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Friday, January 20, 2012

Grantland: Bill James: The 100 Best Pitchers’ Duels of 2011

Bill James sez it all!

My list of the 100 best pitchers’ duels of 2011 is better than your list, for one reason and one reason only.

You don’t have any list.

 

 

Repoz Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM | 69 comment(s)
  Beats: history, reviews, sabermetrics

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kelner: Take me out to the metaphorically rich ball game

It seems Moneyball has opened world-wide and some of the reviews I’ve been reading are eloquent ####### pips.

It’s certainly true that, in the field of literature and film, this Atlanticised form of rounders has inspired many fine works, of which Moneyball is just the latest. While admitting I may be a little parochial here, I think it’s a shame that some of the best films about sport – Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out to give two examples – have been about baseball, a game that most in the UK find arcane at best, and often unintelligible.

It’s like all the best comedy films being in a language we find very difficult to understand. I’ve been to a few baseball games, and never really understood what was going on. It felt like a hot dog-eating convention with a game going on at the same time.

The slowly unfolding plot of a baseball encounter is, say adherents, its essential appeal. To me, it felt like ritualised longeur. A friend of mine once explained: usually, you don’t want to leave your seat in case something happens, whereas at a baseball game, you leave your seat hoping something happens.

And then there’s the statistics, the endless litany of numbers and percentages that form the language of the sport, but which, to the untutored mind, are completely meaningless. Nevertheless, I urge you not to be put off by all this esoterica to go and see Moneyball, and not just for a bravura performance from Brad Pitt.

Repoz Posted: November 29, 2011 at 12:45 PM | 22 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, books, media, reviews, sabermetrics

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Duggan: A.J. Burnett and The Amazing, Disappearing Fastball

~~There is nothing wrong with your strike zone. Do not attempt to adjust the pitcher~~

image

For a power pitcher, who relies almost exclusively on a fastball and a breaking ball, it may surprise you (or it may not) that A.J. Burnett’s fastball was the least valuable pitch in baseball in 2011, coming in at -34.0 runs.  It’s tough to contextualize that, so for the sake of comparison, Mariano Rivera’s cutter was +12.2 runs, David Robertson’s fastball was +14.4 runs, and CC Sabathia’s slider was +14.6 runs.

It’s a shockingly bad number, and it’s headed in the wrong direction.  In his seven pre-Yankee years, Burnett had accumulated +39.3 runs of value with his fastball, with -14.1, -16.2, and -34.0 the past three seasons.  It has gone from a weapon to a piped home run waiting to happen.

...Mostly as a product of his curveball, Burnett still has a way to get strikeouts and ground balls.  While having 95 MPH heat was a great way to keep batters from squaring him up, that velocity and late life is gone and probably isn’t coming back, making it tough to imagine how Burnett can recover any effectiveness without some fundamental changes to his approach.  It can be done, but he has his work cut out for him.

Repoz Posted: November 27, 2011 at 12:17 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: history, projections, reviews, sabermetrics, yankees

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

David Maraniss: ‘Moneyball’ the movie is a big swing and a miss

David Maraniss: The Prince of Cannotsee.

But I absolutely hate the movie “Moneyball” and everything it stands for. I think it is a fraud, one that people I respect bought into, for what they thought were noble reasons having to do with the little guys vs. the big bullies. I also dislike the philosophy of moneyball as it is applied to sports. My problem with the movie is a matter of truth. My problem with the philosophy is a question of art and beauty.

...The thrill of baseball has nothing to do with statistics, as much a part of the game as they are. It has to do with the athletic skill of the players: the rifle throw from right field to third base; the dazzling speed of a runner stealing a base; the grace of a second baseman making the turn on a double play.

Perhaps “Moneyball” struck a chord with audiences because it presented what seemed like a fresh, unromantic, realist’s view while also presenting a smart plan of attack for the little guys. But in doing so, it not only perpetrated a fraud, it also glorified statistics over beauty and joy, and that is a trade-off that diminishes life itself.

