Jan
08

/My First RAB Post’d

By

In 1981, Rich Gossage led all all A.L. relievers with a 4.2 MSAR (Mustache Splendor Above Replacement). (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)

Let me first say that I’ve been a huge RAB fan almost since its inception. Even before there was “The Big Three,” “Wednesday Night Open Thread,” “Friday Live Chat,” “Mailbag,” “Fan Confidence Poll” “Holding Steady at 9,” “Bloversimplification,” “The RAB Radio Show,” “This,” “ “Co-sign,” “The Stats We Use: wOBA,” “Days of Yore,” “getting Torre’d,” “Proctorized,” “You know the drill, just be cool,” “What Went Wrong,” “What Went Right,” “The Mystery Pitcher,” “Prospect Profile: Caleb Cotham,” “My Aaron Heilman Nightmare,” “The Case for Felipe Lopez,” “BUT TEH 8TH INNING!!!1!” “The Obligatory Hideki Okajima Post,” “Food for Thought: Robbie Cano,” “/MSM’d,” “/Kay’d,” “/bexy’d,” Rose baiting, and “10 Undeniable Reasons Why the Yanks Must Sign Shea Hillenbrand,” there was Ben, Mike, and Joe posting insightful baseball analysis from the mother ship to just a handful of us – relatively speaking.

Qualitatively and stylistically, the typical RAB post back in ‘07 bore a striking resemblance to the current ones while being a welcome departure from what I was seeing on most other Yankees blogs at the time. Rather than issuing ad hominem attacks over Brian Cashman’s occasional miscues, promulgating irrational exuberance over a new pitching acquisition or drawing unsubstantiated generalizations about why A-Rod wasn’t “clutch,” the guys at RAB chose a far more measured, evidence-based approach on which to formulate their arguments. Which meant predicating their positions upon a bedrock of long-term statistical trends rather than small sample sizes, gut feelings, conventional wisdom, or liberal usage of the CAPS LOCK KEY to drive home their respective points. Not only did the RABis offer a rare online venue for in-depth baseball analysis, they did so in an unpretentious, user-friendly manner that enabled slightly more visceral fans like myself to embrace a more empirical approach to the national pastime. With that said, I’ve always sort of had a thing for stats – even if their main utility for me was to show up the opposition. As a kid who had once been sent to the principal’s office for holding court in homeroom over why Tim Raines – and not Vince Coleman or Lenny Dykstra – was the best lead-off hitter in the NL, reading RAB put me smack back into baseball nerd heaven. Except now, sans Lumberg glasses, orthodontic headgear, pegged Z-Cavaricci jeans, and a one-way ticket to after school detention, I could learn, analyze, and debate from the comfort of my Snuggie and relative safety of my parents’ basement (/RAB meme’d).

Despite my undying loyalty to and appreciation for this blog, it should be known up front that I don’t always hew to the prevailing RAB party line. While I do agree that statistical data should be given primacy in most cases, I also see value in the more primal and mystical elements of baseball, which are virtually impossible to quantify and mostly verboten among sabermetricicians: I think that “good” team chemistry isn’t necessarily a product of winning and often goes deeper than merely whether or not teammates like each other, that most players who look like they’re mailing it in likely are (with Robbie Cano being a notable exception), that having a perceived “shutdown bullpen” has a psychological impact on the opposing team that supersedes its projected statistical advantage, and that, yes, the concept of clutch – while overused by underprepared, hyperbolic sportscasters – does in fact exist beyond subjective and selective observation. (Anyone who’s ever had to perform a complex task at a high level in front of a large audience can probably attest to this.)

Maybe my less-than-progressive approach to baseball analysis is a generational thing. I am, after all, a kid of the 80s – an era in which the value of a player was often measured by “grit,”  “gumption,” “hustle,” “horse-sense,” and the most eminent metric of all: mustache splendor. It was a time when invoking slugging percentage as a hitting statistic was not only viewed as pretentiously esoteric but plenty grounds for being stigmatized as an “egg head,” a “wise-ass,” or a “wussy.” (Or, in my case, being ceaselessly pegged in the head during dodgeball tilts by Bobby DiStraccio and his gang of furry minions.) Imagine today arguing with a random patron at a neighborhood bar that Pitcher X is better than Pitcher Y based on Pitcher X’s superior BABIP, and you can probably get the gist of what it was like back in ’87 to build a similar argument around something as rudimentary as ERA.

Oh, and regarding doing that whole BABIP argument in a bar thing? Don’t.

