Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 29, 2012
POLITICS: Tim Noah's Sad Parade

The publication of Jonah Goldberg's new book The Tyranny of Cliches has brought forth a number of responses from liberals and progressives, many of them either essentially proving Goldberg's point or entirely avoiding grappling with the book's substance. The latest entrant is Tim Noah, now writing with The New Republic, who seeks to offer a companion to Goldberg's collection of liberal cliches with his own "conservative cliches." It is clear from the column that Noah either (1) did not read the book, (2) completely missed its point, or (3) simply could not come up with counter-examples of the same type.

If you haven't read The Tyranny of Cliches, Goldberg has not set out to gather liberalism's strongest, weakest, most ideological or most fact-challenged arguments and contest them, but rather to focus on criticizing a particular type of liberal argument, arguments that (1) pretend not to be liberal or (2) pretend not to be arguments at all. He also takes on a variety of the kinds of shopworn slogans that sound like truisms and are often found on bumper stickers, but don't stand up to even the most minimal scrutiny if taken seriously - the sort of thing Bill James used to do with old saws like "baseball is 75% pitching." One of his main points is how these cliches allow people posing as something other than political ideologues to spread an explicitly political ideology without seeming to do so. And, as with his prior book Liberal Fascism, he puts a lot of effort into illustrating the intellectual and political history of the cliches he's discussing, history that is often ignored by the people deploying them. Front and center are his critiques of cliched claims by liberals to be pragmatic, non-ideological, without labels and opposed to dogmas. These are big-picture themes, themes that often suffuse how modern liberal-progressivism is presented in academia and popular culture.

Noah, by contrast, sets his sights mainly on explicitly ideological arguments in the immediate political context of the day, thus missing the point completely.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:30 PM | Politics 2012 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2012
POLITICS: #shrug

You would think it's easy enough to get bipartisan agreement that the kind of tactics described here by a recipient of millions of dollars from supposedly respectable left-wing foundations are beyond the pale. But Markos Moulitsas, the man who has never failed in the immediate aftermath of any kind of political violence - even violence by people who turned out to be left-wingers - to jump to place partisan blame, just shrugs:

More here.

Shrug indeed. Or, as he once said: "screw them."

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POLITICS: Horror Show

You have to read this post by the fearless and indefatigable Patterico in its entirety to get the full effect of the campaign of personal harassment waged against him by left-wing activists. I'd also encourage you to follow the links in his post (as well as Erick's post here) to see the background and how long Patterico has been on this particular beat. One thing I had not realized before was that these goons are the people behind the Raw Story site.

Let me add one thing here. Every belief system - political, religious, philosophical, lifestyle - attracts some nutty people, some stupid people, some evil and dangerous people. You can't judge those belief systems by their craziest adherents. Liberalism, as understood in the United States over the past half-century or so, involves the belief in a lot of nonsense, but it is basically a peaceable creed.

But increasingly since the late 60s, we have seen the emergence of a particular style of activism - occasionally aped in some corners of the Right, but systematically practiced on the Left - that takes as its creed "the personal is political" and that everything is politics, and follows that to its logical conclusion by such methods as:

-Picketing the homes of political opponents and business executives.

-Boycotts aimed at donors and sponsors of political causes and political commentators.

-Efforts to "out" political opponents, ranging from disclosing the identities and addresses of anonymous or pseudonymous writers to targeting closeted homosexuals among Congressional staffers.

-Googlebombs designed to skew internet searches for information about a targeted person.

-Reporting targeted opponents to ISPs, hosting companies or Twitter as spam.

That's just a quick list, and of course it ranges from older-style campaigns to things done specifically on the internet. The theoretical and practical justification for this style of political activism as personal war against opponents is, of course, laid out most explicitly in Rules for Radicals and other writings of Saul Alinsky, the father of "community organizing," the subject of Hillary Clinton's college thesis, and the specific inspiration for groups like the PIRGs and ACORN that (to simplify a much longer story) trained and worked hand in glove with Barack Obama. We see such campaigns waged regularly online by left-wing activist groups like ThinkProgress and particular in the battles over Proposition 8 (ranging from the targeting of Mormon donors to the reasons why Paul Clement ended up leaving his law firm). The campaign against Patterico merely takes these methods to their logical endpoint. If you think your role in politics is not merely to compete in the world of ideas but to raise the personal cost of opposing your ideas and agenda to the point where people fear speaking out against you, you have gone down this same path, and should think long and hard about what you are encouraging.

PS - If you want to know where this style of activism leads, read Mark Steyn's bracing introduction to Geert Wilders' book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:30 AM | Politics 2012 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender

Following up on yesterday's post, that Rex Nutting article cited by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has been debunked so thoroughly by so many sources on the Right - a number of them cited in my post - that even the Washington Post Fact Checker felt compelled to point out how dishonest it was, leaving only the White House and PoliFact standing by it. Note the WaPo's point about how Nutting distorted the record by ignoring inflation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:44 AM | Politics 2012 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2012
POLITICS: The Growth Deficit and Spending Fairy Tales

The United States faces a number of economic and fiscal challenges in the short and long terms. But the single biggest is the Growth Deficit: the problem of government spending and government debt growing faster than the private sector. That deficit needs to be reversed; we are on an unsustainable path unless we start producing a Growth Surplus. And Republicans and conservatives need to put more effort into emphasizing the importance of the Growth Deficit to the public.

The Obama Administration seems to recognize that this is a political vulnerability, as it has lately been spinning the notion that the last few years have not actually grown federal spending. Below the fold, I've collected a number of charts that illustrate why this is nonsense. But first, a word on how we should be measuring our solvency.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Politics 2012 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2012
POLITICS: Florida Democrats: This Is Why You Fail

One Florida political blog calls this "Maybe the worst political web video ever produced in Florida" and comments that "You watch this video and all of the losses — Jim Davis, Alex Sink, Kendrick Meek, etc. — begin to make sense." David Freddoso quips that "After watching this, I'm convinced Obama is toast in FL this year." And it's not even targeting any of the actual Republican candidates in 2012, but instead going after the popular Marco Rubio. How bad is this web ad produced by the Florida Democratic Party? Watch for yourself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:49 AM | Politics 2012 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2012
WAR: Barack Obama Will Not Defeat The Taliban

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We have reached an endpoint of sorts in the decade-long Afghanistan War. President Obama will not keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and force them to accept terms of any kind. Have we lost the war? Should we have left years ago, or never gone in? That depends on your view of what we were fighting for and about in the first place.

