Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny for Bay: Initial Analysis

Initial Thoughts on Manny for Bay:

Seriously - if as reported here (or any reasonable derivation), I'll punch a midget in the face then buy a medium Snickers blizzard. Also obviously I'm at work at 2am again. Better analysis tomorrow?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mondays with Murray

It's funny that my fellow blogger RC posted about Mr. Chass below because, as luck would have it, I just received an email response from the journalist-turned-blogger. Late one night, after a few hours of studying, and feeling a bit loopy, I decided it was as good a time as any to email Mr. Chass. He was one of the sportswriters I looked up to when I was younger, so it had been a bit disheartening to me to see him come out so strongly against the numbers revolution in baseball. After all, hadn't numbers been a part of the game forever? From Babe Ruth's topping 30 home runs in the 1920s, to Cy Young's 511 wins, to the feats of the present day, baseball has been defined by numbers. You hear 3,000, 300, 755, or .400, and you know the context immediately. I talked about how many of the proponents of the numbers game were guys who had played sports at high levels. For example, Billy Beane was a bench player in the majors for a handful of seasons and Paul DePodesta was a two-sport athlete at Harvard.

So, I emailed this to the great baseball writer, and anxiously awaited his reply...

Well, to cut the suspense short, I didn't get much. He essentially repeated his disdain for the new-age numbers, saying that they cheapened the human element of the game. I obviously don't agree, but the guy was cordial enough in his email, and most importantly, I'm just some random law student who isn't going to change his mind anytime soon. I replied, thanking him for his response, and that was that.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting, and I don't know that it was even worth the trouble to send off that email. But, those of us who are a bit more enlightened can hope that things will change, and can be happy that there are sites like Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, and others.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Town's the Fish, People are the Barrel . . . BAM! Fish in a Barrel

I know the guys at FJM have been all over this so far (and let's face it, they do it much better than any of us ever could - that's why he's Mose Schrute and I play a lot of slow pitch), but that Pulitzer-winning curmudgeon and noted hater of VORP, Murray Chass, has a new blog located at his website.

There are multiple problems with this, upon first reading. To start, Chass abhors blogs - his "about" page notes that he one time answered a question on Charlie Steiner's radio program with the succinct and loquatious "I hate blogs." Why on Earth this man would then decide he needs to blog is simply mind-bending, but there it is. Second, for the last few years, Chass has decided to identify himself more and more as an "old school" Baseball Man (R). This means he hates new-fangled statistics, choosing instead to let his ancient eyes tell him who can or cannot play. Now, this is a preference, and I won't fault the preference - but it spills over to actual anger. A lot. No, more than that. This dude is essentially the drunk grandfather we've been trying to forget for years.

Well, in his latest blog update, Chass opines for the halcyon days where any retread former player could be guaranteed a job somewhere in baseball, regardless of his actual ability to coach, manage, fill out the uniform or really do anything beyond cashing a paycheck. The subject of this virtual handjob is Don Baylor - from all reports, a good guy, and a pretty solid player in his own right. Baylor win an MVP award and a handful of Silver Slugger awards, and put up a career 118 OPS+ that puts him at 18% better than league average over the course of his career. He put up solid numbers in an offensively depressed era, and if and when Collin and I open the "Hall of Very Good" just outside Schenectady, I want Don Baylor to cut the faux-velvet ribbon.

What I don't want Don Baylor to do is coach my favorite baseball team. Murray, however, disagrees.

Let's start with the core assertions Chass makes:

  • Baylor is qualified to manage or at least coach
  • Baylor is held back because of his "strong personality"
  • Baylor is held back because pansy ass managers don't want him looking over his shoulder
  • (Insert vague race claims here)
Baylor is "qualified" to coach like I'm qualified to make out with 19 year old sorority girls - that is, his only "qualification" is that he did it twice before, and not to any great success. We're talking about a guy with a career .476 winning percentage, and whose teams finished higher than third exactly one time. Indeed, the 2nd place finish in 1995 was one of only two times in which his teams outperformed their Pythagorean W/L record (the other being his first season), and most of his teams vaguely underperformed relative to their run scoring and run prevention (although the 2002 Cubs finished a woeful 9 games under their Pythag - simply stunning).

In short, there is really no evidence that Baylor's teams benefitted greatly from his presence. Part of that might be Baylor's "strong personality," which Chass notes repeatedly in his don't-call-it-a-blog-post. Often, top-tier athletes do indeed have "strong personalities" - in fact, it is a characteristic that helps define some of the best athletes. For Chass to note it here, then, I can only draw one conclusion: Baylor is an asshole. When I'm hiring a grown man to deal with other grown men (many of whom are also assholes), I'm pretty sure "asshole" isn't on top of my list of desired attributes. I can only imagine people rich enough to own a baseball team agree, or aren't stupid enough to hire people who disagree.

