Sunday, November 15, 2009

The awards season is here; why do we care?

The Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards were announced last week; this week and next come the BBWAA honors.

The esteemed Aaron Gleeman (among others) has suggested repeatedly this season that we really shouldn't care one way or another who the writers (or, in the case of the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, the managers and coaches) vote for. The stats, properly read, tell us that Joe Mauer (right) is the best player in the American League and that Zack Grienke is the best pitcher; no writer's poll is going to change that.

I have a certain sympathy with that view. The writers have their blind spots in these elections. They overvalue RBIs (MVP vote) and wins (Cy Young) and they have repeatedly failed utterly to account for context, especially park effects and defensive position. I have difficulty attaching a great deal of credibility to the 1987 MVP votes, for example; in both cases the award went to slugging corner outfielders (one on a last place team) over clearly superior defensive shortstops who played key offensive role on division winners.

That said, the stats have their blind spots too. I love the win shares stat, but it's essentially inaccessible during the season, nearly impossible to explain succinctly and mind-numbingly complex to figure out. And no other one stat— to my satisfaction, at least — convincingly ties defense, offense and position value together.

In the historical context, these votes matter. They provide a lasting record of how players are viewed in their time. If all we have are the stats, in a couple of decades we'll lose that.

By the stats, Mickey Mantle should have won almost every AL MVP award for a decade. That teammate Yogi Berra won three of them tells us something about Yogi, and maybe about Mantle, that is worth knowing today.


Here's the announcement schedule:

Monday, Rookies of the Year. My picks: Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers in the American League, J.A. Happ of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National. I have little conviction in either choice.

Tuesday, AL Cy Young. It should go to Zach Grienke of the Kansas City Royals; I view this one as an indication of whether the dinosaurs who believe that Wins are the pitching stat still dominate the electorate. If they do, CC Sabathia has a real shot.

Wednesday, Managers of the Year. There's a fairly good chance Ron Gardenhire will win the AL award; I'm inclined to pick Joe Girardi, although that may be tainted by a month of watching him handle that flawed pitching staff through the postseason. Girardi faced high expectations and met them; there's something to be said for that. In the National League, Jim Tracy (Colorado Rockies) is almost certain to win, but I'd argue for Tony La Russa (St. Louis Cardinals) if I only cared enough to argue.

Thursday: NL Cy Young. Should be Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants.

Monday, Nov. 23: AL MVP. Mauer, please. And I'm confident he'll win.

Tuesday, Nov. 24: Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, no doubt about.


Poll results: There were 36 votes on the J.J.Hardy-Carlos Gomez trade. Nine (25 percent) think the Twins won the trade; 26 (72 percent) think was an even deal; one (2 percent) said the Brewers won the trade.

New poll up.

1 comment:

  1. Edward, are you are of the "WAR" metric available at Fangraphs ? Why would you think that Win Shares is superior to WAR ? (Hint: It's not.)