best counter

Your Ad Here
Just The Sports: 2006-06-18

Just The Sports

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Listen To Riquelme

Riquelme: Carlos, um, we need to talk. Carlos, are you listening to me? Carlos, would you stop smiling for a second and listen to me?

Tevez: Sorry, Juan, but there's this mime across the street and he's acting like he can't get out of a box. Do you see him? There isn't even a box there. Juan, you're not even looking...

Riquelme: Listen, Carlos, you know how much I think of you. You're one of the best young footballers in the world and so you have an obligation-

Tevez: A what?

Riquelme: A duty-

Tevez: Juan, are you mad at me?

Riquelme: No, I'm not mad at you. It's's just...your eyebrows, man.

Tevez: What's wrong with them?

Riquelme: They're out of fucking control is what's wrong with them. You shouldn't have only one eyebrow.

Tevez: You shouldn't?

Riquelme: No. You have two eyes. You need two eyebrows.

Tevez: That does make sense.

Riquelme: So promise me you'll get your eyebrows taken care of. I know you have the money.

Tevez: I'll think about it.

Riquelme: No, Carlos. Don't think about it. Do it.

Tevez: Okay, Juan.

Why Is Bronson Arroyo Better?

During the Red Sox-Phillies game, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, whose knowledge of the game of baseball is without question (they have none), they mentioned the trade over the offseason that sent Bronson Arroyo from the Boston Red Sox to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Wily Mo Pena. That got me to thinking about why Arroyo has improved from last year to this year.

At first, I thought the improvement of Arroyo to Cy Young caliber was a direct result of Arroyo leaving the DH behind in his move from the American League to the National League, but that does not seem to be the case. In fact, so far, Arroyo has faced a higher quality of batter this year (.755 OPS) than last year (.741 OPS).

The two main differences in Arroyo's statline come from his increased strikeout rate and his decreased walk rate, two of the three statistics a pitcher has complete control over. His K/9 has shot up from 4.6 to 6.3, an increase of 37% while his BB/9 has gone from 2.2 to 1.5, a decrease of 47%. Other than that, his stats are basically the same, although he has been less lucky this year, which is interesting considering his improvement.

UPDATE: A further look at Arroyo's stats may demonstrate that he has had better luck. Or maybe he is more effective. Either way, Arroyo's LOB% has drastically increased from 65.9% to 81.2%.

The Rocket Is Back

And leave it to Mike Celizic to misunderstand basically everything surrounding Roger Clemens' return.

It [Clemens' outing] wasn’t even what passes for a quality start, failing by one inning of reaching the six necessary for that tepid distinction.

This so-called "tepid distinction" is a pretty good indicator for how good and how efficiently a pitcher performs in his starts. Any pitcher who consistently fails to achieve quality starts is no pitcher a team wants in its rotation because for every unquality start he has, the bullpen is taxed since the onus to complete the game falls on it and the chances of a team winning the game are lowered because the relievers asked to make the long relief outings are usually the worst relievers in the bullpen.

Clemens will get another 18 or so starts the rest of the year, and if he pitches as he did in his first one, the team will have a chance to win most of them.

Actually, if Clemens can only manage 5 innings of work in the rest of his starts, the Astros won't have a chance to win most of them for the reason I listed above.

And still he went five innings against the Twins, throwing 100 pitches, fanning four, walking two, allowing six hits and two runs. He had one dicey inning, the third, when he gave up the only two runs he allowed, but other than that 38-pitch ordeal, he was sharp and efficient.

A stop really must be put to the whole "if you take out so-and-so, then so-and-so was great" movement. Unfortunately for Clemens, the third-inning was a part of his outing and must also be a part of his evaluation. A poor stretch during a game cannot be discounted just because it does not help you in your argument.

It's like saying that besides someone not being able to walk, he/she is doing great.

What was also obvious was just how much Clemens lusts for the game that has defined him and the competition it provides. The proof of that came in the fifth inning when he got to first base to finish a crisp 3-6-3 double play.

Congratulations to Roger Clemens for fielding his position correctly.

If he really lusted for the game, he would have fielded the ball, run to second base, and then run back to first base for the double play.

The throw beat the runner by a gnat’s eyelash, and after taking the throw, Clemens looked at the first-base ump and pointed, all but demanding the call.

Please do not act like such behavior is exclusive to Clemens. Player point to the umpires all the time after close calls. Almost every check-swing results in a catcher either point to the first base umpire or the third base one to see if the hitter's bat went all the way. Clemens' pointing was not an indication of him being a more fierce competitor than everyone else. It's just what baseball players do.

The team still needs to find more offense, but if Clemens can give them an extra four or five wins while everyone else steps it up just a smidgen, it could be enough to get into the postseason again. He gives them a chance, and that’s all anyone can ask.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Astros offense isn't the only problem of the team. They had an anemic offense last year and they still won the wild card, albeit as a result of a ridiculously weak NL West.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, whether or not the Astros can repeat as the NL wild card will come down to how well Andy Pettitte pitches. And if he doesn't start pitching better, the Astros will be home in October.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Little Nitpicking

After the US loss to Ghana, US goalkeeper Kasey Keller got off this quotable gem.

"We put ourselves into position to advance," said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. "Obviously we're disappointed with the decisions of the referee, but in the end, we didn't make the plays we needed to make. It's as simple as that."

Easy there, Keller. Let's not play revisionist history and hope no one finds out.

You did not put yourself in position to advance. Ghana put you in a position to advance when they won their match against Ghana, subsequently creating a wide-open race to see which two teams would advance from Group E to the knockout stages. They then beat the US, ending the US's World Cup aspirations, but that is not the issue at hand right now.

Czech Republic put you in a position to advance by putting two consecutive goose eggs on the board.

Italy probably did the most of anyone to help the US advance (including the US). First, the Azzurri were kind enough to score a goal for the US, essentially tying themselves, so the US would not have to. Second, they defeated the Czech Republic, holding up their end of the bargain under the simplest scenario for the US to advance.

Face it, Keller. The US played poorly in all three of their matches and caught as many lucky breaks as unlucky ones. Yes, they played better against the Italians, but the circumstances of that game were so different from any normal game that you have to be careful what conclusions you draw from their effort. Of course 9 players will play harder and with more "heart" when they are facing an opponent with 10 players, just like five people will each clap louder individually than one hundred people will clap individually.

The US were the chaff in the World Cup this year.

Ghana Want to Advance, Too

Eric Wynalda, of ESPN commentator fame, called the US-Ghana match today the "most important game in US soccer history." Of course this is a ridiculous claim to make, but hyperbole gets you a job with ESPN, right, Eric?

Since Wynalda did not clarify, I can only surmise that he meant US men's soccer because I think the US women winning the final match in the 1999 World Cup would be more important than today's pool play match. But even if he did mean only men's soccer, Wynalda is still wrong because in the 2002 World Cup, the men's team made it to a quarterfinal match where they were robbed of a goal against Germany. And Eric wants me to believe that a pool play match is more important? Come on.

Lost amidst the hubbub surrounding the scenario where the US can advance with a win against Ghana and a Czech Republic loss is the fact Ghana can advance with a win against the US and a Czech Republic loss. And unlike the US, Ghana can advance (provided they win) should Italy and the Czech Republic tie. Lest I forget, Ghana also move on to the knockout stage with a tie and an Italy win.

It's good to know that Claudio Reyna is in top "fragile: do not touch" form and is out for the remainder of the match.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Which MLB Teams Are Doing Worse or Better Than They Should?

In baseball, like all other sports, consistency is the name of the game. While it may be exciting for fans to watch their favorite team explode for 14 runs after scoring 1, 2, and 3 runs in the previous three games, it would probably have been better for the team record-wise to score 5 runs in each game.

That being said, there have been a number of MLB teams so far this season that have an actual winning percentage which is a good deal better or worse than their Pythagorean winning percentage (a formula which calculates expected winning percentage based on runs scored and runs allowed). I chose to write about only a few of the more interesting teams in order to keep my effort level at a minimum.

To get a handle on how consistent the teams I picked were doing, I looked at the variance (standard deviation squared) of the runs they have scored and the runs they have allowed. There are probably other statistics one can look at to explain the question at hand, but I chose variance and the results I found were interesting enough for me to write them up.

AL East

New York Yankees

The Yankees' actual winning percentage is only .018 lower than its Pythagorean winning percentage, but it is always fun to write about the Yankees, whether it is to praise them or to bash them.

There does not seem to be a problem with the Yankees offense on the surface since they are averaging 5.8 runs per game, highest among the teams I looked at. Their ability to prevent runs is also fairly good as evidenced by the Yankees allowing an average of 4.8 runs per game.

