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.... Wow

What a game last night, Giants vs. D'backs. We're talking battle royale. The Dodgers lost, so the Giants are playing with the knowledge that they can pick up a game. Randy Johnson against Jason Schmidt. Two of the toughest pitchers in the league, so of course you'd expect a pitchers duel.

Yeah. The Giants score three in the first, led by Bonds' two run single, (he's now batting .372) the D'backs come back with four in the second, and on it went. The Giants tied it up at 4-4, on a David bell, two out hit. They actually went ahead 5-4, but, as a result of walking the leadoff hitter 5 times in the first eight innings, they kept giving up the lead, until the two teams were tied at 5 heading into the 6th.

David Bell led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, and then, on a 2-2 count, Ramon Martinez(!) hit a chalk dusting double down the left field line to give the Giants the lead once again. After a flyball advanced Martinez to third, Kenny Lofton hit a double over the head of Luis Gonzalez to stretch the advantage to 7-5.

Of course, the Giants walked the leadoff hitter in the 7th, which allowed the D'backs to get another run back to squeeze the game back into a one-run contest. And, of course, this run was a typical Dusty run. He allowed Chad Zerbe to start the inning, after he had just pitched a great sixth, against three lefty's in a row. Naturally, he let him start the eighth against a righty, whom he promptly walked on four pitches. So, bring in Felix Rodriguez, right? No, let's allow Zerbe to give up the run before we bring in the righty, who is basically warmed up and ready to go just for the seventh inning!!!

Now we're in the bottom of the eighth, the Giants have walked the leadoff hitter again(!), and right now, Tim Worrell has just walked Tony Womack (seven walks in this game) to put runners on first and second, two outs, and Quenton McCracken at the plate. We've just had the obligatory complete waste of time Dave Righetti mound meeting, and we're 1-0 to McCracken.

2-0, and neither pitch has been close. 3-0, nowhere near the plate. Ball four, six consecutive balls for Worrell, eighth walks overall for the Giants, three wild pitches, an error, two other misplays, two men thrown out on the bases.... what a poorly played game. And they're still winning.... Amazing.

Dusty just took Worrell out, and now he's bringing in Rob Nen with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth.

Nen against Durazo... strike one swinging, 98 MPH fastball. Strike two swinging, 92 MPH slider. Strike three swinging, 93 MPH slider!!!! Wow!!! We go to the ninth, Aurilia, Kent, Bonds.

Aurilia against Fetters. 2-2 count.... 3-2.... Foul ball.... Foul ball.... Ball four! Here's Kent, with Aurilia on first.... Strike one.... Ball one, 1-1 count.... Double play!! Ouch! Bonds up, two outs, bases empty... Strike one! Right down the middle. Ball one.... Ball two.... Ball three.... Bonds has already walked three times tonight, and now he gets the intentional pass. Booh. 52 IBB this year, 153 BB. Here's Santiago. First pitch swinging, off the end of the bat, inning over. On to the bottom of the ninth.

How great is this, no strike, Seligula's back undere his rock, awesome baseball game.... Awesome.

Luis Gonzalez against Nen.... Strike one.... Strike two.... Ball one.... Tapped foul.... Fouled off, deep.... ball two, a little high, 98 MPH....2-2 count.... Foul again.... Base hit, right up the middle. Sixth inning out of nine they've gotten the leadoff hitter on.

Spivey.... Strike one.... Strike two.... 0-2 again(!) Come on... Tapped foul, unbelievable... the number of two strike foul tips this team gets.... 1-2.... Again, another tiny little foul tip.... Strike three!!!! One away!

Steve Finley.... Ball one, inside slider.... Strike one, fastball, 97 MPH.... Ball two.... come on Nen, don't fall behind.... Line drive off the dirt in front of the plate, over Snow's head, and then Shinjo in right throws the ball away, allowing Finley to advance to second. Second and third, one out.

Cintron, a rookie.... Strike one.... Strike two.... Foul ball.... Delucci on deck.... Ball one.... Popped up, two outs, foul ground to Bell!!!!

Delucci, two outs, winning run on second.... Intentional walk to load 'em up. Rob Nen against Matt Williams, bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth. WOW!!!!!

Here we go.... Williams is 5 for 17 career against Nen.... Strike one!! Strike two, foul ball.... 0-2 count.... Nine walks by the Giants tonight.... Foul tip on a 97 MPH heater.... Scary.... Slider, 1-2.... STRIKE THREE!!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!

What a game. Wow!!!!! Giants have won six in a row, ten of twelve, one game back of the Dodgers with 28 games to play. Wow!

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 31, 2002


.... Halleluiah

They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!! They reached an agreement!!!!

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 30, 2002


.... Good news? Maybe

The information coming out of NY seems to suggest that a deal may be imminent. That would be spectacular. The NY Times has this piece detailing how close the two sides are right now, basically, they're down to arguing over what date the deal expires on, October 31st or December 31st, 2006. That's close.

Another piece in the Times gives an account of how many teams have connections to media corporations. Good information.

And finally this morning, here is a Baseball Prospectus column written by Greg Spira. I'm not sure I recall reading him before, but he does a terrific job explaining how the BP guys got where they are in this labor debate. Since I am a BP devotee, and so much of what I've learned and now hold as true comes from these guys, I recommend anyone who cares about this stuff to read it, and read it slow. Here's an excerpt:



None of us believe that major league baseball is in real trouble. It's certainly possible that some franchises are losing money, but not to the extent that ownership would have us believe. In every industry in the world, some companies lose money from year to year. If hiring a Cam Bonifay or Chuck LaMar to run Baseball Ops or missing the most basic points of Marketing 101 as the Angels have done since their birth--leaving them with less fans than any other American team but the Devil Rays, according to a Sports Business Journal poll last year--has no financial downside, where is the incentive to improve?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 30, 2002


.... Me and the Geek

I ran a column yesterday in an effort to answer the very upset Twins Geek, John Bonnes. He read Gary Huckabay's Daily Prospectus, entitled Two Hours of Rambling, in which Gary explains his feelings regarding the labor negotiations in baseball. Now John has a reply, so, without further ado, here's me and the Geek:



John, you ignorant slut....

I've gone through this process before with the new Twins stadium proposal, and here's what I wrote a few months back on that subject:

I understand the arguments against it, and philosophically I generally side against it. But philosophically, I side against anyone paying close to $2000 to have a 51" HDTV-compatible big screen TV when they could spend it on educational opportunities for their kids - and then I sit in front of my Panasonic PT-51HX41 and thank god I didn't let some stupid philosophy get in the way of buying that TV. I want an outdoor stadium because going to a baseball game in the summer in Minnesota outside ROCKS. And because going to a baseball game in the summer in Minnesota inside SUCKS. And I want that 'ROCKS' thing to happen about a dozen times every summer for my family, my friends and for ME.

My point is that I understand the bullshit Carl is selling on this thing and I understand the concerns the opponents have. But this is my tax money. And my vote. And my voice. And I reserve my right to side with what I want in this case. And I wonder if a lot of the debate about who is right, the players or the owners, hasn't really taken this into account. I'm not delusional to think that it makes a hell of a lot of difference what I or the rest of fandom think on these issues. But it seems like a lot of the debate on this subject is framed by philosophies like anti-labor or pro-free market, or feelings like anger at owners or jealousy of players. And I wonder if there isn't room to evaluate what it will do for the game for the fans. And I think a salary cap would be a damn good thing for me and the game.



Let's start here. I am not framing this debate in pro or con anything. If the owners and the players want to agree to share revenue and tax any team that exceeds a certain threshold of payroll size, fine. I could care less. What I do care about, however, is being lied to, misled, and threatened by a bunch of greedy bullies. What I am railing about is trying to bring some element of a knowledgable discourse to the fray. Here's what I have been saying, in various ways, ever since I started this site:

There is no financial doom awaiting baseball should the new CBA not include onerous luxury taxes and massive redistribution of revenue.

No team is losing money, other than to say their accountants have the same ability all accountants do, the ability to turn a profit into a loss in about ten minutes.

There is no such thing as competitive imbalance. All leagues consist of teams in various stages of the success cycle; rebuilding, developing, or contending, and most are in some combination of those three at various times.



Gary's point: "The owners have every single tool they need at their disposal right now to dramatically reduce their salary costs, while simultaneously putting a better team on the field."

Your Point: "What I think Gary is saying is that teams don't have to operate in an environment of scarcity."

Gary's Point: "Check the standings! The A's are in first place!"

John, of course we operate in a an environment of scarcity. Even if replacement level talent grows on trees (and I suspect that's probably also not completely true, but that's a topic for another day) that's all it is - replacement level talent. That's fine if you're trying to maximize wins based on your financial investment, but these teams are supposed to be trying to beat each other in competition. Mario Valdez might be cheaper than Tino Martinez, but Jason Giambi is the player you want on your team to win a championship. And players like him are scarce.

Frankly, I wonder if the sabermetric community isn't just a little too full of itself on this point. Sure we recognize that teams can be better managed than they are. But suggesting that payroll is irrelevant in the success of a franchise goes far beyond that point. And it starts to sound like a lot of pencil-necked chest-thumping. We can both point at teams as examples of what a poorly run team and what a well run team can do. But you and I know that a statistical correlation exists between payroll and success. That doesn't mean that the Pirates should be praised for signing Derek Bell. But I suspect the Pirates would have sucked with or without that signing.



John, you can't understand the concept of replacement level players if you think that way. Yes, Jason Giambi is special, and by all accounts, he should be virtually irreplaceable. He's not. Teams lose great players again and again, and they still manage to win games and championships. This just illustrates the complexity of creating runs and preventing runs; so that even when we arm ourselves with mountains of statistical data, we still find ourselves amazed that a team could replace a Jason Giambi with a John Marbry and still be effective. The only place we see scarcity is in the superstar talent. But no team is made up of 25 superstars. They very best teams have perhaps three, or four. Even the Yankees could only be said to have five, at most six, and as so many people have pointed out, they have more money than God.

When Gary or I or the guys at BP talk about replacement level talent, we are talking about the 10 or 12 or 15 players who make up probably half of a teams payroll, the mid-range hitters, outfielders and pitchers like JT Snow, a David Bell, Derek Bell, Darrin Erstad... players whose production could be easily replaced at a fraction of the cost. That is the area where most teams hurt themselves, giving ten million dollar a year contracts to 32 year old players coming off (ta da) the best year of their lives. When we promote the A's or the Giants or the Mariners to a lesser degree, we haven't forgotten teams like the Pirates, who have fallen off the face of the earth since losing Bonds. Of couse the A's are doing an other worldly job of replacing players as they get more expensive, or signing them before they do. They're also the best at identifying which players will work on their team, and then going out and getting them. Yeah, the Pirates probably would have sucked with or without Bell, but add up all of the Bell's in the league, and you have close to $330 million per year. That is money spent, by the owners, that they didn't have to spend.

And we can't even discuss teams like the Marlins, Brewers, Twins, teams whose owners have demonstrated no committment to investing in their teams at all. How can you argue that these teams can't compete when they won't? The Phillies can give $32 million dollars to a catcher who has played exactly one injury-free year in the last five, but they can't figure out a way to keep Scott Rolen? And this is the players fault, how?



Gary's Point: "If I own a club, a salary cap takes away my incentive to invest in my own business, and that's just wrong. If my club is barren at shortstop, but winning 88 games a year, and I can sign Alex Rodriguez for $40 million a year, it might make sense financially to do it. But if I'm prevented from making the best investment I can for my club, that's just philosophically wrong."

Your Point: "Gary is saying that there is no incentive to invest in a team if you are guaranteed a revenue stream that outpaces your cost of doing business."

Frankly, these statements just plain baffle me, so I assume I don't understand what you're saying. Fielding a winning team increases demand, drives up prices, increases attendance, and pumps up revenues. A salary cap might interfere with some team signing that shiny outfielder they had their eye on, but that just means they need to consider other alternatives. In short, it seems like a cap puts MORE pressure for competent management, because they can't point at a $40M difference in payroll to justify their losing season. And a cap doesn't mess with the incentive to invest in your own business - you can still build a stadium, launch a cable network, hire the best minor league instructors, etc. You just can't buy a player on the open market as readily.



I love the Twins Geek. John, maybe you don't get it. It's my fault, that is one poorly put together answer from me. I'm talking about revenue sharing, Gary's talking about the cap.

Let's do the cap first; I think teams are already using a salary cap, it's their own financial limitations. Look around, Cleveland, Baltimore, Toronto, they're all doing the same thing, dumping poorly thought-out, expensive contracts that nobody put a gun to their heads to offer, in an effort to reduce payroll to a level that they have chosen. Now, are you saying that all teams will have payrolls scraping the edge of the cap, like in baseball and football? I don't know if I believe that. Again, baseball is very different from these other sports. Owners like Pohlad have never kept their promises, not once. You, as a beleagured Twins fan, should know better than to endorse any plan that requires you to depend on a baseball owner to do something they are not required to by rule.

As for revenue sharing, well, history only reinforces my point. The Twins, Expos, Royals, Brewers, Marlins and Devil Rays combined received over $110 million dollars in revenue sharing in the last year during the just expired CBA. Again, if what you're saying is true, why didn't these teams spend it on players? What did they spend it on?



Your Point: "But to say that the NFL salary structure is better is just wrong. The NFL system clearly hurts the players financially, as every year the number of players who get released or have to restructure their contracts increases. And having to dismantle a Super Bowl Champion, because of a salary system, is horrible for the league, for the team, for the players, and especially for the fans. It's only good for the owners. Is that what we want in baseball, a system that is great for anyone who owns a team but shitty for everyone else?"

Gary's Point: "Whether or not it'll work (an NFL type salary cap and revenue sharing) is completely beside the point!"

No, it's not. Gary's statement here is one of several that makes me wonder if the tail isn't wagging the dog. I'm as libertarian as they come in the terms of economic and social politics, but the plan shouldn't be judged on how it might or might not work in the former Soviet Union. All I care about is whether it's going to make the hours I spend trying to be entertained by baseball more enjoyable. And it would be more enjoyable for me if I thought my team had a chance to compete more often than two or three seasons every 10 years.

John, the NFL is king right now. It passed MLB a dozen years ago. Is it because of the salary cap or their decision to share broadcast revenues 40 years ago? I don't know for sure. But the NFL system doesn't seem to be turning off a lot of fans. And watching baseball would be a lot more enjoyable if I knew a lot more friends that were into it as much as they're into football.



John, I would challenge you to come up with any period of time in baseball history, or any other sports history for that matter, where teams had the ability to compete for a championship more than three or four seasons out of ten. The odds of doing what the Yankees have done lately are astronomical, less so perhaps only in basketball, where mini-dynasties seem to be the rule. The chance to draft or trade for a special player, then the luck involved in surrounding that player with the right complementary parts, then the luck involved in not peaking during the peak of another championship caliber team... Look at the San Francisco Giants. A ten year run with one of the greatest players of all time, year after year of effort to put the best team around him, 90 win seasons again and again, and one single playoff win in all that time.

As for your suggestion that the NFL is king, well, who cares. I am a baseball guy during baseball season, and a football guy during football season, a beasketball guy during basketball season, well, you get the point. Who cares if some stupid poll says more people like football. Part of that must stem from the spectacular job Seligula has done over the past decade telling everyone how screwed up baseball is, no? Instead of, say, like the NBA has done with the Lakers, glorifying one of the greatest dynasties of all time, the Yankees of the last six years.

And, I'll tell you something else, the NFL system is pissing me off, and it will slowly continue to piss more and more people off as the years go by. Teams can't keep their offensive lines together anymore, more QB's are getting hurt every year, more veterans are leaving the teams they came up with, more championship teams will be dismantled, I mean, the Giants have about ten players from their Super Bowl team of just two years ago. How any intelligent fan can say that the NFL system works is staggering. It works for the owners, the GM's hate it, players hate it, and fans will more and more hate it, as they see their teams forced to dismantle and rebuild, regardless of where they are in the success cycle.



Your Point: "As for what the values of the NFL franchises are vs. MLB franchises, well, I think that's apples and oranges."

Gary's Point: "If you're a member of the John Henry group that bought the Red Sox for $X dollars, you paid more than someone would for say, the Royals. Why? Because the Red Sox have more money coming in from year to year. The value of the franchise drops dramatically if say, $10 million per year comes off the top. By instituting wide revenue sharing, you've just eliminated at least $100 million off the value of that franchise. Poof. It's gone."

If revenue sharing and a salary cap both become reality, large market owners will have any decrease in value from revenue sharing offset by the effect of a salary cap. That much we can certainly learn from NFL franchises.



Yeah, we've learned that from the NFL. We've learned that players are replaceable, throw away commodities, who can be forced to sign non-guaranteed contracts, who have virtually no ability to move from team to team, who spend every off-season renegotiating contracts which are hardly worth the paper they're printed on anymore. John, please, tell me you see at least some of these problems that are beginning to hurt the league? The stability of the NFL comes from a different place than the stability of baseball, which comes from multi-billion dollar broadcast contracts. And I have never suggested that revenue sharing is the work of the devil, all I have said is that an onerous luxury tax combined with revenue sharing is no guarantee of competitive balance or equity among franchises whatsoever.



Your Point: "But only a fool believes that Carl Pohlad is going to take the $25 million dollars he receives in revenue sharing and luxury tax redistribution and give it to Tori Hunter and Jacque Jones. Seligula has succeeded in diverting our attention away from the owners greedy lies and has us mired in a straw man debate. There is no competitive balance issue."

John, payroll correlates with success. Say it with me. A salary cap just makes the big boys play the same game as the small boys. No longer does a Karsay or a Giambi-type contract only make sense for a handful of teams in MLB. Suddenly, it doesn't make sense for any of them, and every team is a player. I'm not going to begrudge Carl his $25 Million anymore than I begrudge A-Rod his $25 Million. But if only a fool thinks a salary cap will cause lower revenue teams to invest more in payroll, then I'm a fool.



Well, I do begrudge Pohlad his $25 million if he gets it to make his club better and he puts it in his pocket. A-Rod and the players are the whole enchilada, Pohlad is frickin' Monty Burns. Who gives a rat's ass whether he makes another $20 million, like he needs it. He promised the state of Minnesota that he would be committed to keeping the Twins there, and that he would field a competitive team. He's broken one promise, and only a court injunction prevented him from breaking the other. As for him pocketing his revenue sharing, how can you defend that? The whole premise behind it is for teams to have the financial wherewithal to remain competitive.



Again, this is a competition. If a team feels they have to stretch to reach a $60M payroll, and will still be completely outgunned by a $120M payroll, then they don't stretch. They retreat down to a $10M payroll and wait and hope that those seeds they planted in A ball start to produce some fruit. Better to hope to compete for a couple years in the future than to be outgunned year-after-year by the free agent collectors. A salary cap allows a small market team to compete on a more consistent basis, to build a fan base that they won't need to betray every couple of years. And when the pie grows, everyone's piece gets a little bigger.



Now you're talking. I like this point you've made here, that instead of spending $60 million to lose in the first round, spend $10 million and wait for your kids to develop. Let me ask you this, why is this wrong? I think it's a perfectly intelligent way to handle a teams success cycle. The only problem we have in today's baseball is that we are told the lie that Carl Pohlad (Who is worth approximately 2 billion dollars) can't afford to do what's needed to take his newly developed contending team and continue to invest in it in an effort to take advantage of his window of opportunity. If a team followed a strategy of develop, invest, contend, rebuild; and it kept this cycle going for a period of time, they could create a knowledgable fan base that would support the kids while they went through the growing pains.

Instead, the owners lie and bully and tell everyone how bad baseball is because everyone can't hope to win every year. I'm sorry, but it's all bullshit. There are thirty teams in the league, about six or eight will have a legitimate shot at contending each year. Some will be the ones with cash, and some won't. No amount of financial manipulation will change that.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 29, 2002


.... History is my friend

Chris Hartjes, @the Ballpark, continues his three part series on the Veterans Committee nominees for the Hall of Fame. Today he posts Part II.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 29, 2002


.... emails and details

It didn't takle long for somebody to come after me for putting Helton down. An anonymous reader writes:



Ugh. I can't believe I'm doing this. My sister loves JT Snow, ever since he was an Angel, and he even hit a HR in the Giants game we went to on our vacation in Toronto. Me, all I know is he can't hit. John Olerud really-lite, to quote the BP guys. But normally I'd leave him be, just for her sake. All the same, Helton has a 80-point advantage in road slugging (and correspondingly, road OPS) over the 1999-2001 numbers you put up. Slugging .558 is raking, for anyone not named Barry Bonds. Especially since (ta-da) he doesn't get Coors in his road numbers.

For 2002, it's only a 60-point spread (75 in OPS), but Helton is down to .480 slugging. Maybe he's having an off year? Snow's .429 (and 783 OPS) looks like replacement level to me. Maybe he should go back to switch-hitting :) And, by all accounts, Helton's pretty good with the glove, so Snow doesn't get any edge there. I think the Giants bias (stathead anti-Snow sentiment) is affecting you here. Helton is one of the top hitters in the league. He easily the best 1B in the NL (although it is a weak field until Bonds or Piazza moves). Now if you want to a John Olerud comparision and use it to launch a similiar discussion, I'm with you.



Well, in response to this, I'll have to stick to the real world, so let's talk only about Helton's road stats, OK? This year, he has a road line that looks like this: .274/.372/.487. That's not raking, no matter how you slice it. Snow's at .267/.350/.422, and he's fighting for his job. Heltons' got 50 more at bats on the road than Snow, and he's scored just one more run and he has only eight more RBI; he's got 2 more doubles and only 13 more hits! OK, small sample, only three quaters of a season, but still, Snow has been benched for ineffectiveness. If Helton isn't ten times better than a guy who is playing his way out of baseball, the how can anyone suggest he's one of the best hitters in the league?

In 2001, Snow was injured a bunch, and he ended up with almost exactly half the at bats Helton had on the road. If you simply double his road totals, you'd find that he outhit Helton 88 to 83, and outscored him 52 runs to 48. Helton hit more homers and doubles, but I don't doubt that even Snow would have narrowed the gap had he played more consistently. Helton's 2001 road line goes .286/.383/.593./.976 Snow's is .308/.410/.469/.879. Sure that's an edge, but it's not substantial.

In 2000, the two players had almost exactly the same number of road at bats. Helton scored 46 runs, Snow scored 44. Again Helton had a substantial edge in the power numbers, with 47 extra base hits to Snow's 25, but he only drove in 11 more RBI even though he had that big power advantage. Here's Helton's numbers for the year, .353/.441/.633/1.074. That's awesome! Snow was anemic compared to that, at .255/.358/.412/.770. Ugly.

But in 1999, a revelation! Snow outscored Helton 61 to 46. Outhit him 90 to 71. Out extra base hit him 38 to 30. Had 61 RBI's to Helton's 38. Snow's numbers ran out at .303/.390/.552/.942. Helton, .252/.324/.447/.771. Wow! That's quite Snow-y, isn't it? And that was in a year that Helton hit .335 overall, with 35 home runs and 113 RBI, thanks to a twice as many home runs, RBI and almost 40 more hits at home season.

In fact, other than 2000, when Helton was a hammer on the road, his road numbers have been average. And really, my point isn't that he has been JT Snow away from Coors, my point is that he can't be considered one of THE BEST HITTERS in the game when he has yet to prove that he is a hitter wherever he plays. You want to tell me a Coors hitter is awesome, fine. But he damn well better be awesome on the road too, because whatever he does at home has to be devalued about 35%. Are you saying that Helton is a .400 hitter? Because he is at home, and unless you're saying ability demonstrated at Coors represents real ability, then you have to prove that you can replicate that performance elsewhere. Todd Helton has done that once in his career. One season he's been a hammer away from Coors. For me, that ain't enough.

