Posts Tagged ‘baseball prospectus’

In Defense of the Designated Hitter

Ben SheetsOh Pierre. Oh young, naïve, stupid Pierre. Where do I even begin with all the inaccuracies and logical fallacies in your argument?

I think I ought to start with your most ludicrous claim: that somehow the AL benefits from interleague rules more than the NL. Tim and I touched on this briefly before, but this argument is practically indefensible.

Here’s why: Adding a DH to your lineup can never—I repeat, NEVER—make a team worse. Pierre points out that Matt Stairs and Ben Francisco are not as good as Hideki Matsui. Well, duh. And Mark Teixeira is better than Mark Teahen. But guess what? Stairs and Francisco are a lot better than the hitters they replaced: Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. There is also the added defensive upgrade of playing the better fielder—Francisco—in left over Raul Ibanez for two games.

On the other hand, losing the DH always makes a team worse. And for AL teams, it often makes them significantly worse. Hideki Matsui, the eventual World Series MVP, had to essentially sit out half of the games because of the NL’s antediluvian rules. People made a big deal—rightfully so—about Chase Utley tying Reggie Jackson’s record of five World Series home runs. Well, at Matsui’s rate—3 HRs in 14 plate appearances—he would have surpassed the record with as many opportunities as Utley. But, hey, Andy Pettitte got an RBI, so it all evened out! Continue reading

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The Myth of Clutch

A-Rod

If I took 100 pennies and I threw them up in the air, about half of them would land heads and the other half tails, right? Now, if I looked around closely, I’d probably find some heads grouped together in a cluster. What does that mean? Does that mean anything?—A Civil Action

Statistics are great. They help us find the answers to important questions. Need to know if smoking causes lung cancer? Look at the data. Wonder if height is correlated with material success? There’s probably a study you can find. Think Albert Pujols is a better hitter than Mickey Mantle? Look it up. Statistics aren’t the final answer to any of these questions, but they certainly help.

The problem with statistics is that, like most great things—the automobile, plutonium, superpowers—they can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. One need only to look at the myth of baseball’s “clutch players” to see how statistics can be misinterpreted.

One week ago, Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero were first-ballot Hall of Famers. CC Sabathia was one of the best pitchers in the game. But all three had reputations as guys who couldn’t come through in the playoffs. They were not “clutch players.” Clutch players are guys like Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Cole Hamels.

Except here’s the thing: Rodriguez and Guerrero each had clutch ninth-inning hits in their division series. Sabathia gave up one run in seven innings vs. the Twins. Meanwhile, Ortiz went 1-for-12 with no walks and three strikeouts, and Hamels gave up four runs in five innings at home (Derek Jeter had a great series, but that’s because Derek Jeter is fucking awesome).

So what happened? Did A-Rod, Vlad and CC all suddenly learn how to be clutch players? Did Ortiz and Hamels just forget? Neither. The truth is this: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CLUTCH PLAYER. Continue reading