World Famous StatSpeak Roundtable: August 20
August 19, 2008 10 Comments
The roundtable probably looks a little different this week. Not only is it appearing on a Wednesday, but it features a few new names bantering back and forth. This week, the roundtable welcomes brand new full-time StatSpeak contributors Brian Cartwright and Colin Wyers for some talk about the finer points of baseball, including pitch counts, Adam Dunn vs. Manny Ramirez, Billy Beane’s legacy, and which team we’d all like to take the helm of.
Question #1: Say you’re offered the chance to be the GM for any team in baseball, with the provision that it’s one not seriously in contention for this season. What team would you choose?
Brian Cartwright: The Tigers? As a Pirate fan, I’ve heard many say they want to “blow the team up”. After Bay and Nady, let’s trade McLouth and Doumit while their value is high. I recently took a look at Detroit. In three years they went from one of the worst seasons in the history of the sport to playing in the World Series, all without ever trading a start for prospects. Smart trades and free agent signings restocked the team. Would I do as well? Probably not, but they have my respect for what they have accomplished. If it’s looking at the current collection of minor league talent, I’d probably say Brewers, but I think they’re in contention.
Colin Wyers: I think the A’s have built a team that’s ready to contend in 2009. With a bit better luck, they probably could have contended in 2008 – the Harden trade was a bit surprising (although as a Cubs fan I couldn’t be more happy about it), but Joe Blanton was certainly no loss. They should give the Angels a run for their division in 2009, especially considering that the Mariners and Rangers don’t seem to have similarly good fortunes.
Eric Seidman: My first inclination was to pick the Pittsburgh Pirates, however, my choice seemed to be born out of the idea that Neal and his gang are suddenly doing things right. In that regard, my desire to head up that staff is based on the decisions of a new GM already hired; prior to his arrival the Pittsy disposition was not as sunny. I wouldn’t want to work for the Astros, especially given Drayton’s puppet-handles and win now approach regardless of the current situation. The Padres job would be nice, but I would ultimately think the Giants GM position would be my answer, if for no other reason than they have a nice young pitching staff already in place (LinceCainChez). Plus, as long as I didn’t screw up in an enormous fashion, I’d look amazing in comparison to Sabean.
Pizza Cutter: The Seattle gig would be cool. Lots of cash to play with, great city (I’m told… never been there), but it does have the unfortunate use of teal in the team colors. A team like Washington or Pittsburgh has the charm of the perennial fixer-upper. The idea of being able to completely go in and remake a team in my image would be fun. But, I’d pick a team from Ohio which is out of contention this year and which hasn’t been to the World Series since the 90’s. Even if it does mean moving to Cincinnati. (Did you really think I’d be that big a homer and pick the Indians?) Consider the things that I could say with some amount of authority. “Mr. Morgan, thank you for all of your years of service to the Reds. Now, please shut up.” “Pete Rose*? Never heard of him.” And my personal favorite, “Mr. Baker, we appreciate the work that you’ve done, but we’re moving in another direction. The door is over there.” A Sabermetrician in the house that Joe Morgan built…
Question #2: Are pitch counts being enforeced to rigidly? Should coaches and managers instead be looking for telltale signs of loss of command, while working to strengthen and extend their pitchers?
Brian Cartwright: These days minor league starters rarely pitch more than six innings, even at AAA. I understand that teams are trying to avoid injury and thus protect their investments, but it is often done without looking at their players as individuals. It’s obvious that Livan Hernandez of Carlos Zambrano can throw 130 pitches without any ill effects. Josh Fogg can’t seem to get many outs after 60 pitches.
I got started in amateur baseball, primarily in college summer leagues. I have seen several good prospects blow their arms out. As someone in the habit of scoring games, I have two main warning flags. Is the pitcher starting to throw a higher percentage of balls? Are more of the strikes being put into play With pfx, we also have the opportunity to measure release point. All these point to a pitcher who is tiring. Not only does he become less effective, but if he allows his mechanics to alter as he tires, that introduces the risk of injury. I would like to see coaches and managers, at all levels, track how far into each game a pitcher goes until he becomes tired. Lift him at that point, but work on strength and conditioning so that the point of fatigue can be stretched out to higher pitch counts.
