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Tag: "baseball"

Managerial Responsibility

[ 14 ] August 9, 2010 |

Or, what can Don Wakamatsu and Martin O’Neill possibly have in common, besides either newfound unemployment or having managed teams that I give a damn about (the Mariners and Celtic, respectively)?

Aston Villa manager O’Neill shockingly resigned with immediate effect only days before the season is to commence.  Rumor has it that transfer policy this off-season sent him over the edge.  Specifically, it looked as though Villa were about to lose two of their top players, James Milner (late of the England World Cup debacle) and Ashley Young, while O’Neill was not allowed to re-invest 100% of the proceeds from the sale, nor did ownership sanction the contract demands of Stephen Ireland, coming in part trade from Manchester City in the proposed / rumored Milner move to Manchester.  O’Neill, perhaps correctly, interpreted this as a surrender of ambition, and walked away.  O’Neill is highly regarded, and considered a hero by Celtic faithful.

His timing is crap for not only Villa, but also his own; walk out a couple weeks ago, and the Liverpool job is his.

Less surprisingly, the Seattle Mariners just fired their manager, Don Wakamatsu, and several members of his coaching staff.

Wakamatsu did not deserve this.  Last year, he was regarded for his brilliance, if not for every tactical decision he made on the field, for his ability to actually manage the cast of highly paid athletes / egos under his supervision.  This year, a 42-70 could have had the effect of attenuating the perceived brilliance, and his correctly showing Ken Griffey Jr. the exit door to his career made him close to universally unpopular.  These are superficial, anecdotal pieces of evidence; the sabermetric literature (that I am familiar with, I am now a couple years behind I’m afraid, although there is some interesting stuff here) has had a difficult time establishing that the field manager of a ball club has much measurable effect at all, and is negligible at best.

If baseball managers do not have any (as of yet) measurable effect on the probability of team success, is the same true for soccer managers?  Typically, soccer managers have a dual role from an American perspective: GM and field manager.  Player acquisition / disposal, the starting lineups, and on field tactics are wholly under his (or her) control.  This is not so in baseball, but also not the entire point.  While analysis on this question is highly limited, my non-rigorous, unsystematic hunch informed by anecdotal evidence perhaps hobbled by some subconscious selection bias tells me that the manager has a measurable effect on the probability of success.  Note, I’m not suggesting that the manager is the sole determinant of success, but that it is measurable.  (That study does not quite get at my question, but it’s the most rigorous I’m aware of).

I suspect that a “name” baseball manager would have also walked if presented with the situation O’Neill faced: the classic ‘fire sale’ followed by a clear lack of ambition, because his reputation is on the line.  However, the difference in the two cases is that the reputation of O’Neil is deserved, while the reputation of Wakamatsu, be it his brilliant 2009 or his miserable 2010, is not.


Sad, But True

[ 10 ] August 9, 2010 |

A Yankees fan friend (to the extent to such a thing is possible) comments:

Definition of a masochist: Mets’ fan who watches his team lose a one-run game to the hated Phillies, then hopes the Red Sox will beat the Yankees to make up for it.

Although I suppose one could just stop with “Mets fan.”

Meaningful AL East/Wild Card Race

[ 10 ] August 9, 2010 |

R.I.P. Dustin Moseley wins the Kei Igawa memorial award as the replacement-level pitcher who looks like Pete Alexander in a crucial game against Boston. And yet — I may have more than this when I revisit my pre-season picks this week, but while the Red Sox offense was the biggest concern going into the year, as it turns out the biggest issue has been that Lackey and Beckett haven’t done the job.


[ 9 ] August 2, 2010 |

Dusty Baker removed Travis Wood after 103 pitches tonight, despite the fact that he was pitching a two hit shutout. I am duly impressed. I also worry that these Reds are going to break my heart…

Poor, Underpriveleged Yankees Receive Another Donation

[ 50 ] July 31, 2010 |

So the National League tried to help out the poor defenseless Yankees before the season by trading them a quality starter for a marginal fifth outfielder, but so far it’s been merely an awful trade rather than a complete heist (although I bet Vazquez ends the year with an ERA+ well over 100 while Melky will still be Melky.)    So I guess the Yanks needed more charity, getting an excellent hitter in a mild down year and cash in exchange for a “free Coke refill at Appelbee’s with $30 purchase” coupon.    Man who should return to blogging Ken Tremendous summarizes the progression of the Astros’ “logic”:

