Why Eva Longoria and I Will Elope to WARP-3 Island

Eva LongoriaLet’s play a guessing game. In the last five years, how many mainstream baseball journalists have linked to anything on Baseball Prospectus? I’m going to go ahead and guess “three.”

Today, Todd Zolecki makes it four with an article titled “Phillies show striking out not all that bad.” I believe every dead baseball purist just rolled over in his grave. But there are a few people who are interested in hearing more: me, the other mother’s basement-dwelling nerds, and Eva Longoria (pictured to the right with the caption, “It’s so sexy when a man rattles off statistics”).

Zolecki links to two BP articles:

Just Another Out?

Baseball Prospectus looked at the relationship between teams’ strikeout rates and run production from 1950 to 2002. It found there was no correlation between the two. It also found that a hitter’s strikeout rate correlates positively to power, slugging percentage, and walk rate.

Whiff or Whiff-Out You.

After another look at strikeouts by Baseball Prospectus in 2005, analyst James Click wrote, “On a very rough scale, a strikeout costs a team about three one-hundredths of a run. Looking at team totals from 2004, Reds batters led the league in strikeouts with 1,335. . . . All those failures at the plate cost the Reds an estimated 13.6 runs over the course of the season, or just over one win.”

Most interesting in Zolecki’s article isn’t the plethora of statistics that show strikeouts as rather meaningless for a hitter, but the feelings of Ryan Howard regarding the use of K’s to judge a hitter’s worth:

Ryan Howard struck out 199 times last season, the most strikeouts in a season in baseball history. He’d rather talk about anything else.

“I feel like I’m back in double A,” he said. “That’s all people used to talk about were strikeouts. You don’t hear anybody say, ‘That guy led the league in ground outs last year.’ “

Howard could benefit from reducing his strikeouts, but they are part of his game. He is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He has hit 100 home runs faster than any other player in baseball history.

“You ground out. You fly out. You strike out. An out is an out,” Howard said. “People want to glorify what they want to glorify. If hitting into double plays were a big thing, then people would make them a big thing.”

Howard’s logical reaction is a breath of fresh air, especially when you consider some of the bigger names in baseball have become all hot and bothered with the advent of in-depth statistical analysis. Derek Jeter, when he was told that “clutch” hitting doesn’t exist, said, “You can take those stat guys and throw them out the window.”

It’s not just the players that have balked at the notion that you can better understand the game of baseball with Microsoft Excel; fans (especially the better-educated sportswriters) have been just as unresponsive to the science of baseball. We, of course, remember Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, but there’s also Jon Heyman, Bruce Miles, Joe Morgan, and a plethora of other guys out there scowling at the calculations.

For Zolecki to not only link to, but quote a Baseball Prospectus article and to write a non-traditional article like “hitters striking out means nada” — bravo.

Congratulations aside to an honorable Philadelphia sports journalist (one of very few), I do take issue with just one thing he wrote towards the end of his article:

Howard is a career .291 hitter. He has struck out 493 times in 1,461 career at-bats, which means he hits .439 when he puts the ball in play. If he could have cut his strikeouts from 199 to 175 last season, his average would have jumped from .268 to .289. He might have hit 50 homers instead of 47.

First of all, Howard’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .353, not .439.

Zolecki states that if Howard cut down on his K’s, his production would increase as a result of putting the ball in play more often. However, there’s no way to know this, even if we know his BABIP. The theory hinges on all of the variables staying exactly the same except for strikeouts, as if none of them are related to each other. Howard’s power production is, in fact, related to his propensity to strike out.

Look at the kings of not striking out. They are overwhelmingly players with puny to mediocre slugging percentages, like Juan Pierre and Jason Kendall. You don’t see 20+ HR player on the page until you hit Albert Pujols. The defense against a swinging strikeout is a shorter swing. Shortening the swing results in more bat control but less power.

If we learned one thing from Zolecki’s article, it’s that we shouldn’t go into cardiac arrest every time we hear “strike three.” But if we learned another, more important thing — say, from Dan Shaughnessy — it’s that Zolecki and his calculator are “living at home, in the basement, rent free.”

P.S. Sorry, Tony Parker, you just weren’t nerdy enough for her. You didn’t even cry when Gary Gygax died.

Tired of the Lidge-Jumping

Even before the new Phillies closer had his second knee surgery of the off-season, there was plenty of doubt cast on Brad Lidge and it had nothing to do with that right knee of his. Ever since that Game 5 three-run home run served up to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS, it seems Lidge hit a mental wall, or at least that’s what those affirming the consequent — fans and media alike — would like you to think.

Lidge, obviously, is one of the few people who has a truly educated opinion on the matter of how the Pujols home run affected him in 2006. In late January, Ken Mandel explained:

He called those 2006 struggles a “mechanical issue,” though he admits he developed a cut fastball for 2007 because he lost confidence in his devastating fastball and hard-biting slider.

By April of last season, Lidge had lost his closer job. During an April game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, he had runners on second and third with no outs. Houston catcher Brad Ausmus implored him to use his fastball and slider, and “see what happens,” according to Lidge.

He struck out the next three hitters.

“I felt as good as ever after that and went through the best stretch of my career after that,” Lidge said. “Earning my job back felt better than if it was handed to me when I wasn’t throwing well. I needed to earn it back.”

So, it wasn’t that he was mentally wrecked after Pujols hit a three-run home run in the 2005 NLCS; it was that he got away from his fastball and slider.

After that game against the Phillies on April 23 until the end of the season, Lidge pitched 60 and two-thirds innings, struck out 81, and put up a 2.82 ERA. He finished the season with a 131 ERA+ and a 1.254 WHIP, impressive statistics for a closer deemed mentally anguished.

Concerns about Lidge now that he’s had a second knee surgery certainly are legitimate, but the latest, a partial medial menisectomy, was a success:

“It really was the best-case scenario that it was the only thing going on,” Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said of Lidge’s knee. “His other side of the knee that he had repaired was fine. It was pretty simple for us.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki also reported that there’s a possibility that Lidge could be back in time for Opening Day on March 31.

Not too much to worry about with the new Phillies closer, really. The projections seem to agree. Only Marcel puts him above a 4.00 ERA (4.23 to be exact). Bill James, CHONE, and ZiPS put him at 3.44, 3.42, and 3.88 respectively. CHONE and ZiPS both have him pitching over 70 innings as well.

Jon Heyman Needs Attention

It’s the end of February and exhibition games are hours away. A new baseball season is on the horizon, full of new wonders for our great sportswriters to opine about. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman instead wants to focus on last year’s NL MVP award and attack people who use Sabermetrics.

Things must be lonely around the office because Heyman is clearly angling to get linked to and talked about on the Internets. Being the generous person I am, I’m going to give him just that. Fire Joe Morgan already dissected it with humor, but I’m going to dissect it with a fine-tooth comb and really give him the type of editing he deserves, and clearly lacks at Sports Illustrated.

As always, his words are in bold, my comments will follow in regular typeface.

Let’s start off with the header.

Sorry VORPies, Rollins was the right choice

Seriously. This is a grown man working for a worldwide-renowned sports publication… insulting proponents of an ideology that differs from his. Further, he chooses to do this in February, more than four months removed from the end of the World Series, and right on the cusp of a brand new baseball season.