I. Lowering The Bar

The New York Times summarizes the lowered expectations Obama is pushing to be able to declare a successful withdrawal:

Gone is the much greater expectation that NATO will leave behind a cohesive central government with real influence beyond Kabul and a handful of other population centers. Gone is the assumption that Helmand Province, Kandahar and the rest of the heavily contested south - where the bulk of the 2010 influx of troops was sent - will remain entirely in the control of the central government once that area is transferred to Afghanistan’s fledgling national security forces.

...President Obama's national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, described a hoped-for outcome in Afghanistan that was far less ambitious than what American officials once envisioned.

"The goal is to have an Afghanistan again that has a degree of stability such that forces like Al Qaeda and associated groups cannot have safe haven unimpeded, which could threaten the region and threaten U.S. and other interests in the world," Mr. Donilon said.

Nowhere on this list is the defeat of the Taliban, which - seeing this coming - gave up on peace talks months ago:

While Kandahar and other population centers in the south have seen a decrease in Taliban attacks since the surge forces arrived, insurgent attacks have increased in less populated southern areas, military officials report. The heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" program two weeks ago, and reporting on a recent trip to Afghanistan, said the Taliban were gaining ground, something that is bound to accelerate once the NATO troops give way to Afghan-led forces.

"I think we'd both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger," Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said, seated next to Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan.

As Dan Spencer noted yesterday, this is a distinct change of tune from 2008, when then-candidate Obama described Afghanistan as "a war that we have to win" and 2009, when President Obama declared:

This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaida would plot to kill more Americans.

So this is not only a war worth fighting; this is a - this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

But despite the President's bold words, the Administration never did set a clear definition of victory in Afghanistan. Specifically, while the State Department designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist group, it resisted requests by even Democratic Senators to designate the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group, apparently - at the time - due to an unwillingness to foreclose a negotiated resolution that would bring the Taliban back into the political process. This was not a new problem (the State Department had likewise refused to designate the Taliban as a terrorist group during the Bush Administration even in 2001) but at a time when the nation was ramping up its military commitment to the war in Afghanistan, the broader refusal to define an enemy to be defeated (the essential element of any military action) left the war effort directionless and increasingly difficult to justify to a war-weary public. And now, by withdrawing unilaterally without using the leverage of our arms to force a negotiated resolution on favorable terms, we are essentially washing our hands of the fight against the Taliban.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Democrats Question Republicans' Patriotism Over Debt Fight

With House Republicans (and their few allies in the Senate) gearing up for another battle over whether to raise the national debt limit without doing anything to cut spending, Democrats (and their many allies in the media) are falling back on their favored tactic of attacking the other side's motives, this time accusing Republicans of deliberately harming the economy for partisan gain. This is either a sign of Democratic desperation or, perhaps, proof that the Democrats are so far down the rabbit hole they cannot even comprehend why anyone would want to reduce spending when the nation has spent itself so deeply into debt.

The irony, of course, is that Democrats are the first people to shriek and run to the media's self-appointed civility police when they feel their patriotism is being questioned; it's always a big applause line for Democrats to claim that they will never question anyone's patriotism...and also a big applause line when they do just that, as this video juxtaposing remarks by Barack Obama in June and July 2008 illustrates:

Of course, Obama has since done exactly what he once said was unpatriotic (adding $4 trillion to the national debt), and in less than half the time - and now, he and his allies are claiming that it's unpatriotic to try to solve the problem. Now, here's Barbara Boxer:

[Y]ou know, it's interesting that they're setting up a big fight, McConnell and Boehner, making it a crisis when it isn't a crisis and demanding more cuts when they didn't live up to the cuts they agreed to. Because they want to create a crisis so maybe say, oh, my goodness, maybe if we change everything, things will be better. Maybe we need a different president.

[CHUCK] TODD: They're doing this to try to help Mitt Romney?

SEN. BOXER: I think they're doing it to hurt the Democrats, to say that the Democrats are in control of the Senate and we're not doing the right thing when the facts show otherwise.

Chuck Schumer, quoted in an AP article helpfully entitled "Is GOP trying to sabotage economy to hurt Obama?":

"The last thing the country needs is a rerun of last summer's debacle that nearly brought down our economy," Schumer said in a statement. In an interview, Schumer added: "I hope that the speaker is not doing this because he doesn't want to see the economy improve, because what he said will certainly rattle the markets."

Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo goes full-on tinfoil hat: "Unfortunately, its pretty much a certainty that republicans are trying to damage the economy to deny Obama reelection." Other liberal bloggers agree.

This a rerun of the rhetoric deployed from the Obama campaign on down last year:

Schumer and other top Democrats have said for months that GOP lawmakers may be trying to strangle the economic recovery for political reasons.

"Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory," Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, wrote in an email to supporters last October, when Congress was debating a jobs bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said his Republican counterpart was not cooperating on that legislation "in hopes that he can get my job, perhaps."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, told The Associated Press last year that some GOP lawmakers, "through their intransigence, cleverly set up a situation for America's economy to fail, either by needlessly driving us to default, or needlessly driving us into massive public-sector layoffs."

This is not a new rhetorical strategy. In 2008, Joe Biden famously suggested in 2008 that Republicans were unpatriotic for opposing higher taxes. In 2000, we had the Clinton White House charging that Dick Cheney was "talking down the economy".

Predictable rhetorical hypocrisy aside, what the tone and content of the Democrats' attacks suggests is that they either can't or won't deal with the possibility that the problem at hand is too much debt, not efforts to reduce the debt. At this point, they're like junkies resisting rehab, denying that they have a problem and insisting loudly that the real problem is those guys trying to stage the intervention. It's true, of course, that brinksmanship over the debt ceiling is a less than ideal way to handle this situation, but it's the only thing tried that has accomplished anything at all under Obama. The Democrats who control the Senate have not passed a budget in three years (even though a budget resolution doesn't require 60 votes), and have stopped even proposing them for a vote. And they won't vote for the only Democratic budget on the table, as President Obama's budget got zero votes in the House and zero votes in the Senate, after last year also getting zero votes in the Senate. As Paul Ryan explains, this is because the Democrats simply don't want the public to see how much they propose to raise taxes and still not fix any of the nation's fiscal problems. It seems almost quaint to reflect that one of the major controversies of the 2004 presidential campaign was John Kerry's vote on an $87 billion war appropriations bill; today you can have a $111 billion projected increase in one of Obamacare's line items and the Administration barely feels the need to explain it, let alone return to Congress for votes. When the party controlling two-thirds of the branches responsible for taxes and spending won't attempt to fix the problem, the House has little choice but to use the only tools available to it.

