And now it’s time a semi-regular look at local media statements that hurt my soul by making it harder to keep the braying dolts at bay. It’s Dumbing Down The Discourse…

Bob Elliott – Toronto Sun – Blue Jays Could Have Had Cardinals Rookie Michael Wacha

It’s not entirely unfair for a reporter to point out when it turns out that the club he covers passed over a player in the draft who turned out to be really good. It’s just mostly unfair. And it’s especially pukeworthy when we’re talking about baseball, where more time is needed than any other sport to assess how a draft shook out, and when that draft was just a shade over a year ago, aaand when we’re talking about a couple of mid-first-rounders like they’re already Sam Bowie and Michael effing Jordan.

Maybe it’s not Bob Elliott’s job to handhold his readers through the differences between the MLB draft and ones in other sports, where there’s a far greater expectation of immediate impact. And I suppose it’s certainly newsworthy to point out, as Elliott did in a Toronto Sun column over the weekend, that Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha– who currently sports a 0.64 ERA in the playoffs, having given up just one run over 14 innings, while striking out 17– was taken two spots after the Jays selected D.J. Davis in the 2012 draft.

But isn’t doing this, without proper qualifiers, just red meat for morons? Because I’m sure this bit is:

“Davis wouldn’t want to go through his career being lumped with another player the way Jays lefty Ricky Romero was linked to Colorado Rockies all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.”


Sure, he’s stopping short of calling Davis a “Romero” just yet, but still… ugh.

I mean, yeah, Wacha has had a storybook start to his career, but let’s maybe not get the engravers up in Cooperstown on the line just yet. The league has barely seen him, he was striking batters at a better rate at the end of the regular season in the big leagues than he was in Triple-A, and he entered the playoffs with only just over 170 innings as a pro, having logged most of his innings last year prior to being drafted out of Texas A&M. He’s also mostly just a two pitch pitcher– in the regular season he threw his fastball or changeup all but 7% of the time.

In Game Two of the NLCS, according to Brooks Baseball he threw a curve on 13 of his 108 pitches, so maybe he’s getting more comfortable with that pitch. Maybe he’s better, even, than it was believed at the time he was drafted. St. Louis certainly does a tremendous job scouting college players, so that wouldn’t be surprising. But the fact of the matter is, Wacha came to the pros very polished– he pitched just 13 innings below Double-A. Nobody could say that he was supposed to be here, but it’s not completely absurd, either.

What is absurd? Hanging this sort of comparison on D.J. Davis, who is the very, very opposite of polished. And that’s OK.

He’s also not due to turn 20 until the end of next July– at which point Wacha will have been 23 for nearly a month. That’s OK, too. That’s kind of how MLB’s draft works. And Davis is doing just fine. You may recall, two weeks ago Davis was highlighted in our post about Baseball America’s league-by-league top 20 lists, where it was said that “he has first division regular potential as a center fielder that is able to impact the game in all phases.”

That’s fine. He’s still a long, long way from getting close to reaching anything close to his ceiling, but… uh… yeah, we tried drafting college players who were close to the Majors for a long time around here. Remember? Anyone? It didn’t work out so well.

And as for the Romero-Tulowitzki stuff, Tulo was in the big leagues getting MVP votes at age 22 in 2007, while Romero was getting the second of what would end up being three stints of 18+ starts at Double-A, walking 51 in 88 innings and posting a WHIP of 1.69 and an ERA barely under five. There is zero comparison yet– not on Wacha’s end, not on Davis’s.

So do we really need to empower the negative suckholes like this? Do I really need to fume during a JaysTalk call three months from now when some tool starts shit-talking the club about it like he has the slightest fucking clue?

No. No, I don’t.


Scott MacArthur – TSN.ca – Blue Jays Have Long Way To Go To Contend

Scott MacArthur does great work and brings genuine baseball credibility to the land of hockey pucks and hedgehog haircuts, so on one hand I hesitate to shit on his stuff. On the other, though, everybody has to be fair game or this little recurring feature isn’t going to be much fun– unless you like seeing the same old trolls picked apart over and over and over again. Which… actually that would be kinda fun, but I’ll be fair and try to pick on everyone.

And, lucky for me– and unlucky for the rest of us– over the long weekend at TSN.ca, MacArthur wrote a paean to the magical elixir that is clubhouse chemistry, taking a shot in the process at those of us who refuse to pointlessly engage in the quantifying warm and fuzzy feelings:

“This statistics-obsessed culture places zero value on cohesion, preferring to individualize each player and position as if he and it work mutually exclusive to all else. It’s strange because when you talk to players who’ve won, in some cases won often, they preach about the importance of accountability and sacrifice for one another.”

For me, a statement like this qualifies as dumbing down the discourse for a couple of reasons. First, it assumes that there isn’t a reason worth stating why anybody who is specifically interested in quantifying value would ignore an unquantifiable thing like “cohesion.” These silly stat boys are choosing to individualize each player, apparently, rather than having no choice but to not leave room for apparitions. Shit, they probably just have no concept of what human interaction is all about anyway, what with spending most of their time in basements with their calculators, amiright?

