Crash Bag, Vol. 35: Let’s Throw Jeff Loria Into Sagittarius A*

NO TIME FOR INTROS. TO THE QUESTIONS:

@GoogTheGoog: “I just got a big fancy iPod. I also drive a car for ten hours at a time for my job. Please recommend podcasts for me.”

It wasn’t 10 hours (jesus christ exactly what are you doing anyway), but there was about a half of a year period from 2011-2012 when I was living in Philadelphia and working in Washington, D.C. I tried to limit myself to making the trip twice a week, departing Monday morning and returning Friday evening, but it’s still a bastard of a drive, mostly owing to the inscrutable tangle of traffic-choked roads surrounding D.C., and whatever the hell is going on in Delaware at any given time (miles and miles of construction work, and the heady odors of what I assume is some kind of industrial solvent). Eventually I grew accustomed enough that it seemed shorter, and I had valuable intelligence on which exit had the best Wawa (exit 74 northbound, Joppatowne/MD-152), and how long a driver can admire the view from the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge before they’re endangering the lives of everyone around them (no more than 3 seconds). I also listened to a lot of podcasts. Here is an incomplete list, in no particular order, of those that took the edge off of Hell Commute:

  • Dinner Party Download: An hour-long show of cultural snippets, formatted and structured like a dinner party. Segments include “Cocktails,” in which some notable event this-week-in-history is covered, and a bartender commemorates it with an original cocktail recipe, “Guest List,” wherein a director or actor or writer or musician of note makes a themed list, “Main Course,” a food segment, and “Etiquette,” where some celebrity or other answers listener-submitted etiquette questions. This episode will give you a good sampling (segment breakdown included at the link)
  • 99% Invisible: Fascinating podcast about the intersection of design and our everyday lives. Roman Mars has a knack for untangling the design concepts behind everyday stuff that we would rarely consider from that perspective. For example, take this episode about the problems with US currency design.
  • Radiolab: You’ve probably heard about this one. Usually a three-part, hour-long take on a science-y topic, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Abumrad also engineers the final product, making great use of music and sound editing to draw you into the story. Highly addictive if you can get past Krulwich’s occasionally insufferable sentimentality and question-begging. One of my favorite episodes is Musical Language, but one of my all-time favorite individual segments from any podcast is this from the episode “Diagnosis.” Seriously, give that a listen, starting at 10:20.
  • WireTap: CBC show with humorous sketches and the like. Impenetrable deadpan from host Jonathan Goldstein. Check out The Reverse Life for a taste (you might have to go to iTunes for this one).
  • This American Life: I feel like I don’t need to say much about this one. It’s the Ty Cobb of podcasts, except, as far as I know, Ira Glass isn’t a virulent racist. Check out their episodes on the bank collapses and the housing crisis for a better layman’s understanding than you could hope to achieve most anywhere else. Bonus fantastic investigation of the financial crisis in 2008: Inside Job.
  • Getting Blanked: In my opinion the best baseball podcast. Manageable length, very relaxed discourse, covers everything you might want to know, and, during the season, is available on a daily basis.

@sixerfan1220: “rad goggles dog or rad goggles cat?”

REAL GOGGLES DOG

@tholzerman: “What do you think Ben Revere has to do to a) become a 4+ WAR player on a regular basis and b) avoid Chickie’s and Pete’s forever?”

In the practical sense, in order to become a 4+ win player, Ben Revere has to become a player other than Ben Revere. In the theoretical sense, it’s a little more complicated. Baseball Reference and Fangraphs’ WAR flavors disagree on Revere’s 2012 to the tune of about one win, with the former pegging him at 2.4 WAR and the latter 3.4. Just for completeness, Baseball Prospectus’ WARP logs a 1.1.

These aren’t necessarily so disparate as they appear; Fangraphs awarded more wins above replacement to the league as a whole than Baseball Reference did, and Baseball Prospectus awarded fewer. Handily, Bryan Grosnick has devised a methodology to place these three WAR sources on a level playing field, so that they can then be averaged together into what he calls WARi, or WAR Index. Applying this to Revere, his adjusted rWAR, fWAR, and WARP values are 2.4, 2.9, and 1.4 respectively; his WARi is therefore 2.2.

In the best estimation, then, Revere needs to add about 2 wins, or 20 runs above replacement, to meet your goal. Where these would come from is not readily apparent. As the presumptive full time CF next season, he does get some help in the positional adjustment department, since all flavors penalized him for playing more than twice as many innings in right field last season (708.1) as he did in center (309.0). Let’s call it a five run swing for him. 15 runs to go. Since his defensive prowess is fairly established, and he was near the top of the league in Fangraphs’ defensive runs above replacement last year, his bat is the natural place to look.

