Thursday, January 28, 2010

PECOTA Hates The Brewers

It has the Brewers finishing 5th despite scoring the most runs in the division.

It really, truly hates our pitching.

PECOTA Weighted Means are out.

If you're a subscriber, you can get them here.

I Hate Jim Edmonds

Really?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ten Years of Mike and Mike? Really? That’s the best you could do?

Since there’s no football game this weekend and ESPN can’t be bothered to care about college basketball, or any NBA basketball that doesn’t feature Kobe or Lebron, or hockey, they’re dedicating this week to a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Mike and Mike in the Morning, which is only appropriate. You see, Mike and Mike are the most annoying, self-centered, navel-gazing radio showsters in the history of the medium. I grant you that they suck in myriad other capacities as well, but the average hour of Mike and Mike breaks down like this:

75% - Commercials. These are, ironically, the most entertaining part of any Mike and Mike show, especially if you live in Chicago. My two favorites?

1. Scott Peterson Meats – This is an ad for a butcher shop. You’ve probably already noticed that the proprietor of this butcher shop has the same name as a guy who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Laci Peterson a few years back, and currently sits on Death Row in San Quentin. There is also a high-profile suspected murderer in the Chicago area named Drew Peterson, a former police officer who probably killed his 3rd and 4th wives. The commercial for the butcher shop is very sweet and sentimental, and attempts to make you nostalgic for Scott Peterson Meats, which has apparently been around for some time. Perhaps this would have worked for Scott Peterson the used car salesman, or Scott Peterson the tax preparer. Scott Peterson the butcher should probably change either his name or his profession.

2. Kars 4 Kids – Certainly on the short list for most irritating commercials of all time, the Kars 4 Kids ad starts with a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old based on the voice, singing an annoying song. Then, the kid stops singing, and some dude sings the same verse. This is where it gets vaguely creepy. First of all, at no point during the Kars 4 Kids add do they specify exactly how donating your kar will help kids. They do not specify if the kids they are trying to help suffer from some sort of malady. All they tell you is that they are a “recognized 501(c)3 organization” and can get you a “maximum tax deduction” and a “free vacation voucher”. It’s almost as if some cynical bastard decided to see if suckers would donate money “for the children” even if you never told them anything other than it was for the children.

But let’s get back to the male singer. This guy isn’t quite right. His singing is overly earnest, like he’s trying out to be a children’s TV show host, but he’s not a good singer. He has trouble hitting a few notes and his timing is off. He also sounds like he’s enjoying himself a little too much. I think he’s probably a pedophile, just like Brad Childress. In fact, I think he set up the whole charity himself just so people would trust him around children.

“What do you do?”
“I run a charity for children. We’re a recognized 501(c)3 organization!”
“Oh, how noble! This is my son Jimmy. Maybe the two of you would like to sing together?”

And so on.

The third verse is a duet of the kid and the creepy adult. It totally has a weird vibe. Maybe I’ve spent too much time thinking about this, but that’s what Mike and Mike do to your brain. Incidentally, I’ve mentioned this ad to other people I know and they agree with the pedophile theory, so it isn’t just me.

22% - Mike or Mike talking about how humble/honored they are to be included in something vaguely sports related, or possibly entertainment related. Examples include being on Letterman, attending a stupid awards show, meeting some celebrity, meeting a politician, meeting the Jonas Brothers, going to a movie premiere, or simply being on-site somewhere that isn’t Bristol.

Generic Example:

Greenberg – And who walks in but (marginally famous person) and (marginally famous person) just couldn’t have been nicer. Just a class act, I mean you hear about so many celebrities being (some kind of unapproachable), but (marginally famous celebrity) just seems like a regular guy.

Golic – You know he really does. And we couldn’t have been more proud to be at (somewhere sort of impressive) this weekend. Greeny of course (describes something unmanly/embarrassing that Greenberg did), but still, an honor.

Greenberg – (Acts proud of wussy/embarrassing behavior)

Me – zzzzzzzz Ah! I’m driving!

1% - Talking about how some pitcher doesn’t have enough wins.

.5% - talking about how some quarterback hasn’t won enough Super Bowls

.5% - Talking about the Jets.

Greenberg is a fan of the Jets and Yankees, which just adds to his whiny, annoying nature. During football season the Mikes “cover” the Jets about 100,000 times more than they “cover” every other team. As the Jets are generally pretty bad, this isn’t the best strategy for entertaining morning radio. There are also brief spells where Golic discusses Notre Dame, but he’s embarrassed enough that this has basically stopped.

.25% - Badly conceived song parodies/comedy skits, poorly edited and poorly performed by fake British interns.

Here are some bad things about the average Mike and Mike song parody:

1. The two guys who perform the parodies can’t sing. At all. It’s like listening to myself sing, and I can do that at home.

2. A “parody” should attempt to display the absurdity of the subject of the parody through careful, clever, one-off referential humor, or through use of reductio ad absurdum. What we get from Mike and Mike is a popular song with different words that almost, but don’t quite fit, and have nothing to do with the chosen song. You know that movie series of “Date Movie” and “Disaster Movie” and all the other “X Movies”? They’re not really parodies, they just throw a bunch of pop culture at you and you’re supposed to think it’s funny simply because it’s there. Mike and Mike parodies are the functional equivalent of those movies.

3. They tend to be fairly long, which can eat into entertaining commercial time.

4. Example – Tim Kurkjian’s intro music. It’s to the tune of “Like a Virgin,” for no other reason than Kurkjian almost rhymes with Virgin. Topical too.

.1% - Effusively praising said horrible song parody/comedy skit.

