Monday, October 30, 2006

What Good Is Objective Morality?

Rabbi Avi Shafran, in a Cross-Currents post that is being discussed all over the J-blogosphere (see here particularly), alleges that atheists are unable to provide a legitimate reason why people should behave ethically (that is engage in actions that are "good" as opposed to the ones which are "bad"). He argues that,

If our perception that some deeds are good and others are not is but a quirk of natural selection, none of us need feel any commitment to morality or thics.

Believers, on the other hand, accept a divine morality that is objective, in that we know the essence of what is right or wrong without appealing to our own subjective intuitions. An atheist might feel that murder is wrong, but what makes his opinion anymore valid than the serial killer on death row?

I believe this argument is flawed for a number of reasons. In theory I could see a value to objective morality, but reality negates that possibility.

But I want to focus on one specific point, which I think mitigates the whole argument for objective morality. While I accept that G-d gave us ethical guidelines that we must obey (and am willing to agree that those guidelines prescribe "good" conduct), those same guidelines are subject to human wants and desires.

Let me us an analogy. Very few serious legal scholars believe that all legal questions have correct answers. The easy questions certainly do. A person who drives through a red light is certainly subject to a fine. The difficult questions, however, usually have large grey areas and are subject to intuition and moral judgment.

The same applies to ethical guidelines. Let's assume that murder is the unnecessary killing of innocents. I think most people would agree that killing a random schoolchild for the fun of it is immoral. However, what about killing a bus full of Israeli civilians in retaliation for the IDF's targeted killing of a big Hamas leader? The suicide bomber might reason that the killing is necessary in order to prevent further attacks on Hamas. Moreover, he might argue that most Israeli civilians are soldiers or that they support the immoral regime politically, economically, and psychologically and are not innocents.

Now I'd assume most of us reading this post would disagree. But even if we agreed with the terrorists definition, we'd still disagree with his application of the principle to material facts.

I'm not even making the obvious point that if there is an objective morality, we still have no way of being sure what it is. Even if the whole world would agree about certain principles and their definitions, we'd still disagree about how to apply them. In what way are those ethical beliefs more objective than the atheists who disagree on the principles and the application? Sure, we're one step ahead because we believe we have the principles down pat, but as every good lawyer know, the law is in the details. The application is the key.

Land for peace is a classic example. Much of the Religious Zionist world believes that ceding land is wrong. Others argue that saving lives is paramount. Which group is right? I think both make compelling arguments from a halachic and moral standpoint. But if both positions are reasonable, then in what way are Jewish ethics anymore objective than Peter Singer's? Singer and other Utilitarians might disagree about animal rights (even if for the most part they agree about the general principle of the greatest good for the greatest number), just as we disagree about land for peace. Who's right? I don't know. But let's not pretend that believers have access to some divine morality that is clearly defined in every situation.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Coolest Thing In History

Check out this new self-parking Lexus. Wow. My only question is whether it can fit into those tiny spots in the City.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On The Mets And The Rest Of The Postseason

I wanted to write about this last week but life got in the way. So here goes:

1) Wow, the Mets blew it. For all the talk about how the Yankees choked, the Mets lost to an inferior team mainly because their hitting (clearly the best in the NL) didn't get the job done. One run off Jeff Suppan all series? No more than two runs off of Jeff Weaver in any game? Barely touching a mediocre (to put it mildly) bullpen? Come on.

2) The Mets starting pitching was supposed to be its Achilles heel, but John Maine and Oliver Perez were good enough to win the last two games. Both weren't spectacular and left too many pitches over the plate, but were helped out by an average offensive team that was terrible because of the injuries to Rolen and Edmonds. Preston Wilson and Juan Encarnacion were absolutely horrid, and Rolen couldn't catch up with a high fastball all series. How could the Mets lose that series?

3) Was there a better situation for the Mets than Carlos Beltran up with the bases loaded and two outs with a chance to tie or win the game? He had a 1.180 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs this year. Striking out looking on three pitches has to be the worst possible outcome I could think off.

4) Endy Chavez made one of the best catches (given its importance) in baseball history.

5) The Cardinals are the worst World Series team of the century (and probably since I started following baseball). They only had one pitcher with an ERA under 4 and only two with an ERA under 5. They have no relievers with an ERA under 3 on the postseason roster. They have only one starter with a .300 average (guess who?). Juan Encarnacion looks like he couldn't hit a ball with a shovel right now and Preston Wilson swings at everything. Their catcher (a .216 hitter) is managing to put up good numbers in the playoffs, but that won't last. .216 hitters don't usually bat .300 in the postseason.

