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 Post subject: How 'bout them Yankees?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 7:57 am 
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Does anybody think they have a realistic chance of catching Tampa Bay?

As a counter-balance to the Roger Clemens Effect -- knowing he's still active makes me think I can still pitch in the major leagues -- witnessing Randy Johnson makes me feel old.

Dan Patrick reported the other day that Fenway vendors are selling T-shirts with the face of Johnny Damon on them. The words: Looks like Jesus, Acts like Judas, Throws like Mary.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:18 am 
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It's April 19.

Lest we forget, the Yankees were in a worse spot at this point last year. Much worse. And this year, the Yankees have played most of their April games on the road against strong teams. The only home series they've had so far, and their only series against a weak team, was a three-game set versus the Royals, which they appropriately swept.

No worries here.


Last edited by Matthew Grieco on Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:25 am 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
It's April 19.

Lest we forget, the Yankees were in a worse spot at this point last year. Much worse.


Agreed that it's early, but even I have to admit this year's team looks exactly like last year's: old, shaky pitching; suspect defense when it counts (and even when it doesn't, as in Gary Sheffield's absolutely inexcusable nonchalanting of an easy fly ball late in last night's game that he dropped, turning a 7-4 game into a rout); failure to lay down bunts, advance runners with sacrifice flies and generally play the type of National League station-to-station baseball that tends to win games in the postseason, when teams are usually not going to be mashing the opposing team's pitcher into submission. No, this team is not built for success in October, just as last year's wasn't.

It's a collection of stars whose total is less than the sum of its parts, just the opposite of the way one tends to characterize championship teams (see the Yanks of '96, '99, '00 and '01). Too bad. The Yanks will cream some bad teams this year and will probably get into the postseason despite their flaws, but they will be dispatched quickly enough.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:28 am 
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You're assuming that it's possible to build a team for the playoffs. I'm still not convinced of that in this three-round, short-first-round playoff era. You build a team to get to the playoffs, and then you pray.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:42 am 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
You're assuming that it's possible to build a team for the playoffs. I'm still not convinced of that in this three-round, short-first-round playoff era. You build a team to get to the playoffs, and then you pray.


I agree the first round is a crapshoot. But pitching and defense are what win games in the postseason, and the Yanks have shown thus far that both qualities are lacking more often than not. This is not a trend one would anticipate would improve much over the next six months and 150-plus games.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:44 am 
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Quote:
You build a team to get to the playoffs, and then you pray.


That's almost exactly what Billy Beane said in "Moneyball." And every year, doofuses like Joe Morgan and John Kruk hold up Oakland's failures in the playoffs as total invalidation of the "Moneyball" way of building a ball club.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:52 pm 
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Wabberjocky said:
And every year, doofuses like Joe Morgan and John Kruk hold up Oakland's failures in the playoffs as total invalidation of the "Moneyball" way of building a ball club.

I haven't had the 'pleasure' of hearing Mr. Kruk up here in northern British Columbia, but I have come to the conclusion that Joe Morgan may be the worst baseball announcer I have heard in a long time when it comes to not knowing what really happened on the field.
Case in point: A couple of Sundays ago, he was sure the throw to first had beaten the runner, even though the ump called him safe.
The first replay, from the bleachers side, seemed to bear Morgan out. Then they showed a replay from the other side which certainly seemed to show the first baseman being pulled off the bag.
Didn't bother Morgan, though. He just kept on blathering about how the ump missed the call.
I have a lot more respect for announcers who aren't afraid to admit they got one wrong.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:14 pm 
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The irony about Joe Morgan is that he was the textbook template of a "Moneyball" player, the kind of player the statheads love. He had tremendous plate discipline, added a ton of value with superior defense, was a wonderful percentage base stealer and played the game with all the instinctive smarts of a Russian chessmaster.

Yet, in the booth, he pisses all over the same values he embodied as a player. Same with Kruk, to a lesser extent.

Back to the topic, unless the Yankees do some serious smart shopping at the trade deadline, I see injuries and age-related declines keeping them being more than a 90-win team this year. And, as all Yankee fans would agree, that's simple not good enough.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:35 pm 
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Morgan is atrocious. He manages to be biased and noncommittal at the same time. It's a shame, too, because his ESPN broadcast partner Jon Miller is an excellent play-by-play man.

No disrespect intended to Morgan's success as a player. I know ESPN likes having a Hall of Famer (and a high-tier Hall of Famer at that) on its broadcast staff, but Morgan is living proof that some people can walk the walk but not talk the talk. If ESPN could get someone with a brain and a backbone to sit beside Miller, they could have a broadcast team for the ages.

