The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Yo, how we doin’?

Time to check in with the baseballs. My crap predictions are so far doing an absolutely bang-up job of being complete crap; is anybody out there surprised? Because I’m not. Early days yet, though; they have plenty of time to get even worse. So let’s take a quick look at the division races as they stand now, a quarter of the way through the season:

AL East

One thing’s for sure: the Tampa Bay Rays are pretty goddamn good at baseball. Their 29-11 (.725) mark is the best in MLB, and it doesn’t look like a fluke; they’re killing the ball, and they have the best rotation in the majors. Losing J.P. Howell is a blow, but it’s not likely to stop them. In fact, it doesn’t look like anything can stop the Rays. Unless it’s…

The New York Yankees, who are playing .625 ball, which, by all rights, should be good enough for the lead. Shame they have to be stuck in that division where the big-money teams like Tampa Bay make it impossible for small markets like New York to contend. Fun fact: New York has at least as good a record as every division leader except Tampa Bay. As for how they’re playing, well, they’re playing like old people. What do you expect? If Mark Teixeira and Javier Vazquez get things turned around, the Yankees may be able to make a run at the Rays. Otherwise, they’re going to have to focus on locking up that wild card, which they lead by a razor-thin margin over Detroit and…

The goddamn Toronto Blue Jays, who are in for a disappointment and are in for it hard. They have three hitters — Vernon Wells, John Buck, and Jose Bautista — who are playing way over their heads right now. Bautista is OPSing about 150 points over his career average, and Buck is at +200, and there’s no way they’re going to keep it up. As for Vernon Wells, well, that .611 SLG is a comedy number. Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero — who you’ve never heard of, and for good reason — are pitching out of their minds right now, and will come back to earth rapidly and painfully. Also worth noting is that comedy man Cito Gaston is pretty much just not using his bench, which is going to lead to big trouble when his starters get tired in a month or so, and he doesn’t even have major leaguers to put in for them, since his bench players are quitting the majors to move to Japan where at least they’ll get a plate appearance now and then. And if you think I’m making that up, well, I’m not. So they’re due to be replaced any day now by…

The Boston Red Sox, who are exactly as good as I said they’d be. This is the one weird prediction I made that I totally fucking nailed, and you should not expect me to shut up about it. Kevin Youkilis is a ridiculous monster and will get serious MVP consideration if he keeps it up, but J.D. Drew is the only other regular player adding much punch, and everybody hates that guy, so fuck him. Oops, I lied; checking my work, Dusty McHustle is also pretty good this year. So that’s three. Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell are just about spot-on average, and every other regular player is significantly below average offensively. That’s bad. Now, the Sox have been creamed by injuries, and David Ortiz has been terrible but is showing signs of life again, so these things should improve. And Jason Varitek for some reason has done this: .317 / .404 / .805 (!!) / 1.209, for a 214 OPS+. He’s only done it for 47 PA, though. So the offense is pretty tame, the defense has been pretty tame, but what’s really killing the Sox has been pitching. Buchholz has been pretty good, Lester has been okay, and everybody else in the rotation has just been awful. The bullpen is weirdly good this year, but I don’t know that Daniel Bard is going to keep up that 181 ERA+ all year long, so somebody — and I’m looking at you, American McGee’s Josh Beckett — needs to get his ass in gear, rotation-wise. The silver lining for the Red Sox is that, hey, no matter how bad things get…

The moribund Baltimore Orioles will be worse. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The Orioles have played 41 games, and they have managed to get 16.5 games behind. That is not easy to do. They have won just thirteen games all season. Now, they’re not going to be a .300 team forever — in fact, since their miserable 2-16 start, they’ve been playing .500 ball — but don’t get your heart set on a miracle comeback. In all fairness, the O’s have been completely housed by injuries this year, and they still don’t have any relief pitching — like, any, at all — but the real problem has been the absolutely awful hitting. The Orioles have two — two! — regular players with more than a hundred PA each who have OPS+es under fifty. One of these men plays first base. That is the problem right there. When your team SLG is .386, and the only dude slugging above .435 is a second baseman beating his career average by almost 200, you have some issues.

AL Central

The Minnesota Twins are about as good as everybody expected. The rest of the division is just not playing the same game. Justin Morneau is off his fucking nut right now — it’s like he’s playing to make up for last year, and to justify the MVP he won in 2006 when he was like the third-best choice on his own team. Mauer and Thome have been good, too, but the rest of the hitters are average. It’s enough offense, though, to win a six-inning game, which is pretty much what the Twins need to do, since their bullpen is impossibly brilliant. As for the rotation, well, it contains Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Kevin Slowey. So, well, it’s not so good. On the other hand, it also contains Fransisco Liriano, who is definitely making up for the years he lost to Thomas Johnson surgery. He’s so good you might think he was pitching for…

The Detroit Tigers, who somehow have a bullpen even better than Minnesota’s. Every single reliever is substantially better than average — ERA+ of 132, 162, 193, and 274. And that’s not even mentioning closer Jose Valverde, whose ERA+ is purported to be 859, which is a number so high I didn’t even know it existed. Jose Valverde is 8.5 times as good as the average reliever. Deal with that. It’s a good thing that bullpen’s so good, since, well, holy shit the rotation ain’t. Verlander’s carrying on, but the other four guys… yikes. I guess it’s good to see Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis actually playing again. But this is a team that relies on its crazy outfield and fat first baseman to put up a stupid number of runs so the bullpen can make it hold up. And so far it’s working, since the Tigers are only half a game back in the division, and seven whole games ahead of…

The Chicago White Sox and Crazy Man Show, who are so bad at hitting that they’ve taken to faking HBP just so they can get on base. Ozzie Crazypants has succeeded in his plan of making sure the White Sox are a team of little fast dudes who don’t hit awful, rally-killing home runs: the team OPS+ is 87, despite a genuinely heroic effort from Paul Konerko. Also, I need to apologise to Andruw Jones and Alex Rios, who apparently are not as cooked as I said they were. I do not, however, need to apologise to Juan Pierre, who completely is. Also, hey, nice pick of Jake Peavy there, Kenny W! He sucks. Ha ha at you. This team is so bad it’s just barely holding its own against…