Rollins acknowledged that his brash “team to beat” prediction probably helped him win the MVP. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he hit 30 home runs, scored 139 runs and slugged .534 while batting leadoff and playing a superb shortstop for a division champion.

No, it didn’t hurt that his counting statistics were inflated by a record number of plate appearances (and, subsequently, at-bats).

Jon, did you notice where Rollins was in the Phillies’ batting order? He was a lead-off hitter. What is the job of a lead-off hitter? You are correct: to get on base.

Isn’t a shame that Rollins not only had a below-average on-base percentage (.344 to the league average .349), but he etched his name in pseudo-history when he tied for 18th place in total outs made in a single season (527)?

That’s the problem with counting statistics: you’ve got to keep plate appearances and at-bats in mind, otherwise, you don’t have a scale off of which to base your perception. Rollins’ 30 HR are impressive, but his rate is about one HR every 24 AB, which is mediocre.

The Rockies’ great slugger, Matt Holliday, finished second, but even a Rockies person told me in the playoffs last October that Rollins deserved the MVP […]

“A Rockies person”? Who could this be? The clubhouse janitor? Clint Hurdle? The guy selling hot dogs at the concession stand behind home plate at Coors Field? Garrett Atkins?

Even if “a Rockies person” is someone whose opinion we should value, it doesn’t somehow add credence to the claim that Rollins deserved the MVP. For every “Rockies person” backing Rollins, there is a “Phillies person” backing David Wright and a “Mets person” backing Matt Holliday.

That person believed that great offense combined with stellar shortstop play should have been enough to take the awards, not a bad thought at all.

What about great offense combined with stellar third base play?

Rollins isn’t “stellar” at shortstop defensively anyway. He ranked 9th out of 14 qualified NL SS in RZR. David Wright ranked 5th out of 12 qualified NL 3B in RZR.

Add to that Wright’s offensive prowess over Rollins, and it’s not even close between the two.

Seriously, Wright has better power, gets on base at a much, much better clip, has comparable speed (34-of-39 stolen bases), knows how to draw a walk, and fields his position at an above-average level.

The only reason it’s a debate between Rollins and Wright is because so many people don’t understand the concept of rates. Heyman is one of them.

Even so, I wasn’t shocked that stats people have taken issue with Rollins winning the MVP award.

This tells me that he knows something has been statistically proven to be true, yet he will still believe something else because he wants to regardless of what the facts say.

There are numbers crunchers out there — including a firejoemorgan.com author who wrote a guest piece in Sports Illustrated last week — who believe baseball writers rank somewhere between morons and idiots for voting Rollins as MVP over David Wright, who had a higher VORP.

Not just VORP. There are a plethora of statistics out there that show Wright as a better candidate than Rollins. Almost all defensive metrics will put Wright over Rollins. Offensively, the meat-and-potatoes of baseball — OBP and SLG — easily make the case with Wright.

Really the only thing Rollins has over Wright is the ability to hit triples.

The stat people seem to believe VORP — a Baseball Prospectus statistic that stands for Value Over Replacement Player — defines a player, but why haven’t many of them championed last year’s VORP leader (Hanley Ramirez) as MVP instead?

Before I took a look at defensive metrics, I thought Hanley Ramirez was the NL MVP as well. He is horrendous defensively, however: -8 fielding runs above average.

Secondly, Heyman makes a strawman argument by saying that those who use Sabermetrics think that VORP “defines a player.” One statistic does not and can not define a player and you will not find any educated user of Sabermetrics advocating this.

And thirdly, VORP isn’t just a Baseball Prospectus statistic. Certainly it’s the most widely regarded because of BP’s popularity, but others have it as well. To quote a commenter on Baseball Think Factory, “that’s like saying that batting average is a TSN statistic.”

I assume the stats guys favor Wright because he played for a contending team. I guess the rule is this: Highest VORP wins unless the VORP champion is playing for a loser.

Uh… no. “The stats guys” favor Wright because he was the best when you factor in both offense and defense. Rollins, really, doesn’t come close.

There is no universal agreement among those who use Sabermetrics that a candidate’s team’s contention should have any factor. Personally, I don’t think it should. You shouldn’t punish a player for having a bad supporting cast.

If Wright’s offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins’, and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn’t Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright’s slightly-above average third base?

1. Wright’s statistics weren’t “slightly better” than Rollins’. It’s a landslide in Wright’s favor.

2. Rollins doesn’t play a superb shortstop, as proven above.

And shouldn’t Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership?

If you have the privilege of voting for the MVP award, you can use whatever criteria you wish. If you want to account for intangibles, go right ahead.

Personally, I don’t think any MVP candidate should have intangibles taken into account. They’re highly subjective and thus highly prone to human biases and flawed perceptions. The analysis, I believe, is more accurate when you don’t account for intangibles.

For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright’s team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

It’s not Wright’s fault his team couldn’t win a game at the end of September.

And if we’re going to take September performance into account…

Wright: 38-125 (.304), 6 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB, .432 OBP, .602 SLG (1.034 OPS)

Rollins: 39-138 (.282), 6 HR, 18 RBI, 14 SB, .333 OBP, .542 SLG (.875 OPS)

Though the Mets’ collapse was no fault of Wright’s, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he’d better have a greater advantage in stats […]

To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Heyman really has an obsession with the success or failure of the candidates’ teams. For what it’s worth, the Phillies did nothing in the post-season — they were promptly swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies. It’s as if they never even made the post-season.

There you go Jon: Not only did I read and respond to your article, I even linked to it as well. You got the attention that you wanted.

Did Someone Take A Schmidt?

Pardon the awful title…

The rest have joined pitchers and catchers for some spring training fun in the sun, and you know what that means: it’s time for Mike Schmidt to open his mouth again!

Last year, Mike Schmidt called Pat Burrell (and Adam Dunn) “mediocre.”

If these guys cut their strikeouts down to 75 or 80, they put the ball in play 85 or 90 more times a year. That’s at least 15 more home runs and at least 35 more RBIs. If only they had choked up with two strikes, spread their stances out. What they are doing now is not great, it is mediocrity.

Let’s just say that Schmidt has changed his stance on Burrell. On Comcast SportsNet, he thinks Burrell will be the next Phillies MVP. And given that this is Burrell’s last season before free agency, we can safely assume he’s talking about 2008. What sparked the change of heart for Schmidt?

Could it have been the 10 less strikeouts in 10 more at-bats? The increase of one home run and two RBI? 16 more walks and two more doubles?

His 2006 season was pretty similar to his ’07 season. It’s very odd that Schmidt had such a dramatic change in opinion… unless… Schmidt has been using Sabermetrics! Nah, probably not, especially given this:

Schmidt Excited About Phils’ New Third Baseman Feliz

That’s not a typo. Mike Schmidt, the best third baseman in baseball history, is excited about Pedro Feliz, who is about as mediocre as mediocre gets. It’s almost too ironic, even for blogs.

He’s an impressive young man. Tremendously impressive hands, good arm, good batting stroke. I think he’s going to be a big key for the club this year.

[…]

I know since I left [after the 1989 season], [third base] has been a little bit of a sore point in Philadelphia. David Bell was pretty good for a while, and of course, Scott Rolen was really good for a while. But the last several years, third base has been one of those platoon positions that a lot of really good teams don’t platoon at.

Just watching [Feliz] on TV, he caught my eye. I can see a good, solid fundamental hitter. I don’t know what his best year has been. I just know him as a mid-20s home run, 80-RBI guy. I don’t know if he’s ever gotten to 30 home runs or 100 RBIs, but he has that potential, without a doubt.