Wabberjocky wrote:
Back to the topic, unless the Yankees do some serious smart shopping at the trade deadline, I see injuries and age-related declines keeping them being more than a 90-win team this year. And, as all Yankee fans would agree, that's simple not good enough.


Hard to say. The AL East isn't the Boston and New York show anymore, and the five teams will beat up on each other a lot. It may not take much more than 90 wins to grab the East this year.

Also note that the Yankees are at .500, as are Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Yankees have had the toughest April schedule of any team in the division, and the East isn't going to be an all-.500-plus division for long. Even for Yankees fans it's too early for early-season panic.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:31 am 
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I completely agree with the Morgan consensus here, which I'm glad to see -- haven't seen it elsewhere.

But for at least a little while, Morgan's backup as ESPN color man was Rick Sutcliffe. In light of that, does anyone think there'd be much improvement if Morgan left?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 7:03 pm 
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wordygurdy wrote:
failure to lay down bunts, advance runners with sacrifice flies and generally play the type of National League station-to-station baseball that tends to win games in the postseason


National League ball wins World Series?

Tell that to the National League, which has lost 10 of the last 15 World Series.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:42 am 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
wordygurdy wrote:
failure to lay down bunts, advance runners with sacrifice flies and generally play the type of National League station-to-station baseball that tends to win games in the postseason


National League ball wins World Series?

Tell that to the National League, which has lost 10 of the last 15 World Series.


I did say "tends." Besides, you know that offense usually goes out the window in the postseason; it's execution in clutch moments that counts. The Yankees of late have been remarkably poor at executing in clutch moments in big games--or even nonbig games, a la A-Rod's strikeout last night with the game on the line and runners in scoring position (and Matsui's similar strikeout, though Matsui has been a much better clutch hitter than A-Rod since A-Rod came to the Yanks).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 1:52 pm 
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I agree. The type of baseball that gets a team to the playoffs is completely different from the type of baseball that wins the World Series.

What makes the playoffs interesting on top of exciting is all the different strategies being implemented — short rotations, starters being turned into closers, rosters loaded with sluggers or speed guys, managers suddenly bunting every other inning after showing a season-long aversion to one-run strategies.

My favorite "nutty" strategy was in the 1991 National League postseason, when Jim Leyland came up with the idea of having his best Pittsburgh relievers start games and go up to three innings apiece, giving way to the next-best, next-freshest arm. As a side benefit, pitchers rarely took a turn at the plate, a move that had the side benefit of trading near-sure outs for a much better possibility of a much more positive outcome.) The Pirates lost that year, but for other reasons — the strategy actually was reasonably successful. I'm surprised more teams haven't tried it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:07 am 
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According to Baseball Between the Numbers, Billy Martin once, as manager of the Orioles, drew his batting order out of a hat, and won.

Before my time, but I would like to see that again.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:34 am 
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Quote:
According to Baseball Between the Numbers, Billy Martin once, as manager of the Orioles, drew his batting order out of a hat, and won.

Before my time, but I would like to see that again.


I vaguely recall a tale of a manager doing this, but I don't think Martin ever managed the Orioles. Sounds like something he might have done in Oakland, though.

One way to shake up a drowsy team.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 3:32 pm 
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You're right; he didn't manage the Orioles. That team didn't sound right but I thought that was what I'd read in the book. Looking now at a timeline of his career (I don't have the book handy), I think he did it in the early 70s as manager of the Tigers, against the Orioles.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:24 pm 
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Wabberjocky wrote:
I agree. The type of baseball that gets a team to the playoffs is completely different from the type of baseball that wins the World Series.


As exhibits A and B, I submit the 2004 and 2005 Cardinals, teams that both had the best record in the bigs and both lost to a wild-card team — in the World Series the first year and the National League Championship Series the next.

Clutch situations do matter the most in postseason ball. If A.J. Pierzynski hadn't decided to head toward first after that dropped third strike, that series with the Angels could have taken a swing the other way.

One trend that has proved true over the past two years, at least: National League teams being completely overwhelmed by American League clubs riding a ton of momentum into the Series.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:10 pm 
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ndugan1 wrote:
Clutch situations do matter the most in postseason ball.


That's certainly true. But the question of whether there are really such things as clutch players or clutch teams is a separate one, and evidence strongly suggests there are not. Kudos are due to Pierzynski's clutch baserunning decision, but circumstances had to be exactly right for that to even have mattered.

