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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Joltin' Joe Cowley--The Trilogy

So Joe and I (DWTHTB) have gone back and forth for about 6-7 emails and the sequence has basically broken down like this.

1) I send Joe an email pointing out all the things wrong/inaccurate/false with his latest reasons for voting Thomas ahead of Oritz and debunking all of his claims

2) Joe responds with some lame attempt at humor, comes up with even more bad reasons, makes fun of me for worshipping numbers or "slurping" numbers (Yes, he used the word slurping) and then ends by calling me "Bro" or "Brah" (guess it depends on the mood that he's in)

3) I write Joe back, pointing out how much of a moron he is, and again showing that his reasoning is not illogical and in many cases false, and then the whole cycle repeats itself. So, here is a summary of Joe's "arguments" and my debunking/total annilihilation of those arguments. In the order of simplicity Joe's emails will be listed in black (to represent the black place in heart where HR/RBI and "being able to carry one's team on his shoulders" reside instead of things such as RC or OPS) and my responses will be listed in blue.

So after sending the email (which is listed below with my hypothetical AL MVP ballots), Cowley responded with "Well, when you do get a vote, you can vote how you want. That's the beauty of America, Brah."

To which I responded: "Yes, it is true that people can vote for anyone they want to. However, the point is that sportswriters (i.e. idiots) like you who don't know what Runs Created is and only look at HR/RBI totals and vote for players on their hometown team #2 overall when they weren't even the best offensive player on said reporters hometown team (and the team didn't even make the playoffs) shouldn't be allowed to vote. Seriously though, I have one more question for you. Who had the better year offensively last year (2006), Frank Thomas or David Ortiz?? " (ed note: Cowley had a tough time answering this last question as I posed in 4 consecutive emails without an answer).

To Cowley responded with "Three GM's e-mailed me after my ballot was announced and said I was right on the money. Before handing it in, I also talked to different players in the AL. That's information that stat geeks will never understand." and "There's a reason why I do what I do, and you blog."

Seems that Cowley was starting to doubt his ballot (although he has had to defend it numerous times I'm sure) so he pulled out the big guns: GM references and player conversations. It's too bad that
"...Kenny Williams doesn't count. So now you're down to 2. And just because GM's validated your opinion doesn't mean that its right. You think GM's are the end-all know all of baseball analysis. Brian Sabean signed a 42 year guy with 0 oustanding contract offers to a $16 million dollar deal. That's great GM work. He also traded one year of service from an average catcher (AJ Pierzynski) for an All-Star closer, a potential All-Star starter (Liriano), and a fringe-average pitcher (Bonser). Yet, you're telling me that because he's a GM that he knows more about baseball analysis than the stats or any non-Gm does....

By the way, when you say that you talked to players, I assume that you mean that they agreed with your selections. Or did you just mean to say that you talked to them about it, and that was validation enough for selecting Jermaine Dye #2 overall despite the fact that his team (your hometown team) didn't even make the playoffs.....

Look I'm sure you could find 3,000 or even 3,000,000 people to validate your clearly wrong ballot. And some of them would be GM's and some of them would be players. But when you weigh "opinion" against "factual evidence", factual evidence (i.e. statistics) usually tends to win out (except in the minds of almost every sportswriter for some reason).

And finally, just to throw in a cheap shot, I responded to Cowley's "There's a reason why I do what I do" with "Yes, your below average logical reasoning ability closed pretty much every door for you except journalism. Which is one of the least respected professions, I might add. "

Of course, Joltin' Joe was just getting started and countered with "The name of the Award is "Most Valuable Player.'' Not "Guy with the Best numbers.'' (ed note: I've used this argument numerous times to argue against Jeter--however, the difference between say Jeter & Morneau and Ortiz/Thomas is that Jeter plays in a 9 All-Star lineup; Morneau a 2-All Star lineup. The Red Sox and A's differed by 50 runs; The Twins and Yanks by 129 runs. And Ortiz still created a much larger % of his teams runs than Thomas (17.3% vs 12.4%). ) It means the guy that took his team to a level they wouldn't have reached without him. Boston ... no playoffs. Oakland.....playoffs. Sure, I look at numbers, but I don't slurp them like you do." Then he told me "Now go play Dungeons and Dragons,"

So apparently anyone who cites statistics is a nerd sitting in his own little bat cave just waiting to descend into a fantasy world of dungeons, dragons, and sportswriter bashing. Yea, anyways, of course, I had plenty of ammo for Joe including the following

"It means the guy that took his team to a level they wouldn't have reached without him."
"Oh, you mean like how Jermaine Dye (your #2 choice) led his team to the playoffs last year. (summoning my best Borat voice) NOT!"

"Boston ... no playoffs. Oakland.....playoffs."

"Oakland...playoffs (FT #4) Chicago White playoffs (JD #2) to see your reasoning on that one. Also, Boston....4.82 Team ERA in strong division; Oakland.....4.21 ERA in weak division. Yet apparently Ortiz wasn't good enough to lead the Red Sox to the playoffs so therefore he isn't as valuable as Frank Thomas."

Then I basically laid it all out on the table why Ortiz was "more valuable" than Thomas: "If Ortiz adds 10 wins to the Red Sox (which he did according to his Win Share totals) and Thomas adds 7 wins to the Athletics (which he did according to his Win Share totals), which one was more valuable. According to you (and most sportswriters born before 1975), those 7 wins were more valuable because they led a team from non-playoffs to playoffs. Ok, fine. Most rational people when given a choice of 2 players, that play an identical position which requires no defense, one of which would add 10 wins to a their team and the other would add 7 wins, would say that the 10 win player is more valuable. But then again, maybe that's just me because I'm not afraid to "slurp" numbers and after all that "slurping" I realize that 10 is bigger than 7."

