FIRE JOE MORGAN: 03.07

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

 

The War Against The War Against Strikeouts



The front page of ESPN.com, at least right now, poses a terrible question: "So, how did Ryan Howard go from 151 Ks in 2003 to 58 HRs in 2006?"

The answer? By striking out even more. Howard struck out 181 times last year. And was awesome.

Strikeouts are not bad. One hundred and fifty one strikeouts are not bad. That same year (2003, in the minors), Howard also put up an OBP of 374 and slugged 514. He wasn't exactly crapping his pants at the plate.

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posted by dak  # 2:40 AM
Comments:
Follow-up, of sorts, from the Olney chat today:

Sky (The Roc, NY): Buster, I enjoy everything you write and listening to you on the radio. But I have to call your use of Howard's 2003 strikeout total as evidence of a hole in his swing and then neglecting to mention his 2006 strikeout total...

Buster Olney: Sky -- In two years, with the adjustments, he made in his swing, he went from a Class AA question mark to NL MVP, hitting .355 in the second half, with a .751 slugging percentage and a .509 OBP. If you want to shoot holes in that with his strikeout total, that's your call.


Now I'm really confused. He didn't answer the question, right? (Or the statement, or whatever.)

Hard to pin this whole thing on Buster. Who knows who writes those frontpage teasers?

Anyway. Strikeouts: not that bad.
 
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

 

Baseball Is Here

We don't usually post things that emailers say they heard on TV because they're impossible to verify, but this is just too perfect. From reader Philip:

I caught some of the Mets-Braves game this afternoon which I believe was the ESPN debut of FJM favorite Dusty Baker along with Ric Sutcliffe and Dave Ryan. In the bottom of the first the three were discussing the Mets batting David Wright second in their batting order. Dusty says, "He (Wright) stole 20 bases last year so you don't have to worry about him clogging up the bases at the top of the order." For reference, first game, bottom of the first inning, first "clogging up the bases" quote from Dusty Baker.

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posted by Junior  # 8:08 PM
Comments:
We need a serious discussion about whether the preferred term should be: "clogging up the basepaths" or "clogging up the bases."

I will call Dusty Baker and get back to you.
 
Okay -- Dusty says we can stick with "basepaths" even though he usually says "bases."
 
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Not Terrible, But Confusing

Okay, I lied. It's pretty terrible. It is, after all, Steve Phillips we're talking about here.

Let me ask you something. If you click on a link that says "Steve Phillips: Best tools in the game" and then you see a headline that says "Identifying those with the best tools in the game" and then you read a first sentence that says "Baseball is built on five tools: hitting for average, hitting for power, throwing, fielding and running," don't you expect to read an article about, I don't know, the guys who have the best tools in the game?

You might, but you would be wrong to expect such a thing, because you have entered the Steve Phillips Zone, where the rules of logic have no meaning and a man can say he's going to write about one thing but then just give up midway through the first paragraph and ramble on about whatever he feels like. A better name for this article would be "An Arbitrary List of Things I Think About Eighteen Players, Groups of Players, or Managers."

Plus, to wrap everything up, there's a sixth category -- chemistry -- on the guys who have a sixth sense for creating it.


Perfect.

Let me interrupt Steve by pointing out that he himself has identified what are traditionally considered the five tools. They are, in his own words:

hitting for average
hitting for power
throwing
fielding
running

Before we even read the article, let's skim the subheadings and see what he lists as tools:

Sticks
Muscle
Arms
Gloves
Wheels
Chemistry

"Sticks" -- okay, that's hitting for average. "Muscle" -- power. "Arms" -- that means throwing guys out, like Andruw Jones, right? No. This is where Steve Phillips lists pitchers. Because a five-tool guy is a guy who can hit for average, hit for power, field his position, run fast, and pitch a no-hitter, all in the same game. I think Barry Bonds did this once in 1987.

Basically, by the second sentence of the article, Phillips acknowledges he's just going to Larry-King-in-USA-Today this thing and wing it:

Here's a look at the players whose skills, or lack thereof, in each area could make or break their teams.

Here's a look at players who may be good or may be bad at things and thus may confer good or bad results on their teams, depending on if they're good or bad at the things.

This is what Phillips has to say about Adam Dunn:

If he focused on contact, he could hit 50 homers and drive in 150.

This seems like sort of a tall order. Albert Pujols, the awesomest hitter in baseball, has never hit 50 homers or driven in 150 runs, ever. All Dunn has to do is focus on contact for a historically great season? Jesus, get on that, Adam.

Dunn has 12 sacrifice flies in five full seasons; Justin Morneau had 11 last year.

This is a common criticism of Dunn, but I'm not so sure it's that big a deal. This guy notes that in 2003 and 2004, Dunn fucked up some sac fly opportunities because with a runner on third and less than two outs, 50% of his fly balls went for home runs. Whoops!

Here's what Phillips thinks about Tigers pitchers:

Tigers pitchers

A lasting memory from the 2006 Series is of Tigers pitchers throwing wildly to first and third bases. As isolated incidents, the errors aren't a big deal. In the Series they were huge, like Tony Romo's dropping the snap in the NFL playoffs. We'll know the Tigers are over it only when the pitchers make several plays after an error.


Does he really think the entire Tiger pitching staff is going to turn into a bunch of Knoblauchs because of last year's Series? These are the words of a crazy person.

CHEMISTRY

Bob Wickman, RHP, Braves

Because they sit in the bullpen and work one inning at a time, it's not often that closers are team leaders. But there are many things about Wickie that his teammates admire. He cares more than most, he knows more than most and he makes sense when he speaks. Plus, he has overachieved with mediocre stuff.


This guy is a leader because "he makes sense when he speaks." He can walk without falling down. He eats food instead of rocks. He wears clothes instead of refrigerators. He is a chemist.

Eric Chavez, 3B, A's

Last season, forearm problems sapped Chavez's strength and power. Many players would have opted out of the lineup to protect their stats, but Chavez knew the team needed his D, leadership and whatever offense he could provide. The A's made the playoffs by taking on the personality of their gritty and determined third baseman.


He gritted Frank Thomas to a 41.3 VORP and he gritted Nick Swisher to a .372 OBP. Glue guy. Grit guy. Glue grit. If he were in a band, it would be called Motley Glue. If he were a seminal 1941 John Crowe Ransom essay, he would be called "The New Griticism."

Anyway, there you go. A list of the guys with the best tools in baseball.

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posted by Junior  # 4:21 PM
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The Post Wherein I Take A Throwaway Sentence in the Penultimate Paragraph of a Murray Chass Column Absolutely Devoid of New Information or Insight ...

... and I use it to bludgeon him to death.

Look, the column is no good. Boring, stale, rehashed -- and the big revelation is an allegation by an anonymous source that gasp! the Red Sox wanted to keep Daisuke Matsuzaka away from the Yankees.

Well, no shit.

My issue is with this paragraph, which appears in an odd little below-the-dot addendum at the end of the piece:

Varitek was speaking before the Red Sox abandoned their plan to make Jonathan Papelbon a starter and restored him to the closer role he filled so capably for most of last season. But his exit from the starting rotation presumably weakens it. It now has two 40-year-olds, one of whom, Tim Wakefield, had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs.


Read that last sentence again. According to Murray Chass, Tim Wakefield was (okay, "might have" been) the reason the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs last year. This is sort of like blaming Azerbaijan for fucking up the war in Iraq, except a million times more egregious and important and serious.

Mr. Chass, let me explain to you how you go about not writing a sentence like that. I know you don't cotton to VORP or WARP or people who believe, as I do, that the game of baseball is played by animatronic numbers swinging bats and fielding balls. Unfortunately, this method involves a computer, which you may have to purchase, and the Internet, which you may have to look up in a dictionary and then dismiss as a fad.

Alternatively, you could probably find this information at the library with your knowledge of card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal Classification System. It would only take several more hours and ten times the work.

First, find last year's baseball standings. You will discover that the Red Sox finished eleven games behind the AL East champion Yankees and nine games behind the Wild Card Tigers. So we'll go with nine games as the ground the Sox needed to make up to reach the playoffs.

Now look up Tim Wakefield. Yahoo (don't worry about what that is) provides a record of all of the games he pitched in last year. Huh. Look at that. In 23 games started by Wakefield, the Red Sox went 11-12.

Your claim, remember, is that "Tim Wakefield had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs."

11-12. Nine games out. So Tim Wakefield would've had to have willed his team to go 20-3 in his games he started in order for them to even pull into a tie with the Tigers.

I think it's pretty fair to blame him for that.

---

I'm jumping all over Chass for a minor mistake in a minor piece written before the season has even started. But I think it's a minor mistake that reflects either carelessness (if you're willing to be charitable) or a fundamental misunderstanding of very basic statistics and player value. It's like Chass saw on a piece of paper that Wakefield went 7-11 and decided he had a terrible year because hey, that's losing and losing is bad. The year before he went 16-12. That's winning! There you have it: Tim Wakefield, 2006 goat.

Here's the thing: Wakefield may have finished 16-12, but in games Wakefield started in 2005, the Red Sox went 17-16. That's basically .500. Which is basically what they did in his starts in 2006. Because that's what Tim Wakefield gives you -- league-average ERA and hopefully, lots of innings. (His last three ERA+ years have looked like this: 100, 106, 100.)

Wakefield did miss starts last year, and that hurt the Red Sox, but keep in mind that that's not what Chass is saying. No: he is saying that 7-11 (losing!) somehow damned the Red Sox to that ignominious third place finish.

See, being afraid of numbers and resistant to change and unwilling to learn new things doesn't just make you look like a sad, anachronistic old kook. It can actually hurt your writing in concrete, demonstrable ways. It can make you assert things that with an ounce of research can be shown to be patently ridiculous.

I am beginning to think that Murray Chass could improve as a sportswriter.

