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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bissinger: The Strange Genius of Tony La Russa

Buzz La Bissinger returns! (checks Sequel-Buzz for further info)

Whether you loved Tony La Russa, as many millions of fans did, or hated him, as far too many millions of fans did, the verdict on him is simple. In the aftermath of Monday’s surprising announcement, three days after his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, that he was retiring after a 33-year managerial career, we might as well get the boilerplate of his legacy out of the way so there is no confusion:

Over the past half-century of Major League Baseball, the 67-year-old has been the game’s best manager, best innovator, best thinker, and best strategist. There is no argument, at least to those who appreciate baseball. He also makes the current rage, Billy Beane of Moneyball book and film fame and the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, look like the general manager of a T-ball team in Toledo in terms of accomplishment, as opposed to hype and exaggeration.

...La Russa loved the lore of baseball. He was a romantic at heart, but the best thing about him is that he changed with the game. He still looked for ways to turn baseball on its head with positive results. He still managed every game as if it were the first game he ever managed so he would not get lazy, exhausting to contemplate, given he managed 5,097 games. He also had great respect for the work of the famed sabermetrician Bill James. Just as he also realized that no matter how many numbers you pour into a computer, there will never be a way to quantify the intangibles of heart and chemistry and desire that define the success or failure of all of us.

I for one hope the naysayers do come around. Because in baseball, in any sport, a person like Tony La Russa only comes around once in a lifetime.

Repoz Posted: November 01, 2011 at 09:34 AM | 294 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: books, cardinals, history, sabermetrics

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   1. bjhanke Posted: November 01, 2011 at 12:16 PM (#3984082)
One of the interesting and, I think, very very good things that TLR did was manipulating his various postseason rosters to make sure that everyone who had seriously contributed and who was still with the team got to play in the postseason. Because of the team's injury issues and TLR's - "extended" let us say - use of relief pitchers from AAA, the Cards really had more of a 28-man roster than a 25. TLR had to leave someone off in the first round, and it was Kyle McClellan, who had done Tony the service of volunteering to give up his setup man spot and become the 5 starter, but Kyle's arm was in desperate need of some rest. And then, sure enough, Kyle was on the roster for the Brewers. Westbrook also missed the first round, I think. But nobody missed the whole thing. It's that sort of thing that makes a manager well-liked by his players, even if writers and fans don't care for his public personality. - Brock Hanke
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: November 01, 2011 at 01:09 PM (#3984099)
Did Tony die? This reads like an obituary. Nice cheap shot on Billy Beane there, Buzz.

Over the past half-century of Major League Baseball, the 67-year-old has been the game’s best manager, best innovator, best thinker, and best strategist.

I have tremendous respect for Tony, but talk about hype and exaggeration. I suppose this is true if you ignore Davey Johnson, Earl Weaver, Whitey Herzog and so on ever existed. I know Buzz made a few bucks off of Tony, but jeez. Maybe Tony is the best of the best, but you can appreciate baseball and disagree that Tony LaRussa strides over the game like a colossal genius whom no one else can even approach.
   3. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:24 PM (#3984139)
He lucked out in the playoff crapshoots of 2006 and 2011. We shouldn't lose sight of this fact and attribute to skill what is nothing more than chance. (And in the case of 2011, undeserved chance.)
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:29 PM (#3984145)
He lucked out in the playoff crapshoots of 2006 and 2011. We shouldn't lose sight of this fact and attribute to skill what is nothing more than chance. (And in the case of 2011, undeserved chance.)


Sure, but he also unlucked out in 88 and 90 by that same shot crap philosophy. Still leaves him with three titles.
   5. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:35 PM (#3984152)
Sure, but he also unlucked out in 88 and 90 by that same shot crap philosophy. Still leaves him with three titles.

A couple of his vintage Card teams were pretty damn great, too.
   6. Bourbon Samurai Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:38 PM (#3984154)
One of the interesting and, I think, very very good things that TLR did was manipulating his various postseason rosters to make sure that everyone who had seriously contributed and who was still with the team got to play in the postseason


There's no question he got outsized contributions from his bench and back-end every year. Every year there was an Allen Craig or a Craig Paquette or a Tony Philips or whoever stepping forward.

And man, do I loathe the "playoffs are meaningless crapshoots" meme. There is luck involved, they are hard to predict, but most of the outcomes come from very small mistakes or successes by the individuals who are playing and managing the games.

I'm an A's fan, but they didn't lose those four straight division series because of "luck". They lost because they ###### up royally in key moments, again and again.
   7. JJ1986 Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:46 PM (#3984160)
He also makes the current rage, Billy Beane of Moneyball book and film fame and the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, look like the general manager of a T-ball team in Toledo in terms of accomplishment, as opposed to hype and exaggeration.


This is an awful sentence in so many ways.
   8. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:46 PM (#3984161)
He lucked out in the playoff crapshoots of 2006 and 2011. We shouldn't lose sight of this fact and attribute to skill what is nothing more than chance. (And in the case of 2011, undeserved chance.)

Winning as many games as the Cards did in September and October of this year does not cry out "crapshoot" nor "undeserved" to me.
   9. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:55 PM (#3984171)
Winning as many games as the Cards did in September and October of this year does not cry out "crapshoot" nor "undeserved" to me.


A 90-win team going 11-7 over 18 games, even against good competition, is nothing more than random chance. Means absolutely nothing.

His team this year did not deserve to be in the playoffs -- wild-card.

Every year there was an Allen Craig or a Craig Paquette or a Tony Philips or whoever stepping forward.

Well, that ... or there's Tiger pitchers throwing wet, bunted balls with cold hands all over Busch Stadium (2006), or there's a foot of height making the final out hit the wall rather than Nelson Cruz's glove (2011).
   10. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 02:55 PM (#3984172)
They went 33-21 in August and September. 5th best in the NL and 8th best overall.

edit: And they scored 19 more runs than they allowed in those 54 games.
   11. Bourbon Samurai Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:00 PM (#3984178)
Every year there was an Allen Craig or a Craig Paquette or a Tony Philips or whoever stepping forward.

