Monday, August 30, 2010

All Time Team: Shortstops

We here at Start Wedman are often times opinionated, and ignorant but we are most consistently lazy. As a testament to our overall sloth, I've heard Cooly describe how the world should accept a 30 hour day so he can sleep for 15 hours each day. (I was also around when he enacted his plans, regardless of class schedule and social norms). With this being said it should come as no surprise to any of you that our segment All Time Team has lasted approximately 1.5 years, and we are barely half way through. In this update of our biannual post we will bring you the Shortstops.

Shortstop is the one position on the field that you can stick an all-defensive player into and not be completely castrated when he bats below the Mendoza line. Just look at all of the shitty shortstops from 1930-1980. You know why you won't find any of them on this list? Well, they sucked. A lot. In fact, I can name only one of them - Phil Rizzuto, one of the most undeserving HOFs in my book. The dude got in due to the Yankees bias that rules all decisions of the baseball media because we all know that his 1588 career hits weren't a good argument to be enshrined. In fact, I think his .273 batting average is the highest of any shortstop during the dreadful fifty year stretch I previously mentioned. God, shortstops sucked at doing anything other than fielding grounders back in the day.

Then the God known as Ozzie Smith came along. Now that man could field a ground with some flair and remind us all of Keri Strug in the process.What else could you ask for in a ball player? Yes, I know that The Wizard of Oz was not necessarily the most gifted offensive player, which I just dogged Rizzuto for. But he did at least rack up 2460 hits in his career. That's not too shabby. Plus, one of his greatest moments ever did actually involve him hitting a dinger. (Enjoy only looking at that photo since Bud Selig in his infinite wisdom thinks that allowing me to view that moment on youtube is a travesty against humanity) There really isn't much else to say about Ozzie since everything you know about him being a great shortstop had to be viewed - he fielded the shortstop, a heavily defensive position, to perfection. Words and numbers doesn't help much in describing his greatness. So let's just sit back and watch... Oh right, we can't. Fuck you Selig!

Even though I have always known Cal Ripken Jr. as a third baseman, I suppose that history will remember him as a shortstop first. I have heard stories about how Ripken used to field groundballs up hills in the snow both ways, slide into bases even though the infield dirt used to literally be gravel and shards of broken beer bottles, and hit home runs over 50 foot walls that were 600 feet away. Supposedly he was a good shortstop at one time, not an old graying third baseman who rivaled Greg Maddux in the "most looks like any normal kid's dad" category of ballplayers. His numbers in 16 years at shortstop stack up there as some of, if not the, best in history with 353 HR/ 2549 H/ .345 OBP to go along with 14 All Star appearances, 8 Silver Sluggers, 2 MVPs (including a nuts-o butts-o 11.0 WAR in 1981), and a Rookie of the Year award. Oh yeah, and he had that streak thing or whatever.

Zach: Ripken was one of my brothers favorite players growing up. Being the younger brother, and idolizing him to a fault (even when him and his friends decided to play 3 on 1 basketball, guess who was the 1?). This juvenile misjudgement in idols caused me to emulate his batting stance, which he was mimicking Ripken's stance. Basically this got me a lot of funny looks, and I didn't get any hits from ages 8-10. However, things like this and non stop conversations about Ripken's fielding, hitting, and general hard ass-ness will always invoke fond memories for me of Cal. Not only was my brother a huge fan of Cal, but my college roommate's boy hood hero was Cal. Basically, I've spent 19 years of my life sharing a room with people that would not shut up about Cal. For us to not acknowledge him as the greatest shortstop of all time, may lead to severe ass beatings.

This is about the time of the piece where you would expect me to mention Derek Jeter. If you were expecting me to do that please leave the website and never talk to me again. Jeter fucking sucks at baseball, and bringing his name into this post hurts the very core of my being.

