Friday, July 07, 2006

Ryan in Red

It's not just your imagination. Ryan Zimmerman really does hit better in the Red jersey. Here's his line in Day games at RFK:

16 games, .360 AVG, 4 HRs, 20 RBI, .420 OBP, .607 SLG, 1.027 OPS

From: Major League Baseball : Individual Player Splits

More Intuitive ERV

Tangotiger over at the blog for THE BOOK--Playing The Percentages In Baseball points out that Carl Crawford's steal of home earlier this week was a very smart play, as he risked relatively little for a bigger gain. A few weeks ago I pointed to a interview with Jamie Moyer that revealed that he had an intiuitive understanding of the costs and benefits of men on base that matched the ERV table.

Bill James in his New Historical Baseball Abstract came up with a rough way to estimate "intelligence" of a ballplayer from the basic baseball stats. A more direct way of measuring that might be to assess different decisions of players based on the risk/reward as determined by Win Value or Win Expectancy or some other measure. Baserunning presents clear examples of such instances, but I bet there are others.

Monday, July 03, 2006

What Was Not Said (Cont.)

Federal Baseball throws some Platonic cold water on our collective hyperventilating about Bowden's permanence by pointing out that we only see vague shadows on the cave wall -- the truth is not within our vision (Buck sez the "dawg" hand-shadow is Bowden's, though). This sobering post has prompted me to provide some clarification about my thoughts on the news.

First, it may be the case that Bowden actually has the qualities listed in the "Not Said" column. I doubt it, but I could be wrong. One piece of evidence in my favor is that Kasten didn't mention any of them, and if they didn't exist, he couldn't mention them.

But if they did exist, he still might not mention them. Under what circumstance would he not mention characteristics that seem to be more compelling to justify the selection of a General Manager? When he doesn't really care whether he convinces the audience or not. And this is the more important point I was trying to make. Kasten could care less whether the media or the fans are convinced that he made the right move -- he picked a GM that has some experience, including some minor success, which doesn't make his boss a laughingstock among the members of the dining club Lerner just paid $450M to join. (Though some of the new guard like Beane and Epstein aren't losing sleep over it and might be licking their chops). We won't know if it's the right move for a few years, and if it isn't, Bowden will be canned and replaced by a Dombrowski, Coletti, Duquette, ... hell, even a Minaya. And guess what? The Nats will still be in the big leagues, will be in a new stadium, will be drawing at least 20K per game, and the value of the franchise will be appreciating ... even if we remain mired in the 70-win slums of the National League.

If you believe this, it might depress you. But I'm reading a book that suggests that when you've "bought in" to something and it becomes yours, your mind helps you through it by accentuating the positive and making you think you made the right choice, and in the end, most people who face an inescapable situation end up happier than those with options. Well, we did win 9-1 tonight ....

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What is Said, What is not Said

Let's take a look at what Stan Kasten and others said about Jim Bowden Friday, and what they did not say.

What They Said

"Jim is very smart. By smart, I mean analytical."

This distinguishes Bowden from the guys who sell DeezNats t-shirts, Phillies fans and Bob Boone, but not any of the other 30 GMs or better candidates for the job.

"I also think he's very resourceful. . . . And right now, as we're building this -- needing to speed the process up as quickly as we can, needing to shave any unnecessary steps -- I need someone resourceful. I think Jim is really good at that."

This describes a candidate who would be good when "resources" are limited. What does that say about our new owners approach to the club? This is usually said in reference to Bowden's time with the miserly Marge Schott, who once gave her staff "Welcome to the 1990 World Series" chocolates on Opening Day 1996. Is Lerner thinking "If it worked for Marge ..."?

"He established a relationship with the winning group very early on. He was very smart about that, and he showed them how hard he worked at this"

He's very good at sucking up. How many people do you know who are good at sucking up are also good at their substantive job? Aren't they mutually exclusive?

"It's time for this franchise to have some stability," Tavares said. "This is a good step in that direction. You've got somebody who's smart, somebody with a plan, somebody who's been involved with building things here, who's going to keep it going in the right direction."

The right direction? Since July 2005, we've been heading for the bottom of the National League. Perhaps he's talking about keeping player salaries low.

What Was Not Said

He has a proven track record of success.

He has the respect of the other General Managers in the league.

He is expert at spotting and developing baseball talent.

He knows how to negotiate with player agents.

He is good at running an organization, and his employees respect him and would move mountains for him

Back in May, I asked what exactly did the Lerners buy with their $450 million, and pointed out that it was part of MLB's monopoly, not the on-field success of the Nats, which is economically rather low on their priority lists. This decision provide further evidence of that assertion.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

End of the First Half, with the Score 33 to 48

So a milestone has been reached. 81 games, one half of the season gone, one half remains. Time to take stock.

The Nats finished the half 33-48. Many will compare that to last year's first half, where we went 50-31, seventeen games better. What I'd like to do, though, is to look at our record over the past 162 games, the first half of this year plus the second half of last year, where we went 31-50. That provides a full-season record of 64-98.

That is a terrible record. Only 13 out of the 150 "team-seasons" in the past 5 years (30 MLB teams, 5 seasons each) had that record or worse, less than 9%. Let's look at those teams, and what happened to their managers:

2005 KC 56-106 (Tony Pena fired during season)
2004 KC 58-104 (Tony Pena keeps his job, probably because it was only one year removed from a 83-79 season, and because it's the Royals)
2004 ARI 51-111 (Bob Brenly fired during season)
2004 SEA 63-99 (Bob Melvin fired after season)
2003 SD 64-98 (Bruce Bochy keeps job, probably because he'd been to the playoffs and World Series)
2003 TB 63-99 (Piniella keeps job, it was his first year)
2003 DET 43-119 (Trammel keeps his job, it was his first year)
2002 TB 55-105 (Hal McRae fired after season)
2002 DET 55-106 (Phil Garner fired during season)
2002 MIL 56-106 (Davey Lopes fired during season)
2001 PIT 62-100 (Lloyd McLendon keeps job, it was his first year)
2001 BAL 63-98 (Mike Hargrove keeps his job -- it's the O's , who knows why.)
2001 TB 62-100 (Larry Rothschild fired during season)

So basically a non-first-year manager who compiles such a record gets fired, or keeps his job thanks to the wisdom of the baseball geniuses who run the Royals and Orioles. An exception is San Diego, who actually made the right call, as Bochy would lead the Padres -- yes, the 82-80 Padres -- to the playoffs in 2005. None of the other retentions worked out.

It is conventional wisdom that Frank Robinson will not be fired this season. It would make a lot of sense to do so, however. We all know what kind of manager he is, and how much he can get out of this group of players. We should replace with someone who does things differently, even an interim manager, to see what we have left in this team, to know better what to do in the offseason.

It only makes sense, but it won't be done. I wake up this morning to find that "stability" is the vision of the new owners. Though that article hints that Robinson might not last after this year, we will have wasted the next 81 games as an information gathering session. But hey, we'll be "stable" -- stable like the Royals.