Don Mattingly and the Tyranny of Math

Here stands a great hitter.

Here stands a great hitter.

I understand people who are resistant to placing their faith in numbers. It must be especially threatening to those who have built a professional identity through a lifetime of success either without the use of, or more likely, in direct opposition to analytics. To be told your entire life you are great, knowledgeable, or both, and to then have those core values, really your entire sense of self, challenged must be difficult. To value what you see, what you have done, everything you have been taught, well, this is a difficult thing to toss away, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
I was taught this was a rock. It's still a rock, right? It sure looks like a rock. I'll bat it leadoff just in case.

I was taught this was a rock. It’s still a rock, right? It sure looks like a rock. I’ll bat it leadoff just in case.

So when I write that Don Mattingly is an idiot, please understand it’s done with affection, understanding and compassion. He was a great, great player. He’s from Indiana. But idiot he is.
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Ah, Hope, It Does Spring Training Eternal

So you're saying there's a chance.

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

Pitchers and catchers are reporting for duty, and the marathon that is the major league baseball season will soon commence with the cactus and grapefruit leagues splitting squads and testing arms on the way to telling us almost nothing of value in terms of accurately predicting the events of the upcoming season. In the vein of pointlessly speculating, and in lieu of more productive activity in the real world, let’s examine the prospects for the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
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An Open Letter to Stan Kasten

Dear Stan Kasten,

Thank you for the form letter I received today thanking me for my support of the Los Angeles Dodgers and detailing the renewal information for my season tickets. As a 2012 season-ticket holder, please allow me a few words for whoever reads this letter in lieu of you.

Ownership’s supposed level of commitment to winning in 2013 is built upon a troubling organizational decision to both take on and award enormous long-term contracts to players who are over the age of 30. Not only this, but the quality of talent sure to take the field in 2013 and beyond has been experiencing a noticeable decline in performance over the past few years.
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Get Ready For Condominiums

The Dodgers traded for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto today, taking on over 200 million in salary for the next five years on Gonzalez and Crawford alone. The Dodgers team now only vaguely resembles the team that jumped out to the best record in baseball through the first two months of the 2012 season, and while it is unquestionably better, it comes with a price. We just don’t know what that price will be yet. Continue reading

Last Victorino Post I Promise

It’s impossible to watch baseball without an eye towards the romantic, but analyzing baseball is all about the math. A player’s value on the field has nothing to do with how they play the game, and everything to do with their production. Here’s a link to a puff piece on ESPN that fails miserably in assessing new Dodger left-fielder Shane Victorino.

The most entertaining excerpts, with my thoughts in bold:

“Shane Victorino is the kind of guy you want on your team…”. This is true if you like players who maintain the league average for OBP and OPS. As a Dodger he is below average in both categories.
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Wait, what?

The Dodgers designated Bobby Abreu for assignment today to make room for Shane Victorino, recently acquired in a deadline trade with the Phillies. The Dodgers gave up two relievers, Lindblom and Martin, for Victorino, and dump Abreu from the team so Victorino can play left and bat leadoff. Is this a good decision? Continue reading


The Dodgers have lost four straight and face a long road trip without their starting center fielder, their starting second baseman, their starting third baseman, their starting left fielder, perhaps the worst starting shortstop in 2012 and a manager who is batting the team’s best hitter 7th in the lineup. Frankly, it’s amazing the Dodgers have been able to maintain such a torrid pace to this point given the injuries, and the heady days of playing .670 ball are now gone, never to return.
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St. Louis – May 18th


Gordon went 0-5 against the Cardinals on Friday night and he didn’t get a ball out of the infield. His batting average is .200, his on-base percentage is .239. and his OPS is .494. Only seven players in all of major league baseball get on base less often than Gordon. Only five have a lower OPS.

This cannot continue, as much as Dodger management is clearly hell bent on playing Gordon, his production simply isn’t up to major league standards. It’s not even close to major league standards. You could put a below-average player, not even an average one mind you, into his slot and they would dwarf his production. The kid needs to be dropped from the leadoff spot immediately, and the more likely scenario at this point is to send him to the minor leagues for a while. There is absolutely no legitimate justification for continuing to give one of the worst hitters in all of baseball the most at-bats on your team. It’s beyond idiotic.
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Colorado – May 11th

Back when Mattingly was good at his job.

Don Mattingly was a great player.  Injuries might have limited his place amongst Yankee greats, but this is a player who put up spectacular numbers during his peak years.  From 1984-1989, Mattingly averaged 27 home runs, 43 doubles and 203 hits.  From ’84-’87, his worst OPS was .918, and for his career, he walked 588 times, which is nothing to write home about, but he only struck out 444 times in 7722 plate appearances.  Exceptional performance.

He’s not a very good manager, though.  Continue reading

San Francisco – May 7th

Frank McCourt is an evil genius.  Wait, check that.  Frank McCourt’s legal representation and negotiating team are the geniuses.  McCourt is simply evil.  The man took ownership of the Dodgers in 2004 and every season since has been worse for Dodger fans.  It’s not all his fault, of course, but that doesn’t make him exempt from blame.
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