Offseason Post! (Why Everyone is Wrong but Me)

December 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Alternate Title: Everyone sucks but me.

This is meant to be sarcastic. Could you tell? I have been vocal about blogger elitism, or rather the blogger tendency to make their claims with finality, and presenting only statistical evidence that supports their case, and absolutely no semblance of a counter claim, or recognition of human elements of the game.

Let’s pick on Umpbump.com for a minute. Now you know Umpbump for their irreverent style; they can be clever in the way they take the game out of context, having a long line of posts about UFH (Unfortunate facial hair) and the like. What is truly unfortunate is that the writer’s for this site very often phone in their content. Let me qualify:

Nick Kapur writes an article about the Dodgers signing of Matt Guerrier. He hates the signing, as would I. After all, Guerrier is getting up in years, has poor peripherals, weak stuff, and a ton of mileage on his arm.  You go to fangraphs and find that Guerrier is indeed 32 years old. Hmm sounds old. In addition, you find that he has thrown 461.2 innings since 2005. That’s a lot of innings. And then you note that his FIP hasn’t ever been below 3.91. Last year it was 4.23. Seems high for someone getting a 3 year deal huh? And then you can scroll down to more advanced statistics. You can find Guerrier’s average fastball velocity! Oh dear, 90.6 MPH, that’s not too fast.

Kapur focuses on WAR, though. WAR is a good statistic; it can quantify a player’s value fairly effectively. However, in the case of middle relievers, they don’t really pitch enough to accumulate a lot of WAR (Unless they are truly elite). Kapur points out that Guerrier has been worth .2 WAR over the past three seasons, and that means that his production could easily be replaced by any old triple A reliever, or waiver wire pickup. There’s a little bit of gnome logic here. Step one: Note that some of his statistics are a tad underwhelming. Step Two: … Step Three: AWAY WITH HIM.

Baseball analysis will forever be riddled with the debate between results and the prediction of future results. That players should be evaluated by what they’ve done vs. being evaluated by what they should have/will do.

Kapur obviously subscribes to the second, more predictive side of the coin. Which is absolutely legitimate. All things being equal, he’ll probably be right more than half the time in terms of his evaluations of players.

But that side completely ignores the human element of the game, as well as the reality of the marketplace. Because in spite of his mediocre fastball, hittability, and consistently poor peripherals, Matt Guerrier continues to amass results. Is it his goat-like facial hair? Who knows! But what is a pitcher’s job again? To limit runs. His ERA’s the past six years: 3.39, 3.36, 2.35, 5.19, 2.36, 3.17 (Oh and his total WAR from those seasons, excluding 2008, is 2.1. It was .9 in his 2007 season, which is pretty damn good. See how cherry picking can make almost any argument true?). Yes, middle relieving is a fickle industry, but this man has done his job at an elite level for 5 of the 6 years he’s been with the Twins, which is a pretty good ratio.

And yes, Ned Colletti has made some poor decisions, you’re right, Mr. Kapur. But I think he and his staff may have noticed that Matt Guerrier has limited runs better than almost any other middle reliever over the past six years. If he hadn’t given Guerrier three years, you don’t think someone else would have? This is real money, not hypothetical money. You don’t give out millions of dollars based on what someone is predicted to do, you give it out based on what they have done. That isn’t likely to change any time soon, Mr. Kapur, so your argument is essentially that you’re mad that athletes get paid too much.

Now, will Matt Guerrier succeed in L.A? He might, and he might not. Dodger stadium is a big park, and Matt’s a bit of a fly ball pitcher. But I’m fairly certain that the Dodger brass will be pretty happy with the deal if they get three years of 3.50 ERA ball. I’m also fairly certain they won’t give a shit what his FIP is during those years.

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What to take away from this season Predictions (Because I was so Good at it Last Year)

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