The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

And now: Mets!

I guess Yahoo Sports is now printing articles by any damn fool, via its new "contributor network" mechanic. I guess how it works is like this: you write something dumb, Yahoo posts it, I make fun of it, and everybody wins. Except you, I guess.

Mets must become comically bad in order to win

They have that covered. So you’re predicting 110 wins for the Mets, then?

he 2010 New York Mets broke me in a way like never before.

Nice. Wonderful anal sex connotations in your very first line. This is going well.

It took me no greater than two weeks to realize that particular group of players and coaches had zero chance of finishing over .500.

You might be very slow on the uptake, Ralph. Everybody else knew that way way long ago, around when your general manager was signing lots and lots of backup catchers and totally forgot that baseball has a thing called "pitching." I guess Minaya’s thought process was something like "we got Wright, Beltran, Reyes… fuck, what was I supposed to do with all this money? Somebody I was supposed to hire… oh, look, Fernando Tatis is available!"

Some fans were fooled by the little spurts of talent the Mets showed during late April and early June. Not this guy.

Right on, brother!

While other Mets fans set themselves up for the predictable yet painful fall to the bottom of the division, I became immersed in Major League Soccer, NFL training camps and summer TV shows like Wipeout.

I… um. You might want to avoid admitting that you "became immersed in Major League Soccer." Because, seriously, soccer is really, really gay. Worse than prime-time game shows like Wipeout, even. Almost as bad as watching the Mets.

It’s not that I hated the Amazins. I just stopped caring. Why bother?

Well, they were pretty funny. Does that count?

Owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon have since brought in a new "Harvard/magna cum laude" front office that is already repeating mistakes from the past. Giving Jose Reyes $11 million … for 2011? Seriously? I wouldn’t make that move in MLB 2k11.

Yeah, fuck those Harvard guys. We all know what state that shit’s in! Clearly they don’t know anything about baseball. Somebody get Steve Phillips back in here — that motherfucker sure didn’t go to Harvard!

Also, why is it so shocking that the Mets would be paying their players for 2011? You thought they’d be hard at work revising the 2010 roster instead? Like maybe they can get MLB to call a do-over?

Jose Reyes, 2010: 603 PA, .282 / .339 / .434, 103 OPS+, .329 wOBA, 2.8 WAR.

That ain’t bad for a shortstop. Bill James predicts him to get 574 PA with a .345 wOBA in 2011 — that should be good for around 3 WAR (depending on his defense), which is worth more than $11M. The Mets have given out lots of bad contracts. This is not one of them.

The Reyes contract extension got my friend and I, both lifelong Mets fans, talking about the team’s future, namely it’s lack of one.

Is it unfair to pick on a dude’s writing if he’s like some J. Random Contributor scrub and not actually a paid columnist? Because all I have to say about that clip is: [sic] [sic] [sic] [sic] [sic] the Mets have been bad for two years and you’re declaring them doomed forever?

Individuals "in the know" assure me that this franchise’s minor-league system is grossly overrated.

Care to name any of these individuals? No, you’re good? Well, I’ll counter with some people in the know who say the Mets have a pretty damn good farm system, and that it’s likely to get even better. And I’ll even document that shit. You see how things work, in the world of real sports journalism?

Damn. You know your article’s in trouble when you’re a worse journalist than me.

It’s also painfully clear that this particular group of Mets cannot compete with the Philadelphia Phillies and Altanta Braves over 162 games.

This particular group of Mets is, like, two or three pieces away from contention, now that Beltran’s back from his knee whatever. If we assume that the Mets return the entire 2010 roster — I know, but just for the sake of argument — they’ll need a 2B and another starter. That’s pretty much it. None of their free agents have signed yet, so here’s what we’re working with as a core for theoretical 2011:

C: Josh Thole
1B: Ike Davis
2B: Luis Castillo
3B: David Wright
SS: Jose Reyes
LF: Jason Bay
CF: Angel Pagan
RF: Carlos Beltran

SP: Johan Santana
SP: R.A. Dickey
SP: Mike Pelfrey
SP: Jonathon Niese
SP: ???

RP: Hisanori Takahashi
RP: Pedro Feliciano
RP: Elmer Dessens
RP: Manny Acosta

That’s a pretty good start. They have Wilmer Flores coming up through their system, and he’s not projected to stick at SS (his current position); perhaps they can bring him up to replace Castillo at 2B, if they think he’s ready. Though it would be hard to be less ready than Luis Castillo. They don’t have any pitchers in the farm who are Major League-ready, so they’ll have to go fishing; assuming they don’t land a major player like Cliff Lee, there are plenty of serviceable fifth-starter types available this year. Or maybe they take a chance on Brandon Webb, though he’s been looking really cooked lately.

Anyhow, the point is: the Mets aren’t very far from contention if their good players are actually healthy and can actually play. It’s injuries, man. That’s what’s killed them the last two years.

Now look what you’ve done. Your stupidity has made me defend the Mets. I feel sick.

There’s only one reasonable thing to do.

Fortunately for all of us, you have no idea what it is.

Bring back the 1993 New York Mets.

Suit up, Tim Bogar! The team needs you!

A team less than a decade removed from being “a dynasty,” the ’93 Mets won only 59 games and finished the year as the worst team in baseball. Shea Stadium was practically empty by August as the team playing in it was atrocious.

Amazing. Amazing plan. Let’s spend eleven shitloads of money on a team that will win 59 games and not sell any tickets at all. That’s a sure-fire path to success!

They were comically bad, though, like "take a shot each time Frank Tanana gives up a home run or Bobby Bonila swings at one in the dirt" bad.

Bobby Bonilla (which is how you spell that, by the way), 1993: 582 PA, .265 / .352 / .522, 132 OPS+, 3.4 WAR

I dunno, man. That’s pretty good. Dude hit 34 homers. Tanana was bad, sure, though it’s a nice cherry-pick; the 1993 Mets had Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, and Sid Fernandez all pitching really well. Tanana was the only lousy starter on the team. Hitting was the 1993 Mets’ problem, and… you named the one awesome hitter on the team in your analysis.

Good work.

There was actual entertainment value as you wondered how the team could possibly get worse.

That is always the case with the Mets, as I have mentioned on this blog once or twice throughout the years.

The reason I lost interest in the 2009 Mets was because I already knew how that story ended. Roller coaster Mets hang around for a bit, spend some time at the top of the division, fall slightly yet continue to hang around before finally succumbing to fatigue/injuries/players beating up old men en route to finishing with 70-80 wins.

The 2009 Mets? What year do you think this is, Charles? This might explain some things. Like why you thought it was so weird that the Mets would be paying their players for the 2011 season.

I assure you that a new manager will not equal a new adventure for this roster.

No, the manager is pretty meaningless. But Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and K-Punch all being healthy and able to play baseball might help a little. Also will help: no more Jeff Francoeur.

Completely blowing up the Mets before the 2011 season is the only right move that can be made both for the franchise and its devoted fans.

Good. Good writin’. Good thinkin’, too.

Once Mets fans realize that the team’s current core has never won a league championship and will never do so, they’ll accept the fact that everybody not part of the longterm future must go.

The Mets should have won the league in 2006, but hit some rotten luck in the playoffs, which happens. They were very very close to making the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. Then they signed Jeff Francoeur and all their other players got injured in protest.

But, hey, give it up, Beltran and Reyes and Wright and Santana and Bay and Punch: some random dude says you’ll never win. You bunch of fucking cancerous chokers.

Everybody. David Wright. Jose Reyes. Carlos Beltran. Johan Santana. R.A. Dickey (my favorite Met of the past five years). Ollie Perez. K-Rod. All of them.

So. Everybody who is "not part of the longterm [sic] future" in your estimation is… all of them.

David Wright: makes $14M in 2011 and $15M in 2012. That prices him away from a lot of teams, which is a shame, since he’s the best 3B in baseball not called Evan Longoria, and will be worth way way more than he’s getting paid, even at those prices.

Jose Reyes: makes $11M in 2011. This dude honestly says it’s a good idea to cut a valuable player who comes off the books in one year anyway in favour of… well, you’ll see in a minute what he thinks the Mets should do instead.

