Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 26, 2011
WAR: "Tilting Towards Hamas"

House Democrats none too happy with Obama's approach to Israel's borders.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2011
POLITICS: Unspecial

In the past three years, there have been three special elections in upstate New York in districts the GOP could or should have won.

Each time, the GOP bigwigs nominated a member of the hated and dysfunctional state legislature.

Each time, the grassroots was dissatisfied with the nominee, who lost.

In 2010, Republicans picked up five House seats in New York - more than any other state - and not one of those newly-elected Members of Congress was a state legislator.

Coincidence? I don't think so. More here. And for Democrats spinning this as a national-referendum or indicator of a coming wave like Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts in early 2010, a reminder here of a key feature of Brown's win: it was a statewide race with presidential-election level turnout, something we haven't seen in any of the special House races the past three years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:10 AM | Politics 2011 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Stakes

Excellent Paul Ryan video that neatly captures the two sides' differing approaches to controlling the explosive growth of the costs of Medicare:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:07 AM | Politics 2011 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2011
POLITICS: Kohl Out

I told you last month that Herb Kohl, Wisconsin's Democratic senior Senator, hadn't raised even a penny in the first quarter of 2011, leading to questions about whether he would run for re-election in 2012. Kohl was best known for being not known - he kept an extremely low profile in the Senate, and the best you can say of his Senate career is that, to quote Animal House, Kohl has a long tradition of existence in the Senate. Today he makes it official: he's not running for re-election in 2012.

Kohl's retirement sets off a scramble to identify the candidates for what will doubtless be a very high-profile race, given the recent political controversies in Wisconsin and its status as a potentially crucial 2012 swing state. The A-list Democratic candidate is recently deposed Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who commands loyalty from the base and top-flight fundraising capability; given that Feingold was beaten in 2010 by relative unknown Ron Johnson (52%-47%) without the assistance of a scandal or other major controversy, running him sets up a pure test of whether the state's rightward shift will endure in 2012 with the elevated turnout of a national election.

The GOP "dream" candidate is Paul Ryan, who of course is also being courted in some circles to be a presidential or vice presidential contender, but Ryan has a safe lock on an otherwise Democratic-leaning district, a powerful perch in the House and young kids, so he may pass on this race. The other main candidate who's already jumped in is former two-term Congressman Mark Neumann, who lost a moderately close race to Feingold in 1998 (50.55%-48.40%) and finished a distant second to Scott Walker in the 2010 Gubernatorial primary.

Then again: it's a job opening in Wisconsin, and guess who's out of work!

Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 AM | Politics 2011 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2011
BASEBALL: Yogi

Today is Yogi Berra's 86th birthday. If you haven't read it before, I'd suggest revisiting my Hardball Times article from before the 2009 season (Part 1 of which is here) putting the top catchers of all time in context.

Physically, Yogi was basically designed to be a catcher (Bill James described him as looking like, if he was a piece of furniture, you'd sand him off some). And while he was a heckuva hitter and defensive catcher as well as handler of pitchers, his real calling card in the argument for the greatest catcher of all time - and integrally related to why his teams won so much - was his unique combination of durability and consistency (as the military saying goes, quantity has a quality all its own).

Consider: in his peak years from 1950-56, counting the World Series (which the Yankees played in six times in those seven seasons) and the All-Star Game (which Yogi started each of those years, including catching all twelve innings in 1955), Yogi's teams played 1121 games (160 games a year). Yogi caught 1035 of those (148 per year) and never had an off year - his worst year with the bat in that stretch was 1955, when he batted .272/.349/.470, drove in 108 runs, won the MVP award and hit .417/.500/.583 in a seven-game World Series. He won three MVPs, finished second twice, third once and fourth once. Did Yogi tire? He batted .274/.359/.452 in the World Series (including an OPS above 1000 in three straight Serieses from 1953-56); his career OPS was 802 in the first half, 858 in the second half, and he did his best work in the dog days of July and August (career .313/.381/.517 in July, .301/.366/.500 in August compared to .247/.312/.402 in April). He didn't tire in games either - his career line in extra innings was .355/.447/.618.

Yogi was also fired three times as a manager (Mets once, Yankees twice). All three teams then embarked on decade-long stints in the wilderness.

Did I mention he only played briefly in the minors - and thus had to learn to catch at the major league level, where he was tutored by Bill Dickey - because he spent two years in the Navy in World War II, where he served on a 36-foot "rocket boat" off Normandy supporting the D-Day landings?

I was on a rocket boat -- 36-footer, with 12 rockets on each side, five machine guns, a twin-50 and the 330s. And only 36 feet, made out of wood and a little metal...It's amazing what that little boat could do, though; that 36-footer. We could shoot out rockets. We could shoot one at a time, two at a time, or we could shoot all 24 at a time. We went in on the invasion. We were the first ones in, before the Army come in.
...[W]e stand out about 300 yards off the beach, and we see what happens. If we ran into anything, we fire.
Fortunately enough, nothing happened to us. We were lucky. But, you just get so tired, you got to say that. But then, I enjoyed it. I wasn't scared. Going into, it looked like Fourth of July. It really did. Eighteen-year-old kid, going in an invasion where we had - I've never seen so many planes in my life, we had going over there.