It’s always amazing when you realize that some of the greatest players have such a hazy idea of what made them great. Schmidt, of course, is correct in noticing his exceptional fielding skills (it’s almost universally agreed upon that Feliz is the best-fielding third baseman in baseball) and in saying that he has 30 HR, 100 RBI potential (his career highs are 22 HR and 98 RBI). Given that he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly ballpark to a very hitter-friendly ballpark, it wouldn’t be outrageous to expect such a season from him.

However, none of the projection systems listed on FanGraphs has him having a great season in those offensive categories:

Bill James: 18 HR, 57 RBI

CHONE: 20 HR, 64 RBI

Marcel: 17 HR, 62 RBI

Schmidt errs in describing Feliz as having a “good batting stroke” and being “a good, solid fundamental hitter.”

There are just so many metrics that show Feliz as being just completely awful offensively…

Year: Feliz OBP/SLG — League Average OBP/SLG

2004: .305/.485 .343/.439

2005: .295/.422 .340/.430

2006: .281/.428 .343/.442

2007: .290/.418 .342/.436

2004-07 Batting and Fielding Runs Above Average (BRAA and FRAA)

2004: 2 BRAA; 0 FRAA

2005: -10 BRAA; -1 FRAA

2006: -16 BRAA; 9 FRAA

2007: -14 BRAA; 14 FRAA

Total: -38 BRAA; 22 FRAA

As for what you’d use to define a “good, solid fundamental hitter,” let’s use Old Traditional: batting average and strikeouts.

Since he started playing regularly (2004), Feliz has had 2,232 at-bats. In those at-bats, he’s logged 569 hits (.255 AVG) and 369 strikeouts (16.5% of AB’s are K’s). I wouldn’t exactly call Feliz a “good, solid fundamental hitter.”

And just for kicks, Schmidt said that David Bell “was pretty good for a while.” If, by “for a while,” he means “in 2004,” then he’s correct. Bell’s OPS+ during his tenure in Philly…

2003: 57 OPS+ in 297 AB

2004: 107 OPS+ in 533 AB

2005: 72 OPS+ in 557 AB

2006: 87 OPS+ in 324 AB before being traded to Milwaukee.

Schmitdty, you brought a lot of smiles to our hearts when you were leading the Phillies to six playoff appearances (1976-78, ’80-81, ’83), two World Series (’80 and ’83), and one championship (’80), simultaneously bronzing your own name in baseball history as the greatest third baseman of all time… but stay away from wayward sports journalists. Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, like “Feliz is actually a good offensive player.”

This Has to be Some Sick Joke

Ah, power rankings. Nowhere are they more meaningless than in baseball. But Aram Tolegian, whom I’ve never heard of until just now, released “the first batch” of MLB power rankings for FOX Sports.

It is a perfect storm: I have a lot of time on my hands, and this guy used tons of flawed logic. This day is going to go pretty fast.

#1 Detroit Tigers

No team had a better off-season, and for that reason the Tigers occupy the top spot.

The Tigers definitely had the best off-season. They ranked 9th out of 14 AL teams in runs allowed per game, and 2nd of 14 in runs scored per game. So what do they do? They go out and acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in a trade. They failed to improve their pitching staff, and they have overkill offensively. I wouldn’t say they had the best off-season. In fact, when you look at it objectively, they had a rather poor one. They had pitching problems at both ends going into the offseason, and they only addressed it by acquiring Willis, who can’t be relied upon for anything, as his ’07 campaign isn’t much of an aberration when you look at his statistics (everything is close to his career norm).

And the Boston Red Sox, the defending World Series champions, and the team that didn’t take a step back in anyway except in losing Curt Schilling to injury, should be #1.

#2 Cleveland Indians

No argument here.

#3 Boston Red Sox

The rotation doesn’t look overly strong and the offense certainly doesn’t project better than those owned by the Indians, Tigers or Yankees.

No argument about the Indians’ rotation. However…

Red Sox

Player: ’07 ERA+

Beckett: 145

Matsuzaka: 108

Wakefield: 100

Lester: 104

Buchholz: 298 (only 4 starts, one of which was a no-hitter)

Tigers

Verlander: 125

Rogers: 103

Robertson: 96

Bonderman: 91

Willis: 83

Yankees

Pettitte: 110

Wang: 121

Mussina: 87

Hughes: 100

Chamberlain: 1192 (only 24 IP, all as a reliever)

The starting rotation of the Red Sox is clearly the most dominant, with the Yankees’ trailing and the Tigers’ clearly lagging far behind.

#4 Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks may have arrived a year early last season, but that’s what often happens when there’s a boatload of endless upside on the roster.

No, that’s what happens when you out-perform your Pythagorean W-L by 11 games. The D-Backs allowed 732 runs and scored only 712. The Diamondbacks had one of the worst RS/RA margins of teams that made the playoffs. Adding Dan Haren will offset the crash to Earth that the Diamondbacks will face, but they’re not some powerhouse simply because they had very favorable run distribution last season.

Of their eight regulars, only four had an OPS+ over 100, and all of them were just barely:

Jackson: 110

Hudson: 106

Reynolds: 110

Byrnes: 104

The D-Backs ranked dead last in the NL in OBP and 9th of 16 in SLG. And who’d they add in the off-season to help provide more offense? Chris Burke?

Please consider that last year’s success was done primarily without Randy Johnson and with Dan Haren still in Oakland. Both will start the season as part of the rotation, which means the D-backs take another big step forward.

Randy Johnson needs to stay healthy. At age 44, how realistic is this expectation?

#5 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Fans had the entire off-season to project how big the Angels’ winning margin in the AL West would be. But all of that changed when the Mariners traded for Erik Bedard. Now things may not be so easy in the West. The Angels still deserve the nod simply because this is a team with very few holes and a solid mix of veterans and youth with upside.

Ugh, so many generalities. But he’s correct in saying that the Angels are the top team in the AL West. As we’ll find out, the Mariners are being overrated.

#6 New York Yankees

The organization is doing the right thing by building from within now that the strategy of being the league’s most active off-season team has proven futile. For a team that’s supposedly in transition, this season won’t be too painful.

There’s a reference to the youth on the Yankees, but no mention of how that will affect them. And there’s no reference to their shaky starting rotation. Chien-Ming Wang has an extremely low K-rate, and pitchers with low K-rates don’t have the same sustained success that those with high K-rates do.

What of Mike Mussina? Should he have just retired? 2007 was the worst season of his 17-year career. Excluding his first season in ’91, he set career lows in IP and strikeouts, and career highs in ERA and WHIP. And he’s 39.

Andy Pettitte is always reliable for decent production, but two straight seasons with a 1.4 WHIP is concerning.

Phil Hughes showed flashes of brilliance, but he’s only 21. Similarly, Joba Chamberlain is 22 and has never made a Major League start.

The Yankees will have a great offense as they always do, but their starting rotation will make or break them, as it does so many other teams.

#7 Los Angeles Dodgers

There are also several position battles in key places, like third base where Nomar Garciaparra may not have enough left in the tank to fend off prospect Andy LaRoche. Another battle to watch is in the outfield where the Dodgers have Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp vying for the two spots flanking Andruw Jones. And what about Jason Schmidt? There have been no setbacks in his return from shoulder surgery, but fans should keep their fingers crossed nonetheless.

