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Mad Em-Dashes is a St. Louis Cardinals blog by Dan Moore that does not want to waste your time. 

Your Adam Wainwright Injury Fear Inventory

Pitcher Injury Fear Inventory: Adam Wainwright
Date: 4/5/15
Pitcher Age: 33
Pitches thrown: 101
Pitcher Fear Inspector: Dan M., #16

ABOUT YOUR PITCHER INJURY FEAR CONSULTATION

Your Pitcher Injury Fear Consultation has been prepared specially for you, the Requester, in accordance with our pitcher fear policies. The Pitcher Fear Institute's patented Six Quadrant Fear Worksheet classifies your terror along several axes; for a complete view of your fear refer to the Total Fear Index, which distills those fears into one number.

Your pitcher injury fear consultation has been tuned to reflect your own fears, as recorded in the General Fear Worksheet, the Baseball Anxiety Test, and the Elbow Alphabet Projective Quiz, and as such may not correspond with tests taken at other times and by other people. Exercise caution when comparing your Pitcher Injury Fear Consultation with other Requesters.

ADAM WAINWRIGHT, RHP, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Requester presented with unlocalized concern about Adam Wainwright, a tall, amiable right-handed pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation. Pitcher throws a 90-mph fastball; a mid-to-high-80s cutter, intermittently identified as a slider; and a mid-70s curveball. Pitcher's success is characterized by heavy reliance on breaking pitches to disguise an unspectacular fastball, with straight fastball rate falling to 40 percent in 2013-2014.

Pitcher struggled to remain healthy in the minor leagues before emerging as setup man on a World Series team the Requester referred to as "very bad, a very bad World Series team." In 2008 pitcher missed ~14 starts with finger problem; on returning in 2009 pitcher became a Cy Young contender by virtue of an increased strikeout rate.

Pitcher suffered elbow surgery in 2011; since returning in 2012 he has thrown 667.1 innings while ranking NR, second, and third in Cy Young voting. Pitcher was named Opening Day starter for the St. Louis Cardinals' April 5 start against the Chicago Cubs.

STATUS OF KRIS BRYANT

Kris Bryant was not on the Chicago Cubs' active roster during the pitcher's April 5 start against the Chicago Cubs. (Refer to the Kris Bryant Addendum stapled to the National Broadcaster Narrative Agreement at the back of this Pitcher Injury Fear Inventory.)

PITCHER PERFORMANCE

Pitcher threw six scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing five hits. Pitcher left with a 3-0 lead and received a win for his performance. Requester expressed tentative concern with pitcher's velocity. Compulsive behavior noted in Requester around the concept of "Strand Rate"; pitcher left runners on third base in 3/6 innings.

FEAR QUADRANT WORKSHEET

The Fear Institute's patented Six Quadrant Fear Worksheet classifies your terror along several axes; each is weighted before its aggregation in the Total Fear Index.

WORRY QUADRANT: GENERAL

The Requester will eventually die, as will the Requester's family and friends; existing social bonds are being weakened and pulled apart in favor of new and powerful ones we will not grasp fully until they're being pulled apart themselves. Pitcher's elbow ligaments, being matter, will tend toward disorder. There are articles about kids not liking baseball in the newspaper again. Kris Bryant is not a member of the Chicago Cubs, also.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Worries moderately founded.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: 1/10

WORRY QUADRANT: PRESENT SEASON

Pitcher has thrown 468 innings since 2013, more than any other pitcher. Such usage, however, is a sign of pitcher's durability, which is additionally related to his extreme economy—he ranks second on his own team (behind Lance Lynn) in pitches thrown during that same period, and ninth overall.

While pitcher appears to be performing as well as he ever has, Requester's general caution is warranted due to age and injury history. Baseball Prospectus illustrates warranted caution with Collapse (25 percent) and Attrition (24 percent) rates indistinguishable from A.J. Pierzynski's.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Worries nonspecific to pitcher in question.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: 8/10

WORRY QUADRANT: NATIONAL BROADCASTER NARRATIVE AGREEMENT

Pitcher is an old pro, always ready to take the ball when his manager asks him to and just as unwilling to leave the facility while performing poorly. Scintillating questions emerge when pitcher's professional nature and long major league tenure are compared to the dissimilar credentials of the St. Louis Cardinals' up-and-coming rivals, the Chicago Cubs, with whom there is no love lost.