Sadly, a generation later, some of that antiquated mindset remains. For instance, how many broadcasters from the Hawk Harrelson-Joe Morgan-Mike Francessa school of baseball analysis insistently cling to the notion that wins are the be-all statistical metric for pitching excellence, or that one’s eyes are the best measurement of a ballplayer? And, as many of us have witnessed during those seemingly endless 20-minute stretches between RAB posts, when our unslakable minds seek out even the most banal of Yankees-specific content, there are legions of other posters on countless Yankees blogs who embrace the same stubbornly uninformed mindset. That the guys at RAB have carved out a niche that allows differences of opinions and open debate that’s predicated on evidence rather than juvenile notions, stubborn prejudices, and sweeping pronouncements has been a boon to a community of Yankees fans who yearned for something more than “A-Rod Sucks: Discuss.”

When I’m not teaching high school, grading stacks upon stacks of essays, doing reading for grad school, or writing, I spend much of what’s left of my spare time on the couch with my wife, Katie, indoctrinating her in the finer points of Yankee fandom and the virtues of advanced statistics. The high point of this past season came not on a walk-off Juan Miranda hit, but when Katie complained out loud that the Tampa Rays home TV feed didn’t include on base percentage in their in-game stats package. As if that didn’t already make me feel like the luckiest guy alive, she later inquired as to why “that idiot” (Joe Magrane – go figure) insisted on belaboring the fact that the Yankees had a $200 million payroll. Needless to say, it was incomprehensively hot. Had she added something about RBIs being more a product of circumstance than slugging skill, I would’ve been forced to drive down to Zales and purchase her something shiny and expensive.

Katie, if you’re out there, you had me at “that idiot.”

As for my Yankees allegiance, I’ve been a loyal and vociferous fan ever since my frenemy, Ray, sold me a glove with a plagiarized “Greg” Nettles signature on it for five bucks back in fourth grade. The glove actually served me well throughout Little League and even my first tumultuous year of Babe Ruth. (I was learning a new league.) Ray, on the other hand, ended up moving to Arkansas. Or was it Oklahoma? (Either way, I win.) My all-time favorite player is Dave Winfied, with Rickey Henderson a very close second. In other words, as a Yankees fan, I have absolutely no compunctions about rooting for a “bunch of mercenaries.” Still, I do derive great satisfaction from watching the homegrown kids carve their way into the big leagues. I even rooted like crazy for Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson this year (and admittedly stewed when Curtis Granderson was mired in his three-month swoon).

My objective in writing for RAB will be to deliver content that serves as a strong complement to its founders – and my new fellow weekend contributors – while still adhering to RAB’s analytical, anti-reactionary platform. I plan on doing some combination of satire and analysis. And I plan on writing anecdotes about my continued struggle to adopt a more rational, learned, “zen” approach to being a Yankee fan, despite my seemingly innate visceral, knee-jerk, Vinnie From Yonkers darker half – which inevitably emerges amidst their annual late-August swoon, brought into full relief by an error-plagued three-game sweep at the hands of the Royals. And so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity, and I hope my posts can come close to matching the excellence and insight that the RABis have provided for the past three-plus years.

87 Comments»

  1. Bob Stone says:

    Welcome to RAB.

  2. mbonzo says:

    During the ALCS I tried to explain BABIP to people at a bar, and how the Rangers were just on an incredible hot streak. I was accused of witchery and nearly burned on a stake.

    • ONCE in my life have I been able to have a real, saber-inclined conversation in real life.

      • Apollo22237 says:

        It is just too much work to try and explain the stats sometimes. By the time you let them know what you are talking about, they don’t even care. Combine with the fact that most people could care less about these stats in the fist place, it is definitely tough to have a real life saber-conversation, haha.

    • Ray Fuego says:

      I tried it at a large Sunday family dinner. I was tarred, feathered, ran out of town and excommunicated but the RABis took me in.

  3. Esteban says:

    Looking forward to your posts.

  4. LawStudent says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to seeing your posts. Your philosophy towards baseball seems very similar to mine because I too think that that are just some things about the game that can’t be quantified, though there is a good portion that can be. Clutchness is one of those things. While overrated, there has to be a difference between hitting with guys on base and with no one on base, as anyone who has played the game has probably felt. I’m almost positive my BA with runners on base or with 2 outs was not as good in my softball league this fall.

  5. bexarama says:

    Welcome to RAB (even though you’ve been here for a while, you know what I mean >_>). You and your wife sound awesome. \o/

  6. Jerome S. says:

    dude, that was amazing…
    I demand more.