It also assumes that there must be value in this nebulous idea of cohesion– or chemistry, or whatever we’re calling it today– as though the concept itself, as we generally understand it, isn’t little more than a collection of well worn platitudes regurgitated by people– generally players– deeply entrenched in the orthdoxy of its religion. It’s like asking hockey players about getting rid of staged fighting. What the hell do you expect them to say, considering they’re asked– and peer pressured– to buy into the concept, and have friends on the club who wouldn’t have jobs if not for the unwavering faith that this thing does more good than any shred of evidence could possibly show?

Obviously the fact that you can’t quantify something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but scoffing at people who don’t want to swallow whole hog the existence of a phenomenon that can’t be proven, that shows huge marks of confirmation bias (i.e. winning teams look like they have winning chemistry and vice versa), and that can only be elucidated by thoroughly unreliable sources?

It’s taking the conversation backwards, not breaking down tired old narratives that make the impact of this kind of stuff seem far more pronounced than there is any real reason to believe. I mean, isn’t it odd that we’re not hearing how guys from the Fried Chicken And Beer Club, and a core comprised of many of the same faces as the supposedly poisonous clubhouse atmosphere in Boston two years ago– when Terry Francona, who is now back to being a wizard in Cleveland, was run out of town (while John Farrell was showing no signs of magic in Toronto)– still remain with this suddenly harmonious Red Sox team?

There’s a conversation to be had about this stuff as long as teams continue to either pay lip service to it, or actually take it seriously enough to pay money for it, or to try to find ways to better quantify it– as we know that they’re trying to, thanks in part to an excellent ESPN.com article on it from Sam Miller. In it he quotes former player, and current Rays consultant, Gabe Kapler, who says, “What I can tell you unequivocally is that GMs and front offices are actively studying and trying to find ways to quantify clubhouse chemistry.” (Russell Carleton often writes about this for Baseball Prospectus, and had another interesting and informative take on it last week.)

Problem is, fans are well removed from even that limited level of knowledge, and so what needs to happen before the pointless sneering between the opposing sides of this issue can stop is that a certain set of us needs to open our minds– and it’s not, believe it or not, the ones who tend to seem close-minded and dismissive of the magical power of clubhouse cohesion. The fans who need to change their mindset on the subject are the ones who will rest on the sorts of assumptions fed to them in countless articles and chat segments like this one– which affirm all kinds of narratives entrenched through years of pre-modern sportswriting and amateur motivational philosophy– and countless breathless recitations of the glory of chemistry from guys whose financial interests align with the propping up of the notion.

Scoffing (which, admittedly, MacArthur barely did) at the people insisting that we don’t really know anything, and subverting their arguments to make it easier to roll eyes and play the cement-headed “didn’t play the game” card? Yeah… no.

Comments (133)

  1. Please can we expunge the word ‘narrative’ from this discourse. It’s being ridden out there more times than Secretariat.

  2. If only the Jays had gotten Waka Flocka!

  3. +1

  4. Bob McCown should be in that graphic.

    • I don’t think Bob is that bad. Bob’s issue is that he is somewhat knowledgable about every sport, so he is not an expert in any one sport. Hockey, obviously, being his comfort sport.

      • Bobcat’s comfort sport is NFL football. He goes with hockey because of the market.

      • What? Bob’s comfort sport is baseball. He used to do the game announcements, and he was Mike Wilner before there was a Mike Wilner. Different approaches, obviously, but he’s far from a hockey guy (he’s closer to football, but it’s my sense that he used to favour the CFL over the NFL, so, I don’t know, “NFL guy” seems wrong).

    • my thoughts exactly. he’s a chief enabler of stupidity.

    • A few months ago I heard Bob talking that according to the book you should hit your best hitters at #1 & 2 in the line-up, exactly as Sabermetrics says you should.

      Can’t imagine anybody else saying anything other than 3 & 4 because they are supposed to be “run producers”. I disagree with Bob a lot but he at least has well formulated reasons for his opinions which I can respect.

  5. I’ve stopped reading this kind of stuff, people just ramble on about the first thing they think of. It’ll be great if the Jays can just win some games and shut these people up.

  6. Best graphic on this site in a long time.

    • Who is the guy on the far right?

      I recognise (and for the most part actively avoid) the others but I don’t know him at all.

      • Steve Simmons. I think it is a good sign that you don’t know him. It means you don’t read the Sun. :)

      • Simmons has always sounded like the shrimpy kid holding back tears as he tells on one of the mean kids. Added to the banality of his baseball commentary, he’s entirely insufferable.

  7. This article proves one thing and one thing only. You never played the game. Furthermore, it proves you almost certainly have zero athletic history or ability of any kind.

    • this is a place to come discuss both sides of every argument… unless you suggest people who have played have a more informed opinion than people who haven’t. If you do that, you’re obviously a meathead or cement head. There is actually a large group of people on here who firmly believe they know more about baseball than Buck Martinez

      • I guess David was cut from his little league team

        • I was making fun of the obvious hypocrisy on this site, you guys continue your bickering i’ll check in tomorrow

      • Hmmm… I wonder why every single manager ever played baseball at a high level with the exception of like Dave Trembley (how’d that work out) and Ted Turner who managed one game…
        On a other note, yea bro, my head is made of half cement, half red meat… Good one pal… Jesus Christ you’re the worst

      • well, considering the drivel that routinely makes its way from bucky’s brain & out his mouth, that’s probably not too hard to fathom. however, there’s a difference between what people say (on air, to the media, etc.) and what they know or think or feel about a certain subject.

        why, i bet that there are players/managers who think the notion of chemistry being an integral part of a winning team is a boatload of shit…but what, exactly, would they gain by letting that belief be known? likewise, i’m sure that buck could say things that would force people to reconsider whether he’s retarded, but what would be the point?

