Monday, November 19, 2007

Question of the Day

Can someone explain to me why the New York Yankees are resigning Alex Rodriguez for a reported $275 million? A-Rod is a horrible postseason hitter, handles the New York media poorly and walked out of the last two years of his contract. The Yankees are paying an outrageous sum of money for a 32 year-old player. Athletes do not age like fine wine.

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6 Comments:

At November 19, 2007 11:28 PM , Blogger tas said...

Because the Yankees believe in raising their average team age every season and not winning in the playoffs. As a Red Sox fan, I don't mind this.

Also, as far as A-Rod is concerned, the upsides to having him on your roster are too hard to ignore. There's only a few hitters in baseball who are as dynamic as A-Rod (Man-Ram in Boston is also in the same class, though aging) who can really change the way opposing pitchers look at a batting order. A-Rod insures that the player hitting in front of him will see pitches to hit, and then Alex himself can knock pretty much any pitch below his shoulders and less than two feet off the plate out of the park. Not too many hitters have that capability. Plus the Yankees wouldn't have even sniffed the playoffs this year with A-Rod's contributions. So those are the upsides.

On the downside, A-Rod doesn't seem to turn it on the clutch. Manny and Ortiz are really the best power combo out there because, when the chips are down, they can hit any pitcher at anytime. The way those two guys manhandled the staff aces and closers of playoff teams in 2004 and 2007 is nothing short of amazing -- and is also a feat that A-Rod has never accomplished. I guess, the Yankees hope, there's potential for A-Rod to bust out in the postseason like he does in the regular season. Maybe now he's more used to playing in NYC, therefore translating into a higher comfort level. Who knows. There's also A-Rod's age, too... Some players just lose it in their early and mid-30's. And when a superstar loses it, it's sudden and the talent just doesn't come back. Look at Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Nomar Garciaparra... I would also throw steroids/HGH intto the mix, too. What if A-Rod's been juicing? If so, what's that going to do to his body years down the road? Look at Jason Giambi, another superstar who just lost it... But now we all know why. I do have to wonder about Nomar's freak injuries happening after all the bulk he gained, too. There are some body types which are just build to be big and strong (Jim Thome, Ryan Howard, Willy Mo Pina in particular is a physical FREAK and it's a shame he can't actually hit), and A-Rod's doesn't strike me as one of them. He doesn't have a naturally broad frame.

 
At November 19, 2007 11:40 PM , Blogger tas said...

Plus there's also A-Rod's star power, he how-much-does-he-pay-for-himself factor... When the Rangers inked the $250 million deal with him, it came with the realization that A-Rod would sell more tickets, caps, and tee-shirts; so it's not like the $250 mil is a complete loss of profit. If anything, A-Rod's presnece probably paid his salary and made some profit in return. Then again, the Rangers never seemed to hav the money to get the pitching they needed to build a winning team around the spectacular offense that A-Rod was the cornerstone of there.

Though money isn't always needed to get good pitching. The Red Sox have won plenty of games with Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmin (sp), Kason Kabbord, Arroyo, and Okijima.. All of those players were either complete farm system products, players picked up off the waiver wire , directed to the minors and then called up; or, in the case of Okijima, just some no-name dude pitching in Japan who nobody expected shit from. And next year, Sox fans get to see Buchholtz mow down the major league batters in his rookie season. All of these players salaries combined cost less than a major free agents contract. So something has to be said for the stupidity of Ranger's front office for signing A-rod but still being unable to surround him with great pitching.

Then again, Dubya used to be partial owner of that team, too... Do you sense a trend here? Anytime Bush runs something, it seems to involve a massive infusion of money into something promising but then they never put other pieces together to finish the job and win. A-Rod = Iraq. Who knew?

 
At November 20, 2007 12:53 AM , Blogger Kenneth said...

If you love baseball, you really should be reading the Fire Joe Morgan blog. They've covered this territory extensively. The post you linked to is exhibit A in the annals of bad statistical analysis. Small sample sizes don't prove anything. His postseason stats aren't horrible and saying that he doesn't hit in the clutch ignores the regular season. In recent years there's been a huge boom in scientific analysis of baseball that pretty much dismisses the clutch concept anyway. As far as hitters and pitchers go, the postseason isn't really that different than the regular season and you tend to see that hitters that are on a hot streak at the regular season tend to still be so in the post-season -- unless they hit a really good pitcher, of course. Luck is a huge factor in baseball, probably moreso than in the other major sports.

And it's clear that ARod is not only the best hitter in baseball, he's the primary reason that Yankees made the playoffs in any recent years. The fact that they haven't done better isn't because of ARod, it's because they've had a mediocre team. This season, for example, without ARod, they not only don't make the playoffs, they are probably in last place or close to it.