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posted by Junior  # 2:14 PM
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

 

Apologies in Advance

Because the creator of this site is not a professional journalist. He is just a guy who wants ARod to be more respected in New York.

And this is a cause I can get behind. I am a Red Sox fan, and thus, currently, I "hate" ARod. But as you might have read on our site, we feel that his treatment by fans and the NY press is absolutely insane. He is super awesome at baseball, and plenty of sportswriters think that because he has had some bad playoff series he is a headcase who fails in the clutch. The phrase "not a True Yankee" gets thrown around. Please see our Glossary for some thoughts on the phrase "True Yankee."

Point is, AlexRod is straight-up, no foolin', one of the maybe five best offensive players in baseball over the last decade, which lots of people, weirdly, forget.

Anyway, this "Project A13" fellow thinks that all Yankee fans have to do is read "The Secret" and bend some spoons with their minds and maybe rub some crystals on the back of a cauldron filled with jackal testicles and then maybe, just maybe, Alex Rodriguez can become good at baseball.

Maybe, if they use their positive vibes and Healing Vectors and Optimism BrainPlasma Rays extra effectively, he'll even become as good at baseball as he was in 2005, when he won the MVeffingP Award for being the best baseball player. As a member of the Yankees.

There is just something contagious about positive energy, and even though it can't be put into words readily, or explained in a lab with science, we've all felt its effects at Yankee Stadium in the past.

Yes. Going to baseball games is very fun, and when the crowd gets into the game, it is very exciting. Why do Yankee fans often feel like Yankee Stadium, which is a 1970's-remodeled shithole, is governed not by the laws of physics but by White Magik?

Think post-9/11, in the 2001 World Series, when every fan's thoughts were focused squarely on baseball—they had to be—and how amazing their pinstriped heroes could make them feel. In back-to-back games, the Yankees hit two game-tying, two-run home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs each time (what are the odds?), a feat never before witnessed in World Series play.

This happened...because of positive energy? Not because BK Kim threw like 100 pitches in 2 days? Not because the hitters who hit them were good. Not because sometimes: crazy shit happens, especially in the wonderfully complex and unpredictable world of baseball? It all happened because of positive feelings.

For the record, I was living in New York at that time. Those HR were amazing. They brought tears to my eyes. They almost made me happy, which I never thought any Yankee triumph could do. People in New York were happy, for the first time in two very terrible months. It was wonderful, for the city. It did not happen because of magic.

Derek Jeter went on to hit an extra-innings, walk-off home run in the first of these two games, and Alfonso Soriano had the game-winning hit in the second. Euphoria rained down in the Bronx.

Anyone remember who eventually won that World Series? Who? The Diamondbacks? Huh. Maybe the Yankee Fan Brain-Energy Sparkle Photons couldn't penetrate the warm desert air.

Want more examples?

Yes, please.

Think Tino's upper-deck Grand Slam versus San Diego in the 1998 Series. Or Chad Curtis' two Game Three, World Series home runs in 1999.

The Yankees were very good at baseball in the late 1990's. Every good thing that happens in your home park is not due to Dark Arts.

Mariano's three Series-clinching saves in three consecutive October Classics—also a feat never before seen.

This is what we in the tangible human world of cold mathematics call: a Cherry-Pick.

And the list could go on and on for this extraordinary stretch of time, such as David Justice's clutch home run off Arthur Rhodes in the 2000 playoffs, and let's not forget the back-to-back perfect games pitched by David Wells in 1998, and David Cone in 1999.

These are "back to back" because they happened in consecutive years? That's not what "back to back" means. You can't say that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz hit back-to-back home runs on May 13, 2003 and August 18 2004. Or that Bill Clinton and George Bush won back-to-back elections. Or that France and America won back-to-back revolutions. They both threw prefect games, in Yankee Stadium. It was all very exciting.

Hang on a second. Oh my God. Their names are both named David. Maybe everyone in The Bronx should change their names to David!!!!!!

Just like the media can create waves of negative energy to sell its newspapers and ad space, fans like you and me can create waves of positive energy that carry our athletes to heights never thought possible.

Nope. No. Sorry. Untrue. Opposite of true. Baloney. Fake fake fake silly dumb no. Bad nope ugh stop dumb silly no no no.

It is super fun to go to baseball games. It is one of my favorite things in the world. And I certainly believe that it is exciting and fun for players to hear -- and feel -- that the crowd is roaring their approval. But for the love of god, man. Get a grip.

Think of all those insane moments, where the opposition and their fans were left staring out onto the field, or at their TV sets, in dazed, dejected, bewilderment—mouths hanging to the floor—while the Yankees danced, and jumped, and hugged, shaking their heads...the Yankees' Mystique...the Ghosts of Yankees Stadium...the Aura of New York. All of these events can be explained, in large part, because everyone involved believed they would happen—they just knew the Yankees would come through—players and fans alike.

I hate to be "this guy." But did everyone think the Yankees would lose Games 6 and 7 in 2004? Did you think you would lose to the Tigers? Did you think you would lose to the Angels?

Here are some words I would use to describe the Yankees' players and fans after those defeats:

"dazed, dejected, bewilderment—mouths hanging to the floor—while the [other team/their fans] danced, and jumped, and hugged, shaking their heads."

And read this again:

"All of these events can be explained, in large part, because everyone involved believed they would happen—they just knew the Yankees would come through—players and fans alike."

Those events can be explained because the Yankees were good at baseball. It had little/nothing to do with the fans in the stands. Sorry.

It can be that way again. All we need is a spark.

Plus two more good starters, a reliable lefty set-up guy, a good year out of Cano, quick injury come-backs from Abreu and Wang, a 75% PECOTA year from Posada, and another 30 rounds of HGH for Giambi. And Roger Clemens. And Phil Hughes.

Oh -- and a spark. You need a spark.

To a certain extent, these moments still happen for the Yankees, even if a ring is not the ultimate reward. For example, Hideki Matsui's opening day grand slam in 2003, in the snow.

This is an event worth singling out? This is a "special moment" that resulted from Yankee Magic? The guy hit a grand slam. He's a good hitter. Fernando Tatis hit two in one inning once. Was that because of fans?

Or, my personal favorite, the 2003 ALCS Game 7 comeback against Pedro, punctuated by Georgie's game-tying double in the eighth, and signed, sealed and delivered by Aaron Boone in the bottom of the eleventh—the definition of insanity.

Oh, I beg to differ, chumly. The definition of insanity is believing that fans and their Positive Energy Beams caused a Tim Wakefield knuckleball to hang. Or that Yankee Stadium, and not Pedro's exhausted arm, or Grady Little's complete and utter inability to manage baseball games, caused those hits to fall in. That, my good man, is the definition of insanity.

The problem today is that these moments are happening less and less frequently, especially in the postseason, and we the fans are getting more and more angry—a frustrating cycle headed in the wrong direction.

Yes. The problem is not an aging roster and terrible trades and a lack of a farm system that plagued the team for the last five years and Jason Giambi's steroids/pituitary tumor and losing Andy Pettitte and playing ARod out of position and giving Tony Womack like 400 AB one year and insisting Bernie can still play CF and Hideki Matsui breaking his wrist and no pitching depth and a crappy bullpen. The problem -- and why won't anyone listen to this guy?! -- is a Cyclical Downtrend in Forward-Thinking Optimism that spawns Grumpy Beams that are Radiated Outward from the Happy Helping Mechanisms (the stands). Haven't you guys ever seen baseball? Or learned science?

This is the problem when a city becomes conditioned on excellence, as the Yankees of the late 90's definitely conditioned their fans. We stop believing good things will happen, and start expecting them to—a major difference. Belief, in its purest form, is a measure of confidence...of faith.

Expectation is a measure of entitlement, which is not nearly as endearing a quality, is it?

No, it is not. But even less endearing is: lunacy.

I really don't want to be a killjoy. I like the humanistic element of baseball fandom. I often do not move from my seat if the Red Sox have a rally going. But: and this is key: I do not actually believe that my actions affect those of the players on the field. How is it possible for me to differentiate between superstition and the actual doings of men I have never met? Because -- and this is my secret -- I am a sentient human.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 8:59 PM
Comments:
A very very very special tip of the cap to reader W.A. for the link.
 
As reader Ian points out, someone needs to direct this dude to Project A13 and tell him: this is what "New Age" means.
 
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Joe Fired

It's Theismann, but we'll take it.

We didn't write about him much on this site, but no one thought he was good, right? No. No one did.

I'll always remember "Right now, if this is a heavyweight fight, the cards are starting to line up for Tampa Bay," which may or may not have been him.

As a side note, I was shocked that Mike Tirico wasn't terrible on PTI last week.

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posted by Junior  # 8:31 PM
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FJM Reverse Curse III

The worst sports event analyst in all of sports was just nominated for Best Sports Events Analyst in the Sports Emmys. Can you spot him?

Hints.

Also, as more than one of you have pointed out, perhaps the ultimate FJM Reverse Curse is that David Eckstein is wearing 2 WS rings.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 3:18 PM
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Not to mention Ozzie and Podsednik, I guess.
 
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Monday, March 26, 2007

 

Follow-Up: Schilling v. CHB

First of all, if you read the post below and care to follow-up on Schilling v. CHB, Schill has responded on his blog.

Secondly, everyone should go to the comments section in the post below and read Schilling's interview snippet about the on-line game Everquest. In the Media-Blogger-MLB Superstar world, I think we all know who the true nerds are. God bless you, Scythehands Voxslayer.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 5:19 PM
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Blogs = Bad, Old Media = Good, Nerds = Nerdy!

At some point in probably like 1974 or so, comedians everywhere, in a sort of collective unconscious kind of way, all started talking about how hard bags of airline peanuts were to open. This led jokes about that subject to become something people in the professional comedy world call "hacky." Some other examples of jokes/observations that became hacky, over time, include:

If the black box survives plane crashes, why don't they make the whole plane out of the black box?

