Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. School and life are busy and there really isn't much baseball news going on.

There's the A-Rod press conference today, but I'll be in class when it starts (Women in 20th Century Literature) and probably when it ends (Spanish and Latin American Film). Honestly, I couldn't care less about the whole damn thing and I hope this is the end of the issue...but I know better. Maybe this will end it for Spring Training but as soon as the season starts, we'll hear the "A-Roid" chants on the road and the boos at home and the whole can of worms will be re-opened. My first reaction to everything was not anger, but rather disappointment. At this point, though, I'm way past caring about the PED issue in baseball. I am, however, pissed off that the NFL essentially gets a free pass on the same issue, but whatever.

In legit baseball news, there are some things I'll touch on.

1. This is ridiculous. If anything like this happens, the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, and Braves--and any team that had to give up a draft pick--should go absolutely nuts on MLB.

2. Ken Griffey appears to be headed to the Braves. This is good news for Yankee fans (especially me) because it means the Nady and/or Swisher to the Braves talks will die. Keeping both on the roster provides depth and insurance. We all know how big my man crush on Nick Swisher is; hell, I named one of my fantasy teams "Swisher's Biggest Fan."

3. After watching bits and pieces of that Baseball Tonight special on Sunday night, I have made it my goal to watch as little BBTN as possible this season. This is for a few reasons: a) I first tuned in when they were talking about the Rays. They listed Pat Burrell as a new acquisition (I think this is a great move) and they listed his BA (.250) and HR (33) totals next to his name. When will ESPN, the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" catch up with the times and stop using BA/HR/RBI as their "Holy Trinity?" Ugh. b) John Kruk and Buck Showalter both agreed that Joba Chamberlain should be in the bullpen, citing a few tired arguments. The first, by Kruk, was that Mariano Rivera won't pitch forever and the Yankees will need someone to close when he is gone. This just shows that the people at ESPN do absolutely no research. At all. There is someone being groomed for the future closer's job. His name is Mark Melancon. He will put an end to this stupid Joba to the bullpen debate. The second "argument," agreed upon by both Showalter and Kruk, is that Chamberlain can pitch in 60-70 games out of the bullpen rather than 25-30 as a starter, and thus "impact more games." This is dumb. If Chamberlain's a reliever, he'll pitch 1-2 innings a game. That way, he's only impacting 1/9 to 2/9 of a ball game. As a starter, he's impacting 5/9 to 7/9 of the game. Which is more valuable? If you say it's the former, that's like saying 2 quarters are worth more than 1 dollar because there's 2 of them, as opposed to 1 of the dollar. Anyway, it's just clear that the guys at ESPN have some work to do. Baseball Tonight is good for one thing--showing us highlights and getting interviews. In the words of Austin Powers, analysis is not their bag, baby.

3. In the Joba vein, there's this article by Joel Sherman in the New York Post. In honor of the fallen Fire Joe Morgan, I'm going to try and shred this post.

2. When it comes to Chamberlain's long-term role a question that is often asked is what is more valuable: 70 innings or 200 innings? I think that is a misleading talking point by those who want Chamberlain to be a starter.

No it isn't. 200 innings is usually more valuable than 70. Hell, an average 150 is about the same as a great 80. For a good summary of that article check here.

Now back to the 70/200 matter. You should really ask who is pitching the 70 and who is pitching the 200? For the champion Phillies, Cole Hamels' 227.3 innings were probably more valuable than Brad Lidge's 69.3, but were Jamie Moyers' 196.3. If you told the Red Sox, they could play this season with either Jonathan Papelbon or Josh Beckett, which do you think they would take? It is not a layup.

As someone in the comments pointed out, Moyer (39.7 Pitcher VORP) was more valuable than Lidge (26.5 VORP). Jamie Moyer had a slightly above average season in 2008 and was more valuable than the best reliever in the National League. Via FanGraphs, Moyer was worth 2.6 wins above a replacement player and Lidge was worth 2.2 WAR. So, 196.1 above average innings was worth more than 69.1 godly innings.

As for Boston having to make the choice between Beckett and Papelbon, they'd pick Beckett every time. I'm sure Mr. Sherman meant to say "slam dunk" instead of "lay up" so I'll correct him. It is a slam dunk, dude. Beckett is worth more to the Red Sox than Papelbon.

In those 200-or-so innings for a starter how many would you define as game-on-the-line high leverage? With someone such as Lidge or Papelbon or Rivera, just about every pitch they throw in a season is in a game-deciding moment. That is why the 70/200 thing doesn't work for me. I can just as easily say would you rather have a pitcher impact 60 games (like a reliever) or 30 games (like a starter).

I'd say most of them are game-on-the-line high leverage situations because by the time closers come in, the game is already determined. For this, I'm gonna head to the WPA Calculator. By typing in the situation that would happen at the beginning of the game--no outs, none on, top of the first, visiting team batting and the scored tied--we see that the home team wins 54% of the time, so basically a toss up. Now, I'm gonna put a classic save situation in: top of the ninth, the home team up by one, no one on, no one out. In that situation, the home team wins 86% of the time. As great as Mo is, when he comes in to the game, it's usually already determined.

As for the 60/30 thing, see above. 30 games of even average to slightly above average pitching is better than 60 games of light's out pitching. Hopefully this year, Joba absolutely dominates and shows all the people who think he should be in the bullpen where they can stick it. You don't waste a great talent like Chamberlain in the bullpen. Cashman and Co. have it right.

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