Friday, November 05, 2004
I Got Nothin'Blogger (the website/program I use to write this blog) has been giving me a ton of trouble this week. Last night, after I wrote up a nice NBA column for today, it ate the entire thing after I had spent about a half hour on it.
Then, when I decided to restart the whole thing and write it again, I couldn't get logged in to the system to do so. I was finally able to log in at around three in the morning, but by that time I had wasted a couple hours putzing around, I didn't feel much like writing anything, and the pillow was calling my name.
So send those angry e-mails to blogger, not to me. And in the meantime ...
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Meat Market: Shortstops (by Aaron Gleeman)
- The 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual Sneak Preview (by Studes)
Thursday, November 04, 2004
One of Those DaysI had an interesting day yesterday.
I was up all night working on a paper for one of my journalism classes, which I ended up turning in at about four in the morning, via e-mail. As soon as I thought normal people would be awake, I made my way to an Einstein Brothers Bagels and ordered a couple plain bagels with butter, perhaps the most innocent bagel order in the history of mankind. I was told that they didn't have any plain bagels, which is at least the fifth or sixth time I've tried to get that order and been turned down in the last year or so.
Shortly after that, with my stomach empty, I actually turned down a job for what has to be the first time in my entire life. I really wanted to do it, but the time/money commitment wasn't quite right. Shocking, I know. Six months ago I probably would have jumped at the opportunity, but I guess things change. It does seem rather strange to me to turn down someone's offer to pay me money to write something, but I suppose I have to get over that.
Then in the afternoon, I talked to someone at length about a really interesting writing project that I'd love to get involved with. And yes, if it seems like I'm being cryptic with the details of this stuff, it's because I am (I've learned my lesson from spilling the beans in the past). A short while after I got off the phone with that person, I learned that the mother of someone very close to me passed away.
It was a very long, strange, up-and-down day. And the fact that I didn't get any sleep wasn't helping matters either. Oh, and addition to all that stuff, I also wrote a new article for The Hardball Times, answered angry e-mails from Yankees fans, won a Diamond-Mind league playoff series to advance to the ALCS, and kept up to speed on the season's first full slate of NBA games.
Who says lazy, mostly unemployed college students don't have busy lives? In an attempt to make up for all the energy I expelled yesterday, I plan to sleep for 23 of today's 24 hours, with a short bathroom break, lunch (probably not bagels), and a quick game of NBA Live 2005 mixed in.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Meat Market: Second Basemen (by Aaron Gleeman)
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
A National OutrageI know I said yesterday that I wasn't going to get political here, but in light of what has happened, I think something simply needs to be said. The American people have been duped, bamboozled and misled, and I truly believe yesterday's events will lead to the downfall of the nation as we know it.
Yes, that's right, Derek Jeter won the American League Gold Glove at shortstop.
There are, as far as I can see, two positives that come along with this ridiculous situation. One is that you can cross "Gold Glove" off the list of things you give importance to, making statements like "he plays Gold Glove defense" utterly useless.
Beyond that, this gives hope to people out there with dreams. Dream of being President of the United States? Want to marry a supermodel? You say you'd like to be in the movies? Personally, I'd like to be the GM of a baseball team. Normally I'd say you and I were probably out of luck, but the fact that Jeter can be given an award for being the best defensive shortstop in the AL means pretty much anything is possible. Hell, I'm starting to think I have a real chance of winning the lottery, and I didn't even buy a ticket.
Most advanced defensive metrics say that Jeter has been one of the worst defensive shortstops for years, and although his defensive performance this season will likely rate better than in the past, he still won't even be close to the top of the heap. Plus, even if you choose to ignore all of the complicated measures, Jeter still is nowhere near the top in the more simple, mainstream stats.
FIELDING PERCENTAGENow, I pay absolutely zero attention to Range Factors or Fielding Percentages, but the latter of those is something that the coaches and managers who vote for the Gold Gloves and the mainstream media members who cover the story almost certainly pay attention to. In fact, in the ESPN.com story on the AL Gold Glove selections, Fielding Percentage is the only defensive statistic mentioned.
