FIRE JOE MORGAN: 08.06

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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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

 

We Need the Bad Starting Pitcher Named Zambrano. Why Don't We Just Trade 'Em That Centerfielder, What's His Name? Kazmir?

Steve Phillips on Baseball Tonight:

The Red Sox are closing in on a deal with the Padres with third baseman George Kottaras coming back (for David Wells).


George Kottaras
(a man with his own Wikipedia page!) has played all but three games at catcher this year. The other three were at DH.

EDIT: Trading Kazmir for Zambrano was not a Phillips move, of course. That was Jim Duquette. But would it have surprised you to see Phillips do something like that?

Of course, this is coming from a man who supports a team whose front office traded Mike Gonzalez and Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan.

BETTER EDIT: This is extremely confusing. Let's just forget I wrote that headline. The new title post should read: "Minor Factual Error on Baseball Tonight Noticed, Then Needlessly Blogged About."

WILL THIS BE THE FINAL EDIT? EDIT: Reader Ryan correctly takes me to task:

The Red Sox didn’t trade Mike Gonzalez and Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan. Mike Gonzalez was originally part of the Scott Sauerbeck deal, but when Pittsburgh discovered an injury to Brandon Lyon (one of two players they were getting back in the deal, along with Anastacio Martinez,) they accused the Red Sox of foul play, and so Boston, as a show of good faith, took Brandon Lyon (and Anastacio Martinez) back and returned Mike Gonzalez. When all was said and done it was essentially a Sanchez-for-Suppan-and-Sauerbeck deal. Still not a good deal, but not as terrible as people would have you believe.

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posted by Junior  # 11:07 PM
Comments:
When Sauerbeck was traded he did an interview with the Boston media and referred to himself cockily as a "curveball-flipping freak." I remember reading that and thinking, "This is not going to go well."

Today, I am happy to say I was wrong. Congratulations, Scotty Sauerbeck, on your induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame!
 
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Give Me a C! Give Me an H! Give Me an A! Give Me a T!

Chat! Chat! Chat!

Mike: (York, Pa): Hey joe, how did you enjoy the Little League World Series? I know I enjoyed listening to you. Have fun.

Joe Morgan: I thought it was great.


Ken Tremendous: Cool.

It was a fun event.

KT: Good. Glad you had fun.

It was the first time that I had ever been there.

KT: Huh.

The excitement and pagentry was great.

KT: So, you liked it.

I thought it was great.

KT: Right.

I hated to see one team lose...

KT: I'm bored.

... but it was great for them to get there.

KT: I am asleep.

Nick Chicago: So is Jermaine Dye finally the top canidate for AL MVP? .326-39-106 are all in the top 5 and with Big Papi out indefinitely the only competition I see is Jeter who is only leading in batting avg by 11 points. What are your thoughts?

Joe Morgan: When I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago, I said Derek Jeter was 1 and Big Papi was 1A and Dye was the other candidate. The other two guys are in heightened situations, but I think Dye is the most consistent producer from Day 1. Remember for a while, Big Papi was only hitting .250-.260. But Dye has been consistent, but he was overshadowed by Thome for a while.


KT: Your AL leaders in VORP, up to the minute:

Hafner 76.7
Manny 62.6
Jeter 61.4
Ortiz 60.9
Dye 59.5

Joe is actually pretty right on with his assessment here. However, he is only right because the Indians stink, and thus Indians are probably not really in the MVP discussion right now. Hafner is the best hitter in baseball, and I seriously doubt that his 15-run lead over Jeter in VORP is made up for by Jeter's mediocre defense. If there were any justice, Hafner gets it, and Jeter's second.

And before you write in and yell at me and call me a Jeter hater -- which I am on a personal level, but which does not impair my ability to evaluate him statistically, btw -- look at some of these stats and try to tell me Jeter is better than Hafner. I dare you. (Be sure to look at MLV. And if you're old-timey, check out SLG as well.)

Clay : (Savannah, GA): Joe, do you remember a season where 3 players had 30+ game hit streaks?

KT: Fifty bucks says Pete Rose gets a mention here.

Joe Morgan: No, I don't remember any time like that. I was on the time when Pete Rose had his 44-game streak and it was fabulous.

KT: You all owe me $50.

kevin cali: Who is the best man to call a baseball game, if you had to pick one? (It's a shame that baseball fan ouside of LA cannot listen to Vin S. everyday, he is the best.)

Joe Morgan: Well, I don't think you're alone. I think a lot of people think Vin's the best, maybe ever. He used to do national broadcasts on TV. But I think he's better on radio than on TV.


KT: Somewhere, Jon Miller is crying.

David (Chicago): Joe, How good do you think Josh Barfield can be? He has surpassed most expectations this year.

Joe Morgan: I haven't seen him play much. We've only done one Padre game. We're going to do one next week in San Francisco. But I've noticed that he has nice reactions and he looked like a good player. I agree, he has surpassed the expectations. I talked to him and he has a good attitude.


KT: Add the Padres to the list of, I'd say, 25 MLB teams that professional baseball-watcher Joe Morgan has not seen play enough to comment on their players. Unless you play for the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Mets, or White Sox, Joe will plead ignorance when asked about your rosters. To wit:

Brent (Bakersfield, CA): Do you think Barry Bonds can stay hot for the rest of the season if hegets an off day here and there? Will the Giants pitching hold up to make a run at the Wild Card?

Joe Morgan: Well, I live in the Bay area, so I get to see a lot and read a lot on the Giants.


KT: I live in the Bay Area, so I get to see a lot and read a lot on the Giants. I finally understand this problem. Joe, despite being a nationally-televised broadcaster, does not realize that we are living in an era where people in any part of the country -- nay, verily, the world! -- can access information about events that occur in other parts of the country or world. Someone needs to alert Joe immediately that he can learn about the Padres without physically being in San Diego, California.

Dan (NYC): Hey Joe, Late last night Hideki Matsui was cleared for BP. If he is able to come back by October, how do you see him fitting into the Yankees lineup? And how much scarier does this make the Yankee offense, considering many of the contenders pitching lack playoff experience?

KT: See if you can follow the möbius strip of knowledge that Joe drops here:

Joe Morgan: First and foremost a guy that sits out that long won't come back and make the same impact. He won't be the same Matsui that we saw last year at this time. We'll have to see what kind of production he can give them. I think right now, they're doing a good job with the players they have. Damon, Abreu are going to play every day. You're not going to get much better with Matsui, you will with Sheffield. I say that because Sheffield can dominate a game and carry you for days at a time.

KT: (1) A guy that sits out for a long time can't come back and dominate. (2) Matsui is one of those guys. (3) Plus, they have reserve outfielders who are doing a good job. (4) And yet, Gary Sheffield -- also injured for a long time, also an outfielder -- will make the team better, because (5) he can dominate.

mitch (mo val, ca): pedro or koufax in their primes?

Joe Morgan: That's a tough question, because you're looking at different eras.


KT: Yes, true. But, we have stats like ERA+ that adjust for those eras. Now, I'm not saying that these stats are perfect, but they give you some indication about who was better relative to the league and era in which he played. And at least by that measure, Pedro is better. Let's take each guy's two best years (arguably, in Koufax's case...)

Pedro:
1999: 245 ERA+, .923 WHIP, 313 K's in 213 IP
2000: 285 ERA+, .737 WHIP, 284 K's in 217 IP

Koufax:
1965: 160 ERA+, .855 WHIP, 382K's in 335 IP
1966: 190 ERA+, .985 WHIP, 317 K's in 323 IP

Now, Koufax did have a better WHIP year -- 1963, when he sliced through the NL at .875. And obviously he threw more innings, but Pedro's K/IP ratio is a lot better. If you go by all-time adjusted PRAA, Koufax's two best years are 64 (1966) and 59 (that amazing 1963 year), and Pedro's are 62 and 56. Gosh, it's darn close. But I would say that Pedro's 2000, with a ridiculous 285 ERA+ and .737 WHIP, is possibly the single best season relative to his league that anyone has ever had. Overall, it is almost a dead heat, all things considered. Let's see what kind of statistical analysis Joe comes up with to compare the two...

Koufax had charisma and power and people liked that. Pedro had some charisma too. I'd probably go with Koufax, but it's a very tough decision, because I like to see them both pitch.

KT: Huh. Okay. I didn't think to run their numbers through the Charisma-Power Index. Or the Liked-By-People Metric. Let me do that fictional and stupid thing, and let's see what we get:

Pedro (career): 288.7761489 glorpulons; VV6*3 Likeability Factor (33[13] power rake J-bones 7)
Koufax (career): 288.7761489 glorpulons; VV6*3 Likeability Factor (33[13] power rake J-bones 7)

A dead heat!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable!!!!!!!!

Sean (Attleboro, Mass.): As a fmr. player, how do you feel about Carl Pavano holding back telling the Yankess about the injury sustained in his car accident?

Joe Morgan: My take is that he was wrong for not telling them. But I understand why he did it, because he was already injured and he didn't want to add more fuel to the fact that he hasn't been able to perform in New York. He was still wrong, you have to stand up and tell them and he didn't do that.


KT: Ladies and gentlemen, the world's only Carl Pavano Apologist.

Mike (Lansdale,PA): I think the Little League World Series is great for the kids, but they need to get the camera's and the mic's out of the kids faces and the dugouts! What do you think?

Joe Morgan: I'll say that I agree with you. I don't want to get any deeper than that, because I work for the people that put the cameras and microphones there.


KT: Ladies and gentlemen, the World's Greatest Company Man!

Chris (St Louis): What should the Cardinals do with Mulder?

Joe Morgan: That's a very good question and it's also a very difficult question for me, because I'm not there to see how he's throwing and his mental state.


KT: Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick, will someone please get Joe a St. Louis newspaper so he can evaluate these players?! How do you expect him to talk about the St. Louis Cardinals?! He's in Pennsylvania for God's sake! What, is he supposed to like, get a pair of super binoculars so he can see all the way to St. Louis?! You are asking too much of this poor man!!!!

But I do know this that Tony La Russa will make the right decision.

KT: Oh. Never mind. It won't matter. He's an idiot.

Dave (Florida): Todays pitchers are supposed to be stronger than pitchers 25-30 years ago, but in your day they threw 20-25 complete games a year. Now a days pitchers cant even get into double digits, why did that change?

Joe Morgan: Well, it changed because we started babying pitchers. By that I mean that we didn't force them to finish what they started. Things are more specialized. Gibson, Koufax went out there to win. Now I see headlines where a guy goes five and gets the win.


KT: You see headlines? You have never seen this happen in person? I used to joke about this, but I seriously doubt if Joe watches a single baseball game other than the ones he broadcasts.

Mike (Milwaukee): Joe, As a hall of fame 2nd baseman I was wondering your thoughts on Rickie Weeks and his future in the League?

Joe Morgan: I haven't had much of a chance to check him out, but I have heard some good things.


KT: He has HEARD SOME GOOD THINGS about Rickie Weeks. This is getting serious. He has definitely never watched a baseball game other than the ones he has broadcast. Is anyone else reading this?!

But I like to see a player myself before I say what he's going to do.

KT: Don't yell at the chatters for asking you your opinions on players, you dolt. You are supposed to know things about players. Don't you dare get snippy and say that you like to see people before you give an opinion. WE HAVE ALL SEEN THE PLAYERS. WE WATCH BASEBALL GAMES. YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING BASEBALL GAMES TOO, BECAUSE YOU ARE A BASEBALL ANNOUNCER.

Justin FJM (Denville, NJ): Hi Joe - What do you think is the most important aspect of being a leadoff hitter? Steals? On-base percentage? Something else?

KT: A special shout-out to loyal reader Justin, who managed to work FJM into the text of a JoeChat. Nicely done. Let me just add a word of caution here, though -- and this is not directed at Justin, per se -- that we do not want to get into a situation where loyal FJM readers start like disrupting the chats or anything with "Stern Rules"-style interruptions. It will only be fun for us to keep reading and dissecting these things if they are allowed to run unabated. Asking questions is fine -- as I did a while back, perhaps recklessly -- and little hidden shout-outs are much appreciated. But let's not go all crazy now that Justin has broken the ice. Deal? Awesome. Now, to the answer:

Joe Morgan: I think the most important thing is having a leadoff hitters mentality.

