Friday, December 30, 2011
For a moment, I think it's important to talk like a normal person. Every so often, I get an objection in the comments or on Twitter about my use of a pseudonym, especially when I use this forum to criticize others who are not similarly pseudonymous. This happened to me the other day, in fact. It’s an entirely reasonable and justified objection to raise, and my reasons for remaining pseudonymous are not easily explained in 140 characters or less. So I thought it would be appropriate to have a place to which I can point people to explain my decision. If you are not at all interested in why I choose to write as The Common Man…well…feel free to skip this post.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Previously, as you know, The Common Man satirically pointed out, "if it was fair for writers were going to penalize [Jeff] Bagwell because of their own suspicions that they were apparently too busy to investigate during Bagwell’s playing career, it was equally fair to suspect them of being plagiarists." Then he went on to name nine writers who had essentially accused Bagwell without actually accusing him. One of the writers who The Common Man specifically refused to include on that list is The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham, because Abraham's post left it ambiguous as to whether he was penalizing Bagwell for Abraham's groundless suspicions or because he wasn't comfortable passing judgment on that era's level of offense. Ironically, it was specifically because of a lack of evidence that Abraham was not included on that list.
Anyway, The Common Man stands behind that original post, and does not apologize for it. It's clearly satire, as any reasonable reader should see. TCM also doesn't apologize for including Peter Abraham in it, as Abraham has admitted that his position last year was consistent with those of the writers whose unfair, unAmerican, and asinine statements were highlighted.
That said, since then Abraham has posted his 2011-2012 ballot and has reconsidered his previous lack of support for Bagwell, saying "Ignoring drug use seems unconscionable. Voting for Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Manny Ramirez would cheapen the Hall of Fame. But not voting for somebody based only a hunch is worse. It's baseball McCarthyism." Abraham's revised position is an entirely legitimate one, and as such, in the interest of fairness, it's with great pride that we shout from the rooftops that Peter Abraham is not, not, NOT a suspected plagiarist, and we congratulate him on being as such, just as we'll do for any writer or HOF voter who undergoes a similar change of heart.
He may be a thin-skinned, bullying, and insecure ninny, but he's no plagiarist.
If you're a Hall of Fame voter, you're running out of time but it's not too late to get your ballot in. As we've pointed out...repeatedly... we at The Platoon Advantage ask relatively little from voters. We ask that they be intellectually consistent, that they do research, that they carefully consider their ballots, that they be open and transparent about who they are voting for and why. We also ask that they not engage in speculation and participate in witch hunts that leave deserving candidates on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in, when there's absolutely no evidence that they have used. As last year, the biggest ommission on various ballots seems to be Jeff Bagwell.
Bagwell is, from an objective standpoint, one of the top ten first basemen in baseball history. If you ask The Common Man, he's more like 4th or 5th all time. Yet Bagwell continues to get no acknowledgement from voters. Bagwell, the argument goes, played with a bunch of PED users. Guys like Ken Caminiti and Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. And thus we should treat his denial that he ever used PEDs with skepticism, despite the total lack of evidence that he used.
It's true. Jeff Bagwell did play with those guys. Bagwell also played with Gregg Zaun, Ron Villone and Chris Donnels, all of whom were implicated in the infamous Mitchell Report. And, obviously, you can see how PED use dramatically improved their games. But Bagwell wasn't the only one. Nolan Ryan played with Caminiti in Houston. Andre Dawson also played with Roger Clemens in Boston, as did Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Tom Seaver, and Wade Boggs. Boggs also played with Pettitte in New York. Tony Gwynn played with Caminiti and Villone in San Diego, as did Rickey Henderson. Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar both played with Zaun in Baltimore.
Now, Caminiti claimed to have not started using until joining the Padres years later, but he could conceivably be lying. After all, if he's willing to use PEDs, who knows what other immoral activities he's engaged in? There's no reason he would have to lie about when he started to use, but let's assume he's a dirty liar. Hell, let's assume all steroid and PED users were dirty liars who used PEDs throughout their careers.
But if we do that for the PED users who played with Bagwell, we have to do it for the PED users who played with other players on the ballot this year, and other players who are in the Hall of Fame. And if we assume that the six accused PED users that Bagwell played with influenced him to the point where he started to use, or even worse, that he got them into the shadowy world of PEDs, we have to assume the same of other players on the ballot and other Hall of Famers. What's good for the goose must be good for the gander.
