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westofyou
11-19-2006, 12:37 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/sports/baseball/19score.html


Keeping Score
When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: November 19, 2006

It is baseball’s award season, with headlines and hardware bestowed upon each league’s best rookie, pitcher and what-not. Tomorrow and Tuesday will bring the ever-anticipated Most Valuable Player awards, the season’s ultimate prizes, on which baseball chews as fervently as a fine mix of hay and Skoal.

Yet to team executives milling about the hotel lobby at last week’s general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., scratching out their 2007 shopping lists, all the talk of “best” this and “outstanding” that was well and good, but rather limiting.

After all, award-worthy players like the Phillies’ Ryan Howard and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter are as tied to their teams as Rush Limbaugh is to his. Given this year’s relatively nondescript free-agent market, the G.M. intrigue focused more on a group of players who never receive awards: the truly, unmistakably average.

The belly of a Bell curve is rarely so attractive. As dull as “average” sounds outside baseball, team builders covet these players so highly that the average begins to appear above average. And you wonder why salaries keep going up.

“Is it attractive? Oh yeah,” said Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager. “You have to have a great deal of talent to be an average major leaguer. We all like to have a roster of above-average major league players, but that’s not realistic. You’ll have a few above-average players, and you try to sprinkle the rest of the roster with as many average players as you possibly can. There’s value in their performance.”

If voting were held for a 2006 Most Average Player award, or M.A.P., who would win?

This depends on one’s definition of average, of course, but a fair one is this: the major leaguer whose statistics are closest to average among players with at least 400 plate appearances. (Looking at only starting-caliber players is necessary because total league averages are thrown out of whack by scores of rookies with maybe three at-bats.)

By that standard, this season’s Most Average Player was Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson, who hit .287 with 15 home runs and 67 runs batted in — very close to the major league averages of .283-18-73. His stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentages were almost dead-on with major league norms. So call him Mr. Average. If he objects, perhaps Mr. Mean.

(More than 10 different statistical categories were assessed and weighted for general offensive value to determine the most average player.)

Getting back to Hudson, the statistically minded are surely shaking their heads, knowing that Hudson would never really be considered an average major leaguer, because he put up those statistics as a second baseman. Players should truly be compared to norms at their position. It is those results (see chart) that paint a clearer picture of what is truly average.

The all-Average Team — including the likes of Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay and Royals left fielder Emil Brown — has players who would find dozens of eager suitors on the open market. And the average performance the Tigers received from center fielder Curtis Granderson for just $335,000 last season made him one of the biggest bargains in the majors.

“There’s a misperception that it’s easy to acquire an average player, that those players are readily available,” said Rick Hahn, the White Sox’ assistant general manager. “You can’t denigrate that value.”

Average starting pitchers are even more coveted. Those who made at least 18 starts last season put up an average record of 12-10 with a 4.14 earned run average. While also considering statistics like batting average allowed and innings pitched, the most average pitchers were Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies (13-11, 4.16 E.R.A.) and Dave Bush (12-10, 4.25) of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Since Francis put up his numbers in the hitters’ haven of Coors Field, one could normalize the statistics based on home ballpark environment — and teams do just that. “Those guys are really valuable,” Hahn added. “You’re not going to find a pitcher in the minors who can make 30 or 32 starts and put up the league average for you.”

If being average is valuable, how about being far from average? This cuts both ways, naturally.

The two most unaverage players in the big leagues turned out to be Ryan Howard of the Phillies (.313 batting average with 58 homers and 149 R.B.I.) and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals (.331-49-137), and they will deservedly be the consensus top two in the National League M.V.P. voting to be revealed tomorrow afternoon.

Yet their nonaverageness was trailed only narrowly by Yadier Molina, the punchless .216-hitting catcher for the Cardinals (though Mets fans remember him quite differently).

Average is in the eye of the beholder, no doubt. But in building their clubs in off-seasons like this one, most baseball executives grab onto average players like trees in a hurricane.

