For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to ten stray thoughts on a Friday.
So, without further ado:
While the topic of Melky Cabrera’s suspension for using banned substances feels like it was exhausted about twenty minutes after the Major League Baseball press release announcing it was issued, I wanted to write about something that came up in the comments section of yesterday’s post on the morality issues attached to using supposed performance enhancers. It seems to me that an unfounded assumption exists for many who would suggest that because Cabrera was caught using testosterone, his numbers for the year are inflated.
We have absolutely no idea of either the context of Cabrera’s testosterone use; or how it affected his performance. If accuracy is of interest, it’s not so simple as to look at his career year and match its cause with testing positive for testosterone.
What we have here is the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, correlation does not prove causation:
- A occurs in correlation with B.
- Therefore, A causes B.
There is actual evidence to suggest that Cabrera’s success this season was rooted in something else entirely. For instance, you could actually link his success in terms of batting average with an increased number of ground balls put into play this season making it through the infield for hits. You could also talk about his more aggressive approach at the plate over the last two seasons. These are explanations for his career year for which evidence actually exists.
Missing The Point
Last week I wrote about statistics deepening our appreciation of the random and unexplained occurrences in baseball. I suggested that no one is so soulless as to not appreciate when something unlikely and random occurs during baseball.
Thanks to Jesse Sakstrup’s piece for The Hardball Times, in which he attempts to put Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in a context it doesn’t need, I must now stand corrected.
While reading through his post is frustrating in terms of imagining the overwhelming amount of daftness one must embrace to write in this fashion, the comments that other readers have left are well worth it. My favorite being:
Mike Meech said…
This article hurt my soul.
It Happens To The Best
This is from John Lott’s piece on Ricky Romero for the National Post:
The other day, Ricky Romero asked Darren Oliver for advice. After three fine seasons, Romero is having an awful time in his fourth. This is Oliver’s 19th season, and he is 41 years old, so Romero thought he might offer some insights about how to escape a long slump.
Instead, Oliver simply said: “Just go look in your locker.”
There, Romero found a media guide in which Oliver had highlighted two years from his own career as a starting pitcher. In both years, Oliver’s ERA was over 6.00.
“And he’s like, ‘It happens. It happens to the best,’ ” Romero recalled Thursday.
This is also why I’ll be looking to purchase a nice #38 royal blue jersey to remember Oliver’s time in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen.
I love stories like this that actually give us a glimpse at the value a so-called veteran presence can provide.
Baseball Code Words
Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens was hospitalized for dehydration last night following a Triple-A start for Gwinnett. Obviously it’s not the case here, but I was wondering if anyone else raises an eyebrow, most likely unfairly, when they hear about a player being dehydrated, half-assuming that it’s being used in place of hung over.
Pardon me if this comes across as a mere statement of the obvious, which I’ll admit it is to a degree, but sometimes in talking and writing about baseball, we get so involved with the minutiae that we forget about the bigger picture. For instance, it seems almost laughable all the attention that defensive shifts received in the early part of the year considering it’s little more than the novel approach of placing fielders in a position where the batter is most likely to hit the ball.
Anyway, I think teams heading to the playoffs must consider capability and capability alone when crafting its roster and lineup. In fact, everything should be about capability. It’s the reason we have statistics, why we have evaluation. Yes, statistics allow us to tell a story, but the reason that story is being told is to describe the capability of a player, and in turn the capability of a team. Again, I’m aware that might sound pedantic, but I think it’s a consideration that’s being overlooked when talk of prospect promotion arises.
While this most famously applies to the Baltimore Orioles calling up Manny Machado, and it could probably be forced into applying to the Texas Rangers bringing Mike Olt up to the big club or making threats to promote Jurickson Profar, I think the idea of planning for capability in October most reasonably applies to the prospect of the Cincinnati Reds calling up Billy Hamilton.
Right now, the Cincinnati Reds are six games up on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central, having gained ground on the team behind them during a stage in the season when their best player, first baseman Joey Votto, has been shelved on the Disabled List. Simultaneously, Hamilton has been stealing more and more bases at every level he’s played at in the Minor Leagues, including his newest landing spot with the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in Pensacola.
Today, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus took a look, in a rather hilarious manner, at the value Hamilton could provide solely as a pinch runner. I think it’s significant enough to justify using his capabilities on the base paths in a playoff environment. The one thing that he is capable of offering is a valuable, if not all together tangible, addition. Surely, it’s more than what Miguel Cairo can offer.
Even if you think there’s an intangible benefit to having a veteran presence around that Hamilton wouldn’t be able to provide. It’s the playoffs. You can still have Cairo around the team, just not on the playoff roster.
Contrary To What Bud Selig Says
Despite Bud Selig’s claims that there is absolutely no support for expanding the role of instant replay in Major League Baseball, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports suggests that “there is a groundswell of support to at least quell the perception that baseball is ignoring the available technologies.”
Such support has pushed MLB to test out two different advanced replay systems during games at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field starting next week. The testing could precede an overhaul of the entire system ahead of next season.
Again, I’ll put out a challenge to people who don’t like the idea of expanded replay influencing certain calls in a baseball game. Please provide a reasonable argument against it. I’ve stated in the past that I don’t want robot umpires calling balls and strikes. I think I can offer a valid argument why we shouldn’t have such things, but what can be said in favor of not being as accurate as possible when it comes to fair/foul calls and safe/out calls?
I’m not being facetious. I really would like to hear a compelling argument.
Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:
- Melky Cabrera
- Felix Hernandez
- Derek Jeter
- Chipper Jones
- Albert Pujols
Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours have seen these player profiles visited the most:
- Joel Guzman (again)
- Chipper Jones
- Felix Hernandez
- Ichiro (!) Suzuki
- Franke de la Cruz
The Strasburg Dilemma
Earlier I mentioned discussion on Melky Cabrera being somewhat exhausted, and perhaps the only topic rivaling the amount of keyboard strokes used on it would be the Washington Nationals’ plan to eventually shut down Stephen Strasburg and theoretically not use him in the playoffs.
I firmly believe that such a decision on the part of GM Mike Rizzo is far more nuanced and complicated than most pundits are currently imagining it to be. A recent column from Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post confirms this belief.
Here are some of the factors informing Rizzo’s decision:
- Statistics on rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery.
- Analytics measuring innings load increases and their influences on re-injuries.
- The view of the surgeon, Dr. Lewis Yocum, who’s performed all the operations on Nationals pitchers in recent years.
- A promise made to Strasburg’s father to take care of his son.
I know that last one is a bit cheesy, but it’s important. There was a great article from Baseball Prospectus recently that attempted to re-imagine incredibly tough situations and scenarios that a Major League manager would have to face as though they were more common to a regular work place environment that you and I would face.
But all of that is an aside, when commenting on the Strasburg situation, it’s amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten about Jordan Zimmermann’s recovery from Tommy John surgery last season and the hard 160 innings cap placed on his season. I think this year’s results for Zimmermann kind of speak for themselves.
While every pitcher is different in terms of recovery and elbow strength, the results from Zimmermann must give some confidence to Rizzo that he’s doing the right thing.
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Today, I wrote about fan bases, and the similarities that exist across all of them. Putting it as generally and simplisticly as possible, both good and bad people count themselves among baseball fans. As if to further illustrate my point for me, I received some interesting responses via Twitter.
First, the good:
And then, the bad: