Friday, November 15, 2013

Sabermetrician Douchebags (cc: @keithlaw)

It's awards time for baseball, that time of year when hardware is handed out to players and managers while Sabermetricians threaten to go on a five state killing spree if they don't get their way. I got tired of writing about this before the 2013 season and don't wish to start over again - hey, I need time to write a post about Mike Napoli where I eat some crow.

But I can't let this awards season pass without pointing out how pompous the Saber-douchebags are.
Keith Law's tweet encapsulates the attitude problem that Sabermetricians have: they're pompous, smug pricks. They won't listen to any voice outside of their echo chamber because they just assume they're the most intelligent people ever.

Blame can be applied to all parties for the pissing matches that happen during MLB awards time, but the lion's share of the blame must be given to Sabermetricians. Talking about baseball would be a lot more enjoyable if these douchebags got a fucking attitude adjustment.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On the Braves move, civil rights, and what baseball represents

Yesterday, regarding the Atlanta Braves announcement that they will move out of downtown Atlanta and into the suburbs, Grantland posted a map of the Greater Atlanta area that shows where Braves ticket buyers come from. Give it a look:

Braves Map

As you can see, Braves ticket buyers are coming from the north of the city of Atlanta - the suburbs. Not the generalize, but the suburban areas surrounding a city are usually pretty white in racial make up.

Looking at this map, I can't help but think of the bittersweet irony with the Braves organization wanting to move to Cobb County. Strictly as a business decision, does the move make sense? Yes. Despite the Braves currently playing in a relatively young stadium, they don't own it or control the surrounding area. Nor is the stadium close (relatively speaking) to where its fan base is located. That fan base, as you can generalize from looking at the map, is pretty white. But that's not what the Braves have traditionally represented.

The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, and they took Hank Aaron with them. This was a big fucking deal. Think of the social landscape of America at that time. The Civil Rights movement gained steam in the 1950's and getting into even just the summaries of landmark events of that movement would lead to an incredibly large blog post, so mentioning a couple of the remarkable names will need to suffice: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X just to scrape off the top of the list. The South was fighting against desegregation, which led to George Wallace's run for president as a third party candidate in 1968 with a racist platform and won most of the South - Georgia included. This was an explosive time in American History, yet in the middle of it, the South - the Deep South, not just some Mason-Dixon border city near the North - got its first Major League Baseball franchise. And it came with an all star player who was black.

Pretty amazing. Baseball meant a lot more to American culture (not to mention peace, harmony, and unity) back then.

Other cities in the South could have tried to get a franchise. In this age, we think of Atlanta as a major city but that wasn't the case in the 1960's. Political leaders in Atlanta at that time realized the city's potential for growth if it got with the program of embracing, instead of rejecting, culture; and they brought the Braves to town. This attitude shift in the politics of one city in the Deep South caused it to grow. Atlanta's population in 1960 was around 487,000 - now the population of the Greater Atlanta area is over 5,457,000.

Conversely, let's look at another Deep South city: Birmingham, AL, had a 340,000 in 1960. While not as large as Atlanta, it definitely had the potential for growth. But Birmingham didn't grow. The city's population has dipped to around 212,000; the Greater Birmingham area has a population of 1,136,000.

Birmingham faced the same choice that Atlanta had in the 1960's: accept normative cultural standards and be embraced by America or stay the same. Birmingham made their bed, and I'm sure you know how the cliche goes from there.

This is why the Braves moving away from the city of Atlanta is sad. In the 1960's, the Braves represented the best of America; what America was capable of achieving.

And now? Now they represent the cultural phenomenon of "white flight." When the Braves open their new stadium in Cobb County, it won't just be a sad day for Atlanta; or for baseball - it'll be a sad day for this country. That isolation you feel - be it culturally, socially, or politically - it's represented in this Braves move away from Atlanta. The Braves moving to the urban core of a Deep South city in the 1960's represented America going in the right direction, but this move reflects a cultural shift of present day America going in the wrong direction.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lynchpins of the Lineup

I don't need to tell you that the Red Sox scored a bazillion runs last season. At first, I didn't know how to gauge the strength of Sox hitting by their runs scored since they teed off on bad pitchers spectacularly well but good pitching could stop them cold - a trend which continued for about 16 innings into the ALCS (and two near no hitters) before the Sox turned it around for good.

Can the Red Sox hit this well in 2014? Probably not. Why? Jacoby Ellsbury.

The beautiful thing about the 2013 Red Sox is that every player stepped up: Gomes, Nava, Victorino, Iglesias (remember when he batted .400 for a couple months?), and Salty all made contributions that nobody was expecting. Iggy is gone but couldn't be expected to repeat his performance anyway. Gomes, Nava and Victorino will be back, so why not bring Salty back? That's been a hot conversation topic lately.

Better options for catcher exist on the market right now - and that's discounting Brian McCann, who wants a big contract but has big attitude problems - but if everyone thought that Ellsbury was coming back then I'd lean towards the position that bringing Salty back isn't a huge issue. Salty will never be a middle of the order hitter, and he probably won't put up his 2013 numbers again at the plate; but he's definitely one of the better bottom of the order hitters in baseball right now. The Red Sox had a strong batting order from top to bottom and you don't want to disturb that.

