Thursday, July 2, 2009

Making up for lost time, post #2

Hey, it's time to attempt to google bomb this blog again. Yay.

Surprised I'm arriving so late to this party. The keg's probably already tapped, and the sorostitutes have probably already left with random guys, and it's probably been the same fat alcoholic at the Beirut table for the last hour.

Whatever, Harold Reynolds, this is for your own good.

It's been real interesting in the last couple years as I've watched how the importance of statistics has taken over how to analyze a baseball game. I used to play for an old time manager named Dick Williams who used to tell me, "The situation will dictate what happens." He used to call me to his office and say, "I should never have to give you a sign. You should know this is a bunt situation, you should know this is a situation where you need to take a trike, you should know the situation calls for getting the man over. I should never have to give you a sign, the situation dictates what happens."

Yes, agreed. Big (sic) on trike, but other than that, nothing wrong here. Some situations call for a sac bunt, like down by 1 in the 9th with Rivera closing and Yuniesky Betancourt or something at the dish. Obvious how I feel about "small ball" as a team philosophy, but there's definitely some points where it remains relevant.

But what I've been witnessing while I've been a broadcaster is everyone using these stats to try and explain the game of baseball. Not all statistics work. Some do, some don't. And one of the stats that has become real popular is OPS. On-base plus slugging. All of a sudden, it's this stat that defines whether a guy is a good ball player or not.

Doing well so far, HR. Yes, OPS is definitely not the be all, end all stat. I mean, it's better than AVG, or OBP and SLG standing alone, but still. For one, for such a mainstream stat, it's pretty arbitary (it's literally [(Hits+Walks+HBP)/(At Bats + Walks + HBP + Sac Flies)] + (Total Bases / At Bats). D-whaaaaaaaaaaa?). Also, OPS clearly overstates slugging, as incidated in many studies. It's pretty much nutso to say Mike Jacobs's 2008 (.812 OPS) was better offensively than, let's say, Shane Victorino (.799). There are far better metrics to measure offensive production, like baseballprospectus' EqA, or fangraphs' wOBA. I'm sure this is what you'll be discussing, correct?

And the fact of the matter is, if you're a power hitter then the situation will dictate what a pitcher does with you - either walk you or pitch you real careful. So more than likely you're going to end up on base and therefore your on-base percentage goes up. This in my mind has become the stat the everyone thinks is the be all and end all. It is not. If you have a ball club that's a great offensive team then that changes everything. But if you have a guy like Adrian Gonzalez, for example, his OPS is going to be high - he's got a lot of home runs and walks a lot...because you're not going to pitch to him. Power guys like Giambi and Dunn have always had high OPS because no one wants to pitch to them. But it takes two hits to score them from first.

...*sigh* Gonzalez...walks a lot?
How many hits does it take to score Alfonso Soriano when he doesn't get on base 70.4% of the time, Harold?

Andre Dawson's career OPS is lower than Tim Raines's. Which one was the more feared "power guy"?

This is how the game has changed. Dick Williams is pulling his hair out. This is not something people have reinvented in the game. You can go all the way back to Dave Kingman. When Kingman was hot, you didn't pitch to him. If he wasn't hot, you pitched to him. Big power hitters swing and miss and strikeout. Or they hit home runs and walk. And at the end of the year their OBP is always going to be higher than most of the other guys on the team because they clog the bases.

Increased font and italized that bad boy for ya in the end. CLOG THE BASES SIGHTING.
Yogi Berra hit 358 HR in his career. Struck out just 414 times. DiMaggio his 361 and struck out 369 times. Albert Pujols currently has two more SO's (32) than HR's (30) in 2009.

Ever think, just for one second, the reason these guys "clog the bases" as you put it, do so because of their ability to hit the baseball? And not swing for the fences like new-era Kingmans?

And of course, before I forget...THE PARADE!


Yes, I just RickRoll'd you. Deal with it.

A few years ago this stat grabbed my ear when someone said that Ichiro doesn't walk enough. So I said, "What do you mean?" And they said his OBP could be so much higher if he walked more. The guy gets 200 hits a season! And he scores over 100 runs. I think that speaks for itself.

Great. Awesome. Ichiro's one in a million when it comes to contact, his career AVG is .333. His "worst" season was a .303.

But those 200+ hits are the result of 700+ PA's. His career EqA is .296. Pretty good, especially given his defense. But guess what? J.D. Drew's is a .303. Everybody hates J.D. Drew.

As great a hitter as Ichiro is, J.D. Drew still beats him in not-an-out percentage (the new name of OBP, maybe then guys like Harold Reynolds will get it), .392 to .378. The difference in slugging is .501 to .434. Drew has a 44.2 WARP-3 in 5059 Plate Appearances, or 5.24 WARP per 600 PA. Ichiro has a 60.3 in 6,250 PA, or 5.79 per 600 PA. A lot of that is right field defense, too. Remember that next time someone tries to tell you Ichiro was the best hitter of the decade.

So as the old, wise Dick Williams used to tell me, "I should never have to give you a sign. The situation dictates what happens."

Swing at pitches in the dirt, hack for the fences, cut down on the selfish walks. This is manball, people.

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