.1% - Discussing the nicknames of their staff. These brilliant nicknames include “Liam and Joaquin”, the aforementioned fake British interns, “Stats”, who does not appear to actually know anything about stats as is evidenced by his participation in the show, and someone called “The Gnome” who is apparently quite short and it’s OK to make fun of short people, as we all know.

.1% - Dick Vitale screaming “stock-up stock-down” over and over and over.

.1% - Mike Ditka sounding like the dumbest person in the world.

.1% - Peter Gammons getting one step closer to leaving ESPN.

.1% - Chris Mortenson reporting something that Jay Glazer found out.

.1% - Mark Schlereth talking about his job on a soap opera.

.5% - Greenberg’s terrible, awful, moronic pre-commercial teases. Examples:

1. Coming up, one of the greatest players in NFL history is actually a horse. We’ll talk about that, plus Peter Gammons, when we come back.

2. Coming up, Lebron James can never wear socks again. We’ll tell you why after Sportscenter.

3. Coming up after the break, a certain NFL coach has something in common with Bing Crosby. We’ll tell you what in one minute.

4. Coming up, two famous baseball players both suffer from diphtheria. We’ll tell you about it in one.

There are some minor exceptions to this format. On Friday the Mikes spend some time screaming bad football predictions at you while a poorly produced comedy sketch plays too loudly in the background. During March Madness they spend all of the non-commercial time discussing which 3 #1 seeds and 1 #2 seed they will put in the final four on their brackets. This goes on for about 2 months. There are brief moments when Golic will excuse someone’s steroid use. Other than that, they stick to the format.

Ten years of that. And this show is apparently quite popular. They simulcast it on ESPN 2, because the only thing more boring than listening to them is watching them. But the existence, and popularity, and terribleness of Mike and Mike allows us to draw a few conclusions:

1. It shows that most sports fans are far more interested in celebrity than in actual sport. Mike and Mike is closer to TMZ than it is to anything else. It’s completely focused on the non-sports aspects of sports. Tiger’s affairs, what athletes do in their personal lives (they’re just like us!), etc. It’s a less creative Deadspin without all the dirty words.

2. It shows that the lowest common denominator is still alive and well.

3. It shows that most fans still believe in and care about bad sports stats and are unwilling to learn anything new. Radio hosts talk about “wins” because people want to hear them talk about “wins”

4. It shows the effects of the nationalization of broadcast radio and emphasizes the value of niche stations provided by satellite and the internet.

Mike and Mike are dumb. They’re clean to a fault. There is no edge. There is no insight. There is no desire to learn more about the sports they allegedly cover. They’re a big Jay Leno monologue. They’re “According to Jim.”

And they’ll probably be on for another decade.

When people pick harbingers for the end of civilization as we know it, they tend to focus on rampant promiscuity, or a decline in educational standards, or “too much darn TV”, or not enough church. Things like that. I find the popularity of things like Mike and Mike in the Morning far more disturbing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ben Sheets Is An A

According to Michael Urban.

Originally I thought he'd end up a Cub. Fortunately, to alter that post into this post, all I had to do was delete the word "Hole".

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rodgers...Pro Bowl starter?

Clearly Brees won't be playing in the Pro Bowl, and after last nights crushing (physically and to his ego) defeat I doubt Favre will make the trip to Miami...so will Aaron Rodgers get his first Pro Bowl start?

If it were Romo I would say, yes, 100%. But having observed Favre the last few years it is very obvious that he wants to make life as difficult as possible for young Rodgers and he definitely does not want his successor to have any legitimacy.

I expect Favre to show up, play the first series then hit the showers just to jab Rodgers and the Packers in the eye one last time.

Another interesting note. The next two NFC quarterbacks in my mind are probably Romo and Warner, however Warner was beat to hell this season too. Will he want to make the trip? Could the NFC go 6 deep and have to settle on Eli of McNabb?

Man the Pro Bowl is such a joke. Scrap that shit already.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Doug Davis Is Back

In general I think it's a bad idea when a team signs a guy they're overly familiar with. What I mean by that is a guy who used to play for you (but maybe wasn't that good) or is from your home state or something like that. Washburn, Counsell, and Doug Davis all would fit in that category for me. I think it shows a certain laziness in your front office.

Well, Doug Davis is back. He's actually not bad, I just don't like what this says about the way our front office is operating.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Improper Use of Math

I like Greg Bedard, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packer beat writer. I follow him on Twitter, and if you’re a Packer fan, you should too. You will learn a lot.

That said, Greg’s latest column really abuses math, and around the Brewed Sports water cooler we object to that. I don’t have time to go line by line today, but read the part about losing streaks at the end of seasons and then come back. Good?

Good.

Greg is trying to make the case that potential playoff teams are better off if they do not bring a long winning streak into the playoffs, and may benefit from a late season loss. His argument is that most teams do not win the Super Bowl with a very long winning streak. Here’s a snippet:

A late-season slip-up also seems to have been of some use. Six of the past seven Super Bowl champions lost in Week 13 or later.

And with the Packers' last loss coming in Week 9, 20 of the past 22 champions (90.9%) lost later than Week 9. And 36 of 43 overall (83.7%).

What do the numbers tell us? That the Packers - or any of those other teams - would increase their Super Bowl-winning odds by dropping one game in the final weeks.


The reason that most Super Bowl champions lost a game in week 9 or later (the entire 2nd half of the season) is that the odds of not losing a game in the second half of the season are very, very low. The number of teams that will suffer a loss in the second half of the season will dwarf the number of undefeated teams, and some of those teams will also be good, therefore, we would expect the vast majority of champions to come from the pool that suffers a loss. It does not follow that you should intentionally drop a game to "improve your odds" of winning it all.

