Tipping Pitches: Sports: Time to Throw out the Voters


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sports: Time to Throw out the Voters

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Now... What I'm about to say is going to be controversial. That's how you write a blog that gets attention. So, everyone...

Controversy Alert! About to say something that many will think is stupid, thus guaranteeing comments and traffic!

It's time to get rid of Major League Baseball award voters.

There, I said it.

Crazy, right? Insanity. Stupid. Look at where the BCS system got us. Reason number one why this is a dumb idea.


What reasons do people give for why a player deserves an MVP?


What reasons do people give when they complain about a dumb vote?


How often do voters misuse their power by, say, voting for Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP? Or for giving Jeremy Affeldt a 10th place vote for NL MVP?

Far too often.

You can question a voter's intentions. You can question a voter's loyalty. You can question a voter's intelligence.

Far too often, a voter leans towards the players he covers. A voter omits a player based on grudges. A voter penalizes a player he rarely got to watch. A voter is swayed by media attention and public perception

But stats have no bias.

Granted, stats don't measure if a player was a cancer in the clubhouse. They don't measure if a player was a leader. They don't measure whether the player was involved in a pennant race (well, they probably could).

But subjectivity is part of the problem. Jeremy Affeldt? Jeremy freaking Affeldt? What reason do you have for giving that guy a vote?

I'd take the statistical alternative -- the hard evidence and substantiated selection -- over the status quo. The current system has room for error. Room for impropriety. Room for corruption.

What's that? Corruption? Yeah, corruption. Players get paid based on their awards.

Guess what? That first place Cabrera vote earned him a bonus he otherwise would not have received. Not saying there's a connection. Just saying the opportunity is there.

I'm also tired of the "he was involved in a pennant race" argument. So? So that makes him more valuable? A player surrounded by no talent performing like Superman is less valuable than, say, Ryan Howard on the Phillies?

Purely hypothetical. One player does not carry a team in baseball. He just doesn't. He can't. He helps. But he helps, mainly, by putting up good stats.

And these days, throwing out the "involved in a pennant race" criteria makes more sense than ever. It wasn't too long ago that franchises had largely similar resources to work with.

More parity existed. One player could make all the difference in the world. Including that factor made some sense, at least when separating two players with similar numbers.

Now? Now you can't fault a player for having the greatest statistical season on the worst team. You can't automatically anoint the MVP only from a group of teams that participated in the playoffs.

For many reasons.  If a player was on a team that made the playoffs with 83 wins, was he more valuable than an equal player on a team in a difficult division that missed the playoffs with 85 wins?  Of course not.  But many will argue it to be the case.

It's not right. You are bound to ignore great seasons and favor the big markets. The markets that can buy a World Series. Can buy a playoff appearance. And then, can buy an MVP.

Isn't this, then, all the more reason for a player to sign with a big market team? Not only will they get the most money, but they'll have the best chance to play in the World Series and win an MVP award.

Why play for a small market team? What is left? The folksy people?

I understand continuing to involve fans in All-Star voting, even if it leads to flawed results. I get that. But why do we need to involve writers?

Screw writers.

So throw out the voters. Base it on the stats. Leave it to a computer. People will still find ways to argue, don't get me wrong. But the deserving player, more often than not, will get properly recognized. Not only the winner, but second, third place on down.

I'm not going to try too hard to create the formula to be used for this. I'll just get myself into trouble by developing a flawed formula.  Smarter people need to do that (Bill James?).

But many formulas have already been created to measure performance. I'd prefer to go with any number of formulas over a voter who is likely to use stats (often incorrectly) and bias to make their decision.

Bonus money depends on it.


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