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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Bill James Mailbag

As a Yankee fan (sorry, apologies upfront), I’d like to give the organization and A-Rod the benefit of the doubt on waiting until January to have surgery that, I seem to remember, we all knew he was going to have back in November. I’m assuming that there might have been medical reasons for having to wait? Otherwise…wtf?

I’ll tell you this:  it’s a big wtf inside baseball.  Obviously there is SOMETHING going on there that we don’t know about.

I am nearly through reading John Jenkins’recent biography of Rehnquist. Two items of interest: • He uses the term “sabermetrics.” • He describes a 1980ish exchange between Rehnquist and Stevens re Kiki Cuyler. An attorney cited an earlier case-Cuyler v Sullivan. Rehnquist quipped-“You mean the Cubs center fielder.” Stevens immediately stepped in-“right fielder.” In those pre-Internet days, Rehnquist had his clerks research it.

How’s the book?  I read a lot of Supreme Court stuff. ..doubt that I will read that due to its partisan nature. 

Stevens and Rehnquist were both big baseball fans, and Stevens was old enough to remember seeing Kiki Cuyler in the second half of his career—AFTER he had moved to right field.  So it fits.

Thanks to Sitting Judge Barnald.

Repoz Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:14 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. dr. scott Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4351731)
Am I the only one surprised James didn't say "sorry, don't know what this stat "wtf" is. "
   2. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4351743)
He actually came off much less curmudgeonly in this one than he usually does.
   3. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4351767)
I don't know if they still do it or not -- but I do know that under Rehnquist -- SCOTUS had a very serious Rotisserie (as in, the real Rotisserie using the Okrent 80s era rules, not the watered down 'fantasy baseball' stuff) league. I can't remember if I heard it from Stevens or maybe O'Connor, but I do remember reading an interview where one of them mentioned how seriously the annual auction was taken -- as in, they did it the 'right' way (in my mind as a 'Rotisserie' player) -- it wasn't a 90 minute long submit your lists and autodraft; it was an all-day affair where mini-bidding wars would erupt over Ron Hassey.

Both Stevens and Rehnquist were big baseball fans...
   4. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4351841)
Stevens probably still is. He claims to have been present at the Ruth home run shot-calling game.
   5. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4351845)
Extrapolating from a sampling of people who claimed to be there, around 185,000 people were in attendance for Gabby Hartnett's Homer in the Gloamin'. Just sayin...
   6. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: January 21, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4351899)
(as in, the real Rotisserie using the Okrent 80s era rules, not the watered down 'fantasy baseball' stuff)... they did it the 'right' way (in my mind as a 'Rotisserie' player)

Can you expand on this a little? What's the difference between 'Rotisserie' and 'fantasy' baseball?
   7. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:00 PM (#4351921)

Can you expand on this a little? What's the difference between 'Rotisserie' and 'fantasy' baseball?


'Real' rotisserie:

- Standard $260 salary cap (call them units, dimes, dollars, or whatever - the key is 23 man roster with 260 units to fill it)
- rosters constructed via live auction, with bidding
- no h2h, points, etc allocations -- standings are either 4 X 4, or, 5 X 5 is acceptable
- Must be NL-only or AL-only; unless you have 20-25 owners (i.e., utility IFs, backup Cs, and middle relievers are a must because no team can 'afford'/the pool is too shallow to allow starters populating your CI/MI/4th-5th OF spots)

'fantasy' is everything else...
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:03 PM (#4351924)
Can you expand on this a little? What's the difference between 'Rotisserie' and 'fantasy' baseball?

I always thought the distinction was that 'Rotisserie' league drafts took place in high class coffee shops, while 'fantasy' leagues played out strictly in mommy's basement.
   9. Greg K Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4351934)
standings are either 4 X 4, or, 5 X 5 is acceptable

Now this is really going to out me as an ignorant doofus, but I've always wondered (and been too ashamed to ask) what does 4 X 4 and 5 X 5 mean?
   10. JJ1986 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:15 PM (#4351945)
Now this is really going to out me as an ignorant doofus, but I've always wondered (and been too ashamed to ask) what does 4 X 4 and 5 X 5 mean?


