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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Silva: Debate is Not Over Who Is MVP, But When MLB Will Update Award

During last night’s podcast, Dave Jordan of Instream Sports discussed the awards system he created for his new site. The “Saber Leaders” tallies the traditional awards like MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year, but also creates additional categories like the Hank Aaron Award (best overall positional player), Ozzie Smith Defensive Player of the Year (baseball equivalent to the NBA defensive player of the year) and the Relief Pitcher of the Year. Jordan uses various metrics, mainly combines the WAR tallies from the three major baseball sites: Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus, to come up with his MVP award.

I believe this is something that Major League Baseball should consider doing. Heck, they could even steal Jordan’s idea and name the award after Hank Aaron (give the guy some credit though). I have no problem with a pitcher winning the MVP, but the Hank Aaron Award is restricted to just offensive players.

The Instream formula gives Trout the Hank Aaron Award by a full win share over Cabrera (8.84 to 7.81). When calculating the MVP, Trout wins that award, as well, but by an even wider margin (10.35 to 7.95). His nearest competition, however, is Robinson Cano; Cabrera is a distant fourth. Again, stats can’t calculate the significance of winning something that hasn’t been done in nearly five decades. Even the stat-guys can’t argue that Cabrera is in select company. How many players are listed in a group that includes Ted Williams,  Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb. If it’s so insignificant, more than 15 players would have accomplished it over the history of the game.

The point is that MLB should copy the lead of Instream and begin to develop stat-based awards that recognize the shift in thinking that is going on with fans and writers alike. Yes, the BBWAA is changing and many new-age writers are using stats to cast their vote. I doubt you will ever see the “human element” eliminated since many will have a different perspective once they enter the clubhouse and see the athlete as a human being.

Thanks to Barnald.

Repoz Posted: October 06, 2012 at 09:53 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: October 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM (#4257366)
If only there WAS a Hank Aaron Award:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Aaron_Award

"The Hank Aaron Award is given annually to the Major League Baseball (MLB) players selected as the top hitter in each league, as voted on by baseball fans and members of the media. It was introduced in 1999 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron's surpassing of Babe Ruth's career home run mark of 714 home runs. The award was the first major award to be introduced by Major League Baseball in 19 years."

   2. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: October 06, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4257371)
I was just going to say that! It's just too bad Hank Aaron is the only player worthy of having an award named after him.
   3. UCCF Posted: October 06, 2012 at 10:59 PM (#4257402)
If only there WAS a Hank Aaron Award:

It can be two things!

/votequimby
   4. The District Attorney Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:17 PM (#4257430)
Given the source of the suggestion, this is like when Andy suggests that we all be satisfied with PED users being elected to the Hall of Merit.

No one would respect a "best player award" that is determined by leadership in one mega-stat, and rightly so. It's a dumb idea.

   5. Walt Davis Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:31 PM (#4257449)
And who will ever forget the legendary 2008 season when the Aaron awards were won by Kevin Youkilis in the AL and Aramis Ramirez in the NL.
   6. cardsfanboy Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:34 PM (#4257462)
What fun is an award that is based solely on stats? That just seems like a such a waste.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:48 PM (#4257488)
What fun is an award that is based solely on stats? That just seems like a such a waste.


I've long believed the primary appeal of the awards is the discussion it generates. Most of us stop caring about the MVP award pretty soon after its handed out. If you know who's going to win all of the awards before the season ends, it will generate about as much interest as the strikeouts, runs scored and doubles crowns.
   8. SteveF Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4257492)
The solution is to not actually publish any stats until the voting is over and the awards handed out. That way we can properly rely on our personal observations and gut feel without having any objective data creating a bias in our judgment. Once the awards are handed out and no damage can be done, you can allow the stats to be published.
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: October 06, 2012 at 11:55 PM (#4257497)
I've long believed the primary appeal of the awards is the discussion it generates. Most of us stop caring about the MVP award pretty soon after its handed out. If you know who's going to win all of the awards before the season ends, it will generate about as much interest as the strikeouts, runs scored and doubles crowns.