And I've been comparing Helton to one of the worst hitting first basemen in all of baseball. Let's do some apples to apples, ranking by OPS:

2002

Giambi .324/.446/.568/1.014

Palmeiro .252/.361/.564/.925

Bagwell .267/.398/.516/.914

Delgado .256/.378/.498/.876

Helton .274/.372/.487/.859

Snow .267/.350/.422/.772

2001

Giambi .336/.480/.592/1.072

Delgado .311/.428/.635/1.063

Helton .286/.383/.593./.976

Palmeiro .293/.393/.576/.969

Bagwell .271/.388/.525/.913

Snow .308/.410/.469/.879

2000

Helton .353/.441/.633/1.074

Giambi .318/.452/.620/1.072

Delgado .329/.463/.552/1.015

Bagwell .270/.389/.516/.905

Palmeiro .285/.375/.491/.866

Snow .255/.358/.412/.770

1999

Bagwell .337/.477/.709/1.186

Palmeiro .323/.402/.568/.970

Delgado .273/.371/.599/.970

Snow .303/.390/.552/.942

Giambi .279/.398/.505/.903

Helton .252/.324/.447/.771

As you can see, Todd has very little competition as the best hitting first baseman in the NL. Helton, among the most productive first basemen in all of baseball over the last four years, doesn't really stand out that much, other than 2000. Am I wrong here? Take a swing, anyone. Against all of the best hitters in the NL, on the road, he ranks 23rd in total bases in 2002, 10th in 2001, 6th in 2000, and 49th in 1999. Hmmm, that sounds better than I thought it would. Perhaps I should give him a bit more benefit of the doubt. OK. Maybe I'm a bit off here.

Well, here's what I guess I'll say. You want to talk about THE BEST HITTERS in the league, then you have to stand up to rigorous analysis, and in Helton's case, you have to qualify for environment. Todd Helton plays in an environment that makes Jay Payton look like the second coming of Hank Aaron. If Mike Krukow wants to tell me that he is one of the very best hitters in the league, then he has to demonstrate that Helton's production isn't entirely due to that home cooking. Krukow can't do that. He can demonstrate that Helton is a fine hitter, home or road, certainly he is the best hitting first baseman in the NL. But he is, in my opinion, a notch below THE BEST HITTERS in the National League. Not as much as I thought previously, but still below the Bonds, Sosa, Guerrero, Walker, Kent, Giles line.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


.... Grab some pine, meat

In the hopes that Mike Krukow or John Miller actually do read my stuff, I wanted to make my Snow vs. Helton argument a little more accurate, so I spent my lunch hour extrapolating both players fantasy seasons in greater detail. Because Snow has had such a poor season, he's had something like 120 at bats fewer than Helton, so I adjusted his road totals as if he been had he been playing more regularly, and then ran his Coors home numbers again. Here's what I really think his season might look like, Home adjusted, Away adjusted, Fantasy totals, and Real totals:







Hits2BHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
Home71201049.356.482.6081.090

Away5917636.267.350.422.772

Fantasy130371685.310.420.513.933

Real8121644.267.337.367.704



And just to finish off this piece nicely, here's JT Snow vs. Helton if they both played at Coors:







Hits2BHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
Snow130371685.310.420.513.933

Helton153352492.334.429.5851.014



And here's JT Snow vs. Todd Helton if they both played at PacBell:







Hits2BHRRBIAVGOBPSLGOPS
Snow8121644.267.337.367.704

Helton110221351.246.353.413.766



As you can see, I've made a similar adjustment here to Helton, if he was this bad, he'd lose a hundred at bats to Damon Minor too. I'm not saying this is 100% accurate, but if anybody wants to look real hard, I'm confident they'll see pretty much the same thing.

So there. I've completely beaten the flesh off this horse. Contrary to what Mr. Krukow and Mr. Miller said last night about a dozen times, Todd Helton enjoys an enormous advantage as a Colorado Rockie. Just like Juan Uribe or Jay Payton or any other slug, his production is inflated in the neighborhood of 30-40% when he is at home. And when he is on the road, he is a league average hitter, pretty much about as good as JT Snow, who everybody knows is about the least productive first baseman in the National League. If Helton were a Giant, idiots like me would be screaming for Dusty to give more at bats to Minor. Capeesh?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


.... The other side

You know, I really hate the Red Sox, always have. As a born in the Bronx, ex-New Yorker, I have found it only a little difficult to point my allegiance towards the ex-New York franchise of the Giants. And, really, as much as I love the Yankees, you'll notice that I don't have a Yankee site on the left there, because, frankly, I've not found one that I like all that much.

Unfortunately, I have found a really funny and smart Boston Red Sox site, called Bambino's Curse. Yummy. Coming soon to my links on the left.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


..... New guy

Travis Nelson has a new site, Boys of Summer. Good stuff. I think it's brand-spankin' new, too.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmm

Did anybody watching the Giants game last night get the feeling that Mike Krukow and John Miller read my piece yesterday about Todd Helton? I sure did. The two of them just went on and on about how Helton, and more vehemently, Walker were great hitters in and out of Coors. Of course, they're right about Walker. And they're just as wrong about Helton, who, as I explained yesterday, is nothing more than a glorified JT Snow. As if to bring home my point, Krukow and Miller did bring up JT Snow's amazing .408 career batting average at Coors. Right after that, Krukow brought up that Helton is leading the league in home batting average, at a stunning .398 clip. Too bad he never got around to showing that he is not in the top forty in away average with his .274 mark.

Yesterday I posted Helton's and Snow's home and away averages side by side, clearly showing Helton as benefitting enormously from playing half of his games at Coors. Let's take a look at how these two players would fare if they swapped home parks. Here's Helton playing at PacBell (Fantasy) vs. Coors (Real).







2BHRRBIAVG/OBP/SLG/OPS
Home10728.219/.334/.340/.674

Away16938.274/.372/.487/.859

Fantasy261656.246/.353/.413/.766

Real352492.334/.429/.585/1.014



This is what Snow's season would look like if he played at Coors (Fantasy) vs. PacBell (Real).







2BHRRBIAVG/OBP/SLG/OPS
Home171049.347/.427/.540/.967

Away14530.267/.350/.422/.772

Fantasy311579.307/.388/.481/.870

Real21744.244/.337/.367/.704



Well now. That sure makes a big difference. And because he has struggled so mightily this year, Snow has over 100 fewer at bats than Helton, so his adjustment could be bigger. For you statheads, I didn't really do a statistical redraw like Bill James would, all I did was calculate the positive impact for Helton (around plus 30% across the board) and give that to Snow using his road numbers. Then I took Helton and calculated the negative impact for Snow (around negative 20%) and apllied that to Helton. So, you have their real away seasons, and their fantasy home seasons added together. Clever, eh?

So Snow playing at Coors would "... flat-out rake." and Helton playing at PacBell would be struggling to keep Minor on the bench. Take that, Krukow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


.... emails and details

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, will do something with yesterday's diatribe later today. I'll keep everyone informed.

A reader, Louis Campbell chimes in,



You've been right about the luxury tax not really doing anything to affect competitiveness, even though no one in the media can seem to grasp this concept. But, the thing that gets me the most with the media coverage is the under-hyping of the proposed world draft. That is the only thing that will actually help competitive balance.

It's often said that the Yankees have achieved their success through largely homegrown talent. Indeed before last season, there were no major players acquired through free agency. But, that's ignoring one painful fact, a lot of the homegrown talent was acquired not through a draft, but a "undrafted" free agent signing. I know this applies to El Duque, Rivera, Alfonzo, and Mendoza; and, I believe it also applies to Bernie Williams and Posada. All these guys were never drafted, they were signed.

Case in point, Alfonzo Soriano finally becomes available. The Indians are very interested and the GM is authorized to offer over $1 million. But, the Yankees swoop in and sign this prospect for $3 million. No other team can really afford to sign unproven commodities for such a price. But, of course, if everyone can draft these guys, will any team actually expend the resources to search out the talent? I hope so. I think they have compensated for this by having MLB run the talent search as a joint expenditure.

And, on a completely different point, why do so few people not grasp that a luxury tax is a salary cap? Especially because it works exactly the same way as a salary cap! The NFL has a salary cap, as I understand it, it is enforced by levying a monetary fine on any team that goes over the limit. Now I'm sure the fine is heavier than the proposed rates for the MLB cap, but, nonetheless, it works exactly the same way.



Louis, great points, as usual. Couple of things I'd like to throw in. Yes, the Yankees do have a core of championship players who are homegrown, but they did have many significant members of their championship run brought in via free agency or trade. Paul O'Neill, Wade Boggs, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, David Cone, these were only a few of the players who were integral to the historic post-season run the Yankees have made during these last six years.

Your point on the world draft is a good one, although again, I don't believe there is a significant competitive balance issue, so I don't know if I agree that a world-wide draft will really do anything. If I concede the competitive balance issue, why would a draft make that much of a difference? Because the league pays for it? Well, as anyone in government knows, the more centralized an organization becomes, the less effective it becomes. A world-wide talent search led by Seligiula from his office in Milwaukee is going to help the Twins how? I don't see it, notwithstanding the possibility that I could be completely wrong, but for now, I just don't.

As for the ignorance on the the luxury tax being a cap, well, I have been railing about the idiots in the media for years. No research, no investigation, they basically print what people say verbatim, regardless of whether it's true or honest or even believable. Rob Manfred, the owners negotiator, walks out of the meetings, says whatever he wants, and there's your headlines. Given that, it's a wonder that anyone knows anything that doesn't serve the interests of the owners. And I'm not even gonna get into a conspiracy theory, although since almost all of the major media outlets own or are affiliated with teams in one way or another, there have to exist massive conflicts of interest throughout the country.

Thanks again, Louis.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 28, 2002


..... Ooooh, you make me so mad

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, sent me an email today, and he is pretty ticked off by Gary Huckabay's most recent Daily Prospectus. He has asked me to look at his position vs. Gary's, and offer something to the discussion. As you all know, I love the Twins Geek, so of couse, I'm there.

First things first. I like Gary Huckabay, and I agree with him on a lot of issues. I would guess that if John approached him directly, he would respond. Also John, I am going ahead with this rebuttal, even though I have some concerns, frankly, that the post you have asked me to use as a barometer of your position is written by someone who readily admits that, "... personally I am pretty sick of discussing the economics. For one thing, I don't have a firm grasp on them."

I give my readers a ration of shit if they try to argue with me about this issue and they haven't done their homework, a cursory reading of DS Hennessey's piece makes me feel that he is standing on shaky ground when it comes to facts. Nonetheless, out of respect for you, my man, I will proceed.

A key point made by DS is that Gary is saying that his opposition to a salary cap and revenue sharing is based on the fact that it will devalue franchises. My reading of Huckabay is that he's saying that when an owner buys a Red Sox or a Yankee franchise, he pays more because he expects a larger revenue stream, which will enable his investment to grow. If a rule or regulation is passed afterwards that depresses that stream dramatically, then for that individual owner, he has seen the value of his franchise go down. I don't think you can argue that that statement is false. Even so, it's not Gary's main point, or even a very important one, which DS should have known as a loyal BP reader.

As for what the values of the NFL franchises are vs. MLB franchises, well, I think that's apples and oranges. But to say that the NFL salary structure is better is just wrong. The NFL system clearly hurts the players financially, as every year the number of players who get released or have to restructure their contracts increases. And having to dismantle a Super Bowl Champion, because of a salary system, is horrible for the league, for the team, for the players, and especially for the fans. It's only good for the owners. Is that what we want in baseball, a system that is great for anyone who owns a team but shitty for everyone else? The simple fact is that the NFLPA did a very poor job negotiating their current CBA; and frankly, it is foolish to use it as a countermand to the MLBPA's position.

Another point made by DS is that the A's aren't an example of how to beat a big market team, they are an example of good drafting and luck. Well, sure, luck is a crucial factor in drafting and developing talent, just as cash is a crucial factor in keeping that talent. The Yankees got lucky when they drafted Soriano, Jeter, Posada, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera. Any one of those players could have suffered a career ending injury during their time in the minors, or they could have been assholes, or just bad players. That's impossible to adjust for. You can't plan against bad luck, and you can't plan for good luck.

What I think Gary is saying is that teams don't have to operate in an environment of scarcity. The idea that Jason Giambi is the only possible first baseman for a team to compete is provably false, as is the premise that one must retain developed stars to do so. The guys at Baseball Prospectus have spent much of the past eight years arguing that replacement level talent is available for virtually nothing. As Gary says, "Why would someone offer Derek Bell, David Segui, Pat Meares, and literally hundreds of other players massive, financially unjustifiable contracts, unless they were painfully unaware of the available substitutes?" Would any pattern of success/failure be different if a team would use an approach similar to the one Billy Beane is developing in Oakland? Maybe. It happens all the time. The Dodgers trade superstar Gary Sheffield and they are back on the winning track, even though the player they replaced him with is far less effective. We all know the story of the Mariners losing Hall of Fame talent three years in a row and thriving. Now the A's have begun to mirror that same approach. What's happening there? Is this luck or is it replicable? Only time will tell.

The alternative premise, however, that only top payroll teams can remain competitive is equally unsustainable. Does anyone really think the Yankees will be the first team in any professional sport to sustain this level of success through the decline and retirement of all of their championship players? Do you really think that they will still be winning 90 plus games when Clemens and Williams and Posada and Mussina and Hernandez and Jeter and Giambi all start to fade? What empirical evidence does anyone have that cash wins out in the end? The Indians couldn't do it. The Orioles couldn't. The Dodgers couldn't. The Red Sox haven't been able to. Neither have the Mets. If only one team is able to succeed using this approach, doesn't that suggest, as I have argued before, that they are the exception as much as a team like the A's are to the inverse approach? Let me put it this way, what if the Yankees get swept in the first round? Did their $171 million dollar payroll succeed or fail then?

DS goes on to take Gary to task for suggesting that a salary cap will prevent an owner from investing in his team. That's inaccurate, again, that is something DS should know, although I will admit that it was a poorly written sentence that led to the confusion. Gary is saying that there is no incentive to invest in a team if you are guaranteed a revenue stream that outpaces your cost of doing business. Gary knows that the salary cap proposed by the owners has no ties whatsoever to investment in talent. Consequently, the only thing we know for sure about the owners proposal is that Montreal and Kansas City and Milwaukee and Florida and Minnesota's owners are going to receive a massive influx of cash. Why are you assuming a salary cap will allow teams to retain their best players? The CBA that just expired had revenue sharing and a luxury tax, and transferred enormous amounts of cash into the weaker teams in the league. Did the Royals or the Brewers or the Twins use any of that money to keep their own home-grown talent or to sign free agents? If they didn't this time, why would anyone believe they will next time.

For me, that is the crux of this debate. Do I believe that Gary or Doug or John or I have the perfect system for ensuring the long-term success of the league and/or its franchises? Of course not. But only a fool believes that Carl Pohlad is going to take the $25 million dollars he receives in revenue sharing and luxury tax redistribution and give it to Tori Hunter and Jacque Jones. Seligula has succeeded in diverting our attention away from the owners greedy lies and has us mired in a straw man debate. There is no competitive balance issue. There is no financial Armageddon out there. Nothing is stopping multi-billionaire Pohlad from building his own stadium and signing a Jason Giambi or an Alex Rodriguez except his own greed and avarice. The same is true for all of them. And if it's not, well, if you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen. Sell your team, sell your house, whatever, just stop telling me about how hard it is to own a team. if it's that hard, get out!!! And do me a favor, stop threatening me.

John Moores, you greedy rat bastard; how dare you tell me you'll gladly shut down your team after you just sucked $400 million dollars out of the San Diego taxpayers for your new stadium. Tom Hicks, the same to you, the Ballpark at Arlington is what, eight years old? Did you pay for it, you greedy pig? How about you, Selig? $300 million for your stadium and you trade away one player after another, putting a Triple AAA team out there to lose 100 games again, after raising your ticket prices 100% and pocketing $18 million dollars last year. The same thing is happening in Cleveland and Baltimore, too. What about Minnesota? If you argue that they are lucky, than you are arguing that revenue sharing won't do a thing to make teams more competitive, because the Twins received a huge influx of cash during the last CBA. And on the other side, do you think Steinbrenner will put up with spending the kind of money he is if the Yankees go 85-77 next year? What guarantees can anyone give me that they won't?

See what happens when I start talking about this, I get all hot and bothered. Anyway, there you go John, have at it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 27, 2002


.... History, expanded

Chris Hartjes, who runs @ the Ballpark, is doing some work examining the Veterans Committee nominees for the Hall of Fame. Part I is today. Read and discuss.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 27, 2002


.... Get real, meat

I got all pissed off listening to Krukow last night. Every time Todd Helton came up, Krukow would start in with his, "This guys just a hitter." or "This guy can flat out rake." Neither statement lives in the world of reality. After watching Helton hit an opposite field home run off the end of his bat, a ball that would have been a weak fly in every other park in the country, Krukow just went on and on about Helton's balance and his hands and his front shoulder, I mean, come on. Todd Helton, away from Coors Field, is JT Snow.

Helton's 1999-2001home BA/OBP/SLG look like this, .387/.474/.751, with a 1.225 OPS.

Snow's 1999-2001 home BA/OBP/SLG look like this, .257/.355/.394, with a .749 OPS.

Wow. That's a big difference. Of course, Snow, a weak hitter, playing at Candlestick and now PacBell, two of the most run-reducing environments in baseball, should look like crap compared to Helton, who plays in a jet stream of offense.

Helton's 1999-2001 away BA/OBP/SLG look like this, .296/.384/.558, with a .942 OPS.

Snow's 1999-2001 away BA/OBP/SLG look like this, .286/.382/.482, with a .864 OPS.

OK, so maybe not JT Snow, but still... if you're anywhere near Snow, you're clearly not one of the best hitters in the league. In fact, to say that Helton, "... just flat out rakes." is ridiculous. Look at Jay Payton. Ever since he got to Colorado, he's turned into Rickey Henderson, with eye-popping power and a batting average above .400. Everybody looks better at Coors, since 1993, the year the Rockies came into the league, the only players other than Tony Gwynn to win a batting title have been Rockies. Is that a coincidence? Come on.

Take a look at 2002:

Helton's road splits, .274/.372/.487, .859 OPS.

Snow's road splits, .269/.354/.429, .783 OPS.

This season, on the road, Helton is sixth among NL first basemen with 9 home runs in 230 at bats, Damon Minor and JT Snow have combined for 12 in 263 at bats. The first basemen with the most road home runs are Fred McGriff, with 17 home runs in 241 at bats, and Richie Sexson, with 15 in 236 at bats. Helton is tied for 31st in the NL with his 9 road home runs, behind, among others, Aaron Boone, Adrian Beltre, David Bell, and Bubba Trammell.

He is 35th in road hits, behind, besides all of the truly great hitters, Edgardo Alfonzo, David Bell, Marlon Anderson, Edgar Renteria, Travis Lee, Devi Cruz, and Craig Counsell.

He is tied for 22nd in total bases, behind... well, behind all of the really great hitters in the league; Bonds, Pujols, Green, Gonzalez, Guerrero, Sosa, Kent, Sheffield, Berkman, Bagwell. He's 19th in road RBI. His .274 average isn't among the top 40.

Krukow and Kuiper and John Miller have a responsibility to bring a little more to the table than simply reading the league leaders posted in the sports pages. When they analyze a hitter or a pitcher, they should spend a little more time looking into what this player actually produces, and then offer some insight or analysis to enlighten the viewer or listener. Telling me that Todd Helton rakes is absurd. Todd Helton rakes at Colorado, as does virtually every hitter in baseball. Out in the real world, where the laws of physics aren't supsended, Todd Helton is a pretty good hitter.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 27, 2002


.... But I digress

I know this is supposed to be a baseball only site, (hence the name), but I have to go on a tangent here.

I rented Monster's Ball on DVD last night, and I am simply flabbergasted. This movie won Academy Awards? Halle Berry won a best actress award for that?

Other than her amazingly overdone semi-porno scene with a going-through-the-motions-in-more-ways-than-one partner, Billy Bob Thornton, (and really, her nude scene was only noteworthy because of her previously stated objections to being nude onscreen), what exactly did Ms. Berry do to receive such effusive praise? I simply did not get it.

Yeah, the characters in the film were overwhelmed by one horrible, heart-breaking loss after another, but what the hell does that have to do with the actors or the movie being good? How about believable characters, believeable plot and story? Aren't those things important? A life-long racist stops in a torrential downpour to help a black woman, in what universe does that happen? This is a man who almost fired a black co-worker for touching him! A man who hated his mother, his wife and his son because they showed human emotions.

I don't know, maybe I'm just a cynic; but to me, that film was simply awful. Somebody explain to me how the way too long, way too raunchy sex scenes were neccessary, other than to generate buzz and interest in seeing the famously beautiful Ms. Berry getting jiggy with it. Mr. Thornton's character suddenly morphing into a warm and caring person after his son's suicide, yeah, that was believeable. Oh, I see, the suicide of first your mother, and then your wife wasn't enough to make you realize that maybe your life was heading down the wrong path? "Now I get it... let love in, it's all about giving."

Please. That movie was bad, plain and simple.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 27, 2002


.... History, Part II

Well, I looked just a wee litttle bit harder, and it appears that the wins/losses stratification I noticed in 1993 is not so rare after all. Take a look at this:





Top 42nd 43rd 4Last 4
2001368-280348-300310-338264-384

2000381-267338-310300-348266-382



These are the aggregate records of the top four teams, second four, third four and bottom four teams in the NL each of the last two seasons. That set of wins and losses doesn't look much different than what we saw in that 1993 league. I guess there is some logic to that type of wins distribution, but I am an amateur statistician, so I couldn't tell you more about it other than to say that of course, someone has to lose the games that someone else wins.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 27, 2002


.... History

I went back to look at that 1993 National League West race that generated so much reader feedback, and I discovered a few interesting facts.

First, the Atlanta Braves 1993 team page, at Baseball-Reference.com, is sponsored. It reads:

Colin sponsors this page. For one year I get to own the winning team in the last true pennant race!

So there.

Second, everyone remembers that the Braves finished one game ahead of the Giants, 104-58 to 103-59; but few fans seem to remember that the Phillies beat out the Expos for the NL East crown in an equally scintillating race, 97-65 to 94-68. Also, it was that Philadelphia team that went to the World Series that year.

Another interesting thing about the National League that year was the overall stratification of the league. The four best teams had 94 or more wins (aggregate record of 398-250), the six middle teams combined finished two games under .500, (aggregate record of 485-487), and four teams won 67 or fewer (aggregate record of 251-397). That seems kind of weird to me, I'll have to look up whether that type of stratification is rare, I would guess it is.

That little detail made me wonder about all of the talk of what a great race that was. If there was such a difference between the best teams and the worst, what did the final weeks of the season look like? In other words, in this year's stretch, the red Sox, Angels, Athletics and Mariners will square off a total of 30 times or so, making for an historic head to head battle for the postseason; did the stretch run of 1993 offer such drama, or is our memory of that race clouded by the fact that both teams won over 100 games?

On the last weekend in August, the Braves took two of three from the Giants in Atlanta. At that point in the season, they were 83-51, 32 games over .500, and they were four games behind the Giants. That was the last time they faced their rivals that season. They swept three games from the Padres (61-101), took two of three from the Dodgers (81-81), took three of four from the Padres (61-101), swept three games from the Reds (73-89), took two of three from the Mets (59-103), two of three from Montreal (94-68), two of three from Philly (97-65), lost two of three to Houston (85-77), and finshed with a three game sweep of the Rockies (67-95). They played sixteen of their final 28 games against teams below .500, on their way to a 21-7 surge to the best record in the league.

After the Braves series, the Giants were 87-47, and they proceeded to cough up a four game lead with 28 games to play. They took two of three from the Marlins (64-98), two of three from the Cards (87-75), split two games with the Pirates (75-87), suffered a four game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals (87-75), a three game sweep at the hands of the Cubs (84-78) (essentially costing themselves the season), swept three games from Cincinnatti (73-89), took three of four from the Astros (85-77), swept four games from the Padres (61-101), split a two game set with the Rockies (67-95), and finished winning the first two games with Dodgers before losing the final pair (81-81). That's fourteen of their final 28 games against teams below .500.

