I love this show. It’s so completely terrible and insane.
The local free press just covered Jim Rice’s Hall induction, and, as is par for the course with this valueless rag, they took a happy moment and tried to load it up with as much leftist hand-wringing poseur bullshit as they possibly could. Their angle on this story? That Boston is incredibly racist because Jim Rice’s induction celebration wasn’t big enough.
Now, let’s ignore the fact that "OMG Boston is racist" is number four on the Top Ten List of hackneyed bullshit stories that lazy journalists like to write. Their complaint wasn’t that Jim Rice’s Hall induction was ignored. The complaint wasn’t that people were protesting in the streets that a coloured man could be considered good at baseball, clearly the white man’s game. No, the complaint is that the "level of excitement" was not as high as it was when Carlton Fisk was inducted into the Hall in 2000.
This is an important complaint. I checked Carlton Fisk’s Hall of Fame Excitement Level (HoFEL) on Baseball Reference, and it’s an amazing 1.315 (!!). Jim Rice only gets a .835, which is a lot lower than I expected, but it turns out that the formula in fact docks Rice .097 for getting in on his fifteenth ballot, .063 for playing an easy defensive position, and an astonishing .617 for being black. I didn’t believe it either, but there you are, folks: science does not lie, and this completely objective statistical measurement tells the whole story. I’d like to thank high-quality reporter Alan Bisbort for calling our attention to this important and frequently overlooked element of racism. I didn’t even realise how much I hated Jim Rice for being black before I read that article. It seems like just the other day when I was writing about how Jim Rice was my favourite player when I was a kid. Fortunately, through the magic of statistical analysis, I now know that, in fact, I only kind-of sort-of liked him.
The best part of the whole thing, of course, is that, even assuming that this bullshit "level of excitement felt lower" claim is accurate, he goes on to list a some non-trivial reasons why that might be the case which are not "because Jim Rice is black," but then pooh-poohs them in favour of his preordained conclusion. Seriously. He talks about Rice’s embattled relationship with the Boston media, and he mentions that Rice got in on his fifteenth ballot (meaning he retired twenty years ago, meaning a whole lot of people don’t really remember Jim Rice or never got to see him in the first place). But then, out of the blue, he decides that the only answer is racial enmity.
Supporting evidence? Why, he once saw Rice get race-baited by white people! At… an away game. And those white people were Yankees fans. Seriously, dude. The Yankees fans taunting the Red Sox’s top slugger and team captain (yes, jackass, he was the captain of this horribly racist team) are not doing that because they hate black people. They’re doing that because they hate the Red Sox, and they’re trying to get him worked up so he doesn’t goddamn destroy their team in his next at-bat. You don’t think so? Then riddle me this: did they taunt Reggie Jackson the same way? Oh, they didn’t? Weird. ‘Cause, you know, I thought he was black, too. Though I freely admit that I have a documented history of being bad at this. Oh, and while I’m on the subject: how again does the fact that Jim Rice got race-baited by Yankees fans at Memorial Stadium prove that Boston is racist? You do seem to realise that the Yankees are not a Boston team and that Memorial Stadium is not in Boston. Are you sure this anecdote supports the point you’re trying to make, which is that the Boston Red Sox from Boston are racist toward black people in Boston? Next time, pick an anecdote that involves Boston. It will work better, I promise.
And, just to deal with your final straw man: yes, we know the Red Sox were the last team to integrate. Everyone knows this, because people like you will not stop flagellating us with it. What that does not mean is that, fifty years later, that same institutionalised racism that prevented the team from integrating for twelve years prior was responsible for making Jim Rice wait a few years to get into the Hall. Jim Rice, who was, I repeat, the captain of this hopelessly racist organisation in this hopelessly racist city.
No. Jim Rice took fifteen years to get into the Hall because he pissed off a lot of reporters — who are, by the way, the people who decide who gets into the Hall — and because his numbers were very borderline. But he did get into the Hall, and this is almost entirely because the fans — the Boston fans, mind you, because he played his entire career for the racist Boston Red Sox from racist fucking Boston — loved him so much that eventually the BBWAA caved and let him in. If his "level of excitement" was lower than Pudge Fisk’s, it was probably mainly because he retired twenty years before his induction, which Pudge did not.
