The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Still sorry about your name, man

Tim Brown has a totally boring article up about Albert Pooholes and why he’s the NL MVP. But the tagline for it says "there’s no debate about the NL MVP award."

What’s wrong with you, Tim? Don’t say shit like that. Are you trying to get Rosenthal all worked up again?

September 22nd, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Fire Miniced

On the Diablo III forums, discussing the different resource types the different classes use, we get this gem from some doofus calls himself "Miniced:"

"I don’t understand how the Wizard should have something else than mana. I mean, it’s logic that magic users use mana and the wizard is the class that ressemble the most of a classic mage as we know it."

First of all, yes, I know: (sic)(sic)(sic)(sic)(sic) and so forth. That’s not what I wanted to make fun of. The part I wanted to make fun of was the idea that it’s somehow "logic[al, presumably]" that magic users use mana. As though the concept of "magic users" is one that has any parallel in reality, and as though "mana" is anything but a made-up word to describe what that blue bar represents. How is mana any more "logic[al]" than the old standard: magic points? There are tons of things that make exactly as much sense as mana, since they’re all made-up words for a resource system anyhow.

It’s going to be Ultimate Cow Force, by the way.

September 22nd, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments

Milton Bradley: game over

Sorry. There’s actually a legally-mandated minimum number of hi-larious pun headlines you have to write or they won’t let you write about baseball. It’s true.

You remember back in April, when I said everybody just needed to cool out about Miltie and give him a chance to prove he could be a non-shithead? Well, verdict is in. He didn’t pull it off.

Milton Bradley has been suspended indefinitely for this interview with the Daily Herald, in which he shit-talks the Cubs organisation, the Cubs fans, and the Chicago media. Actually, according to him, his problem is with "everybody," which is not really a promising sign.

I’m not too impressed with Jim Hendry’s thought process, but that’s not new information. He’s kind of a buffoon. "I just decided late last night that’s what I was going to do, and I didn’t give it a lot of thought what’s going to transpire moving forward. I just felt like it was time to do this," Hendry said, allegedly in between giant bites of cheese fries. Two problems with this:

1) I do not think that word means what you think it means.
2) Don’t you think maybe you could have given some thought to it? I mean, we all know what a fan I am of acting on raw emotion, but maybe when millions of dollars and people’s careers are all on the line is a good time for thinking. But I guess we’re a measure once, cut twice kind of guy.

Milton, I’ve been on your side all year long. I was there when Hendry signed you, defending your awesome numbers against the accusations of buttheads that you had bad intangibles. I was there in April, like I said before, telling everybody to ease up a bit and let you demonstrate whether or not you’d learned anything in the past few years. I was there in Spring Training, pointing out how insane your ridiculous cartoon numbers were. And Just last week I pointed out to a dumb dummy that your team-leading OBP was, in fact, an awesome thing. I think you’re an awesome baseball player. I was the one person in all creation saying, hey, yeah, Milton’s having a bad year, but it’s not that bad — he’s still getting on base at a good clip. So, yeah, that’s me: one of those fans and one of those media assholes who you accuse of bashing you, never giving you credit for anything, and creating a negative environment for you.

God damn, man. Even Ryan Dempster thinks you’re being an ass. He’s a mediocre Canadian pitcher who makes way ridiculous shitloads of money, and you’ve even managed to piss him off. That’s not easy. Derrek Lee is the coolest dude in baseball, and even he couldn’t come up with a positive spin for you. What chance do I, as a humble internet asshole, have?

None. Milton, seriously. Get a grip. You brought all this on yourself, and you’re just digging yourself in deeper and deeper. It’s time to swallow your pride, apologise to the Chicago Cubs and their fans and the Chicago media and, apparently, "everybody," and take your criticisms like a man. You stank it up at the plate this year. Does that mean you’re a bad person and everybody hates you? Seen Derrek Lee’s 2008 lately? He was pretty fucking bad. He is probably my favourite player in all of baseball. See how he had one bad season and got past it and I still love him? If you’d learned to relax for ten seconds that could have been you, too. But I think you blew it. I mean, for fuck’s sake, you seen the numbers Fonzie put up this year? He was awful. Like, way, way worse than you. And he got booed too. And then he’d hit a walkoff homer to win a game in extra innings and get a standing ovation. That’s baseball, Miltie. And Fonzie will still be here next year.

Seriously, Milton. Think about that. You’re being a bigger dick than Alfonso Soriano. That’s a sure sign that the problem isn’t the Chicago Cubs, Cubs fans, the Chicago press, the city of Chicago, and everybody. No, more likely the problem is just one dude.

And it isn’t Alex Rodriguez, though, this being a baseball article, I can see why you’d think it is.

September 21st, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Makes you wonder

"’There’s no sense leaving him out there,’ Manuel said. ‘He already had 56 pitches.’"

Charlie Manuel, of course, is talking about Pedro Martinez, whom he allowed to throw one hundred and thirty pitches in his previous start.

September 20th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Gordon gets one right


Your friend and mine Gordon Edes wrote a new baseball column today. It’s actually mostly decent. The stupidest things in it come not from Gordon himself, but from intellectual luminaries like Ozzie Guillen and some nameless scout who sympathises with Ozzie Guillen. Let’s take a look:

"Someone had just mentioned to him that Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had said the White Sox were a “horse(expletive) team” after closer Bobby Jenks blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday at Seattle by giving up home runs to Jose Lopez and Bill Hall, and the Mariners bullpen rang up a total of 8 1/3 scoreless innings before the M’s won in the 14th."

He’s right: Crazy Ozzie said that and a whole lot more in the process of throwing his team under the bus. Why does this man still have a job?

"’He’s right,’ said the scout, who didn’t want his name to be used. ‘That’s absurd, to lose a game like that. But what are you going to do? It’s been a tough year for the White Sox, one they’d like to forget.’"

