Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Youngest of them All?

Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays are the "feel good" pick to win the 2008 World Series and both the Phillies and Rays have young pitching staffs. Take out the elder statesman Jamie Moyer at the ancient baseball age of 45 and both starting rotations are 28 years old or less. Bob Nightengale's article in yesterday's USA Today gives us a comparison of the Rays set of whippersnappers to the babies of the 1969 New York Mets rotation.

Overall, I do not have an issue with the article, but I do have an issue with the following comparison that Bob pulled from the Elias Sports Bureau.

"The Mets' starting trio in the '69 series - Gary Gentry, Jerry Koosman, Tom Seaver - has combined for 106 career victories. The Rays' quartet of Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine and (Jamie) Shields have combined for 117 regular-season victories."

First of all, pitching wins are a shit statistic. Wins are based on the entire team, not just the pitcher. Just ask Roger Clemens. You can have an ERA under 2.00 and go 1-10 because your team cannot give you any fucking run support. Or you can have an ERA of 6.00 and go 10-1 because your team smacks home runs faster than Joey Chestnut can choke down hot dogs.

Secondly, I know that the '69 Mets only used a three-man rotation in their World Series, but that does not make an exact comparison to the '08 Rays who currently plan a four-man rotation. If anything, three men with 106 victories sounds more experienced than four men with 117 victories.

Career regular-season pitching wins is definitely not the statistic I would have used to show experience. For all we know, the Mets' rotation could have had a 106-150 win-loss record and the Rays could have had a 117-40 record. At least show the number of games they appeared in or the combined win-loss records for the players.

Here is the a comparison of the 1969 Mets and 2008 Rays starting pitching rotation.

1969 Mets

Gary Gentry - 35 games - 13 wins - 12 losses
Tom Seaver - 107 games - 57 wins - 32 losses - 1 save
Jerry Koosman - 76 games - 36 wins - 23 losses

Mets Total - 218 games - 106 wins - 67 losses - 1 save

2008 Rays

Scott Kazmir - 125 games - 47 wins - 37 losses
Matt Garza - 56 games - 19 wins - 22 losses
Andy Sonnenstine - 54 games - 19 wins - 19 losses
James Shields - 85 games - 32 wins - 24 losses

Rays Total - 320 games - 117 wins - 102 losses

Bob and Elias are correct, at least in this incorrect comparison, that the Mets were a less experienced team. I do not agree with the means Bob used to prove his point, but he was correct. Even if you remove the Ray's #4 pitcher to have a three-on-three comparison, the Mets would still have a less experienced team.

Interestingly enough, if we include the #4 pitcher from the Mets' 1969 team to have an equal four versus four comparison, the Rays would have had the "less experienced" team. The #4 pitcher for the Mets was Don Cardwell.

Don Cardwell - 378 games - 109 wins - 151 losses - 7 saves.

Don was 8-10 in 1969. The other three pitchers had a combined record of 55-28, so Gil Hodges must have felt his other three pitchers were either better than Cardwell or that Seaver and Koosman were better on short rest.

It must be a "Bob" thing. This analysis is similar to a Bob Kravitz-type article in that your conclusion is correct, but the process in which you get there is all wrong.

Bob, if you are going to make a comparison, make sure it is apples-to-apples or we will start making Bob-to-Florence Nightengale comparisons.

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