  7. bonestock94 says:

    That was an awesome post. I felt like giving a standing ovation afterward.

  8. steve (different one) says:

    I find your grammar appalling.

    Just kidding, welcome.

  9. derek says:

    those /’d things are so annoying, unless you are a 9 year old girl, they should not be used

  10. pete says:

    yoo right all good-like

  11. pete says:

    And I plan on writing anecdotes about my continued struggle to adopt a more rational, learned, “zen” approach to being a Yankee fan, despite my seemingly innate visceral, knee-jerk, Vinnie From Yonkers darker half – which inevitably emerges amidst their annual late-August swoon, brought into full relief by an error-plagued three-game sweep at the hands of the Royals

    This gave me an idea. I think we should have a page here (with a top-bar tab) that lists all the annoying things that happen every year no matter how good/well-constructed the team is. That way, whenever people overreact to stuff like that, we can just link’em up to the “Don’t Panic” tab.

  12. Great addition to the site. This is definitely RAB worthy.

  13. Excellent first post! Would you give some pointers on how to get my girlfriend into baseball? I already have her accepting that sometimes I just need to watch the game instead of spend time with her, but I’m still having trouble getting her interested in it herself.

    I’d like to pick one nit:
    Way too many parenthetical comments. I know you think it makes it more conversational, but you can achieve the same effect with occasionally better-placed commas or shorter sentences.

    (See Johnny? That’s how you do it)

    No worries, though. I have my own unfortunate love affair with em-dashes.

  14. Fat Joba says:

    Dude, way too long.

  15. Andrew Brotherton says:

    Blah Blah Blah bad grammar, blah blah blah 4th grader, blah blah blah awful awful awful Cashman stupid, Rafeal Soriano answer to all problems. spend spend spend. There you go I just submitted the ultimate comment. I haven’t had enough caffeine today.

  16. Kiersten says:

    That first paragraph was just brutal.

    Kidding. I like your writing style and agree with a lot of your philosophy. Looking forward to your posts.

  17. GBOOF says:

    im sorry but honestly, this whole post just screams “Hey! Im supposed to be the funny guy.” And sadly it falls short of expectations but whatever.

  18. Ray Fuego says:

    Good post brother. Looking forward to your posts!

  19. Also, I’ll be starting my student teaching at a high school in the next few weeks; I’ll be looking to you for venting.

  20. mustang says:

    it should be known up front that I don’t always hew to the prevailing RAB party line. While I do agree that statistical data should be given primacy in most cases, I also see value in the more primal and mystical elements of baseball, which are virtually impossible to quantify and mostly verboten among sabermetricicians”

    THANK YOU GOD!

    I swear I started to tear as I read this post I’m already in love. IMO you seem like the type of writer RAB was missing no offends to anyone. I’m looking very forward to your posting. Good luck!

  21. Brock, we’re obviously around the same age and like you I’m not as dismissive of some of the human elements of the game. I actually think that makes the game MORE interesting, not less.

    Like you I’m not anti stat, but for anyone who thinks players are robots who crunch out numbers unless they are injured, look at what happened in Baltimore this year. Buck Showalter shows up, and all of a sudden a team that was headed for 115-120 losses turns around and goes 57-34(.596) the rest of the way. SABR devotees always dismiss the effects of a good manager, but just because something is difficult to quantify doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    One other pet peeve, the mantra that small samples offer no valuable info. I fully understand the concept of statistical noise, but there is such a thing as qualitative analysis and it is rightfully used in baseball all the time. For example, many SABR types will instantly dismiss Pitcher vs Batter match ups, because you’re dealing with a tiny handful of ABs. They will further criticize managers like Girardi who look at this info. But what they don’t understand is he’s not looking at the numbers, he’s looking at the individual plate appearances (BR has them, subs req’d) and outcomes. Here’s a link:

    http://www.baseball-reference......1&z=1

    The ‘play description’ will say things like “Line drive to Left” “Infield ground ball to SS” or “Strikeout”. So a player might be 1-11 against a certain pitcher, but 8 of the 10 outs were hard line drives. That’s valuable info, that tells you he hits the pitrcher well, just in bad luck that’s due to turn around.

    When Girardi cites stuff like this, you never hear him say “I batted Player X vs Pitcher Y because he was 4-11 against him”. Rather, he says things like “I batted him because he’s had good ABs against that pitcher”. The ‘Individual Plate Appearances’ and ‘Play Description’ is some of the stuff he’s referring to in that much maligned binder of his. But its also a great example of how there IS valuable info in small samples, if you look at the game in a situational way, and not just statistically.

