FIRE JOE MORGAN: 04.05

FIRE JOE MORGAN

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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Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

Joe Morgan is Bad at His Job

Here's a nice tidbit from a few days ago...

"Any time a team has a proven manager like Frank Robinson on the bench it has a chance to have a good season, but the biggest difference for the Washington Nationals have been the offseason acquisitions, starting with former Angels outfielder Jose Guillen.

Because of the way Guillen's season ended in 2004 – suspended by the Angels for the last 14 games of the year due to insubordination – he is out to prove he is not a bad guy and that he can help a team. Veterans like Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman are the kinds of players who will thrive in the nation's capital."

First of all, is Frank Robinson really a "proven" manager? He has won 87 games exactly twice in 14 years. His lifetime winning percentage is .476. He was a hall of fame player, but is a mediocre manager at best. Granted, he has often managed bad teams, but come on.

Second, what do the two sentences in the second paragraph have to do with each other? And further, look at the last sentence again. Why would being a veteran make one "thrive" in Washington DC? That's gibberish. And for good measure, Guzman is one of the worst off-season acquisitions in years. He was given something like $16 million for three years, thanks to his robust .301 lifetime OBP. He is currently the author of a .229 OBP and a .266 SLG. Which is hard to do.

I don't have any jokes here. Too tired. Tired, but vigilant.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 1:17 AM
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Welcome to the Dark Ages

Angels first baseman Darin Erstad – normally a no-nonsense sort when it comes to baseball, or much of anything else – wears a little leather pouch around his neck that contains some mystical stuff. The so-called "balance necklace" was a gift from teammate Steve Finley, far more of a cosmic cowboy, with the physical fitness of a rookie.

"All I know is Finley is 40 years old and he played 162 games last year, so it can't hurt," said Erstad, coming off two years of sidelining injury problems. "He started talking to me about it, and I walked away because I couldn't understand it. I've played all the games so far, so it must be working."

What's inside the pouch? The company that makes it advertises its contents as minerals combined to "achieve alignment of body, mind and spirit" and to "address the electro-pollution, toxic vapors, scars, surgeries and traumas to the skin by organizing the quantum nature of man."

Darin Erstad should probably immediately be hired by ESPN to analyze baseball.

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posted by Junior  # 5:24 PM
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The Wisdom Of Crowds

ESPN Experts Predict the 2005-06 Season

"The NFL editors at ESPN.com also looked into their crystal ball and forecasted the over/under on every team's win total for the season ahead."

>>If you add up all of the predictions for regular season wins, the NFL editors at ESPN.com have predicted a season where all 32 teams go a combined 23 games over .500. This is impossible.

Thank you for a meaningless prediction, NFL editors at ESPN.com.

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posted by dak  # 4:23 PM
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Who wins championships?

Brad (Farmington, MI): Hi Brian, I just saw that the whatifsports.com simulation here on the espn site shows Philly with a 67 percent edge in their series with Detroit. How could a computer possilby [sic] come up with that huge an edge for Philly in this series?

Brian James: (2:07 PM ET ) Brad,
Computers don't win championships, great players do.


Unhelpful.

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posted by Junior  # 4:02 PM
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 

Fire Joe Morgan Prediction Watch!

Before the season began, honorary Joe Morgan John Kruk predicted that Randy Johnson would win 30 games for the Yankees in 2005. Some people thought he was crazy, while most thought he was simply retarded. Looks like Krukie's about to serve up a whole batch of crow to all those naysayers!

Randy Johnson has started 5 games so far. His record is 2-1. Assuming he ties his career high of 35 starts, he only needs to get a decision and a win in 28 of his remaining 30 games!

Go Randy!

posted by Murbles  # 11:07 AM
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Monday, April 25, 2005

 

A Special Tip of the Cap

To Steve Phillips, formerly the worst GM in baseball, now one of the worst analysts. Here's a little tidbit from his ESPN chat today:

Craig (Elon, NC): Looks like all the Braves needed was a trip back home to get their bats going..do you see them continuing this?

Steve Phillips: I do have some concerns about the lineup. They haven't gotten much from Jordan or Mondesi. But it really wasn't fair to expect much anyway. The key to that offense is Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Furcal and Giles.

Good point. You know what the key to the Red Sox offense is? Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Trot Nixon. The key to the Yankee offense is Jeter, ARod, Sheffield, and Matsui. The key to the offense of Team X is A/B/C/D, where A = the leadoff hitter, B = the number 2 hitter, and so on.

On a side note, I think the key to Lance Armstrong's success is his legs, feet, torso, and strategy.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:30 PM
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Enjoy your young arms, Florida

Florida manager Jack McKeon:

"It comes from the top," said McKeon. "When a guy hurts his arm, it (too many pitches) is the reason why the guy gets hurt. It's inactivity and bad mechanics, not the number of pitches. (Former major league pitcher) Johnny Sain was my pitching coach (one of the best ever) in Richmond in 1977. He said it best: There is a greater chance of getting hurt with less activity than with more activity. He wanted 40 starts. He wanted two, three days rest."

The last three sentences are mind-boggling. McKeon can't possibly believe Johnny Sain was right, can he? If he genuinely thinks that injury risk and pitch count are inversely related, I challenge him to throw Dontrelle, A.J., and Josh in a three-man rotation. Think about what's best for the pitchers, Jack! They need to be throwing every other day to keep themselves healthy.

By the way, this quote appears in a Tim Kurkjian article that also includes the following throwaway line about why managers these days limit the workloads of young pitchers:

It is wise philosophy, in a way; there are all sorts of studies about how overworking a young pitcher can significantly shorten his career.

But those studies don't bother Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley:

"We count them (pitches), but we try not to be too concerned with the number," said Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley. "I go more on my gut, from what I know from watching pitchers my whole life. You have to have the right guys, and we do."

They've got the right guys. Case closed.

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posted by Junior  # 4:23 PM
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Sunday, April 24, 2005

 

It's time for ...

Our third Joe Morgan of the Day, after our first Joe Morgan of the Day, Harold Reynolds, and our second Joe Morgan of the Day, Joe Morgan.

Our third Joe Morgan of the Day is Kevin Kennedy of FOXSports.com. This is not a good website, but that doesn't mean their Joe Morgans shouldn't also be fired.

Three days ago, Kennedy wrote an article titled "Breaking slumps and building confidence" (http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/3557282) in which he analyzes what the Yankees need to do to turn their season around. Let's delve into his insights from that article.

The key to winning is execution and good situational hitting. It's human nature to think that when you have great talent it will all work itself out. Usually, it doesn't.

If execution is defined as scoring more runs than the other team, then yes, I agree. I would argue that situational hitting is less important than regular, overall good hitting, as well as being less important than good pitching and also probably good fielding. Kennedy goes on to say that "usually," great talent does not "work itself out." To this I would say that great talent helps teams win more often than not. Would you rather have a team with great talent, good talent, or poor talent? All things being equal, I would choose the first.

Sooner or later it will rise up and get you.

This sentence immediately follows the passage I quoted above. I have no idea what he's trying to communicate here. What is "it"? Great talent? How is that going to rise up and get me?

Look at it this way. If Alex Rodriguez managed just a sacrifice fly in Game 4 of the ALCS last year instead of striking out, Mariano Rivera would have had a two-run lead in the final inning instead of one.

If Alex Rodriguez hits a home run, Rivera has a greater than two-run lead. Is it a better percentage play for A-Rod to cut down his swing and try to hit a sac fly? There's no evidence presented either way.

Cut down or your swing and get the run it. That's how you win the close ones.

The article actually does say "or" instead of "on" and "it" instead of "in," but that's nitpicking. Although the sentence is fun to say in its published form. Again, there's no reason to assume this is the only way to "win the close ones."

Another way to break out of the long-ball syndrome is to run, put people in motion depending on the situation and the count. Remember, speed never goes into a slump and you don't have to have burners to do this.

Speed never goes into a slump? It's only valuable to steal if you almost never get caught. If you get caught, say, three times in a row, that's already a pretty big slump insofar as it costs your team outs.

These are all reasons we use the word team. When a good ball club is losing it's usually an all-areas breakdown.

This is probably untrue. It certainly isn't substantiated.

The bottom line is that you can't stand pat when you're losing. You have to change the momentum somehow. Its much too early in the season for anyone to panic. I always felt that it took at least six weeks into the season to really analyze your ball club and know what you have and what you're lacking. But you can also win or lose a pennant in April. When you start losing, its a grind to get back in the race and it can take a lot out of a team. So you can't afford to give away games early.

Okay, so we can't stand pat. That means we have to change things, NOW! But wait, we also shouldn't panic. Relax: it takes six weeks to really analyze your ball club. But wait, we can win or lose a pennant in April! Conclusion: we should make dramatic changes to turn our momentum around while simultaneously not panicking and also relaxing.

The Yankees, for instance, are in a tough division. The Red Sox are the Red Sox, but the Orioles and Blue Jays are improved and you can't even take Tampa Bay for granted with Lou Piniella there.

Can't take Tampa Bay for granted! They have a manager!

Kennedy goes on to explain why the Dodgers are winning games.

One of the big surprises in the early going has been the L.A. Dodgers. After being criticized for a number of off-season moves, the Dodgers have played to a 12-2 start and it's more than just luck. There may be a different cast of characters doing it, but the Dodgers actually got some good talent to replace the players they traded or failed to sign ...

They took a lot of flak for that, but the bottom line is that they brought in good players, kept a core group and are winning. You can't ask any more than that.

What does keeping a "core group" have to do with it? Kennedy acknowledges that there's pretty much a "different cast of characters" in L.A. The roster overhaul has been fairly dramatic, especially going back to the Lo Duca trade last year. Does Brad Penny count as a member of the"core group"? Noted character guy Milton Bradley? It seems to me that the Dodgers are mainly winning more games than expected because a few guys are really raking and a few guys are pitching lights out. Jeff Kent and Derek Lowe come to mind. Will Kent finish the year with an OPS over 1.000? No. Will Lowe finish with an ERA under 2.00? No. But their performance either way likely doesn't have too much to do with any "core group" in the clubhouse.

Anyway, "You can't ask any more than that" is actually the sentence Kennedy chose to end his article.


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posted by Junior  # 10:15 PM
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JM scouting report on kelvim escobar

live broadcast of angels vs. a's...JM's scouting report on Kelvim Escobar:
1.) not on a strict pitch count
2.) lack of run support may affect performance

>> Remember when scouting reports used to be about what kind of pitches dudes throw? Why doesn't that happen anymore? "Not on a strict pitch count" is helpful to me in zero ways. The point he was making was that Escobar's returning from an injury, but they don't have him on a pitch count. This as helpful as telling me that Kelvim Escobar "does not throw a knuckleball" or, for that matter "is not Chinese."

His point on poor run support...well, I tend to not buy into this sort of thing. But Morgan said that Escobar had very poor run support last year (true), and "every once in a while it seemed to have affected his pitching, like he was trying to be too perfect, trying to pitch a shutout every time he went out there." (Yes, I'm DVRing it.)

Now, first off, why shouldn't a pitcher try to throw a shutout every time? Wouldn't that be a good thing? I know I never played professional baseball like Joe Morgan -- an idiot -- did, but it seems to me like throwing a shutout would be good for your team.