Well, that ... or there's Tiger pitchers throwing wet, bunted balls with cold hands all over Busch Stadium (2006), or there's a foot of height making the final out hit the wall rather than Nelson Cruz's glove (2011).


What does that have to do with the productivity of benches under Larussa?
   12. Biscuit_pants Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:06 PM (#3984185)

A 90-win team going 11-7 over 18 games, even against good competition, is nothing more than random chance.
Completely disagree. Random chance implies has no control over, this is nowhere near the case here. Instead of random chance it would be better to say that the playoffs not the best determinant of who the best team is because two teams with winning percentages of less than .100 apart will have a hard to predict outcome in a 7 game series. Not random chance but not indicative of who the better team is. They may sound the same but they are not.
   13. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:07 PM (#3984187)
The notion that LaRussa is being honored because of just the 2006 and 2011 WS victories is ridiculous.

Tony LaRussa is 3rd all-time in wins by a manager.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:11 PM (#3984191)
What does that have to do with the productivity of benches under Larussa?


He's still bitter about 2006, when his undeserving Tigers lost to the flag-winning Cards. The rest is just lashing out.
   15. Bourbon Samurai Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:11 PM (#3984193)
Random chance implies has no control over, this is nowhere near the case here. Instead of random chance it would be better to say that the playoffs not the best determinant of who the best team is because two teams with winning percentages of less than .100 apart will have a hard to predict outcome in a 7 game series. Not random chance but not indicative of who the better team is. They may sound the same but they are not.


That's a good way to put it.

I dislike when people reference "luck" in playoff series as though a magical die was rolled and generated a certain outcome.

The tigers pitchers through away the balls because they ###### up. If you replayed the game ten more times it might not happen, but that doesn't mean it was "luck".
   16. Bourbon Samurai Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:13 PM (#3984196)
Or, to reference my own team, it wasn't luck that caused Eric Byrnes to miss home plate against the Red Sox in 03. It was the fact that Eric Byrnes is a gigantic ####### moron.
   17. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:18 PM (#3984205)

A 90-win team going 11-7 over 18 games, even against good competition, is nothing more than random chance. Means absolutely nothing.


It means you're the World Champions, baby!

You're free to assign meaning to whatever you choose, but for 99 percent of baseball fans (and 100 percent of baseball players), winning the World Series has great meaning. If you think it's more important to sort out in your own mind who some mythical, ultimately unknowable "best team" is, have at it. You and Ray can draw up a little certificate to give to them. I'm sure they'll be very impressed.
   18. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:28 PM (#3984212)
You're free to assign meaning to whatever you choose, but for 99 percent of baseball fans (and 100 percent of baseball players), winning the World Series has great meaning. If you think it's more important to sort out in your own mind who some mythical, ultimately unknowable "best team" is, have at it. You and Ray can draw up a little certificate to give to them. I'm sure they'll be very impressed.


Why am I being dragged into this? I love playoff baseball, and try to watch every game, whether the Red Sox are in it or not. I love watching good teams and great players compete at the highest level in the urgency of a short series with everything on the line.

I grant you I don't think it means very much who wins and loses, and that players/fans/media laughably think that it does. I understand, while most people don't, that "champion" does not necessarily mean that one team was better. I understand, while most people don't, that the "champions" don't have more toughness or character or heart or confidence than the other team. They just got bleeping lucky and won. You can play the same postseason over and over again under the same conditions and the results will look different every time.
   19. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:36 PM (#3984225)
If you think it's more important to sort out in your own mind who some mythical, ultimately unknowable "best team" is, have at it. You and Ray can draw up a little certificate to give to them. I'm sure they'll be very impressed.

I'm not sure of the identity of 2011's best team. I know it wasn't the St. Louis Cardinals.

Baseball playoffs that spit out the 8th (or so) best team as the "World Champions" are inherently flawed.
   20. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:42 PM (#3984231)
Winning as many games as the Cards did in September and October of this year does not cry out "crapshoot" nor "undeserved" to me.

A 90-win team going 11-7 over 18 games, even against good competition, is nothing more than random chance. Means absolutely nothing.
They went 33-21 in August and September. 5th best in the NL and 8th best overall.

Well, SBB left out September, which I specifically mentioned, and you added August, which I didn't. Why?
   21. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3984237)
Well, SBB left out September, which I specifically mentioned,

I fail to see the relevance of September. The season isn't 30 games long.

Using McCoy's numbers, they were the 8th best team in baseball record-wise in August and September. I'm utterly perplexed as to what that's supposed to prove, other than they weren't one of baseball's elite teams.

But we already knew that.
   22. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3984238)
Why am I being dragged into this?


Because you say things like this:

I grant you I don't think it means very much who wins and loses, and that players/fans/media laughably think that it does.


It's "laughable" that it means a lot to the players who wins? And then you say things like this:

I understand, while most people don't, that "champion" does not necessarily mean that one team was better.


"Most people" think that the Cardinals' victory establishes them as better than the Rangers? I'd love to see some examples of this.
   23. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:49 PM (#3984241)
Baseball playoffs that spit out the 8th (or so) best team as the "World Champions" are inherently flawed.


I'm skeptical they were even the 8th best team. They played in a weak division and had just 88 Pythagorean wins.

But the wildcard gives us these kinds of teams more often than the previous setup.
   24. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:51 PM (#3984243)
I'm skeptical they were even the 8th best team. They played in a weak division and had just 88 Pythagorean wins.

Me, too.

I was being charitable.
   25. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:52 PM (#3984245)
Well, SBB left out September, which I specifically mentioned, and you added August, which I didn't. Why?

I apparently read your post wrong. I thought it said August and September.