    • Astros paying Berkman’s salary is like a homeless guy getting robbed by a billionaire and throwing in a free shoeshine.
    • “We want Berkman.” “Okay.” “But you pay him.” “Okay.” “In return, we’ll give you a pile of cat vomit.” “Okay.” “Now gimme your car.” “Okay.”
    • “I will trade you negative four million dollars for Lance Berkman.” “Deal!”
    • “We want Montero for Berkman.” “How about we give you nothing and you give us four million dollars and Berkman.” “Even better!”

    I expect that by the time they formally announce the trade the Astros will have thrown in Brett Myers too.    And the fact that now that Spec Richardson seems to be running the team from beyond the grave the Astros might challenge the Pirates’ losing streak record before they win again won’t be that much consolation.


    [ 18 ] July 29, 2010 |

    And it gives me an excuse to post this video again!

    They’re so far behind their divisional opposition that I don’t know much it will help, but I think this is a good hire for the Orioles. It’s not exactly unjust that Torre took the team Showalter built to 4 World Championships, because Showalter did (gloriously) screw up the biggest game of his career at least as egregiously as Grady Little screwed up Game 7 in 2003, using completely gassed starters for several high-leverage innings while only getting 2/3s of an inning out of his brilliant relievers. But he did have a large role in building that team, and his professionalism and ability to judge and motivate young talent will be real assets for Baltimore. He may not be the manager you want to take your team over the top but….that’s obviously not an issue here.

    In news more relevant to the pennant race, getting Oswalt makes up for Amaro’s strange decision to trade Lee, and I’d definitely bet on them to make the postseason from behind once again.

    Jim Bunning Embarrasses Kentucky Again…

    [ 12 ] July 29, 2010 |

    Thanks, Jim; you’re making the most of your twilight as a US Senator:

    A reporter from Politico asked Bunning for his thoughts about Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg missing his start on Tuesday with shoulder soreness. Bunning grabbed his arm with a fake exclamation of pain and then decided to question Strasburg’s manhood.

    “Five-hundred twenty starts, I never refused the ball,” Bunning said. “What a joke!”

    “He was in the top one percentile,” Bunning said, pinching his thumb and forefinger together. Now, Bunning said, he’s closer to the 50th percentile.

    Jim Bunning pitched 104.1 innings prior to his 25th birthday. Strasburg turned 22 last Thursday, and has already pitched 54.1. You’d think that ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans would satisfy Bunning, but apparently he’d also like to destroy the career of a promising young athlete.

    I’d like to believe that Bunning’s retirement will open up the possibility of a non-embarrassing junior Senator. I’d like to believe that…

    The Haren Heist

    [ 20 ] July 27, 2010 |

    Since I was accused in comments of “east coast bias” for thinking that the Mets considering a swap of expensive useless players for expensive useless players probably wasn’t going to solve anything because the Angels just got fleeced by giving away Joe Saunders, I should note that back here in the real world the Angels got one of the best starters in baseball for a below-average starter and three marginal prospects. This kind of deal is a good indication of why the Angels are what they are and the Snakes are what they are. And, yes, if the Mets were serious about winning they would have been thinking about putting together a package for the apparently very obtainable Haren rather than putting together a package for Gil Meche.

    Really Undeserving Hall of Famers

    [ 24 ] July 27, 2010 |

    Bill Conlin’s article about undeserving Hall of Famers makes a lot of odd choices (if otherwise clearly qualified managers are to be excluded for using profanity, for example, the ranks are going to be pretty thin), considering the amount of low-hanging fruit out there. But it’s hard to get a better example of tendentious sportswriter logic than this:

    We start with Adrian “Cap” Anson, whose “Get that n- off the field” order, directed at International League pitcher George Stovey in 1887, led to a league ban on black players the next day. The “Gentlemen’s Agreement” remained in force for 60 years. Anson played a variety of positions, most in the outfield. His 200 games at third base lead off the Least Deserving HOF nine plus manager.

