Monday, December 12, 2011

The Baseball Hall of Fame

Finals time has a funny way of catching up with me. It makes for little posting here. Oh well. Also, I think I'm supposed to have an obligatory Ryan Braun post, but I'm not going to do that. I'm not emotionally ready, for one. Second, I would like MLB to make its decision before I say anything. That's all I have to say about that for now. On to the topic at hand.

It's that time of year for one of my favorite topics: the Baseball Hall of Fame elections. As anyone who hangs around in the baseball corners of these here internets knows, Ron Santo was recently elected by the Veterans' Committee by an overwhelming vote, with 15/16 voters saying "yes" to the longtime (and now, unfortunately, deceased) Cubs player/fan/announcer (who did play one year for the White Sox).

As for Santo, he was clearly a great player. Whether or not he deserves enshrinement is perhaps a different discussion, but I will say this: using the current statistical standards of the Hall of Fame, Ron Santo easily merits admission. Whether or not that standard is a good or bad one is a topic for a different post (hopefully up later this week). What I'd like to talk about, and what's particularly relevant in the case of Santo, I think, is what it is okay and not okay to consider when making a Hall of Fame vote.

First, let me link to the Hall of Fame's website, where the voting instructions for the BBWAA are listed.

You may notice some interesting things on there. For one, and I did not know this, there is nothing in the guidelines that the player must have been "outstanding" or even "good." There's nothing at all about performance. Interesting on all sides of the Hall of Fame debates, no? There are just the time constraints (been retired for five years, only 15 years on the ballot, 10 year playing career). But really, ethically, what's acceptable to do? That's what I'd like to talk about.

1. Playing ability
Obvious, no? But let's start with the obvious. You need to consider it. If we ignored it, I'm sure things would be a lot different. Perhaps "ability" isn't even the best word: I suppose "results" would do better. And the way we measure these things are statistics. So a player's statistics should count more than anything.

2. Circumstances
Broad category, and I apologize for that, but I can't help it. What I mean here is the basics: era, position, and extenuating circumstances. This helps to flesh out #1. Was his career interrupted by war? Injury? Segregation? Was the schedule shorter? Longer? Are there accurate statistics for this player? Were steroids or other drugs an issue? You may adjust (or not) for any and all of these things as you see fit, but it IS important to keep them in mind.

3. Subjective opinions
Obviously, we can use our own opinions here. Keep in mind, this is the THIRD criterion. That means that the other two trump it. Even so, sometimes it's helpful to check these things. Especially for the players for whom there is little or no data. It can be very beneficial for borderline players. And if we haven't seen a player play, it's nice to read what others said about him. However, keep in mind that this is not the primary way in which we measure a Hall of Fame player.

So, what can we NOT do to measure the Hall of Fame candidacy of a player?

1. Artificially raise the standards for enshrinement
Once standards have been set, it's not fair to artificially raise them. You can't all of a sudden start not electing people who are clearly eligible. However, if standards are deemed too high and need to be lowered, that can absolutely be done.

2. Consider a player's character
This is the one I'm sure I'll get the most flack for. People will say that OF COURSE you have to account for a player's character. But the truth is, we don't know anything about these people. We see them in the little snippets. We hear what others have to say about them. We "learn" things like "he's a racist" or "he's a druggie." But we don't know what led to those things. If it adversely affected his performance or baseball overall, so be it (maybe Pete Rose, or Joe Jackson, or Cap Anson would qualify under either of these). If not, though, it probably should not be considered.

So those are my thoughts. Any opinions out there?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Longest NFL Win Streaks

So, not living in Wisconsin anymore, I've been a little out of the loop. I mean, don't get me wrong - I watch the Packers pretty much every week (although once in a while, living in Chicago, I don't actually get the games, and I'm not always free to just go to a bar). I at least always follow a play-by-play online.

Anyway, I'm writing about the NFL today because of a couple of things. First, I haven't written about anything besides baseball in a really REALLY long time. Second, it seems like a good time to do it. Anyway, I've been wondering what the longest winning streak in NFL history is. Honestly, it's pretty hard to find. At the moment, SI has a gallery of the longest single-season winning streaks, and that's pretty neat, but not what I'm looking for. So I looked elsewhere online. Everyone knows the longest regular season winning streaks and keeps track of those. But what about the longest OVERALL streaks? At the current time, I have yet to find it. So, I went digging. Using only my knowledge of teams who happened to win a lot of games, I found some pretty long streaks. I think this is pretty complete.

First of all, if we allow for going WAY back, and not even to the NFL, the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC once won 18 in a row - the end of the 1947 season, and all 14 (plus one playoff) in 1948. They tied the opener, then won four in a row to start 1949, giving them a 22-0-1 record in a span of 23 games. Of course, it wasn't the NFL, but they still rocked it, and won 18 in a row. Of course, is that as good as the 1985-86 Bears going 24-1 over a 25 game stretch? Probably not, in a more competitive league. But regardless, those have blemishes. These do not. And like I said, I'm fairly certain these are ALL the streaks of 15 or more consecutive wins in NFL history. Here you go!

The 1971 Dolphins lost the Super Bowl. So the started with a blank streak. But of course, the went undefeated, including playoffs, to win the title. The didn't lose until week two the following year.

1972-73 Dolphins: 15 games

The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers will, undoubtedly be the oddest team on this list. They lost in week two. They lost the AFC Championship Game. They're utterly forgettable. Except, of course, that they won all 15 games they played in between.

2004 Pittsburgh Steelers: 15 games

Perhaps it's because the '72 Dolphins had already filled the need for a football team with a long winning streak, but their Super-Bowl-era record winning streak was eclipsed later in the same decade. The 1976 Oakland Raiders were absolutely CRUSHED by the Patriots in week three. Apparently, that made the mad enough to win their next 13 in a row, including the Super Bowl. It carried over to 1977, when they started 4-0.

1976-77 Oakland Raiders: 17 games

Now, of course, the failure of the 2004 Steelers reminds us of an even greater failure, and a longer streak. What can be said about the 2007 Pats that hasn't already been said? This, by the way, is the most familiar and most recent of our 18-gamers. It's also the only one that doesn't include a championship with it.

2007 New England Patriots: 18 games

The 1933 Chicago Bears won their last five games, to win the NFL Championship. That probably wouldn't mean anything special, except they also won all 13 of their regular season games in 1934 (they lost to the Giants in the NFL Championship Game). They were the first team to win 18 in a row.

1933-34 Chicago Bears: 18 games

In a somewhat eerie repeat for the franchise, the 1941 Bears won their last seven (Championship Game inclusive), and went undefeated the following year, only to lose the Championship Game, this time to the Redskins.

1941-42 Chicago Bears: 18 games

The 1989 49ers are, for whatever reason, not often considered to be among the best teams of all-time. But, during the season, they lost once by 1, and again by 4. After that 4-point loss to the Packers, they reeled off 8 straight. Then they began 1990 10-0. Although they would eventually lose in the NFC Championship game that year, in many ways, this was the crowning achievement of the 49ers dynasty under Bill Walsh and George Seifert.