    • mustang says:

      Well said!

      You guys are making very emotion today.

      LOL

      Love this:

      ” for anyone who thinks players are robots who crunch out numbers unless they are injured, look at what happened in Baltimore this year.”

    • Brock Cohen says:

      Excellent points. Here’s something else I’ve often wondered: Who gets do decide what a small or large sample size is? In other words, how do we delineate the cut-offs among insignificantly small samples, trends, and iron-clad statistical evidence? It seems so arbitrary, and while I can understand dismissing a handful of at-bats against Pitcher X as small sample size, how many will it take to make it statistically relevant? Ten at-bats? Twenty? Fifty?

      • mustang says:

        I guess 20 or so but you make an excellent point.

      • Not just that, but why on Earth would you value a hitter’s ABs against generic Lefthanders more than the specific one he’s facing? Just for the larger sample? That’s just silly, every pitcher is different in terms of repertoire, release point, velocity, how his ball moves, etc etc. Some batters see the ball great out of one pitcher’s hand and just can’t pick it up against the next.

        The more specific the info, the better. But a by-product of specificity is that samples get smaller and smaller. Because of this, some SABR types wind up completely missing the situational side of the game, which is how most baseball professionals look at it.

    • SABR devotees always dismiss the effects of a good manager, but just because something is difficult to quantify doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      I think this is a complete mischaracterization of a valid argument.

        • Saying that the saber-inclined “dismiss the effects of a good manager” is twisting the argument. Those saber-minded people, myself included, will always say that a manager can do more to lose a game than he can to win a game; but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate proper bullpen management or the effective deployment of platoons, back ups, etc.

          At the same time, though, (the collective) we have to acknowledge that the results of the game are largely out of the hands of the manager. The players are the ones who succeed or fail. Granted, if the manager isn’t putting his team in the best position to win (keeping more skilled players on the bench, relying on the same relievers until they’re ridden into the ground, sticking with starters too long, etc.) the burden is off of the players a little bit.

          There are tangible effects of a good manager (see above), but at the same time, the team dictates the manager’s success much more than the manager dictates the team. Look at Joe Torre in his pre-Yankee days. Look at Lou Pinella taking over the Rays. John McGraw could’ve managed the Pirates last year and they probably wouldn’t have been much better.

          In summation, I guess, a good manager can obviously affect a team positively, and I won’t argue that; nor do I think anyone else would. However, just how much he affects the team is definitely up for debate, and that is what I/the saber-inclined tend to argue.

          • I don’t disagree with any of that, and you made a very fair, balanced argument. But again some people are just very dismissive of the effects of a good manager, those are who I was referring to.

            It’s often been argued that a good manager might be worth 3-5 wins over a replacement manager. Depending on where a team is on the win curve, that can be a huge difference in terms of the outcome of your season. A 5 win player could earn 15-20 mil per year, I would argue a good manager is one of the more undervalued assets in the game.

            Put another way, could any one player (FA signing or trade) had the impact that Buck had last year? I don’t think so. There’s no stat for ‘accountability’ but that’s often the difference between the well run teams and the bad ones.

            • Put another way, could any one player (FA signing or trade) had the impact that Buck had last year? I don’t think so. There’s no stat for ‘accountability’ but that’s often the difference between the well run teams and the bad ones.

              In that amount of time? No probably not; however, the way you’re wording this point is putting all the credit for the mini-turnaround on Showalter, which I think is undue.

              • Matt, that team had quit by all accounts. If they showed any life on their own, the O’s probably don’t bring Buck in mid-season. It’s not as if MacPhail thought he was going to compete last year. I understand that bad teams can go on winning streaks, but when a team that has mentally packed it in that shows up in how they play.

          • BTW-In re-reading that sentence I should have wrote “some SABR devotees are dismissive…”. My bad.

      • mustang says:

        Your right:

        ” MOST SABR devotees MOST always dismiss the effects of a good manager, but just because something is difficult to quantify doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

        FIXED!

  22. Ross says:

    Where/what do you teach? And what are you in grad school for?

    -High School teacher awed that you can teach, study, write for RAB, and be all wifed-up simultaneously.

    • Brock Cohen says:

      Ross,

      I teach in L.A. and am in the process of earning my M.A. in Humanities.

      • Katie says:

        He’s being modest. He teaches English at a school where students brag about how they never read, their parents never read, and how they haven’t finished a book since the third grade. And by the end of the year his students are reading Plato, Genesis and Michael Pollan and begging for more. And they all walk away in June knowing quite a bit more about the Yankees. (yeah, this is wife- what’s it to you)

  23. The209 says:

    Nice post.

