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The baseball spot

Updated: 2015-09-17T00:10:28.370-07:00


So many choices...


This is pure brilliance. Who do you hate more, Chris Berman or Stuart Scott? Joe Morgan or John Kruk? Vote now.

My sentiments exactly...


Idiots captures the home run derby perfectly...

From my comments on FJT


Yeah, I listened to Gubizca for a few minutes yesterday as well. It was amazing, a stream of callers who all seem to get their sports news exclusively from Plaschke columns. There’s this one caller, Patricia, who calls every week. All she wants is heart…a whole team of nothing but Darrin Erstad and Paul Loduca. And, Hee Seop Choi is the worst defender ever (not something I necessarily disagree with) but where were these people when Shawn Green was sucking at first base last year? Talking about his heart, of course, and how he’d sacrificed for the team…the team that was paying $15 million per year to GIDP. Whatever.

This is a lost year. And, even if I wanted to, I don’t have much energy left to defend Depodesta. But these idiots just piss me off more. If they succeed in getting what they want, chiefly, running Depo out of town and hiring Steve Phillips (or some other retread loser) I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch the Dodgers…

Even more so after today's game.

Chris Berman and Stuart Scott


Is there a worse pair of sportscasters anywhere in the world?



Considering Billy Beane's view of the save as a stat and the relative value of closers, I think there may be a real upside to Gagne's stint on the DL and Brazoban's opportunity to close. He's already picked up 7 saves, proving that "he has what it takes," I guess. This will make him a much more valuable commodity in terms of trade value when Gagne does come back. As much as I like Brazoban, and think it's great to have good power arms in the bullpen, a middle releiver can only take you so far. If he continues to throw well, and racks up a few more saves, I think that Depo could have a really great opportunity to flip him for a good bat or some top quality prospects this summer. And whatever he brings back in trade could really be what makes the difference this year. We may have gotten very lucky. So far, Gagne's injury hasn't really seemed to hurt the club, and it may have created a very valuable bit of trade bait.

Underestimating the fog


A commenter, the first commenter ever in fact, mentions that Bill James' article Underestimating the Fog is available now. Check it out.

[Update]: After reading the article, I have a couple of comments. I guess, it's obvious, but we always need reminding that you can't prove the non-existence of something. With continued effort, you just make it more and more unlikely. This is how I feel about clutch hitting. It's not impossible that it exists, but I think it's unlikely. The main reason why this debate is still going is that people intuitively beleive in clutch hitting. If they didn't, this would have ended long ago. I see no reason (although I don't have any hard data for this) to trust mass intution. Not only that, but I feel that in order to suggest that something which is not supported by hard data be true it should at least make sense in terms of how we understand the world. Other people have gone through this before, so I won't do it here, but there is no good theory that would explain why clutch hitting should exist. I compare this to my own non-baseball pet peeve, homeopathy. There is no data that suggests that it works appreciably better than a placebo, yet many people swear by it. Again, we can't prove a negative. However, for homeopathy to work as it is described, it would have to break the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. As such, I don't beleive that it works, even though there's no way to absolutely prove it. I feel the same way about clutch hitting, regardless of what Bill James says now.

Scientific method


There has been an interesting discussion going on between Economist Steven Levitt and bloggers by way of Sabernomics over the validity of Moneyball and Billy Beane's approach.

I guess I just don't get it. I think Moneyball has been one of the most misinterpreted works in recent memory. This is partly due to the sensational way in which it was written, but that's also why it was a best seller. As far as I can tell, there are two things that it says that Beane has done. One is to actively search for market inneficiencies and exploit them (something done naturally by all successful small market clubs), which seems kind of obvious. The second thing, and by far the most interesting, is applying the scientific method to baseball. It basically says two things, future performance can be predicted based upon past performance, and that performance can be measured quantitatively. He suggests that these quantifiable measures of performance are more reliable than any other measures, which is what has pissed off so many scout types. On base percentage just happened to be one example. Whether or not it is the best example, the only example, or one that has been used exclusively by the A's is kind of a silly discussion, mostly revolving around the way in which Moneyball was written.