KT: Or OBP.

By that, I mean is at the start of the game, taking some pitches so your teammates can see how the guy is throwing. You need that mentality.

KT: I'd call that a "skill," but okay.

Rickey Henderson was perfect for that. The second part is making things happen from that position. Rickey made things happen when he was on base, Reyes does too. Then, it's getting on base.

So, in order of importance, it goes: (1) Having a mentality. (2) Doing things when you're on base. (3) Getting on base. Who else besides ol' Kenny T. sees a problem with the order of (2) and (3)?

Joe Morgan: I enjoyed the questions this week and I look forward to talking to you next Tuesday.

KT: Stern Rules!!!!!!!!

Labels: ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 6:08 PM
Comments:
One of our annoyingly astute readers, Adam, wrote in with this annoyingly correct comment:

"Hafner is the best hitter in baseball, and I seriously doubt that his 15-run lead over Jeter in VORP is made up for by Jeter's mediocre defense. If there were any justice, Hafner gets it, and Jeter's second."

You are incorrect here. Players who play in the field are usually judged by their defense above the average -- BP calls this fielding runs above average. But if you don't play defense, you don't even get to accumulate ANY defensive runs. That is, you're not an "average" defender because you don't play; you're below replacement level because you don't play. Hafner has -1 fielding runs above replacement, while Jeter doesn't really have to be particularly good to gain those 15 runs back -- he could play a below-average defense, but he's still accumulating defense above replacement level (since replacement level is horrible defense). In this instance, Jeter is actually good defensively -- 25 runs above replacement so far this year. That gives him a 26-run advantage in defense over Hafner, more than enough to make up for the hitting.


He is absolutely right. I don't know exactly what happened, but I believe that when I checked BP's DT Card for Jeter, I saw his FRAA of 1 and thought I was looking at FRAR -- not crazy, since he had a FRAR of zero in 119 games in 2003. (The site has adjusted Jeter's totals after yesterday -- his FRAA is now -1, adjusted for all-time. Which reminds me -- how flukey is that 17 he put up last year? What the hell is that? It makes me very suspicious of the whole metric, that he can be solidly negative his entire career and then one year suddenly add a win and a half through defense?! My guess is, it was Wang's power sinker forcing easy grounder after easy grounder to be tapped right to him. But I digress.)

Anyway, Adam is totally right, although Hafner is at 10.0 WARP3 and Jeter at 10.1, so even with a slightly negative defensive component, Hafner is almost exactly as valuable as Jeter. By the end of the year, I expect Hafner to pass him.

Some people wrote in to add Carlos Guillen's name into the mix, though Jeter is way ahead in WARP3, 10.1 to like 7.3 or something. Jeter also has a higher EqA, .315 to .307. Jeter's better. And you know how much it pains me to say that. Although, I would like to amend my comment about Hafner getting it "if there were any justice," and say that the catcher in Minnesota, with the .927 OPS and 9.4 WARP3 and .321 EqA is a better choice than Jeter. I was riled up about Joe and laid my eggs in the Hafner backet, partly because he is fast becoming one of the truly great hitters of all time, and no one is paying attention. But for MVP, assuming the Twinkies make the playoffs, I would go Mauer 1 and Jeter 1A.
 
Also:

Got a bunch of very thoughtful comments about the Pedro-Koufax section, including this one from Matthew, which has a good (I believe) discussion of what exactly IP means in the comparison:

I think Koufax is better, although not by much. If someone says it's a dead heat, I don't really have a problem with that. But anyway...

Koufax threw 320+ innings in his last 2 seasons. Other pitchers threw a lot more then, too, but only 3 threw more than 300 innings in those 2 years.

The ERA+ argument with Pedro is not really helpful, either.

The problem is that you can say that Pedro did a 250 ERA+ or whatever in 210 innings, but Koufax did that, too. Plus he did another 110 innings of 110 ERA+, which adds extra value.

Pedro's best ERA+ was 285 in 217 innings.

Sandy Koufax's best ERA+ was 190 (in 323 innings).

Now a 285 ERA+ in 1966 context would equate to a 1.15 ERA.

And Koufax did exactly that, for 217 innings! For the other 106 innings he pitched that year, he was merely above average -- 2.89 ERA (league ERA, 3.28).

It may seem like a too quick-and-dirty way of analysis, but Koufax was as valuable as Pedro in 1999-200 PLUS 100 innings of a good reliever or an Andy Pettitte-level pitcher.

Another way to think of it is this:
Would it be better for Pedro to miss the first two months of the season because he is not 100 percent and you KNOW he'd have a 285 ERA+ for 217 innings that year, or would it be better to have him pitch at less than 100 percent, but still effectively (113 ERA+) for two months, and THEN have exactly the same last four months (285 ERA+ for 217 innings)?

Plus, there are twice as many sh*tty pitchers making a living in the 1990s/2000s, thereby widening the gap between best and worse, separating the good pitchers even more from the floor.

Do you really think it would be more likely that Koufax could put up mind-bending ratios-in-comparison to the league, when the league comprises 50 pitchers like Julian Tavarez accumulating 20 percent of the innings, while squeezing by at 200 innings a year; or that Pedro could stretch out and dominate a league where he'd have to face Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson 10 times a year and pitch 25 complete games?

But back to the ERA+ argument -- I don't think you can just look at ERA+ and say, ok, Pedro's is higher, he's better (which, by the way, I am NOT accusing you of doing). And this is because it's different that OPS+ in that there is a floor ( i.e., 0.00 era) which is physiologically impossible to attain. And so when Pedro has a "better" ERA+ than Koufax, it's not necessarily because he's better. Because of the floor, the lower your era, the harder it is to increase your ERA+.

Expounding, it's important to note that the ERA floor, while theoretically 0.00, just can't be expected to be zero. Guys play poor defense that isn't charged an error. Vlad takes a ball about to hit the ground and slams a solo shot. Etc. and so on. Bob Gibson's 1.12 doesn't match Pedro's best seasons (as far as ERA+). How much lower could Gibson really be expected to go? I'm sure with a good break or two, maybe it's .99 or something, but he was already rubbing against the floor.

That's the problem.

To me, I guess it comes down to the fact that Koufax could give you a Pedro-like performance for 2/3 of his season and then a pretty darn good performance for an extra 100 innings. The postseason favors Koufax as well. The arguments for Pedro, however, are that he pitched in tougher ballparks, off a lower mound, and faced the DH for most of his career (and certainly in his prime). So yeah, calling it a dead heat is fine, but I put a lot of value in IP, so I give the edge to Koufax.

 
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Joe Morgan, Paraphrased

I was delighted to happen upon a chat between Messrs. Dan Patrick and Joe Morgan this morning on the radio. Here now, a series of Joe Morgan Paraphrased Points I listened to this August 30th morn.

JMPP #1: Derek Jeter is statistically inferior to Alex Rodriguez, but by standing on the field, he inspires confidence in his teammates.

Joe is something of an A-Rod apologist, but even he can't help but recognize the majestic aura surrounding the Captain. Funny thing is, this year may be the first that Jeter is actually statistically more valuable than his teammate. Joe began by admitting that others accuse him of "not valuing the home run" as much as he should, but that Jeter does, yes, "all the little things" that help a team win. And A-Rod, by implication, does not. Then, the coup de grace: simply by standing on the field, Jeter wills his teammates to have confidence. No wonder Chien-Ming Wang is pitching above and beyond his expectations! In contrast, when A-Rod stands on the field, his Negative Energy Rays sap his teammates' strength, leaving them pathetically Bruce Bannerish in the face of adversity. Sorry, Randy Johnson!

JMPP #2: Joe is asked why, when Barry Bonds hit two home runs and robbed the Braves of another in the field, he was not celebrated enough. Joe somewhat peevishly replies that "for some reason, we've pushed Barry aside."

Okay, so that wasn't really a paraphrase. I'm ninety percent sure those were his exact words. Certainly I didn't misremember the "for some reason" part. The reason is steroids, Joe. Barry took steroids. I know you didn't personally see Barry inject himself, so you can't comment. But it's true. Then Joe went on to lament that at the Little League World Series, not one kid picked Barry as his favorite player. It just goes to show you: eleven-year-olds are smarter than Joe Morgan. (Barry Bonds is one of my favorite players.)

JMPP #3: Dan wonders aloud whether Joe Girardi should be the NL Manager of the Year. Joe's pick is Willie Randolph. Why? Because not only is his team in first place, he manages in New York, and we all know that people who manage in New York, for instance one Joe Torre, never get the credit they deserve.

He actually said this. Believe me. Never mind that Joe Torre is widely heralded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, manager in the game today. Never mind that he's twice won the Manager of the Year award. Never mind that HatGuy always sculpts his ice cream sundaes into the shape of Joe Torre's face before devouring them. Joe Torre. Doesn't get enough credit. Because he manages in New York.

There's more. Joe Morgan discounts what Joe Girardi has done because all his team has done is win a few games in an era where -- you guessed it -- there aren't any great teams anymore. And as if it wasn't obvious enough why Joe is picking Randolph (and Leyland in the AL), he lays it all out for us: Joe is still angry that his manager with the Reds, Sparky Anderson, didn't get enough credit because people were always saying he had the best talent.

To be honest, I don't really care about the Manager of the Year award. Let's just go with Joe's method: always choose the manager of the team with the best record. Why not?

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posted by Junior  # 1:53 PM
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Barely A Post

Why is it that QB Rating has become accepted as a mainstream statistic, while similarly complicated metrics like EqA have almost no place in parlance even among baseball fans and journalists?

Look at the formula for QB Rating. It's a fucking nightmare. Yet NFL fans -- NFL fans! -- are smart enough to realize that regardless of how hard it is to compute, it gives us a basic overall understanding of how good a quarterback is. It may not be perfect, but it's better than just looking at a QB's, say, completion percentage.

Sure. EqA is also tough to compute (though I would argue actually easier than QB rating). But it's a very useful statistic. So why can't baseball fans latch onto it a similar way?

Say it with me: "Oh, okay. It's a weird equation, but at least now I have a pretty good sense of how good this particular position player is at hitting. .260 is average, .300 is really good, and .350 is like top of the league shit. This is like QB rating only better because it's about baseball and baseball is better because it's untimed and beautiful and doesn't feature guys hitting each other super hard and people like John Updike write about it more and stuff!"

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posted by dak  # 1:06 AM
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

FJM Gets Results

Someone at MSNBC.com is keeping tabs on us. For six whole days, the Mike Celizic article that I just wrote about sat untouched, obvious factual and grammatical errors be damned.

Four and a half hours ago, I pointed some of the aforementioned errors out.

Two and a half hours ago, a few of them were fixed.

Can you imagine the possibilities if Joe Morgan read this site and forced ESPN to rerecord his audio for Sunday Night Baseball and air it again the following night, error- and banal Morganism-free?

Labels: ,


posted by Junior  # 12:33 AM
Comments:
I saw the post title, and thought for a brief second that the BBWAA had agreed to use a combination of VORP, EqA and RC27 to determine the MVPs of each league.

Oh well. A boy can dream.
 
They've got to account for defense a little bit, don't they?

Your current AL MVP based on VORP: Travis Hafner. Your current NL MVP based on VORP: Albert Pujols.

And your MVPs based on EqA ... Hafner and Pujols.
 
You guys want to hear something amazing? That has nothing to do with this post?

Right now, on August 29, the 61-68 Atlanta Braves have a 3.16% chance of making the playoffs.

The 71-60 Boston Red Sox have a 2.93% chance of making the playoffs.

Also, the 62-69 Milwaukee Brewers have a 2.56% chance of making the playoffs. The Brew Crew are almost as likely to play in October as Boston.

Read all about it, in its PECOTA-adjusted glory, here.
 
I feel like we're kind of insulting our readers by pretending that the BP adjusted playoff odds report isn't the first thing they read every morning.
 