But I'm not sure what one month of the regular season plus the playoffs is going to prove. I mean if that is proof of something then what does March, April, May, June, July, and August prove?
   26. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:54 PM (#3984248)
postseason managerial records:

TLR: 70-57 in games, 16-11 in series

Cox: 67-69 in games, 12-15 in series

Torre: 85-58 in games, 19-11 in series

in Torre's case that breaks down to 57-25/14-3 through 2001, 28-33/5-8 after 2001
   27. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:54 PM (#3984250)
The Cards went 18-8 in September. Good for the best record in the NL. The Braves went 9-18 in September. Good for the worst record in the NL. The Cards swept a 3 game series against the Braves in their only matchup of September.
   28. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:56 PM (#3984252)
I mean if that is proof of something then what does March, April, May, June, July, and August prove?

I'm at work and can't check, but didn't the Cards destroy everyone the first two or three months of the season as well? I just think the endless carping on how they were a crappy team that got lucky is becoming hallucinatory. They did what other teams, however good they were, were unable to do, both over the season and through the playoffs. If people feel it counts for nothing, they do, but I can't figure out why they're watching or what they are expecting, I guess.
   29. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:56 PM (#3984254)
I'm an A's fan, but they didn't lose those four straight division series because of "luck". They lost because they ###### up royally in key moments, again and again.


Which was luck.

It was bad luck, to be sure, but it was luck all the same.
   30. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3984255)
He lucked out in the playoff crapshoots of 2006 and 2011. We shouldn't lose sight of this fact and attribute to skill what is nothing more than chance.

By the same token, didn't he luck out in 1983, 1988, 1990, 2004, and 2005?
   31. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:59 PM (#3984258)
By the same token, didn't he luck out in 1983, 1988, 1990, 2004, and 2005?

Perhaps but is different than getting lucky to get into the playoffs which is what I think is meant when people say he was lucky in 2006 and 2011.
   32. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 03:59 PM (#3984259)
Well, SBB left out September, which I specifically mentioned, and you added August, which I didn't. Why?


Well, why are you focusing on September and October? Did they not hold major league contests from April to August?
   33. Flynn Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#3984260)
The 1983 White Sox won the most games in baseball and didn't make the World Series. The 1988 and 1990 A's were famously upset by inferior clubs. The 2004 Cardinals won 105 games and got swept while the 2005 Cards lost in the NLCS to a team with 11 fewer wins.

The man's won two titles with meh teams (though this team is clearly a step above the '06 team, and played as well as anybody in the last three months) but he's had more than his fair share of unlucky losers as well.

I don't really see how anybody can look at his teams and come up with three World Series champs and five pennants - they'd just switch the winners around a bit.
   34. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:01 PM (#3984262)
I never said he wasn't an excellent manager and that he doesn't deserve accolades.

He just doesn't deserve them for winning the "World Series" in 2006 and 2011.

The 1988 and 1990 A's were famously upset by inferior clubs.

There's no legitimate basis to conclude that the '88 Dodgers and '90 Reds were inferior clubs. They played entirely different teams and schedules than their A's counterparts -- and won 4-1 and 4-0, respectively, head-to-head.

That isn't to say they might not have been inferior, just that it's baseless to say affirmatively that they were.

The loss of this ability to sensibly suspend disbelief during the postseason is the worst part of Comm. Tru-Coat's "One Moment in Time" postseason tournament matching teams that have already played common opponents, if not each other.
   35. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:02 PM (#3984263)
Well, why are you focusing on September and October? Did they not hold major league contests from April to August?

#28
   36. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:02 PM (#3984264)
Or, to reference my own team, it wasn't luck that caused Eric Byrnes to miss home plate against the Red Sox in 03. It was the fact that Eric Byrnes is a gigantic ####### moron.


No, it was luck.

Although that's not really what we mean when we say "The postseason is luck." Plays like the Byrnes play are part of that, but the term refers more to the idea that players and teams can have good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months. When these things happen in June nobody notices. But they happen in October and all of a sudden OMIGAWD It's A Big Deal.
   37. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:03 PM (#3984266)
I'm at work and can't check, but didn't the Cards destroy everyone the first two or three months of the season as well?

So are we going to divvy up months like they are games in a series?


April-16-11, ended month in first place by 2 games
May-17-12, , ended month in first place by 2.5 games
June-11-15, ended month tied for first place
July-13-13, ended month in second place by 2.5 games
August-15-13, ended month in second place by 8.5 games
September-18-8, ended month in second place by 6 games.

If we swap some wins in September for wins in June and July then what is the argument for the Cards? Why is an 18-8 September proof of something? Would a 15-11 September and a 14-12 June mean the same thing?
   38. Bourbon Samurai Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:05 PM (#3984267)
I write speeches for my boss all the time. Usually I make no mistakes but sometimes they creep in.

If, in the biggest speech of the year, I make a mistake and leave out a key fact, was that luck and not reflective of my true talent level? or did I #### up?

EDIT: it is bad luck that I ###### up an important moment, perhaps. But I still ###### up.
   39. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:07 PM (#3984268)
Lassus, they went .589 in April and May. Then they played .488 ball for three months. Then they went .692 in September.

But guess what? We can add these things up, and when we do, it comes out of the wash as 90 actual wins and 88 pythag wins. In a weak division. In a weak league.

Meh.
   40. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:10 PM (#3984269)
So are we going to divvy up months like they are games in a series? April-16-11, ended month in first place by 2 games May-17-12, , ended month in first place by 2.5 games June-11-15, ended month tied for first place July-13-13, ended month in second place by 2.5 games August-15-13, ended month in second place by 8.5 games September-18-8, ended month in second place by 6 games. If we swap some wins in September for wins in June and July then what is the argument for the Cards? Why is an 18-8 September proof of something? Would a 15-11 September and a 14-12 June mean the same thing?

