Saturday, September 29, 2007

Exhibit 1A

Those of you who know me perhaps take my criticism of mainstream sports media with a grain of salt. Perhaps you think that's just John being John. Perhaps you think that the mainstream media analysts, like Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver, the two leading color men in baseball, are actually intelligent baseball minds and that I distort what they say.

Perhaps you think that what they say is probably somewhat or even mostly true. Perhaps you think that I ought to defer to their experience as players and their lifetime in baseball instead of insisting that I am right and they are wrong. Perhaps you think I am arrogant for not really caring what these people think. Perhaps I do think I know more than I really know.

However, I have never been more convinced of their complete and total uselessness as analysts of baseball on the macro level than I am right now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I give you, from the World Wide Web's leading critics of baseball analysis, Exhibit 1A as to why you never, ever need to pay attention to what the men in the booth think about baseball strategy, roster construction, and valuable baseball skills ever again.

From the mouth of Mr. Tim McCarver:
We had our friends at Stats, Inc. check and see whether more multi-run innings came with a lead off homer or a lead off walk. You would think that a lead off walk would lead to more big innings than a lead off home run. Not true. A lead off home run, this year, has lead to more multi-run innings than lead off walks. It's against conventional thinking.
This is stupidity of the higher order, and you can't even say that it was spontaneous or ill-thought out. Tim McCarver actually did research to see if this was true and then was surprised at the results, so much so that he brought it up on the air because he thought his viewers would also be surprised.

This is why I do not respect what these men say about strategy. This is why I don't care on iota what they have to say about the stolen base and the sacrifice bunt. This is why I don't give a flying f*** about their theories on pitching and defense. If this result surprises you, you don't know the first thing about baseball strategy and the value of baseball events.

Mainstream baseball analysts, especially ex-players, are nothing more than men who have spent their entire lives learning baseball clich├ęs that have no basis at all in any sort of objective truth. Until they can demonstrate that their knowledge is actually valuable, we need not pay attention.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Get your story straight

I don't mean for this blog to be so reactionary. In fact, I'm working on a piece on statistical analysis right now, but it's taking forever because statistics involves a lot of math that makes my head hurt. If I don't understand it, I certainly can't explain it.

All that being said, this is exactly the type of quote that will get a reaction out of me, courtesy of Mr. Peter Abraham's usually excellent blog:
What a travesty. Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney – the darlings of the stat geeks – walk four and give up two hits to lose the lead in one inning. Well, they were each released before. They won’t be surprised when it happens again after the season. The Yankees would be crazy to put either of them on the postseason roster.
I pick on Pete a lot, because as good as his site is for information, he has the absolutely infuriating habit of dropping throwaway lines like this into his posts. This is, once again, a classic anti-statistics straw man.

Brian Bruney is not a stat geek darling. He walks way, way too many people and then gets hit hard. His best attribute, his velocity, is muted by the fact that he doesn't get any results. Absolutely no right-minded objective analyst will tell you that Brian Bruney is an underrated, misvalued diamond in the rough. He isn't.

Edwar Ramirez is exactly like Bruney, in an exactly opposite kind of way. He strikes a lot of guys out, but he walks too many guys and he then proceeds to get hit hard. Unlike Bruney, Edwar has no fastball to speak of, but possesses a devastating change-up. Abraham is probably hammering the stat geeks over Edwar because we were calling for his promotion on the basis of his minor league numbers. Edwar had proven that he could dominate the minors. At that point, you see if he can contribute in the majors. So far, he has not. I still like Edwar, but he has obvious flaws in his game. Naturally, Abraham's solution is to cut bait. What happened to player development?

Stat geeks wanted to see Edwar (and Chris Britton) precisely because the Yank's current pen (including Bruney) was so ineffective. Edwar isn't being asked to be Mariano Rivera or even Luis Vizcaino. He's being asked to be the 5th or 6th option in the pen. If he turns out to be great, then you win. If he turns out to be a turkey, there are a million and one guys out there who can be a bullpen's 5th option.

Here's the thing: both of these guys cost absolutely nothing for the Yankees to acquire. Edwar was a guy picked up to fill out a minor league roster. Bruney was released by Arizona and the Yanks picked him up because he throws really hard. Anything they provide is gravy. Both have pitched well at times. Both have sucked a lot at times. But no statistical analyst would be under the illusion that they've been effective. They haven't.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I swore I was done talking about steroids... I'm gonna talk about HGH instead.

Currently, Rick Ankiel is being accused of taking Human Growth Hormone a few years ago. Critically, HGH was not a banned substance at the time, not that this will stop the crisis-driven media from working itself into a mind-numbingly shrill torrent of condescending, sensational, half-assed, self-righteous pontificating.

But let's ignore that and instead just look at one even more critical piece of information: HGH apparently does not help athletes perform better.


Yes, folks, that's right. We have no evidence that HGH makes you a better athlete. Why does the media not care about this? Why won't this single fact stop them from going crazy to protect children, baseball, truth, justice, the American way, and baby seals from a substance that is apparently innocuous?

Because the truth about HGH doesn't sell papers or boost ratings! So much for journalistic integrity. I am already dreading watching the post season on Fox, where if Joe Buck can go more than fifteen minutes into the broadcast of every game without mentioning a baseball scandal, it will be a fucking miracle. (Pardon my French, Mom.)

Now can we please, please, please, please, for the love of God, please return to covering just plain, old baseball?