Monday, March 23, 2009

Might as well call it the “Best September for a Contending Team while completely ignoring your previous 5 months of work” award.

Hey internet land. How are you doing?

Myself? I am doing good. There’s nothing like digging up some old fodder from the fun 2008 MVP debates to get the blood rolling. Fortunately for me, I struck gold with this little diddy from Thomas Boswell. So, commence with the borderline-sociopathic off.

MVPs: Howard & K-Rod, Not Pujols & Pedroia

Oh really? Expand on these for me.

Thirty years ago, I created the statistic Total Average. Now I'm almost ashamed to have been one of the original baseball geeks. Where did we go wrong?

Yes, let’s never progress our train of thought. Men haven’t worked tirelessly to figure out what actions score runs in baseball games, the importance of defense, and what statistics have more to do with the ability of teammates than anything. Nah, screw that, let’s just hand Barry Zito another $126,000,000 contract.

This week, Albert Pujols won the NL MVP Award. Why? Mostly because he had a better OPS and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) than Ryan Howard.

And Hits.
And Singles.
And Doubles.
And Walks.
And a BB/K ratio over 4x that of Howard.
And Runs Created.
And weighted On Base Average.
And hell, his ISO was even higher.
And saved about 27 runs more than Howard defensively according to FRAA.
But hey, this is all minor stuff, give me hard hitting numbers like RBI.

Say what? Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Phils' first baseman had 48 homers and 146 RBI to Pujols' 37 homers and 116 RBI.

I knew you wouldn’t let me down.
You see, the problem with looking solely at RBI is that Howard had these teammates, not sure if you know them. Their names are Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. And they hit in front of Ryan Howard in the lineup. And their slash stats went .277/.349/.437 and .292/.380/.535. Add in Victorino’s .293/.352/.447, and you had a guy who got to hit with a lot of men on base. And a man who got to hit with RISP 175 times.
Compare this to Skip Schumaker and his .302/.359/.406, and Chris Duncan and his .248/.346/.365, and Albert Pujols had the pleasure of batting with RISP a full 59 times less. So, would it not be logical that Pujols would have less RBI’s given the lack of opportunities compared to Howard?

Earth to my baseball writing buddies: We all love the new numbers, but lets not worship false idols.

Nope, guess not. Screw you, Pujols, give me 5 months of mediocre + 1 month of great.

When I published my Total Average numbers, I'd always emphasize that while stats were wonderful, common sense was better. When stats WILDLY contradict common sense, always doubts the stats. In the case of the goofy gap between Pujols' VORP of 96.8 and Howard's 35.3, my reaction is "Time to revisit VORP. If it can be this wrong, it's not as good as I tought it was."

First off, nice (sic) on the taught.

That’s the thing. While VORP isn’t perfect, it’s a whole lot better than a superficial glance at a stat line when he comes up to plate. Going back just 3 years results in a VORP to runs slope of 0 being 15 standard errors from the regression slope (for those who aren’t as much of a math geek as me, that pretty much means there’s NO MOTHER FLUCKING CHANCE that VORP is meaningless).
While the slope of said regression is kind of crummy, just .78, it definitely indicates VORP means something.

It's said that, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a modern baseball writer, unfortunately, reality often looks like an excuse to apply statistics and then torque our opinions to fit them.

Yeah, eff that, why ever try to learn new things?
Looking at you, gravity, we all know the reason we don’t float off the earth is because Jesus says so.

All of the encompassing offensive stats __and there's little difference between Total Average, Runs Created, OPS and others__

Total Average: Good for its' day, but improved upon since.
Runs Created: Sophisticated model developed through using things like linear weights that were created by actually regressing real offensive data on real runs scored.
OPS: Not the greatest, but explains a good 89.5% of runs scored in 2008.

Yeah, absolutely no difference.

run the risk of overvaluing walks and singles while undervaluing the bases-clearly game-changing power of extra base hits.

Forgetting once again Pujols’ ISO was higher than Howard’s aka Pujols hit for extra bases better.

So, sometimes, you have to underline the obvious; for example, a first baseman with 146 RBI is "more valuable," especially when he plays on a first-place team, than a first baseman (Pujols) with 116 RBI on a fourth-place team.