Revere is essentially the April 2012 Phillies in one player — singles first, and little to no hope for extra bases or a free pass. People are quick to point to his youth, but I don’t see the upside in these departments. As power goes, he’s abysmal, with a .044 ISO in the first 1064 plate appearances of his career. This number is the absolute worst among all qualified hitters from 2010-2012, with Juan Pierre in second at .049 (I’ll leave you to draw comparisons). Sure, Revere is young, but he’s not a 20, 21, or 22 year old kid who is just starting to fill out a large frame. He’s 5’9″, 170 lbs., and those numbers aren’t likely to change that much. Neither is his ISO.

His walk rate is also miserable, 5.4% for his career, ranking him 204th out of 230 qualified hitters from 2010-2012. It’s somewhat more plausible that this could improve with age — Revere could simply become more selective. But there is no reason why pitchers need to give him anything to be picky about. Imagine you’re a pitcher staring down Revere, knowing that the worst case scenario, if you really mess up, is probably a line drive single to the outfield. Actually, it’s more likely to be a grounder; those accounted for 67% of Revere’s balls in play last season. Why would you pitch around him? Why wouldn’t you attack the strike zone, knowing Revere’s capacity for doing damage is severely limited? Clearly this does not bode well for his walk rate’s potential improvement.

If anything, the remaining value will have to come from that by which Revere lives and dies — the single. Revere’s career BABIP is .308, and last season it was .325. That seems high, but for a speedy left-hander with good contact skills, I think we can assume his true BABIP skill rests around .320. The highest single-season BABIP for a qualified post-integration hitter is Rod Carew‘s insane .408 in 1977. That seems ambitious. Let’s assume Revere has a ton of good fortune and posts a .385 BABIP, putting him in more plausible company as far as single seasons go. Applying this to his 553 plate appearances in 2012 generates 27 more hits: 24 singles, 2 doubles, and a triple, going by his real-life ratios. This boosts his triple slash to .346/.382/.415. In FanGraphs terms, it raises his wOBA to .378 (from .300), and gives him an extra 38 or so weighted runs created, which should get him over the 4 win mark by all of the measures. That’s just an extremely improbable season, even for a guy like Revere.

But we might be missing the point. Revere doesn’t have to be a 4 win player. Revere can be, say, a 2.5 win player, much further within the realm of possibility, and be just fine as an everyday starter, presuming the Phillies get a lot of above average production from other positions in the field. And it’s that last presumption that could be a serious issue in 2013.

Wait, this is supposed to be a funny column, isn’t it? Shit.

@SoMuchForPathos: “When was the last time you went on the Internet and did not become filled with a mindbending case of the angries?”

I don’t understand how I developed this reputation. Seriously. Very strange. People who only know me via this blog or Twitter would be surprised to find out I very rarely get truly angry. It’s just fun to yell at umpires and Ruben Amaro and Congress and Piers Morgan. It’s fun to seek out utter shitheads on Twitter and scream profanities at them. And to remind Josh Lueke that he’s a piece of garbage on a regular basis. So I do. But there are indeed things on the internet that do not make me ornery. FOR EXAMPLE:

@magoplasma: “how would you explain your sister in a haiku? Various other questions about your sister.”

Maggie is the shit / Manny Machado, really / you get the idea

@JakePavorsky: “You and Baumann are locked in a room. The only way to get out is to kill the other. Who wins?”

You’ve left out a ton of relevant information here. Size of the room? Available weapons? Ambient conditions? As it is, you’ve left me to imagine a plain, empty room, with hand-to-hand combat the only available option. That being the case, though to my knowledge neither of us have formal training, I’d have to give the edge to Baumann, since I’m older and fat and in gritty action movies where the protagonist is taking every possible measure in a desperate bid for survival, I wonder why they didn’t give up and die like twenty minutes ago. Being generally civilized folk though, I think we’d instead elect to sit around and wait the thing out, to see if some other solution presents itself before we both starve to death. In that scenario, Baumann would almost certainly win by exploding my head with his terrible opinions about Star Trek and the designated hitter. SPEAKING OF WHICH:

@notkerouac: “If the DH is brought to the National League, what large animal should we feed Bud Selig too?”

