Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Money Bawl

Having a great performer and great performances reflects SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. Arguing that the Red Sox brass are the "smartest guys in the room" is inconsistent and illogical with two last place seasons in three years.

Yes, luck matters in sports, and baseball has more luck associated than many other sports, e.g. basketball. Michael Mauboussin addresses this in "The Success Equation." And obviously, the Red Sox had a combination of skill and luck in winning last season. I won't suggest that karma from the Marathon bombing gave them a tailwind.

But luck shouldn't figure so much in often non-existent offense or lack of inspirational play. Certainly we all recognize the season-to-season variation that occurs in baseball. George Scott's 1967 .303 morphs into 1968s .171 or Dwight Evans .292 in 1982 becoming .238 the next season. Last season the Red Sox led the majors in runs scored and OPS. This season the Sox are tied for 13th in runs, 11th in OPS, and tied for 13th in slugging percentage in the AL. Moneyball has degenerated to Money Bawl.

Nobody gives the players a free pass. But management did almost nothing to improve the team, losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarod Saltalamacchia to free agency, and figuratively stabbed Xander Bogaerts in the back signing Stephen Drew for ten million dollars after allegedly reassuring Bogaerts.

Stephen M.R. Covey discusses The Speed of Trust with the combination of integrity, intent, process, and results. Fans don't believe that ownership deserves trust. The media aptly describes the brass as either aloof, cartoonish, or duplicitous. You can fill in the names.

Showing the players that 'cheap wins' based on last season's success becomes more than a public relations disaster. The reality from a performance statistic is that Lester is unlikely to average more than fifteen wins a year over five years in the post-steroid era. But do you plug in minor leaguers at major league minimums expecting equal results?

Sometimes you have to overpay for talent, but taking a hard line every time will not create the SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. Professionalism is giving your best effort every day, even when you don't feel like it. As my old college coach used to say, "it's just that simple."





Friday, July 18, 2014

Moneyball

Mostly, the Sox haven't been the 'smartest guy' in the room in 2014.

 22M dollars, give or take.

500K dollars

The sample size isn't large. BABIP (batting average balls in play) tends to stabilize after about 1100 career at bats, which Player 2 isn't anywhere close to.

Jacoby Ellsbury earned his payday and Brock Holt (Player 2) hopes to someday.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bill of Goods and the Mail It In Campaign

The season isn't over. After all, we have Stephen (don't call me J.D.) Drew back in town. What has the season taught us so far? The mediocrity of the AL East has encouraged the Sox to believe they will contend to the bitter end. Maybe they will, as that's what mediocrity does.

We've learned that some of the Sox kids may not be ready, and that the everyday inexperienced shortstop can hit, at least when the weather isn't freezing. We've also learned that free furniture prospects have gone south. May 2014 looks eerily similar to September 2012. Now the Sox' sponsor is offering a free mailbox with certain purchases. We'll call it the MAIL IT IN campaign.

I won't suggest that the Sox management doesn't care. But perhaps the sample size of bargain basement WAR/$ crew of Ross, Gomes, Carp, et al. approach won't even come close to working. But that's the point of "outlier" approaches. As good as the "Moneyball" theory is, it hasn't brought any championships to Oakland, although they're competing every year.

A lot of stuff in baseball goes unexplained. Why did the Sox wait to move Mookie Betts to the outfield, knowing that he's blocked at second? How can a highly-trained like Prince Fielder sustain a serious injury? Should we be surprised that Will Middlebrooks has no comment on the return of Stephen Drew? I have no problem with this as a 'bridge' year, but the bigger questions revolve around wonder what the Sox process is? We know they're not going back to the Crawford and Gonzalez megadeals, but do they think that a team full of 'ordinary' players will win a championship in the near future? Other than Ortiz, Bogaerts, and Pedroia when healthy, the lineup is mediocre but not average. Stephen Drew is exactly what? Is he a superior defender who is among the shortstop leaders in OPS against RHP, or is he a liability offensively when played DAILY and trailing off for whatever reason at the postseason plate? Is Pedroia healthy? Does JBJ need more time or is it Ks and the summer of 4 to 3 on inside fastballs?

I could go on whining incessantly, but the problem with a radical 'reorganization' and process, when you let star players walk waiting for the next generation of youth to arrive is, 'past performance is no guarantee of future results'. Of anybody, John Henry should know that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Back to the Future or Back to the Few Cure?

The Red Sox had a flawed team. They took action. They now add insult to injury, at best disingenuous and at worst guilty of the 'Big Lie' - public relations over substance.

First, how do the Red Sox see it?

