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Nice article and analysis. It also got me thinking of <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=22039">Bob Forsch</a></span>, a long time Cardinals starter whose statistics are mind boggling in today's context. Pitching in the 70s and 80s, he racked up a similar Baseball Reference WAR with a similar <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=ERA" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('ERA'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">ERA</span></a>+ to Burkett, while striking out 3.6 batters per nine innings.
The Cardinals inducted him into the team Hall of Fame.
So that explains why I can't find the chapter about "mangers."
I, too, by the way, used to play Atari chess.
I do not mind extra inning games--I have never seen them as a problem. But the steady increase in the length of baseball games has caused them simply not to work for me. I like baseball, but I simply don't have the time it takes to watch a game on television too often. I certainly can't devote the time it takes in a week to play a whole post season series.
I am a Cardinals fan. I was a bit surprised by the 75 wins, but I did not think this was a good team. Curious as to the components that went into the projection, I looked over the player projections, and for the hitters, I did not see any that seemed particularly off. I do think it may, in fact, be a bit optimistic about Peralta.
It seems a bit more pessimistic on some of the starting pitching, particularly <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Carlos+Martinez">Carlos Martinez</a></span>, than I would be. But overall it is not a great staff. The manager is certainly not a plus, either.
I took my college-aged son to a a couple of Cardinals/Cubs games last year, and I explained to him the young stars we were seeing, the people who he might see with his own son ten years in the future, or might end up in the Hall of Fame. He noted that everyone I pointed out was a Cub. And that is pretty much the Cardinal's problem in a nutshell.
I want to note that I have been reading <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/column/transaction_analysis/">Transaction Analysis</a> articles on the site for a very long time. I understand these can be difficult to write.
Today's was well written--informative, witty, and stylistically well done. Just wanted to tip my cap before resuming with my day. Thanks!
Nicely done article.
Where is the love for <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=30357">Bob Walk</a></span>? He was not often a reliever, but you can't beat the name.
1981--Ozzie Smith for <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=29783">Garry Templeton</a></span>. That is long enough ago it may not be relevant anymore, though. But it was a trade of established shortstops. This sort of thing is remarkably rare.
I think the plight of minor leaguers in terms of compensation is compounded by how teams "control" players for a considerable length of time. While the whole precariat phenomenon of late capitalism is daunting, many members of the precariat at least have the option to pursue changing employers. For example, and a poorly paid adjunct faculty member at one university has the option of seeking full time employment from any other university (they might not succeed, but at least they can try). In short, if they don't like their pay and treatment, they can at least explore better alternatives. But in baseball, the anti-trust exemption makes the whole situation much worse. Poor pay and treatment and no ability to seek employment elsewhere in an industry should be completely unacceptable.
Interesting. I have no deep thoughts to add, but I wanted to note this was an interesting solution to this problem, and while technical, written up in an understandable way. Accessibility can be a real challenge in a piece like this, and you met the challenge as a writer.
"with a healthy pitching staff" is a pretty important qualifier in your post.
For example, you mention the impact that a full season from Garcia could have. Yes, it could. However, if Garcia pitches the full season it would be the first time since 2011. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 12 starts a season. If someone set the "over/under" for starts by Garcia at 28, I doubt they would find many takers for the over.
Wacha, Martinez, Gonzales, and Cooney also all have significant health risks. Pitchers with recent shoulder problems have a high risk of missing time, and Martinez, Gonzales, and Cooney have all recently had shoulder problems. While the Cardinals are not counting on Cooney and Gonzalez, if they lose any starting pitchers (and everyone loses pitchers), they will need them. If Garcia, Martinez, Cooney and Gonzalez are all hurt by July 1st, this team will be scrambling. They can't even option Lyons to AAA to stretch him out to start. While I do not think this will happen, I'm not sure it is much more unlikely than Garcia being healthy for a full year.
And the odds of Grichuk being better than Heyward? Grichuk's 90th percentile projection is 3.3 <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=WARP" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('WARP'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">WARP</span></a>. Heyward's 20th percentile projection is 3.2 WARP. So yes, this is possible, but unlikely.
Lackey versus Leake? Lackey's 50th percentile projection is 2.1 WARP. For Leake to exceed that, Leake would have to exceed his own 70th percentile projection.
As a Cardinals fan, I agree with pretty much everything in here. As far as the <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=PECOTA" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('PECOTA'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">PECOTA</span></a> projection of 81 wins, I think it is about right.
The team seems to have a lot of uncertainty, though, with a high variability in possible outcomes. There are many question marks in the rotation, too. It would not shock me if things went right and they won 88 games, though. It also would not shock me if they won 75 games. If forced to choose, I would pick the under on PECOTA's 81 wins.
To put it another way, I've seen interviews with <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=46522">Colby Rasmus</a></span>. Your analysis might describe how his agent might be looking at the situation, but Rasmus did not strike me as someone who would go about making a decision in this way. He did not seem terribly complex or analytical.
I do not mean this in a negative way--I liked him when he was with the Cardinals and always hoped he would find a place where he could be happy and having fun playing baseball.
I think it is relevant that he has a history of not being happy. He was reportedly miserable in St. Louis and reportedly ended up unhappy in Toronto. If he really is enjoying Houston, well, there is certainly value in not hating going to work every day, and I get the impression this means more to him than most people. He is getting enough money here, the marginal value of the extra money versus leaving the first place he has been happy makes this an easy decision.
I understand we are talking small sample sizes, but in Kozma and Cruz's case, they have a career of weak hitting. All three are rusty, which is not helping them. Then there is the "pinch hitting" penalty.
He is bad tactically. In his defense, however:
1. He had no decent pinch hitting options. While any of them would be an upgrade over Martinez, none are very appealing. Who would he go with? Bourjos has been very cold lately (.077 in the second half) and says he does not feel right at the plate. Kozma is hitting .157 for the year, and Cruz .179. Collectively, they are hitting .109 in the second half. I don't normally use batting average, but these are terrible. Martinez has hit .167 for this career. Do I think <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Carlos+Martinez">Carlos Martinez</a></span> is actually a better hitter than any of the three? No. But I am not clear how much better a rusty Kozma or Bourjos is right now.
2. His bullpen has been worked very hard over the course of the year. He is under pressure to use some of his relievers less.
I think to some extent one problem here is the extremely weak bench that the team has, leaving with Matheny little in the way of options. It speaks volumes that Garcia was brought up after this.
I wonder, if in the dark days in Detroit when Dombrowski was interviewing for the job, what would happen if someone could see the future and say to ownership "If you hire this man, this will be the team's record under him. This is the number of first place finishes, World Series appearances, MVP awards, CY Young Awards, and Triple Crowns the team will win under his leadership."
So if ownership knew all of things, would they have hired him, or would they hope they could pick someone who could do better? Given how bad the team was at that time, I'm pretty confident they would have hired him. That means he did his job well.
Now, the lack of World Championships might have been an issue, so I left that out. But I think ownership would have been ecstatic knowing what he would achieve.
Now, once you start winning every year, then you get all concerned about how you do in the playoffs, how many World Series you win, etc. These are the complaints that people only have about consistently successful teams. The fact that people have these complaints about the Tigers meant that he turned a very bad franchise around.
To paraphrase <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=23373">Whitey Herzog</a></span>, losing the World Series every year would be a nice problem to have.
Thanks for all of this work. Very interesting!
While I understand the need to set policies to prevent this in the future, the reality is that organizations have very little ability to control the actions of their employees. There is nothing a GM can do to prevent an entry level employee on their home computer from trying to hack another team.
You are better off punishing the sins of individuals at the individual level and the sins of organizations at the organizational level. Punishments the effect the long term competitiveness of the team, such as lost draft picks--should be reserved for organizational problems--not the actions of a few rogue employees.
To look at it in other terms, when we discover that pitchers on a team are cheating by illegally using pine tar, the pitchers are punished. When we discover that players on a team are cheating by taking forbidden performance enhancing drugs, the players are punished. No one says that the Brewers should lose a draft pick for the actions of <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Ryan+Braun">Ryan Braun</a></span>.
In baseball, we punish individuals, not teams. I disagree that the team, not individuals, should be punished.
A lot of nice writing in this. Too much to single out any one or two things. There was a period several years ago I was considering not renewing my BP subscription. For the last few years, it has been an easy decision to renew. Great work.
Great article! Of my favorites. My one question is, how confident can we be that Yelich's splits are a result of his efforts and not simply random noise due to sample size?
Nice job. I'd also think player development/coaching/management team culture could be other correlation problems. Factors that cause one young player not to pan out could cause many of them not to.
For example, I assume a particularly bad hitting coach could derail multiple young hitters.
I am reminded of a story Donald Norman tells in "The Design of Everyday Things" relating to all of the engines in a four-engine passenger jet failing in a brief period of time during a flight.
He notes that statistically it is so unlikely for a jet engine to fail, that all four engines on a jet airplane failing within a brief time period on the same flight is almost unthinkable.
However, if the same mechanic services all four engines, and he is doing something wrong, the odds of all four failing in the same flight at almost the same time is very high.
On the Astros: May, many years ago in a computer sim league I slyly built a team around what was then an undervalued asset--lower average power hitters who walked and struck out a fair amount.
Maybe it was simply a flaw in the sim, but the team did not do well offensively. They players hit like they were supposed to, but their run scoring was not good. The main problem seemed to be advancing runners. With a guy on second and 1-out, for example, neither a strikeout nor a walk or very useful in scoring the runner. My impression was that at some point, a team can go too far in this direction.
If I had the time, I'd run this with a modern sim and test this.
I think their are implications for fantasy baseball as well.
One major challenge in fantasy baseball is everyone competes with equal resources and generally similar information. Recognizing which projections are most reliable and least reliable is useful for owners.
For example, in a draft, an owner may be realizing that he is running short on home runs, and without luck, will not be competitive. Given the choice between drafting two similar players, each projected to hit 15 home runs, the player with the greater variability in outcome is the better choice if he really needs 20 home runs from that position.
The Marlins' first basemen ranked 18th in the league in OPS? That is pretty brutal in a 15-team league.
Nice write up.
As a Cardinals fan, I would be surprised to see Jay open 2015 with the Cardinals. They clearly need to move a few outfielders. Holliday is probably not going anywhere. The Cardinals have younger, cheaper alternatives to Jay, and his trade value might never be higher.