1989-90 San Francisco 49ers: 18 games

Finally, other than the 2007 Patriots, can you name the most recent team to win 18 consecutive games? By the way, this team is also interesting because it's the only team on this entire list other than the 1972-73 Dolphins and the last team (I'll let the suspense keep building) to have streaks which covered two seasons, and to actually WIN the title in both seasons. That's right: the 1997-98 Broncos won 18 straight. They won their final regular season game of 1997 heading into the playoffs. Then they won four in a row, including upsetting the heavily favored Packers in the Super Bowl, in one of the best Super Bowls ever played. Then, they began the 1998 season 13-0 before losing two in a row. They recovered to win their final regular season game, and breezed through the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 95-32.

1997-98 Denver Broncos: 18 games

Finally, there's one team that absolutely DWARFED the 18 game streaks of other teams. Many people forget, I think, because they didn't start either season particularly hot. In 2004, they won their first 6 games. But that's nothing that special. It happens almost every year. And in '03, they had started out 2-2. Of course, after that 2-2 start, the New England Patriots won 15 straight, including the Super Bowl, and then the first six the following year. It's kind of unbelievable that Bill Belichick has presided over the two longest winning streaks in NFL history, but it's true. So this is the standard. Oh, and of course the 2004 Pats were repeat champs, like the Broncos and Dolphins before them, so that have that going for them, too.

Finally, why have I written all this? Well, the Green Bay Packers have, as of Thanksgiving day 2011, tied the 1976-77 Raiders with 17 straight wins. They will have a very tough game against the NFC East-leading Giants to tie the record. What will the fate of this Packers team be? Will they tie the 18-game mark against the Giants? Surpass it against the Raiders? Can they possibly catch the 2003-04 Dolphins (they'd have to keep winning, and they would tie it on Christmas day versus the Bears - to pass the Pats, they'd have to go undefeated, beating the Lions in week 17)? Will they join the 1934 and 1942 Bears by having undefeated seasons following a Championship? Will the buck the trend of those two teams, and follow in the lead of the 1973 Dolphins and 1998 Broncos and 2004 Patriots and win back-to-back titles? Or will they carve out some completely new, uncharted legacy? We will have to see between now and the Super Bowl. But no matter what the outcome, I think it's safe to say the 2010-2011 Packers have etched their names among the elite teams in NFL history already, regardless of how it all turns out.

2010-2011 Packers: 17 games (and counting?)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Warning . . . warning . . . EXTREME stat nerd post!!!

Are there two more irritating words in today's sports lexicon than "overrated" and "underrated?" I use them all the time, so I'm as guilty as anyone else. But here's the thing: when referring to numbers, any argument using the words "overrated" or "underrated" will inevitably put the cart before the horse by assuming a conclusion before looking at the evidence.

For example, there's an article up on Fangraphs right now about the 2011 Phillies rotation, claiming it's the best rotation ever. I'm not here to argue about that, actually, although it might be fun. What I am here to talk about is the comments.

[As an aside, let me just note right now that my life would be a lot happier, and yours would be, too, if we never read internet comments. There are a LOT of stupid people posting stuff on the internet. In order, I would say ignore comments about: religion, then politics, then sports. Seriously, it would save me a lot of stress, but for whatever reason, I can't stop reading comments. Please, do as I say, not as I do, and save yourself a lot of headaches.]

In said comments, there are a number of people near what is now the bottom talking about how certain FIP statistics "underrate" the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves. Interesting. How can that be? Statistics, believe it or not, don't "rate" anything, at least not in the sense to which these commenters are referring. HR don't "underrate" Babe Ruth's power. They don't "overrate" Hank Aaron's. They are a record of how many of a certain type of hit happened. That's it. They're not "rating" anyone. If people choose to interpret those statistics in such a way as to rate players/rotations/infields/outfields/ballparks/players/stadium food/Jumbotron race competitors/anything else you can think of, that's a problem of the analysis of statistics.

But, frankly, no one thinks about it that way. Instead, commenters on Fangraphs say that FIP "underrates" the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves because the numbers for them are lower than for a HANDFUL (like three) other rotations. FIP has a vendetta against the Braves. Did you know that? It goes in and deletes strikeouts! I know that's not what people mean, but that's how it comes across. Because you see what happens is people form a conclusion. In this case, "The Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz Braves had the best rotation of all time." Then, they go look at the evidence. They find support (ERA-, for example, or WAR - go read the article and see), and they're pleased. Then, they see counter-evidence. "Oh no! I already have my conclusion!" they cry. "Therefore, these statistics must be UNDERRATING my solution to the problem."

Well, that's just wrong. FIP is a statistical measure that takes into account strikeouts, walks, and home runs. The Braves didn't walk too many people, and they (comparatively) never gave up home runs (in the biggest HR era of all-time). But you know what? They really didn't strike anyone out (comparatively speaking, and in the biggest strikeout era of all-time). So FIP- (FIP relative to league average) ranks the 2011 Phillies first. And you know what else? It's more likely that the 1997 Braves (who fare the best of the 1990s Braves) are OVERRATED than it is that FIP UNDERRATES them. The Braves had great defenses, and their pitchers couldn't strike anyone out, so it worked out totally fine to allow a ton of balls in play, as long as they didn't leave the park. The Braves used that MO for the entirety of the Bobby Cox era, and it worked beautifully. The Twins used that same formula from the day Johan Santana left until today. It worked well until 2011, when the defense sucked. And you know what happened? Carl Pavano went from being lauded as a great pitcher in 2010 to a lousy one in 2011. Carl Pavano didn't really change. His defense did. And if Greg Maddux's defense had been different, history would probably "underrate" him, too.

Look, it's really quibbling over spilled milk. The thing most people are offended by is that the Braves are considered the 2nd-, or maybe 3rd-best rotation ever. That's AMAZING!!! There have been literally thousands of rotations in the history of baseball. To say that you're one of the three best is an accomplishment most people wouldn't dream of. But for those who "know" that the Braves are the best, anything but the top spot is unacceptable. And that's just unreasonable.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BBWAA Hall of Fame Standards for Hitters, Part II

So, I've been thinking about my last post, and I had some problems with it. First, it definitely weighted career length way too highly. So, I was trying to think of a remedy. I though, "should I square the decimal (generated by averaging batting average, secondary average, and R+RBI/AB), or should I take the square root of playing time?" I wound up doing both. This definitely weights production much more heavily than career length, and should give some relief to some of the odder choices the first system made. Then I multiplied the whole thing by 100, just to make the numbers friendlier. Here are the highlights from each position.