    • I’m hoping this is a joke. It is right? right?

      i mean did you even read the article or did you just try to start sharpening you knives the second you saw cohesion?

      Clearly, whether somebody is happy or psychologically in a good place is going to make a difference to how they perform. Hopefully nobody denies that. But here is what we as fans don’t know:

      - How much this matters. How to quantify this.
      - What helps each player. What works for one player might not work for another.
      - Which players and coaches actually contribute to or foster psychological environments. From our perspective maybe Maicer looks like a bum, but behind close doors he is really great at diffusing tension.
      - Whether individuals create the environment which leads to performance or whether performance (player or team) leads to a positive environment. (possibly it works both ways)
      - how to weigh talent vs. personality in terms of team wins

    • Barrie.

    • A comment that says “This article proves one thing and one thing only” and then lists three things, reminds me of the “What Have The Romans Done for Us” scene from the Life of Brian.


    • I thought this comment was sarcasm since this is one of the types of comments (cement head) that Stoeten focussed on. lol.

  8. Looking at the big picture, the Jays are going to need another off season like they did last winter to contend. I fear we will see more of this.

  9. Really?
    The sabermetricians are the ones with the open minds?
    And the fans,who have no idea what happens in the locker room but who have been repeated told by reporters, atheletes and managers that a team’s chemistry or cohesion matters, are close minded?
    So everything said by the people that are there,in the locker room, is in fact ,fiction or a product of their imagination?
    Because it’s not quantifiable, to a standard thats acceptable, by other people who aren’t in the locker room either?
    But it’s the fans who are creating a narrative?
    yeessh,this could get messy.
    Hide the children.

    • ^ Sub-moron poetry

    • Lol radar lol

    • I think the point is that you can’t measure chemistry whether you’re in the locker room or not.

    • so, you blindly just accept what is said out of the mouths of players/managers to THE MEDIA as some kind of gospel? it’s one thing for a great hitter who studies his craft & is able to break down & explain his approach at the plate. it’s another for the same player to credit Joe fucking Bunghole in the next locker for his success, because Jf’nB brings such good ‘chemistry’ to the team.

      as for the sabr folks…yeah, i’d say they are more open-minded; it’s not those in the sabr community who steadfastly hold to the ‘old religion’ way of thinking of stats…if anything, the ‘nerds’ keep trying to open up minds, to think in different terms or from a different mindset about the traditions of the game.

      the way i’ve generally differentiated between old-school & new-school stat advocates is that sabr folks try to use stats that provide value in a predictive sense, while the old-school uses stats to back up why they did/did not vote for some dumb fucking award.

    • Exactly right, RADAR. Not rocket science. Now open your mind to the unreliability of the information you swallow as gospel and maybe have a good think about all this bullshit.

      • That’s the question Stoeten.
        Why should I believe your version and not theirs?Or vice versa?
        Because it can’t be measured? or cause you say so?Because they say so?
        And yes,I’ve had a good thought about it.
        And spoken to players,managers,etc.
        Still looking for tangible evidence that it DOESN’T exist.
        Reverse onus.

        • And do the players and managers have it quantified? No….no they dont.

          • Guess your right. The players and managers have it wrong and Stoeten has it figured out.
            Stupid players.

            • I don’t think Stoeten has it figured out either.

              I don’t think anyone has it figured out. That is the whole point.

              While we can all ‘believe’ in this phenomenon, it has yet to be proven. No?

              No one has been able to measure it RADAR, that IS the whole point of the story.

            • I don’t have it figured out. Nobody does. That’s exactly the point.

              Stop pretending you do. Open up your mind and recognize why your methodology is flawed– it’s very obvious.

              • My methodology involves those who have played the game at a high level.
                It’s not me but them. who have the expertise and experience to make those statements.
                And your closed mind has who exactly. to back up your claims.
                It’s your therory vs the real world.

                • Stoeton , You seem to have tried to say that certain people are wrong and you are right immediately after mentioning that people need to have an open mind. Perhaps both sides need the open mind.

                • I don’t see how this can be argued.

                  the 4 remaining teams all have had the highest clubhouse ratings in the league. and now they are the final 4.

                  Cardinals and Red Sox have the two top clubhouse atmospheres in the league according to CAR (Clubhouse above replacement) and they will fight for the world series.

                  To suggest any other rational idea of how these teams ended up their is ridiculous.

                • No, RADAR. I have no theory. There is not enough data to build a theory on. The data you point to is far to unreliable to be taken seriously, so it can’t be that. Open your mind to the fact that you know nothing already. Embrace it.

    • Contented sigh.

