It pains me to link to this, but I have to if I want to make the most obvious point in the universe. So go here, to Dugout Central, which in general isn’t light on the flimsy analysis. For those who don’t want to waste their time, I’ll sum up Michael Walsh’s premise: Derek Jeter isn’t a bad defender because he doesn’t make a lot of errors. Not only that, but his errors, in general, are okay because they don’t cost his team the game. It’s great stuff, compelling and rich. Except that it misses the point by about as far as possible.
The quote that made me laugh the hardest: “Regardless of the conclusions of any individual study, scientific or otherwise, there is no question that Derek Jeter is nothing less than a solid defender.” Yes. Damn everything people have studied and observed over the years. Because Michael Walsh says that “to even infer that he may be the worst fielder in all of baseball is simply ridiculous,” it must be true. Because he said it. And Michael Walsh is smarter and has an acuter sense of baseball skills than everyone else in the baseball-loving world.
One sentence can debunk Walsh’s entire argument. I hand the mic to Pinto: “It’s not about the errors Jeter makes, it’s about all the balls that he never gets a glove on that other shortstops turn into outs.” Anyone who has watched the Yankees for the past decade plus can see that Jeter is poor getting to balls hit to his left. The stats bear that out, but we don’t even need them in this instance. It’s so obvious that anyone who has watched even a few other shortstops knows that Jeter’s range doesn’t stack up. Walsh attacks Yuniesky Betancourt and his 21 errors in 2008, but when the Yanks play the Mariners, or when I watch the M’s on MLB.tv (usually when Felix pitches), I’m always impressed by how quickly Betancourt gets behind the bag at second to make plays Jeter could only dream of.
Oh, and about that line that made me laugh the most: I lied. This one was by far the best knee-slapper in the article:
However, the 1997 season is a different story. That summer stands out as Jeter cost his team three contests during a season in which the Yanks missed the post season by only two games.
So this “research” and “analysis” comes from a guy who can’t even go to Baseball Reference and see that the Yankees did, in fact, make the playoffs in 1997. They did lose the division to Baltimore by two games, but they won the Wild Card by 12 freaking games. So that’s two counts of shoddy research by Walsh.
Look, I’m not here to say that if you think Derek Jeter plays solid defense, you’re an idiot. I am saying, however, that if you choose to make this statement you’re entering a shootout. Bringing a knife to the battle probably isn’t the best strategy.
In a piece for The Journal News, as opposed to the blog, PeteAbe took a look into the Yanks’ world of pro scouting. Instead of taking the time to sum up what these guys do, allow me to quote:
The pro scouts watch players in the major leagues down to the lowest levels of the minors. Their job is to gather information to allow Cashman to make the best-educated decisions about trades, waiver claims and other personnel moves.
When Cashman gained full control over the team’s baseball operations in 2005, one of his first ideas was to better organize how the Yankees went about obtaining and organizing that information. He promoted Billy Eppler, a young team executive based in Tampa, to run the department.
“You see how much work is done on the amateur scouting side, where they have cross-checking, they have meetings, they have regional meetings. They spend so much time and effort for that one day. Why can’t we do it like that on the pro side?” Cashman said.
Run by ex-scout Billy Eppler, the department has a group of twelve scouts spread all over the country, and they even handle Japan. It’s a thankless job, because if Derek Jeter goes 3-for-4 with two doubles he’s the one that gets the credit, but there’s nary a mention of the scout who informed the team that Matt Garza tends to tip his breaking ball by fanning out his glove. I recommend you give it a read, but I also want to take this opportunity to talk about the Rays’ pro scouting department.
Tampa, you see, is going to eschew human advance scouts in favor of statistical analysis and video. The whole idea is to provide the field staff with the most in-depth info possible, while drawing off a much larger sample.
“When an advance scout goes in there, he’s seeing it for three, four days,” [manager Joe Maddon] said. “The data we’re going to accumulate goes over a longer period of time, which would indicate it’s more correct and not as much one man’s subjective opinion. We feel as though this may be the next level of advance scouting.”