Why does this man still have a job, also? It is just the White Sox, or is any team that’s ever blown a ninth-inning lead a horse-shit team made out of horse-shit players?

"’I’ll tell you what, nobody deserves to win in our division, and I hope whoever does win is eliminated in the first round in three games. Because if they somehow end up winning, that will just go to prove it makes no difference if you’re good enough to win 100 games in the regular season.’"

Way to be an asshole there, Charles. But, hey, here’s a fun fact. In 2006, the Fat Louis Fatinals won the NL Central with a stunningly good 83-78 record. They proceeded to win the World Series. So you know what? They already proved that how many regular-season wins you get doesn’t matter. Not that I expect you to remember that, since it was three entire years ago and certainly didn’t make any headlines at all.

"The Tigers have lost 8 of their last 11 games, a stretch that includes being swept at the pitiful Kansas City Royals, then losing two out of three to the Royals back home. ‘Not a good sign,’ manager Jim Leyland said."

Manager of the year.

"The Tigers this season have allowed more runs (673) than they’ve scored (670). Contrast that to the Yankees, who have a run differential of plus-148 (845-697). Detroit began the night ranked 11th in the league in runs scored, has just one .300 hitter (Miguel Cabrera) and has a 14-21 record in blowouts (games decided by five or more runs). The Tigers have a combined 2-11 record against the best two teams in the East, the Yankees and Red Sox, and were outscored 72-38 in those games."

Gordon, did you just write about run differentials? I… holy shit. You didn’t compare their like team strikeouts to the 1927 Yankees (1020 to 610, but please ignore that because it’s a stupid, stupid, meaningless comparison)? You actually cited the best, most meaningful stat for demonstrating that the Tigers aren’t very good? I don’t know what to say, Gordon. I’m impressed. Yes, by all rights, the Tigers should be under .500 right now (73-74, according to their Pythagorean). They have been meaningfully lucky.

"The Twins, a sub-.500 team when they lost Justin Morneau with a stress fracture in his lower back, have won five straight without their slugging first baseman and are an incongruous 10-2 this season when he has been out."

Look at this. I mean, look at it. Gordon Edes uses the word "incongruous" to describe the Twins’ performance without Morneau. It’s almost as though he’s aware that it’s a fluke, and that they’re not actually a better team without him. Gordon, are you feeling all right? You’re writing correct things. Do you need to lie down?

After that, he writes some more stuff about how the Twins aren’t as good as the Yankees, and then a whole bunch of shit about a baseball academy in Italy that’s fine. But then we get this:

"If you want to understand which teams run the bases well, you have to look beyond the stolen base leaders. Ari Kaplan, the Caltech-trained statistical analyst, big-league consultant and webmaster (, took a look at which teams are best at going from first to third base on a single."

You absolutely do need to look beyond stolen base leaders. But… going first-to-third on a single? That’s a weird, weird, cherry-pick kind of stat. Why not look at baserunning as a whole, in some sort of format that accounts for all those times people attempt to take an extra base and get thrown out by twenty feet?

"Coming into play this week, Kaplan found that the Angels, known as an aggressive team on the basepaths, lead with the highest percentage of going from first to third on a single (with no runner on second): 31.2 percent of the time (84 of 269 chances). Baltimore is next at 30.5 percent (76 of 249 chances). Then Colorado at 29.5 percent (54 of 183 chances). On the bottom is Kansas City with 18.1 percent (42 of 232 chances)."

So… what he found is that how many times teams go from first-to-third on a single has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not the team is any good? I would agree. Because it’s a pretty absurd cherry-pick and doesn’t really reflect on the team’s baserunning ability.

"Chone Figgins of the Angels led all players in going from first to third on a single, doing so 52 percent of the time (26 of 50) without being thrown out. That includes 4 of 11 advances on balls hit to left. Erick Aybar of the Angels was next at 50 percent with 20 advances in 40 chances, with Shane Victorino of the Phillies third
at 38.5 percent (20 of 52)."

Well… okay. But Erick Aybar is bad at baseball, and Shane Victorino, despite his awesome nickname (ha ha, Jimmy Rollins), isn’t much better. And are these guys good baserunners in general? Or do they just have a flukey spike in that one weird stat? If only there were some way we could answer this question. If only…

Well, yeah, of course there’s a way we can answer this question. This isn’t the fourteenth century, and there are plenty of smart people out there who’ve realised that just looking at number of stolen bases isn’t the very best way to tell if a dude has good baserunning skills. Baseball Prospectus has a stat called (I shit you not) EQHAR, which sounds more like a pirate stat — say, number of buckles swashed — but is in fact "Equivalent Hit Advancement Runs." It compares to "number of times the player goes first-to-third on a single" much the same way OPS compares to RBI.

What does it tell us? Well, Chone Figgins is indeed the EQHARiest player in baseball this year, and Erick Aybar isn’t second, but he’s not far off. Victorino, though… Shane? Shane? Where are you, Shane? Oh, there you are. You’re fiftieth on the list — three places behind noted speedster Ivan Rodriguez. You suppose they call him "Pudge" because of his speed? Yeah. I think so too.

"On the bottom, Daric Barton of the Athletics never went first to third in 18 chances. Neither did Jack Hannahan, who split the season between the Athletics and Mariners and was 0 for 14. Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers was 1 for 26, Bengie Molina of the Giants 1 for 23, and David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Aramis Ramirez of the White Sox were 1 for 22."

There you have it, folks. Statistical analysis has shown us a new truth: David Ortiz is not very fast. Hard to believe, but true.

Incidentally, there are two words in that paragraph that are very wrong. Can you spot them? Here’s a hint.

"One major league scout who attended Pedro Martinez’s 1-0 win over the Mets last Sunday was astounded by his pitch count, 130, his highest in a regular-season game since throwing 136 against the Mariners on May 1, 2001. But this was even more amazing: ‘He looked as good as he ever looked,’ the scout said. ‘Just blazing away. He hit 93, and that may have been with his 130th pitch.’"

