Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This is why being a Pirates fan increases the risk of alcoholism and suicide

Why, God, why, has the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Team of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, employed so many FUCKING MORONS?

The awesome Dejan Kovacevic explores:

It was a week ago today, fewer than 24 hours after the Pirates had put down a sizzling St. Louis rally in the ninth inning, that catcher Ronny Paulino reflected upon it and offered this surprising tidbit ...

"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."

Say what?

Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.

"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."

Others agreed without hesitation, players and coaches alike.

"Can't let Eckstein beat you there," shortstop Jack Wilson said.

OK, so, just to be clear here: The Pirates are happy to duck a 5-foot-7 career .282 hitter to take on the sport's most imposing hitter?

And why, exactly, is this?

"Because," Wilson said. "Eckstein's clutch."

Please excuse me while I go and claw out my eyes. Paulino's a young catcher, but Jack, buddy, I expected better of you. Next thing I know, you'll be saying you should be hitting second.

Albert Pujols is probably the best hitter in the National League. David Eckstein who Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sent in when their rally monkey got sick.

Okay, we'll skip the parts where Dejan explains why it's idiotic to believe this, and go to Dan Fox, author for the statistics Bible Baseball Prospectus.

"What they've found is that while there may be a small clutch ability -- for example, hitters who can adjust their approach in different situations seem to have a small advantage -- that ability is dwarfed by the normal differences in overall performance."

Take, for example, the differences in performance between Albert "The Second Coming of Ted Williams" Pujols and David "One Gritty Dwarf" Eckstein.

More good reporting by Dejan, and then we hear that the NL batting champ doesn't believe in clutch hitting, even though his average with RISP was second-highest in the league last year.

Anyone want to guess who was first? That's right, Albert Pujols!

Good thing we pitched around Eckstein to get to that clutchless, gritless shithead!

Of those who feel [that analyzing clutchness is the dumbest fucking idea ever], Pirates pitching coach Jim Colborn said, "Dead wrong. There is an element in certain people that allows them to focus at their peak and get into a zone when the situation is more important."

If you're new to baseball, here's a decent rule of thumb: If Jim Colborn thinks something, just think the opposite, and you'll probably be right.

He cited, from his playing days, Joe Rudi, a career .264 hitter who had a reputation of elevating his level every postseason for the Athletics, at least as measured by the intangibles of timely hits and key defensive plays.

"Believe me: For all the great players in that lineup, Joe Rudi was not the one you wanted to face. He just had a knack."

Baseball Prospectus does not give me Joe Rudi's average with RISP, and I don't feel like digging. What I can tell you is that he's a lifetime .264 hitter because he played too long. But his lifetime EQA is an average .275, and he had five years where it was over .290. So he was probably pretty good at baseball, and then he was correspondingly good in "clutch" situations. If someone wants to do further research on this, be my guest.

More good reporting by Dejan, an interview where Jason Bay reveals that he knows the word "predicated," Bob Walk saying he believes in clutch, and then the real killer:

There is no bigger proponent of clutch in the Pirates' clubhouse than the man in charge.

Hey, Dejan, could you remind me how big an idiot our manager is? Please?

When his team wins, Jim Tracy invariably points to "big" hits that were delivered. When the team loses, he points to the lack of same. Even after the Pirates were blanked on three measly hits in their home opener April 9, Tracy lamented, "We had chances."


Tracy's view is reflected in how he forms his lineup, bucking the modern thinking that the highest on-base percentage players should be stacked at the top. Instead, he favors the more traditional approach of getting the runner on, moving him along and getting a "big" hit.

The Pirates will score 12 runs this year.

"Isn't that what makes teams good?" Tracy said when asked about his value of clutch.

Well, talent helps. But yeah, I guess putting lousy OBP guys in the two hole and then praying really hard for a hit is what makes teams good, too.

"It's what separates you from the pack, your ability to take the big at-bat. You don't expect somebody to hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position, but you have to get your share of hits in those situations. Look at the upper echelon of clubs, and that's what you look for. And if we can get to that point, we've got a chance to become a pretty decent team."

"Good cliche things are good and big. Nobody is perfect, but being good is good. Some cliche things that are good look good. If we get to be good, we have a chance to be not bad."

[Slams face into desk].

The National League's highest average with runners in scoring position last season was the .286 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they were one of the four playoff teams. The other three also ranked above the league average.

But then, so did ... the Pirates? Their .266 mark ranked seventh, even though they finished with the fewest runs and were nowhere near the playoffs.

The statistic that correlates most closely with scoring runs is on-base percentage ---- how many times a batter reaches base safely, whether by hit, walk or hit batsman -- and this is backed by every spreadsheet back to the late 19th century.

Last year, the Pirates' on-base percentage was .327, third lowest in the league. This year, it is .303, second lowest.

At this point, I think it's fair to make a BOLD PREDICTION: Jim Tracy will try hitting Salomon Torres in the two spot before the end of the year because of his "clutchness."

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