In conclusion, fuck you. And also in conclusion, here’s a fun fact. You know what specific anecdote people think about when they think of Jim Rice? What one single feat he performed that really sticks in people’s minds? It’s not an awesome catch, or a monster home run, or a silly clubhouse prank. No, people remember the time Jim Rice saved a child’s life through the sheer power of awesome. They think about this. Fuck you we don’t appreciate Jim Rice because we’re racist.
If you’re like me — and you know you are — you’ve always known the moon landing was fake but never could place your finger on exactly why. Well, never fear! John Moltz has taken time off from getting lit the fuck up by the Orioles of all teams and wrote this handy list of ten reasons why he knows it was fake. So go read that and then you can feel all smug about yourself when you explain to those stupid establishment drones at the office why they’re such idiots.
This guy says he is. I’m pretty thoroughly unconvinced by his argument, though. And, yes, I realise it’s a few years old, but given that Jim Ed was just inducted into the hall, it was just pointed at me.
Let me start by saying that, when I was a kid, Jim Rice was my absolute favourite baseball player. I don’t really know why, since I’m too young to have seen his real glory days; he was declining hard by the time I even knew what baseball was, but he was still my favourite. I love Jim Rice, and I’m thrilled to see that he finally got into the hall, but I am compelled by his numbers to point out that Jim Rice was a very marginal Hall candidate. He was solidly above-average offensively for almost all of his career, but he was at best acceptable defensively, and he declined early. But is Dale Murphy really a better candidate? I’m just not sold. Let’s take this in order.
Fenway Park was a better hitter’s park. The point here is that Rice’s numbers are inflated by Fenway. This is pretty much correct, and he makes good use of OPS+ to illustrate the point (OPS+ is park-adjusted). He is correct that Rice’s OPS+ at his peak wasn’t much better than Murphy’s. But there’s a little cherry-pick here: he goes on about how Murphy’s fourth-best OPS+ is better than Rice’s third-best (which it is, by one point), but fails to mention that Rice has only two seasons of OPS+ under 100 — his rookie year (which consisted of 74 PA), and his final year (228 PA). Murphy has seven seasons of below-average offensive production, and his worst posted OPS+ is 0, as compared to Rice’s 70. You could argue that, at their peaks, Dale Murphy was comparable to Jim Rice, but Rice was better than average even after he declined. Murphy simply was not.
The National League was better than the American League. This is a weird point, and he supports it with weird data. All-Star Game wins is probably the worst single data point you can use to support anything, and 1970-1985 career wins leaders is also pretty flimsy. Wins are so massively team-dependent that you can’t just look at the leaders in wins for that period and say "yup, them’s some awesome pitchin’" and be done with it. I realise I’ve said this before, but, if you’re really convinced that the best pitcher is the pitcher with the most wins, well, congratulations Jason Marquis on being the best pitcher in baseball.
Of course, the real comedy moment is that, of the ten leaders in wins over that period, a whopping four were "primarily NL pitchers," which isn’t exactly setting the World of Datacraft on fire with its importance.
Rice hit into a ton of double plays. Yes he did: 315 of them, to Murphy’s 209. This is closely related to the next point, so I’m going to deal with them together:
Murph walked a lot more, at least in his best seasons. 986 BB to Rice’s 670 is nothing to sneeze at. That’s a big difference, and it’s Rice’s biggest weakness as a hitter: he wasn’t particularly patient. Had Rice swung at fewer bad pitches, his BB would go up and his GIDP would go down. This is a point in Murphy’s favour, though it’s worth noting that his career OBP is a bit lower than Rice’s, even with all those extra walks taken into account.
Of course, another thing that’s worth considering is that GIDP is also a team-dependent stat; if there’s nobody on base ahead of you, you can’t have a double play. Murphy’s Braves teams were rotten, whereas Rice’s Red Sox teams were good. Good teams will have more GIDP opportunities; it’s very likely that Murphy hit almost as many hard ground balls to short as Rice did, but there was nobody to double off of second.
