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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Burt: Bill James is not the answer to Red Sox woes

AHA! Proof that not all “The Burt Affair” notes and records had been destroyed!

James is not the answer. He’s an entertainer, albeit an incredibly geeky one.

Agreed, his paralysis-by-analysis is interesting, thought-provoking and has visionary qualities. He has player breakdowns for every baseball happenstance imaginable.

But his incredible library of information always seems to leave out one important factor about the game of baseball — it is played by human beings.

James can show me — and he did, through former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein — 10 different ways that J.D. Drew was not only a “great player” before he got to Boston, but he remarkably has data to “prove” his career was worth every cent of the $70 million he received.

We, who lived through the 606 games, know better. Drew’s problem was a simple one. He didn’t love baseball as much as the people who watched him did and they let him know it. Basically, he was a Hall-of-Fame talent with the passion of a long reliever.

But I don’t blame Drew for coming here. I blame Henry for falling for James’ statistical recommendations.

...I get it. James adores walks, runs and defensive zone coverage. He isn’t so fond of closers (saves, he says, are way overrated), RBI, bunts and stolen bases.

I disagree with him in most of those areas, but I wouldn’t hedge my bet solely on those stats.

Repoz Posted: September 06, 2012 at 03:48 AM | 61 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, red sox, sabermetrics

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   1. Repoz Posted: September 06, 2012 at 05:38 AM (#4227957)
Shaughnessy, unloads a load.

More Bill James. We’re told that Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox. We’re told that Cherington is going to be allowed to actually be a general manager. We’re told that Bobby Valentine gets to manage for the rest of the year even though he’s morphing into Charlie Sheen. And now we’re told that we need more Bill James.

Great. Let’s get some data to find out how the Sox can solve their problems. All those losses certainly must have something to do with UZR and Wins Above Replacement.

Who needs human interaction or eye contact? More Bill James is guaranteed to make the Sox right.
   2. TomH Posted: September 06, 2012 at 07:46 AM (#4227974)
So much stoopid, so little time....

Why would we want to use DATA before deciding anything? We'd rsther be like US auto industry of the last generation, making choices based on how we smart guys just "know" what to do, not like those Japanese number-crunchers.

You "blame" people for bringing in Drew to help win the 07 season and trophy? For driving in 19 runs in 28 postseason games? For being the only Red Sox hitter to actualy show up for the pathetic 09 loss to Anaheim? Yeah, because the royal "we" knew he didn't love baseball, so forget if he actually heled the team win.

And his notion that James discounts human behavior is abusrd.
   3. I Am Not a Number Posted: September 06, 2012 at 07:50 AM (#4227979)
You couldn't ask someone to better misrepresent somebody's life work than Burt has done in TFA.
   4. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:17 AM (#4227989)
All those losses certainly must have something to do with...Wins Above Replacement.

Not enough of them, apparently.
   5. AROM Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:37 AM (#4228001)
How about a counterpoint. What does Ernie think about J.D. Drew and Bill James?
   6. SteveF Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:53 AM (#4228007)
This would be a great country if it weren't for all the smart people.
   7. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:03 AM (#4228013)
It's as if the Red Sox never won 2 championships.
   8. Morty Causa Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:15 AM (#4228019)
That was in the past, Marge. Stop living in the past.
   9. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:29 AM (#4228026)
It's as if the Red Sox never won 2 championships.
Shaughnessy's entire brand is dependent on people forgetting that this happened, so he writes as if from an alternate universe where it didn't.
   10. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:36 AM (#4228029)
I get it. James adores walks, runs and defensive zone coverage.


Stupid number-crunchers. As if runs will help you win ballgames!
   11. TerpNats Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4228038)
We, who lived through the 606 games, know better. Drew’s problem was a simple one. He didn’t love baseball as much as the people who watched him did and they let him know it. Basically, he was a Hall-of-Fame talent with the passion of a long reliever.
Why stereotype long relievers? I'm sure over the years, many of them have been passionate about the game. It isn't their fault that talent doesn't = passion.
   12. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4228061)
Why stereotype long relievers? I'm sure over the years, many of them have been passionate about the game. It isn't their fault that talent doesn't = passion.

But if they had passion they'd use PED's or something to get better. They clearly don't care. They're happy to get the per diem and Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Annie rejects and that is just sad, not for the players, but for the fans who pay to watch them.
   13. Mattbert Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4228073)
WHIFFEY IS NOT YOUR SABR!!!
   14. Matthew E Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4228074)
Yeah. They live in a world made of steel, made of stone.
   15. booond Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:25 AM (#4228079)
I left the article after the word entertainer.
   16. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4228081)
I left the article after the word entertainer.

