Fire Francona? Nonsense

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Because people naturally look for a fall guy in such instances, the question that was only simmering over the past few days has blown up today: should the Red Sox fire Terry Francona?  It’s the subject of columns. And a survey. And I presume it’s going to be all over talk radio.  But does it make any sense?

Not from where I’m sitting.  Terry Francona didn’t injure Clay Buchholz, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Kevin Youkilis and — I’m guessing to an extent more than anyone has let on — Adrian Gonzalez.  He didn’t cause Carl Crawford and John Lackey to take collective dumps all season and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to do the same through much of September.  He wasn’t the steadiest hand on the rudder with the bullpen down the stretch, but then again, no one down there gave him any reason for confidence.

A ton of stuff led to this Red Sox collapse. So many things that it’s easy to throw up your hands and say that, given the total failure, the guy who is in charge of everything — Terry Francona — should be held responsible.  But I say that’s baloney.  Maybe he cost a team a win here or there with a questionable decision, but tons of games were lost simply because a lot of highly-paid professionals didn’t do their jobs. Or were hurt. Or both. Blaming Francona may make you feel good for a little while, but I really don’t see how he’s even in the top five of blameworthy Boston Red Sox.

Now, Fredi Gonzalez on the other hand …

 

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.