Scroll down to Pedro Gomez' pick for the AL Wild Card.
** WE INTERRUPT THIS NITPICK WITH AN ANNOUNCEMENT **
The following mistake has been corrected. No doubt the ESPN mechanical drones have "read" this blog with their mechanical vision sensors and replaced Gomez' gaffe with nearly as improbable a pick: the White Sox, of whom PECOTA expects 77 wins this year.
Read on if you like learning about old mistakes. Pedro Gomez, ESPN AL: Cubs NL: Mets
Really, really going out on a limb with that one, Pedro. A lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen, but you have to admire the courage.
I can't wait until tonight's BBTN "Bold Predictions" segment, when Steve Phillips picks LeBron James to win the NL MVP and Stephen Breyer to take home the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
KT said it already, and here's the link. It seems that rational thought has somehow insinuated itself back into Le Ravine Chavez (pronounced sha-vay). But wait -- here's Snakeskin Boots Colletti's quote on the matter:
"Is he [Pierre] a bench player or is he not starting tomorrow?" Colletti asked. "It's a long season. You've got to compete, you've got to play. I understand the build-up to Opening Day. But you look at a lot of Opening Day rosters and there are players you can't even recognize. It changes day by day."
Reading between the lines, I'd say it's fifty-fifty that Bootsy's going to DFA Ethier by the end of the week so Torre's forced to play a real man in left field. A man who can bunt. A man who can swunt. A man whose skills range from bunting okay to swunting acceptably well. A man who is constantly hailed as the consummate professional but was already complaining before the decision was made to replace him with a better player ("If they want to go a different route," Pierre said, "I can live with it and I have to understand it but it's something I don't get.")
Snakeskin has spoken. This story is far from over.
First of all, Happy Opening Day (American Version) everyone. The best day of the year.
Second, last night Joe Morgan related a story in which President George W. Bush offered to buy the Texas Rangers and make him, Joe, the GM. Predicted record of this team: 59-103. Now Dennis Kucinich and Paul DePodesta -- that would be a model franchise! (Predicted record: 59-102 [final game rained out]).
Third, I promise to post more soon. Fremulon Ins., Inc. has not been immune from the recent credit crunch, and if my Pension Plan Monitoring abilities are not applied with 100% acuity, this firm could fold like the fraudulent house of cards we all know it really is. Thank you for your patience.
Fourth: does anyone else think the Dodgers hired Joe Torre because he's the only person who could bench Juan Pierre and not send the L.A. print media into complete hysterics?
Cancel Baseball. Cancel Sports. Cancel All Human Events in All Cities.
I'm all for tradition. Wait, scratch that. I'm for keeping the traditions that make sense. Actually, scratch that too. I'm more of a "let's see what works and what doesn't and then do what's best so we can constantly fucking improve ourselves, yeah?" kind of guy.
Furman Bisher -- now he's all for tradition. He says so right here:
Sayonara, baseball tradition
Baseball used to be a game played with nine men to a side, two managers, four umpires, and the major-league season always opened in Cincinnati.
Of all of the baseball things to get nostalgic about, this one seems a little nit-picky. I'm sorry, Cincinnati. You'll always have the fond memories of Opening Days past and of Ickey Woods dancing. Dancing in the moonlight.
Money can change any habit. Eight springs ago the Mets and Cubs opened the season, not in Cincinnati. Guess where? Tokyo.
Hold that thought. I would like to play a game with you, the reading audience. How are you, audience? I'm well, thank you for asking. Mr. Bisher has brought up the city of Tokyo in this baseball-related column, and he's about to expound on the topic of the city of Tokyo. Now, if you were writing a baseball-related column about Tokyo, dear reader, what might a salient point to bring up about said city be? Its undeniable passion for the sport? Its sizable population? Its distance from America?
(This space reserved for your answer: "Asian girls, dude, YEAHHHH.")
And now, Mr. Bisher's response:
That Tokyo, the guys who gave us Pearl Harbor.
Ah yes: that Tokyo. I imagine Mr. Bisher's conversations with Mrs. Bisher: Mrs. Bisher: Furmy, let's go see my sister in Chicago! Mr. Bisher: You mean Chicago as in the guys who gave us the Great Chicago Fire of 1871? Unlikely, Miriam!
Mrs. Bisher: Furms, I'm so excited. We've won a trip to Seville! Mr. Bisher: Seville, the guys who gave us the Spanish Inquistion? Thanks but no thanks!
The year 2024 Mrs. Bisher: Furry-man, we've been chosen by President Efron to be the first tourists in space! Mr. Bisher: Space? The space that gave us the Challenger disaster? I wouldn't dream of it!
Pearl Harbor was a bad scene, people. It was also over 66 years ago. When Pearl Harbor happened, baseball didn't allow black people to play and only citizens who owned horses were allowed to watch the games. You don't see African-Americans and the horseless boycotting the game now, do you?
Some people don’t like you to bring that up, trade with Japan is so hot. But I’ve got a long memory. I saw what a few bombs can do to our property.
I like to think that it's only from extensive personal experience that Furman Bisher has learned that some people don't like you to bring up Pearl Harbor -- that he was constantly dropping it into conversations at dinner parties, especially ones with Japanese-American guests.
"I saw what those bombs can do, boy, I'll tell you! Pass me another barbecue wing, will you, Kunichi?"
"My name is Mark."
The point is, if we're going to have an unlimited statute of limitations on holding sporting events where bad shit went down or where bad shit was planned, there ain't gonna be no sports, dude. Even Atlanta did some fucked up shit once, man. Believe it.
I really really wish Rob Dibble's Hard Ball had been updated in the last sixteen months. Without it, Dibble's wisdom is only parceled out in tiny, Sugar in the Raw packet-sized morsels of genius in other people's articles. For instance, Rob, why aren't there baseball dynasties anymore?
"There's too much movement now," former Reds reliever Rob Dibble says. "Chemistry is a big deal. You need to come up with the same guys, stay with them, get to know their tendencies and their inside jokes. Otherwise, it doesn't work."
Exactly. How am I supposed to field a ground ball when fucking Gomez over there doesn't laugh when I say "Do I make you horny, baby?" It's from Austin Powers. Jesus, Gomez. Santana understood me. Santana laughed every time.
Oh shit, the ball got past me. Fuck. Well, it's my turn to bat. I'm so depressed I guess I'll hit into a triple play. I hate Gomez. He told me he never even saw Meet the Parents. How am I supposed to do my "I have nipples, could you milk me?" routine?
I just struck out.
There's probably something to what Dibble's saying, though. If you look back at baseball's greatest teams, you'll notice one unmistakable fact: they're also baseball's funniest teams.
New York Giants: 1904 to 1924 Funniest riff: Heinie Zimmerman's Archduke Ferdinand impression. So funny, everyone who saw it admitted that the whole war was worth it just for that impression.
Chicago Cubs: 1906 to 1910 Funniest riff: Joe Tinker would armpit fart "La Marseillaise."
Philadelphia A's: 1910 to 1914 Funniest riff: Blackface.
New York Yankees: 1921 to 1928 Funniest riff: Lou Gehrig disease.
St. Louis Cardinals: 1926 to 1946 Funniest riff: Also Lou Gehrig disease.
