Monday, October 4, 2010

NL East predictions-not bad

Well, as you can see from the sidebar, I had the NL East teams in the proper order-Phillies/Braves/Marlins/Mets/Nationals, and was pretty close on records. In fact I got the Mets exactly right-79-83-and only missed by one win for the Nats.

The average discrepancy between actual wins and predicted wins was just 2.6 wins (in absolute value, that is-simply totalling wins above or below projection as positive numbers and dividing by the five teams in the division.)

I was very happy to see Bobby Cox make the playoffs one last time. Bobby's a class act-one of baseball's good guys, even if he is the ultimate bane of the umpiring crews. Bobby's split personality-nice guy to everyone not an umpire-may call for some fancy Freudian footwork, but he'll be missed. I haven't heard a word about who will manage the Braves next year.  Would Joe Torre be interested? Sounds like Joe wants to manage somewhere next year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Burrell excelling with Giants

Despite what one foolish blogger wrote a few months back (who was that blogger, anyway?), Pat the Bat has played exceptionally well with the Jints, assuming you don't need a fly ball caught, that is-his .262/.370./.512 line betters his career numbers in all particulars (.254/.362/.475).

In fact PTB's 133 OPS+ with SF this year would be his best since 2002, if extended for a full season. We are, of course, ignoring Pat's disastrous final few months with the Rays.

I think Brian Sabean haters like John Perricone don't really understand modern baseball-player talent is so expensive now that nobody who doesn't play in the AL East can seriously strive for a great 25 man roster-you shoot for 90 wins and hope like hell that's enough to make the playoffs. The Giants have hellacious pitching and mediocre (if that) hitting-and that probably will get them to the post season.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nyjer Morgan is my hero

All that personality, and the NL's lowest OPS (among qualifiers), .634?

What more could you ask for? The Nats sure seem to draw this type of player.

Then again, "character guy" Raul Ibanez is 43rd, among 73 qualifiers in the senior circuit, at .779. People are talking about Raulllll! as if he's had a good year, when it's just somewhat less miserable than you'd expect for a corner OF, since his second half has been a good deal better than the first, and because Raul is now older than infield dirt. But damn, what a good guy!

The soft bigotry of low expectations, I'd call it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who says Cubs' fans don't care if their team wins?

It's never been true that any team, including the Yankees, could be rotten and continue to draw.

And while the Cubs' attendance dropoff from last year (full season in '09, 74 dates this year)-1674/game- may not seem stupendous, it does show that the Cubs' franchise also isn't immune to fans finding other ways to amuse themselves when the local team sucks.

A few may even be going to see the Sox, who are still in the race, as sacrilegious as this shift in allegiance may seem to most Chicagoites.

Your first place Philadelphia Phillies!

I haven't seen the numbers, but I bet that the Phillies have lost as many, or nearly as many, player-days to the DL as the Mets did last year-and with comparable players-Utley, Rollins, etc.

Yet the Phillies are prospering, with a playoff spot now a 73% probability, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Maybe the acquisition of "character guys" by Pat Gillick and Rueben Amaro makes sense after all. It's not as if character doesn't matter, of course. That, without talent, won't buy you a latte' at Starbuck's. But with it, who knows?

Monday, August 30, 2010

There they go again

Yankees take 3:25 to play 2-1, nine inning game against White Sox.

I think the Yanks must think they're playing cricket.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So that explains it!

Dr. Boli tells us why the Bucs really, really suck:

Under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pittsburgh Pirates are required to hire players who are really bad at baseball.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mark Reynolds not quite on pace to break his own K record

Reynolds still strikes out at an ungodly rate, to be sure. But his 161 whiffs in the Diamondbacks' first 119 games translates to "just" 219 for the season, falling just short of his record 223 of last year. It's not exactly Maris and Mantle in '61, but I'll want to keep an eye on the "race". (Yes, I'm pitiful).

In his Historical Baseball Abstract of 2000 or so, Bill James wondered why no one had yet broken Bobby Bonds' 1970 record for K's, considering the steady trend towards more strikeouts.  The obvious answer was that when guys got close, managers would start playing them less.

Now, there is little stigma attached to whiffing, which may be fine for someone like Reynolds, who is 5th in the NL in homers (26), and seventh in walks (61). But when rotten hitters strike out a ton, a common occurrence with so many teams having 3, 4, 5 100-K men, a little stigma might be order.

And of course, today's preponderance of aggressive swinging and missing probably accounts for the current rash of no-hitters, a trend we can expect to accelerate.

UPDATE: I haven't looked up anybody else, but Reynolds must be leading, or nearly leading MLB in Three True Outcomes-his 162 K, 62 BB, and 26 jacks in 467 PA amounts to a TTO rate of .535 (through 8/17).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tony the whiner

Redleg Nation on Tony LaRussa and the recent unpleasantness between the Reds and Cards:

I love this,  from ESPN’s story on the brawl: “La Russa wasn’t happy with Phillips’ comment and mentioned it to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who worked with him in St. Louis.”

Let me translate that for you: “LaRussa wasn’t happy with being called a whiner, so he went and whined to Walt Jocketty.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Three hours, 33 minutes to play a 2-1, nine inning game?

Yep, last night the Yanks and Red Sox managed to dawdle their way to a 3 and a half hour plus, low-scoring, nine inning game.

I've always been of the opinion that game lengths aren't really all that important-if you don't like baseball, it won't much matter to you whether games go three hours or two and a half-it will seem tedious either way.

But a line has to be drawn somewhere. It really shouldn't take that long to score three runs in a game with only twelve hits and eight walks. Bud Selig likes to say what matters is not game length so much, but the pace of the game-there couldn't have been much "pace" last night in New York. I'm sure the Yankees were happy to have the crowd of 49,000 plus on hand as long as possible to buy concessions and guzzle beer, but this is ridiculous. And it does seem to be a Yankees-Red Sox thing-the Astros and Braves, for example, played a 14 run,  8 1/2 inning job last night (Houston won, 10-4) in 2:53.

I don't have any answers, other than saying nobody should be allowed to call time when the pitcher's already in his motion. Plus there should be only one mound conference per pitcher per half inning, regardless of who initiates said meeting. Plus limiting replay to so-called boundary calls.

Plus the Yankees and Red Sox should be limited to seven innings, like high school games. Maybe they'll be able to keep things under three hours then. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

My NL East predictions, vindicated

My March 2010 NL East calls (see sidebar) are looking remarkably prescient, no?

Mind you, the Braves are still in first, and, by Baseball Prospectus' lights, have about twice the chance of making (86.8%, v. 46.3%) the October Show, compared with the Phillies. But right now, pretty much everybody looks to be within six games or so of what I projected.

My calls/BP's current projections:

Phillies 91 wins/90

Braves 88/93

Marlins 83/81

Mets 79/81

Nats 68/74

Friday, June 4, 2010

Phillies' hitting follies

No, I didn't write "Phillies' Phollies". I hate that.

The Fightins are now 11th in the NL in runs scored, possibly the best determinant of how good a team's offense is, other than "productive outs" (kidding.)

How fast the mighty bats have fallen! Is it just due to Rollins and Polanco being out? I'm sure the Phils brass would like to believe that, but you shouldn't, though playing the third string SS and C, and second string 3B, for a while hasn't exactly helped.

Mega-million dollar baby Ryan Howard is on pace for just 28 homers, and doesn't walk much any more. He pretty much defines "albatross of a contract."

Rollins' absence has hurt, no question-his stand-in as lead-off hitter, Shane Victorino, is showing unusual power (ISO of .191), but ain't gettin' on base-his OBA is an unacceptable .308. Jimmy, for all his faults, usually exceeds this, and in fact has a mark of .462 in limited duty this year.

