Friday, March 04, 2005
The Red Sox are working on slowing opposing base stealers, as Chris Snow writes in the Globe. But here's a question of logic: Since the Red Sox are one of the teams that generally subscribe to the theory that the stolen base is a bad idea for an offense, then why would they worry about opponents' running? If math shows that stolen-base attempts are detrimental, over the long haul, shouldn't they be pleased that opponents are running?I'm not sure if that is called a "strawman argument" or something else, but it is definitely something that has a name and a definition. Oh, and how great is it that Olney leads into his misinformed diatribe by saying, "But here's a question of logic"?
Yesterday Olney wrote an entry about visiting the Padres' camp and hearing from the coaching staff that both Adam Eaton and Ryan Klesko looked great and were set for big seasons. It reminded me of the time Gary "Bababooey" Dell'Abate was telling Howard Stern about how he "heard" some new show on FOX was really great. Howard asked, "Who did you hear that from?" After a few moments of silence, Bababooey replied sheepishly, "I heard it from the people at FOX."
My goal for the 2005 season is for Olney to link to me from his blog, but I figure that has about as good a chance of happening as Olney realizing why his entry about the Red Sox and stolen bases is misguided. But hey, a boy can dream, can't he?
1) The trade with Oakland makes the team worse, not better. That is the mark of a bad trade, particularly since the Vikings aren't going to do anything useful with the money they saved.
2) The amount of flak Moss took for his on-field performance over the past couple years is an example of incorrectly blaming the star for what has gone wrong with the team. This happens all the time in every team sport, but on the list of things that caused the Vikings to lose games over the last five years, Moss is near the bottom. See Terrell Owens in San Francisco for a very similar recent example.
3) Assuming he stays healthy, Moss is going to have a monster year in Oakland, as the Raiders seem committed to making the vertical passing game a huge part of their offense. I was always frustrated by the way the Vikings used Moss, because he is perhaps the greatest deep threat in NFL history and Daunte Culpepper throws an excellent deep ball. Yet even when he was healthy, the team would often abandon the game plan to go deep after just a couple unsuccessful tries.
4) It will be interesting to see what impact not having Moss around has on Culpepper and the Vikings' running game. For years we've all heard that opposing defenses have to change their whole plan of attack when facing Moss, so the obvious answer is that the team may have some newfound trouble running the ball this year and Culpepper may not look so great. We'll see.
Hilary: Oh, yeah. How old are you, Freddy?Either Hilary Duff is a little weirded out to have been attracted to a 15-year-old or she is as shocked as me that the guy in this picture is still a year away from getting his driver's license. Or maybe both.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Frozen Rubber And Horsehide (by John Brattain)
Thursday, March 03, 2005
PECOTA says ...Baseball Prospectus recently unveiled the 2005 version of their PECOTA player projection system. In addition to projecting how players will perform this season, PECOTA also compiles a list of each player's 20 "most comparable players" in baseball history based on a number of different factors far too complicated to understand. What we do know is that, for example, Barry Bonds' most comparable player through this stage of his career is Ted Williams, which sounds about right. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to run through the Twins' roster and see if the team has any interesting comparables.
After winning the American League Cy Young award as a 25-year-old, PECOTA pegs Johan Santana's most comparable player as none other than Sandy Koufax. The good news is that there aren't many southpaws who were as dominant as Koufax in his prime and Santana is at the age when Koufax really started to peak. On the other hand, the bad news is that Koufax was able to toss just 184.1 innings as a 26-year-old and threw his last pitch at the age of 30.
Brad Radke's most comparable player is Dennis Eckersley, whose numbers as a 31-year-old in 1986 were very similar to Radke's numbers as a 31-year-old last season:
IP H HR SO BBOf course, Radke was outstanding last year, while Eckersley actually went 6-11 with a 4.57 ERA in what ended up being his final season as a starting pitcher. He joined the A's the next year and began his metamorphosis into being one of the best relievers of his generation.
In the bullpen, closer Joe Nathan's most comparable player is Eric Plunk. That may not sound like such a great pitcher to be compared to, but Plunk was actually an extremely effective reliever for most of the 1990s. Plunk went 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 71 innings as a 30-year-old, which is the age Nathan will be this season. He then combined to throw 141.2 innings with a 2.54 ERA and 156 strikeouts in his age-31 and age-32 seasons. The Twins would be thrilled to get that kind of pitching out of Nathan before he gets too expensive to keep.
Nathan's setup-man foursome of Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, Jesse Crain, and Grant Balfour have Bobby Ayala, Tippy Martinez, Andy Messersmith, and Steve Bedrosian as their most comparable players, respectively. I'm not sure what that means for the future of the bullpen, but it's a pretty interesting group.