New York Yankees: 1936 to 1964 Funniest riff: Yogi Berra would rest his balls on Phil Rizzuto's face when he fell asleep. This wasn't a joke; they just liked it. The funniest riff was when Mickey Mantle would beat up the batboy.
Baltimore Orioles: 1966 to 1983 Funniest riff: Mark Belanger had a very incisive bit about the '73 oil crisis. He currently hosts the show "Real Time with Bill Maher" under the name Bill Maher.
Cincinnati Reds: 1970 to 1976 Funniest riff: Joe Morgan used to perform a hilarious rant about ARPAnet. "Mark my words," he would say, "One day a computer will write a book that will ruin baseball."
It doesn't matter that it was written two and half weeks ago. This column will live on through the ages. They will speak the name of this column and shudder in fear and awe. This is the ur-column.
Pierre and Plaschke, a pairing like prosciutto and melon, like mini-golf and beer, like Travolta and Cage. Behold.
Dodgers' Juan Pierre is right where he belongs
I would argue that Pierre would belong better in the cast of the movie Gosford Park than atop a major league lineup.
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- There's a boxer in the house.
There's a tiresome stylistic contrivance in the house. "Yeah, last year, I got beat up pretty good," says Juan Pierre.
There's defiance in the house.
You see how he brought "in the house" back for another spin? You see that? That's what it takes to play in the writing big leagues, son. Take notes. Repetitive notes. Fragmented notes.
"If people really think the reason we lost last year was because my arm wasn't strong enough, or because I didn't get on base enough, hey, that's cool, I'll be the man, I'll take it," says Pierre.
Look, spare me the martyr shit, dude. A guy who loses his house to a tornado is a victim. You ain't no victim. The Dodgers lost for a bunch of reasons. It definitely did not help them that they gave the guy with the second-worst OBP on the team the most ABs.
There's resolve in the house.
"I'm coming into this season with a chip on my shoulder . . . just like every season," says Pierre.
Does that mean we can expect EqAs of .256, .253 and .255 (Pierre's last three chip-shouldered seasons)? Maybe you should try playing happy or somethin'. Mix it up.
No. No no no no no no no. They can. They really can. They did. They are. The fact that you, Bill Plaschke, for some reason believe that Juan Pierre plays an entirely different, incalculable, unknowable, ineffable, ethereal, spiritual, intangible, holy, effervescent, incorporeal, bioluminescent, antioncogenic game that is emphatically not baseball does not make it so.
They have run the numbers, and they are ugly.
Bloggers downright brutalize him.
This is akin to saying "Everyone who has written on a typewriter despises rabbits." Blogging is a medium, nothing more. It is not a religion. It is not a creed. We do not all think in lockstep. This is a motherfucking boring-ass recording.
I like him.
Boom! The Plaschke turn. You thought I was going one way and then I went the other -- Plaschke-style. Let me show you how it's done:
"Most people hate turtle shit. They say it's stinky. They say it's runny. They say it doesn't serve a purpose anymore in today's workaday world.
I like it."
Now that the Dodgers have added Rafael Furcal's health and Andruw Jones' pop, I think Juan Pierre's presence at the top of the lineup will be as oversized as his cap.
Um, is he going to get any better at, you know, hitting and stuff? He's turning 31 this year. He's been very bad, I don't know if you've been watching the Dodger baseball team or anything... Now that the Dodgers have moved him to left field, I think Juan Pierre will fit as easily there as his bat fits on a bunt.
Because if at all possible, you want your left fielder to slug .353.
Now that Joe Torre is installing an aggressive running game, I think Pierre's ability on the basepaths will be as evident as the dirt streaks on his jersey.
Is he really going to steal more than the 64 bases he stole last year? That would be a terrible sign because it would mean he would be eating up like 700 plate appearances. Also: will baseball writers ever tire of mentioning dirt streaks as a proxy for baseball skill? Perhaps when we move to silicon-based fields, as I am proposing we do in 2011.
Now that it can be a complement instead of a cornerstone, I think the idea of Juan Pierre will work.
New euphemism for "shit player": "complement."
"My game is not pretty, it's just not pretty," Pierre says. "You have to be an old-school guy to appreciate it."
Your game is extremely pretty. It's exciting to watch guys take huge leads, play cat and mouse with the pitcher, kick up dirt when they slide. It invigorates the crowd. Kids love it. This is the best thing about your game -- its entertainment value. Casual fans probably love watching you play, and I don't blame them. You're f.u.n.!!!
Yours is a crowd-pleasing style all in all, Mr. Pierre -- so it stands to reason that if the crowd has turned on you, well, things probably aren't going well, are they?
That's one more reason this will be a good year for Juan Pierre.
Torre is one of those old-school guys who appreciates him.
"He does things the right way," Torre says.
If I were implausibly saintly The Wire Season 5 character Baltimore Sun City Editor Augustus "Gus" Haynes, I would slide my wise-person glasses down my wise, wise nose and pithily growl, "Cut that quote." Because it's the billionth time we've read that about the millionth different player, and it doesn't add anything. It detracts.
Contrary to the winter hopes of many Dodgers fans, Torre's lineups have indicated that Pierre will be the starting left fielder ahead of Andre Ethier.
It makes sense.
Sure it makes sense. Andre Ethier is a major-league caliber player who gets on base, hits for some power, plays good defense, has a decent throwing arm, and is currently 25 years old. Juan Pierre is a professional longshoreman who has convinced a baseball team to pay him tens of millions of dollars despite the fact that he cannot get on base, cannot hit for power, runs borderline-insane routes in the outfield, and has an arm so feeble he struggles to open jars of kalamata olive tapenade.
What's the issue here?
Pierre adds an irreplaceable speed component to the top of the Dodgers order. And, in left field, what Pierre lacks in arm, he can overcome with that speed.
That too. What Pierre lacks in OBP (twenty points to Ethier last year), he can overcome with speed. What Pierre lacks in EqA (eighteen points), he can overcome with speed. His zero homers -- well, he's fast. His 32 extra-base hits -- he's speedy. His team worst 75 OPS+ -- guy can motor. "Johnny Damon never had much of an arm, we moved him to left field, it worked out fine," says Torre. "You can offset that kind of arm with your aggressive play. You can get good jumps, get to balls that other guys can't."
Johnny Damon is on the downslide. Johnny Damon is 34 years old. Johnny Damon was never a big power hitter. Johnny Damon has like fifty-nine different injuries. Last year Johnny Damon out-OPSed Juan Pierre by 62 points. It was Johnny's worst season in seven years.
Pierre also brings something that, during last season's doldrums, everyone seemed to forget.
You can find it in a locked box in his Fort Lauderdale home.
It is the severed finger of Angela Lansbury.
He's one of only three Dodgers with a World Series ring.
But the finger -- the finger is what will lead the Dodgers to victory. Well, it'll have about as much impact, anyway.
You know who else has a Florida Marlins 2003 World Series ring? Ugueth Urbina. The evidence is conclusive: World Series experience causes you to travel to Venezuela, pour gasoline on some men and commit attempted murder on them with a machete. Ugie Urbina: he's a winner™! "The young guys know about it, they ask about it sometimes," Pierre says. "But I don't like wearing it. I'd rather lead with my actions."
"I'd rather lead off and finish third, first, second, second and first in outs in the league the last five years."