They didn't see each other the last month of the season, and the division was lost because of a six game stretch where the Giants were outscored 16-39. I guess it was exciting watching the Braves beat the best teams in the East while the Giants collapsed against a couple of tomato cans, (sounds familiar, doesn't it); but I still fail to see why it was so much better than any of the other races for the postseason I've detailed. Anyone want to chime in?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 26, 2002


.... Closer to home

I haven't written much about the San Francisco Giants lately, mostly because they have played absolutely lifeless, horrible, losing baseball; they've gone 9-8 in August while the Dodgers have gone 13-4 and I simply cannot stand watching the type of ball they've been playing. In the beginning of the month, I ran a couple of columns attempting to predict the final standings and that work now appears to have been a waste of time, the Giants offense has completely collapsed, no combination of players really matters; and Bonds and Kent are beginning to show the strain of carrying the team for going on two years running.

All in all, they have been bad and flat and boring, and more importantly, I'm tired of listening to myself complain about the failings of players being asked to be more than they are, and the coincidental inability of Dusty Baker and Dave Righetti to get more out of them.

Is it possible that a different combination of coaching and management could get more out of this team? Sure, I guess so. But a team whose fourth leading RBI man is a 38 year old catcher is a weak, weak team. Look at the pitching staff. If going into the season you told Brian Sabean that Ryan Jensen and Kirk Rueter would be leading the team in wins with a week to go in August, well, you figure it out. The disappointments have been team-wide, and regardless of what happens from this point on, this team will need to make some significant changes.

You can say all you want about the failings of the pitchers, and I know I have said as much as anybody, but if this team had a more consistent offense, they would still be fighting for the division with the D'backs.

JT Snow, Reggie Sanders and Tsuoshi Shinjo have all failed miserably at the plate this year. Damon Minor, because of Dusty's loyalty to Snow, hasn't been given the opportunity to figure out the league. Rich Aurilia never got started, having been dealt one injury setback after another early on. Ramon Martinez and Pedro Feliz have done almost nothing to suggest that either one is worthy of a starting job, particularly Feliz, who has combined poor defense with an almost complete lack of knowledge of the strike zone; forcing Dusty Baker to ride David Bell into the ground.

And really, this isn't an indictment of any one player, rather, it is the Giants offensive philosophy that needs to change. Other than Kent and Bonds, the Giants hitters are essentially interchangeable; slow sluggers with limited power and poor strike zone management. While substantial evidence available to suggest that there actually is a universal approach to creating runs, the Giants continue to pretend that the success of the high on-base% offense is some fluke, or that it is player dependent. If this is to continue, this team will find it very difficult to contend during the duration of Barry Bonds' big contract. More .310 OBP hitters surrounding Bonds will only mean more 180 plus walk seasons. No amount of manager moves or pitching excellence can overcome an offense like this.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 26, 2002


.... Yummy

Check out this site. It's called MLB Contracts, and it will be in my Featured Links on the left. Awesome.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 26, 2002


.... Read and learn

Gary Huckabay of Baseball Prospectus has a terrific piece today. Happy happy, joy joy.

On the labor front, even though both sides were mean to each other this weekend, the owners rep, Rob Manfred, submitted a counter proposal that was a step towards the players. Next move, Fehr.

Today on the Ticket 1050, here in the Bay Area, I heard Bob Costas being interviewed. I like Bob, and I think he is eloquent and well-read. His opinions were pretty solid, no real bias for either side. However, his position on what needs to happen is pretty firmly based on the supposition that the finances of baseball are screwed up and need to change. In particular, he believes that if all 30 teams could be guaranteed to make the average players salary in profit, they would sign up for that immediately. In my opinion, that's extremely naive. Not only is he presuming that teams don't make at least that much in profits currently, I would also assert that no owner would sign on for such a limiting deal, not when you are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry. Come on, Bob, get real.

I have to say, while Seligula appears the rube more often than not, he sure has done a magnificent job of convincing everybody the sky is falling.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 26, 2002


.... Help, I need somebody. Help

Over at Mike's baseball Rants, Mike takes a fine tooth comb to George F. Will's recent efforts. In this piece, he explains why knuckleheads like me incorrectly called Mr. Will a shill. Check it out, Mike's a terrific writer.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 26, 2002


.... emails and details, wow!!

I have a pretty decent group of readers who send me emails. Well read, intelligent, just good writers. I really enjoy the back and forth, and I really appreciate that someone would take the time to contact me and offer insight and critique. Thanks to all my readers and writers. You help make this site fun and smart.

Here's the latest:



John, a little-discussed factor that affects the baseball labor negotiations is that for the owners to ratify any agreement, at least three quarters must approve it. Prior to the 1994 negotiations the threshold for ratification was one half, but the owners changed the threshold at this time-- ostensibly so that they would be forced to stay united during the negotiations. Thus any optimistic analysis of the current negotiations based on the logic that "it doesn't make economic sense for the owners to provoke a strike" misses the mark: it may well not make economic sense for the majority of owners, but so long as a small minority of owners -- as few as eight out of thirty -- can benefit by taking a hard line, there will be no agreement.

My impression is that there is a small-market minority that is in fact currently digging in its heals, and that this is what is holding up an agreement. Essentially the small-market owners have the power to hold the negotiations hostage, since they can tell both the large-market owners and the players: "Either you both make huge financial concessions to us or we will shut the game down." If this group succeeds, then franchises such as Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and San Diego will have accomplished a remarkable trifecta: they will have extorted expensive new stadiums from the citizens in their cities, enormous cash transfers from the wealthier franchises, and important salary concessions from the players. I don't wish the small-market owners well in their greedy venture, but I suspect they will get what they want.

The reason I emphasize the three-quarters ratification requirement is that, as a political science professor, I study voting systems for a living, I regularly emphasize to my students that in order to understand how politics works in different countries, it is important to understand the voting systems (plurality, proportional representation, etc.) these countries use to select their elected representatives. I think the same is true for the current baseball negotiations. My guess is that if the owners could ratify an agreement using the 50% threshold in use prior to 1994, then an agreement would be reached in short order. But the 75% threshold is much harder to reach, and I think this factor greatly reduces the odds of reaching a timely settlement.

I enjoy reading your web site -- keep up the good work!

Regards,

James Adams

Associate Professor

Department of Political Science

University of California

Santa Barbara



Thanks James. Brilliant input, and extremely helpful. It's important to note that most of the media has also missed this distinction, just as I have. Bill James wrote a piece suggesting that the small market owners should use their leverage as the opposition to force a more equitable distribution of revenue and, coincidentally, better baseball as a whole, and I have felt that his idea merits consideration. Of course, like so many baseball fans out there taking time to write about what we think might help baseball improve, all of our ideas are, for the most part, sand castles in the sky.

As Professor Adams points out, these small market owners aren't acting in the best interests of baseball, and as I have stated loudly, they could care less about the fans, the players or competitive balance. They are acting in their own self-interests, meaning, they are acting so as to maximize their own profits. They are , as capitalists, using the agreed upon rules of their own association to force George Steinbrenner and company to capitulate.

And really, if one were to stand back and take a cold appraisal of the actions and words of all involved, one is forced to conclude that the owners have had no intention of coming to an agreement at all. The MLBPA has made a staggering number of major concessions throughout these bargaing sessions, the owners have made virtually none. The irresponsible idiot media have reported Robert Manfred's words as fact, not one time have I read a column or article that challenged his statements at all. He says that the owners are making compromises, and the players are going backwards, and there's your headlines. However, the reality is that the players have made one concession after another, their latest offer on revenue sharing is approximately $80 million dollars larger than their initial offer. The owners have moved $12 million. Who's compromising?

And why would the owners put in a 75% majority vote on collective bargaining agreements? So they would have an invisible lever to use to prove that they are negotiating in good faith, and the players are not, thereby allowing them to request that the NLRB declare an impasse and allow them to implement whatever CBA they want. Isn't that what they have been moving towards all along? I mean, really, look at the constant stream of misinformation coming from Seligula, Manfred, the other owners. Isn't it clear that their intentions all along were, in fact, to stop at nothing in their efforts to maximize the amount of cash they can suck out of fans, players, and other owners?

It's sad, but we could be looking at the end of Major League Baseball as we have come to know it. If they proceed along this path towards implementation, we would almost certainly have no baseball during a multi-year legal battle, baseball would probably lose it's anti-trust exemption, and there is a good chance that we could see the formation of a Players League, or even a whole group of competing leagues. Barry Bonds' quest for Mays, Ruth and Aaron would go up in smoke, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux would be denied a chance for 300 wins, all sorts of great players would have their careers interrupted, the Twins would lose a chance to make the playoffs after a decade-long rebuilding project.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 25, 2002


.... emails and details, weekend edition

Reader John Corcoran has a couple of tidbits from Friday.... I'll take them one at a time.



John, amen on the ESPN experts. Ridiculous stuff.

I would love to see someone from BP break down both sides' numbers. Given that we don't have them, I guess the best we can do is read the tea leaves and evaluate the PR put out by both sides. From a legal perspective, assuming leaking is still occurring at its usual level, my prediction is that we'll have a fairly good idea about whether there will be a deal by Sunday or Monday. The players are going to make a counter proposal tomorrow. The owners, because they want to keep the club of impasse and implementation will either move very little in response or jump to take the players offer. The owners will not engage in "split the difference" bargaining because it robs them of leverage if a strike occurs. If the news on Sunday or Monday is that the owners are moving very little or not at all in response, then I think a strike is more than likely.



John, I like your logic. The owners have moved very little so far, while the players have made a number of substantial concessions. I can't see how the owners think that they have demonstrated a willingness to bargain while the players have not, so I'm led to believe that Seligula and company think they have a stacked deck at the NLRB. That said, I've waffled back and forth in my expectations all year, and I'm still can't figure it out.



As for pennant races, I guess it depends on how you measure them. I happen to think 1993 was by far the most dramatic of the races you mentioned. Why? Because of the number of wins the Braves and Giants ended up with. Frankly, playoff races involving teams with 85 wins don't do much for me. Chances are that they are mediocre and aren't ultimately going anywhere. The idea, however, of a team winning 100 (or 103) games and not going to the playoffs? That's drama. Matt Williams was crying after the 1993 loss to LA. I was in NY at the time, but I remember it well. People out here still curse the memory of Solomon Torres.... Does anyone remember the losers from the races you brought up? On the other hand, the wild card races are better if the virtue is getting more fans involved from different cities who might otherwise tune out. Each have their benefits, but I vote for drama.



Hmmm, yeah, two of the races I mentioned involved teams with lousy records, but that was more a reflection of a mediocre league, 1995. The wild card teams in the National League, going from 2001 backwards, have had 93, 94, 97, 89, 92, 90, and 77 in '95. In the NL that year, when Colorado got in with 77 wins, the most wins in the league was 90, the other two division winners were 85 and 78 win teams. I would argue that the league was a bit flat overall after the strike of '94.

The American League wild card teams have had, in reverse order 79, 88, 96, 92, 94, 91, and 102 wins. So really, the mediocre wild card season was in 1995, when the teams and the league were obvously suffering from the repercussions of the strike. The rest of the time, the teams have been uniformly excellent, and we have seen quite a few terrific finishes.

As for weeping and gnashing of teeth, I would bet that Cleveland fans in 2000 were pretty distraught, after losing out by a single game. In '95, the Angels missed the wild card by one game to the Yanks, in '96 the Expos missed by two games.... I could go on and on, in fact I already have. I just don't agree that a great team has to be left out for there to be drama, or that 100 wins means that we've seen a great race. The wild card was added, in part, to allow excellent teams to make the playoffs in an expanded league. It has worked wonderfully. I just don't see the negatives my esteemed colleagues do.

Once again, thanks to John Corcoran, and of course, Baseball-Reference.com. Check out my Don Mattingly page there.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 24, 2002


.... A better man than I, rebuttal

Just got this email:



Hi John, thanks for mentioning me on your site, even though you did savagely rip my opinion to shreds ;)

I just wanted to say that when I said it "ruined" division races, it had nothing to do with what happened on the final day of the season, like the A's not needing to play or the Cards and Astros, etc. And it had nothing to do with whether or not a team could have forced a 1 game playoff or not.

What I meant was, it ruined the drama of the last month of the season, where the A's and Mariners would have been fighting it out for the division title, with the loser not making the playoffs. I think that would have added a heck of a lot of excitement. And they ended up finishing in basically a dead tie, so that would have been a pretty exciting final month without the possibility of the loser making the wild card.

And that is basically my point with all the races I mentioned. Not that the final day of the year was ruined, but that the final month or so was ruined. The excitement that is a race between 2 or 3 teams at the end of a season, with only one making the playoffs. Watching scoreboards and playing head to head, that, to me, is what it is all about.



Aaron's Blog is awesome. I apologize if I gave the impression that anything else were true.

That said, I think Aaron and I just disagree. I didn't think Aaron was suggesting that it was the final day that was devalued. I just don't think the wild card has done anything negative to the final month or weeks of the season at all. I believe that having four teams make the playoffs in each league creates more drama, tension and fan interest, not less.

Sure, 1993 was a great pennant race, one of the greatest ever. But was it better than 1998, when the National League wild card was fought between the 90 win Cubs, the 89 win Giants, and the 88 win Mets? How about 1995, when the NL had five teams fighting for two spots finishing with between 70 and 78 wins, and the AL had three teams fighting for two spots finsih with 78, 79 and 79 wins? That's eight teams in the hunt down the stretch for four spots. In the 2000 American league, three teams fought for two spots, and finished with 90, 91 and 91 wins. In the NL in 1999, Houston, Cincinnati and the Mets finished with 96, 97 and 97 wins, and only two of them went to the playoffs. Last year, the D'backs, Giants, Dodgers, Cards, Astros, Phillies and Cubs all finished with between 86 and 93 wins, and only three of those teams got in. How was that lacking in pennant race excitement? How was the final month of any of those seasons ruined?

On the contrary; in my experience, the final months of those seasons were awesome. Last year, I was at PacBell a bunch of times down the stretch, between innings everyone in park would crane their necks to see the scoreboard. I don't know... but there are sixteen teams in each league now. Four playoff teams out of sixteen, I don't see how that cheapens the accomplishment, and I don't see how that additional opportunity makes for less drama. Just agreeing to disagree, I guess, Aaron. I still love your site.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... Dumb and dumber

I was gonna let it go, but I just couldn't. ESPN asked its' panel of experts whether there will be a strike or not here. Let's see, none of these people have any inside information whatsoever (other than Peter Gammons' secret poll), or qualifications as experts on this issue, (Neyer gets a pass here, but that's it), and more than a couple of them either simply don't understand what the hell they are talking about, or at best, are guilty of very poor writing. We're talking about a couple of sportswriters and a bunch of ex-ballplayers here. That's an expert panel?

Here's what I'd like to see. The experts over at Baseball Brospectus answering some specific questions regarding the current state of the negotiations. What does Doug Pappas think of the movement by the owners team? What does Joe Sheehan think of the difference between the two sides latest offers? I'd like to see Derek Zumsteg do an apples to apples breakdown of how the last CBA would handle next year, and what the two sides different offers would look like, side by side. That's expert analysis, lawyers and accountants and numbers crunchers analyzing facts. Not speculation and half-witted comments like Joe Margan saying, "I would be shocked if a strike occurred. In past strikes, one side always felt it had more to lose than the other. That is why sometimes the players forced a strike and at other times the owners forced one." Experts. Sheesh.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... A better man than I, Part II

Another writer whom I really enjoy is Aaron Gleeman. Many of you know him, his site is there on the left. Today, he writes a little post decrying the Wild Card. He says,



Not including this season, there have been at least 8 good, old-fashioned division races that were ruined:

In 1995 the Colorado Rockies won the Wild Card after finishing 1 game back of Los Angeles.

In 1996 the Dodgers won the WC after finishing 1 game behind of San Diego.

(Also in 1996), the Baltimore Orioles won the Wild Card after they finished 4 games below New York.

In 1997 the Yankees won the WC after finishing 2 games back of Baltimore.

In 1999 the Red Sox won the WC, finishing 4 games behind of New York.

In 2000 the New York Mets won the WC after finishing 1 game worse than Atlanta.

(Also in 2000), the Mariners won the WC after finishing 1/2 a game behind Oakland in the AL West.

How did they finish 1/2 a game behind? Well, they had the Wild Card to fall back on, so they didn't even care about trying to win the division, thus Oakland didn't even have to play the final game!

(In 2001), the Cardinals and Astros finished tied for the division lead in the NL Central, both at 93-69. (Again), no one bothered playing a 1 game playoff, because they both made the post season, one as the division winner and one as the WC winner.



I have a few disagreements with Aaron here. One, the wild card didn't ruin any of these races. No team quit playing to win or gave up losses because they had the wild card to fall back on. In 2000, the Mariners, if my memory serves me, couldn't have forced a playoff by tying the A's, because the first tie-breaker is head to head record, and the A's took the season series, win or lose that extra game. And, because the Yankees, as the division winner with the worst record, were going to play the middle division winner, regardless of who it was. That's why they never made up the 1/2 game, not because they were already assured of the wild card. And last year, the Cards won their division based on the head to head tie breaker also, not because no one cared who won.

The wild card has been a boon to baseball. If two of the teams in the AL West make the playoffs, why is that bad? They're three of the best teams in the league. Any two of them will be deserving playoff teams. Isn't that the only thing that really matters, rewarding season long excellence? The Mets in 2000 went 9-2 down the stretch in a furious race to catch the Braves. They finished with 94 wins. Were they an undeserving playoff team? Of course not. In '96, the Dodgers won 90 games. In '97 the Yankees won 96 games. In '98 the Red Sox won 92 games, in '99 they won 94. Sure some of the wild card teams haven't been powerhouses, but a lot of the wild card team have clearly deserved to make the postseason.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... A better man than I

I love sharing great writing with the many readers who have had so many nice things to say about my own. Here is a post by Derek Zumsteg, writing about the September 11th anniversary, and it's significance, or lack thereof, to baseball's labor negotiations. Here's a choice quote:



Baseball stopped play after the attacks, citing safety and respect. At the time all I wanted was to go back to the ballpark and see forty thousand Mariners fans with me in one place, singing the national anthem, cheering our team, as part of a return to normal life. The same people who then said the loss of life had made them realize that baseball and sports in general were ultimately meaningless are many of the same people who now argue that sports are meaningful enough that baseball must accommodate their grief since doing so now suits their purposes. This is a crass betrayal of all they briefly pretended they understood.



Here here.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmmm

About three weeks ago, I ran a post in which I tried to extrapolate the National League Wild Card race results using the Bill James' Pythagorean formula. I ran it two ways, one just using their overall Pyth winning % and running it for their remaining games, and the other by adjusting it slightly, using their previous month's production. Here's what the contenders projected out to using their actual full season expected winning %, with a revision for where they are now:





ThenNowPredRev.1
Giants62-5070-5692-7091-71

Dodgers62-5173-5488-7491-71

Cards59-5071-5482-8091-71

Astros58-5367-6088-7485-77

Reds58-5363-6389-7380-82



Two things. First, so far the Dodgers have been out-performing their expected winning %, going 11-3 while the Giants have gone 8-6. I would guess that a lot of that has to do with playing the second division for most of the month, although the Giants have only played one tough team, the Braves, and they went 1-1-1 against them. In the end, this poor stretch may cost them the playoffs. Second, I think there might be an even more accurate way to attempt this projection. I think that if you take out the runs scored and allowed from a teams 10 highest scoring games, you could get a more accurate reading of a teams expected winning %. I ran a post about how, if you take out their biggest blowouts the Giants are winning exactly as many games as the Pyth analysis would predict. I don't have the time to run this for all six, but here's what the Giants and Dodgers would look like, their current record, predicted finish using their actual expected winning %, and then using the revised expected winning%:





NowRev.1Rev.2
Giants70-5691-7189-73

Dodgers73-5491-7190-72



Well, it didn't change much, did it? Either way, it looks like these two hated rivals will be battling right to the wire. The next week may make all of this moot, anyway. If the strike wipes out the rest of the regular season, then the Giants playing the Rockies and Expos for the rest of the month while the Dodgers are playing the Braves and D'backs has to be a huge advantage for the G-men. We'll see if they can use it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... emails and details

A new reader, Eric Naftaly, writes,



John: I'm a recent reader, coming in through David Pinto's Musings. I enjoy your comments -- hope you're wrong about the hardline owners getting their way and forcing an impasse.

Regarding one point of disagreement between you and reader John Corcoran (For those of you interested, here's Part I, Part II, and Part III): my understanding is that the last CBA's luxury tax ended in 1999, as he said. The money for 2000 and 2001 that you're talking about which the small-market owners aren't spending comes from the current revenue-sharing plan. The tax is a different issue; it'd be imposed on top of revenue sharing, and the distribution wouldn't necessarily be the same.



Thanks Eric. That was pretty sloppy of me to confuse the two. Sometimes I am in a hurry, and the details get a little blurry. I am glad that I have started a site that intelligent, critical readers spend time at. To everyone out there, thanks for stopping by.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 23, 2002


.... Bad News Bears

The NY Daily News Mike Lupica's position on the ongoing labor negotiations is well-documented. He is a shill for the owners. His column in today's paper is a new low.

Speaking about Donald Fehr's recent memo to the players, Lupica has this to say, "When Fehr calls the owners' plan on the table a salary cap, he only makes it harder to make a deal, sounds as if he is trying to sabotage everything."

Hey Mike, when the owners call it a salary cap, and say that they are willing to lose this season and the next to force the players to take what they give 'em, they're the ones making it harder to make a deal. When writers like you try to make it seem like Seligula and his greedy band of rat bastards are Santa Claus, you make it hard to make a deal.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 22, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmm, Part II

Another way of looking at the weakness at the catchers position is to average out the runs created of the top ten players at each position. Here's what the National League looks like:

Catcher 45.7 RC

First Base 69.1 RC

Second Base 67.5 RC

Third Base 57 RC

Shortstop 54.2 RC

Left Field 78.6 RC

Center Field 65.2 RC

Right Field 78.6 RC

There you go. Catchers are by far the least productive position in the NL, and it's a pretty big margin. I would posit that the physical demands of the position combined with a decline by some of the preeminent catchers of the last decade or so (Piazza and Rodriguez stand out, but don't forget Jason Kendall, who hasn't really come back from his broken ankle) has watered down the position to the point where it's kind of like the shortstop position of twenty years ago, when defense was much more valuable than offense. Of course the decline of these catchers relates to the fact that they are catchers, but maybe the demands of the modern game are forcing managers and coaches to the conclusion that there's no reason to allow a top-notch hitter to stay behind the plate anymore.

