November 21, 2005

Hiatus

I'll be back in the States for most of this week for Thanksgiving, so I'm taking a break from posting. I'll return around December 1.

The Globe's Buzz is a good place to track what's going on.

November 19, 2005

Sox Will Walk On The Wilder Side

GM Search: Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner will interview David Wilder, the White Sox's director of player development. [Chicago Tribune]

Lucchino mentioned Wilder's diverse baseball experiences and an encouraging track record in player development. Since his minor league playing career ended in 1989, Wilder has worked for the A's, Atlanta, Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox. Michael Hill, the Marlins' assistant GM, is also expected to be interviewed.

Bob Klapisch quotes a friend of Johnny Damon's: "Six months ago, there's no way Johnny would've even considered the Yankees. He's thinking about it now."

[Re title: I'm sure everyone is making the same lame pun.]

November 18, 2005

Red Sox Continue GM Search, Make Offer To Damon

Atlanta's assistant GM Dayton Moore will not be coming to Boston:
This was the most difficult thing I've had to face. It really and truly came down to family considerations more than anything else. ... I felt extremely comfortable [at the Sox interview] and felt a lot of chemistry between Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and myself. They were terrific to me and this could have been a great atmosphere for me, but the timing of this is such that I'm better off staying in Atlanta.
The Red Sox will soon conduct second interviews with both Jim Beattie and Jim Bowden. ... Tony Massarotti says this whole situation is a mess.

Johnny Damon:
I definitely owe Boston a lot. People know who I am now. Despite putting up good numbers over the years before Boston, people now know about it. ... It's just a matter of us starting to talk about numbers.
Damon is looking for something like 7/84 -- which is laughable, but, hey, I wish him well if he gets it. Boston apparently made an offer around 3/27, with (maybe) a fourth-year option or vesting option. They shouldn't go any higher or longer than that.

The Yankees might be interested in Damon at about 4/44. (New York has also expressed an interest in Mike Myers.)

In his story about the inclusion of amphetamines in baseball's new drug-testing policy, Chris Snow quotes a veteran player:
I'd say 75 percent of the league uses amphetamines in some way, shape, or form. I'd say 40-45 percent use them regularly. Regularly means on a daily basis. There are guys who can't play without amphetamines. I can't wait to see what happens. If you have guys using amphetamines for their entire minor league career, major league career, and relied on this for 12 years, boy, are you going to see some statistical changes.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News notes that the Red Sox face "daunting challenges" this winter. However:
The Yankees should be drooling with envy at all the quality young talent on the way to Fenway. Unfortunately for them, the Tampa player-development department has reaped zilch out of the last 12 drafts since Derek Jeter in 1992. That's something like 800 players not to have any impact with the major league club ... [It's an] incredible run of impotence ...
The Herald ran a lot of quotes from various MVP voters, explaining why they voted the way they did:

Ken Davidoff, Newsday:
I really did vote on the basis that the Yankees won the division.
Mark Saxon, Orange County Register:
I spoke to a number of pitchers and a lot of them told me that Ortiz was the one guy in the American League they wouldn't like to see up, over A-Rod, in a close and late situation.
Gordon Wittenmyer, St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Over the course of the year, when the game was on the line in clutch situations, [Ortiz'] numbers were off the charts. As far as the DH rule goes, that's not his fault. If he was in the National League, he'd be playing first base and nobody would say anything.
Boston added righthanded pitchers Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, and David Pauley, lefthanded pitcher Jon Lester, and outfielders Brandon Moss and David Murphy to its 40-man roster.

November 16, 2005

A Dark Day

We will say goodbye to our Buster later this morning.



Laura found him in mid-December 1999, abandoned in a pouring winter rain, very sick and likely only a day or two away from a lonely and horrible death on the street.

We took him in -- nursed him back to health, and gave him almost six years of love and life. ... And he repaid us at least ten-fold. (Plus he got to see the Red Sox win it all!)

It was a very tough decision, but we know it's the best thing we can do, for him, under the circumstances.

So long, B ... Say hi to Gypsy and Clyde.

November 14, 2005

AL MVP: Rodriguez Edges Ortiz

         1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Rodriguez 16 11 1 331
Ortiz 11 17 307
Guerrero 1 9 8 7 1 1 1 196
Ramirez 9 1 6 2 6 2 1 156
Hafner 5 6 4 4 3 3 2 151
Konerko 2 4 6 5 1 3 5 128
Teixeira 1 5 3 7 4 2 4 106
Sheffield 3 2 6 2 2 3 1 84
Rivera 1 1 1 3 3 1 3 2 59
Jeter 1 3 1 1 23
Young 2 2 1 2 20
Podsednik 1 1 1 1 15
Damon 1 1 2 1 12
Matsui 2 1 8
Sexson 2 1 7
Tejada 2 3 7
Figgins 1 4 6
VMartinez 1 5
Giambi 1 1 5
Roberts 1 2 5
Varitek 1 4
Chavez 1 2 4
Street 1 3
Colon 1 1 3
Sizemore 1 1 3
Wickman 1 2
Cantu 1 1
Contreras 1 1
One voter left Manny off his ballot completely.

November 13, 2005

AL: Most Valuable Player

Go brew some coffee, this is a long one!

The American League MVP -- David Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez -- will be announced on Monday. Either player would be a worthy selection, but who do I think should win?

I should say right off that these awards are pretty much worthless since they have so often gone to the wrong player. The members of the BBWAA have next-to-zero credibility.

Second, the actual definition of the award is highly subjective; it seems that everyone had his or her own definition. The letter each voter receives states that they should consider:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
My definition: "If I was putting together a team, what player would I choose first, based on his performance for the season in question?"