Those actions were uninspiring early last year, the first of a five-year, $44-million contract that was questioned before the ink was dry.
Trying too hard, he spent much of the early season surrounded by boos for a mediocre batting average, an awful on-base percentage and general ineffectiveness.
There you have it: when Juan Pierre sucks shit, it's because he's trying too hard. When some dickface like Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn posts a low batting average but a high OBP, he's a lazy fuckbutt. Plaschkevision.
"Yeah, I heard everybody," Pierre says. "It was like, 'Pierre, you stink' ... 'Pierre, go away' ... I heard it all."
I don't really advocate yelling insults at players, but hey: sort of perceptive work, there, Dodger Stadium crowd. I'll see you at the ballpark in person several times this year. I'll be the one in the Juan Pierre Laker jersey (Crossovers, trademark dak).
He batted .308 after the All-Star break, three points higher than his average during Florida's 2003 world championship year. He finished with 41 runs batted in, the same as in the championship year.
Batting average has never ever ever ever been Juan Pierre's problem. That's one of the like two and a half baseball things he's good at. The issues are twofold here, though: 1. Batting average is stupid and 2. Batting average is really, really stupid. Actually, I'll make another point here: in the second half of 2006, Juan Pierre improved (presumably from not trying too hard) and hit .311! He had found his stroke! He was bound for a roaring comeback! Sign this man to a $300 million deal!
Then in the first half of 2007, he batting averaged .282 and OBP-ed .311. :(
You can do a lot of fun things with pre- and post-All Star Break splits. Will Juan Pierre settle in and become the Juan Pierre of 2003-2004, when he was a valuable major league player? It's possible. Weird shit happens all the time. But after three execrable offensive years, it's hard to bet on a guy who's permanently out of his twenties. He scored four fewer runs (96), stole one fewer base (64), and, with the exception of a lack of plate discipline amid a lousy offense, he performed just as he did in Florida.
With the exception of getting on base, the most important thing a hitter can do, he was fantastic. Damn Rafael Furcal's lousy year! He's to blame for Juan Pierre's lousy year. Thank god Furcal's ankle is healthy so Pierre's eyes will work again.
In the end, Juan Pierre did exactly what Juan Pierre does.
Embarrass everyone except Bill Plaschke.
While unfairly taking the fall for a team that crumbled around him.
What exactly is unfair about saying a player burned through a ton of at bats and didn't help the team? You know what's unfair? Andre Ethier, a better player in every aspect of the game except baserunning, is being denied playing time because of a bad contract. These are Ethier's prime baseball years. He's not going to be playing as much baseball as he should. He will never get these years back. He is not a kid anymore. He's played in 279 major league games, and he's played well in those games.
Juan Pierre hit zero home runs last year. Mythical fairy creature David Eckstein hit three, for Chrissakes, and he swings a three-inch bat carved out of a candy cane.
The truth is, the idea of Juan Pierre was a good one, and still is.
Plaschke has spoken. This is The Truth. They will carve this column on alabaster tablets and hang them in our most hallowed halls of justice. Wise men will memorize these words and teach them to our young to prepare them for the trials of life. This column is the new Torah.
As we have said many times before: despite the hastily-chosen name of this blog, we don't actually dislike Joe Morgan more than about 50 other guys. That being said, we definitely don't want cities to name streets after him.
So, please, City of Oakland, make this stop.
Ken Tremendous 1910 Dusty Baker Way Paigeville, North McCarver 06107
Matthew makes a compelling point:
I have to say, no matter how much we dislike his commenting and SportsNation chats Joe Morgan the player is deserving of the honor. So I say you could cut him a little slack on the street. If it was Joe Morgan, ESPN commentator, Way, then there should be some sort of investigation.
Fair enough. I freely admit to my reaction being of the knee-jerk variety.
Melissa points out a second way in which I am kind of a dummy (but does it nicely):
I believe you are off-base in believing that Joe Morgan doesn't deserve a street named after him in Oakland. Not only is he a Hall of Fame player, but he is also an extremely active philanthropist in the East Bay and Oakland, in particular. The Joe Morgan Foundation and Joe Morgan Scholarship Fund helps youths from Oakland and other under-served East Bay communities go to college when that wouldn't be an option otherwise. He set a strong example to the community by going back to college at a late age and he has raised money and awareness for inner-city baseball programs, as well.
I find many of his baseball beliefs laughable, but his contributions to the Oakland community and to baseball in the city deserve to be commended. There are a lot of people with streets named after them in this country who are a lot less deserving than Morgan.
Thank you to the 1,420 people who sent us this link.
Sox may have (computer) chip on their shoulder
If computers ran the world, Steven Seagal probably would have won a few Oscars by now, assuming they judged him on the $2 billion his movies have earned.
That's unfair to computers. Not even computers could find value in Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice, or any of the other Adjective Preposition Violent-Thing movies he's made. (I realize Hard to Kill is actually Adjective Violent-Infinitive, but you get the idea.)
If computers had a way of measuring acting ability, he'd be running a martial-arts school in a strip mall.
Which is probably roughly what he is doing, now, in the world of humans.
But they don't run the world, yet, which means we can still type in our credit card numbers online without worrying that all our money is being sucked into a fund earmarked for global dominance by a dastardly computer.
I actually do worry about that, but it's because humans control the computers...for now!!!!!
Computers have no use for heart, or least they can't quantify it. They can't analyze what's inside an athlete, for example. They can't tell you who has the heart of a lion or the backbone of an earthworm.
Actually, the new MacBook Air has a program called iGrit, where you can enter a player's physical attributes, family history, propensity for diving, and which college he punted for, and it will give you a % by which his stats should increase next year. Macs can do anything.
Computers can't tell you that White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is upset with how he played last season.All they can tell you is that he hit .259 in 2007, that he just turned 32 and, therefore, he must be on the downside of his career because that's what the model says is supposed to happen to him.
32 isn't like crazy over-the-hill for a 1Bman. He could bounce back nicely and match 2006, or 2005, even. But yes, it is most likely that he moseys a little further down the long lonely road known as statistical deterioration. Unless...no. Forget it. I was going to say: unless maybe, just maybe...he has heart!!!!!!
If you saw the piece about Baseball Prospectus' 2008 predictions in Sunday's Tribune, then you know the publication's computer has the Sox going 77-85 and finishing third in the AL Central, and the Cubs going 91-71 and winning the NL Central.
I know as much about computers as I do about astronomy, but I believe the computer term for Baseball Prospectus' Sox prediction is "fatal error."
Nothing better than the profession of complete ignorance, followed immediately by a pronouncement of certitude. "I have never heard a piece of orchestral or chamber music in my life, but I can say conclusively that Dvorák's Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, is a piece of shit."
I have the Sox winning 85 games and giving Cleveland a run for its money for second place in the division. I know, I know: The Indians are loaded with talent, and if it weren't for Detroit spending gobs of money, they'd be the favorites in the AL Central.
But, again, what about heart?
What about "heart?" What about Miguel fucking Cabrera? What about Grady Sizemore and C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander and Fausto Carmona and Magglio Ordoñez? Heart? How about starting pitching? How about the fact that Jose Contreras is 62 years old?
I think Quentin and Swisher make this team a lot better than it was last year, but in that division they just don't have a chance, I don't think. Maybe I'm wrong.
