Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More Favorite Things

[Dexys, if you're going to write something this long in a comment, it should be a post]

From Dexys....

This one would be near the top of my list, DM: Strategy and the time to discuss it.

While I think that baseball is indeed too long and needs to be sped up a bit (time between innings, between pitches, throws to first, etc.), there is something special about having the time to actually discuss WHAT should be done in given situations.

Baseball's strategy is so multi-layered, and with the inability to bring players back in, so different from other sports, that it is so simple and complex at the same time. Just about anyone can understand even the most intricate parts of baseball strategy and discuss them (even if they might not think of them when the time comes). The delay between pitches, pitchers, innings, etc. gives you an opportunity to have a discussion that I don't feel you get from other sports.

This makes me think of some other favorite things of mine:

A connected one: The ability to have real conversations while still paying attention to the game. Something about being outdoors on a warm evening just shooting the breeze with a friend for a few (formerly 2 1/2, now 4) hours gives baseball part of its feeling; makes you feel part of the history and gives you a real feeling for why there have always been so many games in a season.

Scoring a game: I rarely do it anymore, but come on, who doesn't get a sense of true nostalgia scoring a game? My daughter is 1 and I already look forward to teaching her how to score a game. Again, no other game makes you feel a part of its history like baseball.

See something new or special every game: In actuality, every sport has this, but I never seem to go to any football game thinking "I hope the QB doesn't miss a single pass today." If I go to 81 Nationals games this year, I will spend the first inning of every game thinking "I hope I see a perfect game. I hope I see 20Ks." Mid-way through the game..."can this guy get the cycle?" etc.

"Buck-says": A DM special. You can do this in any sport, but it really is so much fun at baseball games (again a function of the time between action). If you have never done it, here is how it works. Before any pitch, inning, batter, whatever, just announce to your cohorts at the game: "buck-says ___" such as "buck-says this guy either strikes out or hits into a double play"; "buck-says he gets out of this inning without letting up a run"; "buck-says he swings at the first pitch" etc. etc. ETC. Whoever takes you up on the offer (we usually do the first person to take the bet, but you can let everyone in on your buck-says if you want), you have a bet with. Best buck-says inning in history: DM and I had an inning where a guy stole home and another guy tagged up from third to score to be called out for leaving too early on the appeal--imagine one guy begrudgingly hands over a dollar only to look like he just lost his virginity 30 seconds later when an appeal overrules the run (and the other guy looks like said virginity was lost to his mom).

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My Favorite Things (about Baseball)

When I was listening to the jazzy version of “My Favorite Things” on the D.C. City Council webcast, it prompted me to think about my favorite things about baseball. So here are the top ten, in no particular order. I’ve tried to limit to those things that distinguish baseball from other sports, in my mind (I have favorite things about those other sports, too, if anyone is interested).

(1) History – Even after the hot stove has cooled off, you can survive January and February off of the ample stores of baseball history. No other sport has all the aspects of history covered: a wide cast of characters and heroes, epic events, and organized objective records that prompt a multitude of theories and interpretations. Note that this is closely related to number 2.

(2) Stats and Records – I can’t spend 10 minutes on baseball-reference.com without coming up with something new and interesting from baseball’s past and present (like the fact that of the 89 DC natives who played in the majors, only 10 debuted since 1971). When it is combined with Retrosheet, it is overwhelming.

(3) Batter v. Pitcher – A conflict between two athletes like no other in sports, as much mental as physical. To get to see it 70-80 times a game is really something. When it occurs when all is on the line, it’s almost unbearable, especially if your team is involved.

(4) No Timeouts – Many like the fact that baseball has no clock, and I generally agree, but mostly because there are no timeouts. One of my favorites quotes is from Lenny Dykstra, during the 93 Phillies frenetic NLCS with the vaunted Braves, where every game featured the Braves threatening to blow the Phils’ house of cards over at any moment. During one touchy spot with Mitch Williams on the mound, Dykstra said “I wanted to call timeout. But this ain’t basketball.” Also closely related to number 5.

(5) No Change of Possession – unlike almost all other team sports, the offense need not quit when they score. This makes for some enormous pressure and dramatic comebacks in the right circumstances, but mercy rules in the wrong ones (e.g. little league). But I still like it.

(6) The Ball Doesn’t Do the Scoring – Not sure why I like this, I just find it very interesting.

(7) Lineups – In baseball, you have to wait your turn. No ball-hogging, no feeding the hot man, no hiding a guy from the spotlight. To me, the bad thing about the DH is not that the pitcher doesn’t hit, but that guys like Greg Luzinski don’t have to play to field in terror like an 8-year-old.

(8) Ballparks – Not only are they fun to visit, but they are an integral part of the game. That’s very neat.

(9) Lots of Games – It’s played every day, which is a nice reliable comfort in the summer, and gives you hope after failure. It’s a false hope, though, as success requires constant attention, which the good teams achieve.

(10) Roger Angell – Many baseball fans are put off by the fawning over him and his literary airs, but the guy knows his stuff, and describes it with an accuracy and precision that only a novelist can achieve. He is absolutely the only reason ever to pick up The New Yorker. He has also had a remarkable baseball life, and I defy anyone to read “Early Innings” (in Game Time) by him and not be jealous.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Long Lines At The Nats Store

Ahhh, Capitalism. If there ever was a better argument for bringing the Expos to DC, I can't think of one than the long lines waiting to give the new DC team their money for acrylic, polyester or wool-based trinkets today.

I give you exhibit A, snapped with SuperNoVa's latest-model-now-you-keep-up-with-me-Mr.-Jones Treo 650 (R) cell phone-camera-palm pilot-GPS locator-food processing device:



(Mind you, we were still about 15 minutes away from getting inside at this point in the line).

SuperNoVa and Don Money parted ways with more than $250 total to buy, among other things, fitted road hats, pennants, coffee mugs, fleece Nationals v-necks, and kids-sized Nationals t-shirts (your kids can't read this blog, right, DM? I'm not ruining Christmas again this year, right?).

Although you can see the mock up of the Nats Pajamas at Ball-Wonk!, you need to see them in person to do them justice. They remind me of the Padres' new jerseys because of the gold beveling of the letters and numbers. I'll be honest, I could live without the beveling. I may prefer the road uniforms now that I've seen them in person, because the blue/gold combo is, how should I say it, less McDonaldsish.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

7-6, Nats Win In the Bottom of the 9th

Washington Post is reporting that the stadium legislation has passed.

Now let's talk some baseball.

Council Hearings on the Web

Can be found here, though right now it appears to be the "Instant Classic" of last week's meeting.

UPDATE (10:45): The council meeting has started, but they are considering other business (like a curbside parking plan to pay for schools and libraries -- NOT!)

UPDATE (11:45): The Council has adjourned for a lunch break. They did not discuss the stadium deal. The webcast is now playing a nice jazz version of "My Favorite Things"

Winter League Updates

While we listen, we can review this good summary of the young Nats in the winter leagues. Did you know Endy Chavez had a brother named Ender in the Nats system? I didn't. (Dexys, please fill in a joke about "Endy" and "Ender" here)

[SNV here - a couple of thoughts. I thought that the younger Chavez had passed away, since there was all that talk about the Expos having a Dead Ender on their roster last year. Also, aren't these names a little Tolkeinesque? Brothers named Endy and Ender who fought in the Second Age concerning the Great Goblet of Goodness. Of course, Tolkein would also give them nicknames, too, to confuse the situation worse, like "Endy/Morphus and Ender/Malactus" so you would have no idea who was who. These are also the worst children's names since Magglio Ordonez and his wife Dagly named their kids Magglio Jr. and Maggliana. Me, I would have picked "Rey."]

