just has a fat head and he gets unfairly judged because of it. You kind of assume the rest of his body is just as rotund. I find it hard to resist myself.

Juan Uribe has the same thing going on a bit. Or he did when he was younger. Now he's legitimately round.
   48. The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:57 PM (#4781761)
Poz followup:
My point... was not to make Gordon’s MVP case... but to point out WHY people in Kansas City want to view him as one. I thought that point was fairly clear, but I got a lot of response from, well, yeah, Mike Trout fans... Now, let me start by saying: I think at this moment Mike Trout IS the MVP of the American League. I’d vote for him. I think he’s the best player in baseball by a pretty fair margin and have written that many times.

That said, the Trout fan responses sound exactly like, yep, the responses I would get from Miguel Cabrera fans whenever I made the case that Trout deserved to be MVP. I mean, these responses are almost word-for-word like the Cabrera arguments in that for the most part they are not arguments at all. They are simple statements of opinion dressed up with certainty and incredulity to appear like facts... Trout’s still amazing. Utterly amazing. But let’s just be blunt about it: He’s amazing in fewer ways... Trout seems to be morphing into a somewhat different player. He’s hitting more home runs. He’s driving in my runs. He is becoming more like, well, yeah, the great Miguel Cabrera... Now, let me repeat this in case anyone missed it: I still think Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and I still think he’s a worthy MVP. But blanket statements about him being so much better than Gordon or Donaldson are sounding pretty flat to me. Trout is not having as good a year as he did his first two. He’s not, at the moment, as dynamic a player as he was those first two. The Trout-Cabrera arguments for me were never about the two players – both so sensational – but about this idea of myth and reality, about the question of what the eyes see and what the eyes miss. Now, I’m feeling the same way about the Trout-Gordon-Donaldson arguments. WAR giveth. WAR also taketh away.
   49. TomH Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4781764)
It *is* an odd year for MVP contenders, as no one has The Big Numbers. How about this one: Brian Dozier leads the AL in runs scored. And Brian Dozier is hitting..... .240 (shades of Dick McAuliffe, 1968)
   50. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:18 PM (#4781790)
da

thanks. to me the writer is demonstrating that his critical thinking skills are just not in evidence. equating gordon the mike trout role from cabrera/trout mvp discussions is just silly. trout was an OBVIOUS mvp candidate war or no war

war is the ONLY thing making the gordon case. there isn't a fan in the world who even 5 years ago would have thought gordon was antyhing but a courtesy 10th place vote for mvp

   51. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4781847)
peralta has had several years running of good defensive performance.
It depends on who you believe.

UZR thinks Peralta went from pretty awful (through '07) to average to spectacular (since '11); DRS, on the other hand, thinks he was below average (-20 through '13, but usually right around or just below 0) to spectacular (+16) this year.

EDIT: The difference in the 2 systems is stark over the 3 previous seasons ('11-13): He's +25.3 (considering he only played 100 games last year, that's excellent) runs by UZR, +1 by DRS.
   52. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4781851)
Maybe we should give the MVPs to Wade Davis and Yusmeiro Petit. That'd be fun.
   53. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4781852)
Oh, and while looking that up...a possible explanation of why Gordon is having such a great year (spoiler alert: he isn't; Cespedes is the only one of the top 10 LF from last year getting any playing time this year, and he's been merely average).
   54. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:18 PM (#4781859)
tdf

this is a highly plausible explanation. it's why a khris davis is getting good defensive numbers when any brewer will tell you that the guy has ok range but an abysmal arm.

davis is just better than a sorry lot
   55. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:33 PM (#4781877)

Oh, and while looking that up...a possible explanation of why Gordon is having such a great year (spoiler alert: he isn't; Cespedes is the only one of the top 10 LF from last year getting any playing time this year, and he's been merely average).


Well, the same can be said of offensive seasons. If you're a shortstop playing in an era where there aren't many great offensive shortstops, your oWAR will be higher.

But most of the time, we're fine with that since you are more valuable when it's harder to find a comparable replacement. If I'm the last shortstop on Earth, by definition I ought to be the MVP even if I hit .100.
   56. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4781878)
WAR is a great concept that risks becoming more of a laughingstock because the defensive metrics are so erratic.

Agreed.
   57. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:49 PM (#4781896)
If I'm the most beloved shortstop on Earth, by definition I ought to be the MVP even if I hit .100.


Like I said from the top:

MVP = Derek Jeter
   58. Baldrick Posted: August 29, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4781899)
thanks. to me the writer is demonstrating that his critical thinking skills are just not in evidence. equating gordon the mike trout role from cabrera/trout mvp discussions is just silly. trout was an OBVIOUS mvp candidate war or no war

war is the ONLY thing making the gordon case. there isn't a fan in the world who even 5 years ago would have thought gordon was antyhing but a courtesy 10th place vote for mvp

As usual, Harvey is the voice of reason.

