Guest Post: I like baseball and I don’t like people who are willfully ignorant

Hello SitW readers. I’m Tim. I like baseball and I don’t like people who are willfully ignorant. Which would lead a reasonable person why I read the “Ask Nick”  column on boston.com’s Extra Bases blog. I’d provide a link to the archive, except the brilliance of the website operated by the 25th most widely circulated newspaper in the country doesn’t actually have any sort of easy way to sort posts by author. Oh wellsies. It would probably break the internet to concentrate that level of Cafardosity, so they’re probably doing us a service.

If you’re not familiar with Nick Cafardo, he’s a sportswriter. He has been a sportswriter since the Hoover administration. He chain smokes three packs of cigars a day, wears a leather fedora and plaid suits and yells at his secretary to get people on “the horn” (that means the phonograph.) He wears loafers made out of milk cartons and he drives a BWI luggage cart to work every morning. I inferred this from the Boston Globe’s bio page of him, which includes information like “he’s a sportswriter” and “his name is Nick.” I had to connect the dots.

Anywho, Nick Cafardo is a professional sports writer. And Nick Cafardo answers emails. These emails are apparently not screened because they can be on any topic in regards to the Red Sox. There are a variety of subjects (play the GM, act-as-a-GM, General-Manager-in-the-mind, GM-thought-experiment express) and then Nick answers in one of three ways:

1)   Evasion- often Nick simply ignores the question

2)   Company line- Nick will also just say what you’d expect a Red Sox PR man would say

3)   I don’t know- Nick claims not to know

Nick shows exactly the amount of baseball analytical skills you’d expect from someone whose career has been watching, thinking about, digesting, pooping out and coprophagically (don’t look it up!) ingesting it again. But sportswriters don’t do that. They don’t like analysis. It’s scary and weird and if RBI was good enough for ol’ Dougie MacArthur, it’s good enough for them.

If you read the internet, you may have seen a weblog called “Firebrand of the American League” which, as the name clearly implies, is about the Boston Red Sox. They run a column wherein they look at the Ask Nick column, then they basically answer the questions for Nick. But they’re also as funny as John Sununu at a Ski Resort. Man, I could have written for Murphy Brown. So with all due respect to them, and full credit that they did it first (though I’ve been doing it to an audience of me for ages) here comes Timmy to do the same. And yes it’s also FJM style too. I’m derivative. Sue me (DO NOT SUE ME).

 (Bold– question, Italic– Nick’s answer, plain- probably very sarcastic and angry, also me)

The only three players in MLB right now that I would consider backing up the truckload of Red Sox farm club prospects for in a trade are: Madison Bumgarner, Yoenis Cespedis and Giancarlo (don’t call me Mike) Stanton. What do you think?

Bill, Modesto, Calif.

I’d say so. I’d probably do it for Miguel Cabrera and Felix Hernandez as well.

See what I mean by lazy? Bill from Modesto is asking if there are young players that Sox should unabashedly empty the farm for, suggesting a 23 year old pitcher who signed a reasonable contract through 2018 last summer, a guy that anyone could have had for just money a year ago, and Stanton, whom the whole planet expects to get traded. Nick suggests a 30 year old reigning MVP and a 27 year old who just signed a giant contract extension and has a slowing fastball and more innings on his arm than anyone else.  Basically the one guy who MIGHT get traded here is Stanton and he hasn’t even entered arbitration. If we’re playing the game of guys who the Red Sox would empty the farm for, wouldn’t we talk about young, high-WAR guys like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. Or if we want older guys, Ryan Braun or Robinson Cano or Justin Verlander.

But shouldn’t this discussion be MAYBE about guys who are LIKELY to get  POSSIBLY traded. I guess Nick thinks that it’s more, uh, something, to play “let’s name good baseball players”.

 

With the likelihood of Stephen Drew starting the season on the DL growing ever larger, and Jose Iglesias taking over, what is the likelihood that, if Iglesias is able to hit respectably and continues to improve as he has shown this spring, of Drew getting traded once he comes back from his concussion?

Jacob, Ohio

Certainly a possibility. Because he was a free-agent signing, he can’t be dealt until June 15 unless he grants his permission. I’ve always thought Iglesias should be the starter anyway. I think Drew is a good player, solid hitter and above-average fielder. I’m not down on him at all, but I think they could have saved the $9.5 million there knowing they had an extraordinary defender at a defensive position. I know Sox execs believe a shortstop has to hit reasonably well in the American League, but he’s a run saver.