Aside from that, is he even right? Did Kelvim Escobar's lack of run support tend to affect him last year? Before even looking at the numbers, my guess is Joe Morgan only thinks this is the case because he saw that KE had low run support, and probably heard stories as a ballplayer about how pitchers get frustrated by low run support and they thought it affected their performance. Or whatever. Anyway, I decided to do a little research, even though it's not my job to do this (it's Joe Morgan's):

In 16 games last year, Kelvim Escobar's team scored 0-3 runs. His ERA in those games: 4.14 (104.1 IP, 48 ER)
In 17 games last year, KE's team scored 4 or more runs. His ERA in those games: 3.81 (104 IP, 44 ER)

So in games when Escobar had a lack of run support, he let up three tenths of a run more per nine innings. Now, to be honest, I sure was hoping that he would have been better in low run support games, but the point is: is that really a difference worth caring about?

I admit, my science isn't too tight here because I'm including run support gained after Escobar left the game in some instances, but this was the only way to pull it off in under 30 minutes.

Joe Morgan, I hate you.

Also of note: Escobar pitched 208 innings last year -- the entire regular season -- without giving up an unearned run. Then he pitched 3.1 innings in the post season (game 3 of ALDS) and gave up two unearned runs. Meaningless, but weird.

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posted by dak  # 8:14 PM
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Ultimate Leadoff Hitter...

...discussion on "Baseball Tonight." Harold Reynolds, our Joe Morgan of the Day, says this:

"It's not on-base percentage. If you don't score runs, it doesn't matter."

Fantastic.

Reynolds naturally cites Rickey Henderson as the greatest lead-off hitter of all time, saying that he holds the all-time record for runs scored in a career. Apparently, it has not occurred to Reynolds, who is a former professional player, that Henderson couldn't have possibly scored that many runs if he did not first get on base. (He is second all-time in walks with 2190.)

Reynolds's three keys to being a good lead-off hitter? Glad you asked:

1. You have to steal bases. Because if you don't, then no one else in the line-up gets fastballs. Reynolds still apparently does not know that in order to actually help your team, you have to steal at a roughly 75% success rate (some say 80%).
2. You have to "handle the bat." He cites Juan Pierre as a guy who does this. I guess it means being able to bunt for hits, although Reynolds then showed a highlight of Pierre lining a soft single up the middle on an 0-2 count. He commends Pierre for "not trying to do too much" with the 0-2 fastball, which was low and outside. Perhaps he means that Pierre was smart for not trying to jack it out or something. Which considering his seven *careeer* homers, is something he tries to do...well...never.
3. "Knowledge of the Game." Derek Jeter is the example, because he knows when to bunt to move a runner over. He also, apparently, knows when to hit a home run, as Reynolds cites the Yankees-Sox game earlier this year when Jeter led off the 9th of a tie game with a home run. This is an example of "knowledge of the game."

Nice work, Harold! What is it about former second basemen-turned-analysts?

Let us say for the record that the only important thing for a lead-off hitter to do is to get on base. IsoP/SLG is gravy. "Knowledge of the Game" is expected. Stealing bases is okay if you are safe four out of five times. "Handling the Bat" is meaningless. Unless he meant being able to go the other way, or hitting sac flies when required, or something. But I don't think he did.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 7:24 PM
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KT-

I was going to post about this very segment but was foiled by blogger.com. Curse you!

I like how HR said in regards to "handling the bat" that "you might not get on base every time, but you'll put a lot of balls in play." That's what you want from the guy who will likely have the most at bats with the bases empty, right?

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

 

Joe Morgan: Chat Master

It's always a joy when Joe handles an on-line chat. The most recent one on ESPN Insider isn't as mind-boggling as they usually are, but here's a nice exchange:

Paul (Madison, WI): While there have been famous late bloomers (Koufax, Spahn, Johnson), it is common for the dominating, HOF type pitchers to first show their greatness at or around 23 years old and in their 3rd year in the big leagues. Clemens, Maddux, Seaver, Palmer, Pedro, Marichal all fit this description. Just how good is 23 yr old Rich Harden-- in his 3rd big league season-- with an ERA of 0.44 and a 98 mph fastball-- going to be??

Joe Morgan: Well, I wasn't aware of the third year thing, seems like you've done your research, but I've seen Harden pitch b/c I live out here. He definitely has unlimited potential, his problem is consistancy. At first he didn't give up a run for like three games, no he continuously does. I'm anxious to see how he will bounce back from a bad outing. Maybe consistancy and how he handles adversity does come with experience and maturity. IF so, he will be a great pitcher.

All spelling and typographical errors are [sic].

Let's look at it beat for beat:

"Well, I wasn't aware of the third year thing, seems like you've done your research, but I've seen Harden pitch b/c I live out here."

A terrible run-on sentence. (Technically, it's a run-on run-on sentence.) But we'll chalk that up to the immediacy of the on-line chat format. It's the last part that gets me. You've seen Harden pitch b/c you're "out here?" You're also a baseball analyst, and fan, and you broadcast games for ESPN. I assume you've seen Rich Harden pitch by now. Also, now that I think about it, shouldn't you have done your research, Joe?

"He definitely has unlimited potential, his problem is consistancy."

Again, spelling error is [sic]. As is run-on sentence. But the real issue here is the comment itself -- a typical Morgan non-sequitor. The thing to write about Rich Harden is that he's not consistent? His OBP against from 2003 to 2005 has gone from .351 to .320 to .267 (in a very small sample size, admittedly). His K/BB: 1.68 to 2.06 to 3.50. His three starts this year have been great. The thing to say about Rich Harden is that he's a 23 year-old pitcher who is getting better and better at an alarming rate. Or, that he K's more than a guy an inning, and gave up one earned run in his first 20 IP. "His problem is consistancy" is a retarded thing to say about Rich Harden.

