Friday, February 27, 2004

The Great Deliberative Body

An excerpt from the third book in Robert Caro's phenomenal LBJ series, Master of the Senate:
“The use of the Senate,” Madison said, “is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” It should, he said, be “an anchor against popular fluctuations.” He drew for parallels on classical history, which, he said, “informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a Senate.” In two of the three “long-lived” republics of antiquity, Sparta and Rome, and probably in the third—Carthage (about whose governmental institutions less was known)—senators served for life. “These examples . . . when compared with the fugitive and turbulent existence of other ancient republics, [are] very instructive proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty.” Thomas Jefferson had been in Paris during the Convention, serving as minister to France. When he returned, he asked George Washington over breakfast why the President had agreed to a two-house Congress. According to a story that may be apocryphal, Washington replied with his own question: “Why did you pour your tea into that saucer?” And when Jefferson answered, “To cool it,” Washington said, “Just so. We pour House legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The resolution providing for a two-house Congress was agreed to by the Constitutional Convention with almost no debate or dissent.

And to ensure that the Senate could protect the people against themselves, the Framers armored the Senate against the people.

...The Senate had been created to be independent, to stand against the tyranny of presidential power and the tides of public opinion.

Should it come down to it, I would hope that the Senate will do its job and put this silliness behind us.

And as far as the Fourteenth Amendment is concerned, it doesn't look like the states have a right to amend their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriages either.
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

More Penguins

This version of the penguin game is a little more gruesome. My best is 692.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

DePodesta's Baseball Pedigree

I have a problem with the coverage of Depodesta, and it's not Bill Plaschke's fault. Don't get me wrong - I'm not going to side with Plaschke on the issue. I'm all for Aaron Gleeman's trashing of Plaschke.

Gleeman points out,
DePodesta played both football and baseball at Harvard University, where he graduated with honors. I certainly could be wrong, but I suspect that means DePodesta played two more collegiate sports than Plaschke did."

Having read Gleeman and innumerable other articles about DePodesta last week, I was surprised to hear a friend (and former college baseball player) tell me that DePodesta never played baseball for Harvard. How could everyone, from the "mainstream media" to Gleeman, be so wrong about this? Wasn't it more likely that my buddy had erased his senses with the seven scotches he threw down?

Well, it turns out that the media's got this one wrong.

A search through The Harvard Crimson's Archive for "Depodesta" (1990-2004) turns up only three articles. Each article points out his actual athletic experience at Harvard.

DePodesta's age may raise eyebrows, but another surprise is his high status in baseball having never played for a varsity team in college. He pitched on the JV squad for a season before [blowing out his shoulder] at the end of his freshman year... DePodesta did letter in football while at Harvard for three years before stress fractures in his legs shut down his football career as well. - "Oakland's 'A'-List"
The move makes the 31 year-old DePodesta—who lettered in varsity football for three years and played one year of JV baseball while at Harvard—the third youngest general manager hired in big league history. "Harvard Alum DePodesta Named New Dodgers GM"
[Peter] Woodfork, 26, becomes the latest young Ivy League alum to enter the executive ranks in the majors as he joins [Theo] Epstein, who graduated from Yale in 1995. The growing list of recent Harvard baseball players includes Paul DePodesta ’95, a former JV player who is now the assistant general manager of the Oakland A’s, former captain Mike Hill ’93, who is now director of Player Development for the Colorado Rockies and David Forst ’98, who played alongside Woodfork in the infield and now works with DePodesta as an assistant to Oakland General Manager Billy Beane. - "Former Harvard Infielder Hired by Sox"
To say that DePodesta played baseball at Harvard is to distort the facts. But does that mean he's going to be a bad General Manager? Absolutely not. Does it mean he's a nerd? Of course! He went to Harvard! (Having played football, however, makes him a little less nerdy.)

I think Paul will be successful with the Dodgers, but he did not play college baseball.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Will Carroll thinks the A's have locked up Chavez:
Chavez and Blalock both sign for five years at vastly different amounts. I'm not sure why Blalock took the offer, but it's cost certainty for both parties and $15m isn't chump change. Chavez's seems pretty fair and ends speculation that he'll join the Yankees next season. It's also something of a shift for the A's. I'm curious to see how this will affect the re-signing of the big three.
I haven't been able to confirm this rumor anywhere else, but Will says he's posting a more detailed account on Baseball Prospectus. (I guess I should stop holding out and just buy a subscription already, huh?) Anyway, I'm waiting with bated breath...

If this deal goes through, it may leave the A's with the following question: "If you can only keep one of the Big Three (Hudson, Mulder, Zito), which one do you keep?"

I'm a Mulder man myself. What about you?

Friday, February 20, 2004

2004 American League Predictions

My 2004 American League Predictions - Based on 2003 Win Shares
(as of 2/20/2004)

With Spring Training right around the corner, 2004 Predictions are starting to fly. Baseball Crank (AL West and AL East) and Phil Rogers are two who have started the inevitable onslaught of prognostications. Well, here are my two cents:

My idea was to take BaseballGraph's 2003 Win Shares and move each player (and his win shares) to his new team. This redistribution would allow me to "predict" the 2004 standings. Obviously, there are huge failings in this system, so let's address a couple of them.

1)The assumption that an individual will exactly reproduce his 2003 performance is preposterous. Some players will be better this year and some will be worse. I hardly even have to say that. So, when you finally see my projections, just consider them as a baseline.

2)Teams needed an average of 1,440 innings from their pitching staff and 6,250 plate appearances in order to make it through the 2003 season. Those numbers are likely to stay about the same in 2004, so I've adjusted playing time for a number of players in order to match "guesstimated" usage and to meet the team-level requirement of roughly 1440/6250. (I actually tried to make each team's 2004 total within 5% of their 2003 total for IP and PA.) When doing so, I've just pro-rated a player's Win Shares based on his "adjusted" playing time.

3)I didn't nail each team's 2003 IP and PA totals with my playing time adjustments, so to make the comparisons even, I fudged the last few percent (up or down) to 100% of last year's total. This really doesn't have a huge overall effect, but it does compensate for the fact that you're not going to get Win Shares from plate appearances that don't happen. Consider this adjustment #1.

4)My projections are mostly optimistic - a best-case scenario in terms of health for most players. So, when I summed up the wins for each team (after adjustment #1), the league total is about 2,520 wins. The problem here is that thirty teams each playing 162 games and winning half of them works out to 2,430 wins. In order to correct this, I've adjusted each team's win total down 4% in order to make things add up. (Call it a final adjustment)

5)In some cases, I'm projecting a full season based on only a few Plate Appearances. Using small sample sizes like that to project perfomance over the long haul is clearly a big mistake, but I'm willing to live with it. After looking through the results, I don't feel like there are any truly eggregious errors.

So, without further fanfare, the American League Projections:


Remember, this is based on 2003 performance only, so it's just a baseline. And you'll note that I have the American League finishing a combined 46 games over .500, which would have to be the result of really beating up on the National League in interleague play. Since the National League was 22 games over .500 last year, I think we'd all be surprised if the American League made such a large reversal. Regardless, I feel like my projections will be directionally accurate. Detroit may not win exactly 61 games, but they will definitely be one of the worst teams in all of baseball, yet again.

With that in mind, here are the playoff contenders as I see 'em...


NEW YORK, 117 Wins - Projecting a team over 100 wins makes me a little nervous, so predicting 117 makes me feel light-headed.
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
G Sheffield6786783533
A Rodriguez7157153331
J Posada5885882827
J Giambi6906902827
D Jeter5426502121
H Matsui6956951918
K Lofton6106101817
B Williams5215211313
M Lamb4210077
E Wilson14730044
M Cairo29029033
J Flaherty11611633
T Clark28010021
D Bragg18118111
R Sierra33610011
T Houston1035011
A Boone654000
E Almonte111000
J Girardi262600

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
J Vazquez230.7230.72120
K Brown211.0211.02019
J Contreras71.0200.01918
M Mussina214.7214.71918
M Rivera70.770.71717
P Quantrill77.377.31111
T Gordon74.074.01110
J Lieber141.0180.099
F Heredia87.087.098
S Karsay88.350.066
G White46.746.744

The key, as everyone already knows, will be the health of the pitching staff. If Kevin Brown, Lieber and Contreras each goes down, the Yankees will have a tough time replacing those innings. Then again, the Yanks could afford to lose 45 win shares and still win 100 games - They could replace both Jeter and Posada with players contributing ZERO win shares and still make the playoffs. This team is that good. It will take a collapse of epic proportions for a team this talented to miss the playoffs.