Nothing here justified the Dodgers at #7. They have a middle-of-the-road offense and after Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, their starting rotation falters. Of course, they have that great bullpen to fall back on, but it’s not even close to enough to justify them at #7.

#8 New York Mets

Trading for Johan Santana has energized the organization heading into spring.

He has the Diamondbacks (#4) and Dodgers (#7) ahead of the Mets, who appear to be solid on all fronts. The Mets had the NL’s fourth-best offense and 7th-best pitching staff, and before Santana, they had stayed relatively idle. Adding Santana gives them a top-tier pitching staff, and combine that with their top-tier offense, the Mets should be higher than #8 and #3 in the NL.

#9 Toronto Blue Jays

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing before I quote him on why he put the Jays at #9.

Ready?

If you view the glass as half full in Toronto, you’ve got a team with a solid rotation, a major defensive improvement at third in Scott Rolen and a burgeoning superstar in OF Alex Rios.

2007 Troy Glaus Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP; accounts for both offense and defense): 5.8

2007 Scott Rolen WARP: 5.6

It’s a break-even change at best. Given Rolen’s back problems, playing on the Toronto turf isn’t going to help him any.

Let’s see… the Jays’ offense ranked 10th out of 14 teams, and their pitching staff ranked a distant second to the Red Sox. Yes, their starting rotation is relatively solid, but Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Jesse Litsch are all in their mid-20’s and not one of them had sustained Major League success before 2007, so it’s hard to expect similar production from them in 2008. It’s fair to expect a regression.

Even in their bullpen, they featured guys having unexpected success. Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen, and Scott Downs never had anything close to the kind of success they had last season.

#9 is too high for the Jays.

#10 Colorado Rockies

The old style of thinking that pitching will ultimately do in the Rox has to be discarded. Although it would have been nice to see the team upgrade its rotation this off-season.

When you adjust for park effects (obviously, pitching in Coors Field deflates your pitching statistics, and all of their starters had 4.00+ ERA’s), the Rockies had a decent rotation. Among those who pitched 100+ innings…

Francis: 114 ERA+

Fogg: 97

Cook: 116

Hirsh: 100

In addition, the Rockies’ bullpen was superb. Even in Coors Field, the Rockies’ bullpen featured six guys who pitched 45+ innings and kept their ERA under 4.00:

Fuentes: 3.08 ERA (155 ERA+)

Corpas: 2.08 ERA (231 ERA+)

Affeldt: 3.51 ERA (137 ERA+)

Hawkins: 3.42 ERA (140 ERA+)

Julio: 3.93 ERA (122 ERA+)

Herges: 2.96 ERA (162 ERA+)

Of those six, only Affeldt and Julio departed. Their bullpen will be strong again in ’08. The Rockies should be top-three in the NL, along with the Mets and Phillies.

#11 Seattle Mariners

The addition of Erik Bedard cannot be understated as the M’s may own the best one-two punch in the West.

There are only three other teams to compete with… but even then, I’ll take John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar (or Jered Weaver since Escobar will miss the first month of the regular season) over Bedard and Felix Hernandez.

Lackey/Escobar/Weaver ERA+: 151/134/117

Bedard/Hernandez ERA+: 146/110

Bedard helps a middling Mariners pitching staff, but he won’t be enough to save Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, and Carlos Silva from mediocrity.

Additionally, J.J. Putz aside, the Mariners’ great ’07 bullpen featured a bunch of young guys having phenomenal seasons (like the Blue Jays), and we can’t reasonably expect repeat performances.

Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki will be offensive mainstays for the Mariners, but they are going to feature Brad Wilkerson regularly in right field, and he hasn’t put up an above-average offensive season since 2004 when he was in Montreal. Adrian Beltre will be slightly above-average, and Richie Sexson will continue to kick his OBP and SLG into a black hole.

Bedard aside, the Mariners are mediocre and I’d be surprised if they finished within 5 games of the Angels in the AL West.

#12 Milwaukee Brewers

It’s kind of scary to think of what the Brewers accomplished last season with Ben Sheets managing only 141 innings and Rickie Weeks suffering from the lingering effects of a wrist injury.

The Brewers featured an above-average player at every offensive position except catcher and center field. Despite a sub-par starting rotation, the Brewers rode their offense and decent bullpen to a finish of four games over .500.

They lost Francisco Cordero, but they got Eric Gagne, David Riske, and Salomon Torres, which more than offsets the loss. In acquiring Cameron, Bill Hall will move to third base, and Ryan Braun will move to left field.

The Brewers probably won’t see any marked improvement in their 5th-best NL offense or 9th-best pitching staff. The neighborhood of 83 wins continues to be a likely landing spot.

#13 Philadelphia Phillies

The feeling here is that Phillies took a step back this off-season. How any team can trust Brad Lidge to close is beyond us. But that’s assuming he’s even on the mound. Lidge had surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee in October. It goes without saying that this is something to watch in spring. If you believe Aaron Rowand was the unsung hero of the offense last season, then being optimistic about the Phils gets that much harder now that he’s in San Francisco.

How the Phillies are 6th-best in the NL according to Aram is baffling. They feature the NL’s best offense by far, three legitimate MVP candidates in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, one of the best 1-2 punches in the NL with Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, and a markedly improved bullpen. In addition, their defense will set the standard in the NL, and they easily have the deepest bench in the league.

The only question marks with the Phillies are Cole Hamels’ health (he’s always been an injury concern, even throughout the Minor Leagues) and the #3-5 spots in the rotation. Kyle Kendrick had a stunning ’07 season and is a perfect fit for Citizens Bank Park given his ground ball tendencies. However, that was only one year and it could just be a fluke. Jamie Moyer, if Julio Franco doesn’t sign with a team, will be baseball’s oldest player on Opening Day, and Adam Eaton will have the #5 spot in the rotation most likely.

If the Santana pushes the Mets to #1 in the NL, the Phillies are #2.

Everyone, for some reason, assumes Brad Lidge is a wreck, but if you look at his ’07 season, it looks pretty damn good:

67 innings, 88 K, 30 BB, 3.36 ERA (131 ERA+), 1.254 WHIP

As for his injury concerns, his knee is healthy.

After Lidge, the Phillies have three solid pitchers in Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero. The Phillies don’t have a bullpen as good as, say, the Rockies, but it’s still above-average.

Losing Aaron Rowand was inconsequential. Victorino simply moves to center field and right field will consist of a Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth platoon. Victorino is a huge improvement defensively, and the right field platoon will more than make up for Rowand’s offense.

#14 Chicago Cubs

Derrek Lee wasn’t himself last season and Alfonso Soriano had a down year. But even still, the Cubs won the Central. It’s reasonable to expect both Lee and Soriano to perform better. In that case, the Cubs are once again viable in the Central. Staying healthy in spring, especially 3B Aramis Ramirez, is key. As is finding a closer out of a group that includes Kerry Wood.

Soriano had a down year? You can say that, but it’s really nit-picking.

Soriano 2006: .351 OBP/.560 SLG

Soriano 2007: .337 OBP/.560 SLG

Just a .014 drop in OBP. He did miss about 20 more games than he usually does, but he isn’t an injury concern.

Derrek Lee wasn’t himself?

Lee career: .367 OBP/.502 SLG

Lee 2007: .400 OBP/.513 SLG (567 AB)

Looks like he had a pretty good season, no?

