310ToJoba: November 2009 Archives

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I suppose I could keep trotting out examples of people who grossly misunderstand the value of certain statistics when it comes to picking out a Cy Young award winner... so I will. This time it's Jeff Fletcher over at Fanhouse who penned this tome about why Chris Carpenter, not Tim Lincecum deserved the NL Cy Young.

(SIGHS)

Flecther actually brings up some nice advanced statistics (namely FIP) and more than adequately incorporates them into his argument. However, like our friend Jack McDowell from yesterday, Fletcher takes umbrage at the fact that Tim Lincecum was a strikeout pitcher. Heavens to betsy! Why are pitchers who make outs on their own suddenly so undesirable?

Lincecum is a power pitcher. He struck guys out. Carpenter is not. He let guys put the ball in play and his defense got the outs.

If I'm trying to project the future of both pitchers, or if I'm trying to decide which guy I'd like on my team for 2010 or beyond (ignoring their age, in this case), I'll take the guy with the strikeouts. Strikeouts are nice and clean and don't require any help from the defense.

But if I'm filling out a 2009 Cy Young ballot, I don't care about 2010 or projections. I care about what actually happened. What actually happened was that Carpenter got outs at a better rate than Lincecum. Just that more of them were boring grounders to the shortstop instead of big exciting punchouts. You can say that strikeouts are better than groundouts because you can't move a runner or score a run on a strikeout, but Carpenter still did a better job preventing runs, so it didn't matter.

Is it really fair to penalize a pitcher who did his job (got outs, prevented runs) because he didn't do it a certain way (with strikeouts)?

Our resident Fanhouse writer finds two categories, ERA and WHIP, that Carpenter bests Lincecum in and then uses this to suppose that Carpenter is a better run preventer. Am I the only one who sees the inherent flaw in the argument? I shouldn't be, because he pretty much states all the reasons he is wrong himself. That's some bold writing tactics.

Fletcher says that Carpenter makes a great deal more outs on balls in play and then says that because of the ERA and WHIP (two things that are partly based on the conversion into outs of these very same balls in play) Carp is better at run prevention than the actual winner of the award. Umm, no, that simply means, as Fletcher points out, that Carpenter relied more on his defense than Lincecum to make the outs that give his numbers a fantastic shine. If I'm looking to award the best pitcher, then how can I pick the guy who admittedly needed a lot more help to put up strong numbers?

If we really wanted a nice pair of statistics to talk about run prevention, then maybe we should be talking a bit more about RAR and WAR. Oh, would you look at that, Lincecum's RAR (71.8) and WAR (8.2) in 2009 were substantially higher than Carpenter's postings (50.2 and 5.6, respectively) in those same categories...

Hoo boy, it isn't too obvious I have a mancrush on Lincecum is it?

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This photo was screen-grabbed from the MLB front page on Yahoo! yesterday. Muh muh muh Mike Scioscia face this is certainly not, but it's still funny because John Lackey is horrendously ugly, you see.

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McDowell, who is now a "blogger" and "covering" the White Sox at a Chicago media outlet, is actually a winner of the Cy Young himself. He did so while winning an impressive 22 games for the team he now blogs about. Great! Surely this makes him an expert on the subject, and he will be able to provide wise insight on the winds of change that led the normally asinine writers to go a sterling two for two in picking the Cy Young winners in 2009! Or not.

It's not a very long post by any stretch, I'd just like to highlight a few snippets of wonderful ineptitude:

The slippery slope we must watch out for is starting to de-emphasize wins vs "stuff." Obviously both Cy winners would have benefitted and probably pushed their win totals into the 20's with more offensively productive teams behind them.

So when you mention pitchers who had their win totals bloated by superior offensive teams behind them, you're quite clearly referencing yourself the year you won, right? That's the year your White Sox teammates gave you nearly 5 runs per game, a number that would make the adorable Tim Lincecum blush with envy. OK, good, just checking. Tally ho!

But we'd better make sure the Javier Vasquez scenario doesn't overtake the voters in the future. Now that they have officially allowed full season 15 game winners to represent the best in the game, you start to worry about perennial low ERA, high strikeout guys like Vasquez being propelled to the highest level of respect...when they shouldn't. What is the difference how many strikeouts a guy has if they can't ultimately win games?