The idea that Charlie Manuel left Pedro Martinez in to throw 130 pitches just made my brain bleed. Pedro Marinez is 37 years old and has a very long history of arm problems. Why in the name of Mark Prior would you leave him in for 130 pitches? Fuck the heck was that about, Charlie?

Remember this next time you hear somebody talking about how Charlie Manuel should be manager of the year.

"The same scout saw Cliff Lee a couple of nights later throw a complete-game shutout against the Nationals and said he was ‘magnificent.’ Added the scout: ‘That’s 12 wins from those two guys (Lee and Martinez). Where would the Phillies be without ‘em.’"

Aaaaaaaaargh Charlie Manuel what are you doing to your pitchers aaaaaaaaargh

That notwithstanding, Cliff Lee has been worth 18 PRAR to the Phillies this year. Pedro Martinez has been worth 12. Using the rule of thumb that ten runs is roughly equal to one win, we see that the Phillies, assuming they replaced Lee and Martinez with average AAA callups (worst-case scenario), would be 83-63, and in… first place. So, really, it hasn’t made that much of a difference. See how much fun math is? You can make scouts look like idiots!

"Chipper Jones, though, may have to take a hard look at the work he needs to do if he wants to bounce back from a disappointing performance this season."

Oh for pity’s sake. Would everybody just lay off of Larry Wayne for five minutes? Even in this season where he was "disappointing," he still put up an OBP of .389, which is very good and not far off of his career average. His SLG’s been way down — more than a hundred points off his career mark — but he’s still been good enough for a pretty decent OPS+ of 118. And what’s this I see? His BABIP was only .290? Hmm. But his line drive rate was still a career-average 20%? You know what that means, yeah? It means Chipper got unlucky this year. He had an above-average number of balls caught. Which means that what he needs to do next year is: be less unlucky.

I don’t think that’s liable to be a big problem. So calm down, Chipper, for fuck’s sake.

September 19th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Ken Rosenthal is an angry, bitter old man

How else to explain why he wrote a Murray Chass column?

"Joe Mauer is the American League Most Valuable Player."

Good start. This is correct.

"How do I know?

The sabermetric community, through web sites, message boards and blogs, tells me so."

Fuck those guys. Bunch of nerds, with their VORP and their DORP and their beardy, glasses-wearing, Mountain Dew-swilling nerdy nerd asses. Nerds.

"I’m inclined to agree with the choice of Mauer, but that’s not why I’m writing. No, I’m writing because of the cyber-shoutdowns of anyone who offers dissent, anyone who dares suggest Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis or whoever is a legitimate alternative to Mauer."

Shouting? I’m not shouting! Swearing, yes. But this is the internet, man. You might want to look around a bit once in a while.

"There is more than one way to look at this. I can argue for Mauer. I can argue for others. Taking a contrary position does not make me just another unenlightened member of the MSM (translation: mainstream media). But it will subject me to a certain level of scorn for rejecting SGT (translation: sabermetric groupthink)."

I would suggest that taking a contrary position just because you want to stick it to those nerdy nerds (think they’re so smart… back in my day… thing called respect… by gum…), well, that might in fact be a pretty unenlightened thing to do. If you want to present like some sort of reasoned, logical argument that’s one thing. But just complaining about the consensus because you think there should be less of it? That increases your LS(rSGT) by 6.02 on the season. Watch out!

By the way, sweet stat-geek rip, man. Highly original. Doesn’t make you sound unenlightened at all. Or old.

"Don’t get me wrong. Sabermetricians have significantly broadened our understanding of baseball — and by “our,” I mean fans, media and club personnel, virtually everyone in the game. Advanced statistics reveal not only tendencies, but also greater truths. Smart teams effectively combine sabermetric principles with scouting orthodoxy. Very few, if any, disregard the numbers entirely."

This man does. Also this crazy person. And you may recall this gentleman having such an issue with numbers that some poor souls started a blog devoted to getting him fired that I would be fairly accused of ripping off on a regular basis if anybody ever read these posts. But other than your last sentence, that is completely correct and I agree.

"Here’s the problem: Sabermetricians were ignored for so long, they had to shout to be heard. Now they are getting heard — properly heard in the highest levels of baseball media and front offices. But some continue to shout, dismissing those who disagree as ignorant dolts."

I’m a little confused here. Do sabermetricians actually come up to you like on the street and seriously, literally just start screaming at you about VORP? Because that’s nuts and I don’t think it reflects any greater tendency among the majority. Or are you just talking about internet shitheads like me? Because, hey Ken, seriously: the internet is kind of that way. Not just about baseball, but about everything. For fuck’s sake, man, I posted a lame joke on a video game message forum a few months back and it spawned dozens of responses nitpicking at details in the setup and whatever.

"Last I checked, it’s a free country. Last I checked, the MVP is a subjective choice."

Ken. Relax. You fucking drama queen. The very "freeness" that allows you to be a dipshit and intentionally pick an MVP candidate you know isn’t as good a choice as Joe Mauer also allows people to call you a dipshit for doing it. You dipshit.

"Yes, voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America occasionally screw up. But the beauty of the award, as outlined by the instructions given to voters, is "there is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means." Which, of course, drives sabermetricians nuts."

Unlike Ken, I won’t profess to speak on behalf of "sabermetricians." I’ll just speak for me. Vague MVP voting criteria is very low on the list of things that drive me nuts. Here is that list:

1) This steering wheel on my crotch
2) Those damn kids and their damn football on my damn lawn
3) Those tiny airplane peanut bags. I mean, what’s the deal with those?
4) Damn Mexicans stealing my job
5) Dammit
6) When I spill my Mountain Dew all over my Gundam Wing t-shirt
7) Wins and Saves
8) Vague MVP criteria
9) Ozzie Guillen’s mouth
10) That damn hip-hop that those people listen to

See? All the way down there at number eight.

