Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Boswell's An Idiot

Boswell has one of his big, sweeping columns that is written really purty and would make your great aunt wonder how Boz got to be so smart. But it's full of inaccuracies and distortions as Boz continues the sportswriter's tradition of distorting the facts to fit the hokey beliefs they already have.

The column's title is his thesis: "For Many Teams, Small-Ball Efforts Are Being Richly Rewarded." That's well and good, but it's kind of fun watching him contort the facts in the manner of the best Washingtonian Party Hacks.

Let's count the ways:
1: "...from the mid-market teams in last year's World Series..."
Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Chicago is the third. (source)

2:...these are days when dollars well spent can put you in the postseason....
As if the World Series has been dominated by the Yankees (well, maybe there!), Mets, Red Sox, Angels, and Dodgers.

3: Japan paved the way to its championship with four runs without a single hard-hit ball. You'd have thought that Scott Podsednik, Tadahito Iguchi, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski -- the modest top five hitters in the White Sox' order last October -- were playing for Sadaharu Oh's club.
Podsednik won Game 2 with a home run. Jermaine Dye won the MVP primarily for his big homer. In the regular season, Konerko hit 40 home runs; Dye hit 31. As a team, they hit 200 homers. During the four games of the World Series, they hit six.

4:...clubs like both the Nats and Orioles should, in the future, be able to pay enough to compete on this more level field.
The Orioles have always been near the top in payroll, and never had any success. It wasn't because of steroids. Syd Thrift would be at the top of the list. They had the resources, just not the people in place.

5: It's no accident that the rise of mid-market teams has coincided with the decrease in performance-enhancing drugs
Drug testing has been in place for one year -- two years if you include the penalty-free year. Mid-Market teams have always had a chance. He wouldn't call 2004's Boston/St. Louis matchup a mid-market one, would he? Even if St. Louis is a much tinier market than most people realize.

6: The tiny yards of Philadelphia and Cincinnati would have added dozens of homers for Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson...
Not so much a quibble, but it should be pointed out that Willie Mays played a large portion of his career in the Polo Grounds, which was one of the most homer-friendly ballparks in baseball history.

7: The sport doesn't have parity. (Who wants it? Too boring.) But the Marlins did win the '03 title with an Opening Day payroll of only $48,750,000, less than a third of the Yankees whom they beat in the Series. And the Twins and Athletics, among others, have contended often with modest payrolls.
Nothing wrong there, but doesn't his acknowledgement of this completely valid point INvalidate his central thesis?

8: The teams that spot the next trend most quickly and adapt their rosters to capitalize on it will get the most value for their dollars in coming years
Hmmm.... Didn't I read this somewhere? I can't remember where though.

9: So far, the Nationals and Orioles certainly seem to be early adapters.
If the next trend involves signing too many second basemen, demoting your second best offensive outfielder, and signing Jeff Conine, then I smell a pennant!

10: ...rather than getting more power hitters to replace Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro....
Sammy Sosa in 2005: 14 homers. Rafael Palmeiro in 2005: 18 homers. Wow, what power.

11: If the Orioles can patch together an adequately deep bullpen, which still seemed problematic in spring training, the Birds may finally end their streak of eight straight losing seasons.
Count the qualifiers in that statement. Even Boz doesn't believe the crap he writes.

12: It's hard to build a team on a sensible budget that can win lots of 3-2 and 4-3 games if you play in a home park where rival sluggers don't have to "get it all" to get it out of the park.
I'm not going to deny that Camden Yards is better place for hitters than Memorial Stadium was. But this myth of Camden Yards as a homer haven just hasn't been borne out by the stats. The Orioles have run some craptastic pitchers out there over the last decade, which has distorted the perception.

In 2005: LHB hit 6% fewer home runs than league average, RHB just 1% more.
In 2004: LHB hit 7% more; RHB 5%

Yes, it's more, but it's not Cinci or Philadelphia.

13: General Manager Jim Bowden who has spent the last year retooling his personnel to suit his park
That would have been a perfectly fine sentence without those last four words.