So here’s a fun game- imagine a really good defensive player. Then imagine a guy who couldn’t hit a beach ball with a wiffleball bat on an overcast day in the streets of Holyoke. Congratulations, you’ve just imagined someone who’s still a better hitter than Jose Iglesias. Wisdom of spending $9.5m on a reclamation project shortstop aside, Jose Iglesias in his three-year minor league career has managed an aggregate OBP of .318 and SLG of .306. To put that in perspective, in 2012, the closest batting comp to those numbers was Jemile Weeks, who OBP/SLG’ed .305/.304 and can’t even grow dreads as good as his brother (Honeysuckle Weeks). Weeks and Iglesias appear to have similar SB profiles (about 2/3 success). Weeks in 2012 managed an offensive WAR (BR variety) of a robust .5. The single best defensive player according to BR’s defensive WAR was M’s SS Brendan Ryan, who popped and locked a 3.6. Now, BR dWAR and oWAR both account for position, so you need to remove one positional adjustment. Doing so means that Iglesias, if he can match his minor league production (‘cause pitchers in the Majors are the same quality in the Minors, right?) and be the single best defensive player in baseball, his best-case BR WAR would be (based on 2012 levels) 3.1. Or the same as Brendan Ryan last year. Now that ain’t bad for someone who couldn’t hit a barn darn with a barn door hitting machine in Iowa (analogy gold, I tell you). And Stephen Drew’s max WAR over his career has been 3.7 in 2010. So Nick is probably right. It’s his reasoning that dumb.

 

I’m wondering if they’ll ever give J.C. Linares a shot? He has respectable minor league numbers with glimpses of power, and is also a decent fielder who has played all three positions. Just curious about what you think?

Mario, Victoria, BC

He’s definitely a guy who has been lost in the shuffle. He’s a righthanded bat, who, as you say can play all three outfield positions. Yet his name never is mentioned in the mix for that extra outfield spot. They say good things about him but obviously they’re not sold on him.

“Lost in the shuffle”? I guess in Nick’s world, the front office at Fenway has a stack of index cards with their minor league players’ names written on them, and then one day Tom Werner’s old friend Malcolm Jamal Warner visited and was recreating the Cosby Show episode where all the men are pregnant and then they give birth to inanimate objects. And he had Elvin give birth to the card with Linares name on it, but in the uproarious laughter, he dropped the card behind a plant, and the Sox just completely lost track of this guy they had in their system.

Here’s the scoop, Linares is 28. He played in AAA in 2011 and started 2012 in AA. In season and a a half of AAA ball, he’s OBP’ed a robust .312. If he was a catcher, it wouldn’t be a “thang”, as they say. The Sox sure do love catchers who don’t get on base . Anywho, rather than “not being sold on him” as if he were some sort of magic chamois being sold by Anthony Sullivan (in memory of Billy Mays), perhaps he just isn’t that good and is just taking up space in the cabinet. Like infomercial chamois. Holy crap, my metaphor broke down…

 

Why didn’t the Sox try and get Youk back?

Michael, Boynton Beach, Fla.

They thought Napoli would do more for them and if healthy, that’s the better choice. Napoli should hit for more power and should drive in more runs. Youk has had down years the past three. It was the right move.

Now, I think Nick is on the right path. I don’t know what he’s doing on the path. Probably texting. Or sexting. Here’s the thing, the Sox cut ties with Youk in 2012. They moved him to third, like jerkfaces, and it broke his back, as if it were Bane. But the guy is in his mid-30s, coming off two straight injury-shortened seasons, and the Yankees paid him $12.5 Million. Doesn’t exactly make sense to bring him back even if would have given a small discount, especially if your team isn’t one Greek God of Walks away from winning the AL pennant.

What kills me is the ‘Youk has had down years the past three,’ and not just from the awkward sentence construction. During the past two seasons, he’s been pretty banged up. But in 2010, he had a WAR of 5.1 which made him the 27th most valuable position player in the Majors, according to BR. The funny thing is, if you compare Napoli and Youkilis, with the exception of 2011, when Youk was hurt and Napoli was giving a big ol’ fat finger to the Angels for picking Jeff Mathis over him, Youk has been a much better player. Last year they were both hurt (Napoli missed 38 games to a thigh injury, Youk missed 29 games when his entire body fell off) and their WARs were practically even (Nap 1.4 vs Youk 1.1). They’re both past their primes. They’re both DeNiro in Rocky and Bullwinkle, but Youk usted be DeNiro Goodfellas and Napoli was more like DeNiro in Backdraft. Youk’s really been the better player. Who is actually the better bet in 2013? The answer is probably neither.

 

Any whispers about a possible trade by the Red Sox? It would seem they have a lot of pieces to move for a power hitting outfielder.

Michael, Hebron, Conn.

They seem to be looking for depth in starting pitching. Maybe pick up a veteran arm they can stick at Triple-A. They’re looking to see if there’s anyone out there better that the Nava-Overbay-Carp-Sweeney group. Not sure a big deal for a Giancarlo Stanton could be made at this time.

