Murray Chass, the Hall of Fame baseball columnist for the New York Times, penned a column yesterday in which he took some shots at the development of new statistics for measuring player performance.
receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic
publication filled with articles and information about statistics,
mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.
To me, VORP
epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea
what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to
find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t
know what it meant either.
Finally, not long ago, I came across
VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How
thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it
means. I don’t know.
I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit
at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s
their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age
statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of
baseball and the human factor therein.
People play baseball. Numbers don’t."
I just sent a reply to the New York Times, in which I stated that given that baseball is a business, and millions of dollars are being given to players for their performance, any new (better) way of evaluating player performance should be encouraged. I go on to say that Baseball Prospectus has helped me better understand the valuation of players, and has therefore enhanced my enjoyment of the game.
Hopefully my letter will get published …
Gary Matthews Jr. had a career year in 2006, at the late-blooming age of 32.
Matthews, who career best BA/OBP/SLG figures were .275/.354/.436 (not all in the same season), posted a 2006 line of .313/.371/.495 for the Rangers. He then signed a 5-year, $50 million free agent contract with the Angels.
Now comes word that he may have been in receipt of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
"A downtown pharmacy was raided by a law enforcement task force on
Tuesday, the climax of a large New York state grand jury investigation
into Internet drug sales that could expose widespread illicit steroid
use by professional athletes and thousands of people across the nation."
"The Times Union has learned that investigators in the year-old case,
which has been kept quiet until now, uncovered evidence that
testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been
fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former Major
League Baseball players …."
"The customers include Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews
Jr., according to sources with knowledge of the investigation."
Now … at this point, its just circumstantial and unconfirmed evidence … but its a bit suspicious and does cast a shadow on Matthews’ 2006 performance.
The Angels’ free agent offer to Matthews was fool-hardy to begin with, given the length of the contract, the age of the player upon its completion (38), and the one solid year on which it appeared to be based.
Now that the season may have been "helped" …. who knows what the Angels may have signed themselves up for.
It now appears there is a faint ray of hope that EI won’t be moved off of cable to an exclusive DirecTV agreement.
"The controversy comes because
DirecTV is trying to get an exclusive contract to carry the MLB
package, as it already has with the NFL. That has raised criticism and
threats of legislative action by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., along with a
statement by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin
that he is also concerned with the expected change.
Both men, as
well as an estimated 180,000 baseball fans who subscribed to Extra
Innings last year on cable and 50,000 fans who did so with the
competing satellite service from EchoStar Communications (Charts), might get their wish without a change in legislation.
source familiar with negotiations said he now believes that the Extra
Innings package will remain available to all three services.
"I’d be surprised if the DirecTV deal goes through," he said.
key isn’t likely to revolve around more money, but an agreement by the
cable operators to provide broader carriage for a Baseball Network
which MLB intends to start operating in 2009.
DirecTV had been
willing to let all 15 million of its subscribers have the new Baseball
Network right from the start, as well as helping with some of the
start-up costs, according to multiple sources. It isn’t willing to be
as helpful to MLB’s upstart network if it doesn’t gain the advantage of
an exclusive deal on Extra Innings, though.
But after initially
rebuffing the MLB demands for carriage of the Baseball Network, the
cable operators are now coming around, according to the industry source.
will be a commitment to carry the Baseball Network (on cable)," said
the industry official. "Where it will be placed, that still needs to be
Another source with the league said he was not aware
of any shift away from plans to go with an exclusive deal for DirecTV.
But talks have lingered for months without an official announcement
even as baseball’s opening day draws near.
A non-exclusive deal
would not only reduce the risk of any interference from Washington. It
will also allow baseball to not anger more than 200,000 of its most
loyal customers who would have to shift television services to keep
following their teams.
The motivation for the exclusive deal has
been reported — incorrectly — as baseball’s desire to get the top
rights fee for the Extra Innings package.
The big cable
companies, which collectively own a service called In Demand that airs
the Extra Innings games, were reportedly willing to pay $70 million a
year for a non-exclusive deal.
And while DirecTV won’t offer $100
million for a non-exclusive deal, it seems safe to say that it and the
Dish Network, along with the telephone companies that are making their
own push to provide television service, would easily pay more than $30
million combined for non-exclusive deals.