There you go, messing our narratives up with logic again!
If I flip a coin and call "heads" twice, and it comes up tails both times, how do I fix this problem?
Is the problem that the coin is somehow a choker who can't come through or is not properly constructed for high pressure situations like this? Should I go out and get a new coin? If I was flipping a quarter, should I simply get a new quarter, or do I need a different type of coin, like a half dollar? Or should I maybe try to get a Cuban coin or Japanese coin and see if that fixes the problem?
Or should I be replaced as the coin flipper? Perhaps I lack what it takes to flip and call coins properly. Maybe we need someone who can handle the pressure. Should they be right handed or left handed?
Or should we enter a rebuilding phase, where both I and the coin are replaced?
I do wonder, though, how much we'll ever be able to change the mind of mainstream fans and many pundits.
Human beings like to see meaning in events (I know psychologists have a word for this). And human being like drama and narratives. And some pundits are being paid to make things seem exciting--this is entertainment.
The gritty Redbirds rising to the occasion once again, or the pitcher who lacks guts for the postseason, or the wily Cardinals stealing signs, all make for better copy and a more gripping narrative, than "And then once again Clayton Kershaw was a victim of the vagaries of BABIP. Tune in to game 5 and watch to see if random chance will allow the Cardinals to once again defeat Kershaw. Only on Fox Sports 1!"
It seems to me that there is a fundamental tension between those who want baseball to be about entertaining stories, drama, and character, and those who want to scientifically analyze and understand it. It doesn't have to be a dichotomy for everyone, but for some people, it probably always will be..
Oh, I want to note that I have appreciated this series of articles all year.
While I understand your argument, I tend to disagree. For years I have gone with discount closers. The trick is getting multiple closers at good prices (I doubt Joe Nathan ever would have gone cheap enough for me to pick him up, for example).
Closers have high turnover, and any closer has a lot of risk attached to them. Picking up multiple discount closers spreads the risk across multiple players. Yes, Craig Kimbrel is less risky than David Robertson. But Kimbrel is far from a sure thing. If Kimbrel goes down (and he likely will someday, given the typical shelf life of closers), you have a lot of eggs in that basket. If you spend the same money on, say, David Robertson and Steve Cishek, you have three outcomes:
1. A decent chance to get more saves than you would with Kimbrel.
2. A chance one of them flames out, and you still have one closer
3. A chance both of them flame out. If you draft right, this is not too high of a chance.
I'm guessing there is a greater chance of getting more saves with them than you would with spending the same amount of money on Kimbrel.
This year at I went with four relievers (3 discount closers and a handcuff).
(The Axford/Allen combination cost very little). Early in the season I picked up Jake McGee (I think it was around when I cut Axford). I have been very competitive in saves. This strategy has worked for me most of the time I try it.
It depends on league, but it works for me.
First Billy Beane wrote a book about how smart he is, and now he is writing a column to brag again!
But seriously, well done.
Universities face much the same problem with 18-25 year olds and are increasingly devoting resources to it.
As I was growing up, my father listened to the Cardinals games on radio every night (this was back when few games were on television). Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were a constant presence every summer evening in our house. To me, they were baseball. They were the main way one experienced baseball games.
However, I am a baseball fan because of Harry Caray. Growing up on a farm in Illinois, my father would listen to the radio as he performed work on the farm. One day, as he searched for something to listen to, his radio dial came upon Harry Caray on a Cardinals broadcast. My father did not know much about baseball, but Caray's energy and enthusiasm convinced my father that this was something he should listen to. At the end of the broadcast, Harry invited the listeners to tune in to what Harry was certain would be another great game the next day. My father tuned in the next day, and on what was I'm sure "a beautiful day for baseball," he was enthralled as Harry enthusiastically described yet another epic game. After several days of listening to Harry talk about baseball as the greatest thing in the world, my young father was convinced. Such was the power of Harry Caray that his infectious enthusiasm that long ago day bred three generations of fans in my family alone.
I think the "Winner" of the Cardinals and red Sox trade hinges on Allen Craig.
If Craig bounces back, then the Red Sox came out ahead. However, he may be done. The Red Sox will be paying him $25.5 million dollars from 2015-2017, plus a $1 million buyout.
This season, Craig has declined across the board offensively. Craig’s BB%, B/K rate, GB% and HR/FB% are all career worsts, and his K% is the worst since his rookie year in 2010.
For most of these this is part of a multi-year trend. The following numbers are for 2012, 2013, and 2014.
K%: 17.3%, 17.8%, 19.3%
GB%: 43.9%, 45%, 56.5%
HR/FB%: 17.1%, 11.2%, 9,9%
The increase in ground ball percentage combined with the dramatic plunge in home run percentage has gutted his power.
Much of his decline was masked last year by an unsustainable line drive percentage (26.9%) fueling in unsustainable BABIP of .368. Without that, his slash stats would not have looked very good.
Worse yet, all of his value is in his bat. He is defensively challenged and a poor base runner.
It is certainly possible that his career is essentially over. People forget that he did not have a major league season with more than 500 at bats until he was 27 years old. Many players who are not regulars until their age 27 season do not have long careers. Star players tend to become regulars well before they are 27.
I wish Craig well and hope he bounces back. But there is a very real chance that the Cardinals simply dumped a $26.5 million sub-replacement level player on the Red Sox. Even if he does bounce back, he may never have bounced back with the Cardinals, with the same coaching and threats to his playing time.
Overall, this is a good article. I'm curious is something like this has also been going on with the Cardinals whose power numbers have been going down and ground ball rates going up.
"Their groundball mark of 50.3 percent this year ranks 27th in the league."
Wow, that is pretty bad for a 15-team league!
Seriously, the meaning is clear, so this was not a big deal, as the number "27" made it clear what you really meant. But if the number had been 15 or higher, it could be really confusing.
What it highlights is that overall, one of baseball's major challenges is its eternal drive to "play it safe" and follow tradition. That a book and motion picture could be written about a team trying out the radical idea of building a team around OBP is indicative of how extremely conservative baseball's culture is. Yes, the crazy idea of using hitters who are better at avoiding making outs! Now the big radical idea is having fielders stand where the batter is likely to hit the ball! That's just insane!
There are many baseball teams without a lot to lose, at least some of the time, yet few of them would ever risk much in the way of going against convention. There will be teams well out of contention on August 1st who could try something different for 2 months and generate some data. They will not do so.
Nice job. But while you referenced Moneyball, how did you get through a whole essay about the A's and not write "Billy Beane" at least once?
Once, long ago, it made sense for baseball writers to determine who goes into the Hall of Fame. We live in a very different world now, and it is clear that it no longer makes sense for them to be the sole gatekeepers of the hall.
Nice article, BTW.
This is a great article.
So one issue to you is the team he is on? So if Mike Trout had been drafted by the Red Sox and was still playing for them this year, he'd be more deserving of the award? But since the Angels had a poor pitching staff, his accomplishments are lessened?
To put it another way, is the award, "The best player whose team's front office did a good job of building the team, whose owner/market is generous on payroll, and whose team had some good breaks, award."? It seems if that is the case, you are largely determining which player wins the award by using performance areas that lie outside of the player's control.
It seems the award is an award for a "Player," so it should be based on the accomplishments of the player. Mike Trout did not construct the Angels, and Miguel Cabrera did not construct the Tigers. So why would those teams' performances determine which deserve the award?
Prior to yesterday's start, Lance Lynn had made 4 postseason starts in his career. In those 4 starts, his ERA after the third inning is 21.60.
This is consistent:
2/3 IP, 4 runs
2/3 IP, 4 runs
1 1/3 IP 2 runs
2 1/3 IP 2 runs
While this is a small sample size, it does not argue that one wants him facing the top of the Boston lineup in the 6th inning of a playoff game. His performance after the third inning in las night's game is consistent with the rest of his career:
2 2/3 IP, 3 runs.
Conversely, he is almost untouchable the first time through a lineup.
I would bet that if you analyze his career regular season starts, most of his earned runs are after the 3rd or 4th inning. If it was me (and it is not), in the World Series I'd pull a Larussa 2011, toss him out there for 3-4 innings and be done with it if the score was close. That is why you have 8 relievers.
I'd rather lose a game by having Seigrist throwing 99 in the 6th than seeing whether Lynn can make it through 6 good innings for the first time in his postseason career, with the top of the Boston lineup coming up.
A couple things matter here:
First, the issue is that his decision also resulted in the two men on base who scored with the home run.
Second, we are analyzing the thought process behind a decision, not the result. Decision making processes and results are different things.
To make a more extreme example: Betting your house, car, and life savings in roulette on 22 is a bad idea, whether the ball lands on 22, a number next to 22, or the other side of the wheel.
I'm a Cardinals fan. I have been baffled by Matheny's handling of pitchers both this postseason and last year's. He leaves his starters in too long again and again. It is infuriating.
He has a team with 8! relief pitchers. Before the postseason Mo made a comment about the lessons learned by Larussa's quick hooks and heavy reliance on relievers in the 2011 postseason, and how the team planned to use this strategy again. Apparently, Matheny was not listening.
Why carry 8 relievers if you are going to leave Kelly and Lynn in to roll through the top and heart of the Boston lineup a third time?
If one lives long enough and works enough places long enough, one sees that there are employees who improve or hinder the culture of their workplaces. In my life, I have seen a few people have tremendous impact on the culture and chemistry of workplaces, impacts that significantly altered the productivity of the people around them. I have seen this happen in workplaces full of talented, well-trained people. I have seen one person tear a department apart, and I have one person pull a department together.
I believe it is commonly accepted in organizations that this is true.
Instead of asking for evidence that team chemistry matters in baseball, let's flip it around. I would like to hear the evidence on why baseball is an exception to most workplaces--why it is a rare workplace where chemistry has no impact.
To be more specific, I'm a Cardinals fan, and this adds a level to watching today's game.
Thanks! This is awesome!
Nice write up.
I am a Cardinals fan, and I expect this to be a close series. The Pirate are a good team.
Yesterday looked lopsided, but Pirates are not really that bad. Any team has a problem winning a game when their starting pitching has nothing, and any team can look bad facing a great starting pitcher at the top of his game.