Hal (or Smitty or Shecky or whatever the computer's name is)
My name is PECOTA. I will destroy you.
and I pretty much agree about the Cubs, which, given my track record on predictions, should make Hal/Smitty/Shecky do a lot of soul-searching, which is impossible because it doesn't have a soul, just an evil chip that makes it want to mate with Marie Osmond and produce robots that sing show tunes. I am a computer and even I know that Marie Osmond is a hacky reference. Also: what are you even talking about?
The Cubs will win 92 games. They will win the NL Central. They will win the NL pennant. They will get trounced by whichever American League team has the inclination to do a little trouncing, the way a bear commences to eat after it gets done playing with its food.
First of all, thank you for the food metaphor. (Update: it's actually a food simile, so I'm adding a new tag.) Second, you seem awfully sure of yourself for a guy who has been talking about how nothing in life is certain thanks to indefinable qualities that cannot be evaluated or measured. Third: thanks again for the food metaphor. (Update: simile.)
The cold, hard facts might back up Baseball Prospectus' opinion that the Mets will beat the Cubs in the NL Championship Series. New York acquired Johan Santana from the Twins, shifting the balance of power eastward in the weak-by-comparison National League.
...Johan Santana has a heart condition? The Mets are earthworms? Your knees ache, portending humidity? The entrails of the goat you just slaughtered say that the Gods are upset and we should move our armies West through the mountain pass? Poseidon may take vengeance upon the Greek fleet because Athena zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Do feelings count? Or hunches?
Not really, no. I mean, they're fun. They're fun to toss around and stuff. But they don't "count" when you are trying to scientifically project a team's performance. That is kind of the point of scientifically projecting a team's performance.
Where is there room in computers for the inexplicable? Does the fact that it's the Cubs' 100th season since their last World Series title mean anything in the computations?
Oh my God does it not mean anything.
Does it mean anything that the Cubs could be driven by the challenge of a century of dryness or, conversely, that they could cave in under the pressure of it and finish 10 games below .500?
Look, man, I know that psychological factors sometimes play a part in a team's season. I'm a Red Sox fan, for cripe's sake. But if the Cubs finish 10 games below .500, it won't be because a bunch of grown men suddenly felt the weight of their temporary employer's century-long drought. It will be because they got injured and/or underperformed. I'm sorry, I just don't think that professional ballplayers, who change teams constantly and are hugely rich, are going to deeply internalize their city's historical misfortunes, no matter how many stupid articles to the contrary get written. I personally guarantee that Alfonso Soriano cares way more about the history of the DR little league team than he does about that stupid goat. And need I point to how little history mattered to recent Sox-based teams in the face of good starting pitching, power hitting, and (yes) luck?
I believe the Sox are embarrassed by what happened last season and, not to belabor the point, there is nothing in a computer's innards that can measure the effects of that. But it is one of the great motivators in the human makeup.
True. They might pull it together and have a nice season. But that would be an aberration. The point of computer modeling isn't really to try to take possible nebulous aberrations into account. It is to try to predict what is most likely given the evidence at hand.
That is the least amusing paragraph you have ever written.
Shut up. Go Google something.
Baseball Prospectus was dead on last season, when it predicted the Sox, whom it saw as aging quickly, would win only 72 games. That's exactly what happened.
And yet, here we are, reading this article. Kind of makes you wonder: why are we here, reading this article?
That the Sox dropped from 90 victories in 2006 to 72 games last season was one of the shocks of the baseball season. But not to Baseball Prospectus, and the people who run it deserve their props. They chalk up a lot of what happened on the South Side last season to the inevitability of time catching up with older athletes. I chalk it up to a number of players having down years at the same time.
...Those are kind of the same things.
Isn't there room for a number of Sox to have good years at the same time? Say, in 2008?
If Jim Thome --
-- Turns 37 years old this year, hasn't played a full season since 2003 --
stays healthy, he could have an excellent season. It's a big "if," of course, but not like wondering if, say, the rain can hold off in Seattle for a month or two.
There might actually be a better chance of a dry spring in Seattle than of Jim Thome playing in 140 games.
The Cubs don't have a good enough rotation to do the impossible and win the World Series, but perhaps Carlos Zambrano's feistiness becomes contagious and the staff starts pitching like the '69 Mets did. Can a computer comprehend feistiness? I don't think so.
Well, this is kind of disingenuous. I mean, creating a computer than can comprehend feistiness is like the holy grail of artificial intelligence research. It's going to take years and years, and billions of dollars -- from both the public and private sectors -- before we can program a computer to understand and (hopefully) generate feistiness. But when we do, the world communities will come together as one, and marvel at the accomplishment, and they will stand up and say, en masse: "What a colossal fucking waste of time."
This is the time of year for predictions, so it's not surprising there would be a few bad tidings, especially for the Sox.
The problem with computers is that you can argue with them until you're blue in the face, and they don't even blink in response.
That is because I do not have eyelids.
There's no satisfaction in it. You can, however, achieve a higher level of contentment by hitting them with a baseball bat. I'd like to see you try, Morrissey. I'll take you down, son.
You Just Don't Say Things Like That About The Woonsocket Rocket
I was actually kinda shocked by this one. Kevin Hench has decided to take some shots at Rocco Baldelli on his "Hit List."
Baldelli has appeared in 127 of a possible 486 games the last three seasons. And — surprise! — he will begin this season on the disabled list. His latest DL-inducing "injury" is exhaustion.
"Well, Rocco, we've been looking over the tests." "And? What is it, doc? Give it to me straight." "SURPRISE! You have an extremely rare combination of metabolic and mitochrondrial abnormalities, which prevent the muscles in your legs from working and recovering properly."
Baldelli's condition is straight up unfunny. Doctors still haven't pinpointed the nature of his disease, but they know that it will affect his ability to perform the most basic of baseball skills. He's 26 years old, and his once promising career is probably over. And Kevin Hench is going to put the word "injury" in quotes? As if it's fake? Are you fucking kidding me?
Who does he think he is, Mariah Carey?
I prefer Julio Lugo's response: “I read it in the newspaper and my heart dropped,” he said.
Again, there is nothing funny about this. Kevin Hench owes Rocco Baldelli an apology. Simple as that.
And what is he exhausted from, the off-season?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no his mitochondria aren't working properly.
Reader Eli points us to this dank little nugget from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:
Felix Pie: His biggest accomplishment of the spring is hitting two home runs, which is fine. But after having it pounded into his head for years to play the little-man's game, it's not the kind of skill he needs to show to be of any use to the team.
Got that, kids? Homers = no use. He actually said that! If you're small, stay small, and do small things. Don't try to hit home runs. Hasn't it been pounded into your head for years to play the little-man's game?!
I like to think that Wittenmyer prefers the novel version of The Natural over the movie. Not because it's better, but because Hobbs strikes out at the end, instead of hitting a useless home run. "At least Malamud knew how to write a good Hollywood ending," he says to himself, every time he finishes re-reading the last page, eyes welling up with tears of joy.
Gordon also plays in a fantasy league where home runs are worth negative four hundred thousand points. His list of top 3 useless players of all time? Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Sadaharu Oh. (Interesting that he would include Oh; I guess you have to give him some credit for non-xenophobia-ness.) In one of his most time-consuming efforts, Wittenmyer has painstakingly re-edited his VHS copy of Major League so that Willie Mays Hayes does ten pushups everytime he hits a home run.
