If the Cardinals hacked the Astros, it's terrible—whether it gave them an advantage or not, whether it was one guy or several—and they should be punished for it. I don't have a really strong opinion on what the punishment should be, though that will probably have a lot to do with who did this and who knew about it.
The good thing about stealing signs or throwing a spitball is that they are not actual crimes—they exist within the boundaries of baseball, not the distended appendix we grudgingly accept in exchange for bigger stadiums, better TV coverage, sophisticated drafting and scouting, etc. If you are a part of that appendix your main job is—well, it's probably to make money so you don't get fired. But your vocation should be not screwing up the actual part that matters by embarrassing yourself like this.
If you are writing a
thinkpiecepiece about the Self-Important Cardinals Getting What's Coming To Them I appreciate your devotion to uncovering hypocrisy, the one true internet sin, but I ask that you please remember that Cardinals fans are the self-important ones, and the Cardinals organization employs whoever it was who tried to guess Jeff Luhnow's AIM password like a pack of sixth graders.
If there are a bunch of us suddenly coming out in favor of corporate espionage, by all means, expose us, but I don't think it comes as a shock that our hyper-analytical front office and everybody else's hyper-analytical front offices have much more in common with each other than they do with us or with some tradition stretching back to Branch Rickey. And I don't think anybody's front office spends a lot of time lauding Aaron Miles for playing the right kind of baseball.
This is probably hypocrisy inasmuch as whoever did it probably wouldn't have publicly come out in favor of skimming passwords yesterday, but it doesn't have much to do with your panting, ragged obsession with the idea that Cardinals fans might like baseball for different reasons than you do.
Mad Em-Dashes is a St. Louis Cardinals blog by Dan Moore that does not want to waste your time.
ASSOCIATED PRESS / December 1 2016
ST. LOUIS — The Chief Justice has adjourned.
The St. Louis Cardinals have indicated that they won't pursue Jon Jay, who becomes a free agent weeks after being awarded a second consecutive Gold Glove.
Jay's agent, Nez Balelo, said Friday that his client will be looking for a contract that reflects his importance on both sides of the ball. "A first baseman fields 1500 chances a year, and I think [Jay] helped some people understand how important that is. Teams ignore it at their own peril."
Jay, who began his career as a center fielder, moved to first base midway through the 2015 season and impressed baseball observers with his speed and defensive focus.
"A guy like Jon Jay isn't thinking about hitting home runs when it's time to field a bunt," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Jay's replacement knows he has small shoes to fill.
"People don't think of first basemen as big, slow sluggers, but I'm not going to be Jon," Matt Holliday said. "You just go out there and do what's best for the team."
Matt Holliday has been a St. Louis Cardinal since two years before Kolten Wong was drafted. By the end of the season he'll have played more games as a Cardinal than Mike Shannon or Vince Coleman; he's already played nearly 200 more than Scott Rolen. He made the transition from Flaky DeWallet Guy to dependable veteran so smoothly that there are talk radio callers out there who still don't realize they love him.
Two alternate universes over Matt Holliday was AU1) traded to the Padres who AU2) swapped retro ballparks with the city of St. Louis after a Fun Mayoral Bet gone wrong. Matt Holliday is the pride of Petco Park. They don't mind the way he plays left field.Read More
Last night Craig Edwards did a lot of useful tweeting—I do not know how to use Storify, so I leave collecting them as an excercise for the reader—according to a very simple premise. Here it is: Good pitchers frequently pitch badly when they’re 23. Read his tweets and despair at just how long Randy Johnson was a pissed-off Looney Tunes strongman before he became the best pitcher in baseball.
Carlos Martinez skeptics who are also pedants will recognize this—along with my contribution to the genre—as a few half-hearted steps away from begging the question. Pitching badly when you’re 23 doesn’t make you more likely to become Randy Johnson, except insofar as earning a rotation spot when you’re young is a good way of identifying yourself as a prospect to future Baseball Reference users. The thing 23-year-old future successes and 23-year-old imminent failures have in common is pitching badly when they’re 23; our prejudice, in either direction, is smuggled in behind our examples.
But the formula works so well as a tweet because it reads like that exceptionally satisfying-but-incorrect argument while making a very mundane point. The Cardinals have a 22-8 record and a replacement level pulled down by a string of pitcher injuries. They have a 23-year-old pitcher. They don't need to know whether Carlos Martinez will turn into Pedro Martinez, only whether most useful starting pitchers have revealed themselves after a month. And so,
In starts 4-6 in his 1st year as a starter w/ the Expos, Pedro Martinez gave up 12 R in 16 IP. They let him keep starting. #unfaircomparison— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) May 10, 2015
Niko Vasquez (3) was in St. Louis last year. Well, the Gateway to the West. Well, Sauget. In 51 games for the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies, he hit .287/.409/.475. If you don't know who Niko Vasquez is, we'll have to start a few paragraphs earlier, at the 2007 draft.