If the Professor can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix the hole in the boat?

When I smoke weed, I get the munchies so bad!

There were two different guys who played "Darin" on "Bewitched": Dick Sargent and Dick York.

Also, who do you think was hotter -- Jeannie or the Bewitched chick?

-- Ginger or Marianne?

Men like to watch television and scratch themselves while women want to talk about their feelings.

Women shop a lot.

Monica Lewinsky!!!!!!!

And so on. You all know what I am talking about.

Now, officially, today, I would like to nominate a new member to the hacky joke Hall of Fame. The notion that bloggers live in their mom's basements.

And who better to put the final hacky nail in this hacky coffin than Boston's own Dan Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy wrote this column because Curt Schilling has started a blog, 38pitches.com, so that he can communicate directly with his fans. Seems like a good thing to do. Why not? Unfortunately, Shaughnessy, it appears to me, has now seen the writing on the wall for muck-raking journalists like himself, who have careers mostly because they get access to athletes beyond that of the general public and thus get to poke and prod them for quotes and then write articles detailing their every move. If the athletes get to talk right to their public, what use is there for middlemen like ol' Danny? Some real estate agents are going to disappear eventually because of on-line video tours of houses. Brokers took a hit from e-Trade. Brick-and-mortar bookstores suffered from Amazon. The internet is a highly effective middleman reducer.

Now, far be it from me to downplay the role of journalists in sports reporting. There are many good ones, and I personally enjoy the old-timeyness of the on-site reporter. And, just as in politics, I believe that the public does benefit from professional prodders professionally prodding athletes. (I wish they had prodded more over the last 20 years, when it must have been blindingly clear that everyone in the league was juicing and not one single journalist had the guts to report it. Or even raise it as an issue. Their fancy journalism degrees didn't serve them -- or us -- very well then, did they?) But I also, as you might imagine, see the great benefit in the personal blog. It simply cannot be a bad thing to have more outlets for athlete-fan communication, if for no other reason than giving the average $80 ticket-buyers a chance to speak directly with those whose services we are paying to see.

Shaughnessy thinks differently. He thinks blogs are for nerds who live in their mom's basements. He thinks Schilling is just an attention-seeking glory hound. (Which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that Schilling has been critical of the media in Boston.) He thinks this whole blogging business is something to sneer at, deride, dismiss, and ridicule. And that is why he is a dinosaur who will grow up to be more bitter and miserable than he already is.

(The premise of his article is that it's excerpts from Schilling's chat.)

38 Pitches:
Fire away guys. I've got a few hours of spare time before my next start and would be happy to answer questions about anything. Like I've been saying, the idea of this blog is that it allows me to communicate directly with my fans without any misrepresentations from those nitwits in the media.

Sycophant38: Hey, Curt. This blog is so cool. I can't believe you actually communicate with us directly. You will always be a god to me, Curt. You and the bloody sock. You honor me and my friends with this blog. So, let me ask you, do you think you would have won 25 last year if the umps weren't squeezing you?

38 Pitches: You'll never get me to say anything bad about the men in blue, Sycophant38. But thanks for joining the chat.

I like that enjoying the ability to chat directly with a player makes you a "sycophant."

Lapdog38: Hey Curt. This blog is awesome. I mean, I can't believe it's really you. I'm nervous just typing, knowing you are there on the other end. Let me tell you a little about myself. I am 38 years old (pretty cool, huh, 38?) and I have your jersey in XXL (both home and away versions). I'm living at home, in the basement, rent free, and I've got cable and plasma TV. Domino's delivers. I guess you could say I'm living the dream. Anyway, I was wondering if you could tell us who's going to be on the final 25-man roster for the Sox this year?

I'm sorry -- it makes you a lapdog. A fat lapdog. A fat lapdog who lives in a basement.

Yes: here's the first instance of "living in [mom's] basement." Well done. Good parody. By the way, Danny, parodies of things need to have grains of truth in them. Your parody of the questions on Curt's chat is clearly taking the position that the questioners are sycophantic nerds who live in their moms' basements. I will now cut and paste a bunch of the actual questions that were asked of Schilling, so we may contrast and compare:

Q-Who else has upgraded their starting pitching in 2007?

Q-I understand the desire to not face AL East teams, but isn’t the reverse true? Might you learn something from them by facing them in ST?

Q-Does one hitter protect another in the lineup, in the pitchers mind?

Q-I read that Beckett’s problems last year were him relying on his FB too much, doesn’t Tek make sure that doesn’t happen?

Q-What is the one thing you need in a game to be successful?

Q-Worried about pressure on Pedroia?

Q-What’s Daisuke been like to watch in person?

Q-Can the O’s overtake us?

Q-You have set incredibly ambitious goals for 38 Studios and its role in the gaming industry. Are you worried at all about losing sight of your goals, or the company being passed down into incapable/corrupt hands? If so, what measures have you put in place (or wish to put in place) to prevent that from happening?

Q-Your recap reminded me, I’ve always wanted to know; what goes through your mind between innings when things aren’t going well or you are worried that you don’t have all the tools you want or need on the mound on any given start?

Q-On SoSH awhile back there was a discussion what is more valuable: A catcher with an exceptional bat or exceptional catching skills?

Q-Who do you think is the best lefty of all time? Does RJ beat out Koufax?

Sorry to clip so much, but I wanted to show that the questions were not particularly sycophantic. Not at all, in fact. They actually seem like pretty interesting and thought-provoking questions. There is no indication that the Qers are lapdoggish, to me.

To be fair, there are also a fair number of questions about on-line gaming, because Schilling is a hard-core gamer, and is even developing his own gaming studio. These questions are pretty nerdy. But not sycophant-y.

None of these facts will stop ol' Shaughnessy, however. Some more excerpts...

Suckup38: Curt, you are the best. Thank you for this blog. It completes me. You had me at hello. I have blood stains on all my white socks. I was wondering if you would please consider going back to the negotiating table with the Red Sox during the season. If you leave Boston, I'll be forced to leave, myself.

Fanboy38:
God bless you, Schill. You are the greatest human being, ever. I'm glad you have this blog because I could never speak to you face-to-face. It's so much easier to communicate anonymously, without eye contact or using my real name. That's why blogs are better. Anyway, I was wondering if you'd consider running for Senate or perhaps President? The White House could use a guy like you, Schill.

I don't understand this criticism. So what if you don't have to use your real name? This is an informal Q and A. It's not an article voicing an opinion. Schilling is using his real name, which is all that matters -- and which is the whole point of the exercise.

This is a criticism we here at FJM get a lot -- anonymity. With us, since we're bitching about things, I see the validity. We stay anonymous for several reasons, most of them having to do with our real jobs (I am at my desk right now, as I type this). But I get why someone whose work we attacked might find it distasteful that we don't use our real names. To them I say: sorry, I guess. But in this case, who cares if the Qs are anonymous as long as the As are not? What is the problem there?

38 Pitches: That's flattering, Fanboy38, but I just feel there is so much good I can do with my other ventures, saving the planet, saving mankind, etc. I wouldn't want to be stuck in a stuffy Oval Office all day, unable to speak my mind. I much prefer a forum like this where all of you can say whatever you like about me. No holds barred. Good spontaneous give-and-take. Just let it fly.

Another insinuation that these questions are softballs. Again, the questions on Schilling's site are actually pretty tough. There's

Q-Does [the Sox'] “no renewal” stance make you feel like they are, in effect, betting against you having a big year? Does that bother you?

and

Q-Why should the Sox pay you 13 million dollars for the 08 season?

and

Q-Baseball is incredibly out of sync with the rest of the world.

But Shaughnessy has just decided that all of the questions are sycophantic, and is presenting that view, without actually looking at the material he is "parodying." That's journalism! And this is comedy:

Loser38: I used to go to Star Trek conventions and comic book trade shows. No more. Now this blog is my life. My girlfriend says I'm spending too much time on this site. I say she's being ridiculous. I mean, what's six hours a day when you have a chance to communicate -- cyberspace to cyberspace -- with a legitimate Hall of Famer? Do you think I'm being reasonable, Schill?

Loser 38. Star Trek conventions. Wow. That is original and fresh. William Shatner himself made fun of Star Trek conventions...on Saturday Night Live...on December 20, 1986. And here, only 20 years later, you are making the same joke. Well done.

Also, don't you know anything about making fun of nerds, Dan? Nerds don't have girlfriends! Nerds masturbate to pictures of Princess Leia in the gold bikini outfit from the Jabba's palace scenes.

LonelyHeartClub38: Any chance you can blog during games this year?

38 Pitches: Funny you should ask. I've been toying with the idea of blogging between innings. I mean, how cool would that be? I come into the dugout after punching out Vernon Wells, then I tap out some thoughts for all of you and return to the mound for the second inning.

This is a joke. But I think that would be kind of cool. I'd rather he prepare for the next inning, but if he strikes out Vernon Wells a lot this year and then comes into the dugout and writes: "Fuck yeah!" and posts it, I'll be happy.

CHB38: What do you say to those media morons who contend that you are a self-important blowhard with an ill-informed opinion about everything and an insatiable need to be worshipped by sheep-like fans and late-night blog boys who live in Ma's basement?

First of all, the moniker "CHB" that Shaughnessy has chosen...for those of you who do not obsessively follow Boston sports, that stands for "Curly-Haired Boyfriend" (sometimes reported as "Curly-Headed Boyfriend.") It is a thing that Crazy Carl Everett said to Globe writer, Gordon Edes, I believe, about the jheri-coiffed Shaughnessy: "Where's your curly-haired boyfriend?" I'll refrain from postulating why Danny would use that little bit of code for himself at the end of this article. I would add, however, that if he really wanted to drive his point home in re: anonymity, he should have just had it read: Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe.