We have serious fiscal problems caused by too much spending and not enough private sector growth to pay for it. As we have seen in Europe, the real question regarding our economic future and the federal government's creditworthiness is not what temporary political tempests arise around plans to fix the problem, but rather the question of whether the government will actually adopt such plans and whether they have a meaningful chance of success. That's the question the Democrats desperately want to avoid facing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 AM | Politics 2012 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2012
POLITICS: CBS/NYT: Romney 46, Obama 43 Among Registered Voters

In a long election season, it's never wise to get too high or too low over any one poll. Presidential elections are won at the state level, but statewide polling is fairly sporadic at this stage of the race, so we're stuck reading national polls a lot. But the latest poll is bad news for President Obama.

We all know the major issues by now to look for with individual polls: some polls are adults, and are totally useless, because only registered voters can vote. Polls of likely voters, in turn, are vastly more accurate and less Democratic-biased than polls of registered voters, many of whom also don't show up to vote. Most polls are also reported after weighting to achieve some guesstimate of the partisan breakdown of the general electorate among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Even polls that don't feature egregious hackery are an inexact science, because they rest on the pollster's current assumptions about the D/R/I split and the 'screen' they use to decide who is a likely voter. If the shape of the electorate is not as projected, the poll will be wrong.

Polling averages tend to be steadier than individual polls conducted over a few hundred respondents, and they show a tight race - the RealClearPolitics average shows Obama up 46.5%-45.1%, while the left-leaning TPMPolltracker average shows Romney up 46.1-44.2. Those averages smooth out possible outliers like last Friday's jaw-dropping Rasmussen poll showing Romney up 50-43 among likely voters. And the averages themselves get more reliable as more of the pollsters start polling likely voters - right now, Rasmussen is virtually the only pollster reporting regularly conducted polls that is polling likely rather than registered voters. Looking at RCP, Rasmussen's mid-April poll is the last likely voter poll showing President Obama in the lead.

All that said, the Obama campaign cannot be happy with the results of the latest CBS/New York Times poll - a poll of registered voters done by two organizations notoriously unfriendly to Republicans* - showing Mitt Romney leading Barack Obama 46-43. Some breakdowns below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 PM | Politics 2012 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 7, 2012
POLITICS: Operation Counterweight Comes To Indiana

Indiana Republicans go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether to re-nominate 80-year-old 36-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar or to pick instead State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, running as the conservative alternative. In the usual course of events, my advice for activists and pundits alike in these races is to not forget that every race is unique, based on the individual candidates, the state or district, and the issue environment of the day. Not every state is Utah or Rhode Island; not every conservative is Marco Rubio or Christine O'Donnell; not every moderate is Chris Christie or Jim Jeffords. Often (but not always), the better candidate wins, whether or not that candidate is the most conservative, the most Establishment-backed, or considered the most 'electable' by pundits and political pros.

That being said, the conditions of 2012 - specifically, the now-certain nomination of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president - call for conservatives to take a harder line than ever in supporting Operation Counterweight (William Jacobson's term), in particular to seek in Senate races what David Freddoso has called "an un-bossable Senate." Party insiders expect conservatives, Tea Party-style outsiders and single-issue social conservatives to show up to vote anyway for a party whose leader is a man many of us distrust on nearly every issue. Politics, they remind us, is compromise. And that's precisely my point: it is exactly because one side of the party got Romney that the other can less afford to swallow Romney-like figures in the Senate. That doesn't mean backing the most conservative candidate in every single race without considering any other factor - but it does mean giving more than usual preference to the more conservative and/or less establishment option in Senate races. It's not about demanding absolute party purity - it's about recognizing that Romney has sopped up most of our tolerance for impurity already. If you want a Senate that will hold Romney's feet to the fire, you have to start by replacing men like Dick Lugar and, in Utah, 78-year old Orrin Hatch.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:00 PM | Politics 2012 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
May 4, 2012
BASEBALL: Doubled Up

Looking through the baseball-reference.com Play Indexes, which have this data back to 1948, yields some interesting nuggets.

Highest opposing BABIP, 100 or more innings: Glendon Rusch in 2003 (.381). You can beat the balls in play if you're good enough: BABIP vs Pedro Martinez in 1999: .325.

Most 2B allowed in a season since 1948: 68 by Rick Helling in 2001. Tied for second: 66 by Helling in 2000.

Most 3B allowed in a season since 1948 is a 4-way tie at 17, but Larry Christenson managed it in 1976 in just 168.2 IP. That 1976 Phillies team frequently had Greg Luzinski in LF, Ollie Brown or Jay Johnstone in RF, Garry Maddox in CF.

Most steals allowed in a season: 60 by Dwight Gooden in 1990. Tied for second: Gooden with 56 in 1988. Fewest: 200 innings in a season without allowing a steal has been done 10 times, four of them by Whitey Ford; Kenny Rogers in 2002 is the only one since 1968. Most career steals allowed: 757 off Nolan Ryan, and it's not even close, Greg Maddux is second at 547. Gooden allowed 452 steals in just 2800.2 innings.

Then there's the things besides steals that get buried in a pitcher's line, even looking at BABIP numbers, most of all double plays, doubles and triples. Tommy John induced 605 double plays in his career. Since 1948, Jim Kaat is second with 462, a huge gap. For the 61 pitchers to throw 3000 or more innings over that period - admittedly an elite group - I broke out their GIDP, steals, doubles, triples, and total bases allowed on doubles and triples (23B/9, counting triples twice) per 9 innings. The results are obviously heavily influenced by era and park and teammates, but interesting nonetheless - Tommy John and Dennis Eckersley are as dominant in the most- and least-DP business as Ryan and Whitey Ford are in allowing the most and least steals. I sorted the table by GIDP/9, so for the others:

SB/9: Most - Ryan, Tim Wakefield, Joe Niekro, Eckersley; Fewest - Ford, Billy Pierce, Warren Spahn, Rogers.

3B/9: Most - Robin Roberts, Bob Friend, Curt Simmons (Roberts' longtime teammate). Fewest - Chuck Finley, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer (Johnson's Seattle teammate).

23B/9 (largely the same list as 2B/9): Most - Rogers, David Wells, Livan Hernandez, Wakefield. Fewest - Juan Marichal, Ryan, Bob Gibson, Ford.

