L.A. Times writer ignorantly bashes “statistical gobbledygook”


Bill Dwyre was the sports editor of the L.A. Times for a quarter century and now writes columns. And he’s apparently quite proud of being an ignorant, uncurious know-nothing which, when thinks about it, should be disqualifying traits for a journalist. But hey: this is sports journalism and newspapers apparently don’t care if the folks who do that work are embarrassments. Indeed, some papers apparently embrace it.

The column he wrote which fully justifies the charges above came out in Friday’s paper and concerned Dwyre’s visit to the SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix. He went to hear Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto speak, but spent most of his column bashing statistical analysis of baseball, which he calls “statistical gobbledygook.” You’ve seen columns like this before, but this is particularly egregious example of the genre.

I highlight Dwyre’s column less to bash it in its own right, however, and more to highlight a couple of responses to it that I find particularly apt in insightful. Less so for what they say than for who is saying it.

The first comes from Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. He writes an open letter response to Dwyre.  Graham is a member of the Los Angeles chapter of SABR and he speaks from the perspective of someone who once had some meaningful interaction with Dwyre which helped shape his views on sports writing and now finds himself disappointed in what this person now seems to champion. The second comes from former L.A. Times staffer Matt Welch, who once worked for Dwyre and offers a thorough rebuttal over at Halos Heaven.

Both Graham and Matt do more than mock this silly stuff, which is what I’d be inclined to do if I were to offer my own specific rebuttal to it. They explain, with some degree of sadness it seems, how unfortunate that this is what passes for journalistic curiosity and insight from a major figure at a major daily newspaper. These are two people who, one presumes, represent no small part of what was once newspapers’ customer base but which have now lost faith in the institution in one way or another. As time goes on — and if nothing changes in the approach of people like Dwyre — they will be joined by many more.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.