Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Monday, August 18, 2008


A Bridge Too Far

Kurt Streeter has an article in the LA Times today about Maury Wills, and his newfound peace after committing to a life of sobriety. It's very nice and optimistic, and Wills seems like a good guy who's overcome a lot.

But then he screws it all up, Streeter does, with shizznit like this:

The fact that Maury Wills is not a Hall of Famer, the fact his greatness is not honored as it should be by the Dodgers, makes a mockery of baseball justice.


Wills, career: .281/.330/.331. That's a hefty 88 OPS+. He did steal 586 bases, which is good for 19th all-time. He was caught 208 times. Of course, Rock Raines stole 808, was only caught 146 times, and had a 123 career OPS+, and nobody in the world, for some reason, thinks he deserves to be in the HOF. Vince Coleman stole 752 bases and had an 83 OPS+. Campy was 649-199 with an 89 OPS+. Getting the picture?

Maybe you want to go back and tone down the "mockery of baseball justice" rhetoric a little?


Peruse the record books.

On it.

Wills, you will see, walked from the game with oneleagueMVP award,

Yes, he did, in 1962. And even for the always-fucked-up MVP voting, this was one fucked-up vote. Here. Look at what happened. Look at Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, and Hank Aaron's numbers. Try to argue that that Wills should have won because he had 104 steals, even if he also had a league-average OPS+. League average. (Hell, look at Frank Howard, Tommy Davis, and Stan Musial's stats. WTF?)

"But Ken," you're probably saying, "Wills was a SS. That is an important defensive position." To which I say, "Shut up, you stupid stat geek. Go play with your mom in your mom's basement where you and your mom both live because you're a geek and you have no friends except your mom because you live in her basement! Booooooooo-ya!" Then I high-five my buddy Weebs, who also hates stat geeks, and then I point out that Willie Mays was an exceptionally good CF whose EqA was like 50 points higher and that, FWIW, BP's FRAA has Wills at -7 in 1962.

three World Series rings,

This guy has four. Point: nobody. Also, I wouldn't hype his postseason success too much, since Wills went .244/.289/.282 (!) in 78 postseason AB.

586 stolen bases

Covered that.

and a .281 batting average,

Yet another thing he has in common with Al Bumbry and Pat Tabler.

all garnered after he came to the majors as a 27-year-old rookie.

Make some comparisons.

On it.

Wills stacks up well against many infielders already perched in Cooperstown. Ernie Banks and Rod Carew never made it to the World Series.

Oh my Godding God. Ernie Banks hit more than twice as many HR as a 24 year-old SS in 1954 (44) than Wills did in his entire career (20). Rod Carew had 3000 hits and a career .393 OBP. And you're saying that Wills "stacks up well" against them because they never made the World Series?

You do know baseball isn't like tennis, right? There are pitchers and OF and catchers and third basemen and stuff. You know that, right? And you remember when free agency began? Yes? So you realize that, for example, Ernie Banks never had the opportunity to go anywhere else, really, to try to get a ring? That he was entirely at the mercy of the quality of his team?

Did you think about any of this?

Pee Wee Reese and Luis Aparicio never won an MVP.

Great. Pick two extremely borderline HOFers and point out that they weren't good enough to win an award that is often given to the wrong person. Strong argument.

Ozzie Smith not only had a lesser batting average and fewer stolen bases than Wills, he went without an MVP award and won just a single World Series title.

I know I've said this before. I will say it again. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Yes, he did steal fewer bases than Wills -- 6 fewer. He had 580. You're hanging your hat on six fewer stolen bases?! Well, that's a mighty rickety hat rack, friend, because he was also caught 60 fewer times. As for BA, well, you know how I feel about BA. Ozzie had an 87 OPS+, so 1 lower than Wills.

To sum up:

6 fewer steals
60 fewer caught stealings
1 fewer MVP, though he finished 2nd in 1987
2 fewer single-handedly-won World Series titles, because baseball is a game where individuals can win World Series titles, as I understand it

Oh -- also, Ozzie Smith was, for all intents and purposes, the greatest defensive SS the game has ever seen.

Moreover, few great players put their stamp on baseball as Wills did.


[six days later]

Sorry. I had a massive stroke and passed out on my keyboard.

Defend this.

Dodgers fans of the heady 1960s can still recall the chant that rang through Chavez Ravine when little No. 30 led off first base, ready for another steal.

"Go, Go, Go, Go!"

