Friday, March 12, 2004

More Bench Talk 

The fellas at USS Mariner have responded to my response, so I wanted to respond. They make some good points about the nature of their work and my work, and less good points trying to stand by notion that front office "has no plan." I'll address these chronologically.

Derek begins by rebutting some of the arguments I made, to the conclusion that the M's front office "has no plan."

He notes that the signing of Raul Ibanez effectively blocks Chris Snelling, to which I counter that we are going to have holes at both 1B AND DH next year, in all likelihood. Of course, with his injury struggles, maybe we should consider Snelling a DH, just to keep him from crashing into walls, but then that would take away the fun of watching him in the field.

He then says why get Quinton McCracken when you have Jamal Strong, and uses PECOTA to back his argument up. I will continue to agree that our least understood move of the offseason was dealing Colbrunn for McCracken, but I'm guessing that the M's think McCracken is much more likely to duplicate his 2002 success with Bob Melvin around, then Jamal Strong is to take the next step. And losing Colbrunn's 60 at bats didn't seem like to big a price to pay. So chalk this one up to a difference of opinion between M's analysis of McCracken and PECOTA. May the M's be wrong? Its possible, but it doesn't mean they didn't have a plan, it just means their plan would not be endorsed by BP.

As for the Colbrunn replacements... Why did we not sign Eric Karros? I'm guessing a guy who tells clubhouse stories on the Jim Rome show scared off the conservative M's brass. I know Andres Galarraga isn't playing right now due to health concerns. I don't know much about Wil Cordero only to say that he has been with Montreal for so long that Florida and Loria probably are a good fit for him, and we would have needed to spend big to get him. I do know that we outbid the Red Sox for Ellis Burks who would have wiped away this concern for a lefty masher completely. So lets just say, it seems like lefty mashers were in more plentiful supply when we released Colbrunn then reserve outfielder's who the M's thought highly of (no offense to the Ruben Mateos and Ben Petricks of the world).

I disagree with Derek vehemently about trying to bypass the "unwritten rules" and snag Fernando Seguignol when he was being sold to Japan. If any team should avoid creating ill will with the Japanese League, its the Mariners.

Derek then ends with a rant that says the M's don't have a set of philosophical beliefs governing ther moves, blah, blah... I think the M's have adhered nicely to their core beliefs. Character counts in a ballplayer. Short term deals. No megastar contracts. Be loyal to your players, and free agents will come. Avoid the early rounds of the draft - good international scouting is a better investment. If salaries don't escalate out of control, the M's can win every year AND be profitable. Again, love or hate the beliefs as you will, they are consistent in their approach.

David Cameron then relives the frustration of Blogspot bloggers everywhere who write a long post in the Blogger UI only to lose it when trying to post (edit locally with an editor that autosaves!) Unfortunately, that cost me the chance to see the "gaps in [my] logic.. big enough to drive a truck through." He does point out that I come across as too confrontational...

"Calling us pessimists and statarazzi simply affirms the fact that you don't really know us very well. Keep reading, browse the archives, and keep an open mind about our intentions. "

I'll admit I must not be a great writer. Heck, I'm a database software developer. So, I must not always be getting my point across well. I know that anyone who spends as much time writing about the M's as the USS Mariner guys (or any other M's blogger) is a HUGE M's fan and wants the M's to win. I also know that sabermetrics has been a HUGE blessing to the analysis of baseball moves, and the expeience of being a fan. And I truly appreciate the work of everyone at USS Mariner, they are an entertaining read.

That said, the folks at USS Mariner and other blogs, are often guilty of the same closed-mindedness that they accuse me of. I use the name "statarazzi" (TM) to be confrontational and to collectively identify folks who don't just publish interesting statistical analysis, but try to use said analysis to name call and otherwise berate M's management as being morons. The press is supposed to report the news, but the "paparazzi" become practical stalkers and even try to create news. The sabermatricians amongst us do a fantastic job using statistical analysis to support their arguments, but occasionally turn into the "statarazzi" when they try to inflame and name-call with said stats, and ignore or belittle statistical or subjective arguments that might be contrary. Often, they imply that any thinking other than their own is wrong. At USS Mariner, Derek is by far the one I most think of as statarazzi, and it reflects in just about every post this year as he's gotten more and more negative. And his tone leaks throughout his writings at Baseball Prospectus as well, so I can barely go to one of my favorite sites without seeing my favorite team bashed repeatedly. His postings in particular inspired me to start this blog, just so M's fan would have a positive voice who could provide another perspective that its not all gloom and doom, and yes, the M's do know what they are doing.