Over on offense, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have Mike Scioscia and Kent Hrbek as their most comparable players, which is pretty interesting. Scioscia was a very good player and caught nearly 1,400 games for the Dodgers, but aside from his durability I would be disappointed if Mauer ended up having his career. Meanwhile, I'm guessing most Twins fans would be thrilled if Morneau turned into another Hrbek, although I think Morneau actually has the potential to be even more of a power threat. Incidentally, Hrbek had arguably the best season of career as a 24-year-old (Morneau's age now), hitting .311/.383/.522 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs in 1984, which is a lot more impressive than the raw numbers suggest.
My favorite whipping boy, Luis Rivas, has Frank White as his most comparable player, which should entitle him to another 15 years or so to fulfill his potential as far as his supporters are probably concerned. Of course, most of White's value came from the fact that he was an extraordinary defensive player, which Rivas just isn't. White hit a very Rivas-like .255/.293/.383 during his career, which means PECOTA isn't exactly predicting much offensive improvement from Oh-For-ThRivas.
Torii Hunter's top comparable is Preston Wilson, while his outfield mates Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones, and Lew Ford compare to Harvey Kuenn, Al Zarilla, and Bernard Gilkey, respectively. Yes, you read that right -- Lew Ford's most comparable player is Bernard Gilkey. And aside from the fact that one is a defensively challenged corner infielder and the other is a defensively challenged corner outfielder, Michael Restovich's #1 comparable of Wes Helms looks right on the money.
Michael Cuddyer's #1 comparable is Ron Swoboda, which isn't exactly encouraging. Meanwhile, Jason Kubel's top comparable of Jerry Turner is about as encouraging as Kubel's major knee injury, but he does have Tony Gwynn and Don Mattingly in his top five (at least until PECOTA realizes Kubel is out for his entire age-23 season).
Finally, here's what the Twins' lineup could look like on Opening Day, by way of their PECOTA most comparable players:
1) Harvey Kuenn, LFWith Koufax getting the start and Eckersley in the bullpen to slam the door, I think we might have a shot.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Offseason Rankings: Part One (by Ben Jacobs)
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Wives, Shortstops, and LineupsMy new job is going well, thanks for asking. I spent yesterday morning creating about a billion different log-in name/password combinations at newspaper websites across the country so I could search for newsworthy tidbits about the Devil Rays and Royals. It's a lot more interesting than it sounds, actually. Plus, I got in a pithy comment about Scott Spiezio's new diet and haven't been fired yet, so all in all it was a good first day.
Now, on to the stuff you actually care about ...
1) Shannon StewartThat's not how I would draw things up, but it's a lot better than some combinations we've seen over the last few years. The Twins have a bit of a problem when it comes to creating a balanced lineup that is also built in an optimal way for scoring runs. The team's two best hitters, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, are both lefties playing their first full season, so they figure to struggle against southpaws. Normally you would bat them back-to-back in the lineup, in the #3 and #4 spots, but Gardenhire is apprehensive about doing that because of their vulnerability in the late innings.
Beyond that, the two best on-base threats other than Mauer and Morneau are Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford. Normally it would be a no-brainer to bat the two of them in the first two spots in the lineup, but a) they are both righties and b) no one in a position of power seems to think Ford is any good. If it weren't for handedness and Ford getting a raw deal all the time, a Stewart-Ford-Mauer-Morneau front four would be nice and easy. Instead, Gardenhire might get cute.
He leaves Stewart leading off, but moves Mauer up to the second spot in order to break up the back-to-back lefties. Then instead of putting Ford in the third spot (which would seem like the obvious move), he drops Ford and his .383 career on-base percentage down to a "power spot" like fifth and puts Torii Hunter and his .319 career OBP third. The only problem with that (beyond the obvious) is that Hunter is a horrible choice to bat third on this team.
The #3 guy in a lineup with Stewart and Mauer batting 1-2 is going to have a ton of runners on base in front of him, and Hunter grounds into a whole bunch of double plays, ranking third in the league with 23 last year despite playing just 138 games. He also doesn't hit for a high batting average (.271 last year, .267 career) and, as I mentioned before, doesn't get on base, which means there will be fewer RBI chances for the #4 man and best power hitter, Morneau.
And all of this is because no one seems to trust Ford enough to stick him in the #2 or #3 spot in the lineup and leave him alone. If they did, there would be two very solid lineup choices -- the one on the left, which doesn't care about handedness, and the one on the right, which breaks up the lefties:
1) Stewart, R 1) Stewart, RIn both cases, the lineup would put the three best sources of on-base percentage on the entire team in front of the best power-hitter on the entire team, which is more or less a perfect scenario. Dropping Hunter to fifth and batting him after Morneau lets him clean up any messes Morneau leaves for him, rather than allowing Hunter to ruin any RBI opportunities for Morneau.