So you don't even know what kind of entertainer he is? I fear for your safety.
   17. Bob Tufts Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4228082)
Hall-of-Fame talent with the passion of a long reliever.


On behalf of all long relivers...

After reading this article, I'd guess that Bill Burt has to pay out of his pocket if he wants to get any passion.

   18. just plain joe Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4228084)
But if they had passion they'd use PED's or something to get better.


Guillermo Mota says hey.
   19. Toby Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4228098)
Bill Burt is not a geeky one. He's an entertainer, albeit incredibly not the answer.
   20. Swedish Chef Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4228111)
The big risk with giving Bill James more authority is if he is too much into True Crime these days and takes it literally when they ask him for a list of players with killer instinct.
   21. Bob Tufts Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:57 AM (#4228129)
I do have to give Burt some credit for honesty. In one article he is able to lash out at those who are more intelligent and more athletic than he is, exposing his jealousy at their success and his lack thereof.
   22. JJ1986 Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:01 AM (#4228135)
The big risk with giving Bill James more authority is if he is too much into True Crime these days and takes it literally when they ask him for a list of players with killer instinct.


Ugueth Urbina is available.
   23. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4228145)
Ugueth Urbina is available.
Well, not really.
   24. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4228155)
Ugueth Urbina is available.
Well, not really.


The word is that Urbina has been "sharp" in the Venezuelan Penal League and is cutting through opposing hitters like a machete through butter.
   25. ecwcat Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4228213)
You "blame" people for bringing in Drew to help win the 07 season and trophy? For driving in 19 runs in 28 postseason games? For being the only Red Sox hitter to actualy show up for the pathetic 09 loss to Anaheim?


Only a Bill James sycophant would defend Drew's contract.
   26. Greg Schuler Posted: September 06, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4228375)
Putting the article aside, having James more involved does what? Have the Red Sox spend more on player development and less on Carl Crawford? Do you really need Bill James to tell you that, to remind you of that simple fact? If so, well...

What the Red Sox should do with James is what Soderbergh wanted to do - a floating animated Great Gazoo-ish cartoon explaining the nuances of whateveritis.
   27. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4228390)
The word is that Urbina has been "sharp" in the Venezuelan Penal League and is cutting through opposing hitters like a machete through butter.


I hear he's setting the league on fire.
   28. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 06, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4228407)
What the Red Sox should do with James is what Soderbergh wanted to do - a floating animated Great Gazoo-ish cartoon explaining the nuances of whateveritis.


I think in a sense that may be what is happening here. It's not so much that it's James but a change to the way they are making their decisions which has failed all too often in the last 24 months.


You "blame" people for bringing in Drew to help win the 07 season and trophy? For driving in 19 runs in 28 postseason games? For being the only Red Sox hitter to actualy show up for the pathetic 09 loss to Anaheim?


The most fascinating thing about Drew is how many big moments he had in the post-season for the Sox. The $14 million grand slam, game winning homer in game two of the 2008 ALDS, walk off double in Game Five of the 2008 ALCS, he came through in a big way in big spots. Despite that he's viewed as "unclutch" and "not caring."
   29. valuearbitrageur Posted: September 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4228736)
A couple years ago I found a ZIPs projection that I vehemently disagreed with. I have saved it away along with a column I prepared at the time and have filed, waiting for the first team to step up and hire Dan Szymborski, entitled "Dan Szymborski is a big poopy pants who thought Mark Reynolds could only hit 28 HR, so why are the idiots at the <*insert team name here*> hiring a man who spins computer based lies?".

I think the writer here has correctly identified the same flaw in the Red Sox and Bill James. If Bill James can't hit 1.000 on his recommendations, how is he going to help the Sox find 1.000 hitters and starters who can go 34-0 every year? The short and obvious answer is he can't, so his advice cannot be trusted.
   30. base ball chick Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:11 PM (#4228771)
ecwcat Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4228213)


Only a Bill James sycophant would defend Drew's contract.


- i detest bill james, but i do not understand why you think JD drew wasn't worth his contract. in what way? compared to other players with his skill set, length of playing time, he looks to me as if he was worth the money and the years
   31. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:44 PM (#4228804)
Drew? The only complaint I have about him is that he averaged 120 games a year for Boston. As far as the not caring part, this isn't football. I'd take his attitude over a Youkilisian gamer pose any day of the week.
   32. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4228824)
If you rearrange Drew's regular seasons in Boston (2009-2008-2007-2010-2011), then people would view his contract far differently. Postseason heroics aside (which is a big aside) he played his best baseball in the second and third years of a five-year contract. That's a great way to leave a negative impression.
   33. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:52 PM (#4228852)
He didn’t love baseball as much as the people who watched him did

That is some statement right there. How can you possibly think any athlete could reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession without being totally dedicated to it? Do people think Drew was just born an amazing player, never worked hard and stayed in it for the cash? What an inane thing for anyone to write.
   34. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM (#4228854)
He had two very good years, one lousy one and two blah ones. I don't think it's all that impressive, though if there was a deficit, he probably paid it back and then some in the postseason.