While much of the statistical analysis is great in hindsight, its predictive value is still suspect, last year's PECOTA "success" (I think I saw something comparing it to other methods) aside. PECOTA is all about probabilities in comparing histories and tries to be completely subjective, but in doing so, takes out all actual knowledge of a players work ethic, coaching changes, injuries, lifestyle changes, etc... that could actually have an influence on a players play on the field. Maybe in the grand scheme of baseball history these all come out in the wash... but we are trying to look at individual decisions.

One reason I think of many blogs as statarazzi is that I did not see much response to my posting of Scott Spiezio... The Next Bret Boone, which was based on statistical work done by Ron Shandler at Baseball HQ. Here was a PECOTA-like, stat-based argument that Spiezio may be heading for a breakout season of Boonian proportions, but it was ignored (or more likely never read) by USS Mariner and most of the other doom and gloom blogs. So, this analysis is ignored, while other analysis that shows Scott Spiezio to be a mediocre 3B is promoted. That seems pretty pessimistic (or closed-minded) to me.

I try not to label people as pessimists, but rather their opinions on the Mariners in 2004. The opinion that the Mariners have gotten worse from this offseason seems pretty pessimistic to me. I use optimist/pessimist pretty loosely here, but in general, I am very upbeat about the Mariners, while many in the M's blogosphere think we will finish in 3rd in our own division. Every one of us WANTS the M's to win the World Series. But I'm probably the only blogger that really believes we will. I love most of our offseason moves, and I'm looking forward to a season of Ibanez, Spiezio, and Aurilia on the left side of the field.

David then writes, "Between the Optimist and those Olympians, the sphere has finally added some viewpoints from people who don't feel that statistical analysis is all its cracked up to be. There's enough truth in their (mine and Olympia Mariner) criticisms to make their point kinda-sorta-valid, but we must be careful to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In the end, blind optimism is just another shade of ignorance, and I don't subscribe to the ignorance is bliss theory. "

I agree completely, David. Well, said. I hope I do not appear "blindly" optimistic. I do try to publish "the bright side of things," and I do start from the basic belief that M's management are not a bunch of idiots. But I do try to support my arguments with statistics where possible, and with scouting reports and other non-statistical ideas where not. I will try to avoid blind optimism, and feel free to call me on it when you see it. I also appreciate your attempt to acknowledge our value in the realm of ideas on the M's, kinda-sorta :-)

Finally, Derek echoes David sentiments, about all the "criticism of statheads." Now, I'm guessing that USS Mariner gets much more email than I do, and maybe some of the folks who write thanks for this blog, send them nasty notes, and the heads of Apple Macintosh's on their pillows at night, so I'm thinking this is a pretty broad stroke and certainly not all intended for yours truly.

I have been a Baseball Prospectus / Baseball Primer / Rob Neyer / Bill James follower for years, and am amongst my friends, considered the stathead. But while our understanding of baseball is improved as a result of the exploratory work done by the Voros "don't call me Quinton" McCracken's of the world, we don't know it all yyet. I just try to remind folks that just because Raul Ibanez is moving from KC to Seattle doesn't mean his power is going to go away. And the value of defense is one big guesstimate right now, so no one really knows how much replacing Winn/Cammy with Ibanez/Cammy will hurt the M's pitching staff. No one would have predicted Jamie Moyer, Bret Boone, Edgar (27-year-old MLB debut to HOF DH?), Ichiro, Freddy's fall, etc... So to say that personal experience with a player is cannot be used to override PECOTA projections seems ludicrous to me.

You guys at USS Mariner love baseball. You live it, you breathe it, you wash it down with a cold beer. Just remember to show that love in your writing from time to time. More homages to Edgar and Boone and their Hall of Fame candidacies, and less time inventing mean-spirited nicknames for management and coaches, just because they are less proficient with statistical analysis. Its been frustrating missing the playoffs the past two years, but the pieces are in place for the long-awaited championship. So forgive me for any blind optimism I've shown, and I'll forgive you for overbashing of M's management you've done, and we'll agree to have a beer at Game 4 of the World Series.

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