[Dexy's says: While I can appreciate your mistake of thinking that Endy and Ender Chavez were named by Tolkein, that is incorrect. If not for me telling you in advance, in May you would have learned from the new Star Wars movie that there was a small latin barrio on the moon Endor, which I am sure you know is home of the Ewoks. After the battle, there was a huge party where everyone got drunk, and a female Ewok, Edna Chavez, had a brief but torrid affair with Han Solo (Yes, Leia was pissed and as you can see here, confronted the Ewok mistress). Upon becoming pregnant, Edna, in disguise, hitched a ride to Earth looking unsuccessfully for Han. She had the babies and kept her last name, not knowing Han's last name--Han apparently had a rule whereby he never gave his last name to an inter-species fling. At this point feeling homesick when the first baby came out, she named it "Endor." She didn't realize that she also had a second baby, and when asked it's name, she repeated "Endor." Frankly, given how hard it is for a human to understand Ewok, I think it is remarkable that the nurse was able to get something as close to that as Endy and Ender on the birth certificates.]

[SNV: TMK gets promoted to full post inclusion....
At 2:46 PM, TMK67 said...
This is not a good sign. Despite their name, Ewalks are not especially schooled in plate discipline, lack power, and are therefore taught to rely upon their speed and glovework. And Han Solo struck out more than Jose Valentin in a windstorm.]

The Straight Dope

Don't miss Steven Pearlstein's column in the Post today, where he provides an invaluable public service by explaining the real issues behind the baseball deal, including the key difference between "financing" and "funding" and public versus private.

The last paragraph sums up the reality nicely:

Look, don't get me wrong: I'm mighty uncomfortable with the fact that Washington and other cities have to further enrich millionaire team owners and players to attract and retain a baseball franchise. But until Congress repeals baseball's antitrust exemption, or until all major cities are willing to sign a pact that none of them will buy into baseball's Ponzi scheme, our choices are either to play by the rules laid down by Major League Baseball or not play at all. Another round of "tough negotiating" won't change that basic reality.


Or, as Don Rumsfeld might put it, you go into negotiations with the Major League you have, not the one you wish you had.



He also points out that if the "curbside parking" will actually work, it is probably better for DC to sell those rights when the project is closer to completion, and then the money could be used for other projects likes schools, etc.

The Real Deal

From the Post story:

Under the agreement, which the full 13-member council is to vote on today,
the District would pursue private financing options for several months. But
Cropp said she will drop a requirement that half the ballpark be privately
financed.

In return, the city's liability for cost overruns or construction delays
would be far less than in the original pact, signed by Williams and Major League
Baseball in September.
Apparently, that's all the detail for now. Let's hope tomorrow is not interesting.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Deal Announcement?

A post on the Nats Message Board, which is pretty active, claims that a Williams/Cropp Press Conference might happen between 11 and 11:15 PM. Here's the link to listen to WTOP live.

UPDATE: WTOP now reporting news conference at 11 PM.

MORE: WTOP now reporting a deal reached, awaiting official announcement. I'm currently listening to laser hair removal commercials.

EVEN MORE: The Post has its story up on the deal, but with no real new details of the agreement. Thankfully, hair removal commercials are over.

MORE (SORT OF): WTOP played what sounded like a bite from Mayor Williams talking about the deal, but claim they don't have a live feed there. No details reported, other than private financing permitted and liability for failure to build the stadium is split evenly between MLB and DC.

Some More Cropp Thoughts

Linda Cropp, despite three prior opportunities, has NEVER voted for a stadium bill that meets the requirements of the Baseball Stadium Agreement. She has, in order: (1) removed a stadium bill that had 7 votes in support from the Council's agenda; (2) abstained from voting in favor of a stadium bill that met the requirements of the agreement; and (3) inserted a $140 private financing poison pill into the stadium bill, a provision that ensured its failure to meet the requirements of the agreement.

In short, she has never done a thing to indicate that she will support a stadium deal that met the requirements of the agreement - except for cheering her head off at the announcement of the deal in front of the City Museum.

How many times does Mayor Williams have to play Charlie Brown to Cropp's Lucy Van Pelt? She's going to swipe the football away again. This time, of course, all of DC's baseball fans will wind up flat on their backs.

Two New Links

Don Money writes:

Can we add links to these two websites on the Blog? They have said
good things about us and linked to us, and have good coverage of the
DC baseball thing.

So, based on Don Money's analysis, we heartily endorse these events or products.

http://www.offwingopinion.com/
http://www.yurasko.net/wfy/

Here is our linking policy at Nats Blog - (1) you have to have good coverage of the DC baseball thing, whatever that thing may be; and (2) you have to say good things about us. Actually, No. 1 is the only real rule, but don't expect a link if you call Dexys Midnight Runners whores for the British conservative revolution of the 1980's. You don't have to link to us, because link exchanges are just so...dirty. But if you have good DC Baseball content, and update with relative frequency, we'll link to you.

New Cropp Deal Near?

David Nakamura updated a story this evening indicating that Mayor Williams and Council Chairman Cropp are "nearing an agreement on the terms of a baseball stadium financing package that they said would probably satisfy Major League Baseball."

A couple of comments. An agreement with Linda Cropp is not worth the paper its printed on. As a matter of fact, she might take the paper its printed on, turn it over, and write up a new piece of legislation in her chicken scratch on the back. Second, "would probably satisfy" is an awful nebulous statement. If the "deal" doesn't include a 0% contribution by the team, it would probably not satisfy Major League Baseball.

Once again, Don Money is right. I'll believe it when I'm sitting in RFK with a beer in my hand, watching a game that counts in the standing involving a team that will play 81 games at home in DC.

[Edit - I noticed I posted this just after Don Money posted his comment. I'll leave mine up because it has a slightly different perspective].

Good News?

Apparently, good signs are coming out of the district building after meetings between Linda Cropp and Mayor Williams tonight. The stadium issue is on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting, and most involved are telling reporters positive things. It sounds like a deal will be struck to give private financing a chance, and if that fails, then the original public funding deal will stand. Baseball's statements yesterday indicating they are willing to remain open to private financing are consistent with this approach.

Of course, predictions about what this Council would do in the past have been meaningless. But if everyone remains rational, then D.C. baseball fans might just have a Merry Christmas after all.

Odds

Thought I might get people's persepectives on a straight number here: what do people think the odds are of this actually getting worked out and the Expos actually becoming the Washington Nationals (and yes, before they become any other team--i.e., becoming the Nationals in 20 more years doesn't count). I have become less and less pessimistic over the last 5 days. I think that this is the city of politics, Cropp is going to get every concession she can out of Williams and the others for herself, her supporters and whatever pet projects she wants to funnel money to, and the deal will be done. I say:

65% chance we get the team.

Others? Any response must have your percentage guess :-)

Kornheiser on the Curbside Parking Plan

He puts together a funny column on the lunacy of the curbside parking plan.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Post Post-Mortem?

This Sunday front pager provides a recap of the story so far, and tries to spread the blame evenly. The angle is that MLB's $19 million penalty for late construction of the stadium reportedly angered council members and they retaliated. As the story notes,

[T]he council came to focus on Item 7: If the city failed to build a ballpark for the former Montreal Expos by March 2008, it would have to pay the team as much as $19 million a year to cover lost profits.

From Major League Baseball's perspective, that was a big concession to the city. The stadium agreement places no limit on the city's liability if the ballpark isn't ready by
2008.

To certain council members, however, Item 7 looked like a hoax -- a big, fat thumb in the eye of an unsuspecting city. If baseball were offering to cap lost profits at $19 million, the members said, then $19 million must be exactly what baseball expected to receive all along. Besides, why should there be a late fee of any kind? The city's paying for the whole stadium.

Item 7 wasn't a concession, it was an insult, they contended. Cropp agreed and plunged the deal to bring baseball back to the nation's capital into crisis.

That item is indicative of the real problem here. A provision that would actually benefit DC (by limiting its liability) and provide an incentive to get things done on time is treated as an insult. Essentially, it reflects those council members' approach to government and management: there should be no consequences if we screw up, because there never has been before. And there won't be for tanking this deal, either.



Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sources of Funding

Boy, it would be fun to see a list of these!

But let's start thinking outside the box, Nats fans. How can we raise the $140 million?

