The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

There’s no crying in baseball!

Unless you mean "crying" as in "crying racism." Of that, holy shit does baseball have more than its share.

The Mets cut Luis Castillo today, and Sandy Alderson boneheadedly — but I already said this is the Mets, right? — said that the fans’ dislike of him is part of the reason. Which started every lazy baseball journo’s "easy race-baiting angle" gyro a-copterin’.

In three full seasons with the Mets, Luis Castillo has done this: .270 / .366 / .315 / .691, 85 OPS+, 1.1 WAR, for which he has been paid $18.75 million (plus another $6M they owe him this year even though he won’t be playing). The Mets, as you may recall, collapsed horribly down the stretch in 2008 and haven’t sniffed .500 since. Why do you expect the fans wouldn’t like this guy?

I think it’s racism. Who’s with me?

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News asks if something beyond Castillo’s performance, along with his inability to get or stay healthy and a perceived bad attitude, fed into fans’ apparent dislike for him.

Does Castillo being black and from the Dominican Republic have anything to do with the amount of hate?

Welcome, Andy! No it does not. We’re finished here, right?

I mean, David Ortiz is black. I… think. And he’s from the Dominican Republic too. Do the fans hate him? I’m told (by everyone) that Boston is horribly racist, after all!

Martino credits Castillo for being "one of the toughest and most passionate Mets," yet says fans, like the ones who booed him opening day at Citi Field, saw something else.

Perhaps they saw his $25 million contract and his 85 OPS+. Oh, wait, Mets fans. Perhaps they saw his like fourteen RBIs or whatever, then.

Castillo wouldn’t bite on race after he was asked, but Martino quoted a friend of his:

Props to Castillo for this. No, I’m serious. It shows class to refuse to cry racism even when some dude’s actively baiting you.

Also nice that Castillo’s refusal to play along didn’t stop Martino, who asked his imaginary friend instead.

"Yeah, sometimes that is tough," the friend, a fellow Hispanic in baseball, said about Castillo’s experience.

I’m sure he meant to say "a fellow Hispanic in baseball who is totally a real person and I didn’t at all just make this shit up when Castillo wouldn’t say what I wanted to hear so shut up about that." Damn editors.

"But it’s harder to say that’s the main issue with Castillo, because he hasn’t performed. If you had that same mistreatment of a guy that was performing really well, then it would be more obvious."

Wow. Even the source you made up thinks your theory is bullshit. Maybe that’s a sign, Andy.

Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan have played well as Mets, and have not faced the same anger. People who root for a team value production, above all other qualities, and have unleashed negativity on many white players in the past.

Lies! Stop with your slanderous lies!

But are nonwhite players more vulnerable to being labeled lazy malcontents, and less likely to be called "gamers?" Must they work harder to receive credit for positive contributions to the team?

They don’t call you a "gamer" if you’re a lazy malcontent. They call you a "gamer" if you suck at baseball but sure do get your uniform dirty. And, I’m sorry, but Derek Jeter explodes your whole argument, since he — without at all trying — manages to receive credit for everybody’s positive contributions.

Now it’s time for David Brown to take the crazy train back into the depot:

Martino asks a fascinating question, one that is sure to be disliked about as much as Castillo was in New York.

Castillo hit .235/.337/.267 (a .267 slugging percentage!) in 2010. He was hitting .286 in 28 spring at-bats, but reportedly had played poorly in the field and was even called into new manager Terry Collins’ office and reprimanded for "sullen behavior," whatever that means.

Fascinating! I’m not sure if his dismissal is due to the overwhelming evidence that he was bad at his job and kind of an asshole, or this random allegation of racism a lazy sportswriter thought up because he had no better ideas and his deadline was coming up.

Also, "sullen behaviour" means "moping around like an asshole." You can look things like this up on the internet, Dave.

All of that alone gives fans enough to get upset about.

Yup. So what’s the point again?

Of course, if you ask fans who thoroughly disliked Castillo how much race and ethnicity had to do with it, hardly anyone would admit to being racist.

Yeah, I saw Life of Brian too. I know how this game is played.

So, does Martino’s question do anything other than stir the pot? Probably not.

But try to get your head around this anyway: If the Mets admit that the fans’ perception of Castillo had something to do with the team releasing him, and if you buy that some of the perception is racist in nature, does that make the Mets’ action racist?

Get your head around this: no.

The Mets don’t have some type of sacred charge to evaluate the real hidden motives of their fans before responding to their desires. That’s stupid. If the fans want the Mets to put a good team on the field, and the Mets do, but some of the fans only wanted the Mets to win because they’d bet on the games, does that mean the Mets were betting on baseball? Use your head, Dave. If the fans want OBP up on the scoreboard, but only to make fun of Jeff Francoeur, and the Mets do it, should we think the Mets are making fun of Jeff Francoeur?