If you are starting from scratch, the odds that you will run off 12 consecutive victories are very low, but if you have 11 consecutive wins, the odds of winning your 12th game are about the same as winning all of your other games (probably somewhere around 50/50, give or take ten percent). And if you happen to lose that game, it won’t change the odds of winning or losing your next game.
There may be some good reasons to drop a game. Resting players is completely defensible. But you will not “buck the odds” by intentionally breaking up a long winning streak.

The Jets From A Macro Perspective

1. The elite NFL teams are built to pass. The Saints, Colts, Chargers, Patriots, and Vikings (even though they have Adrian Peterson), all feature excellent pass-based offenses and lackluster running games. Running is out of style (somewhat justifiably so).

2. Because elite teams expect to face other elite teams, they tend to focus on pass defense. Some have good run defenses as well, but pass defense is viewed as more important. The Packers melt down is a good example as to why this is so. The Colts (Freeney) and Cowboys (Ware) are based on pass-rushing defensive lines. The Saints are famously much better at stopping the pass, and are vulnerable to running up the middle. Minnesota is excellent at run-stuffing due too the Williams Wall, but is also good against the pass due to Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield. Their raw stats against the pass look worse because teams tend to abandon the run against them.

3. Because much of the NFL is focused on stopping the pass, more teams will be vulnerable to a strong running attack.

4. According to conventional stats the Jets were second last in the league in passing. According to DVOA, they were 28th in the league in passing. Of the 11 other playoff teams, most ranked in the top 10 in passing. By advanced stats, no one was lower than 16 (the Bengals) except the Jets.

It is difficult to get into the playoffs with a terrible passing game, but once the Jets managed to do so they became a matchup nightmare for every other playoff team. They play all-around great defense, and Darrelle Revis automatically removes the other team’s best receiver from the game. The Jets are also fundamentally a power running team, and can capitalize on smaller, quicker defenses while minimizing the chances that they will commit turnovers.

I’m not sure if they will manage to beat the Colts next week, but I think there is a decent chance for them to pull an upset. Of course, the Jets wouldn’t even be here if not for a few things…

The Luck Of The Jets

1. The Jets played in the infamous “Curtis Painter Bowl” in week 16 at Indianapolis, a game in which the Colts rested all of their starters, allowing the Jets to pick up an easy 29-15 win.

2. The Jets played a Bengals team that was allegedly resting up for the playoffs in week 17. This both allowed the Jets entry into the playoffs, and matched them up with the Bengals in the first round. The Bengals were, in my opinion, the worst team to make the playoffs, and a great matchup for the Jets.

3. No one has managed to make a Field Goal against the Jets so far in the post season. Kickers are a combined 0-5 against them.

I believe the Colts will win this weekend; however it’s hard to see how the Colts are much different than the Bolts (except for Norv Turner, which is admittedly a big factor). The Colts, like the Chargers, have a diverse passing game featuring a superior receiver (Jackson/Wayne), and superior TE (Gates/Clark), and a strong support cast. Both feature excellent quarterbacks. Neither is very good at stopping the run (SD was 26th according to DVOA, Indy was 20th, and Indy allowed Ray Rice to rush for 5.1 yards per carry on Saturday, though the Ravens only gave it to him 13 times).

It is still true that if Nate Kaeding just makes a few makeable field goals, the Jets are done, and that kind of lucky is likely to run out. Still, it looks like the biggest mistake that the AFC playoff teams made was allowing the Jets into the playoffs in the first place.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh, You Savvy NFL

Releasing embarrassing news on Friday afternoon is always a good idea:

Arizona Cardinals end Bertrand Berry was fined $5,000 by the National Football League for his helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in overtime -- a play that did not draw a flag during the Packers' wild-card loss.

It happened on the Packers' second play from scrimmage, when guard Daryn Colledge was flagged for a hold. If Berry were penalized during the game, the 2nd-and-10 play would have been re-played because of off-setting penalties.

Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams was not fined on the final play, when he had a finger in Rodgers' facemask after causing a fumble.


It's nice that they acknowledged this, but what's with this:

For the Packers, safety Atari Bigby (facemask) and end Cullen Jenkins (roughing the passer) were each fined $5,000.


Cullen Jenkins was fined for being blocked in the back into Warner. That's complete bullshit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Predict the Rotation

The Brewers are meeting with Mark Mulder tomorrow and attempting to sign him to a minor league deal. Mulder has pitched like 6 innings in the last 3 years and the results weren't pretty. But he, like Chris Capuano, has a high upside, albeit an unlikely one. We actually have a bunch of arms that have started games, so it's a bit hard to say what the rotation will look like on opening day, or at the all star break. What do you guys think?

Yovanni Gallardo
Randy Wolf
Dave Bush
Manny Parra
Jeff Suppan
Chris Capuano
Mark Mulder
Claudio Vargus
Carlos Villanueva
Chris Narveson
Mike Burns

Jonn Garland?
Doug Davis?
Jarrod Washburn?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There's Always Next Year




Depth at corner. They really, really need some depth at corner.

Earlier in the week I wrote this.

Shall we run through it?

Forget about week 17. The Cardinals played very cautiously, and as big of a blowout as it was, there was reason for concern.


Well, I was certainly right on that one.

Pittsburgh moved the ball effortlessly on the Packers by using their excellent depth at WR and basically capitalizing on the Packers lack of depth at CB in the absence of Al Harris. Mike Wallace is a fine third receiver and he was repeatedly able to beat Bell and Bush for big gains. Charles Woodson is great and Tramon Williams is OK, but of the Holmes/Ward/Miller/Wallace group, they could only handle two. (And let’s not forget the circle route to Mewelde Moore.)


