What’s a Most Valuable Player?

There's more to Anthony Rizzo's NL MVP case than meets the eye.  (via Ben Grey)

There’s more to Anthony Rizzo’s NL MVP case than meets the eye. (via Ben Grey)

Let’s say you play in a baseball simulation league, something like APBA or Strat-O-Matic, and you have a choice between two batter cards. The first batter, let’s call him Joe Slugger, will put up amazing slugging stats—the best in the league. His On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG) will be at the top of the charts, perhaps historically great.

The second batter, Eddie Situation, will post very good numbers but not as good as Slugger’s. The difference is that he will excel in key situations. According to his card, his performance will increase with batters on base while Slugger’s performance will get worse with runners on base.

This is a very sophisticated game you play, and Situation’s card also shows that he will perform best in close games, while Slugger’s stats are more likely to be accrued in runaway contests. You know that a home run in a one-run contest is worth more than a home run in a five-run contest, so you’re even more intrigued by Situation’s card. When you run all the numbers, you find that Situation’s contribution to your team’s wins will be higher than Slugger’s.

Which batter will you choose?

Me, I’d choose Situation instead of Slugger. I don’t want to lead my league in counting stats—I want to lead my league in wins. Choosing the guy who hits better with runners in scoring position and in close games will result in more wins for my team. I don’t want the best hitter on my team, I want the most valuable hitter.

See where I’m going with this?

Currently, the consensus seems to be that Bryce Harper is the clear choice for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. After all, he’s batting .333/.463/.648 with 36 home runs, 84 RBI and 104 runs scored (all numbers as of Sept. 14). However, I don’t think we should totally hang our hat on those counting stats. Allow me to offer another way to look at things.

Here are the current (as of Sept. 14, and that’s the last time I’ll say it) NL leaders in wRC (weighted Runs Created, which is a similar scale to Runs Scored and RBI), along with some other key stats:

2015 NL MVP CANDIDATES
Name Team PA AVG OBP SLG wRC wRAA
Bryce Harper Nationals 574 .333 .463 .648 133 68.3
Joey Votto Reds 616 .315 .459 .555 128 58.2
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 620 .316 .431 .553 118 48.0
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 616 .278 .388 .523 107 37.2
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 601 .299 .401 .509 103 35.4

As you can see, Harper leads the league in wRC, five ahead of Joey Votto and 15 more than Paul Goldschmidt. He also leads in wRAA, which is the same thing as wRC, but it’s expressed in runs above average instead of total runs. You can see Harper moves ahead in wRAA by posting the highest wRC total but in fewer plate appearances. Votto and Anthony Rizzo, who have the exact same number of plate appearances, also have the exact same difference in both wRC and wRAA. I like to look at both stats as a starting point.

Not all hits have the same impact, however. A single with a runner on third and two outs is worth more than a single with no one on base and two outs, for just one example. The best research I’ve seen that captures this phenomenon was posted by Tom Ruane at Retrosheet many years ago. Tom calls it Value Added Batting Runs, but it’s called RE24 at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Shorter names fit better on teeny columns.

You calculate each batter’s Value Added Runs—or RE24—by calculating the difference in expected runs from before his plate appearance to after his plate appearance, adding in the number of runs that scored. You can calculate the difference in expected runs by…well, just read the article.

RE24 is a real gem of a stat and vastly underused. It tells you very different things about batters. Let’s look at the RE24 of our top five MVP contenders and compare it to their wRAA.

2015 NL MVP CANDIDATES, WRAA & RE24 COMPARISON
Name Team wRAA RE24 Diff
Bryce Harper Nationals 68.3 68.06 -0.24
Joey Votto Reds 58.2 64.35  6.15
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 48.0 51.41  3.41
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 37.2 55.47 18.27
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 35.4 47.69 12.29

Harper’s RE24 is about the same as his wRAA (too many acronyms!), but every other batter increases his impact once we add in his performance in each specific situation. How does this happen? Well, here are a couple of factoids (out of many possible factoids) to consider:

  • With runners in scoring position, Bryce Harper has batted .294/.476/.559. With no one on, he’s batted .336/.443/.695.
  • With runners in scoring position, Anthony Rizzo has batted .305/.425/.602. With no one on, he’s batted .249/.344/.488.

With runners in scoring position, Harper has actually been worse than with no one on, but Rizzo has been much, much better than his no-one-on stats. The nice thing about RE24 is that it takes all the differences in base/out situations (there are 24 of them) and sums them up in a single number.

