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October 18, 2012

In A Pickle

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

by Jason Wojciechowski

Last week, our resident San Diegan Geoff Young reviewed the things he'd written throughout the year as a matter of his own accountability. I think accountability is bunk, but I also think, as a weekly columnist, that it's worth looking back on the words we write when the season ends. I'm more about description than prescription, but plenty of times, even if that's your game, the thing you're describing ends up behaving much differently than it did before you started describing it. I'm fairly certain that there's no observer effect going on, but who's to say? Maybe it really was me who caused the A's to start hitting.

January 6, 2012, The Wisdom of Uncertainty
This was a ProGUESTus piece in which I proclaimed that I don't know nothin' 'bout no baseball. Steven Goldman and Ben Lindbergh didn't get the message and allowed me to come aboard as a regular contributor. I've got nothing to add. Have some Operation Ivy.

Regret level: 0/10

February 1, 2012, The Spy at the A's Fanfest
This was a chronicle of a descent into madness in Oakland. Nothing's changed on that front for me, for Grant Balfour, or for the fans in the right field bleachers. It just so happens that all of you know about it now.

Regret level: 4/10

February 22, 2012, Springtime Can Kill You
This was when I dissed spring training as boring and did so under just about the most indie singer-songwriter headline that I could manage. It's still boring (spring training, not the Jolie Holland album) and I hope the playoffs last forever so that we never have spring training again.

Regret level: -1/10

February 29, 2012, AL West 2012 Preseason Preview
This was cowritten with Jason Parks, who's a much better Jason than I am. He said Trout would be the best non-Pujols player on the Angels, which is a whole lot closer to the truth than my assertion that he'd spend the year in Triple-A. I also said about the A's, "The current version of the team isn't trying." Let's just move the hell on.

Regret level: 7/10

March 14, 2012, Why You Should Watch the Non-Contenders
This was a love-letter to bad teams, a set of explanations of why every team in baseball, even the losers, are worth tuning in to from time to time. I wrote a lot of words there, and a bunch of them were about teams that wound up being watchable as good or at least winning teams, but I do want to take credit for this: I told you to watch Adam Dunn (41 HR, 222 K) and Jake Peavy (3.2 WARP, highest innings pitched since 2007).

Regret level: 4/10

April 11, 2012, Going the Other Way
This set out a framework for evaluating role changes for pitchers. In light of the seasons that Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, and Aroldis Chapman had, I think the element I forgot about was, "Always leave the guy in the bullpen, what are you even thinking."

Regret level: 2/10

May 9, 2012, Seeking the Secrets of Sequence
This was my attempt to figure out how Jake Peavy was sequencing his murderous changeup. Peavy wound up with just the 52nd-best changeup among qualifiers by pitch-type linear weights per pitch, as shown at FanGraphs. Maybe the reason I couldn't find any special sequence for Peavy's changeup is because there wasn't any and he was just getting lucky.

Regret level: 6/10

June 6, 2012, Oakland is Just Terrible (No Offense)
This was my masterwork, when I buried a team that wound up winning the West and scoring more runs than any other team in baseball after the All-Star break. To be fair, the team changed out from under me. For instance, I made a list of 10 players who were not new to the team, all of whom had hit for utter crap to that point. Just one of those players (Coco Crisp) rebounded to have a good season overall.

Participants in our Playoff Roundtable may be surprised to learn that the only result on the site for a search for "kraken" is that article. You're welcome.

Regret level: 12/10 (except insofar as I can claim responsibility for their second-half rampage—for that, -7/10; and for the kraken, -17/10)

June 21, 2012, The War For the Ballfields
This was my prediction that robot umps would lead to the end of human baseball. It's still coming. Don't ignore this.

Regret level: Incomplete

June 28, 2012, What the Contenders Need: AL West
This was me, Jeff Euston, and Kevin Goldstein giving advice to the contending teams on how to get over the hump. I told the Angels to get a pitcher and they got Zack Greinke. I told the Rangers to get a first baseman and they wound up knocked out of the playoffs by the Orioles in the wild card game.

The A's were not contenders. (Be nice! Look at the playoff odds chart in the article!)

Regret level: 2/10

July 2, 2012, What the Contenders Need: AL Central
This was the same again. The White Sox did not acquire a second baseman or left fielder and missed the playoffs. The Tigers made none of the moves I suggested and ... uh, well, they're going to the World Series, so I guess I have to shut up. Advising the Indians to do anything at all just looks silly now.

Regret level: 6/10

July 12, 2012, On the Humble Pickle
This was my ode to pickles. They're still the best thing in the world, whether you put them in your mouth or watch them on TV.

Regret level: pickle

July 19, 2012, This is Your Fife
This explored Stephen Fife's all-contact quality start in his major-league debut. I took the brave position that Fife would not see the same results again. I was dead wrong, and I'm honestly as surprised to be telling you that as you are to be reading it. Fife pitched four more starts and while he didn't crack 6 1/3 innings (and once threw just 4 1/3), he also never allowed more than two runs in an outing. His team won only one of his five games, but they scored only four runs in the four losses, so that's not really on him.

