Actual Positional Analysis

March 22, 2011 at 1:41 am 3 comments

Now, I like Nick’s Twins Blog, generally. Lots of updates, good content, but trying to get through his ‘positional analysis’ has been quite a chore. Let me explain:

I think Twins bloggers are in a unique position of being obligated to be anti-homers. Because our team is run by homers, managed by a homer, and even the media coverage is a bit homerist. I like it, I think it’s unique and harks back to a time when baseball was about more about mythology than wOBA, and more about the players than the player’s off the field personalities. But I’m old fashioned, and let me be clear that I don’t expect anyone to agree with me.

But since our team has this culture of “Oh yeah Nicky Punto’s been seein the ball better, his wife just had a kid, he’ll be fine, pencil him in,” the bloggers are almost required to remind everyone that Nicky Punto is batting .220 with a .330 BABIP (As a fake example).

The blogger I feel is most skilled at this is Aaron Gleeman. I couldn’t say I like Subway more than Arby’s without him coming up with mathematical proof that I’m just wrong. When the front office makes a move, or Gardenhire flips the lineup, Gleeman will provide statistical evidence for or against the decision, and whether it was prudent from a probability standpoint.

For example, when discussing Liriano’s slider usage, Gleeman points out that he used the pitch far more in 2010 than 2009 (But less than 2006), that it has always been his most effective pitch, and that he can’t know whether or not the increased usage will lead to more risk of health problems down the road.

Gleeman provides substantiated evidence for his claims, and when there is no evidence to provide, he takes a wait and see approach. And this is where Nick Nelson comes in like an Alchemist at a MENSA meeting. His analysis of Justin Morneau’s 2011 prospects:

That the afflictions which haunted him for eight months would suddenly disappear just weeks before the start of the baseball season seems awfully convenient, so it’s entirely possible that they’ve grown more mild and he’s simply decided to start pushing through them a little more than he’s been willing to in the past.

Ideally, Morneau will be completely free of symptoms from the get-go this season, putting the traumatic brain injury behind him without issue. That’s a best case scenario but probably not an entirely realistic one. Given the persistence of the concussion’s lingering after-effects throughout the offseason it’s hard to imagine he won’t at least experience some minor symptoms as he attempts to return to everyday duty.

…Even if he does fully overcome concussion symptoms, we must acknowledge the fact that Morneau is returning from what is likely his longest hiatus from the sport since he began playing it.

…With this being the case, it seemingly would have made sense for the front office to invest in some sort of legitimate backup who could keep Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome in their natural (and most suitable) roles. Unfortunately, it looks like Cuddyer will be Morneau’s sole legitimate backup.

This just doesn’t strike me as responsible analysis. Particularly from a blogger who represents the Twins on ESPN’s sweetspot network. To say that Morneau’s recovery is timed conveniently disregards the fact that he was cleared to play by his doctors. Who, I would think given the Twins financial investment in Morneau, would not let him play unless he really was okay to play. Look at all the media coverage concussions get nowadays. It’s the players who want to play through them; it’s the doctors that are increasingly cracking down and being extra cautious. I haven’t heard anyone from the Twins say Morneau felt serious symptoms since January. Maybe I missed something.

I know of one professional sports player who had concussion symptoms last longer than eight months (I’m sure there are more). That was Corey Koskie. Is that a bad omen? Yes, but I would think Koskie’s case is the exception, not the rule.

Then Nelson grandly speculates that even if Morneau ends up healthy, which is “Not entirely realistic,” he will be terribly rusty because he hasn’t gone this long without baseball since he was in T-ball. I’m not one to talk, but if you make a claim, do some research! Or realize that you’re making a pretty baseless claim. Eight months is a lot, yeah. But that’s what spring training is for. And you didn’t follow Justin Morneau’s childhood. I hope. Morneau has always been a pretty quick starter anyway (.914 Career OPS for April).