The difference between 'statheads' and 'scouts,' in this debate seems to be based on whether or not they think the scientific method is valid, and this is what makes the debate so ridiculously idiotic.

I guess Levitt's point is that people have taken Moneyball as gospel, without questioning any of its conclusions. That may be true. It may even be true that many of the conclusions in Moneyball are flat-out wrong, but that doesn't negate the underlying superiority of the approach. Sometimes you get lousy results due to bad experimental design, bad data, or bad luck, but that doesn't mean the methodology is wrong, it just means it needs to be corrected and we need to try again. I think the real lesson in Moneyball, and Billy Beane/Bill James et. al real contribution to baseball has been the application of the scientific method and that is undeniably good.

It's not just winning, it's who you beat...


I have to say that taking two out of three from the White Sox was extra nice. Not just because the Sox have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Or, because they are supposedly the 'anti-Beane small-ballers'. It's even better because my wife is from the Chicago area. And, while she doesn't follow baseball closely, she does take every opportunity she can to rib me. On Tuesday she read me an article, titled "White Sox Clobber Athletics 6-0," from the Chicago newspapers describing the A's loss, which mentioned the "Athletics' inept offense" and Chicago's "dominant pitching." Today, however, I can have the last laugh, as our inept offense scored just enough runs to take two of three from the mighty chisox.

Tony Gwynn: Best hitter ever?


For some reason I get Best Life magazine. It's the kind of magazine that is apparently written for executive types who are interested in finding the best rooms at the most expensive resorts, finding the best foods for sex, and why 'streetball' has such an attraction to us all (does it, I didn't realize). Anyhow, it does make entertaining bathroom reading as I look through pictures of Ralph Lauren suits I will never be able to afford. My $20,000 yearly stipend only goes so far. In any event, there is a section titled "The Best List," and it lists the best things in a number of categories. The one that caught my eye was "Best Hitter: Tony Gwynn." Now, I'm not someone to knock Gwynn because I loved watching him play, but best hitter? Come on, now. He's not even the best hitter of his era. I don't know what they were thinking...maybe auditioning for the LA Time sports page?



In the last few days there seems to have been an inordinate number of complete games. Several by the Marlins, and, of course, two by the Dodgers. In this day and age, I just don't understand it though. Why let a guy go out there and pitch that last inning if the game is out of reach anyhow like it was today against San Diego? Why put the starter at risk, by having him throw extra pitches unnecessarily? Especially, early in the year when these guys are just getting going. Why not give an inning or two to one of the stiffs in the bullpen? Let one of the young guys get a little work in-game, and let your starting pitcher relax and get a little rest. It seems like the decision is based more upon getting a starter his individual stats (shutouts) and pleasing those 'old-school' types like John Kruk who think you aren't a real man unless you throw at least 160 pitches per start. Let guys like "Trader Jack" burn through his starting arms. I'd rather be fresh in September.

