Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baseball MVP and CY Young Voting Travesties

Awhile back in 2012 R.A. Dickey threw two one-hitters in a row.  He was the first player since Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays to do so.  When I was looking up Dave Stieb's history online, it made me sad.  Stieb should have gone down in history as one of the greatest pitchers of the 1980s, should have gotten his name written into history with some Cy Young awards, but due to lack of sabrmetric knowledge by Cy Young voters in the 1980s, Stieb will be largely forgotten by most baseball fans.

From 1981 to 1985 here is Dave Stieb's AL WAR, his rank in the AL for WAR, and how he placed in CY Young voting.

Year WAR AL Rank CY Young Place
1981 4.3 2 N/A
1982 7.3 1 4th
1983 6.7 1 N/A
1984 7.6 1 7th
1985 6.5 2 7th

So from 1981-1985 Stieb was 1st or 2nd in AL WAR for pitchers every year.  He twice lead the league in innings pitched (was top 5 three other times), lead the league in ERA once (was top 5 three other times), was top 3 in strikeouts twice (top 10 three other times).  I could go on more.

For all that wonderful performance, the Cy Young voters decided to give him nothing better than a 4th place finish in 1982 and two 7th place finishes.  Two times, they didn't even bother to give him a single vote.  Cy Young voters were still too hung up on wins & losses.  That is a travesty.

Unfortunately for Stieb, if he had played in the 2010s things might be different.  By 2010, Felix Hernandez was able to win the Cy Young award despite having only a 13-12 record.  Voters were able to see his overall performance and look past David Price's 19-6 record and CC Sabathia's 21-7 record.

My subjective analysis is that with modern voters, Stieb would have easily won the Cy Young award in 1982 (beating out Pete Vuckovich and his 18-6 record), would have been top three in 1983 (close vote w/ Jack Morris and Lamarr Hoyt), been atleast top two in 1984 (would have still battled Willie Hernandez, but was the clear best starting pitcher), and probably would have beaten Bret Saberhagen for the Cy Young in 1985 (with a healthy challenge by Bert Blyleven).

At the minimum, this would have changed Stieb's legend and history.  A couple of Cy Young awards suddenly turn you from "star of an era" into "Hall of Fame candidate".  Stieb's injuries early in career probably hurt is Hall of Fame candidacy for good, but voters would have looked at him more seriously.

So that got me thinking, has this happened to anyone else recently?  I suddenly recalled the 1987 MVP vote in both the NL and AL.

Lets start with the NL in 1987, as it was the more famous controversy.  Despite all of the ballyhooing over how an MVP player needs to play on a playoff team or a winner, Andre Dawson won the MVP playing for the last place Chicago Cubs.  Yup, that's LAST PLACE.  Not 2nd place, or close to making the playoffs, or atleast having a .500 record, LAST PLACE. He won the MVP playing for a team that was 76-85.  My overwhelming assumption why he won is because he hit 49 home runs and had 137 RBIs ... which are big numbers.

On the other hand, Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame defensive wizard of the St. Louis Cardinals had his best offensive season of his career hitting .303 and driving in 75 runs.  He had a WAR of 6.2 to Dawson's 3.7.  Oh, and he also lead the Cardinals to a division title and a playoff appearance.  He was the runner up in the MVP voting in 1987.  Ozzie Smith split the MVP vote with his teammate Jack Clark, which probably cost him the award, but it is a travesty that Andre Dawson secured 11 of the 24 first place votes. (Oh, and Jack Clark had a WAR of 5.2 over Dawson's 3.7.)

On the AL side, George Bell won the MVP.  Why?  My assumption is it's because he hit 47 home runs and had 134 RBIs, which are again big numbers.  He did a little better than Dawson by having a 4.6 WAR.  However, he beat out Tigers great Alan Trammell for the MVP.  Trammell had an 8.0 WAR that year, second to Wade Boggs' 8.2.  He hit 28 home runs and had a .343 batting average.  Oh yeah, remember that thing about MVPs playing for winning teams?  The Tigers made it to the playoffs and the Blue Jays didn't.  Granted, the Blue Jays were just behind the Tigers in the pennant chase (2nd place finish w/ 96-66 record to Detroit's 98-64 record), so it's not as tragic as the NL MVP case.