A platoon arrangement is probably be one of the simplest ways to get the most out of a good offensive catcher, barring moving him to another position. It would keep him from absorbing too much punishment while getting, say, 120-130 games out of him. Benito Santiago has played in 96 of the Giants first 124 games, on a pace for 125 or so. That seems to be just right for him, he's been much more productive this year than last when Dusty rode him into the ground by the All Star break. His splits before and after in 2001:

Pre-All Star .287/.331/.392

Post-All Star .238/.259/.346

September/October: .219/.256/.378

2001 was actually worse than that. He was hitting around .310 in the middle of June, but he averaged almost 100 at bats in June, July and August, and he faded real hard. This season, Dusty seems to be using him much more judiciously, and it's paying off. His peak of at bats in a month so far has been 87, and he's only had 80 one other time. His splits before and after the All Star break in 2002:

Pre-All Star .273/.317/.453

Post-All Star .303/.343/.495

August: .350/.371/.500

That's a big jump. Kudos to Dusty Baker for recognizing what a valuable commodity Santiago can be when handled properly. Anything resembling this level of production is an edge over the Giants competition. And by the way, It's not just Santiago having a second half drop. Mike Piazza, generally regarded as the best hitting catcher ever, in 1999-2001, has these Pre and Post All Star splits:

Pre-All Star .313/.378/.606

Post-All Star .304/.383/.565

His extra base hits per at bat drop from 1 every 7.4 AB's to 1 every 8.4. Seems like a little, but it's a lot worse this year. In 2002, Mike's numbers look like this:

Pre-All Star .285/.379/.543

Post-All Star .262/.328/.495

That's some drop. If I were Mike Piazza's agent or friend, I'd tell him to go buy a first baseman's glove. He's killing himself behind the plate, and it's only gonna get worse as he gets older.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 21, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmm

In Baseball Prospectus' Transaction Analysis for August 15-18, 2002, written by Chris Kahrl, Chris wrote the following little tidbit:



Is it just me, or have a really high number of catchers seen their offensive number crater this season? Glove men like Einar Diaz, Gary Bennett and Bengie Molina have plummeted down to Matheny territory, but well-regarded offensive catchers like Ramon Hernandez, Charles Johnson, Jason LaRue, and yes, Javy Lopez, have all done worse than expected as well. Combined with the usual "contributions" of guys like Brad Ausmus or Joe Girardi or Brent Mayne, or the continued entropic spirals of Todd Hundley and Jason Kendall, you're left with a divide between the nine or ten good regular catchers, and a bunch of situations which didn't pan out as well as you would have expected. Overall, catcher is now the weakest offensive position in the majors, well behind second and short. It all adds up to another way of saying that Jorge Posada and Mike Piazza tower over everyone else. It seems strange that something involving baseball in New York would go under- or uncommented upon, but the Big Apple has baseball's best catchers, and it falls short of being an overdone story?


Well, I looked it up, and he's pretty much right, although I don't know about towering over everyone else. The difference between Piazza and the number five guy, Benito Santiago is only 12.7 runs created. That is the smallest margin between one and five of any position in the NL. More importantly, Piazza's total of 62.1 runs created ranks him as being barely in the top forty in the league. Chris is right, catcher has become the weakest position in the league, by a substantial margin. The difference between Piazza and Santiago, one a first ballot Hall of Famer and the other a 39 year old, .265 career BA fireplug illustrates just how thin the position's strength is.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 21, 2002


.... Peter Peter, pumpkin eater

Over at StrikeThree, Michael Cox takes on Peter Gammons' babbling idiocy. Funny... and good. I'll have to add StrikeThree to the links on the left. It's awesome.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 21, 2002


.... New friends

To Alan J. Fisher, hope you had a blast at the game last night. It was a pleasure sharing oysters and martinis with you, and we sure got to see a doozy of a baseball game. Schmidt strikes out 13 and wins 1-0. That was spectacular. Good vibes.

Send me an email when you get a chance.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 21, 2002


.... Bad News Bears

Well, that was a slap in the face, huh? I guess Tom Hicks and John Moores told us. With these so-called hard-line owners stating that they are united in their efforts to institute a hard salary cap, and crush the MLBPA, and that they are willing to kill a whole season if neccessary, can there be any doubt of their true intentions all along?

How dare they? Liars. Bald-faced liars. They posture and obfuscate for months and months, talking about competitive balance and the horrible Yankees and bankruptcy and payroll imbalance, and baseball fans and writers sit around trying to come up with revenue sharing proposals that are fair, creating mounds and mounds of research to try to understand what it would take to ensure competitive balance and fair play and real opportunities to compete, and we argue with each other and we agree and we disagree and on and on....

And it's all bullshit. They were blowing smoke up our asses, and even though we knew it, we still believed, hope against hope, that what they were saying was true. My hopes died yesterday. I no longer believe that this season will play out. Barry Bonds will not catch Aaron. The Yankees will not go to their fifth World Series in a row.

When this is all over, next year or the year after that, Seligula and his cronies will be remembered as the most greedy, selfish and destructive owners in the history of team sports. Charles Comiskey has nothing on these guys. A pox on them, all of them.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 21, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmmm, Part II

Aaron Gleeman, who has Aaron's Blog, has put it to his readers to sponsor a page on Baseball-Reference.com. Basically, he says that if you like his site, you can drop the $5.00 and sponsor a page in his site's name. I dropped a bit more cash for Don Mattingly, the cost is pro-rated by the number of hits each page gets, so, for instance, Babe Ruth is probably the most expensive.

Anyway, I did it for the exposure, and if anyone likes my site enough that they would want to help out in this way, email me and let me know, and we can work out the details. No pressure, strictly putting it out there.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 20, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmmm

Baseball Prospectus' Michael Wolverton does a great job examing baserunning costs in this piece. Given the Giants penchant for getting thrown out at the plate, it's a good piece of analysis.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 20, 2002


.... New stuff

Over at Baseball News Link, I read that Baseball-Reference is now accepting sponsorships.

"Baseball-Reference.com relies on direct user support to pay the bills and support the work going on here. Now your support can go directly to specific pages of content. It is our way to both recognize you for your support and also allow businesses to receive something in return for support they provide to the site."

I am now the proud sponsor of the very prestigious Don Mattingly page. Very cool. A little pricey, but very cool.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 20, 2002


.... Read it and weep

Here's a few links on the current situation.

Mike Lupica, a little less strident today. Another story in the NY Daily News, explaining that Steinbrenner is considering legal action against the Commisioner if the CBA is too damaging to the Yankees.

And then there's Murray Chass in the NY Times with an article about the owner of the San Diego Padres, John Moores, letting it slip that the owners are really only concerned with salary restraint and not competitive balance. Here's Moores, "If they strike, I'll be prepared to sit out a season," he said in a telephone interview. "I won't like it, but I'm prepared to do it. I'm not going to be a part of a crazy system where we have to keep raising ticket prices."

The more I hear crap like this from some owner, the more worried I become.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 20, 2002


..... emails and details, ad infinitum

A fun back and forth between John Corcoran and myself seems to have run its course, here's some of our final thoughts:



John, we'll have to agree to disagree on some points I guess, especially drug testing. That said, Rick Reilly is a publicity-hungry clown who should not be admitted to another sporting event. The Sosa incident was insulting.

As for the tax already being effective, this is a tricky point. First off, I had the definite impression that the 1995 CBA's tax was phased out after the 1999 season. Am I wrong about this? If it is still around, you may very well be right. Or the owners may truly be feeling the pinch of their finances (this I doubt). Or the owners may have been hesitant to make big signings anticipating a 2002 work stoppage (I think this is possible) or held off to bolster their hand in the present negotiations. I am not as confident as you that the luxury tax has had any appreciable effect on salaries.

The players have been victorious in the past. As for the litigation we're talking about in 2002, right or wrong strikes me as irrelevant (as opposed to the collusion arbitration for instance). It's all about leverage. The players have had a lot in the past. They have a little less today because the owners proved in 1994 that they are willing to go to impasse and implement their last, best, and final offer. In 1994, they were judged to not truly have been at impasse. Although technically a violation of the law, it is not the dastardly violation which some make it out to be. Happens all the time in union settings. It is very easy for me to imagine that a different NLRB could rule differently on the set of facts which evolve up to and after 8/30 if impasse occurs. And then the owners would win, right or wrong. I sincerely hope both sides ignore their profit instincts at least somewhat and strike a deal. By the way, no disagreement that revenue sharing dollars should be (invested) and not banked.



Well, as for whether the luxury tax was effective, well over $100 million dollars was given to the six or seven teams with the lowest payrolls, and the owners of those teams essentially went to Maui with it. What's your definition of effective? For me, effectiveness would be defined by the creation of an opportunity to compete. The Expos got $29.7 million dollars in 2000! That's more money then they paid in salaries to their team that year. Effective use of that cash could have, should have been the difference for them last year. They didn't use the money at all. Neither did the Royals, the Marlins... None of the teams receiving significant amounts of money used the money to compete. They used the money to get rich off of the Yankees and Mariners and a few other teams who actually spend money to make it, teams who invest in their own product, which in turn becomes an investment in the whole league.

The reason for the tax is simple, the owners want to institute a salary cap of some impact. The players aren't resistant to the luxury tax in principle, because in principle, the tax has been discussed as a mechanism to foster competitive balance. In principle, a tax that redistributes over $100 million dollars per year must have some impact in aiding these teams in their quest for a championship. In reality, the hard-line owners, the ones who want one more gold mine in their little kingdoms, could care less about competitive balance. What they care about is getting as much of the new $2 billion dollar Fox contract for themselves as possible.

And bear in mind, if these idiots follow through on their short-sighted plans to force a strike in order to delcare an impasse and then implement an all new CBA with a hard cap, as Tom Hicks stated so greedily on his yacht the other day, Major League Baseball as we know it would end. Within a year or two, you'd see the formation of a Players League, the anti-trust exemption would be gone, the lawsuits would start, and a great many of these greedy jackasses would lose enormous sums of money. See, just because there's a Republican, pro-business NLRB doesn't mean the owners will prevail. The baseball owners history of dishonesty and cheating is well documented, but it's their stupidity that has consistently foiled their ridiculous plans. If Seligula thinks that he and the other knuckleheads can squash the MLBPA and force them to their knees, they haven't watched enough James Bond movies yet.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 20, 2002


.... emails and details, Part II

Reader John Corcoran has a reply to my previous post, I'll just go after the keys:



John, I see the players as wanting to maximize their profits. I see the owners wanting to maximize their profits. As you stated, if winning, and the sport as a whole should be the focus, then both sides need to back off of their positions.



When you say that both parties should meet in the middle, give a little to protect the sport, inherent in that statement is a belief that the sport is in danger. If you don't believe that, (and I don't) then you must answer the question of why the players should give up anything. No player says give me $10 million a year or I'll strike. The players ask for and receive the amount of money that some owner is willing to pay, right? Well, who forced the Angels to give Erstad a 3 year $32 million dollar contract? Who forced the Giants to give JT Snow 4 years and $24 million?



As for givebacks, the 1994 givebacks on the luxury tax and revenue sharing were givebacks only in philosophy, not in terms of money out of players' checks. The players won the 1994 stoppage like they have won every other modern dispute. My point was that this causes bad blood (which the owners exacerbate by their foolish tactics). The question in 2002 is whether tinkering with the tax and sharing numbers will actually have a tangible effect on salaries.



You are concerned about the bad blood caused by the players winning all of the disputes. The players win all the disputes because the players are right. It is important to say that out loud. They are right. They play fair. They are honest. The players have gone to court and won again and again because the owners have violated labor laws and lied and cheated. The players have won because they always make good faith efforts to resolve these labor management disputes, and the owners never do.

As for tinkering, the previous CBA's luxury tax cost George Steinbrenner approximately $26 million dollars in just 2001. It cost the Mariners almost $20 million, the Mets almost $16, the Red Sox $17, the Indians, $13 million. Do you think that had anything with the Indians deciding to dump veterans and give up for a year or two? You think that might be why the Mariners failed to make a trade for a pitcher even though their manager asked for one? And how is $92 million dollars a philosophical concession?

Of course a more expansive luxury tax that costs the Yankees over $40 million dollars a year will have an effect on salaries. If it's that bad for the Yankees, it will impact the Rangers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, Braves and Indians. If six or ten of the top spending teams in the league end up having to spend two dollars for every dollar they spend on salaries above $100 million, you bet your ass that tax will hinder salaries.



In my opinion, the parties need to find a middle ground which pinches the players a bit, but also denies the owners a windfall.



The owners don't care in the least about a middle ground. The last luxury tax was a middle ground. Teams ignored it, because they were not financially impacted with or without it. They ignored it because there are no real, unsolvable, financial problems in baseball. In 2001, Kansas City received almost $16 million dollars in revenue sharing dollars. If they had taken that money and reinvested it in the team, would Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon have left? Carl Pohlad's Minnesota Twins took in almost $20 million that year, the Marlins took in just under $19 million, the Phillies $12 million, the Expos almost $30 million, Tampa Bay $12 million. That's $110 million dollars redistributed among just six teams! How is that not enough? Isn't that a windfall? It sure was for these six team, who collectively reinvested about 10% of it.

Here's a quote from the Baseball Prospectus' Doug Pappas' Revenue Sharing plan,

"As an extreme example, in 2000 the Minnesota Twins received $21 million from the revenue-sharing pool--$5 million more than the salaries paid to their entire 25-man roster. Not surprisingly, they turned a profit... and not surprisingly, their brethren eventually concluded it would be cheaper to contract the Twins than to continue subsidizing their parasitic billionaire owner."

Should we make it $200 million? If $100 million isn't enough of a redistribution, how can you possibly argue that $200 million will be?



As for the other 2002 givebacks you suggest, drug testing was a no-brainer. Polls showed that the majority of players supported it (if most players support it, is it really a giveback?) and they did for good reason. Doing nothing would have been an embarrassment to the sport. They did make a proposal, and I think they deserve credit even though I don't think it's as comprehensive as other sports' testing.



I don't believe in drug testing. Athletes who choose to cheat will be ahead of the curve, the ones dumb enough to get caught will be hypocritically chastised by the members of the media; whose membership almost certainly mirrors the percentage of drug users in our country, although to read them you'd think they would be the first in line to pee in a cup, wouldn't you, Rick Reilly? Drug use of all kinds is part and parcel of the United States, deciding which one is legal and/or good for you and which ones aren't is a matter of who makes money or who doesn't. The entire issue is fraught with hypocrisy of almost comical levels.



This leads to my final point/question. I had problems with the Gammons column because I don't think it pointed out the flaws in the owners' position. The most serious allegation he makes is that the players secretly would not support Fehr's position if put to a vote. Where do you think he comes up with this?



I'll give Gammons this, he always seems to have his finger on the pulse of the players. Maybe the players are scared of a strike. Maybe they do feel, as a whole, that they get plenty already. I wouldn't be surprised. Many of them come from backgrounds like yours and mine, and if I made $2 million dollars a year, I would be plenty happy about that.

But, I would also be very wary of altering the terrain of a collective bargaining agreement process that is essentially never-ending. In contract negotiations, or any negotiations, a concession one year becomes a fact the next, a test run of one thing becomes a point of standing. The players conceded a luxury tax last time. Now, it's no longer a concession. Now the concession is one of calculations, as opposed to choice. After a 50% luxury tax is enacted on payrolls above $100 million, what happens next year? Then the players will be faced with bargaining for increases in revenue streams being tied to increases in the payroll ceiling, and not the tax. And then they will be asked by the owners to meet in the middle. Members of the news media will clamor for the union to make concessions, what's the big deal, why risk the wrath of the public, why risk losing the fans?

Charles Webb Murphy, former president of the Chicago Cubs, "How Most Ball Clubs Lose Money," September 1919 Baseball Magazine: "Baseball needs overhauling and putting on a business basis. The salaries of players are too high in what are denominated as major leagues, and the other overhead expenses make a total that can't be taken in at the gate, save in New York and possibly one or two more cities. A readjustment is needed in operating expenses if the leagues are to go on. . . . It must be shown instead that the owners deserve sympathy and aid for their bravery in going ahead and providing the national game at an annual loss" (p. 280).

.... Sound familiar?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 19, 2002


.... emails and details

Reader John Corcoran writes:



John, I hate to become your resident antagonist....but I do have (four) points of interest:

(1) Your summary of F-Rod's failings this year is dead-on. It really makes you scratch your head and wonder who (if anyone) is running this team. Nen's refusal to even attempt to hold runners on base. F-Rod's concealment of an injury. Ditto with Kent and his motor-bike crack up. A house cleaning is needed. Only question is whether it involves both big lame ducks (Sabean and Baker) or just one (IMHO Baker).



I did a post a while back in which I questioned whether the inmates are running the asylum. Sure seems like Baker's been off his game a lot, but then again, can we really say he's had the players? F-Rod, Livan, Snow, Dunston, Shinjo, Sanders for most of the year, every backup except Minor; all of these guys have under-performed tremendously. Add injury impact; Kent using the first month and a half as Spring Training, Aurilia never getting on track, Schmidt's inconsistency, F-Rod, (who goes in both slots because they didn't know he was injured), Jason Christiansen, Marvin Benard, (never thought you'd hear me saying the Giants would miss him, did you?)... with all of that, you might be able to argue that Dusty has been amazing... Maybe.



(2) I knew you would not like Gammons' column. Not sure I did either, but I will continue to offer the same response. You (and others) have criticized those who seek to limit the players' ability to earn as much as possible - let the free market work. On the other hand, you crtiticize the owners who seek to do the exact same thing .... "The game is the thing. Winning a championship is the thing. Not maiximizing your return on investment." I agree with you 100% My point is that both the players and the owners are violating this maxim by not reaching a deal, not just the owners.



Why do you feel that the players are somehow complicit in this failure? And how could you say that the owners are about letting the free market work? The owners want to place an artificial cap on salaries. What should the players do, just say OK? The way the owners have structured their luxury tax, the Yankees would pay somewhere between $80-120 million over the next four years, with no rule regulating the use of revenue sharing monies. Again, this means that a dirtbag like Pohlad can gut his team, put a AAA lineup out there, and make $10-15 million a year in profit. Do you think that's OK? I don't, and neither does the MLBPA. It's wrong, and it highlights the reality that there is no tie-in between competitive balance and finances. If there were, the owners would enforce some sort of regulation to prevent Selig and Pohlad, et al from just pocketing the cash they get from Steinbrenner.



(3)You mention that everything the players agree to from this point on are (concessions). On this, again, I agree with you 100%. However, I happen to think this is healthy. I think so because the players have rarely had to give back. As someone who deals with labor-management relations for a living, I can tell you that having one side always win these battles leads to a poor relationship. Success in negotiations typically requires both sides to feel like they've won something and lost something. If the primary goal of the players is never to have any constraint on their earnings, this relationship will eventually crater.



I don't think it's not healthy. I highlighted that point because so many in the news media constantly accuse the players of demanding more and more, when in point of fact, the players don't do that at all. The players have given back tremendously over the years. Everything they have done so far in these negotiations has been a concession on one thing or another. The players have conceded, going back to 1994, on revenue sharing, a luxury tax, drug testing, world-wide draft, and many other minor issues. What have the owners conceded to date? What have the owners conceded ever? Can you think of anything of significance? I can't. I believe that if the owners weren't such bold-faced liars, and they actually went to the players with an honest, open approach and said hey, look at these numbers, (the real ones) look at how difficult it's becoming to run a team, etc., they could create the type of relationship you're speaking of. They have no intentions of doing that. Instead, they lie and threaten and poormouth and use the media to portray the players as greedy bastards. What incentive do the players have to believe them, to create a good honest and forthcoming relationship? What incentive do the players have to quickly meet the owners halfway?



(4) In your various analyses of salary vs. wins (including your response to my email last week), you have mentioned that the Yankees skew the analysis, implying that the results would be different if they could be factored out. This is sort of a clever dodge, isn't it? Much like you I think, I'm a transplanted Yankee fan (who considers the Giants to be a serious hobby), and to my mind, the Yankees are the epitome of the problem. Their persistent success is some of the best evidence of the conclusions that many of have made concerning the salary vs. wins correlation...Again, there are provisos. Being a high-salaried club does not guarantee success...but the successful clubs are high-salary...



I don't feel it is a dodge. The Yankees have had a very high payroll for a lot longer than just the last five years, why didn't they win then? How about the Orioles? The Dodgers? If we extend the salary vs. wins argument farther back than just these last five years, all of the owners points become much less persuasive. All I'm saying is that any analysis of the current conditions fails to accomodate one of the greatest teams of all time. Part of what has driven the Yankees finances so far out of alignment with the rest of the leagues is that success. Part of that success is due to the finances. It's intertwined, and to draw conslusions from such a small period of time is questionable. John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, is going to extend his salarty vs. wins analysis, and I'll defer to his conclusions when he makes them available. In the meantime, I'll mention that baseball players salaries, as a percentage of overall costs, are not out of line with player costs in any other major sport.

Thanks to John Corcoran for his thoughtful questions. I hope I have taken the dialogue one step further.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 19, 2002


.... Why?

It may be that this San Francisco Giants team is going to write some extraordinary history, and will roar back to snatch a plyoff berth from the Dodgers in a season ending rush. I doubt it, and if they don't, Brian Sabean will have a lot of work in front of him as he tries to keep this aging team in contention next year.

Notwithstanding Livan Hernandez's season long failure, the player whose failure has hurt the team the most, in my opinion, is Felix Rodriguez. Felix Rodriguez, whose undisclosed injury is as much to blame for the Giants crumbling season as anything. The damage caused by this is impossible to overstate. Let's look at some of his most painful breakdowns.

On April 14th, the Giants had a 3-2 lead over the lowly Brewers, and were poised to run their record to 10-2 when Felix came in and gave up 2 runs and blew the game.

Fast forward to April 26th. The Giants scored twice in the top of the 8th inning to take a 3-2 lead against the Reds. Felix came in and gave up three hits and two runs, again blowing the one run lead, dropping the Giants to 13 and 9, as opposed to 15 and 7 had he been able to hold these two leads.

On May 16th, with a chance to take three of four from the Braves, Felix came in for the eighth inning, with two outs and two on and gave up a one run single, a walk, and a three run double, turning a 1-1 game into a 5-1 deficit. The eventual loss dropped the Giants to 25-15, ten games over .500 after 40 games.

Move to NY, June 9th. He came in to start the bottom of the 8th with a 2-1 lead. He walked Giambi, got two outs, then gave up a single to Posada. With Felix unable to finish the inning, Dusty Baker had to bring in Nen to get the last out. He was unable to do so, giving up a double to Nick Johnson and a single to Rondell White, driving in three runs and effectively ending the game. At this point in the season, the Giants were nine games over .500.

On June 25th, the Giants had just taken a 7-5 lead over the San Diego Padres. Felix relieved Chad Zerbe in the 7th with one out and one on. He walked Ron Gant, three a wild pitch, advancing both runners. He then gave up an RBI single, a run scoring ground out, and then consecutive two out RBI singles to Julio Matos and Erik Kingsale. The game ended with the Giants losing 10-7, dropping their record to 42-33, again holding fast at only nine games over .500.

Then came the game that I believe was the most damaging and destructive game of the season. On July 16th, after having taken the first game of the series from the D'backs, the Giants were 53-39, and the D'backs were 54-38. With a chance to tie the D'backs for first, against Randy Johnson, the Giants roared back from an early 3-1 deficit with a pair of solo home runs, including Bonds' second against Johnson in two games, to tie the game at 3 after seven innings. Felix was summoned to start the 8th, and he promptly gave the game away, allowing a single and walk sandwiched around a failed bunt attempt. Aaron Fultz finished the collapse by allowing a first pitch double to Mark Grace, allowing both runners to score and also allowing Johnson to win his 13th game of the year. This two game swing has haunted the Giants for the duration of the season, as they have never been able to regain the division lead.

On July 20th, Rodriguez hit the daily double by blowing another one run game to the Dodgers. He gave up 3 hits and 3 runs while only getting one out, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 loss. This was another key two game swing loss to a team the Giants are battling for a playoff spot.

It was soon after this game that Felix finally reported to the Giants that he was experiencing pain in his throwing hand. Of all the difficulties the Giants have gone through in this very trying season, no error looms larger. I cannot even begin to imagine what would make a veteran pitcher, with a long term contract and a history of dominating performance, decide that he couldn't disclose an injury for fear of losing his place on the team, but no breakdown hurt the team more.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 19, 2002


.... emails and details

Reader Erik Siegrist sent me this column from the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Dave Hayne.

Here's a highlight,

"They (the Point Blank strikers) get a hoot out of being told that baseball players earning an average $2.4 million a year aren't happy."