My argument is solely that the Cardinals were a deserviing World Series team and winner. The September is part of the whole, and does count not on its own but as part of the entire reason why they are deserving. Again, recalling #28, WTF are people expecting when watching baseball, exactly?

Also, maybe I'm not even in opposition to you, I have no idea.
   41. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:12 PM (#3984272)
We can add these things up, and when we do, it comes out of the wash as 90 actual wins and 88 pythag wins.


Even if pythag wins mattered in the slightest (Hint: They don't), the Cardinals tied for the third-best pythagorean record in the NL. In other words, if we chose playoff teams by pythag records, the Cards would have deservedly been in the postseason.
   42. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3984275)
My argument is solely that the Cardinals were a deserviing World Series team and winner.


I agree they were "deserving," by definition, since they qualified under the structure in place. But that's not very interesting to me.

Were they one of the few best teams in baseball? No.

----

Even if pythag wins mattered in the slightest (Hint: They don't), the Cardinals tied for the third-best pythagorean record in the NL. In other words, if we chose playoff teams by pythag records, the Cards would have deservedly been in the postseason.


Weak division, weak league has been noted, Tom.
   43. McCoy Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:16 PM (#3984276)
I simply disagree with the notion that their September and October record means they deserved to win the WS.

I think they were lucky to get into the playoffs. But I don't think they were abnormally lucky to win it all once they got into the playoffs. Once you are in you are in.
   44. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:26 PM (#3984283)

But guess what? We can add these things up, and when we do, it comes out of the wash as 90 actual wins and 88 pythag wins. In a weak division. In a weak league.


Isn't that the point -- over what time are we measuring? Over eight weeks in September and October, the Cards were the best in the league. Over the entire season, they were eighth. Over the past 135 years, they are tied for fourth. Now, you can say that the second of those is more important than the first or the last, but it's all arbitrary.
   45. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:38 PM (#3984291)
Over the entire season, they were eighth. Over the past 135 years, they are tied for fourth. Now, you can say that the second of those is more important than the first or the last, but it's all arbitrary.

It's not arbitrary; they were awarded the title of "World Champions" for 2011, not a subset of 2011.

Nor were the eligible teams for the tournament that "determined" the "World Champion" based on records of a subset of 2011, but for the entire 2011 regular season.

Not that your point isn't intriguing -- a postseason involving first and second half champions with everyone reset to 0-0 after 81 games would be, in many respects, superior to the current system.
   46. phredbird Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:44 PM (#3984298)
He lucked out in the playoff crapshoots of 2006 and 2011. We shouldn't lose sight of this fact and attribute to skill what is nothing more than chance. (And in the case of 2011, undeserved chance.)


this tired meme again? so what about the 100-win teams from 2004 and 2005? shouldn't they have just been handed the WS trophy? they were arguably the best team in the majors both years.

Well, that ... or there's Tiger pitchers throwing wet, bunted balls with cold hands all over Busch Stadium (2006),


yeah, i remember how they cranked up the heat and dried off the field between innings before calling the st. louis players out of their personal barometric rejuvenating pods. dirty cheaters.
   47. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3984300)
I simply disagree with the notion that their September and October record means they deserved to win the WS.

Then who "deserves" to win the World Series, if not the team that actually wins it? The team with the best Pythagorean record?
   48. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3984304)
I agree they were "deserving," by definition, since they qualified under the structure in place. But that's not very interesting to me.

Well, that's completely fine, I haven't one problem with that.

But if you, SBB, and McCoy (and Hutcheson, in absentia) are arguing that it isn't interesting - or correct - empirically, that is what I am disagreeing with.
   49. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:51 PM (#3984308)
Then who "deserves" to win the World Series, if not the team that actually wins it?

So if it was a 26-team tournament won by the Royals, you'd deem them unequivocally and without deconstruction, the deserving "World Champions" of the 2011 baseball season?
   50. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM (#3984314)
Then who "deserves" to win the World Series, if not the team that actually wins it?

So if it was a 26-team tournament won by the Royals, you'd deem them unequivocally and without deconstruction, the deserving "World Champions" of the 2011 baseball season?


-blows whistle-

"Answering a question with a question."




-red flag thrown-



Ref goes to replay.








"Call stands."
   51. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3984325)
A team that does not deserve to be in the tournament that decides eligibility to play in the World Series, by definition, does not deserve to win the World Series -- whether or not they actually did.

I see no non-arbitrary reason the Cardinals should have been allowed in the tournament. Accordingly, they did not deserve to win the World Series.
   52. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:05 PM (#3984326)
When a fan reaches into the field of play and turns an probable out into a home run, that's luck.

When a player picks up a baseball and heaves it 10 feet wide of the mark, that's not luck. That's failure to execute, which is based on skill.
   53. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:06 PM (#3984327)
I see no non-arbitrary reason the Cardinals should have been allowed in the tournament. Accordingly, they did not deserve to win the World Series.

Non-arbitrary? The rules are "arbitrary"?
   54. rr Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:07 PM (#3984328)
I think talking about LaRussa's post-season record is interesting, but the key to greatness as a manager is combining longevity and effectiveness--not many guys can. LaRussa put guys in position to succeed, established good relationships with his very best/key guys so they bought in, and always knew what he was trying to do and how he was trying to do it. He was that way in Chicago, in Oakland, and in St. Louis, and he won in all three places.

Sure, he has tactical blind spots, and yes, he can be self-righteous, pompous, and manipulative; and no, I don't think he's a "genius". But the results are there over three-plus decades, and IMO nitpicking his record sells the guy short. As I have said, I think he is a lot like Phil Jackson.
   55. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:18 PM (#3984342)
Non-arbitrary? The rules are "arbitrary"?

Of course they are. They draw a line between in and out that makes no principled sense; letting all 93-win teams into the playoffs would make more sense.
   56. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:26 PM (#3984349)
So if it was a 26-team tournament won by the Royals, you'd deem them unequivocally and without deconstruction, the deserving "World Champions" of the 2011 baseball season?