For example, I assumed the lowest scoring catcher would be Roy Campanella. He was. But I was surprised to see that Mickey Cochrane scored as low as he did. However, with the new system, the catcher who scores lowest is actually not Campanella, but rather Gary Carter. I suspect that, if you ask most baseball writers who they would rather have in the Hall, Carter or Campy, they would pick Campy. The system now reflects that. The old system left Hank Greenberg out in the cold. The new version ranks him behind only Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, in spite of his short career. The new system ranks Jackie Robinson near the middle of the 2B crowd, rather than at the end. The old system didn't like Wade Boggs - the new one ranks him above Brooks Robinson. Keeping in mind that my system (obviously) only ranks players as hitters, this makes total sense. At SS, Rabbit Maranville and Ozzie Smith move behind Lou Boudreau. In LF, Ted Williams comes in first (as it should be), while Ralph Kiner gets an unexpected bump. I don't think he's the worst LF the BBWAA selected, so this probably makes much more sense. CF is where we see the biggest changes. DiMaggio, for example, moves ahead of Duke Snider and Andre Dawson, instead of being only above Puckett (who remains the least qualified CF in the Hall). Interestingly, Mantle moves from 4th to 1st, followed by Mays, Cobb, and Speaker. Finally, the only player within 30% of Babe Ruth at any position is Ted Williams (which I think is more or less how people see things in baseball - at least the writers). Other than a big jump by Harry Heilmann, it's pretty much the same list, although I must say I'm a little surprised Mel Ott leapfrogged Hank Aaron. Anyway, here's the complete list, by position. If you don't like long, boring lists of names and arbitrary numbers, go ahead and skip it. Here it is:

Yogi Berra, 38.94; Mickey Cochrane, 38.90; Carlton Fisk, 38.57; Gabby Hartnett, 38.55; Bill Dickey, 37.34; Johnny Bench, 37.14; Roy Campanella, 32.58; Gary Carter, 32.10
Lou Gehrig, 76.19; Jimmie Foxx, 72.39; Hank Greenberg, 55.53; Harmon Killebrew, 53.89; Willie McCovey, 51.84; Eddie Murray, 41.95; Tony Perez, 37.62; Bill Terry, 34.78; George Sisler, 31.69
Rogers Hornsby, 59.44; Joe Morgan, 49.41; Eddie Collins, 48.91; Charlie Gehringer, 45.79; Nap Lajoie, 38.29; Roberto Alomar, 36.51; Jackie Robinson, 35.81; Frankie Frisch, 34.25; Ryne Sandberg, 32.63; Rod Carew, 32.62
Mike Schmidt, 55.79; Eddie Mathews, 47.71; George Brett, 41.42; Wade Boggs, 34.87; Pie Traynor, 30.65; Brooks Robinson, 27.60
Honus Wagner, 46.17; Joe Cronin, 43.19; Ernie Banks, 38.15; Cal Ripken, 35.31; Luke Appling, 32.95; Robin Yount, 32.76; Lou Boudreau, 27.55; Ozzie Smith, 24.60; Rabbit Maranville, 22.01; Luis Aparicio, 21.96
Ted Williams, 86.23; Rickey Henderson, 59.78; Stan Musial, 57.81; Willie Stargell, 47.57; Carl Yastrzemski, 45.92; Al Simmons, 45.73; Ralph Kiner, 44.40; Billy Williams, 39.22; Jim Rice, 36.50; Joe Medwick, 35.29; Lou Brock, 31.66
Mickey Mantle, 63.57; Willie Mays, 59.94; Ty Cobb, 59.57; Tris Speaker, 51.78; Joe DiMaggio, 49.48; Duke Snider, 48.94; Andre Dawson, 37.49; Kirby Puckett, 28.30
Babe Ruth, 105.29; Mel Ott, 61.99; Hank Aaron, 57.70; Frank Robinson, 57.38; Reggie Jackson, 48.29; Harry Heilmann, 44.68; Al Kaline, 44.06; Dave Winfield, 43.13; Paul Waner, 39.54; Tony Gwynn, 33.95; Roberto Clemente, 32.04; Willie Keeler, 31.80
Paul Molitor, 37.92

Now doesn't that all look better? I think so. It really "feels" like how the BBWAA voters think about players. Sure, there are some wild inconsistencies, but most of those can be explained away. And, as our series continues, you'll see how the Veterans' Committee stacks up (let's just say this: the writers don't miss too many, even by their own "unusual" standards - there's a reason the Vets committee has a bad reputation). And we'll look in the 4th part at the some players who are favorites for people to talk about as possible Hall of Famers. Finally, in Part V, assuming I keep this up another few weeks, we'll look at some current players and not-yet-eligibles who have already met the standards for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, October 31, 2011

