FIRE JOE MORGAN: More from Bruce Jenkins


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


More from Bruce Jenkins

See Junior's post below for the real boneheadedness, but here's more:

"And on the year, he's got a solid ERA of 4.29."

Nope. There's nothing solid about an ERA over 4.00, no matter what the league or the circumstances. Just because we're passing through a period of inflated offensive numbers and lousy pitching, 4.29 is not impressive. You want solid? Try Dazzy Vance's 2.61 for Brooklyn in 1930, when the league hit .303. Try Steve Carlton's 1.97 for a 1972 Phillies team that won 59 games. Or Roger Clemens' ERA last week.

Um, okay. There's a difference between "solid," which is the word you used in the made-up quotation, and "impressive," which is the word you then use to critique your own made-up quotation-er. 4.29 is, I think "solid. It would put you 63rd in MLB out of the 90 or so pitchers who have qualified for the ERA title. Which isn't great, but it's not terrible. Here are some pitchers between 3.80 and 4.29: Danny Haren, Scott Kazmir, Brad Radke, Jason Marquis, Noah Lowry, Cliff Lee, Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia, Bronson Arroyo, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Jon Lieber, Jason Schmidt, Freddy Garcia, Livan Hernandez, and Matt Morris.

Jake Westbrook and Scott Elarton, from the vaunted Cleveland Indians staff, are both above 4.29.

The point is, 4.29 isn't great, but your fictional "dumb person" didn't say it was "great," (s)he said it was "solid." And it's pretty solid. And the more important point is, 4.29 is one or two good outings from being really quite good. Which is why ERA is a stupid stat by which to measure pitchers. (Although, admittedly, it is better when applied to starters. But it's still very raw and unreliable.) And it's also why WHIP and K/BB ratio are better, but we know how you feel about those, you dummy.

Also, no one would ever claim that Dazzy Vance's 2.61 was "solid." We would say it was "great." You changed the rules in the middle of your rant, silly!

"I've got Mike Matheny as the catcher on my all-overrated team, because he doesn't hit. Catcher defense is not really important."

Unbelievable. When I think about great teams, I think about Jason Varitek's absolute command of a game; Pudge Rodriguez defiantly holding the series-winning baseball after his collision with J.T. Snow; Thurman Munson defining a team's spirit as he summons one more throw from a bum shoulder; Mike Scioscia taking hits amounting to a Ray Lewis tackle at full speed. Whether it's shoddy pitch calling, the inability to "frame" pitches or a general lack of toughness, a poor defensive catcher exposes a team's vulnerability.

I agree with you -- I think catching defense is very important. My question is, who the hell says catching defense isn't important? Is that a commonly heard thing? I've never heard anyone say that. What I have heard, is people talking about how having a catcher who's good offensively is a HUGE bonus. And when people say that, the people they cite are often: Jason Varitek, Pudge Rodriguez, and sometimes Thurman Munson.

"Wow, check it out: Home runs are down. Must be the steroid testing."

Wait a minute: Would you even know they're down without the statistics? Does it feel like they're down? Don't ignore the elements of tiny ballparks, juiced balls, magic bats and pitchers (not just hitters) getting off the juice, but balls are flying out of the yard. Middle infielders continue to hit absurd home runs (I saw Frank Menechino put one over the center-field fence in Toronto with a one-armed swing on a low-and-outside pitch). Everyone was curious to watch the All-Star home run contest in this alleged new era, and balls left the park as if the hitters were setting up golf balls on a tee.

You have to be kidding me. First of all, yes, it does seem like HR are down, and I feel that without looking at stats. You know how you judge things like this? By looking at the extremes of the bell curve. Remember in the late 1990's and early '00's, when everybody and his brother hit 50+ HR? Remember Brady Anderson? Remember Sammy Sosa hitting 60+ three years in a row, many of them flat-footed the other way, and then steroid testing started and he's hit like 12 and looks lost at the plate? Isn't it interesting that Giambi fell apart and took a full year to come back and now everyone is saying he's back on HGH? Don't you find it interesting that Andruw Jones is the only guy in MLB with 50+ this year, when 18 of the 36 50+ seasons in BASEBALL HISTORY happened between 1996 and 2004? And six of the eight 60+ seasons happened in the same time period? Even without looking that stuff up, if you're an observer of baseball, even a casual one, you must have noted that at the extreme end of the spectrum, things are very very different, which in turn suggests that HR are, overall, down, which they indeed are.

And, as far as your last sentence goes, if you think that the results of a HR Derby say anything -- ANYTHING -- about steroids or HR or anything involving actual baseball, you are a complete moron.

When you check the actual numbers (this is from mid-August), the homers-per-game average is down to 2.08 from last year's 2.25. Is this some kind of joke? Scan this statistic for the past 10 years, and it always rounds off to two homers per game. Sound the alarm when it goes from 5.8 to 1.6.

Careful -- those sound like statistics. You don't want to become a stat geek, Bruce. But, as long as you have dipped your toe in an ocean that you don't understand, let me say this: the sentence "it always rounds off to two homers per game" is stupid beyond belief. Considering there are 2430 games played a year, the difference between a HR/game ratio of, say 2.49 and 1.51 (not that that really exists, but for the sake of argument), both of which would round off to "2", would mean a difference of 2381 HR/year. Even a difference of 2.49 and 2.00 means 1190 more/less HR per year. Which seems significant to me.

The drop-off from 2.25 to 2.08, at which you scoff, is a difference of more than 400 HR hit. That's a lot of HR.

For the record, if it ever went from 5.8 to 1.6, that would mean a drop-off of more than 10,000 HR/year, which would either mean that baseball's rules had changed to force 6 year-old children to play all OF positions, or that an alien invasion had killed 80% of major leaguers.

"Well, at least we know that guys like Brian Roberts, Adam Dunn and Todd Helton are clean."

Listen, that's probably true. There isn't one bit of evidence to the contrary. But clean living, or a simple lifestyle, offers no clues about steroid use. This isn't about robbing a drug store; it's a procession of the dim-witted, lining up like sheep to stay up with a trend. Don't say you're certain that someone is clean, because you don't know that -- just as you don't know if any alleged steroid abuser is clean this season.

Fantastic. Let's assume every single MLBer is on steroids. Great plan. That will make baseball really fun. Let's also assume all former NFL running backs are potential murderers. Can they prove they are not? And just for the hell of it, I will also go ahead and assume that since you are a complete idiot, all baseball writers are idiots, until they can prove otherwise.

Also, Junior already dealt with this, but it makes me so angry I have to chime in (see below for full quote):

But no matter how modern-day statisticians try to downplay traditional numbers, there's a volume of meaning in .178, .230, .289 and .337, at least when based over a long period of time.

The reason we "stat geeks" hate BA is because people think a guy who hits .306 is way better than a guy who hits .285, when in actuality, that represents like nine additional bleeders through the infield over the course of a year. Obviously, Bruce, you ignoramus, there is a great deal of difference between .178 and .337. Because that's a lot of hits. But ten points (or even 20) of BA over the course of a year can be attributed almost entirely to luck and situational karma for a hitter. In order to measure a batter's worth, you simply cannot use BA. End of story.


posted by Anonymous  # 1:05 AM
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