Commenter Reveals Startling, Revolutionary Truth About Baseball!

For some context, I encourage you to read the comment section of my post on everything wrong with the MVP award here.

Comments like the ones in that post are not ones I normally pay any attention to. If the commenter is emotional and confrontational, like the one in that post I linked to, then the person is too personally invested in his or her views to be open to changing them. They’re not interested in facts, or logic, or reason. It’s a waste of time talking to such people, especially on the internet.

I’m more than ok with being disagreed with. I’m wrong a lot and I actually enjoy reading a good counterargument. That’s how you learn. However, if you’re not respectful, or you don’t appear to be interested in objectivity, then please don’t waste my time or yours.

I’m kind of surprised that nobody accused me of faking the argument in that comment section by either pretending to be the other person or by asking somebody else to help fake the argument. I assure you that the discussion is 100% real. When I first received the comment, I thought it was too perfect. Somebody offered up a chance to reinforce everything I wrote about in that post! That’s the only reason why I permitted the comments to be posted.

Like I mentioned in my responses, the arguments made were better than 80% of those made in favor of Miguel Cabrera. Unfortunately, they were still terrible. They were chock full of logical fallacies, an over reliance on outdated baseball stats and principles, and challenges that could’ve been answered simply by using Google. Not only that, but the commenter either didn’t read, didn’t understand, or completely ignored all my counterarguments. The commenter would also reply by just rehashing an old argument, as if she just said the same thing enough times I would just give in, or be too stupid to see what she was doing.

At first, I felt bad about using the commenter. Then I got a golden response yesterday. I deleted it for reasons I’ll make clear shortly. The commenter started by rehashing an argument about errors in her first comment that I had already agreed with. Then came the gold…

Sabermetrics is invalid because it’s not perfect! Because science is invalid if it’s not perfect! I, and every other scientist on the face of the planet need to quit our jobs right now because we have all failed miserably at our life’s work!

Then the golden jewel of the comment came:

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!

With the power of her own opinions, she invalidated an entire branch of mathematics! In all seriousness, when I read that sentence I didn’t know whether to be horribly offended or to burst out laughing.

Let me be clear, there’s nothing more arrogant than to think your opinions can counter scientific facts and principles. Only science can counter science. Anybody who thinks their subjective, biased, pre-drawn conclusions are any match for objective, fact based driven, peer-reviewed methodologies needs to check their ego.

There’s no such thing as small sample size. Just wrap your head around that. I’ve read lots of terrible, terrible arguments on all kinds of baseball topics, but I’ve never heard or read anybody denigrate something as fundamental as small sample size. That’s one I’ll remember for a long time.

Or maybe the commenter is on to something!

Maybe we should tell this to the FDA so that pharmaceutical companies only have to test their drugs on 1 person instead of hundreds! Sure lot’s of people will die, but those people will be wrong to die because there’s no such thing as small sample size!

Maybe all struggling experimental physicists should just publish all their statistically insignificant results! Apparently it’s all true because there’s no such thing as statistical analysis!

What about all psychology and sociology experiments? They can just experiment on one person, or a few people at most, and draw major conclusions that will alter decades of good science because there’s no such thing as small sample size!

Do you need to conduct a survey or poll? Well guess what? You don’t need to ask a lot of people because there’s no such thing as small sample size! Just ask one person! In fact, just ask yourself! You don’t need to do any work at all!

I can do this all day! Let’s apply this new-found knowledge of no small sample size to baseball!

If a player goes 2-4 with a home run on opening day, then there’s every reason to believe that the player will hit .500 for the season with 324 hits and 162 home runs! Didn’t you hear? There’s no such thing as small sample size!

If a pitcher throws a complete game shut out with 10 strikeouts on opening day, then why not assume he won’t have an 0.00 ERA with ~300 IP and ~330 K for the season? THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!

So to summarize, sample size, the crux of a major branch of mathematics which is vital to the work in many scientific disciplines, is invalidated simply by somebody’s desire to prove that Miguel Cabrera’s numbers in critical situations is due to some magical, mystical ability he has to perform in such instances! Amazing! So the 125 plate appearances that Cabrera excelled in during high leverage circumstances completely invalidates the 1,224 other plate appearances during that time span that he apparently took off! To put it another way, Cabrera chose to excel in 9.2% of his PAs because he tanked the other 90.8% of his PAs! Because outs don’t count if it isn’t a high leverage situation! There’s your 2012 and 2013 MVP everybody! How did the commenter’s revolutionary finding not turn into a featured article on ESPN, MLB.com, Sports Illustrated and every other major sports publication? Science isn’t true if you just say so!

But wait! Given this revolutionary new way to evaluate baseball players, is Miguel Cabrera truly still the deserving 2012 and 2013 MVP? Unfortunately, he isn’t! Let’s see what Fangraphs has to say about performing in high leverage situations in:

2012 Miguel Cabrera     .365/.443/.712, 199 wRC+
2012 Josh Willingham  .393/.507/.768, 242 wRC+

Ouch! Apparently the voters still screwed up! Even though Willingham’s line of  .260/.366/.524 for a 142 wRC+ in 2012 is clearly inferior to Cabrera’s line for the season, Willingham was far superior to Cabrera in those critical situations that we now know is more important than everything else! Clearly Willingham should’ve been the 2012 MVP.

Let’s check out high leverage situations 2013 now:

2013 Miguel Cabrera     .283/.469/.543, 164 wRC+
2013 Carlos Santana      .372/.516/.651, 209 wRC+

Oh no! Not again! Another player was far superior to Cabrera in high leverage situations in 2013, even though he was far inferior to Cabrera the rest of the time. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the rightful 2013 AL MVP, Carlos Santana!

Ok ok, enough snark.  I deleted the comment because it was incredibly ignorant, not to mention disrespectful to countless mathematicians and scientists around the world that rely on statistical analysis to do their work. I didn’t want my intelligent readers to have their brains melt. The commenter will no longer be allowed to pollute my site.

The commenter mentioned my passion for Mike Trout. My argument, as well as the inspiration for this column and the one it references, has nothing to do with how I feel about Mike Trout. My passion is for the process. A major motivator in starting this blog is to defend the process. I want to take the fabricated history and analyses back from all the anachronistic media types and writers who choose to put themselves before the integrity of the game. I’m almost positive I’ll fail, but that won’t stop me from trying. So if you’re an intelligent, logical, rational person who loves baseball and understands how science and arguments work, then this is the place for you! Please join me in Taking Back Baseball.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford Takes Low Road to Enable Red Sox Smear Campaign of A.J. Pierzynski

Yesterday, it was announced that the Boston Red Sox designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment. This really wasn’t surprising. Though Pierzynski actually got off to an ok start to the season, performing at about league average offensively through May, he has crashed and burned since then. In June, he hit .173/.200/.213. Pierzynski needs to hit in order to stay on the field because he is a below average catcher. The Red Sox only owed him ~$4 million for the rest of the year, and with their prospect Christian Vázquez ready to be called up, DFAing Pierzynski became an easy decision.

The Red Sox organization has an ugly reputation for smearing players and coaches on their way out. The excess of sports media in Boston just eats this up, and of course, nobody eats up narratives like the BBWAA. Enter WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Today, he wrote a completely unnecessary article citing “unnamed sources” unhappy with Pierzynski. It was high on narrative and low on facts. Typical BBWAA fluff. Let’s take a look at what Bradford wrote.

