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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Joltin' Joe Cowley--The Trilogy

So Joe and I (DWTHTB) have gone back and forth for about 6-7 emails and the sequence has basically broken down like this.

1) I send Joe an email pointing out all the things wrong/inaccurate/false with his latest reasons for voting Thomas ahead of Oritz and debunking all of his claims

2) Joe responds with some lame attempt at humor, comes up with even more bad reasons, makes fun of me for worshipping numbers or "slurping" numbers (Yes, he used the word slurping) and then ends by calling me "Bro" or "Brah" (guess it depends on the mood that he's in)

3) I write Joe back, pointing out how much of a moron he is, and again showing that his reasoning is not illogical and in many cases false, and then the whole cycle repeats itself. So, here is a summary of Joe's "arguments" and my debunking/total annilihilation of those arguments. In the order of simplicity Joe's emails will be listed in black (to represent the black place in heart where HR/RBI and "being able to carry one's team on his shoulders" reside instead of things such as RC or OPS) and my responses will be listed in blue.

So after sending the email (which is listed below with my hypothetical AL MVP ballots), Cowley responded with "Well, when you do get a vote, you can vote how you want. That's the beauty of America, Brah."

To which I responded: "Yes, it is true that people can vote for anyone they want to. However, the point is that sportswriters (i.e. idiots) like you who don't know what Runs Created is and only look at HR/RBI totals and vote for players on their hometown team #2 overall when they weren't even the best offensive player on said reporters hometown team (and the team didn't even make the playoffs) shouldn't be allowed to vote. Seriously though, I have one more question for you. Who had the better year offensively last year (2006), Frank Thomas or David Ortiz?? " (ed note: Cowley had a tough time answering this last question as I posed in 4 consecutive emails without an answer).

To Cowley responded with "Three GM's e-mailed me after my ballot was announced and said I was right on the money. Before handing it in, I also talked to different players in the AL. That's information that stat geeks will never understand." and "There's a reason why I do what I do, and you blog."

Seems that Cowley was starting to doubt his ballot (although he has had to defend it numerous times I'm sure) so he pulled out the big guns: GM references and player conversations. It's too bad that
"...Kenny Williams doesn't count. So now you're down to 2. And just because GM's validated your opinion doesn't mean that its right. You think GM's are the end-all know all of baseball analysis. Brian Sabean signed a 42 year guy with 0 oustanding contract offers to a $16 million dollar deal. That's great GM work. He also traded one year of service from an average catcher (AJ Pierzynski) for an All-Star closer, a potential All-Star starter (Liriano), and a fringe-average pitcher (Bonser). Yet, you're telling me that because he's a GM that he knows more about baseball analysis than the stats or any non-Gm does....

By the way, when you say that you talked to players, I assume that you mean that they agreed with your selections. Or did you just mean to say that you talked to them about it, and that was validation enough for selecting Jermaine Dye #2 overall despite the fact that his team (your hometown team) didn't even make the playoffs.....

Look I'm sure you could find 3,000 or even 3,000,000 people to validate your clearly wrong ballot. And some of them would be GM's and some of them would be players. But when you weigh "opinion" against "factual evidence", factual evidence (i.e. statistics) usually tends to win out (except in the minds of almost every sportswriter for some reason).

And finally, just to throw in a cheap shot, I responded to Cowley's "There's a reason why I do what I do" with "Yes, your below average logical reasoning ability closed pretty much every door for you except journalism. Which is one of the least respected professions, I might add. "

Of course, Joltin' Joe was just getting started and countered with "The name of the Award is "Most Valuable Player.'' Not "Guy with the Best numbers.'' (ed note: I've used this argument numerous times to argue against Jeter--however, the difference between say Jeter & Morneau and Ortiz/Thomas is that Jeter plays in a 9 All-Star lineup; Morneau a 2-All Star lineup. The Red Sox and A's differed by 50 runs; The Twins and Yanks by 129 runs. And Ortiz still created a much larger % of his teams runs than Thomas (17.3% vs 12.4%). ) It means the guy that took his team to a level they wouldn't have reached without him. Boston ... no playoffs. Oakland.....playoffs. Sure, I look at numbers, but I don't slurp them like you do." Then he told me "Now go play Dungeons and Dragons,"

So apparently anyone who cites statistics is a nerd sitting in his own little bat cave just waiting to descend into a fantasy world of dungeons, dragons, and sportswriter bashing. Yea, anyways, of course, I had plenty of ammo for Joe including the following

"It means the guy that took his team to a level they wouldn't have reached without him."
"Oh, you mean like how Jermaine Dye (your #2 choice) led his team to the playoffs last year. (summoning my best Borat voice) NOT!"