Ortiz:
Everybody's been talking to me about the MVP situation. As soon as they bring my name up, they always talk about, 'Oh, he's a DH. I don't think he deserves it because he's a DH.' You win the MVP because you help your ballclub, you win games whenever the team needs it and because you put up some numbers.
Tony Massarotti (Herald) calls it "discrimination ... Since the creation of the position in 1973, the closest any DH has come to copping the MVP was in 1979, when California Angels slugger Don Baylor won the honor. Baylor played 97 games in the outfield and 65 as the DH ..."

I agree with Mazz. Should a DH be considered? Yes. I don't like the DH and wish baseball would get rid of it, but it is a valid position, just like shortstop, catcher, relief pitcher. And players at all of those positions have won MVP awards. ... Reliever Dennis Eckersley won the 1992 AL MVP when he pitched 80 innings. Rollie Fingers pitched only 78 innings when he won the AL MVP in 1981.

Okay, some numbers:

The Hardball Times has the final Win Share totals. The AL's top 5 (with batting and fielding splits):
          TOT   BAT  FLD
A-Rod 37 33.3 3.3
Manny 34 30.9 2.9
Sheffield 33 30.5 2.2
Teixeira 32 29.1 3.3
Ortiz 31 31.4 0.2
Ortiz comes in fifth because he gains only .2 Win Shares from his fielding. However, the idea that he should be automatically removed from MVP consideration because he doesn't play defense is wrong.

There must be a point at which his hitting compensates for his lack of defense. (Though some might say that not playing first benefits the Red Sox, allowing them to put a better-fielding player at the position.) The question is: Where it that point?

Here are some other stats:
        AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS    RC   RC/27
A-Rod .321 .421 .610 1.031 151.1 9.53
Ortiz .300 .397 .604 1.001 139.6 8.51
        EQA  BABIP  ISO  SecA  VORP
A-Rod .350 .347 .288 .474 99.7
Ortiz .336 .303 .303 .476 85.8
Explanation of some stats:
RC (Runs Created): The number of runs a hitter contributes to his team (not adjusted for ballpark).

RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs; also the amount of runs that nine Ortizes (for example) would score against league-average pitching.

ISO (Isolated Power): (2B + 3B + HR*3) / AB

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls put Into Play.

EQA (Equivalent Average): A measure of total offensive value per out, adjusted for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching. EQA considers batting and baserunning, but not defense.

SecA (Secondary Average): A ratio of bases gained from other sources than total number of hits (extra base hits, walks and net bases gained through stolen bases). (TB − H + BB + SB − CS) / AB

VORP (Value Over Replacement Player): The number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP does not consider the quality of a player's defense.
Rodriguez is the clear winner here. ... And at that point, Yankees blogger Larry Mahnken writes that if Rodriguez is the superior offensive player, then the defense question is moot.

Ortiz drove in 148 runs; Rodriguez brought in 130. But RBI is a highly-misleading stat, because a player's total depends on opportunity. If he hits a ton, but has no one on base, he won't get many RBI. So Baseball Prospectus presents RBI Opportunities (the number of runs a batter has driven in per runner on base. RBIs resulting from a batter driving himself in on home runs are not counted).

In 2005, there were 223 players with at least 400 plate appearances (the last column is RBI per baserunner):
                        PA  R1  R2 R3 Tot RBI
1. Jorge Cantu 631 209 128 85 422 89 .2109
2. Mark Teixeira 730 265 138 78 481 101 .2100
3. Garret Anderson 603 190 135 65 390 79 .2026
4. Vladimir Guerrero 594 187 115 75 377 76 .2016
5. Manny Ramirez 650 248 151 94 493 99 .2008
6. David Ortiz 713 262 175 69 506 101 .1996
7. Travis Hafner 578 189 135 62 386 75 .1943
8. Mike Sweeney 514 177 90 53 320 62 .1938
9. Carlos Delgado 616 212 131 82 425 82 .1929
10. Gary Sheffield 675 234 146 85 465 89 .1914
11. Carl Everett 547 181 97 57 335 64 .1910
12. Reed Johnson 439 126 85 53 264 50 .1894
13. Richie Sexson 656 217 148 74 439 82 .1868
14. Chipper Jones 432 126 104 45 275 51 .1855
15. Frank Catalanotto 475 148 80 47 275 51 .1855
16. Garrett Atkins 573 192 137 81 410 76 .1854
17. Matt Holliday 526 186 130 52 368 68 .1848
18. David DeJesus 523 129 79 49 257 47 .1829
19. Aramis Ramirez 506 168 115 56 339 61 .1799
20. Hideki Matsui 704 269 171 79 519 93 .1792
21. Juan Uribe 540 155 103 50 308 55 .1786
22. Rich Aurilia 468 148 104 52 304 54 .1776
23. Jason Larue 422 122 91 49 262 46 .1756
24. Carl Crawford 687 192 120 65 377 66 .1751
25. Ben Molina 449 143 96 70 309 54 .1748
26. Jeff Kent 637 229 126 80 435 76 .1747
27. Mark Kotsay 629 211 116 58 385 67 .1740
28. So Taguchi 424 132 76 51 259 45 .1737
29. Grady Sizemore 706 172 117 52 341 59 .1730
30. Aubrey Huff 636 195 126 84 405 70 .1728
31. David Wright 657 223 129 82 434 75 .1728
32. Felipe Lopez 648 165 135 60 360 62 .1722
33. Craig Monroe 623 192 140 70 402 69 .1716
34. Carlos Beltran 650 161 123 80 364 62 .1703
35. Tadahito Iguchi 582 155 119 55 329 56 .1702
36. Chase Utley 628 224 152 77 453 77 .1700
37. Carlos Lee 688 231 162 90 483 82 .1698
38. Matt Stairs 466 163 93 58 314 53 .1688
39. Mike Young 732 215 115 67 397 67 .1688
40. Ken Griffey Jr. 555 178 105 56 339 57 .1681
41. Miguel Cabrera 685 254 152 88 494 83 .1680
42. David Eckstein 713 140 119 57 316 53 .1677
43. Albert Pujols 700 234 144 77 455 76 .1670
44. Emil Brown 609 207 141 66 414 69 .1667
45. Jay Gibbons 518 181 98 40 319 53 .1661
46. Pat Burrell 669 248 177 89 514 85 .1654
47. Raul Ibanez 690 206 145 67 418 69 .1651
48. Nick Johnson 547 177 124 58 359 59 .1643
49. Placido Polanco 551 141 84 61 286 47 .1643
50. Brian Roberts 640 165 107 63 335 55 .1642
51. Brad Wilkerson 661 120 107 54 281 46 .1637
52. Vernon Wells 678 216 129 77 422 69 .1635
53. Adam Laroche 502 173 112 70 355 58 .1634
54. Cliff Floyd 626 183 141 68 392 64 .1633
55. Khalil Greene 476 162 115 61 338 55 .1627
56. Chris Shelton 431 127 82 43 252 41 .1627
57. Bobby Abreu 719 237 165 78 480 78 .1625
58. Edgardo Alfonzo 402 119 91 43 253 41 .1621
59. Trot Nixon 470 175 97 62 334 54 .1617
60. Morgan Ensberg 624 197 137 69 403 65 .1613
61. Rod Barajas 450 121 78 43 242 39 .1612
62. Orlando Hudson 501 159 104 66 329 53 .1611
63. Derrek Lee 691 187 124 68 379 61 .1610
64. Russ Adams 545 165 109 68 342 55 .1608
65. Rondell White 400 127 79 49 255 41 .1608
66. Alfonso Soriano 682 219 148 57 424 68 .1604
67. Jose Reyes 733 143 105 70 318 51 .1604
68. Miguel Tejada 704 227 134 89 450 72 .1600
69. Alex Rodriguez 715 252 180 84 516 82 .1589
...
91. Johnny Damon 688 207 138 80 425 65 .1529
124. Jason Giambi 545 201 116 59 376 55 .1463
166. Robinson Cano 551 192 108 62 362 48 .1326
170. Edgar Renteria 692 238 147 87 472 62 .1314
171. Jorge Posada 546 205 117 74 396 52 .1313
179. Bernie Williams 546 224 115 65 404 52 .1287
182. Jason Varitek 539 198 124 56 378 48 .1270
183. Derek Jeter 752 190 134 80 404 51 .1262
189. Bill Mueller 590 209 141 64 414 52 .1256
198. Kevin Millar 519 170 117 56 343 41 .1195
200. Tony Graffanino 417 139 85 37 261 31 .1188
In bringing home the bacon when there is bacon out there to be brought, Ortiz is much better than A-Rod.

Blue Jay pitcher Josh Towers: "As good a hitter as he is, and he's one of the best, no question, I could never vote for a guy who doesn't play defense."

Many people would agree. I would have given Ortiz more time at 1B this season (and less to Kevin Millar), but that's another story. The fact is: Ortiz did not play much in the field -- and Rodriguez is thought of as one of the best fielding third baseman in baseball. But is he?

A SoSHer looked at Slappy's defense and reported:
He is well below the average 3rd basemen in the league ... He's WORST in Range Factor for qualified AL starters, SECOND WORST in Zone Rating ... That is downright horrid. He is 9 runs worse then the average 3rd baseman.
and offered a random sampling of three other third basemen:
         A-Rod  Chavez  Beltre  Inge
RF: 2.59 2.80 2.78 3.25
ZR: .730 .814 .798 .802
FRAA: -9 9 10 14
FRAR: 13 30 30 35
EqR: 265 89 74 83
Rate: 94 106 107 109
RF (Range Factor): The number of plays made per 9 innings.

ZR (Zone Rating): The percentage of balls hit into the player's area that he turns into outs.

FRAR (Fielding Runs Above Replacement): The difference between an average player and a replacement player is determined by the number of plays that position is called on to make. While the value at each position changes over time, the all-time adjustment for third base is 22.

FRAA: Fielding Runs Above Average. Same idea as FRAR, but the fielder is compared to his peers.

Rate: A way to look at the fielder's rate of production, equal to 100 plus the number of runs above or below average this fielder is per 100 games. (This is similar to ERA+ or OPS+.) A player with a rate of 110 is 10 runs above average per 100 games, a player with an 87 is 13 runs below average per 100 games, etc.
Judging by these stats, Rodriguez was not a good third baseman in 2005 (regardless of the comparisons). In September, the media talked about how few errors he had made in the second half of the season, but with a poor Range Factor, he wasn't getting to tough balls on which he might have made errors. ... But was his hitting so much more productive than Ortiz's to overcome this deficiency (assuming Ortiz's defensive value was 0)?

ESPN's Buster Olney sees things differently:
A-Rod has made play after play after play at third base down the stretch, and he's had an incredible offensive season. Ortiz has become the baseball equivalent of Joe Montana in big spots -- you know he's going to get a big hit. Ortiz is hitting about 60 points higher than his overall average with runners in scoring position, while A-Rod is hitting about 20 points lower than his overall average; he's not the most feared hitter in his own lineup. The Yankees win the division, so A-Rod gets the edge.
New York was given the East title only because of necessary seeding for the playoffs. Both teams finished with identical records, but the Yankees went 10-9 against the Red Sox this year. For this discussion, looking at who won the East is meaningless.