It seems the New York papers get it


Why does it take the New York Sun to write something decent about the Dodgers? I've pasted the article below (since they charge a subscription fee). Maybe the LA Times can't afford to have decent analysis, since they give their paper away for free:Los Angeles Dodgers GM Paul De-Podesta is not a popular guy. It is not uncommon to read criticism of a general manager; what is uncommon is to read predictions that a team coming off a postseason appearance is doomed to failure before more than a handful of games have been played. But just three of 19 writers surveyed by before the season predicted the Dodgers to repeat as division champions.The heart of the critics' argument appears to be threefold. First, they have not forgiven DePodesta for trading catcher Paul Lo Duca during the heat of last year's pennant race. Second, they were skeptical of his off-season strategy, most notably his failure to re-sign third baseman Adrian Beltre and his decision to spend money on J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe instead. Third, they've noted his failures to communicate with fans, journalists, and his peers around the game. Do the skeptics have a case?It's still too early to make a definitive judgment on the trade that sent Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnacion to Florida for Hee Seop Choi, Brad Penny, and prospect Bill Murphy - but it certainly didn't merit the cascade of abuse showered on DePodesta at the time. Lo Duca is 33, the age at which catchers typically begin to break down; he, along with Mota and Encarnacion, played poorly down the stretch in Florida last year.Choi and Penny, meanwhile, are the youngest of the five major leaguers involved in the deal, underscoring De-Podesta's desire to build for the future at the same time as his team contends for a title - though Penny's arm injuries could eat into some upside. Murphy was used to obtain Steve Finley a week later, and the Dodgers went on to win its division. The trade looks no worse than a wash, but because it involved Lo Duca, a favorite among fans and the press, it remains a focal point for DePodesta detractors.Critics of the Dodgers' offseason are on similarly thin ground. In the accompanying chart, we've employed some proprietary Baseball Prospectus tools to help analyze DePodesta's moves this winter. The first is Value Over Replacement Player, a measure of the number of runs a player is worth relative to a freely available alternative at his position - think Bubba Crosby. The second is our Pitcher Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (Pecota), a state-of-the-art projection system that uses weighted averages of a player's last three seasons, combined with biographical information such as age, height, and weight, to predict future performance.There are nine players that made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster who weren't with the organization at the end of 2004. In addition to Drew and Lowe, DePodesta signed free agent infielders Jeff Kent and Jose Valentin, outfielder Ricky Ledee, pitchers Kelly Wunsch and Scott Erickson, and catcher Paul Bako; all but Kent were signed to minimal contracts. In addition, DePodesta acquired catcher Jason Phillips from the Mets for pitcher Kaz Ishii.Apart from Beltre and Ishii, the Dodgers lost six other players who were part of last October's playoff roster. Shawn Green was dealt for prospects in the Randy Johnson-Javier Vazquez deal. Second baseman Alex Cora was released after the team brought in Kent and Valentin. Pinch-hitter Robin Ventura retired. Free agents Finley, Jose Lima, and Jose Hernandez were allowed to sign elsewhere.If our projections are correct (see accompanying chart), then DePodesta has gained more for his club than they've lost. The five key acquisitions have a projected worth 129.7 VORP to 104.5 for the five key departures; in all[...]

Steve Finley: Clutz


Just one more reason that I'm glad that Depo didn't re-sign him. David Pinto's post reminded me of his terrible miss in center field today against the A's. (Of course, I didn't mind, it meant two more runs for the home team). He is an amazingly overrated defensive player (his FRAA is -31 for his career). Not only did he botch that play, but it seemed like he bobbled almost every ball (on the ground) that came his way. It just seems to me that he takes poor routes to the ball and then he doesn't have very sure hands. And, we won't even get into his hitting so far this year.

On a side note, a couple weeks ago when I was watching one of the Angels pre-game shows in spring training they said something very interesting. Apparently, Finley said that he would never have played anything other than center field, and when the Dodgers signed Drew, he knew it was time for him to go elsewhere. So, while the poor fielding Finley refused to accommodate the team, he was being worshipped by the local press, and Drew/Bradley were being savaged while they came to a team-friendly decision on playing positions.



I got my first look at Huston Street today (A's games are rarely televised down south here unless they are playing the Angels). He looks like a real stud. It appears as if he throws harder than he actually does. Very nasty stuff! I don't know if I approve of the way Macha handled him though, having him pitch 2 IP spread over three innings. It seems like a little much for a rookie. But, I guess using him is better than nothing at all, as Mike Scoscia has done with K-rod. Even though K-rod is proven and Street isn't, according to Rex Hudler.



Question: does it make Angels fans happy or worried when Washburn pitches like he did today? It's a contract year, and if he has a few more outings like this Tim Brown's sugar daddy (aka Uncle Arte) might feel obliged to re-sign him. So, do you root for him or against?

Another Giambi HBP


Wow, he must be absolutely huge...hit three times already...

Here come the Dodger defense detractors...