The guys added in the off-season to spruce up the bench have, in a word, sucked-Gload, Schneider, and Castro have done little-and Greg Dobbs is having his second rotten year in a row.

I'm with Beerleaguer-time to dump Dobbs and add John Mayberry from the IronPigs, and/or Andy Tracy. The Phils have stopped hitting the long ball, and stopped hitting in general, and they could use the sluggers on the bench these move (-s) would provide.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I love Pat Burrell/What Brian Sabean and Warren Buffett have in common

...but the idea that an that an NL team would actually sign him, even to a minor league deal, convinces me that any idiot can run a major league team, and that all the nasty things John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters says about Giants' GM Brian Sabean are wholly justified.

Man, Perricone loathes Sabean. He takes each silly move by Sabean (usually related to Brian's undue love of veterans) as a grave personal affront. Yet SF has a decent shot at the playoffs this year. I suppose John would say Sabean got lucky with Lincecum, Cain, and a few others. He did.

It's The Buffett Effect-the Sage of Omaha is thought of as a brilliant stock picker, but take away a few key choices, and he's Joe Blow, Average Inept Investor. Nobody knows more than the mass of investors, i.e., the market, and nobody knows more than the mass of baseball execs know collectively. Think anybody really can tell which draft picks will blossom? 

Luck and randomness have more to do with what we call success, and failure, in both those fields, than we'd like to admit. Even Pat Gillick, who will probably go to the Hall of Fame, made nearly as many bad player picks with the Phillies as good ones-but the core was there-Rollins, Utley, etc., largely acquired by his predecessors in Philadelphia.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"The last place New York Mets"/Francoeur's follies

Man, that sounds good!

I thought the Mets would bounce back this year-somewhat-no way could their luck with injuries be as bad as it was last year. But the whole division looked to be improved, with the exception of the Marlins-so I didn't see the Mets making up a lot of ground. And they aren't.

A big part of the problem for the Metropolitans is Jeff Francoeur, who will always break your heart. Do not be deceived by his RBI count! Jeff may well get to 95 ribbies this year, with 23 in his first 43 games.

I hate the "so and so is the poster boy" for such and such expression, it's trite as hell, but if anyone is the poster slugger for the meaninglessness of RBI, in isolation from other stats, Francoeur is your boy. It's a shame-there seemed to be boundless promise when he first came up, but here he is, in his 5th full year, with a career OPS+ of 92. His OBP is all of .280 this year. He, in a word, sucks.

Have you ever noticed the similarities between Francoeur and Jayson Werth?

Both are RF's with good range (Jeff is probably a little better defensively), and big swings. Both throw well also. But Werth, despite his tendency towards injuries, has ended up having a nice career, for which he will shortly receive an enormous payday, while Francoeur (who still is only 26, mind you) just isn't developing.

It's all about knowledge of, command of,  the strike zone. Jeff still doesn't walk (11 BB in 164 PA in '10), and still can't work the count-he's 155th (out of 180 MLB qualifiers) in P/PA. Werth is 11th.

Want to save 2/100 of a second on your trip to second base?

Slide head-first.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just how awesome is Jason Heyward?

Well, besides everything else, he has the longest home run in baseball this year-a 476 foot blast to right against Carlos Zambrano at Turner Field, on April 5.

If you like, you can follow Jason on Twitter.

UPDATE: Heyward also leads in WPA among MLB batters, at 1.98.

Charles Krauthammer is a Nationals fan

I'd be one too, if they weren't in the same division as the Phillies.

It's wonderful that baseball is back in the nation's capital, where it belongs, even if the Nats are about as good as the Senators typically were.

Krauthammer doesn't mind a bit:

You get there and the twilight's gleaming, the popcorn's popping, the kids're romping and everyone's happy. The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment...

