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Sunday, January 20, 2013

ABC: George Will on Earl Weaver, Moneyball, the Nationals

...and Other Torre Notions.

Knowing your love of baseball, what can you tell us about the legacy of Earl Weaver? (Weaver, a former Baltimore Orioles manager, passed away Saturday at 82).

“Tim Kurkjian, terrific baseball writer for ESPN, says — who knew Earl Weaver as I did — that Earl Weaver is one of the three greatest managers of all time… Earl Weaver understood the basic point of the Moneyball approach to baseball. Which is, people say baseball doesn’t have a clock. Earl Weaver understood it does have a clock and it has 27 ticks — they’re outs. And what you do is you run the game so as to maximize your chance of not making an out. Walks, on-base percentage, all the rest. Never bunt. You’ve got 27 outs, don’t give them away. So Earl was probably 30 years ahead of his time in his intuitive understanding of what Moneyball made explicit.”

What are the chances of a Washington Nationals appearance in the World Series next season?

“Well, particularly with the new trades and acquisitions, and re-signing [Adam] LaRoche, great first baseman who was probably their most valuable player last year, the Nationals are on paper the best team in the National League. Unfortunately, they don’t play the game on paper, they play it on grass and dirt. But even there the Nationals should be even better than last year. They’ll play in October.”

Repoz Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:23 PM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nats, orioles

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   1. Publius Publicola Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4350998)
Never bunt.


Never, George? Not even if you have Otis Nixon batting in the ninth with a man on second and no outs when you're at home in a tie ballgame?

it's funny. I was at a Nats game last September and Will was sitting in the seat directly in front of the one immediately to my right. Both Harper and Werth lost balls in the sun which probably cost the Nats the game and I felt like leaning forward and saying "George, was that an example of the exhilarating tension between being and becoming?".
   2. Walt Davis Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:49 PM (#4351004)
Nah, probably not then. I'd have to look at Nixon's spray chart and K-rate but I'm betting there's a good chance a Nixon out moves him to third anyway. And the chance of a guy scoring from second with no outs vs. 3rd with one out have to be pretty trivial to start with. And if you don't like Nixon's chances, pinch-hit.

The main advantage of bunting with Nixon was that he was fast as hell and probably a pretty good bunter so he's got a fair chance to beat one out or cause an error -- i.e. not make an out.

Regardless, the notion of Will as a BPro fundamentalist circa 2001 is a stretch.
   3. MHS Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:37 PM (#4351018)
One of the things I love about baseball primer is that it allows me to see exactly how the populous , media and "analysts" perceive reality. That reality in this example is Adam LarRoche as a good baseball player. The facts do not support this assertion. This misperception brings me far more joy than it really should, which is probably a personality flaw.

More importantly, primer has taught me far better than anyone or anything else that people in general have to ####### clue what they are talking about. So I may as well disregard most of it.
   4. Esoteric Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:09 PM (#4351033)
One of the things I love about baseball primer is that it allows me to see exactly how the populous , media and "analysts" perceive reality. That reality in this example is Adam LarRoche as a good baseball player. The facts do not support this assertion. This misperception brings me far more joy than it really should, which is probably a personality flaw.

More importantly, primer has taught me far better than anyone or anything else that people in general have to ####### clue what they are talking about. So I may as well disregard most of it.
One of those people is you, as it turns out. LaRoche is a good baseball player, and particularly valuable in his specific role as the Nationals' first baseman because he singlehandedly turns Zimmerman and Desmond into plus defenders by saving their errant throws.

Good job posting like an arrogant prick, though. Love the way your ignorance of LaRoche's role on Nats (as opposed to being taken in isolation) made you beclown yourself, O brilliant analyst. Congrats on fulfilling a stereotype to its fullest.

Lose.
   5. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4351036)
eso

c'mon. nastiness on top of nastiness?

you are better than that
   6. MHS Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4351040)
LaRoche is a good baseball player


False. Over his career he is proven to be a 1+ WAR player. Even if you give him additional credit, for the flaw in accounting for a first baseman receiving skill he is not good. Feel free to believe whatever you want, I won't waste any more time trying help you understand what is clear from a baseball reference page.

WINNER!!

