Bill James Newsbeat
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
An interview with Bill James.
Friday, May 01, 2015
My real purpose in doing this was to educate myself about the 30 major league rotations. If I can force myself to do this once a week—which I probably can’t, but if I could—then I would develop a stronger understanding of who was in the rotation right now for all 30 teams, who their #1 starter was, etc. I’m old; I have a hard time lodging all of that information in my head.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Mat Latos has dropped 15 points since the season began…
Here’s something to jazz up your baseball debates: a ranking of the top starting pitchers in the major leagues. These rankings (which include postseason performances) will be updated every morning, though we’ll show each pitcher’s score as of April 1st of each year (that’s the “Started Season” column). If you’re interested in how we put this together, read about Bill’s concept in this article.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Hey, Bill! Long-time Braves fan here (through some good years, and some VERY bad ones) and it really hurts to see the Braves trade away Craig Kimbrel. I know they claim to be “rebuilding,” but Kimbrel has been one of the best relievers in the game over the last couple of years, and he’s only 26. Wouldn’t you consider…that position, at least…to be already “built?”
It’s Upton. The signing of BJ Upton was utterly inexplicable, for reasons I should probably be polite enough not to outline, but once he was signed, his contract became a huge millstone that was going to drag the organization down for a long time. They almost had to get Upton’s money off the books before they could START re-building, and how are you going to do that? You’ve got to give the other team something they DESPERATELY want—Kimbrel—in order to get them to accept something that they don’t want to have anything to do with—Upton’s contract. I think it was a smart move on Atlanta’s part to do that, but it is terribly sad what has happened to the organization. Just two or three years ago, with Heyward and Freeman, Martin Prado and Brian McCann and Andleton Simmons, it looked like they really had something going. It got away from them with stunning quickness. It always hurts the fans to give up players that they have grown fond of.
Taking a game from yesterday, let’s say we gave Johnny Cueto, who got 21 outs in a Reds win without getting the decision, .77 of a win (Jumbo Diaz got the win by getting one out at the right time). Do you think that over the course of a full career, or even a full season, that a starting pitcher’s win total would be significantly different if wins were calculated in this way? They would certainly get credit for any game the team won, but they would lose some points for every non-complete game. Seems to me it might actually balance out in the end….thoughts?
I’m surprised that we don’t KNOW yet. Here’s what I think: 1) We should definitely fix the rules so that wins and losses are scored as rationally as they can be, regardless of whether it makes a difference or not, 2) I’ve been talking about starting a campaign to try to get this done for years, but it’s one of those things. . .you have to focus on it or you’re just wasting your time, and also, everybody who gets involved in the effort wants to fix the rules a different way, so you have to work out some consensus among yourselves before you can even begin the process, and that takes a year of organizational meetings before you can really start, 3) I don’t understand why we don’t KNOW what difference it would make, since it wouldn’t be a huge project to re-score wins and losses from 1950 forward, so that we wouldn’t be operating in the dark as to what difference it would make, and 4) SPECULATING about what difference it would make, when the answer is knowable but unknown, would be lazy and counter-productive, since we should never speculate about that which we COULD easily know.
Re: the BJ Upton signing being “utterly inexplicable.” I’ve been trying to understand the signing for a long time now, and I always arrive at “bad idea” or “poorly considered”—which is a step short of “utterly inexplicable.”...
Well, not to be accusatory, but BJ Upton just does not hustle. This is very rare at a major league level; there are really only two major league players non who just don’t hustle, plus there are some older guys who conserve a lot of energy but have paid their dues and can get by with it. But it is politically incorrect to SAY that a player wont hustle, even if he won’t, so this kind of escapes the record—not the stat record, but the conversational record. People don’t talk about it; it’s considered impolite. So when the Braves signed this contract, I thought, “Jesus Christ, did they miss the memo on this guy? Did they not scout him? Or have they so completely bought into this notion that it is improper to charge a major league player with laziness that they actually don’t SEE what anybody else can see?” Which happens all the time outside of sports; people don’t see things that they ought to see, because they don’t want to believe in them. It doesn’t usually happen IN sports, because if you do that in sports you will lose. So I don’t know. . .either they didn’t do their homework, or they talked themselves into believing that it’s just a bad rap; there is no such thing as a major league player who doesn’t want to play. To me, it is inexplicable.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
I need to see Bill’s high school stat line.
