The Midnight Hour <$BlogRSDURL$>

Friday, February 27, 2004

News Flash: Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams are good. 

It's become fashionable lately for some Yankee fans to bash Jeter and Mr. Appendectomy for their defensive shortcomings. Over at The Replacement Level Yankee's Blog Larry Mahnken suggests that the Yankees best lineup doesn't feature one Bernie Williams.

"If Bernie's return is delayed, we'll at least get a few chances to see the Yankees field their best lineup at the beginning of April, with Lee at first and Lofton in center."


Hey this is great, you have a new toy called range factor and an even newer shinier one called Zone Rating and it tells you that Jeter and Bernie suck. So you're very cool aren't you because you have proof that Jeter and Bernie are overrated and basically suck so why don't we just take them out of the line up and smile all Billy Beane like because we have Kenny Lofton and Travis Lee and A-Rod. Hell, let's get J.T. Snow to play third and we'll have a bunch of slick field no hit guys. It'll be just like the 80's.

Except, wait a cotton pickin' minute. To suggest that the Yankees's best lineup includes Lofton and Lee but doesn't include Bernie Williams is lunacy. Best defensive lineup? I guess so. And so do you, guess so, because zone rating is just that it's an estimate, a guess. But I think some of the more intellectually inclined fans and bloggers, are so wrapped up in how crappy Bernie and Derek are with the glove that they totally forget that baseball players are also supposed to do something else. It's called HITTING.

Instead of getting into my own analysis of Bernie and Derek, honestly because at the moment I don't have the time, I'll redirect you to this marvlous piece by Alex Belth and Rich Lederer over at Bronx Banter.

Seriously people the Yankees have been winning 100+ games a season on average for 7 years now with Jeter and Bernie in the field. Mainly because Jeter and Bernie were in the lineup. I'm not saying that that buys them a hall pass as they decline, but Lofton and Lee ain't gonna make up for Bernie's production in the lineup.

# posted by Steve : 12:53 PM

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

You Best Come Here and See This! 

Mike C, of Mike's Baseball Rants is starting a new series detailing the issues of competitive balance in baseball. If you know anything about Mike's work you know that he's funny, informative and most of all thorough. I am typically skeptical of most things I read, but not when reading Baseball Rants. Mike just doesn't leave any stones unturned and everytime I find myself saying, "Yeah but what about...." when reading Mike's work, I find my question addressed in the next paragraph or two.

If the issue of competitive balance in baseball is interesting to you, and I imagine it's interesting to most fans especially because most fans don't need much prodding to loudly voice their opinions on the subject, then I highly recommend that you check out the series which should be kicking off shortly. No matter how smart you are, I'm betting that it will be a phenomenal education.
# posted by Steve : 1:16 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Retraction 

I have to give credit where credit is due. Jim Caple, for the first time in recorded history I think, wrote a column which does not bash the Yankees at all.

My favorite quote, "Yes, it's a shame for every other team in the league that the Yankees just got better. But Henry and the Red Sox only got what they deserved."

Well done Caple.
# posted by Steve : 1:35 PM

Monday, February 23, 2004

A Minor Quibble 

So I saw Raplh Nader on Meet The Press yesterday announcing that he's running for President. Lots of Democrats were thinking what Tim Russert asked, "How do you feel about the people who blame you for stealing votes from Al Gore which enabled George W. to win the election."

I have a problem with this phrasing, "stole votes from Gore." In fact, Nader didn't steal votes. Voters, presumably many democrats CHOSE to vote for Nader. Don't be pissed at Nader and don't dare suggest that a person not run for office because it undermines your horses ability to win the election. If this is a true representative republic let the voters speak through the prescribed channels. But suggesting that a qualified candidate shouldn't run to advance a party agenda is tantamount to advocating a rigging of the election as far as I'm concerned.
# posted by Steve : 3:13 PM

The Parity Lie 

People like to tell baseball fans that the NBA and the NFL are so much more evolved than MLB. Basketball and Football both have rather sophisticated methods of limiting either individual salaries or team salaries in the name of improved competitive balance. Many fans think that competitive balance is a great thing. But is it always? Consider this:

NBA % of teams with .500+ Record: 45% (13/29,) current 2004 standings

NFL % of teams with .500+ Record: 50% (16/32,) final 2003/2004 standings

MLB % of teams with .500+ Record: 60% (18/30,) final 2003 standings

Ok, so the other leagues are more balanced? Looks to me like artifically holding the market down has diluted the product. More major league baseball teams can expect to have a winning season than NFL or NBA teams.

And that's not all. Every year small market fans and apologists whine that there are teams in MLB that on opening day KNOW they have no shot at winning it all. #1 I don't agree with that but more importantly, in the NBA there is an entire DIVISION that starts the season pretty much knowing it's screwed. It's called the East.

So the teams in the other leagues are threoretially closer to each other. So what? In the end, fans want to see their teams win more often than not and to me, a league who has more teams with winning records than with losing records is doing something right.