  • The team is reeling, having been annihilated by the Tigers. 
  • Thanks to the mediocrity of the AL East, the Sox are still "in the hunt". 
  • The Sox struggle against right-handed pitching. Overall, the offense is pathetic.
  • The infield defense has been below average to average at best. 
  • Fans are getting restless. 
Second, what is the Sox "solution-focused" approach? 
  • Stephen Drew improves the infield defense. 
  • The addition of Drew eventually will likely slightly increase the offense. 
  • The Sox stabilize the third base carousel by moving Bogaerts to third. 
Third, what's the big picture or what's the harm?
  • The Sox are seen as jerking the kids around. Telling Bogaerts that he's the 'future shortstop' is likely not true, as defensively, that's more likely to be Marrero. I thought I saw John Farrell's nose growing during his presser today. 
  • The Sox have looked old and ineffective in the outfield, as Sizemore is literally not the Sizemore Farrell remembers and Victorino has been injured or underachieving. 
  • Bradley Jr. can't have any confidence, not that he's been dramatically worse than anyone else. 
  • Daniel Nava has been tossed aside like last year's magazine subscription. #FreeDanielNava
  • Farrell is looking more like the "old-time baseball guy" playing small ball with the bottom of the lineup and playing favorites (Drew and Sizemore), rather than being seen as forward-looking. 
Here's a chart from baseball-reference.com, look at the Boomer, George Scott. Although he hit at or near .300 several times, he also hit .171 and .233 in extended duty as well. Many successful ballplayers show varying degrees of inconsistency during their careers. 

The sad, simple reality is that the Sox overachieved last year and have woefully underperformed this season. The belief that you can catch "lightning in a bottle" every year with bargain basement and/or reclamation projects is "fool's gold." Bottom line? Jordan's is going to have to put furniture on sale, as they're not 'giving away' free furniture unless the Tigers change their stripes. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sample Size and the Fallacy of Experts

Yesterday, in the world of Tony Maz of the CSN afternoon talking heads show, we learned that Jackie Bradley's career is doomed.

One unsuccessful at bat has shaken Bradley's foundation to the core and that he needs psychotherapy if not ECT.

I think it was in 1954, a young Jim Greengrass sparked the Reds to a 10-9 win over Milwaukee with four doubles. The Braves rookie right-fielder took the collar, going 0 for 5. His career would obviously go South in the parallel universe of the BBWAA. Except from there, that failure went on to a Hall of Fame career as Hank Aaron.

It's easy to go wrong on decision-making, with flawed framing, confirmation bias (believe what you choose to read), emotion, and overconfidence. The only problem is our own fallibility.

Don't read too much into the sample size of one day or one at bat. If you're the '84 Tigers and go 35-5 out of the box, then you know something special is happening.

Jacoby Ellsbury went 0 for 4 yesterday. What a bum! Oh, myy! Don't judge the marathon that is baseball by the first step. Every journalist worth his salt should know that.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Middlebrooks

Baseball lifers always have a fascination with the grizzled veteran types, the Michael Youngs (recently retired). Living in the past, veteran experience, savvy sometimes make a difference.

But usually talent and youth (over the intermediate term) prevail.

I couldn't care less about the private lives of baseball players. Whom they date, what they do on their days off don't matter to me. I care about what they do between the lines, their attitude towards their job, and both their potential and production. Will Middlebrooks has a serious 'hole' on breaking stuff (sliders) away. When Jacoby Ellsbury was a young player, it was the summer of 4 to 3, as inside hard stuff tied him up.

Middlebrooks may always be a high strikeout guy, but has anybody checked out Mike Napoli's 'K' totals? Middlebrooks is an adequate defender (obstruction aside) and can probably hit 25-30 homers with 75-85 RBI if the Sox can free themselves from the Stephen Drew "binky" and move on to a low salaried, player under control.

Maybe Middlebrooks is some kind of Hannibal Lecter, cancer in the clubhouse. I doubt it. He seems like an affable, articulate young guy, hungry to make his bones in the bigs. Sure, he struggled at times, but he also got hurt crashing into the padded wall going for a ball. Did he get Ellsburied by the Sox medical staff? I have no idea. Can we give the young guys a break?

I'm not saying that John Farrell and the 'brain trust' have to hand him the job. But let him fight for it, and see how it shakes out.

And if it doesn't work out for him, at least he seems to have a more than acceptable "parting gift".

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Million Dollar Baby

David Ortiz had a remarkable campaign in 2013, culminating in a World Series championship and a Series MVP. He's made it clear his priority (as is his right) is compensation.

But when sportswriters around America start declaring what the Red Sox should pay their DH and for how long, I cringe.

At the end of the day, you get paid whatever you and your employer agree upon. There is a "market price" for everything...and value is what you get and price is what you pay. David Ortiz is entitled to get whatever he can for his family and himself. But the Red Sox have little protection should age, time, or other factors change Ortiz' value. And Ortiz' leverage is limited to  free-spending American League teams without a surfeit of older players with probable DH roles.

It's certainly true that players often get paid for what they've done versus what they're likely to do. It's hard to project an older DH. Who are the comps?

Harold Baines had 25 homers and 122 RBI in two years for the White Sox and Orioles at age 38 through 39. Dwight Evans had 19 homers and 101 RBI during the same age for the Red Sox and Orioles. Yaz had 38 homers and 168 RBI for the same age. Edgar Martinez had 38 homers and 175 RBI for those two year with the Mariners. For the prior two years, Martinez had 61 homers and 231 RBI. In other words, time tends to cause mean reversion.

Maybe Ortiz, modern nutrition, athletic training, and 'supplements' have reset the clock. But while sentiment says 'yes', history and reality usually say 'caution'.