Hey Bill, on the Tommy John surgery boom, a couple of questions: 1) I’m pretty sure you’ve answered this in detail before, but is the proliferation mostly the result of Little League and high school kids throwing curveballs long before they should? And/or: 2) Were there a larger number of early-career burnouts before Tommy John? When I was in Little League (early ‘60s), our best pitcher threw a nasty curve. We dominated the league when he pitched, which was pretty much all the time because we only played a couple times a week. But I remember him asking the coach to take him out of a close game toward the end of the season because his arm was so sore. This may not have anything to do with TJ surgery, but I bring it up just because the curve has been a holy grail for pitchers for a long time.
Well, I’m not any kind of athlete, but I was on a high school baseball team that played for the state championship; I didn’t really play, but anybody who wanted to be was on the team in theory, and the other guys were pretty good. When we played in the state championship, the coach allowed our best pitcher to pitch a 7-inning complete game on Saturday and another on Sunday. Some of the questions you are asking don’t really have answers. In my view the increase in the number of surgeries is driven mostly by the lack of fear of the surgery. People aren’t really afraid of that surgery any more; we figure that almost everybody comes back from it, so if there are indications that there is going to be a problem, we’d rather get it taken care of at the start of a young player’s career, rather than when he is ready to move to the major leagues. There are probably other factors driving the frequency of the surgery as well, but exactly what they are is poorly understood, I think.
... in thinking about Brooks [Robinson] at 3B—or, say, Mariano Rivera at “closer—do you find yourself thinking “was this historically great player played out of position?” Should Brooks, really, have been playing shortstop? And would that have further boosted Brooks’ potential value in an overall historical perspective?...
Regarding Mariano as a starter. . ..one year the Red Sox beat up Mariano pretty badly toward end of the year, and I suggested to Terry Francona that maybe the Yankees had over-exposed him to us, let us see him too many times. Part of what made Mariano magic was that he pitched so few innings every year that he only faced each opposing hitter two to three times per year, on average, if the opponent was a regular. One year he pitched about 10 times against us, and we started to hit him really hard. I suggested to Terry that maybe we just saw him too much, but Terry didn’t buy it at all; he said, “No, we just happened to catch him two or three times when he didn’t have his best stuff.” I was never sure whether that was a “true” reaction or a politically correct-this-is-what-us-professionals-say-about-that type of reaction. . . .Regarding Brooks as a shortstop, Brooks didn’t have quick enough feet to be a shortstop. What made him wondrous was that, like John McDonald, he had that wondrous ability to put his glove in front of the ball in exactly the right position at exactly the right moment; of course, he had other skills that McDonald didn’t have. But his feet weren’t quick enough to have been a shortstop, I don’t think. But your point is a good one; there probably are Hall of Fame players who were sort of miscast. I always though Fisk probably should have played third, and might have been Mike Schmidt if he had.
Topical question: as a fan, it sort of bothers me when a young super-talent is indisputably one of a team’s 25 best for Opening Day, but gets sent down for three weeks to retain an extra year of club control. Is this an ethical issue, in your judgment, or perhaps the rules should be re-written to avoid this annual controversy?...
If the player uses the rules negotiated between the union and MLB to maximize his income, is that unethical? Of course it is not. Why, then, would it be unethical for the team to use those rules so as to maximize their return? It would raise an ethical issue if the young player was being exploited in some way, not given value for his contribution. But a player who has a STARTING salary of $500,000 a year cannot reasonably be seen to be exploited.
Reading about Darrel Evans made me wonder, have any players ever thanked you for what you wrote about them in the old abstracts? I remember for some of them, it seemed like you were the only guy who realised how good someone like Brian Downing, Ken Phelps or Ron Roenicke was, or could be. IF they got a chance.
Yes. . . .actually, a good many times. I have heard from Darrell Evans, not thanking me exactly, but I think he’s aware of what I have written about him; seemed to be. But we definitely hear from athletes who appreciate things that are said about them. . .not only me, but those I work with. One of the players who received a Fielding Bible Award, a lesser-known player, wrote to Baseball Info Solutions in February to thank them for the award.
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