Carlos Beltran: makes $18.5M in 2011. Bill James expects him to make 505 PA at .373 wOBA, which will probably be worth in the neighborhood of 4 WAR. And then, of course, he’s a free agent. But don’t take the compensation picks, Mets — cut this shit now for no benefit!

Johan Santana: makes $22.5M in 2011, $24M in 2012, and $25.5M in 2013. Is great — like super, super, crazy great — but is probably untradeable due to the fact that $75M is a shitload of money.

R.A. Dickey: is third-year arb eligible and will probably make about a million dollars in 2011. The Mets should cut him for what reason?

Oliver Perez: makes $12M in 2011. Is bad. Nobody will take him unless the Mets eat his entire salary.

K-Rod: makes $11.5M in 2011. Is probably untradeable due to punching a dude in the head. Will be a Type A free agent after the season anyhow, so there’s no benefit to cutting him now and forfeiting the comp picks.

Imagine the influx of young talent infused into the Mets’ farm system.

It won’t be much, since most of those players will be one-year rentals. Like, maybe a couple of C prospects or a solid B. Santana would bring more than that, but he’s way too expensive to trade.

Some of those youngsters may even be able to join the big league club immediately.

Wow, really? The Mets could trade all their good players and get back a handful of prospects who may or may not be any good at baseball?? Sign me up!

And what of those players who make up the "deepest farm system in the NL East?" Bring them all up in April, every one of them who is remotely ready to play in the majors.

That’s what I call player development right there! Bring all them A-ball and rookie league assholes straight up into the Majors and have them get in the box against Roy Halladay. Think how much they’ll learn!

The Mets will never – and let me repeat this, never be the Yankees or Red Sox and "buy" a championship. Even when they try to do so, they goof it up.

Lots of idiots talk about the Yankees and Red Sox buying championships. It’s almost as though they’ve ever done that. But a lot of the players those teams use are developed in-house, because the organisations are well-run. I think the only team you could really say "bought" its championship would be the 1997 Florida Marlins, who were a team of free agents on one-year deals.

Building from the ground up is the only realistic option for this team; a Cleveland Indians approach to baseball, if you will, except the Mets will actually keep a championship-caliber roster together for longer than two seasons.

"Just like the Indians, if you will, except that not like the Indians at all."

This brand of team building works. Ask the Florida Marlins.

Brilliant. Played right into my joke, which I swear I wrote before I read this. Of all the players on the 1997 Marlins worth more than 1 WAR, six were signed as free agents, three were traded for, and two came up through the farm system (and one was from the expansion draft). So that’s two players developed through a "brand that works" and nine players developed through a brand that, I would assume, does not at all work.

But maybe he meant the 2003 Marlins. Let’s check. I see three free agents, ten trades, and one solitary good-working-brand farm system product.

Great example, asshole.

The only difference is the Mets wouldn’t have to worry about a "Market Correction" killing the team. They’d be contenders for a decade at least.

The only difference is voodoo and magic.

There’s another plus to turning the Mets into the laughingstock of Major League Baseball.

Namely: laughing at the Mets.

For the first time in two years the Mets would actually be a team fans such as myself and my friends could rally behind. Watching a mediocre, middle-of-the-road baseball team for 6-plus months is mind-numbingly dull.

Either you’re just wrong, or you and your friends are idiots. Watching a terrible team for 6-plus months ain’t great either.

Frustrated fans, such as myself, could put their arms around a last-place team that’s actually going somewhere, one that has a future in sight.

What, you mean, like, you’d offer them hugs as a consolation while they’re winning 14 games?

Two 60-win seasons wouldn’t get me hanging my Mets flag outside my home, but they would get me out to the atrocity that stands next to my former summer home, especially once tickets are drastically lowered.

Unwarranted assumptions in this paragraph:

• A team composed entirely of A-ball players would win 60 games in the 2011 and 2012 National League, a feat the 2010 Pirates were unable to perform with some actual Major Leaguers on their roster.

• Ticket prices would be lowered at all — much less "drastically."

• More people would pay $7 to see a hopeless team than will pay $12 to see a mediocre team with actual recognisible stars on it.

• Anybody cares that you liked Shea better than Citi.

This time, I’d actually be old enough to partake in the previously mentioned drinking escapades during games. How else do you make it through a Mets game?

Awful writing. Check-minus. Also, you failed to mention those drinking escapades previously. Check-minus-minus.

And, wait, you’re only just old enough to drink, but you have the damn gall to lecture me about the 1993 Mets and how awesome they were? You were fucking three years old, asshole.

Obviously, nothing resembling such a plan is going to take place.

Correct. Because the Wilpons — as soul-wrenchingly awful and stupid as they are — are less awful and stupid than you.

The Wilpons would rather have a ballpark be two-thirds full for three years than suffer through two seasons of absurdly low turnout while the team evolves into one that could dominate the NL East for years.

Yeah, see, their plan is to evolve the team into a Dominatron 3000 without going bankrupt first. Crazy, I know!

So get ready for another meaningless winter, Mets fans. One that’s full of "meh" free-agent signings and lots of talk about "potential" from sports talk radio hosts. Another 79-win season awaits us.

And if you see this dude at the ballpark, pants him for me. Though, of course, you won’t, since he’ll be too busy sitting in his living room watching Major League Soccer.

Prove me wrong, Mets. I beg of you.

Now I actually kind of want the Mets to do well, just so I can stick it to this assnose.

Nah, I’m lyin’. I want the Mets to tank so badly Queens slides into the ocean.

Further research: Hmm, here’s this same asshole writing about how soccer is better than baseball anyhow. As if I needed any more proof that he’s a bad person who doesn’t know anything about anything.

November 19th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

This week on “It’s the Mets”

What hilarious misadventures do you suppose everybody’s favourite comedy baseball troupe has gotten up to this week?

I see o’er this way that the Mets are singlehandedly responsible for crippling MLB’s 2010 attendance figures. That’s even funnier when you consider that, hey, didn’t they just open a new ballpark? Wow. Guess the honeymoon is really over down there.

September 9th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments


I never get tired of the Mets. Tonight in the top of the ninth inning, runners on first and second with one out, the Mets choose to walk Ryan Theriot. Like, on purpose. My only guess is that they were planning on Jeff Baker hitting into a double play — which did not occur — because that meant the bases were loaded to face Derrek Leon Lee.

Here’s a picture of Ryan Theriot. Notice how he’s trying — but not succeeding! — to punch out a girl. This is because his career OPS+ is only 84, which means he is not very good at punching and there is no reason to fear him.

Here’s a picture of Derrek Lee. He is performing a Karate Kid-style crane kick to get Fukudome’s ass in gear for a while. His career OPS+ is 124, which means that, in terms of punching people, he has fucking bionic fists. And the Mets chose to have D-Lee bionic-punch them instead of having Ryan Theriot swat at them like a little girl with a French-Canadian last name.

Oh, wait, Ryan Theriot’s from Baton Rouge. So he’s cajun, then. Whatever.

The point is: Derrek Lee draw a walk — as he does, because he’s ridiculously good at baseball, leads MLB in pitches/PA, and already has 11 goddamn walks this year (none of them intentional, oddly) — which forced in a run. Then Marlon Byrd, hitting behind Lee, put in two more runs with a single. And the Mets could have faced 84 OPS+ worth of wimp instead. So lol@Mets.

Wait. Ryan Theriot has two IBBs this year and Derrek Lee has none? Fuck the heck, baseball?

April 21st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

Can the Mets get any funnier?

I mean, sure, that "20 unearned runs in 35 games" thing is pretty good, but it’s hard to beat this.

The Mets: public health scourge of 2009!

May 20th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Put on your tinfoil batting helmets

At last, George Mitchell’s nefarious plot has been exposed!

I have a soft spot for that theory. The idea, see, is that since George Mitchell has a stake in the Red Sox, he intentionally left them out of his report. Except for Eric Gagne, I suppose, whom everybody hates anyhow. See, normal, sane people would view the lack of any Brewers or Rangers as a problem with this theory, but the Daily News has concocted a lovely explanation that only requires a moderate amount of data-searching in order to survive. See, Mitchell let his own team off lightly, but he also let the Brewers go because Bug Selig used to own the Brewers and he’s a good buddy. Obviously it would have hurt his feelings had Mitchell implied that anybody on a team he used to have a financial stake in participated in a wave of cheaters that Mitchell estimated at around 25% of the entire player-base.

The bit about the Rangers is even better. You know, President Bush used to be an owner of the Rangers. So clearly senator Mitchell – senator Mitchell, wink wink – would let the Rangers off easily so the President won’t… ahh, won’t… well, maybe he’d preside Mitchell upside the fucking head for that. I don’t really know, and the Daily News and its "baseball official with no ties to the Yankees" don’t tell me.

Even better than that, though, is this idiocy: "Without subpoena power, Mitchell insisted, he was limited in terms of where he could take his investigation. But that’s a cop-out. Investigative journalists don’t have subpoena power either and look at what they’ve been able to uncover independently over the course of history." Do investigative journalists generally call people up and say "hi there, my name’s George Mitchell and I’m working with your boss and the federal government to find out if you’re a cheater so we can send you to jail"? I don’t really know, but I’m thinking maybe if they did they wouldn’t get as far. And senator Mitchell was burdened with an extremely-high-profile journal to investigate. Food Lion this ain’t.

December 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

lol @ Mets

Well that’s just Schadenfreuderiffic. After a whole season of leading the NL East, after being up seven games just two weeks ago, the Mets are now officially out of the postseason. They needed to win all of seven of their last seventeen games to be guaranteed a postseason berth, and they couldn’t do it.

Meanwhile, the fucking Rockies may not have won 14 straight to steal the wild card from the back of the pack, but they only missed one which was good enough for a draw. So we’ll see if they can finish stealing the Padres’ season from them tomorrow. I say signs point to yes.

October 1st, 2007 Posted by | Baseball | 4 comments

And we’re back!

Baseball, I mean. It’s back. And so am I, I suppose. And so is idiotic sportswriting! It’s like the salad days of 2011 all over again. I haven’t done this in a while; I sure hope I can remember how.

Don’t Let Statistics Ruin Baseball

It’s all coming back to me. It’s just like falling off a log! Only it’s probably a whole lot more painful.

Baseball is a language unto itself, a language to be enjoyed and understood by any fan — at least until the talk turns to Babip, FIP and WAR.

You read it in the New York Times, friends: comrade de Blasio will no longer permit you to enjoy that language.

Thanks to "Moneyball" and stats-driven fantasy leagues, advanced statistics have changed how fans think about the game.

One of the surest signs that a crotchety sportswriter is really, really old is that he has no idea what the internet is. That’s where them nekkid pictures are, right? No way that’s had any impact on anybody’s understanding of baseball! The only explanation is a book Michael Lewis wrote twelve years ago.

On the whole that’s a positive trend — but not when the numbers begin to eclipse a more nuanced appreciation of baseball.

Here in the real world, mind you, having a "nuanced appreciation" of something tends to involve appreciating the nuances of it. Apparently this is not true in Angry Baseball Man World, where attempting to learn the intricacies — nuances, you know? They’re synonyms! — of the game sucks all the fun out of everybody else around you.

When it comes to watching a matchup of, say, the Mets pitcher Matt Harvey and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, statistical analysis is about as helpful in deepening an appreciation of the human drama unfolding before us as it would be for a Pavarotti aria.

Hog fucking wash. Look! Look! Here are Matt Harvey’s splits! And here are Giancarlo’s! You really think there’s nothing to be gained from information about how these guys perform in specific situations as opposed to just "yo brah harv b straight DEALIN?" I mean, okay.

Being alert to the twists and turns of a game is vital, since it’s the glimpses of character that emerge during these unlikely sequences that give baseball its essential flavor.

And this is at odds with statistical analysis in what way? They can coexist, dude. It’s not like the ghost of Tommy Lasorda hangs out at the turnstile and requires you to choose your path before you can enter the park.

I was on hand in Oakland in October 2001 when the Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter won a game — and, arguably, a playoff series — against the A’s by having the foresight to anticipate an errant throw and make an improvised little flip to home plate to nail a lumbering Jeremy Giambi trying to score.

Oh for fuck’s sake. It is the year 2015, and you people are still using the flip game as your go-to argument? Man, the simple, undeniable fact that the game you’re citing is fourteen years old should indicate to you that your argument needs a bit of assistance.

Statistical analysis had absolutely zero to do with that play.

What does that even mean? When does statistical analysis ever have anything to do with any individual, specific play? By definition, statistical analysis looks at aggregate trends. We learn how, historically, players have performed in various situations. It’s not like Joe Torre pulled out his graphing calculator and punched in

20 GOTO 10

And then sent it to the JeTron-9000 for execution.

Managers agree. "I watch the game," said Bruce Bochy, the manager of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Bruce Bochy is probably the worst active manager in baseball. I know the Giants just won the World Series; this is because the Giants have great pitching and the manager matters for fuck-all.

"You don’t see me writing down a lot of things or having to look down at stats. They’re important, but there are some things that you can’t see on a spreadsheet."

Name one. Name one, Bruce Bochy, and then demonstrate one single way in which it has any impact on the game of baseball. You are the kind of nitwit who has your team’s best hitter bunt in a high-leverage situation even when he has successfully done so exactly zero times ever. So perhaps we will not listen to you on the subject of knowing anything about anything.

The real problem isn’t in the dugout, though. It’s with the way the game is discussed off the field. I grew up on vivid reporting that teased out details from the day’s action to give us a more flavorful and insightful narrative — not just by accomplished magazine writers like Roger Angell, but by the scores of beat reporters covering the game nationwide.

Yes, yes. Those young people these days have no respect, et cetera, et cetera, get off my lawn. You could consider — and this is just a wild idea I had, mind you — writing some insightful narrative yourself instead of just bitching. But, yes, back in your day…

In any press box, most reporters are texting, tweeting or Googling stats. This doesn’t work.

What, you mean like Juan Uribe has sabotaged the press box to keep reporters from getting accurate information? In what way does this not work?

You can go to the symphony and hear the music even as you’re texting with a client to close a deal. As your thumbs fly and you try not to be distracted by the dirty looks of the guy next to you, you might note the orchestra is playing Mahler’s Ninth. But with your attention so cratered, are you really listening to the music? Are you enjoying it?

Are you like some type of professional orchestra scout who’s trying to sign a hot young violoncello for your orchestra team? Because, if you are, then I expect you do need to be communicating with somebody while this is going on. Otherwise you’re going to get scooped by another, different scout, right? In this case, I gotta be honest with you: whether or not you’re enjoying the performance is neither here nor there. I’m paying you to do a job, not to go have a fun evening. So too with reporters: they’re not there to have themselves a blast, they’re there to do a job. Do you really not know this?

Also, Mahler 9 is like eighty minutes long. It would be the entire concert by itself, and you’d know that’s what’s playing because it’s on the marquee. Weirdo.

The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball (even Mr. Angell once groused that "The ‘Field of Dreams’ thing gives me a pain!"), but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.

But not deepening your understanding so much that you actually start to understand it, right? Because that would be bad.

The art of hitting a baseball starts with emptying the mind. As Jonathan Fader, a psychologist who works with Mets players, told me: "Essentially, what we’re trying to do in sports psychology is helping people to not think."

That sounds like the exact lesson the Mets have taken to heart.

Fans and writers need to adopt a similar attitude.

Only the Grey Lady could actually go to print explicitly telling people to stop thinking.

Also, here’s a thing: hitting a baseball needs to become an instinctive process because you have zero time. Is that the case when you’re discussing the game the next day at the office? Is it so urgent that you cannot spare the time to think, and must instead just grunt out "Lucas Duda heap good batter-man ugh?"

An overly analytical approach, centered in the cerebral cortex, is a distancing mechanism that puts a fan at a remove from how the players — and most fans — are experiencing a game.

So, in a nutshell, your point is "I’m a lazy dum-dum and everybody else agrees with me, so shut up?" Because if that says anything else, I can’t find it.

Often the greater rigor that results can be readily understood and applied, to exciting ends. For example, the shift of the game toward flame-throwing, late-game relief pitchers makes it natural that we’d be more focused on a previously obscure statistic: batting average against relievers.

Literally nobody is focused on that statistic, because it is shit.

The trouble is not with the numbers.

There’s some trouble with that last one you cited.

The imposing Babip just means "batting average on balls in play." And FIP stands for "fielding independent pitching," an attempt to offer a broader measure of a pitcher’s performance than the traditional E.R.A. (earned-run average).

I’m about 90% certain Steve just Googled those as he was writing this article. And he still managed to fuck it up! FIP is not "an attempt to offer a broader measure of a pitcher’s performance than the traditional E.R.A.," which does not mean anything anyway. FIP is an attempt to remove the influence of fielding on pitching data. That why it’s called "fielding-independent pitching," Steve. Do you see?

And BABIP should be capitalised. It’s not a word, goofball, as you yourself immediately pointed out. And "E.R.A." never ever ever has periods in it. Have you ever actually read anything about baseball?

There is a risk that numbers become an end in themselves, and arcane stats proliferate.

Steve? Numbers have always been an end in themselves. The entire point of the game of baseball is to score more runs than the other team. Those are numbers, Steve! Contra what you may have heard back when you were a wee nipper in the halcyon days of the American Association, the goal of baseball is not to look as dapper as possible.

A good rule of thumb is that the more a stat relies on abstraction, the less likely it’s going to be consistently useful to a wide audience.

I don’t think you understand what a rule of thumb is. Just as a general guideline for you, if there are more weasel-words than like regular real words, probably it’s not very good. And I guess ERA’s "earned runs" and BA’s "at bats" aren’t sufficiently abstract to disqualify them as "consistently useful." Who decides? Steve’s vote is for Steve.

Even an old stat like WAR, or wins above replacement, continues to have both backers and detractors, since it relies on comparing a given player to the abstraction of some hypothetical median player, the "replacement."

… He says, without offering any potential alternatives. Should all players across all ballparks and in all years be compared to one specific player? We’ll make a new stat, you and me, Steve. We’ll call it "wins above 2004 Neifi Perez, but only the part of the year he spent with the Giants." Since that’s a lot less abstract, I’m sure it’ll be more useful to a wide audience. Right?

Also, I hate to be "that guy," but the dreaded "replacement" is definitely not a median player. He is an absolutely minimal player. That is the whole point, Steve. Perhaps you should learn something about your subject matter before your next deadline, hey?

Baseball is slow, and in that slowness comes the opportunity to let the mind and the imagination wander and move along with the action. Mr. Angell has said that for him, even later in life as a fan, the music is still playing. If we can’t clear our attention span enough to focus on the action, if we don’t tune in to baseball the way we do music, we’re never going to hear the tune.

You’ve clearly mastered the fine art of not thinking, Steve.

April 9th, 2015 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Half-season is the best season

Ah, the All-Star Break. The three worst days of the year. The only good thing about it is reading people’s crazy half-season awards, which usually amount to "who has the most SportsCenter highlights this week?" Here’s Jeff Passan to get the crazy rolling:

AL MVP of the Half: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

The correct choice. Any bets that it’s for all the wrong reasons?

Chris Davis is having an all-time first half. He may well hit 60 home runs. The last person not on steroids to finish the season with a slugging percentage over .700 was Larry Walker in 1999, and Davis’ is .712. It is not easy to put into words how good Davis has been.

Good. Good arguments in favour of Miguel Cabrera. Look at all those team-killing home runs! Some of them were probably three-run homers, which anybody who’s ever seen, read, or heard a piece of sports journalism knows is the worst possible outcome for a hitter. Also: nice baseless assumption that 1999 Larry Walker was not on steroids. Also 2013 Chris Davis, for that matter. I guess it’s awesome for the rest of us that you’ve spoken with God on this subject and have The Truth.

Which is why this is so shocking to say: Cabrera has been better. He more than makes up for whatever slugging deficiency he has with an on-base percentage of .457 to Davis’ .395.

Well… here’s the thing. As of today (Jeff wrote this a few days ago; I’ve just been lazy) Miggy’s OBP is .456 and his SLG is .676. Those are awesome. Awesome numbers. Crash Gordon’s? .389 and .690. So, uh, yeah; Miguel Cabrera’s extra 70 points of OBP do in fact overpower Davis’ 14-point SLG lead. This is why we have analysts: to tell us these unpopular truths.

He plays a far more difficult position – and even if he’s not very good at third, there’s more value in playing there than first base.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there, hoss. This is not true. A good defensive first baseman is vastly more valuable than a butcher at third. You don’t think this might be the case? Otherwise, why not just stack all of our fielders at short and let the other positions lay empty? Just think how much more value we’d get from having all those shortstops!

No, the real reason Miggy’s shit 3B play is more valuable is because Davis is a horrible butcher at 1B, too! He’s showing -7 DRS, which is awful. Granted, Miggy’s at -12, but the positional adjustment just cancels that out, leaving Davis at -1.2 DWAR and Miggy at -1.0. So, actually, it turns out that your 1B has to be as awful as Chris Davis before he’s worth less defensively than Miggy at third!

NL MVP of the Half: Carlos Gonzalez, LF, Colorado Rockies – Were one to rely on Wins Above Replacement, the choice is Carlos Gomez, the dynamic center fielder from Milwaukee. Problem is, WAR weighs so heavily on defensive metrics that aren’t altogether reliable.

So, what, then? We just let sportswriters decide for us based on what their entrails tell them? I mean, don’t we have more than one metric we can consult? Seems to me that if Carlos Gomez looks great according to multiple metrics — just to take a random example, if he’s at 24 DRS, 11 TZ, and 14 UZR — it’s probably safe to conclude that he’s pretty good in the field. What’s so scary about that?

Also: weren’t you just — in your very last entry — comparing the value of Miguel Cabrera’s defense to Chris Davis’? So if you weren’t using defensive metrics, what, you consulted with your shaman and he asked Great Spirit?

Scouts, on the other hand, love Yadier Molina. Love. Him. They love how he handles a pitching staff, how he has made himself into an elite hitter, how he barely strikes out. There is indeed a lot to like about him, too.

Fucking everybody loves Yadier Molina, Jeff. This is no longer 2006, where scouts kept gushing about his "potential" while he busied himself hitting .216 / .274 / .321. Yadier Molina, 2013: .343 / .388 / .485. That is awesome hitting for a catcher. I don’t give two shits about his strikeouts — he’s still striking out half again as often as he walks, which is bad — but he’s a good hitter who catches 45% of baserunners this year, and by all accounts (and framing science is super young) is a terrific pitch framer. So, yeah: Yadier is awesome, and we don’t need crusty old scouts spinning us anecdotes about the fire in his eye to know that.

Each is a worthwhile candidate, which is why the support here thrown behind Gonzalez isn’t as much half-hearted as it is fleeting. His first half for the Rockies has been spectacular. He leads the NL in slugging percentage by 36 points, and his 24 home runs top the league as well.

So that was, what, three paragraphs of disclaimers (one of which I didn’t quote because it was boring) before your utterly conventional pick? There are no guarantees! I could be wrong! Things could change! Don’t listen to this! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

He plays a reasonably good left field and is a superb baserunner, with 15 steals in 16 attempts.

So. Fielding metrics should not be used to evaluate Carlos Gomez and only Carlos Gomez. They are suspect when it comes to Carlos Gomez, but rock-solid for every other player. Got it.

All of this could change this week, of course.

Confident predicting, Jeff.

AL Cy Young of the Half: Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers – The perfect candidate: He appeals to traditional fans with his 13-0 record and statheads with an absurd strikeout rate.

Is it only statheads who care about strikeouts? I thought that was a fairly mainstream pitching statistic, personally. But what do I know? My entire head is a stat, so I can take my statty head and my made-up "strikeouts" and "walks" and "home runs" and fuck entirely off.

He could induce more groundballs, and he could give up fewer home runs, and there are others – Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish – who could thieve the award were the luster of that zero to turn into a one before the break.