6) If Detroit played like they did on Saturday night during the Yankees series, the Yanks would be up 2-0 with the Big Unit on the mound tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Dawkins Is Way Overboard

Thomas Nagel reviews Richard Dawkins' God Delusion in the current edition of the The New Republic (Subscribers only). Although Nagel is not religious, he opposes Dawkins' attempt to delegitimize religion. Most importantly he takes issue with Dawkins' rejection of the proofs for G-d, especially the argument from design.

Put simply the argument from design looks at a sophisticated piece of machinery (a watch for example) and notices that it could not have come about on its own. It therefore concludes that the universe, which is infinitely more complex, certainly must have a creator.

Dawkins challenges this argument on two grounds, the positive and negative. His negative argument finds the flaw in the argument, that it only moves the question one step further back: Since G-d is even more complex, who created G-d? The positive rejection notes that universes and life are not like machines. Life is dynamic and came about slowly over billions of years. Watches can't build themselves, but millions of interactions over billions of years could rationally lead to human life.

Nagel takes issue with Dawkins' negative argument, arguing that he fails to understand its significance. He states that

If the God hypothesis makes sense at all, it offers a different kind of explanation from those of physical science: purpose or intention of a mind without a body, capable nevertheless of creating and forming the entire physical world. The point of the hypothesis is to claim that not all explanation is physical, and that there is a mental, purposive, or intentional explanation more fundamental than the basic laws of physics, because it explains even them.
In other words, G-d works outside of the physical reality and as such is not subject to its rules. Hence he would not need to be created. I agree with Nagel that Dawkins' counterargument here is poor.

Nagel responds to the positive rejection by noting the complexity of DNA and how natural selection does not explain it adequately. For Darwinian natural selection to have come about, the organisms subject to mutations (ok maybe not the word Darwin would have used) must have a type of genetic code which allows for mutation. But how did something as complex as DNA come about?

Even Dawkins notices the problem. His answers (according to Nagel) are basically the anthropic principle (that there are billions of possible worlds and our world ended up being the lucky one). Not a very good answer.

Nagel's best point comes at the end of the article. He focuses on how scientists, especially afraid of how religion curtails scientific thought, have searched for a physical answer for everything. The philosophical dispute about Materialism is based on this point. Is there a physical source for our thoughts, desires, and ideas?

Assuming that we can use "reductive physicalism" to answer all of life's questions is a fallacy. As Nagel puts it,

This reductionist dream is nourished by the extraordinary success of the physical sciences in our time, not least in their recent application to the understanding of life through molecular biology. It is natural to try to take any successful intellectual method as far as it will go. Yet the impulse to find an explanation of everything in physics has over the last fifty years gotten out of control. The concepts of physical science provide a very special, and partial, description of the world that experience reveals to us. It is the world with all subjective consciousness, sensory appearances, thought, value, purpose, and will left out. What remains is the mathematically describable order of things and events in space and time.

That conceptual purification launched the extraordinary development of physics and chemistry that has taken place since the seventeenth century. But reductive physicalism turns this description into an exclusive ontology. The reductionist project usually tries to reclaim some of the originally excluded aspects of the world, by analyzing them in physical--that is, behavioral or neurophysiological--terms; but it denies reality to what cannot be so reduced. I believe the project is doomed--that conscious experience, thought, value, and so forth are not illusions, even though they cannot be identified with physical facts.

Nagel is right. There is no evidence that science can solve all of life's problems. It's a method that works well to describe the physical reality, but is no more qualified than religion when answering metaphysical questions or searching for epistemic truths.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wow, Don't We Sound Good Now....

Listen to this clip.

Made me cringe but I have to admit, it's funny at times. The only question I have is whether the girl's father is going to kill her now or when she comes home.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Liberal Hysteria

In Quiet Revolution, Supreme Court reporter Dahlia Lithwick makes an unbelievable claim about what the post-apocalyptic world would look like:

"What would happen if Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia got their way? What is their vision for America? And if you say to people what their vision is: Say goodbye to worker's rights. Say goodbye to environmental protection. Say goodbye to women's rights. Say goodbye to the rights of the disabled. Say goodbye to all the progress we've made in terms of race and gender in this country, and privacy."

That's like saying if Roe was overturned, then abortion would be outlawed across the country.

Hat Tip to the good people over at Volokh.