“They may be average, but they look above average to me,” said Ned Colletti, the Dodgers’ general manager. “They’re definitely closer to positive than negative. You try to make average your minimum, because average is pretty darned good.”

cincinnati chili
11-19-2006, 12:43 PM
This article makes so much sense, yet I'd lay 10-1 odds that Lee Sinnis will denigrate it.

oneupper
11-19-2006, 12:54 PM
A team of "average" performers would do well, IMO.

It's the BAD players that muck you up.

Reds Nd2
11-19-2006, 12:55 PM
Players should truly be compared to norms at their position. It is those results (see chart) that paint a clearer picture of what is truly average.


Where is the chart?

westofyou
11-19-2006, 01:11 PM
This article makes so much sense, yet I'd lay 10-1 odds that Lee Sinnis will denigrate it.

Lee wrote this to me last week.


The Bill James of today is nothing more than a shell of his old self. The old James would have a field day ridiculing and discrediting the new one. He made his name in the 1980s and is just lazily living off of it with bad works.

Don't hold back Lee.


Where is the chart?

Online version didn't have it, so I scanned it.

http://www.deadballart.com/redszone/chart.gif

Reds Nd2
11-19-2006, 01:35 PM
Thanks WoY.

RFS62
11-19-2006, 01:56 PM
Great article from a great writer.

Unrealistic expectations up and down our roster drive this board.

cincinnati chili
11-19-2006, 02:17 PM
"The Bill James of today is nothing more than a shell of his old self. The old James would have a field day ridiculing and discrediting the new one. He made his name in the 1980s and is just lazily living off of it with bad works. "

James is definitely more "lazy" in his publicly released research than he used to be - particularly in his refusal to review other peoples' work before going off and writing basically the same thing. That being said, he's still pretty good.

M2
11-19-2006, 02:48 PM
James has drawn a lot of ire by pointing out the value of the "average" player and by pointing out that what has been defined as "average" in the stats community is actually well above average. A lot of people here were hot for Orlando Hudson last year and many of the folks who'd like to see Denorfia get the CF job hold that opinion because they see the value of an average hitter with a good glove at that position.


Unrealistic expectations up and down our roster drive this board.

My take is that unrealistically high expectations from folks trying to rationalize each and every move the team makes is what drives this board. I doubt there's a move the team could make which wouldn't be greeted as a step in the right direction by the majority of posters. Certainly every Redszone poll I've ever seen taken on various signing or trade has fallen in favor of the Reds having made the right move.

Scrap Irony
11-19-2006, 02:58 PM
Really? I disagree. Each move, IMO, has its detractors and supporters. Some like each and every move and defend everyone in the Red braintrust as if they were a part of The Family. Others balance out likes and dislikes, pointing out positives and negatives. Still other posters seemingly despise each move with the heat of a thousand suns.

One of the reasons I enjoy the board is that give and take. While precious few actually change their minds, all try to give their opinion. Some use pure statistics. Others use pure emotion. Still others choose to balance that out.

The nature of this board is one, I think, of guarded pessimism. There's not a day that goes by that someone doesn't use verbal irony is summing up Cincinnati problems. Most days, I find that amusing. Others, I tend to get snippy.

Still, the board is a righteous place to be, especially when there's news to be had.

Really, would you rather be back on the old Cincinnati.com board?

vaticanplum
11-19-2006, 03:10 PM
I honestly don't think I can come up with a single regular poster who loves or hates every single move. I imagine that if you really laid them out and looked at each individual's opinions, they're formed on a move-by-move basis and usually have reason behind them. I don't agree with a lot of them, but they're not blind love/hate opinions.

It's a discussion board. We discuss.

M2
11-19-2006, 03:14 PM
Really? I disagree. Each move, IMO, has its detractors and supporters. Some like each and every move and defend everyone in the Red braintrust as if they were a part of The Family. Others balance out likes and dislikes, pointing out positives and negatives. Still other posters seemingly despise each move with the heat of a thousand suns.

Find me one poll in the history of this board which didn't have the majority of folks ratifying the move. I remember when such polls were all the rage back in the winter of 2004-5 and the results in favor were lopsided. IIRC, most people liked the Arroyo move too, though I think the ayes were fewer for that than getting Dave Williams.