Hear that, guys? RBI + 1st place team = MVP. It’s been staring at us in the face this whole damn time!
EUREKA! All this time I was deceived into thinking players like Joey Votto (.297/.368/.506, 6.6 WARP1, 84 RBI) were better than Mike Jacobs (.247/.299/.514, 1.0 WARP1, 93 RBI). And of course, the Marlins were a third place team, thanks solely to Mike Jacobs because everyone knows one player has everything to do with a team’s record, unlike that useless Joey Votto who only gritted and gutted his team to fifth. What a jerk.

Don't analyze beyond that.

Or else it’ll be clear how wrong you are?

True, Howard can't field (19 errors).

And a –14 FRAA, vs. Pujols and his selfish, stat geeking +13 FRAA.

And Pujols outhit him by .357 to .251.

And out OBP’d him .462 to .339 (!), and out SLG’d him .653 to .543

Howard strikes out a ton while Pujols walks constantly.

Walking = good. Striking out + low walk rate = bad. This isn’t rocket science.

But none of it outweighs Howard's RBI total, built on his .320 average with runners in scoring position.

Which is good. Except Pujols was .339.

For what it's worth, Howard wasn't even in the top half dozen in baseball in runners-on-base when he came to the plate.

You say all this yet you continue to press on.

His 146 RBI wasn't a fluke. He's Mr. Multi-Run Homer.

Hear that, Pujols, you selfish bastard? You should’ve played for the Red Sox or Rangers or something so you could hit with men on base a lot so your selfish, useless 37 Homers and 44 Doubles wouldn’t have been wasted like super-teammate Ryan Howard.

Ironically, Pujols complained two years ago when Howard won MVP ahead of him even though their team's positions in the standings were the opposite of this year.

Pujols’ 2006 WARP: 9.9. Howard’s 2006 WARP: 6.2.

Maybe they should just meet quietly this winter and exchange MVP trophies. Who'd know?

For an over-hyperbolic perspective, 2006 MVP trophy = Pujols’ kidnapped baby. 2008 MVP trophy = ransom money.

As for Pedroia, I'd pick him over his main competitors --Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer of the Twins.

Me too. Mauer’s far from indefensible, though, and even as a Sox fan, I may have been tempted to pick him if the Twins made the playoffs (edit: picking an MVP based on team success is stupid).

Pedroia and Mauer won gold gloves at valuable defensive positions __second base and catcher. Morneau is just a first baseman. Besides, Pedroia's Red Sox made the playoffs, the Twins didn't.

The one time I support using the postseason as a tiebreak. The top two of the Sox and top two of the Twins were pretty close and indistinguishable, so I guess in this scenario, picking the one for the playoff team is okay.

But in 30 years, nobody is going to remember anything Pedroia did this year.

Like almost every other MVP winner annually.

Howewver, Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 games for the first-place Angels may still be the MLB record.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here we go.

I know this argument is hopeless.

Cause it’s a stupid one made by people who love to bash statistical analysis only to cling onto potentially the worst statistic in baseball.

The retort that almost always wins the debate is: "Relievers have their own award." They are not "players," as in MV"P".

No, the proper retort would be that K-Rod was a good reliever put into an awesome position. The Angels, constantly clinging onto small leads, would turn to the same closer every time out to “shut the door”. And while K-Rod did a nice job of it, you’d have to be an idiot to suggest that Mariano Rivera (4.47 WPA), Joakim Soria (4.08), Bobby Jenks (3.47), or JP Howell (3.33) couldn’t have converted those 62 saves just like K-Rod (3.33). He also blew 6 saves, giving him a solid 91.1% conversion rate. Rivera: 39 for 40, or 97.5%. Papelbon 41 for 45 or a similar 91.1%. Bobby Jenks 30 for 33 (90.9%). And Soria was 42 for 42. Seeing a pattern here?

More save chances =/= better closer. And since you already better be a filthy good closer to win the award, how can a sane human being pick K-Rod?

However, convention also holds that, if the best reliever's season utterly dominates the best season by any player, as Dennis Eckersley's did in '92, then he's the long-shot MVP.

Francisco Rodriguez: where dominance happens.

I won't fuss about Pedroia over K-Rod. But Pujols over Howard is nuts.

/cue Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane”.

At least Ryan got three homers in the World Series and a parade.

List of Phillies positional players who had a bigger role in the regular season than Ryan Howard:

Chase Utley

Jimmy Rollins

Jayson Werth

Shane Victorino

Pat Burrell

Propping up Pujols: Great for time killing since October 2008.

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