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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Baseball journalists & sportswriters

Sportswriters are much maligned. Maybe its because we think they have an easy job. Or maybe its because they get paid to watch and analyze sports. Or perhaps it is because they frequently put their foot in their mouth and make stupid, illogical and even flat out false statements.

Exhibit A: John Kruk has said on numerous occasions (most recently on 10/1 Baseball Tonight) that Ryan Howard put up amazing numbers "..despite batting in the #6-7 slot the first month, month and a half" (Previously he had said #7 slot).

Verdict: False. Howard batted in the #7 slot in 2 games: here and here. He batted in the #6 slot in 17 games (not going to bother listing all of them but they were pretty much all in April and start of May). Together we have 19 games. Hardly a month and a half, much less a month.

Exhibit B: A picture, but something's missing from's just me WITHOUT MY BIKE---err nevermind, wrong exhibit...Richard Justice (a sportswriter for the Houston Chronicle) wrote on the subject of the Astros acquiring Alex Rodriguez (the best or possibly 2nd best player in all of baseball) to replace Adam Everett. Justice's opinion: "A-Rod? Absolutely not." He also said (1) "First of all, the guy is walking, talking distraction. If the Astros get A-Rod, they ought to go get Terrell Owens, too." He also said, (2) "He's not worth it, either in terms of salary (the team that acquires him will owe him $64 million over the next four years..." Finally (and this is mentioned purely for hillarity's sake) (3) "Listen, if Derek Jeter doesn't like you--and Derek Jeter has embraced a lot of different guys over the years--there's a problem."

Verdict: Stupid/Idiotic. Ignoring the obvious typo/grammar error in statement 1, I have yet to see A-Rod whine about how he needs a new contract less than a year after he just signed a multi-year deal because he needs money to feed his family, complain about the performance of his fellow teammates, or be suspended by his own team for detrimental conduct. As soon as AROD commits any of those actions, he can be lumped together with TO. Regarding statement 2, $64 million for 4 years is going to be a bargain for one of the best hitters in the game that plays a premium defensive position and plays it well (assuming he would go back to SS). Compare that to the contracts free agents Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano who both play OF (and LF for that matter) are going to get. Nevermind that AROD's OPS beat both of them and his RC/27 beat both of them at a premium defensive position. Also, while we here at REAL BBBB love Adam Everett in that he serves as a good benchmark point for SS fielding skill (cough, cough Jeter), he isn't the same ballpark as AROD offensively. Probably not even the same zip code, county, or state. Maybe the same region. But AROD's offense more than makes up for his subpar (at least compared to Adam Everett) defense--Hey Richard, did you know that AROD would have finished 1st (tied) in HR for SS, and 2nd in OPS for SS even in a down year???. Finally, we have come to the REAL reason why AROD has very little value as a baseball player: his Derek Jeter likability factor rating is too low (he's only a 2.5 which is barely above replacement-level).

Exhibit C: In a chat on Thursday, Rob Neyer said the following:

Mark (Bangor, PA): Hafner over or under on 50 HR's next year?
Rob Neyer: Under. Gotta stay healthy first.

Verdict: Misleading. Rob Neyer says that Hafner needs to stay healthy in order to show that he can reach 50 HR implying that Hafner has some sort of injury problem. It is true that Hafner missed time during each of the last 2 seasons due to injuries. It is true that missing time can prevent one from hitting 50 home runs. However, let's take a closer look at Hafner's "inability to stay healthy":

2005: Hafner missed 17 games after he was hit in the head by Mark Buehrle in a July 16 game. He suffered a concussion from the HBP.

2006: Hafner missed the last 29 games of the season after he was hit on the hand by CJ Wilson in a Sept. 2 game against the Rangers. His hand turned out to be fractured and he was quoted as saying that he couldn't even tie his shoes 4-5 days after being hit.

Thus, Hafner clearly needs to "stay healthy" and has a problem of getting out of the way of pitcher's pitches which are thrown at him. The problem with Neyer's answer is that he is asserting that since Hafner was injured during the previous 2 years, it is likely that he will not be healthy for a full season this year. If Hafner's injuries affected his leg or arm muscles or happened while doing something during the game (besides standing and holding a bat), then I could see that correlation. But Hafner's injuries are completely freakish and coincidental in that he has gotten hit by a pitch (in 2 different locations) and sustained serious injuries for 2 straight years. There was no "skill" involved in avoiding those injuries (unless Travis Hafner can invent a miracle potion to turn himself invisible just before he is about to get HBP); it was just pure bad luck (much like when Derek Jeter got injured back in 2003---BTW, Neyer, the Yankees won without Jeter then; guess he's become a whole lot more "valuable" in the last 3 years). And Hafner isn't one of those Craig Biggio types that gets HBP all the time, so you can't use the argument that he was due for an injury by putting himself at risk. 9 HPB in 2005; 7 HBP in 2006. Maybe Neyer thinks that bad luck is destined to repeat itself, but given all the columns and chats he has spent talking about luck and chance, it would seem that he knows better than this.

In any case, the main point to take away from the aforementioned examples is that a lot of sportswriters (particularly baseball writers) just don't pay close enough attention to what is actually happening day-to-day during a season. I'm sure John Kruk watches a lot of Phillies games and he probably saw the 2 games that Ryan Howard batted in the #7 slot in and some games where he batted #6. But he just carried those assumptions over for the first 25% of the season without any factual evidence to back it up. The same is true with Richard Justice. He's probably saw AROD strike out a couple times this year with runners on in a close game and watched him have terrible 2005 & 2006 postseasons. Did he see AROD his .358 in Sept. with 8 HR and 25 RBI (48 HR/150 RBI full seasons translations)? No, of course he didn't. Because if he did, he might actually be interested in adding one of the league's best hitters to the 6th worst offense in the league (3rd worst if you go by OPS). Finally, I have no idea what is going on with Rob Neyer. He's usually on top of his game, but those Jeter puffs he ate must still be affecting him.

It just seems to me that hardcore fantasy baseball players such as myself (*cgh, League Champion *cgh) and Tent Time seem to know more about baseball and statistics and the daily happenings of the game, then these sports writers who job it is to follow the game. For example, does John Kruk know who that Rafael Furcal had more HR after the AS Break than Magglio Ordonez? or that Bill Hall led all major league SS in HR's with 35? or that 18% (roughly 1 out of every 5) of the runs given up by Kelvim Escobar was unearned (thank you Vladamir Guerrero)? I'd venture to say no. Granted some sports writers are only for specific teams so you can't really expect them to follow the rest of the MLB spectrum. And the season, with games every night of the week for 26 straight weeks, is no walk in the park. But that doesn't excuse the claim that Ryan Howard batted #6-7 for the first 1.5 months of the seasons (especially when such a claim can be very easily verified).

P.S. the Exhibit B line was from Pee Wee's Big Adventure for those that didn't get it...


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