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October 2, 2003

Can Of Corn

Mail Call

by Dayn Perry

Into the bag o' mail...

Here's one regarding my column on the VORP breakdown of the Red Sox:

I think an interesting follow-up would be to compare the % of VORP of the Epstein era additions to the % of team salary that they comprise. I think this is an appropriate, albeit rough, way to look at the relative contributions as all teams, even big market teams, have a set amount of resources to employ and the real question is what value you get for those resources. I imagine that by this measure, the Epstein additions will drastically outshine the Duquette holdovers.

-- J.F.
J.F, you make a good point. And it's one I would've addressed the first time around had I not changed column topics about an hour before my deadline. Let's get to it...

                                 Percent of                    Percent of
                        VORP     Team VORP   Combined Salary   Payroll
Epstein Additions       150.2    28.6        $27,438,167       26.3
Non-Epstein Additions   374.7    71.4        $76,939,677       73.7

As you can see, the Epstein additions consume, by a narrow margin, less payroll relative to their VORP contributions. Stated another way, here's the "Cost-per-VORP" comparison...

                        $/VORP
Epstein Additions       $182,677.54
Non-Epstein Additions   $205,336.74

Advantage, Epstein.

Lots of mail pursuant to the Game Scores 2.0 piece...

Dayn,

Yesterday Kerry Wood shutout the Mets who fielded a lineup that was major league only because the players were allowed to wear Mets uniforms. Shouldn't the game scores somehow represent the lineup a pitcher faces. A Pedro or Mulder shutout of the Yanks full-strength lineup simply can't have the same game score as Wood's "masterpiece" yesterday. BTW, the PCL champion Sacramento Rivercats (Crosby, Koonce, Grabowski, German, Edwards, et. al.) fielded a better lineup than the Mets yesterday. Check the Cats' MEQs.

Regards,

H.W.
Ideally, H.W., there would such a variable, but that would just about 86 any ease-of-calculation appeal game scores might have. But the idea is certainly correct: not all outings, be they gems or disaster starts, are created equal. (For instance, take a gander at the cast of forgettables Eric Milton mowed down in his 1999 no-hitter.) It's not quite germane to game scores, but Keith Woolner's Pitcher's Quality of Batters Faced reports are highly instructive in this regard.

Not that anyone at BP seems against needlessly complicating things, but wouldn't it be simpler (and achieve the same end) just to subtract 5 points for every run (regardless of the source) and then dock the pitcher an additional two points for every home run allowed?

-- S.R.
Actually, I'm the only one here with an undying fondness for needlessly complicating things. It's probably the residue of having too many cat-owning girlfriends in my past. But, yeah, if you like things simple, your recommendation is a sound one and a frequent one.
Dayn --

Re: your new Game Scores 2.0 formula: As long as you're trying to make it a truer accounting of the pitcher's performance, you ought to avoid BJ's oversight and add a penalty for HBP, same as for unintentional walks. Once upon a time, maybe, the HBP was rare enough not to matter, but today it's a bigger part of the game (cf. Kerry Wood's 21st HBP yesterday). Otherwise, 2.0 seems like a thoughful revision.

-- Bob Allen
Gracias, Bob. Yup, there should be some penalty for the HBP. Since it's not as egregious of a "command" sin as the dread walk, we'll knock off a point from now on.
Dayn-

Always nice to see a reference to Game Scores, one of my favorite junk stats. However, I have to register my complaint with your revisions... for a reason that you so eloquently made clear: you implicitly call Kirk Reuter's 7 inning, 2 run outing "below average"--i.e. below 50. That, frankly, is silly, DIPS or no DIPS. Look, Game Scores aren't supposed to be predictive...as you say, its a junk stat. Refining it as you have might indeed reflect what we now (think) we know about pitching ... but the one thing I definitely know is that 2 runs over 7 is not below average.

