MVP: Why Not WPA?

Each season, the Most Valuable Player award for each league goes to the player whose accomplishments best meet the varied expectations for what constitutes an MVP as defined by each BBWAA member who gets to vote.  Got that?  A nebulous award with no real definition or criteria deserves an equally nebulous explanation of said award, definition, and criteria.  In its diminishing, finite wisdom the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to provide a clear-cut definition or even guidance regarding what an MVP actually is. This article looks at the best slowpitch softball bats and outlines the main things you need to look at before buying a slowpitch softball bat 2018 season.

So dozens of voters decide the winners during a writer’s conclave, and they release white smoke when a player finally receives more ballot points than anybody else in his league.  Then they repeat the process for the other league using what may or may not be a completely different set of criteria.  Over the years, voters have spoken out to either to defend their votes or gain a sense of self-importance.  From those beacons of common sense and unparalleled consistency, I have gleaned the following regarding some of the most common elements considered important for MVP consideration.

  • The MVP must come from a winning team, preferably a playoff-bound team, unless of course the player comes from a losing team.
  • The MVP should be completely free of the odorous taint that seems to follow suspected PED users, unless that player just happens to be hitting a ton of home runs in their late 30’s, because then it’s okay.
  • A pitcher cannot be considered for the MVP award, because pitchers are eligible for the Cy Young award.  The exception to this is for really, really popular pitchers during a year when no position players distinguish themselves enough to make it on SportsCenter regularly.
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  • The “Most Valuable” part describes a player who statistically produces the best season.  That’s always true unless it actually describes a player who led the league in one or more triple crown categories.  Even then, the non-definition leaves room for a player who happened to hit 3rd in a loaded lineup to win based primarily 0n having 50-60 more RBI opportunities than anybody else.  Finally, the award may be given to a player whose contributions to his own team made the team suck significantly less than it would have without him.

Soooo….why not WPA?  WPA or “Win Probability Added” seeks to capture a batter’s impact on the probability that his team will win or lose a game.  In doing so, it effectively associates a weight based on game situation to each plate appearance.  Helping to produce runs early and often means more than producing them late in a blowout game.  Getting the game-tying RBI in the 4th meaning increases win probability a little less than a game-tying RBI in the 9th inning.

Using 2013 as a working example of this, Mike Trout has a WPA of 4.5 which is good for 5th in the AL. Miguel Cabrera’s WPA stands at 6.8 which is 2nd best in the league.  The AL leader?  Chris Davis of the Orioles at 7.9.  Josh Donaldson (4.9) and Robinson Cano (4.7) round out the top 6.  While WPA does not account for all aspects of the game, it’s reasonable to believe that the MVP will consistently come from a batter that ranks in the top 10. Shop Wilson fastpitch softball gloves & mitts including popular A2000 and Onyx models. Gloves for all levels of play and style – you can even customize your own! Free shipping over $50.

While WPA is limited to a fraction of the overall picture, it really does cover that fraction rather nicely and with objectivity.  It necessarily turns a blind eye to just about everything except for outcome in a given scenario.  That said, it should be coupled with other statistics to provide a more complete perspective than just the traditional “counting stats”.  Adding context to bulk numbers helps make them more meaningful, and you can’t go wrong with greater understanding.

Does that mean Miggy would get my MVP vote (if I had one)?  Not necessarily, but I believe that WPA provides a great starting point or filter for the conversation.

PS.  This debate may rage forever, but I’ll never be convinced that discounting players on non-playoff teams makes sense.  A non-playoff team can have a better record than 1 or 2 division winners but worse than the wild card winners.  A non-playoff team can miss the playoffs by 1 or 2 games.  Ridiculous.

The Worst of Social Media and Sports VII

Ah, remember that time that “Toby Romo” threw a touchdown pass for the Cowboys against the Rams?  No?  Maybe you should pay closer attention to the official Twitter account for the Rams.

Context:  Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha managed to get 26 outs without allowing a hit.  With 1 out to go for a no-hitter, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals bounces a ball off of home plate that goes just off the tip of Wacha’s glove.  Shortstop Pete Kozma scoops the ball barehanded and then makes a wide throw to 1st base that pulls Matt Adams off the bag.  The result is an infield hit, and the no-hitter is gone.

