Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press helpfully informs us he’s tired of the Red Sox:
So, too, has a team that in just a few short years has gone from the scrappy underdog that never could to the team that almost everybody outside the Red Sox Nation will be rooting against in the playoffs. Once mildly amusing because of their 86-year record of futility, the Red Sox aren’t so cute anymore now that they spend money and win much like their rivals in pinstripes did so successfully for so many years. …
There’s not a lot to love about the Red Sox anymore, either, not when compared to the team that did the impossible in 2004 and beat the Yankees before sweeping St. Louis in the World Series.
That team had Johnny Damon leading off with hair flying everywhere and Big Papi and Manny Ramirez combining for 84 home runs. It had Curt Schilling’s famous bloody sock and a rotation that also included Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. …
There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about this team, not even anything terribly interesting. Manny is gone, David Ortiz’ home run totals are plummeting, and their hopes of repeating as champions rest a lot on an imported pitcher they got only because they went all Yankee and spent more than $100 million to acquire and sign him.
Over on Futility Infielder, our pal Jay Jaffe, responding to a piece by Rob Neyer (another friend) makes a compelling case that Mike Mussina has been a more valuable player than Jim Palmer. Jay acknowledges Palmer’s superiority in traditional stats (and awards), but notes that Mussina is superior in more advanced metrics like WARP, VORP, and SNLVAR. He writes “Moose’s strikeout rates relative to the league (a translated rate of 6.9 EqSO/9) made him much less reliant on his defense than Palmer (5.2 EqSO/9), so he’s rewarded by getting a larger share of the credit for each run saved on his watch, and thus generated more value.” It’s a fascinating discussion, and one that illustrates a constant challenge for baseball thinkers, that being, how to square our growing statistical abilities with historical knowledge, especially when these two seem to conflict. Old school thinkers have a sad tendency to just dismiss the new math, but that’s not really a legitimate option, and one of the nice things about this argument is that both Jay and Rob are fundamentally sound thinkers, who know their sabermetrics and their history. So I raise this issue: Jim Palmer threw 211 complete games. Mike Mussina 57. I understand that some of the stats Jay raisesmeasure relative value, but I wonder if it is even possible for a numerical model to account for the change in the very idea of what it means to be a pitcher? A real head scratcher. Bottom line, you’d do well to have Jim Palmer or Mike Mussina or both pitching for your Dream Team.
Each year upon the closing of the season, we like to sort through the regular-season statistics compiled by the
Red Sox, collectively and individually. No fancy introductions. We’ll jump right in.
Let’s start with Dustin Pedroia, who rewrote the team’s record books this year:
- Positional record for hits (213).
- Positional record for runs (118).
- Positional record for doubles (54).
- Positional record for batting average (.326).
- Positional record for total bases (322).
- Positional record for extra-base hits (73).
- Third at position in runs produced (184), behind Bobby Doerr in 1946 and 1950.
- Tied for fourth at position in times on base (270), behind Billy Goodman (1955) and Pete Runnels (1958,
- Fourth at position in stolen bases (20), most since Jerry Remy in 1978.
- Top 10 at position in OPS+ (123), home runs (17), slugging percentage (.493), OPS (.869).
- Third all time in doubles, behind MLB record-holder Earl Webb (67, 1931) and Nomar Garciaparra (2002).
- Tied for fourth all time in hits with Jim Rice’s 1978, behind Wade Boggs (1985, 1988) and Tris Speaker
- 9th all time in at bats (653).
- 14th all time in plate appearances (726).
He also surfaced near the top of the AL record books:
- 2nd in doubles at position, behind Charlie Gehringer (60) in 1936.
- 10th in total bases at position.
- 11th in hits at position, and most since Rod Carew in 1974.
- 11th in extra-base hits at position.
- 21st in runs at position, and most since Alfonso Soriano in 2002.
- Tied for 11th all time in doubles, most since Garciaparra and Garret Anderson in 2002.
- Tied for 37th in times on base at position, and most since Roberto Alomar in 2001.
And the MLB record books:
- Fifth in doubles at position, most since Craig Biggio (56) in 1999.
- Tied for 18th in hits at position, still most since Carew in 1974.
- Tied for 20th all time in doubles.
Monday, September 29th, 2008
Am I alone in thinking TBS’ "best" team of Chip Caray and Buck Martinez leaves a lot to be desired? (For example, don’t you actually have to be "good" to be "the best"?)
I’d rather get the Tampa-AL Central crew of Don Orsillo and Harold Reynolds. The giggle-fest probability just went way up for that series.
Also, this note from the USA Today media column:
ESPN Monday debuts a SportsCenter ad in which novelist and Red Sox fan Stephen King writes on-air copy saying the New York Yankees lost a game because they were "possessed by the demon."
Hey, whatever works!
Sunday, September 28th, 2008
Congratulations from YFSF to Mike Mussina on his career-first 20 win season—an extraordinary accomplishment. It’s a cliche at this point to describe him as “crafty,” to talk about how he has “reinvented himself” now that he no longer throws in the mid (or even low) 90s, but it’s almost impossible, indeed it’s fruitless, not to do so. This year he pitched with guile, with intelligence, with impeccable control, and with some truly wicked stuff, and we hope he continues to do so next year for the Yanks. If not, he has capped a terrific career with a deserved milestone. Bravo.