I thought this game would be very similar to the Pitt game, which is why I picked it as a basis for comparison. You remember the Pitt game right? Pitt won 37-36 on the last play of the game and saw Aaron Rodgers throw for 383 yards and 3 TDs?

The Cardinals feature excellent WR depth as well with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet complementing the outstanding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. And while Tim Hightower is a pretty terrible RB, is also a threat in the passing game.


Yup. Even without Boldin they're still deep.

In short, the Cardinals have the tools to exploit weaknesses in the Packer defense.


Yup.

One of the best ways to combat this weakness is to get pressure on the QB, which is especially important against Kurt Warner. When given time he is one of the most accurate passers in the history of the league, but if you can hit him he is prone to putting the ball on the ground and falling apart. So it is disturbing that the Packers were unable to register a single sack against a Cardinal team that wasn’t really trying yesterday.


Yup. Big problem today. No pressure on Warner.

The defense looked superficially good, but a great deal of that was just Matt Leinart being bad.

I like the Packers to win, but I won’t be shocked if they do not.


I was wrong on my prediction, but this is basically how I thought the game would go.

Lastly, the officiating in this game was awful and really hurt the Packers a ton. They'll get a nice letter from the league office tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Only Dawson? Really?

.279/.323/.482

Those are the splits of the sole Hall of Fame inductee this year.

If I start calling Jon Heyman’s cat a dog, will he try to take it for walks?

I said the other day that I would not bother explaining why “Wins” are meaningless. By “Wins” I mean the pitching statistic. Wins are super important. Accumulating wins is the entire point of sport like baseball, and players that help you win should be lauded for their abilities. Ironically, “Wins” don’t really tell you much about how much a player contributes to wins. This is confusing for many people who think that words can only have one meaning, like Jon Heyman. Poor Jon.

For Jon, a “Win” is a win. Playing a game of pool is a wet endeavor. He never turns left because that wouldn’t be right. He doesn’t care for anyone named Dick, and he’s disturbed by the number of people who have told him to his face that they have to go “use him” or “hit the him”. Selfish bastards.

He doesn’t understand how bats can have rabies, and if they do, how all MLB teams aren’t constantly infected. The plain truth must refer to information regarding the area west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies. Nightmares are horses that only come out after sundown. The game of craps is disgusting. A Brat House is a place where Germans consume insubordinate children.

And “Wins” are wins.

Picking on Jon Heyman is easy because he probably deserves his Hall of Fame vote less than anyone else. He has a world of information available to him and he just can’t comprehend it no matter how many times it is slowly explained to him. And frankly, I don’t have time to dissect every idiotic part of this “defense” of his hall of fame votes. It’s just that his defense of voting for Jack Morris over Bert Blyleven isn’t just wrong, it’s super-wrong. Mega-wrong. You normally think of right and wrong as absolutes, but no longer.

So how can you be extra-special-super-wrong? Here’s how.

My vote also isn't about market size, as all the players on my ballot except Mattingly earned their vote in small- or mid-sized cities (I also never voted for Tommy John, who had a somewhat similar career to Blyleven's but played mostly in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago). And it's definitely not personal, despite what some have suggested. I don't know Blyleven well at all but did cover him when I was an Angels beat writer in 1989 and vaguely recall that I found him to be a fun-loving and decent man. He obviously enjoyed the game and was very pleasant, a lot more pleasant then Rice or Steve Carlton, both of whom received my vote.

Tommy John threw 4700 innings in his career, and Blyleven threw 4970, and they had similar “Win Loss” totals, but that’s where the similarity ends. Blyleven struck out 1456 more batter than did John while only walking 63 more batters than did John. Blyleven’s WHIP was almost a full point lower (1.198 v. 1.283). Blyleven’s SO/BB is 2.4, John’s is only 1.7. Blyleven threw 14 more shutouts than John. Blyleven’s ERA+ was 118 for his career, while John’s was 110.

They had some gross counting stats in common (IP, wins, losses), but they were not similar pitchers. Blyleven was much more likely to strike people out. He was what I would call a more dominant pitcher. But this is just the start.

My contention regarding Blyleven is that almost no one viewed him as a Hall of Famer during his playing career, and that is borne out by the 17 percent of the vote he received in his first year of eligibility in 1998, followed by 14 percent the next year. Blyleven obviously had an excellent and extremely lengthy career that looks a lot better to many with a decade to review it. And it doesn't hurt that he's the favorite of the Internet lobby.

It may well be true that Blyleven was not viewed as a Hall of Famer when he was playing, but look when he played. He started in 1970 and retired in 1992. When Blyleven played, the following things were true:

1. There was no internet. It was more difficult to follow players who were not on your team.

2. People were stupider about baseball.

3. People actually valued “Wins” as a real stat at the time, which made good pitchers on bad teams appear inferior to how they actually were.

Now that we know more, we can make better judgments about players.

Without throwing a single pitch, Blyleven has gone from 14 percent of the vote in his second year to 62 percent last year. I certainly can understand how a statistical re-evaluation can change minds, and Blyleven's career does look better on paper than it did when he was actually performing. Some of his support comes from folks who are relying solely on stats, and a few of them may not have seen any of his career. But I am in the group that believes a player's career goes beyond the numbers, and that there is value in watching a player's career as it is unfolding. For instance, while I may form an opinion on the Hall-of-Fame worthiness of the careers of Johnny Mize, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto (all of whom are in Cooperstown) and Ken Boyer (who is not), I concede there is something to having seen and followed their careers while they were happening. The same goes for Blyleven.

