Viewer Mail 3.14.2011

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Chuck Greenberg and Cliff Lee:

Seeing Greenberg get the boot from the Rangers made me smile. And btw, he didn’t “fire back” at the Yankees; he was the one who fired the first shot and the Yankees responded, at which point he meekly apologized. As for Lee, I agree that his responses are honest and that his straightforward, no-nonsense attitude is part of what makes him such a great pitcher.

Tying the responses to the Lee/Greenberg comments shows an interesting dichotomy. Jane’s a (mostly) rational fan, but Greenberg’s pokes at the Yankees struck a nerve. I don’t think Greenberg was sorry; he was apologizing because of pressure from MLB itself and, obviously given his ouster, Nolan Ryan.

In the realm of rationality, I doubt most Yankee fans are going to share the grudging admiration for Lee; he’s persona non grata at Yankee Stadium because he refused the Yankees money and isn’t shy about saying why—all the more reason to believe him when he says the spitting incident in the ALCS had nothing to do with anything; clearly he had a list of reasons why he spurned the Yankees that superseded his wife being spit on. And that’s not good.

Joe writes RE the luck/intelligence argument with Johan Santana, the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron:

Well “lucky” only has so much to do with it. I don’t know that they knew anything anyway. But it is obvious the risk associated with pitchers on long-term deals. The problem with that, is the Red Sox handed out long, expensive contracts to Lackey and Beckett after that. And the Yankees to CC and Burnett. And Johan at the time, was better than at least 3 of those guys. So their philosophy either changed some, or well, I don’t know.

***

I am not sold on Ellsbury offensively or defensively either. But I think he can be a decent player this year. And Cameron offers much more flexibility playing in RF and DH’ing against some lefties. And he can play some center too, of course. Also, he is 37 now. So having him play sometimes, rather than everyday, should benefit him, keeping him healthy and fresh.

Of the names you mention, the only contract comparable to Santana’s is C.C. Sabathia‘s; in fact, the Red Sox got both John Lackey and Josh Beckett for close to what the Mets gave Santana in guaranteed money. Lackey’s contract is nearly identical to that of A.J. Burnett.

I still hold to the argument that neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox wanted Santana. They knew they’d have to surrender Jon Lester/Phil Hughes and then give Santana that contract to keep him. The fears regarding any hindsight-laden “expertise” have conveniently coincided with Santana’s injury.

Regarding Cameron/Ellsbury, the logic is that they have Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick and Daniel Nava so they can afford to move Cameron.

The same argument holds for keeping Cameron and dealing Ellsbury; in fact, they’d get more in a trade for Ellsbury than they would for Cameron and the reasons are more applicable to those you imply are in favor of keeping Cameron—age and wear; plus Ellsbury costs nearly nothing financially for the foreseeable future.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Marlins:

Do you think the Marlins are contenders? Or are you just saying that they’re ahead of the Mets?

The Marlins are talented but flawed.

Their defense is atrocious and unless they take the reins off Matt Dominguez and shut their eyes, they’re relegated to either using Wes Helms or some configuration of Chris Coghlan, Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio at third/second base; using Coghlan would require a panicky shift of positions as they have Coghlan in center field—a position he’s never played as a professional.

I’m not a fan of the drastic bullpen alterations they’ve made.

The rotation is young a supremely talented; the lineup will score.

But do you see the mismatched puzzle pieces of the Marlins?

They have a starting rotation that, for the most part, gives up an even number of hit balls to the outfield and infield and a terrible outfield defense; they have a lineup of mashers and an inexperienced manager—Edwin Rodriguez—on a 1-year contract who, in his brief time last season, preferred small ball to going for the big inning.

It doesn’t fit.

They are contenders for the Wild Card at least, but it all has to go right. For everything to go right, there has to be continuity from the front office to the manager to the rest of the roster.

It’s not there.

Given their looming questions and the new ballpark set to open next year, I still believe that Bobby Valentine will be managing the Marlins at some point, but by the time that happens they’ll too far out of first place to be factors in the division race.

As for the Wild Card? They can hang around and hope for a hot streak to swipe it.

But I don’t see it.

And yes, the Marlins are better than the Mets.

The above bit about the Marlins is what you can expect (albeit in greater detail) based on stats and rational/deep-strike analysis from my book.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN.


//

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From The Man Who Brought You Kei Igawa…

Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Brian Cashman’s poor pitching decisions are becoming analogous to the schlock film producer who tosses out a lot of content and only hits when he has the star power of a C.C. Sabathia to rely on. Even the middling names with a modicum of said “star power” are enigmatic, good box office/bad box office dependent on the script, director, etc.

That would be A.J. Burnett.

The lawsuit filed against Aroldis Chapman‘s representatives claims the Yankees made an offer worth “more than $54 million” for Chapman; Cashman denies it—MLB Trade Rumors posting—I believe him.

While it and Cashman’s recent spate of honesty speaks well of his forthrightness exemplified in the contracts of Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano, it doesn’t make his scouting eye look particularly good.

He’s got a rocky history with pitchers.

What makes it worse are the reports of how amazing Arodys Vizcaino has looked for the Braves this spring with a fastball that was clocked at over 100-mph yesterday.Vizcaino was sent to the Braves along with Mike Dunn in exchange for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.

In the Hollywood vernacular, Vazquez would equate to the ill-thought-out sequel for which no one was clamoring and against whose making they were warned.

Vazquez was a reasonable enough idea in theory, but was a disaster in practice; Logan is a useful lefty with a good fastball but isn’t a difference-maker one way or the other.

Two pitchers with 100+ mph fastballs—one from the left side (Chapman); and the right side (Vizcaino); both in their early 20s—are difference-makers.

Did Logan and Vazquez make the opposing manager think differently in how to approach a game against the Yankees?

No.

Would Vizcaino and Chapman?

Absolutely.

The failure to recognize that ability in Chapman, an ability that should’ve been clear in watching him throw once, is another blot on Cashman’s record in terms of pitchers. At one time, blame for errors in acquisitions and development could be shifted to the capricious lunatic George Steinbrenner; now there’s no one to blame for the gaffes with Joba Chamberlain; the trade of Vizcaino; and the inability to recognize what Chapman is.

Other clubs aren’t innocent here either. The Red Sox—who doled a ridiculous amount of money on Daisuke Matsuzaka—should’ve spotted Chapman’s talents as well.

As for the argument that because of the failures of Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa, the Yankees and Red Sox were rightfully reluctant to shell out more cash for an unproven commodity like Chapman, it’s self-righteous nonsense.