Dumbest fact about Yogi: like Joe DiMaggio and Whitey Ford, he was not voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Go figure.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Ah, 1976

This one from the following year is even more of a period piece, in its own way.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL Central (last as always); this is the sixth and last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. Team ages are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West, NL East.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 220.00 (87 W)
Adjusted: 232.93 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.33 (88 W)
WS Age: 28.94
2011 W-L: 88-74

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Jonathan Lucroy*25
1B27Prince Fielder2728
2B28Rickie Weeks2020
SS29Yuniesky Betancourt1010
3B28Casey McGehee1721
RF29Corey Hart1514
CF25Carlos Gomez67
LF27Ryan Braun2829
C233Wil Nieves33
INF40Craig Counsell95
OF30Nyjer Morgan109
1235Mark Kotsay54
1330Jeremy Reed11
SP127Zack Greinke1715
SP225Yovanni Gallardo910
SP329Shaun Marcum98
SP434Randy Wolf108
SP529Chris Narveson#44
RP128John Axford*610
RP229Kameron Loe32
RP341Takashi Saito64
RP430Sergio Mitre21
RP523Zack Braddock*23

Subjective Adjustments: None. Greinke's missed some time, but then EWSL probably underrates Gallardo and Marcum due to injury risks.

Also on Hand: Position players - George Kottaras, Brandon Boggs, Erick Almonte.

Pitchers - Brandon Kintzler, Sean Green, Marco Estrada, Mitch Stetter, LaTroy Hawkins.

Analysis: Just look at the ages of the Brewers' starting lineup to see why EWSL rates them the class of the division - having a whole bunch of guys right in their prime is sometimes more important than having the most talent in the abstract.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 214.17 (85 W)
Adjusted: 230.53 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 219.32 (86 W)
WS Age: 29.42
2011 W-L: 86-76

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C35Ramon Hernandez129
1B27Joey Votto2829
2B30Brandon Phillips1917
SS28Paul Janish#67
3B36Scott Rolen1712
RF24Jay Bruce1216
CF26Drew Stubbs#1114
LF30Jonny Gomes1311
C230Ryan Hanigan109
INF37Miguel Cairo32
OF30Fred Lewis109
1235Edgar Renteria86
1327Jeremy Hermida88
SP134Bronson Arroyo1311
SP227Ednison Volquez54
SP325Johnny Cueto910
SP424Travis Wood*37
SP525Homer Bailey45
RP136Francisco Cordero1110
RP223Aroldis Chapman+15
RP326Logan Ondreysuk*35
RP429Nick Masset86
RP523Mike Leake*48

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Chris Heisey, Juan Francisco, Yonder Alonso, Chris Valaika.

Pitchers - Jordan Smith, Bill Bray, Matt Maloney, Carlos Fisher.

Analysis: The Reds' starting rotation remains unsettled, but there's definitely pitching talent there.

Francisco Cordero is now second on the active saves list - he's never really been a spectacular closer, but his low HR rate more than anything else, especially in the parks he's worked in, has kept him steady year in and year out.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 224.33 (88 W)
Adjusted: 239.50 (93 W)
Age-Adj.: 217.52 (86 W)
WS Age: 30.70
2011 W-L: 86-76

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Yadier Molina1818
1B31Albert Pujols3529
2B31Skip Schumaker1613
SS31Ryan Theriot1412
3B28David Freese#45
RF35Lance Berkman2015
CF24Colby Rasmus#1320
LF31Matt Holliday2421
C231Gerald Laird98
INF33Nick Punto87
OF26John Jay*49
1226Allen Craig*12
1327Tyler Greene#11
SP136Chris Carpenter1412
SP224Jaime Garcia*614
SP333Jake Westbrook54
SP432Kyle Lohse32
SP527Kyle McClellan76
RP127Mitchell Boggs32
RP229Jason Motte#44
RP326Fernando Salas*11
RP440Miguel Batista43
RP538Ryan Franklin119

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton.

Pitchers - Adam Wainwright (out for the season), Eduardo Sanchez, Brian Tallet, Bryan Augenstein.

Analysis: The current division leaders, still hoping they can outrun the loss of Wainwright. Pujols' slow start this season is yet another reminder of the pitiless march of age, but Tony LaRussa still always manages to find some veterans - so far, Lance Berkman - who buck that trend long enough to contribute. Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has been worth every penny of his enormous salary. I was high on David Freese before the season, but he's yet to prove he can make it through a full season.

The weak point, by EWSL, is the bullpen, so if LaRussa and Duncan can work some magic in getting more out of an unimpressive assortment, the Cards could continue overachieve.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 204.50 (81 W)
Adjusted: 229.37 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.68 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.91
2011 W-L: 84-78

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Geovany Soto1414
1B33Carlos Pena1715
2B25Darwin Barney+111
SS21Starlin Castro*615
3B33Aramis Ramirez1614
RF34Kosuke Fukudome1513
CF33Marlon Byrd1816
LF35Alfonso Soriano1410
C230Jeff Baker65
INF25Blake DeWitt1012
OF34Reed Johnson54
1225Tyler Colvin*511
1332Koyie Hill43
SP134Ryan Dempster1311
SP227Matt Garza1110
SP330Carlos Zambrano1210
SP428Randy Wells#910
SP524Andrew Cashner*12
RP128Carlos Marmol1313
RP228Sean Marshall77
RP334Kerry Wood65
RP432John Grabow33
RP523Casey Coleman*23

Subjective Adjustments: None, although obviously the injuries to Wells and Cashner have been costly.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Marcos Mateo, Jeff Samardzjia, James Russell, Justin Berg, Jeff Stevens.

Analysis: The Cubs are not a bad team, and they're good enough to swipe a title in a weak division with a few breaks (a harder thing to swing when the division has six teams) but - not to harp on age again here - they're a rebuilding team. Seriously: EWSL rates Marlon Byrd as their best player, once you apply the age adjustments. (Byrd may still be a solid glove but compared to the other center fielders in this division he's in awfully fast company).

Thus far, they've been laboring without Wells and Cashner, both injured.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 172.00 (71 W)
Adjusted: 191.31 (77 W)
Age-Adj.: 172.28 (71 W)
WS Age: 30.10
2011 W-L: 71-91

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31Humberto Quintero54
1B24Brett Wallace*11
2B31Bill Hall87
SS27Angel Sanchez*47
3B26Chris Johnson*816
RF28Hunter Pence1920
CF28Michael Bourn1818
LF35Carlos Lee1713
C227JR Towles11
INF32Clint Barmes119
OF35Jason Michaels54
1231Jeff Keppinger1412
1333Joe Inglett54
SP130Brett Myers119
SP232Wandy Rodriguez1210
SP328JA Happ#89
SP426Bud Norris#33
SP537Nelson Figueroa65
RP131Brandon Lyon129
RP226Mark Melancon*12
RP331Jeff Fluchino#33
RP425Enerio Del Rosario+14
RP525Fernando Abad*12

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Bourgeois, Matt Downs, Brian Bogusovic.

Pitchers - Aneury Rodriguez, Wilton Lopez, Jose Valdez.

Analysis: The Astros' Defensive Efficiency Rating, at this writing, is .648. No team has finished a full season below .650 since the 1930 Phillies (the 2007 Rays were the closest in recent decades, at .652 - which they followed with a historic one-season improvement to the best in MLB in 2008 - although the Cubs also had some appalling defenses in the 70s). Unless they can fix the infield (Johnson and Sanchez have been horribly error-prone, contributing to the low DER), it's gonna be a long season for the Houston pitching staff.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 136.83 (59 W)
Adjusted: 165.50 (68 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.48 (74 W)
Subj. Adj.: 176.48 (72 W)
WS Age: 27.75
2011 W-L: 72-90

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30Chris Snyder87
1B34Lyle Overbay1412
2B25Neil Walker*819
SS28Ronny Cedeno88
3B24Pedro Alvarez*718
RF30Garrett Jones#1011
CF24Andrew McCutchen#1726
LF22Jose Tabata*727
C230Ryan Doumit98
INF26Brandon Wood11
OF33Matt Diaz87
1228Steven Pearce22
1326Xavier Paul*00
SP130Kevin Corriea33
SP229Paul Maholm65
SP327Charlie Morton11
SP428Ross Ohlendorf65
SP528Jeff Karstens22
RP129Joel Hanrahan65
RP228Evan Meek#67
RP330Jose Veras43
RP434Joe Beimel54
RP528Daniel McCutchen#11

Subjective Adjustments: I cut Tabata from 27 to 22; the projected leap based solely on his age just looks too steep. Absent that, the Bucs would have ranked ahead of the Astros. No others, although Ohlendorf has been out of action for a while, with James McDonald filling his slot in the rotation.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Jaramillo, John Bowker, Josh Rodriguez.

Pitchers - James McDonald, Chris Resop, Michael Crotta, Garrett Olson, Danny Moskos.

Analysis: You know the perennial Pirates storylines; this year, it's back to letting the kids play and build on their good starts. Optimism will only set in when we see proof the kids will not just develop but develop in Pittsburgh.

And the pitching still stinks, so even a surprise by the offense won't deliver any glass slippers to PNC Park.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 9, 2011
BASEBALL: The Leg Man

Jose Reyes has 11 doubles and 6 triples through 34 games this season - totals that, if he kept this pace all season, would leave him with 52 doubles and 29 triples. How unprecedented is that? One way to look at it is that nobody's ever hit 50 doubles and 25 triples in the same season. Another is that Reyes projects to get - even before you factor in steals (he's also on pace for 57 of those) - 110 extra bases just from doubles and triples. That would break the (admittedly obscure) record of 96 by Shoeless Joe Jackson going away; only 9 players have notched as many as 90 in a season, and only one of them (Stan Musial in 1946) in post-World War II era baseball. I included Curtis Granderson's 2007, the closest modern season, for comparison. Note that one of the guys on this list, Tip O'Neill of the old St. Louis Browns of the American Association, managed this in a 138-game schedule; he also batted .435. Relatedly, 1887 was the only year in the history of the majors when it took four strikes to notch a strikeout.

PlayerYear2B3BPAExB
Jose Reyes (proj.)20115229772110
Shoeless Joe Jackson1912442665396
Kiki Cuyler1925432670095
Ty Cobb1911472465495
Adam Comorosky1930472368593
Ty Cobb1917442466992
Chief Wilson1912193664391
Stan Musial1946502070290
Joe Medwick1936641367790
Tip O'Neill1887521957290
Curtis Granderson2007382367684

Talk about your salary drives. Whatever other complaints Mets fans have this year, lack of a Grade A performance by Reyes hasn't been one of them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Factoid Of The Day

McDonald's recently announced a one-day hiring program, which netted a million applications, of which 62,000 people were hired. That's a 6.2% acceptance rate.