All of which went a long way to explaining to me why Whitey Ford was so successful in an era when the truly fielding-independent paths to success (K, BB, HR) were limited - few pitchers in the 50s had especially low BB/9, high K/9 or huge variances in HR/9. Not to say there was no variations, but not nearly enough for a pitcher to really distinguish himself (it's a study for another day to ask whether BABIP was as pitcher-independent in that era as today). But what's clear is that, with the help of a superior defense and possibly park effects (see here and here), Ford cut off the running game, induced a lot of double plays, and rarely allowed doubles or triples, which in addition to a fairly low HR rate explains how a guy with a 1.37 K/BB ratio from 1950-60 could be such a dominating pitcher year in and year out.

The table is below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Exit Sandman

The torn ACL suffered by Mariano Rivera shagging fly balls in the wet Kansas City outfield last night most likely ends his career at age 42. Even the most determined Yankee hater like myself - or the most determined skeptic of the modern closer role - had to appreciate and respect Rivera's talent, his accomplishments, his cool under pressure, his Christian faith and quiet dignity. And he did it, basically, with one pitch.

A few numbers to give the scale of Rivera's greatness, which will undoubtedly carry him swiftly to Cooperstown:

-Rivera exits still at the top of his game. His ERA and ERA+ thus far this season were both better than his career averages for the fifth consecutive season...from age 38-42. Counting the postseason, he was working on strings of 21 straight appearances without an unintentional walk and 28 straight appearances without allowing a home run. This season, he'd struck out 8 (above his career K/9 ratio) and allowed (excluding intentional walks) 6 baserunners out of the 32 batters he faced. Absent injury, who knows how long he could have kept that up? But after 1051 big league games without a significant injury, he can hardly complain.

-Rivera appeared in 848 games in which he was not charged with a run, the third-highest total of all time, behind Jesse Orosco (951) and Mike Stanton (864). Rivera threw more innings in those appearances than either of them, although four pitchers since 1918 threw more innings in scoreless appearances (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage and Kent Tekulve), plus presumably Walter Johnson (with 110 career shutouts) would top Rivera on that score. Rivera was unscored-upon in 560 of his career saves; only one other pitcher (Trevor Hoffman) even had a career total number of saves within 80 of that.

-Counting the postseason, Rivera's career ERA as a reliever was 1.91. In 1310.2 innings over 1137 appearances. (That drops to 1.90 in 1318.2 innings over 1145 appearances if you throw in the All-Star Game, in which he pitched 8 times, 8 innings, allowing just 5 hits and a single unearned run).

-Rivera's career ERA+ (park-adjusted ERA compared to the league average) of 206 dwarfs the #2 pitcher on the list with at least 1000 innings (Pedro Martinez at 154) - yes, Rivera's career ERA, relative to the league, was 33% better than any other pitcher, ever, and twice as good as the league average. Only 4 other pitchers have career ERA+ above 200 in more than 40 career innings, and all four are young relievers still getting started (Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, Andrew Bailey and Al Albuquerque). Rivera had 12 seasons of 60 or more innings with an ERA+ of 200 or better - second-most is a tie between Pedro and Joe Nathan with 5 apiece (Walter Johnson and Billy Wagner did it four times each). Rivera also ties Walter Johnson with the most seasons (11) of 60 or more innings with an ERA below 2.00, with three others (Hoyt Wilhelm, Cy Young and Grover Alexander) tied with 6 each.

-Rivera allowed 0.9 homers per 9 innings in 2009, the only time in 17 seasons after his rookie year he was above 0.6. He walked 3 men per 9 innings in 2000, the only time in those 17 seasons he was above 2.8 and only the second time he was above 2.5. He had a 3.15 ERA in 2007, the only time he was above 2.85 in those 17 seasons, and in 71.1 innings that year he allowed 4 home runs, struck out 74 batters and allowed 10 unintentional walks, so the ERA was mostly a fluke. That kind of consistency is just unreal.

-Rivera's average of 0.42 homers per 9 innings since 1996 is easily the lowest average in that period for pitchers with 1000 or more innings pitched in that stretch. Out of 167 pitchers, only 63 were below 1 homer per 9, 12 were below 0.75, and just 4 below 0.69: Rivera, Kevin Brown (0.56), Tim Lincecum (0.58) and Brandon Webb (0.63). Rivera did this while pitching in the American League straight through the heart of the power-mad steroid era. In the same time frame, he allowed the 11th fewest walks per 9, the 15th-most K/9, the 5th-best K/BB ratio, and - despite what was often a shaky Yankee middle infield defense - easily the lowest batting average on balls in play, .262 (only Matt Cain is below .270).

(If there was one area where Rivera's regular season record was pedestrian, partly reflecting the way he was used, it was with inherited runners - he allowed in 28.98% of such runners, 79th best among the 296 pitchers to make 400 or more relief appearances; Ricardo Rincon is the best at 18.96%, followed by Trevor Hoffman at 20.23%).

-Yankee Stadium did Rivera no favors: his career ERA was 2.46 at home, 1.95 on the road. Oddly, the home ERA breaks down as 2.61 in Yankee Stadium and 1.73 in New Yankee Stadium. Rivera had a 1.99 career ERA with Jorge Posada catching him, 1.94 with Joe Girardi.

[UPDATED: I looked a little more at the home/road splits. A little is due to bad outings at home as a rookie. A big split is 1999-2002 (home ERA 3.08, road ERA 1.83), as compared to 2009-12 (home ERA 1.73, road ERA 1.96). In 2005, Rivera had a 2.28 ERA at home, but a preposterous 0.26 ERA - one run in 34 appearances - on the road. Although Rivera's K/BB ratio at home has been an insane 94/10 in the new Stadium, the main distinction seems to be on balls in play: BABIP of .275 at old Yankee Stadium, .261 on road, .225 at the new Stadium. I wonder if the infield surfaces or grass have anything to do with that. I can't get a good fix on grass/turf or indoor/outdoor, but Rivera was at his deadliest in domed stadiums, regardless of whether the roof was up: a 1.07 ERA and 1 HR in 50.1 IP at Tropicana Field, a 1.30 ERA and 1 HR in 27.2 IP at the Metrodome, a 1.85 ERA in 43.2 IP at Skydome, a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 IP at the Kingdome, and a scoreless inning at the Tokyo Dome, for a total of a 1.47 ERA in 135 innings]
-Rivera allowed a home run to Reed Johnson last June in a game against the Cubs (he still got the save). That's noteworthy because Rivera pitched 40.1 career regular season innings against the NL Central and NL West, and that's the only earned run he allowed to either division.