Backpedal, backpedal, don’t commit

For now, it’s Scherzer’s alone, and on a staff with a Cy Young-winning MVP and an $80 million man, that’s even more impressive.

Verlander didn’t win the Cy Young or the MVP this year, man. Greg Maddux won four Cy Youngs, and he’s currently working for the Rangers; so, hey, Yu Darvish can fuck right off, yeah? Come back when you’ve won four Cy Youngs and maybe we’ll consider you, Darvish. You shit.

Also: who cares how much Anibal Sanchez gets paid? Or is this the real reason you picked Carlos Gonzalez as your NL MVP: because Todd Helton makes a lot of money?

NL Cy Young of the Half: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets – No disrespect intended to Clayton Kershaw (who’s got a better ERA than Harvey), Adam Wainwright (who’s got a better strikeout-to-walk ratio), Cliff Lee (who’s got more victories) and all of them (who have got more innings). Harvey simply has been better.

NL Pitching WAR leaderboard:

Kershaw, LAD (5.3)
Wainwright, STL (4.9)
Lee, PHI (4.4)
Harvey, NYM (4.3)

Huh. Maybe he meant, like, ERA?

Kershaw, LAD (1.89)
Locke, PIT (2.15)
Wainwright, STL (2.30)
Harvey, NYM (2.35)

Oh. Wait, park factor! Dodger Stadium is a huge pitchers’ park. Harvey must be dynamite in ERA+.

Kershaw, LAD (194)
Locke, PIT (169)
Corbin, ARI (162)
Wainwright, STL (160)
Strasburg, WAS (155)
Harvey, NYM (154)

For fuck’s sake. To save us a little time: the only thing Harvey’s leading the league in is strikeouts. So I guess Jeff is just too much of a stathead for me!

More dominant with a 10.3-strikeouts-per-nine rate that leads the NL. Stingy with home runs, his rate fifth lowest in the NL. He is Justin Verlander: a complete monster.

He is about 3/5 as good as Clayton Kershaw. Much like 2013 Justin Verlander!

NL Rookie of the Half:

(get this)

Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

Hahahahahahaha what?

Much like last year, when Wade Miley won the award with full knowledge he’d cede the actual one to Bryce Harper, Miller is but a placeholder for Puig.

Seriously, what is wrong with this man’s brain? If Miller is just a "placeholder for Puig," then give the damn award to Puig. Is that a challenge to comprehend? It’s not like Puig is still in AAA — he’s been in the majors long enough to accumulate more WAR than Miller, in fact. Especially since you gave your AL Rookie of the Half to Jose Iglesias (in an entry so dull I didn’t make fun of it) who has exactly as much time in the bigs this year as Puig.

AL Manager of the Half: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees

Fuck the heck? Now I get that the manager of the year (or half, or whatever) is a stupid award. But how could you conceivably not give this award to John Farrell? The Red Sox were supposed to finish, like, fifth. They were supposed to be in a massive rebuild. And here they are, leading the division wire-to-wire. Maybe that should be worth more than Joe Girardi’s amazing achievement of "managing in New York."

Seriously, have you seen some of the lineups the New York Yankees have used lately? This is one from 10 days ago: Gardner-Nix-Cano-Wells-Ichiro-Almonte-Stewart-Adams-Gonzalez. Where do you even begin with that? Jayson Nix hitting second? Vernon Wells in the cleanup spot? And at DH? David Adams, career utilityman, playing first base? And Alberto Gonzalez? Who is Alberto Gonzalez?

I agree: those lineups have been awful. Horrible. Horribawful. But remember for me, Jeff, who is it who made those lineups. Why, none other than all-time best manager of the forever, Joe Girardi! It was Joe Girardi who constructed those idiotic lineups. Perhaps you should not mention them in your weirdo Joe Girardi hagiography.

With this team, this lineup, Joe Girardi has the Yankees eight games over .500 and a half-game out of the final wild-card spot. This fauxward was made for managing jobs like that.

Your 2013 New York Yankees:

3.77 team ERA (4th in the AL)
1.255 team WHIP (4th in the AL)
3.12 team K/BB (2nd in the AL)
357 runs allowed (2nd in the AL)

.242 team BA (13th in the AL)
.304 team OBP (13th in the AL)
.378 (!) team SLG (14th in the AL)
87 team OPS+ (13th in the AL)
358 runs scored (11th in the AL)

Probably you could have mentioned pitching somewhere in your screed about how great the Yankees are, Jeff. Also, before you refer to this as a "fauxward," you might consider how much that looks like "fuckwad." Or maybe don’t, because it’s really funny that you went to print with that.

NL Manager of the Half: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates – Enjoy the midseason award. The full-season one won’t be his. Why? Well …

Ooh! Ooh! I know! It’s because Pittsburgh is a tiny city that sportswriters don’t pay any attention to, and they’ll hand this award to Mike Matheny because oh wow the Cardinals are so dreamy did you see Yadier’s eyes I think he’s just the bestest.

The Pirates’ pitching is significantly outperforming its peripherals. It’s got the highest strand rate and the lowest batting average on balls in play. And even if the Pirates’ defensive shifts can account for some of that, their groundball rate is by far the highest in the game, and groundball rate and BABIP are supposed to be inverse. The plain fact: This is not sustainable. Not even close.

Okay, but isn’t that an exact description of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ pitching? And didn’t they make the playoffs?

The Pirates’ hitting isn’t very good. Their .310 on-base percentage is in the bottom 10 in baseball. Their slugging percentage is just outside of the bottom 10. Only the Astros and Braves strike out more. They steal a lot of bases, but they also get caught more than a quarter of the time. There are holes, and they’re rather significant.

And we all know the old saying: pitching wins headlines, but hitting wins championships. Isn’t that how it goes?

In all seriousness: why is it that, when the Yankees suck at hitting but are really good at pitching, it’s an amazing management job by Joe Girardi and the Yankees are just the bestest, but when the Pirates do the same thing, they’re a fading mirage? For fuck’s sake, the Pirates are hitting better than the Yankees! Why won’t you give Clint Hurdle the award you jizzed all over Girardi?

The Pirates’ fielding has been excellent. That includes notoriously stone-handed Pedro Alvarez. Dubiousness is warranted.

How would you know? Oh, right — Carlos Gomez plays for the Brewers. It’s safe to evaluate the Pirates’ defense.

Fight of the Half: Dodgers vs. the World – First it was the Padres. Then the Diamondbacks. They’ve got to brawl with the Giants at some point on sheer principle. And if ever they need a reason to rumble with the Rockies, we’ve got three words: Troy Tulowitzki’s mullet.

This part’s boring. I only quoted it so I can let everybody know that mullet jokes are officially way past their expiration date. If you ever find yourself writing a joke, and the only punchline you can come up with is "mullet," you should stop writing that joke.

Defensive Play of the Half: Peter Bourjos, CF, Los Angeles Angels – Before everyone goes crowning Manny Machado’s insane throw Sunday the play of the first half, please remember: It would’ve been merely a great play if he had fielded the ball cleanly in the first place.

Sure. And Bourjos’ play would have been entirely rudimentary if he were thirty feet tall. But since neither of those things happened, maybe we should evaluate the plays based on what actually did happen. Is that novel? Did I blow your mind?

Anyway, Manny Machado did this:

which is impossible. Peter Bourjos did this:

which is really cool, but we see it like eight times a year. Bourjos’ version wasn’t even particularly interesting.

There are no such do-overs on home run-robbing catches. We tend to romanticize them in the annals of great defensive plays, and with good reason: They are the diamonds, the platinum and the gold. They are almost always the domain of the fielding freaks, whereas even the biggest infield butcher can stumble his way into a diving stop and throw a guy out.

You hear that, Manny Machado? Absolutely literally anybody could have barehanded that ball and thrown an absolute laser all the way across the infield, exactly on target, without looking. Booooo-ring.

And while Bourjos’ won’t go down in the all-time annals, it had all the elements of what makes a great fielding play.

It sure won’t, huh. Which is too bad for him, since the Angels — his team — have a habit of monstrously overpaying for center fielders who make that exact play, like, once.

He ran an absurdly long way, nearly 20 steps to the fence.