In general, the Reds have spent the bulk of this century making bad moves, many of the obvious variety. Yet my guess is that your perception of the number of posters who hate every move is far, far higher than the number who actually do.


The nature of this board is one, I think, of guarded pessimism. There's not a day that goes by that someone doesn't use verbal irony is summing up Cincinnati problems. Most days, I find that amusing. Others, I tend to get snippy.

Boy, I couldn't disagree more. I view it as a place where unbridled optimism tends to crash itself into walls. The Reds have been a generally bad team for six years, no use pretending otherwise. One of the rites of summer on Redszone is watching the disillusionment and bitterness set in among the folks who promised that this year the Reds have got their act in order (and won't you who thought otherwise be sorry when the team does well).


Really, would you rather be back on the old Cincinnati.com board?

I never was there in the first place. I'm from the other wing of the family.

Ltlabner
11-19-2006, 03:23 PM
Boy, I couldn't disagree more. I view it as a place where unbridled optimism tends to crash itself into walls.

No kidding. We need more cynical distrust. That would be far more hip and balance out all that icky optimism. :p:

M2
11-19-2006, 03:32 PM
No kidding. We need more cynical distrust. That would be far more hip and balance out all that icky optimism.

I've always thought cynicism/optimism was a red herring. It gets tossed out by supposed optimists in order to undercut the arguments of supposed cynics. In other words, the "cynics" aren't saying that Player X likely is going to suck or that the Reds are probably headed for a losing record because they've taken a sober look at how things will work out, they're doing it because they're unrelentingly negative (nyah nyah nyah).

It happens every offseason here. You can pretty much plot it on an astral calendar. I've been told I'm just being cynical for insisting that Dave Williams, Ramon Ortiz, Cory Lidle, etc. weren't going to pan out. Yep, that's it. I'm cynical. Apparently that makes me hip now too.

And all I thought I was doing was grasping the obvious.

Falls City Beer
11-19-2006, 03:42 PM
I've always thought cynicism/optimism was a red herring. It gets tossed out by supposed optimists in order to undercut the arguments of supposed cynics. In other words, the "cynics" aren't saying that Player X likely is going to suck or that the Reds are probably headed for a losing record because they've taken a sober look at how things will work out, they're doing it because they're unrelentingly negative (nyah nyah nyah).

It happens every offseason here. You can pretty much plot in on an astral calendar. I've been told I'm just being cynical for insisting that Dave Williams, Ramon Ortiz, Cory Lidle, etc. weren't going to pan out. Yep, that's it. I'm cynical. Apparently that makes me hip now too.

And all I thought I was doing was grasping the obvious.

In the battle between Machiavelli and Percy Shelley, I know who I'm picking.

IslandRed
11-19-2006, 03:53 PM
James has drawn a lot of ire by pointing out the value of the "average" player and by pointing out that what has been defined as "average" in the stats community is actually well above average.

I know you and others have pointed it out here. Because the best players get the most playing time, it creates a skewed average where someone putting up so-called average numbers is actually above the median for his position.

The article at the top of the thread is a good one, and reinforces the notion that "average" has significant value. It didn't specifically mention replacement level, though. A non-stats-savvy reader may wonder, if "average" is actually of positive worth rather than a neutral baseline of performance, what is the baseline, then?

Ltlabner
11-19-2006, 03:54 PM
I've always thought cynicism/optimism was a red herring. It gets tossed out by supposed optimists in order to undercut the arguments of supposed cynics.

It happens every offseason here. You can pretty much plot in on an astral calendar. I've been told I'm just being cynical for insisting that Dave Williams, Ramon Ortiz, Cory Lidle, etc. weren't going to pan out. Yep, that's it. I'm cynical. Apparently that makes me hip now too.

And all I thought I was doing was grasping the obvious.

Yeaaa.....because no one eeeeevvveeerrr ever tries to undercut the "optimisits" by implying they are drunk on Krivskys svengali ways. Unfortuntatly, it gets used both ways. I'm not saying no one should ever critisize, but it was a breath of fresh air that the Alex G deal was not univerisally panned.

