Monday, January 31, 2005

Sosa? Again? Why?

Because Capitol Punishment has a good analysis of the trade, that's why; also, I needed an excuse to rip off an Angelos blast

I didn't intend to use Chris' stuff as a primary jumping off point for the second day in a row, but here you go; I suspect it means he's a good blogger. Anyway, it's an excellent (Orioles-centric) analysis, thorough and well-reasoned. Two points Chris made are worth attention.

1. Chris chides a rigid enforcement of what you might call ex ante transaction analysis, such as that found in this blog, which dwells on Sammy's expected marginal rate of return (expressed in wins) above what Jerry Hairston Jr. would have brought (wrought?). He states that one cannot view the trade in a vacuum.

I addressed the Baltimore attendance issue in Saturday's post, and I'm not sure I'd go as far as Chris characterizes it (the impact of DC/NoVa-based Orioles-goers is still quite a variable, and I do think O's fans are quite loyal), but it's certainly more substantial than Boz's "well, it's not a joke to hold on to your O's tickets anymore" bit. It's the other point that is more interesting: what you might group together as luck, improvement, opponent's injury:

As far as the claim that it’s a bad signing because it’s only
going to get the Orioles to 84 or 85 wins… Huh? Is 84 wins a failure? You don’t think there’s a difference between finishing under .500 and finishing over? What if the Orioles get lucky and exceed their Pythagorean win total? What if Randy
Johnson gets hurt? Could the Orioles win 92 games and sneak past the Yankees? Definitely. Is it likely? Nope, but ya never know. And that’s what’s great about baseball.

I agree; anything can happen. The difference between success and failure---sometimes, I should add---is the difference between grabbing it and just sitting there, waiting for something to develop.

Besides, this is a good move for both teams. In a sense, Baltimore needs competition; Peter Angelos, as he was dreaming up his "regional franchise" dream-world, embodied this spirit of complacency that made the Orioles very boring. I believe competition is good, and I believe at some point the Orioles will realize they need to fight the DC move---not with negotiating ploys and threatened litigation, but with a competitive attempt to make DC care about the Orioles, to cut into the larger portion of the two-pronged, semi-regional market.

At the same time, an Orioles team with some bite is good for the Nats. Such a development will make management (whoever it is by this/that point) that it cannot recline and enjoy the "Baseball is back in DC" honeymoon for too long.

2. As an aside, Chris notes sagely that a Sosa trade to the Nats would have been very bad. I agree.

On Saturday, I was trying to come up with an angle for the Sosa-to-the-O's trade. My reflex was to go with the "pointless aging slugger deal" approach, perhaps as seen above. This is my reflex because of---you'll never guess!---a Bill James mini-essay I read when I was about 14 that criticized the Mariners for signing Jeffrey Leonard and hitting him clean-up in 1989.

Well, I was just a kid, and I was captivated by the dimensions of the RBI stat. (For instance, the lumbering Rob Deer-type slugger had a low RBI-to-home run ratio, while the line-drive, high average hitter like Mike Greenwell had a much higher RBI-to-HR ratio. I don't know why this interested me---it just did, as it probably did with many other kids who grew up loving baseball.) Consequently, I thought Jeff Leonard had enjoyed a stupendous season. He drove in 93 runs, after all!---back when that meant something.

And then I opened "The Baseball Book: 1990," and there James is calling Leonard a completely pointless acquisition, one that does not affect the future success or failure of the franchise one iota. Years later, I understood: Leonard was just there to fill space. I also realized that this "great" season was, in context, exactly league-average offensive performance.

Sosa would have been something of a Jeffrey Leonard deal for the Nationals. Do they need him? Not in the slightest. Jose Guillen has one corner outfield spot, and although we Nats bloggers mock F-Robbie's love of Terrmel "Complete Me" Sledge, what point would there be in displacing a manager's favorite fairly-young player for an aging superstar. And this is to say nothing of what to do with Bluegrass Wilks and Nick the Crutch. In addition, do the Nats have any hope of competing for anything in 2005? Not that I can see.

It is different for the O's. They can push above .500; they can with some luck hang around until maybe early-mid September in the wild card hunt, if tings break right. They haven't played a meaningful September (hell, August) game since 1997. And have you seen who is playing corner OF/1B/DH for the team?

Okay, not to make this all-Baltimore-blogging, but I wanted to comment on this story, which includes the amazing story of the Denny Bautista trade:

Aren't we glad that Angelos doesn't own the Nats?

Thanks for the compliments! You nail the reasons I didn't get into about why Sosa would be a bad fit in DC. I wanted to get into it, but I was already reaching my Gleeman-imposed word count.

Just one point on my analysis that I didn't make clear. I think this was important for the Orioles not so much because of the competition from the Nats, but for the spirit of their current fans. If you're really an Os fan, you're probably not going to change allegience. But, that doesn't mean you're going to continue to follow the team blindly as they continue to bash their head into the wall.

The move was beneficial, because it talks a whole line of devoted fans (And casual ones) off the ledge of the bridge. (Got any more metaphors I can mix in there?)
Hi! Thanks a lot for linking to my blog. I think I was mischaracterized a little bit, but I wanted to explain what I was thinking in regards to Sammy Sosa.

I never said that the Orioles made a bad move. In fact, if you read my entire post on the subject, I said it was a great move for the Orioles. The Orioles didn't give up anything and in return they get a player who can possibly hit 40HR. The whole point is that "Chris" characterizes my point as a bad signing for the Orioles because my projections put the Orioles with 3+ more wins than what they would have without Sosa. I said it was a great move, but Sammy circa 2005 isn't Sammy circa 1995 no matter how much Orioles fans want him to be.

It is also silly to assume that 84 wins isn't a failure because it could supposedly sell more seats because the team is over .500 rather than under. Studies from Doug Pappas and Baseball Prospectus says one thing puts fannies in seats and that is winning.

As to the Orioles exceeding their Pythagorean, well, I'm just projecting here and it's an inexact science. I have the Orioles winning 84-85 games based simply on their potent offensive potential. If you really believe that the Orioles have a shot at winning 90+ games with a rotation featuring Ponson, Bedard, Cabrear, Lopez, and Chen, well you have a lot more to worry about than my hack projections. I would take more credence in your thoughts if the Orioles just had one team to overtake, but relying on luck to overtake both the Yankees and Red Sox is a lot!

Thanks for the thoughts! I love it!


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