    THIRD BASE: Cap Anson

    He was a big man for his time, a strapping 230-pounder regarded as baseball’s first superstar. Anson’s 27-year career began in 1871. In 22 seasons as the leader — and later manager — of the Chicago White Stockings, his batting average was .334. But in 221 games at third, his fielding percentage was .813. Yeech! … How much influence did Anson have on his game? Mainly those five words directed toward two black men (Fleet Walker was also on the field) that put baseball equality on hold for 60 years.

    Evaluating a player based on unadjusted 19th-century fielding percentages at his non-primary position is pretty much the definition using statistics for support, not illumination. But the bigger problem here, as Bill James discussed a while ago, is the strange narrative that Cap Anson is singlehandedly responsible for segregation in baseball, because he had…pretty much the same white supremacist opinions most white men of his generation did, including those who had substantially more power within baseball than he did. I have particular inclination to defend Anson, but making baseball Jim Crow about one person is actually a comforting illusion that lets way too many people of the hook. And the idea that this Anson’s only influence over the game is utterly absurd.

    Joe Posnanski offers a much better candidate for Cooperstown removal:

    Tom Yawkey. Longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox who somehow managed in 44 years of ownership to never win a World Series and to be the last team in baseball to field a black player. He was, according to his plaque, the first man to have his team fly by plane. So he had that going for him.

    While baseball almost certainly would have been segregated if Cap Anson had been an ahead-of-his-time civil rights crusader, Tom Yawkey kept the Red Sox segregated well after most of baseball had moved on from the apartheid era, and was comfortable having open bigots run his team into the 60s. And while Anson was a player of great accomplishment aside from his appalling views on race, while Yawkey did lift the Red Sox out the class of franchises who didn’t even try to compete he was otherwise an owner of no particular distinction in addition to having racist views that were much less common to his time. As long as he has a plaque in Cooperstown we shouldn’t even be discussing Anson.

    My Crap For Your Manure

    [ 24 ] July 26, 2010 |

    Oh, goody:

    According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports , the Mets are talking to the Royals about a trade that could involve Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and Jeff Francoeur, as well as Gil Meche, Kyle Farnsworth, and Jose Guillen.

    I don’t know what the record is for “most useless players signed to inexplicably expensive contracts exchanged in one trade” is, but if it goes through this one would have to rank up there…

    Putting the Best Face…

    [ 3 ] July 25, 2010 |

    At most ballparks the staff find creative ways to make crappy players look good; “Dan Wilson is hitting .307 in 16 of his last 24 games,” and so forth. Apparently, the Reds crew thought that they would try to do Wandy Rodriguez a favor, but it didn’t really work out:

    Marty Brennaman: Wandy Rodriguez; the overall season numbers don’t look very good, Chris, but he has pitched much better over his last four starts.

    Chris Welsh: Well he has, until the last couple starts in which he’s given up eight runs in his last three innings.

    For the record, it appears that Rodriguez did have a decent string of four “quality starts”, before giving up five runs in six innings in his last appearance.

    “Decent Attempt”?

    [ 16 ] July 19, 2010 |

    As any Mets or Giants fans among our readership are aware, Phil Cuzzi put on an umpiring display of the kind I haven’t seen since the late Charlie Williams left the game.   Well, actually, it was worse; it sort of combined Williams’ seemingly random strike zone and safe/out calls with Joe West’s even temper.     The culmination was a ludicrously blown call at the plate on what should have been the winning run for the Giants.    What makes it really special is the justification, which takes attempts to justify the de facto “every play is a force play” rule employed by lazy umpires to a whole new level:

    Cuzzi said that he had not yet seen the replay. “I’ll look at it, but I figured I’d eat first,” he said, laughing.  “He made a decent attempt to put the tag on him. That’s what it looked to me, and that’s why I called him out.

    What is this, a t-ball game?   “Well, OK, the runner was actually all the way across the plate by the time the tag went down, but Henry just tried so hard to rescue that awful throw!   I couldn’t let him down!”   Christ.
    And, yes, Cuzzi is the same clown who made that ridiculous foul call in the Twins/Yankess ALDS game last year. I actually think there are good reasons (in terms of flow) to be skeptical about increased replay in baseball, but it would help if there was actually some accountability.   I really have no idea how Cuzzi keeps his job.
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