And then, of course, we have the hilarious and cutting remark about us late-night blog boys who live in Ma's basement. Ouch! Ya burnt, blog boys!

Schilling is a loudmouth. He is an attention-seeker. These things are true. But this blog is kind of awesome, I think -- if more athletes did this, perhaps people wouldn't feel so alienated from the sports stars they worship. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to walk up a flight of stairs to my mom's kitchen so she can cook me some pasta shaped like TIE-fighters, which I will eat before rewatching last night's Battlestar Galactica season finale, which was the most exciting thing I have seen since Leroy Jenkins hit YouTube.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:01 AM
Comments:
Good Sir,

I believe the most popular spelling is "Leeroy Jenkins."

Yours in Christ,
KTBasementSycophant1987
 
Junior:

Please post in this comments section, without checking the internet, Curt Schilling's World of WarCraft (or is it EverQuest? I can never remember) character name.
 
I got this one guys.

It's Scythehands Voxslayer.

Haven't looked it up to verify.
 
Scythehands Voxslayer was Schilling's Everquest name circa 2001. He did an interview about this and it was amazing. For instance:

Q: Tell us some of the most interesting adventures you have had while playing Everquest? Did you ever do something really stupid? Something that you are really proud of?

A: My first foray into Lower Guk was a lot of fun. My favorite memories are pretty basic. Completing the Robe of the Lost Circle quest was a blast. Camping Raster was a nightmare, but I got stupidly lucky. I had pretty much resigned myself to camping Scythehands in the Mino room, logging in, seeing another monk already there camping, and waiting. One night I log in, and there's a 55 level monk there. Great guy. He's been there for like 12 hours. No Raster -- pop, despawn, pop, despawn -- still no Raster. Now I'm in about my 3rd day there -- total time camping him maybe 5-10 hours tops -- but getting some good groups when I did have the camp (lotsa guild mates showed up and we pulled and got great exp). Anyway, this guy says ok, one more spawn and it's yours. So I wait and this guy says 'screw it' and leaves. I get a full group and we get the camp. We are there for about 2 minutes when we are in a major, major brawl and we barely survive. I'm laying there, feign death style, and no one in the group is hurt but me. I have no mend and about a bub of health. My group runs some frogloks down the hall to finish them off and POP! RASTER! If there was a way to scream louder than caps in EQ I was doing it. Man I am straight panicking because I know I have NO CHANCE soloing and the party has run off. I'm in my hotel room; it's like 5am, and I am straight hollering, in EQ and in real life. Bottom line is the group comes back, heals me, and kills Raster! WOOT!


Once again, ladies and gentlemen, that was Curt Schilling.
 
LINK THAT INTERVIEW IMMEDIATELY.
 
The only time I've ever wanted to be a Yankees fan was when I read about this the first time, and wanted to show up at a game at Yankee Stadium that Schilling was pitching, just to hold up a sign taunting him, that read: "HEY SCHILLING: STILL NO RASTER!"

I have no idea what it means but I imagine it would really upset him.

Also, wasn't there some stuff about Schill and Glanville having a longstanding nerdwar about some online incident? I feel like it had something to do with aviaks...
 
Here's the whole interview:

http://everquest.allakhazam.com/news/sdetail91.html

Fantastic. Thanks to Josh for the link.
 
C'mon dude, you ever hear of a cleric pulling in a group with a Paladin?

No, I have not.

Funniest shit ever.
 
Schilling's Everquest babble reminds me of that famously lingo-istic Ed Lynch post-game quote about a tough inning:

"The bases were drunk, and I painted the black with my best yakker. But blue squeezed me, and I went full. I came back with my heater, but the stick flares one the other way and chalk flies for two bases. Three earnies! Next thing I know, skipper hooks me and I'm sipping suds with the clubby."
 
This is Raster.

dak, the mystery is solved.
 
A reader named Rick has written in to point out that the comments section on 38pitches is actually fairly suck-uppy. I just checked it, and it is true. I argue that it is still in no way suck-uppy in the cliché way that Shaughnessy suggests, and my general stance on his crappy article remains intact. However, in the interests of fairness, I'd say Rick has a point...
 
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

 

The FJM Reverse Curse II

Bruce Jenkins just won five awards.

(They were for tennis writing, but still.)

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 5:27 PM
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Saturday, March 24, 2007

 

Terror Ball

I don't even really know what to say about this. Take it away, sitcom-character-named Kevin Ding:

There's a school of thought — and it's a pretty smart school — that says every time we in the media go about referencing "The War on Terrorism" rather than, let's say, "The Crusade for Peace," we are giving the terrorists a little more energy, charging our lives with a little more fear and basically feeding a little more power to something so wrong.

What do you think this article is about? Is it...

A) An op-ed piece about the Justice Department's handling of Gitmo prisoners?
B) A critical evaluation of the media's role in servicing the Neo-Con agenda?
C) A quote from a lecture on the semantics of noun-phrases?
D) A way to kick off a discussion of Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash?

If you answered (D), you are crazy...and correct!

Translated, that would mean that every time we hark back to the breakup of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal instead of the championships they won together, it fuels the falsehood that people can't live and work together instead of accentuating how they certainly can.

That's what it means? "Translated?"

That's what makes Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki an interesting case study. There is one easy way to slant their story, because since they broke up, neither has won a championship.

Wow. Terrorism to Nash/Nowitzki in three short paragraphs (by way of Kobe-O'Neal, no less). Chandler Bing, you have outdone yourself.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 4:30 PM
Comments:
Tip o' the hat to reader/friend David E. for (a) the link and (b) his never-ending crusade in aiding the war on terror. And by that I mean his love of the San Francisco Giants.
 
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Friday, March 23, 2007

 

The FJM Reverse Curse

First it was Joe and the Sports Emmys. Now FJM favorite Bill Plaschke has won his second APSE sports column writing award in three years. That's right. The fucking APSEs. The big one.

Later today it will be announced that HatGuy is simultaneously being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry while France is busy replacing the Eiffel Tower with a 90-foot statue of John Kruk.

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posted by Junior  # 2:56 PM
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Monday, March 19, 2007

 

I Knew Ozzie Wouldn't Let Me Down

Proving that he has learned nothing from anything he has ever seen or been told, Ozzie Guillen is installing a couple of real grinders at the top of his line-up.

In a move that paves the way for Tadahito Iguchi to drop down in the batting order, manager Ozzie Guillen said Sunday he plans to bat Darin Erstad second against right-handed starters.

Here are some numbers for you to look at. Each one represents Darin Erstad's OBP, in one of the last six years.

.279
.325
.346
.309
.313
.331

Those are bad numbers!

Here are two other numbers: Tad Iguchi's OBP's for the last two years.

.352
.342

Not wonderful. But better than Erstad's.

What's truly crazy about this, is that Iguchi hits righties well. Last year he was .298/.363/.438, so he got on base more effectively against righties than lefties. Slugged better against 'em, too. And yet, because Darin Erstad is left handed -- which, as we all know, means that regardless of what the factual numbers say, he hits righties better than someone who is right-handed, like Tad Iguchi -- he will hit second.

"[Scott Podsednik] is a better leadoff guy, and [Erstad] handles the bat better than Pods in hit-and-run situations," Guillen said. "We can play games even though Pods is our leadoff guy."

Let's break this down.

"Scott Podsednik is a better leadoff guy"

Than who? Iguchi? No. There are millions of pieces of evidence that prove differently. Than Darin Erstad? Maybe. But Erstad played hockey and punted footballs. So fuck you, stat nerds.

"[Erstad] handles the bat better than Pods in hit-and-run situations."

Oh my God. Ozzie Guillen is planning on winning games by playing hit-and-run with Darin Erstad and Scott Podsednik. Prediction: the White Sox score 150 runs this year.

"We can play games even though Pods is our leadoff guy."

True. One game you might try playing is baseball. One good way to play baseball effectively is to put men who get on base a lot in front of men who hit HR a lot. You have chosen to play a different game: RunIntoOutsBall, which is played by hitting Darin Erstad second in your line-up and hitting and running a lot. Another game you are playing is: OutsBall, (also called "SmartBall") which is played by hitting Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad 1-2 in your line-up. The goal is to make as many outs as possible at the top of your line-up. The ChiSox are getting 1-8 odds to win the World Series of Outs this year. Even so, I have bet everything I own on them.

Over the previous three seasons with the Angels, Erstad has a higher batting average from the second spot (.277) than the leadoff spot (.259).

First of all, this difference in averages is barely anything. Second, they are both terrible. Third, Erstad is terrible. Fourth, hitting him second is a terrible idea. Fifth, Erstad = terrible. Sixth, terrible. Seventherrible. Eterrible. Terriblenth. And tenth, you are a terrible manager, Ozzie Guillen.

And finally, here's this nugget:

Podsednik has batted leadoff since becoming a full-time player with Milwaukee in 2003, and his quick recovery from a Jan. 23 sports hernia operation has fueled Guillen's faith in him from the leadoff spot after a poor 2006 season.

I'll translate this for you: Scott Podsednik has been not good for the last three years. Then he had a gruesome injury and is just now recovering from it. So... he'll be awesome!

Podsednik went 0-for-7 Sunday with a stolen base in a minor-league game against Colorado in Tucson.

See? He'll be awesome!

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 12:55 PM
Comments:
Originally a joke in this post just read: "The goal [of OutsBall] is to make as many outs as possible." I have changed it to "...at the top of your line-up." Why? Because of this e-mail from a wonderfully literal- (and like-) minded reader named Tony:

The winner of OutsBall would be the team that has the highest total (1) home games in which the team was not ahead after 8.5 innings + (2) total extra innings played. Based on these two factors, it would seem to me that the team that has the largest difference between average runs scored and average runs allowed (assuming constant variance for simplicity) would be the anticipated winner. The more you get outscored by, the more often you are behind after any number of innings, and the more you get outscored by, the less likely you are to be tied at the end of nine innings. Although there is a good amount of random chance involved in how many extra innings you play, it's intuitive that the more likely you are to be outscored, the less likely you can keep up after nine innings. However, since intuition causes so much trouble in baseball, I will do some research based on the past few seasons

I love you, readers.
 
