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.

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