Monday, November 12, 2007

Defense-Independent Award Voting?

Brian Bannister finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, even appearing on Keith Law's ballot. Though Bannister had outwardly good numbers, he was buoyed both by strong run support and impeccable defense.

Though the BBWAA still thinks W-L records are the bee's knees, nearly every intelligent analyst now ignores them when filling out their ballot. This is a good thing, but I wonder if we aren't extending this concept far enough.

Thanks to Voros McCracken and others, we've known for some time that a pitcher's ERA is heavily influenced by the defense behind him as well as plain dumb luck. If a pitcher--let's call him Ryan Canister--pitches worse than his competition but benefits more from luck and defense, does he really deserve an individual award for that?

Brian Bannister's xFIP (fielding-independent ERA) was 5.14, near replacement-level. He certainly was nowhere near as effective as Jeremy Guthrie (4.41 xFIP) or Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.42 in 40 more innings). But it's votes that count, and the same voters who ignored Ryan Braun's defensive numbers seem content to ignore Bannister's peripherals.

That's not a big deal, because awards are meaningless. Just don't draft Bannister in your 2008 fantasy league, because he's in for a serious sophomore slump.

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