   7. Morty Causa Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:20 PM (#4351042)
Earl wasn't so dogmatic that he couldn't deviate from his general rule and overall strategy. The rule, anyway, wasn't "don't ever bunt"; it was don't sacrifice bunt and bunt for a hit if you know how to bunt and the fielders aren't expecting it. I seem to remember that he himself once used Nolan Ryan as the example where he just might deviate from his standard approach. If Ryan is pitching one of those games where he's unhittable, then you go with what's left--the bases on ball and his poor peripheral talents. You just might have those baserunners who walked steal, because Ryan is poor at holding them and takes forever to go home with the pitch, and you might have to advance them with a bunt or two, since he doesn't field well and he isn't quick or accurate on his throws to the bases.
   8. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:22 PM (#4351047)
you are better than that


Be that as it may, the post was worth it for "beclown."
   9. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:22 PM (#4351048)
All right, a new poster to ignore!
   10. Publius Publicola Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4351058)
The main advantage of bunting with Nixon was that he was fast as hell and probably a pretty good an outstanding bunter so he's got a fair chance to beat one out or cause an error -- i.e. not make an out.


FTFY
   11. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4351059)
Mark Belanger led the AL in sacrifice hits in 1973 and 1975, and was second in 1974.
   12. Morty Causa Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4351070)
What else could you have Mark Belanger do?
   13. MHS Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4351071)
All right, a new poster to ignore!


New? If new means posting since the first week the site existed then you got me.
   14. Brian Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:41 PM (#4351073)
The rule, anyway, wasn't "don't ever bunt"; it was don't sacrifice bunt

That rule only applied to major league hitters. With pitchers and Belanger the sac was the way to go.
   15. Morty Causa Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:45 PM (#4351077)
Yes.

Earl could adapt--it seems both professionally and personally. In fact, I think when someone asked him about Whiteyball, he very definitely said you have to consider you're home park. If he managed somewhere else, he might not approach it as he did in Baltimore. Despite his temper, you get the impression that Earl was an adult.
   16. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:46 PM (#4351079)
New? If new means posting since the first week the site existed then you got me.


I'd wager that in this instance "new" applied to the ignoring part, not the poster part per se.
   17. Esoteric Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4351081)
eso

c'mon. nastiness on top of nastiness?

you are better than that
Yeah, you're right. Over the top on my part. Wish I could edit the nastiness away to make my point more civilly, but this damn 15 minute edit-deadline prevents me.

Still, what a strangely silly post from Mister High Standards. Something about it just set me off (not like that's an excuse for churlish behavior or anything). Ironically enough, I think it was the "god, I am SO MUCH SMARTER than most people, including sportswriters!" self-congratulatory tone, which I then unfortunately matched with my own dickishness. I dunno...the older I get, the less tolerance I have for people who walk around broadcasting their smug, vocal dismissiveness for all the world to see. Maybe because I recognize it as a flaw of my younger self.

Still, bad form on my part.
   18. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: January 20, 2013 at 06:37 PM (#4351169)
A definition of "good" that does not include Adam Laroche is pretty strict. He's a career 114 ops+ guy with solid dependable power and excellent defense. He's not an all-star, but he's a perfectly good player and one of those guys if he was on your team you wouldn't worry about replacing him unless you could get a big star.
   19. Srul Itza At Home Posted: January 20, 2013 at 07:24 PM (#4351289)
A definition of "good" that does not include Adam Laroche is pretty strict.


Late year he was 4.0 BBREF War player. A good year by any definition.

His highest WAR any other year was 2.0, i.e, barely starter territory, and his cumulative WAR for those 8 years is 6.3. Now, some of those years he did not play many games. But looking at years when he played at least 100 games, his WAR numbers, including his big year last year, are 4.0, 2.0 (3 teams), 1.4, 1.2, 1.1, 1.0, 0.9, -1.0.


So, compared to the country at large, yes, he is a good player. By MLB standards, I could see how somebody could throw out 2013 as a fluke, and think maybe not.
   20. MHS Posted: January 20, 2013 at 07:32 PM (#4351300)
You should include 2012 in the analysis. He is worth 10 WAR for his career in 4700 PA's... or about 1.4 WAR per 650 PA's. He has not been a good player for his career... and that is not using any kind of strict standard. He is better than replacement level, but generally below what is considered average, which is about 2 war. If you give him some credit for receiving you can get to plus or minus average... which is a far cry from good.

I'm wasting my time though, since people who think he is good will continue to delude themselves and I won't change their mind.