Say a tie-breaker had been played and the Red Sox won 1-0 on a non-Ortiz HR. Should Ortiz get the MVP because the Sox won the tie-breaker (and the East)? No.

Scott Miller (Sportsline):
Ortiz, by the way, did everything in his power this weekend to wrap up what should be his rightful AL most valuable player trophy. No disrespect intended to the masterful season constructed by Alex Rodriguez, but given Ortiz's stunning array of clutch hits and his invaluable role to the psyche of this team, this is one of those very, very rare instances in which a designated hitter should win the award.
This is an argument put forth by Ortiz's many supporters -- that he hits much better than Rodriguez when the game is on the line, when his production would be more valuable.

This goes hand-in-hand with the perception (even among Yankees fans) that Rodriguez tends to perform better when the outcome of the game is not in doubt (such as hitting a two-run homer with his team ahead 10-1).

Tom Verducci, in making his case for Rodriguez, tries to shoot that theory down, writing that A-Rod has been
good enough in the clutch. ... [T]he idea that Rodriguez doesn't come through often enough in big spots is a myth. ... Rodriguez is just as tough an out in a big spot as Ortiz -- actually, a little tougher if you read on-base percentage as the percentage of time the batter wins the war against the pitcher. The numbers do show that Ortiz is better at delivering the big blow -- the best in the game, in fact. But don't discount Rodriguez's work in key spots.
Years ago, we wouldn't have had any idea if Verducci was right or wrong. Now we do. So, what is the truth?

Thanks to SoSHer Eric Van, we have the evidence:

Boston and New York each played 65 close games (extra innings or decided in regulation by one or two runs):
        PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  HR RBI  RS
Ortiz: 288 .321 .417 .699 24 62 49
ARod: 282 .243 .340 .465 15 38 33
Each team played 20 games won by six or more runs:
        PA   AVG  OBP   SLG  HR RBI  RS
Ortiz: 100 .277 .360 .639 9 33 27
ARod: 98 .549 .622 1.171 15 46 39
If you remove the blowout-win stats from their season totals:
        PA   AVG  OBP   SLG  HR  RBI  RS
Ortiz: 613 .303 .403 .598 38 115 92
ARod: 617 .285 .389 .522 33 84 85
So Verducci, in citing Rodriguez's allegedly higher OBP in "big spots" (non-blowouts), is actually wrong. And in looking at "close and late" situations (below), we'll see that Verducci is wrong again.

The "close and late" numbers are easily found. I guess that's why Verducci merely made a claim, rather than backing it up with any evidence. Because the evidence supporting his claim does not exist. Indeed, the evidence shows the opposite of his claim.

A closer look (again, thanks to Van):

Games Won by 6+ Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 20 100 .277 9 33 27 .360 .639 .999
ARod 20 98 .549 15 46 39 .622 1.171 1.793

Games Won by 3-5 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 36 161 .359 9 33 32 .478 .680 1.158
ARod 38 175 .382 12 32 40 .520 .721 1.241
Games Won by 2 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 10 41 .355 2 13 9 .512 .645 1.157
ARod 8 36 .233 2 5 4 .361 .467 .828
Games Won by 1 Run
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 22 101 .356 7 17 17 .446 .690 1.135
ARod 25 107 .250 6 16 16 .374 .477 .851
Extra Inning Wins
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 6 28 .261 5 8 7 .393 .913 1.306
ARod 4 21 .400 1 2 2 .429 .600 1.029
Extra-Inning Losses
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 2 11 .111 0 0 0 .273 .222 .495
ARod 4 17 .063 0 1 0 .059 .063 .121
Games Lost by 1 Run
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 13 55 .327 7 14 11 .382 .837 1.219
ARod 13 55 .260 6 11 9 .327 .680 1.007
Games Lost by 2 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 12 52 .298 3 10 5 .365 .596 .961
Arod 11 46 .205 0 3 2 .326 .256 .582
Games Lost by 3-5 Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 21 94 .224 1 12 5 .277 .282 .559
ARod 23 97 .298 6 12 10 .381 .560 .941
Games Lost by 6+ Runs
        GM   PA   BA   HR  RBI   R   OBP    SA    OPS
Ortiz 17 70 .220 4 8 6 .343 .458 .800
ARod 16 63 .217 0 2 2 .254 .250 .504
The complete breakdown:
        -------------------Ortiz-------------------
GM PA BA HR RBI R OBP SLG OPS

6+ W 20 100 .277 9 33 27 .360 .639 .999
3-5 W 36 161 .359 9 33 32 .478 .680 1.158
2 W 10 41 .355 2 13 9 .512 .645 1.157
1 W 22 101 .356 7 17 17 .446 .690 1.135
EE W 6 28 .261 5 8 7 .393 .913 1.306
EE L 2 11 .111 0 0 0 .273 .222 .495
1 L 13 55 .327 7 14 11 .382 .837 1.219
2 L 12 52 .298 3 10 5 .365 .596 .961
3-5 L 21 94 .224 1 12 5 .277 .282 .559
6+ L 17 70 .220 4 8 6 .343 .458 .800

---------------------ARod-------------------
GM PA BA HR RBI R OBP SLG OPS

6+ W 20 98 .549 15 46 39 .622 1.171 1.793
3-5 W 38 175 .382 12 32 40 .520 .721 1.241
2 W 8 36 .233 2 5 4 .361 .467 .828
1 W 25 107 .250 6 16 16 .374 .477 .851
EE W 4 21 .400 1 2 2 .429 .600 1.029
EE L 4 17 .063 0 1 0 .059 .063 .121
1 L 13 55 .260 6 11 9 .327 .680 1.007
2 L 11 46 .205 0 3 2 .326 .256 .582
3-5 L 23 97 .298 6 12 10 .381 .560 .941
6+ L 16 63 .217 0 2 2 .254 .250 .504
[Extra inning games are not double-counted, i.e., 2-W is 2-run wins in regulation]

Van:
Is there any question who the actual MVP is? How many of the Yankees' close losses would they have won if ARod had hit like Ortiz in them? How many of the Red Sox' close wins would they have lost if Ortiz had hit like ARod? Is the difference in defensive value that large? ... I'm amazed that people can still say "ARod had the better year at the plate" with a straight face, as if all situations were equal leverage and/or all differences in performance across leverage were random.