What happened yesterday says nothing about how Lynn or Cole will pitch. And that's what makes baseball so fun!
Nicely written. Thanks!
Nice write up.
I always learn something when I read BP--oftentimes something astounding. Today I learned the shocking fact that Brad Hawpe was still in baseball. Truthfully, this blew me away.
I'm not mocking Hawpe--I feel sorry for him in some ways. He's looked so done for so long, I had no idea he was still playing.
I know organizations often give players like Hawpe a chance hoping they gain their value back. It would be interesting to study:
1. How often this works
2. Which organizations have more success in doing this (if any)
I know Dave Diuncan used to be considered the patron saint of pitcher reclamation projects....
This is a great feature. Thanks!
Very nice article.
I find baseball games anymore to be pretty terrible on television. They take forever--I rarely have three hours to watch TV on any given day. The camera angles are often poor (let's note show player position, let's focus on close ups of people's faces, because faces are where all of the interesting things happen on a baseball field), and the announcing can be more of a negative than positive.
I'm also in the Eastern time zone, so games (particularly post season ones) go pretty late, and I have to get up early, because I have a job and all, and kids can't stay up that late either, particularly on school nights. My children aren't growing up baseball fans--they pretty much can't watch any of the postseason games.
Baseball in person is a lot better--but it is getting worse, as a large portion of the experience now involves everyone standing around waiting for the commercials to end.
Anyway, it is going to be hard to market a product that is both dominated by the whims of the television networks and so poor on television.
It is also worth noting (and should be obvious, but maybe it is not), that the earlier you spend the money, the longer you have the players purchased. 5-6 months of an average player is going to usually be worth more than 2 months of a better player. Assuming players perform as well as expected, a player you own for 2 months has to be more than 250% better than one you hold for 5 months to pay a bigger return.
Players owned for a shorter period of time also will have more variability in their performance, meaning increased risk.
I would think that as the season goes on, your money is worth less every day. Let's take $100 on opening day. Clearly, if you don't spend it, it is worth nothing the day after the season is over.
But it does not instantly lose all of its value. My guess is it is not worth very much a day before the season ends, or two days, etc.
One could create a formula for how the value of FAAB money decreases each day the season progresses.
This should be used when calculating what to spend on players. $100 on July 1st simply is not worth $100 on April 1st. You've essentially lost money, even if you don't spend it.
I agree, in some cases the players likely have an impact.
Unfortunately, it seems so slippery. With the Cardinals, I remember the explanation for Skip Schumaker's 2012-2013 contract extension was that he was so important in the clubhouse. In fact, he was guaranteed a second year because he was so crucial to the clubhouse.
One new manager and decreased playing time later, and discussion of Schumaker's clubhouse value departed along with Schumaker. Now we have Ty Wigginton, who will fill the valuable clubhouse role.
I guess what is grating is the label is often applied to declining veteran players whose value is otherwise minimal. It seems to be used as an excuse too often--something to say when there is nothing tangibly positive to point to.
Let's take Ty Wigginton (who has been below replacement for a few years, and has a long history of being with terrible teams) who was recently signed, and his clubhouse presence was lauded. Looking at Wigginton, and his career of being handed like a hot potato between bad, terrible, and occasional merely mediocre teams, it is both hard to perceive him as particularly valuable or as valued.
First, I most of us scoff about chemistry, but In my experience at a variety of non-baseball workplaces, I know there are people that can have positive or negative effects on the performance of colleagues. There are people who make other people better. there are people who make other people worse. It stands to reason that this happens in baseball. It probably really helps with some younger players.
That said, it will be hard to measure, and limited. I always want to say to someone arguing for good clubhouse/chemistry players, that perhaps they are a undervalued market ripe for exploitation--"Think, if you build a whole team of people like Skip Schumaker, David Eckstein, Ty Wigginton, and Brandon Inge, how great it would be. I mean, if they each add 5 wins with their personalities, if you get 20 of those guys, they'd be an unstoppable juggernaut of optimistic, winning, playing-the-game-the-right-way, good work habit personalities.
I certainly have the intellectual ability to rank players without BP. I was playing fantasy baseball long before BP existed.
There are two issues here.
I work 50-60 hours a week. While I have the information and brains to put player rankings together, I am low on time. That is part of why I subscribe to the site.
It is not a difficult concept. When I go to a restaurant, I don't go because I am unable to feed myself. I don't go to Subway, for example, because I am baffled by the process of making a sandwich. If I complained of slow service at a restaurant, I would not expect another guest to tell me that I was a whining lazy person, with no right to complain since I have the skills to make a sandwich myself.
My second point is, apparently BP is paying people to write these tier rankings. Which means we are paying for it. Having them produce them after most people's drafts is a waste of time and money. If tiers can't come out until this late, don't put the effort into them. That is not a complaint--I hope these guys don't want to waste their time and would rather spend it doing something useful.
To use the restaurant analogy, if the server brings you your salad after you have eaten the appetizer, the entree, and the dessert, it seems like a complete waste of time and money for everyone, regardless of whether you could have thrown a salad together yourself. And telling the server that people like their salad between the appetizer and the entree is giving helpful feedback.
Okay, my apologies. I should have said more to be more constructive. I honestly thought the problem was obvious, and an explanation would seem insulting, not constructive. Here it is:
Tier rankings are used by people for their drafts. They lose value after the draft date.
The first part of preparing a series of draft preparation articles should be identifying by what date one expects, say, 75% of reader drafts to occur after, and have the series done by at least a day or two before that date. This is hard, because the earlier one does them in Spring Training, the less accurate they will be, so you have to balance it.
Most drafts happen a week or more before the season starts. Many happen on weekends.
When the season starts on Easter Sunday, that is a holiday weekend, and many people will not want to draft then.
So most drafts this year will happen on or before March 24.
A series of pieces presenting basic draft preparation information that completes after this date will not have value for many readers.
The optimal date--and I'm guessing here--to have the series done this year would be between March 13th and 20th. By the 27th, you've missed more than half of drafts. My guess is it would be 80% or more.
Now, I don't do this for a living. So maybe I'm missing something--but that is what I'm thinking after playing fantasy baseball and following it for 25 years. I sincerely admit you guys know things I don't, and I'm sure you make decisions based on information and deadlines I do not know.
To be fair, a large part of my job is putting up with people complaining, and I have to calmly and politely acknowledge the potential legitimacy for all complaints, even annoyingly stupid ones, and then process them. I'm very passionate about what I do, too, and part of that passion involves working hard to identify mistakes so I learn to be better at what I do. And I take complaints as a sign that I may need to alter my practices.
If I was you, how I would have responded to my complaint is like this:
"Thank you for the feedback. We work to do the best job we can. We understand that this was is too late for your draft, and we regret this. As we work on this next year, we'll work to offer features on the best schedule we can. I'm curious, readers, when do many of you hold your drafts?"
And then I'd see what the readers said, and I'd use this information when planning for next year. Maybe I'd learn that the guy complaining was a whining moron and an isolated case. Or maybe I'd learn that I had made a mistake for many readers and could do better next time.
Anyway, this is making a much bigger deal out of something that really, in the grand scheme of things, was a small thing--I saw it as a minor thing worth only a couple of sentences. You guys do nice work. If you're ever in Indianapolis, the first refreshing beverage of your choice is on me.
I appreciate all of you do. I understand you can't do everything at once. I was just noting that this would have been useful earlier. I'm paying for these, and quite frankly, tier rankings after I draft have zero value.
I'm not in a dynasty league. I'm not interested in twitter Q & A's. I am sure someone out there enjoyed these--I know I am not the center of the universe, and I'm glad someone out there enjoyed the dynasty league list.
I wanted a tier list to use as reference for my draft, something I have used for a few years from this site. The dollar values are of some use, but when you need a SP, and you have one minute to make your online draft pick, an auction list is not as useful. I suppose I could spend a couple hours converting it over. I'd rather not--I used to get that from here without having to do that.
I appreciate you guys have been available on Twitter. I'm not sure how that will help me, though, when I need a SP and have 60 seconds to pick a player.
I was giving feedback,thinking professionals appreciated feedback and sometimes use it to make adjustments. Perhaps an acknowledgement that this was noted and would be considered for next year.
What most disappoints me is not that I won't have all the tiers by draft day. What most disappoints me is the apparent lack of interest in feedback. There is no acknowledgement of the problem; instead I'm told I'm given new features I do not want and could have asked a question on Twitter.
You're doing this late, though. You won't be done by my draft date.
Nice, fun article.
I wasn't trying to be picky in saying this. It was a nice piece. I just saw the line about 8 major league seasons, I saw the line about his rookie season being in 2007, and I was wondering what was up.
Felix Hernandez had his rookie season in 2005, not 2007.
Very nice write up.
I always think of Earl Weaver (and to some extent Whitey Herzog) as managers who largely understood by instinct what stat-heads have learned through math. Weaver's book on strategy was fantastic, and it was largely ahead of its time.
Nice piece. I would think that the right veteran (mix of personality, credibility, playing knowledge, and people skills that are best for a certain young player) can probably help a younger player that might need help. I'm sure making it to the major leagues can be an adjustment for some players, as can learning a new role there. Charismatic teammates can probably influence some young players, for good or ill. Some younger players probably already have the right mindset and likely need little help, others are likely mostly immune to peer influence. But there are probably some players that a good veteran, through setting a good example, being friends, or advice, might help.
It also might vary by team. If the team has several bad influences, it might be very important to have some good ones, too. If the team lacks bad influences, it might be less important.
Since this outcome is going to depend on the young player, the veteran, and the overall team environment, my guess is that statistics offer little help with this, as there are too many variable we lack information on and are hard to quantify.
28-year olds "with upside" are worrying, because they also can be labeled "28-year players who, unlike most players at that age, have failed to fully develop."
Lauding 28-year old players for upside is, in other words, celebrating players for what they are failing to do. I can see the lure of upside, but there can be a danger in getting excited about lack of success. For example, what if whatever has made Upton not properly develop also makes his aging curve worse?
Nice write up.
I don't always like the history pieces, but I liked this one quite a bit. Thanks.
