As one might expect, the success of Michael Lewis’s great new book, Moneyball, has led to a number criticisms of Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane, his staff, and their entire organizational philosophy. These criticisms should not have come as a surprise: Lewis presents Beane as a brilliant visionary operating in an antiquated system peopled, for the most part, with morons. There may be a great deal of truth to this, but the idea that some of Beane’s competitors would be defensive is understandable.
The most interesting criticism of the Athletics’ success is that as impressive as their regular season results have been, their style of play cannot succeed in the playoffs against quality competition. Sure, the Athletics win 100 games every year with one of the lowest payrolls in the game, but if they can’t win in the post-season, what good is it? This turns out to be a convenient critique since the A’s have lost in the first round of the playoffs for the past three seasons.
This criticism is not new, of course. Joe Morgan has been saying similar things for the last year or so: The A’s offense, which has relied mainly on reaching base and hitting home runs, is not effective in the post-season facing quality pitching. A team needs to be able to “manufacture runs”–steal bases, bunt, hit behind the runner, etc. The A’s do not, or cannot, do these things, so they are doomed to fall short in the playoffs. Or so the argument goes.
Continuing his series on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Doug Pappas looks at the ins and outs of MLB scheduling.
Don’t tell anyone, but I really enjoy watching Randall Simon hit. The loose, goofy motion in his stance as the ball approaches the plate; the flyswatter swing; the big-stepping follow through, his blubber, after half a second in gelatin-like suspension, mimicking the motion of his bat. It’s a lot of fun to watch, especially when Simon manages to make contact, which happens more often than you’d ever expect.
I’ve had the occasion, however, to watch Simon against Kerry Wood a couple of times this year, and from Randall’s point of view, the results have been disastrous: zero-for-six with four strikeouts. Not just any kind of strikeouts, mind you, but ugly, pirouetting, breeze-generating, no-chance-in-hell strikeouts, the sort that make you think that Simon could face Wood 500 times and go oh-fer.
I didn’t mind this, really; Wood is one of my favorite pitchers. But this particular matchup was interesting to watch because Simon and Wood are such an odd couple: Simon swings at everything, and never draws any walks, but by virtue of his superior hand-eye coordination, manages to keep his strikeout rate very low. Wood, on the other hand, is one of the toughest pitchers in the league to make contact against–though sometimes that’s because he isn’t throwing the ball anywhere near the strike zone. In any event, Simon’s performance against Wood looked so bad than I began to wonder whether the batter isn’t at some sort of systematic disadvantage in pairings of these types of players.
To study the question, I’ll leverage from a technique that Gary Huckabay and I introduced last month in a 6-4-3 column, comparing the actual performance observed when certain types of batter-pitcher pairings occur against the results predicted by Bill James’ log5 formula. Instead of dividing players up based on groundball and flyball rates, this time we’ll look at a quick-and-dirty index of plate discipline.
Some have noted that Mike Mussina appears to be running into trouble in the fifth or sixth innings and have asked if the Velocity Project is showing anything. The answer is no. It appears more that as he begins to tire, he throws more strikes and becomes more hittable. More hittable is bad, no matter what theory you believe in. Is it an indicator of an injury? No, I don’t think so. I’m less sure that it’s not simple aging. Ask me the same question about Al Leiter and you’ll get a similar answer.
After noticing a lack of muscle tone and getting Ellis Burks to admit to both pain and numbness in his hand, a series of tests were run to try and find a cause. It turns out that his ulnar nerve was impinged and caused all the problems. It will likely need to be surgically released and could cost Burks a good portion of the remaining season. With his career near its last legs, this trip to the DL could be the one that leads off into the sunset. The Indians brought up another piece of the future, Coco Crisp, to replace Burks. Some combination of Crisp, Jody Gerut, and Milton Bradley would be one heck of a young outfield.
If you thought Jermaine Dye still didn’t look right, you’re right. His knee is still acting up and needed draining tonight between BP and the game. It’s the legs that drain power when they’re injured, so don’t expect Dye to look like the masher he has been until he fully recovers the strength in his legs. Even with that bad wheel, Dye was able to make some nice defensive plays behind Tim Hudson.
Greg Maddux is acting like a flake; the Twins are absolutely hack-tastic; and the Devil Rays’ problems aren’t just at the major-league level. All this and much more on the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.