"Boston ... no playoffs. Oakland.....playoffs."

"Oakland...playoffs (FT #4) Chicago White playoffs (JD #2) to see your reasoning on that one. Also, Boston....4.82 Team ERA in strong division; Oakland.....4.21 ERA in weak division. Yet apparently Ortiz wasn't good enough to lead the Red Sox to the playoffs so therefore he isn't as valuable as Frank Thomas."

Then I basically laid it all out on the table why Ortiz was "more valuable" than Thomas: "If Ortiz adds 10 wins to the Red Sox (which he did according to his Win Share totals) and Thomas adds 7 wins to the Athletics (which he did according to his Win Share totals), which one was more valuable. According to you (and most sportswriters born before 1975), those 7 wins were more valuable because they led a team from non-playoffs to playoffs. Ok, fine. Most rational people when given a choice of 2 players, that play an identical position which requires no defense, one of which would add 10 wins to a their team and the other would add 7 wins, would say that the 10 win player is more valuable. But then again, maybe that's just me because I'm not afraid to "slurp" numbers and after all that "slurping" I realize that 10 is bigger than 7."

Also, I asked Joe for his 2005 AL Cy Young ballot again (I first asked him last email) just to see if he put Bartolo Colon ahead of Santana (which I guarantee he did, probably along with Contreras and Buehrle). He didn't seem willing to provide that information for some reason. Apparently, my sarcasm started to rub Cowley the wrong way as he responded with this:

"I actually almost read your entire e-mail this time. Usually I have just laughed at them in the first paragraph, and then been amazed how much time you spend trying to explain yourself. Typical of numbers geeks.

Now this is the last reply you will get from me, because I've wasted far too much time with you. As I explained on numerous TV and radio shows, there are numerous things I take into consideration. Was a team in the playoffs or the race the last week of the season? Did a player put up unbelievable numbers? Do I feel that team would have been close to the playoffs or as good without that player? Did that player show up in clutch time?

I'm not even sure what your argument is at this point because your thinking is so convoluted I can't follow it. Know this though, brah. It's my vote. I can do what I want with my vote. If you don't like it, get your own vote.

And blogger with no name, don't let numbers blur your view of the game. If a guy hits behind a runner to move him to second, it's a good thing even if it's an out. Diving to stop a ball or keeping a single from being a double, are good things. Those things don't show up in numbers. They show up in champions and in MVPs. They don't show up in these numbers that you worship.

Now go roll that 15-sided dice or whatever you do. We my friend are done ... unless you start paying me to respond to you, which is negotiable."

I'll get to debunking Cowley's arguments in a minute, but what's really funny here is that after 6 email exchanges (or 7, I've lost count by now), he still doesn't understand what is wrong with his AL MVP ballot. It's like telling a kid 7 different times that he got a problem wrong because he didn't set the equation in problem #2 equal to 0 and then showing the kid how to solve it once you set it equal to 0 AND showing the kid that he did set #3, #5, and #6 equal to 0 and solve them correctly. Then 2 days later, the kid says he doesn't understand why he got #2 wrong.
Also, (and I forgot to respond to this on my original post) "Diving to stop a ball or keeping a single from being a double, are good things." They are good things. Good things that Frank Thomas can not do since he does not play defense. Ever. Period. So that's yet another reason which doesn't move Thomas ahead of Ortiz. Also, I love his "they show up in Champions and MVP" talk because Cowley hadn't actually used any lame sports cliches up to this point (which was the one lame sportswriter tendency he hadn't exhibited).

So as for Cowley's claims:

Question 1: "Was a team in the playoffs or the race the last week of the season? "
No, the White Sox were NOT in the playoffs during the last week of the season yet you voted Jermaine Dye #2 on your AL MVP ballot

Question 2: "Did a player put up unbelievable numbers?"