   21. Bug Selig Posted: January 20, 2013 at 08:37 PM (#4351372)
So I may as well disregard most of it.


Bye.
   22. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: January 20, 2013 at 09:09 PM (#4351412)
Earl wasn't so dogmatic that he couldn't deviate from his general rule and overall strategy. The rule, anyway, wasn't "don't ever bunt"; it was don't sacrifice bunt and bunt for a hit if you know how to bunt and the fielders aren't expecting it.

Quite true.

We had just returned from a 2 week family trip to Germany in 1985 so I drove my mother to the grocery store and waited in the car to catch the start of the Orioles game on the radio that evening. Imagine my surprise when I heard, "This is Tom Marr with Earl Weaver in Manager's Corner." (Wha-WHAT??!! Pinch me! Earl is BACK!!)

It was only Earl's third or fourth game back since being called out of retirement so Tom asked Earl about an uncommon play he had put on the night before. Earl rather humorously related that he hadn't had time to flesh out all the signs so he just yelled out to Cal Ripken, Sr. "SQUEEZE!!" The Orioles put on a successful squeeze play because nobody, but NOBODY, in the ballpark believed Earl could possibly be serious. Keep 'em guessing.
   23. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:28 AM (#4351686)
Since when is WAR, particularly the defensive component, gospel? It should be a starting point for discussion, not the final word.
   24. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM (#4351690)
Listening to some people talk about Weaver, you would think that his teams slugged their way to all those pennants and the World Series. The reality of course is that it was stellar pitching and defense that carried them.
   25. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4351693)
#1 he bunted plenty with Belanger specifically (Belanger twice led the league in sacs -- topping out at 23). But Belanger was fast and a good bunter. Base for an out as a consolation prize with a less than elite hitter is rarely a poor tactical move.

On the other hand, he also pinch-hit for Belanger quite a bit -- and constructed his roster so that he could do so at will.

   26. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:50 AM (#4351696)
WAR's defensive components aren't really the issue here. Adam LaRoche is a career 119 OPS+ first baseman, he costs you runs on the bases, and his OPS is tilted more to slugging that on-base. He's a roughly league average hitter for a first baseman, probably a little below average as an offensive contributor when you account for baserunning. He's 33 years old, and two of his worst hitting seasons of his career have come in his last three years. He had a very good season last year, but overall that's not a hitter you want to spend any money on. That's not a "good" first baseman unless he has some very significant virtues on the defensive side.

LaRoche had by all accounts strong season with the glove last year. He has previously never been rated as a particularly special defender. It is possible that LaRoche either (a) has been an excellent defensive 1B for years, and both the stats and the opinions of his observers only caught up last year or (b) has attained a new level of defensive excellence that makes him a good bet to save 10 runs per season over the average 1B. Possible, but hardly likely or certain enough to dismiss opinions to the contrary.

I saw maybe 5-10 Nats games last season, and LaRoche didn't stand out with the glove. He seemed fine. I'm much more inclined to think of him as an averageish 1B than a good one. And given his age, I think he's notably more likely to be a bad first baseman than a good one in 2014.
   27. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4351697)
#12 He had reasonable plate discipline. Weaver actually batted him second a fair amount (1334 PAs) -- against pitchers he thought would be afraid of walking him and would not throw him their best stuff.

I guess you could argue that it both worked and didn't. His stats batting second are a tad better than his overall stats (but easily within noise). But it's still only a .306 OPS with no power.

   28. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:02 AM (#4351699)
This is mostly semantics. I think we all agree that LaRoche is an average to slightly above average 1b overall (his fangraphs numbers are better), but had a particularly strong season last year and was one of the Nat's best players. But in MLB, a guy who's very like to give you a full season of average is a very valuable commodity. I'd say that makes him a "good" player.

   29. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM (#4351702)
I think we all agree that LaRoche is an average to slightly above average 1b overall (his fangraphs numbers are better)
Projecting him as a 33-year-old, I'd go with average to somewhat below average. But we basically agree, yeah.

I use seven basic gradations of baseball player goodness. They run below replacement level, roughly replacement level, below average, roughly average, above average, all-star, superstar.