  10. Bob Elliot has a point in that article. He touched on it on Prime Time last week asking the question why the Jays have nothing to show for with young pitchers and the Cardinals have three guys who are 23 and performing well in the playoffs. Sorry Andrew you wasted your time writing this article.

    • so, when davis is 23, and on the cusp of superstardom, and waca has flamed out & is headed for his 2nd tommy john…will the tide reverse? ‘why, just think, a little bit of bad luck there for the cards, if only davis had slipped two more spots!’

      • Here is the thing with that yertu. The Cards have won something in the last 10 years and have 3 more guys in the farm system to fill the spots if guys go down. After 20 years of no playoffs, the luck excuse gets old.

        • it’s not about luck, it’s about making a determination on the process based on the results when the results haven’t had a chance to bear out equally yet. if davis flames out & never amounts to anything (and he’s still got YEARS to get to that point), and wacha goes on to have a stellar career, and IF it was obvious at draft time that wacha was the no-doubt-about-it guy, then sure, make the argument. but from what i’ve seen, there was no such overriding notion that wacha was some can’t-miss prospect; and if he were, then half the league also wiffed on him.

          • you are right on the process. The Cards process gets them playoff ready guys. What is the Jays process? Lets really research and write an article on the process on how to build a winning team.

    • It’s because the two teams have different draft strategies, and that it takes a long time for prospects to reach the majors. Wacha is an exception, but the other Cardinals pitchers were all acquired before Anthopoulos became the Jays GM.

      Elliott’s question deserved mention in this post, in fact. Trying to string up the current front office for the bad drafting of the previous one is pretty ridiculous.

      Though also, yes, the Cardinals do a tremendous job developing young pitching.

      • Andrew, how long should it take for a player to have a shot at the bigs? IMO, if they are something, three years.

        • It’s absurd to put a number on it. Player development isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Some guys are drafted more polished, some are drafted more raw. Wacha and Davis are particularly extreme examples of this.

        • How can you possibly put a time to it? It depends entirely on when that person is drafted. You can’t just say 3 years is the base amount of time it should take for a player to get to the bigs if they’re anything. What about an international signing? They’re signed at 16!! A time limit suggests it should take the same amount of time – give or take – for a 21 y/o college senior to get to the majors as it does a 17 y/o high school senior. How does that make sense?

          • It is not absord. Where do you get your baseball knowledge????? I swear Andrew, have you been use to watching medicore baseball for the past 20 years that you except this team as good? Everything is measured in baseball. In stats as well as charater.

            • http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13018

              This may be a couple of years old, but as it shows, for player who make it to the bigs, your looking at least 400-500 innings pitched, or 2000-2500 plate appearances. There are some exceptions to these, who bring down the averages(it mentions David Price was in the bigs after just 110 innings). And when a younger player is drafted, they play in lower leagues, with shorter seasons, and it takes time to get those 2000 plate appearances, but is essential for development. Players who have pitched in college for 3 years, basically have the equivalent to 3 years in the minors. You don’t have many first rounders in baseball starting opening day the next season, like in basketball.

    • compare ANYONE’s record of developing talent to that of the cardinals in recent years and they look awful… the cardinals are simply the best in business right now.

      if Elliot is going to use the cardinals as the standard then 29 other teams looks like shit… not to mention the stupidity of comparing individual draft picks – was Elliot writing articles about how everyone missed on piazza 61 times or pujols 12 times… etc? Elliot should know better.

  11. Why must it be either/or? I get that stats are quantifiable whereas ‘team chemistry’ or whatever isn’t. I also understand that a poisonous clubhouse can still be a winning clubhouse. I’ll bet the Giants had fun when they had Barry Bonds in the team. But they still performed well. However, by the same token, I think it’s possible that a team without a major–and juiced–nasty talent like Bonds might perform better simply because everyone basically gets on and there are no personality-clash distractions. I think there are many roads to the playoffs and one may involve individual players playing excellently and another might involve cohesive players playing together and so bringing up the average of the team. I’m not sure why we have to have entrenched opposite positions. Obviously a GM should hire proven talent via stats rather than Mr Congeniality. Beyond that I’m not sure why this argument exists.

    • Well said. Stop being so damn rational, I’ve been agreeing with a bunch of things you’ve posted the past couple of days. I’m starting to feel like some creepy Internet stalker.

    • Your feelings are irrelevant, though. Data, please.

      • It’s answers like this that make the non-stats crew find the stat-heads so insufferable. I don’t know how much stock I put in it, but I do think it’s too easily and steadfastly dismissed by people like you. Not everything is quantifiable. Many baseball people have consistently put stock in chemistry and the like, likely for as long as baseball has been around. It is arrogant for people that have not played – and I haven’t played much so I am not trying to be all jocky and meat-heady about this – to dismiss those that have because there are no data supporting it.

        Should you hand a guy like Michael Young a huge contract because his heart will take you to the promised land? Of course not. But I do think it’s too easily dismissed simply because you can’t put it in a distribution chart and analyze it.

        • I said nothing to the notion that chemistry wasn’t at least some factor; I merely juxtaposed it to my statement that was equally as intangible and convenient to the desired narrative. You cannot disprove my assertion of having the best player of all time improving the performance of the players on a team any more than team chemistry. All I’m saying is that it’s a lazy tool used to support a predisposed argument.