The Kansas City Royals, who are bad at baseball. Zack Greinke: 2.72 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 1.7 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 153 ERA+. RS/GS: 2.9. Record: 1-4. Can we stop using wins and losses to evaluate pitchers now? Please? There’s not much else to say about the Royals; they’re still pretty much the Zack show. Billy Butler is okay, I guess, and Alberto Callaspo has an awesome name. And they’re not as bad as…

The Cleveland Indians, who can’t hit, can’t pitch, and can’t field. You win the Triple Poop Crown for that. Hafner’s coming back from the dead a little — kind of him, since his gigantic contract is Cleveland’s version of the David Carradine death by autoerotic asphyxiation — but Kerry Wood is still completely dead, and Grady Sizemore, perhaps too embarrassed by his naked pictures getting on to the internet to remember how to play baseball, has forgotten how to play baseball. Grady Sizemore’s OPS+es by year, from 2005: 123, 133, 123, 133, 111, 58. Maybe the pressure-cooker of playing in Cleveland has finally gotten to his head. Or maybe it’s the curse!

AL West

So I reckon the Texas Rangers don’t completely stink. I’m sorry; what I meant to say was: hey, look, Vlad Guerrero’s OPS+ is 141, which is just about smack on his career average. So I guess last year was a fluke, and probably injury-related, and he’s not actually done after all. Who could have seen that coming? Oh, right. I did. If the rangers could just replace their first baseman and center fielder with players who could hit — or perhaps with life-sized cardboard standees of players who could hit — they’d look pretty good offensively. Their pitching is the same shade of a little bit better than average that it was last year. Hey, they ain’t great, but they don’t have to be to be leading in the AL West, where the next best team is…

The Oakland Athletics, who are under .500. I personally think Billy Beane is a genius, but perhaps a mad genius; his plans are often unfathomable to mere mortals such as myself. He got famous — like, has-a-book-written-about-him famous — because he built teams around OBP back when everybody knew as little about baseball as Dusty Baker. Then he started building around defense back when OBP was the hot new thing. Now his new plan apparently is to build around players who weren’t good enough to stick in the NL Central. I don’t really get this one, but, so far, it has… well, the A’s are under .500. Ben Sheets has been bad. Really, really bad. Dallas Braden threw a perfect game, which pissed me off, since it meant his stupid face was right back in front of me yet again right when I was starting to think I was done listening to him carp about A-Rod and unwritten rules. At least he was funny on Letterman. But the real problem with the A’s is that they can’t hit. They’re so bad at hitting that even…

The Los Angeles Angels of Azeroth are better. To recap: Vlad Guerrero’s 2010 OPS+: 141. Hideki Matsui’s 2010 OPS+: 85. Good move, Tony Reagins! But get this: Vlad Guerrero’s 2010 salary: $5.5M. Hideki Matsui’s 2010 salary: $6.5M. Really good move, Tony Reagins! Glad you got rid of that washed-up hack. Anyway, the Angels’ regular third baseman — the guy they put out there every day, who has accumulated 123 plate appearances — has an OPS+ of 8. His name? Brandon Wood. His OPS+? Eight. I win this round also, sports journalism! Unfortunately, Joel Pineiro has been pretty good. Not great, and not as good as they’re paying him to be, but pretty good, and better than John Lackey, so I was kind of wrong on that one. But not as wrong as I was about…

The Seattle Poopatrons, who were supposed to be good, but can’t hit to save their fucking faces. I mean, everybody knew they were short on power, but nobody — by which I mean: not me — expected this .309 team OBP. With Figgins, Bradley, Gutierrez, Ichiro, and Griffey, I figured they’d be clogging the basepaths at pretty regular intervals. But no: only Gutierrez and Ichiro are any damn use at all. Ken Griffey Jr.’s OPS+ is 27 and he’s so old he can’t even stay awake through the whole game. Come on, Griffey! Jamie Moyer’s in his sixties, and he pitched a CG the other day. You can do this! Also, Mike Sweeney might be eight years old. Get a load of this:

"Nothing is going to divide this clubhouse, especially a makeshift article made up of lies," Sweeney adamantly said. "We don’t think there are two players who said that. I challenged everyone in that room — if they said that to stand up and fight me. No one stood up,"

What the hell, Mike Sweeney? I should probably stop carping on this before you try to punch me — since I’m a very small man whose only real muscle tone is in my mighty Nintendo thumbs, and you could probably kick my ass without even leaving Seattle — but you talk like an imbecile. You aren’t hitting for shit either, man.

NL East

Surprising nobody, the Philadelphia Phillies are on top. The Phillies can mash, and Roy Halladay is awesome, and apparently Jose Contreras is ridiculous as a closer. The rest of the rotation is average-to-blows, and the bullpen is some combination of spotty and hurt. Oh, and Jamie Moyer is old. Did I mention that? Because he is. The Phillies will probably get better going forward, since Dummy Rollins is healthy again (and isn’t worse than Juan Castro, that’s for damn sure) and Ryan Howard will probably start hitting a bit better. Cole Hamels looks like he’s gotten real old real fast, and Jamie Moyer also is real old (if I haven’t mentioned that yet). Ja Happ is on the DL, though, and may improve the pitching when he comes back. Not that the Phillies need too much to stay ahead of…

The Florida Marlins and their lazy shortstop. That’s right, food friends: Hanley Ramirez is doing that thing he does again, where he just kind of doesn’t bother. He got benched the other day for loafing after a ball he booted into the corner and allowing two runs to score, which, when you think about it, is pretty damn bad. The Marlins can’t do too much about it, though, since Ramirez is better than the entire rest of the team combined. The pitching has been surprisingly good behind who-are-they-now players like Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, but the offense consists of pretty much nothing but Hanley and Dan Uggly. That outfield in particular is brutal. But you know who else has a terrible outfield?

