Thursday, June 16, 2005

0% my content (finally!)


I really wanted to post something good tonight---especially since it's an off-day and all. But I just feel drained after Jose Guillen lecturing us on pieces of garbage and after learning of Grand Master Ruckus's June 14th outing.

Plus, these guys do it better, anyway:

Bowden in '06?

The campaigning started long ago, of course, but Rocket reminds us that it's primary season. He provides the starting point of this discussion:


Should we also reconsider our negative perceptions of Jim Bowden, the MLB appointed GM of this team? After last night's performance by Ryan Drese, we should definitely think about it. Drese, who was a key signing off waivers, is the linch-pin to the Ohka-Spivey deal. Without Drese to replace Ohka in the rotation, the trade with Milwaukee makes very little
sense.I was optomistically lukewarm on the deal, and I was one of the more positive bloggers on this situation. Spivey has already made a difference for the Nats, hitting a key homerun over the weekend and making many fine defensive plays. Drese was the only question mark. But last night he slammed the door on one of the best offenses in the American League.His 8 innings of 2-hit shutout ball doesn't by any means prove that Bowden is a genius. [. . .] But if Drese can keep pitching to his ability, and Spivey keeps making great plays at second, we may have to reconsider our opinions of Jim Bowden as well.


A thread on the Ballpark Guys forum pushes the issue further. Once you get past the rather off-putting introduction (quoting St. Barry, the original poster then tells "the ant-Bowden jihadists" to smoke the proverbial pipe), it's a pretty good discussion. The two main, salient points proferred by the Bowdenites seem to be:

1. don't just evaluate Bowden based on the moves he made, but the moves he didn't make---i.e., retaining guys such as Nick Johnson (though perhaps this is rebutted by the suggestion that only an idiot GM would have traded Johnson---especially, I might add, if that meant starting Endy Chavez in centerfield); and,

2. mirroring a point made by embattled Baseball Prospectus columnist Joe Sheehan during today's chat, Bowden's little moves have been effective, even if his bigger moves haven't been so much.

I guess at this point we should pause and determine exactly what is the question we are considering here:

---> is Jim Bowden a good GM; or,
---> has he, under the circumstances, earned the right to remain the GM when (if, seemingly) the ownership group, whoever it is, takes over?

The latter one is the more pertinent, I think, and that's what I'm considering here.

The stuff above, if it doesn't convince me in a rock-solid manner, at least seems to create the presumption that perhaps Bowden deserves to stay (if he wants to, of course). It's sort of hard for that presumption not to be sitting out there right now, really, what with the team riding high, twelve games above even and in first place by three games.

Consequently, Bowden's approval ratings are through the roof right now. If he were an actual politician running for office, he'd be appearing in commercials that highlighted his MILFish wife and two-hand touch games with his teenaged kids; the "serious" commercials would feature bears rummaging through the woods and Billy Beane's visage superimposed over a mushroom cloud, with a corresponding graphic saying, "His **** doesn't work, EVER."

So the presumption seems pretty tight, eh? Well, I'll be darned if Chris Needham doesn't come along and try to kill the thing. This is a good post, people; if you care about the Nats, you really need to read it. You might not agree, but no one says you have to---disagreement does not equal dishonor, correct? Anyway, read it.

Here's the roadmap of Chris's argument:


Jim Bowden's definitely walking tall. His team's in first place. His newly-acquired players are fitting in and excelling. He has his cherubic mug on TV, looking like the perfect model of the
huckster.But, is he selling us a bill of goods? Is he really the reason they're winning?Bowden certainly deserves a modicum of credit, but not all. Bowden didn't assemble the core of this team. The much-maligned Omar Minaya did. And many of the pieces that Bowden brought in have failed, or been average. The ones that have worked out were afterthoughts, mostly.


And there we go. Like Harper before him, Chris also frames our perspective correctly: don't judge Bowden in a 67-win (2004 total) vacuum. We have to consider 2002-03 as well, even if all the talent in Montreal back then isn't in Washington now. Nevertheless, Bowden came in with artificially low expectations, by at least five wins.

