Moneyball Works, but Wins and RBI Are Not Meaningless!

I’ve blogged about Moneyball both on this blog and on, and for the most part I’ve discussed its merits, and its statistical strength in determining how much a single player is worth on the free agent market. While I stand by my original position, I recently had a conversation on Twitter with some folks who are ready to totally throw traditional stats out the window. See below:

From: @keithlaw keithlaw
Zero weight. It’s meaningless. RT @theunzippedfly: @keithlaw you really put weight in a pitchers record when evaluating them individually?

From: ryan_kantor Ryan Kantor
Verlander has 21 wins. If he had 15 he wouldn’t be a lock for the Cy and top 3 for MVP. @keithlaw@theunzippedfly

From: theunzippedfly The Unzipped Fly
@ryan_kantor yes, yes he would be a lock for the Cy with 15 wins if his numbers were identical. See: Hernandez, Felix, you uneducated fool.

From: ryan_kantor Ryan Kantor

@theunzippedfly A) Let’s take the vitriol down a notch. B) No, it’s a relatively close race with Jared Weaver.
The conversation then shifted to Curtis Granderson’s MVP chances (he gets my vote), which was when he told me Granderson’s league leading runs scored (and it’s not close) and RBI (tied with A. Gonzalez) totals are “disgracegul” arguments for his MVP candidacy.

First let’s discuss the validity of wins for evaluating pitchers. In a recent Yankees vs. Red Sox game Curt Schilling was in the booth along with Nomar Garciaparra (Funny how ESPN puts two Red Sox in the booth). Schilling explained that when he was pitching, he knew he wasn’t being paid to have a low ERA, he was simply being paid to win games. With that in mind, he took special care to tell his position players where to stand on defense, and pitched according to the flow of the game.

With wins being the primary goal of an ace starting pitcher, let’s look at the top three pitchers in baseball without their wins displayed.

Justin Verlander: 2.34 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 224K, 49BB
Jared Weaver: 2.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 176K, 51BB
CC Sabathia: 2.97 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 211K, 51BB

Roy Halladay: 2.47 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 191K, 25BB

As you can see, Verlander’s stats are the most dominant; however without the ridiculous amount of wins you don’t see the level of differentiation between him and the other great pitchers. It’s still a race if we hide Verlander’s 21 wins (Weaver and Halladay each have 16 wins, Sabathia: 19). While wins are not a worthwhile stat for a GM to look at when trying to evaluate free agents, it’s extremely relevant for individual awards like the Cy Young and MVP. After all, isn’t the amount of wins a pitcher earns directly related to how valuable he is to the team, and isn’t that the criteria for the MVP?

As for Curtis Granderson’s whopping run and RBI totals, well they’re MVP worthy. Again, RBI and runs scored are not worthwhile for a GM evaluating talent, but when we’re looking at seasonal awards, certainly the amount of runs Granderson contributes to the Yankees are absolutely relevant to how valuable he is to the Yankees. It would be illogical to say otherwise.

What I’m getting at is that Moneyball stats like OBP, Slugging %, and the whole theory in general are legitimate, totally legit and backed up with real stats. It’s not a bunch of bunk as Joe Morgan would argue, but it doesn’t mean we totally forget about the traditional stats that have been around forever. They may not be the best tools to use when evaluating free agents, but they’re especially relevant this time of year.

For more on my take of the MVP Races, visit the links below.


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