The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Gordon Edes is writing about baseball

Do I pick on this guy too much? I can’t help it; he keeps turning out badly-researched, badly-written stuff like this. This time around it’s a list of underachievers and overachievers for 2009, and it’s not completely egregious, but there are a fair few weird choices. Let’s roll:

"There are no Yankees listed – they’re too well-heeled to be recognized as overachievers, and so far their big-ticket players lived up to the hype, though CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez are on notice for October."

Is the size of their payroll really relevant? I mean, if Melky Cabrera is putting up the best numbers of his career — which he is — doesn’t that still count as overachieving, no matter how much Derek Jeter gets paid? And as for their big ticket players living up to the hype, well, let’s take a gander at that pitching staff real quick:

C.C. Sabathia: 16-7, 206.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, 3.28 K/BB, 131 ERA+
A.J. Burnett: 11-9, 183 IP, 4.33 ERA, 1.399 WHIP, 1.92 K/BB, 103 ERA+
Andy Pettitte: 13-6, 178.1 IP, 4.14 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 2.09 K/BB, 108 ERA+
Joba Chamberlain: 8-5, 139.2 IP, 4.45 ERA, 1.525 WHIP (!), 1.76 K/BB, 101 ERA+
Chien-Ming Wang: 1-6, 42 IP, 9.64 ERA, 2.024 WHIP (!!), 1.53 K/BB, 46 ERA+

Yep, looks like Gordon’s right. No underachieving going on there at all. Wang’s out for the season with a shoulder injury, but holy dick was he terrible before he went down. Burnett, Pettitte, and Chamberlain have been entirely mediocre this season, and two of them make an awful lot of money to post those numbers. Sabathia’s been okay, but not exactly great.

In case you’re wondering: the bullpen’s been pretty good, and Mariano Rivera has, as usual, been ridiculous.


Underachiever: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs

2008 Rookie of the Year single-handedly revived myth of sophomore slump. Got to the point where manager Lou Piniella preferred playing Koyie Hill over Soto, who has more strikeouts (63) than hits (60) and over 50 fewer RBIs than last season."

Nice sentence structure, Tarzan. Gordie’s definition of "over 50" apparently differs from mine, since I checked a knowledge engine and it pointed out that 86 – 40 is not, in fact, "over 50." Also, hey, he’s had 46 fewer RBIs, but it looks like he’s also had 231 fewer plate appearances. You think they could be connected in some fashion? And, hey, look: the team OBP this season is .330, compared to last year’s .354. Fewer men on base to drive in? Could this also be a factor in Soto’s RBI decline?

All of which is not to say Soto hasn’t been terrible this year, because he has. But Gordie sure picks a weird way to demonstrate that. I mean, more strikeouts than hits? That’s the stat you want to hang your hat on? Then you must also think this guy and this guy are pretty awful baseball players, even though their grown-up stats look pretty damn good. No. The real answer is: Geo is .225 / .331 / .404 / .735 this season, compared to last season’s .285 / .364 / .504 / .868. 33 points of OBP and a hundred points of SLG is a fairly meaningful drop. His OPS+ has gone from 120 down to 88. He is underperforming this year.

"Overachiever: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks

Venezuelan-born catcher was hitting .219 on June 16, and .340 in 68 games since, with a chance to finish the season with over .300. His 14 home runs, after just five last season, suggest he could develop 20-homer power."

I would like to remind everybody that not picking Joe Mauer for this is completely insane. Mauer is leading the AL in everything, and would be leading all of MLB if not for that pesky Pujols. He is putting up Pujols-worthy numbers at catcher. That is overachieving. Montero, on the other hand… well, he’s having a nice little season, I guess. The increase in HR is largely illusory, though; hey Gordon, you should probably remember when you’re gushing about an increase in a counting stat to check for a corresponding increase in PA. Montero has almost twice as many PA for this season as he had for last season, which is a lot of the reason why his HR are up. Note that two years ago he hit 10 HR in only 244 PA, which is a much bigger increase in HR% (he’s been 4.1%, 2.4%, 3.5% for the last three seasons). That doesn’t really suggest he’s "developing power." And batting average is dumb. The end.