An analysis by Win Expectancies shows Ortiz being massively more valuable. The splits by game result are a handy proxy for that, one that requires no explanation of an abstruse methodology. You could simulate the season in Diamond Mind from now until the death of the universe and not get that split.
Still, the methodology isn't perfect. Using the final score is defining "clutch" retrospectively.

Say A-Rod hits three-run home run breaking a 5-5 tie in the 8th; then the Yankees score three more in the 9th, winning 11-5. Although his hit was crucial, the game will be listed as a "non-clutch" game. Likewise, if Ortiz does nothing much as his teammates build a big lead, only to have it nearly blown by the bullpen, then that game suddenly becomes "clutch".

Even if you calculated what the score/situation was in every single plate appearance, that still wouldn't clear things up. Because batting in a tie game is much different if it's 0-0 in the first inning or 4-4 in the eighth. A batter knows that in the first inning, he (and his team) will have plenty of time to score runs, and although it is a "tie game", there is less pressure.

What a batter does in "close and late" situations can be known at the time they are occurring. Close & Late is defined as "in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck."

Looking at the batting splits for Ortiz and Rodriguez, we see:
       PA  HR RBI  AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
Ortiz 93 11 33 .346 .447 .846 1.293
A-Rod 91 4 12 .293 .418 .520 .938
Random stat in Ortiz's favor -- with runners at 2nd-and-3rd (at any time):
Ortiz: 7-for-12  1.476 OPS
A-Rod: 2-for 10 .729 OPS
There is also the issue of base-running. Rodriguez runs on the bases, Ortiz does not.

Rodriguez stole 21 bases in 27 attempts (77.8%). A 75% success rate is considered the break-even point; below that, in general, you should not attempt to steal (game situations will vary, of course). ... Ortiz attempted one stolen base -- against Baltimore on July 10 -- and he was safe. 100%!

If stats on taking an extra base (1st-to-3rd, 2nd-to-home) were readily available, Rodriguez would likely get an edge, but again, you would also have to know how many times he was thrown out in those attempts.

So ... after all that, who is my AL MVP? Who is better when it comes to the "actual value of a player to his team ... the strength of offense and defense [as well as] general character, disposition, loyalty and effort"? ... Whose production would I take overall?

I think it should be obvious there is no clear-cut answer (and I'm very curious how close the voting will be) (Over at the Courant, the Yankees writer picks Ortiz and the Red Sox writer tabs Rodriguez).

I compiled a lot of these stats right after the season ended, and when I thought about refining this post, I kind of expected I'd pick Rodriguez in the end. But, assuming baserunning and fielding give neither player an edge (not provable, though), can Rodriguez's slightly-better numbers with the bat offset Ortiz's better numbers when his team needed his production the most?

No.

Manny's Offensive Decline

Manny Ramirez had another great season, but as he has gotten older, his production has dropped (although his HR totals have increased (33-37-43-45)):
       AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
2002 .349 .450 .647 1.097
2003 .325 .427 .587 1.014
2004 .308 .397 .613 1.010
2005 .292 .388 .594 .982
I still would not trade him.

A loooooooong post on AL MVP coming soon.

November 10, 2005

NL Cy Young

Player    1st 2nd 3rd Total

Carpenter 19 12 1 132
Willis 11 18 3 112
Clemens 2 2 24 40
Oswalt - - 2 2
Cordero - - 1 1
Pettitte - - 1 1
1. I hate Roger Clemens.
1a. However ...
2. He posted a 1.87 ERA this season. The NL average was 4.14. That means his ERA+ was 221 -- the second-best season of his career (he was slightly better (226) in 1997 (when he received 25 of 28 first-place votes).

3. Four BBWAA writers left him off their NL Cy Young ballots this year. Four!

4. Who the hell are these idiots? (Seriously, are these guys defending themselves out there someplace?)

Rumours Of Theo's Return Exaggerated

Although there are "persistent rumors" of Theo Epstein's return to the Red Sox, team chairman Tom Werner says the team has moved on: "We have read the rumors, and we completely discount them and are at a point where we turn the page."

To that end, Nationals GM Jim Bowden was interviewed yesterday (for what he called his "dream job") and Jim Beattie will be interviewed today. Several current GMs -- Doug Melvin (Milwaukee), Kevin Towers (San Diego), Brian Sabean (San Francisco) and Terry Ryan (Minnesota) -- have taken themselves out of the running.

Jim Duquette (Orioles VP of baseball operations) and David Forst (Athletics assistant general manager) both say they are not interested in the GM job. Two other possible candidates -- Cleveland assistant general manager Chris Antonetti and Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' director of player personnel -- declined even to be interviewed.

About ten days after Manny Ramirez made another demand to be traded, the Ramirez-to-Mets talk is once again alive.

Ramirez's agent, Greg Genske, met on Wednesday with Werner and Larry Lucchino and both sides agreed to explore trade options. No mention was made of the alleged refusal of Manny to report to spring training if he is still a Red Sock.