The person that this argument begins and ends with is Honus Wagner. Some of you may dismiss him simply because he played baseball somewhere between the Midevil Times and the Industrial Revolution. For those of you who are thinking that, check these numbers out:

21 seasons, 3,415 Hits, 101 HRs, 1,736 Runs, 1,732 RBIs, 722 SBs, .327 AVG, .391 OBP (Re check Cal's numbers and look at these again). He also posted a 9+ WAR in 8 seasons, topping out at a 12.9 WAR in 1908. Let me repeat a 12.9 WAR. So, your argument may be that stats across eras are hard to judge, especially when the training levels of modern players and those of the 1900's were so different. With that in mind, let's compare Wagner to others of his generation. The only true way to do this is by individual awards (metrics like WAR do factor in the average player of that year). Honus Wagner won 8 batting titles (tied only by Tony Gwynn), lead the league in slugging 6 times, and in stolen bases 6 times. If that is not an all around player, I do not know what is.

Clearly, none of us have witnessed Honus play, not in person or on film, and unless we invent a time machine, which I am working on currently, I don't think I'll ever get to watch him play. However, that is the beauty of baseball. It's a numbers game. While myths and legends have prevailed through generations, numbers tell just as vivid a story as the wisest literary craftsman.

Zach's Best: Honus Wagner (though my favorite to watch is Ozzie Smith)
Zach's Worst: Jose Hernandez (favorite juiced SS: Jose Valentin)

Cooly's Best: Honus Wagner, but only for his awesomely huge nose
Cooly's Worst: Ceasar Salad

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do RBI's Matter?

On my way home from work, I was listening to 670 The Score's Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein discuss some Sabermetrics. This got my Saberboner really working as Bernstein has widely accepted stat based baseball analysis, while the much older Boers remains a crotchety baseball fan (I still love him though).

Boers and Bernstein were deep into an argument about the validity of the RBI with respect to struggling White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin. Bernstein took the Sabermetric approach by saying the RBI is truly a product of your entire teams production, not an individual metric. Most of you are well aware that the batter has little to no control over the runners on base before him. If Player X hits 50 doubles and Player Y hits 40 the logical assumption would be that Player X has more RBI's, he has more hits that score runners. However, in all 50 of Player X's doubles no one was on base, and he has 0 RBI's while the bases were loaded for Player Y each time, and he has 120 RBI's. (Clearly this is an exaggeration, but it still proves the point.)

The old school Boers went with the philosophy that Carlos Quentin has so many RBI's this year (77) because he has been "clutch". While you can make an argument for this (and he did), "clutch" has been proven to be more of an illusion than a quantifiable metric. True, Quentin is mashing the ball with Runners in Scoring Position (1.073 OPS with RISP). Boers also seemed to indicate that because of Quentin's anemic batting average (.237) coupled with his performance with RISP is showing that Quentin may be a little bit clutchier than most.

Bernstein gave a typical retort back citing this being an anomaly, and Quentin being more of a "slugger" than an average hitter. Quentin has always been a low average, higher SLUG guy, so you would expect high RBI totals from a guy who, when he hits, get extra base hits.

I completely agree with Bernstein, but Boers did put up a nice fight, but I think these numbers say more about the White Sox baseball philosophy than either host acknowledged. When compared with Paul Konerko, who has had an amazing year with the bat, Quentin's 77 RBI's are comparable to Konerko's 87. Why is this, when one player is having a remarkable season while the other is having a remarkably bad season?

Besides the aforementioned argument you need to critically examine the White Sox lineup. Let me give you the wOBA (weighted On Base Average) for the typical White Sox lineup (if they have a typical lineup):

Pierre: .319 (Same as Gavin Floyd's)
Vizquel: .317 (Worse than Gavin Floyd's)
Rios: .345
Konerko: .411
Quentin: .357
Grindy McSuck (Kotsay): a cool .300
Ramirez: .327
Pierzynski: .282
Beckham: .304

The reason why Konerko has so few RBI's compared to his output this year is simple: his table setter's, the 1-2 guys, are absolutely terrible. How can you expect your 3-4 batters to drive in runs when no one is on base????? Granted, looking at the rest of the lineup, the wOBA's aren't much better, but pompous grinder ball philosophy that the White Sox have built this team on is absolutely hurting their production. This is evident when Quentin has a .237 BA (terrible stat) but is still producing runs. There are actually guys on base in front of him! So please, next time some idiot proclaims Pierre-Vizquel a great leadoff combo, spit in their face. Do not try to reason with them, because they are too stupid to understand baseball logic. Spit in their face and walk away.