Some people like to say that the Yankees just buy the best team every year and then get all sulky if they don't pull the W.S. out of their magical money hat. Well look, the Yankees do buy the "best" team every year, they stockpile superstars like Saddam Hussein stockpiles....ummm nevermind, but the point is that they are rapidly becoming a bit of a joke. They have by far the most expensive team in history but guess what....they did last year too! And guess what else? They LOST!!!! To the frickin' MARLINS!!!!!!!!! And there's a really good chance that they WON'T win the W.S. in 2004 either. So if I were a Yankee hater I'd be happy, and I'd stop whining, and every time the Yankees increased their payroll by millions and millions at a time, I'd laugh knowing that the odds are good that the Yankees are going to be the most expensive failure in baseball.

But I guess Yankee haters wouldn't have much to do if they couldn't whine about the Yankees being so rich and obnoxious. Would they?

P.S. On a side note, as a Yankee fan I will be especially satisfied if the Yankee's DO win the W.S. this year or any year because if anything, the past 3 seasons should have taught us that you can't just BUY a championship.

# posted by Steve : 12:30 PM

Reconstruction 

First off, I want to thank David Pinto and Alex Belth for linking to my posting about my views on baseball and music. Alex and some of his readers disagree with the closing point I made in the original post,

"But seriously I'm happy that music isn't deconstructed with the same dispassionate verve that we apply to baseball."

Alex disagrees with the point, and I have to say, he's correct. Music is critiqued with dispassionate verve. To me though, it's easier to ignore it because at the end of the day, musical success is less about whether it's a pedestrian pentatonic blues scale played too loud, and more about... does it sound good to the listener? Does it remind me of my first kiss, my favorite summer, did it give me strength at a time i needed strength? That's the power of music to me. Remember, Kylie Minogue sells a lot of records, if Kylie Minogue played ball she'd be warming up pitchers in A ball. Music is a bit less quantltatively gradeable. I don't care if the Pet Shop Boys are warmed over euro-disco, when I hear their music I feel good (God have mercy on my soul.) But knowing that Aaron Boone is the suckiest suck that ever sucked....empirically, is irrefutable.

Still don't believe me? Check out these two statements:

1) Derek Jeter is a substandard shortstop.

2) Bon Jovi Rocks!

With statement nuber one, we can pretty easily judge this statement with a binary response function, either Correct or Incorrect. We can analyze defensive metrics from the mundane like errors to the to the sublime like UZR, compare Derek's numbers to the field and tell if we have a true statement on our hands.

For statement two however, there is no right or wrong test. It's purely and forever a matter of opinion.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in baseball analysis, a team or a player can be reduced to the sum of his stats. In music, the value of a composition of a performance is highly personal and more resistant to deconstruction. Not the piece itself, but the value of the piece.

In the comments section of Bronx Banter someone said this, in reply to my post, "Personally, I've never understood why statistical analysis should interfere with one's enjoyment of baseball." I agree with this statement too. A deeper understanding of statistical analysis has actually enhanced my enjoyment of the game. My point is that sometimes we get carried away with it, and hey if that's your cup of tea then go to town, but for me, analysis leads to judgement and judgement can sometimes interfere with enjoying the scenery. Certainly though, baseball is a thing meant to be enjoyed and every person has the right to enjoy the game the way they see fit.

So what have we learned today? Nothing really. I stand by my original post but at the same time I understand the opposing points of view. To all who stopped by, thanks! This is a topic that fascinates me.
# posted by Steve : 9:47 AM

Friday, February 20, 2004

In other news.... 

Jim Caple continues to be a one trick pony goober. He's made the, 'Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens have decided they want to go back to the Yankees,' joke about half a dozen times since the A-Rod trade, and to date....no one has found it even remotely funny.




# posted by Steve : 3:34 PM

The Magic Hour 

While wondering about the contents of Gary Sheffields urine and what Jason Giambi might look like the next time I see him on TV, I've been thinking about why I love baseball a great deal lately. Some baseball fans love pitching, and I have to admit watching David Cone work, in the latter stages of his career was a thing of beauty. He was the prototypical sore armed righty, who had to get by on guile and invented pitches and arm angles as he went along. It was so cool to watch an artist really at work, fighting for survival.

Other people just love offense, some say that the triple is the most exciting play in baseball, a test of speed versus arm that doesn't come around too often. Of course, most casual baseball fans love the home run. It's emphatic, dramatic and other things -atic.

But me? My favorite thing in baseball is the line drive. When I was a kid playing little league, I was standing at second base, and this kid named Shane came up to the plate. Shane was one of those super human 12 year olds, and I bet every little league has one. He's like 6'1 and 180 pounds, he's driving already and has three girlfriends, and he's the guy who hits a home run every time up and pitches a perfect game at the same time. That guy. So I'm standing there at second, contemplating how on earth I'm going to NOT strike out when I lead off the next inning because this guy is throwing serious heat and I'm so over matched that it's not even really fair. And Shane digs in, our pitcher comes set, he delivers and I see Shane swing and my eyes narrow trying to follow the ball off the bat, and the next instant I'm aware of a rush of air past my left ear. The ball slammed into the outfield chain link fence with so much force that it bent the fence and the ball stuck in it. I will never forget the whistling sound that the ball made as it passed my head. So maybe because of that, or maybe because I just love the idea of a hitter making such perfect contact that the ball goes back almost exactly the same trajectory that it came in, I have always swooned over a whistling line drive.