To figure out who we should be actively suspecting, The Common Man used the list of players linked to PED use from Baseball's Steroid Era, and cross-referenced the careers of every player on the list with those of baseball's Hall of Famers. Here then, is a list of players currently in the Hall of Fame who played with PED users and the number of PED users they played with:
Friday, December 23, 2011
As you know, we're knee deep in the holiday season. Chestnuts are roasting. Bells are ringing. Choirs are singing. The Common Man is in Scottsdale.
We at The Platoon Advantage wish you only the best this time of year. Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not, regardless of your personal beliefs, we hope you and your families have a wonderful week or so.
We may be popping up on occasion over the next week with our usual insight. But in case we don't, please have a happy New Year and thank you for another year of reading The Platoon Advantage. Thanks also to everyone who commented on our posts or linked to them. We wouldn't be successful...heck, we wouldn't be doing this...if not for you. You're the best.
We can't wait for another great year of baseball, and of writing about the game we love best. We hope you'll join us.
The Common Man, Bill, Mark, and Jason
Thursday, December 22, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
Jumping off from The Common Man's post about how to repair the Hall of Fame voting process, I would like to offer some advice to those voters who are paying attention and will be publishing their ballots.
|Image by Brian and Kathy Mickle|
First, explain your methodology. A Hall of Fame vote doesn't have to be based on career WAR totals, much less ideas that build on WAR like Adam Darowski's wWAR, which gives extra credit for remarkable seasons or Jay Jaffe's JAWS ($$$), which balances a player's peak and career WARP totals. You needn't even rely on advanced statistics at all. What you should have, though, is a basic process that starts the analysis for any given player. Do you look at career totals of hits and homers and RBI and try to find comparable players at the same position? Do you look at Hall-of-Fame averages in key rate stats and see how the player stacks up? Do you start with award voting?
Your description of your methodology does not have to describe the end of the process, but we should be able to understand what matters to you in terms of statistics, personal factors, career vs. peak value, post-season experience, "big moments" vs. general excellence, and so forth.
Like with the MVP award, I'm not sure there's a right way or wrong way to do this, but I do know that we should be able to test your votes against your own professed beliefs about what the Hall should look like.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I started a bit of a fracas on Twitter a couple weeks ago, primarily with a couple guys I really like and think are brilliant guys and good analysts, Patrick Sullivan and Moshe Mandel. I won't link to the discussion or anything, because Twitter fights are always confusing and really, really dull, but here's the gist:
1) As you probably know, most sabermetric types have a generally low opinion of relief pitchers and, more than that, of the large, multi-year contracts free agent ones are given.
2) A few, like Patrick and Moshe, have a problem with the sometimes rote and knee-jerk way point no. 1 is applied. There are quite a few points and I won't do justice to them, but some of the keys are: (a) GMs are generally smart people, and it's arrogant to assume you know a bunch of things they don't; (b) saying things like "relievers are fungible," at least with regard to the really, consistently good ones, is stupid and reductive; and (c) we're not really sure how to properly measure relievers yet, so we should stop acting like we are. A common tack is to mock the idea that the Rays' tactic of building a bullpen on the cheap is "smart," pointing out that by xFIP, the Rays had the second-worst 'pen in baseball in 2011.
3) I eventually tired of the way this extremely vocal minority presented their otherwise perfectly valid and worthwhile opinion: mostly in really sarcastic preemptive-strike subtweets which I thought unfairly belittled the (sabermetric) majority position and put words in people's mouths that seriously oversimplified what was actually being said. You'd think, from reading these comments, that the average sabermetrically-minded person didn't think relievers had any value, that they were literally all exactly alike, and that a signing like Papelbon didn't actually make the Phillies any better. So I spoke up, and it became this big thing.
Twitter is wonderful, but Twitter fights, as I've said, are awful (especially among intelligent people who can't be dismantled and dismissed in 140 characters the way, say, a Jon Heyman can). So I thought I'd try to lay out my thoughts in a more coherent form here. Moshe has some thoughts on it in an excellent post here, which will be the focus of a lot of this, and for some additional perspective on "the other side," Moshe approvingly cites this from the same blog a few weeks earlier.
So here are a few thoughts on this, at more than 140 characters a pop:
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Common Man believes there is little doubt that the Hall of Fame voting process is flawed. Deserving candidates, such as Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and (until recently) Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo have been held back while clearly less deserving players, such as Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter have been elevated far beyond their actual value by the voters. The process as it currently stands is held hostage by peer pressure, by suspicion, and by ignorance. This is a problem.