Keep up the good work and thanks,

-- E.G.
A heady missive from E.G. Part of my motivation in revising game scores was to make it more predictive in nature. Yes, game scores as originally conceived are designed as a reflective measure-one that gauges the quality of something already done, without strong regard for what that something means for the future. Game scores and GS 2.0 are different tools in this regard. If you're handing out the Cy Young, use the old one. If you're wondering whether to ink a certain pitcher to a contract, use the new one. As for Rueter, he defies a litany of different statistical systems; that he's doing it to this one is neither surprising nor condemning.
I have a simple question, which has to do with assumptions about the pitcher's degree of control over balls in play. I have not seen any study that closely examined whether pitchers have control over slugging percentage on balls in play, and specifically on isolated slugging percentage. Surely they must have at least a bit more if not a lot more control over this, if only because a lot of doubles are in fact merely home runs interrupted by a wall or fence--and pitchers do seem to have control over the number of home runs they yield.

So, 2 questions: has this issue been studied, and if not why not. And if it is agreed that pitchers have a fair amount of control over isolated slugging on balls in play, should your game score rules be amended so that, for instance, a single is a -2 and a double or triple is a -4?

Thanks,

-- J.H.
The short answer is, yes, pitchers do exert some control over slugging percentage. The first and obvious example is the home run, which, in accordance with the tenets of DIPS (forgetting for the moment that I believe DIPS modestly overstates its case), is one of those things for which the pitcher is responsible. Then there is the pitcher's groundball-flyball tendencies. Groundballers tend to have lower opposition slugging averages but higher opposition batting averages. For flyballers, the opposite is true.

Now on to the All-Disappointment Team...

Mike Williams is an excellent choice as the closer on your All-Disappointment team, but as a Phillies fan, it doesn't seem right that he can't share the award with fellow "no longer a strict closer" and teammate Jose Mesa. Mesa's 6.14 ERA isn't as close to his 10th-percentile PECOTA projection (6.62) as Williams' 6.23 ERA is to his (6.34), but you have to give Mesa some extra points for being much farther away from his 25th-percentile projection (3.89) than Williams (4.71). I'm sure it was a tough choice, but as close as these guys are it seems unfair to reward one more than the other. :-)

-- G.S.
I'm loath to mount any sort of rousing defense for Jose Mesa, but I will say that Mike Williams, unlike Mesa, was actually an effective pitcher as recently as 2002. Add to that Williams' criminally bad 0.95 K/BB ratio, and I stand by my selection. You can make a case that Mesa was the worse pitcher of the two, but I maintain that Williams was the more disappointing.

Ladies and gents, Richard Griffin...

Of course, the biggest irony in Griffin's article is that, like most 'journalists', he didn't do any actual homework on what he was saying. Claiming that SABR is packed with statistical analysts is a lot like claiming that the Natural Resources Defense Council is packed with Halliburton board members.

SABR has been around a long time, and has _always_ consisted mostly of baseball fans who delight in a more narrative approach to the game. If they had any statistical fixations, it was being able to recite the batting averages of favorite players. The 'research' referred to in the organization's name was invariably *historical* research--identifying unknown or pseudonymous players from the early days, tracking down box scores and descriptions of games, compiling a log of all home runs ever hit, etc.

It's still pretty much that way. Yes, there is a minority of hardcore analysts, and they have their own newsletter. But SABR is still very much a social organization of old-school baseball fans, where Griffin would probably feel quite comfortable (once he got his head out of his ass). Of course, the reason he didn't *know* that is the same reason he doesn't get it about analysis of baseball performance -- failure to do the necessary homework.

-- David Tate
David, you're spot-on. I'm not a member of SABR, but the hatchet job pulled on them by Griffin in his piece was, to quote Rich Levin, "reprehensible journalism." SABR is a varied collection of fans of every stripe and inclination, and don't let the fact that Griffin (or, "Canadian Gollum" as I like to call him) indulged in some handy stereotypes color anyone's impression of the organization.
DEAR SIR,

URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL.

