Great Moments in Straw Man Arguments: Jon Heyman

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SI’s Jon Heyman was the first major national writer to weigh in on the Ryan Howard contract the other day, tweeting his strong approval of the pact. Today he has a lengthy column up elaborating on his support for the deal.

There are some passable, though ultimately unconvincing (in my view) arguments in the piece, but there was also one ridiculous passage, the sort of which causes so many people to want to lay into Heyman they way we so often do:

Everyone agrees that home runs are an important stat, but to those who
believe RBIs are only a reflection of one’s teammates, and thus pure
luck, here are the top five RBI leaders since 1900: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Five very
lucky fellows.

Heyman knows full well that no one argues that RBI are “only” a reflection on one’s teammates or that they’re “pure luck.”  The argument is that RBI are dependent upon one’s teammates and a function of opportunity, thus they do not isolate a player’s individual value, thereby allowing you to do things that are dependent upon knowing one’s individual value like, say, figuring out what you should pay a guy or voting for him as the MVP.

Put differently: you still have to be able to hit the ball to get the RBIs, but even if you rake with the best of them, you’re not going to get a ton of RBIs if your teammates don’t get on base. Ask Mickey Mantle, who drove in 100 runs only four times and stands at a mere 50th on the all-time RBI list, right behind Carlos Delgado at 49.

Surely Heyman doesn’t believe that Delgado was better than Mantle, does he? Of course he doesn’t, because he’s not a dumb guy. He’s just a guy who can’t resist taking a shot at modern statistical analysis whenever the opportunity arises, and that’s what he’s doing here.

Brett Lawrie will take a pay cut to avoid arbitration with White Sox

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 12: Brett Lawrie #15 of the Chicago White Sox fields a ground ball during batting practice before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 12, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.

The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.

Cubs sign LHP Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Duensing #50 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.