I also know that if you're talking about the crappy bit-ticket FA signings by Theo and Friends, Drew's deal is probably the last one you ought to be railing against. Compared to that list, J.D. was a ####### steal.
   35. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:58 PM (#4228861)
That is some statement right there. How can you possibly think any athlete could reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession without being totally dedicated to it?
I don't know that I disagree with it. There's a difference between love and dedication. No one can doubt Drew--and every MLB player, even the least of them--is insanely dedicated to their craft. But that doesn't mean they love it.

(I don't have any idea how this applies to Drew.)
   36. Dale Sams Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:01 PM (#4228864)
People who lump Drew in with Lackey and Crawford usually are writers for things like the Eagle Tribune or just lazy.
   37. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:04 PM (#4228867)
There's a difference between love and dedication. No one can doubt Drew--and every MLB player, even the least of them--is insanely dedicated to their craft. But that doesn't mean they love it.


The mustachioed middle infielding Jeff K's (not ours) are Exhibits A and B.

   38. Dale Sams Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:14 PM (#4228879)
Did we get Jeff Keppinger?
   39. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM (#4228891)
Jeff Konine didn't have a moustache.
   40. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:35 PM (#4228894)
I probably should have left it at infielding Jeff K's. I always think King played more MI than he did.

   41. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:32 AM (#4229019)
It's the money. When someone makes several dozen times what we make -- more in a year than we'll see in our entire life -- it's impossible to think of them as "just like us". And for playing a game? They must be doing it for the money. What other reason could they possibly have?
   42. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: September 07, 2012 at 06:10 AM (#4229023)
It's the money. When someone makes several dozen times what we make -- more in a year than we'll see in our entire life -- it's impossible to think of them as "just like us".


Speak for yourself, sir. I, and surely many others here, am a veritable modern-day Croesus.
   43. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: September 07, 2012 at 06:49 AM (#4229027)
No one can doubt Drew--and every MLB player, even the least of them--is insanely dedicated to their craft. But that doesn't mean they love it.

If they're really insanely dedicated to their craft, why should anyone care whether they "love it" or not?

It's the money. When someone makes several dozen times what we make -- more in a year than we'll see in our entire life -- it's impossible to think of them as "just like us". And for playing a game? They must be doing it for the money. What other reason could they possibly have?

Why is it impossible to think of rich people as being "just like us"? Or poor people for that matter? When you cut them, do they not bleed? I do my job to make a living, but also because I don't really have anything better to do. There's a limit to how much time I can spend on internet posting. Maybe baseball's all they know how to do really well.
   44. The District Attorney Posted: September 07, 2012 at 08:37 AM (#4229062)
I, and surely many others here, am a veritable modern-day Croesus.
I bet your wealth isn't even in the same zip code as Croesus.
   45. Darren Posted: September 07, 2012 at 09:29 AM (#4229100)
Let's be fair here. The Red Sox got 10.1 bWAR out of Drew for $70 mil. They paid $7 mil. per WAR at a time when the average was about $4 mil. That's not a devastating contract, but it's bad.
   46. TomH Posted: September 07, 2012 at 09:45 AM (#4229126)
I agree the Drew contract did not turn out "great" or even "good". But...
1. Is the $4 mil figure an avg for al players, or only free agents? There's a difference!
2. Postseason should count for something.
   47. Darren Posted: September 07, 2012 at 09:53 AM (#4229142)
Why is the price for AL players different?
   48. Nasty Nate Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:02 AM (#4229158)
Let's be fair here. The Red Sox got 10.1 bWAR out of Drew for $70 mil. They paid $7 mil. per WAR at a time when the average was about $4 mil. That's not a devastating contract, but it's bad.


All the opinions on the Drew contract had been solidified before 2011. Drew has, in a way, gotten "off the hook" for his terrible 2011 which contributed to them missing the playoffs (even this article doesn't mention his 2011) - maybe everyone figured he had endured enough backlash.

What was the per WAR dollar amount for the contract before last season?
   49. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4229177)

I think the writer here has correctly identified the same flaw in the Red Sox and Bill James. If Bill James can't hit 1.000 on his recommendations, how is he going to help the Sox find 1.000 hitters and starters who can go 34-0 every year? The short and obvious answer is he can't, so his advice cannot be trusted.


1.000 average? 34-0? Those sound like stats buddy. Get me guys that care.
   50. Darren Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:45 AM (#4229204)
Before 2011, he was at 11.1 WAR for $56 mil.
   51. Nasty Nate Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:01 AM (#4229225)
Considering the Sox owners are Evil Geniuses that control the media, I wonder why they didn't use JD Drew as a convenient scapegoat for the bitter 2011 season instead of all the other machinations and puppet-string pulling they did last offseason.
   52. dave h Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4229277)
I agree with whoever said that all the JD Drew hate was used up by 2011. There was no need to throw Drew under the bus when the average Sox fan had hated him for several years and his contract was up anyway. The opinion in #25 is much more reflective of the average Sox fan than the rest of this thread.

And is the overall claim that the Sox owners didn't throw anyone under the bus, through the willing media, after the 2011 season? From the Globe: "Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication". Who needs Drew when you have a druggie to blame things on?
   53. Nasty Nate Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4229293)
If they are such nefarious and prolific bus under-throwers, why do they do it in a way that makes everyone hate them instead of the intended victims?
   54. cardsfanboy Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4229319)
That is some statement right there. How can you possibly think any athlete could reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession without being totally dedicated to it? Do people think Drew was just born an amazing player, never worked hard and stayed in it for the cash? What an inane thing for anyone to write.


Not sure how true the story was, but I had read that Drew didn't even take up organized baseball until he was in high school because his football coach wanted him to do something during the "offseason."

So it's very possible that Drew was immensely, naturally talented and didn't have the passion for the games that other less talented players had. It doesn't change the fact that he was a pretty good player who just couldn't stay healthy enough.
   55. dave h Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4229536)
Nate, is it really either/or?
   56. jmurph Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4229541)
This would seriously, seriously bring me down:

EDIT: I'm an idiot, can't link correctly. MLB trade rumors has a story about the Sox being interested in Scioscia if Farrell isn't available.
   57. Swedish Chef Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4229543)
why do they do it in a way that makes everyone hate them instead of the intended victims?

They have read their Machiavelli and don't mind being hated as long as they are feared.
   58. Dale Sams Posted: September 07, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4229569)
Crawford made Drew look like Cal Ripken. That's one reason Drew escaped scrutiny in 2011.
   59. AROM Posted: September 07, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4229705)
Crawford made Drew look like Cal Ripken. That's one reason Drew escaped scrutiny in 2011.


This makes no sense. Crawford played 130 games last year, Drew 81. Crawford's 31 games in 2012 makes Drew look like an ironman, but you wouldn't have known this in 2011.
   60. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:08 PM (#4229725)
Nate, is it really either/or?


It's not so much that it's either/or but I think the better question is why does it keep happening in Boston? This has gone on for as long as I can remember (late-70s) with a couple of different ownership groups. At some point I think you pin the blame on the media that has been constant rather than the change regimes. I don't see a big link between Haywood Sullivan, Dan Duqette and Ben Cherington yet Fred Lynn, Mo Vaughn and Adrian Gonzalez all got some grief leaving town.

The Francona piece was pure garbage. The writer used "team sources" pretty vaguely. I have no doubt he talked to someone in the Sox organization but I'm skeptical that it was someone of substance. Maybe it was, I'm not so naive as to dismiss that they really are that evil but "Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication" is pretty friggen vague. Someone somewhere said something may have happened doesn't rise to valid news story to me without a hell of a lot more concrete sourcing in my mind.

Having said that I'll note that Chad Finn of the Globe who I find very fair insists that the sourcing was more than valid. I just get pissed because I'm a huge Francona fan and I hate seeing the Sox shoot themselves in the foot.
   61. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:12 PM (#4229727)
That's one reason Drew escaped scrutiny in 2011.


I think Drew escaped scrutiny because people didn't like him so they didn't mind he was gone. It's kind of like Lackey this year, no one is really bothered that he's been hurt all year because they don't like him and because he sucked.


This would seriously, seriously bring me down:

EDIT: I'm an idiot, can't link correctly. MLB trade rumors has a story about the Sox being interested in Scioscia if Farrell isn't available.


Why does everyone hate the idea of Scioscia? I'd prefer Farrell but Scioscia looks pretty good to me from afar. He has his flaws (if they hire him they should probably trade Lavarnway yesterday) but I don't see him as a bad manager and I don't have any dislike of him.

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