And while we are at it, if I have to see Gordon Beckam sacrifice bunt a runner to second leaving Juan Pierre and Omar Vizquel to drive this runner in I'm going on a murdering rampage.

The Easy Way Out

We haven't done much writing lately, but I'm sure that will change shortly. While you are eagerly awaiting our return, here are a couple of items that you should read (they are about 1000x better than anything we could do).

This is exceptionally interesting, and I know Cooly will love it, simply for the fact it is talking about so much accounting. I suggest that you read all of the comments. FanGraphs not only has the most intelligent writers, their readers are top notch.

This is a peak at what I have to deal with daily as a White Sox fan. Seriously, Hawk is in Ron Santo territory, and I am glad national media is coming around to it. Hopefully, items like this, and MLB Network devoting 15 minutes of air time to berate Hawk, will light a fire under the White Sox management and force Hawk to leave the booth. Hawk has already claimed to want to die in the broadcast booth, so someone in the White Sox organization is going to have to grow some balls and kick Hawk to the curb.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Obituary: Bob Ryan's Credibility

Yesterday afternoon, while hosting PTI, popular sports journalists Bob Ryan's credibility died. While many may argue that his lack of overall knowledge and insistence on being incorrect most of the time truly killed him years ago, many people still held out hope for the once proud columnist. One of today's most popular sports writers, Bill Simmons, has often defended Ryan as one of the pillars of his childhood youth. Generations of fans under the age of 30 will never know Ryan as anything more than a complete fucking moron. This culminated in the certain death of his credibility yesterday afternoon. When Ryan was questioned on if it was the right thing for Ron Gardenhire to take Kevin Slowey out of a No-Hit performance, Ryan had this to say (paraphrasing):

I do think it was the right thing to do. Mainly, because I know Ron Gardenhire and really like him. Anything that Ron does I feel is the right thing. Now, if it was another manager, then they should have left him in.

Again, that was not taken word for word, but the main premise of what he said is right there. First, he absolutely kills all of his journalistic integrity. Then in the same thought he flips and tries to leave himself an escape route.

Bob Ryan, you are a jackass. Not only did you absolutely kill any objective story you will ever write, you basically phoned in the rest of your career. Ryan made it clear to America that he does not give a shit about giving you an actual story. He cares much more about complimenting his friends and scratching the backs of people who have scratched his. How long has he been lobbing softballs at athletes? How can you have trusted any of Ryan's stances on PTI, Around the Horn, or in print now or in the past?

Bob Ryan, you haven't given the world a single sliver of journalism in years and your blow hard routine on PTI and Around the Horn is played out. Who are you Crappin!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Non-White Grit

It has been awhile since our last post, credit excessive drunken-ness and the release of the NBA schedules. (Not even kidding, the release of the NBA schedule was all I could think about for 3 days.) I figured I would come back with a bang, so I'm giving you all this treat: a position by position breakdown of the grittiest players in baseball... that are not white. This is seemingly impossible because we all know only white players are born with the Grit gene, but somehow I have done it. On with the list...

C- Jose Molina

Catcher was an increasingly difficult position to judge grit. First, a true gritty person gives the appearance of speed, by trying to steal a lot of bases, but failing most of the time. Second, a gritty player needs to be know for their defense, but actually be quite bad at defense (and completely lack a throwing arm, but always use a good crow hop). Third the player must be a terrible hitter. Not just ordinarily bad (strikes out a lot, overall hot garbage). They need to be so bad that they refuse to strike out, yet make more outs than one would expect, and only hit singles. Singles are what gritty players thrive on.