This is called situational hitting. People tend to ignore it because it’s not very likely Rizzo will repeat this breakout again. But MVP awards aren’t given for repeatable performances. They’re given based on what actually happened. Rizzo’s RISP performance actually happened.

You probably know all of this; maybe you’ve looked up RE24 on baseball websites many times before. But there’s another wrinkle to consider, something I first researched in 2007. That is, the margin of victory in a game.

This is a simple yet powerful idea, too: runs in close contests are more important than runs in blowouts. The object of the game is to win the thing, not to run up a big run total. Thanks to WPA, we can quantify exactly how much events matter to winning in close games vs. those in blowouts. For instance, a batting event in a one-run game was worth 1.38 more than average, while a batting event in a three-run game was worth 0.97 of average. I’m going to call this a Margin Factor (and that’s all the detail I’m giving you here; read the article for more).

So I multiplied each batter’s RE24 in each game by the Margin Factor of the game. Below you can see how our Big Five rank in wRAA, RE24 and this last stat, which I’ll call Game-Adjusted RE24 (GameRE24 for short).

2015 NL MVP CANDIDATES, GAME-ADJUSTED RE24
Name Team wRAA RE24 GameRE24
Bryce Harper Nationals 68.3 68.06 56.4
Joey Votto Reds 58.2 64.35 60.6
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 48.0 51.41 55.5
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 37.2 55.47 54.0
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 35.4 47.69 43.4

Most of our batters lost ground in the transition from RE24 to GameRE24 because one-run games tend to be low-scoring affairs. However, Paul Goldschmidt actually increased his total impact by factoring in the game situation. (Fun fact: Goldschmidt leads the majors in RE24 in one-run games at 25.4. Kris Bryant is second at 19.1).

In our overall GameRE24 totals, Votto is now in the lead, with Harper, Goldschmidt and Rizzo virtually tied for second. It’s not a runaway race anymore; it’s a dead heat.

Of course, you probably would want to plug these numbers into WAR, where Harper’s (and McCutchen’s) positions would factor in. So, too, would Goldschmidt’s fielding numbers. You probably also should include the fact that Harper has accrued fewer plate appearances. There is much still to play with, but the basic concept is fully formed.

In 1979, Don Baylor won the American League MVP Award, largely thanks to an impressive RBI total of 139. Back then, we didn’t have any advanced stats or breakouts to make sense of those numbers, so we grabbed onto some evidence of situational hitting wherever we found it.

Here’s what we now know. Baylor came to bat with runners in scoring position 258 times in 1979, 22 more times than the major league runner-up (Darrell Porter). His OPS in those situations was .981, which is obviously very good but was still just 15th in the majors. His RBI count was driven more by opportunity than performance.

If we had been able to see his RE24 at the time, we would have seen a total of 37.9, eighth in the AL behind Fred Lynn’s 60.6. In fact, Lynn led the majors in OPS with runners in scoring position at 1.188. Remarkably, his RE24 was much higher than Baylor’s despite coming to bat only 166 times with runners in scoring position.

This debate of “What does valuable mean?” has gone on long enough. Many people have given up on the topic, ceding the floor to simple counting stats because, you know, who really knows? But we do know. Value = Winning. Winning is a function of hitting, hitting in the right situations and in the closest games. If you want to honor the best hitter, vote for the Silver Slugger. But if you really want to honor the Most Valuable Player, take a good look at his Game-Adjusted RE24. That is where value lies.

References & Resources (and Caveats)

  • As always, thanks to Retrosheet, FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference for their wonderful work and tools. Particular thanks to Tom Ruane for his research. Tangotiger has been my guide in much of my WPA research over the years.
  • I used the 2007 Margin Factors from my original articles. Ideally, I’d update those for the current run environment. Also, the RE24 stats at FanGraphs and Baseball Reference are based on evolving run expectancy tables and won’t be finalized until the season is over. I’m taking it on faith that these RE24 numbers are pretty close to the final deal.
  • Tom Ruane, Retrosheet, “The Value Added Approach to Evaluating Performance”
  • Dave Studeman, The Hardball Times, “Long Live Baseball Analysis”


Dave Studeman was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.
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Matt
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Matt

Sorry, I couldn’t resist to lol when I read this article. According to your logic, why not simply use WPA to evaluate MVP?

Lee Trocinski
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Lee Trocinski

I feel like WAR + Clutch is a fairly easy way to express this combination of production and context. Using FanGraphs’ versions of those stats, Bryant is just ahead of Cutch for the league lead.