"At first he didn't give up a run for like three games, no he continuously does."

I don't have any idea what this means. I assume he meant "now" he continuously does. But, does what? Give up runs? What? I don't understand. His last outing, on April 21, was seven innings of shutout baseball. Am I crazy? I literally have no idea what he means.

"I'm anxious to see how he will bounce back from a bad outing."

What? Why? And, also, he hasn't had one yet.

Now look at the last two sentences together:

"Maybe consistancy and how he handles adversity does come with experience and maturity. IF so, he will be a great pitcher. "

These are the most convoluted, least meaningful, and worst sentences ever typed in an on-line chat -- and amazingly, they are absolutely par for the Morgan course. Read them again. Amazing. Verb tenses, antecedents -- everything is wrong. It's almost pure jibberish. And it sheds absolutely no light on the career of Rich Harden. It's worthless.

For all of my hystrionics -- which I believe are deserved -- Morgan was (for him) not that bad in this chat. But don't worry. There will be more. And "Fire Joe Morgan" will be there.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 2:34 AM
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Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Ichiro vs. Albert

Ichiro vs. Albert.

The whole thing is pretty ridiculous, but a couple of highlights from JMOTD Sean McAdam, in his defense of Ichiro as a better franchise player than Albert:

"Of course, the ultimate measuring stick of a leadoff hitter is not how frequently he reaches base – it's how frequently he rounds them."

>> Of all the things a player has little control over, scoring from the bases once he's reached there is way up there on the list. If that were the measuring stick, the team with the best 2-6 hitters would have the best leadoff hitter every time.

"It might be something of a stretch to label Ichiro a five-tool player since, in his four years with the Mariners, he's hit a total of 37 homers. Only once in those four seasons has Ichiro reached double figures in homers. But that's nitpicking."

>> Nitpicking is saying that Ichiro isn't as good a franchise player because his facial hair is kind of weird.

posted by dak  # 2:10 PM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 

Some Questions and Some Answers

Why are you guys so hell-bent on getting Joe Morgan fired?

Oh. Well, the thing is, we’re not.

Here’s what happened. A group of friends thought it would be fun to post some of the ridiculous things that they heard and read from sports journalists in one place.

So in April of 2005, dak founded FJM as a way for him and some of his buds to keep track of everything they came across. Joe Morgan, because of his penchant for ignorantly slamming Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball,” seemed like a good figurehead to use in the title of the site, but “Fire Joe Morgan” shouldn’t be taken as much more than a name.

We’ve also never been singularly devoted to picking on Joe. You might notice that the first post ever was about Sean McAdam. I think you have to take “Fire Joe Morgan” as an overall attitude towards conventional wisdom and poor journalism in baseball, rather than a hostile attack on one old dude who refuses to read certain books.

Basically, our goal has always been simply to entertain ourselves (and over time, the growing number of people who read the site); our goal has never been to launch any sort of legitimate campaign to get Joe Morgan fired.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We hate Joe Morgan. We do think he should be fired. But that’s probably never going to happen, and after all, the dude’s a grandfather. We certainly don’t wish him any serious harm.

A recent poll of FJM editors confirmed that Joe Morgan is in fact our least favorite broadcaster / commentator / journalist, but he was followed very closely by John Kruk and Tim McCarver. (Others receiving votes included Dan Shaughnessy, Chris Berman, Stephen A. Smith, Rob Dibble and yes, Hat Guy.)

Why are you guys such total dicks?


Good question.

At times we might seem truly mean-spirited, and yeah, sometimes we might regret our tone a little. Ask any of our moms, though, and they’ll tell you we’re good people.

Try to picture us just sort of smiling and laughing a little as we’re posting; no one’s typing away furiously, thinking to himself, “Take that Mike Celizic!”


The site looks terrible. Don’t you know anything about web design?


No, we do not. If we knew anything about web design we’d be blogging about our least favorite web designers.

Why can’t I leave a comment on your site?


Sorry dudes. We’re not trying to be misanthropic here. We just like to keep it tight. Like we said, this site was intended for a small audience. If other people want to read it, that’s very flattering to us and makes us weirdly happy. Comments from everyone just don’t feel right.

Now, e-mailing us might not give you the instant gratification of seeing your post on the site, but we enjoy getting e-mails. As you may have noticed, we’re not hesitant to post great e-mails from members of the FJM army neither.

Are you all Red Sox fans?


Pretty much. Sorry.

Why don’t you blog about other sports?


We’ve dabbled in football. It’s just not as fun. I mean, really – who doesn’t like baseball? Not to mention: the long schedule, and the complex nature of baseball itself, and the weird way in which baseball writing is steeped in old-timey mythology and tradition and ignorance and distrust of modern analysis, all mean that there is a lot more bad writing about baseball than there is about other sports.

How do I become a member?

Again, sorry, but membership isn’t a possibility right now. If and when we ever decide to open the doors to the literally tens of people who are clamoring to join us in our quest to root out bad writing wheresoever we shall find it, we promise, we will let you know.

I have, like, sixteen dollars that are just eating a hole in my pocket. Why can’t I buy a FJM t-shirt, or a FJM bib for my dog or whatever?

You can. Check out the Merch link at the top of the site.

Love,
FJM

posted by dak  # 10:47 PM
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About Us

Ken Tremendous (Michael Schur), Junior (Alan Yang), and dak (Dave King) are all TV writers. We live in Los Angeles, in places other than our mothers' basements.

Please do not send e-mails to us about anything other than sports journalism.