Some players decline around mid-30s, but many don't (including many Hall of Fame hitters) and ARod shows no signs of decline anytime soon. Any team in the league that doesn't want ARod on their team doesn't understand the game of baseball. The only legit reason anyone would shy away from him is the cost. The Yankees, having an un-American amount of wealth to buy players should definitely spend this kind of money on him. They can afford it and it doesn't hurt them or prevent them from getting other players. If they don't someone else will and they will not make the playoffs again for years. Texas had a lot less money and since baseball has no such thing as equal funding, the Yankees probably have nearly twice as much money for players as those Texas teams had. Literally.

As for the media stuff and the so-called problems in the lockerroom are mostly nonsense and created by a media that has to have a bad story about someone making that much money.

And keep in mind that all of this is coming from someone who HATES the Yankees. I've always hated them and always will, but keeping ARod is probably the best thing they've done from a roster standpoint since their last WS championship.

 
At November 20, 2007 11:04 AM , Blogger tas said...

I know baseball science and sabrmetrics dispels the notion of clutch players, but I think the performances that select players turn in really enforces clutch ability. Look at how Derek Jeter used to perform in the playoffs, that play where he was in the right place at the right time to get the ball to the catcher so Giambi could be tagged out. And the Red Sox seem to have a plethora of clutch players lately. Curt Schilling turns into Superman in the playoffs, able to hold off teams while pitching on a broken ankle; Josh Beckett manhandling any lineup he saw in 2007, outstanding play by Ortiz and Manny being overshadowed by Youk hitting .500 in the ALCS and Mike Lowell seemingly producing runs out of thin air in the World Series... Hell, even during the regular season in 07, at a point when the Sox lost 4 in a row and their offense wasn't hitting, Yankees gaining in them in the standings, Curt Schilling marches into Oakland and pitches a one hitter, 1-0 shutout to put the team back on track. When a team's backs are against the wall, there are some players who seem to step up their game time and time again. I know baseball science doesn't agree with the concept of clutch play, but I don't know how else to explain all that.

It's also this level of play that A-Rod has yet to prove himself capable of. Sure, best regular season player in the game and a first ballot hall of famer when he retires, and even a decent hitter in the playoffs. But he just hasn't reached the levels beyond that. I mean, looking at how A-Rod and Lowell performed these past playoffs, who would you rather have playing third base for your team with the World Series on the line?

 
At November 21, 2007 1:02 AM , Blogger Kenneth said...

>I know baseball science and sabrmetrics dispels the notion of clutch players

But it doesn't just do this randomly, it doesn't through the same standards of evidence and scientific method that brought us computers, proof of evolution and global warming, and clear evidence their were no WMDs in Iraq. Anyone using the basic scientific method knew that in advance. The same methods (and more advanced statistical analysis) are used to analyze baseball. They reject the idea of clutch players because exhaustive analysis of the data shows that in the big picture, they don't exist. Baseball isn't outside the realm of normal statistical laws, it's right smack dab in the middle of it.

>I think the performances that select players turn in really enforces clutch ability.

It isn't that there aren't performances that after-the-fact appear to be clutch. If you come up in an important situation and you perform well, that can be called "clutch," but there is no way to predict these players in advance other than to look at:

-Great players
-Players on hot streaks at the time of the playoffs
-Players who have skills that give them a particular advantage against a team or pitcher or whatever

None of these things is some abstract thing called clutch and the players who appear to be clutch only do so if you take part of their career into account and ignore the rest of it.

>Look at how Derek Jeter used to perform in the playoffs

The key here is "used to." In the early days he performed well in the clutch. Since ARod has been on the team, he usually does worse than ARod in the postseason. Once the sample size got large enough, you saw a regression to the mean. Beyond that, you also have to take into account that those earlier Yankees teams were much better than the more recent ones. If everyone in front of you gets on base, you will, by definition, drive in more RBIs and therefore appear to be more clutch. If you come up with very few runners on base, you'll have very few RBIs and you won't appear clutch. A perfect example is Kirk Gibson in the 88 World Series. Everyone remembers him for that one game-winning homerun. I don't even know if he had another hit in the series and the Dodgers won not because of him, but because of their team (and maybe because Canseco and McGwire ran out of steroids). But that one hit makes people remember Gibson, no matter how small a part of it was in winning the overall series.

>And the Red Sox seem to have a plethora of clutch players lately.

If everybody is clutch, nobody is clutch.

>Curt Schilling turns into Superman in the playoffs, able to hold off teams while pitching on a broken ankle;

He's also superman in the regular season when healthy.

>Josh Beckett manhandling any lineup he saw in 2007, outstanding play by Ortiz and Manny being overshadowed by Youk hitting .500 in the ALCS and Mike Lowell

All of these guys, except Youk who is younger, are established top-line stars. It isn't surprising that they perform well in the postseason.

>at a point when the Sox lost 4 in a row and their offense wasn't hitting, Yankees gaining in them in the standings, Curt Schilling marches into Oakland and pitches a one hitter, 1-0 shutout to put the team back on track.

