Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Lightning 1.31.2010

  • You cannot do a full-scale rebuild in a big market town:

That pompous, condescending clown Marty Noble offered the following as he answered questions from fans on regarding the panic-stricken off-season:

A simple question: What would you have done this offseason if you were the Mets' general manager?
-- Russ J., Pequannock, N.J.

First I would have recognized that legitimately contending for a National League East championship in 2010 was unlikely, given the talent available in the free-agent market, the absence of a front-line catcher and questions involving Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. And I would have acted accordingly.

But if contention in 2010 were the objective, I would have signed Matt Capps to set up Frankie Rodriguez, signed Jason Bay and made an early determination about Carlos Delgado. I would have opted to let him walk. Considering scouts' projections and the money the free-agent pitchers were seeking, I would have tried to sign one starter. My preferences, in descending order: Joel Pineiro, John Lackey (overpriced for a team with a suspect offense), Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz and Chien-Ming Wang. I would have pursued Bengie Molina, offering an option for a second year.

And I would have pursued trades for athletic Minor League outfielders.

I'm not sure all those moves would have been enough.

This is pretty much why you never see a media genius running a club; why they can't run a club. The easiest thing in the world to say when a club has the struggles the Mets have had over the few years is "tear it down". This is what Mike Francesa continually said with his "break up 'da core" mantra; and this is what Noble appears to be saying in his response to that question.

I'm going to make this as clear as possible.

Ignore the fact that none of these media members have any accountability; nor do they have the ability to run a club and recognize talent or lack of talent to begin with----push that to the side. The truth is that a team like the Mets; the Yankees; the Red Sox or any other club with a huge payroll and involved fan base cannot behave in the same way the Indians, Athletics, Pirates and Padres do. It can't happen.

How would it look if the Mets were to suddenly turn around and tacitly (and inaccurately) admit that they have no chance to contend by doing as Noble suggests, signing pitchers who----aside from Lackey and Pineiro----wouldn't be much better than what the Mets already have or are coming off of injuries and have gigantic question marks surrounding them?

If a club like the Mets, with a new stadium, coming off a horrible year and with a rabid and angry fan base, started in with a "rebuild" mantra; traded David Wright; Jose Reyes; Johan Santana; etc who's to say that what was coming back would even be worth the aggravation of doing it to begin with? If the Mets front office and scouting operation is under such fire because of the dearth of young players the minor league system is producing, are these "experts" expecting them to be able to do as the Marlins do and mine other clubs for their best prospects and have it work?

The Marlins are an exception to the "rebuild" strategy in that they do it again and again, are successful at it and win while doing it. The Indians have been able to deal their veterans and return to contention within a few years. Despite inept management, one would think that teams like the Pirates and Padres would've gotten enough bulk in their trades of veterans to formulate a team that could win more than 72 games; but they haven't. Nor does it hurt that teams like the above mentioned have fan bases that are willing to accept or don't care about such a purgatory of 2-3 years (or 20 like the Pirates) in which they can't expect more than mediocrity. Would Yankees, Red Sox and Mets fans accept that? In today's market in which every ticket sold is important? No chance.

If you look at the patron saint of preemptive deals, Billy Beane, and you see that he's made some savvy decisions (Mark Mulder for Dan Haren); and other deals that blew up in his face (he got nothing of use from the youngsters he acquired from the Braves for Tim Hudson). Now that the Moneyball hangover is mercifully wearing off; that Beane is being scrutinized more closely for the work he's done instead of a false perception, it's obvious that his rebuilding efforts have fallen short, especially in the current incarnation of the Athletics.

Noble, Francesa, Joel Sherman and others come up with vague references for the Mets to make some "bold" moves; but what would the endgame be? Despite the struggles in recent years, are the Mets going to be so terrible that discussion of such a drastic reconstruction would be better than what they currently are? Could a team with the base of David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur be expected to be so horrific that they all need to go?

Then there are the other silly statements from Noble like Lackey is "overpriced for a club with a suspect offense"; what exactly are the Red Sox? Their offense isn't suspect? And the search for "athletic minor league outfielders"----what does that even mean? What is this obsession with athleticism? Drew Henson was athletic----the problem was he couldn't hit. Does Carlos Lee look athletic? Did John Kruk? The trend to search for "athletic" players is one of those floating terms that no one can define and has no practical meaning.

If a team goes for improvement in the winter and sees no positive results from the decisions, then yes, at mid-season look to do something to bolster the future; but to simply clear the decks with the intent of somewhere, sometime contending in the future is ignoring the transient nature of acquiring youngsters to begin with. Sometimes they make it; sometimes they don't; and no GM can hit with every pick and assessment of prospects. What makes it worse is that the lack of accountability with these critics lets them say whatever they want without question regardless of non-existent expertise that just happens to have a high profile forum.

  • Eric Byrnes vs Gary Matthews Jr:

To stay on a Mets-centric theme for a moment, indulge me if you will in thinking about the difference between Eric Byrnes (signed by the Mariners days ago); and Gary Matthews Jr. (acquired via trade by the Mets a week ago).

Putting aside what the respective clubs will be paying Byrnes and Matthews, is there is difference between the players and the evaluators that acquired them?

Byrnes and Matthews were overpaid for their results. Byrnes with $11 million coming to him (almost all paid by the Diamondbacks, who released him); and Matthews with $23 million coming for the next two years ($21.5 million being paid by the Angels). The money is irrelevant because that $1.5 million is chump change for the Mets. Neither player has performed well since signing their contracts; so what's the difference in perception?

Has there been neverending ridicule of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik for signing Byrnes for what will essentially be the same role as Matthews will play for the Mets? Similar to what's greeted the Mets in getting Matthews Jr. to be a stopgap/backup/emergency player in the absence of Carlos Beltran and if Angel Pagan falls on his face?

Of course not.

And why?

Is it because Mets GM Omar Minaya has become a convenient scapegoat and target for writers to use for target practice and Zduriencik is considered the cold, calculating businessman as GM who uses scouting tools and stats to formulate his club?

The reality is that neither player should be expected to contribute much to either team; but nor should they be taken as anything to be laughed at because everyone in both the Mariners and Mets organizations knows that they're only around because they're cheap and they might----however unlikely----serve a purpose.

It's another example of the perception that one organization doesn't know what it's doing and is savaged; and another supposedly does know what it's doing and receives a pass for making a nearly identical move that isn't going to make much of a difference in the club fortunes one way or the other.

  • PECOTA's alterations:

The adjustment of PECOTA from one set of predicted standings to another was odd enough; that they basically didn't acknowledge it as they changed it makes it curiouser. It's as if they're beginning to realize that their method of coming to conclusions is faulty on the surface as a rule and they're building a dam after their world has been decimated by flood waters from the overflowing river.

As much as the hard core stat zombies stand by PECOTA, they fail to acknowledge nor even realize that what PECOTA does is not analysis. It's numbers crunching. Nothing more. When taking a game that is played by humans and treating those humans as robots who perform in a certain way just because they've always done it in the past is a flaw they cannot comprehend.

It takes no baseball knowledge nor analytical skills to look at a player as numbers on a pad. Anyone, whether they've ever watched baseball or know what a baseball is, can take the numbers that PECOTA relies upon and plug them into the algorithm (whether it's the "right" algorithm or not) and come up with a standings board. Is that something to be proud of even when it's close to being accurate?

