Monday, November 23, 2009
Lincecum Enlists the Nerds For Second Cy Win
If you're the front office, and you can't come to terms with the Lincecum camp on an amount, how in the hell do you argue your case in front of an arbitrator? "Well, sir, he was the most unhittable pitcher in the NL the past two years and he's already established himself as one of the best pitchers in Giants history...but he didn't raise the dead or bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so we can't help but conclude that he's not worth the $15 million he's asking for." Perhaps it's better to avoid the ill-will these hearings can often bring about by just giving Lincecum a pen and a contract with a blank spot where the salary figure should go, and then just walking away. Since arbitration figures are seen as market-setters, the MLBPA is probably going to be salivating like a wild dog watching Lincecum's arbitration case.
So Lincecum won his second Cy, and we Giants fans are ecstatic. It's always fun when a guy from your team gains national acclaim. The real story here, though, was the vote itself, which instantly caused a violent uproar that resulted in one of the loudest and most venomous baseball debates* you'll ever see. This Cy Young ballot was seriously the most controversial of any award vote I've ever seen, and boy was it ever fun.
*(Well, by debate I mean: "bout of childish name-calling".)
To recap: Lincecum didn't even garner the majority of the first-place votes in winning the award. That was Adam Wainwright, who earned 12 first place votes to Lincecum's 11. Of course, those votes weren't even enough to get Wainwright second place, as he finished still behind teammate Chris Carpenter. The national consensus was that this was a three-dog race between the aforementioned pitchers. To vote for anyone else would just be stupid, the common wisdom went.
Well, two "stat nerds", Keith Law and Will Carroll did just that, voting for Javier Vasquez and Dan Haren, respectively, and leaving Carpenter completely off their ballots. This immediately triggered a backlash against the two writers, as "traditionalists" accused them of ruining baseball as we know it and using their ballots to make a statement instead of an informed vote. Cardinal fans absolutely blew a gasket, accusing the two of geeking up the proceedings and purposely slighting their boys. They demanded that the pair be stripped of their voting privileges post haste. From the comments in articles such as this, you'd think Law and Carroll were Leopold and Loeb, not baseball analysts making an honest opinion in their first BBWAA vote (some asshole even tried to hunt down Law's phone number and home address...scary).
The outrage behind the vote was asinine for two reasons. First, if you're going to rail against two hardcore stat dweebs, these guys aren't it. Carroll, of course, is best known for his work at Baseball Prospectus, but his area of expertise is in the injury realm; he is not a big number cruncher. Law himself, while he used FIP and WAR to justify his vote or Vasquez, is an actual, no-foolin' scout who sits in the stands with a notepad and a radar gun and looks for the guys who can sell jeans the best (I'm not sure if he chews tobacco and carries a spitoon around with him, but if he does my respect for him just shot up a thousandfold).
The second reason the vitriol over this is so silly is because even if the two writers had put Carpenter on their ballot, he still wouldn't have won. In fact, he still wouldn't have even been close. So saying that two saber-jerks cost Carpenter anything is just idiotic. Lincecum won the award fair and square, and he didn't get any extra help from a stat nerd conspiracy. So in conclusion: who gives a shit if two writers left Carpenter off their ballots? It didn't change anything, except to possibly make a large portion of the Cardinal fanbase out to be a bunch of butt-hurt crybabies.
I did stop to consider how I would feel if Lincecum had lost because some stupid voters had given Carpenter the award because of "grittiness" or "toughness in his eyes" or something else I didn't understand or agree with (or for a ridiculously convoluted reason like Ken Rosenthal did). I would feel pretty angry. Yes, there is a large amount of homerism that comes along with these awards, and that loyalty can often intrude upon logic and common sense. So I do try my best to feel some compassion for the Cardinal fans who are wasting away so many hours in a foamy rage, plotting ways to assault Keith Law. After all, they're only showing love for their team.
Then I read stupid shit like this, and any shred of compassion runs away screaming. What a bunch of dumbasses.