Mike Green
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Mike Green

I don’t understand why “Margin Factor” is relevant to the discussion. If Bryce Harper hits a solo homer to break a tie game with two outs in the ninth and the Nationals then tack on 4 more runs so that the club wins by 5, how is this less valuable than if Paul Goldschmidt does the same thing and the D-Backs don’t add the insurance? Harper has hit .312/.429/.623 in tie games, and .328/.452/.627 in one-run games. Levying a significant “clutch” penalty on him seems to me to be harsh. He’s easily been the best player in the National League;… Read more »

Brian L
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Brian L

I think you need a third adjustment for importance of the game. Goldschmidt’s production comes at more important times within games, but his team’s games are less important.

Maybe this is just differing opinions of ‘valuable’. If you included a game importance/leverage factor, the ‘valuable’ bogey would be contributing to the team making the playoffs, vs. contributing to winning any game.

GBSimons
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GBSimons

It’s interesting to me that Harper’s performance declines with RISP while Rizzo’s improves, but their resulting RISP numbers are pretty similar (Harper = .294/.476/.559/1.035; Rizzo = .305/.425/.602/1.027).

So other than their nearly equal numbers in RISP situations, Harper’s numbers (.336/.443/.695/1.138) blow Rizzo’s (.249/.344/.488/.832) away.

james k
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james k

A factoid is something purported to to true that actually is not. Factoid is one of the most commonly misused words.

matt w
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matt w

I think that “factoid” has been used that way enough that its meaning has now changed.

TKDC
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TKDC

If you were talking about two fairly similarly valued players, I could see looking at some factors like this, but giving the MVP to Rizzo over Harper is just ludicrous. The Difference in value between Harper and Rizzo (using FG WAR) is greater than the difference between Rizzo and Michael Taylor.

There should be an award given to the best player each year. I don’t understand getting hung up on how to define “most valuable” (which by the way if you take literally would require looking at salaries). Just give the MVP to the best player. It’s not rocket science.

Tim
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Tim

I like that your arguments for Rizzo (using RE24 and adjusting it specifically to hurt Harper) STILL have Harper better than Rizzo, even though it’s closer.

Blaming Harper for his teammates being bad is not really fair.

Mark
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Mark

While Harper may not be as “valuable” to you because Rizzo or the others perform better with men on base, Harper is creating value by “starting” a rally – getting a key hit with nobody on base. That’s still pretty valuable from where I’m standing.

You can frame the argument however you want. It’s “clutch” to start the rally or “clutch” to get a hit with guys on base. Bottom line is Harper has been the best player in the NL, and has created the most value, even if his team has sucked.

Matt
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Matt

And I still haven’t expressed my own idea… My opinion: WPA is the only thing directly corresponds to (batting) wins. In MVP process though, you could eliminate something from WPA though. My opinion is that you should eliminate all unrepeatable and luck-based skills, retain repeatable skills only. (You surely cannot randomly and unlogically eliminate one thing and leave others there, like what this article does. Use WPA as batting value is acceptable imo, but I won’t suggest it.) Season woba is (mostly) repeatable, so retain the repeatable part of it. Hitting with runners on, hitting in late inning, hitting in… Read more »

Eric
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Eric

I have to agree with Mark earlier above, when he said, “Harper is creating value by “starting” a rally – getting a key hit with nobody on base. That’s still pretty valuable from where I’m standing.” Or as the Detroit Tigers broadcasters like to say at every Tiger game of the year – “Do you like dinner time with the family? If so, there are people that need to set the table. There are also people that need to eat.” Those that set the table are typically the top of the order guys who have high OBP and can get… Read more »

studes
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studes

Of course, RE24 includes a “rally starting” component. The only reason to add anything more is if you believe that Harper’s rally-starting hits are somehow more “inspirational” than others’.

Andrew
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Andrew

Is the reason we have to spend so much time looking for reasons that Harper ISN’T the MVP solely because he’s an insufferable prick? Is it because the division races are largely decided and boring? Maybe because all the best prospects were called up way before September, so not much to analyze there? I know WAR has fallen out of fashion, but Rizzo isn’t even first on his own team in it. Harper leads Votto by more than a win and a half… and if you want to switch from wRC to wRC+. well, Harper is having the 9th best… Read more »

studes
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studes

This isn’t personal at all. If the facts supported Harper, I’d be all for the guy. I know some will think I’m overthinking things, but that’s what people say about sabermetrics in general (including the people who invented WAR). I’m also not advocating against WAR, just suggesting a different approach to the offensive component of WAR.