Murphy was a Gold Glove centerfielder, Rice an average-at-best left fielder. This is a valid point made in a bad way. Murphy may have been superior to Rice defensively, but Gold Gloves are not useful for demonstrating that. Why? Because Gold Gloves are not a statistical award — they’re a voted-on award. The hacks at the BBWAA hand them out, which is why The Captain has three of them despite being, at the very best, an average defensive SS. This is a hard point to argue, since defensive statistics are not exactly robust, but probably the moat useful measure we have is Fielding Runs Above Average. I’m seeing 24.2 for Rice (which is actually way better than I expected), and, uh, -33.4 for Murphy. So Murphy’s glove was worth 58 runs fewer than Rice’s. Murphy’s CF-only numbers? -40.4. In RF he was a lot better: 27.6, which is just a hair less than Rice’s LF numbers (27.7). (None of these numbers are outstanding, of course: Ozzie Smith (for reference) posted a ridiculous 238.7 at SS.) So, actually, it looks like Jim Rice was a somewhat above-average LF, and Dale Murphy was a somewhat above-average RF who played CF for some reason, and didn’t do such a great job. And won a bunch of Gold Gloves for the exact same reason a SS with a career FRAA of -122.6 has three Gold Gloves: because they’re a popularity contest voted on by uncritical writers.
Dale Murphy is not a superior Hall candidate. He was a good player who is, by all rights, more borderline even than Jim Rice. If you’re a big-hall kind of guy, and you believe it should include players like Dale Murphy, that’s fine. But he was not better than Jim Rice.
And don’t you even get me started on Dave Parker.
Remember the other week, when I explained pointedly why the baseball pitching stat known for some reason as "wins" is extremely bad? And you remember how I used Jason Marquis’ Major-League-leading wins total as my prime example of why this is a bad stat?
Really, guys. Take that lesson to heart. Otherwise, you might write a really stupid article like this.
Let’s run down the list, shall we? Carlos Zambrano. Grotesquely overpaid, sure, but welcome to the Cubs. I’m seeing — and correct me if I’m mistaken here — a 3.36 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, and 130 ERA+ over 107 IP. That’s not too damn bad a line. Marquis? Well, his ERA of 3.49 is a bit worse, his WHIP of 1.264 is a bit better, and his ERA+ of 129 is damn near the exact same. Which tells us that Jason Marquis has been about as good a pitcher as Carlos Zambrano this season. Note also that Marquis is having a career year — as you can tell by the fact that his stats every other year are much lower, and usually below average — whereas it’s just business as usual for Z. So Z will probably continue at about this pace (possibly improving a bit; looks like he’s actually slightly down this year), whereas Marquis can safely be expected to fall off a cliff eventually. But that’s as maybe; why does Jason Marquis have so many more wins? Easy. Go here. Scroll down to the "starting pitching" section. See the column labeled RS/GS? That’s the average number of runs the Rockies are scoring in games that Jason Marquis starts. It’s 5.2. Zambrano’s is 4. I’ll wager the brunt of the difference in wins is to be found in the Rockies scoring 4/3 as many runs as the Cubs. That… kind of matters, yeah?
Okay, you don’t like that answer. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, then. 3.59 ERA is very similar to Marquis’, 1.154 WHIP is much much muchmuchmuch better, 122 ERA+ is a small amount worse (if you’re wondering how that could be with a WHIP so much better, it’s because Marquis walks a shitload of dudes and Lilly gives up too many home runs, which is worse). Run support? Okay, let’s look… huh, 4.2.
Ryan Dumpster has been rotten this season, but that’s what happens when you give mediocre pitchers big contracts after one awesome year (hint, hint, Marquis fans). 4.09 ERA, 1.372 WHIP, 107 ERA+. Slightly better than average, but not very good. Ironically, the Cubs have scored 4.5 runs/game for Dumpster, which helps to make up for the mediocre pitching in those games.
Rich Harden has been fucking abysmal this year, and there’s no good explanation for that. He’s literally not even half as good a pitcher as he was last year — 5.06 ERA, 1.463 WHIP, 86 ERA+. The upside is that he’ll probably get better, since this is so unusual (last year he posted 2.07 / 1.061 / 206). The Cubs continue their trend of scoring more the worse they’re pitching, and put up 4.9 RS/GS for Harden.
I notice the rant doesn’t mention Randy Wells, and… oh dear, I can see why. 3.00 ERA, 1.148 WHIP, 146 ERA+? And he makes how little money? It’s a good thing he got data-searched out of the argument, since he completely destroys it. Randy Wells is so much better than Jason Marquis — not just average Jason Marquis, but even outstanding this-season Jason Marquis — that there’s just no comparison. And for his trouble, the Cubs have rewarded him with 3.8 RS/GS. 3.8. A run and a half less than Marquis gets. 73% as much offensive production.
