Your Thursday afternoon tizzy

There is some brewing discontent over the NL Cy Young vote, as two members of the webby portion of the BBWAA — our friends Keith Law and Will Carroll — did not include Chris Carpenter on their three-man Cy Young ballots. Keith voted Javier Vazquez second (Lincecum first and Wainwright third) and Will voted Wainwright first, Lincecum second and Danny Haren third. They were the only ones who included Vazquez or Haren on their ballots.

A comment about this from reader Ron in the thread below my earlier post:

“Two voters, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law of ESPN.com, did not include Carpenter on their ballots.” Nice. Leave the best pitcher in the NL off of your ballots to insure the saber-metric favorite wins. The BBWAA guys might not be the best at voting, but the saber friendly guys don’t have the right to accuse them of manipulating the vote anymore.

Ron, I love you. You’ve been reading this blog longer than just about anyone and I always appreciate your input. But you’re factually wrong here inasmuch as even if Will changed his vote for Haren to Carpenter and and Law did the same with his Vazquez vote, Lincecum still wins. And really, if Will was really trying to throw it to Lincecum, wouldn’t he have voted him first?

But I don’t mean to single out Ron. I posted his comment simply because it stands at the somewhat extreme end of the discontent I’ve read at a few message boards. There really are people out there scratching their heads at this, and I imagine there will be at least a little grousing about their votes over the next couple of slow news days.

For my part, I wouldn’t have voted the same way Keith and Will did — neither Vazquez nor Haren would have made my ballot — but they explain their rationale and I understand why they voted the way they voted even if I disagree with it. At the very least I understand docking Carpenter based on innings pitched, and that seems to be the point of controversy here. I’m a bit more of a romantic than Keith and Will are, I think, so I’d probably have included him on my ballot for reasons associated with his comeback from injury and all of that, but it’s certainly legitimate to not include him.

I predict that some people will use Keith’s and Will’s votes in some argument that statheads shouldn’t be given the franchise over the next couple of days. Such an argument, if it comes, should be rejected out of hand. At most this is some down-ballot curiosity, the sort of which we see on the votes for every award.

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Comments

  1. Ron said...

    Craig, just to clarify, I never said Carpenter should have won. But for both of those guys to leave him off of their ballots? It’s worth questioning.

    I don’t know enough about Carroll. I’ve read his stuff and like most of it. But considering Law’s anti-Cardinal bias, you definitely have to wonder about how he voted.

  2. Ron said...

    I don’t see how voting purely sabermetric stats is any different than voting traditional stats. Or personal bias.

    To say one group of voters is wrong to do it thier way, and then claim another way is the only right way just smacks of hypocrisy to me.

  3. Bill@TDS said...

    Keith Law, like Rob Neyer, gets accused of personal bias against all 30 teams on a regular basis. It’s pretty funny, since they’re as objective as they come.

    I think it’s clear that there IS only one right way to pick a winner here: pick the guy you think, based on some sort of reasonable thought process, is the best pitcher. If you picked Carpenter because you were impressed by his ERA or picked Vazquez #2 because you were impressed by his FIP, good for you. If you picked Wainwright because he was credited with a few extra “wins” or Verlander because you write for a Michigan newspaper, you fail.

  4. ecp said...

    Both Law and Carroll say that the main deciding factor for them was Carpenter’s time lost due to injury.  While I would not personally dock him for that (he qualified for the ERA title, which is sufficient for me), many people would and have said so and I find the position defensible.

  5. John_Michael said...

    If one side starts saying that the way other voted is “un-American,” then one could easily mistake this for a debate by the US Senate.

  6. Dave said...

    @Ron

    The only reason traditional or sabermetric statistics exist is because they have been counted or calculated for the purpose of drawing quantitative conclusions about player performance.  Basing one’s votes for performance awards on one set of statistics compared to another is simply saying that you thing those stats a better meters of performance.  You can reject the sabermatricians’ premise that their stats are better, but there isn’t any particular hypocrisy in using what you feel is the best tool to do a particular job.  To that extent, every vote belies a personal bias.

    Regarding Keith Law’s bias, it seems you are suffering from a little confirmation bias.

  7. Jay said...

    I agree with Bill. Both Law and Carroll took the time to explain their vote and even if you disagree with their conclusions, each presented a transparent account of their logical thought process. The whacked out ballots turned in by some of the old guard sports writers typically have some sort of hometown bias or reliance solely on the win column. That kind of stuff is indefensible.

