Everything is Okay

September 17, 2010 at 12:04 am 4 comments

Now the Twins just swept the White Sox despite the Sox lining up their three best starters, at home, and having nothing to lose. Or maybe they everything to lose. In any case they had to lay all their cards on the table and they still got crushed. Not that Paul Konerko isn’t awesome for hitting a home run mere innings after being smacked in the face by a Carl Pavano fastball. But the division hasn’t been so tidily wrapped up since, what, 2004? (On September 16th, 2004, the Twins had a 13.5 game lead on the Sox. What a beautiful time)

Anyway, now that a 9 game lead has been established, there are other, more pressing concerns than the White Sox.

The Yankees have really been slumping lately. With todays win Minnesota has the same record as those despicable Bombers. Which is odd because 10 games ago 6 games separated the two teams. Furthermore, the Twins would be playing the Yankees in the playoffs if the season ended today, and staying away from Yankee Stadium would be more than helpful.

Who starts game 1? Liriano or Pavano? The feeling has been that Hotcarl has anchored the staff this year and that Liriano has been inconsistent. Although, as my last post attests, that’s a bunch of crap with regards to Francisco. Pavano has thrown many a clunker himself this year, as will happen from time to time with someone who never gives up walks, but it shouldn’t be assumed that just because he has a mustache and a lot of complete games, Pavano is your best bet in game 1 of a short series. Liriano has a historic home run rate going at the moment (4 and counting), as well as a sick FIP and far superior strikeout rate.

Game 3? The feeling is in Duensing’s favor, and on an intangible level, at least, he seems to have a competitive fire that Slowey and Baker not only don’t have, but are probably secretly afraid of.

Gardyyy, Brian is being scary and demanding to pitch another inning. Should we call the police?

Seriously, in his start against the Angels where he demanded to pitch the 9th inning, Duensing went against every tenant of Minnesota white guy boring pitcher Joe Mays-Rick-Reed-Bob-Tewksburyishness. That’s why he should get a crack against the Yankees, if we do in fact play them. You can’t measure intangibles such as these. But as I have hypothesized before, playing the Yankees demands a level of fearlessness that our pitchers have lacked in recent years. Nice guys like Joe Nathan don’t beat the Yankees. Douchebag Josh Beckett beats the Yankees. Kevin Slowey can’t face A-Rod with the bases loaded and not crap his pants. Asshole Curt Schilling can. It’s so easy for those briefed in modern statistical analysis to rely solely on stats  to form conclusions, because it seems as though stats can back up any argument you could possibly want to make. But in a 5 game series, everything is such a crapshoot that I would rather have the guy with a 4.00 FIP and a badass neck tattoo than the guy with a 3.00 FIP who listens to Andy Williams.

Look, I appreciate every article that makes fun of some old backward journalist who accuses bloggers of only looking at the game through their computer screen. And it’s always funny because the old journalist is always making some idiotic argument than can be dissected and pulled apart to show how out of touch the guy is. What if he isn’t making that idiotic point, though? What if we simply focus on his main argument, that modern statistical analysis has blinded us from some key aspects of the game, intangible aspects. Dave Cameron can look more and more and more in depth and conclude that, say, Carlos Gonzalez is really just having a lucky season and is totally taking advantage of his home park blah blah blah. But what if all Cargo needed was some confidence? Because I’m fairly certain, having played some ball myself, that all the game is about is having confidence in your abilities. That can’t be measured. Dave Cameron can say that Jason Kubel is worth the same as Eric Hinske and back that up with advanced metrics. But have you seen the way a Ron Gardenhire clubhouse works, Cam Cam? You think the Twins can non tender Kubel, pick up Hinske and go on like nothing has happened? The Twins success these past 10 years can’t be traced to powerful lineups or electric pitching staffs, or even really to stellar defensive play. These Twins are successful because they all care, they all respect Gardy, they all really believe in the program over here. Sometimes that program can be oppressive and can result in David Ortiz not reaching his full potential. That’s fair, but prior to this year, the Twins front office had made some pretty stupid decisions. We’re known around the league for great scouting and talent evaluation, but we never really have that much talent. Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, Luis Rivas, the Matt Garza trade.. this club has succeeded despite the front office, not because of it. This year, you can see what a competent front office performance can result in, when combined with the way Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson run a ballclub. Statistics can help us see so much about this game, so much we couldn’t see before. They help settle arguments, and are integral in predicting future performance. But I think this is why SABR inclined GM’s don’t tend to succeed any more than the old school ones. The way a clubhouse is run is, while certainly not the only factor, a big part of team success. And one that absolutely cannot be measured statistically.