Plus, it’s not as if
DirecTV is likely to take a big financial hit if it doesn’t get an
exclusive MLB contract. Sources familiar with subscription numbers say
that DirecTV already has 270,000 Extra Innings customers…more than
the cable companies. Assuming DirecTV can hold onto all these
customers, that works out to $50 million in subscriber fees.
hasn’t been as much heat over DirecTV’s exclusive contract with NFL’s
Sunday Ticket, but that’s because that has always been an exclusive
deal. But that doesn’t mean the cable operators have given up hope
getting into that deal as well."
Over on BP.com today, Joe Sheehan opined that he was one of the few people who thought the Sosa signing was a good one for the Rangers, and that Sosa could compile a 20 HR / .520 SLG season.
I wrote to him, as follows:
Color me as another skeptic on Sosa, especially the chances of his posting a 20HR/.520 SLG season.
Here is the list of fewest ABs in history to compile a 20HR/.520 SLG season:
I don’t think Sosa gets 229 ABs. If he does, he’s either found the fountain of youth, or the Rangers are very delusional.
Just for kicks, since I think Sosa will hit no better than .220-.230, here is the list of lowest BA to compile 20HR/.520 SLG in a season:
Hmmm …. Art Shamsky and Sammy Sosa in the same sentence ….
Please help me decide my $$$ roto team name for 2007.
A bit of history:
2005: Big Head Bonds and the Monsters (for those of you who don’t get the reference …. Big Head Todd )
2006: Plantar Fascists (a takeoff on the injury of the moment …. Plantar Fasciitis)
I want to do something around my idea of "Pavanomas" ™
So …. please vote
1) Carl Pavanomas
2) Pavanomas Pavanomas
3) Pavanomas nomas
4) Other (please specify)
Remember when members of the Red Sox showed up on "Qu*er Eye for the Straight Guy"?
Well maybe we need to get Ichiro on TLC’s "What Not to Wear"
As part of ESPN’s Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, Guy Lake (part of the "Talented Mr. Roto" team) advised on the draftability of certain players who were injured during 2006 (see below)
One comment about the Astros’ Morgan Ensberg made me sit up and take notice (emphasis mine).
"Ensberg suffered through a horrible year after injuring his shoulder
diving for a foul ball. Note that despite the injury Ensberg actually
improved his plate patience (101 walks) from 2005 (85) in 13 fewer games."
Now, if you were battling a shoulder injury, wouldn’t you want to limit the number of pitches you actually swung at … be more selective as a way of protecting against tweaking the shoulder again?
Ensberg’s walk rate actually started to skyrocket in 2005 (perhaps not-so-coincidentally, his first season of 500+ plate appearances), His number of pitches per plate appearance took off then too, which also leads to his higher K rate:
Let’s look at 2006, before the shoulder injury on June 9, during his fight to play through it (6/10-7/9), and then his return from the inevitable DL stint and rehab (8/1-9/29).
I don’t have number of pitches per plate appearance for these three sections, but for the year, he saw an average of 4.23 pitches per PA. Here are the rates by month:
Interestingly, he was at his MOST patient during September, when he was supposedly fully healed, and the Astros needed his bat in the race for the division. He wasn’t swinging at more/bad pitches (his K rate being consistent throughout the year), he was just more selective.
(For comparison sake, of those with enough PAs for the batting title, only 7 players saw a higher average of pitches per PA, and they are the typical names of patience and OBP: Giambi, Nick Johnson, Frank Thomas, Abreu, Burrell, Youkilis and Thome.)
He started the season on a torrid homerun pace, and though his BA slipped, he improved on his 2005 BB rate. The month in which he fought through the injury saw him walk roughly 3 out of every 10 PAs, a Bondsian rate. Upon his return, his XBH power didn’t come back at anywhere near 100%, but his walk rate was still at a career high.
So … this may in fact be the growth in one aspect of Ensberg’s "skill set", but 2006′s BB rate needs to be seen in a certain perspective.
We’ll see what the addition of Carlos Lee does for the continuance of this positive trend.
Jon Lieber showed up at Spring Training in a giant Ford F-650.
It cost him $211,000, which is cheaper than the same truck models owned
by Shaquille O’Neal, the King of Jordan and Sheik Mohammed of Dubai.
Some fun facts: Passengers must go up two steps to enter the
vehicle. It costs $500 to fill up (four 50-gallon tanks) and gets 12
miles to the gallon. The satellite service on the truck costs $4.99 a
month. Ford apparently sold 60 of these things to people.
Don’t you wish relievers were still shuttled to the mound in cars, just so you could see that thing motor across the warning track?