However, the Yankees offense has a variance of 13.6, which is second highest among the teams I looked at. This variance indicates that there are some games where the Yankees will explode for a large number of runs and other games where they can barely scrape together any runs. While the Yankees have a high margin for error since they average +1 run per game, if their offense had been more consistent, they would right now be leading the AL East instead of being two games back of the lead.

The blame cannot be blamed on the team's defense because they have been relatively consistent with a variance of 9.4, a little lower variance than the average of the over-performing and under-performing teams.

Boston Red Sox

The team who the Yankees are trailing in the race for the AL East division lead is the Boston Red Sox, whose actual winning percentage right now is .052 higher than their Pythagorean winning percentage.

While Boston's average runs scored of 5.4 runs per game and average runs allowed of 4.9 runs per game are not better than the Yankees' averages, their consistency is much better.

The Red Sox offense has a variance of 9.5 (9.1 before their 11-3 triumph over the Washington Nationals) and the defense variance of 9.0 go a long way in explaining why the Red Sox have won more games than the Yankees although their run differential is worse. With this level of consistency, the Red Sox have a higher chance of putting up run totals in games that approach their averages instead of being all over the board. That ability has certainly helped them so far.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians

If you are a Cleveland Indians fan, then before you read this I suggest you take a shot of the hardest liquor you can find. In fact, you might be better off downing the whole bottle because of the fourteen teams whose variance I calculated, the Indians had the highest variance for both runs scored and runs allowed and the second lowest differential between actual winning percentage and Pythagorean winning percentage (-.075).

Whereas most teams may have been inconsistent in only one department, Cleveland put up a variance of 13.8 for runs scored and 14.9 for runs allowed. Therefore, spectators really have no idea which Indians team will show up. They may play brilliantly on offense and defense, play brilliantly on offense only, play brilliantly on defense only, or play poorly on both sides. While the same is true for all teams, at least with most other teams there is a trend for one side or the other. With the Indians, there is no trend except their penchant for being inconsistent.

And their inconsistently certainly overrides their average run differential of +0.7 runs per game.

AL West

Oakland Athletics

Right now, the A's are in a spot where they should not be, tied for the lead atop the AL West. By all rights, based on their run differential, the A's winning percentage should be .507 and not the .535 it actually is.

Even their average runs scored and runs allowed indicate the A's are closer to a .500 team (4.5 to 4.4). Their saving grace has been their consistency in scoring runs with a variance of 7.8 (highest among studied teams), surprisingly, since they have a reputation and a justified one at that for being a team with an anemic offense. Still, even if a team is only averaging 4.5 runs a game, the fact they can do so consistently always helps.

While the ability to prevent runs has not been as consistent (variance of 9.7) as the offense, it has been consistent enough to not hurt the offense so far and bring the team down to its Pythagorean winning percentage.

NL East

New York Mets

The New York Mets look to be the strongest team in a National League while playing in a division with no real competition and they are also out-performing their Pythagorean winning percentage by .029.

The way the Mets are out-performing their run differential may surprise those who have fallen in love with David Wright because they are doing it mostly based on the consistency of their ability to prevent runs (variance of 7.4). Their offense is not nearly as consistent with a variance of 10.8, but that is not looking like a problem for the Mets.

Combine their extremely consistent run prevention with their already high margin for error (+1 run per game) and then it becomes very apparent how the Mets have been out-perfoming themselves.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis is another team that is out-performing their actual winning percentage, doing so by .049. They have done so largely by being supremely consistent in terms of both scoring runs and disallowing runs.

Before the White Sox game last night where the Cardinals lost 20-6, they were the most overall consistent team of the fourteen teams I studied with a variance of 8.3 for runs scored and 7.1 for runs allowed. After that game, their variance in runs allowed jumped up to 10.6 while their variance for runs scored stayed the same, but this is not to say they are not still very consistent when it comes to preventing runs.

It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals can maintain their consistency in scoring runs when Pujols returns.

Pittsburgh Pirates

With an actual winning percentage .095 lower than their Pythagorean winning percentage, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest differential between those two winning percentages in all of MLB. A dubious honor, to say the least.

Yet, the Pirates with a variance of 11.2 in runs scored and 8.9 in runs allowed are nowhere near as inconsistent as the Cleveland Indians and are even more consistent than the New York Yankees. So why are they so much lower than their teams in percentage differential?