BOSTON, 103 Wins - The only real additions from last year's squad are Schilling, Foulke and Bellhorn/Reese. These moves make the Red Sox a better team, but they're nowhere near the Yankees.
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
M Ramirez6796792827
N Garciaparra7197192524
B Mueller6006002423
T Nixon5135131919
J Damon6906901818
J Varitek5215211716
K Millar6186181615
D Ortiz5095091515
E Burks22815033
M Bellhorn30720022
B Daubach21921944
G Kapler24724744
D Mirabelli17617622
P Reese12040066
A Hyzdu757511
T Shumpert999911

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
K Foulke86.786.72121
P Martinez186.7186.72019
C Schilling168.0200.01817
B Kim122.3180.02019
D Lowe203.3203.31211
T Wakefield202.3202.31212
M Timlin83.783.788
S Williamson62.762.788
A Embree55.055.055
B Arroyo17.380.099
J Shiell23.323.311
E Almonte11.311.300
N Bierbrodt43.343.300
Re Garcia18.018.000
R Mendoza66.740.000

There aren't too many wild assumptions in there, so I feel pretty good about this projection. The Red Sox should win the wild card with ease, but they're not in the same league as the Yankees. A lot of people had the Sox as a favorite in the AL East before the A-Rod/Soriano trade, but the trade didn't make a huge difference in the Win Share projections. The Sox have been behind the Yankees all along in my book. They'll be lucky to even sniff a lead in the AL East after the All Star Break.

SEATTLE, 87 Wins - Adding Raul Ibanez, Rich Aurilia and Scott Spezio to your starting lineup doesn't sound like the best way to upgrade your team, and the numbers prove that out. The Mariners won 93 games last year, but will only win about 87 this year (according to the projection).
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
B Boone7057053029
I Suzuki7257252322
R Winn6606602120
E Martinez6036032019
R Ibanez6716001413
J Olerud6346341514
R Aurilia5456001414
S Spiezio58140098
B Davis26926977
D Wilson33733777
R Santiago50710011
W Bloomquist22017522
D Hansen15915933
P Borders151511
W Gonzalez737311
Q McCracken22622611

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
J Moyer215.0215.01817
E Guardado65.365.31514
R Franklin212.0212.01312
S Hasegawa73.073.01313
J Pineiro211.7211.71313
F Garcia201.3201.388
G Meche186.3186.388
J Mateo85.785.777
R Soriano53.053.077
R Villone106.780.044
M Myers36.336.311
K Jarvis92.030.000
A Looper7.07.000
J Putz3.73.700
A Taylor12.712.700

Their eight best positional players (hitting and fielding combined) are Bret Boone, Ichiro, Randy Winn, Edgar Martinez, Raul Ibanez, John Olerud, Rich Aurilia and Scott Spezio. Average age in 2004: 33! These Mariners are much more likely to get worse than get better. On the whole, the Mariners should be right in the thick of the AL West hunt, although I suspect they'll fall short of the AL West crown. They're just too damn old.

OAKLAND, 86 Wins - Big losses in the forms of Keith Foulke and Miguel Tejada are going to cost the A's about 10 wins overall in 2004. I see the A's dropping from 96 to 86 wins.
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
E Chavez6546542524
M Ellis6226221817
E Durazo6456451716
E Byrnes4604001313
S Hatteberg6225001111
M Kotsay5415411413
B Kielty5096001414
D Miller4004001010
E Karros36520044
B McMillon17517555
A Melhuse8620099
J Dye25330022
F Menechino10910922
M Scutaro919122
B Crosby1460077
M Edwards6600
E German4400
J Grabowski9900
G Koonce8800
M Watson252500

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
T Hudson240.0240.02322
B Zito231.7231.71817
M Mulder186.7200.01817
M Redman190.7190.71111
C Bradford77.077.099
C Hammond63.063.077
R Rincon55.355.366
R Harden74.7170.099
A Rhodes54.054.044
J Duchscherer16.380.066
J Mecir37.037.011
C Harville21.721.700
M Ramos13.013.000
B Reames1.31.300
M Wood13.713.700

I have the A's with the 5th best pitching staff in terms of Win Shares, but only the 22nd best team in terms of hitting Win Shares. It's no secret that the A's will struggle to score runs, but I'll consider any contributions from Jermaine Dye and Bobby Crosby to be gravy. This system has very low expectations for the two of them, so anything they do will help the A's exceed my projections for them. Barring injuries, the A's will be in a dogfight with the Angels and Mariners to the end.

