May 22, 2013
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
While we're of a mindset these days that all of the power hitting since 1993 or so is a function of PEDs, hitting for power can be, to some extent, a choice. Sure, PEDs happened (and are happening) and small ballparks and other things have contributed greatly to increased power numbers, but players making a conscious decision to hit with an uppercut instead of a chopping motion and organizations eschewing the dogma of smallball altogether have probably had a lot to do with it too.
If you don't believe that, check out what's happening in cricket:
THIS was batting, but not as we know it, even in a game that isn't cricket as we know it. In the space of 43 breathtaking deliveries, yielding 89 runs, wunderkind David Warner redefined power-hitting at the MCG on Sunday night.
Prediction: the rise of the power game in cricket will cause some to turn to PEDs, and when they're caught, the whole philosophy will be trashed along with it. Then, 15 or 20 years from now, some former Member of Parliament will be commissioned to write a report whitewashing it all.
People talk about the Winter Meetings for weeks before and after they happen, but no one ever talks about the owners' meetings. Why is that? Well, it's probably because the press reports on what it can understand. GMs may make a lot of money and some of them are bona fide celebrities, but they still work for a living. They actually do stuff, you see, and the press (and all of us) understand that on some basic level.
But the owners? If you told me that an owners' meeting consisted of men sitting naked in tubs of money, caviar, and truffles prior to mustering for a mounted rifle hunt of human children I wouldn't have any way to prove you wrong. The super rich are different than you and me, you see, and their ways are mysterious and likely sinister.
But it seems that at least one intrepid scribe has survived long enough to report on something that is going to happen at this year's owners' meetings, which will take place tomorrow and Thursday:
Two significant rule changes affecting the postseason and one-game tiebreakers are on the docket for the first quarterly meetings of the 30 Major League Baseball owners or their representatives to be staged on Wednesday and Thursday.
Oh wait, we already knew that was going to happen, so whatever they do on these counts will be mere formalities. With those votes out of the way, I suppose that leaves more time for the representatives of the General Fruit Company, the United Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Pan-American Mining Corporation, South American Sugar, and the Lakeville Road Boys to present Bud Selig with his solid gold telephone or whatever the hell it is they're doing down there.
In a great big goody bag of an article, Peter Bernstein at ESPN the Magazine looks at the most and least cost-effective teams of the past ten years and figures out just how much spending correlates with winning. A passage to keep in mind as you prepare to shift from winter Yankee outrage to spring Yankee outrage:
We also looked at the connection between opening day payroll and making the playoffs. The results were similar—spending helps, but it's no guarantee of reaching the postseason. In fact, the link between payroll and playoffs has gotten weaker over time . . . Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, 14 were in the top third of payrolls. In other words, 70 percent of the high spenders made the playoffs in those years while virtually none of the lower two-thirds of spenders went anywhere. But that was then. Since the start of this decade only 40% of top third of spenders have made the playoffs since the start of this decade. In fact, the top payroll teams in 2008 (Yankees, Mets, and Tigers) all failed to reach the post-season.
Yes, there is an advantage to spending more money, but buying a playoff slot -- let alone a championship -- is an inexact science. Given how big a part luck plays in baseball -- CC and Tex could crash their golf carts into each other with each breaking their femurs this spring -- I think it's silly to say that the system is truly broken, even if it isn't ideal.
The best line I've seen so far on the twenty-eight guys who didn't vote for Rickey comes from Ray Ratto:
We have no compelling defense for the 28, although Corky Simpson, who was pilloried on the Web for omitting Henderson, at least had the stones to say so. The other 27 remain silent, hidden and nuts.
Good point on Simpson. Dumb and honest is better than just dumb.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has Derek Lowe "leaning strongly" towards signing with Atlanta.
I know four years is a long contract for a 35 year-old, but he's young blood compared to Smoltz and Glavine. I know $60M is a lot of money, but $15M a year is around what Mike Hampton was making, so we're used to that kind of chunk of change going to a pitcher, and his track record suggests better health than Hampton. Derek Lowe is a better bet to put up at least a couple of healthy, above average seasons than a lot of guys who have already signed this year, and if having him means overpaying him a bit, I'm cool with that.
OK, I'll admit it: this is not really hardcore analysis. In fact, it's defensive and emotional analysis, not unlike that which guys engage in when trying to rationalize the erratic behavior of their crazy girlfriends. But the Braves are my crazy girlfriend, dammit, and I love her.
