Those geeks who live in their mothers’ basements have done it again. They’ve gone and made another stat, which clearly makes everyone enjoy the game less. Plus, they don’t even watch baseball! They just play with their Excel spreadsheets. What happened to the days when men were men? We judged baseball players on what we saw, not on what some computer told us. Someone get Billy Beane on the line. I have to give him a piece of my mind for writing Moneyball.
Silliness aside, I just got through reading this article by Dave Cameron explaining wOBA. Before you dismiss this statistic, I suggest you read it as well. Then read this article by Tom Tango, the dude who developed the statistic.
At this point you might find yourself saying that the last thing the baseball world needs is another statistic. I’ve heard plenty of people, including a beat writer or two, say the same thing. However, I think that’s missing the point. If we find a better way to measure baseball production, why shouldn’t we use those stats when making our arguments? You might not like Baseball Prospectus and their not-so-up-front formulas, but wOBA is spelled out pretty clearly. So is its intention:
OPS, as you probably know, significantly undervalues the ability of a hitter to get on base. It treats a .330 OBP/.470 slug as equal to a .400 OBP/.400 slug, when the latter is more conducive to scoring runs. wOBA gives proper weight to all the things a hitter can do to produce value, and is a more accurate reflection of a hitter’s value.
Of course, getting people on board with this is the problem. Many are comfortable saying Nick Swisher had a .219 batting average, therefore he sucks. No argument, no matter how well articulated, could bring this type of person around. We’ve always used batting average, so why change now? wOBA is for the fan who understands that just because things used to be done a certain way does not mean they should always be done that way.
What makes wOBA easy is that it’s scaled to OBP. League average is usually .335, plus or minus 5. So you know if a player is doing well or not without comparing him to other players. The average is already set to the league average OBP. Here is the 2008 Yankees leaderboard. As you can see, A-Rod wins by a mile.
We’re not going to shove this stat down your throat. Not by any means. But when we get into an argument over player performance and stats come into play, I’m probably going to defer to this.
Today is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents (players have until Sunday to accept), and over the weekend we had a nice little discussion about whether or not the Yanks should offer Andy Pettitte arbitration. Most fans seem weary of Pettitte because of the combination of how he pitched in the second half (he had a 6.23 ERA & 1.68 WHIP after July 30th) and his ever increasing age (he turns 37 next June), but to me this is a no-brainer: offer the guy arbitration.
Note: Before I go any further, let me just make it clear that my opinion about offering Pettitte arbitration has nothing to do with him being a “Dynasty Yankee” or his very good, but often overblown postseason track record. Nostalgia has no place in roster moves.
While Pettitte endured his worst big league season in terms of ERA+ last year, there is also considerable evidence that bad luck played a role in his performance. Check it out:
If you looked at the raw numbers without having seen Pettitte pitch over the last two years, you’d say he was at least as effective in ’08 as he was in ’07, perhaps even moreso. The slight increase in hits allowed is almost entirely negated by the decrease in walks allowed, while the improved GB/FB & contact rates indicate that Pettitte did a better job of keeping the ball down while still getting swings and misses. The significant increase in strikeouts is obviously a big plus and evidence that his stuff is still fine, but the decrease in homerun rate is a negative, albeit a small one (it’s a difference of one extra homer every 52.2 IP).
Despite the general improvements in his rate stats, Pettitte’s ERA in 2008 was just about half-a-run higher than it was in 2007. When you allow fewer walks, induce more grounders, and rack up more strikeouts than the year before without significant spikes in hits and homers allowed, you almost have to blame the defense behind him. Decreases in DER (.678 in ’07, .667 in ’08) and GIDP rate (one GIDP every 7.43 IP in ’07, one every 13.60 IP in ’08 despite increased GB rate) support this.
My one real concern about how Pettitte pitched in 2008 is how righties just tattooed him. During his career prior to ’08, Andy held RHB to a .267-.322-.395 batting line (.282-.332-.394 in ’07), but last year they smacked him around to the tune of .325-.376-.476. Via the wonder that is Fangraphs, we can see that Pettitte threw his cutter 27.9% of the time last season, up more than 10% from past years. Maybe Andy relied too much on the pitch, and because RHB saw the pitch so much last year, they were able to tee off against it. I honestly don’t know, this is all just speculation on my part, but something worth considering.
As far as the actual arbitration process goes, it’s a very low risk situation for the Bombers. If he declines, then you’re netting draft picks if he goes elsewhere (there are rumblings that he’s considering the Dodgers, but I suspect that’s just to give himself some leverage) while still maintaining the ability to resign him. If he accepts, then he’d be back for another year at $16-18M (the 20% max salary cut rule doesn’t apply to players with more than six years of service time, however that’s irrelevant because no player has ever had their salary decreased in arbitration, and it’s not about to start with Andy Pettitte despite an ever so slightly below league average year). Given Pettitte’s recent track record as a league average starter workhorse, the risk is worth it for a team with ginormous holes in it’s rotation and more money than they know what to do with.
If the Yanks choose not to offer arbitration, what do they gain? The risk of potentially paying him $16-18M is reduced, but there’s always the possibility that another team makes a big offer and they end up paying him that much money to stay anyway, maybe even over multiple years. If Pettitte does decide to go somewhere else, the Yanks would receive no compensation picks, and would have to replace Pettitte’s innings with someone who they’ll probably end up paying a similar amount of money to over several years. As the say goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
It’s a no-brainer, offer Pettitte arbitration and take the risk of overpaying him for one year rather than having to replace him by overpaying someone that may not be able to handle New York while not gaining any draft picks. Did I really need 800 words to explain something this obvious?
In case you missed it, Ian Kennedy was rock solid in his last start this past Tuesday. He lines up to start Tuesday for Mayaguez (off-day tomorrow). The AzFL and HWB seasons are over as you already know; here’s the highlights from the guys still playing down in the Caribbean:
- Melky Cabrera: 12 for 35 (.343), 6 R, 22B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB in 9 games
- Robbie Cano: 8 for 26 (.308), 6 R, 4 2B, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 SB in 6 games (remember, he’s strictly DH’ing)
- Frankie Cervelli: 9 for 35 (.257), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 7 BB, 8 K in 16 games
- Justin Christian: 41 for 141 (.291), 22 R, 7 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 12 BB, 21 K, 10 SB, 1 CS in 34 games
- Reegie Corona: 15 for 55 (.273), 10 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 SB in 25 games
- Walt Ibarra: 14 for 66 (.212), 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 13 K, 3 SB 1 K in 28 games
- Ramiro Pena: 13 for 51 (.255), 4 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 CS in 15 games
- Jon Albaladejo: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP in 7 appearances
- Wilkins Arias: 7 IP, 11 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 6 BB, 10 K, 2 WP, 1 HB in 12 appearances
- Edgar Soto: 1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB in 1 appearance
Feel free to use this as your open thread for the evening. Lots of interesting NFL action today, so talk it up here. Just be nice.
Update (6:10pm): IPK was flat out awesome today: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 7-13 GB/FB. His last two starts: 16 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K. What a bust.
No, it’s not a VH1 special about the Yankees’ favorite Irish singer. It is instead a profile of Ronan Tynan in the Asbury Park Press. Tynan, performing today in Red Bank, is getting ready to release an album of his version of songs by U2, Eric Clapton and the Boss. It’s clearly just what the world needs. (Hat tip to BBTF.) · (8) ·
According to e-mail uncovered via a Freedom of Information Act request, New York City officials applied a full-court press on the Yanks to earn the free use of a luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium.
In the grand scheme of New York City politics, this news is hardly shocking, but it is just one more example of the close and, at times, inappropriate relationship between the city and a team that had once promised to build the stadium with little help from the public. The Times’ David W. Chen has more:
The Bloomberg administration was so intent on obtaining a free luxury suite for its own use at the new Yankee Stadium, newly released e-mail messages show, that the mayor’s aides pushed for a larger suite and free food, and eventually gave the Yankees 250 additional parking spaces in exchange.
The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.
The e-mail messages between the aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Yankees executives were obtained and released by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, Democrat of Westchester, who questions whether taxpayers were adequately protected in the city’s deal with the team.
Mr. Brodsky said what emerges from the e-mail correspondence is a sense of entitlement ingrained in Bloomberg officials. He said that the city appeared to be pushing for use of the suite for not just regular-season games, but for the playoffs and the World Series, and for special events like concerts, too.
“There’s this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the question of, what is the public interest here and who’s protecting it?” said Mr. Brodsky, who conducted a hearing on the issue of public financing of sports stadiums this summer. “We can’t find the money for the M.T.A., or schools, or hospitals, and these folks are used to the perks and good things of life, and expect them.”
