Bill Simmons: See, another team that should sign him –
the Nats. People in DC do not care about that team. At all. Manny
doesn’t make them more interesting????? They’re willing to give Tex 170
million – a guy who has played on bad teams for nearly his entire
career – but Manny isn’t worth $75m for three? He wouldn’t sell
tickets? He wouldn’t hit?
Not intending to rip on Bill Simmons, again, for simply the sake of ripping on Bill Simmons. As I included in my last post referring to a Simmons ‘flaw of logic,” it is the way he thinks in regarding to certain baseball and football related topics that I disagree with. Simmons does do something that I could never do, entertain a large crowd. The way that he introduces the readers to entertainment-intersecting-with-sports is pretty much unparalled on a national scale. But for someone who is in the national spotlight, someone who most likely spends more time than I do perusing the internet, one would think that he would dig a little deeper to find out what value in baseball is, what the worth of an individual player is. Maybe spend a few minutes on Baseball Prospectus or The Hardball Times. Ok, one doesn’t have to be infatuated with the numbers to understand baseball. That seems to be a popular misconception nowadays. But it helps, trust me, it does. If one understands why there are numbers in the first place–to aid in the process of evaluating players, teams, etc, not to eliminate scouts, talent evaluators, etc–Then they will simply have a greater understanding of the game. I may be adept with the numbers, somewhat, but I am no scout, nor do I think I know more than the average scout. But it is much easier for someone to research stats, and what they mean, then to learn how to evaluate a player based on what they see. I am not asking Bill Simmons to grade Buchholz’s change up, I am simply asking him to try and understand an established players value.
So what does this mean when speaking of Teixeira? “A guy who has played on bad teams nearly his entire career.” Maybe I am looking too much into it and maybe my thinking is flawed. But for some reason it sounds like Tex is being penalized because the Rangers only addressed one side of the ball over the duration of his time spent with Texas. Manny has played on winning teams, and been part of the reason they have been winners, arguably the largest part at times. But Tex never had Schilling and Pedro on the mound. Tex never had a great season from Josh Beckett and another quality year of Curt Schilling. And while Tex had some hitters in his lineup, “plus-talent” around him at times, so did Manny. The Red Sox won two championships while Manny was with them. But replacing Manny with an average LF would have resulted in winning seasons, probably not the playoffs, but still, winning seasons. Those Indians teams were stacked with good hitters, and while they too, like the Rangers, did not exactly address the pitching as much as they should have, at least they had a few good pitchers.
The reason that this irritates me so much is that Mark Teixiera is now a Yankee (winner). This season, maybe the Yankees don’t win a championship, but they will be a winning ballclub. So all of a sudden Tex is a winning player because he has more talent surrounding him than he ever has in his career? That is why I hate this. Some baseball writers think that a player can win 40 games on his own, or so it seems. Statistically, that isn’t the case at all. Players cannot be that large a part of a team. Did you know that accoring to WARP1 Manny Ramirez was worth 9.8 Wins above a “replacement player?” That is basically 10 wins. So Manny would have been 10 wins better then some Minor Leaguer that comes up and plays with the team when there is no one else to field the position. Maybe that statistic is not perfect, but it provides a much greater understanding of how many wins a player is worth, rather than simply guessing a number as some appear to do. Simply put, you put Manny Ramirez on the Pirates this season, and the Pirates will still miss the playoffs, probably by a lot. You put Manny Ramirez from any season of his career on next years Pittsburgh Pirates, and they still miss the playoffs.
These are the pitching staffs summed up in ERA+ in Tex’s Rangers years: 88, 111, 93, 100, 95 (95 was a partial season for Tex). That 111 stands out a lot. But the problem is that the offense was actually slightly below average that season (97). Tex may have had some “hitters” around him during his time in Texas, but the offense as a whole was, believe it or not, better than average only one time (105). There was a season of 101 in there too, but that is basically average, since average is 100. It may seem like the Rangers have a great offense more often, but that ballpark does help their case in most seasons, excluding last year, when they actually had a really good offense.
