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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jonny Gomes on D&C: ‘There’s no sabermetrics for chemistry’

Yea, and Lord Kelvin Chapman had absolute zero to do with the Mets winnin…okay, maybe he has a point.

On why he changes teams frequently: “I think from what I’ve brought to clubs, doesn’t really shine in a single season. I always say if you win a division in a big market club, that kind of shines. If you do it in a small market team it becomes a Cinderella story and considered lucky. Granted that I have three division titles in the last five years, all three are ‘lucky.’ Like, ‘You can’t do it again.’ I tell you what, sabermetrics is a son of a gun these days. There’s no sabermetrics for chemistry. There’s no sabermetrics for winning.”

...While not always putting up All-Star numbers, Gomes is well-regarded for his reliability and positive clubhouse presence. He said it’s important to have good chemistry on a team.

“I don’t care what profession you are in. If you are working with your friends, if you are working in a healthy environment, if you’re working in a fun environment, the performance kind of shines a little bit,” he said. “I always go back to a little metaphor. When you’re 12 years old on the sandlot, 12 years old on the basketball court, you’ve got two captains, you’re one of the captains, who do you pick? You don’t pick the best player, you pick your friend. … That’s how it needs to be at the big league level. When you’re playing Little League Baseball and your best friend’s pitching and you’re in the outfield you’re diving and catching that ball, 100 percent.”

On being compared with Kevin Millar: “Kevin Millar is actually one of my really good friends. We’ve known each other for a while. But we just can’t be compared to each other, because I’m twice as good-looking. He actually, he dyes his hair. I do not dye my hair. … His front two teeth are fake, I don’t have fake teeth. I have twice as much power as he does and I think I’ve got three inches on the forearms over him. So there’s actually nothing to compare with Kevin and I.”

Repoz Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:01 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: red sox

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   1. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:30 PM (#4370001)
sabermetrics is a son of a gun these days. There’s no sabermetrics for chemistry. There’s no sabermetrics for winning.”


I do believe Bonds and Kent didn't really get along well on those Giant teams and they seemed to do alright.

“Kevin Millar is actually one of my really good friends. We’ve known each other for a while. But we just can’t be compared to each other, because I’m twice as good-looking. He actually, he dyes his hair. I do not dye my hair. … His front two teeth are fake, I don’t have fake teeth. I have twice as much power as he does and I think I’ve got three inches on the forearms over him. So there’s actually nothing to compare with Kevin and I.”


OK, that's funny though.
   2. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:42 PM (#4370008)
There is probably something to be said for the morale of a team having some impact on a performance, but the reverse is also true and categorical statements are usually foolish. The problem here, as in most of these cases, is less with stats than the misunderstanding of what they're being used for. I doubt Gomes would say that home runs or platoon splits are unimportant, if he thought of sabrmetrics as an attempt to get a more accurate view of what a player does on the field and identify undervalued skills (in his case, the fact that he kills lefties) I doubt you'd see something like this.
   3. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:45 PM (#4370012)
I do believe Bonds and Kent didn't really get along well on those Giant teams and they seemed to do alright.


I don't think he's suggesting you can't win if you don't get along. He's saying getting along well helps. Attitude can't replace talent, but positive attitude + talent is a nice enhancement. Every little edge adds up over 162 games. Is it conceivable team chemistry is worth 2-3 wins a year? You can't quantify it, but I'd hardly be surprised.
   4. McCoy Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:50 PM (#4370017)
Granted that I have three division titles in the last five years, all three are ‘lucky.’ Like, ‘You can’t do it again.’ I tell you what, sabermetrics is a son of a gun these days. There’s no sabermetrics for chemistry. There’s no sabermetrics for winning.”

The Rays won 13 less games in 2009. The Reds won 12 less games in 2011. Oakland in 2013?
   5. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: February 14, 2013 at 08:52 PM (#4370021)
Washington won 17 more games after he left, though, and Cincinnati bounced back 18 games in 2012. Jonny Gomes, clubhouse cancer?
   6. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 14, 2013 at 09:00 PM (#4370030)
The Rays won 13 less games in 2009. The Reds won 12 less games in 2011. Oakland in 2013?

YOU SHUT UP, YOU.
   7. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 14, 2013 at 09:06 PM (#4370034)
There’s no sabermetrics for winning.

We call that WAR.

Kevin Millar is actually one of my really good friends. We’ve known each other for a while. But we just can’t be compared to each other, because I’m twice as good-looking. He actually, he dyes his hair. I do not dye my hair. … His front two teeth are fake, I don’t have fake teeth. I have twice as much power as he does and I think I’ve got three inches

I thought that was going somewhere completely different.
   8. Dale Sams Posted: February 14, 2013 at 10:21 PM (#4370060)
I do believe Bonds and Kent didn't really get along well on those Giant teams and they seemed to do alright.