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Monday, August 28, 2006

 

HatGuy: One HatWeek HatLater, Still HatBad

This article is a week old, but I just read it today for the first time. As we've come to expect from HatGuy, it's wrong about almost everything.

Here's the title and subtitle. Yes, this is important.

119 losses? Detroit revival looks like 100 wins
After disastrous ’04, Pudge, Leyland ride Tigers' turnaround


Okay, first of all, Detroit had 119 losses in 2003. You could argue that 2004 was perhaps "disastrous," since they did lose 90 games that year, but in that case, it would certainly be no more disastrous than 2005, when they lost 91. We can agree, then, that he means "After disastrous '03." Or can we?

Also, this is quibbly, but "Pudge, Leyland ride Tigers' turnaround" makes it sound like Pudge and Leyland are riding the coattails of the other Tigers, or at the very least, that they're less responsible than certain other Tigers. This may in fact be accurate, but we'll soon see that this HatGuy thinks otherwise. "Pudge, Leyland drive Tigers' turnaround" is what he might have meant. Or not.

If the Detroit Tigers play just a little more than .500 the rest of the season, they’ll finish with 100 wins, or just 19 fewer than the number of games they lost two years ago.

Hold on. It was 2003. We've already talked about that. That was three years ago. Three, not two. This is your first sentence. Could you maybe have glanced at this page before you wrote your first sentence?

If they were playing in New York, they’d be the Miracle Tigers, and the two people most responsible for their success, team leader and veteran catcher Pudge Rodriguez and manager Jim Leyland would be posing for sculptors looking to cast them in bronze.

This from a HatMan who himself can't stop HatWriting about the Yankees. We've catalogued in this space how often this very man obsesses over Torre, Rivera, Jeter and the gang -- it's pretty much every other article at this point. And now he's going to call out the media in general for being too New York-centric?

Worse: these two men are not the two men most responsible for the Tigers' success. They just aren't.

What’s amazing is that 11 players on the team — nearly half the roster — was around for that 119-loss season in 2003.

So you admit it. It was 2003. Will you go back and change the mistakes you made earlier in the article? No? How about just the one in the subhead? How about we give you one whole week's head start? You can go back and change it anytime. This is the Internet. No one will know. Just do it.

No, you're good? Great.

That’s where Rodriguez comes in. He joined the Tigers fresh from a world championship with the Marlins in 2003. Although he doesn’t hit home runs as he did when he was younger — and, perhaps coincidentally, since baseball started seriously testing for steroids — he’s a solid, .300 hitter head for the Hall of Fame.

He's a .300 hitter head. This is a beautiful turn of phrase. He's so good, his head hits .300. In the AL, no less. Cooperstown-bound, for sure. I'm making fun of a typo, and that's dumb, but keep in mind he's already made a factual error that he himself corrected later in the article.

No one has yet come up with a formula to quantify how many wins a great catcher adds to a pitching staff.

I don't know. One? Keep in mind, in 2004, with Pudge at catcher, the Tigers' top five starters "won" (recorded a W in) 48 games. The next year, in 2005, with Pudge still the catcher, the top five again won 48. This year -- same dude is catching -- 58. The data is less than compelling.

This reminds me of that Sporting News issue last year where they claimed Brad Ausmus was the best pitch-caller or something because his "Catcher ERA" was the lowest. No matter that the men throwing the bulk of the pitches to him were Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte.

Certainly, in 2004, Rodriguez didn’t make much difference to a team that couldn’t buy a victory.


Right. Exactly. Now you're talking sense.

But no one doubts that a great catcher makes a difference — maybe an enormous one.

I do. I think maybe it's a non-enormous one, if there's a difference at all. The burden of proof is on you, people who believe a catcher can account for a large decrease in team ERA.

With managers, it’s also a subjective affair.

Because they don't do that much. Be honest with yourself, HatGuy. What is a manager worth in baseball? We've already established that batting order -- almost any batting order -- is virtually meaningless. What else is left?

But there’s no doubt that Leyland, who honed his skills with some very good Pirates teams back when Barry Bonds was a pup and teaming up with Bobby Bonilla.

There's no doubt that what? This is not a sentence.

Give Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski a big dollop of credit first for being able to see the promise in the train wreck of a team the Tigers were two years ago.

Three years ago.

This I agree with. Except for the use of the phrase "big dollop of credit." Wait a minute. I just thought of something. Remember that comment on a Ken Tremendous HatGuy post, oh, I think it was July 8th? Here it is again. Reader Zac wrote:

June 28, 2006, Mike Celizic writes "Sox Fans must boo Pedro heartily," and makes a choppy, hot fudge sundae/whipped cream joke:

"If anything else happens — the fans cheering wildly or the commentators congratulating them for booing boisterously or no one taking notice of the occasion at all...[I'd] be as disappointed as I’d be if I set out to construct a hot fudge sundae and discovered I was out of whipped cream."

July 7, 2006, Mike Celizic writes "Not Time for Yankees to Panic" and makes eerily similar whipped cream reference:

"It’s hard to make panic seem banal, but that’s what the Yankees have accomplished over the years... [blahblah] ...Panic should be saved for special occasions. For the Yankees, a day without panic is like a hot fudge sundae without whipped cream."


Two whipped cream jokes. And now a dollop ... non-joke. Or whatever it is. We're delving deeper into the psyche of HatGuy. And at its creamy center -- past the ornery, cantakerous crust, past the lava-y Yankee mantle, we find ... dessert.

It's all so clear now. This guy just thinks about dessert all day. That's all he wants. That's why he writes articles about baseball, a thing he doesn't care about at all. To get money. Money he can use to buy desserts. Delicious, whipped creamy dollops of desserts.

Other than Rodriguez, Dombrowski hasn’t gone after big-ticket stars, instead taking guys like Magglio Ordonez, a good hitter, but one who is in no danger of hitting even 30 home runs.

When he signed with the Tigers, Magglio Ordonez was a big-ticket star coming off of one injury-plagued year. He was almost the definition of a big-ticket star. Here were his home run totals for the five years preceding his signing: 29, 38, 31, 32, 30. He was so much of a big-ticket star he inked a contract worth $75 million over five years, with options to make it up to $105 million over seven. He's only "in no danger of hitting even 30 home runs" because he's wicked banged up now, something they certainly didn't bargain for or want when they got him for that kind of money.

You can question just how great a manager Joe Torre is with the Yankees. After all, he’s got a $194 million roster loaded with All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers. He’s supposed to win.

But you can’t question Leyland’s greatness.


Just you watch me. This is purely rhetorical, but here goes:

Jim Leyland happened to take over the Detroit Tigers in a year when their developing starting pitchers hit their stride. Jeremy Bonderman had already been coming along nicely. He has a very neat progression of the following ERAs: 5.56, 4.89, 4.57, 3.92 (this year). How much of that 3.92 do you want to attribute to Leyland? I say almost zero percent. Justin Verlander, not on the major league team last year, came in and immediately became one of the most valuable pitchers in the bigs. How much of his 3.42 ERA do you attribute to Leyland? I say not much. Nate Robertson has been improving just like Bonderman has. ERAs the last three years: 4.90, 4.48, 4.10 (this year). Leyland? I say no.

And how about that bullpen? Jamie Walker 1.49, Joel Zumaya 2.03, Wilfredo Ledezma 2.08, Fernando Rodney 3.14, Jason Grilli 3.59. The only Red Sox reliever with an ERA lower than any of these guys is Jonathan Papelbon. Leyland's superiority to Francona, or better guys having better years?

He took a core of players who knew nothing but losing and refused to allow them to think of themselves as anything but winners.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Jason Grilli was able to will himself into having a career year. By the way, why isn't anyone talking about Jamie Walker? He's allowed six runs all year. I'd say he's a heck of a lot more valuable than a guy who hasn't played a game for the Tigers all year.

He’s climbed on them just twice, early in the season when they stumbled after starting out 5-0 and during the recent 3-9 streak. In between, he’s just insisted on playing the game right.


Again, unlike Francona, who has repeatedly been telling Manny Delcarmen to kick the baseball at the hitters' nuts as hard as he can, "rules" be damned.

He’s the AL Manager of the Year.


Probably.

And, while the same naysayers who have said all year that the Tigers are headed for a fall are sure to say they won’t be able to stand up to teams like the Yankees in the playoffs,

Obligatory Yankee mention. Second of the column. Third if you count his New York rant in the beginning.

by now, it should surprise few if he proves those people wrong.

Just like two young men by the names of Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins proved people wrong when they said they could never come up with 31 different flavors of ice cream, much less actually make them.

Whipped cream. Dollop. Hats. Baseball.

(I bet he keeps ice cream in his hat. Even when he's wearing it.)

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posted by Junior  # 8:06 PM
Comments:
I'm hungry.
 
To be fair, that first New York reference was to the Miracle Mets, who hot fudged their way to 100 victories and the 1969 World Series where they defeated a highly favored banana split in 5 games.
 
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

 

Is This One of Them 9-Year Monkeys?

Not a big deal, certainly, but didn't Jim Leyland win a World Series Championship in 1997?

Let me rephrase that. Jim Leyland won the World Series as a manager in 1997 for the Florida Marlins. Why is FoxSports.com trying to convince me that he has some sort of Championship monkey on his back?

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posted by dak  # 2:16 AM
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Friday, August 25, 2006

 

Neifi Perez Leadoff Watch

Yep, still happening.

As of 5:09 pm PST, Neifi is 2-18 with 2 singles and 0 walks as a Tiger.

Labels:


posted by Junior  # 8:14 PM
Comments:
Update: 2-20.
 
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Gentlemen, We Have Another "Clogging Up The Bases" Sighting

Thank you, Matt from Chicago. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Matt sent us this link to a seemingly innocuous "News and Notes"-type write-up of the woeful Chicago Cubs on MLB.com.

Writer Carrie Muskat poses the outrageously easy-to-answer question,

Do the Cubs need to improve their on-base percentage next year?

and immediately follows with all of the information necessary to answer the question.

They currently rank last in the National League with a .318 OBP.

But wait. I'd like a second opinion. Preferably from Dr. Crazyballs himself, Dusty Baker.

"On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage," Baker said.

And everyone hold their collective breath. Let's drum roll this shit.

...

Are you ready?

"Clogging up the bases isn't that great to me."

Thank you. Someone had to say it, Dusty. How are we going to score runs with all these damn men clogging up the bases, getting in our way? Cubs Baseball 2006: No One Clogs Our Bases Up! Why in the world did they get rid of Neifi Perez? He was the undisupted king of Career Not Clogging Up The Bases Occurrences.

Dusty's quote also begs the question, what is that great to him, keeping in mind that batters getting on base for the professional baseball team he manages, the Chicago Cubs, is not that great? My guesses appear below:

Horses
Frosting
The innocence of a young child
Stolen bases
A Beautiful Mind
Oldies

Labels: ,


posted by Junior  # 5:40 PM
Comments:
I want to go on record as saying that hating players for "clogging up the bases" is the absolute #1 all-time dumbest thing anyone has ever said about baseball. Dusty Baker should be fired just for this. What is he looking for, for offense? A long consecutive streak of solo homers?
 
I think he doesn't want anyone on base who won't immediately steal second, third and home on the next three pitches.
 
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

 

Grrr

There was an article a few days ago in a journal called the Boston Metro. It's not available online, except on page 20 of this digitally unwieldy pdf file. A few different readers pointed us to this one, so a specail FJM thanks to Patrick D., Bart L., and Fake G.

The author, Bob Halloran, not only writes for the Metro, but covers sports on-air for WCVB. My Dad once told me that the "V" is the roman numeral for "5," as in Channel Five Boston. Thanks Dad. Anyway, Halloran also used to work for ESPN. Go get 'em, Bob.

Say good-bye to “Moneyball.” We didn’t need on-base percentage (OBP) or on base plus slugging (OPS) to tell us that Ted Williams and Babe Ruth were great hitters.

You guys remember “Moneyball,” right? The book by Michael Lewis, where he chronicles the fight to prove that Babe Ruth and Ted Williams were great hitters by using only two statistics: OBP and OPS?