I have to confess that I do not remember seeing Blyleven pitch very much as a kid as I was pretty young during his prime. I remember a few seasons with the Twins, but not very well. And I do think that there is something to be gained from having actually watched players play, as the way that players accomplish their tasks can be entertaining in its own right. Hell, one of the reasons I like watching Adam Dunn is because he doesn’t just hit home runs, he hits monstrous home runs. I’m not above such things. I just find it hard to believe that Blyleven wasn’t super impressive. The guy struck out 3700 batters. In 1973 he threw 9 shutouts! By the way, he went 20-17 that year, meaning that in almost half of his “Wins” he did not give up a single run. That’s one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. In 1976 he had a losing record (13-16), but tossed 6 shutouts and had a 2.87 ERA, struck out 219 batters, and put up a 125 ERA+. A lot of his numbers aren’t just good, they’re eye-popping. This guys wasn’t impressive? The guy who was shutting out his opponents in half of his wins wasn’t impressive when he played? How much did Jon Heyman get to see Blyleven in the pre-cable, pre-internet 1970s?

Blyleven's career has been re-evaluated for the better by numbers people, and while it's tough to make his winning percentage (.534) sparkle, the stat people emphasize other numbers such as strikeouts (3,701), complete games (242) and WHIP (1.19) and many of them even ignore win totals as being largely the result of circumstance beyond a pitcher's control.

Can you believe they would ignore “Win” totals? That’s craziness! And just because pitchers have no control over how many runs their own team scores. What silliness!

While I leave some room for statistical re-evaluation (and am on the verge of being convinced regarding Raines), I still see Blyleven as just short. I look at numbers, too, and while my numbers may be slightly more simplistic than WHIP, WAR or VORP, I think they tell a story of a pitcher who was extremely good, consistent and durable but not quite Cooperstown-worthy. Blyleven was dominant in a lot of at-bats (thus, the 3,701 strikeouts) and even a lot of games (60 shutouts). But he was never dominant for a decade, a half decade or even a full season.

In the aforementioned 1973, Blyleven led the league in shutouts with 9, and ERA+ with a 158. He threw 25 complete games with a 2.58 ERA. He struck out 258 batters while walking only 67 to lead the league in SO/BB. He finished 7th in Cy Young voting only because he “Lost” 17 games. Jim Palmer’s sparkling 22-9 record took home the award despite walking twice as many batters (in 30 fewer innings), and striking out 100 fewer batters. By the way, in 1973 Nolan Ryan, who finished 2nd in Cy Young voting (probably because he lost 16 games), struck out 383 batters.

From 1971 to 1981, Blyleven put up the following ERA+s: 126, 118, 158, 142, 129, 125, 151, 123, 109, 96, 127. He would put together another similar stretch in the 80s. He sure looks dominant to me. The case against Blyleven is solely based on “Wins” and “Losses”.

Also, WHIP isn't a complicated stat. It's (Walks+Hits)/Innings Pitched.

I think this is the worst paragraph in the entire column:

Only four times in 22 seasons did he receive Cy Young votes (he was third twice, fourth and seventh once), only twice did he make the All-Star team and only twice did he win more than 17 games. I tend not to vote for players who I see as great compilers rather than great players, which is why I don't see Lee Smith or Baines as Hall of Famers, either. Baines and Blyleven compiled similarly in some key areas, with Blyleven finishing with four percent short of 300 victories at 287, and Baines four percent short of 3,000 hits with 2,866. And actually, a case could be made that Baines had more greatness, as he made six All-Star teams, three times the number of Blyleven.

There is not a meaningful piece of information in this paragraph. During Blyleven’s career Cy Young voters were idiots. They were people like Jon Heyman. They focused on “Wins” above all else. Many still do, although the situation is improving. By using stats like Cy Young votes and All-Star votes, Heyman is just compounding the ignorance of the voting populace during Blyleven’s career. Allow me to demonstrate with a historically accurate recreation.

Heyman (1973) – He didn’t have enough wins, man. No Cy Young vote for you, Bert.

Heyman (1977) – 14-12? That guy doesn’t belong on an All-Star Team. Sorry Bert.

(By the way, in 1977 Bert led the league in WHIP (which didn’t exist yet, of course), and received no Cy Young votes and wasn't an All-Star . Not a one.)

Heyman (2010) – Blyleven doesn’t have enough “Wins” to start with, and he also doesn’t have enough All-Star or Cy Young votes! How could anyone vote for him for the Hall of Fame?

And then the comparison to Baines is just bizarre. So they’re both 4% short of achieving some arbitrary statistic, and one is a pitcher while the other is a hitter, so he’s equating hits and “Wins”. What? This is reasoning? This belongs on the Sports Illustrated website?

Some will say that Blyleven's career was equal to Hall of Famer Don Sutton's but I say it is just short of Sutton's. They both had big totals in other categories but Sutton wound up with 37 more victories, going over the magic 300 mark by 24.

Have you noticed how Heyman claims to not rely on statistics when making these decisions and then talks about nothing but “Wins”? Ah, that “magic” round 300 number.

Many stat people suggest wins are not important in evaluating careers.

We don’t just suggest it. We’ve proven it. We know it. Do you also believe that the stork brings babies? Or that the world was created in 7 days? Do you believe in the luminiferous ether too?

But until wins don't decide who's in the playoffs and who's out, who makes the World Series and who doesn't, I will continue to view them as important.

