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On the Cy

November 19, 2009

Keith Law is awesome. He made a 2nd place vote for Javier Vazquez in the Cy Young, defended his decision with referring to sabermetrics (and innings pitched) and then ripped the fanbase, tweeting* " Do the Cardinals sell a pacifier with the team logo on it?" I like it.

*you can’t type the word tweeting and still feel cool.

The thing is, Law’s ballot is defensible, if you subscribe to these new-fangled sabermetrics, and more and more people are. I know, they are ruining the game.


Back in my day, we used to calculate a pitcher’s ERA with an abacus! And back in my day, we didn’t have safety standards for toys. We got rusty nails and big bags of broken glass! And that’s the way it was, and we liked it! We loved it! Win-Loss record and throwing underhanded! Those were the days, by-gum!

Look, folks. The nerd-leaven is slowly leavening the lump of the BBWAA. They’re penetrating the bureaucracy! Get used to it. Zack Greinke had 16 wins. Lincecum had 15. And yet both were far and away the best pitchers in their respective leagues, and it really wasn’t even that close.

Pitching Runs Created:

Lincecum – 137
Carpenter – 119
Wainwright – 126
Vazquez – 120
Haren – 121

FanGraphsWins Above Replacement, which uses FIP to determine runs above replacement:

Lincecum – 8.2
Carpenter – 5.6
Wainwright – 5.7
Vazquez – 6.6 (hello, Keith Law)
Haren – 6.1

StatCorner’s WAR, which uses tRA, which is FIP on steroids):

Lincecum – 8.3
Carpenter – 6.6
Wainwright – 5.7
Vazquez – 5.8
Haren – 6.3

One dude who was really, really, really good no matter how you slice it; and several pitchers who were very good, but had little separating them, no matter what advanced stats you look at. There is no holy grail stat, but you can see some harmony here.

This vote looks like progress, but the fact that there was still so much separating 2-3 from 4-5 when there was so little separating their performance tells me there’s still more progress to be made in the evil subterfuge of the basement dwellers into the MSM.

Whiny baby Cardinal fans and grumpy old man Cardinal fans, click on the links, educate yourself. You’re just making yourself look stupid attacking things you haven’t taken the time to understand.

Edit: Sorry, I’m a cranky cuss today. I am not saying there is a “wrong” vote per se’…well maybe I am. I just have grown a little weary of some of the anti-stat jabbing. Ignorance in this age of baseball information is forgivable, but making fun of things you don’t understand is just lame. But in the grand scheme of life, whoo-pa-dee-doo.

  1. greenback06 permalink
    November 19, 2009 7:27 PM

    I don’t think you have to be anti-stat to have some problems with Law’s argument. His case against the Cardinals’ duo apparently rests on the Cardinals’ defense being pretty good, turning Carpenter’s and Wainwright’s non-TTOs into outs. But FanGraphs’ team UZR has the Cardinals’ defense below average actually (and the Giants above average), and that’s not a surprise when Schumaker and Khalil are involved. Then there’s Wainwright’s big split with runners on/bases empty, which FIP and tRA just completely ignore.

    I do statistical modeling for a living, and one of the rules of our trade is “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” I’m not sure people really understand how to use the models that have been developed. Does it really make sense to ignore balls in play, as FIP does? Does it make sense to treat a Carpenter groundball like a Thompson groundball as tRA does? Since the justification for the very existence of tRA and FIP has been that they predict future ERA better than current ERA does, does either of these make sense in the context of a Cy Young discussion, where presumably we’re more interested in the results attained strictly in 2009?

    It looks an awfully lot like folks found a new toy, and they’re going to use it even in places where it may not be appropriate. This is how a couple people in my line of work helped to create a worldwide economic meltdown. Now there won’t be 12% unemployment because of the Cy Young vote, and Lincecum was a reasonable candidate anyway, but the “we’re the smart guys” attitude is really annoying, in part because the smart guys may well be oversimplifying based on a clever model yet again.

    • stevesommer05 permalink
      November 19, 2009 8:46 PM

      I’d have to guess that even if you built your WAR model using a more “results” based stat such as ERA Lincecum would still have come out ahead of the Cards duo. Basically you could argue that Lincecum’s quality was better Wainwrights and his quantity better than Carpenter enough to cancel out either Cards pitchers lead in the other…

  2. November 19, 2009 7:58 PM

    I didn’t see Law’s argument but saw a lot of tut-tutting the worth of sabermetrics on account of it.

    In any case, I’m glad Greinke got it in the AL. There were three very worthy candidates in the NL. That two of the three were on the same team put the smart money on Lincecum. I would like to know who Carp was left off two ballots in favor of, though…

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