One thing that Moneyball tried----and failed----to account for was the "human element". In fact, there's a chapter in the book with that very title. It's content is the story of Chad Bradford and how a submarine style pitcher who in years past would've been little more than minor league filler became an important part of the A's bullpen and has fashioned a respectable major league career. Said "human element" tries to put a face on the numbers that were the genesis of the book----the "revolution" that Moneyball documented.

It's garbage.

The human element is removed from PECOTA every time they come up with an excuse for their projections being wrong (from one day to the next apparently) as they claim as a caveat, "well, the player didn't reach his expected numbers". No kidding. That may be because he's a human being and can't be reasonably expected to do the same thing year-by-year, day-by-day because he's always done it before.

The real human element isn't found in Moneyball; nor is it found in PECOTA. The ignorance of Michael Lewis, who knows nothing about baseball, is clear as he tries to piece the puzzle together to defend his narrative against its inevitable downfall. The book is a farce not because it hasn't worked, but because it's not calculating the "human element"; in fact, it's trying to avoid it completely.

PECOTA and Moneyball advocates claim that they'd be better off if they never watched a baseball game to begin with and utilized objective factors rather than eyes and feel; and it's wrong. It takes no understanding, no knowledge, no nothing to plug numbers into a calculator or a computer and claim to know what one is talking about.

If PECOTA's sudden adjustment in their numbers based on a supposedly faulty algorithm proves anything, it proves that. Remember, it was a human who plugged the numbers into the wrong formula to begin with, causing them to be redone.

Do they understand that?

Do they?

  • Speaking of the "genius":

Why is Billy Beane so intent on collecting no-hit, good-field outfielders?

The Athletics are supposedly in "deep negotiations" with Gabe Gross.

To do what?

Gabe Gross is a fine defensive outfielder and, aside from a bolt from the blue hot streak shortly after he joined the Rays in 2008, has never been able to hit at all. What do the A's need him for?

The A's are looking like a bizarre conglomeration of whatever's left available and Beane's reputation, still solid in certain circles, is saving him from an even greater number of bewildered looks at what he's doing. The team can't hit. They won't hit enough to account for the callow starting rotation even with a healthy Ben Sheets (an iffy proposition at best).

If anything, there is an Oakland franchise that could use Gabe Gross for something----the Raiders. Gross was the starting quarterback for Auburn in college and the Raiders are hurting in that area. He'd be more use to them than he would be for the Athletics, that's for sure.

  • Viewer Mail 1.31.2010:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE PECOTA:

This is the most I could do in a hurry. And they still bombed them. The A's in first is as unrealistic as the Jays in second.

Oh, and excellent Col. Nathan R. Jessep.

The link Gabriel provides sends you to the original PECOTA projections. Here are the refurbished ones----link. That's the thing about the internets, you can never get away from something you published no matter how hard you try. Ever.

With the purposeful adjustment I made to the climactic scene in A Few Good Men yesterday, I never got a retort from Joe to let me know that he understood what I was doing. He might've thought I was simply yelling at him.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Johnny Damon:

Sorry Damon fired off that last shot. I'm sure he wishes he could take it back.

I can understand his hurt, but he needs to use some common sense. No one's to blame for his departure and shoddy job prospects other than Johnny Damon. Not the Yankees; not Scott Boras; Johnny Damon. Period.

Rob writes RE Damon, Randy Winn and the Yankees:

Hi, I just read your blog for the first time. Your attitude is refreshing among many Yankee fans and falls largely in line with my own. The reaction among Yankee fans to the Winn signing was really ridiculous. The sports shows didn't help matters by continually popping up side by side comparisons between Damon and Winn. This was really misleading. First of all Gardner and Winn will likely share playing time. The reality is that neither is directly replacing Damon. They may occupy his old field position but in reality they are only replacing Melky Cabrera. Damon and Matsui we're replaced in the lineup a long time ago by Granderson and Johnson. Both are defensive upgrades in left field I might add.
I also like those who say that Johnson can't hold a candle to Damon as a number two hitter. Johnson may not have Johnny's pop but getting 24 HR's out of you #2 hitter is a bonus not a prerequisite. A #2 hitter's job is to get on base and Johnson is among the best in baseball at that. As far as clogging the basepaths goes, Tex is not fleet of foot either and won't catch Nick if he has a headstart. Besides with Tex and a healthy
A-rod hitting behind him he may need to do little more than trot home much of the time.
I think Cash did a great job this off season. Our pitching is deep, our lineup circular. He has also held the payroll in check to prepare for re-signing Jeter and Mo, not to mention next year's attractive free agent class (Carl Crawford please). Thanks for reading my babble...if you did.

Thanks for reading. One thing I need to clear up that seems to be causing an unbelievable amount of confusion: I'm a METS FAN!!! I suppose it's a compliment that so many people believe that I'm a Yankee fan as it shows my objectivity when I write.

With Johnson, his only issue has been health. Aside from his broken leg, there's always been some muscle pull or other malady that keeps him out of the lineup at a moment's notice. He's an inexpensive alternative to Damon and is an on-base machine. The Yankees did do a very good job this winter in filling their holes inexpensively and using necessary ruthlessness to cut the ties with Damon when he didn't want to sign for the initial contract offer.

The whole Damon-Yankees thing might've emanated from a false belief on the part of the player and his agent that the Yankees adamant stance on not negotiating with him was a tactic rather than reality, and it cost him. A lot.

Kyle Johnson writes RE PECOTA:

I can't believe PECOTA didn't change their mind on the AL West predictions as well. I just don't see the Angels with the third worst record in the AL OR Oakland taking the western division.

I don't truly believe that the people at PECOTA were sitting there and panicking because they were under such fire for their first projection. For what it's worth, I do believe that someone used the wrong formula.

That said, the Angels have always been a club that's more than the sum of it's statistical parts; they win because they play the game the right way; rely on a deep pitching staff; and plug players into the right spots. Let me put it to you this way, without going into too much detail on my forthcoming book (I'm starting tomorrow): I wouldn't worry about the Angels this year and I wouldn't put much faith in PECOTA.

Michael Fierman writes RE Damon, Boras and Cashman:

"His abilities exceed the money that I have."

Honestly I think that was his way of throwing in Boras's face that in fact JD's abilities are not the ability level Boras is trying to sell. --just my take on it.

I'm more of the belief that the Yankees set a price that they weren't----under any circumstances----going to go beyond for Damon. It was more coldblooded reality and money than any attempt to get back at Boras. The problem for Damon was that he didn't believe it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Here Comes The Passive Aggression From Johnny Damon

  • Johnny Damon's anger begins to manifest itself:

That didn't take long.

The public facade of understanding and acceptance that the Yankees didn't value Johnny Damon's contribution to the club as much as Damon and Scott Boras did is gradually resulting in an anger that he's not going to get the big contract he expected. In fact, he's going to get a fraction of the Yankees final offer and he may have to go across the country to Oakland for a job.

Damon was classy in his initial interviews...until he popped out with the following nugget about Derek Jeter:

“I hope he is not offered a 45 percent pay cut.”



I have some news for Damon that might well come from Brian Cashman himself: Johnny, I work with Derek Jeter; Derek Jeter is a friend of mine. Johnny, you're no Derek Jeter.

Did it occur to Damon that the Yankees offer to him was affected by the fact that they know they're going to have to pay Jeter after 2010 and need to save some space on the payroll? Or is he so oblivious to reality in his Boras-cage that he hasn't caught on?

Like Joe Mauer with the Twins, Derek Jeter is going nowhere. Ever.

Johnny Damon----with his mercenary tendencies, high salary demands without leverage and reviled agent----was in no position to be so hardline with the amount of money he wanted. Blindly trusting the "process" as Boras and Cashman call it resulted in Damon leaving Boston when he didn't want to; and now the Yankees as well. The main difference is that when he left the Red Sox, he had a comfy and lucrative landing spot in New York; now he doesn't. Now he's about to land somewhere where everyone knows he doesn't want to be; somewhere where he'll either hope to be traded to a contender at mid-season, or to have a big enough year that he'll hope for a better economic climate and be able to cash in next winter with a large market club----like the Yankees.

It's showing in his comments.

This Derek Jeter silliness was the first in what will be a string of passive aggressive statements from Damon as he's poked and prodded by an all-too-eager press corps for something juicy to write about; something to create a fissure between the Yankees and Damon despite the "good terms" they're trying to maintain after this rejection.

Who knows whether Damon has people whispering in his ear that he was done wrong by someone, be it the Yankees or Boras? Clearly, he's upset about the break, but he's more upset about the money; and even someone as spacey as Damon must realize somewhere deep inside that his trusted agent did him wrong; that he's screwed.

It's understandable that he's going to utter these obvious messages. But he'd be better off either not doing the interviews at all or sticking to the generic ballplayer script that keeps them out of the papers or is more easily ignored. The Jeter comment wasn't opaque enough to explain away. What made it worse was that it was inaccurate and stupid. His handlers better rein him in because it's going to get worse as the winter rolls on.

  • The change in tune from PECOTA:

If you remember the 2010 PECOTA predicted standings from earlier in the week, they've now been changed. The bizarreness of the original predicted standings that had the Rays winning the AL East for example, was said to be because of a mistake in the algorithm they used to come to their conclusions.*

*Right there, the word "algorithm", should be a warning sign that they need to re-think how they interpret the game.

My suggestion to the good people at PECOTA (and I'm being dead serious about this) is they would've been better off leaving their predicted standings as they were. Changing them now under fire is a sign of weakness even if there actually was a mistake in the algorithm. Their increasing panic will be even more evident at the decision to make the adjustment. Their method of assessment is dying anyway, why exacerbate it with desperation and alterations?

And I'm still moving forward with my bombing campaign. There's no saving them now.

  • My own contradictions:

As concerned as I am about Tim Lincecum's small stature and his durability, it occurred to me after re-reading my posting from yesterday that I discussed the horrendous mistake the Dodgers made in underestimating the determination of Pedro Martinez to transcend his limited physicality and become one of the best pitchers of this generation----just as Lincecum is on his way to doing.

I'm still concerned about Lincecum's size; his quirky exercise regimen and whether he can maintain his stuff into his late 20s and early 30s; but as with Pedro, perhaps it's better to focus on the artistry of unique beauty he crafts with his natural gifts and ignore dogmatic and perceived limitations as the Dodgers did with Pedro----much to their regret.

  • Viewer Mail 1.30.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE PECOTA:


You're full of shit.

The Oakland A's are gonna win the West with 87 wins? The White Sox will have a losing record? The Yankees will miss the playoffs?

At least two thirds of the above predictions are as sound as Carlos Silva is reliable.


It's hilarious that they altered their projections. If anyone has a copy of the original somewhere, please send it to me. Are they hoping that we're still in the halcyon days of people simply accepting their nonsense as sacrosanct? Moneyball is over, my good stat zombies; the end of days is coming; and along with it, carnage and destruction.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE PECOTA:

Go get those PECOTA people and make them recant - and maybe even watch a baseball game or two.

They've already recanted. Forgive me if I don't accept their change-of-heart and react with sympathy. I know not the meanings nor the significance of the words "sorrow" or "pity". The die is cast.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE PECOTA:

Do you have proof that you beat PECOTA last year? Actual, wins and losses proof? Pecota looks off this year, no doubt, I don't disagree with that. I just want proof!


Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with skills; men without fear.

Who's gonna do it?


I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for PECOTA and hype up your out-of-context stats; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know.

And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you WANT me on that wall, you NEED me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to the stat zombies who alter their beliefs and perceptions based on what's convenient to try and save themselves; what's the safest and most expedient way to protect their faulty and collapsing revolution.

I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Either way, I do not give a DAMN what you want!!!

(You can find the "proof" you seek here if you scroll down and click the links under the bulletpoint "The Prince vs PECOTA". That should occupy you for much of the day.)

John Seal writes RE the Athletics:

Be gentle, big guy. You and I both know the A's aren't going to win the AL West...let me down easy, okay?

Not a believer in PECOTA, John? I never pegged my West Coast spiritual adviser as a member of the stat zombie cult anyway----and I'm pleased.

Why don't you join Twitter? You'll be able to enjoy my hilarious #fakebillybeanequotes and more!! Plus you get official, public recognition as a made member of the Prince of New York Family. Upward mobility is prevalent and based on quality of work and loyalty. I'm a benevolent Boss.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More From Peter Gammons On Jason Bay

  • Peter Gammons may have lost more than his fastball:

I'm not going to sit here in judgment of someone who came as close to dying as Peter Gammons did with his brain aneurysm in 2006. One who hasn't experienced such a thing has no right to interpret what that does to a person's perspective. On the other hand, it doesn't allow for impunity. When Gammons is off on a relentless and somewhat strange crusade to defend one party and inadvertently disparage another, it has to be addressed.

Such is the case with the neverending stories of why the Red Sox allowed Jason Bay to depart without so much as a fight.

I've long said that Gammons has lost his fastball as a reporter and this was happening even before he was stricken ill. Never one to take cheap shots and known for getting his stories by cozying up to players and management and not going over-the-top in criticism even when it was justified, Gammons used his likability to break stories as they were happening. That said, Gammons was a slo-pitch softballer long before the embarrassing interview with Alex Rodriguez. I can remember the lollipops he flung at John Rocker at the height of the silly, nonsensical, WWE-style antics that eventually got Rocker bounced from baseball because of his attitude and baggage----helped along that he couldn't get anyone out anymore.

This makes it even more puzzling that he seems intent on defending the Red Sox for their conscious decision to walk away from Bay; and I have a question: What is his problem?

Never mind that he's got an unexplained lust for Theo Epstein; never mind that the Red Sox decision was made in part because they didn't want to pay Bay and in part because the voices in the organization seemed to be reluctant to move forward with the offense-first philosophy; there was an air of hesitation to keep Bay as if the club was a groom whose wedding date was rapidly approaching and they were looking for a way out by any means necessary. There's nothing wrong with a club making a choice to go in a different direction; but what's with all these leaks that are making Bay look like he's going to be in wheelchair before May is out?

Read the transcript from Gammons's interview on The Big Show and you'll see where this is going; how it seems that Gammons's connection to the Red Sox has clouded any attempt at objectivity. The relevant quote follows (Gammons's answers are italicized):

What was happening with the Jason Bay situation, with the Red Sox requesting surgery as a condition of the contract?

No they didn’t do that though. Joe Urbon also said no. They said there is a possibility that you might need surgery if this thing gets any worse. They didn’t tell him he had to have surgery, that wasn’t a condition.