Exactly. For all the bemoaning of the vote, the fact is that it's great fun to enjoy the debate and discussion. If it was the result of a formula, who would care about it other than as part of a sponsored event. I mean, does anyone really care who is the rolaids reliever of the year, except TV announcers(and these are the same tools who care about batting average in night games, but not about war/ops+ etc)

Which is why I also care about who else finishes on the ballot, sometimes there is no debate who should win, but plenty for maybe 2nd-5th spot.
   10. GregD Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4257508)
I think there should be a giant presentation of the WAR cup on the day after the season and then a new presentation each time WAR is revised as park factors are updated. You could televise the SWAT team coming to remove it from the basement of the person previously believed to be the winner.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:16 AM (#4257515)
What a truly horrible idea.

edit > oh, not #10. That is a terrific idea. I would have liked to see what happened during those few days that WAR was broken and mediocre pitchers were ranked higher than All-Star hitters.
   12. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:26 AM (#4257521)
good idea, SteveF, but to keep it purely pure, you need to suppress not only individual but also team outcomes.
   13. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:36 AM (#4257532)
The solution is to not actually publish any stats until the voting is over and the awards handed out. That way we can properly rely on our personal observations and gut feel without having any objective data creating a bias in our judgment. Once the awards are handed out and no damage can be done, you can allow the stats to be published.


That sounds like a lot of fun, actually! If there were a way to watch an entire season without ever seeing any stats, I'd love to run an experiment where someone's personal observations are compared against actual statistics.

I guess you could find a seat in a stadium that doesn't face any scoreboards, but I like paying attention to the stats throughout the year.
   14. Red Menace Posted: October 07, 2012 at 02:05 AM (#4257568)
That sounds like a lot of fun, actually! If there were a way to watch an entire season without ever seeing any stats, I'd love to run an experiment where someone's personal observations are compared against actual statistics.

I guess you could find a seat in a stadium that doesn't face any scoreboards, but I like paying attention to the stats throughout the year.


I've long had this idea in my "when I'm a billionaire" file. I've even spent way too long imagining how I would control the experiment. It's good to see some momentum on this front.
   15. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 07, 2012 at 04:28 AM (#4257582)
The solution is to not actually publish any stats until the voting is over and the awards handed out. That way we can properly rely on our personal observations and gut feel without having any objective data creating a bias in our judgment. Once the awards are handed out and no damage can be done, you can allow the stats to be published.

I agree with Monty that this sounds like fun, and I wish we could try it, but obviously it's unrealistic.

From the article:
On one side you have a 20-year old rookie centerfield that has five-tools.

"Five-tools" [sic] suggests he has a strong arm. I actually haven't seen (with my eyes) very much of Trout this year, so could someone who follows him closely tell me if this is actually true? I see he only has 3 assists in 170+ career games, which doesn't seem like a lot, and when he doesn't play center he's moved to left, not right.

I was thinking that if you could breed Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout (sorry, Chik-fil-A) you would get a flawless ballplayer. Cabrera is a near-peerless batsman though he could stand to walk a little more, but he doesn't run or field particularly well. Trout has a bit more patience, and might be the best runner and one of the best fielders in the game. Trout's few weaknesses, on the other hand, are that he doesn't (yet) have elite power, strikes out fairly frequently and -- I thought -- has just an average arm. Cabrera does not strike out much by modern standards (below 100 the past three years) and his arm is the one element of his defense that has always been pretty strong, though I'm not sure if it's considered a "plus" tool, or is any better than Trout's.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: October 07, 2012 at 06:33 AM (#4257588)
Although he almost seems to notice the contradiction at the end of the excerpt, the MVP is awarded by the BBWAA not MLB.

I'm not sure who awards Silver Sluggers but, yeah, we need some rich tech geek to underwrite the Golden Helmets which are awarded to the WAR leader (helmet-WAR, get it?) at every position. Whoever puts up the dough gets to decide if they want to use fWAR or bWAR.

