Precision Strikes 7.8.2011

All Star Game, Books, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Players

Explaining Jair Jurrjens.

Neil Paine of Baseball-Reference writes about Jair Jurrjens in today’s NY Times.

Is there a direct statistical explanation for Jurrjens’s sudden success?

You can’t look at the infield defense having been improved because it hasn’t.

His walks have gone down as have his strikeouts, so perhaps he’s making a conscious effort to pitch to contact more than he did in the past.

Are the Braves investing more in an analysis of where the hitters tend to hit the ball and positioning their fielders better? Has the pitch selection changed? Is Jurrjens lucky not just in where the balls have been hit, but in getting umpires favorable to his style of pitching? Have the hitters been helping him out by swinging earlier in the count at pitches they previously would’ve laid off because Jurrjens had a tendency to lose the strike zone?

Is it quanitifiable?

I don’t think league-wide gossip is factored in because there’s no way of knowing what players are whispering to one another. If the word gets out that Jurrjens is pounding the strike zone and you should take your swings earlier than before, that spreads like wildfire whether it’s accurate or not.

These possibilities need to be examined before coming to a conclusion that he’s lucky or has gotten better at whatever it is that’s led to his tremendous first half.

The one missing thing from Dick Williams‘s baseball life.

Dick Williams died yesterday at 82.

With all the things he accomplished amid a Hall of Fame managerial career in which he won two World Series and four pennants—including one in each league—Dick Williams never had the opportunity to manage for (and be fired) by George Steinbrenner.

It almost happened several times.

In fact, Steinbrenner had hired Williams while he was still under contract with the Charlie Finley Athletics and Finley demanded heavy compensation for the hiring of Williams—Yankees prospects Otto Velez and Scott McGregor.

Graig Nettles wrote about this episode in his book Balls:

“You can’t have McGregor because he’s one of our crown jewels. He’s going to be a Yankee forever. And besides, we need him later to get Ken Holtzman.”

Whether Steinbrenner actually said this or it was Nettles being a smartass is undetermined. Both make sense.

Later, Nettles wrote in reference to Williams vs Billy Martin:

Yet I don’t think George would have had an easier time with Williams, because Dick Williams is the same type of manager.

He was right. Williams and Steinbrenner were friends while Williams wasn’t managing for Steinbrenner; had the two ever been engaged in that ring of fire, Williams too would’ve been fired eventually. Whether he’d have indulged in the Martin-Steinbrenner type of hire-fire-hire-fire-hire-fire is the question.

Judging by Williams’s personality, I’d say he wouldn’t.

Considering Jack McKeon and the fact that 80 is the new managerial threshold, one has to wonder whether Williams would’ve been ready to jump back into the arena if someone came calling.

Probably not.

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One thought on “Precision Strikes 7.8.2011

  1. The problem with Jurrjens is that he isn’t that much different than he was last year, he just is getting wildly different results. This happens a lot with pitch to contact guys. They’re wildly inconsistent. I expect Jair to regress a lot, though I hope he keeps it rolling.

    The only thing is that it’s hard to tell if his drastically lowered walk rate is real or just an aberration.

    I tend to think this year is a combo of real improvement (better movement on his pitches, and better control) and pure dumb luck. I hope it’s all real improvement, obviously, but I also hope to win powerball.

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