So what happened with Jason Bay and the Red Sox?

They wanted him, but they were scared to death of his knees. I never got the impression from either side, from his agents or his club, that the shoulder was that big of a deal. But they were really afraid of both knees and that’s why they dropped the offer from four years to two years.

Somebody said to me, “Gee, there was only one team that went after him the Mets.” I said, “Yeah, you don’t think that the Angels have requested MRIs? You don’t think the Mariners have requested? They weren’t in on him either.”

The Mets were the only team in on Jason, which is unfortunate because he played his heart out for that team. He’s a great guy but there were serious physical concerns that were there, and Dr. Gill thought it was a tremendous risk to giving him a four-year contract without any questions. John Lackey went with [a contract with conditions] and JD Drew went with it.

Bay’s people made it sound like the Red Sox doctors were the only ones who felt that way about the physical.

Yeah, but again, and I have great respect for [Red Sox team physician, Dr.] Tom Gill, the other opinions they had there were questioned by the agent. It’s a he-said, she-said. The fact is Tom Gill was very afraid of it, as were the other orthopedics at Mass General, and when the club studied it they said they didn’t want to guarantee four years.

It's "unfortunate" that the Mets were the only team in on Bay? Is Citi Field a gulag? Have things dwindled to Pittsburgh Pirates-like lows with the club that no one wants to play for the Mets under any circumstances anymore, nor should they? What does that comment mean?

This whole thing brings to mind the main reason that Pedro Martinez was traded from the Dodgers to the Expos (for Delino DeShields!!!): Tommy Lasorda thought Pedro was too small to make it as a starter long-term and doctors thought he'd break down.

How'd that work out?

Not only did Pedro become one of the top three pitchers of this generation, but it lit a fire under him to shove it to Lasorda and the Dodgers-----and he did it.

Why is there this campaign to defend the Red Sox for letting Bay leave? It's as if the stories are being planted in a friendly ear like Gammons to justify and explain away the coming season before it even starts in case things spiral downward because of a change from power to pitching and defense on the part of the club.


What difference does it make now? The Red Sox claim they wanted Bay back, but made an offer knowing that the Mets would offer him more money and the four guaranteed years that Bay wanted. Like grasping for an outlet, the diagnosis of the team doctors being "scared to death" of Bay's knees gave them the escape hatch to do what they clearly wanted to do to start with and didn't know how to get it done----let Bay leave; sign John Lackey, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre, and try a different strategy.

And there's nothing wrong with that.*

*There will be once the season is underway and the fans get a load of the new look, moderately punchless Red Sox and they fall too far behind the Yankees to catch them before they make a desperation move to remedy the problem, but that's neither here nor there.

Drumming up a mob mentality in the "wag the dog" style is easy. There will be numbers and results to salve the wounds of the club and their fans if things go wrong, but people who think rationally will know the truth.

Gammons and others have this affinity for Epstein and the Red Sox that's baffling. No one wants to criticize them when they do wrong or make a mistake. How many times has the club been trying to pull off "shock the world" three and four team trades with the clock winding down? They've managed it several times; other times they've been left sitting there looking like the kid caught with his finger jammed up his nose.

Because of the club's success in the Epstein era, they've been shielded from much criticism, they certainly don't need someone who like Gammons, who has had a wonderful Hall of Fame career, providing alibis for them as if he's their one-man PR crew defending them before the fact. The more these stories come out, the more it looks like the Red Sox want Bay to get hurt; they want the Mets to collapse; not for any reason other than that it will build a fortress around their own questionable decisions this winter. It's going to get worse if the Mets are playing well and Bay is hitting and things in Boston don't go according to the computer model for the Red Sox.

Are we going to hear about this all winter? It's done; it's over; and the Red Sox won't let it go. The choice was made. Move along. The season's going to be here before we know it; then the games will be played on the field and the accuracy of the Red Sox doctors and the reality of the Mets decision to pay Bay will be seen in action. Maybe he'll break down; maybe he'll be an MVP candidate for the Mets. We won't know nor will we be able to judge until after the fact. This smear campaign is so transparent, it's sickening; and I expected better from a Hall of Famer like Peter Gammons.

  • Where would we be without PECOTA:

Our good friends at Baseball Prospectus have come out with their projected 2010 standings based on PECOTA. Since they did so well last year, of course it makes sense to take this with absolute seriousness. Here's PECOTA's 2009 projections if you'd like to judge----link.

Nate Silver's "brilliance" at numbers crunching is based on little more than his pick of the Rays to improve drastically in 2008. Yeah. He had them winning 82 games; my non-stat zombie approach had them winning 76. But I was lucky in that prediction. Similarly to other calls from 2009 that few others had (the Marlins, Giants, Rays, etc.), but they had the numbers that justified their predictions even if they were flat out wrong and explained them away. It's luck, right?

That makes sense.

Be that as it may, here are the 2010 projected standings.

I'm not commenting now. Others are doing fine on their own. My response/retaliatory strikes are in the planning stages and will be begun in earnest on Monday in my bunker. (Knock at your own risk.) Suffice it to say I will again lay waste to PECOTA with my relentless, coordinated and precise attacks.

What the unfathomable belief in PECOTA's accuracy despite practical evidence to the contrary is doing is reminding me of the scene in The Empire Strikes Back as Darth Vader responds to the incompetence of an inept underling by saying:

He is as clumsy as he is stupid.

General, prepare your troops for a surface attack.

You don't need to be told the fate of the "clumsy" and "stupid" party in that case.

I'm PECOTA's and the stat zombies' personal Dark Lord of the Sith.

Except I'm worse.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


  • Johnny Damon and his fans have one person to blame...

And that one person is Johnny Damon.

For every Yankee fan having an irrational conniption fit over the loss of Johnny Damon and overreacting to the signing of Randy Winn as an extra outfielder, Damon and only Damon is responsible for his second career departure from a venue which he never wanted to leave in the first place.

When he left the Red Sox after 2005, he got his money from the Yankees; now that he's been kicked out the door by the Yankees because of agent Scott Boras's unreasonably high asking price for a increasingly one-dimensional 36-year-old, Damon's fans are seeking someone to blame and the easiest target for the expression of their rage is the despised agent, Boras; but is Damon totally absolved from what his agent says and does? Is Damon such a brainless automaton that he simply spouts the company line echoed by too many athletes who have neither the capacity nor the willingness to take responsibility for themselves?

Scott Boras has a job: get the highest amount of money possible for his clients. His tactics are sometimes underhanded in using (at best) flexibility with the truth; or (at worst) outright lies. If Damon wanted to stay with the Yankees, he had a responsibility----not a right, a responsibility----to tell his agent to get the deal done no matter what; or he could've done what Alex Rodriguez did after his ill-advised opt-out during the 2007 World Series and circumvented Boras to get a deal done with the Yankees.

ARod is smarter than Damon; ARod had people around him telling him that he had to go against his agent/father-figure to do what was best for his career; and ARod managed to get another contract of nearly $300 million. Damon is not on a level with ARod on the field and he's certainly not in ARod's realm of intelligence.

None of this is an excuse.

