MLB Awards–It’s A NY-Boston World

I don’t want to turn the Sports Economist into just another sabermetrics site, but the recent award announcements in MLB point out the state of affairs in sports “political economy.”

In the AL MVP voting, A-Rod’s numbers speak for themselves and put most debates to rest, especially given that he’s a solid fielder. The voting farther down the line points out that the Baseball Writers who vote must be a lot like Ken Burns — their universe revolves around NY and Boston. Complete voting records from 2003 onward appear at Baseball Musings.

  • Six of the top 10 vote getters in the AL play in NY or Boston
  • Mariano Rivera finished 9th, while no other AL pitcher broke the top 10.
  • Derek Jeter finished 10th and ahead of Texas’ Mike Young, whose offensive numbers topped Jeter’s by a healthy margin.

In looking over recent years, it’s clear that Rivera and Jeter have a loyal fan club that occassionally picks up some additional support. Jeter’s canonization by much of the press is well-documented (See ESPN “The List” of Most Overrated.) Rivera’s is even more stunning. His ERA is very low, but as in all years, he pitches about one-third as many innings as starters such as Santana or Buehrle in the AL, who didn’t crack the voting. It doesn’t take any sophisticated weighting scheme to figure out Rivera, or any “closer,” makes a small contribution to winning relative to starting pitchers or everyday position players.

As a final note, Jeter’s position in the voting might be defended in some quarters by the fact that he won the Gold Glove. After all, players and managers vote on this award. An interesting question worth pursuing is just how much are players and managers influenced by media coverage. Baseball Musings “StatsGuru” added these observations that include an interesting note about the voting mechanics of the Gold Glove v. MVP:

Derek Jeter won his second gold glove in a row. I guess the voters prize catching popups more than ground ball up the middle. It’s tough for me to believe that a team with a below average DER has a great shortstop.

A big problem with the award is the voting structure. Rather than ranking players, as you do with the MVP and other major awards, the coaches and managers just vote for one. So the winner tends to be the player that gets a small plurality, instead of a consensus second choice.

Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera actually had a higher fielding percentage than Jeter (.988 to .979) and made fewer errors (15 to 7), but Jeter recorded over 100 more assists (454 to 347) and that increased workload apparently swayed voters.

Well, Tejada had more assists than Jeter, more assists + putouts than Jeter, and more double plays turned. Does anyone have this year’s zone ratings? I hope to calculate proabilistic ranges over the winter.

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Author: Brian Goff

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