          It’s the traditionalists that are closed-minded, refusing to acknowledge additional information that can lead to better understanding; stat-heads are able to be agnostic.

      • But data isn’t always your friend. It looks at past performance and extrapolates from there. However past performance is not always an accurate predictor of future performance. As Pittsburgh found out in 2009.

        Again, no one is saying that clubhouse chemistry is the only thing, or the most important thing when it comes to winning. Simply that it is a factor that might come into play on occasion. The way you’re setting this discussion up, it’s metrics on one side of the Grand Canyon, touchy-freely types on the other. Both screaming insults into the wind. Chemistry is hard to quantify. And. metrics always deal with the past. Both positions have flaws.

        • If you read through, you’ll see it was JonCor that drew the line in the sand. Making a counterpoint to your argument makes me a stat-head no more than stating that defensive metrics are considerably limited makes one a traditionalist.

          I’m sure I could have used a more couth word than ‘bullshit’, but that’s just semantics.

          In small enough sample sizes, data becomes less reliable – true. But in that minute sample, I’d sure like the hitter who matches up best with the pitcher’s repertoire than the hitter who feels happy because he gets along well with his teammates.

          Chemistry and winning is a chicken-and-egg conundrum, no? Lest we forget “Lo Viste”?

          • Tools I wasn’t trying to reply to you. I was replying to Stoeten’s comment about ‘data please’ but because I did it on the iPad the post turned up in the wrong place.

    • You could just was easily say that having Bonds on their team made the players feel – and therefore play – like a better team. Imagine the feeling of having a guy that could do what Ruth and Williams couldn’t on your side.

      Just as plausible. Equally bullshit.

    • I’m agreeing 100% with this one.

      I’ve played sports at some pretty high levels in my younger years. Some teams just felt better to play with than others and you seemed to play better.

      Some was coaching, some was teammates, sometimes it was just the field or fan support. Sure the ridiculous athletes that pounded HRs were great additions to any team, but it sure was better if they weren’t assholes after or during the game.

      Maybe MLB players are completely immune to this, maybe all the asshole coaches get weeded out on the way up… But I really doubt it. Certainly less succeptible to it than a scrub like me, but I doubt it’s completely a non-issue.

      As far as being able to quantify that? Good luck. We’re still having issues assigning player values based on the plethora of different quantifiable statistics that exist. Not sure how it’s possible to quantify something like this and if we do, it’s impossible to know if we’ve done it right.

      I doubt the Giants would be better without Bonds and I agree the local media puts way too much emphasis on this as an explanation for the unexplainable. But if you’re filling out the backend of your roster orvevaluating twi similar players, it doesn’t hurt to add a DeRosa instead of a Josh Leuke.

  12. You should have heard Dave Perkins on PTS yesterday. He gave a virtuoso performance in dumb. Without a hint of irony, ol’ Perk dumps on the Blue Jays with dire warnings of not to expect bounce back seasons from pitchers while simultaneously gushing over the Red Sox rotation. Not to mention that you win with pitching and a bat can be readily replaced so the Blue Jays should trade Bautista for a starter with a “pedigree”. Oh and by the way, he doesn’t want to see any more NL pitchers coming over here because they can’t hack it with the big boys in the AL. I guess guys like Anibal Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get the memo. Speaking as a long time fan, even I realize the team doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

  13. “Problem is, fans are well removed from even that limited level of knowledge, and so what needs to happen before the pointless sneering between the opposing sides of this issue can stop is that a certain set of us needs to open our minds”

    says the Hypocrite

    • Are you honestly this dumb?

    • Hypocrite?

      Wait a minute, did you even read the article? The whole point of the post is to NOT get caught up in the fairy tale narratives, and that without data, that’s basically what they are.

      Man, people are dumb as fuck.

      • So all the people that say it exists should be ignored because after all, they’ve only lived the experience.
        But those who haven’t experienced it or lived it can call it a “fairy tale narrative”.
        Sorry you don’t understand.
        Make up some more stuff,It’s funny.
        I’ll agree with you,some people are as dumb as fuck.

        • Whatever RADAR. (Face palm).

          It just isn’t worth the keyboard strokes, fella.

          You have your make beliefs, I have mine. (See what I did there??? Make beliefs???)

        • People are extremely unreliable, RADAR. Ask cops about eyewitness accounts, ask anybody who thinks they’ve seen a ghost. The mind, out of necessity, fills in a lot of gaps for us to be able to comprehend the world around us, and that makes these guys’ word entirely meaningless. They may think they’re experiencing a phenomenon when they’re not– it happens all the time. Unfortunately, you can’t just take them at their word if you want to be remotely serious about this subject. Open up your mind already.

          • My mind is open.
            It’s yours that is closed.
            Hundreds of discussions with people involved with playing baseball.
            It’s not a therory when this many people confirm it.

            • I remember when Bobby Cox went at Cliff Johnson and threw him up against the team bus in front of everyone when he showed up with golf clubs before an important September trip into New York. The Jays took 3 of 4. Leadership may not be quantifiable but it matters.

            • They can’t confirm it, RADAR. They can think they feel something, but confirmation requires evidence, proof. They offer you none but magical feelings. Stop being so close-minded about this.

