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Thread: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

  1. #1
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/sp...l/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.”

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  3. #2
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    This article makes so much sense, yet I'd lay 10-1 odds that Lee Sinnis will denigrate it.
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

  4. #3
    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    A team of "average" performers would do well, IMO.

    It's the BAD players that muck you up.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

    http://dalmady.blogspot.com

  5. #4
    Little Reds BandWagon Reds Nd2's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    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?
    "...You just have a wider lens than one game."
    --Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, on why he didn't fly Josh Hamilton to Colorado for one game.

    "...its money well-spent. Don't screw around with your freedom."
    --Roy Tucker, on why you need to lawyer up when you find yourself swimming with sharks.

  6. #5
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Quote Originally Posted by cincinnati chili View Post
    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.


  7. #6
    Little Reds BandWagon Reds Nd2's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Thanks WoY.
    "...You just have a wider lens than one game."
    --Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, on why he didn't fly Josh Hamilton to Colorado for one game.

    "...its money well-spent. Don't screw around with your freedom."
    --Roy Tucker, on why you need to lawyer up when you find yourself swimming with sharks.

  8. #7
    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Great article from a great writer.

    Unrealistic expectations up and down our roster drive this board.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~ Mark Twain

  9. #8
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    "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.
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

  10. #9
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFS62
    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.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    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?

  12. #11
    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    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.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap Irony View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap Irony
    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).

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap Irony
    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.
    Last edited by M2; 11-19-2006 at 05:06 PM.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

  14. #13
    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    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. :
    Last edited by Ltlabner; 11-19-2006 at 02:30 PM.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

  15. #14
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    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.
    Last edited by M2; 11-19-2006 at 05:06 PM.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

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    Re: When Being Medium Is No Mean Feat

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    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.


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