Furthermore, pitcher represents an "anchor" in a National League Central division in which anything is possible, within the bounds of existing Major League Baseball traditions.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Tune in and find out, subject to national blackout restrictions.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: Novelty/Familiarity

WORRY QUADRANT: DREAM INTERPRETATION

It could be that the pitcher's recurring dreams about biting down on a mouthful of loose teeth, the pain and pleasure mixing at intervals until they cannot be distinguished, if they were ever separate at all, relate to the hard-won freedom that another season of recovery from elbow surgery would represent. Pitcher's recovered memory of showing up naked with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth inning of a close game was traced to tenure as setup man for Very Bad World Series Team.

Dream analysts determined that Requester's dreams about pitcher, but it wasn't pitcher, exactly, but Requester knew it was pitcher, in a weird way, and they were in school, but it wasn't school, were not related to current case and should be set aside.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Worries unfounded.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: 0/10

WORRY QUADRANT: MIKE OLT

They wouldn't have put Mike Olt in this position if they didn't respect Mike Olt's ability to deal with it, correct? Maybe that's the best way to think about it. Mike Olt used to be a very interesting prospect in his own right, and should think about that if he needs to, when things get hard.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Worries founded.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: 0/10

WORRY QUADRANT: PREVIOUS START

Requester's nervous intuition about pitcher's velocity can be traced, according to early research results, to pitcher's extreme reliance on cut fastballs in his initial 2015 start. 48 cutters at an average velocity of 87.5 swamp a fastball that, while only used 16 times and struck 12 times without a miss, reached 93 miles per hour.

Pitcher took advantage of a wide strikezone and cold conditions at Wrigley Field to keep perceived lack of "sharpness" off box score. While pitcher's reliance on the cutter (as categorized in the early research results) was extreme and bears further monitoring, it reflects trends that began concurrent with pitcher's 2013-2014 return from elbow surgery.
Worry Status Quadrant Score: Worries largely unfounded.
Worry Status Quadrant Weight: 2/10

TOTAL FEAR INDEX

The Total Fear Index, which distills those fears reflected in The Pitcher Fear Institute's patented Six Quadrant Fear Worksheet into one number, is available as part of The Pitcher Fear Institute's FearPlus subscription-based paywall program.

For more information please see your Pitcher Fear Inspector for the Pitcher Fear Institute FearPlus questions and concerns brochure.

How we'll remember Lou Brock tomorrow

Author's note: I am a ways into the Very Long Book I'd like to crowdfund later this year. To prod myself forward and to assuage my neglected-blog guilt I'll be posting occasional excerpts from the draft.

If you can figure out a way to genuinely satisfy somebody with a sentence that begins "Your favorite player wasn't half as good as you think, but that doesn't mean he was bad", please write me care of my employer:

Dan Moore
Fangamer, LLC
4500 E Speedway Blvd Ste 33
Tucson AZ 85712

Revisionism isn't popular among the people getting revised, which is a good thing—it's a check against our natural and unconscious urge to explain the past as a story about how great we are.† (The one constant theme in the writing of historians is this: "From the time of Herodotus, history has been colored by pettiness, short-sightedness, and an obvious bias in favor of the prejudices and fashions of the present. Until now.")

At the same time it's hard, through every revisionist lens of the last 20 years or so, to see Lou Brock exactly as his contemporaries did. Go back before his contemporaries and you can't see him, either: The way baseball was played between Ty Cobb and Maury Wills suggests managers, players, and fans saw even less in stolen bases than we do.

Really there were 30 years, centered around 1975, in which Lou Brock could have been Lou Brock—a mediocre left fielder who struck out too much, who didn't hit the ball very hard, who knew how and when to run and was willing to press his luck—and he starred in most of them. He is not a Hall of Famer in the wins-above-replacement sense, but if he retired tomorrow with the same counting stats and kept himself out of the steroid morass he'd be elected again in 2022 or so.

Predicting next year's revisions is a sucker's game, but I'm a sucker: At some point during the parade of retired '90s Yankees, people who write Hall of Fame listicles will have to deal with postseason statistics, even though they are not included on Baseball-Reference leaderboards.

I understand that it's unfair to your favorite fringe candidate to do this. (Mine too!) I understand that we'll need to find a balance somewhere between valuing World Series at-bats as players and fans do and naming David Freese the single greatest third baseman who ever lived. I understand, even, that by valuing postseason at-bats for their ends at all you're forced to ask whether hitting .464 in a losing World Series has more or less value than hitting .300 in a winning one.