Yeah, there has to be a limit to the nonsense.

Look, they could throw the 8 worst teams into the tournament and we'd have an Exciting Postseason. And we could determine the "champion" from that. Or they could throw 8 random teams in. Or the 8 teams with the Best Lassusian Record for September. We'd have exciting seasons, we'd have champions, and you people would lick the boots of the Champion.

So everything -- everything -- comes down to who you're letting into the tournament, and how you're deciding that. And 8 teams -- 2 of whom lost their divisions -- is a poor setup for that. And the worse the setup is, the greater the chance that an also-ran meh team like the Cardinals will make it in and win it all.

The system is broken. For starters, teams should have to win their divisions to make it in. That won't guarantee we won't get a (relatively) lousy team into the tournament, but it will make it less likely -- and, most importantly, it won't break the regular season.

This silly playoff format has broken the regular season. Nobody cares about division titles anymore; they care about Playoff Berths. Because they have this fantasy that the postseason Means Something rather than being just dumb luck. That is a huge problem.
   57. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:30 PM (#3984352)
When a fan reaches into the field of play and turns an probable out into a home run, that's luck.

When a player picks up a baseball and heaves it 10 feet wide of the mark, that's not luck. That's failure to execute, which is based on skill.


No. You're confused because you're not seeing the timing aspect of it. Players -- even great ones -- "heave the baseball 10 feet wide of the mark" all the time. It's just that when they do it in October, it happens to be bad timing. Which is... wait for it... luck.

Virtually all players in the major leagues have the requisite "skill" to play there.
   58. Nasty Nate Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3984354)
Non-arbitrary? The rules are "arbitrary"?

Of course they are. They draw a line between in and out that makes no principled sense; letting all 93-win teams into the playoffs would make more sense.


The WC is no more arbitrary than having only first-place teams make the tournament, unless you are using the word arbitrary differently than everyone else who speaks the language. Although I am on your side in opposition to the wildcard.
   59. Nasty Nate Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:35 PM (#3984355)
even great ones -- "heave the baseball 10 feet wide of the mark" all the time


no they don't
   60. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:38 PM (#3984359)
yes they do
   61. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:42 PM (#3984363)
yes they do
I don't think anyone who plays Major League heaves the baseball 10 feet wide of the mark all the time. Well, anyone except Chuck Knoblauch, perhaps.
   62. Nasty Nate Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:43 PM (#3984366)
yes they do

you're right, I forgot all of those times that Scutaro and Pedroia knoblauch'ed those throws into the dugout this year...
   63. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:43 PM (#3984367)
In 33 seasons, LaRussa's teams finished first in their division 12 times. His teams won 3 World Series. That seams about fair.

On the other hand, Bobby Cox managed 29 seasons, his teams finished first in their division 15 times. One World Series title. That some terrible luck.
   64. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:47 PM (#3984371)
It's just that when they do it in October, it happens to be bad timing. Which is... wait for it... luck.


This definition of luck is so broad as to leave it pointless. It basically encompasses any result, in any field, that isn't 100 percent projectible.
   65. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:47 PM (#3984373)
No. You're confused because you're not seeing the timing aspect of it. Players -- even great ones -- "heave the baseball 10 feet wide of the mark" all the time. It's just that when they do it in October, it happens to be bad timing. Which is... wait for it... luck.

So, by your definition, there is no skill at all.

Hitting that home run? Luck (because it could have been a fly ball instead).
Throwing a strike? Luck, again (because you didn't throw it wide of the mark this time).
Making a catch of a routine fly-ball? Lucky he didn't drop it.
   66. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:49 PM (#3984377)
The WC is no more arbitrary than having only first-place teams make the tournament, unless you are using the word arbitrary differently than everyone else who speaks the language. Although I am on your side in opposition to the wildcard.

"Arbitrary" as in by whim rather than by principle -- the standard definition.

If you say "any team that finishes with the best record among a pre-selected group of teams (that play effectively the same schedule) shall make the playoffs," that's a principled basis of selecting participants. You may not agree with it, and it may not be the best way to construct the baseball postseason, but it's a principled way.

If you add to that "and the one, and only one team that does not finish with said best record but that otherwise has the best record shall be eligible for the playoffs," you've drawn an arbitrary line. It may not be a terrible line and it may be better than other lines that could be drawn, but there's no principle that suggests that one, and only one, is the right number of non-best-record teams sto admit. Why "one" and not "four," or "two," or "six"?

No priciple leads you to the answer. Only whim.
   67. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:54 PM (#3984383)
A couple of years ago, the Steelers won the Super Bowl against the Cardinals with what I thought was a pretty fluky late-game touchdown.
A Steelers fan I know insisted that it was not fluky, that the play succeeded because of great "execution."
So I pointed out that even the Steelers QB thought he'd thrown an interception on that play. Which just made the Steelers fan angry.

I've certainly played enough softball games and tournaments to feel the "WTF just happened?" in both directions - good teams hitting horse#### and kicking the ball around; not-as-good teams playing wayyyyy over our heads for a day or two.

Sometimes even great players and teams #### up at a particularly bad time. Sometimes bad teams or players get it together at just the right time.
Maybe calling this timing "luck" is what throws people.
   68. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 05:58 PM (#3984384)
This definition of luck is so broad as to leave it pointless. It basically encompasses any result, in any field, that isn't 100 percent projectible.

It isn't heaving the ball 10 feet wide that's "bad luck," it's heaving the ball 10 feet wide in October.
   69. Nasty Nate Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:00 PM (#3984386)
Picking the 2nd place team w/ the best record to make the playoffs is a principled basis, although you may not agree with it.

If you add to that "and the one, and only one team that does not finish with said best record shall be eligible for the playoffs," you've drawn an arbitrary line.