The e-mails themselves — available as PDFs in the Daily News article — are fairly benign. In typical back-room politics fashion, the Yanks balked at offering the suites while the government officials threatened to withhold whatever the Yanks may have needed from City Hall. In the end, everyone got what they wanted except the taxpayers.
On Friday, I posited that the Yanks should offer arbitration to Andy Pettitte. While they run the risk that Pettitte will take them to a hearing and get paid more than he deserves or the Yanks want, the odds of that happening are low. Meanwhile, if he signs with the Dodgers or elsewhere, the Yanks would net themselves two draft picks. They’ve got nothing to lose.
Ken Rosenthal, however, disagrees. He writes: “The Yankees, on the other hand, do not figure to extend such an offer to lefty Andy Pettitte. If they wanted to give Pettitte a one-year contract with an increase from his $16 million salary, they would have done it by now.” Now, I don’t agree that this is as clear-cut as he thinks, and it doesn’t seem to me that he is basing this guess on anything other than intuition. In other words, there is no insider information at work here. We’ll see how this plays out. The arbitration deadline is coming up tomorrow. · (58) ·
But as we open up this thread on Saturday night, we do have one thing to mention: Today is the 39th birthday of Mariano Rivera. I hope His Mo-ness is having a good one wherever he may be celebrating.
You know the drill. Open thread, anything goes. Just play nice.
For sportswriters of all stripes, Cot’s Baseball Contracts is an invaluable resources. It provides an accurate, one-stop shop of contract information for all Major League contracts. On a slow Hot Stove weekend, John Donovan interviewed Jeff Euston the man behind the site. As with so many of these non-beat writer sites, Jeff administers his site in his spare time, and he does one helluva good job with it. · (3) ·
For all the talk about the current face of the Yankees, whether it be A-Rod, Derek Jeter or someone else, Don Mattingly was the clear symbol of the team during the 1980s and early 1990s. Many of us grew up watching and idolizing Donnie Baseball, and no topic generates more discussion than whether or not Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame.
For the most part, Yankee fans agree that Don Mattingly was very good. He was a bright spot on a franchise that made the playoffs once during his tenure and generally wasn’t good. In fact, the team finished first just once during his career, and that just happened to be in a year with no postseason. But Mattingly, these fans, argue just wasn’t a Hall of Famer. He never reached those benchmark Hall of Fame levels, and while he certainly deserves to see his 23 hung up, a spot in Cooperstown would not be warranted.
Sometimes, though, we lose sight of just how good Don Mattingly was. For those of us who grew up watching him, we didn’t really start to appreciate baseball until Mattingly’s quick and rapid collapse. For five years, Don Mattingly was one of the best players in baseball.
Between 1984-1989, Mattingly’s peak and among players with at least 1000 plate appearances, he was one of the top offensive players around. His OPS+ of 147 was seventh best in the Majors, and his 160 home runs were sixth best. His overall line was .327/.372/.530. As 1989 was his age 28 season and he was just entering his peak, anyone watching would be right in expecting a future plaque on the wall in the Hall of Fame.
But Mattingly’s career didn’t follow that typical path. From 1990 until he retired following the 1995 season, Mattingly’s numbers weren’t as impressive. His OPS+ over that period ranked him just 147th out of those with 1000 plate appearances, and he hit just 58 home runs. He hit a pedestrian .286/.345/.405. Injuries derailed his career and sapped his power. He was out of baseball before his 35th birthday.
So Mattingly was very good, but he wasn’t the best. He had a five-year peak that ranks up their in the 1980s, but at a time when he should have gotten better, at a time when most sluggers enter their peak, he declined. It was a fast and painful decline.
Had Mattingly sustained his early production over a long career, he would have been a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but he didn’t. He’ll always be remembered as a very good player, an icon of the Yankees and one who declined quickly and painfully. Cooperstown will forever miss him, but that’s just the way it should be.
In a moment of Frigid Stove downtime over Thanksgiving, Peter Abraham offered up his thought-provoking list of the top 20 most important Yankees. He starts with Joba, ends with Dave Eiland and touches everyone in between. In a few days, we’re going to have a RAB round table about these picks and offer up our own. In the meantime, what’s your take? Is PeteAbe’s list accurate? Do you disagree? I do, but I’ll save that for another day. · (111) ·