One of the other reasons I view the 1987 AL MVP vote a travesty is how it could have changed perceptions for Alan Trammell.  Alan Trammell has regularly failed to secure enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame.  Allan Trammell unfortunately played in a time when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. (and for awhile Robin Yount) were setting new standards for shortstops, so he may have never been viewed as an elite shortstop during his era.  Somehow, that didn't affect Barry Larkin's election into the Hall of Fame, as he also had the problem of playing when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. were playing.

What are the differences between Trammell and Larkin?  Lets see

Allan Trammell career WAR - 67.1
Barry Larkin career WAR - 67.1

Allan Trammell Gold Gloves - 4
Barry Larkin Gold Gloves - 3

Allan Trammell All Star Teams - 6
Barry Larkin All Star Teams - 12

Allan Trammell Silver Slugger - 6
Barry Larkin Silver Slugger - 8

Allan Trammell MVPs - 0
Barry Larkin MVPs - 1

Now I don't know if Alan Trammell really deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I can't help but think that one MVP award made a difference for Barry Larkin.  Unfortunately, the lack of voting consistency and illogic in 1987 may have really hurt his chances.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

High End Fashion - I Just Don't Get It

Not so long ago I went on a date and a conversation about clothes and fashion happened.  My date told me, "You know a lot about fashion and brands."  I responded, "Haha, don't read too much into it, everything I learned I learned in the last two weeks."

With the opening of the Livermore Outlet Mall, I became personally curious about fashion, brands, and the retail business of it (see previous post).

One thing I still find personally curious is how some of the high end fashion can simply cost so much.  I simply struggle to understand how it can be so many multiples higher than what I buy. 

For example, I looked up the following retail prices for standard white crew neck t-shirts.

Old Navy - $9.94
Gap - $16.95
Banana Republic - $24.5

There are always sales (the Old Navy one is actually $8.00 as of this writing), but we're going to use these retail values for the discussion.

I specifically picked these three stores b/c they are all within the Gap family.  I find it very interesting from the lowest priced brand (Old Navy) to the highest end brand (Banana Republic) the t-shirt price is only a multiple of 2.5X.

While I don't fully understand everything about clothes, I can believe better quality cotton and better quality manufacturing can make a plain white t-shirt softer and better, so a 2.5X multiplier on price doesn't seem that unreasonable.

What spurred this analysis was this white crew neck t-shirt I saw on Armani's website.

Yup, that's a $125 plain white t-shirt.  At first I thought maybe this t-shirt was made out of something fancy like cashmere.  Nope, it's just plain 100% cotton that you can machine wash.  At first it didn't look like this t-shirt even had a logo or branding on it, but if you look very closely there is a white silhouette of the Armani logo on the front.  It's only barely noticeable (it's not like a different colored Polo or Lacoste logo).

So that shirt is a 12.5X multiple over Old Navy and a 5X multiple over Banana Republic.  The law of diminishing returns convinces me that this shirt cannot be of such a quality that it is worth 5X over Banana Republic.

Personally, I just don't understand how the brand of Armani can be worth such a price to someone.  As someone who has lived so practically for most of his life, the concept of a veblen good is just foreign.  It's the same reason I cannot understand why someone will buy Cristal.

What spurred this blog post was a flip flop I saw on Zappos just by chance.   Yup, Salvatore Ferragamo flip flops for $170.  They have a rubber sole (which might be better than the cheap flip flops I normally buy).  But there is absolutely no quality difference than can make me think they are worth a 34X multiple over what I normally pay for flip flops (i.e. $5).