Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Two Quick Ones

Thanks to reader Ryan Stewart for both of these links. Good link percentage, Ryan.

First up, Ryne Sandberg on the White Sox:

I hate to say it, but the Chicago White Sox have destiny on their side.

I hate that you hate to say it but are leading your article with it anyway. Also, why do you hate to say it? Astros fan?

Anyone who has watched the White Sox in the playoffs has seen that glimmer in their eye – the confidence that they expect to win.

I've watched the White Sox in the playoffs. I watched them crush the Red Sox. I watched them destroy the Angels. Funny, what I drew from watching them is that they have great 1-4 starting pitching, very solid defense, a good bullpen and guys who can hit home runs. Wasn't watching their collective eye and the amount of glimmer within said ocular cavity.

I'm telling you: The White Sox have a twinkle in their eye, a lot like the Red Sox had last year.

And I'm telling you that's a meaningless statement you are basing entirely on the fact that the Red Sox won it all last year and the White Sox are up 2-0 in the World Series.


Next -- Bill Simmons on closers losing their ability to pitch after a devastating loss:

Just throwing it out there to sidetrack the Baseball Crank's day, but after Brad Lidge's second demoralizing walkoff homer, is there any way to figure out the ratio of "Closer eventually bouncing back and becoming effective again" to "Closer who was never the same"? For instance, Calvin Schiraldi was probably the best pitching prospect in the Boston farm system before the '86 playoffs -- look at his regular-season stats in 1986 compared to everything that followed in his career. And what about Byung Hyun-Kim, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Mark Wohlers, Tom Niedenfuer ... really, the only guy I can remember who kept chugging along was Dennis Eckersley after the '88 World Series. Anyway, let's see what the Crank can dig up on this.

This has been discussed ad nauseum on this thread on the Sons of Sam Horn message board (check out pages 5 through 12). I believe all of those names save Niedenfuer came up (and Jose Mesa was thrown in).

I'm just going to pick out one name in particular: SoSH flashpoint Byung-Hyun Kim. We all know he had a disastrous 2001 World Series. Psyche-crushing, right? Irreparable mental damage?

2001: ERA 2.94, ERA+ 156, 19 saves
2002: ERA 2.04, ERA+ 216, 36 saves

It wasn't until 2004 that BK fell off a cliff. We might never know why, but he lost velocity on his fastball.

What's that? You want one "Moore" piece of evidence? (Previous sentence written by New York Post headline writers).

Donnie Moore
1986: ERA 2.97, ERA+ 138
1987: ERA 2.70, ERA+ 161

I think he got injured midway through the '87 season and his career was pretty much over after that.

The point is, Simmons is calling these guys closers "who were never the same" after pitching poorly in the postseason.

Kim got better after his 2001 debacle. Moore, in a small sample, also improved after 1986's disaster.

I understand why people make these mistakes. Our memories are faulty and it's easier to believe that a guy stops being able to do his job correctly after suffering a devastating failure at work. But just because it's easy to believe doesn't mean it's true.

Thankfully, people have written down what happens in baseball games and we don't have to trust our memories. We can look at results. And we should.

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posted by Junior  # 2:08 PM
Really, Bill Simmons? Dennis Eckersley is the only guy you can think of who has rebounded from a crushing save in the postseason? That's your only counterpoint to what is already an unstable premise to begin with? Is there a reason you forgot Mariano Rivera who, for all his successes, has failed more spectacularly than any closer in history? His only saving grace (n.p.i.) has been that his failures were not the result of a dramatic home run, but then he went ahead and had some pretty good "rebound" years. There are dozens of reasons why relievers become ineffective, and I'd wager that the majority of these cases are physical in nature.
What's really amazing about Moore is that we basically know his head was fucked up that whole time. He was never able to get over the psychological trauma of giving up that Hendu tater -- or so the anecdotes tell us. And yet, despite an emotional spiral that would end in unspeakable tragedy, he was still able to put up pretty good numbers.

Reader Jim Bulger points out that Simmons is factually incorrect: Brad Lidge did not give up consecutive walk-off home runs. The Pujols shot came in the top of the 9th, and the Astros had a chance to come back in the bottom of that inning.

In fact, Lidge went on to strike out Reggie Sanders right after his psyche was indelibly scarred by Pujols.
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