For those looking to blame someone for Damon's departure from the Yankees, Boras, Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner are tempting, though unrealistic, parties. The Yankees are obviously serious about not overspending; about not getting into bidding wars against themselves for players they can take or leave; and had a contingency plan in place if Damon stayed in lockstep with his agent. It's the end of January; how long were they supposed to wait for Damon to come to a decision before making a move?

The Yankees bargained in what appears to be good faith with Damon and Boras. In reading the following clip from the NY Times, I only believe every single word Cashman said:

On Dec. 18, after Nick Johnson agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million deal, Damon said in a text message that the Yankees had offered two years and $14 million, and that he had wanted two years and $20 million.

Boras said Wednesday that it was not an offer, because the Yankees told him they needed to hear from Johnson first. He added that the Yankees never called him to ask for an offer until after they had given one to Johnson, a contention Cashman disputed.

“On Dec. 17, Scott’s exact words were that he would not take a penny less than $13 million a year for two years,” Cashman said. “We believed him.”

The Yankees weren't messing around; and unlike the case with ARod, Hank Steinbrenner had no intention of deviating from the budget or being "flexible" to keep a Boras client who'd made a giant mistake; and truth be told with all due respect to Damon, he's no ARod.

Now Johnny Damon is really screwed. Where's he going?

The Rays? They can use him, but don't have much money; the locale is perfect for him since he lives in Orlando, but he's going to have to take a fraction of the money he would've made had he agreed to rejoin the Yankees.

The Athletics? Do you believe for a second that Damon wants to: A) go all the way across the country to play in the Bay Area; B) for a team that's not going to pay him; and C) join an A's team that, quite frankly, is iffy to contend?

It could be that the best course for Damon and Boras would be to sit out for the first couple of months and see if someone gets hurt for a contending club and they give him a call a la Roger Clemens/Pedro Martinez. (If it's the Yankees, be prepared for a Suzyn Waldman meltdown of freaky/disturbing derangement.)

As of right now, he's painted himself into a corner and it's not in the cage built by his superagent. He wasn't forced into it; he walked in willingly; and for that he has no one to blame but one person----Johnny Damon.

Even the more rational Yankee fan panicked at not simply losing Damon, but at his "replacement". (Of course there were the coldly rational Yankee fans who saw things as they were and reacted accordingly----link.) Others freaked out once they saw Randy Winn's weak numbers from last year.

It was overt and unnecessary.

Despite Winn's poor 2009, he's been a historically good player who hits from both sides of the plate; he's good defensively and can handle all three outfield positions; he can run; has some pop; and is a quiet, stand-up guy. Yankee fans will come to appreciate his hustling, all-around style of play once they get a regular look at him.

And here's a flash: he's not going to be playing all that much unless someone gets hurt or Brett Gardner falls flat on his face. Winn was brought in as a fourth outfielder/insurance----no more, no less. Gardner is clearly going to get a chance to win the job in left field; Winn is a respectable back-up plan and, as I said before, the Yankees can fill an outfield hole at mid-season (David DeJesus or possibly Damon) if needed. Winn will be a defensive replacement for Nick Swisher and get an outfield start twice a week. That's around 250-300 at bats. He's fine for that and a good pickup for the Yankees.

  • More context for the Mets:

Before anything else, I want it made clear that while I'm openly a Mets fan, I'm not a Mets fan who sees rainbows at every turn and is positive to the point of needing to be committed to a lunatic asylum (I may need that for other reasons, but that's neither here nor there). If anything is a testimony to this fact, you need only look at my predicted standings from last year for my objectivity on this matter.

Because the Mets still had that lingering hangover from the prior two years of failure on the last days of both seasons; and that they still didn't "feel" right despite their acquisitions to shore up the bullpen, I couldn't rightfully pick them to make the playoffs even though they were the odds on favorites in the National League.

Now, they've become fodder for ridicule. No one is sparing them the vicious sword and Mets fans have become so beaten down by the last three years that they've either joined the bashing or sit quietly by without protest.

And it's enough.

To put things into context, in 2007, the Mets were the favorites in the National League to build on their game 7 loss in the 2006 NLCS and bust through to win the whole thing. There's something interesting to have a look at though.

Here's the Mets starting rotation from 2007: Tom Glavine; John Maine; Oliver Perez; Orlando Hernandez; and a cast of thousands in the fifth slot.

Here's the Mets lineup from spring 2007: C-Paul LoDuca; 1B-Carlos Delgado; 2B-Javier Valentin; 3B-David Wright; SS-Jose Reyes; LF-Moises Alou; CF-Carlos Beltran; RF-Shawn Green

Digest that for a second.

That team with that lineup and starting rotation was the favorite in the National League.

Now here's the Mets projected 2010 starting rotation: Johan Santana; John Maine; Mike Pelfrey; Oliver Perez; Fernando Nieve/Jon Niese.

And the lineup: C-Omir Santos; 1B-Daniel Murphy; 2B-Luis Castillo; 3B-David Wright; SS-Jose Reyes; LF-Jason Bay; CF-Carlos Beltran; RF-Jeff Francoeur.

Aside from the floating piƱata or the convenient punching bag the Mets have become, the teams---one that was a World Series favorite; and another that's considered to be a disaster----are almost identical.

What's the difference between then and now?

In 2007, the Mets were one inning away from the World Series six month earlier; a World Series they would've won.

In 2010, the Mets are coming off a season that was a train wreck. No team anywhere could have withstood the injuries that hit the Mets last season. Nowhere, no how. I don't care if it was the Yankees and Red Sox with their money and farm systems; the Cardinals with the strategic wizardry of Tony La Russa; the A's with the "genius" in the front office; the Dodgers with Joe Torre----each and every one of those teams would've fallen to 72-90 or worse.

The avalanche was compounded by the allegations of medical missteps and the communication failures of GM Omar Minaya. The sense of ineptitude became a cause unto itself with everyone jumping onboard to kick and torture the wounded animal.

Is it logical?

Is it fair?

Is the Mets starting rotation worse than that of the Phillies? The Phillies, whose back-end has Jamie Moyer penciled in?

Everyone has an agenda in attacking the Mets. The Yankee fans think it's hysterical even though I've been told privately by a large segment of them, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Look, we know how good the Mets should've been last year; what happened to them was ridiculous."

Phillies fans think it's a great joke. I guess they got tired of cheering at the possibility of Michael Irvin's paralysis.

Stat zombies----Keith Law, Rob Neyer----tear into them because they want to get one of their "own" into the Mets front office. With Billy Beane teetering in Oakland, it's repeatedly suggested that he or Sandy Alderson take over the Mets.

The leeches in the media----Joel Sherman----savage the Mets without providing rational solutions to what supposedly "ails" them.

And the others----the true bottom feeders like Buster Olney----attack, attack, attack because they have neither the skills nor the ingenuity to formulate a coherent thought on their own.

Of course it's unfair. But it's easy and it's fun.

The truth is this Mets team, if healthy and without another move, has enough talent to jump right back into contention. The club is reeling; they've been tormented so completely that the above mentioned "experts" are rubbing their hands together with glee at the pending collapse.

A cornered animal is most dangerous. I expect the Mets to come out swinging with both fists. Then we'll see who's right and who's wrong.

  • Viewer Mail 1.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Hall of Fame:

I hope Mussina gets into the Hall. Not that I'm in any way prejudiced!

I have to believe that Mike Mussina will get in. Not on the first ballot unless it's a weak, weak class, but he's a Hall of Famer.

