Why Not Just Call It "Will This Happen: Yes or No"?
"Oddsmakers" today on PTI. Stat boy pro tempore Luke Russert throws out the first one: "Chances the Twins take first place tonight in the AL Central."
Okay. The Twinks are 1/2 game out and they're playing the ChiSox, so the question is basically "chances the Twins win tonight." Your pitching matchup is Gavin Floyd vs. Livan Hernandez. For what it's worth, Vegas has the Twins as very slight favorites. Let's see how Tony and Mike break down tonight's game:
Tony: Game's being played in Minnesota.
Tony: They've won two in a row, so they've got momentum. Mike: Yes. Tony: They're a pretty amazing team, organizationally, in the sense they got rid of Johan Santana, and still a half game out. I think the Twins are ahead of almost every team in baseball in that regard, so I will go as high as 100%. Mike: They have to be smarter, Tony; they don't have a trillion dollars to spend like your boys the Yankees and the Sox. They don't have that kind of size market, and they do a great job. They've also had about nine "break points" if you will this year, where they could have gone ahead of the White Sox and they failed in every one of those. They may do it next week. Tony: So you're going against? Mike: Tonight, I'm going with the White Sox who blew a four run lead last night -- should've won that game. White Sox win tonight -- not projecting beyond that -- so I'm saying a 0% chance.
I'm not sure exactly what TK is saying. I think he believes that the Twins are ahead of almost every team in baseball in the coveted category "getting rid of Johan Santana." Makes sense, considering the Marlins and Astros also got rid of him -- hey, sometimes you can't beat everyone.
Wilbon likes the ChiSox chances in part because they blew a four run lead last night, but should've won anyway. He is 100% certain that they will win tonight, but steadfastly refuses to make any predictions beyond tonight. Because, really, that would be ridiculous.
The game is called Oddsmakers. This is the one predictive game that makes sense to me: "what are the chances?" It's based on the simple notion that, obviously, we can't know for sure what's going to happen in the sports world, but we can make educated guesses about the likelihood of certain events. These two guys destroy that whole idea in the span of 40 seconds.
I know, I know. It's entertainment. It's designed for one guy to stand on each side of an argument. People say dumb things all the time, and there's no point in picking on them. Yesterday I blamed ourselves for creating this blog, and having to post stuff like this. But you guys continued to read, so today I'm blaming each and every one of you.
Credit Donovan for not shying away from the subject or pleading ignorance to how it works. He's the highest-paid coach in college basketball, a future Hall of Famer with more national titles than Def Leppard's drummer has arms.
Here's what I imagined happened in the Rick Allen household tonight:
Rick Allen: Honey, I'm home. Rick Allen's Wife: How was your day, dear? Rick Allen: Great. I spent the morning at the Raven Drum Foundation, which as you know, since you're my wife, is a charity I started in Malibu to encourage kids with disabilities to try to overcome them and lead normal, productive lives. Rick Allen's Wife: That's wonderful. Would you like some dinner? Rick Allen: Sure. But you know, after a long day of helping children overcome their disabilities, I think what I'd like to do is just sit down, relax, and read some articles about sports -- just to take my mind off of the whole idea of "disabilities," you know? Rick Allen's Wife: Absolutely. Rick Allen: That's why I love sports journalism. It's totally "me-neutral," you know? It's a chance just to forget about the fact that I only have one arm. Let's see here...oh. Perfect. An article about Summer basketball camps. No chance of encountering any unpleasantness here.
A couple of people have written in to mention that Rick Allen was convicted of spousal abuse in 1995. Apparently he underwent treatment for alcoholism and has been clean since. So: bad on him, good on him, mixed on me for defending him.
Many of you wrote in to point out that I typed "John" Santana instead of "Johan." Well guess what? I did type "Johan." It seems the sinister tendrils of the Chinese government, which notoriously hates "o"s, extends all the way into the inner sanctum of blogger.com's editorial staff.
The first comment, which attempted to make me look like a fucking moron by indicating that I can't tell the difference between "o" and "a," was written by a North Korean spy posing as a Chinese National, in an attempt to frame both the Chinese government and me as dangerous morons.
The original censorship of "a"s was perpetrated by the Greeks. It's complicated.
Every day 100,000,000 people say a combined 4,000,000,000 meaningless things about baseball. (Those numbers are exact, by the way.) Harping on any one of these things said seems just as meaningless as saying it in the first place, but, we made the mistake of creating this blog and everything. It's our fault, really.
Brian Sabean was on 710 ESPN radio today, and was asked who he liked to win the National League pennant. A two-minute response in which he didn't pick a team ended with the following: "One thing we've learned: any [team that] wins the first round is dangerous, and can win the World Series."
Oh really, Sabes? Let's take a look at some recent teams, and see just how right you are.
2007 Boston Red Sox: Won in the first round; won the World Series
2007 Philadelphia Phillies: Lost in the first round; did not win the World Series
2006 Oakland Athletics: Won in the first round; did not win the World Series, but were dangerous, and could have won the World Series if they had not lost in the ALCS
2006 Los Angeles Dodgers: Lost in the first round; did not win the World Series
2005 Chicago White Sox: Won in the first round; won the World Series (were also dangerous)
2005 Kansas City Royals: Did not win in the first round (missed playoffs); did not win World Series
Holy shit -- he's right.
But it's so mindbending...any of the four teams who win in the first round can win the World Series? And they're all dangerous? It's so counter-intuitive that I feel like we're lucky that we've learned that at all! How could it be that teams still competing in the playoffs have a better chance of winning the World Series than teams that have been eliminated? Goddam, this is like trying to read The Sound and the Fury for the first time.
Okay, I've spent the last six hours really deep in thought. I did some meditating, some breathing exercises, took like 6 Provigil, ate about 9 ounces of $800/oz. ginseng, and roughly 3/4 of a dose of teonanácatl. I put Sabean's quote on the wall and just stared at until I was able to come up with some other Truths. Here's what I came up with:
1. Any team that makes the playoffs is dangerous and can win the World Series. 2. Any team that wins the second round is dangerous and can win the World Series. 3. Any team that wins the World Series is dangerous and can win the World Series. 4. Any team that is within about 10 games of first place at the end of August is dangerous and can win the World Series. 5. All of the matter and all of the void is connected in a way that is beautiful, terrifying, and perfect. 6. Brian Sabean signed Barry Zito to a $126MM contract.
I've been receiving/reading some criticism about this post, which basically goes like:
"Well, hold on. It's not like Sabes was trying to say something totally genius. This is one of a million stupid things that people say about baseball -- who cares?"
In response to the first part: yes, it was absolutely like he was trying to say something totally genius. I listened to the interview carefully, and he did not say: "But, you know, in the playoffs anyone who wins in the first round can win the World Series" or "I guess anyone who wins the first round can win it all."
He had been holding on to this nugget -- I remind you that it had almost nothing to do with the question he was asked (which team do you like to win the NL Pennant) -- and delivered it with as much as gravitas as anything else he said in the whole interview. This is the "one thing [they've] learned" that he had deemed important enough to tell us about.
As far as the other stuff goes...well, of course. You either care or you don't. You probably shouldn't. We do, we write about it -- I don't really know why anymore -- and you can read it if you want.
It is one of the rules of blogging that the more individual posts you make, the higher the traffic will be to your blog. Unfortunately for the investors of firejoemorgan.com, (Bear Stearns, Countrywide Home Mortgage, Qwest, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, KBR, The National Iranian Oil Company, and Fremulon Insurance), we don't really understand those rules. Thus, I am now going to combine the last like four JoeChats into one monster "Best of July" JoeChat that will be long, dense, and unfun for everyone.
Joe Morgan: Last week's interleague play, with the White Sox and the Cubs, was very telling. Home field means a lot; both teams were much more comfortable at home. I never thought home field was such a big deal when it came to good teams, but I found out differently.