Aramis Ramirez has had 500+ AB every season since 2000, when he was still a young player looking for an everyday role. And I could find no news about the Cubs third baseman having any injury difficulties.

The Cubs feature the NL’s best starting rotation — a 100+ ERA at every slot. As for a closer, they have options, including Carlos Marmol, who had an exceptional 2007 season. Seeing as how it was his “breakout” season, it’s unreasonable to expect a 1.43 ERA in 69 innings again, but he could be the Cubs’ answer at closer. Bob Howry is the other candidate and he’s had four straight seasons with an ERA+ of at least 140.

The Cubs will feature a slightly improved offense now that they added Kosuke Fukudome, and will rival the Padres again for the league’s best overall pitching staff. The Cubs are a close #4 behind the Mets, Phillies, and Rockies in the NL.

#15 Atlanta Braves

It’s hard to like any team with two starting pitchers in their 40s. But John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have proven they can pitch with dignity, even in old age. But how long will that last? The offense remains solid, but certainly didn’t get better by swapping Andruw Jones for Mark Kotsay. And that says nothing about what the defense lost with Jones moving to L.A.

People are going to be sorry for underrating the Braves. Losing Andruw Jones isn’t a good thing, definitely, but given his poor mechanics, there’s a higher than usual possibility that Jones’ ’07 season wasn’t a fluke. If so, replacing Jones with Kotsay is much less of a drop-off than it appears.

In ’07, the Braves had the 3rd-best offense and 3rd-best pitching staff in the National League. Does adding Tom Glavine, behind Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, hurt them? I can’t think of a reason how. And the Braves will still feature three offensive mainstays in their line-up…

Johnson: 117 OPS+

C. Jones: 166

Diaz: 124

Catcher Brian McCann and right fielder Jeff Francoeur had average seasons in ’07, but if they learn how to draw a few more walks, they could make the Braves’ offense explosive. Either way, it’s an offense to be reckoned with, much like the Phillies’ and Mets’. It’s a three-horse race in the National League East, and three of the NL’s top five teams are from the East.

. . .

That’s the top-fifteen. There’s a lot of nit-picking to be done with his bottom-fifteen, but we can all universally agree that the Marlins, Royals, Pirates, Giants, Orioles, Twins, Cardinals, and White Sox will be bad. The Nationals, Padres, Astros, Rangers, and Athletics have the potential to be mediocre. And the Rays and Reds are mediocre teams that have the potential to have breakout seasons.

And what you’ve all been waiting for: my top-fifteen power rankings:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Cleveland Indians

3. New York Mets

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

5. Philadelphia Phillies

6. Detroit Tigers

7. Colorado Rockies

8. Atlanta Braves

9. Chicago Cubs

10. New York Yankees

11. Milwaukee Brewers

12. Seattle Mariners

13. Arizona Diamondbacks

14. San Diego Padres

15. Los Angeles Dodgers

As always, feel free to berate me in the comments.

STFU, Carlos Delgado

New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado must be getting antsy during the off-season, because he’s opening his mouth seemingly just to hear himself talk.

Via Yahoo:

“It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team,” the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.

Granted, the difference between the Phillies and Mets in the standings was one game, and it took an historic collapse from the Mets to push the Phillies into the playoffs, but the Phillies did have the best team, and I’ll prove that in several different ways.

First, the rough team-vs.-team comparisons.

Offense

Phillies: 5.51 runs per game

Mets: 4.96 runs per game (-.55)

Pitching

Mets: 4.63 runs per game

Phillies: 5.07 runs per game (-.44)

The teams are close when you add it up, with the Phillies having a .11 overall advantage in runs per game. Even the Pythagorean records have the Phillies one game better than the Mets, though each team is two games worse.

Now, let’s look at it position-by-position.

Catcher

Phillies

Carlos Ruiz: 429 PA, .736 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Paul Lo Duca: 488 PA, .689 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Mike DiFelice: 47 PA, .661 OPS

Sandy Alomar, Jr.: 22 PA, .318 OPS

The edge here goes to the Phillies. The production from their catchers was pretty much steady, while the Mets gave 68% of their catcher plate appearances to someone who just produced a .689 OPS. Castro was very productive but only got 22% of the catcher plate appearances.

First Base

Before the statistics are even laid out, you know who is going to win this one. Phillies in a landslide.

Phillies

Ryan Howard: 648 PA, .976 OPS

Mets

Carlos Delgado: 607 AB, .781 OPS

Second Base

Another Phillies landslide.

Phillies

Chase Utley: 613 PA, .976 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Mets

Luis Castillo: 231 PA, .742 OPS

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Third Base

Finally, a victory for the Mets. You also don’t need statistics to decipher this one, but we’ll do it anyway.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Abraham Nunez: 287 PA, .600 OPS

Mets

David Wright: 711 PA, .963 OPS

Shortstop

Phillies

Jimmy Rollins: 778 PA, .875 OPS

Mets

Jose Reyes: 765 PA, .775 OPS

Advantage Phillies.

Left Field

Phillies

Pat Burrell: 598 PA, .902 OPS

Michael Bourn: 133 PA, .727 OPS

Mets

Moises Alou: 360 PA, .916 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Marlon Anderson: 77 PA, .906 OPS

Edge goes to the Phillies here, since 82% of their left field at-bats went towards a .902 OPS, while the Mets only had 48.5% of their at-bats go towards Alou’s .916 OPS and 10% towards Anderson’s .906 OPS. The Mets also had a bunch of other nobodies but they logged less than 100 defensive innings, so I didn’t include them, actually benefiting the Mets. Those “nobodies” include Ricky Ledee, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, and Jeff Conine.

Center Field

Phillies

Aaron Rowand: 684 PA, .889 OPS

Mets

Carlos Beltran: 636 PA, .878 OPS

Very slight advantage to the Phillies here, since they had more plate appearances at a higher OPS from their center fielder.

Right Field

Phillies

Shane Victorino: 510 PA, .770 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Mets

Shawn Green: 491 PA, .782 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

This is another close one, but the Phillies get the edge here since 37% of their right field plate appearances went to solid .863 OPS production, while the Mets gave 697 place appearances to approximately .784 production between Green and Milledge. Victorino produced slightly below this but only took up 63% of the Phillies’ right field at-bats.

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Draw the tallies up and the Mets only have one starting position player advantage offensively, and that’s David Wright at third base.

If we included defense, it would slightly hurt the Phillies in left and center field. The Mets then might have gotten the nod in center field.

Starting Pitching

Phillies

The Phillies had four pitchers — Fabio Castro, John Ennis, Zack Segovia, and J.A. Happ — make one start apiece, and Brett Myers made three starts at the beginning of the season before he was converted to a relief pitcher.

The pitchers I will be looking at on the Phillies have made at least 10 starts. Likewise when I analyze the Mets’ starting pitching.

I’ll be using ERA+, so there is no room for discrepancy in regards to park effects (Shea Stadium is pro-pitching; Citizens Bank Park is pro-hitting).