Becca writes RE Tom Glavine:

I was the one who left the comment about Glavine/Smoltz/Mussina/Schilling.

I agree that Glavine should be in the Hall. However, out of those four, he is the most borderline to me, though I agree with you that the "total package of durability and success" means he should be there.

If he was a control/finesse pitcher, then he should have struck out some more guys and, probably more importantly, walked a bunch less. He had arguably one of the greatest control/finesse pitchers of all time, Maddux, pitching alongside him for many years. Then again, I don't think "well, he wasn't as good as Greg Maddux" is really an argument that proves much, so yeah. Heh. I do think it's fair to mention strikeouts. In general, good strikeout pitchers are good pitchers (though let's not pretend Glavine wasn't a much, much better strikeout pitcher than most pitchers can hope to be) and Glavine's K/BB ratio is a liiiiittle ordinary...

As for the Cy Young argument, he should have won in 1991, but Glavine's 1998 Cy Young should have gone to Maddux or Kevin Brown. I'm not gonna list the stats here, but look 'em up.
Glavine had an awesome season that was definitely Cy-worthy - this wasn't the embarrassment of giving Bartolo Colon the award in 2005 - but two other guys just had better seasons. But clearly, the only reason he won that award was because he had the arbitrary 20 wins and the other guys didn't.

As for Cone, I think he belongs in the Hall of Very Good (same with Hershiser). He was a great pitcher, but he didn't pitch 3000 innings throughout his career and he obviously didn't have, like, ridiculous Sandy Koufax numbers. But he had a really good career that he can be very proud of.

Glavine's modus operandi was to never give in to the hitters. He'd rather walk them when he fell behind in the count and hope for a double play than to throw a fat pitch and risk giving up a bomb. You can't argue with his success in doing that. The walks were a strategic pothole that he worked his way around. I have to look at John Smoltz's gamelogs to get a better gauge on his position as an "automatic". It's possible that the Braves sometimes shoddy bullpen cost him something on his win totals.

In Colon's Cy Young year, Mariano Rivera deserved the award and got screwed. We may be seeing a change in the way the awards are doled out as Tim Lincecum didn't have the flashy win total, but deserved the award and won it.

Had Hershiser not blown out his shoulder, he's be in the Hall of Fame right now. That he returned as a different pitcher and used his brain, determination and experience to still win gets him into the outskirts of the conversation even though he's not a Hall of Famer.

On a note about Becca's comment, she added some WAR stats that I snipped out. You can feel free to cite stats with me, but in many instances, I tend to Z.O.N.E.O.U.T. when confronted with out-of-context numbers. I run my unit how I run my unit, taking everything into account including numbers and my powerful green eyes.

Jeff (Underboss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the HOF:

While I'm enjoying the debate on these fine pitchers, let us not lose sight of the real harrowing issue here: Schilling's bloody sock is in the Hall of Fame.

If ever there were a publicity stunt designed to make everyone focus on one rat-turd of a man, that was it. Schilling's pissy attitude was one thing, but creating that whole bloody sock thing to promote HIMSELF -- oh gee, imagine that -- was way out there and in my opinion, unforgivable.

Your ankle hurts? It's a little bloody? A little sore? Fine. Grow a pair and go about your business, pal, like every other man who plays the game and gives it his all. No need to go blab to the media about.

Schilling was a great pitcher and I respect that, but as a human he always reminds me of the BASEKETBALLS character "Lil Bitch".

I would so pay to see Mitch Williams kick his ass.

I've been open in casting an askance gaze at the dubious nature of the bloody sock. With most pitchers, no one would consider such a think to be phony; but with Schilling, it simply seems like something he'd do.

Ah, Mitch Williams. He never hid his feelings for Curt Schilling after the 1993 World Series ("It wouldn't have been a problem because I would've kicked his ass.")

"Here's a guy" (thanks Harold Reynolds) who's a winner on the MLB Network.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Orel Hershiser:

I saw Hershiser on the Indians-Marlins world series in '98. I admired his poise and his attitude, although my aunt told me his prime was past, when Valenzuela was his teammate and they made a hell of a 1-2 punch.

I support the small Hall of Fame. Most baseball players are famous, some are good, some are superstars, but only a tiny slice should be considered heroes, and only a very tiny slice of them should be considered legends. To me, the Hall of Fame is a place of legends, and Cone, Hershiser and Pettite are not legends, but they surely are heroes. I don't know about Smoltz, because of the three aces, he's the one with the "weakest" numbers, but he had some versatility. I think I'd vote for him. Glavine and Mussina are legends, and they should get in. I'll comment on Schilling tomorrow.

No one who didn't witness Hershiser's devastation firsthand in real time in 1988 can appreciate what it was he did as he carried the Dodgers on his back to the World Series.

The problem with the call for a "small" Hall of Fame is the unfairness that would be prevalent by scaling back the criteria. Once X player get in, how can you leave out Y player? You can't without it becoming even more capricious in excluding those that were better than players who are currently enshrined. Besides, it makes for some interesting arguments.

John Seal writes RE Billy Beane:

Hey Prince,

If the A's have an extra ten million to flush down the loo, why the heck not sign Bed Sheets? It gets the fans excited (hey, look! I'm excited!), theoretically takes some of the pressure off the Verducci Effect twins (Anderson and Cahill), and will provide a tempting target for contending teams come June/July, when Josh Outman (love this guy, and he wears his socks right!) returns from the DL. Assuming of course Sheets isn't on the DL himself by then...and if he is, so what, it's only somebody else's money!

It's not just the money that perplexes me; it's that they agreed in the contract that they wouldn't offer him arbitration to get the first round pick after the season. Supposedly, because he missed all of 2009, it's highly unlikely that he'd be designated as worthy of a first rounder, but still, what if he goes 18-8? It's hard to see happening, but with his stuff, it's certainly possible.

Sheets is worth a shot, but that's a lot of guaranteed money and they're on the hook for all of it if he gets hurt---a 50/50 proposition. Beane's getting desperate and it shows. This team literally can't hit either. With that young pitching, they might be really good----or superbad. Beane's all in now because he might be on the way out in Oakland depending on his new strategy that doesn't appear to be a strategy at all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Price Of "Genius"

  • Desperation breeds bewilderment:

On the surface, the Athletics signing of Ben Sheets is a worthwhile risk, but for a guaranteed $10 million? Did Lewis Wolff have a load of money burning a hole in his bottom line that he's willing to run the risk of Sheets's extensive injury history spiraling into money directly down the toilet? And is he so enamored of Billy Beane's faltering "genius" that he's going to continue to let him do whatever he wants no matter how off the wall it seems?

Sheets has wonderful stuff and for an incentive-laden deal the type of which the A's used to cash in on regularly----Frank Thomas for example----he'd be a great idea, but a guaranteed $10 million before he even sets foot on a mound? And how much is he realistically going to help the Athletics even if he comes close to repeating his work in 2008----far from a certainty, and in fact, highly unlikely?

Let's just say that Sheets is suddenly able to deliver 180 innings and 28 starts; then what? The Athletics are in a very, very rough division with a young starting rotation that could take the next step or take three steps back from a solid final two months of 2009. Hypothetically, even if the A's get decent performances from the young starters; a repeat of the bullpen work from last year; and the defense they expect from their reconfigured and punchless lineup; what are they?

Can they hang with the Mariners and their devastating 1-2 punch of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee?

