What the heck are "pressure starts?"

30 Comments
I’m not going to re-re-re-rehash the AL Cy Young arguments here, but this thing from the Daily News’ Bill Madden — Spink Award-winning Bill Madden — begs to be highlighted:

The sabermetric guys are making the case for Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, who belies his 13-12 record with a league-leading 2.27 ERA, 249.2
innings, 30 quality starts and, in their jargon a plus-five in
“adjustable pitching wins.” If you simply asked who’s the best pitcher
in baseball? – it would have to be King Felix. But, for this award this
year, we would dare to inject another intangible – pressure starts –
which would then shift the focus to Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who can both make the case that every one of their starts was an important one.

I’ve not seen one sabermetric writer base the case for Hernandez on “adjustable pitching wins.” I’ve seen many make their case on oh-so-esoteric concepts like ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched. Run support is about as technical as it has gotten, and baseball fans have understood the concept of run support since, oh, the mid-19th century. To make this a thing about statheads and their “jargon” is ridiculous.

And it’s made even more ridiculous by the fact that Madden himself makes up a stat on the spot: “pressure starts.” What are those? No idea, because Madden doesn’t define them, even if he says that Hernandez is “the victim of having made zero” of them. I dare say that if the “sabermetric guys” just made up a stat like that and used to end the debate, QED, Madden would have a hissy fit. It’s OK when he does it, though.

But of course we know what he’s getting at here: Sabathia and Price play for teams that won a lot of games and they have a lot of wins themselves. Same old argument for wins, just dressed up with a different and — Madden probably hopes — less controversial title.  Which is fine. He’s the Hall of Fame-honored writer. Let him do what he wants in such matters.

I’d just feel better about it all if he could explain how Sabathia and Price’s starts were so pressure-filled, what with both of their teams being all but assured of spots in the playoffs for the past couple of months.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

Getty Images
6 Comments

With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.