Archive for the Sports Category

Morality Plays

Posted in General, Sports with tags on August 14, 2009 by fieldingmellish

Well, I was all geared up to write a post explaining why I don’t care about steroids in Baseball, and Joe Posnanski went a wrote an awesome post not just about steroids, but America, hypocrisy, Rick Pitino, Viagra, and everything else. It’s way better than anything I would have written, so go read it.

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Scientific Baseball

Posted in Sports with tags , on July 22, 2009 by fieldingmellish

No one has been harsher on Jason Varitek than I have. It’s really hard to accept that “managing the staff” makes up for “not hitting at all.” (Though to be fair, Jason has been average with the stick this year, even with his sparkling .230 BA.) That said, it’s tough to be a big league catcher, and this is a really interesting piece of analysis. Even though Tony Mazz works in the oft-debunked “Catcher ERA,” it’s still a really cool look at how pitchers and catchers work the strike zone in a game. I recommend it.

h/t Neyer

Pedroia Defense Redux

Posted in Sports with tags on June 12, 2009 by fieldingmellish

I sparked off a little debate yesterday when I mentioned that Robby Cano was statistically as good defensively as Gold Glover Dustin Pedroia. According to Baseball-reference.com, which now tracks Runs Saved as a defensive stat, they are. I checked Baseball Prospectus, and their FRAA was similar. Then I went to Fangraphs, and looked at their UZRs (Ultimate Zone Rating), which is the currently popular defensive metric. In UZR, Pedroia does have a pretty big advantage. Last year, his rating was around 10, which means he was a very good defender. Chase Utley, for comparison, was around 20, so take that for what it’s worth. Cano was below zero, so by UZR, Pedroia was better than Cano. It’s also worth noting that in his early years, Cano’s defense was much, much better than it is now.

I love Dustin Pedroia. I think he’s the second best second baseman in the majors, after Utley. You don’t usually get the amount of production he gives, with an above average glove, at a premium defensive position. But I still think his defense has been overrated, and I still think Youkilis was more valuable to the Red Sox last year overall. But you can disagree, and that’s fine.

Breaking Down Sox vs. Yanks

Posted in Sports with tags , on June 11, 2009 by fieldingmellish

So, since I’m bored at work and I have baseball on my mind, I decided to take a deeper look into the Red Sox vs. the Yankees this year. Why exactly have the Red Sox gone undefeated? It must be a statistical fluke, right? Anything can happen in a small sample size? After all, even though the Sox have beaten the Yankees in every match-up thus far, they are only up one game. Sure, anything can happen in 7 games. However, the Red Sox are playing right at their Pythagorean, while the Yankees are 2 games ahead of it.* So maybe the Sox should be 3 games up. But still, that’s no excuse. So I decided I’m going to break down the teams by position. Maybe I’ll do this periodically as the season progresses.

*Also of note, the Sox are 19-8 against the AL East, which is the best division in baseball, while the Yankees are 12-15. I’m not what this means, but I think the Red Sox are very good.

First Base: This is an excellent head to head matchup. Rob Neyer mentioned it in his blog, but it’s worth pointing that between Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, and Justin Morneau, there’s a heck of a battle for title of best First baseman in the AL, and best human first baseman in the MLB.* The stats don’t say much, since they’re both awesome. They are both good with the glove too. Youkilis might get the slight edge, since he can play third (and play it well) in a pinch, but there’s not much to choose. If this was based on contracts, Youkilis is more efficient, but since we’re talking about on the field performance, this one is a wash. Edge: Draw.

*Albert Pujols, of course, is a baseball-playing android designed by Soviet scientists to be the perfect hitting machine.

Second Base: Another close one, as Pedroia and Cano have OPS+’s of 110 and 108 respectively, with Pedroia’s big advantage in OBP largely offset by his relatively anemic power production compared to Cano. Pedroia’s reputation of being better with the glove is largely undeserved, as he and Cano both saved only about 3 runs in 2008. Still, I think OBP is more important than Slugging, so I have to give the MVP a slight edge here. Slight Edge: Red Sox.

Shortstop: No contest here, as Derek Jeter blows away the pu-pu platter of Sox Shortstops. Even his terrible defense isn’t a liability, as the Sox have been even worse. Big Edge: Yankees.

Third Base: Lowell just keeps producing, as his .296/.331/.509 is good for a 111 OPS+. He’s still a very good to excellent defender, as he saved 17.6 runs in 2008 and looks to be continuing that pace this year. Alex Rodriguez missed time with a hip injury, but has put up a 132 OPS+, despite hitting only .231, thanks to a lot of walks and power. Rodriguez is not a good defender, but he contributes too much with the bat to hold that against him. Lowell’s edge with the glove won’t overcome A-Rod being one of the best hitters ever. Edge: Yankees.

