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Overheard

Want to talk about the game? Didn’t think so. John Russell needs a reality check! Let’s move on…
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[Any resemblance to any bloggers diving or lead is purely coincidental. This post also is not meant to offend any feelings or ruffle any feathers.]

So, at a ballgame the other day, a reasonably informed, sabermetric-believing fan ran into a random dude who called himself the Bointy Haired Plogger and periodically invented random measures for judging the quality of ballclubs, and got into a discussion about what yardsticks to use when evaluating players. Unknown to him, the Sabermetric-Loving-Youngster(SLY) was about to get into a discussion, the depths of which he hadn’t comprehended, as the Bointy-Haired-Plogger(BHP) took him on a ride that felt much like following the Pirates.

BHP: Who bats the pitcher 8th? Just look at that, 2 on, 2 out, and the pitcher batting 8th messed everything up. Look at the Yankees, they never bat the pitcher 8th.

SLY: The Yankees, uh… the Yankees don’t bat the pitcher at all, you know being in the AL and all, but uh, there’s some studies that say batting the pitcher 8th can improve your team by as much as 2-3 wins over a full season. I guess the Pirates are trying to put that theory to test and see if it works.

BHP: Ah, no no, my lad, those things don’t work, any lineup is only as good as the meat of the order or its 3-6 hitters. Look at the number of HRs hit or RBIs. Those are the most predictive stats ever, and they tell you clearly that Houston will finish 3rd in the division with a chance at 2nd, or perhaps end up 4th, if that other super impressive team in the division, the Cubs perform well. The Pirates? 47 homers from the middle of the order, and too few RBIs. Pass me that cheese, lad!

SLY: (obediently passes the unguarded cheese, as he wonders who it belongs to) There is a flaw in that reasoning, Sir. The middle of the Pirates order will be very different this year, but also the entire lineup matters. They are patient, they draw walks, will put men on base, and give their pitchers a chance. Plus, Garrett Jones has a chance to hit 30 by himself. There’s Doumit, who if fit, could hit 15-20, and Jeff Clement another 15-20. That would obliterate last year, but the truth is, the entire lineup has a chance to drive in runs this year, with some very patient hitters at the plate, who…

BHP: No, no, no, young man, you know what it takes to win championships? It takes major league talent. This kid, Clement, look at what he’s done in the bigs, 8HRs in 3 years. And the Pirates could have signed Hank Blalock, who hits 25 in a year.

SLY: Eh, but HRs, they are a counting stat. Clement has hardly had a consistent stretch of playin…

BHP: Look,young man, you know what you need to do in an offseason. You do what the Cubs did, and sign the players who were good for you. John Grabow, Xavier Nady.

SLY: Grabow at that price seems…?

BHP: Nonsense, how many runners did he strand last year? Many? Look at what happened when the Pirates traded Nady, they have flux in their OF, Moss hasn’t worked, and now they are playing a 1B there…

SLY: But Nady missed a whole year, and can’t even throw right now. Grabow was incredibly lucky last year…

BHP: Of course, I m not saying we should have kept Nady, but he was having a top year, and we should have gotten a top prospect for him.

SLY: Er, Jose Tabata is in fact a top…

BHP: Oh, smart huh? Riddle me this batman, how many hits does he have in the big leagues?

SLY: He, oh, um, … prospect…

BHP: None? I thought so… Look, lad, this team has a shot at losing 110 games in 2010, I tell you, 110. This could easily be the worst starting lineup ever… or, in many decades! Only Ryan Doumit and Aki Iwamura are established starters, no one else!

SLY: McCutchen, Jones, Milledge and LaRoche certainly warrant being in the lineup. LaRoche was 2.5WAR last year, and …

BHP: WAR? What is WAR? Who got into the Hall of Fame because of WAR? RBIs, my son, get with it.

SLY: But surely, it’s time to see what we have in our players, and uh… (confusion reigns as Garrett Jones homers a 3rd time in 2 games)

BHP: Now there’s a hitter as good as Pujols. Such a long homerun, so much better than a shorter homerun!

SLY: Wha…?

BHP: Don’t worry kid, I’ve seen more games than you, and RBIs win games. If you have more, you win! Also pitchers. If the pitchers have more wins, you do better that year. Easy, see!

SLY: Shoot, so all these sabermetrics is pointless?

BHP: Sabre-what? Another of those WAR weapons, I bet. Look, you want something in your hand, use WHIP. No matter what age you are, it’s all in the ERA.

Thorougly confused by now, SLY looks completely bewildered as BHP goes to get his curls attended to. A tap on his shoulder as a kindly face smiles down at him makes him look up as a Suited gentleman in a Cubs’ Cap (SCC) takes a seat beside him.

SCC: I understand this is hard for you, but the truth is, if you have an average player, you should hold on to him. A solid 3rd starter in the draft is worth much more than the risk of a starting OF, or a switch hitting catcher.

SLY: Really? I always thought…

SCC: Look, I have been scouting the Cubs for a while, and have helped them win for even longer. I’ve seen more hitters than you can imagine, but I never went by my decision. I always trusted my scouts to make the right pick. Never go by what the stat guys say. Pick a bonafide gamer high in the draft. They are crowd favourites.

SLY: Wow, you seem to be a pro.

SCC: I don’t like to brag, or use my past as proof of my abilities, but I have been a GM. I’ll see you around. They call me Dave! See that kid McCutchen, I picked him, and that kid, Lincoln in AAA, him too.

SLY: Mr. Littlefield, I have always wanted to ask you this, but why didn’t you pick Weiters in 2007?

SCC: I wanted to man, I wanted to, but that guy in the MLB office, Coolenny, he threatened to have Nutting take Weiters’ bonus out of my salary. And boy, his bark is bad!

(Voice): Dave, Dave are you slacking off again? You can’t have all your salary come out of the Ramirez Goodwill Fund, you know! Did you check out that LA pitcher? Huh, huh..

SCC: Shoot, gotta run, boy, but if you ever meet Craig Wilson, tell him I can get him on the bench in Chicago!

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