BBWAA Hall of Fame Standards for Hitters, Part I

What are the standards for the Hall of Fame? A few days ago, I posted about MVP votes, and how they may be determined. What if we use a similar theory to see how people get voted into the Hall of Fame?
What it looks to me is like there actually are standards, based on the simple stuff we can base off of Batting Average, Secondary Average, and (R+RBI)/AB. If we take those and multiply them by an adjusted number of “seasons,” [this is an easy calculation: we take the number of PA/G a player has in his career. We multiply that by 158, which is what we're considering a full season, since it's halfway between 154 and 162. We'll call that number “x.” Then we take PA/x, and that will tell us how many “seasons” the player played. However, be less than the actual number for most players. So we average that with the actual number of seasons the player played. That should help those players with cups of coffee to even things out.] we come up with a small number. Each position appears to have its own standard for this number. These, by the way, are not minimums, but rather the number that, if a player reaches it, should guarantee enshrinement. For the record, I'm using players elected by the BBWAA, in Run-Offs (Red Ruffing, who's a pitcher, so not him actually, Luke Appling, and Charlie Gehringer) and Special Elections (Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig). Here they are, along with the BBWAA players who are in:
C: 4.0
Carlton Fisk, 5.9; Yogi Berra, 5.0; Gabby Hartnett, 5.0; Johnny Bench, 4.7; Gary Carter, 4.7; Bill Dickey, 4.5.
Mickey Cochrane, 3.8 – Close, but not quite qualified. Of course, Of course, he played on 5 pennant-winners, 3 Series-winners, and won two MVPS, so there's really no way he's going to get left out.
Roy Campanella, 2.9 – I think it's fair to say that Campy got a little benefit because of his Negro League career and the car accident limiting his career on both ends.
1B: 6.0
Jimmie Foxx, 7.2; Lou Gehrig, 6.8; Harmon Killebrew, 6.6; Willie McCovey, 6.6; Eddie Murray, 6.1.
*Tony Perez, 5.8 – Perez was one of the cogs in the Big Red Machine. Seeing as the Hall couldn't ever elect Pete Rose, I always kind of thought of Perez as a sort of “make-up” pick. And he's really close to the threshold.
Hank Greenberg, 4.4 – Definitley getting (deserved) credit for missing more time for war than any player in history other than Ted Williams. Additionally, Greenberg's seasons in which he did play were huge. So he gets the benefit of the doubt.
George Sisler, 4.1 – Overrated.
Bill Terry, 3.9 – Ditto. Both were high-average, low-power guys in high-offense eras. Don't really belong, though.
2B: 4.5
Eddie Collins, 7.0; Rogers Hornsby, 6.9; Joe Morgan, 6.5; Charlie Gehringer, 5.6; Nap Lajoie, 5.5; Frankie Frisch, 4.9; Rod Carew, 4.8; Roberto Alomar, 4.8.
*Ryne Sandberg, 4.3 – Could just as easily be in. Very close to the threshold, won an MVP, and could have won another.
Jackie Robinson, 3.2 – Yup. He was going in even if he hadn't been a great player. But he was – and probably better than many of the players ahead of him, but his career was limited on the front end by segregation.
3B: 4.5
Mike Schmidt, 6.1; George Brett, 5.9; Eddie Mathews, 5.5; Brooks Robinson, 5.0; Wade Boggs, 4.9.
Pie Traynor, 4.1 – There are no other third baseman before Traynor that even rank this highly, so it's really not surprising that he's up here. Definitely understandable, although he's still very much a high-batting-average guy.
SS: 4.0
Honus Wagner, 6.3; Cal Ripken, 5.6; Joe Cronin, 5.4; Ernie Banks, 5.3; Robin Yount, 5.2; Luke Appling, 5.0; Rabbit Maranville, 4.4; Ozzie Smith, 4.3, Luis Aparicio, 4.0 (3.96).
Aparicio was on the line once rounded, but I'd say he gets in. And this is my made-up qualification.
Lou Boudreau, 3.53 – Good player, won an MVP, led the Indians to a World Series as a player-manager. Ended DiMaggio's hitting streak (at least, he fielded the ball in DiMaggio's last AB of what would have been game #57). Not shocking he got in, but it wouldn't have been surprising if he'd been left out.
LF: 5.0?
Rickey Henderson, 7.9; Ted Williams, 7.7; Stan Musial, 7.4; Carl Yastrzemski, 6.9; Willie Stargell, 6.0; Al Simmons, 5.7; Billy Williams, 5.2.
*Lou Brock, 4.9 – Add in the success of his teams, the 3000 hits, and the all-time leadership in steals at the time of his election, and his close-but-no-cigar becomes a no-brainer.
*Jim Rice, 4.5 – Puzzling by any measure. Big 1978, but the Sox came up short. Not really clear on how he got in, though he was undoubtedly a great player. He's just not on the level as the others.
*Joe Medwick, 4.5 – Pretty much the same story for Medwick. One big season (Triple Crown in 1937). Good player, just not on the level of the others, in spite of playing (unlike Rice) in a big-hitting era.
Ralph Kiner, 3.7 – It was a mystery then. One-dimensional slugger. People apparently felt they couldn't leave him out because of the 8 HR titles, but I wouldn't have been shocked if they had.
CF: 4.5 (I think, though it's hard to say, because the numbers are all much higher. Could actually be more like 5.0)
Ty Cobb, 7.7; Willie Mays, 7.5; Tris Speaker, 6.8; Mickey Mantle, 6.6; Duke Snider, 5.5; Andre Dawson, 5.5; Joe DiMaggio, 4.5.
Kirby Puckett, 3.4 – Puckett gets a lot of credit for the unfortunate circumstances of the end of his playing days. Actually DiMaggio may be below this threshold, as well, but he was going to get in regardless. In fact, the idea of a 5.0 threshold may make more sense, because it would make the entire outfield consistent, and it's probable that voters see all outfielders as equal, in spite of CF being much harder than the other two positions.
RF: 5.0
Babe Ruth, ; Hank Aaron, ; Mel Ott, ; Frank Robinson, ; Reggie Jackson, ; Dave Winfield, ; Al Kaline, ; Paul Waner, ; Harry Heilmann, ; Tony Gwynn, .
*Roberto Clemente, 4.7 – He was getting in regardless. 3000 hits, and his tragic death, plus an MVP and a World Championship (1960).
*Willie Keeler, 4.6 – Yeah, it was the early days. It's not really shocking that he got in.
DH: 5.5
Paul Molitor, 5.6.
The only one in is Molitor, and he “belongs,” because the standard is based on him.
Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the Hall was a little less selective than this. It might look more like this:
C/2B/SS: 4.0
1B/3B/OF: 4.5
DH: 5.0? 5.5?
All stuff to think about. And this would retroactively include most of the people in the “out” category, as well. They're marked with an * above.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Response to a Post at The Platoon Advantage

Specifically, this post.

I love the blog (read every single post), and I love the idea. I just disagree about the results.

My personal bias would be to not pick dynasties on their last legs. I'd rather go with some one-and-dones. So I have to disagree about the ranking of the '06 Cards. As they pointed out, that was basically the same team as the '04 and '05 Cards, and no one would put either of those teams on the list, had they won. I actually think it's a pretty similar story for the 2000 Yankees. Obviously, that was a worse team than the 1998 and 1999 versions, but they were still a very, very solid team. I guess I'd go with:

8. 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. How does this team not get mentioned on lists like this more often? I've NEVER heard anyone make the claim that this wasn't that good of a team, but I have a couple of theories as to why. First, Dick Groat had a nice year, and won himself an MVP. Second, the Mazeroski home run is (rightfully) famous, and how could a famous home run have come from a bad team? (#kidding) Third, they beat a ridiculously good Yankee team that outplayed them over the course of a seven-game series, and people love that sort of well-they-got-outplayed-but-they-won-anyway-because-they're-scrappy-and-have-heart-kind-of-like-a-whole-team-of-David-Ecksteins garbage. But they were a 4th-place team in 1959, a 6th-place team in 1961, with literally the exact same starting lineup, and two of the top four pitchers were in common all three of the years (plus Vern Law in '59 and '60, and Vinegar Bend Mizell in '60 and '61 - and no, I didn't make up that name). It was a not-great team that took advantage of an NL that was a bit weak. Just not a great team.
7. 1906 Chicago White Sox. Is it too mean to pick on the "Hitless Wonders?" I don't think so, because the pitching wasn't even that good. Not a bad team, but they had no staying power, and that was in the early days of the AL when the league was weak enough that pretty much any team should have been able to dominate for 5-6 years. Obviously, I could have picked on any of the teams from that era, but this one seemed like the obvious choice, so I went with it.
6. 2003 Florida Marlins. Not nearly the same as the 1997 Marlins, which were a dice-roll on talent. This was a game of roulette where before the season, the Marlins called out, "Let it ride on 00 Green!" and it somehow came up. Yeah, there were some great players, but they didn't even know what they had in Miguel Cabrera, and the pitching was just lights-out, even though those same players mostly flamed out within a couple years. Total luck of the draw, and the worst World Series winner I remember watching.
5. 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers. The good stuff first: Kirk Gibson was the MVP, Orel Hershiser won the Cy Young and had the 59 scoreless innings. The bad: no one else on the team had an rWAR above 2.9 (!!!!!!!!!), and Gibson didn't even make the All-Star team (though he's probably the best player to never be an All-Star). Had Pedro Guerrero not been inexplicably traded midseason (at least, I can't explain it, but I was not quite yet 2 years old at the time, so if someone knows the scoop, give it to me), they would have had one other championship-caliber hitter.
4. 1914 Boston Braves. Yup, Miracle teams are great stories. But do you know why it's a great story when a Miracle team wins, like these Miracle Braves? It's a Miracle because they're not that good of a team. When Johnny Evers and something named Joe Connolly (he of 4 Major League seasons, though they were pretty good ones) are your best hitters, there's a problem.
3. 1990 Cincinnati Reds. Seriously - how did you forget these guys? Larkin wasn't that good a hitter yet, O'Neill and Davis both had off-years, the pitching staff was somehow led by Jose Rijo, and it wasn't even his best season. Yikes.
2. 1987 Minnesota Twins. My wife was born the day they won game 7 (and she's from Minnesota, and a die-hard Twins fan). We think very fondly of this team, but man alive - they weren't really very good.
1. Quick - name ONE player on the 1944 St. Louis Browns. Did you get Vern Stephens, aka the only player on the team with an rWAR over 4.6, and only non-pitcher over 2.2? As you said, it's a little unfair to attack wartime baseball. But seriously, how do you not put these guys at the top? Sure, their winning percentage was .577, which is better than many teams, but two years earlier (before all the good players left) or one year later (when they came back) this team wouldn't have finished 7th, much less won the pennant. At least the 1945 Tigers, mentioned on the other list, had great pitching, and Rudy York, whom Bill (the poster at The Platoon Advantage) drastically underestimates as a player.