If you haven’t read it yet, you should really check it out. You’ll just fall in love with the main character, William Beane. For decades, not one human being could prove that either Ruth or Williams were great at baseball. Call it the baseball equivalent of Fermat’s Last Theorem. You’ll never guess how Beane finally proves his case – or maybe you already have! That’s right, he invents two new statistics called OBP and OPS. It’s like Andrew Wiles or that Beautiful Mind guy all over again.

Well, anyway, this Halloran dude doesn't seem to think very much of Beane’s efforts. Apparently – and I don’t know where people come up with this sort of thing – he thinks we could’ve known that Ruth and Williams were great without OBP or OPS.

I don’t know who to believe anymore!

Baseball remains a game of scoring runs and preventing runs. The best hitters are the ones who either score the runs or drive them in. It’s that simple.

It’s way more complicated than that. But let’s try to keep it relatively simple anyway. In general, yeah, the best players are usually around the top of the league in runs and / or RsBI. Sometimes they’re not. But sometimes great hitters don’t get the chance to score a lot of runs, or drive a lot of them in, for a number of reasons. Here are some of those reasons:

1) They hit in front of players who are bad
2) They hit behind players who are bad
3) They have a manager who insists on hitting them in, say, the 7 spot in the order because the manager thinks the player is “too young” or “not a great contact hitter” or some other bullshit
4) The majority of their at bats come in a “pitcher friendly” ballpark

Of course, the converse is also true. Players often have their run or RBI totals “inflated” because, say, they bat at the top of a tremendous line-up, or they bat behind Barry Bonds, or whatever. (There’s a great example, for those who own the 2001 Bill James H.B.A., of a hypothetical season in which Gino Cimoli drives in 151 runs batting behind Babe Ruth. It’s a bit of a cheat in this case because they’re walking Ruth every time, but you get the point. Fellow baseball nerds willing to spend inordinate percentages of disposable income on giant books can turn to page 785.)

Yes, individual performance influences Runs and Runs Batted In to a great degree. Unfortunately, they’re also influenced by the team you play for and the line-up you hit in. And that’s why they’re bad to use when evaluating individuals. Am I wrong in thinking that this is pretty basic stuff? Bob Halloran is paid by multiple news outlets to cover baseball. Do any of them care that he doesn’t get this?

[silence….a night watchmen at WCVB takes a slow sip of coffee…somewhere in the Boston Metro offices an old man empties a garbage basket into a larger garbage basket…Bob Halloran sleeps peacefully in his beautiful New England colonial home in Medfield or Concord or Westerham (pronounced “Wesham”) or North Southborough]

Batting average, home runs and RBI are the only categories needed to tell us who the best hitters are in the game. All the other stats created by disciples of “Moneyball” and fantasy league geeks are redundant, superfluous and redundant.

I feel like I’ve seen that joke on a t-shirt before.

I’m going to give Halloran the benefit of the doubt here, and try to deduce that the point he’s making is that the 3 “Holy Trinity” stats of the Old Guard – BA, HR, RBI – at least tell you different aspects of a player’s abilities.

To say that newer statistics don’t do the same only makes sense when the only "new" stats you understand are OBP and OPS. Certainly EqA gives us a different story than say, P/PA. (I know, not exactly a “new” stat, but one that’s become a little more valued in recent years.) Or K/BB vs. WHIP – 2 “geeky” or “fantasy” stats which are simple enough that even Halloran should be able to understand them.

If you want three stats to determine how good a position player is, well, fuck, I’ll take a player's WARP3, Games Played, and his Middle Name over Batting Average, HR and RsBI.

While it’s true that heading into yesterday’s action, 18 of the top 30 in batting average are not among the top 30 in-base percentage. The hitters that replace those 18 include Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, Jason Giambi, Ryan Howard and David Ortiz. With sluggers like them, it’s not their on-base percentage that jumps out at you. It’s their run production. Those five guys are in top eight in homers and the top 13 in RBI. To tell me they’re also in the top nine in OPS and top 11 in slugging is just overkill.

Bob. You see, everyone except you understands that OPS is made up of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. We get that. No one’s forcing you to look at OBP, SLG, and OPS. That’s not overkill, that’s wasting your time. Nobody does that. Stop doing that.

Also, am I wrong here or is he disproving his whole case in second sentence by giving us this list of amazing hitters who excel at getting on base but not at BA?

The “Moneyball” theory was really created to find productive players at a cheaper price. The long-ball hitters make big bucks. So, small market teams need to find productive players who lack the flash, less obvious players like Kevin Youkilis, Scott Hatteberg or Nick Johnson. But “Moneyball” has the potential to backfire, because it can be misleading. Heading into yesterday, Youkilis ranks 23rd in on-base percentage. But the reason he’s a bargain at $350,000 this year is because he’s 16th in runs scored.

There are 2 reasons which explain 99% of why Kevin Youkilis is 16th in runs scored, in my opinion.
1) He gets on base at the 23rd best clip in the league.
2) He’s spent most of the year hitting at the top of the line-up featuring two historically ridiculous batters in the 3 and 4 spot.

Hatteberg is 13th in OBP, but he’s only scored 51 runs and driven in 38. Sometimes, a walk is not as good as a hit.

Right. He also has 150 fewer plate appearances than Kevin Youkilis. True: a walk is very often not as good as a hit. This has very little to do with why Scott Hatteberg has only 51 runs.

It’s true that you have to be on base in order to score – unless you’re blasting home runs – but among the leaders in runs scored – Chase Utley, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Jimmy Rollins and Alfonso Soriano – only Utley (at 28th) ranks in the top 40 in OBP. What they lack in OBP, they more than make up for in SPEED.

Here are the ranks of those same players in total number of Plate Appearances in all of baseball:

Chase Utley (11)
Jose Reyes (17)
Grady Sizemore (4)
Jimmy Rollins (5)
Alfonso Soriano (7)

I’d call that a lurking variable.

As far as "SPEED" goes -- by the way, really? All caps on that one? -- sure, some of these guys are fast. But then again, Carlos Lee has more steals than Chase Utley. Sizemore has 18 – these aren’t exactly Roadrunners. They’re good hitters (one in particular is amazing this year) who hit at the top of the line-up.

Do you like Michael Young as a hitter?

I like him. I don’t love him. He’s not having what I’d consider an outstanding year. Do you?

He led the league in average and hits last year. He’s 85th in OBP right now.

Yeah, that’s what I was trying to tell you. He’s having a pretty mediocre year. Did you know that his EqA this year is only .276? Pretty pedestrian. I’m sorry – what was your point?

If you’re trying to figure out if a guy is a good hitter or not, just look to see how often he’s crossing home plate and how often he’s driving someone else across. That’s what’s money.

“And by ‘money,’ I mean largely dependent on the performance of every other hitter on your team who is not the hitter in question.”

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posted by dak  # 4:57 AM
Comments:
My favorite part: the idea that Moneyball is about, apparently, Scott Hatteberg, and how he is (still, rght now, many years later) a good hitter.

That's what Moneyball is about.

Scott Hatteberg.
 
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

 

Ads

So, we're in the process of enrolling in Google's Ad Sense program, which means, yes, there will be advertisements on the site. They should fit in pretty seamlessly and hopefully won't get in the way of your favorite HatGuy criticisms, or ramblings about Jason Bay's EqA.

Guys, come on. Why?
Well, mostly to pay for the small costs of running the site, the domain name (firejoemorgan.com), and all the e-mail accounts. These things add up over time and, listen, we're not going to get rich off this.

Now that you're going to see some income, shouldn't you pay someone to design a better looking site?
Nah, I'm good.

But dak, don't you subscribe to Adbusters and everything?
Yes, I do. Believe me, I have mixed feelings about the situation. But we hope you'll visit our sponsors and continue to support us.

Hey, this isn't totally relevant, but since we're doing this whole Q and A thing...I keep e-mailing you guys and I never get a response. What in Robinson Cano's codpiece is up with that?
Yeah. I'm sorry -- we're not the best at getting back to people. We read every e-mail though and often use suggestions from readers. I will say one thing to keep in mind: we're just not going to publish anything unless we can verify that it was said or written verbatim. What that means is, we'll totally read your account of what that Mariners' color guy said about Jamie Moyer's incredible poise or whatever, and we'll probably enjoy it, but we're not going to post any paraphrasing e-mailed to us.

Also one of the Angels announcers just described Coco Crisp as having a "calm, confident swagger." At the time Crisp was standing on first base following a foul ball.

Labels: , ,


posted by dak  # 1:02 AM
Comments:
Why is the Seattle color guy talking about Phillies' pitcher Jamie Moyer?
 
Hey man, ask the dude who e-mailed us.
 
Touché.
 
By the way, you know what else Coco Crisp has? A calm, confident .389 SLG and a swaggering, braggadocious .253 EqA.
 
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

I Know

batting order almost entirely doesn't matter and this isn't about sports commentary, but did anyone else notice that the team with the best record in baseball is batting Neifi Perez (.266 OBP, .202 EqA) leadoff tonight?

Let's keep this in mind when writers start the loud, raucous, inevitable Jim Leyland for Manager of the Year chorus.

Labels:


posted by Junior  # 7:52 PM
Comments:
He is the worst hitter in baseball, and Jimmy is trying to maximize the number of his at bats. Unreal.
 
I realize that wasn't much of a comment. I am just stunned.

This isn't much of a comment either.
 
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Monday, August 21, 2006

 

This Makes So Much Sense

FJM punching bag Mike HatGuy Celizic on FJM punching bag Colin Cowherd:

Colin Cowherd of ESPN radio may be the best sports-talk host in the country.

New readers, I urge you to take an hour out of your day to read Ken Tremendous' 50,000-word dismantling of Colin Cowherd. Then, read any random page in our archives and you'll probably find thirty responses to HatGuy.

I go out of my way to think of reasons to be late to the office just so I can listen to his show, which starts at 10 a.m. in New York.

What HatGuy is saying is that the only benefit of the Colin Cowherd radio show is that it increases the chances, however slightly, that HatGuy will miss his deadline and fail to turn in a HatGuy column.

If you read on in HatGuy's blog, you will find that he believes the mistake Paul LoDuca made was cheating on his wife with a "girl" instead of a "woman" because "girls blab" and "women don't talk."

It’s that simple.

Thanks, HatGuy!

Labels: , ,


posted by Junior  # 2:26 PM
Comments:
It's only 5972 words. 5973 if you include "Zzzzzzzz" as a word.
 
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A Meta-Post (Original Title: "Dan Shaughnessy Still Hates Theo Epstein")

I'm torn. Genuinely so. At around 6 pm PST today, I put up a post called "Dan Shaughnessy Still Hates Theo Epstein." It was okay. A little light on hard analysis, perhaps. A lot of digs at Shaughnessy. Mainly, I felt the need to respond to Shaughnessy's most recent column because he took some fairly cheap, name-calling-style shots at the Red Sox front office, most of them in the computer-nerd-bookworm-cyber-spreadsheet vein. You know, he entered the Plaschke zone. That kind of stuff boils my blood.

But then I got to thinking: sure, Shaughnessy didn't write a good article. I disagree with the way he went about attacking Theo Epstein (basically, through insinuation, strange veiled threats, and schoolyard name-calling rather than substantive roster move analysis). That said, isn't the Red Sox front office partly responsible for what's happened in the years following the 2004 championship? If you're a Red Sox fan, you have to start considering the 2005 and 2006 (barring a miraculous turnaround) seasons as failures. Why? The team has an enormous payroll and a core group of talent that theoretically could be built around to form a championship-level team. I'm speaking mainly of two MVP-caliber hitters performing at peak or near-peak levels and a near-Cy Young-caliber starter. And yet for whatever reason, championship-level ballclubs have not been assembled. Essentially: shouldn't Red Sox fans be worried that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez' remaining superstar-type years are being squandered on teams with next to no pitching? And shouldn't some blame for that lack of pitching be placed at the feet of Theo Epstein and those working with him? I think these are legitimate questions, so I'm a little concerned about whether my defense -- if you want to call it that -- of Epstein in the post below is completely fair. If a front office is failing to do a competent job, they should be criticized, no matter if they're using sabermetric methods or picking players' names out of badly soiled stovepipe hat.