One has to credit Luke Scott for demonstrating how a player can have no positive value while compiling a greater than .200 ISP in more than 300 PA. I'd expect it to be fairly difficult to crush the ball that hard and gain that many plate appearances and earn no net value for a team, yet Scott ably did so.
I'm a bit unclear of how PECOTA reaches these odds. Lynn has a substantial advantage in FIP and XFIP. He has a significant home/road split. So does Barry Zito. The Cardinals were quite successful versus left handed pitching this season.
I'm sure I'm missing something, but I'm having trouble seeing this game as a tossup. Any idea of what I am missing?
Too much of the narrative of sports journalism has simply become lazy, fill in the blank writing, offering no insight. It is as if there are a set number of sports stories, and they are being forced to reuse them, changing only the names.
For example, we have ample evidence that Daniel Descalso, in real baseball games at real times that matter, succeeds less than often than most players. We have 838 plate appearances of them. When he gets a big hit against a team in the playoffs, do not write a story about how his grit let him succeed. If that is true, where did his grit go all of the times we've seen him fail? Will this magical grit of his be there tomorrow? Is it something he magically developed just for one game? Could he somehow use this grit more often to become a league average hitter, or can he only use it one post season game a year?
I understand that we'd like our heroes to be special, and some writers know the players and would like to believe good things about them. But this is simply poor writing.
Most teams bunt too much. Bunting a league average amount is too much.
He also bunts at times that are highly questionable tactically--it is often hard to see the logic.
Yes, Matheny bunts quite a bit, often with odd choices, such as Jay.
Interesting article. There are all sorts of implications and factors here, though. For example, much of our behavior is culturally influenced, as is what we value in behavior. I find it likely that US players will more often display traits valued by US culture than players born in other countries.
This becomes obvious in other contexts. In a business meeting in Japan, who would Japanese business people most likely view as displaying the most appropriate business behavior, other Japanese business persons, or a business person from the US acting in a typical US fashion?
Other factors may be due to a selection bias. For example, perhaps MLB tends to, everything else being equal, not value short players. So in order to make up for MLA's bias against short players, successful short players have to work harder than other players to overcome this bias. So in general, due to this bias, short players would have to be harder working to make the majors. So the announcers would merely be accurately noting a difference in personality when they talk about hard working short players.
But to what end? If they spend more on payroll to build upon their current team, will that lead to them being a competitive AL team next year? I doubt it. Given that they will not be good regardless of payroll, how much should they spend on not being good?
Well, if the Asros were going to spend $100 million on payroll next year, given their talent level and the limited free agent market, would that get them anything close to a decent team anyway?
I know computer sims are different from real life, but in a sim like Out of the Park or Baseball Mogul I'd be doing everything the Astros are doing. I wouldn't spend a bunch of money on mediocre veterans and free agents (like the Pirates and Royals used to do) just to run up payroll.
As far as Braun goes, in my experience, fans in St. Louis rarely boo players on either team. It happens, but less often than many other parks. They also will applaud players on opposing teams, particularly if the player used to be a Cardinal.
Nice piece. But this seems pretty much like many other jobs in management, other than dealing with the press. Human problems are human problems, and if you have people reporting to you, this is what you deal with.
This is still a major problem. To help offset this, you can always compare what your staff rates someone versus what the OSA scouting bureau does. When you see a prospect as worth 5 stars and OSA as 1 star, that is a clue you likely are wrong (though sometimes you may correctly see something no one else does, but I have no idea how you know which is which).
But it is infuriating. You can spend a huge fortune on amateur scouting and hire a scouting director with "Legendary" skills, and you still end up with a whole lot of 5 star ratings for dreg players. I don't get it. In real life, while there may be occasional disagreements about a prospect, I don't get the sense that there are many players viewed either as future All-Stars or completely worthless. I sense the discrepancy is less than this.
The reviewer seems to be a real fan of the OOTP series. I would love to hear their thoughts on this. I've played many seasons of the 2011, 2012, and now three of the OOTP 2013 product, and while the interface is much improved, these serious problems seem to persist.
It's a great program, but it still has its quirks. For example, injuries happen incredibly frequently in any but the lowest setting, then they almost never happen. While there are 5 injury settings, 4 are "way more often in real life," and the other is "almost never."
Clearly, you hate St. Louis. You undoubtedly chose alphabetical order to create this listing just so you could omit them in the first entry....
No. But I think we underestimate how players age. Many people say "Well, the back end of the contract will be bad, but he'll still be pretty much the same player for the first half."
I did a simply study of he 10 players most similar to Albert, using BP's similarity scores. I found that the players' average WARP for the age 32 to 35 seasons was 60% of their average WARP for their age 27-30 seasons.
Very nice piece.
As a Cardinals fan, I have felt Albert has been declining for a couple of years. As a baserunner. As a fielder. And as a hitter, all of his numbers have been in decline--batting average, doubles, home runs. Last year he had by far the fewest doubles he ever hit in any season in his career. And he looks like he is putting on weight.
Note, he was still awesome. But less awesome all of the time.
Hitters are always adjusting, and as they age they need to adjust more. I spent a couple of years over on Viva el Birdos arguing that the fans should want Pujols to move on when his contract ran out--he was going to get a contract so big, that it would never work out well. Players comparable to Pujols did not remain consistently productive superstars. After age 31, many never reached the level they were at from age 26-30 ever again. At best, they reached it 1-2 times.
That contract is going to end very badly. It makes me sad. He may well end up a very expensive albatross, dragging down his team for a period of years. A sad end for a great player.
"Do you tread carefully, knowing that some of Bumgarner’s company burned brightly, but burned quickly?"
Even the pitchers that burned quickly were pretty good for the period that will be covered by Bumgarner's contract.
While I doubt they reach 1000 runs, my guess is the odds are better than this system would indicate, as player achievement will happen within the team context and not in isolation.
I'd assume in reality that as more players out perform their projections, even more players would out perform their projections. As offense on a team goes up, I'd assume you'd knock out pitchers faster as they throw more pitches, burn through opposing relievers more, and end up in the soft part of the bullpen more often, as you have bigger leads or wear out bullpens earlier in series.
In short, if the first 4 players on this list each hit their 90 percentile PECOTA, I'm betting it increases the odds of rest over achieving.
I agree. The lists came out to late this year. My draft has already happened.
I don't think there is much of a mystery here. I think Oswalt's desires do not match up with those of the market.
Still, this is a nice piece about an odd situation.
If Bruce Chen had a list of just a few teams he would pitch for and expected to be paid $10 million, he would not be signed, either.
Well put. Once upon a time, I did quite well in fantasy baseball, because I had better information than many other players in my league. Those days are long gone.
Of course human factors are part of a player's performance. But I would guess most players who can't handle pressure never make it to the majors--there is plenty of pressure in high school, college, and the minors.
Too often, we try to make players fit our narratives. Anyone who plays a season of a baseball sim game-by-game see this.
Years ago, I played out a season using the old "Statis-pro" game. I carried Dan Dreissen as a back up first baseman and pinch hitter. Throughout the season, and especially the pennant stretch, Dreissen had big hits for me, including several late inning pinch hit home runs that led to come from behind victories in crucial games down the pennant stretch. When it mattered, his hitting performance far exceeded the numbers on his card. He won me the season.
If this happened in real life, we would marvel at his clutch hitting ability, the strength of character that led to his exemplary ability to always come through when his team needed him.
But in reality, he was a piece of cardboard on a run of good luck in a small sample, with no more character than any other piece of cardboard. After you see enough pieces of cardboard (or collections of code in a computer sim) exhibit by chance the same human tendencies we like to attribute to character, you gain perspective.(That team's dependable go to pitcher in big games was staff ace Jim Clancy, who like a Chris Carpenter or Curt Schilling always rose to give me a great performance on the mound when I needed it).
I'm sure intangibles and character exist in real life--but all too often, when we talk about them, they are simply stories we impose on small samples of data. It's easy to look at my cardboard Jim Clancy mowing down batters in a simulated post season game and realize that was simply luck. When you are dealing with real players, talking to them in the clubhouse or watching them as fans at a game, it is much harder to separate luck from character.
All Matt Thornton demonstrated last year was that a short reliever can have a few consecutive outings that look rough in a boxscore. Anyone who has played a sim knows that can happen by random chance, too.
You make some good points. Especially the blackout policy. I will have nothing to do with any of baseball's video products until this is fixed. I will not pay a large some of money to be able to view a wide variety of games, except for the ones I am most interested in.
They have to fix this.
Very nice piece.
This always drove me crazy about Tony Larussa's Cardinals. He would start a catcher based on perceived defensive value regardless of offense, and then back him up with someone who hit even worse. Some managers can be tremendously inflexible on this. Tony would always carry a ton of pitchers and have a short bench, and one bench slot was always taken up by a backup catcher who didn't really add value in any other tangible way, other than he was someone to catch on the rare days the starter had off.
When ever I complained online, fans would reply "Well, Jason LaRue doesn't play often enough for his bad bat to matter much." Of course, LaRue's lack of value was what caused him not to play much in the first place.
Thanks for articulating this all so very well.
Thanks for a fun piece.
It seems a little odd that, based upon this list, losing WARP to injury seems to have had a strong positive correlation with the success of a team. This is almost the exact inverse of how the teams finished for the year, and if you count winning the World Series as trumping winning the division as a measure of success, it is an exact inverse.
Maybe this is a fluke, or maybe, as you note with Houston, bad teams have less talent to lose to injuries.
I've enjoyed all of these season's end write ups on teams.
Great write up.
Though I agreed that the Cardinals were underdogs in each series, I think people consistently underestimated their chances of winning each series. The team had made improvements which fixed some of their flaws and had gotten their act together later in the season. Being able to move away from a 5-man rotation also helped them. Lastly, any team that leads their league in runs scored has a chance to win any game.
A lot of people viewed them as pushovers going in. I always thought that while a flawed team, they had the ability to be dangerous.
This game was not lost due to Pujols's defense or failures of the pitching staff or LaRussa's use of it. If you told me before the series started that we'd hold Texas to 2 runs in game 2, I would have been ecstatic. The Cardinals scored 1 run. It is hard to win when you only score one run.
I think the move would make more sense if Rhodes was not so bad. I wrote a piece on a blog arguing that Rhodes should not even be on the roster, as he is not good at getting hitters from either side of the plate out anymore. I mean, Jake Westbrook, for one, had more success against left handed batters this year.
