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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Well, That Didn’t Take Long

So you're saying there's slightly less of a chance.

So you’re saying there’s slightly less of a chance.


It was reported today that Luke Hochevar is out for the season, due to undergo Tommy John surgery. This is manageable given the depth of the Royals bullpen, but will still likely cost the Royals one win this season, dropping their expected win total to 88.
Kansas City Royals 2014 Preview
Injuries are a reality for every team, but the Royals have almost no margin for error, which is to say I really hope a little extra firepower is added to the team at some point or at the very least that James Shields and Greg Holland are driving to Kauffman stadium in one of these.

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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It belongs in a museum!

Indiana Jones hesitates to take the idol, unsure whether the Incas forged it during the steroid era.

Indiana Jones hesitates to take the idol, unsure whether the Incas forged it during the steroid era.


Maybe Indy wouldn’t be so upset about the Baseball Hall of Fame insanity that we’re subjected to in the new millennium, but I’m growing very weary. Today, around ten players who are obvious, no doubt, sure-fire first-ballot hall of famers were given the shaft by the collected baseball writers of America, most of whom were left out in the cold because they are proven/admitted/suspected steroid users and a few because the voters have no understanding of how to measure greatness.
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Don’t Give Up The Ship

So you're saying there's a chance.

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

After 81 games, the Royals stand at 39-42. This is very disappointing, but it’s hardly a disaster, especially with only a 4 game deficit in the division in the loss column.

At the beginning of the season, the big questions surrounding the Royals had to do with the bottom half of the starting rotation and the offense, and at the halfway mark of the season, it’s very clear that the former has been bad but the latter has been a disaster approaching Hindenburg/Pompeii proportions.
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The Kansas City Royals or Long-term Strategic Thinking in a Buyer’s Market

So you're saying there's a chance.

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

The Kansas City Royals perfectly illustrate the difficulties of winning in the steroid era with a small-market team. Consider that between 1975 and 1990, the Royals had 12 winning seasons in which they won two AL pennants and one world series. In the fifteen-year period from 1997 to 2012, the team managed only one winning season, in 2003, finishing 83-79. The reason, to a large degree, can be traced to an economic disparity in baseball that began, coincidentally, about 15 years ago.

In 1985, the year the Royals won the world series, their payroll was a little over $11 million, just slightly above the league average. Only 8 teams will have a lower payroll than the Royals in 2013, including the Houston Astros, who will spend less on their entire opening-day team than the Yankees will spend on what remains of Alex Rodriguez. In the American League, the Yankees will spend almost $150 million more than the Royals this year. To steal/mangle a line from King Theoden in The Two Towers, “So much money. What can men do against such reckless spending?”
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The NBA Comes Clean

davidsternThe NBA has produced a lousy product for decades, held together by superior marketing and an intrinsically pleasing game. I’m from Indiana. I can still shoot free throws at better than a 70% clip despite being old, out of shape and only playing once or twice a year, and if there is a television screen nearby with images of a basketball floating through the air majestically, I will always and forever be drawn to it. I love basketball, which is exactly why I hate the NBA.

The reason for this is simple. The NBA has long been a failure at the one thing that matters most to a professional sports league – integrity. My friends have had to listen to my annoying rants about how NBA playoff games are fixed (they are) and why the games, in the regular season in particular, are terrible (they often are) but just yesterday the league (aka David Stern) came out publicly with the exact same assessment. Well, maybe not the one about playoff games being fixed, they’re probably hoping people don’t notice that.
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Winning Isn’t Everything

Winning a championship is not necessarily the mark of greatness. This is one of the classic mistakes people make when discussing sports, placing too much emphasis on a single moment at the expense of the big picture, a view which seems to have taken a stranglehold over sportswriting in the last ten years.

Winning is often a byproduct of greatness, but it’s not a direct correlation, and as anybody who has ever flipped through a college coursebook late at night and stumbled across the 9AM statistics class they have no intention of taking will tell you, correlation is not causation.
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