Anyway, those are the positions our there, people. They report; you decide.

___________

Mach 3 Superturbo

A few days ago, National Cheese pondered one-run games:


A lot of baseball analysts of the more statistical variety (myself included) characterize good one-run-game records as 'luck,' as truly great teams don't play a lot of one-run games, and a solo shot is all that's needed to send one to extra innings. Last season, the Red Sox were 8-17 in one-run games. That's actually a good statistic because it means they only played 25 one-run games. Already the Nationals have played 23. [Ed: It's now twenty-four.] It's walking a tightrope, and unless you have some factor(s) that do contribute to good performance in close games, you're going to fall off eventually. The factors the Nationals have are a pitcher-friendly home park and a strong bullpen. Cordero, Ayala and Majewski are 9-4 with 20 saves and a 2.00 ERA in 92 appearances. Of the 22 runs given up by these pitchers, 14 of them were in just 4 games. RFK, meanwhile, has played to the Nationals' strengths like a charm.

The point there is an interesting one. The "conventional stathead wisdom" (probably borne out in the stats, yes) is that the very good teams---the near-dominant ones---don't rely on too many one-run games, because success in such games tends to be variable. To that end, as Rob Neyer noted at the time, the '98 Yankees were a great team, in part, because they blew lots of lots of teams straight out of the park. Well, you don't need to be the '98 Yankees to win the division, and sometimes "luck" doesn't catch up to a team until after the season is over. And, as they say, flags fly forever. We shall see.


___________

Better than the old Diamond Chronicles . . .

. . . and free!

Here's a snippet from the big Nats Blog board of directors meeting. Resolved: they like Brian Schneider.


__________

Proper APA style

The earlier post about Jose Guillen, I really should note, contains some elements that Ryan has harped about this season. I really should note that fact---and note, futher, that the guy has been amazingly consistent about Guillen's craziness and the inevitability that we, as Nats' fans, would be willing to look the other way when Guillen manifests such character trait. Speaking of which, he captures the Frobby/Guillen dynamic in his own inimitable way:


One more aspect to Frank's brilliance: Jose Guillen proved that he would gladly, ferociously murder anyone who slighted his new favorite manager. He's done a complete turn-around: last year, he was trying to kill his boss. This year, he's trying to kill for his boss. Still not an ideal situation, but an improvement. And for Frank, it's a fantastic career move. Do you think anyone's going to want to tell him he's fired and risk the helmet-throwing wrath of Jose? Not without hiring a team of burly, Mossad-trained bodyguards, and those guys aren't cheap.


_______

Taking it strong to the rack

Brick, my ballpark buddy, takes it hard to the hole concerning the Pine Tar: Episode II---The Phanton Tipster:


Donnelly is going to get suspended, probably for no more than 10 games. Frobby is going to take the most heat for this incident even though he didn't break any rules. No self-righteous prig who contributed to the hours of Congressional testimony, million column inches of newsprint or terrabytes of blogspace on steroids will spend one minute calling for Donnelly's suspension for a year. Yet he broke a rule that's been in place since 1920, while the alleged steroid users could not be punished in Major League Baseball until this year. You may not like (fill in your favorite 'roid suspect) but he hasn't broken any baseball rules.


________

Take your Susan B. Anthonys elsewhere

If you can't tell, I love book reviews. The Hardball Times published an interesting one recently on Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way to Build a Winning Ball Team---which, judging by the review, seems a bit of an anti-Moneyball tome:


Not only does he not agree with the Moneyball philosophy, but he doesn't care for the book itself. And it's a shame, because the bitter taste of Lewis' book sours an excellent in-depth look at the recent history of the Braves. Personal stories become merely a prop for the flawed anti-Moneyball agenda of Shanks when jabs at sabermetrics seem to come out of nowhere. Although he doesn't directly address Moneyball until the last chapter, it's clear what the first 23 chapters are building up to.

But don't trust just the reviewer with that characterization; why, trust the author himself:


Bill Shanks has a new book out that is the answer to Moneyball. Scout’s Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team discusses many philisophical differences in the game like the one demonstrated in this story.

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