Similar to saying, “because Oliver Perez was a disaster, the Mets shouldn’t have pursued Cliff Lee“, it’s lumping everyone in the same pile. In fact, “lumping everyone in the same pile” is one of the reasons Chamberlain’s development has been stunted to the degree it has.

They’ve tried to formulate a set of guidelines to build up pitchers that are treating everyone the same. Akin to The Verducci Effect—why wouldn’t big league GMs listen and adhere to a sportswriter when developing pitchers?—they’re not treating each person as an individual who can’t be placed into a pure statistical, broad-based category and built as such.

And it’s a practical failure.

Speculation is rampant that because Cashman is being so open in his attempts to lower the Yankees payroll and build a club in a vein as the Red Sox and Rays do, he’d like a chance to be “small market Brian” and run a club under restrictive finances that would never constrain him with the Yankees and their financial might.

I’d like to see it; judging from his pitching decisions, it would not go well.

At all.

On another note regarding the Vazquez trade, Braves GM Frank Wren is looking like a bandit; not only did he get Vizcaino, but he spun Dunn off to the Marlins to get Dan Uggla. A year after the fact, the Braves have Uggla and Vizcaino for Omar Infante, Vazquez, Logan and Dunn.

In any configuration, that’s a terrific trade.

I’ll answer the mail later today.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and it’s posted on Amazon. It currently says “Out of Stock”, but it must’ve just been placed on the site.


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This Won’t End Well

Books, Management, Media

Yesterday Mike Francesa announced that Joe Girardi will be a guest on his WFAN show every single day that there’s a Yankees game and Francesa is working.

Apart from Francesa’s vacation-time, that’s going to be a lot of appearances.

And it’s a foundation for disaster.

It’s a long time ago, but Mets fans surely remember the dark days of Jeff Torborg‘s managerial regime. Torborg, in his first season of 1992, had a daily show with Francesa and Chris Russo on Mike and the Mad Dog. Since those Mets were star-studded and expected to contend for a championship, it was a good idea to have a daily diary of interviews with the new manager.

Unfortunately for the Mets, that club’s construction went horribly wrong; the plans for domination of baseball returning to their mid-1980s glory (such as it was) failed; Torborg wasn’t a particularly engaging interview; and the daily appearance was an exercise in torture by the time the club was hopelessly out of contention.

Torborg wasn’t a very good manager and it has to be remembered that when he was hired, there wasn’t a peep from the experts in the media as to how it could go wrong to hire a would-be Tony La Russa clone; to bring one who refused to deviate from his robotic strategies without the nuance of La Russa into New York with a clubhouse of petulant, whiny and immature veterans (Bobby Bonilla); partyers (Bret Saberhagen, David Cone); quiet old-timers (Eddie Murray); and those who lashed back at authority (John Franco).

Girardi is a far better manager than Torborg—and he’d be better off if he occasionally eschewed his blue binder of stats and managed from his gut. That said, he’s not a particularly engaging interview either. In general he sticks to the script of saying nothing of substance regardless of what he’s talking about; it’s a roundabout bit of verbal gymnastics that’s prevalent today; it’s why managers like Ozzie Guillen, who do say something when they speak, garner so much attention.

Naturally with a daily interview there’s the potential of Girardi saying something he shouldn’t say such as when he insinuated himself into the C.C. Sabathia no-hit bid last year with the volunteering of information that would’ve pulled the pitcher despite an ongoing no-hitter. The thing had been broken up already. Why he had to say anything about that at all is anyone’s guess.

There’s such a thing as oversaturation and a daily appearance with Francesa? No way.

It’s rife with too many landmines to end well, especially if the Yankees season doesn’t go according to plan.

On another note and something that will end well, my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and it should be available on Amazon and other fine retailers shortly.

//

Kickers

Media, Players, Spring Training

There’s been so much talk about the games-finished clause in Francisco Rodriguez‘s contract that it’s already an issue.

In case you’re unaware, K-Rod has a $17.5 million option for 2012 that is exercised automatically if he finishes 55 games.*

*I’ve repeatedly said that it’s 54 games because he pitched in 46 games last year and the contract says 100 games for 2010-2011; my calculations (such as they are) said that it was 54 rather than 55. I was wrong. It was both.

Suggestions abound as to how to circumvent this eventuality. In the Wall Street Journal, Brian Costa floats the idea of the Mets using K-Rod in “high-leverage” situations rather than as the closer of record—link.

It’s explainable—though transparent—to the union and viable in game situations.

This is not a new strategy. The Red Sox had it in mind when they tried the ill-fated closer-by-committee in 2003. It failed because the pitchers they were using weren’t very good and the manager—Grady Little—wasn’t on board with it.

It can work, but only in very special circumstances. Due to the absence of an established highly-paid veteran closer, the Rays of 2011 can do this without anyone popping off in the press or whining to the manager/front office.

With a veteran bullpen, the unavoidable carping from the pitchers with undefined “roles” would cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Using K-Rod in the 6th, 7th or 8th innings would not fly with the Mets because it would be so obvious and would do more harm than good.

There are ways to get rid of K-Rod and not have to pay the full freight. They can trade him and pick up a portion of the contract for 2012, possibly getting something of value in return for him; they can sit him down when it appears as if he’s going to reach 55 games finished; or they can release him beforehand.

These contract incentives are necessary when trying to acquire an in-demand free agent, but that doesn’t make it sound business in the long term. Looking at the Mets contracts alone, you see performance/award/appearance bonuses in many of the contracts.

And before rolling your eyes and shaking your head at the Mets being the Mets (therefore being stupid), it’s not just the Mets.

The crème de la crème organizations like the Red Sox have these contract insertions; and the Yankees are worrying about the opt-outs they gave to C.C. Sabathia and Rafael Soriano.

Like the Red Sox attempts to use the closer-by-committee and the “high-leverage” concept to prevent K-Rod’s contract option from being exercised, they’re perfect world scenarios that have no basis in reality. It’s the same thing with the no-trade clause. Teams can, in theory, have it as an organizational edict that they don’t put them into a contract, but they sometimes have to.

It’s easy for Billy Beane to be the intractable and ruthless CEO and say, “we don’t give no-trade clauses because it precludes flexibility” or some other corporate cleverness he read and extracted from a book by Warren Buffett to make himself sound brilliant. But the Athletics aren’t in a position to get a player who’s going to demand a no-trade clause as a prerequisite to sign because no one wants to go to the A’s to begin with unless they have no other options or are traded there.

