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.


She-Fan said...

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

Becca said...

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.

Also, some notable total WAR all time:
8. Greg Maddux (96.8)
12. Randy Johnson (91.8)
13. Bert Blyleven (90.1)
23. Pedro Martinez (75.9)
24. Mike Mussina (74.8)
28. Curt Schilling (69.7)
29. Tom Glavine (67.0)
34. Kevin Brown (64.8)
38. John Smoltz (63.9)
47. David Cone (57.5)
70. Orel Hershiser (51.5)
76. Mariano Rivera (49.9) (WAR really values, for obvious reasons, IP. That probably explains why Smoltz is so "low." For a guy that's been a relief pitcher more or less his entire career to be this high on the list is really, really impressive. Dennis Eckersley is #46, but Eckersley was a starter for a bunch of years.)

Jeff said...

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.

Becca said...

Heh, Jeff, my mom went to the HOF and saw the sock and was complaining about the fact that the blood on it was still red. If it was real blood, it probably would have faded to brown by now.

I hate the guy. Defending him makes me feel gross. (shudder)

Gabriel said...

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.