Repoz Posted: October 25, 2011 at 02:51 AM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, books, media, reviews

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bronx Banter: DeRosa: About the Errors…

While Mark DeRosa has 74 career errors…Joe DeRosa looks for some in Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.

A ballplayer could react to a terrible slump in a number of ways. But all of them should be vastly different to a person reacting to the loss of a supernatural gift. A slump usually begins with the wrong mix of flawed mechanics and dumb luck and spirals into Adam Dunn-level tragedy when the player gets trapped inside his own head. Henry’s situation is closer to Prometheus and his gift of fire than it is to Adam Dunn and his buck-fifty batting average.

Because all of the characters ignore this essential difference, the baseball in the book loses integrity – a distraction that I could not tolerate.

I’m sure Harbach has loftier intentions than examining Henry’s fielding ability, but he wrote a book around a baseball team – and from what I can tell, nobody’s been shy promoting it as a baseball book. At the very least, the context of the baseball season should serve as the binder of the story, but since the author doesn’t get the baseball right, the binder dissolves. What’s left is still good enough to carry your interest for a while, but since the baseball is palpably unreal, it taints the other stuff too.

Repoz Posted: October 18, 2011 at 07:35 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: books, reviews, sabermetrics

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Collier: Can’t take the art out of baseball

Brother Collier takes in Moneyball at a junk palace…sorts through mess.

Perhaps the Ivy League kid is right, but I’ve never seen anyone stretch a walk into a double, nor have I ever seen a walk go through an outfielder’s legs for a triple. Baseball is thick with Jonah Hill types today, and even teams who don’t have to play moneyball have been persuaded to employ them.

That’s why the Red Sox and Yankees can’t seem to play a game that doesn’t run to four hours as they work the count and try to wear out the opposing starter without actually using the bat.

If you successfully prove that baseball is science rather than art (I say the opposite) this is what you’ll get. But this is another postseason where images of the Yankees and Red Sox are rather fleeting, are they not? Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals come to bat in the first inning against $20 million starter Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the National League division series, lash a triple, rip a double before everyone is even seated, win a classic postseason ballgame, 1-0.

It’ll be a shame when the game is better in the movie houses than it is on the field. That’s what will happen if art’s only vengeance comes on the screen.

Repoz Posted: October 13, 2011 at 08:57 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, media, pirates, reviews, sabermetrics

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deitsch: Terry Francona shines for Fox

My goodness, a Fox analyst who isn’t detestable?

Terry Francona woke up on Tuesday morning to something rare in baseball broadcasting circles: Glowing reviews from critics and viewers. TERRY FRANCONA HAS STAR TV POTENTIAL, proclaimed Newsday. Suggested New York Times sports media reporter Richard Sandomir: “Idea: keep Francona in booth when [Tim] McCarver returns for Game 3. Rare to have a mgr and a catcher in booth. “Yahoo! baseball writer Jeff Passan injected history. “Is Terry Francona Wally Pipping Tim McCarver?” The sentiment was the same from most viewers on social media sites. I asked Twitter readers to send me thoughts on Francona—47 of 50 respondents gave him positive reviews. ...

Forget about the mechanics and how smooth Francona was or was not coming in and out of breaks: He was insightful, and genuinely funny, both valuable commodities in broadcasting. On Tigers outfielder Delmon Young, Francona said, “He must be hurt. I’ve never seen him take a strike one. He’s usually swinging in the on-deck circle.” Francona laughed at his own cliches, needled the seven-year-old son of his former player, Victor Martinez, and was unafraid to question strategy of both managers. Francona said the game was faster in the booth than he imagined, and never realized the preparation that goes into a broadcast. “But I’m not trying to delude myself,” he said. “If they had just handed me a microphone, I’d have flopped. I’d have sunk. But the game was fun. I love the game of baseball and I had to remind myself I was working. They were two good games, and two good, long games. I thought I felt more comfortable yesterday, which is an obvious statement because I had a day under my belt.”

Greg Franklin Posted: October 11, 2011 at 09:55 PM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: business, media, red sox, reviews, television

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hirsch: ‘Moneyball’ is Entertaining, and Not Accurate

Hirsch: Without a Clue.