Fun exercise. I wanted to pick the 1985 Royals, but their pitching was just too, too good. Also, I really wanted to include the 1940 Reds, but at least they had Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, and Bucky Walters, who each had a pretty good run in the late-'30s-early-40s era. Hope you've enjoyed this. What do you think? was indispensable in the writing of this post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011 IBAs

The Internet Baseball Awards have existed since 1991, and are the internet's longest running baseball awards. Anyone with a Baseball Prospectus subscription, even at the lowly "basic" (i.e. "free") level can have a vote. And so, for the second year in a row, I cast my vote. Here's my ballot. I hope you like it:

AL Manager of the Year

1. Joe Maddon, TBR
2. Mike Scioscia, LAA
3. Manny Acta, CLE

These three managers were, more than any others, I think, part of teams that outperformed expectations. For the Rays's refusal to quit in spite of overwhelming odds, I give Maddon the nod. Scioscia and Acta would also be great choices, though. Scioscia, because of past performance, I think, has been largely overlooked, but the Angels were MUCH better than anyone expected this year.

NL Manager of the Year

1. Kirk Gibson, ARI
2. Ron Roenicke, MIL
3. Don Mattingly, LAD

Gibson led his team to the most surprising finish. Roenicke took what was a sub-.500 team last year, added some new players, created a good clubhouse environment, and led the team to the 2nd-best record in the NL. Mattingly's job was probably the hardest of anyone in baseball, and even after a miserable first half, he helped the Dodgers to an above-.500 record.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Jeremy Hellickson, TBR
2. Michael Pineda, SEA
3. Dustin Ackley, SEA

Hellickson had a great year for a rookie. There's just not much else to say. Pineda was a nice surprise, and Ackley was the lone offensive bright spot on a TERRIBLE offense.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Josh Collmenter, ARI
2. Craig Kimbrel, ATL
3. Wilson Ramos, WAS

Ramos was a great pickup for Washington in the Matt Capps trade, but the two pitchers had better year. Collmenter was impressive, but my vote would have gone to Kimbrel if not for his fading down the stretch – he blew three leads (and two saves) in his last eight appearances. And while that was only a small part of the reason Atlanta missed the postseason and I can't blame him for that, it can keep him from getting my RotY vote.

AL Cy Young

1. Justin Verlander, DET
2. CC Sabathia, NYY
3. Jered Weaver, LAA
4. CJ Wilson, TEX
5. Dan Haren, LAA

Verlander had a great year. I wanted to vote for Sabathia, just to be different, and because I really liked his year. But the gap between Verlander and Sabathia is big enough that it has to be Justin. Weaver was a close third, but definitely below the first group. Wilson and Haren were great, and I also considered James Shields.

NL Cy Young

1. Roy Halladay, PHI
2. Cliff Lee, PHI
3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
4. Cole Hamels, PHI
5. Ian Kennedy, ARI

This was a tough one. It's a really narrow margin from 1-3, and no order is really wrong, per say. I like how Halladay and Lee come out in some of the DIPS methods, plus they have a hitter's park to deal with. The next three were close, as well, with Madison Bumgarner just missing the list. I also considered giving Greinke a nod because his unusual HR rate making his overall numbers worse.


1. Jose Bautista, TOR
2. Miguel Cabrera, DET
3. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS
4. Justin Verlander, DET
5. CC Sabathia, NYY
6. Mike Napoli, TEX
7. Curtis Granderson, NYY
8. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
9. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
10. Alex Gordon, KCR

Let me first say that I wanted to put Robinson Cano on this list, but he just missed, and I feel bad about that, because he had a great year. Napoli is probably a little higher than he would be on most people's lists, but he basically led the AL (or was second to Bautista) in every meaningful rate stat. The fact that he only played 113 games because he had one small injury and plays catcher is not something I'm going to hold against him too terribly much. In a year when Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz underperformed, Napoli could be counted on to come through time and again. As for Bautista at the top, well, that's just how I feel. I think if you put him on the Red Sox, they finish with the best record in baseball, instead of missing the playoffs completely. I can't really see a strong argument for any other player except Verlander, who's a bit overrated this year (and is pretty much neck-and-neck with Sabathia, in my book), Cabrera, who doesn't seem to get much national love because of the Verlander hype, or Ellsbury, who just flat-out wasn't as good. Basically, the top-5 are all good choices. But Bautista's my guy. And one last thing: it was really fun to put a Royal on here and be totally serious about it. Gordon finally had the breakout season we've all been waiting for him to have.


1. Matt Kemp, LAD
2. Ryan Braun, MIL
3. Joey Votto, CIN
4. Jose Reyes, NYM
5. Roy Halladay, PHI
6. Cliff Lee, PHI
7. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
8. Justin Upton, ARI
9. Prince Fielder, MIL
10. Troy Tulowitzki, COL

Definitely a hard one for me. I wish I could vote for Braun. I really do. He was outstanding. He's really picked up his defensive game, and as a Brewers fan, I know how huge he was for the team. He's been my favorite player on the team ever since he came up, and I'd love to give him my vote. But even as a homer, I can't ignore how awesome Matt Kemp was. By the traditional measures, he was the best, even playing in a pitcher's park. In the advanced metrics, he laps the field. So it has to be Kemp. The most bizarre thing about this is excluding the name “Albert Pujols.” I thought about including him, just for old times' sakes, but he didn't have a noticeably better year than teammates Lance Berkman or Matt Holliday, nor for that matter some guys like Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Phillips, Shane Victorino, or Andrew McCutchen, and I wasn't going to vote for any of them, so he gets left off. As for the other players, it's really too close to call. They could have gone in pretty much any order, although Reyes would have definitely been higher had it not been for the injury. Votto had an awesome year, and is completely overlooked. Fielder's a little overrated because of his awesome clutchiness this season, but he had another great campaign. Overall, just a really strong crop in the NL, and really tough choices. It'd probably be different if I did it again tomorrow, especially 3-10.

