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FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

 

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Let's see what Joe Morgan has to say about Andruw Jones, shall we?

When you perform on baseball's biggest stage, the expectations of fans are heightened. And while Jones, 28, has had a solid career, some expected him to be better at the plate. It's true that he's averaged 30.6 home runs in his eight full seasons (he debuted in August '96). However, he had a .268 career average heading into this season. He's hit .300 just once (.303 in 2000), and people have expected more from him offensively.

Okay, maybe Jones didn't become the absolute monster some people thought he might at the exact moment they were watching him explode during the 1996 WS. (Mark Lemke never hit .417 in a full season, either.) But here are Jones's career seasonal averages:

.269/.343/.500/.843. 95R, 31 2B, 32 HR, 97 RsBI, 15 SB.

That's pretty damn good. And he's 28. And he's a CF who plays the best defensive center field in like 50 years. And he negotiated his own contract at below market value so he could stay in Atlanta. And he had a .907 OPS in 2000. And he has played on some really terrible offensive teams his entire career. So who in the world cares that he has a .268 career average, or that he's only hit .300 once? If there's a criticism of him, it's maybe that he doesn't walk enough -- he did have 83 BB in 2002, but averages only like 63 a year, and could be more selective. But aren't we nitpicking? Is there one team in the entire league, except maybe the Cards, that wouldn't want Andruw Jones in CF?

The point is, right off the bat here, that Andruw Jones is good. We can all agree there, right Joe? Even though you weirdly start off by talking about how he's not that good, and use stupid statistics to back your point? Whatever. Andruw Jones is really good. We all agree. Good. Now, let's see what incisive analysis you bring to this discussion.

Maybe one of the reasons Andruw is hitting so well this year is because he's not in Chipper's shadow. Andruw has always been the "other Jones" in Atlanta. Chipper has been the star and the major run producer...Sometimes good players are stifled to a degree when they have great teammates.

This is amazing. Joe Morgan thinks the reason Andruw Jones is having a great year...is because Chipper is hurt? How does removing a guy with a .401 lifetime OBP make anyone on his team a better hitter? Does Joe think that these people's egos are so fragile that they are given a boost when a longtime teammate suddenly leaves, or is hurt, or something? In my humble opinion, this is one of the lamest comments announcers and analysts make -- that a player "steps up" when another player goes down, as if the two are causally linked. As if Andruw Jones has been suffering emotionally, for the last ten years, because Chipper gets all the attention. Or like, when Sammy Sosa leaves the Cubs and people start talking about how Derrek Lee is "stepping up" and "putting the team on his back," BECAUSE Sosa left. Like, if Sosa were still there, Derrek Lee would think, "I'm going to take it easy and hit .280 with 18 HR this year, because Sammy Sosa is on the team. What? He got TRADED? Fuck. Okay. I guess I'll hit .380 with 50 HR, because my teammates need me."

If Andruw Jones could have had this year last year, or 2001, or whenever Chipper was MVP, don't we think he would have? How about attributing his good year to the fact that he is 28 and hitting what is widely recognized as his prime four-year stretch? How about using logic and reason and intelligence instead of good ol' timey whimsy and conventional folksy baseball wisdom? How about ANALYZING something instead of just saying stuff you heard Harry Caray say about Ken Boyer in like 1964?

Here's more -- still annoying, but in a new way (for this column):

Still, I don't see Andruw Jones' being a .330-40 HR-125 RBI hitter. But he doesn't have to do that to contribute to the Braves' success. He might not be totally satisfied with his career, but he has to be happy with it – because he's contributed to Atlanta's amazing run of division titles (he's been part of nine of the 13 straight).

Well, if you believe in paces, (and I don't, for the most part, but Andruw doesn't show many signs of slowing down), his actual projection this year is .282/50/114 with a .955 OPS. I love that Joe doesn't even bother to look that up, and just blindly and illogically throws out .330/40/125 -- which is what someone like Pujols, not Andruw, would give you. (As Joe himself noted earlier, Jones has hit .300 only once. And also, again, who the hell cares.) Then he goes on to say that he doesn't have to do that to contribute to Atlanta's success. Right. All he has to do is do everything he has done for the last NINE YEARS, during which he has been an absolute rock in a frequently-changing line-up, offensively and defensively, that wins its division every single year. Also, what on God's green earth would suggest that Andruw Jones is not "satisfied" with his career? And why is holy hell would Joe Morgan feel it necessary to tell Jones, and us, that he "has to be happy with it?" What the hell is that? And then we get this weird diversion:

Another factor has contributed to the heightened expectations faced by Jones: He and Vladimir Guerrero were signed the same year, in 1993, and I'm told that Jones was ranked above Guerrero in at least one analyst's ranking.