    Parts sounded like one big long RAB ass-kiss, but who the f*ck am I?

    But please … for the sake of everything holy: don’t listen to — actually do the opposite of — everyone who’s offering you stylistic advice (“too long” “parenthetical quotes”!).

    Find your own voice — without the fucking peanut gallery, who are each gonna post a 300-word comment, anyway.

  24. Anon says:

    Thus, the intelligible and tolerable RAB comes to an end. You’re post came across as very immature.

  25. Pat D says:

    Dave Winfield is my favorite player of all-time, too, so I’ll keep reading your posts for that reason alone.

  26. Jason Hirsh says:

    I havent been here in 6 months…..what happened to TSJC?

  27. badadvice says:

    BORING !!

  28. aldot says:

    Hah! I had a signed Graig Nettles baseball that I treasured for years until I found out that my brothers duped me by signing it themselves and scuffing it up to make it look like a game ball. At least they spelled him name correctly!

    I enjoyed your introduction to RAB and look forward to reading more.

  29. paul says:

    Great first post, and entertaining way of presenting what you are about. I look forward to your future posts, but hope the satire and anecdotes are kept to a minimum- I come here to be entertained by presentation of unique baseball statistics, astute analysis and excellent opinions, and not for humorous content (other than in the comment section).

  30. Dale Mohorcic says:

    I was with you on every word of that post. Except for “frenemy”. Welcome to RAB. Don’t use that word again. Please.

    • CS Yankee says:

      The Snuggie was the only bad word used for me.

      Brock…well written, looking forward to more.

      I am another that prefer and use (some of) the modern metrics but know that chemisty is more than just a class. I don’t like the Jeter bashing by most on the site to defend the awesomeness of Arod’s game. It’s always bad to tear one view down while promoting another opinion.

      Anyways, it’ll be some good reads i’m sure going forward (as we have had in the past).

  31. Sal says:

    Great Job by all the writers, it ain’t as easy as it looks or all you all would be doing it. That said can we now make a list of Cashman’s first round draft picks,so we can determine what his BAFRP is, something tells me it’s not that good for the last 12 yr’s. I’m trying to figure out if “Atta baby we’re still in the $170′s” is more important then bringing in Soriano and having the Latin Nasty Boys at the back end of the pen, with Chamberlain, D-Rob, and Feliciano setting up for those two. I’ll jump start the thread.. 1998 Andrew Brown, 1999 David Walling, 2000 David Parrish, 2001 John-Ford Griffin, 2002 no pick, 2003 Eric Duncan ( after this pick Cashman proclaimed The future of 3rd base is secure, I guess $254M later he was right ) 2004 Phil Hughes, 2005 Carl Henry, 2006 Ian Kennedy, 2007 Andrew Brackman, 2008 Gerrit Cole, 2009 Slade Heathcott, & finally Cito Culver Gee.. Thanks!

    • pete says:

      We’re talking about picks between 25th and 30th pretty much every year, though. And most drafts are not as deep as this years, which makes it all the more important, if you ask me, to try to reap as much young talent as possible from it.

      Also, look at the last seven years; there was really only one truly bad pick in there. Hughes is a quality young starter with documentable success in the AL East, Ian Kennedy reached the majors in his first season and has had success as a mid-rotation starter in the NL, Brackman’s looking more and more like the excellent pitching prospect he was drafted as, Gerritt Cole was a top-5 quality arm who would have been an utter steal as the 28th pick, and Heathcott and Culver are extremely athletic up-the-middle guys who have by every testimony the defensive abilities to stick at their respective positions but about whose offense we can’t say much yet. Really, CJ Henry was the only pick in that group who stands out as a bad pick to me. Add in that the Yanks nabbed Joba in the supplemental 1st round of that same 2006 draft, and it’s really not a bad record, if you ask me.

  32. Monteroisdinero says:

    Excellent post. Now the all-important question. Is Greg Golson the key to #28?

  33. Mike HC says:

    Very well done. Really enjoyed reading that and am definitely looking forward to reading more posts like this. Digging your writing style and mindset.

  34. CS Yankee says:

    BTW, how does the Goose’s career MSAR compare with Rollie Fingers?

    It seems to me that once he went to SD that it had more of a Bison-look than the evil backwoods (although he is from surburia Colorado Springs) ‘stache.

    Can you graph a yearly comparison similar to the WAR graphs by age (that would be taking to the next level)?

  35. Elliot F says:

    An absolute joy to read! I look forward to many more.

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