Sure, when described like that it sounds amazing. Yet, I'll wager that when the team's back wasn't against the wall, he probably had one or more similar performances, meaning the performance had little to do with "clutch," and had more to do with the fact he's a great pitcher pitching against an average team.

>When a team's backs are against the wall, there are some players who seem to step up their game time and time again.

But I'll wager a closer examination of the numbers shows that they probably do pretty well most of the time when backs aren't against the wall and I'd wager you'll find many times when they also fail to perform in the clutch.

>I know baseball science doesn't agree with the concept of clutch play, but I don't know how else to explain all that.

I've given you a few suggestions, but I'd go further to suggest that "clutch" doesn't explain those situations, either. It's very much a parallel to the way people say a campaign is good or bad based on whether or not the candidate won. A winner must have run a good campaign and a loser must not have. But we all know that isn't always true because there are other factors that come into play. We also don't define "good campaign" by any objective standard that can be applied in a large number of cases. The same thing is true with "clutch." If you can't define it in the abstract and then apply it in a large number of situations with good predictive power, then the concept doesn't have any meaning.

>It's also this level of play that A-Rod has yet to prove himself capable of.

In large part because the rest of his team wasn't that good, either. With the rest of the Yankees not performing very well in front of him or behind him, his solid batting average hasn't produced much in the way of results.

>But he just hasn't reached the levels beyond that.

Give him enough at bats and surround him with better hitters, he will.

>I mean, looking at how A-Rod and Lowell performed these past playoffs, who would you rather have playing third base for your team with the World Series on the line?

100% ARod. This is the poster child for small sample sizes. Lowell produces above his career numbers for one season and he's thought to be "clutch," ARod has a few mildly above average postseasons while surrounded by bad players and people condemn him. Lowell is highly unlikely to repeat his performance, because it was above what he normally produces. ARod's numbers will almost certainly increase because his past postseason numbers have been below what he normally produces. Over the longterm, both will regress to the mean and get closer and closer to their normal performance overall. That means lower levels for Lowell in the future and higher levels for ARod in the future.

 
At November 21, 2007 9:51 AM , Blogger tas said...

The same methods (and more advanced statistical analysis) are used to analyze baseball. They reject the idea of clutch players because exhaustive analysis of the data shows that in the big picture, they don't exist. Baseball isn't outside the realm of normal statistical laws, it's right smack dab in the middle of it.

Baseball also isn't science, and while using methods to predict scientific patterns works well for scientific scenarios, we're talking about players of a game here. On its whole, that's not science. (Sure science plays a part -- the biomechanics of ones swing, the physics which dictates why a pitcher's split-fingered fastball dips, etc... But that's seperate discussion not related to this one.)

>Curt Schilling turns into Superman in the playoffs, able to hold off teams while pitching on a broken ankle;

He's also superman in the regular season when healthy.


You don't pitch in elimination games in the regular season, on a mangled ankle, without the benefit of having all your pitches in 100% working order... Then still manage to shutdown an offense like the Yankess. This game was pitched right after Schillng's game one outing where he didn't even last into the 5th, so a hot streak can't be factored in here. Sorry, but that's pretty clutch no matter what baseball statistics like to say.

All of these guys, except Youk who is younger, are established top-line stars. It isn't surprising that they perform well in the postseason.

Beckett, despite his performance against the Yankees in the 2003 WS, wasn't really established star until this season. And especially after last season, it looked like he could go either way -- down the crapbin of history, as just another thrower with amazing stuff who couldn't put it togeher; or become a pitcher. And in the 07 playoffs, Beckett looked like Pedro Martinex circa 99-00 seasons. I watched the guy all season, and despite how good he was in the regular season, I couldn't believe how much better he got in the postseason. We're not talking about facing the KC Royals here -- outdueling the league's best pitchers, Beckett also held the league's best offenses to what, 3 runs? Four runs tops? I don't think statistics explains that.

100% ARod. This is the poster child for small sample sizes. Lowell produces above his career numbers for one season and he's thought to be "clutch," ARod has a few mildly above average postseasons while surrounded by bad players and people condemn him. Lowell is highly unlikely to repeat his performance, because it was above what he normally produces.

A-Rod is also a player who thinks that performing well means trying to slap the ball out of the pitchers glove as he runs down the first base line. But this past playoff season, Lowell could take bad pitches for singles, then use heads up base running to eek out a needed run. Sure, A-Rod has the most talent in the game, but I would compare this to a pitcher who has the best stuff... But doesn't really know how to pitch. A-Rod has a ton more talent, but Lowell strikes me as just a better, more well rounded ball player in general. You talk of a player like A-Rod needing better teammates around him to perform at another level, yet in 2004 when A-Rod did have a better Yankees squad around him that's how he performed. I'm sticking with Lowell.

 

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