Saturday, February 25, 2006

2B or not 2B

Peter Gammons wrote an article about the best and worst fielders at each position in the majors. He got his information from a new book by John Dewan, called "The Fielding Bible", with contributions from Bill James.

We have all struggled with quantitative analysis on defense, but this isn't some statshead thing created in a cellar at MIT. James explains that Dewan's aides "watched video from every major league game and had recorded every ball off the bat by the direction in which it was hit [the vector], the type of hit [ground ball, fly ball, line drive, popup, mob hit, etc.] and how hard the ball was hit."

So, in a game where we have long been able to measure offense and pitching, Dewan has made a strong presentation for rational and real defensive analysis.


For those without access to ESPN insider, the news for Mets fans isn't good.
1. Carlos Delgado was "far and away" the worst fielding 1B in the majors last year. For those hoping for skewed numbers based on small sample size: he's still one of the three worst over the last three years.
2. Bret Boone, a non-roster spring-training invitee, scored as a worst fielding 2B last year and over the last three years. So now he is the total package of detriment at the plate and detriment in the field. If he makes the squad, expect his "veteran leadership" and "proven ability to produce" to get him stomach-churning playing time.
3. Aaron Rowand, new Phillies CF, was a top CF last year and over the last three years.

Other options at 2B are the unsure-handed Kaz Matsui, Jeff Keppinger and winter-league phenom Anderson Hernandez. Unfortunately for Mets fans, Willie Randolph has an inexplicable love of veterans, regardless of ability to perform. At the same time, his "gut" tells him that young players have to "prove themselves" before being given responsibility- even if it becomese painfully clear (and it may not be) that Keppinger/Hernandez deserve the job.

Hence, with a young Reyes at SS (18 errors in 2005), a huge question mark at 2B and a known deficit at 1B, we may be holding our breath a lot on routine ground balls in 2006. And considering our aging pitching staff, who other than Pedro can't blow by hitters, and who will undoubtedly need help from fielders to get out of jams, these defensive shortcomings may haunt us right out of a playoff spot.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Coco vs Johnny

Andy Park over at Round Ten Sports has a great article comparing my wife's ex-boyfriend Johnny Damon to Coco Crisp.

Once again, the Yankees overpay for an aging star (e.g., Giambi, Brown, etc.) and his past performance, when it has become clear that there existed better value for centerfielders in the marketplace. Whether the Yankees could have come up with a package to trade for Crisp is another story, but they could have at least tried.

Finally, there is a hidden bonus to Boston’s acquisition of Crisp. While Damon moves from hitter-friendly Fenway to the less-friendly Yankee Stadium, Crisp will move to Fenway, which is one of the best hitter’s parks. Breaking down Crisp’s home/away splits last year, I see major potential for Crisp in his new home park.


The difference is significant. For whatever reason, Crisp did not enjoy playing at Jacobs....

That all said, Crisp probably won’t be as good as Damon in the 2006 season, but by 2007, Crisp will be the better player. And he will be cheaper. A lot cheaper. Crisp will make Boston fans forget about their long-haired idiot center fielder.


I agree with all but the statement saying Crisp probably won't be as good as Damon in 2006. Why is that? Coco was just as good, if not slightly better, than Damon in 2005! I am confident my wife will soon have a new man. She is going to go cuckoo for Coco Crisp.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Remember When" – Subway Series 2000

It’s time to introduce a new feature to the site where we will look back at what we were thinking during some of the big moments in Mets history…all 3 of them! Of course, I jest. The Mets have had countless big moments…unfortunately many of them just have unhappy endings, including this first moment we will look back on.

So, for our first “Remember When” entry, let’s look back at October 2000. For this one, let’s take a look at some old saved emails so we can witness how a Met fan deals with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. (Thank you Mr. Sussman for this idea).

Let me first introduce our friend Matt. I am confident you will see quite a few references to him on this blog over time. Anyway, my friend Matt and I were lucky to witness the Mets clinch the NL pennant at Shea Stadium. As soon as I got home, I quickly had to start reading the coverage (Matt and I get more enjoyment from “reading the articles” than from the games themselves). I sent this to Matt when I got home:

(Note: I have made no edits to any of these emails, other than omitting some non-baseball stuff)

From: Doug
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 1:00 AM
To: Mathew
Subject: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT???????????????


I have to admit, after reading this stuff, a subway series would be so much fun. What a week it would be! I hope you watched sportscenter when you got home. Lots of great interviews, especially one with Leiter. You gotta love him. I swear I get chills reading our articles. My personal favorite (very chillworthy): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/17/sports/17METS.html

The headline itself is chiller.


Ah, notice the excitement and satisfaction in my voice! A day later, the Yankees finished off Seattle and we had a subway series! Optimism was running high…

From: Doug
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2000 8:55 PM
To: Mathew
Subject: best news yet!


From a yahoo article:

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Baseball has talked with Billy Joel about signing the national anthem before Saturday's World Series opener.