His nickname for Harold Reynolds (stay with me now) is "4-3", since, in his mind, grounding out to second base is the real "HR." For this same reason, he correctly-by-way-of-incorrectly refers to groundouts to second as "rally killers."
In hindsight, I kind of regret writing that last part, but it's too late now to hit the delete button or anything.
Hey, everybody, look! Pie taters = food metaphor!!
in Cincinnati. On one side: the Dustyites. On the other side: common sense. Articles are being written every day celebrating the folksy wisdom of a man who thinks bases are only good when there's no one standing on them. This is exactly what happened in L.A. when Grady Little was hired -- "He's folksy! He's down-home! He has a drawl!" (one year later) "He kind of stinks!"
If you could fart into a kind of microprocessing funnel, and the funnel poured the fart into a computer, which converted the fart into words, this is what it would look like.
Baker judges by his senses
Knowing what makes his players tick more important than their stats
Dusty Baker can literally smell whether a guy has a couple hits in his bat. And if his bones ache while a starter is warming up, that means 6 2/3, 4H, 1R. Welcome to the age of divining rods and augurs, Cincinnati.
The best baseball managing is done by the seat of your pants, using good, old-fashioned, pre-sabermetric logic.
If I live in Cincinnati, I have just purchased a one-way ticket to Canada, draft-fleeing-style.
That's another reason to like Dusty Baker. (Beyond his knowledge of single-malt Scotches and Van Morrison lyrics, which is merely astounding and downright Renaissance.)
"It doesn't matter to me if a guy gets on base if he can't run. If he can't run he's just clogging up the bases. Also, in an unrelated matter, it's a marvelous night for a moondance." (does a shot of Lagavulin 21)
If Baker manages by a book, it's one inside his head, not one written by Bill James.
Unfortunately, the book inside Dusty's head is "Lightning" by Dean R. Koontz. This will not help him.
The other day, the Reds manager decided he wanted Joey Votto and Adam Dunn to swing their bats more. "I don't like called third strikes," Baker said.
Can we get an Amen?
That's the thing about saberguys. We love called third strikes. I know it's controversial and counterintuitive, but we think batters should take more called third strikes. Statistics clearly show that offenses are best when the hitters take called 3rd strikes at least 16 times per game. That's why sabermetricians generally put on the permanent take sign for the first seven innings. Here's an equation to prove why this is good:
See? Called third strikes are awesome.
It always amuses when fans defend heart-of-the-order hitters by pointing to their on-base percentage. Wow, look at all those walks.
Yes. And then look at the corresponding runs that those walks create. And then look at the wins created by those runs! We are watching successful baseball! This is fun!
Unless they're intentional walks, or the big boppers are being pitched around, walks aren't what you want from players hitting third through sixth. You want them up there smart-hacking.
You want these guys to brain-swing. You want them to think-swipe. You don't want your 3-6-hole hitters to engage in torque ignorance. You want them to cognitive-swivel.
As Baker said: "(Votto) needs to swing more. I'd like to see him more aggressive."
Joey Votto has hit .289/.385/.476 in the minors. He's ranked as one of the top infield prospects in baseball by nearly anyone who ranks top prospects. Here's Dusty's idea: let's change his plate approach.
By-the-book managing is for men who aren't confident in their ability to read players and situations. It's for managers who don't know their players' personalities. It's what you do so you can say later, after it backfires: "Don't blame me. I went by the book."
What you are calling "by the book managing" is often completely thoughtless, ignorance-steeped tradition. 2-1 count with a guy on first? Hit and run. Leadoff guy gets on? Bunt him over. That's by-the-book managing, and it's dumb. What people like Bill James, and Rob Neyer, and BP, and Billy Beane advocate is: research, analysis, thought, science. But fuck that. Let's read some tea leaves.
The best thing about Baker is that from all accounts, it's important to him to know his players individually: what jazzes them, what scares them, the situations that best suit their talents and temperaments. Contrary to the notions of the seamheads and stat freaks, players are not numbers.
Don't use jazz as a verb, please. Also: stat freaks and seam heads hate baseball. They are fucking ASIMO robots who make managerial moves through NASA press releases. Eric Wedge makes his moves from home, via on-line chats. Terry Francona has never met anyone on his 25-man roster. Joe Maddon is a 2.4 gigahertz Linksys router. Manny Acta is actually M.A.N. eACTA, the black-ops code-name for the Mechanized Algorithmic Numerical (internet-ready) Actionable Computation Techno-Automaton. When his "contract" runs out with the Nats he is going to be launched into space. We are weaponizing space. Deal with it, China.
"Managing" means exactly what it says: the ability to manage people. How Baker runs a game strategically is far less important than what he is able to pull from his employees, 162 times a summer.
"How he runs a game strategically" and "what the results are of his moves?" are somehow mutually exclusive things.
Anyone with a laptop can locate the Web site baseball- reference.com and sound like an expert. Anyone with a library card can pick up one of James' mind-numbing baseball "abstracts," in which the author makes the game sound like a first cousin to biomechanical engineering.
Which is why it boggles the mind that some people don't. Especially the ones paid millions of dollars to operate one of 30 several-hundred-million-dollar franchises. And for the record, I'm not trying to sound like an expert. I'm trying to sound like a dude with a computer who can look shit up and point out that Adam Dunn is doing just fine, thank you, and if you start making him swing at pitches he doesn't like, you're going to screw up your team.
It ain't that scientific.
It's not purely scientific. But it goddamn is kind of scientific.
The NFL does the same thing, in a different fashion. To convince you that pro football is actually a 17-week MENSA convention, The League whips out its 800-page playbooks and offers up oh-so-serious coaches who work 20 hours a day and act as if their jobs involve brain surgery and a red telephone.
QB: What play are we running, coach?
Coach: (furious) What "play" are we "running?" This ain't science, you jackass! You, Johnson. Just run down the field, and kind of squiggle around. Henderson? I want you to just groove. Bergleson -- let your soul take over. I want you to feel it. Smithson? Put this welding helmet on and close your eyes. Run wherever you feel like you should run. And Thompson? When the ball is snapped, I want a long primal scream. Don't worry about "blocking" or "patterns" or "execution." This game is about emotion, people.
Assistant Coach: Have you noticed that everyone on this team is named "something-son?"
Coach: You're fired. I don't pay you to think. Now. Soul-Ball Gut Check 34 on 3.
Possibly, it's less complex. Block. Tackle. Win.
If you try to win a modern-day NFL game solely by telling your players to "Block and tackle" you will lose 100-0.
Baseball's cerebral side involves numbers. While I believe in baseball-card wisdom - you are who the back of your card says you are - it's just a little piece of the whole. When some of us (OK, me mostly) advocated dealing, say, Votto and Homer Bailey for Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton, the Statboys came out flame-throwing numbers:
Homer Bailey: 21, awesome in the minors. Walks too many guys but gave up 6.55 H/9IP at AAA. Votto: potential stud at 1st for years. Blanton: pretty good 27 year-old pitcher, maybe hitting his stride. Also arb-eligible for the next 3 years, and will get very expensive. Chances that Bailey outpitches him in 2009 for 1/20 the price? Decent. This would be a trade you make at the deadline if you are one starter away from the World Series, not if you're Cincy and you have to basically start from the ground-up. Also, if you want to trade Bailey and Votto, you can do a whole lot better than Joe Blanton, I think.