This points out that there is a disconnect in the way different people (and even sometimes the same people) view, understand or appreciate baseball. Most of the baseball blogs that I read and enjoy, spend great time and care evaluating baseball from a super analytical vantage point. The sabermetricians see through the lie of the casual fan's vision and memory. Derek Jeter may have made a season saving play by ranging from his position at shortstop, to cut off an errant throw in foul territory up the first base line, but be not deceived gentle reader, Derek Jeter is an atrocious shortstop because he range factor is at the bottom of the list.

I must admit I am fascinated by the new analytics. It gives insight and understanding where before we had to rely on the musings of Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan to tell us how good a player was. But sometimes I wonder what the point of it is. Do I derive less satisfaction from watching Jeter go to the hole and do that jumping throw thing of his? No, it's still a thing of beauty just like the game itself. So to some extent I don't want to know what his zone rating is and I don't want to know that Soriano's OBP is lousy because I just want enjoy the grin on his face when he makes sweet contact, I want to enjoy the beauty of the game.

I went through a similar thing when I was 13 years old.

It was summer. I know that because I was at home sitting in the dining room of my parents house and it was sweltering hot. I was listening to the radio, and at that particular moment, trying to find a station that was not in commercial and actually had a song on. I came to a rock station and I heard a song called People Get Ready, a remake of on old Curtis Mayfield gospel tune. The version I heard was by Rod Stewart with I guy I had never heard of named Jeff Beck playing guitar. From the first moment I heard Beck's solo on that song I decided I needed to be able to do that.

I fell in love with music and more specifically the guitar right then and there. So I started to teach myself to play guitar, I don't think I have ever devoted as much time or dedication to any other single thing as I have to playing the guitar. Not just to know how to play it, but to be able to make the instrument do whatever I wanted it to, whenever I wanted it to. I listened to every guitar player I could, I read every guitar rag on earth, I took lessons now and then but didn't have patience for some teacher trying to explain how to play Little Brown Jug, but I read anything and everything I could, and I listened to any style I could find, to all the great guitar players, I watched concerts, bought video tapes and along the way I got pretty decent. Not that I'm great, and for anyone to think that they have mastered something like playing a musical instrument is arrogant and plain wrong, if you're smart enough to be aware of everything you DON'T know, you're doing great. But another bittersweet thing happened the more I learned about musical contsruction and guitar playing in general, I started to understand music. Instead of hearing a series of chord changes and just feeling something I knew enough about what was going on to start thinking something too. Once you know that the reason People Get Ready tugs your heart towards euphoria after the second guitar solo is that theres a simple key change there, it's never quite as magical. And musicians, who are both artists and scientists, are torn. Because a scientist has no use for magic (or clutch hitters) and an artist can't live without the promise of magic. I'm happy that Rob Neyer doensn't write about music, can you imagine:

Eddie Van Halen not What he's Cracked Up to Be
By Rob (not really) Neyer

'...if you listen to the old school music critics, the leathery, bottle of Jack for dinner types, you get the impression that Eddie was special, that Eddie could always turn it on on stage, that he made other artists he worked with better...in other words you get an impression that is far from true.

After consulting RetroRockSheet I realized that EVH averaged just 12 MNPS (Meaning ful notes per solo for the uninitiated.) MNPS is a measure of how many notes in the solo actually act to advance the melody. Consider that lesser mortals like C.C. DeVille from Poison averaged over 15 MNPS over far fewer albums and far shorter solos the myth of Eddie come crashing back to earth......"


To cover my ass, Rob Neyer didn't write the above and I have no idea what he thinks of Eddie Van Halen.

But seriously I'm happy that music isn't deconstructed with the same dispassionate verve that we apply to baseball. This isn't to say that I won't do it myself, I'm actually working on a very analytical hitter rating tool right now that I should be ready to post early next week. But I would urge baseball fans to remember the magic and appreciate it. After all, it's just a game.







# posted by Steve : 11:43 AM

Where is the Love 

One of the things that has really been bothering me since the A-Rod trade is that people have been very quick to assume that Derek Jeter is somehow either a passive agressive douchebag, or just a plain old douchebag for not volunteering to move to third base; so that his defensively superior ol buddy ol pal A-Rod can play short.

First of all who knows if Jeter is up on Zone Rating or Range Factor or UZR or DER. If he's not maybe he doesn't think he's that bad. Maybe, he thinks he'd be a shittier 3Bman than he is a shortstop. Maybe he realizes that it isn't his team, he doesn't make the personnel decisions, and as soon as someone asks him to move he will.