Expectations were high for Andruw Jones. Because he was 18 and awesome. Does anybody in the universe remember that he was ranked above Vlad by "at least one analyst?" This is not exactly a Brien Taylor-type situation. Jones has had a great career. Plus, who the hell remembers or cares that Jones and Vlad were signed the same year? Darin Erstad and Geoff Jenkins were both drafted in 1995. I'm sure "at least one analyst" thought Jenkins was better than Erstad. Did that heighten expectations for Jenkins? I'm dizzy, from the stupidity.

As excellent as Jones is, Guerrero has had a better career. Guerrero, 29, is a career .325 hitter, and he's driven in 100 runs six times (compared to three for Jones) and exceeded Jones' career high in homers (36) five times. So Guerrero has been more consistently productive on offense, while Jones is better defensively, but they're both good at both sides of the game. The edge goes to Guerrero because of his batting average and production.

I will refrain from commenting on how rudimentary are Joe's methods of comparison/contrast (still with the BA and RsBI?!), and instead will point out that he makes the same point like six times: Jones is excellent, Guerrero has been better. Guerrero has hit better. Guerrero has been more consistently productive on offense. Jones is better defensively. They're both good at everything. Guerrero is better because he hits better.

Then there's this:

Guerrero also has struck out far less than Jones. In a single season, Guerrero hasn't yet reached the 100-strikeout mark. Jones has struck out 100 or more times eight straight years.

Here are some people who have struck out 100+ times in a season: Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, Sammy Sosa, Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire, Willie Stargell, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Duke Snider, Eddie Matthews, Harmon Killebrew, Ralph Kiner, Jimmie Foxx...should I continue? (amazingly -- side note -- The Babe never did, though he had a few seasons in the 90s.) In fact, most of these players led their league in K's at least once.

How does Joe Morgan, about whom, by the way, Bob Costas once said "no one knows more about baseball than [Joe]," which makes me suddenly hate Bob Costas -- not understand that striking out is not always a bad thing? It's just an out. Is Robert Fick a better player than Andruw Jones because Fick has never struck out 100 times in a season?

Then Joe says:

But comparisons can be misleading, because Andruw Jones is a great player in his own right.

He has made this point fifteen times already. Also, yes, comparisons can be misleading, expecially when they're being made by Joe Morgan. And whom is he warning that comparisons can be misleading? Why did he make the comparison, then? He's arguing with himself. It's like he's saying, "Rocky Road is delicious. Mint Chip is also very good, but Rocky Road is better. But hold on -- don't compare them, it can be misleading. But they're both good. But be careful when you talk about them. But Rocky Road is better. But be careful."

Believe it or not, he's not done yet. Apparently, he does not yet think we have gotten his point about Andruw Jones:

When you excel on the October stage, people expect you to be a .300 hitter, hit 35-40 homers per year and drive in 120 runs every year. Jones hasn't lived up to those expectations, but he has been one of the best and most consistent players in the majors throughout his career.

First of all, the only person who has tossed out those numbers is you, Joe. And second, oh my God, I hate you. YOU were the one who said that those numbers were "expected" of him. YOU are "people." And will you PLEASE stop making the point that Andruw Jones hasn't lived up to some unnamed people's expectations, but is still good?

Joe then goes into a lengthy and miserably-argued section about where Jones ranks defensively all-time. He says: third, behind Mays and Griffey, Jr. I will leave it up to someone else (dak, probably, or maybe Junior [the blogger, not the ballplayer]) to check on Griffey's RF vs. Jones's. (My guess is Jones comes out ahead. Could be wrong.) But suffice it to say, Joe's argument is anecdotal at best, and nonsense at worst.

Then we get to this, completely out of sequence:

The main criticism of Jones as a hitter is that he hasn't been especially patient at the plate. He needs to be more selective, as his eight straight 100-strikeout seasons attest (including a career-high 147 last year). While he's showed stretches of being patient, he's been inconsistent.

Yeah, we talked about this about four pages ago. Where were you, Joe? In any case, he's right that Jones could be more selective, and wrong that the evidence for this is the number of strikeouts he has per year. Jim Thome is incredibly selective, and he strikes out all the time. Adam Dunn is selective -- ditto. Chipper Jones strikes out 90+ times a year and has the aforementioned .401 career OBP. In fact, let's look at some recent league K leaders: Thome, Giambi, Dunn, Bellhorn, Sosa. All guys who are selective hitters. Selective hitters often get to 2-strike counts, and thus often strike out. So, Joe, if a lot of strike-outs isn't necessarily a good indicator of whether a player is a selective hitter, what is?