Unfortunately for Salty (and for us, as Red Sox fans), Ellsbury's contributions at the top of the batting order are far more important. Ellsbury is not replaceable; and with him leaving, the Red Sox need to shore up their fielding.

And Salty just can't fucking field his position.

This doesn't just come down to close plays at the plate in the World Series - Salty was horrible throughout the 2013 season. He has difficulty performing basic tasks behind the plate, like quelling the opponent's running game. Salty allowed 89 stolen bases in 2013 (most in MLB), and he had the most baserunners try and steal off of him, too. Comparing Salty to an average catcher like A.J. Pierzynski (which is not only being generous to Salty, but rings with some irony since the Sox are talking to Pierzynski), A.J. had a 33% caught stealing percentage and allowed 49 stolen bases in 2013. Salty allowed 40 more stolen bases; coincidentally, he also hit 40 doubles. Since a stolen base is essentially a double (or more, in some instances), you see where Salty's defense really does negate his contributions at the plate.

Pierzynski provides better hitting and fielding than Salty. Alternatively, Dioner Navarro doesn't have as much gravitas at the plate but he has sure hands behind the plate. Even Ryan Lavarnway looks like a better option than Salty.

Lavarnway threw out 40% of baserunners in Pawtucket in 2013; and he hit .299 in 77 AB for Boston in 2013. It's worth remembering that many of Lavarnway's at-bats were against staff aces; and with a cold bat, since he went days between playing in games. Lavarnway got hits off of pitchers like David Price, James Shields, Justin Verlander, and Mark Buehrle (the Buehrle whose second half ERA was 3.18, not the sucky Buehrle at the beginning of the season). Farrell was wise to rest Salty on days when the Red Sox opposed a staff ace, but worth noting that Salty's hitting stats might be worse if he had to face the pitchers they forced Lavarnway to hit off of - and Lavarnway ended up hitting .299. That's a pretty good argument against everyone who says that Lavarnway isn't ready.

The argument about which catcher would be a better fit could go on until Christmas, but it doesn't take away from the Red Sox needing better defense behind the plate. The loss of Ellsbury will be a hit to the lineup that the Red Sox cannot recover from; the 2014 lineup will not be as strong as the 2013 one. That being the case, acquiring a catcher who may only hit .240 with little power but can hold off the opposing team's running game would make the Red Sox better than they would be with Salty behind the plate. The Red Sox won't have the excess hitting in 2014 to cover up for Salty's lack of ability to field his position.

I know the pink hats might bust out in tears. I know I've never been the biggest Salty fan. But, you have to admit, this is a pretty objective case for letting the Salty Era in Boston end.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Communiqué from the Pompous

Dear baseball fans who are not Red Sox fans:

Sorry. For them winning. Truly.

I'm sorry I can publish tweets like the one above. Just being able to say this stuff makes me feel like a total asshole.

I'm sorry the Red Sox make a lot of money for being a middle market team. What's that, you're screaming? Something about the Red Sox being a "big market" team? Whatever the fuck that is. Speaking strictly in terms of population size, there are larger markets in America: Dallas, Houston, Philly, DC, Miami, and Atlanta to name a few. Phoenix and Detroit aren't far behind Boston, either. I'm sorry that the Red Sox decided to expand their market by placing A, AA, and AAA farm teams within a hundred miles of Boston. That's an erudite marketing strategy for an erudite city.

So, you know, sorry.

I'm sorry that the Red Sox have had to maximize the revenues they can generate from a ballpark built in 1912. They didn't have the benefit of receiving public financing to build a new ballpark - like The Mets, Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, Padres, Phillies, Twins and Marlins all received in this young century. The Red Sox didn't receive the benefit of having the government shove tens of millions of dollars its way so it could still make excuses about being a "small market" team? Gee, sorry.

I'd like to offer a special apology to the Minnesota Twins. The Red Sox didn't mean to sign David Ortiz and see him have a hall of fame career after you released him for absolutely no compensation at all. Ortiz wanted a couple million after hitting 20 home runs and 75 RBI for you in 2002. Most organizations would consider that to be a steal, but you're "small market" so I understand. You had better places to spend money, like securing public financing for a new stadium; then seeing the I-35 bridge collapse because of desperately needed infrastructure repairs.

Sorry. Totally our fault.

I'm sorry that I think the media is biased against Boston. We only had to hear about how the Cardinals received a "fair" obstruction call a couple days after the media decided to run with wild accusations that Jon Lester doctored the ball in game 1 from a credible source - a 25 year old Cardinals A ball pitcher. Such an expert.

I'm sorry some feel like Boston's victory is a result of a conspiracy because of the Marathon Bombings. And I'm sorry to have read some of your bombing jokes - which were all insipid, unoriginal piles of shit, by the way. I play an insult comic on Twitter, so I think I can reasonably judge what jokes are and are not good. Your bombing jokes fucking bombed.

I'm sorry that the anti-Boston media bias forced some journalists to question the meaning of the Red Sox World Series victory. I'm sorry that I had to publicly take one of you to task; which resulted in launching a conversation among New Englanders that was honest but, unfortunately, not unique given the circumstances. I'm sorry you don't know how we feel. I'm sorry that you never asked us.

I'm sorry. Truly. Please accept my humble apologies, and I'll try to be less pompous the next time the Red Sox win. And yes, there will be a next time.