HAHA IDIOTS. You’ve put Crashbag in the hands of a DH apologist. No, not a DH apologist. A DH advocate. Because pitchers batting is the most worthless thing on the planet, and if you don’t want to watch old dudes hit dingers instead, you’re deluded. If we were to feed Bud Selig to a large animal for anything (and it should be a tiger or other big cat, incidentally; I fear that a bear would finish the job too quickly), it should be the second wildcard, a true abomination unto baseball that is actually worthy of the effort that Baumann instead spends on griping about AL at-bats because they’re too interesting. Honestly, I’m convinced the anti-DH sentiment comes from two loathsome sources: a stubborn attachment to tradition and the fetishization of the ball in play. The perils of the former need no further demonstration than Murray Chass’s Hall of Fame ballot. Seriously, read that, DH-o-phobes. That is you. As for the latter, to hell with defense. Give me all of the true outcomes. Go start some other baseball league and watch your pitchers leg out boring ground balls.

@threwouttime: “what gave/gives better chance for Halladay to win: 2010 Phillies or 2013 Blue Jays?”

It’s interesting that you chose the 2010 Phillies, because my immediate impulse is that, of all of the successful Phillies teams, including 2008, the 2011 squad offered the best chance at a championship. But I guess it depends on how you look at it. If you assume that the most talented team has the best chance of winning the World Series, then I think my answer stands. But, as we know, the playoffs are basically a small sample roll of the dice for even the best baseball teams, and all you can do is make marginal improvements to your odds. So if you give the 2010 Phillies credit for having managed to advance further than the 2011 team, they’re the ones with which to make the comparison. The problem then becomes that we have no earthly idea whether the 2013 Jays will make the playoffs, and, if they do, how far they would advance.

Dan Szymborski wrote in mid-December, following their acquisition of R.A. Dickey, that his ZiPS projection system saw the Jays as a 93 win team. If you conservatively estimate Halladay to be a 4 win pitcher, pushing the roughly replacement level Ricky Romero out of the rotation, they could win 96 or 97. It’s hard to win that many and miss the postseason. So if we assume the Jays are good enough to get in the door, their chances are just as good as those of the Phillies at the outset of the 2010 postseason. For that matter, if they finish with 102 wins, they could just as easily be bounced out by an inferior team, as the 2011 Phillies were. With a gun to my head, after pleading with you to put it down, I would probably lean towards the 2010 Phillies as the surer bet, but only because I have the benefit of hindsight, and the 2013 Jays have yet to play a game. What’s really sad is that you didn’t think to ask this question with the 2013 Phillies.

@kgeich67: “Three way steel cage match between Utley, Papelbon, and Lee. Who wins/How does it play out?”

There is absolutely no way Lee does not win this. I imagine Papelbon will bring the bluster, trying to rope a passive Utley into his “HOLD ME BACK, BRO, HOLD ME BACK” saber-rattling, but Lee will just take him apart with calm, redneck efficiency. Papelbon evidently can put on a sleeper hold, but there’s just no way you can convince me that Cliff Lee hasn’t wrestled a crocodile, or hunted a wild hog bare-handed. Utley will stand by, watch Papelbon get put down, and draw a walk in a 9 pitch plate appearance.

@fgmsalvia: “what’s the point anyway?”

I’m assuming, mostly since your name includes “salvia,” that this is a question about the larger purpose of the universe. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s take on this is pretty great:

The upshot being, if the universe does have some purpose, it’s either incredibly subtle or the universe is extraordinarily bad at fulfilling it. If you consider the things that the universe is good at doing — being enormous and vacuous, and increasing entropy — there’s a decent argument to be made that its purpose is to impersonate Joe West.

@pivnert: “ZiPS projections show ben revere hitting his 1st HR. what does he trade to the person that catches it? old twins stuff?”

If Revere hits one, and only one, home run next season, he should first of all give Dan Szymborski his game-worn jersey, for being the only person that believed he could do it. To whomever caught it, in my book, he owes only a signed ball or bat. The whole Chris Coghlan thing soured me on holding milestone balls hostage. If he was feeling extra generous, he could take the fan out to Chickie & Pete’s for some kind of garbage looking meat miasma on a roll.

@SoMuchForPathos: “Are people who think one can trade for (The Mighty) Giancarlo Stanton a member of the same species as you or me?”

People who think that the Marlins might trade Stanton at all are indeed the same species as you and I; they are only human. It’s only human to imagine, after watching Jeff Loria build a tacky multimillion dollar aquarium on the public dime and unload nearly all of the worthwhile talent he acquired within the same calendar year, that he might punch Miami in the balls once more by dealing Stanton. It’s only human to imagine he would be just that much of a shit heap. But Loria is merely penurious and evil, not brainless. After all, the package the Marlins got back in the Jays deal was not, strictly speaking, a bad return, it was just a lurch toward yet another inexpensive, non-competitive big league team. Loria would not dream of letting Stanton slip from his claws until he at least is arbitration eligible, which happens in 2014. People warn us not to attribute to malice what can just as easily be attributed to stupidity, but, to my mind, Jeff Loria is Exhibit A in the case for reversing that adage.