"The award is not for highest VORP. It is not for most win shares, most runs created, most wins above replacement player. It is for something that no one can quite define, and — goodness gracious! — voters sometimes apply different interpretations from year to year."

Hey, while Ken’s ranting about VORP or whatever nerdy shit, I thought I’d entertain you with another quotation straight from the MVP voting criteria.

"The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team."

Numbers 1 and 2 are those nerdy stat things that Ken is so cheesed about. Numbers 4 and 5 aren’t actually criteria, and so their inclusion on this list should tell you something about the thinkosity of the people who wrote it. So, actually, the only part that "no one can quite define" is number three. Unlike Ken, I don’t speak on behalf of all sabermetricians everywhere, but I personally would weight the undefinable stuff a bit less heavily than the definables. Maybe like if Mauer and Jeter were a dead heat on the actual value and games played and stuff and Jeter’s hair was better and god damn is he a sterling example of a man, well, then that would count. But hands up everybody who voted against Barry Bonds in 2002 just because he was a shithose. Oh, he got all 32 first-place votes? Well fuck you all and your definable stats.

"Some sabermetricians contend Mauer should have been voted MVP last season, when he finished fourth, or in 2006, when he finished sixth. Mauer won the AL batting title in both of those seasons but did not hit for great power. Now he is headed for another batting title — his third in four seasons — and his candidacy looks almost pristine."

I would like to meet these sabermetricians who think that the MVP should be whoever won the batting title. I would also like to meet a unicorn, Bigfoot, and Mhungazonga Mubuntu, none of which exist either.

And which sabermetricians thought Mauer should have been MVP in 2006 again? in 2006, Jeter was the clear choice of SABRheads. Mauer was a decent choice last year, when Dusty McHustle of the Red Sox won it even though he wasn’t even the best choice on his own team, but, hell, that’s the way the ball bounces.

"Mauer has hit 27 home runs, more than doubling his career-high, and leads the AL in on-base/slugging percentage. He is primarily a catcher, further increasing his value, and the Twins stayed in contention long enough to diminish any argument he did not play in enough meaningful games."

What, then, is the problem?

"What, then, is the problem?"

Are you making fun of me, Rosenthal? If you don’t knock that shit off, I’ll shout at you on the internet.

"The first criterion for the award is “actual value of a player to his team, that is strength of offense and defense.” Twenty-four of Mauer’s 114 starts this season — more than one-fifth — have been at designated hitter, a position that requires no defense. Mauer also trails other candidates in the second criterion, number of games played."

This is a legitimate argument at long last. This is almost exactly halfway through the article, and Kenny has finally stopped ranting about those damn kids and started actually making words that mean things. Unfortunately, they’re not the greatest; Joe Mauer, you see, is a catcher. Catchers do not play quite every day as a rule, because their position is physically demanding. They squat for four fucking hours. So teams periodically rest them. In Mauer’s case, on his rest days, they play him at DH because he is an incredibly good hitter. You remember when the Red Sox started putting Babe Ruth in the outfield on his off-days? Kind of the same idea. And just like with the Babe, Mauer’s starts at DH kind of increase his value rather than diminish it, since he’d be on the bench otherwise. Do you see?

"When Mauer first stepped onto the field on May 1, the Twins already were 22 games into their season. Mauer obviously cannot be faulted for needing to recover from offseason kidney surgery, but two other MVP contenders — Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Jeter — have appeared in 141 and 139 games, respectively. Mauer has appeared in 120."

That is a meangingful argument. Mauer has played fewer games than some people due to being a catcher and injured at the very beginning of the season. If only those damn sabermetricians had invented some nerd stat that could provide us with some idea of his value to the Twins this year, taking into account that he’s played fewer games.

Most of the sabermetric "value" stats do account for that, of course. Mauer’s WARP3, which is a stat designed to reflect his overall contribution to the team, including offense, defense, number of games played, and everything, is 11. 11 is very, very, veryvery high. Barry Bonds peaked at 14.6. Babe Ruth hit 16 once. 11 is really good. Jeter and Cabrera, who have played more games than Mauer this season, clock in at 8 and 7.5, respectively. Those numbers are quite good, but they are not close to Mauer’s. For reference, 11 is where Albert Pujols tends to hang out. Joe Mauer. Is putting up Albert Pujols numbers. At catcher.

(Pujols is at 13.7 this year because he is very good at baseball.)

"Am I nitpicking? Perhaps. But Mauer’s absence in April, combined with his time at DH, raises the possibility another candidate may — repeat, may — be worthier. It certainly creates the opportunity for debate, which is my entire point."

You point is that there’s an opportunity for debate about the MVP? No shit, Ken. The internet fucking knows that. The internet is covered with debate about the AL MVP this year. This is like the fourth time I’ve posted about it on this blog which isn’t even ostensibly entirely about baseball. The reason you’re hearing so much Mauer and so little everybody else is because this year there’s a very clear leader. Which would be Mauer.

Try this little test. Are you offended that the whole world has already given Albert Pujols the NL MVP? I mean, nobody’s fucking debating that. It’s Pujols. Seriously, Ken. There’s no sabermetric mafia suppressing any other opinion.

"Baseball sparks the liveliest discussions of any sport, invites a myriad of perspectives. Slavishly adhering to sabermetric dogma reduces the level of discourse. We’re talking about an MVP race, not geopolitics. We’re supposed to debate. Good, old- fashioned quarrels are part of what makes the game fun."