Wait, forget that last one.

March 18th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments


My nigga Joe Posnanski has a column up ostensibly about George Brett that sort of wanders into a general musing on offense and then back again. It’s a good article, and I’m all for fun with numbers lord knows, but there’s one little thing.

JoePo (take that, CarGo boosters!) tells us that the Royals’ batters checked in at 8.9 WAR for the 1985 season. This stat is two things: ridiculously, crazy low for a team that (by the way) won the World Series, and also 100% undeniably correct. You can see for yourself here. He then tells us that George Brett accounted for 8.0 of that 8.9, which is also completely true. Brett was unbelievable that year, and he undoubtedly carried the Royals’ offense. But the resultant conclusion — that the offense was the George Brett show and nothing else — isn’t quite correct, because of two things.

First of all: defense. Batter WAR includes defense. Joe knows this, and subsequently shifts into oRAR (Offensive Runs Above Replacement) — Brett’s was 77 on the year.

More importantly, though (since, for fuck’s sake, niggling about defense is semantic garbage and doesn’t change the tenor of the argument anyhow), is the fact that I see players at 15, 15, and 14 oRAR also. While that ain’t a patch on Brett’s 77 — and I’m not saying it is — those aren’t trivial numbers. And they indicate my point: Brett’s 77, plus the 15, 15, and 14 from their other productive hitters (Steve Balboni, Frank White, and Willie Wilson, but, uh, in reverse order) add up to far more than the team’s total oRAR of 91. What gives?

What gives, of course, is the truly amazing number of position players the Kansas City Royals ran out on the field in 1985 who played below replacement level. They accumulated a total of 54 negative oRAR, which is five and a half entire wins. If the Royals had sacked all those dudes and replaced them with unremarkable minor leaguers, their team oRAR would have shot up to 145, and Brett’s share of it, while still remarkable, stops looking quite as preposterous.

In case you’re thinking they’d suffer for defense if they did that, the negative-oRAR group posted a total -0.4 dRAR — also below replacement level. And they’re not being sunk by one shitty player, either; Pat Sheridan was the group leader at 0.2. So, yes, I’m saying that if the Royals had replaced nine players on their world championship team with random AAA callups, they’d have been a lot better. Their batting WAR would have gone from a ridiculous 8.9 to a merely conventionally sad 14.7. Nearly six wins. And George Brett at 8.0 of 14.7 doesn’t seem quite so much like a one-man team.

Oh, but what I actually came to talk about is Derek Jeter, huh. The name "Jeter" appears in Joe’s George Brett article fifteen times. I counted. This is because Joe makes the comparison between Brett carrying the Royals’ offense in 1985 to Jeter carrying the Yankees’ offense like five times. And the comparison’s not a bad one. But I feel compelled to point this out:

oRAR is a great stat. Gives you an excellent idea of the overall offensive value of a player relative to his peers. It is also a stat that is uniquely unsuitable for describing Derek Jeter’s value. Don’t worry — I’m not about to regale you with folklore about the baseball pope’s calm eyes and leadership aura and sword +2, nine lives stealer. But there is one regard in which Derek Jeter is pretty much unique among all players, and it limits the utility of oRAR in his case; Joe gets close to it when he points out that his list of championship team-leading oRARs includes David Eckstein.

oRAR, like most stats ending in AR, involves the concept of "replacement level." Being above replacement level is like being above average, only the average you’re above isn’t the average of just anything — it’s the average of AAA players in the current season at your position. That last part’s important. Players who play a premium defensive position — catchers, shortstops, and second basemen, basically — get what amounts to a "bonus" in their xAR stats due to the lower lever of offensive performance at that position, which is completely reasonable; Jeter’s career .314 / .385 / .452 would make him a good-but-not-great first baseman, but in reality makes him one of the best offensive shortstops of all time. All of this is true and totally fine.

But. If you use oRAR (only) to evaluate Derek Jeter specifically, you have an issue. The problem is that Jeter is probably the second-best offensive shortstop of all time (trailing only Honus Wagner — though, to be fair, Honus’ lead is immense), but he is the very worst defensive player ever to stick at shortstop. If you use offense-only statistics, you are giving him the positional bonus for playing a premium position while totally ignoring the fact that he plays the position badly enough to have cost his teams almost fourteen wins in the field. This is almost never an issue, because players who field so badly don’t tend to stick at high-value positions for seventeen years. But Derek Jeter, probably due to his intangible rod of lordly might, has.

848 words ago, I had some kind of point in mind, but I no longer remember what it might have been. So you’re welcome for that. Happy Bacon Connoisseur’s Week.

March 18th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments