The Nationals and their fanbase

Tom Verducci, in an article on the Spawn of Boras Bryce Harper, mentions that the Nationals averaged only 12,000 households viewing each home game last season.

It occurs to me that the Nationals may be the only team in the country where the “fanbase” is more likely to go to a game than watch it on TV.  After all, the Nationals to a certain extent positioned their new stadium as a prime location for D.C. power players to sit in a luxury suite and pay half-hearted attention to a baseball game while discussing the future of our Great Nation.  If the Nationals were “hot” (say, with Stephen Strausberg, Bryce Harper, and the Zimmerman(n)s leading the way), the Nationals would have access to a unique audience base with a lot of money and not a lot of interest in the team.

I found stadium attendance and TV ratings from the 2009 season, and compared them.  The bigger the ratio, the larger the percentage of assumed “fanbase” attends games:

The Nationals were the only team who averaged more fans in the seats than households tuning into the game.  The Yankees and the Red Sox, with the TBS-bolstered Braves, were at the bottom.  The Marlins and Rays both had two different cable networks showing their games, which increased their household viewing numbers.  I don’t know enough about that television situation to know whether I interpreted that correctly.  The sources I used did not have TV numbers for the Blue Jays.

Some other interesting aspects of this data.  Much has been written about how a new stadium no longer “saves” a team beyond a few years.  Frequently-cited evidence of this has been dropping attendance in Baltimore and Cleveland.  Yet they rank 4th and 9th respectively in ratio of game attendance to tv audience.  This suggests that perhaps their beautiful ballparks are still saving them from an even more precipitous decline in fanbase interest.

Note: this is reposted from my personal blog.

Sources: 

tv numbers: http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/63798

attendance numbers: http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/year/2009

Fantasy Baseball Columnists Have B.A.s in BS

AJ Mass' preferred Fantasy Baseball

I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy based columns, some semi-regular, some not, and to a large degree it sometimes appears as if there is an incredible lack of effort put into it. Often you get the feeling that the writer is hired not so much for his knowledge of the players and their abilities than for their ability to weave a semi-interesting read couched more in narrative than information. So beware the advice-men, you may discover they know much less than you.

I’m in a 14 team ESPN League, so I generally take a minute to at least scan the free articles to see if I can get a leg up. There is a Daily Notes column written by a couple or few guys and for this weekend we received this offering from AJ Mass: Daily Notes For May 1-2; Pelfrey, Hughes look to stay hot

Note: As some of these games have already been played I will place post-game info italicized in [brackets].

The first steaming fissure in the case is the replacement Rockies. The Rox have had to call up two minor league pitchers to fill in for injured starters and for their starts against the Giants they both received ratings of 10. Chris Carpenter receives a 10 for his game with the Reds and Roy Halladay a 9 vs the Mets and those are the two best pitchers. I’m guessing that Mass forgot to give a rating, but for a default value to be 10…really? Then again, if it was purposeful that displays faulty logic as these are two unheralded minor leaguers and I wouldn’t even have given Tim Lincecum a 10 for when he first came into the Majors.

Mass spends a lot of time on his player notes singling out stats vs opposing teams or pitchers. Unless you end up talking about divisional foes or lengthy careers most players haven’t accumulated enough stats to make any meaningful deductions. It’s like judging Christian Bale’s acting career based on “Terminator: Salvation” or Steve Martin’s preferred genre based on “The Spanish Prisoner.”

Chris Volstad is ‘dangerous’ because he has a 6.48 ERA against the Washington Nationals in 4 starts. The Nats are one of those teams where you can pretty much start anyone with relative assurance of good numbers in comparison to their career. Sure, Volstad has a young career, so those past numbers are more relevant, but you’re likely desperate and he is likely an FA and this remains a favorable situation as there are many far worse ones. And if you’re scared of his 2010 numbers the main bloatation arose from his initial start against the Rockies and since then he has been getting progressively better.
[Volstad pitched a complete game, 8K, 1R]

Javier Vasquez is singled out for his success against against the Chicago White Sox, stated as 3-0 lifetime. That’s based on 3 games from ’04 and ’05. Well, besides Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski (’05 only) the WhiSox are completely different. Vasquez has been awful for the Yankees against the Rays, Angels, and A’s, so why should you suddenly believe him to turn it around. Vasquez is one of those candidates, who is most likely now an FA, that should be left alone until he shows signs of his former self.
[Vasquez crapped the bed again, lucky to only allow 5R through 3 IP, allowing almost 4 baserunners an inning and 3 HR]

For other mentions of the May 1st games (quotations are summations):
“Mike Pelfrey is not as reliable as Doc Halladay”…no kidding, thanks. [Doc incredible, Pelf not so much]

“David Price and TB are good.” These are gimmes so far. [Respectable, but far from good]

“King Felix is 8-9, 3.72 vs Texas, and is better play than Dan Haren, who has struggled vs Cubs.” You play Felix regardless, even if Texas is a strong hitting team and Dan Haren has been off and on so far, but at some point he should get back on track. [Milton Bradley stood around as a fly ball dropped 15 feet from him allowing 2 ER to score, Felix was good otherwise, but Dan Haren wasn’t]

“Yovani Gallardo has had similar difficulties with his Saturday opponent, the San Diego Padres, as evidenced by his 5.40 ERA facing them over the years.” That’s an exact quote and I emboldened the last part because he has had one career start against them from during his rookie campaign of 2007. You don’t use the phrase ‘over the years’ for one instance…also, the Padres are another team where you can expect most pitchers to do better than their averages. [11 Ks to go with 7 IP of one run ball debunks ‘those years’ of trouble]

“John Danks is good so far, but has been bad against the Yankees.” Most pitchers aren’t all that good against the Yanks as their batting order is hired to be dangerous. [Danks was decent, but threw too much allowing 2 R over 5 IP]

“Matt Cain has poor run support and hasn’t won a game yet.” A good pitcher playing for a poor scoring teams will still put up good numbers, maybe you could mention how the Rockies have injury trouble and besides filling in their rotation they have had to plug holes in their lineup. Lincecum and Greinke have similar issues with run support. [8 IP, 8 K, 0 runs, 0.50 WHIP]

“Tim Hudson is undefeated with 1.16 ERA vs Houston.” Tim Hudson is a good pitcher and the Astros are a bad to average team (poor division bloats win totals). 4 total starts, 2 wins. Can we mention how the Astros are abnormally bad this year? [1 K to go with 1 R over 6.2 IP]

“Wandy has back issues and they could flare up again.” That is actually helpful, backs are important for pitching, life in general. [Poor fielding did him in 5 R, 2 ER over 5 IP, he should be fine by next start]

“Gio Gonzalez and Carlos Silva = middle-of-the-road options.” Gonzalez waffles between great and bad, but you can risk that vs Toronto. Silva is a career bad pitcher who puts a lot of balls in play and he has faced the Reds, Astros, Mets, and Nats in his 4 starts this year…so judge by that. [Gio was the great side of the waffle with 8 K, 2 R over 6.2 and Silva regressed to old habits]

“Craig Stammen has been bad vs the Marlins.” …and just about every other team. I’m not quite sure why Mass didn’t place him in the ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ category. [Stammen lasted 4 innings and was his usual bad self]

“Homer Bailey is 1-3, 7.06 ERA vs Cardinals.” He is another wait for signs of success candidate as he has been awful this year and the Cards are not a return to winning form opponent. [Homer allowed too many runners, but kept damage down to 2 ER, 3 R with a promising 6 K]

“Carlos Monasterios goes RP to SP and Brad Bergesen returns from AAA.” One faces a bad team, while the other faces a good team. Craig Stammen is rated above them somehow. [Monasterios wasn’t anything special, but allowed 1 R over 4 IP, while Bergesen allowed 2 doubles and 2 HR]

Other pitchers are neglected their share of text because the writer was too lazy to blindly pull split stats from Baseball-Reference. Chances are that if you listened to everything he said you left your good pitchers in and got screwed on any chances you took.

Look, I understand that doing a daily note piece on all the games can get tedious, but these are completely useless statistics (small sample size) and don’t go far enough into tendencies. Something that could really help are individual splits vs lefties or righties, proclivity to take advantage of ground ball or fly ball pitchers, or even specific pitches that an upcoming pitcher may throw that a hitter likes. One game against a team that no longer looks the same is not something you can make decisions with.

Hitter notes for May 1st:
“Dustin Pedroia is 4-6 against Bergesen.” Outstanding, that’s like 2 games. [Pedroia went 0-5]

“Andy LaRoche is facing inexperienced starter.” To be honest I would have bit on this matchup, but…[0-4, in hindsight LaRoche has had a short and poor career]

“Jose Lopez has hit in 4 of 5 and has .308 BA vs Harrison.” He is also a poor career guy and that .308 is 4 hits in 13 AB. [2-5 with 2 RBI, bumping his 2010 BA to .235]

“Adam Lind is .385 in past few days and went 2-3 previously against Gio.” Awesome, Gio clearly learned nothing from that, so Lind obviously has his number. At this point you’re probably trotting Lind out there regardless, so I don’t know why this is mentioned other than Mass remembered that game. [0-4 with a K]

“Mark DeRosa is slumping and has a .212 BA vs the Rockies staff.” The staff that he won’t be seeing this weekend? [1-4 and a K]

“Rod Barajas hasn’t logged a hit vs Halladay.” Barajas is an awful hitter and Halladay is a brilliant pitcher, wtf do you think is going to happen. His career 0-9 against Halladay is similar to his career 0-12 vs Brian Lawrence…oh, haven’t heard of him? I did mention that Barajas sucks. Seriously, if you have him you are either in a deep NL-Only league or the deepest Mixed league ever. [Barajas didn’t play because Mass neglected to research Pelfrey pitching only to Henry Blanco, who went 1-3]

“Adrian Gonzalez will be pitched around and hasn’t homered in a while.” You play Adrian regardless and accept the walks as the OBP boost your league should be incorporating. [1-4, no BB, with the sole SD RBI]

“Josh Hamilton is 9-23 over past 5 games, but is .130 vs King Felix.” Congrats for our first matchup with decent stat history. 3 hits in 23 AB, but toss in 7 BB and you see obvious concerns from Felix’s standpoint. Hamilton is a good hitter and is hot so you ride him. [1-3 vs Felix with a HR]

“Brian McCann is 2-12 in past three, and hitless vs Wandy.” Unless you have one of the two catchers better than McCann you are going to be starting him. [McCann got rested for the ‘day game following night game’ issue]

“Alex Gordon is bad.” We know, nobody trusts him right now, nor should they trust Mass. [Didn’t start because he’s been horrible, scored a run]

Seeing as I knew the results for these games as I typed the majority of the previous part it could be argued that I was swayed. So let’s see how I fare with the future…on to May 2nd!

Pitchers on May 2nd:
“You have to like Chris Carpenter and his 8-3, 2.17 ERA vs Reds.” You can pretty much like Carpenter in any matchup.

“Hiroki Kuroda has a 2.74 career ERA vs Pirates.” 4 starts over 3 years, but the Pirates have been with the Nats as the worst team of the past 5 years.

“Doug Fister is good bet vs Texas who hit .220 on road.” Fister has been really good, but he is a low K guy, so that’s a lot of balls in play…which works for baseballs best defense. Texas at some point will break out of that funk and Fister has to continue working with great command. His starts have been Oak, Oak, Bal, CWS so Texas is the strongest offense on paper he’ll face. I’d start him, but be a little nervous about it.

“Johan Santana is 4-1, 2.90 ERA vs Phils.” 9 starts is a decent number to work with, but why would you worry about a top 5 pitcher?

“Jered Weaver could be bad vs Detroit who has him at a 6.34 ERA.” Don’t mention that he face them already in 2010 to the tune of 2 R over 7 IP. At some point he may have a bad start, but wait until he faces the AL East to worry.

“C.J. Wilson is 5-2 vs the Mariners.” This is just awesome. Before this season Wilson pitched 5 seasons mainly in relief with 6 starts in 2005. One of those was vs Seattle, but was a no decision. So in 37 other appearances he has gone 5-2 with a 5.77 lifetime ERA. This is the dumbest baseball oriented reason to use Wilson. He has pitched well this season and faced good teams and the Mariners aren’t built on offense so you start him (run on, sentence, run).

“Phil Hughes has 1.64 ERA and 9.0K/9IP vs White Sox.” He has 6 appearances including 2 starts for a total of 11 IP, which seems a little odd. However, he has yet to allow more than 2 R coupled with a little walk issue. He’s fine, but once again, referencing relief numbers is useless.

“Josh Johnson is 5-0 vs Nats.” Who isn’t these days?

“Jonathan Sanchez has struggled vs Rox with career 6.85 ERA, but solid so far in 2010.” Those previous years Sanchez wasn’t all that great despite flashes of brilliance. He has strung along 4 good to great starts including the most recent one run Phillies outing. See previous mention of Rockies’ issues.

“Francisco Liriano’s quick rematch vs Indians coupled with Twins recent weak bats has him ranked low.” I don’t know what that gibberish about a ‘quick rematch’ is, but if you’re worried about Liriano then you really should relax more.

“Zack Greinke is 0-3 vs Rays.” He’s a good pitcher, they’re a good team. If you have Greinke you play him…possibly even when he’s on the DL.

“Josh Beckett is 6-2 3.70 ERA vs Baltimore while Kevin Millwood has a 3.84 ERA vs BoSox.” Worry about Beckett, but he is usually a good pitcher so if he doesn’t get back on track soon then his pitches are getting tipped or he has mechanics/injury issues. Millwood has a bizarre career. I’d go with Beckett over Millwood, but the way they’re pitching it could go wacko.

“Jhoulys Chacin has a 2.43 career starting ERA in minors.” And he faces San Fran! It’s a risky play with an unknown, but for a spot start you could do a lot worse this week.

“Ben Sheets is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA vs Toronto.” Sheets spent all of his previous career in the NL…so those two wins are from two starts. He’s been off and on so far, but way off in his last start (vs TB). He could bounce back against the Blue Jays, but don’t base it on an ’05 and ’08 start and keep in mind that he has allowed too many baserunners in each outing.

“Edwin Jackson has a 2.57 ERA facing the Cubs.” This is a real winner. One start. Interleague play. He won’t be previous start bad, but chances are he won’t be good.

“Justin Verlander has been bad vs Angels as has Mark Buehrle vs the Yanks.” I can understand sitting a slumping pitcher vs NYY, but calling for Edwin Jackson over Verlander is ridiculous.

“Tom Gorzelanny has a 5.09 ERA vs Arizona.” That large ERA is primarily from one bad start, while he had three other good starts. If Mass was arguing for Carlos Silva he might as well do the same with Gorzelanny (but he clearly has no idea what he’s doing, so he doesn’t).

Hitters for May 2nd:
“Jorge Cantu has an .818 SLG vs Nats’ John Lannan.” Cantu is hitting ridiculously well and Lannan is pitching like anyone else on the Nats. You’re an idiot if you don’t play him or most other Nats opponents.

“Luis Castillo knows Jamie Moyer quite well batting .308 in 26 AB.” There you go, a decent number of AB to make judgements on. That being said, if you have Castillo, you are in a deep league.

“Xavier Nady is 4 for 7 with two doubles against Edwin Jackson.” This is so painful. Nady is below the Mendoza line in 2010 and should be an FA in all formats unless you hate yourself.

“Blake DeWitt is 3-3 vs Jeff Karstens.” PLEASE STOP! These are meaningless. As a career .256 hitter DeWitt is more likely to have an 0-fer than perfection and there are tons of guys he’s 0-3 against. If you’re adding DeWitt, then someone already has Luis Castillo.

“Jay Bruce has been hot, but has .200 BA vs Carpenter.” Oh wow, this low average guy has an even lower average vs a good pitcher. It’s only 10 AB though, but if you have a decent option try that.

“A.J. Pierzynski is bad.” Thank you.

“Carl Crawford is good, but hits .211 vs Greinke.” 4 for 19 isn’t great, but more often than not Crawford accomplishes something beneficial in a game and you don’t draft first rounders to bench them during good play.

“Julio Borbon has been playing well of late, but earlier this season he was 1-9 against Seattle.” He was also 0-12 against Toronto, 2-8 vs Cleveland, and 0-7 vs NYY. He was really bad then. What other useless info do we need?

“Casey Kotchman is 0-6 against C.J. Wilson…lifetime.” EVERYBODY PANIC! This is getting boring.

“Clint Barmes is playing so poorly that Melvin Mora gets switched in to play for him.” What does this have to do with the pitcher matchup? Mass is just filling up space now.

Oh, good, he finished. All I ask is that the put some effort into their paid job and give us info we can’t normally find or eyeball based on the names of the pitcher and hitter. In all seriousness, if you drafted your own team, then you probably can make better judgement calls than AJ Mass. Maybe he had a bad week (I’ll say, just read that column again…no, don’t!).

Tony La Russa makes more moves than Kobe Bryant

Joe Posnanski has a great article on the wheeling and dealing of Tony La Russa during last week’s marathon 20-inning game:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/joe_posnanski/04/19/tony.larussa/index.html

A very funny blow by blow account of La Russa’s moves during the game.  And a good illustration of why baseball managers have very little effect on the course of a game (compared to the NBA or the NFL).

Headlines from Opening Day

This appeared on ESPN.com at 8:30 am Tuesday morning:

A home run against the Cubs may not prove much

For the big print readers out there, it says: Jason Heyward needed only one major league at-bat Monday to validate all the talk that the Braves rookie is on his way to stardom.

If you were too busy counting the money you were going to win from predicting the Butler-Duke championship, Heyward homered in his first major league at-bat.  This is a rare feat accomplished by other famous sluggers such as Adam Wainwright.

Of course, most of that validated talk came from ESPN commentators and writers in the first place.  But if that’s what we’re going off of, here are some other headlines from the first full day of the baseball season:

  • Placido Polanco establishes himself as the Phillies’ best hitter.
  • Josh Johnson shows why the Marlins shouldn’t spend money on their players.
  • Can any team get Albert Pujols out more than once a game?
  • Joe Mauer thanks Minnesota for his $184 million dollar contract with 1-4 night, loss.
  • Will the Dodgers lose every game this season?

How To Lose A Fanbase In 10 Days

…and, no, I haven’t seen that movie.

So, once again the Mets are making a myriad of poorly thought out decisions. The maddening fact is that comparing several of them displays a shocking amount of contradiction.

Kansas. City. Dropped. Him.

Here is the Mets opening day lineup and batting order (taking into account injuries to Beltran, Reyes, and Murphy):
1. Alex Cora SS uh-oh
2. Luis Castillo 2B
3. David Wright 3B
4. Mike Jacobs 1B WTF
5. Jason Bay LF
6. Gary Matthews Jr. CF SERIOUSLY?
7. Jeff Francoeur RF
8. Rob Barajas C
9. Johan Santana P

In terms of power and hitting ability, Bay is the best player the Mets have, so clearly he should hit fifth behind Mike Jacobs. Then you have GMJjr at CF who is no longer anywhere near the player he was that one season. The Mets have a better option in terms of offense and defense in Angel Pagan, but GMJjr had the better spring training (and that means everything). Pagan could be slotted into the lead-off spot where he saw some time in the past (.316 .358 .508 in ’09) and, despite not being the best player for the job, he can still produce effectively. Oh, and Cora went .207 .310 .253 batting 1st in ’09.
Mike Jacobs was so bad in 2009 that he was dropped by the Kansas City Royals. That alone should be proof of his ineffectiveness. Jacobs broke out in 2005 with a stellar 30 game run putting up a line of .310 .375 .710 and 11 HR. Since then his OBP has dropped each year to .297 and his K totals have risen to 132. In 2008 he crushed 32 HR and SLG .514, yet also hit .228 and OBPed .299. And KC dropped him because he sucked so much.
But Jacobs has MLB experience, which apparently counts for a lot in the Mets’ world. Meanwhile the Mets have Fernando Tatis who also has MLB exp. and who they apparently want to platoon with Jacobs (Jacobs vs RHP, Tatis vs LHP). Jacobs vs RHP = .263 .325 .505 (vs LHP .221 .269 .374). Tatis vs RHP = .264 .343 .439 (vs LHP .272 .351 .457). So all that Jacobs offers over Tatis is more power against righties and an agonizing lack of defense.
In 574 games in the minors Jacobs put up a decent line of .287 .344 .471 and very little of that occurred at AAA (27 games). The Mets have two 1B candidates in the minors who also put up incredible springs before the Mets tired of this and gave the rest of the ABs to Jacobs so that he could convince them he wasn’t worth the agony (he sucked, but the Mets were able to look past that, so contradictory point #1). Ike Davis got off to a slow start in 2008 before blossoming in 2009 and has a career of .284 .363 .458 in 172 games. He hasn’t played above AA and therefore should enjoy a 2010 in AAA, which the Mets rightfully decided. Chris Carter has spent far too long in the minors and while he has the versatility to play OF and 1B he also lacks a little defensively, though not as much as Jacobs. In 726 minor league games he has gone .306 .380 .510. He hasn’t failed to produce at any level and while one could expect a reasonable drop-off in those numbers in the majors it would still be a damn sight better than that fuckwit Jacobs.
Your new lineup and batting order that you will never see with Manuel dicking around: Angel Pagan CF, Luis Castillo 2B, David Wright 3B, Jason Bay LF, Jeff Francoeur RF, Chris Carter 1B, Alex Cora SS, Rod Barajas C, Johan Santana P.

The Mets have also produced massive amounts of fail with respect to their pitching decisions.
They are essentially entering the season with 7 starters in their ranks. Johan, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Jon Niese will be the rotation while Fernando Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi will twiddle about in the bullpen. Joining them will be Pedro Feliciano, Ryota Igarashi, Francisco Rodriguez, Sean Green, and Jenrry Mejia.
Kiko Calero and Nelson Figueroa were both sent to AAA, with Figueroa being exposed and most likely taken through waivers. This equates to massive stupidity. The Mets pitchers in general had horrible springs with Mejia being the exception. Figueroa also had a great spring with one horrendous start marring his numbers.
Mejia is like Ike Davis in that he has two years of minors experience and has never appeared above AA…and so we reach contradictory point #2, because despite needing time in the minors he won’t be there.
Mejia is a starter, at least in the minors that was how he was being developed. He has a good fastball, but needs to develop his secondary pitches to the major league level. Stunting development through needless bullpen use is a good way to destroy a promising career. Sometimes it works, but in the case of Johan Santana he had 3 years in the minors and the couple years of relief in the majors probably lengthened the time required to develop those extra pitches.
It’s been argued that Mejia’s promotion is an attempt by Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel to save the careers in a “win now” mentality. If that’s the case, why do we have Jacobs and Matthews? And there is contradictory point #3.
Sean Green was bad in 2009 and he was bad in spring training. He can be optioned to the minors. Calero was signed to a minor league contract, but he has a proven record of MLB success. Niese and Nieve both have options. Figueroa is dependable, has no options, and on many days will be a better pitcher than portions of the Mets rotation (almost anyone is better than Perez most of the time).
It pains me to say this, but I may have to hope the Mets tank the beginning of the season in order to bring about an end to the Minaya/Manuel regime. 2011 anyone?

Familiar Sportswriting Faces

Appearing later in this post, Youk and the new baseball cap.

We’ve ridiculed Dan Shaughnessy for his inability to apply logical qualifications for Hall of Fame entry and we’ve torn into Jerry Thornton because his attempts at humor are weak and clichéd. And now we have the opportunity to stew the two together.

Jerry Thornton issued some sort of an apology as he answered angry emails and then jammed his foot in his mouth, while Dan Shaughnessy released a fluff piece on how he thought that the Red Sox wouldn’t be able to resign Josh Beckett (one of those articles where you come away having learned nothing). The common theme here is their focus on the BoSox…and how both these guys are incredibly wrong in almost everything they spew forth.

First up: DanShaughn and his flimsy Josh Beckett has one year left.
The R-Sox are really strong through their starting rotation and past if need be. So yeah, if Beckett leaves it isn’t a huge loss, since Lackey or Lester could be seen as superior. Heck, Shaughnessy even mentions that other SI writers think Beckett will get an extension in the next two weeks (from the slightly more credible Jon Heyman).
Sticking point #1: Theo Epstein was off in his gorilla costume when the trade was struck (that worked out quite well for both teams) where Beckett and Mike Lowell (and Guillermo Mota) came over, while Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez (and Jesus Delgado and an invisible rabbit…Harvey…Garcia) moved to Florida. This helped get Boston their second World Series in three years. You can argue that having Hanley and some other moves would have achieved the same result, but we’ll never know (also, Beckett was instrumental in that regular and post-season run). Dan’s point is that ol’ Theo may have no attachment to Beckett, but he did have a soft spot for Hanley…so speculation.
Sticking point #2: Beckett has had one good season for the Red Sox. This coincided with their being the best team in baseball (in the USA). From 2006-2009 Beckett has posted WARs of 2.1, 6.5, 5.0, and 5.3. So, one kind of bad season in that light (of course, if Shaughnessy poo-poos concrete methods of HOF judgement then he probably doesn’t touch WAR with a ten-foot pokey thing). Based on applying dollar values to WAR, Beckett has exceeded his actual salary for four years running. Based on projections for 2010, Beckett will do that again this season. Yes, projections are speculation, but they are grounded in a statistical system rather than out-of-the-ass-pulling-of-numbers.
Sticking point #3: John Lackey in, Jason Bay out. Boston has had a tendency to be very cautious with age 30-plus players and Bay is a signal to that, while Lackey is an anomaly with his 5 year contract for a 31 yr old. Apparently Becket has spent considerable time on the DL…despite starting 33, 30, 27, and 32 games over the past four years. Danno has some strange memories of how things have progressed.
Sticking point #4: Money! Matsuzaka is apparently a waste of money (although from a marketing standpoint he is a positive boon) and Lackey, who is no Beckett (didn’t Dan just say that Beckett sucked?), is also expensive. Sabathia and Burnett got big contracts also and Beckett will want comparable pay. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts the Red Sox will have a payroll of ~$165mill in 2010, which is an all time high for them (previously $143 in ’07, $133 in ’08, and $122 in ’09). Ortiz, Lowell, Varitek, and Victor Martinez are free agents after this season, and with Beckett’s contract also coming off, that is a total of $48.3 off the books. Papelbon will enter his final year of arbitration and I can imagine the BoSox trading him (or he’ll get $10mill and then be gone). Ortiz does have a club option, but there is no buyout, while Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall have $1mill and 500K buyouts respectively. You can expect Hall to be bought out, while Beltre has a player option for $5mill that becomes $10 with 640 PAs. I’m not sold on the BoSox taking Ortiz’s option, which was why I included him on the savings, but they could run the decline and re-sign route. So Lowell is gone for sure and Varitek is another good bet to leave. Meanwhile Beckett and Martinez will (should) be aggressively pursued for extensions. Of course with Mauer’s new deal (drastically different from FDR’s) Martinez will be all about compensation. Between the two of them $28-36mill per year is decent range to expect (the low end being Beckett giving a discount). Taking that into consideration, Boston can return to 2011 with a slightly higher payroll than 2010 and then J.D. Drew leaves! Seeing this, one can understand why Bay was allowed to leave and why you can expect Boston to remain above $150mill for the foreseeable future (if they remain in contention and don’t go all Florida Marlins on us).

