Gary Huckabay breaks down just how enormous a factor luck is in creating a winner, and identifies the areas where the Giants need to find that good fortune in order to have a shot at the hardware in 2007.
Focusing on the baseball players’ use of potentially performance-enhancing drugs and the men who supplied them misses the real issues emanating from last week’s grand jury leaks.
After not getting to a game for the first seven weeks of the season, I’ve been
living at the ballpark since Memorial Day weekend. That continued on Monday night,
as I took in the Angels/Indians game with some of the guys who have been
kicking my butt in AL Tout Wars this
season. Sam Walker of the Wall Street Journal, who is actually working
on a book about fantasy, was in town and dragged me, Jeff Erickson of Rotowire and Matt Berry of Rotoworld down to Anaheim to see the classic
Kaz Tadano/Aaron Sele match-up.
Obviously, I love baseball, and enjoy watching games whenever and wherever I
can. But a night like this one–or like last month, when I got to see an
Angels/Dodgers game with Jonah Keri, Rich Lederer, and Brian Gunn–is hard to beat.
Watching a ball game while talking baseball for three hours with people who
know and love the game might not be heaven, but you get a better view and St.
Peter gets a little bit jealous.
I found out about Doug Pappas’ tragic passing on Friday. There were phone messages on both my cell phone and home phone from a number of people, all with a more serious tone to their voices than you’d really like to hear. None of the people actually left the momentous news, but rather some version of “Give me a call the second you get this message.” Moments later, I checked my e-mail, and a barrage of messages with the header “Sad News” scrolled up my screen.
Doug Pappas had passed away. My friend, a colleague for whom I have immense respect, and all-around good guy, had departed from us too soon. My initial response was the same during those horrid times when another friend had died; it sounds strange, but my first impulse is to give him a call and find out what was really going on. It can’t be right, you know? This has got to be some sort of misunderstanding, right? Doug’s only 43, in good health, and a standup guy. Must be someone else. There’s definitely a big ball of confusion out there, and this is completely out of left field. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach and stolen the air from the room, but I knew it was a mistake. Had to be.
It wasn’t. And we are all diminished because of it. Doug’s particular chosen role was a particularly difficult one–to call the powerful on the inaccuracy or dishonesty of their public statements. That’s not easy. Over the years, Doug came out and publicly pointed out the inaccuracies, contradictions, and misleading nature of Major League Baseball’s financial disclosures. He did his homework, explained his position, made sure that the MLB functionary’s agenda was understood by the public, and stood by his work. It was an often thankless and misunderstood role, but the public interest was well served because Doug was willing to vigorously undertake it.
Back by popular demand, I bring you another installment of “Conversations With Dave,” which are, in fact, not with Dave, but with someone not named Dave at all, who’s not a stathead or blogger, or even a management consultant. The conversation was not transcribed perfectly, but Dave has had an opportunity to review and approve the final copy, to make certain he wasn’t misrepresented.
The Dodgers offered a number of $5 million, and Gagne’s rep, Scott Boras, offered $8 million. How come the lower number was so compelling? Sadly, the current CBA lacks a clause allowing unfettered access to the process to self-important analysts, so we have to posit a little, and ask around some front offices to hear possible explanations. One NL exec had this to say: “Boras overreached.” Not that there’s a whole lot of ambiguity in that statement, but after prodding, the exec clarified the statement: “Gagne’s in his first year of eligibility, and there’s a bunch of comparable guys. They’re not as good, but they’re a clear baseline from which it’d be easy to convince the panel to work.” This is true.
Next week, Peter Gammons is hosting Hot Stove, Cool Music in Boston. All proceeds from this benefit concert support The Jimmy Fund, which raises funds to support cancer treatment and research. Baseball Prospectus has pledged 50% of all proceeds from new subscriptions during the next week as a donation to The Jimmy Fund, so if you were thinking about subscribing, this is the time to do it. More importantly, if you’d like to support the Jimmy Fund with a donation, simply click here. Yeah, people are hitting you up for money all the time, and we all get tired of it, but The Jimmy Fund is worth both your money and time. Cancer is an indiscriminate killer, and it’s likely affect either you or someone you love. Pre-emptively strike with a donation. Maybe an hour’s salary.
It’s cold over much of the country, but Spring Training is not far off, and beginnings of all types are actually pretty cool, when you think about it. New Year’s Resolutions don’t, on a percentage basis, pay off, but occasionally, they stick, and if you make one to be generous in some way to someone in your life, you’ll be happier, and so will they. I It sounds corny, but it’s true. Think about it: do you ever really feel better–and deservedly so–than when you’re helping out someone else? So, at the very least, show some pity to a Devil Ray fan this year. I only know of one–Tony Constantino–so you’ll have to find your own.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s been a pretty interesting couple of weeks in the news. If you’ve been feverish, like most of the populace of California’s scenic Contra Costa County, you may have observed that a bombastically hirsute Alex Rodriguez was liberated from a sort of cave/hutch just north of Tikrit and west of Odessa by a U.S. Army strike force, who then checked him for ticks, packaged him in a box, and shipped him to Worcester, where he was unpacked by Larry Lucchino and Gene Orza, then shipped back to Houston, Texas, where he was awarded a Hummer by noted conservative talk show host Michael Savage.
The more coherent among you are aware that the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers have been discussing a deal that is, at its center, Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez.
Since both players have very long, lucrative contracts, money has been a significant component of the deal. So let’s dive in and take a look…
An update on BP happenings, including baseballprospectus.com’s redesign, the latest on Baseball Prospectus 2004, and BP-related events.