-- Get a job as head of the D.C. Teachers' Union? ($5 million)

-- Get a job as parking lot attendant for Metro? ($1 million per year)

-- Get a job as a principal/bus salesman in a D.C. public school? (approx $50,000)

-- Get a job collecting petitions for Linda Cropp's mayoral run? (?????)

-- Get a job as a D.C. corrections officer? (????)

-- Ask former mayor Sharon Pratt to do another "bioterrorism" study? ($236,000)

Let's face it. The "entrepreneurial" spirit lives in and around D.C. government, in an abundant, untapped reservoir of folks who make a little go a long way. A balanced, diversified portfolio of kickbacks, graft, bribes, embezzlement, asset mismanagement, misappropriation, accounting irregularties, sinecures and cronyism should raise the 140 extra-large in no time.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Sex Industry Funds Stadium Opposition

I never thought I'd post something from the Drudge Report on the Nats Blog, but WTOPNEWS.com reports that a large portion of the funding behind the anti-stadium deal is coming from the sex industry.

We all figured Linda Cropp was in bed with someone...but this is much too literal.

What Lind Cropp is ignoring or ignorant of

The Comments from the post about bluffing created a great exchange that seems to be cut off in that post, so I've copied it here for everyone's benefit:


At 9:11 AM, TMK67 said...
deMause's Field of Schemes blog is must-reading for those who are following the DC stadium issue. But he is wrong on this "bluff" argument.It is entirely rational for MLB to destroy the value of the Nats franchise to "prove their point". The question is not "What location is best for this franchise?", it is, "What deal is best for the 29 franchises that own the Nats?" deMause fails to take into account that the principle of "free stadiums are expected" is worth a lot to every team.It is simple math--even if the sale value of the Nats in DC with a pritvately-funded stadium is far greater than the sale value of the "Nats" in Vegas/Portland with a publicly-funded stadium, the 29 owners are better off taking the Vegas/Portland deal. A $100 million diminishment in the value of the Nats costs each owner less than $4 million--the cost of a mediocre middle infielder for one year. They will gladly take that loss in order to be able to lord the Portland/Vegas free stadium over their respective cities.
At 9:54 AM, dexys_midnight said...
very well thought out TMK
At 10:06 AM, El Gran Color Naranja said...
He's wrong on the "bluff", but not for the reasons you state. Both Norfolk and Portland had near full funding proposals on the table in the months before DC. Vegas politicians had regularly been more receptive. But MLB always wanted the DC area. It makes the team the most profitable for sale. I don't think they cared, however, if it was DC proper or NoVA.Why do I say that he's wrong on the bluff? Because if they accept this deal, then it becomes the new deal to base all future deals on. That would devalue the franchises looking for new ballparks. And the owners are crazy enough about protecting their huge investments to play the team in MLB's New York office lobby if it'll save their teams a few million dollars potentially.
At 1:32 PM, TMK67 said...
El Gran,You and I are basically making the same point. A free stadium in a smaller market is more valuable to the 29 owners than a stadium they have to pay partly for in DC, regardless of the fact that the team in DC, even with a "privately-funded" stadium will no doubt sell for more than a Portland/Vegas team. The owners would prefer to crater the value of their investment in the Nats simply to avoid the loss in value of their own franchises that would result if they caved in to the DC Council, as you point out. Such a cave-in would so adversely impact their future bargaining position with their own cities that I bet that many owners (especially Reinsdorf) would be willing to write off the entire value of the Nats to maintain this principle. A complete write-off would only be about $300 million, or a little over $10 million/owner, a pittance.DC and MLB are in what economists call a multi-stage game. Failing to recognize that you are in one and assuming your opponent will make a decision based on the individual rationality of each stage is an enormous mistake. Linda Cropp is making this mistake.
At 6:09 PM, El Gran Color Naranja said...
Yes we are. It's not the profit from the sale that's important to MLB, it's the terms. A baseball franchise is a long-term investment. I can be led to believe that some teams do lose money hand over fist since the rise in value of a franchise more than offsets these losses and makes ownership a profitable venture. A free or highly subsidized stadium whenever one needs such (say every 20-30 years or so) adds much to the potential sale value. But this begs the question, why would they spurn such deals from smaller cities to before this? Could it be a "let's try one more time" thing? I just don't buy it. I believe that having a team in DC has a certain cache that MLB is willing to sacrifice more to get, even if it means only a limited increase in gain for the owners individually. Much like cities decide to sacrifice the money you lose on a stadium deal for the "intangible" benefits a team brings, I think MLB would do the same for the "intangible" benefits for DC. But 50%? The more I think about it, the less likely it seems.

At 9:15 PM, DM said:
As I see it, MLB has conceded on several points in this deal that lower the price of the Expos franchise: (1) 18 % of the financing is rent paid by the new owner;(2) tax on concessions that ultimately hit the bottom line of the new owners;(3) payments/guarantees to Angelos;(4) site of the new stadium would benefit D.C. more than the new owners.Sure, this ain't McGowan in SF, but these are real considerations that must be acknowledged. It is also more than MLB gave to Cleveland, Baltimore and Texas. That is why I think it is a hard but fair deal for the city. Combine that with the fact that DC is in competition with other cities, and it's probably the best you could expect.

Curbs to the Rescue!

A flavor of the lunacy of this whole situation can be found at the end of this article :

"Cropp said entrepreneurs have offered several new private financing plans since
the council's action Tuesday. So far, Cropp and administration officials have
said that one of the most viable plans would raise as much as $100 million by
charging motorists to park along the curbs in neighborhoods surrounding the
stadium."
Charging motorists to park is a "private" activity? Since when? Why can't the city just put parking meters out now and raise money for the schools? Why isn't this like saying the private financiers will impose a surcharge on concessions (i.e. a tax)?

Be sure to read the article SuperNoVa linked to at BP, and especially the one it links to from November which explains what is really going on with Cropp's "private" financing schemes -- they are really just tax shelters.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

BP Says MLB Is "Bluffing"

You'll need a subscription (Nats Blog heartily endorses this event or product), but Neil deMause says that Baseball is "bluffing" by shutting down its operations in DC.

Among other things, Neil writes:

No matter. Cropp had transgressed the sacred "contract" signed by Mayor Williams and Supreme Leader Selig--called a "Baseball Agreement" on its cover page, because the mayor doesn't actually have the power to unilaterally sign contracts on behalf of his city--and if there's one thing the Selig administration knows how to do, it's play hardball in contract negotiations. Thus DuPuy's crabby response, which was meant to throw fear into the hearts of Washington baseball fans, who presumably are expected to bombard Cropp's office with angry phone calls demanding that she end their 33 years in the baseball wilderness, whatever the cost.

The angry phone calls materialized right on cue (reports are that
Cropp has received at least two death threats), but don't hold your breath waiting for the Expos to relocate again for the second time in three months. Oh, it's possible that DuPuy's bluster will escalate into pretending to play footsie with other cities. . . . But in the end, the other options are pretty crummy. The bridges are burned in Montreal, political support for stadium funding is nonexistent in Virginia, and places like Portland and Las Vegas have neither the population nor the stadium financing to pull off a last-minute play for the Expos. It's D.C. or bust, and Selig has to know that even a $400 million stadium bill is still better than nothing.


Neil, no offense, but you are a fool. Baseball never wanted to come to DC. There were too many problems - exactly one too many - to bring Baseball to DC. Despite the fact that DC has been the obvious choice to relocate the Expos for 3 years, Baseball hemmed and hawed and tried to find as many solutions as possible. That was until the people at the Washington Baseball Club told Tony Williams that the only way DC could get the Expos was to meet all of Baseball's demands. In other words, accept Baseball's offer. And much to his credit, Mayor Williams did that. Baseball, having been given everything it wanted, pretty much was backed into a corner, and struck the deal.

The bottom line is that Baseball doesn't need a reason to not come to DC. They need a reason TO come to DC. That reason got smashed into a million pieces on Tuesday night.

Vent Your Frustration

If you haven't seen them already, you can review some hatred for Linda Cropp at lindacroppsux and you can reach out and touch her through Drop Cropp.