Arright, that’s all I got. It wasn’t as funny or verbose as you’re used to, but I didn’t mention a certain Red Sox prospect even once.

Leave a Reply

*

43 comments

  1. Tim

    January 04, 2013 10:25 AM

    Great article by Chass. It’s just too bad you eggheads don’t have a formula for intestinal fortitude or determination.

  2. LTG

    January 04, 2013 10:32 AM

    Does Baumann continue to post GIFs from Nemesis just to annoy all reasonable Star Trek fans?

  3. Ryan Sommers

    January 04, 2013 10:41 AM

    I bet you could probably make a reasonable formula for intestinal fortitude based on tract length, elasticity, number of probiotics, etc.

  4. BradInDC

    January 04, 2013 11:44 AM

    That Revere HR projection has to be an inside the park shot, no?

  5. whitstifier

    January 04, 2013 11:51 AM

    Revere did only play 124 games last season. Do you think that he will regress defensively or offensively? If not, then it is not unreasonable to think he can reach 3+ WAR since he projects to play more games as the Phillies’ full time player at CF.

  6. EricL

    January 04, 2013 11:52 AM

    Regarding the DH, can we just skip to the part where there are separate teams for offense and defense, like football?

    Nobody wants to see Ryan Howard or Michael Young field a ball, just like nobody wants to watch Michael Martinez or Ben Revere “hit.”

    Either let everyone bat, or let hitters hit and fielders field; this hybrid DH-only-for-the-pitcher crap is just a weak compromise.

  7. Ryan Sommers

    January 04, 2013 11:55 AM

    Oh man, I love that idea. Build your 35 man rosters accordingly.

    Whitstifier, I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can pick out what, if anything, will regress for Revere. So, put that way, I think you’re correct in that if he has that same season but over 162 games, he could be in the 3 win range. I sort of doubt 4+ though.

  8. LTG

    January 04, 2013 12:09 PM

    Wait, wait, wait. Separating offense and defense would drastically reduce the difficulty of building a good team, thereby reducing reward for having better front office and managerial minds designing teams. Finding the right balance between offensive and defensive competence in position players is difficult and bears many solutions. In contrast, it is impossible to intend to develop or have good hitting pitchers as a strategy. It is just a bonus when it happens. So, replacing the pitcher with a DH does not reduce a strategic element of team design. In fact, it probably increases the need for smart allocation of resources. If what we want is competitive play under difficult constraints then we should keep the hitters playing defense. If we want to always watch the best players doing what they are best at, lets get rid of this 30 team BS and just play All-Star Games all the time.

  9. Ryan Sommers

    January 04, 2013 12:38 PM

    Hey y’all my Neil deGrasse Tyson video was not embedding properly so I fixed it

  10. whitstifier

    January 04, 2013 12:43 PM

    Those that argue against the DH system tend toward such logical jumps because a strong case really can’t be made against its adoption by the NL.

    After the regulars there are separate corps that exist solely to provide offensive or defensive value, see the bench players and the bullpen, and this happens in both leagues. Further separation may occur among the bench corps where there can be defensive and offensive players. The intersection between the regulars and the specialty players, or that which occurs under the DH system, is an exception and only that. Sometimes this line gets a a bit blurred but there is no indication that specialty players will dominate the league in time.

    So why else do people oppose the DH system? Pitchers need to hit to preserve the beauty of this grand old game! Oh please, there’s nothing pure about watching a pitcher attempt to awkwardly ply an unfamiliar trade. The activity represents the opposite: an archaic incompleteness. This is not to say that watching pitchers try to hit is not entertaining because it can be. However, this also does not mean it is an important part of baseball that must be preserved.

  11. Ryan Sommers

    January 04, 2013 12:52 PM

    Also my friend Rob provided some additional support for my Joe West/universe metaphor:

    12:45 PM
    me: upon review I missed a golden opportunity to include “blasting jets of gas for thousands of light years” in the metaphor

    12:46 PM
    Robert: oh man yeah

    i mean, there are probably endless cosmic processes that joe west also performs being 99.999999999999% utterly inhospitable to human life

    me: hahaha

    12:47 PM
    Robert: expanding at a phenomenal rate, warping commonplace understanding of space and time, at least at the edges (of the strike zone or otherwise)

    12:48 PM
    and of course, to bring it back to the original question: making us question what it is we’re doing here and if there is any order to it all

  12. NatsLady

    January 04, 2013 01:49 PM

    It would be TOTALLY unfair to have the DH in the NL–speaking as a fan of a team that has good-hitting pitchers (OK, Ross Detwiler is not a good hitter). Stras is such a good hitter that he was seriously considered as a PH/DH in the postseason (if we’d gotten as far as needing a DH). We got a new guy this year, Dan Haren, who has a lifetime BA of .232. WHY WHY WHY are you trying to disadvantage the Nats? Oh, right, forgot where I was posting….