No one's happy to lose, and the fans cheer lustily when the Nats win. But as starters blow up and base runners get picked off, there is none of the agitation, the angry, screaming, beer-spilling, red-faced ranting you get at football or basketball games.

Baseball, in other words, is a civilized sport for civilized people. In a violent culture, it's amazing that baseball's still as popular as it is. It's not a mere spectacle like football or basketball-it's an interesting, mind-expanding experience. The pace that so many criticize as slow is just right, actually-it lends itself to the talk between pitches among armchair experts that makes the game so much fun.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Red Sox renovations

Boston club plans to return Fenway to 1912 conditions.

Pres. Taft, supported by a platform of reinforced concrete, will throw out this year's first pitch.

Taft's bitter rival Teddy Roosevelt will curry favor with the fans by leading a chorus of "Tessie" during the 7th inning stretch.

Baseball and NFL now tied in fans' team loyalty

The NFL now has a new, equal rival for fan devotion-Major League Baseball:

After years in the #2 spot, Major League Baseball is now tied with the National Football League with the "most loyal fans," according to the 15th annual 2010 Brand Keys Sports Loyalty Index, a survey which helps professional sports teams increase broadcast, ticket and merchandise revenues by providing loyalty rankings and fan diagnostics in their home and national markets.
The Sports Loyalty Engagement Index gives an apples-to-apples comparison of the intensity with which fans support professional sport leagues and their home team vs. the corresponding values for the fans of other teams in the market," said Robert Passikoff, president of New York- based Brand Keys, Inc.
The criteria are entertainment, authenticity, fan bonding, and history/tradition.

The MLB teams with the most loyal fans are:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. New York Yankees

3. Philadelphia Phillies

4. Anaheim Angels/Los Angeles Dodgers

5. Minnesota Twins/Milwaukee Brewers

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baseball vs. football-an apples and oranges comparison

I never quite understand the people who dump on baseball by saying it's slow, and then turn and around and tell us that football is a fast, action-packed game. Here I demolish (haha) those arguments.

First, pro football isn't a "game" at all- it's a strikingly successful TV show. NFL teams no more compete with each other (due to the enormous, evenly-split pile of national network cash) than my blog competes with Elmore Leonard's books. Of course, they need to appear to compete. So you have the weekly TV "event."

That lack of actual competition is exactly why the NFL union has so little pull-why would an NFL team owner hike salaries, make the money guaranteed, etc., when an NFL franchise is a money-printing machine even if you go 0-16? The financial incentives just aren't there-and the people who run football are, believe me, all about the money.

It's interesting to note, by the by, just how many NFL teams still can't sell out consistently. Baseball fans pay money and go to games...including spring training games-the Phillies have sold out nearly every meaningless spring training game this year. Football fans, even if there are more of them, watch on TV. There's a big difference in intensity of interest, I'd say.

And I really wouldn't want to argue football is faster than baseball. Time an NFL game, and see how much of the three hours is actually consumed by play. It's about 15 minutes...of three yards and a cloud of dust, over and over again. Exciting plays are few and far between. But I guess it's like NASCAR-their fans will wait endlessly for a crash, football fans will wait endlessly for that five yard TD pass, to be followed by guys strutting around in their ridiculously over-tight unis as if they'd just cured cancer. A huge number of them are fat, too..especially linemen. Only football players, of any major sport's participants, die younger than the population, on average. Wonder why that is?

If you want a continuous action sport, flip on soccer and see how thrilling that is.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jayson Werth, funnyman

Phillies' soon to be free agent outfielder Jayson Werth fields a bunch of questions, on MMA (ugh), his new beard (cool), and how his hometown of Springfield, IL is like Homer Simpson's fictional Springfield. (Actually, having watched the Simpsons for so long, the fictional Springfield seems more real than local Springfield, PA).