All told, there is zero evidence to support one of Moneyball’s pillars: Beane’s unique ability to identify and draft undervalued prospective stars. Indeed, Beane’s weak track record drafting players clearly contributed to the team’s disastrous performance in 2011. Many low-budget teams fared better – not just this year but over the past several years.

In Lewis’s telling, the A’s use of advanced statistics also produced superior game management. The team adhered to a key tenet of the advanced statistics crowd: outs are too precious to give up with sacrifice bunts or to risk with aggressive base-running. There are various problems with this overly tidy analysis, and both pre- and post-Moneyball many teams thrived by ignoring the admonition against risky base-running. Beane himself came to see the light – his A’s have become an aggressive base-running team.

Asked about the change in tactics, Beane cites the intangible effects that mathematical formulae cannot capture. His teams take chances on the bases because of the cascading benefits of what Beane calls the “mentality of aggressiveness.” Beane deserves credit for changing course, but that doesn’t change the fact that another key insight attributed to him by Moneyball did not stand the test of time.

Repoz Posted: October 08, 2011 at 10:57 AM | 21 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, books, media, reviews, sabermetrics

Friday, October 07, 2011

Brisbee: The New Miami Marlins Logo Is No Longer The Worst Thing Ever

If Carnival and Las Vegas had a baby, this would be the placenta. If Charlton Heston ever lands on Planet of the Fish, this will be their version of the “It’s a Small World” ride. This is what would happen if Vikings attacked a Gloria Estefan concert by catapulting flamingos and marlins into the pyrotechnics display.

JE (Jason) Posted: October 07, 2011 at 03:21 PM | 90 comment(s)
  Beats: miami, reviews

Sunday, September 25, 2011

‘Duk: Art Howe isn’t happy about his portrayal in ‘Moneyball’

We didn’t get it today, but we battled and we will be back at the Oscars next year!

Former Oakland Athletics manager Art Howe (above, right)  hasn’t seen ‘Moneyball’ yet, but he’s talked with people who have and he says he isn’t thrilled with the way he’s portrayed in the film.

Here’s Howe on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio:

  “Considering the book wasn’t real favorable to me to start with I figured it would be something like this but to be honest with you it is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons and this is the way evidently your boss (Beane) feels about you.

  Art Howe isn’t happy about his portrayal in ‘Moneyball’“They never called me to get my slant on things as far as the movie was concerned.  So, I mean, it’s coming from someone.  I don’t know who it is but maybe it is Hollywood to make it sell, I guess.  I don’t know.  It’s disappointing.  I spent my whole career trying to build a good reputation and I think I did that but this movie certainly doesn’t help it.  And it is definitely unfair and untrue.  If you ask any player that ever played for me they would say that they never saw this side of me, ever.”

...But Howe doesn’t see it quite the same way.

  “The thing that bothers me about the movie is that, you know, I think everybody in baseball knows who I am but so many people who are going to be seeing this movie really don’t know me.  This is their impression of me probably the rest of my life so that’s disappointing.”

Repoz Posted: September 25, 2011 at 04:31 PM | 25 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, awards, books, media, reviews

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Posnanski: Moneyball The Movie

“They broke down Chad Bradford’s pitching style”... wannabes.

There are baseball details so real that no other filmmaker would have ever dared even try it. They broke down Chad Bradford’s pitching style. They use the key sabermetric phrase “small sample size.” They spent a good chunk of the movie talking about Beane’s fascination with left-handed specialist Ricardo Rincon, for crying out loud. And then, on the other hand, they have a whole movie about the 2002 Oakland A’s without even subtly mentioning Miguel Tejada, who happened to win the league MVP, or Barry ZIto, who happened to win the Cy Young. Brad Pitt fans will leave the theater feeling pretty sure that the 2002 Oakland A’s won 103 games because of Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford.