This woman is a menace. Not only is she obviously challenged intellectually, her capacity for duplicitous backstabbery is apparently limitless.

Linda: December 31 means December 31. There will be no extensions. There will be no concessions by Major League Baseball.

There are two choices: (1) you cave to the pressure and pass the stadium bill; or (2) you continue on your merry, clueless way of thinking that Baseball wants to bring the Expos to DC and that you can negotiate a better deal.

You should pick number (1). This choice should not be foreign to you, since you apparently cave to pressure ALL THE FREAKING TIME. And while I will continue to despise you if you cave, I will not make it my life's mission to make yours a living hell and make your tombstone read "Idiot Who Killed Baseball In DC."

Your other choice is, of course, to be the biggest jackass in DC history. With Marion Berry in town, that's a pretty hard thing to be. But you'll get there.

More Cropp Brilliance

She is now asking baseball to give the District a "few months" beyond Dec. 31 to come up with private financing. "If not, the legislation stands" are her exact words. Not sure what legislation she is referring to; it would only make sense if she meant the original deal and not her crippled bill, but she simply can't be trusted to be rational.

Of course baseball said no, as you would expect. Marc Fisher resorts to begging Bud Selig to ignore Cropp's welching and bring the Expos here anyway. At least he understands what position DC is in, unlike Cropp.

They just showed on PTI the video of Cropp smiling in the middle of the crowd at Union Station back in November. Everyone who thinks she did a good thing should watch that.

What is it about baseball the "other 6" hate?

You know with all this swirl going on about Linda Cropp, it occurred to me that no one is talking much at all about the 6 people that voted against baseball even with the private financing plan. In fact, given the vote that had occurred only two weeks prior, couldn't we see this coming? From that vote to Tuesday's vote, only one vote actually changed at all...Linda Cropp's in favor of baseball (with the switcheroo private financing amendment of course). With or without the amendment at least six of the 13 voters it appears were going to vote against bringing baseball to DC. Just seems odd that it barely merits a mention.

I also have to wonder about the three councilmembers who voted yes at the Nov. 30 vote, but then voted in favor of the private financing amendment before voting yes again. What were they thinking? Shouldn't they bare some responsibility as well? Yes, without their votes the amendment would still have passed 7-6 instead of 10-3, but I just don't get their rationale. Any thoughts out there?

SAT Time

Hey, if the Nats actually do spend one year in RFK (which according to the Post citing baseball sources, they won't) before moving to Vegas or whereever, 20 Nats Blog points to anyone who can complete the following SAT-style Analogy....

Brad Wilkerson is to Don Mincher as the Washington Nationals are to _______.

Baseball operations: yes; personnel moves: no

Well, while MLB has shut down all operations with the Nationals except baseball-specific operations (i.e., no marketing, promotions, ticket sales, etc.), it appears that for all purposes for us as fans, baseball operations have shut down too. Bowden has apparently said that he will not sign any new players until the team has a definite home, meaning that Odalis Perez and others are off the table, and the Nats/or whoever the heck they become, will sit by as all of the December deals and signings move past them. From the players standpoint, agents have rightfully said that they wouldn't be able to convince any of their players to come to the team anyway, since no one wants to sign up to a team having no idea where he will be forced to live in a year.
Wow, the destruction of a city's dreams AND the rebuilding of a team all in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Fallout

Lots of good stories up on the Post site now. Boswell makes a good point by asking what would we be saying about Bud Selig if he were pulling the stunts that Cropp is. Wilbon ultimately agrees with Boswell, and sees the writing on the wall. This story makes it clear that Cropp can't be trusted at all, which is exactly why MLB is serious about looking around Jan. 1. This one speculates that these kinds of shenanigans make it hard for businesses to take the District seriously. And this one explains how both the Mayor's deal and Cropp's are consistent with other cities deals, but, as Wilbon points out, the time to insist on public financing was two months ago, not now.

Mayor says deal is on last breath

I came here to shatter dreams and chew bubble gum....and I'm all out of bubble gum. Mayor Williams said and implied today that there is virtually no chance of Washington getting a major league team--and chided that he was one of the "optimistic" ones. Well, thinking that the Mayor would be as optimistic as he could be, it was a real sobering realization that this truly does seem to be over.

Like all other things, a lot of what goes on is political manuevering, so I also can't say I would be surprised if next week something happened to make everyone say "we're back on track!" but when the Mayor pushing for this deal announces its death, it seems pretty darn dead to me.

The Party's Over

The potential value of our season ticket package lies in ruins, fellas. The dream of DC Baseball - by that I mean a team owned and operated locally - died last night. And its killer was Linda Cropp.

Linda Cropp is a small politician. Sure, she is the Chairman of the D.C. Council right now. But this too shall pass. And when she dies - as we all die - she will be known for one thing. One single thing - she killed any chance of Major League Baseball in DC for generations to come. Her arrogance, her obduracy, her obtuseness and her pettiness will be remembered. Nothing else. She not only was writing a bill last night, she was writing her epitaph.

I hope you like the fact that you will be remembered for being small-minded, Linda. Good luck with that.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I refer the right honorable readers to the first post on this blog.

Although I have been skeptical that baseball in D.C. would happen all along, the actuality of the foul-up is still stunning. I heard on the radio that Linda Cropp has said she wanted "respect" from MLB. (From Mark Plotkin, available here) Well, there are two types of "respect", the kind that prompts people to shake your hand and the kind, that bullies and the Mob use, that prompts people to stay off your turf. I'll let you guess which one I think she earned last night. And Las Vegas is pretty far away from her turf.

But let's not be distracted by the focus on Linda Cropp. From a dispassionate view, I find it hard to argue that last night's festivities were not just democracy in action, if you think democracy is giving the people what they want. For a host of reasons, the public support for this deal was wanting, and the vote last night reflected it. You might think that Cropp's move would hurt her politically -- I think it will actually help her in the long run. Marc Fisher in the Post gets it about right in trying to explain the District:

This city is pathologically averse to change, captive to deep anxieties about race, class and the urban-suburban and District-federal divides. Baseball was an opportunity to rise above those strains, to reach for world-class status, to lure suburbanites back into a view of Washington as the center, a place of pride.
The leaders of D.C. (including Mayor Williams) had to lead here. They had rise above simply being a mouthpiece for their constituents and explain why this deal was in the best interest of the city in the long-term, not just short-term. They failed to do that. Moreover, the people of D.C. did not do much to make this happen either, they instead viewed it all with a suspicion and paranoia that is characteristic. D.C. has had a sad history of leaders who don't actually lead, and a citizenry who don't hold them accountable, and who both sacrifice long-term benefit for short-term, parochial interests. That history continues today.

Demise of the Nats?

I apologize that we haven't posted on this earlier. As you may have already heard, it was a dark evening, now morning, for the Nats as the DC Council voted 7-6 (or 10-3, it's hard to tell from the articles I have read how to separate the overall vote from a particular amendment vote) to require that the ballpark financing come at least half from private sources.

There apparently is no chance of this vote being reversed, and in fact, it might go further in the direction it is already going. According to the Washington Post, three new council members are about to start their terms, all of whom are against public financing for a stadium.

Reports today say, maybe prematurely, maybe not, that MLB will most likely re-open the search for a new Expos home and that 2005 (because they have nowhere else to go) will possibly-probably be the only year of the Washington Nationals. All of the reports coming out of this are tremendously negative ranging from the demise of the Nats being somewhat likely to almost definite. I would say that it is certainly negative, but I wonder what MLB would say if they actually got a signed contract from a private financier pledging to fund half the stadium. 20 entities have apparently put in private financing proposals, so at least that is a start. Right now, that appears to be our only hope, and I for one, hope that it comes to fruition or this will be a whole lot of wasted energy--and I would think the vast majority of the 15,000 new season ticket holders would demand a refund, since going to Nats games would be an exercise in masochism.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pedro to Mets--love this as a Nats fan

So, it looks like Pedro, according to reports will go to the Mets for a reported $52 million over 4 years, and....this is huge...to make the deal go through, because they KNOW Pedro will fail his physical if given an MRI, they are trying to make skipping the MRI part of the deal.