Just for shits, let’s look at one more thing. Randy Wells has a total of 3 "wins lost," which is a stat that tracks how many games a pitcher left winning and then had blown by his bullpen. Jason Marquis has zero. Factor that in, and Jason Marquis has won 12 out of 19 starts (63%). Randy Wells has won 8 out of 13 (62%). That is almost exactly the same winning percentage, even though Wells has 1.4 runs fewer of support.
So what’s the point of this whole exercise? To point out that lazy people who just look at the W column and don’t think very much can end up claiming that, if only the Cubs had kept Jason Marquis, our offense and bullpen would be much better than they are. And, incidentally? Yes, the $6.375M the Cubs paid Jason Marquis last year was entirely too much for his 4.53 ERA, 1.449 WHIP, and whopping 99 ERA+. And since those, and not these, accurately reflect his career numbers (4.45 / 1.410 / 99), cutting him was the right move.
But on the other hand, I haven’t posted anything about Bigfoot in ages, so let’s do it anyhow. Over here is a place that lets you make movies of yourself with Bigfoot, which sounds cooler than it is, since actually all you get is a teeny tiny Bigfoot with sharply limited animations. But still. Might be worth some time if you’re bored at work and have a webcam.
Is there any kind of system in place that they could leverage to force other people to give them money, you think?
Yes, it’s that time again: time for the semi-annual complaints about collusion! Frankly, bullshit there was collusion this offseason. This offseason? When the Yankees spent half a billion dollars on exactly two players? When all kinds of yahoos got a whole lot more money than they were worth? My favourite part is at the end, where Scott Boras pretty much accuses MLB of faking the entire recession just so they wouldn’t have to give him any more money than they already had. Classy, Scott.
The Nationals fired Manny Acta today, which was irrational. I know it’s a tradition in baseball that if your team’s losing, you fire the manager, but come on. This team never had a chance to win in the first place, mainly because of this. Their pitching is extremely bad. I mean, the Washington Nationals have allowed 489 runs so far this year. Holy cow that’s bad. Only the incredibly bad Cleveland Indians have allowed more runs than that.
Here’s the thing. Warshington‘s ownership needs to wrap its head around the fact that no way is this team anywhere close to contention. They need to build, and they need to build hardcore. Manny Acta is a very good manager — one who understands the value of statisical analysis to his job, yet! — and firing him does not make the Nationals a better team. They’re still a terrible team, but now they’re a terrible team without a good manager. That’s not really a win for anybody. What they should be doing is building around what they have, which was Acta, Adam Dunn, and… I guess maybe Nick Johnson. You just drafted Stephen Strasburg, and he throws six thousand miles an hour. Maybe don’t put yourselves in a position where you might hire some asshole who will make him throw 160 pitches a game.
Well, that’s as maybe. The real point of this post, of course, is to point out all the idiotic things the team representatives have said on the subject. Let’s start with interim general manager Mike Rizzo, who was completely incoherent:
"I’m not satisfied with the way we play the game at times. We don’t execute nearly as often as I expect them too. But the effort as far as the hustle and preparation is there — the consistency of the effort and the hustle needs work. The way we fundamentally play the game needs a lot of work."
Anybody have any idea what Mike’s trying to say? My favourite part is the third sentence, where he says one thing before the dash and then completely contradicts it after the dash.
Anything you’d like to add, Ryan Zimmerman? Of course there is:
"The only problem with our team is that there’s not that sense of urgency to win."
And the pitching, Ryan. The pitching is a problem. 5.21 team ERA. Problem. 1.570 team WHIP. Problem. 83 team ERA+. Problem.
And get this. Here’s Mike Rizzo again, talking about Jim Riggleman (!), who will be replacing Manny Acta:
Rizzo also called Riggleman "a tough disciplinarian" who is "going to show the young players that this is a difficult game to play."
Hey Rizz, they already know that. Particularly your pitchers know that. It’s part of the reason they’re so bad.
If you need more convincing that Wins is a terrible stat — I mean, beyond the fact that, going by wins, Jason Marquis is the best pitcher in baseball — well, the baseball gods are glad to oblige. They present to you exhibit A, in which Alan Embree gets a win without throwing even one pitch, and exhibit B, in which Joel Hanrahan earned a win for a team he was not playing for. Excelsior!
Oh, what the hell. Exhibit C: Joel Piniero, who has two shutouts, three complete games, a 1.110 WHIP, a 131 ERA+, and leads the league in losses, with 9.