  8. Rob² said...

    Given that there are only three positions on the Cy Young ballot, I don’t see how this could be construed as an attempt to block Carpenter from winning the Cy.  This isn’t the MVP that has what, 10 places on the ballot?

  9. Yamen said...

    Wonder where all this moral outrage from ‘writers’ such as Jon Heyman was when that doofus from Detroit voted Verlander first because of ‘his courage under adversity’ et al. Or maybe that was because that guy was, you know, a fellow sportswriter of the classical mould and not a so called ‘sabergeek living in his mother’s basement’ that both KLaw and Will Carroll are in their eyes. Unlike the Detroit fool, both Law and Carroll at had numbers backing up why they voted the way they did.

  10. Ted said...

    I just listened to a Keith Law interview he did with a St. Louis radio station, and I have to say that Law comes off not so great. He sounds very arrogant and makes himself sound like he is above everyone else.

    I know he works at ESPN and worked in a front officer (not very successfully, but in a front office non-the-less). But he doesnt even listen to anyone elses opinion.

    FIP is a good stat, and it shows true talent of pitchers, but it has its limitations and he seems to look at as a end all be all. Striking out someone is good but you win games by keeping the other team from scoring runs and that stat has nothing to do with it.

    here is the link, its from the Fast Lane show and is in the audio archive on the front page:
    ESPNstlouis.com

  11. Rob² said...

    Of course, the fundamental problem with the conspiracy theory is that it’s a total straw man.  Ron is simply inventing the rationale behind Law’s and Carrol’s votes on no other basis than his own opinion of those writers, and then applying that rationale to anyone who disagrees with him.  Both of them explained their ballots in print, so it’s really silly to claim “anti-Cardinal bias” or any kind of conspiracy argument.

    If you question Law’s voting, you ought to at least read his rationale.  If you think he’s lying, then say so.

    If you think that Carpenter was so clearly the best pitcher in the league, tell us why.  Feel free to use any quality you can think of.  ERA, FIP, grit, clutch, good-looks, whatever.  Just don’t tell me that I’m wrong because I must not be watching enough baseball to know you’re right.

  12. MJ said...

    All stats are subjective,

    No they aren’t, and you honestly can’t believe that.  How is BA/ERA/SLG/OPS/K/BB/etc a subjective stat?  You either hit the ball, walk, struck out, etc or you didn’t.  Things like UZR or Dewans +/- are somewhat subjective, but none of those was quoted as a reason why Carpenter was “left of the ballot”.

    If Keith Law can insult the old school writers for voting for someone for Cy Young because of the number of wins he had, then he can certainly be questioned himself for not voting for Carpenter due to his innings pitched. And the Vasquez vote just reninforces my opinion all the more.

    IP is a hugely important stat for a pitcher.  It’s why most people can’t justify a reliever like Rivera getting the CY, because there’s no way to say that 60IP of phenomenal pitching is > 200+ IP of really good pitching (Greinke for example). 

    Also, Vazquez lead Carpenter in the following stats:
    IP, K, K/9, K/BB, FIP, and WAR (caveat that missing games hurts Carpenter here).  Klaw also notes that Vazquez pitched in a much tougher division than Carpenter did.

    @ Ted:

    FIP is a good stat, and it shows true talent of pitchers, but it has its limitations and he seems to look at as a end all be all. Striking out someone is good but you win games by keeping the other team from scoring runs and that stat has nothing to do with it.

    Striking out someone is the best possible result you can get from an at bat.  The batter didn’t put the ball in player, so you cannot give up a run.  If you struck out 27 people every time you pitched, you’d never lose (although if you are Greinke or Lincecum, you might not get a lot of wins either since their respective team’s offenses are terrible, but i digress).

  13. Aaron Moreno said...

    I’d say Greg nailed it. If the ballot had five men on it, you’d see Carpenter there, instead of the “off the ballot entirely” bullshit that’s going on.

  14. SharksRog said...

    I think Will Carroll showed himself to be an objective observer.  He voted for Adam Wainwright over Tim Lincecum even though back before Tim had thrown a single pitch above Class A he answered a reader question by saying Tim was the pitcher he would take as his franchise pitcher for the next 10 years.

    If Will had been self-serving, wouldn’t he have voted for Tim?

