If you disagree with me, it is unlikely that you’re a moron or an idiot. I, like you, have been wrong many, many times. What I try to do in forming an opinion is to take the data that’s available to me and then interpret it through my admittedly limited understanding. For the most part, argumentative adversaries have done the same thing, it’s just that their interpretation is different.
Take, for instance, my belief that Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout is the Most Valuable Player in the American League this season. I have formed this opinion based on his status atop the leader boards of several offensive categories combined with his abilities to play a defensively demanding position in a manner that is well above average by any metric and most observations.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports disagrees.
At this point, the American League Most Valuable Player award should be a formality, a signpost on Cabrera’s increasingly realistic route to immortality. He’s removing doubt about the MVP race with each passing day, smashing two home runs Tuesday in a 12-2 win over Oakland that his Tigers had to have.
He leads Trout in the batting race, .333 to .327. He leads Josh Hamilton in the RBI race, 129 to 123. And now that he’s clinched his first 40-homer season, he’s only two behind Hamilton at 42.
That’s fine. We both have similar amounts of viable information at our disposal. The information that I interpret suggests that Mike Trout is better than Miguel Cabrera; his interpretation of that information suggests the opposite.
If we can manage to dismiss terms like “formality,” and “obvious,” which Mr. Morosi uses later in his piece, as nothing more than hyperbole, a sort of cosmetic for his underlying argument, we can probably all agree with the writer that there is a case to be made for Miguel Cabrera’s MVP candidacy. After all, he’s a very, very good hitter, and the majority of his counting stats are superior to Mr. Trout’s this season.
But then, there’s this:
I consider WAR in the MVP vote. I did last year. But to allow it to determine your vote is shortsighted. The award is not WAR of the Year.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 19, 2012
This, to me, suggests that it’s not just a difference of interpretation informing myself and Mr. Morosi. There’s more to it.
Mr. Morosi is willing to dismiss wins above replacement, which take into account Mr. Trout’s defensive success and Mr. Cabrera’s lack of defensive success this season. In fact, he suggests that an argument dependent on the statistic is shortsighted. His statement to this effect comes mere hours after an article that he wrote was published suggesting that Miguel Cabrera was deserving based solely on the possibility that he would win the American League Triple Crown – finishing first in the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
So, Mr. Morosi believes it to be wrong to rely on a statistic that represents value based on overall offensive and defensive contributions, preferring instead to rely on three specific metrics, two of which are largely dismissed by front offices for their antiquity and lack of meaning when it comes to determining a player’s value.
And this is where frustration sets in. The argument over who is the most valuable player, at some point, must bring up numbers as part of the discussion. The same people who dismiss wins above replacement or ultimate zone rating or defensive runs saved or weighted on base average as illegitimate or too esoteric to be of any good, will easily quote the batting average or number of RBIs or whatever statistic supports their preferred candidate’s chances at the award.
Such arguments literally translate into: “Your numbers are wrong, while mine are right.” However, they’re dressed as: “Numbers? There’s so much more to consider.” This of course is humorous because the costuming of such arguments often includes accusations that the other party is doing the exact thing that they themselves are actually doing.” They’re the ones listing the numbers that fit their own narrative, while dismissing others that do not.
At least those supporting Mike Trout, in this specific case, are ready, willing and able to also defend the metrics that they’re using as superior to the ones that their opposition are using, rather than merely dismissing them. Metrics labelled as “sabermetric” are waved off as something beyond comprehension, instead of being seen as a more reasonable way of measuring value.
This is what we get from Mr. Morosi as an example:
The sabermetric analysis favors Trout. I understand and respect that. Any MVP voter for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — as I was last year — should consider statistics such as Wins Above Replacement.
Do you believe “sabermetric analysis” to be more reasonable than the analysis that Mr. Morosi uses to support his argument? If so, imagine the above quote from Mr. Morosi when we replace “sabermetric” with “more reasonable.”
Trout didn’t play his first game in the majors this year until April 28. That means something. MVP voters are instructed to consider games played. Well, Cabrera had given the Tigers 20 games of value before Trout took his first at-bat. Cabrera has appeared in all but one of Detroit’s games this season.
Indeed. This is true. And if Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton didn’t win the MVP award in 2010, having played less than half of his team’s games in September, I might be inclined to put a similar amount of importance on games played as Mr. Morosi. I also might be more willing if Mr. Cabrera offered anything remotely resembling increased value over Mr. Trout in those extra 20 games that he’s played.
As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes:
Cabrera’s additional playing time has earned him an additional 60 trips to the plate, but in those 60 extra plate appearances, he’s made 54 extra outs.
Again, we’re presented with a more reasonable argument that counters Mr. Morosi’s point. Instead of other data or proof or evidence being brought up to counter the counter argument, it’s instead dismissed as “the sabermetic viewpoint,” and labelled as condescending.
But stathead condescension doesn’t do him any favors. Anyone who praises Cabrera gets branded an “idiot.” Really?
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) September 19, 2012
No, anyone who makes any statement is branded an idiot in the modern age, whether you fall under the strange classification of “old school,” “mainstream,” or “stathead.” I would suggest that there’s an added emphasis to being called an idiot by some when you’re proven wrong by others, but those two actions are unlikely to come from the same person.
In this case, it’s done out of convenience. Blindly attacking credibility and claiming condescension is an easy way around actually facing a counter argument to which a stance cannot recover. The odd thing is that no one legitimately arguing for one player over another based on reasonable metrics is out for blood as much as we’re merely in favor of accuracy. Most of us would embrace the idea of agreeing with others given the chance. I don’t know if I can say the same of those who are far too ready to continue quoting a player’s RBIs and batting average as being at all meaningful.
It’s time to become more reasonable in the supply of arguments because the demand for the current brand of unreasonable arguments coupled with unrelated accusations against those who don’t agree with the accuracy of the data being used for interpretation is slipping.