More choices beget greater demands; if the team wants the player badly enough, they have to acquiesce to said demands.

It’s hindering, but it’s business.

That’s the choice we make in the interests of expediency.

//

Surviving Wainwright

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

With the news expected to be catastrophic regarding the condition of Adam Wainwright‘s elbow, the reactionary “experts” are already declaring the Cardinals 2011 season over.

A team managed by Tony La Russa; with Dave Duncan as a pitching coach; that still has Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday has had their season declared over.

It’s a bit premature.

Does it make things more difficult?

Absolutely.

Does it end their season in February?

Of course not.

Here’s how and why the Cardinals can survive the loss of Wainwright.

WAR—this is what it’s good for.

This is one of the few instances in which the statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has some use. For me anyway.

Granted, Adam Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in baseball with a post-season resume of coming through with the games on the line.

Forever linked to Carlos Beltran as one who came through (Wainwright) and one who failed (Beltran), that defining career moment of a devastating and perfectly placed curveball to end the 2006 NLCS sent the Cardinals to their championship and the Mets into the beginning of their tailspin that’s still going on.

For the record, as I’ve said repeatedly, Beltran is not to blame for that strikeout; Babe Ruth himself couldn’t have hit that pitch. No one could’ve hit that pitch. It was beautiful in its devastation and the credit goes to Wainwright with no blame to be placed on Beltran.

Of course it’s impossible to “replace” Wainwright, but his 5.7 WAR from 2010 is something that can be accounted for with La Russa’s strategies; Duncan’s reclamation skills; a step up in performance from Kyle Lohse; and continued improvement from Jaime Garcia; and durability from Jake Westbrook.

The positive of WAR I just elucidated is also the negative—the Cardinals are not going to replace Wainwright with a ham-and-egger baseline minor league pitcher. They’re going to need either a step-up performance from the above mentioned names and to find someone to mold into a serviceable arm to take the innings. The innings are more important than that accumulated wins of Wainwright.

Garcia/Lohse/Westbrook and…?

There’s talk that the Cardinals are looking at Kevin Millwood. On the surface, Millwood was awful for the Orioles last season, but that may have been due in part to being an Oriole; that there’s a misinterpretation of his performance based on a 4-16 record; and that he’s still floating around with the dearth of pitching available.

A logical fallacy would suggest that if the 36-year-old Millwood had anything left, someone would’ve signed him already. Millwood wants a major league deal and looked to be biding his time for an eventuality like the Wainwright injury. He was very good for the Rangers in 2009; and last season, he provided 190 innings for the Orioles. Innings are what the Cardinals need right now and Millwood has proven that he can gobble innings.

Manipulated by La Russa’s bullpen management and Duncan’s mechanical tweaks along with having a very good team behind him, there’s no reason that Millwood can’t account for at least part of the Wainwright’s loss. No, the Cardinals won’t be as intimidating without Wainwright fronting the rotation, but they can absolutely survive.

Getting past the immediate response to a 4-16 record—look at Millwood’s Gamelogs from last season—you see he was quite serviceable and occasionally good.

There are other veterans like Pedro Martinez to consider or perhaps Jarrod Washburn. The in-house options include Mitchell Boggs who was a good starter in the minors.

You can forget about Joe Blanton.

The Phillies would be stupid to trade him considering the age on their rotation; he’d do the same things for the Cardinals as Millwood; and the Phillies would not want to send to Blanton to a potential playoff opponent.

It’s not ideal, but the Cardinals can get by without Wainwright.

A weak and winnable division is rife with opportunity.

Much was made of the Reds reaction when the news of Wainwright’s injury reached their clubhouse. Jonny Gomes was accused of  singing (which he denied and clarified—link); Dusty Baker commented in wonderment as to whom was going to get the blame for the injury.

Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa are not friendly and it was a wry message from Baker to the public at large that injuries happen to pitchers without the need for a convenient scapegoat.

Baker is a target for the dual downfalls of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood; it’s ignored that it was Jim Riggleman who abused Wood in 1998; that Prior was always an injury waiting to happen.

It’s meaningless whether or not Gomes was outwardly happen, misunderstood in his reaction or is quietly pleased that the Cardinals are weaker but saddened at the injury to a star of the game.

What matters is the truth; the truth is that it’s human nature to feel some sense of satisfaction at that which benefits themselves. These things happen between teammates, let alone competitors. Do you really believe that the on-the-bubble reliever in spring training is joyful when his competition for that last spot in the bullpen does well?

No.

The Reds chances to win the NL Central are helped by Wainwright’s injury and it’s dishonest to suggest that they’re having sympathy for the Cardinals.

I’m not sure if the Reds should be laughing all that much though.

I thought the Reds were remarkably lucky last season that they got a healthy year from Scott Rolen and were able to overcome Brandon Phillips‘s mouth to the degree that they did. They did almost nothing to improve this past winter and have dramatic question marks remaining.

The NL Central might only take 85 wins for the title; the Reds are in the mix for that number, but so still are the Cardinals along with the Brewers and even the Cubs.

Laughing now is probably not the best move for a Reds team that had a lot go right for them last season.

Selfish agendas stay the same.

With or without Wainwright, looking at my predictions for the 2010 NL Central, I doubt much would change aside from the numbers of wins the teams will accrue.

Casual observers, hypnotized by the star power of Carpenter and Wainwright, don’t realize how good Garcia was last year; Westbrook is a solid pro; and if the Cardinals are able to coax a better year out of Lohse (he can hardly be worse than he was), they’ll be okay.

The loss of Wainwright would be equivalent to the Yankees losing C.C. Sabathia; the Phillies losing Roy Halladay; the Dodgers losing Clayton Kershaw; the Giants losing Tim Lincecum. But it all has to placed in the proper context.

The division is open; the Cardinals have a good team that can hit and pitch; a Hall of Fame manager/pitching coach tandem. The devastation is muted by these factors. It would be hard for the Yankees to compete without Sabathia considering their division; the same goes for the Dodgers in the NL West; the Phillies and Cardinals can account for the absence of such a force because of circumstances.

Count out the Cardinals at your own risk because it wasn’t all that long ago that they collapsed at the end of the 2006 season and nearly missed the playoffs, then recovered to win the World Series.

Greeted with such terrible news at the open of spring training, there are teams that would bag the season now. In February. The Cardinals are not one of those teams. In fact, they’re more likely to come out swinging with both fists. If you’re not paying attention, you might get caught with one of said fists and subsequently knocked out before knowing what hit you.

The Reds should take heed amidst their gloating, silent and otherwise. Because by October they may not find many things to laugh about.

Clarifications And Rhetoric

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

Let’s start with a comment from Joe regarding yesterday’s posting.

I enjoyed this post. The one thing you could have left out was taking a shot at Dave Cameron by saying he is a stat-zombie, and is still clinging to the Moneyball-farce. Whether you think he is, is besides the point. It took away from respectually-disagreeing, which is fine. The rest of the post was really just you disagreeing with these two opinions. And was well-written and well-thought out. I would be a little concerned with his weight, and declining K rate. But I hardly think he is going to become an albatross if he doesn’t opt-out. And even if he did, this is the one organization best-suited to take that hit. Josh Beckett isn’t the same body-type. But I would feel more comfortable moving forward with Sabathia for the next five, than I would with Beckett or Lackey the next four years (And I am actually confident that Beckett and Lackey bounce back). Five years, $115 million is certainly risky for a pitcher that is going to be on the wrong side of 30, but sometimes I think it can be overblown. If this were a mid-market team, then I would hope for the opt-out to be exercised. But it isn’t a mid-market team, it’s the Yankees. However, if CC DOES opt-out, and wants an even longer deal — which he obviously will. Then I would let him walk. The deal getting even riskier, does not help the Yankees. Also, Joe Sheehan used to work for BP. So yes, he enjoys the numbers.

Joe straddles my line between remarkably useful and strangleworthy; or at least a conk on the head when he aggravates my admittedly irascible temperament.

Respectually is not a word.

Apart from that, maybe Joe’s right.

As much as the term “stat zombie” has served my purposes, perhaps it’s time to abandon it for a more inclusive discussion on what I believe and why I believe it.

In order to engage rather than immediately incite a reaction from the stat inclined to think I’m attacking them with a fighter’s stance, I’m taking a step back from the mentality of hitting first and asking questions later.

I never saw the term “stat zombie” as a negative along the lines of “stat geek” which I would find a thousand times more offensive. A geek is inept, clumsy and socially clueless; a zombie is the walking undead functioning without a conscious mind.

There’s a big difference.

Mindless adherence to numbers without room for nuance is the essence of being a zombie.

I used the term occasionally in my upcoming book and I’m not changing it now. But it’s not fostering debate. It’s inspiring an immediately contentious atmosphere and while I’m essentially unbeatable in such a circumstance, I’ll step back from it in favor of less incendiary terminology.

As for Sabathia, he did have a knee problem last season; this can be viewed in a couple of ways that bolster mine and Sheehan’s positions.

Sabathia admitted that his right knee was bothering him last season and he had a “clean-up” surgery to repair it—NY Post Story.

Since it was his right knee—his landing leg—it wouldn’t be as much of a concern were it his left leg; the dominant side is far more important to a pitcher to balance in the leg lift and explode off the rubber. The left leg holds up the entire body as Sabathia loads up to throw; this would be of greater concern to me.

The pain clearly didn’t affect his performance, nor his durability. But it’s not something to dismiss. Since he’s lost weight and had the issue repaired, it’s all the more reason to discount it as a reason not to bring him back if he does opt out.

His performance in 2010 with a knee problem and the steps to ease the pressure are bigger indications that he’s going to do everything he can to live up to his salary and importance to the club independent of salary and contract length.

But Sheehan’s suggestion of knee problems is not so easily ignored.

Here’s what I would do if I were the Yankees; if Sabathia has another Cy Young Award-caliber year and opts out—I’d give him a raise and do everything I could to keep the years at five.

Hypothetically, with his current deal, a raise from 4 remaining years at $92 million to 5 years at $130 million isn’t out of line for either side. Sabathia’s not getting that money anywhere else; presumably the only way he’d leave the Yankees would be to head back to Northern California. The Athletics can’t pay him; the Giants are going to have to lock up both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and are still under the Barry Zito albatross through 2013.

He’s got nowhere to go for a raise.

With the Yankees sudden interest in fiscal restraint, it has to be taken into consideration how much money they’ve wasted in the past. This year alone they’re paying Damaso Marte and Kei Igawa a combined $8 million and tried to bring back Carl Pavano.

Carl.

Pavano.

Are they going to explain away letting Sabathia walk over an extra year and $30 million? The Yankees?

He won’t leave whether he opts out or not. They won’t let him leave because he’s got nowhere to go and they can’t let him leave.

Finally, I received the list that Sheehan alluded to in comparing Sabathia to other pitchers of similarly grand stature.

Special shout-out to Baseball-Reference for the information.

The lists are available here for the height requirement and weight of above 260 pounds; and here for 270 pounds-plus.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday before having the lists:

But here’s what I suspect: Sheehan’s size-based argument against Sabathia was hindered by the pitchers who inhabited said list since they weren’t on a level with C.C. Sabathia; nor were they on a level with Harang or Zambrano.

If he listed them, I’m betting the prevailing response would be, “Who?!? You’re putting him in a category with Sabathia based on what? Because he’s big?”

I was right.

Here are some of the more recognizable names; you be the judge: Chris Young, Daniel Cabrera, Armando Benitez, Jon Rauch, Seth McClung, Jonathan Albaladejo, Andy Sisco…do I need to go on?

Young was an All Star; I always loved Cabrera’s talent; Benitez was a good closer; Rauch is useful; Mike Francesa had a man-crush on Sisco; but are any of the names on that list in a category with Sabathia?

No.

Not even close.

It ‘s a reflection on the twisted nature of such an argument that the names were left out. If they’d been added, the disclosure would’ve been full and while it might have watered down Sheehan’s hypothesis, at least he’d have been on the high ground and not appeared to have been hiding facts for convenience sake.

These…stat….people (there, I said it) have something to say.

If they want a debate, it works both ways. I’ve made my way to the bargaining table sans the high intensity of unrestrained rage (yet still armed with Force Lightning if anyone still wants to scrap—and lose).

If they want a meeting of the minds, I’ll listen. Attentively and with my guard still up to an acceptable level.

Joe (StatMagician on Twitter) is a peacemaker—the ambassador to the stat people.

We’ll see where this goes…

Calculated Omissions

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

There’s a case for C.C. Sabathia to opt out of his contract following the 2011 season.

There’s a case for the Yankees to let Sabathia leave if he does so.

There’s even a case—however rickety—to hope that Sabathia opts out and leaves after the 2011 season.

But the two columns to this end, published this week, make an incomplete, twisted and omission-laden case for the positions of the authors.