Harvard College's acceptance rate for the Class of 2015? 6.2%.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:53 AM | Business | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 6, 2011
BASEBALL: Say Hey

Great SI photo essay of Willie Mays, who turns 80 today. Mays almost certainly would have been the third player to 700 homers if he hadn't missed 1953 and more than half of 1952 in the Army.

How ready was Mays for the big leagues? Even at age 20, he was batting .477/.524/.799 in 164 plate appearances at AAA Minneapolis (the same place where Ted Williams finished his minor league career in 1938).

On returning from the military in 1954 at age 23, Mays batted .315/.390/.601 (OPS+ of 165) from age 23-35, averaging 661 plate appearances per year - his low in games played in those years was 151.

Mays is best remembered for his prime, but as far as his Mets tenure goes - as broken down as he was in 1973 (.211/.303/.344 at age 41 that season), it's still a shame that Mays didn't get one last chance to end with glory. Mays started Game One of the 1973 World Series in center field and singled in the first inning off Ken Holtzman. In Game Two, Mets up 6-4, he was inserted as a pinch runner for Rusty Staub (who was 12 years younger and already one of the slowest men in the game) in the ninth inning, and Yogi put him into center field. The A's tied the game in the bottom of the 9th in a rally that started with a Deron Johnson double to center; Mays apparently looked terrible on the play, as he often did afield that year, but it was the only hit they got to center the rest of the game (Sal Bando did single to center in Game One). In the top of the twelfth, Mays singled in the ultimate winning run off Rollie Fingers - his last major-league hit - and came around to score on a Mike Andrews error. In Game Three, he grounded out pinch hitting against Paul Linblad in the 10th. And that was it: Yogi didn't use him again the rest of the series. In Game Seven, which the Mets lost 5-2, the Mets used three pinch hitters - Jim Beauchamp, Ken Boswell and Ed Kranepool. Certainly defensible hitters to prefer to 1973 Mays on purely statistical grounds (Kranepoll was by then one of the NL's best pinch hitters, and both Kranepool and Boswell were left-handed hitters facing Fingers (Beauchamp, also playing his last major league game, hit against Holtzman with the bases empty). Boswell singled and Kranepool reached on an error. Still, the Mets were down 4 runs from the fourth inning on, and none of those guys had any power. You wonder, if Willie had gotten to take one more swing in Game Seven, if he had one more longball in him.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 PM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2011
WAR: The Goatherd

One of the more notorious examples of the hysterical overreaction of critics overcome by their hatred of George W. Bush was their harping on him taking a few minutes to finish reading a children's book (The Pet Goat) to a classroom full of second-graders on the fateful morning of September 11 after getting the first news of the day's terror attacks. But if you've ever had children, you may appreciate TIME Magazine's look back at that incident through the eyes of some of the kids in that classroom - then 7 year olds, now teenagers - who were glad for Bush's calming presence in reading to them on that most insane of mornings.

As Ace notes, while Bush was pilloried for waiting in that classroom for seven minutes while his security detail got in place to get him moving, Obama has been hailed as a model of swift deciveness for concluding in just sixteen hours to go forward with the operation against bin Laden. Like Ace, I'm not going to quibble over Obama taking some time to make up his mind on a major decision - you can't argue with the results, and 16 hours isn't like his months of indecision on the Afghan surge or weeks of agonizing while the Libyan resistance got routed - but the people who made fun of Bush for seven minutes of reading to some kids can't very well expect to be taken seriously when they now parade Obama as a paragon of decisive action.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2011 NL East EWSL Report

Part 5 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. Team ages are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 190.33 (77 W)
Adjusted: 232.78 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.45 (88 W)
Subj. Adj.: 221.45 (87 W)
WS Age: 29.18
2011 W-L: 87-75

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C27Brian McCann1920
1B21Freddie Freeman+011
2B31Dan Uggla2219
SS34Alex Gonzalez1210
3B39Chipper Jones1713
RF21Jason Heyward*1228
CF29Nate McLouth1212
LF27Martin Prado1717
C234David Ross65
INF33Eric Hinske76
OF28Matt Young+04
1231Brooks Conrad*47
1328Joe Mather11
SP135Tim Hudson1310
SP224Tommy Hanson#913
SP325Jair Jurrjens1011
SP438Derek Lowe119
SP524Brandon Beachy04
RP123Craig Kimbrel*25
RP226Johnny Venters*510
RP326Eric O'Flaherty44
RP434Scott Linebrink33
RP534George Sherrill64

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Martin Prado 2 Win Shares (dropping him from 17 to 15), which is a very conservative estimate of his reduced defensive value on moving to left field - I'd have docked him further but his ability to slide back into the middle infield remains valuable and could yet be called upon by the Braves. Also docked Freddie Freeman 1 Win Share, as his youth, limited minor league track record and slow start raise at least some questions about his value. But I didn't want to tinker too much here.