So it’s okay to penalise Machado for missing his first stab at the ball, but Bourjos gets a pass for playing way way too shallow?

He single-handedly disproved the title of a wonderful ’90s movie.

Go back to mullet jokes, Jeff. This one is worse.

He banged into the fence before the ball arrived, which meant his equilibrium was shaken and his outstretched left arm simply along for the ride.

I’ve watched the video a few times looking for evidence of this, and guess what? It’s not there. He is, in fact, so entirely non-destroyed by that fence that, as soon as he lands, he throws the ball back in.

And he caught the thing. Brought it right back over the fence, almost a year to the day his teammate Mike Trout had done so against the very same batter, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy.

I’ll grant that that’s fun. In fact, it’s probably what you should have opened with, since the synchronicity is the only thing that makes this catch particularly interesting. Without that, it’s Machado all the way, goofball.

Bourjos’ catch barely beats Aaron Hicks’ pair of outfield robberies, the latter of which included a tip of the cap from the hitter, Carlos Gomez, who himself is one of the game’s best center fielders.

No way. His fielding is suspect. I’ve heard there’s a conspiracy of evil number-creating computers to rob Carlos Gonzalez of imaginary awards by tricking people into thinking Gomez is good. As soon as I find it, I’ll link you the article.

Other runners-up: Victor Martinez with a crazy no-look flip, Adrian Gonzalez playing extra smooth on a play at home and Yasiel Puig going all Vlad Guerrero/Dave Parker/Bo Jackson from right field.

"Going all X" is a really lousy construction for your joke. But you know what’s worse? "Going all X or maybe Y or possibly Z." There’s a reason you don’t see many jokes with like choose-your-own-adventure punchlines, Jeff.

Pitching Performance of the Half: Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds – As difficult as it was to look past Shelby Miller’s one-hit, 13-strikeout, 27-straight-outs gem, Bailey wins because he actually threw a no-hitter.

No, Miller wins because he pitched better. As, perversely, you’re about to illustrate.

Their games were equally rare. There have been eight other one-hitters with no walks and at least 13 strikeouts and nine other no-hitters with one walk and at least nine strikeouts – including Bailey’s first.

I’m just not sure that’s what "equally" means. Eight times, nine times, fuck — that’s the same number of times! I can’t actually tell, and the internet was no help at all.

Miller did beat Bailey on Game Score, but the knowledge around the fifth inning or so that Bailey was pitching a perfect game and after the seventh that he still held a no-hitter exacerbated the physical strain of every pitch with mental anxiety.

So, to recap: if Manny Machado makes a play more difficult by not catching a ball cleanly, it’s not considered a good play when he gets the out anyhow. If Homer Bailey makes a whole game more difficult by getting super super stressed out about it — all of which is conjecture, by the way — then it’s considered a better game than it actually was. Makes sense to me!

Here’s another one: if Jeff Passan writes the phrase "exacerbated the physical strain of every pitch with mental anxiety," he still gets paid. Amazing!

The Victor Conte Award: Tony Bosch, Biogenesis founder – Want the greatest proof performance-enhancing drugs aren’t going anywhere? Players worth upward of a billion dollars thought it was OK to use a fake doctor who operated out of a strip mall and kept notes on a criminal conspiracy. Players could walk into any college chemistry lab, find the most brilliant student and offer him a million dollars a year to play Walter White with PEDs, but nooooooo. They’d rather lose their reputations and, in some cases, careers on account of this guy. Shameful in a dozen different ways.

Anybody have any clue what Jeff’s on about here? It sounds like he’s outraged about two different things, and he’s getting them mixed up. He ends up sounding like he’s mostly just outraged that players weren’t cheating the optimal way; like, hey, back in my day those guys played the game the wrong way the right way! By gum.

Good Lord You Strike Out A Lot Award: Chris Carter, DH, Houston Astros – Carter pinch hit Sunday and struck out. One could get nearly 2-to-1 odds that a Carter at-bat would end that way. He has struck out 120 times in 281 at-bats this year. In overall plate appearances, he is at a staggering 36.8 percent, almost 1.5 percent higher than Mark Reynolds in his legendary 223-strikeout season of 2010. It’s not like Carter is a dud; he averages a home run every 9.5 at-bats he doesn’t strike out, and his .784 OPS is second among Astros regulars. He’s just a microcosm of baseball today, where you can strike out an absurd amount of the time and be an All-Star. (Hello, Pedro Alvarez and a 33.9 percent K rate.)

I guess Jeff Passan has only just heard: strikeouts are just another type of out. Chris Carter has struck out a lot, yes, but his OBP is an Andre Dawson-esque .327, which isn’t good, but isn’t unspeakably bad. And he hits the ball pretty hard.

Now, Carter isn’t the best example here, because he’s actually kind of lousy. But the fact is that striking out isn’t materially worse than getting out any other way, and it really really doesn’t matter how you’re making your outs as long as you aren’t making too many of them. Strikeout rate also correlates pretty well with power, which is why players are striking out more. Turns out that striking out more but hitting moon shots is better for your team than striking out less but grounding weakly to short. Who would have guessed?

The Yasiel Puig Award For Complete Awesomeness: Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Completely awesome? Maybe. But definitely not awesome enough to be rookie of the half!

He can do this and look like a model while someone more than 600 home runs ahead of him takes on the creepy air of a mortician.

I kept the links in because they’re funny. Also: way to pick on Sammy for being old, Jeff. Oh, you hit 609 home runs? Good job, grandpa. And I can’t be the only one who expected that second link to be to this.

He can get thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double time after time, and it’s cool because he is cool.

It is decidedly uncool. Puig is way past aggressive on the bases, and all the way to careless and stupid.

Puig is going to make the All-Star Game despite fewer plate appearances than Omar Infante in 2010

He did not. There’s still a chance he’ll get picked by the manager to fill in for an injured player, but other than that: no. And thanks for reminding me that Omar Infante made the All-Star team in 2010, which was: batshit insane. At least Puig is actually good!

July 11th, 2013 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

I wonder if Steve is still a dummy

My old buddy Steve Henson has come out with a pretty awful article about terrible contracts. It’s so awful that I think I’ll even be roused from my sacred Odin-sleep to pillory it! I hope I remember how to do this; it’s been a while.

Worst MLB contracts are obvious when players can’t be moved through waivers or a trade

Well, no, not really, Steve. That’s just a sign that the contracts are really really big. To take an example, the Red Sox put Manny Ramirez on waivers back in 2006. Nobody claimed him. Now, Manny Ramirez’s contract was very, very large, but he also did this in 2006: .321 / .439 / .619 / 1.058. He was paid $18 million for that, but it was also worth about four and a half wins. That’s pretty much spot-on money for that production.

Long story short: we haven’t even gotten past the title of this article, and Steve’s already making a fool of himself.

Waivers remind us of the most ridiculous contracts because the murky process is a lot like big fish languidly swimming far beneath the surface of the ocean. Big fish that aren’t good eating.

What the hell, Steve? That makes absolutely no sense.

Players placed on waivers – which are supposed to be kept secret – often have bloated contracts no other team is willing to take on. Once a player is ignored by every team, known as passing through waivers, he can be dealt just like before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Remember the title of your article, Steve? It was "Worst MLB contracts are obvious when players can’t be moved through waivers or a trade." And here you are talking about how these players are being put on waivers so… they can be traded. You’re doing well.

Once in a while a player with a huge contract is claimed, as the Dodgers did with Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee on Friday. The Dodgers had to be willing to take on the $110 million or so Lee is owed through 2016 if the Phillies consented. As it happened, the Phillies did no such thing, mostly because they simply can’t reconcile that their much-hullaballood signing of Lee 18 months ago was irrational overspending.

What? No, the Phillies pulled him back because they have no intention of letting a pitcher that good go if they don’t get anything in return. Remember what you were just saying? How, if he clears waivers, they can try to trade him? That’s what they were doing, numbnuts. And the Dodgers claimed him mainly to make sure he wouldn’t get traded to the Giants.

Overspending, of course, occurs every year, and players with ridiculous price tags flow through waivers, drawing nothing more than laughs from general managers around baseball. Here are 11 players so wildly overpaid they can’t be given away, worst first:

You ready to hear about some players Steve honestly thinks couldn’t be given away? It’s an insane list. Let’s do this.

1. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels; signed through 2014, owed $48 million

Well, it’s insane after this one, anyhow.

Trading for Wells before the 2011 season was unfathomably stupid. The Angels gave the Blue Jays Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera and got back an $84 million albatross.

That trade was hilarious, as I believe I said at the time. Though I feel compelled to point out that the trade did occur, which might not be something you want to acknowledge right here at the top of your list of players so bad they can’t be traded.

Wells’ last base hit came in May and he’s hit .219 with a .250 OBP as an Angel. He’s useless.

I hate you a lot, Steve. You’re about to make me defend Vernon Wells. Sure, Wells is pretty terrible, but a lot of the fault here lies with the Angels for pushing him into left field. As a CF, Wells still ain’t great, but you could do a lot worse. I mean, the Angels are paying him almost $30M, which is really really funny, but he’s not useless.

2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins; signed through 2018, owed $145 million

I do not believe for one moment that the Twinkies would have difficulty trading Mauer.

Everybody rejoiced when the parsimonious Twins sprung for an eight-year, $184 million deal for hometown favorite Mauer before the 2011 season. Wonderful has already been whittled to what-in-the-world? He plays catcher only half the time and doesn’t hit with power. He’ll remain a .320 hitter for a few years, but that’s not enough for $23 million a year, more than 20 percent of the Twins’ payroll.

Joe Mauer’s career OBP is .404. That’s really, really good. For comparison, Albert Pujols’ is .416, and Albert Pujols plays catcher only none of the time. Joe Mauer’s bat is easily worth the money the Twinkies are paying him if he can stay healthy, which is, of course, the rub.

Here is a brief list of teams that would trade for Joe Mauer:

Red Sox

3. Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals; signed through 2017, owed $105 million

This deal wouldn’t be half as bad as it is if the Nationals hadn’t signed like sixteen other outfielders at the same time.

The Nats admitted they overpaid for Werth when they handed him $127 million over seven years on the first day of the 2010 Winter Meetings. They wanted to show that they were serious about winning, and Werth was the first piece in what is now a strong team. But the contract will make him all but untradeable, especially since he’s already 33 years old.

He’s also currently hitting .291 / .400 / .436 / .836. His power’s off a bit, but come on, that’s still a 127 OPS+. Nobody would trade for that? Have you seen the crap outfielders some contending teams are running with right now?

4. Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox; signed through 2017, owed $109 million

Now you’re just being weird. Yeah, Crawford had a bad year last year; so did Adam Dunn, who I notice is not on this list. Care to guess if that’s because Dunn’s rebounded? Crawford, instead, got hurt. But in the limited playing time he’s had this year, he’s looked like his old self.

He’s the new Alfonso Soriano, and the Red Sox had better hope he’s not the new Vernon Wells.

It’s looking like the Cubbies might move Soriano pretty soon. And Wells was traded in the mythical, far-off days of last year. So great comparisons for illustrating how untradable this guy is, clown.

Crawford’s steep drop in production since signing a seven-year, $142 million deal before the 2011 season is one of baseball’s biggest mysteries. He’s gone from a perennial .300 hitter to a .250 hitter and the look on his face is one of bewilderment.

Just like Adam Dunn, right? Who is presently hitting .207 / .346 / .489 / .835 and leading the Majors in walks and home runs? I’m guessing the clinging-desperately-to-first-place White Sox aren’t looking to trade that guy, but do you think they’d have trouble if they were? Dudes have off-years, Steve. Have you never heard of this?

5. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees; signed through 2017, owed $123 million plus another $30 million for home-run milestones

Okay, yeah, you’re just being weird for the sake of weird.

A-Rod will be 42 when his contract expires, and he’s already slipping. He’s gone from a .300/30/100 slash line to something like .270/20/80 – in other words, he’s become an average player with nowhere to go but down.

That’s not what a slash line is, Steve. A slash line is BA / OBP / SLG. You’re doing triple-crown stats there, which are separated by hyphens. Are you new to writing about baseball? Also you’re wrong about the data; .270’s about right, but where are you getting 20 HR and 80 RBI? He’s never been that low in a full season, and he’s on pace to beat it this year. .270 – 30 – 90 seems a bit more accurate.

You know what? Never mind. Even if I give you that, you’re an idiot, and here’s why: the man is nearly 40 years old, and, yes, he’s declining. The Yankees knew this when they gave him this deal; he insisted on it. It was the price they had to pay to get his prime years, in which he hit .300 / .401 / .567 / .968 while hitting 238 HR, walking 501 times, and playing pretty-good defense out of position. He won two MVPs. Come the fuck on, Steve.

With 644 career home runs, he’ll reach some cool milestones, but he’ll get paid extra for those.

I sure do hope the Yankees can afford it.

6. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies; signed through 2016, owed $112 million

Yeah, that contract is awful, but mainly for reasons you don’t understand. Case in point:

After years of being productive and underpaid, Howard signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2010 but an injury kept him out of the lineup the first half of this season. The big man is back but at 32 it’s difficult to imagine him having any more 40-home run seasons.

Ryan James hit 33 homers last year, and that ain’t shabby. His real problems are that he doesn’t hit doubles for shit, and his defense is appalling. Neither of these is a new problem; he’d always been greatly overvalued by people who evaluate hitters solely by triple-crown stats. You know, like you, Steve.

He could end up as a DH for an AL team, but otherwise he’ll be more difficult for the Phillies to deal than Cliff Lee.

Wasn’t Cliff Lee claimed off of waivers yesterday? Oh, right, he was. And you mentioned it in this article. Honest to God, Steve, you’re a moron.

7. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels; signed through 2021, owed $232 million


Yes, the ink is barely dry on this landmark 10-year, $240 million contract, and yes, Pujols is a bargain this year and next when the Angels are paying him a total of $28 million. But that just makes the back end of the deal more dangerous. Check back in 2017 when he’s 37 years old and the Angels still owe him $140 million over the next five years. He’ll likely be No. 1 on this list.

Okay, I take that back. You are a fucking moron. When you’re talking about how good or how bad a contract is, Steve, you can’t just like evaluate some isolated part of that contract. That’s like saying "oh dear, this movie is dreadful because the font they used for the credits is hard to read." Yes, the back end of Pujols’ contract will overpay him. That is part of the price the Angels have to pay to get his current production, which is something like 1.000 / 1.000 / 4.000 with 700 HR. Albert Pujols is the best baseball player not called Barry Bonds that you or I have ever seen. You seriously believe the Angels couldn’t trade him? What the hell is wrong with your brain, Steve?

If you really just want to pick isolated bits of contracts to complain about, how is this list not full of Manny Ramirez and Bobby Bonila and Eric Byrnes and all kinds of other dudes who are still getting deferred money but not playing at all? Oh gosh, look how little production the Mets are getting from Bobby Bo these days! What an awful contract!

8. John Lackey, Boston Red Sox; signed through 2014, owed $35.5 million

It’s about time you picked an actual stinker.

Lackey is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and maybe he’ll regain his effectiveness. After a decent 2010 season – his first after signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal – he was abysmal in 2011, posting a 6.41 ERA. He also was roundly criticized for his poor attitude. The Red Sox can only hope he gives them two – or three – serviceable post-surgery seasons. His injury might have triggered a clause in his contract that adds another year at league minimum salary.

But don’t worry, Red Sox fans — this still isn’t as terrible a signing as Albert goddamn Pujols.

9. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs; signed through 2014, owed $42 million

Also a better contract than Pujols, apparently.

Although he’s having a reasonably productive season, the man they call “Sori” never came close to living up to the eight-year, $136 million deal the Cubs gave him in 2007.

That’s true. This is an actual, for-reals bad contract! One you don’t even have to pick cherries to make fun of!

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti also bid for Soriano, and he says "the best deals are the ones you never do" every time he remembers it.

Yes, the best deals do tend to be the ones Ned Colletti does not make.

Getting a prospect for him is all but impossible because every GM thinks better safe than Sori.