Then to say we should have gone on he market for a legitimate backup is ludicrous –

(I’m going to digress here, skip this if you like. You know what’s really annoying? When a big market team loses a key player for a few weeks, not a serious injury, and then immediately ESPN and MLBtradrumors start saying who they should trade for or sign. Like when A-Rod was set to miss the first month of 09 with his hip thing, and all of a sudden trading for Aramis Ramirez made sense? Or sometimes teams actually do these types of transactions, like Ruben Amaro with Luis Castillo just this past week because Chase Utley might miss a month or two. Teams have farm systems for a reason. I call this phenomenon hot stove masturbation. Take some adderall and call up the guy in Triple A for christ sakes.)

–As if the Twins don’t have enough plodding DH types to mix and match with Kubel, Cuddyer, Young and Thome, Nelson is suggesting we go out and what, pick up Garrett Atkins? It’s nice to be cautious with injuries. But this is a tough player who says he’s good to go, who plays the easiest and most replaceable position on th

Two good months and guys predict 30 homers out of me? Shit!

e diamond. I would prefer Cuddyer at 1st as opposed to the outfield. Maybe it isn’t immediately obvious that Cuddyer’s -18.4 UZR/150 is horrendously bad and that stashing him at first can only help poor Baker and Slowey?

I know I’m making too much of this. It’s probably because I really want Morneau to be back and healthy and actually capitalize on his talent and have a great full season (As opposed to a great 3-4 months a year). The guy hits for power, hits for average, and his plate discipline has improved markedly throughout his career. No reason besides freak injuries he can’t hit 35-40 dingers with a 1.000 OPS.

But you know what? We can’t know how Morneau will bounce back. And to articulate a pessimistic projection based on grand speculations of a condition Mr. Nelson knows nothing about is pretty lame. What has Gleeman predicted for Morneau? Nothing that I’ve seen.

And what irks me on a more superficial level is Nelson’s projection of .290/.360/.480 for the first baseman. It’s been six years since Justin’s had an OBP that bad. If he’s going t0 be recovered, he’s going to be recovered. But wait, it gets worse. Nelson’s projection for Delmon Young, he of the 0.8 WAR in 2010? .360 OBP with 30 homers. C’mon.

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Let’s Clear Some Stuff Up Baseball or Football: An In-Depth Look at an Age Old Debate

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nick N.  |  March 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Nice critique. Very in-depth and thorough without resorting to ad-hominem attacks and insults, which so many pieces like this resort to.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re really off base and over-the-top here.

    Look, the position analysis for first base was the most difficult to write because (unlike the other installments which, contrary to your generalized grumblings, often feature heavy statistical support) it’s difficult to write with any certainty about Morneau’s injury. It’s unprecedented. Can you name me a player from recent history who’s missed eight months with a concussion and come back without skipping a beat? Honestly, I’m curious to hear. Because you seem to confident about Morneau’s prospects despite acknowledging that the only player you can remember who’s missed this long with a concussion never payed another game.

    You’re right that the Twins have a lot of money invested in Morneau, but that’s all the more reason for them to get him on the field if they feel he can play through these symptoms without endangering his health. Being “ready” and being “100 percent” are not always the same thing; despite your apparent perception that he’s not dealt with any symptoms since January, I happen to know that he’s simply been given the green-light to work through more mild symptoms. Bill Smith has said this himself.

    You admit in your piece that you’re very hopeful Morneau can bounce back without issue this year. Hey, we all are. But my objective on NTB is to remove myself from the situation as a fan and write objectively. You’ve failed to do that here and it’s blatantly clear in the fact that you consider a projected OBP that is two points HIGHER than his career mark to be “pessimistic.”

    You’re an optimist. I get that from reading this entry and the About tab up top. But don’t let your optimism get in the way of the reality of Morneau’s affliction, which is far more serious than you seem willing to accept.

    “If he’s going t0 be recovered, he’s going to be recovered.”

    If only it were always that simple.

    Reply
  • 2. Grant  |  March 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Interesting take on Nick and Gleeman. I disagree with your Gleeman love though. He obviously knows sabermetrics, but as a writer he definitely lacks in the journalistic integrity department.

    Maybe it depends on what you’re looking for, but I notice all the time Gleeman inventing motives for decisions and pretending he knows why decisions where made, and then goes on to say it was poor rationale.

    Reply
  • […] of the pros and cons of each sport, in relation to each other. Because I have the time, and since I picked apart the post of an accomplished blogger yesterday, someone might actually be […]

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