Wait. He's not done.

This is getting complicated (notice I change my fundamental conclusion)

The winner of OutsBall would be the team that has the highest total: (1) 3 x Home Losses + (2) Outs used in last inning of Home Wins in Last At-bat + (3) 3 x Total Extra Innings Played - (4) 3 x Extra Inning Home Wins. Based on these factors, it would seem tough to predict the team that ends up with the most outs.

Teams with largely negative run differentials (scores 1 run per game, gives up 5) would lead category (1). However, teams with run differentials close to zero (scores 3 per game, gives up 3), would be most likely to play extra innings or have to bat in the ninth at home. Also, the extra innings categories are affected by a good amount of chance.

Some research will hopefully clear up what teams (large negative run-diff or near-zero run-diff end up at the top of the list.

 
Did I mention I loved our readers? Here's David on Tony's OutsBall formula. Things is gettin' nerdy, folks!

Tony made 2 mistakes that jump out at me:
1) He forgot to subtract outs not played in rain-shortened games. Since that's completely luck, though, it does make sense to leave it out from his plan for calculating what sort of team is most likely to win OutsBall.
2) His subtraction in part 4 is wrong, it should be deleted. Part 2 correctly addresses the final inning of all home walk-off wins, extra innings or not, so I'll ignore that. In extra innings home wins, he seems to think it makes sense to subtract out the 3 outs that would be expected if that last inning were totally completed. The problem is, he's forgetting about the addition of the bottom of the 9th in those games.

Part 1 accounts for the addition of the bottom of the 9th in extra innings home losses, when combined with part 3. He thought part 3 would overcount the last inning in extra innings home wins, but in fact it does not. In an extra innings loss, the number of innings is 9+extras. For a home win, we only expect 8 innings, so the extra innings count as above expected number of outs and the number of (full) innings in such games is 8+extras.

So the formula for innings should be:

81*9 [minimum away innings] + 81*8 [minimum home innings] + HL [home losses] + E [extra innings, even in home wins] - R [loss of innings due to rain].

Multiply that by 3, add in the last inning outs in walk-off wins (note that this includes all home extra innings wins) to get the total number of outs for the team in the year.


Ball's in your court, Tony.
 
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

 

Hey, I Like Fat Guys Too, But This Is Ridiculous

Fat guys. Fatties. Fatsos. Fatty fat fat fat-faced fatbutts. Whatever you want to call them, America has always loved its lovable fat friends. I guess that's why I called them lovable in the sentence I just wrote. From Yokozuna to Chris Farley, there's just something about fat guys that makes you want to give them a big bear hug, a friendly slap on the back, or a stern warning about the dangers of excessive, wanton daily cocaine abuse.

Baseball-wise, the new thing I'm noticing is that fat pitchers are sportswriters' new best friends, perhaps not supplanting tiny, gritty speedsters, but certainly elbowing them aside for a spot at the (dinner?) table. My evidence? I vaguely remember a piece awhile ago extolling Bob Wickman's blue-collar git-er-done-ness, and now there's this:

Blanton belongs with top hurlers
Right-hander proves that wins outweigh other stats


Joe Blanton? Proves the supremacy of wins? That's a lot to put on his plate! I mean, that premise is pretty hard to swallow. I'm going to have to chew on that one for awhile. If he's going to win that many ballgames, he better stay hungry! If Joe Blanton lives up to this article, I'll eat my hat ... if he doesn't eat it first!

Ahem.

In 2005, Joe Blanton tied the Oakland record for victories by a rookie with 12, set the Oakland record with 32 starts, and his 3.53 ERA was the best among all big-league rookies with at least 100 innings logged.

Oakland. Record. For victories. By a rookie. I would like to call an emergency meeting of the Veterans Committee to induct Joseph Blanton into the Hall of Fame immediately.

Last season he tied then-ace Barry Zito for the team lead in wins, and his 16 victories were the fifth-most in Oakland history by a second-year starter.

Fifth-most. Victories. Oakland. History. Second-year. Starter.

Aflac Trivia Question: Can you name the four Oakland pitchers who had more victories in their second year? The answer after the break!

[Foxwoods commercial. "The wonder of it all ... "]

And we're back. The correct answer is: shoot yourself in the face if you think this means Joe Blanton is an excellent pitcher.

Yet when talk around baseball turns to the best young hurlers in the game, the 26-year-old righty barely gets mentioned.

Why? More than likely, it's a combination of factors.


These factors include:

1. He is not, in fact, one of the best young hurlers in the game.
2. He has a career WHIP of 1.37.
3. Last year, that WHIP ballooned to a Joe Blanton-size 1.54.
4. He has a career K/9 rate of 5.0.
5. Fat discrimination? Is that what you're implying?

But Blanton's 4.82 ERA and unsightly .309 opponents' batting average -- the highest OBA by a big-league starter with more than 15 wins since World War II -- certainly rank near the top the list.

Wow. That OBA is unsightly. So much so that I would actually expect Blanton to do a little better next year, since it's possible that better luck on balls in play will give him a sightlier OBA.

And if you wanted to make a case in Blanton's favor, Friday was not the night to do it. His first pitch against the D-backs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium was blooped into left field for a double, starting a string of five consecutive hits that including a mammoth three-run homer to left-center by Carlos Quentin.

You are making a compelling case for Blanton, sir. This piece has officially lost its way.

The D-backs batted around in that inning, Chad Tracy added a solo homer in the third and Blanton left his third start of the spring with a line of seven earned runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 ugly innings.

Whose side are you on? Are you a fat-hater or a fat-lover? Get on the fat train quickly, son. It's leaving the station very, very slowly (because it's too fat to fit on the tracks).

Yet according to one longtime and respected scout, who works for one of Oakland's American League rivals and was on hand for Friday night's first-inning beatdown, Blanton does belong in any conversation about top young pitchers.

My impersonation of this article:

Facts, facts, facts, and spring training anecdotes showing that Joe Blanton is not that good. BUT: one guy somewhere thinks he is, in fact, that good.

As long as those conversing are willing to evaluate Blanton in fairly unconventional terms.

Fatness?

"Almost every baseball man, and pretty much every pitcher you ask, will tell you that ERA and opponents' batting average tell you how good a pitcher is," said the scout.


Now, I don't qualify as a baseball man, and I'm certainly not a pitcher or someone who has ever watched a major league baseball game. But fuck it, I will tell you that neither of those things are the best as far as telling you how good a pitcher is. What is? I don't know, some combination of defense-independent ERA, K rate, K/BB, WHIP, WARP, and belt size?

"And I don't necessarily disagree. But every once in a while, a kid comes along that you can't really judge on that alone, and I think Blanton is one of them.

Let me guess: you have absolutely no common sense justification for this opinion.

"He's one of those guys who probably won't ever have a top-10 ERA, and he's probably always going to give up a fair amount of hits. But I think he'll always win a lot of games, and the last time I checked, the team that wins the most is the one that gets rings at the end of the year."

Thanks to reader Jon for a response to this one. According to Jon: "12 teams won more games than the Cardinals last year ... Over the last 20 years, the team with the most regular season wins has won the World Series twice."

And of course, the statistical category misleadingly named "wins" for pitchers does not accurately measure how good a pitcher is at actually getting your team wins.

Count A's manager Bob Geren -- and former A's manager Ken Macha -- among those who agree.

"Of course you'd like to see him lower that ERA," Geren said earlier this spring. "But if you offered me 16 more wins this year from him, with the same ERA, I'd take it."


I am a strange demon with special Joe Blanton wins-related supernatural powers, and Bob Geren, I am offering you this deal right this second. What an odd thing for this man to say. The crazy thing is, Joe Blanton is a beautiful case study for the capriciousness and whimsicality of the Win Gods. In 2005, he was very good for 33 starts but only "won" 12 games -- and people wrote articles bemoaning his lack of run support. In 2006, he was very bad for 31 starts and "won" 16 games -- and now an article is written about how he is one of the best young pitchers in the game.

Again, because of pro-fat bias.

Macha, who last October was questioned by some for leaving Blanton out of his playoff rotation, struck a similar chord.

"It was kind of funny that I took some heat for not starting him," Macha said. "It was mostly fans, and it always, 'How can you leave a guy with 16 wins out?' Well, what happened to ERA and [opponents'] batting average being so important?


I understand that you're asking that question rhetorically, Ken Macha, but I'll answer anyway. The fans who were asking how you can leave a guy with 16 wins out of the playoff rotation were stupid fans. The people who preferred using ERA were smarter. They were different subsets of people.

"I think it showed that no matter what you hear from so-called baseball people, wins are still what matters to fans."

Wins and pie-eating contest-winning ability.

How does Blanton manage to win so often despite giving up a lot of hits and runs? The scout thinks it starts with heart.

The same beer-battered, bacon-wrapped heart that yielded him a mere 12 wins the year before. To be fair, Blanton's heart doubles in size every year (having originally been grown in a laboratory from David Eckstein stem cells and then implanted into his chest cavity in March of 2005).

"Certain kids might come up with great arms, great stuff, but they don't know how to compete," he said. "With Blanton, he doesn't have the greatest arm, and his stuff is very good but not lights-out, but he competes real, real well. You'd never know it just from watching his demeanor, but he's a tough son of a gun out there.

"That's why I wouldn't read much into whatever he does in spring games. When it matters, he gets tough when he's in trouble, he handles the middle part of the order well and he pitches well late with a lead. That's how you win a bunch of big-league games."