Does anybody disagree with this? I’m completely serious. Is there even one person out there who doesn’t think people should be debating the MVP? Sabermetrics isn’t "dogma," you crazy, angry old kook. Sabermetrics is just data. It’s just information about what happened in baseball. There are 2430 regular-season baseball games played every single year. There is no possible way for anybody to watch all of those games, be aware of everything that happens, and understand the value of every event just spontaneously, and then to recall all of that information at the end of the season. So we write shit down, and we think about it, and we try to work from all this raw data about walks and singles and sacrifice flies and figure out how that all fits in to the puzzle that is the standings. If my team goes 94-68 on the season, and I hit .330 / .400 / .550 / .950 with 24 home runs, 31 stolen bases, and got caught stealing 5 times, plus I sacrificed eleven runners home and bunted three guys to second base, how much did I contribute do that 94-68 record? If you said anything more precise than "I dunno," you’re full of shit, because you don’t know. That’s why we look at numbers. It’s not a religion, stupid; it’s honest people trying to figure out what happened in the crazy complex string of events that makes up 2430 baseball games.

So when you write that "slavishly adhering to sabermetric dogma reduces the level of discourse," in truth what you are saying is that the level of discourse comes down when the parties have more information. That it’s better to be uninformed and just go with your feelings than to think rationally. Fuck you and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Oh, and, one other thing: geopolitics is something we’re not supposed to debate? That’s either a really uniquely unsuitable example for this argument or else fuck you. Or maybe both.

"So, the question becomes: Does anyone but Mauer deserve the award?"

And the answer becomes: No.

"My top alternative is Youkilis. But I also can make cases for Jeter and Cabrera and, to a lesser extent, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Angels first baseman Kendry Morales. Heck, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez — who missed even more time than Mauer while recovering from hip surgery — might be the most valuable of all. The Yankees, 13-15 without him, are 79-38 since his return."

Jeter, Cabrera, Youkilis, and Teixeira are all good choices. None of them are anywhere near as good a choice as Mauer (they all have WARP3s of or just below 8; their standard offensive numbers are sub-Mauerian on account of Mauer leads the league in all of them, and they’re not catchers, which Mauer is). Morales is not a good choice unless, like my good friend Gordon Edes, you’re making up some new second-half MVP. A-rod is also not a good choice; he’s having a serious down year. And, like you say, he’s missed a lot of time this season.

Now let’s look real quick at your last sentence. You see how you used a statistic to support your argument? Is that statistic somehow exempt from your discourse-level-lowering-dogma fixation? If it is, that would be ironic, since that’s one greasy motherfucker of a bad stat, and could even lower the level of discourse on slashdot.

"Youkilis has only one more plate appearance than Mauer — he missed time with a left oblique strain in May, then was suspended five games in August for starting a fight with Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello.

Still, he is second in the league in OPS to Mauer and possesses the unique ability to shift almost seamlessly between first base and third. Youkilis even made two starts in left when the Red Sox were depleted by injuries. While the experiment did not work, it demonstrated anew Youkilis’ team-first approach."

So Youkilis has been almost as productive offensively as Mauer in almost exactly as many games, plays either an easier position in the field at about average performance or a much easier position in the field pretty well, demonstrated his character by getting into a fight with an opposing player and missing five games, and stank it up in left field. He’s a great player and he’s having a fine season, but Mauer is kind of… better in every single area.

"Jeter, like Mauer and Youkilis, possesses many of the same selfless qualities."

That’s true. Or, well, it’s true as long as the "seamlessly shifting positions" thing and the "playing left field if that’s what he has to do" thing don’t matter; lest we forget, Jeter displayed his selflessness in shining fashion by selflessly not changing positions when his team acquired a much, much better shortstop.

"Yet, he remains the most controversial non-controversial figure in sports. Sabermetricians were the first to expose his defensive shortcomings — shortcomings that Jeter worked hard to overcome, making significant improvement this season."

The fact that it took sabermetricians to point out that Jeter doesn’t get a damn thing to his left was kind of absurd. However — and this is absolutely, unquestionably true — Jeter’s defense has improved tremendously over the last five seasons. He’s now pretty much performing at league average defensively, and producing monster offensive seasons, which is exactly the reason why you see his name popping up in MVP voting every single year now. I mean, look at this shit. You see how Jeter’s FRAA was an absolute black hole for a very long time, and suddenly jumps the fuck up for the 2004 season? That is an awesome improvement. So… we agree, except for the "this year" thing. Whatever he was getting wrong he fixed five years ago.

" While Jeter is almost universally admired, some also view him as the beneficiary of New York hype."

What is this madness? Ambassador Derek Sanderson God Jesus Jeter, pope of baseball and saviour of the free world has been the beneficiary of hype? I dunno. I call bullshit.

Let’s try this fun test and see. The following six lines all describe career totals for six middle infielders. Can you pick Derek Jeter out of the crowd?

.319 / .389 / .535 / .924
.298 / .382 / .528 / .909
.271 / .392 / .427 / .819
.317 / .387 / .459 / .846
.327 / .391 / .466 / .857
.287 / .358 / .446 / .804

The correct answers are, in order: Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, Joe Morgan, Derek Jeter, Honus Wagner, and Carlos Guillen.

What was the point of this experiment? Mainly to point out that if Derek Jeter put up those numbers in Florida or Philadelphia or Seattle, he’d be remarkable but probably not thought of as THE BEST EVERS. And that he’s very very good and will definitely get in the Hall where Joe and Honus are.

"Not to worry: Two writers from each of the 14 AL cities vote, eliminating the possibility of bias."

My ass.

"Jeter is enjoying a stellar offensive season. He is the unquestioned leader of the Yankees. His passing of Lou Gehrig as the team’s all-time hit leader is irrelevant; the Hall of Fame will be Jeter’s lifetime achievement award. But could anyone seriously be offended if Jeter won MVP?"

Joe Mauer would probably be offended. Does he count?

"Others, too, at least deserve mention. Cabrera, third in the AL in OPS, might be more important to his team than any other player in the league."

Except Joe Mauer, who is pretty much all the Twins have going for them. The Tigers have their excellent pitchers to fall back on. And it’s not my fault their crazy manager continues to write Gerald Laird into the lineup even though Alex Avila is much, much better.