And yes, I'm choosing to ignore the fact that whatever lineup Gardenhire draws up will likely have an extreme out-making presence in the bottom two spots. Just for fun, here's the lineup the Twins could have trotted out on Opening Day in a dream scenario (or at least my dream scenario):
1) Shannon Stewart, DHHow sweet would that have been?
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Home Field Advantage (by Tom Meagher)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Working ManI start a new job today, one that'll keep me busy six mornings a week. Don't worry (or celebrate) though, I'll still be babbling about stuff here and at The Hardball Times on a near-daily basis. And, of course, my new gig involves writing about baseball too (what else do you think I'm qualified to do, exactly?).
I'm not sure if my employers are for or against revealing the identity of the man behind the curtain, so to speak, but if you see some Luis Rivas bashing and Johan Santana worshipping going on over at Rotoworld's "Player News" section, you'll have a pretty good idea why.
Meanwhile, a few notes ...
There is now a link to the feed near the top of the sidebar -- the button labeled "SYNDICATED" right under the visitor counter -- although I don't know enough about RSS feeds to figure out if it's set up properly or not. So if you're someone who uses such things, please let me know if it's working correctly.
The next big step in renovating the blog is to enable comments on selected entries, which is a very simple thing to accomplish in theory. However, when you've continuously monkeyed with a blog's template over the course of three years without really knowing what you're doing, it apparently makes some otherwise simple things difficult.
It is called "Pitch Tracker" and is described as "a new and innovative pitching location training system." In other words, it is a device that acts as home plate and tells you exactly where a pitch crossed the plate. Sort of like a miniature version of Questec, except without guys like Curt Schilling and Tom Glavine wanting to destroy it with their bare hands.
Here are a couple pictures:
So if you're a coach or a player or the GM of a team and you think this looks as interesting as I think it does, go check out PitchTracker.com. While you're there, tell 'em Judi's kid sent ya.
It can be purchased for the low, low price of $5 and the profits will be used to continue to provide all the cool (and costly) stats we make available to you on the site for absolutely free, so I think it's a very worthy cause. For more information, check out our little sales pitch over at THT.
Monday, February 28, 2005
No One Likes A Bad Beat StoryI decided to play in a $50+$5 no-limit hold 'em tournament on Party Poker over the weekend. A total of 490 players entered, putting the prize pool at $24,500. I started out poorly, losing a hand with AK and then with JJ, but minimized my losses with a couple of nice post-flop laydowns. I slowly built my stack back, and then doubled up a couple times to get into a comfortable position. Then I found myself in a pivotal hand.
With two players having already limped into the pot, I looked down and found two black kings out of the big blind. Sitting with about 10,000 in chips with 55 players left in the tournament and the blinds at 300/600, I raised it to 2,000 and got one caller. The flop came Q73, rainbow. I bet out 2,500 into a pot of 4,900 and was quickly called. The turn was a jack. I bet the rest of my stack, which was around 5,500, and was called after a slight hesitation. My opponent turned over J8 unsuited.
That means he called a 1,400 raise before the flop with a horrible hand and then called 2,500 after the flop with absolutely nothing. It also means I had a pair of kings against his jacks with one card to come, giving him a grand total of five outs in the entire deck. In other words, unless he spiked one of the two remaining jacks or one of the three remaining eights, I would double up to a little over 20,000 in chips.
I'll let you take a wild guess as to what happened next. A jack hit the river, giving him three-of-a-kind and knocking me out of the tournament five spots from the money. I was too stunned to get upset at the time, but it has really been eating at me ever since. I played the hand in what seems to me like a smart way, my opponent played it absolutely idiotically, and I was in a position where I had all my chips in the pot with an 88.6% chance of winning with one card to come.
Had I doubled up, I would have been in excellent position to finish high up in the money, where first place got over $6,000 and second place got almost $4,000. Instead I got nothing, and as I left the table, the moron who sucked out on me and took all my chips said, "Thanks for holding my chips for me."
What a cruel game.
On a less infuriating note, I participated in a roundtable discussion previewing the American League Central over at the new Rich Lederer/Bryan Smith combo blog, Baseball Analysts. Bryan, Rich, THT's Brian Borawski, and I chatted about baseball's worst division and the end result is hopefully pretty interesting to read. Plus, it's a promising new site from two of my favorite online writers, so go check it out.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Closer (by Studes)