Left Field: Jason Bay has been awesome this year, hitting 16 homers with an OBP of .402. After Youkilis, he’s been the most productive hitter on the squad. Johnny Damon has had a nice year as well, hitting 13 homers in Coors Field East. Damon has a massive edge in fielding, despite the poor arm, but it isn’t enough to overcome Bay’s production at the Plate. Edge: Red Sox

Center Field: Possibly the weakest position on each team, as the combination of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera goes head to head with Tacoby Bellsbury. Ellsbury may have the slightest of advantages with the glove (at least over Cabrera), but his sparkling 83 OPS+ and .370 Slugging% wipes that clean off the board. Gardner isn’t much with the stick either, but Cabrera is pretty good, and combined with the speedy Gardner as a late inning defensive replacement has to give the Yankees the edge here. Edge: Yankees.

Right Field: The white Nick Swisher goes head-to-head with the really white J.D. Drew here. Both are sub-average fielders, but Swisher has a reputation as a “gamer,” while J.D. has to be rebooted around the 5th inning. Swisher has been better at the plate this year, but he’s playing above his head, while J.D. is having a pretty typical, solid year. I’d take Drew, except he’s going to get hurt at some point. Edge: Draw.

Catcher: The perennial battle between Jorge Posada and the exhumed corpse of Jason Varitek continues. Varitek can’t seem to hit the ball, but when he does, he’s been hitting for power. Posada has an OPS+ of over 150, which is very good. Neither has as much as they did in the field, but Varitek can’t throw anyone out right now. I’m glad he’s not as dead as he was last year, but he’s still not as good as Posada. Edge: Yankees.

Designated Hitter: Oy. David Ortiz’ struggles have been well-documented, while Hideki Matsui has been pretty bad too. Both teams will be looking for help here before they get set for the stretch run. Edge: Draw.

Bench: Oy again. I don’t know if there are good benches in the majors these days, but they aren’t here. Baldelli vs. Gardner? Kottaras vs. Molina? Jeff Bailey? Cody Ransom? Someone will get a big hit in a tough spot, but it will be by accident. Edge: Draw.

Starting Rotation: Two pretty similar rotations. Beckett and Sabathia have been good, Wakefield and Chamberlain have been OK, and everyone else is just not good. Lester is coming on, but he has a ways to go. Wang and Dice-K have been horrendous. Penny and Burnett? Meh. The Red Sox have a few bullets in the chamber with Buchholz and Smoltz, but right now these two rotations’ best days are ahead of them. I’ll give the edge to the Red Sox, because Lester is getting back on track, and Matsuzaka is closer than Wang. Slight Edge: Red Sox

Relief Pitching: The Red Sox easily have the best bullpen in the Majors. How good is it? Right now, every member except Javier Lopez would have a PB rating of 2-7 or better in Statis-Pro Baseball, with 5 guys getting the coveted 2-9. This doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it means they don’t give up very many runs. Papelbon has been worrying at times, but Okajima and Ramirez have been awesome. The Yankees? Well, Brian Bruney pitched pretty well before he got hurt. And Rivera’s still pretty OK. Huge Edge: Red Sox.

Offense: The Yankees have scored about 20 more runs, but it seems like the New Stadium may be even more of a hitters’ park than Fenway. The Yankees lineup has been better, though, and unless the Red Sox start getting more production from Ortiz and their shortstops, they won’t be able to out bomb the Bombers. Edge: Yankees.

Pitching: The Sox have allowed 40 fewer runs than the Yankees. Their rotation is marginally better, their bullpen is way better, and their backlog of pitchers is better. If the Sox are going to win the division, they’ll have to do it with their arms. Big Edge: Red Sox.

Fielding: The great X-factor. Neither team is going to set the world on fire. Lowell, Youkilis, and Teixeira are all legitimately good fielders. Ellsbury and Gardner can track down some flies, as can Damon. Both teams have little to no range at short, and ok defensive second basemen. The right field arms are pretty good. Very blah. Edge: Draw.

Managers: Francona still drives me crazy with his relief pitching decisions, but other than that he’s been great. Girardi? He was likely going to be fired if the Yankees didn’t improve. I’ll take Francona. Edge: Red Sox.

Overall Edge: Red Sox, on the strength of their pitching.

So there you have it. There’s no way the Red Sox are good enough to beat the Yankees like they have been without some major luck. I wouldn’t be shocked if they split the rest of the season series, or the Red Sox went 7-5 or so. These are two very good teams, and it’s going to be one heck of a race.

