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Friday, August 08, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 8/6/14 - 8/8/14

But Jeff Bagwell’s son won’t pass for a while…

... do you think that baseball is best served if Felix and Kershaw et al are there pitching the whole game, and if their bodies can’t handle it, then the structure of baseball should adapt to allow for it?...

... I think it would be desirable to have cleaner matchup. “Conceptual clarity” sounds like an esoteric concept, but it is fundamental to the success of any esthetic medium. You go to a movie, you want to know what the movie is about. If you the plot line is a mess, it diminishes the movie. If a work of music is all over the place, we regard it as a failed effort. A baseball game of constantly changing pitchers is like a movie with a convoluted plot line: you don’t know what it is ABOUT.

... I disagree slightly with your observation that “A baseball game of constantly changing pitchers is like a movie with a convoluted plot line: you don’t know what it is ABOUT.” Actually, I think we know what it is about—it’s about the cleverness of the two managers in trying to out-maneuver one another with pitching changes and pinch hitters. The problem is that this is a really boring thing to watch.

Thanks. I think I agree with that.

...what are your thoughts on George “High Pockets” Kelly being in the HOF?

Oh, I used to get regular hate mail from George Kelly’s son. No ####; I really did. Kelly’s selection to the Hall of Fame was absurd, farcical. Bob Watson would have been a better Hall of Fame selection that George Kelly. But after I wrote things like that a few times I used to get nasty letters from George Kelly’s son, who I think was named Walter. I assume that Walter has passed on, because I haven’t heard from him for ten years.

... What can you tell us about the decision to turn Papelbon into a starter? Was it just an experiment at first? Was there ever an announcement about it? Was it based on Boston’s needs or mainly just his skills? Was it something Jonathan was happy to do? Etc.

Jonathan kind of drove the train; Jonathan and need. We needed a closer, and he was pitching relief and doing really well, but the plans of the organization were to make him a starter. But it just got away from us; we had a good starting rotation, and Jon decided that he wanted to Close, and Terry wanted to keep him as the closer, so the front office would have had to use firearms to keep him in the rotation, more or less. And we just don’t operate that way.

The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2014 at 10:50 AM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, george kelly, hall of fame, jonathan papelbon, red sox, rules, sabermetrics

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   1. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 11:46 AM (#4767074)
“A baseball game of constantly changing pitchers is like a movie with a convoluted plot line: you don’t know what it is ABOUT.” Actually, I think we know what it is about—it’s about the cleverness of the two managers


Good point. Football, for all its intensive strategy and continually shifting lineups and formations, tends to be a story about the quarterback's ability to drive the ball, with occasional supporting cast (star RB, receivers) and blocking characters (secondary, a key pass rusher).

In baseball, the pitcher is the quarterback; he's got the ball. Imagine a football game where QBs substituted in and out as frequently as tight ends or linebackers. The same plays might occur, but the story would be lacking, and it would become all about the play-callers; or rather, much more about them than it already is.

The analogy isn't exact (there are still one-way substitution and set lineups in baseball), but it's illuminating.
   2. Greg K Posted: August 08, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4767086)
The analogy isn't exact (there are still one-way substitution and set lineups in baseball), but it's illuminating.

Interesting way of looking at it. To stretch the analogy beyond coherence, I'm thinking about basketball or hockey. I think it holds more in basketball where the vast majority of the time the guy who is the focus of the narrative for the team is on the court. I don't watch much basketball but it usually seems like the game is about one or two guys on either team - to the extent that when he's off the court for a breather the story becomes about getting some points in before he gets back.

Hockey seems a bit more difficult as the max anyone plays is a few select defenceman who play half the minutes of the game.* But other than Bobby Orr, defenceman aren't really driving the narrative of the game. Perhaps this plays into the "random" complaints a lot of first time viewers have. It's hard to maintain a narrative when the actors are constantly coming and going.

*Absent goalies of course, but goalies can't really be what the game is about because they're legally barred from involvement in a lot of the play.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4767122)
goalies can't really be what the game is about because they're legally barred from involvement in a lot of the play


This must be only under Canadian law - in the U.S., as far as I know, there are no criminal or civil penalties for improper goalie involvement. I know Canadians take their hockey seriously and all, but still...
   4. OsunaSakata Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4767130)
What were the suggestions for keeping starters in longer? Limiting the roster for individual games?

If Defensive Efficiency Rating is not available, team BABIP is a good substitute.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:54 PM (#4767144)
Kelly’s selection to the Hall of Fame was absurd

No kidding.