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posted by dak  # 2:33 PM
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Press For FJM

CNNSI

Scout.com Interview with KT

Baseball Prospectus Radio Interview

Boston.com

San Jose Mercury News


New York Newsday


"All Things Considered" on NPR


Salon.com


The Harvard Crimson

KT on NBC Sports talking fantasy baseball, which, by the way, he does not play or like


A painfully long interview with dak on WHRB
(dak's fault, not the interviewer's)

KT interview on royalsblog

This issue of SI contains an article by Junior...which, of course, is not available on the internet.

Ken Tremendous podcast on "The Scrum"

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posted by dak  # 5:14 AM
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Glossary Of Terms

Ever since Fire Joe Morgan was founded back in 1881, FJM readers have been clamoring for a glossary of the statistical terms, acronyms and abbreviations we toss around here. Such a thing already exists, but we're going to write a new one anyway.

FJM is far from a comprehensive or even occasionally accurate source of sabermetric information, but we will mention OPS+ from time to time, and if you don't know what that is, our site won’t be as informative or amusing. If you do know, the site is nearly always balls-to-the-wall genius, so it’s really in our best interests to help you all learn our terminology. A lot of sites, like ESPN.com’s MLB stats page, and baseballreference.com’s stats page, keep up-to-date records of many of the stats we use here, if you want to go and look up stuff for yourself.

So, here's a glossary of terms, statistical and otherwise, that you might encounter from time to time while reading the site. Like the Constitution, the FJM Glossary is a living document that will be updated as necessary, but unlike the Constitution, its contents can be used to befuddle the greatest second baseman of all time if you happen to run into him.

Let's get started.


BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play)

Exactly what it sounds like -- a player's batting average on the balls he puts into play. BABIP doesn't include strikeouts or home runs because those balls aren't in play. Make sense? This stat is helpful to show the effect of luck on a player's batting average. For instance, if two weeks into the season, Yuniesky Betancourt is hitting .573 and John Kruk is proclaiming him the next Honus Wagner, you can calmly point to the fact that his BABIP is an astronomical .494 (along with the two facts that it's two weeks into the season and John Kruk has never been right about anything). One way to calculate BABIP is (H - HR) / (AB - HR - SO + SF).

This stat can also be applied to pitchers. There's a guy named Voros McCracken who was, a few years ago, literally like living in his mom’s basement, and he was noodling around with a computer and he discovered something that made people freak out in re: pitchers, which is: pitchers can’t really control much of what happens when a ball is put into play. In other words, pitchers can basically control their Ks, BBs, and HR, but even the best pitchers in the world cannot really control how many hits they give up year-to-year. One year Greg Maddux will give up a ton of hits, the next year very few, the year after a ton again. It’s counterintuitive, but true. (If you want to read his article, here’s the link.) This is why the pitchers who are really good over a long period of time are guys who are good at the few things they can control: they strike a lot of guys out, don’t walk very many people, and give up few HR.

What does this all mean? Well, if your favorite pitcher gets off to a terrible start, but he is striking out roughly the same number of guys per 9 innings that he has in the past, and he’s walking about the same number of guys he usually has, and he’s giving up HR at the same rate he usually has, but he’s allowing a BABIP of like .390, do not despair – he has gotten a little bit unlucky, probably, since the league is not going to have a .390 BA overall for the whole year. His BABIP will probably regress a little over time, and his ERA will “magically” go down. And then Kevin Kennedy will attribute the decrease in ERA to “getting his confidence back” or something, and you will smile knowingly.

For some reason, by the way, ESPN uses “BIPA” instead of “BABIP.”

In 2008, the MLB leader for BABIP was Dave Bush, at .231. The average BABIP is about .290, which is what Johnny Cueto put up last year. The worst in the league was Kevin Millwood, who had a BABIP of .346.

BA (Batting Average)
Hits divided by at-bats; also, perhaps the stat that makes Ken Tremendous' blood curdle the quickest. Okay, maybe that's wins. Batting average is the backbone of traditional hitting metrics, and amazingly, is still looked upon as a good way to determine whether someone is good at hitting baseballs. It is not a good way to determine this. Why? Well, you already know why. You know it intuitively, and you always have. Because a guy who hits .250 but clubs 40 HR and 40 doubles and walks 100 times a year is way way way more valuable to his team than a guy who hits .310 with 2 HR and 19 doubles and 15 walks. That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? I agree. So why should we keep talking about batting average, ever? We shouldn’t? Okay, we won’t. But Tim McCarver will, and that’s why he should be selling cookware door-to-door instead of talking to the country about baseball every Saturday.

In 2008, the MLB leader for BA was Chipper Jones, at .364 (Pujols was 2nd). The median BA for players eligible for the batting title was about .280 last year, or what Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson were able to produce. Jack Hannahan and Nick Swisher took the Doodoo Bat Awards, given to the players with the lowest batting averages (.218 and .219 respectively).

BA / OBP / SLG
Nothing more than a popular way of presenting a player’s 3 most oft-cited hitting averages. If you see three averages split up by forward slashes, chances are you’re looking at their Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage, in that order.

DERA (Defense-adjusted Earned Run Average)
A pitching metric that attempts to be a defense-independent – in other words, it uses things a pitcher can actually control, like his BB-rate and HR-rate and stuff that doesn’t involve defense, and tries to calculate what his ERA is absent the influence of defense. 4.50 is average.

EqA (Equivalent Average)
I'll just quote Baseball Prospectus here: "A measure of total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching." EqA incorporates baserunning but not defense. EqA is derived from something called Raw EqA, which is calculated by (turn away, Rob Dibbles of the world) the following formula:

(H + TB + 1.5*(BB + HBP + SB) + SH + SF) divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF + CS + SB)

And you thought things weren't going to get that nerdy around here. EqA is basically like what you used to think BA was – a true measure of how good a hitter is. EqA is purposely formulated to be on a similar scale to BA so it won't scare off the normal people. .260 is average – which, as a point of comparison, is what Kevin Kouzmanoff sported in 2008. The league leader for '08 was Albert Pujols, at .372. He played the entire year with arthritis in his elbow.

LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY)
A left-handed reliever usually called upon to retire just one batter, usually in a critical situation. See Neal Cotts (actually, don't, there's no entry for him here), who led all pitchers in 2008 with a LOOGY raw index of 137/133. (Yes, sorry, this is a fake stat).

OBP (On-Base Percentage)
1. Read Moneyball.
2. OBP is the difference between Kevin Youkilis and Jeff Francoeur.
3. It's also the reason Adam Dunn is vastly underrated.
4. Very simply, OBP is a way to tell how good someone is at not making outs. It’s the total number of times a guy gets on base without being responsible for making an out (except for reaching on errors), divided by his plate appearances -- which are simply times a guy comes up to the plate and tries not to make an out. See why it’s valuable? (Plate appearances in this case are defined as At Bats + Walks + Sacrifice Flies.)

In 2008, Chipper Jones led all players with a .470 OBP (Pujols was 2nd). Michael Bourn held down the cellar (for league lead qualifiers) with a tight .288. That’s really bad. The league median among eligible batters in ’08 was .349 (Miguel Cabrera; Akinori Iwamura; Jimmy Rollins; and Kelly Johnson). And for historically ridiculous reference, in 2004, Barry Bonds’ OBP was .604; in 2002, it was .581.

OPS (On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage)
It's not perfect. But on the plus side, it's not batting average. OPS gives you at least some idea of how patient and how powerful a hitter is. Unless, of course, you're a hidebound 263-year-old who enjoys ridiculing any advancement in human knowledge. In that case, OPS is your three-letter way to sneer at anyone who dares question the value of batting average, which was good enough for George Sisler and will be good enough for you, dammit.

Hard-core nerds will snivellingly tell you that OPS is stupid because OBP is way more important than SLG – Bill James himself, the king of all things stat-related in baseball, thinks that it is four times as important. Nonetheless, OPS has achieved some small toe-hold in popular parlance, so it’s important to know what it is and when to use it. If you really want to know how good a hitter is, however, EqA is way better. OPS is often cited with a “.” and sometimes without. Don’t be confused – if you see a number between like 700 and 1000, with or without a “.”, chances are it’s a player’s OPS.

Pujols was MLB’s 2008 OPS champ at 1.114; Michael Bourn posted the lowest OPS at .588. Jason Kubel wore the OPS Median crown at .805. The OPS Median Crown, by the way, is one of those Burger King crowns for young children.

OPS+
Anytime you see a “+” sign in front of a stat, it means that the stat has been adjusted for the specific season(s) to which that stat applies. OPS+, for example, is simply OPS measured against the league average OPS for that year/years, and adjusted for park factors (see below). 100 is defined as average. So, an OPS+ of 115 means that the player in question was 15% better than the average player who played in his league during the time he played. It’s a quick and dirty way of comparing hitters on a level playing field, because it accounts, obviously, for the general offensive trends that mark baseball history. In 1968, Carl Yastrzemski hit 23 HR and had a .922 OPS, which is very good. But his OPS+ was 171, which is excellent, because offense league-wide in 1968 was hard to come by. For contrast, Mark McGwire hit 65 HR in 1999, but his OPS+ was “only” 178, because the whole world was juicing balls into the stratosphere that year, so compared to his peers McGwire was roughly the same amount as awesome as Yaz was when he hit only 23 in ’68.

Albert was also the 2008 OPS+ champ at 190. Milton Bradley was your AL champ at 163. To give a little more cross generational perspective, your career OPS+ leaders are: (1) Babe Ruth (207); (2) Theodore Ballgame (190); (3) Barrold Bonds (182). Those guys were all really good at baseball.

ERA+
See OPS+. Same deal, but for ERAs.

Cliff Lee led eligible pitchers in MLB last year with a 175 ERA+. Timmy Lincecum took the NL title at 167. The all-time ERA+ champ, is, would you believe, Pedro Martinez at 166. (Think of all the ridiculously low ERA’s he posted in a hitter’s ballpark at a time when balls were flying out of the park.) [Note: since this was first written, Pedro's career ERA+ has dropped to 154...and Mariano Rivera is now the all-time ERA+ leader at 199. He met the requisite minimums to be considered a career leader, at least according to baseball-reference.com.]

Park-Adjusted or Park Factors
Baseball is a funny sport where human men play on fields that aren't all exactly the same. That's why it may not always be useful to compare raw statistics accrued in vastly different spaces. Say you have 16 HR and I have 1000 HR. I am a better hitter, right? Well, maybe not. Because you play for the Mariners in spacious SafeCo Field, and I play for the InterGlobal Moon Pirates, and we play in the MoonCo Moonadium, where there is no gravity, and so every ball hit into the air is a home run. You are probably a better hitter than me. Park-adjusted stats will help us figure that out.

It is important to look at things like Park Factors if you are a GM, because if you don’t you will trade for the entire Colorado Rockies offense and then they will come to your stadium and stink it up because their numbers were artificially inflated at Coors Field, and you’ll be like, “What the hell?!” and they’ll be like, “I don’t know, dude – we were awesome at Coors!” and you’ll be like “Ugh! I forgot to include Park Factors in my analysis!!!!!!!” And who wants that?

There are different ways to calculate Park Factors. According to ESPN, Rangers Ballpark was furthest on the Hitters’ Park end of the spectrum, while PETCO Park anchored the Pitchers’ Park side. Sounds about right to us. (Park Factors also vary from year to year more than you might think.)