Hmmmm.

Let's think.

Gosh, I don't know...

How about...

How many times that player WALKS?

How about that, Joe, you blundering dolt?

Jones could walk more. That is, probably, the number one criticism one can make of him as a hitter. It is complete jibberish to say that the fact that he strikes out a lot is evidence that he is not a selective hitter. The two are not causally linked.

He continues:

In today's game, 100 strikeouts isn't that extreme. A hitter should never strike out 147 times, though.

Here are some people who have struck out 140+ times in a season: Adam Dunn, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Mo Vaughn, Andres Galarraga, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Bonds, Dick Allen, George Scott, Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, Mark McGwire. That's, what...at least eight HOFers?

When Jones is patient, he's one of the better hitters in the game. When he isn't, he's just a good hitter – but his good is pretty good. Yes, many fans expected more because of Jones' fantastic start in the '96 World Series...

Oh my God. He's making the same point. Again.

Jones' experience can be compared to Carlos Beltran's performance in the postseason last year. In 12 games in a two-week span, Beltran hit eight home runs (four each in the NLDS and NLCS) with 14 RBI and a .435 average. The difference is that Beltran, 28, was an established major-leaguer when he made his amazing postseason debut. Andruw's teenage youth in the '96 Series gave his success more of a mystique and raised those expectations.

And again. I give up.

EDIT: Added win shares analysis in the "comments section."

Labels: ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 7:25 PM
Comments:
I'm honestly thinking about printing this and sending it to ESPN.

Career Range Factors:
Ken Griffey Junior: 2.48
Andruw Jones: 2.67
[up through 2004]
 
Vintage Morgan. Meandering, irrelevant, misinformed, repetitive, dull, incoherent, ill-researched, pat, unoriginal.

Sensationally bad.
 
No idea who wrote this, but it's something:

Range Factor

Range factor is a statistic used by total baseball to estimate how much ground a player can cover. It’s based on the total number of plays made by a particular player.

As Bill James points out in Win Shares, this is kind of a well-intentioned, but not very productive idea. Think about it for a minute. If you’re a shortstop on the D-Backs, you’re not going to make as many plays as the shortstop for the Tigers. Why? Because you have Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson striking out every third batter. Fewer balls are hit in play and you will make less plays. It has nothing to do with your abilities, but instead with the abilities of your teammates. He notes that teams are worse as their Second Basemen get more putouts. Range factor is a ratio of the number of outs you make to the number of outs your teammates make, not with the numbers of outs other players at your position make.
 
Junior:

1. I think you mean "fewer" plays.
2. Sorry.
3. Yeah, RF is kind of shitty. There are a few other metrics you can use, but as we all know, probably, none of them is particularly good. I remember Rob Neyer using RF to prove that Enrique Wilson was a better defensive shortstop than Jeter in 2003...I think Jeter is way overrated defensively (nice work, Gold Glove voters) but even so, I think I'd rather have him than Enrique WIlson. It is also often misused, I think, because (as in the Wilson-Jeter comparison) people compare defensive replacements within teams, which eliminates the "different pitchers" variable, but also leads to incredibly small sample sizes. At the time of Neyer's analysis, Jeter had played in hundreds of games, and Wilson in like fifteen, and unless I don't understand how RF works, that seems like a faulty comparison. Anyway, you have to assume a lot of other shit in order for RF really to mean anything in comparing players, esp. CFs -- like, for example, that each team's other OF are comparable. All of this to say, with RF, I think it's like what Churchill said about Democracy: It's the worst form of government, except for all the others.
 
KT:

Actually, I didn't write any of the above except for "No idea who wrote this, but it's something:"

Rest assured, I would never, EVER, use the word "less" in place of the word "fewer."

EVER.

I really don't know if there's any defensive metric that I trust. Maybe someone out there has a good one they'd like to promote.
 
Ah. Somebodies else made that mistakes. That make more senses. Sorry I doubted you [plural].
 
FWIW, I added up defensive win shares for a random 3-year period for all CF's. I chose 1999-2001 to encompass Griffey's last year in Seattle and first two years in Cincy. (Later, too late, I realized that he only played 111 games in 2001 due to injury. Don't have the energy to recalculate):

Most Fielding Win Shares per 1000 Innings Among Center Fielders -- 1999-2001

Andruw Jones, 6.26
Juan Pierre, 5.16
Darin Erstad, 5.13
Torii Hunter, 4.93
Mike Cameron, Cin-Sea 4.92

Interesting. But I don't exactly know how.
 
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