The answer lies in what it means to be inconsistent. Inconsistency brings a team closer to .500. For an above .500 team, like the Yankees, it means that the team will do worse than expected. For a below .500 team, like the Pirates, inconsistency makes a team do better than expected since the team is being drawn closer to .500. Therefore, the Pirates would probably benefit from being more inconsistent.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers should not be a game behind the San Diego Padres in the NL West and yet they are, due to under-performing their Pythagorean winning percentage by .049. The reason for their underwhelming performance so far is a combination of things.

With a variance of 9.8 in runs scored and 9.2 in runs allowed, the Dodgers are not greatly inconsistent in any one aspect, but they are also not consistent enough to override the fact they only have an average run differential of +0.6 runs per game. This low run differential leaves no room for any sort of inconsistency. So far, the Dodgers are coming to learn that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


If you don't know baseball from your asshole, then go ahead and apply to because you are the writer the site wants. At least, that is the impression I get after reading Tom Verducci's article on Jose Reyes.

Can a guy with a .338 on-base percentage be the best leadoff hitter in the National League?

No, of course not. The leadoff hitter's job, as it is for other baseball players, is to get on base. If your leadoff hitter has a .338 OBP, then that means he would rank 113th out of 179 major league baseball players in terms of doing his job. For any player, that would be bad, but for a leadoff hitter, a resume like that would be abysmal.

Last year, when I polled executives to pick the best 25-and-under shortstop (Bobby Crosby of Oakland won), one GM said of Reyes, "He runs fast and he plays in New York. That's why there's hype about him. That's it." I'm beginning to believe that Reyes is a much more useful and dimensional player than that, and his ability to hit for extra bases, steal bases and create havoc on the base paths more than compensates for his less-than-spectacular OBP.

Then, if you really think so, then you would agree with me that he should not be the leadoff hitter and would be better off lower in the order. Under no circumstances do you want someone with such a low on-base percentage to get the lion's share of your team's at-bats. No matter how fast he is or how exciting it is to watch Reyes leg out a triple, doing so obviously comes so infrequently that it does the Mets no good.

What I would really like to see is baseball managers having some creativity with their line-ups instead of putting players into roles they are not suited for based on one physical attribute that the player possesses. In this case, his speed. Your leadoff hitter does not need to be fast; he needs to get on base. Why is that so hard to understand?

If anyone asks me, Carlos Beltran should be hitting leadoff for the Mets.

"I'm not going to lie to you: Ideally, we'd love to see him improve his on-base percentage," said Mets GM Omar Minaya about Reyes. "In a perfect world, yes, you want your leadoff guy to have a high on-base percentage. But with Reyes you can't just look at on-base percentage. Look at his total bases. This guy hits doubles and triples. That's what I look at when I look at Jose Reyes.

Then, Omar Minaya, you are a fool. If Jose Reyes hit as many doubles and triples as you seem to think, then his isolated power would be above .173, but it's not.

If you want your leadoff guy to have a high on-base percentage, then make Beltran your leadoff hitter (.395 OBP). See how easy that is. Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, I went and found a round peg.

Well, you would be talking about the next Rickey Henderson. I covered Henderson with the 1985 Yankees when he scored 146 runs in 143 games. It seemed almost every night Henderson would walk, steal second, move to third on an out and score on some type of ball put in play by Don Mattingly, often another out. In other words, the Yankees often didn't need a hit to get Henderson home. Henderson's OBP that year was .422.

It seemed that way, but was it really? Probably not. And .422 is a lot better than a paltry .338.

Reyes is unlikely to ever come close to that kind of OBP. But his .338 mark this year is a nice leap from his .303 career mark entering this season.

Let's just induct him into the Hall of Fame then, shall we?

If you rated leadoff hitters simply by their ability to get on base, Reyes would rank seventh of the 12 NL leadoff qualifiers, with Alfonso Soriano, David Eckstein and Dave Roberts leading the way. But would you really rather have Eckstein or Roberts than Reyes?

I'd rather have Alfonso Soriano and Dave Roberts this year, yes. As for Eckstein, he's not that good a leadoff hitter, either.

Could they, for instance, have scored from second base on that dribbler to third?

The real question is does that ability override all the things that Reyes cannot give you as a player. I am going to say no.

There are more chances of Reyes coming to plate and making another out than there are of dribblers being hit to third while he is standing on second base.