Funny, to some it was "obvious: that we traded away the future with WMP and sank the team with Bronson A. To others it was "obvious" that David Ross was chaff. To others it was "obvious" that Brandon Philips was a total waste of resources. To still others it was "obvious" that Scott Hatteburg was a washed up grandpa. To others it was "obvious" that EE should play every day and he would cary the team. To others it was "obvious" that Rich Aurila was doing nothing but setting the team back 15 years.

Some present their opinions as obvious fact. Yet when you tend to hear the same tune with most every move or deal (not from the same people mind you, but the chorus is there none the less) it's hard not to look back at all these moves from just the past year where what appeared "obvious" to those in the know wasn't and realize that it's not always as cut and dried as some would like us to belive.

M2
11-19-2006, 04:16 PM
Yeaaa.....because no one eeeeevvveeerrr ever tries to undercut the "optimisits" by implying they are drunk on Krivskys svengali ways. Unfortuntatly, it gets used both ways. I'm not saying no one should ever critisize, but it was a breath of fresh air that the Alex G deal was not univerisally panned.

So what. Seriously. A handful of people pan a move and that somehow substitutes for the majority opinion?

What we've got here is a majority that grouses about a minority that inconveniently turns out to be right far too often for the majority's tastes. On that note, how'd that deal with the Nationals work out?


Funny, to some it was "obvious: that we traded away the future with WMP and sank the team with Bronson A. To others it was "obvious" that David Ross was chaff. To others it was "obvious" that Brandon Philips was a total waste of resources. To still others it was "obvious" that Scott Hatteburg was a washed up grandpa. To others it was "obvious" that EE should play every day and he would cary the team. To others it was "obvious" that Rich Aurila was doing nothing but setting the team back 15 years.

You mean there's a diveristy of opinion the board? The horror. FWIW, I disagreed with most of the above positions so I don't know why you'd think that would resonate with me.


Some present their opinions as obvious fact. Yet when you tend to hear the same tune with most every move or deal (not from the same people mind you, but the chorus is there none the less) it's hard not to look back at all these moves from just the past year where what appeared "obvious" to those in the know wasn't and realize that it's not always as cut and dried as some would like us to belive.

Depends on what chorus you listen to. The "Yay Reds!" chorus is always more numerous.

As for the other stuff, there's always a range of things that can happen. In many cases though the range of negatives is a few orders of magnitude larger than the positives. In general I'd say successful baseball teams don't build themselves around having to hit on a slew of massive longshots.

Highlifeman21
11-19-2006, 04:26 PM
Man. I REALLY wish we could get our hands on Orlando Hudson. I know we supposedly have our savior, Alex Gonzalez, but Phillips and Gonzalez pale in comparison to Hudson and Phillips, IMO.

BTW, has the Gonzalez move even been announced, or is this more speculation?

Redsland
11-19-2006, 06:47 PM
Find me one poll in the history of this board which didn't have the majority of folks ratifying the move. I remember when such polls were all the rage back in the winter of 2004-5 and the results in favor were lopsided. IIRC, most people liked the Arroyo move too, though I think the ayes were fewer for that than getting Dave Williams.

In general, the Reds have spent the bulk of this century making bad moves, many of the obvious variety. Yet my guess is that your perception of the number of posters who hate every move is far, far higher than the number who actually do.
After running an Advanced Search for threads with the word "Poll" in the title, I found three post-move "whadda think of the move" threads.

In this (http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48570&highlight=poll) one, about the Kearns/Lopez trade, 84 pollees liked it and 66 didn't. (One hundred six of our less opinionated brethren were "undecided.")

In this (http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43908&highlight=poll) one, about the Pena/Arroyo trade, 102 supported it, 66 opposed it, and 48 were undecided.

And finally, in this (http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30693&highlight=poll) one from December 2004 about the signing of one Eric Milton to a three-year deal for $25.5 million, 211 posters cheered, and I was one of just 58 who booed.

(Just to be thorough, I also ran a search for threads with the word "pole" in the title, but most of the hits were about some coach.)