Here's what Erik thinks of this drivel:



They should laugh. It's a funny line, perhaps because it's rather untrue. The players are extremely happy with the current salary structure, as they should be. In fact they'd be quite happy to renew the CBA as is tomorrow. What I suspect the players are unhappy about is a

group of owners who have no desire for labor peace and who seem to have made it the centerpiece of their plan to force a work stoppage; who attempt to portray them as the villains while the Commissioner/fellow owner lies to Congress (and anyone else who will listen); and who seem to find the notion of a free market unacceptable and maybe downright un-American, were you to listen to some of the spin and rhetoric being thrown around by their mouthpieces.



Amen.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 18, 2002


.... Sakes alive

William C. Rhoden defends the players, in today's NY Times. Easily the best, most cogent organized and logical defense I have read in any major news media outlet. I couldn't decide what to quote, it's that good. Here's a taste:



Yes, the policemen deserve a raise; the firefighters do, too. But a lot of people work hard and provide vital services and are underpaid relative to baseball players. Teachers should be paid more than all of us.Here's the problem and the solution that sports provides: Not every teacher is a competent teacher, not every policeman is a stellar policeman. Sports, and in this case baseball, is one of the few areas where everyone in a major league dugout has survived rigorous trial by fire and emerged as one of the best.



Also in the NY Times, Murray Chass explains where the two side are in regards the luxury tax. Keep in mind that every single proposal the union makes is, by definition, a concession.

During the last several weeks, as the negotiations have gone on, I have waited and waited for a column by Peter Gammons, and now that it is here, I have to say that I am sorely disappointed.

Mr. Gammons casually lumps the players in with the owners just like Mike Lupica and George Will and so many others. How anyone watching this farce can fail to see the greedy, lying, despicable owners for what they are is baffling. Is there no one with any knowledge of history left in the world? Not just baseball history, real history, real life, actual real work and contracts and disputes and disagreements and arguments and all of the things that are part and parcel of real life? NO BASEBALL TEAM IS A MONEY LOSING PROPOSITION!!! Don't you see this? It couldn't be more transparent, for crying out loud!

People, Bud Selig is a car salesman!?!?! Can't you see through him? First, he tells us our trade in is worthless, (Baseball is losing money hand over fist, it can't go on this way), and then he sells a used car he got from someone else for a massive profit (The Boston Red Sox sold for $700 million dollars!!!). To lump the players in with this guy is simply the dumbest thing I can imagine. Pick an owner, any owner. Has he put in the time and effort and sacrifice and pain and blood and sweat and tears that even a minor league baseball players has? Of course he hasn't. A baseball player has probably played over 1000 games by the time he has his first at bat in the show. He has put his body on the line game after game, week after week, year after year, all in an effort to squeeze the most out of it he can, for the love of a game; so much so that people like me who love the game too, love to watch him play.

The players are the game. The players do the things that we pay to see. An owner who is in baseball to maximize his profits is the one at fault. Do you understand that? If you buy a baseball team because you see the massive revenue streams pouring into the MLB coffers, and you want to take a stab at diverting some of those streams into your bank account, you are the problem. The game is the thing. Winning a championship is the thing. Not maiximizing your return on investment. Go make a profit by bilking a few hundred thousand employees out of their pension funds, you greedy, rat bastards, but dammit; get the hell out of baseball if all you care about is finding another way to suck money out of the world.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 17, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmmm, Part III

I found this on Doug Pappas' site.



Charles Webb Murphy, former president of the Chicago Cubs, "How Most Ball Clubs Lose Money," September 1919 Baseball Magazine: "Baseball needs overhauling and putting on a business basis. The salaries of players are too high in what are denominated as major leagues, and the other overhead expenses make a total that can't be taken in at the gate, save in New York and possibly one or two more cities. A readjustment is needed in operating expenses if the leagues are to go on. . . . It must be shown instead that the owners deserve sympathy and aid for their bravery in going ahead and providing the national game at an annual loss" (p. 280).

Francis Richter, 1920 Reach Guide, p. 247, opposing a players' union: "So, in the last analysis, an organization will serve no purpose other than possibly to protect the players against abuses, and in this matter the game is not worth the candle, as few good players are ever treated arbitrarily or unjustly by the magnates. In this matter, rather, the burden is on the players, who, as a class, are temperamental, hard to handle, and not averse to violating both the expressed and implied terms of their contract. As a matter of fact, few players give their clubs the best that is in them, as they are bound in honor to do, and for every player treated unjustly by a club fifty players give their clubs more or less the worst of it."



Hmmmm.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmm, Part II

President Bush says he'll be "furious" if there is a strike. Hmmmm.

Over in Minnesota, word of a strike date has led to a bunch of warnings about how a strike will derail any chance for the Twins to get a new stadium.

Included in these warnings was a comment by Twins President Jerry Bell, who said a strike, while regrettable, would probably have a positive result by curing baseball's problem of wide revenue disparity between teams. Hmmmm.

These two guys must be smart, hmmmm?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmm

Jim Caple has a piece on his recent visit to Wrigley Field. In it, he parrots the familiar refrian that the Cubs ownership has no incentive to invest in the team. You know the old story, since the Cubs fans show up win or lose, there is no real incentive for the team to (over)spend to win. Looking at John Bonnes terrific spreadsheet showing the percentage of the league's salary burden each team bears, we can see if this oft-repeated tidbit is actually true.

Nope. It's not. It's not true that because the fans show up win or lose, the Cubs don't spend money. Their burden was pretty steady, a low of 3.31% to a high of 4.24% over the six years of the study. That's not Yankees or Braves, but it sure ain't Brewers or Twins. Given that their ballpark capacity is about 35,000, and the Yankees is about 55,000; I'd say that the Cubs are right there. That's not to say they're spending their money wisely....

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Mikey likes it!

Over at Mike's Baseball Rants, Mike says nice things about me, and then adds a lot of good stuff to my attack on Mark Starr. Thanks Mike.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... TwinsTakes

John Bonnes, who runs Twins geek, (on the left there), asked me to take a closer look at his Salary and Wins column from today's post. He and I have done this before, I have the utmost respect for his work, so of course, I agreed.

Basically, he says that when predicting a teams winning percentage, one will be about 6% more accurate using payroll size than using wins from the previous year. He used the years 1995-2001, and he plotted out both variables. His analysis looks good, I don't think one can argue with his data or his conclusions.

A couple of things stand out here. First, the Yankees and Braves are gonna skew any analysis. Both teams have had a top three or higher payroll, and both teams have been year-in, year-out championship contenders, winning an average of 96 games per year during the time frame used in this study. I punched up the payroll vs. wins spreadsheet John used, and the Yankees averaged about 5.8% of the leagues total payroll during this time, winning a total of 579 regular season games. The Oakland A's, accounting for less than 2% of the leagues total payroll, won a total of 497, which is a lot for such a low payroll. Teams like the Twins and the Expos, spending a bit less than the A's, won well over 100 games fewer. Add in the Brewers, the Pirates and a couple of other truly bad teams spending very little, and it's easy to see how the correlation can be so strong.

Looking closer, it seems that most of the teams that have posted winning records have a bottom of around 4.5% of the league's total payroll, again, with the A's being the exception, and not the rule. But I have to wonder if this sample size of six years is really large enough for us to draw any conclusions?

Look at Baltimore. In 1996 they won 88 games on 5.4% of the leagues payroll. In 1997, they won 98 games on 5.1%. But that was the end of the run for an old team, a team saddled with some very expensive long-term contracts, and their cost per win is reflective of this in the last four years of the study. 1998-2001, the Orioles lost more games each year, but it wasn't until 2000 that they began to be relieved of the burdens of some of these onerous contracts. Is this because they were slow to realize that their window of opportunity had passed? Or was the lost seasons of 1998-99 the impetus to cut costs?

How about the Cincinnatti Reds? Their wins and costs fluctuate, and seem to have no relationship whatsoever. In 1997, they won 76 games with a payroll burden of 4.3%. In 1998, they won 77 games with a payroll burden of 1.8%. And in 1999, they won 96 games with a payroll burden of 2.3%. What the hell was going on there? What conclusion can you draw from that?

The Chicago White Sox show a similar disparity, winning 95 games in 2000 on a 1.8% burden, and the ony 83 the next year carrying a 3.2% share. The Houston Astros won between 72 and 102 games while carrying a burden of between 2.99 and 3.63%.

I guess if I had to draw anything from John's work, I would hazard the following:

It appears to me that a low salary burden correlates to losses as much as a high burden does to wins. I don't really have a grasp of what John did exactly to run his correlation, but that's what a cursory look at the raw data seems to suggest. I found 38 seasons in which a team's burden was 2.25% or less. Those team's average record was 75-87. I found 39 seasons in which a team's payroll burden was 4.5% or more. Those team's average record was 89-73. I still think the sample size is too small. The Braves and Yankees make up 25% of the larger burden seasons. There are similar bunchings shown on the losers side. Six seasons is just long enough for a very good team to win a lot of games while spending a lot of money to keep the core together in an effort to sustain success. It's just long enough to show that cutting payroll to almost nothing will certainly cost a team wins. It's also just long enough to see a team rise out of the cellar while being able to keep costs in line, as the A's are doing currently.

The idea of using a teams percentage of the league's overall payroll should allow for a deeper look at how a teams investment pays out over the long haul. I'd like to see John run his study for, say, the last twenty years at least. Then we could see what happens when a winning team enters or exits it's window of opportunity, and how that impacts a teams costs vs. wins. For instance, we can look at the Braves. Over the last ten years they have won a lot of games and spent a lot of money doing it. But the previous decade saw them spend very little money at the major league level, and they were perennial losers. What can you conclude about that? Well, it looks like the Braves spent their money wisely, investing in great pitching, a couple of great players, and they made the right moves in an effort to stay on top. The Yankees are also having a good run of return on investment. The Indians and the Orioles, however, have not seen their investments turn out nearly as well, while spending a similar amount of money. Why is that? Bad luck. Bad timing. Injuries. You know, all of the stuff that happens in baseball.

I'll concede one point. I believe that the future success of major league baseball will require revenue sharing, and that revenue sharing has to have a mechanism to force teams to invest the money they share into their team. I believe it is more difficult for a team like the Twins to compete with the Yankees over the long haul because of a significant difference in how much money they can invest in their team. I don't think that any serious baseball fan or analyst would argue that point.

The real argument rveloves around whether what the owners are trying to do right now is actually designed to address competitive balance, or whether it is designed to help them maximize their profits. It is a fact that Carl Pohlad is one of the very richest men in the world, and he has run his franchise into the ground, refusing to pay even modest salaries to keep his team competitive. Bud Selig has done the same with his Brewers. So has first Wayne Huzienga and now whoever owns the Marlins. While abandoning their teams and their fans, these men have pocketed millions of dollars from revenue sharing, and frankly, from their extraordinarily succesful investments in their baseball teams. These men have shown that they care only about the bottom line, and as such, they should not be involved with baseball. Baseball is a business that is extremely difficult to handicap. No owner can expect to be able to predict costs or success like a normal business.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Thanks and returning in kind

Pete Sommers, the webmaster of Basball Blog Link was kind enough to highlight both of my angry rebuttal posts. He also has a link to this column criticizing some of the more pro-owner writers, written by Dayn Perry, which is, quite frankly, very well done. Dayn also has a column, highlighting, among others, Dan Lewis and Doug Pappas, for writing accurate, thoughtful, intelligent stuff on the labor issue.

With a different take on the issue of revenue sharing, here's a piece put together by John Bonnes, on today's TwinsTakes. It's tough to find fault with John's conclusion, which demonstrates that payroll size has a stronger correlation to wins than the previous season's won-loss record. In short, I will say that it appears to me that "Poison Toad" Pohlad's refusal to invest in his own team, and his pocketing of almost $30 million dollars of revenue sharing over the last four years probably has as much to do with the inability of the Twins to compete for talent as their own revenue problems. John has asked me to do a more thorough response to his piece, look for that a bit later today.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Here we go

As I'm sure everyone knows, the MLB Players Association set August 30th as the strike deadline. Here's the details on yesterday's conference call. This is not good.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 16, 2002


.... Read and weep

My earlier post in which I responded to reader John Corcoran was fun, and I thought I did an OK job, but more importantly, I thought my writing and opinion about the topic had merit. I believe that writers who do little or no real research or fact checking, spout the company line, and then write "analysis" like George F. Will does, are doing their readers and anyone interested in the truth a grave disservice. They are, in fact, abandoning some of the basic tenets of real journalism. The fact that a significant majority of news media seem to have already abandoned these tenets is immaterial. I am still going to go after the ones who do it in my area of interest.

That said, Will is not alone, not by a long shot. In today's online Newsweek, Mark Starr chimes in with a column warning the Players Association that the fans have had it with their selfishness and greed. Much like Will, Starr simply parrots the owners spin on the issues, and explains to all real fans that they too, should be fed up with these greedy bastards.

He starts with what I can only assume is an imaginary interaction between himself and an clerk at the local convenience store,



... this teenager—16, 17 years old at the most—started trashing Major League baseball players with all the impassioned excitement of XXX contemplating an avalanche. “These guys are morons,” he insisted. “Somebody ought to set them straight. Make them do a real job for once in their life.”



He follows with an aside about how this was after the players had decided not to set a strike date, and then begins a "history" lesson.



More than 30 years ago, when Curt Flood defied baseball owners and declared himself a free agent, he was unmistakably a hero to me and my baseball-loving friends. The civil-rights era was still an urgent memory and Flood’s carefully chosen use of the word “slavery” resonated deeply with us. Through too many strikes and lockouts, we remained resolutely on the players’ side. After all, we were working men, too. But by the ’94 strike, about the best any of us—now middle-aged and distressed that our children would never love this game in quite the same way as we did—could muster was “a pox on both your houses.” And this time around when it comes to choosing sides, it appears most everyone has landed—unhappily, reluctantly, but indubitably—on the owners’ side.



Well geez, of course everyone seems like they are on the owners side, look at the tripe writers like you are putting out. Here's more:



Drug testing was such a departure for the baseball union that fans might not have noticed, at least not yet, that every other sport would find this toothless proposal laughable. Spend two years testing, with absolutely no repercussions, just to determine whether steroids is a real problem or just baseball’s Loch Ness Monster. If real, then maybe come 2005, the season when Barry Bonds figures to hit 90 home runs, you implement a policing program. Hey, I’ll save everyone a lot of time and money and stipulate that it’s both real and a huge problem.



Oh, well, thanks for solving that problem. Starr, a sportswriter, with no evidence whatsoever, will stipulate that steroids and other drugs are a real and huge problem. Oh, and while he's at it, he will also blithely slander one of the top players in the baseball history. Of course, evidence and facts, they are apparently not part of the things that interest this champion of the common man. Here's a cause to champion, integrity! How an editor of a major news magazine allows a writer to get away with this is baffling. Here's some more of his daring expose'...



I’ll also stipulate to the fact that competitive imbalance is truly a destructive force. How long can we expect the perennial losers—the Milwaukees, Pittsburghs, K.C.s and Tampa Bays—to sustain a fan base when the standings are virtually preordained by money? The NFL, America’s true pastime, is a marvelous crapshoot where every team begins the season with genuine hope. Its playoffs are a revolving door; everyone has a shot except the Bengals. Baseball doesn’t offer any hope to the downtrodden. And without hope, indifference is ultimately assured. Major League Baseball’s 2002 playoffs, if they are played, could be a virtual carbon copy of last season’s.



Once again Starr refuses to let facts get in the way of his writing. Like, for instance, the "fact" that baseball has seen the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnatti Reds, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies all spray champagne around a locker room since 1980, exactly half of all teams in the game, after counting the four expansion teams who have been around for less than a decade. Over in the NFL during that same period of time, only New England, Baltimore, St. Louis, Denver, Green Bay, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, NY Giants, Chicago Bears, and the Raiders celebrate championships; just over one third of the league. Oh well, facts, libel, research.... these are all minor, bothersome details. Let's wax poetic with a call to arms for the misguided fools instead:



September 11 avails the players an opportunity to cloak that fold in a noble desire not to inflict pain at a particularly sensitive time for what remains a wounded nation. There are greater concerns than their pocketbooks, or at least they can say that. They can do it for all the fans. For the good of the great game. For America. Just cue up “God Bless America” like it’s the seventh-inning stretch. Then ballplayers just might find themselves mentioned once again in the same breath with cops and firemen rather than CEOs.



Funny that he should mention CEO's. Why isn't Starr out there writing that the greed, avarice and downright criminal behavior by a stunningly large group of corporate leaders isn't a particularly noble way to handle oneself during these trying times? Why would he spend his time an effort trying to bully baseball players, for crying out loud, instead of exposing the billionaire owners and their lies? He asks that the players not inflict pain, hey Starr, it's the owners who are attempting to force the players to accept a cap on their earning power. Just as you would defend your right to write slanderous rumors, quote financial figures prepared by Arthur Andersen, and make bold stipulations about illegal behavior by others you know nothing about; all in an effort to make as much money as you can; the players feel that they too, should have a right to earn the most money that they can.

Here's an idea. The MLB Players Association is defending the best interests of its members. The owners are defending the best interests of the owners. If you are a sportswriter, write something that adds to the discourse. Don't write what one side or the other is saying without actually listening to it and critically examining it for what it is. Many baseball fans are smart people, a lot of us work in marketing (hint hint). We know what is spin and what is not. When an owner of a multi-billion dollar a year industry tells me that his organization is losing money, I immediately conclude two things; one, he is lying, because if he was really losing money, the first thing he would do is empty his bank account and get on a plane to South America, and two, the only person he cares about is himself. That means that if he can help himself by selling his company, he will. If he can help himself by declaring bankruptcy, he will. If he can help himself by forcing the union to take a pay cut, he will. And if he has lots of options, he will take the one that maximizes his profitability.

When someone tries to tell me he is worried about me and my best interests, I wonder what he wants. Not because I'm a cynic, (well, a little because I'm a cynic), but because I am a realist. It's my job to worry about me. It's your job to worry about you. It's the baseball owners job to pay the least they can get away with, and its the players job to get as much money as they can. That's how capitalism works. Don't talk to me about the good of the game or the fans or any of that bullshit. You want to do something for the good of the game, do it. I don't need you to tell me about it. If Bud Selig really cared about the good of the game, his actions would make sense to the people who stand to make or lose the most, the players. His actions don't make sense when viewed from the standpoint of protecting baseball, his actions make sense when viewed from the standpoint of protecting his and the other owners interests. People who try to tell me otherwise either have no integrity, or no idea what they are talking about.

There, I'm done insulting everybody. I probably should delete this, but I really feel this way, and if I am going to spout on and on about integrity, I might as well have some.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 15, 2002


.... Read and learn, Part II

Derek Zumsteg has a plan. In his column today, he examines the inherent flaw in the owners revenue sharing plan and proposes a different, and almost certainly too sophisticated and fair plan, based on.... well, go read it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 15, 2002


.... Read and learn

Here's a site run by Doug Pappas, where he covers the labor conflict extensively. His title page comments say it all.



Most media coverage of baseball's labor and economic issues suffers from two serious flaws: credulity and lack of historical perspective.

Baseball writers aren't economists, historians or lawyers. They cover labor issues much the same way they cover trade rumors: by calling their "inside sources" and repeating what these people say. They don't check this year's story against last year's, or note that what the owners say often bears no resemblance to what they do.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 15, 2002


.... No news is bad news

Today's reports on the labor front are dark and foreboding. Murray Chass, of the NY Times, brings us up to speed on yesterday's setback.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 15, 2002


.... emails and details, Part III

Additionally, you absolutely must read everything posted at Labor and Economics, there on the left. When you are finished, you will see right through the liars, and you will be amazed.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 14, 2002


.... emails and details, Part II,

I would also recommend that anyone reading my previous post and wanting more detailed analysis of Seligula's secret plan to rule the world should read anything Doug Pappas has taken the time to write. He is one of the handful of honest, bias-free writers who simply love baseball, and most of what I know is attributable to his writings or his recomendations. Here is an article in which he introduces us to the secret of Seligula's success. Here is a page with several of his articles and columns. It's as good a place to start as any.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 14, 2002


.... emails and details

John Corcoran sent me a highly detailed response to my George F. Will note. It deserves a deep look, so I'll go through it piece by piece.



John, I'd appreciate some insight into exactly why you thought Will's column was so bad. Let's take the premises of his piece.

An objective of (the) union is to protect the revenues of the richest clubs. Both sides have conceded this, haven't they? Indeed, Steinbrenner's recent comments were as close to a criticism of Selig for resisting this as you can get given the ridiculous "gag rule."



Well, no, both sides haven't conceded that an objective of the union is to protect the revenues of the richest clubs. I haven't read that quote in any of the interviews or columns or articles I've read where Donald Fehr has said that, nor have I heard any of the player representatives say that they are interested in protecting the revenues of the richest clubs. What I've read is that they are interested in protecting their own right to earn whatever the market will bear. If protecting George Steinbrenner's revenues is part of that strategy, and I'm not saying it is or isn't, but if it is, then defending an attack on Steinbrenner's revenue would be part of the union's efforts. Part of their efforts, not an objective.



The owners primary goal is a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. Also true. Granted, Will does not describe where this wealth will go (payroll or Calvin Griffith's bank account), but to say that this is the owners main goal is entirely accurate. To go further is tough because I'm not even sure

the owners agree on the fine print.



Will's second assertion is flat-out wrong, John. The owners are telling you and me and everyone who'll listen, every chance they get, that their primary goal is redistribution of wealth, but that's all spin, or more accurately, lies. Their real goal, their only goal, and the only thing they actually care about, is controlling and reducing costs. All talk about revenue sharing is simply a misdirection play, as you have seen in the last few press releases. The owners and players were never very far apart on their revenue sharing plans ($70 million or so, or 2% of the 3.5 billion dollars in revenue MLB has generated in the last five years). What both sides see as the sticking point is the luxury tax. The owners want to place an onerous 50% tax on every dollar any owner would spend on salaries above $98-100 million. This is a slippery way of saying we want to cap salaries. Because if the $10 million Steinbrenner pays Bernie Williams is actually $15 million, well, that's a whole different ballgame, isn't it?



The union believes that the unconstrained spending of top three teams drives up payrolls. Check. (P.S. Isn't the Union right?)



Maybe that statement is correct, but who cares what the union believes about why salaries go up? It's not germaine to Will's article, it's only in there so he can point out the union is greedy. And it's a questionable conclusion anyway. You could argue that one of the key components to salary escalation isn't the money that a guy like A-Rod or Bonds gets, it the money that guys like Darren Erstad and JT Snow and Jeff Conine get. The middle class, older, replacable players who earn three and four times the average salary are far more damaging to a team's bottom line and winning effort than any superstar.



Most owners believe competitive imbalance comes from inadequate redistribution of "local" revenues that are not truly local. Check.

(Again, this premise is one which may or may not be accurate. However, I would agree that most owners believe this) Revenue differences are largely due to broadcast revenue differences. Check.



One, competitive (im)balance is a fraud, it doesn't exist. And two, most owners could care less about competitive balance. They only use their make believe "competitive balance" model that Seligula's hand-picked Blue Ribbon Panel cobbed together to support their lie that a lack of competitive balance is eating away at baseball's health. Look, there are literally dozens of critical thinking writers who have taken a stab at the "competitive balance" lie that MLB is perpetuating. Suffice to say that the Blue Ribbon panel is as un-biased as any "Save the Environment" research team picked by Mobil, and all of its conclusions are hogwash. Read anything Doug Pappas has written over at the Baseball Prospectus. As for the revenue differences, they are tied to market size, team success, fan support, and a dozen other details. They Yankees (and Mets and Red Sox, to lesser degrees) enjoy a massive broadcast revenue stream, but other teams enjoy significant revenues from their broadcast deals, some in large and some in small markets.



Even the Yankees need opponents, thus, their revenues are not truly local, justifying Will's position on greater sharing.