Now, it’s important to note that they’re not getting rid of human advance scouts entirely, they’re just going to use them in a more localized way. A spreadsheet won’t tell you that Jason Bay has been in a bit of a funk lately and can be gotten out with off speed junk away because he’s stepping in the bucket, and so that’s where the human scout comes in. He can provide updated info on the “feel” of a team as well as recent tendencies, but the stats and video can be used for everything else. And, of course, you still need human scouts to watch the minors because those stats are unreliable, especially the farther away you get from the bigs.
Frankly, I think what the Rays are doing is brilliant. They’re using their resources more efficiently and taking advantage of state of the art information. It’s a copycat league, so it’s only a matter of time before we see more and more teams doing this. What do you guys think?
When I asked how Joe Girardi will handle the 2009 lineup, many didn’t think it was such a big deal. There isn’t any solid correlation between using fewer lineups and team success, and even if there were we probably couldn’t prove it a causal relationship. Still, as I said in the article, I’d like to see the Yankees go with a somewhat set one through five. Thankfully, even if the No. 5 hitter is part of a platoon the team should still be in good shape. A big part of the problem last year was that there wasn’t any viable No. 5 hitter, at least later in the season, when Giambi sat.
As Ken Davidoff notes, the Yankees used 130 lineups last year, but only used their Opening Day lineup once. That was definitely the “A” lineup in the early going: Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Rodriguez-Giambi-Cano-Posada-Matsui-Melky. It does feel like they did play those nine players together more than once — maybe by “only once” Davidoff meant in that order. Cano slid down the order pretty quickly. And then Jorge got hurt, A-Rod got hurt, Matsui got hurt, Melky started sucking…all that leads to the manager scrambling to find an optimal arrangement of the players available that day.
Once things started to settle down after the trade deadline, we did see some consistency from Girardi. As he says, he’d like to keep things that way:
“I prefer to have a set lineup. I think it works best. But sometimes, similar to some of the teams that I was on, you’re better if there’s some platoon situations, or your bench is extremely strong, or everyone’s in the mix, or everyone’s healthy. We just have to see how it shakes out.”
I think Ridiculous Upside nailed it in the comments:
1. Damon, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Teixeira, 1B
4. Rodriguez, 3B
5. Matsui, DH
6. Swisher, RF
7. Cano, 2B
8. Posada, C
9. Cabretta, CF
1. Damon, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Teixeira, 1B
4. Rodriguez, 3B
5. Nady, DH
6. Swisher, RF
7. Cano, 2B
8. Posada, C
9. Cabretta, CF
With Posada batting so low you can just substitute Molina for him and it’s a seamless change. True, if Posada is truly back to form and hitting like, say, 2006, perhaps he could bat higher in the order. Still, I think considering all the talent the Yankees have on roster, they’ve got a blessing in that they can arrange the order however they want. If Girardi wants a somewhat set lineup, though, this might be his best bet to achieve that.
Baseball America released their Top 100 Prospects List today, with Matt Wieters predictably at the top. David Price comes in at number two, and is followed by the usual suspects: Rasmus, Hanson, Heyward, Snider, et al. Three Yankees made the list, Austin Jackson at number 36, Jesus Montero right behind him at 38, and Andrew Brackman 92. Old pal Jose Tabata checked in at number 72 75. Chime in with your opinion in the comments, I think the Yanks’ farmhands are right about where they belong. · (57) ·
Nate Silver has been the man about town lately. Famous within baseball circles for his groundbreaking statistical work with Baseball Prospecuts, Silver broke out in a big way when he, on his site FiveThirtyEight, predicted a Barack Obama win to the electoral vote. When he analyzes, people listen.
Yesterday, in a Baseball Prospectus story syndicated on ESPN.com’s Insider, Silver examined the future career of Alex Rodriguez (subscription required). The outcome for Yankee fans is not a positive one.
First, Silver notes that A-Rod is not an easy man to analyze. PEDs or no PEDs, his career numbers to date have been at the top of or off the charts. As Silver notes, though, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
Yet, A-Rod has numerous factors in his favor. He’s very athletic; he is playing for $30 million in incentives; and he could end as he began his career with a bang. However, Silver notes that A-Rod also will suffer from age, an injury risk and the fact that, when push comes to shove, he might just not need that extra. His comparables through his current age include Ken Caminiti and Sammy Sosa as well.
The bad news for Yankee fans is this:
I took Rodriguez’s top 20 PECOTA-comparable players and averaged their performances over each remaining season of their careers…Comparables like Frank Robinson, who aged well, have a favorable effect on Rodriguez’s forecast, and players like Caminini just the opposite one.
PECOTA’s best guess is that Rodriguez will finish with 730 lifetime home runs, running out of steam after another three or four seasons and leaving him just shy of the marks established by Aaron and Bonds. Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty in this estimate. If Rodriguez follows the path charted by Aaron or Frank Robinson, he could finish with well in excess of 800 home runs (and possibly as many as 900). On the other hand, if he draws Albert Belle’s ping-pong ball, he might not top 600. Overall, the system puts Rodriguez’s chances of surpassing Aaron at only about four in 10 and of surpassing Bonds closer to three in 10.
One needs to remember the ways Aaron and Bonds finished out their careers were far from typical. At least as common are folks like Jimmie Foxx (before Rodriguez, the fastest player to 500 home runs), who hit just 34 home runs after turning 33. Only about a dozen players have hit 200 or more home runs from their age-33 seasons onward; Bonds and Aaron are the only two to have hit at least 300.
The worse news is Silver’s home run projection for A-Rod.
A-Rod is committed to the Yanks until 2017. Based on Silver’s projections, A-Rod and his contract will be dead weight by the start of 2013, and he’ll still have four more overvalued years left in the Bronx.
Of course, as we all know, baseball isn’t played on computers. Chemically aided or not, A-Rod will have his fair share of opportunities to prove the projections wrong, but history isn’t on his side.
Just wanted to point you in the direction of a new site out there called Minor League Notebook. The site was created by Doug Gray of Reds Minor Leagues and has a staff of fifteen people covering the vast expanses of the minor leagues. Even though the site’s only been around since last week, they’ve already posted previews of the High-A Florida State League and Double-A Eastern League, and ranked the top ten prospects in the AL East. Make sure you check it out. · (10) ·
In city after city, baseball fans like to claim that their town is home to the most loyal, the most rabid fan base. New Yorkers will fight Bostonians and Philadelphians to the death while Chicogoans just sit back in watch. In Los Angeles, the fans leave in the 7th to beat the traffic, and in Atlanta, well, no one really cares.
While we could all debate the subjectively loyalties of fans until we are collectively blue in the face, a RAB reader took it upon himself to model fan loyalty. Jim Lane has spent the last few weeks refining a model of fan loyalty. The raw data is available here in spreadsheet form. I’m going to drill down a bit on it tonight.
Lane decided to assess fan allegiance by using a payroll figures, average ticket prices, win percentage and 2008 attendance. He started off by computing what he calls team appeal. It’s the average of the percentage of payroll of the MLB whole, the average ticket prices also expressed as a relative percentage to the MLB total and the club’s winning percentage. He then compared his team appeal figure to attendance capacity to come up with the final fan allegiance number.
As you might guess, the Red Sox with their high win total, high payroll and small park were the top team on Lane’s list. Their fan allegiance figure was 31.12, nearly triple the second-place Cubs. Having a ticket demand that far exceeds supply will do that.
The Yankees and Mets, meanwhile, came in at six and seven respectively. They both had fairly high attendance figures and tickets were, all things considered, somewhat reasonable. Combine that with high payrolls and three years of regular season success, and you’ll get a formula for fandom.
There are of course a few lessons we can glean from the spreadsheet. The teams on the bottom — Kansas City, Florida, Tampa Bay — suffer from one problem or another. Either the teams weren’t very good or they can’t draw fans. All three of those teams are finding that low ticket prices don’t exactly spur attendance.