To test Minaya's alternate perspective on leadoff hitters, I checked total bases from the leadoff spot. Here Reyes (129) jumps up to second, barely behind Soriano (131).

Duh. Reyes is third among all major league player with 300 ABs. Of course he is going to have an edge in a counting statistic.

Soriano is fourth with 293 at-bats.

If you take total bases and add stolen bases and subtract caught stealings, Reyes churns up the most bases by far. The base gobblers are, in order, Reyes (152), Soriano (138) and Jimmy Rollins (132). And what about Eckstein, the guy with the better OBP? He is credited with only 103 bases under such a formula.

I applaud you, Tom, for trying to come up with your very own statistic, but this formula is just ridiculous. You mean to tell me you are going to attach equal weight to a single and a stolen base? You cannot be serious.

If there is a man on third and a player gets a single, the man on third will more than likely score. If there is a man on third and a man on first steals second base, the man on third will more than likely still be at third while the man on second who was formerly on first is dusting himself off.

Why don't you use a real formula? Use Runs Created/27 outs.

And for heaven's sake, use better lead-off hitters (not talking about Soriano) to compare Reyes to. It's like you're trying to convince people that Castor Oil tastes better because it tastes better than urine.

Eckstein happens to have the most times on base as a leadoff hitter (114), followed by Reyes (108), Rollins and Rafael Furcal (99 each). But Reyes is far more likely to score than Eckstein. Why?

Ummmm...because Albert Pujols has been injured and David Wright hasn't?

To test that kind of thinking, check out this list of the highest likelihood a leadoff hitter will score a run when he gets on base: 1. Hanley Ramirez (54.4 percent), 2. Reyes (52.8), 3. Rollins (52.5), 4. Furcal (51.5). They are the only leadoff hitters who are more likely to score a run than not when they get on base.

Let's also look at their teams' slugging percentages before we start attributing any otherworldly abilities to them. Here are how they stack up against the rest of the NL.

Mets (Reyes): .447 SLG (3rd)
Phillies (Rollins): .435 SLG (4th)
Dodgers (Furcal): .434 SLG (5th)
Marlins (Ramirez): .423 SLG (9th)

Perhaps that has more to do with their ability to score runs.

By way of comparison, slow-footed Jason Giambi of the Yankees, an OBP machine, scores only 37.1 percent of the time he's on base.

But Giambi's 9.94 RC/27 is good for 3rd in the major leagues.

Reyes's 5.94 RC/27? Good for 85th.

Funny that Verducci only used NL leadoff hitters to try to make his case.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Colin Cowherd's Dumb Statement of the Day

During his show today, Colin Cowherd called all NBA GMs, who would draft Tyrus Thomas or LaMarcus Aldridge over proven college stars like Brandon Roy and Marvin Williams, idiots.

Since there is no Marvin Williams in this draft (he was drafted 3rd last year by the Atlanta Hawks), it will be hard for the NBA GMs to avoid looking like idiots to Colin. To his credit, Colin did get half of the correct player's name right (he meant Marcus Williams, point guard from UCONN), but I have more of a problem with Colin suggesting Marcus Williams is a top 5 pick.

Any NBA GM with a top five pick who would draft Marcus Williams is the true idiot. Williams is, at best, the fourth best point guard in the draft class (in my opinion). He is a pudgy (12.4% body fat), below-average athlete (tested last in the NBA physical combines among all guards in the draft) whose two above-average abilities are his passing and his ability to maintain NCAA eligibility after receiving probation for stealing laptops.

CORRECTION: After further review (stats are for complete collegiate career), it would seem like Marcus Williams is not the fourth best point guard in the draft; he is more like the third best behind Farmar and Lowry, depending on whether you want a point guard to pass only or to score as well. I took a look at the effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per shot, assist rate (per 100 possessions), and turnover rate (per 100 possessions) for the top four point guards in the draft. Here is how they stack up against each other.

Jordan Farmar: .478
Kyle Lowry: .465
Marcus Williams: .452
Rajon Rondo: .435

Kyle Lowry: .539
Jordan Farmar: .532
Marcus Williams: .521
Rajon Rondo: .465

Kyle Lowry: 1.08
Jordan Farmar: 1.06
Marcus Williams: 1.04
Rajon Rondo: 0.93

Marcus Williams: 2.3/1
Rajon Rondo: 1.9/1
Kyle Lowry: 1.6/1
Jordan Farmar: 1.3/1