It's a problem because so many fans of the game care so deeply about the Hall of Fame, the ultimate career achievement of the best players in baseball history. In a sport where history is so revered and studied, the Hall of Fame offers a link to the past, and to the players we have loved. And to stand by while that past is willfully ignored and distorted is simply unfathomable to TCM. Quite simply, the system must be reformed.
But how? That's the central question. Alas, there's no obvious and glaring fix that we're ignoring. Here are a few possibilities:
Monday, December 19, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
“I don't know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don't have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I'm suspicious. And this year, that suspicion was enough to make me send back my ballot without the Bagwell box checked. I'd rather withhold the vote based on suspicion than vote the guy in only to find out later that he cheated and I shouldn't have.”
Over the past year, it’s become increasingly apparent that, despite there being no evidence or accusations that Bagwell used PEDs, a number of Grazianos colleagues around the BBWAA agree with him. Bagwell garnered just 41.7% of the vote last year, despite eye-popping numbers (.297/.408/.540, 449 homers, 149 OPS+, 81.9 Avg WAR). These numbers, and Bagwell’s physique, are part of the problem. All home run hitters from the PED Era of the mid-1990s and early 2000s are suspect, Graziano and his compadres argue. Tom Verducci, in what has become an influential summary of Bagwell’s case, wrote
“Bagwell's numbers look worthy of Cooperstown, but he has been tied to steroid speculation enough that he “defended” himself in an ESPN.com interview last month. His defense? “I have no problem” with a guy juicing up, he said. To take such a position today is wildly irresponsible. It also invites the very talk that Bagwell claimed to be “sick and tired of.”This led The Common Man to the realization that, if it was fair for writers to penalize Bagwell* because of their own suspicions that they were apparently too busy to investigate during Bagwell’s playing career, it was equally fair to suspect them of being plagiarists.** After all, sports reporters tend to write an awful lot, and so many of them seem to be writing about the same topics and coming to the exact same conclusions. Are we really so naïve as to think that they are doing this naturally?
Bagwell was an admitted Andro user who hired a competitive bodybuilder to make him as big as he could be, who claimed, McGwire-like, that Andro "doesn't help you hit home runs," who went from a prospect with "no pop" to massively changing his body and outhomering all but six big leaguers in the 13 seasons before steroid penalties (Ken Griffey Jr. and five connected to steroids: Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez), and who condones the use of steroids -- but said, "I never used."
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
The blog over which I have sole dominion, Beaneball, is, as you might be aware, an A's-focused place. I wrote about the more analytic aspects of the Trevor Cahill-Jarrod Parker trade over there, and I certainly won't rehash it here, but the difficulty of figuring out just what the hell a Trevor Cahill is supposed to be raised some issues that I want to address here, in a more general forum.
|Hegel. It will become clear.|
The question comes down to analysis and fandom and where the lines between those things blur. I can read Baseball America handbooks in a dispassionate way, examine a Baseball Prospectus player card with a cold, calculating eye, slice and dice PITCHf/x data until I arrive at a moment of profound clarity. What I cannot do, after engaging in all these actions and more, is tell you what Trevor Cahill would have done in Oakland next year. (I certainly can't tell you what our delicate flower will do now that he's transplanted to the harsh climes of Arizona.) And you know what? This frustrates me. It frustrates me so much that I'm actually happy the A's traded him.
As you've probably noticed by now, I'm not any kind of mathematician or economist. I may really like baseball's numbers, and even have a solid understanding of most of them, but that doesn't mean I'm good with numbers in any kind of larger, more useful sense.
I do know this, though: money is worth more now than it will be tomorrow. If you were to give me a million dollars right now, that would be totally awesome, and then theoretically, I could turn around and put it in an interest-bearing account that pays nightly and have, like, $1,000,020 tomorrow. So if you gave me the same million tomorrow instead, it would still be enthusiastically welcomed, but it'd be worth that $20 less to me than it would've been today.
Or: if you give me $1,000,000 today and I spend it all on Christmas presents right now, odds are that thanks to the inflation that almost always happens, I'll be able to buy a bit more with it than I would if I stuffed it under my mattress, left it there for a year, and gave my family and friends a very happy 2012 holiday season instead.
This is all pretty simple stuff -- or complicated stuff, explained with an annoying simplicity, but with basics that are easy enough to grasp -- and I think most people get it for the most part. You might work at a job at which your pay gets a cost of living or inflation adjustment every now and then, or notice that everything costs more now than it did when you were a kid. Whatever it is, people know, if they think about it, that agreeing to pay a baseball player $25 million in ten years isn't the same as paying him $25 million right now.
What I'm wondering is why that isn't considered more frequently in the way fans and analysts look at baseball contracts. Because I can promise you (and you'll see the evidence below), the teams don't forget it.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
(TCM Note: While every else is worried about how Albert Pujols will perform over the next ten years, our friend Albert Lang, who does his own excellent work over at H2H Corner, had some thoughts about the value of Mark Buehrle going forward.)
I’ve never been a Mark Buehrle fan for a variety of reasons, most of which aren’t his fault (most likely it is MTV’s fault).
I’ve become more of a fantasy player so I view the game through a different lens – workman pitchers without even a handful of Ks aren’t super valuable. In addition, aside from his defense, there isn’t a ton of flash with Buehrle. I grew up a huge fan of the me-first type players (Barry Bonds and Deion Sanders predominantly). I also think Buehrle can be somewhat of a hypocrite at times.
That said, he was clearly (and deservedly) at the top of the free agent class for a variety of reasons. So, will Buehrle be the free agent god that brings titles to South Beach or more like Jeff Suppan? Certainly there can’t be an in-between!
The good: since 2001, when Buehrle began 11 straight seasons of 200+ innings, Buehrle is first in the majors in innings, 21st in BB/9 (min. 400 IPs), and seventh in WAR (Fangraphs edition) behind only Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson and Johan Santana. You can’t quibble with that consistent usefulness.
To date, Buehrle has a 3.83 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.48 K:BB rate and 45.9% ground ball (GB) rate. However, there are some chinks in the armor. He led the league in hits four times and, as Dave Cameron pointed out, his ERA likely benefited from some subjective ground ballness and how they are classified/scored as errors. As Cameron discovered, 10.1% of Buehrle’s runs allowed have been unearned. While his ERA puts him in great company, if you look at runs allowed, he seems more like Al Leiter, Barry Zito, Randy Wolf and Jarrod Washburn. You certainly can’t just assume all his unearned runs were a product of his insane amount of ground balls, but it is certainly possible he’s getting a little help from those scoring the games.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
After noticing it referenced in an off-hand mention in a Sam Miller tweet last night, I think I can mark this great fact down as once known, but long since forgotten:
From 1953 to 1962, the Baseball Writers Association of America awarded something called a Sophomore of the Year Award.
How great is that? Ten years, in both leagues. How is it that in all this Ron Santo Hall of Fame discussion, we never heard "1961 NL SOY" brought up as a point in his favor?
Frankly, now that I've thought of it, I'm surprised that neither the writers nor baseball itself has made any attempt to bring it back. The above-linked page says it was "discontinued...due to lack of interest," but they've got tons of awards these days (I provide a helpful hierarchy here), and lack of interest certainly doesn't seem to be any kind of deterrent anymore, so why not?
I don't know what the rules were for this award, but I assume anyone who was eligible for the ROY the year before qualifies for SOY. Below are my picks for the 2011 version of the award, followed by some natural offshoots:
by Jason Wojciechowski
Albert Pujols apparently has ten-year offers for upwards of $200 million on the table from the Marlins and the Cardinals, as well as other teams that might includes the Cubs and the Angels. While anything can happen, the buzz has been around Miami, and counting out a return home to St. Louis is foolish. Where should he sign? Let's go to the tale of the tape.
|Category / City||St. Louis||Miami|
|Metro Area Population||2,845,298||4,919,036|
|Restaurants with Pujols's name on them||1||0|
|Brand new ballparks||0||1|
|Hideous center-field contraptions||0||1|
|The same uniform that Stan Musial wore||1||0|
|The same uniform that Trey Parker wore||0||1|
|Days of sunshine per year||202||249|
|Average humidity in July||59%||63%|
|Friends of Jason who grew up there||4||1|
|Football teams cruelly stolen from another city||1||0|
|Vote share for McCain in 2008||15.5%||41.6%|
|Managers who played within my memory||1||1|
|In 'n' Out Burgers||0||0|
I'm pretty sure we have our answer!
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
For pretty much as long as I've been aware of these things, there have been two guys who were, clearly and beyond all reasonable dispute, by far the most worthy eligible players not in the Hall of Fame: Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo. Now, of course, thanks in some part to a big push by the stathead crowd, they're both in.
So now what? Rob Neyer tackled that question yesterday. Kind of. I'm not entirely sure what he conclusion he comes to, though; he asks the question much more than he answers it. And I guess (as Rob hints) the question of "who should the next cause be" isn't that interesting right now. We're in kind of a transitional period where nothing we do matters much anyway; in a couple years, it's going to be all about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and so forth, and I'm going to hate every bleeding second of it.