A 1B with a 109 OPS+ in 6500 PA. Total joke.
   6. stanmvp48 Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:57 PM (#4767147)
And a first baseman I believe. Wasnt' he one of Frisch's teammates?
   7. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4767155)
Highlights of George Kelly's HOF case: Excellent defender. MVP candidate in 1925 when he took over second base for the Giants: how many first basemen could do that mid-career? Two RBI titles. Tied for third in home runs in the National League for the years 1921-25. Decent baserunner. Regular on four straight pennant-winners.

The most similar career ever was Fred Merkle's, appropriately enough. Most similar most recent players were Pete O'Brien and JT Snow. Good players, mind you, but you'd probably have to say HOtG, not even HOVG.
   8. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 08, 2014 at 01:20 PM (#4767172)
And a first baseman I believe. Wasnt' he one of Frisch's teammates?


Yes, yes he was.
If you look at the 1920-1925 NY Giants you see some real fine teams (4 1st place finishes, 2 2nd place, won 2 World Series, with some real good players like:

Frankie Frisch 2b/3b: .328/.376/.458 in 3662 PAs (just Giants stats)
High Pockets Kelly: 307/.353/.479 in 3817 PAs
Ross Youngs: .329/.408/.457 in 3793 PAs
Dave Bancroft: .312/.384/.416 in 2444 PAs
Travis Jackson:.288/.323/.407 in 1436 PAs (he then broke out in 1926 hitting: .327/.362/.494, Frisch was still wit them but the Giants collapsed to 5th in 1926)

Hall of famers all :-)
The equivalent would be to take the 1996-2000 Yankees and put in Paul O'Neil AND Bernie Williams AND Posada AND Tino Martinez..

One (just one) guy is missing, Irish Meusel, 4 full years as Frankie's teammate, 1922-1925, hit .316 and led the Giants in ribbies with 470 over that span (lead the league itself with 125 in 1923)
Irish is not in the HOF, I can only assume he slept with Frankie's wife or ran over his dog.
   9. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 01:37 PM (#4767192)
I forgot to mention outstanding nickname. John R Tunis later used it for a character in his Dodger novels; one of them is even titled Highpockets.
   10. AROM Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:02 PM (#4767204)
What can you tell us about the decision to turn Papelbon into a starter? Was it just an experiment at first?


It wouldn't have been that much of an experiment. He had been a starter in the minors. His late 2005 debut included 3 starts where he pitched well - 2.25 ERA in 16 innings, though his K-W was 15-10. We'll never know how he would have done. You'd expect his fastball to be slower having to pace himself, and 33 starts, 200 innings is a workload that not everyone can handle.

He might have become a great starter after a year in the pen, like Chris Sale has, but he could have run into problems similar to the Joba Chamberlain experience.

As a relief pitcher, he's still great. Knowing how well that turned out for him I would not trade it for the unknown. With all the talk about his contract being untradeable, he's having yet another great year, 1.68 ERA and 2.56 FIP.

Among pitchers with 200+ career saves, he's 15th in WAR right now, with 22. A strong finish to his career could put him in the top 5 among relievers. Right now the WAR list goes Eck-Mo-Hoyt-Goose (42), all in the HOF or will get there, then a big gap before you get to Lee Smith (29).
   11. AROM Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4767209)
I thought part of Kelly's case is that he had some huge batting averages in years where everyone hit for average. But for his career, just .297. Career best of .328. The league BA during his career was .291.

He was about the same player as Wes Parker - great fielder, slightly above average hitter at 1B. Parker playing in the 60's hit only .267, but he exceeded his league batting average by 15 points.
   12. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:18 PM (#4767216)
The HOF case for Kelly -- by which I mean: the case people actually made for Kelly prior to his induction -- is that he was the leader and most important player for the only NL team ever to win four straight pennants. McGraw thought he was their best player (considering offense, defense, and base running). Rickey thought he was a great player. McGraw would also add, and I would agree, that a first baseman was a much more important part of a defense in Kelly's time than it would be later. Kelly did not play first base because he could not play other positions -- it did not work that way then. He was considered a great infielder.

You might think that is an unconvincing case to make. I would not defend it. But it is silly to trash his case based on his career value since people did not think in those terms at the time.

On a related note. Do we have any actual proof that Frankie Frisch was the guy responsible for getting all his teammates in? James presented circumstantial evidence 20 years ago, but it seems to be treated as fact today.
   13. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:30 PM (#4767226)
The one basic problem with the Kelly HOF argument (IE people back then evaluated players differently) is that the dude got absolutely no support in the actual voting when he was on the ballot. Got a combined 4 votes from 1947-1949. And even after the voting was standardized more and the backlog of players more settled, he still go no support in the late 50s and early 60s.