Pythagorean Record (or “Expected Win-Loss”)
Remember the old Pythagorean Theorem? X squared plus Y squared = Z squared? Same idea, but instead of sides of a triangle, it uses runs scored and runs allowed. It turns out that this is a pretty good way to predict what a team’s record will be. The formula is RS^2/(RS^2+RA^2). If a team is 50-35 but has allowed the same number of runs that it has scored, you can bet that its wins have been a little flukey, and that it will cool off pretty soon. The Pythagorean did a bang-up job, for example, at predicting the precipitous decline of the 2005 Washington Nationals.

In 2008, the Chicago Cubs had the highest Expected Win-Loss of .619; the Mighty Nats were last at .376.

VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
An offensive stat only, VORP attempts to calculate the number of runs a player is contributing above what a replacement-level player at the same position would if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP is a counting stat, not a percentage stat – so, for example, as of July 22, Andruw Jones has a VORP of 31.0. That means that he has created 31 more runs for his team than the average AAA call-up guy would have by this point in the season. It also turns out that every ten runs a player creates is worth roughly one win, so Andruw’s offense alone has earned the Braves three wins. (There are other stats, like Fielding Runs Above Average [FRAA] that do the same thing as VORP, for defense.) See WARP below for more.

Old Baseball Men, this is another good one to bandy about if you're interested in tearing down a nerd's argument. Because it sounds funny. VORP. Please. What's that doing in baseball? Forget VORP, let's come up with a stat for the size of a guy's heart, am I right, people? We'll call it the Eckstein Quotient. No, wait, that sounds too nerdy. Eckstein Number. Nope. Still too smart. Eckstein Thing. How about just Thing? The highest Thing in the majors? You guessed it: David Eckstein. That's why they almost named it after him.

Once again, Albert Pujols was your VORP leader in 2008 at 98.7. Hanley, Chipper, Lance Berkman, and David Wright rounded out the top 5. Tony Pena was dead last at –24.9. Micah Owings (SP-Ari), by the way, had a VORP of 7.3 (as a hitter), which was better than, like, Kosuke Fukudome at 6.1.

WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player)
Sort of like VORP, but with a defensive component, as well. And it's calculated in terms of wins. It uses VORP and FRAA and all of those things to figure out how many wins a player is worth to his team, by himself, from all phases of his game. There are also WARP-2 and WARP-3, which adjust for various historical factors and stuff like that.

WHIP (Walks plus Hits allowed per Inning Pitched)
Pretty self-explanatory. Way way way way way better measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness – especially a relief pitcher’s effectiveness – than ERA or wins or anything that you’ve ever heard Steve Lyons talk about during FOX Saturday Baseball broadcasts.

Roy Halladay was best in 2005 (among eligibles, which basically means starters) with a WHIP of 1.05. Brandon Backe was last at 1.67. The median was 1.32, represented by the likes of Gil Meche, Paul Byrd, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Javier Vazquez. Sometimes you’ll see WHIP go into the thousandths, which in this case would have been helpful to avoid writing out four names of average-ish pitchers.

Wins
1. The only stat that matters. The only way to pick a Cy Young winner. The thing Billy Beane can't get in the playoffs, no matter how many fancy computers he hires to play baseball for him.
2. A simply awful pitching statistic that should be swallowed up by the earth itself, personified, given ears, and forced to listen to a tape loop of Bermanisms for all of eternity. The reason being – and again, you know this, intuitively, even if you have never quite expressed it to yourself – if Carl Pavano gives up nineteen runs in five innings but the Yankees score 20 runs, and they hold on to win, and Pavano gets the win, is Pavano a good pitcher? No he is not. (This scenario is assuming he ever comes back and actually pitches, btw.) If Francisco Liriano throws 9 innings of no-hit ball, but gives up a run on four consecutive errors by Terry Tiffey and gets a loss, is Francisco Liriano a bad pitcher? No he is not. Wins stink to high heaven as a way to value pitchers because they are in very large part dependent on the actions of the other guys on the team.

Of course, according to Joe Morgan, "Wins and losses are how you measure pitchers" (Baseball For Dummies, p. 289).

Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb led all pitchers with 22 Wins last year. Good for them. And, obviously, there were about 140 pitchers who tied for last with zero wins.

>>>>Some other terms you might find helpful:

True Yankee
A leader. A guy who’s full of intangible qualities that help him triumph – with class. Derek Jeter. A guy who has a certain look in his eye, like he knows what it means to don the pinstripes with some motherfletching pride. Bernie. Mantle. Joe D. Jeter. A guy who you want in the trenches with you. Mattingly. Joe Girardi. Derek. Jim Leyritz. Posada. Derek Jeter. A guy who stares adversity in the face and says, “I play for the Yankees, and that means something, and I am going to hit a HR off BK Kim in this World Series Game because I am a New York Yankee." Scott Brosius. Tino. Dave Justice. Derek Jeter. A winner. Derek Jeter.

Here are some people who are not True Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and every other New York Yankee who has never been on a Yankees’ World Series winning team.

If you ever – ever – hear someone use the phrase “True Yankee,” for any reason, I want you to find the nearest exit, form an orderly line, and leave the premises quickly and calmly. Seek shelter. Cover head. Report the incident to your nearest FJM representative immediately. You are in great danger, because the person you are talking to is an idiot.

HatGuy
HatGuy is Mike Celizic, who writes a column for MSNBC.com. He is a very bad man who wears an old-timey fedora in his official MSNBC.com staff picture and does not know anything about anything, least of all baseball.