Anybody want to place bets on who will be the first commentator (I'm picking Plaschke) to use the Dodger's pathetic defense this weekend against Anaheim as further evidence that Depo doesn't know what he is doing. If only the Dodgers had kept Cora and Beltre they would have been 3-0 agains Anaheim (yes, I know LAAoA) in meaningless spring training.

[Update: Simers mentions it in his column today (4/5/05)]

What steroid controversy?


Well, I think it's settled, steroids don't really make a difference. As judged by Jason Giambi's two hit-by-pitch today, both on his arm, his biceps are not any smaller now that he's off the juice. And, our first steroid suspension goes to a guy who couldn't even make the Tiger's major league roster. Looks like steroids can take you all the way to the top...or at least to be the 25th man on the worst franchise in baseball.

As a side note, a number of bloggers have mentioned the fact that they think that the steroid controversy is being overplayed in the press, and that the public doesn't really care that much as evidenced by the fact that tickets and baseball merchandise are flying off the shelves at a record pace. While this is probably true, I wonder if the reason the public feels this way is because of the incredible amount of press involvement. Maybe if the press wasn't covering this story (and there were no congressional hearings etc etc) the public might be more outraged. As it is now, most people feel like it's getting enough attention, the players are being embarrassed into compliance, and things will take care of themselves. My point being that maybe it's good for baseball that there is all this coverage because it has made the customer, the most important participant in all of this, sympathetic to MLB.

Sportscenter Spring Training Coverage


Is it just me, or is the coverage of spring training on Sportscenter absolutely atrocious? It's as if they don't get it at all. All they ever show is the final scores and the home runs hit by established major league stars. Who cares what Albert Pujols does in the spring, I know he's going to crush the ball and be an MVP candidate. I want to see the young guys. I want to know how the Joel Guzmans, Dioner Navarros and Nick Swishers of the world are doing. That's what spring baseball is all about. And who cares about the won/loss records of the spring teams? If somebody wins 9-3 by scoring 8 runs in the 7th inning off of a bunch of subs, what does that tell us? Absolutely nothing. It just seems that their spring training coverage is even worse than the rest of their 'reporting.'

Penny's Biceps


Brad Penny’s 2004 season was ended prematurely when he injured his throwing arm after pitching in only one game for the Dodgers last season. Many of us Dodger fans also remember his attempted comeback and the pain it elicited. So, after seeing all that, and the limited progress this spring (although he claims to be pain-free), I thought I would see what data is out there on his chances.The injury:There is not much information on the exact nature of the injury (baseball teams are strangely secretive about this stuff), but what is out there suggests that Penny hurt his “Biceps Nerve”, possibly when he tore some scar tissue from a previous injury (possibly from his previous bout of biceps tendonitis). This injury led to excruciating pain in the middle of the biceps muscle itself, nearer to the armpit than the elbow. There was also an associated numbness of the forearm.To begin with, there is no biceps nerve. The biceps muscle is innervated by the musculocutaneous nerve which originates in the brachial plexus (the tangle of nerves the exits the spinal cord in the neck), passes through the armpit, along the underside of the arm and passes up through the biceps muscle approximately 2-3 inches from the elbow. The nerve continues on superficially, innervating the skin of the forearm (hence, the forearm numbness associated with nerve injury). Nerve syndromes can be caused by compression of the nerve at any point along its course, however the most common site is upon its emergence from the biceps muscle. It must pass through the biceps fascia and lateral bicipital aponeurosis (a layer of fibrous tissues that surrounds the muscle and may include attachment points for some tendons). Compression at this point is thought to occur due to violent pronation (rotation of the forearm so that the palm of the hand faces down) with a fully extended elbow. This is obviously a motion that occurs frequently while throwing a baseball, particularly with breaking pitches such as a curveball. I have not been able to find any information that would indicate where exactly the compression was thought to be in Brad Penny’s case, but it would seem to be a decent assumption that it is at the emergence point of the nerve.Treatment:This is an extremely rare injury, but not completely unheard of. There is at least one study that examined the outcome of patients with compression of the musculocutaneous nerve. In 30% of cases, recovery occurred without invasive procedures. Rest, anti-inflammatory use, and steroid injections (to decrease inflammation around the nerve) were sufficient. However, in the remaining 70% of patients, surgery was necessary to release the nerve from its impingement.Prognosis:In the surgical cases, the compression was visible on the MRI as flattening of the nerve. The authors state that surgery corrected the problem in all cases, but they do not discuss whether or not any of these patients were pitchers or if they were able to continue throwing. A separate article mentions a single pitcher (unnamed) who was treated by the authors and recovered without surgical intervention. With such a small sample size it is hard to gauge Penny’s chances. It is possible that this was a one-time freak injury and now that it has healed there will be no more nerve problems. However, if he has some problem, such as scar tissue around the nerve, it is possible that he could re-injure himself at any time. Such a scenario could only be fixed by surgical removal of the problematic tissue. A second issue associated with an injury of this type is that since the injury oc[...]



