In one of the more even-keeled looks at the way the Alex Rodriguez PED story developed over the last few weeks, The New York Observer follows the reporting trail. While Selena Roberts broke the story, she was battling her former coworkers at The Times for the scoop, and it seemed just a matter of time before some news outlet broke the story.
The piece he assigned was not in fact this one: It was to revisit whether he actually fit in as a Yankee, and go over the last two seasons in which Mr. Rodriguez has been romantically linked to a stripper, subsequently divorced, and then linked, romantically again, to super-cougar Madonna…
There was plenty of material for a write-around. But as Ms. Roberts dug deeper into the story, she started hearing more and more credible information about Mr. Rodriguez’s use of steroids. And so a magazine piece that anyone could have written became, because of careful reporting, a nice, sharp, clean news break.
It was not a fast bit of work. David Hirshey, the executive editor at Harper, an imprint at HarperCollins, remembers the call he got from Ms. Roberts’ agent, Mark Reiter. “Mark told me about four months ago that Selena was deep in an investigative piece on A-Rod and she would probably need three issues of Sports Illustrated to tell it all,” said Mr. Hirshey. “And that there’d be a lot of great stuff left over.”
Meanwhile, across town on Eighth Avenue, the loss was especially painful. The Times had been chasing the A-Rod story. “We were working on it for many weeks,” said Tom Jolly, the paper’s sports editor. “It’s a story whenever there’s smoke around A-Rod for a period of time, and we were chasing that smoke.”
Say what you will about Ms. Roberts’ opining during the Duke Lacrosse debacle, but this story was uncovered through some good old investigative journalism. Whether or not it needed to or should have been published is a debate I will leave up to you.
The kicker though isn’t the way this story unfolded. Rather, it’s what is going to happen next.
“The book is still a work in progress,” said her book editor [David] Hirshey. “I assure you she has more drug revelations as well as other news. Not everything that Selena has on A-Rod’s steroid participation has come out yet.”
That’s the part that worries me as a baseball fan and a Yankee fan. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what further allegations Roberts’ book may hold. She could tell me that A-Rod took estrogen while riding on a purple unicorn, and I couldn’t care less. A-Rod’s reputation is in tatters, and what he did in the past — as Mark McGwire once said — doesn’t really matter anymore.
But as someone who wants to see the Yankees win and do well this year, the last thing this team needs is a mid-May publication of a book slamming A-Rod. That is, however, what awaits. Oh, how I long for the days of just last week when The Yankee Years was the worst thing surrounding this team. It is, as Derek said yesterday, always something around here.
When discussing outfield defense, there are two main factors to consider: range and arm. So often we get caught up in the range aspect of the equation, and for good reason. You can conceivably save more runs by having more range than you can by having a solid arm. That’s not to say that an arm doesn’t play into things. In fact, the guys at FanGraphs thought it mattered enough to come up with ARM, which means outfield arm runs. It’s just another way the baseball community is improving upon defensive metrics.
You can check out the league leaderboard here. Only outfielders qualify, and beyond that it appears there’s a minimum game requirement. That’s per position, not overall in the outfield. We’ll get to that issue in just a second. For now, let us ogle the Orioles outfield. Nick Markakis checked in second overall in the league with a 6.8 ARM, trailing only Hunter Pence (an astounding 8.6). With a UZR of 10.1, it looks like he could be the best defensive right fielder in the league. Playing to Markakis’s right is Adam Jones, who checks in with a 3.2 ARM and a 10.3 UZR. With that type of production, couldn’t they afford to put Adam Dunn and his -14.9 UZR and -3.7 ARM in left? I guess not. For now they’ll have Luke Scott (-0.6 ARM, 4.7 UZR) and Felix Pie (0.5 ARM, -1.2 UZR in a small 2008 sample).
I first read about this at Beyond the Boxscore, where they listed the best and worst arms in the league. I fully expected Johnny Damon to be in the bottom crew, but alas he is not. Why? Apparently he didn’t have enough innings at one position to qualify. That’s my best guess at this point. FanGraphs’ list cuts off at 43 names, all of whom had more than Damon’s 659.1 innings at one outfield position. Damon did log 285 innings in center, though. Adding up his ARM stats, he’s at -2.7 in 944.1 innings, which would put him at 11th worst in the league. Of course, most of the guys worse than him played considerably more innings, so when you rate out the stats (ARM/150, anyone?), he could easily look worse.
You can check out the Yanks leaderboard here. Brett Gardner destroyed everyone on the team, posting a 3.9 ARM in just 160.2 innings. One might say that’s a small sample size inflating his number, but in left field he posted a 1.0 ARM over 145.1 innings. The Melk Man posted a 0.2 ARM in center, though in a much smaller sample he was far better at the corners, posting a 0.4 ARM over 18 innings in left, and a 0.5 ARM over 23.2 innings in right.
