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Groupthink, sabermetrics, and Joe Mauer

Ken Rosenthal on what might become the latest raging debate:

    Joe Mauer is the American League Most Valuable Player.
    How do I know?

    The sabermetric community, through web sites, message boards and blogs, tells me so.

    I'm inclined to agree with the choice of Mauer, but that's not why I'm writing. No, I'm writing because of the cyber-shoutdowns of anyone who offers dissent, anyone who dares suggest Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis or whoever is a legitimate alternative to Mauer.

    There is more than one way to look at this. I can argue for Mauer. I can argue for others. Taking a contrary position does not make me just another unenlightened member of the MSM (translation: mainstream media). But it will subject me to a certain level of scorn for rejecting SGT (translation: sabermetric groupthink).

    --snip--

    OK, that's it, end of analysis. I don't pretend it's complete. I don't pretend to know all the answers. I just want to have a nice, civil discussion about a fascinating MVP race, a discussion that includes number geeks sitting in their basements, overworked hacks in press boxes across America and fans of all ages, colors and philosophies.

    We can still talk, can't we?

Of course we can still talk. We most definitely should talk. That's what sabermetrics is all about. In fact, in sabermetrics there's really no such thing as groupthink. If you've spent any real time with sabermetricians, you know exactly what I mean.
Is there a consensus among sabermetricians that Joe Mauer deserves the MVP? Yeah, probably. But "consensus" is not the same as "groupthink."

Not nearly the same. Groupthink (according to The Big W) is "a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas."

That's the exact opposite of sabermetrics, which at its very heart is nothing but critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas.

It's that testing and analyzing that comes up with Joe Mauer. You can talk about chemistry and division titles and lifetime achievements, but then you're getting away from the testing and the analysis that define sabermetrics.

Can sabermetricians become shrill, occasionally? Sure. Sabermetricians are, after all, people like you and me, and none of us are perfect. But in my experience, sabermetricians most often become shrill when sportswriters ignore pesky little things like facts and intellectual consistency.

One more thing about sabermetricians, though ... they always want to talk. What they've found for too many years -- what they still find today, in press boxes across America -- is that nobody who matters is much interested in listening.