#13: This is why god created foreigners. Tape* a season of some team's games, find a foreign student who knows nothing about baseball, give them some material explaining a bit about baseball, have them watch a season and tell you who they think the best players were. Yes, you'd have to edit out audio and fuzz out stat lines but, c'mon, it's for science AND baseball.

I actually did have this sort of experience once. One of the most socially abnormal (not anti-social) professors I've ever known had never watched or played any sports. Who knew who Michael Jordan was but he'd never seen him play. We were having a drink once when a Bulls game came on. He was pretty fascinated and after 10 minutes or so he said "He's SO much better than everybody else."

Baseball would be a lot harder to tell except maybe among pitchers. But it wouldn't have taken long for a newbie in 1998 to realize "holy crap McGwire hits the ball so much farther than everybody else." Of course they might say the same about Ryan Howard and I think recognizing the differences between the two would take longer. I'm assuming that, like most of us, their appreciation of defense would be highlight-driven (even if you removed replays) and distorted by TV coverage in other ways.

Actually I suppose the easier way might be to take our foreigner to a high school game every day. I assume not many stats flashed on the scoreboard or discussed in the stands. The variance in talent and production would be higher so that might set the limits of how little you'd need to watch to replace stats.

*Tape -- aren't I quaint?
   17. DKDC Posted: October 07, 2012 at 08:01 AM (#4257593)
I think the Sabermetric awards should all be handed out at the beginning of the year and be based on projected statistics.

Why wait for the games to be played when we already can project what will happen?
   18. Don Malcolm Posted: October 07, 2012 at 08:12 AM (#4257596)
One of the most socially abnormal (not anti-social) professors I've ever known had never watched or played any sports. Who knew who Michael Jordan was but he'd never seen him play. We were having a drink once when a Bulls game came on. He was pretty fascinated and after 10 minutes or so he said "He's SO much better than everybody else."

Fascinating, Walt. I recently had just this same experience with a working girl who'd never seen Mike Trout before...thanks to his youthful prowess, I got a complete "girlfriend experience" for the, er, "basic rate." As you might well imagine, at the very end there we were both chanting "MVP! MVP!"
   19. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: October 07, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4257612)
Cabrera is a near-peerless batsman though he could stand to walk a little more


Cabrera has established himself as something like a 170ish OPS+ true talent over the last three seasons. He just won the first Triple Crown in 45 years and posted 7 WAR thanks to his bat. I'd say he doesn't need to change a thing. The walks going down are more than likely an affect (effect?) of Prince Fielder behind him in the order this year.

---

If the Hank Aaron were simply defined "the best position player", rather than hitter, and given to the BBWAA to decide, it would probably be a pretty prominent award within 5-10 years. Especially if it was awarded during awards season, along with the MVP/CY/ROTY/MOTY. "Relief Ace of the Year" should also be an award, perhaps known as the Mariano Rivera Award.
   20. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 07, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4257613)
Cabrera has established himself as something like a 170ish OPS+ true talent over the last three seasons. He just won the first Triple Crown in 45 years and posted 7 WAR thanks to his bat. I'd say he doesn't need to change a thing. The walks going down are more than likely an effect of Prince Fielder behind him in the order this year.

I certainly didn't mean to be critical of Cabrera's approach. In fact, I've probably posted as many pro-Cabrera comments here as anyone this season.

However, if you're going to build the perfect ballplayer, Cabrera's bat is a great place to start, but it would be even better with a .450 OBP and a bunch of triples.
   21. BDC Posted: October 07, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4257619)
If there were a way to watch an entire season without ever seeing any stats

Or the standings, for that matter. I was thinking this morning, what if I didn't know anything about the Rangers except the games that I'd seen in person over the last three years? I've been to about three dozen, and they've won about 20 of them. A decent winning percentage, about .555, including postseason, well within the range you'd expect from a good team. But still, they are a good team only by winning one extra game out of every nine. It's such a tiny advantage of winning over losing, as compared to many other sports where one team has, say, Michael Jordan.

