A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Must Read of the Day

Go grab a cup of coffee and give this a read. The article is hysterical on its own, but the comments are even more hysterical. The readers stomped Buster a new mud hole and it was great. Keep in mind Buster just became a Hall of Fame voter and was inducted into the BBWAA and you know what? He fits right in.

I know some of you do not actually have an ESPN Insider subscription so good ol' Mike has you covered.

Buster, it's like you are hitchhiking on the highway of baseball analysis and the point just flew right by you at 80 mph without slowing down. For example, "not making an out" has always been fundamentally important to the game.

I love the analogy. Very nice.

This reminds my why I don't read Buster Olney.
"Look, if you stick his statistics into offensive formulas tailored for the way the game was played in the '90s, he's not going to look as good"
F*&k the heck is he talking about? Which formulas are tailored for the way the game was played in the '90? Olney is terrible at everything except providing links.

This statement by Buster was particularly disturbing for a Hall of Fame voter. Of course the game changes, but any statistical analysis that has been created recently has tons of value for evaluating the game's past.

When someone can explain why, if Rice was a HOF hitter, he had a sub .800 OPS on the road for his career, then I'd consider him. And, I know it was a different time, but there is no corner outfielder who should be in the HOF with a sub .800 OPS no matter what time he played in, especially when his main attribute is hitting.

Probably the most compelling argument for him to not be included. Pure insanity. Though a significantly smaller sample size, Ryan Church has a much better road OPS than Jim Rice and I doubt you can prove to me it is just the era. Rice was certainly good, but not HOF good.

Buster, I like your blog and your work on baseball tonight and most of your columns, but stop trying to be a stat-head. 3 points:

1. OPS+, WARP and similar measures remove the inflation or deflation. It normalizes the eras. It's apples-to-apples in other words, and it adjusts for position difficulty which most media people have ignored.
2. 11 years and 5 very good and 6 decent is not a HOF career
3. HOF should be judged against all players who have played, not just a random 11-year universe of players. And please never forget the importance of defense. Dwight Evans has almost the same offensive production and was a stellar defender and he's never mentioned anymore.

Lists are in in '08.

The argument that OBP wasn't as important in other eras doesn't fly. OBP measures how good you were at not making outs, and not making outs is the single most important factor in scoring runs. That's true in any era.

Rice's career OPS+ (adjusted for league and park) was 128, which compares favorably to Eddie Murray (129) but not really George Brett (135) or Mike Schmidt (143) (these are the guys that Olney brought up). However, Rice's mark isn't as good as it looks because he played so few games and never made it to the decline phase of his career. Rice had 3,759 fewer plate appearances than Eddie Murray. If you knock off the final 3,759 plate appearances of Murray's career, his OPS+ would be something more like Brett's. And oh yeah, Brett, Murray, and Schmidt all played good to excellent defense, while Rice was below average.

Rice wouldn't be the worst player in the HOF, but he would lower the standards quite a bit. He shouldn't get extra credit for having a short career.

Brilliant logic there as I never really thought of how a shorter career can help inflate your career OPS+.

No one goes after the road ERA of Koufax because 2.57 is still awesome. . .Rice on the road was simply not a good hitter. Compare him to the guys in the hall and tell me who he is better than. . .compare him to Dale Murphy and explain to me how he is so much better than Murphy, who isn't getting a sniff for the hall?

Comparing Koufax to Rice to support Rice's case was a horrible example.

"From 1975 to 1986, Mike Schmidt accumulated 12 seasons of at least 20 homers. Rice ranks second in that time frame, with 11."

Let me use the same logic...from 1993 to 2007, Omar Vizquel accumulated 14 seasons with at least 2 home runs. Chipper Jones (who made his major league debut in 1993) ranks just behind him in that time frame, with 13.

Why is 20 home runs the magic cutoff point when comparing Rice to Schmidt? It's true that from 1975-86, Schmidt had 12 seasons with more than 20 homers...but he also had 11 seasons with more than 30 homers. Rice had 11 seasons with more than 20 homers...and only 4 with more than 30 homers. It's a little dishonest to imply that Rice had home run power that was comparable to Schmidt. Even with just this very simple analysis, it's obvious that it's just not true.

As I stated the other day, Rice averaged 24 homers a year for his career. That is simply not all that great for a power hitter no matter what era.

By the way, using Buster's and Gammons' fear factor argument, I'd like to nominate Kyle Farnsworth for the Hall of Fame. I know when he enters a game with a small lead in the 8th inning, it scares the heck out of me.

Let us not forget when he went 'Farnsworth' on Paul Wilson, which certainly should add to Kyle's fear factor.

Looking at career Batting Wins, Rice ranks 124. The players immediately above and below him include: Jim Edmonds, Willie Keeler, Hack Wilson, Charlie Keller, Gavvy Cravath, Jake Beckley, George Gore, Dolph Camilli, Earl Averill, Paul Hines, Fred Lynn, Darryl Strawberry, Tony Perez, and Bernie Williams. Among that group, the HOFs either:

a) played a more demanding defensive position (Keeler, Wilson, Averill), or
b) are themselves questionable HOF selections (Wilson, Beckley, Perez)

A look at other park and era-independent measures like OPS+ (Rice ranks 173, and benefits a lot more from his S than his O) and Offensive W% (Rnk = 285) yield similar results.

Eh, that is a newfangled stat that has no business being used for players prior to 1990.

MVP points are meaningless. Picking a random range of years (1975-86) is silly. Mark Grace had the most hits in the 90's. It doesn't mean much. Picking a random number of RBIs in a season (85) and then saying a player did it x years in a row doesn't mean much....why 85 RBI? What makes that number significant? Measuring Rice against .400 OBP guys is silly.....just compare his OBP to his peers and he doesn't stack up all that well. It's not that he didn't draw as may walks as players do today, it's that he didn't draw as many walks as average players in his time. Oh, and he made a ton of outs (especially with all those double plays). The Sandy Koufax comparison is laughable. In any era a 2.57 ERA (Koufax's road ERA during his peak years) is Hall of Fame Worthy. Jim Rice's road stats, in any era, are not.....that comparison is just plain lazy. And finally, the baseball prospectus guys did a great analysis of Rice. From the mid-70s to 1980 (5-6 seasons) he had Hall of Fame numbers by most measures. But the next 6+ seasons were mostly ordinary (even if he did end up with high RBI totals through the mid-80s). C'mon Buster, you gotta do a bit more homework before writing these things.

Kind of repeats some stuff from before, but he does it well.

As I was reading Olney's column I found myself becoming more and more upset, particularly with his repeated beating of strawmen in an attempt to buttress his argument, if you could even call it.

But then I went to the comments...and I *almost* feel sorry for him -- Olney is completely overmatched. ESPN should intervene or something. And I don't buy for a second that he hasn't read, or isn't reading, the comments.

Well done, commenters.

The park factor for Fenway from '78 through '89 is 112, 106, 106, 107, 107, 107, 105, 104, 101, 103, 105, and 107. Basically it was not even a slightly better park for hitters but a much better park for hitters. Any player who has such a large body of work and was considered a fearsome power hitter should never have a sub .800 OPS on the road.

I would not mind seeing a further breakdown of the park factor to break down righties and lefties over that time period. According to my 2004 Bill James handbook, from '02 to '04, righties had a substantially easier time hitting than lefties, which certainly makes me wonder even more how people deny the possibility that Rice's numbers were not greatly influenced by simply playing half of his games at Fenway. On top of that, his inflated numbers are STILL not Hall worthy.

Next, all those MVP votes are by the same people who vote for the HOF. It's a self-supporting argument. And as for 1978, he did beat out Guidry because a number of baseball writers felt pitchers have their own award, so they won't vote for them as MVP if there is a legitimate hitter to vote for. The fact that Guidry kept the Yankees in the race by going 13-0 as the Yankees fell 14 back (there would have been no come back without him) and then went 12-2 down the stretch and won the deciding play-off game and DIDN'T win the MVP is another knock against members of the BBWAA who vote on all the awards. Rice was certainly a worthy candidate. In some years you have more than one. Guidry, however, should have won it.

I just love that someone finally pointed out the same rubes who vote on the Hall of Fame and are enamored with RBIs and homers are same rubes who vote on the MVP.

There were plenty of great comments and only a handful of Buster's supporters. The best part is that Buster must have read everything because he felt the need to respond.

A lot of e-mail landed here about Friday's Jim Rice column, most of which suggests: First, that I cherry-picked statistics to make Rice look good; second, MVP voting is irrelevant; and third, I'm an idiot. There's no point in trying to defend my own idiocy, but the cherry-picking and MVP observations are interesting.

So if I understand the argument from some e-mailers: If you criticize Rice's candidacy by relying on Adjusted OPS+, through which Rice fares badly, that's analysis. But if you support Rice's candidacy citing home runs and RBI, then it's cherry-picking.

Hmmmm …

It was not just OPS+, but I can certainly get what he is saying. People have cited other reasons like his home road splits, road OPS, 382 homers for a power hitter, the flawed argument of how 'feared' he was despite no evidence to back it up in regards to walks, career win shares, the fact he played 25% of his games as a DH and never contributed meaningfully with the glove, etc.

I think there has been a dearth of real information to support his candidacy and not the other way around.

Adjusted OPS+ is a useful number. And if this your be-all, end-all statistic, keep in mind that:

* Mark McGwire and Frank Thomas rank higher than Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Joe DiMaggio.

* Jim Thome ranks higher than A-Rod and Gary Sheffield.

* Lance Berkman ranks higher than Ken Griffey Jr.

* Brian Giles ranks higher than George Brett, Al Kaline, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew and Roberto Clemente.

* Adam Dunn ranks higher than Eddie Murray.

Of course there should be plenty more comments today, but it is a bit too early.

Buster, you can't use career OPS+ numbers for HOFers who had decline phases of their careers and compare them with players who are currently at their career peaks... Adam Dunn versus Eddie Murray for example.

OPS+ is useful when comparing players who had similar plate appearance numbers. For players who have an extra 10 years of plate appearances it becomes an apples/oranges comparison.

The idea with Rice is that he wasn't as dominant as people believed he was even though he didn't play for a long time.

I have not found any sort of metric to prove that he had any more than four Hall of Fame type seasons and a bunch of OK ones.

The biggest frigging problem with Rice supporters is that they want to use only those years in making their argument. Is it fair to put put up Rice's numbers from his prime and compare it to other players may have started earlier than that or completed their careers after that? Rice apologist like show how he stacks up to the big names of the time but for that time period only. Why should we ignore pre 75 and post 86 numbers for other players just to make Rice and his short career look better?

This seems to be the biggest cherry picking portion of the argument. Was everyone he was being compared to in the midst of their twelve best seasons at the time?

Why are so many people passionate about shooting down Rice's case for the HOF? I am a Sox fan and it doesn't matter either way to me. But it is hard to ignore the HR total he accumulated in the nonsteriod era. Of course you can say that is only one aspect to be considered and he should not be elected on that stat total alone. But how about say...Phil Rizzuto? Why is he in the HOF? Is it because of his defense alone? How is his OPS+? He is in as a player not an announcer so he must have been elected on Defense alone or "all around play". It doesn't seem that statistics can quantify either of those. I guess maybe he was elected for being a spokesman for The Money Store.... I don't remember THIS MUCH stink being made of his election.

This is precisely one of those extremely flawed arguments. I'm not going to comment on Rizzuto specifically, but I love when people point to people already in the Hall of Fame like that should make a difference. Some people are in but are not really worthy so that serves no point to compare them. If you want to compare, compare to no doubt Hall of Famers.

* * *

  • Kotsay to the Braves is certainly a smart move. They were slated to head into '08 with some horrific production in centerfield. His days of adding any significant value is over, but he should be a solid stopgap for the Braves.

  • This should come as no surprise to anyone, but Kyle Lohse is willing to take less years. Three to be exact. However, I still have my doubts at this point if he can even get that and he is looking at $12 million per season.

    I've been running it through my head as to possible suitors and I'm not seeing anyone who would pony up $36 million over three years. 3/$24? Maybe. I think the word delusional sums up Lohse's thoughts so far this off-season and hopefully a team does not cave and agree to his ridiculous demands.

  • Stay the course.

    And that's how the Mets' offer to the Twins will remain -- strictly just prospects. The Mets will not include Jose Reyes in any deal for Santana, despite speculation that he remains a sticking point for Smith. So far, the Mets have reportedly offered OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Kevin Mulvey, RHP Philip Humber and RHP Deolis Guerra, the team's top pitching prospect from Class-A St. Lucie.

    The Twins have also reportedly asked for top outfield prospect Fernando Martinez. The Mets are reluctant to include their No. 1 minor-leaguer, but there is feeling among the Mets hierarchy that the necessary steps -- a loaded package of the team's top prospects -- should be taken to acquire a two-time Cy Young winner. The belief is also that money is not a hindrance, despite Santana's wish for a long-term contract extension, that could cost as much as $140 million over seven years.

    The Mets should not budge as I think that offer is good. The Mets much maligned prospects are not as bad as people view them. Guerra would rank as #3 or #4 in either of the Red Sox or Yankee systems. Gomez and Mulvey are better than everyone except Joba, Kennedy, Tabata, Ellsbury, Anderson, and Lowrie in either of the other two systems. Hughes is better than anyone being offered as well, but not one other piece of the Yankees package is better than one through four of the Met package with most pieces being much, much better.

    If the Red Sox would include Bowden, the game is over and they get Santana. However, until then, I am not seeing how it is appreciably better. It is just different and less risky but without as much upside as I stated yesterday. I know the buzz has been the Mets are in 'whatever it takes' mode, but that would be foolish and liquidating the system would be a mistake.

    The Mets current offer is a bit more palatable for me. In fact, Neise is actually a more highly rated prospect than Phil and I would prefer him in there versus Humber. The only issue there is that the package is way too young for a team that has a lot of great pieces right now. By the time they get around to being productive, their core will be ready to leave, which makes Humber a better choice for the Twins.

  • El Tigres del Norte are looking to lock up Miguel. How much is he going to get? He has no allegiance to this team and a hometown discount really does not come into play here. Seven years $120+ when you factor in the buyout of his final arbitration years?
  • Labels: , ,


    Anonymous benny blanco from da bronx said...

    I don't have ESPNINsider so I didn't read the whole article, Buster, however, loses on this comment alone.
    "Giving him demerits because he failed to draw walks is like diminishing what Pedro Martinez has accomplished because he has only two 20-win seasons."

    Umm, Pedro Martinez cannot control his bullpen sucking ass and blowing the game. Nor can can he control his offense scoring enough runs for him. You can control walks. Walks=good plate discipline!
    I love how Buster tries to bust out the stats, and the OBP's and all that jazz but then he fails to realise the formula's that adjusts the production to whatever era!
    Buster loses!

    Like I've said a bajillion times, the just the fact we're even having this long ass discussion, over and over again, and people are really torn and in thier hearts do not believe Rice is not a Hall of Famer and can prove it, goes to show he shouldn't be a hall of famer. He's been on the ballot for 14 years now, like seriously, this is ridiculous. He wasn't good enough in 1993 and he isn't good enough now.
    "Batting Wins"? What the fuck really? This proves he shouldn't be on there! Jim Edmonds will be remembered by my generation as the man! but he's not a Hall of Famer! Bernie Williams may be on classy man but he's surely not a hall of famer. And Darryl Strawberry? he has as many batting wins as a guy who lost time due to drugs? great comp! That argument hurts Rice, not helps him.

    Kotsay to the Braves is good, he's defense is under-rated but as long as his back isn't destroyed.

    Lohse gets 2 years with an innings option for three. I feel bad for whoever signs him...

    That Tigers lineup is Deeeeeeeeep. Pudge batting last? I know he's not what he used to be but damn!

    3:18 PM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Perhaps the Twins see what Oakland got for Haren. They see and say 'Damn they got 6 players for Haren and another guy. Why cant we do the same?' So I cant blame them for asking all they can get.

    Either include F-Mart, which I really dont want to do. Or include F-Mart and take back Gomez.

    - Nokes

    3:40 PM

    Anonymous benny said...

    THought I'd share this. This is just... wow, sucks for both of them.
    ANd you know damn well they got freaky with each other and did the hibbidy dibbidy. Damn that sucks. THat news would ruin my year.

    3:59 PM

    Blogger Coop said...

    Benny said hibiddy dibiddy

    9:16 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...


    I think that the period the hitter plays in should determine to an extent his eligibility for the hall. I never saw Rice play but from what I read he had 6 or 7 seasons as the best hitter in the game at a time when pitching was very strong.

    I really dont want to give up our 5 best prospects for Santana. I think it has to be Gomez or FMart, not both. If they have to give 5 then I won't stop going to games but I will be slightly concerned about the 2010 season and beyond.

    10:08 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...


    BTW: Buster Olney-----> Toolbag

    10:09 AM

    Blogger Sidd Finch said...

    Olney had the 400 number right, but it wasn't OBP.

    The last person to have 400 total bases in the AL is JIM RICE.

    The only person between 1959 and 1997 to have 400 total bases in a season was JIM RICE. Look at the list of people who have done it since 1996, and they were either JUICED, or played in COORS FIELD.

    I'm tired of hearing that Rice definitely doesn't belong in the hall, and not just here. He's a borderline candidate, and I think he will make it next year.

    He was a better than average fielder, and regularly had double digit assists. He also held a lot of hard hit balls to singles at Fenway. I think that if his eyesight didn't deterioriate at the end of his career, he probably would have played longer, and exceeded 400 HR. I think the HR average comparison is a bit unfair, since one of those seasons was a September call-up, when he hit 1, the 1981 strike year, when he played only 108 games, and his last season, when he hit only 3 homers. But, then again, he was one of my favorite players at the time, so I would feel that way.

    I agree with you that Olney is a knucklehead; however Rice deserves to be in the Hall, along with Blyleven, Raines, and Gil Hodges.

    11:10 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    the hall of fame is a joke.

    seriously who cares if jim rice makes it? eddie murray doesnt even deserve to be there. if you have debate whethere someone belongs, then he prolly doesnt.

    11:53 AM

    Blogger Sidd Finch said...

    There are a whole list of players that 'don't really belong there'. The HOF is a joke in some ways, plus, I really feel awkward agreeing with Buster Olney.

    Seven years and 120 - 130 for Cabrera? If I'm the Tigers, sign me up!

    12:44 PM

    Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

    Can't we just give the Twins an entire minor league team and get this over with already?

    12:44 PM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We'll get him for one OF and one pitcher at the break.

    10:06 PM

    Anonymous Two-By-Four said...

    I was called out of retirement for consulting work that has occupied my time the last two weeks so I haven’t had much time to visit this web-site. I see that Mike’s been busy and is riding his HOF horse to the desert. While most of Mike’s argument may be accurate we must remember the HOF is something of a popularity contest where players can be voting in based on intangibles that vary from voter to voter. Getting in is much more than a simple black and white numbers issue. When looking at players we have to take into account the conditions under which they played. Years ago players needed winter jobs to support their families in the off-season and actually used ST to get into shape. There was a time when infields were not in the manicured condition they are in today and the fielders used gloves that were slightly larger than your winter gloves. Other issues outside the numbers game are pitchers on 4 day rotations, starting pitchers expected to complete games regularly, height of the mound, pitch counts (or lack thereof), placing greater value on bunting and playing small ball, etc. But even if you apply these variables as applicable to the equation, Mike is correct when stating that Jim Rice doesn’t belong. I place Rice in the same category I place Gill Hodges and Keith Hernandez, outstanding players but not HOF worthy.

    Benny said hibiddy dibiddy

    He’s been watching too many reruns of “Beverly Hillbillies” on TVLAND.

    8:28 PM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Dick Allen before Jim Rice!

    1:34 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Mex before Jim Rice


    1:54 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...


    Just looking at the Phils line up for 08. Seems they have stacked the LH side of the plate with hitters. Seems they are not worried about a left handed ace developing or arriving in Flushing. Hmm, serious problems await the Phils...GOOD!


    2:01 AM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm sick and tired of people using the argument that Jim Rice had poor H/R splits and a low career OPS+. Can any body name a player who played left-field for the Sox and had worse H/R splits, and an almost identical career OPS+? You guessed it. First ballot HOF Carl Yastrzemski.

    4:48 AM

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