  13. EricL

    January 04, 2013 02:09 PM

    Whit, I don’t get it? You think that full offensive and defensive squads is a “logical jump?”

    No, it’s the extension of the same argument, but applied to all the players, not just the bench and pitchers. If we don’t want to watch ineptitude, why must we be subjected to Ryan Howard trying to throw a baseball to second base, when it’s painfully obvious the only real skill he has is that he can mash baseballs thrown to him?

    Football is the most popular sport in the United States, by far, and they use the two-platoon system, having abandoned the notion that hybridized offensive-defenses (or defensive-offenses, I suppose) are best 50 years ago. I’m not sure why the same wouldn’t be true for baseball.

    LTG: (Does L stand for Luddite?)

    Why do we want “competitive play under difficult constraints?” Might we not prefer, “competitive, exceptional, entertaining play under slightly less difficult constraints?”

    Also, reducing the difficulty of constructing a team would actually be good for the Phillies, since they’re a high-payroll, large-market team with a boob for a GM.

    The argument against a two-platoon system is really the antiquated, nostalgia-ridden one. The pitcher-DH is just a silly recognition that you want to see players doing that which they do best the most, but without actually finishing that thought to what it logically entails. So we see garbage-hitting middle infielders and catchers and terrible defensive corner players who can rake. Worst of both worlds.

  14. Ben

    January 04, 2013 02:17 PM

    In all honesty, that Joe West joke was amazing…bravo

  15. LTG

    January 04, 2013 02:29 PM

    Luddite, hilarious!

  16. LTG

    January 04, 2013 02:41 PM

    Anyway, my main point was not so much to argue against the football-ization of MLB, although I think that would undermine some of the interesting, not on the field, aspects of MLB. My main point was that you can reasonably approve of the DH without approving of the offense/defense system. The slope is not slippery. (I’m sorry if this wasn’t clear due to my soggy mind.)

    In other words, “The argument against a two-platoon system is really the antiquated, nostalgia-ridden one,” is false. There is a reason, even if not conclusive, against the “two-platoon system”.

    I’m still curious, though, why the “two-platoon” argument does not entail that we should have a league composed of a small handful of superteams rather than the menagerie that MLB is today. Thoughts, Big E?

  17. whitstifier

    January 04, 2013 05:27 PM

    EricL, what necessitates the implementation of a two platoon system in baseball? The product on the field is quite good. There is ineptitude enough to worsen the overall product any great amount. Your idea is very extreme. Have you considered its many obvious problems?

  18. whitstifier

    January 04, 2013 05:28 PM

    There is not enough*

  19. LTG

    January 04, 2013 06:03 PM

    The argument goes:
    1. It is rational to prefer the best possible competition on the field.
    2. The best possible competition on the field is only produced if the best player at each individuable role plays each role.
    3. Each individuable role will be filled with the best player only if hitters need not defend and vice-versa.
    4. Therefore, it is rational etc.

    I find 1. the most objectionable premise. Why is it rational to maximize one form of competition in MLB without considering other ways in which MLB teams compete, e.g., through choices about how to design a good team?

    Notice a mere preference to maximize on-field competition is not enough for the argument. The preference must be the rational one. Thus, “Why do we want ‘competitive play under difficult constraints?’ Might we not prefer, ‘competitive, exceptional, entertaining play under slightly less difficult constraints?’” is a failed response. I can say, “Yes, but ‘we’ might also prefer slightly less on-field competition for the sake of competition in other forms and, thereby, reach a different conclusion about what ‘we’ ought to do.”

  20. whitstifier

    January 04, 2013 08:02 PM

    Right, I understand the premise of the argument. I just don’t see how anyone can justify its application. Baseball regulars can handle their defensive and offensive assignments well enough to provide value that is why they are regulars. The one problem is starting pitchers in the NL. This can be fixed with the DH system. But, why implement a two platoon system when there is no need for such a drastic change? It fits with football, sure. I really don’t think it would work for baseball. At all.

  21. Richard

    January 04, 2013 11:06 PM

    Isn’t it a bit tautological to continue to cite Revere’s low ISO and high groundball tendencies? Seems to me that Revere needs to hit more balls in the air, these are more likely to be line drives or gappers.