Colin Wyers: We seem to see pitchers do better in short relief. Teams should be a lot more agressive in using their pitchers as short relievers, and they should be willing to pull a fifth starter as early as the second or third inning, especially if their spot in the lineup comes up. Tom Tango spells a lot of this out in The Book.
Eric Seidman: I did a study on pitch counts for BP a couple of months ago, looking at what happens when pitchers throw a ton of pitches in one inning, in both that game and the next game, and ultimately found that when flamethrowers experienced these long-pitch innings, they lost the velocity required to keep their pitches effective; the slower pitchers, say, < 90-91 mph, were effected much less. Something like that interests me and should be enforced, but I don’t think a pitch count in an individual game should be enforced unless the pitcher is coming off of an injury/rehabbing.
For me, what’s more interesting is how the pitcher looks, mechanically, and how the batters are adapting. In that regard, perhaps replacing the pitch count with how many times the batting order faces the pitcher. If you throw a perfect game, you are only going to face each hitter three times. As the game gets gradually worse, you face hitters more often. I don’t necessarily want a pitcher facing the same hitter five times.
Pizza Cutter: This question is sorta begging for a “yes.” Then again, suppose that a pitcher was at 100 pitches after 7 innings, but was having a really good outing and all of his pitches were sharp. I don’t know that we’ve reached the point where a manager would absolutely slavishly pull the pitcher, but then again, some would. I think an open question is whether “loss of command” is something that happens gradually or something that happens quickly. A little more research would enlighten whether outcomes go south quickly or gradually, and perhaps with Pitch F/X, we can get a better idea of what those “telltale signs” of fatigue really are at a molecular level. Of course, a rigid 100 pitch limit with no understanding of the underlying factors is silly. I don’t think things are quite that bad yet.
Question #3: All things considered, (assets surrendered, the return, age, contract, etc) better acquisition at this point, Dunn or Manny?
Brian Cartwright: My first impressions are a toss up. Both Dunn and Ramirez are free agents at the end of the season. Manny has said he’d like to retire a Dodger, but atage 36, that may happen a lot sooner than the 28 year old Dunn. Manny is a better pure hitter than Dunn, even at his age, but his skills are eroding, and there may not be more than two or three more years left in his tank. The Dodgers give up more quality in players to acquire Manny than Arizona did to acquire Dunn, but they don’t have to pay any of his salary this year. However, the Dodgers are likely to overpay Manny for the twilight years of his career.
Forced to take a stand, this year the Dodgers are probably slightly better than the Diamondbacks. In the long run, 2009 on, I think Arizona does better, even of Dunn does not resign.
Colin Wyers: I’m going to cheat and say Jason Bay. Looking at the whole picture (none of them are stars defensively, but Bay is probably the best of the three), he’s probably the most valuable player of the three from this point forward, and he’s got the most favorable contract. The Red Sox did a great job of dumping Manny and yet at the same time improving the team for next season.
Dunn’s got a favorable contract as well, and the Diamondbacks didn’t give up much for him (Owings’ press is better than his pitching line in his career), but the Red Sox get bonus points for striking earlier. Remember – all things equal, the sooner the better on deadline deals.
Eric Seidman: The easy answer to this question is Manny Ramirez, because he is a better player, and ultimately he will be my answer… but don’t count Dunn out. If you’re reading this right now it more than likely means you are interested in statistical analysis and understand that Adam Dunn is MUCH better than his reputation or batting average would suggest, but I don’t believe he makes as much of an impact on the DBacks as Manny will do/is doing to the Dodgers. The return for Manny was a bit steeper, but it now forms an outfield of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez, which is a heck of a lot better than the first two and Andruw Jones or Juan Pierre. In the mainstream world, this trade will likely be judged based on which team wins the division, which is ludicrous, but since the Dunn move seemingly came in response, this is how it will be. Both teams were in need of a bat, both were going for the win-the-division-now approach, and the Dodgers got the better player.