Also, since there's nowhere else to put this, I want to give myself credit for the best idea of the year, because I had it before the Brewers did. The day they signed Mark Kotsay, I said to my father on the phone, “Why would they sign an old guy who can't run and doesn't hit well when Nyjer Morgan is still available? I know he has a reputation as a clubhouse cancer, but he's fast and would make a good defensive replacement and pinch runner, if nothing else. And it would give us a lefthanded bat, just like Kotsay.” Apparently, Brewers GM Doug Melvin heard that conversation or something, signed Morgan, and the rest is history, Tony Plush and all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fun with Baseball

A long time ago, Bill James noted that, in a baseball player's career, most often, the number of Hits, "secondary bases" (which James defines as [Total bases-Hits], Steals, and Walks; I add Hit by Pitch), and Runs+RBI will most often be about the same. In case you're curious, George Brett has the closest career spread: 3154 Hits, 3220 Secondary Bases (3187 by James's method), and 3179 R+RBI. In fact, his R and RBI are almost the same as one another, as well - 1583 and 1596, respectively.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I got to thinking about MVP votes in baseball, and how they usually go. I was thinking how important the traditional "Triple Crown" stats are: BA, HR, and RBI. But the voters aren't that superficial as to just throw those together and come up with something, are they? I'm not so sure. I started thinking about how, since the numbers above take the Triple Crown stats into account, one could, if one were willing, throw together a quick little formula, weighting each category (hitting for average, hitting for power/walking/basestealing, and run scoring/driving-in) equally. Why? Because the point is to be superficial. So I just divided each one by AB (not PA, because Batting Average is over AB, and I wanted all three on the same scale). Anyway, I needed a playing time component, so first I averaged those three into a number that looks like a batting average, and then I multiplied it by games played. I call it "MVPoints," because it needs a silly name. How reliably would this predict the league MVP in baseball, do you think? Well, I'll let yourself. In the table below, if the MVP did not lead his league in MVPoints, I put the leader. If he did, I put the runner-up, so there's some basis for comparison. Please keep in mind, this is NOT supposed to be a useful stat. It's just a thought experiment, more than anything. And for the record, in years in which a pitcher won the MVP, I'm using the position player who placed the highest in the voting in the first column. The actually winner will be noted to the side. Anyway, here goes:

Year Lg MVP MVPoints (Place) Other Player (Place) MVPoints
2010 NL Joey Votto 60.5 (2nd) Albert Pujols (1st) 63.6
2009 NL Albert Pujols 72.5 (1st) Prince Fielder (2nd) 65.9
2008 NL Albert Pujols 63.5 (1st) Lance Berkman (2nd) 63.0
2007 NL Jimmy Rollins 53.5 (13th) Prince Fielder (1st) 63.2
2006 NL Ryan Howard 68.7 (1st) Albert Pujols (2nd) 64.1
2005 NL Albert Pujols 66.2 (1st) Derrek Lee (2nd) 64.3
2004 NL Barry Bonds 102.5 (1st) Jim Edmonds (2nd) 66.2
2003 NL Barry Bonds 73.2 (1st) Todd Helton (2nd) 66.9
2002 NL Barry Bonds 90.5 (1st) Brian Giles (2nd) 68.1
2001 NL Barry Bonds 93.9 (1st) Sammy Sosa (2nd) 78.9
2000 NL Jeff Kent 63.1 (6th) Todd Helton (1st) 73.8
1999 NL Chipper Jones 68.1 (3rd) Jeff Bagwell (1st) 76.0
1998 NL Sammy Sosa 66.0 (3rd) Mark McGwire (1st) 84.2
1997 NL Larry Walker 72.5 (1st) Barry Bonds (2nd) 72.2
1996 NL Ken Caminiti 59.9 (7th) Barry Bonds (1st) 77.6
1995 NL Barry Larkin 46.1 (12th) Barry Bonds (1st) 62.6
1994 NL Jeff Bagwell 55.4 (1st) Barry Bonds (2nd) 50.8
1993 NL Barry Bonds 76.2 (1st) Lenny Dykstra (2nd) 57.6
1992 NL Barry Bonds 66.9 (1st) Fred McGriff (2nd) 55.6
1991 NL Terry Pendleton 46.7 (13th) Barry Bonds (1st) 62.7
1990 NL Barry Bonds 63.9 (1st) Ryne Sandberg (2nd) 53.5
1989 NL Kevin Mitchell 62.7 (1st) Howard Johnson (2nd) 57.4
1988 NL Kirk Gibson 51.3 (3rd) Darryl Strawberry (1st) 57.8
1987 NL Andre Dawson 51.7 (12th) Dale Murphy (1st) 64.2
1986 NL Mike Schmidt 59.4 (1st) Eric Davis (2nd) 56.6
1985 NL Willie McGee 49.1 (8th) Dale Murphy (1st) 58.0
1984 NL Ryne Sandberg 50.4 (5th) Dale Murphy (1st) 55.7
1983 NL Dale Murphy 63.5 (1st) Mike Schmidt (2nd) 60.7
1982 NL Dale Murphy 58.2 (1st) Mike Schmidt (2nd) 57.6
1981 NL Mike Schmidt 46.6 (1st) George Foster (2nd) 37.2
1980 NL Mike Schmidt 61.2 (1st) Keith Hernandez (2nd) 54.2
1979 NL Keith Hernandez 55.1 (3rd) Mike Schmidt (1st) 65.1
1979 NL Willie Stargell 42.2 (28th) Dave Winfield (2nd) 57.7
1978 NL Dave Parker 54.2 (4th) Greg Luzinski (1st) 56.3
1977 NL George Foster 62.7 (1st) Mike Schmidt (2nd) 61.8
1976 NL Joe Morgan 66.8 (1st) Mike Schmidt (2nd) 59.4
1975 NL Joe Morgan 64.1 (1st) Mike Schmidt (2nd) 57.7
1974 NL Steve Garvey 44.3 (18th) Mike Schmidt (1st) 63.3
1973 NL Pete Rose 43.7 (22nd) Darrell Evans (1st) 61.5
1972 NL Johnny Bench 55.7 (1st) Billy Williams (2nd) 55.4
1971 NL Joe Torre 55.5 (3rd) Willie Stargell (1st) 58.8
1970 NL Johnny Bench 57.4 (6th) Willie McCovey (1st) 68.2
1969 NL Willie McCovey 68.2 (1st) Jimmy Wynn (2nd) 62.7
1968 NL Pete Rose* 39.6 (13th) Willie McCovey (1st) 52.1 *Bob Gibson
1967 NL Orlando Cepeda 52.1 (5th) Hank Aaron (1st) 55.6
1966 NL Roberto Clemente 49.9 (8th) Hank Aaron (1st) 58.3
1965 NL Willie Mays 63.3 (1st) Frank Robinson (2nd) 56.9
1964 NL Ken Boyer 51.7 (5th) Willie Mays (1st) 62.0
1963 NL Dick Groat* 42.3 (15th) Hank Aaron (1st) 62.1 *Sandy Koufax
1962 NL Maury Wills 47.0 (17th) Frank Robinson (1st) 66.9
1961 NL Frank Robinson 63.3 (1st) Willie Mays (2nd) 61.8
1960 NL Dick Groat 32.4 (34th) Eddie Mathews (1st) 60.9
1959 NL Ernie Banks 58.3 (1st) Frank Robinson (2nd) 57.8
1958 NL Ernie Banks 57.1 (2nd) Willie Mays (1st) 57.2
1957 NL Hank Aaron 55.4 (3rd) Willie Mays (1st) 59.7
1956 NL Hank Aaron* 48.5 (9th) Duke Snider (1st) 59.5 *Don Newcombe
1955 NL Roy Campanella 47.1 (12th) Duke Snider (1st) 65.6
1954 NL Willie Mays 60.7 (3rd) Stan Musial (1st) 61.5
1953 NL Roy Campanella 58.9 (4th) Eddie Mathews (1st) 64.2
1952 NL Hank Sauer 52.7 (5th) Gil Hodges (1st) 55.7
1951 NL Roy Campanella 52.3 (7th) Ralph Kiner (1st) 67.0
1950 NL Stan Musial* 56.2 (2nd) Ralph Kiner (1st) 62.1 *Jim Konstanty
1949 NL Jackie Robinson 60.5 (3rd) Ralph Kiner (1st) 67.2
1948 NL Stan Musial 66.2 (1st) Ralph Kiner (2nd) 59.9
1947 NL Bob Elliott 52.5 (4th) Ralph Kiner (1st) 63.4
1946 NL Stan Musial 56.3 (1st) Enos Slaughter (2nd) 50.7
1945 NL Phil Cavarretta 46.9 (4th) Tommy Holmes (1st) 56.4
1944 NL Marty Marion 32.3 (29th) Bill Nicholson (1st) 58.7
1943 NL Stan Musial 52.4 (2nd) Bill Nicholson (1st) 52.8
1942 NL Enos Slaughter* 50.8 (3rd) Mel Ott (1st) 55.5 *Mort Cooper
1941 NL Dolph Camilli 58.0 (1st) Mel Ott (2nd) 51.4
1940 NL Frank McCormick 48.2 (6th) Johnny Mize (1st) 63.4
1939 NL Johnny Mize* 59.8 (1st) Dolph Camilli (2nd) 57.5 *Bucky Walters
1938 NL Ernie Lombardi 39.7 (12th) Mel Ott (1st) 63.0
1937 NL Joe Medwick 59.0 (1st) Mel Ott (2nd) 54.7
1936 NL Billy Herman* 44.8 (11th) Mel Ott (1st) 64.8 *Carl Hubbell
1935 NL Gabby Hartnett 39.9 (15th) Arky Vaughan (1st) 56.6
1934 NL Paul Waner* 49.8 (4th) Mel Ott (1st) 60.1 *Dizzy Dean
1933 NL Chuck Klein* 55.0 (1st) Mel Ott (2nd) 48.0 *Carl Hubbell
1932 NL Chuck Klein 62.4 (2nd) Mel Ott (1st) 62.8
1931 NL Frankie Frisch 38.6 (19th) Chuck Klein (1st) 54.5
2010 AL Josh Hamilton 49.5 (9th) Jose Bautista (1st) 66.3
2009 AL Joe Mauer 50.9 (12th) Jason Bay (1st) 59.0
2008 AL Dustin Pedroia 48.0 (18th) Grady Sizemore (1st) 54.2
2007 AL Alex Rodriguez 73.6 (1st) Carlos Pena (2nd) 64.5
2006 AL Justin Morneau 54.6 (9th) David Ortiz (1st) 66.0
2005 AL Alex Rodriguez 67.1 (1st) David Ortiz (2nd) 64.7
2004 AL Vladimir Guerrero 58.7 (2nd) Manny Ramirez (1st) 60.3
2003 AL Alex Rodriguez 64.1 (2nd) Carlos Delgado (1st) 68.6
2002 AL Miguel Tejada 51.5 (10th) Jim Thome (1st) 68.6
2001 AL Ichiro Suzuki 45.8 (27th) Jason Giambi (1st) 70.7
2000 AL Jason Giambi 71.7 (2nd) Carlos Delgado (1st) 72.9
1999 AL Ivan Rodriguez 49.1 (26th) Manny Ramirez (1st) 70.7
1998 AL Juan Gonzalez 59.6 (4th) Albert Belle (1st) 67.0
1997 AL Ken Griffey, Jr. 65.8 (1st) Frank Thomas (2nd) 61.6
1996 AL Juan Gonzalez 52.1 (19th) Jim Thome (1st) 67.5
1995 AL Mo Vaughn 53.8 (5th) Edgar Martinez (1st) 64.7
1994 AL Frank Thomas 57.6 (1st) Albert Belle (2nd) 47.8
1993 AL Frank Thomas 63.6 (2nd) John Olerud (1st) 63.8
1992 AL Kirby Puckett* 49.6 (7th) Frank Thomas (1st) 61.8 *Dennis Eckersley
1991 AL Cal Ripken, Jr. 53.6 (5th) Frank Thomas (1st) 62.4
1990 AL Rickey Henderson 58.2 (2nd) Cecil Fielder (1st) 62.0
1989 AL Robin Yount 52.6 (2nd) Fred McGriff (1st) 59.4
1988 AL Jose Canseco 62.1 (1st) Mike Greenwell (2nd) 56.2
1987 AL George Bell 56.6 (3rd) Dwight Evans (1st) 61.9
1986 AL Don Mattingly* 53.6 (3rd) Jesse Barfield (1st) 56.2 *Roger Clemens
1985 AL Don Mattingly 55.5 (4th) George Brett (1st) 61.7
1984 AL Kent Hrbek* 48.7 (10th) Eddie Murray (1st) 57.3 *Willie Hernandez
1983 AL Cal Ripken, Jr. 50.9 (5th) Eddie Murray (1st) 56.5
1982 AL Robin Yount 55.7 (3rd) Dwight Evans (1st) 58.6
1981 AL Rickey Henderson* 36.7 (2nd) Dwight Evans (1st) 40.1 *Rollie Fingers
1980 AL George Brett 50.2 (6th) Reggie Jackson (1st) 55.5
1979 AL Don Baylor 59.8 (2nd) Fred Lynn (1st) 61.3
1978 AL Jim Rice 59.0 (1st) Andre Thornton (2nd) 53.9
1977 AL Rod Carew 56.6 (3rd) Bobby Bonds (1st) 57.2
1976 AL Thurman Munson 41.3 (21st) Rod Carew (1st) 50.2
1975 AL Fred Lynn 53.2 (3rd) John Mayberry (1st) 59.3
1974 AL Jeff Burroughs 52.9 (2nd) Reggie Jackson (1st) 54.5
1973 AL Reggie Jackson 56.6 (1st) John Mayberry (2nd) 55.5
1972 AL Dick Allen 61.1 (1st) Bobby Murcer (2nd) 51.3
1971 AL Sal Bando* 48.2 (6th) Bobby Murcer (1st) 53.3 *Vida Blue
1970 AL Boog Powell 58.1 (4th) Carl Yastrzemski (1st) 67.8
1969 AL Harmon Killebrew 70.8 (1st) Reggie Jackson (2nd) 66.0
1968 AL Bill Freehan* 47.0 (4th) Carl Yastrzemski (1st) 54.8 *Denny McLain
1967 AL Carl Yastrzemski 64.7 (2nd) Harmon Killebrew (1st) 65.4
1966 AL Frank Robinson 64.2 (1st) Harmon Killebrew (2nd) 57.8
1965 AL Zoilo Versalles 46.9 (5th) Rocky Colavito (1st) 52.3
1964 AL Brooks Robinson 51.0 (6th) Mickey Mantle (1st) 59.8
1963 AL Elston Howard 42.3 (16th) Bob Allison (1st) 53.4
1962 AL Mickey Mantle 59.3 (1st) Harmon Killebrew (2nd) 58.3
1961 AL Roger Maris 67.3 (3rd) Mickey Mantle (1st) 74.5
1960 AL Roger Maris 52.2 (2nd) Mickey Mantle (1st) 61.2
1959 AL Nellie Fox 39.9 (20th) Harmon Killebrew (1st) 54.6
1958 AL Jackie Jensen 57.0 (2nd) Mickey Mantle (1st) 65.6
1957 AL Mickey Mantle 70.1 (1st) Ted Williams (2nd) 64.3
1956 AL Mickey Mantle 71.6 (1st) Ted Williams (2nd) 56.4
1955 AL Yogi Berra 46.6 (7th) Mickey Mantle (1st) 62.6
1954 AL Yogi Berra 48.2 (7th) Minnie Minoso (1st) 58.3
1953 AL Al Rosen 62.5 (1st) Larry Doby (2nd) 53.2
1952 AL Mickey Mantle* 47.4 (3rd) Larry Doby (1st) 52.5 *Bobby Shantz
1951 AL Yogi Berra 43.0 (11th) Ted Williams (1st) 62.8
1950 AL Phil Rizzuto 48.1 (14th) Al Rosen (1st) 58.9
1949 AL Ted Williams 76.9 (1st) Vern Stephens (2nd) 59.7
1948 AL Lou Boudreau 56.4 (3rd) Ted Williams (1st) 62.5
1947 AL Joe DiMaggio 47.8 (4th) Ted Williams (1st) 72.7
1946 AL Ted Williams 74.6 (1st) Charlie Keller (2nd) 56.1
1945 AL Eddie Mayo* 34.0 (19th) Roy Cullenbine (1st) 48.0 *Hal Newhouser
1944 AL Vern Stephens* 45.2 (7th) Bob Johnson (1st) 54.0 *Hal Newhouser
1943 AL Luke Appling* 44.0 (5th) Rudy York (1st) 54.1 *Spud Chandler
1942 AL Joe Gordon 49.8 (4th) Ted Williams (1st) 73.5
1941 AL Joe DiMaggio 58.2 (2nd) Ted Williams (1st) 77.5
1940 AL Hank Greenberg 65.7 (1st) Rudy York (2nd) 59.5
1939 AL Joe DiMaggio 52.2 (6th) Ted Williams (1st) 64.2
1938 AL Jimmie Foxx 73.5 (2nd) Hank Greenberg (1st) 74.2
1937 AL Charlie Gehringer 53.1 (8th) Lou Gehrig (1st) 73.3
1936 AL Lou Gehrig 76.9 (1st) Jimmie Foxx (2nd) 67.3
1935 AL Hank Greenberg 63.1 (3rd) Lou Gehrig (1st) 65.1
1934 AL Mickey Cochrane 41.3 (22nd) Lou Gehrig (1st) 72.8
1933 AL Jimmie Foxx 68.5 (1st) Lou Gehrig (2nd) 63.1
1932 AL Jimmie Foxx 77.0 (1st) Lou Gehrig (2nd) 67.5
1931 AL Lou Gehrig* 74.4 (1st) Babe Ruth (2nd) 74.2 *Lefty Grove