The reason that clutch play appears to be more important in the playoffs is the same reason that inherent clutch ability doesn't actually exist: The smaller the sample size, the more that remarkable plays will stand out. Many attempts have been made to show that players renowned for being clutch have been so over the course of their careers, and all have failed. A player may stand out in one season, but over the course of a career a great hitter generally performs the same in clutch situations, relative to his usual ability, as average or poor hitters (regardless of how you define "clutch situation, as the numbers have been examined for many different definitions).

Baseball is made of the same two elements in the playoffs as it is in the regular season: skill and luck. The only difference is that as the sample size (number of games) shrinks, the bias in favor of luck grows. Hence, with the exception of aberrations such as last year's San Diego Padres, who reached the playoffs because of an improbably weak NL West, only good teams reach the playoffs*, but from within the pool of eight teams that do make it, the chance of a merely good team beating a great one is far higher in a playoff series than in a divisional race. And that difference is in luck, not some mystical clutch power possessed by a chosen few.

Great teams are still more likely to win in the playoffs than good, fair or poor teams. It's just less certain than it is in the regular season.

Still one of the best attributes of baseball compared to the other major sports, which let every team that doesn't thoroughly stink enter the playoffs.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 8:02 pm 
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I heard on the radio today that the Yankees have won every day game and lost every night game. Is that true? If so, that's a pretty remarkable stat this far into the season.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:23 pm 
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jjmoney62 wrote:
I heard on the radio today that the Yankees have won every day game and lost every night game. Is that true? If so, that's a pretty remarkable stat this far into the season.


It was true when you posted that, and remained true until about five minutes ago, when the Yanks beat the Rays in a night game. New York is now 9-0 in day games and 1-8 in night games. I hadn't noticed that, and it's certainly weird, but I'm not sure it means anything.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:30 am 
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wordygurdy wrote:
I did say "tends." Besides, you know that offense usually goes out the window in the postseason; it's execution in clutch moments that counts. The Yankees of late have been remarkably poor at executing in clutch moments in big games--or even nonbig games, a la A-Rod's strikeout last night with the game on the line and runners in scoring position (and Matsui's similar strikeout, though Matsui has been a much better clutch hitter than A-Rod since A-Rod came to the Yanks).


There's no such thing as "clutch" hitting, or anything else, as a long-term phenomenon. Label an individual at bat what you will.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:01 am 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
jjmoney62 wrote:
I heard on the radio today that the Yankees have won every day game and lost every night game. Is that true? If so, that's a pretty remarkable stat this far into the season.


It was true when you posted that, and remained true until about five minutes ago, when the Yanks beat the Rays in a night game. New York is now 9-0 in day games and 1-8 in night games. I hadn't noticed that, and it's certainly weird, but I'm not sure it means anything.


It means that so far they play better during the day.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:59 pm 
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jjmoney62 wrote:
It means that so far they play better during the day.


That may seem obvious, but it is not necessarily true, or even likely true. There are too many other variables that could explain the records. I certainly don't have the ability to run them all, but to pick one example: In the first few weeks of the season, the Yankees had only one all-day-game series, and that was against the Royals, the worst team in baseball, whom they were likely to sweep in any event. With more time, one could review pitching matchups and other factors to figure out who was likely to win each game.

There's a problem in baseball I like to call anecdotitis: the assumption that anything that can be noticed must be meaningful. One of the great things about baseball is that teams play so many games, by the end of the season you have a statistically meaningful sample size to really break these things down. In April you don't. Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and I have a hard time believing that a team of major league players gets a meaningful boost from playing in the daytime.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:08 pm 
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Re: Yankees record in day games opposed to night games.

All they need to do is get Ray Knight out of retirement to help when the lights are on.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 3:59 pm 
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Tim Lawson wrote:
There's no such thing as "clutch" hitting, or anything else, as a long-term phenomenon. Label an individual at bat what you will.


If anyone needs further argument to support this, check out Dan Le Batard's column on page 12 of the latest (May 8) issue of ESPN The Magazine, which coincidentally addresses this very topic (my copy just came this afternoon, so no accusations of plagiarism, please, when you see that Le Batard observes that "sample size" has no chance against "clutch," "amid fanatics who prefer to believe in abstractions").

Using Derek Jeter as an example, Le Batard shows how the believers in clutch hitting find "myth ... more fun than math."

