Moose vs. Palmer

Over on Futility Infielder, our pal Jay Jaffe, responding to a piece by Rob Neyer (another friend) makes a compelling case that Mike Mussina has been a more valuable player than Jim Palmer. Jay acknowledges Palmer’s superiority in traditional stats (and awards), but notes that Mussina is superior in more advanced metrics like WARP, VORP, and SNLVAR. He writes “Moose’s strikeout rates relative to the league (a translated rate of 6.9 EqSO/9) made him much less reliant on his defense than Palmer (5.2 EqSO/9), so he’s rewarded by getting a larger share of the credit for each run saved on his watch, and thus generated more value.” It’s a fascinating discussion, and one that illustrates a constant challenge for baseball thinkers, that being, how to square our growing statistical abilities with historical knowledge, especially when these two seem to conflict. Old school thinkers have a sad tendency to just dismiss the new math, but that’s not really a legitimate option, and one of the nice things about this argument is that both Jay and Rob are fundamentally sound thinkers, who know their sabermetrics and their history. So I raise this issue: Jim Palmer threw 211 complete games. Mike Mussina 57. I understand that some of the stats Jay raisesmeasure relative value, but I wonder if it is even possible for a numerical model to account for the change in the very idea of what it means to be a pitcher? A real head scratcher. Bottom line, you’d do well to have Jim Palmer or Mike Mussina or both pitching for your Dream Team.

5 comments… add one
  • The CG argument really needs to be addressed. Presumably, the huge number of complete games cost Palmer’s statistics. Mussina, like all modern pitchers, was probably removed at the first sign of trouble after the beginning of the sixth inning. Palmer probably was generally not. That surely affects rate stats…

    Paul SF September 30, 2008, 11:08 am
  • What the heck is SNLVAR? I know my acronyms, but I have never heard this one before. It sounds like a cast-diversity metric for a live Saturday night comedy show on NBC.

    SF September 30, 2008, 11:09 am
  • It’s a Baseball Prospectus stat. Every time I buy the new prospectus annual, I have to study the section explaining the stat to try to wrap my mind around it, and then I forget it within 15 minutes. I draw the line when I can’t readily understand or easily replicate a stat. Baseball stops being fun at that point.

    Paul SF September 30, 2008, 11:20 am
  • It’s like Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), but lineup neutral in taking account wins – basically taking out run support.

    Lar September 30, 2008, 11:34 am
  • another interesting note – Palmer never gave up a grand slam. Thought I’d throw that out there, not that it means anything, I just find it interesting.
    I remember Palmer being much more dominant, but I also wanted the sox (badly) to sign Mussina when he was available after his O’s time (I lived in Charm City for 5 years, and heard about the O’s incessantly)

    dw (sf) September 30, 2008, 12:10 pm

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