As far as the catching position goes, there are few catchers that steal a lot of bags or even try. There is little to no difference in catching defense except the quality of arm strength. Really the judgment on a catcher's grittiness here has to fall into one criteria: the player is to have no redeemable skill set, yet continually makes a Major League roster. I truly believe Molina fits that bill. This one was especially tough, please leave your choice in the comments.

1B- Derek Lee. Lee has not been good for 2 seasons now. He gets on base at a poor average, his power is slipping, and he is still known as a speedy first baseman and a slick fielder. Check out his numbers though, 1 SB in each of the past 3 seasons, and a career 0.9 UZR/150 at first. Definitely a position an athlete could score high in. Also, ask any Cubs fan about how many double plays he hits into, they will drone on about it for hours.

2B- Angel Berroa. I spent a lot of time trying to remember "That shitty Royals shortstop who couldn't hit, run, throw, or play defense" and there were many that came to mind (Yunie Betancourt and Tony Pena Jr. for starters). Berroa is the Belle of the Ball here though. You can not argue with how horrible he is/was and yet the Royals believed in him as their starting shortstop for 4 years. I'm plugging him in at 2B because we all know a true gritty player can play anywhere up the middle poorly.

SS- Derek Jeter, Team Captain. Clearly he has to be captain. Limited range, singles only power combined with the largest fanbase of any player in the Majors. There is no reason to like Jeter so much. Don't give me that "he wins" garbage. That is the number one reason he has to be on this team. Every argument with Jeter is always about how he is a fucking winner. He is shitty defensively, has a bad arm, and can only make that stupid "Derek Jeter jumping spin throw". You know who else can make that play? Every other Major League SS, but they make it without having to jump like an idiot, because they actually have range.

3B- Pedro Feliz. Terrible hitter, Check. Average Defender, Check. Wildly overrated, Double Check. Feliz is not that good, yet he played on some good teams, Bonds' Giants and an intimidating Phillies' team. Make no mistake, Pedro Feliz is not good. He is however, gritty and will try very hard for you.

OF- Juan Pierre, Co Captain. I hate Juan Pierre with a fiery passion. I hate him more that he is now serviceable in the OF, despite is 10 year old girl arm. I especially hate him because he is still stealing bases. He is not even close to fast, if anything he has below average speed. He is stealing still because he has a lot of grit, and tries to steal every time he in on first (which is not nearly enough for your lead off man).

OF- Bernie Williams. I'm trying to not use too many players that are no longer in the MLB, but I'm not sure if Bernie has officially retired, or if he is still holding out hope that the Yanks will pick him up mid season. I'm also not positive that Bernie Williams is not white, I'll have to look into that one further (How many "nots" can I fit into a sentence, this post demonstrates that the number may be infinite). Regardless, Williams is in. Any True Yankee that lacks this much skill is absolutely in. Are there any "True Yankees" out there that are not terrible baseball players, or is that a prerequisite?

OF- Nyjer Morgan. Surely, someone this hood can not possibly be this gritty???? False! While I love Morgan more than most, he poor hitting, poor SB%, and tremendous defense is really what gets him on the list. If only he was a little worse with the glove, and didn't make plays where he completely loses control after missing a would be homerun (can't find the clip). These things take away from his grit, as one is a true baseball skill and the other demonstrates that he does not love playing as much as David Eckstein.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Draft Day Losers: Jayson Stark

Jayson Stark over at ESPN gave us this gem of a piece over the weekend. Not only was this years trade deadline insanely easy to decipher who was a winner and who was a loser, Stark manages to get at least half of these teams wrong. Let's see how one can possibly manage this...


Texas Rangers

Stark's piece has limited words and sentence structure. It's basically just a bulleted list of the good things the teams did and the bad things. I can't argue with his methods, but it leaves very little grammatical critiquing. With that noted, I'll only really bash on his flawed logic, and I will try to stay away from analyzing his selection I agree with. For the record, Texas did win this deadline. They got one of the best pitchers in the game, and Justin Smoak might suck.