Dave Cameron of the Wall Street Journal and Fangraphs published a piece on ESPN.com saying that Sabathia’s opt out could be a “blessing” for the Yankees. (I can’t link it because it’s Insider access, but I’ll print the relevant snippets.)

Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated said something similar—you can read his column here.

Both pieces, as is customary, take information and analysis out of context to fit into their purposes. Having heard ad nauseam how the stats-obsessed prefer objective analysis to the capricious judgment of those who use aspects other than pure numbers, it’s glaring in its hypocrisy that both Sheehan (who I don’t know to be a stat guy or non-stat guy) and Cameron (who’s an original and hard core stat zombie still clinging to the Moneyball farce) are writing these pieces without adding in the underlying caveats.

These caveats are clear if you know what to look for.

First Cameron’s title “Sabathia opt out a blessing for Yanks” is somewhat different from the body of the posting where he says it “wouldn’t be the worst thing for New York”.

There’s a big difference between the two assertions. One would imply the Yankees are sitting in their offices and quietly hoping Sabathia leaves; the other is having a contingency plan in place if he does leave.

Cameron suggests that Sabathia’s declining strikeout numbers from his days with the Indians is a conscious choice to cut down on the number of pitches he throws; that his ERA is likely to rise as a result of this strategy.

An increase in Sabathia’s walk and ground ball rates combined with a diminishing strikeout rate do not bode well for his future.

YEAR BB/9 K/9 GB% xFIP
2008 2.10 8.93 46.6 3.10
2009 2.62 7.71 42.9 3.82
2010 2.80 7.46 50.7 3.78

Pitching to contact is often encouraged as a way to reduce the number of pitches thrown and to save wear and tear on a pitcher’s arm. Indeed, if Sabathia has felt the effects of aging begin to kick in, it would be understandable that he would shift back toward a philosophy that offered the potential of quicker outs and less-stressful innings. The problem for the Yankees is that this approach is also less likely to be successful.

Fair enough, but what’s ignored is the way Sabathia altered his approach midway in his first year with the Yankees as he changed the grip on his fastball to encourage more movement and went on a tear thereafter; that the Yankees—regardless of their pitching woes—have an offense that is going to put up runs in bunches and a bullpen which will also diminish the number of innings and pitches Sabathia needs to throw to get through games and accumulate wins.

There are various ways to reduce innings pitched.

In my eyes, whether he throws 250 innings or 220 is relatively meaningless because the games from which he’s removed will be in favor of Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera; not Joe Borowski with the Indians or Salomon Torres with the Brewers. Important games won’t dictate that Sabathia stay in and keep pitching due to a faulty bullpen.

The defense is also mentioned. It’s a valid point to wonder how much Sabathia’s “pitching to contact” will be affected by the declining range of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on the left side of the infield, but this is a massive assumption that both will still be playing shortstop and third base going forward in Sabathia’s Yankees career.

It’s already being speculated as to where Jeter is going to play if and when he can no longer handle shortstop; A-Rod is about 2 years away from being a primary DH. Cameron mentions Sabathia’s xFIP with the Indians from 2005 when his SS/3B combo were Jhonny Peralta and Aaron Boone—both average defensively at best.

In examining the hit locations from 2005, Sabathia got ripped when he allowed right-handed bats to pull the ball; this is more due to location execution than stuff—link.

His control is something to watch, but was his improved walk/strikeout ratio in prior years due, in part, to having pitched in a weaker division with less patience than he does now in the AL East? The Rays and Red Sox especially make the pitchers sing for their supper—has this been taken into account?

Because Cameron can’t know who’s going to be playing third and short behind Sabathia, to say that he’s going to be pitching “worse” in the upcoming years is presumptuous at best—something the stat people are supposedly dead-set against.

If Sabathia is trying to let the hitters hit the ball earlier in the count and it’s not because of declining or even drastically altered stuff, one would be safe in thinking that he can—if necessary—go back to looking for strikeouts.

The strategy-argument works both ways.

Sheehan’s column is deeper strange speculation than Cameron’s.

He mentions Sabathia’s size and weight:

This situation may be different because of the risks presented by the 6’7″, 290-pound Sabathia. This week’s news about his weight loss aside, Sabathia is a big guy who puts strain on his back and legs with each pitch. As he said this week, even leaving 25 pounds behind just gets him to his listed weight of 290 to start the spring. There have been precious few pitchers with Sabathia’s size in baseball history. Just 30 pitchers since 1901 have come in at at least 6’4″ and at least 260 pounds, and of that group, Sabathia is far and away the career leader in everything. Just three pitchers meeting those criteria have ever thrown a thousand innings in the majors, with active hurlers Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Harang joining Sabathia. Take away the height requirement and drop the standard to 250 pounds, and you still see Sabathia at the head of a group that includes just seven who pitched one thousand innings.

Okay.

Um, but wait…where’s the list of the other pitchers that were of that massive size and pitched in the big leagues?

Cameron—to his credit—mentions this plot hole as well.

I sent a couple of emails to people who would have access to such information to possibly get an outlet for an easy list of these mysterious entities that Sheehan alludes to without naming names.

Once I hear back, I’ll publish it.

But here’s what I suspect: Sheehan’s size-based argument against Sabathia was hindered by the pitchers who inhabited said list since they weren’t on a level with C.C. Sabathia; nor were they on a level with Harang or Zambrano.

If he listed them, I’m betting the prevailing response would be, “Who?!? You’re putting him in a category with Sabathia based on what? Because he’s big?”

Then you get to the “strain on (Sabathia’s) back and legs”.

Is Sheehan a physiologist? A pitching expert? Does he have encompassing knowledge of the history of injuries to pitchers who’ve been that big and thrown that many innings or was it something he threw into the pot to fool the reader into believing what he’s saying?

If Sabathia had a history of injuries to his knees and back, I’d say there’s a basis for this idea; but Sabathia has been amazingly durable during his career and his few injuries that have cost him time have been a strained oblique, a strained abdominal and a hyper-extended elbow.

No back problems; no knee problems. In fact, Cliff Lee—much smaller than Sabathia—has a far longer injury rap sheet than Sabathia and missed time this past season because of his back.

Is this a viable reason for the Yankees to hope Sabathia opts out? Or is it a baseless, groundless assertion to provide an underpinning—spindly though it may be—for a wobbly table of hoarded “facts” to prove a nonexistent set of tenets?