  14. great idea for a new semi-regular article!!! you should have no shortage of material on a weekly basis.

  15. I think a better example is how the “chicken and beer” team won 90 games one year and under 70 the next year, when the only major change was the manager. Granted much of the collapse came post-trade, but certainly not all of it.

    • The ONLY change was the manager?

      Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury was hurt last year, Bucholz and Lester were shitty and hurt last year. I can go on and on and on.

      Lackey…was he there last year?

      Yeah….basically the same team. Duh?

      Managers and their spirit animals fly forever!!!

  16. I think we can all agree that the locker room/clubhouse environment can have a positive influence on any team, if you enjoy and like your team mates you’re more likely to be happy showing up for work day in and day out. But we’re talking about baseball where you don’t have to have chemistry with your line mates. Yesterday Adam Lind was very clear in talking with Wilner that good communication is needed when playing defence as fielders need to be on the same page for turning a DP or the CF controlling the OF (John Jay anyone) and that when batting no communication or chemistry is needed. I would have to listen again but at no time did he mention that clubhouse “cohesion” impacted results on the field. Furthermore I have not read any article or heard about research that identifies baseball players level of clubhouse happiness has a correlation with winning or individual results. only beat and national writers citing clubhouse chemistry. And to this point Jessie Litch and Lind were talking (he called in. hilarious) about that some media (assume TO media) making grand claims about the teams chemistry from afar, who rarely actually are around the club house. Additionally Lind said that all the real stuff happens on the bus and plane away from media.

  17. Some righteous truth there Stoeten. Well done.

  18. And regards to the Elliot article about DJ Davis, Johan Kerri’s latest podcast talked to an st. louis beat writer talking about the cards approach to player development and where there focus changed 7 years ago and their proactive changes to international and domestic scouting evaluations in $ to get ready for the international draft (if it ever happens) I would be very interested in hearing Tinnish or somebody with in-depth knowledge of the jays player developmen to compare the systems. This also kind of makes light of the Ferrell comments about the differences between the Jays and Sox.

  19. Cohesion can be quantified. I just searched “social cohesion” in google scholar and got 202,000 hits. It wouldn’t be difficult to extend the academic conception of it to sports locker rooms (though getting access to survey professional locker rooms would be a problem). Then we could actually check for a relationship between cohesion and wins. The problem would be sorting out the cause and effect….winning has got to help cohesion.

  20. I’ve played baseball since I was 10, and just finished playing in a tourney this weekend(A benefit of living on Vancouver Island). Over 25+ years of playing ball, one thing becomes obvious, that talent will always outweigh chemistry over the long haul. Coherency doesn’t magically make players or teams better, skill and talent wins ball games.

    If this batting order stays healthy, these same ‘drivel’ spewers will be writing about how so and so was brought in in the off season, and all of a sudden, the chemistry has changed.

    • Agreed. Talent is king and chemistry is seriously overrated by the media.

      But seriously though. 25 years of ball and no inkling of chemistry making a slight bit of difference on any team? Ever?

      I’m going on 25+ years of ball too and started at 6 years old. Chemistry is not nearly as much of a thing as reporters make it seem, but I don’t think it’s nothing.

      And to everyone else, this definitely isn’t a “you never played” narrative. Sabermetricians that may have never played add a tonne of value to talent evaluation and player projections. More than chemistry ever would. Just agree with Isabella and don’t know why it’s an either or thing.

  21. the idiots at the toronto sun makes my head spin wow

  22. Thos whole chemistry discussion is a research argument. There are all kinds of research that is unable to quantify human behaviour.

    There are many workplace studies that show certain management styles yield better results than others. One huge issue is that this is about style of management not individual managers. Do we classify managers by style or technique? This is how workplace research tends to work.

    As well, there are all kinds of things that are patterns but don’t move outside the standard deviation. There are so many variables in.performance whether they are players or workers that researchers don’t focus on individuals. Quantifying this would be a breakthrough not just for baseball but for workplace research as a whole.

    • Many researchers in a variety of fields focus on individuals and individual behaviours. Sure, dynamics influencing performance are incredibly complex, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t say that increases in A are more likely to result in increases in B, all things being equal. If this research were to be done (and I’m sure something similar to it has been done in various ways), we might find that cohesion improves team and individual performances (assuming the right controls and temporal ordering could be accounted for), but you would still find some teams with incredible chemistry shitting the bed and teams with terrible chemistry going to the playoffs. But if the relationship were found, it would mean that it is a factor that TENDS to increase the likelihood (in whatever small amount) of winning. But you’re right that this is a discussion that could (and probably should) be addressed empirically if for no other reason than to quiet the insufferable arguments based purely on opinion.

      • Well said. Workplace research deals with techniques and styles more than ubiquitous concepts like chemistry. It’s less about people working together will produce a better result and more about something like using a circle network for communication has produced better results than a more top down approach you would find in a machine bureaucracy.

        Point being we will find managerial techniques that work which we have: efficacy of bunting, line up construction, etc. But how do we separate individual talent (important in sport but not analysed in workplace analysis) from manager quality?

        We might prove what works and by that which managers use the proven techniques, which we seem to have now. A quantified rubric for an individual manager’s worth….hard to prove. What kind of control could one use?