They absolutely do not do any of those things. You have things completely backward. Pitchers accumulate “wins” because their teams are good enough to make the playoffs or the World Series. To quote FJM, again, wins are:

2. A simply awful pitching statistic that should be swallowed up by the earth itself, personified, given ears, and forced to listen to a tape loop of Bermanisms for all of eternity. The reason being – and again, you know this, intuitively, even if you have never quite expressed it to yourself – if Carl Pavano gives up nineteen runs in five innings but the Yankees score 20 runs, and they hold on to win, and Pavano gets the win, is Pavano a good pitcher? No he is not. (This scenario is assuming he ever comes back and actually pitches, btw.) If Francisco Liriano throws 9 innings of no-hit ball, but gives up a run on four consecutive errors by Terry Tiffey and gets a loss, is Francisco Liriano a bad pitcher? No he is not. Wins stink to high heaven as a way to value pitchers because they are in very large part dependent on the actions of the other guys on the team.


A pitcher's goal for each game is to win the game, not to strikeout the most batters. And until that changes, I will count wins and losses. I also believe the truly great pitchers pitched to the scoreboard with the real goal in mind.

1. Strikeouts help you to win games.

2. You can only “pitch to the scoreboard” if your team actually scores runs for you, and really, only if they give you a pretty safe lead. A team like that will increase your win total.

3. Please stop saying “wins and losses.” Please.

Some will say Blyleven was handicapped by playing for a string of horrific teams. But his many teams combined for a record of slightly over .500. For the most part, they were mediocre. While his career mark of 287-250 is clearly better than his teams' overall record, it isn't that much better.

What’s his record compared to his team’s record in games in which he did not pitch?

Want to see some cool stats? From Keith Law on Twitter:

“Bert Blyleven was given Losses in 18 games where he allowed 1 or 0 ER. Jack Morris? Seven.”

And

“Jack Morris was given Wins in 25 games when he gave up 5+ ER. Bert Blyleven? Four.”

And

“seriously, if people are still looking at Win/Loss record, it's time to start covering competition dog grooming.”

I have to stop now, because if I read anymore I won’t be able to properly function as a human anymore, but the rest is just as mind-bendingly stupid. I’ll leave you with some of the reasons that Joe Posnanski will be voting for Blyleven.

1. He ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts.

2. He won 287 games -- 60 of those by shutout.

3. He won more 1-0 games than any pitcher the last 80 years.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Is There A "Curse of Some Boston Sportswriter Who Moved To New York Dooming All Subsequent Boston Sportswriters To Epic Failure"?

Sports. Illustrated. A fantastic, if antiquated concept for a magazine in which a picture told 1000 words. I’ll always have a soft spot for that magazine. I’ll always remember the cover of Mark Eaton defending Kareem with the caption “look who’s looking up now?” The way that SI made Jordan seem even larger than he already was. The amazing shots of running backs so close the camera man must have been involved in the tackle.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, this column from Dan Shaughnessy is worth a half torn 5th series Garbage Pail Kid. One of the commons, not one of the rare ones.

Baseball's 2010 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Wednesday, and I'm betting that Edgar Martinez comes up short in his first year of eligibility for Cooperstown.

I would like to start by stating that I do not think it is idiotic to vote against Edgar Martinez. Defense is an important part of baseball, and Edgar simply didn’t play any. So yes, if you don’t want Edgar in the Hall, I’ve got no problem with that. What I have a problem with is guys not taking this whole voting thing seriously, because no one with an actual vote should take voting less seriously than I, a 32-year-old man with an almost completely unread, infrequently updated sports blog, do.

Edgar presents voters with a unique choice because he is the first candidate who compiled virtually all of his resume as a designated hitter.

This is true, and I look forward to Dan’s nuanced look back at Edgar’s fine career.

In 18 seasons, all with the Seattle Mariners, Edgar batted .312 with an on-base percentage of .418 and a slugging percentage of .515. This makes him one of 20 players in hardball history with lifetime numbers over .300, .400 and .500, respectively. He has a higher on-base percentage than Stan Musial, Wade Boggs and Mel Ott. He is one of only eight players with 300 homers, 500 doubles and the aforementioned .300/.400/.500 line. He won a couple of batting titles and was an All-Star seven times. He stayed with the same team for his entire career, so there would be no controversy regarding which logo to put on his Hall cap.

Those are some pretty phenomenal numbers actually. One of 20 players with a .300/.400/.500 line? I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Consistently putting up a .400+ OBP without massive scary power shows fantastic plate discipline, and Edgar DID put up good power numbers, especially given that he played a good chunk of his career before the people routinely hit 50 HRs every year.

The Mariners have campaigned madly for Edgar and it pains me to withhold my vote, but I just can't bring myself to put him in Cooperstown alongside Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

And Jim Rice and Dave Bancroft and Red Faber and Rick Farrell and Jesse Haines and Tony Perez. Truly, legends.

I have been a Hall voter for more than 25 years and it's the most important task assigned to the baseball writers of America. In recent years the Hall ballot has become heavier as voters are asked to make character judgments regarding players who may have padded their statistics with illegal and/or banned substances.

What? Was Edgar on roids? That’s huge news if true, I mean…

There's no problem with Edgar in this area. He was never tainted by the scourge of steroids, and he retired with an impeccable reputation, on and off the field.

Uhm, OK. So why mention it at all. And isn’t this another reason to vote FOR Edgar right in the middle of the anti-Edgar part of the column? A bit awkward, don’t you think? I like my columns to have some flow to them. Now let’s discuss Brett Favre’s tractor collection.

I just don't think he's a Hall of Famer, and that doesn't make him less than great.