Next up: JerThorn is fueled by hate mail.
Thornton summarizes his premise for his article as the following:

“Advanced baseball stats are becoming more and more prevalent. It seems like every offseason move the Sox made was based on them. Guys who believe in sabermetrics take themselves really seriously. Let’s make fun of them.”

Ok, so that failed miserably. Two things helped that out. The article wasn’t all that funny, relying on cheap gags and stereotypes, and we statheads do kind of take ourselves a little too seriously (numbers are all we have!). For the most part Thornton is quite amiable and easy-going in receiving his bashing…but there are still some kinks in there.
For one thing he is genuinely concerned that the Red Sox rely too much on advanced metrics. Then, in response to a Moneyball reference on Youkilis he issues forth the following:

Whatever Billy Beane saw in Youk is secondary to the fact that the reason he’s a great player is his production. His power numbers, his batting average, his RBIs and his OBP. All those things that advanced stats have sought to diminish. If anything, Youkilis is exactly the kind of guy that old school scouting systems would have loved.

OMGWTFBBQ! You have missed the point entirely. The only thing that advanced stats diminish is BA, because it is a very misleading stat. Meanwhile power, RBIs, and OBP (how did that get in there) are all taken into heavy consideration with such metrics. No one is diminishing the value of scouting by using statistics. Scouting is key for the array of talent pools within the high school and college baseball system. The main purpose of advanced statistics in the context of Moneyball was to exploit market inefficiencies, which was why Beane coveted Youkilis and let him fall in the draft under the assumption that most clubs didn’t have the same insight as he did (and then got one-upped by Boston). After Youkilis broke into the team, the advanced stats gave Boston their jump off point for contract negotiations.
In 2008 Youkilis hit .312 and Cristian Guzman topped him with .316…so clearly Guzman wasn’t as good as his BA would make you think. In 2008 Carlos Beltran hit 27 HR and .284 while Ryan Braun hit 37 HR at .285. Beltran was the better player. Guzman and Braun are pretty bad fielders while Beltran and Youkilis are among the best at their respective positions (Youkilis excels at 3rd and 1st). Defensive metrics account for an new frontier in the baseball world, since going by Errors and Fielding Percentage happens to be a shoddy method of evaluation (lies, I tell you). Franklin Gutierrez is enjoying the benefits, as are the Mariners pitchers (did you seriously think that Jarrod Washburn was that good?). In their time together on Boston, David Ortiz would regularly outperform Manny Ramirez in terms of WAR even though they would both put up great offensive numbers. Why? Papi was a DH and had no impact on the defensive front while Manny liked to play in the grass as fly balls dropped all around him. Manny was traded and Papi stayed.
Anyway, it seems incredibly idiotic to go by one frame of valuation of players rather than apply a couple or more. Scouting is important, it gives you ins on a player’s swing, glove, arm, hairstyle, etc. Statistical analysis isn’t more important, but a way to avoid mistakes, evaluate for contract negotiations/offers and trades, and exploit those pesky market inefficiencies. Heck, throw a psychiatrist in there and avoid all the Lastings Milledges and Elijah Dukes…or use one to soften their edges. The Pittsburgh Pirates recently employed a mental conditioning expert ( an article by Yahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson, we hit a trifecta) for the US military to fiddle with their burgeoning youngster system. Thinking outside the proverbial box is what gets you an advantage (usually; some NFL teams like to employ aspiring criminals and that doesn’t always work). Trying something new in an effort to perfect your team and system while keeping costs at an acceptable point will put you ahead (operations research anyone?).
Next comes more brain pain:

There are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics. Then there are the statistics that prove that J.D. Drew is a more productive hitter than Jason Bay.

Not sure where you find those stats. Bay is the superior batter even if Drew is slightly more patient at the plate (although they’re both great OBPers), but while Bay is awful running around the Green Monster, Drew is actually really good…and that is why WAR values Drew over Bay.