FanGraphs also released DPR, or double play runs. Their definition:
The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, based on the number double plays versus the number forces at second they get, as compared to an average fielder at that position, given the speed and location of the ball and the handedness of the batter.
Sounds a bit complex. In any case, you’ll never guess who ranked among the worst in the league. Yep, Mr. Derek Sanderson Jeter. Fielding numbers are just out to get this guy. He ranked fifth worst in the league, ahead of Freddy Sanchez, Brian Roberts, Placido Polanco, and Yunel Escobar. For anyone interested, of the Yankees last year to turn in a positive DPR, only one is still with the team: Cody Ransom. The others were Morgan Ensberg, Wilson Betemit, and Alberto Gonzalez. A-Rod came in at zero.
What do these fancy defensive metrics tell us? No, they don’t determine who has the best outfield arm, or who turns the slickest double play. Those we can judge with our eyes. Instead, these stats measure what happened. Who saved more runs with their arm in the outfield? ARM can tell you. Who was the best at turning double plays? DPR can tell you. They’re results-oriented, not talent oriented. For all we know, Derek Jeter might turn a pretty double play. But as far as the results last year, he and Robinson Cano weren’t the best DP combo in the league.
Both Sabernomics and The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy tackled the issue of the impact PED use has on a player’s statistics. Both sites came to approximately the same conclusion: PED use has a very minor or nearly negligible impact on a player’s overall totals. Sabernomics thinks PED use may have contributed 2.37 home runs over two seasons to A-Rod’s totals, and the Numbers Guy believes that while it’s hard to come up with a set number, the total impact is slight. In my opinion, statistically analysis is not the way to judge the impact of PED use rather. Rather, the drugs allow players to recovery faster and, ideally, stay healthier longer. That impact is much harder to measure. · (44) ·
Pitchers and catchers are like, forty hours away. How awesome is that?
Here’s a recap of today’s action from camp:
- Bryan Hoch spoke to Joba Chamberlain, who said the Yanks “are always the team to beat.” Good boy. Kat O’Brien has some more from Joba, and Hoch also noted that Jon Albaladejo looks to have lost about fifteen pounds over the winter.
- Mike Ashmore caught up with pitcher Eric Hacker, who’ll be competing for a Triple-A Scranton rotation spot this spring.
- Chad Jennings notes that JB Cox, George Kontos and Kanekoa Texeira have been invited to Spring Training. You may remember that they weren’t on the original list of invitees. Jennings also notes that Eric Duncan has been trying out the outfield.
- PeteAbe says that A-Rod is expected to be in camp next week, so hopefully all of this will be behind us in seven or eight days. Pete also says that Jorge Posada was making throws out of the crouch, and that Nick Swisher will wear number 33 with Brian Bruney switching to 38.
Here’s your open thread for the night. The Isles are taking on the Devils in Newark, the Rangers are taking on the Fightin’ Ovechins at home, and the Knicks are out playing that other LA team. Talk about whatever your heart desire, just be nice.
Opening Day is fast approaching. (Photo by flickr user Daniel, Peralta)
With the new stadium set for a Feb. 17 completion date, the construction crews in the Bronx are coming down the home stretch. Zell’s Pinstripe Blog has one of the last sets of construction photos, and things look great.
Meanwhile, across the street at the House That Ruth Built, some initial destruction has commenced. It looks like the old ticket booths will be the first to go. As late as my senior year in high school, those tiny blue booths still sold gameday tickets. The old stadium appears to be roped off forever.
This post by Tangotiger over at The Book blog might keep you busy for hours. In it he presents data compiled from 1993 through 2008, detailing how each position in the batting order fared with each type of hit. You can see how many runs a single from a leadoff hitter is worth, or how many runs you can expect from a homer by the cleanup hitter. Tangotiger breaks it down by runs scored, runs driven in, and runs participated in, which combines the first two. Yes, the batter himself is subtracted from runners driven in when he hits a home run, so there isn’t any overlap.
As Pinto notes, this creates a strong argument for a team’s worst hitter batting eighth, and adding a decent on-base guy in the nine slot. However, it looks like the seventh hitter in the order participates in the fewest runs. Does this mean that you should hit your worst hitter seventh? It makes sense in a way, given the cyclical nature of the batting order. The only issue is that the seventh hitter will get more ABs than the eighth and ninth hitters. Do you really want to be giving more at bats to a lesser hitter? It appears, though, that the answer isn’t as obvious a “no” as you might intuitively believe.
An interesting aspect to me is the difference between a single and a walk. It’s obvious to anyone, even the most vocal proponent of the walk, that you’re going to drive in more runs hitting a single than taking a walk. Ergo, runs participated in will be higher. However, what about runs scored? After all, both a single and a walk result with the runner standing on first base.
|#||RS 1B||RS BB|
So it looks like a single, in terms of runs scored, is between four and seven percent more productive than a walk (save for the crazy difference in the No. 8 slot). So no, a walk is not as good as a hit in a general sense, given 15 years’ worth of data. Not that this takes away from the superiority of OBP as a measure of production. After all, a walk is still infinitely more productive than an out.
Strike Adam Dunn off the list. According to The Washington Post, Dunn and the Nationals have agreed to a two-year deal. No word on the dollar amount, but I’d have to guess it’ll be around the $8-$10 million AAV range. That leaves Manny Ramirez as the sole remaining corner outfielder, and he is facing very few options.
Update: Tom Verducci at SI.com reports that this deal is indeed worth $20 million over two years. In my opinion, that makes Abreu’s deal with Anaheim seem like a pretty good one for the Angels right now. · (83) ·
Upon closer reading, however, this concept utterly breaks down. Let’s excerpt only Derek Jeter’s quotes and not McCarron’s reporting/analysis.
“I’m not addressing Alex’s situation until everybody’s here…”
“I’m not going to do it every single day,” Jeter said… “Are things a distraction? It’s a distraction when you talk about it every single day…”
“Every year it’s something,” Jeter said Tuesday. “Last year…I’m sure you go back, there was something. It’s the Yankees, there’s always a story at some point. A lot of the guys who’ve been here, they’re used to it. Not something of this level, but used to answering questions about some other things. Once baseball activities begin, hopefully we can concentrate on that.
“I understand you guys have a job to do, I really do,” Jeter told reporters. “But we have a job to do, too, and it’s much better for me, much better for the team to address it one time and not continually address it day after day. If everyone (in the media contingent) was down here today, I’d address it today.
“A lot of times, situations where there’s controversy, guys pull for each other and pull together a little more. That’s what you hope for.”
That, my friends, is not Derek Jeter getting frustrated over Alex Rodriguez. That is Derek Jeter, after 13 seasons, unleashing his pent up fury over the New York media. It’s been a long time coming.
Derek, as Joe Torre and Tom Verducci make abundantly clear in their recent book, has been the even-keeled leader in the Yankee Clubhouse. While not as outspoken as many of his critics would like him to be, he leads by example. He certainly knows about and masterfully exploits the give-and-take surrounding the Yanks and the hyper-sensitive media. This is, in a way, the first real crack we’ve seen in Derek’s armor, and I applaud it.
At some point, the media is going to have to acknowledge its role in the steroid scandal through something other than misguided righteous indignation. These reporters were in the clubhouse every day; they saw the players; they must have known something about what was going on. Yet, none of them bothered to pursue the story ten years ago. So they resort to over-the-top coverage and attempt to sow dissent among the Yanks, the Giants, whichever player tests positive today.
Derek is right to take these reporters to task, and he’s doing today exactly what a captain should be doing. He’s protecting his teammates from what has turned out to be a rather vicious media machine. I certainly don’t expect the press to kowtow to baseball players. I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment and feel that a healthy press is a vital to the American democracy. But at some point, these reporters need a lecture like the one Derek gave yesterday. Good for him.
It’s prospect season, which is why you’re seeing oodles of lists and rankings and projections coming out. The guys at Project Prospect posted their list of organization rankings today, ranking each club’s farm system based strictly on position prospects. Despite lacking in that department, the Yanks still came in 17th thanks primarily to the 1-2 punch of Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero. I think the Marlins are the clear leader in position player prospects with Cam Maybin, Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, Matt Dominguez, Kyle Skipworth, Chris Coghlan and Gaby Sanchez. That’s just not fair.
Also, make sure you check out this THT article on minor league defensive statistics. That should be useful. · (25) ·
- Nick Swisher will bounce back. Despite a career high percentage of line drives hit, Swisher’s BABIP was a career low .251. Compared to a career BABIP of .279, he seems like a safe bet to bounce back. Now whether that’s in a Yankees uniform or not…
- And on the other side of the spectrum, there’s Xavier Nady. His line drive rate was also a career high, but so was his BABIP. .337 versus .316 career. If the Yankees do decide to move a corner outfielder in a trade, they should focus their efforts on moving Nady, not Swisher.
- Joba Chamberlain should be in the rotation. Enough said.
I feel kind of cheated because items one and two kind of go together, but whatever.
Anywho, I made note of Swisher’s career low BABIP vs. his career high line drive percentage back when I originally lobbied for his acquisition, and I even explained why it would make sense to keep Swish over Nady during a pinch hitting appearance at Newsday. That said, the three of us here have gone on record numerous times saying that we’d like to see the team keep both players for depth purposes, unless of course they get blown away with an offer.
As far as the third bullet point goes … duh.