I'm not going to make it. I'll never get through the marathon JoeChat. Go on without me. Tell my wife I love her.
Frank (Rockmart, GA): Do you think the NL East is wide open, or will the Phillies find some consistency soon and begin to pull away from the pack?
Since right away I can tell everyone ignored my suggestion to stop JoeBaiting, let's go with the flow and count the JoeBaits. This "consistency" is: 1.
Joe Morgan: I think it is wide open because all the team have weaknesses.
No perfect teams. Teams have weaknesses. 1975. Tony Perez. There: I just gave you all the answers you will find in this JoeChat.
The Phillies starting pitching needs help, as does the Mets' pitching and they need consistent offense as well. And the Braves I just cannot read; they lose close games and are not consistent.
It's amazing, isn't it, folks? We're like 4 years in to this grand experiment we call "JoeChats," and the issues we face are the exact same ones we faced in 2005. Consistency, indeed.
It is wide open and the team that plays well on the road will win it. The Marlins are a group of young guys, who is they get hot will be able to stay on a streak longer than the other team because they are so young.
Frank : The home team in the Rays-Red Sox series has consistently come out on top.
Do you look for that trend too continue? Are the Rays going to the World Series?
Joe Morgan: I think it will continue. Like I said, it seems like home field has become more and more important.It seems like teams just play better at home. [...]
A fact somehow unique to baseball in 2008.
Brad(NM): Hey Joe..not many are talking about what a great season Oakland's having due to the success of the Rays and Cards and such. Do you give them a chance at winning the West? Where does their pitching staff rank in the league?
Joe Morgan: They have a chance, because when you look at the Angels their offense is down.
Side note: you know what's amazing? The Angels and A's, three weeks after Joe wrote this, have almost the exact same run differential, and the Angels are 12 games up. The Cubbies are +72 over the Brewcrew and they're tied. Pretty incredible.
If they had better offense they would be farther ahead at this point.
A fact somehow unique to the 2008 Angels, apparently.
So I think the A's have a great shot at winning the West, unless the Angels start hitting.
Angels: still not hitting that well. A's: almost no chance at winning the West.
You are right that the A's are flying under the radar, and that may be because the Rays have a bit of a better team and are leading their division. But the A's have the tools to get it done.
Hindsight = fun.
Kent Remendeaux (Oscenns City):
Hi Joe, love your work. Can Delmon Young start hitting more consistently
and help the Twins overtake the White Sox and hold off the Tigers?
Joe Morgan: I have to admit I am shocked at his lack of power and production. Usually when a guys [sic] has a good first year you expect them [sic] to get better. Of course he had to adjust, in leaving Tampa, but we are far enough into the season that he should be coming around. There is something missing there right now. I still think he is one of the next stars of the AL, but I thought he would be further along at this point.
PECOTA's 50th percentile had Young at .288/.323/.445. 15 HR and 32 2B. Projected totals: .297/.338/.400. 6 HR, 29 2B. So, his HR numbers are down, but otherwise it's pretty close. And remember: he's 22.
The Twins will need him if they are to catch the White Sox. As far as the Tigers, they are on a thin rope, because if they have another bad stretch they are finished.
Can you be "on" a "thin rope?" You can be on a tightrope, and you can be on thin ice. I'm not sure you can be on a thin rope.
I am watching Gladiator right now. The accent work in this Oscar™-winning movie is truly terrible. Joaquin Phoenix sounds like a geeky high school kid reciting Monty Python sketches.
Joe Morgan: That is all the time I have for today. Thank you for all the questions. We'll chat again next week.
Joe Morgan: I think the addition of CC Sabathia to the Brewers will be the big difference-maker in the NL Central. If you're the Cubs, you need to fear the Brewers more than anyone else in that division. They may need to make a move in response.
Kudos to Big Joe on this one. Unless the Harden trade had already happened, and he just hadn't heard about it.
Blueberry Johnson (NY): Hey Joe! Any opinions on allstar selections? Biggest snubs?
I am going to label "Blueberry Johnson" JoeBait #4, because: Blueberry Johnson?!
Joe Morgan: I would say there are a few things that jump out at me. Ian Kinsler probably deserves to start over Pedroia, though Perdroia has had an excellent hot streak recently. [...]
"Perdroia?" It's pronounced: "Pedroierr."
Sam (Lake Bluff, IL): Joe, how many more wins does Sabathia give the Brewers? I know he was the biggest difference maker on the market, but how much of a difference does he really make in the standings?
Joe Morgan: It's hard to say that he'll make a difference of, say, ten games, because even if he goes 10-0, someone starting in his spot would have won at least a few of those games. I think his advantage is psychological--he lets the Brewers know that they can match up pitcher for pitcher with anyone. It energizes the whole Brewer franchise.
He also strikes people out and pitches well. That's another advantage he gives the Brewers. Seriously -- how did this movie win an Oscar? It's like a community theater Shakespeare play with one good actor and decent special effects.
Steve (New York): Joe, you did the Yankee game last Sunday, what were your thoughts on Joba Chamberlain?
Joe Morgan: He threw the ball well. I saw a guy who was quickly gaining major league starting experience. You have to remember, the Red Sox make hitting adjustments well, and aside from that one bad inning, he controlled them very well.
Questions for learning:
1. According to the text, how did Joba Chamberlain throw the ball?
2. How do the Red Sox make hitting adjustements?
3. How did Joba Chamberlain, aside from one bad inning, control the Red Sox?
Corey: (Philadelphia, PA): Joe: What do you think of the Braves decision to put Francoeur in AA for a couple of games? Do you think Francoeur deserved the benefit of the doubt and just try to fix it at the big league level, rather than just being demoted that quickly?
Joe Morgan: I cannot go along with that decision to send him to the minor leagues. Jeff Francouer lives in that area,
Not a consideration.
has played well for that team for the last three years,
Kind of a consideration.
and drove in a hundred runs last year.
Maybe a consideration, in that he has been a pretty good hitter, but RsBI isn't maybe the best way to show that.
You have guys like Ryan Howard and David Ortiz batting under .200 for much of the season.
The last time Ortiz was under .200 was May 2. He followed that up with a month of 1.026 OPS. On the day he was sent down, Francoeur had a .287 OBP and was 7-his last-52. And he's 24. Sending him down to work on his swing wasn't an insane idea.
I did not like the idea of doing that because it messes with a guy psychologically. You have a hitting instructor in the big leagues--work it out with him!
You also have the minor leagues. Where players can practice baseball without harming the part of the organization that matters.
Andy (St. Louis): Joe, you said the race between the Cubs and Brewers is going to be great to watch, but have you forgotten about the Cardinals?! They are resilient and find ways to win. Ankiel is hot, Pujols is back, and the starting pitching has been excellent compared to original expectations. Do you think they have any chance of contending for the division crown or wild card?
Joe Morgan: You're right, the Cardinals are in that mix. [blah blah blah] We're talking about Sabathia, but if he gets hot and starts hitting like he did last year, that will only give the Brewers yet another shot in the arm.
I am assuming that he is saying that if Sabathia starts hitting "like he did last year," that will help the Brewers. For the record, last year, in a very telling sample size of 3 AB, Sabathia had 2 hits, for a very significant .667 BA. These are important facts that totally matter due to their significance in terms of mathematics, and are highly predictive because of how significant they are.
Three data points is only two more than 1, which is the absolute minimum number of data points a guy can have. (For the ever-growing record, CC is .264/.278/.472 in 53 career AB, which is pretty darned good for a pitcher, and pretty darned irrelevant in terms of the Brewers' chances this year.)
Gladiator is over and I am now watching Airplane II, which -- no joke -- has better acting than Gladiator.
Ben Morgan (Omaha, NE): Joe, as a White Sox fan I'm looking over my shoulder at the Twins and beginning to be a little worried. For a while I kept myself calm by convincing myself they weren't for real and they would cool off but how long can I use this defense mechanism? I think the Sox are for real but I'm starting to think this is more than just a hot streak for Minnesota. Thoughts?