  22. Richard

    January 04, 2013 11:23 PM

    Revere could drop his GB rate quite a bit and still be basically a groundball/speed guy, yet be much more valuable by virtue of hitting more liners and flyballs. He has a low IF/FB rate, and a decent line drive rate. Convert a few of those grounders into liners, a few into flyballs, have his extra-base hits shake out according to how they do now (per LD or FB, that is), throw in a fluke homer here or there, and that ISO will be nothing like .044. His defense and baserunning could, on rate bases, remain static, but by virtue of more playing time, and all in center, easily be a 4 WAR player. (Though your final point–that he doesn’t need to be to be valuable–is certainly valid.)

  23. Michael Baumann

    January 04, 2013 11:48 PM

    If he’s trading grounders for fly balls, he’s not doing himself any favors. He doesn’t have enough power to get a ton of extra bases out of fly balls. Grounders tend to have a higher BABIP than fly balls, particularly with guys who are as fast as Revere. So if he tries to hit fly balls rather than grounders, he’s actually hurting himself.
    And if he could hit more line drives, I’m sure he would.

  24. LTG

    January 04, 2013 11:49 PM

    Richard,

    “Convert a few of those grounders into liners, a few into flyballs, have his extra-base hits shake out according to how they do now (per LD or FB, that is), throw in a fluke homer here or there, and that ISO will be nothing like .044.”

    You start this sentence like you’ve done the math, but then you conclude vaguely. So, which is it? How much of a change could we expect if Revere started to hit slightly below center of the ball more often?

  25. LTG

    January 05, 2013 12:05 AM

    Whist,

    “Baseball regulars can handle their defensive and offensive assignments well enough to provide value that is why they are regulars.”

    False. Here are recent and current Phillies who would not play defense in a “two-platoon system” (non-exhaustive).

    Pat Burrell
    Ryan Howard
    Michael Young
    Laynce Nix
    Ty Wigginton
    Dom Brown
    Darin Ruf
    Michael Martinez (maybe he doesn’t count)
    Raul Ibanez
    Older Bobby Abreu
    Wilson Valdez (maybe he doesn’t count too)

    Presumably, if the Phillies could have, for example, kept Burrell in the lineup but used a defensive specialist in LF, they would have because the defensive performance would have been better.

    Also, what do you mean by “the premise”? I listed 3 premises. We can object to each one separately.

  26. Pete

    January 05, 2013 12:19 AM

    EricL…spot…on. The move to a DH only for pitchers is a logically inconsistent position, and the only defense for it now rests on tradition. Let’s complete the transition. Watching Howard field run is no fun either. Answer: designated runners. Watching Juan Pierre throw is hell. Answer: designated throwers.

  27. EricL

    January 05, 2013 12:20 AM

    A few responses in one here:

    First, my earlier snipe at RAJ notwithstanding, I don’t necessarily concede that going to an NFL-style offense/defense would minimize the skill required of a front office. The priorities would have to be somewhat different, but roster construction would still allow for many variations and philosophies regarding where best to allocate the limited monies each team must use to construct their full roster. I think most NFL fans would argue that roster construction is not at all simplistic.

    Second, the ideal number of teams in a league is a separate question entirely. Regardless of the number of teams in the league you’re always likely to find players that are better suited to hitting than defense and vice versa. Of the top 9 offensive players in baseball last season (sorted by wRC+), six of them are negative defenders over their careers, most by a significant margin, one is basically even (Headley), with only Buster Posey and Mike Trout being pluses on the defensive side of the ball. So, even if you shrunk the teams (which, while increasing the level of competition, would likely result in a loss of fans due to the lack of local exposure to the game) you would still be forced to watch players some combination of diminished offense or defense. The best hitters, by and large, are not the best defenders. If the goal is to watch the best hitters hit and the best fielders field, we cannot accomplish this goal without a dual-platoon, NFL-style system.

    Which brings me to point three: If you don’t believe it’s rational to watch the best possible players on the field, I do not see why one would care whether or not a pitcher swings a bat. It seems arbitrary to argue that a pitcher shouldn’t hit because pitchers are bad at hitting because their focus is on a different skill set, but that shortstops should hit even though they’re bad at hitting because their focus is defense over offense.

    Which is fine as there’s nothing particularly unique or disqualifying about a subjective preference – but if that’s the tack you’re going to take, then call it for what it truly is, rather than trying to support it with a logical explanation. (Unless you want to say it’s logical to be capricious in your application of the premises under which you create your set of ideal rules, in which case I’ll just give up now)

    Finally, excellent two-way players would still be quite valuable (in fact more so than they are now), because they would open up an extra roster spot for those teams lucky enough to have an exceptionally well rounded player or two. This enhances the strategic aspects of player/personnel moves. (I guess this last one might be incorporated into the first point, but it’s down here now, so oh well.)