"Javier Vasquez" (SIC) had a really, really good year. He performed on every statistical level for the Braves in 2009, and did so in truly impressive fashion. Quick show of pale, Internet-reading hands though, if you were the GM of a baseball team granted total omniscience and the ability to see the future, and you had the chance to acquire a player who you knew was guaranteed to put up the exact same numbers Vazquez did in 2009, would you take him?

Obviously I am not surprised that McDowell is against advanced metrics, or at the very least fails to acknowledge most of them existing. However, the fact that McDowell says Javier's performance doesn't merit "respect" when in reality it was truly awesome by even the most basic of measurements is absurd. He won 15 games! That total put him in an easy tie for fourth place overall in the rankings of that category in 2009. You know who else was in that fourth place spot? Oh, just the actual NL Cy Young winner. Clearly, he deserves no respect for that.

Moreover, why is McDowell picking on Vazquez specifically? He says when he starts the post that he is comfortable with the results of both awards and in a moment of grand irony even goes so far to say that "you can't complain about either choice" before ripping into the very nature of Javier Vazquez' being. In expressing his dislike of Vazquez' having a low ERA and high strikeout total but without gaudy win numbers, McDowell may as well have been talking about Tim Lincecum directly. But I guess since Tim Lincecum was never a pitcher with a middling win total on the White Sox the way Vazquez was, he gets a free pass from McDowell's direct commentary... Ohh!

I really don't have anything else to add to this. This pour soul has a case of Win Fever the likes of which I have never seen. We need to get him some help! The next stage of the illness will involve "Black Jack" howling at the moon on 35th Street and begging for a few more wins from the cosmos.

Or maybe I'm just overreacting. Maybe McDowell has a point, and I'm just writing this out of some deeply ingrained hatred for one silly little double he surrendered to Edgar Martinez in days of yore...

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Just like last week I'll leave you with an inherently hysterical image. This time it's courtesy of the other fearless leader, Kris, who noticed that there was something rather unusual about Todd Helton's Baseball-Reference page, hastily screen-grabbed with terrible MS Paint above. Click to embiggen...

I suppose this nickname inspires more fear than had they named him after that character on Scrubs. However, it does little to alleviate the problem of a rapidly growing pile of horrible nomenclatures emanating from Colorado.

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Matt Holliday is really quite good at this thing called "baseball." Attempts to catch meaningful fly balls with his taint aside, the dude can flat out hit. Yes, I am being Captain Obvious, but I feel it's a necessary frame of reference to begin eviscerating myself for a mistake I made. In this post in my other domain, I argue that if the Yankees were to pursue a free agent outfielder, it should be Bay and not Holliday because of roster flexibility down the road. I still maintain that to be true, but in a moment of stupidity, I rather ham-handedly say that Matt Holliday's time in Oakland was "underwhelming" and a poor indicator of his ability to hit in the AL.

I did some digging and was even angrier at myself because his 120 OPS+ in white and green is nothing to sneeze at. If anything, I allowed myself to be blinded by his unusually low BA, and how monstrous his return to the NL was. I am sorry, Matt Holliday.

I mention being blinded by his batting average because, of course, as I am often wont to do when looking at stats, I started considering a lot of the numbers on the page and noticed a larger trend: Holliday's BABIP has been consistently high throughout his career. Save for his brief tenure in Oakland, it has never been below .330. It's no wonder that the dip to .315 on balls in play he saw in Oakland was mirrored by his substantially lower average. After more digging, I noticed something else about Holliday's tenure with the Athletics: his swing percentages were substantially lower than some of his best years, especially on offerings in the zone that a good hitter like him would probably deliver on. As soon as he got back to the NL, he started swinging with a higher frequency and the results were truly impressive. In short, the Matt Holliday we were seeing in Oakland, was not really the same mashing outfielder we thought we knew.

Here's the thing though, a lot of times people will talk about certain BABIP figures as being "unsustainable," partly because of the sheer luck factor that is associated with the number. While Holliday certainly isn't the only one who is "guilty" of consistently boasting a high number in this category, do you think he can sustain this fuel for his impressive numbers, or is his new team, who will have shelled out a fat contract to get him, going to get closer to the .286 hitter instead of the .300+ hitter?

Whither The Love For Mike Cameron?