I'm now fairly convinced this memo was sent to all baseball writers:

FAT PITCHERS, TINY BATTERS: A SPORTSWRITER'S GUIDE TO BASEBALL

We're all friends, right? Let's start having a unified front on which players to love. Our proposal is right in the title of this memo. First: tiny batters are fun and easy to root for. They're so little! How'd they make it to the majors? Must have big hearts! Underdoggy scrappers, those guys. Second: fat pitchers are fun because they look so out of shape. We can relate to them, right? Plus, they must be real blue collar fellas, looking all fat like that. Literally lunch pail guys, you feel me? Bob Wickman must be trying harder than K-Rod. K-Rod can just stand there looking all normal-sized and pitcher-like and the ball throws itself. Wickman can barely move. He must have a lot of heart, daring to compete with all those fit guys!

In summation:

If you're a tiny batter, you fight and scratch and claw during every at bat.
If you're a fat pitcher, you may not look the part, but deep down you know how to compete.
If you're a tiny batter, you work eight times as hard as normal guys and concentrate fifty times as intensely.
If you're a fat pitcher, your gut makes you gutsy.
If you're a tiny batter, your heart is bigger than people might think.
If you're a fat pitcher, your heart is exactly as big as people think: dangerously oversize and about to explode.

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posted by Junior  # 4:43 PM
Comments:
It was announced today that David Wells has diabetes. For real. I cannot wait to see how many articles are written about this.
 
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The Grinder Effect

We've known for years that players like Darin Erstad and David Eckstein provide an extra five to ten wins a year to their teams regardless of how they perform on the field. Finally, though, Kenny Williams has given this phenomenon a name:

"Aaron Rowand gave us an edge two years ago," general manager Kenny Williams said. "That grinder effect, if you will. We missed it last year. I've always thought that Aaron Rowand and Darin Erstad were the poster children for that style of play."

Wondering if your team will benefit from the grinder effect this season? Here is a handy list of G.E.P.s (grinder effect producers) for the 2007 season:

Darin Erstad
Aaron Rowand
David Eckstein
Trot Nixon
Scott Podsednik
Adam Everett
Craig Counsell
Adam Kennedy
Mark Lemke (retired, will confer his G.E.P. to the Braves regardless)

And here is a summary of players who will not provide any G.E.:

Minorities

---

If I were a shitty version of George Carlin, I might do a routine about grinders that went something like this:

"Kenny Williams calls Darin Erstad a grinder because he thinks he's a hero. Well, I agree that Darin Erstad is a grinder, but only because I think he's really a sub."

This two-sentence "routine" plays on the little quirk of our language that there are several different regional names for a sandwich made on a long piece of bread.

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posted by Junior  # 4:21 PM
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

 

Juan Pierre Compares Himself To God And Jesus

And happily, I am his Pontius Pilate. Hi Juan! Juan's been popping up in a lot of articles recently, and he's the star of an absolute beauty written by the appealingly named Diamond Leung of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

$44 mil and he still practices bunting: New Dodgers center fielder Pierre a throwback

I award one point to the editor for calling a non-white guy a throwback. Good job. Here is the formula I think is the industry standard:

Non-white guy + 20 hours of bunting practice per week = White enough to be a throwback

Quiet respite from his hectic schedule is hard to come by, but in the seconds before every plate appearance, Juan Pierre makes the sign of the cross and prays in silence.

"Please God, give me the strength to OBP higher than Alfredo Amezaga this year."

The Dodgers' new center fielder doesn't ask for a particular result,

And thus, in a little joke of His, God has condemned Pierre to finish first or second in the National League in outs for the last four years running.

A manager's favorite, Pierre hasn't taken a day off in five years.

This is actually pretty awesome. Pierre is a durable guy. Unfortunately, his teams the last two years probably would have been better off if he had ceded some games to a guy who could stop making outs at such a prodigious rate.

Oh, and it's four years. Pierre has played in 162 games the last four years. In 2002, he played in 152 games.

"I just want to be perfect," said the 29-year-old, who reported to spring training early after signing a five-year, $44 million contract this winter. "Every year you have to be more perfect."

Well, he was more perfect in 2006 than 2005, upping his OBP from .326 to .330! Unfortunately, in 2004, when he was good, it was .374. Juan Pierre! With a .374 OBP! Seems like so long ago.

But as Dodgers legend Maury Wills said in defense of his new pupil, "Nobody's perfect."

Maury Wills sounds like he's already super down on Juan. "Nobody's perfect" is the best defense you have of your guy? Don't jack up those expectations sky-high, now, Maury.

Even Pierre, a powerless throwback to the dead-ball era whose name has been dropped in lyrics by hip-hop icon Jay-Z, can't be all things to all people.

The problem with being a throwback to the dead-ball era is that in the dead-ball era, everyone was hitting with no power, so it wasn't so bad to have 12 career home runs in 4110 career at bats (actually, that probably would've been pretty bad even then). Everyone's balls were dead. (Balls! Ha!) That's why they call it the dead-ball era. Pierre is now playing in a very very live-ball era and he has the power of a small, furry kitten who has been taught to swing a mini-bat.

Since 2001, Pierre has the most hits (1,182) in the National League and the most steals (318) in baseball, but he's unloved by statheads armed to the teeth with evidence of his fallibility.

Ha! That's me! My "head" is a "stat." I have a stat where my head should be. And that stat of a head responds: in that time frame, Pierre has the second most outs (2,966) and the most caught stealings (110). Jimmy Rollins has more outs, but he hit 25 home runs last year. Juan Pierre hit three.

Pierre didn't commit an error while playing with the Chicago Cubs last year, but critics cite his below-average arm. He stole 58 bases but was caught 20 times. He hit .292 as a leadoff hitter and was the most difficult player to strike out, but his on-base percentage was only 38 points higher than his batting average.

Wow. You did the arguing for me. Thanks.

Call him a walking contradiction and you'd be shouted down with a retort that for a fast runner, Pierre doesn't walk much at all -- only 32 in 750 trips to the batter's box last year.

"That is so ludicrous," said Wills, who revolutionized basestealing in the 1960s. "Who's going to walk Juan Pierre? You're walking a double. They make him hit the ball, and he got 204 hits last year. What do you want?"

Yes, that must be why Rickey Henderson absolutely never walked. What fool pitcher would walk Henderson? (One year, Rickey Henderson walked 126 times and stole 77 bases. Another year, he walked 116 times and stole 130 bases.) Anyone who expects Juan Pierre to be Rickey Henderson must be a total asshole. I am that asshole.

"All he does is win and will you to win," said Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly, who also coached Pierre in Colorado. "The (critics) think a guy who makes the money that he makes should drive in 150, but there are so many things that he does that are not measured by stats -- getting a guy over, stealing a base, taking the extra base."

First of all, I'm pretty sure "stealing a base" is measured by a stat. The stat is called a "steal." Secondly, steals are incorporated into EqA. That's why Juan Pierre's 2006 OPS+ is a miserable 81, but his 2006 EqA is only slightly below average, at .255. His ability to "will you to win," I grant you, is not currently measurable by stats.

"I gotta do it to survive in this game," said Pierre, who won a World Series ring with Florida in 2003. "I gotta be that much better because of my lack of power and arm strength. I don't look at it as work. It's just fun to me."


That's fine. I fully support Juan Pierre's industriousness. I'm impressed that you made the big leagues, Juan. You obviously did something right. It's not your fault some people think you're a little better than you really are. Congrats on the career and everything.

"There's only one man you gotta please, and it's the one upstairs," Pierre said. "People even hated God and Jesus. That'll tell you what all the critics do.

Now wait a minute! Because your OBP has fallen off a cliff the last two years, suddenly you're Jesus?

You know what -- now it all makes sense. In Juan Pierre's brain, out-liness is next to godliness. He already increased his out percentage in 2006 to a heavenly .670. In this coming baseball season, I look forward to watching Juan go all out for a perfect OP of 1.000.

I'm pulling for you, Juan!

Labels: , , ,


posted by Junior  # 5:07 PM
Comments:
"All he does is win."

In Pierre's six full seasons as a major leaguer, his teams have a record of 471-501.

So, really, "All he does is win 48% of the time."
 
Of course, nobody should care what one player's "winning percentage" is.

But if you're going to say that all the guy does is win...you might want to say it about a guy who actually has a history of winning.
 
"That is so ludicrous," said Wills, who revolutionized basestealing in the 1960s. "Who's going to walk Juan Pierre?

Secretly, this is the dumbest part. It implies that a batter has no agency over a walk. Walks are 100% a pitcher-created entity. Pitchers decide whom to walk and when. I'm sleepy.
 
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Comedy = Referring To The Existence Of Comedy Movie Borat

Bill Simmons is doing a running diary of today's March Madness games. I know: you click on a Simmons link, you're going to get pop culture references. You shouldn't expect otherwise. But tell me if you think this is going a little overboard.

From the introduction:

We have DirecTV's March Madness package in HD. We have an extra laptop so House can search things on Google. We have Borat's brother Bilo in a cage to the right of the TV.

One Borat.

9:49: For the first time today, CBS has commercials going on all three games at the same time. That leads to this exchange:

Me: We gotta come up with a name for that phenomenon … it's like a whitewash, but with commercials.

House: Whatever the name is of the town rapist in 'Borat' -- that's what we should call it."


Two Borats.

9:58: And the answer? We still can't figure it out. There's no info online other than Caracter accepted "benefits" from a family friend. Whatever that means. The important thing is that House's two Google searches so far today have been "Borat town rapist" and "Louisville Caracter issues." But seriously … you have love March Madness.

Three Borats.

10:22: Hey, where does Brook Lopez's twin brother rank among the most overmatched athlete twins in recent sports history? Ahead or behind Ozzie Canseco? He just threw the ball on the backboard on consecutive possessions while House repeatedly called him "Bilo Lopez" and JackO said in the Borat voice, "He no get this … he no get this …"

Four Borats. (Can you picture in your head just how funny JackO's Borat voice was? LOL!)