Among Le Batard's points:

*Jeter would not be legendary if he'd been a somewhat better player but come up with the Pirates

*Jeter has played 115 postseason games (more than Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Willie Mays combined; also more than Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, and Ted Williams combined), giving him far more opportunity than almost all players in baseball history to accumulate memorable playoff moments (as Le Batard puts it, if you give Miguel Tejada 95 more postseason games, he might have a Jeffrey Maier interference or a Jeremy Giambi non-slide come his way too)

*The year that Jeter missed the first several months of the season because of an Opening Day injury, the Yankees started 18-3, the best start in franchise history

*He had a four-strikeout game in the 2004 ALDS against the Minnesota Twins the same game that so-called "choker" Alex Rodriguez carried the Yankees with a monster performance (and that series went the distance)

*In the subsequent ALCS against the Red Sox, arguably the greatest non-World Series playoff series in Yankees history (and probably more exciting to modern fans than many World Series triumphs), Jeter went 7-for-30 with 3 runs and 2 RBI.

*No player in all of baseball made more outs to end games last season with the tying or winning run on base than Jeter did.

*Only twice in Jeter's career has he had any kind of hit after the eighth inning to drive in both the tying and winning runs.

*Over the course of the Yankees' run since 1996, Bernie Williams has the same number of postseason at-bats as Jeter: 462. Le Batard writes: "In those at-bats, Williams has six more homers, 11 more doubles, 21 more walks, 33 more RBI, two more runs and seven fewer strikeouts."

*Finally (and this is the most important point), if you average Jeter's career regular-season numbers and his career postseason numbers, they work out pretty much equal to each other, with a slight edge for the regular-numbers. This isn't surprising, Le Batard notes, because Jeter has played 115 postseason games, which is the better part of a regular season's worth of games, so his postseason numbers should be fairly similar to his average season. "That isn't clutch," Le Batard writes. "That's averages averaging out."

To all of Le Batard's excellent points I would add the following:

I am a Yankees fan and I admire Derek Jeter. But I admire him because he is a really good player, not because he is a clutch player (and he's not clutch because nobody is). And I feel about Jeter sort of the way I feel about the American flag: I admire both, but it's hard to actually enjoy that admiration when you're surrounded by people who view them so religiously that they lose all reason when a word of criticism is voiced.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2006 6:53 pm 
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All those numbers to try to disprove something you don't think exists. OK.

Jeter is a clutch player, like Tony Perez was and like others were. Ask a lot of pitchers which guy in the Yankees lineup -- or any lineup -- they wouldn't want to face with two men on and the game tied, and you'll find Jeter's name come up a lot. Rodriguez and Williams might have better numbers, but I'd rather try to get them out than try to retire Jeter.

And who cares how many postseason opportunities he's had? He still had to come through during them, like Brooks Robinson did. Life ain't fair. Jeter's Mr. November and I'm the moderator and you guys aren't.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2006 8:33 pm 
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jjmoney62 wrote:
And who cares how many postseason opportunities he's had? He still had to come through during them


I care because sample size matters, and you can't will statistics into irrelevance just because you don't want to think about them. The whole point is that he hasn't come through to any greater or lesser degree than we would expect of any overall good player. We remember the moments that validate our beliefs and ignore the ones that don't.

I don't care what Jeter's own peers think. Nobody is more prone to superstition and baseball mythology than baseball players themselves. And they're hardly objective: they have to "respect" the established greats or be personae non grata among their brethren. Jeter has the rings and the glory, so of course everyone who works in MLB is going to talk about him that way. It's why he wins Gold Gloves even though he's one of the poorer defensive shortstops in the league (because those awards are chosen by coaches in the game rather than objective analysts outside it).


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2006 10:20 pm 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
We remember the moments that validate our beliefs and ignore the ones that don't.


Of course we do. It's human nature. And that's something that's pretty well engrained in our psyches, to the point that it's fine with me if you think Jeter's not clutch and have the numbers to prove it, or that noone is clutch, for that matter, but I'm going to keep on believing it to be the case, thank you very much. I happen to think that not only did just one at bat in a losing cause propel Albert Pujols into the realm of clutch players, but that I also had a hand in willing it to happen as I stood in front of my TV more than 1,000 miles away with a rally cap and baseball glove on, stupidly bouncing up and down and murmuring "Home run, Albert, home run."

Dan Le Batard is a good writer and an excellent columnist. But his efforts are akin to trying to tell a Christian that Jesus was "just a regular guy."


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:09 am 
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ndugan1 wrote:
Dan Le Batard is a good writer and an excellent columnist. But his efforts are akin to trying to tell a Christian that Jesus was "just a regular guy."