I don't always trust LaRussa's opinion on players. He too often favors experience over ability beyond any evidence in performance, and Rhodes (and previously Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista) will be trotted out to honor their years of experience despite their current lack of performance.
I questioned Larussa having Jay bunt. He gave the Rangers an out, guaranteed a double play would end the inning, and took the bat out of the hands of his best hitter (Pujols) in the process. I also wondered why he had Jay bating second against a tough lefty in the first place.
This is a great piece. The writing, subject, approach, significance of findings. Awesome. I'll get the book, and I hope to see more BP pieces like this.
Game 3 is not tonight. Nice write up otherwise.
Sarcasm is notoriously wasted in electronic forums.
I'm not sure if commenting on something's placement as a lead story is hijacking, but if it is, I apologize. If Colin was in any way insulted, I particularly apologize.
A long time subscriber, I've tried posting about my frustration with the site in other comment areas of the site, and I have sent a couple emails. I thought I'd express my frustration with the site one last time before I shuffled on.
Thanks for the reply Steven. Your post in Jay's column must have been since I last checked it. As always, you are the classiest of class acts.
This is what I miss:
I know Colin was not hired to write this sort of piece. But can't someone be?
Then why does BP cover the Yankees series? Because the Yankees don't get enough press coverage elsewhere?
And I'm asking for analysis of the games, not the players. There is a difference.
I appreciate Colin's work. My post was not about him. My post is about what we're not seeing much of on the site anymore. At the end of the day, baseball games are at the heart of baseball analysis. Statistics are useful for what they tell us about baseball games. What I used to like about BP was it had both stat based pieces and pieces that used the statistics to cover the game. The combination was nice
Now, we mainly get the statistics. It's like buying a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that contains ONLY peanut butter. I like peanut butter, but I would still miss the chocolate. Noting that I want some chocolate back in my peanut butter cup in no way disparages peanut butter or those who make it.
Given their large slate of writers, I would hope someone at BP could be assigned to watch a NL postseason series and write about it in an entertaining way that uses the insight that Baseball Prospectus provides.
If they don't have anyone who can do that, they could hire a special guest to cover postseason baseball. There has to be someone out there they can get.
As it is now, I have the disturbing impression that no one at BP is even watching the NL postseason series.
This article is fine, but we're in the middle of an exciting postseason, and we're getting almost no coverage of it here. The lead article is on PITCHf/x? That's the most exciting thing happening in baseball this week? Is this Baseball Prospectus, or the Online Journal of Sabremetrics?
I'm a Cardinals fan, and in the slate of new articles today, we have exactly nothing about that series yet again.
This isn't your fault Colin. But BP, during an exciting postseason, can we find time to give the dry statistical research articles a rest and actually pay attention to the baseball games being played? Even if the PITCHf/x stats announced here are the greatest thing ever, is the postseason the time to launch them? Might baseball fans be focused on something else?
In case I wasn't clear, I LIKED Jay's piece. I want a lot more of this sort of piece on BP. I just would have ALSO liked a similar piece on the Cardinals-Phillies series, including, say, the decision to start Chris Carpenter on short rest for the first time in his career, which is as interesting a topic of discussion as pinch hitting Brett Gardner. But there is no one here to discuss it.
This has always been a problem with BP, as coverage seems to follow the writers' interest more than baseball in general, and it has usually slanted toward the East Coast AL teams. Back in the days of Joe Sheehan, who I admire and miss, he always focused more on the AL and the Yankees. I did a word search, and during the St. Louis Cardinals' peak years, I discovered Joe had more coverage of the Yankees legendary Scott Proctor than he did of the Cardinals Scott Rolen at his peak.
What bothers me more than the bias is the current paucity of the sort of analysis Sheehan and Kristina did. Jay Jaffe is as close as we get anymore, and beggars can't be choosers. So keep it up, Jay!
I'm not sure what BP's mission is anymore, and as the founders and their motivations for founding it move on, I'm not sure if anyone at BP knows either. But clearly, entertaining analysis of all post season games informed by a statistically influenced view clearly is no longer remotely on the agenda. That Game 2 of the Phillies-Cardinals series--a game with plenty worth talking about--merited no coverage makes this pretty clear.
I've been following the Cardinals for 29 years, and I can't remember them ever having the top prospects at two positions in baseball before....
I'm not sure what your argument is here.
I never said that these players were not productive for Larussa. So I'm not sure why you're bringing that up. You beat that straw up pretty good, though.
Larussa did not like Drew as a player because he was not intense enough. Regardless of his numbers. That was my point. I'm not sure what OPS has to due with Larussa not liking Drew's lack of ferocity.
Rolen and Edmonds both got injured, and Larussa saw their injuries as character flaws and drove them out of town.
I think the medical community believes concussions are not a character flaw.
Keith Hernandez got advice from his father, too.
Yes, Templeton refused to not make obscene gestures at the fans. Hernandez refused to snort coke. Ted Simmons refused to move off a position he couldn't play.
Herzog was certainly an unreasonable man.
To some extent this is true.
Whitey would not tolerate drug use on his teams. Players on drugs were told to stop or get traded. Hernandez would not stop. He got traded.
Simmons was a poor catcher. Whitey wanted a better defensive catcher. Simmons did not want to move off catcher. So Whitey cut him. After the trade, Simmons only caught 100 games in a season once more in his career--it wasn't just Whitey that thought Simmons was not an every day catcher.
Running Simmons out because he wouldn't switch off of a position he was terrible at is a bit different than driving JD Drew away because he didn't seem intense enough while playing excellent baseball.
Yes, Whitey always had a couple of questionable guys in scrub roles on the team. He did not, however, make his pet tweener fourth outfielder a starting second basemen.
I'd hope any competent major league manager would recognize Pujols as talented.
Remember, Pujols was not slated to break camp with the team his rookie year. He made the roster because a washed up Bobby Bonilla was hurt. Given his druthers, Larussa wanted to send Albert back down.
Larussa and Duncan seem to get a lot out of certain types of players, ones with certain personalities and approaches to play. Given people they can work with, they can work wonders. I do question whether they are losing their edge, as it has not worked as well the last few years. They have seemed more focused on player attitude than talent or performance. They seem to have little interest in players who do not meet their standards of a "tough" attitude, including a willingness to play through serious injuries. People who don't display the proper attitude are ridiculed and driven out, including people like Edmonds, Rolen, and Drew.
Ultimately, I think anymore Larussa wants a team of 25 players as obsessively intense as he is.
Whitey seemed much less interested in a certain personality, and more in extracting value from players when he could, adapting his game and approach as needed. He wasn't perfect--he mishandled Van Slyke, for example. But many players, with a variety of types, personalities, and approaches, had career years for him.
Again, I have tremendous respect for Larussa and Duncan, but I question if they are still as good as they used to be.
Winning percentage? I thought it was more than just managers who won ball games. But we can talk winning percentages.
Larussa has had good and bad years in St. Louis. From 2000-2005 he had a heck of a peak. I give him plenty of credit for that.
But from 2006 on, despite playing in one of the weakest divisions of baseball, despite sporting one of the best players in baseball, along with supporting stars and frequent Cy Young contenders, Larussa and his Cardinals have sported a .525 winning percentage. The last post season game they won was in 2006. After stumbling into winning the World Series with an 83-win team in 2006, they haven't really done much of anything.
This season, I see a team--one whose roster he has a great deal of influence over--locked in battle with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 3rd place in one of the worst divisions in baseball. I think it is safe to say that someone, somewhere, is not perfect.
As I watched the Rasumus drama play out, I remembered all of the players who Tony Larussa ultimately could not get along with, including Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, JD Drew, and Brendan Ryan.
I also remembered Whitey Herzog, and how he worked hard to extract maximum value from players other teams saw as difficult to get along with or as headcases. Ozzie Smith fought with management in San Diego but flourished working with Whitey. Andujar was a well know for aggravating managers and for being difficult to deal with, but Whitey realized how to work with him and Andujar succeeded. Whitey seemed to respond with wisdom and flexibility when working with players of various personalities. I could go on.
I always appreciated this approach....
I think a variety of moves over the last few years in St. Louis would provide ample room for discussion of whether Larussa does more harm than good. He has done good, and he has strengths, but I think the man also has faults that may be worsening.
Given the level of talent that Pujols possesses, I'm not sure how impressive it was that Larussa recognized him as a major leaguer.
Nice piece. Larussa has players he likes, and players he does not. Rasmus is not one of Tony's guys, and he never will be. When he cam up, Larussa did not like him, and the clubhouse reportedly saw him as someone there to take playing time away from popular teammates. My guess is that he has had a terrible work situation that has harmed his development. He does not seem to be the sort of person who can thrive in a hostile environment.
Nice study, though!
My guess is there is substantial selection bias from the managers which makes it hard to compare the groups. The reason they rode the first group heavier is that they believe they are better pitchers.
After I wrote my response, I thought more about it, and I think the real tragedy of the steroid era is that for a whole generation of players (stars, heroes, role players, and scrubs), we will always look at their statistics and wonder about them. No one is immune.
Take Tony Gwynn. He has a great reputation and had a great career. But look at his slash lines:
Ages 22-27 .335/.391/.444
Ages 28-32 .319/.372/.420
Ages 33-41 .356/.403/.500
The shape of these numbers are odd. Without the steroid era, I might marvel at the hard work Gwynn put in to reverse the effects of aging. Now, I am left forever troubled by these stat lines. There is not any way to dispel my nagging doubts.
It is simply too easy to play these games. If one wants to accuse Gwynn of doping, it is easy to say that after Steve Finley spent a year with the Padres, Gwynn started his new teammate on whatever Gwynn was supposedly taking, explaining how a 31-year old Finley went from a player who regularly hit 10 home runes a year to one who routinely topped 30 home runs annually.
If we have Gwynn as a steroid advocate, who else joined the Padres and had a sudden surge in power? Ken Caminiti. Who later admitted steroids were responsible for his power surge.
This doesn't mean Finley and Gwynn used steroids. There is just no way to escape these worries. No number of trials will ever remove these doubts from this generation of players and their accomplishments.
This trial is a waste of taxpayer money. If lying in the halls of Congress were a crime, I'd think we should start by prosecuting politicians, not baseball players.