That is the dumbest joke I have ever sat through in my entire tenure as a sportswriting critic. You’re fired.

10. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants; signed through 2013, owed $33 million

You get the impression that Steve didn’t really try to put this list in order like he said he would? Here is how this list should have gone:

1) Wells
2) Zito
3) Soriano
4) K-Rod
5) Lackey

Zito is untradeable; he couldn’t even make the World Series roster in 2010.

Because the Giants had like a thousand stud pitchers. He’d have been on pretty much any other team’s roster.

11. Jason Bay, New York Mets; signed through 2013, owed $24 million

Another contract in its last year. Good work, Steve.

Maybe we should all get together and write up a big primer on how to evaluate contracts and send it to Steve. Just kidding! He can’t read anyway.

August 6th, 2012 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Jim Thome just hit his 600th home run

And economists are writing about baseball again. In honour of Thome Thumb’s achievement — and can you believe people are actually writing things like "oh, now that he has 600 HR he’s going to the Hall," as though Jim fucking Thome with yesterday’s 598 career HR wouldn’t be? — I’ll now mock the heck out of Tom Van Riper for getting in way over his head and writing about a subject so foreign to him that I don’t think he can watch the Yankees without subtitles.

Two years ago, Melky Cabrera seemed poised for a promising career with the New York Yankees.

Two years ago, Melky Cabrera was 24 years old, and he hit .274 / .336 / .416. His OPS+ was 93. 1.7 WAR (don’t be too shocked — he was a CF. Almost all defense and positional adjustment). Decent little player, I suppose, but your $200 million team would probably rather sign, you know, Curtis Granderson, worst defensive CF in baseball or not.

At age 24, the outfielder played a solid role in the Bombers’ 2009 championship season, hitting .274 with 13 homers in 485 at-bats.

So solid that the Yankees decided not to invite him back the next year.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Reports floated that the team brass wasn’t fond of the influence that the partying Cabrera had on second baseman Robinson Cano, the Yankees’ best young player.

Floating reports or no floating reports, his ability to control Bobinson Cano’s mind with space lasers wasn’t really the issue. It was that he kind of smells as a baseball player. This is the same team, you’ll recall, that employed Jason Giambi for many years. Partying is the issue?

And despite flashing some talent, Cabrera also carried that dreaded "fourth outfielder" label – not quite athletic enough for center field and not quite powerful enough for a corner spot.

Prince Melkazar was a fine CF in 2009. Then he got fat. And, wait, not "quite" enough power for a corner spot?

Melky Cabrera, career ISO: 122
Matt Holliday, career ISO: 227
Carlos Zambrano, career ISO: 153

Yeah. Not quite.

So when the opportunity came that winter to ship him to Atlanta for an established starting pitcher, Javier Vasquez, the Yankees didn’t hesitate.

Melky Cabrera, 2010 WAR: -1.0

Sure, Vazquez sucked. But what did the Yankees really lose out on there?

After a mediocre 2010 season got him released by the Braves, the bottom feeding Kansas City Royals nabbed Cabrera for a modest $1.25 million.

Tom Van Cleef says Melky’s 2010 was "mediocre." I say it was the worst in all of baseball. Details!

He’s responded by giving the Royals the best offensive bargain in the majors this year: a .303 batting average, .798 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and 62 RBI.

Sure, he’s .312 / .345 / .479. That ain’t bad, but consider ZiPS projected him at .307 / .344 / .466. His offense isn’t the surprise. The surprise is that he got back in shape a bit and is actually an almost-average CF again. Not going to talk about that at all? You know, defense and stuff? That .798 OPS would make him a footnote if the Royals had had to push him over to LF.

Vasquez, meanwhile, is getting lit up in Florida after he flopped in pinstripes for the second time in his career.

Vazquez has thrown 134.2 innings, and has a 4.28/4.24 FIP/xFIP to show for it. Worth a win and change. Not everything one could hope for, but the man’s 35 years old. And saying he’s getting "lit up" is horribly unfair.

… Oh. Right. He’s 7-10. Wins! Winning! Because Javier Vazquez’s utterly meaningless Win rate is below .500, he is the ass. This is how you play cavemanball!

Despite yet another losing season, the Royals have shown quite a knack for gobbling offensive production on the cheap.

Wouldn’t it be fun if hacks evaluated teams the way they do pitchers? The Royals have more losses than wins! This means they are complete shit. Anyway, let me rewrite your paragraph for you:

Despite… losing… the Royals have shown… the cheap.

There we are.

The 2011 club has pulled the outfield hat trick – Cabrera, Jeff Francouer and Alex Gordon all rank among baseball’s 10 best hitters for the buck this year.

One of these things is not like the others! See if you can pick out which one of these hitters is really, really bad if I just give you their slash lines and don’t tell you who they are:

.311 / .343 / .478 / .821 (127 OPS+)
.298 / .372 / .480 / .852 (137 OPS+)
.272 / / .460 / .784 (117 OPS+)

Need a hint? It’s the one whose OBP I didn’t list, because they don’t put that shit up on the scoreboard anyhow.

Okay, I’m being a little bit unfair. Frenchie’s having a decent year. But it’s being propped up mostly by his monster April and July — he’s been way below average the rest of the year. I mean, his BABIP is an utterly unreal .419 this month, and you know what he’s done with that? A .733 OPS.

Francoeur, who hit just .249 with 65 RBI for the Mets and Rangers last season, has rebounded to .273 with 15 homers and .798 OPS after signing a $2.5 million deal last winter.

Apparently these days "rebounding" is a phenomenon that includes a player who has been replacement-level his whole career having a big career year and being worth a couple of wins. Because, hey, check it:

Jeff Francoeur, career WAR: 5.6
Jeff Francoeur, 2011 WAR: 2.0

And, yes, that career number includes 2011. Rebound my ass.

And Gordon, a home grown outfielder with a career.258 batting average over five seasons, has surged to .305 in 2011. He’s also on pace to easily put up the best power numbers of his career, while pulling in just $1.4 million.

Great, but just one thing: Gordon is a third baseman. He has played almost twice as many games at 3B as he has at all outfield positions combined. Why is he in the outfield this year? I don’t know. I, like most other baseball fans, do not pay attention to the Royals.

We figured the best hitters for the buck by breaking down MLB’s everyday players (minimum 300 plate appearances through the first week of August) into three basic service categories: 1) those with less than three years experience who aren’t yet eligible for salary arbitration, 2) those with three or four years of service who qualify for arbitration but aren’t yet getting free agent money and 3) veterans with five or more years service time that have reached free agent money (players actually qualify for free agency after six seasons, though the big salary jump generally comes after year five, when a player is allowed to compare himself to free agents in the arbitration process).To avoid comparing apples to oranges to pears, we rated each player only within his service category – measuring production vs. salary against the average of the service class.

That’s insane. The stat you’re looking for, by your own admission, is "value for money." This is calculated by the following complex formula:

value / money

Why are we breaking players up into utterly arbitrary groups and comparing them only to other players we’ve randomly lumped into the same group? Both "value" and "money" mean the same thing regardless of group. So what’s the point of the rest of it? Some insane sense of

Cabrera and Francoeur rate as especially good values because their modest salaries contrast with veterans in their service class earning much more (over $8 million, on average).

And this is the kind of boneheaded conclusion you can reach if you pollute your equation with lots of confounding variables. Here, let’s make it simple:

Cabrera: Value == $17.1M, Money == $1.25M. Value / Money == 13.68
Francoeur: Value == $9.8M, Money == $2.5M. Value / Money == 3.92

Not very similar, really. And now:

Starlin Castro: Value == $11.5M, Money == 0.44M. Value / Money == 26.14

Quick! Make up some more random rules so we can pretend trash like Francoeur is great!

Another veteran delivering on the cheap is Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez, who’s delivering a monster season (.962 OPS, 91 RBI) a year in front of his lucrative extension that will kick his salary to $21 million from the current $5.5 million.

Adrian Gonzalez: Value == $24.1M, Money == $5.5M. Value / Money == 4.38

Wow, it turns out costing a shitload more money really hampers one’s standing in the "value for money" rankings. Glad we added a bunch of noise to obscure that.

August 15th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments