Friday, October 30, 2009

Bad Baseball

Both WS games have been highly entertaining so far, but last night everyone suffered from a major case of terrible baseball.

1. Did everyone else in the world know when Pedro needed to be pulled? What are the odds that one of the only two guy who didn't manages the Phillies?

2. Derek Jeter bunting with 2 strikes, 2 men on and no one out in a World Series is the worst baseball play I have ever seen. Nice work Cap'n.

3. The umps screwed up twice in high leverage situations that could have cost either team the game, but we're used to that. What is getting me more upset is the basic calling of balls an strikes. Mariano Rivera struck out Ryan Howard last night on a called strike that was at least 5 inches off the plate. Only a half-blind idiot would have called that pitch a strike.

In the 8th inning of game one, Damaso Marte threw 5 pitches to Chase Utley. Utley did not swing at any of those 5 pitches, and was eventually called out on strikes on the 5th pitch. Fox Trax (Fox's version of Pitch F/X) showed all 5 pitches to be balls. (The 5th pitch was very close, however, at that point Utley should have already been standing on 1st base.) And really, the first 4 were not that close.

This is a problem with a solution. Pitch F/X can tell you almost instantaneously whether or not a ball was in the strike zone or not. Continuing to rely on umpires for this function is fucking Amish. It's ridiculous. We should at the very least offer hitters challenges, as they do in tennis. It would barely slow the game down at all. They could post the Pitch F/X replay up on the scoreboard and fans would love it. Umpires would hate it, but who cares? Maybe it would provide them with an incentive to not do such a shitty job.

I'd go a step further and have Pitch f/x call all of the balls and strikes. If you want to keep an umpire back there to make the "strike" signal and call plays at home plate, I'm fine with that, but there's no down side to turning this over to a computer.

Finally, if anyone tells me that they want umpires because they like "the human element" I will yell at this person very loudly. "The human element" is important in baseball, but it is provided by the players. The players are playing the game. They are supposed to provide all of the drama and heroics and whatnot. When an umpire introduces his own human element into the game, he diminishes the accomplishments of the players. Last night, Chase Utley's hustle was destroyed by an idiot who thought he was out. By arguing that you want to keep "the human element" you are arguing that you like mistakes. And no wonder.

If you have that opinion, you probably make a lot of them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ESPN Should Sue Deadspin

(Full disclosure: 2 years ago I wrote the Packer Season Preview for Deadpsin, in which I made a bunch of really bad predictions.)

Update: First read this, which includes this:

the Supreme Court ruled that in order for a public figure to recover for defamation they must be able to prove that the statement was made with "actual malice", i.e., a. a knowledge of falsity or b. a reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.

Yesterday Deadspin decided to publish a bunch of unsubstantiated rumors about the sexual practices of ESPN employees. This is not foreign territory for Deadspin, but when they’ve been sordid in the past they’ve at least done some vetting or sourcing, or hey, even some actual reporting. This was not the case yesterday, and frankly, their little series on ESPN was pretty despicable. In particular, they attacked a middle management type who does not appear in any public capacity for ESPN. Taking a shot at Eric Kuselias might be in bad taste, but at least he’s a public figure. Throwing around rumors about some poor woman in middle management is an entirely different matter.

Proving libel is difficult in America*, especially if the victim is a public figure (where you have to show that the offender knew that they were publishing false information), but in this case there is one non-public figure (I’m not going to write her name or a link. You can find it if you want, and I don’t need to make that any easier). Moreover, I think the public figures may even have a case based on this statement from AJ Daulerio:

“And since the tenuous connection between rumor and fact for accuracy's sake has been a little eroded here, well, it's probably about time to just unload the inbox of all the sordid rumors we've received over the years about various ESPN employees. Chances are, at this point, there's some truth to them.”

While this isn’t an admission that he knew this info was false, it’s pretty darn close. It at least shows that he did not care if it was true or not. In short, it looks like "reckless disregard" to me.

