Saturday, March 24, 2007

Whatchu Talkin 'Bout Mnookin?

Hot off the presses, some stinking mlb garbage from Seth Mnookin. Basically the point of his blog is to say hey, based on some seemingly sober projections of both Papelbon and Tavarez this year, maybe Papelbon actually is more valuable as a reliever. Actually some of the theory behind it is plausible to the point of intrigue. He kind of stumbles backside first into showing how VORP can be used somewhat as measure of reliever use efficiency. But he doesn't run with this and examine how Papelbon could be more useful as a roving relief ace than a starter. Instead he ineffectively throws some stats at us that he obviously doesn't understand and then concludes with some contradictory and befuddling final statements. Or as my bee said "It's a barrage of half-baked "statistical" "analysis" finishing with him saying that none of that matters and it's a good move because poor widdle papelbon might cry more if he were a starter."

My basic criticism of this is his ignorant usage of PECOTA. First he tries to predict Tavarez's starting success based on his PECOTA 2007 relief Won-Loss and ERA, two quantities that tell us very little about what we should expect from him as a starter. Quoting us the Won-Loss record says absolutely nothing. Also it's been shown statistically that one should expect about a 1 run differential in ERA between starting and relieving. A reliever should on average expect about a 1 run increase in their ERA. Suddenly Tavarez goes from solid back of the rotation starter to disaster. This is a major point when considering the ramifications of Papelbon closing this year. If the Red Sox had 5 ace starters and then Papelbon, well at that point him closing seems slightly sane. But like any major league team, they need all the quality arms in their rotation that they can get. Plenty of teams would thank their lucky stars to have Papelbon start for them, and are shaking their heads over the Red Sox refusing the opportunity.

He then follows that up by quoting Papelbon's PECOTA verbatim and doesn't even think twice about why the predictions are so conservative with him. Now I've just shown that even at 10-6 with a 4 ERA Papelbon will still be a drastic improvement over Tavarez, but really the reason the projection is so conservative is that it is based on a database of thousands of 1 or 2-pitch relievers who were forced into starting by their team due to lack of better options. Most young relief pitches (who PECOTA is comparing Papelbon to) don't have the stamina, experience, or pitch selection to be above average starters. Papelbon is really a starter who briefly worked as a reliever, but PECOTA doesn't know everything about him. It knows he did well in the minors, but he was old for almost every level he pitched at, which significantly undervalues you nomatter how good your stats are. Based on predictable learning curves for late teen, early 20s minor leaguers, being old for your level usually results in very low expectations by any reasonable projection tool. PECOTA sees him as a 4A starter turned reliever who is now being forced into the rotation, I don't blame it for being conservative. Those type pitchers tend to fail. See Leonard DiNardo.

Two other incorrect things he has sprinkled this irrelevant piece with are "There's undoubtedly a big psychological boost that comes with having a lights-out flamethrower set to slam shut the door at the end of the game" and "Borowski looked like an elite reliever last year." Referring to the former, I'm not sure how psychologically sound a team would be which had an excellent closer but no leads to protect. Oh wait I do know the psychological state of a team like that, I saw the Pirates play last year. It's a team so disinterested that teammates call each other out for not focusing on defense. I do understand what was meant to be his point, but I don't think our first order of business should be making Francona's late inning job easier, it should be having our best pitchers pitch the most innings possible so we can most effectively crush our opponents. Referring to the latter statement, Borowski had a 1.94 K/BB ratio last year. For reference, here are what some legitimate elite relievers had for K/BB last year: B.J. Ryan - 4.30, Mariano Rivera - 5.00, our boy Papelbon - 5.77, Joe Nathan - 5.94, J.J. Putz - 8.00, Pat Neshek - 8.83. Joe Borowski did not look like an elite reliever last year. His 3.75 ERA in a huge ballpark in the National League didn't even make him look that way. Honestly if Mnooken can't see this, why is he writing about baseball in the first place?

I can't say I really understand the confusing argument he transitions to towards the end of his blog, but suffice to say thinking that Red Sox Nation will be complacent with 4-5 inning below average starts from Julian Tavarez next year shows how out of touch he is on the issue.

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Anonymous Bee said...

I'm famous!!

...Wait, who reads this again?

12:01 AM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

Let's see.... Ajay, Pete, my Dad, Jonathan, Alex, Ben, ummm that's about it. It's a tight knit group.

1:21 AM  
Blogger ben said...

don't forget Yaccarino, that communist.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Somebody put my name in the comments! This is almost as exciting as that time I got free napkins with my sandwich.

7:41 PM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

you sure did love those napkins.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Jumpkin said...

The best part of that day was when a Yankee fan here said, "Ugh that sucks for us" and I was like, "Y'know it's really doesn't!"

9:57 AM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

Yankees fans are easily confused. This is what really sucks for them.

1:48 PM  

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