The Twins are kind of a smoke-and-mirrors team. They're in the middle of the pack of most offensive and pitching categories, they're dead last in the AL in HR, and are only +21 in run differential. They've started to come back down to earth, predictably, since this chat took place, going 3-6 in their last nine games. Detroit has a better run differential, but are 4 games behind the Twinkies -- my guess is, as time goes on, here, Minnesota idles or fades, and Detroit is the team challenging Chicago for the division.
Joe's guess is: Ron Gardenhire is awesome and every team could win but who knows but we'll see but if things go wrong for a team then they won't win but maybe Chicago?
Joe Morgan: I agree, you should give Minnesota a lot of credit, especially Ron Gardenhire, the manager. He knows how to handle young players and they play hard for him. When I watched Minnesota play last night against Boston, I realized that this team is for real. It's going to go down to the wire with the White Sox and Twins. Detroit could be in it, but if anything goes wrong, they are finished. But I still like Chicago to win the division.
Joe Morgan: In closing, I have never fel that the All-Star game winners should get home field advantage in the Series.
It's an exhibition and not fair to the team in the Series.
The best way to do it is to alternate it year by year.
That's the best way to do it? Randomly-declared oscillation?
Not, you know, who had the best record? Which might make teams play hard all the way through the end of the season? Which might make otherwise meaningless games in late September incredibly meaningful? Which means the greatest prize would meritocratically be awarded to the team who performed the best?
The best way to do it is to ignore the results of the sport you are playing in favor of a metronomic inevitability?
'kay. This is more of a made for TV thing, and yet we still ended up with a tie once. I never lost an All-Star game when I was playing, so I don't think that should be the way you judge home-field advantage.
Jacob (FL): Joe, you gotta feel for Dan Uggla after his performance last night. Could that affect him for the rest of the season?
Uggla since the break: 1-25, for a tidy .332 OPS. This is almost certainly the result of making those errors (which ended up not affecting the outcome of the game in any way) and not a random 25-AB fluctuation in the middle of the season. Because MLB players are frail little babies who never recover from things like non-game-affecting errors in stupid exhibition contests.
Joe Morgan: I definitely feel for him. I certainly hope it does not affect him, but we (meaning fans and media) will have an effect on how he handles the rest of the season. If we continue to bring it up and talk about it, it will be tough for him to deal with. The last error was a tough ball, as it jumped up at him, but it's obvious he was nervous out there, and understandably. It showed in his play.
I don't know. Maybe he was nervous. But maybe he just had a shitty night. He's never been Orlando Hudson out there at second. Give him a break.
These are now "comments" instead of "jokes." I think I'm dehydrated. I need a Joe I.V.
Chris. P (NY): What are the Chances of Bonds being a Yankee? Cashmen could of said No but he didnt. How well can Bonds do at Yankee Stadium?
I hate to be "this guy," but it delights me how many dumbdumb errors Chris P. (NY) made. He doesn't even know how to spell the name of his own GM. Because the Yankees are about to swarm all over everyone and win the East as Manny Ramirez claims that the Red Sox have never respected him and that they should give him $40m more when he asks out of a game against the Yankees in late July with a mysterious knee ailment, I am going to exact petty revenge by reprinting Chris. P (NY)'s question with [sic]s.
Chris. [sic] P [sic] (NY): What are the Chances [sic] of Bonds being [sic] a Yankee? Cashmen [sic] could of [sic] said No [sic] but he didnt [sic]. How well can [sic] Bonds do at Yankee Stadium?
God, that felt good. Joe Morgan: As great a player as he has been, you can't say how well he would do this year because he hasn't had spring training, hasn't had live pitching to hit against, and hasn't played period. [...] I'm not sure why Barry wants to play, since playing less than half a season would make him a hired gun, and his place in the history of the game is better than a hired gun.
This...this is why we do what we do.
Barry Bonds shouldn't come back this year...because it would tarnish his reputation?
Being a "hired gun" would tarnish.
Here are things that could tarnish Barry Bonds's reputation, at this point:
1. Committing double murder of Tom Brokaw and Dame Judi Dench 2. Defecting to Afghanistan, joining Taliban, leading Afghan baseball team to Gold medal over American team in Beijing 3. Running high-end dog fighting ring where the dog fights take place on Princess Diana's grave 4. Inventing time travel but instead of traveling back in time to kill Hitler using it to go back to 1989 in order to start taking steroids earlier than he originally did
Things that will not make a motherfletching dent in Barry Bonds's reputation:
1. Being labeled a "hired gun" by playing for the Yankees
Joe Morgan: I think Clint Hurdle and Terry Francona managed the game very well last night, trying to win the ballgame instead of just making sure the players got in. Winning should be the first priority. Thanks a lot, everyone!
Andy (Grand Rapids, MI): Do you think the Tiger's can still win the Division?
Joe Morgan: Well they can still win it but they cannot have anymore 4-5 games losing streaks. They are on a thin line right now.
Can you be "on a thin line?" You can be on thin ice, you can be on a tightrope, there can be a thin line between love and hate, there can be a thin blue line or a thin red line, you can be on the red line, the orange line, the green line, or the blue line, but I'm not sure you can be "on a thin line."
The Marlins are leading the Cubbies 6-5 in the 6th (it is now the next day -- that's how long this JoeChatMarathon is) and Alfonso Soriano just popped up to second after a leadof single, shattering his bat so violently and horrifyingly I was sure all eight Marlins were going to be found dead with maple spikes in their foreheads. Something should maybe be done about these bats.
Blueberry Johnson (NY): Joe, Texas has been outscored by 33 runs this year. Yet, they are still have a .520 winning percentage. How are they doing it?
Joe Morgan: I think run differential is just a stat that does not mean a lot. Look at what the Dbacks did last year. Run differential is a deceptive stat.
First of all, a hearty "Welcome Back!!!" to Blueberry Johnson. How have you been, man? Great to hear from you again. I was not sure you were going to ask another question, since you are a fictional character from a children's story.
Second of all: Yes, good work, a stat that shows you how many runs you have scored versus how many runs you have allowed does not mean a lot. You know what does mean a lot? Team triples. If your team is tripling a lot, that means your guys are hustling, and you will win a lot. Just ask Arizona and San Francisco!
By no means look at run differential. If you did, you would see that the divisional leaders in run differential are all either in first place or within 1.5 games of first place, except for Oakland. Don't look at last year, either, because you'll accidentally learn that 4 division winners led their division in run differential. The Phillies were only 6 behind the Braves, and Arizona pulled one of the flukiest seasons ever (-20), somehow finishing ahead of the +101 Rockies, who then went to the World Series.
Just because there are quirks and occasional exceptions doesn't mean a stat is "deceptive." You don't have to be a genius to understand that the number of runs a team scores, and the number of runs it allows, is probably a pretty good indicator of how good the team is and how well it has played.
DLee just went yard to tie it up. That guy is awesome.
Fred (Montgomery Village): Joe, The Phillies have been doing pretty good without everyone hitting at the same time (Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell). How good will this team be once they all hit at the same time?
Joe Morgan: Well we are deep into the the season and they all hit well to get the lead and now they are not all hitting. Now they may not all start hitting at the same time, and even if they do they still need better pitching and bullpen support.
Opposite of analysis. The exact opposite of analysis. The platonic ideal of "nothing."
Jim Edmonds just tried to bunt a guy to second, in a suddenly-tie-game in the seventh with nobody out and DeRosa and Fukudome behind him. Jim Edmonds, in his career, has 7584 total plate appearances and 10 sac bunts. And a .933 OPS in his last 50 games. Good call, Lou.
DeRosa walks, Fuku pops up. If the Cubbies don't take the lead here, you'll know why.
Jordan (Slinger, WI): Joe: The Brewers are in the midst of a series with St. Louis right now, and have a series with the Cubs at the end of the month. Come August, who will be on top of the division?