San Diego Padres

I would not call acquiring Miguel Tejada a huge win, but getting Ludwick will probably help them. They did well at the deadline, but nothing amazing.

New York Yankees

If you do not believe the Yankees dominated this trade deadline, you clearly do not follow Ken Tremendous on Twitter. They were clearly the biggest winners at the deadline. How did they even pull some of this crap off???? Hey Astros, forget about everyone else's offers for Berkman we will give you horseshit and we will allow you to pay most of his remaining contract. Seems like a good deal to me.

Obviously, Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns ain't what they used to be. But what exactly did the Yankees have to lose? They added less payroll ($4.8 million) than the Rangers -- and just gave up a bunch of second-tier prospects to fill potentially big holes. It's possible none of these guys will make an impact.

Puma will most certainly make an impact. As a switch Hitting DH, Puma will be chomping at the bit to hit from the left side of the plate at the Yankees bandbox.

And it was another display of the Yankees behemoth doing what the Yankees behemoth does best -- taking full advantage of its never-ending ability to absorb other people's dead money.

Jayson just pulled off something that has never before occurred in writing: using behemoth twice in a sentence AND using 3 hyphens. Astonishing. This doesn't even count the double hyphen he used in the previous sentence.

Houston Astros

Wait, didn't we just claim the Yankees the biggest winner based on absolutely destroying the Astros? How can the Astros possibly be winners????

Quick now. Name the player who has been with the Astros longer than anyone else on the roster now that Roy Oswalt and Berkman have hit the highway?

I even forgot about the terrible Roy Oswalt deal! Granted, Oswalt is not that great anymore, but only getting the demise of JA Happ's career is definitely not a win.

Would you believe it's Wandy Rodriguez (in his sixth season), a guy who would barely know a Killer B if he saw one in his living room?

First not knowing a Killer B is the stupidest comment ever, just wanted to get that out of the way. Also, it is not even correct! Craig Biggio played with the Astros until 2007.

Incredible, huh?

Incredible that you can't look up simple stats on Fangraphs? I suppose that is fairly shocking.

But we look at that as a positive symbol of what's transpired here: Finally, this team has let itself turn the page.

Turning the page is a great thing (especially when you are reading books, it is a sign of progress). However, turning the page and having absolutely nothing to show for it is not a good thing.

The rest of this paragraph is incoherent rambling that really has little to do with the deals that occurred. The only conceivable way to think of the Astros deals as a win is by this criteria: If you made trades it is a good thing, no matter how bad they were, if you did not trade you are a loser. Let's watch how Jayson fully attacks this new theory.

Philedelphia Phillies

How can the Yankees, Astros, and Phillies all be winners???? They completed these deals with each other, and none of them were even. Jayson Stark is getting me stripper murdering mad.

Next to Lee, whose name kind of rings a bell in Philly, Oswalt was widely viewed -- though not by everybody -- as the biggest difference-maker on the pitching market.

Not only does he use the commas to throw in an interjection, he also uses the double hyphen.

And the Phillies grabbed him without giving up any of their elite prospects (Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart).

They also gave up JA Happ, but everyone but the Astros knows he sucks now.

And the Phillies could regret moving Happ -- described by one scout as potentially a "Cliff Lee Lite." But it was important for this franchise to remind its fan base and clubhouse of its willingness to reach for the sky. And the Phillies sure did that.

It must have slipped Stark's mind how much Happ sucks this year and is showing no signs to coming back to his future star form of last year.

(Editor's Note: I wrote this piece in 2 parts on separate days. What follows is the part that I wrote minutes after hearing that Favre was retiring, leaving the Vikings hopeless for yet another season)

Washington Nationals

I completely agree that they are winners. While they did not deal Dunn, they got a phenomenal prospect out of Minnesota, and mainly because Minnesota had no where for Wilson Ramos to play.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Everyone needs to remember that the fucking Diamondbacks traded away an elite pitcher for Joe Saunder's mole. Joe Saunders sucks more than JA Happ! Someone should shoot Jayson Stark right... NOW!