Does it really get any better than this? I live the East Bay in the Northern California, about 20 miles from Oakland. It’s not as if there’s any love for the Red Sox or Yankees based on favors done for the A’s over the last few years. Nonetheless, the renaissance has hit. People are dashing into stores, grabbing coronary artery-busting snacks, and rushing back into cars to get home to watch the game. As I was coming home from Roseville, I was stuck in traffic next to two cars driven by goateed young men, one with a Red Sox hat, one with a Yankee hat. Both shared my concern about the crowded nature of the throughway, and both shared their opinions rather vocally. How cool is it that 3,000 miles away from tonight’s baseball epicenter, people are rushing home to sit in front of the TV?
A lot of the people who cover baseball exclusively are concerned and/or bitter about baseball’s loss of mindshare to lesser sports, like, well…all of them. The stages of college basketball, football, hockey, and even preseason basketball have expanded, often at the expense of attention on what could once be called “America’s Pastime” without challenge. How bad has it gotten? It’s gotten pretty bad. Two nights ago, KHTK 1140 in Sacramento–one of the premiere (and highest rated) sports radio stations in the country–ran an 88-72 preseason loss of the Sacramento Kings instead of Game Seven of the ALCS. In March, cactus and grapefruit league coverage has diminished, and far more attention nationwide is spent on tracking NCAA College Basketball brackets than rookies and veterans competing for jobs or getting in shape in places like Scottsdale and Vero Beach.
The Yanks took far more balls per plate appearance than any other playoff team, but relatively few strikes. That’s a sign of a mature, disciplined team. Taking bad pitches could be especially beneficial against the Red Sox: Boston’s two best starters, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, are not known for their stamina, and the bullpen is in tatters between Byung-Hyun Kim’s breakdown and their heavy use in the Oakland series. Knocking Pedro out an inning earlier because of higher pitch counts could well be a game-winning strategy. Despite their refined approach at the plate, the Yankees don’t have a better offense than the Red Sox, who outscored them by nearly 100 runs during the regular season. The Sox remain the best offense in baseball, with a lineup that has absolutely no weaknesses in it. Both of these teams have the capability to knock a starter out early and put up crooked numbers in multiple innings. Even if you don’t want to get into the numbers, think only about the two main criticisms of these offenses over the course of the year: Yankees: “Alfonso Soriano isn’t suited to hit leadoff.” Red Sox: “Walker, Ortiz, and Nixon can’t hit lefties.” Think about that. The problem for the Yankees is that the leadoff guy has too many extra-base hits, and too few walks. The Red Sox somehow have to work around the issue that their three worst hitters, who average about a .950 OPS against righties, don’t hit lefties particularly well. Think the Tiger front office would like those problems?
“What are the best and worst things about the broadcasts so far?” – M.T. So far, it’s been pretty grisly from a fan’s perspective, I think. The 10 p.m. EDT start for the Hudson/Martinez matchup was unconscionable. Then, to add unbelievable insult to injury, ESPN adds David Justice to the broadcast booth in violation of the Geneva Convention. I know that everyone watching the game has probably done something during their lives that warrants strict and painful punishment, but inflicting Justice and his commentary on an unsuspecting public was beyond the pale. It’s also possible, if the game was broadcast outside the U.S., that ESPN may have committed an act of war against a number of sovereign nations. But now that they’ve done that, they might as well finish us off with a healthy dose of Chris Berman and his old-10-years-ago nicknames. Should Justice return to the booth, I will personally make an appeal to Amnesty International to begin a letter-writing campaign. I’m pretty sure that if we work together, we can get Bono to make a mission of conscience to Bristol.
Two of baseball’s best front offices have once again done their jobs well, and Oakland and Boston will face off in the five-game ALDS. It’s really a classic matchup, with a tremendously vicious offense against a team built primarily on pitching and defense. The thing that would surprise many in the mainstream media is that the team built on pitching and defense is wearing Green and Gold.
Hello Gary! In your chat session, you stated that you thought Keith Woolner’s research into replacement level was the most important work in sabermetrics. Why is it so important? I think that your work on PAP is much more important. It can change the way teams handle their pitchers. The pitchers will be healthier, and the teams will be better because of it. Why is replacement level more important than that? –R. J., Baton Rouge, LA
First off, let me clarify something. Pitcher Abuse Points was a system developed by Keith Woolner and Rany Jazayerli, not me. And if you review it, you’ll find a curve fit that you’ll be lucky to find again in your whole life.
The answer’s pretty straightforward: replacement level is essential to know because it’s the only way you can accurately assess marginal value. Let’s say you can sign Joe Slugger, who’s likely to play a pretty good corner outfield spot and post .280/.360/.550 each year, for $6,000,000 annually. Is that a good deal? There is absolutely no way to tell unless you know what your options are–you need to know the marginal value of that player’s production, and for that, you have to know what your replacement options are. Or, put another way, you have to know replacement level.
Last week, I laid out a reading list for new and potential GMs. This week, I want to draw attention to another excellent book, one with a slightly different viewpoint, but with a number of important and actionable concepts. Bear with me during this lengthy quote…
“Micromanagement is risk free as long as you have the power to assign blame to the innocent. If your galactic incompetence ends up micromanaging a perfectly good project into swamp, blame the closest employee for not “speaking up” sooner.” –Dogbert, nee Scott Adams, Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook
Which, of course, brings me to Peter Ueberroth.
It never fails to amaze me that people who demonstrate incompetence on a massive, majestic scale actually gain credibility, either within their own organization, or in an entirely new arena, where they’re given approximately the same responsibilities which they bungled so horribly in the first place. In case you missed it, former Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who had positioned himself as a responsible, proven leader running a dignified campaign in the Hunter Thompson-inspired California Gubernatorial Race, dropped out of that race on Tuesday, leaving the field wide open for the remaining “candidates.”