Oh, Philly fans…

Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News (don’t worry, I think he’s one of the good guys) has a great column on Pat Burrell, aptly titled, “Stats show Pat Burrell’s been steady since 2000.” As if to prove Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger right about comments left on articles on the Internet, the commenters on Hoffman’s piece have come out to display some of the most mind-numbing ignorance I’ve read in a while.

While quoting and critiquing comments is a waste of time and doesn’t have anywhere near as much importance as doing the same to a member of the MSM, I think it’s a good look into what the average Phillies fan really thinks of Burrell and how they really think about baseball. Without further ado, I’ll quote some gems in the comments.

let us not forgot the huge slumps and lack of clutch hits we become accumstomed too over the last 8 years.

Burrell’s career OPS, first half: .852

…career OPS, second half: .869

…March/April: .881

…May: .930

…June: .770

…July: .856

…August: .896

…September/October: .826

His overall career OPS is .859, so we can see that only May and September are clearly below, and July is just around it. He had a really bad first half last season, and his entire 2003 season was awful, but the numbers clearly show that Burrell is pretty consistent month-to-month.

What the stats don’t show is the amount of men on base in Burrell’s career

Plate appearances with runners in scoring position: 1,577.

OPS with RISP: .866

Would you say Ryan Howard is having a great year? If just look at this RBI and homers you would say “yes.”

I don’t think anyone will argue that, at this point in the 2008 season, Ryan Howard is having a great season. However, he’s made some vast improvements considering how awfully he started the season.

if Howard were just batting a marginal .260 with only 20 less strikeouts (which would still put him near the league lead in KO’s) he probably have 20-25 more RBI’s and the team a couple more wins.

Yes, you read that right. This person thinks that for every strikeout you don’t have, you get 1 or 1.25 more RBI as a result.

What I want broken down is Burrell stats in clutch positions. RISP, with two strikes, did the majority of home runs and RBI’s come with the Phillies having a substantial lead in the game.

At least he asked, instead of making baseless assumptions as most Phillies fans do when it comes to Burrell. His OPS with RISP is above.

OPS w/ two strikes: .619 (Derek Jeter, Mr. Clutch, has a .652 OPS with two strikes; most players do not have great success with two strikes)

The rest of his clutch statistics can be found here. Notice that they’re all around the same area — very little deviation. His worst OPS is in tie games (.819) and his best OPS is, oddly enough, when there are two outs and RISP (.885).

I just want a player who is consistent even if they produce less runs.

Wow. This borders on a Joe Morgan level of ignorance. At least he spelled “consistent” correctly; Morgan doesn’t even do that part well.

As Mark Twain once said, “There are three kind of lies; lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Facepalm.

He rarely bats with the bases empty and he plays in Citizens Bank Park.

Plate appearances with the bases empty: 2,534. He’s had 5,036 career PA, so more than half of his PA have come with the bases empty. When the bases are empty, he’s put up an .834 OPS.

As for Citizens Bank Park playing a factor…

OPS at home: .864

OPS away: .855

There’s a slight difference, but it’s so small it can be attributed to randomness, essentially.

You can get numbers to prove anything you want, but in this case, they don’t make a case for him being any kind of star player.

You cannot get numbers “to prove anything you want.” You can manipulate them, but that would be intellectually dishonest and a slight against the user, not on statistics.

“Star player” is a subjective term. If we could all agree on what really constitutes being a “star player,” then we wouldn’t even need to argue about it. His career 120 OPS+ isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. However, as I wrote for Baseball Digest Daily at the beginning of May, Burrell has had four All-Star-caliber seasons and is definitely deserving this year. So, five of his nine seasons have been worthy of an All-Star spot, even though he’s never been. While All-Star nominations are not a great way of determining a player’s value, I think it lends credence to Burrell’s being a “star player.”

How many runs does his defense cost the Phils when pop flys turn into doubles.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Burrell has been 7 fielding runs above average (FRAA) this season. Over his entire career, he’s -21 FRAA over 8.5 seasons which comes out to about -2.5 runs per season, or about a quarter of a win per season. So, evey four seasons, Burrell costs his team one win defensively. Not much at all.

Get ready for this one. This is “facepalm” times ten.

But he is disrespectful, not indifferent, to the media and fans. Since last season he has used the opening bars of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” as his “coming to bat” music. Its lyrics (written while Henley was seeing tabloid headlines about his messy divorce) are clearly contemptuous of the media. For a ballpalyer to use it in that manner is also insulting to the home fans. He should change to something else.

Fail.

But wait, there’s more!

And it is a fact that a 3-run HR when you’re already up by 5, or a 2-run HR when you’re down by 7 usually turn out to be meaningless events (anyone remember Abreu The Great?) But, since you believe these “facts” have some form of meaning due to the players numbers being padded, it only proves my point that you can have numbers support whatever argument you choose. The problem with baseball statistics are that no unique numbers exist or are maintained that calculate the events that were “difference makers” in the outcome of games. In other words, the HRs or RBIs that made a difference, not just grand totals that include the not so meaningful ones.

He’s right that no specific data is kept for every event. Burrell doesn’t get marked down for that walk-off two-run home run he hit against the Giants on May 2. He doesn’t get discredited for grounding out to shortstop in the seventh inning with runners on second and third and one out.

However, as Eric Seidman of FanGraphs points out, “Based on his win probability statistics, Burrell has a higher WPA (4.48) than anyone in the sport. Additionally, his WPA/LI of 2.94 ranks second and his clutch score of 1.29 deems him the third clutchiest player in the major leagues.”

If you’re unfamiliar with WPA and LI, you can find definitions here.

Well, those were all of the ignorant comments there. Surprisingly, there were some well-reasoned comments there as well, which disproves Costas and Bissinger’s assumptions that all comments are mean-spirited and ignorant. However, I think it’s safe to say that the comments section there represents a decent cross-section of typical Phillies fans, and it’s a shame that people are so wrong about one of the best players to put on a Phillies uniform.

Adam Dunn and Milton Bradley are really the only interesting free agents that may be available after the season. If the Phillies don’t have either of the two in their future plans, it behooves them to try very hard to get Burrell to sign a three-year extension.

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