It is true that Dan Shaughnessy’s opinion of Edgar has no bearing on the objective value of Edgar as a baseball player. It is not true that “I just don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer” is a solid argument for anything, other than taking Dan’s column away from him.

It doesn't take away his numbers.

Shouldn’t this sentence read “It doesn’t take away from his numbers”? As in, “Dan’s subjective opinion of Edgar Martinez does not detract from the greatness that we can see by analyzing his numbers”? The way he wrote it makes it sound like Edgar’s numbers could be stolen by the Numburglar. Robble Robble.

I like Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell and Andre Dawson, but I don't think they're Hall of Famers, either.

I like Trammell, don’t like Dawson, and have to look harder at Murphy and Evans, but I have reasons for those opinions, which I would be happy to share with everyone if given a well-compensated sports column in a major magazine. Unless it’s company policy to keep it a secret, I guess. Seems like a bad policy though. Maybe Dan is saving his reasons for Magazine Sweeps Week. Do they have that?

No?

Oh.

So he just doesn’t have any reasons then.

Each Hall voter applies his own standards, and mine often references the famous line that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart applied to pornography. Stewart argued that he might not be able to define what was pornographic, "but I know it when I see it.''

In my non-sports-journalism-criticism life I’m actually an attorney. The referenced quote from Potter Stewart is well known amongst you lay people, but there are a few extra things you should know about this:

1. The full quote ends with “and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” Stewart did NOT find the movie in question (the French film “Les Amants”) to be obscene.

2. Stewart wrote this phrase in the concurrence, not in the majority opinion.

3. The case in which he made this statement is no longer good law.

4. The statement itself isn’t a good argument. In fact, it’s a bit lazy.

Stewart later said that his statement was basically useless as an argument, and in fact the idea that some government body would be deciding what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment on an Ad Hoc basis really flies in the face of the First Amendment, at least in my humble opinion. Anyway, quoting this as an example of sound reasoning is simply terrible, especially with regard to baseball players. Pornography may be hard to define, but good baseball players are not.

For me, it's the same with Hall of Famers. Some guys just strike you as Cooperstown-worthy and others do not.

Again, any reasons? What “strikes you” as Cooperstown worthy? Is it their dapper evening-wear perhaps? The sheen of a bowler cap? The twinkle in his eye? The way he jumps to make the throw from short even though it’s completely unnecessary?

Anything?

Edgar Martinez was a very fine hitter, but I never said to myself, "The Mariners are coming to Fenway this weekend. I wonder how the Sox are going to pitch to Edgar Martinez?''

This is more of a testament to Dan Shaughnessy than it is to Edgar Martinez. Check out how Edgar stacked up to his Mariner lineup mates:

1995 AL West Winning Seattle Mariners, by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 185
2. Tino Martinez – 135
3. Jay Buhner – 131
4. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 122
5. Mike Blowers – 108

1996 2nd Place Seattle Mariners by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 166
2. Alex Rodriguez – 160
3. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 153
4. Jay Buhner – 130
5. Paul Sorrento – 120

1997 AL West Winning Seattle Mariner by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez - 165
2. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 165
3. Jay Buhner – 132
4. Paul Sorrento – 123
5. Alex Rodriguez – 120

2001 Seattle Mariners that won 116 games, by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 160
2. Brett Boone – 153
3. John Olerud – 136
4. Ichiro – 126
5. Mike Cameron – 123

But hey, he wasn’t as “feared” as Jim Rice.

It was different with players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice. They were feared.

I look forward to Gilbert Arenas’s induction into the basketball Hall of Fame.

Murray got into Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility (thanks to 500 homers, no doubt), while it took Rice 15 years to finally get the required 75 percent of votes. Both were feared sluggers who spent a lot of time in the field before becoming DHs as elder statesmen.

Elder Statesmen? Let’s see…Ah! According to the Brewed Sports Dictionary of Bad Sports Journalism Clich├ęs (4th Ed, Copyright 2003), an “Elder Statesman is a player who used to be good, was kept around by his team because he was an icon of sorts, and eventually saw his slugging dip into the low .400s. The term is used in an attempt to convey value added by said player in the realms of such nebulous concepts as team chemistry and positive attitude to compensate for a dissipating skill set in their later years. Frequently accompanied by a bad contract.”

The lack of fielding is a good point though.

This year I voted for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris.
Alomar goes down as one of the greatest second basemen of all time and was the best at his position for just about the entire time he played. This is his first year on the ballot and I think he'll be the top vote-getter in the class of 2010.


I haven’t looked at Alomar’s numbers, but I suspect I’m OK with this, but…

Blyleven has been on the ballot for 13 years and may come up short again, but he won 287 games, ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts and compiled a 3.31 ERA over 22 seasons, pitching for a lot of bad ball clubs.

I’m fine with Bert too. No problem, but…

Morris won 254 games in 18 seasons

No, no, no. Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer. First of all, Wins are stupid. We all know Wins are stupid. I’m not going to explain why anymore, you have Google, you can figure it out. Unless you write for SI.com.

Second, Morris wasn’t bad, but for pitching in a time when runs were tough to come by, he just wasn’t that good. His ERA+ bounced between 90 and 120 throughout his prime, and his WHIP was between 1.15 and 1.4. Jack Morris is always overrated because of the current baseball era, and because he pitched a ton of innings and put up some decent counting stats. Oh, and he had this:

and pitched one of the greatest World Series games of all time, a 10-inning, 1-0 Game 7 victory over the Braves in 1991.

