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I’m Embarrassed for ESPN

Posted By Bill Baer On July 18, 2008 @ 7:34 am In Media,MLB,Philadelphia Phillies | 5 Comments

If ESPN was a piñata and you beat it with a stick, ignorance would fall out. Seriously, try it sometime. Picking out stupid statements and awful analysis from ESPN is like picking a minute out of a calendar year. It’s like plucking a blade of grass from the outfield in Coor’s Field. It’s like… should I stop? Yeah, you get it.

So, I was watching a couple ESPN clips posted at The 700 Level regarding the Phillies’ recent acquisition of Joe Blanton and I could not help but write about it. I bashed ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby on Tuesday and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, so hopefully ESPN will go on a streak of sound analysis, at least for the next week.

First video:

Brian Kenny talks with Tim Kurkjian about the Blanton deal. Timmy says, “Joe Blanton is a well-above-average Major League pitcher.” If I was talking to Tim on the Inter-Webs, I’d direct him to the “O Rly?” Owl. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that, over his career, Blanton is the definition of average: his ERA+ is exactly 100 over his career. His career ERA is 4.25 and the AL average ERA over that span is 4.24. His WHIP is decent, but not anything special at 1.33. The only aspect of Blanton that is really above-average is his ability to prevent home runs, but as Dave Cameron explains at FanGraphs,

In general, pitchers whose performance is built on a low HR/FB rate don’t have the same consistent success that pitchers who control the strike zone, and a move from Oakland to Philadelphia could exacerbate the regression in HR/FB rate that Blanton likely has coming.

So, even his ability to prevent homers is likely to regress back to average. Would it have killed Kurkjian to log on to ESPN’s MLB statistics page and find this out for himself?

Second video:

The Baseball Tonight crew — Karl Ravech, Orestes Destrade, Eduardo Perez, and Kurkjian — discusses the Blanton deal. I’ll just list their stupid statements one-by-one.

Kurkjian: “In two starts against the Phillies in his career: dominant; and more important, two starts against the Mets in his career: dominant.”

Has Tim ever heard of a small sample size, or better yet, does he know that two of the four starts he cites occurred in 2005, which was Blanton’s only significantly good season? He had one start against the Phillies and one against the Mets. What relevance do the Phillies and Mets of 2005 have with Blanton in 2008?

Eduardo Perez: “I don’t know if [acquiring Joe Blanton] is going to be enough. You look at the way the Mets in this division the last week and a half, it’s going to be tough for the Phillies — even with Joe Blanton — to catch them.”

At the time Perez said this, which was last night after the Mets beat the Reds 10-8 (and Johan Santana gave up 5 runs in four innings), the Mets were tied for first place with the Phillies. The Phillies have no one to catch!

Secondly, another ESPN analyst delves into the issue of small sample sizes. Yes, the Mets are 10-0 in their last ten games. Take a look at where those wins are coming from, though: one against the Reds (.474), three against the Rockies (.412), three against the Giants (.421), and three (in a four-game series) against the Phillies. The Phillies are the only team above .500 they’ve defeated in their ten-game streak, and two of the three games were close (a 4-2 win in 12 innings, and a 10-9 win where the Mets’ bullpen gave up 8 runs in the last three innings).

The Mets are playing above their means at the moment. While the Mets have been beating up on barely over-.400 teams, the Phillies have had to play the Cardinals (.557) and the NL West-leading Diamondbacks (.495).

This team is riding on all cylinders right now.”

Yes, beating up on bottom-feeding teams. The Phillies’ record against the Reds, Rockies, and Giants? 13-6. Lots of teams “ride on all cylinders” against them.

And I just don’t see how another team in the division can catch up to the Mets.”

Did Perez not pay attention to last season? The Phillies overcame a 7-game deficit with 17 games remaining. The Phillies and Mets are tied atop the East with 66 games left apiece. The Marlins are 1.5 games back with 67 games left, and the Braves are 6.5 games back (and under-performing their expected W-L) with 67 left.

What do the Mets have over anyone else? Their rotation is not much better than the Phillies’. Their bullpen is comparable to the Phillies’, though the Phillies’ is better. Their offense is not as good and their bench is not as deep. Even on defense, the Mets have an .819 team RZR, but the Phillies are right behind at .817. The Mets have no advantages over the Phillies.

You’ve got a supporting cast of Fernando Tatis and Damion Easley that’s adding a lot more ‘oomph’ to the Mets.”

The amount of at-bats Tatis has had between 2004 and the start of the 2008 season? 56. Fifty-six. Fifty-freakin’ six at-bats in four seasons. This season, he has a .359 BABIP. His performance is not for real. He’s had two above-average seasons in his career, and they were at the turn of the millennium in 1999 and 2000. If you want to count his 56 at-bats in ’06 with the Orioles, he had an amazing 106 OPS+.

Damion Easley has a 91 OPS+. He has a sub-.400 SLG. His .716 RZR at second base would rank dead last if he had enough innings to qualify.

Tatis and Easley does not a good bench make.

. . .

Oddly enough, Orestes Destrade makes the most sound points on the panel, and he’s usually the one who makes forced sterilization seem like a sensible option.

The last thing I want to do is screech incessantly about the shortcomings of ESPN because I’d never run out of material, but I just felt this was so bad it had to be pointed out. I’ll call my cable and Internet provider and see about having ESPN blocked from my TV and from the Internet on my computer. Who knows? My blood pressure might deflate.


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