But that's one way to write history, I guess: Keep your eyes open to the compromises you're making to tell the story you believe from the evidence to be true, and then make the compromises.

For the most part your favorite player wasn't half as good as you think, but he also hit .391 in the 87 most important plate appearances of his career. I don't know exactly what that means. But if you think it should matter more than how bad he was for a 69-win team in 1978, I can at least buy that.

†: In the words of Cardinals fan and actual historian John Terry, "humans will misremember history again and again until the sun burns out."

Hot 2015 Prediction: You'll hear Aledmys Diaz's name again

I've learned a lot from reading Baseball Prospectus for 12 years, but the most useful thing, as a writer, is how they produce their front-cover teasers—the little fortune-cookie-fillers that sit across the middle of the cover, under player headshots but above the blurb from Billy Beane. It's the showstopping Baseball Prospectus magic trick, and it's so easy: You take a guy who had a better or worse season than everyone expected, and then you say his season will probably be worse or better this year. It's applying the benefits of regression to your writing without the costs, which mostly involve explaining regression to yourself and others.

Aledmys Diaz had a bad year, after several murky good ones, but the worst thing about his particular bad year was that it gave us no new information about a player who had very little to offer in the first place. (Joe Schwarz helpfully gathered what there was back up yesterday.) It's not like that with the other second-tier infield prospects. When Breyvic Valera was 22 he was putting together the emptiest possible .313 average between Palm Beach and Springfield; when Jacob Wilson was 22 he was hitting in Peoria, and then not hitting in Palm Beach.

When Aledmys Diaz was 22 he was performing a year's penance for pretending he was 23. Wilson's entire professional career—they were born a month apart—fits neatly inside the time Diaz has lost since his last season in Cuba, and looks a lot like you might have expected Diaz's to look.

What do you do, on your Baseball Prospectus cover, with somebody whose season wasn't better or worse so much as empty?

Aledmys Diaz's first season was surprising because it seemed so irrelevant; like all good Baseball Prospectus reversals, what we can actually take from it is the Chinese-curse certitude that players are rarely surprisingly anything two years in a row.

Something will happen to Aledmys Diaz this year. He will show that he's a prospect worth offering $8 million, or he will show that he isn't. If he vanishes again he'll vanish more forcefully. But for now—for the purposes of your Baseball Prospectus reversal—he is more invisible than he ought to be, and thus available to make you seem like a wizard to people who haven't thought about him since he signed his contract.

I have no reason to be optimistic—the point is that I have no reason to be anything, except aware—but I am. All that's left pulling the Aledmys Diaz bandwagon is the information communicated by the Cardinals' original investment, but most first-rounders (non-Kozma division) get a year or two further on that tank of gas.

Why Jim Edmonds is my marginal Hall of Famer

Jim Edmonds retired with 68 rWAR. (You can probably find me waving around this extremely satisfying number—60 WAR being the super-rough in-and-out line for Hall of Fame discussions—in several posts on Viva El Birdos.) In 2012, still retired, his bat and his glove collapsed all at once, and he had 57.3 rWAR. He's gotten back in shape since then, to his credit, and although his wins above average have declined slightly he's now back over the 60 WAR line.

I don't bring this up because I enjoy scoring Andy-Rooney-style points on WAR; I don't even bring it up because I know it to have disproportionately affected Jim Edmonds. I bring it up because the Hall of Fame case for Jim Edmonds is marginal—it's not obvious and it's not simple, and much of it is carried in the wins that slosh around the rim of the bucket when we refine our defensive metrics or adjust our park effects. Cut 10 WAR from Albert Pujols's career—say, all the suspiciously brilliant defense at first base—and you've changed nothing. Donate it to Fred McGriff and you've made two Hall of Famers.

You should be nervous about making a marginal Hall of Fame case, in the same way you should be nervous when you begin drawing huge crowds to your fiery speeches about national unity in the mid '30s. Each one builds on the last until the thing moves under its own power; by the time you're done you've elected Jim Rice and above-average Red Sox are marching through your capital.

It's easy to make the case for one not-quite-great player as a Hall of Famer, and it's hard not to prove too much, to inadvertently make the case for ten not-quite-great players. You're duck-walking around the Groucho Marx problem, trying very hard to find the one club rarefied enough for your player that would have him as a member.