Although Beachy looks for now like he should comfortably exceed 4 WS, you can never count your chickens with rookie starting pitchers.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Hicks, JC Bosan, Jordan Schafer.

Pitchers - Peter Moylan, Kris Medlen, Rodrigo Lopez, Cristhian Martinez (I swear some of these guys' names are misspelled with malice aforethought), Cory Gearin, Jairo Asencio, Mike Minor.

Analysis: Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that the Braves rate ahead of the Phillies, especially when you consider that EWSL has the Phillies as a 101-win team before applying the age adjustments. I take it with a grain of salt, though; the margin isn't large, and it's not hard to see how, say, Brooks Conrad could contribute less this year or Jason Heyward could fail to take The Leap (even the great ones don't always move in straight lines), in addition to the issues noted with Prado and Freeman. But as discussed below, the ranking says more about the Phillies than it does about the Braves.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 264.17 (101 W)
Adjusted: 264.43 (101 W)
Age-Adj.: 215.86 (85 W)
WS Age: 32.48
2011 W-L: 85-77

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C32Carlos Ruiz1512
1B31Ryan Howard2319
2B32Chase Utley2822
SS32Jimmy Rollins1714
3B35Placido Polanco1813
RF29Ben Francisco77
CF30Shane Victorino2220
LF39Raul Ibanez1914
C234Brian Schneider54
INF33Wilson Valdez54
OF35Ross Gload53
1232Pete Orr11
1327John Mayberry#11
SP134Roy Halladay2319
SP232Cliff Lee1814
SP333Roy Oswalt1510
SP427Cole Hamels1413
SP530Joe Blanton76
RP134Brad Lidge75
RP239Jose Contreras65
RP330Ryan Madson97
RP433Danys Baez21
RP527Antonio Bastardo#11

Subjective Adjustments: None. I might have had some issues regarding how to value Domonic Brown, but for now, since Brown has zero value based on his prior major league experience and isn't available to play right now, I'm just treating him like any other prospect not yet on the roster.

Also on Hand: Position players - Domonic Brown, Dane Sardinha, Josh Barfield, Brian Bocock.

Pitchers - JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Michael Stutts, Mike Zajuski, Vance Worley. Note that the gap with the Braves disappears if you replace Bastardo on the 23-man roster with Romero.

Analysis: It's not quite "The Devil and Joe Morgan" - Bill James' memorable essay on how the 1983 "Wheeze Kids" Phillies confronted an aging roster not by rebuilding but by bringing in even more, even older players to squeeze out one last championship - as this Phillies team's key players aren't as old as, say, the Hated Yankees' and the main import, Cliff Lee, is hardly decrepit at 32. But age is everywhere up and down this roster, and its grim companion - injuries - has already taken a toll on Chase Utley and Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, ill fortune has struck in other ways - besides the injury to young Brown, Roy Oswalt has left the team for an indeterminate amount of time to deal with an undisclosed personal issue (which could be anything, whether it's an issue with Oswalt or his family - we just can't know how serious it is or how long he'll be away).

I still see the Phillies as the team to beat in this division, assuming Oswalt's not out for long; their starting pitching is fearsome, and the offense, if no longer terrifying, remains deep. But aging teams have a way sometimes of falling short of their name-brand value.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 170.67 (70 W)
Adjusted: 198.16 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 195.68 (78 W)
WS Age: 27.47
2011 W-L: 78-84

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30John Buck1211
1B27Gaby Sanchez*918
2B29Omar Infante1313
SS27Hanley Ramirez2829
3B26Emilio Bonifacio56
RF21Mike Stanton*716
CF26Chris Coghlan1114
LF23Logan Morrison*511
C227Brett Hayes*12
INF32Greg Dobbs32
OF26Scott Cousins+14
1235Wes Helms64
1328Donnie Murphy22
SP127Josh Johnson1514
SP227Anibal Sanchez77
SP328Ricky Nolasco87
SP434Javier Vazquez108
SP524Chris Volstad66
RP127Leo Nunez98
RP231Clay Hensley64
RP327Edward Mujica33
RP425Ryan Webb#23
RP532Brian Sanches#55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Osvaldo Martinez, Bryan Petersen, John Baker (injured).

Pitchers - Randy Choate, Michael Dunn, Burke Badenhop.

Analysis: The Marlins are off to an odd start, 19-10 entering today's action even with their star, Hanley Ramirez, off to his second straight terrible start, .198/.308/.277, and a few other early problems - Infante's not hitting, Morrison's on the DL, and perhaps more predictably, Vazquez and Volstad have been horrible. Does this bode well for them? Maybe. Certainly Josh Johnson just keeps getting better - he's now 36-12 with a 2.78 ERA since his return in 2008, and in his last 224.2 IP his line is awe-inspiring: 2.04 ERA, 6.9 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9. And the development of Sanchez and the young outfield is encouraging - Stanton now has 27 HR and a .511 career slugging average in 126 career games, Sanchez has a career line of .281/.350/.458, Morrison .291/.397/.482 as a doubles-and-walks machine after posting OBPs of .402, .408 and .424 from age 20-22 in the minors. But recent history suggests that this team may have trouble keeping the rotation healthy (and perhaps the outfield as well). That and their perennially questionable defense will be the main question marks.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 176.83 (72 W)
Adjusted: 198.93 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 192.38 (77 W)
WS Age: 29.32
2011 W-L: 77-85