It doesn't seem like much of anyone thought he was a Hall of Famer until one day he was one.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4767230)
The HOF case for Kelly -- by which I mean: the case people actually made for Kelly prior to his induction -- is that he was the leader and most important player for the only NL team ever to win four straight pennants. McGraw thought he was their best player (considering offense, defense, and base running). Rickey thought he was a great player. McGraw would also add, and I would agree, that a first baseman was a much more important part of a defense in Kelly's time than it would be later. Kelly did not play first base because he could not play other positions -- it did not work that way then. He was considered a great infielder.

What's his advantage over someone like Bob Meusel?

In 11 years Meusel had 6026 PA, 156 HR, 1064 RBI, batted .309, stole 153 bases, was known as a fine defensive OF, and was part of the Yankees first dynasty (playing on 6 pennant winners and 3 WS winners).

Kelly took 16 years to amass 6570 PA, 148 HR, 1020 RBI, batted .297, stole 65 bases, was known as a fine defensive 1B, and was part of a Giants dynasty (playing on 5 pennant winners and 2 WS winners).

By traditional stats, Meusel was better, and never got more than a handful of HoF votes, as far as I can tell.

   15. McCoy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:46 PM (#4767236)
They may have thought first base was an important fielding position but by the time Kelly was playing the web had been installed in gloves and the game was being transformed into a different offensive game than the one that featured bunts, running around the bases like a chicken with its head cut off, and the old "inside baseball" type game.
   16. AROM Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:46 PM (#4767237)
Good point Voros. He's a much different case than one of the recent mistake, Jim Rice, who actually got to 75%. Flawed arguments got him in, but at least there are arguments. With Kelly we're just trying to find excuses to justify it after the fact.

Kelly may have been the leader of the 1921-24 teams, but Frankie Frisch was the best player. Ross Youngs was probably #2.
   17. AROM Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4767240)
Never mind Bob, I don't see much to put Kelly ahead of Irish Meusel, another teammate from 21-24.
   18. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4767249)
Bob and Irish both managed to record career OPS+s of 118.
   19. McCoy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4767257)
If you think about it Frankie appears to be the only guy who truly understood what the HoF was actually about. The place is a tourist trap and what better way to get people to come up to upstate NY than to induct a ton of NY players?
   20. GregD Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:06 PM (#4767263)
If you think about it Frankie appears to be the only guy who truly understood what the HoF was actually about. The place is a tourist trap and what better way to get people to come up to upstate NY than to induct a ton of NY players?
This is a good point. Did people show up for ceremonies for the 20s Giants, though?
   21. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4767266)
BaseballLibrary says of the elder Meusel: "Though of Alsatian heritage, Irish got his nickname because he looked Celtic." OK.
   22. McCoy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4767273)

This is a good point. Did people show up for ceremonies for the 20s Giants, though?


In 1973 you had Warren Spahn as the only guy to get in by regular voting with Roberto getting in under special circumstances. In 1971 you had no one get voted in and 1972 had Koufax, Wynn, and Berra. So 2 out of the 3 years having some NY guys certainly didn't hurt getting people through the turnstiles.
   23. The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4767275)
What can you tell us about the decision to turn Papelbon into a starter?
I'm guessing this meant to say "closer."


Do we have any actual proof that Frankie Frisch was the guy responsible for getting all his teammates in? James presented circumstantial evidence 20 years ago, but it seems to be treated as fact today.
You're right that it's a theory, rather than a fact. But it's the best theory we've got, no?

• The people involved are now dead.
• Even if they were alive, VC members have always been exceedingly secretive about the details of the meetings.
• Even if you could have an honest conversation with them, they wouldn't say "Frisch browbeat us into electing these guys", because a) that would make the person saying it sound like a chump, and b) that's not how people even process the experience of being talked into something.
• Frisch was on the committee.
• Frisch was known as a strong, overbearing personality.
• The correlation between people elected during this era and people with whom Frisch played is extremely high.

And yeah, of course Kelly was a good player, and if asked to make a HOF case for him, one could say some nice things about him, rather than merely sputtering incoherently. The problem isn't that an argument for him is impossible; the problem is that you can make a better case for 100 other guys.