Richard
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Richard

Left unsaid in your text, but clear in the tables is… Harper is still ahead of Rizzo in the other categories. And where he trails others, the suite of stats together again make Harper the obvious choice.

These hoops should only be jumped through when you are trying to decide between two players who are otherwise close, as they are not here.

studes
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studes

Not sure what other stats you categories you are referring to, but to me, these aren’t “hoops.” They’re the foundation of a basic understanding of value.

Again, I didn’t write this article because I’m against Harper receiving the MVP. It’s surprising to me that people are interpreting the article this way. I wrote it because I strongly believe we can still benefit from identifying Value.

Richard
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Richard

Then you need to write it differently, rather than frame it as, and headline-grab us with, Rizzo’s MVP case.

studes
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studes

By the way, Tango has a post about this article, which you can read here:

http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/article/context-based-value

His idea is to add a factor based on whether the player’s team won the game or not.

JWLumley
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JWLumley

Wow, my only guess was that this article was written as some kind of very about whether you could make Rizzo seem like they logical choice for MVP over Harper. Talk about some mental gymnastics!?! First, in games that are close you overlook one important detail : With men on base Harper’s OBP jumps over 30 points. Without looking it up, I’d venture a guess that the number of fastballs he sees also decreases. Why could this be? Perhaps, and this is a big stretch, teams don’t pitch to Harper with the game on the line. I know I wouldn’t.… Read more »

JWLumley
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JWLumley

Stupid autocorrect

studes
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studes

Why do people keep saying that I want to give the award to Rizzo? I don’t say that at all. In fact, my analysis suggests that four batters are in a virtual tie. The analysis doesn’t overlook anything. It takes into account all events, and it debits Rizzo’s stats with no one on base. It also includes the impact of walks with men on base for Harper. IF pitchers are taking the bat out of his hands, well, that makes him less valuable. I suggest that people read the linked article to RE24 in order to better understand how it… Read more »

Josh S.
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Josh S.

Probably because of the photo and, to a lesser extent, the caption. Very interesting article – who are the AL leaders?

studes
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studes

Donaldson, by a good margin.

JWLumley
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JWLumley

Well, because Harper is clearly the MVP, Votto and Goldschmidt are clearly 2-3 although the order is debatable and Rizzo is distant 4th. Rizzo’s mere inclusion seems forced. Still, while most agree that lineup protection doesn’t factor in over the course of a season, I do believe that teams approach the Nats lineup with a “don’t let Harper beat us” attitude. As for understanding RE24, patronizing much? Being walked in key situations will naturally decrease your opportunity to excel. Here’s a little experiment, replace RE24 with RBI’s and see if it changes your mind because basically that’s the argument you’re… Read more »

studes
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studes

I don’t know what you mean about Rizzo’s participation being forced. I started with the Top 5 in wRC and winnowed the field from there. Rizzo was fourth. Seems pretty unforced to me. Sorry you found my remark about RE24 partronizing. My particular point there was that, if Harper is walked in critical situations, that impacts his value. The defense takes the bat out of his hands. So the system gives him appropriate level of credit for that. I don’t see the need to give credit beyond the RE24 impact of a walk. An intentional walk hardly counts as any… Read more »

Andrew
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Andrew

It doesn’t take into account wRC+, and the adjustments it puts into the formula… which makes Harper CLEARLY better than the other three.

studes
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studes

RE24 is adjusted for ballpark and general run environment, just as wOBA is. What adjustments do you feel are missing from my approach?

studes
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studes

Sorry…I meant wRC+.

Hank G.
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Hank G.

Getting back to 1979, you could simply use WAR to see that Baylor was nowhere near the most valuable player in the American League:

Baylor: 3.7
Lynn: 8.8

(Baseball Reference WAR)

I can see using sequencing when the players are very close by other measurements, but even though I agree with the premise that we would like to base the award on what actually happened, using sequencing seems to me to move back towards rewarding or punishing a player for what his teammates did rather than what he did.

studes
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studes

Regarding Baylor, Lynn and WAR: Many people understood that Lynn had better overall stats (especially people in Boston!) but the writers were looking for an indication of Value. This is my point, that many voters still want to find that elusive definition of Value and that’s what I’m presenting here. WAR, as it’s currently configured at BRef and Fangraphs, is the ultimate counting stat. It doesn’t capture the Value that many MVP voters are looking for. Regarding sequencing, we have talked about creating an RE Leverage Index, which you could use to adjust RE24. I’m sure it would make some… Read more »

Jesse
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Jesse

totally agree you don’t make the playoffs, you’re not the most valuable player.

