Julien's Baseball Blog
Some moves are slightly good. Some moves are slightly bad. I tell you about them.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
my friend suhas sent me this article from the new york times which we bow to and respect about some stuff scott boras is saying in an attempt to make millions of dollars. it's really an attempt to make billions, and this is a small part of it. but this is the part we're talking about.
there are many ridiculous assertions. one is that johnny damon is better than ricky henderson. that is patently false. i have to say this, for the record. johnny damon can't lick the sweat of ricky henderson's ass.
i don't know what that means, but it sounds provocative.
when johnny damon breaks the all time walk record, we'll reopen the discussion.
Damon's Agent Eager for Stats to Be Binding
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By JACK CURRY
Published: November 22, 2005
The statistical dissection of Johnny Damon began months before he played his final game of 2005 with the Boston Red Sox.
Scott Boras, Damon's agent, loves to analyze numbers and then unfurl them to help his clients score gigantic numbers for free-agent contracts.
In the blue free-agent binder that Boras presents to teams interested in Damon, there are 10 sections filled with hundreds of numbers to emphasize why Damon is desirable. If there is a statistic available that details Damon's value, Boras's staff has probably unveiled it.
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Suzy Allman for The New York Times
Center fielder Johnny Damon has said he would like to stay with the Red Sox, but his agent says he is looking for a seven-year deal.
World Series Summary
Discuss the Postseason Boras made a copy of his binder available to The New York Times. In it are sections titled "Best Leadoff Man in Baseball"; "Most Durable Active Player in the Major Leagues/Deserving of a 7-Plus-Year Contract"; and "Better Than Future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson." Statistics follow each heading.
The not-so-subtle request for at least a seven-year deal and the not-so-subtle backhanding of Henderson is intriguing enough, but the information in the binder also projects that Damon will record his 3,000th hit by 2012; play more games in center field than anyone in baseball history by 2015; and have the second-highest fielding percentage ever by a center fielder a decade from now, too.
"I'm not often surprised by numbers," Boras said. "I was surprised by some of what we came up with in regard to Johnny."
Damon, a marquee name in a weak free-agent class, has said he would prefer to stay with Boston. The Red Sox would like to keep Damon, who turned 32 on Nov. 5, but they have no plans to offer him the seven-year contract that Boras proposes. Bill Lajoie, a senior adviser for the Red Sox, said negotiations with Boras were continuing.
The binder contains Boras's interpretation of Damon's worth, so it is as one-sided as a love letter. There is no mention of Damon's weak throwing arm, that his 10 homers in 2005 were his lowest total since 2001, or that his 18 steals and 53 walks were his lowest totals since 1997.
Boras says he realizes that teams considering investing millions of dollars in a player do their own analyses and do not need his booklets, but he prefers to offer his own evaluation. Boras wants teams - whether the Red Sox, the Yankees or the Chicago Cubs - to absorb the numbers and feel they cannot survive without a talent like Damon.
The numbers on Damon seem endless:
He is the only leadoff hitter since 1972 to have more than 165 hits and score at least 100 runs for eight straight seasons. Over the past six years, he has been in scoring position 25 percent more than any other leadoff man.
He has scored more runs, driven in more runs, walked more and had a higher slugging percentage than any leadoff hitter for the past four seasons. Only seven players saw more pitches than Damon in 2004 and 2005.
There is also data on some of the doubts about Damon. He received cortisone shots in his left shoulder last year, but the booklet says that he is one of only six active players with more than 10 years of service who has never been on the disabled list. Damon is also one of only two players since 1979 to play 130 games in the field for 10 consecutive seasons and never spend a day on the D.L. The other? Cal Ripken Jr., the ultimate ironman.
Still, Damon relies a lot on his legs, on offense and defense, and it is difficult to imagine him receiving a seven-year contract. Boras would not comment on which teams were interested in Damon, but Damon has seemed partial to remaining in Boston. He hit .316 with 75 runs batted in and 117 runs scored last season.
"I fell in love with Boston, so hopefully, I'll be here for a long time," Damon said after the season.
Despite a suspect arm, Damon is deft at covering ground in center. But how many general managers knew Damon had more putouts and more total chances than the six outfielders who won Gold Gloves in 2005? What the binder does not mention is that more balls are hit to center, so Damon should have higher numbers in those areas.