Let's not forget, however, that (let's get horribly, stupidly nerdy) the philosophical telos of this site isn't to assess whether front offices are doing a good job or not. It's to lambaste bad sportswriting and commentary. And I think this Shaughnessy piece is unequivocally bad. Am I bending over backwards to defend Theo because he doesn't claim Moneyball was written by a three-headed robot made of tin, wax and papier-mache? I don't know. Tell me what you think.

Here's the original post.

---

You're Dan Shaughnessy. For years, you pay your bills selling the idea of a magical curse dooming a baseball franchise forever. The more famous the curse becomes, the higher your profile. You write a book about the curse. Documentary filmmakers come to you for your curly-headed opinions on the curse. You're pretty much known as Dan Shaughnessy, That Curse Guy.

Then, sudddenly, it's all over. You write your cash-in book about the end of the curse. But uh-oh, now no one cares about the curse anymore. It's done. It's almost like this supernatural curse was never real to begin with.

There's a guy who a lot of people are cheering as the non-player most responsible for reversing the curse. He's young, handsome, and he has used a computer before. Perhaps numerous computers. He hasn't paid his dues. He's not a "baseball man." And he's a pretty boring quote.

Do you a) hate this guy or b) really, really hate him and take every opportunity to needle him in your columns whenever possible?

I see you have phrased your answer in column form.

The Red Sox brass set sail on John Henry's big boat last night. The owner held a party to celebrate the engagement of his star general manager, Theo Epstein. Nice gesture. Toasts all around, no doubt. A three-hour tour.

Funny stuff. I remember that show. If the Professor could build a radio out of a coconut, why didn't he just build a boat? Am I right, people? (general silence, the soft clinking of glasses)

It was undoubtedly nice to get away for a few hours, but there is no safe place for Epstein and Sox management at this moment -- not even on the high seas. The SS Red Sox is sinking fast in the American League. The sun no longer shines on the handsome head of young Theo (wonder if he's signed his much-celebrated contract yet).

I only mentioned that Theo was handsome earlier because Shaughnessy really likes bringing it up all the time. Also, did you know that he's young? Shaughnessy would like everyone to know that.

The computer-geek management style has been thoroughly exposed in the last two days and there's a perfect storm brewing upstairs on Yawkey Way.

Ah. Here we go. Get those claws out, Shaughnee! These geeks can't run a baseball team! They don't even chew tobacco or drive mud-splattered pickup trucks to minor league games in the boonies. What exactly has been exposed in the last two days, no matter how horrific they've been for the Red Sox? A lack of pitching? That Josh Beckett is severely underperforming almost everyone's expectations? That the Yankees' lineup is capable of feasting on chumps like Jason Johnson and Kyle Snyder. I think we knew these things? I don't see a lot of solutions to these problems, and I didn't see too many at the trading deadline. If you want to go back further in time, the Beckett trade doesn't look all that great now, but I don't recall too many people objecting to it at the time. Hardly anyone projected Beckett to stink as much as he has. Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena? Still doesn't look that bad. Maybe what's being exposed is that Matt Clement was a terrible signing? Is Shaughnessy still misty-eyed for Pedro and Lowe?

The way things are going, Young Theo --

He's young.

-- might don that gorilla suit again, but this time he might need it to hide from an angry Nation of paying customers who want to know why nothing was done at the trade deadline and how you try to win a pennant with no lefty in the bullpen and a collection of dead arms and dead presidents (Mr. Van Buren, I presume) posing as major league pitchers.

Get it, "Nation"? You should be angry! Angry at Theo Epstein! Not angry at Beckett for being terrible or Wells and Wakefield and Foulke for getting hurt or Seanez and Tavarez for totally falling off from what they did last year. Did anyone think Seanez and Tavarez would both pitch this historically badly? Or that Ramon Ortiz would have a better ERA than Beckett? I see a few hands raised. Fine. Congratulations.

Three of the five crucial games against the Yankees have been played, and the numbers are more ghastly than snakes on a plane.

NICE. That'll get the kids on board. First hit 'em with Gilligan, then boom! SoaP. Dano, my boy, you've still got it.

The first three games of this series have been equally hideous, and young Theo,


Not old.

who was unavailable after yesterday's carnage, is getting his lunch fed to him by one Brian Cashman as the Sox threaten to suck all the wind out of what's left of summer.

Brian Cashman, who personally drove in 23 of the Yankees' 39 total runs. Brian Cashman, who led the team in pitches per plate appearance, eating up the Sox' bullpen. Brian Cashman, who hid in Jason Varitek's wine cellar for weeks before sneaking into his bedroom and inserting a time-release poison capsule into his left knee, causing its cartilage to rapidly deteriorate.

I'm not saying that you can't talk about the construction of these ballclubs when you see one beating up on the other so thoroughly and devastatingly. But is the story here that the Red Sox front office has unconscionably failed? I haven't seen any actual analysis yet. Wait, here we go:

Oh, and is anybody rethinking that Johnny Damon decision now?

Sort of? I think it's pretty clear that the problem here is pitching, not hitting. Even after those three amazing performances by the Yankee offense, guess how many more runs the Yankees have scored than the Sox this season? Seven. I'm pretty sure that as recently as about four days ago, the Red Sox led the majors in runs scored.

Then Shaughnessy has a quote from Larry Lucchino. Hmm. The article bashes Theo and includes thoughts from Lucchino. Anyway, the quote is boring. Let's skip it.

Manager Terry Francona, ever the company man, will not state the obvious and tell us, ``How am I supposed to beat these guys with this pitching staff?" but he is clearly as frustrated as a lot of Red Sox fans. Yesterday he watched the talented and hard-headed Josh Beckett walk nine (most by a Sox pitcher since Rogelio Moret in 1975) while giving up a career-high nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.


So ... maybe Beckett is at least partially to blame for what happened?

Beckett's ERA is 5.35 and he looks like he needs to stop listening to Dave Wallace and Al Nipper and go see Dr. Phil.

Another sweet reference, man. The Shaughn-man is on fire.

To his credit, Beckett answered all questions and assumed full responsibility for his outing (``unacceptable, brutal").

To his discredit, his performance so far is one of the biggest reasons you're bashing Theo Epstein.

The last time the Yankees scored in double digits in three games in one Fenway series was in 1927 when the Pinstripes had guys named Ruth and Gehrig in the lineup. The Yankees have batted around five times in three games. One wonders if perhaps even cyberowner Henry has seen enough spread-sheet baseball for one season.

That's what I call bad pitching. Spread-sheet baseball. Ooh, that John Henry! Maybe if he would stop hitting on girls on MySpace all day he would learn how to build a damn baseball team! Computers bad! Computers make baseball team lose!

Odd that Henry would be celebrating Epstein's engagement at a time when the honeymoon is officially over for the most popular and bulletproof general manager in Boston sports history.


What exactly is odd about this? Odd that John Henry likes Theo Epstein and wanted to do something nice for him? Odd because you're forcing a false connection between an actual engagement between two humans and a theoretical "honeymoon" that you made up in your brain? It seems like you're angry that Theo Epstein seems to be "bulletproof." Is it really so strange that people sort of like a guy who was the general manager when the team finally won the World Series after 86 years? This paragraph has too many rhetorical questions in it. In fact, this whole post is infested with them. I apologize. I'll try to do better the next time.

The cruise is over and so is the free ride for Theo. No disgrace in that, it happens to all of them, but the Sox need a quick turnaround to keep Epstein out of the shark-infested waters that devoured the likes of Lou Gorman and Dan Duquette.


The crazy, crazy, crazy thing about this concluding paragraph is that Dan Shaughnessy is one of the very sharks in the "shark-infested waters" he's writing about. He's basically saying, Hey Theo, you better watch out -- if the team doesn't start winning more games, people are going to try to get you fired. In fact, watch: I'm doing it right now. Me, Dan Shaughnessy. I am one of the sharks I'm talking about here.

Isn't that neat?

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posted by Junior  # 2:41 AM
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Don't Trust Computers

Joe Morgan, in the 8th inning of tonight's game, was talking about how the way to get out Yankee hitters is by pitching them inside. Then Papelbon struck out Cano, and Joe said:

"[K zone] shows that the ball was over the middle of the plate, but that was inside."

Hmmm.

Earlier, he also called Cano, and I quote, "One of the best fastball hitters in the league."

He's a nice little player, but...um...no.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 12:37 AM
Comments:
From reader Brian:

In the bottom of the 6th, Joe was talking about how, with the emphasis on home runs and such, it was harder for middle infielders to win the MVP award, for their on-field leadership, etc. To prove his point, he listed the last 5 AL MVP winners, two of which were middle infielders at the time (ARod and Tejeda).

Genius.
 
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Saturday, August 19, 2006

 

Tim McCarver Recommends 150 Pitches Per Start

You heard it here first. Or second, I guess. My apologies if you've been watching the Fox broadcast of the Sox-Yanks game today. If you have, you heard Tim McCarver say the following:

As baseball and those around it continue to do, keep -- keeping track of pitch counts, seems like more pitchers are going down the more that people keep track of pitch counts.

Yes, Tim, that must be it. It couldn't be weight-training or performance-enhancing drugs or perhaps your own antiquated prejudices causing your imagination to produce a world where more pitchers are going down when in fact, they aren't. Also, seriously: read his rambling "thought" one more time -- what?

Then, once you think it's over, he comes at you again with the crazy:

The thing about pitch counts for starters, I think there are a lot of people in and around the game that think that once a guy reaches 110 pitches that there should be cause for alarm. It stands to reason that guys vary as far as their strength is concerned from start to start. Sometimes 90 pitches is too much. Sometimes 130 pitches are not enough. A guy could throw 150 pitches per start. Until -- and if they come up with a gauge that could gauge a guy's potential, then to me, I think it's obscenely obsessive to continue to talk about pitch counts as though they were the only determination of a guy's success or not.

I was with you until you went with the 150 pitches a game thing. Actually, who am I kidding? I was never with you. Everything you say is batshit insane. The thing is, you could definitely make the argument that "it stands to reason that individual guys vary as far as the number of pitches they can throw." Maybe Carlos Zambrano can throw 120 pitches per game and Mark Prior cannot. I'm willing to listen to that reasoning. But "sometimes 130 pitches are not enough"? As if to say that, hey, if Livan Hernandez had become a worker in a drill bit factory instead of a major league pitcher, and on a specific Tuesday, instead of throwing 145 pitches in a baseball game, he decided to manufacture 1,200 drill bits because that's his job, he would incur a terrible arm injury because hey, not enough pitches?

I hate to be dramatic about this, but I think this guy should be fired.

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posted by Junior  # 2:32 PM
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Every time I hear McCarver talk, I think of two things:

"You're a real man, Deion. A real man."

And, from 2004:

"This October, ordinary Foulke has been extraordinary Foulke."

...which is not a pun, makes no sense, has a false premise (that Foulke was "ordinary" before the postseason), mixes a singular verb with a plural (collective) noun that makes the whole thing incredibly wrought and confusing, and also sought to rhyme "ordinary" with "extraordinary." One of the worst faux-poetic things I have ever heard uttered by anyone.
 
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

 

Best Ever?

I don't even know what to say.

I honestly don't. Bill Plaschke has absolutely outdone himself. I mean, for God's sake, the article is called

There's Trust in His Eyes

And it is pure (read: terrible) poetry.

Around the hotel table sat Dodgers executives discussing trades.

In the corner sat the old scout watching television.

Around the hotel table they were talking about dumping Milton Bradley and wondering whom they should demand from the Oakland A's in return.

In the corner sat the old scout who has never worked with radar gun, computer or even stopwatch.


Just like good scouts do. Good scouts never use scouting tools. They trust their goddamn eyes, and their guts, and their spleens. Why?