I think Game 1 (the “Run Timo Run!” game) must have been too painful, as I don’t have any noteworthy emails after that one. I remember watching the game with my father and brother, both Yankee fans (which I will discuss in a future post), and it was definitely one of the more painful moments of my life. Game 2 was no less painful…

From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 12:05 AM
To: Mathew
Subject: fascinating


I am watching the postgame report and Al Trautwig and Michael Kay are defending Clemens like crazy and Howie Rose and Keith Hernandez are all over him. To me...I watched it 100 times by now and I ADMIT I am biased, but I really am trying to be objective and I SWEAR it is SO obvious to me. He was looking RIGHT AT HIM! Ridiculous. He threw it at him. But it is fascinating how the Met reporters are on the Met side and vice versa.

From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 6:54 AM
To: Dad; Mathew
Subject: from espn.com (Jayson Stark)


"Freedom of thought is what makes America great. So feel free to believe Clemens' explanation for firing a jagged piece of bat at a hitter who has openly professed to dislike him.

Feel free to believe that he was so emotional that he didn't know he'd just broken Mike Piazza's bat in 16 billion pieces and therefore was unable to distinguish a baseball from a flying piece of ash.

And while you're at it, feel free to believe that Ed McMahon is dying to come to your house and give you a million dollars, too, even if you don't subscribe to "Modern Computing and Home Decorating."


From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 11:30 PM
To: Dad
Subject: to be fair


Bob Murphy didn't think he was aiming for Piazza. But he is senile.

To this day, I am still dumbfounded by anyone who actually believes Clemens didn’t purposely throw the bat at Piazza. But enough about that. After winning Game 3, the Mets still had life and I sent this before the critical Game 4:

From: Doug
Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2000 11:40 AM
To: Alan; Mathew
Subject: Guys…


"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!"

Game Four
Tonight.


Game Four final score: Yankees 3, Mets 2. Al then replies to my note:

From: Alan
Date: Thursday, October 26, 2000 1:54 AM
To: Doug, Mathew
Subject: Re: Guys…


"If we lose another one-run game, I am no longer a Met fan"
-Anonymous heartbroken Met fan

Baseball trivia

"That's my only goal," Delgado said. "I just want to have a chance to go to the postseason, hopefully go to the World Series and win the World Series. Almost 11 1/2 years and I never had a playoff game under my belt. It would be nice."

I just read that according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Carlos Delgado ranks second among current players in most games played (1,567) without having been in a playoff game. Hopefully we can change that this year. But guess who is first. Think about it, and when you give up, click here for your answer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Quote of the Week



Aaron Gleeman posts an excellent review of a new bookabout Bill James by Scott Gray which has already been added to my Amazon shopping cart. There are so many reasons to admire Bill James, but mostly I respect him for calling out BS when he sees it.

Today, Al and I are starting a new feature of the blog..."Quote of the Week." Each week we will present one of our favorite baseball-related quotes, whether old or new, for your enjoyment. To kick things off, I'll provide two this week, one from Bill James and one from a writer on Baseball Prospectus, a site that wouldn't exist if it weren't for Bill James. Both of these quotes summarize my beliefs when it comes to baseball and knowledge in general, and frequent readers will find it to be a recurring theme on Baseball For Thought:

“If you care to think about it at all you have to realize, as soon as you acquire a taste for independent thought, that a great portion of the sport's traditional knowledge is ridiculous hokum.” - Bill James, as quoted in Moneyball

“I'm skeptical of any conclusion until it's proven to be so. I have a very healthy distrust of other people's opinions.” - Dr. Rany Jazayerli, Baseball Prospectus

From the Desk of the Fanatic’s Wife – Entry #1

My name is Sarah…and my husband Doug is a baseball addict. I was invited to provide female insight on his obsession. I am sure there are many other women out there who are in a similar situation…I am here to commiserate and hopefully to provide some laughs. Let me start by saying this: I like baseball. I like that Doug likes it. But when you cannot plan your wedding for the last weekend in October because “it could be game 6!”…well, that is a little crazy (we were married the first weekend in November, by the way…and there was no game 6).

The first season I dated Doug I almost ended it because I thought he was ignoring me…I had to delve deep into the mind of a true baseball addict to understand. I figured if I couldn’t beat him, I would join his game. The next season (2004) was great because my team ENDED THE CURSE and I watched my ex-boyfriend, Johnny Damon (more on that breakup in the future…traitor!) win the World Series. Baseball is something that Doug and I can enjoy together…but when he gets in “the zone” especially “the fantasy zone”…well let’s just say that there is pretty much nothing I can do to get his attention (that includes nudity, people!!). My husband is a baseball addict, an obsessed crazed fan, and the Commissioner of his Fantasy Baseball league…what’s not to love about that?

I am here for you girls. Remember…if you can’t beat him, join him. Or stand in front of the T.V. and do a naked dance.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Beltran Ready

According to MLB.com, Beltran's back and ready to produce for the Mets.

