Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rattus rattus mangini (new species)

All's quiet on the Red Sox front, excepting Roger Clemens' denials. And here's a newly discovered rodent...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another Denial Drops

Andy Pettitte acknowledged using HGH in 2002 today. His confession makes former Sox' star Roger Clemens denials seem more hollow than ever. Pettitte took one for the team? Did Clemens take one for Roger Clemens?

How does the song go? "Don't go away mad, just go away."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So What Changed Today?

The Mitchell report changes nothing.

Years ago someone surveyed Olympic athletes as to whether they would take a substance that guaranteed them a gold medal and had a fifty percent chance of killing them. Most said, "of course." Athletes at one level doing anything to win. "If you're not cheating, you're not trying," goes the refrain.

Under the legal stewardship of Donald Fehr and Gene Orza, with billions of dollars at stake, could you expect something different?

So the report 'confirms' many of the usual suspects and even some of the upper pantheon of baseball greatness, like Roger Clemens, come out tarnished. Do we have a positive drug test? No. But what is the motivation for clubhouse figures to lie, especially when they might have to go into court some day? They hate everyone, they're jealous of multimillionaire athletes raking in the dough?

Supposedly Scott Boras commented that the report means nothing because it wasn't collectively bargained. Evidently bank robbers and crack dealers need a much better lobby.

Did the Red Sox come out unscathed? Doubtful. Every team gets touched by scandals like these, and nobody can be surprised that Wheaties-Box heroes have clay feet or 'shoplifted the pootie'.

What's going to change? Nothing. Players will always try to cut corners to enhance their payschecks, and the stigma of being named in a report will melt with the advent of spring training. Bud Selig's 'legacy' of being in the pocket of the owners doesn't change, and maybe the biggest winner is Barry Bonds. The Giants leftfielder simply goes from pariah to bandleader. Bonds was a user, setting records, but competing against many other users, both at the plate and on the mound. The other winner? Jose CanSaySo Canseco, who gets vindicated with his argument that many of his contemporaries were also users.

And congrats to Theo Epstein on fatherhood. That's a development that changes you forever.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Gagne Gets the Benjamins

Eric Gagne agrees to a 10 million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Let me write that down again, "Eric Gagne agrees to a 10 million dollar contract with the Brewers."

For gawd's sake Eric, rush up there, grab the first pen that writes, and sign. Get your physical, drug test, Rorschach test, Wonderlic test, or whatever.

Gagne, once one of the most feared relievers in MLB, came to the Red Sox from the Rangers, and was nothing short of abysmal. In 18 2/3 innings he allowed 26 hits, 9 walks, and an ERA of 6.75. He had no command, but pretty good velocity. He was the ants at the Red Sox 2007 picnic.

Why so much money? That's easy to explain.
  • The falling value of the US dollar (Thanks, Dr. Bernanke)
  • The high price of mediocrity
  • Milwaukee executives losing their minds
  • Mr. Gagne has incriminating photos of Brewer management?

To his credit, Gagne made no excuses, never publicly complained, and was pretty much a stand up guy through his ordeal into the lowest level of Dante's baseball hell.

What a country!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Melky or Jacoby?

Today I had a rather interesting discussion concerning the relative merits of Melky Cabrera and Jacoby Ellsbury. My colleague, whom I'll call Bruce the Yankee fan, insisted that he never judges players by April or September events, and that in his opinion, Melky Cabrera, with his track record was a superior player to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Not always right, but never in doubt, I argued that Ellsbury's performance, sample size admittedly small, came during a pennant race and World Series. Also in a mere 33 games, Ellsbury had 6 win shares while the redoubtable Melk-Man has had two fairly full seasons with 13 apiece.

Obviously, we're both biased, although I see Ellsbury as a .300 plus hitter, .375 OBP guy, with 15 homer potential and forty steal potential, plus a solid glove in center. I see Melky as the guy who played Trot Nixon's line drive into an inside the park home run. Obviously, the pinstripes devalue him in my eyes and raise him to the apotheosis of centerfielderhood among Yankee fans.

Of course, as we are wont to say, the World Championship race from 2001-2007 stands at Boston 2, Gotham 0.

So people, is Jacoby (if he's still here) or Melky the Real Thing?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Francona Rule

Bob WatsoN(Y) putting in the Francona Rule just shows how inane that MLB upper management continues to be.

MLB should concern itself with more relevant issues that affect the game, including:
  • Performance enhancing drugs (e.g. HGH)
  • Competitive balance (apparently no concern in an era of prosperity for the industry overall)

The uniform issue is particularly galling when you consider 'uniform' largely irrelevant from the days of Jose Cardenal (?) and tailored pants, Manny Ramirez wearing the pajama pants look, and the helmets of Trot Nixon and Manny, and scraggly cap look of Nixon, Timlin, and others.

Now I'm not saying that MLB should be addressing the NFL type chinstrap and towel width concerns, rather exactly the opposite. A little individuality never hurt a game filled with narcissistic millionaires.

Does whether Francona or anyone else in the league (coaches and players) wearing a pullover, game jersey, or official jacket affect the game in ANY way? Obviously, it doesn't. MLB simply chose to exert its moronic authority over Francona.

Here's my suggestion. Fans BOYCOTT MLB gear for ONE WEEK, with the intent of showing the abject clowns running this show that fans have a say. I don't think MLB wants to leave a nickel on the table, and even the hint of fan dissatisfaction with Mickey Mouse dress codes would get them to back off.

BOYCOTT MLB 'official' gear for one week. Harrumph!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is Ellsbury Untouchable?