The Atlanta Braves, that’s who. Melky Cabrera has never been good, but he isn’t normally this bad. 39 OPS+? Somebody must have stealth-nerfed him! Nate McClouth is one of those players I always think is good, and then find out he stinks. I think I probably just get him confused with Nick Swisher. Jason Heyward is manhandling opposing pitchers, and would be a complete walk for ROY in any normal year, though the NL has a whole crop of ridiculously good rookies this year. The Braves have a very strong bullpen, but their rotation is no great shakes; aren’t Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens supposed to be good? They’re not. And neither are…

The Washington Nationals, who are currently living through 2005 part 2. You remember 2005 — the team’s first year — when the Nationals were like ten games over .500 at the all-star break? They had actually allowed more runs than they had scored, which means their record was all luck, and bound to deflate. Which is exactly what it did. The 2010 Washington Nationals are in exactly the same boat: above .500, negative run differential. Expect to see some substantial downward movement here, especially once Livan comes back to Earth. In other news, Jason Marquis is terrible. Ha ha! And speaking of terrible…

How ’bout them New York Mets? Remember when Jeff Francoeur said "if OBP is so important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?" Well, Jeff, it’s 2010, your OBP is .282, and it’s why you suck. Furthermore, your team’s OBP is .317, and it’s why you’ve only scored 175 runs. And also, teams not run by morons do put OBP on the scoreboard, because it’s pretty much the most important raw offensive stat there is. Also Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo suck hard this year. So that’s what’s wrong with the Mets’ offense. A book could be written about what is wrong with the Mets’ pitching. The title of this book would be "my name is Omar Minaya and I spent all my money on backup catchers and Fernando Tatis and I forgot to sign any pitchers." I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what it would be about.

NL Central

The Fat Louis Fatinals are still clinging to their lead — though perhaps I should say "clinging to their lead again," since they only just got it back. Their pitching has been completely amazing — a 145 team ERA+ is unreal and makes me think they’re probably cheating. But… would the Fatinals cheat at baseball? They are such paragons of integrity! And speaking of cheating at baseball, it’s not clear to me that fancy new hitting coach Mark McGwire is earning his keep, since, except for Pujols, nobody on this team is hitting for a great goddamn. Which is pretty much the whole entire reason they’re neck-and-neck with…

The awful Cincinnati Reds, who have an awful manager and are awful. The Reds suck at pitching — but how could that be? Their manager is well-known for his ability to handle a pitching staff! Handle it right the fuck to death, you mean. O no I didn’t! The Reds are average at hitting, what with the 100 OPS+, and smelly at pitching, what with the 93 ERA+, so how are they doing so well? Looks like it’s old-fashioned balls-out luck, since they’ve scored only two more runs than they’ve allowed. So you’ve had a nice little Saturday, guys, but it’s about time to clear out of the standings and let the big boys play. Which list does not include…

The Chicago Cubs, who have at least finally begun to field a ball or two. Why did it take three years to move Ryan Theriot back to second? He’s a pretty good second baseman, but a shitty shortstop. Well, thank heaven for small players, since Starlin Castro’s arrival has improved the Cubs’ defense by a ton, even if he did make four hundred errors in his first home game. I’m told it was the yips by people who believe in things like that. The Cubs have excellent pitching — though why Lou keeps giving the ball to John Grabow and his 55 ERA+ I do not know — but the offense is suffering from the terrible starts of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. The team’s offense is built around those guys, and they’re only putting up an OPS+ of 106. I mean, if you fucking add them together they’re at 106. Which I think you’re allowed to do if you go with a ten-man lineup. At least Soriano and Soto — who Lou steadfastly refuses to bat anywhere but sixth and seventh — are ridiculously good. Speaking of ridiculously good…

The Pittsburgh Pirates sure ain’t. You’ve heard me carp on some other teams for being really lucky, but the Pirates set the bar. They have allowed exactly one hundred runs more than they have scored: 141 to 241. And yet they are 18-22, when by all rights they should be 11-29. Worse than the Orioles, even. Their team OPS+ is 78. Their team ERA+ is 74. There is seriously nothing good about the Pirates, but still, somehow, they’re in the thick of the NL Central race. Such as it is. I’m sorry, guys; I’m trying to say something nice about the Pirates, but there just isn’t anything. Oh, wait: Chris Jakubauskas has a ridiculous comedy name. Also he’s dead. As are…

The Milwaukee Brewers, who have suffered the ultimate indignity: they’re behind the Pirates. Would you believe it? Randy Wolf is shitty! His ERA+ is only 74! That’s pretty wild. I don’t think anybody could have seen that coming. Well, except maybe for a sexy beast. That guy should be mayor. It’s a good thing Casey McGehee — whose name was a trick played on his parents by Martians — and Ryan Braun can hit, because Prince Fielder is lousy so far. Perhaps he should spend less time crafting more elaborate fantasies about being a vegetarian when we all know he loves the hamburger and more time remembering how to hit the baseballs. Then maybe the Brewers could put some distance between themselves and…

The Houston Astros, who are once again lending credence to the theory that if you spend all your money on giant oversized logo boots and forget to hire any baseball players, you won’t do very well at baseball. And the Astros are not doing very well at baseball. They’re not doing very well at all. It turns out that when every single player on your whole team has an OPS+ under 100 — except for Lance Berkman’s anemic 103 — you won’t score any runs. Team OPS+ of 60, my friends. Scored 122 runs. It would be hard to overcome that with truly exceptional pitching, which the Astros ain’t got. I mean, their pitching is decent — it’s a lot better than their hitting — but it’s not good enough to make 122 runs over 40 games hold up. Don’t worry, Astros! There’s always next year! Maybe you’ll get a new giant boot that’s even giant-er.