ESPN and the Baseball Draft, take 2 of thousands

Posted in Sports with tags on June 11, 2009 by fieldingmellish

Far be it for me to tell ESPN how to do their job, since they’re the multinational media behemoth and I’m just a guy with a blog named after an obscure video game reference. But I would think that, if this is your first year covering the MLB draft, something people aren’t really that interested in to begin with, you would want to do something to grab them and get them interested, if not for this year, than for next year and the future. So why, then, is all of ESPN.com’s draft coverage Insider-only? All I want to do is read Keith Law’s review of how the Red Sox did, but I can’t. So what incentive do I have to watch this thing in the future? Now I’m just pissed at ESPN and uninterested in the draft. Maybe having everyone able to read one of their most astute columnists, who is clearly passionate about it, would make me want to learn more. But apparently not.

Feel the Excitement!

Posted in Sports with tags on June 9, 2009 by fieldingmellish

Hey, guess what’s on tonight?! The MLB Draft! On ESPN! CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT?!!!!!

No? Oh. Me neither. I guess it’s hard to be excited for a draft in which the very best of the best will be making an impact as the 16th pitcher on the staff of a team 31 games out as a September call-up. Not that I think the NFL Draft deserves 1/10 of 1% of the attention it receives. But at least those guys will play in the NFL. ESPN is trying though. Keith Law has been chained to his laptop and forced to rank and rerank players at gunpoint every day for the last month. ESPN is trying to set him up as the Mel Kiper of baseball or something. It’s too bad, because Law is incredibly smart and can write about baseball as well as anyone there, except he’s been pigeonholed. Who knows? Maybe he likes the exposure. I’d hate to see him reduced to analyzing the delivery of pitchers in High School in November though.

Anyways, I will proudly not watch one second of the draft this year. You know, because there’s baseball on.

The Most Exciting Finishes

Posted in Sports with tags on May 15, 2009 by fieldingmellish

I’m still recovering from the devesting loss the Bruins endured in OT yesterday. It was a real gut-wrencher, and I slept a lot worse than I expected. The NHL did too, likely, since a Pens-Bruins series would have been hugely exciting . As it stands, they’re stuck with Carolina and its nine hockey fans. But oh well, sour grapes and all.

One good thing that came out of last night was my realization that NHL Overtimes are probably one of the most exiciting things in sports. Certainly, they are one of the most exciting ways to end a game. And it made me wonder why most games don’t end in such an exciting way. I mean, the formula is so simple. Play until someone scores. Obviously, sudden death doesn’t work in all sports. But why not in Soccer? Why not play golden goal for 15 minute overtime periods? Give each team an extra sub if the game goes into overtime. Then just play until there’s a winner. Penalty kicks are no way to decide a game. Why play one game for 90+ minutes, then switch to another to decide it? The only thing sillier is a penalty kick shootout in rugby. What if football games were decided by having the guards kicking field goals? I rest my case.

Not that football is any great shakes when it comes to exciting overtimes. The NFL has a pretty mediocre set of rules as well. Sudden death isn’t really sudden when it’s “inch down to the 30 yard line, kick a field goal.” Of the four major American sports, football has the worst overtime. Why not make it first team to score a touchdown? Even then, it’s not great since the team that gets the ball first has a chance to win easily. I’d make it one full quarter. 15 minutes. Whoever comes out on top wins. Why should a team with a lousy defense not have to worry about it? The NBA would be pretty good, except for the timeouts. Even the most exciting games, like in the Chicago-Boston series, become excruciating to watch as the sequence “made basket, timeout, commercial, foul, free throws, timeout, commercial” is repeated over and over again. I’d give NBA teams one timeout per overtime period. Let the teams play.

It’s interesting that my two favorite overtimes are so different. Hockey, with no timeouts and fast-paced, heart-stopping excitement, is a no-brainer. Watching Carolina and Boston fighting it out like two heavyweights in the 15th round was fantastic. Players were so tired they could barely skate, and still they forced themselves up and down the ice, knowing one mistake would cost the game. Plus, no penalties. How can it get any better. The other is Baseball, which doesn’t have overtime. Just extra innings. That’s the way to do it. Give each team a chance to win. The rules are the same as a regular game, only one run won’t necessarily win. The excitement is so much different in extra innings too. Instead of constant action, the game hinges on a discrete set of events. Each pitch is a whole ulcer in itself. There’s a quick burst of adrenaline, followed by an uneasy rest. The tension is incredible. And that tension, I think, is the key to a good overtime. If only other sports were as concerned with it.

Thoughts?