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Jon Paul Morosi explains his awards voting criteria

Sep 22, 2010, 3:59 PM EDT

I’ve taken some shots at Jon Paul Morosi’s recent writings on post season awards — specifically his choice of Miguel Cabrera over Josh Hamilton for MVP and CC Sabathia or David Price over Felix Hernandez — so I would be remiss in not linking to a post in which he explains how he reaches his conclusions. It’s here, and there are interesting things in it.

Short version: Morosi reads the rules sent out by the BBWAA with the ballots. In this column he takes on the MVP. The two principle rules for the MVP: “number of games played” and “actual value of the player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.” Again, his choice on these grounds is Miguel Cabrera.

I get the games played rule, and I agree with Morosi that you have to discount a player to some degree in the MVP voting if he doesn’t appear in that many games. I’m not sure where you draw that line — a .390 hitter like George Brett in 1980 would get my vote even if he only played in 114 games or whatever — but it’s a consideration. This could matter for the Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton debate.

Where Morosi loses me, however, is not with his ultimate choice, but with his interpretation of what “value” is. Sure, it can be a vague term — people have been arguing what it truly means for years — but given the “strength of offense and defense” language he cites, how Morosi can then say the following is beyond me:

BABIP, VORP and WAR were not, are not, and probably never will be part of said criteria.

Those metrics — and others — are specifically designed to measure the value of a player’s contributions. How can he simply read them out of the decision making process?  Sure, the BBWAA guidelines predate those metrics, but scientists don’t discard new data simply because the scientific method was developed earlier. There are new ways to calculate value. While we should all be skeptical of any one statistic and not rely on it too heavily, to simply ignore advanced metrics altogether is to engage in poor analysis.

But Morosi does this. And in their place he substitutes the “which team would be the most screwed without player X” argument. Sure, we’ve all used that one before, or at least considered it.  But Morosi relies on it to an excessive degree. Taken literally you’d always have to give it to a catcher, right? Without him there’d be a ton of passed balls!*

Morosi then goes on to add a couple more factors for spice: home parks of both Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera and the “lineup protection” each man has received.  Never mind that park factors, a more precise way to judge a player’s yard, are, like many of the advanced metrics he dismisses, a post-BBWAA-rules creation. Also never mind the fact that the concept of lineup “protection” has been debunked.

Look, I don’t really care where Morosi ends up on the MVP vote. The case for Cabrera is not a frivolous case, especially if Hamilton doesn’t play again this season.  What I object to are the odd and inconsistent standards he uses to get there, and his seeming dismissal of those who use different ones.

I more strongly object to the fact that, inherent in his column, is the appeal to authority: the BBWAA has always done it this way, he’s saying. While what a voter may consider to be “value” is subjective, if you’re using modern stats, you’re doing it wrong, because that’s not the way the writers thought about it in 1931.

That’s not reason.  That’s madness.

*Let us also note that in discounting Felix Hernandez’s win totals in earlier writings, Morosi contradicts himself. In that case he’s penalizing Hernandez for not having better teammates. In the MVP voting, he considers it a plus.

  1. Mr. Heyward - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Kurt Suzuki for MVP!!!!!

  2. geoknows - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    It wouldn’t have to be a catcher; it would have to be a pitcher. If the pitcher doesnt’ throw the ball, we don’t have a game at all.

  3. Jonny5 - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    I don’t agree that lineup protection is debunked. Go take a gander at Carlos Ruiz #’s. His OBP is totally out of this world compared to his BA. Then look at Howard and Werth’s OBP compared to BA. He has opposite of protection in the form of a pitcher batting behind him, and with as good as he’s been with a bat, he’s an easy walk. They intentionally walk his butt all the time. If you look at the Phillies lineup, there are guys who would get plenty of walks compared to Ruiz, the sluggers of the team, Howard, and Werth are prime examples. On most teams they would get walked twice as much, but it’s almost another run when you do it to the phillies, so it happens much less often with that team. There are just too many good bats to start walking guys. You can’t look at the Dodgers to debunk the lineup protection, they aren’t “stacked” enough with good bats. I totally agree with your asessment of morosi and his voting. Do you really buy the whole debunked lineup protection Craig?

  4. Wooden U Lykteneau - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Craig – Please stop writing about this moron. That he works for Fox should be reason enough for most folks to deduce his intellectual acumen.

  5. Largebill - Sep 22, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Craig,
    While I’m inclined to agree with the overall tenor of your article, I do take exception to your claim that the idea of protection has been debunked. The Will Carroll article you linked to did not completely debunk that notion. He looked at one particular situation where a new batter (Manny) was added to a line-up. I remember the Indians of the mid-90’s and it was pretty clear to me that Albert Belle changed the mind set of opposing pitchers. Some were clearly scared of Belle and I don’t just mean because he’s a sociopath.

  6. Chipmaker - Sep 22, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Groan. Statistical analysis is more advanced and insightful than ever before, but he doesn’t want to think about anything developed since 1931 (or 1901, or 1884…). There’s a reason the dinosaurs are all dead.

  7. Phylan - Sep 23, 2010 at 2:11 AM

    The difference between OBP and AVG need not be attributed to external factors. Players with very good plate discipline often have 100 point differences — take a look at Chase Utley, for example. I don’t think anyone would argue that batting in front of the pitcher in the National League won’t inflate your OBP a bit (although I’ve never seen an attempt to quantify that inflation). But that is the most extreme possible example of a the next spot in the lineup having an effect on how the pitcher deals with you — most of the fallacious arguments about protection deal with an average to below average hitter being bolstered by an elite hitter behind them, and that’s just not the reality. It’s been written about in far more places than just that BP article.
    And besides, take a look at Ruiz’s swing data at Fangraphs. Even prior to 2009, when he was barely more than a replacement level hitter, he never swung at junk. He had very good plate discipline. While I doubt he’d be leading the team in OBP were he batting, say, leadoff, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say his OBP would still be well above league average.

  8. IdahoMariner - Sep 23, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    “Taken literally you’d always have to give it to a catcher, right? Without him there’d be a ton of passed balls!*”
    Except on the Mariners, Because on the Mariners, if there were no catcher, there would be no discernible increase in passed balls.

  9. nikolai volkoff - Sep 23, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    hey craig, bah fongoola , maldito borracho

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