So, that was long-winded, huh? Well what does it all mean? First of all, let's figure out how accurate this "statistic" has been at determining the MVP. I've checked the MVPs since the current voting system used by the BBWAA began taking place - that is to say, since 1931 in both leagues. That means, through 2010, there have been 160 MVP awards - 80 in each league (although, as you can see above, there were co-MVPs in 1979 - since neither had the most MVPoints, we're just going to count it as 0/1, not 0/2). 54 times out of 160 (33.75% of the time), the MVPoints leader has been the highest-finishing position player in the MVP voting. However, since 20 pitchers have won the award, and down-ballot MVP votes tend to be awarded a bit more capriciously, perhaps it would be best to exclude the 20 times a pitcher has won the award (which will also remove three "correct" answers, those being Gehrig in 1931, Chuck Klein in 1933, and Johnny Mize in 1939. That increases the odds to 51 out of 140 (~36.4%). Baseball-Reference Win Above Replacement selects the MVP 27 times in the NL, and 27 time in the AL. Why do I bring this up? That's 54 times in 160. Just like this (although WAR is obviously able to count pitchers). So it seems likely that the WAR leader is equally likely as the MVPoints leader to win the MVP. Which brings me to my point.

2011 has been a tricky year for choosing MVPs, in either league. There are those pulling for Justin Verlander, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson in the AL race. In the NL, it's pretty much a two-horse race between Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp. As Baseball-Reference WAR (or rWAR) has it, it would be either Verlander or Bautista in the AL, and Kemp in the NL. Obviously, this particular number I've come up with isn't capable of speaking to Verlander. However, it can speak to the other candidates in the MVP race this year. Here they are:

Name Team BA ScA R+BI Avg G MVPoints
Jose Bautista TOR .302 .593 .405 .433 149 64.5
Miguel Cabrera DET .344 .439 .378 .387 161 62.3
Jacoby Ellsbury BOS .321 .382 .339 .347 158 54.9
Adrian Gonzalez BOS .338 .338 .357 .344 159 54.7 (213 hits, 213 secondary bases!)
Robinson Cano NYY .302 .324 .356 .327 159 52.0
Curtis Granderson NYY .262 .499 .437 .399 156 62.2
Matt Kemp LAD .324 .461 .400 .395 161 63.6
Ryan Braun MIL .332 .435 .391 .386 150 57.9

So there you have it. According to both WAR and MVPoints, your 2011 MVPs will be Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp. Now, I actually think that Verlander and Braun will win the awards, but that's a different matter...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hello Again!

It's been a really, really, REALLY long time. That's annoying. Adjusting to the first year of marriage and the first year of grad school at the same time has given less time for sports. And what time I do have for spo is generally spent watching them or reading about them, rather than writing. I'm hoping I can return to the discipline, though. And, to get things kicked off, here's a survey - a really long survey - about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

You're welcome to try it, but it's long, and every question (all 400 of them) require responses. Happy surveying. It's right here. Or just go to

Hope everything is going well, and I hope to post more often soon!