PS: Our condolences to Mets fans. Shea, predictably, goes out just at it came in, with ignominy. We’ve never developed the soft spot for the Mets that some Yanks fan have sprouted over recent years; they’ll always be the enemy. So there isn’t a whole lot of sympathy in this house. That said, these are tough days for New York; a playoff run would have been good for New York, both emotionally and economically. Going down in flames, again….That’s exactly what we didn’t need from the boys from Shea.
PPS: This comment in the thread from Paul is so interesting it seems worth putting up top:
1992: Mussina wins 18 games and throws quality starts in five of nine no-decisions and three of five losses. Just one of his wins occurs in a non-quality start. He throws three shutouts and eight complete games, including a 10-strikeout one-hitter at Texas, and pitches into or completes the ninth inning another three times.
1994: The players’ strike costs Mussina at least eight starts in a 17-win season, during which he threw quality starts in three of four no-decisions and two of five losses while winning a non-quality start just three times. He went 7-1 in his final nine starts before the strike canceled the rest of the season.
1995: Mussina wins 19 games in the strike-shortened season and throws quality starts in two of his three no-decisions and one of nine losses, while none of his wins came in non-quality starts. He finishes the season with three straight complete games and two straight shutouts, giving up one run in 27 innings.
1996: Mussina wins 19 games again, and is denied his 20th when in his final start on Sept. 28, he exits having given up just one run in eight innings only to watch the Oriole bullpen blow the save in the ninth. It’s the third quality start in six no-decisions for Mussina, and the second in which he gave up just one run over eight.
1999: Mussina wins 18 games, thanks largely to three losses with game scores of 64, 72 and 75 — though he does have a larger percentage of non-quality wins. The Orioles nevertheless go 21-10 in his 31 starts.
2002: Mussina wins 18 games, twice losing in September after giving up two earned runs or fewer over seven or more innings. He also receives a no-decision that month despite allowing one unearned run in seven innings to Tampa Bay. In all, three of his five no-decisions are quality starts and four of his 10 losses. Only four wins were not quality starts.
2003: Mussina wins 17 games, in large part because six quality starts turned into no-decisions, including a game that ended in a 1-1 tie and another in which Mariano Rivera blew a 2-1 lead in the eighth. Mussina also threw quality starts in two of six losses and all but one of his wins.
I think this should be shown to any sportswriter firmly convinced in the value of using wins as an assessment of a pitcher’s season and seasonal win totals as an assessment of a career. Mussina’s overall record and accomplishments would be little changed with a few more lucky breaks — maybe just an additional 10-20 wins total — but Mussina would now have a whopping SEVEN 20-win seasons, and his Hall candidacy wouldn’t even be a debate.
Every pitcher goes through bad breaks, has a season or two where he should have won more games but didn’t, but I don’t know that any pitcher has had the misfortune Mussina has had consistently throughout his career when it comes to wins and losses despite playing for enough decent teams.
So congrats to him. He richly deserves it.
Not really the year either of our two franchises were expecting this season, but it seems fitting that the old foes end it, or at least the regular season, facing each other. (Though, yes, it would have been more appropriate for them to be facing each other in the Bronx, but whatever.) There’s not a whole heck of a lot at stake. Mike Mussina hopes to achieve the 20-win benchmark for the first time in an illustrious career; that’s the big news. The Sox (hoping for rain) will try to get through the thing without wearing out their roster before heading west, or going out on a sour note, swept at home by the Bombers. But, really, ho hum. The real action today is elsewhere, with the Twins, ChiSox, Mets, and Brewers fighting for their playoff lives. Keep your eye on the away board, and savor the last few hours of regular season ball in 2008–there’s always something bittersweet about this day, even if your team is moving on. Enjoy, and comment away.
George King (the third in a line of cigar-chomping sports scribes) relays the rumor:
While Brian Cashman remained mum about his future, the buzz smothering the Yankees’ universe yesterday focused on the GM telling the Steinbrenner family he wants to return.
An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow…
With Hank Steinbrenner fading from the picture, Hal has been in touch
with Cashman more than his older brother. Cashman and Hal work very
well together and Hank hasn’t been involved in meetings with Hal and
Cashman and his involvement has decreased.
Hank fading from the picture? Sounds like he’s fishing on Lake Tahoe.
Let’s assume that this is happening and Cashman is returning. What does this mean for the coming off-season? It is my feeling that New York is a good team that has the misfortune of playing in the same division as Boston and Tampa. My guess is that both these teams will be 95 win teams or better next year. Can the Yanks improve to this level by next season if Cashman is aggressive on the free agent front this off-season? Does it make sense to invest in expensive win-now contracts given the highly competitive nature of the AL East at this moment? Or does it make more sense to go the rebuilding route and reload for 2010 and beyond? Is that even possible in New York? And are the these two paths necessarily at odds with each other?
Okay, my thoughts are scattered today and I’m not making sense, which is to say that I think Cashman’s off-season will be one of the more fascinating story lines of the winter.
Because we are (momentarily) quite petty with regards to the Yankees (despite some maturity in life this will never disappear entirely) part of us is rooting for Mother Nature today and not the Sox, for her to let it flow, thus costing a certain grumpy-ass pitcher we very much dislike (almost entirely because of his grumpiness and nothing else) a shot at a milestone win and a reason to be ever-grumpier.
Rain, rain, stay at Fenway!
Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Friday, September 26th, 2008