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I was perusing the SI.com archives from Jon Heyman (aka The Boras Propaganda Machine) and found myself re-reading his nominations for the top 20 MLB free agents going into 2010. The names you'd expect were all featured about where they should have been, but one name struck me as conspicuously absent: Mike Cameron. I whined about Cameron not getting a meaningless Gold Glove in the comments a few nights back, but I really am surprised the guy isn't getting more love as a short-term, cost-effective free agent option because that's exactly what he is.

Yes, Mike Cameron will be 37 years old in the 2010 season, but what he did as a 36 year old in 2009 cannot be understated: 24 HR, .346 wOBA, 111 OPS+, .202 ISO, and he played a stellar defense (to the tune of a 10.3 UZR/150) despite being "aged" by most modern baseball standards. What's not to like about that? Sure, he's no Franklin Gutierrez, but then again, few people are. And remember, before there was Franklin Gutierrez becoming the veritable death of any flying object, there was Mike Cameron doing the exact same thing.

I think part of the reason why I'm so perturbed by Heyman's lack of candor for Mike Cameron stems from the fact that he does give Rick Ankiel an "honorable mention" after his list. Really? He of the .288 wOBA? Not to mention his defensive abilities are nowhere near Cameron's. Saying that Ankiel has "fall down range" might be a bit generous. In other words, Rick Ankiel wishes he was Mike Cameron.

The rumors have it that Cameron is seeking a one year deal for about $7-8 million. Considering he was a 4.0+ WAR player and "worth" over $18 million in production for the Brewers each of these past two seasons, there would hopefully be many a smart GM leaping at the chance to add this man to his team. Let's see if the fella starts getting some love.

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There's our fearless leader checking in from his travels this weekend. OH WHAT A TIMELY ENCOUNTER WITH A BUILDING!

That's it for me this weekend, folks. Thanks again for your hospitality. If Rob isn't too busy hugging the best building evar he'll be back for you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

Oh, and just to get this over with in true Deadspin fashion: "No."

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On Friday the Twins and Brewers completed a trade that sent Carlos Gomez to the land of cheese, and JJ Hardy to the place with the new stadium that nonsensically has no roof despite the local climates. On the surface, the move is the very definition of two teams selling low. Both players had seasons with the bat that were pretty horrific from the conventional standpoint. But let's take a little bit of a closer look and see if this is the case, shall we?

JJ Hardy is primarily known as a gloveman, but in recent years he's shown himself to be more than readily proficient with the stick. His 2009 hitting line is nothing to be proud of, but the idea that Hardy simply forgot what he was doing at the plate is too simplistic. First and foremost, even after his abysmal season, Hardy still boasts a career wOBA of .325.This isn't superb by any stretch of the imagination, but for a shortstop it's quite good at least by 2009 standards and certainly shows how Hardy isn't a total lost cause at the dish. Moreover, Hardy's lack of performance at the plate, at least from a batting average standpoint, was more likely fueled by a precipitous drop in his BABIP. If there is one thing to be concerned about, though, it was a similar drop in his LD%, indicating an inability to drive the ball.

Nevertheless, Hardy still boasts a good batting eye and since he doesn't turn 28 until August of 2010, it's reasonable to call 2009 "uncharacteristic" rather than claim it is part of a disturbing trend. Plus, Hardy's real value is with the leather. He plays to a superb 11.5 UZR/150 in his career (last season: 8.8). It was this proficiency with the glove that makes Hardy an especially worthwhile and productive member of a team. In fact, the shortstop still boasted a positive WAR despite his meager hitting. Many teams would probably covet such a slick fielding SS (oh hai, Drew), and if Hardy can rebound to anywhere close to his 2007 and 2008 numbers with the bat, the Twins could be looking mighty fine indeed at SS. At the very least, Hardy boasts such redeeming qualities as "not being Orlando Cabrera."