I suppose all of this dirt could be true, in which case Deadspin will remains safe, (despicable, but safe), and ESPN may not want to draw further attention to this situation. But this was a risky venture, and if any of it was false, AJ and Deadspin could be in deep trouble.

I certainly won’t be visiting Deadspin for awhile. I won’t say forever, as they may have Ken Tremendous and company back at some point, but I won’t be back soon.

AJ Daulerio should be ashamed of himself.

*I don’t do libel as part of my job, and the legal analysis here is based entirely on trying to remember law school, so take it with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

John Heyman Refuses To Vote For Prince Fielder Because of Manny Parra

You see, Prince wasn’t actually valuable:

“Milwaukee's Prince Fielder had a terrific statistical season (.299, 46 homers and 141 RBIs) and will likely make a vast majority of NL MVP ballots, but the "most valuable'' part of the equation is weighed heavily here, as I don't believe players on also-ran teams should win the award.”

A terrific statistical season. Not a terrific season, mind you. Just a terrific statistical season. Apparently he hit all of those HRs for show. He’s an artiste, this Fielder bloke. A true creative genius. We loved the shockwave. Sure, give the man a Tony, but the MVP? Feh. Let’s see him hit a few HRs that actually matter first. Like he did last year. Because they were in contention. Because their pitching was better. Which made Fielder more valuable even though his stats say he was less valuable. Or something.

Sure his statistics might be better this year, and he may have been responsible for the Brewers being in contention as long as they were, but…what was I saying again?

We’d better check out the rest of his ballot. Make sure he didn’t…

“2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Spectacular talent could have won Comeback Player. Playoff failures don't count.”

Oooohhh no. He did. I know VORP isn’t everything but Troy is 7th in it. And I know that by all accounts Tulo plays some stellar defense, but really? Did you know that Tulo was caught stealing in over 1/3 of his stolen base attempts (20/31)? He’s a good player, but Hanley Ramirez’s offense was 20 runs better than Troy’s. I guess this isn’t the most ridiculous vote I’ve ever seen, but…

“4. Andre Ethier, Dodgers: Six walk-off hits led league.”

Let’s see…(scanning VORP top 20 for Andre Ethier’s name)

Hmmm. I can’t seem to find it. Matt Kemp is there at 12. Let’s expand it to 22, maybe he just barely missed the cut…nope, there’s Manny Ramirez though. Huh. Manny out-VORPED Ethier even though he had 250 fewer plate appearances and VORP is a counting stat.

Ah. There’s Andre, at 23. 3rd highest VORP in his outfield. But hey, he was super clutch, right, I mean…

Hardball Times Clutch Rating (Not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got):

Ethier – (-6.8)
Matt Kemp - (-2.3)
Manny Ramirez – (-2.2)

Oh. So he was only clutch in really high profile situations that everyone noticed, but not really in general. At all. And while good defensively (at least I think so, though his OOZ wasn’t as good as Kemp’s, whatever that means. I mean, I don’t always understand all these things, I just look them up on the internet to see which number is higher. Ethier has a higher RZR).

But the third best offensive outfielder in his outfield is the 4th best player in his league. This may be the most ridiculous vote I’ve seen.

“NL LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Milton Bradley, Cubs: Alfonso Soriano (20 HRs, 55 RBIs, .241) and Geovany Soto (positive test for pot, .218 batting average) were dreadful, as well. But Bradley was asked to leave the team for the final two weeks. Tough to top that.”

Milton Bradley is a malcontent who lost all of his power for some reason, but here is a list of prominent Cub players who put up lower VORPS:

Milton – 9.1
Geo Soto – 3.2
Soriano – 2.2
Micah Hoffpauir - -.02
Mike Fontenot - -.20

Many pitchers did as well, though I don’t know how well Pitcher VORP compares to player VORP, so we’ll leave that out.

Let’s do OPS+ just for kicks:

Milton – 101 (Hey! Average!)
Soto – 81
Fontenot – 74
Theriot – 84
Soriano – 85
Hoffpauir – 85
Fox – 98

Sure, Milton wasn’t great, and I’m sure he wasn’t a clubhouse guy, but he was hardly the worst player on the Cubs, let alone the league.