I break this deal up as: Good for the Red Sox, Bad for the Mets, and pretty darn good for the Nats Fans.

Why is it good for the Sawks? Well, because Pedro, while he was one of the most, if not most, dominant pitchers for the last decade, is clearly now a 6 inning pitcher. And unfortunately, unless you have one of three or four bullpens in the majors that can throw out a great lefty-righty setup combo plus a great closer (which you wouldn't want them forced to go out every time to relieve your #1 starter anyway), you can really be in trouble. The Red Sox have seen how much trouble a number of times now, and they have seen Pedro's decline especially on the # of pitches he can throw each year. You want to see what he does in 4 years, which the Mets have guaranteed? Plus, everyone said that Nomar and Pedro (for totally different reasons) were the two guys that just didn't fit in in the Red Sox dugout this year. They got rid of Nomar, now they get a chance to unload Pedro and look like they gave it a real try at keeping him. Theo raised his offer just enough to look really good, but not good enough to make it not worthwhile for the Mets to raise him. He set himself up to be unblameable from all factions.

Why is it just awful for the Mets? I say this as a Mets fan. This is a horrific signing. $13 million guaranteed for 4 years for a pitcher who has the flaws I just mentioned? And with the Mets' bullpen? And you have made public that you will forego an MRI because you know the deal wouldn't go through if he takes the MRI and fails his physical? That's like saying "don't put that diamond under the microscope; I know it's glass; I'll just take it!" Why not just choose a different fan each fifth game to shoot in the head at second base? That would also get headlines, and it seems that is all Omar Minaya wants with this signing. When will the Mets realize that, unless they actually start winning, the Yankees are always going to get the press? Deal with it. As soon as Boss George found out about this, he immediately re-opened Big Unit negotiations to steal those back pages back. For once, Mets owners, just TRY to actually build a team!

I'll tell you though, as a Nats fan, I love this signing. The Nats aren't going to be good for a couple of years anyway. And while he is on the decline, Pedro is still super-exciting and anything can happen when he pitches (one of the greatest pitched games I have ever been at, Sox at Orioles (oh, am I not supposed to say that I used to go to Orioles games and now I won't anymore? Sorry Mr. A), Pedro pitches a complete game shutout, no walks, 15 Ks, and he let up two back to back singles in the 5th--getting the 14 guys before that and the 13 guys after that straight. I hope the D' Backs keep Unit. I would love to be able to use my season tickets to see a mix of Pedro, Unit, Maddux and (maybe) Clemens. So, farewell from the Sox, Pedro, we'll see you when you come to town.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I love the sheer balls of this!

In a recent article about the Nats "trade talks" for Sammy Sosa, it was stated that the Nats are still looking at acquiring Corky, *cough,* Sammy. But according to the same article, here is the Nats offer: we would like Sammy if and only if we a) don't have to give anyone up in exchange and b) the Cubs pay his entire salary.

Wow. Moose, Rocco, help the Judge find his pen. I'm sure the Cubs can't sign the paperwork on that fast enough :-p

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What is Alou saying?

Felipe Alou in discussing the Bonds situation said: ``There's always been stuff in the game like `greenies' and `red juice' and alcohol that players thought would help them get through a slump or a week of being tired or give them a 10-point-higher average,'' said the 70-year-old Alou, who played in the majors for 17 seasons.
There was a time when players thought that if they had a shot of whiskey, that would help them get through the cold weather. And some guys did. Now there are things available that weren't then -- substances to get stronger. So it would be really easy for me as an old guy to drop the hammer on those guys, whoever they are, who use steroids.''

This leads me to ask: Is Alou saying what I think he is saying? That essentially, "ah, people have superstitions, people take stuff to make themselves think they will be better, it's just a mental confidence booster, and since people have always done wacky stuff, it's no big deal?" They have a comment at the end of the article where Alou says that these revelations will clean the game up, but it's hard to see he means it if the tone of the article is correct.

The whole "moneyball" issue essentially makes the point that old-time baseball folks don't know what the heck they are doing as they remain mired in the same backwards way of thinking when they started in the game 50 years ago. Scouts and GMs look at whether a guy "looks" like a player as opposed to looking at his performance, etc. Old-time writers who vote for award winners, the hall of fame, etc. have the same issues--oh, this guy had a bunch of RBI's, he must be good. (hello, Jim Bowden).
So, I wonder....will old-time baseball folks just shrug their shoulders since steroids weren't around when they played and just think "yeah we had wacky guys in the clubhouse who used to try weird things to make them think they would play better all the time, it's no big deal"?
I thought they would be the most vocal on "purity of the game" issues, but maybe that wasn't a correct assumption.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Barry Larkin can do anything?

In a recent interview about the Nationals, Barry Larkin was asked whether in addition to being a Nationals reserve, he would also like to coach. The article says: "Asked if Robinson offered him a coaching position with the team, Larkin said, 'Frank didn't say that specifically, but he did say, whatever I wanted to do.'"

Well, that made me think....would the Nationals allow Barry to do "whatever he wanted to do for the team?" Therefore, I present to you (click on the link to see Barry Larkin in his new roles):

Barry Larkin in charge of selecting the music to be played for each players' at-bat.

Barry Larkin as team real estate agent.

Barry Larkin as home theater consultant.

Barry Larkin as stadium piano tuner.

Barry Larkin as general counsel?

Barry Larkin as team interior decorator.

Barry Larkin as team eulogy writer.

Barry Larkin as team jester and veterinarian.

Barry Larkin as fundraiser (apparently here you can click on something called "Barry Larkin for Sale").

Feel free to comment or add.

"mmmmmm, hot stove...."

We have spent a decent amount of time analyzing and evaluating many of the free-agent pitchers out there (many of whom have already been signed or clearly are not been followed by Bowden and his crew). From reading espn.com lately, it appears that in addition to the free-agents, a lot of decent name pitchers are on the trading block. I was wondering what people thought about whether or not Bowden will even bother to get into the trade talk action at the winter meetings this weekend (lets put aside the lack of players he has that would interest people).

Hey! Maybe we can trade Guzman and Castilla! *chuckle* *chortle*

Thursday, December 09, 2004

We interrupt all the stat head talk ...

... to mention an actual Nats player. Amidst the "spirited" discussion over new stats and fiddling with the 2004 data, one Nats pitcher kept popping up pretty high on the lists of good pitchers -- Luis Ayala. He seems to be a real solid middle reliever, which is an indispensible part of pitching staff these days. According to SuperNova's formula, he saved about 0.52 runs per 9 innings he pitched, which is second best on the team behind John Rauch. He is also only 26 years old. I'd love to hear what El Gran or anyone who followed the Expos closely thinks of him.

I don't know if this is wishful thinking or not, but I'm starting to convince myself that the Nats pitching staff is really not that bad.

Even More Bonds Data

I love baseball-reference.com. In the comments to my post on Bonds, I suggested that it would be interesting to look at a bunch of players and see how they performed after the age of 34 (the age when Bonds began his relationship with trainer Greg Anderson). Sure enough, poking around on baseball-reference.com, I found what I was looking for. In the section on each player card regarding "similarity scores" there is a link for "Compare Stats" that gives you this page, which compares Bonds to the most similar players to him for his career. You can then compare them for any particular age, such as 34.

