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November 15, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Single-Number Metrics and MVP Leaderboards

by Sam Miller

1. If the point is to get it right, then the answer is probably yes. This assumes we could agree upon a single-number metric, but considering that usually the single-number metrics line up fairly well, well enough that there's not a great deal of controversy about which player the single-number metrics would choose, the single-number metric method feels accurate enough. It wouldn't be perfect. But most of the non single-number-metric pieces of evidence that are used to justify non-single-number-metric votes are logically inconsistent and easily debunked. Unless you think the single-number metrics are fraudulent (which some do), the single-number metric is imperfectly superior to the alternatives.

2. I don't think Kevin is saying that would be less accurate. Based on the tone of the tweet, I think he's saying that would be pointless, and by extension less fun. 

3. It would be less fun.

4. So if more accurate means less fun, then the point isn't to get it right. The point is to have enough ambiguity to allow for fighting. The point is to give us something to bond over and fight against, so that we feel like we are part of something and so that we feel superior to those who are not part of that something. 

5. So it's working perfectly. 

6. Just like the postseason works perfectly, once you get past the idea that its supposed to produce the best team rather than the idea that it's supposed to produce drama.

7. And Goldstein is correct.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  American League MVP

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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BayCityM

A lot of "non-stats" people that I have talked too miss the point of WAR in many ones. A major one that I think this article speaks to is the "Chicken or the egg" part of the debate. Mike Trout wasn't the most valuable because he had the highest WAR. He had the highest WAR because he was the most valuable (read: best) player.

Nov 15, 2012 10:13 AM
rating: 8
 
RedsManRick

Right. You can't have your cake and eat it to. If it's about on field performance, then very little in the way of other stats or accomplishes is better than what we've already combined in to one number -- certainly not when the difference is massive. If you want the MVP to be about more than production, fine. But don't claim that it's about more than production and then justify your selection on the basis of Miggy's AVG, HR and RBI.

Nov 15, 2012 11:00 AM
rating: 1
 
RedsManRick

To put a finer point on it: This debate isn't about old stats vs. new stats. It's about giving awards based on objective assessment of performance vs. giving them based on subjective assessment and narrative value.

Nov 15, 2012 11:04 AM
rating: 5
 
R.A.Wagman

You just struck a chord with me RMR. One of the common selling points of the anti-stat crowd is that value is relative to a team, to a situation of some kind.
But the journalists vote on the award, and not the fans. As such, in their view (maybe somewhat sub-consciously) is that the most value means the most value to them.

Which would give them the better story, the more papers sold or web-clicks attained. The better narrative is the one that rules the day. Sometimes that is the homer-vote, sometimes the player with the most interesting storyline - the most-attention catching. Mike Trout has been great, but his storyline was not nearly as compelling of the one-time bad boy, seemingly redeemed, challenging for a rare personal feat while assisting his team get to the playoffs. That's drama.

Nov 16, 2012 18:51 PM
rating: 0
 
John Douglass

To me, we need not go past step #1 above. WARP tells you who was overall the most valuable? Yeah? And the award is supposed to be for the most valuable? Cool. That guy is MVP.

When we start getting into how much fun it is, and the process of the argument, the award ceases to be about the player and starts to be about the writers.

Nov 15, 2012 20:25 PM
rating: 1
 
surveyzas
(119)

hey guys, remember this line from Russell Carleton's article a few months back?

"there are things that are generally publicly held as sabermetric doctrine—in some cases, crucial underlying assumptions—that are demonstrably false."

the point being, maybe not the best idea to keep all your eggs in the same place.

also, this isn't the 2005 AL Cy Young voting, which was unjustifiable. both players had great seasons, and i'd wonder whether the landslide had more to do with Cabrera making the playoffs, rather than his Triple Crown achievement. regardless, it's not like we'll look back and talk about what an injustice it was that he got the honor.

personally, i'd have voted for Trout, but the way things turned out seems just fine.

Nov 16, 2012 07:25 AM
rating: 6
 
robbtodd

Post-season awards have been meaningless for a long time because the votes have been so absurd pretty much since they started awarding them. It's not even worth getting mad over. It's like getting mad over the Oscars.

People like to use Ted Williams as an example of someone who got screwed by the media on MVP votes (finished second both times he won the triple crown) but Lou Gehrig won the triple crown in 1934 and finished ... FIFTH.

The numbers that count aren't the number of awards given by people who often play politics and, as RedsManRick, play to narrative value. Miller is dead-on with point No. 6, too.

Trout's season is Trout's season. Not having the MVP doesn't diminish his greatness or its historical value. We can all give him gold stars and when his career is finished we can add them up.

Nov 16, 2012 08:07 AM
rating: 1
 
aschauer

I'm not even sure the point is "fun," necessarily, though it is definitely that -- angry Angels fans will get to self-righteously chant 'MVP!' every time Trout comes to bat like Dodgers fans and Kemp this past season did, and there's a lot to be said for fans who want to show their solidarity with a player they like. To me, the only point of end-of-the-year voting is to honor the tradition of having end-of-the-year voting. And EOTYV (sick of typing that sorry haha) has always been at its core a manifestation of MLB "culture," for lack of a better word.

It's true the triple crown winner hasn't always been a shoe-in for MVP, but it's important not only to remember how baseball journalism was "back in the day" (kinda mean!), but also that they didn't necessarily have the history or context to value the triple crown as modern writers do.

I do not have a problem with the guy with the highest WAR not winning. The BBWAA writers are entitled to weigh factors however they want; why do we care who this admittedly nigh-meaningless trophy goes to so much?

The best alternative, I think, is to just have Sam Miller or whoever walk up to that podium on MLB Network and deliver the SABR Community Conglomerate Award For Statsiest Guy.

Nov 16, 2012 09:38 AM
rating: 1
 
jfranco77

Yes, because the BCS totally eliminated all of the arguments.

Nov 16, 2012 10:24 AM
rating: 2
 
jnossal

Awesome.

Nov 23, 2012 23:38 PM
rating: 0
 
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