This is true. That doesn't make him wrong, though.

I would enjoy rooting for the clutch Mr. Jeter because I want to believe he is and for a long time I thought he was. After all, he has given me some of my favorite memories in my baseball-rooting life. That flip to Posada to get Jeremy Giambi was the biggest "wow" moment I've ever had in sports.

But the more sabermetric analysis I read, the more I was forced to concede that I had been swayed by hype and a few remarkable moments. As a Yankees fan and a Jeter fan, I was hardly a willing convert. All I can say is that deep down, I'm a "just the facts" kinda guy.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 11:54 am 
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Statheads take far too much fun out of the game. The game is supposed to be FUN. Microanalysis is not, for the most part, FUN. It is dry and arcane. It has its place, but it shouldn't be prominent, in my view. Yes, the game is based on stats, but it's also based on what one experiences with one's eyes and ears.

I don't care how many pieces are written that claim there is no such thing as a clutch player. There is such a creature, and no amount of cold logic is going to negate its existence. Period.

And JJ's posts are consistently smileworthy if not laughworthy.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 12:03 pm 
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I suppose it comes down to what you enjoy. To me, trying always to understand the game on a deeper level than the season before is the only way to keep the fun alive. To me, the traditionalists are the ones who ruin the game by their blind adherence to what they want to believe rather than what is actually demonstrable. So many wasteful practices in the way MLB is actually played are a result of the death grip traditionalists have on most front offices and all dugouts. How can it not be more fun to root from the most informed perspective possible? Traditionalists bewilder me.

There will always be statheads who think that traditionalists are lazy and don't want to analyze, and there will always be traditionalists who think statheads are party-poopers. That's the way of baseball these days, I suppose. I know which side my nature causes me to come down on.

If you enjoy illusions, so be it. Just don't expect me to credit positions that are based on anecdote and fervor rather than evidence. I'm a stathead for the same reason I'm an atheist -- I don't understand how people can enjoy believing in things just because they really, really want to. Baseball traditionalists are like fundamentalist Christians -- they know what they "know," and that liberates them from having to defend their positions with actual arguments. I agree that jjmoney's posts are humorous, but, with all due respect, most of them are cleverly worded restatements of popular belief and devoid of analysis. What's the point of discussing baseball -- or any subject -- if not to reevaluate old assumptions?

If you think there's a way to prove that Jeter is clutch, please do it! I'm someone who follows the facts where they lead him, whether I want to or not, and in this case they took me to the conclusion I didn't want -- that there's no such thing as an inherently clutch hitter. So far the only contrary argument I've heard is "everyone knows Jeter is a clutch hitter."

I'll never apologize -- or consider myself in any way radical -- for expecting people to substantiate positions they take with evidence rather than with fervor and anecdote. There's enough magic in reality that I don't need fantasy.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 3:13 pm 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
It's April 19.

Lest we forget, the Yankees were in a worse spot at this point last year. Much worse. And this year, the Yankees have played most of their April games on the road against strong teams. The only home series they've had so far, and their only series against a weak team, was a three-game set versus the Royals, which they appropriately swept.


And lo, it took 11 days, and their first real homestand, for the Yanks to move back into a tie for first place (and sole possession of first, winning-percentage-wise).


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 8:28 pm 
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It's only April 30, Matthew. Pace yourself. It's a long season.


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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 9:15 pm 
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Agreed. It's silly to pay attention to the standings in April at all, which has been my point all along.

But, moving on ... the long season will only get longer if Joe Torre insists on under-using Mariano Rivera. Sure, he'll occasionally bring him in in before the 9th inning, which is more than I can say for some MLB managers and their closers, but he still throws away a lot of games by reserving him for save situations. The man has stamina. If you're in a 3-3 tie in the 8th inning against your biggest rival, and there's a couple runners on, and David Ortiz on deck, what do you do? I'd bring in my best pitcher, who's reasonably well rested. But Joe Torre sticks with his middle reliever, allows another baserunner, and then brings in a left-handed specialist and feeds Ortiz a three-run homer. By that point it's too late to justify using Rivera's arm, and the Yankees lose another game without using its best pitcher.

This indictment is not directed at Torre individually. The save rule -- perhaps the silliest and most arbitrary stat in baseball -- has led most teams to waste their finest arms.


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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 9:53 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 3135
Location: Albuquerque, N.M. USA
And how about that clutch at-bat by Jeter with the game tied in the 8th? Too bad he later over-ran second base and got tagged with the third out.


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