-There was no good way to get Rivera. Opposing batters hit .201/.236/.281 against him when leading off an inning, .209/.270/.290 with men on base. Opposing hitters still hit .239 and slugged .346, both very weak figures (albeit with a .534 OBP) after getting three balls on Rivera. But he went to a 3-ball count only 698 times in 4752 batters faced for which baseball-reference.com has count breakdowns, less than 15% of the time, compared to 2591 times he got to two strikes on a batter. On a 3-2 count, opposing hitters hit .202/.403/.283.

-In 1990, his one season as a reliever in the minors before the Yankees tried to make him a starter, Rivera had a 0.17 ERA in rookie ball - in 52 innings he struck out 58, walked 7 and allowed 17 hits (2.9 hits per 9 innings). His career ERA in the minors was 2.35.

-As good as Rivera was in the regular season, he was rather literally twice as good in the postseason (twice the workload, half the ERA), and probably the most valuable postseason pitcher ever (maybe the most valuable postseason player ever). Anyone who says the Yankees can just slot in Rafael Soriano and David Robertson and not miss Rivera that much because closers are overrated is missing this crucial dimension.

The Yankees played 156 postseason games between 1995 and 2011, just about a full season's schedule of games. The postseason can be brutally unforgiving, as I noted when reviewing Billy Wagner's career, and normally it's a victory to play the same in October as you did all year. Rivera's now-apparently-final line in a season's worth of postseason work: 96 games, 141 innings (nobody's thrown 140 innings in relief in a regular season since Mark Eichhorn in 1986), 8-1 record (Game Seven of the 2001 World Series being his only loss), 42 saves, 78 games finished, 0.70 ERA (0.83 even if you include unearned runs), only two home runs allowed (the famous Sandy Alomar homer that decided the 1997 ALDS and Jay Payton's home run in the Mets' furious but futile comeback in Game Two of the 2000 World Series, the only time in 96 postseason appearances that Rivera allowed more than one earned run - he allowed 2), allowing just 86 hits, 21 walks (4 of those intentional; Rivera's 2 walks in the ill-fated Game Four of the 2004 ALCS was the only postseason appearance where he walked more than one batter), and striking out 110. Counting 3 hit batsmen, that's 111 baserunners in 141 innings, only one more than his strikeout total. Rivera pitched 2 or more innings in a postseason game 33 times, allowing a run in only 4 of them; he pitched more than 1 inning 58 times. In the postseason, his opposing BABIP dropped to .219, his inherited runners scored dropped to 19%. He'd actually gotten better; his postseason ERA since 2006 was 0.31 in 24 appearances. Rivera was ice in October. We will never see the like of that again. And he did it with a huge workload: you throw 141 high-leverage innings with a 0.70 ERA in the regular season, you should and will win the MVP award.

PS - Speaking of worthiness of respect, Stan Musial's wife Lil died yesterday. Stan and Lil were married 73 years. Now that is a life.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 AM | Baseball 2012-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 NL West EWSL Report

Part 6 of my now very belated "preseason" previews is the NL West; this is the 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: AL Central, AL East, AL West, NL Central, 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)


Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 236.50
Adjusted: 246.53
Age-Adj.: 239.48
WS Age: 28.9
2012 W-L: 93-69

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Miguel Montero2020
1B24Paul Goldschmidt*38
2B30Aaron Hill1413
SS29Stephen Drew1414
3B31Ryan Roberts119
RF24Justin Upton2127
CF28Chris Young1818
LF30Jason Kubel1412
C240Henry Blanco42
INF34Willie Bloomquist65
OF25Gerardo Parra1316
1235Lyle Overbay107
1337John McDonald53
SP127Ian Kennedy1412
SP225Daniel Hudson#1115
SP324Trevor Cahill1112
SP431Joe Saunders108
SP526Josh Collmenter*511
RP135JJ Putz98
RP227David Hernandez87
RP332Brad Ziegler65
RP431Craig Breslow54
RP542Takashi Saito53

Subjective Adjustments: None, but I expect Goldschmidt to easily surpass 8 Win Shares if healthy.

Also on Hand: Position players - Geoff Blum, Cody Ransom (who has now played 10 years in the majors without once having 100 plate appearances), AJ Pollock.

Pitchers - Joe Paterson, who is off to about the worst possible start imaginable: Paterson allowed as many earned runs (11) in April as he did in 62 appearances all last year. In 2.2 innings he's faced 26 batters and allowed 18 baserunners (including 2 homers and 4 doubles), and he hasn't struck out a batter yet. Also Bryan Shaw, Jonathan Albaladejo, Wade Miley, Mike Zagurski, Joe Martinez, Patrick Corbin and Barry Enright.

Analysis: The D-Backs remain the class of this division based on established major league talent, and were the logical preseason favorites. Obviously, the Dodgers’ 4-game lead through May 2 could turn out to be decisive in the long run even if LA comes back to earth. Arizona has also been banged up early, including injuries to Hudson, Drew and Saito. Upton remains a very logical potential MVP candidate.

Henry Blanco is still playing at 40, Matt Treanor at 36, Brian Schneider at 35, Rod Barajas at 36, Dave Ross at 35, Jose Molina at 37. If you know young football players, advise them to consider catching as a career. A little talent, toughness and work ethic will give them a longer, happier career than a lot of NFL stars seem to have.

I haven't run the numbers, but the Diamondbacks have to have made the most trades involving the largest number of contributing major league players over the past 2 years or so.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 209.00
Adjusted: 221.64
Age-Adj.: 213.06
WS Age: 28.9
2012 W-L: 84-78

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Buster Posey#1116
1B24Brandon Belt*37
2B34Freddy Sanchez1110
SS25Brandon Crawford*36
3B25Pablo Sandoval1923
RF28Nate Schierholtz1010
CF30Angel Pagan1716
LF27Melky Cabrera1515
C222Hector Sanchez+04
INF35Aubrey Huff1712
OF28Gregor Blanco22
1232Ryan Theriot129
1327Emmanuel Burriss11
SP128Tim Lincecum1615
SP227Matt Cain1614
SP322Madison Bumgarner#914
SP434Barry Zito43
SP534Ryan Vogelsong76
RP130Brian Wilson1311
RP232Santiago Casilla75
RP333Jeremy Affeldt64
RP434Javier Lopez54
RP529Sergio Romo87

Subjective Adjustments: None, because I’m trying to avoid biasing the results with events since the season started, but clearly Brian Wilson will not be contributing to the Giants this season, and now Sandoval is out with a busted hand. Freddy Sanchez has also been hurt, and it’s not really clear whether he or Burriss ends up as the second baseman once Sanchez is healthy.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brett Pill, Joaquin Arias, Eli Whiteside.

Pitchers - Clay Hensley, Guillermo Mota, Dan Otero, Eric Hacker.

Analysis: As noted above, San Francisco's injuries make it a lot harder for the Giants to pick themselves off the mat. They have a lineup only Brian Sabean could love, despite the presence of three talented young bats (Sandoval, Posey and Belt). The outfield seems particularly symptomatic of a failure to learn anything from the Aaron Rowand signing. I needn't belabor the obvious point that Belt needs to be just stuck in the lineup until he figures things out; he batted .320/.461/.528 in the minors last season after .352/.455/.620 in 2010, but the Giants seem unwilling or unable to live with any growing pains.

As for the rotation, there's been a huge variation thus far in the batting average on balls in play vs various Giants pitchers, and their early successes and failures should seem a lot less dramatic as these even out over the course of the season; it's why I'm not so worried about Lincecum in particular, whose peripheral numbers are still solid:

PITCHERBABIP
Dan Otero0.452
Jeremy Affeldt0.417
Guillermo Mota0.367
Tim Lincecum0.351
LEAGUE AVERAGE0.295
Ryan Vogelsong0.292
TEAM AVERAGE0.277
Madison Bumgarner0.245
Santiago Casilla0.192
Clay Hensley0.188
Barry Zito0.188
Matt Cain0.158


Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 204.67
Adjusted: 215.23
Age-Adj.: 200.51
WS Age: 30.2
2012 W-L: 80-82

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31AJ Ellis#33
1B28James Loney1717
2B35Mark Ellis139
SS24Dee Gordon*68
3B32Juan Uribe97
RF30Andre Ethier2018
CF27Matt Kemp2829
LF29Tony Gwynn jr87
C236Matt Treanor43
INF36Adam Kennedy86
OF33Juan Rivera119
1236Jerry Hairston jr118
1326Justin Sellers*24
SP124Clayton Kershaw1921
SP227Chad Billingsley87
SP333Chris Capuano42
SP436Ted Lilly109
SP534Aaron Harang64
RP126Javy Guerra*49
RP224Kenley Jansen#57
RP337Jamey Wright54
RP435Mike MacDougal43
RP533Matt Guerrier64

Subjective Adjustments: None, but as with Goldschmidt, you can assume a pretty high likelihood that Dee Gordon beats 8 Win Shares if he stays healthy all year.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ivan De Jesus jr, the third of the Dodgers’ junior brigade, and Jerry Sands.

Pitchers - Todd Coffey, Blake Hawkesworth, Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert, Rubby de la Rosa (on the DL) and Ronald Belisario (same).

Analysis: The frontline talent is strong and in its prime, but the rest of the team is ancient and creaky. Obviously, banking on Matt Kemp to hit .411/.500/.856 all year is not a wager I would take. Kemp has now raised his career April line to .343/.405/.618; his .297/.354/.526 line in June is the only one even close. Color me unpersuaded that this is really a 90+ win team unless significant help is added to the roster.

The Dodgers' long-term prognosis, of course, is vastly improved by the end of the McCourt Era, in which - ironically - Frank McCourt proved unable to competently manage even the one part of the team he had experience running (parking lots).

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 181.83
Adjusted: 193.87
Age-Adj.: 177.50
WS Age: 30.6
2012 W-L: 72-90

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C36Ramon Hernandez118
1B38Todd Helton139
2B36Marco Scutaro1410
SS27Troy Tulowitzki2526
3B26Chris Nelson*12
RF33Michael Cuddyer1614
CF26Dexter Fowler1516
LF26Carlos Gonzalez2022
C223Wilin Rosario+14
INF27Jonathan Herrera#44
OF26Tyler Colvin#45
1227Eric Young33
1341Jason Giambi63
SP124Jhoulys Chacin#913
SP249Jamie Moyer21
SP325Juan Nicasio*24
SP433Jeremy Guthrie107
SP531Jorge de la Rosa75
RP137Rafael Betancourt97
RP232Matt Belisle76
RP327Matt Reynolds#22
RP429Josh Roenicke11
RP524Rex Brothers*25

Subjective Adjustments: None. Jorge de la Rosa is expected back in June and will be welcomed by a tattered rotation, but his numbers reflect his injury last season

Also on Hand: Position players - Jordan Pacheco, Eliezer Alfonzo, Hector Gomez.

Pitchers - Drew Pomeranz, who is presently the third or fourth starter pending the return of de la Rosa and Guthrie (also Chacin, just sent to AAA), Tyler Chatwood, Esmil Rogers, Guillermo Moscoso, Edgmer Escalona, Zach Putnam, Josh Outman.

Analysis: I've had a lot of fun on Twitter doing "how old is Jamie Moyer" facts (eg, he was the second-oldest player on the Mariners when he arrived in Seattle in August 1996), but the amazing thing is how dependent the Rockies have been on Moyer. His 3.14 ERA is deceptively low given the unearned runs he's allowed and a low BABIP, but he's basically the same old Moyer, which is a valuable thing on a team in Coors Field with terrible pitching.

A further retrospective on the careers of Moyer, Helton and Giambi is something I should return to later.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 159.67
Adjusted: 178.57
Age-Adj.: 172.33
WS Age: 28.7
2012 W-L: 71-91

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Nick Hundley1111
1B25Yonder Alonso*25
2B34Orlando Hudson1513
SS32Jason Bartlett1512
3B28Chase Headley1616
RF29Will Venable1212
CF25Cameron Maybin1214
LF29Carlos Quentin1414
C231John Baker32
INF26Andy Parrino+04
OF28Jesus Guzman*713
1231Chris Denorfia76
1328Jeremy Hermida44
SP128Ednison Volquez11
SP228Clayton Richard65
SP327Cory Luebke*46
SP430Tim Stauffer76
SP524Anthony Bass*36
RP128Huston Street98
RP226Ernesto Frieri#34
RP328Luke Gregerson65
RP425Andrew Cashner#12
RP529Micah Owings43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but again, I expect Alonso to step up with full-time playing time.