…it’s a gross exaggeration to say claim sabermetrics won the Sox two championships. It may have helped. But the major contributions to those two titles came from decidedly old school, non-sabermetric players. Sluggers like Manny Ramirez. High batting average guys like Bill Meuller. Run producers like Kevin Millar. Many of whom played mediocre defense, by the way.

When you have Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez heading your rotation, defense is one of your lesser worries. Sabermetrics likes OBP and seven of the main 2004 starting fielders OBPed .365 or higher. The Red Sox were able to use Millar and Mueller for cheap…because they were exploiting market inefficiencies. Meanwhile they used a combo of Pokey Reese, Nomar, and Orlando Cabrera at shortstop to provide great defense. They moved Nomar to get Cabrera who could provide defense and offense (Reese kinda sucked a bunch at the plate). Derek Lowe was another pitcher in the rotation and he felt the mediocre (bad) defense as his ERA was 5.42, while his FIP tells another story at 4.26 and a BABIP at .338…that defense was really bad around him. Yet Lowe still won 14 games because the Red Sox ran with run production.

Didn’t the Stat Geeks convince Theo that a closer was a waste of money, which led to the Closer-by-Committee fiasco? And it was only when they sunk huge money into the retro Keith Foulke and developed a throwback power closer in Jonathan Papelbon that they were able to win it all.

The 2003 Red Sox bullpen was devoid of a great reliever and closers generally want an assload of cash for limited use. The closer is your best relief pitcher…and when teams have a few really good RPs they will do even better, because the more innings you can eat up the better. The closer by committee thing only works if you have capable RPs and in 2003 Byung-Hyun Kim was in the process of falling apart even if he was the best RP the BoSox had. If you look at the 2003 ALCS you’ll find that starters accounted for all 4 losses against the Yanks (although Sauerbeck relieved Lowe in Game 2 to give up a double), so lack of a closer doesn’t really hold sway at the point where the Red Sox season ended. There is a new move in the sabermetrics field in that your best RP (so, closer) pitches at the most important part of the game, which is the part where you preserve your lead no matter what inning. If you are in the seventh and the bases are loaded with one out and you are leading by 2 then you bring in the closer and keep your team in the game instead of blowing the lead and the chance to toss him in in the 9th. Take Philly, where Brad Lidge was an utter crapbomb in ’09, but on the other hand you have Ryan Madson, who was the Phillies’ best RP. Madson was brought in during those important moments and kept the team from blowing their lead so that Lidge could come in later and come close to blowing it (or blow it).

Furthermore, one of the tenets of sabermetrics is that “clutch” doesn’t exist. And yet the Sox have held a special ceremony just to honor David Ortiz as the best clutch hitter in Sox history. And there’s not a formula in existence that can convince me they’re wrong about that.

Some players are better at coping with high intensity moments than others, but if you have guys who treat every plate appearance in the same manner then there is no such thing as clutch. Normal, everyday fans like clutchness and the memories they create and David Ortiz had a knack for hitting homers at necessary moments. Aaron Boone once hit an important homer…and he also was a very bad player for the Yankees in 2003 where he went .250BA .302OBP .418SLG 6HR in 54 regular season games and was even worse in the post season at .170BA .196OBP .302SLG 2HR in 17 games. But one of those HR was really really important, so, you know, clutch.
Thornton finishes by ripping on Ron Borges and Dan Shaughnessy…so he at least has something right. Good Show.

I promise to write something non-sportswriter-attack related, but sometimes there is an influx of misinformation.

Ron Washington Is Very Excited About The Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Ron Washington, the Texas Rangers manager, held a press conference to confess that he tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season.  Team officials confirmed that Washington failed a drug test during the 2009 season.

“I guess this explains some stuff,” shortstop Michael Young said when asked to comment about his manager’s reported drug use.  “There was a flight we took from Seattle to Tampa where coach paced up and down the center aisle for like four hours, talking about how he was an underrated middle infielder in his time, and that me and Kins [Ian Kinsler] are really important for middle infielders, like really important, and that we’ll know what he’s talking about someday.”  Young shrugged.  “Probably also explains that one lineup card.”

The lineup card Young was referring to was one Washington filled out against the Blue Jays on July 23rd, 2009 which looked like this:

1. Ian Kinsler
2. Josh Hamilton
3. Ian Kinsler
4. Josh Hamilton
5. Ron Washington
6. Ian Kinsler
7. Josh Hamilton
8. Ian Kinsler
9. Josh Hamilton

At the time, Texas bench coach Jackie Moore said it had been a typo.

Rangers management said they appreciated Washington owning up to his behavior, and that it explained why he gave Chris Davis 122 at bats against left-handed pitching last season, a horrible decision made more understandable in light of hard core drug use.

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