Beyond that, assuming that other managers don't want Baylor looking over their shoulder, ready to pounce and steal their jobs, seems specious at best. It seems just as likely that current managers don't want a hitting coach or bench coach who a.) hasn't really been successful as a coach anywhere and b.) is likely a huge douche bag. For Chass to (pardon) chastise others for passing over Baylor seems like wishcasting more than reporting, analysis or insight.

In short - why? Why are we pining for Don Baylor, Murray? What the fuck is the point? If you'd taken more than 15 minutes to do even a smidge of research, you'd come up with multiple plausible reasons why Don Baylor isn't on anyone's radar, and probably shouldn't be. Dusty Baker destroys young arms, but at least he's gone to the playoffs in the process. I know numbers are frightening, and this whole Internet thing is making you more and more obsolete, but clinging to dinosaurs such as Don Baylor doesn't help in your drive for relevance.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yet another 10x10

Brought to you by "hangover at work," ten more record reviews in ten words or less. Life is easy.

Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
Seriously unreal. Nearly flawless. Jesus.

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Will grow on you - expands their sound, for the better.

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
Surprise! The previously leaked tracks are the only good ones!

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Best opening sequence of songs in history. Close to perfect.

Air France - No Way Down
Pitchfork-fueled mirage - not enough substance to overcome monotony.

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors
Solid effort that sways toward cheesy just a touch too often.

Tapes 'n Tapes - Walk it Off
Surprisingly inconsistent - hasn't caught hold in my CD player. Weird.

Nas - Untitled
Fuck Nas. Seriously irrelevant. This guy made "Illmatic"?

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing
Still the worst name in music, still a great record. (Breaking my own rule but FU: download this. It's this year's "The Orchids" - a very good thing)

Shearwater - Rook
I don't get the hype - way worse than Okkervil River.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And you thought you had a bad day?

So they played the All-Star Game last night, a gala event that plays second fiddle only to basically every other show on network TV, at least according to the ratings. On the bright side, the game was an absolutely barn-burner (barn-burner? Holy shit, how old am I?), a back-and-forth affair that featured multiple great comebacks, amazing pitching (including 34 strikeouts), and extra innings that brought both teams dangerously close to having to pitch position players. All in all, it was likely the best ASG since Ray Fosse got fucked up like Debo in Friday.

J.D. Drew (whose real name is David Jonathan, of course) won the MVP in Yankee Stadium, which is fucking awesome - if you recall my stalwart defense of the man, you'll realize how exciting this is for me. Then again, expecting a guy to improve on his worst season ever isn't exactly Nostradamus material, but whatever.

None of this is important, and in fact Josh Hamilton made all of this irrelevant two nights ago anyway. Still, the most important storyline of the game came to us in the form of a second baseman who looked like he wanted to puke for three straight hours - ladies and gentlemen, Dan Uggla!

Uggla, never known as a staunch defender, showed exactly why when he committed errors on two straight plays to load the bases in the bottom of the 10th. The first error looked like a simple rough hop that caught him on the heel - in short, the sort of thing that happens to a dude who has hands made of stone but hits too many homers to worry about it. The second, however, basically looked like this:Basically, Uggla got Charlie Brown'ed on the second one, so badly that he actually caught a spike and fell over. Well, it wasn't so much a "fall" as a slow-motion crumpling action - when the pitching coach came out to explain just how in the shit they planned to get out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation (run expectancy: about 2.15), Uggla stumbled in with his eyes wide like Kubrick and looking like he wanted to absolutely die. His teammates did the right thing, and completely ignored him while cutting him out of the discussion circle around the mound. Perfect.

While the NL would get out of the jam, Uggla would continue by making yet ANOTHER error (for a record total in the ASG) later in the game. Now, surely this story has a happy ending, right? Surely, the guy who makes the big errors will come up in a big situation and redeem himself, right? This IS a Disney movie, isn't it?


Instead, Uggla struck out with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 12th, and also left the go-ahead run in scoring position later in the game. On the whole, he was 0 for 4 with 3Ks and 6 left on base. His WPA, a measurement of the change in his team's probability to win during his at-bats, was an absolutely dismal -.634, good for worst in the game by about .300. Put another way (that isn't technically correct, but makes for good shorthand), Uggla's at-bats cumulatively made the NL about 63% more likely to lose the game. That doesn't even include his errors. Just an unreal bad performance for a guy whose father grew up in the asshole of upstate NY and wanted nothing more than to see his little boy Danny play in Yankee Stadium.

Here's to you, Dan Uggla - unless I'm beheaded in Tehran and my mom watches the video, it's safe to say I'll never have a worse day than you had yesterday. I hope you got drunker than balls and nailed any hooker that crossed your path at Bemelman's - you earned it (and home-field advantage for the AL).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

RIP Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer died today after a long battle with cancer. It's incredibly sad, and the Yankees family has truly lost one of its best.

Pretty much everyone with knowledge of the Yankees knows how beloved Murcer has been the past few years, but the funny thing is, it wasn't always that way. When he came up with the team in the mid-60s, he was seen as the next Mantle. Like Mantle, he came through the minors as an infielder (a shortstop). Like Mantle, he was moved to the outfield when it became apparent that his fielding wouldn't work in the infield.

That's where the comparisons ended, though. Murcer was no Mantle, and for a long time, it seemed Yankees fans held this against him. He never won a World Series with the team, and he never put up Mantle-type numbers. He was probably most well-known as a player for delivering the eulogy at Thurman Munson's funeral, then hitting a three-run home run that same night at Yankee Stadium, when the entire team flew back to play the game.

That's only part of the story though. While he wasn't a Hall of Famer, Murcer was a very good player, the type of guy who deserved more credit than he received. He had a handful of excellent seasons in the 1970s (including back-to-back seasons in 72 and 73 where his OBP was above .980), and ended with very solid career numbers.

No, Murcer attained his popularity as an announcer with the Yankees throughout the 80s and 90s, into the 21st century, and it was in this capacity that I got to know of him. I started following the team in the mid-80s, and I remember my dad talking about following Murcer through the lean years of the late 60s and early 70s. His voice on Yankees telecasts became as well-known as that of Phil Rizzuto, Tom Seaver, or, later Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat. He always gave well-reasoned analysis, and didn't depend on being the loudest guy in the room. He seemed to be a voice of reason over guys like Al Trautwig and Michael Kay. From all accounts, he was as good a person as he was a baseball player and announcer.

When Murcer was diagnosed with brain cancer, there was an outpouring of support. He had finally gained that appreciation that was so lacking during his career.

So it is that today, we mourn the death of a Yankee. My thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CT You Next Tuesday

Surprise! People who live in Greenwich are fucking dicks!

In the interest of full disclosure and Megan's Law, I'm required to tell you that I play whiffleball about 20 times a year. It's one of God's gifts - it's the only place where a limpdick noodlearm like me can strike out 22 dudes per game, it's one of the top 10 best beers you'll ever drink (it's below Concert Beer, Patio Beer and Tailgate Beer, but above Awkward Ex Girlfriend Beer and Coworker Happy Hour Beer), and if you're a lucky idiot like me, your inordinately competitive friends will apply pine tar to their skinny yellow bats. To overuse a teen meme, it's completely sick.

So a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds got together, cleaned up a lot, decided to actually have some clean fun, and now their douchey neighbors in Greenwich want to boot them. These kids could be shooting heroin, fucking homeless people, or playing Grand Theft Auto 4 to do both - it's definitely important to keep them from playing whiffleball ON AN ABANDONED LOT. ABANDONED. NO ONE FUCKING LIVES THERE. I AM ANGRY.

Well, maybe the neighbors have a good point - let's see what Whiney McRichcunt has to say about it:

Oh. Never mind. Her objection is that kids should stop playing sports when they're twelve? Yes, young Eldrick Woods, put away the putter and start practicing for the CPA exam, you immature asshole. She's pissed because these kids should respect authority? Now, I know Cobwebs DeDirtybox has likely never heard of Tinker v. Des Moines, and I'm 100% sure she hates black people, but for fucking real? Who is the authority for the vacant lot? Some 95 year old neighbor? Come the fuck on.

I would have beat a child to have a field like this to play on as a kid. Maybe I only grew up semi-rich, removing me from the context that allows you to be a self-aggrandizing fuckface, but this is simply amazing to me. These kids have to explain themselves to a neighborhood association? That is absolutely insane. Just for these kids, I'm going to pour a little out for my homeys this weekend, then strike out dozens of batters looking with that sick rise ball.

Sorry, Collin - your state is fucked. Greenwich, you're terrible, and I hope you get Sherman'ed like Savannah. Viva la revolucion.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gotta love it -

Just a minute ago, the following exchange happened on ESPN's Baseball Tonight post-game:

Steve Berthiaume: "I don't even think you're really a Red Sox fan - you just like to complain."
Buck Showalter: "That's not what this show is for - that's what blogs are for."
Eric Young: "Message boards?"
Showalter: "Blogs and message boards, that's what they're for."

Now, notwithstanding that I heard this as I browsed SoSH's game thread and various off-topic posts containing stark nudity, I thought this was absolutely hilarious, and probably more true than we give it credit for. Since I can't just leave it at that, I'll give you this:

.118/.228/.176 (.404)

If you're playing along at home, that's (AL All Star) Jason Varitek's line over the last 28 days (68 ABs). Punch me in the dick, and expect a longer, whining post about that later.