Thursday, October 7, 2010

Retrospective Critiques

  • Savagery from the gallery:

You can find a lustful recap of Roy Halladay's masterpiece anywhere. There's nothing to say other than he's pitching on a level that would get him called up to a higher league if there were such a thing. He certainly showed anyone who wondered how he'd react to a playoff start----me included----that it makes no difference to him one way or the other.

He's relishing the attention; reveling in his first chance to pitch for a team with a legitimate championship shot; and telling the world that the Quiet Gunslinger has prideful swagger to prove his overall legitimacy.

His ticket to greatness is punched.

What I want to talk about is reaction certain factions exhibited during and after the fact. Of course there were the self-loathing Mets fans who will not stop complaining about the Phillies, Halladay and their own team. It's impossible to help someone who doesn't know what they want. I sense a bit of secondary benefit from the fan base in relation to the Mets' struggles. If they were on top, there'd be nothing to complain about.

They wanted Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel out; they want the team to go after someone from outside the organization to "clean" things up; for ownership to conduct an interview process and aim high in looking for a replacement----the club is doing all of that and the whining won't stop.

Then there are the Yankee fans wondering why Halladay isn't in pinstripes; Red Sox fans speculating on where they'd be with Halladay rather than John Lackey; anyone and everyone lamenting the unquantifiable "what might have been".

It's absurd.

Mets fans who wanted Halladay should understand the following: Roy Halladay did not want to go to the Mets!

Halladay preferred the Phillies above any and all other teams. If he had a choice between staying in Toronto for another year and waiting for free agency or going to a place where he didn't want to pitch, he would've stayed in Toronto. Would Halladay have accepted a deal to a club other than the Phillies? Probably. By my estimation and based on what he wanted----to be with a contender and/or near his off-season home in Florida for spring training----in addition to the Phillies, he would've gone to the Marlins; Rays; Cardinals; Dodgers; Rockies (he's from Colorado); Yankees; and Red Sox. That's pretty much it. Regardless of what the Mets offered, he wasn't going to accept a trade to Queens.

Yankee fans are attacking Joba Chamberlain as the club resisted the Blue Jays request that he be the centerpiece of a proposed deal for Halladay. Chamberlain hasn't lived up to expectations; nor has he repeated his explosive debut in 2007, but that's not entirely his fault. The Yankees have relentlessly jerked him between the starting rotation and the bullpen; mucked around with the "Joba Rules" and stunted his development.

It appeared at the time that the Yankees and Red Sox would've taken Halladay----gladly----but weren't agreeable to gutting their systems to do it and signing Halladay to what amounted to being a free agent contract. It's dually rare that a team making such a deal gets the true value from such a move. The Mets essentially gave up nothing to get Johan Santana and signed him to a massive contract to stay. Teams are shying away from trades such as this.

While both the Yankees and Red Sox had a taste for Halladay, they were more interested in keeping him away from one another and getting him out of the league entirely----similar to what happened with Santana----and they did.

Would the Yankees have been better this season with Halladay? Would the Red Sox? These are stupid questions. But both teams were contenders; both held onto their prospects; and kept their ledger free of that $100 million it was expected to take to sign Halladay.*

*Speaking of the Halladay contract, it definitely looks as if he sold himself short in negotiating with the Phillies to get out of Toronto. Accepting a guaranteed extension (after his current contract that he had with the Blue Jays runs out) of $60 million through 2013 with a $20 million option for 2014 is far less than he'd have gotten on the open market if he wanted it.

The Yankees were looking at defending their title with what they already had and hoping that Javier Vazquez would deliver in his free agent year. Putting aside the mental aspect as to why it was a bad idea to bring back Vazquez, in theory it wasn't a huge error in judgment----it didn't work. The Red Sox chose to sign Lackey and work to extend Josh Beckett----again, to dubious results.

But were they "mistakes"?

The Yankees hoped to win this year with what they had plus Vazquez, then go hard after Cliff Lee without giving up any prospects; the Red Sox preferred cost certainty and their present depth.

Did the Yankees and Red Sox make a mistake? It's easy to look at the year Halladay's had and say yes, but we won't know until we know; and that's years away. Anything's possible. Because he is the probable National League Cy Young Award winner and even pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs, the reactionary response is to criticize teams that passed on him by choice or due to circumstance.

There is no smoking gun to indict any team that didn't get Halladay because they all had various reasons to back away from it. In fact, the only smoking gun present comes from the Quiet Gunslinger himself----Roy Halladay----because he just pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs.

  • Viewer Mail 10.7.2010:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE my MVP picks:

No love for José Bautista? I think he'll get mentioned in the ballot, at least.

It gets dicey when you stop at a top five. I'd have given Bautista his props at around #6 if I went a bit further. His amazing accomplishment deserves recognition even though his team's finish doesn't warrant the overall MVP.

