Alabama’s Sophomore Bryce Young Wins Heisman Trophy

For this year’s 928 voters for the Heisman Cup, the instructions were as clear as ever: choose up to three candidates for college football’s most outstanding player.

Media members (145 in each of the six geographic regions) and former Heisman winners (58 currently living) who cast their votes electronically until 5 p.m. Monday were not told to consider how valuable a player is to the success of the team, whether playing in the league or not. The highest level – an Oberlin College player is least eligible from Oklahoma – or whether one position or side of football will be valued over the other.

There is no suggestion that academic courage, community engagement, or questions of moral depravity should be part of the equation.

Choose only the most outstanding player.

While there are still more data points for information-age voters to consider, how they choose the Heisman Cup winner has changed little over the years: Quarterbacks dominate, win matters, and the body of the business must be backed by a Heisman moment. The more viral the better.

On Saturday night, quarterback Bryce Young became the second consecutive Alabama player – and fourth in the last 13 seasons – to win the Heisman Cup, finishing comfortably ahead of other New York invited finalists: Michigan defender Aiden Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud.

Consider Young, a precocious sophomore who often plays behind a leaky offensive line and puts on a top-notch performance. Alabama is sad In Georgia’s Southeastern Conference championship game last Saturday, he may not even be the best player on his team. That honor was bestowed by many on Will Anderson, a menacing pass thrower who ruled the country with 32½ balls from behind the scrimmage line. (Anderson finished fifth in the voting).

The same can be said for top-notch point guard Stroud, who after some early struggles led the biggest offense in the country, building themselves around a trio of elite receivers who were open again and again. Veteran Pickett put in similar video game numbers, and he could certainly claim to have influenced the game: His fake slide and touchdown run in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game was banned within a week.

Hutchinson with 14 sacks, including three of them Stroud Michigan beat Ohio State, the third defender to finish in the top four since another Wolverine’s Charles Woodson became the only defender to win the Heisman in 1997. In 2012 Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o also took second place.

Yet for one of the most prized awards in American sports, there has been little improvement in how selectors make their choices. In the last decade, more sophisticated statistical analysis has dramatically changed the way baseball awards are determined; Old hold-ups like batting average and pitcher wins have dwindled in favor of other metrics that might even take ballparks into account.

And in basketball, points and rebounds are placed in broader context to detail the efficiency from which they are compiled.

Ryan Jones, former editor of SLAM magazine, said of high-volume shooters like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, “It was easier to sue 10 years ago for guys who were inefficient and made high points.” today it can be judged a little less positively.

“You don’t have to be a hardcore analyst to appreciate Steph Curry or what Jokic has done. Or Giannis,” added two of the NBA’s most valuable players with the best shooter and all-round play, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “Some are really obvious, but advanced statistics sometimes tell you differently how impressive things are.”

There has been an even bigger reassessment in baseball.

In 1990, Bob Welch, who set a record 27-6 for the Oakland Athletics, comfortably beat Roger Clemens, who was 21-6 for the Boston Red Sox, to win the American League’s Cy Young Award. But Clemens recorded a league-best 10.4 in wins over substitution, or WAR, a more recent metric that assesses a player’s value to the team based on more detailed data. Recording far fewer strokes and allowing for far more home runs, Welch had a modest 2.9 BATTLES, the lowest of the seven top-rated players that season.

These days, wins have been so discounted in favor of other measures that Jacob deGrom has won back-to-back Cy Young for the Mets despite racking up a 21-17 footstep record in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

A more nuanced perspective has also changed the way baseball Hall of Fame voters breathe new life into candidates like Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Larry Walker who have been forgotten for failing to hit milestones like 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, or 300 victories.

“They’ve been on the ballot for a long time, but they’ve been placed high by voters looking at the new criteria and giving them more weight,” said Ryan Thibodaux, who watched the Hall of Fame vote. . “Young voters rely on these metrics more than old school voters.”

Using the data to explain performance, football took longer to catch up with other sports. Of course, numbers have been a part of the fabric of baseball as long as box scoring has existed, and trackpoint totals have always been fundamental to basketball. Metrics that can better explain offensive line performance, or a defender’s playmaking ability, or the context of a playmaker’s performance in today’s game, are far from a common currency.

Anthony Treash, who analyzed college football players for Pro Football Focus, said that the Heisman Trophy – along with other awards – has essentially become a team award. His message to voters: Go beyond the box score and what you see online.

“I don’t want to question the credibility of the voters, but do we really have the best information to know who the top players are?” said. “Keep your mind open to new ideas in player evaluation.”

Until that happens, players like Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who was given the highest rating by a Power 5 conference center in eight years by Pro Football Focus, or Cincinnati corner player Ahmad Gardner, who let him get 96 yards in 12 games. press coverage – or Alabama’s Anderson will have to watch the Heisman ceremony from home.

And the rare defender invited to New York like Hutchinson of Michigan will have to be content with using his front row seat to applaud the winner.

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