Friday, July 17, 2009

Letting You Do the Work For Us

We've tried very hard here at to have our own identity in the 14 months or so that we've had this blog. We've also made it no secret that we are fans of the late, and a lot of what we do has been influenced by that great site.

And now yet another thing we can take from FJM: Gallimaufry!! As defined from FJM, gallimaufry is a "hodgepodge of reader emails cobbled together" to make a post when the blogger is feeling lazy. This post is technically not gallimaufry, since I'm only going to use one reader email (as opposed to a hodgepodge). But you get the idea.

The reader in this case is William S., who sends us this juicy article by Darren Everson from the Wall Street Journal. I've included William's critique of the article. Anything I interject will be preceded by SB; otherwise the criticism will be William's--unedited by me.

So, heeeeere's William S.!

Baseball's Winning Glue Guys
The Gritty, Gutty Players Who Hold Teams Together—and Help Them Succeed

Already starting out great with that title.

There are aces, closers, sluggers and Gold Glovers. And then there are the really important people in a ballclub: the glue guys.

Really? You know, I think I'll take the aces, closers, sluggers, and Gold Glovers (granted that they aren't of the Derek Jeter variety). Also, I think I will crush you with them.

“Glue” guys, in baseball parlance, are the players whose oft-overlooked performance quietly holds winning teams together—and without which, presumably, the team would fall apart. Statisticians don’t buy that they exist, but psychologists do. And players and managers swear by them.

"Presumably," hmm... You presume that. I presume that the aforementioned aces, closers, and generally awesome baseball players would continue to be generally awesome baseball players and keep winning without David Eckstein...I mean glue guys.

“He’s the scrapper,” says Charlie Manuel, manager of the defending World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies. “The guy who plays every day. Who gets big hits. Hustles. He’s the guy who, in his own way, whether it’s quiet or spoken or whatever, he leads.”

C'mon, you know you wanna say Eckstein, just do it. By the way, "The guy who plays every day. Who gets big hits." That sounds awfully like, oh, I don't know…good ballplayers? Not scrappers. But what do I know? Also, I think whiteness factors into how scrappy a guy is. Eckstein, nearly albino. Guy I saw in the movie line the other day, either the scrappiest motherfucker I've seen, or he was a goth. Either way, I'll take him on my team. I bet he can out-grit those sluggers.

Jason Bartlett is a glue guy. Before he joined the Rays last season, Tampa Bay had baseball’s worst record in 2007, due greatly to having the majors’ worst defense. Then Mr. Bartlett came over from the Twins and took over the shortstop position. The Rays’ defense became the best in baseball last season and they reached the World Series.

You sort of eliminate your whole glue guy argument by acknowledging that he significantly enhanced their defense statistically. If there was any justice in baseball, he would fall into the "Gold Glover" category that you so casually discarded earlier. Also, he missed over 30 games, thus deviating from the "guy who plays every day" description, not to mention the "gets big hits" description (.690 OPS last year). Side note: he's generally crushing the ball this year to the tune of a .930 OPS. I'm absolutely certain this has nothing to do with his .393 BAbip.

SB: Never mind that the Rays did a bit more than just add Jason Bartlett from 2007 into 2008. Perhaps some guy named Evan Longoria (.874 OPS) and a very good pitching staff had more to do with it than just adding Bartlett.

Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox’s knuckleball pitcher, is a glue guy. As Boston’s pitching staff has evolved over the past 15 years—with youngsters coming, veterans going and pricey additions like Daisuke Matsuzaka not always delivering—the dependable constant has been Mr. Wakefield, a first-time All-Star this year at 42 who has made at least 15 starts each season.

Wakefield is good at what he does, which is basically giving you average to above-average pitching over about 180 innings. There's value in that. Not Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and '08 Dice-K value, but not terrible for $4 mil a year. Also, hate to rip on him in small sample sizes, but where has the glue been in his last five playoff series, in which he hasn't posted an ERA below 6.75? Does it dry up in October? *rimshot*. Okay, that was a lame joke.

As baseball enters the second half of the season Thursday, the top contenders all have a glue guy or two whom they attribute part of their success to. With the Tigers, it’s All-Star third baseman Brandon Inge, who not only has a surprising 21 home runs but is also hitting .348 in close, late-game situations. With the Yankees, as usual, it’s shortstop Derek Jeter, who owns the highest on-base percentage among the American League’s starting shortstops despite being its oldest (35). And the Phillies insist slugger Ryan Howard is a glue guy—despite not fitting the tag’s small, scrappy stereotype—because he quietly never takes a day off.

