FIRE JOE MORGAN: Let's Play "How Much is this Wrong?"


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Friday, May 18, 2007


Let's Play "How Much is this Wrong?"

It's a new FJM game where we take as a given that the article and its included quotes from various people are wrong, and then we rate each wrong-time on a 9-point scale. Why nine? It's Juan Pierre's uniform number.

Pierre, Matthews Stake Out Middle Ground

Critics said the Dodgers and Angels overspent for their new center fielders, but both teams are getting pretty much what they expected from the free-agent signees, and both are in first place.
By Bill Shaikin, Times Staff Writer

Let's just begin by wondering what these teams were expecting from these guys.

Juan Pierre, in his career, has a .256 EqA. That is below average for a major league baseball player. He is a below average offensive baseball player. Drink that in, Ned Colletti lovers. (And if you somehow think that Pierre plays stellar-enough defense to overcome this below-average-itude, his career FRAA is -7.) 50th percentile PECOTA had him at .250 EqA and 3.4 WARP3. His highest WARP3 in a season is 6.0. He plays CF. He has 4,286 AB and 265 BB. This = not good.

Juan Pierre: slightly below average in all phases of the game.

Gary Matthews Jr. A career line of .265/.338/.421. A career .269 EqA. -18 FRAA career. Season high of 7.2 WARP3 (not bad, but also flukey compared to the 2.0, 3.7, 4.2 he had in the three previous years). His 50th percentile PECOTA projection had him at .272 EqA and 3.5 WARP3.

Gary Matthews Jr. -- above average in some aspects of the game, mostly about average or below average.

That's what these teams should have been expecting. So, how much is it wrong to say that both teams are getting what they expected? It's only a 4 on the 9-point wrongness scale, because this year, Juan Pierre is at a .240 EqA and Gary Matthews Jr. is a good-for-you! .305. The Halos have to be happy, while the Dodgers should totally have been expecting the .616 OPS they're getting from out-maker extraordinaire Juan Pierre.

Chone Figgins speaks with some authority about center field. He played there last year, before the Angels signed Gary Matthews Jr. and bumped him to third base.

Yes. Let us listen to Chone Figgins instead of: reason.

Figgins sees Matthews every day. He speaks with Pierre, his best friend in baseball, almost every day. He gives Matthews the edge in power,

Really? Even though Juan Pierre has almost thirteen career HR? Okay, Chone, give the power edge to Matthews. It's your funeral.

Pierre the edge in speed, and thumbs up to the clubs that invested a combined $94 million to bring them to Southern California

"You can't go wrong with either one," Figgins said.

I guess that depends on one's definition of "go wrong." If by "you can't go wrong" you mean "you can't go very right with Matthews, and you can't go anywhere with Pierre" then I agree.

That opinion was far from unanimous during the winter, after Matthews and Pierre each signed a five-year deal to play in the Southland.

The Angels paid $50 million for Matthews, and the critics howled: way too much for a guy coming off a career year! The Dodgers paid $44 million for Pierre, and the critics howled again: way too much for a singles hitter with a spotty on-base percentage!

But what do the critics know, right? I mean, Matthews is having a good year, but he's 32, and he projects to a 1.7 WARP in the final year of his $50m contract. And Pierre...Pierre is just hopeless. In 180 AB he has walked 8 times and has a .307 OBP, good for a rock-liquid 140th in MLB. And he's a leadoff/2-hole hitter. He is one of the worst people in the league at not making outs, and the D0dgers give him the maximum possible number of out-making opportunities a player can have. Trying to score runs with Juan Pierre as your leadoff hitter is like trying to suture a wound in a moving car. You might still be successful -- but why make it so hard on yourself?

Anyway, I'm sure Bill Shaikin will come to the same conclusions.

Yet, if you base the early returns on the standings, the investments are paying off. The Angels are in first place with Matthews, the Dodgers are in first place with Pierre, and isn't that the point?

Bad news -- I fed that paragraph into the Wrong Machine, (expecting a perfect nine, obviously), and the Wrong Machine just started shaking back and forth and smoke came out and it exploded.