Why am I so generous with the benefit of the doubt where Jeter is concerned? Because I don't have any reason not to be. It's always dangerous to idolize celebrities because after all, Jeter could have a basement full of dead hitchhikers for all I know, but I kinda doubt it. He seems like he has a case of Tiger Woods syndrome. Be dull and don't say anything controversial and just do your thing. I think all Derek cares about is winning, and I don't think he thinks he's the greatest thing since sliced bread either. Alan Schwarz, an excellent baseball writer, republished this piece, an interview with A-Rod and Jeter after their rookie seasons.
Quotes like, "Baseball is a humbling sport. In baseball, one day you can go out and go 5-for-5, hit two home runs, not me, but Alex, and the next day you can go 0-for-5. You can be on top of the world one minute and the bottom the next. So I don't think it's a sport that's hard to deal with in terms of success. You have to fail to succeed anyway," make it easy for me to believe that Jeter has his ego in check and the day that Joe Torre asks him to play third he'll do it without any squawking.
# posted by Steve : 10:54 AM

Monday, February 16, 2004

Question For Medical Science 

How long do you have to have a song stuck in your head before you need medical attention? I've had that damn Heyyy Yaaa song in my head for 3 days straight now and the annoying thing is it's only that "Alright alright alright alright alright alright alright..." part. I'm going bonkers. I've gone to great lengths to get it out and nothing seems to work, I thought Maroon 5 might do it, anything with funky almost scratch guitars in it usually sticks with me, but not this time. My neighbor was playing Nelly's "Hot in Herrrrrre" and i thought that might do it last night, but I guess one of my other neighbors called the building manager and the music died away.

Anyway I've been working all day with Hey Yaaaaaaa in my head so if you can think of something that will get rid of it please let me know alright? Alright alright alright alright alright alright alright??


# posted by Steve : 5:06 PM

Cashman and Robbin' 

To me, the most interesting sub plot in the A-Rod sweepstakes is the war of two great GM's, Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman. Both are paradigm challengingly young, both are smart and driven and both are compelling supporting actors in the ever riveting Yankees V. Rod Sox epic. I can't help but think that if the Red Sox hadn't publicly gone after A-Rod after securing Curt Schilling, the Yankees might not have gone after him themselves. It s as if the Sox threw down the challenge, set the pace and then watched as the Yankees came out of nowhere to win the race.

When it comes right down to it, Cashman might always have the off the field upper hand over Epstein, because at the end of the day, Cashman's dad can kick Epstein's dad's ass. Not because he's stronger or smarter but because he's plain nuts. Steinbrenner is obvioulsy crazier than a shithouse rat and as long as there is no hard salary cap and no change in the economic scenario he will win virtually every pissing contest he chooses to get into. It reminds me of that line from The Untouchables, "You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way!"

Chicago way, Bronx way, same difference. Yankees win. I know that the Yankees haven't won anything in terms of baseball yet and I know that this trade really will most likely bring the Yankees a bunch of redundant runs (runs on top of the runs they really need to win ballgames.) For now though, they pulled off a shocker and not only that, they are getting the best all around player in the game for a relative song. The Rangers originally signed A-Rod to a 10 year $252Million deal. The Yankees are going to get him for what boils down to $112Million over 7 years or $16MM per. The Rangers will pay $140MM for 3 years of service, so on a cost per year basis, the Rangers will end up paying $47Million per year. Someone tell me how the Yankees didn't totally pull off the heist of the century. No longer the Brinks Job, call it the Bronx Job, or The Taking of Alex R-O-D.

Oh sure the other owners are going to complain, Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo started that already, but please, this will put so much revenue sharing money and luxury tax money into the hands of so many do nothing franchises that they should all be rejoicing. If it weren't for the Yankees no one would pay the frickin luxury tax. It was a punitive measure not meant to control the Yankees spending but meant to let other owners get richer because George Steinbrenner actually puts the quality of his product above EVERYTHING ELSE.

So George is crazy, so what. Sometimes I think that in order to be wildly successful at anything you have to be crazy, you have to be so single minded and driven that you do irrational things. Eric Clapton locked himself in his bedroom for months at a time teaching himself to play guitar. So without people that go over the top we'd live in a world that was completely and predictably controlled by mediocrity. Say what you will, Steinbrenner makes it interesting with an assist from Cashman and ironically enough the Red Sox.


# posted by Steve : 4:01 PM

You Don't Always Get What You Need 

Rob Neyer has as usual, a salient point regarding the A-Rod to Yankees deal. The Yankees didn't need him. in my mind What A-Rod brings to the table are the folowing things: (In Order of Importance to the Yankees)

1) Big Name Value
2) A big F-You to the Red Sox
3) A 'solution' to their lack of a reliable third baseman
4) 23 Runs

Yep 23 runs. Using Runs Created (RC) from 2003 final win shares data A-Rod had 135 RC to Soriano's 112. To put that in context, in 2003 the Yankees scored 877 runs. That was 3rd best in the AL. Toronto had 894 and Boston had a whopping 961. Assuming parity, Arod would have given the Yankees an even 900 runs so they'd jump to second place in runs scored. But is that relevant? They still wouldn't really be in sniffing distance of the Red Sox. Now, the Yankees like any good organization are always going to try to get better but what last season showed is that their combination of pitching and hitting made Boston's 961 runs irrelevant. Do we think the Yankees pitching staff is going to be 23 runs worse in 2004 than it was in 2003? I doubt it, since the bullpen is better and the starting five is at least a wash (Stay tuned for standard disclaimer...) as long as Kevin Brown stays healthy.