Blanton's a creation of his spacious home ballpark! Look at his ERA, home and away! Blanton's a flyball pitcher! Check out his ratio of groundballs to flies!
This is fucking fantastic. These are his examples of ridiculous, opaque, arcane stat-geek numbers. Home/Away ERA. GB/FB ratio. If you think that's complicated, you are a simpleton of the highest order.
If you shot back that Blanton has won 42 times in the last three years - and that he went 7-5 at home last year and 7-5 on the road - if you suggested that no number matters but Games Won, you were dismissed as an illiterate.
Not an illiterate. I believe you can read. But maybe an ignoramus? Yes, let's go with ignoramus.
(Actually, maybe Blanton won as many on the road as at home, even with a much higher road ERA, because Oakland's hitters worked under the same conditions as their pitcher. Allow more runs, score more runs. And factually, flyball man Blanton gave up only 16 home runs in 230 innings last year. But never mind.)
First of all, if he actually is worse on the road, it would be a dumb idea to make him pitch 16 times a year in Cincinnati, where the RF fence is 115 feet from the plate. However, Blanton did have a very good year in 2007. He may be entering his prime. His HR rate and BB both dipped last year. Good work using numbers to show that.
Numbers are fun to look at but dangerous to dwell on.
Baker understands this. If Dunn walks 30 fewer times this year, he'll drive in 15 more runs. His on-base percentage will dip. Oh, no.
If Dunn walks 30 fewer times, he'll drive in 15 more runs. This is thanks to the scientifically proven formula: RBI = (this is nonsense) (I made it all up).
If Votto takes fewer first-pitch strikes, his run production will improve.
You're right. He should hit more 1st-pitch home runs. Why doesn't anyone besides Dusty Baker and Paul Daugherty think home runs are better than walks?
And so on. Here's a stat: Wins as manager: Dusty Baker, 1,162; Bill James, 0.
This...this is the dumbest thing I have ever read.
Here's a stat: U.S. Presidents: All Americans Besides Paul Daugherty: 43. Paul Daugherty: 0. Suck on that, Paul Daugherty! You've never won the Presidency. What a jerk!
At bats are complicated things. The best result of an AB is a home run. The worst is an out that advances no runners. (Or a triple play, I guess, but you get the idea.) In between are several thousand other possibilities. A walk is a successful AB no matter how you slice it. Patient hitters are good hitters, by and large, who help their teams a great deal more than impatient hitters, and the more a guy is patient, the more he will swing at a good pitch instead of any pitch, which increases the chances he will succeed.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run a level-5 diagnostic on the M.A.N. eACTA. His verillion modulator is on the fritz.
Apparently Mr. Daugherty is not just a complete bonehead when it comes to baseball. Bill points us to this section of his blog, written during Ohio's recent snowstorm:
As for the Global Warming freaks... please deliver my pizza to the radio station at 9 tonight when, if warnings of the apocalypse hold, I will be spending the night, globally warmed by 10 inches of snow. I will be hungry. When you arrive, you can explain to me why it's called Green-land, what's bad about longer growing seasons in northern climates and open shipping lanes where there used to be impassable ice. Because I am the tiniest bit skeptical about melting icecaps, or at least about the catastrophically rising ocean levels guaranteed to drown us all, please show me the data indicating rising water levels in, say, New York harbor, or on the beaches in, I dunno, South Carolina. Then prove to me, beyond reasonable doubt, how all of it owes to greenhouse gases and such.
That, my friends, is the very definition of ignorance.
I'm late posting this, but here it is, from Russell:
Some actual math about Adam Dunn. Let's assume that he walks 30 fewer times this year. It's going to mess with his approach and he'll probably start swinging at pitches with which he doesn't feel comfortable, but let's just go against logic and assume that it won't affect what he normally does. Let's re-apportion those 30 PA according to what he did last year when he wasn't walking and see if we can get 15 RBI out of that.
First off, he walked 16.2% of the time, so we need to look at the other 85.8% of his PA. In 36.8% of those non-walk PA, he struck out, so 11 more strikeouts. That leaves 19 more PA where he didn't walk or strike out, but apparently put the ball into play. His BABIP last year was .309, which means that he would record a hit in about 6 of those remaining PA.
About 28.9% of Dunn's hits went for home runs last year, so let's be generous and say that of those six hits, two of them would be HR. Dunn would get 2 RBI from those HR, so he needs 13 more RBI to reach the 15 that Mr. Daugherty figured he would get. He's got 6 hits in which to do this (laying aside sac flies or the occasional grounder the scores a run... hell let's give him one of those... he needs 12 RBI in those six hits.) Adam Dunn would have to constantly be coming to the plate with two runners on base (at least when he gets his hits) and always drive them in.
Impossible? No. Likely? No.
And y'know, the best thing to do with a guy who averages 7.85 RC per 27 outs is to tell him to stop doing what he's been doing.
We salute you, Brian. Here's hoping that one day, historians will think of you as the Dick Fosbury of baseball. I know I do. Then again, I have a very rare and specific disease which prevents me from thinking of modern baseball players in any terms other than legends of track and field.
Anyway, did you guys see Sergei Bubka hit his third Grapefruit League tater today? That kid can flat out rake.
If we're getting super liberal, any mention of the Grapefruit or Cactus League should qualify as well, right? Look, guys. I just want to live in a world where every FJM post has a "food metaphors" label. Is that so much to ask?
Been getting a lot of e-mails about it over the past couple of days. In fact, if you e-mailed us once to tell us to give it the ol' FJM treatment, and then again, like an hour later, when you realized that it's (we think) a piece of satire, you're not alone.
I'm not sure exactly what there is to say about it. But to answer some questions we've gotten:
No, we didn't write it. No, we don't know who did. Yes, we think it's meant to be a satirical anti-Moneyball piece, and therefore, ostensibly, a pro-Moneyball piece. But it's pretty hard to tell.
I like that if you Google "Art Garfamudis," one of the first things that comes up is an anagram search for "Art Garfamudis." Meaning, people are trying to find an anagram-clue in the pen name. (Of course! Radiums A. Graft.)
Well, I hope this has been as disappointing for all of you as it was for me. We'll try to get to that beautiful Plaschke/Pierre article but I'm not making any promises.
Think of your favorite baseball team. Got it? Now think of what a slogan for that team would be. I bet you're thinking something like, "Welcome to Loser Country" or "Losers, Incorporated" or "We Play Like Assholes" or "Fuck it." Because who wants a confident slogan? Slogans are meant to be realistic. Humble. On second thought, let's just cancel all slogans. Mottoes, catchphrases, rallying cries. Get out of here. Too arrogant.
Last year, the Mets were so confident about assuming their rightful place atop the baseball world, they adopted the marketing slogan "Your Season Has Come."
The slogan was presumptuous at best, arrogant and irritating at worst. And by the time the 2007 Mets completed the most ignominious regular-season collapse in the history of sports, it had become an embarrassment
Dude. It's a fucking slogan. Marketing came up with it. Who cares? Seriously. [checks Wallace Matthews' forehead] I think you have a fever. It's really bad. Oh my god. Oh my god, your brains are leaking out of your ears.