Jamie Moyer: 199.1 IP, 92 ERA+

Cole Hamels: 183.1 IP, 136 ERA+

Adam Eaton: 167.2 IP, 73 ERA+

Kyle Kendrick: 121.0 IP, 119 ERA+

Jon Lieber*: 78.0 IP, 98 ERA+

J.D. Durbin*: 64.2 IP, 90 ERA+

Kyle Lohse*: 61.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Freddy Garcia: 58.0 IP, 78 ERA+

Mets

Tom Glavine: 200.1 IP, 96 ERA+

John Maine: 191.0 IP, 109 ERA+

Oliver Perez: 177.0 IP, 120 ERA+

Orlando Hernandez*: 147.2 IP, 115 ERA+

Jorge Sosa*: 112.2 IP, 95 ERA+

Mike Pelfrey*: 72.2 IP, 76 ERA+

*Pitched both as a starter and as a reliever. Statistics not adjusted for this.

Definitely a Mets advantage here.

Bullpen

The criteria here is at least 30 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

Phillies

Geoff Geary: 67.1 IP, 105 ERA+

Brett Myers*: 53.1 IP, 2.87 ERA (ERA+ not available)

Ryan Madson: 56.0 IP, 151 ERA+

Clay Condrey: 50.0 IP, 92 ERA+

Antonio Alfonseca: 49.2 IP, 85 ERA+

Tom Gordon: 40.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Jose Mesa: 39.0 IP, 83 ERA+

J.C. Romero: 36.1 IP, 373 ERA+

Mets

Aaron Heilman: 86.0 IP, 140 ERA+

Billy Wagner: 68.1 IP, 162 ERA+

Pedro Feliciano: 64.0 IP, 138 ERA+

Guillermo Mota: 59.1 IP, 74 ERA+

Scott Schoenweis: 59.0 IP, 85 ERA+

Aaron Sele: 53.2 IP, 79 ERA+

Joe Smith: 44.1 IP, 123 ERA+

Even though Myers’ ERA+ as a reliever isn’t available, I think it’s safe to say that he was pretty close to Billy Wagner’s level as a closer. The Phillies’ equivalent to Pedro Feliciano is J.C. Romero, but he logged 28 less innings, which is significant. Same deal with the Phillies’ equivalent to Aaron Heilman being Ryan Madson — he pitched 30 less innings. Otherwise, the Mets’ bullpen was nearly equally as bad as the Phillies.

However, the 58 innings that Feliciano and Heilman logged with well-above-average production gives the Mets the slight advantage.

Bench

I’m only counting players who got at least 100 plate appearances.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Pretty close, but the slight edge goes to the Phillies.

If you tally it up, the Phillies win 7 out of the 8 positions for offensive starting position players, and with the bench. The Mets have the better starting and bullpen pitching.

And as we showed in the beginning, the Phillies offense and pitching compared to that of the Mets’ leaves them with a .11 runs per game advantage.

The statistics show that the Phillies were the slightly better team.

As for the current situation on who’s better, let’s take a look at who both teams have gained and lost. OPS+ and ERA+ refer to the player’s career average. A player’s name has been bolded if he was traded.

Philadelphia Phillies

Lost

Aaron Rowand (106 OPS+); Abraham Nunez (62 OPS+); Tadahito Iguchi (98 OPS+); Rod Barajas (75 OPS+); Michael Bourn (79 OPS+); Kyle Lohse (95 ERA+); Jon Lieber (103 ERA+); Freddy Garcia (111 ERA+); Antonio Alfonseca (104 ERA+); Geoff Geary (116 ERA+).

5 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Lieber and Garcia both had mediocre, injury-laden stints with the Phillies.

One can also make the case that the Phillies gained a pretty good starting pitcher by moving Brett Myers (118 and 120 ERA+ in 2005 and ’06 as a starter) back to the starting rotation from the bullpen.

Gained

Chad Durbin (82 ERA+); Brad Lidge (132 ERA+); Shane Youman (85 ERA+); Eric Bruntlett (78 OPS+); Geoff Jenkins (116 OPS+); Chris Snelling (97 OPS+); So Taguchi (89 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

New York Mets

Lost

Paul Lo Duca (99 OPS+); Shawn Green (120 OPS+); Lastings Milledge (92 OPS+); Jose Valentin (96 OPS+); Tom Glavine (119 ERA+); Guillermo Mota (107 ERA+); Aaron Sele (100 ERA+).

4 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Mota and Green did not live up to their abilities with the Mets.

Gained

Matt Wise (108 ERA+); Brian Schneider (82 OPS+); Ryan Church (113 OPS+); Angel Pagan (81 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

The Phillies have improved their team well by flushing out a lot of sub-par players like Abraham Nunez, Michael Bourn, and Rod Barajas. The Mets lost a lot of players either close to, at, or above league-average, and replaced them with two above-average players and two-below average players.

So, Delgado is wrong in saying that the Mets were the best team last season, even though they were close. And the Mets definitely aren’t as good as the Phillies going into 2008.

Gerry Fraley, You Can Not Be Serious

As promised, I am going to delve into the new look of the Phillies’ outfield, and I also want to criticize Gerry Fraley for a ridiculous article he wrote for The Sporting News. Being the lazy person that I am, I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. I’m going to break it down Fire Joe Morgan-style (his words in bold; mine will follow in regular typeface).

In two seasons without center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Chicago White Sox are a .500 team and heading south.

You know this is going to be a pro-Rowand article based on the title, so let me just get this out of the way right off the bat: the White Sox are not bad because Aaron Rowand left. In 2007, they had the league’s worst offense, and the third-worst pitching. Rowand can’t pitch and I’m pretty sure he’s not potent enough to bring his team from a 4.28 runs per game average to around 5 per game, which would put them slightly behind sixth place. Barry Bonds might have been able to do that, but certainly not Aaron Rowand.

The White Sox were bad in ’07 because Paul Konerko had a .091 point decline in OPS from the previous season, Jermaine Dye had a .204 decline in OPS, and Jim Thome was the only potent offensive force in the lineup. Jon Garland has been decidedly mediocre, and the back of their starting rotation was about as unproductive as it could have been. And aside from Bobby Jenks, their bullpen was nearly as bad as the Phillies’.

After saying he wanted to stay with the Phillies, Rowand swerved and signed a five-year, $60-million deal with San Francisco. His change of heart puts the Phillies in a bind.

“Bind” is hyperbole. The Phillies would have preferred to keep Rowand in his age 30-32 years, but he wanted five years at $12 million, which is what he got from the Giants. He simply wasn’t worth it.

Jayson Werth isn’t a terrible Plan B, and Rowand’s departure simply made the Phillies look for a Plan B2 and B3, which was searching for either another regular center fielder (Cameron), or moving Victorino to center and finding a platoon partner for Werth (Geoff Jenkins).

Look at it this way, using simple OPS:

Aaron Rowand: .779 OPS vs. RHP (68% of career PA); .862 vs. LHP (32%); .805 vs. both.

Shane Victorino: .741 OPS vs. both.

Mike Cameron: .767 OPS vs. RHP (75% of career PA); .843 OPS vs. LHP (25%); .786 vs. both.

Geoff Jenkins: .883 OPS vs. RHP (76% of career PA)

Jayson Werth: .864 OPS vs. LHP (29% of career PA)

Here are the expected OPS, based on career averages, out of the possible CF and RF combinations:

Rowand/Victorino: .773 OPS

Cameron/Victorino: .764

Victorino/(Werth+Jenkins): .787*

* Because Jenkins will face RHP, and batters see RHP about 3 times more than LHP, I weighted Jenkins and Werth’s OPS to reflect this. I assumed that the two will combine for 625 at-bats (which is generous considering how potent the Phillies’ lineup is and how adept they are at getting on base).

