In 1881 the future National League wanted to upgrade its image and target a more upscale fan base by doubling ticket prices, banning gambling, and outlawing alcohol sales. Several team owners who happened to be brewers refused to accept the new rules and banded together to form what would eventually become the American League. The National League attempted to discredit the new league by dubbing it the Beer and Whiskey League. This, of course only made the new league more popular. Duh!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Natural Around the Horn Killers (Cinema Edition)

Broadcast News: For those of you who may never have heard a Mariner’s broadcast – and if you haven’t do yourself a favor and take a listen to the sweet baritone voice of Dave “Grand Salami” Niehaus on MLB Radio – the Mariners have a rather strange format. Dave Niehaus and a former athlete (most often, Ron Fairly) normally does the television broadcast for the first half of the game and then switches to radio for the second half. Conversely, Rick Rizz (along with either Dave Henderson or Dave Valle) does the radio for the first half and television for the second half. I’m not sure why they do this because their best broadcasts are those blackout dates when there is no television broadcast and the entire game is done by Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizz.

Anyhoo, so in today’s afternoon broadcast, Niehaus mentioned very briefly that after today’s game the Mariners would be going on a ten-day roadtrip starting in Texas and then moving on to Baltimore and finally “lovely Detroit.” Yes, that’s an exact quote from Niehaus: “lovely Detroit.” So, why am I telling you this? Because right after saying this, Rick Rizz let out a big guffaw followed by Niehaus’s own stifled laughter. I’ve been to Detroit several times and it is anything but lovely but still, damn, to dis the entire city on a radio broadcast. That’s cold.

Singles: For the past several years, the Mariners have been both one of the best hitting teams and one of the worst slugging teams. Now, apparently (yeah yeah, I know it’s early), the Mariners are well on their way to being worst in both categories. But, perhaps there is hope. Here are the bottom five in three offensive categories:


Boston (.260)New York (.396)Boston (.400)

Seattle (.257)Tampa Bay (.324)New York (.396)

Tampa Bay (.248)Seattle (.320)Seattle (.384)

New York (.229)Anaheim (.319)Tampa Bay (.371)

Toronto (.210)Toronto (.210)Toronto (.353)

The Mariners aside, what you have in each of these three categories are two very good teams (or what are supposed to be good teams) and two very bad teams (again, at least on paper). The fact Toronto is at the bottom of every category should come as no surprise to anyone because they are playing some really awful baseball right now. The fact the Yankees appear in all three categories should also come as no surprise since their early struggles have been well documented. So, why is there hope for the Mariners? Well, if you’re optimistic, you can see Seattle’s early offensive struggles in the same light as Boston and New York – that is, they’ll eventually get out of it (because, really, does anyone think A-Hole is going to stay below the Mendoza Line all season, no matter how much Mariner Nation, Red Sox Nation, and Ranger Nation may wish it so?). Of course, if you’re a pessimist, you can see Seattle as being just like Toronto and Tampa Bay: sure, the offense might get a bit better but, overall, we’re doomed to the basement for quite a while.

And by the way, is it just me or does it seem really weird that in both AVG and SLG, four of the five worst teams are all in the AL East? Does this mean that the pitching in the AL East is really that much better? Makes one wonder and if I weren't so lazy I might look that up but perhaps I won't have to because you will and then you'll let me know. Remember, kids, this is the internet ... it's all about being interactive.

The Color of Money: Phil Rogers, of ESPN, recently had an article discussing Magglio’s current contract negotiations. If you recall, dear reader, this is an issue I’ve been discussing for quite some time now. Rather than comparing his salary to other player’s salaries, Rogers takes a look at several players’ salaries in relationship to overall payroll (Magglio’s current $14 Million makes up 21% of Chicago’s total payroll). As I had indicated before, when taking into consideration any player’s particular salary, the most important number to look at is not the absolute dollars but rather the affordability index (a metric that I’m still working on). The value of a player’s abilities should be measured, in other words, to the team’s overall payroll.

