UPDATE: Pirates president is overstating the team’s TV deal

12 Comments

UPDATE: I spoke to a source with knowledge of the Pirates’ TV deal, and the source tells me that the deal is not in the top half of MLB TV deals in terms of average annual value. Far from it. If, as Coonelly says, the Pirates are in the top half of all deals it’s a function of some front-loading of the deal and that gave them a lot of TV money in 2013 and that, as time goes on, the deal will look worse and worse.

This definitely would reflect market size. And makes one wonder why Coonelly would be trying to talk up the TV deal as better than it really is.

10:20 AM: That is, if team President Frank Coonelly is being accurate here. Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette reports Coonelly’s comments at a recent fan fest thing:

”Our TV contract places us in the top half of all Major League Baseball clubs even though our market ranks 27th out of 30. We are well positioned moving forward.”

This runs contrary to Wendy Thurm’s report at Fangraphs on team-by-team TV revenue and, frankly, runs counter to what most people would expect based on the size of the market. Is Root Sports overpaying the Pirates? Are all of the other other networks underpaying the teams they broadcast?

And, as Smizik wonders, is the Pirates payroll too low for a team making as much money as the Pirates are, accordng to Coonelly anyway, making? Smizik estimates that a top-half TV deal puts them in the $35 million to $40 million range on local TV money, not the $18 million to $20 million range Thurm and others estimate.

Interesting stuff about a topic that, increasingly, is dominating the discourse when it comes to the business of major league baseball.

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

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
3 Comments

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.