I wrote the piece originally because I thought it was hilarious that Fife got the result he did pitching the way he does. I wanted to write it right away because I saw a significant risk that he'd soon turn terrible and nobody would ever want to read about him again. Stephen Fife's major-league ERA stands at 2.70.

Regret level: 8/10

July 26, 2012, The Story Of Jason Kendall's Conception
This is the story I wrote about Jason Kendall and the circumstances under which his father, Fred, impregnated his mother. I'm still not sorry I pointed it out to you. I was in a happy place at the time, vacationing on an island, and I wanted to share the joy of the world with you. I stand behind this story.

Regret level: 1/10

August 2, 2012, Nine Stories
This was fiction, and I'm not sure I can stand behind it, especially since it elicited multiple comments that spelled "Jane Austen" wrong.

Regret level: 9/10

August 10, 2012, Why We Want to Be Smart
This was my exploration of why we, analytical fans, approach the game the way we do. I honestly did not make the connection at the time that it was sort of an ironic follow-on to the previous piece. I will note that I think I did a very good job of turning off my analyst brain while the A's made their late-season push into the playoffs. I certainly got angry enough about the structure of home-field advantage, a structure that too many people to link to showed in too many ways to name had at most a miniscule effect on the outcome of a series, to prove that I'm an irrational, emotional fan first and foremost. This analysis game is just a cover.

Regret level: 4/10

August 16, 2012, Oakland's Not-Too-Wild Wild Card Scenario
This was my attempt to identify a path for the suddenly-in-the-race A's to make the playoffs. As a wild card. Come on! You didn't see it coming either!

Regret level: 5/10

August 23, 2012, A.J. Pierzynski and the Last Thing You Expected
This was me pointing out how A.J. Pierzynski was having the greatest offensive season of any full-time, non-all-time-great, 35-or-older catcher ever. At the time, Pierzynski had a .306 TAv. He finished at .287, which only tied his age-26 career-high instead of blowing it out of the water. It's also not even close to comparable to Carlton Fisk's 1989 or Ernie Lombardi's 1945.

From the date the article was published to the end of the year, Pierzynski hit .216/.267/.360 and the White Sox fell from 1 1/2 games up on the Tigers to three games back and out of the postseason. Sorry.

Regret level: 8/10

August 30, 2012, Carlos Santana, and the Choice of a Generation
This was my follow-up, in which I pointed out that overall, major-league catchers were tied for the fifth-best offensive season for the position since 1950. At the time, catchers were hitting for a .257 TAv. They actually finished at .258 despite Pierzynski's "I'm old and tired" act, putting the season total in a tie (at least to three decimal places) with 1964 for the fourth-best catcher-hitting season in the True Average era.

The question I raised of whether this is the last gasp for offensive catchers as teams are able to quantify the importance of defense behind the plate remains open, and will remain open until long after you've all forgotten who I am, but it will be fun to see if the 2013 catcher group, whoever that includes, can go back-to-back the way I pointed out the 1963-64 and 1970-71 catchers did. Keep an eye out!

Regret level: 1/10

September 6, 2012, How the Grinch Stole Strasmas
This was where I posited that the Stephen Strasburg shutdown decision may be seen to have a moral dimension and not merely a baseball-operations one. Then this happened

So I'm declaring victory. I'm also declaring a new version of Godwin's Law: as a Twitter discussion about baseball grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Stephen Strasburg approaches one.

Regret level: 3/10

September 13, 2012, Defense in the 2012 Pennant Races
This is where I calculated run values based on our defensive efficiency and PADE stats and pointed out how important the excellent defense of teams like Oakland and Washington was. Given some of the key defensive miscues and general sloppiness we've seen this postseason, I don't know whether to declare myself prescient for calling attention to the value of defense or to be annoyed that I didn't at least mention the game-changing possibilities of key defensive plays in the small-sample universe of the pennant race and playoffs.

Regret level: 4/10

September 20, 2012, Introducing the Bloop Factor
This is where I calculated the bloopiest players in all of baseball. From this vantage point, I can add that just one of the 10 bloopiest players made the playoffs (Marco Scutaro), while four of the bottom 10 did. Granted, three of those four were on the A's, but still.

Regret level: 1/10

September 27, 2012, Free to Be We
This is where I weighed in on the question of whether fans should say "we" in reference to their teams, wrapped it in a book review, and, I want to strongly emphasize, came to the conclusion that I can not validly draw any lines on the "we" issue. I've been calling the Giants "we" for the last three days and none of you can stop me.

Regret level: We're not sure yet.


There were two more pieces, but they both appeared after the regular season ended. There's also this piece, but I'm not anywhere near a good enough mathematician, logician, philosopher, or hippie to plumb those depths. My Average Regret Level (ARL) is already hard enough to calculate without worrying about recursion.

Jason Wojciechowski is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

3 comments have been left for this article.

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