No that's by rule and not arbitrary. Otherwise so is drawing the line at one, and only one, from each division makes the playoffs. Whose whim was it that the Cardinals made the playoffs this year?

And by the way, what happened to your big support for the 2nd wildcard?
   70. Flynn Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:01 PM (#3984390)
There's no legitimate basis to conclude that the '88 Dodgers and '90 Reds were inferior clubs. They played entirely different teams and schedules than their A's counterparts -- and won 4-1 and 4-0, respectively, head-to-head.



So what? The Reds swept so you can't say they were lucky? Oh come on. Both those teams beat better clubs in their own LCS, especially the 88 Dodgers. The 69 Mets won in five and it's considered the most famous upset in baseball history. The 54 Giants swept too.

80s baseball was very even, which is why it was so awesome. Joe Posnanski's theory that baseball will never be better than when you're 12 is false when you're in your mid-20s like me; it was the best when I was about 4 or when I was about 18 (abutting the chicks dig the long ball era). To get back to my point...80s teams usually had some weaknesses somewhere and Oakland's big weakness was that it's rotation was not all it was cracked up to be, but they had outstanding offenses and outstanding bullpens. The 88 Dodgers had Gibson and almost nothing else offensively, though they had the Bulldog, a very nice run by Tudor and a very good pen. The 90 Reds again had a below average offense (though it was more evenly distributed), Jose Rijo and the Nasty Boys. I don't see how you can look at the rosters of the A's and their opponents in 88 and 90 and not conclude the A's are better.
   71. Bob Evans Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:01 PM (#3984391)
Hitting that home run? Luck (because it could have been a fly ball instead).
Throwing a strike? Luck, again (because you didn't throw it wide of the mark this time).
Making a catch of a routine fly-ball? Lucky he didn't drop it.


If I load dice to make it so I roll 7 more often, isn't it still luck if I roll a 7?

And if, for example, throwing a strike wasn't to a large degree a chancy thing, then we could all do it.
   72. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#3984397)
And if, for example, throwing a strike wasn't to a large degree a chancy thing, then we could all do it.

No. It's not a "chancy" thing because it requires skill. We all can't throw a baseball properly because of "chance", but because of skill.
   73. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:13 PM (#3984402)
It isn't heaving the ball 10 feet wide that's "bad luck," it's heaving the ball 10 feet wide in October.


And if a guy heaves a ball 10 feet wide on July 7, you can say it was "bad luck" that he just happened to do it that day. Ultimately, it says nothing.

Under this definition of luck, every single thing that happens on a baseball field can be attributed to luck, because if things had been timed differently, the result would have been different. It's a completely pointless use of the word.
   74. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3984403)
And by the way, what happened to your big support for the 2nd wildcard?

The best of the non-optimal extant alternatives.

I'd like a split season more and wish they'd give it some thought. It would make the trade deadline more interesting, too, with the tougher decisions to be made when you're 0-0 or thereabouts.

Understanding that it's an entirely personal preference, my disdain of the wild card became complete this year with an almost complete disinterest in the World Series that included one. I sense that it's permanent. The MLB "Finals" with a wild card in them, after two rounds have already been played, in late October, in crappy weather, with hockey having started and basketball starting (in normal years) just aren't particularly competitive in this fan's eyes.
   75. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:18 PM (#3984406)
The MLB "Finals" with a wild card in them, after two rounds have already been played, in late October, in crappy weather, with hockey having started and basketball starting (in normal years) just aren't particularly competitive in this fan's eyes.


I presume you stop watching those sports when the regular season ends also, 'cuz while one wild card is icky, it beats the hell out of five.
   76. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3984410)
I presume you stop watching those sports when the regular season ends also.

I really enjoy the first two rounds of the baseball playoffs, even with the warts.
   77. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3984416)
Under this definition of luck, every single thing that happens on a baseball field can be attributed to luck, because if things had been timed differently, the result would have been different. It's a completely pointless use of the word.


What you're missing is that these players are so broadly similar skillwise that every PA and every game ********IS******** driven by luck. (I will emphasize that more the next time if people hereafter fail to understand it.) It takes many, many PAs and many games for the skill to begin to control. That's why ARod goes 0 for October -- and then 10,000 for October. It's why Lance Berkman hits .167 in the NLDS... and then two weeks later is batting with 2 strikes and the season on the line, and comes through with one of the biggest hits in the history of baseball, batting .423 in the Series.

If you or I were facing Neftali Perez Feliz, skill would control and he'd blow us away. But when he is facing hitters who have risen to the very top of all the hitters in the world, we need more time to see who's better. And when we don't have more time, luck controls.

This is so obvious that it amazes me that after all this time, the vast majority of people -- all who have watched this game on this level for years and decades -- haven't the foggiest clue what they're seeing.
   78. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:31 PM (#3984418)
This is so obvious that it amazes me that after all this time...

Ray, we know. This is your stance on everything you think and all your conclusions.
   79. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:34 PM (#3984421)
Ray, we know. This is your stance on everything you think and all your conclusions.


Just so you're clear, that actually doesn't respond to what I have written.
   80. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:42 PM (#3984429)
What you're missing is that these players are so broadly similar skillwise that every PA and every game ********IS******** driven by luck.
Now, wait, this isn't true. I mean, it plainly isn't true. If every PA was driven by luck, everyone would perform (more or less) the same (more or less) every year. Perhaps I'm taking you too literally, but you seem to be suggesting that luck is the reason Derek Jeter is a career .313 hitter, and Ramiro Pena is at .233 for his (more limited, admittedly) career. That's just madness.
   81. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:42 PM (#3984430)
I wouldn't put his first sentence exactly the same way, but Ray's right. It's orders of magnitude more difficult to discern anything meaningful about player or team skill from a single baseball game than from a single football, basketball, or hockey game. Pick an 80s Celtic game out of a hat, you're going to be able to tell that Larry Bird is really, really good. Pick an 80s Edmonton game out of a hat, you're going to be able to tell that Gretzky is really, really good. Pick a 00s Laker game out of a hat, you're going to be able to tell that Kobe is really, really good. (**)

A single baseball game is almost the polar opposite, transmitting very little useful information about skill and quality, and a whole bunch of noise. And that, in a nutshell, is why baseball should not be construcing its playoffs in the way the other sports do.