As far as steroids go, we'll never really know the entirety of which players used them. Years ago, when the steroid accusations first started against Bonds, my father was railing about how the obvious jump in Bonds's stats made it clear he was a steroid user. I replied "Yeah, well, lots of players have such jumps, and no one accuses them of doping. Look at Tony Gwynn or Roger Clemens. If such a jump makes Bonds guilty, why do they get a pass?"
We still pick and choose who to go after in the press and as fans for pretty silly reasons. Many guilty players experienced little if any gain. And many players with odd jumps in performance remain unquestioned. We either need to question every player or none of them. And since investigating them all is impossible, let's just move on.
But Tom Lawless hit the most exciting home run I have ever seen in person at a game! Of course, that it was Tom Lawless was part of what made it so incredible.
Is Matt Adam's low walk rate a concern?
To me, the most important aspect of Bill James was his ability as a popularizer of the statistical analysis of baseball. He made the benefits of such an approach clear, accessible, and entertaining enough to draw in and convince people not normally inclined to read such a work or think in such a way.
There is plenty of easily accessible great weather information out there. I can't believe the Reds would rely on the Cardinals for this.
Dave Duncan was a catcher. I would think Larussa's obsession with catcher defense at the cost of offense probably stems from Duncan's influence.
I'm a Cardinals fan. Larussa has strengths, and he has weaknesses (and he is hard to evaluate without also including his constant sidekick Dave Duncan, who is a vital and inextricable part of Larussa as manager).
But Larussa is not likable as a manager. During the season, even his family (famously) does not wish to be around him. He is an angry, intense, brooding presence as a manager who will brook no one around him who is not equally brooding and intense (sorry Rasmus, Ryan, Drew, et al). He can treat injured players as beneath contempt, as if anyone conscious should be out doing their best (no matter how limited to injury) to win. Baseball gams are not for him enjoyable or entertainment. The press and fans are necessary evils.
He has been an odd fit for St. Louis, as their previous long time great manager, Whitey, is such a strong contrast to him.
It is also worth noting that this game wore down the Reds' bullpen on the first of a 3-game series, which could have given the Cardinals an advantage in the next two games in the series.
Not wishing people well differs from celebrating their injury.
Oops. Wrong Phillips. But you get the point.
Hypothetical Gomes the player should be happy that Wainwright the player will not be helping the Cardinals compete against the Reds.
However, publicly gloating about such an injury is unprofessional and in poor taste.
He also plays on a team that has had a series of incidents with Wainwright's team that has created bad blood and led to injuries. Tony Phillips instigated a brawl by making inane comments in the press and then tapping a bat upon Molina, which led to Cueto seriously lacerating Cardinal players with his cleats and inflicting a career ending injury on Jason Larue by kicking him in the head.
Given this history, hypothetical Gomes should do his best to not further inflame the already bad situation between the two teams. It would be a shame if hypothetical Gomes's behavior leads to another on field incident where another player gets seriously injured.
Hypothetical Gomes should, I think, be very worried that such an injury might involve his or Cueto's head and a 95 MPH fastball.
Or to put it another way, the Reds need to stop this garbage before someone else gets seriously hurt.
Press reports have stated Pujols would veto any trade. They could be wrong, though, but I doubt it.
Actually, knowing the degree of variance is fairly handy.
I'm a Cardinals fan. I guess as far as RF goes, I'd rather have Ordonez for $10 million than Berkman for $8 million. If this was a multiple choice question, it is likely the correct choice would be "None of the above."
I think all reasonable readers understand that teams make personnel moves too late for you to include them, and that in a 600+ page book there will be a small error or two. You're never going to please the unreasonable people, so forget about them.
For those who forgot it, the Pirates of that era were part of the worst drug scandal in baseball history. There were major federal investigations and trials. Chuck Tanner ended up in federal court, and he testified that he knew the drug dealer was in the clubhouse, knew the dealer was being federally investigated for drug dealing, and let him continue to enter the clubhouse.
Yes, many teams have had players use drugs. But Chuck Tanner ended up in federal court over his team's uniquely widespread involvement in drugs, which is pretty unusual.
The Pirates of that era were to baseball's drug scandals what the 1919 White Sox were to baseball's gambling scandals. To write a story about the 1979 Pirates and not mention this, and to laud Tanner's "blind eye," would be like writing a tribute piece on the 1918 White Sox and talk about what a bunch of funny guys they were, and what great parties gamblers would throw them, without mentioning the Black Sox scandal.
I guess I remember the Pirate drug scandals (and the massive investigation and trials) as the worst of the drug scandals in baseball. Bill James discussed the Pirates and the career of Tanner at length in his 1986 abstract. He was less polite than I. Here is a sample:
"Sometimes I think Chuck Tanner should be hung in effigy in every sporting place in the country. Other times, I think his only offense was the cowardice of being nice."
Yes, the Cardinals had a drug problem. Whitey Herzog admitted it and fought against it. He threw Keith Hernandez off the team over it. He did not welcome the dealers into his clubhouse. There is a difference there.
No, I'm not saying that. I'm a Cardinals fan. Drug abuse is, sadly, a legacy of the 1980s Cardinals, too. If I was to write a piece about them and the good memories I have of them, I would also at some point acknowledge a part of their story was a battle with drugs, both on the organizational and personal levels.
Mr. Hertzel is a fine writer, and I do not mind this sort of piece--I like fun baseball stories, too. But his choices of subject--Pete Rose, the Pirates of that period, are odd ones to lionize, as they have so much baggage he never acknowledges.
When I read this "fun" piece celebrating Chuck Tanner kindly turning a blind eye to his players partying, I remember that this blind eye ultimately led to the partying getting out of control, to drug dealers operating out of the Pirates clubhouse, and to the worst baseball drug scandal of the 1980s, a low point of baseball history.
If the above piece had a line that somehow acknowledged the sad fate of this team, I would like it fine as a piece. Something like "And while they sadly fell victim to the drug problems of the 1980s, for that summer of 1979, they were a great team to watch."
But instead the piece seems oddly blind to the tragedy that Tanner accidentally led his team to, instead celebrating the character trait that led to his downfall. It's like reading a piece praising Captain Ahab for his perseverance.
"You know, Jeff Torborg has gotten a bad rap. A lot of people say he hurt pitchers, but if you look at it, most of his pitchers had the best years of their careers with him as their manager. Just look at the win totals, or the huge numbers of innings these pitchers threw for him. Most of them never did that again for other managers in the years after that. I asked Dusty Baker for his opinion on Torborg. Baker said "Jeff is my sort of manager. I mean, people say I am bad with young pitchers, too. But if you look at Mark Prior, well, the only real success Mark ever had as a big league pitcher was when he pitched for me. He hasn't done anything since I left Chicago. Clearly, I was good for him, wasn't I?"
I guess this piece, much like the Rose one, seem so completely removed from everything BP has been about. Not just in tone, but in message. It's jarring.
The pieces are like they are from some odd, Bizarro-world version of BP.
Next week's topic: Jeff Torborg, an unappreciated genius in handling pitchers.
Isn't this largely the same group of players and manager that shortly after this became the poster children of illegal drug use in baseball? Didn't they have drug dealers in the clubhouse? Take John Milner, who said he got amphetamines from Stargell, and that he was buying cocaine at the park as early as 1980.
I know in 1979 and the early 1980s it was standard to portray them as a fun loving cast of misfits, as beloved sitcom characters, but I thought that went away in 1985, with the drug trials.
I should have been more clear in my comments. I think the new writers are talented, but I think the type of talent is different. There is a type of work I used to enjoy a lot on BP, and it largely is gone.
The site--mostly through Joe Sheehan--used to have quite a bit of commentary on current topics and issues in baseball, that were entertaining opinion pieces informed by a statistical approach. For example, I look at Joe Sheehan's piece on Dusty Baker's handling of Mark Prior. It is one of my all time favorite pieces on BP. And I would be shocked to see something like it published on BP today. That is not to demean the current writers--they simply don't do that sort of piece.
In other words, let's say you have a world class rock band, and your drummer and bass player leave. You respond by saying, "we need more musicians!" So you hire two more guitarists. And you still have no drummer or bass player.
Well, I don't care how great the new guitarists are--your band still has a problem with a loss of talent.
Thanks for giving him a send off here.
I hope there is a plan to address the talent drain the site seems to be having. To me, the biggest issue is lack of a clear mission and focus.
You will be sorely missed here. Good luck on your future projects.
What about John Jay and his .367 BABIP. Have the Cardinals found a starter or a spare?
I've always had trouble understanding the admiration for Pete Rose. I think it is because of my age. When I started following baseball (1982), Pete Rose was in the later stages of his career, where quite frankly he was weak defensively and was a first baseman who hit like a shortstop. He was probably one of the worst everyday players in baseball. There was little difference between him and Enos Cabell, and people were not heaping accolades on Enos. For my first five years as a fan Pete Rose was one of the worst first baseman in baseball.
Looking back now as an adult, I understand Pete Rose had a lot of accomplishments in his earlier career, and he deserves full credit for those. But after those he also spent years hurting his teams in a selfish pursuit of a personal record. I can't see his later years as anything but a negative on his record as a hitter. I agree with you that Chipper should not be viewed negatively if he forgoes years of hurting his team.
The flaws of others in the Hall of Fame or in the Hall itself do not absolve Pete Rose of his crimes or invalidate the punishment.
Yes, there are mistakes in who is in the Hall of Fame. It doesn't mean we should make more.
A Hall of Significant Figures in Baseball History would have to include all sorts of people--how about all of the Black Sox? They were so significant that baseball had to create rules in response to their behavior (the very rules Pete Rose broke). McGwire, Bonds, Clemens and Palmiero would belong because of the significance of their steroid use, regardless of their performance. How about Mario Mendoza, whose ineptitude withe the bat was so legendary we now have the "Mendoza Line." We would "celebrate" the significantly bad and the significantly villainous, along with the stars.
I'm not too interested in that Hall.
I meant to start "While Mr. Hertzel is certainly entitled..." Sorry.
Why Mr. Hertzel is certainly entitled to his opinion, I do not understand what a piece like this is doing on this site. It simply is not argued well. Let's assume that Mr. Hertzel is correct, and Giamatti did not like Rose and had treated him unfairly in the past.