“According to multiple sources within the Red Sox clubhouse, Pierzynski had become such a negative influence on the team that players approached both the Sox coaches and front office to address the problem.”

This one is on the Red Sox. What kind of coward anonymously bad mouths a person behind his back? Either put your name to it, or keep your mouth shut. This goes double in Boston, where there is just too much sports media. Feed them a narrative and they’ll be sure to make it a distraction just by the sheer volume of sports talk and writing.

“The common theme expressed was the catcher’s seeming indifference toward his teammates and the common goals of the same organization that had relied on an all-for-one approach when winning the 2013 World Series.”

This is also on the team. Pierzynski was brand new to the team and on a 1-year deal that was unlikely to get renewed given the catching depth in the farm system. He was just a filler, a place holder if you will; a bridge to Christian Vázquez or Blake Swihart. The players knew it, the coaches knew it, and the fans knew it. It certainly would’ve been nice if he cared about his teammates and the organization, but given the situation, why should he?

Also, did the team really rely on an all-for-one approach last year? I would like to think that a smart organization like the Boston Red Sox would rely on talent and performance, and not something nebulous like team spirit. I don’t know if that statement is on the players or Bradford, but it’s likely that both believe far too strongly in the team’s chemistry as the reason for their success last year. In reality, their chemistry was nothing more than a good, fun story. The reasons for the Red Sox success last year could fill a whole separate post, but in short, it was due to a great offseason by GM Ben Cherington, health, a few players overperforming, and some good old-fashioned luck. Just about everything that could’ve gone right for the Red Sox last year did. Even when closers were dropping left and right early in the season due to injury, Koji Uehara emerged to give the Red Sox a whopping 3.3 WAR in only 74.1 IP. Talent wins baseball games, not the proverbial holding hands and singing Kumbaya around the campfire.

“[Pierzynski’s] propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games.”

So what? Is it in his contract that he’s supposed to be pleasant and sociable? Everyone has known for 16 years that Pierzynski has a reputation for being unlikable. Had he forced himself to exhibit the personality that his teammates wanted, then the narrative probably would’ve changed to complaints of him being disingenuous. That’s the thing about narratives. They can be crafted to screw whoever you want.

“…after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away.”

I imagine that it’s normal for a catcher to comfort his pitcher after getting knocked around in an outing. I can’t imagine that a veteran pitcher would be “an emotional wreck” after a bad outing, so I’m speculating that this was either Ruby de la Rosa or Brandon Workman. If that’s the case, then I can understand his teammates being upset with Pierzynski, but he’s not the only person in that dugout capable of comforting the poor pitcher. If nobody talked to him, then the entire dugout is at fault. If somebody did talk to the pitcher, then it doesn’t matter that Pierzynski didn’t. To be clear, it’s a fair criticism, but too much is being made of it.

“The frustrations with Pierzynski among the Red Sox grew with the catcher’s indifference toward the perceived needs of the club.”

This is usually BS, but Bradford elaborated by saying that Pierzynski didn’t care about the success or failure of his pitching staff. That’s a very fair criticism. How much a catcher really helps his pitchers his highly debatable, but not even trying is just lazy.

“…it was tough to ignore the voices throughout the home clubhouse…which described an entirely different dugout environment than there had been up through Tuesday.”

Meaningless. They’re not going to turn it around just because they’re starting to feel all warm and fuzzy inside around each other.

“But the facts are the facts, and the facts are that this one player was identified as a dark cloud that had just been lifted by multiple members of what is perceived as one of baseball’s most tight-knit groups.”

It doesn’t seem that Bradford knows what facts are. Then again, I don’t expect somebody who voted for Miguel Cabrera for the 2013 AL MVP to know the difference between fact and fiction. Since we have no names attached to quotes, we have little idea which players or how many of them disliked Pierzynski. Furthermore, are the Red Sox still perceived as a tight-knit group? Who perceives them that way this season? And since when are perceptions facts? That statement above belongs in a novel, not in a sports article.

The column improved greatly when Bradford discussed the Red Sox options at catcher during the offseason. I didn’t like the Pierzynski signing when it happened. It had nothing to do with his personality, because I don’t care about that sort of thing, and really nobody else does. If you’re awesome, everyone overlooks it. If you suck, then it’s a problem. The thing is that people are just mad that you suck, and being a jerk is just one more thing to be mad at. Whatever an athlete’s personality, it always comes down to his performance. Back to Pierzynski, he’s a 37-year old, below average defensive catcher who never walks. The Red Sox former catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, signed with the Miami Marlins for a measly 3-year, $21 million deal. Why not sign him back if that was all he was asking for? The Rays and the A’s could’ve afforded that contract. Even if Cherington felt that Vazquez would be ready for the start of 2015, I’m sure he could’ve easily found somebody to trade for Salty with such a team-friendly contract. If Vázquez nor Swihart work out, you still have Salty as insurance. What made this all especially perplexing, is that Cherington has made it no secret that he pays attention to team chemistry. If you actually value such a thing, why not sign back the player who can help maintain it? Why sign Pierzynski, who anybody could’ve predicted would’ve been a detriment to team chemistry? At least Cherington took full responsibility for his bad decision to the press yesterday.

The column then started to deteriorate again.

“Pierzynski’s personality wasn’t conducive to the Red Sox’ way of doing things, saying what he wanted when he wanted without much regard for the greater good.”

Why would anybody expect a 37-year old, 16-season veteran to change the way he does things, regardless of his personality?

“From the dugout, he would yell across the field at the opposition, or ridicule umpires during replay challenges.”

I literally just saw Anthony Rizzo yelling at the Reds from his own dugout. But he’s a good player so it’s ok, right? Not to mention all the times that we’ve seen managers argue with umps. We don’t even have any context for the above statement. Come on.

“This wasn’t the Red Sox way, the one that a World Series run had been built on.”

Stupid narrative. This is a vague statement that is not backed up with any facts.

“Pitchers started to express their preference to pitch to David Ross.”

Of course they did. Ross is a much better catcher than Pierzynski. I would expect this to be true even if Pierzynski was a saint.

“He also made little effort to fall in line with the rest of the lineup in regard to seeing at least a few pitches…”

Again, why would anybody expect a 37-year old, 16-season veteran to change the way he does things? He has a career 4% BB%. That’s terrible. It’s completely unreasonable to expect such a player to suddenly develop patience at the plate.

The rest of the article is just more narrative crap that I won’t go over here.

Let me end by making something perfectly clear: It is not my intention to defend Pierzynski. He’s a jerk who got what was coming to him. The purpose of this post is to criticize the players who cowardly attacked Pierzynski without attaching their names to it, the Red Sox for allowing yet another smear campaign to occur to a former member of the organization, and Rob Bradford for enabling them by printing this crap.

This is my problem with beat writers. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a beat writer, of course, but they tend to be high on narrative and low on analysis. There are good ones out there, to be sure. C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer is an excellent beat writer. Coincidentally, so is Bradford’s colleague at WEEI, Alex Speier. I highly recommend reading him over Bradford.

Baseball Reactions (7-5-2014)

An Omega’s Corner version of Baseball Reactions today. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with Thomas Boswell and the Legend of Jeter, but somebody needs to call this stuff out.

*****

Thomas Boswell was at it again the other day. In a recent column, he criticized Bryce Harper for some comments he made during an interview on the day he returned from the DL. Let’s take a look at some of what Boswell and Harper had to say:

“Manager Matt Williams put Ryan Zimmerman at third base, Anthony Rendon at second base, Harper in left field and benched Danny Espinosa. He also batted Harper sixth, exiled from the glamorous heart-of-the-order spots. Harper disagreed, on all fronts, and said so several hours before the game.

“I think [Zimmerman] should be playing left. Rendon’s a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We’ve got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa,” said Harper. “Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. [But] I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what’s happening.”

First of all, we have no context for what Harper said. Secondly, we don’t know what question Harper was answering, or if the interviewer was trying to trap him, as they are prone to do in order to fabricate their narratives. Thirdly, and most importantly, Harper is absolutely right. It’s a crying shame that the 21-year old with maturity issues is better at lineup construction and talent evaluation than the man that the Nationals actually pay to do it, Matt Williams. Williams has just been terrible this season and continues to exhibit further proof that playing baseball and managing baseball are two completely different skills. Hopefully front offices will figure this out some day.

“This Harper proposal would also put Denard Span on the bench and Harper himself in center field, the position he’s politicked for weeks to play.”

This is a good example of a biased argument being a good one. Implying that an argument is invalid because the arguer is biased, or just perceived to be so, is a complete non-argument and a bit of a strawman. Claiming bias can explain why the arguer arrived at the wrong conclusion, but not why the conclusion itself is wrong. As a Mets fan, I hate the Phillies, but I doubt any Philly fans would argue with my belief that their GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., is the worst GM in baseball. I hate the Yankees, but I could’ve made a good case against the Yankees chances going into this season1. Unfortunately, accusations of bias tend to be incredibly successful. Asserting bias is a convenient cop-out for the close-minded out there who are too mentally lazy and weak to deal with the cognitive dissonance that an opposing view causes. In other words, it’s easier to wipe away an argument by crying bias than it is to actually go through the trouble of mounting a counterargument using actual facts and logic.

I doubt Boswell is aware of the contents of my last paragraph. He expects that his readers will buy into his “politicked for weeks to play [center field]” propaganda against Harper because he’s falling for it himself.

“I haven’t talked to nobody about anything, so I have no clue,” said Harper, who frequently mentioned how happy and excited he was to return but never smiled.”

What? A professional athlete wasn’t being straight about his thoughts and feelings to a reporter? How is this not the leading story on every sports website?

I cannot believe a journalist with 45 years experience is accusing a professional athlete of being disingenuous. I guess you just go with whatever feeds the narrative, right?

“And what about batting sixth?

“I’m in the lineup. That’s all that matters. If I had the lineup, it would maybe not be the same. He’s got the lineup card. He’s got the pen. That’s what he’s doing,” said Harper. “So there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m hitting sixth tonight.”

For what it’s worth, I really do believe that Harper would do a better job with the lineup card than Williams. However, Harper isn’t without fault here. Even though Harper was right about everything he said, he should’ve said it to Williams behind closed doors, and not undermine him in front of the media. It’s similar to when Williams benched Harper for no good reason. Don’t publicly embarrass a player or coach. It accomplishes nothing except to serve as a distraction.

All in all, Boswell’s article was just terrible and logically fallacious baseball writing. Harper hasn’t fed him the narratives he wanted by becoming the Mike Trout-like superstar that he was projected to be, so he’s creating his own narratives to fill the void. Harper WILL become a superstar someday, but the mismanagement by Williams and the smear campaign by Boswell make it increasingly likely that Harper will choose to give his best years to another team. Heck, as a Mets fan I would love to see Harper move out of the NL East.

 *****

Check out this gem from Jon Heyman of CBS sports.

Click on the tweet above if you want to read the responses. They were glorious. Here’s one for example:

Bingo. It’s so refreshing to see regular baseball fans show such intelligence. Don’t misunderstand me, I actually believe that serious baseball fans are very smart and follow the modern principles of analyzing baseball, at least in general. The thing is that the internet tends to bring out the idiots. I would’ve expected some die hard Yankee fans to blindly defend Heyman and attack his detractors in the name of their beloved Jeter. That didn’t happen here.

Derek Jeter is the greatest hitter of all time among players whose primary position was shortstop. The offensive numbers he put up at that high value position easily qualify him as an upper-tier Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, the horrible truth is that he just may be one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time among players who regularly started at the position.

The history of Jeter and his defense is a strange and unique one. Jeter maintaining his job as a shortstop was the result of a perfect storm of good fortune. He played his first full season in 1996 for the most prestigious team in sports. The Yankees were already quite good, and were 2 years away from dominating baseball by winning 3 straight World Series2. Jeter’s excellent bat, good looks, and likability, combined with playing on an excellent Yankee team, blinded everyone to his terrible defense. Nobody noticed that Jeter had poor lateral agility and reaction time. He simply did not have the speed nor the range to handle the position. It may very well be true that Jeter does the backhand so well because being incapable of getting in front of the ball has given him a lot of practice.

Let’s say that Hal Newhouser actually convinced the Houston Astros to draft Jeter. The Astros, to put it mildly, do not have any where near the prestige that the Yankees do, not to mention that they weren’t anywhere near as successful when Jeter got started. Jeter likely would’ve also been overshadowed by should-be-in-the-Hall-of-Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in their primes. Under those circumstances, I guarantee that there would’ve been nowhere for Jeter’s defense to hide. He probably would’ve still been a Hall of Famer, but it would’ve been interesting to see how differently he would’ve been perceived had he spent his career on a smaller market team without all the regular and postseason success he enjoyed. He would’ve been exactly the same player, just without the mythical aura that others see. Quite the “what if”, huh?

To be clear, I’m not criticizing Jeter, so much as I’m criticizing the perception of Jeter.

Jon Heyman said what he said because nobody is more susceptible to the Legend of Jeter than the BBWAA. Let’s face it, a guy like Jeter is narrative crack. First, let me give credit where credit is due. Heyman is an excellent journalist. It seemed like he broke every major story of the offseason. He’s obviously very well connected and it allows him to get lots of great scoops. Heyman, however, is another example of a journalist who doesn’t know how to analyze baseball. He’s a terrible analyst. Whenever I see him on MLB Network, I change the channel. I don’t know why people don’t understand that journalism and analysis are two completely different skills. Some people like Eno Sarris and Ben Lindbergh can do both, but that’s not the norm. I would suck at being a journalist. Just completely suck. Joe Sheehan is one of the best minds in baseball, and he has readily admitted that he would be no good at journalism. Analytical writers are smart enough to stick to what they’re good at. Journalists, for some reason, think that covering baseball means that they understand it. Heyman did get a little better last year. He stopped bashing WAR, and even put Josh Donaldson 3rd on his MVP ballot. Unfortunately, he still put Miguel Cabrera first, so he still has a long way to go.

Mr. Heyman, if by some act of God you’re reading this, just stick to journalism. There’s nothing wrong with just being an exceptionally talented journalist.

*****

Harold Reynolds seems to be much worse in the Fox booth than anyone feared. I say “seems” because I refuse to listen. I just catch a lot of his nonsense from people tweeting it out. Last weekend, he came out with the following statement that seemingly broke social media:

The color commentator covering national broadcasts for Fox doesn’t know anything about one of the greatest players of all time. He’s actually misrepresenting Williams in order to denigrate OPS. The funny thing is, he’s right to denigrate OPS. The not funny thing is that he’s right about OPS for all the wrong reasons. He attacks it just because it’s an “advanced stat”, and not because of its actual flaws. Oh, and by the way, WILLIAMS HAS THE SECOND HIGHEST OPS OF ALL TIME! Only Babe Ruth had a higher career OPS.

Now hold on, it gets worse…

Ted Williams was the most analytical and patient hitter of his time. His approach to hitting was so far ahead of anyone at the time. The man was a sabermetrician 40-50 years before Bill James pioneered it. For example, in his book, The Science of Hitting, he explained how he divided the strike zone into 77 sections and knew his batting average in each section. In fact, there’s an exhibit at Cooperstown that describes this. He knew how bad outs were, and conversely, how important it was to get on base ~50 years before OBP became popular. Nobody gave him credit for getting on base, but he took his walks anyway. Not counting his military years, he led the league in walks 6 straight seasons, and 7 out of 8. There’s no way the newspapers in the 1940s were giving him any credit for that. Yet he continued to walk anyway, because he understood its value. He knew that expanding the zone just leads to more outs, which leads to less offense.

Finally, anybody who knows anything about Ted Williams knows that he was a brutally honest person who never gave a crap about what anyone thought, ever. If the media ever got on his case about not driving in enough runs, I guarantee you that he would’ve changed nothing. He knew he was right. It led him to having the highest OBP of all time, a monstrous .482.

How does Harold Reynolds not know anything about one of the greatest hitters of all time? Like I’ve said before, I think he’s just being a contrarian. He decided a long time ago to be the anti-stats and anti-facts and anti-logic guy. If he wants to sell out his integrity and self-respect, that’s his business. It just sucks that Fox continues to screw its fans out of any kind of intelligent color commentary.

A quick thought on Reynolds’ broadcasting partner, Tom Verducci: As I had predicted, he’s adding absolutely nothing to broadcasts. Like I’ve said before, I have no idea what a journalist has to add that is of any value to the broadcasting booth. He hasn’t said anything stupid that I’m aware of, but he also hasn’t added any insight whatsoever that I’m aware of. You could say the same thing about ESPN’s John Kruk, but at least he’s funny and entertaining. Literally any baseball fan could enter the booth and do Verducci’s job. He would be much more valuable if Fox just returned him to sideline reporting. Buster Olney does a fine job doing that for ESPN. A journalist’s skills come in handy for that job.

*****

Well this edition of Baseball Reactions didn’t turn out to be as short as I intended. I’ll try and do a better job of keeping it short and sweet in the future.

 


  1. So far the Yankees have indeed outperformed expectations. Thanks to Masahiro Tanaka and an excellent bullpen, the Yankees have won 4 more games than their run differential says they should’ve won according to the Pythagorean expectation. I predicted at the beginning of the season that the Yankees wouldn’t finish over .500. At this point I’ll predict that I will have been wrong by 2 games, meaning that Yankees will finish with no better than 83 wins. 
  2. Their 2000 World Championship was my worst nightmare. 

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post (Part 2)

Sorry this took so long. I really have no good excuse, so here we go!

For Part 1, click here

Since Thomas Boswell is selling out his integrity trying to make sure the future of the Nationals franchise becomes a Yankee some day just to get some clicks, I decided to to give that old 2008 article the special treatment. Keith Law tweeted out the link to the article but declined to comment on it. I decline to let Boswell off the hook.

“Thirty years ago, I created the statistic Total Average. Now I’m almost ashamed to have been one of the original baseball geeks. Where did we go wrong?”

See? I told you he can’t shut up about it. Boswell may be ashamed of having been a baseball geek, but I’m ashamed of him for choosing to pass baseball fiction as fact for 45 years, instead of actually trying to advance our knowledge of baseball like he did with that stat he created.

“This week, Albert Pujols won the NL MVP Award. Why? Mostly because he had a better OPS and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) [VORP is the predecessor to WAR]  than Ryan Howard.”

The NL MVP debate wasn’t exactly Trout vs. Cabrera. Here are their stats for 2008:

Albert Pujols: .357/.462/.653, 37 HR, wRC+ 184

Ryan Howard: .251/.339/.543, 48 HR, wRC+ 120

In addition, Pujols combined his superior offense with Gold Glove caliber defense. Ryan Howard sucks at defense as much as he does at hitting lefties. Let’s look at WAR to see just how much better Pujols was than Howard in 2008:

Pujols: 9.2 WAR

Howard: 1.8 WAR

Pujols was literally 5 times better than Howard. Howard was only as valuable as a league average regular. That’s it. Now you may wonder how that can be when he hit a whopping 48 home runs that year and that WAR is stupid and I’m a loser that lives in my mother’s basement and never watches any games because I’m too busy buried in spreadsheets. Pujols hit 11 less HR than Howard, but still hit for more power overall as evidenced by his 110 point advantage in slugging percentage. Pujols hit 47 doubles to Howard’s 26. As much as fans of the silly triple crown like to believe otherwise, doubles matter. However, the main reason that Pujols’ WAR is so much higher than Howard’s is OBP. Pujols has an enormous 123 point advantage over Howard. When you do the math, Howard made 116 more outs than Pujols in 2008. Do you have any idea how much offense that many more outs sacrifices? It’s a complete joke that Howard finished 2nd in the MVP voting that year. All that power he hit for and he gave so much of it back in his lousy defense, baserunning, and all the extra outs that he made.

The funny thing is that Howard wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team, which isn’t hard to believe when he had just 1.8 WAR. Chase Utley blew him out of the water. He hit .292/.380/.535 with 33 HR and a wRC+ of 134. That, combined with his excellent defense at a much more valuable position, 2nd base, resulted in 9.0 WAR. If the BBWAA knew what it was doing, which it doesn’t, Utley would’ve finished no lower than 2nd on the MVP balloting. He finished 14th. This is one of many reasons why I don’t care for the MVP award. The BBWAA has a long history of incompetently evaluating baseball players. To them value is whatever sells the most newspapers and gets the most mouse clicks.

“Say what? Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Phils’ first baseman had 48 homers and 146 RBI to Pujols’ 37 homers and 116 RBI.”

That’s adorable that he thinks RBIs are meaningful. Forty-five years writing about baseball and he still hasn’t learned that hitting with runners in scoring position is not a skill. However, Boswell does seem to think that doubles, triples, defense, baserunning, and getting on base are not skills. Again, Howard made 116 more outs than Pujols. That’s 116 more times that he took away from himself any chance to score. That’s 116 more times that he reduced the possibility for his team to have a big inning by shortening it. Then again, what do you expect from somebody who prefers to drive fabricated narratives instead of facts?

Please, Mr. Boswell, do not accuse the analytically minded of not living in the real world. We go by facts and objective methodologies. You and your kind go by narratives and logical fallacies. We understand how fallible and unreliable a person’s perceptions can be, especially when that person works in an industry where it’s in his or her best interest to fabricate and sensationalize narratives. We stick to what we know, yet you think you’re qualified to criticize data from advanced statistical analysis. I’m guessing you never even took a basic stats class. So who’s the one who really needs a reality check?

“Earth to my baseball writing buddies: We all love the new numbers, but lets not worship false idols. When I published my Total Average numbers, I’d always emphasize that while stats were wonderful, common sense was better. When stats WILDLY contradict common sense, always doubts the stats. In the case of the goofy gap between Pujols’ VORP of 96.8 and Howard’s 35.3, my reaction is “Time to revisit VORP. If it can be this wrong, it’s not as good as I thought it was.”

Ladies and gentlemen, a look inside the mind of the BBWAA! That quote is so void of logic and any understanding of how science works that my head almost exploded. When objective, peer-reviewed methodology contradicts what you think you know, then always question what you think you know. Boswell has it backwards. If scientists thought like Boswell we’d still be living in the stone age. You cannot disregard an advanced stat just because you don’t like it, or, as in Boswell’s case, because it disagrees with your silly narratives.