Anyway, Jayson's a fun and likable guy, whom we all should try to get to know, since he soon will be very, very rich, assuming his 2010 season is anything like the last few impressive ones, and maybe even if it isn't.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thoughts on pitch counts

The thing about modern baseball that most seems to annoy old-timers, (for ex., Tim McCarver), who are an easily-annoyed bunch, is pitch counts. "Nolan Ryan didn't need 'em", they'll say. "Neither did Carlton. Imagine trying to put a pitch count on Bob Gibson!" But I argue here that pitch counts make sense-if pitchers are most likely to get hurt when they're tired, why not take them out before they reach that point? In a 162 game season, and with the possibility that even mediocrities like Brett Tomko can have careers of ten or fifteen years if they can stay healthy, why not put a serious priority on preventing pitching injuries where they happen-on the mound?

The first thought that might come to mind is, well, Ryan was a freak of nature. He was throwing 95 MPH at 46! (Of course, by then he couldn't stay healthy for very long). He had had 232 K's in 1990, leading the AL, at 43. Of course he didn't need pitch counts-he really was a freak! (It should be mentioned that he was in great shape, too.)

But there is one interesting fact about Ryan's workload that ought to be noted. While Nolan broke into the majors at 19 (though only pitching just three innings), and threw 152 innings in 1971, at age 24, he didn't reach a more or less career average number of IP till the following year, when at age 25, he threw 284 innings for the Angels after being traded from the Mets. If the "injury nexus" closes at 25 or so, then Nolan's workload, whether through injuries, ineffectiveness, or dumb luck, had actually been managed pretty well to that point.

The larger issue is that, obviously, most pitchers aren't Nolan Ryan. Most pitchers need their workload managed much more carefully. Think of Larry Dierker, who pitched serious innings for Houston as a teen-ager, had 305 IP at age 22 in 1969, had several more 200 IP years, and was out of baseball at 30. Or Catfish Hunter, who had 132 IP at age 19 for the A's, had two 300 IP seasons and eight 200 IP years, and was out of the game at 33, after several ineffective and/or injury shortened years. And there are dozens of other guys with similar career tracks, who could be mentioned, such as Jim Bouton.

The fact is that pitching in injurious to elbows and shoulders. Always has been, always will be. Limiting pitches and innings is the best way, along with proper mechanics and, perhaps to a lesser extent, conditioning (think of David Wells, CC Sabathia, Mickey Lolich, and many more-mechanics really do seem to be more critical than conditioning-if your mechanics aren't right, it won't matter whether you're in shape or not) to lengthen the careers of expensive pitching talent.

And now, even Dusty Baker seems to have seen the light, and along with the rest of baseball, isn't allowing his starters to hit 120 pitches very often. The average pitch count in baseball is settling in at just under 100 per game. This is a good thing, folks. And you old-timers-keep in mind that an idea isn't bad just because you didn't grow up with it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pitchers' hitting-Can you hit better than a utility guy?

The previous post discussed my view that baseball should keep the DH.

In looking up the batting stats of two pitchers who are well-known as guys who can swing the stick, I noticed that Mike Hampton and Dontrelle Willis have career OPS+ of 67. So I wondered-how do even the best-hitting pitchers hit compared with notoriously weak-hitting position players?

Let's use the Mendoza Line man himself, Mario Mendoza, as our baseline, and another couple notorious all-glove, no-hit types, then some renowned good-hitting pitchers. I'll list the player or pitcher, his career OPS+, and other notable hitting stats for that guy.

M. Mendoza: 41 OPS+; 4 HR in nine seasons.

B. Wine:  55 OPS+; he hit 30 HR in his 12 year career, which amazes me.

M. Belanger: 68 OPS+; Mark had one (exactly) 100 OPS+ season, 1976, whn he hit .270 with 51 BB. He wasn't a utility guy, of course, but the best SS of his generation.

To the pitchers:

I've already mentioned Willis and Hampton, who had career OPS+ of 67.