ANAHEIM, 85 Wins - The Halos were big mover is the offseason, acquiring Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Vladimir Guerero. Those acquisitions make a big difference in this projection.
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
G Anderson6736732524
J Guillen5345342019
V Guerrero4676002322
T Salmon6216211716
B Molina4304301615
A Kennedy5105101413
J DaVanon38215054
D Eckstein5175171110
T Glaus3676001514
C Figgins27015044
D Erstad28460077
S Halter39325011
J Molina12312322
A Amezaga12012011

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
B Colon242.0242.01716
B Donnelly74.074.01211
K Escobar180.3180.31212
S Shields148.3148.31212
J Washburn207.3207.3109
F Rodriguez86.086.099
J Lackey204.0204.087
T Percival49.349.387
B Weber80.380.388
R Ortiz180.080.022
A Sele121.750.011
D Turnbow15.315.322
C Bootcheck10.310.300

After "career" years from a lot of players in 2002, the Angels bottomed out in 2003. They only won 77 games, and got disappointing seasons from Glaus, Ramon Ortiz and Jarrod Washburn. If those three players can improve their game a bit, the Angels will be tough team to beat. I don't see the Angels as prohibitive favorites this season, as seems to be the popular notion. As I alluded to before, it's a toss-up between the A's, Mariners and Angels, making the AL West the most interesting pennant race in the AL.

KANSAS CITY, 87 Wins - The Royals are 8 games better than anyone else in the AL Central, based on their players' 2003 seasons.
Position Players:
Player2003 PA2004 PA2004 WSAdjusted WS
C Beltran6026503029
A Berroa6356351615
M Sweeney4636001918
J Randa5665661414
B Santiago4344341313
M Stairs3574001414
A Guiel4014011111
D Relaford5575571110
J Gonzalez3464501312
T Graffanino28128198
K Harvey52460087
K Stinnett20720744
D Brown14314322
A Brown161600
G Dawkins3300
D DeJesus101000
J Patterson252500

Player2003 IP2004 IP2004 WSAdjusted WS
D May210.0210.01717
J Affeldt126.0126.01212
B Anderson99.399.31211
C Leskanic52.752.788
M MacDougal64.064.098
D Carrasco80.380.366
R Hernandez91.791.766
S Sullivan64.064.066
J Grimsley75.075.044
K Snyder85.385.344
K Wilson72.772.744
K Appier111.7111.733
M Asencio48.348.332
J Gobble52.752.733
N Field21.721.722
C George93.793.722
M Venafro19.019.011
R Bukvich10.310.300
J Cerda32.332.300
J Dawley7.07.000
R DeHart4.04.000
D Reyes12.712.700

You'll notice that only one of the Royals pitchers threw more than 130 Innings in 2003. I don't really know what to make of that, but it can't be good. I think the Royals are good enough to win the division, but I also think the other teams are not. I have the Twins ranked 18th (out of 30) in both hitting and pitching Win Shares, and I just don't see how they're going to make the playoffs.
Sorry About Your Luck - The Blue Jays and Orioles could be good enough to win the AL West or AL Central crowns, but it'll take a miracle for either of them to sneak into the playoffs from the East.
Coming soon, the National League.

The Omnipresent Schatz

Aaron Schatz has an article up on The New Republic about the spread of Sabermetrics in MLB front offices. His point - the "Moneyball revolution" that allowed the A's to compete with teams with larger payorlls is not a revolution but a market correction. The eventual end result? A more efficient market, where the rich teams still get all the best (and now properly valued) players.

Schatz himself is seemingly everywhere I look on the internet. His relatively new FootballOutsiders site exploded onto the scene this past fall, rocketing up to Alexa's top 50,000 websites in Nov-Dec. And that kind of internet phenomenon is exactly what Schatz has been studying for his "real" job over at Lycos, pumping out "The Lycos 50" each day.

I like his style, and apparently, so do a lot of people. He's getting a lot exposure all over the internet. Kudos Aaron. Keep up the good work.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

HOF Bound?

Great synopsis of HOF chances for active players.

Are Sheffield and Larkin really sure bets for the Hall? I feel alright about Sheff (299/401/527 over 16 seasons - and going strong), but Larkin's numbers looks suspicious to me. He has hit 295/371/446 over 18 seasons as a shortstop, but he's never led the league in any offensive category. The only time he's ever finished as high as second in any category was in his MVP 1995 Season when he stole 51 bases, 5 behind Quilvio Veras for the league lead. I'll defer to the Win Shares as far as total career value goes, but I think Larkin's going to have a tough time sneaking past the BBWA.

Thanks to baseballgraphs for the link.

The $8M Win

Let's take a quick look at the Cubs 2004 pitching staff pre-Maddux and then with him. We'll just pro-rate 2003 Win Shares by Innings Pitched, with the goal of adding up to about 1,460 IP (Cubs total in 2003). Basically, a pitcher who was credited with 5 win shares for 100 innings of work will get credit for 10 win shares over 200 innings of work. (Thanks to BaseballGraphs for the 2003 Win Share data)

Cubs before they added Maddux:
  2003 IP 2004 IP Pro-rated 2003 Win Shares
Mark Prior 211.3 211.3 22.5
Kerry Wood 214.0 214.0 17.6
Carlos Zambrano 211.0 211.0 17.6
Joe Borowski 68.3 68.3 14.0
LaTroy Hawkins 77.3 77.3 13.2
Matt Clement 201.7 201.7 10.5
Kyle Farnsworth 76.3 76.3 7.2
Kent Mercker 55.3 55.3 5.9
Mike Remlinger 69.0 69.0 5.9
Gary Glover 62.7 62.7 3.0
Hector Carrasco 25.3 25.3 1.6
Jamey Wright 38.3 38.3 1.5
Juan Cruz 61.0 61.0 0.4
Ryan Dempster 115.7 75.0 0.0
Sergio Mitre 8.7 8.7 0.0
Total   1455.3 121

Cubs after adding Maddux:
  2003 IP 2004 IP Pro-rated 2003 Win Shares
Mark Prior 211.3 211.3 22.5
Carlos Zambrano 214.0 214.0 17.6
Kerry Wood 211.0 211.0 17.6
Joe Borowski 68.3 68.3 14.0
LaTroy Hawkins 77.3 77.3 13.2
Matt Clement 201.7 201.7 10.5
Greg Maddux 218.3 180.0 8.9
Kyle Farnsworth 76.3 76.3 7.2
Kent Mercker 55.3 55.3 5.9
Mike Remlinger 69.0 69.0 5.9
Gary Glover 62.7 35.0 1.6
Juan Cruz 61.0 61.0 0.4
Total   1460.3 125

Adding Maddux only adds 4 Win Shares, which is equal to one-and-a-third wins (3 win shares = 1 win). At eight million dollars, that's one expensive win.

I'm working on using this same approach for every team in order to make a (wildly inaccurate!) set of predictions for the 2004 season. My predictions will likely show that the Cubs are out in front of the NL Central pack by about 5-6 games, making the additional $8M Maddux win unnecessary. Of course, the Maddux signing does add depth, a potential mentor, maybe some additional revenue(?) and a chance for the Cubs to partially redeem their past failure to keep Maddux. I'm not arguing that the deal is all bad, just that it's not going to improve the Cubs by a whole lot.

The Baseball Savant agrees that Maddux isn't going to dramatically improve the Cubs, but he disagrees with my prediction for the division. He thinks the Astros will take the NL Central. Read both of the Savant's posts. Well written and interesting - hard to complain about that. Seems like Savant, however, overlooks the contributions from the bullpens and benches of the various NL Central contenders. Maybe that's why our projections are so different.

The Babe

Growing up on the west coast, I always discounted the talk about Babe Ruth. Characters in movies like The Sandlot were always in awe of Babe Ruth the way I was in awe of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. So, I naturally assumed that they were all on about the same level. Later, Willie Mays took the place of the Bash Brothers in my mind as the Babe's equal. My dad wasn't a huge baseball fan, and I didn't know any Yankee fans yet (thank god). There was no one around to correct my faulty assumptions.

But as I've gotten older and started reading more baseball books and actually looking at the numbers, I've been forced to readjust my perspective. Reluctant though I was to give a Yankee his due, Ruth's performance cannot be ignored. As Rob Neyer points out in his article, Nobody better than the Babe, Ruth is head and shoulders above everyone else. He's incomparable.

But those other guys Neyer mentions are alright too...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Grabber

AthleticsNation has posted a Q&A with the A's Jason Grabowski. Go check it out. It's interesting to see the world from his eyes, a player on the bubble for making the big club.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

That ARod fella

There's a rumor that some guy named "ARod" is getting traded. You might have heard a little something about that this weekend... Well, what does it mean for the A's? Let's take a look at how the two players have fared against AL West's 2004 pitchers in their careers (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Soriano vs. the A's (2004 pitching staff): 203/232/278 (.510 OPS)
Soriano vs. the Angels: 274/314/463 (.777 OPS)
Soriano vs. the Mariners: 214/258/429 (.687 OPS)

Rodriguez vs. the A's: 267/333/470 (.804 OPS)
Rodriguez vs. the Angels: 333/426/729 (1.155 OPS)
Rodriguez vs. the Mariners: 267/351/500 (.851 OPS)

That's a decrease in OPS of .294 against the A's, .378 against the Angels and .164 against the Mariners. Overall, the AL West should be thanking their lucky stars that they won't have to deal with ARod so often, but this deal doesn't really improve the A's chances in the AL West. If anything, this tilts the playing field towards the Angels (however small that tilt may be).

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Billy Beane = Bill Walsh ??

From the Depodesta post on Elephants in Oakland:
Billy Beane mentioned he would love to accomplish what Bill Walsh had in the BayArea (yes, it is one word). Building a championship team with interchangeable parts on the field and in the front office and those who left the organization being successful with the same strategies. Of course, what Beane may have meant was that he would like to accomplish what Paul Brown was able to accomplish.
I think that the Billy Beane/Bill Walsh comparison is fair. Where Paul Brown was certainly the patriarch of the Walsh "family," Sandy Alderson gave Beane his start and introduced him to the work of Bill James.
Parts of the West Coast Offense (or WCO) approach were conceptualized and implemented by such historical football figures as Paul Brown and Sid Gillman, but it was really Walsh who brought the system to fruition. -
Try that statement again like this: "Parts of the approach were conceptualized and implemented by such historical baseball figures as Sandy Alderson, but it was really Beane who brought the system to fruition." Doesn't that sound about right?

A's, Blue Jays, Dodgers

As the family of former A's front office-types slowly spreads across baseball, I guess I have new teams to start rooting for. Elephants in Oakland and AthleticsNation both have quite a bit to say about Paul DePodesta's departure to the Dodgers.

The general feeling seems to be (1) Good luck to Paul, (2) There could be a handful of trades between the A's and Dodgers in the coming year and (3) David Forst is going to have more pressure on him this year than Bobby Crosby, Jermaine Dye and Rich Harden combined.

Again A's fans, repeat after me... "In Beane We Trust"

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Preach On, Ray

Ray Ratto gets downright mean-spirited in his latest Chronicle article, "A's don't need this ballpark expedition". His point: the A's owners, Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman, are swimming in loot and that they'll have a hell of a time convincing the San Jose area to give them a free stadium.

And anytime someone takes a swipe at the KNBR-Giants lovefest, I'm all for it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Dogs or Bees

Which is your favorite non-sport sporting event, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show or the National Spelling Bee?

Given that the Spelling Bee takes place in early June at the peak of the baseball season, I have to give the nod to the Dogs. The hounds have the common sense (or good fortune?) to stage their event in early February, between the Super Bowl and Spring Training. They also spread their event over two days in order to build the drama, and I just think it outshines the Spelling Bee.

Which event do you prefer? What non-sport event did I overlook?

Baseball Greed Goes Online

Interesting note on about MLB's online distribution. Looks like the league is trying to squeeze some extra cash from the top portals (Yahoo!, MSN, AOL) for streaming MLB audio/video content. Those higher fees will no doubt be passed on to us, the fans. Thanks, Bud.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

A's Minor League RC/27

At the risk of exposing my inablility to hit even my own loosely defined deadlines, I point you back to this post. Here, finally, is my entry on the A's Minor League RC27 (you'll have to forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon a few weeks late). I'm going to use the work of the raindrops and No Pepper as a guideline along with this definition for RC27 (Runs Created per 27 Outs):

A=Hits+Walks+Hit by Pitch-Caught Stealing-GIDP

B=Total Bases+.26*(Walks+Hit by Pitch)+.53*(Sacrifice Flies+Sacrifice Hits)+.64*(Stolen Bases)-.03*(Strikeouts)

C=At Bats+Walks+Hit by Pitch+Sacrifice Flies+Sacrifice Hits

RC = ((A+2.4*C)*(B+3*C))/(9*C) -0.9*C


-James Fraser's Sabermetric Statistics Glossary

But, we'll take it a step further, dividing a player's RC27 by the league average and multiplying by 100 to create a 'RC27+' (a score over 100 is better than average). I did not, however, adjust for position or for park factors.

I looked at the A's top four farm teams from Low-A to AAA: Kane County, Modesto, Midland and Sacramento. Using the stats from and Clay Davenport's MjEQA from Baseball Prospectus (thanks to No Pepper for the link), I came up with a league average RC27 for each team.

Kane County - 4.28 (Midwest League)
Modesto - 5.23 (California League)
Midland - 4.94 (Texas League)
Sacramento - 5.26 (Pacific Coast League)

And the 31 A's farmhands with 100+ AB with an RC27+ at or above 100...

Brian Stavinsky - 144
Brant Colamarino - 129
Marcus McBeth - 111
John McCrudy - 107
Andre Ethier - 107
Nelson Cruz - 101
Kory Wayment - 100
Jason Basil - 100

John Weber - 190
Jed Morris - 126
Matt Bowser - 125
Jason Perry - 121
Gary Thomas - 120
Mark Kiger - 119
Mark Teahen - 113
Casey Myers - 101

Dan Johnson - 161
Jeremy "Moneyball" Brown - 127
J.T. Stotts - 109
Steve Jackson - 108
Steve Stanley - 103
Adam Morrissey - 100

Bobby Crosby - 190
Graham Koonce - 158
Mike Edwards - 135
Jason Grabowski - 130
Mike Rose - 124
Esteban German - 123
Mike Lockwood - 118
Jose Flores - 106
Chris Prieto - 104
Mark Johnson - 100

It's a little hard to believe the Sacramento River Cats had 10 batters over the PCL average RC27. In fact, they only had one batter with more than 100 ABs that failed to reach a RC27+ of 100 - Luis Lopez, the River Cats' 2002 MVP. It's also interesting to note that Nick Swisher, of Moneyball fame, is not on this list. He finished with a RC27 of 90 in 76 games for the Midland RockHounds.

Thirty-one above-average minor league hitters bodes well for the A's, but how many of them are really true prospects? Consider this:

The most important of the principles is what I call Age/Level relation. On the surface, a .300 batting average with 30 home runs is very impressive, but if the player is 23 years old and still playing in A-ball it's probably a result of overpowering younger pitchers, rather than transferable major-league hitting ability. Following is the age range a player should be within at each level:

Low-A: 19-20 years old
High-A: 20-21 years old
AA: 21-22 years old
AAA: 22-23 years old

-David Cameron,

If you use those age guidelines, only three of the A's minor leaguers still stand out:

Kane County (A)
Andre Ethier - OF, 107 RC27+ in 162 AB

Midland (AA)
Adam Morrissey - 2B/3B, 100 RC27+ in 469 AB

Sacramento (AAA)
Bobby Crosby - SS, 190 RC27+ in 465 AB

It's a well known fact that the A's have a "zealous focus on picking college over high-school players in the amateur draft" as Larry Stone of the Seattle Times points out. So, if you're only drafting college kids, you're picking from a crop of Juniors and Seniors who are likely to be 21-22 years old at the time of the draft. That leaves those "prospects" only one or two years to reach Triple-A, according to Cameron's Age/Level relation -- and makes the accomplishments of Bobby Crosby (to date) that much more impressive.

Looking through our minor leaguers has gotten me very excited about Bobby's rookie season with the A's, but I'm not as excited about the remaining prospects in our system. As always, we A's fans are left muttering to ourselves, "In Beane we trust."

UPDATE: Dan Johnson had a tremendous year in Double-A before finishing the season in Sacramento. But his Midland stats weren't listed with the team on, and I managed to overlook him. His RC27+ of 161 was the best in Midland, but at 24, he's well above the level for "Prospect." (Thanks to Tyler for catching this one.)

Friday, February 6, 2004

Down Goes No Limit

Oh no! Master P Pleads Guilty... ach, it's just a tax crime.
Federal prosecutors accused Bout It Incorporated, the company the rapper founded in 1996, of neglecting to report its first-year earnings to the Internal Revenue Service.
This is only a minor hiccup in the world of Master P, considering the major problems his family & associates have seen in the last few months alone. As you'll recall, his brother C-Murder was recently sentenced to life in prison, and a former No-Limit associate, Soulja Slim, was gunned down in New Orleans. Bad times, indeed.

Dropping Names

Just got an email from my buddy:
Last night I was at the bar at this party I went to, some lady hands me some drinks and asks me to give them to the guy behind me. I turn around and hand them to none other than my fantasy league tight end. The one and only Jeremy Shockey..."
I love how he refers to him as "my fantasy league tight end" and not "the Giant's tight end." You've gotta love that. The only downside to the story is that Shockey was drinking water. Why couldn't he have been drinking tequila straight from the bottle and making cocktail waitresses two at a time?

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Gagne & Vitamin-S

Will Carroll's sidekick TwinsFanDan and Baseball Crank have both picked up on Tom Verducci's article this Tuesday:
Now that steroid testing with penalties (albeit soft ones) is here, be prepared to hear more than a few spring training stories about players who "took yoga," "lost weight," "changed diets," "cut back on weightlifting," "came in lighter," "wanted to be more flexible," and other code words for cutting down on steroids and other illegal supplements. Some such anecdotal evidence existed last year, when the testing was anonymous and for survey purposes only, but now the incidence of slimmed-down players probably will grow. One star NL pitcher, for instance, shrunk so noticeably this winter that another player remarked, "I swear to you when I saw him I didn't even recognize him."
There's apparently some speculation that Eric Gagne is the NL pitcher who has shrunk so noticeably, but the Crank isn't buying it (see his comment below mine).

Let's take a look at this picture of Gagne (he's on the right). He doesn't look quite like he's got "muscles on top of muscles," but he does look like a pretty big dude.

I think we're all curious about how this one's going to play out.

Neyer is Right On

Rob Neyer takes ESPN's Page 2 to task for their Ultimate Standings, which rank the Angels as the #1 franchise in baseball.
Yes, we might say we care about the honesty of our team's owner, and how much the players hustle, and whether or not the manager attends the local Elks Club dinner. But we don't, really. We care about winning, and if I were designing a system I wouldn't pay any attention to what the fans say. I would start by making "Championships" (or "Winning") worth 50 percent of everything, and then let all the other stuff fill in the rest.
Right on Rob, well said. While we all hate to admit it, the Yankees are probably the best franchise in baseball. They should not be sixth behind the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Marlins and Royals(!). And there's no way the Red Sox should be 22nd, only one spot ahead of the Expos. It's all quite preposterous.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Pure 'Cane

Last week, Bill Simmons pointed his readers to The Miami Herald, which has been following high school linbacker Willie Williams' recruiting journeys.

Read about his recruiting trips to Florida State, Auburn and Miami. As Simmons said, "I couldn't possibly describe what's happening here."

He just committed to Miami today, and appropriately enough, is also the subject of a criminal investigation.

Read all of the articles in order and then tell me that he really got a 1070 on the SAT. Is it out of 2400 now or something?

Race and Baseball

One of the hotter baseball topics on the Internet in the last two days has been race in baseball. AthleticsNation has been taking a lot of heat in his comments for pointing out that the A's are predominantly white team, and many a site has been talking about Ellis Burks' return to Boston as the team's attempt to redeem its racist past. Bronx Banter and Bambino's Curse (among others) each address this, and Ed Cossette of Curse points us towards the NPR article, The Boston Red Sox and Racism, which is an interesting read.

I'm not sure where any of this is going, but it's an odd coincidence that I'm stumbling on these articles all at once.

My First Game

Here's the box score and play-by-play for the first A's game I can remember attending, in 1986.

My dad took me and Matt, a neighborhood kid, to the Saturday afternoon game. There wasn't much of a crowd for the A's-Jays matchup, featuring two teams that finished a combined 25.5 games out of the playoffs. I remember starting out in the first deck down the left field line, just under the overhang of the second deck. After a few innings, we were able to move down behind home plate, no more than 15 rows back.

The A's won the game 2-0, with four pitchers combining for a 2-hitter. Notable events/appearances (for me anyway) included 2 of Dave Kingman's 1,816 career strikeouts (ninth all time), Jose Canseco as a rookie (getting heckled by the home crowd, no less), one of Dave Stewart's 12 relief appearances as an Athletic, Carney Lansford playing first base and Tony LaRussa in his first month as the A's manager.

The differences between my first game and today's games are remarkable. As everyone knows, offense has exploded. In 1986, only one AL team cracked 5 runs per game, and in 2003 five AL teams eclipsed that mark.

While offense has exploded, the average fan's access to the live product has dwindled. In '86, we were able to waltz right down behind home plate. Last year, I went to a game at Yankee Stadium and was handed stubs for front row tickets behind home plate for the final two innings. The ushers barely allowed us into the seats -- Even though we had the right tickets, they knew we didn't pay for them. Besides increasing prices, the teams are more rigidly enforcing the rules that protect those prices.

We've come a long way from yesterday's brand of small-ball, fan-friendly baseball to today's baseball machine that produces revenue and runs. Where will the next twenty years of baseball take us?

Beats me, but I'm ready to go along for the ride. Let's just get this next season started already...

Does anyone else remember their first baseball game? Tell me about it.