Gordon Edes (Globe):
This time, however, it appears Ramirez and the Sox are working in concert to move him. ... A persuasive, and perhaps unassailable, argument could be made that it would be in the Sox' best interests to keep Rami­rez, who in his five seasons in Boston has remained one of the most prolific hitters in the game ...
One major league executive told the New York Post: "To motivate the Red Sox to trade Manny is going to take more than just salary relief."

Terry Francona will undergo surgery to replace his right knee.

November 8, 2005

AL Cy Young

2005 AL Adjusted ERA+*

Santana MIN 153
Millwood CLE 143
Buehrle CHW 143
Washburn LAA 131
Rogers TEX 130
Silva MIN 128
Blanton OAK 127
Garland CHW 127
Contreras CHW 123
Lackey LAA 122
So who does the Baseball Writers Association of America decide was the best pitcher in the American League?

Why, Bartolo Colon, of course.

Colon's ERA+ was 120. And as far as not allowing runs -- pretty much a pitcher's top job, right? -- he was the third best starter on his own team.

His 3.48 ERA was 8th best in the AL, behind Jarrod Washburn (4th, 3.20) and John Lackey (6th, 3.44).

But he got great run support and totaled 21 wins, so ...
       1st 2nd 3rd  Pts  ERA+

Colon 17 11 118 120
Rivera 8 7 7 68 323
Santana 3 8 12 51 153
Lee 2 2 8 108
Buehrle 5 5 143
Garland 1 1 127
Millwood 1 1 143
(Rivera's ERA+ is not a typo; he posted a 1.38 ERA and the AL average was 4.45.)

However, it isn't just the BBWAA who are morons. Colon was also named the top pitcher in all of MLB by The Sporting News and was chosen as the AL's outstanding pitcher in the Players Choice Awards.

*: ERA+ is the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher (lgERA / ERA). 100 is league average.

November 4, 2005

Ortiz Named Top AL Player By Peers

The American League MVP Award will not be announced until November 14, but yesterday David Ortiz was voted the AL's Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards. Andruw Jones was named MLB Player of the Year.

John Henry gave a long interview to radio station WEEI yesterday afternoon; many SoSHers, including Curt Schilling (comment numbers 188 and 227) offer their opinions.

November 3, 2005

The Unanswered Question: Why?

Theo Epstein's and John Henry's comments at yesterday's press conference (transcript here and Chris Snow's excellent overview here) brought up a lot of questions -- none of them larger than: Why? Why? Why?

Epstein:
[I]n the end, this is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to, you have to devote yourself to completely. You have to believe in every aspect of it. And in the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the organization, and the time, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Why? Why couldn't you no longer "give your whole heart and soul" to your job? What aspects of the job do you no longer believe in? What was it about the Red Sox organization that made you realize you had to leave?

Art Martone (ProJo):
[Epstein] was asked [why] dozens of different ways yesterday ... He was clear -- indeed, expansive -- about all the things that weren't part of his decision to leave. But he never really articulated the things that were, other than to say, in various forms, what he said at the very beginning of the press conference.
But there were some hints (my emphasis):

Theo:
The way I am, to do this job you have to believe in every aspect of the job. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in the people you work with, you have to believe in the whole organization. ...

A lot of things happened during the end of this negotiation that caused me to think more closely about the situation, think about myself, think about the organization and whether it was the right fit. Again, in the end I decided that the right thing to do was to move on.
It's possible that Epstein did not agree with the future direction -- regarding players, size of payroll, etc. -- that ownership wanted to take the team.

Tony Massarotti (Herald):
Yesterday, the one question for which no answer was given was also the one which needed no answer: Why? Henry deferred to Epstein on the matter and Epstein danced like Fred Astaire, but deep in our hearts, we all know the truth. Epstein did not trust Lucchino. ... Why is [Lucchino] so difficult to trust? Lucchino's baseball career is spotted with fractured relationships, none more costly than this one. Epstein was his apprentice, his pupil, his understudy. In theory, no one should have trusted Lucchino more. In reality, no one seemed to trust him less.
Bill Reynolds (ProJo):
Lucchino was the one we wanted to hear, the one who might have been able to shed some light on how this ended up the way it did ... You would think he would have been there for no other reason than he's the public face of this franchise, its CEO. ... You would think he would have begun the first day of damage control, both to his image and the perception that the Red Sox are going to be fine, that the organization is strong enough to withstand the loss of anyone, Epstein included.
But Lucchino was not present, at owner John Henry's request. Henry absolved Lucchino of any blame:
I don't know how anyone can legitimately think the principal owner is not ultimately responsible for what happens with the general manager. How you can just give the principal owner of any baseball club a free pass?
Henry said that the club had been trying for the past two days to get Epstein to reconsider and he admitted that he should have been more involved:
To lose Theo is a great loss. So I feel responsible. What could I have done? There's plenty I could have done. I have to ask myself maybe I'm not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. ... I had this romantic notion that Theo was going to be our general manager for the rest of my life. We had the best relationship imaginable. We still have the best relationship. I can't imagine having a better relationship with a human being than I have with Theo.
So again: Why did things have to deteriorate to the point that Epstein felt he had to walk away?

Snow writes that, according to a team source, "Henry's involvement extended only so far as remaining in close contact with Lucchino. Henry, according to the team source, made no real effort to involve himself in the negotiations until after Epstein's Monday afternoon resignation."

What was Lucchino telling Henry about the progress of the negotiations? Why didn't Henry approach Epstein himself and get something done quickly last spring? Why wouldn't Henry have all three men sit down and talk? And when the talks dragged on this fall, why didn't Henry become more involved? ... Despite the non-answers and denials, the reasons for Theo's departure seem pretty clear. And Henry is siding with Lucchino on this one.