While Manny played in Boston, the Red Sox have had team pitching, and team offense numbers in eight seasons, giving us eight years of offense, and eight years of pitching; 16 total. During that time, the Red Sox have below average pitching twice (96, 98). And a below average offense only once (99). And those numbers of 98 and 99 are dangerously close to being average. Basically, Ramirez played on teams that had just about an average offense 8 times in eight seasons. And an average pitching staff basically 6 of 8 times, possibly even 7 if you want to include the 98. And average is an understatement. Each side of the ball has been well above average in several seasons, including pitching seasons of 121 and 123. Those, my friends, are great pitching staffs.
So sure, Manny Ramirez was a part of why those Red Sox teams were great, but that part seems to be magnified in Simmons’ eyes. There was only so much that he could do alone. And while Tex will probably end up the lesser player when their career’s are all said and done, both will be considered great, I would imagine. Manny’s career is great already, Tex seems likely to finish what will be a great career–maybe not a Hall of Famer–but he should be very close if he continues to stay healthy. And I understand that part of the point Simmons is trying to make is that Manny will sell more tickets in Washington. That, I do not dispute. But I feel that it is unfair for Simmons to include that Tex has played on “losing teams,” because that is not his fault. He was a great player on a team with below average talent around him most years. And just one more thing; Tex actually does play defense, and plays it very well. Something that 37 year old Manny Ramirez will not do, and has never done.
So, Bill. Continue writing, you do have a lot of talent. But seriously try and find a better way to understand a players value in the sport we know as baseball. Because pinning the failures of a team on an individual just doesn’t make much sense to me, or present much logic.
The Red Sox were the better team, period! John Lackey, Torii Hunter, you are both entitled to you opinion. But you are wrong.
The Angels won 100 games. The Red Sox 95. That is where a lot of the “Angels being better” argument lies. And the fact that the Angels beat the Red Sox 8 of 9 times this season. Wins are wins, the most important stat of them all. But there are other circumstances. The Angels played in an absolutely pathetic division. A division that contained three teams that were much, much worse than the fourth best team in the American League. The best run differential in the AL West for a team outside of the Angels was -44 (Oakland). The AL East consisted of four teams that had RD’s of +62 or better. So the Red Sox played in the toughest division in baseball, and the Angels played in what was most definitely the worst of the three in the American League. Any of the first four teams in the AL East would have easily won the AL West had they been drawn that division in place of the Angels.
The Angels win with “pitching and defense.” Great, good for them. But the Red Sox ERA+ was 5% better as a team. Against better competition, the Red Sox actually surrendered three fewer runs. Three runs is irrelevant, but the Red Sox play in a “hitters park,” while the Angels play in a neutral park. But both teams had good pitching, it was pretty close in that department. But the defensive battle goes to the Red Sox. Boston had the fifth best “DefensiveEfficiency” in all of baseball, while the Angels were 14th. So the Red Sox were clearly better at turning balls in play into outs than the Angels were. But even this wasn’t as clear cut as the playoffs made it look. The Red Sox looked far superior on the defensive side of the ball in this series then that of the Angels, but even if the Angels are not quite as good defensively as the Red Sox, it wasn’t as big a gap as the ALDS seemed to suggest.
The one thing that was a large difference between the two teams, outside of Jon Lester giving up zero earned runs in 14 innings, was the quality of at bats the Red Sox had. Up and down the lineup, the Red Sox have “tough outs” as the BPS likes to refer to them as(outside of Varitek). But even Varitek doesn’t lack TOO much in his approach, he simply cannot hit very well anymore. Ellsbury (to a lesser extent) Pedroia, Ortiz, Youkilis, Drew, Bay, Kotsay (somewhat) and Lowrie all approach their at bats well. And if a pitcher is going to have success against the Red Sox, it is not going to be because the Red Sox fail at the way they go about their at-bats. The Red Sox, whether it because of Magadan or the talent the team withholds, probably some of both, know how to go about an at bat. They are patient, they know how to take a walk, and they are great at looking for a pitch that they can hit. They still fail a lot, as does every team, but they aren’t lacking in the way they come up to the plate and execute. Now one can enjoy their team of free swingers, I on the other hand will take this approach any day of the week (unless one could have the success Nomar did). Mark Teixera was very good in his approach, but he was one of the few that did it consistently well in the Angels lineup (Vlad is of course an exception).