This is all, of course, mostly quibbling. Our evaluations of LaRoche differ only marginally. I don't really care much about where on the below replacement to superstar grade you start using the word "good". Esoteric seemed to be suggesting that LaRoche was quite obviously much better than the below average to average player the MHS was describing, and I disagreed with that evaluation, and I thought he was unjustified in his certainty in that evaluation, at least.)
   30. JJ1986 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:10 AM (#4351704)
LaRoche is a good player, but George Will's "probably their MVP last year" still vastly overrates him. Even if you won't pick a pitcher, Desmond, Zimmerman and Harper were all more valuable.
   31. Famous Original Joe C Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4351718)
eso

c'mon. nastiness on top of nastiness?

you are better than that


Well...
   32. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4351737)
A definition of "good" that does not include Adam Laroche is pretty strict.


Well, you are debating with Mister High Standards.
   33. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:37 PM (#4351748)
I think two quotes from Earl encapsulate why I'd have him managing my all-time great team --

The best play in baseball is the 3-run homer.

The bunt has its place, but it's at the bottom of a long-forgotten closet.

Yes - Earl understood the value of defensive, particularly up the middle (see Blair, Belanger, and Dempsey) - but he was a master of constructing the roster to maximize the team such that he could carry a non-hitting defensive wiz at SS.

Rules are made to be broken -- at a very basic, philosophical level - Earl understood the "prime directive" of winning baseball games. Don't give away outs, and try to take them away from the other team.

Working in a large organization that is riddled with 'best practices' and 'rules' - I like to borrow a page from Earl's book in running my own group: Know and understand the rules - not just the what, but the why and the how, so you know when it's appropriate to break or disregard them.

Earl understood that sort of thinking...

...and he was a master at seizing every tiny little advantage - the DH substitution rule is because of Weaver - he used to pencil in an SP for the DH spot in the initial lineup, simply pinch-hitting for him with his "real" DH when the spot came due... This way, if the opposing SP got knocked out early in a slugfest, got hurt, etc -- he could swap in say, Lowenstein or Singleton depending on the new pitcher.

   34. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4351752)
That's true, and so is this. Mark Belanger hit .208 in 1968--and Weaver made him his regular shortstop in 1969. Belanger hit .218 in 1970, .186 in 1972, and .226, .225 and .226 from 1973 to 1975--and Weaver just left him in the lineup and let him play. That's managing.


That's from the most recent Bill James Mailbag. It says something about how good a shortstop Belanger was, but it also says loads about how much Weaver valued defense that he would put up with a player who as a hitter isn't of major league quality.
   35. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4351760)
And about baseball in the late 60s into the 70s. Artificial turf, big parks, and a big strike zone significantly increased the value of up-the-middle defense. This was the beginning of the era of the groundball triple to left-center. Shortstops in the 70s just didn't hit. This may have had something to do with a relative lull in talent, but I think it was also an affirmative choice by managers to maximize defense, in response to the conditions in which baseball was being played. Weaver was a part of this broad consensus.
   36. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4351772)
Our evaluations of LaRoche differ only marginally. I don't really care much about where on the below replacement to superstar grade you start using the word "good".


yeah, this seems to be an entirely semantic argument.

   37. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4351787)
And it wasn't as if Belanger was an unprecedented feature. Aparicio spent some time in Baltimore, and under Weaver, too. Although Belanger is the extreme on this, especially for a first-class organization. Aparicio was better than Belanger as an offensive player for a SS, though.

Yet, Weaver, with commendable alacrity, switched Ripken to shortstop. The AL (it was mostly an AL thing by the '70s) had the precedent of Petrocelli (I'm kind of surprised at how well he stacks up in dWAR), then Smalley, then Yount, but still. And he made the switch to get more offense at that position. He figured Ripken would be able to play shortstop, but he had no idea that Ripken would be really as good as he turned out to be at playing it.
   38. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4351797)
#34
Weaver just left him in the lineup and let him play


But that's absolutely false. He constructed the lineup so that he could pinch-hit for Belanger at will in high leverage situation. He also gave serious consideration to dropping Belanger in 1972 (for Grich) before deciding that Grich/Belanger was a better alignment (overall -- obviously no contest defensively) than Johnson/Grich.

Unlike (say) Bobby Valentine with Rey Ordonez (and Valentine is far from the only manager, it's just one combo I can document if need be), Belenger was never going to bat with the game on the line.
   39. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4351816)
#37 Actually he didn't make the move to get an extra bat into the lineup. They'd traded DeCinces to make room for Ripken at third and really didn't have another bat. They'd bought Glenn Gulliver but nobody really thought much of him (including Weaver) and Ripken's backup at AAA the year before was Floyd Rayford.

Indeed, after a brief fling with Rayford at third, Weaver was uing Ripken, Dauer and Sakata -- the same regulars but with all three playing different positions. He'd just come to the conclusion that Sakata couldn't handle SS on a regular basis.
   40. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:03 PM (#4351822)
38:

That's true, and I don't know if Bill James goes on to qualify or explain it more. He has before, though, made your exact objections. Not only that, Weaver did sit Belanger down when things got too too bad, but, still, the guy got an awful lot of PAs for someone with his rate stats--and at almost any time, this can be said.
   41. JE (Jason) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 03:12 PM (#4351883)
And about baseball in the late 60s into the 70s. Artificial turf, big parks, and a big strike zone significantly increased the value of up-the-middle defense.

No American League team had artificial turf on its home field until Royals Stadium opened in '73, MCoA. The second and third AL teams were the Jays and Ms in '77.
   42. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 21, 2013 at 03:58 PM (#4351916)
No American League team had artificial turf on its home field until Royals Stadium opened in '73, MCoA. The second and third AL teams were the Jays and Ms in '77.

Close, but not quite. Comiskey had an artificial turf infield from 1969 through 1976.
   43. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:11 PM (#4351937)
WAR's defensive components aren't really the issue here. Adam LaRoche is a career 119 OPS+ first baseman, he costs you runs on the bases, and his OPS is tilted more to slugging that on-base. He's a roughly league average hitter for a first baseman, probably a little below average as an offensive contributor when you account for baserunning. He's 33 years old, and two of his worst hitting seasons of his career have come in his last three years. He had a very good season last year, but overall that's not a hitter you want to spend any money on. That's not a "good" first baseman unless he has some very significant virtues on the defensive side.


119 is most years what the league median STARTING 1B hits. The mean average 1B hits a little lower.
Is he worse than the average 1B at baserunning? As a group they're not good at it
according to BBREFWAR, from 2009-2012, 1Bs (over 300 PAs that span) averaged -1.6 baserunnning runs per 650 PAs, LaRoche was -2.2, big whoop de do.

according to BBREFWAR, from 2009-2012, 1Bs (over 300 PAs that span) averaged -0.8 DP runs per 650 PAs, LaRoche was -0.0, big whoop de do- but that brings his combined baserunning/DP avoidance to +0.2

Last 3 years those 1Bs have averaged 2.0 WAR per 650 PAs, LaRoche has averaged 2.1

In 2011 LaRoche blew chunks at supersonic speeds, other than that, 2006-2012 he's been a perfectly fine ball player, maybe not a star, but if he doesn't come near your definition of a "good" ballplayer, you have a really narrow definition of good.
   44. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4351942)


   45. JE (Jason) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:51 PM (#4351980)
Close, but not quite. Comiskey had an artificial turf infield from 1969 through 1976.

Thanks, Andy, but the larger point remains. The need for a rangy shortstop was more accute in the NL during those years.
   46. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4352030)
Bauer was fired at the All-Star break in 1968. In Weaver's first game, Belanger batted second, which he had not done all season to that point. For the rest of 1968, Belanger would start 73 games and bat second 54 times.

Belanger played in 1805 games under Weaver. He was removed for a pinch-hitter on 318 occasions, or once every 5 2/3 games - basically once a week. Bauer also pinch-hit for him a lot in 1968 (12 times in 69 games) but in 1967 Bauer pinch-hit for him just 3 times in 69 games.

Non-pitchers who played at least 100 games for Weaver and who were replaced by pinch-hitters more often than once every 10 games played:
Player               Games          PH For         Games/PH
Skaggs
Dave         181            59             3.07
Ayala
Benny         226            63             3.59
Sheets
Larry        202            51             3.96
Lowenstein
John     406            88             4.61
Garcia
Kiko         392            81             4.84
Bonilla
Juan        102            21             4.86
Graham
Dan          141            29             4.86
Duncan
Dave         189            34             5.56
Dwyer
Jim           313            56             5.59
Belanger
Mark       1805           318            5.68
Etchebarren
Andy    443            75             5.91
Crowley
Terry       658            105            6.27
Rayford
Floyd       225            35             6.43
Dempsey
Rick        973            149            6.53
Sakata
Lenn         280            42             6.67
Kelly
Pat           377            55             6.85
Dauer
Rich          850            115            7.39
Wiggins
Al          147            18             8.17
Roenicke
Gary       591            68             8.69
Coggins
Rich        239            27             8.85
Hendricks
Ellie     627            69             9.09
Lopez
Carlos        129            13             9.92 


Earl pinch-hit on 10 occasions for Cal Ripken, the last of which occurred on June 4, 1982.

-- MWE
   47. Anthony Giacalone Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:39 PM (#4352174)
Cal was hitting .236/.271/.379 on June 4, 1982.
   48. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:53 PM (#4352250)
Close, but not quite. Comiskey had an artificial turf infield from 1969 through 1976.

Thanks, Andy, but the larger point remains. The need for a rangy shortstop was more acute in the NL during those years.


Yeah, but I didn't want you to repeat that blooper in your NR blog and have some newly hired factchecker report you to the boss.

   49. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:01 PM (#4352254)
Ripken became the full-time starter at shortstop on July 1, 1982. The Orioles gave Rayford several starts at 3B after the move, then called up Gulliver on July 17. For the rest of the season, Gulliver and Sakata platooned, with Dauer shifting back and forth between second and third. The Orioles gave the 3B job to Leo Hernandez in 1983, then when he was found wanting tried a washed-up Aurelio Rodriguez there, and finally in desperation turned to Todd Cruz, who they bought from Seattle. Cruz had been Seattle's regular shortstop but lost the job to Spike Owen and was unceremoneously dumped on the Orioles. In his first game with the Orioles Cruz had a bases-loaded double and a three-run homer off Detroit's Milt Wilcox, which made him an instant folk hero in Birdland, but he didn't do much of anything the rest of the season and by 1984 was toast.

The Orioles churned third basemen for a long time after that. Most hit poorly, some hit well for a year or two and then came apart (like Leo Gomez and Jeff Manto), and when they finally did get someone to fill the position (BJ Surhoff) they promptly moved Cal back to third a year later.

Weaver gets a lot of credit for moving Cal to SS, but would the Orioles have been better off in the long run trying to find a shortstop who could play the position better than Sakata or Bob Bonner rather than moving Ripken? Interesting question.

-- MWE
   50. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:05 PM (#4352257)
It's also interesting to look at the end of Blair's tenure with the O's. Blair had been a pretty good hitter under Weaver and of course a great defender so there was usually no question about putting him int he lineup.

But his bat completely fell off a cliff in 1975. That year he hit 218/257/300 for a 62 OPS+. But Weaver still gave him 104 starts, 89 of them complete games so he was happy to PH for him but hardly every start. Blair rewarded him with a +12 in CF -- which was not so great by Blair's standards but still good.

In 76, the earth was rushing up to meet Blair -- 197/245/264 and a 54 OPS+. Weaver cut back but still gave him 89 starts. By dWAR, Blair was only average that year and it was his last with Baltimore. It may have been the wrong decision (-1.3 WAR for Blair that year) but it provides some evidence of how much Weaver valued good defense.

Blair is one of the great cliff-divers of all time. He went from 5 WAR to .6 to -1.3 WAR from 74 to 76. He lost 50 points of OPS+ from 74 to 75. He never bounced back, putting up a 56 OPS+ in nearly 1400 PA after 1974. From ages 21 to 30 he had 37 WAR which has an outside shot at the HoM with a good decline; after age 30 he had -2.8 WAR.
   51. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 22, 2013 at 02:45 AM (#4352365)
Is anyone else surprised that Will has even a passing acquaintance with, and seeming acceptance of, the basics of new-school analysis? This is, after all, a man who in the last few years dedicated an entire syndicated column to his opposition to men wearing jeans. He's also one of the more prominent alums of my tiny high school. I am not.

EDIT: Around here he'd probably be right up there with our old friend Eraser-X.
   52.   Posted: January 22, 2013 at 02:49 AM (#4352366)
EDIT: Around here he'd probably be right up there with our old friend Eraser-X.