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Josh Thole*510
1B24Ike Davis*821
2B26Daniel Murphy45
SS28Jose Reyes1516
3B28David Wright2324
RF34Carlos Beltran1412
CF29Angel Pagan1615
LF32Jason Bay1915
C228Mike Nickeas+04
INF26Justin Turner+04
OF31Scott Hairston97
1233Willie Harris76
1330Ronnie Paulino76
SP127Mike Pelfrey98
SP236RA Dickey98
SP324Jonathan Niese*37
SP432Chris Young32
SP532Chris Capuano21
RP129Francisco Rodriguez1210
RP226Bobby Parnell#23
RP329Taylor Buchholz22
RP434DJ Carrasco54
RP537Tim Byrdak43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Pridie, Lucas Duda, Chin-Lung Hu. Brad Emaus opened the season as the everyday 2B but, being a Rule V pick, left the organization when he was sent down.

Pitchers - Johan Santana, who is unlikely enough to return this season as to not be worth inclusion. Jason Isringhausen, Dillon Gee, Pedro Beato (one of the team's few effective relievers so far but currently disabled), Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi.

I've rated Parnell with the big club, although after early struggles he got shipped back to AAA. I'll be surprised if he's not back soon.

Analysis: I could, and probably should soon separately, write a lot more about these Mets, but I'll try to be brief here in the interests of getting this post done. In addition to time constraints, one of the sad realities of my blogging life is the number of subjects I can't really write about due to possible overlaps with my job, and now that has even invaded the core of my baseball blogging, as the Mets' financial mess is too tied up with the world of Madoff and my practice specialty - securities litigation - for me to address freely except in the most general terms.

I've been saying all year that I think this is a .500 team, which in the context of the prevailing mood among Mets fans makes me decidedly bullish. The starting rotation has been the biggest threat to that so far (we already knew the bullpen would be a mess).

The biggest variable, in terms of both upside and downside, is the outfield, which now includes as well Angel Pagan, who got off to a terrible start before getting hurt. Here's Carlos Beltran, 2001-2010: .283/.366/.509 2011, entering today's action: .294/.379/.520 - he's the same hitter (his 148 OPS+ would be the second-best of his career after his 2006 season), just not the same fielder and baserunner he was before the knee injury. With his contract up at season's end, Beltran could be traded to a contender later in the season if he is willing to go. (Jose Reyes might too, but I can't really analyze the wisdom of that without getting into the team's finances).
As for Bay, the Mets spent half as much on him as the Cardinals spent on Matt Holliday, and right now would kill for half of Holliday's production; his .258/.344/.399 line with 7 homers in 445 plate appearances suggests more than just an adjustment period, after leaving Boston after his age 30 season. The most encouraging sign has been the development of Ike Davis into something like the kind of slugger you need at first base. Unless you count Rico Brogna, the only home-grown power-hitting first baseman in club history is John Milner.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 154.17 (65 W)
Adjusted: 166.37 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 154.41 (65 W)
WS Age: 30.05
2011 W-L: 65-97

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C23Wilson Ramos*24
1B31Adam LaRoche1614
2B24Danny Espinosa*25
SS25Ian Desmond*613
3B26Ryan Zimmerman2022
RF32Jayson Werth2318
CF31Rick Ankiel65
LF29Mike Morse55
C239Ivan Rodriguez86
INF35Jerry Hairston118
OF30Laynce Nix44
1243Matt Stairs42
1335Alex Cora43
SP136Livan Hernandez76
SP225Jordan Zimmerman#22
SP326John Lannan77
SP432Jason Marquis65
SP528Tom Gorzelanny44
RP123Drew Storen*36
RP226Tyler Clippard#68
RP328Sean Burnett65
RP431Doug Slaten21
RP530Todd Coffey33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jesus Flores (injured), Roger Bernadina, Brian Bixler.

Pitchers - Steven Strasburg (injured, as you know), Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick, Collin Balester, Henry Rodriguez, Yunieski Maya.

Analysis: If you can explain the Phillies' decisions as a desperate rage against the dying of the light and the Mets' as the external symptoms of the team's financial situation, the Nationals' behavior seems to manifest a sort of organization-wide post-traumatic stress disorder following Steven Strasburg's injury, as if the team just said "to hell with having a plan," let Adam Dunn walk, blew through some money on mid-career mid-market free agents (Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth), patched holes with slapdash additions like Rick Ankiel and Tom Gorzelanny, and then sat back and declared, "ah, that'll do" and went out to go on a bender. Another way of putting it is that the Nationals figured there was really no plan that could get them to a successful 2011, and decided to just throw a coat of paint over the team to avoid looking like they were giving up completely. But the real rebuilding will be on hold until 2012.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2011
WAR/POLITICS: Podcasting on Bin Laden

I dropped by Coffee and Markets to talk about 9/11 and the takedown of bin Laden. A few of the points I was making came out a bit awkwardly, but it was a fun show.

My voice always sounds better in my head than it does on radio, where I come out sounding way too much like Kermit the Frog.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:55 PM | Politics 2011 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Inconvenient Facts About The Takedown of Osama bin Laden

One good rule of thumb if you are arguing politics - or practicing law, as I do - is that if your argument requires you to prove that something never happens or somebody does nothing good or right, you have started off with two strikes against you. Never is a hard thing to prove and an easy one to disprove. In the real world, bad ideas work sometimes, bad people do good things sometimes, brilliant plans fail sometimes, and time and chance happen to us all. This is, in fact, why the wise conservative recognizes the wisdom of crowds and the benefit of tradition: things must be tried many times by many people to see what works most, and what works in one situation may not work in another. Thus, while we can fairly debate the respective amount of credit given to President Obama and his senior advisors for taking out Osama bin Laden, there is no useful cause served in arguing that the Administration should get no credit. Many national leaders far worse than Obama have done something right in office. In the long run, Obama's political success will stand or fall on his record as a whole.

A related caution is that the early news reports of almost anything are liable to be wrong, especially in wartime. I took great pleasure in the report offered by Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan that Osama bin Laden had died using one of his wives as a shield, but we are still seeing questions raised by some anonymous sources over the accuracy of Brennan's statements. Even if Brennan's account holds up, it may not be the last thing reported by the media regarding bin Laden's death that turns out not to be true.

With those two cautions in mind, we must pity the dilemma of the anti-war Left in facing the enormously popular and inarguably successful takedown of bin Laden.

To the mere Democratic partisan, there is no real conflict: as long as people like the results achieved under President Obama, his party wins. But the anti-war Left spent most of the Bush years shrieking to high heaven about Bush shredding the Constitution, staining the integrity of the nation, yadda yadda yadda. Everything he did in pursuing the War on Terror had to be the WORST THING EVER, and every effort made to argue that you were beyond the pale of civilization if you approved of the Iraq War, the detention of unlawful combatants at Guantanamo Bay or various secret CIA facilities, the use of "enhanced" coercive interrogation techniques (or for that matter any interrogation outside the Geneva Convention's name-rank-serial number questioning of traditional POWs), or the "assassination" of terrorists. This is the politics of outrage, the idea that you win arguments by being the angriest man in the room, that rather than argue that policies are not worth the costs and tradeoffs that come with every successful policy, they were inarguably wrong in every particular.

Consider the waterboarding debate. As it turns out, the CIA only waterboarded three men (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri), leading to the question of why the Left made such a colossal stink about it in the first place. Certainly, given those facts, nobody on the Right has argued that waterboarding or any other form of coercive interrogation should be the only or even the first recourse in interrogation (or even that they be used at all with criminal defendants or legitimate prisoners of war) - the argument is simply that these are sometimes-useful tools in an interrogator's toolkit and that, in some extreme hard cases, it can be justifiable to use those tools against the very worst hard-core senior terrorist leaders. But critics of waterboarding have mostly long since painted themselves into the corner of insisting that the tradeoffs involved don't need to be debated, because coercive interrogation never yields any information of any use in any situation.

This is poor ground to make a stand on.

Initial reports on the extensive detective work that led to cornering bin Laden have indicated a couple of things that are terribly inconvenient for these arguments. First, it appears that the initial lead that allowed bin Laden to be tracked down was the name of his courier (he used one or more couriers so he could stay off cell phones and the internet, a lesson he learned after a criminal trial revealed that our intelligence services were tracking him by cell phone), and that the nom de guerre of the courier was provided by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi to CIA interrogators. Both men had been held at precisely the sorts of "secret prisons" the Left denounced, and both subjected to coercive interrogation; in KSM's case he was one of the three men waterboarded. The Left, being unable to accept even the possibility that waterboarding might have contributed anything ever to anyone, has sprung into full damage-control mode, but inadvertently made many of conservatives' points for us. For example, ThinkProgress apparently thinks it is helping the cause by quoting Don Rumsfeld on the key leads coming from "normal interrogation tactics" at Guantanamo. But of course, if you spent years arguing that Guantanamo should be shuttered and all detainees subjected to the Geneva Conventions and tried in civilian courts, accepting this premise destroys your entire argument. Spencer Ackerman makes a lengthier effort to distance the information given by KSM and al-Libi to CIA interrogators:

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003, with al-Libbi following suit in 2005. A U.S. official tells the Associated Press reports that Mohammed gave up the courier's nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, while in one of the CIA's brutal "black site" prisons. As Marcy Wheeler notes, that's not the same thing as saying the 183 waterboarding sessions Mohammed received led interrogators to the nom de guerre. But let's be charitable to them and presume it did. According to the Washington Post, al-Libbi confirmed the alias as well.

From what we know so far, that's about all waterboarding yielded for the hunt for al-Kuwaiti.

The senior administration official told reporters on Sunday that "for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location." It took until "four years ago" - 2007, then - for intelligence officials to learn al-Kuwaiti's real name. By then, President Bush had ceased waterboarding and shuttered the black sites, moving the detainees within them, including Mohammed and al-Libbi, to Guantanamo Bay. In a Monday interview, Donald Rumsfeld said "normal" interrogation techniques were used at Gitmo on those detainees.

Once again, Ackerman has to concede basically every other piece of the Left's argument - against GTMO, against CIA interrogation, against secret CIA prisons - in order to protect the Holy Grail of arguing that waterboarding never, ever, ever works. What he's left with is the contention that when a guy confesses to the good cop, that means the bad cop was not a factor in anything that followed (the phrase "fruit of the poisonous tree" may ring a bell to some lawyers). And oh, yeah, those two guys gave up the lead that started it all.

