Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


VORP Rhymes With Dorp.

I am convinced that 80% of recalcitrant old baseball men's aversion to VORP and WARP and the like can be attributed to the fact that the acronyms sound sort of dorky. Or specifically, dorpy. If the stats were called something cool, like Thunderbird Number or Obsidian Blade Value, I think more guys would get on board.

Anyway, remember that week in 2006 when Ken Tremendous went to Argentina and made a big deal out of it? I just got back from Brazil and did not make a big deal out of it, mainly because I failed to post anything about deficient baseball commentary or gormless sportswriting while in Brazil. I consider this an enormous failing on my part.

But I'm back now, and Jon Heyman has welcomed me home with a big dumb load of stupid.

Your title:

What the VORP?
Performing under pressure a big factor in MVP debate

Yeah. It's that sweet an article. Actually, it's a mailbag, and Carolyn from Boca Raton, Florida (beautiful, charismatic, saintly Carolyn) starts us off right:

Regarding your NL MVP candidates, how about those two guys in Florida? Yes, the Marlins are not in playoff contention, but it's hard to ignore Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera, especially considering they're first and second, respectively, in the NL in VORP, and rank in the top three in Runs Created. It looks like you went through all the playoff-contending teams, and chose a "good" player from each. Let me ask you: If Cabrera were on a playoff-contender this season, would there be any doubt who the MVP was?
-- Carolyn, Boca Raton, Fla.

Carolyn makes a lot of good points, and I imagine she lives in a gleaming white Spanish-style home in Boca Raton and rides horses bareback in the springtime. But back to the point: yes, Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera sit 1-2 in the NL VORP standings (BP subscription req'd), followed very closely by Misters Wright, Jones (Larry, not Andruw), Utley and Pujols. A San Francisco outfielder ranks seventh.

So yes, Carolyn, Cabrera would be a very strong MVP candidate if his team were any good, as would Hanley. As for your accusation that Mr. Heyman only looked at playoff-ish teams --

Actually, you're right. That's exactly what I did, and how I came up with Prince Fielder as my NL MVP leader. His "good'' year is actually more than good, and the Brewers are right in the thick of the playoff race.

Prince is having a terrific year, and he probably actually is the lead dog in the NL MVP race because it's an award voted on by guys exactly like Heyman. Is this just?

Well, he's 10th in the league in VORP, a full 21 points behind both Cabrera and H. Ramirez. He has an excellent EqA (.322 -- lower than Cabrera's, Pujols', Bonds', Utley's, Jones', heck, even Hanley's), and he plays indifferent to bad defense at the easiest position on the diamond. To be honest, I don't think he's all that strong a candidate.

But wait, says Heyman. I have more to say --

While I understand your sentiments, I am more interested in "wins created'' than runs created.

Really. Wins created. What, exactly, is Prince Fielder's wins created on the year? How about Gabe Gross'? His team is in the thick of the playoff race. They have wins -- well, some, anyway. They actually have a losing record. If they were in the AL East, they would be 15 games out. Prince Fielder is also on this team. I wonder if Heyman's considering any Blue Jays or A's for AL MVP? They're neck and neck with the Brew Crew at this point.

Since you totally made up the phrase wins created and it's meaningless, I will say Gabe Gross has 10 WC and Fielder has 68.4. (The rest of the Brewers account for negative wins.)

And the day I consider VORP is the day I get out of the business.

Enthusiasts of sabermetrics often get accused of zealotry. This, my friends, is zealotry of the highest level. Doesn't this sentence sound like some Sinn Fein IRA terrorist shit or something? "The day I break bread with the Protestants, Danny, is the day my bonny Irish heart stops beating." Or something. I don't know anything about Ireland.

The idea of the MVP is to honor the player who has had the biggest positive impact on the pennant races.

This line is perfectly acceptable if it's changed to "Jon Heyman, and Jon Heyman alone's idea of the MVP is to honor the player who has had the biggest positive impact on the pennant races." And a useful disclaimer would be: "Jon Heyman does not acknowledge any leeway for nuance, subtlety, evidence, or critical thinking in the determination of the MVP."

Here's a fun thing: from 1911 to 1914, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Automobile Company handed out a sort of proto-MVP called the Chalmers Award, given to the player who "should prove himself as the most important and useful player to his club and to the league at large in point of deportment and value of services rendered." Sounds a lot like the nebulous BBWAA MVP award, doesn't it?

The 1913 NL Chalmers, the third (and second to last) ever, went to one Jake Daubert of the Brooklyn Superbas. The Superbas' record that year was an underwhelming 65-84, good for a winning percentage of .436.

Today, Miguel Cabrera's and Hanley Ramirez' team, the Florida Marlins, sit at 58-75, for a winning percentage of ... also .436.

Eerie, isn't it? Aren't you glad I'm back from Brazil? I am.

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posted by Junior  # 1:18 PM
I love when a sportswriter thinks up something like "I am more interested in 'wins created' than runs created" like it's some pithy turn of phrase, seemingly unaware that there are a whole group of statistics (WARPS 1, 2, and 3) which very closely resemble the idea of "wins created."

Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera lead Prince Fielder in WARP1, WARP2, and WARP3.
Also, it would have made so many of my dreams come true if the title of Heyman's article had been "#$!&@* the VORP?"
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