Crash Bag, Vol. 102: The Phanatic vs. Mike Trout

Ooh…ahhh…I’ve got an email…oooh…ahh

@GlennQSpooner: “Any chance Phils go out of the org & choose someone w/analytics background as next GM? If so who are some possible candidates?”

I don’t think they’re firing Ruben Amaro anytime soon. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: the current front office regime is not even close to being on its last legs. He’s going to get a chance to fail at a rebuild before the Phillies fire him, and that rebuild isn’t even close to being over. Not even close.

But that’s not the question. I’m inclined to say no, for two reasons. First, the Phillies are something of a conservative organization and second, nobody with an analytics background gets hired as a GM. That’s partially because analytics guys as such, the nerds, haven’t been in front offices long enough to rise to the top. But it’s also because just as a general manager needs a different skill set from a player, he also needs different skills than an analytics guy. A general manager is an executive, an administrator. He runs a wing of a company. So you want him to be open-minded and intelligent and surround himself with people with certain skills, but it’s not necessary for him to have any particular evaluative skills on his own.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 101: Phillies Draft Scenarios

Let’s start with the Question of the Week, which I’d like to rename, because Drew Magary uses that name in his Funbag column on Deadspin, so if you have a better idea, I’m all ears. This email has been edited somewhat for brevity, though Peter said a lot of really nice shit about me, for which I thank him. If you want any question answered at length, send it to crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter to @MJ_Baumann.

Peter, via Email: “Let’s say it’s a perfect world – ie, Selig has finally allowed draft picks to be traded, Monty has named you the GM of the Phillies. How would you play this draft for the Phillies? Would you Hinkie it and trade the 7 and maybe JPC or Tocci or JBJ (er, LGJr, well, Cozens?) for a lower first round pick this year as well as a first or second rounder next year for asset stockpiling purposes, or would you try to use those chips to move up to get Rodon/Aiken, et al?

Additionally, what’s your best and worst case scenario for the draft this year? I suppose that could be too oblique of a question to ask, in that the worst case scenario would be something like “Phillies draft Touki, and his arm explodes after 3 pitches in Lakewood”, but I’m curious about your hope for how the front office approaches both the first rounder and the rest of the draft.”

I was actually going to write a post about this last week, when Keith Law’s first mock draft came out, but Peter’s question was interesting enough that I decided to hold off. I’m going to answer it backwards, with the real-world draft scenarios first.

So here’s the thing. Law has the Phillies drafting LSU righthander Aaron Nola with the No. 7 pick. I adore Aaron Nola. I’ve had Twitter conversations with Chris Branch, the Phillies beat writer for the News Journal and an LSU grad himself, that consist only of the word “Nola” over and over. He’s a stupendous college pitcher and the kind of high-floor, relatively low-ceiling major college draft prospect I once clamored for the Phillies to draft–including a certain Jackie Bradley Jr., once upon a time. Nola is as close as there is to a sure thing to make the transition to mid-rotation big league starter. And I view taking him at No. 7 as the worst-case scenario, or close to it.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 100: She’s Not Having It

HELLO, BOYS.

I’ve finished my book, Philadelphia Phenoms: The Most Amazing Athletes to Play in the City of Brotherly Love, and so I’ve returned to other writing pursuits, which comes out November 4. If you’re the book-readin’ type, please order it on Amazon, and while you’re there, buy Bill’s book too. We actually make money off these books, so if you enjoy the work that we produce here, for free, go buy our books so we can produce more material. Even if you don’t like my writing, buy the book anyway and burn it in protest. My prose is so hot it’s easily flammable. More self-promotion is to come as the release date approaches, so if you lose the link, don’t worry, you’ll see it again.

Before I get into your questions, I want to pull back the curtain for a moment and talk about the future of the Crash Bag. I’ve been doing this for two years now, and I want to liven it up a bit, so what I’d like to do is tweak the format: every week, I’ll take one question and explore it in a sort of post-on-request system, provided I get a worthwhile question, then answer other, shorter questions as they come in. Also, because of changes in my own schedule, I’ll be posting on Wednesdays instead of Fridays from now on. That said, I generally aim to please, so if there’s a particular form or subject you’d rather read, or if you have suggestions of any kind, find me on Twitter at @MJ_Baumann or email me at crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m all ears–I only want to keep doing this if people are enjoying reading it, so I welcome any and all feedback, even if you just want me to keep the Crash Bag the way it is. I legitimately have no idea what you guys think, so don’t be shy.

Now, on to your correspondence. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 99: Baby’s First Democratic System

Gregg Easterbrook once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing, because if I have to sift through a billion TMQ columns to find the exact wording, I will end my life, so help me God): “Writing a book is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.”

I’m writing a book, set to come out in November, ranking the 20 greatest athletes in Philadelphia sports history, and for the next month or so, I’ll be concentrating on finishing that, to the peril of any sort of writing I do for fun, including Crashburn. After 99 weeks of uninterrupted service, I toyed with the idea of just lining up five or six guest columns to fill the space, but what comes back in May will be more purposeful than what you’re reading now, which has largely been the product of inertia. So for the last time, at least for a while, I’ll take your questions.

@Hegelbon: “if the Phillies had to be run like a social political system, which would you choose? I’d pick oligarchy.”

That’s kind of how they’re run right now, isn’t it? One person, or group of people, has all the power and delegates it to a bureaucracy that includes the baseball ops people, the PR people, event planners…it’s not a terrible way to run an organization, and a big reason I’m such a fan of career civil service in actual government: we elect the politicians, who (in theory) reflect our goals as an electorate and translate those goals (national security, economic prosperity, and so on) into achievable policy objectives, then turn to the army of wonks they employ to actually carry out those objectives. Because politicians don’t know dick about how things actually work–wonks do, because they do this for a living.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 98: Carrying Asche Around

I was thinking about heist movies the other day. Heist movies are one of my three favorite genres of movie, along with movies about journalistic ethics and movies where a small group of guys go to do something during World War II. Now, I’ve seen bad examples of the other two, but the worst heist movie I’ve ever seen was Ocean’s 12, which wasn’t horrible in absolute terms so much as it was very clearly half-assed compared to the other two installments in the series. Have I been lucky, or is it just impossible to make a bad heist movie?

But that’s my question. What are yours?

@Living4Laughs: “As a fan of Jimmy Rollins is it best to block out the negative media attention and non fans’ feelings? It bothers me.”

I think that’s what I’m going to have to do, because I tried explaining to someone that Rollins isn’t actually conspicuously selfish and lazy and all that other specious, unfalsifiable (and I believe, racially coded) nonsense that gets thrown around, and even if he is, he’s the best shortstop in team history anyway, so how big a deal can his lack of ostentatious hustle really be? Let’s look at two other infielders: Nick Punto routinely dives into first base, which actually makes him slower to the bag, while Robinson Cano actually does routinely dog it down to first base. Like, it shows up in the numbers and everything. And I love Punto, but he’s a career utility infielder, while Cano has missed a total of 14 games since 2007. Chase Utley has missed fewer than 14 games in a season only three times in his career. And apart from Utley, Cano is the best second baseman since…Roberto Alomar? Joe Morgan? Cano’s going to the Hall of Goddamn Fame is my point, whether he busts his ass on a hard grounder to second or not.

Rollins isn’t that good, but if he has crippling intangible issues (which again, is a premise I won’t grant until and unless I see even specific accusations, let alone evidence, that he’s conspicuously and detrimentally apathetic), they don’t hurt the team unless they’re impairing the team’s ability to score runs or prevent its opponent from doing the same. Both of which he’s done better than any other shortstop in Phillies history, better than all but a handful of players in Phillies history and better than all but a handful of contemporary shortstops.

So like I said, I’m done arguing this.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 97: Jelly is Great

Tonight, on the Crash Bag: The Phillies fail to score, a man asks a record-breaking question, and I distribute breakup advice.

@asigal22: “Will the Phils be as bad in the regular season as they have been in Spring Training. I know Spring Training is stupid.”

Relax.

I mean, yes, the Phillies are going to be bad, but relax. We’ve gotten so used to the Phillies winning, or expecting to win, that we’ve lost the ability to be relaxed about them losing. The lost 89 games last year, they’ll probably lose about that many this year, and we’ll give up this ridiculous delusion of being able to compete with the Braves and Nationals by Flag Day. So what are they going to do about it? Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 96: This Train

I wonder if anyone from Spain has ever written in to the blog. I’d be surprised if that was the case. Because, you know…

@Bradleycs1: “what do you think AJ Burnett’s reaction to the Phillies implementing defensive shifts will be?”

I know he was unhappy with the Pirates shifting last season, but he’ll deal with it, because he’s a professional, and the Pirates shifted their infielders more last season than just about anybody, one of the consequences of such things being that Pittsburgh won 94 games and Burnett got to start a game in the playoffs. The shift is one of many developments in baseball strategy and tactics that I really, really don’t like from an aesthetic point of view, even though I recognize that it’s smart. For instance, strikeouts are on the rise as teams realize the most reliable way to get outs is to have pitchers who miss bats, while also, somewhat paradoxically, realizing that strikeouts for hitters aren’t terrible if they’re part of an approach that also leads to deep counts, home runs and walks. Meanwhile, stolen bases have also gone out of style to a certain degree, since the high break-even point makes it more important for would-be basestealers to pick their spots more wisely. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 95: American Virtue

@jimmyfricke: “Should Phillies fans be upset about Cruz being signed for 1 year 8 mil while we’re stuck with Byrd for 2 years 16 mil”

Absolutely not. Cruz is a 33-year-old power-before-hit corner outfielder who produces no value on the bases or in the field. Those guys tend to have a couple things in common: they’re overrated in their primes, because they produce homers and RBI, which are flashy, but nothing else. The other thing is that when the bat starts to slip even a little, the whole package falls apart. Look for Nelson Cruz comps and you’ll find names like Juan Gonzalez and Henry Rodriguez, and when those guys started to slip, things got ugly fast. Byrd is older, and didn’t have Cruz’s prime with the bat, but he was, at one point in the past, a good athlete, and I’m not convinced Byrd won’t be better than Cruz in 2014.

The other thing is Cruz costs a draft pick, and for a guy who makes you a 79-win team when John Mayberry makes you a 76-win team, that’s not even worth a second-rounder. The Orioles were in need of a DH and have a better shot at contending than the Phillies do, so this signing makes more sense for them–and even then, I’m not in love with it–but signing Nelson Cruz for a battle for third place is exactly the kind of pothole-in-front-of-the-rebuild move Ruben Amaro deserves credit for not making. The past two offseasons.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 94: Ben Wetzler Lightning Round

NBA trade deadline, labor strife, Little Big League…we’ve got it all this week.

@truelladelphia: “How great is Sam Hinkie?”

Pretty great. Early in the season, I had an expectation of getting at least one first-round pick (either this year or next) for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but that stopped being realistic a while ago, thanks to the quality of this year’s draft and the NBA’s inscrutable player movement rules, which gridlocked the draft pick market to a certain extent. Hawes and Turner were both going to walk as free agents this summer anyway, so getting literally anything for them was a win. I would’ve liked to see Hawes go to either Oklahoma City or the Clippers, where I think he could’ve played a significant role on a title contender as a rotation big, but Hinkie got a return on Hawes and Turner while not panic trading Thaddeus Young for 50 cents on the dollar. Second-round NBA draft picks are one of the most useless commodities in sports, but this is where the Astros comparison I’ve been harping on all year comes in–if you take over a team without serious assets, you bide your time by placing a bunch of long-shot bets until you can get some assets. Anyway, Hinkie got rid of three veterans (including Lavoy Allen) for which he had no use and took on a net of either five or six (almost certainly six) second-round draft picks. A smart team can get one rotation player out of six second-round picks, or trade them for something else. This is the guy trading the red paper clip for the house.

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