"OK, that’s it, end of analysis. I don’t pretend it’s complete. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I just want to have a nice, civil discussion about a fascinating MVP race, a discussion that includes number geeks sitting in their basements"

Their mothers’ basements, thank you very much. It’s like you don’t even pay attention to these horrible hack-y insults before you rip them off.

"We can still talk, can’t we?"

Only if you promise to stop being such a penis.

September 18th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

This is exactly what I’m talking about

Remember when I said that I usually like Jeff Passan? This is why. He’s written a long, detailed column about Zach Greinke, why he should win the Cy Young, and why he will finish fourth to CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander. The reason why he’ll finish fourth is, of course, because the BBWAA’s brain trust of voters is a bunch of Sesame Street-level thinkers whose decision will be brought to you by the letter W.

But Passan’s take on why Greinke deserves the Cy Young is, well, refreshing. Refreshing because it’s right and he uses right words to describe it. He doesn’t talk about Greinke’s "stuff" or "confidence" or "intangibles," instead preferring to mention OBP-against, adjusted ERA (known in these parts as "ERA+," but they’re the same stat), and run support. He doesn’t completely nerd out and talk about PRAR or the absolutely hilariously complicated SNLVAR (support-neutral lineup-adjusted value added above replacement — no, I did not make that up), but, really, that’s okay with me. He probably should have mentioned that Greinke’s WHIP is a league-leading 1.06, but, hell. Beggars can’t be nerrrrrrds, as the saying doesn’t quite go.

Hell, Passan even goes so far as to mention Roger Clemens’ insane 2005, where he roided up a 1.87 ERA, 226 ERA+, and 1.008 WHIP, and finished third in Cy Young voting because the Astros scored 3.4 runs per game for him and he didn’t get many wins (though, to be fair, Chris Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis — who finished first and second, respectively — really were honestly almost as good as roidin’ rocket Roger. And he makes a fat joke about Bartolo Colon!

The bright spot is that all four of Yahoo’s experts pick Greinke first for Cy Young. So maybe he does have a chance. And those rankings show you why I like Passan and Brown and not the other guys: the other guys pick two dudes who’ve been only okay at pitching but got shitloads of run support. Because they, like most of the BBWAA, are made entirely out of a magical rock from space that scientists call "moronium."

September 17th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

It’s okay to do this, right?

The Los Angeles Angels of Alberquerque suffered a pretty hard beat by the Red Sox last night, going down 9-8 in the last of the ninth. Brian Fuentes was dynamite for two batters, and then turned back into a pumpkin when the clock struck Papi. Walk, single, single, walk, single, and that was the ol’ ballgame. And then he said this about the umpires:

"Especially here, and some other places, they seem timid to make calls. I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared."

Ignore the nonsensical "especially here and some other places." The point is: hey, I guess it’s okay when you suck to accuse the umpires of cheating for the other team!

Now, I’m sympathetic to a point. Ball four on that second walk — which scored the tying run — was a ridiculously bad call. The umpires unquestionably blew that one. But, seriously, Brian, it’s way the fuck not okay to accuse them of some grand conspiracy to make you lose. For fuck’s sake, man. It’s one call. You ever throw one pitch that doesn’t hit the strike zone? Oh, yeah; that’s how you got in that situation to begin with, isn’t it. Were you deliberately trying to let the Red Sox win when you did that? No? Were you just "intimidated" by Fenway and so you didn’t try real hard? Not that either? You just fucked up? Okay, then. You and the umpires have something in common. Now re-fucking-lax before your crazy mouth gets you in trouble.

September 17th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Let’s play two

Following my award-winning deconstruction of Tim Brown’s paean to Mike Scioscia, I bring you today the sequel, wherein I deconstruct his paean to Jim Tracy. Exeunt. Curtain.

"The Clint Hurdle era had been over for a month when Jim Tracy wandered through his team’s clubhouse, all smiles."

New manager of the year criterion: must smile at least once per month.

"The Colorado Rockies had hardly lost under him."

Stunningly true, actually. The huge winning streak the Rockies hit for their first month under Tracy was pretty crazy. We’re talking September 2007-level crazy. They were 21-7 in June, and jumped from last place pretty much directly into wild card contention.

"Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was a player again, and so were a lot of guys who’d seemingly lost their way, their stroke, their something. Clint Barmes was the regular second baseman, Ian Stewart was at third, the team was winning."

The construction "Tulowitzki was a player again" is really, really weird. I know what he means, but I’m not sure he could have phrased that more awkwardly. More relevantly, here’s Clint Barmes. Penciling that man into the lineup card at any position is probably not something you want on your Manager of the Year application.

"Nobody was thinking about Matt Holliday anymore. Nobody was wondering what happened to that World Series team, because they’d long before left that behind."

I was thinking about Matt Holliday. Specifically, I was thinking it would be nice if they could pencil him back into that lineup instead of Dexter Fowler, who is crummy, or Brad Hawpe, who isn’t exciting.

"As invisible as Hurdle was intrusive, Tracy asked them for effort and professionalism and, wouldn’t you know it, they delivered."

Hurdle’s key mistake was asking for a foot rub. If only he’d remembered that effort and professionalism win games!

New Manager of the Year criterion: must ask dudes to try.

"The Rockies pitched with everyone in the league from June on."

From June on, they have a team WHIP of 1.305 (pretty average), a team K/BB of 2.22 (also pretty average), and a team ERA of 3.90 (again, fairly average). So I guess you mean they literally pitched in the same league as everybody else? Because the Dodgers and the Giants — the two teams the Rockies are competing directly with — are way, way better at pitching.

"Down an ace (the injured Jeff Francis), they had Ubaldo Jimenez grow up."

They’re down two aces, you goof. And the only thing Jimenez is doing differently this year is walking 1.3 fewer dudes per nine innings. Which is a big improvement, don’t get me wrong, but if not walking dudes is the same as being grown up, how do you explain your next comment here:

"Jason Marquis improbably became an All-Star."