Can they hit with the Rangers?

Can they find ways to win regardless of circumstances and departures like the Angels?

Even if everything goes right for the A's----the starting rotation blossoms; Sheets is healthy; Justin Duchscherer is functioning mentally and physically; and their defense accounts for their inability to hit----they're at best a second place team and a non-contender for a playoff spot. The chance of all these things coming together in a fortunate confluence of events is so far in outer space that the money they've spent on Sheets is only going to be worth it if he: A) is healthy enough to be deemed worthy of a first round pick when he leaves via free agency after the year; or B) they can trade him for top prospects at mid-season.

Aside from that, the A's are throwing darts (and money) at the wall because they've been so universally rejected by the likes of Marco Scutaro this winter. They're also after Johnny Damon.Why? Because he fits into the new emphasis on defense? Also, how bad does the decision to bring Jack Cust back as the DH at $2.6 million look when Jim Thome just signed with the Twins for a $1.5 million base? Who would you rather have? Cust or Thome? With Thome costing a million bucks less?

Billy Beane's getting desperate; as he examines his failures of the past three years, the "genius" monicker is gone and he's now reduced to overpaying to get a pitcher in Sheets who didn't pitch last year and hasn't been completely healthy since 2004. That's six years ago.

Can a miracle happen? Can the Athletics leap into contention with this Scotch taped and flawed roster in the rough AL West? Can they hang for a playoff spot with the Red Sox and Twins in the American League? Yes. But it would be a miracle; and one of the things that Beane's "genius" and cold objectivity was supposed to avoid was the need for divine intervention; but it's becoming increasingly clear that the presence of a deity wearing an A's hat is the only thing that could save them now.

Maybe they should've tried harder to keep Grant Desme.

They're going to need him now if not for his ability to hit, but for his piety and maybe to take confession and forgive Beane for his baseball related sins.

Even if it's too late.

  • Mets fans are getting more than antsy:

Hours after the Sheets news came out, another target of affection for Mets fans, Jon Garland, was signed by the bargain-basement and last place bound San Diego Padres. Apparently, the Mets were never all that far in with Garland and understandably, the Sheets money was too rich for the Mets to roll the dice. Are Mets fans right in getting upset for these decisions?

If Sheets was going to cost around $7.5 million guaranteed and the club had to offer incentives to push it up to $12 million or so (which they gladly would've paid if Sheets reached them), then yes, go for it; but for a guaranteed $10 million? No way.

As for Garland, yes, at least you know what you're getting from him; but performance-wise, I don't think it's out of line for the Mets to believe they can get what Garland would provide from a combination of Jon Niese, Fernando Nieve and John Smoltz. (I'd avoid Jarrod Washburn.)

What's upsetting Mets fans more than anything isn't the "losing out" on these questionable pitchers, but the lack of movement. People are forgetting that they did make a big move in getting Jason Bay; and it would be literally impossible for everything that went wrong in 2009 to again go wrong in 2010.

Trust me when I say that the non-signings of Jon Garland and Ben Sheets aren't going to be the difference between a drastic turnaround for the club and third place. The key for the Mets is the health of their core players and getting something from Oliver Perez.

One thing I believe the Mets do need to do is to sign a veteran, defensive catcher to handle the pitching staff. Yorvit Torrealba is sitting out there; won't cost all that much and the Mets can't go into the season with Omir Santos as their regular catcher. They need a veteran to nurture the pitching staff and Torrealba is the guy.

  • This is a strange strategy:

Here's a clip from about the Phillies plan for Jose Contreras:

Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd told (Troy) Renck he was "surprised" when Jose Contreras signed with Philadelphia. O'Dowd said the Rockies wanted to use Contreras out of the bullpen while the Phillies offered him a chance to start. Interestingly, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said today (as reported by Todd Zolecki of that Contreras will only start during spring training and will be a reliever by Opening Day.

What possible sense does it make to use a pitcher who's been a starter his whole career; is an emotional and shaky acquisition to begin with; and use him as a starter in the spring only to stick him in the bullpen when the season starts? How is he supposed to prepare to get loose quickly as a reliever sometimes must do if he's prepping as a starter for six weeks in the spring? How's that supposed to work? And are they expecting Contreras to be effective doing this? (That's contingent on the false belief that he's going to be effective to begin with.)

What's going on in Philadelphia? Have they really lost their minds on how to run a club and handle players?

  • Why use five words when you can use thirty?

Does Brian Cashman listen to himself when he speaks? Here's his quote on Johnny Damon:

"His abilities exceed the money that I have."

How about simply saying, "I can't afford him,"? Or would that make Cashman sound less like an android and more like a human being? Good grief.

  • Viewer Mail 1.27.2010:

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE John Smoltz:

Smoltz and Schilling were better than Hershiser.

Joe, what did I tell you about the technical jargon-filled, long-winded comments?

Orel Hershiser, in his prime and healthy from 1984-1989, was better than both Curt Schilling and John Smoltz. You can quote all the stats you want basing your one sentence non-analysis on whatever, but I saw all three and Hershiser, on his game, was almost unhittable and a stone cold killer.

Anonymous writes RE: Smoltz:

Schilling and Mussina were both better than Glavine. Smoltz probably was too. But of all those guys, Glavine's considered the biggest lock of them all because of the ~magical~ 300 wins stat. I'm not trying to say that Glavine was anything other than an extremely good pitcher, but that's just kind of sad when you look at their stats.

3.54 ERA, 118 ERA+, 4413.1 IP, 2607 K, 5.3 K/9, 1.74 K/BB, 1.314 WHIP.

3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 3562.2 IP, 2813 K, 7.1 K/9, 3.58 K/BB, 1.192 WHIP.
(He put up these numbers while spending his entire career in the AL East.)

3.45 ERA, 127 ERA+, 3261 IP, 3116 K, 8.6 K/9, 4.38 K/BB, 1.137 WHIP.

3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3743 IP, 3084 K, 8 K/9, 3.05 K/BB, 1.176 WHIP.

After Glavine, Smoltz is the most borderline of those, because a lot of those numbers got prettier because he worked as a reliever. However, for ten years, he was still very very solid as a starter (3.29 ERA, 124 ERA+, 1.174 WHIP).

When Schilling is eligible for the Hall, I predict that the articles defending/dismissing him will reach, like, an all-time stupid level. You'll have people voting for him because of the ZOMG 2004, bloody sock!!!! factor and nothing else. (I saw some blog post or something that said Schilling should be in the Hall and not Moose because "you can't tell the history of baseball without Schilling and you can tell it without Moose." Whaaa?) You'll have people that will never vote for him because "he's a jackass," "he wasn't the best pitcher on his own team," and he only has 216 wins. I'm a Yankee fan and I can't stand the guy, but I don't really see the argument against him, unless you are an extremely small-Hall type, which is fine.

Also, I love Andy Pettitte more than life itself and, while I appreciate what Moose did for my team, I think he's a whiny baby. That said, unless Pettitte has a CRAZY good few years before he retires, the people that vote for Pettitte and not Mussina for the Hall will annoy me, too.

The only thing more annoying to me than someone commenting anonymously is when someone writes something reasonably intelligent and doesn'




As for the comparisons, Glavine's stuff was nothing compared to Smoltz, but with Glavine, you're talking the total package of durability and success. Glavine won two Cy Young Awards and was in the top three four other times. His comparable pitchers includes the likes of Tom Seaver and the five 20 wins seasons are four more than what Smoltz had.