I'm overanyalyzing a simple point really, the Yankees were good enough to beat the Red Sox and get to the World Series with Soriano and no A-Rod. So they didn't really need A-Rod, they just wanted him really bad.
# posted by Steve : 12:24 PM

Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Big Payback 

I have to believe that the A-Rod news is the masterstroke of Steinbrenner's and Cashman's careers. The Yankees appear to be poised to sign Alex Rodriguez, a player that the Red Sox have been publicly coveting for months now. Until the deal is finalized I'm going to refrain from too much comment on this. Really, what is there to say? This trade is a good deal for the Yankees, even if I'll be a little sad to see the likeable Soriano go, and even if I think the Yankees probably need pitching a little more than they need offense, and even though they appear to be ready to have A-Rod (a far better SS than Jeter) change positions. But at this point those are nit-picks.

Unless things go horribly wrong, the Yankees lineup is going to look something like this:

Lofton 18 Winshares
Jeter 18 Winshares
A-Rod 33 Winshares
Giambi 28 Winshares
Williams 13 Winshares
Matsui 19 Winshares
Sheffield 35 Winshares
Posada 28 Winshares
Wilson (Ahem) 2 Winshares

That lineup is in a word Un-Freakin'-Believeable.

With a Rotation that Should look like this:

Mussina 19 WS
Vasquez 21 WS
Kevin Brown 20 WS
Contreras 7 WS
Lieber 14 WS (Projected)

and a pen that looks like this:

Quantrill
Gordon
Heredia
Karsay
Rivera

The Red Sox are still gonna be tough, Pedro, Lowe, Wakefield and Schilling are going to be tough to beat regardless. And there is always the possibility that Bernie will go in the tank, Giambi will continue to slide, Posada will get hurt, the pitching will not work out. But barring an unforseeable turn of events the Yankees are going to score runs by the truckload this year. And the pitching should be enough to make it stand up.

I'll post more, maybe a retrospective on Soriano's brief career as a Yankee when the deal is done but for now....Good Lord!
# posted by Steve : 10:46 AM

Friday, February 13, 2004

Breaking News 

In a stunning development over at ESPN.com, Senior baseball Writer Jayson Stark has shaved his mustache.
# posted by Steve : 9:18 AM

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Mo, Mo 

Over at Bronx Banter Alex Belth has an interesting post about the Yankee's options with their otherworldy closer Mariano Rivera. Mo's contract is up at the end of the coming season and Alex feels it's unlikey the Yankees will offer him a contract entension outright. I tend to agree, the Yankees will likey wait until the end of the season, see how he did and then play some sort of hardball with him before resigning him and overpaying him. Makes perfect sense right? Alex also points out that Rivera is relatively not young, he's 34 (not Alex, Mariano.) So do we wistfull Yankee fans really want to see Rivera around for another 3 years after the 2004 season? Do we want to see our once mighty gunslinger struggle to fidget his bullets into the six shooter and hang our heads and shade our eyes as lesser mortals like oh say Jerry Hairston paste Rivera all over the Bronx?

Well here's the thing, at age 34 I would expect to have seen some sort of decline from Rivera already like maybe his 2003 season was goood but not as good as we've come to expect. There are those that think this is the case because he blew a whopping 6 saves last year and every time Mariano Rivera blows a save it's frickin front page news on ESPN.com and all the New York papers, and ESPN.com Page 16 where strippers and Pole Vaulters collide, or whatever. But the reality of the situation is that if you look at the metrics that actually measure how well Rivera pitched you learn something entirely different. 2003 was a Very Good Year for Mr. Rivera:

Inning Pitched

2003: 70.2
Career: 71.9

ERA

2003: 1.66 (Lowest ERA in his Career)
Career: 2.49

K/BB Ratio
2003: 6.3 (2nd Best ever in his career)
Career: 3.3

The only measures that weren't especially kind were his OPS against. Rivera gave up a higher opponent BA .235 in 2003 v. .215 career average. As well as slightly higher slugging than average so his OPS* against was .571 compared to a career average of .567 and a 2002 .542 OPS against. As we've seen in looking at his ERA this higher OPS against didn't seem to hurt him in terms of runs. We might conclude that if the OPS keeps rising eventually Mo's luck will run out and runs will start coming across. But I don't think so. Rivera is not a power pitcher, he relies on location and movement and unless he gets injured I think he can be ver successful for 3 or 4 more seasons. This doesn't mean I'd pay him $10MM a year I'd definitely ask him to take a pay cut and that's where things could get tricky, the human ego being the fragile thing it is. But I'd feel confident having him around, confident enough that I'd make sure he doesn't go pitch for anyone else.

*Before everybody jumps up my...chimney, I realize that the two components of OPS are OBP and SLG not BA, I referenced BA because it was the jump in BA that drove the OBP upward. Okay? Good.
# posted by Steve : 11:32 AM

Friday, February 06, 2004

Random Thoughts 

I don't like the idea of Aaron Gleeman tickling my ass with a feather, or anyone else for that matter.

Does ESPN.com really need Page 3? Where sports and entertainment collide? I thought that was what Page 2 was all about?

I don't care what round Maurice Clarett gets drafted in. The guy is a greedy jerk with a lot of legal problems, he should fit right in in the NFL. Actually the more I think about that, he'd fit in better in the NBA. I wonder if the Trailblazers need a tailback.