Also on Hand: Position players - Kyle Blanks (now out for the season), Mark Kotsay, Blake Tekotte, Logan Forsythe.

Pitchers - Joe Thatcher, Joe Wieland (presently in the rotation), Josh Spence, Brad Brach, Dale Thayer, Jeff Suppan (recently exhumed from the minors - he's now in his 20th professional season. He's also 13 years younger than Moyer), Dustin Moseley (out for the season).

Analysis: What's worse - that the Padres are hitting .216/.302/.331 as a team, or that that doesn't even make them the lowest-scoring team in the league (the Pirates are scoring almost half a run per game less)? Yet, the lineup (partly due to a number of good glove men) isn't full of untalented guys, so much as it lacks anybody with star-level talent, plus the big bat (Quentin) hasn't played yet, with Guzman subbing for him. It's actually the rotation, which the park makes look respectable, that's really weak, and the bullpen is less impressive as well than it seems.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:45 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 1, 2012
WAR: With The Death of Osama bin Laden, We're All Hawks Now

One year ago today, a Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the culmination of many years of intelligence-gathering. The operation was personally authorized by President Obama, over the objections of Vice President Joe Biden. While national security leaders had, properly, publicly downplayed the importance of getting bin Laden - it was more important to focus on dismantling the operational network of Al Qaeda and similar groups, and overemphasis on one man hiding in isolation would give the fugitive bin Laden an unnecessary propaganda victory - it was nonetheless a significant longstanding priority of three Administrations to get him, and a great day for America when he was killed. The Obama campaign, recognizing that there is broad bipartisan agreement on this point among voters, has done everything possible to capitalize politically on the President's role.

There are three real lessons to be drawn a year later:

1. In the big picture, we're all national security hawks now.

2. As a matter of policy specifics, the hawks won and the anti-war movement lost every round.

3. As a matter of partisan politics, the side that loses the debate over the death of bin Laden will be the side that overplays its hand the worst.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2012 NL East EWSL Report

Part 5 of my now 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: AL Central, AL East, AL West, NL Central.

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: 215.17
Adjusted: 248.24
Age-Adj.: 260.94
Subj. Adj.: 257.94
WS Age: 28.6
2012 W-L: 99-63

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Brian McCann2121
1B22Freddie Freeman*1034
2B32Dan Uggla2217
SS22Tyler Pastornicky+011
3B40Chipper Jones179
RF22Jason Heyward#1328
CF29Michael Bourn2020
LF28Martin Prado1515
C235Dave Ross75
INF34Jack Wilson65
OF34Matt Diaz65
1234Eric Hinske65
1328Jose Constanza*23
SP125Tommy Hanson1011
SP225Brandon Beachy*48
SP326Jair Jurrjens1011
SP436Tim Hudson1413
SP522Randall Delgado*13
RP124Craig Kimbrel#1013
RP227Johnny Venters#1111
RP327Eric O'Flaherty87
RP426Kris Medlen33
RP524Mike Minor#22

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Freddie Freeman 3 Win Shares, down from 34 to 31, and that still seems conservative. Is Freddie Freeman really a reasonable bet to be better than Joey Votto in 2012? That's where EWSL has him, on grounds of being 22 and coming off a 19 Win Shares season. You have to admit, Freeman's batting line looks a lot more impressive when you account for his age...but still. Really?

On the other hand, I refuse to adjust Jason Heyward, the team's other 22-year-old regular, downwards from 28 Win Shares. I can totally see that happening.

Also on Hand: Position players - Juan Francisco, who subbed as the everyday 3B until Chipper was ready to go, and likely will again the next time Chipper gets chipped.

Pitchers - Chad Durbin, Livan Hernandez, and two injured pitchers, Robert Fish and Arodys Vizcaino.

Analysis: EWSL is out on a limb here because 22 year old hitters are its weakness, but the Braves are potentially loaded. They fit the classic profile of a team ready to rip the ears off the division, like the 1986 Mets or the 1984 Tigers: a young team with a few key veretans that had a couple of tough endings and is starting to get written off, but could suddenly gel and hit the stratosphere. The tough part is how cutthroat this division is, but maybe no moreso than the AL East in 1984.

Note that this is the second year in a row that EWSL had the Braves winning the division.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 285.67
Adjusted: 293.00
Age-Adj.: 247.33
WS Age: 32.0
2012 W-L: 96-66

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C33Carlos Ruiz1815
1B32Ryan Howard2217
2B33Chase Utley2319
SS33Jimmy Rollins2017
3B36Placido Polanco1612
RF29Hunter Pence2221
CF31Shane Victorino2319
LF34Juan Pierre1412
C235Brian Schneider32
INF34Ty Wigginton55
OF31Laynce Nix65
1228John Mayberry66
1341Jim Thome137
SP135Roy Halladay2319
SP233Cliff Lee1913
SP328Cole Hamels1615
SP424Vance Worley*612
SP531Joe Blanton43
RP131Jonathan Papelbon129
RP233Chad Qualls43
RP327Kyle Kendrick65
RP426Antonio Bastardo56
RP525Michael Stutes*36

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Pete Orr, Freddy Galvis.

Pitchers - Joe Savery, Jose Contreras, Brian Sanches, David Herndon, Michael Schwimer.

Analysis: After threatening for years, the piper has come to Philadelphia, and he will be paid. 32 year old Ryan Howard, 33 year old Chase Utley, and 33 year old Cliff Lee are all on the DL. Almost as old as the Yankees, this team is: outside of Worley and the bullpen, the "kids" are 28 year old Cole Hamels and 29 year old Hunter Pence. For all of that, this team won't go down easy: before the age adjustments, this is a 111-win team, so even when you discount them for age, they are still knocking on the door of triple digits. And if you draw a healthy Halladay, Lee and Hamels in a short series, you're still in deep yogurt; there has maybe never been a more skillful pitching staff assembled.