JoeChat
Joe Morgan does live chats with his admirers every Tuesday on ESPN.com. You have to be an ESPN Insider to view/participate in these chats. If you do not wish to be an ESPN Insider, you can check in with FJM weekly for a breakdown of all of the indecipherably weird things Joe writes when responding to perfectly innocuous questions about the game he claims to have loved for many years, but in reality has clearly never actually seen played.

Do not go to joechat.com unless you are a gay man looking for other gay men.

David Eckstein
David Eckstein is 4'10" and appears to suffer from borderline albinism. Despite this, he is a mediocre MLB shortstop. After he throws the ball to first base, it looks like he needs to lie down from exhaustion. He also runs hard to first base, as most baseball players do.

Baseball analysts have interpreted this data to be somehow indicative of something more powerful than mere "tangible" baseball skills, perhaps residing somewhere deep in the (non-human?) DNA of David Eckstein.

In fact, a new wave of baseball genetic experts believes that there may be a mutant patch of genetic code on chromosome 11 in some major league ballplayers. In most cases, this causes True Yankeeism. Eckstein, they claim, was born with a mutation of a mutation; the resulting phenotype features not only acute and heightened True Yankeeism, but stunted growth and fair skin and hair.

Sabermetrics
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is like the sort of father organization for all of the stat-based stuff we use, and thousands of other forward-thinking people use, when we talk about the statistical side of baseball. Sabermetrics is a neologism that refers broadly to their/our brand of statistical analysis.

Moneyball
Moneyball is a very good book by Michael Lewis, which chronicles the ways in which Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane tries to keep his team competitive with a small payroll. The clunky and incorrect understanding of the Moneyball philosophy is that it simply involves getting players to walk a lot and hit home runs. In reality, what Moneyball deals with is the search for inefficiencies in the complex world of evaluating baseball players. At the time the book was written, Billy Beane and his crew had determined that there were players who weren’t fast runners, maybe, or were fat, or short, or otherwise had some kind of superficial thing “wrong” with them that made other GMs dismiss them as not good baseball players. But these players were actually good at baseball, and because other people had undervalued their skills (skills like walking a lot, for example) Beane was able to draft them or trade for them and not pay them a lot of money, because no one else wanted them.

These days, enough people have caught on to the idea that on-base percentage is important that such players are not undervalued anymore, and so GMs like Beane, who have to put a team together with a $50 million payroll instead of, say, the Yankees’ $200 million payroll, are looking elsewhere for value.

The book rubbed a lot of traditionalists the wrong way, because it takes the obvious and yet somehow controversial position that the massive amount of observable data we can collect from a baseball player’s performance is more important than that player’s like physical strength or speed in the 40 yard dash. Beane, and others like him, believe that it doesn’t matter if a guy looks like he should be awesome at baseball – it matters if he is actually good at baseball. It doesn’t matter if some crusty old scouts who have been in baseball for seventy years look at a guy and say, “He’s fast, he’s got a cannon for an arm, he’s got a strong jaw line – dadgummit, that thar boy’s gonna be a star!” It does matter if the guy walks a lot and can hit well or is an awesome fielder or something. Seem obvious? Try telling fans of Darin Erstad. They will tell you that he is awesome because he is intense and used to play football at Nebraska. You will blink, confused, and say, “But he can’t hit well,” and they will say, “HE WAS A PUNTER AT NEBRASKA! HE IS INTENSE AND A LEADER!” and you will slink away because they are spitting on you.

Moneyball is also famous because Joe Morgan rails against it constantly, even today, and on numerous occasions has pronounced it hogwash, despite freely admitting that he has never read it, and also for a long time believing that the book was actually written by Beane himself. When his error was pointed out to him, Morgan apologized profusely, admitted his mistake, rethought his stance, read the book and has now completely changed the way he thinks about statistical analysis. Oh, no – wait. I’m sorry. He didn’t do anything of the kind. He just dug in his heels and continued to claim that the book was hogwash.

Darin Erstad
A former punter at the University of Nebraska who had one good year for the Angels, signed a huge contract, and stinks at baseball, despite the strident arguments of hundreds of sportswriters who continue to talk about how important he is to the Angels and how he’s intense and a leader and the Angels would be nowhere without him. Trust us: he stinks at baseball.

Gallimaufry
A hodgepodge of brief reader e-mails cobbled together when the blogger is feeling too lazy, tired, or preoccupied with Turner Classic Movies to write a proper post. It's a true fact: "gallimaufry" was a word received by one of Junior's competitors in his sixth grade county spelling bee. The dude totally missed it.

“Not Hot-Dogging”
Something that ESPN Baseball Tonight commentator and 11-time Philadelphia Metro-Area Pie Eating Champion John Kruk once said should be a criterion for Baseball Hall of Fame Induction. I swear to God.

Fremulon Insurance
Fremulon Insurance is the employer of one Ken Tremendous. They currently hold offices in Partridge, KS; Los Angeles, CA; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Tim McCarver
The Fox Network’s #1 color commentator. And, without question, the worst color commentator in the history of the world, in any sport. By my estimation, Tim McCarver has said 94 of the 100 dumbest things anyone has ever said about baseball, and worse, he tries constantly to be poetic and witty in his speech, a skill I assure you he does not possess, so what you end up getting is a lot of weird puns and aphorisms spewing forth in a lackadaisical Southern drawl. His broadcasts remind me of a bad wedding toast given by a drunk family friend who’s a high school English teacher.

"Clogging up the basepaths."
In a now infamous episode of Baseball Tonight, Harold Reynolds and John Kruk accused players like Frank Thomas of taking too many walks when they should be driving in runs. In their words, "clogging up the basepaths.” We shit you not.

Many Cubs fans have written us to point out that the phrase might more accurately have been coined by Dusty Baker, and there seems to be ample evidence to support their claim. Regardless, it belongs in the Pantheon of Dumb.

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