Brandon McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy: No “paralysis by analysis”


The Diamondbacks recently wrapped up a series in the Bronx against the Yankees. Starter Brandon McCarthy’s struggles continued, as he allowed three runs in four innings during his start on Tuesday. The adversity prompted Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay to suggest the right-hander’s struggles are related to his use of statistics as opposed to a small sample size, slight mechanical issues, or anything else significantly more likely an explanation than a brain overload.

Via Nick Piecoro, here was the exchange on the YES broadcast:

Michael Kay: “You mentioned earlier the information that McCarthy has at his disposal and we’ve also heard this saying, which is true in a lot of sports, ‘Paralysis by analysis.’ Does he have too much information out there?”

Al Leiter: “Just for me — I prepared with video and would want to know some stats — but yes. Yes. In the end, you’re throwing a baseball. You know, identify that Lyle Overbay is a good low-ball hitter, whatever you come up with, looking at video, looking at swings. He mentions that he looks at heat maps, the velocity data, the movement data, all sorts of different Fan Graphs.”

Ken Singleton: “Heat maps?”

Leiter: “I didn’t even know there was a heat map.”

Singleton: “Does it have something to do with the weather?”

Leiter: “No, it has to do with pitches and velocities and how they vary …”

Piecoro followed up with McCarthy, who dismissed Kay’s theory:

“Whether or not he’s right or wrong isn’t the issue,” McCarthy said. “It’s that you don’t know if you’re wrong. The heat map part is what’s weird to me. If you don’t know what it is and you can’t speak about it, how can you say anything against it?

“I also laugh at the ‘paralysis by analysis.’ I analyze very, very little. There’s some self-analysis when I need little checks and balances, but I really don’t go in-depth with breaking down teams. There’s resources of information that I know how to get to, that I trust more than other things, but that phrase is never the case.”

McCarthy went on to say he has someone who compiles some stats for him and gives the relevant info to catcher Miguel Montero and pitching coach Charles Nagy, not to McCarthy personally.

It would be nice if more in the media would take the time to learn and understand the stats and various methods of analysis before offering opinions on them. At the very least, they could supplement the soliloquy with a “but I could be wrong” rather than speaking matter-of-factly.

Update: Upon review, it’s worth clarifying that Kay may not have been blaming McCarthy’s struggles solely on statistical analysis and was speaking more generally about how players utilize statistics. The ensuing discussion still deserves criticism, however.

Marlins hire Juan Nieves as pitching coach

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This is not a terribly big deal compared to the rumors of who the Marlins want to hire as their hitting coach, but it’s news all the same: Miami has hired Juan Nieves as their pitching coach.

Nieves replaces Chuck Hernandez who was let go immediately after the season ended. Under Hernandez Marlins pitchers allowed 4.19 runs a game and had an ERA of 4.02, striking out 1152 batters and walking 508 in 1,427 innings. As far as runs per game go, that was around middle of the pack in the National League, just a hair better than league average. The strikeout/walk ratio, however, was third to last in the NL.

Nieves, a former Brewers hurler who once tossed a no-hitter, was most recently the Red Sox’ pitching coach, serving from the beginning of the 2013 season until his dismissal in May of this year.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)
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“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.