On the other hand, there's Carlos Gomez, the guy who was supposed to be the sparkplug for the Twins offense and was also considered an integral part of the Johan Santana trade. Needless to say, I don't think this is exactly what the Twins had in mind as Gomez was anything but productive at the dish in 2009, hitting for an abysmal average, and failing to get on base with alarming regularity. Unlike Hardy, Gomez' wOBA is nothing to write home about, and if he is going to be a productive run scorer for the Brewers, his ability to get on base is going to have to markedly change for the better. Like Hardy though, the outfielder's poor batting average was made worse by a drastic drop in his BABIP, so some better luck might make his basic statistics look prettier in 2010. Gomez also drives the ball very well, which with his speed lends itself very well to XBH and potential trips to home with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the same lineup. Gomez also boasts a superb UZR/150, likely the result of his incredible wheels. Like his trade counterpart, his defense makes him slightly more valuable than a replacement player, but he has a lot of improving to do with the stick before he becomes a true impact player.

So this move definitely involved two teams selling low, but it appears that in both cases, the peripheral statistics indicate a potential for future performance that could yield a very nice reward. In my opinion, this is more likely to manifest itself with Hardy than with Gomez, but what do you think? Did one team vastly outsmart the other? And how are Twins fans likely to react once they realize they have to probably start Delmon Young in the OF again ?

(Image courtesy of Flickr user ryan.kane)

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While the Yankees World Series victory led to me experiencing unparalleled amounts of joy and lack of self-restraint, it also meant the end of the baseball season for what always seems like an eternity.

I think part of the reason that it hurts so much for baseball to be gone is the fact that the baseball season and playoffs are so long. In these months upon months, the fans are given the opportunity to develop substantive relationships with their team for a particular year, which makes baseball's abrupt and definitive exit all the more disruptive and saddening. At that point, as baseball is storming out of the house and taking the kids and the dog with it, we're left with little but a Madame Bovary-esque longing for our ideal world where baseball is always there to satisfy us. But in reality this just isn't possible, and so we wait while Spring Training approaches with a pace that would make snail baby blush in embarrassment.

So what can you do to help survive the offseason? Come with me after the jump and we'll explore some tried and true methods.

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In a game that was so unlike the first two in this series, let's look at who can really lay claim to being among the most important people.

  • Andy Pettitte, the batter: While Pettitte's performance on the mound was certainly admirable (but obviously not spectacular) in helping his team claim a 2-1 series lead, it was the lefty's work at the dish that was noteworthy and hysterical. Pettitte came to bat in the 5th with Swisher standing on second base ,and wouldn't you know it, he slapped a looping single into center that scored his teammate to tie the game at 3-3. That's right, Andy Pettitte, he of the 6 ABs total in 2009, and a lifetime .134 batting average, got the Yankees to a point from which they would never look back. Psh, and who said the Yankees would miss having a DH? Oh right, that was me. I am ashamed.

  • Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher: The two sleepiest bats on a team full of snoozy sticks woke up in grand fashion for Game 3. A-Rod hit a questionable homer that was righteously confirmed by instant replay, his first hit in the World Series after looking like a strikeout machine in Games 1 & 2. This homer off a camera in right field (conspiracy!) got the Yankees back into the game and shaved their deficit to only one run. From there, Swisher, the second member of the Redemption Squad, roped a double and was driven home by the aforementioned moment of Pettitte hilarity. Mr. Mohawk was not finished though, as he clubbed a homer to deep left in the 6th that put the Yankees up by a score of 6-3. I'm sure there are several Yankees fans hoping that these two keep hitting the way they do. At the very least, there are likely several artists hoping Alex Rodriguez would like to commemorate his first World Series homer with some new portraits.

  • Cole Hamels: If Alex Rodriguez has experienced a quick reversal from "poor" playoff performance to greatness, Hamels has gone and done the exact opposite. The Advertising Baron started off the game in impressive fashion, making the Yankees hitters seem foolish with the dazzling movement on his pitches and causing people to reminisce about his glorious 2008 postseason. However, the visiting squad figured him out and they figured him out hard to the tune of 5ER and an early chasing from the game. Hamels 2009 postseason has been an absolute nightmare, and the start tonight did little to reverse that trend, causing some to wonder if he'll even be called on to start again in this World Series.

  • Citizens Bank Park: If you thought the first two games were boring because of lack of offense, then the ballpark in Philly is good for what ails you. Six homers left the park from both teams en route to 13 total runs that easily dwarfed the combined total from Games 1 & 2. The loudest shot? This absolute bomb by Jayson Werth, his second of the night, as the fella continued his remarkable season/postseason. Using the term "bandbox" might be selling the joint a bit short at this point.