On a related note, I recently received an e-mail from one of our readers, who I’ll call Mr. X since there was no name attached to the e-mail, with an analysis of Magglio’s numbers that were far more sophisticated than what I had given (when comparing Maggs to Garret Anderson). Since I’m too lazy to post all of his carefully worked out spreadsheets (and I’m assuming the reader is a he … apologies if I am wrong), I’ll simply summarize his main points:

** Mr. X points out that my use of career averages is misleading and, in fact, if you look at the last three full seasons, the difference between Magglio and Garret is even more remarkable. Looking at these three-year stats, Magglio should be valued anywhere between 7%-14% more than Anderson (depending on how much you value OBP over or under SA).

** Mr. X also uses three different statistical models to figure out relative values: OPS, 1.8*OBP=SA, and OPS/(1-OBP). According to OPS, Maggs is 9-11% better than Anderson whereas according to the second metric, Maggs is 10-12% better. The most interesting metric, however, is the third one in which Magglio is shown to be a whopping 17%-19% better. As Mr. X himself explains it, “The reason he [Magglio] shows up much better using this [third] stat than he did using either OBP or SLG alone is that, unlike the first two combination stats, this one is a non-linear function. Instead of relating his offensive contributions to Plate Appearances, it relates them to Outs Created (PA-H-BB-HBP). That puts a real premium on getting on base.” I like this stat a lot and I would agree that linear functions tend to make relative comparisons inaccurate; however, I would quibble with the weight that Mr. X places on OBP. Magglio is not a lead-off hitter but rather a #3 or #4 hitter. His primary function, in other words, is to get runners in. To this extent, Magglio’s SLG should in fact be given greater (although not necessarily more) weight in relationship to OBP.

** And finally, Mr. X brings in a third factor – the way-off-the-scale Barry Bonds. In order to determine Magglio’s fiscal value, Mr. X compares Anderson to Bonds using the same three metrics mentioned above. Averaging the various differences between the two, Mr. X surmises that Bonds is worth 57% more than Anderson; hence, if Anderson is making $12 Million than Bonds should be making $18.8 Million. Considering that Bonds is actually making $18 Million, this would appear to be fairly accurate. So, assuming that Bonds is worth $18 Million (or thereabouts) and Garret is worth $12 Million (or thereabouts), then Magglio is worth approximately $13 Million (well, technically $12.84 Million but let’s just round off). But, again, this assumes that Bonds is only worth $18 Million and one could certainly make an argument that he’s very underpaid (try comparing him to A-Hole or Money Ramirez, for example). Additionally, I would argue that the one problem with Mr. X’s salary numbers is that while the performance value is not linear, the salary value is. I think one needs to understand that the scale between the league minimum and the maximum (well, there’s no league maximum but let’s just use A-Hole’s $25 Million as the theoretical maximum figure) bends on a curve or perhaps on several curves. Also, the shape of the curve is not absolute for every team but is a variable of, again, the team’s entire payroll.

** All in all, I will certainly concede that Mr. X is a lot better with numbers than I am (and possibly has better baseball smarts than I do) and I hope that my summary here has done justice to his rather impressive e-mail. But I think his analysis as well as Phil Rogers’s above-mentioned article only emphasizes how badly we need an Affordability Index.

The Pillow Book: Rob Neyer has an article about why it’s so great to be a baseball fan today. It’s a rather cute article but what I like most about it is that he spends a great deal talking about great baseball books and includes a link to one of his older articles about the essential books that belong in most any baseball library. Go read!

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: The cinetrix (to whom this cinema edition is dedicated) just informed me of a Twins blog (Bat-Girl). Her recent post on Lew Ford is certainly worth more than a few guffaws. Also, on a recent post from Bambino's Curse, there was a link to another woman-authored baseball blog, Cursed and First (technically, it's a Patriots and Red Sox blog ... hence, "the first"). Hopefully there will be more and more women blogging about baseball so that the baseball blogosphere will start looking more like the audience at a Poison concert and less like that of a Motorhead concert ... not that there's anything wrong with Motorhead (or anything right with Poison) mind you.

The Miracle Worker: Paul Abbott is now 2-1. He's pitched 19 innings in three starts and has a 2.37 ERA. Hitters are currently hitting .147 against him. In his one loss, Abbott pitched five hitless innings against the Yankees and ultimately gave up two runs in the sixth inning. The Drays then went on to lose the game 3-2. Look, if the Marlins could win the world series then I don't see why Abbott couldn't be a potential Cy Young candidate ... oops, excuse me, I have to go ... I think the Easter Bunny is knocking on my door.