David Oritz? YES. (ed note: I didn't mention this in the email but Ortiz was 1st in HR, 1st in RBI, 3rd in OPS, 1st in RC, 2nd in ISOP, 2nd in SECA--I'd call those unbelievable) Frank Thomas? Not so much.

Question 3: "Do I feel that team would have been close to the playoffs or as good without that player?"
"Frank Thomas created 12.4% of teams runs; Jermaine Dye 13.9% ; David Ortiz 17.3%. Yet, David Ortiz was the one whose team wouldn't have been as good without him...

Question 4: "Did that player show up in clutch time?"
Close and Late Stats 2006:
Dye: .299/.933/5/18 YES, for the most part

Thomas: .215/.742/2/14 NO. HELL NO.
Ortiz: .313/1.19/11/29 YES, HELL YES he did.

"So going by your four questions, Frank Thomas gets "Yes's" for 2 of them at most (team in playoffs and close to playoffs without him). Jermaine Dye gets yes's for 2, maybe 3 (unbelievalbe numbers, close to playoffs without him and good in the clutch) and Ortiz get's Yes's for a resounding 3 of them (unbelievalbe numbers, close to playoffs without him and good in the clutch). So these are your criteria, yet when you actually use them to determine how you would rank AL MVP candidates it clearly shows that your ballot was WRONG and that Ortiz was better than Thomas. So go ahead and think of some shifting standards to justify Thomas ahead of Ortiz but in every case, Ortiz comes out ahead." (ed note: Here's a handy chart for Cowley, since my writing may be too convoluted)

Q1Q2Q3Q4Total (YES-NO)











2-2 or 3-1







Again by Cowley's own standards (which have constantly shifted), Ortiz comes out ahead of Thomas or in the worst case, equal to him.

Finally, I tried to state as clearly as possible (in a non-convoluted manner) the problems with his AL MVP ballot so that even our number-phobic sportswriter could understand it:

1) You claim that if a player's team makes the playoffs it makes the player more valuable. But Jermaine Dye's team didn't make the playoffs. Therefore you either contradict yourself or you are using different standards for evaluating David Ortiz and Jermaine Dye. Plus, every email you've sent has a different reason for your ballot and yet every reason has been shown to be false ("Frank Thomas carried his team the last 6 weeks of the season") or actually favoring David Ortiz (Did the player come up in the clutch?, Did he put up unbelievable numbers?")

2) The reason the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs was because of their terrible pitchign during the months of July/August. David Ortiz could have hit 90 HR in 2006 and they still wouldn't have made the playoffs because they lost 5 games in the standings over 3 days by giving up 49 runs in a 3 game series. You are punishing Ortiz because the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs, but it isn't his fault that the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs. Why can't you understand that David Ortiz has no control over pitching????? You seem to have at least moderate intelligence, you can type an email, yet you still don't understand that David Ortiz doesn't control the Red Sox pitching staff.

We'll see if Cowley responds....assuming he doesn't, anyone want to chip and contribute to pay for Joe Cowley's 2005 AL Cy Young Ballot.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Joltin' Joe Cowley responds

So after typing up and emailing Joe Cowley a total annihilation of his "Frank Thomas carried the team on his shoulders" theory, I was curious to see Cowley's response. What would he say to clear statistical evidence that disproved almost every part of his esoteric Frank Thomas memories. I initially thought that he would probably stop reading the post after my 1st point, since he probably doesn't know what Runs Created (RC) are and if he bothered to go look it up, would see that it is a "sabermetric" stat (i.e. the baseball writer equivalent of evil Nazi propaganda). Or would he simply reply with more snide insults denigrating the use of stats and end the email by addressing me as "bro".

Cowley responded the next day with a simple one sentence email: "Who did you vote for?"

I responded to Cowley with the following email 3/17/2007 and we here @ RealBBBB await his response.