It was improbable because he’s not very good. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the only thing Jason Marquis had going for him was a foolishly high number of wins that were purchased for him by the big bats in the Rockies’ lineup. Did I mention that the Rockies have scored 720 runs? That ties them with the Phillies. You know, for first place in the National League. Pitching is not why the Rockies are good. It just isn’t.

"And, until recently, they hit. Tulowitzki, in particular, seemed inspired by the change. Since, he’s one of the 10 best hitters in the National League, as is Todd Helton"

Albert Pujols
Ryan Howard
Derrek Lee
Aramis Ramirez
Chase Utley
Hanley Ramirez
Manny Ramirez
Seth Smith
Todd Helton
Lance Berkman

Those are the names of ten gentlemen who have been better hitters than Troy Tulowitzki. If you were paying attention around the end of the list, you’ll notice that two of them play for the same team Tulowiztki does. Now, don’t get me wrong; Tulo’s a good hitter, and he’s having a fine year, but come on. One of the ten best hitters in the NL my ass. I can think of one other player hitting better than Tulo right now, and his name rhymes with Matthew Thomas Folliday. No points for guessing.

And Todd Helton’s always awesome except when he’s hurt. So is Jim Tracy propping up his back with magical calm-eyed reiki energy? Is that why Todd Helton not being hurt means Jim Tracy is Manager of the Year?

"Maybe it is pathetic that a locker room filled with professional ballplayers would need to be reminded that baseball at this level is a results-oriented business, that they were running out of time, and that the organization would soon be out of people to fire."

Maybe! Also it’s a bit pathetic that a professional sportswriter would really think the problem with the Rockies was that they just forgot to win for a while.

"The truth is, all over the league managers are talking ballplayers into playing ball, or trying to, and having mixed results."

Which is perhaps — just perhaps! — because the problem is something else. Like that their job is very very hard and sometimes they won’t do it right. But they’re good at it, and so later on they’ll start doing it right again.

"Here, in Colorado, Jim Tracy talked them into playing ball. He talked them into winning the game they were playing and worrying about tomorrow when it arrived. He showed them they could trust him."

He also did batshit insane things like having Seth Smith bunt. Seth Smith, with his .307 EqA and his 139 OPS+, is motherfucking bunting. Because Jim Tracy instructed him to.

New Manager of the Year criterion: make very bad managerial decisions.

"In 99 games, they are 64-35. For that, Tracy ought to be the National League manager of the year. Yeah, they needed him."

In 46 games, they were 18-28. Translating that 39.1% win percentage up to 99 games, we see that they allegedly would have gone 39-60 under Clint Hurdle. Which means that, according to this reasoning, Jim Tracy was worth 25 entire wins over 99 games to the Rockies. Over the course of a full season, we’re talking more like 42 wins. Ergo, Jim Tracy is more than three times as valuable to the Rockies as Barry Bonds was to the Giants in 2002, when he roided up a line of .370 / .582 / .799.

Jim Tracy’s career win percentage? .507.

The Rockies went to the World Series two years ago without Jim Tracy.

Manager of the Year, bitches!

Addendum: other possible managers of the year

The four experts once again list their top three choices at the bottom of the column. They name nobody other than Tracy (Rockies), Joe Torre (Dodgers), Tony La Russa (Fatinals), Bruce Bochy (Giants), and Charlie Manuel (Phillies). For those keeping score at home, that is the three division leaders and the two teams in a tight wild card chase.


September 16th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Time for insensitivity

I normally like Tim Brown. He writes passably-sensible baseball columns with the occasional bit of actually-funny humour. That puts him one-up on most baseball writers. But this time he’s gone off the rails a bit. He’s declared that Mike Scioscia should be the AL manager of the year because Nick Adenhart died.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It sucks that one of their pitchers got killed earlier this season. But that’s not really enough reason to give them awards, is it? Or is this like that thing where you automatically get A’s for the semester if your roommate kills himself?

"The jersey is not the only part of Nick Adenhart that travels with the Angels since that horrifying night, since the morning Angels awoke to irreconcilable grief.

Resolve goes with them too. It had to.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here, on the verge of their fifth American League West title in six seasons, the one that Adenhart was going to help pitch them to, but couldn’t."

What? What are you talking about, you crazy man? The Angels have a payroll of $113,709,000, good for sixth in all of MLB and tops in their divison by $15M. The other teams that play in the same division as the Angels — the Rangers, Mariners, and Athletics — were all expected to be terrible. Everybody in the world picked the Angels to win the division this season, by about fifteen miles. They didn’t need magic voodoo powers fueled by human sacrifice; they just needed to, like, show up and play at least 80% of the time and the division was theirs. I mean, sure, the Rangers were a lot better than expected, but the Angels are six games up, which is not a small lead, and playing better than .600 ball, which is not a poor record.

"It’s been a wandering, fractured journey. The Angels never did get their pitching staff completely together, not with 14 different starters and a bullpen thinned by injury, youth and imprecision."

This is true: the Angels were remarkably average at pitching this year. Team ERA+ of exactly 100, which is good for — wait for it — league average. Team WHIP of 1.422, good for fifth-from-last in the AL. Team K/BB of 2, good for just a hair under league average. They weren’t really bad at pitching, but they weren’t good, either. So: average.

"They scored runs because they wouldn’t have won any other way"

That… does tend to be true in baseball, yes? I think most teams score runs because they can’t win any other way. It’s kind of hard to do, so probably nobody would bother otherwise.

Incidentally: The Angels have scored 788 runs so far this year, which puts them second only to the hilarious offensive monstrosity in New York (834).

"And yet Scioscia made do, which is why, in a league where Texas’ Ron Washington and New York’s Joe Girardi and Seattle’s Don Wakamatsu drew more than what was expected from their rosters…"

Oh, we’ll get to this. For now, I’d just like to point out that Joe Girardi did not in any way, shape, or form get more than any sane person would have expected from this lineup.

"The Angels were supposed to win the West.