    I will say that I strongly disagree with Will’s leaving Chris Carpenter off his ballot altogether.  But I suspect Will had decent reasons for doing so, perhaps including that Chris missed several starts.

    I personally give Chris added CREDIT for bouncing back so well from his injury, but it did lessen his value by decreasing the time had to build up that value.

    I would also criticize Will for voting for Wainwright first—but again, I suspect he had his reasons, perhaps including the fact that with outstanding bullpen support Adam could actually have won 25 games.

  15. Rob² said...

    “Two voters, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law of ESPN.com, did not include Carpenter on their ballots.” Nice. Leave the best pitcher in the NL off of your ballots to insure the saber-metric favorite wins. The BBWAA guys might not be the best at voting, but the saber friendly guys don’t have the right to accuse them of manipulating the vote anymore.

    Ron, re-read this quotation.  It’s clearly implied that the “saber friendly guys” both left Carpenter off their ballots to “ensure the saber-metric favorite wins.”  Suggesting that two or more people secretly plotted to manipulate the vote, is pretty much the definition of “conspiracy.”

    And to write that they both left “the best pitcher in the NL” off the ballots may not literally say, “Chris Carpenter should have won the NL Cy Young,” but there’s no other way to interpret that statement.  Was Chris Carpenter not the pitcher you were referring to here?  Would adding Chris Carpenter to each of these ballots had given the award to someone else more deserving?  Please enlighten me on this point.

    Again, you’re confirming your own bias here.  You don’t like Law, and you’re making stuff up about Carroll (“Was Haren a make up vote for last year?”)  I encourage you to actually read the explanations that each of these writers offered before judging them on ignorant rationale like “anti-Cardinal bias.”

    Of course you can question the validity of docking Carpenter for his lack of innings pitched.  No statistic is worth using unless it’s defensible.  I hope you come up with a reason why your assessment is more valid though, because simply asserting that your evaluation is self-evidently correct doesn’t really fly around here.

  16. Matt said...

    MJ, thank you for finally bringing up statistics in a debate about individual awards. Reading the first 20 or so comments was kind of painful. They were so damn normative.

    Ron, in response to your “When did I say Carpenter deserved to win” statement: you called Carpenter “…the best pitcher in the NL” in the snippet Craig posted. Do you not think the best pitcher should win the Cy Young?

    Also, at first glance I was shocked Law and Carrol left Carpenter off. But then I looked at Vazquez’s and Haren’s stats. In Vazquez’s case he tossed roughly 30 more innings than Carpenter with similar peripherals. Thirty more innings is huge, that is four more 7 inning quality starts. As someone pointed out, he did so in a more difficult division.  As for Haren, he through nearly 40 more innings than Carpenter, with slightly worse peripherals. A great case can be made for both of these guys placing ahead of Carpenter on the Cy Young totem pole.

  17. The Common Man said...

    @civilwarmike

    Of course Joe should be docked for the month of time he missed.  But here’s where Carpenter and Mauer differ.  When Joe returned, he was so much more productive than other American Leaguers that his overall value for the season still makes him the best player in the AL.  With Carpenter, even though he was terrific, the time and innings he missed are just enough to make him less valuable to his team over the course of the season than Lincecum (and potentially Wainwright, Vazquez, and Haren, but I don’t want to make that argument).  Everything that players do and do not do count (or should count) in the analysis; one factor does not automatically disqualifies a player from consideration.

  18. Joe said...

    From the other thread:

    “Ron said…
    The Cy Young award isn’t supposed to be for the pitcher with the best stats, be it Wins or WAR. It’s supposed to be for the best pitcher of the year, and anyone who thinks Carpenter wasn’t really should learn something about the game.”

    Let’s see, “The Cy Young award…is supposed to be for the best pitcher of the year…which was Carpenter if you know anything about the game.”

    I’m gonna call “close enough” on you saying that Carpenter deserved the CYA this year.

  19. Alex K said...

    Ted- Law was being attacked on that radio show. One host told him his analysis was bad. Another host said that he wasted his time by watching baseball because his vote was bogus. Why wouldn’t he defend himself? That’s all he was doing. To me, the hosts of the show come off worse because they were interupting Law, and puting words in his mouth.

  20. Ron said...

    Again, for all of those of you who can’t read, or refuse to:

    I never said Carpenter should have/deserved to win. I said I thought he was the best pitcher of the year. Just becuse someone is the best doesn’t mean they will win the award. It happens all the time that the best player doesn’ win the award.