In the comparison of Damon and Henderson, Damon has the edge in several categories over the first 10-plus seasons of their careers. Damon has more hits, more plate appearances, more doubles, more runs batted in and a better average with runners in scoring position. Henderson had more runs scored, more homers and more steals. Both had a .290 average.
Of course, Henderson played for another 14 seasons and holds the record for career runs (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406); he is second with 2,190 walks and he recorded 3,055 hits. A comparison of Damon and Henderson is no doubt incomplete.
Lajoie said both sides could use statistics creatively. He said that arbitrations were typically won or lost because of numbers, but that numbers were not as meaningful in face-to-face negotiations.
"The value of the player to the club as far as winning games is the best common denominator," Lajoie said in an e-mail message.
Boras, who said he hoped the Yankees would become involved in the pursuit of Damon, also compiled an analysis of their leadoff situation. The three-page report says that the Yankees had more success when Derek Jeter was batting second, not first.
Jeter batted .331 with a .398 on-base percentage hitting second from 1998 to 2001, a stretch in which the Yankees won three titles. Jeter was at .306 and .373 while leading off in the last two seasons, when the Yankees failed to reach the World Series.
What the analysis does not mention is that Jeter has a .317 career average in the leadoff spot and a .313 average from the No. 2 spot, and that Jeter might have simply been a better player during the Yankees' four-year run.
Boras's forecasts of excellent results obviously do not mean those numbers will be realized. The Mets read nifty predictions about center fielder Carlos Beltran in a Boras booklet a year ago and are waiting for him to attain them. The team that signs Damon is probably hoping that his booklet becomes its Bible.
did you read that? i hope not. if you did, i'm sorry.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
wal con pow and how to play
what does it mean to take a pitch? it's a simple question, but it opens the door to the value of the wal con pow system, in a discussion of how to play baseball.
to take a pitch is to not swing. what is the pitcher trying to do? the pitcher is trying to get you out. what is the batter trying to do? the batter, therefore, is trying to not get out. many people, including most major-league baseball hitters, do not understand this.
rocco baldelli is a free-swinger. he once said "no one says go out there and get a walk." but that's exactly what you should do. that's how to play the game.
the way to play the game is to try to get a walk. so you take pitches that are likely to be balls. even if a pitch may be a strike, it's better to take it if it's close. this is true for two reasons: 1. it may be a ball. 2. if you hit it, you'll probably ground out.
ok so you take a lot of pitches. but then the pitcher's gonna throw 'em down the middle. what do you do? you gotta punish him for doing that. you gotta hit it hard. if you make weak contact, no one's gonna be afraid to pitch to you. they're gonna throw strikes. they're gonna get you out. if you hit it hard, they will be afraid. they'll throw at the corners. and they'll miss.
it all comes from taking pitches. many players, more than half probably, will try to hit the borderline pitches. those pitches are hard to hit. if you swing hard, you'll miss. so you have to swing less hard. but that means when the pitch is down the middle, you won't be able to crush it. so pitchers won't be afraid of you. it's a cascade of problems, all stemming from swinging at borderline pitches.
you gotta take pitches. the goal is to get on base. the game is to get the pitcher to walk you.
conversely, the pitcher's goal is to throw strikes. don't give in to fear. fear is the mind-killer. fear creates walks. walking is losing.
when a batter makes contact he only gets on base 30 percent of the time. that is the major league average. when a batter walks he gets on base 100 percent of the time. walking is losing. you gotta throw strikes.
most pitchers don't throw enough strikes and most batters swing too much. despite the fact that most batters swing too much, most pitchers still don't throw enough strikes.
there is an analogy between baseball and poker that i'll talk about in a future article.
the wal con pow system
this is for those of you who may be new to my blog. or those of you who know me, but don't follow baseball. it is an explanation of my methods.
my primary interest is player value. i like to think like a gm. talk about team-building. so the crucial thing to know is how much does this player help you win.
i talk about defense but not in any systematic way. just my observations. mostly i bear in mind that middle players are better than corner players.
what does that leave? hitting and pitching. i talk more about hitting than pitching. less is known about hitting than pitching. this is funny, because historically there has been much more study of hitting, and sabermetricians basically think hitting is solved.
what is a sabermetrician? a sabermetrician will tell you that a sabermetrician is a baseball scientist. i will tell you that a sabermetrician is a certain kind of baseball scientist. sabermetricians tend to have the same biases. they overrate patience and power, and they underrate contact. on the pitching side, they overrate the abilities to limit patience and power, and underrate the ability to limit contact. but not as severly. it's hard to ignore the importance of strikeouts.
