A conversation about analysis and the game with the former skipper and present-day talking head.
Buck Showalter is in many ways an old-school baseball man, but that doesn’t mean the former Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers skipper doesn‘t value data -- or that he hasn’t for more than three decades. He unmistakably understands the mechanics of the game. Currently an analyst for ESPN, Showalter offered his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including how the game has (and hasn’t) changed, why Paul O’Neill could hit southpaws, why switch-sliders make good switch-hitters, and what makes the Twins the Twins.
Back from jetting around, Joe settles back into discussing a subject closer to home.
I honestly don't know how beat writers and others who travel frequently do it. Perhaps it wouldn't have been a big deal to me in my twenties, or at least if I'd started then, but the travel of the last two weeks took a lot out of me. From New York to Boston to Denver to New York to Phoenix, I didn't spend more than three days in any bed, racking up about 8000 air miles, a couple hundred more by train, and an encyclopedic knowledge of how Expedia and Hotwire work.
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Clay Davenport sent me reams of data on the best fielders in the Gold Glove era. Clay's defensive ratings, which account for context better than any other, are the best non-play-by-play metrics extant, and they formed the basis for most of my balloting. Where I needed more information, such as when I had to fill out more ballot spots than were covered by Clay's data, I tended towards selecting players of recent vintage, whose excellence I can support with performance data, observational evidence and a greater understanding of their reputation.
One candidate is different from every other candidate, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the infielders on the ballot have no hope of induction. Jay uses his signature JAWS system to investigate who's worthy of Cooperstown.
This is the fourth year I've used the very self-consciously named Jaffe WARP
Score system (JAWS) to examine the Hall of Fame ballot. The goal of JAWS is
to identify candidates on the Hall ballot who are as good or better than the
average Hall of Famer at their position, a bar set so as to avoid further
diluting the quality of the institution's membership. Clay Davenport's Wins
Above Replacement Player (WARP) totals are the coin of the realm for this
endeavor because they normalize all performance records in major-league
history to the same scoring environment, adjusting for park effects, quality
of competition and length of schedule. Pitchers, hitters and fielders are
thus rated above or below one consistent replacement level, making cross-era
comparisons a breeze.
JAWS does not include non-statistical considerations--awards, championships,
postseason performance, rap sheet, urine test results--but that's not to say
they should be left by the wayside. They're just not the focus here. While
I'll discuss the 800-pound elephant in the room in the context of various
candidacies, I don't claim to have a solution as to how voters or fans
should handle the dawn of this new era. That's an emotional issue, and JAWS
isn't designed to handle emotions.
Who knew that Jason Grimsley would be the star for an entire week of news cycles? We get a few perspectives on his situation, plus a look at managing and the effects of struggling.
"I am deeply saddened whenever there is an allegation that a Major League Baseball player is involved in the use of performance-enhancing substances. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, I will not make any comment about this specific case. As a general matter, however, I urge everyone associated with Major League Baseball--from the players to the union to the owners--to cooperate with the ongoing investigations by the Federal government and by former Senator George Mitchell."
--MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, responding to the Grimsley situation (MLB.com)
With the election results to be announced tomorrow, Joe looks at who should go into the Hall of Fame--and who will.
Of the 14 new candidates, at least 10 are probably making their only appearance. Rick Aguilera, Gary DiSarcina, Alex Fernandez, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen, Gregg Jefferies, Doug Jones, Hal Morris, Walt Weiss and John Wetteland all had prominent places in the game in their time, winning awards, making All-Star teams and contributing to championships. None, however, even passes the sniff test for Hall of Fame consideration. Their inclusion on this ballot is an honor unto itself, one that will likely serve as the sole coda to their playing careers.
There are 16 position players on the Hall of Fame ballot. Jay Jaffe thinks three of them belong in Cooperstown.
These new metrics enable us to identify candidates who are as good or better than the average Hall of Famer at their position. By promoting those players for election, we can avoid further diluting the quality of the Hall's membership. Clay Davenport's Translations make an ideal tool for this endeavor because they normalize all performance records in major-league history to the same scoring environment, adjusting for park effects, quality of competition and length of schedule. All pitchers, hitters and fielders are thus rated above or below one consistent replacement level, making cross-era comparisons a breeze. Though non-statistical considerations--awards, championships, postseason performance--shouldn't be left by the wayside in weighing a player's Hall of Fame case, they're not the focus here.
Since election to the Hall of Fame requires a player to perform both at a very high level and for a long time, it's inappropriate to rely simply on career Wins Above Replacement (WARP, which for this exercise refers exclusively to the adjusted-for-all-time version. WARP3). For this process I also identified each player's peak value as determined by the player's WARP in his best five consecutive seasons (with allowances made for seasons lost to war or injury). That choice is an admittedly arbitrary one; I simply selected a peak vaue that was relatively easy to calculate and that, at five years, represented a minimum of half the career of a Hall of Famer.
Statistics are a tool, not unlike a microscope. Statistics are a hammer, a speculum, a thermometer. A statistics-based approach to understanding of baseball is one of many paths to knowledge of the game. Calling those who take that path "freaks" or "Nazis" makes as much sense as calling a Ph.D. chemist a wimp because he tests the qualities of his cyanide compound by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy rather than just drinking the thing.
In 1937, George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers picture Shall We Dance that was an instant classic satire of the human need to scoff at the merest hint of progress:
Let's compare J.J. Hardy and Bobby Crosby:
Player Age EqBA/EqOBP/EqSLG
Hardy 20 .240/.316/.380
Crosby 23 .273/.356/.490
Adjusted for park and league context, Crosby's numbers were much, much better. How to balance that against the age differential? I think the question becomes: How likely is it that Hardy will post a line of .273/.356/.490 or equivalent by the time that he's 23? It's possible, certainly, and it's also possible that he'll post a line even better than that. But I don't think that it's *probable*. That's a lot of improvement to make. PECOTA would put the possibility at somewhere around 25%, I'd think, and I think that's enough to render Crosby the stronger prospect.
Wright or Marte, Marte or Wright. I love 'em both. I've put Andy Marte ahead for the moment, because of the 10-month age difference and because scouts seem to like him a lot more, but I really feel strongly that David Wright's as complete a prospect as there is in the game. I'd love to hear comments comparing the two, and Nate, I'd love to see what their PECOTA comps look like. Nobody else is that impressive. Dallas McPherson put up some serious numbers last year, and while some of that was in The Hangar in Rancho Cucamonga, he hit .314/.426/.569 in Arkansas. He doesn't have a great defensive reputation, but it's not terrible either, and he clearly outhit everyone else on this list. I don't know if anyone else deserves Top 50 consideration. I know people love the Greek God of Walks, but he hit .165/.295/.248 in Triple-A, over a 32-game sample. Of course, his full-season OBP was still .446, so... Chad Tracy hit .324 and his defense took a big step forward, but he doesn't do much more than hit singles, and it was Tucson. I respect that he's had two good seasons in a row, but he was in El Paso in 2002, so I'm not sure that means anything either. And as much as I hyped him a year ago, I have to concede that Brendan Harris may not be quite as good as I thought he was. But he's still a better prospect than almost anyone gives him credit for.