        Nebulous. ..nebulous. ..research

  23. Love this style of article

  24. I agree with stoeten’s confirmation bias angle with respect to chemistry.

    However, what the hell explains the jays dramatic turnaround in 1989 after cito was hired?

    Or the 1986 crapper of a season with a near identical core as the 99 win season the year before? Jimy Williams’ in game decisions weren’t any worse than bobby cox that I can recall, a lot of guys just played like shitbags under him (not to mention burning jerseys, refusing to dh, pitchers getting their shorts in a knot about fielders making errors or bullpens blowing leads)

  25. I don’t think chemistry is nothing. Definitely if people are enjoying each others company they will perform better, but how much better? I do agree that talent will trump chemistry. MacArthur’s article is pretty ridiculous as you’ll never know what sort of chemistry guys will have with each other, so how are the Jays supposed to factor that into their acquisitions? The best they can do is get the best talent available, and I suppose steer clear of guys that are known headcases.

    I do find the stats crowd a little closed minded when talking about the mental side of the game meaning nothing. Of course high leverage situations affect how people perform, even if they’re pros and of course chemistry must have some affect on performance.

    Anyone questioning the mental aspect just has to look at Romero’s self destruction on the mound in pretty much any of his major league appearances over the past two years.

  26. ‘Definitely if people are enjoying each others company they will perform better, but how much better?’


    ‘Of course high leverage situations affect how people perform, even if they’re pros…’

    supporting evidence?

    ‘…and of course chemistry must have some affect on performance.’


    ‘Anyone questioning the mental aspect just has to look at Romero’s self destruction on the mound in pretty much any of his major league appearances over the past two years.’

    or, they can look at the fact that teams realized he couldn’t get lefties out, not because of any changes to him/his mental state, but because of the physics of his pitches. which led to him adjusting his approach to try to compensate, which led to changes in mechanics, which led to his inability to throw strikes. but hell, even if you want to pin his failings on his mental state…what’s that have to do with this nebulous ‘chemistry’ thing?

  27. I’m getting a bit tired of this ‘nature vs nurture’ debate because we are just waltzing round in circles. I freely admit sabermetrics makes my eyes cross. But then I’m number-blind. However I am interested to ask the numbers guys on the board this question: in the 2013 season, how many Jays players had an anomalous year? Since I can’t read the stats well I don’t know the answer to that at all but I am curious to find out. I’m talking any kind of anomaly. Players who performed better than expected or players who performed worse.

    • i know this will come as a shock, but a lot of guys had down years. at one point in the season, there were a core group of 5 or 6 players who, had they simply matched their WAR from the previous season (or avg over the previous 3 seasons – i can’t remember it exactly), it would have ‘added’ something stupid like 15 or 20 wins to the team. it was around mid-season, if memory serves, and i think they singled out reyes & lawrie (injuries accounting for their drop at the time), melky, JJ, dickey & ??? not sure who else. but the idea was, if you took their previous WARs cumulatively, and compared them to that point in the season, there was a total drop of ~20 wins. jaw-droppingly bad.

      • Right. That is what I thought. And it would be interesting to work out how often that happened to a player. I would suspect it happens fairly often. That, to me, is the flaw of sabermetrics. You analyze past performance and use it as one of the tools to predict future performance. But, unfortunately, baseball is an imperfect medium for this kind of analysis because there are too many variables. You could analyze the performance of, say, the front office. Because their landscape is much more stable. You could use these kinds of metrics to analyze the performance of any worker in a stable corporation and predict future career path etc. But baseball–well any sport really–is too volatile a situation.

        For example. What was the effect of playing on turf? You can’t previously quantify it because a lot of these guys have rarely if ever played on turf as there are only 2 stadiums with turf and they are both in the AL East so no data available. When looking to evaluate a pitcher should we also take into account who is receiving him? Because I do think that makes a difference. Do we look at defensive numbers behind a ground-ball pitcher?

        This is not part of the same old argument because I think metrics are an invaluable tool in any GM’s arsenal. And I agree that chemistry, if it occurs, is an extremely intangible thing that gets recognized after the fact. But there has to be more to this than the stats we are taking now. that’s why I asked earlier in another post about whether there could be a stat for a player’s performance in 4-game tranches to see how he makes adjustments, how he handles offers, how a pitcher handles getting shelled. Right now t the end of the year you can look at the end-of-season stats and say ‘so-and-so had a bad/good year’. But that is already over and the team has to move forward and make decisions for the next year. If you can look at a player’s in-season performance in a tranche-to-tranche stat, maybe you can get a better handle on how he might perform. Because with the numbers you have right now I think you’re only getting part of the story.

        • There are stats that tend to be more predictive, and there are stats that tell the story of what happened more. Just because they are volatile is no reason to call it a flaw of sabermetrics. In fact, if you’re interested in this stuff, I’d submit that you should probably be MORE interested in sabermetrics, as the questions you’re asking are certainly tackled by it.