Never heard that before. I guess I'm ignorant, since Maury Wills put his stamp on baseball like no other player. More than Babe Ruth, or Hank Aaron, or Rickey Henderson, or Jackie Robinson, or Bob Gibson, or Yogi Berra, or Cal Ripken, or Barry Bonds, or Pedro Martinez, or Steve Carlton, or Mariano Rivudsfjindskkkkkkkkkklllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

[11 days later]

My doctor has advised me to cease this line of discussion.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 3:11 PM
H/T to Dwight and Eric, who simultaneously emailed about this "article."
Anthony points out that Sojo might actually have 5 rings, not 4, as he played for the '93 Jays. He didn't have a PS AB that year, but I'm guessing they gave rings to everyone on the roster? Maybe?
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Monday, November 26, 2007


Let's Talk Torii

Thanksgiving kind of prevented us from commenting too much on the Torii Hunter signing. I will do so now.

I think Torii Hunter is an excellent baseball player. Wonderful fielder. Super fun to watch. Remember that HR he robbed from Bonds in the ASG? Amazing. Fantastic. Great player.


He's 32, people. 32. His body has taken a pounding from years of playing CF on cement. And thanks to the irreversible one-way-itude of Father Time's relentless arrow, he is not getting any younger. His career OBP of .327 is what the Welsh would call: "terrible." (If they followed baseball.) Before he blew through his 90th percentile PECOTA prediction this year, they had him as an 11-HR, 2.0 WARP player in 2011, at age 35. And this Angels contract will pay him $18m when he's 35. And 36.

It's a really iffy deal. It just is. The Angels have a lot of places they could have upgraded offensively, and they chose to do it very expensively at a position where they already have a very expensive (and kind of bad) player. Torii is better than Gary Matthews, to be sure, but not way better, and -- just to reiterate -- due to the fact that the temporal dimension moves in one direction only, and the corresponding fact that baseball is not played in a tank of cold c├Žsium with light-amplification lasers, he is not getting any younger.

Anyway. Let's see what Kurt Streeter of the L.A. Times thinks about the signing.

Granted, Hunter doesn't bring monster power to Anaheim. But with him in the line-up, other teams won't be able to dink their way around Vladimir Guerrero, who has been the straw that stirs the drink. If they try, they'll have to deal with Hunter, an RBI machine who hit 31 homers two years ago and 28 last year.

I wouldn't exactly call him an "RBI Machine." He's had more than 100 twice. He's slugged over .500 twice. He averages 93 RBI per 162 games. Now, granted, he had a bunch of low OBP-guys hitting in front of him, but still.

Of course, there's much more to Hunter than his bat. Here's a guy who fits right in with the Angels' philosophy: slash at opposing teams with swift-boat speed.

Swift-boat? Is this some weird anti-Kerry message left over from 2004?

Hunter will pilfer plenty of bases.

Last year he stole 18 of them! (Out of 27 tries.) The year before, though, he pilfered...twelve. Out of eighteen. In 2003, when he was a young swift-boating buck of 27, he stole...six. And was caught seven times. His career high is 23. What does "plenty" mean to you?

He'll hit line drives, and he'll scramble from first to third and rarely get caught.

So this is how he'll "fit in" with the Angels' philosophy. I say: he'll fit in most obviously with his .327 career OBP. The Angels don't get on base, traditionally, (though they were 3rd in the AL last year), and neither does Hunter. The ironic thing here, to me, is that they now have a glut of outfielders, and I've read rumors of them trading Reggie Willits. The one guy (besides Vlad) who really works counts or gets on base. (And don't tell me about Chone and his .393 OBP. Fluke. He didn't walk more than he usually does, and he had a .400 BABIP. Bet you anything he's back down to a ~.350 OBP next year.)

This part is fun:

Close your eyes and imagine this guy in your outfield. There is a reason Hunter is a seven-time Gold Glove winner. Picture Boston in town. Those Red Sox fans and their incessant "Let's go, Red Sox" are making you nuts. Suddenly, Manny Ramirez drives a ball deep into center field.

There it goes, another Manny home run.

Wait, what's that?

It's Torii Hunter flying high above the center-field wall, arm stretched, glove wide.

Home run stolen.

"Let's go, Red Sox"? Put a sock in it.

Two things:

There is about a .008% chance this will happen.

Also, Gary Matthews Jr., the man Torii Hunter is replacing, is most famous for the most spectacular CF-based HR-robbing anyone has ever seen. A HR-robbing that essentially got him $50m from these same Angels.

