Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I Don’t Care About the BBWAA Awards

Because it’s pretty apparent that the BBWAA doesn’t care. Why should I?

This post is gratuitous piling-on, no doubt, as the votes for NL Rookie of the Year received by Edinson Volquez have already become and will continue to be easy message board/blog fodder.

Seriously, though, why should anyone care about an award if three of the thirty-two voters can’t even correctly identify who is eligible for it? You trust people drawn from this same pool to fill out a ten-deep MVP ballot intelligently?

This is not a sabermetrician’s rant against the stupid old sportswriters looking at RBI and “chemistry” or win-loss record or what have you. This is much more elementary.

In the original Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James compared and contrasted the voting system for MVP (and by extension Cy Young and ROY, since they are similar) and the Hall of Fame. Both are chosen by members of the same group (although the HOF electorate is much larger and does not require the close attention to current baseball that one must engage in to be granted a MVP ballot), but James argued that one system is intelligently designed and the other was haphazardly designed and is inherently flawed.

I agree with James’ points in that article. However, any system, no matter how well-designed, is going to produce bad results if you have unqualified or unserious people as the voters. And it is clear that there are at least three people with a say in the matter who are one or both of the above. Even worse is the fact that the BBWAA apparently did not notice this when they tabulated the vote!

If you are getting a tone of outrage from this, then I have failed. I’m not outraged; I’m actually more amused and bemused. I like the Hot Stove fodder that the MVP and similar awards provide, and naming the best player, pitcher, and rookie in each league is a perfectly worthwhile activity. But each individual can have that discussion with their friends and internet associates, post their own ballot on a blog or message board, participate in a broad-based amalgamation like the IBA, and so on without caring what the BBWAA decides, except as a passing curiosity. And hey, at least the IBA restricts the ballot to eligible candidates.


  1. Volquez's name appearing on the ROY of the ballot reminds me of Palmerio's winning the gold-glove at 1st-base in 1999. Palmeiro only played 28 games at 1st-base that season. He was the DH for 135 games. Maybe he made a few spectacular plays catching foul balls in the dugout while his team was in the field. How in the world does a DH win a Gold Glove?

    If I would of seen Volquez's name on the ballot, I would of voted for him. It's not the voters responsibility to keep track of a player's rookie-status.

    I see Lincecum was awarded the CY-Young today. That's 2 straight years Sabathia's gotten cheated. Although, I can understand why he didn't get it this year since he split time between both leagues. I can't believe he only got 9 total votes.

    Speaking of crappy award selections, how did Michael Young win a GG? The only other SS in the AL who is worse defensively is Edgar Renteria.

  2. I'm not sure if there is an actual ballot which Volquez appeared upon or if the writers in question simply placed him on their ballot (IOW, I have no idea if the ballot actually has a list of names to choose from. My impression of the situation was that it does not, that these particular writers just placed Volquez, and then the tabulator did not step in and say "Hey, he's not eligible".) If there was a ballot with names on it, and Volquez only got three votes, that would be pretty embarrassing too.

    Your recollection must be a little off; CC won the Cy last year. Indians are now going to win it two years in a row after winning just one in the previous 52 seasons.

    I think Lincecum was worthy because I look at the award as the most valuable pitcher for his performance in the NL. I understand why with the blurring of the distinction between the leagues some people interpret it differently, and I respect that point of view. It is actually fairly impressive that the BBWAA overlooked Webb's gaudy W-L to pick Lincecum...I have always thought of the 1996 AL choice of Pat Hentgen over Andy Pettitte as the historical turning point in the voting, but that's just based on my impressions.

  3. Just shows you how little attention I payed to the awards, until you got me interested in the topic over the last month. I thought Beckett won the AL Cy-Young last year.

  4. I was always assumed that the voters were presented with a ballot that included pre-selected names. I guess not. It looks like the voters have to choose the canidates themselves. I think the rookie qualifications need to be changed anyway. Aren't the qualifiers less than 130 career PA's for batters and less than 45 career IP for pitchers? Also, isn't there some sort of MLB "service time" requirement they can't exceed. How many days is this?

    I think the rookie qualification should be based entirely on "service time" and not an arbitrarily number of PA's and IP.

  5. Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto reprinted the definition from the MLB website:

    A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

    The use of two different standards does make it confusing, but obviously Edinson was not a rook either way, and these writers should be able to make that distinction.

    I have to laugh at the fact that the rookie eligibility rule is based on a number of at bats rather than PA. I was not aware of that.


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