I guess to take the experiment further you'd have to suppress the scores and outcomes of games. At that point you could just watch batting practice all year and make assessments based on that.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4257703)
However, if you're going to build the perfect ballplayer, Cabrera's bat is a great place to start, but it would be even better with a .450 OBP and a bunch of triples.


I think any obp over .410 or so is often going to be a reflection of the talent around the player, as much as the player themselves.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 07, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4257717)
I think any obp over .410 or so is often going to be a reflection of the talent around the player, as much as the player themselves.

Maybe, if you have a Bonds situation, with a ton of IBB. But, if you look at someone like Ruth, the OBP looks like it's his.

Gehrig became a monster in 1927. If you look at Ruth from 1920-26 his OBP was .500 , with a .362 BA, 219 OPS+. From 1927-32 his OBP was .477 with a .350 BA, and a 210 OPS+.

Accounting for aging, it doesn't seem like a massive change in the talent around Ruth changed his ability to get on base much, if at all.
   24. djordan Posted: October 07, 2012 at 10:53 PM (#4258740)
@ SOSH AT WORK, I love what you said here - "I've long believed the primary appeal of the awards is the discussion it generates." This is what it's about, why the BBWAA created the award with its vague requirements in the first place - to create narratives for each member to bring to their respective sports sections and local newspapers. This is why the MVP award exists, in my view; to keep people talking, barstool arguments. Do I think you'll be seeing WAR standings from early April in the USA TODAY inside of two years, maybe earlier? Absolutely. ESPN will have a dedicated WAR section (they have the stat on the site now) all its own by next year, I'm guessing. Me, I was just trying to be fashion-forward with the Saberleaders. I do believe there needs to be a Defensive Player of the Year. Are any one of the metrics on their own completely reliable? Not really, but if you throw four or five of them in the pot together, you begin to get a strong, specific picture. Sure, the Hank Aaron Award exists already - both the fans and certain media members vote on the award in its current state. I think the BBWAA should adopt it as its own to create a batters' "Cy Young," of sorts, the exact thing Joey Bats was cryin' about last year when Verlander snagged the MVP.
   25. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 07, 2012 at 11:16 PM (#4258774)
Tape* a season of some team's games, find a foreign student who knows nothing about baseball, give them some material explaining a bit about baseball, have them watch a season and tell you who they think the best players were. Yes, you'd have to edit out audio and fuzz out stat lines but, c'mon, it's for science AND baseball.


I watched the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final today.
I've been watching cricket on and off for about a year.
I understand the scoring system, but I have no idea if a player's "run rate" or "economy" are any good. Sure, I can see if one player has a higher/lower number than another (where higher/lower would be better), but does that mean player A is an all-star and player B is a scrub? Or are they both good? Both bad? No clue!

So other than the score (and wickets/innings count), I can only judge the players by what I see on the screen, not by the stats they show ever so often.

"Oh, this bowler seems to be doing well. They aren't getting that many runs off him."
"Wow. That batter looks clueless up there."
"That fielder is amazing! I can't believe he tracked down that fly ball so quickly!"

I felt like your "foreigner" in that example, and I wondered what it would be like to have had access to the entire World Cup tournament, and see if I could guess who would have been judged the "Man of the Match" for each of the matches.
   26. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: October 08, 2012 at 02:12 AM (#4258928)
The solution is to not actually publish any stats until the voting is over and the awards handed out. That way we can properly rely on our personal observations and gut feel without having any objective data creating a bias in our judgment. Once the awards are handed out and no damage can be done, you can allow the stats to be published.


Out of curiosity, if for some reason they really wanted to, could MLB suppress publication of all stats? Like, put a confidentiality clause on buying a ticket or something. I guess you couldn't really do that with TV.
   27. UCCF Posted: October 11, 2012 at 05:22 PM (#4264531)
FYI, they released the ballot for the Hank Aaron award. I didn't realize it was one player from each team, rather than just the best players in each league.

Can we get some ballot box stuffing here? I'd like to see the awards go to "Hank Aaron Award Nominees" Kyle Seagar and Jose Altuve.

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