And after the death of Adenhart three days into the season, they did."

So why write this article? I’m not seeing much news in "The team everyone predicted would win… did!" Though the way you wrote that second sentence/paragraph makes it sound like they won on the third day of the season because Adenhart was killed. Which is sort of weird, Tim.

"The Angels were supposed to bludgeon a young and/or rebuilding division with a big payroll and talent."

Which they did.

"They won with big hearts and resiliency."

No, they won with their 788 runs. Didn’t we talk about that earlier? About how that’s the only way to win a baseball game? With the runs? I’m sure those 788 runs — which is a full 89 runs more than any other team in the division scored — were very resilient and hearty, though.

"They won’t have a Cy Young Award candidate. Or an MVP. Even a Rookie of the Year."

They also don’t have a Manager of the Year. I’m just sayin’.

"Of their three All-Stars, one (Torii Hunter) missed a month-and-a-half of summer because of injury, another (Brian Fuentes) is having trouble holding onto the closer’s role, and the third (Chone Figgins) was added so late he arrived in St. Louis barely in time for the introductions."

Torii Hunter and Brian Fuentes are insanely overrated. And Chone Figgins is… actually, I take back this thing that I was about to write. Chone Figgins is actually surprisingly good at baseball. When the fuck did that happen? He is leading the league in walks? That 108 OPS+ is nothing to cheer about, but it’s mostly his foolishly low SLG that’s causing it. His OBP is an awesome .400, which leads to a pretty decent .295 EqA and combines with his apparently-awesome fielding for a really, really surprising 8.0 WARP3, which is exactly equal to at least one guy who’s getting serious MVP consideration.

What was I talking about? I forget. Point is: holy shit is a totally unexpected dude awesome this year.

"Vladimir Guerrero, now somewhere in his mid-30s, is swinging at more pitches than ever and driving in fewer runs than ever."

He’s 34. And missing half a season with injuries will — shockingly! — tend to cut your RBI total just about in half, yes? Vlad’s OBP is at a career low, yes, but that could be injury-related. I’d say 34 is a hair too young to be writing him off.

"So, the Angels leaned on Figgins. They stood Kendry Morales in Mark Teixeira’s place. They watched Erick Aybar grow up. They hoped Bobby Abreu had a little something left."

Leaning on Figgins was a stupid, stupid plan that paid totally unreasonable dividends. Kendry Morales has also been surprisingly good, but nowhere near as good as Mark Teixeira. If Erick Aybar (who knew his name had a K in it? Not me) is all grown up now, it’s time for him to consider retirement, because he is bad at baseball. And as for Bobby Abreu… well, yeah, I’d say he had "something" left. Specifically, he had a .399 OBP left. That’s pretty good.

"They demoted Howie Kendrick, then brought him back."

They got it right the first time.

"They gave the ball to Jered Weaver, and he saved them."

He’s been okay. Nothing worth writing a gushing article about his manager over.

"They took on Scott Kazmir, but only after five months of options had been exhausted."

That trade was ridiculous. The Rays got taken to the fucking cleaners. So, yes, that was an excellent move by Mike Scioscia, who was the general manager at the time.

Wait, he wasn’t? He had nothing to do with that? Well, fuck him.

"From a season that had no choice but to grow from tragedy, from memorial services and a funeral and daily walks past the makeshift shrine that sprouted on the concrete at their ballpark’s entrance, the Angels simply endured, because Scioscia asked them to."

And because Arte Moreno is paying them $113,709,000 to. If one of your co-workers — say, just picking somebody at random, maybe Gordon Edes — were to die in a horrible VORP-related accident (such as getitng run over by a speeding VORP, or perhaps crushed under a crate of VORP), you’d probably manage to "endure" that pretty well for that kind of money.

"And after a decade of developing and tending to an organizational philosophy designed to sustain under nearly all conditions, Scioscia had it hold up under the one he’d never planned for."

Just to test this theory, I e-mailed the managers of the other 29 teams to find out if their teams had an organisational philosophy designed not to "sustain." They didn’t know what the fuck that meant either. So I rephrased the question, and asked them if they’d just quit on the season if one of their players died. Surprisingly, none of them would. Not even Dusty Baker, which is fortunate for the Reds, since he spends much time actively attempting to kill their pitchers. And also his own son.

"Heading into the final 20 games of the season, only the Yankees had won more games. Only the Yankees scored more runs."

These two facts are not unrelated. To each other, I mean. They are unrelated to how awesome Mike Scioscia is.

"No one, however, had seen more than the Angels had. No one would want to."

Hey, remember when that Yankees rookie pitcher was killed in a plane crash? Joe Torre won Manager of the Year for that, right? I seem to remember that. The reason they gave was "the Yankees have seen some shit," yeah? Okay. I thought so.

Addendum: other possible managers of the year

At the bottom of the column, the Yahoo analysts all give their top three manager of the year choices. Nobody names anyone except Joe Girardi (Yankees), Mike Scioscia (Angels), Ron Washington (Rangers), and Jim Leyland (Tigers). Those are the three division leaders and one of the teams in the tight wild card chase. Which of the following is more likely: a) the manager is extremely important and has a huge impact on his team’s chances to win, which is why these awesome managers are all going to the playoffs, or b) the Manager of the Year is a fucking joke that’s awarded to a team that goes to the playoffs irrespective of what its manager actually does? It’s too close to call from here.

Clearly the choice of manager means something. I mean, the Tampa Bay Rays went 97-65 their first year with Joe Maddon at the helm, and went to the fucking World Series. 70 wins was their previous high-water mark. So I guess a good manager can make a difference of 27 wins, which is almost exactly twice as many wins as Barry Bonds was worth to the Giants in 2002, when he had an EqA of something like 1.

What’s that? Joe Maddon was in his third year of managing the Rays in 2008? And in his previous two seasons they went 66-96 and 61-101 and didn’t make it to the World Series either time? My mistake.

September 15th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments