Y’know, I’m just going to go out on a limb and declare that Terry Francona’s decision to use Alfredo Aceves out of the bullpen in the final week was a good one. 6.1 innings with one run and four hits is pretty solid, and using Aceves from the bullpen made it more likely that his contribution would be in high impact innings. I suppose the argument could be made that Aceves should have been switched with either Lackey or Bedard, but then he obviously couldn’t have contributed in the other game, much less stopped the bleeding in the Beckett start.
We don’t know if the Red Sox will complete the choke, but they’ve already blown it.
And while Epstein isn’t to blame for the choke per se, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Cashman and (especially) Friedman have been running rings around him for a couple years. This has partly been luck both ways — Garcia and Colon were both good cheap gambles, but between them they had been simultaneously good and healthy exactly zero times in the previous four seasons, and I’m sure even Cashman would concede that they didn’t expect 300 quality innings from them. And while Crawford and
Gingrich Lackey were bad contracts, there was no reason to expect them to implode like they have in the short term. Lackey was a consistently good pitcher with consistently good K rates, and last year pitched in bad luck that has gotten even worse. I don’t understand what the Red Sox were doing with Crawford, but there was no reason to expect him to immediately veer into Wells/Bay territory. Not only has he hit nothing, the defense and baserunning that figured to give him an acceptable floor have completely deteriorated. Before writing him off it should be remembered that after 2010 most Sox fans wanted Ellsbury’s head on a pointed stick — talent can be resilient — but it could be a historically bad contract. In addition to the failed big tickets, Epstein hasn’t been able to make the little moves to provide depth; when Drew very predictably reached the end of the line he wasn’t backed up with anyone who should be playing a corner OF slot for a contending team. They still might hold on, but however it turns out the Rays have done a lot more with far less.
I think that Mike Scioscia is a pretty good manager, and that he’s done about as well as he could with the team that he has in LA. However, it bears notice that Mike Napoli is about five games better than Jeff Mathis this year, and that Napoli is playing for the Rangers instead of the Angels in large part because of how Scioscia evaluates catcher defense. It isn’t all Scioscia’s fault; somebody in the front office might have made a mental note that having a player who can play catcher, first base, DH, and can rake is worth more than the difference between Juan Rivera and Vernon Wells (!). Also due credit to Ron Washington for appreciating what he had and steadily increasing Napoli’s playing time over the course of the season.
[SL] What bears emphasis here is that the Angels lost the trade horribly even leaving aside the fact that they took on one of the worst contracts in baseball. Wells, who has a handsome .252 OBA (albeit with very good defense in left), would be killing the team even if he had been signed to a cheap one-year flier. It’s a staggeringly bad trade. About the only thing you can say in their defense is that “winning” the Carl Crawford auction might have been even worse.
I guess my earlier arguments about the lack of an AL East pennant race because of the wild card are now inoperative. I would strongly advise the Red Sox not to start Tom Glavine the last weekend of the season if the pennant is still on the line…
I also don’t remember exactly how this affects my annual bet for charity with Howard, but I do know that the generously sent me a copy of The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Tapes, for which I am immensely grateful. If you’re a Red Sox fan, I assure you that taking a piece of Mr. Parker’s band will make you feel better…
I think most baseball fans would get the right answer if asked to name the team with the worst run differential this year (Houston, of course.) But I’m guessing not many would guess the team with the second-worst run differential – the Twins. Sixty runs worse than the Mariners is bad. And while this might not be quite as surprising as it should be given their status as perennial contenders — anyone who watches the Yankees obliterate them year after year knows that their talent wasn’t all that impressive — I certainly wouldn’t have expected them to be 100 runs worse than the Pirates, either.
What’s more striking, looking at the roster, is that I’m not sure that this is a one-year aberration; this just isn’t much of a team. It seems very unlikely that Morneau, already 30, will be good and healthy again. If Mauer stays at catcher he probably won’t stay healthy, but playing at the corners his offense just isn’t that impressive unless he hits like 2009 every year. And beyond that, the team is just dreadful — not only are they barely outscoring the historically inept Mariners in neutral parks, their only good hitters this year (Cuddyer and the now-departed Thome) are past their prime. Even if Mauer comes back, it doesn’t figure to be a good offense anytime soon. Pitching wise, they’re in the same boat, as the strategy of putting together slightly above-average pitch-to-contact guys has turned into below-average pitch-to-contact guys, with their only effective starter this year a 29 year-old with elbow problems.
Basically, the only things they have going for them are a decent amount of resources and a weak division. But it’s hard to see this team back for its traditional sweep by the Yankees anytime soon.
Rule #1 of sports broadcasting–always, always, always compare a player to someone of the same racial background.
At Baseball Prospectus (not sure how much of this you can see without a subscription), Frankie Piliere pokes at what is one of the most annoying parts of sports broadcasting, and something I have complained about for years.
It is acceptable to compare an up-and-coming Brett Gardner to Kenny Lofton, and, every African-American, lefty-swinging slugger isn’t necessarily comparable to Ryan Howard. It’s clearly a gut reaction for people to compare players to current or former big leaguers merely because they resemble each other, and quite often it starts with race. It’s not done intentionally, but it’s done time and time again. Members of the media, particularly when they are less familiar with the player, are as guilty of this as anyone.
I get asked on a daily basis to give comparisons for prospects. The surprise for many people is that there isn’t always an obvious one. They’re surprised because for the longest time they’ve been the fed the idea that every prospect has to compare closely to a past or present big leaguer. Because of that, comparisons have become increasingly lazy.
When I was filing reports for the Rangers, sometimes comparisons were included in the summations, and sometimes they weren’t. Often there would be a comparison that referred to one aspect of a player’s game, but rarely would there be a perfect fit. The need to give the casual fan a visual of what a young player could become is not lost on me, and making a comparison to a big leaguer that they know is a quick and easy way of accomplishing that.
On the other hand, I have no doubt that fans are smart enough to accept a comparison of two players who don’t have the same skin tone. Every white center fielder is not Mickey Mantle, just as every hard-throwing, African-American right-hander is not Dwight Gooden. Some of you may laugh at this, but these examples are ones I’ve heard too many times to count.
These comparisons aren’t always racist, though they used to be more so, such as the idea that black quarterbacks were too dumb to win. They are just incredibly lazy. While Ichiro is a unique player in many ways, I wonder, in the minds of broadcasters, he is that much more unique because there’s not another Japanese player to compare him to. It might be acceptable to compare Brett Gardner to Kenny Lofton (though Lofton seems a much better player to me), but I wonder, if we could somehow go back and figure this out, whether Gardner has not been more often compared to, say, Brett Butler while Kenny Lofton was always seen as a poor man’s Lou Brock.
Yesterday’s generally excellent game provides a good illustration of rule changes baseball very much needs:
- I would write more about the drama, except that the series for all intents and purposes didn’t mean anything, with the only thing at stake a nearly-meaningless nominal division championship. So I will reiterate that while I generally agree with opposition to expanded playoffs adding one wild card team to each league and forcing them to play a one-game playoff would substantially enhance the value of regular season pennant races. Paradoxical, yes, but it’s really a no-brainer. And, yes, the AL East runner-up would get a less valuable spot than the winner of the AL Central despite being a much better team. But — leaving aside the fact that if the only goal of professional sports was to ensure that the best teams won, you’d dispense with the post-season altogether — since the third-best AL East team will almost certainly be better than the AL Central winner the status quo isn’t necessarily more equitable, in addition to which if you don’t like facing a one-game playoff there’s always the solution of winning your goddamned division so you have nothing to whine about.
- Smilin’ Bobby Valentine, I must concede, has proven to be an excellent analyst. And he was right to emphasize that the tools to ensure that relatively tight, low-scoring games don’t go on for four hours are already in the rule book: namely, 1)enforce time limits on pitchers, and 2)tell the umpires not to call time unless there’s an actual reason to call time, hence forcing batters to stay in the box. This would eliminate an enormous amount of dead time, with no net downside whatsoever. And as Bill James has repeatedly emphasized, as it happens this would be substantially more consistent with the way baseball has traditionally been played than the everyone-is-Mike-Hargrove status quo.
During this long move, I’ve passed some of the time by listening to baseball games on the radio. On Sunday, during the longest portion of the drive, I was motoring through the interminable stretch of Pennsylvania along I-80 between nothing and nothing* listening to the Pirates-Phillies game, also known as the last great game of Raul Ibanez’s career**.
I listened to something like the 1st half of the game on the Pirates affiliate and the 2nd half with the Phillies broadcaster. There may be exceptions to this, but I was again astounded at how blindingly stupid the level of analysis from most major league radio teams remains.
It seems to me that baseball radio broadcasts are the ideal time and space to introduce people to more complicated statistics than RBIs. With so much time, you could hire a guy to explain somewhat more advanced analysis slowly and repeatedly so people could gain some level of knowledge that would help them understand the game better.
But no. These Phillies guys were far more interested in how clutch a guy is and how many walk-off home runs he has than even the most basic level of understanding. I mean, they were really, really, really into walk-off home runs. Every time a batter came up in the last 2 innings, that’s all they talked about.
I’m not talking about using UZR or WAR here. Heck, I’m not even talking about WARP. But is something like OBP and SLG that hard to use? At least those are now standard on baseball stadium scoreboards. Maybe something about how taking a walk is a good thing.
But no. At least for the broadcast teams I have heard, the level of analysis hasn’t moved beyond stage 1. I wonder if this has anything to do with the age of radio listeners as opposed to those who follow online. Or the announcing teams are staffed by lazy ex-jocks who see no value in newfangled numbers. Or for that matter, doing any kind of work to make themselves better announcing. Or all of the above.
If there are exceptions, let me know so I can listen to them when I’m on the road.
* I actually love driving backroads and can do it day after day, but long stretches of interstate make me sleepy.
** Though at this point, has anyone’s predictions about Ibanez ever come true? Except for predictions of extremely crappy left field play. Those always come true.
…has been provided by Mr. Jerry Meals. This was no garden-variety, or even Phil Cuzzi variety, blown call — as with Bush v. Gore, the bad faith is transparent. As you can see [scroll down to "Braves walk-off"], although I apparently can’t embed, the runner (who was tagged up and down his body while being nowhere near home plate) is understandably shocked to have been called safe. In this case, the bias against the Pirates was once removed — I assume Meals was more concerned with the buffet at the local gentleman’s cabaret getting cold than which team won — but the effect is the same. On a game that could have a major impact on two pennant races.
Obviously, if Selig was serious about his job, Meals would be working at Arby’s tomorrow. I expect to see him in the World Series.
There has been an interesting discussion in the comments about the value of Mariano Rivera to the Yankees. On one level, I don’t disagree with the arguments of the skeptics. While has value is almost certainly understated by WAR — which, if I understand correctly, doesn’t take leverage into account, hence understating the value of a close, I certainly agree that in the regular season Rivera has obviously not been nearly as valuable as Jeter, Posada, Williams, A-Rod, et al. Another way of looking at the question is Tom Tango‘s study in this year’s Hardball Times book, which assesses Rivera’s value as only about 2 wins a year more than the rest of the Yankee bullpen, which can’t be considered to be significantly more valuable than an ordinary closer and is probably less. Having said that, I think this underestimates Rivera’s value to the Yankees for two reasons:
- As I assume is widely understood, what makes Rivera by far the best closer ever is not exceptional single-season performances but his remarkable consistency. His peak value is no higher than the man he replaced, John Wetteland — an excellent but obviously not Hall of Fame caliber closer. What makes Rivera extremely valuable to the Yankees is that he’s healthy and pitches about as well as any closer in baseball every year (2002 aside.) Brad Lidge, in his best years, is about as good as Rivera — except that his ERA+ in a given year ranges from 225 to 60. (Yeah, they made it to the World Series in his worst year anyway, but won only 93 games with an outstanding offense and good rotation; in a good division it would have cost them.) Rivera may only be a game or two better than an ordinary closer, but he gives the Yankees that edge every year. They haven’t had to worry about a closer blowing up on them (a la Keith Foulke in 2005), costing them several games. That’s real value, more than his value in any given season reflects.
- And, obviously, when assessing his value one has to take into account his postseason record — 139 2/3 mostly high-leverage innings with a 0.71 ERA and 109/21 K/W. I don’t think there is any serious question that he’s by far the most valuable postseason performer ever, surely relevant when assessing his overall value. The Yankees don’t win five World Championships with a Joe Nathan or Trevor Hoffman doing an Incredible Shrinking Closer routine in the playoffs.
In utterly unsurprising news, Matt Ricci’s Free Leonard leads the LGM Baseball Challenge at the end of the first half of the 2011 season. Ricci has won the previous two LGM Baseball Challenge competitions. Remember that you’ll need to set a new lineup for the second half…
|1||Free Leonard, mattricci||462||377||345||345||252||268||318||4838||4878||98.2|
|2||Headless Thompson Gunners,hickes01||478||391||239||264||296||268||270||4627||4692||96.1|
|3||Jersey Burkers, john theibault||390||313||335||341||369||302||277||4563||4631||95.2|
|4||Ambulance Chasers, jsmdlawyer||413||331||311||319||265||336||330||4488||4552||94.0|
|5||Too Much Coffee, PeterFD59||272||299||350||291||285||283||235||4334||4398||91.0|
|6||It’s Just A Cold Soria, thearistokatz||426||325||326||311||294||328||274||4320||4388||90.8|
|8||Petes Players, 54Pete54||351||290||342||279||288||271||297||4331||4361||90.1|
|9||Lexington Bearded Ducks, farls0||425||322||283||275||276||297||287||4343||4343||89.7|
|10||Roberts Steals Second, Smokin Joe 70||328||376||350||375||213||302||282||4243||4297||88.5|