I guess the question I'm interested in is: if you could throw all your support behind one candidate and wake people up to his cause, who would it be? Or, if you prefer, a slightly different but closely related question: who is getting ripped off most royally? I've said that Scott Rolen "is set up to take over for Santo as the new most egregious snub," and Kenny Lofton and Jim Edmonds will have a strong claim to that title, too, but they're not eligible yet, so technically, we don't know that they're going to get jobbed (even though they totally are). So we'll just consider candidates that already have been considered and (more or less) rejected.
Here's a chart of what I think are the ten best candidates:
Monday, December 5, 2011
Today, the Hall of Fame got a little better with the election of Ron Santo by the Veterans Committee. We’ve been over how good Santo was, and how deserving he is of this honor, but it’s nice to see an ignorant injustice corrected, and TCM commends the 15 out of 16 voters who understood what baseball’s writers ignored for so long.
Baseball writers continue to be ignorant in their Hall of Fame voting, treating their ballots as column fodder and as a belated punishment for crimes and slights both real and imagined. Thanks to our friend LeoKitty, of The Girl Who Loved Andy Pettitte, and her terrific Hall of Fame voting tracker, TCM came across the shining example of Jeff Schultz, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, who published his intellectually inconsistent, moronic, and hypocritical ballot this morning.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Once again, this weekend, we welcome in Dan Hennesey, who headed up Baseballin' on a Budget, the SweetSpot Network's Oakland A's blog. Check him out on Twitter.
Every team has question marks entering a season. The question might be regarding who will make the team or fill a certain role. It could be regarding the health of key players. It might even be where in the range of a player's abilities he will perform. Whether in the lineup, rotation, or bullpen, minimizing questions marks can separate good teams from bad teams.
Teams need breaks for a successful season, both health- and performance-related. When a player is injured, the question is not only who takes his spot. It's also who takes the replacement's spot, and the concept of "chaining" is often underestimated in this consideration. For starting pitchers, it's usually pretty easy. Pitcher gets hurt, guy from Triple-A takes his spot. Very easy to measure that effect.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Late last night, news broke that Heath Bell had agreed to terms with the Miami Marlins, who amazingly offered him $27 million over three years, plus a vesting option. This is the second most absurd proposed allocation of resources that The Common Man has ever heard of. The first, obviously, is that for the privilege of owning the entire Smallville series on DVD, you need to shell out $340 this Christmas. Seriously, if you had the choice of paying $9 million a year to Heath Bell and $340 for buying the entire Smallville series, you’d probably choose Bell, but it would be close wouldn’t it? Like, you’d have to think about it.
It’s not that Bell’s a bad pitcher, but he does raise some significant red flags. For one thing, he’s going to be 34 years old next year and relievers are prone to huge fluctuations. For another, while his velocity hasn’t dropped, his strikeout rate has down to the lowest level of his career. He also pitched half of his games at Petco Park, where offenses go to die. And finally, the value of a guy who is going to throw, at the most, 70 innings for you simply isn’t high enough to justify $9 million dollars a year, no matter how many other teams are shelling out for big time closers in 2012.
"What is the one baseball-related thing you love the most, and why?"
So before we get back to being hateful bastards, here are each of our flowery sissy-pants answers to that question. Believe it or not, I went to the list randomizer on Random.org, typed in each of our names (plus Dan Hennessey's, who wrote a great guest post for us last week and will be popping in for at least a couple more), and it came out in the following order:
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Yet again, we delve into the things we love about baseball in an effort to combat the really disappointing news from around the game in recent weeks, and the potential flurry of negativity we'll be reveling during the upcoming Hall of Fame debate. Here are links to our previous efforts, which document our love of movies, Twitter, grittiness, NotGraphs, and minor league free agents.
The Common Man loves baseball stories. More than any other sport, baseball seems to lend itself to narratives both on the field and off of it, and those stories become absolute bedrocks of our American identities. For instance, that Babe Ruth was so supremely confident, he'd promise to hit home runs for kids and called his own shot. That Satchel Paige would tell his outfielders to sit down before he pitched. That Jose Canseco would meet with teammates in the clubhouse bathroom to inject each other with steroids.
These stories are not just compelling when they're told well, but they invoke the essence of the players and time in question. Ruth was a god in the 1920s and early 1930s who could do anything. Paige and his Negro Leagues were as much about showmanship as about baseball. And steroids were seedy and shameful, as were the men who did them.