D. Drysdale: 45 OPS+; he did hit .300, with 7 HR and 19 RBI in 1965. He also had 7 HR in 66 AB in 1958.

R. Rhoden:  59 OPS+; he had several impressive hitting years, including 1984, when he hit .333 in 84 AB. The Pirates always seemed to have a lot of pitchers who could hit in that period.

S. Carlton:  33 OPS+; surprisingly low, but then again, Lefty never put any more effort into hitting or baserunning than absolutely necessary. He saved his energy for the mound. He did hit a memorable playoff HR against the Dodgers in 1978.

D. Newcombe:  85 OPS+; Newk is probably the first guy that comes to mind when you think of pitchers who can rip, and he lives up to his rep. Unlike some other pitchers who can handle the bat, he was mostly a singles hitter, except for 1955 (that magical year for the Dodgers), when he hit seven HR. Newk is still alive, one of the last of The Boys of Summer still with us-Duke Snider, Don Zimmer, and Sandy Koufax (who did make 12 appearances with the '55 club) among the few others. And Vin Scully, of course!

This is just a quicky look at the subject, but it is interesting to note that even someone like Don Newcombe was a below-average hitter, compared with all batters. Most teams are like the '09 Phillies, where most of the pitchers actually have negative OPS+'s. Who wants to watch that?

Keep the DH!

I don't think that the designated hitter is in any danger of being eliminated, as much antipathy as it (still) gets. But I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts on my changed views on the subject.

First of all, if the DH was good enough for Philadelphia baseball legend Connie Mack, it's good enough for me.

Second, as the above-referenced piece noted, with the consolidation of the umpiring crews and the elimination of the league offices, the DH is one of the few remaining differences between the leagues. This is especially true now that turf fields are on the way out-the NL, a few decades back, had the bulk of turf parks. Now, with Target Field, the new grass park in Minnesota, there are only two "non-grass" parks left-and they're both in the AL (Toronto and Tampa Bay).

I'm very much of the opinion that differences between the leagues that fan can talk about-and argue about-are good for the game. Now, it's true that sometimes the distinctions people assume are there, aren't-the AL may have the reputation as the "sluggers' league", but in 2009 the NL actually had fewer stolen bases than the AL-(1541-1429)-and that's with two more teams in the NL. Still, there are real differences between the circuits, otherwise the AL wouldn't be dominating interleague play, as it has in the last few years.

Putting all of that aside, I like the idea that AL pitchers have to face lineups with nine real hitters. It's a cliche', but nevertheless it's true, for me at least-watching a typically inept pitcher hit isn't much fun. Sure, I do enjoy those who can-Dontrelle Willis, say, or Mike Hampton.  But pitching is so demanding that few pitchers can maintain the hitting skills they likely had in high school and even college ball.

And the idea that there is "more strategy in the NL" is mostly untrue. Today, pitchers are pulled due to pitch counts (for the most part, a good idea, at least for younger pitchers, and for those with injury histories, which is pretty much everybody) or to get a setup man or closer into the game. It isn't due to needing to hit for the pitchers, for the most part. Note that each league had exactly 76 CG last year. And it's not as if the double-switch, when needed, should tax a capable manager's brain, though Charlie (I used to need a freakin') Manuel did struggle with it for a while.

All in all, I like the higher scoring game we see today. There is so much talent today (due to the money baseball can offer prospects who would otherwise play other sports professionally) that there is a nice balance of pitching, hitting, and fielding. We  haven't reached the excesses of scoring seen in the 30's, but happily we're a long way from the neo-deadball style of the late Sixties.

And a return to that level of scoring would be disastrous for the game's popularity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yet another lazy reporter

Here's a story about by Adam Rubin in The New York Daily News about the Mets deciding to lower their CF wall from 16 feet to eight to increase homers (no other walls or dimensions will be changed, apparently.) The Mets only hit 95 HR io 2009, nearly a deadball-era (or Whitey Herzog with the Cardinals in the 80's) sort of total.