"First base

Underachiever: Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies

Giambi is enjoying a late-summer renaissance as a pinch-hitter for the Rockies, but his return to where it all began, Oakland, was a bust. Eleven home runs and a .199 average for $4 million made for a sour homecoming."

Doesn’t 11 HR in 328 PA qualify him to be an overachiever who might be developing 20-homer power, though? I thought it would. That notwithstanding, Gordon’s basically right, though, as usual, he citing dumb numbers as evidence. Giambi did stink up the joint in Oakland, where he OBP’d just .332, and slugged a miserable .364. He’s been excellent in Colorado, though, which is largely due to his insane BB/PA: in fifteen PA Giambi has walked six times. That’s enough to qualify him for the awesomeness title even if he had zero hits. Which he doesn’t.

"Overachiever: Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals

Two things worth counting in Kansas City: Zack Greinke’s strikeouts and Billy Butler’s doubles. Butler, 23, came into the weekend with 45 doubles. The last players his age (or younger) to hit that many: Hanley Ramirez (twice), Grady Sizemore, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman, Albert Pujols (twice), Scott Rolen, Alex Rodriguez, and Cal Ripken Jr. Looks like long-suffering Royals rooters have a keeper."

I… what? Doubles? Gordon, you’re going to mention exactly one stat here, and it’s doubles? You are a very odd man. Billy Butler has indeed hit a lot of doubles this season, but that’s… about all he’s done. His other stats are almost completely irrelevant. As a better choice, I might suggest Boston’s own Kevin Youkilis, who not long ago was predicted to be a nice utility player who would get on base a lot, and has since steadily developed into an absolute monster. But, in all seriousness, how did you not pick Kendry Morales? If anybody in baseball is massively overachieving right now, it’s him. And weren’t you nominating him for some crazy second-half MVP just the other day? I seem to remember that.

"Second base

Underachiever: Kaz Matsui, Houston Astros

The Astros still have a year left on the three-year, $16.5 million contract they gave Matsui, who has been on the DL four times in two years, doesn’t steal bases anymore, and has a .640 OPS, the lowest of anyone at his position with at least 400 plate appearances. Texans think his name means “dead wood” in Japanese."

Kaz Matsui is terrible. The contract the Astros gave him was terrible. Your joke about his name was also terrible. And… did you just cite OPS, Gordon? WTF? If you know about stats like OPS, why are all your previous entries filled up with RBIs and counting stats not compared to PA? And goddamn doubles? You are a very odd man.

Oh, incidentally: Matsui has stolen 18 bases so far this season. That puts him on-track to tie his second-highest number of stolen bases ever, which he set last season. You’re just making this shit up, aren’t you, Gordon. You didn’t even try to look that one up.

"Overachiever: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays

No one doubted that Hill was a terrific player, but there were a lot of questions about how he would come back after missing most of last season with a concussion from colliding with teammate David Eckstein while chasing a pop-up. Hill has responded with 30-plus home runs, a near-.300 batting average, and has played every day. Now, if he could only learn to take a walk …"

Do I count as "someone?" Because I damn well did doubt that Aaron Hill was anything like terrific. And I still do. Gordon is right that his home runs are way the fuck up this season, but check out the increase in HR/FB: over the last five seasons, Hill has gone 1.7%, 2.5%, 6.3%, 2.2%, 12%. That suggests to me that somebody’s getting just a bit lucky this year. His XBH aren’t up across the board, and his line drive rate is pretty much spot-on his career average, so he’s had some lucky fly balls. So that’s all well and good. Gordon’s even leveling a decent criticism, which is to say that Hill’s walk rate is very, very low, and is hurting him rather badly.

That said, Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks is a much better choice, since he’s actually been good at baseball this year, and doesn’t just have one weird freakish spike in one stat.

"Third base

Underachiever: Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners

They won’t miss Beltre in the Pacific Northwest, not when he forgot how to hit home runs after signing a five-year, $64 million deal with Seattle the winter after hitting 48 homers for the Dodgers. But the soon-to-be free agent left Mariners fans with an unforgettable lesson, one he failed to learn until he was sidelined with a bleeding testicle: Don’t play the hot corner without wearing a protective cup."

I don’t think Beltre "forgot" a damn thing; there’s no evidence that he ever knew in the first place. He had one freak season where he hit a ton of home runs, during which his HR/FB rate exhibited a huge spike, while his line drive rate and overall XBH% stayed pretty level. Wait, does that sound familiar? Like a player you might have heard about just recently? Hmm.

That notwithstanding, Beltre sucks. I don’t really have any complaints with his inclusion here.

"Overachiever: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants

Kung Fu Panda gave us baseball’s best new nickname and most improbable cult hero, but don’t be fooled by the roly-poly: He came into the weekend with the highest batting average of all third basemen in the majors."

I agree that Sandoval is adorable. I also agree that he’s good. What I don’t agree with is that "highest batting average of all third basemen" is a non-stupid stat. If you’re going to hump his batting average anyhow, why didn’t you point out that Sandoval leads the NL in doubles, a stat you’re completely queer for? It’s like I don’t even know you anymore, Gordon.


Underachiever: J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee Brewers

An All-Star in 2007, Hardy was sent to the minors in August to make way for prospect Alcides Escobar. Back now that rosters have expanded, Hardy has hit just 11 home runs after a combined 50 in the last two seasons, and his .226 batting average on a $4.65 million salary virtually guarantees a change of address next season."

J.J. Hardy is not underachieving. He has always been shit. Yes, he went to the All-Star game in 2007, a year in which he had a staggering OPS+ of exactly 100. League average. This was six points better than his career average of 94. He’s not really underachieving, he’s just bad. Edgar Renteria, now; there’s an underachieving shortstop. .252 / .309 / .331 / .641? Yikes. 68 OPS+? Yikes.

"Overachiever: Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays

Rays manager Joe Maddon told people Bartlett was his MVP last year, but Bartlett took his game to a rarefied level this season. Only two shortstops boast an OPS over .900 &ndash Hanley Ramirez and Bartlett, whose .913 OPS is roughly 170 points higher than his career number."

Maddon was almost definitely just trying to keep his dudes motivated when he said that. The only other possible explanation is that he is an insane crazy man, because Bartlett was fucking terrible last year. He is the absolute best possible choice for overachiever in this category this year, however, since he’s been a beast. Gordon even gives a good explanation of why he’s overachieving, and doesn’t feel the need to mention that his RBIs have gone up or that he’s struck out more times than he’s scored runs or any other completely true but utterly meaningless facts. Good job, Gordie! We’ll make a capable baseball writer of you yet!

As long as you learn that you need a semicolon on the end of that &ndash, anyhow. I like the en dash as much as the next guy, but, really, you need to do it right.

"Left field

Underachiever: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs

Sori was sorry for the Cubs. Maybe it was the knee, which Soriano says will require surgery that he’d prefer to have now rather than in the offseason, but by every measure this was his worst season in the big leagues, as he was forced out of his leadoff spot and dropped to sixth in the order. It gets worse: The Cubs still owe the 33-year-old Soriano $90 million over the next five seasons."

Yeah, Soriano’s been rotten this year. That’s completely true. I disagree that it’s been his worst season by any measure, though; his walks are slowly coming up, which gives me hope that he might be learning some patience. But other than that, yeah, he’s been lousy.

"Overachiever: Chris Coghlan, Marlins

Here’s the deal, kid. We’re going to play you in the outfield, and you’re going to bat leadoff. You haven’t played outfield since you were 12, and have never led off in pro ball? Good luck. So what does Coghlan do? Hits .385 in August, and set a team record for hits in a month with 47. In a pitcher-heavy field, he could win Rookie of the Year."

Coghlan’s been okay, but come on. August batting average? You really, really want to base your case on August batting average? And hits in a month? That’s just weird. I’m sorry, Gordon, but Seth Smith is the choice here. And I don’t really care about how long it’s been since he’s played the outfield or whether or not he’s ever led off before.

"Center field

Underachievers: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox; Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays

When the season began, these guys played side by side. J.P. Ricciardi gave away Rios to the White Sox just to get out from under his $66 million contract; Rios has hit .157 in 23 games for Chicago, which fell out of the race. Wells, meanwhile, is openly scorned in Toronto, but for the nearly $100 million left on his contract, which jumps to over $20 million per annum in 2011, Wells can afford a thick skin."

Vernon Wells has one of the worst contracts in baseball. He’s never really been any good, and they’re paying him like A-Rod. It makes no sense at all, really. But I don’t know if he really counts as "underachieving," since he’s kind of always been lousy.

Alex Rios, on the other hand, also has one of the worst contracts in baseball. And now the White Sox have to put up with him and his -5 OPS+ (!). I won’t lie; I love that that happened. But who really cares about batting average? I mean, really, Gordon. You’ve heard about OPS, by your own admission. Why lean on the creaky old crutch of BA when you could point out the hilarious fact that Rios’ OPS — OPS, not OBP — with the White Sox is .374?

Oh, incidentally, the biggest underachiever in CF this year is Tampa’s B.J. Upton.

"Overachiever: Nyjer Morgan, Washington Nationals

Freed from the purgatory that is Pittsburgh, Morgan hit .351 in 49 games with the Nats until breaking his hand at the end of August, which will sideline him the rest of the season. The 29-year-old center-fielder, a spare part his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, is second in the league with 42 stolen bases."

If you’re going to start by bashing Pittsburgh for being "purgatory," you might want to avoid mentioning that the dude went to Washington. Just an idea I had. Also, wait, are you serious? You’re picking Morgan as overachiever because of his batting average in 49 games? What the dick kind of crazy moon nonsense is this? As much as it pains me to say so, the answer to this question is Juan Pierre, who, while still not exactly good, is undeniably overachieving.

"Right field

Underachiever: Brian Giles, San Diego Padres

Lots of competition here – Milton Bradley’s nightmarish season with the Cubs, Magglio Ordonez’s loss of power with the Tigers – but Giles clinches the spot with his .191 batting average, which ranks last among the 296 big leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances. For this, the Padres exercised his $9 million option last November? That’s not all: The two-time All-Star also was sued for millions this spring by a former girlfriend who alleged physical abuse."

I’m not going to lie: being sued by an ex-girlfriend is not a very good reason to be on a list of baseball players who have underachieved. It’s almost as bad as citing batting average. Yes, Giles has been complete shit this year, posting a line of .191 / .277 / .271 / .548. His OPS+ has come down from last season’s 136 all the way to 53. Nice cherry-pick there, by the way, Gordon, with that "at least 250 plate appearances" thing. Giles’ 2009 PA? 253.

Oh, and, incidentally? Milton Bradley’s season has not been "nightmarish," unless your definition of a "nightmare" involves a team-leading .384 OBP. He hasn’t been anything like as good as he normally is, and I could completely understand calling him an underachiever, but "nightmarish?" Relax, Gordie.

"Overachiever: Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates

A career minor leaguer who made a brief cameo with the Twins two years ago, Jones hit seven home runs in his first 12 games with the Pirates, and the first baseman hasn’t stopped bashing, his 19 home runs leading all rookies. His career arc suggests this can’t last, but to paraphrase Bogie, he’ll always have Pittsburgh."

Man, imagine how awesome this guy would be if he were in Washington instead. Oh, quick note: when you’re writing about an overachieving right fielder, it’s not the bestest idea to refer to him as "the first baseman."

"Designated hitter

Underachiever: Pat Burrell, Tampa Bay Rays

Burrell won a World Series ring with the Phillies and was thought to be the power bat that would send the Rays back to the Series this year, this time to win. Hasn’t worked out that way. Burrell hit three home runs in the first three months, and had just two singles during the eight-game losing streak that knocked the Rays out of the race in September. His .388 slugging percentage is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for lowest among all DHs."

It’s true: Burrell’s power has been MIA this season. But you know what’s not a good piece of evidence that he’s underachieving? How many hits he had in an eight-game span. Watch your sample size there, Gordon.

Also, maybe I’m just a dick, but I’d call David Ortiz a bigger underachiever than Pat the Bat. They’ve been about equally awful this season, and Mr. Papi is usually a lot better than Mr. The Bat.

"Overachiever: Jason Kubel, Minnesota Twins

Kubel has posted career-best numbers across the board (.305 BA, 22 HRs, 81 RBIs). For that, he’ll be rewarded with the chance to hit outdoors in Minnesota for the first time next spring, as the Twins move into their new open-air ballpark. Let’s see how he hits with frost on his bat."

Don’t worry about Kubel’s hitting with frost on his bat — the opposing pitchers will be at a bigger disadvantage, since they’ll have frost on their balls </rimshot>. Jay Leno-quality jokes aside, knock off with the BA and the RBIs. Especially when they’re not very exciting. Kubel’s OBP has been a rather excellent .374 this year, which combines with his acceptable-but-not-great .529 SLG for a completely humdrum .904 OPS. From a DH, you’re probably after a little bit more than that, yeah? Well, you’re probably fucked; there’s been a massive power outage at DH this season. Kubel’s probably the best choice.

"Starting pitcher

Underachiever: Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs

Do you detect a pattern here? The Cubs are well represented on this squad, and Z ranks as the biggest cash-for-a-clunker on the club. In the second year of his five-year, $91.5 million extension, Zambrano so far has produced just eight wins while enhancing his reputation as emotionally unstable and professionally unreliable. The Cubs can’t afford to wait for him to grow up, but they’re stuck with him."

Whoa, one-upping me on the Leno jokes, are we Gordie? Cash for clunkers! That’s awesome. Topical. I mean, trade that rust bucket in, amirite? AMIRITE??

Oh, incidentally? Shut the fuck up about wins. Wins is the worst, dumbest, most worthless stat in all of baseball, except maybe saves. Z has been a little bit down this year, but, really, it’s only a little bit. He’s not even the biggest underachiever in his own rotation: that would be James Richard Harden. But, of course, Harden has one more win.

Finding the biggest underachiever at SP is pretty hard this year, though, so I can understand why you’d take a cheap shot at Z instead of actually thinking, or maybe doing any research. I mean, it’s not like there’s a five-time Cy Young winner with an identical record to Zambrano’s, but with an ERA that’s more than a run worse, an ERA+ almost thirty points lower, and a well-documented pattern of emotional and behavioral issues. Because that would be too easy.

"Overachiever: Randy Wolf, Los Angeles Dodgers

The two leading contenders for the National League Cy Young Award, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Tim Lincecum, have made 17 and 18 starts, respectively, in which they have given up two or fewer earned runs. Wolf, a journeyman left-hander, has made 19 such starts, and the Dodgers are 19-11 when Joe Torre has given him the ball. At $5 million, he was a steal for GM Ned Colletti."

You like how Gordon uses the Dodgers’ record in games that Wolf starts here instead of using Wolf’s W-L? How much you want to bet that’s so he could avoid having to deal with the fact that his "overachiever" pick is 10-6, which doesn’t look much different from the 8-6 that makes Zambrano such a huge failure? Idiot.

Wolf is a decent choice, what with his 1.095 WHIP and his 130 ERA+. But there’s yet another Randy elsewhere in the league who’s probably a better choice. Though, I’m sorry, we’re all beating around the bush and we fucking know it, because there’s one clear, obvious, definite, undeniable winner in this category, and it is this gentleman here, who probably fell off Gordon’s radar on account of he plays for the worst team in the American League. But you see how he leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, HR/9, and shutouts? And you see how he leads all of MLB in ERA+? God damn, dude. This was the easiest choice on this whole list, and you whiffed.

"Relief pitcher

Underachiever: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies

Perfect last season, perdition this year. Lidge’s 10 blown saves and a 7-plus ERA finally cost him his job as Phillies’ closer, at least temporarily, this month. An incomprehensible fall from Eden."