NL West

I’m pretty positive the San Diego Padres are a fading early-season mirage. That 134 team ERA+ is going to start falling precipitously once all of their pitchers — but especially Wade LeBlanc — start performing more like their usual selves and less like actual good pitchers. Some people will try to tell you that the Padres are winning because they’re stealing so many bases, which means they’re gamers and the get things moving and manufacture runs; don’t you believe it. The Padres have given back almost every run they’ve gained by getting caught 14 times. Here’s a neat rule of thumb for you: whenever anybody talks about a team that wins because of aggressive baserunning or speed or hustle or destiny, probably what he means is that that team has a pitching staff playing way over its collective head. Such is the case with the San Diego Padres, who are not really better than…

The San Fransisco Giants. Holy shit is Barry Zito good. Also ridiculously sexy. Timmy is also really good, but let’s face it: he’s as ugly as a mud shanty. Also ugly: the Giants’ offense. Too bad they spent all their money getting dudes like Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe and didn’t bother signing any hitters who can actually hit. When Bengie Molina is the best hitter on your team — and Bengie Molina’s OPS+ is only 113 — you know you’re in trouble. Also in trouble:

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have an excellent left fielder, an excellent right fielder, and no pitching to speak of. Andre Ethier’s 220 OPS+ is like fantasy Barry Bonds shit, and Manny’s 170 is nothing to sneeze at. But the Dodgers pretty much seriously are just those two dudes; the rest of the team ain’t hitting for beans, and they can’t pitch their way out of a paper bag with a map, a compass, the red candle and the magic boomerang. I expect their crazy bullpen troubles to smooth out, since most of those guys are actually pretty good, but I think what we’re seeing from the Dodgers’ rotation is what we’re going to see. Overall, though, I think this is a team that’s playing about up to its ability, it’s just going about it a weird way that involves two hitters being legendarily hot and the bullpen being oddly cold. If you’re looking for a team that’s not playing up to its ability, though, look no further than…

The Colorado Rockies, who always suck in April and May. Is that because it’s fucking freezing in Denver those two months? I don’t really know. What I do know is that the Rockies have hit some bad luck; they’re under .500, but they’ve scored meaningfully more runs than they’ve allowed. That’s a good sign that things are going to turn around. Another good sign that things are going to turn around: Ubaldo Jimenez‘ ERA+ of 409. The Rockies are actually a very strong pitching team this year, but they’re having some slow starts in the world of hitting. Helton and Tulowitzki are both too good to stay under 100 OPS+ for too long — it’s sort of the Colorado equivalent of the situation the Cubs have with Lee and Ramirez. They’ll get it turned around, and then the Rockies will improve. Which is not a fate that will befall…

The Arizona Diamondbacks, who, only three short years ago, looked poised to dominate the division for years to come. Then they did a whole lot of stupid things like paying Eric Byrnes $11M to play beer-league softball, and signing the thrillingly average Justin Upton to six and $51M. The big problem with the Diamondbacks is the pitching, which is unexpected; Brandon Webb is hurt (again), Dan Haren has been oddly ineffective, and the bullpen has been, as they are no longer allowed to say in Arizona without proof of citizenship, los bullshit. The bullpen should settle down a little, and Webb will probably come back sometime, and Haren will no doubt remember how to play baseball, and all these things will help. But the Diamondbacks are still a below-average team playing in a division filled with above-average teams and the Padres who are just lucky so shut up about that.

May 21st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

The Nationals get a lucky break

Jason Marquis will not be able to play for six weeks, meaning his ERA+ of 23 will no longer be clogging up the rotationpaths. If only they could get his hilariously bloated contract out of their damn salarypaths, too. But that’s the second-most untradable albatross in baseball. So: ha ha, Washington Nationals, and ha ha, Jason Marquis.

The only good thing about the 2010 Cubs is that we don’t have Jason Marquis. You know, anymore.

April 22nd, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Jerry Crasnick would like to ramble for a while

Care to indulge him?

Here’s the deal. It’s an article nominally about Stephen Strasburg — you remember him — but it ends up just kind of being a random mini-profile of a whole bunch of different top draft picks. And, I guess, some guys who weren’t top picks. Really, it’s just about a bunch of different guys who were all drafted. So, like I said, he’s just rambling. But at least he takes some time out to make no sense now and then.

Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, and he’s already standing on the steps of Cooperstown, thanking his parents, his Little League coach and the clubhouse attendants for their support.

That’s a good opening. Get the biggest, silliest hyperbole out of the way right up front.

There’s a statue outside Nationals Park in his honor, and his new cologne, energy drink and sports apparel line are flying off the shelves.

Or you could go a different route, and just stretch the damn joke until it snaps. Really, Jerry, just make the joke one time. That’s enough.

This is how it works in the modern era: Strike out 195 batters in 109 innings in your final college season, flash 102 mph on the radar gun, hire Scott Boras as your "adviser" and sign for a record bonus, and 10-15 years of greatness are laid out neatly before you, like a freshly pressed suit.

This… this is still the same joke. This isn’t even the same paragraph, but Jerry’s still just repeating this one joke. We get it, man. Though I do like how you imply that signing for a "record bonus" is, like, the norm these days. Like every new player gets a record bonus.

All that’s left now is for Strasburg to actually perform.

Right. Which is why the first bit of your article was dumb. Remember Mark Prior, Jerry? You just described him to a T. How’s his Hall of Fame bid looking these days?

The Nationals assigned him to Double-A Harrisburg on March 20, but it will come as no surprise to anyone if he’s in Washington soon to make a run at the rookie of the year award.

This will come as a mild surprise to me. What do the Nationals have to gain by rushing Strasburg to the majors? They aren’t winning anything with him this year, either. Maybe they should wait, make sure he’s ready, and pay him a bit less money while they build up some more good players.

The kid is a heck of a gifted ballplayer — when he’s not rescuing kittens from trees, helping out at the soup kitchen and doing his part to save the world from nuclear proliferation.

Okay, see, that’s the same damn joke yet again. Dammit, Jerry, we get it already. Do you really have nothing else to say?