November 2, 2005

Theo Speaks: It's Personal, Not Political

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Theo Epstein said his decision to leave the Red Sox was personal and not due to a power struggle with team president Larry Lucchino:
Larry and I like each other. As with any other working relationship there are complexities, there are ups and downs. ... If there are reports of a power struggle or meddling on behalf of Larry, that really wasn't the case. Essentially, I felt like I had pretty much a free hand to run the baseball operation the way I saw fit. ... This is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to. In the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the program, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Lucchino was not in attendance. John Henry said Lucchino has been "maligned and blamed for the situation for the last couple of days. I think that's wrong. I think that's inaccurate. If you want to place blame for what happened here, I'm responsible. Never in my wildest dream did I think this was ever going to happen."

It's hard to believe Epstein. I think he's simply taking the high road.

Bob Ryan (Globe):
What other conclusion can we draw from the stunning announcement that Theo Epstein has left his position as general manager of the Boston Red Sox? Theo lost a power struggle with Lucchino. ... We can draw no other conclusion. ...

What person of quality, watching how this all came down, will want the job? Larry Lucchino isn't going anywhere. He is in a stronger position than ever. Oh, sure, there will be no end to the list of wannabes and first-timers lusting for the job. But people of substance, people in possession of personal pride, people who believe that in a well-run baseball organization the personnel buck stops with the general manager, all will give pause before accepting the job as general manager of the Boston Red Sox as long as it is understood that there is no apparent limit to the power and influence of the president and CEO? ...

In the end, Theo walked away from nearly five times the amount he'd been making. He's not a fool. There had to be a very good reason.
Gerry Callahan (Herald) writes that both sides agreed before negotiations on something they called "radio silence", though it covered newspapers, as well.
Theo believes Lucchino and Charles Steinberg violated the agreement. They did their best to make him look like he was just trying to cash in, and he did the opposite: He walked out. On almost $5 million. On a 400-percent raise. On the job of his dreams. Some greed that is. ...

[Theo] told [the Sox] Sunday afternoon that it had better not happen again, and then he told the Herald's Mike Silverman late Sunday night that they hadn't reached an agreement but were still working on one. Maybe Monday. Then he woke up Monday morning, and there it was again, another story in the Globe that wasn't supposed to be there. That was the last straw. Theo decided he didn't want to work with these people for three more years -- whatever the salary -- and resigned with just hours left on his contract. ...

Now the bad news for Larry and his friends at the Globe: It doesn't matter what you do or say, no one is ever going to think of Theo as the bad guy. He looks, if nothing else, like a man of principle, a guy who didn't like the way his bosses were going behind his back and spoon-feeding stories to their favorite newspaper.
Sean McAdam (ProJo) writes that one Red Sox insider "described what was left of the relationship between Lucchino and Epstein as 'a mess.'"

Again, here is the original Shaughnessy column. He also wrote an explanatory follow-up.

Scott Van Voorhis (Herald business writer):
The Boston Globe may now be finding out what other newspapers and media companies have already discovered: Owning a professional sports team can be bad news. The Globe, whose corporate parent, The New York Times, holds a 17 percent stake in the Red Sox ownership group, has found itself at the center of a public backlash over the team's fumbling loss of general manager Theo Epstein. ... The gathering consensus in Red Sox Nation -- as judged by talk radio, angry bloggers and even some media critics and business scholars -- is that the spoon-fed story, along with Lucchino's missteps, combined to throw the Sox front office into disarray.
Reactions:

Terry Francona:
I think I took for granted a little bit that we were going to be together for a while, certainly as long as I was here. ... I think we had an outstanding relationship. This is not an easy place [to work]. You're supposed to win 162 games.
Jason Varitek:
It seems like we've had a lot of changes in this organization for a team that has just come off a world championship and was able to work its way back into the playoffs. We're seeing a lot of turnover and a lot of things changing, a lot of people you trust leaving, and a lot of people that have spent a lot of hours, from players to trainers to coaches, making this a very strong, solid organization. To see that start to go, it is a bit frustrating.
Varitek:
Hopefully, they have a plan. Hopefully, the plan is to put out the best team. [Epstein's departure] leaves a lot of gray area right now. We've got to take a little step back, not too far back, [because] there's a lot of important people that need to be dealt with. I'd love to have a conversation with Theo to find that out [the reasons behind the decision].
Bronson Arroyo:
I'm definitely surprised, and I would lean toward disappointed about him leaving because it's hard to find a general manager like Theo. He's close to our age and is just easier to communicate with. There was never a barrier there. You knew where you stood with Theo. You knew he would be honest with you.
Curt Schilling:
You don't get better losing a guy like Theo. It's obviously going to be an incredibly unpopular decision with the players. ... I'm stunned and I'm incredibly disappointed. I can't believe they allowed this to happen. This is a guy who did everything they asked of him. He's built this team. He won a World Series. And they just let him walk away.
Mike Myers:
Shock, to say the least. ... The link between Lucchino and the locker room is Theo. For Larry to do something and put Theo's neck on the line within the locker room walls is disrespectful to Theo. That probably played out in Theo's negotiations. ... I think if you go around, everybody is going to be surprised that he's not back.
Jeff Jacobs (Courant):
Whispers of power-mongering and control-freaking followed Lucchino to Boston from his previous major league stops. ... The incredibly stupid thing about this mess is neither had to go. This should have worked. It seems sad and idiotic that it didn't. ... In an age where the 24-hour news cycle allows for few shockers, this was an honest-to-goodness shocker.
J.P. Ricciardi:
I still don't believe it. I'll believe it when I'm at the general managers' meetings next week in Palm Springs and he's not in his chair. It's like a Mafia hit. You don't believe it until you see the guy at the funeral.
One MLB executive:
I really think they don't know what they're going to do or what they're doing. Who's out there: Gerry Hunsicker or Pat Gillick? None of those guys would put up with Larry.
Michael Silverman (Herald) reports:
Based on calls to executives and agents around baseball, there was unanimous shock that Epstein had declined to accept a long-term deal with the Red Sox on Monday. One industry source said the team's reputation had taken a serious dive. ... Another industry source likened the situation to an unfortunate and self-inflicted wound.

