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Joe Strauss slams "spreadsheet voters"

Sep 23, 2010, 9:17 AM EDT

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Dispatch was asked in a chat yesterday about last year’s Cy Young Vote and whether he thought Keith law and “others in the sabermetric crowd” had undue influence in awards outcomes. His response:

There increasingly appears a
campaign to discredit pitcher wins as a consideration. They are
considered by some as a derivative of “luck,” much like RBI, in the
estimation of some spreadsheet voters. Law didn’t give the vote to
Lincecum. However, there is an increasingly strong
smartest-guy-in-the-room element that frowns on more traditional
numbers now assigned the pejorative “peripherals.” Personally, I
thought Wainwright the NL’s best pitcher in 2009 only to later be
informed he was merely “luckier” than Lincecum. Who’da thunk?

I’m guessing that, in the past, there have been other writers who are not named Keith Law and who aren’t “spreadsheet voters” who voted differently than Strauss, with such differences changing the outcome of an awards vote. I don’t recall people responding so defensively to those legitimate differences of opinion, or those voters being called out like Strauss calls out Law and others here.

Likewise, I know of no other field besides sports writing where ignoring relevant data, scoffing disdainfully at advancements in analysis and belittling those who seek to broaden knowledge and understanding of the subject at hand is thought of as a positive thing. 

  1. Sam Lee - Sep 23, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Well, you couldn’t make me eat popcorn from a microwave. The material used to keep things slippery is related to Teflon. You just go ahead and enjoy.
    You also may not believe it, but pitchers contribute to pitcher wins. There is a reason Sabathia and Dave Bush have different records. And if you have some evidence that xFIP is any value at all, go ahead and publish it.

  2. Hands Four - Sep 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    And you know this because… it must be true?
    Also, as I understand it, the main reason for saying RBIs are “luck” is not that a batter has no control of how he approaches an RBI situation, but that he has no control over how many such situations he gets.

  3. Hands Four - Sep 23, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    “…element that frowns on more traditional numbers now assigned the pejorative “peripherals.””
    But peripherals (K/9, BB/9, etc.) are not the traditional numbers (W-L, ERA, etc.) Strauss doesn’t even seem to understand what he’s arguing against (shocking, eh?)

  4. The Rabbit - Sep 23, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    Thanks, Wooden for the succinct comment. It’s exactly what I thought when I read Craig’s post.
    @Craig-As usual, I agree with your response in its entirety.
    “Not for nothin’” as they say in South Philly, I was the legislative researcher (who then constructed “white papers”) for the Chairman of the NJ State Senate Appropriations Committee who BTW was a Republican. I am in the habit of reading original source documents and ignoring what passes for news and analysis from MSM. It’s absolutely appalling what becomes generally accepted as truth on the basis of that BS. There’s no perspective, context, and more frequently, accuracy. Our exposure has become knee-jerk comments by politicians specially aired to support the political position of media ownership and designed to rally/enrage/manipulate those who lack the time, inclination, or perhaps, the skill to read complex financial documents.
    When you consider how few news (both print and TV) outlets actually exist outside the internet due to conglomerates with multiple ownership, (Can you say Viacom and Rupert Murdoch?) and that traditional network news are now profit centers beholden to advertisers, it is no surprise that the “media is the message”.

  5. Schlom - Sep 23, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Getting back to the point of the post I think some of what he said has some basis in truth, at least pertaining to Wainwright. If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t one of the reasons that Law voted for Vazquez over Wainwright because Vazquez led the NL in FIP (or it was at least a lot lower than Wainwright’s)? I can see why someone would have a problem with that because using FIP as a criteria is introducing subjective data (he was lucky with his BABIP) into an objective reality (runs allowed).

  6. doctorfunke - Sep 23, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Just give the award to everyone, then no one’s feelings are hurt.

  7. Tim's Neighbor - Sep 23, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    What’s an original source? I think I heard about this once in college…

  8. Steve C - Sep 23, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    There is no ball in-play data when calculating FIP.
    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/statpages/glossary/#fip
    xFIP does normailze the pitchers HR/FB to the league average and calculates the theoretical number of home runs the pitcher would have given up with the average rate.
    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/statpages/glossary/#xfip

  9. Schlom - Sep 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    “Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded.”
    Isn’t that taking out all the outs? And isn’t FIP really just a predictive measure?

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