It's totally unfair to mention strikeouts when comparing Glavine with Smoltz, Schilling and Mussina, who were considered "power" pitchers while Glavine was control and finesse. Pitching to the game has its place. If Glavine was throwing more hittable pitches because he had a lead and gave up an extra run here and there to diminish his stats, but still won, that can't be held against him either.

The Schilling/Smoltz/Hershiser debate reminded me of another pitcher who was somewhat close to those three----David Cone. Cone won 194 games, a Cy Young Award and racked up the strikeouts, but like Hershiser has no shot at the Hall----nor should he. But you can't say Smoltz and Schilling were so much "better" and are "automatic" when David Cone wasn't that far from them in results.

With Schilling, I'd ignore the bloody sock stuff; just as I'd dismiss his polarizing personality. He was a great pitcher, but he's borderline for the Hall of Fame. Like Jim Bunning and probably Smoltz, he'll have to wait a bit to get in, but eventually will.

Mussina is a Hall of Famer. I don't see the argument against him.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

John Smoltz: Hall Of Famer Or Not?

  • John Smoltz may not be such an automatic after all:

With the Mets said to be seriously considering signing John Smoltz, I took a look at his numbers to try and gauge if he really had anything left to offer as a starter or reliever. Before anything else, having watched him pitch last year for both the Red Sox and Cardinals, I do think Smoltz still has the stuff to get big league hitters out even if his results were rotten (with the Red Sox); and so-so (with the Cardinals). It's unwise to count on him as anything more than an extra piece/leader-type who can add to the club on and off the field, but he's still got something to contribute.

This led to an examination of his overall numbers; which led to the Hall of Fame argument for John Smoltz.

It's long been said that all three of the Braves star pitchers of the late 90s are "automatic" Hall of Famers. Of course Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are first ballot inductees; but what of Smoltz? On the surface, he looks like a Hall of Famer because of his consistency; his brilliance as a starter and a reliever; and his flashy post-season performances; but overall, does he cut it? Is John Smoltz a Hall of Famer?

If Smoltz retired right now, his numbers would warrant him consideration, but are not----under any circumstances----guarantees of enshrinement. Smoltz won one Cy Young Award in 1996 with a 24-8 record. He finished fourth in 1998; third in 2002 as a closer; seventh in 2006 and sixth in 2007 as a starter again. Aside from that, he was never in the top ten in the voting. His career record is 213-155----impressive, but not as impressive as one would think considering the team he played for.

His other numbers are very, very good as well. A 3.33 ERA; 3,084 strikeouts; and solid performance and durability across the board; but is "solid" enough to warrant going into the Hall of Fame as easily as Smoltz is expected to?

What separates Smoltz from other iffy candidates in the eyes of many observers was his success as both a starter and reliever----he was a great closer----then went back into the starting rotation and pitched excellent ball. Adding his post-season brilliance into the mix and he looks even more like a Hall of Famer.

Smoltz has been one of the best clutch playoff pitchers in history. A 15-4 record and a reputation for sports-related heroism has lifted him into the conversation for the HOF in some circles as "automatic"; but it may not be as cut and dried as is implied. If you check on the above link to Smoltz's stats and scroll down to comparable pitchers and you see names that were just as good----if not better----and have almost no chance at the Hall of Fame.

If you had to choose between Orel Hershiser at the top of his game and John Smoltz, who would you take? Having watched Hershiser singlehandedly destroy the Mets and Athletics in the 1988 post-season and the work he did in other big games, I'd take Hershiser. (Speaking of Hershiser, I believe Smoltz could have a similar function for the 2010 Mets as Hershiser did for the 1999 Mets.)

What about Curt Schilling? Schilling's numbers are nearly identical to Smoltz's and Schilling is a debatable Hall of Famer; and don't forget that Schilling spent a third of his career pitching for a bad Phillies team while Smoltz was rolling along pitching for the Braves; and Schilling was in fact better than Smoltz in the playoffs. Curt Schilling is by no means a sure-bet Hall of Famer. So, why then should be John Smoltz?

All three pitchers----Smoltz, Hershiser and Schilling----came back from devastating injuries to regain their form and beyond. All three have cases for the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean the cases will yield a positive result for them in the final analysis.

There's no question that John Smoltz was a great pitcher and I haven't looked at his gamelogs in depth as I did with Bert Blyleven several weeks ago. I plan to do so on a slow newsday, but on the surface, his reputation as an "automatic" isn't as much of a formality as many seem to think it is. In fact, the same questioning tone that greets Schilling and Mike Mussina should apply to Smoltz. He's not getting in on the first ballot and, like Don Drysdale, may have to wait awhile to get in, if he gets in at all.

  • Orioles sign Miguel play third base:

For one year and $6 million, what's there to lose for the Orioles? They needed a third baseman; Tejada's a well-liked person on and off the field; and they got him short-term and cheaply.

Obviously, Tejada's not going to put up the PED-aided power numbers he did with the Athletics, but he can still hit; moving to third base will mask the steps he's lost defensively; and he'll help the Orioles.

The Orioles are going to be a very interesting team this year. Their lineup will score some runs and their bullpen will be solid; they're in a similar position as the Rays were in 2008 in which the improvements are clear, but no one can gauge how far and fast they can take the next step. The key is that young starting rotation. If they can stay competitive until June 1st, the young pitching behind Kevin Millwood will have gained enough confidence that they'll believe in themselves; that they can pitch in the big leagues; and if that happens, they could make a run at or around .500.

The AL East is hellish, but not as rough as it's been in recent years. The Blue Jays are reloading; the Rays are going to need a managerial change (so might the Orioles in fact); but the Red Sox are weakened as well. Keep an eye on the Orioles; they might be legit.

Andy MacPhail is thisclose to turning them around.

  • Maybe the Yankees should give Brett Gardner a shot:

Until Johnny Damon signs somewhere, his presence will be a hovering over the Yankees constantly. It's clear that they'll have him back under their terms, and those terms seem to be at a bargain basement price. Damon's pride will be wounded that it would be hard for him to accept a lowball offer even if it means he has to go to Oakland or Detroit or wherever rather than face the perception of crawling back to the Yankees although that's where he wants to be.

With that in mind, the Yankees are waiting for Damon's answer (so too, I would think, is baseball's version of a an active player/gossip columnist----Jerry Hairston Jr----so he can be a yenta and open his big mouth telling tales out of school) and are weighing their options that are said to include Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds. I've been under the impression that Brett Gardner doesn't hit enough to be a semi-regular, but after looking at his numbers in both the Majors and Minors, I'm changing my tune.

Defensively, Gardner is light years ahead of Damon. At the plate, he has no power but he can absolutely fly on the bases and did have a penchant for getting on base in the minors. If the Yankees bat him ninth, as the game wears on, it'll be like they have a second leadoff hitter. He even hit well enough against both righties and lefties that they could consider----consider----him as a semi-regular; I'm talking 400 at bats to see what they have; or at least give him the job until mid-season and make a move if they feel they need an upgrade such as David DeJesus from the Royals.

That Yankees lineup can carry him if he's mediocre, but judging from what he did last year and in the minors, Gardner might be able to handle the job on a full-time basis. I'd give him the chance.