I'll say this, though... I was trying to make the "least-known" Hall of Famers team the other day... and, well, who's less well-known, George Kelly or Jake Beckley? Lloyd Waner or Sam Thompson? Jesse Haines or Eppa Rixey? The answer to each of these questions, of course, is "only an insane person would care about the answer to this question." But at least speaking for myself, I have come to know more about the first member of each pair than the second. Horrible picks attract more attention than merely uninspiring picks. There's no such thing as bad publicity, I-Think-Was-Named-Walter Kelly!¹

¹ Highpockets Jr.? Lowpockets?
   24. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4767286)
pretty sure bill's info comes from discussions with others who knew Fred lieb

Lieb pushed back in how own way on at least some these selections but didn't work. Lieb would talk about Frisch wearing down the voters
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4767292)
Or maybe he spoke directly to lieb. He is certainly old enough to have somehow met lieb
   26. GregD Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4767378)
#23, your point is good though I think narrowly people know about Lloyd Waner because of the brother and the cool nickname more than because he was a bad HOF choice. But yes Kelly is much more famous as a bad HOF choice than if he were thought of as a mediocre one.
   27. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:43 PM (#4767396)
Veterans Committee picks who never got 10% of the vote from the BBWAA (best showing & year of best showing in parenthesis):

Heinie Manush (9.4% in 1962)
Joe Sewell (8.6% in 1960)
Jesse Haines (8.3% in 1958)
Travis Jackson (7.3% in 1956)
Earl Averill (5.3% in 1958)
Fred Lindstrom (4.4% in 1962)
Sam Crawford (4.2% in 1938)
Larry Doby (3.4% in 1967)
Rick Ferrell(3.4% in 1958)
Amos Ruise (3.1% in 1938)
Harry Hooper (3.0% in 1937)
Bobby Wallace (2.7% in 1938)
Kid Nichols (2.6% in 1939)
Jack Chesbro (2.2% in 1936 and 1939)
High Pockets Kelly: (1.9% in 1960)
Jesse Burkett (1.7% in 1942)
Buck Ewing (0.7% in 1939)
Elmer Flick (0.4% in 1938)
Billy Hamilton (0.4% in 1942)
Joe Kelley (0.4% in 1939)

The list is all over the place. Really, I shouldn't include 19th century players. Those were guys who peaked 40 years (or more) before voting began. Plus they were on the most crowded ballots ever. And some - like Nichols and Ewing - were put in to Cooperstown right away by the VC.

Frankly, a similar case can be made for Deadballers. Sam Crawford, for instance, had been retired for almost 20 years when the first vote happened. Under traditional rules he'd only be eligible for one or two years - years when guys like Nap Lajoie and Pete Alexander had trouble getting in.

Which liveballers did the worst, then? Here they are, by year inducted:

Heinie Manush (1964)
Jesse Haines (1970)
Harry Hooper (1971)
High Pockets Kelly (1973)
Earl Averill (1975)
Fred Lindstrom (1976)
Joe Sewell (1977)
Travis Jackson (1982)
Rick Ferrell (1984)
Larry Doby (1998 - and he is half-in for his Negro League numbers)


What's interesting is that some guys did OK in BBWAA voting. Lloyd Waner peaked at 23.4%, for instance.
   28. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4767403)
#23: There is a Sporcle quiz to name all of the HOF players in 20 minutes. Looking at the results:

George Kelly (46%) over Jake Beckley (28%)
Lloyd Waner (57%) over Sam Thompson (47%)
Eppa Rixey (36%) over Jesse Haines (29%)
   29. The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4767421)
#28: The potential issue there is that Sporcle usually will credit you for multiple correct responses with one answer. So you could type "Waner" going for Paul, and you would get credit for Lloyd, without necessarily knowing that there was such a person. And I suppose you could be going for King Kelly or Joe Kelley and get George, although it's not like those two are household names either, and of course you'd be spelling it wrong going for Joe.

Still, that is probably the closest we're gonna get to an objective measure of how well-known people like this are. So thanks for the link, I will check it out ;-)
   30. villageidiom Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4767451)
I'm guessing this meant to say "closer."
No, "starter". His first MLB appearance* was as a starter. His minor-league appearances to that point were almost entirely as a starter. At some point they moved him to the bullpen, and he thrived. When Keith Foulke immolated Papelbon was inserted as the closer. He thrived until he literally threw his arm out of its socket later that year.

The subsequent season they had planned to go back to using him as a starter, with the thought that not going all-out on each pitch would be better for his shoulder. That, and they had only pressed him into relief duty out of need in the first place. (Link.)

Through a good portion of spring training the next year he was a starter. But that year they had seven starters in spring training; nobody was owning the closer role; Papelbon missed being the closer; and Francona missed having him as the closer. So they aborted the effort to convert the "proven" reliever into a starter.

Even though they had previously converted the starter into a reliever.