Ah, glue guy means "surprising player." Also, no one cares about your close, late-game situations stat. What's that? Some people do? Well they're idiots who don't understand sample sizes and statistical fluctuation. His career OPS in those situations is .616, 26% lower than his normal OPS. Barry Bonds doesn't even think that's an impressive OBP. But he's also a dick, so whatever. Inge's drastically improved value this year primarily stems from 19.4% of his flyballs leaving the park. His career number is 8.4%. Reply to Derek Jeter: He's a good baseball player. This is fairly simple. Good? Yes. Overrated? Hell yes. Glue guy? I don't really give a shit. You know who has a higher OBP? A-Rod, who was also a (better) shortstop. He wears eyeliner and changes positions for inferior egotistical shortstops, so he can't be a glue guy, right? I mean he can't even "stick" to one position. . .get it?

I've covered this paragraph enough, so I'll just say that Everson left the word "white" out of this selection, "[T]he Phillies insist slugger Ryan Howard is a glue guy—despite not fitting the tag’s small [white], scrappy stereotype." Fixed.

“They’re the reliable guys,” says Braves president John Schuerholz, “who, in the toughest of circumstances, in the biggest of moments, deliver the goods.”

You're just defining good players again. Are you sure you're trying to prove the existence of glue guys?

Michael Jordan famously said in a 1997 Nike commercial that he’d missed 26 potential game-winning shots. “He’s probably been successful about 50 times,” then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson said at the time. But when Mr. Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1999—seven months after making his iconic shot to beat the Jazz for the championship—the total number of game-winning shots he’d hit was 25.

He was the greatest god-damn basketball player of all-time. He's going to take more game-winning shots, and, roughly at the same pace as his shooting percentage, he's going to make more game-winning shots. That's like saying Mariano Rivera gets a lot of game-saving strikeouts. No shit, are you gonna give the ball to Jose Veras instead? Or John Havlicek? (Side note: I totally want to see Havlicek close out a game)

SB: Me, too.

This paragraph contributed nothing.

Skeptical about whether winners exist, statistician Scott Berry of Berry Consultants studied the matter in 2005. Taking the statistics of more than 14,000 players who had played in Major League Baseball, he created a formula to find the ultimate winner: the player whose teams exceeded their win-loss expectations the most when he happened to be on them.

I am totally convinced this statistical study will confirm their existence. . .and that they are small, scrappy guys that use grit and guts more than the average man.

The winners’ winner? Dennis Cook, a journeyman lefty reliever in the 1990s. Several players whom fans widely regard as winners and glue guys did fare well: Mr. Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, was in the 97th percentile, and David Wells, a noted big-game pitcher in the 1990s and 2000s, was in the 99th. But the presence of the relatively unknown Mr. Cook at the top, Mr. Berry says, proves his point. “Announcers refer to players who just have the will to win,” he says. “The fact that he comes out on top pokes fun at that notion.”

You've got Dennis Cook and two guys that played for the fucking Yankees in the late nineties. Glue guys, all the way.

But Mr. Cook does believe in glue. Although he admits he was lucky to bounce from one winner to the next—including the 1996 division-winning Rangers, the 1997 world-champion Marlins and the 2000 National League-winning Mets—Mr. Cook says his teams won in part because they invested in overlooked roles like middle relievers.

He was also let go after the '96, '97' and '00 seasons. RESISTING..."STICKING"...WITH...TEAM...JOKE.

“A long man who eats up 100 innings a year, he saves the rest of your pitching staff,” he says. “Those guys don’t get recognized, but they’re every bit as important. Baseball people see that, but number-crunchers don’t.”

Fuck you, Dennis Cook. "Baseball people see that, but number-crunchers don't." They're not mutually exclusive. Aside from that, you're obviously not familiar with number crunchers. I'll sure as hell recognize a reliever that pitches 100 innings in a year, as that is pretty impressive, granted that he doesn't suck out loud during those 100 innings.

