Dayn's trip to an NFL preseason game left him with more questions than answers about football's popularity compared to baseball.
For the last several years it's been neither novel nor subversive to suggest that football has replaced baseball as the national pastime. What's more interesting is the popularity gap that's developing between the NFL and, well, everything else. I recently had lunch with a prominent sports editor, and he opined that forthcoming coverage in the mainstream sports media is going to reflect this divide: "There's the NFL," he said, "and all the other sports occupy lower tiers."
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After last week's column, Dayn got plenty of mail about his new Triple Crown. So, let's try this again.
In last week's column, I proposed a revised hitter's Triple Crown, one that made notional improvements upon the current troika of batting average, home runs and RBI. I chose on-base percentage, slugging percentage and plate appearances as the components of the New and Improved Triple Crown (NITC). Well, the inclusion of plate appearances raised many a hackle among readers, and when that happens it's usually a sign I've fouled something up.
While the noise traditionally gets made around batting average, home runs, and RBI, Dayn wonders if there should be a triple crown that rewards less problematic offensive performance.
Normally, an isolated week's worth of plate appearances wouldn't merit any sort of mention, but, as you know, Lee's in pursuit of the Triple Crown this season, so even his short-term vicissitudes are of interest. Lee's recent struggles have certainly hurt his chances of becoming the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead his league in batting average, home runs and RBI; he's now tied with Miguel Cabrera for the lead in batting average, trailing Andruw Jones in homers and lagging Carlos Lee and Albert Pujols in RBI. So his chances are most assuredly fading.
The starting pitching troika of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt have vaulted the Astros into contention. Dayn breaks down where the threesome ranks all -time.
Coming into the 2005 season, the Houston Astros had lost middle-of-the-lineup forces Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran, while franchise bulwarks Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were another year older. On a park-adjusted basis, the '04 Astros, who made it to Game 7 of the NLCS, didn't have a terribly imposing offense, and now that unit was all the weaker. Indeed, this year's model leads the Wild Card chase despite ranking only 11th in the NL in runs scored.
Too often, teams ignore granular park effects when it comes to putting together a lineup. According to Dayn, it's not just where you play, but from which side you play.
The (excruciatingly obvious) recognition that environment affects the game on the field has made impressive inroads in recent years. It's not uncommon these days to hear rank-and-file fans or mainstream analysts paying qualitative heed to this notion, which is a good thing. In seamhead circles, most commonly this discussion takes the form of park effects, which, as you know, entails making statistical calibrations to reflect the tendencies of a particular ballpark. After all, a run scored in Dodger Stadium in 1968 isn't the same as one scored in the Baker Bowl in 1932 or Coors Field circa 1998.
Dodger GM Paul DePodesta is taking a lot of heat for the team's struggles. But what effects have his moves actually had? Dayn's got the scoop.
It's a stretch to say that the recent failures have made DePodesta a lightning rod for criticism; after all, he was a lightning rod from the moment he was hired to replace Dan Evans. The L.A. print media was skeptical of DePodesta, not because of any nuanced understanding of his management style, but rather because of his prominent role in that bete noir of the mainstream, the Oakland A's front office. When DePodesta jettisoned beloved catcher Paul Lo Duca as part of the trade that landed Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi, the animus toward his decidedly non-humanist lever-pulling increased. In the coming months, Shawn Green was traded away and Adrian Beltre was allowed to walk after the team made only a perfunctory effort to re-sign him. Suffice it say, many among the print media haven't warmed to, as they see it, DePo's treating the franchise like his personal erector set.
The Washington Nationals are on pace to have unprecedented success for a team with their run differential. Look deeper, though, and you see some reasons why they've outplayed their runs scored and allowed.
Since 1900, 90 teams have won at least 100 games in a season. Those 90 teams had an average run differential of +214.9. The worst run differential by a 100-win team belongs to the 2004 Yankees, who finished with a +89 mark. Only two other teams, the '69 Mets and '70 Reds, have posted run differentials of worse than +100 while still winning 100 games for the season. If the Nats were able to reach the century mark in victories while burdened by a negative run differential it would be, suffice it to say, stretching the depth and breadth of improbability.
Dayn Perry has a look at players contending for last place in all three Triple Crown categories while examining the mystery of the Guzmack.
A slightly rarer and thoroughly less distinctive honor is what we might call the "Anti-Triple Crown," i.e., when a batter with a qualifying number of plate appearances finishes last in the league in batting average, home runs and RBI.
Jason Giambi is so slow (How slow is he?) that he just might have the emptiest .384 OBP in the majors. Dayn takes a look.
I'm not so sure. It may be surprising that Giambi, despite toting around a lofty OBP, playing for the third-best offense in baseball and being slated for more than 450 plate appearances, is on pace to score only 47 runs on the season. The weaknesses of counting stats like runs scored are legion and well known in these quarters, but they do have meaning at the margins. This is one of those margins. While Giambi's ineptitude when it comes to touching home plate isn't historically unprecedented, it's still pretty grim. Let's look at some numbers.
Who got the better of the recent trade that sent Tomo Ohka to Milwaukee and Junior Spivey to Washington? Dayn has the answer, and it's not what you might guess.
Recently, the Nationals and Brewers pulled off a fairly engaging swap that sent second baseman Junior Spivey from Milwaukee to Washington in exchange for starter-cum-reputed malcontent Tomokazu Ohka. The trade is interesting for a number of reasons, but mostly because Brewers GM Doug Melvin is quietly one of the best dealers around, and the Nats are surprise contenders in the muddled NL East.
Dayn revisits an older column, where he declared B.J. Upton superior to David Wright. Almost a year later, does he still feel the same way?
At present, Upton is toiling at Triple-A Durham and hitting .289 AVG/.372 OBP/.418 SLG after 59 games. There's long been speculation that he'll be moved from short to a less exacting position, and while he's still manning shortstop for the time being, he does have 25 errors on the season. That miscue total isn't a stinging indictment for a 20-year-old, but I do question whether the organization has the patience and vision to let Upton fully test his mettle at the position.