Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


New Criterion For Being Good At Baseball: YOU MUST IMPRESS DAVID O'BRIEN


Snap-billed mreetwass
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The snap-billed mreetwass is a legendary creature with the body of a unicorn, the tail of a griffin, the face of a Korean person, and the wings of a leprechaun (if a leprechaun had wings). The mreetwass feeds on DVDs of the Larry Sanders Show and reproduces once a year, always on Cinco de Mayo. The mreetwass is notable for only being identifiable by one Mr. David O'Brien of Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. O'Brien is the world's foremost and only authority on mreetwasses and Mreetwassery (the study of mreetwasses); all inquiries should be directed to him.

Wikipedia entry created by awesomeobrieninternet69 at 02:30, 21 July 2008.


Now imagine that same bullshit, but in place of the word "mreetwass" insert the words "impact offensive player." You pretty much have the premise of David O'Brien's piece on trading Mark Teixeira.

Is Teixeira, with his Gold Glove-level defense and likely .290-30-120 to .310-45-130 offensive range for many years to come, worth $20 mill a season? I’d say only to a team that has a huge payroll, at least $150 mill or so. Not to a team with a $100 mill payroll, because while he piles up stats, he’s not a player, at least from what I’ve seen, who puts a team on his back and delivers big hits when the team needs it most.

The mreetwass, you see, doesn't settle for hitting 35 home runs or 125 RBI. He concentrates on leading the league in Distance Carried (Team on Back Division) and Hits (Bigtime Department). He wins David O'Brien over.

All Teixeira has done is put up OPS+es of 150, 126, 144, and 131 the last four years, along with the aforementioned stellar defense. He does "pile up stats" because he's very good at baseball, and baseball people who watch baseball games record stats to show how good or bad someone is at baseball. That said, he will probably be overpaid. I can't stress this enough: I'm not arguing that he won't be overpaid. I'm taking issue with O'Brien's reasoning, not his conclusion. There are some perfectly good non-mreetwassian reasons to not retain Teixeira's services:

1) He has a career home/away OPS split of .955/.859, so some team paying for his fat home run totals and ostentatious slugging percentages may be being a little misled by the Ballpark at Arlington.

2) He plays first base, where you can usually find some decent hitting, and decent power hitting at that.

3) The first base thing means his defense, which is very good, is perhaps not all that valuable.

4) He will get something like 7 years, $140 million, and he's not quite on that super-elite near-1.000 OPS-hitting level of guys like Pujols or A-Rod or (pre-2008) Miguel Cabrera.

5) He'll be 29 next year, so in your megadeal for him you're going to be getting some 34- or 35-year-old Tex in there.

But I'm drifting from the point here, which is: what are David O'Brien's crazy reasons for pooh-poohing Teixeira?

Say, for instance, during the first six weeks of this season, when the Braves were dealing with a slew of injuries and Chipper Jones was carrying the offense with help from either Brian McCann or Yunel Escobar, but not much from Tex.

Stupid Tex -- didn't you know that all truly great players kick ass for the first six weeks of the season? That is prime time, baby. Real men mash in April.

Slow-starter or not (and he’s a slow-starter, every season), the Braves needed to count on him for power and RBIs, and didn’t get it on a regular basis until about two months into the season, when they were already back in the standings.

So if Teixeira swats 20 bombs post-All Star break in 2008, is he an asshole because he waited until his team was out of contention? I'm confused. I'm so used to the exact same argument being used against guys who peak too early. Hey, the 2007 Mets were 22-12 after six weeks. Was that the right time for them to play awesome?

Even yesterday, his two-homer, three-RBI game didn’t have much impact, seeing that both homers were solo shots, one early in the game when the Braves were already down 6-1, and the other, well, I’d have to look it up, it was so relatively meaningless near the end of an utter blowout loss.

Mreetwasses only homer when the game is within two runs either way. It's a switch they just turn on and off. Also, no solo shots: those are for dickheads.

Anywaym [sic], this isn’t to diminish his skills or output.

Not at all. You just called his last home run "relatively meaningless" and said he doesn't deliver "big hits when the team needs it most." How could he be offended?

He’s durable and piles up stats, year after year.

This is entering Blyleven territory. People, Jesus: stats are just records of things that happen in ballgames. You only "pile up stats" because you do good things, over and over again, game after game, year after year. Ergo: you are good.

But I know an impact offensive player, a player whose performance seems bigger than his numbers because he gets so many key hits. And I know the opposite.

And there we have David O'Brien's definition of the mythical mreetwass: it's someone who impresses David O'Brien. Someone who "seems" good. Someone who has the goddamn courtesy to get "key" "big" hits when David O'Brien is watching WPCH-TV and not when David O'Brien is in the kitchen for a second to pour David O'Brien a bowl of Smart Start for David O'Brien to eat.

Of course, there's also the opposite of the mreetwass, the shünkrogle. I wonder who might be one of those...

A-Rod, for instance. Dude piles up huge numbers, year after year. Tremendous numbers.

He must be terrible!

But let me ask you, how many SportsCenter highlights can you remember this year of A-Rod late-game homers or walk-off hits? Maybe a couple or few early on, but lately?

The shünkrogle, as we all know, is miserable in the all-important statistical category of SCHYCRL-GHW-OH,L (SportsCenter Highlights You Can Remember of Late-Game Homers or Walk-Off Hits, Lately). This trumps his OPS+ (159) and his EqA (.334) and his VORP (39.6).

The greatest thing about SCHYCRL-GHW-OH,L is that it's different for everybody. It could be 3. It could be 0. It could be 49.5. It's what you remember, and you can't be wrong about that. Finally, a stat that the fan can participate in. "What's your SCHYCRL-GHW-OH,L?" should be ESPN's new slogan for the big show.

A-Rod’s the highest paid player in the game, and many will tell you he’s the best player in the game. But he’s not the player I would build a team around if I could have any player. No way.

Mine neither, probably, at least not if we're talking about a team for both now and the future and not just this year. He's too old for that. But for this season, and this season alone, I'm not sure you can do too much better than A-Rod. Pujols? Utley? Berkman? Hanley? Chipper? Sizemore? Wright? It's a short, short list.

But you know, you just have to listen to the guy who literally wrote the Wikipedia article on mreetwasses (and probably shünkrogles, I have to check), David O'Brien. And he says, emphatically: NO WAY.

I have to hand it to David O'Brien. He's basically solved baseball analysis. Come up with a fake term ("impact offensive player"), fake-define it with subjective, self-referential, fake parameters ("from what I've seen...big hits when the team needs it," "performance seems bigger than his numbers," "key hits," "I know an impact offensive player"), and presto, you're Earth's premier expert on that fake term -- no amount of actual baseball information can ever change that. It's like creating your own Planet Baseball with the absolute data isolation of a short-lived Wikipedia page, and then ruling the shit out of that planet. You know what? Congratulations, David O'Brien. You have to respect that.

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posted by Junior  # 1:01 AM
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