Former Pirate, Tiger, Met, and Cub Richie Hebner has been and will continue to be the manager of the Frederick Keys in the Orioles' system. This doesn't exactly qualify as big news, but I offer it for those people (myself included) who can only picture him playing Virgil to Josh Wilker's Dante in last year's epic "Elysium" series over at Cardboard Gods.
Alex Brissette passes along an article about a political scientist named Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and the world of game theory (or, as they prefer to call it, rational choice theory) which, if you think about it a bit, parallels the story of Bill James and sabermetrics minus the humor and plus real world consequences. It's a tad old, but still interesting stuff:
If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”
Academics and policy wonks are probably pretty familiar with the whole debate about rational choice theory, such as it is. I'm kind of a moron, but I have a good friend who wrote a book about it, so the topic interests me. She's sort of on the side of those calling this Bueno de Mesquita fellow a quack, however, which some may argue is like being one of those VORP-o-Phobics in the BBWAA. She's nice, though, as I'm sure many RBI-worshipers are nice too, so I won't get too bent out of shape about it.
Most folks got to this yesterday, but around 3pm my boy got all of the Hot Wheels out and made a big parade in the hallway with them and, well, that was pretty cool, so I played too. Anyway:
A new report by the Justice Department's inspector general finds that a lawyer for the U.S. Marshals Service arranged for the Marshals Service to provide a private escort for the limousines of Fox's star broadcasters, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, after two World Series games at Fenway Park in 2007.
People were generally outraged or snarky about this, and frankly, I don't understand why. Look: none of us like Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but facts are facts, and the relevant fact here is that Thom Brennaman is a heartbeat away from broadcasting the World Series, and I find that to be a terrifying proposition. Put Buck and McCarver in an armored car if you have to, just don't give me Thom Brennaman in October.
(thanks to Melissa Danielson for the link. See guys, Sara and Blaze aren't the only two women reading this blog, so for cryin' out loud comb your hair, pull your pants up and act respectable for once in your lives)
Braves GM Frank Wren, when asked whether he pays attention to the criticism he's received from the web:
Said Wren, speaking of the reason he strategically avoids such sites: “It’s not unlike talk radio, and I’ve stopped listening to talk radio. I don’t think the average sports fan calls talk radio, nor do I think he goes on the blogs. That’s a special group of fans — someone who wants the experience of making a call or typing a sentence. I don’t think that represents the masses. If you go by those, you get a somewhat distorted view.”
I certainly don't want the GM of my team planning his day based on whatever "Steve from Stone Mountain" was barking about on whatever talk show was dumb enough to air him this morning, but these comments of his are directed at the blowback from not signing Smoltz, and in that particular instance I believe that sentiment does represent the masses of Braves fans, and that Wren is pretending to be ignorant of just how outraged folks in Atlanta really are.
Maybe the masses are all wrong -- personally I have come around to the idea that you couldn't keep Smoltz at any price, and I like Wren's explanation in the article as to what went into the Smoltz offer -- but there does seem to be a considerable disconnect between what Braves fans want and what they're getting from management. It's more of a messaging thing than anything else. As the AJC's Mark Bradley notes in the article, the Braves are clearly rebuilding for 2010 or 2011. I'm fine with that. In fact I'm quite thrilled with that given the kind of talent we've got just around the corner. Frank Wren and company won't admit that, however, and that has many fans who are less prospect-savvy than us disappointed for quite a while. When that happens, he has to expect the kind of flak he's been receiving.
In terms of communications strategy I don't know that Wren is all that different than Schuerholz ever was. I guess the difference is that Braves fans would sit around clueless as to what Schuerholz's plans were and then wake up surprised one morning to see that we've signed Andres Gallaraga, whereas now we sit around clueless as to what Wren's plans are and then wake up surprised one morning to see that we've let a hero go to Boston or that we've dealt for Casey Kotchman.
Maybe it's silly to expect a baseball GM to manage the expectations of emotional fans the way we would a president or a CEO or something, but Wren's failure to do that has certainly depressed Braves' fans, and that's not a good thing.
(thanks to Sara K for the link)
I was on youth bowling leagues for 13 years, and even then I never saw patches this bad before.
I know that teams are looking to cut costs, but delegating graphic design to a team of monkeys who kinda know how to use MS Paint is no way to put the franchise's best foot forward.