* Still have my ticket stub!
   31. Greg K Posted: August 08, 2014 at 06:59 PM (#4767509)
Lloyd Waner (57%) over Sam Thompson (47%)

This is actually surprising to me as if you type in "Waner" it fills out both Paul and Lloyd. So I'd expect Lloyd to be away ahead. Though perhaps there's a lot of people just tying in "Thompson" and hoping someone in the Hall fits.

I'd expect Lloyd Waner to be well known far out of proportion to his greatness simply because if you're enough of a fan to know Paul Waner, you probably know Lloyd too. As a kid I could never remember which one was the great one.
   32. AndrewJ Posted: August 08, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4767520)
In 1973 you had Warren Spahn as the only guy to get in by regular voting with Roberto getting in under special circumstances. In 1971 you had no one get voted in and 1972 had Koufax, Wynn, and Berra. So 2 out of the 3 years having some NY guys certainly didn't hurt getting people through the turnstiles.

The Veterans Committee took it easy with the NY players in 1974 when the BBWAA elected two pretty fair Yankees to the Hall.
   33. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 07:20 PM (#4767523)
My impression of Sam Thompson was that he was legitimately a heck of a good hitter, equal to Crawford and maybe even to Harry Heilmann or Joe Medwick or some better-known later great. But I could be wrong, and don't feel like looking it up right now. There may have been some illusions at work in his record.

What percentage of the BBWAA vote did Vic Willis ever get, I wonder? He surprised me as a Veterans selection because his W-L % wasn't great (with "only" ~250 wins), and he seemed to be very bad for bad teams but ahead of good teams, a kind of primeval Red Ruffing. WAR loves him to death, though, he has 67 of them, and is at 41st on the Elo Pitcher Rater between Drysdale and Marichal, which must mean that people who rate players there look at WAR, because I sincerely doubt anybody has any image of Vic Willis that supersedes one they might have of Don Drysdale or Juan Marichal.
   34. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 08, 2014 at 07:36 PM (#4767533)
... I disagree slightly with your observation that “A baseball game of constantly changing pitchers is like a movie with a convoluted plot line: you don’t know what it is ABOUT.” Actually, I think we know what it is about—it’s about the cleverness of the two managers in trying to out-maneuver one another with pitching changes and pinch hitters.


It never really was about that, and it's even less about that today. You simply don't have enough players on the bench to maneuver like that more than once per game.

What it's really about is using fresh arms rather than tired ones wherever it makes sense to do so, thus keeping all of your arms fresher. Even closers are babied (in the relative sense); you rarely see a closer being asked to pitch more than three days in a row, even going one inning at a time. The Pirates lost a game the other day when Clint Hurdle opted not to use Tony Watson in the 8th inning - the day after an off day - because he wanted to give him an extra day of rest, and the pitchers that he did use walked the ballpark.

*Everybody* - whether starter or reliever - is pitching fewer innings per outing, and that trend has been going on for years and years. It's more than just managers showing off how smart they are.

-- MWE
   35. The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2014 at 08:06 PM (#4767543)
No, "starter".
Well, semantics, perhaps. The questioner asks about converting Paps to starter... but then the wording of his question IMO indicates that he knows that Paps was a starter-turned-closer, and James answers it as if he were asking about the conversion to closer, describing the reasons why Paps ended up closing.
'
What percentage of the BBWAA vote did Vic Willis ever get, I wonder?
Didn't he just never get any votes? I mean, AFAIK, we have the voting history all the way back to 1936.

What it's really about is using fresh arms rather than tired ones wherever it makes sense to do so, thus keeping all of your arms fresher. [etc. etc.]
They're not talking about whether it makes sense strategically. They're talking about the fan experience. They're arguing it's more inherently compelling to take a rooting interest in Felix Hernandez vs. Clayton Kershaw, as opposed to Lloyd McClendon vs. Don Mattingly. And the more relievers get involved, the more the "story" of the game becomes about the latter, rather than the former.
   36. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 08:15 PM (#4767551)
I agree with Mike in part: it isn't about the cleverness of managers outmaneuvering each other. Modern pitcher usage is about exactly the opposite: taking the manager's judgment out of the equation. Managers establish "roles" for pitchers and rules about how long they can go and how frequently they can be used so that they don't have to decide when to use specific pitchers.
   37. bfan Posted: August 08, 2014 at 08:43 PM (#4767565)
Kelly’s selection to the Hall of Fame was absurd

No kidding.

A 1B with a 109 OPS+ in 6500 PA. Total joke.


Agreed. So no more silly hitters position players who hit like that for their career. Apply the same standard to LF and RF.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4767567)
Agreed. So no more silly hitters position players who hit like that for their career. Apply the same standard to LF and RF.