Miami Marlins

Raw EWSL: 215.50
Adjusted: 226.27
Age-Adj.: 227.44
WS Age: 28.6
2012 W-L: 89-73

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31John Buck1411
1B28Gaby Sanchez#1417
2B30Omar Infante1715
SS29Jose Reyes2019
3B28Hanley Ramirez1818
RF22Giancarlo Stanton#1430
CF27Emilio Bonifacio1314
LF24Logan Morrison#913
C228Brett Hayes#23
INF33Greg Dobbs44
OF27Chris Coghlan89
1229Donnie Murphy21
1332Austin Kearns43
SP128Josh Johnson1211
SP233Mark Buehrle1410
SP328Anibal Sanchez109
SP429Ricky Nolasco65
SP531Carlos Zambrano87
RP134Heath Bell1310
RP228Edward Mujica66
RP327Mike Dunn#33
RP426Ryan Webb44
RP526Steve Cishek*37

Subjective Adjustments: None; I haven't downgraded Stanton for the same reason as Heyward. This season has a bumper crop of 22-year-olds who will put EWSL's age adjustment to the test: Heyward, Stanton, Freeman, Eric Hosmer, Brett Lawrie, Starlin Castro, Ruben Tejada, and Jose Altuve. Note that, as usual, that group is split between guys whose playing time is stepping up to full time (Lawrie, Hosmer, Altuve, Tejada) and those who were already everyday for a full season (Heyward, Castro, Stanton, Freeman). It's the inevitable growth of the former group that tends to artificially over-project the latter. The effect is most pronounced on 22 year olds because guys who are playing everyday at 21 or 22 tend to be really good.

Also on Hand: Position players - Scott Cousins.

Pitchers - Randy Choate, Chad Gaudin, the potentially ineligible Juan Oviedo (f/k/a Leo Nunez), the injured Jose Ceda.

Analysis: If you can buy this as a third-place team, you see how deep this division is now.

Jose Reyes gets more attention, as does the Miami Medusa in center field that goes off when the Marlins hit a home run:

But the most interesting issue to watch is whether Hanley Ramirez, now batting .236/.330/.381 since the start of 2011, can bounce back. Also, whether Giancarlo (don't call me Mike) Stanton's prodigious power will be held back by the new stadium's cavernous dimensions. So far, so good from the team's perspective - the Marlins have hit 9 homers at home, 9 on the road, compared to allowing 4 at home and 12 on the road, and Stanton's lone longball this season came at home - but he's started slowly overall.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 185.17
Adjusted: 195.33
Age-Adj.: 195.34
WS Age: 28.2
2012 W-L: 78-84

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Wilson Ramos#812
1B32Adam LaRoche97
2B25Danny Espinosa#1218
SS26Ian Desmond#1215
3B27Ryan Zimmerman1920
RF33Jayson Werth2017
CF32Rick Ankiel65
LF33Xavier Nady43
C227Jesus Flores11
INF30Michael Morse1614
OF28Roger Bernadina#78
1237Mark DeRosa43
1332Chad Tracy11
SP123Stephen Strasburg#34
SP226Jordan Zimmermann67
SP328Edwin Jackson1211
SP426Gio Gonzalez1314
SP526Ross Detwiler23
RP135Brad Lidge43
RP225Henry Rodriguez#23
RP327Tyler Clippard109
RP424Drew Storen#912
RP529Sean Burnett65

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Wunderkind Bryce Harper, Mark Teahen, Brett Carroll, Steve Lombardozzi (the younger one), Tyler Moore.

Pitchers - Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, Chien-Ming Wang.

Analysis: The "K Street" Nationals' hot start has brought back memories of Davey Johnson teams of yore; four starters have ERAs in the ones, three relievers have ERAs ranging from 0.00 to 2.00, and the team is averaging 8.7 K/9. And they're not really kids, either - Strasburg is already a Tommy John surgery veteran, and he and Henry Rodriguez are the only guys on the staff under 26. For a team that in its seven prior years in DC finished 16th in the NL in pitcher strikeouts twice, 15th three times, 13th once and as high as 10th only in its inaugural season, this is revolutionary. For the first time, it will actually be the offense that has to carry the ball.

Bryce Harper may well be a superstar in the making, but he's closer in age to Justin Bieber than he is to Strasburg. Harper was 8 years old on 9/11. When he was born, Jamie Moyer was mulling a coaching job offer from the Cubs, his MLB pitching career widely considered over. In other words: don't expect too much too soon. Harper reached the majors without slugging over .400 above A ball. There are 72 players (including a few pitchers and managers) in the Hall of Fame who had 200 or more plate appearances their first season in the majors; only 18 of those 72 slugged above .450, and only 11 of those were 22 or younger, the youngest being age 20; the highest among the teenagers was Mickey Mantle at .443 (Mel Ott is the only Hall of Famer to slug .450 as a teenager - .524 as a 19 year old in 1928 - and Ott wasn't a rookie, having 241 plate appearances over the prior two seasons). Barry Bonds hit .223/.330/.416 as a rookie.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 162.50
Adjusted: 185.94
Age-Adj.: 183.04
WS Age: 29.3
2012 W-L: 74-88

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Josh Thole#810
1B25Ike Davis#812
2B27Daniel Murphy99
SS22Ruben Tejada#613
3B29David Wright1818
RF26Lucas Duda*612
CF34Andres Torres1412
LF33Jason Bay1412
C229Mike Nickeas*11
INF27Justin Turner*816
OF32Scott Hairston64
1229Ronny Cedeno99
1324Kirk Nieuwenhuis+04
SP133Johan Santana75
SP237RA Dickey119
SP325Jonathan Niese#45
SP426Dillon Gee*46
SP528Mike Pelfrey66
RP132Frank Francisco75
RP227Bobby Parnell33
RP333Jon Rauch64
RP430Ramon Ramirez76
RP538Tim Byrdak32

Subjective Adjustments: None; I'm trying to keep these limited to preseason rankings, so I did not dock Mike Pelfrey.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Baxter (I could have rated him in the same place as Niewenhuis, but Niewenhuis is likely the guy I'll be rating down the road), Zach Lutz, Jordany Valdespin, Brad Emaus, Freddie Lewis.

Pitchers - Miguel Batista, Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato, DJ Carrasco, Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner.

Analysis: The Mets, realistically, are not aiming for a first place finish this season, but for .500 and respectability. And maybe not last place, which will require one of the other competitors here to have a very disappointing year. The main thing that needs to happen, for that to occur, is to keep the front four of the rotation healthy (Mike Pelfrey is headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery today), as well as Wright and Davis; some of the youngsters also need to step up, as Tejada, Thole and Nieuwenhuis have so far (I admit, I never expected Tejada to be a major league hitter). Santana, of course, has been miraculous, averaging over 10 K/9 for the first time since his first Cy Young season in 2004 and not having yet allowed a home run. The lesson is never bet against great pitchers - but also, be cautious, as I can recall Dwight Gooden having some outstanding stretches in the years after shoulder surgery, but never again sustaining it over a full season.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:15 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)