Wallace Matthews: This slogan is arrogant!
So this year, wisely, the Mets' marketing department has put a kibosh on the slogan factory. Or, at least, they aren't telling us yet what the official theme of the 2008 season will be.
Who. Cares. What the slogan.
It could be "Play ball!" or "Get Met!" or "9/11 was an inside job!" or "2008 Mets: Still No Women!" This is no reflection on the players.
In the interest of being helpful, we humbly offer the following suggestions,
There's no sense in going with something as boastful and contemptuous of the realities of baseball as last year's slogan,
How about a billboard that just shows Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds in real time? That would be a good slogan.
because right now, it is tough to read how good this Mets team is going to be.
Well yeah, no one knows for sure. But PECOTA sure likes the Mets, to the tune of a 95-67 record and first in the National League. PECOTA's far from infallible, of cours --
Aside from Santana, Jose Reyes and David Wright,
That's a little like saying "aside from Bird, McHale, and Parish." "Aside from Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, there are like no fucking presidents on Mt. Rushmore."
the roster is aging and lacks depth. Have we seen the best of Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner? Probably so, and it hasn't been good enough.
Yeah, most of those guys are old. Beltran is 30 years old right now. Let's not assume he's settled into a routine of CBS crime shows and Malt-O-Meal just yet.
So far, this incarnation of the Mets, this $145-million boondoggle, hasn't been nearly as good as it was supposed to be
They won 88 and 97 games the past two years. But PLAYOFFS@#$%$%$%!@#$@!!! I know, I know. Okay. They collapsed horribly last fall. Turn the page. They finished second by one game and added the best pitcher in baseball.
But heart and balls and guts and stuff!!! Can the addition of Santana, who can help out only once every five days, really cure all that ailed the 2007 Mets, the failures of heart and discipline and character?
No. They're doomed. It's March 4th. Rebuild. Put 'em on a submarine and launch it into space. Santana too. Who ever said he had any heart? He sucks, am I right people?
You're straying from the point, Matthews, which is as follows:
That's my new horrible pun for articles written about MLB's Tinkerbell, David Eckstein. "Arteckle." Yeah. You're welcome.
You've read this article four hundred times before, when it was written by other people. Only this time it's from Canada!
Now, you pretty much know what we have to say about Eckstein. Or, more to the point, you pretty much know what we have to say about what other people say about Eckstein. So don't feel bad about skipping over this one. I mean, I don't know why you would ever feel bad about not reading one entry on a meaningless, hyper-niched baseball blog. What I'm trying to say is: this is going to be bad for everyone.
Underdog Champion For Blue Jays shortstop David Eckstein, success forever will be measured in unexpected, hard-earned triumphs.
If it's possible to implicity dick-slap every other baseball player in the face, that's what's going on here. Are Matt Garza's triumphs easily earned? Did Yadier Molina expect to win the World Series more than Eckstein did, because he's a jerk or something? I say no. I'm calling dick-slap. (Implicitly...in the face.) It is as it has been and likely shall forever be: David Eckstein has to prove himself all over again.
David Eckstein does not have to prove anything anymore. For the past seven years, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is a not-that-great-but-fine-if-you-need-someone major league shortstop. In so doing he has been given every accolade known to man, including the Flomax "Look Again At This White Guy!" Award, and the coveted Purina Premium Pet Food Lowest Ratio Of Height To Hair Wispiness Order Of Merit ("The Wispy").
He is in his usual role -- unappreciated, undersized and under a mircoscope, just as he was as a small man on the University of Florida campus.
By the end of this sentence, I forgot whether author Bob Elliot had informed that Eckstein was undersized or oversized. Fortunately, he reminded me at the end of the sentence by pointing out that he was a small man back when he was in college. Speaking of -- why do they always mention that he went to the University of Florida? So did Brad Wilkerson. Who cares?
I mean, at least tell me the guy used to be a punter. Then maybe I'd get excited.
Eckstein has proved everyone wrong and now, at age 33 and standing at 5-foot-61/2, he will try to be Mr. Reliable at shortstop for the Blue Jays and an igniter out of the leadoff spot.
Note: (a) despite having proved everyone wrong, he still has to prove himself; and (b) third mention of his tininess in the span of like 30 words.
If this were Fark we would now be accepting entries in the "Photoshop David Eckstein as Mr. Reliable" contest. We are not Fark. What's not to like about Eckstein?
Well, I wouldn't say that .356 OBP is terrible from the leadoff position, but it's not great. And certainly you'd hope for a little more -- Well, he committed 20 errors in 2007 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Oh. Okay -- that was weird. I thought that was a rhetorical question, and I was trying to be snarky by answering it, but then you actually answered the question, sort of poorly I think, and now I'm kind of stuck here, and...fuck.
There's more, of course. It just doesn't seem worth it. I'm sure if Eck were writing this he would grind his way through the rest. Sorry kids. Maybe I'm just too tall.
The most vexing and confusing aspect of modern baseball analysis -- and the primary reason we created this site -- is the sniveling distaste for the book Moneyball. As you are all aware, Moneyball is a mathematics textbook designed to prove how dumb baseball is, co-authored by A's General Manager Billy Beane and a computer who hates baseball. The main arguments in the book are: (1) baseball is stupid, (2) hot dogs taste bad, (3) the National Anthem is a piece of shit, and instead of singing it at the beginning of baseball games, the Iron Sheik should sing an Iranian folk song, (4) America sux, and (5) bald eagles should be replaced by some Russian bird you can only find in the most communist parts of the Ural Mountains. (The book takes place in 1974.)
So it comes as no surprise that the retirement of Jeremy Brown -- the slow/kinda-fat catcher whom Beane drafted 35th overall in the 2002 draft, despite the fact that no other team was ever going to draft him, probably -- is a super gleeful, hand-wringing, I-told-you-so snivelfest for people who either didn't read the book or didn't understand it. Or worse: people who read it, understand it, and think it's dumb. Or worser, people who choose to ignore that Brown retired for personal reasons, and not because he was an abject failure. Or worserest, people who just want to stir shit. Like Gary Peterson, of the venerable ignorance factory MSNBC.com.
For the record: Brown was not a failure. He had a .370 OBP in 6 minor league seasons. His career minor league OPS was above .800. He retired for personal reasons which neither he nor the team saw fit to release, but the A's made it clear that he was welcome back if he decided to change his mind. Also for the record: Beane drafted him in the first round not because he thought that Brown was the 35th-best player in the country, but because he, Beane, didn't have the money to sign any of the guys who were highly-rated and has already signed with Scott Boras or Jeff Moorad or something and were going to ask for $370 million signing bonuses before ever playing professional baseball. It was the only way he, Beane, could survive, out there in Oakland -- find guys no one else wanted but who were actually good, and draft them or trade for them and pay them small amounts of money.
Anyway. This article isn't the worst thing in the world. But Moneyball articles make me touchy. So:
If catching prospect Jeremy Brown didn’t exactly walk out of the Oakland Athletics spring training camp last week, it was only because he never showed up in the first place. Brown simply notified his employers he would not be reporting with the other pitchers and catchers. He had his reasons. At 28, he was done.
For personal, non-baseball-talent-related reasons.
You may have missed the announcement. In fact, we’d bet large money on it.