    What I said was, how do you justify leaving the best pitcher (my opinion) in the league OFF OF THE BALLOT. I didn’t say first. I didn’t say second. I didn’t say third. I said the ballot.

    If you want to disagree with me, or insult me, or tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s fine. I don’t care.

    But why don’t you try actually commenting on what I said, and not what you want to read.

  21. The Common Man said...

    @ Ron

    It’s easy to leave the best player off the ballot when and if that player was not one of the three most valuable pitchers in the league (I’m not necessarily making that argument about Carpenter).  Value does not necessarily equal most skilled (or best).  For instance, CC Sabathia was probably the best pitcher in the NL last season.  However, in terms of the value he contributed to his team over the course of the year, he was nowhere near the top three in the league.

  22. Joe said...

    You also said:

    “Leave the best pitcher in the NL off of your ballots to insure the saber-metric favorite wins.”

    Which is unsubstantiated conspiracy theorizing.  Both Law and Carrol gave reasoned explanations showing that they left Carpenter off the ballot because they didn’t think he was one of the three most-deserving pitchers, NOT to “insure that the saber-metric favorite wins.”

    I bet that if you just said that you thought they were idiots for leaving Carpenter off the ballot, and dispensed with the sabermetric conspiracy theory, we could have avoided pretty much this whole sh!tstorm.

  23. MJ said...

    What I said was, how do you justify leaving the best pitcher (my opinion) in the league OFF OF THE BALLOT. I didn’t say first. I didn’t say second. I didn’t say third. I said the ballot.

    It’s easy, both Carroll and Law thought, and gave explanations why, he wasn’t in the top 3.  Others have said it, but I’ll reinforce just in case, there are only three positions on the ballot.  If you could create a time machine and pluck ‘99 pedro, ‘00 pedro, and let’s say ‘09 Greinke and have them repeat their performance in the NL this year, would you still complain the Carpenter was, “left off the ballot”. 

    If the ballot went to 5, Klaw said he’d have included him.  It didn’t, so he was left off.  This isn’t a Ricky Bobby situation, “if you aren’t first, you are last”.

    @ Matt

    MJ, thank you for finally bringing up statistics in a debate about individual awards. Reading the first 20 or so comments was kind of painful. They were so damn normative.

    Sarcasm?  Forgive me as my sarcasm detector is broken from reading the idiotic comments on Klaw’s ballot explanation on espn.com.

  24. Michael said...

    Smart people now allowed to vote for Cy Young: watching 2-3 games plus Guys Yelling About Sports shows on ESPN no longer enough to proclaim “knowledge.”

    The idiots have run the BBWAA for too long. They’re dumbfounded by Will and Keith’s votes because they are incapable of thinking it through. They told each other Carpenter was the best pitcher in the NL, so they thought it was agreed.

    The old boys’ network in sports reporting is dying, but apparently they’re going to go down swinging.

  25. Matt said...

    @ MJ,

    Not sarcasm at all. I actually appreciate someone using facts to back up their opinion, or even better actually using facts to form an opinion. Sorry if it came off sarcastic.

    @ Ron,

    The statement you made can be interpreted in one of two ways. By saying “best pitcher in the NL” you either meant Carpenter was the most VALUABLE and deserved to win the Cy Young, (Which is what I believe we all thought you meant) or you felt he is the most TALENTED pitcher in the NL and thus automatically deserves to be placed in the top 3 of all Cy Young ballots every year. In either case you are wrong. Hopefully you meant the former, because you would just be wrong and we are all wrong on occasion. If you meant the latter you are not only wrong but you are just being ridiculous.

  26. Ron said...

    Can someone point out to me where I said:

    sabergeek,
    living in mom’s basement,
    conspiracy theory,
    Carpenter deserved to win,
    or that I was anti-sabermetric?

    If so, I will apologize to each and every person who wants me to. But since I didn’t say any of that, it won’t be possible.

    If Keith Law can insult the old school writers for voting for someone for Cy Young because of the number of wins he had, then he can certainly be questioned himself for not voting for Carpenter due to his innings pitched. And the Vasquez vote just reninforces my opinion all the more.

    As for Will Carroll, as I said, I read his stuff and I like it, but I can’t see someone as knowledgeable as him not putting Carpenter on the ballot. Was Haren a make-up vote from last year?

