Tagged: Dan Shaughnessy

Red Sox Rising

Yeah, I’ve mused about “what’s the matter with the Sox” at earlier points in the 2010 baseball season.  It turns out that reports of their demise–including this cheap-shot filled masterpiece of whining and distortion–have been exaggerated.

In fact, it turns out that the Sox can play some great baseball.  And they are rising in the American League East.  After spinning their wheels to start the season, finding themselves mired in fourth place, while the Yankees and Rays went hurtling towards the heights, the Red Sox now only trail the Yankees by 1.5 games, and they are only one-half game behind the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox are 15-9 so far in May, and since start of play on May 9th, they are 11-5, including a 6-2 mark against AL East opponents.  They have won four in row.  Which is not only only not bad, but actually is pretty darn good.
Curiously, Josh Beckett’s absence from the rotation has taken place during a stretch when the Red Sox have cut their runs allowed per game significantly.  Over the past fifteen games the Sox have allowed an average of 3.56 runs per game, which includes the 11 and 6 runs they surrendered in their last two games against the Yankees (the second of which was the last game Beckett pitched for Boston).
Over the last week the Red Sox have played the following teams: the Twins (26-18, 1st place AL Central, 5.00 runs/game, 9th in the Majors in scoring), the Phillies (26-18, 1st place NL East, 5.28 runs/game, 4th in the Majors in scoring), and the Rays (32-14, 1st place AL East, 5.36 runs/game, 2nd in the Majors in scoring).  Boston has gone 6-1 in those seven games, and they’ve allowed, 2, 2, 5, 0, 3, 1, 0 runs in them, which works out to 1.86 runs allowed per game.
Now, none of this guarantees them future success.  In fact, they may have just had an incredibly lucky week.  On the other hand, this is probably what GM Theo Epstein was expecting when he assembled this team.  And if they’ve just been getting lucky during this run, well, then I hope mere luck fills my future, too.
However, I think the more likely reason is that run prevention works.  I just wonder how Josh Beckett is taking the news that his team has been giving up a lot fewer runs with him doing something other than starting games for them every five days.  Coincidence?
I should also point out that Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe deserves a lot of credit for being clear-eyed and for steering clear of some of the absurd and hyperbolic Andy Rooney-like bitterness and bitching that certain other members of the Globe staff indulge themselves in.  Thanks, Mr. Gasper.
By the way, one of the major reasons I haven’t gotten around to writing a vitriolic attack on Dan Shaughnessy for being a nitwit is that there’s a whole website dedicated to that very purpose.  LOL!

Some Notes on Lineup Creation: Cardinals as Case-Study

Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated has some advice for Tony La Russa.

Interesting.  However, in a really detailed study of the matter, Tom Tango, Michael Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin argue in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball that the #3 spot in the lineup is, well, a hell of a lot less important than the baseball conventional wisdom assumes.  To them, it is all about lineup spots 1,4, and 2.  
However, the conventional wisdom in baseball is that the #3 hitter just has to be the best hitter on your team, and, you know, if you go against baseball’s conventional wisdom–or even make the case that the conventional wisdom is suboptimal–then terrible things happen to you.  John Kruk acts all prissy and declares that if what you are saying worked then someone would have done it before, or Joe Morgan comes over to your house and acts all waspish and under-appreciated even if you give it up that he was the best second baseman ever since you might mention OPS or even wOBA and he just doesn’t use those kinds of things.
Jeez!  Flat Earthers must be a joy to deal with, too.  (Yes, I am comparing both John Kruk and Joe Morgan to Flat Earthers.  There, I said it.)
UPDATE:  If you go against the baseball conventional wisdom there is one worse thing that could happen: Dan Shaughnessy could come over and wash his hair in your kitchen sink.

A Rant Deferred (With Thanks)

I promised a rant on Saturday, didn’t get around to it yesterday

With apologies, I must beg your indulgence and do some more research.

The subject is Dan Shaughnessy, a columnist at/for the Boston Globe, and, specifically, his generally miserable (which is putting it far, far too nicely) attitude regarding statistical analysis and its place in baseball.  
Sunday, May 9, he wrote a column containing a paragraph that set me off.  I waited a few days to cool off before writing anything too intemperate, but doing some more reading, I keep finding things he’s written that provoke me even more. At some point I will pull all my material together.
The following paragraph greatly annoyed me:
It looks like those sun-deprived stat geeks eating pudding in their basement (the same nitwits who insist that homers and RBIs are overrated) outsmarted themselves in assessing this unit. Marco Scutaro is not better than Alex Gonzalez (not to rub it in, but Gonzo has 10 homers already for the Blue Jays). The Cameron-Ellsbury combo hasn’t gotten out of the trainer’s room, and Beltre is emerging as an Edgar Renteria or Rasheed Wallace, take your pick.
Anyone who knows me well, particularly anyone who has talked baseball with me, immediately knows why that paragraph irritates me so much. Also anyone who talks baseball with me also knows I suffer such foolishness by smashing it with a hammer.  However, if I’m going to rant about a an actual professional journalist, regardless of what a fool said “journalist” may be, I want to know what I’m getting into first, which means, among other things, doing more reading, reflecting on his writing, and sharpening up my (rhetorical) knives.
The Hammer Cometh.
Thank you for your indulgence