Again, the disagreement over revenue sharing will not cause a strike. The union has already agreed to revenue sharing in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, and their initial proposal included it again; and they are already making concessions on that. And while the union has already stated that they support revenue sharing, Will and other owner-biased writers don't spend a lot of time writing about the millions of dollars in shared revenues that teams like the Twins, Brewers and Royals have received and pocketed as a result of the previous revenue sharing, as opposed to investing in their own teams success. And by the way, as team such as the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and yes, the Yankees have demonstrated amply, investing in your team is the real way to increase revenues and profitability. You think the Yankees would be getting $500 million dollar TV deals is they were the same 75-87 team they were during the duration of Don Mattingly's career?



Big payroll teams win playoff and WS games. I'll concede that I don't have the figures to back up Will's games, but I'm assuming he got

those figures when he was on the Blue Ribbon panel.



The guys over at Baseball Prospectus have done plenty of work rebutting this premise. I'll just say that over the last decade we have enjoyed the dominance of one of the greatest playoff teams of all-time, in any sport, the 1996-2001 New York Yankees. The Yankees have gone something like 53-18 over that span, which of course, skews any analysis you can do about big market teams winning most of the playoff and World Series games. A cursory look at the last 15 World Series shows appearances by Atlanta, Cleveland, San Diego, Toronto, Philadelphia, Cincinnatti, Oakland, San Francisco, Boston, the NY Mets, the Twins, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Yankees, the Marlins and the D'backs. If you add in League Championships, Seattle, Baltimore, the White Sox, Pittsburgh, the Cubs, and the Detroit Tigers have also played in a Championship series. That's 21 of 30 teams that have advanced at least as far as the LCS in the last fifteen years. I doubt any sport in history has had a fifteen year run of opportunity like that.



He ends with an entirely accurate description of the Giants situation of wanting to trim payroll, which I have had confirmed from folks within the Giants organization who are definitely in the know. Will also includes his rich player "salary cap" story, which I entirely believe. We can debate whether a luxury tax is the same as a cap, and I personally feel that the NFL and NBA experience illustrate that there is a definite difference between the 2.

Bob Costas was on Larry King this weekend and I thought he gave a great summary of the current situation. On one hand, MLB needs to really share revenues and not just use it to turn profits for the Calvin Griffiths of the world. On the other, the players have confused naked self-interest to maximize wealth with a moral position (e.g. Bonds' comments that he was fighting for "his kids" ability to be, I'm not sure, billionaires?). I thought it a pretty accurate summary of both sides' flaws. Your thoughts?

It's one thing to say that you disagree. Or that Will didn't tell every side of the story in a limited editorial space which is clearly labelled as

such (as opposed to a newspaper story which purports to communicate facts). However, I gotta say, to simply label Will as someone without "integrity" is a serious charge. I don't see the evidence.



So the Giants want to trim payroll. Again, why is that in Will's story? And, who cares? What business doesn't want to cut costs and maximize profits? The fact of the matter is that the Giants, just like any team, have limitations on what they can or cannot spend. That's a news flash? And a baseball player not being knowledgable about all of the details of the labor situation. That's surprising? Obviously Will, who has spent his entire life in, around, and writing about baseball, (wasn't he included in baseball's Blue Ribbon panel of experts?) has a few areas of knowledge that appear a bit gray to me. Is the player or Will the bigger dolt? Again, the players aren't asking for anything. Their so-called "naked self-interest" is no different than the owners "naked self-interest" or Bob Costas' "naked self-interest" or mine or yours.

Will didn't just miss a few details. He wrote the owners side only, with a bias on every single aspect. That's all he ever writes. His inclusion on Seligula's panel while being on the board of two separate teams simultaneously highlights his prejudice and complicity, and demonstrates that he, just like the constantly duplicitous Commissioner, have only one thing on their minds; beating the players union into submission. His writing on the subject contributes to a stream of misinformation that clouds and confuses the issue in the minds of everyone; dumbing down all interested parties.

Look, forget about the baseball part and all of the rhetoric. Look at it as a simple labor and management disagreement. Management wants to cap what they feel are spiraling costs. Labor doesn't want a new agreement that significantly does that. Historically, there is nothing unusual about this conflict. Both parties are acting in their own best interests, and they are the only ones who will be significantly affected by the final agreement. And that's fine.

Why the owners feel that a steady stream of lies and distortions are neccessary is beyond me. Why they feel that a sport with an almost constantly increasing stream of revenues isn't profitable enough is beyond me. But until you show me where the players are walking into Brian Sabean's office and saying, "Give me $10 million dollars a year or I'll strike." you will have a hard time convincing me that the owners aren't a bunch of bald-faced liars. If George F. Will wants to shill for them, fine; but birds of a feather....

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 14, 2002


.... Mad-dog

Giants played one of their most complete games in months last night, beating the Braves and Greg Maddux, 7-2. Yeah, I know they beat the Pirates 8-3 the other day, but that game was tied 3-3 going into the eighth inning. Last night, Kent hit a three-run bomb, they added a run, and the game was over. No real threat from the Braves after that, and the end result was one of the least stressful games of the last month or two.

Felix Rodriguez, who inexplicably witheld the fact that the index finger on his pitching hand was causing him tremendous pain until only four weeks ago; continued his march back to form, every starter got at least one hit, and they beat the hottest team in baseball. Russ Ortiz got back to .500 with a seven inning gem. He faced 27 hitters, and only allowed 5 hits, including a solo home run to a 96-year old Julio Franco.

More importantly, the team was able to take advantage of a Dodger slip-up, regaining the Wild Card lead after LA lost to Montreal on a bottom of the eighth, two-out, two-run, come from behind, game winning home run by Troy O'Leary(!), off Eric Gagne in his less than triumphant return to Canada. Yummy.

It is important to note that the Giants have exhibited a strange inability to capitalize on big games like last night. So far this year, they have managed only a 15 and 9 record after winning by at least 5 runs. Nine losses after blowing a team out is part of the reason they have yet to run off that big winning streak to put themselves in a strong position for the playoffs.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 14, 2002


.... Notes from the web-world

I found a new website, Ball Park Watch. It is a very very good, varied resource. It deserves its place there on the left.

On Blog Link, there was a link to this story in the New York's Village Voice on the conflict of interest that is part and parcel of every area of Seligula's life.

And finally, George F. Will proves once again that real journalistic integrity is absent from his work and his writing in this Washington Post piece about greedy, uninformed baseball players.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 14, 2002


.... Jason Stupid-horn, Part II

I took Jason Sehorn to task this morning because he was quoted in the NY Daily News commenting on the labor harmony in the NFL vs. the discord in baseball. The inestimable Allan Barra has this excellent column detailing an additional, hidden advantage the NFL has over baseball. In it, he adresses the fact that the NBA and the NFL have the NCAA, and, of course, taxpayers, to subsidize player development and publicity. He goes on to say that while college baseball players are subject to the MLB draft, they are almost always not-ready-for-prime-time players, and need years of coaching and maturation in the minor leagues.

Man, he is a hell of a writer.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


.... Back to the old salt mines

Just for giggles, I looked at the on-base percentages of the Giants and Diamondbacks lineups. Here's where they rank, in lineup order...

SF 13, 12, 1, 3, 6, 13, 9, 5, 6

AZ 3, 1, 11, 11, 11, 2, 1, 5, 4

And here's their actual OBP's...

SF .316, .301, .495, .403, .346, .306, .323, .324, .242

AZ .348, .396, .389, .356, .333, .349, .360, .324, .251

The Giants have six spots in their lineup at or below .324, the D'backs only have two. I can't put a chart on this page, but you can see what one would look like. This is just one more way to show how much the Giants rely on Bonds and Kent, and you can see why the D'backs are a more consistent offense, even though overall they have very similar production.

The Giants have the most first inning home runs in the NL, but almost twenty runs fewer than the number two home run squad. Shinjo, and Goodwin, from the leadoff slot in front of the two most productive hitters in the NL, have scored a total of 6 first inning runs!!!! Aurilia has scored only 11 in 85 at bats!!! Non-Bonds/Kent players for the Giants have 294 first inning at bats good for 75 hits and a .255 BA. Ouch!

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


..... But I digress

I know, I know, this site is titled, Only Baseball Matters. But you absolutely have to read the laugh-out-loud, Tuesday Morning Quarterback, written by the flat-out hilarious Gregg Easterbrook. Here's a quick sound bite:

"The MCI Center, where the Washington Wizards play, may lose its name, since MCI was owned by WorldCom; perhaps it could be rechristened the FraudCom Center."

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


.... In case you were wondering

The National League Leaderboard in batting average looks like this:

Barry Bonds SF .359

Larry Walker COL .358

Todd Helton COL .334

Jeff Kent SF .330

Everyone knows that Colorado's Coors field is the best environment for hitting in all of baseball, but not as many people realize that PacBell is one of the worst. The Giants have a middle of the road team batting average of .255 at home, while the Rockies lead the league at .316. On the road, the two switch places, while the Giants lead the league in road average at .278, the Rockies plummet into last place, at .225. Some simple calculations suggest that the Rockies batting averages are inflated by almost 29%(!) when they are at home, while the Giants are deflated by 9%. If we adjust the averages of these four players using these percentages, we get this:

Barry Bonds SF .391

Larry Walker COL .254

Todd Helton COL .237

Jeff Kent SF .359

Well, that doesn't seem right, does it? Let's look at this from a different angle. Here are their home and road splits;

Barry Bonds SF Home .365 Away .354

Larry Walker COL Home .381 Away .318

Todd Helton COL Home .400 Away .270

Jeff Kent SF Home .320 Away .341

There, that's more like it. When these four players bat at neutral ball parks, you can see that Helton and Walker aren't in the same class as Bonds and Kent. The top four in batting average, away games only:

Barry Bonds SF .354

Edgardo Alfonzo NYM .351

Jeff Kent SF .341

Sammy Sosa CH .340

Now, I understand that all of these players enjoy hitting at Coors in these away splits, and poor old Walker and Helton have PacBell in theirs, but even allowing for that, Walker and Helton are still out of the top twenty. There can be no doubt that Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds are the best hitting teammates in the National League.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


.... And now, back to your original programming

In the upcoming series between the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves, we have the number one and number two pitching staffs in the National League matched up. The difference between the two clubs pitchers is actually much greater than that. The Giants have allowed 85 more runs than the Braves, which means the Giants are as close to 12th place in runs allowed as they are to first.

Look at it this way, the three Giants starters for this series, Russ Ortiz, Livan Hernandez and Jason Schmidt, the Giants top three starters, have started a combined 64 games and their record is 21-26. The team is lucky there is a wild card, because with that kind of failure from your top guys, it's no wonder they are seven and a half games out of first.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


.... Don't believe the hype

The pro-owner bias shown in every newspaper in the country is an affront to journalism and integrity; and it is an insult to all knowledgable and educated fans.

The Ny Times has a Q & A piece on the labor negotiations, and they manage to put an anti-union slant on the article even while stating, "As has been the case in the last few negotiations, the players have not asked for anything new of real significance." In a different NY Times article, the potential financial impact on the owners is discussed.

Switching over to the NY Daily News, we find some more pro-owner bias in an conversation with the NY Giants' Jason Sehorn, who is the team NFLPA representative. Since Sehorn is an athlete, he must be right when he says that the system in football makes the players and the owners happy. I mean, he couldn't just be stupid, could he?

Then we have the venerable Mike Lupica, who I have championed as one of the great sportswriters of our generation. He writes about how these negotiations are really about George Steinbrenner against the rest of baseball, and how it's George and the players greed that is the cause of all of these problems. His suggestion is that the players just get in line, stop demanding that they be allowed to earn as much money as they want, stop lying about all the drugs they take and start peeing in a cup, you know, c'mon guys, stop being such troublemakers.

I don't seem to remember Mike Lupica and all these other journalist sellouts writing that the owners were worthy of trust when they were the ones on strike back in the late 80's. I don't remember them telling each other to stop all this nonsense about letting the market determine their wages, and just sign the new contract the owners had written up for them. I don't remember that.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 13, 2002


.... Superstars, Part II

Misha Berkowitz, in today's Digressions, puts together a pretty good argument that perhaps we have all gotten caught up in the hyperbole around Sammy Sosa, and that he is maybe a little closer to the rest of the league than perception suggests. I would say that he seems superhuman sometimes, but when you really get down to it, Misha does a good job of stating the case that he is pretty similar to many of today's great sluggers. I have to admit, that I too, have wondered exactly how much of an advantage does he derive from the cozy confines of Wrigley?

Sammy Sosa 1999-2001

Home 880 at bats, 89 home runs, 215 RBI, .322/.412/.685/1.097

Away 926 at bats, 88 home runs, 224 RBI, .301/.395/.650/1.045

OK. What does that tell you? Forget about the homefield advantage. That tells you he is a Hall of Famer, that's what it tells you. I would guess, without looking it up, that maybe ten players in history have ever had a three year period where they hit 167 home runs and drove in 439 RBI(!), regardless of era, or context or home field advantage or whatever. Bonds is probably gonna get to that home run level by the end of this year, but no way does he reach that RBI total.

Here's a few quick, three year bests by some all-timers:

Babe Ruth

161 home runs, 452 RBI

Lou Gehrig

121 home runs, 509 RBI

Jimmie Foxx

150 home runs, 462 RBI

Frank Thomas

104 home runs, 368 RBI

Alex Rodriguez

135 home runs, 378 RBI

Kenn Griffey Jr.

161 home runs, 433 RBI

Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Ted Williams, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro... the list of players who've never come close to a three year run like that is endless. The ones above are pretty much all of the guys who have. I was surprised by the conclusions Misha came to, not really surprised, but a little. After a little further research, I have to say I disagree with him pretty strongly.

If you are a 600 plus home run, 1600 plus RBI, 2600 hits, .300 batting average player (and he's gonna pass all of those standards with ease) and you're one of the guys who have had a peak of performance that puts you in the same conversation with Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds, I think you have done a pretty good job of establishing that you are, in fact, almost without peer in any era, let alone your own. Sammy Sosa has done that and more. If he's not getting a huge advantage from Wrigley, and he apparently is not, then you are forced to conclude that he is dominating his own era in a way that separates him from the pack clearly and without equivocation.

As for wondering how you could go from being not in the conversation for the Hall of Fame to sure bet in three and a half seasons, well, why not? Not only are we talking about a five year run, and not three and a half, but, even so, a players peak is a huge component to being considered among the greatest ever. Look at it this way; if Sosa plays just five more years, and produces home runs and RBI exactly as he did the five years prior to 1998, he'll finsh his career with 670 home runs and 1900 RBI. Is he a Hall of Famer then? Of course he is. And a five year run of mediocrity, which is what it would be compared to his current standards, would do little but pad his already awesome statistics. He is a Hall of Famer, period.

Is it possible that a lot of players will pass the 500 home run standard in the next decade or so? Yes, it's possible. But will so many players do so that the standard will become cheapened in some way? That's debatable. Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., and other players have looked like mortal locks to reach one milestone or another; injuries forced Mark McGwire to retire only 14 home runs from 600 just this past off-season. Many things get in the way of history, injuries, drugs, strikes, bad timing.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 12, 2002


.... Superstars

Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent are currently 1st and 4th, respectively, in the league in batting average. They each rank in the top ten in many offensive categories, including slugging, OPS, home runs, etc. But while they both are among the league's best, Bonds is, in reality, completely off the charts. The second most productive player in the National League is as close to the fifty-ninth player as he is to Bonds. David Pinto has a post in which he asks the age old question, "Does batting in front of a great player offer a hitter 'protection' of some kind, or is hitting with men on base the real 'protection'? I thought I'd take a quick pass at it focusing on the Giants two sluggers.

Looking at these two hitters, who have conveniently swapped places in the batting order this season, offers us an interesting chance to look closely at their situation, and see whether there is any evidence to sway our thoughts one way or another. If a player was ever going to influence the hitter in front or behind him, it should be Barry Bonds. Here's their batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentages in five different categories, overall, batting third, batting fourth, bases empty, and runners on.

Overall

Kent .330/.382/.565

Bonds .359/.571/.803

Batting #3

Kent .410/.448/.776

Bonds .360/.575/.823

Batting #4

Kent .297/.356/.478

Bonds .367/.561/.772

Bases Empty

Kent .322/.358/.552

Bonds .360/.534/.773

Runners On

Kent .339/.406/.579

Bonds .357/.617/.848

OK, Kent has a huge spike batting in front of Barry and a bit of a drop batting behind him. Both players are better with runners on, although not so much as you would think. Also, Barry has substantially more at bats with the bases empty, as opposing managers have walked him almost every time he come to the plate with a runner or second or third or both. And Kent's surge batting third began almost a month before, while he was still hitting behind Bonds. Hmmm...

I don't know that there's very much here, I guess I would say that, although these samples are obviously tiny, there does seem to be an advantage to hitting in front of him. Last year, a healthy Aurila ran off a .324/.369/.572 batting second in front of Bonds most of the year. That advantage, however, seems to be offset by the pressure of hitting behind him, which goes against the grain a bit, Kent's numbers with runners on are pretty damn good, but behind Barry, who has to be a significant portion of those at bats, he really drops quite a bit.

I'll also say that I have finished my crow sandwich. One of the first posts I ever wrote was a piece asserting that Jeff Kent had entered into his decline phase as a hitter, and that the Giants had to move him out of the cleanup slot because he wasn't getting the job done. All he's done since then is hit .400.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 12, 2002


.... Silver lining

Shawn Estes had a start yesterday that reminded me of why he was banished like a leper at the end of last year. He started the game walk walk walk grand slam. You can read about it here.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 11, 2002


.... Georgie Porgie

When I lived in Manhattan in the late 80's, I hated George Steinbrenner with all my heart. Yankee fans younger then 30 have no idea what a true asshole he really was. He insulted his own players, fired managers, hitting instructors, pitching coaches, whole coaching staffs. He once fired Yogi Berra 10 games into the season. He would make a point of humiliating and insulting people all the time, and he did it publicly, through his many contacts and associates in the newspapers. A lot of younger fans hearing all of the BS about how the Yankees just buy up all the best players, pointing their fingers to Jason Giambi; don't remember that his reputation was so bad that first Greg Maddux and then Barry Bonds turned down more money from the Yankees and Steinbrenner on their way to the Hall of Fame careers with the Braves and Giants, respectively. It's impossible to overstate what a pox on the Yankees he was.

That said, it is clear that he deserves a lot of credit for the change in behavior that he has undergone over the last decade or so. I don't know what it was that made him stop hurting everyone around him, but somewhere between Buck Showalter and Brian Cashman, he did stop. Sometime over these last ten years or so, he has remade his image, and now he is known as a generous and forgiving man, taking special interest in players who have had problems, starting with Steve Howe, then Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, and to a lesser extent, players like David Cone and David Wells, real human beings who have been treated exceptionally well by a man Mike Lupica and Bill Gallo used to call General von Steingrabber.

He has a few things to say about Bud Selig and the labor situation, some of them interesting, some not so much. What is noteworthy about his comments (to me anyway) is that he no longer sounds like an insecure bully all the time. He sounds like a businessman, and a pretty smart one at that.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 11, 2002


.... Coming and going

Joe Sheehan is leaving Baseball Prospectus. For those of you who are late to this party, Joe writes the Daily Prospectus, an evry two or three day look ar baseball through a unique and intellectual and funny perspective. I count myself as a loyal fan, and will miss his inspiration and passion for the game I love as well. Here's a link to his goodbye column.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 11, 2002


.... Superstar, Part II

I was there. I was there, at PacBell last night, when Barry Bonds hit his 600th home run. I was there.

It was awesome, really. I couldn't stop clapping, nobody could. Everyone in my section was high-fiving each other, and laughing and saying over and over, "he did it, he did it." I was at baseball history. An all-time greatest moment. A player for the ages. Wow.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 10, 2002


.... What?!?

Sports Illustrated has a 14 point plan to fix baseball in the August 5th SI.

Here they are, with my comments:

1. Bring in Nolan Ryan as the new commissioner

(Well, OK. He's kind of a red ass, though, isn't he?)

2. Make a day at the ballpark more family-friendly

(Good. The Giants do have a lot of kid-friendly stuff already)

3. Eliminate baseball's antitrust exemption

(To what end? Relocation? Expansion? Punishment?)

4. Give new meaning to the All-Star Game

(By giving the winner World Series home field? Terrible idea. If you're gonna do anything, give it to the team with the best record.)

5. Nix the nostalgia and try some modern marketing

(Booh. Baseball history is what separates it from the other sports)

6. Institute a competitive balance draft (Stupid. You'd have a hard time making the numbers work)

7. Launch an all-baseball digital TV channel (OK)

8. Level the playing field in Latin America (OK)

9. Create a baseball World Cup tournament

(When? The season is already long enough)

10. Assist small-market clubs in retaining their stars (OK, I guess)

11. Give pitchers a chance: Raise the mound

(Horrible. Bill James says deaden the balls a bit, change the bats a little, and, presto!)

12. Allow teams to trade their draft choices (OK)

13. Help clubs that don't sign their No. 1 picks

(Hmmm, not sure, seems like allowing them to trade them already addresses this problem)

14. Limit interleague play to games that matter (Impossible)

Check out the whole article and let me know if any of you have more to say about it. The only one I think is really bad is #11. Any effort to change the game by changing the physical space is a bad one, read Bill James New Baseball Historical Abstract. He has a great series of ideas on how to help take baseball into the next 100 years.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 9, 2002


.... Livan on a jet plane

Here's another writer wrongly stating that Livan has pitched well since the All Star break, at least until yesterday. While his earned run average had been below three, he has not pitched any better or worse than he has for the last two years. I just cannot abide this misinformation. Here are his post All Star starts, going backwards from yesterday:

IP H R ER HR BB

6.0 7 7 6 1 5

7.0 7 4 4 2 2

7.2 9 4 2 0 3

7.1 10 3 3 1 4

7.1 11 4 3 1 0

9.0 4 0 0 0 4

The Giants won just two of his six starts, the first one when he went the distance for his third career shutout, and the game in St. Louis when his teammates rescued him by coming back from a 4-1, third inning deficit. They lost all of his other starts, and he didn't pitch particularly well in any of them. Sure, his ERA stays low because he is almost always left in even though he's getting blasted. But even including his shutout, he still is allowing 1.5 baserunners per inning, and because hitters are teeing up on him, he's also allowed 4 unearned runs in these six starts.

One more thing, looking closer at these six starts, you'll see that he has allowed the opposition to score first in four out of the six games, including 6 runs in 2 IP, 4 in 4 IP, 2 in 4 IP, 2, in 5 IP and 4 in 3 IP. He has failed to help the team continue winning streaks, and he has failed to put a stop to losing streaks. Outside of his shutout, he has given the team almost no chance to win, and these losses include one to LA and two the Cards, two of the teams the Giants are battling for the wild card.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 9, 2002


.... emails and details, Part II

Follow up to Jay's email. Here's some more peripherals on Andy and Livan.

Andy Pettitte has made 232 starts in his career. He has gotten 1.11 DP/9IP. He has allowed 88 steals, with 50 caught stealing, which can't include his pickoffs. He is tied for the league lead with six pickoffs so far this year. Since he leads the league in pickoffs every year with about 10 to 12, I would guess that he's had over 80 in his career, if you add those 80 outs to his caught stealing totals, his opposition success rate drops to only 40%. He has a total of 189 double plays, and his groundball to flyball ratio is 1.75.

Livan Hernandez has made 171 starts, and he has gotten .80 DP/9IP. He has allowed 57 stolen bases, with 37 caught. He has 102 career double plays, and his groundball to flyball ratio is 1.25. He is currently tied for seventh with 3 pickoffs this year, and I don't think that that total is out of line with his career either, going strictly from memory. I would guess his career total is less than 25, which puts his overall caught stealing rate right at 50%.

