Memo to mainstream media: Girardi relying on hitter-pitcher matchups is not sabermetrics

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With a few exceptions the media members in New York are ripping Joe Girardi to shreds following the Yankees’ lackluster showing in the ALCS and many of them are focusing on the fact that Girardi places a great deal of importance on hitter-pitcher matchups, often mocking the material contained in his “binder.”

Along the way many of those same media members have somehow convinced themselves that Girardi is engaging in sabermetrics by focusing on those matchup numbers, which allows them to do the two-birds-with-one-stone thing and rip both Girardi and stat-heads.

Here’s a prominent example, from Bob Klapisch of FOXSports.com:

Girardi’s over-reliance on numbers failed the Yankees time and again in the final week of the season, revealing a lack of trust in his own instincts. As a result, the Yankees never found that “on” switch in Game 6, because Girardi didn’t know how to ask for it. It’s not in his nature to peel away the layers of his players’ psychological flesh. Instead, the manager relied on matchups, trends and data–all the trimmings of the sabermetric era.

Here’s the problem with that notion: One of the basic tenets of sabermetrics is that individual hitter-pitcher matchups with track records consisting of some small number of plate appearances has very little predictive value. Girardi isn’t alone in relying on those small-sample numbers and in fact it’s a common practice among big-league managers, but doing so is the exact opposite of sabermetrics.

Klapisch sees Girardi looking at numbers and simply assumes those numbers equal sabermetrics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Any decent sabermetrician would tell you that one batter being 1-for-6 with three strikeouts and another batter being 3-for-8 with two homers versus the same pitcher over the span of multiple seasons has close to zero value and in fact Girardi’s reliance on such data has been criticized by various stat-friendly Yankees writers and bloggers.

If media members want to criticize and mock Girardi for making decisions based on hitter-pitcher matchups and for keeping that data in a binder, go right ahead. Just don’t attach that type of thinking to sabermetrics.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.