  28. whitstifier

    January 05, 2013 10:11 AM

    Can pitchers hit or run the bases as well as shortstops?

  29. Richard

    January 05, 2013 10:16 AM

    In truth, I’d eye-balled the figures last night, but didn’t have time for the math. I did the math just now, and…. well, the main change–if BB and K rates remain more or less the same, the GB rate goes down to 60%, while the ratio of LD to FB, of balls in the air, is 60/40, while averages and distribution of hits among batted ball types remains more or less static–well, the main change is Revere becomes something like a .340 hitter, which is admittedly kind of silly, with an ISO of roughly .070, which isn’t much better is it? Based on 700 PAs, I ended up with 20 doubles, 8 triples, gave him one homer.

    So I withdraw the apparent specificity of my original comments. If you upped his “balls-in-air” rate, but kept the same distribution of extra-base hits, his ISO would not radically improve. Whether keeping the same distribution or not is a good assumption, I don’t know. But I was also making other seemingly valid assumptions (roughly same rate stats per ball type as in 2012, etc), and those gave him a .340 BA, so…

    Though of course if he did that he’d be enormously valuable, wouldn’t he? Real life rarely works out like that.

  30. LTG

    January 05, 2013 10:22 AM

    “I don’t necessarily concede that going to an NFL-style offense/defense would minimize the skill required of a front office.” Who said anything about minimizing? I claimed the ‘two-platoon’ system would reduce it. Minimizing would probably require playing with robots.

    Again, the preference that begins your argument is not uniquely rational (not objective rather than subjective) because it arbitrarily limits the scope of MLB competition to the play on the field. Another, equally rational preference would maximize competition over a greater scope, both on and off field. I see no rational principle that decides between those two scopes. So, it seems to me which to use is just a matter of cultural norms, which are neither subjective nor objective.

    “I think most NFL fans would argue that roster construction is not at all simplistic.” The NFL analogy is a bit misleading. First, the salary cap places restraints on roster construction not found in MLB. Second, the games are completely different. There are more specific roles, requiring specific skills, in football than in baseball. Further, the variety of viable strategies in football is greater than in baseball, which allows for more nuanced decisions about roster construction. So, yeah, the NFL’s obsession with the division of labor probably enhances front office and management competition. But that does not mean it will do so for MLB.

    “If you don’t believe it’s rational to watch the best possible players on the field, I do not see why one would care whether or not a pitcher swings a bat.” As I said above, adding the DH enhances the difficulties of roster construction in the MLB. So it serves not just to maximize on-field competition but off-field competition as well. That sounds like rationality to me.

    ” (Unless you want to say it’s logical to be capricious in your application of the premises under which you create your set of ideal rules, in which case I’ll just give up now)” This is not what anyone is saying and it doesn’t help your case. You have to establish a uniquely rational preference that everyone ought to have, not that there is a uniquely rational way to apply the premises everyone already accepts.

    “the ideal number of teams in a league is a separate question entirely. Regardless of the number of teams in the league you’re always likely to find players that are better suited to hitting than defense and vice versa.” You’ve missed the point. A smaller number of teams maximizes on-field competition over a larger number of teams, at least up to a threshold where we cannot distinguish the talents any longer. The fact that we have All-Star games indicates we have too many teams right now. Carry your premises to their consequences and we ought to shrink MLB by a lot, unless you can find a principle that limits its maximizing effects. But that will probably look ad hoc and make us wonder why the maximization principle was uniquely rational in the first place.

    Finally, how about next time, Big E, you skip the insults and glib responses and get right to engaging in rational discourse.

  31. whitstifier

    January 05, 2013 10:23 AM

    Don’t bother answering that one. Stupid question.

  32. LTG

    January 05, 2013 10:30 AM

    Richard,

    One worry about your work. If Revere tried to hit more balls in the air, the ratio of LDs to FBs would probably decrease because he would be more often erring below center. Fewer LDs will reduce that jump in AVG.

  33. Richard

    January 05, 2013 10:58 AM

    LTG -

    Yeah, that was but one possible conclusion I drew when I saw the results I came up with. Thanks.

  34. Richard

    January 05, 2013 11:32 AM

    btw, I made a mistake: forgot to include Ks when calculating BA. Added back in, and the BA based on the above assumptions is a still fantastic but less ridiculous .325.