I think it means 4 hitting categories/4 pitching or 5 hitting categories/5 pitching. I don't know why it's not 4 + 4 or 5 + 5.
   11. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4351948)
Now this is really going to out me as an ignorant doofus, but I've always wondered (and been too ashamed to ask) what does 4 X 4 and 5 X 5 mean?


4 X 4 is the original/classic rotisserie setup -- 4 hitting categories, 4 pitching categories: AVG, HR, RBI, SB for hitters, W, composite ERA, Saves, WHIP for pitchers.... 5 X 5 generally expands to include runs (for hitters) and strikeouts (for pitchers).

Quite obviously - these are flawed in terms of player 'value'... but that was the point - you're not building a 'fantasy team', you're building a 'rotisserie team' -- which meant that you evaluated players based off this artificial construct.
   12. bunyon Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4352005)
I'm clearly out of it. ARod just had surgery?!

   13. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4352008)
"sorry, don't know what this stat "wtf" is."

Wins Through Fear. Jim Rice is the all-time leader.
   14. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:55 PM (#4352022)
I'm clearly out of it. ARod just had surgery?!


Yeah, but it was just elective Centaur-enhancement surgery...
   15. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4352032)
'fantasy' is everything else...

Got it. So, we basically agree - you've just rigidly defined 'Rotisserie' as what I would call a non-worthless fantasy baseball league (though I make exceptions for snake drafts under certain circumstances though auction is clearly better).

Curious about your insistence on the categories, though - I play in a league where we replaced BA with OPS and another league where we added OPS for hitters and K/BB for pitchers to the standard 5x5 and play 6x6. Adds a bit of complexity and tracks 'fantasy value' ever-so-slightly closer to 'real value'.
   16. Bruce Markusen Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:12 PM (#4352041)
According to the Yankees, doctors told A-Rod that he needed to strengthen the hip before undergoing surgery. That's why they waited until now, instead of doing it in late November/early December.
   17. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:20 PM (#4352052)
Curious about your insistence on the categories, though - I play in a league where we replaced BA with OPS and another league where we added OPS for hitters and K/BB for pitchers to the standard 5x5 and play 6x6. Adds a bit of complexity and tracks 'fantasy value' ever-so-slightly closer to 'real value'.


I think that's probably fine ;-)... not that I'm Dan Okrent or anything (and Dan long ago ceded his position on arbiter of what's "rotisserie" and what's not anyway).

The rate stats still hadn't undergone the OBP revolution back in the 80s -- we actually switched over to OBP ourselves about 15-20 years ago (violent arguments about going to OPS -- the counterargument being that it inflated the value of HRs, and in effect, 'triple-counted' them).

We had the same argument with K/BB -- that it double-counted WHIP to a large extent...

I was in favor of the OPS switchover, but agnostic on the K/BB-WHIP debate...

We've been a keeper league for a good long while now, so one problem that inevitably comes up with category switch-outs was that it inevitably creates problems for people with long-term contracts.... We originally started using the old "Rotisserie Ultra" rules, but pared them back a fair bit ('Rotisserie Ultra' had 40 man rosters, options, etc) because it turned the league in a damn near full-time, year-round job. Still - the fact that we have mechanisms for long-term contracts means that any time a category switch comes up, people inevitably throw fits because it can have at least a moderate impact on whether a contract is a good one or not.
   18. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:02 PM (#4352091)
[5] Voros - yes, the claim is, at most, evidence that he is a fan.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:52 PM (#4352132)
I’ll tell you this: it’s a big wtf inside baseball.

Really? It seems this sort of thing happens all the time. I'll grant you I don't know why but it does. Maybe it's to try rehab first, maybe it's to wait for the trauma of the season to calm down (swelling and such), maybe it's busy schedules, maybe it's to "strengthen the hip" or I've always wondered if it's legal/labor issues (i.e. paychecks stop coming at the end of the season and don't start up again until, what, Feb so can your employer "force" you to have surgery? is AROD even legally an employee of the Yankees during the offseason?).

But not an offseason goes by when, come Feb/March/April, we aren't saying about at least one player "huh, why did they wait until now to do the surgery?"

its partisan nature.