Finally, this one just ticks me off:

“3. Ryan Howard, Phillies: May actually be underrated.”

There is no reasonable way to conclude that Ryan Howard is more valuable than Prince Fielder. There just isn’t. They’re both sub-standard defensively, and in this instance defense isn’t really worth considering, because Prince is so much more valuable than Howard that Howard would have to turn into Ozzie Smith to make up the difference.

Prince hit more HRs. Prince hit for a higher average. Prince had a higher OBP (.412 to .360, not even close). Prince had 35 more walks. Prince had a higher OPS+. Prince struck out 50 fewer times. Prince had a VORP of 70.3. Howard had a VORP of 47.7. (Chase Utley, by the way, had a VORP of 61.7, and plays a tougher position. Howard wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team. Heyman has Utley at 9th). Prince did not turn into Jason Kendall against lefties (.292/.359/.584/.943 for Fielder, .207/.298/.356/.653 for Howard, .241/.331/.305/.636 for Jason Kendall, just so you know I’m not kidding,)

Prince did not become less valuable just because the Brewers replaced CC Sabathia with Braden fucking Looper. If anything he got MORE valuable. Without him, they’re not in contention at any point this season. The Brewers were in the race for a long time, largely because of Fielder. Holding individual baseball players accountable for a team's record is idiotic. It’s completely nonsensical. If you swapped Howard and Fielder at the beginning of the year, the Phillies would have won their division by even more, while the Brewers would have been eliminated earlier, seen lower attendance, and possibly traded off a bunch of the team at the deadline. This is because Fielder is a better, more valuable player than Howard.

That is what valuable means. If player A plays just well enough to make his team filled with awesome players good enough to get into the playoffs, while player B puts up better numbers but plays on a team that is so bad that it would have taken 93 HRs, 342 RBIs and a VORP of 884 to get them into the playoffs, player A is not more valuable than player B.

And Ryan Howard is NOT underrated. That’s right, I used all caps. People fawn over Ryan Howard like he’s Albert Pujols. One time, in 2006, sports writers voted for him like he was Albert Pujols even though he’s wayyyyy worse than Albert Pujols. Howard gets at least as much respect as he deserves, and probably a whole lot more.

Someone needs to take away Jon Heyman’s voting rights. Not just his MVP voting rights, his American Democracy voting rights too. If this is the level of thought you put into baseball, what are the odds you get life right?

Andre Ethier?...Good lord…

(H/T, BCB)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Someone Tell The Rockies That Ryan Howard Can't Hit Lefties.

Good lord. This isn't rocket science, it's baseball. Here's Joe Sheehan:

Ryan Howard is the best left-handed batter in baseball against right-handed pitching. There is no one better than him, no one. He hits for average (.319 in 2009, with a .339 BABIP) and power (.372 ISO, with an extra-base hit every six at-bats) and posts an acceptable walk rate (about one UIBB in ten PA) for a very good OBP of .395. The specifics have bounced around a bit from year to year, but his 2009 numbers against northpaws are a good match for his career numbers: .307/.409/.661, .338 BABIP, about a 10 percent UIBB rate. The only hitter you might prefer at the plate with a right-handed pitcher on the mound in Albert Pujols, although the 2009 version of Joe Mauer is in the discussion as well. Howard is simply a devastating force against righties, one of very best in memory at hitting them.

When a left-hander is pitching, Howard is a bad hitter. In 2009, he batted .207 with a .299 BABIP, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. He had an ISO of just .149 and inferior walk and extra-base hit rates. It was the worst full-season performance of his career against left-handers, but not that out of line with his 2007 and 2008 lines. (In 2006, Howard posted a .368 BABIP against lefties, which boosted his overall line against them to .279/.364/.558. That stands out as a fluke.) For the three-year period covering 763 plate appearances, Howard has batted .219/.308/.379. Whereas his comps are singular—Albert Pujols—when a righty is on the mound, it's a different story when a lefty pitches. In terms of his overall effectiveness against lefties, he hits a bit like Pedro Feliz and Cristian Guzman did this year, or Jack Wilson before his trade to the AL.

At around 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time last night, Jim Tracy needed one out to get his team a second win in the Division Series, to push them to a deciding fifth game. He had Albert Pujols, more or less, at the plate, and he had the option to turn Pujols into Pedro Feliz just by walking to the mound and tapping his left arm. With one move, he could have dramatically increased his team's chance of getting an out, winning the game, flying back to Philadelphia on the heels of a dramatic comeback victory.

And as we know, he didn't do it. Jim Tracy chose to face a batter with an 1100 OPS instead of one with a 700 OPS. That, more than anything else that happened, is why the Rockies lost.

Quick MLB Note

The officiating in the MLB playoffs so far has been embarrassing.

That is all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prediction: A Wisconsin Win

I'm not sure why I think Wisconsin will be able to defeat Ohio State in Ohio when they are more than two-touchdown underdogs. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in Jim Tressel's lousy coaching. (After all, it's not like Bret Bielema is the greatest x's and o's guy either). Maybe it's because they're starting QB can't pass and ours can. (Even though a running QB can be enough to win in college). Maybe I think our balanced offense can score on their excellent defense.

The thought that keeps popping up (and has no basis in reality at all, really) is that OSU will not be ready for a Wisconsin team that can pass. I don't think they'll buy it until they see it, and by then it will be too late.

I'll probably be wrong. OSU may just overwhelm Wisconsin with superior talent. Happens all the time in the Big Ten. I just don't see it this time for some reason.

Wisconsin 17, OSU 10.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fun With TD

Or, The Myth Of Brett Favre's Heroic 2007 Comeback Victories

TD (in the comments here) thinks that Aaron Rodgers would not have been able to come from behind in a few games in 2007. Specifically the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, Broncos games. I beg to differ. Let’s take a look. (This was too long for a comment.)

Brett Favre v. Eagles, Week 1, 2007

23/42, 206 yards, 0 TDs, 1 pick.

Packers win the game on this play:

(1:09) 9-J.Ryan punts 29 yards to PHI 31, Center-60-R.Davis. 30-J.Reed MUFFS catch, RECOVERED by GB-24-J.Bush at PHI 31. 24-J.Bush to PHI 31 for no gain (87-B.Celek).

They then run 3 times to set up a Mason Crosby FG.

On the Drive before that with the game tied, Captain Comeback had the following thing happen to him:

(4:26) 4-B.Favre sacked at GB 43 for -9 yards (58-T.Cole). FUMBLES (58-T.Cole), RECOVERED by PHI-93-J.Kearse at GB 38. 93-J.Kearse to GB 38 for no gain (76-C.Clifton).

Now that's clutch right there.

Brett Favre v. Giants, Week 2, 2007

29/38, 3TDs 1 INT

This isn’t a come from behind victory. The Pack was up 14-13 entering the 4th quarter. As frequent commenter and Giants fan Jon will tell you, much of the Giant defense was hurt in this game and the late outpouring of offense by the Packers was unsurprising. The Giants also had 3 people take snaps at QB, and I assume Eli was dinged for part of it. A nice game from Favre, but against this Giant team, not all that impressive. If he’d done this against them the second time, that would have been pretty cool.

Favre v. Washington Redskins, Week 6, 2007

19/37, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

The Packers overcome a terrible game from Favre on this play in the Third Quarter:

(2:21) 89-S.Moss left end to GB 43 for no gain (99-C.Williams). FUMBLES (99-C.Williams), RECOVERED by GB-21-C.Woodson at GB 43. 21-C.Woodson for 57 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Charles would add a second fumble recovery later to ice the game. Favre would let the Skins back into the game several times, but ultimately Woodson saved the say.

Favre v. Broncos, Week 8, 2007

21/27, 331, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

Numbers in Regulation:

20/26, 249 Yards, 1 TD

Brett made a great 85 yard TD pass on the first play of overtime to nail down the win. Great! Heroic! Fantastic! Uhm, one question…why were they in overtime with only 13 points scored in regulation?

Perhaps it was clutch play like this in the 4th quarter:

• 1-10-GB 45 (15:00) 25-R.Grant left tackle to GB 49 for 4 yards (97-S.Rice; 55-D.Williams).
• 2-6-GB 49 (14:14) PENALTY on GB-4-B.Favre, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at GB 49 - No Play.
• 2-11-GB 44 (13:53) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre pass short left to 25-R.Grant to DEN 48 for 8 yards (52-I.Gold; 32-D.Bly).
• 3-3-DEN 48 (13:15) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre sacked at GB 46 for -6 yards. FUMBLES, and recovers at GB 46. 4-B.Favre to GB 46 for no gain (92-E.Dumervil).
• 4-9-GB 46 (12:46) 9-J.Ryan punts 54 yards to end zone, Center-60-R.Davis, Touchback.

It was, in fact Denver and Jay Cutler who marched the length of the field (starting from their own 7) on the last drive of regulation to tie the game at 13 on a late Elam FG, after a Packer drive stalled on a dropped pass from James Jones. I hate when that happens.

Aside from the 82 yard TD pass to Jennings in OT, and an earlier 79 yard pass to Jones, Favre was 19/25 for 170 yards, or under 10 yards per completion. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good game overall (you can't just discount those completions), it was just a very boom and bust game in which Favre did as much to lose the game as win it.

The Packers caught a lot of breaks that year and often won games in spite of, and not because of, their aged QB. I still maintain that given the same luck, Rodgers would have had basically the same season.

Morning after...not so bad

Offensive line is pathetic and while the 3-4 may be good in the long run, it's made Kampmann completely and utterly mediocre. He doesn't like the 3-4 and he plays like it. The dude needs to be traded in the offseason, hopefully teams will remember his dominance as a DE.

Woodson was in the paper politely bitching about Capers play calling. Again, 100% agree. How the Packers didn't get a single sack is beyond me. We were rushing three and the Queens were able to get wide open in the first half. Why not adjust in the second half and bring some God damn pressure from the edge? I know the safeties suck but is leaving them out there for 7.4 seconds really better than leaving them on an island?

If Aaron Rodgers had a mediocre offensive line he would be a top 5 QB. If he had a good offensive line he would be Drew Brees. The Packers skill players (outside of the safeties and RB) and elite. Finley is showing himself to be an insanely good draft pick and everyone knows how good Driver and Jennings are. Despite the absurd pressure last night Aaron Rodgers played excellently. One poor throw all night, pretty much. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot he could do on the fumble, and the safety he was trying to make a play down two scores knowing his defense was playing like shit.

All in all it wasn't as thoroughly a discouraging performance as I felt it was last night. No one expected the Packers to win, least of all me, and after getting thoroughly dominated the Packers were right there.

Weird how no one (I assume, since I'm not turning on ESPN ever and NFLN til Friday) is talking about how huge that Donald Lee dropped touchdown turned out to be.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Fix is In

This game is unwinnable. Tracker is right. NFL is the new NBA is the new WWE.

Rodgers is the best QB on MNF Open Thread

Jack Parkman

For old times sakes, I figure we'll all have a lot to say during this one. Personally Favre doesn't scare me at all. If the Vikings win it will be thanks to AP and Jared Allen, not so much Favre. Although, no matter what happens ESPN will give it Favreite celebrity AARP rep the game ball.

I just wish the damn game would start already.

I Am Very Pessimistic

I am not high on the Packers' chances tonight. It's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where Jared Allen isn't in the backfield all night. It's also hard to envision Ryan Grant averaging more than about 1.2 yards per carry. I'll be fairly happy if Rodgers doesn't get hurt.

I don't think it's hopeless as there is always the possibility of a Favre meltdown, but I don't think he'll have to throw much.

Fortunately I'm usually wrong.