The almost immediate reaction on Twitter was a nice mix of sympathy for Wacha combined with a healthy respect for what he had accomplished in just getting close to a no-hitter.  In fairness, a certain amount of that sympathy was really due to the sadness many fans felt at missing out on seeing a Cardinals pitcher throw a no-hitter.  Check out the Best Softball Bats in the market. Go over reviews and ratings before shopping online for the best bargains. Then there were the extremists who both blamed Kozma and suggested that he find another place to live or terminate his life.

Don’t be those people.  Should Kozma have made that play?  Probably not consistently.  In the smallest sample size imaginable, I’d give him a 50% chance to do so.  If a similar play occurs in the first inning of a game, should he make the play?  Probably not consistently.  It’s simply a difficult play.

The frustrating part that many may not express or express adequately is that Kozma accomplished the hard part which is picking the ball cleanly off the field.  Once he has the ball in his hand, the throw is the easy part (or should be).  The moment he scooped the ball, I imagine that thousands of people assumed that he would make the throw.  He didn’t.  That’s baseball.  Was there anyone more disappointed than Wacha?  Maybe Kozma.

I bet that Kozma believes that he should have made the play, and I’d also bet he kicked himself at least once for not making it.  That’s what players do.  This is a quick look at the top choices for fastpitch softball bats of 2018, including a summary of the pros and cons of each of the main options. They take responsibility.  Wacha certainly didn’t blame Kozma.  That’s what pitchers do.  The players handled the situation with a measure of class.  Keith Law did not.

Yes, Ryan Jackson can make that play.  So can Daniel Descalso.  So can Pete Kozma.  Ozzie Smith is the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen, and he made that play hundreds of times.  He also missed some too.  So why stir up a hornet’s nest for no reason?  Publicity.  Are you a sports media person or athlete?  Want to make a name for yourself on Twitter and gain tons of followers?  Randomly troll any and all fan bases just enough to come off as a prickly know-it-all.  Nailed it.


Cardinals Rotation – Hallows not Horcruxes

Mike Matheny sits in the enviable position of looking forward to managing his team in the playoffs for the 2nd time in his 2 years of managing.  Matheny also sits in the unenviable position of setting his playoff rotation which may be a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” scenario.  Options abound, and the second guessing may start before he even makes a decision.

The Cardinals are tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL at 94-65.  That’s good.  Atlanta holds the tiebreaker advantage over the Cardinals by virtue of a 4-3 series victory over St Louis.  If the teams finish the regular season in a tie, the number 1 seed goes to Atlanta along with the home cooking that accompanies it.  So, the Cardinals need to win 1 more game than the Braves do this weekend in order to take that top seed.

Unfortunately, the cart appears to be right alongside the horse at this point.  While the Cardinals own a 3-game lead in the NL Central, they have not locked down the division quite yet.  In the event that the Cardinals lose the next 3 while the Pirates win the next 3, the Pirates would host the Cardinals in a 1-game tiebreaker to determine the division winner.  The loser of that game would go on to face the Reds in the Wild Card game.

An abrupt end to the Cardinals playoff run seems unlikely, but a 5-game losing streak coupled with 4 wins by the Pirates and 1 by the Reds could do the trick.  Unlikely….but still.  Matheny has remained steadfastly committed to his “1 at a time” philosophy.  However, the temptation to think about the possibilities has to be great.

The key is getting 1 win.  One fell swoop gives the Cardinals the NL Central division and at least the #2 seed in the NL.  Then scoreboard watching likely becomes the most common hobby shared by members of Cardinal Nation.  The results then add to the fun of outguessing Magic Mike.

The current projected starters to finish the regular season have Lynn going tonight, Joe Kelly pitching tomorrow, and Wainwright throwing in game 162 on Sunday.  That’s assuming the rotation goes unchanged.  If for some reason they don’t “need” Wainwright to pitch Sunday, he could be held back for the division series.  Sounds great, but Wainwright last pitched on Monday, and the both NLDS start on October 3rd (Thursday).  That would give Wainwright 9 days of rest between starts.