Just curious, knowing nothing about the book -- partisan as in anti-Rehnquist or partisan as in pro-Rehnquist? And do most "objective" observers consider it "partisan"?

   20. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4352163)
Just curious, knowing nothing about the book -- partisan as in anti-Rehnquist or partisan as in pro-Rehnquist? And do most "objective" observers consider it "partisan"?


The book's title is "The Partisan", and Jenkins also did a piece for the New York Times Magazine in 1987 with the same title, after a series of interviews with Rehnquist, that led the latter to vow not to cooperate with the media in similar projects again. Jenkins is also the author of a book about noted celebrity divorce lawyer Marvin Mitchelson and another book called The Litigators about trial lawyers. I have not read the book; the impression that I get from the online reviews is that Jenkins clearly has a point of view (anti-Rehnquist) but that he's not overbearing about it.

-- MWE
   21. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:38 PM (#4352171)
I haven't read the Jenkins bio either, but from reviews I've seen it is apparently sharply critical of Rehnquist (as you might guess from the title, "the Partisan"). The only reviews I've seen that attack the book as "partisan" itself have been in explicitly conservative publications.

In short, it is the partisans who have criticized "The Partisan" as partisan.
   22. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:49 PM (#4352180)
No, it's not a big "WTF" inside baseball. A-Rod needed to build up sufficient strength in his hip before the surgery so as to shorten his recovery time. This was widely reported.
   23. VoodooR Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:17 PM (#4352195)
Extrapolating from a sampling of people who claimed to be there, around 185,000 people were in attendance for Gabby Hartnett's Homer in the Gloamin'. Just sayin...


My grandfather claimed to have been there, and in doing so would note that he was actually there as opposed to the untold masses who only said they were there later.

   24. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:48 PM (#4352293)
The book's title is "The Partisan", and Jenkins also did a piece for the New York Times Magazine in 1987 with the same title, after a series of interviews with Rehnquist, that led the latter to vow not to cooperate with the media in similar projects again.

Nixon thought so much of Rehnquist (his own nominee) that he referred to him as "Renchberg" in the Watergate tapes
   25. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 22, 2013 at 09:38 AM (#4352387)
I haven't read the Jenkins bio either, but from reviews I've seen it is apparently sharply critical of Rehnquist (as you might guess from the title, "the Partisan"). The only reviews I've seen that attack the book as "partisan" itself have been in explicitly conservative publications.


This is the kind of book that I read in Barnes and Noble while waiting for my wife to finish her shopping.

-- MWE
   26. villageidiom Posted: January 22, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4352403)
4 X 4 is the original/classic rotisserie setup -- 4 hitting categories, 4 pitching categories: AVG, HR, RBI, SB for hitters, W, composite ERA, Saves, WHIP for pitchers....
Back when this was the standard format, I was asked to resolve a dispute in a rotisserie league where one person drafted no starting pitchers, only closers. He basically ceded Wins to the rest of the league, but killed them in saves and the two rate stats. They didn't have anything in their rules to prevent a team from drafting only closers, but they couldn't resolve it amicably in a way that wouldn't require a complete do-over in the draft.

I think incidents like that were the genesis of fantasy leagues, where you don't necessarily need to build a baseball team, but rather a collection of stat-collectors.
   27. zonk Posted: January 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM (#4352419)
Back when this was the standard format, I was asked to resolve a dispute in a rotisserie league where one person drafted no starting pitchers, only closers. He basically ceded Wins to the rest of the league, but killed them in saves and the two rate stats. They didn't have anything in their rules to prevent a team from drafting only closers, but they couldn't resolve it amicably in a way that wouldn't require a complete do-over in the draft.


Okrent himself tried this (and finished 8th) - hence, most roto leagues employ a minimum IP rule (we go with 900).

Thanks to loose waiver rules, I used to do a taxi SP claim and drop... which led our league to adopt a max starts rule.

I think incidents like that were the genesis of fantasy leagues, where you don't necessarily need to build a baseball team, but rather a collection of stat-collectors.