(**) Kobe doesn't average 52.3 PPG over one 7-game stretch, then 8.4 over the next, the way baseball players do.
   82. SoSH U at work Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:45 PM (#3984432)
What you're missing is that these players are so broadly similar skillwise that every PA and every game ********IS******** driven by luck.


I'm not missing anything you ########## ########## ###########. Every PA and every game is some combination of luck and skill. Otherwise, the skill would never begin to control.

The playoffs are a combination of skill and luck, just like the regular season. The regular season, due its larger sample size, does a better job of separating skill from luck, which every goddamned person on this site knows, not just you. But your silly ass postseason = luck postulate is as moronic as those individuals who want to chalk it up to heart or integrity or clean living.

If you shove every variable under the broad luck umbrella, you've essentially neutered the term.
   83. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:45 PM (#3984433)
Just so you're clear, that actually doesn't respond to what I have written.

Your conclusion that skilled athletes vs. skilled athletes = luck and not skill is not supported by any kind of logic except your own classic copyrighted Smell Test of Obviousness.

Feliz vs Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter adds up to one hit in 20 total PA. You might even be able to do that (I've seen you swing). If your point is these numbers add up to luck, as well as every other professional hitter who's flailed away against him - or not - is all luck, I don't really think your clue is lacking fog itself.
   84. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:46 PM (#3984434)
Ray -

A huge portion of full-season results are "lucky" by that recording, too. Detroit got lucky in the way they turned runs into wins (outperformed Pyth) and they got lucky having Cabrera and Verlander perform at the top of their projected ranges. Any team that made the playoffs by less than five games was just a standard deviation of luck, by that definition, from missing the playoffs. Injuries happen by luck a huge amount of the time, and they can cause 5-10 game swings easily.

There's no getting luck out of the game, by your definition of it, and over a full season the team with the best record is sometimes the "best" team, sometimes not. If you include injury luck, almost all of the "best" teams in baseball history have been blessed with great good fortune on that front. A healthy 2011 Red Sox club might have been the best team in baseball.

I don't really know where this talk of "luck" gets you. You can't get luck out of the game. You just have to choose, arbitrarily, a point at which you'll respect results which are driven in significant part by luck.
   85. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:48 PM (#3984435)
Now, wait, this isn't true. I mean, it plainly isn't true. If every PA was driven by luck, everyone would perform (more or less) the same (more or less) every year.


RB, I said "driven by" luck, not the complete result of luck.
   86. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 06:59 PM (#3984444)
I'm not missing anything you ########## ########## ###########.


I think you need to emphasize that more.

But your silly ass postseason = luck postulate is as moronic as those individuals who want to chalk it up to heart or integrity or clean living.


The postseason is driven by luck because the postseason doesn't provide us with enough time to see the skill separate itself out. That's what makes the postseason "pointless" in this regard, but every time I point that out, people tell me I'm wrong, and then they say "you're an idiot, we all know it's mostly luck," and then in the next breath they go back to arguing that skill really does play a substantial role in the postseason. It. Does. Not.
   87. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:02 PM (#3984446)
You can see this pretty easily. Take a single PA between two unidentified major league players, i.e., without knowing their names or anything anything about their performance records. Do you think you'll be able to tell from the result of that single PA who the better player is?

You cannot. I trust this is agreed.

Now expand on that a bit. Do you think you'll be able to tell from 4-7 games who the better team is? You cannot. It takes more time for the disparity in skill level to become apparent.

Again, this is completely obvious. It's hard to believe people still don't understand what they're seeing in the postseason, after all these years.
   88. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:04 PM (#3984447)
RB, I said "driven by" luck, not the complete result of luck.
To some extent we're at semantics here, but I don't think that's true. Luis Aparicio had (roughly) 11,000 PA, and had a neutralized .275/.325/.359 line. Reggie Jackson had (roughly) 11,000 PA and a neutralized .283/.380/.529 line. That's a huge difference. If they're "driven by" luck with skill only contributing, it seems like the range should be far narrower. And of course, that's comparing someone like Reggie to a player who had other skills (SBs, defense, etc.) to last a long time. It's even more pronounced when you compare it to the least of them.
   89. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:10 PM (#3984451)
To some extent we're at semantics here,


Not at all.

but I don't think that's true. Luis Aparicio had (roughly) 11,000 PA, and had a neutralized .275/.325/.359 line. Reggie Jackson had (roughly) 11,000 PA and a neutralized .283/.380/.529 line. That's a huge difference. If they're "driven by" luck with skill only contributing, it seems like the range should be far narrower. And of course, that's comparing someone like Reggie to a player who had other skills (SBs, defense, etc.) to last a long time. It's even more pronounced when you compare it to the least of them.


Now compare their lines from a random week in 1970. That's my point.
   90. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:15 PM (#3984455)
You can see this pretty easily. Take a single PA between two unidentified major league players, i.e., without knowing their names or anything anything about their performance records. Do you think you'll be able to tell from the result of that single PA who the better player is? You cannot. I trust this is agreed.

Wel, let's walk back to a specific thing you stated, however:
What you're missing is that these players are so broadly similar skillwise that every PA and every game ********IS******** driven by luck. (I will emphasize that more the next time if people hereafter fail to understand it.) It takes many, many PAs and many games for the skill to begin to control.