Pizza Cutter: We need an Adam Dunn drinking game here at StatSpeak. Every time he comes up on the Roundtable, everyone takes a shot.
From what I understand, Dunn cost the D’backs two guys currently on their 40-man roster who have the last name of “to be named later” (one rumored to be Micah Owings), and Diamond Dallas Page. Manny cost the Dodgers Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris. Both Manny and Adam play left field, play the game with questionable gusto, and are three month rentals. Manny is the better hitter of the two, but seems to have cost more. Since deadline deals are about winning now, the decision would seem to go to the team that got the better player in Ramirez. Not by a landslide, but by a tiny bit. And in a tight race, like the NL West that both men now play in, every little bit helps.
Question #4: Does Billy Beane belong in the Hall of Fame?
Brian Cartwright: There’s only a handful of GMs who are in the Hall. Larry McPhail introduced night baseball and pensions, pushed for regular broadcasts of games, and won two World Champsionhips. His son Lee teamed with George Weiss to head the Yankees as they won seven World Series in ten seasons. Branch Rickey created the modern farm systems. Despite Beane’s introduction of “Moneyball” principles into team management, I have yet to see anything so successful or game changing that would rank him as legendary. If he can win a couple World Series and become a name known by even casual baseball fans, then in 10 or 20 years I could reconsider.
Colin Wyers: I’m not sure. He’s a very good GM, but I don’t think he’s notably better than guys like John Schuerholtz or Terry Ryan. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next rebuilding cycle. If he left baseball right now I’d have to say no.
Eric Seidman: GMs in the hall of fame is tough to gauge. I mean Schuerholz is a lock based on the 9182 straight division titles and such but, as always with HOF questions, I like to think about people 50-100 years from now, interested in learning the stories of an era. In my eyes, you simply cannot tell the story of the past 10 or so years without Billy Beane. If the reputation of sabermetrics ingratiates itself into the mainstream a bit more it would be really hard to keep him out. I personally think he belongs in the hall but I don’t have a vote and I’m not sure if those who do cast a vote will feel the same way, especially if he doesn’t win a world series… since that seems to be the more mainstream way of gauging success for a manager/general manager.
Pizza Cutter: Oddly enough, I’ll answer this question by referencing Barry Bonds* and Pete Rose* (again). Consider for a moment that if Bonds* and Rose* were judged solely by what they did on the field, they’d both be in the Hall of Fame with no questions asked. Rose* looks like he’ll never make it, and I don’t think the odds are looking good for Bonds*. Why keep them out (and the reason why is important)? It’s not personal character that seems to keep people out. The Hall has its share of people with character flaws. What Rose* and Bonds* did was affect the way in which the game was perceived by the public, and that can apparently trump even obvious Hall-worthy numbers. Rose* and Bonds* changed the way that people viewed the game… they brought the game into disrepute, so they are out.
Now, suppose that in 10 years, most teams have adopted a Sabermetric worldview. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Suddenly, who has affected the way that people see baseball (and may I say positively) by being an early adopter of such methods? Billy Beane. His record as a GM (no World Series titles) says that he doesn’t deserve to get in, but really, has anyone else, other than maybe Barry Bonds*, had more of an effect on the way that people think about baseball over the last 20 years? Even those who don’t subscribe to Sabermetric principles now make a point to say that they are “anti-Moneyball” which means that like it or hate it, Sabermetrics frames the debate. Had it not been Beane, maybe someone else would have come along and been the poster boy (Theo Epstein?), but Beane is a symbol for the movement. If one is going to make a case to keep Bonds* and Rose* out for reasons involving what they did to the cultural perception of baseball, is it not proper to vote Billy Beane based on the same arguments?