And yet Jeter doesn't even do that well in the most basic, dumbed-down measures. In Zone Rating, which is a number I at least place some value in, Jeter finds himself right in the middle of the pack in the AL, ahead of five players and behind five players.
Here's how he ranks in a slightly more advanced metric ...
FIELDING WIN SHARESAgain, I don't claim that Win Shares is the world's greatest measure of defense either (and I certainly don't agree with its ultimate conclusion at shortstop this year), but it is yet another stat Jeter trails multiple AL shortstops in.
Here's what Baseball Prospectus' fielding stat, Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR), says ...
FRAROnce again, Jeter finds himself in the middle of the pack. (Bobby Crosby's FRAR numbers aren't available, for some reason, so it's possible Jeter ranks another spot lower than shown above.)
And last but certainly not least, here's where Jeter ranks according to Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) ...
UZRAll in all, Jeter ranks sixth in Zone Rating, fourth in Fielding Win Shares, fifth in Fielding Runs Above Replacement, and eighth in Ultimate Zone Rating. I put no value in Fielding Percentage or Range Factor, but he even ranks just fourth and eighth in those two numbers, respectively. And this is in a good year; we have plenty of data on past years that suggests his mediocre rankings aren't flukes. Or, rather, if they are flukes, they are flukes in Jeter's favor.
And yet for the rest of Derek Jeter's incredibly wonderful, wealthy and supermodel-laden life, he'll get to say he was named the best defensive shortstop in the American League. Some guys just live charmed lives, I guess. I demand a re-count.
The Hardball Times:
- Who Hit What? (by Studes)
- Offseason Trading Block (by Ben Jacobs)
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Rock the Vote! (Or Not)Quite a few people have asked me to post a message today urging my readers to vote. While I admire those who work to get people voting, I'm not going to preach to anyone about it myself. First of all, if you haven't decided to vote yet, I doubt very much that something you read the morning of the election is going to change your mind (particularly something written by some 21-year-old schmuck who has never voted in his life).
In addition to that, I have no problem with people not voting. On the most basic level, if you don't care enough to vote, you shouldn't. Beyond that, I am of the opinion that the candidates running in any election have a responsibility to convince you to vote for them. If you don't think someone has done that this year, then by all means, don't cast a ballot. And for those who say you should vote against someone, I submit that not voting is doing exactly that. It isn't an either-or proposition, it is giving your vote to someone.
In case you haven't noticed over the past three years, that's about as far into politics as I'll ever get. I avoid politics as a topic here because, more than anything else, it leads to disagreement, arguing, resentment and confrontation. While I'm not against those things a lot of the time, in the case of politics it makes my head hurt. Plus, you don't come here for politics. You come here for baseball, a little poker, maybe a bit about basketball, some stuff on television shows, and a funny story or two.
There is a Chinese buffet near my old neighborhood that I really love, so much so that I still often go to dinner there even though it's completely out of the way. Along with all of the great Chinese dishes they serve, they also have the most awful pizza you've ever seen. It is essentially half-melted cheese on top of a piece of bread. I can't imagine anyone ever going there to eat it, just as I can't imagine anyone ever coming here to read about politics.
And, quite frankly, I'm a lot more interested in the fact that the NBA season starts tonight than I am about any election. I do, however, highly recommend the General Tsao's chicken.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Meat Market: First Basemen (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Cash in the Cradle: The Bonus Babies (by Steve Treder)
Monday, November 01, 2004
Some FantasyI had my fantasy basketball draft on Saturday afternoon and it went horribly wrong from the very beginning. Not only did I miss out on Kevin Garnett for the ninth year in a row (a span of 15-20 total fantasy teams), I got stuck with the #9 pick in the draft.
Much like with the early days of the Timberwolves, my pick was one spot past where it needed to be. In 1992, Minnesota picked third, taking Christian Laettner after the two obvious, franchise-changing players, Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, had been taken. In 1994, they picked fourth, taking Donyell Marshall after Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill came off the board. Marshall was in Golden State halfway through his rookie year.