Mr. Hertzel needs to address some issues. For example, Rose has admitted he violated a baseball rule, a rule whose origins and punishments predate both men's involvement with the game. Regardless of who was commissioner, Pete Rose should be "declared permanently ineligible." That is clear if you read Major League Rule 21.
Regardless of personal histories of parties involved, I find it reasonable to say someone banned from life from an organization as a consequence of breaking one of its most fundamental rules should also not be eligible for its highest honor.
In short, whether Giamatti disliked Rose, had abused him in the past, was known to kick puppies, stole candy from children, or regularly sniffed glue, isn't really an issue when discussing whether someone rightly banned from a sport for life can then receive its highest honor.
One of the better pieces I have read this year in BP.
The longer I live with baseball statistics, the more I tend to pay less attention to their exact values. I have little faith in long articles and complex formulas that conclude some player is .3 runs better than another player is. As you note, such small differences may well be beyond our ability to measure.
To me, statistics have reshaped my opinions of what constitutes value in baseball players (as a young Cardinals I was saddened to realize that Willie McGee's empty .292 average was not really very valuable). But as far as fine details go, they are not much use.
My problem with what is happening is not that the owners make a profit—surely they have a right to make a proper. But revenue sharing helps separate product quality from the profit. By subsidizing the product regardless of quality, it lessens the incentive for offering a quality product.
Given the resources of the Marlins or Pirates, offering a quality product is difficult. One can throw large amounts of money into the effort and a little bad luck can cause you to have a bad team and losses. By promoting profitability regardless of product quality, it makes it more attractive for a team with limited resources to simply play it safe and keep payroll low and not worry much about quality. As you note with the Rays, success has actually limited their profitability in recent years. I am unsure if demonstrating that they lose money when the team is successful on the field is helping their resale equity, either.
If owned the Marlins and could make a guaranteed $15 million for fielding a 70-win team, and risk losing $40 million by trying to field a 95-win team, I might very well choose to not try very hard to contend.
"the big problems like Zambrano's collapse into his own gravity well or Alfonso Soriano's expensive brand of adequacy remain rooted in place."
You always crack me up. The insight is great, but moments like this are fantastic. The Zambrano bit, in just a few words, succinctly and entertainingly includes the concepts of him no longer being a star, his being overweight, and his being a giant sucking hole on the roster.
"expensive brand of adequacy" is darn fun and accurate to boot, too, for Soriano.
I know Oswalt has been amply compensate for his efforts, and I do not feel sorry for him. I would gladly receive his money top pitch for a last place team.
But I guess I have more trouble supporting the team. The Astros have lacked a viable plan for the team for years, trying to supplement an aging core with mediocre veterans while neglecting the draft. They have spent the period of Oswalt's contract running the team into the ground. That their veterans want out is entirely ownership and management's fault.
That Oswalt is not complaining to the press is commendable. Quite frankly, I'd understand it if he told the press:
"When I made a long-term commitment to the Astros, my understanding was that I would make a commitment to conditioning and being the best player I could be, and they were also making a commitment to fielding a legitimate team. They have clearly failed to follow through with their commitment, and I am sick of busting my butt to show up and pitch great games for a team without the talent to win them. The only reason I show up to the ballpark is they pay me to, and I'm shocked fans continue to pay money to watch this team. I wake up every morning praying they will trade me, and I feel sorry for the good people of Houston, who have much less of a chance to end up with a winning team in the next decade than I do."
By comparison, having his agent ask for a trade seems pretty reasonable.
Which is worse, signing premium talents to extensions (like the Cardinals did with Carpenter), or signing proven mediocrities to multi-year, generous contracts, (like the Cardinals did with Lohse, Franklin, Encarnacion, Kennedy, etc.?)
In short, is the Carpenter deal worse than the Lohse deal? Is Howard at $25 million a worse deal than John Olerud at $7 million? On the one hand, Olerud isn't costing you $25 million. On the other hand, for $7 million he isn't helping the team any.
A few years ago, I tried OOTP, and I had a bad experience. The interface was terrible, sorting through options and choices and information became tedious, and maybe it was just bad luck, but my choices seemed not to matter. Basically every player I acquired suddenly stunk or got hurt. It didn't matter what their talent level was, past performance, etc. This was a universe where Carl Crawford could only hit an empty .240 if I had him. I know people rave about the program--maybe I just had bad luck. But I spent a lot of time on the program, and all it did was produce endless frustration as I spent lots of time on seemingly meaningless choices.
I started a league from scratch--maybe that was my problem.
I'd been high on Heath Bell for a couple of years before the Padres got him. Awesome minor league stats, and a great K/BB rate in the majors and minors. He had a couple of bad partial seasons with the Mets, but his BABIP of .374 and .394 made it clear his poor numbers in the majors would likely improve.
So basically a good K/BB rate and dominance are nice signs, and not quickly writing off a player due to fluky numbers is a good idea.
This is one of the best articles on BP in months. Great job!
I think to some intent you are (probably intentionally) missing the point about the complexity of OPS. People know what On Base Percentage and Slugging Average mean, and both SLUG and OBP numbers are widely available without additional computation. If on the scoreboard I see a player has a .350 OBP and a .455 slugging, I can easily compute his OPS in my head. Given raw numbers, I can compute it without having to go find a formula or a spreadsheet.
True Average, Runs Created, etc., are not the result of two widely understood and reported inputs. I can't look at the scoreboard and immediately compute it. In fact, given raw numbers, I can't compute it without going and finding the formula, and probably using a spreadsheet.
That's what we're talking about, as far as complexity goes.
Whether one is a fantasy baseball fan or not, this is the sort of carry away any fan is going to want to see. A Phillies fan, for example would like to know this about Hamels.
Also, does SIERA have any uses during the season? If on July 1st, Brad Penny has a 2.85 ERA for the Cardinals, and a 4.56 SIERA, would that have implications for his second half (I'd assume so). Whether I was a fantasy owner of Penny or a Cardinals fan, that is the sort of commentary I'd like to see.
Will, I have some math skills, but it is a lot of work for me to take apart something like SIERA, and I'd rather not. I'm simply happy to use it and see it used--you know, I don't have to understand how a car is made to drive one.
I think what Joe did great was make passionate, entertaining arguments informed by the wonderful stats the numbers guys came up with. It made the utility of the stats useful for the number-impaired, and for the number-disinclined. Kristina does this, too, but she can't do it alone.
I'll let someone else check the numbers on SIERA. I'm interested in seeing it applied by someone in an engaging way as the season enfolds. That someone does not have to be Joe, but I still think he left a talent hole that needs filling.
The issue here is clarity and accessibility, not simplicity. It is hard, but it is doable.
There is a big difference between "dumbing it down" and writing in a clear, engaging, accessible fashion. One ought to be able to both give the details and information and present them in an accessible manner. Basic techniques of good writing, like starting with a main point and clear summarizing of what will follow, using accessible language, using headings, etc., does not alter the subsequent details in the slightest.
I think part of the problem is still simply a need to write more effectively for the audience and medium. One can be both complex and readable. I think people are saying "This is hard to read, it must be too complex for me," when in many cases it really is "This has been made unpleasant to read."
Books on web writing and professional writing say start a piece with the bottom line--give the big picture. Then give details. Take the SIERA pieces. Look at part 1. It should start with the bottom line--"We're introducing a tool for measuring ERA called SIERA. It is an improvement for these reasons:" and you then list them in plain English. Then you have a heading, called something like "Background: A History of Problems Measuring ERA," and then you have what were the first five paragraphs of the piece.
Instead, it starts out with a discussion of Chadwick and McCracken, etc. and goes on. And on. The piece is called "Introducing SIERA," and after 5 paragraphs of reading, the piece has never even mentioned SIERA. That might be fine for a book or print academic journal article--not a web article on baseball.
Don't ask people to wade through 5 paragraphs of dry background before you tell them what the payoff is.
BP used to follow these principles and do this well. For example, go re-read McCracken's DIPS piece:
It starts with a brief (3-sentence) entertaining hook. Then he immediately gives us short paragraph that explains the bottom line:
"My belief? Well, simply that hits allowed are not a particularly meaningful statistic in the evaluation of pitchers."
See? BP used to do this. If Swartz and Seidman won't do this, partner them up with someone who will. Good work spreads much further when it is presented effectively for the medium and audience. If you want to spread the message beyond a narrow niche of fans, you guys have to do better.
I'm a typical reader. I ordered the book months ago, two day shipping. It arrived Friday.
I wonder if there are issues with keeping the pitcher's arm properly loose. Yeah, they can long toss in the OF, but then wait they may wait a bit in the OF to take their turn on the mound. I'm not a pitcher, so I have no idea if that is a problem, but it could be. And if someone hits to the opposite field, I could see there being problems with any sort of difficult play.
I've heard Edmonds looks out of shape and well above his playing weight. Don't know if it is true. I liked Edmonds as a player, and I'd hate to see him come back terrible.
Eric,this article makes some nice points. I think using headings would help make articles a bit easier to read. Reading onscreen is harder, and also, some people might want to skim. Something like "Methods," "Results," and "Conclusions" would go a long way.
That sounds great!
This is similar to the problem the Cardinals have. They have no adequate internal options for LF and little ability to trade. Signing Holliday to a long-term, big contract is going to end up looking really bad in a few years, but they need a good LF now. Is the better option a Dye or Damon on a 2-year deal? Or try to strike oil with a Branyan-type signing?
Christina's analysis is excellent as usual. Sometime, though, I'd like a piece on what teams should do in situations like this. It isn't clear. I look at the options of the Cardinals or the Mets to solve their LF problems, and I am glad I am not a MLB GM.
All I know, is that as a Cardinals fan, I'm excited to see the Cubs bring in Silva and Byrd.
I publish research for a living, and some of it is statistical. When I don't have a good conclusion, my stuff gets rejected, or it is sent back, with instructions to write a better conclusion. I also review articles for publication, and one thing you are told to review for is the quality and significance of the conclusion.
Some of the pieces here actually do have a conclusion, but they need to be made stronger--more clear and more developed.
