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

Official two-part Mad Em-Dashes position statement on the Cardinals hacking the Astros, and bonus suggestion

  1. 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.


  2. If you are writing a thinkpiece piece 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.

A BONUS TIP

Dispatches from a boring future: Gold Glove first baseman leaves Cardinals as free agent

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."

Carlos Martinez and Randy Johnson’s wager

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,

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.

Jason Heyward loses half his value when you drive him off the lot

Every time I use HTML and CSS I have to start over from scratch, which means that I have to read a new book about it. In every new book there's a strange, uncanny-valley project used for the examples—a veterinarian's homepage, or a tchotchke store, or a website about Spanish history.

It looks almost like a real website, but the way it has to stretch to provide an instance of every HTML element and CSS selector betrays its roots. It's too perfect an example.

General Managing for Dummies > Chapter 12 > Risk vs. Cost Certainty

12-14 G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Markakis 419 1696 474 79 4 37 163 0.279 0.342 0.396
Heyward 411 1542 410 78 10 52 178 0.266 0.345 0.431

What if our former top prospect stops running, and he keeps losing power, and his defensive reputation doesn't accurately measure his defensive ability? He'd probably only be worth a win or two, and you wouldn't want to make a long-term commitment.

Why I keep rooting for Tommy Pham

There were years after I bought my first copy of Baseball Prospectus when I would have wished on a one-fingered monkey’s paw for the ability to run projections on everything, instantly, whenever I wanted. Having set aside the tragic and inevitable ironies that accompany all monkey’s paw usage as a matter of course, it seemed to me that real-time projections basically subsumed all other wishes.

The movie would have very little conflict but a ton of montages: The one where you walk into the casino and count cards without actually having to count cards, and become rich; the one where you see exactly how likely your significant other is to be charmed by your unpredictable (to her!) combination of flirtatious eye contact and mysteriousness, and fall in love; the one where you determine, finally, that there is a 90 percent chance the vector for the monkey’s paw’s insidious lesson will be your son who sharpens the diamond saws at the metal works, and find him a job where there is statistically zero industrial machinery for him to fall into. (At the time this was not already the plot of Limitless.)

It wasn’t just about using my powers to become rich; projections were as close as I could get to a metaphysics. I imagined the world around me as one potential outcome shuffled in among billions, the gaps impossible to cross without some kind of compass. Because I had the supreme self-confidence of the internet baseball fan circa 2003 it did not bother me very much that I was imagining a universe basically predetermined by a run of dice rolls I hadn’t been party to.

Most 18-year-old tools goofs you pick out of the middle of a draft will never make it out of the low minors. Most 20-year-olds who hit .215 with power will not outlast your self-deprecating jokes about touting them. Most 22-year-olds who suddenly show potential have not flipped a switch. Most 23-year-olds and 24-year-olds and 25-year-olds will start looking for other things to do when their own bodies tell them over and over that they are not cut out for the thing they’ve been preparing to do their whole lives. 40 games, 12 games, 75 games… PECOTA used to make a big deal of attrition rate. This was the gothic, extraordinarily complex Nate Silver version of PECOTA, held up on all sides by flying buttresses, but attrition rate just measured the likelihood of someone’s chances to play collapsing from one year to the next.

It captures injuries, but it also captures bad relationships with coaches, replacement by better or cheaper prospects, fluky playing time events. Far enough from the major leagues it has to be picking up more than that--a loss of the desire to play, or the conviction that you can get ahead, whether it’s your conviction or somebody else’s.

With a sufficiently clairvoyant projection-generator you could run live ZiPS career totals for all of us, figuring out just how many trade-offs it would take, and just how far back in our lives you’d have to go, to wedge a single game onto our baseball card. Here’s Babe Ruth if he had stayed a pitcher, or Rick Ankiel if he’d never been one; here’s Matt Harrington if he’d signed his first contract, and if he’d signed his second, and his third and fourth and fifth. You could watch the 90th-percentile projections of all the high school stars you knew flicker and zero out as they stopped growing or hurt their arms or followed their girlfriends to college or got a job somewhere in town.

Most 26-year-old September call-ups do not have long careers, but at every stage in his career a baseball player is facing the most certain projection of all, that eventually he will play zero games and figure in no pennant races.

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.

We are in the world where Tommy Pham will eventually be forced out of the major leagues like all of us were, whether we were a minute old or 13 or 31. Between now and then we have a reasonably good idea of what will happen, but I think we also have an obligation to enjoy what happens in the moment—to be generous with our attention because the world conjured up by all the money and information there is in professional baseball will not be generous with much else. When I root for Tommy Pham it’s just because he’s a person who’s capable of surprising me, and himself—who has to alternately fight against and accept certainty like the rest of us.

Thinking hard about Mike Crudale

Did you guys read CardNilly? If you did—or if you didn't, and you're yearning this afternoon for the internet epoch just before the Age of Content—you'll be as happy as I am to know that the bulk of it appears to be available on Archive.org. Here's No. 54, from Scott's long series on jersey numbers:

Ah, #54… Pound for pound, this is probably the worst uniform number we’ve got out there. I mean, there are some individual stinkers out there (Chad Hutchinson — I’m looking at you here…), but this is a whole collection of guys who just weren’t all that good.... We’re left with Mike Crudale — more or less by default, but his numbers support the pick, too.

As a Cardinal, he threw 64 IP with a 1.97 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Useful stuff, particularly back in 2002 and 2003, when most of the bullpen could be kindly described as horrific. Why, then, did Walt & Co trade Crudale in the middle of the 2003 season, one which would feature extended appearances by Esteban Yan and Pedro Borbon Jr. in the Cardinal pen?

I don't know what it was about my Saturday night that reminded me of a long-gone Cardinals blog, but I'm glad it worked out that way.

One of the sad side-effects of the incentives search and social media aim at blogs right now is that everybody is talking about the same thing as everybody else. You basically have to; what people are looking for drives Google traffic, and what people are talking about drives Facebook traffic, and that's basically all the traffic there is. (See also MetaFilter.)

The first wave of blogs sprang up to talk about things people weren't talking about. As a form it's actually pretty terrible at generating on-demand thinkpieces about trending topics, which is why the blogs that are best at monetizing Google and Facebook and Twitter have had a series of discreet cosmetic surgeries to remove all the reverse-chronological crows' feet around their bylines.

Which is why it's such a pleasure to read these old blog posts, and sites like RetroSimba that appear to be transmitting out of a wormhole connecting us to 2007. Even now there's few things the format is better at than forcing yourself to think hard about Mike Crudale.