Shepherd Moon
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Shepherd Moon

Disclaimer: I am a total layman when it comes to sabermetrics. But here is my opinion, such as it is. In the “Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award” article in Wikipedia, it states: “The BBWAA does not offer a clear-cut definition of what ‘most valuable’ means, instead leaving the judgment to the individual voter.” So it seems there is at least some leeway for judgment here. As far as I am concerned, value in baseball translates to runs, wins, and titles, or some combination of the three. I suppose some may interpret value heavily in favor of individual stats… Read more »

Tangotiger
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Tangotiger

RE24 handles all of the base-out situations, so that the “starting” the rally is included. Trying to simply it for ease of discussion: you get +.25 runs for each base the batter takes, or that the runners move up. E.g., a solo HR (4 bases) gets you +1 run. A bases-loaded triple gets you +3 bases for the batter, and a total of +6 bases for three runners, for a total of 9 bases, or +2.25 runs. That’s basically how that works. So, what Dave is trying to show is that while you do get positive credit for great performances… Read more »

Dave T
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Dave T

Isn’t RE24 influenced by not just a player’s performance but also his teammates’ performance, though? Taking extreme hypotheticals, isn’t a player with better hitting stats who always hits with 2 outs and nobody on going to lag a player with worse hitting stats who usually comes up with runners in scoring position?

Relying heavily on RE24 therefore strikes me as penalizing a player just because the rest of his team – and maybe in particular the players hitting in front of him – aren’t very good.

C Bryan
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C Bryan

Fascinating article Dave. I’m sold on RE24, but not so sure about your inclusion of hitting in a close game. Here’s a hypothetical: Harper hits a 1st inning solo home run, and the Nats go on to win the game 8-0. Rizzo hits a 1st inning solo home run, and the Cubs go on to win the game 1-0. In these two games, I agree that Rizzo’s home run turned out to be “more valuable” than Harper’s because it was a close game. But the individual player’s contribution is the same. It seems to me that the extra value of… Read more »

tz
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tz

It’s the byproduct of two items: (1) recognizing that the relative value of a run in a close game is greater than it is in a blowout and (2) attempting to remove the difference in win value across innings (like you’d have with WPA).

I don’t believe there’s a perfect way to accomplish both of those and not get the type of anomaly you describe. So you go with the stat that incorporates the elements you want for a particular use, and live with the limitations that arise from it.

Al Dimond
Guest

How about this example: you’re trailing by one in the top of the 9th, two outs, bases loaded. You hit a single and everyone advances one base. Then the next batter hits a grand slam. The grand slam devalues your single, even though without your single it could not have happened. This is an extreme case, but of course every event will affect the ones that come after. If you hit a leadoff single the next batter will have an elevated BABIP on ground balls. If you give your team the lead late better relievers enter the game on your… Read more »

Only Glove, No Love
Guest
Only Glove, No Love

Nice article. You won me over.

I just want to say that the author is not:

1) proposing this stat as the “One Ring to Rule Them All” stat. He is quite clear that he is advocating its use for a very specific purpose.

2) the MVP for the purposes of this article is not the best player in baseball.

Antonio Aubry
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Antonio Aubry

Interesting, thought provoking article. However, which makes it important, I believe, is the frequency of this occurence. That is, if such a large disparity often exists between what one may consider “talent” (linear weights) and value (WPA/RE24) then this piece is extremely relevant to how we may approach the MVP award. However, if such a large gap is extremely rare, then, I don’t think theres a problem with quantifying offense value via linear weights based metrics. This may be why it seems to some of the commenters that you’re making mountains out of mole hills. My guess is such a… Read more »

at75
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at75

If we can go back to the “doesn’t matter if a solo HR in a 1-0 game is hit in the 1st or 9th” thing…This sabr-newb is struggling with the concept. It’s a game theory axiom that, all things equal, it’s better to reveal information as late as possible. ‘Revealing’ a run late in a 0-0 game gives the losing team fewer chances to make optimal offense-for-defense subs than if the run had scored earlier. In the long term, you wouldn’t have let your starter go 9 innings for a complete game shutout if you knew he’d lose on a… Read more »

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano

If your taste for “value” falls at this point on the contextuality scale, that’s reasonable, but you need to lay out more of a case for why this specific point if you want people to buy it. We have s lot of options and you’re selling a new one! If you’re willing to use final game score margin, why not go farther and count only when as player’s run contribution tipped the game from a loss to a win?After all, if a player creates some runs in a game his team loses by one, it didn’t matter in the wins… Read more »

tangotiger
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tangotiger

When you do WPA/LI or you do RE24/boLI, what you are saying is: every PA is equally valuable. That’s the intent there.