    All stats are subjective, and no single stat/formula has ever been proven to be the definite benchmark of good or bad. They are good reference points, but that is all. So how does anyone justify voting for a guy based on (any) stats and then leave a guy off the ballot who had pretty much idential stats except for innings pitched and strikeouts? 

    It boggles the mind.

  27. civilwarmike said...

    Hmmm…
    To dock Carpenter because of innings pitched? Does that mean Joe Mauer will should not be the MVP because he missed the first month of the season? Just wondering.

  28. Rob² said...

    “What I said was, how do you justify leaving the best pitcher (my opinion) in the league OFF OF THE BALLOT. I didn’t say first. I didn’t say second. I didn’t say third. I said the ballot.”

    Again, if you read the published explanations from both writers, you would know exactly how they justified leaving Carpenter off the ballot.  They both though two other guys were better.  You obviously disagree, but I still haven’t seen why you think Carpenter was better.

    Oh wait, there was something there about how I must have a lot to learn about baseball.  Thanks for the criticism, I had been under the impression that I knew everything already.

  29. Grant said...

    “To dock Carpenter because of innings pitched? Does that mean Joe Mauer will should not be the MVP because he missed the first month of the season? Just wondering.”

    I think it’s worth considering, but it’s also worth considering that Joe Mauer was so astonishingly good from the catcher’s position to more than balance that out. You’re comparing Mauer to a bunch of guys who play less hard positions, often less well than he does catcher (Jeter is probably the only other candidate that plays a tough position, right?, and let’s not get into his defense). Carpenter is being compared to a bunch of guys with basically the exact same job as him. And he does or does not look as good as they do, depending on your analysis.

  30. Jason said...

    I never comment here but read everyday.  I figure now is as good a time as any to jump in.

    Ron, you mention that voting purely based on “sabermetric stats” isn’t any different the voting purely based on “traditional stats”.  Except that it absolutely is.  All of the information that goes into “traditional” stats also goes into “sabermetric” stats.  It’s just that those sabermetric stats take that information even further and try to figure out the “why” behind the information.  Rather than simply relying on the earned runs in ERA, FIP tries to determine how much of the ERA was a result of the way the pitcher actually performed and how much was the fault of his defense and luck.  “WAR” or “VORP” or any other value-assigning statistic incorporates everything that would contribute to your more traditional “win” stat, except that it strips away everything the pitcher doesn’t have control over and goes to show exactly how much he actually contributed to the “win”. 

    That is why traditional stats aren’t cited by sabermetricians.  Instead of relying simply on what traditional stats say, they have an interest in finding out the “why” and the “how”.

  31. Glen L said...

    @Ron -

    Dude, you STILL have not explained WHY you think Carpenter was the BEST pitcher in the NL this year, you simply scream he should have been on the ballot … WHY does he deserve to be on the ballot over Vasquez?

  32. Required said...

    Something to think about:

    Keith Law worked for JP Ricciardi up in Toronto from 2002-2006 and he was instrumental in convincing JP to remove Carpenter from the Blue Jays 40-man roster.

    So of course Law didn’t vote for Carpenter, doing so could have possibly helped Carpenter win the Cy Young … which would have made Keith’s & JP’s 2002 decision look even worse.

    Do you really think Law would vote for the same guy that he convinced JP Ricciardi to dump?

  33. The Common Man said...

    This idiot is making the same claim all over the internet.  He made the same comment on my blog (http://the0common0man.blogspot.com/2009/11/keith-law-is-smarter-than-youget-over.html), on this random Cards page (http://moondogsports.com/2009/11/19/keith-law-left-chris-carpenter-off-his-cy-young-ballot-wtf/), and now here.  Dude, Carpenter also would have been a free agent after 2003 (when he wouldn’t have even pitched for the Jays), so there was no reason for the Jays to hold on to him in 2003 when there was no guarantee they would have in in 2004.

  34. Joe said...

    Yes.

    Something else to think about.  In 2002, Carpenter was a guy with a career 4.83 ERA (98 ERA+) and a 1.51 WHIP.  Furthermore, he had a shoulder injury that would force him to miss the entire 2003 season.  Given that the Blue Jays couldn’t cut his salary by more than 10%, they would have been forced to pay him over $3 million to rehab his shoulder.  Removing him from the roster was entirely reasonable for the Blue Jays, and Keith Law probably wasn’t the only guy who thought so.

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