14: So, the Nats have signed Jose Guillen and Nick Johnson, two such hitters, to multiyear contracts.
Jose Guillen at RFK: .238 AVE; .323 OBP; .343 SLG; 3 Homers; 22 RBI
He's PERFECT for the park, Boz!

15: Finally, Alfonso Soriano, who was traded for upper-cut-swinging Brad Wilkerson, is also an all-fields, line-drive hitter.
Soriano is an extreme flyball pitcher -- one of the most extreme in the league. His Groundball/Flyball ratio was .69 last year, and it's .78 for his career. Wilkerson's is roughly the same, .82 for his career.

Perhaps Boz missed the 42 doubles that Wilkerson hit last year (to lead the team). He definitely missed the 39 that Wilkerson hit in 2004, since he was playing in Puerto Rico and all. Soriano cranks out doubles, to be sure, but it's not because of his line drive swing (watch the way the guy follows through with his swing, his hands are up over his head fer crissake!), but because his moonshots are crashing off the wall!

16: It's no accident that Vinny Castilla, Preston Wilson and Wilkerson -- who all fit the mold of big-fly all-or-nothing sluggers who will never hit close to .300 in a big ballpark -- have left the organization.
Who brought in Castilla and Wilson? I can't remember. Want to know how many Nationals hit .300 at home last year? None. You knew that. Only Nick Johnson was close, at .297. Next closest? Ryan Church at .276. (Where's he now?) Jose Guillen, who Boz assured us was perfect for the park hit .236. Brian Schneider, another player Bowden signed to a long-term deal (apparently because he was part of Bowden's new-found offensive strategy) batted .225 at home. Here's the whole farkin' list.

17: If the Nats play with the team unity and fundamental soundness of the first half of '05, then all these theories may have some meaning.
I'm glad to see that the Nats lost because of team unity.

Here I was thinking it had to do with their complete inability to hit the ball with any regularity, and the fact that the team ran out of pitchers because their short-sighted GM traded them away for a crappy second baseman and a gimpy outfielder whom Boz just acknowledged was a #$# fit for the freakin' park!

18:However, if their defense remains as unfocused as it has been in Florida and if their lineup lacks internal chemistry, as it did in '05, then all the Nats' smart talk won't count for much.
What the feck is 'internal chemistry'? Is that some sort of new-fangled chemistry? Did Kevin Millar bring that down from Boston with him?

As far as the 'smart talk' not counting for much, I think you know what I'm betting. It's interesting, too, that Boz isn't trusting the smell of his own crap here either -- he's written another out into his grand unified theory.

Boz' theory could be rewritten: If the Nats take advantage of their park, they could win a lot of games, unless they don't. Gee thanks, Bernstein. Where do we send the Pulitzer?

19:But, as Opening Day arrives, at least 20 teams are firmly convinced that their budgets will not prevent them from making the playoffs. Once you reach October, as teams like the '02 Angels, '03 Marlins and '05 White Sox showed, nobody weighs your wallet before handing you the World Series trophy.
Just like last year when 20 teams had a reasonable shot at the playoffs. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that. It sucks for Royals and Devil Rays fans that they feel they have no shot, but their beef isn't with the Yankees or the Sox, it's with the utterly incompetent management in charge.

And how come Boz is using the Angels as an example of this? He already demonized them as one of the big spenders who's crapping all over the small market buffet! Which way is it Boz?

Someone put him out to pasture, please!


A poster at Baseball Primer sums up my feelings about this perfectly:
This is the kind of analysis that you sort of wish were true, because it's so rhetorically well-crafted, taking a bunch of occurrences and weaving morals and trends out of them. Good writing makes sense of the world. Boswell is a very good writer. The topos: less is more. Makes sense to me.

Then again I look at the American League and see that the four defending playoff teams are from Boston, New York, Chicago, and L.A. of A. -- your basic huge markets, none of them hurting for payroll. The smartest and smallest-ball of them just took on huge contracts in Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, your basic fence-busters.

To say nothing of the deeply massaged assertion that Alfonso Soriano is somehow not essentially a home-run hitter.

Sigh. I think that sometimes writers who perceive trends actually weaken their argument by trying to make all the evidence align with the trend they're pushing.


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