I AM MARIAM ABACHA, WIDOW OF THE LATE NIGERIAN HEAD OF STATE, GEN. SANI ABACHA. AFTER HE DEATH OF MY HUSBAND WHO DIED MYSTERIOUSLY AS A RESULT OF CARDIAC ARREST, I WAS INFORMED BY OUR LAWYER, BELLO GAMBARI THAT, MY HUSBAND WHO AT THAT TIME WAS THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA, CALLED HIM AND CONDUCTED HIM ROUND HIS APARTMENT AND SHOWED HIM FOUR METAL BOXES CONTAINING MONEY ALL IN FOREIGN EXCHANGE AND HE EQUALLY MADE HIM BELIEVE THAT THOSE BOXES ARE FOR ONWARD TRANSFER TO HIS OVERSEAS COUNTERPART FOR PERSONAL INVESTMENT.

ALONG THE LINE, MY HUSBAND DIED AND SINCE THEN THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN AFTER US, MOLESTING, POLICING AND FREEZING OUR BANK ACCOUNTS AND EVEN MY ELDEST SON RIGHT NOW IS IN DETENTION. MY FAMILY ACCOUNT IN SWITZERLAND WORTH US$22,000,000.00 AND 120,000,000.00 DUTCH MARK HAS BEEN CONFISCATED BY THE GOVERNMENT. THE GOVERNMENT IS INTERROGATING HIM (MY SON MOHAMMED) ABOUT OUR ASSET AND SOME VITAL DOCUMENTS. IT WAS IN THE COURSE OF THESE, AFTER THE BURIAL RITE AND CUSTOMS, THAT OUR LAWYER SAW YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS FROM THE PUBLICATION OF THE NIGERIAN BUSINESS PROMOTION AGENCY. THIS IS WHY I AM USING THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SOLICIT FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION AND ASSISTANCE TO HELP ME AS A VERY SINCERE RESPONSIBLE PERSON. I HAVE ALL THE TRUST IN YOU AND I KNOW THAT YOU WILL NOT SIT ON THIS MONEY.

I HAVE SUCCEEDED IN CARRYING THE FOUR METAL BOXES OUT OF THE COUNTRY, WITH THE AID OF SOME TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL, WHO STILL SHOW SYMPATHY TO MY FAMILY, TO A NEIGHBOURING COUNTRY (ACCRA-GHANA) TO BE PRECISE. I PRAY YOU WOULD HELP US IN GETTING THIS MONEY TRANSFERRED OVER TO YOUR COUNTRY. EACH OF THESE METAL BOXES CONTAINS US$5,000,000.00 (FIVE MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ONLY) AND TOGETHER THESE FOUR BOXES CONTAIN US20,000,000.00 (TWENTY MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ONLY). THIS IS ACTUALLY WHAT WE HAVE MOVED TO GHANA. THEREFORE, I NEED AN URGENT HELP FROM YOU AS A MAN OF GOD TO HELP GET THIS MONEY IN ACCRA GHANA TO YOUR COUNTRY. THIS MONEY, AFTER GETTING TO YOUR COUNTRY, WOULD BE SHARED ACCORDING TO THE PERCENTAGE AGREED BY BOTH OF US.PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS MATTER IS STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL AS THE GOVERNMENT WHICH MY LATE HUSBAND WAS PART OF IS STILL UNDER SURVAILLANCE TO PROBE US.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME THROUGH MY FAMILY LAWYER AS INDICATED ABOVE AND ALSO TO LIAISE WITH HIM TOWARDS THE EFFECTIVE COMPLETION OF THIS TRANSACTION ON TEL/FAX N0:xxx-x-xxxxxxx AS HE HAS THE MANDATE OF THE FAMILY TO HANDLE THIS TRANSACTION.

THANKS AND BEST REGARD

MRS. MARIAM ABACHA
Thanks for contacting me, Mrs. Abacha, with this lucrative business opportunity. I'm sorry to hear of your misfortunes. I'll forward you all of Mr. Huckabay's relevant contact and bank account information. Thanks for reading!
Related Content:  A's,  The Who,  Sabr,  Hatchet,  A.J. Griffin

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