Also, I asked Joe for his 2005 AL Cy Young ballot again (I first asked him last email) just to see if he put Bartolo Colon ahead of Santana (which I guarantee he did, probably along with Contreras and Buehrle). He didn't seem willing to provide that information for some reason. Apparently, my sarcasm started to rub Cowley the wrong way as he responded with this:

"I actually almost read your entire e-mail this time. Usually I have just laughed at them in the first paragraph, and then been amazed how much time you spend trying to explain yourself. Typical of numbers geeks.

Now this is the last reply you will get from me, because I've wasted far too much time with you. As I explained on numerous TV and radio shows, there are numerous things I take into consideration. Was a team in the playoffs or the race the last week of the season? Did a player put up unbelievable numbers? Do I feel that team would have been close to the playoffs or as good without that player? Did that player show up in clutch time?

I'm not even sure what your argument is at this point because your thinking is so convoluted I can't follow it. Know this though, brah. It's my vote. I can do what I want with my vote. If you don't like it, get your own vote.

And blogger with no name, don't let numbers blur your view of the game. If a guy hits behind a runner to move him to second, it's a good thing even if it's an out. Diving to stop a ball or keeping a single from being a double, are good things. Those things don't show up in numbers. They show up in champions and in MVPs. They don't show up in these numbers that you worship.

Now go roll that 15-sided dice or whatever you do. We my friend are done ... unless you start paying me to respond to you, which is negotiable."

I'll get to debunking Cowley's arguments in a minute, but what's really funny here is that after 6 email exchanges (or 7, I've lost count by now), he still doesn't understand what is wrong with his AL MVP ballot. It's like telling a kid 7 different times that he got a problem wrong because he didn't set the equation in problem #2 equal to 0 and then showing the kid how to solve it once you set it equal to 0 AND showing the kid that he did set #3, #5, and #6 equal to 0 and solve them correctly. Then 2 days later, the kid says he doesn't understand why he got #2 wrong.
Also, (and I forgot to respond to this on my original post) "Diving to stop a ball or keeping a single from being a double, are good things." They are good things. Good things that Frank Thomas can not do since he does not play defense. Ever. Period. So that's yet another reason which doesn't move Thomas ahead of Ortiz. Also, I love his "they show up in Champions and MVP" talk because Cowley hadn't actually used any lame sports cliches up to this point (which was the one lame sportswriter tendency he hadn't exhibited).

So as for Cowley's claims:

Question 1: "Was a team in the playoffs or the race the last week of the season? "
No, the White Sox were NOT in the playoffs during the last week of the season yet you voted Jermaine Dye #2 on your AL MVP ballot

Question 2: "Did a player put up unbelievable numbers?"

David Oritz? YES. (ed note: I didn't mention this in the email but Ortiz was 1st in HR, 1st in RBI, 3rd in OPS, 1st in RC, 2nd in ISOP, 2nd in SECA--I'd call those unbelievable) Frank Thomas? Not so much.

Question 3: "Do I feel that team would have been close to the playoffs or as good without that player?"
"Frank Thomas created 12.4% of teams runs; Jermaine Dye 13.9% ; David Ortiz 17.3%. Yet, David Ortiz was the one whose team wouldn't have been as good without him...

Question 4: "Did that player show up in clutch time?"
Close and Late Stats 2006:
Dye: .299/.933/5/18 YES, for the most part

Thomas: .215/.742/2/14 NO. HELL NO.
Ortiz: .313/1.19/11/29 YES, HELL YES he did.

"So going by your four questions, Frank Thomas gets "Yes's" for 2 of them at most (team in playoffs and close to playoffs without him). Jermaine Dye gets yes's for 2, maybe 3 (unbelievalbe numbers, close to playoffs without him and good in the clutch) and Ortiz get's Yes's for a resounding 3 of them (unbelievalbe numbers, close to playoffs without him and good in the clutch). So these are your criteria, yet when you actually use them to determine how you would rank AL MVP candidates it clearly shows that your ballot was WRONG and that Ortiz was better than Thomas. So go ahead and think of some shifting standards to justify Thomas ahead of Ortiz but in every case, Ortiz comes out ahead." (ed note: Here's a handy chart for Cowley, since my writing may be too convoluted)

Q1Q2Q3Q4Total (YES-NO)











2-2 or 3-1







Again by Cowley's own standards (which have constantly shifted), Ortiz comes out ahead of Thomas or in the worst case, equal to him.

Finally, I tried to state as clearly as possible (in a non-convoluted manner) the problems with his AL MVP ballot so that even our number-phobic sportswriter could understand it:

1) You claim that if a player's team makes the playoffs it makes the player more valuable. But Jermaine Dye's team didn't make the playoffs. Therefore you either contradict yourself or you are using different standards for evaluating David Ortiz and Jermaine Dye. Plus, every email you've sent has a different reason for your ballot and yet every reason has been shown to be false ("Frank Thomas carried his team the last 6 weeks of the season") or actually favoring David Ortiz (Did the player come up in the clutch?, Did he put up unbelievable numbers?")

2) The reason the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs was because of their terrible pitchign during the months of July/August. David Ortiz could have hit 90 HR in 2006 and they still wouldn't have made the playoffs because they lost 5 games in the standings over 3 days by giving up 49 runs in a 3 game series. You are punishing Ortiz because the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs, but it isn't his fault that the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs. Why can't you understand that David Ortiz has no control over pitching????? You seem to have at least moderate intelligence, you can type an email, yet you still don't understand that David Ortiz doesn't control the Red Sox pitching staff.

We'll see if Cowley responds....assuming he doesn't, anyone want to chip and contribute to pay for Joe Cowley's 2005 AL Cy Young Ballot.

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