Monday, February 25, 2008

Jon Heyman: Font of Genius-Speak

It never fails to occur: baseball writers first attack sabermetricians, and then try to co-opt sabermetricians to prove their point, and in the process, prove their own lack of intelligence. Let's look at today's piece of genius from Jon Heyman of

Even so, I wasn't shocked that stats people have taken issue with Rollins winning the MVP award. There are numbers crunchers out there -- including a author who wrote a guest piece in Sports Illustrated last week -- who believe baseball writers rank somewhere between morons and idiots for voting Rollins as MVP over David Wright, who had a higher VORP. The stat people seem to believe VORP -- a Baseball Prospectus statistic that stands for Value Over Replacement Player -- defines a player, but why haven't many of them championed last year's VORP leader (Hanley Ramirez) as MVP instead?

I assume the stats guys favor Wright because he played for a contending team. I guess the rule is this: Highest VORP wins unless the VORP champion is playing for a loser.

If Wright's offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins', and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn't Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright's slightly-above average third base? And shouldn't Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership? For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright's team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

Though the Mets' collapse was no fault of Wright's, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he'd better have a greater advantage in stats than this: Wright outhit Rollins .325 to .296, but both hit 30 home runs and Rollins beat Wright in Runs Created by 13. Wright's big advantage apparently comes down to the fact he got on base more often (his on-base percentage was significantly higher, .416 to .344), usually via a walk (he had 94 walks to Rollins' 49). To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Let's go ahead and ignore the moronic infatuation with "extraordinary initiative and leadership". Let's also just ignore the fact that Rollins didn't single-handedly win the pennant, and to insinuate he did is a somewhat large insult to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and my boy, Fat Squirrel. Let's also put aside that Heyman for the umpteenth time has chosen to use his column and the fact that he somehow has a BBWAA card as a way to pick on people twice his intelligence level.

Let's instead note Joe Sheehan's article on this subject back in November, who cogently addresses the VERY FACT that Heyman raised: that VORP doesn't account for defense and that WARP is really the way to analyze a player's full complement of skills, and drops him from first to 9th on a real list. More importantly, it saliently states a truism that Heyman ignores:
I’m not sure what the answer to that is, but I know it isn’t "enough to make Matt Holliday or Jimmy Rollins the MVP." The NL MVP was one of Pujols, David Wright, or Jake Peavy, the three best players in the league who happened to play on three teams that didn’t make the postseason. The one-game, or half-game, difference between the Mets and Padres, and Rockies and Phillies, is so small that it doesn’t belong in this discussion. The excessive weight that the actual voters will put on that difference skews things in a way that makes it impossible to have a real discussion about value.
Word to the wise Jon: if you're going to misquote and misrepresent a subject, you're better off pulling a Joe Morgan and simply stating that you don't need to read it because you know better. At least then you have the facade of genius on your side. Instead, you look like you read a book and either the key part of the plot, or worse, were too stupid to get the point. I leave it to you to tell us which it is.

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