Because Old Hoss Radbourn was not discovered with a computer, dargbloomit! He was discovered because 130 year-old Petey "Garbageface" Krunkston, who had been a rookie league manager for 142 years and had seen a goddamn ballgame or two in his day, woke up one morning with a wart shaped like a flame on his left arm, and he turned to his wife of 186 years Edna Mae and he said, "The flame mole's back, darlin.' I's a gone and what been done and moseyed to the ballpark -- there's sure to be a great future prospect a-lurkin' about, iffin' the flame mole done appeared-a-mafied on m'arm!" And he did go down there t' ol' Brasston Park, and sure 'nuff, a 4 year-old Hoss Radbourn was thar, an' he was a-throwin' and a-hittin somethin' fierce! And bloogburrmit if Garbageface didn't sign that 4 year-old right then and there! And he became a Hall-of-Famer!!!!!

Around the hotel room table, someone mentioned an unknown double-A outfielder named Andre Ethier.

In the corner, the old scout jumped.


Is Plaschke the most overblown prose artiste in the business, or what? In the corner...around the hotel table...in the corner... I swear, I think Plaschke believes he is the walking embodiment of James Earl Jones's character in "Field of Dreams." People will come, Bill. People will read. People will vomit.

"Wait a minute!" shouted Al LaMacchia. "I know Andre Ethier!"

In a gait slowed by years of climbing bleachers, LaMacchia walked over from the television to the table.

With Dodgers executives staring at him in amazement, the old scout began to sell.


Were they really staring at him "in amazement?" Were you there, Plaschke? I find it hard to believe that in an organizational meeting to discuss prospects the team might want to acquire, that when a scout started talking about a AA prospect, the rest of the organization "stared at him in amazement."

GM: We need some good minor leaguers.

Scout: Hey! I know some minor leaguers!

GM: (falls off chair in dismay) Ga-ga-ga-ga-ga goink!!! This is our lucky day!!!!!!!

He was on the phone, and it sounded as if he was crying.

"You're writing something about an old fella like me?" said Al LaMacchia.

He's 85, and he's been scouting for 51 years, and he can't believe anybody still cares.

I tell him I am writing the story because the Dodgers still care.

For the first time since Fred Claire was their last world championship general manager, the Dodgers are listening to their older scouts again.

They are reading reports scrawled in aging penmanship. They are evaluating players based on dusted-off instincts.

Ned Colletti's new administration is still using computers, but they also value guys who have no idea how to turn one on.

"I trust my eyes," LaMacchia said. "Been good enough so far."

Colletti trusted LaMacchia's recommendation at last year's winter meetings in Dallas, and the Dodgers are in first place in August, and that is no coincidence.


I'm sorry. I can't stop snortling derisively. Hang on. ... Okay. There.

The Dodgers are 64-57. They have the worst record of any first-place team. Let's not go bragging about any aspect of their brilliant system just yet. A month ago they lost like 40 games in a row, and in most other divisions they'd be basically nowheresville.

"You cannot microwave experience," Colletti said. "The only way to get it is to live it. I want guys who have lived it."

Colletti has hired two scouts/advisors since joining the Dodgers last winter in moves typical of him but totally uncharacteristic of any other CEO anywhere.

Both of the new guys were over 70.


Get ready. Here's my favorite part.

The scout, Phil Rizzo, lives in Chicago and does nothing but attend Cubs and White Sox games.

"The guy who watched a bunch of Maddux starts and filed the reports on him?" Colletti asked. "That was him."


I am going to hit return ten times, leaving a wide open white space on this blog, so we can all reflect on how unbelievably stupid that is. Ready? Begin reflecting. Then read the rest of this post, because Plaschke has a lot more to say.









You are telling me that you needed to hire someone to tell you that Greg Maddux might be a good pitcher? I mean, the guy is old, but...he's Greg Maddux. You play in Dodger Stadium, which is pretty friendly to pitchers, generally. He's Greg Maddux. You needed a 70 year-old scout, with all of his accumulated baseball knowledge, to tell you that Greg Maddux might help your team? He's Greg Maddux.

The advisor is Bill Lajoie, a longtime baseball executive who helped engineer the trade with one of his former employers, Atlanta, for Wilson Betemit.

Everyone in the universe knew Betemit was a good young player. He was a 25 year-old SS with a .784 OPS. What are you saying?

"Scouts are my lifeblood, they see players, they know players, they can tell you things that you can't get anywhere else,"' said Colletti.

LaMacchia knew Ethier.

It required thousands of miles on his old Ford, and pages of scribbling in his little black date book.

It required a brief break for congestive heart failure — "He told me it was just a little thing, he'd be back in a week" said Colletti — and it took him all of last summer.


Okay.

I just typed "Andre Ethier" into Google. The first hit I got was from thebaseballcube.com. I clicked on it, and I learned:

in 2005, for the Midland, TX Oakland A's AA team, Andre Ethier:

G: 131
AB: 505
R: 104
H: 161
2B: 30
HR: 18
BB/K: 48/93
.319/.385/.497/.882

I also learned that at ASU, a big-time program, Ethier crushed the ball, putting up a 1.061 OPS with a 52/30 BB/K ratio, and was a 2-time Pac-10 All-Star OF.

I also learned that in 2005 he was the MVP of the Texas League, as well as the Oakland A's Minor League Player of the Fucking Year (emphasis and cussing mine).

You're telling me it took a million miles of driving and a heart attack and 368 years of baseball experience to tell that the 2005 OAKLAND A'S MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE FUCKING YEAR might be a guy who might interest you? Whatever, man. I learned it in twelve seconds with a computer.

My leg does itch a little though -- I think I have dry skin. Does that medical ailment mean my opinion counts more?

But LaMacchia made it his business to know Ethier.

"I guess that's what I do," he said. "I try to know players."


Most scouts do. Even the ones who use technology.

Working as a national scout from his home in San Antonio, where he lives with his wife of 62 years, Annie, LaMacchia would watch Ethier as he played for Oakland's double-A Midland team.

He saw him play in San Antonio, and Corpus Christi, and Frisco. He saw him taking early batting practice on 100-degree days, and running out ground balls at the end of blowout losses.

He didn't need a stopwatch to judge his hustle. He didn't need a computer to feel his swing. And when LaMacchia ever needs a radar gun reading, well, he just asks one of the scouts sitting next to him.


Luckily, one of the scouts has a radar gun. Because otherwise, LaMacchia would have no idea how fast the guy's throwing.

"The younger fellas look at me like I'm strange," he said. "But it's all in my heart and my head."

In Ethier, he saw so much potential, one day he couldn't help himself.

He walked down to the dugout railing and started giving him instructions.

Said LaMacchia: "I wanted to help the young kid, tell him not to try to pull everything, tell him to take what they gave him."

Said Ethier: "I thought he was just some crazy old man yelling at me from the stands."


I don't blame you, Andre.

A couple of old-timers quickly set the kid straight.

LaMacchia was a right-handed pitcher who won a couple of big-league games for St. Louis and Washington in the mid-1940s then became a legendary talent evaluator.


He played the game! Hey Joe Morgan -- rest easy, man, this guy played the game! You can listen to his opinions. They are valid!

I can't help it anymore. The rest of my comments will be in super-angry all-caps.

...When Ethier's name came up at the winter meetings, LaMacchia perked up as if they were talking about his son.

Logan White, the Dodgers scouting director, also had knowledge of Ethier. But it was LaMacchia's enthusiasm and information that sealed the deal.

"No question, I give Al full credit for this one," said Colletti. "He knew the guy. He loved the guy. We listened to him."

Colletti immediately asked the A's for Ethier. And, initially, he was turned down.


BECAUSE HE WAS THEIR 2005 MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I CAN EMPHASIZE THIS.

"But I kept thinking about what Al said, and I kept asking," Colletti said.

DID YOU KEEP THINKING ABOUT HOW HE WAS THEIR 2005 MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR?

When the A's wanted the Dodgers to add infielder Antonio Perez to the trade, LaMacchia again pushed Ethier, telling Colletti that the kid had a chance to be better than Bradley or Perez.

"The A's finally gave in, and we got what we wanted," said Colletti.

Did they ever. While the A's received two serviceable players who have probably reached their peak, the Dodgers received a possible rookie of the year.


A PREDICTION ONE MIGHT HAVE ARRIVED AT, KNOWING HIS MINOR LEAGUE STATS, AS WELL AS HIS FIRST-PLACE FINISH IN THE RACE TO BE THE OAKLAND A'S 2005 MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR.

Before Tuesday, Ethier led all National League rookies in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.390) and slugging percentage (.557).

He also has an old buddy who still occasionally calls him on the cellphone and reminds him to take what they give him.

From his San Antonio home this week, LaMacchia sighed.

"I am so grateful somebody still listens to me," he said.

From the Dodgers' clubhouse Tuesday, Ethier smiled.

"Everyone thinks they do all these analyses before they make a trade, but, in the end, I'm a Dodger because of that crazy old man," he said. "I can't thank him enough."


YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN AN OAKLAND A IF HE HADN'T TRADED FOR YOU, AND YOUR TEAM WOULD HAVE A BETTER RECORD.

Once and for all:

I don't think -- NO ONE THINKS -- that scouts are worthless. EVERYONE who watches baseball and knows about baseball knows the value of scouting. It has value. Okay? It has value. It can tell you things about a player's constitution, and hustle, and all that stuff, which is definitely important.

But what has as much, if not more, value -- in nearly every single fucking possible scenario -- is the analysis of statistical information.

If you seek to invalidate the use of statistical analysis...if you denigrate it, mock it, or look down your nose at it...if you write terrible mock-poetry articles declaring the objective superiority of gut instinct and old-fashioned "stare tests" over numbers-based research...then you are a far bigger snob, a far bigger ignoramus, and a far more provincial person than those whom you target with tripe like this.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to drive 1600 miles on a pack mule to St. Louis so I can give Albert Pujols a little look-see. Want to be able to speak up tomorrow when the Boss Man asks me if we should try to trade for 'im.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 11:28 PM
Comments:
Some things:

1. Very special thanks to reader Bryan for the tip.
2. The title of this post, if you're curious, refers to Plaschke's article, and not my feelings about my own writing.
3. My feelings abot my own writing are nearly always: "...eh."
 
Before people get all hot and bothered about Greg Maddux, let's consider sample size. So far with the Dodgers, this is what Maddux has done in three starts:

20 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 4 BB

Pretty damn good. But wait. Let's take a look at Maddux' first four starts this season with the Cubs:

27.1 IP, 3 ER, 18 K, 5 BB

Remember, dude was 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in April. This year. Then the wheels totally fell off, with ERAs of 5.94, 6.25, and 5.21 in the next three months.
 
Before people get all hot and bothered about Andre Ethier, let's consider sample size. So far this year, this is what he's done:

92 games, 290 AB, .338/.383/.545, 11 HR

Now take a look at Player X:

97 games, 368 AB, .329/.384/.527, 12 HR

Give up? Player X is 31-year-old utility man Mark DeRosa, he of the career .752 OPS. (And it's not the Texas ballpark -- he's OPSing over 100 points higher on the road.) I'm not saying Ethier is Mark DeRosa, but I don't think he's a .340 BA, .900 OPS guy either (E-thier??? get it???). His totals over 3 minor league seasons look like this: .312/.382/.455.

Longer comment? Sure, don't mind if I do. Take a look at Rookie Y:

51 games, 140 AB, .321/.386/.521, 7 HR

Sure, it's only half as many at bats, but Matt Murton sure looked like a world-beater last year. This year he's come back to earth with a .784 OPS and 8 HR in 317 AB.

My point is that Bill Plaschke probably jerks off to old-people porn.
 
Reader Christian adds more reasons Plaschke should go soak his head:

Ethier...is on pace either to approach, match, or plow through his 90th-percentile PECOTA projections (through 92 games thus far):

PECOTA--.290 EqA/.848 OPS/33.8 VORP/.148 MLVr/5.0 WARP-1
Actual--.302 EqA/.928 OPS/25.6 VORP/.334 MLVr/3.4 WARP-1

I only highlighted MLVr because that's the biggest disparity (among players with a min. 300 ABs, he ranks 15th in the majors), and there's nothing at which he has equally underperformed that balances it out somewhat. At his current rate, he would end up with a VORP of roughly 39-40. Something else, too, is that his BABIP is .396.