"His makeup is outstanding," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman.

"And his hair? Fabulous!"

His biggest challenge now is ending up on the right side of history.

Well, also there’s the pitching. That is a challenge too.

No player chosen first in the draft is a Hall of Famer yet, but Ken Griffey Jr. is a lock, Chipper Jones is close, Joe Mauer is well on his way, and Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton certainly have the potential.

Griffey’s overrated. I mean, he’s definitely going to the Hall, but he’s not as good as people think he is because he’s always hurt. He’s been active for 21 years and has only played anything resembling a full season ten times.

Chipper Jones, now; there’s a goddamn lock for you. He’s been ridiculously, stunningly good, and hasn’t spent 2/5 of his career on the DL. As long as he doesn’t have an anxiety attack and quit in the middle of this season, he should be a shoo-in.

Mauer is well on his way? Joe Mauer? Joseph Wentworth Mauer III, O.B.E.? He’s only played six seasons, has only really been outstanding for three, and is hurt all the goddamn time. How about we wait a bit before we induct this guy?

And, yeah, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton do "have the potential," a thing they have in common with all Major League baseball players except Joey Gathright.

Alex Rodriguez will also make it to Cooperstown provided the voters don’t hold that little steroids transgression against him for eternity.

They will. Or, more to the point, you will, Jerry Crasnick. Aren’t you the same guy who wrote, back in 2007: "I took a pass on Big Mac last year, and I’m planning to give him the thumbs down again. We’re still smack in the middle of this steroid controversy, and if I have reason to be skeptical about the contents of a man’s medicine cabinet, I’m commitment-phobic?" Then later you said that his career OBP of .394 doesn’t count because he walked too much, which makes me want to ram my Filet-O-Fish right up your nose.

In addition, lots of top picks have enjoyed solid, productive careers. Harold Baines made six All-Star teams and amassed 2,866 career hits. B.J. Surhoff and Monday played 19 seasons in the majors, and Shawon Dunston stuck around for 18. Pitchers Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore, Tim Belcher and Andy Benes were durable, reliable and occasionally spectacular while combining for 596 wins and 598 losses. And Jeff Burroughs, Bob Horner, Jeff King, Phil Nevin, Darin Erstad and Pat Burrell all had their moments.

One of these things is not like the others! Darin Erstad was bad. Bad at baseball. A bad first pick who was bad at baseball and played badly. I know you still have a giant boner for him because he’s scrappy and lunch-pail-y and super fucking white and he played football in college, but he wasn’t good at baseball. Also, wait, most of those dudes aren’t dead yet, Jerry. Maybe it’s a bit too early to be judging the whole of, say, Pat Burrell’s career, since he’s only 32.

But the landscape is also strewn with players who, for a variety of reasons, failed to live up to their potential. Brien Taylor hurt his shoulder in a fight and never pitched in the big leagues. Matt Anderson allegedly hurt his arm in an octopus-throwing contest. Al Chambers, Danny Goodwin and Matt Bush were busts. And the Mets used their five No. 1 picks on Darryl Strawberry, Paul Wilson, Tim Foli, Shawn Abner and Steve Chilcott.

Once again, one of these things is not like the others. You’re really going to give the Mets a bunch of shit for drafting Darryl Eugene Strawberry? He was really really good, Jerry. Not quite Hall of Fame-good — he had a huge, ridiculous early peak followed by a lot of seasons of injuries, much like stone cold lead pipe Hall of Fame lock Ken Griffey Jr. — but come on. You’re putting Erstad in your "good" category and Straw in "bad?" You’re a lunatic.

Long before Strasburg arrived on the scene at San Diego State, there were Floyd Bannister, Ben McDonald, Kris Benson, Paul Wilson and Mark Prior (who went second in the draft behind Joe Mauer in 2001). They were all hailed as the Next Big Thing.

Oh, right, this article’s about Stephen Strasburg. I remember that now. Fortunately, Jerry doesn’t feel the need to burden it with too many words about Stephen Strasburg, and no sooner does he remind us than he launches into another list of people. This time they’re not all top picks, even. They’re just… dudes. Who Jerry wants to talk about in his article nominally about Strasburg, I guess.

McIlvaine was in charge in New York when the Mets drafted Wilson out of Florida State in 1994. As McIlvaine recalls, the Seminoles’ coaching staff had Wilson throwing from a slightly lower arm angle so that he could induce more ground balls in the team’s smallish home park. When Wilson made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League at age 21, the Mets wanted him to throw from a higher angle in classic power-pitcher mode.

That’s really interesting, Jerry. No, it is, but I just have one question for you: what the dick does what the Mets’ coaches thought about Paul Wilson’s arm slot back in 1994 have to do with Stephen Strasburg?

Wilson underwent shoulder surgery in 1996, and was never the same. McDonald, Benson and Prior were also sidetracked by arm trouble.

To say that Mark Prior was "sidetracked" by arm trouble is completely insane. Mark Prior was obliterated by arm trouble that was inflicted upon him by this man (pictured kissing his son goodbye before sending him off to be trampled to death by J.T. Snow).

College pitchers making the transition to professional ball have to adjust to wood bats and the challenge of pitching every fifth day, rather than once a week. Factor in the physical duress from throwing “stress” pitches with all that arm speed and torque, and teams have every reason to be careful.

Other things college pitchers have to adjust to when they move to the big leagues: Throwing 757 pitches in one month because your goddamn idiot manager has you make six starts and runs your pitch count to 130 in five of them. What were we talking about again? Oh, right, Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg dominated Mountain West Conference competition at San Diego State, but it’s a quantum leap from facing Air Force and New Mexico to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Hanley Ramirez.

A quantum leap — just so you know, Jerry, since articles sound better if you know how to use words correctly — is defined as a change that is sudden. It doesn’t refer to magnitude, which I think is how you’re trying to use it. And did the Phillies pick up Hanley Ramirez sometime while I wasn’t looking? Because I think you mean Jimmy Rollins, who is pretty goddamn easy to get out.