Count da lack of ringzzzz?
   9. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 14, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4370083)
Guys, come on. He's already made this completely clear. He's not the machine, he's the grease. He's not the building, he's the foundation. Or part of the foundation. Or... something. Something completely clear.
   10. OsunaSakata Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:13 AM (#4370152)
When did Jonny Gomes become an expert on dilation and curettage?
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 15, 2013 at 07:50 AM (#4370157)
He's not the building, he's the foundation. Or part of the foundation.


So he's Jimmy Hoffa?
   12. Bug Selig Posted: February 15, 2013 at 08:16 AM (#4370160)
When you’re playing Little League Baseball and your best friend’s pitching and you’re in the outfield you’re diving and catching that ball, 100 percent.


Jonny's defensive stats (and reputation) indicate that his best friend flamed out early.
   13. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: February 15, 2013 at 08:32 AM (#4370165)
I don't dismiss that chemistry might have helped the A's last year. Maybe the relaxed clubhouse made all the rookies more comfortable? The vets--McCarthy, Crisp, Gomes etc.--seemed like funny, easy going guys and there certainly weren't any veteran hardasses to "put the rooks in their place". I imagine this quality is ephemeral, though, and probably disappears as fast as it arrives. At the end of the day you want better players than the other guys have.
   14. zonk Posted: February 15, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4370176)
Has 'sabermetrics' ever really been 'anti-chemistry'?

I've always thought that it was simply a matter of chemistry being something that cannot be quantified and measured, and as such, it's fruitless to try to maximize it because you can't put a number on it...
   15. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 15, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4370183)
I've always thought that it was simply a matter of chemistry being something that cannot be quantified and measured, and as such, it's fruitless to try to maximize it because you can't put a number on it...

What's more is, the impact of any specific chemistry can apparently be completely random, in either direction. Are they a bunch of happy-go-lucky boys, who are just having fun out there, or are they a bunch of slackers, drinking beer and eating chicken in the clubhouse? Are they hard working professionals who get their job done, or are they soulless. joyless robots devoid of any emotion?

There is no way to actually tell in advance if you have the good chemistry, or the bad chemistry. You can only tell in hindsight (hint: it's by looking at the win column).
   16. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: February 15, 2013 at 09:47 AM (#4370186)
He's not the building, he's the foundation. Or part of the foundation. Or... something.


He's that light switch that nobody can figure out what it does.
   17. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4370194)
Has 'sabermetrics' ever really been 'anti-chemistry'?

I've always thought that it was simply a matter of chemistry being something that cannot be quantified and measured, and as such, it's fruitless to try to maximize it because you can't put a number on it...


There are at least a couple of broad approaches to things that can't be quantified. The first dismisses them out of hand; if they can't be measured, they don't exist. Early sabermetrics seemed to often take that approach. The second understands that the inability to measure something doesn't mean that thing isn't there, only that the ruler might be inadequate to the task.

My experience tells me people work harder and better when they believe in what they're doing, when they like the people they work with, when they're thoughtfully supported by management, and when they have the tools to get the job done.

Someone else's experience might tell them something entirely different, but if I was GMing a club that's the approach I'd take, the chemistry I'd look to establish. I'd want a manager who fostered those things. In the absence of a way to usefully measure chemistry, the above also simply makes life more enjoyable. Put another way, if those four things in the paragraph above are met, is it likely a team is going to do worse than otherwise?
   18. villageidiom Posted: February 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4370195)
On being compared with Kevin Millar

As I was reading the first paragraph of the excerpt, I actually thought, "I guess we have our Kevin Millar for 2013." The second paragraph clinched it.
   19. bachslunch Posted: February 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM (#4370214)
On being compared with Kevin Millar: “Kevin Millar is actually one of my really good friends. We’ve known each other for a while. But we just can’t be compared to each other ... He actually, he dyes his hair. I do not dye my hair.

Give it time, give it time. "Just For Men" and the like are the future for older men who don't want to have any grays.
   20. Delorians Posted: February 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM (#4370229)
"There's no sabermetrics for chemistry"

Imagine it's being ready by Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan.
   21. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 15, 2013 at 11:41 AM (#4370238)
You don’t pick the best player, you pick your friend.

I don't know about you guys, but I went for the best player almost every time. Friendships last, winning is ephemeral.
   22. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 15, 2013 at 05:46 PM (#4370421)
Someone else's experience might tell them something entirely different, but if I was GMing a club that's the approach I'd take, the chemistry I'd look to establish. I'd want a manager who fostered those things. In the absence of a way to usefully measure chemistry, the above also simply makes life more enjoyable. Put another way, if those four things in the paragraph above are met, is it likely a team is going to do worse than otherwise?

That's all fine and well in the abstract. Phrased like this, there is no down side, so what's to lose. But there are consequences to this approach. Do you pick the player of lesser ability, because you don't like the attitude of the better player? Do you overpay to make sure you get the guy who "fits"? Do you trade a bad fit for pennies on the dollar?

It's easy to hypothesize in the abstract. Much harder to actually put your money where your mouth is (and perhaps foolish).
   23. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: February 15, 2013 at 05:54 PM (#4370426)
Do you pick the player of lesser ability, because you don't like the attitude of the better player? Do you overpay to make sure you get the guy who "fits"? Do you trade a bad fit for pennies on the dollar?


Kevin Towers would apparently give a resounding "yes" to all of these questions. We'll see how that works out for him.
   24. zonk Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4370436)

That's all fine and well in the abstract. Phrased like this, there is no down side, so what's to lose. But there are consequences to this approach. Do you pick the player of lesser ability, because you don't like the attitude of the better player? Do you overpay to make sure you get the guy who "fits"? Do you trade a bad fit for pennies on the dollar?

It's easy to hypothesize in the abstract. Much harder to actually put your money where your mouth is (and perhaps foolish).


My opinion is that there are very, very, very few players who would be so destructive to 'chemistry' that they actively hurt the team... In fact - if you look at some of the worst 'clubhouse' guys of recent vintage, they've ALL played big roles on successful teams... it's only when things went south that they became so cancerous to get out and out dumped.

Manny Rameriz played on two world champions before getting dumped...

Carlos Zambrano played on 3 division champs before being scrapped...

Even Milton Bradley played in two postseasons...

So - I guess I would ALWAYS go for the better player, at least - if I'm already a contender.

Seems to me that the only time you avoid the problem children is if you're NOT a contender or - if you're picking up the clubhouse lawyer when he's on the downswing.

You don't want to bring these guys into a situation where you're rebuilding, you don't want to mess with them in the hopes of 'resurrecting' them, and you don't want to bring them in as a 'final piece to the puzzle'.

But I'm already a 90+ win team, and the player fits a need? Sure...
   25. Walt Davis Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:16 PM (#4370441)
I've got to agree with FPH. Another way of putting it is that it's 25 guys (plus coaches plus the other 20 guys who will wander on and off the roster through the season) -- they aren't all going to mesh and there is no single approach that will work with each guy.

I'm guessing that 25 direct reports is about as large a load as any manager/supervisor in the corporate world handles these days.
   26. Steve Treder Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:28 PM (#4370446)
I'm guessing that 25 direct reports is about as large a load as any manager/supervisor in the corporate world handles these days.

In any practical sense, yes it is. Very large direct-report situations are customarily buffered by the use of "leads" or other forms of informal supervision to handle day-to-day details.

And that's effectively what baseball managers do. Strictly speaking, they oversee 25 directly-reporting players, plus the half-dozen or so coaches. But among the roles of the coaches is to serve as de facto supervisors, and handle routine day-to-day questions and issues rather than having the manager get involved in every last thing.

There have been some managers -- Felipe Alou comes to mind -- who actively discouraged regular direct interaction with players, and who required that all communication except emergency issues go through the coaching staff.
   27. Ebessan Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4370456)
The most important players for chemistry are basically just the bench and pen guys. The new market inefficiency.
   28. Cris E Posted: February 15, 2013 at 06:56 PM (#4370461)
I suppose it matters on a tie-breaker level. Some teams might choose based on injury history or who can steal a base or who played with whom in the past or just plain scrappyness, and some might work with chemistry. If you have two guys with more or less interchangeable skills you might pick the good guy or avoid the a-hole. If you need a utility guy to sit around and play twice a week you make sure he can cover short, draw a walk and not be a dick. Backup catchers are in this boat. But if you have freedom to make choices based on baseball attributes then they'll usually take precedence.

I'm not sure why people have trouble with chemistry. There are lots of pretty similar players in the game, and tie-breaking needs to be done to make decisions. If you're an average or below guy, chemistry might be a big part of your life as you try to set yourself apart. Say what you want to about the value of scrappyness and chemistry, but some guys got it and they keep getting jobs. It may not have value in computing (or even creating) runs, but these teams live together for eight or nine months a year and a guy who can make that work better is valuable on a simple quality of life basis. Not everything is runs.
   29. Steve Treder Posted: February 15, 2013 at 07:23 PM (#4370469)
I'm not sure why people have trouble with chemistry. There are lots of pretty similar players in the game, and tie-breaking needs to be done to make decisions. If you're an average or below guy, chemistry might be a big part of your life as you try to set yourself apart. Say what you want to about the value of scrappyness and chemistry, but some guys got it and they keep getting jobs. It may not have value in computing (or even creating) runs, but these teams live together for eight or nine months a year and a guy who can make that work better is valuable on a simple quality of life basis. Not everything is runs.

Agreed, this isn't rocket science. And here's the thing: everyone instantly recognizes and understands the reality and significance of "atmosphere" or "morale" or "vibe" or whatever within their own work environment. Of course your company shouldn't choose someone clearly less competent to fill a key job just because he/she gets along with everyone. But other things being equal, they should and normally do hire/promote the employee who is, shall we say, lower maintenance. That's eternally and universally accepted and understood as good business.

A baseball team is no different.
   30. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: February 15, 2013 at 07:25 PM (#4370472)
And there should be. What do you think are the all-time top-ten chemists by peak and career?
   31. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 15, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4370475)
And there should be. What do you think are the all-time top-ten chemists by peak and career?

Antoine Lavoisier
Dmitri Mendeleyev
Marie Curie
Henry Cavendish
Friederich Wöhler
Amedeo Avogadro
John Dalton
Josiah Gibbs
Jons Jakob Berzelius
Humphry Davy

Chemistry hijack bitches!
   32. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: February 15, 2013 at 08:31 PM (#4370492)
I fully support this hijack.

What are we considering alchemists and philosophers who also worked with chemistry? Like 19th century players or like a totally different sport?

And the list in #15 is missing Robert Boyle. I'm not sure who would go, that's an incredibly impressive group of people, but probably Cavendish or Davy.
   33. HowardMegdal Posted: February 15, 2013 at 09:40 PM (#4370522)
As someone who grew up in the 1980s, a lot of the baseball stories I read were about the 1972-74 A's and 1976-78 Yankees. I wonder if that has some bearing on my skepticism about chemistry.

Incidentally, using it as a tiebreaker clearly goes on within the game itself. Similar players with better reps last longer. Dave Kingman, for example, didn't find a team after hitting what, 35 home runs?
   34. The District Attorney Posted: February 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM (#4370529)
Not everything is runs.
False. Or at least, everything we need to care about is runs. Now, not everything is easily translatable into runs. But if your claim is that a congenial clubhouse environment leads to better performance, you are, in fact, saying that chemistry is runs. The outcomes of baseball games are determined by runs; therefore, if it affects a baseball game, it affects runs. If Jesus came down and informed us that it was impossible for a player's psychological state of mind to affect the runs scored in a game, then we'd know to never worry about chemistry again.

And I do think that a player's psychology can affect how many runs he's producing/saving. I'm not even sure what the argument to the contrary would be (everyone who isn't a complete baseball-playing automaton is weeded out before they reach MLB, and also no one has anything more to learn once they get there?), but I'm sure I'd find it to be ridiculous. Of course that's true.

My problem, though, lies in the points made in #15 before the poster (incorrectly, IMO) tries to use those points to disprove the notion altogether. Chemistry is fluid and interdependent on multiple factors. A guy who comes off as the life of the party to Group A very often comes off as a goofball to Group B; we all know this. So much depends on who's in the group, the power dynamics within it, the histories of everyone involved (both their own "backstories" and their relationships with each other), and innumerable other things.

For this reason, although chemistry exists, it's very difficult to plan for. It's extremely simplistic, although sadly characteristic of recent sabermetrics, to think that a player just carries around a constant "chemistry" value that is a missing part of his WAR or something. (And I'm sure teams often do label players as "good/bad chemistry" and act accordingly. They're also being simplistic.)
   35. Delorians Posted: February 16, 2013 at 01:18 AM (#4370580)
Dave Kingman, for example, didn't find a team after hitting what, 35 home runs?

That was the 1986-87 collusion year so not the best example.
   36. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 16, 2013 at 04:21 AM (#4370607)
Maybe baseball talent is scarcer than I think it is, but the idea that to get to the postseason you'd have to pick Milton Bradley over a comparable player who wasn't a time bomb seems odd to me.

My opinion is that there are very, very, very few players who would be so destructive to 'chemistry' that they actively hurt the team...


PREcisely. By aiming for an enjoyable, hardworking atmosphere, you're giving up very, very little; you're limiting your choices by only a very, very little. I'll also take J.D. Drew in RF, thanks very much. I'm talking overall organizational attitude, which means guys like Drew tend not to get turned into problems. Most people go along with the prevailing atmosphere as its set or encouraged from the top. You don't have to pick a scrappy white IFer with an OBP of .295 over a 4 win 2Bman who keeps to himself in order to aim for productive chemistry.

In fact - if you look at some of the worst 'clubhouse' guys of recent vintage, they've ALL played big roles on successful teams... it's only when things went south that they became so cancerous to get out and out dumped.


SSS, non-dispositive, and sez you.

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