What those metrics are doing are “recentering” each event, so their impact is measured relative to their exact situation. So, a walk with bases loaded bottom of 9th tie game, that has the EQUAL impact to a HR in that situation. WPA gives us that.

And WPA/LI will make sure that that PA has no more weight than a PA in a blowout.

That’s as succinct as I can put it.

tangotiger
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tangotiger

I don’t know that that’s a better approach. Two players hit identically, but one always with bases empty (LI = 0.7) and the other always with men on base (LI = 1.4). The first guy has an RE24 of +21 runs and the second guy has an RE24 of +42 runs. Do we necessarily want to adjust them both to +30 runs? That’s what RE24/boLI would give you. In your example: PlayerA is +21 runs with bases empty and 0 runs with men on base, and faces both situation 50% of the time. LI = 1, and RE24 = +21.… Read more »

The Baseballer
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The Baseballer

The leverage argument is poor logic that I see in many sports groups on the topic of value. Yes, getting hits with runners in scoring position is more valuble *on the margins*, but the margins exist *because of the hits that were provided by those runners in scoring position*! I don’t give hitters extra value or credit for piggybacking off his teammate’s success. If you feel like giving Rizzo credit for leverage situations that did not even *cause*, then have at it. But, if Harper and Rizzo play on the same team as the 3 and 4 hitters in the… Read more »

The Baseballer
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The Baseballer

Ah. You’re Mr. Studeman, using a different alias.

The reply that you gave wasn’t valid.

The Baseballer
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The Baseballer

I pointed out particular problems with the logic in the article as it pertains to atttributing overall value to a hitter, and you didn’t even attempt to counter them. Instead, you parrot the same, intellectually lazy response.

The Baseballer
Guest
The Baseballer

Sarcastic wit isn’t your strong suit, either. I’ll field the question to a baseball guru/baseball stats board interested in honest debate.

The Baseballer
Guest
The Baseballer

Didn’t see this reply, but you weren’t debating. I started off by talking about issues with the stat, then you provided a clarification and a link to th logic, then after I read the link and talked about issues with the logic in the link you provided, you reply in a childish manner by failing to demonstrate how the provided infromation is “perfectly logical” (which is the same logic that’s under dispute here) and levying ad hominem attacks. I expect better from a writer of your stature.

The Baseballer
Guest
The Baseballer

No offense taken; even if you incorrectly labeled me a troll. However, if you’re taking offense to posters attacking the logic of your arguments — which is all I did here; I even called your responses intellectually lazy, not you — then, respectfully speaking Mr. Studeman, this isn’t the business foryou.

Craig Tyle
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Craig Tyle

Studes — great to see another article by you — I’ve printed out maybe a dozen sabermetric articles over the years — ones that that I like to go back to — and you’ve written maybe half of them. Still, I think RE24 is better than Game RE24. If Harper comes up with the bases loaded and two out, and hits a grand slam, I’m not sure why he should get less credit if the Nationals lost 10-4 than if they lost 5-4. He did all he could do in either situation. He shouldn’t be penalized if, say, Drew Storen… Read more »

studes
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studes

Hey Craig, thanks for checking back and thanks for the kind words. I don’t believe that the Game Margin adjustment is arbitrary. Close games have higher average LI’s, to use WPA terms, and I basically apply a game LI to all the plate appearances instead of just some. To me, it’s obvious that events in a close game have a bigger impact on who won the game, compared to the same events in a blowout. The average LI from those games bears that out. I agree that this results in some distortions when you look at specific plate appearances, and… Read more »

TH
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TH

I agree with Craig’s line of reasoning here. It doesn’t make sense to me that more credit should be given to the 5-4 game versus the 10-4 game. If the 10 runs vs. 5 runs is beyond the players control, then it’s unfair. As another commenter said, just by being on a playoff team, each of those games should be more valuable too. Where do you stop with this? I think that situational hitting is important, and it should be factored in. But it’s more of a bonus, and is less reliable. Another way of looking at this. If you… Read more »