Tim Lincecum deftly handled the transition from the Pac-10 to the big leagues, but even he made 13 minor league starts before graduating to the Giants’ starting rotation.

Whew, I agree with Jerry: I am all Strasburg-ed out for now. Time to ramble about somebody else for a while.

Lincecum has two Cy Young Awards in his back pocket at age 25. But what happens if his velocity dips 3-4 mph and he starts getting whacked around a little bit? He’ll be entering uncharted territory.

Jerry. What. The fuck. Are you talking about. Tim Lincecum’s velocity has dipped by 3-4 mph. Here you can find an article from one month ago by a gentleman named Tim Brown — who actually appears to know something about baseball — which is entirely devoted to that subject. And here’s Tim Lincecum himself talking about it: "I’m aware my velocity wasn’t where it was. I don’t feel like it’s anything to be scared about. I’ll just learn how to pitch better." Do you follow baseball much, Jerry?

Times have changed since 1990, when Jones signed as the top overall pick with the Braves. Baseball America, the Atlanta papers and Jones’ hometown media in Jacksonville, Fla., were in a frenzy, but it was nothing compared to Strasburg mania.

I dunno. Jones mania appears to be in full swing here in 2010, when articles about Stephen Strasburg are still pretty much about Chipper Jones.

"The microscope is a hundred times bigger now," Jones said.

That is my new favourite athlete quote of all time, displacing everything that ever came out of John Rocker’s mouth.

"I had some print press, but everybody knows this kid’s face. Everybody knows his whole bio. In the information age, with ESPN and the MLB Network, it’s impossible for you to go under the radar anymore. His starts from now until he’s 10 starts into his major league career are all going to be on TV."

Says a dude currently being interviewed about a subject that has nothing to do with him just because he’s famous. Incidentally, is it just me, or does Chipper really take the wind out of the S.S. Strasburg Mania’s sails by ending that paragraph the way he does? Whoa, this dude’s going to be on TV for ten starts? There’s just one word for that: holyshit!

Of course, the information overload isn’t confined to baseball phenoms. Tim Tebow can’t simply leave the University of Florida campus and enter the NFL draft. He has to rework his throwing motion, unveil it for scouts at the Senior Bowl, perform at the NFL combine, have the results of his Wonderlic test leaked to the media, watch his college coach verbally attack a reporter while defending his honor and then debate whether he wants to actually attend the draft in New York.

Wait, when did we switch to football? Tim who? Come on, Jerry. That’s unfair. You know I’m out of my depth now.

With the exception of a Tiger Woods here and a LeBron James and a Brett Favre there, few athletes can generate sustained interest of that magnitude. If this comes as any consolation to Strasburg, the attention will wane a bit unless he’s incredibly good or amazingly bad.

There is no information contained in those words. I checked them over and over again, but what Jerry has written is "athletes don’t get famous except when they do. And Strasburg won’t get famous unless he’s good or not." It is perfect fluff. I wish I got paid by the word.

No player symbolizes the pressure that a No. 1 pick faces more than Georgia high school catcher Mike Ivie, baseball’s top pick in 1970.

Funny, I was just thinking that — wait, what? Who? Not even Erstad? He was a gamer! And he hustled!

Shortly after the Padres drafted him, Ivie visited San Diego for a workout. When he made an errant throw to the pitcher’s mound during batting practice, veteran Chris Cannizzaro responded with a snide comment at his expense. Ivie, mortified, developed a case of the yips similar to what Mackey Sasser, Dale Murphy and several other catchers later experienced. He went on to play 11 seasons in the majors, but gave up catching and was generally regarded as a disappointment.

I don’t know about this mysterious "yips" disease. I looked this shit up — I do research for this crap; you should try that, Jerry, it’s why I knew that Tim Lincecum’s velocity is down — and Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

"The yips also affects other sports, including Australian rules football (Nick Riewoldt, a StKilda AFL player also suffers from the kicking yips.), baseball (Mike Pelfrey) and Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher (Steve Blass) who was sent down to the minors to rid himself of the yips, i., e., "Steve Blass Disease" diagnosis is applied to talented players who inexplicably and permanently seem to lose their ability, basketball (Chuck Hayes’ free throw shot) and tennis (Guillermo Coria and Elena Dementieva are examples)."

I am going to assume this disease is bullshit until I find a description that wasn’t written by a pack of especially illiterate dingo dogs. It does sound like the exact disease that sportswriters would love to pretend exists, though, since it indulges their favourite fantasy: that athletes are fragile little flowers, and any unpleasantness or adversity immediately and irrevocably ruins their ability to perform.

Andy Benes, drafted first overall out of Evansville in 1988, logged 21 starts in the minors before joining the big club in August of ’89. In hindsight, Benes feels fortunate that he pitched on a staff with Bruce Hurst, Ed Whitson, Dennis Rasmussen and Craig Lefferts — veterans who had his best interests at heart, welcomed him to the fold and helped ease his comfort level.

Yeah, I know about that "ease his pain" thing in baseball. I saw Field of Dreams too.

The Nationals have to hope that veterans Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez can provide a similar service to Strasburg in Washington.

Let me say this about that: it is very, very funny to me that the Nationals’ pitching is that bad. Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez?

If Benes has any counsel for Strasburg, it’s this: Don’t allow the money and the fame to change you.

That is the most generic counsel ever. I hope Marquis and Hernandez can do better. I mean, it’s never a good idea to bet on Marquis and Hernandez being better than anybody else at anything, but it’s what I have.

Even if you fail to meet everybody else’s expectations, you can eventually walk away with no regrets.

Except that maybe you’d regret the failing. You know. At baseball.

"My advice to him would be, ‘You can’t be everything to everyone. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect the game, your teammates and the opposition. Do what you can do, work hard to be prepared physically and mentally, and you can put your head on the pillow and sleep at night.’ That’s the way I always looked at it."