Rubin says:

...David Wright may not be as inclined to frustratingly fling his Great Gazoo helmet, or whatever protective wear he uses, during the upcoming season.

It really wouldn't have taken much research for Rubin to have seen that Wright's power outage in '09 (he hit only ten, after averaging 29 in the previous four years) had nothing to do with Citi Field. He hit five at home, five on the road. Rubin need only have gone to Baseball-Reference for this info. Lordy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Batting and pitching leaders in the 2000's

After playing around with David Pinto's Day by Day Database a bit, here's a look at the 2000's leaders (the aughts?) in a  few categories. Of course, guys who came up early in the decade or were active even before 2000, have an edge here.

Hits-Ichiro (2030); Jeter (1940); Tejada (1860); Helton (1756); Vlad (1751).

HR-A Rod (435);  Thome (368); Pujols (366); Manny (348); Delgado (324).

BA (min. 2000 PA)-Pujols (.334); Ichiro (.333); Helton (.331);  Mauer (.327); Vlad (.323).

And for pitchers:

Wins-Pettite (148); Unit (143); Moyer (140); Hallday (139); Oswalt (137).

Innings-L. Hernandez-(2201  1/3);  Vasquez ( 2163); Buerhle (2061); Zito (1999); Moyer (1980 1/3).

I had no idea Javier Vasquez would be on this list, though I'd known he was an innings eater. He might be a real coup for the Yankees as their fifth starter, as most teams really struggle to find adequate guys at 4 and 5-and some with 1,2, and three.

There's not much talk about Carlos Delgado's HOF chances, but you have to say his overall numbers impress (473 HR, 138 OPS+). He'd have to have a shot, you'd think, though he's certainly been under the radar. His problem will be that he's almost never led the league in anything-doubles once, RBI once, TB once, OPS+ once-and, possibly for this reason, has only two All Star selections. I'd vote for him, myself.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bashing the NFL for fun, if not profit

On the eve of yet another Roman-numeraled Super Bowl and a rescheduled Pro Bowl, herewith are one sports fan's gripes about football:

I guess on a basic level I don't really understand the appeal of football. It's not that I don't like sports. I'm a huge fan of sports that have an element of real competition.

It's just that professional football is a charade, as a competitive enterprise. There's so much national TV money, equally divided among the teams, that the notion that these teams compete with each other is silly. Each team makes huge profits, regardless of whether they go 0-16 or 16-0. And that's why the NFL Players' Association is so weak-putting together a good team is largely irrelevant to profitability, so the players have no leverage over management. It's hard to charge a premium for athletic talent when acquiring more talent doesn't significantly affect whether you make money. This isn't so with real sports.

I have a lot of other problems with football, but, to single out one more, as with all other sports with a clock, a decisive lead late in the game settles the issue. What could be more anti-climatic than the last few minutes of a football game when one team has a big lead? If they're ahead, they run out the clock, culminating with the thrilling walk off the field before the clock has even run out. If they're behind, they take a bunch of timeouts to organize hopeless plays, and two minutes of clock time can take 25 of real time. Dull as dishwater.

As George Will wrote, football features two of the worst aspects of contemporary American culture-violence interspersed with committee meetings (huddles.)
I'll add that the NFL also has a shameful record when it comes to taking care of its retired players with medical issues-which is most of them.

This isn't surprising, though, when you consider that history doesn't matter in the NFL. There was a poll in the Philadelphia Inquirer today asking if the current Patriots are the best team of all time. None of the other choices go back farther than 1962. Imagine a poll like that in baseball, or even basketball. Fans of other sports realize that their sports' history didn't begin with national television contracts, but nobody cared about football before the early '60's.

This was originally posted on my other blog, Rene's Apple, on Feb. 3, 2008.

No one can "buy" a World Series

Ask a simple question, get an annoying answer:

Why are so many people saying the Yankees bought the World Series "yankees buy world series" gets 11,600,000 Google results) ? Just about any story on the 2009 season heavily features this mindless assertion. Since the Bombers have the highest payroll pretty much every year, but hadn't won the big enchilada since 2000, to say they can simply buy anything is a little silly.

In fact, the correlation between payroll and winning isn't nearly as strong as you might think. Yes, the no.1 payroll team, the Yanks, at $201.4 million, won the World Series. But several of the top ten payroll teams missed the playoffs entirely, including the second ranked Mets ($149.4 mill.), the third ranked Cubs ($134.8 mill.), no. 5 Detroit ( $115.1), no. 9 Seattle ($ 98.9), and no. 10 Atlanta ($ 96.7).
This was originally posted on my other blog, Rene's Apple, on Nov. 25 of last year.
Payroll info from the Biz of Baseball.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Favorite Yogiism

Yes, I love the numbers of the sport...but I also love the look of the game-the geometric precision of the layout of the diamond, the sheer speed of fastballs, the grace of a Cole Hamels delivery-and the game's personalities.

Baseball has always been home to out-sized personalities, whether of an ugly sort-think Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby-or lovable-think Babe Ruth, or Yogi Berra.

Yogi was famous for "malaprops", as it's often said, but what he actually did is reduce the language to its most direct form. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." "You can't think and hit at the same time." Direct, and true.

Plus, of course, like Lincoln (another deep thinker), a lot of what's been attributed to Berra he never actually uttered. Yogi even "wrote" a book called "I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said!", which is a fun read, by the way.

So Berra may never have actually said the following, but it's so perfect, I've got to quote it: When told Dublin had elected its first Jewish Mayor (Robert Briscoe, in 1956), Berra said, "Only in America!".

Thus extolling truths about America, as every good American should, even when America's not actually involved.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pujols, Dunn, pitchers' stat variation, etc.

Albert does his thing.

Whoa-I'd better post something if I want to get this blog going.

Just a few thoughts as I cruise through Baseball Reference...

Does the average baseball fan, or stat-head for that mattter, realize just how good Adam Dunn is?  Despite just one All-Star pick (2002), Dunn hit forty dingers five straight years, from 2004-2008, and just missed 40 last year, with a 38 HR campaign. And he doesn't "just" smack longballs-Adam's career OBA is .383, with seven 100 BB seasons so far. Last winter more than a few pople wondered why the Phillies wanted Raul Ibanez instead of the much younger, much better Dunn-Raul will be 38 this year, Dunn 31; Raul's career OPS+ is 115, Adam's 132. They're both lousy outfielders. I'm still wondering, especially since Ibanez cratered in the second half of '09.

Interestingly enough, despite four previous 40 HR seasons, 2009 was the first time Albert Pujols led the NL in that category. His 47 last year was the second highest total of his career-he hit 49 in '06 but lost out to Ryan Howard's 58 dingers.

Sudden thought-everybody wonders why pitchers' stats show more variability than hitter's stats. It's not sample size-for starters, anyway. In 2009, for example, Justin Verlander led the AL with 982 BFP, while Aaron Hill led with 734 PA. But with only 30-34 starts, even guys who take every turn see a less complete sampling of the league's teams, especially with the unbalanced schedule.

You know, it's become almost obligatory to say BA doesn't mean anything, but obviously that's not true. Look at Jason Giambi's 2009 season. He had 14 doubles and 13 HR in 293 AB, with 57 walks. Pretty decent totals. But with a .201 BA, his OPS was only .725, with an OPS+ of just 92. You do need to hit for a semi-respectable average even if your other numbers are strong.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Just for fun, ma'am

I love numbers!

And so, as a baseball fan, I of course love the figures of this sport, the most number-driven of all.

And I love using numbers to explode fallacies about the  game, something I hope to do a fair amount of here.

Hope you enjoy it!