but the purpose of this article is to explain the wal con pow system. i've already used it, in the last paragraph. it really is that simple.
here we go. hitting in baseball requires three skills: the ability to take pitches, the ability to make contact, and the ability to crush. i said skills but i should have said talents. also, a better name than hitting would be batting. because the goal is not to hit the ball. the goal is to get on base.
i have devised simple measures that approximate these talents. wal is the ability to take pitches. it stands for "walk percentage". con is the ability to make contact. it stands for "contact percentage". finally, pow is the ability to crush. to hit the shit out of the ball. to monster. it stands for "power percentage".
which is the most important? they're all important. it's nice to have a mix of talents on your team. patience can be learned. contact is pretty much inborn. power tends to peak at 28, and fall off over time. the formulas are linked at the top of the page.
an average wal would be .100. good wals aproach .200. anything under .050 is terrible.
an average con would be .800. .820. anything above .850 is good. anything over .900 is retarded. .650 is about as bad as you can be and still play major league baseball. and if your con is .650, your wal and pow better be outta sight.
an average pow would be .100. the best pows approach .200. bonds and dunn surpass it.
a .100 .800 .100 player would be a major-leage replacement-level hitter. such a player would be valuable at shortstop, center, or catcher; useless at the corners.
few players are significantly above average in all three talents. albert pujols is a motherfucker.
many players have good numbers in two of the three skills. these are your useful players. it's much better to have two strengths and one weakness than three average numbers. or even one big strength and two small weaknesses. adam dunn has wal and pow. jorge cantu has con and pow. gary sheffield has all three.
here's the beauty of the system: the pitchers use the same numbers. just as it is important to bat with patience, contact, and power, it is important to limit these things when pitching. so we have a walk percentage for pitchers. a contact percentage. a power percentage. this time, it's good to be low.
brad lidge, for example, has retarded contact. david wells does it with wal. sinkerballers tend to limit pow. some of the best pows of all time are greg maddux in the mid 90's. note: we're talking relative to the time he played. the dead-ball era obviously has lower pow's all over the place.
averages for pitchers are the same as for hitters. it is the other side of the coin. bad hitter numbers are good pitcher numbers, and vice versa. thus, a .050 .850 .080 pitcher would be good with wal and pow, bad with con. a .080 .750 .120 pitcher would be good with wal and con, bad with pow.
this is how it goes. when you have a hitter and a pitcher, and you look at the wal con pow's, you can closely predict how the battle is going to go. maybe not the result, but the character of the matchup. that is the beauty of the system. there are many beauties to the system. but that's what we'll talk about next time. (see above)
a team that is not fucked
the oakland a's:
crosby, harden, and haren are locked up through 2009. for a total of 47 million dollars. that includes haren in 2010.
that's a gm who knows what he's doing.
the writing is on the wall
does anyone realize that the yankees are fucked?
they won the division. great. but consider:
1. they're paying jason giambi $65 million for the next three years (including the $5 million buyout in 2009).
2. they're paying randy johnson $32 million for the next two years.
3. the jeet's getting $19 million a year. $19 million next year. then $20 million for 2007 2008 2009. then $21 million for 2010. that's a hundred million.
4. posada gets $13.5 million next year. that includes $4 million of his signing bonus. then in 2007, he gets $12 million dollars.
5. they just signed matsui to that ridiculous contract. $52 million for four years.
6. arod. signed through 2010. yanks pay most of his $25 million a year. rangers pay the rest. yanks pay about $75 million. rangers pay about 50. the rangers are retards. is that right? it seems too ridiculous to be true.
7. they're gonna pay somebody to play center. giles maybe.
8. i could talk about sheff but he's worth it.
9. the dh is gonna be bubba crosby or andy phillips. or somebody they pay for.
what else. carl pavano. mike mussina. the pitching staff is a mess. rivera is good but expensive and he doesn't have many years left. what about the rest of the pen? are they gonna pay gordon?
the only thing they have of value is robinson cano. everything else is old and getting worse.
when you get worse, you lose games.
they were lucky this year. aaron small and shawn chacon and chien-ming wang are not gonna do what they did.
well they'll do what they did but they won't get lucky like that. that was ridiculous luck.
am i the only one who sees this?
the whole division is kind of crappy. the future is the devil rays and blue jays. 2006 is probably the red sox. we'll see.