Alternatively, Wainwright could pitch Sunday on 5 days rest and start the NLDS on 4 days rest.  Another option is to start him Saturday on 4 days and the NLDS on 5 days.  Or start Shelby Sunday.  Or give the Sunday start to someone not in the current rotation. Why don’t they find the best pitching machines 2018 for player to practice before every match?

If they have a shot at the top seed on Sunday, how does that impact the decision making process?  Is the top seed even worth the effort to try and take it?  Likely yes.  All 5 NL teams are great at home and at least reasonably good on the road.  Atlanta played 40-41 away from home, and taking the home field advantage from the Braves could be beneficial.

All this comes down to the “Hallows not Horcruxes” conundrum.  Matheny can choose to pursue one goal, a completely different goal, but he cannot exactly do both.  Which means more?  Securing the #2 seed and aligning the playoff rotation, or going after the #1 seed while hedging on the playoff rotation?

If you feel like playing the guessing game, here is a link to the tentative MLB playoff schedule.  LINK.

10 Ways to Improve MLB on TBS Playoff Coverage

Trimming the list to a mere 10 items required some effort, but the ones that made the cut truly deserve some consideration.

  1. Avoid confusion by eliminating player names altogether.  Tigers fans were excited about the possibility of “Jason Verlander” following in Justin’s footsteps, and some were salivating over the idea that “Skip Punto” might be the scrappiest player ever.  Even the legend of “Dave Kozma” grows with each passing mistake.
  2. Send Craig Sager and Ernie Johnson back to cover basketball.  Replace Johnson with a muppet and Sager with someone who spent $20 thrift shopping.  Done and done.
  3. Ban camera operators from caffeine and amphetamine use at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled first pitch.  Nobody needs to get seasick or end up with vertigo just from watching the first 2 innings of a game.
  4. Just let Cal Ripken talk, and take away the microphones from everyone else. Whether or not Ripken talks about the actual game is immaterial.  He’s knowledgeable, interesting, compelling, and he’s a natural at explaining what he sees.
  5. Stop trying to shove your Bleacher Report stuff at people.  If I wanted to watch a 15-slide presentation accompanied by unoriginal content, I’d sit through one at work.  I’d rather read TMZ to get the WAGs updates.
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  7. Quit interviewing managers in the dugout.  The cliches they are too many.
  8. Let the natural narrative breathe a bit.  Shoving various prefabricated talking points into your broadcast distracts from the actual drama of what is occurring on the field.
  9. When covering a Dodgers home game, just pay whatever it takes to have Vin Scully’s audio over the TBS video feed.  Your advertising partners will thank you.
  10. Instead of lauding the Pirates for selling out PNC with new attendance records each game, try to figure out where the fans were earlier in the year.  That’s a real story.
  11. Turn over coverage to MLB Network or anybody that could do a better job than you have done – maybe Nat Geo or OWN.

Sports Media Has Destroyed Your Perspective

TJ Oshie is now a “hero”.  Granted, scoring the winning goal against Russia in a shootout at the Winter Olympics is pretty impressive.  Heck, just being on Team USA is darn impressive by itself.  However, the hyperbole and terribly awkward loss of perspective attributable to sports fans and journalists alike jumped the shark off the reservation in a big hurry with his best bbcor bats 2018 to play MLB Baseball..

Within 30 minutes of the game ending, I saw a “TJ Oshie beats Russia” headline.  Right. Because Oshie played the entire regulation game to a standstill by himself.

This must be the same as The Miracle on Ice.  Right.  Because you are a moron, and you’re an expert just because you have “Miracle” on blu-ray. Lake Placid in 1980 was the temporary center of the Cold War.  The US team was comprised of amateur/college kids, and team Soviet Union was a professional powerhouse that had taken 6 of the previous 7 gold medals in hockey.  Sure, that’s much the same as all professionals playing against friends and teammates.

Don’t let the narrative fool you or cloud your thinking.  The Cold War is over, US faced “Russia”, and the degree of national pride at stake was barely enough to move the needle at this point.