Joe Morgan: I still think the team that is on top now, is still the team that will be on top later. The Cubs may be able to gain a few games here with the Brewers and Cards playing each other now. But when the Cubs are on the road they are not near the best team in the NL. It is a three team race, and will be right down to the wire. It is really hard to tell. Two weeks ago I thought it would be the Brewers, but teams go through spells.
It's time for the game where we take a 100-word answer from Joe and boil it down to its essence.
Jordan: Who wins the Central? Joe: One of the teams in the Central.
SprungOnSporks (Longer Island): The Twins are 23-9 in their last 32 games. Can they keep it up and catch the ChiSox?
Joe Morgan: Well they are only a half game behind, so I think they already caught them in some ways. But it will be very hard to keep playing that type of baseball, winning 23 out of 32. I think they can win the division, but everyone in the division is looking back at Detroit at this point. I think it is going to come down to a three-team race as the season comes to a close.
"SprungOnSporks" has to be a JoeBait, or a shout-out, or something, and I appreciate it. Also:
Q. Who wins the A.L. Central? A. One of the teams. Same as the N.L. Central.
Wild pitch to Daryle Ward. Both runners move up. Now they're walking Ward to load the bases. Wouldn't you love to have that out back, Lou?
Brian (Chicago): Do you think Francisco Liriano should be brought up, or do you think it will hurt the chemistry the Twins have created?
Joe Morgan: It will not hurt the chemistry because he is a pitcher. [...]
He's also quite good, and I haven't heard anything about how he's a terrible dude or anything, and also: you seriously wouldn't bring an awesome starting pitcher up because of completely unfounded "chemistry" concerns, Brian? You think Livan Hernandez is going to keep winning games with a 1.60 WHIP and the league hitting .332 against him? Really?
Mike Fontenot's bases-clearing double gets Jim Edmonds stupid bunt attempt off the hook. Reason and logic take another one on the chin.
Joe Morgan: I think we are going to see a lot of close races here in the second half of the season that come down to the very end. A lot of teams can win and many of these races will come down to which team gets hot at the right time.
There's a steady hand at the helm of your ship. A hand that wears a cowboy hat. A hand that also wears snakeskin boots. Ned's hand.
What's that? You just traded a 22-year-old catcher with a .994 OPS in 2008 and a pitcher with 335 strikeouts in 262.2 minor league innings for a defensively challenged third baseman with a career 106 OPS+ who turns 35 in a month?
And he's a two-month rental?
Relax -- there are good reasons for this. Excellent reasons. Reasons like -- Ned, you want to take this one?
"Casey Blake is a gamer," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.
"I think we improved the club," Colletti said. "Blake's a grinder with great character, a passionate player."
That's not all, Dodger fans. In addition to the privilege of trading away two talented prospects, you'll get the added benefit of continuing to block the progress of Andy LaRoche, who's racked up an .898 OPS in 1796 minor league at bats, has been heralded as a top prospect for what seems like hundreds of years now, was projected by PECOTA to OPS something like .850, and yet can't seem to ever be good enough to play in more than a handful of games in a row for the Dodgers. Ever. (LaRoche, by the way, has awful numbers in the majors this year, but he's been incredibly hit-unlucky (BABIP of .200) and he's walked more than he's struck out. Plus -- dude. The guy has gotten all of 59 at bats. Angel Berroa has gotten 89 at bats for Joe Torre's TerribleVetSquad already.)
It's not like Carlos Santana and Jonathan Meloan are sure things. Santana is kind of old to be in High A (and he's in the hitter-friendly Cal League), and Meloan has been terrible as a starter (though he should be a reliever anyway). But we're talking about giving them away for two hundred-some-odd at bats of Casey Blake. .336 career OBP Casey Blake. Bad defender in an already defensively suspect Dodger infield Casey Blake. Gamer Casey Blake. Grinder Casey Blake. Beardy Casey Blake. Casey Beard.
So yeah, I guess if I had to give this trade a grade, I would give it an A-. The only reason there's a minus is: there now appears to be a gamer surplus in the Dodger clubhouse. What happens when a team attains such a dangerously high gaminess quotient? Will Juan Pierre grow a thick, Baron Davis-style beard to prove that he's more of a gamer than Blake? What if Jeff Kent shoots himself in the foot with a crossbow just so he can play through the pain of a crossbow wound and be hailed as the gamiest Dodger of all? What if Nomar turns himself into a 5'6" white guy, and then Broxton transforms himself into Brett Favre in retaliation, and then Hong-Chih Kuo tops them all by becoming the ultimate gamer: a 5'6" Brett Favre?
I think the answer to all of these questions is: the Dodgers and their fans win, that's what happens. Casey Blake is the key to the World Series. Ned, you're a genius.
I've had a couple of people send me none-too-enthusiastic defenses of the Blake trade. This is what I wrote to one guy:
As with almost all trades, of course there's a pretty significant chance that Blake rakes for two months and the two prospies amount to nothing. Blake does, however, have a BABIP of .343 that seems pretty unsustainable. Take that away, his average drops back down to .265, and you're looking at a very average piece.
There's the argument, I suppose, that Torre simply was never going to play LaRoche every day. But to me that seems like allowing lower-level decision-making craziness to dictate further craziness on the upper levels.
Next Up: A.O. Scott and David Denby Discuss the Surging Mets
Wanna fuck your brain up? Watch Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith channel their inner Pauline Kaels and break down The Dark Knight:
I watched it already, so my brain is fucked. And yet the video, paradoxically, gives you so many things to think about.
1. They're even worse at this than they are at talking about sports. This might be the biggest surprise of all, because they're both terrible at talking about sports. You would think you couldn't find another thing in the world for them to be worse at, and yet ESPN has managed to find that one thing.
2. The least surprising thing about the video is Skip Bayless' take -- people love The Dark Knight, so there's no way in hell he could say anything positive about it and show his face in the ex-Cold Pizza Show studio ever again. Watch how quickly he follows "It's a good movie, not a great one" with a very loud "I didn't like it that..." as if to wash away the memory that he even admitted it was good.
3. We now know the only opinion that can bring together Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith: hatred of Maggie [hard "g" sic] Gyllenhaal.
4. I never, ever, ever thought I would hear, in an oral review of The Dark Knight, the words "How about a Sanaa Lathan or a Gabrielle Union?"
5. I actually sort of liked it when Stephen A. talked about how Batman "touched on your soul."
6. The quality of the film criticism here is about on par with IMDb.com message board posters or YouTube commenters. "NOT ENOUGH BATMAN!!!" "JOKER WAS TOO STRONG!!!!" "Maggie Jizz-n-balls is UGGZZZZ!"
7. Skip Bayless' original draft: "Bottom line, the movie isn't that good, Heath Ledger is overrated as the Joker, and I still don't think Heath Ledger is dead. Show me the body or I'm going to assume he's still alive. That's just me. Show me the body. Back to you, Stephen A."
Time Magazine Is Not A Source For Correct Baseball Information
Time.com is running a horribly designed piece called "The Evolution of Barry Bonds" that requires you to click 21 times to get to all of the (extremely minimal) content. Each page has, in total, six numbers, one of which is the year.
Games Played: 113 Batting Average: .223 Home Runs: 16 Runs Per At Bat: 25.8 Listed Weight: 185
That's all you get on one page. Oh, wait. You also get a picture of Barry, two giant ads for Health.com, approximately one hundred links to other Time.com articles, and two separate targeted (?) text ads that read
I "Hate" my Yellow Teeth
The Secrets Dentists don’t want you to know about Teeth Whitening!
But enough about their hideous design. What the fuck is
Runs Per At Bat: 25.8
That is not a thing, Time.com. That is not a recognizable baseball statistic, and even if it were, it wouldn't be a meaningful one. "Runs Per At Bat"? First thing that jumps out at you -- Time's "Runs Per At Bat" is pretty clearly not, in fact, actually runs per at bat.
