Here come the projections

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As rosters are finalized and spring training stands just around the corner we’ll start to see many projections. The first overall one I’ve seen with wins and losses is Clay Davenport’s. Go see his here.

They all look pretty reasonable to me, at least insofar as how each team finishes in its division. I’m not a numbers guy so I can’t pick nits or say things like “Only 85 wins?! Bah! I think they win 89!” Go read Clay’s methodology. It’s complicated.

And I’m glad people like Clay do these because it helps to put actual past performance and numbers and things on top of all of our offseason feelings and expectations. Aging curves and past performance being the best predictor of future performance are concepts that are easy (and frankly, fun) to forget when your team is having press conferences putting its jersey on its new free agent.

My favorite thing about projection season, though? How mainstream baseball writers will deride them as silly as they come out. They’ll drop barbs on Twitter and in their columns about how, since someone projected wins and losses for the league “there’s no reason to play the season now!” or some such. The disdain for projections and statistical analysis in general comes through pretty clearly in this stuff.

And then, come March, these same guys will run “predictions” columns. Based on far less data and far more unverifiable and unfalsifiable conventional wisdom and pure gut feeling. And rather than predict things like “generalized results over a sample of 2000+ games,” they’ll predict who out of 30 teams will win a seven-game series six months in the future. And claim their own expertise as the basis for taking them seriously.

Fun times.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.