"It was a very difficult year," Beltran said. "Last year is in the past. This year, I'm looking forward to a new season and showing the fans and everyone what I'm capable of doing."...Acknowledging that there were times that he wondered, "Why is this happening to me?", Beltran said his religious faith brought him to see the positives in the season.

Yes. Why me indeed? Poor me and my 1/8 of a billion dollars!

Way to overcome adversity Carlos. Glad to have you back.


Jimmy Rollins Has Healthy Ego

In an article on MLB.com, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives himself considerable props:

"Every spring since my rookie year, I told him (younger brother Antwon) I'm going to break [Joe] DiMaggio's record," said Rollins. "It's such a symbol of consistency. Up until now, that was impossible."

Later in the article, Rollins offers us a glimpse at his future exalted status in the annals of baseball history:

"I have no doubt that I'll be regarded as one of the best shortstops," he said. "In which way, offense or defense, I don't know. Hopefully, it's all the way around. Those are my plans. If I don't feel that way, I shouldn't be playing this game."
Recognition as the holder of the game's longest hitting streak in history might help his Hall of Fame chances. "Shoot, I'll get to Hall of Fame for reasons other than that," he said, laughing. "But that'll definitely help."


Big words for a guy whose previous longest hitting streak was 12 games. And from a lead-off man who for his career has a .273 BA (.267 league average) and a .328 OBP (.338 league average). And whose previous All-Star nods are as much of a testament to the lack of SS talent in the NL as they are to his own abilities.

Your hit king, future hall-of famer "run like Dimaggio, hit like Jimmy" Rollins!

40 days until Opening Day!

Forget the upcoming WBC, now we know that baseball is officially almost back! Why? ESPN has released its first "MLB Power Rankings" for 2006! No major surprises, with the White Sox leading the pack and the depleted Marlins bringing up the rear. Our overrated Mets come in 6th. (Readers who will visit this blog often will quickly discover that Al is the much more optimistic fan...I'm the realist). Not that ESPN's opinion matters, but what I am most pleased about is my other team placing 2nd, and getting the respect it deserves. Which GM has had the best offseason? The best GM in baseball, of course:

#2:
Add Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley to the lineup and add Esteban Loaiza to an already deep rotation and what do you have? A title contender.

Let's go A's!!!

Seeing Bigger Balls

This is from an interesting article I read over the offseason.

According to an article from Live Science, better hitters may see the balls as bigger:

Researchers found a correlation between batting averages of softball players and how big or small they perceived the ball to be. After games at several softball fields in Charlottesville, Va., the researchers asked 47 players to pick from eight different-sized circles the one that best represented the size of the ball they had been trying to hit. "Only people who hit .500 or above pointed at the big circle," said Jessica Witt, a cognitive psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia.

I won't go into too much detail about the flaws of this extremely subjective study- but asking people who hit well on a given day to describe the size of a ball is as much about personal bravado and cultural expectation as it is about objective correlations. Fat chance getting the player who popped up to 3rd all day to a) NOT say the ball looked small or to b) remember the experience of seeing the ball reliably at all.

I also suspect a major confounder at play here. To assess the true reason behind differing levels of production on the softball field that day, the correct question should actually have been, "how many beers have you had?"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Last Hurrah?

According to USA Today, Barry Bonds told the paper that he will be done after this upcoming 2006 season.

"I'm not playing baseball anymore after this. The game (isn't) fun anymore. I'm tired of all of the crap going on. I want to play this year out, hopefully win, and once the season is over, go home and be with my family. Maybe then everybody can just forget about me."

Ok Barry, whatever you say. I don't think anyone is going to forget about you though. It looks like Bonds' plan is to surpass Ruth and let Aaron hold on to the HR crown. No matter what your opinion of Bonds and the steroids story, I hope you still manage to appreciate his greatness. His B-Ref page has more bolding and highlights than a pre-med's textbook. And imagine what his numbers would look like if he didn't become a walking machine in his later years. To help put his major league walks record into perspective, just think that he has more walks than Hall of Famers Joe Dimaggio, Willie Stargell, Johnny Mize, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew or Willie McCovey had hits! Amazing. So, if this is indeed his last season, enjoy every moment...we may never again see a player dominate a sport like he did.

Welcome!

Welcome to Baseball For Thought---and our first post!

You know, with such a momentous occasion, one would think that we'd delve right into the thick of things, analyzing off-season trades and acquisitions, personnel moves, or management decisions. And believe us, with an entire winter without baseball, and with spring-training in the air, we are chomping at the bit to get to it!

For now, though, we'll keep it short and sweet. We are two baseball fanatics. And this website is a testament to our love of the game.

Please come back often to read the latest commentary on the state of the game. Doug and I will seek to provide thoughtful analysis on every facet of baseball --- from the managers to the players, from off the field decision-making to the writers who cover the greatest game of them all.

So, without further ado- PLAY BALL!
"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine

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