In 1986, Barry Bonds scored 72 runs in 413 at bats for a runs per at bat total of 0.17433414. He scored 0.17433414 runs per at bat. That is what should appear in a table after the words
Runs Per At Bat
Right? Anyway, after some head-scratching, I figured out what Time.com means when they say "Runs Per At Bat."
Are you ready?
They mean "At Bats Per Home Run."
Of course! Obvious. How could I not see that's what they meant when they said, right there in black pixels on my white screen, "Runs Per At Bat"?
In 1986, Barry Bonds had 413 at bats and hit 16 home runs, for an at bats per home run total of 25.8125. That ratio went down precipitously as he infused himself with more and more awesome chemicals that make you strong, but if Time.com has its way you'll never find out about that, because it will take you four hundred clicks to even get to 1994 or so, by which time you've probably already gone off to play Line Rider or something.
Yes, as a couple of you have pointed out, this article is a year old. And it's still wrong.
After over a year on the web, very quietly and very mysteriously, the "Runs Per At Bat" error has been corrected.
Jim Riggleman Has Superhero-Level Powers Of Self-Deception
And Jesse Baumgartner of MLB.com must be his sidekick. Take a look at these mind-bendingly denial-ridden snippets from a piece Baumgartner wrote about Seattle's abysmal DH situation:
Different approach at DH
SEATTLE -- Most American League teams use the designated hitter position to stick a little more pop in their lineup. David Ortiz of the visiting Boston Red Sox would be a prime example.
Most American League teams try to play someone who can hit in the position of Designated Hitter, a job whose description reads "Someone who can hit." It's taken approximately four billion years for life to evolve from some sort of self-replicating ribozyme into a creature, man, whose brain is able to complete the difficult task of assigning a good hitter to DH.
But that's not the way the Seattle Mariners approach that part of their team.
What if we played a bad hitter at DH? An execrably, eye-gougingly, fingernail-scrapingly awful hitter?
Would that help us win games? "I'm just kind of using it just to try to have some contact in that spot, and maybe be able to move some runners and hit and run and that kind of stuff, get some at-bats for some guys," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Yeah, that's it. We don't want a home run hitter, or a doubles hitter, or a hitter at all. Give me a lamp at DH. Or an Eames chair. Is an Eames chair available? No? Then get Jose Vidro.
By the way, Mariners fans, your manager just said: The purpose of the DH is to "get some at-bats for some guys." Yes, the DH's at-bats don't officially count, do they? Riggleman's not sure. He has to check the rulebook.
"It's not a classic DH spot
-- the kind where the guy hits well --
where we're looking for our DH to give us 25 to 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, that's just not what we are. So I'm fine with it the way it is."
Now, on the one hand, I know he's the manager (interim manager at that), not the GM, so he kind of has to say things like this to put a good face on things, but on the other hand, what in the bloody flying fuck are you talking about? Would it be crazy for him to say, "Hey, sure, we're hoping to get a little more production out of that spot." Or even more sensibly: "We think Jose's going to hit a little better from here on out." Would that absolutely ruin Jose Vidro's confidence to the point that Vidro can no longer successfully OPS .584, as he's doing right now?
You heard me: Jose Vidro is OPSing .584. He's a few at bats short of qualifying for the OPS leaders minimum, but after a cursory look I'm pretty sure that would be the worst figure in the American League.
He's your DESIGNATED. H. I. T. T. E. R.
While the team sometimes puts an extra catcher in the lineup at DH,
That is such sad beginning to a sentence. Jose Vidro has been the mainstay for much of the season -- Tuesday' s start was his 61st this year at the position.
Vidro is about as far away from Ortiz as you can get. He has just five homers this season and is hitting .223 with a .267 OBP and 41 RBIs.
Additional note to the Mariners: Jose Vidro has an EqA of .218 and a WARP3 of -0.5. He is one of the worst hitters in baseball. His numbers are embarrassing even for, like, a historically-great-fielding catcher. He does not field for your team.
But you knew that, right? I mean, there's no way this is a surprise to you or anything --
"I'm astonished to tell you the truth when I look up and I see Vidro's average is what it is,
I know you're a professional baseball manager and everything, but dude, seriously, Riggleman, have you ever even seen a game this year? Members of the uncontacted Yanaigua tribe of Bolivia know that Jose Vidro has a sub-.600 OPS, and you don't seem to have a clue. He plays on your team, bro-bro.
because I feel like every time he goes up there I'm very confident that he's going to give us a good at-bat," Riggleman said.
Things that belie Riggleman's confidence: EVERY SINGLE OTHER AT BAT JOSE VIDRO HAS HAD THIS YEAR.
"And for the at-bats that he has, he's knocked in quite a few runs ... he's been fairly effective in the way we want to use him.
There, my friends, is the standard if you want to be the designated hitter for the Seattle Mariners professional major league baseball club: in order to be considered "fairly effective," you merely have to be the worst hitter in your league. That is all.
Send your résumés to:
"I Want To Be The Mariners' DH" c/o Jim Riggleman .266 OBP Lane Ridiculously Low Slugging Percentageburg, WA 98134 And for now, while many teams would prefer some additional pop in the lineup, the Mariners are content to stay with their different breed of designated hitter.
Can a baseball franchise be declared clinically insane? I believe, if organizations were to be treated as human beings, one of the legal criteria for a franchise to be officially designated "insane" would be
1. Franchise claims to be content with a .584 OPS player as their DH.
"It's not a classic DH situation, but I feel good every time he walks up to the plate," Riggleman said.
"It's not the classic DH situation where you expect a professional baseball player to at least put together a major league-quality at bat, but what do I know about baseball? I'm a millet farmer from sub-Saharan Africa," Riggleman said while farming millet. "I feel good every time he walks up to the plate, primarily because here, in America, I have clean water and food with enough niacin in it to stave off pellagra. Plus, very little chance of getting sleeping sickness."
"The numbers may say otherwise, but I think he's going to give us good at-bats."
Jose Vidro has been way better than a .584 OPS hitter in the past, so I hope for the Mariners' and Riggleman's sake he's right. On the other hand, Vidro's 34 and he batted .189 in the month of June. .189!
Maybe there isn't anyone in the entire Mariners organization who can hit better than that, or maybe Jim Riggleman is in such profound denial he's forgotten what the rules of baseball even are anymore.
Pepperidge Farm Cookie Ad Old Guy Voice In My Head: "That Reminds Me Of The Time..."
Remember when John Kruk, Steve Phillips, and Harold Reynolds used to do Baseball Tonight together? Those were halcyon days for FJM. It was a more innocent time: gas cost 20 cents a gallon, the iPhone was a wild, unsubstantiated idea I had in my head, and women didn't yet have the right to vote.
This quote from Pirates manager John Russell reminded me of a particularly stupid night for Krukie, Phillips, and HR. A night so dumb, it will live on in transcript form on the Internet forever, or until our robot friends overthrow us and turn us into their information superhighway. Think about it.
On to the Russell business:
Manager John Russell was asked, too, if his team performs better behind Maholm.
The premise is that the Pirates looooooooove hitting behind Maholm because he's pitching not quite as crappily as the rest of the Bucs' pitching staff. Plus he's a gamer, and he picks up the tab at Cheesecake Factory every once in a while, not like Gorzelanny, that chipmunk-faced turd-ass.
"Oh, definitely," he replied. "I don't know if you can actually see it. But I know, when I played and we knew we had a guy starting who was going to keep you in the game, you feel like you have a chance to win. I remember playing with Steve Carlton, and we knew if we did our job, he'd do his. That's what Paulie's starting to supply for us."
Right, John. You know, I don't think I can actually see it. 'Cause look:
Tom Gorzelanny: 5.85 Zach Duke: 4.84 Ian Snell: 4.49 Paul Maholm: 4.45
Your guys actually hate Paul Maholm. They'd rather hit for Gorzy, who's been an absolute abomination with a 6.57 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP. Tony Peña, Jr. can pitch better than Tom Gorzelanny, and yet your Pirates, the same Pirates who claim to be trying so hard for nice, sweet, athletic Paul Maholm, are offensive monsters for noted dog-puncher Thomas Gorzo.