Update: I finally watched the video, which I found to be unbelievably tendentious. They show how the "American people" opposed Bork, but neglect to mention how Scalia was confirmed unanimously. They attack the opposition on the to the constitutional right of privacy, but forget to tell us how Hugo Black, staunch defender of civil rights, dissented in Griswold.

The video makes it seem like "ultra-conservatives" (you know the people from which 3 out of the last 4 Presidents came from and the group that has controlled the House since 1994) have a clear plan to take over the country and impose their will by getting their people on the bench where they could actively entrench conservative values and overturn all the "progress" we made over the last 70 years.

They complain that judges Scalia and Thomas have a radical (!) view of the Commerce Clause (imagine saying the clause doesn't afford Congress plenary power) and that they support the President's view of the unitary executive (only partially true as anyone who read Scalia's opinion in Hamdi will know).

Put simply the video ignores context and eschews nuance and balance for the sake of emotion and politics. I'm sure conservative groups do the same thing, and send me a similar video and I'll bash it just as much.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is Compulsory Participation A Good Idea?

Although I've missed it, there has been a raging debate between law students and professors about the justness of "cold calling" students. For the uninitiated, cold calling is when the professor randomly calls on students (yes, like everything else in law we just made up a fancy name for an obvious concept).

The debate started when a professor recounted the previous day's events, when a student was not only unprepared for class, but wasn't paying attention (gasp!). The professor decided to penalize the student by decreasing his grade and calling on him every day for the rest of the semester. However, he realized that this tactic was unfair to the rest of the students and was "not nearly severe enough" so he decided to ask around for ideas on how other professors penalize their students when they dare enter class without knowing the intricacies of Pennoyer v. Neff (yes, I realize I'm exaggerating here).

But let's ask the obvious question: should professors call on students at all? Should they even take questions and comments or allow students to volunteer?

Amazingly most the thread and subsequent posts focused on the second question. They made arguments supporting the proposition that interaction is beneficial to understanding and learning, or that "[s]tudy after study after study indicates that just listening to lectures is NOT the most effective way to learn pretty much anything" or even that class participation could be used as a measuring rod for prospective performance on the final exam.

Of course the answer would be to make attendance and participation optional and allow students to participate. I agree that professors who lecture and won't allow questions or students the chance to be faced with responding under pressure are doing their student's a grave disservice.

That said, I don't see how the argument that education is better served when students can participate leads to the conclusion that students should be forced to participate. Sure it might be a benefit to the student, but since when are paying customers (and that's what we are) obligated to take benefits?

The few response to the "students are customers" argument either center on the idea that students aren't customers, or that we just don't know enough and the professors know better.

One professor argues that teachers would be derelict if they allowed students to slack off. Here's his argument:

I agree that someone who takes swimming lessons is a "consumer" of that educational lesson, but that doesn't mean a swimming teacher is fulfilling her responsibility if she allows a putative student to say, "I paid for you to tell me how to swim, and I'll do it on dry land, thank you very much." The teacher is fully entitled to say, "I know how to swim and you don't. I know how to teach someone to swim, and you don't. My job is to teach you how not to drown, and I believe it requires you to get in the water. If you don't like it, go elsewhere."
Assuming the customer is a competent adult, I just don't understand why the teacher isn't completely morally within her rights to say just allow the student to jump around on dry land. The teacher should of course inform the student that swimming is done in the water and that she cannot teach the student properly if he refuses to jump in. But why must the teacher "force" student to learn?

Moreover, as numerous commentators pointed out, many law students simply come to school to pass the tests and get that degree. They aren't interested in learning to "think like a lawyer" (if such a thing even exists). They are paying tens of thousands of dollars to receive a degree that will be a gateway to a high-paying job. In that case it's the teacher's job (at least using the above argument) to facilitate their ability to receive that job, not to teach them a "special" mode of thinking.

Another argument is that students are subsidized by the government, through loan breaks on the state and federal level. Even if that argument is true, and therefore students are not consumers in the usual sense of the term because law schools have a responsibility to other actors, I fail to see the connection to how professors should force students to read the material and respond to questions. In fact it's not that the law schools have diverse responsibilities; the students are responsible to become good lawyers. Even if someone could prove the utterly implausible link between reading for class and participating and becoming a good lawyer, I fail to see under what moral theory the professors are allowed to impose on students their obligations.

