For my newer readers, when it comes to baseball, I’m a big believer in sabermetric principles. I was
reading Bill James Abstracts back in 1982, so my credentials are fairly solid. I’m a White Sox fan, but ever since Billy Beane starting running the A’s according to these principles, I always rooted for them to succeed. Then came the book Moneyball.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, but like most sensations, I felt it was a bit oversold. Actually, I’ve enjoyed a couple of other books even better that its author, Michael Lewis, has written. I understand that Lewis was writing the book for people who were unaware of how statistical data can give an edge to the uninitiated, but like a Hollywood screenplay, it had to find a villian. In Moneyball, White Sox GM Kenny Williams was portrayed like an idiot. This was when I started falling out of love with the A’s.
My frustration with Beane grew when he traded for Jason Kendall. Since this trade, he’s made some real interesting moves and I’m aware that he’s working with a smaller payroll than the Angels, but it’s hard to see what the overall plan is. Yes, the organization has some great depth of young talent, but when it comes to this young talent, especially pitching, there is little guarantee it will push you through. No matter how smart you are, a lot of luck is needed to succeed. Unless you are a Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs, if you sign Eric Chavez to a huge contract and he gets hurt and becomes a major drain on your lineup, it will end up costing you your chance to win the division.
My friends at Baseball Prospectus are once again downgrading the Angels and putting the A’s up
higher than they deserve. As I wrote about the White Sox, BP seems to have a major blind spot when it comes to the success of the Angels. Sure, the Angels don’t value OBP the way I would want them to, but they have enough slugging and defense to add to their generally superior pitching that the AL West has become pretty easy for them recently. I liked the A’s picking up Cabrera and Nomar, but I’m not a fan of Matt Holiday. Look at his OPS splits in Coors Field and away from home. He’s making way too much for what he brings to the table.
I’ve discussed in the past, when I was writing at the Toaster that relief pitching is the area that the PECOTA’s of the world most underrate. The Angels are deadly in close games, which is the biggest reason why their Pythagorean record is generally worse than their overall record. While I don’t think the Angels are going to have the best record in baseball, like in 2008, I do think the addition of Bobby Abreu and the progression of a couple of their younger players make them an overwhelming favorite again in the AL West.
I don’t have facts behind this, so I’m pulling this one out of my bubble butt. I’m guessing that a lot of baseball brainiacs who write on the game overpredict the A’s because they either have friends in the organization or they admire their reasons for doing what they do. Now I’m not saying I don’t get that sentiment, as I root for people I like or respect, as well. My problem with this type of action is when it continually occurs and smart people like Joe Sheehan and Nate Silver continue to look foolish on the Angels and White Sox. I’m not going to pretend for a minute that these guys don’t understand the game far better than I do, but they need to really tweak their ultimate decision-making on a couple of things if they want to come off like they have better objectivity.
On this subject, Rangers GM Jon Daniels has gotten the velvet glove treatment by a lot of sabermetrical-inclined writers and I see some of them really touting the future of the Rangers. I’m completely a fan of Kevin Goldstein, so I do believe him when I read that Texas has the best minor league talent. My problem is that Daniels has had some of the best young pitching in baseball and has been fleeced in trade after trade during his tenure, with the Hamilton/Volquez deal being a push. (I would rather have Volquez, but it’s a fair debate at this point.) I think Daniels is similar in age and background and since he seems to be like one of us, he gets way too much leeway. They are still a year or two away. If the Rangers don’t stay competitive this season, I doubt he will end up being around to see all this young talent succeed, becoming the new DePodesta. (This is way too good of a description of Daniels, as it’s hard for me to knock DePodesta’s moves as a Dodger GM, unlike Daniels who has traded away a high-quality starting pitching staff.)
So here are more predictions for 2009. Like Fox News, I have no bias here. Enjoy.
Let me add that I’m going with the Red Sox to beat the Mets in the World Series. I’m not a big fan of Jerry Manuel, but I love the bullpen moves. I have the Dodgers, Cubs, and Phillies as my other playoff teams. No big surprises in the NL. The senior circuit is getting better and will be more competitive in the inter-league games.
Never really noticed how much the Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano sounded like Bob Dylan…well that was until I heard Ezra Furman.