Peter Jensen
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Peter Jensen

Dave – So in last night’s Nationals game where Harper went 3 for 3 with 2 home runs and his team wins 4-0 his RE24 would get heavily devalued even though he provide the entire margin of victory? I think you should give up on GameRE24 and just stick with RE24. At the very least you should use run differential – player’s game RE24, but you would still have the problem that a player could still be penalized because his pitching and defense gave up to few runs.

tangotiger
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tangotiger

I don’t see any reason to give up on anything. Why can’t we just let the discussion move toward there? Peter has a good example. Say you have one player that provides all the runs, say 4 solo HR in a game won 4-0. Now, say you have another player also with 4 solo HR, but that game was won 4-3, with all 3 runs allowed in the 9th. You have a third player, 4 solo HR, also won the game 4-3, but the defense gave up the three runs in the 1st. How do we handle these three situations?… Read more »

tangotiger
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tangotiger

Heck, let me add a fourth one, the same guy gets 4 solo HR, but his team loses 5-4.

Cliff Blau
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Cliff Blau

Since there is no such thing as “clutch hitting ability” separate from “hitting ability”, why are you giving a hitter extra credit because he happens to get a disproportionate number of his hits with runners on one year? Why don’t you give the extra credit to his teammates who happened to get on base before he got a hit? Both are random.

studes
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studes

No offense, but I think I covered this question pretty well in the article. We are talking about the MVP here, not the person most likely to repeat his performance. Wins are the result of not just hitting, but hitting well in particular situations. I am proposing that Value (as in MVP) is that thing that most drives winning games, and situational hitting is part of that.

RE24 DOES give credit to hitters who got on base before the batter.

Cliff Blau
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Cliff Blau

RE24 gives credit to runners who reach base, but they get the same credit regardless of what subsequent hitters do. For example, if a batter hits a one-out double, he gets a certain run value whether he scores later or is stranded. But if there happens to be a runner on base when he hits the double, he gets additional credit, although it is completely random that there was a runner on. Yes, wins are the result of hitting well in certain situations, but the credit doesn’t all belong to the batter who is last in the scoring sequence. The… Read more »

Peter Jensen
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Peter Jensen

Tango – In each of your four cases the player has a run value added of 4 runs for hie 4 home runs during the game. I think the better question to ask is ” Is there a compelling reason for the player’s game value to be any different than that. In the 17 years that I played baseball through college and later in adult leagues I can’t remember a single plate appearance that I went into where I didn’t want to win that confrontation with the pitcher by not making an out no matter what the score was. I… Read more »

tz
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tz

I think there’s a case to say that run value is the metric we should use to evaluate player performance – I happen to be in the camp for the most part, and so RE24 is excellent for that (or RE24/boLI if you want to normalize plate appearances). But for those who want to use win value as a basis to evaluate player performance, we’re left with WPA, which depends very heavily on the sequence of game events, or WPA/LI, which normalizes out all the leverage from WPA. I think what Dave is proposing here is a happy medium between… Read more »

tangotiger
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tangotiger

Peter:

Your answer is clear that all you care about is runs, irrespective of the impact or timing of those runs to the game at hand. Given that, then it’s clear that RE24 is what you should use.

If someone wants to argue that the impact or timing of those runs matters, then it’s certainly a valid position for that person to take.

David P Stokes
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David P Stokes

Hmm. ” My opinion is that you should eliminate all unrepeatable and luck-based skills, retain repeatable skills only.” I don’t know that I agree with that. The value a player creates resides in what he actually accomplishes, not in what he should have accomplished given his skill set. For example, say Jason Kipnis goes nuts with the bat next year, and hits .402 with 55 HR, leading the Indians to a WS title. He’d almost certainly win the MVP, even thoughI think we all would agree that’s a HUGE fluke, and not repeatable. But Cleveland would still have that championship… Read more »

mosc
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mosc

I am a big fan of the RE24 stat. I think it’s a great “RBI-like” indication of production. Like all stats it has it’s strengths and weaknesses. I am NOT a fan of correcting it for “leverage”. Yes, some guys get lots more opportunities than others. That somewhat misses the point of the stat though. Lets say you put 8 terrible hitters around a pure league average hitter. What would you expect his RE24 to be? If you said something other than zero, you’re wrong. His leverage is very low which multiplies his production… but his production is average. Similarly… Read more »

Df321
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Df321

It’s kind of pathetic how hard you’re trying (and failing) to devalue Harper’s epic season. It’s even more pathetic how hard you’re trying to prop Rizzo up.