Anyway, time-travel your mind back to the distant past of Spring 2006, and re-read this nonsense for me. It's three men with three competing, equally ridiculous ideas, each more passionate than the last.
Hey, writers. It's easy to get on our good side. No need for invective, spittle, vitriol, or cantankerosity. Just be a cool dude, acknowledge that everyone screws up sometimes, and fix things. Jeff Passan, covered here earlier, just did it:
(Editor’s note: Jeff Passan is not an oddsmaker for a reason. His attempt at laying odds on teams making the postseason was, in the words on one e-mailer from MIT, “ridiculously stupid.” So he dusted off his TI-83, went to work and got them right. Updated odds are now included and mathematically correct.)
Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn don't have the best batting averages, but Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn't plan on doing anything different with the two sluggers when it comes to filling out a lineup card.
Griffey's .236 average and Dunn's .230 average are the two worst of any active everyday starter. Only part-time catcher Paul Bako's (.213) is lower. But Griffey, the No. 3 hitter, and Dunn, the No. 5 hitter, are leading the way when it comes to on-base percentage, and for that reason, Baker isn't planning any changes.
Baker, long a skeptic of sabermetrics, the study of baseball statistics, began reading a blog called Fire Joe Morgan late Sunday afternoon.
"Those fellas make some good points," Baker said. "They're profane as hell, and they're probably gay, but they make some good points."
That's not what he said. What he said was:
"Their averages are low, but their on-base percentages are still high," Baker said. "Their on-base percentages are higher than some of the guys who are hitting.
I'm afraid. This is some parallel dream world, right? I've just taken salvia and fallen into a utopian fantasyscape populated by black David Dukes, funny Robin Williamses and OBP-loving Dusty Bakers. That is the only explanation.
Why do you love OBP, Dusty? Tell us tell us tell us all of the reasons!
I know they can hit, but it also helps to get on base and put a pitcher in the stretch. That's the thing. Most starters don't like being in the stretch."
I feel sick.
The only...reason...to...get...on base...is...to...put...the pitcher...in the stretch?
On the list of good things about being on base, the order goes, roughly:
1. You're on base.
2. You didn't make an out.
3. Again, great, hey -- you're on base.
One million, four hundred thousand. The pitcher is in the stretch.
"It's the most amazing place," said Baker. "What I liked best about it was that they give you a piece of fabric you can use to wipe your mouth, wipe your hands -- whatever you want. They call it a 'napkin.' I highly recommend the French Laundry."
I'm actually happy for Dusty. It is a legitimate point to make that pitchers, in general, are a little worse from the stretch. It's just funny that he hates OBP so much that he feels like he has to bring up something relatively insignificant (compared to JUST BEING ON BASE IN THE FIRST PLACE) to justify even talking about it.
Reader Cletus adds:
While I agree that "getting on base" and "not making one or more outs" are by far at the top, putting the pitcher in the stretch is part of the story.
The actual impact is slightly larger, given a runner on first is not a guarantee that the pitcher will go from the stretch (e.g., blowout, LHP with good move, Jack Cust on first, etc.). But even +37 points of OPS is nothing to sneeze at. It's virtually the only aspect of "lineup protection" worth caring about.
Caveat: A little bit of that will be selection bias: Good pitchers will be pitching more often with no one on, thus a mildly disproportionate amount of those 102,842 PA will be against pitchers with low WHIPs.
And another helpful caveat from Ed: Good hitters tend to be clustered together at the top of the lineup. So, for example, your #2 hitter will have a runner on first far more frequently than your #9 hitter.
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.
Follow-up on the Johan Santana nonsense below, in re: wins:
Twins general manager Bill Smith, on Livan Hernandez, who improved to 10-6 with a 5.29 earned-run average with Saturday's victory over Texas: "I'll take the (10) wins. Who do you want, a guy who's 10-15 with a 2.80 ERA or a guy who's 16-8 with a 7.00 ERA? I'll take the 16-8."
Really? I'll take the other guy, and going forward, I will destroy you, because the guy with the 7.00 ERA sucks and has gotten lucky, and the guy with the 2.80 ERA is good and has gotten unlucky.
Do you really not understand this?! Seriously? You're a GM, and you don't understand this?
I can't believe he really said that. That would be grounds for immediate dismissal.
Yes, I understand that if this is being said about the past only, that it makes sense to be happier about more wins. But the fact is, in that situation it's irrelevant anyway, because those wins aren't due to that pitcher's performance. They are due to the hitters' performance. And if you are going into the playoffs, or looking at next year, you'd always rather have the good pitcher instead of the mediocre/bad pitcher anyway.
What he is saying is: "Would you rather have a dirtball who spends a lot of money on scratch-off tickets and just won $3000, or the steady, solid financial manager who earns 16% a year, reliably. I'll take the lottery guy! He won $3,000! That's way better than 16% a year."
Quick review: awards are meaningless, the criteria are absurd, this is all bunk.
Worst Surprise, Player: Johan Santana, Mets.
In the time it takes to read the explanation, try to name 50 guys who are "worse" surprises than Johan Santana. Go!
Who would have thought this guy would fail to grab a spot on the National League All-Star team?
Anyone who (a) understands that wins are overvalued and/or (b) knows that the ASG voting is borderline sociopathic, as evidenced by the facts that (b-sub1) Cristian Guzman had to be on the team as the Washington National representative and (b-sub2) that somehow the NL players or Clint Hurdle or a bunch of pederastic chimps or whoever actually chooses the reserves got together and decided that (b-sub2-sub1) Miguel Tejada and (b-sub2-sub2) Brian Effing Wilson should be on the All-Star Team, despite the fact that (b-sub2-sub1-sub1) Lance Berkman and (b-sub2-sub2-sub1) Tim Lincecum were already representing their respective teams and actually deserved to be there.
A two-time Cy Young Award winner in the AL, he was expected to dominate after being traded from Minnesota to the Mets. He pitched well, statistically, in the first half, going 8-7 with a 2.84 ERA in 19 starts.
Trying to parse your complaint.
Categories Johan Santana Is In The Top 10 of So Far, In The National League:
Innings Strikeouts Strikeouts/9IP ERA WHIP K/BB But the Mets have been only 10-9 behind him.
How can you be this stupid?
The man is pitching very very well, as the above facts indicate. It's not his absolute best year ever, but he's having a very good year. You acknowledge that the team is only 10-9 behind him. And this is all presented in service of his election to "Worst Surprise, Player" in your mid-season awards.
I don't normally like to be strident, but that is incredibly stupid.
Let's imagine I am part of a 25-man team that makes frozen 4-cheese ravioli dinners. And every time I'm on a shift, I take my syringe and I expertly inject the pasta with goat cheese (my task) and I have like a 99.4% success rate of successful goat cheese injection, and when my raviolis go on to the next man on my team, ready for edam infusion, they are just perfectly formed and looking tasty and delicious. And by the time they reach the end of the assembly line, they are torn to shreds, leaking gouda, and somehow covered in bat feces -- so bad are the other men on Team Ravioli.
So my boss, Hunt Sperkleman, C.E.O. of Sperkleman Four Cheese Ravioli and Penne Arrabiata, Inc. (NASDAQ Ticker: SFCR: 92.50, +10.68, +13.1% as of Monday, 12:02 PM EST, thanks to rumors of a takeover bid from Sheinhardt Wigs), comes down to the assembly line, and he looks around and he sees all the morons on my team. He sees W.K. Horflitz, whose nose is running directly into the pasta cutter. He sees Janet Przyblr, who's on the phone, gabbing with her new husband, as chunk after chunk of unmelted brie just goes rolling by on the assembly line. He sees them all, and he says: "Ken! You're disappointing me!" and I say: "Why, Hunt?" and he says, "Only 8 out of 15 people who eat these raviolis like them!" and I say, "But I did my job!" and he says, "You can go ahead and end this metaphor now -- I think people get the idea." The good news is that Santana is historically a fast finisher, although Thursday didn't bode well. He gave up five runs in four innings against the Reds.
On April 6 he gave up one run in 7 IP against the Braves and got a loss.
On May 4 he gave up one run in 6 IP with 8 Ks against the D-Backs and got an ND.
On June 6 he gave up one earnie in 6 IP and got a loss thanks to a second, unearned run.
In his next start, June 12, he gave up 3 H and 0 R in 7 IP (with 10 Ks) and got an ND because his team also scored 0 R in those 7 innings.
He then lost three decisions in a row, twice pitching okay, once going 7 strong against Seattle, giving up 7 H and 1 run but losing anyway because again, his offense did nothing.
He got another ND on July 4, going 8 innings, giving up only 6 H and 2 R, striking out 6 and walking zero, but -- and you see this trend emerging here -- his offense fell down like one of those little plastic deer when you push the button underneath its pedestal, causing its legs to collapse.
Here are the scores of the games the Mets have lost with Santana pitching, and the # of earned runs Santana gave up while in the game:
So, in the nine Santana-involved losses the Mets have suffered, they, the Mets, have scored a total of 18 runs. 2 runs a game. Their offense averages 2 runs a game, in those losses. And this face somehow makes Johan Santana the "Worst Surprise, Player" of the first half.
Let's go back to the assignment. How many Worse Surprises can you name?
Richie Sexson Freddie Sanchez Edgar Renteria Melky Cabrera Jeff Francoeur Gary Matthews, Jr. Robby Cano Paul Konerko Carl Crawford Derek Jeter Alex Gordon Alex Rios Miggy Tejada Defending NL MVP Jimmy Rollins Bobby Abreu Brett Myers Justin Verlander Nate Robertson Andrew Miller Joe Blanton Aaron Harang Homer Bailey Dontrelle Willis Fernando Rodney Ian Kennedy Phil Hughes Fausto Carmona Jeremy Bonderman Roy Oswalt
There are some.
All big-name players, pretty much, who have been disappointments (though some, like Verlander, are coming on strong). Hey -- how about Carlos Delgado? There's another one.
Rookie of the Year, AL: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox.
Ellsbury is hitting only .269 but he has stolen 35 bases and scored 60 runs. He gets a slight edge over Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria and Texas' David Murphy.
Please. I love the guy. He's part Native American, and quite sexy, but if you give Bellsbury the award you are doing so because of what he did last September and October, and that's insaner than insane. Longoria is destroying Bellsbury statistically this year -- and he's a great fielder, too. It would be a shame if Longoria lost.
Manager of the Year, NL: Jerry Manuel, Mets.
Get ready for some hard-core retroactive association.
This is a premature call, but you've got to be impressed with the 17-9 record since Manuel replaced Willie Randolph on June 17.
I do? The Mets underperformed all year. Then a thing changed, and they eventually started not underperforming. Should I be impressed with their 8-9 start after Randolph left? Because that's the awesome record they jumped out to in their first 17 games after Randolph left. 8-9. Thank God they got rid of him when they did, or they wouldn't have been able to go 8-9 in those next 17 games.
He has enabled an uptight clubhouse to relax and is riding a 10-game winning streak after Thursday's victory in Cincinnati.
This is all Manuel. Not Reyes, Pelfrey, Wright, Delgado, Beltran, Wagner, Maine, or anyone else. Manuel.
Florida's Fredi Gonzalez was looking like the choice before the Mets went on the winning streak. He has put his team into contention with a $21 million payroll, a nice little bit of sleight of hand.
Has had team in contention all year with payroll lower than salary of Derek Jeter, or ARod, or Giambi: nice little bit of sleight of hand.
Happened to be managing team with $680 million payroll when team finally stopped underperforming and reeled off 10 in a row: Manager of Year.
You talked about...the June 12 D-back game where Santana went 7, with 3 hits, 3 BB, and 10 Ks and got an ND. However, it wasn't because his offense didn't score for him. They actually had a 4-0 lead when Santana left. Then, in the middle of a huge, week-long meltdown, Billy Wagner blew the save in the 9th and the D-backs came back to win in the 10th.
Jeff Passan: Royals Are Locks To Win The AL Central
I get it: math's not cool. There's no social capital to be gained from knowing linear algebra or Zeno's paradoxes or how to add. But come on: at a certain point some examples of Sports Math are simple enough that they should enter the realm of Sports Common Sense. And fucking that math up is just sloppy, lazy or both. One example: playoff odds.
Jeff Passan has written good stuff. I heartily enjoyed learning that Ichiro gives a profanity-laden motivational speech deriding the National League before every All-Star Game. But seriously, dude, if you're doing a playoff odds piece, just make sure your numbers are somewhat close to adding up to 100%. Otherwise, you end up with shit like this (cut up and pasted):
Chicago White Sox Odds: 8/1
Minnesota Twins Odds: 8/1
Detroit Tigers Odds: 15/1
Now, we know that at minimum, one team from the AL Central will definitely make the playoffs. That's how the rules work. But according to Passan, the White Sox have a 1 in 9 shot, the Twins the same, and the Tigers a 1 in 16 shot. Add those probabilities together and you get 11.11% + 11.11% + 6.25% = 28.47% ... meaning there is at least a 71.53% chance that someone else -- that is, the Royals or the Indians -- will win the Central. Congrats, Royals fans!
This isn't hard. I know it's all funny and hilarious and cool to say "Ha ha, I suck at math" or "There's a reason I didn't become a mathematician" or "I have a math-related learning disability" -- Lord knows I often introduce myself at cocktail parties with the last phrase and always get huge laughs -- but if you're writing a playoff odds piece, then it's inherently, at least in part, a math piece too. Sorry. You chose to build this house made out of shit, now you gotta get your hands dirty forming these shit bricks. Or something.
In other words, the Sox are something like 2/5 shots, the Twins are a little worse than 2/1, and the Tigers are -- hey -- 15/1, or close to it.
BP's numbers leave the Royals at 0.22737% to make the playoffs. Sorry, Royals fans.
Postscript: Kudos, Jeff, on listing run differentials in your column.
Post-postscript: If any reader wants to run all the numbers team by team, division by division to show who Passan is really picking for the playoffs, I will welcome your email and question your life priorities.
We might as well get to this. Yes, the first entry in Murray Chass' blog, a blog written by a professional sportswriter and and semi-professional blogophobe, needs a little editing ("Whatever impact honmefield [sic] advantage has").
The most glaring error in logic-slash-sanity, though, occurs two-thirds of the way through:
One way would be to reward [with home field advantage] the team with the better won-lost record. But that idea wouldn’t work logistically. Baseball can’t wait until days or even a week before the World Series is scheduled to start to determine where Series game will be played. Airlines and hotels don’t work that way.
Unless all of professional baseball is actually one long kabuki play, I'm pretty sure that at no point in history has anyone known where the World Series will be played until the winners of the two leagues have been determined (in modern times, that means waiting until the League Championship Series are finished). As reader Rob points out, last year "the host of World Series game one wasn't known until 11:33 PM on October 21st when the Red Sox finished off the Indians. Game one of the World Series was played on October 24th."
And yet those diabolical airlines and hotels, true gatekeepers of baseball's ultimate prize, acquiesced and let the Rockies fly to and stay in the city of Boston. Weird how modern society works, isn't it?
Someone may have even used a computer to book those flights and hotels.
*** UPDATE ***
Reader Chris contributes the following:
While I loathe having to defend Murray Chass, even a little, as someone who works in baseball, I can tell you that his point about booking hotels and flights is actually sort of right.