It gets worse for Ackerman's side:

It took more traditional sleuthing to get al-Kuwaiti's real name, according to the Times. That meant putting more operatives on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan to track him, yielding a partial name. Once they had that, they unleashed "one of their greatest investigative tools": the National Security Agency's surveillance net. The NSA monitored email and phone traffic until they had his full name: Shaikh Abu Ahmed.

Last summer, the Associated Press reports, al-Kuwaiti/Ahmed made a fatal mistake: he called someone under NSA surveillance. After showing up on the grid, CIA operatives on the ground were able to hunt him.

You will note the absence of any reference to the NSA getting a search warrant for this. Once again, after all the huffing and puffing and lawsuits about NSA surveillance, it turns out that it, too, played a part in tracking down Public Enemy #1.

Are we done yet? No, we're not. Thankfully, due perhaps to being off the internet grid, bin Laden wasn't tipped off to the fact that we were on his trail by the fact that WikiLeaks had disclosed files showing we had tracked the courier by name to Abbottabad. But from WikiLeaks' files we learn something else very interesting:

The file suggests that the courier's identity was provided to the US by another key source, the al-Qaida facilitator Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA. Ghul was never sent to Guantanamo but was believed to have been taken to a prison in Pakistan.

He told the Americans that al-Kuwaiti travelled with bin Laden. The file states:

"Al-Kuwaiti was seen in Tora Bora and it is possible al-Kuwaiti was one of the individuals [al-Qahtani] reported accompanying UBL [bin Laden] in Tora Bora prior to UBL's disappearance."

The picture that emerges from al-Qahtani's Guantanamo file supports statements given in the last 24 hours by US officials, who named Ghul as the "linchpin" in the intelligence operation to find bin Laden.

So much for the idea that the Iraq War yielded us no benefits in the hunt for bin Laden.

Is all of this the last word on how bin Laden was tracked down? Of course not. As I said at the outset, we are likely to learn a good deal more, and perhaps unlearn some things that have already been reported. But that's why it's not a good idea to make arguments that only work if the other side is 100% wrong about everything. It's why Attorney General Holder professes himself agnostic as to whether "enhanced" interrogation contributed anything to getting bin Laden and Press Secretary Carney won't answer the same question. The American people seem to know better; while the first poll on the subject gives good marks to President Obama for handling bin Laden, his approval rating tops out at a bump up to 56%, 51% (including more than a third of Democrats) also say that President Bush deserves some credit as well. Certainly the facts as we know them right now support the conclusion that you can't separate the capture of bin Laden from the multifaceted Bush approach to counterterrorism that produced the witnesses and leads that let the intelligence and defense apparatus do its job in running the investigation - and Osama bin Laden - to ground.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2011 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
May 2, 2011
WAR: Yub Nub

Note to regular readers: being short on time, I refer you to my Twitter feed for more of my thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.

From this:

To this:

Let joy be unconstrained! Justice has finally reched Osama bin Laden. Like Adolf Eichmann, bin Laden could run but he couldn't hide forever. Whatever your politics, credit should be shared first and foremost between (1) the CIA and other intelligence operatives for tracking down bin Laden and (2) the Joint Special Operations Command troops for carrying out an extremely hazardous mission to take him out.

But moving on to the politics and the policymakers, bin Laden's death will no doubt provide a political victory to Barack Obama, who gave the order to have him taken out (after passing up a chance in March to drop massive bombs on his compound - a recognition that bin Laden's death is more important as a visible symbol than as an operational matter) - but make no mistake that it is also a policy victory for conservatives.

One:

Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden's most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed's successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.

More blow-by-blow here and here on how the initial interrogation strands developed during the Bush Administration led ultimately to yesterday's raid (and reflect on Pakistan's complicity - bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad was built in 2005). Also note the report that "One woman was also killed after one of the targeted men tried to use her as a human shield during the raid." Bear in mind, bin Laden's guards were presumably Al Qaeda's most elite fighters. If your elite bodyguards' go-to move in a firefight is hiding behind a woman, maybe you should dial back the bravado a wee bit. [UPDATE: Apparently it was bin Laden himself cowering behind a woman. Of course.]

Of course, conservatives have always argued that a viable intelligence-gathering apparatus requires not only interrogation of detainees but the full range of intelligence tools: electronic surveillance, covert operations, payoffs to seedy sources and defectors, occasional sub rosa cooperation with nasty regimes, and of course maximizing the information we get from having troops on the ground in foreign lands. The Left has spent the past decade deriding each of these sources. But if you celebrate the killing of bin Laden, bear in mind what had to be done to get him.

Two: the raid was carried out by a JSOC team that clearly had no compunction about shooting bin Laden twice in the head. You will remember when Seymour Hersh and Keith Olbermann breathlessly described JSOC as "a covert executive assassination ring that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney's office". You're welcome.

Three: The Administration acted unilaterally in carrying out this mission. International institutions and alliances have their uses, but in the end, some things a nation has to do for itself.

Four: the reaction to bin Laden's death has, predictably, smoked out the same nasty impulses among our enemies that led Saddam's state-run media to laud the 9/11 attacks. Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood have both condemned bin Laden's killing. No amount of whitewashing will change what these groups are. (More here on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)