I didn't vote for anyone for AL MVP since I'm not a member of the BBWAA. However, in the interest of fairness and discussion, I will give you what my sample ballot would have looked like with rationalization for it. My original ballot (Oct 8, 2006--available here looked like this

1. David Ortiz
2. Justin Morneau
3. Johan Santana
4. Travis Hafner
5. Joe Mauer
6. Frank Thomas
7. Derek Jeter
8. Jermaine Dye
9. Carlos Guillen
10. Grady Sizemore

Yes, I have Derek Jeter as #7 (even lower than you) behind Thomas. In restrospect, Jeter should probably have been higher, since statistically he did have a very very good offensive season, regardless of his batting position (#2) and the fact that he plays in a 9 All-Star lineup. If you want more rationalization for my original ballot, then you can read the above page. If I were to vote now, I would have changed it to look like the following

1. David Ortiz
2. Justin Morneau
3. Johan Santana
4. Derek Jeter
5. Travis Hafner
6. Joe Mauer
7. Frank Thomas
8. Jermaine Dye
9. Carlos Guillen
10. Grady Sizemore

My basic problems with your AL MVP ballot were twofold:

1) Frank Thomas, David Ortiz, Travis Hafner all play the exact same position (DH). Thus, we can compared them purely on offensive production. Ortiz and Hafner clearly outperformed Thomas offensively (look at any set of offensive statistics--traditional and sabermetric) and since they don't play defense, we can pretty much make a definitive decision about which players were better during 2006. Yes, it is true that Thomas's team made the playoffs while Ortiz & Hafner team's didn't. However, that is through NO FAULT of Hafner or Ortiz. Can you honestly sit there and tell me that if the A's had Ortiz or Hafner instead of Frank Thomas on their team in 2006 they would have done worse or wouldn't have done any better than they did with Thomas??

2) Jermaine Dye was not the 2nd most valuable player in the AL. He was perhaps the 2nd most valuable player on his own team. But not for his division, much less the entire American League. Dye had a good season, but people like Ortiz, Hafner, even Jeter, Grady Sizmore had better offensive seasons. And Dye isn't such an amazing RF that his fielding adds some significant value to his production (as compared to Joe Mauer or Pudge in years past). Plus, Dye had 2 All-Star level hitters in his lineup (Konerko, Thome) whereas Ortiz had 1 (Manny), Thomas had 1 (Swisher), Sizemore/Hafner had 1 (each other), and Morneau/Mauer had 1 (each other). Finally, the White Sox weren't even a playoff team. You voted for Thomas over Ortiz based on playoff status. Ok, fine. But then what is your reasoning for voting for Dye over Thomas?? Stats/offensive production?? Because if that is the case, I see no difference between the White Sox and the Red Sox seeing as how both missed the playoffs by a significant amount (5+ games). Both teams finished 3rd in their divisions and their records were separated by 4 games. So there should be no "playoff importance" added to Dye if you're not going to consider it for Ortiz. So then how do you vote for Dye ahead of Ortiz and also ahead of Thomas?

We await Joe's response...........

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Return of Joltin' Joe Crowley

So Joe Crowley wrote an article on Toby Hall trying to conceal Sammy Sosa's corked bat and he painted Hall in a positive light(ed Note---you can read more about this article at FJM). Seeing as how I hate cheating (I am a teacher afterall), I wrote Cowley an email and called him on being the moron he was for promoting the coverup of illegal activities. He responding that "I didn't praise anyone pal. I simply told a story."

Yea, and Bonds never knowingly used steroids either. So after receiving this email, I thought a little bit. I wonder if this was the same guy who voted Jeter 6th on his AL MVP ballot behind Jermaine Day (2nd) and Frank Thomas (4th) (ed. Note---Yea, I know had Jeter 7th on my MVP ballot. In retrospect, Jeter should probably be higher, but I think my criteria was slightly different as I put both Ortiz & Hafner in the top 4; more towards best/valuable player rather than best player on a playoff team). The fact that he had Jeter 6th wasn't even bad; it was his other choices. Dye (2nd), which I'm sure is just a coincidence seeing as how he is from Chicago, and Frank Thomas ahead of David Ortiz. Here you have 2 players who play the same position (DH) so you have 1 metric of comparison: offensive production. And Ortiz clearly beat Thomas in 2006 in every category. So I wrote to JC and asked him "So David Ortiz beats Frank Thomas in every offensive category (except number of days on the disabled list due to leg injuries), yet you vote for Thomas ahead of him. How?? "

His response: "Since Frank Thomas carried his team on his shoulders and into the playoffs the last six weeks of the season, that would make him more valuable."