"Purgatory," "perdition," "Eden…" you go to Catholic school, did you, Gordon? It’s showing just a hair. Lidge is a great choice, but only dumb people care about saves, and everybody knows that ERA is a horribly unreliable stat for people who only pitch 50 innings. That said, Lidge is looking at a 1.800 WHIP, a K/BB that’s down from last season by almost 1, a K/9 that’s fallen by 2.5, a H/9 that’s gone up by 4, a HR/9 more than twice as high as his career average (and more than six times as high as his incredible 2008), and an ERA+ that’s fallen from last season’s 225 all the way to a miserable 62. He is the easy, obvious choice here.

"Overachiever: David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners

First-year GM Jack Zrudiencik made some savvy moves for the Mariners this season. One was having faith in bopper Russell Branyan; another was to give Aardsma a shot to close, which he parlayed into 34 saves, a 2.15 ERA, and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Should make for a nice payday ahead for a guy who’d been stuck in middle relief since starring at Rice."

Gordon. Seriously. Fuck off with your 34 saves. David Aardsma is the right choice — he’s having an incredible, Lidge-in-2008-like year, following his awful, Lidge-in-2009-like last year — but number of saves is a useless, arbitrary metric for showing that. K-Rod had 62 saves last year. Was he twice as good as Aardsma is this year? No, actually, he was worse. For fuck’s sake, man, Brad Lidge — your choice for underachiever, remember? — has 28 saves. Exactly six fewer. Those six saves are the difference? No. No they are not. Fuck off.

Incidentally, another good choice here is Angel Guzman, but Gordon ignored him because he’s not a closer.

September 13th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Nice box

I’ve played Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, and, lo, it was good.

If you played Curious Village, it’s fundamentally the same game; solve a whole bunch of brain teasers, and then unravel the mystery! Though, honestly, the mystery mainly unravels itself. The player’s role in the game is mainly to figure out how much money the shoe salesman lost and what the measurement of the internal angle inscribed inside this cube is. The atmosphere is pretty much the same as before (a bit darker, but not really by much; St. Mystere wasn’t the cheeriest of places), and follows the same weird Laytonisation of Victorian England and modern technology.

In re: Nyperold’s comments here, I’d like to address a few of those concerns. First off, yeah, the point where the entire plot of the game could have been havoided if one character had said one thing there was no real reason not to say was pretty annoying. But as for the Improbable Disguise, that didn’t bother me at all. I just chalked that up to another example of how the Layton games don’t quite take themselves seriously; both games have a bit of wry self-satire peeking in around the edges, kind of like a James Bond picture, and the Disguise just struck me as a part of that. The games are sort of one part Hercule Poirot, one part Indiana Jones, and one part Scooby-Doo any way you look at it.

One nice thing this time around is that there really aren’t any clunkers, puzzle-wise; there are a few that aren’t really up my alley, but they’re fine puzzles. Nothing as bizarre and lame as the cell phone candy bar puzzle from the first game. Though, hey, does anybody out there actually enjoy peg solitaire? Because I sure don’t. The difficulty level on the puzzles does seem to be a bit lower overall than it was in Curious Village, though; maybe I’m just more awesome now than I was then. Worthy of note is that Level 5 added to the puzzles the single feature I wanted more than anything in Curious Village: the ability to make notes and figures and tracings right there on the puzzle screen. Praise be.

Plotwise, the game is fairly standard. There’s a spooooooky mystery, and you have to unravel it, and Professor Layton is annoyingly noncommital on the subject of whether or not there’s any such a fucking thing as ghosts. Along the way, you’ll encounter plenty of twists and secondary mysteries that you’ll solve much much muchmuchmuch faster than Layton does, so you’ll get the opportunity to heckle the game for being dense, which is always fun; though, this time around, there’s at least one twist that I genuinely did not see coming. And then you’ll get your odd, Scooby-Doo resolution where you’ll be all "things do not work that way" but everybody in the game world is weirdly accepting of it. You know, just like in Curious Village.

Oh, one final note for those World of Warcraft fans out there: Yogg-Saron does not appear in this game, though you’d be forgiven for thinking he might. You’ll know what I mean.

September 13th, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments