The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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