I do not recall anyone ever being excited about Pete Kozma (1); from the instant he was drafted Kozma combined the low ceiling of a super-polished college star with the creaking-rope-bridge floor of a toolsy high schooler. He signed cheap. In the supplemental round they added Clay Mortensen (1s), who *was* a polished college star, and then they didn't draft another high schooler until the seventh round. The high-ceiling guy they drafted in between, with astonishing power and a first-round asking price and an inkling he might just go back and hit home runs in college again (Kyle Russell ), didn't sign.
Here in 2015, it turns out, we were right to be nervous: The only established major leaguers from the 2007 draft are Tony Cruz and Daniel Descalso, although Andrew Brown (18) has spread 144 games out over a few years and Michael Blazek (35) is working on it now.
So a lot was riding on the 2008 draft.Read More
The history of baseball is big and confusing; it's too strange to allow easy judgments, too misty and uncertain to offer clear answers, too serendipitous and interconnected to be ignored. But/and I am a small, petty man and it is hard for me not to conclude that Chief Wilson was kind of a jerk.
Chief Wilson hit 36 triples in 1912, when you could do that kind of thing, and now we will never have the tingling mid-June intuition that somebody just might break the single-season triples record.Read More
Two explanations for why even avowedly anti-stats people tend to like Game Score, a Bill James stat from the 80s that counts up box score components and assigns a number to each start.
It’s now going on 30 years old, and today’s avowedly anti-stat people were 30 years younger when they first heard about it.
Game Score is built around quantifying the things we already watch for, rather than revealing the things we don't.
Bill James turns these stats out by the dozen—Hall of Fame Monitor is another. They’re not about the question of assigning value so much as they are tools to answer the smaller-bore baseball-fan questions that are often swamped by that one. “Starting Pitcher Rankings” is one of his new ones, an answer to this specific question: “Who is the best pitcher in baseball right now?”
Which is distinct from “Who will be the best pitcher from this moment forward?” or “Who was the best pitcher last year?”—t’s got much more in common with the individual rankings in tennis and golf. Without getting too far into the weeds, James uses an adjusted version of Game Score, discounted over time to produce this effect:
At 3%, 28% of the pitcher’s rating is based on what he has done in the last two months, 49% based on the last four months, 63% based on the last full season. That’s about the right ratio. MOST of the evaluation of a pitcher—over half—has to be based on what he has done in the last year.
The rankings, as of April 12, feel good to me:
- Clayton Kershaw
- Felix Hernandez
- Max Scherzer
- David Price
- Madison Bumgarner
- Johnny Cueto
- Chris Sale
- Cole Hamels
- Jon Lester
- Zack Greinke
- Adam Wainwright
Clayton Kershaw then a gap, Felix Hernandez then a gap, and then a clutch of veteran aces and young stars tangled up behind: that’s a pretty good result for a descriptive stat.
The Cardinals’ rotation tracks well, too. Adam Wainwright began last year at No. 7 and climbed as high as No. 4 at the All-Star Break. John Lackey, who got as high as No. 9 in the Johan Santana era, has been all over the place, which makes him a good case study:
|Year||4/1||7/1||Opening Day #1|
Now he’s No. 34. Michael Wacha is ranked 115, between stars on their way down (Tim Lincecum is just outside the Top 100) and workhorses on their way out (Justin Masterson, Colby Lewis, Edwin Jackson.) Players move fast that far down—he gained four spots after his first start.
But today the story—the thing this descriptive, just-for-fun stat is telling us that we may not have noticed ourselves—is that Lance Lynn is the No. 17 starter in baseball.
He’s gotten to where he is—just ahead of Jeff Samardzija and Jered Weaver, just behind Stephen Strasburg and James Shields—without any heroics. He wasn’t a top pick like Weaver or Strasburg, he wasn’t the centerpiece of a deadline deal like Samardzija; he’s stayed healthy and pitched well for three solid years, and the Starting Pitcher Rankings illustrate, among other things, how few pitchers are doing that at any given time.
So what does this mean? Set aside the huge fluctuations in ERA—his FIP has held between 3.28 and 3.49 this whole time—and Lance Lynn is hard to get excited about for precisely the reasons that he’s moved into the Top 20. The time to get excited about Lance Lynn was five years ago, when reports out of Memphis suggested, more or less out of nowhere, that he’d decided to stop being a guy with an 89-mph sinker and start being a guy with a 95-mph fastball. Since then he’s been about the pitcher we hoped he might be when those rumors got out.
But five years is a long time to be one pitcher, especially to be one good pitcher. Any occasion to recognize that is worth a moment.
On Opening Day 2012 Tim Lincecum, three years older than Lynn, ranked ninth in baseball. CC Sabathia was seventh. Ricky Romero was 14th, Ian Kennedy 15th, Yovani Gallardo 17th, Matt Garza 19th. In 2013 Matt Harrison was 27th and rising, and Trevor Cahill, 24 years old, was at 35. In 2011, Lynn’s rookie year, the climbers were John Danks, Jonathan Sanchez, Chad Billingsley.
They get hurt, they lose effectiveness, they bounce around, they founder with bad teams, they retire. Everyone starts his career not ranked and ends it, if he’s lucky, like Josh Beckett (No. 151) on a controlled descent through the ranks and out of sight.
For now, Lance Lynn keeps pitching.
Pitcher Injury Fear Inventory: Adam Wainwright
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 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.
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:
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."