The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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