Then there's Hunter the person. In Minneapolis, fans are in mourning. They know they've just lost a guy who has gone flat out for them for nearly a decade -- on the field and in the community.

I buy this. He seems like a wonderful man. Who has a .327 career OBP.

Hunter is known as a mensch. And he's a spark plug. The Angels are a good group of guys who seem to get along, but their clubhouse feels a little calm. They need some crackle, someone to lighten the moment and generate some spirit to repeat their 2002 World Series run.

Hunter's personality is going to help.

Mensch, sparkplug, clubhouse, crackle, spirit, personality. This is one of my favorite paragraphs ever. And by the way, you know what they actually need to repeat their World Series win? Offense. Home runs. Baserunners. Torii Hunter will add some of these things in decent amounts. Miguel Cabrera, e.g., would add more of them for a longer time.

Don't be surprised if the Angels aren't finished with their off-season upgrades. One or two outfielders might be packaged in a trade for yet another hot bat.

Arte Moreno, be careful. Don't be tempted by Miguel Tejada. I don't like his downward trend.

I hear you, Kurt. Look at this guy's stats. I mean, he's 32, he doesn't walk much, he plays a high-stress position which makes him prone to break down...yikes. Stay away. Stick to Torii Hunter.

And please be leery of the Marlins' cherubic Miguel Cabrera. The guy has a sweet swing, but he's in danger of eating himself off the ball field and onto a fat farm. If you insist on signing him, put more weight incentives in his contract than a breakfast buffet has sausages.

You know, one story got written about how the guy is heavier than he used to be, and now everyone just says "Stay away -- he's fat!"

.326 EqA
Consecutive seasons of above-150 OPS+: 3
Age in human years: 24

He can be as fat as he wants if he's going to do that for my team. The man is 24. He's not a great defensive 3B, but...he's 24. Twenty-four years young. Here is his "Most Similar By Age" breakdown:

21: Hank Aaron
22: Hank Aaron
23: Hank Aaron
24: Hank Aaron

Yeah. Stay away from that guy. Get the 32 year-old astroturf-riddled CF with the .327 OBP. And pay him $90m until he's 37. And enjoy your team's excellent performance next year, when you win like one more game than you did this year. (Or ten fewer, depending on your pitching.)

One more thing, Arte. Please don't forget that getting Hunter was only half smart. The other half was who you didn't get.

Alex Rodriguez, for example.

Amen, brother. Who the hell wants to lock up the best or second-best hitter in all of baseball? That would be insane. How would ARod protect Vlad in the line-up, what with all his post-season choking and therapy-going? Fuck that. Take Torii Hunter and his .327 OBP, and his 28 HR in a career/walk-year, and protect your line-up that way. You don't need ARod and his like 54 HR and .994 EqA and 108 walk-off HR and 3.456 SLG and runaway-wins in MVP voting. You need a moderately good hitter who never ever walks, and who missed more games in 2005 than ARod has this entire millennium, and whose career high in HR is a decent All-Star-Break total for ARod, and whose 37 year-old hitting totals are going to make you long for the days of this guy. Only Hunter's speed will be gone, too.

ARod? A-no-thanks, if you get my drift. I want to win baseball games, not "win baseball games."

As I wrote toward the end of last season, A-Rod is a marvelous player, but bringing him to Anaheim would have been a mistake. He would have hit home runs, but he also would have upset the dynamic of a carefully constructed team with his gigantic salary and ego.

No. No he would not have. He would have hit 50 HR and driven in 140 and had a .340 EqA and he and Vlad would have terrorized the AL West.

Besides, when has he ever won a championship?

Can you fucking believe this?

Other players cited in Kurt Streeter's article about how awesome Torii Hunter is who have never won a championship:

1. Torii Hunter

My suggestion back then was to go after Torii Hunter instead. I'm glad you did.

Good. So when he goes .271/.309/.418 with 11 HR in 2011, we'll know whom to blame.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 9:21 PM
Thank you to the many of you who pointed out that the phrase "...more weight incentives in his contract than a breakfast buffet has sausages" qualifies this post for the coveted "food metaphors" label.
Thanks also to Sean, who highlights how long it has been since I took physics: a former physics major in college, the phrase "light amplification laser" struck me as a bit redundant, as laser is an acronym for "light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation". So I kind of have to be a douchebag and point that out. My apologies.

The apologies are mine.
Another Sean (what gives?) points out that dimensions do not "move," but rather humans perceive them in certain ways. So, the motionless temporal dimension is experienced/perceived uni-dimensionally by Torii Hunter. There.
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