Let's take a look at the percentage increase or decrease between these players' OPS+ (OBP plus SLG adjusted for league and park) in the years before age 34 and after, sorted by their pre-34 OPS+ (I need SuperNoVa's table creating skills) [SNV - You got 'em]:

PlayerPre-34 OPS+Post-34 OPS+% Change
Babe Ruth

212

194

-8%

Ted Williams

192

191

-1%

Lou Gehrig

184

151

-18%

Mickey Mantle

175

152

-13%

Stan Musial

170

137

-19%

Jimmie Foxx

164

96

-41%

Barry Bonds

163

233

+43%

Willie Mays

163

146

-10%

Frank Robinson

157

145

-8%

Hank Aaron

157

151

-4%

Mel Ott

156

143

-8%

Rafael Palmeiro

134

134

0%


It's more revealing as a bar graph, but I don't have time to put one together, and you get the picture. As I suspected, Bonds' dramatic improvement is unmatched by any of the great players with close similarity scores. Indeed, it's not even like Bonds' increase is more than others -- it is diametrically opposed to what the other greats did in their later years. All but one show decreases, where Bonds shows a dramatic increase. Even Aaron, who was very productive in his later years, decreased.

Interestingly, Rafael Palmeiro has managed to stay even in his post-34 career, but he is still far below Bonds' improvement. (Rafi, as we know, apparently takes another substance for "growth", which is legal with prescription.) I think he may be a good example of how better (legitimate) conditioning and preparation can help today's players maintain performance in their later years, but not increase them dramatically. It might also simply reflect the general increase in offense during the recent period.

It would seem there is some statistical analysis well-beyond my skills that would show how such a disparity is very very very remote.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

OneStat, Take Two

Through some spirited discussions with John from Washington Baseball Blog, I focused my attention away from the K/9*K/BB/(1+HR/9) formulation and towards a statistic based on expected runs saved vs. expected runs allowed based on a pitcher's pitcher-controlled stats (K/BB/HR).

In short, the formula is expressed:

Expected Runs Saved per K * K - Expected Runs Allowed per BB * BB - ExRA per HR*HR

That gets you the amount of saved runs to a team from a pitcher's defense-independent performance.

The only problem was to derive the expected run values of strikeouts, walks, and home runs. I started with the Baseball Prospectus 2004 expected run values by situation (I'd link it, but it is subscriber-only). Using that matrix, I created similar matrices for the expected runs added (or, in the case of strikeouts, subtracted) by the contribution of a marginal strikeout, walk, or homerun.

A strikeout situation is easy; you just take the current value of the situation and subtract out the value of the situation one out later. For example, if a team expected to score 0.8 runs with runner on first and none out, but 0.4 runs with runner on first and one out, I calculated the value of a K in that situation as 0.4 runs saved.

Walks are easy as well; you just take the difference between the current situation after a walk and the current situation without a walk. Thus, if a team expects to score .4 runs with a man on 1st and 1 out, but expects to score .8 runs with men on first and second and 1 out, the value of the walk in that situation is 0.4 expected runs. With the bases loaded, the value of a walk is 1 run.

Homers are a little counter-intuitive. With bases empty, the value of a home run is 1 run (obviously). With runners on, it's a little difference. For example, if there is a runner on 3rd and none out, the expected run value is 1.45 runs. If a batter homers, then the team gets 2 runs, but is left with a situation in which there are none on and none out - a situation with an expected run value of 0.54 runs. So the difference (1.45 - 0.54) must be subtracted out, leaving the value of that home run of 1.08 runs. The calculation is a little jarring at first, until you realize that your team is pretty much going to get that guy in anyway, so the real value you provide by hitting the homer is getting yourself around the bases.

Then I weighted the K, BB and HR matrices for the relative occurence of each cell in the real world. There were 188,539 plate appearances in MLB this year, and 103,387 (54.84%) came with no one on base. I got the plate appearances on a runner-situation basis from MLB.com, although it was not cross-referenced with out-situation. So I had to weight runner-situations by the relative occurence of out situations. Out situations are extremely evenly weighted - 34.5% came with none out, 33.2% with one out, and 32.32% came with two outs. If someone has the weightings of each cell in the 24-situation matrix, I could refine the data further.

The expected run values across MLB 2004 of a K, BB and HR are -.294422, +.327641, and +1.39299, respectively. I plugged these values into the formula, and created a runs saved per 9/IP figure by dividing by innings pitched and multiplying by nine. I calculated the values for all MLB pitchers in 2004 and plotted the runs saved per 9/IP against ERA. Here's the XY scatterplot I got for all pitchers with 20+ innings pitched in 2004:



It's an interesting calculation, and I'll have to noodle it further. For the time being, here are the top 10 pitchers (with 100 or more IP) in terms of runs saved per 9/IP through defense-independent pitching efforts:

PitcherERAERV/9
Randy Johnson 2.60 1.68
Ben Sheets 2.70 1.23
Johan Santana 2.61 1.06
Jason Schmidt 3.20 0.94
Scott Shields 3.33 0.91
Jake Peavy 2.27 0.84
Roger Clemens 2.98 0.73
Curt Schilling 3.26 0.65
Roy Oswalt 3.49 0.63
A.J. Burnett 3.68 0.62

Tippett is closer than McCracken, IMO

Unfortunately, I just spent 30 minutes typing up something before my Explorer (Internet, not Ford) crashed, so I will try to make this relatively quick. I don't have the time today to go through all the stats or find all the links, but I promise to do so soon and leave this post here as more of a placeholder and for commentary.

Sometimes a good theory gets buried because no one listens, and sometimes a flawed theory takes on a snowball effect and has everyone believing it because they want something new. I believe Voros McCraken's theory that pitchers have essentially no effect on what happens to a ball put in play, while inventive and forcing us to think and to realize that there is more randomness is the game than we would otherwise like to believe, falls more into that latter category.

[I don't know what is going on but blogger just erased a bunch of what I wrote when it posted, so I'll try to duplicate it AGAIN] I'm not one to believe something just because "it sounds right" in the face of evidence. So, if Voros's theory hold water with the evidence, then I am all for it no matter how "counter-intuitive." I just don't believe it does, at least in any extreme form. Tom Tippett's rebuttal appears to be much more sound, in my mind, and even McCracken, I believe, has slowly shied away from his theory, at least at the extremes and as a be-all and end-all.


Sure, I could be anecdotal and say that I don't understand how a well-placed liner into outfield can be equivalent to a slow roller to the pitcher. But there is a staring-in-your-face stat that, to me, just does not line up with McCracken's theory. And that is that batters have higher batting averages in batters' counts. It is an axiom and it is dramatic, and I do not believe that the difference in the numbers is entirely made up of strikeouts--something that is easy to check and I will. A batter does far better in a 3-0 or 3-1 count (when he is able to zone in on a particular pitch) than he does in an 0-2 count (when he is just trying to "get his bat on the ball").

Next, combine that with the statement that better pitchers get the batters into more pitchers' counts than batters' counts--remember Maddux's crazy year where he went 3-0 on something like 4 batters all year (that number is wrong, I'm sure, but it isn't far off, and I will find a link to it at some point soon)?

Well, I fail to see how that combination of truisms can peacefully coincide with McCraken's ideas. Better pitchers get into more pitchers' counts and therefore batters will have lower batting averages on balls put in play against them over a season. Can anyone point to evidence against that?

Like I said, I wish I had the time to really delve into the stats and put links to everything this morning, but my computer already crashed once and I have actual work to do. But I certainly would be interested in a discussion on this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Does "OneStat" take care of extremes?

I was wondering how well OneStat shows us relativity among great seasons and also whether or not the truly great seasons translate to OneStat or if we would look at them and say: "this can't be right," so I took a bunch of great seasons from truly great pitchers of the last decade as well as a not very good 1991 season of David Cone's (I did not add HBPs to BBs by the way).