In a follow up Dimino explicitly makes the argument that professors know better and should be allowed to do what's best for the students (he also makes a minor argument about how forcing students to participate weeds out the poor students, which is a legitimate aim, but one that could be fulfilled through a variety of means with far less cost). Students need to learn to be professional, and being forced to prepare for class will do that.

Right, students with at least one college level degree have no idea how to be professional. Only through forced preparation can they learn to be good, professional, on the ball lawyers. It's not like the punitive measure of, say, being fired might convince them later in life to actually read the briefs and cases on point. Nah, they need a "superior" professor (who I'm sure has numerous degrees in education and has mastered all the penological methodologies out there) to teach them work ethic. Apparently, Dimino thinks none of us has graduated 5th grade.

The Yankees: A Post-Mortem

Normally I want to watch my team end its season, win or lose. Watching a team fail gives me closure, and although it's hard, I'd rather be there as they go down. But I must say that I'm glad the Yankees lost on Yom Tov. I realize Detroit is a good team, but there is no excuse for the Yankees to score only 3 meaningless runs in two of the most important games. Something has to give. It's hard to describe how an offense this loaded with talent, with this much diversity (the Yanks were at the top of the league in stolen bases and home runs), with this much experience, could fold so quickly and easily. The Yankees didn't even put up a fight.

I don't want to diminish Detroit's accomplishments against the Yankees and over the course of the season -- they did lead the majors ERA in a division with the Indians, White Sox and Twins -- but we have to expect more from a team with all-stars at every position.

What needs to be done? I'm not sure firing Torre is the answer. Looking at the big picture, we can take solace in the fact that during Torre's 11 year tenure in the Bronx the Yankees have made the playoffs 11 times (including winning the division 9 times, including 8 in a row), won the championship 4 times, won 6 pennants, and played in the ALCS 7 different years. Not too many teams would look askance on winning the pennant more than half the time during a manager's stay.

But this is New York and these are the Yankees. "Just" making the World Series (something they haven't done in three years) is not enough. George Steinbrenner expects championships, and who can blame him? He ponies up the cash for the biggest payroll in sports history, and merely coming close is not a good enough return on the dollar.

So what am I looking for the Yankees to do? I have a few recommendations (none of which call for trading A-Rod unless we can get a big-time pitcher in return).

1) Shore up the bullpen. With the exception of Rivera, who is still great but getting up in years, the bullpen is inconsistent and mediocre. Farnsworth was a mistake from the start, and while Proctor isn't bad he cannot be the key setup guy for a championship team. Villone, Myers, and Bruney are adequate, but they need a big-time pitcher in the pen.

2) Get another big name starter. The two biggest names on the block are Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt. Rumor has it that Schmidt wants to stay on the West coast, so Zito is the big pitcher left. There will be a bidding war for one of Scott Boras' most recent clients, but when it comes to money, the Yankees always prevail.

The question is whether they should go after Zito at all. Although he was great in the beginning of his career, his numbers tapered off until his resurgence. Moreover, he has played his whole career in a pitchers park, so we can't really project anything from those numbers.

Nevertheless a few factors portend future success in the Bronx. Zito is a lefty and while overall the Stadium is a hitter's park, lefties do substantially better because of the deep power alleys in left center. Furthermore Zito pitched relatively well in the playoffs and doesn't seem like the type of pitcher who will wilt under the New York spotlight.

Zito is a risk, but there's no choice. With the exception of Wang, the Yankees don't have a single reliable pitcher on the staff. Mussina is getting old and Randy Johnson is done. Maybe Philip Hughes is the answer, but something proactive must be done.

3) Do not pick up Sheffield's or Mussina's option. Maybe bring them back at a lower price, but if they leave, thank them for their time and send them off. The aging superstar cannot play a major role in the Yankees' resuscitation.

There are no easy answers, and nothing I've said here is novel. The lineup is unbelievable and the defense is adequate. But what they need is pitching because pitching is what gets it done in the playoffs. And the playoffs is where the Yankees' failure is most evident.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

National League MVP

Ok, this one is much easier. The American League had a number of candidates from a variety of competitive teams. The National League has far fewer competitive teams, which limits the number of qualified candidates.

Basically it boils down to Albert Pujols vs. Ryan Howard (with a nod to Carlos Beltran).

First we'll start with Beltran. He had a "paltry" OPS. of .982. But like Jeter, his numbers go up as the situation becomes more important. An OPS. of 1.159 with runners in scoring position and a 1.180 OPS. with runners in scoring position and two outs is not too shabby. Moreover, he has 38 Win Shares, 1 beyond Pujols, who leads baseball. His VORP of 67.6 is mediocre compared to Pujols and Howard, however.

But we must remember that he plays a gold glove center field and stole 18 bases. And given Rule 1, I might be willing to put him ahead of Howard, but Pujols is too much better.

Howard's big advantage is his games played. Howard played in 159, compared to Pujols' 143 and Beltran's 140. He also has a high 1.084 OPS. and an OBP. of .425, far better than Beltran. But like David Ortiz and Frank Thomas, his numbers are deceiving. He hits far better with no one on than with runners in scoring position (he batted .256 with runners in scoring position and .247 with runners in scoring position and two outs). His OPS. in both circumstances is below .950.

He also doesn't play much defense and he only had 31 Win Shares.

Let's look at Pujols. An OPS. of 1.102 only increases with runners in scoring position (1.337) and with runners in scoring position and two outs (1.407). He had a mindboggling .581 OBP. (and a .435 average) and a .826 SLG. His OPS. is just a tad shy of 1.300 with runners on and two outs.

He had 39 win shares, a 86.6 VORP (5 runs better than Howard) and practically carried his mediocre team to the postseason.

If I had to rank them I'd probably go with Pujols, Beltran, and Howard. Howard vs. Beltran is tough because of Howard's extra games, superior OPS., and substantially better VORP. Beltran plays (much) better defense, hits better in big situations, and has 7 more win shares.

Pujols, however, has the best OPS, batting average, OBP., SLG., OPS., OPS. with runners on and two outs, with runners in scoring position, and in scoring and two outs. He also has the most Win Shares and the highest VORP. And he singlehandedly led his team to the playoffs.

I can't see Pujols not winning this award. It's not even close.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jeter For MVP

And now for the rare sports break....

I'm going to lay it all out on the table. I'm a Yankee fan and, yes, I'm biased. But I think one can make a strong argument for Derek Jeter as AL MVP.

First I'm going to lay out the ground rules.

1) The MVP can generally only come from a team that is in contention. In the extraordinary case where a player from a bad team has a spectacular season and his competition from the good teams are mediocre, it might be possible. However, this season is not an example of that rare situation. My argument assumes that a player's value on a poor team is less than a similar player's value on a good team, everything else equal.

Assume player X's value adds 10 wins to his teams total and they make the playoffs. Now further assume that player Y's value adds 20 wins to his teams total and they only lose 90 games instead of 110. Which player is more valuable? If we assume that making the playoffs is the most important attribute of a team's (regular season) performance, player X's increase to his team's performance is greater than that of player Y's to his team.

Moreover, everything works on a spectrum. On the right end is the playoffs; on the left is a miserable season. The farther left a team is, the better its players must do. As we move to the right, a player's value increases and his numbers need not be as good. If a team makes the playoffs, its players are equal to the players on the other playoff teams.

2) The number of games a player plays is very important. Even if player X is great on a per-game basis, if he only plays 120 games he is requiring his team to play a backup for 42 games. If player Y plays 162 games at a worse per game basis, he could be more valuable overall.

3) No pitchers. They're too hard to compare to players.

Some minor rules:

A) While OPS. (onbase percentage plus slugging percentage) is the most important stat, OBP. (onbase percentage) is the more important. I'll explain why. OBP. measures how many times a player reaches base, or put in a different way, how many times a player does not make an out. SLG., on the other hand, measures what a player does in those instances when he gets a hit. A player's job is to not make an out. Outs are the currency of baseball because they are finite. A player who does not use up his team's currency is more valuable than a player who scores runs every time he gets a hit, but makes far more outs. The former gives his teammates more opportunities to score runs.

B) Hitting is more important than fielding, baserunning, and intangibles. But those are important as well and can add a lot to a player's value if the hitting measures are close.

C) Not all hits are born equal. A hit with a runner in scoring position is more important than a hit with no one on base.

OK, here we go. Given my above rules, Travis Hafner and Manny Ramirez are ineligible under Rule 1 and 2 (The Red Sox haven't been competitive since August) and Grady Sizemore under Rule 1.

Here are the other candidates who are left:

1) Derek Jeter
2) David Ortiz
3) Vlad Guerrero
4) Jim Thome
5) Jermaine Dye
6) Paul Konerko
7) Joe Mauer
8) Justin Morneau
9) Frank Thomas
10) Jason Giambi

Three of these players are DH's, which means they are zeros at defense. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing because other players might be negatives defensively. But they don't add anything defensively.