He also started his email by addressing me as "Johnny Blog" and called me "Meat" to end the post. My first question was which gay fraternity this guy belonged to in college. Then it occured to me that he probably never went to college. So I decided to look at his claim that Frank Thomas "carried his team on his shoulders and into the playoffs the last six weeks of the season"

Below is the email/argument that I sent to Cowley on 3/15/2007...His response is above:

Hey Joe, Wouldn't want to let the facts get in the way of your misguided opinions. Let's examine the statement "Frank Thomas carried his team on his shoulders and into the playoffs the last six weeks of the season,"

1) Sept 2006 numbers:
OPS: Swisher: 1.062, Thomas: .938
Runs Created: Swisher-23.2, Thomas 18.6
So Swisher got on base more frequently than Thomas (OBP .450 vs .336), covered more bases with his base hits than Thomas (SLG-.612 vs .602) and overall outperformed Thomas in terms of run producing performance (5 more RC) in Sept. Yet, Thomas was the one who carried the team on his back. This is the whole point of statistics. So you can definitely prove beyond a reasonable doubt who actually did "carry his team on his shoulders" instead of allowing idiots like you to make unsubstantiated hypotheses.

2) The Oakland A's went 15-13 in September/Oct. Wouldn't a team that had a player carrying it usually finish better than that. They went 21-6 in August 2006 (when Thomas was their best run producing player) and 18-8 in June 2006 when Thomas was tied for 6th in RC. They certainly didn't need him to "carry the team on their backs" then now did they?

2A) The Boston Red Sox went 14-14 in Sept/Oct, almost identical to the Oakland A's. David Ortiz had 22.8 RC and Thomas had 18.6. So two teams which had nearly identical records and 1 team had a player that performed better (Ortiz) than the other (Thomas)---who wasn't even the best offensive player on his team during that period. Also, the next best player on the Red Sox produced half of what Ortiz did. Yet, Thomas "carried" the Athletics (ed note: This word was erroneously typed as Red Sox originally; it has been corrected for this post). What did Ortiz do then? What do you call it when one player produces ~22% of his teams runs (22.8/102), another player produces only 13% (18.6/145) of his teams runs and the second player "carries the team on his back"? Sportswriter idiocy.

3) Even if Thomas outperformed Ortiz during the last 6 weeks of the season (which we already have shown he didn't), does that make up for the other 4.5 months where David Ortiz clearly destroyed Frank Thomas offensively? When Frank Thomas was sitting out half of June with a leg injury (coincidentally the A's went 8-5 during that time which showed they had no problems winning without Thomas) Ortiz was cranking 5 HR and 13 RBI's.

4) The reason the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs---and the A's did--(which is clearly a criteria for you to consider MVP voting relevancy) was their horrendous August (9-21) as compared to the A's (21-6). What caused this difference in outcomes (21 wins vs 21 losses). Let's see: The A's scored 140 runs, the Sox 132. That's pretty close. Oh yeah, pitching. The part of the game that David Ortiz has absolutely no fucking control over.

A's team ERA Aug 2006: 3.25 (best in AL) ;
Red Sox team ERA Aug 2006: 5.81 (worst in AL).

So that pretty much disproves your theory that Thomas was the sole reason the A's won all their ballgames and made the playoffs and Ortiz should be held responsible for the Sox not making the playoffs.

5) Please enlighten me on how David Ortiz could control the Red Sox pitching staff and their terrible pitching performances, including giving up 49 runs over 5 games to the Yanks over 3 days in August. Because that is the reason the Sox didn't make the playoffs. Yet, you don't vote for Ortiz because the Sox didn't make the playoffs, so I'm curious to see how he his responsible for those terrible pitching performances.

So, let's see here, we have effectively proved that every part of your premise is false. Thomas did not carry the team (Swisher was actually better), the A's weren't even that good the last month of the season (they coasted at .500 level), Ortiz actually "carried his team" more than Thomas did during Sept 2006, and that Ortiz had not control whatsoever over the Red Sox playoff fortunes since he does not pitch. That pretty much sums it up.

P.S. In the NL MVP race, the voters chose the gawdy stats no-playoff guy (Howard) over the guy (Pujols) who led his team to the playoffs. Care to explain that (since (you) (ed note: the word you was erroneously left off in the original email; it has been added here)voted the exact opposite way on Thomas/Ortiz)?

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