Yes, Morris pitched a dandy on this one day in October, but it was just one game. One game does not a career make. I mean, Jeff Suppan once pitched an outstanding World Series. A bunch of Mediocre pitchers for the White Sox pitched a World Series of all complete games a few years ago. If all you have to do to get in the Hall of Fame is to play in the World Series with a bloody sock…

There's already support for Boston blowhard Curt Schilling, who won't be on the ballot for another three years, but Morris has to get in before Schilling gets in. Morris was better.

So…you didn’t find the bloody sock game compelling then? Now, keeping in mind that Jack Morris started his career in 1977 and played throughout the 80s when no one hit for much power and the PED of choice was cocaine (in what I think are pitchers parks in the old Tigers’ Stadium and the Metrodome) while Schilling started in 1988 and pitched brilliantly through the “Barry Bonds has a giant swollen head” era in Arizona and in Fenway:

Career WHIP
Morris – 1.296
Schilling – 1.137

SO/BB
Morris – 1.78
Schilling – 4.38

Strike Outs
Morris – 2478 (in 3824 innings)
Schilling – 3116 (in 3261 innings)

ERA
Morris – 3.90
Schilling – 3.46

ERA+
Morris – 105
Schilling – 127

Curt Schilling is so much better than Jack Morris it’s barely even worth talking about. If you think Jack Morris is better than Curt Schilling, you should lose your HOF vote.

The toughest omissions this year were Dawson, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff ... and Edgar.

A lifetime .312 average is impressive and Edgar's OPS puts him in an elite class. But he wasn't a home run hitter (309), he couldn't carry a team, he didn't scare you, and (sorry) he rarely played defense. Edgar spent a couple of years at third for the M's in the early 1990s before taking over as full-time DH.


You picked his batting average? Really? We're not past this yet? And 309 HRs doesn’t impress you? How about 514 doubles? Quick, who has a higher slugging percentage, Andre Dawson, Fred McGriff, or Edgar Martinez?

Edgar - .515
Crime Dog - .509
The Hawk - .482

And Dan, you apologized for the one legitimate criticism. He didn’t “scare” you because he played on the West Coast and you didn’t see him that much. No single player (except maybe a roided up Barry Bonds) can carry an entire offense, but Martinez was usually the best hitter in a lineup filled with good hitters. His hitting stats are great. If he was a poor-fielding position player I think he gets in with those numbers.

The stat geeks, those get-a-lifers who are sucking all the joy out of our national pastime,

Yeah! Those loser stat guys with their slide rules and their pocket protectors are just trying to ruin our fun. They don’t understand green grass and pine tar and hot dogs, only spreadsheets and ugly pants and that live-action role playing thing like in that Role Models movie with McLovin. I don’t need know data to know that Jack Morris was great! I done seen him wif my own two peepers, consarnit.

no doubt will be able to demonstrate that Edgar was better than Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.

Well, no. Jim Rice though.

I'm not buying. Stats don't tell the whole story. A man can drown in three feet of water.

I’m pretty sure a man can drown in just a few inches of water. Three feet of water is pretty substantial, especially if you’re lying down. But I suspect what Dan is doing here is trying to convey the idea that focusing on one thing is dangerous. I think. It's a pretty shitty metaphor so I'm kind of just guessing. Anyway, this is stupid because stats aren’t "one thing." Different stats tell you different things, and while you should use your eyes, if your eyes tell you that someone is “feared” but the stats tell you that Greg Luzinski, Ron Cey, Dale Murphy and Jack Clark were intentionally walked more than Jim Rice, maybe your eyes were lying to you.

Edgar Martinez was a fine hitter and got on base a lot. But he was a corner infielder who didn't hit a lot of homers and then he became a guy who spent the majority of every game watching from the bench.

Had there been no DH in baseball, Edgar’s bat probably would have kept him in the lineup anyway, even if he was a complete butcher in the field, and in that situation, I think he’s probably a Hall of Famer. Assuming he is a butcher in the field (and honestly, I’ve never seen Edgar play in the field), playing him at DH actually INCREASES his value to the team. I like Edgar. I think he belongs in the Hall because is offense was outstanding. I understand if you think defense should be mandatory, but don’t spend an entire column bashing his offense and then mention as an aside that he didn’t play defense.

No Hall for Edgar.

Dan Shaughnessy shouldn’t be allowed to vote for American Idol.

If you feel the need to smarten up a bit after reading this, Joe Posnanski can help.

The Cardinals

Forget about week 17. The Cardinals played very cautiously, and as big of a blowout as it was, there was reason for concern.

Pittsburgh moved the ball effortlessly on the Packers by using their excellent depth at WR and basically capitalizing on the Packers lack of depth at CB in the absence of Al Harris. Mike Wallace is a fine third receiver and he was repeatedly able to beat Bell and Bush for big gains. Charles Woodson is great and Tramon Williams is OK, but of the Holmes/Ward/Miller/Wallace group, they could only handle two. (And let’s not forget the circle route to Mewelde Moore.)

The Cardinals feature excellent WR depth as well with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet complementing the outstanding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. And while Tim Hightower is a pretty terrible RB, is also a threat in the passing game.

In short, the Cardinals have the tools to exploit weaknesses in the Packer defense.
One of the best ways to combat this weakness is to get pressure on the QB, which is especially important against Kurt Warner. When given time he is one of the most accurate passers in the history of the league, but if you can hit him he is prone to putting the ball on the ground and falling apart. So it is disturbing that the Packers were unable to register a single sack against a Cardinal team that wasn’t really trying yesterday.

The defense looked superficially good, but a great deal of that was just Matt Leinart being bad.

I like the Packers to win, but I won’t be shocked if they do not.