Anti-stats rant: This is either the worst column or the best satire ever written

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Jerry Thornton of WEEI starts his latest column off good enough, waxing optimistic about the Red Sox, and imagining that they’ll be popping champagne corks in November. But then he gets in a time machine and heads back to 2002 or so:

And as I do, there’s only one thing I see spoiling the party. One
small, nagging turd in the punchbowl, mitigating an otherwise perfect
celebration. I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year,
it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little
subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.

There’s no escaping this conclusion: the Stat Geeks have quietly and
insidiously taken power. Every hot stove report I’ve read this
offseason, every article written from Fort Myers, every statement from
Sox brass, has the Stat Geeks’ grubby little fingerprints on it.
They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the
1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko
butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of
trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat
Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’
Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe
in this nonsense.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not entirely sure this isn’t satire. It’s so badly over the top that I am this close to believing that it’s not real.  But if it is satire it’s so dry that there’s alost zero evidence suggesting as such, so I’m going to proceed as thought it’s a straight up thing.  With that out of the way . . .

Every single front office in baseball believes in this “nonsense.”  Actually, I take that back. Most of them consider VORP and UZR to be nice starts and have developed their own, proprietary metrics that take things even further. Stuff that would probably make Thornton’s head explode in rage, fear and confusion.

While I don’t expect writers to be conversant with the intimate details of statistical analysis, there is no excuse for this kind of retrograde ignorance. It’s like reading a national security journal and finding an article in which the author says he doesn’t trust newfangled things like radar and anti-aircraft installations and wondered aloud whatever happened to barrage balloons.

I realize that WEEI isn’t supposed to be a scholarly journal, but if I was in charge over there and one of my guys turned in copy so blindingly ignorant of decade-plus old developments in the sport in which he’s supposed to have at least a modicum of expertise, I’d run him out of his job on a rail.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.