For all the stat people’s reliance on “objectivity”, they abandon the fealty to “truth” when it suits them. I’m reminded of an insinuation years ago—in fact, I think it was Cameron who made it—that Garrett Olson of the Mariners had shown evidence of being a useful reliever.

Where?

He can’t throw strikes, gives up a lot of homers and is an equal opportunity punching bag getting blasted by both righties and lefties.

What evidence was there that Olson could be “useful” apart from having nothing else to say about him?

There was none.

Finally, both Cameron and Sheehan say that Sabathia is replaceable.

By whom?

If the argument is based on finances and long-term cost control, then yes, the Yankees would be better off if Sabathia left and found cogs—from inside and outside the organization—to take his place in the rotation.

But this is reality.

What are the Yankees going to do next winter if Sabathia opts out and they let him leave?

Sheehan postulates that they could go for a 1000 run offense by signing Albert Pujols and shifting Mark Teixeira to DH. Not only would this clog up the DH spot for…well…forever, but they’re supposed to pay Pujols an A-Rod contract for the rest of his career? Wouldn’t they be better off simply extending Sabathia for half of what Pujols would cost?

And let me say right now that Albert Pujols, at his age and with his ties to the Cardinals, doesn’t want any part of New York as anything other than a lever to increase his paycheck with someone else.

Does Sheehan really believe that the Yankees front office—independent of GM Brian Cashman’s desires and fresh off of ownership overruling him on Soriano—will try and sell Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos—as a replacement for Sabathia even for one year? And after the way Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy of the vaunted “young core” of starting pitchers flamed out?

Really?

Then he names possible targets Matt Cain (the Giants aren’t letting him leave); Cole Hamels (given the age of the other pitchers, they’re going to lock him up); Jered Weaver (after Jeff Weaver‘s experience in New York, is he going to want to go to the Yankees?); and Zack Greinke (good luck with all of that baggage).

The only way the Yankees could conceivably “replace” Sabathia in 2012 would be to trade for Chris Carpenter. As great a pitcher as Carpenter is, his injury history is like the medieval Wound Man charts favored by Dr. Hannibal Lecter for his basement amusements; and he’s 5-years older than Sabathia.

So then what?

Of course, with the supposedly bursting farm system, they could make a trade for a young pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez should he come available, but that’s a major risk for a team to let Sabathia walk and hope that Jimenez comes available; and if you believe that the trading team isn’t going to hold the Yankees desperation in that instance to extract a more significant portion of the farm system to fill that hole, you’re dreaming.

If it were any team other than the Yankees—a team with payroll constraints; with a patient fan base; with less of an imperative to win immediately and, more importantly, sell tickets; and to have that star power that a Sabathia brings—I’d say yes, these thoughts make sense.

But it’s not.

And they don’t.

It’s the Yankees.

They need Sabathia. They have the money to pay him if he does opt out. And they don’t have any viable options to fill that hole in the rotation with a pitcher of commensurate star power and on-field accomplishments.

Cameron’s and Sheehen’s columns are not manuals of evenhanded and intelligent ways to build an organization. They’re tricks designed to mislead—calculated omissions—because the facts don’t bolster the arguments. When that happens, it’s best to leave said facts out and hope no one notices.

You’re smart enough to see through the puffery disguised as well-thought-out and objective analysis because it’s anything but.

Confusing those who are afraid to protest diminishes credibility. Credibility that isn’t really there to begin with as long as convenience is placed before intellectual honesty.

Viewer Mail 2.19.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Media, Spring Training

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE WAR:

Great take on WAR.

(Personally, I feel it’s just a way for stat zombies to think they sound cool when they talk)

So, looking forward to your take on the Pujols sitch… on Jon Heyman’s “reports” and Ken Rosenthal’s “reports”, etc.

It’s mind-boggling that there’s an ever-growing faction of individuals who feel their ability to calculate a faulty formula constitutes expertise.

I continually go back to the Jason Bay/UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) controversy. Bay’s “inferior” defense was referenced so often that it became an accepted “fact” when in reality, it was little more than a factoid. Anyone who’d watched Bay handle the Green Monster and play at cavernous Citi Field could see that he was actually an above-average defender with speed.

But that mattered little to those with their complicated formulas to determine Bay’s “true” defensive abilities.

So it was laughable and eerily appropriate when UZR’s calculations were altered at mid-season last year to reflect that—wait a minute!!—Bay’s not that bad!!

They disguise their misplaced assertions as evolution in the calculations.

Oh. I see.

All winter long we were inundated with stories of Bay’s inadequacies in the outfield and how he didn’t fit into the Red Sox 2009-2010 decision to focus on pitching and defense rather than power; that Bay was a candidate for injury that made signing him to a long-term deal a too great a risk.

It turned out that Bay didn’t play well for the Mets, but it had nothing to do with his glove nor his knees or shoulders; it had to do with the whole aura of being a Met in transitioning to New York and the inherent dysfunction; with the big ballpark; and with a concussion he sustained at mid-season.

But his poor UZR number followed him around like a leeching greenfly.

Two things: one, having watched Bay play the outfield, it was clear he wasn’t a bad defender; and two, there’s a difference between handling the Green Monster and any other left field. The Green Monster is nuance and knowing caroms; other outfields and the defensive metrics aren’t limited to UZR; the center fielder’s range; positional placement; and the pitching staff all need to be accounted for.

But it’s a number and if one understands it, they have an “expertise”; except they don’t. They’re parroting and spouting regurgitated nonsense disguised as analysis.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joba Chamberlain:

Nobody said Joba came to camp fat. And there’s certainly no evidence of a “spiral.” Sorry if it ruins your theory/spin/etc.

He’s fat, Jane.

The “spiral” is connected more to his perception than his performance which was only worthy of the heights his reputation dictated for a month in 2007. Apart from that, he’s been a mediocre pitcher at best whose press was always light years ahead of his accomplishments.

It wasn’t all his fault back then, but that he showed up to camp out of shape is indicative of his immaturity and either giving up or a sense of entitlement that came with the accolades he received as a “star” based on nothing other than idolatry or organizational babying.

Much like the Lenny Dykstra-steroids allegations from 25 years ago when the skinny speedster arrived at Mets camp with 20 pounds of muscle added to his frame, think about the likelihood of someone with Chamberlain’s lack of discipline spending a week—let alone a winter—pumping iron.

It wouldn’t happen.

If he pitches well, the weight is meaningless; but it’s not meaningless in the way the club views him. Baseball players need not look like bodybuilders—it probably does more harm than good—but his place in the Yankees universe is increasingly tenuous. The notion of being “in shape” is different for a baseball player, but Chamberlain could not arrive looking like he spent the winter lying on the couch eating pork rinds.