George Steinbrenner made an appearance on the Apprentice last night and had a face to face meeting with several of the contestants. I kept waiting for him to ask them, one by one, if they had any experience playing third base. It was pretty fitting though that Steinbrenner was on the show that has spawned the catch phrase of the month, "You're Fired."

I'm very interested to see how this CF competiton between Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton works out. Bernie has always struck me as a very sensitive guy, I wonder how he'll respond to this challenge.

There have been some rumblings about a bunch of guys getting off the juice with the threat of steroid testing looming. It will be interesting to see if HR's and or SLG percentages decline moving forward.

Alan Schwarz has a great article about why there are no 'LeBron's' in baseball. It's interesting reading but it should be pointed out that there are a handful of successful major leaguers who brok in at the age of 19, Andruw Jones comes to mind. But baseball does seem to be a particularly humbling sport. The difference between AAA pitching and big league pitching is profound.
# posted by Steve : 10:32 AM

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Schilling v. Neyer: The Saga Begins 

Curt Schilling has a lot of things going against him as far as I'm concerned:

1) He plays for the Red Sox
2) He beat up a camera (And not one of those tough as nails Minolta's either, it was a nerdy umpirin' camera)
3) He makes too much money to be griping about what Rob Neyer thinks about him
4) Allegedly some team he played for beat the Yankees in the World Series once, but honestly I don't remember any of that happening so let's keep this moving.

With all that said, Curt Schilling took Rob Neyer to task for being 'wrong' and so far off base that it's "ludicrous." Now let's be clear, I don't care what rappers Rob Neyer listens to, I myself prefer Lawrence Welk and show tunes but that's beside the point. The point is:

Curt Schilling gave me all the ammo I need to start a weekly feature that this blog is so desperately in need of: (Tip: If you ever start a baseball blog, February probably isn't the most ideal time to do it. Even Pinto's been reduced to talking about Abraham Lincoln's political affiliation.) So Rob Neyer and Curt Schilling are going to play a little game this season.

Each week I will review Mr Neyer's performance and Mr Schilling's performance to see how many times they are wrong.

So how do we determine what's wrong and what's right? Well let's first consider Curt. What are all the things that a pitcher can do wrong?

1) Walk a Batter
2) Give up a hit
3) Give up a run
4) Give up a home run
5) Make an Error

Not a bad list and there are probably lots more things, (wear the wrong hat, accidentally kill a guy in a freak fungo bat mishap) but let's leave it at that for now. Now the simple way to do this would be to give Curt one point for every wrong thing he does and then give Neyer a point for every wrong thing he does and whoever has the fewer points wins. But who wants to do things simply? Not me and not you and not the American People. The American People want to see cutesy couples on Fear Factor eat pieces of cow intestines that they fished out of a dumpster in order to win a pair of his and hers mountain bikes, The American People are not about simple! And neither am I .

So let's weight all of Curts potential "wrongs," more points will be awarded for really bad offenses and fewer points will be awarded for the minor transgressions. Here's what I'm thinking:

1) Walk a Batter=6 points
2) Give up a hit =4 points
3) Give up a run=3 points
4) Make an Error=2
5) Give up a home run=1

These might seem a little backwards to you, and they might seem a little backwards to me too if I was holding my laptop up to a mirror which I'm not, if you were wondering. But here's the thing, I think walks suck. I really do, they are way worse than hits. You know what starting pitcher gave up the most hits last year in the AL? Roy Freakin' Halladay. Fortunately he was also Stingy McStrikethrower with the B's On B's and that's why he had the season he had.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don't give too much of a hoot about HR's. Much like a strike out is pretty much just another out....a Home Run is pretty much just another RBI hit. If you give up 3 home runs in a game and that's it who cares? I'd prefer that to a guy who gives up 7 singles an inning until the manager gets him out of there. Ok so that's the scoring, Every Schilling appearance will be graded and rated on a Points per 9 Innings basis.

Now onto Mr Neyer.

First of all let me point out that I have a love/not love so much affair with Neyer. Pretty much because Rob is really really smart. And I think he knows it, and plays this self deprecating game. But I'm pretty sure he thinks he's smarter than you are. Yeah YOU.

Well he's smarter than I am that's for sure. He's the first guy to ever convince me that Jeter was a hack with the Rawlings. And now i just sort of take that as a matter of fact. I don't like it, and I wish Jeter was better because he IS Mr Clutch and he IS magical in the postseason, and he doesn't walk or drive to the Stadium, he Flies there on his Magical Pony! He Does He Does!!!!! I have to write more on Jeter soon. I wonder if he hears people commenting on his woeful range factor and just cracks up and thinks "yeah but you have seen my girlfriend, right?" Anyhow, I'm rambling again.

So, How do we quantify Rob Neyer being wrong? Well what are things that Rob can do wrong:

1) Misspell a word
2) Attribute something inaccurately
3) Predict a players performance incorrectly
4) Predict a Team's performance incorrectly
5) Bad Grammar

Here's how I would weight these

1) Attribute something inaccurately -- 6 points and a Full Scholarship to the Joe Morgan School of Journalism
2) Predict a Player's performance incorrectly -- 4 points
3) Predict a Team's Performance incorrectly -- 3 points
4) Misspelling -- 2 point
5) Bad Grammar -- 1 point

No journalist should attribute something to somebody without bothering to check his facts. So that's a no-brainer for the most egregious. After that it's pretty subjective (I know, this whole stupid premise is sub... blah blah blah.) I will say this, making spelling errors is like giving up runs, maybe Rob misspells something but shouldn't one of the editors catch it? Let's just hope Jeter isn't proof reading Rob's columns.

So here's what we'll do, every week, I'm not sure which day yet, I'll review Curt and Rob's performance and at the end of the season we'll see how wrong each of them are and the loser will get the "So Wrong He's Ludicrous" award.

Check back often you could be Ludicrous!

Update** It's been pointed out by sabernar that Neyer writes a bunch more columns per season than Schilling pitches games and the scoring should take this into account. Well, Sabernar is correct, and the adjustment will be made, stay tuned to see HOW it's made. Holla!




# posted by Steve : 3:35 PM

Monday, February 02, 2004

Non News 

The Drew Henson experiment is officially over. And Aaron Boone is saying he expects to be back this year.

If I were Aaron Boone I'd be trying everything possible to get back this season too. Of course even if he does he's probably a lame duck since Eric Chavez will be a free agent after the 2004 season. Since the free agent news this year has pretty much cooled to a crisp carmelized crust, let me be the first to start questioning the Yankees presumed pursuit of Chavez. I've seen and heard too many stories about Chavez' supposed laziness and lack of mental focus. I'll write more in another post but for now put me down as lukewarm. Now Barry Zito, that's another story.
# posted by Steve : 6:09 PM

Say What?  

You gotta love it when the AP uses the word "Boobylicious!"


# posted by Steve : 5:56 PM

Causality 

Probably my favorite non-Yankee blog is Redbird Nation. I was just over there and read this:

"At the end of the day he's a jock, and jocks always want to believe success and failure have more to do with courage and dedication than trends and numbers." Redbird Nation commenting on Curt Schilling's critique of Rob Neyer.


I think it's important to note that success and failure have nothing to do with trends and numbers either. Trends and numbers are either historical expressions of, or predictors of future success and failure. Obvioulsy if a guy hits .400 it doesn't cause him to get 4 hits out of 10 AB's it's the getting 4 hits out of 10 AB's that causes him to hit .400.

I can understand why athletes get sensitive about the stats in a sense, the stats don't make the ball player but they are often used to define him. Curt Schilling doesn't strike out X guys per nine because it says so on a spreadsheet. He strikes out those guys because he has a natural ability, he practices a lot, he studies opponents and prepares for the contest, you know all the down and dirty stuff that that the analysts tend to discount.

I would say that in terms of causation success and failure do have more to do with dedication to one's craft than with stats and trends.



# posted by Steve : 1:23 PM

Progress  

On ESPN.com's main baseball page there is a Sports Nation Poll asking "Who is most Likely to Rebound in 2004." The obvious answer here is Shaq and Yao Ming, but no, they were asking about baseball players.

Here were the 5 candidates in need of a rebound according to Sports Nation:

Pat Burrell
Jermaine Dye
Jason Giambi
Randy Johnson
Robb Nen

I was immediately defensive when I saw Giambi's name on this list. In my opinion, people who talk about Giambi having an "off-year" in 2003 are solely talking about his batting average and his health. So I decided to take a look at the numbers to see whether or not Giambi was being unfairly lumped into a list he doesn't belong in. To ask if he's likely to rebound is to say that his performance has fallen off and to put him in the above company indicates that his performance has fallen off considerably. Here's Giambi's 2003 season in summary:


Stat OBP SLG OPS HR AVG RBI SO BB
2003 0.412 0.527 0.939 41 0.250 107 140 129

Doesn't look too shabby to me. Except for the batting average and the SO/BB ratio this guy looks like a top performer, but in order to judge decline let's look at the numbers in context:


Stat 2003 Career %+/-
OBP 0.412 0.415 -1%
SLG 0.527 0.549 -4%
OPS 0.939 0.964 -3%
HR 41 34 21%
AVG 0.250 0.302 -17%
RBI 107 116 -8%
SO 140 109 28%
BB 129 106 22%

At first glance maybe I am being a little sensitive about the G-Man. It wasn't just the batting average that dropped in 2003 he's off in almost every single offensive category. Certainly the most glaring drop is in the BA a 52 point drop or 17% off his career average, but that drop is offset by his increase in walks so his OBP is actually pretty static. What's interesting here is that, you look at the fact that his walks went up but so did his strikeouts and you're tempted to say, well that's a wash. But it's not true, he struck out more but those strikeouts weren't apparently coming at the cost of times on base they were coming at the expense of other outs. Not sure there's anything profound in that but it's interesting.

Ok so now I'm convinced the Giambi has declined relative to career average, not dramatically and not to the point that he isn't a very big contributor to the Yankees lineup but he has dropped. So the next question is, can we expect a rebound in 2004?