    For kicks, I modified the assumptions. Moved his GB% down to 55%, but capped LD% at 21% (his career high is 19.9%), all other assumptions the same. In this run, I get a .308 BA & .373 SLG (.386 SLG for the above). So, yeah, unless something else changes, his ISO isn’t going much higher either way. Though he’d still be better under these conditions (again, possibly some dubious assumptions factored in).

  35. LTG

    January 05, 2013 11:42 AM

    Interesting. Thanks, Richard! I wonder what the sages on this site think about this thought experiment.

  36. EricL

    January 05, 2013 01:06 PM

    LTG, brifely:

    1. When you say: “Separating offense and defense would drastically reduce the difficulty of building a good team” and “adding the DH enhances the difficulties of roster construction in the MLB” I do not agree. This is not a question that can be tested empirically, of course, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    2. This: “it is impossible to intend to develop or have good hitting pitchers as a strategy” is also not correct.

    So, to me, the premises which underlie your argument for a pitcher-only DH, are not at all sound.

    3. When I wrote “minimize” I meant “reduce,” which I would have thought might be self-evident from the context. My apologies if there was any confusion.

    3. I don’t find anything wrong with limiting my premise to one specific aspect of a sport or another, because at their cores, all sports are comprised of a handful of arbitrary rules. As they say in physics, I’m selecting my system. In this instance, I’m positing a rule change that would maximize the on-field quality for all currently existing franchises. I’m not particularly concerned with the ease or difficulty in constructing such a roster, but do not think it would change materially from the status quo.

    4. Sorry if you don’t like my jokes; I realize tone is sometimes difficult to discern in e-print. That said, in the immortal words of Sgt. Hulka, lighten up, Francis.

  37. LTG

    January 05, 2013 01:53 PM

    “This: ‘it is impossible to intend to develop or have good hitting pitchers as a strategy’ is also not correct.” You might be interested in reading this: www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/pitcher-hitting-through-the-lens-of-competition/

    Maybe not conceptually impossible but pragmatically impossible.

    “I don’t find anything wrong with limiting my premise to one specific aspect of a sport or another, because at their cores, all sports are comprised of a handful of arbitrary rules.” Again, this is giving away your argument. You wanted to establish a uniquely rational conclusion about league design. Now you are admitting that your argument depends on an arbitrary choice that is not better or worse than another arbitrary choice. You cannot accuse the other side of being blinded by tradition if the choice of whether to remain traditional is arbitrary. The tradition has to be standing in the way of achieving a goal we ought to share. I didn’t say you are wrong in preference-choice. I said that your choice is not uniquely correct, as far as I can tell. You need the strong premise. I don’t.

    Dude, I like jokes and snark and irony. But jokes are funny. When they aren’t funny they’re just insults. It’s a cop-out to use insults in an argument, interpret your interlocutor uncharitably, and then claim that you were just being “funny”.

  38. Phillie697

    January 07, 2013 03:04 PM

    More analysis, but less funny. No offense Ryan, but I want MB back :P

    FYI, my one and only reason against the DH is that with it, we’d never ever ever have a chance to find out if another Babe Ruth is in fact possible.

  39. Phillie697

    January 08, 2013 11:30 AM

    @LTG,

    Sometimes, your arguments are a bit… out there. Comparing my comment about another Babe Ruth to Heraclitus is inapropos. Can there be another fat dude who womanized a lot but also pitched more than 1,200 innings with a career ERA of 2.28, in addition to hitting 714 HRs? Probably not.

    But might there be someone who can both pitch and hit at an All-Star level some day? Heck yes. Think Ankiel, without developing Steve Blass syndrome, and who hit like it was 2007 (.863 OPS from the pitching position? I wonder what kind of positional adjustment you should get for that…).

  40. LTG

    January 09, 2013 10:08 PM

    On the one hand, it was primarily meant to be tongue-in-cheek, especially since the aphorism has a couple of interpretations that could be applied to the case and produce different results.

    On the other hand, if another player were both a great hitter and a very good pitcher, he would probably have to be a far superior athletic talent to Babe Ruth, given the increased talent and specialization in the game. Hence, remaining the same in virtue of changing just like a river.

    And as far as where am I, the longer the bridge, the better the hike.

  41. LTG

    January 09, 2013 10:13 PM

    But now that I take your first comment seriously, wouldn’t a DH make it more likely that a Ruth-esque talent would have the opportunity to demonstrate it? It is always an option for the team to elect to hit its pitcher in the DH slot, and when the pitcher is not pitching he can hit as the DH. Am I wrong about this?

Next ArticleSearching for Tools in the Snow: Scouting Philadelphia Area High Schoolers