FIRE JOE MORGAN: Scotty's Back!


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


Scotty's Back!

There isn't a lot of bad stat-bashing, or SmartBall references, or anything, but I really like the way this one starts:

This is the new Scott Podsednik.

He's good at baseball now?! Fantastic!

The one who isn't going to rush back from an injury, the one who won't let the anxiety of seeing his teammates playing in Cactus League games overwhelm him.

The Sox then decided to take his return to the next level.

They told him to forget everything he does in the batter's box. Then they told him to stop trying to steal bases, because his career ~75% success rate means it's barely worth it. Then they told him to gain 40 pounds of muscle so he can hit some doubles. Then they told him to walk more. Then they just said, fuck it, this is taking too long, and traded him to the Astros to get Carlos Lee back, and became a way better team.

''He started on the field a few days ago, and I really like what I see,'' hitting coach Greg Walker said.

This is bad journalism. A key part of context was left out of this sentence accidentally. Here's how it should read:

Walker: "[Podsednik] started on the field a few days ago, and --

Walker hears a solid crack of the bat. He turns away from where Podsednik is shagging flies and sees Jermaine Dye in the batting cage lining ball after ball into the gap.

Walker: ...I really like what I see!

Context is everything.

''Until he faces live pitching in a game, it's going to be hard to tell, but we're already in the process. All he has to do now is get up to game speed.''

Cowley cut this quote off early. I listened to the tapes, and the entire quote is:

"All he has to do now is get up to game speed, and then he'll be able to be terrible at the level at which we have come to expect him to be terrible."

Again. Context.

It is well-documented now that he rushed to get back from a strained thigh muscle last spring, and once he started the season in an 0-for-16 slump, his bat easily could have been mistaken for a shovel.

Boy. Shoddy. Again, there is a missing piece here. It should read:

...once he started the season in an 0-for-16 slump -- or, at any other time in his major league career, except for in 2003 with Milwaukee (the only season his OPS+ was over 100, meaning, by that relatively crude but sometimes telling statistical measure, that that was the only season he was better than league average as a hitter) -- his bat easily could have been mistaken for a shovel.

Makes more sense that way, yes?

''First and foremost, my legs feel good. If I have my health and my legs underneath me, I can work from there. It gives me a confidence at the plate that I can always fall back on [my legs].

Without your legs you might not have been able to achieve your awesome career 88 OPS+, or legged out almost but not quite 30 doubles in any year of your career.

I can lay down a bunt, beat out an infield chopper, those sort of things. I can measure everything by the way I feel from my health.

I can ground out softly to the right side. I can pop up to short. I can single into the hole between short and third. Then I have gone 1-for-3 and people will get excited because I am hitting .333! Scotty's back!

"Last year, I rushed to get back. I mean, we're taking the field as the defending champions, and I wanted to be there on Opening Day. And because of that, I kind of dug myself into a hole.''

That hole led to Podsednik pressing, pressing led to questioning, questioning led to a disappointing .261 batting average, and the Sox lost a weapon at the top of the lineup that played a big part in their 2005 World Series title.

Podsednik did have a dreadful year last year. How dreadful? It was even worse than the year he had in 2005, when everyone decided he was awesome. For the record, his "disappointing" .261 in 2006 represented ten fewer hits than he had in his world-beating 2005. Ten. Fewer. Hits. In only 17 more AB.

He had one fewer double in 2006, but 5 more triples (so his legs were fine, I guess) and 3 more home runs. Which means his SLG was actually higher last year than in 2005. He also walked seven more times in 2006. And if you care about RsBI, which I do not, he had 20 more.

All things considered, he probably had a better hitting year in 2005...his OPS+ was 10 points higher, and despite the fact that of his 147 hits, 118 were singles and zero were HR, he did get on base more efficiently. Whatever. They are both abysmal years for a starting outfielder in MLB. And more importantly, this is why you can't use BA to judge anything. .290 vs. 261, in roughly the same number of AB, represents about two bloop singles per month.

''I'm starting to get that confidence back and starting to get over that mental hurdle as far as my health goes,'' Podsednik said. ''I've had no setbacks, no complications. Skill-wise, it's going to be a matter of going out there, getting my work in, making adjustments and go from there."

Hopefully the adjustments will be: suddenly becoming good at hitting.

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