Scott Boras tries to spin the Damon situation. And fails.

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In the wake of the Yankees doing the moonwalk from Johnny Damon and signing Randy Winn, Scott Boras is trying to spin, but he’s doing a bad job of it.  First Boras:

“The Yankees never even made an offer to me regarding Johnny Damon
during the entire process, and the reason for that is they had
budgetary constraints.”

Um, Scott, that’s not what your client said last month:

Damon said in a text message Friday that the Yankees had offered two
years and $14 million, while he had offered to return for two years and
$20 million. That was true, a Yankees official confirmed.

Confronted with that inconsistency, Boras says “that it was not an offer, because the Yankees told him they needed to hear from Johnson first.”

Which smells like high-grade horse manure.  I mean, really, why on Earth would the Yankees make a non-offer, or whatever Boras wants to call it, to Damon while they were still waiting to hear from Johnson?  Damon thinks it was an offer. The Yankees think it was an offer. The only one who doesn’t think it was an offer is Boras, who right now is the one running for cover.

My suspicion is that what really happened was that (1) the Yankees offered Damon $14 million; (2) Boras rejected it and (3) the Yankees moved on to Nick Johnson, possibly telling Boras that they’d talk again if Johnson got away, but by no means holding some contingent whatever-it-was open in the interim.  This seems to be borne out by Brian Cashman’s account: “On Dec. 17, Scott’s exact words were that he would not take a penny
less than $13 million a year for two years. We believed
him.”  Nick Johnson signed on December 18th.

Rosenthal read today’s Times story and sums it up pretty succinctly: “There is simply no excuse for a player of this quality to be in such a compromised position.”  I agree. That player was compromised by an agent’s spectacular failure to understand his client’s market.  

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.