Almost three quarters of position players with 70 WAR are in the Hall of Fame; about two-thirds of position players with 60 WAR; a little over half of position players with 50 WAR.

Jim Edmonds bobs up and down in the part of this chart where we are asked to draw a line somewhere between Richie Ashburn (63.4) and Willie Davis (60.5) and Bobby Abreu (59.9) and Darrell Evans (58.5) and Robin Ventura (55.9), among others. Even up where he used to sit there's Kenny Lofton (68.2) and Graig Nettles (68) and Duke Snider (66.5) and Buddy Bell (66.1). And I haven't even gotten to FanGraphs yet, or to the Veterans Committee picks that dot the 40s and 30s and 20s of the WAR rolls.

We can and should cut down the noise—and hopefully not too much of the signal—by looking at other things: his place relative to other center fielders, his disproportionate number of wins above average, rather than replacement level. But what we're getting at by then is not, or not entirely, a dispassionate analysis of the facts. It's an attempt (mostly successful and mostly justified) to read onto the facts our sense that Jim Edmonds—almost entirely during the five years between 2000 and 2004—was as good as nearly anybody, and that that should mean something.

And when we begin describing Jim Edmonds as a Hall of Famer this way we're accepting (finally) that our Hall of Fame campaign requires its own set of standards, and not just a broadside against the ones our predecessors came up with. It's not enough to find that Jim Edmonds is as good as a lot of Hall of Famers, and that on center field leaderboards he is all that stands between Ken Griffey, Jr., and the rest of the universe.

For going on 10 years of Jim Edmonds Hall of Fame advocacy I stopped there, and I have the continuing evolution of WAR to thank for pushing me to recognize that in believing Jim Edmonds is a Hall of Famer I am advocating for other things, as well—a somewhat larger hall, maybe, or one that adjusts the balance between career-long greatness and momentary brilliance, but nothing so simple as an objectively smarter and better one than everybody else's.

A Hall of Fame is supposed to be a celebration of the very best a field has to offer, and given enough voters of different backgrounds and preferences maybe it can be. In practice, though, mostly alone, we spend our time carving adjectives onto the plaques we don't share in common. Our Halls of Fame spring up around our marginal Hall of Famers.

Jim Edmonds is mine. 60 WAR sounds about right because he has it; focusing on peak greatness works for me because that's one of the things I most want to remember about the players I loved watching. If your Hall of Fame is different from mine I'll bet I find a different marginal Hall of Famer at the back of it, and a different picture of baseball fandom, and that's why they give both or neither of us a vote.

Legends are tainted by stubborn good-faith attempts to make them loom larger in memory than they did in life; every time a boomer insists that nobody made real music before or after the Beatles a millennial is born who will wince every time "A Day in the Life" begins to play. Every time Sunny Jim Bottomley comes up, Sunny Jim Bottomley who hit 20 triples and 31 home runs in a season, who once drove in 12 runs in a game, it's as an example of somebody who shouldn't be a Hall of Famer. His admirers polished his reputation until the finish rubbed off.

There are standards for the Hall of Fame, then, and we can find them by looking at what's come before us—but we change them by looking at them in a way that's maddening when the solid parts of your case, the numbers that gave you a reason to push forward, shift and settle too.

Jim Edmonds wasn't as good as Ken Griffey, Jr, and he wasn't obviously better, as far as I can tell, than Kenny Lofton or Carlos Beltran or Andruw Jones. He could be an excellent Hall of Famer, neither the best selection nor the worst omission the voters will make in the next five years. And silhouetted against his peers he was a remarkable player, daring and reckless and inexplicably patient. Anyone who actually gambled as much as Jim Edmonds seemed to—swinging at a high fastball, chasing a pitch he should play off the wall—would have run out of his hitting coach's patience or through a brick wall by 25. At 25 Jim Edmonds was, instead, in the process of discovering whatever it was that cheated the house out of its advantage until he was 40—the marked cards, the extra information we didn't have when his heel popped up and he readied himself to swing at a pitch that seemed hopeless from where we sat.

The numbers justify his election, but they don't justify the campaigning, all the posts and tweets we'll make supporting it and the comments we'll leave when voters don't. Electing him is only the beginning; Frankie Frisch, backed by the full faith and credit of the Veterans Committee, could not make us care about Ross Youngs. We'll have to pass along the numbers, and the memories, and all the highlight videos. We'll have to explain why Jim Edmonds is a Hall of Famer, and then we'll have to explain what a Hall of Famer is.