Jenkins: Averages 1 base every 2.0 at-bats. With 75% of 625 at-bats, that’s 469 at-bats, giving him about 235 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .501.

Werth: Averages 1 base every 2.3 at-bats. With 25% of 625 at-bats, that’s 156 at-bats, giving him about 68 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .436.

(.501 * .75) + (.436 * .25) = (.376 + .109) = .485 SLG

Then we’ll just weigh their career OBP’s.

(.347 * .75) + (.352 * .25) = (.260 + 088) = .348 OBP

Add ’em together (.485 + .348 ) and you have an expected .833 OPS out of right field. *

Phew.

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They previously traded center-fielder-in-waiting Michael Bourn to Houston in the Brad Lidge deal. Plan C for the Phillies calls for moving Shane Victorino, whose durability is in question, to center and going with a platoon of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins in right.

While the Phillies had some expectations of Bourn when he was considered a top prospect in their farm system (not hard to be, actually), he only showed Juan Pierre-esque ability: great speed, ability to bunt, and above-average range in the outfield. They already have a guy like that (but better) in Shane Victorino. Bourn simply didn’t fit and was thusly expendable.

And Fraley has the plans all messed up! Bourn is Plan B? Any team who has a Plan B as replacing a center fielder with decent defense and some power potential with a slap-hitter is clearly a team general-managed by Ned Colletti.

Shame on this guy also for not tiering the Plan B’s.

The Phillies will also learn what the White Sox now know. Rowand is harder to replace in the clubhouse than on the field.

Whenever sports journalists wax romantic on intangibles, the cholesterol lining my arteries gets a little bit harder. But I should know — intangibles have been tangiblized (hat tip to FJM).

Rowand is an NFL free safety masquerading as a center fielder. He plays relentlessly, a style the Phillies privately feared may shorten his career, and that rubs off on teammates. He is a leader in the true sense of the word.

First, I don’t see how being akin to an NFL free safety makes you a valuable baseball player. Then Gerry contradicts himself by saying the Phillies didn’t like his balls-out style of play because it increases his risk of injury and a “shortened career.”

Gerry, however, rebounds by saying that this career-shortening style of play is rubbing off on teammates! Hopefully not in the way it rubbed off on Chase Utley.

That is why the White Sox and the Phillies both wanted to sign Rowand. They have seen first-hand how valuable he is to the dynamic of a winning team.

Phillies players as or more important to the NL East pennant than Rowand: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, J.C. Romero (arguably).

I get it: take Rowand away and the Phillies don’t win the East. But that can also be said of Russell Branyan, who was with the Phillies for all of 9 at-bats, one of which won them a game in Washington. And the Phillies won the East by one game.

Seasons of catering to Barry Bonds turned their clubhouse into a nest of apathy. Near the end of the season, manager Bruce Bochy said the last-place club lacked “a warrior spirit.”

The king of the team lacking “a warrior spirit” put up an OPS+ 170 with a knee that gets regular fluid injections at age forty-two. Forty-two. Save his injury-plagued 2005 season, Bonds has led the National League in on-base percentage every season since 2001.

The Giants were bad last year because, aside from Bonds and Randy Winn (barely), no one in the lineup was hitting at or above the league average, which makes it easy to believe that they had the league’s second-worst offense. They had a good, but not great starting rotation, and a decent bullpen. Blaming Bonds for the Giants’ failures last season (or in any season) is beyond reprehensible and downright ignorant.

San Francisco may remain stuck in last in the demanding National League West, but the Giants will not go quietly.

Earlier in the article, Fraley contends that teams that have Aaron Rowand win, and teams that lose him end up losing. Now Fraley says that the Giants get Rowand… but they “may remain stuck in last”?

In explaining the signing, general manager Brian Sabean said Rowand was “far and away a plus” in the areas of concern for the Giants.

“His no-nonsense approach is known throughout the game,” Sabean said. “Including inside the clubhouse.”

So, the areas of concern for the Giants aren’t offense, starting pitching, and the bullpen? It’s a no-nonsense approach? No wonder they haven’t reached 77 wins in three seasons.

At least Rowand can barbecue.

Cost Control

As a result of winning a Mad Lib contest on Dayn Perry’s blog $8 Beers, he’s letting me control the price and distribution of alcohol at his blog for a day. In other words, he’s letting me choose what gets covered on there for 24 hours. Check it out, it should be at least mildly amusing.

Here’s what I suggested that Dayn cover on his blog today:

1.) Cover why the steroid issue in sports is only a U.S. government creation (or at least an issue only made big by an easily-scared U.S. public).

2.) A blog entry complimenting Barry Bonds, noting his place among baseball’s all-time greats (at least 200 words, and proofread it, I’ll be grading it without a curve).

3.) What the heck is Ed Wade doing this offseason?

4.) Mockingly stereotype people who are anti-Sabermetrics.

5.) Explain to everyone why Guitar Hero will become a national sport in the near future.

In other news, the Phillies signed Geoff Jenkins! Oh yeah, and Chad Durbin, too. Do you think Pat Gillick was reading my blog? Yeah, probably not. I’ll break down the signings shortly.

BBWAA Fails to Gain Credibility

On the Internets, this is being discussed in great detail, but I just had to scribble something about it. Baseball Analysts has the story: 18 nominees for BBWAA membership, 16 make it. Those are:

Scott Miller from CBS Sportsline; Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Amy Nelson, Buster Olney, and Jayson Stark from ESPN; Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports; John Donovan, Jon Heyman, and Tom Verducci from SI; and Tim Brown, Steve Henson, Jeff Passan, and Dan Wetzel from Yahoo.

The two that are left out? Rob Neyer and Keith Law.

I’m going to ask you to join me in doing a little police work, and connect the dots. What do those that got BBWAA membership, and those that didn’t, have in common?

The 16 that got in make little to no use of Sabermetrics.

The two that missed out make heavy use of Sabermetrics. Neyer, a demigod to some of us Saber-heads, worked for the great Bill James (read Neyer’s interview at The Hardball Times). Law used to write for Baseball Prospectus, essentially a one-stop shop for all things Sabermetric.

It’s an injustice that Neyer and Law didn’t get eligibility. I have no connection to anyone involved in this matter, but it seems to me that there is some discrimination afoot. Let’s look at a hypothetical: of the 18 candidates, the 16 that get in are all Caucasian, and the two that are left out are African-American. Think there’d be accusations of discrimination if that had been the case?

Of course, I am merely assuming that their Sabermetric tendencies are the reasons behind their being locked out. There could very well be a legitimate reason that Neyer and Law were denied. I would be very interested in hearing it and await an official response from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Ahem. On official letterhead.

Maybe it’s all for the best. It’s the BBWAA’s loss for not getting two of the sharpest baseball minds in their club, and we can only hope that their “mistake” leaves them begging for credibility in years to come. We’ve seen some of the poor decisions they’ve made when it comes to voting, just in the past few years (see: 2006 AL MVP; 2006 NL MVP; 2007 NL MVP; keeping Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame), and we’ve seen how one of their members acts when urged to open his mind.

In impugning the BBWAA as a whole, I do want to clarify that the writers recently inducted, regardless of their use of Sabermetrics, are blameless. From the list above, I really have no qualms with anyone there except for Jon Heyman, who has been politely close-minded to advanced methods of statistics in baseball. I’ve never read the work of Miller, Caple, Nelson, or Henson, so I can’t say anything either way about them.