My friend Scott Raab says that to enjoy baseball movies, you have to turn your baseball mind off because “of all our sports, it’s the most complex and indecipherable. I love it so.” I think he’s right. There’s just something about Moneyball, because of its subject matter, that promised a kind of realism that would appeal to baseball geeks like me. In some fun ways, the movie delivers those details. In others, it disappoints. But I suppose it’s really unfair to ask that sort of statistical precision and depth from a Hollywood movie when, to be honest, you don’t get it from most Major League Baseball teams.

Moneyball is a funny movie. There are three or four scenes that made me laugh out loud…. There are at least three lines that I have quoted to friends since the movie ended…

... Moneyball has good performances… [Phillip Seymour] Hoffman is so good that part of me wished the whole movie was actually about Art Howe (Call it Art-pote or something). Jonah Hill seems to have a great time playing the geeky assistant general manager.

And Brad Pitt really is a lot of fun as Billy Beane. In the end, I don’t actually think he’s playing Billy Beane, the A’s GM… But his characterization of Beane is so likable, while being defiant, that it works…

This is a pretty long movie—more than two hours. And there are a lot of scenes where nothing happens. We spend a good chunk of time alone with Billy Beane in the car. There are plot swings that don’t go anywhere. There’s a lot of actual baseball footage—probably more than has ever before been in a major motion picture. And, let’s face it, some of the crucial questions of the movie are: (1) Will Beane be able to acquire Ricardo Rincon? (2) Will the A’s beat a terrible Kansas City Royals team? (3) Will A’s manager Art Howe realize he should have Chad Bradford, and not Mike Magnante, as the first man out of the pen?

These aren’t exactly, “Will Luke be able to destroy the Death Star,” or “Does Ilsa choose Rick or Victor” sorts of questions.

Yes, Moneyball was quite unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it on back-to-back nights in Oakland—once at a quiet press screening, the second time at a rowdy Premiere with all the stars of the movie in the audience—and the truth is that I generally liked it both times—a three-out-of-five star kind of enjoyment. As a movie fan, I didn’t really mind the trumped up drama. It’s a movie, and often a funny one.

... As a baseball fan, I didn’t like the movie DESPITE its questionable baseball turns. As a baseball fan, I liked it BECAUSE of its questionable baseball turns.

The District Attorney Posted: September 22, 2011 at 07:06 PM | 44 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, baseball geeks, business, media, reviews

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moviefone: ‘Moneyball’ Writer Michael Lewis Reviews Keith Law’s ‘Moneyball’ Pan

Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?

“Billy [Beane] called me and said Keith Law had sent him his review. I looked at it and I thought, What’s he talking about?” Lewis told Moviefone earlier on Wednesday. “It’s very weird that he’s on this. He’s intellectually dishonest, and I don’t know to what purpose.”

In his review, Law comes down hard on what the film cites as “Bill James bullsh-t” (James was the father of sabermetrics, the statical engine that drove Beane during the time period depicted in ‘Moneyball’), but Lewis says that wasn’t always the case.

“I don’t understand why he goes from being—when I interviewed Keith Law, and I did, at length—he was so nasty about scouts and scouting culture and the stupidity of baseball insiders. He was the reductio ad absurdum of the person who was the smarty pants who had been brought into the game and was smarter than everybody else. He alienated people. And now he’s casting himself as someone who sees the value of the old school. I can’t see where this is all heading and why. But I learned from experience that the best thing to do is ignore it, because it goes away.”

Check back to Moviefone next week for more with author Michael Lewis about ‘Moneyball.’ The film hits theaters on Sept. 23.

JE (Jason) Posted: September 14, 2011 at 10:43 PM | 282 comment(s)
  Beats: reviews

Keith Law: Moneyball

I’m sorta reminded of the time Effin’ Stink Lad (non-LOSH) cruised a dump on D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage because he was too close to the action.

Moneyball, the movie, is an absolute mess of a film, the type of muddled end product you’d expect from a project that took several years and went through multiple writers and directors. Even good performances by a cast of big names and some clever makeup work couldn’t save this movie, and if I hadnt been planning to review it, I would have walked out.