That - to me - has always been the point... given that there's no really good way (especially for daily reporting) to incorporate defense in such things - I always thought it best to get out of the mindset of building the best "baseball team"...
   28. AROM Posted: January 22, 2013 at 11:32 AM (#4352444)
Back when this was the standard format, I was asked to resolve a dispute in a rotisserie league where one person drafted no starting pitchers, only closers. He basically ceded Wins to the rest of the league, but killed them in saves and the two rate stats. They didn't have anything in their rules to prevent a team from drafting only closers, but they couldn't resolve it amicably in a way that wouldn't require a complete do-over in the draft.


We had a guy do this in a 5x5 league. He was ceding wins and strikeouts to everyone else, but it worked as he was able to finish at or near the top in SV, ERA, and WHIP. So in pitching overall, he's got a slightly above point total, but he really cleaned up on offense. While everyone else was spending 60-70% of their money on hitters, he was spending about 90%. Next year we put in the minimum innings rule and that was the end of the strategy.

   29. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 22, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4352457)

I think incidents like that were the genesis of fantasy leagues, where you don't necessarily need to build a baseball team, but rather a collection of stat-collectors.


Don't most fantasy leagues require you to have players at each of 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, etc.? That's much more team-like than rotisserie, I thought.
   30. AROM Posted: January 22, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4352471)
Don't most fantasy leagues require you to have players at each of 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, etc.? That's much more team-like than rotisserie, I thought.


They require a player to be qualified at a position, some minimum number of games played. In some leagues if a guy plays one inning somewhere he's qualified for the rest of the year.

In recent years this meant that teams could use Jermaine Dye at shortstop, or Josh Willingham at catcher the first year he was up.
   31. zonk Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4352489)

They require a player to be qualified at a position, some minimum number of games played. In some leagues if a guy plays one inning somewhere he's qualified for the rest of the year.

In recent years this meant that teams could use Jermaine Dye at shortstop, or Josh Willingham at catcher the first year he was up.


The standard roto hitting roster (and, I assume most fantasy leagues, too) is 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI (must qualify at SS/2B), CI (1B or 3B), 2 C, and 5 OF.

The standard is usually 20 games at a position the previous season (or - if less than 20 games at any one position, qualifies only at position most appeared). It's the in-season stuff that wreaks havoc -- our league uses a 3 game minimum... For one season, we jacked it up to 10 (the year after TLR was penciling McGwire in at 2B, letting him bat in the first, then pulling him when the team took the field), but went back down to 3 a few years back.

You definitely want to make in-season qualifier at least 2 -- that way -- you don't create unfair advantages when those one-time, screwy scenarios come up.

I don't see a problem with Willingham getting an extra season at C -- of course, this is mainly because I had a very cheap keeper Ryan Braun at 3B for his sophomore year ;-)
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4352509)
Nixon thought so much of Rehnquist (his own nominee) that he referred to him as "Renchberg" in the Watergate tapes

I think his exact words were "that clown Renchburg", and for once Nixon was right. This is a character who, as a Supreme Court clerk to Justice Robert Jackson, tried to persuade him to uphold the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v Ferguson in the pending case of Brown v the Board of Education. This was the heart of his memo:

I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by "liberal" colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.... To the argument ... that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are.[11]**

[11]** William Rehnquist, "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases", S. Hrg. 99-1067, Hearings Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the Nomination of Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist to be Chief Justice of the United States (July 29–31, and August 1, 1986).
   33. just plain joe Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4352518)
They require a player to be qualified at a position, some minimum number of games played. In some leagues if a guy plays one inning somewhere he's qualified for the rest of the year.


A league I play in had a rule that if a player ever appeared as an All-Star at a position, he was qualified for that position in perpetuity. We called it the "Brian Downing Rule" after the player whose owners most benefitted from it. This rule has since been abolished but not after some intense debate.
   34. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 22, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4352527)
I thought 5x5 rotisserie meant you had a 'team' of ten players (five each hitting and pitching) each evaluated in five stats (thus your results took the form of a 5x5 grid). I'm pretty sure I have seen people playing that way.
   35. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: January 22, 2013 at 01:11 PM (#4352555)
I have never heard of that. It is not at all common and doesn't sound like much fun.

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