To Neyer’s credit, he’s handled his rejection with class. You can read his reaction in the comments at Baseball Think Factory. I’m sure he’s talked about it on his ESPN blog, but I’m not an Insider, so I wouldn’t know. An interesting thing to note from Neyer via a comment on BBTF:

According to BBWAA president Bob Dutton, my membership was rejected because I don’t go to the ballpark often enough (not that anybody really knows how often I’m at ballpark).

It seems like the BBWAA just randomly reached in the barrel of excuses and used the first one they drew. I can only imagine how humorous their excuse for excluding Law is.

Since the BBWAA is blatantly going to continue with the status quo, why don’t all of the Sabermetric sluggers band together, vote, and hand out their own post-season awards (I imagine it’d be nothing more than a token to elect players to the SABR Hall of Fame)? It seems like most of them hand them out individually themselves (via an article or blog), or at least have an opinion on the matter. If they have dunce awards like the “Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Year,” they should have “SABR Most Marginal Lineup Valuable Player of the Year.”

Clarification on the Conlin Comments

I didn’t expect the firestorm that ensued as a result of Conlin’s comments, but when you essentially tell bloggers that they are a group worthy of an untimely demise, as the Jews were to Hitler, you’re not going to win any new friends.

With all the anti-Conlin sentiment, there has been the odd comment questioning me or my motives, and I welcome that. However, a lot of what I read was either misinterpretation or a misunderstanding, so I’d like to clear those up in a pseudo-FAQ fashion.

You revealed a private conversation that occurred via E-mail. This is illegal and/or immoral.

It’s certainly not illegal. Once you click “Send,” you lose all rights to the content of your E-mail. What if, instead of through E-mail, my correspondence with Conlin occurred via paper mail? Imagine me opening up the letter, seeing the “Hitler” comment and being shocked. Is it illegal for me to show that letter to anyone else, since it was intended (presumably) only for my eyes? Of course not.

Especially in this age of technology, the fault lies with the person sending the offensive comment for not preparing for the comment being seen by unintended eyes.

As for its immorality, you’re neither right nor wrong for viewing it either way. I can’t say whether it was immoral or moral, as my set of morals probably differs from yours.

You were being intentionally inflammatory and baiting Conlin into saying those nasty things.

In retrospect, a couple things I said were almost definitely going to be interpreted as inflammatory, as pointed out by a couple readers, but my intent (I don’t know what that counts for) was never to incite what has occurred. I simply read Conlin’s article (linked in FJM’s article debunking it) and decided to E-mail him. I thought it was rather nice, and my comment about not bashing him was sympathetic, or at least, that was my intent.

I thought he was getting beat up enough, as I had read from a few different sources how idiotic his article was, and there were quite a few attacks on his character.

Linking to the sites bashing him probably was a bad idea, but I don’t think he clicked on them anyway. He barely read the E-mails I sent him, as evidenced by his mistaking me for a Mets fan after I clearly stated that I was a Phillies fan (twice), so I doubt he ever read FJM’s dismantling of his article.

Conlin’s comment is anti-Semitic.

I can’t faut anyone for taking it this way, but it wasn’t actually an anti-Semitic comment. It probably minimalized what happened in Hitler’s holocaust, but his intent behind the comment was that the world would be better if bloggers didn’t have a voice provided by the Internet, and that Hitler probably would have made sure we didn’t.

Plenty of readers have pointed out that his comments about pampleteers and such were historically inaccurate and/or hypocritical. The Good Phight does a good job of proving most or all of this.

Bill Conlin made those comments as a private citizen, not as a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, so they shouldn’t reprimand him.

While others are calling for Conlin’s head to roll, I am not. In fact, I am taking the coward’s way out and am not espousing an opinion on what should happen to him as a result of his comments.

To factually clear up the above statement, though, the E-mail address I used to contact Conlin was listed right next to his name on the website of the Philadelphia Daily News. Whether or not he uses that E-mail account for purely personal purposes is irrelevant — it is on a web page of his professional work for his employer, so any E-mails he sends from that account, he is also representing his employer, as well.

You were just as close-minded as Conlin with your use of Sabermetrics.

In my E-mail exchange with Conlin, I explicitly refrained from citing Sabermetrics, and instead made my case with just standard statistics.

If this refers to my article(s) on the MVP award, yes, I do make heavy use of Sabermetrics and pay almost no mind to statistics like batting average, win-loss records, strikeout totals for hitters, etc. In addition, I don’t factor in intangibles when opining about the “most valuable player” in a given league. My feeling on that is that, if you can’t prove it, I’m not going to factor it in. Intangibles, since they can’t be proven by definition, are wholly subjective, and thus incredibly prone to error.

Some may think Jimmy Rollins is a leader, and David Wright is not. Others feel that Wright is more of a leader than Rollins. Who’s right? You can’t prove it, so it’s all moot in the end. That’s why I don’t factor it in at the risk of having some inaccuracies in my points. It very well may be true that, without Rollins’ leadership, the Phillies would have been dead in the water.

In that respect, I don’t view that as me being close-minded, just selective of which factors I personally use to determine value.

Publishing emails without permission will have a negative effect on everyone else’s possible correspondence with journalists.

If journalists cannot communicate with E-mailers without insinuating that they are worthy of having no freedom of speech and/or worthy of being killed, then that falls on the journalists.

I guess the journalists could be hesitant to respond to E-mailers for anything that might get taken out of context and blown out of proportion, but then again, they can just comb over their E-mails and make sure they were professional, factual, and rational.

It’s the journalists’ loss — not the readers’ — if they don’t respond to E-mails. When they respond, they are representing the publication they work for, and thus, are advertising in a sense. A good rapport with a reader increases the chance that they will purchase the publication in the future, and a bad rapport decreases that chance. With most print publications hurting, behavior like Conlin’s only sets himself and his employer(s) back.

You’re a hypocrite: Your previous article was titled, “Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far,” and now you’re whining about Conlin offending you.

I haven’t heard this one yet, but I wanted to address it since I was thinking about it. I haven’t complained about being offended. Frankly, I’m not offended by what Conlin said or how he acted. I’m disappointed more than anything, especially since he represents a sizable amount of journalists in terms of his views on bloggers and Sabermetrics.

A lot of other people have been offended by what Conlin said. Based on a particular reader, most of the people at The Good Phight are Jewish, so they have a gripe with Conlin because of his Hitler comment.

I would never assume I have the power to tell people what they should or should not be offended at. The Good Phight has every right to be offended by Conlin’s comments. The only problem I take with anyone getting offended over something is when they try to limit others’ freedom to do something as a result of that offense.

That’s a bit vague, so let me clarify. I support Conlin’s freedom of speech to make tasteless jokes like that. That is not to say that I share his intent behind it, or the literal interpretation of it, but I support his right to say idiotic, tasteless things. That goes for anyone. To have true freedom of speech, you need to be willing to take the good with the bad. So, for every noble crusader speaking out against the Bush administration and the Iraq war, for instance, there is presumably an idiot making a tasteless joke about a minority group. As long as they’re not espousing anything that would take away the rights or enjoyment of life away from members of that minority group, he has the same right to make that joke as that noble crusader has to make noble political statements.

Please let me know if anything else needs to be clarified.