Statistically, the Red Sox offense was far superior to that of the Angels to begin with. The Red Sox OPS+ was 108, while the Angels was 96. 96! That is below average. And they were 10th in runs scored too, so they didn’t have some magical ability to score runs from not getting on base. They somehow won many games, but they didn’t get on base (11th in OBP) and they didn’t score runs. Mark Teixera made the offense better, statistically or not. It gave them an overall upgrade at first base over Kotchman, a bat that could make the opposing pitcher work, and make that same pitcher pay too. He is one of the better hitters in the game. But Kotchman was average, maybe a little better, so to upgrade to a good hitter can only do SO much. I think the Tex acquisition was the right one, guys like Kotchman can be found elsewhere, with more ease. But the Teixera’s of the game are not easy to come by, and he gave them a better shot to win it all than Kotchman did. But the team, with or without Mark Teixera, did not get on base enough. If they want to swing at every pitcher and get on base a lot over a large sampling, then so be it. But they didn’t get on base, and the runs didn’t fall into their lap. I prefer the higher OBP than the ability to bunt and swing earlier in the count, but maybe that is just me.
I know I sound confident now, I am. I felt the Red Sox were the better team going in, but I couldn’t truly tell if it was the objective stats I rely on, which are in the Red Sox favor. Or maybe because I happen to root for the Red Sox and have seen them win a championship in the past year. That being said, I kind of left the playoffs to declare who the best team was. I thought the White Sox were the fourth best of the field, but I wasn’t as sure who the best was, and still are not. After all, the Rays were basically tied for the second best run differential in the game, they had a slightly better defensive efficiency then the Red Sox. Had the same ERA+, and were 5% worse in OPS+. Those numbers are pretty close. Whoever wins this series was and is the best team in the American League this season.
Give it up to Youkilis. Kevin Youkilis. Maybe he annoys opposing fans, but so what? Youkilis is as passionate as they come, and he produces as well. I could sit and gloat about JD Drew’s big two run homer off the fourth or fifth or sixth best closer in baseball. And I enjoyed that very much. But Youkilis shifted to third, again, because Lowell needs some time to rest because of a torn labrum. And all he does in the bottom of the ninth with Papelbon on the hill, is make a very good barehanded play on a Torii Hunter bunt…fielded it cleanly and made a solid throw to Kotsay at first. As if that is not enough, the next batter pops one into foul territory, and Youkilis makes one of the more exciting plays I have witnessed, in foul territory of course. “Jeteresque,” I would say. He hustled over and stretched his glove as far as humanly possible into a slew of cameramen, to make a truly great play.
Papelbon seems to finally have gathered himself together again. Two innings, one run (which is not his fault) and appeared as dominant as he has been the past few seasons (except for his short stretch this season when he abandoned his splitter.) The splitter was utilized some tonight, which is a good sign. As for Buck Martinez defending Papelbon’s excessive use of the fastball? Martinez stood behind Pap’s decision to use the fastball as much as he had been late in the season. Now I do not know how much Buck watched the Red Sox this season when this was taking place, but he is wrong on this. I don’t mind throwing the fastball most often, it is his best pitch. But abandoning the split, altogether it seemed, just wasn’t the right thing to do. The fastball is the pitch Papelbon will use most often…by a lot, but he might as well use a secondary pitch of his, especially because it is/was a good secondary pitch. And I don’t blame people for getting angry at Pap’s antics. He was pumping his chest and yelling after the final out. Not the way I would go about it, but could be worse. And he is great. so I don’t mind as much as others may. But I do understand why it would anger a fan of the opposite team.
Back to Drew’s homer. How sweet is that swing? I didn’t think it was going to have enough, which tends to happen at times when Drew swings the bat. But Hunter kept running, and the ball kept traveling. When Drew is on, he is very good. Two sweet swings, three RBI, and another poorly hit infield single to add to it…And a nice play in the outfield too.
Jason Bay, once again, replaced Manny very well. I don’t know how well Bay will continue to play, but homering off two very tough righties that he never sees, in his first two postseason games, is a very good way to go. Bay is ok defensively, better than Manny, but nothing special. He can definitely swing the stick with the best of them though.
Very exciting win. I apologize if I did not stay all that objective in this blog, but this is all emotion right now, and objective is not what I am going for. Series is not over, I know from experience, from the good end fortunately. But I have to enjoy where it sits currently.