Sunday, September 28, 2008


I'd like to tell you that words cannot express how happy I am for Mike Mussina on securing his 20th win of the 2008 season. I'd like to, but it's not true. Here, let me show you how easy it is:

I'm really freakin' happy about this.

I'm mostly happy because people have unjustly branded Mike an inferior pitcher because that magical confluence of events that goes into reaching this particular arbitrary milestone never materialized for him until now. Those people are now forced to recognize The Moose as one of the best pitchers of his generation. This likely sows up a well deserved Hall of Fame spot. That makes me happy.

On the other hand, it should also give us all pause to reflect on how silly it is that for many, the key cog in Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame case was a meaningless game in September of his 18th Major League Baseball season. To many, Mike Mussina's career is now somehow significantly better because he won a game today; that his previous 535 starts are now somehow more meaningful because of his 536th.

That's a load of crap, and I hope everyone reading this realizes that. Before today Mike Mussina was a great pitcher. He didn't need this to be great. He needed it for other people to recognize his greatness. This win is a drop in the bucket; the garnish on an already excellent season; the signature on a masterpiece of a career.

But a Picasso would still be transcendent even if Picasso never signed it. The signature on a work of art has nothing to do with its inherent quality. It merely signals to otherwise uninformed that it is worthy of their respect and admiration.

People now respect Mike Mussina's career more than they ever have, even if they're only doing it because they saw his signature on what was already a masterpiece before he signed it. Sometimes you have to accept that people will do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Today, I can live with that.

Congratulations, Moose, from a fan who didn't need to see you sign your opus to know how special your career already was.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A-Rod sucks

So say Michael Kay and Al Leiter. It's more of the same "You gotta watch the games" garbage that always gets thrown around.

People, get this through your skulls: perception is not reality. Just because you perceive a pattern does not mean it exists. If I could communicate just one idea to people when it comes to analysis, this would probably be it.

A-Rod hasn't hit with men on base this year. So what? He'll probably finish 25 RBIs off his excellent-even-by-his-own-lofty-standards 2007. The Yankees are going to finish nearly 200 runs shy of their total from last year. Were you expecting Alex to drive in 300+ runs?! Surely there must be some other explanation. In fact, not only is it impossible to find any real evidence that hitting with men on base is a separate skill from simply hitting in general, but the difference between A-Rod's so-called "clutch" numbers and his overall numbers is vanishingly small.

What's the difference between A-Rod's pathetic .232 average with RISP and two out and a .300 batting average?

Five hits.



What could we expect those hits to net the Yankees? Five runs? Seven? Ten? If A-Rod's five missing hits give the Yankees ten more runs, they'd likely be only five game behind the Red Sox instead of six. With six to play. Yeah. That's a huuuuuuuge difference.

With RISP regardless of outs, A-Rod is hitting only .261, a mammoth seven hits away from .300. Yeah. Seven whole hits. A truly gigantic difference.

With runners on base, regardless of scoring position, A-Rod is hitting a pedestrian .274, still seven hits away from .300.

Notice a pattern? Not only is the difference about as far from significant as possible, but as we increase the sample size, A-Rod's numbers become closer and closer to his overall numbers.

Do you want to know something else perhaps even more telling? A-Rod's OBP with RISP and two out is .424. That's higher than his overall OBP. His OBP with RISP regardless of outs is .398, still higher than his overall OBP. Perhaps no one wants to give A-Rod a pitch to hit when he can really do damage. Note that again as we increase the sample size, his OBP retreats to his normal level. This regression to the mean is the hallmark of random statistical noise.

Does this look like the profile of a choker or someone who had "it" last year and lost "it" this year? Or does it look like random statistical variation perhaps coupled with some very cautious pitchers?

Of all the Yankees' problems this year, A-Rod's performance is probably the very bottom of the list (OK, it's more of a problem than Mike Mussina). There is no reason, there is no reason, why we should ascribe A-Rod's "struggles" to anything other than the capricious whims of Lady Luck.

I'm sorry if that makes a worse story.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is this blog dead?

Nope. Or at least, I hope not. Currently, and probably for the extended future, I am being crushed at work by a large project that does two things to me. First, it takes up more of my time than it used to. Second, it saps my mental energy to the point where I just don't want to think about analysis in any serious way. Whether or not you think serious analysis has been a requisite for posting here in the past, I certainly do not have the heart for it right now.

Nonetheless, there are still things I want to talk about, and I hope that in the future I will again be able to care enough to write about them here.

Some quick thoughts:
  • So much for everyone who thought the Tigers were world beaters.
  • So much for everyone who thought the Rays weren't.
  • I would not worry too much about the New York Yankees going forward. Every team experiences years like this. New York is in an excellent position to recover.
  • Joba Chamberlain must remain a starting pitcher.
I'll catch you all later.