I'm going to assume that you don't consider 10 PA to be many, many PAs. Hunter is one hit for those 10 PAs vs. Feliz. Kendrick is zero hits for his 10 PAs. But what you are saying is - and please, correct me if I am wrong - those respective 10 PAs and the corresponding results are not indicative of any skill on the part of Feliz. Or, to be fair to your words, that those results are driven by luck, and not by the skill of Feliz.
   91. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:19 PM (#3984457)
It isn't heaving the ball 10 feet wide that's "bad luck," it's heaving the ball 10 feet wide in October.


And heaving the ball 10 feet wide in April might put you in a situation where your team misses the postseason by one game. That's no more (or less) bad luck than the same event in October; it's the combination of events good and bad, timing good and bad, talent at full strength vs talent at less than full strength that makes one team a WS winner and 29 others also-rans. Whether the number of games be five, or seven, or nine, or 162, there aren't enough games in there to keep variations in the timing of events from having an effect on the outcome, or to ensure that the team(s) that rise to the top are truly "better" than the teams that do not.

-- MWE
   92. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 07:50 PM (#3984480)
So if it was a 26-team tournament won by the Royals, you'd deem them unequivocally and without deconstruction, the deserving "World Champions" of the 2011 baseball season?

Can we please do this? This would be *awesome*.
   93. Nasty Nate Posted: November 01, 2011 at 08:03 PM (#3984486)
Another thing to remember (which actually applies more to the NBA and NHL) is that team's themselves are only trying to maximize their regular season wins based on how it affects their chances to win the postseason tournament, and not in order to prove superior quality and skill over a large sample size. Granted, these goals overlap heavily in baseball given the scarcity of playoff spots, leading to people like Ray not understanding what they are seeing in the regular season. Why worry about determining the 'best' team based on some obsolete criteria of your own which the teams and players themselves are only trying to meet when it helps them get a world series championship?
   94. Ebessan Posted: November 01, 2011 at 08:10 PM (#3984491)
I applaud Tony La Russa for being the greatest human scarecrow in baseball history.
   95. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 01, 2011 at 08:21 PM (#3984501)
I think the problem lies in trying to shoehorn the League and Cup competitions into one all-encompassing championship. International soccer federations realise that you can have multiple champions via different competitions in the same year, and seem OK with that.
   96. Lassus Posted: November 01, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#3984543)
Ray, I'm absolutely curious about a response to #90, hence the bump.
   97. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 01, 2011 at 09:35 PM (#3984568)
I'm going to assume that you don't consider 10 PA to be many, many PAs. Hunter is one hit for those 10 PAs vs. Feliz. Kendrick is zero hits for his 10 PAs. But what you are saying is - and please, correct me if I am wrong - those respective 10 PAs and the corresponding results are not indicative of any skill on the part of Feliz. Or, to be fair to your words, that those results are driven by luck, and not by the skill of Feliz.


Yes, they're driven by luck. Hunter and Kendrick are not .050 hitters. So why would we expect them to hit .050 off of Feliz if given more PAs against him?

But the broader point is that the playoffs are mostly between two good teams, say, 91 wins vs. 97 wins. Why do you think a 5 or 7 game series is going to reveal a separation between those two teams?
   98. a bebop a rebop Posted: November 01, 2011 at 11:47 PM (#3984619)
I'm going to assume that you don't consider 10 PA to be many, many PAs. Hunter is one hit for those 10 PAs vs. Feliz. Kendrick is zero hits for his 10 PAs. But what you are saying is - and please, correct me if I am wrong - those respective 10 PAs and the corresponding results are not indicative of any skill on the part of Feliz. Or, to be fair to your words, that those results are driven by luck, and not by the skill of Feliz.

Admittedly, I'm digging through B-R here, but Michael Brantley (to take the best example) is 3 for 6 against Feliz, with two doubles and 3 RBI. Does that mean that Feliz sucks? I believe that it does not mean that Feliz sucks; the way you ask the question implies that you think it does. Your contention here is sort of remarkable to me, really.
   99. a bebop a rebop Posted: November 01, 2011 at 11:52 PM (#3984622)
Or another way to put it is that baseball is a slightly loaded die. Reggie's die is more likely to come up 20, Aparicio's is more likely to come up 1, but as Ray says, over the course of 30 PAs in a typical week, the difference between the two is not large enough to conclusively determine which die is better. kill is not demonstrated in individual at-bats in a statistically significant way.

What you're missing is that these players are so broadly similar skillwise that every PA and every game ********IS******** driven by luck.

A better way to put it is that no individual plate appearance demonstrates skill in a statistically significant way. (Of course this is really what you meant anyway...)
   100. Lassus Posted: November 02, 2011 at 12:10 AM (#3984630)
Admittedly, I'm digging through B-R here, but Michael Brantley (to take the best example) is 3 for 6 against Feliz, with two doubles and 3 RBI. Does that mean that Feliz sucks? I believe that it does not mean that Feliz sucks; the way you ask the question implies that you think it does. Your contention here is sort of remarkable to me, really.

I rarely use this one, but, really? If you call up the batter vs. pitcher, Brantley is a clear exception that proves the rule. In fact, in the list of the top 50 players against him by PA, the only players with more than two hits are Brantley and Rajai Davis.

My point is that for a long list of 6 PA or more, against good, professional hitters, Feliz has come out very much ahead. If it's luck that he does so against Hunter and Kendrick, the idea that it is also luck that none of Aybar, Matsui, Pennington, Zobrist, Abreu, Berkman, Betemit, Butler, A. Cabrera, M. Cabrera, Cano, Cust, Granderson, Kennedy. Kennedy, Longoria, Raburn, Rodriguez, Suzuki, Teixeira, Wells, and Willingham (all 6 PA or more) have managed three hits is not tenable to me.

The idea that Mo Rivera can't shut down some random hitter over 5 PA doesn't mean he sucks, the countless people who couldn't get a bat on a ball over the same means Rivera was better, not lucky, and the same is true of Feliz, IMO.
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