As Nick sort of says, the Red Sox have about forty three corner outfielders. But here’s a chance to do something Nick doesn’t actually like to do, ie make his readers slightly more knowledgeable baseball fans. For instance, fun fact: trades almost never happen this close to opening day. Rosters are generally set and teams like to at least see what they have before moving parts or calling it a season. In 2012, the first major deal was June 24, the aforementioned Youkilis deal. In 2011, the first “major” deal was June 30, Mark Ellis goes to the Rockies from the A’s. In 2010, July 1, Benjie Molina (a spare part after the Posey call-up) to Texas. Like wearing white before (or is it after? Or maybe on?) Labor Day, teams just don’t do this sort of thing.

 

If MLB was re-drafting every team (just go with me) and each franchise got to keep one veteran and one prospect, who do you think the Sox should go with? Contracts are irrelevant.

Adrian, Milford, Mass.

Middlebrooks (veteran) and Bogaerts. If you don’t classify Middlebrooks as a veteran, then Pedroia.

Yup. 75 game veteran, Will Middlebrooks. Hardened by his 267 at bats. Worn like an old piece of leather from his 13 walks and 70 strike outs and HOLY CRAP, LOOK AT THAT WALK TO STRIKEOUT RATIO!

I’m going to take a moment to indulge myself in something that bugs me. Will Middlebrooks certainly seems like he has some solid power. But seriously, in a VERY SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, his MLB BB/K% was 0.186%. The worst BB/K% in 2012 of all qualified major league batters was Delmon Young at 0.179%. If Middlebrooks improves to his minor league career BB/K%, he’s going to be at .285%, which puts him in the coveted Jeff Francoeur/Alex Rios neighborhood. When your upside is Jeff Francoeur, ya’s gots some problems.

 

I have more than 40 years of medical experience. If Ortiz did not have hyperbaric oxygen therapy, he did not, then, have “the best treatment available.” The medical situation in Boston perplexes me. Supposedly it, like Houston, is a center of medical expertise. I am doubting that now.

Vicente, Cali, Colombia

This is a very passionate subject for you, doctor. I will try to ask if this hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been thought of or is being utilized.

Fun fact: this Colombia physician had multiple questions in the previous Ask Nick column. That’s ritght, same guy, multiple questions, SAME SUBJECT, referencing Ortiz and hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Now Nick does these columns every two weeks. If he cared enough to publish these questions repeatedly, you’d think he would have cared to use those questions from two weeks ago this same fella, and inquire about this hyperbaric oxygen. But he’ll “try to ask” now.

 

I don’t think the starting staff and certainly the bullpen looks all that bad. I was watching a Yankees spring game and the announcers predicted a 75-win, last-place finish for the Sox. Maybe they should look in the mirror. I know the hitting is average at best, but pitching, pitching, defense, hitting in that order wins pennants. What do you think?

Grampy Z, Zephyrhills, Fla.

They’re entitled to their opinion. The Yankees are starting the season really decimated with injuries so you’re right, they’re not in the best position either. It’s always harder to project a 95-win team going to last place rather than a 69-win team making the playoffs. The Yankees had the best starting rotation in the AL East last season and it could be again, but you wonder about Kuroda and Pettitte pitching at their respective ages and staying healthy all year. If they do, they will survive the positional injuries and be good again. I’ve definitely upgraded my Red Sox outlook since camp began. Red Sox starting pitching has made great improvement. I try to temper it with it’s only spring training, but there’s a more optimistic view even with David Ortiz’ injury.

Grampy from Zephyrhills, FL, you listed pitching twice. I’ll assume that’s a typo. Anywho, first things first- “pitching wins titles” has been debunked. Repeatedly. In fact, a University of Delaware Professor, Charles Pavitt, published a scholarly article in the Oct 2011 Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, and produced a conclusion so counterintuitive that your mind may be blown. You’ve warned: Professor Pavitt looked at every baseball team that played in the Majors from 1955-2008 and found, SHOCKINGLY, that defense and offense contribute to wins equally. In fact, because defense is broken up into fielding and pitching, pitching actually contributes approximately half as much to winning as hitting. Meaning, Grampy from Zephyrhills’s list being “in that order” is not just wrong, but very wrong. Nick could have spent 20 seconds internet-searching, or he could have kept up on this sort of this thing by reading interesting articles about baseball. He could have educated his readers and shown that with a little bit of hard work (THAT OTHER PEOPLE ALREADY DID) you can find out that old adages and guys writing in from a Florida town that sound suspiciously made-up might not be right. Instead, Nick told us, “It’s always harder to project a 95-win team going to last place rather than a 69-win team making the playoffs.” To which I say, that makes no sense and doing either is equally easy because pre-season projections are almost always meaningless 

____________________

He has more questions, but some of those are good questions like “How do reporters get around spring training?” and  “Who will make the opening day roster as catcher?” and “Are those milk carton loafers comfortable?” You know, questions that a beat reporter could answer without trying to hard. Which is what Nick Cafardo seems to do best.

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Posted on March 25, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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