Yehoshua Friedman
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Yehoshua Friedman

a eskpert said… that making solid contact in those vital situations is more indicative than the outcome. Yes and no. The guy who has the kind of bat control to find the holes should not be penalized for it. The guy who pounds the ball into the shift and makes outs consistently should not be rewarded for merely making contact when the defense can play him successfully. The guy who is in between is in between. That is about the ground balls and line drives. Fly balls are different, of course. There is not much defense against a home run,… Read more »

Emmanuel
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Emmanuel

I live near the DC area now so I see a lot of Nats games, and since moving here I have noticed how little Bryce hits when there are guys on base but just thought maybe it was just me. With that said, We should also try and look into how your lineup effects your situational hitting. Because Bryce hasn’t had a real consistent lineup around him or anyone besides Escobar hitting well most of the season, this could have an effect as well. Maybe being the only real threat has made him press more in run scoring situations, not… Read more »

Michael (Hysterical & Useless)
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Michael (Hysterical & Useless)

Emmanuel, did you not notice that Harper’s OPS in RISP situations was 1.035? YMMV, but that doesn’t look to me like a guy who’s “pressing” and hitting “little” with men on base.

Studes, fascinating work. Both your math skillz and patience with comments are far beyond what I could manage. [I don’t think the commenter who called your argument “logically incoherent” was trying to be insulting, but I know I too would have felt insulted by the remark, and would likely have reacted much less pleasantly than you did!]

The Baseballer
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The Baseballer

First, thats alot of nonsense coming from the both of you. Part of what hurts Internet discussion is when posters take needless offense to an argument they present as if they’re the ones under fire. No one was personally attacking you, Mr. Studeman, so stop acting like a victim. If you thought that you were correct, all you had to do was show why, instead of derailing the conversation in the manner that you did. That’s it. Second, no; what I said was not an “a priori” belief. It’s a simple, fundamental principle of reason, one that is absolutely true.… Read more »

Zach
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Zach

Thanks Mr. Studeman, this is exactly the tweak to WPA I was looking for in the MVP discussion. People discount RBI (for valid reasons) but it did describe an actual even that had value. I think some of the pushback is that a lot of sabre discussion is designed specifically to go beyond actual in game value provided and see how good a player is. Looking at a pitcher that has given up a ridiculously high babip indicates they are better than their boxscore number would indicate. But, it also means they’re providing less value than you’d guess by their… Read more »

Nathan
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Nathan

People make the same mistake all the time. RBI is not a useless stat, but it’s utterly useless *for evaluating talent*. At any rate, the argument has been had a thousand times. You take Slugger because he’s better. The better player is the goal. Situations involve ifs ands and buts. Ability doesn’t. The minute you make things more difficult than they actually are is the minute you have done poorly as a team architect. Even if the purpose is selecting between the two you want to keep it simple. Saying so and so is valuable *if* this or that is… Read more »

Mac
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Mac

You’re talking future performance. And you take Slugger only because we’re all fairly convinced that clutch by and large isn’t a skill. There is no such real person as Eddie Situation.

What this comes down to is a HUGE semantic issue – are you valuing story or talent? Just because something “should” happen doesn’t mean it will, and it’s possible that despite Harper’s better raw output, it just so happened that Votto by one measure was more integral to winning games than Harper this season.

Mac
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Mac

So, I braved the comments section, what a great debate! And I have another philosophical wrinkle for all the great minds here. I want to talk about the runner in the run – the guy who actually scored. The discussion so far has revolved almost exclusively around the person who drove the run in – the batter. And there’s an issue with this that was brought up – it’s an opportunistic occurrence. So here’s a question going back to core of “Value = Winning”. The reason situational hitting is opportunistic is BECAUSE OF ANOTHER HITTER. Going back to old stats,… Read more »

TJ
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TJ

This is obviously late, but this discussion did an excellent job of seeing how stats come from different perspectives. It took a little bit of reading before I understood that Dave was aiming for the entire game, ex post facto, as the proper contextual perspective for value. There is a good argument here. However, with all of the confusion over the topic, I wonder if the idea of “context neutral” stats drives part of the confusion. WAR, obviously, considers the batter apart from the context of people on base or game situation. This is not properly context “neutral” but a… Read more »

Mike
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Mike

Why do we give some players extra credit for what the players who came before them did, but not give extra credit to other players for what those who came after them did?

The guy who walked to lead off the 9th inning in a close game is just as responsible for the win as the guy who sacrificed him in later in the inning. Maybe more so, if someone made an out in between. You’re only giving credit to half the responsible players.