In terms of what, level of jeans hatred?
   53. Moeball Posted: January 22, 2013 at 02:58 AM (#4352368)
Blair is one of the great cliff-divers of all time. He went from 5 WAR to .6 to -1.3 WAR from 74 to 76. He lost 50 points of OPS+ from 74 to 75. He never bounced back, putting up a 56 OPS+ in nearly 1400 PA after 1974. From ages 21 to 30 he had 37 WAR which has an outside shot at the HoM with a good decline; after age 30 he had -2.8 WAR


Do you think it was a recurrence of vision problems dating back to Blair's beaning in 1970? I know it sounds like a stretch but when Tony Conigliaro was beaned in 1967, he bounced back in 1969 and 1970 and everyone thought he was ok but in 1971 he suddenly couldn't hit anymore and he said he couldn't see anymore so he retired after this game, I believe.
   54. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 22, 2013 at 03:14 AM (#4352370)
49/mike: no.
   55. baudib Posted: January 22, 2013 at 04:05 AM (#4352371)
It's easy to forget now how crazy it was to move Ripken to third. Ripken was by all accounts an A++ prospect, but no one, and I mean no one, thought he should play shortstop but Earl and maybe some others in the Orioles organization. I mean, Ivan DeJesus said after the 1983 World Series that the AL MVP was out of position.

Guys, Mark Belanger is not even anywhere near the bottom of the barrel for weak-hitting middle infielders. He played in an era that featured winning teams with guys like Ray Oyler and Eddie Brinkman playing SS. You have Dal Maxvill, Jonnie LeMaster, Mario Mendoza. Ozzie Smith was an All-Star hitting .222 with 13 extra-base hits one year.
   56. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: January 22, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4352386)
Ugh, this discussion reminds me of Jim Mason for the Yankees. He made Bucky Dent seem like a batting champ.
   57. Ron J2 Posted: January 22, 2013 at 10:05 AM (#4352397)
#53 It wasn't vision problems precisely. More likely memory of the beaning. The word got out that if you threw inside (just off the plate) he'd back off so far that he couldn't reach anything outside.
   58. Barnaby Jones Posted: January 22, 2013 at 10:24 AM (#4352413)
both the stats and the opinions of his observers only caught up last year


Laroche was always showered with praise for his defense when he came up with Atlanta. I've always understood his defense as part of his appeal. Not sure where you are getting the opposite impression.
   59. AROM Posted: January 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4352467)
Guys, Mark Belanger is not even anywhere near the bottom of the barrel for weak-hitting middle infielders. He played in an era that featured winning teams with guys like Ray Oyler and Eddie Brinkman playing SS. You have Dal Maxvill, Jonnie LeMaster, Mario Mendoza. Ozzie Smith was an All-Star hitting .222 with 13 extra-base hits one year.


Two explanations for how poor the shortstop hitting was in those days:

1. The defensive demands of the position were so much larger than they are today.
2. Teams were making inefficient decisions.

I lean towards #2, because if #1 was true then the few teams that did play an offensive player at the position (example: Toby Harrah) should be losing a ton of runs by doing so. The data do not support this. Harrah was below average but contributed many more runs with the bat than he cost on defense.

I think the shortstop decisions made are in the same category as using people like Omar Moreno and Frank Tavaras as leadoff hitters. The kind of things that make you scratch your head and wonder why teams did that.
   60. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4352481)
Piffle.
   61. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:10 PM (#4352491)

Two explanations for how poor the shortstop hitting was in those days:

1. The defensive demands of the position were so much larger than they are today.
2. Teams were making inefficient decisions.

I lean towards #2, because if #1 was true then the few teams that did play an offensive player at the position (example: Toby Harrah) should be losing a ton of runs by doing so. The data do not support this. Harrah was below average but contributed many more runs with the bat than he cost on defense.


Petrocelli was a good hitter; Fregosi was an OK hitter for the Angels--the Tigers made a strange decision when they moved good-hitting McAuliffe from SS to 2B in 1967 and proceeded to trot out a collection of some of the worst hitters in MLB history to play SS. (On the other hand, they DID win it all in 68)
   62. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 22, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4352607)
In terms of what, level of jeans hatred?


Ha - no, in terms of prominence among the BBTF crowd. Now that you mention it, though, I can confirm that Mr. X did have somewhat of an aversion to denim in our youth. I think he's come around though.
   63. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: January 22, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4352753)
Remember this was the same era where Dick Green played 2nd base for the A's and Finley used to ask his manager at the time to pinch hit for him in the early innings. I think the A's of the early 70's used to keep at least 3 people on the roster that could play 2nd. This bit them in the ass during the 72 playoffs when Tenace had to play 2nd during one game.

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