Here are the seasons:

1992 Greg Maddux 2.18 ERA (166 ERA+)
1993 Greg Maddux 2.36 (171)
1994 Greg Maddux 1.56 (273)
1995 Greg Maddux 1.63 (259)
1997 Greg Maddux 2.20 (191)
2001 Curt Schilling 2.98 (154)
2002 Curt Schilling 3.23 (136)
2003 Curt Schilling 2.95 (159)
2004 Curt Schilling 3.26 (150)
1997 Pedro Martinez 1.90 (221)
1999 Pedro Martinez 2.07 (245)
2000 Pedro Martinez 1.74 (285)
2001 Pedro Martinez 2.39 (189)
2002 Pedro Martinez 2.26 (196)
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.22 (212)
1991 David Cone 3.29 (111) (and a 1.19 WHIP to go along with his 14-14 record)

ranking the above seasons using One Stat gets you some interesting results (remember Kris Benson and Odalis Perez's 2004 seasons scored in the high 7s).:
1999 Pedro Martinez 2.07 (245); OneStat= 80.92
2000 Pedro Martinez 1.74 (285); OneStat= 61.32
2001 Pedro Martinez 2.39 (189); OneStat= 59.13
2002 Curt Schilling 2.95 (159); OneStat= 52.34
1995 Greg Maddux 1.63 (259); OneStat= 45.52
1997 Greg Maddux 2.20 (191); OneStat= 44.94
2002 Pedro Martinez 2.26 (196); OneStat= 40.62
2001 Curt Schilling 2.98 (154); OneStat= 33.6
2003 Curt Schilling 2.95 (159); OneStat= 32.97
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.22 (212); OneStat= 32.55
1997 Pedro Martinez 1.90 (221); OneStat= 32.41
1994 Greg Maddux 1.56 (273); OneStat= 29.7
2004 Curt Schilling 3.26 (150); OneStat= 24.44
1991 David Cone 3.29 (111); OneStat= 20.51
1993 Greg Maddux 2.36 (171); OneStat= 17.09
1992 Greg Maddux 2.18 (166); OneStat= 15.38

I'm not sure what this tells us exactly, but some of it is counter-intuitive. If we believe the theory that the only thing a pitcher controls is HRs, BBs and Ks and we want to measure it by OneStat (which would certainly need tinkering over time, I don't think DM & SNV think they have gotten it on their first shot, they are just experimenting), does that translate into a statement that a higher OneStat does indeed mean a better pitching season? It's hard to imagine that the results of something like Curt Schilling's 2002 season being that much better than any of Maddux's great years could be accurate. I just put this out there for discussion as opposed to making too many conclusions today.


Quiet Nats Blog

One of the reasons Nats Blog went dark yesterday is that DM's comment on my post about free agent pitchers got both me and DM thinking about a way to put a pitcher's strikeout, walk and home runs allowed totals into one simple statistic (which I have have been calling OneStat).

Both DM and I have been noodling the idea and we've come up with a rough version of it, which we need to back-test against data. But it looks something like this:

K/9 * K/BB
---------------
1 + HR/9

The resulting number shows that (no shocker here) that Ben Sheets and Randy Johnson were the best starters in the National League in 2004. But it also reveals some non-obvious comparisons. Odalis Perez had a 3.25 ERA and an ERA+ of 127 in 2004. At the same time, Kris Benson had a 4.31 ERA and a 97 ERA+.

But the value of Perez vs. Benson is not so easy. Here are some key stats from both of them last year:

NameIPHRBBKERAERA+OneStat
Perez196 1/326441283.251277.79
Benson200 1/315611344.31977.9


ERA and ERA+ wise, it looks like Perez was a much better pitcher. But dive into the peripherals, and you'll see that Perez gave up 11 more homers (pitching at Dodger Stadium, nonetheless), and struck out 6 fewer folks. Benson had 17 more walks, but that simply doesn't explain the 1 run difference in ERA and 30 point difference in ERA+ (one would think the 11 fewer home runs would more than compensate for the extra 17 walks).

Anyway, DM and I continue to noodle this, but it is something worth further thought, and we would appreciate any input you have.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

More on Barry Bonds

After prompting a lot of criticism of Tom Boswell earlier in the week, I have to give him credit for this column, which helps makes the clear case as to how steriods helped Bonds. The paper version of the Post had a good graphic showing Bonds' HR per AB over his career. But I thought HR per AB wasn't quite the best stat to use; I thought HR per H would be a better indicator of steroid effect, since it is thought that steriods mostly help turn hits into homers.

So, taking a page from SuperNoVa, I ran off two interesting Excel charts. Here's the first one:




Like the Post's chart, this shows that in after 1998, when Bonds starting working with personal trainer Greg Anderson, his HR per H for each of the next 6 years are ALL higher than any previous year.

Here's the second chart, showing Bonds HR per H against Aaron, Mays and Ruth, corresponded to age:



Again, at the same age when Ruth and Mays start going down, Bonds starts going up, when he starts working with Anderson. He also beats Aaron every year, though Aaron did have a great year when he was 39 -- though it has long been known that Aaron's feat really was his productivity in his late 30s.

To me, this is conclusive proof that Bonds' statistics are tainted by the steriods. I certainly won't consider them among the greats anymore.

Rating the Free Agent Starters

Here's a little free homework for Jim Bowden on this year's free agent class. I compiled two statistics for each of the major free agent pitchers that are out there (throwing in Kris recent signee Benson): ERA + in 2004 and BABIP in 2004.

ERA+ is defined by Baseball-Reference.com as "the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher. [Greater than] 100 is above average and [less than] 100 is below average. lgERA / ERA" The all-time leader in career ERA+ is Pedro Martinez, who, based on that statistic, it could be argued is the best pitcher of all time (his 1st place career ERA+ of 167 is a mind-boggling 13% better than the next best, Lefty Grove. Pedro will get worse as he gets older...but I digress).

BABIP is a measure of the Batting Average allowed by that pitcher when balls are put into play. As explained by Voros McCracken, a pitcher has little control over what happens to a ball once it is put in play. A pitcher only really has control of the situation when he walks a hitter, strikes the hitter out, hits the hitter with a pitcher, or allows a home run (fielders can't screw that up). McCracken proved that, in the aggregate, a low BABIP in one season doesn't translate into low BABIPs in other seasons, all other things being equal. Pitchers simply don't have much control over how many balls their fielders turn into outs. Thus, a very low BABIP means a pitcher has gotten especially lucky with the play behind him. A very high BABIP means the opposite.

Without further ado, here is the 2005 starting pitcher free-agent class, ranked according to how I think they performed in 2004:

PitcherERA+BABIP
Brad Radke1360.293
Jaret Wright1310.292
Carl Pavano1370.282
Pedro Martinez1250.292
Matt Clement1230.279
Odalis Perez 127 0.262
Al Leiter 133 0.240
Derek Lowe90 0.342
Woody Williams 100 0.289
David Wells 108 0.273
Kris Benson 97 0.294
Aaron Sele91 0.313
Esteban Loaiza 84 0.311
Shawn Estes 86 0.301
Ismael Valdez 78 0.282


I've color-coded the BABIPs - green means that the pitcher was likely relatively unlucky last year, the blue means that their BABIPs were in line with the league average, gold means that they may have been a bit lucky last year (a warning sign), and red means that they were most definitely lucky last year.

And if you think the Mets may have been damn foolish for signing Kris Benson to a $7.25 million per year deal, well, you should take that up with Mets management. I don't feel like getting into an argument with you. However, signing Kris Benson apparently has benefits for his teammates.

It's no surprise that Radke, Pavano, Wright and Martinez are the cream of the free agent crop. But Radke and Wright both seem to be better values than Pavano and Martinez based on their 2004 performance. Either one would be a terrific signing for Bowden provided that he had the budget for it. And I remain high on Matt Clement, but he does seem to be a rung down from the top starters.

A couple of points about those I would stay away from. Odalis Perez got very lucky in a forgiving Dodger Stadium in 2004. Al Leiter got extremely lucky in a very forgiving Shea Stadium in 2004. Whatever temptations a GM may have, I would think long and hard before giving either of them significant deals.

Finally, Derek Lowe simply is not as bad as he pitched last year. His .342 BABIP was absurdly unlucky, and he's likely a guy who could come back with an ERA 1 run lower next year just through getting average defensive support behind him. He does not give up many homers, and would likely pitch well in RFK stadium. At the right price, Derek Lowe could be a big benefit to the 2005 DC-9.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Twenty Nine to One

ESPN reports that Baseball owners voted 29-1 in favor of conditional approval of the Expos' move to Washington, D.C. Putting aside the very real questions over what "conditional" means, and what "conditions" there are and whether the bill passed by the DC Council Tuesday (if finally approved) meets those "conditions," there's one thing I want to know:

Who voted the Expos' vote?