The Braves, at number 23, are one of the outliers. The ownership is willing to spend some money, the ticket prices aren’t very high and the team’s winning percentage is decent. Fans, however, aren’t going to the games.
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, it certainly doesn’t solve that good old fan loyalty question, but we can look at a few patterns. Popular teams that put a winning product on the field are going to draw, and mediocre teams that keep ticket prices low are going to draw. But at some point, fans just won’t show up. They don’t come to Miami; they don’t go to Atlanta. Why is a question we can debate for a long time. Some of it is geographic; some of it is apathy.
Anyway, feel free to chew on this spreadsheet for a few hours as the lazy days of Spring Training tick away. Jim broke the years down so you can see his raw data. Perhaps you’ll find a conclusion in the numbers. After all, if the Indians are doing it, so can we.
This is pretty damn entertaining, I must say. Notable rhymes: Jeter with Weiters, “take us” with Markakis, and “Boog Powell and his meat” with Eutaw Street.
hat tip BLS
“We’ve added some pretty big pieces here and you want to bring them together as quickly as possible,” Girardi said. “Every year you’re here as manager, you want to have more knowledge about the players. It’s important that a group is united when you leave Spring Training.”
“It’s a day to forget about baseball a little bit and think about our family here,” Posada said. “It’s a little rest and I think it’s good for everyone.”
Well, I do think that team chemistry is overrated, but I approve. While the “divided clubhouse because of egos” thing gets overplayed, the clubhouse certainly has to be intimidating to young players, so it’s good to see Girardi pull something like this. My money was on Brian Bruney, but Mariano Rivera won both tourneys. Sure sounds like the guys had a blast.
Here’s your open thread for the night. The Nets and Knicks are both in action at home tonight, but I’ll be watching House and 24. Oh, and the Rangers fired their head coach today. Talk about whatever, just be nice.
Update (7:35pm): Forgot to mention this, but reader Rob sent along an email saying that during last night’s Georgia Tech-Clemson basketball game, they had a poll asking everyone to vote who their favorite former G-Tech baseball player was: Tex, Varitek or Nomar. Tex won in a landslide.
Photo Credit: Yankees via PeteAbe
Remember the revelation a few years ago that talked about clubhouses having two coffee pots: leaded and unleaded? Clearly, this referred to the presence of amphetamines in the brew. Turns out, both pots can enhance your performance. J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics post a link and summary of a study done on caffeine, titled “The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise.” The abstract, with my own emphasis:
The study examined caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight) vs. placebo during anaerobic exercise. Eighteen male athletes (24.1+/-5.8 yr; BMI 26.4+/-2.2 kg/m2) completed a leg press, chest press, and Wingate test. During the caffeine trial, more total weight was lifted with the chest press, and a greater peak power was obtained during the Wingate test. No differences were observed between treatments for the leg press and average power, minimum power, and power drop (Wingate test). There was a significant treatment main effect found for postexercise glucose and insulin concentrations; higher concentrations were found in the caffeine trial. A significant interaction effect (treatment and time) was found for cortisol and glucose concentrations; both increased with caffeine and decreased with placebo. Postexercise systolic blood pressure was significantly higher during the caffeine trial. No differences were found between treatments for serum free-fatty-acid concentrations, plasma lactate concentrations, serum cortisol concentrations, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion. Thus, a moderate dose of caffeine resulted in more total weight lifted for the chest press and a greater peak power attained during the Wingate test in competitive athletes.
You can read more about Wingate tests here.
Clearly, this is not a cry to add caffeine to the banned substance list. It’s legal in all 50 states (obviously), so everyone is on even ground. Yet it does enhance performance, perhaps even more so than some of the illegal substances baseball players use to get an edge. I’ll refrain from jumping to any conclusions about how much or little it affects performance, especially when compared to other stimulants and psychoactive drugs. I just think it would be amusing if caffeine actually helped athletes more than certain steroids and amphetamines.