By the way, I'm not going to talk about the disapointing loss the other night (we'll be back next year) other than to say that Bob Knight is an ass. No good reason not to shake Howland's hand. His jealous hatred of coach Wooden is just beyond me. Sad, very sad...

Dodgers '04


I can't wait for the season to start. One of the reasons is that I really want to see all the DePodesta and Billy Beane detractors proven wrong. Not that these guys are perfect, but it seems that their every move proves or disproves the analytical approach to the game. It would be like if every failed biology experiment weakened the scientific method. Idiotic, but that's where we are in today's game.

People like Bill Plaschke. Indeed.

However, I know that these guys won't let up, no matter what happens. Even if the Dodgers win their division, there will be no end to the complaining if Beltre or Green has a great year. I noticed in Rob Neyer's column today that he thinks Green will be one of the players to have a rebound year, and do better than expected. This makes a lot of sense, since Green had an absolutely horrible season last year (bad even for him) so he'll have to get a little better, and he's moving into a hitter's park. Just one more thing to look forward to seeing Plaschke and Simere write about.

Obesity in sports


There is an ESPN article today discussing a new report that many basketball players have BMI's (body mass index) classified as obese. This is a followup to a previous study in JAMA making the same claim about Football players. Using BMI it suggested that a quarter of football players were fat. Well, duh, right? Of course, this is a complete misuses of the BMI. It was never intended to be used on an individual level, as it was designed as a way to classify large populations and follow outcomes and trends. It is fairly innacurate, on an individual level, even for people who fall in the normal size class, and it has been known for a long time that it is almost useless when it comes to extremely muscular people such as athletes. The best way to classify individuals is through measurments of body fat percentages, something that I'm sure most professional teams do. The only really impressive thing about these reports is that they made it into one of the most prestigious of scientific journals. Inside joke or editorial oversight? It seems like there is already enough confusion and difficulty dealing with obesity tha we don't need meaningless discussion about reports like this.

Surgery vs steroids


Wired magazine has an interesting article on performance enhancing surgery in pro sports. The question needs to be asked, are steroids really worse than laser eye surgery, or ligament replacement? While the evidence isn't even conclusive that steroids improve performance in baseball, it's very clear that several pitchers have increased velocity after surgery. Why are sugery and anti-inflammatory drugs like Vioxx (probably just as unsafe as steroids) legit while steroids are banned? If it's just a matter of legality then why aren't they testing for amphetamines or marijuana? Why does major league baseball spend so much time talking about things like corked bats which don't have any effect and ignore true performance enhancers?

Are the Sox really better than the Yanks?


The Times says no.



Since when does hitting homers jeapardize the team? Darrin Erstad in today's Times:
"If you're a stats guy, it's an easy target," Erstad said. "I'm the first to admit, I feel I've underachieved the last few years. My power numbers haven't been where they should be. I should hit 20 home runs and 35 doubles every year. But I'm not going to jeopardize this team for the benefit of personal statistics."