Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cy Young Outrage, Inrage

While we wait to see whether the AL Cy Young voters have a clue (i.e., whether Johan Santana wins), the N.L. produced a pretty silly result. I'm not talking about Roger Clemens beating out Randy Johnson, as that's wrong but predictable. Here's the major problem I have: Ben Sheets was, to me, the second most valuable pitcher in the NL this year and he received only one (1!) third-place vote. In FIP and the Davenport Stuff calculations, perhaps the two best rate stats for pitchers, Sheets was second among NL starters, behind only Johnson. Clemens was not very far behind, but Sheets' advantage over him was substantial:

Johnson: 2.32 FIP, Stuff
Sheets: 2.67,
Clemens: 3.13,
NL: 4.31, 10

Put it this way: Clemens has won 7 Cy Young awards, and he's only had better "Stuff" than Sheets' 2004 in 1988, 1997, and 1998. Considering that he trailed only Johnson and Livan Hernandez in innings pitched, I don't think there should be any question that Johnson and Sheets should have been 1-2 in the NL CY voting. Yet Johnson received only 8 first-place votes and was left off 3 ballots while Sheets was unanimously left out of the top 2 and but for one third-place vote completely shut out of the voting. This is normally the part of the blog entry where the whole "how can someone actually be paid to write about baseball and think that Roger Clemens, Jason Schmidt, and Roy Oswalt were better pitchers than Sheets and Johnson just because they had better offenses and thus better win totals?" spiel, but if you're reading this I'm sure you've already heard it. Considering that most of the papers with hack baseball writers also have hack "film critics", I also don't think this is endemic to baseball. Let's just leave it at this: any industry that prioritizes the generation of capital is unlikely to yield goods that most benefit society since it's much easier to create exploitable irrationality in the marketplace than it is to produce the best product. Newspapers largely have business models which favor glib sportswriters who cultivate an image of having insider knowledge and outsider perspective, a combination designed to create irrational attachment to a writer. And after all, isn't it more profitable to have audiences with irrational attachments to the paper than to have ones with rational preferences for the paper who might leave if a better paper comes along or if the benefit they derive from the paper relative to the costs is undesirable?

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