          • But if that’s the case, Andrew, how did last season’s complete disaster occur? If there are predictive stats, theoretically AA could have seen at least some of it coming and avoided those players. Again, I’m not arguing with you over the importance of stats but I’m saying that perhaps there are stats that no one has thought to compile that might red-flag a player whose regular stats look amazing but who, in fact, for whatever reason, is not the right player for your team. Let’s take 2 players. Emilio Bonifacio has over the past few years batted around 250-260 on average. He came to Toronto and batted 218. He went to KC and batted 285. Why is this? There are all sorts of possible reasons but clearly Bonifacio had a bad season in Toronto where he performed below his average and a good season in KC where he performed above his average. Easier division, less-talented pitchers, playing on grass, whatever. Now let’s look at Carl Crawford. He is a star in TB. Bats well over 300. He goes to Boston and his batting average is still good in the 280s but it’s down a lot from Tampa. He goes to LA and his average is back where you’d expect it. Carl could just have had a bad year in Boston, but there aren’t too many other variables. He’s in the same division playing against the same teams as before. Again I’m not making a case for chemistry here at all. I’m asking for some way of looking at performance that will at least make an attempt to head off those kinds of mistakes. And right now I don’t think there is one.

            • Just because there are stats that have predictive value doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to tell you with precision what’s going to happen in the future (especially if guys get hurt, which was the biggest reason for this year’s disaster).

              Beyond that, I don’t think you’re interpreting what you’re seeing from Bonifacio and Crawford correctly. Hits aren’t distributed evenly, and the samples of the two halves of Bonifacio’s two seasons are too small to think that they mean much of anything. And as for his previous years, he was much better than you suggest in 2011 (average, if we must use that, was in the .290s), then got hurt in 2012, which is why there was thought that he’d be able to bounce back. Even so, his data is more complicated than all that– some years he’s excelled against right-handers, and other years against left-handers. There is a lot of volatility in his numbers in general, so the suggestion that what happened in Toronto indicates he wasn’t right for the team doesn’t hold up. It’s just kind of who he is.

              There is much less volatility in Crawford’s numbers. Yes, he had a down year in Boston, but he had one in Tampa in 2008 as well– and both of those years happened to coincide with a significant dip in BABIP from his career norm, which might suggest a not insignificant dose of bad luck. But it wasn’t that he was sunk by some kind of Boston effect– in the small sample of games he played there in 2012 he was exactly the same hitter he’s been this year in LA, which is pretty much exactly the same hitter as he’s been most of his career, save for the two down years, and a couple bigger than normal ones at the end of his Rays career.

              There is an art to interpreting these sorts of numbers, I guess, and a lot of variables around all of them, so that’s why it can’t really be boiled down into what you’re looking for– it’s just not that simple (and that’s when throwing out the whole notion of players being better fits on certain teams, which doesn’t have a whole lot of data to back it up regardless). But again, that hardly means there’s no value to it.

              • But the team wasn’t decimated in April. They had Lawrie on the dl. Sergio Santos and Jose Reyes. They did have injuries but they weren’t decimated by injury. And they went 10-17. Injuries did start to kick in more in May, when they went 10-13. But in June they had their only winning month including an 11-game win-streak. And that was with Lawrie on the 15-day, Reyes still out and Santos still out along with other lesser injuries. I don’t think you can ascribe last season to injuries alone. A lot of the players were back by August and September and they had losing records in both months.

  28. The most obvious difference between Romero and Davis is that when Bonehead drafted Romero, everyone knew right away that it was a mistake (everyone except Bonehead’s apologists, of course).

    Baseball Prospectus in its next annual called it “a franchise altering mistake”. Only the handful of Bonehead fans in Toronto defended the Romero pick over Troy Tulowitski. Can anyone remember who the Bonehead’s fans were? (Anyone? Anyone? Stoeten? Stoeten?)

  29. Stop feeding the trolls!

  30. Saying that the Jays could have had Wacha, like it’s that easy to project amateur talent, takes so much credit away from the Cardinals and how well they seem to draft and/or develop players. I can’t believe that people don’t seem to understand that drafting a player and having him pitch the following calendar year is exceptional, and not an indication that other teams are drafting poorly.

  31. Why this false dichotomy between “There’s no such thing as chemistry” and “Chemistry matters more than stats”? I don’t get it. (BTW, I’m merely using “chemistry” so that I can pick one word to describe it and stick with it for the purposes of this comment.)

    Chemistry exists. To deny it is patently absurd. People interact and this affects their individual performances. If you have ever worked in any capacity with other humans, and you are capable of empathy and trust, then you have felt it, probably both positive and negative. I get off the bus, however, when people start claiming to understand how it works and how to make it happen. We simply do not.

    We do, however, “know” one thing: trust seems to correlate with improving performance. We still understand this very nebulously, but I’ve certainly seen it enough to give it weight. A lack of trust kills teamwork, although the presence of trust doesn’t always make teamwork happen. I can’t say for sure that the Blue Jays have a trust problem, but if they hired me to figure out what was going on — and I’m not suggesting for the briefest moment that they should — then I’d keep an eye out for low-trust situations and feel quite certain that I’d find a wealth of them.

    We can’t quantify the components of teamwork, but just as we interpret BABIP fluctuations as luck until a definite pattern emerges, we can safely interpret distance from Pythagorean W% as having a non-zero-but-maddeningly-unquantifiable component of teamwork. I don’t see a problem with that.

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