OK. Jay's right, the lefty/righty advantage shows up in Pettitte's GDP totals and averages, and he does give up more grounders, although Livan does do a good job of shutting down the running game for a righty. But overall, Pettitte gives up slightly fewer H/9, has a higher G/F ratio, more GDP/9, more K/9, slightly fewer BB/9, he picks off a guy every three starts; you add all of these little differences up and you get a big difference, as in a career ERA a half run lower, and over the last two years, more than a full run lower.

It was just an exercise, and I only used Andy because of his highly publicized successful strength and conditioning regimen. But Jay and I do agree on one point. There is no doubt that Hernandez's refusal to get into top condition is the number one reason that he is sliding into obscurity (And if you think I'm exaggerating, just remember what happened to Estes after his meltdown against the Dodgers with the season on the line last year led to his banishment). He has lost a little more off his fastball each of the last four years, his K/9 have dropped from 6.7 to 5.5, the league is batting over .300 against him two years running. He came into this year as the defacto ace of a team that has a shrinking window of opportunity to contend for a title, he didn't do nearly enough in the off-season to prepare for success, and so he has nothing to complain about when sportswriters, fans and his own team's management label him the team's biggest disappointment.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 9, 2002


..... emails and details

Jay Jaffe, who runs the Futility Infielder, (It's right there, on the left) sent me an email regards two of my recent Yankee related posts.



John, just saw your points about Livan vs. Pettitte. Good points re: strikeout rates, but one thing to think about is that despite their similarities, the lefty-righty thing does make a difference. Prior to last year Pettitte was very much a Tommy John family pitcher--an unflashy model of success that can get away with high hits per inning and low strikeout rates by getting lots of grounders and DPs and cutting down the running game. I don't see those similarities in a cursory look at Livan's stats (on ESPN). I do know that it's easier to be a good pitcher when you're not a fat tub of goo, so your points about Hernandez's conditioning are right on.

I did a post on Petttitte's evolution, one of my better ones (in my opinion). Wrote it last September 10 after leaving a rained-out Yankee game, as fate would have it (sigh). Oh, and one more thing I noticed on your site: it was Ted Lilly who allowed Bonds' monstrous HR at Yankee Stadium on 6/8, not Mussina. Moose has enough problems as it is without being blamed for somebody else's tape measure shots...



Jay, thanks for jumping in. Included in Jay's piece on Pettitte is a NY Times piece that I remember starting me thinking about Livan's girth. I didn't do a whole slew of comparison stats for Livan and Andy yesterday, the piece was already pretty long, and it's not as simple as it looks running stats in the blogspot edit machine. Here are Andy's and Livan's MLB stat pages, you can check 'em out yourself until I can sit down and chew 'em up some more.

As for saving Mussina some embarassment, thanks again. I like to think I remember everything, but hey, I'm getting old.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 9, 2002


.... Superstar

Joe Sheehan explains to all the knuckleheads out there why Barry is once again the MVP. Joe is awesome and his column is full of great stuff, but I'd like to add a couple of things.

A team of nine Barry Bonds' would outscore a team made up nine Larry Walker's (#2 in runs created per 9 innings) by almost double, 18 to 10.

If the Bonds's played at Coors and the Walkers' played at PacBell, I would guess the numbers would be more like 22 to 7.

A team of nine Barry Bonds', playing a whole season behind the Giants pitchers, with no allowances made for defense, would probably go 140-22.

His secondary average is .917, which is almost double Jim Thome's #2 mark of .548.

He's currently 4th in the majors in home runs, 32 in 277 at bats. The other nine hitters have 436, 428, 412, 406, 404, 401, 371, 368, and 327 at bats, for an average of 31 home runs in 395 at bats. Read that again.

In all of baseball, he's second in BA, 1st in BB, IBB, OBP, SLG and OPS, 4th in HR, 7th in runs scored and 7th in extra base hits.

He is simply all alone, a gleaming, transcendent superstar playing a game that most of us cannot even fathom.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


..... More bad news

Just because I can, I took a look at today's Giants/Cubs game log. In addition to the errors, another thing this team has been doing a lot lately is giving up two strike hits. The game in Pittsburgh that Brian Giles won off of Nen, that was three straight, two out, two strike hits.

Today? Sosa homered on a 1-2 pitch (2 runs). Corey Patterson doubled on a 1-2 pitch(0 runs). Alex Gonzalez singled on a 2-2 pitch(2 runs). Mark Belhorn singled on a 2-2 pitch (0 runs). Bill Meuller hit a sac fly on a 2-2 pitch (1 run). McGriff singled on 1st pitch (1 run).

So, out of the six runs Hernandez gave up so far, five of them were given up when he was one strike away from an out. You know, I make a big deal about his being in such poor condition, for being so fat and out of shape; and I hear a lot of people saying it doesn't matter (including Dusty Baker), that baseball, and pitching in particular, doesn't require a lot of athletic endurance and strength.

That's a bunch of horseshit. I'll tell you something personal. On May 1st, I started working out for the first time in about ten years. I had taken a long time to recover from plantar fascitis, which makes it very tough to do anything on your feet, and, well, I had been lazy. I also had put on a lot of weight, ballooning to 205 pounds. Today, I weigh about 185, and I can assure you, I am stronger, I have more energy, more endurance and better concentration.... I just feel like a million bucks every day.

If you think Livan Hernandez is maximizing his ability and giving the Giants and the fans his best while being about twenty pounds overweight, you are fooling yourself. He is being paid three million dollars a year to pitch, and over the last two years, as the so-called ace of this staff, he has been the main reason this team has faltered in its efforts to win a championship. Say what you want about all of the weak hitters, and all of the bad luck and all of the errors and the D'backs have two of the best pitchers of all time.... Blah blah blah. If he goes 15-10 last year, the D'backs watch the playoffs on TV. If he was 12 and 7 right now, instead of 7 and 12, well, you see where I'm going here.

I have a pet peeve about this. I think a championship player should take the off-season seriously, using it as an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming campaign. Livan Hernandez, I think he sits around eating bean burritos and then tries to work himself into shape during the preseason. Everyone made a big deal this year when he came to camp twenty pounds lighter. Yeah that's great. Except that he was about forty pounds overweight last year. You want to know what a championship player does in the off-season, look at Barry Bonds, look at Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens is a first ballot Hall of Famer, one of the five or ten best pitchers of all time. He was in the weight room two weeks after the season ended, getting ready for a run at 300 wins

How about Andy Pettitte? He saw what Roger was putting himself through in an effort to be the best, and he felt that he, Andy Pettitte, was selling himself short in comparison. Andy Pettitte is a pretty good comp for Livan. Although he's a lefty and Livan is a righty, they are similar in size and build, both earning a reputation as control pitchers, each a little big in the ass, sturdy, so to speak, both excellent fielders. Of course, Pettitte is 122-69 while Livan is 64-64, but their career peripherals are remarkably similar, here, take a look at their strikeouts per nine innings:

Year Andy Livan

1995 5.86 DNP

1996 6.60 6.00

1997 6.22 6.73

1998 6.07 6.22

1999 5.68 6.52

2000 5.50 6.19

2001 7.36 5.48

2002 6.45 5.53

Those numbers are pretty much interchangeable. See that spike in Pettitte's K/9 in 2001? Keep your eye on that. Prior to these last two years, their ERA's where fairly close, neither one of them walks a ton of guys, but they each walk about three per nine, they both give up around ten hits per nine for their careers, although Livan's last couple of years are starting to push his numbers higher. Another thing to note is the drop in Livan's K/9 over the last three seasons. He's lost more than a strikeout per nine as he's gotten fatter and fatter.

Three years ago, Andy Pettitte started working out with Roger Clemens during the off-season. Remember, unlike Livan, who guys like Dusty like to call a big game pitcher, Andy Pettitte actually is one of the best big game pitchers in the game.... and he was excited about the chance to get better by emulating one of the best pitchers of all time.

All working out with Clemens did for Pettitte was turn him from a control artist with an 85-89 MPH into a control artist with a 91-94 MPH fastball, add two strikeouts per nine innings to his stat sheet, and increase his strength and endurance to enable him to finish more games and to stay stronger throughout the long season. You think 2 strikeouts per nine innings doesn't make a difference? Think again. His ERA since that first workout session has dropped by almost a full run, even though his hits/9 have remained fairly constant. You think Livan would benefit from an increase in strength and endurance? You bet he would. You know what's stopping him for having that advantage? Me, neither.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


.... Hmmmm

Matt Clement just had an interesting bottom of the fourth. After walking Tom Goodwin on 5 pitches, he walked Bonds on 4 straight, and then he went to 3 and 0 on Kent. At that point he had thrown 12 pitches and 11 of them were balls.

Here's how he finished the inning: Strike Strike Strike-out Strike Strike Ball Strike-out Strike Strike Foul out.

Baseball. What a game.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


..... More bad news



Livan Hernandez, in an apparent effort to partner up with JT Snow and Shawon Dunston to make sure the Giants don't win too many games in a row, has once again guaranteed that the team will lose before most of the fans have even sat down. Honestly, his performance is a disgrace. Bring up Ainsworth and put him in the bullpen. You could use him for long relief when someone who is actually trying has to come out early, or if the game goes 20 innings, or if the team bus crashes on the way to the game.

Checking the boxscore, I see that he has thrown 74 pitches, given up 3 walks, 5 hits, and 5 earned runs through three. Well, I'm sure he's trying hard, eh, JT?

One more thing.... I am at work, so I can't watch the game, but what the hell is going on with all of these errors lately?

Checking the stats, the Giants have made 19 errors and allowed 14 un-earned runs over the last 25 games. Add in today's 2 more, (which gives Jeff Kent seven during that span), they have now made 21 errors and allowed 15 un-earned runs in a month!

I know that part of that stems from the fact that they allow a fairly high number of balls to be put in play, but still, 21 errors in 26 games? And that doesn't include, among other things, Damon Minor's recent run of running to cover first base, even on balls hit right to him, Dunston's laughable efforts like last night, and countless other plays they just aren't making.

Man, they sure are gluttons for punishment. I guess I must be too, cause I'm gonna be there tomorrow night.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


.... FNG



Shawn Weaver has a new site, Cincinnatti Reds Blog. First day. No email. I wanted to ask him who is his daddy. My daddy is David Pinto's Baseball Musings.

For those of you who have a blog, check out the Blog Tree. They do a geneology of blogs, so if you look up Only Baseball Matters, you'll see my parent Blog is Baseball Musings. If you look at Baseball Musings, you'll see Instapundit. It's fun.

Anybody out there my baby?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


.... Bad news



Shawon Dunston continued his assault on the Giants post-season efforts last night. His highlight reel, over-run, reach back, miss and fall down, gift two-out triple on Bill Meuller's shot to right has to be the straw that breaks the camels back, right? Doubtful.

I still laugh when I remember Shawon, earlier this year, telling a reporter the reason he still runs like a rookie is so somebody who might be seeing him play for the first time could tell their young son that he, Shawon, plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. Imagine that, Shawon Dunston stealing Joe Dimaggio's famous line

What a massive liability he is for this team, whose management apparently thinks playing hard is some sort of value beyond actual production. Marvin Benard hustles, JT Snow give 100%, Dunston plays hard, Shinjo runs every grounder out..... what the hell is that? When did playing hard become some standard of evaluation?

There's Mr. 100% last night, 0 for 3. Good job swinging that bat, JT, don't worry about hitting the ball, as long as you're giving 100%, you must be contributing to winning, right? Thanks, Shawon, for running so hard after that flyball in the ninth that almost cost us the game. I'm sure your famous hustle was the reason that wasn't a game-winning, inside the park home run, right? I mean, what would we do if you guys weren't playing so hard?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


.... Good news



Lots of news today.

In the NY Times, Murray Chass writes about the historic steroids testing proposal submitted by the union at yesterday's baseball contract negotiations.

In the NY Daily News, a beat writer details Mike Mussina's pitching woes, and the Yankees brass' inability to figure out the reason. How does one get in touch with those guys? I'd like to send him a link to Aaron Gleeman's blog I highlighted in yesterday's Goody goody

The San Francisco Chronicle beat writer goes into glorious detail when talking about the riveting Barry Bonds/Kerry Wood showdown. Really good stuff. Reminds me again how ripped off all of us at Yankee Stadium felt when Clemens wouldn't go after him in June.

Finally, Neil Hayes of the San Jose Merc, spends a few moments reliving some of the early glory of PacBell Park. He's dead on. That ballpark is simply amazing, and Barry has made us all believe something that just isn't true, that it's easy to hot home runs there. As Neil explains, the only baseball stadium in the majors that gives up fewer home runs is Detroit's Comerica. Barry has been beyond super-human, put it this way, of all the home runs hit into McCovey Cove, there have been 18 by Bonds, 1 by Felipe Crespo, Todd Hundley, Jorge Posada (1st ever game at PacBell, preseason 2000), and a couple of other guys.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 8, 2002


.... Please let me make it up to you



I've been kicking the Giants around lately, as they have woefully under-performed according to the Bill James Pythagorean formula for expected wins so far. I decided to run the formula for the rest of the season using two sets of data to attempt to predict who might come out ahead in the race for the post-season.

In the first one, all I did was project the rest of the season using their current expected win%, given that to some degree, one might assume that these teams have established a baseline of performance. (Iknow, I know, ass out of you and me, blah blah blah, I used to watch the Odd Couple reruns too) Here's what it looks like:

Team Now Proj.

Giants 62-50 92-70

Dodgers 62-51 88-74

Cards 59-50 87-75

Astros 58-53 85-77

Reds 58-53 83-79

That's interesting. If these teams are still scoring and allowing runs at pretty much the same rate the rest of the way out, the Giants should qualify, giving Bonds a chance to erase all of his past post-season failings. But what if they're not? What if, as the season has progressed, these teams scoring differentials have shifted? Frankly, it's more than just possible, it's pretty likely.

So, I ran the numbers using the runs these teams have scored and allowed over the last thirty days (Except in the case of the Giants. If Bonds and Sanders miss significant time the rest of the way, all of their projections are worthless anyway, so I did a little creative interpolations). Simple stuff, nothing earth-shaking, just taking a look.

Team Now Proj.

Giants 62-50 94-68

Dodgers 62-51 80-82

Cards 59-50 82-80

Astros 58-53 88-74

Reds 58-53 89-73

{In case anyone cares, for the Giants, I took the runs they've scored in the last seven days, multiplied that by four and then subtracted half the difference between that number and the actual number of runs they scored over the last thirty days}

Anyway, the teams' recent play suggests that the Dodgers and Cards will continue to fade, the Reds and Astros will continue to come on, and the Giants, if they stay healthy the rest of the way, should run away with the Wildcard. What about the division? Well, unless something drastic happens, the calculations show them having almost no chance.

Using the first calcs, Arizona should finish 98-64. Using the second formula, forget about it. If the level they are playing at right now is indicative of their actual ability and not just a hot streak, you're looking at a 105-57, and a probable repeat World Series champion. Incidentally, Atlanta's performance over the last thirty days is actually more mind-boggling. They would finish with 114-48 record if they keep up their current pace. The reason I like Arizona over the Braves is more than the Schilling and Johnson show, however, it's their recent Bronx Bomber-esque performance at the plate.

Thanks to Bill James, Rob Neyer and the ESPN.com expanded stats page for the all of the formulas and research available for this piece.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 7, 2002


.... Goody goody



Aaron Gleeman has an absolutely fantastic post on Mike Mussina's troubles this season. His analysis is excellent, and his conclusion should be posted on the door to Brian Cashman and/or Joe Torre's office.



Mussina is striking out less batters and thus allowing more balls to be put into play.

The Yankees' defense is sub par at converting balls in play into outs, thus allowing more hits than an average defense would.

Mussina is allowing significantly more home runs than he has in the past.



My friends, all of that adds up to a 4.90 ERA



Great stuff. The Yankees better be careful. Mussina is not the only pitcher on the team with a higher than usual ERA. Aaron also explains that the Yankees are 10th in the AL in defensive efficiency (which measures the defense's ability to turn balls in play into outs), and as we head towards the post-season, they better figure out how to cover more ground, especially in that outfield. I've read a lot of stuff about Bernie's health problems. Somebody needs to be running well out there in centerfield.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 7, 2002


..... Where's Goliath?



David Pinto has a gripe about ESPN's failure to show the whole Giants game tonight (as opposed to showing only Bonds' at bats). It will be only the fourth time in the history of baseball that a player will have reached this milestone, so really, he does have a point.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 7, 2002


.... Hey, Joe



Joes Sheehan has an interesting addition to my ongoing Giants Pythagorean failings byline, in today's Daily Prospectus. He comes to a different conclusion than I did, and his is the right one. (Is it possible that he read my earlier posts? Wouldn't that be nice?) Here's a quote:



The Giants have lost just one game by more than seven runs all season. They've lost just four games by more than five runs all season. That's in part a park effect--Pac Bell depresses run scoring, making blowouts harder to come by--but it is also a tribute to the Giants' offense and the work they've gotten from their bullpen. Their Pythagorean record isn't separated from their actual record because they've gotten unlucky in close games, but because when they've played blowouts, they've almost always been on the good side. 14-2 in games decided by more than six runs creates an excellent run differential while only counting for 14-2 in the standings.



Actually, that runs differential disparity does more than skew the Pythagorean analysis, it is the reason for the six game difference. If you subtract the runs they've scored and allowed in their 14 blowouts wins and then run the Pythagorean numbers, you get an expected record that exactly matches their actual record in those games, 48 wins and 50 losses. And that's the answer I was searching for in my earlier post, when I wondered why watching the Giants was such a stressful and frustrating experience. Of course it's stressful, they're a below .500 team 85% of the time. And the way they get to that record is especially stressful as I explained in this post.

I, however, don't agree that the lack of blowout losses is attributable to their offense. It's been the consistency of their pitching staff that's allowed them to get two thirds of the way through the season only losing four games by more than five runs. What makes the Giants a sub .500 team when they're not blowing people out is their inconsistent offense. Actually, it's the combination of an inconsistent offense and a very consistent pitching staff. The Giants give up 4, 5 or 6 runs per game with mind-numbing regularity, 43 times this year. And while they're giving up enough runs to lose, their offense goes 8, 1, 3, 6, 7, 1, 0, 11.... I know the D'backs are in first place because they have the Johnson and Schilling show, yes, but it's also because their offense is consistent. That consistent offense makes it much easier to run off long winning streaks, and it makes it easier to avoid the long losing streaks. Even when the Giants pitchers are dominant, the team struggles to string together many wins, case in point, June 2-22nd. They allowed more than 4 runs only two times during that stretch, yet they only managed to go 10 and 8, and.... well, here's what they did over those eighteen games.

Runs scored 9, 11, 3, 12, 1, 4, 2, 5, 9, 6, 2, 6, 1, 3, 8, 10, 4, 2

Runs allowed 2, 3, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 8, 0, 2, 3, 4

98 runs scored (5.5 per game) and 52 runs allowed (2.9 per game) , and only 2 games over .500? Their expected record wth those kind of numbers is 12 and 6, and frankly, I would think 13 or 14 wins wouldn't be surprising. That's a pretty big difference, and that's the story of their season. Bonds hits a couple of home runs, they score 11 runs or so, then the next day they pitch around Bonds and the rest of the guys on the team make one out after another, and the day after that their opponents go after Bonds again, and he hits one out.... you see where I'm going here, if you watch the team, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

If you're wondering why the D'backs are able to be consistent while the Giants aren't, even though a cursory look at their stats shows them to be very similar, check out this post. If you subtract Bonds' walks from their overall numbers, you see that the Giants hitters are abysmal at earning a free pass. You get guys on base, you score, you get guys on base consistently, you score consistently. You want to get on base consistently, you need to have the plate discipline neccessary to draw walks. The Giants hitters, other than Bonds, are terrible in this respect. The Giants have eight players with 250 plus at bats. Other than Bonds, Kent has the highest OBP, at .380 (and nearly all of his OBP is found in his .330 BA), next is JT Snow at .348, and then you're looking at .304, .319, .324, and .296(!). These are on base percentages, for crying out loud! The Giants have everyday players with 19, 20, 21 and 22 walks. The D'backs have 4 with 42 or more, and nine with over 20. That's why the D'backs have a consistent offense, and the Giants do not. Everything Bonds does makes them look much better than they really are. What they really are is bad.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 7, 2002


..... Conehead



Reading about Cone made me remember the only time I was at a game in which a no-hitter went deeper than the third inning. It was at David Cone's first start back after his anuerysm surgery, in Oakland, October 2nd, 1996. Here's the boxscore. He threw a seven inning no-hitter, which turned out to be a preview of his perfect game at Yankee Stadium a couple of years later. Always a true competitor and a great guy, I'll never forget the buzz he generated that day. By the end of the fifth, he was around 60 pitches, maybe 65, and everyone was talking about whether Torre would let him go for it if he could keep the A's at bay.

He came out for the bottom of the seventh, and by then, I was on the rail on the first base side, just up from the Yankee dugout. He was drenched, and he looked exhausted. I believe he was right at 80 pitches when the inning started, and Torre had said in the paper the day before that he was on a 90 pitch limit. If I remember it correctly, he got the first two guys pretty easily, and then he fell behind to, looking at the box score, I think it might have been soon-to-be teammate, Scott Brosius, but maybe not; anyway, he was behind 3-1, then he got it to a full count. On his 92nd(?) pitch, Brosius(?) sent a shot to deep left center, just a moon shot, pretty much straight away from where I was sitting.

Bernie Williams, at full speed, ran up the wall and, at full extension, brought it back, the best catch I have ever seen live, and the Coliseum erupted! Could you imagine ending a no hitter that way? That's how it felt. It was as if he had pitched a nine inning no-no, and that Bernie had finished the game by climbing the wall and bringing back a home run. The rest of the game was a blur, all anyone talked about and remembered was the Cone no-hitter, and Williams' catch.

Oh, and for maybe the last time, we walked out of the Coliseum chanting, "Let's go Yankees, boom.. boom.. boom boom boom. Let's go Yankees."

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 6, 2002


.... Gimme three steps, gimme three steps mister...



Some of my favorite writers are on their games today.

John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, had me laughing out loud with his game account.

Dan Lewis is angry, and smart. He attacks the labor situation with his usual sharp wit.

And finally, Jay Jaffe has a story and a link on David Cone, the erstwhile gunslinging right-hander at Futility Infielder.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 6, 2002


.... It's never as bad as it seems



David Pinto has a post on this weeks' showcase Braves/Diamondbacks showdown. What makes this series interesting to all baseball fans is that it pits the number scoring offense in the NL (the D'backs) against the number pitching staff (the Braves).

What makes it interesting to me, and to all San Francisco Giants fans, is that the Giants are second in the NL in both runs scored (to the D'backs), and runs allowed (to the Braves), and yet, unlike either of these teams, they are in a Battan Death March in their efforts to earn a post season berth.

Another interesting tidbit is that it pits the team the Giants are trying to catch (the D'backs), against the team they almost certainly will face in the first round of the playoffs (the Braves), if they get there. Strange, strange season for the G-men.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


.... Stats and more stats



Over the last few days, lot has been written and talked about in the San Francisco media about how Bonds' injury has cost the Giants a shot at the division. Well, that's not exactly true. Since the All Star break, the D'backs have run away with the division while the Giants are now focused on the wild card because of the overall balance the D'backs have demonstrated, not because of Bonds' hamstring.

A quick snapshot of the two clubs performance since the break is illuminating:

Giants 12 wins, 12 losses, 8 games allowing 3 runs or less, a 7 and 1 record in those games.

Arizona 18 wins, 7 losses, 15 games allowing 3 runs or less, a 13 and 2 record in those games.

Giants have scored an average of 4.66 runs per game, and allowed 4.12.

Arizona has scored an average of 5.92 runs per game, and allowed 3.36.