So Mr. Boswell, why is VORP and WAR so wrong in evaluating Pujols and Howard? By that I mean please explain to me in explicit detail where the people who constructed those stats went wrong in their methodology, because that would be the only valid criticism. Believe it or not, you cannot debunk good statistical constructs like VORP or WAR by cherry picking 2 examples and saying that they’re wrong because they don’t agree with your biased, subjective, pre-drawn conclusions. You committed 2 logical fallacies right there: texas sharpshooter and anecdotal.

My guess, Mr. Boswell, is that you felt that VORP was “WILDLY” wrong was because of RBIs. RBIs are nothing more than a function of lineup construction and luck. There are no extra skills involved. I highly recommend that you, and anybody else reading who disagrees with me, check out the RBI section of my stats page. RBIs are just another example of “analysis” being driven by good narratives instead of facts.

“To a modern baseball writer, unfortunately, reality often looks like an excuse to apply statistics and then torque our opinions to fit them.”

Let me try rewording that last sentence to reflect the reality of the situation:

“To a modern baseball journalist, unfortunately, reality often looks like an excuse to apply false narratives and then torque the facts to fit them” 1

We apply statistics to baseball because they have so much to teach us. Stats are objective. Our perceptions, however, are not.  Furthermore, another advantage of stats is that if they are misused, if they are used to misrepresent the truth, then it is 100% provable to objectively show that somebody did that. That’s the beauty of facts.

“All of the encompassing offensive stats __and there’s little difference between Total Average, Runs Created, OPS and others__ run the risk of overvaluing walks and singles while undervaluing the bases-clearly game-changing power of extra base hits.”

There’s little difference between Total Average, Runs Created, and OPS? Do they have fact checkers at the Washington Post? Why doesn’t he just say, ” HEY EVERYBODY, I CLEARLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THESE STATS BUT I’M GOING TO CRITICIZE THEM ANYWAY!” The problem with Total Average is that it de-emphasizes singles. Boswell got his own stat wrong! Runs Created gives proper values to walks, singles, doubles, and triples, but does have an issue with home runs. OPS is the only stat out of the 3 that comes close to fitting his criticism. It does undervalue singles but it actually overvalues extra hits.

Boswell is part of the many writers and coaches out there that, despite having been in baseball longer than I’ve been alive, do not understand the value of getting on base, especially in comparison to hitting for power. Let me be clear, power is an important skill to have, but it tends to get overrated. To be fair, it’s easy to overrate a skill that leads to such exciting baseball plays that yield results that are easy to understand, though frequently misinterpreted. People far smarter than Boswell or me have gone over the entire recorded history of major league baseball and found that increased runs scoring comes from OBP more than SLG. A point of OBP is actually worth 1.8x a point of SLG. The BBWAA doesn’t like to believe that because singles and walks are boring. Their arguments for power over OBP are just false cause and appeal to emotion logical fallacies. Boring doesn’t sell newspapers or get mouse clicks. In Boswell’s statement above, he is overemphasizing the benefit of an extra-base hit that was lucky enough to be hit at the right moment over the OBP skills that will help a team over the course of the season. A team full of high OBP, low SLG players will be more successful then one with low OBP, high SLG players, though the latter might be more exciting to watch.

“So, sometimes, you have to underline the obvious; for example, a first baseman with 146 RBI is “more valuable,” especially when he plays on a first-place team, than a first baseman (Pujols) with 116 RBI on a fourth-place team.”

The logcial fallacies committed in that statement are strawman and cherrypicking. Yet another writer who has no idea what value is. That statement demonstrates an obscene lack of understanding of how baseball works. This is one of my problems with the MVP award. The BBWAA has an abstract and inconsistent definition of value that they use to vote for who they want to vote for instead of who they should vote for. I think they kid themselves more than the public. It makes no sense to assign or dock credit from a player for the performance of their team. In baseball, the best players just don’t make that big of a difference. You could put Barry Bonds in his prime on the Nationals that year and they still would’ve struggled to crack 70 wins. This isn’t basketball, where Lebron or Durant alone can turn a terrible team into a contender. If you’re not going to award the MVP based on objective, consistent criteria that is completely within the player’s control2, then it is a worthless award. By valuing team performance and RBIs, Boswell is basically giving Howard credit for the performance of the other 24 players on the team. If Howard hit .251/.339/.543 with 48 HR for the Nationals that year, the team would’ve still sucked and Howard would’ve had far less RBIs. He would’ve been the same exact player and neither Boswell or any of his BBWAA colleagues would’ve been pushing his MVP case. How does that makes sense to anybody?

“Don’t analyze beyond that.”

i.e. It makes sense if you don’t think about it at all!

i.e. Please don’t poke holes in my extremely flawed logic!

“True, Howard can’t field (19 errors). And Pujols outhit him by .357 to .251. Howard strikes out a ton while Pujols walks constantly.”

Other than the fact that Boswell used errors to measure defense, he actually made some valid points there. Good job!

“But none of it outweighs Howard’s RBI total, built on his .320 average with runners in scoring position. For what it’s worth, Howard wasn’t even in the top half dozen in baseball in runners-on-base when he came to the plate. His 146 RBI wasn’t a fluke. He’s Mr. Multi-Run Homer.”

Ugh, just when things were getting better. His .320 average with RISP was EXACTLY A FLUKE. Here’s his AVG with RISP in the years before. By the way, this took me all of 1 minute to find.

2007: .282
2006: .256
2005: .241

How do you not conclude that it was a fluke given those numbers? Also, in an argument I have yet to hear a counter for, if Howard’s .320 with RISP was legit, then why did he hit .251 for the year instead of .320? If you’re saying his .320 demonstrated an actual skill, then you’re saying that he purposely tanked all his at-bats without RISP.

I’ll forgo going over the rest of Boswell’s article. There’s not much else left. He correctly picked Dustin Pedroia for the AL MVP, though he had the audacity to make a case for Francisco Rodríguez because of his 62 saves3. He actually cited the worst stat in baseball to make K-Rod’s MVP case. It’s absurd to even consider a reliever for the Cy Young, let alone the MVP. By WAR he delivered the value of a league average position player. Relievers just don’t get to pitch enough innings for even the elite to make a major impact. At least now they finally have their own awards.

Boswell’s colleague at the Washington Post, Adam Kilgore, came to Boswell’s defense on Twitter after Keith Law criticized Boswell’s take on Bryce Harper. Kilgore was wrong, but I can’t fault him for defending a man who, besides being a coworker, is likely a friend and even a mentor. I will, however, fault him for citing Boswell’s occasional use of advanced stats and familiarity with the Nationals clubhouse. As Law pointed out, using advanced stats doesn’t mean you understand them. I, myself, will point out that knowing the clubhouse is meaningless. It has no value in analyzing the game and calls into question the writer’s objectivity. I don’t see why I should care that Boswell has access to the same cliché, recycled, empty quotes that players spew out over and over again. Clubhouse access just serves to provide journalists with their cute little narratives.

If you agree with everything I’ve written, you’re probably thinking that Boswell is an idiot. I disagree. He’s probably very smart. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s all about self-preservation. I believe that it’s all an attempt to keep the BBWAA in power. Unfortunately for Boswell, he’s sacrificing his integrity to hold the game back. Worse yet for him, it’s really nothing more than a stall.


  1. e.g. Every argument supporting Miguel Cabrera for MVP the last 2 seasons. 
  2. i.e. Players are not in complete control over team performance or context dependent stats like Runs and RBIs. They do have complete control over their hitting, power, defense, and baserunning. 
  3. That season led to Mets GM Omar Minaya giving him a terrible contract that worked out far worse than anybody could’ve predicted. Nowadays, K-Rod is having a great season for the Brewers. I hate Francisco Rodríguez. 

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post (Part 1)

Thomas Boswell has been a sports journalist for the Washington Post since 1969. His claim to fame, which he can’t shut up about by the way, is his creation of the total average statistic in the 1970s. To be fair, it was a valiant effort at the time, as there was nothing like it before the rise of sabermetrics. However, when it comes down to it, it’s just a crude version of OPS, and OPS itself is terrible. Recently, Keith Law tweeted out an article that Boswell wrote in 2008 about the MVP award. It was awful. It’s quite possibly worse than any of the Miguel Cabrera arguments the last 2 seasons. At least Cabrera was an MVP caliber player. Boswell’s article is a great example of the close-minded, outdated thinking of the BBWAA 1. Under normal circumstances I would’ve ignored his article, but since he was foolish enough to side with the Nationals rookie, incompetent manager over their best player, Bryce Harper, who he actually thinks is only the 7th best player on the team, I felt the need to call him out. Look at what he actually had the audacity to write :

“Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.”

Nationals manager Matt Williams shares the blame for this steaming pile of garbage that Boswell wrote. In benching Harper for not hustling, Williams fed a narrative to a writer with a voracious appetite for peddling them out without caring to discern what’s fact or fiction. You know, like the vast majority of the BBWAA. Williams created a situation where his best player, who’s only 21 years old, was getting eviscerated by the media. Great job Matt. You clearly know what you’re doing.

The “analysis” in the rest of that paragraph nearly melted my face. There’s SO MUCH wrong with it. The obvious one is using RBIs, but then he actually goes and makes it WORSE by making a new stat that combines it with Runs. I’ll humor him. Let’s enter the fantasy world of the BBWAA where teams win by grit, hustle, playing the game the right way with heart and passion, and of course, the will to win 2. It’s a magical place where clutch and hitting with RISP are valuable skills, and where Runs and RBIs have a greater than zero value in baseball analysis. On the surface, it may make sense to add Runs and RBIs together. After all, 1 Run = 1 RBI as far as the scoreboard is concerned. The problem arises when you consider that a player can get more than 1 RBI per plate appearance, but can get no more than 1 Run. Such a stat would skew heavily in favor of middle of the order batters. A high OBP, low slugging hitter would look worse than a low OBP, high slugging hitter, even though the first player would likely be more valuable, all else being equal. Ok let’s leave this fantasy world before I start believing that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame or that the MVP award matters.

The rest of Boswell’s argument shows that he either is purposely trying to deceive his readers in order to drive his anti-Harper narrative, or he has chosen not to learn anything about baseball since he first started writing about it. Aw who am I kidding, it’s probably both. While Zimmerman is a legitimately good baseball player, LaRoche and McLouth have been average to below-average their entire careers, save for 1 really good year each 3. The only thing Boswell is accomplishing there is giving yet another reason why RBIs and Runs cannot be used to evaluate players. Here’s how Harper’s career numbers compares to those other three players:

AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Bryce Harper 0.273 0.353 0.476 0.359 127
Ryan Zimmerman 0.286 0.353 0.478 0.358 121
Adam LaRoche 0.266 0.339 0.474 0.348 112
Nate McLouth 0.247 0.333 0.413 0.327 99

Not too shabby when a 21-year old is just as good if not better than the veterans on your team. That’s one of the reasons why there is every reason to believe that Harper’s ceiling is so high. Harper’s 5.1 WAR in his rookie year was better than any season LaRoche or McLouth ever had, and it would’ve been fair to assume that it would’ve been just as high last season had he not been injured.

As for comparing Harper to Anthony Rendon…I’m at a loss for words. To be fair, Rendon projects to be very good. He has the potential to be a 70 hitter, and could be the kind of player to make the All-Star team occasionally or even consistently. However, scouts have compared Harper to Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Rendon may, MAY, develop a better hit tool than Harper, but Harper has him beat everywhere else. Because of Rendon’s injury history, Harper is likely to provide more value on defense and be a better runner. What is inarguable is the huge advantage Harper has in his arm and power. Harper has legit 80 power. Rendon only has 50 power. In fact, if it wasn’t for Giancarlo Stanton’s superhuman strength, Harper would have the most power in all of baseball. He even has more power than Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis. Rendon is in his age 24 season and is hitting .267/.321/.417 with a 103 wRC+ for his career. Harper is 3 years younger and already better, with the capability of being a Hall of Fame type player. But yeah, whatever Boswell, take the 24-year old with the 65 ceiling over the 21-year old with the 80 ceiling. For a seemingly old school type of writer, Boswell has no respect for the evaluations of countless scouts. That, or he’s arrogant enough to think he knows better. For the record, I’d take the evaluations of the worst scout over any journalist any day of the week.

After everything wrong with Boswell’s paragraph above, he may have saved the best for last. Saying, “Baseball loves relaxed,” after fully supporting Williams’ misguided decision to bench Harper for lack of hustle is just flat out hypocritical. That’s all the evidence you need to know that Boswell has no interest in objective analysis, but in driving his own narratives.

Since Boswell is selling out his integrity trying to make sure the future of the Nationals franchise becomes a Yankee some day, just to get some clicks, I decided to to give that old 2008 article the special treatment in Part 2. Law declined to comment on the article. I decline to let Boswell off the hook.

 


  1. Thankfully, Boswell is a non-voting member. 
  2. In this fantasy world, the Arizona Diamondbacks are undefeated. 
  3. The Nationals overreacted to LaRoche’s good year in 2012 by giving him a 2-year, $24 million contract. He turned back into LaRoche last year, which caused problems by preventing the team from moving Zimmerman to 1st when he got the throwing yips at 3rd. I have to say, though, that the contract is looking pretty good so far this year. Keeping in mind SSS, he’s hitting .319/.421/.504. 

Mets Announcer Gary Cohen Continues to Attack Sabermetrics, Resisting Advancement in his Own Profession

I love the Mets booth. I think Gary Cohen does a great job calling games, while Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez 1 offer excellent color commentary. I had always wondered if my bias towards my favorite team clouded my judgement. It’s good to know that there are lots of people that share my sentiment. That being said, Cohen has a nasty history of criticizing sabermetrics.

Cohen has gotten a little better this year. The other day against the Braves, they were raving over Andrelton Simmons’ defense 2, when they brought up the graphic showing the top defenders from last season using dWAR 3. Once that graphic appeared on screen, I thought, “Oh great, here we go…” anticipating Cohen making some ignorant remark. Although he didn’t endorse it, he didn’t completely disregard it either. It’s almost as if somebody at SNY had talked to him about toning down the saber-bashing.

It got a bit worse today during the Mets/Angels game, and believe me I didn’t need to hear it after Bartolo Colon was getting lit up, when Mike Trout came up for his second plate appearance. Since the Mets never play the Angels, the booth felt the need to go into the AL MVP debate, which always tends to lead into a discussion of WAR, and then into sabermetrics in general. For those of you who are familiar with Cohen’s history commentating on analytics, it was an improvement over that but it was still pretty bad. Unfortunately, Darling did not come out spotless either.

It began with Cohen having the audacity to question the objectivity of of WAR, because apparently statistics have thoughts and feelings and biases. This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what WAR is and how it works, which is common among WAR detractors. If Mr. Cohen had the expertise to criticize the methodologies behind the construction of WAR, which he doesn’t, then he would know better than to make such a silly, uninformed comment. I can’t even begin to understand how you question the objectivity of a number. It appears that Cohen thinks that sabermetrics is nothing but a scam created by magical statisticians who can predict the future and manipulate their advanced stats accordingly. It makes sense because sabermetrics is heavily accepted in baseball today and those well versed in it are wealthy writers and front office types that practically run the game of baseball. Oh wait, that’s the complete opposite of what’s actually true. It does sound like Cohen is more accepting of magic than he is of science. What can somebody possibly be getting at by questioning the motives behind the construction of WAR?

He also followed that up with by questioning whether offense, defense, and baserunning are weighted properly in the WAR construct, because if science tells you something contrary to what you’ve always assumed, then it must be wrong. Confirmation bias sucks. This is one of the biggest problems with getting the Luddites to accept sabermetrics. Instead of keeping an open mind and trying to learn more about baseball, they assume that they know everything and any advanced stat or idea that contradicts their pre-drawn conclusion is wrong. If you’re really a baseball fan, then why don’t you want to learn more about baseball? Forget baseball, how do people go through life being so closed-minded? Cohen fell into a trap that a lot of people fell into during the 2012 AL MVP debate, that if WAR doesn’t favor the Triple Crown winner then it must be wrong. Again, how ignorant and close-minded can you be? How do you not think, “Wow if advanced statistical studies that are peer-reviewed to be scientifically sound are challenging what I always thought to be true, then maybe I should rethink some things.” If this doesn’t describe you, then I have one question for you: Why do you think so highly of yourself?

This is all a common criticism I have of the anti-saber crowd. People like Cohen criticize that which they lack the training and expertise to criticize. It would be like Cohen coming to the laboratory where I work and criticizing my chemistry research. Mr. Cohen, do you question your doctor? Your lawyer? Your accountant? I’m sure you don’t, because you trust that their training, education, and experience qualifies them to know what they’re talking about. So why question analytics? Those that have pioneered sabermetrics and the advanced stats that came from it understand how to conduct research and statistical analysis. You, Mr. Cohen, do not. If WAR wasn’t objective, or didn’t properly weigh offense, defense, and baserunning, don’t you think some expert would’ve come forward with by now? The methodologies that go into WAR and every other advanced stat are readily available for peer-review. THAT is where you go to challenge any advanced stat you don’t like, yet nobody has come out with any major objections yet.

Cohen’s objection, along with the rest of the anti-saber crowd, to analytics may be frequently worded differently, but always say the same thing: It’s not true because I don’t like it. It’s the reasoning and maturity of a 3-year old.

Other WAR criticisms discussed in the booth were catcher defense and the 2 variations. The fact that WAR doesn’t capture catcher defense well is fair, but overblown. The fact that their are 2 versions of WAR, so neither must be true, is a terrible, illogical criticism, that again, fails to understand how science works. People disagree in science all the time. To take an example from my field of expertise, the mechanism of formation for a Grignard reagent has been debated between H.M. Walborsky and J.F. Garst for ages. To keep it simple, they have two competing models that describe what they believe is happening. No organic chemist on the face of the planet think it’s all wrong because they don’t agree. Hey Cohen, since any field outside of your expertise seems to be fair game, why don’t you give us your thoughts on the mechanism for Grignard reagent formation? Do you side with the D-model, where all radicals generated in the reaction leave the magnesium surface and diffuse freely in solution? Or with the A-model, where radicals that are reduced to the Grignard reagent remain adsorbed at the magnesium surface? Your thoughts would be just as relevant and well-informed as those that attack sabermetrics.

Cohen and Darling went on to discuss nonsense such as Miguel Cabrera’s ability to “carry his team” and positively influence them. I’m really surprised at Darling for saying this. You’d think a smart, former baseball player such as himself would understand that baseball is an individual sport where it isn’t possible for one player, no matter how good, to “carry his team”. Per that argument, the Astros would’ve made the playoffs if they had Cabrera. That works in other sports, but not in baseball. I think there were talking more along the lines of the psychological impact of Cabrera’s performance. That is a load of crap. It’s just narrative fueled nonsense. It’s one of the many things people believe just because it sounds good. There are far too many amateur psychologist in the baseball media today. They, nor anyone, can possibly know how a player is affecting his teammates psychologically, and what affect that has on their performance. None. Zero. Zilch. It’s nothing more than a wild assumption that people create to fit what they want to be true. If you think you know what you’re talking about when you say such things, then please tell me where you got your Ph.D. in psychology and what your peers thought of the methodology you used to study the players’ state of mind through out the season. People like to counter by saying that one or more players say it’s real, so it must be true. That’s just a subjective, anecdotal logical fallacy and is not evidence of anything.

They finished by bringing up another fallacy: clutch performance. There is no such thing as clutch. It is not a skill. It’s more narrative driven crap. Whether you go by Fangraph’s Clutch metric, or simply the triple slash line in late and close situations 4, you’ll find that no player is consistent from year to year. Your skills are your skills, regardless of the situation. For example, in 2012 Cabrera hit .291/.384/.506 in late and close situations for his career. That’s great, obviously, but his career numbers are .320/.398/.567. This means that he’s actually worse in clutch situations than in non-clutch situations. We could go by seasonal numbers, but they suffer from small sample size in late and close situations. Even if he did perform significantly better in clutch situations, then why can’t he perform just as well all the time? I recommend this article by Rob Neyer if you want to learn more about the clutch myth.

I feel bad for being so hard on Gary Cohen. I really do. I’ve enjoyed his play-by-play for years. He just needs to learn that it’s 2014, and that he needs to get with the times.


  1. When he shaved his mustache last year, it freaked me out! It’s not right! 
  2. It happened after that spectacular play when he threw out d’Arnaud while sitting down. A perfectly thrown laser that I’m surprised didn’t put a hole in Freddie Freeman’s glove. It was so awesome that I couldn’t get mad despite the fact that it was against my Mets and d’Arnaud was technically safe. 
  3. dWAR isolates only the defensive component of WAR
  4.  Baseball Reference defines late and close situations as plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck. 

Bill Plaschke Becomes Latest to Criticize Yasiel Puig, Continues to Somehow be Employed

LA Times “journalist” Bill Plaschke’s latest affront to baseball writing is just another addition to the pile of crap articles that have been written about Puig since his debut last year.  I’m not even going to link to it because I don’t want to give him the extra traffic and I don’t want you to become dumber.  I will, however, link to Craig Calcaterra’s piece that criticizes Plaschke. Plaschke’s piece is a great example of what’s wrong with baseball journalism and the BBWAA (at least he’s a non-voting member).

Yasiel Puig is only 23 years old, and does indeed have some growing up to do.  I am not denying that he’s immature.  He clearly is resistant to coaching, as he is prone to making mistakes on the field and the base paths.  The thing is, last year he hit .319/.391/.534 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with a wRC+ of 160 and 5.0 WAR in just 104 games.  With numbers like that, I don’t care about any silly narratives you fabricate to criticize Puig.  As long as he’s not committing any felonies, it doesn’t matter.

Let’s get into what Plaschke had to say:

“There have been myriad stories about the Dodgers’ turbo-charged, hardheaded outfielder since he joined the team last June, but, really, it’s always the same story.”

So why, Mr. Plaschke, are you telling the same story again? The LA Times doesn’t pay you enough money to write something original?  How lazy.  I should tell my boss that I’m going to stop my current research and just start repeating somebody else’s fruitless research from last year.  I’m sure I wouldn’t get fired immediately.

“Puig messes up. Puig is publicly criticized by someone in the organization. Soon thereafter, Puig is publicly embraced and defended by that same person, who now says the criticism was misunderstood and, c’mon people, he’s a really, really great kid.”

This goes to show how valuable that insider access is that the BBWAA lords over us peasants so that we understand their superiority.  Obviously neither Plaschke, nor anybody else in the media, know what’s really going on in the clubhouse.  They get something juicy from the players, and it’s a story that we should all take as gospel.  The players then contradict said story, but the writers disregard the players’ statements as just covering each other.

Just take a good look at theses kind of critical narratives over the years.  It appears that the journalists rarely know what they are talking about.  Do you want to know why? 1) The BBWAA is full of fiction writers. 2) The members of the BBWAA are not psychologists nor sociologists, unless Russell A. Carleton is a member and I wasn’t aware.

“‘He’s good, actually . . . he’s good . . . he’s good,’ Mattingly said of Puig, …’Yasiel and I are fine.'”

More of the same.  Writers say one thing, the teams says another.  A tale as old as baseball itself.  Please explain to me, Mr. Plaschke (and any other BBWAA member who writes this sort of drivel), what this kind of article contributes to the game of baseball.  It’s just two sides contradicting each other over something that is ultimately irrelevant.

It really is irrelevant, too.  These Yasiel Puig stories boil down to a boss having issues with his direct report, or an employee not getting along with his co-workers.  Stop the freakin’ presses.  This kind of thing happens in all kinds of workplaces all over the world, so again, please explain to me why such a thing happening on a baseball team is newsworthy.  I don’t care about this high school level gossip crap.  It takes absolutely no talent to come up with this kind of stuff.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if conflict was more common on MLB teams than we realize.  This is just pure speculation on my part, but baseball teams spend a LOT of time together, and it may very well be that there’s a lot of conflict that arises that we never find out about.

“The truth is, they haven’t been fine all spring, what with Puig showing up about 15 pounds heavier than last spring and then batting .122 in exhibition games”

I have no reason to believe anything that Plaschke says about Puig and Don Mattingly’s relationship.  While Puig’s weight may be a cause of concern, that remains to be seen.  What really amazes me is that despite having covered baseball longer than I’ve been alive, Plaschke hasn’t learned that spring training stats are meaningless.  I’m not just talking about the fact that they don’t count, I mean that they have almost zero predictive value.  Clayton Kershaw had a spring ERA over 9.  He looked pretty good to me in the season opener in Australia.

“The truth is, Puig also is increasingly not fine with his many veteran teammates, who realize this team has a chance to do something special and are insulted by someone who does not take this rare opportunity seriously.”

Again, when the media says one thing, and the team says another, I have no reason to believe anything anybody says on the matter.  Not that it matters anyway.

“The truth also is, the Dodgers’ thinning patience is in direct correlation with the thinning of Puig’s numbers.”

What is he talking about?  Is Plaschke making up facts now?  I know Plaschke is dumb enough to trust spring training numbers, but I’d like to think the Dodgers management knows better.

“It’s one thing to foolishly run into an out when you’re hitting .350, or mindlessly overthrow a cutoff man when you’ve already thrown out two guys in the same game. It’s another thing to do the same dumb stuff when you’re not the same great player.”

This is actually true.  Nobody cared about “Manny being Manny” when Manny Ramirez was one of the best hitters in baseball.  Boston fans actually seemed to find it endearing.  While Puig declined some as the season went on last year, he’s shown no indication that he isn’t one of the best position players on the team.

“Puig batted .214 in the season’s last month while showing an increasing inability to hit the inside pitch. After rebounding to hit .471 against the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs, he then batted .227 against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series with 10 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances while make a couple of gaffes in the field.”

Mr. Plaschke, your logical fallacy is texas sharpshooter.  Here he his cherry picking from small sample sizes.  He’s not even citing OBP or SLG.  This is terrible analysis.  All that experience covering baseball and he’s learned nothing new.

“This spring, he barely showed up, managing only five hits. Then, in Australia, he went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts in the opener before collecting three hits with two runs batted in during his baserunning-marred second game.”

This is unbearable.  Plaschke is either a terrible baseball analyst, or he has it out for Puig.  Personally, I think it’s both.  There’s just no excusing writing this bad from somebody with Plaschke’s experience.

“One of the reasons Mattingly commands so much respect in the clubhouse and the community is that he’s so real.”

Plaschke, you sound like a stoned teenager.

“But in talking about Puig, he almost sounded rehearsed, and one wonders if he was asked to chill out by the highest levels of the Dodgers front office — a place that uses Puig’s signing as a point of pride and continually protects and empowers him.”

Dear Plascke’s editor,

If this is what you’re looking for from your sports writers, then I highly suggest letting them go and hiring some fiction writers instead.  Doesn’t Dean Koontz live in California?  He’s making stuff up by saying the front office is encouraging Puig’s behavior.  Perhaps he’d be better off as a tabloid writer?  Apparently, up until Mattingly’s latest statements about Puig, your employee seems to have believed that everything that players and management tell the media is true, when in reality they rarely tell reporters anything honest and interesting.  This seems to be a revelation to your employee, Bill Plaschke.

Thanks,

Concerned, snarky reader

The rest of the article is just more of the same garbage.  Any trouble between Puig and his manager or teammates is irrelevant.  Conflict happens in the work place.  This is not news.  What matters is how Puig does during the season.  Depending on the projection system you use, he is expected to hit roughly .290/.355/.495 with 25 HR and above average defense in right field.  He definitely needs to cut down on the mistakes, but that kind of production is easily worth any clubhouse issues.

The article is a lazy attempt to fill column inches and get clicks.  You know what’s a good way to accomplish that?  Actual baseball analysis.  Done well, it’s always interesting and there’s always something to write about.  Of course, if you never learn how to analyze baseball because you think you know everything as a result of your insider access, then you have to resort to columns like Plaschke’s.

Ever since the negative Puig articles arose last year, there have been people who claimed that such criticisms wouldn’t have been made if Puig was Caucasian.  Like Puig, I am also Hispanic.  Thankfully, I have never experienced any kind of racism or discrimination, but I’m also born and raised in America and don’t have an accent.  Unfortunately, native Hispanics can be unfairly misjudged.  To be clear, I’m not necessarily agreeing that it’s a race thing, just that it’s a possibility.

This reminds me of what happened to the legendary Roberto Clemente in his playing days.  Granted it was a different time, but his ethnicity made it so that the press held him to a higher standard than his Caucasian counterparts.  He got a lot of negative press for not being great with reporters.  He was also frequently criticized for being hurt all the time.  Little did those ignorant journalists know that Clemente was in a car accident before his pro days that left him in constant pain.  He hurt ALL the time.  Being one tough Puerto Rican, (as we all are!), he played through it.  Tragically, it took Clemente’s untimely death in the ultimate act of selflessness for the media to change its tune.

It’s not a perfect comparison.  Unlike Puig, Clemente was loved by his manager and teammates.  I’m just trying to say that, for whatever the reason may be, Puig is being treated unfairly.  He’s still young.  Let him and management worry about his maturity.  Just enjoy watching one of baseball’s exciting, new stars.