And that’s what he did.

Pattie writes RE Joba:

Thank you for articulating the responsibility and putting it where it belongs. I am no Joba fan, but, as my dad used to say (endlessly): “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Yankees management bent Joba the Twig into the gnarly mess he is now. Seriously bad handling of what used to be a potentially great asset.

I can’t take the excuses anymore. I wish they’d come out and say, “we mishandled him; we’re responsible”; but they’re still offering up silliness like it was the shoulder injury or proffering the “guidelines” as justification for what they did to him.

If they’d let him pitch and he’d gotten hurt, so be it; but this is worse—everything was designed to have a justification for his failure if it happened as if they somehow expected it.

Maybe they did.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Joba:

Joba and I have the same birthday. Same day, same year. Beyond that, I find nothing about him interesting.

He is obnoxious and overblown. Unfortunately, I can’t just unlearn who he is. He is trapped in my brain forever and his added girth means he’s taking up a lot more room than most.

As sad as it is, the story of a failed prospect or person is interesting in the “watching a train wreck” sort of way.

I genuinely think certain individuals are salvageable, but only if they go to the right people; people that can and will help them; but they have to make the effort too.

And the sand in the hourglass is dangerously low.

Lower than they realize.

Mike the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Joba:

Sorry Jane; Brian Cashman flat out broke Joba Chamberlain and rendered him inconsequential. The Yankees don’t know how to groom pitchers and never have in 38 years since BOSS bought the team. They buy other team’s pitchers instead. I’ll be generous and say Guidry; Righetti; Pettitte; and Wang (don’t make me laugh) were the only starting pitchers to do anything worthy of discussion that came from within. Ian Kennedy, Hughes and Joba were All Hurt at one point. Outside of Hughes, the most recent attempt to groom a pitcher is A BIG FAIL, and adds to the Yankees’ woeful history of not farming up pitchers under the Stienbrenner’s. To dispute this you must come up with names. Drabek and Rijo did nothing in a Yankee uniform. Other than who I mentioned, who else did? There are none and don’t even try to insult Guidry; Righetti or Andy by naming someone who is very ordinary.
The JOBA RUSE is over people.
I blogged about this very topic Tuesday before he even showed up fat. The writing has been on the wall for all to read. There’s no denying, Brian Cashman broke it.
….Hey Prince, can we by-pass Spring Training and get right to it?

I can’t argue with any of the points. I’d have to examine the Yankees pitchers who’ve made it as Yankees. Ted Lilly and others made it, but did it elsewhere; how much credit should go to the Yankees for development needs to be determined.

Because the big club was impatient doesn’t mean they didn’t have a hand in the success of said pitchers.

Impatience and the “name” players took precedence over giving the youngsters a chance. We’ll get a clearer view this year as Ivan Nova will be a necessity and not a luxury; Dellin Betances could also play a part this season.

Will there be rules and regulations? Due to the situational immediacy and club desperation, probably not.

If anyone has access to ESPN Insider, please send me the Dave Cameron posting on why letting C.C. Sabathia walk if he opts out of his contract is a good move for the Yankees.

He might have solid points; he might be writing stat zombie, blockheaded idiocy. I need to see what he says before retorting one way or the other.

Hedging

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training
  • Mutual risk/reward:

Certain subjects present the conundrum of which side to take.

Much like life, there’s a wide gray area between “right” and “wrong” and it’s open to interpretation and argument.

Such is the case with the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista agreeing to a 5-year, $64 million contract extension to preclude Bautista’s arbitration hearing this year and free agency following the season—MLB Trade Rumors Story.

There’s a case to say the Blue Jays jumped the gun on for a 30-year-0ld journeyman who might have had that one magical season that was a result of a confluence of events—events that he never before reached and likely never will again.

The other side can suggest that they believe Bautista is for real; that 2010 was the first season that he knew he was in the lineup every day and more importantly, knew that he was on the big league roster in the same city without the threat of trade or demotion hovering over his head. Functioning without one’s bags packed at a moment’s notice, he relaxed and played up to his potential.

Granted, 54 homers is a pretty massive potential.

Much like the constant references to Jayson Werth having never driven in 100 runs and receiving that lunatic contract he did from the Nationals, everything needs to be placed in the proper context.

Werth drove in 99 one year and and has only been an every-single-day player for two years—are you telling me that the 1 RBI between 99 and 100 would’ve been enough to shield him from that specious ridicule?

There’s no connection.

Bautista hit 54 homers last year and his previous career high was 16, but before the 161 games in which he played last year, his prior high was 142 games for the Pirates in 2007 and he hit 15 homers; apart from that, he was never a regular player and he bounced from the Orioles to the Devil Rays to the Royals to the Mets to the Pirates to the Blue Jays.

There’s something to be said for opportunity. A major part of success is simply showing up and getting a chance—Bautista got his chance in 2010 and took advantage of it.

This payday is far more than anything Bautista could’ve expected while he was with the Pirates.

The Blue Jays aren’t stupid; they know that Bautista’s sudden burst of power could’ve come from illicit means or that it was a freak occurrence. I doubt it was a “freak” thing and the Blue Jays—judging from this contract—agree.

No one aside from Bautista can know if he had chemical help—but if the team took the player to arbitration and let him play out this year as a pending free agent and he hit the way he did last season, there was no way they were going to be able to keep him. Bautista knows that if he put up another big year and with his versatility in the field, he’d make a fortune on the market.

Both sides are hedging their bets that Bautista is the real deal.

There’s no “right” nor is there a “wrong” in this case. It’s a risk for both ends; it’s a reward for both ends.

My feeling is that while Bautista will be hard-pressed to hit 50 homers again, he is a legitimate slugger and will hit at least 30. Is that worth the money the Blue Jays paid him?

As long as he doesn’t get busted in an HGH investigation nor fall flat on his face, then it is absolutely a smart risk even if it fails.

  • As funny as Adam Sandler and Dane Cook:

No, I don’t find Adam Sander or Dane Cook funny.

That’s the point.

During the desperate-for-stories days of spring training in February/March, how much of the reporting involves actual “stories” and how much is stuff to get people to read and talk?

Whether or not they’re fair has little relation to the stories themselves; of course there are the editors who are cajoling or outright demanding that certain nuggets be placed into a column.

You have to read between the lines.

Such was the case when I read this teaser line on ESPN.com—A’s Harden to miss 2 weeks with still lat muscle—although it’s irrelevant, you can read the story here.

