The ongoing argument between the modern stat-heads and the so-called traditionalists is getting old and boring. The fact of the matter is, the stats the traditionalists use (Wins, ERA, Strikeouts) were all once ” new” stats as well. Whether a stat is old or new isn’t important. Any valid stat simply gives us a clearer, fuller picture of the objective value of a player, compared to other players.
I generally believe the modern stats have done a great deal of good for baseball. Yet I suspect that the real, underlying complaint of many in the “traditionalist” camp is that they find many of the modern stat-heads to be insufferable, arrogant bastards.
As for this criticism, they have a valid point.
I can name a few prominent stat-heads who irk me at times not so much for their point of views, but for how they express their ideas. In a sense, they appear to be more in love with numbers (and their reputations) than with baseball itself (again, not necessarily a majority of them, but enough of them to matter.) They automatically dismiss any disagreement with their opinions as the delusional rantings of the ignorant rabble.
Still, the so-called traditionalists are often no less boring to listen to as they relate stories about how the best players demonstrated intangibles like guts, leadership and hustle that do not easily translate into cold, hard numbers.
The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of excellent players possess both the intangibles as well as the objective data to lay claim to their status as great players.
Of course wins matter. How can they not? Do we now believe that a 300-career win pitcher, for example, is not deserving of significant honor and respect? A pitcher who wins 20 or more games in a season has had a fine year, and certainly deserves to be in the running for this award.
At the same time, if a pitcher has suffered from extremely poor run support all season but has pitched his way to an ERA title, led the league in innings pitched (indicating a true work-horse, which the traditionalists should admire), and is near or at the top in several other statistical categories including ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts, etc., then it’s nonsensical to argue that, if only he had pitched better, he would have “found a way” to have won more games.
From my standpoint, the best thing that could happen this year is for Sabathia and Hernandez to be co-winners of the Cy Young award.
This outcome is highly unlikely, of course, but it would demonstrate proper, measured, and sensible respect for the superior accomplishments of each of these two admirable pitchers this past season.
This isn’t a cop-out on my part. And I am realistic enough to realize that few will agree with my proposal.
So think of this post, then, as my way of saying to the partisans on each side, shut up and pay proper respect to the opinions of your fellow baseball fans.
No one cares who is smarter or more passionate in their opinions. If the game of baseball is big enough to contain both Red Sox and Yankee fans, (not to mention shell-shocked Pirates fans), then there is certainly room enough for multiple points of view regarding how to take the measure of a man who dons a baseball uniform.
Because the game itself is bigger than any one man, especially those who presume to measure the value of others.
- AL Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez More Deserving Than CC Sabathia (bleacherreport.com)
- AL Cy Young a choice between wins, stats (mlb.mlb.com)
- Cy Young Picks – AL (dugoutcentral.com)
- C.C. Sabathia Doesn’t Deserve The Cy Young: Felix Hernandez Clearly Does (bleacherreport.com)
- King Felix vs. C.C. (joeposnanski.si.com)