I have gotten incredibly sick of the "LOL, y'all said WAR ruled everything when Trout was leading and now you're singing a different tune" comments. Which I know isn't exactly what Poz is saying, and most of the time it's not phrased as a strict gotcha. Sometimes it's just being used to tear down over-reliance on WAR, which is a fine goal.

But it's just irritating that many such comments attack a total strawperson. WAR, even if we treat it as a very important stat, was never meant to provide certainty. It establishes a general parameter. People within even a full win might well be tied. Or the guy trailing could even be ahead. It's just not precise enough to say for sure. But the whole issue with Trout/Cabrera is that Trout was WAAAY ahead. People didn't think he was obviously the MVP simply because 'he's leading in WAR.' They thought that his enormous lead in WAR provided another way of showing that he clearly had a better year. You didn't need WAR to make the case at all. It just provided a device for explaining things.
   59. TomH Posted: August 29, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4782052)
Agreed. We didn't have WAR in 1987, but we all knew Trammell was better then G Bell. Insert similar argument for different years, before there were Win Shares or TPR.
   60. Zach Posted: August 29, 2014 at 08:33 PM (#4782107)
I have gotten incredibly sick of the "LOL, y'all said WAR ruled everything when Trout was leading and now you're singing a different tune" comments.

It's a fair point, though. If you think you've got a good analytical system, you ought to stick with it for a while even if you're not happy with every result.

If you argue that WAR says Mike Trout is good this year, but something else says he's good next year, so we should switch to using the other thing, you may have the right conclusion, but you have a bad system.

If you say "WAR seems to be overvaluing Alex Gordon this year -- what does this tell us about the way WAR is put together?", then you might end up with the right conclusion and a good system for reaching conclusions next year
   61. SOLockwood Posted: August 29, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4782143)
I feel like the question I'm about to ask has come up within the last few years, but has any team as bad as the White Sox ever had both the MVP and Cy Young winner (Sale)


The 1987 Cubs finished last, and had the MVP (Dawson) and the #2 for the Cy Young (Sutcliffe).
   62. vivaelpujols Posted: August 30, 2014 at 07:09 AM (#4782246)
Seriously #### joe poz. That conclusion was total circular reasoning bullshit. For one the comparison between War and rbis is asinine. War encompasses about 90% or more of a players total value on the field. That's not to say that it's accurate at gauging that value, but it at least attempts to consider most aspects of a players impact on the field. Rbis look at one subset of offense - so that's what 30% of a players total value.

I see no problem with relying on War as a concept because there's nothing much better out there. Trusting every single component of War 100% is dumb, but no serious analyst of saber metric leaning fan does that. Well except for poz because he admitted it at the end of the article. So basically poz's logic is that because I'm a moron everyone else must be.

Also it's not at all to believe that there could be a swing of 25 runs on defense between two players. That's the equivelent of 25 or so extra hits per year and a few extra thrown out runners at home or on the bases. So one extra hit every 6 games. Pretty freaking reasonable.
   63. vivaelpujols Posted: August 30, 2014 at 07:40 AM (#4782248)
Ok so I read the full article and it's very reasonable. Apologies to joe.
   64. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 30, 2014 at 09:14 AM (#4782280)
But it strikes me that shifts, and the tendency for bench players to back up multiple positions in either IF or OF, mean that in practice players are part of larger groupings than the refined value metrics see them as being.


The impact of shifts needs to be investigated more. I remember when I reviewed David Pinto's list of the 10 highest-value plays made by second baseman a couple of years ago, at least half of them were made by a shifted 2B - plays that in context weren't difficult.

There's also a lot of truth to what snapper says. Distribution of chances vary from team to team and from position to position on teams, and even from hitter to hitter. A fly ball hit to a point on the field by a left-handed hitter is likely to have a different degree of difficulty than a fly ball hit to the same point on the field by a right-handed hitter, in part because of positioning, in part because of ballpark, and in part because of the rotation imparted by the hitter. When we lump everything together, we lose these distinctions - and when we don't lump everything together, we start making decisions on the basis of a handful of plays.

In Kansas City, you have a fly-ball heavy staff and not all that much left-handed pitching (since fly balls in play tend to be hit the other way, more right-handed pitching => more LHB => more fly balls to left field). That suggests that Gordon's getting some benefit from the opportunities being sent his direction, and that if you put an average left fielder in Gordon's place, he'd probably be several runs better than average in defensive metrics just because of those opportunities. I haven't looked in a few years, but the last time I looked there was still a positive relationship in the outfield between Defensive Runs Saved and FBIP; I'd be surprised if that relationship has changed much.

-- MWE

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