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.


Joe said...

I know that you were quoting the movie. I haven't seen it in years, but I do remember the notorious first line.

Second, PECOTA is a tool, nothing more. It is an attempt at *something* not an attempt at *everything*

Third, something that I have noticed, is that the RIGHT statistics along with subjective analysis is the best way to approach the game of baseball. SO for example, if YOU took the time to understand things such as 'WAR' and wOBA, then you could use them, when needed or desired, rather than simply dismissing them most of the time. The point is, we all use statistics to some extent. Why not use the ones that are more accurate? Stats that take into account most facets of the game (WAR).

She-Fan said...

I agree that the Mets did not need a wholesale make-over. They had really good players who got injured last year. Lots of overreaction going on.

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