For me, picking ninth meant I had to hope that one of my top eight guys fell ...
2) Tim Duncan
3) Tracy McGrady
4) Kobe Bryant
5) Andrei Kirilenko
6) Peja Stojakovic
7) Dirk Nowitzki
8) Shawn Marion
After those eight, I thought there was a major dropoff. Sadly, one by one those names were all snatched up, and when my turn came around I had 90 seconds to stare at my list of second-tier guys. After debating taking a chance with LeBron James (I think he's going to have a monster sophomore season), or going with either Elton Brand or Paul Pierce, I decided on Ray Allen.
Now, I'm not a huge Allen fan, although he was a member of the Timberwolves for about 10 seconds during the 1996 draft, before Minnesota shipped him off to Milwaukee for Stephon Marbury. Still, he's a good player on a bad Seattle team, which is typically a good combination in fantasy basketball. Last year, Allen averaged 23 points per game, was good for five rebounds and five assists, swiped 1.3 steals, and made 2.6 three-pointers per contest.
In a league where three-pointers are worth one-eighth of the overall standings, a shooter like Allen is pretty huge. Plus, he did all that while shooting 44% from the field (which isn't bad) and 90% from the foul line (which is great). The only category Allen doesn't contribute in is blocks, where he averaged just 0.2 per game last year. Oh, and he's also a bit of an injury risk, playing in only 56 games last season.
So I grabbed him and hoped that LeBron would make it back to me safely when I picked seven spots later. After all, that would be the #16 overall pick and LeBron had been going #15 in the average ESPN.com league. It was not to be, however, as he was snatched up two spots in front of me, leaving me with yet another choice between a bunch of guys I didn't really like that much.
With all of my second-tier guys (Allen, LeBron, Brand, Shaq, Pierce) gone, I somehow ended up with Baron Davis. I'm still not sure how, because a) I think Davis is an overrated player in real life, and b) his extremely low shooting percentage makes him someone I would never target in a fantasy league. Plus, my plan going into the draft was to take big guys early and grab some of my sleeper guards later on. Instead, I took a shooting guard and a point guard with my first two picks and didn't even love either of them.
By the time my third pick came around, my whole draft board was basically obliterated. In need of some rebounds and blocks, I grabbed Donyell Marshall with the 33rd pick. Yes, the same guy I just said the Timberwolves got stuck with back in 1994. Marshall, while a very underrated fantasy player, is quite a stretch in the third round. Then, on the way back with my fourth rounder seven picks later, I took yet another perimeter player, Ron Artest.
So, after four picks I had a point guard, a shooting guard and a small forward, none of whom I am big fans of and all of whom shoot a low percentage. And my only big guy was Marshall. (When told of my drafting Marshall, my mom, a big Timberwolves fan, said simply, "Oh no.")
The draft didn't get better after that, as I felt the whole time like I was 2-3 picks too late on every guy I really wanted, which led to me taking guys I either didn't like all that much (Allen, Davis, Artest) or reaching to take guys I liked too early (Marshall, Theo Ratliff, Drew Gooden, Rafer Alston).
Anyway, here are the Minnesota Fatboys of the "11 Guys Kicking Gleeman's Ass" league, who have almost no shot at defending their championship from last season:
Keep in mind that the league has 12 teams, so it's not quite as bad as it looks. However, even more than the quality of the team, the thing that bugs me is the type of team I put together. After a draft I can usually look at my team and see my stamp on it, and I can even show the rosters from the league to other people and they'll know which one is mine.
This time, the only guys I got who I really targeted heading into the draft were Marshall, Gooden and Alston, and I took all of them way too early because I was worried I'd lose out of them. Then, late in the draft I took Divac, which is the sort of pick I would never make. An old player with no upside is exactly what to avoid in the last few rounds.
Ugh. It's just ugly all around.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Meat Market: Catchers (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Who Gave Up What? (by Studes)