SB: In fact, "number crunchers" tend to give more value to middle relievers than traditional "baseball people." Old-timey baseball people like to look at Wins and Saves as be-all, end-all stats to evaluate pitchers. Number crunchers look at things like ERA+ and even Holds to evaluate pitchers, which tend to give more value to middle relievers.

Psychologists say there is indeed a spill-over effect with glue guys that helps their teams win, one which goes beyond quantifiable contributions. John F. Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., says that teams are much like fraternities or high schools in that players spend a massive amount of time in close proximity to each other. Because of this, “they’re constantly influencing one another,” he says. “One of the keys to confidence is social support and modeling. If you have some outstanding role models who deal with pressure effectively, that glue is going to spill out of the bottle and help everyone.”

You would say that, John F. Murray, your entire profession depends on it.

In my Dennis-Cook-induced rage I failed to note that he exceeded 100 innings three times...all of them when he was a starting pitcher. The most he pitched as a reliever was 70.1 with the previously mentioned '96 Rangers. Way to not even match your hypothetically underrated, douchebag reliever, Cook. Also, guess how many relievers exceeded 100 innings last year. 0. The year before, 0. In fact, since 2000 only 6 pure (no start) relievers have had 100 innings in a season. Some were good, like Guillermo Mota in 2003, posting a 1.97 ERA and a .990 WHIP. Others were Steve Sparks. Steve Sparks was bad enough to be released by the 2003 Tigers. They won 43 games, obviously because their front office didn't know to keep glue guys like Sparks. What’s that? He was 0-6 with a 4.72 ERA? Never mind.

*In all seriousness, he was one of their more effective pitchers, for no obvious reason, as his peripherals sucked. Their pitching was laughably bad.*

A huge hole in the reasoning of glue believers is that it’s impossible to know in retrospect how teams would have fared without their glue players. For example, the Rays won 58% of their games (11 of 19) earlier this season when Mr. Bartlett, their slick-fielding shortstop, was out with an injured ankle. They’ve won 54% overall. But the first-place Phillies’ abundance of glue, according to both them and their opponents, appears to be what’s put that franchise over the top—just a few years after it had a reputation for underachieving. “It’s not about just one guy,” says All-Star second baseman Chase Utley.

You're not helping your case with the Bartlett situation, and I'm sure the Phillies' emergence had nothing to do with having 7 regulars OPS+ over 100. Catcher was the only weak position and that’s a position where few people care about offense. Chris Coste was great (for a catcher) as their backup. Jamie Moyer pitched like he was 38 again and Cole Hamels had the best year in his career (so far). Oh yeah, their bullpen had a 3.22 ERA. Brad Lidge didn’t blow a single save, but closers can’t be glue guys, according to your opening sentence. The bullpen came into 145 save situations. They blew 15 saves. Middle relievers are more prone to statistical fluctuation, and this bullpen fluctuated towards fucking awesome. It happens. They didn’t do it because of glue guys; they did it because they were damn good.

The Phillies’ most-talented players also happen to be their glue guys, including Mr. Utley, who has led the majors the past two years in times hit by pitch, and Mr. Howard, who has played in 362 of Philadelphia’s last 363 games. Unlike many left-handed hitters over the years, he even refused to take a day off against Randy Johnson once last season.

“He’s definitely a leader, just by keeping his mouth shut,” Mr. Manuel says. “I call him the Big Piece. As in the big piece of the puzzle.”

If he'd done this when Randy Johnson was throwing 99, snapping off a slider that often struck righties in the back foot AFTER they swung at it, and striking out 13 per 9 innings, I might have appreciated it. 44-year old, topping out at 92 mph Johnson, not so much.

SB: It also helps that Howard OPS'd .882 last season. If Howard had a .675 OPS, nobody would have cared if he had taken a day off, and they would have tied him to the bench when Randy Johnson was starting against the Phils--in fact, earlier in 2008, Howard did not start against Johnson, probably because he was hitting well under .200 heading into that game.

Incidentally, Howard went 0-for-3 against Johnson on the night referred to by Everson and is hitting .187 against lefties (.574 OPS) in his career. So perhaps Howard, as a glue-guy, should "stick" to the bench once in awhile against lefties.

Yeah, I was feeling left out with the glue jokes.

In conclusion, I guess I’m saying that your article has very little merit.

SB: Or, very little "Stick-to-it-ness." I know...enough.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home