Kyle Johnson writes RE my MVP picks:

I was surprised to see Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies snubbed in your MVP Award rankings. He put that team on his back for much of the season and even got them to within a game of first mid september. Even if he did fall off the face of he planet in the final two weeks I still feel as if he deserves a lot more recognition than he is getting.

This was a horrific gack on my part that was remedied as soon as I got Kyle's comment. Carlos Gonzalez belongs----at least----third in the NL MVP balloting; he and Pujols are so close that you could interchange them between second and third and even make a case for all three (along with my winner, Joey Votto) to win.

It brings up an interesting point----how many times does a voter forget someone, leave him off entirely, and cost a player the award? If I had a vote, I would send my ballot to one or two people I respected to see what they thought before submitting it; it's unlikely that I'd alter my tally, but I might have missed someone deserving as I did yesterday. I fixed it, but these are my personal award winners; what happens if a voter forgets Gonzalez and costs him the award because of it?

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

You're still talking about Ichiro??????????????????


Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE my MVP picks and Josh Hamilton:

I think Hamilton will get the MVP.

And in recognizing such, I would like to set the odds that the trophy might some day be hocked off for drug money at 20-1.

For now. Odds subject to change, of course.


It's going to be fascinating what the Rangers do with Hamilton's contract. Considering the Francisco Rodriguez vs the Mets situation; Hamilton's history; and that a hard core Texas conservative like Nolan Ryan is running the Rangers' show, I would think there are going to be specific, contract-nullifiers that would be in place to protect the team if Hamilton relapses. Would Hamilton and his representatives accept such provisions if the team approached him about a long-term, arbitration and free agency-avoiding extension?

This, to me, would be non-negotiable.

MacW writes RE the Ichiro debate:

Prince, I've thought about what Brooklyn Trolley said about playing nice, and I'm probably as responsible as anyone for things getting chippy in our exchange. Let me tell you where I'm coming from. I'm a stat head, I've read everything Bill James has written and regularly visit sights like I'm also an Ichiro fan, and yes I did not take some of your criticism well. The thing is, Bill James' exhaustive study about the effects of aging on player production has given me a tragic perspective on the inevitably of player decline. I've seen it with all my favorite players in varying degrees, from Willie Mays to Wade Boggs. I know that a player's peak years happen between 24 and 30, then sometime in their early thirties to mid thirties their production begins to decline. As an Ichiro fan, then, I keep my fingers crossed that this isn't the year that he begins his march to oblivion. I'm just hoping he can maintain his productivity, forget about hitting 25 or 30 homers. I'm hoping that he follows the career path of Sam Rice rather than Rogers Hornsby, or Pete Rose rather than Dick Allen or Joe Morgan. I find it incredible then, to even consider the possiblity that he could suddenly begin hitting 25 home runs a year. As a stat head, I know that this kind of thing just never happens. I like your blog, and I hope to keep things cordial between us in the future.

MacW is referring to his back-and-forth with my Brooklyn Capo (doin' work!!) on the Blogspot comment site----you can read it here.

The most common misconception about me when I rail against Moneyball and try to put stats into their applicable place is that I'm anti-stat.

I am not anti-stat.

My issue with the stat zombies isn't that they so fervently defend their chosen beliefs. I respect that. My issue is the agenda-driven types who callously twist the numbers to fit into their desired template. When I work so hard in watching baseball; coming to conclusions based on everything I see and know, and someone comes at me with condescension and dismissive arrogance (not that MacW did that, because he didn't), I lose my temper. For a fool to suggest that, based on numbers, switch-hitter and future Hall of Famer Jorge Posada should bat right-handed against a right-handed pitcher; or that then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy should've batted pitcher Woody Williams second in the lineup, it's not a simple matter of strategic disagreement; nor is it a matter of deploying personnel in their best possible way for success----it's idiocy. It's a lack of understanding of anything other than what pops out of a computer.

This is not analysis.

I'd rather be a bad writer than a dishonest one. At the very least, you know what you're getting with me. It's not personal; it's not written with a goal in mind aside from presenting the truth as I see it.

And I actually listen to the other side's argument.

When a hard core stat zombie continually suggests Paul DePodesta as a GM without accurately appraising his disastrous tenure as Dodgers' GM; caveats his mistakes; promotes him based on "intelligence" without stating the obvious----that he was a terrible GM----it makes me angry.

When the bible of many of the late-coming experts----Moneyball----is treated as a sacrosanct text, it's conveniently glossed over that it's a piece of propaganda disguised as objective analysis. If you read the book now, Billy Beane looks like an awful human being with designs on achieving a fame and wealth that was unavailable to GMs in prior days and doesn't care about the people he steamrolls to achieve those ends.

Is the portrayal accurate on the positive or negative side? Probably not. But he and the stat zombies absolutely took advantage of the heady, post-Moneyball days to advance their case. Mostly, it's inaccurate in the grand scheme.

Regarding Ichiro, we've missed connection somewhere. You're not grasping my overall point. It's not that Ichiro is going to suddenly and with a bolt from the blue find this mystical power to hit more homers. My argument is that he could've been hitting more homers all along. Mike (The Trolley Blogger) is right----you're clinging to the number 30 as if it's the final arbiter in my point-of-view.

Ichiro could have been hitting more homers all along. It's not some new discovery that he could----if he chose to----alter his approach to hit more homers. When he arrived in North America in 2001, he didn't need to. In a lineup with Mike Cameron; Edgar Martinez; Bret Boone; and John Olerud, he was not needed to do any more than what he did! He got on base; stole bases; scored runs; played fantastic defense; and hit for occasional pop. The team won 116 games.

In subsequent years, as the Mariners came apart, he maintained that strategy of singles, singles, singles. It became a circular entity. He collected hits----mostly of the slap variety----to accumulate hit totals when he should've adjusted his approach to hit for more power based on team needs.

Your mistake is scouring baseball history for a precedent of a player not doing something he could do, but didn't; such a thing doesn't and couldn't exist.

I understand and disagree with your assessment, but I would hope we can come to a greater understanding of where the other is coming from.

I was a guest with Sal at Sportsfan Buzz Monday talking about the post-season; the firings; and Ichiro. Click to listen directly here. Or at Sal's site here and get it on I-Tunes.


Gabriel said...

In professional sports, whenever a teams gets "the best" player available, there are a number of teams whose fanbase complains about not getting that player. It always happens, it will always happen, because anything is an excuse to complain about your team if it's not doing well, didn't qualify for the playoffs or does not look strong enough to ensure a championship.

Roy Halladay, you just bought your one-way trip to Cooperstown.

Jeff said...

I forgot about the Yanks labeling Joba as a "can't touch" player. Man, must leave a bitter taste.

I wonder if the Phillies miss Kyle Drabek at all.

Wait, Kyle who?

I expect the Liberty Bell to be replaced by a ginormous bronze bust of Roy Halladay. Soon.

Macw said...

Thanks for clarifying your position about Ichiro and stats. Here's my defense of the sabermetric viewpoint. A sabermatrician does not put much stock in the grand pronouncements of players, coaches, or pundits, they don't respect tradition for the sake of tradition, and they are suspicious of unsupported opinion and conventional wisdom. Rather than twisting stats to fit a preconcieved notion, their rigid adherence to methodology spares them from the vagaries of personal opinion, bias, partisanship, and assumption. (If they are twisting stats to press an agenda then they are not truly following the discipline of statistical analysis.) Ultimately this discipline offers a more objective and accurate evaluation of a player. A sabermatrician will read Jay Johnstone's story about how he took advice from Ted Williams to learn how to drive the ball, but rather than simply taking his word for it he will turn to Johnstone's career stats and find that it is impossible to locate where Jay began to take Williams advice, or whether he even took it at all. He will hear Willie Wilson complain after his career that Herzog hindered him from becoming a real hitter, something he could only accomplish under the tutelage of Lee May, but he won't take Wilson's word for it, he'd rather look at Wilson's stats to see if this is true. If Ichiro himself went up to Bill James and said that he was going to hit 30 homers next year, Bill would take it with a grain of salt or maybe dismiss it altogether, because his experience shows that Ichiro's own statistical history and the history of players like him have more predictive value. Now it may be true that as you say Ichiro always had the ability to hit for power but neglected to cultivate the skill(remember that his hitting coach Gerald Perry encouraged him to hit ground balls), but from a sabermetric point of view the idea that he can now begin to use this dormant skill at this stage of his career is essentially groundless (there is no evidence to support it), and that if the enterprise were undertaken it would almost certainly be doomed to failure. So now, perhaps you can understand my annoyance (sorry) when you wouldn't budge from your position. I hope you don't dismiss me as a hopeless stat zombie, but I can't, as Brooklyn Trolley has done, drink the Kool Aid (believe me, I would love to see Ichiro hit for more power). I listened to your podcast and found you inciteful, even if I disagree with your assessment of Ichiro.

Joe said...

I myself am not wondering where the Red Sox would be with Halladay, rather than Lackey. Lackey didn't cost prospects, so I understand why they went the direction they did. Not to mention, Halladay might not have made up the difference between a playoff spot and sitting on the outside anyway.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

(MacW, Prince) Handled like Gentlemen. There's nothing wrong with being passionate about Baseball. BEER MAN! Over here! Three please.

Halladay ~ Incredible is all I can say. Two no-no's in the same year; A no-no in his first ever playoff start? Sick. Now the real fun starts. It's time for every one's number two guy to step it up.

Grady Little must look at Charlie Manuel and think, "Where did I go wrong?"