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, Jacoby Ellsbury is now in the Santana trade offer. Obviously, we cannot know whether this is credible or not.

I'd argue that Ellsbury MIGHT be a perennial all-star and everyday player, who has more value than a pitcher even of Santana's stature. Ellsbury's six win shares in just 33 games whetted the appetite of Sox fans, as well as the momentum shift that he provided in the post season after replacing Coco Crisp.

I've already shown what the economic cost is likely to be for the Yankees should they sign Santana. They've already overspent this winter (Posada 15M/yr, A-Rod ~30M/yr, Rivera 15M/yr) and likely will have another 16M for Pettitte as well as the Jeter 17M, Abreu 16M, Damon 13M, and so on. In other words, they're spending like drunken sailors in the global Arms Race with the Red Sox. Not even counting a possible Santana acquisition that alone was 122 Million not counting the money they squandered on Roger Clemens.

I've also shown that the premier pitchers of our age averaged 13-17 wins per year during the age 29-34. Is that something for which the Sox should trade away talent in bulk, with a smile?

Sure, there are other possibilities...that Santana will come more cheaply, that the Sox are playing high stakes poker, or that Theo and the Trio (Henry, Werner, Lucchino) have simply lost their minds. The Yankees, not the Sox must deal from desperation, and I see only two obvious winners in this deal, the Twins and Santana himself.

The Economics and Production Difference of Johan Santana, One Look

Click spreadsheet entry to ENLARGE

Let's presume, for the sake of argument, that the Yankees have the right mix of players and dollars to acquire Johan Santana. What's the economic impact, the win impact, and the relative differential over a six year period?

I'm no economist, but I'll try.

Every economist has to make projections, and these have plenty of room for error, on both sides. They don't account for injury, for the increased cost to insure contracts (let's say the Yankees might have to pay an additional twenty percent to insure the contract...I have no idea if this is right), and projecting performance is tough. As Yogi might say, "making predictions is hard, especially about the future."

Bob Gibson averaged 20 wins a season, in four man rotations, from age 29-34.
Roger Clemens averaged 13 wins a season from age 29-34.
Pedro Martinez averaged 13.5 wins a season from age 29-34.
Greg Maddux averaged 17 wins a season from age 29-34.
Curt Schilling averaged 15 wins a season from age 29-34.

So, I've presumed that Santana will win more games than any of some of the best pitchers of his era, and as many as one of the best of all-time in a different era using four man rotations.

I also haven't adjusted the revenue difference for the New Yankee Stadium, and I have projected Philip Hughes to be a very successful pitcher over his next six years, just as I have projected Santana to have success.

What is one possibility is that the Yankees spend an additional 154,700,000 for the next six years, and get an additional 30 wins, 24 of those coming in the next three years. The extra thirty wins amount to about five million dollars per win, not including post season play. That also doesn't account for replacement cost differential or production by any other players in the proposed deal (e.g. Melky Cabrera).

How this would be resolved in dollars per win share, dollars per win share differential, and differential revenue (luxury box costs, replica merchandising, and so on) goes far beyond my capability. But I do think it extends the analysis of the Winner's Curse, and shows how far out on the limb teams can go for the illusory pursuit of greatness.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Defensively Speaking*

I've been all over the park on Julio Lugo offensively, from "he's way overrated", to "I was wrong", and finally "I was wrong about being wrong". In the end, whether it was sunspots, Tarot, or astrology, Lugo got the last laugh. But what about the defensive measure of the shortstop and other musings?

I know this crowd moved far past range factor and zone ratings to evaluate shortstops, but let's look at a couple of integrated models.

First, David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range. You've gotta love the title, because it sounds like you need a P.H.D. to understand it, but second it breaks down performance to a couple of decimal points, which reminds me of how we insanely pay homage to statistics beyond validity. But I digress.

At the top of Pinto's points come the Colorado Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki. Our sample size of Tulowitzki was small, because we'd have to rate him the most overrated player since Mike Greenwell, although to be fair, we only saw FOUR games. Maybe if he had done anything, we might have seen more. Julio Lugo appears in the top third, and first ballot Hall of Famer (yes, going to happen) Derek Jeter was 38 of 39. Jeter gets remembered for his World Series flip, quarterback jump pass on the backhand, and dive into the stands at Yankee Stadium (all memorable). But his defensive body of work gets dwarfed by his offense, his branding as a winner, and his ability to carry himself with class amidst the circus that is New York.

Using Bill James' Win Shares, the proprietary model of the Sox consultant, we see both the compendium of offensive and defensive inputs. Here Lugo doesn't fare so well, while Tulowitzki and Jeter look much better (which of course they should). Tulowitzki comes out at the top here, Lugo in the middle, and Jeter not so bad, but still not great. A defensive whiz like Adam Everett barely shows up because he didn't play that much. Jacoby Ellsbury had six win shares in 33 games, and we're not talking 33 starts either. That pro-rates to almost 30 over a full season, which is in MVP consideration territory. Do you think the Sox are trading away that kind of production POTENTIAL? I don't.

Numbers certainly don't comprise the sole measure of players' worth or relative performance. But they do allow trending, projection, and comparison with players in different situations and different eras.

Money means something else entirely. Maybe Andruw Jones will get fifteen million bucks annually with some Borassian cookbook showing how Andruw really was still great and that last season was an aberration. But if he does get megabucks, that reflects the state of the industry, ownerships' ability to get snookered by Boras, and the desperation of teams to overpay for under achievement.

*Inspiration provided by Rob Neyer's column on ESPN.com.