“Exotic math” is going to cost Justin Verlander the MVP award

53 Comments

A friend asked me if there was a point to the “Moneyball” movie coming out now, several years after the book.  All of the lessons its insights have long since been coopted and mainstreamed, my friend said. It’s kind of old news.

I considered the argument for a minute and, as I often do, I randomly surged the web as I thought. I somehow landed on Jerry Green’s column in the Detroit News, lamenting the fact that “narrow-minded” baseball writers will “gyp” Justin Verlander of the MVP award because they’re under the spell of voodoo baseball metrics:

The problem is with the voters, the select journalists in the Baseball Writers Association assigned to the voting. Two from each franchise city. And the problem is that this exotic math known as Sabermetrics has contaminated baseball’s once-neat statistical system. We have cryptic designations such as WHIP and WAR and OPS thrown about by stats geeks who believe themselves to be geniuses with ciphers.

And you know exactly what’s next. No, not some call for a more subjective criteria for MVP. A desire to insert drama and good stories into the mix.  I could at least understand that kind of argument as an appeal for something different.  No, what comes next is Green saying “all of these stats are awful” and proving the point by citing … other stats:

I prefer the ancient meat-and-potatoes stats — a better mixture. Batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored for the position players. Victories, earned run average and strikeouts for pitchers.

And what I do know is that Justin Verlander has won 22 games this season against five losses. His total projects to 24 or 25 victories. No other pitcher in the major leagues is anywhere near him. And I know that his strikeout total, 232, is the highest in baseball and that his ERA, 2.24, is tied with Jered Weaver’s for the lowest in the American League.

All that is in the baseball’s ancient stats info. You could look it up — as this ancient did.

As always, these arguments are not about statistics. Or even about baseball.  They’re about politics. Tradition vs. modernity. Fear of change in a changing world.  Baseball statistics are simply the McGuffin in this grand debate. It could just as easily be music, hairstyles or the height of one’s pants.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

Getty Images
2 Comments

Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

Getty Images
22 Comments

In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.