You, sir, are every coach in every sports movie ever. For this, I salute you. Now do you have anything to add that isn’t a meaningless cliché? No? Okay. Take us home, then, Jerry:

Combine old-fashioned values and a pitching arm for the ages, and there’s no telling what might happen. Stephen Strasburg’s professional journey begins shortly in Harrisburg, Pa. Where and when it ends — and how he’ll be remembered — is strictly up to him.

The only thing I have to add to this uplifting ending is my own inspirational team quote that I picked up from chat once in a game of Alterac Valley: "We’re gonna go inside, we’re gonna go outside, inside and outside. We’re gonna get ’em on the run boys and once we get ’em on the run we’re gonna keep ’em on the run. And then we’re gonna go go go go go go and we’re not gonna stop til we get across that goalline. This is a team they say is… is good, well I think we’re better than them. They can’t lick us, so what do you say men?"

I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

March 31st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Offseason trade prediction craziness

Outfielder Brad Hawpe likely will not be traded because he has more value to the Rockies than anybody else

So spaketh Steve Henson in an otherwise sort-of kind-of fine article about what NL West teams are looking to do this offseason. I don’t know what Steve’s definition of "value" is, but Hawpe isn’t leading the Rockies in any significant offensive category (and, as near as I can tell, isn’t leading in any insignificant category either except for doubles), makes a medium-large amount of money ($5.5M in 2009), and is an absolute ridiculous butcher in the field (-13 FRAA for 2009; notoriously awful outfielder Manny Ramirez was at -4).

In other news, here’s a list of players Fangraphs says were more valuable to the Rockies in 2009 than Brad Hawpe:

• Troy Tulowitzki (awesome)
• Todd Helton (awesome)
• Seth Smith (also an outfielder)
• Carlos Gonzalez (also an outfielder)
• Chris Iannetta (part-time catcher)
• Clint Barmes (!)

Also the following pitchers:

• Ubaldo Jimenez (looks like the president)
• Jason Marquis (awful)
• Jason Hammel (who?)
• Jorge De La Rosa (got hurt at a rotten time)
• Aaron Cook (was hurt most of the year)

So, hey Steve, what does "value" mean in your world? And why does your projected starting outfield contain Hawpe, Gonzalez, and the fairly-terrible Dexter Fowler, and not the utterly awesome Seth Smith, whose salary will once again be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars? Is it because you are a crazy person?

December 4th, 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

Dale Murphy: better than Jim Rice?

This guy says he is. I’m pretty thoroughly unconvinced by his argument, though. And, yes, I realise it’s a few years old, but given that Jim Ed was just inducted into the hall, it was just pointed at me.

Let me start by saying that, when I was a kid, Jim Rice was my absolute favourite baseball player. I don’t really know why, since I’m too young to have seen his real glory days; he was declining hard by the time I even knew what baseball was, but he was still my favourite. I love Jim Rice, and I’m thrilled to see that he finally got into the hall, but I am compelled by his numbers to point out that Jim Rice was a very marginal Hall candidate. He was solidly above-average offensively for almost all of his career, but he was at best acceptable defensively, and he declined early. But is Dale Murphy really a better candidate? I’m just not sold. Let’s take this in order.

Fenway Park was a better hitter’s park. The point here is that Rice’s numbers are inflated by Fenway. This is pretty much correct, and he makes good use of OPS+ to illustrate the point (OPS+ is park-adjusted). He is correct that Rice’s OPS+ at his peak wasn’t much better than Murphy’s. But there’s a little cherry-pick here: he goes on about how Murphy’s fourth-best OPS+ is better than Rice’s third-best (which it is, by one point), but fails to mention that Rice has only two seasons of OPS+ under 100 — his rookie year (which consisted of 74 PA), and his final year (228 PA). Murphy has seven seasons of below-average offensive production, and his worst posted OPS+ is 0, as compared to Rice’s 70. You could argue that, at their peaks, Dale Murphy was comparable to Jim Rice, but Rice was better than average even after he declined. Murphy simply was not.

The National League was better than the American League. This is a weird point, and he supports it with weird data. All-Star Game wins is probably the worst single data point you can use to support anything, and 1970-1985 career wins leaders is also pretty flimsy. Wins are so massively team-dependent that you can’t just look at the leaders in wins for that period and say "yup, them’s some awesome pitchin’" and be done with it. I realise I’ve said this before, but, if you’re really convinced that the best pitcher is the pitcher with the most wins, well, congratulations Jason Marquis on being the best pitcher in baseball.

Of course, the real comedy moment is that, of the ten leaders in wins over that period, a whopping four were "primarily NL pitchers," which isn’t exactly setting the World of Datacraft on fire with its importance.

Rice hit into a ton of double plays. Yes he did: 315 of them, to Murphy’s 209. This is closely related to the next point, so I’m going to deal with them together:

Murph walked a lot more, at least in his best seasons. 986 BB to Rice’s 670 is nothing to sneeze at. That’s a big difference, and it’s Rice’s biggest weakness as a hitter: he wasn’t particularly patient. Had Rice swung at fewer bad pitches, his BB would go up and his GIDP would go down. This is a point in Murphy’s favour, though it’s worth noting that his career OBP is a bit lower than Rice’s, even with all those extra walks taken into account.

Of course, another thing that’s worth considering is that GIDP is also a team-dependent stat; if there’s nobody on base ahead of you, you can’t have a double play. Murphy’s Braves teams were rotten, whereas Rice’s Red Sox teams were good. Good teams will have more GIDP opportunities; it’s very likely that Murphy hit almost as many hard ground balls to short as Rice did, but there was nobody to double off of second.

Murphy was a Gold Glove centerfielder, Rice an average-at-best left fielder. This is a valid point made in a bad way. Murphy may have been superior to Rice defensively, but Gold Gloves are not useful for demonstrating that. Why? Because Gold Gloves are not a statistical award — they’re a voted-on award. The hacks at the BBWAA hand them out, which is why The Captain has three of them despite being, at the very best, an average defensive SS. This is a hard point to argue, since defensive statistics are not exactly robust, but probably the moat useful measure we have is Fielding Runs Above Average. I’m seeing 24.2 for Rice (which is actually way better than I expected), and, uh, -33.4 for Murphy. So Murphy’s glove was worth 58 runs fewer than Rice’s. Murphy’s CF-only numbers? -40.4. In RF he was a lot better: 27.6, which is just a hair less than Rice’s LF numbers (27.7). (None of these numbers are outstanding, of course: Ozzie Smith (for reference) posted a ridiculous 238.7 at SS.) So, actually, it looks like Jim Rice was a somewhat above-average LF, and Dale Murphy was a somewhat above-average RF who played CF for some reason, and didn’t do such a great job. And won a bunch of Gold Gloves for the exact same reason a SS with a career FRAA of -122.6 has three Gold Gloves: because they’re a popularity contest voted on by uncritical writers.

Dale Murphy is not a superior Hall candidate. He was a good player who is, by all rights, more borderline even than Jim Rice. If you’re a big-hall kind of guy, and you believe it should include players like Dale Murphy, that’s fine. But he was not better than Jim Rice.

And don’t you even get me started on Dave Parker.

July 27th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

We need to talk about this

Remember the other week, when I explained pointedly why the baseball pitching stat known for some reason as "wins" is extremely bad? And you remember how I used Jason Marquis’ Major-League-leading wins total as my prime example of why this is a bad stat?

Really, guys. Take that lesson to heart. Otherwise, you might write a really stupid article like this.

Let’s run down the list, shall we? Carlos Zambrano. Grotesquely overpaid, sure, but welcome to the Cubs. I’m seeing — and correct me if I’m mistaken here — a 3.36 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, and 130 ERA+ over 107 IP. That’s not too damn bad a line. Marquis? Well, his ERA of 3.49 is a bit worse, his WHIP of 1.264 is a bit better, and his ERA+ of 129 is damn near the exact same. Which tells us that Jason Marquis has been about as good a pitcher as Carlos Zambrano this season. Note also that Marquis is having a career year — as you can tell by the fact that his stats every other year are much lower, and usually below average — whereas it’s just business as usual for Z. So Z will probably continue at about this pace (possibly improving a bit; looks like he’s actually slightly down this year), whereas Marquis can safely be expected to fall off a cliff eventually. But that’s as maybe; why does Jason Marquis have so many more wins? Easy. Go here. Scroll down to the "starting pitching" section. See the column labeled RS/GS? That’s the average number of runs the Rockies are scoring in games that Jason Marquis starts. It’s 5.2. Zambrano’s is 4. I’ll wager the brunt of the difference in wins is to be found in the Rockies scoring 4/3 as many runs as the Cubs. That… kind of matters, yeah?

Okay, you don’t like that answer. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, then. 3.59 ERA is very similar to Marquis’, 1.154 WHIP is much much muchmuchmuch better, 122 ERA+ is a small amount worse (if you’re wondering how that could be with a WHIP so much better, it’s because Marquis walks a shitload of dudes and Lilly gives up too many home runs, which is worse). Run support? Okay, let’s look… huh, 4.2.

Ryan Dumpster has been rotten this season, but that’s what happens when you give mediocre pitchers big contracts after one awesome year (hint, hint, Marquis fans). 4.09 ERA, 1.372 WHIP, 107 ERA+. Slightly better than average, but not very good. Ironically, the Cubs have scored 4.5 runs/game for Dumpster, which helps to make up for the mediocre pitching in those games.

Rich Harden has been fucking abysmal this year, and there’s no good explanation for that. He’s literally not even half as good a pitcher as he was last year — 5.06 ERA, 1.463 WHIP, 86 ERA+. The upside is that he’ll probably get better, since this is so unusual (last year he posted 2.07 / 1.061 / 206). The Cubs continue their trend of scoring more the worse they’re pitching, and put up 4.9 RS/GS for Harden.

I notice the rant doesn’t mention Randy Wells, and… oh dear, I can see why. 3.00 ERA, 1.148 WHIP, 146 ERA+? And he makes how little money? It’s a good thing he got data-searched out of the argument, since he completely destroys it. Randy Wells is so much better than Jason Marquis — not just average Jason Marquis, but even outstanding this-season Jason Marquis — that there’s just no comparison. And for his trouble, the Cubs have rewarded him with 3.8 RS/GS. 3.8. A run and a half less than Marquis gets. 73% as much offensive production.

Just for shits, let’s look at one more thing. Randy Wells has a total of 3 "wins lost," which is a stat that tracks how many games a pitcher left winning and then had blown by his bullpen. Jason Marquis has zero. Factor that in, and Jason Marquis has won 12 out of 19 starts (63%). Randy Wells has won 8 out of 13 (62%). That is almost exactly the same winning percentage, even though Wells has 1.4 runs fewer of support.

So what’s the point of this whole exercise? To point out that lazy people who just look at the W column and don’t think very much can end up claiming that, if only the Cubs had kept Jason Marquis, our offense and bullpen would be much better than they are. And, incidentally? Yes, the $6.375M the Cubs paid Jason Marquis last year was entirely too much for his 4.53 ERA, 1.449 WHIP, and whopping 99 ERA+. And since those, and not these, accurately reflect his career numbers (4.45 / 1.410 / 99), cutting him was the right move.

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


If you need more convincing that Wins is a terrible stat — I mean, beyond the fact that, going by wins, Jason Marquis is the best pitcher in baseball — well, the baseball gods are glad to oblige. They present to you exhibit A, in which Alan Embree gets a win without throwing even one pitch, and exhibit B, in which Joel Hanrahan earned a win for a team he was not playing for. Excelsior!

Oh, what the hell. Exhibit C: Joel Piniero, who has two shutouts, three complete games, a 1.110 WHIP, a 131 ERA+, and leads the league in losses, with 9.

July 11th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Darien’s totally worthless 2009 baseball predictions