Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barry Zito and $126 million

It looks like Zito's signed with the Giants for $126 million/7 years. That's absurd. I wanted the Mets to get him, but not at that price.

Number one, no pitcher should ever be given a 7-year contract, ever. Particularly not tall, skinny guys who don't throw that hard to begin with. Two, Barry Zito, good as he is, is not worth $18 million a year. Frankly, nobody is.

So the Mets will likely try to get by with Glavine, El Duque, and some combo of Oliver Perez, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and maybe Philip Humber until Pedro is back. I think that Heilman is going to stay in the bullpen, which is either bold and brilliant or incredibly stupid, depending on who you ask.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Merry XXX-mas

Pirate needs booze, badly.

I'm on Day Five of the Great Eight-Day FMP* Christmas Extravaganza, and I need to get very drunk sometime soon. Don't get me wrong, I actually really like the FMP's family, but I've been on my best behavior for about as long as I can take it. Also, I fucking hate Christmas. There, I said it. Anyway, I get back into town on Saturday, at which point I will need to drink vast quantities of bourbon. Anybody with me?

* Future Mrs. Pirate

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Three Things

Here are three things I've realized about my super anal-compulsive, and probably incredibly boring MVP analyses:
  1. I may very well be picking nits and splitting hairs. Really, does looking at the percentage of the team's RBIs that a guy knocks in tell you anything? On the other hand, at least it's an objective point from which to start an MVP discussion.
  2. It's been pointed out that RBI production may have more to do with one's spot in the batting order than one's ability as a batter. I thought about trying to rate players versus the average production from their customary lineup position (like, "Ryan Howard's 149 RBI out of the 3-spot is 8.65% more than the average No. 3-hitter, while Soriano's 95 RBIs were 17.5% more than a league-average leadoff hitter) but then realized that I have no idea where I can easily get that kind of information, and that I am very lazy.
  3. It's easier for NL players to separate themselves from the pack on their teams because there's no DH. Our NL MVP candidates all hit somewhere between 13% and 19% of their team's RBIs; while the AL players ranged from 10% to 17%. Also, Lance Berkman knocked in almost one fifth of the Astros runs. That's retarded. What the hell did they do for runs in the 10 games Berkman didn't play? Probably nothing. Of course, LB had more than twice as many ribbies as the next closest guy on the team, Biggio with 62. Ugh.

Anyway, I'm back from Illinois, where me and the FMP* had gone for my grandmother's funeral. Yeah, good times. A non-baseball story from Watseka: the food there sucks. I mean, every time I go out to visit my grandparents, every meal is like a badly cooked steak, served with an iceberg lettuce salad (ranch dressing, natch) and a baked potato with lots of sour cream. Strangely, for farm country, the produce always sucks. Bland on top of bland, with a side of bland. Anyway, after the funeral service we were going to go to this place for lunch, and my brother Tampa went to see if he could find it on the ol' interweb, and if so, how it rated; or, barring that, if there was secretly a halfway-decent restaurant somewhere in Iroquois County we could go to instead. Shockingly, he was able to find an online restaurant guide for the town of Watseka; the place we were supposed to go was actually on it, and it had a five-star rating. Can't be too bad, right? That's what he thought, until he realized that the McDonald's and the Pizza Hut had five-star ratings, too. Hell, even gas station take-out pizza got a four-and-a-half.

I know it's ridiculously expensive in New York, but I like living in a place where food you get from a gas station doesn't get a restaurant review.

* Future Mrs. Pirate

Friday, December 15, 2006

Everybody Loves the AL MVP!

-- Cont. from below
So who's the Power of HooDoo AL MVP? Why, David Ortiz, of course! Well, not really. Since his team stunk up the joint in the second half, we're going to eliminate him from MVP contention. The winner, therefore, is Jeter.

Interestingly, the formula that the boys at BP came up with would have predicted Mauer to the the MVP, with four MVP Points -- he won the league batting title, that's one point; he had a .300 or better BA, that's another point; he played on a division winner, and he played an up-the-middle defensive position, that's two more points.

But if you go through and add up the tiebreakers, the BP formula correctly predicts Morneau as the winner. Remember, this formula doesn't predict who deserves to win; merely who is going to win. And just for fun, here's how players can earn an MVP point, done in awesome bullet-point format:
  • Lead the league in RBI
  • Lead the league in BA
  • Lead the league in HR
  • Drive in 100 or more RBI
  • Have a .300 or better BA
  • Play for a division or league-winning team
  • Play an up-the-middle defensive position (C, SS, 2B, CF)

Who doesn't love bullet points?


Just for shits 'n giggles, here's the same info, but for the American League. I thought Jeter would win the MVP pretty handily. His main competition, I thought, was Ortiz and Santana; neither of whom could win the MVP because one's a pitcher, and the other is a DH for a team that didn't even make the playoffs. Yet again, I was wrong.

If you look at WSAB, you couldn't go wrong with either Jeter, Ortiz, or Mauer; take your pick. If you want to eliminate Ortiz because the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs, I got no problem with that. So between Mauer and Jeter, I expected Captain Intangibles to win, because he plays more games as a shortstop, and of course the New York Media Bias. What I did not expect was that anybody would vote for Justin Morneau, who doesn't crack the top seven in WSAB and who wasn't even the most valuable player on his own team.

I'd like to think that MVP voters have rare and special insight to the game, but it's pretty clear that they just vote for whoever has the best Triple Crown stats.

-- Continued above.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Even More on the MVP

cont. from previous post

There you go -- Albert Pujols provided the largest percentage of his team's Win Shares, second-most percentage of Runs and RBIs, and all while striking out only 50 times.* That's why I expected him to win the MVP.

If I were selecting the MVP, it would have been Beltran, because his fantastic production came out of such a premier defensive position, which is reflected in his WSAB. But the fact that he was on such a good team really hurt him with the voters. It's easier to shine when you're surrounded by a bunch of dim bulbs.

A couple years ago, though, the boys at BP came up with a formula to predict who would win the MVP. Not necessarily who should win, but who, based on voting patterns from the past, would be most likely to win. Players get points for various accomplishments, like having a .300 BA, or playing an up-the-middle defensive position (C, 2B, SS, or CF). We'll call these MVP points.

And there you have it. Ryan Howard, your 2006 NL MVP. It should have been obvious.

* Which, by the way, is freaking amazing. Power hitters tend to strike out a lot, because they're swinging for the fences. Beltran is the only other guy on this list who struck out less than 100 times, and he struck out 49 times more than Pujols. Incredible. Pujols strikes out only once every three games! Crazy.

More on the MVP, at last

I've been delaying putting this information up until I could make it all pretty, and write a comprehensive explanation of what I think it all means. But apparently I'm too busy/lazy to do that, so fuck it -- here it is.

The best way to determine who the most valuable player is, for a given team, is to look at how many Win Shares they generate. Win Shares aren't perfect, obviously, but they do take into account both offense and defense. By this criteria, Albert Pujols is your MVP, closely followed by Carlos Beltran

But you can't just look at raw totals. I think it makes more sense to look at Win Shares Above Bench, which takes into account the difference in ability between Joe Superstar and Jerry Benchwarmer. Basically, even a terrible player is going to accumulate some win shares. What makes a star a star, is how much more production you get out of him than you do from a replacement-level player for that position.

By that criteria, your MVP is Carlos Beltran. Finding a center fielder who can bang 40-plus homers is a lot harder than finding a first baseman who can do the same, so Carlos gets the nod over Albert by this measure. And frankly, I think that this is what makes the most sense. By WSAB, Ryan Howard doesn't even crack the top five.

But WSAB is a nerd stat that nerds use when they aren't obsessively updating the Buffy entry on Wikipedia. So lets look at some caveman stats, like RBIs, Strikeouts, and Runs. It seems to reason that the most valuable player would provide the greatest percentage of his team's production (or, in the case of strikeouts, the least amount, because Strikeouts Are Bad, You Can't Move The Runner Over On A Strikeout, It Isn't A Productive Out). So how does Ryan Howard hold up as an MVP candidate here?

Not very well, it turns out. Ryan knocked in 149 runs, and that's a lot. But he played on a very good offensive team in a tiny little bandbox of a park -- lots of guys on that Phillies team knocked in a bunch of runs. Ryan Howard knocked in a smaller percentage of the team's total runs than both Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Hell, Fatty Kruk knocked in 13 fewer ribbies, but provided almost 20% of the shitty Houston offense. That would make it seem like Berkman is the more valuable player than Howard.

So, combined with Win Shares, I ranked the top seven players in the NL and gave them each a point for their ranking in these categories (7 points for coming in first, six for second, etc) and this is what I came up with.

Apparently, I will have to fire up a second post to contain all this MVP wisdom. Continued above.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ryan Howard, MVP

So Ryan Howard is the NL MVP, despite the fact that he clearly doesn't deserve it. I may have mentioned this before. Anyway, I was extremely surprised to hear Howard won (despite having a fantastic season, don't get me wrong) because it seemed to me that there were at least two much more deserving candidates in the NL; one of whom plays a premier defensive position at the Gold Glove level, while the other is a former NL MVP who led his desperately mediocre team to a World Series title.

Frankly I thought that Pujols would run away with the MVP. He's pretty obviously the best player on the Cardinals. There's no way the Cards make the playoffs, even in the craptacular NL Central, without him. So he satisfies the two criteria for an MVP of both having a good season (49 HR, 119 R, 137 RBI) and playing on a winner (the sale of gritty World Series MVP David Eckstein’s soul to the Devil turned the 83-78 Cardinals into Champs).

Personally, I think that Carlos Beltran would have been a better choice for MVP. There’s no way he was gonna win it, though, despite hitting almost as well as Pujols (41 HR, 127 R, 116 RBI) while playing stellar defense at a much more difficult position. Since the Mets cruised through the NL East, Beltran was able to sit out a couple of weeks at the end of the season, and that hurt his candidacy. The Mets actually had too much talent on the 2006 squad for any one of them to make a case for being the single most valuable, at least according to the clever fellows at the BBWAA, who vote on this award.

Which brings us to Howard. Granted, he had a great year (58 HR, 104 R, 149 RBI) but as Pujols pointed out, the Phillies didn’t even make the playoffs. How can Howard be the MVP if you could replace him with John Flowers*, and not have it impact the playoffs at all? That’s true, I suppose; but the Phillies did win 85 games, more than the Cardinals, and the Phillies were in contention to make the playoffs as a wildcard almost to the end of the season.

And this is part of the problem with the MVP award – it isn’t always clear what criteria we should use to judge the award. Which is why there’s always some controversy over who should or shouldn’t have won it, because the 38 douchebags who vote for this thing are all using 38 different scoring systems. Allow me to share mine.

Which, frankly, I'll have to do tomorrow, since writing the absurdly wordy introduction to this thing has taken a whole Gravity's Rainbow.

* Hot Johnny is a Keith Hernandez-type of first baseman, in that he smokes a lot and likes to drink after the game.