Let us use the logic of this piece of writing to form some other conclusions:

1. In 2003 the Detroit Pistons drafted Darko Milicic instead of Bosh, Carmelo, or D-Wade, and won the 2004 championship, so it was a good idea to draft Darko Milicic.

2. In 2006 four top Italian soccer clubs were investigated for match-fixing in one of the biggest scandals in European sports history, and Italy won the World Cup that year, so it was a good idea to get involved in match fixing.

3. James Dean got into a car wreck and died and he's still really famous, so it's a good idea to get into car wrecks.

And so on.

The simplest way to say this is: if the Dodgers' hit anyone in their line-up -- LaRoche, Martin, even Ethier -- in the slot currently occupied by Juan Pierre, they would probably score more runs. And if they could go back in time and undo the insane contract they gave Pierre and instead just play a decent AAA guy in his place, they would score about the same number of runs and have 43.667 million extra dollars.

The Angels are getting all of what they wanted from Matthews, the Dodgers most of what they wanted from Pierre.

They apparently wanted Pierre to punch them in the face and set fire to the clubhouse. That's the only way they could be happy with what they're getting.

Matthews, 32, has been a godsend to an offense that scarcely extends beyond Vladimir Guerrero.

Sadly, this is a low 2.6 on the 9-point Wrong Scale. (Found a replacement machine -- it's up and running again.) Matthews is having a good year. Again: he's 32 and embroiled in an HGH scandal, so I'm still not quite sure that $50m over five is a good idea. But right now, fine.

The Angels coveted him for defense, and he has delivered from opening day, when he robbed Mark Teixeira with a leaping catch so impressive that television cameras caught pitcher John Lackey mouthing, "That's why we got him!"

Said Lackey: "I got dividends right out of the gate. He's made a lot of difference. He's already robbed a few home runs. His range has helped us a lot."

Yes, Matthews does make spectacular catches. The one he made last year will be shown on JumboTrons forever. But his career FRAA indicate that he is not an otherworldly CF.

Pierre has not starred on defense.

You don't say.

In the first inning of the first game, Vin Scully pointed out Pierre's weak arm, explaining how Rickie Weeks set up the Milwaukee Brewers' first run by racing from first base to third on a single to center field.

This is going to happen a lot over the next five years, Dodger fans. Get used to it.

He has occasionally taken a poor route to a ball. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Pierre's range has been statistically outstanding over the years and suggested he might simply be struggling to adjust to the conditions of his new home field, with its five decks and palette of pastel seats.

Juan Pierre: susceptible to architectual aesthetics.

"No," Pierre said. "If I play bad, it's because I play bad. It's not the field or any kind of condition."

This gets a 0.0 on the Wrong Scale. Nice work, Juan.

On offense, he gets hits and steals bases, as expected. He leads the Dodgers in both categories, and he's on pace to score 100 runs. But he's batting .278, below his career average of .302, and his on-base percentage of .304 would be a career low.

"He's hitting .280 and stealing bases. That's all right," Figgins said. "If you want to take that as struggling, a lot of guys will take that. He's scoring runs, which is what you want, and they're in first place."

How do you not understand that he would be scoring more runs if he made fewer outs? Why is this so hard to grasp? If his OBP is .304 and he's on pace to score 100 runs, isn't it obvious that if his OBP were, say, .360, he'd probably be on pace to score 125 runs? (Wild guess -- don't email me with corrections.)

"For the first three weeks or so, he was trying to get six hits every game and steal five bases every game," Colletti said. "I told him, 'All you have to do is be Juan Pierre.'

Is it possible that Ned Colletti is pulling a "Producers" on the Dodgers? Deliberately tanking them so he can pocket a lot of investors' money and skip town? Giving Juan Pierre $44m over five years and telling him to just be himself...that's enough to convict a GM of racketeering and fraud.

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posted by Unknown  # 10:59 PM
Thanks to reader Tom for the heads-up.
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