It’s irrelevant not because it’s not newsworthy—of course it is—but because it’s being used as a hammer to: A) get a story where there are few to be found; and B) to get a laugh at the expense of someone else.

Rich Harden‘s career has been decimated by injuries to every part of his body. He’s had one season in which he was completely healthy and made 31 starts (2004); he had another in which he made 25 (2008); in both years, his numbers make one salivate as to how dominant he can be.

But he’s always hurt.

The aspect of spring training that’s conveniently ignored is that aches and pains are part of the deal.

If it was a historically durable pitcher like C.C. Sabathia who tweaked a muscle and needed to rest, there wouldn’t be an article specifically dedicated and tag-lined to highlight the injury as a means of supplementary laughter. It would be chalked up to a return to physical activity after a few months off and nothing more.

With Harden, there’s that eye-rolling, “here we go again” when he has an injury, major or minor.

Harden’s in camp with the Athletics and trying to make it in their starting rotation, but this might be a blessing in disguise; I’ve long said that Harden, with his 95 mph fastball, good changeup and slider, should be a reliever. He doesn’t have the stamina nor the constitution to stay healthy over the long season pitching 150-200 innings, but as a reliever? Maybe he’d be able to stay out on the mound, go all-out for an inning or two and take his leave.

If he can’t make the rotation perhaps, like Dennis Eckersley, necessity will force him into a situation he and the club wouldn’t prefer, but will be better for all in the long run.

This is only a story for the underlying joke his repeated trips to the disabled list imply; but it’s not an actual story as it’s presented; it’s spring training and players get hurt.

Today, writers/editors/bloggers exploit such things for their ends.

You can see the difference in tone if you squint hard enough.

Viewer Mail 2.16.2011

Spring Training

Joe writes RE WAR:

The way you look at WAR is wrong. It is a statistic trying to tell us how good a player is, taking into account all facets of the game. You don’t bring in “team” just like you shouldn’t in MVP discussions, etc. It is all opportunity driven.


James K also writes RE WAR:

Yeah, you’re misunderstanding WAR. Check out WAR primers from FanGraphs and Yahoo!

Now, now…coming at me with a condescending pat on the head—no matter how slight—will not be met with a positive response.

Um…yes, I do understand WAR; but the way it’s presented is of little use to me because I don’t need to have a starting point of zero to get a grasp on the value of a player.

It may sound egotistical, but I don’t care; I can judge a player without a baseline number comparing him to some generic “Triple A player” who’s available, replaceable and negligible in performance to the next guy.

In a team sport, how do you not bring team into the discussion? Would Jayson Werth have accumulated his 5.2 WAR from 2010 had he not been in the Phillies lineup? What’s his individual value going to be with a rotten team in 2011, the Nationals?

My guess is that it’ll go down; and even if it doesn’t, so what? What good does this do if one component of the unit is head-and-shoulders above his counterparts on his and other teams and the team is still terrible?

Let’s have a look at an example different from Werth; a cog in the machine if there ever was one: Scott Brosius.

With the Athletics in 1996 and the Yankees in 1998, Brosius had a similar WAR of 5.3 (1996), and 5.7 (1998). The 1996 A’s went 78-84; the 1998 Yankees 114-48.

If either team had Brosius or didn’t have Brosius the results would’ve been close to what they were; as a part of the group he was an important part, but that had little to do with the end results positively or negatively.

How do you remove the team aspect in judging a player in a team sport?

Baseball is a sport of freedom within structure; of individual within a team concept; you can succeed individually as much as you want, but without the team you’re nothing.

The number assigned to the player based on WAR has nothing to do with winning in that team concept especially when it’s interpreted wrongly and treated as a final answer in judging a player who might put up big numbers because he’s part of a great team and in an advantageous situation.

According to the suggested links of WAR explanation, this is not taken into account.

Maybe this will, er, slam my point home in a clearer fashion:

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Zack Greinke:

But, his ERA last year was 4.17, which is more par for the course for Greinke.

I can’t believe in the guy when he follows up his Cy Young campaign by reverting to such pedestriocity.

Pedestriocity?

The rule here is that no one uses words that I don’t understand.

Actually his 2.16 ERA in 2009 was more out of line with his career than was the 4.17 in 2010.

Check his Gamelogs and you get a clearer picture of how he pitched. Looking beneath the vanilla result presented by ERA, you can conclude that the increased walks and homers emanated from poor location; Greinke wasn’t hitting his spots as he was in 2009 and he gave up more walks and homers which led to the repeated crooked numbers he allowed.

Objectively, the Brewers didn’t give up that much to get Greinke and it was a no-brainer for them to make the move whether it works or not; my main question with him is his emotions and how he’ll react to expectations that were previously—again to the WAR debate— individual and non-team related; no one expects anything from the Royals in a team concept (at least, apparently, until 2013 when the prospects supposedly arrive); the Brewers are supposed to contend now and without a big performance from Greinke, they won’t.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE C.C. Sabathia:

Yeah, I don’t see him opting out… but, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle so anything is possible I suppose.


Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan also writes RE Sabathia:

CC can certainly test the open market after this season, but as you say – Who will pay him more than the Yankees will/can? Meanwhile, he had knee surgery and has to prove he can bounce back THIS season.

The opt-out is put into the contract for a reason and with the way Sabathia’s pitched, the market and his durability, he’d be foolish not to consider it. Much like the Yankees exposed themselves stupidly with their public disagreement, Sabathia and his agent are leaving that door open so it’s known he might be available after the season.

It’s in his mind that no one can outspend the Yankees; but the chasm between Brian Cashman and his bosses regarding Rafael Soriano, plus the clear desperation inherent with the club considering Carl Pavano and signing the retreads they have clearly have emboldened Sabathia to make let it be known that he has the choice at his disposal.

Norm writes RE Mike Francesa and Bernie Madoff:

Francesa still taking calls on Madoff…and still revealing ignorance…this is what happens when you are surrounded by lackeys and yes-men; no one has the temerity to tell him he should shut up and not embarrass himself.

I didn’t mention it when it happened, but you reminded me of the recent show dedicated to the 2000 Mets-Yankees World Series and his interview with Don Zimmer; Francesa went to great lengths to praise Evan Longoria and, without saying it specifically, there were the ever-present shots at David Wright because he’s Wright and not Longoria.

The familiar themes—egomania, omnipotence, expertise not just in sports but in everything—have rendered Francesa transparent to the newer listeners as well as the old. It’s tiresome.