Weeding Out The Pretenders

From this list Ortiz has the highest OPS. But numbers can misleading. Take a look at Jeter's numbers (via Yahoo Sports). His numbers actually increase when runners get in scoring position. Now compare those numbers to Ortiz. Look at how his numbers go down as the situation gets more important (with the exception of bases loaded). Jeter actually has a higher SLG. with runners in scoring position and with runners in scoring position and two outs. His OPS. is higher in both those scenarios as well.

33 of Ortiz's HRs came with no one on base. With men on and two outs, he only had three more RBIs than Jeter.

Despite Ortiz's superior OPS. numbers, it's hard to justify giving the MVP to a player whose numbers went down as the situation became more important. And I haven't even started looking at the other advantages Jeter has.

Next we can knock off Vlad Guerrero. His OPS. is only .34 points higher than Jeter's and his batting average is lower. While his OPS. with runners in scoring position and two outs is a few points higher than Jeter's, his OPS. with runners in scoring position is paltry. One might argue that no one pitches to him with runners in scoring position, but then how do explain the 62 point difference in OBP. between him and Jeter?

Furthermore Rule 1 comes into play here. Given that Jeter is a shortstop, has better overall numbers with runners on, and stole 19 more bases while being caught the same number of times, Jeter wins.

Next comes the White Sox bashers. First remember Rule 1 applies (although it would only matter if the numbers are almost even).

Jim Thome's OPS. is much better than Jeter's with runners in scoring position. However his OPS. with runners in scoring position and two outs is almost three hundred points (!) lower. The disparity with bases loaded is even worse.

Thome does have a higher OPS. with runners on and two outs (although he has a lower AVG. and OBP.). But Jeter has the advantage in intangibles. He has far more stolen bases, plays a gold glove shortstop and his VORP is 16 runs higher (put simply, Value Over Replacement Player is the measure of how many runs a player creates over a replacement player who would have to play if the starter was injured or traded). Applying rule 1, Jeter has to get the nod.

I'll look at Dye later, so next comes Paul Konerko. Konerko is an easy one. His OPS. is barely 30 points higher and Jeter has better numbers across the board with runners in scoring position. If Thome can't top Jeter Konerko sure can't.

Now we come to Justin Morneau. Morneau suffers from the same problem as Konerko. Jeter has much better numbers with runners in scoring position, a substantially higher VORP, and six more Win Shares (more on this in relation to Dye). And to top it off, he wins in the position, baserunning, and intangibles category.

Frank Thomas is no better than Morneau or Konerko. He has a monster OPS. with no one on and no outs, but his numbers go down in other situations. Nope.

Jason Giambi is surprisingly good. His numbers with runners in scoring position are better than Jeter's and he's almost as good with runners on and two outs. However his VORP is over thirty runs worse than Jeter's and he played 15 less games. And he has ten less Win Shares.

The Real Competition

The three best candidates are Jermaine Dye, Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter.

Let's compare Dye first. His OPS. is 100 points higher, and his OPS. with runners in scoring position is about 70 points higher. His OPS. with runners in scoring position and two outs is a little lower, but Jeter has a huge advantage in OBP. in both situations. His bases loaded numbers are substantially lower. With runners on and two outs Dye has a much better OPS. and Jeter's OBP. advantage is only 30 points. It's close but Jeter wins because of Rule 1, baserunning, position, VORP (almost 14 runs), and Win Shares (Win Shares are a measure of how many wins a player adds to a team). Jeter had 33 wins shares to Dye's 26. And what do you know? 7 wins is the difference between the Yanks (best record in the league) and the White Sox (not in the playoffs).

Mauer is even closer. His OBP. and SLG. are slightly better, making his OPS. 34 points higher. His OPS. with runners in scoring position is a little lower (1.041 to Jeter's 1.063) with a higher OBP. (.497 to .482) and his OPS. with runners in scoring position and two outs is much higher (1.200 to Jeter's 1.075). Runners on and two outs is a staggering 1.181 to .996 for Jeter.

These numbers are big disparities. It's very close but Jeter wins for a few reasons: His VORP is almost 13 runs higher, Jeter has two more Win Shares, he stole substantially more bases (and is an excellent baserunner), and I have to give him the advantage in intangibles.

Jeter vs. Mauer might be a case where my Yankee bias shines, but I think I've made a strong argument for Jeter against all the other players.

Jeter For MVP!

Next up will be NL MVP, which is much easier.