One of the best things about writing this column is the feedback I get from
its readers. Since Baseball Prospectus debuted in 1996, it’s been
lucky to have a loyal and knowledgeable following. It’s no stretch to say
that the e-mail I receive on any one day contains more salient points than
an entire year of my local paper’s reader feedback, and I enjoy and
encourage the responses. Even the ones that point out my stupidity,
illiteracy and complete lack of pectoral muscles.
That said, I confess that the volume of mail has increased in the past two
months and I’m having some difficulty responding to it all. To those of you
who have written and haven’t heard from me, know that I’ve read your mail
and still hope to get back to you.
Since I haven’t been personally responding to the mail, I wanted to address
some of it in the column. First Aaron Schatz points out something silly
Jimy Williams has been doing:
"Why do the Red Sox continue to DH people like Andy Sheets and Manny Alexander against left-handers, rather than promoting Morgan Burkhart to platoon with Brian Daubach? If Manny Alexander at DH isn't a reason to chuck the rule, I don't know what is."
I appreciate the feedback, Aaron. The retirement of Gary Gaetti
seemed to catch the Sox off-guard, and I’ll admit to being disappointed in
Sox manager Williams. Back in the first week of the season, I pointed out
that he’d let Daubach hit against a left-handed reliever in one game, and
Daubach responded with a home run. I thought, when Gaetti retired, that
Daubach would inherit his PAs.
It really hasn’t happened that way. As Aaron points out, Alexander and
Sheets have each been the DH against left-handers, while Daubach has gotten
one start. Alexander and Sheets are marginal utility infielders, so using
them at DH is silly. Burkhart is a switch-hitter with power, but there’s
limited evidence that he would be a credible platoon option.
I’ll go back to my original premise: in the absence of a real platoon
partner, Daubach deserves a chance to be an everyday player. In a very
limited sample this year–17 at-bats–he’s hit .294/.350/.529 against
left-handed pitchers. It’s an open question whether Manny Alexander could
post an 879 OPS against me.
This all applies to Trot Nixon as well, who shares time with
Darren Lewis. Nixon had a 437 OPS against left-handers in 43 at-bats
last year. In 2000, he has hit .231/.375/.538 against them in 13 at-bats.
Let him play every day and find out if the improvement is real. Play
Daubach and Nixon, reduce Lewis to a defensive replacement and Alexander
and Sheets to…to…I don’t know…pine tar coordinators or something.
Craig Rolling wrote in about a different American League East team:
"I am writing in regard to your Top 5 rankings, specifically the omission of the World Champions as one of the top teams. I know, the Yankees have been outscored this season. My argument is that it's not just luck that causes them to win more close games than other teams. Torre and Rivera have a lot to do with it.
To suggest that the Mariners or the Mets are better than the Yankees at this point is somewhat silly. I would bet on the Yankees to win more games than either of those teams this year. Age may indeed catch up to the champs this year, but after two titles and a 12-7 start, they are still one of the top teams in baseball and therefore deserve to make your rankings."
Thanks for the note, Craig. First off, I should explain that the rankings
are not supposed to be predictive: they’re a measure of performance, not
expectation. They also don’t go back past April 3 (Cubs/Mets in Japan
notwithstanding), so the Yankees 1999 World Championship carries as much
weight as their 1937 title.
Good teams score and prevent runs. Really good teams score a lot of runs
and allow few. They blow teams out and don’t lose games by being blown out,
and at the end of the season they have large run differentials and good
won/lost records. It is possible to have a good record with a lousy
run differential, and it’s even possible to make the postseason and win a
World Series (Minnesota Twins, 1987) while allowing more runs than you score.
Nevertheless, the best teams in baseball don’t do this. There are landfills
full of writing claiming that good teams win the close games because they
have chemistry or a good bullpen or a quality manager or Cherry Bazooka and
barbecue sunflower seeds in the dugout. Ignore it all: close games are
determined, by and large, by luck. A hit here. An error there. Jeffrey
Maier. Don Denkinger.
The Yankees are an above-average team, but they have problems scoring runs,
an aging rotation with health questions and all the depth of Daddio.
I’m quite comfortable with the idea that they’re not one of the best teams
in baseball. They’re 20-9 with a run differential of +14. They’re 13th in
the American League in runs scored, 10th in EqA. That’s the better evidence
in this case.
I’ll close with this, only in part to deflect criticism that I have some
kind of anti-Yankee bias. On Sunday, the Yankees dedicated another plaque
in Monument Park behind the left-center field wall. The honoree never
played a game, made a trade or called a hit-and-run for the team, and yet
is still inextricably linked with the Yankees.
Of the many voices of my youth, his is one that I would recognize at any
hour in any place, with or without the famous echo. Congratulations,
Joe Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.