"They self-imploded at a crucial time," the source said. "I don't think anyone's happy there. You think they're going to attract free agents there right now? Besides, who would be contacting those free agents? It's sad. I feel badly because they really had it going on."
Art Martone (ProJo) offers an excellent wrap-up/analysis:
Ill will started brewing on both sides, far before the public became aware of what was going on. ... [T]he longer it dragged on, and the more contentious it got, the more Epstein began contemplating leaving the Sox. And the more he thought about it, the more the idea of tossing out all the parts of his professional life that he didn't like became more and more intoxicating.

More than one media outlet is reporting that Dan Shaughnessy's Sunday column in the Boston Globe was the straw that broke the camel's back. I don't know that for a fact, but it's plausible to me. Very plausible, especially if Theo thinks the column represented the voice, or even a voice, of Boston management. ...

I don't think [the Sox] perceive it as the baseball disaster that many others do -- as I said, they had their doubts about some of the things Theo did -- but they're P.R. geniuses and they certainly know this is a nuclear hit to their public image. The fact that they finally agreed to meet Epstein's money demands indicates, to me, that they felt they had to sign him. ...

What their negotiating tactics really did was allow Theo Epstein to contemplate life beyond the Boston Red Sox.
Tony Massarotti (Herald) says John Henry must publicly take control of the situation:
Without question, Henry has taken, and will take, his share of the blame in all of this, for one reason and one reason only: He might have stopped it.

Henry had a sense early on that negotiations between Epstein and Lucchino were not going well, but he stayed out of the way and empowered Lucchino to conduct the talks. By last week, the relationship between Lucchino and Epstein had been strained to the point where a reconciliation seemed impossible. ...

In Red Sox history, rarely, if ever, has a story of such magnitude resulted in such a one-sided outcome in the court of public opinion. Epstein was young, smart and personable. The support for him has been overwhelming.
Could Theo go to the Dodgers? ... Some of the possible candidates. ... What about in-house? ... Giants executive vice president Larry Baer: "When the first pitch of the 2006 season is thrown, Brian Sabean will be the Giants' general manager. He won't be the Red Sox general manager." ... Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said: "I have no interest in that job, none whatsoever."

Finally, the Nation says: Thank You, Theo!

Other news: Mike Timlin signed a one-year deal for 2006. Johnny Damon, Tony Graffanino, Mike Myers and Matt Mantei all filed for free agency. ... Matt Clement and David Wells each had successful knee arthroscopies last week. Clement's procedure repaired a torn meniscus in his left knee. ... Paul Konerko's agent said the free agent first baseman expects a call from the Sox. "They're a top team with a potential first baseman's power need. Paul seems like a very good fit there."

Joel Sherman (New York Post) writes that the Yankees should "Tell Hideki Matsui his consecutive-games streak is done. Make this part of his renegotiation so it is understood now and not forced upon Torre in May. No one is going to think a guy who plays 155 games rather than 162 is a slacker." ... For the record, Manny Ramirez played 152 of 162 games last year. He played 152 games in 2004 and 154 in 2003.

Speaking of Manny, lost in the Theo Decision is a report of another trade demand. I'll comment on that soon.

November 1, 2005

Fenway Fiasco

No time to do anything online today except clip two quotes that sum up my attitude perfectly.

The first one is from the Herald's Tony Mazzarotti, who I have been quick to fault in the past, but who hits the nail on the head:
Larry Lucchino botched this from Day One, plain and simple, no ifs, ands or buts. The Red Sox can spin, distort and disguise the reality all they want, but the departure of the talented Theo Epstein will go down as one of the great management blunders in the history of the franchise. ...

Red Sox management, which once trumpeted Epstein as a member of their team, treated him like a wide-eyed intern who should have felt blessed to kneel in their presence. And when Epstein responded by biting the Sox in the kneecaps, they fired up the propaganda machine and leaked information, tried to make him look bad, did their darnedest to put him in his place. ...

So now Lucchino, like Lucille Ball, has some serious ’splaining to do. How could you let this happen, Larry? How could you chase away one of the best things to happen to Red Sox management in its frequently misguided history? How could you take a young man with so much energy and passion and competitiveness and destroy his spirit like some unrelenting, overbearing father?
And because John Henry has seen fit to extend Lucchino's contract in the Sox front office to 2010, he must share a huge part of the blame.

SoSH member Kevin Mortons Ghost:
It is absolutely disgraceful that the Red Sox as an organization would allow their president to use a troll like the CHB to torpedo a vital negotiation with a valuable and successful senior member of their team. If Lucchino couldn't work with Theo, he should have had the guts to make the decision and stick with it - not force Theo's hand through the media and then rev up the spin engine. Henry should be ashamed that his enterprise would treat Theo in this manner. ... Why would anybody else choose to work for an organization that treats its top performers this way? ...

While I agree that Theo is not irreplacable and that life will go on, it is SOOOOO disappointing that the soap opera around this team never ends. Yawkey, Sullivan, La Roux, Harrington, Duquette, Kerrigan, Grady, free agent departures too numerous to mention, Epstein, Lucchino, Manny, Pedro, Crazy Carl, it just goes on and on and on. And worst of all, winning a championship makes no difference whatsoever.
So who wants this job now, with limited power and knowing he'll be regularly undercut by press leaks from Lucchino?