Offensively, the Giants scoring didn't drop very much from their year long average, but their pitchers have struggled to keep pace with the Johnson and Schilling show. These figures only reflect what's been evident watching the team game in and game out. Their starters have suffered a big decline in effectiveness, and I would guess that the injuries, along with the dog days of the season, have had their greatest impact on the teams defense. Earlier I ran a post commenting on the Giants slide in overall defensive efficiency. The Giants are an older team, and they have a staff that doesn't strike out a lot of hitters, putting a lot of pressure on the fielders to pick it up and throw it. Perhaps this decline was inevitable, with or without the injuries, although clearly, the injuries have added to the problem.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


..... Snow job, Part III



Maybe I've been a bit harsh today, so let me explain something. I have nothing against JT Snow. What I have a problem with is all of this BS about how he has produced before. That's a lie. He has never produced. NEVER!!! At his very best, his peak, he was a middle of the pack first baseman. I'm talking 1997-99, when he averaged about 50 extra base hits, 85 runs scored, and around 95 RBI, while posting about an .820 OPS. That's nothing. That's Don Mattingly after his back fell off. Forget Mattingly, that's not even Eric Karros, for crying out loud.

As this historic run was coming to an end, in July of '99, at the age of thirty-one, he was signed to a four-year, $24 million dollar contract, after initially rejecting a three year deal for $18 million (I'll tell you what, that was a great job by his agent). Now, six million dollars a year isn't much for a major league first baseman, think Delgado, Giambi, Mo Vaughn, Bagwell.... but, Snow was never, ever, in anybody's eyes, as good as any of those players. Nonetheless, given the market at the time, it wasn't an outlandish contract.

It was, however, a risky contract. It was risky in two ways. One, you were betting that Snow would, at least, maintain his current offensive production; and two, you were betting that he would stay healthy as he entered the latter years of his career. Neither of these bets were good odds to pan out, as mountains of research has been done over the last few decades that demonstrates conclusively that a player entering his thirties is almost guaranteed to decline faster and faster as the years go on; and true to form, these bets haven't paid off for Sabean and the Giants.

After averaging around 500 at bats over his first 5 full seasons, Snow has been out of the lineup far more than he has been in it. And when he has, due to the injuries, age, or a combination of the two, his production has plummeted. Over the last two seasons, in limited playing time, he has made well over 400 outs while driving in less than 80 runs.

That said, he's generally considered a good guy; and, until his recent outburst, he's been a model of propriety given what must be a terribly frustrating situation, and he is a very good defensive first baseman. None of that makes a difference at the plate, where he is contributing mightily to the Giants offensive woes, and I am sure that Sabean and Magowan rue the day they added that fourth year. As a fan of the Giants, I know I do.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


.... Snow job, Part II



To follow up on Snow's unjustifed complaints, one need look no further than the Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average page to see that Snow ranks 34th(!) among all first basemen, behind, among virtually everybody, Damon Minor, Tino Martinez, some guy from Tampa Bay, three(!) first basemen from the New York metropolitan area, three who have worn the Oakland A's cap this season, and two each from the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers.

For those of you at home reading about baseball for the very first time, you may note that there are only 30 teams in the entire major leagues.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


.... Smart, and final



Alan Barra, in a column from back when writers like Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci were selling their souls in an effort to make headlines, interviews former Baseball Players Association head, Marvin Miller, on his view of the steroids craze and the owners supposed stance of drug testing. Here's an excerpt,

".... I have to say that it constantly amazes me how willing members of the press sometimes are to agree with the baseball owners that players should no longer be treated as citizens. I have to say I'm appalled when I pick up the New York Times and read a statement like "the rampant use of steroids will continue because the Players Association opposes mandatory testing." How exactly was that conclusion reached and on what historical evidence is it based? I'm amazed at how willing some columnists are to simply waive a player's civil rights because he happens to be a professional athlete."

I couldn't have said it better.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


..... Snow job



After his biggest day at the plate in probably two years, JT Snow took it upon himself to complain about how he has been in and out of the lineup over the last couple of months. You can read about it in the SF Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury.

Here's a few tidbits from the Outman.

"... At this point, I think the situation that we've been going through has hurt the team more than it's helped the team,'' Snow said of his back-and-forth shuffle with Minor. "Good teams have your starting core of guys and you go out there and you do battle every day."

"... I don't know. The whole situation hasn't sat real well with me,'' Snow said. "I can accept it if you're not putting up numbers and all that stuff... That's their decision. All I know is when I'm in the lineup, whether I was hitting .200 or .300... I go out and play hard and give 100 percent each time... There are a lot of other things that go into a team besides a guy's personal numbers."

He also cited the Giants better record with him in the lineup vs. when he's out. Well, I guess he told me.

Hey JT, in case you're wondering, your anemic bat and the pressure you've put on Dusty to squeeze runs out of this lineup, that's what's hurt the team. 100% of the worst production from a first baseman in the majors is worthless, no one cares how hard you play, just like no one cares how fast Dunston runs. We care about what you produce, and three games of 5 RBI don't make up for weeks and weeks of outs and double play grounders and getting picked off base and all the other ways you have murdered the offense these last two seasons.

Here's an idea, right after your team wins the last two games of a lost road trip, one in which your team played two of the worst teams in baseball to a draw and basically kissed the division goodbye, after you personally drove in 12% of your entire seasons worth of RBI, and raised your batting average to a season-best .249, after a two year run of injuries, outs, double play grounders and inning ending flyballs to the warning track; perhaps now isn't the best time to talk about the things that go into a team winning other than numbers. Because you, JT Snow, complaining about playing time is a little bit like George W. Bush complaining that not enough colleges are awarding him honorary degrees.

I am more and more coming to the conclusion that Dusty has lost control of this team. Looking at this year, I see Kent's lie about his spring training injury, Aurilia's undisclosed bone chips in the elbow problem, Livan Hernandez's absolute refusal to get into shape after a year in which he personally cost the team a shot at a championship, Bonds complaining about getting hit and not getting protection from his own pitchers, Felix Rodriguez's undisclosed injury, which cost the team most of the first half, Kent and Bonds fighting in the dugout, Shawon Dunston, supposedly a Dusty guy, taking himself out of a game when the team only had three outfielders available, the unbelievably enormous number of costly baserunning mistakes, the complete lack of discipline at the plate exhibited by virtually every marginal player, the breakdown of fundamentals in the field, from Shinjo throwing over the head of the cutoff man time after time, to Goodwin trying to throw a runner out at third last week in a first and second, no one out situation.... I mean, this is supposed to be a veteran club, one that puts players at virtually every position with six, seven, eight or more years of Major League service time.

Not for nothing, but if I were Dusty, I'd call Snow into my office and I'd tell him to go straight to hell, and to shut his Goddam mouth. This team is on the verge of wasting a second consecutive historic performance by Barry Bonds, a run of offensive production that should create an enormous number of scoring opportunities for the rest of the individual players on the team, and JT the Outman, who has produced nothing hitting behind the player who has been on base more than anyone in the last sixty years, feels that his first big game in two years is an opportunity to vent?!?! What a joke. Somebody ought to tell him that Dusty's the only reason he's seen the field at all.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 5, 2002


..... emails and details



Reader John Geer brought up three complaints over the last week, and I wanted to think about them before I responded. They were:

1. JT Snow's continued presence in the starting lineup over the vastly more productive Damon Minor

2. Dunston starting over anyone, including Dusty, Gene Clines, or even, for that matter, Stan Conte.

3. Finally, the Bonds/Kent switch has apparently run it's course, and now he's got them back in their original slots in the order.

I'll take Snow and Dunston together. Have you ever had a pointless argument with someone? You know what I'm talking about, the guy who says you're wrong and he's right because he says so, and his only argument is volume and insistence. He just gets louder and louder and he won't give up and he won't shut up, until finally you are forced to relent. Picture Jack Black in his dirty underwear, a la "Orange County" and you see where I'm going here.

That's how I feel about Dusty on this one. There can be no thoughtful justification of playing Shawon Dunston or JT Snow, none. Starting Dunston over Tom Goodwin, as Dusty has done about three or four times during this stretch of baseball (in which the Giants have lost their opportunity to contend for the division, by the way), is indefensible. Head to head, Shawon offers no advantage over Goodwin, other than power, and he's only got one home run in over 133 at bats. Head to head, Snow offers no advantage over Minor other than defense, and the only thing I'll say about that is that it's debatable whether Dusty's belief that JT is so much better is provable.

Dunston .226/.246/.278

Goodwin .228/.304/.304

Snow .245/.342/.370

Minor .250/.346/.500

For the record, Minor has twice as many home runs as Snow in half as many at bats. Dunston has scored 6 and driven in 8 runs in 133 AB's, Goodwin has 11 and 11 in 93 AB's. I believe their gross stats, (and they are gross, for sure), I believe these stats are reflective of their abilities, or lack thereof.

As for the Bonds/kent switch, that leads to what might be called the point of this whole post. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where Bonds or Kent hit. Take a look at this:

Batting #1 .243/.316/.417

Batting #2 .261/.303/.401

Batting #3 .352/.498/.736

Batting #4 .303/.386/.512

Batting #5 .273/.343/.436

Batting #6 .231/.300/.388

Batting #7 .252/.330/.412

Batting #8 .263/.323/.367

Batting #9 .212/.244/.296

The Giants have six spots in the lineup at or below .330 on base percentage. Six!. Who cares where these guys bat. Bonds and Kent can be pitched around with impunity, other than the rare instance in which one of them leads off, or even rarer, when one of them comes to the plate with guys on base and less than two outs. But the real problem is insurmountable. Nobody on this team, other than Bonds and Kent, really, has any idea of how to get on base, or whether that's an important thing. Dusty has no real options.

I mean, sure, play Minor over Snow, play Goodwin over Dunston, keep Aurilia, Santiago, Bell, Kent, Bonds and Sanders on the field as much as possible. But, unless this team starts producing at a level that is about 20% greater than they have to date, it won't matter. If they can get the wildcard, they won't go far, barring the strange hot streak occurrence, like the Mets in 2000, who got big hits by guys like Timo Perez and Benny Agbayani to carry them to the Series. This team flaws are immense, they are completely debilitating, and, I believe, insurmountable. Dusty can do what he wants, it won't matter.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 4, 2002


.... Seligula lives



Seligula and his cronies are liars, we know that. They are cheats and swindlers, we know that. They are greedy, slimy rat bastards, we know that. But did you know that they have a lot in common with the boys at Enron and WorldCom? Sam Walker knows that.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... Oh my God



It's hard to fault Nen, given his simply overpowering performance thus far this season, but I just cannot get over the way this team finds ways to lose. How does Nen, throwing 97 plus heat, give up three consecutive two out, two strike hits? Each hit was on a pitch that had absolutely no business catching so much of the strike zone, and the Giants have now lost three out of four to two of the worst teams in the NL, in simply mind-boggling variety.

They've been shut down by a struggling-to-recover-from-surgery journeyman pitcher, they've had blown leads by two of their very best pitchers, they've been beaten in a pitchers duel and they've been outslugged, they've been beaten by two forty foot singles.... I mean, what the hell is going on here?

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... More of the same



Continuing my analysis of the Giants failings...

Fourth inning, Livan Hernandez walks the #6 hitter, and the gives up a two run, game tying home run to Adam Hydzu, immediatley after being handed a 3-1 lead courtesy of a Reggie Sanders three run blast. He then continued his self-destruction by giving up a line drive single to the eighth place hitter, and after a bunt, a go ahead single to Kendall.

Then in the top of the sixth, with two men on and one out, Aurilia singled, and what happened next prompted the easy-going John Miller to describe as disgraceful; Aurila, for no apparent reason, attempted to make it to second base and was caught in a run down. If that's not bad enough, after he was tagged out, Kenny Lofton was also tagged out after wandering off of third base!!! All of this happened with the ssorching hot Jeff Kent standing in the on-deck circle with a look aof astonishment on his face, apparently amazed that two "veterans" with about twenty years of Major League service could pull off such a little league play.

Of course Kent led off the next inning with a home run.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... New friend



Aaron Gleeman has a new site, Aaron's Baseball Blog. I think today is his first day. He's got some funny stuff on there already, if it is. Good start.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002






Derek Zumsteg writes about Seligula the liar in today's BP.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


..... emails and details, Part III



Reader Tom Germack writes:



John, I had to laugh when I saw John Geer's post....because I saw the worst offensive OF in the history of baseball just last Thursday at Pac Bell Park (no research needed). Sure, there were injuries, but on July 25th Dusty trotted out the following trio:

2002 Giants

Goodwin - 1 HR, 11 RBI .231/.307/.308

Shinjo - 8 HR, 32 RBI .237/.296/.367

Dunston - 1 HR, 8 RBI .227/.248./.280



Tom, for comparison, here are the previous entries in the Worst Outfield Ever contest:

2002 Brewers

Matt Stairs 8 HR's 21 RBI .246/.478/.327

Lenny Harris 4 HR's 29 RBI .250/.345/.315

Alex Sanchez 0 HR's 25 RBI .313/.365/.370

1966 Mets

Cleon Jones 8 HR's 57 RBI .275/.318/.372

Al Luplow 7 HR's 31 RBI .251/.331/.347

Ron Swoboda 8 HR's 50 RBI .222/.296/.342

I think we have a new leader.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... Back to the coal mines



The Giants and the D'backs are, statistically, very similar. Let's look at the numbers:

Pitching

SF 3.72 ERA 28 saves 7 shutouts 956 IP 932 hits 348 BB 425 runs 77 HR 647 SO

AZ 3.94 ERA 28 saves 7 shutouts 960 IP 888 hits 266 BB 444 runs 121 HR 850 SO

Hitting

AZ 542 runs 992 hits 191 2B 28 3B 105 HR 617 SO 420 BB .271/.347/.424

SF 516 runs 968 hits 198 2B 21 3B 132 HR 627 SO 388 BB .264/.340/.437

Overall

SF 4.77 runs scored 3.93 runs allowed, .84 difference

AZ 5.01 runs scored 4.11 runs allowed, .90 difference

Three things stand out in this comparison, other than wins and losses, the D'backs have allowed 44(!) more home runs, 82 fewer walks, and they have struck out 203 more batters. 203 more strikeouts is almost two per game. That sure seems like a lot, it's almost all attributable to the big two, but still, that's a lot. But that's not the only way they are better. They have allowed 44 fewer hits, 82 fewer walks, and they have the 203 more strikeouts; for an defensive advantage(DA) of 329 plate appearances. Although they have given up more runs per game, they have done a remarkable job at keeping the pressure off their pitching staff and their defense, the kind of pressure that seems like a constant for the Giants staff. And after all that, when their opponents have put the ball in play, they have turned more of those hits into outs.

Offensively, they also have an advantage, although it's not quite as substantial. They have 54 more non-home run hits, they have struck out ten fewer times, and they have walked 32 more times, although, if you take out the two players who lead each team, Bonds and Gonzalez, the advantage swells to 78 more, which is more realistic, adding up to a offensive advantage(OA) of 142 plate appearances. Together, that's an advantage of 471 plate appearances that result in either a defensive or an offensive advantage for the D'backs over the Giants.

And I guess that that's what makes a six game difference, and that's why the Giants seem like every game they play is a nail-biting, seventh game, battle royale. Because all the breaks, for lack of a better word, do go against them. More of the pitches they throw do get put in play. More of the balls put in play against them do turn into hits. When they get guys on base, they are much less likely to get an out that doesn't involve their defense catching the ball and throwing it. Offensively, they don't enjoy a similar experience. Other than Bonds, nobody walks very much. Other than Kent, nobody hits very much. And that's the point.

They hit a lot of home runs, but they don't do a lot of anything else, so they don't have a lot of guys on base, and they don't score runs consistenly. And then when they're pitching, they give up a lot of non-home run hits, a lot of walks, so they have a lot of guys on base all the time, and thus they consistently allow their four runs per game. They rarely give up eight or ten runs, but they give up four, five or six all the time. They now have lost 25 games by two runs or less. That's a team problem. They score just enough to lose, or they give up just enough to not win, it's both sides of the plate.

A weakness like this by the offense could probably be overcome by a strong pitching staff. Or even offensively, maybe a red-hot Bonds could make up the difference. But the fact is, the Giants pitching staff has let the team down. During this stretch where the outfield has been injured, they have allowed 2, 4, 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 11, 5, 1, 3, 8, and 2 runs. That's why they've lost five games in the standings. They haven't been shutout ten times, they just haven't gotten the job done on the mound when it has been needed most.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... Things that make you go hmmmm



Looking at the Baseball Prospectus' Defensive Efficiency ratings, I was amazed to see the Giants had slipped all the way down to 12th place. They were as high as third throughout much of the season, and although the difference between third and twelfth is mildly insignificant, (28.3% of the balls in play turn into hits against the new third place team, the hated D'backs, 28.8% against the Giants), there are some significant differences in other areas that may answer some of the questions I've been wrestling with lately.

By the way, the number one team, with a bullet, is the Braves. Only 26.4% of the balls put in play against Atlanta land somehwere. That should help explain at least some of the extraordinary dominance of the mere mortal pitchers on their staff. More on the Giants vs. D'backs in a bit.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


..... emails and details, ad nauseum



My wife had the audacity to suggest I was being pompous and arrogant with my "...a welcome addition..."

Well, sorry. All I meant to say was that I am happy to have so many intelligent writers contact me and ask to be a part of OBM. I believe that the roster of links I am putting together is one of the strongest anywhere. I don't put just anybody who asks over there, I got to the site, and if I like it, I put it there for the people who like what I write. I just assume that if you like what I write, you should like what I read, too. I mean, that's what influences my writing, right?

Anyway, When you check out Dan's site, click on his Bonds Tracker. Yummy.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... emails and details, Friday



Got an email from a guy named Dan Lewis this morning. He directed me to this article he wrote about the owners vs. players. In it, I found his site, see my links to the left, there.

Terrific stuff, funny, incisive, smart. A welcome addition to what I hope is becoming a must-have site for the intelligent, well-read baseball fan.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 2, 2002


.... emails and details



Reader John Geer writes,



I thought last year's Mets debacle of Agbayani-Perez-Payton was excreble, but tonight's Brewers outfield might take the cake. Lenny Harris-Alex Sanchez-Matt Stairs. Against Greg Maddux. Can I have my shutout now, please? (Of course, now they'll win 10-0, but you get my point.) Thoughts?



2002 Brewers

Matt Stairs 8 HR's 21 RBI .246/.478/.327

Lenny Harris 4 HR's 29 RBI .250/.345/.315

Alex Sanchez 0 HR's 25 RBI .313/.365/.370

Wow. That's ugly. Real ugly. John, I have to agree, they are abominable. It's hard to imagine a worse lineup, although the '66 Mets sure were awful:

1966 Mets

Cleon Jones 8 HR's 57 RBI .275/.318/.372

Al Luplow 7 HR's 31 RBI .251/.331/.347

Ron Swoboda 8 HR's 50 RBI .222/.296/.342

I mean, wow. That's 23 home runs and 138 RBI for the whole outfield!! Makes me appreciate Shinjo in a whole new way.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 1, 2002


.... Strange brew



The San Francisco Giants continue to struggle, performing well below the expectations of the teams management, the fans and many sabermeticians. They, to me and many of my friends and readers, appear to lose all the close games, to always be on the wrong end of all the breaks. Why is that? The Giants have lost 24 games by one or two runs. That's half of all their losses!!! Half?!?! Half of the games they've lost were decided by one or two at bats, one or two pitches. Last night, Jensen gave up three(!) two strike home runs.

They have the second best ERA in the National League, and they have scored the third most runs.

But there's no getting around the fact that Shinjo, Snow, Martinez, Feliz, and yes, even Rich Aurilia, all have had sub-par, almost unbelievably ineffective performances this season. So, while Bonds, Kent, Bell, Santiago and Sanders have all been good to outstanding, the team as a whole has been unable to produce, especially in the clutch. Am I the only one who knew that if Kent didn't get it done last night, they were gonna lose? I don't think so.

What about the pitching staff? They too have been, to put it kindly, strangely effective. For the season, the Giants staff has the second best overall ERA in the NL. That's the good news. The bad news is that they put a lot of runners on base. A lot. And therein lies the rub. That could be why it simply appears that they are having bad luck. I heard a caller on the Rick Barry show today say just that about Livan Hernandez, that he was just having the all breaks go against him. Well, Hernandez gives up almost 15 baserunners per nine innings. It's not bad luck when somebody strings four or five of those baserunners in a row against him, it's inevitable. The same thing could be said about Ortiz, or Jensen, or whoever. Without a dominant starting pitcher, they're all pretty much interchangable, seven innings, three runs, ten hits. (My apologies to Jason Schmidt, but he needs to win about five in a row before I call him dominant)

To some small degree, yeah, maybe it is luck. But if it's luck, it's a luck that is the residue of design, in a way.

In reality, this team was always going to win and lose on the edge. When Brian Sabean put this team together in the hopes of contending for a championship, he knew, due to age, salary restrictions, and existing contracts, that he had to rely primarily on just four players to carry the load; Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Felix Rodriguez and Rob Nen. Consequently, because the real strength of the team is so concentrated, a misstep by any one of these four would be tremendously disruptive. The team has endured three such misfires; Kent's slow start, Bonds' recent injury, and Rodriguez's season long funk. There is no way for any team to overcome that much, unless the majority of the secondary players are consistently good (Like the D'backs subs). Not real good, just basically good. That hasn't happened here. The secondary players on the Giants have been horrible. I compared the top five secondary players on the Giants and D'backs (....No Pain) a little while ago, the Giants subs are just not good.

So, you have an offense that puts a ton of pressure on a handful of spots in the lineup, and a starting pitching staff that puts a ton of pressure on the defense and their relievers. Add it up, and you have a 100 games of pressure and stress.

Sabean and Colletti didn't make a big move, basically saying that the team just needed to get healthy. They're right. They need to get healthy in a hurry, and, just as importantly, they need to figure out how to replace Rodriguez spot in the eighth inning. Lost in the shuffle last night was another momentum killing performance. If they get Bonds and Sanders back, they should be able to sew up the Wild Card spot. If Bonds misses more than ten games the rest of the way, I just don't see them holding on.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 1, 2002


..... emails and details



A reader writes,



John, when you saw Lofton hit that ball out on Tuesday night, and the G-Men just catch fire after that, were you reminded of last year when Andres signed with us? I'm probably jumping the gun (optimism never works with the Giants), but a spark like signing Kenny was just what the team needed.

I wish they would have lost Livan. He only started pitching well after the All Star break when he said he wanted to be traded, and knew no one would want him the way he'd pitched the first half. So he has a few good starts trying to impress would-be suitors, but to no avail. Now that he's still with them and didn't get his way, I have a feeling he'll start sucking bad again and wind up in the bullpen. Maybe he'll sprain his ankle in the shower and we won't have to worry about it.

Mike



Mike, Lofton's not just what they needed, he's just needed, period. What they really needed was a .900 OPS first baseman, a .400 OBP leadoff CF, and a #1 starter. They goy a .350 OBP leadoff CF and nothing else. Brian Sabean's inability to make the trade that would have shook up the team puts a lot of pressure on the players still here. I mean, JT has to know he's playing himself out of the league, as is Shinjo, Feliz, and Ramon Martinez. None of them produce when it matters, and I mean never. Watching that game last night, you just knew that if Kent didn't get it done, the game was over, he knew it too; that's why he swung at ball four.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 1, 2002


..... Ouch



That was a tough tough loss. Jensen gave up three, two-strike home runs, Troy Brohaun and Felix Rodriguez combined to give the game away after Bonds tied it up, Kent struck out with the tying runs in scoring position, Bonds aggravated the hamstring.... ouch.

This team hasn't gotten a break all year. Every slicing line drive by the Giants is foul, everyone hit by their opponents is kicking up chalk. Todd Pratt hits his first home run in a year, Ricky Ledee hits a three run, two out, two strike pinch hit homer on a pitch that Jensen was trying to bounce to the plate.

They need the ball to bounce their way soon, or their gonna be watching the playoffs.

Comment on this   [0]  »  August 1, 2002


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