I'm fine with Ichiro going in with his probably 110 ops+ for a corner outfielder, but he's going to do it with probably over 10,000 plate appearances.
   39. Karl from NY Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:06 PM (#4767571)
On Ichiro... Should the Hall reward a player only moderately above average in overall value, if he has OMG INSANE skill in one facet of the game?

The voters tend to lean that way, since that makes stories.
   40. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:11 PM (#4767574)
On Ichiro... Should the Hall reward a player only moderately above average in overall value, if he has OMG INSANE skill in one facet of the game?


Well he had several OMG skills...his defense in his prime was probably the best at his position, his baserunning was also pretty good (by War he was generating close to 2 wins a season from those skills alone)

   41. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:30 PM (#4767583)
On Ichiro... Should the Hall reward a player only moderately above average in overall value, if he has OMG INSANE skill in one facet of the game?


I don't know about "moderately above average," but I would possibly promote a HOVG type of guy into the hall if he had one OMG INSANE skill.
   42. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2014 at 10:16 PM (#4767592)
Alas, Ichiro's OMG INSANE skill was in not doing all the things he could have done. :-)

From ages 27-36, Ichiro put up 55 WAR and 31 WAA. Moderately above-average is a teeny understatement.

The last 4 years of his career are turning out pretty useless but he's hardly alone in that regard when it comes to serious HoF candidates.
   43. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:02 AM (#4767634)
Though perhaps there's a lot of people just tying in "Thompson" and hoping someone in the Hall fits.

I think there's also a contingent that goes "Was Bobby Thomson a Hall of Famer?" but can't spell.
   44. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:10 AM (#4767638)
From ages 27-36, Ichiro put up 55 WAR and 31 WAA. Moderately above-average is a teeny understatement.


Not to mention a roughly half-decade of high-level performance before that in Japan that many like to take into account when considering his overall value/skill level.
   45. John DiFool2 Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:47 AM (#4767639)
For those curious about the outcome of another attempted Red Sox reliever-starter switch, Daniel Bard this year has thrown only 2/3rds of an inning (in A ball for the Rangers).

He has walked 9 batters-and plunked 7 of them. 13 earned runs, 175.50 ERA.

Read that again, very slowly.

Damn...
   46. bfan Posted: August 09, 2014 at 08:31 AM (#4767643)

I'm fine with Ichiro going in with his probably 110 ops+ for a corner outfielder, but he's going to do it with probably over 10,000 plate appearances


It seems pretty clear by trends that if he gets 10,000 plate appearances, he will not hold a 110+ OPS. What does 10,000 plate appearances mean? he was a below average hitter for his position, for a longer period? This is good?
   47. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 08:57 AM (#4767647)
How much is his OPS going to plunge over the next 500 plate appearances? A couple of points? And besides, no one said that his OPS was the reason to elect him. In fact, cardsfanboy seemed to suggest that he should be elected despite his OPS. What with the WAR total and that kind of stuff, presumably.
   48. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4767681)
George Kelly was a fine player, but his uncle Bill Lange might have been better; if you go by peak value. Lange's career was cut short, though, after he chose his wife over baseball.
   49. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4767683)
Not to mention a roughly half-decade of high-level performance before that in Japan that many like to take into account when considering his overall value/skill level.
Wait, Ichiro played in Japan?
   50. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 09, 2014 at 02:45 PM (#4767740)
Modern pitcher usage is about exactly the opposite: taking the manager's judgment out of the equation. Managers establish "roles" for pitchers and rules about how long they can go and how frequently they can be used so that they don't have to decide when to use specific pitchers.


It's your contention that establishing roles for pitchers, and rules for how long they can go and how frequently they can be used, don't involve the manager's judgment?

Of course managers are still using their judgment in running a bullpen. They've just made that judgment over the long term, rather than on a game-by-game basis. That may be right, and it may be wrong, but it certainly involves judgment.
   51. Bruce Markusen Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:13 PM (#4767877)
Managers are still using judgment, but a lot of the decision-making has become push button and formulaic:

Closers pitch the ninth inning--and rarely come into the game with runners on base.

Most relievers pitch one inning--and that's it, regardless of circumstance. When you're leading, you have a seventh inning guy, and an eighth inning guy, and then the closer.

Most teams have a lefty specialist who faces one or two left-handed batters before leaving the game.

There is very little room for creativity, or variance, or imagination. If the manager strays too far from the above game plan, he is likely to hear about it from the general manager.