Basically, some of the stat pieces have gotten odd. As pieces of entertainment writing, they seem dry and academic, but if you know academic writing, they aren't really always acceptable as that, either. BP needs to figure out what these things are supposed to be and edit them properly. I don't blame the writers. This is an editing problem.
I am in no way critical of the quality of your or Eric's research. I'm an academic and publishing research is part of my job, and quite frankly, the stuff I publish as a professor is dry and of interest to a fairly narrow group of people. I see nothing wrong with that for me or for you. I have nothing against your work being on this site.
My concern is, I guess, two-fold:
1. The stat-based pieces seem less accessible to a general audience than they used to. Once upon a time as a teenager I bought a Bill James Abstract and Thorn and Palmer's The Hidden Game of Baseball. I couldn't put Bill James down until I finished it. I quoted it to friends. Loaned it to every fan I knew. Meanwhile. I skipped large sections of Thorn and Palmer and still never finished it. And I spoke of it to no one. The difference was not the quality of the math or the nature of the questions they were addressing. Or the impact of their conclusions. This is what I am talking about here, and I am troubled that the replies of the staff seem to be missing this point.
2. Maybe it is the time of year, but lately, the material on the site has not been as compelling. I don't have to read everything, but I'd like to read something. A stat heavy piece, a piece on the Pirates' top prospects, an interview with someone I have not heard of, and a piece containing a rehash of something I read in the Post-Dispatch 2 days earlier. None of those are bad work, or inappropriate to the site. But they lack the one big, exciting, entertaining piece.
By all means, keep up your work. Whether you want to move toward a more accessible style is a question for you and your editors. The stuff I publish as a professor is dry and narrow, but I publish in journals where that is the norm. BP is a very different beast, and a dry stat piece sticks out when posted next to a witty, snarky piece by Christina, and it will frustrate someone who logged in during a break at work and was really needing a witty, snarky piece right then, but only has the dry stat piece to read.
I'm just asking for more of other things--not less of you.
I guess my comment is not so much about the coming year post as much as that I am worried about the past year. I've been reading BP for a decade. Up until this year, I read every stat piece. Over the last six months, I've stopped reading them. As research goes, they seem fine enough, at least when I read them. As pieces of writing, not so much.
Bill James was not the first, or necessarily best, baseball statistician of his time, but he was the most readable, and that is why he succeeded. BP used to be carrying that torch. It doesn't seem to be doing it so well anymore.
Lately, I don't find much on the site to read. It's not that its bad, as much as it is narrow. The stat stuff is mostly not for a general audience anymore. Will and Kevin are great, but my interest in any given piece of theirs is contingent on the players they are writing about--I'm simply not interested in the Cleveland Indian's ninth best prospect. That's just the nature of that sort of work. I used to read everything on the site. Now, I read very little. Part of that is the number of offerings have expanded. But part of that is a move away from the type of pieces I like.
When I first came here, I normally read the stat articles like this: First I read the introduction. It explained why this was important. I'd agree. Then the stat part would start. Often, I'd decide that it wasn't worth my time to figure all of that out. So I'd skip over that, and there would be this really cool conclusion. Often, I would tell friends about the cool conclusion.
Over the last year, increasingly, I will start a stat piece, and after reading the introduction, I'll say "This might be interesting." Then the stat part starts, denser than ever, and I skip to the good part at the the end. But there isn't one. It's like "And thus, this formula is three runs better."
Whatever. I don't call up my friends and say "Jeff Suppan's QERA was actually off by 2%. Now doesn't he seem different!"
The stat pieces are not like they used to be--that has changed.
And I agree, the two camps (stat and non-stat) are not mutually exclusive--you can have both beer and tacos--as the saying goes. But the BP restaurant seems to have cut down on the beer menu selection, and quite frankly, the tacos aren't as spicy as they used to be.
I'm a PhD/Professor, and increasingly, articles in BP are reading like the stuff I read for work. I mean that in ways both good and bad. It is careful, thorough, tweaking, or the answering of more marginal questions. Which is a lot like much academic research in the publish or perish world of academia.
I started with baseball and stats with the early work of Bill James. It opened a new world of baseball to me. When BP came along, a lot of what they did simply were better versions of those same lessons. But significantly better. Some, like PECOTA and Pitcher Abuse points, were pretty cool and totally new, and they did change how I looked at the game. And people wrote about how these effected what was happening in the game, and that had major implications for how I looked at players, trades, teams, managers, etc.
I understand that a 5% improvement of QERA is useful. I'm not opposed to it. But it really doesn't change how I look at baseball. It doesn't really change how I view most trades, etc.
However, when I read on BP the line that Milton Bradley could do three things--hit, play center, and stay healthy, but only two at a time, I laughed, and I told a dozen friends. And as the season went on, I continued to appreciate it.
When I read about a 5% adjustment to a pitcher's QERA, I didn't really think about it again. I told no one. I didn't look at any pitcher particularly differently.
As an academic, I appreciate this incremental improvement. As an every day fan, it is not that exciting.
I want to note that I am sad to see Joe go. I'm a longtime subscriber, and increasingly, there seem to be mainly two sorts of articles at BP--articles focusing on increasingly marginal statistics using highly complex math, that don't really argue anything or come to some major conclusion, but instead spend paragraphs giving complex methodology to measure something, followed by a list. The list is sometimes merely a short list of leaders and trailers. If the teams/players you are interested in are neither, you never even see where they rank or rate. I think there is a place for work like this, but it is losing my interest. For example, reading pages of math on a computer screen to find out the Colorado Rockies were three runs better at something than the Reds last season, well, I've forgotten it an hour later.
The other type of article is the statistically informed opinion piece, filled with attitude and wit. I love these--this is mainly why I subscribe--and Joe and Christina are the main sources of these, and with Joe gone, that worries me.
This is a gross overgeneralization--Will's pieces don't fit into these category, and are great, and there are other exceptions as well. But overall, I'm worried.
Thanks for 3 years of great columns. I look forward to many more!
"he's not doing much with it beyond getting battered, then fried."
This sort of stuff, as much as the analysis, is why you are always so great to read.
I'd only play in such a league if the person with the $100 stake is a moron. In the fantasy leagues I play in, they are competitive enough, if you spot the average owner a double budget, they will be very hard to beat, barring epic bad luck.
I should have written more than amen. What I wanted to say was, this column encapsulates much of what I was trying to say in my post.
But when the adult wins, like the Yankees this year, it's pretty boring.
My main issue with the Yankees is that their inherent revenue advantage is unfair. I don't object to them using it. But I just don't think it makes for an interesting sport.
I wouldn't play in a fantasy baseball auction league where one owner gets twice the budget that the other owners get, especially if I was the owner who got more. What's the achievement of beating the other owners if I had twice as much to spend? It's liking playing basketball against ten-year olds. I certainly wouldn't brag to everyone about my greatness afterwards.
So the Yankees won with a payroll that is twice that of most teams. Whatever. I just don't find that interesting or compelling. I don't hate them. I don't blame them for using their money. I just don't care--didn't watch any of the World Series.
So far, this is the least interested I have been in the post season in years. I find "Yankees add two best free agents to high payroll team, then win in post season" not a particularly interesting narrative, nor do I have a lot of interest in the Dodgers and Phillies replaying the 2008 NLCS. I'm glad Joe and some of you seem to be enjoying the games, but I'm pretty much waiting for off-season transaction time.
Joe, if you watch the Cardinals regularly, you would understand that to Tony Larussa, well, I'll quote something he said earlier this year "You can never have too many relief pitchers." My father and I, long-time Cardinal fans, sometimes talk about teams adding another roster spot so they can have a larger bench again, but we always conclude that it would not help the Cardinals, because Tony would simply fill it with another pitcher. If you added two roster spots, he would give them both to pitchers.
He constantly switches pitchers, often for no apparent reason, and to obvious tactical disadvantage. He has gone from playing match-ups to blind, rote, thoughtless, stupidity. A man who can use three pitchers in a 3-up, 3-down inning, needs a big bullpen.
Larussa has a lot of strengths, but like many talented people, he has aged into a parody of himself.
Yeah, but for a hitter, a good couple months is not even remotely the equivalent of 10 coin tosses.
No, but you also don't want to assume that "always will land on heads" is a new level of performance you can bet on.
From here on out, the coin will have a 50-50 shot of landing on heads.
Well, while Holliday is certainly an upgrade over Ankiel, that analysis fails to consider Larussa's stubborn love for his veterans, at least those who have yet to earn his wrath, such as Rolen inevitably did. So far, Ankiel has remained in the lineup, while Rasumus sits.
These changes are great. But will it run faster? When I try to use it, there is enough of a lag I don't know how well it will work for a live auction draft.
If I was drafting players for a team to have their careers, I\'d pick Phillips over Rice. Maybe it is my age--when I started following baseball, Rice was a declining, poor defensive, out-making machine. Phillips was a highly versatile defensive player who was skilled at getting on base. Rice was a good player who had a good career, but Phillips was a talented player with a unique career, a valuable lead off man who could play about any position you needed. That is exceedingly harder to come by than Rice\'s skill set.
Well, if one assumes that the investors would otherwise put their money in an investment that would get taxed, then the money is lost. I have no idea whether that assumption is true.
If I was looking for a CF, I\'d consider trying to trade with the Cardinals for one, maybe Ankiel. He\'s a bit of a risk, but the Cards have extra depth at CF and obvious gaping holes in the organization.
The Cards would not be a bad \"GM for a Day\" team, in that they have clear holes (2B, SS, pitching) and clear excess talent (too many OF), but much of the excess talent comes with a question mark (Ankiel, Rasmus, Ludwick, Schumaker, Mather, Stahinova, Barton and Duncan).
Joe was not arguing that Manny wasn\'t a jerk, wasn\'t an off field distraction, wasn\'t a clubhouse wraith sucking the life out of his teammates. Joe was arguing that the statistics show Manny was playing in games and playing well. Joe is not \"defending Manny\" as much as he is pointing out the statistics contradict McCarver\'s statements about Manny\'s performance.
At its heart, Joe\'s piece is about Tim McCarver and the poor quality of much mainstream sports journalism. Whether or not Manny is a good guy is not Joe\'s point, or even a topic.
Also, I don\'t know if Manny was lying about his knee or not, but a body part can be generating a lot of pain and still have a clean MRI.