It's not going to be pretty in the desert for a long time, we're guessing, now that this team has launched into full-bore dump-everybody mode.

Full bore dump mode should include getting a return for your best trade asset. Instead they simply made a trade, so no matter how idiotic and asinine the trade was, the D'backs are clearly deadline winners.

But if you're going to dump, this was the way to dump. Out went Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder, with more undoubtedly on the way next month.

See they are definitely winners, they dropped 4 guys. Please do not pay attention to the fact that only one of these trades looks at all beneficial to our club (Jackson). Oh, and please forget that this offseason we traded our stud pitcher Max Scherzer for Jackson and now have spun Jackson into Daniel Hudson, a soft tosser with below average off speed pitches. The D'backs were definitely winners. I absolutely see Stark's logic. (Sarcasm!)

And while the D-backs' young-player haul wasn't spectacular, they lopped at least $25 million off the payroll (depending on what Joe Saunders earns in arbitration).

Their prospect return was actually horse shit. But hey, we still get to pay Joe Saunders 80% of what Haren made and he is 40% as good of a player. We can't pass that up!

And for a team with big financial challenges, that was huge -- for now. But now comes the hard part: This team faces many more critical decisions in the months ahead.

Let's see how they can fuck up those and we shall still applaud them.

St. Louis Cardinals

We didn't love the idea of moving Ryan Ludwick. But Jake Westbrook is the Cardinals' kind of pitcher. And he gives them not just one of the deepest rotations in the league but, more importantly, a rotation deep enough to match up with the Reds.

Wait, you had the Padres winning at the deadline because they stole Ludwick. Now, the Cardinals are winners because they dealt Ludwick. There is some flawed logic in there. However, the Cardinals did get Jake Westbrook, who is their kind of pitcher. Translation: shitty old white guy that reminds us of Jeff Suppan, somehow this player will not fall on his face every time he takes the mound.

Los Angeles Dodgers

We are still talking about the winners here. Mind you the Dodgers are far out of first place and just added salary. Oh, and the player that we sent away has an 8.3 VORP. The player that we returned has a 3.0 VORP. Sounds like a winner to me. Jayson Stark you deserve to be kicked in the testicles.


How could there have possibly been losers, with that selection of winners? Ah yes, I forgot about Stark's magic theory: If you made a trade (no matter how bad it was) you are a winner.

Chicago White Sox

True, I will not argue his illogical points

Toronto Blue Jays

They actually dealt typically bad Alex Gonzalez for Typically good, young player under team control, Yunel Escobar. I would say they won easily, but I'm not an idiot.

the Blue Jays otherwise frustrated a bunch of potential buyers by never moving Jose Bautista or the most attractive arms in a brutal bullpen market -- Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor.

Clearly, the Blue Jays did not make enough deals to satisfy Starks trade appetite.


Let me cut to the chase. The next 5 teams all did relatively the same thing at the deadline. Can you guess what it was?

Really? I thought you all were smarter than that. That was an absolute terrible guess.

The next 5 teams were the Orioles, Rays, Twins, Giants and Mets. All of these teams stayed quiet at the deadline, which automatically makes them losers. Don't look at the obvious facts that the Mets and Giants are in a no mans land straddling the playoffs, the Twins made a move which sacrificed some future but is more of a win now deal, the Orioles suck so who cares what the fuck they did, and the Rays don't need to make a move because they have an amazing pitching staff and fantastic fielders. Don't look at any of the reasons these teams should not have made a trade, let's just announce them losers.

(Editor's Note: It has been brought to my attention that the Giants are actually good and are leading the Wild Card. Please forgive me, I still think of them as the 2007 Giants suck have no offense and are only viable because they play in the NL West. Wait a second...)

Jayson Stark combined with Favre's retirement just forced the murdering of 7 strippers. I hope you two are happy.