What reporters and others do is reserve hotels and flights for the four (or two, if they wait until the LCS starts) possible cities in each league for the dates that are already set based on the All-Star outcome. That's a lot better than having to do it for eight (or, uh, four, if you wait) for a whole host of possible combinations.
Thanks, Chris. I'm also hearing that the reason the NBA and NHL can use home-court/ice advantage in their playoffs is that they simply don't use as many hotel rooms overall compared to the World Series, so it's a little easier logistically.
*** UPDATE TO THE UPDATE ***
This is riveting stuff for some of you guys, so I'll print this rebuttal to Chris, which comes from Timothy.
MLB wouldn't have to book for 4 or 8 cities if they give it to the team with the best record. This is because, obviously, you can eliminate the team with the worst record from having home field. So, if they wait until the LCS, they would have to book in 3 cities instead of 2. If they do it before the LDS, they would book in 7 cities as opposed to 4. I doubt they do it before the LCS though, for two reasons:
1. The LCS typically runs almost 2 weeks, so doing it before this is probably enough time
2. If you book before the LDS, you would have to book several different cities for the LCS, then also several cities for the World Series to account for all possible combinations. Even in their current system, I doubt they do this.
So, presuming they wait until the outcome of the LDS to be final, booking 3 cities instead of 2 is a small inconvenience to have a better system in place for the team with the best record to get 4 games at home.
*** THE "WILL THIS BE THE LAST UPDATE?" UPDATE ***
From reader Matty:
As the director of reservations in an MLB city, and former director at a hotel that was the contractual home of MLB visiting teams in Chicago, I have SOME insight here (also, I was here both when the White Sox won the World Series, and the Cubs went to the playoffs on the last 2 occasions, so I’ve worked the situation). Every MLB city has a contracted “home” hotel for visiting teams. The contracts contain language that force the hotel to accommodate teams during the playoffs. Reservations are not a concern for them.
The media, does, indeed, make “speculative” reservations – but only a few days in advance. For instance, when the Cubs took a 3-1 lead on the Marlins, we had a huge spike in press reservations. After the Bartman game, roughly half of these cancelled. BUT, we didn’t get the big spike until the Cubs went up 3-1.
A: It's still a blog. Its author is just in denial.
I felt a lot better about giving the Flooky and the Beansguy a boost in traffic, but I feel like it's our duty to report the following news: Murray Chass has started a blog. It's about shodo, the ancient Japanese art of calligraphy. Well, not really. Primarily, so far it seems to be a blog about hating blogs. At least that's what the very first words of its mission statement proclaim:
This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the site is not a fan of blogs.
Let me translate that into confusing ChassOrwellian-speak:
This is a blog for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the blog is not a fan of blogs.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. This blog is not a blog. Ceci n'est pas une pipe.
He made that abundantly clear on a radio show with Charlie Steiner when Steiner asked him what he thought of blogs and he replied, “I hate blogs.”
[shaking fist] You hear that, James Fallows, Malcolm Gladwell, and Murray Chass? I hate what you do. I hate it because of what it's called. It sounds funny. I hate it because there are some bad blogs. Meanwhile, there has never been a bad newspaper column, book, magazine, painting, mobile, or stele. Those forms of expression are fine.
He later heartily applauded Buzz Bissinger when the best-selling author denounced bloggers on a Bob Costas HBO show.
He was alone, watching in his living room, but he remained convinced that the television machine had an applause input microphone (A.I.M.) that would allow Mr. Bissinger to hear his ovation. No amount of research on the nonexistence of the A.I.M. would convince him otherwise.
Bloggers, however, are welcome to visit this site; so are stats freaks, fantasy leaguers and Red Sox fans. How else will they know what is being said about them by a columnist they love to hate?
I, for one, am sick of wrongheaded writers telling me I love to hate them when in fact I hate to hate them. A note to Baylessian contrarians: you should take no joy in being so wrong about something that throngs of people rise up as one to denounce you. This should not be what it means to be a writer. When thousands of people write you angry emails about something you said or wrote that was wrong, you should not shrug your shoulders and say, "I must be doing something right if I got so many people interested!" No, sir. Sir, no. You were wrong. That is the end of the story. You were so wrong you made people angry. There is no glory in your profound wrongitude. Please stop doing this.
Otherwise, this site will most likely appeal primarily to older fans whose interest in good old baseball is largely ignored in this day of young bloggers who know it all,
Ignored? I would argue that no matter what kind of baseball fan you are, there is more baseball writing, research, opinion, and debate than there ever has been in the sport's history. Verducci is still writing some excellent, longer pieces for Sports Illustrated. Gammons writes a thing or three every week. Your man Buzz is still kicking around. Reilly, if you like his sort of thing, just signed an 18-year, $400-million deal, mainly (we hope) for writing. Every time I write a post, a Roger Angell column does not disappear from this plane of reality.
and new- fangled statistics (VORP, for one excuse-me example),
May I remind people that in this fateful piece for the New York Times, Murray Chass wrote "To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense" and "For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out." and "Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know."
So it is possible -- no, probable -- no, certain -- that Murray Chass still does not know what VORP means, and yet hates it with every fiber of his wizened being. This is the equivalent of a person who's lived in Muncie, Indiana his whole life hating a specific dish in a restaurant in Doha, Qatar. which are drowning the game in numbers and making people forget that human beings, not numbers, play the games.
February 27, 2007, New York Times: "People play baseball. Numbers don’t."
Maybe Murray Chass just doesn't have that much more to say. That's okay. He's had a long, storied career. He's won awards. He was inducted, as he tells us in his biography, "into the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh." But there's no need, Murray, to spit such vitriol at new ways of enjoying sports simply because you aren't interested in them.
E-mail comments are also invited, but visitors to the site are asked to omit the obscenities.
Remember, this is a man who several paragraphs earlier informed us that he "heartily applauded Buzz Bissinger when the best-selling author denounced bloggers on a Bob Costas HBO show." Bissinger began his applause-worthy, highly informed, well-reasoned, level-headed argument by telling the gentleman next to him "I really think you're full of shit." “I have spent my professional life in the print world, where obscenities don’t see the light of day,” Chass said. “They will remain in the dark here as well. It will be a good test for bloggers and Red Sox fans to see if they can control themselves.”
"The time for obscenities is on national pay cable television, where a grown man and father of three can ambush an unsuspecting young writer with a torrent of spittle-accompanied expletives, thoughtlessly and carelessly excoriating an entire medium without retribution or moderation from the host. That is where obscenities belong, and that is where I applaud them. Shouted at other people, on television."
Mr. Chass: you're angry at nomenclature. Really. Ideas are ideas. Writing is writing. By starting this blog, you're acknowledging as much. Welcome to the blogosphere.
Weird Things To Say During The Home Run Derby, Vol. I
Rick Reilly, after Josh Hamilton's 28-homer first round and all of the talk of Hamilton's apparently prophetic dream that he would someday compete in the Derby at Yankee Stadium:
It's a lousy night to be an atheist!
It already seemed weird at the time, but now it seems even weirder that God, if He does indeed exist, would shove it in the atheists' faces by having Hamilton break Bobby Abreu's hallowed first-round record of 24 home runs (was Abreu's night also a bad night for atheists?) and then come right back and force Josh to hit only 3 taters when the contest is on the line. Questionable storytelling sense, God.
P.S. Not only did Erin Andrews snub Justin Morneau for Hamilton immediately post-Derby, but during the trophy presentation she clearly pronounces his name as "Mar-neau," Executive Vice President of MLB Rob Manfred goes with something like "Myrrh-neau," and Boys and Girls Club Giant Check Giver Guy just flat out insults him with "Jason." We get it, guys: Morneau didn't do heroin. So he's bo-ring!
The lesson, as always: it's better to do heroin and then stop doing heroin and then lose the Home Run Derby after an impressive first round than it is to not do heroin and then keep not doing heroin and then win the Home Run Derby after a pedestrian first round. Of course, I'm not telling you anything you haven't heard a thousand times already.