What to make of the Bonds situation

Not sure exactly where to start here, but I find the Bonds revelation, while not surprising, to be very upsetting. The two points I don't see any need to go over are:

1) Did he know it was steriods? The excuses are so ridiculously thin, I would put him not knowing up there with O.J. finding the "real" killers. I think for my question below, you have to assume he knew.

2) How absolutely outrageous his stats are--you can look here and pull any number of stats out to show just how phenomenal he has been the last few years.

The question I have--and as opinionated as I can be, I have no real conviction on this--is how this affects our view of what he has done; do the records need asterisks?

The case for Barry I suppose is twofold: a) you still have to hit the ball to get averages as high as his have been the past few years and OBPs as high as his have been. Plus, how much can the steroids really do? Maybe his shots that cleared the wall by 100 feet would have only cleared them by 40 feet, but would still have been homers. b) He still got a couple of MVPs steriod-free (we think), so he is no doubt a dominant player. And, if lots of others are taking steriods, why isn't there anyone at all in Barry's league? (By the way, to me, this may be the saddest part--without the steriods, I'm pretty sure Barry was still in the top 10 player category. I like rooting for guys who have shown themselves to be so far above the league, they are in a class of their own--now, there will always be doubt as to how much the steriods did and didn't do, which will take away from the fact that he was probably truly great without them, even if not AS great).

The strongest case against Barry in my opinion is that this is all a vicious and connected cycle. You can make a pretty cogent argument that if the steriods caused even just an extra 20 homers in just one year (the 2001, 73 HR season), that pushed everything in motion (you might even be able to start this argument in his great 2000 year). He starts getting walked an outrageous amount, raising his OBP through the roof. Knowing he is getting balls on 4 out of 5 pitches (or something like that), he can completely zone in on one type of pitch in one type of zone. If he doesn't get that pitch, he walks (raising OBP), and if he does, he hits it out of the park (raising BA and SLG as well as padding that HR total). This just feeds him getting even more pitches out of the strike zone, enabling him to focus in even more and so on and so on. Plus, add in the fear of your average major league young pitcher and the cycle gets worse and worse. Now, again, he still has to hit the ball, and it's not like he can refuse the walks, but I think this argument can be made, and right or wrong, it will be believed by a decent portion of the public.

I guess this leads to the questions: does Barry retire sooner because of this? And does baseball do anything about it a) globally/systemically or b) regarding the records. I'd say lukewarm on (a) and no on (b).


Thursday, December 02, 2004

MLB Vote This Friday

Selig Calls for Friday Vote on Expos (washingtonpost.com)

It looks like the Baltimore/Angelos issue may not be put to bed yet (thank you, Linda Cropp):

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich said earlier this week that the matter could wind up in court. Selig, speaking to the annual meeting of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said an agreement had not yet been reached with Angelos, which could spoil Selig's hopes for a unanimous vote by the owners on Friday.

Also, this made me think again about the economic argument in favor of the new ballpark. Those who think it will be a good deal for D.C. claim a difference from other stadium projects: that this will bring in tax revenue from MD and VA, rather than just shift DC entertainment dollars around with no increase in tax revenue. But the same could be said of Camden Yards, which brought in tax dollars from VA, DC, and maybe even PA and DE. (I have lived in VA since 1990 and was a Memorial Stadium/Oriole Park mini-plan ticket holder from 1991 to 1998, so I paid my fair share). And certainly Ehrlich and Angelos are arguing that this is the case, although I'm not convinced the harm will be that great, and I don't really care even if it is. Yet, the analysis appears to be that Camden Yards is still a net loss for Baltimore and Maryland.

So I still don't by the rosy economic arguments for this stadium. But I still think it should be done.

Jason Giambi - Must Be a Relief

I caught a brief bit of Tony Kornheiser this morning on the radio and heard that Jason Giambi's long nightmare concerning allegations of steroid use are over. From what I heard in traffic, I understand that Mr. Giambi is now in the "clear." It must be a relief.

Tony also said something about how Giambi used to be the "cream" of the American League or something. I agree, Mr. Giambi certainly put up some great statistics in 1999-2002. His home run production certainly lept up in 2000, right before he signed a lucrative multi-year contract with the Yankees. He seemed to fall off in 2003 and 2004, however.

Something also was said about Giambi experiencing "human growth." Yes. I do believe that we can learn a lot and become better people because of our adversity. What does not kill us makes us stronger. Although steroids make you stronger, too.

Fool-proof?

So, when Don Money asked me if Mark Cuban's hedge fund for sports gambling would be something I would invest in, I needed to post my "if I only lived in Vegas" musings to answer fully.

Yes, DM, I would, but only if Mr. Cuban met with me for a few minutes first to discuss what I believe is a foolproof plan for sports gambling if you had the time and money.

Now, perhaps you may have heard of the doubling system in Blackjack. Essentially, that is a betting system that is "in theory" foolproof. What it requires is that you start off with a bet, let's say $1. If you win, you put that $1 profit away, and you bet $1 again. Every time you lose, however, you double the bet--i.e., if you lose, you bet $2 next, then $4, then $8, etc. When you finally win a hand, you will have recouped your losses and actually won $1. You put that $1 profit away and start over.

The casinos know this, which is the reason that blackjack tables have maximum bets (you thought it was because they didn't want you to lose more than $5000 at a time?). The maximum bet rule stops the doubling system because while you will definitely win a hand eventually, you may actually lose the 11 or so hands in a row it will take you to be more than $5000 down at a $5-$10 minimum table. If there was no such maximum, and you had a serious bankroll, you could make blackjack a career and never lose. With the maximum limit, you can lose and lose a lot.

Sports betting in Vegas is subject to no such maximums of which I know. Therefore, the doubling system should in theory be foolproof. The beauty of it is also that it doesn't matter who you bet on, what sport, or what knowledge you have as long as you follow two important rules: 1) only bet on the 50-50 spread and over/under lines (as opposed to odds, parlays, money lines, etc.) and 2) do not bet on multiple things at once.

This works especially well during baseball season when there are multiple game starts throughout the day. Assuming you start on the first day of the season, figure about 190 days of baseball and about two-three segments of games (2pm eastern, 8pm eastern, 11pm eastern) each day, so you'd be making about 500 bets a season. Let's assume $100 per bet, each win gets you a profit of $100 (I'm ignoring the percentages that the casino takes--you can adjust the bets accordingly to take this into account ($110 to win $100 the first time, $231 to win $210 the second time, etc.)). With 50-50 odds, you should win approximately 250 of the bets leading to a profit of $25,000.

Anyway, I don't live in Vegas and I don't have Mark Cuban's bankroll. But, Mr. Cuban, if you use this strategy and add to your billions, I expect a small cut :-)


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

When Blogging Isn't Enough - Nats Mail!

If just reading Nats Blog isn't enough for you, there has been a listserv set up for the Nationals. Be forewarned, Don Kosin is on this list, but we are hoping that it can be every bit as rousing a forum about the Nationals as a parallel list is for the White Sox.

To subscribe to the list send an e-mail to listserv@apple.ease.lsoft.com with the following in the text:

subscribe Nationals [your first name] [your last name]

I look forward to seeing you on the list.

MSM vs. the Nats Blogosphere

It's funny. If you read the Blogs, including this one, about the Castilla/Guzman pickups, you must conclude that this move was absolutely horrible. But here's what Tom Boswell has to say about these two new Nats :

Will General Manager Jim Bowden make another flashy offseason free agent acquisition? He's already added Vinny Castilla, who led the National League in RBI last season with 131, and Jose Guillen, who had 104 RBI for Anaheim. That's a heart of the order right there. He got a fine young shortstop in Cristian Guzman, too.

So, is Boswell just beginning his PR job for the Nats, or are the blogs overreacting? I believe Dexys has some issues with Boswell, so I think I know where he'll come out on this.