Brown may have been a member of baseball’s faceless fringe, but he had a story that set him apart. See, he was the unwitting face of the business model with which A’s general manager Billy Beane confounded the grand old game from 1999-2006.
Maybe you read the book.
I did, yes. Did you?
In “Moneyball,” author Michael Lewis detailed Beane’s counter-intuitive approach to baseball.
It is somehow counter-intuitive to draft people based on their skill levels and abilities instead of their anecdotal physical attributes. I'm not disputing this -- it's true. I'm just restating it, because it's always hard for me to believe.
He did this in part by presenting Brown as a tool to tell the story. A marginal draft pick in his own mind, Brown found himself picked by the A’s in the first round in 2002 because he fit Beane’s statistical profile. A’s scouts were appalled because Brown had neither the physique nor the physical characteristics of the traditional can’t-miss prospect.
Because of the book, Brown gained notoriety he neither sought nor welcomed. Now he has called it quits at the precise point at which Beane’s Moneyball model appears to have run its course.
The Moneyball model has not "run its course." The Moneyball model is: find inefficiencies in the market and exploit them in order to compete with rivals who have more assets at their disposal. Apple competes with Microsoft through state-of-the-art industrial design and exemplary niche marketing. Whole Foods competes with Ralphs and Vons and Safeway by selling organic twig-based $9/box cereals that suckers like me buy because they contain flax seed. This is not a "theory" that "runs a course." This is a theory that people in all businesses have been using for centuries in order to keep up with better-funded competitors.
Now. If you want to make the more sophisticated argument that the specific inefficiencies that Beane was exploiting at the time the book was written by that baseball-hating computer -- namely, that the market had undervalued OBP skills, for example -- are now less inefficient, thanks to the aftermath of the book and the rise of like-minded GMs who shared Beane's personality traits of: being a rational, logical, non-dummy...well, then go ahead. Or just keep doing what you're doing. The latter? Okay.
Beane did it [won a lot] by drafting players who became huge stars, then letting them leave as free agents. He did it by renting veterans who played a season (or two) in Oakland, then left as free agents. He did it by trading players approaching the prime of their careers for prospects. He did it by placing value on players other teams deemed undesirable, but who could take pitches, draw walks and hit home runs.
The model began to break down last season.
The players broke down last season. They had 22 DL stints, for cripe's sake. I'll just quote from MLB.com here:
[C]enter fielder Mark Kotsay, right fielder Milton Bradley, first baseman Dan Johnson, designated hitter Mike Piazza, shortstop Bobby Crosby and third baseman Eric Chavez missed significant chunks of time.
Starting pitchers Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza combined to make seven starts. Closer Huston Street missed more than two months. Former All-Star Justin Duchscherer was shut down for the year in mid-May, and fellow setup man Kiko Calero was limited to 46 appearances before being shut down late in the summer.
"Moneyball?!" More like "InjuryBall!" Or "MoneyInjury!" (Yes -- let's go with "MoneyInjury.")
The new wave of home-grown stars plateaued or backslid. Prized pitchers disappointed, either by failing to produce or by failing to stay healthy. Last-chance veterans turned out to be duds.
Also: Kotsay, Bradley, Johnson, Piazza, Crosby, Chavez, Street, Harden, Loaiza, Duchscherhsrcechrsecer, and Calero got hurt. This is Moneyball's fault.
Naturally, people are wondering if Brown’s retirement symbolizes the end of the era. And they’re asking:
Can Beane remake the A’s into a playoff contender?
If he can't, no one can.
That’s a tall order based merely on the law of averages. Put it this way: The Yankees aside, no major league team has a streak of postseason appearances exceeding 1. Meanwhile, eight teams have failed to make the playoffs for at least 10 years running.
This has nothing to do with the A's. Also, I love that the Red Sox making the playoffs in four out of 5 years (and winning the World Series twice) doesn't qualify them for this arbitrary cut-off. Which, again, has nothing to do with the A's, or anything.
Doesn’t Beane’s analytic mad genius give him an advantage? Doubtful.
What does Billy Beane have to do to earn the benefit of anyone's doubt?
The book explicitly detailed his methodology, as well as the delight he took in fleecing fellow GMs. Thus, he now must co-exist with GMs who either embrace his model to some extent, and/or who wouldn’t talk trade with him on a bet.
Even if this is true, he can still draft people. He can still let free agents and over-hyped closers leave and get draft choices. And after the book was published, he traded Mark Mulder to the Cards for Haren, Calero, and Daric Barton. So, I think he's going to be fine.
Before the 2006 season they gave third baseman Eric Chavez the contract Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, et al, never got — $66 million over six years. Chavez’s numbers have trended downward ever since, as has his health.
Giambi was given $120 million by the Yankees. That is more than $66 million, by $54 million. Miggy got $72 from the Birds, and his numbers and health have trended downward too. Also, I think this bears mentioning: Tejada and Giambi are both juicers. That may not have factored into the decision to let them go -- and for all I know, Chavez is a juicer -- but I don't think you can look back and say that Beane should definitely have kept them and their stink on the team. (And in Giambi's case they couldn't have kept him anyway.)
That same offseason, the A’s outbid the Giants by [sic] for Esteban Loaiza ($21 million, three years), and got 12-9, 4.62 and an embarrassing DUI for their trouble. They waived him last August.
They paid him $5m in '06 and $6m in '07. That ain't bad for 12-9. Not great, but not bad.
Kotsay was extended at market rate by previous ownership in 2005, whereupon his problematic back became a debilitating concern. The A’s will pay $5.3 million of his salary this season even though he’s with Atlanta.
Signing a 28 year-old CF/OF (who's good defensively and hit .314/.370/.459 in 2004) to a 2-year extension is good business. If only Moneyball hadn't ruined his back.
Here's the big finish.
The only certainties are that this season figures to be a competitive wash, and that Jeremy Brown will have nothing to do with it.
Connect those dots as you see fit.
Tried. Turns out those are the only two dots in this dimension that do not create a line.
Go to sleep, Mac. It's past your bedtime, which is 5, 8, and 11 PM, and 2, 5, 8, and 11 AM, and then 2 PM.
Reader James points out several good things:
In the chapter profiling Brown, it lists him as being part of Billy Beane's "top 20" -- the 20 people Beane would pick if money and competition were not an object. Lewis identified a couple of the people on the list as being unaffordable. Jeremy Brown was on that list, and I think it was fair to say that, based on the A's method, they thought Brown was one of the best ten picks in the draft. I'm sorry I don't have the book on me now to link something, but I do think Beane thought Brown was better than the 35th best pick.
I've seen a bunch of the criticism of Moneyball/Beane because of Brown, and I've often wondered how the pick compares with others. That is... how did the pick do relative to other picks? Well, it's not really much of a sample, but the Braves picked Dan Meyer immediately before Brown... Dan Meyer's pitched all of 6 innings in the majors, and is now, oddly enough, with the A's. The Cubs, with the pick directly after the A's, picked Chadd Blasko. Blasko was released by the Cubs last year, and from what I can tell, never got above the AA level.
From that, my sense is that the A's did about as well as could be expected with that pick. Expecting Jeremy Brown to be a superstar, or even what Nick Swisher is now, is unrealistic. (Hey, even the top pick of that draft, Bryan Bullington, has barely sniffed the majors).