A BABIP of .396 is nuts. The guy is getting a little bit lucky, I'd say. He seems like a good player, but he will probably come back down to earth a bit. That's one point. The other point is that if PECOTA had him projected for a .290 EqA, an .848 OPS, and a 5.0 WARP, how the hell did no one else in the Dodgers' organization know about him?

Finally, our friend the Beautiful Cynic writes:

The entire crux of his argument relies on his statement early on that "Around the hotel room table, someone mentioned an unknown double-A outfielder named Andre Ethier." How "unknown" could Andre Ethier have been if I'd read about him every two weeks in Baseball America?
 
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

 

Headline: This Man Is Not As Large As You Might Expect a Professional Athlete To Be!

Sometimes, reality is a cliche. That has to be Jerry Crasnick's excuse, because he just wrote an article about David Eckstein about Freddy Sanchez. That is not a typo.

Allow me to expand on this notion. Please, I invite you to read Crasnick's article in its entirety. It's called "Pirates' Sanchez still defying the odds."

All done? Great, thanks. Can't believe you did that for me. Now, if you will, procrastinate from work a little bit longer and read my version.

Cardinals' Eckstein
still defying the odds

St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen
made his contribution to team camaraderie in May when he bought a Ping-Pong table for the Busch Stadium home clubhouse. To no one's surprise, the ultra-competitive David Eckstein is now ranked No. 1 ahead of second baseman Aaron Miles in the Cardinals' intramural table tennis rankings.

Eckstein, who is accustomed to having scouts judge his baseball skills, runs through a mental checklist when asked to assess his game as the Cardinals' resident paddle-wielding maniac.

"I have good hand-eye coordination and I put the ball in play," Eckstein says, "and I think the guys would tell you that my serve is my biggest strength. That's what gets them a lot of the time."

Fortunately for Eckstein, he won't have to quit his day job anytime soon.

Check out Major League Baseball's individual races on your favorite Web site, and you'll find Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer's mug on one side as the American League batting leader. Mauer, a Gopher State favorite son, has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, inspired a Joe Mauer Fake Sideburn Night at the Metrodome, and dated former Miss USA Chelsea Cooley this season. David Eckstein, in contrast, has never read Sports Illustrated because he is functionally illiterate, is genetically unable to grow facial hair, and has a crippling phobia of beauty pageants, beauty pageant contestants, and tiaras.

Eckstein is a 31-year-old former draft afterthought who is still trying to shake the perception that his two All-Star selections are an aberration. Rotisserie players and front-office executives across America keep waiting for him to wake up and realize he's just a humble utility player.

Among active players, Eckstein is part of a less heralded yet inspirational list. He has joined Freddy Sanchez, Jamey Carroll, Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, Craig Counsell, Ryan Freel and Nick Punto in that group of persistent players who become regulars by refusing to take no for an answer.

"David wasn't going to be an off-the-charts player, so he needed to wait for an opportunity," says Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae. "I guarantee you as we go down the stretch that people will be rooting him on. It's a real good story."

It's easy to pull for Eckstein in light of all the obstacles he's overcome. He was born with category 16-level albinism and improbably, the brain of an ancient pterosaur instead of that of a human being, and the doctors told his parents he might never go in the sun or stop pretending to "fly like his ancestors." Eckstein underwent corrective surgery at age 1 and had to wear a special bubble around his entire body -- "like the one that kid in that episode of Seinfeld wore," he says -- to correct his numerous, numerous bodily malfunctions.

Eckstein is a product of Tinytown, Romania, a town of mixed incomes and races, from humble peasant trolls to giants with caves full of ill-gotten gold. His father, David Sr., impersonated Tom Thumb for a living, and his mother, David III, worked for a janitorial services company.

In Tinytown, aspiring young paladins and clerics are part of the scene at local parks and the mall. As a high schooler, Eckstein played pickup basketball with the likes of legendary warrior Flaugeth the Bold and singer Brian McKnight.

Sports were a substitute for a social life. While the other kids attended parties on the weekends, Eckstein and his friend Jeff Atkinson were on the tennis courts next to the high school baseball field playing until the lights went out at 11 p.m. They invented a competition they called the "tennis ball game," drawing a strike zone and heaving fastballs to each other from a distance of 1 to 2 feet.

"When you're that close, it's the equivalent of 10,000 miles an hour," Eckstein says with a frightening, insanely intense grin on his face. Bat speed was a prerequisite for survival.

From the outset, Eckstein has generated mixed reviews from scouts. They love the way he runs out grounders with fervor and values hitting the ball to the right side to advance a runner. But average tools and his lack of home run power invite skepticism.

"You're always wanting more," says a National League scout. "He hits for average but doesn't hit home runs, so you don't want him at third. And you don't want him at second or short because he doesn't have the range. But when a guy keeps hitting .300, you find a spot for him."

And when a guy has big-time heart and desire, he makes you believe. Eckstein's competitiveness is a given whether he's playing Ping-Pong or video games or picking the roster for his beloved fantasy football team.

Several years ago, when Eckstein was a prospect in the Boston chain, he played pickup basketball in spring training with pitcher Bobo Wikipedia, their agent Nutsfarthing McGayguy, and a couple of other friends. One day Eckstein's group took on a team of minor leaguers who were taller, stronger and more physically gifted, and still beat them game after game.

Eckstein was the one breathing the hardest, setting picks and chastising teammates for letting up on defense or the boards. He also does the most talking to get into the opposition's head.

"It doesn't matter what the game is -- David is total hustle all the time," McGayguy says. "He's the kind of guy who'll just practice and practice at something until he beats you. He's so competitive, he'll destroy himself to be better than you."

Eckstein's hitting style defies categorization. Throw him a fastball outside and he might hit it to right. Throw him the same pitch in the next at-bat and he might rip it to left. His spray chart is so unpredictable, it's almost impossible for opposing teams to defense him.

Other than getting his front foot down in time and having his hips aligned properly, Eckstein has a relatively low-maintenance swing. The biggest constant is his aggressive mind-set. Also, the fact that Eckstein never hits home runs because they don't allow him to show his hustle on the basepaths.

"His bat path is very unorthodox," McRae says. "He gets through the zone in so many different ways and different spots. He has a knack for putting the ball in play."

Eckstein's big season is resonating all the way back to Tinytown. A few years ago, he bought his father an enchanted vision cube so that David Sr. could watch his minor league games via the Dreamflow Dimension. This year, Eckstein gave his dad the Major League Baseball cable package as a Father's Day gift.

"He doesn't miss a game," Eckstein says. "He told me it's the greatest gift he ever had."

Five weeks after making the National League All-Star team, Eckstein is still in pinch-me mode. First he rode to Busch Stadium in the back of a convertible through a gauntlet of screaming fans. Then, as his family and friends soaked up the moment from the stands, the crowd chanted "Da-vid! Da-vid!" as the public address announcer read Eckstein's name during pregame introductions.

So what would a National League batting title mean?

"David might not say it, but I think it would mean everything to him," McRae says. "It would bring him to his knees."

And when the emotion subsided, Eckstein would get off his knees, jump back in the cage and swing an ax onto a dirty half-orc's neck until his hands were raw. Some habits are hard to break.

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posted by Junior  # 8:00 PM
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Monday, August 14, 2006

 

I Think Paul Reiser Should be the Next President of the United States

Why? Well, he seems like a nice guy. Genuine. He was kind of funny in "Diner." So let's make him President of the U.S.

Don't agree with me? I believe Matt Hayes of "the Sporting News" does. Because he believes that Todd Jones of the Detroit Tigers should be the A.L. Cy Young Award winner, mostly, apparently, because Jones is a nice dude.

Baseball is unlike any other professional sport. A majority of the players never went to college and were tossed into a business at the age of 17 or 18 and forced to sink or swim -- socially, that is. I'm telling you right now, major league baseball is a haven for social misfits. Guys who just don't get it.

Not Todd Jones. I've never met a more humble, genuine pro athlete. A true good guy.


I'm happy that Todd Jones is nice. That makes me happy. I like nice people. Why do you bring this up, Matt?

Why do I bring this up?

Yes. Why do you bring this up?

Because the other day I was watching baseball highlights and saw Jones mow down yet another team in another comeback situation. He leads the majors in saves, and plays for the team (Detroit) with the best record in baseball -- and the best story in baseball.

Vance Wilson catches for them sometimes. MVP?

Although, to be fair, one of the stated criteria for Cy Young consideration is that the team on which the potential candidate plays must have a Minimum Good Story Quotient (MGSQ) of at least 40.0. The Tigers are an outrageous 88.6 right now, so...point Jones! (The team with the Lowest Good Story Quotient Index? Surprisingly, it's the Giants, at a pathetic 26.3. Must be all the Bonds stuff. Or it could be that I made all this up, and there is no such thing.)

There's still a month and a half to go in the regular season, but if Jones continues to lead the league in saves -- and considering there is [sic] all of three pitchers with an ERA under 3.00 in both leagues -- give him the Cy Young Award.

Anyone else want to handle this? No? It's all me? Okay.

Ahem.

That might be the stupidest idea I have ever heard, in re: who should receive a major award.

Todd Jones:

45.2 IP
52 H
25 ER
21 Ks
4.93 ERA
4.81 DERA (so it isn't flukey)

Do you know where Todd Jones ranks in VORP for pitchers in MLB?

261st.

Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles is 260th. Kirk Saarloos of Oakland is 243rd. Elmer Dessens of Kansas City is 264th.

Granted, Jones is a reliever, but he is incredibly mediocre. The idea that saves, perhaps the most arbitrary stat in the universe, would alone make the guy a viable Cy Young candidate...it's too stupid to even joke about. But if you do want to talk saves, idiotically, here's KRod, who has 30 saves -- or one less than Jonesy:

48 IP
35 H
12 ER
62 Ks
2.25 ERA
2.58 DERA
1.06 WHIP
.201 BAA

What is even a remotely possible argument for Jones over KRod? Maybe KRod isn't nice enough.

I also love the insane -- insane -- assertion that an ERA under 3.00 is vital, somehow, for Cy consideration. Roy Halladay and Johan Santana do not have ERAs under 3.00. I would still like them to play for my team, please. Plus, if ERA is so great, how about your boy Jonesy and his sub-par but Very Nice Guyish 4.93? (I know he's a closer, so one bad inning can affect him more, but come on.)

I don't care about Francisco Liriano or Jones' teammate Justin Verlander. Or the argument that relievers don't do enough (compared to starters) to earn the award. Ask the Yankees how important a reliever is.

What does it mean when your left eye goes blurry and you get a tension headache? Is that a migraine or a stroke? Because that's what's happening to ol' Ken right about now.

Liriano is injured, perhaps seriously, and that is going to kill his chances for the Cy. Amazingly, he's still 3rd in VORP in the AL, even though he hasn't pitched in a while. But Verlander...Verlander is so much more important to the Tigers it's not even funny. He's 4th in VORP.

And if you think what Jones is doing is anywhere close to what Mariano Rivera has done in any of the past 11 years, I will call the cops. Seriously. I will have to call the cops on you. Because you are dangerous.

It's too overwhelming to try to point out why Hayes "not caring" about these arguments is not justification for Jones to win the Cy Young Award. Instead, here are some pitchers who, by any measure, are better candidates, and suffice to say each of their claims to the award is backed by irrefutable evidence that even in the partially subjective world of award-giving could simply not be, well, refuted.

Halladay
J. Santana
E. Santana
KRod
Verlander
Contreras
Schilling
Rivera
Mussina
Wang
Haren
Bonderman
Zito
Lackey
Papelbon
Kazmir
Sabathia

Now, I don't think all of these guys are actually good choices for the award, but they are all way way way better than Todd Jones. And even if we do that thing where you limit the candidates to teams who are real contenders, that still leaves at least a dozen of those guys.

I'm pulling for Jonsey.

You are alone in that regard.

Labels: ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 4:16 PM
Comments:
(Thanks to Eli for the tip.)
 
From reader Simon:

Jones:

Is universally regarded as a terrifying train wreck of a closer by Detroit fans.

Is such a humble, genuine good guy that he once declared that if he found out a teammate was gay, he'd refuse to play with him.