...Then there’s the baseball stuff, which is not good. For starters, the lampooning of scouts, which draws from the book, isn’t any more welcome on screen (where some of the scouts are played by actual scouts) than it was on the page; they are set up as dim-witted bowling pins for Beane and Brand to knock down with their spreadsheets. It’s cheap writing, and unfair to the real people being depicted. Current Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota also gets murdered in a drive-by line that depicts him as a clueless intern given the head scouting role after Beane fires Grady Fuson in April after a clubhouse argument (that never really happened). I’ll confess to laughing at the scout referring to “this Bill James bullshit,” although the A’s bought into that bullshit years before the film claims they did - and, in fact, hired Paul Depodesta three years before the movie-A’s hired Brand. (In the film, Fuson refers to Brand as “Google boy,” a term applied to Depodesta by Luddite beat writers in LA three years later.)

 

Repoz Posted: September 14, 2011 at 10:46 AM | 326 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, books, media, reviews, site news

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

HardballTalk: Gleeman at the movies: “Moneyball” review

A Gleebert-length review.

As a hardcore baseball fan who paid close attention to Billy Beane and the A’s during the period portrayed in the film there were a lot of specifics that stood out as questionable, particularly in terms of the movie’s time lines and exaggerated portrayals of certain characters (although the book is guilty of the latter as well).

However, what the movie lacked in historical accuracy it made up for in witty dialogue, likable characters, and a surprising amount of humor. I saw the movie in a packed theater and there were at least 8-10 moments where the entire audience laughed out loud, which certainly isn’t what I expected. ...

While creative license was taken with plenty of time lines and specifics, the film also does an excellent job of staying true to the most minute details. They mention dozens of actual players, mostly in situations that actually existed, and all of the recreations of games featured the players who were truly involved. When you see the A’s playing the Royals and Luis Ordaz is on second base, you know they combed through the boxscores in order to get every little thing correct.

Greg Franklin Posted: September 13, 2011 at 04:43 PM | 50 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, baseball geeks, books, business, media, reviews

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Onion AV Club: Murray: Sunday Night Baseball, reviewed

B-: Better than Damnation Alley, worse than Beirut. Time to get out the pitchforks?

There are some fundamental aspects of the ESPN Sunday baseball broadcast that work. They look good, with minimal frippery, aside from the live K-Zone (which I could certainly do without). I do miss Jon Miller—who has a way of making even routine fly balls sound like a wondrous surprise—but Shulman has a rich, Al Michaels-like voice, and a refreshingly professional demeanor. In tonight’s game, he peppered his call of the action with updates of what happened around the league this afternoon and tidbits about the historic importance of Wrigley Field. He did what a good play-by-play man is supposed to do: provide context for the game, both for this day and in general. About all I can fault him on is a lack of camaraderie with his partner. I rarely get the sense that Shulman and Valentine are having a great time together. There’s no apparent animosity, just very little… ease. ...

Sunday Night Baseball did have reporters Buster Olney and Pedro Gomez hustling around the park. Olney provided some actual value, suggesting some possible candidates for the now-vacant Cubs GM position and breaking the news that the Angels’ Jered Weaver has signed a five-year contract. Gomez’s main contribution, on the other hand, was an innocuous in-game interview with Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa, in which Gomez asked, “How important is it to get out of here without being swept?” (Um… very?)

Greg Franklin Posted: August 25, 2011 at 07:20 PM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: announcers, business, media, reviews, television

Friday, July 22, 2011

Brad Pitt’s Moneyball gets new poster

(throws corn across room)

image

More posters have been revealed and this time for some interesting films. First off is the baseball dramedy MONEYBALL, starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman and directed by Bennett Miller. Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s back in 2002 most known for using a modern analytical system to draft players. The poster is actually pretty lame and reminds me a little too much of FIELD OF DREAMS. However, the basic point is made, as in the film is about baseball and Brad Pitt has some big dreams of sorts.

Repoz Posted: July 22, 2011 at 02:12 PM | 55 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, media, reviews, sabermetrics

 

 

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