   52. zack Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:35 PM (#4767884)
Managers are still using judgment, but a lot of the decision-making has become push button and formulaic:

I'm pretty sure you could write a script that would manage baseball games and be indistinguishable from an actual manager in almost all cases.
   53. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 01:31 AM (#4767914)
It's your contention that establishing roles for pitchers, and rules for how long they can go and how frequently they can be used, don't involve the manager's judgment?
No; it's my contention that managers aren't doing that. They do have to decide which pitchers on the roster to slot into each role, but the roles themselves are pre-established. As zack says in 52. Of course managers use judgment in building the roster in the first place; nobody said otherwise. We're talking about actual game management.
   54. bjhanke Posted: August 10, 2014 at 04:53 AM (#4767929)
This comment is, essentially, a response to Mark Armour's #12 -

One of the things that got said, over the years, was that there was at least one sportswriter on the VC who thought that Frank Frisch was God and would vote however Frisch voted. I can't say who those references were to, but I did get to know the St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg in his later days, and if they weren't referring to him, there was more than one of them. Bob openly admitted it. He thought Frisch was God, and voted accordingly. Also, Broeg got into baseball heavily in the 1920s, and so those players had the halo effect that all the heroes of your childhood do. For example, my dad, born in 1911, thought that George Sisler was God.

The defense at first base thing is NOT overrated and is almost certainly related to Kelly's getting elected. The dead ball era did, at least in the minds of managers, require the highest of defensive skills. You've all read the poem that says "he does not perform (?) like Harold Chase upon the fielding job." Who, now, if trying to come up with a paragon of defense, considering all positions, would even consider citing a first baseman? But in the DBE.... Sisler, to continue my dad's theme, WAS, when he was elected (1939) the best 1B of the 20th century whose career was over (Gehrig's was close, but not expected). The New Historical, while commenting on Sisler being overrated, has no one ranked above him who played before him except for Anson, Brouthers and Connor, all 19th century guys. In 1939, the Hall hadn't even been open for a decade. The people who elected Sisler were doing so because he WAS the best first baseman of their century so far, pending the retirement of Gehrig. Kelly was elected later, but on essentially the same grounds. If defense at 1B was as important as people in the DBE thought it was, Sisler would be Inner Circle. There is another factor with Sisler - he was not the same player, at all, after 1923, when an injury left him with double vision This shows up in his hitting stats, but it's just as true of his defense. Through 1922, Sisler was about as good as you got with the glove. After 1923, he was just another 1B. But the voters were going to remember the Sisler through 1922, who hit .400 twice, was second in the league to Ruth in homers one year, and was supposed to be the best 1b glove in the AL. Kelly didn't have those kind of credentials, but he probably was the best 1B glove in the NL, Hal Chase having suddenly left the Major Leagues. - Brock Hanke
   55. Tippecanoe Posted: August 10, 2014 at 07:47 AM (#4767935)
You've all read the poem that says "he does not perform (?) like Harold Chase upon the fielding job."


It is quoted in the Historical Baseball Abstract as "he does not act like Harold Chase...". It is from the 1915 Reach Guide, according to the book.
   56. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 10, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4767944)
You've all read the poem that says "he does not perform (?) like Harold Chase upon the fielding job."


I like that "you've all read" part. (smile)

It is quoted in the Historical Baseball Abstract as "he does not act like Harold Chase...". It is from the 1915 Reach Guide, according to the book.

Nobody can ever say that Bill James didn't dig deep to come up with his quotes. That poem was called "You Can't Escape 'Em", and it was buried on p. 365 of that 1915 Reach Guide, unindexed, below the Federal League's pitching records, and a few pages before a photo spread of the Ne-hi League of Little Rock, Arkansas.

You Can't Escape 'Em

Sometimes a raw recruit in Spring
Is not a pitching find;
He has no Walter Johnson's wing,
Nor Matty's wondrous mind;
He does not act like Harold Chase
Upon the fielding job,
But you will find in such a case
He hits like Tyrus Cobb.

   57. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4767962)
The people who elected Sisler were doing so because he WAS the best first baseman of their century so far

Indeed. Sisler was very much one of those guys who had several OMG skills; and even in the sober light of advanced metrics 95 years later, he was a 9-10 WAR player at his peak. He's in the HOM too – in some ways, as you note, Brock, his career (relatively speaking) is front-loaded, like an amplified version of Don Mattingly's. He was really, really talented, had already been legendary as a college player and was a solid pitching prospect at one point.
   58. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 10, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4767999)
No; it's my contention that managers aren't doing that.


Then who is?

They do have to decide which pitchers on the roster to slot into each role, but the roles themselves are pre-established. As zack says in 52.


Pre-established by whom? Just because those roles are commonly used across baseball doesn't mean the manager has no role in deciding them.

Of course managers use judgment in building the roster in the first place; nobody said otherwise. We're talking about actual game management.


You're creating an artificial distinction between game management and what you might call season management. Obviously, managers don't go all-out to win every single game. Clayton Kershaw doesn't start every game for the Dodgers. Why would you want to favor decisions made in the heat of the moment over decisions made in the long term, for the good of the entire season?

For all the belly-aching over push-button managing, it's not at all clear to me that the current system is detrimental to teams. Bullpens don't seem to be performing any worse, and pitchers' careers don't seem to be suffering. There's a tacit judgement that managers are doing this to make their jobs easier, but it seems more likely to me that managers are doing it to win ballgames.

The only reason to favor what David calls "game management" is that it's cool to see a reliever throw three and two thirds innings in a 5-4 game. Generally, sabermetrics favors objective criteria over esthetics, but in bullpen management, it seems to be the opposite.
   59. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:01 PM (#4768030)
Pre-established by whom?


Years of conventional wisdom. As is obvious. There is almost no decision to be "made" on the front of managing reliever usage in a typical, 9-inning game. All judgement is involved in who is slotted into which role, and a lot of that judgement is made over the manager's head.
   60. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4768035)
I dunno. As much as it can seem to be push-button doctrine, one still sees some managers leave a starter in the 6th or 7th inning, nearing 100-110 pitches, with every intention of pulling that starter should he allow a first or second man on base. Others will remove the starter and go with a fresh pitcher, bases empty. This is a nuance in the grand scheme of things, but it can decide games, and not everybody approaches it the same way, or the same way every time out.
   61. The District Attorney Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4768046)
The only reason to favor what David calls "game management" is that it's cool to see a reliever throw three and two thirds innings in a 5-4 game. Generally, sabermetrics favors objective criteria over esthetics, but in bullpen management, it seems to be the opposite.
Well, there's also the fact that if starters are pitching fewer innings each and relievers are pitching fewer innings each, that means that you can't carry as many bench hitters.

Essentially, I think there are two things you're trading off here. Everyone plays better with some (but not too much) rest -- hitters and pitchers -- but it's more of a factor for pitchers. And everyone plays better with the platoon advantage -- hitters and pitchers -- but it's more of a factor for hitters (since you realistically can't even start "platooning" pitchers until the late innings.)

It would be incorrect to devote all of the "optional" spots on the roster to hitters, ignoring the advantages of carrying some more pitchers. But it's just as incorrect IMO to do what we're doing now and devote them all to pitchers, ignoring the advantages of carrying some more hitters.
   62. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4768061)
Pre-established by whom? Just because those roles are commonly used across baseball doesn't mean the manager has no role in deciding them.
Well, it sort of does.

You're creating an artificial distinction between game management and what you might call season management. Obviously, managers don't go all-out to win every single game. Clayton Kershaw doesn't start every game for the Dodgers. Why would you want to favor decisions made in the heat of the moment over decisions made in the long term, for the good of the entire season?
The distinction is not "artificial," and I don't know what you mean about "want to favor." I didn't say anything about favoring anything; all I said was that bullpen usage is not a series of in-game tactical decisions. It's not managers trying to outsmart each other.

For all the belly-aching over push-button managing, it's not at all clear to me that the current system is detrimental to teams. Bullpens don't seem to be performing any worse, and pitchers' careers don't seem to be suffering. There's a tacit judgement that managers are doing this to make their jobs easier, but it seems more likely to me that managers are doing it to win ballgames.
Well, it could be both.
The only reason to favor what David calls "game management" is that it's cool to see a reliever throw three and two thirds innings in a 5-4 game. Generally, sabermetrics favors objective criteria over esthetics, but in bullpen management, it seems to be the opposite.
Baseball is entertainment. It's not entertaining to watch a parade of interchangeable parts pitch to a few batters each for no reason except that the pitching bot is programmed to change pitchers every few batters. Of course, in a 5-4 game the decisions could at least in theory be driven in part by game situations; but in a 6-1 game, it isn't. It's not that it's "cool" to see him throw 3 2/3 innings; it's that it's boring to see four pitchers throw 3 2/3 innings.

To be sure, I agree with you that a manager should manage based on winning rather than aesthetics; to the extent that modern bullpen management is the right strategy in the current environment, then I would favor various rule changes to alter that strategic calculation, and force more entertaining baseball. But other than "everyone is doing it," what evidence is there that it's better?
   63. alilisd Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:54 PM (#4768326)
46: Below average hitter for his position? How do you come to that conclusion?

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