Writes for the Sporting News. Why, that's where the article proclaiming him the deserving Cy Young was published! It's a small, wacky world, Ken Tremendous.


It is indeed.
 
This isn't exactly statistical analysis, but for those of you who are interested, here's what Todd Jones -- who is such a good, good, nice, swell guy -- said about gay MLBers:

"I wouldn't want a gay guy being around me," Jones told the paper. "It's got nothing to do with me being scared. That's the problem: All these people say he's got all these rights. Yeah, he's got rights or whatever, but he shouldn't walk around proud. It's like he's rubbing it in our face. 'See me, Hear me roar.' We're not trying to be close-minded, but then again, why be confrontational when you don't really have to be?"

What a stand-up dude.
 
Most Virulent Phobe, Homo- Category
 
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

 

Timmeh!

McCarver, after a leadoff walk to Johnny Damon:

"There is nothing that opens up big innings any more than a leadoff walk. Leadoff home runs don't do it. Leadoff singles, maybe. But a leadoff walk. It changes the mindset of a pitcher. Since he walked the first hitter, now all of a sudden he wants to find the fatter part of the plate with the succeeding hitters. And that could make for a big inning."

Now, I'm not one of the ten most brilliant geniuses in the world, like McCarver, but I do know some stuff. For example, the average number of runs a team scores when the leadoff runner reaches base is 0.953. (You can find such information here, thanks to tangotiger and the Hardball Times.) The average number of runs a team scores in an inning where the leadoff guy homers = 1 + whatever happens next. So, it stands to reason that teams will score more runs in innings where their leadoff guy homers than they will when the leadoff guy walks.

Now, McCarver, who earned a B.A. in Intelligence from the University of Brilliance, did, admittedly, reference "big innings," not just "runs scored," and I suppose in some way it is possible that teams might have more "big innings" (like, say, innings where they score 4+ runs) after a leadoff walk than after a leadoff HR. I can't imagine that's true, but I suppose it's possible. However, what about innings where the leadoff guy homers, and then the next guy walks, meaning they now have the run in hand plus the average of .953 runs/inning from having a guy on 1B and no one out? If I had to guess -- and I do, because I don't have the info readily available right now (perhaps someone out there does?) -- I'd say that there are far more "big innings" that result from leadoff homers than from leadoff walks.

As for McCarver's assertion that a walk is better than a single...I'm guessing they're about the same.

(Jeter promptly grounded to short, Abreu singled, ARod hit into a double play.)

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 3:09 PM
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Real Quick

During the Yankees-Angels game today on Fox, McCarver and Co. talked about the "impressive array" of young pitchers the Angels have developed. Then they showed a graphic of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, and Dustin Moseley, and mentioned how the trio was 12-0 this year! 12 and 0. Wow. Here are the stats they showed:

Jered Weaver: 7-0, 2.20 ERA
Joe Saunders: 4-0, 1.67 ERA
Dustin Moseley: 1-0, 7.20 ERA

Weaver and Saunders have indeed been great. But Moseley? He had one start, gave up 10 hits and 4 runs (including 2 dingers) in five innings, K'ed 2 and walked no one for a WHIP of 2.00 and a BAA of .417.

But he got the W, as the Los Angeles-Metro-Anaheim Angels of the 5 Freeway Corridor beat the Indians 10-5.

Do we all see now why "wins" are a terrible stat?

It also made me laugh that they showed Moseley's ERA on the screen. If you're going to make terrible arguments, at least Occam's Razor your way out of counter-argument info, you know?

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 2:46 PM
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Just Say Whatever You Want And Hope No One Notices: Tom Singer Edition

Thanks to reader Sam for pointing me in the ultimate direction of this one, but let me start by saying:

Ever since late Thursday night, I've been thinking about this one really strange record that you may not have heard of yet. It was buried deep in the story of Boston's third straight loss to the Royals:

Emil Brown homered in the Royals' sixth. But Schilling also went into the record book in a good way. His 54th straight start without allowing an unearned run broke his own major league mark...Schilling also set the mark by going 53 in a row with Arizona over 2001-02 without an unearned run. This current streak began after he gave up two unearned runs on June 14, 2004 at Colorado.
[emphasis mine]

This seems like one of the strangest coincidences I've heard of since Scott Youkilis caught his brother's foul ball. I mean, it's impossible that Curt Schilling has some sort of incredible ability to prevent unearned runs (relative to earned runs), right? And yet this guy has not only the longest, but the second longest streak of starts without an unearned run in major league history.

I guess it makes sense that the record would belong to a very good pitcher; and certainly Schilling was excellent during the 01-02 span in Arizona (ERA+s of 154 and 136). Obviously, the fewer runs in general a dude gives up, the less likely he is to give up unearned runs.

Of course, there's another, much more important, super obvious reason why a guy might not give up a lot of unearned runs...but first, let's hear why Tom Singer thinks Schilling is so fucking good at not giving up ERs.

Curt Schilling, the intense Boston right-hander, has not allowed a single unearned run the last two seasons. That makes him tops in an overlooked category we've always considered an important tell-tale sign of pitching verve: The ability to steel up, rather than let down, after mistakes behind you.


This Schilling guy sounds tough. I remember when he pitched that game with the blood and everything! Of course he steels himself better than other players. He's the guy with the bloody sock! I bet he likes hockey. Tell me more about this verve!

It's an art, part of a pitcher's makeup. The knack of not only keeping your focus, but sharpening it, in response to peril.


He's tough and he's an artist? What a dreamboat! This guy's verve is so hot I want to suck on it.

Next time you see a Schilling game and there is a defensive breakdown around him, watch closely. He'll pace behind the mound with deliberate steps, impatient to get the ball back in his glove. Once he's got it, he'll climb the hill purposefully, look in for the sign with a determined squint ... and make his subsequent pitches with an extra grunt. That I-got-your-back attitude helps explain the fact he has not permitted an unearned run in 260 1/3 innings over the last two seasons.

This sounds an awful lot like the Curt Schilling I usually see pitching, even if a defensive lapse hasn't happened. Determined squint? You mean, like, more determined that a non-defensive-lapse-has-just-happened squint? "He'll climb the hill purposefully"? Is he usually climbing the hill with a clown nose and a pair of flippers on?

To others, errors are a refuge from responsibility. Runs are diverted from their earned run averages, prompting them to waver, even if subconsciously. "I did my job, what happens next isn't on me," is a natural reaction in any workplace -- where it isn't as measurable as on a diamond.

Man, I hate those guys. The non-Schillings. The guys who secretly love it when a dude on their own team fucks up so they can somehow pad their stats by giving up runs (impossibly).


"Everyone strives for perfection -- but it doesn't happen," says Buck Showalter, the Texas manager. "Picking up for others is part of the job description. The game is played with human beings, not computer chips. There will be failures -- and how you handle it is what separates you."


It's true you guys. Computer chips can not be there to pick up for others. Unless they are programmed to do so.

Overall this is a level playing field. Across a long season, every pitcher presumably runs into that monster: The Four-Out Inning! They all have an equal chance of taming it.


Well, yeah, they're all probably going to have at least one "four-out inning." But just how many will a given pitcher have?

And, here's where we finally get to the real point. It's pretty simple, really. The streak in question is comprised of starts without an unearned run. What, more than anything else, leads to the scoring of unearned runs? Errors. So what's the biggest factor in a streak like this? Errors.

Don't believe me? Let's look at Curt Schilling, 6/16/04 - present day.

-- 3 quick notes:
1) Yahoo! and Retrosheet have different dates for the last time Schilling gave up unearned runs, in Colorado. 6/14 or 6/16/04. Whatever.
2) The streak only includes starts. Schilling of course pitched in relief for some of '05. Though Martinez includes those appearances in his discussion, I'm not taking the time to look at them.
3) Yes, unearned runs can also be a result of passed balls and catcher's interference. But, come on.

Okay, so, the idea is: let's look at all of Curt's starts over this span and find all the times that Curt had to pick up his fellow teammates after they fucked up in the field. Remember, according to Tom Singer, it's something to watch for -- the guy steels himself and everything. I used retrosheet for '04 and '05 starts and Yahoo box scores for '06, fwiw.

In reverse chronological order, a list of games Schilling started that included an error by the Red Sox:

7/4/06: BOS 6 TB 9 -- 2 errors
4/30/06: BOS 4 TB 4 -- 1 error
9/10/5: BOS 9 NYY 2 -- 1 error
4/23/05: BOS 5 TB 6 -- 1 error
4/18/05: BOS 12 TOR 7 -- 1 error
4/13/05: BOS 2 NYY 5 -- 1 error
9/21/04: BOS 3 BAL 2 -- 1 error
9/10/04: BOS 13 SEA 2 -- 1 error
6/27/04: BOS 12 PHI 3 -- 1 error

Ten errors total. In 54 starts. But wait, it gets better:

One of the errors on 7/4/06 was after Schilling was in the game. And the other was an error on Schilling himself. Schilling himself also had the only error on 9/10/05. And 4/23/05. The error on 4/13/05 was, again, after Schilling left the game. (I know this is boring, just bear with me.) Finally, the error on 6/27/04 was also post-Schill.

So the final tally for errors while Schilling was in the game:
3 errors by Schilling himself
4 by other players.

Four errors by other players. And Tom Singer has seen this enough to notice a purposefull climb and a determined squint? Wow. I mean this seriously: either that guy is really, really an insightful baseball analyst, or he is making shit up.

Here's what Schilling did on each of the four occasions when he purposefully climbed the hill following horrible relapses by his defense.

1) 4/30/06:
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Joey Gathright steals second and takes third on a throwing error by Jason Varitek. Schilling squints to home and promptly walks Johnny Gomes. Then he strikes out Ty Wiggington.

2) 4/18/05:
Two outs again, top 2nd. Bases loaded, and Bill Mueller drops a foul pop off the bat of Frank Catalanotto. Schilling then strikes him out on the next pitch.

3) 9/21/04:
One out, top 2nd. Javy Lopez reaches on another Mueller error, sending Surhoff to second. So first and second, one out, and Schilling K's Jay Gibbons and Larry Bigbie.

4) 9/10/04:
One out, bottom 1st. Randy Winn reaches on another error by Bill Mueller. Edgar Martinez succumbs to the squint and grounds into an inning-ending double play.

Granted, he struck out 4 of the 6 guys he faced after defensive "meltdowns" -- or more accurately, he struck out 3 guys in full at bats and threw one strike to strike out another. But it's not exactly like these were life-threatening situations. It's not like he was facing Albert Pujols with no outs in the bottom of the 8th in a 2-2 tie. And, of course, the bottom line is, we're talking six plate appearances over 2 1/2 seasons.

Seven errors in 54 starts. Four by players other than Schilling himself.

And I'm supposed to believe the reason for this guy's incredible streak is his squint.

EDIT: "less runs" to "fewer runs" (thanks to KT, who finds it acceptable to use "Occam's Razor" as a verb and still call out other people on grammar)

EDIT ALSO: Info on the Catalanotto at bat. There were two strikes already at the time of the error.

BIG EDIT: Somehow I thought this article was written by Buck Martinez. It was written by Tom Singer.

Labels: , ,


posted by dak  # 2:03 AM
Comments:
By my count, during Schilling's second best streak in '01-'02, there were only 8 errors made in the field behind him while he was pitching.

That's eight non-Schilling errors in 53 starts.
 
I have two questions and a comment. May I proceed?

Why did Bill Mueller personally want to make Schilling give up an unearned run?

Who are the other pitchers with long streaks of no UER-giving-up? I bet they're guys with a lot of Ks, like Schill. Or else they are just a random smattering of guys with no discernable link, since the very idea of a streak like this seems way more likely to be the product of luck than skill. Much like the list of guys who have thrown no-hitters. It kills me that people think that things like no-hitters and unearned run streaks are without question the result of skill. So dumb. Roger Clemens has zero no-hitters in his career. Len Barker threw a perfecto. It's flukey, people. Flukey. Where was I? Oh yes, the comment.

You mean "fewer" runs, not "less runs."
 
I'll Occam's Razor you, if you're not careful.
 
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