11:57: One of our friends just read the first two installments of the diary and wondered what was up with all the "Borat" jokes. Well, we watched the DVD twice yesterday -- once in the afternoon, once late at night. I can't remember the last comedy that I would have watched twice in one day. Has there been a better comedy since "Midnight Run"? I say no.

Five Borats. At this point, Simmons' own friend writes him and is like, dude, it is just plain sad how many times you have written the word Borat. Please stop.

12:38: Google update through three hours: "Borat town rapist" … "Caracter Louisville issues" … "Greg Gumbel buffet table" … "Oral Roberts name origin."

Six Borats. The diary has become the Epic Movie of diaries.

Bonus sweet ref:

9:42: Louisville 17, Stanford 6 … and Stanford has turned the ball over at least 45 times in six minutes. "They shouldn't have recruited Bilo Sagdiyev as their point guard," House jokes. By the way, the over/under for Bilo jokes over the next two days is 75½. I'd take the over.

I originally missed this one because I was searching for the word Borat. Sneaky! That makes seven references to the movie, which I believe Bill Simmons wrote and directed, giving him total license to do that, correct?

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posted by Junior  # 4:54 PM
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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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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 2:06 AM
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

 

These Poor, Poor Unfamous Men

Enough with telling us who should and shouldn't be famous. We get it. You want undersized fast gentlemen to get more credit, or at least more ladies when they go out to a bar or something. Big and strong bad. Small and weak good.

The thing is, sometimes you just ruin your own case. Take you, Tom Singer of MLB.com. You wrote an article with this headline (presumably written by your editor, with whom you should have words):

Table setters lack fame but spark runs

And then right under that headline you put a picture (perhaps not you, but the web layout guy, another guy with whom you should look into having a conversation) of this man:



Hey, here's the thing, Tom Singer: that guy is super famous. He is among the most famous of baseball men. If pressed to name any four baseball players, my mother would likely name that guy and then stop altogether. My mother barely speaks English. I would argue that this particular Japanese gentleman possesses fame just about equally as well as he "spark(s) runs." Not even counting Japan, where I believe his likeness can be found on the 1000, 5000, and 10,000-yen notes.

Then the subhead:

Indispensable pests find ways on base without elite power

Like, walking? No, of course you do not mean walking. Guys who walk a lot are already too famous. I am so sick and tired of the damn MTV generation and their infatuation with Brian Giles.

Thirty years ago, Neil Young musically reminded us that "Rust Never Sleeps," and the baseball cognoscenti's spin on that is, "Speed Never Slumps."

Does the phrase "musically reminded us" bother anyone else as much as it's bugging the shit out of me? I'm going to say bad writing on that one. Factor in the totally incorrect cliche, the word "cognoscenti," and you have one terrible sentence. I'm musically reminded of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor song "This Opening Sentence Stinks Like A Stinky Person's Stinky Ass" (warning: song may not actually exist).

In a game that celebrates and dotes on the big guys who clean up, there is still a major role for the little men who land opposing pitchers in a mess to begin with.

No one anywhere is arguing that there is no role for them. If you can get on base and play defense at a major league level, chances are you are playing for a major league team. Congratulations. I'm sorry you're not famous enough for Tom Singer.

Chicks, and the TV highlights, may dig the long ball, but your typical manager is equally fond of the short game of those able to play with nuance, not brawn.

I reject the notion that Kevin Youkilis refusing to swing at a pitch two inches outside is not playing with "nuance." Plus, he's not really even "brawny." He's more "sorta fat."

Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said it all a couple of springs ago, when he dropped the names of Barry Bonds -- the game's most feared slugger -- and Ichiro Suzuki -- its primary skills player -- into the same sentence.

"I'd say they are the two most dangerous hitters in the game," Cooper opined, giving pitchers' perspective.


Now hold on a second. Ichiro is good. I'm not denying that. But he's nowhere near one of the most dangerous hitters in the game unless you're defining dangerous as "only capable of hitting singles." Plus, when Don Cooper said that, it made marginally more sense because Ichiro was coming off a season in which he hit .372, which is especially impressive to people who care about batting average. In the past two years since Cooper's comment, Ichiro has declined precipitously (not to mention what Bonds has done).

So basically: why the fuck are you talking about what Don Cooper said in 2005?

And here's a fun extra thing: in 2004, Ichiro's finest as a hitter in the American big leagues, he had a VORP of 68.7. Barry Bonds' VORP that year was 132.0. No real point there, just: wow, was Steroidy Barry Bonds good!

The Ichiros are the players who, in addition to setting the tables, give the manager something to fall back on when the power is unplugged. Very simple, really: You can't hit a home run at will, but, for those proficient at it, you can bunt and hit to the right side in your sleep.

There's a good reason baseball is called a game of inches, not a game of 400 feet.


Yes, I agree. We should allow the cliche "Baseball is a game of inches" to determine what works and doesn't work in the game. It's fortunate the song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" includes the lyric "One, two, three strikes you're out at the old ballgame" because if it said four, we would have to change gameplay accordingly.

"A guy hitting 50-60 homers ... that's great, but that still leaves him with 500-some at-bats when he isn't hitting them," reasons Juan Pierre, now with the Dodgers and one of the best contemporary setup hitters. "So the home run is great, but just the chances of it happening aren't that great.


Now we're getting somewhere. How psyched was Juan Pierre to give quotes for this article?

Tom Singer
: Hi, Juan?
Juan Pierre: Yes Tom.
TS: I'd like to write an article basically perpetuating the notion that guys like you -- you know, make a lot of outs, very few extra-base hits, career steal percentage of 73.7 -- are extremely valuable ... just as valuable as, say, Lance Berkman or Paul Konerko!
JP: Of course I will help you. I must thank people like you for a goodly portion of this $45 million I am sleeping on!

As Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller said more than a half-century ago, with a nod toward matinee idol teammate Ralph Kiner, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs; singles hitters drive Chevys."

I know for a fact that Michael Cuddyer drives a Sebring. Does that affect anything?

But you know what? Those "singles" hitters also drive championship teams. Do you suppose all the people over the years who have echoed Ostermueller's quote, turning it into one of the most legendary in history, ever stopped to think that Kiner's seven Pirates teams were among the worst ever, diving an aggregate total of 193 games under .500?

Pick a response:
a) WHO CARES
b) INCORRECT USE OF STATISTICS
c) ALREADY STOPPED READING ARTICLE, NOW REFRESHING CUTE OVERLOAD, LOOK, PUPPIES

Conversely, no National League team with a league homer champ in its lineup has appeared in the World Series since 1983, when the Phillies got in with Mike Schmidt.

I mean, really.

2006 St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols, 49 HR
2005 Houston Astros, Morgan Ensberg, 36 HR
2004 St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols, 46 HR (plus Jim Edmonds, 42 HR)
2003 Florida Marlins, Mike Lowell, 32 HR
2002 San Francisco Giants, Barry Bonds, 46 HR
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Luis Gonzalez, 57 HR

And that's just this century. These guys hit a lot of home runs. Why in the world would we expect the league homer champ's team to have that huge an advantage over, say, the second-place homer guy's? Or third? It's a difference of a few home runs, and it's totally outweighed by the other eight guys hitting and, um, all of the guys pitching.

This is what makes a two-time World Series hero of David Eckstein, and why there is room for 5-foot-9 Dustin Pedroia among the Boston redwoods.


Ed. note: Tom, per the recent league-wide memo, David Eckstein must be referred to in print as "1-foot-9 bowlegged asthmatic cancer survivor David Eckstein." Please revise accordingly. Thank you.

Says San Diego reliever Cla Meredith, a former Minor League teammate of the new Red Sox second baseman, "Don't sell him short.

Shouldn't "Don't sell them short" have been the title of this article? It's just perfectly awful enough.

If we define a table setter as someone with 500-plus at-bats who does not homer in double-figures, a total of 16 qualified in 2006. They included Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez, whose six homers were the fewest for a batting champ since Tony Gwynn in 1996.

Let me guess: half of your "table setters" are bad.

Besides obvious perennials like Ichiro, Eckstein, Pierre and Cabrera, others included Mark Loretta, Chone Figgins, Omar Vizquel, Willy Taveras, Dave Roberts and Jason Kendall.

Yep. Maybe not bad. Average, I guess. It's weird how specifically filtering out power eliminates almost everyone who is really good. Does anyone really believe that Mark Loretta should be more famous than he is? He is the definition of average and he should stay that way.

In 2002, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro combined for 100 homers, but Texas finished deep in the AL West basement. Meanwhile, with Darin Erstad and Eckstein combining for 44 steals and 41 sacrifices (bunts and flies), the Angels won the World Series.


Holy fucking atheism. This is so dumb it's not worth dignifying with a response. But I like dignifying. They call me the Dignifier. John F. Q. Z. Dignifier, Esq.

Here goes:

2002 Texas Rangers pitching staff ERA+: 95
2002 Anaheim Angels pitching staff ERA+: 118

Hmm.

(The Angels also had a higher team OPS+ because like seven of their hitters had decent offensive seasons. The Rangers were A-Rod, Raffy, Pudge, and shit.)

(Darin Erstad was the worst hitter on the team not named Bengie Molina. .313 OBP.)

The do-everything guys are doubly dangerous. The implied threat is as effective as the executed play.

Would it be fair to say that Tom Singer's favorite team would be the Portland Implications? Instead of ever getting on base, they could repeatedly fake bunts and then hit sacrifice flies for non-existent base-runners. They might end the year with zero runs but they'd lead the league in threats and plays-the-right-way. In their home ballpark, the Imagination Dome, neither team uses actual baseballs or bats. They just do a wonderful mime of pitching and bunting and stealing and then everyone goes out for ice cream.