In order to try to predict this I created several graphs of Giambi's career numbers. You'll have to trust me on that because I can't post graphs into this Blogger thing. I graphed OPS, OBP, SLG, RBI, and BA. What I saw is pretty much what I expected to see, something that resembles a bell curve. Giambi is 33 years old as of a few weeks ago. Pretty much across the board he peaked during his age 29 and 30 seasons. Which actually means he peaked a hair late. But since then he's been declining, for the last 2 years, not drastically and not precipitously but he seems to be on the gravity enhanced portion of his career arc. Ithink the injuries exacerbated things last year and probably caused him to be streakier than I've ever seen him, also I'm guessing the eye infection probably created more strikeouts so I would guess that Giambi's batting average will actually rebound in 2004 as things tend to regress or progress to the mean, but the G man is probably not going to slug more or get on base with much greater frequency than he did in 2003.

And I'm fine with that, Yankee fans probably need to come to terms with the fact that Giambi, while still a phenomenally formidable big league hitter, probably left his very best years in Oaktown.

Post Script
As I was writing this I noticed a bit from Peter Gammons that claims that Giambi has lost 25 pounds and is getting into shape to play first base most days. I like this, not because I think he's going to be a great first baseman no matter how many pounds he loses, but I think all the muscle man stuff could eventually do him in the way it did his mentor Mark McGwire in. I'd sacrifice a few home runs and have the guy around long enough to finish out his contract or to be worth something when Georgie decides to run him up the flagpole.




# posted by Steve : 12:03 PM

C-ould you B-e S-tupider? 

Two interesting things happened at the Super Bowl last evening: The Patriots won for the second time in three years and Justin Timberlake , (or J-Timmay! as I like to call him,) gave Janet Jackson's right breast a little fresh air. So I guess one interesting thing happened really. Well, let me tell YOU, the bosses at CBS and The NFL are all shaking their heads this morning saying that this is not the type of entertainment they expected or were promised, when they signed MTV up to produce the whole fandango. Huh?

Now look, I'm as naive as the next guy but there are a few things in life that you just need to accept as true and two of them come into play here.

1) Whenever MTV is involved with ANYTHING, somebody is going to end up naked.

2) Whenever a Jackson is involved in ANYTHING, somebody is going to end up...weird.

So, you are Mr. NFL and you want to have a really happening Super Bowl halftime show that is suitable for the whole family. You're in your mid sixties and really haven't been in tune with pop music since The Beatles were considered shocking but hey, you're "hip" and after all, your 15 year old step-daughter seems to like that Kid Rock and watches the MTV all the time so, let's entrust THEM with the biggest spectacle of the entire NFL season. Stupefying.

But what really gets me here is the complete hypocrisy of the whole thing.

After the game, CBS had the following comment, "...there was no indication any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS' broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended."

So a woman's breast being accidentally exposed does not conform to CBS' broadcast standards? Isn't CBS the same network that runs Survivor? And isn't Survivor the show that rewards starving women with peanut butter and chocolate if they strip down COMPLETELY naked? I'm not judging if it's right or wrong, I'm just sayin'.

Joe Browne, the executive Vice President of the NFL, (and a damn fine TV Judge,) chimed in, basically saying the same thing that CBS said, "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show. They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content..."

So now, what could have been easily explained as a simple "wardrobe malfunction" was again rejected by one of the 3 decision makers involved with the production of the Halftime Show. Instead of saying, 'hey there was a problem with the costume' the big wigs are distancing themselves from the affair and basically throwing MTV under the bus. I could keep saying WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? ....actually I will, just watch me.

The reason this is all so bloody hypocritical is that if CBS and the NFL wanted to have a family friendly Super Bowl halftime show they should have been more concerned about the songs the invited performers were going to play. If an accidental glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast is so offensive and not what they were assured to expect, then explain how the following lyrics are acceptable to the NFL:

"All My girls at the party look at that body
Shaking that thing like you never did see
Got a nice package alright
Guess I'm gonna have to Ride it Tonight"
Song Excerpt from "All For You by Janet Jackson"


"The Northern lights, and the Southern Comfort
and it don't even matter if your veins are
punctured. All the crack-heads....and all my heroes
At the Methadone Clinics"
From BawWitABa by Kid Rock

Seen a slimmy in a 'vette, rolled down my glass
And said, "Yeah this dick fits right in your ass

From Cowboy by Kid Rock

Now these lyrics come from songs that were performed last night at the Super Bowl by Janet Jackson and Kid Rock. Didn't someone in the NFL or at CBS have to clear these elements of the Halftime Show? If CBS and the NFL is ok with these lyrics, and find them up to their broadcast standards, then I don't understand all the fuss about Miss Jackson if You're Nasty's nipple.

It boggles my mind that an accidental breast shot is so offensive but apparently noone has any problem with Kid Rock extolling the virtues of his homies in Cell Block 6. Personally, I listen to Mr. Rock or The Kid, or the American Badass (when i want to hear boring overwarmed southern nostalgia rock completely butchered,) just like anyone else, and music that is probably a lot 'worse,' so this isn't about me indiciting CBS and MTV and the NFL for corrupting the airwaves. But don't sit there and toss MTV and Janet and Timmay under the bus, MTV did what they do best...incite nudity. Timberlake may have been overcome by excitement and yanked too hard. And Janet....well that's just Janet being Janet I guess. For CBS and the NFL to get all holier than thou this late in the game is just plain old fashioned hypocrisy.

And another thing you kids today with yer................... ah nevermind.















# posted by Steve : 11:19 AM

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