A year of writing intermittently

2014 was the first year since 2004 where I wasn’t writing a couple of blog posts a week. It was weird! I feel very disconnected from the baseball news cycle; not having an internet connection stable enough to watch games with until the postseason probably had something to do with it, but when I buy the 2015 Baseball Prospectus I’ll probably be putting a lot of names to slash lines for the first time.

But I outbid everybody else hunting for the em-dash.es domain name for another year, so whatever I end up writing in 2015, you’ll see it here. My resolution is to exceed the 40-or-so posts I ended up making in 2014, and to have the book project I’ve been working on on-and-off for a few years in a condition to show you guys before, say, the celebrity softball game. (The TV replay, not the live game—I might need that extra day.)

To everybody who continued reading my work long after doing so was necessary to gain entrance to a fun and vibrant community: Thanks.

Here are five things I remember writing in 2014:

  1. Scott Rolen is going to make you a curmudgeon

    Scott Rolen—he was a great player, but you had to be there. You had to watch the way he controlled his huge limbs in flight, the way his arm snapped forward like a machined part, the way he ran with his head down in a way that had to be totally unlike your dad's stupid Charlie Hustle memories sounded.

  2. Yadier Molina is a Hall of Famer in search of a new WAR formula

    There have always been people who think Yadier Molina will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame. These people watched him hit those NLCS home runs in 2006 and knew; these people watched him distinguish himself as Mike Matheny Jr. in 2004 and knew. Ask around the Midwest League and I am convinced you will find that there were people who sat at O'Brien Field every afternoon, cheering on Dan Haren (7-3, 1.95) and Tyler Johnson (15-3, 2.00) and Shaun Boyd (.313/.379/.471), and knew that Yadier Molina, .280/.331/.384, was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

  3. Kevin Siegrist is an injured pitcher

    The thing that's harder to afford, as a baseball fan, is the sense that getting excited about a young pitcher is just the first part of a story that always involves a year in the wilderness and a flinching unease every time you watch him throw that bewildering slider.

  4. Why I keep rooting for Tommy Pham

    I can’t disprove the world I imagined when I was 17—where all of us are governed by probability, and it’s best that we all accept it and will our favorite organizations to become more efficient—which I guess is the point. When you are a supremely confident teenager, if you’re lucky, you get some idea of how the world really does work, and you root for progress to take hold and install you in your rightful place among the elect who have also read the right books. Sometime after that, if you are lucky, you fail convincingly enough to realize that you are the fat, not the lean cut of meat you kept yelling at general managers to finish trimming.

  5. We are lucky the World Series ratings are so terrible

    Our only protection is that nobody outside Fox Sports Midwest's viewing territory cares about our Mike Matheny memes; the regional nature of baseball fandom is all that's keeping us from Budweiser commercials about Mike Trout's bitchin' man-cave. Local radio stations and regional sports networks and going to a no-account June afternoon game with your whole family are not signs of the sport's sickness, they're what allow us to enjoy it on its merit, with people we're close to, for reasons that might not (and should not) resonate with every other baseball fan in the United States.

Mark Reynolds as the most entertaining of all possible Ty Wiggintons

Major League Baseball, for you and me, non-combatants, is entertainment. It's a thing to watch, and there's value in it being fun to watch that is mostly but not entirely captured in our favorite team winning or losing.

A team full of Mark Reynoldses would be excruciating. You can admire the honesty of three-true-outcomes baseball—and the wisdom of playing it in the current run environment—while still hoping somebody makes it less viable, in the same way you can tip your cap to Jose Molina while hoping umpires someday stop falling for the photo-realistic tunnel he keeps painting over the same brick wall.

But one Mark Reynolds sitting on the bench, waiting to give us a 1-in-20 chance of jumping up and down and yelling at the TV after the Cardinals' starter gets roughed up for four early runs, is entertaining.

I can wonder whether he'll be more valuable than Xavier Scruggs or even Tommy Pham in the same role—you can wonder about Stephen Piscotty, if you want—and I can wish for someone like Rickie Weeks, the designated longshot in the field of possible bench bats that emerged over the last week. I can (and do) think that paying list price for a fraction of a win off the bench is a strange use of resources, even if the free-agent WAR values line up.

But value is John Mozeliak's job. On that fractional-win scale I'm happy to be entertained.