Tom Singer: Hey Juan Pierre, hot soup. Tough one. I'm going to ask you, Juan Pierre, how important you think what you (Juan Pierre) do is to a baseball team?

"You're asking the wrong guy, because I think that's very important," Pierre says.

TS: Yes. Please. Expand on your own importance.

"Guys like me do so many different things. When you always got a man on base, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and maybe gets the pitcher to give that home run hitter a better pitch to hit.

TS: Do you think it's strange I'm asking you to glorify yourself in this manner?

JP: Yes, very. I do like how you keep caressing my hair while we speak. It is very soothing.

TS: Yes, it is. Juan Pierre -- John Peter, can I call you John Peter? Can you provide me with a quote to end my article? Preferably something that insults the average fan.

"Everyone notices the home run. Bam! It's right there," Pierre says. "There's lots of stuff we do that the average fan doesn't see. You've got to know the ins of the game."

I'd say Pierre knows the "outs" of the game! Wink! (Juan Pierre led the league in outs in 2006).

The way this guy talks about home runs, you almost start to forget it's the single most valuable thing you can ever do when you are standing at the plate short of knocking Johan Santana out of the game by hitting him in the face with the ball.

Welcome to baseball outside the box score.

Welcome to a world where these players are everyone's favorite because we don't keep score at all. We just throw the ball up in the air, no one wears uniforms, and everyone on the field just dances. It's a dance party.

Labels: , , , , ,


posted by Junior  # 8:16 PM
Comments:
In fairness, it should be noted that Junior's mother is Ichiro's mother.
 
James sent the following. I like the way this guy thinks.

You shouldn't have been surprised that Singer's 500 at-bat, single-digit homer club was, in fact, very average rather than bad. This particular version of cherry-picking -- requiring 500 at-bats -- tends to single-handedly weed out "bad" players.

The more interesting question would be how those players stack up not against all of baseball but against other players with 500 at bats or more. Only 120 guys had 500 at bats. Given that the number of players on a 25-man roster at any given time is 750, which means roughly 450 offensive players, we're already talking about weeding out 2/3 of all MLB at-bats. So, really, if these guys are about average for all of baseball, they are way below average for the 500 at-bat club.

 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
You know what's funny? The people who argue the vehemently-est that stats don't matter and that stats don't tell the whole story are often the people who most egregiously cherry-pick stats to prove their warped points. That's funny.
 
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

 

Bruce Jenkins

Rarely-cited, but truly beloved on this blog, Jenkins is the author of one of the all-time greatest articles in FJM history. Today he has some less egregious, but still silly, thoughts on the A's and Mark Kotsay.

Reflecting on the A's 2006 season, through all the fine moments provided by Frank Thomas, Huston Street and Milton Bradley, I always come back to Mark Kotsay, the consummate ballplayer.

In some ways, Jenkins is correct. As we point out in our glossary (click link at the top of the site), Kotsay is in many ways, at this moment in time, your prototypical "decent" baseball player. He has put up WARP3's of 5.4 and 3.0 in his last two seasons, both of which included 20-40 games missed to injury. He's a very good fielder and a decent hitter, when healthy, but next year he will be 31 and the days of WARP3's in the 6-8 range are probably over. He's like: not bad.

Struggling privately with his tortured back and some issues with manager Ken Macha, Kotsay was always good for the running catch, the double to left-center, the rally-triggering jolt of energy.

He was good for a whopping 7 HR and a line of .275/.332/.386 in 502 AB -- exactly, weirdly, the batting title qualification number. He hit into 18 DP. And as for doubles, he was "always good" for 29 of them. Eh.

With some guys, you peg them as ballplayers within a couple of warmup throws: George Brett, Buddy Bell, Derek Jeter, Torii Hunter. Kotsay is in that class.

Correct. He is in the "class" of "ballplayers," in that he has a major league contract guaranteed by the players' union's CBA. As for comparisons to Brett, Jeter, and Hunter...not so much, these days. Hunter is the same age and was worth 3.3 wins more to his team last year. And he hit 31 HR.

I'm not sure how good any of those guys' warm-up throws are, to be fair.

It's a crushing development for the A's, losing Kotsay for some three months.

I don't think so. They have a lot of good outfielders. I wouldn't call it "crushing." And weirdly -- and this is where Jenkins really kicks it into high gear, idiot-wise -- neither would Jenkins. Because even though he himself labeled the loss "crushing," and even though he presumably had access to a "delete" key, and ample time to use it, just four sentences later he writes this:

It definitely hurts the A's, but there's nothing wrong with a starting outfield of Bradley, Nick Swisher and Shannon Stewart.

So...not "crushing," then?

When Kotsay and Bobby Kielty return, their outfield will be in excellent shape again (we're assuming that Stewart is free of the foot problems that bothered him over the past two seasons). Some of the younger outfielders, like Ryan Goleski and Travis Buck, will get a longer look.

So...definitely not "crushing," in that they also have Milton Bradley (29 years old, higher WARP3 than Kotsay last year in fewer games) and Swisher (26, stud, 8+ WARP3 last year) and Stewart, who stinks a little, but not much more than Kotsay, and Kielty, who is nothing to write home about but is roughly as good as Kotsay has been recently. And while Goleski is no great shakes, if Buck hits his 50th percentile predictions, he'll be more valuable than Kotsay was last year, and he's only 23.

In any case, this is the A's way: They survive. They regenerate. They lose talent with fightening regularity, all the while retaining their highly respectable status in the American League.

That is to say...it will not in any way be "crushing" to lose Mark Kotsay for a while.

Labels: , ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 6:16 PM
Comments:
As reader Ed points out, it is 502 plate appearances, not AB, that qualifies one for the batting title.
 
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Computers Don't Have Feelings

So you can go ahead and attack them. It's fine. They don't care. You might want to think twice before you accuse them of not giving a team enough "respect," though. 'Cause that sort of sounds like a feeling, you know, and like I just said, computers don't have feelings.

Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune, what do you think?

Computer crashes White Sox
Statistical program predicts aging team will win only 72 games


It's funny, the legitimate-sounding rationale for the prediction is already in the subhead. (It's aging.)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- After winning a World Series and more games the last two seasons than any team in baseball except the New York Yankees, the White Sox should have earned a little respect.

Right?


Well, again, it's not really about respect. It's about looking at strikeout rates and walk rates and aging curves and ... there are a lot of variables. It's a computer program that does a better job on average than one person just making a guess. Except you're right, they probably only inputted a 3.9 for the White Sox' Respect Over Replacement Team (RORT) when they should've obviously given at least a 5.4.

Well, maybe from real baseball people, but not in the surreal world of computers.

Got it? Anyone who has ever touched a computer is not a real baseball person. They are imaginary, and they hate baseball. And they (cue reality show confessional cam) don't give us enough respect!

(Warning: people who use computers may in fact be computers themselves.)

Baseball Prospectus, considered the new-age statistical bible, projects the White Sox to finish with a 72-90 record this season.

Van Dyck's been reading Murray Chass. Don't do that, van Dyck.

Re: new age -- please read the following, reprinted from February 27.

"New age" is touchy-feely. New age is spiritual. New age is intangible. VORP, Mr. Chass, is not new age. It may be relatively new, but it is not new age. It is the opposite of new age. It is an attempt to quantify, to measure, to analyze. You know, a more scientific approach to knowledge. Science -- that thing that humans do to find out more about the world around them. Not new age -- a fake thing that involves pan flutes and rubbing crystals on your body.

A statistical bible is not new age.

What the White Sox will be battling, however, are their own statistics, their ages, historical comparisons and myriad other data fed into the PECOTA system at Baseball Prospectus.


Exactly. See, it isn't so hard to figure out how this stuff works. People are working on this system. They tinker with it to improve it. It is not a random number generator.

How the computer arrives at its final projections is way above the average baseball mind, a sort of "objective" analysis of what the computer predicts is going to happen.

Dave van Dyck has a low opinion of your mind, fellow baseball fan. He is the kind of guy who would put finger quotes around the word objective if he were reading this article out loud.

And the scary part is that the computer can be accurate much of the time. It projected five of the six division winners last spring and predicted the Detroit Tigers would finish with a better record than the defending champion White Sox.

That's good. Good predicting. A computer did that? A surreal-world-living computer?

But 72 victories for a team that has averaged 95 the last two seasons? How could that be?

Well, they won 90 last year. And their Pythagorean was 88 wins. So let's start there.

Last year, four batting men on the White Sox accounted for 28 WARP1. It's true. Those men were Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede, Jim Thome, and Paul Konerko. Now, if you follow baseball at all, you might know that Dye had an insane career year, Crede performed better than he ever has, Thome bounced back from injury and put up big numbers at age 35, and Konerko -- well, Konerko stayed good and stayed healthy. PECOTA, not unreasonably, projects Dye to return to Earth, Crede to come back to his previous levels, 36-year-old Thome to be banged up, and Konerko to decline a bit at age 32.

All told, for these four guys, the 2007 WARP projection is just 15.9. 28 minus 15.9 is 12.1.

88 minus 12 is 76. So we're basically almost there already. Just with these four guys. Dye is the main culprit. At age 32, he posted an 8.5 WARP1. This is what the last six years of his career look like: 4.5, 3.4, -0.5, 2.4, 2.9, 1.9. So you can forgive PECOTA for being skeptical.

Pitching-wise, PECOTA isn't optimistic for a bounceback to 2005 levels. Mark Buehrle, for instance, is predicted to continue being 2006 Mark Buehrle, and again: pretty defensible. The man had a K/9 rate of 4.0 last year.

But, Williams was reminded, the computer says the Sox are a year older.

"Maybe we're a year better then," Williams said.


Um, what?

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posted by Junior  # 3:29 PM
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