And I’m sure Dave Cameron and all the other autobots on Fangraphs love baseball. Of course they do, otherwise they wouldn’t devote so much time to it.

But sometimes it’s really hard to see, and I totally understand where the old school Murray Chass’ are coming from when they accuse the SABR types of not appreciating the game. Because the way the articles on say, Fangraphs or Baseballprospectus are phrased are often very pompous, and almost always with arrogant finality. And honestly, for every success story the SABR community has in terms of predicting a player or team’s performance to a T, there are tons of stories where statistics have no explanation. Look at Scott Rolen, or the San Diego Padres, or Vlad Guerrero, or Paul Konerko, or the fall of the Cardinals despite 5 legit superstars. Look at frickin Jose Bautista! This isn’t small sample size variance anymore, that dude has crushed 47 home runs.

I’m not saying the SABR community should have predicted those seasons. I’m saying it couldn’t, and it can’t. Statistics can’t measure the ability of a human being to figure out their life, which is essentially what Jose Bautista is doing right now. And statistics won’t find a way to back up Brian Duensing, because he has a bad xFIP and has pitched to some bad teams. They will point out that Scott Baker has been unlucky. But those of us who watch Twins games know, Scott Baker is a talented guy who won’t put it together, and that Brian Duensing is an untalented guy who knows how to motherfucking pitch.

For every Homer Bailey, Dave Bush and Joba Chamberlain there is a Jon Garland and 2010 Tim Hudson. For every Alex Gordon and Matt LaPorta there is a corresponding Mike Aviles and Austin Jackson.

I read an Umpbump.com article (It’s generally a very good site) recently that wanted Cliff Lee to win the Cy Young because of his ridiculous K/BB ratio. Okay, Cliff Lee is a great pitcher, and great pitchers usually have great K/BB ratios, but the objective of pitching is not to have the best K/BB ratio. The goal of pitching is to give up the fewest amount of runs, which Cliff Lee is not doing. In fact, while he has at times been brilliant this year, Cliff Lee has missed a decent amount of time with injury, he hasn’t pitched particularly well since his trade to the Rangers, and he has given up a pretty good number of home runs. Basically what he is doing that is historic is that he is allowing a ridiculous low amount of walks. Good for him.

This has really turned into quite the diatribe. I really don’t mean to rag on the SABR community, because I really get a lot from it. I just get frustrated by the statheads thinking there is only one side to everything. Baseball isn’t about statistical tunnel vision, it’s so much more. It’s about humans playing a crazy, complex game with more variables than you can imagine. We have found ways to measure their performance, and those measures are extremely useful, but not when they take away from the game. Not when Eric Hinske is being championed as a cheaper, better Jason Kubel by someone who doesn’t give a shit about any quality that can’t be measured, who doesn’t give a shit about the Twins, and who has no appreciation for the fact that this game is played by human fucking beings. That isn’t why I would pay hundreds of dollars for a playoff ticket, I would pay that money because the game is so inherently human, so psychological, so unpredictable. In football, if a 5’9″ running back runs into Pat Williams, Pat will eat him 100 times out of 100. In baseball, Mariano Rivera can pitch to David Eckstein and lil Dave can get a hit 25 times out of 100. The Royals will beat the Red Sox pretty much every year, at least once, but it will probably be a generation before the Cleveland Browns beat the Colts. I’m rambling, but my point is that over analysis detracts from the beauty of the game, which is, if you’ve watched any baseball this season, at, arguably, an all time high.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Do the Twins need a Front Line Starter? What to take away from this season

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Twins Geek  |  September 17, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Great rant. You’re absolutely right about the limits of statistics, and the misplaced confidence/arrogance that can be shown in them.

    Reply
  • 2. Jesse  |  September 17, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Great read.

    Reply
  • 3. Dave Erb  |  September 17, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Your essay was really well-written and sensible.
    Very professional, even the swearing helped
    accentuate a point.

    Aloha

    Reply
  • 4. Chris Ross  |  September 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Hey, really nice blog you got over here! Jose Bautista’s season has been absolutely magical and it has made watching the Jays this season such a treat. I never would in a million years have thought that Jose Bautista of all people would be the player to have the surprise year for the Jays. It’s going to be difficult for the Jays to decide what to do with him next year considering he keeps jacking out the homers. hey, you think you could also check out my blog cuz I really wanna hear what you think. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/what-to-do-with-jose-bautista/

    Reply

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