Nationals Baseball: Controversy!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Controversy!

No baseball today and limited Internet right now so why not cover some topics that are worth that sort of limited in multiple ways attention?

On Frandsen

The guy is right. Rendon deserves unqualified praise. The problem is that Frandsen, without prompting, started the qualifying. By saying "he's the best young guy we got" or whatever instead of "a gray young guy" he's setting up the comparison between Rendon and the Nats name YOUNG GUY, Bryce. It'd be like someone on LA saying Greinke was the best starter.  The Dodgers have a BEST STARTER. It's Kershaw. On some teams it might not matter. On the Nats it does. 

The silly part is that of course Frandsen would say this. He's been on the team for 10 minutes and in those 10 min Rendon has been better than Bryce. His problem wasn't qualifying, but the amount he did. Do no qualifying and it's ok. Qualifying that this is what you feel because this is all you've seen. It's passable.  But sit in the middle and it comes out bad 

Whatever it's over now and Frandsen got the minor day-long annoyance he deserved for not thinking about what he said.  Can't so that as a major leaguer


On Boswell and Law

I can't speak on this directly because I ain't paying for ESPN Insider to read Law's article (yes I could get it for free for the whole SweetSpot thing but as I've explained before I take nothing for blogging for fear of the Tax Man). But the gist of it seems to be Law thinks Boz is out of touch because he misuses stats.

I don't think that's really fair though. Biz does misuse stats occasionally but it's ancillary to his point. In the Bryce example its not like he said "Look Bryce hasn't driven in or scored enough runs yet! That's why he needed to be sat!"  It was "Bryce needed to be sat, because he still has to grow. Oh yeah here are some stats that show that". The stats he used were silly and proved nothing (at least how he framed it) and that's a problem but they weren't his argument. To me, that seems a long way from "out of touch" 

25 comments:

Kenny B. said...

Stories like this Frandsen thing are things fans and analysts glom onto because they have nothing else to focus on at the moment, and they're not in there, in the clubhouse every day. Any major league team that struggles to hold together because a bench guy said something marginally offensive to a player who is not even currently playing is a team that was probably going to struggle for any number of other reasons.

I mean, you're in a sport where a large bullet is essentially headed toward you dozens of times every night, and you're expected to swat it out of the air with a round stick. And you are *guaranteed to fail most of the time.* It's not a sport where you can let your ego be so easily bruised.

DezoPenguin said...

So in other words, yes, Boz is clueless about numbers and how they work, but the point he's making has nothing to do with numbers.

There's two problems with that, though:

1) If he's pulling numbers from thin air to support his point, he undermines that point even if it's valid. Regardless of whether he was right or not, now Keith Law is writing an article about how he's clueless and out of touch.

2) Related to that, when he shows that he doesn't understand statistics, it undermines his credibility as a journalist understanding baseball. It's like the whole #2 hitter problem. There's conventional wisdom, the way people have always done it, and there's the way statistics show it should be done. There's a major difference between a model that says Marco Scutaro is the ideal #2 hitter and one that says Joey Votto is the ideal #2 hitter. By demonstrating ignorance, Boz paints himself into a corner as not only a homer (a reasonable position for a journalist writing about a local sports team) but as someone whose writing is of limited value--the kind of guy whose statements, if believed, produce the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks.

tl;dr if Boz wants to write about the intangible aspects of the game, player maturity, and team chemistry, the kind of things that just don't show up in the box score and you learn from being around baseball for years, great, but he shouldn't pollute his understanding of those things with math that eludes him.

Nick said...

I can't even read Boswell anymore. It's amazing the disconnect between many columnists (Mitch Albom, Bill Plashcke, Boswell, etc.) and the actual game of baseball. Surprisingly, time hasn't stood still since you were a child in the 1970s. There are different (and frankly, better) ways to evaluate player performance. But dismissing these advancements out of hand "because that isn't how we have always done it" is just ignorant. How can you counter something you didn't even try to understand? Just look around the game. Every team uses analytics and statistics in some way (except maybe RAJ and the Phils), so why should writers/fans ignore that?

Law may be a d-bag sometimes, but calling Boswell out of touch is a very accurate statement.

derek moore said...

There is a difference between Boswell and Albom et al (who wrote an anti-WAR screed during one of the Cabrera-Trout debates). Understanding modern analytics is not an on-off switch; there is a range. Boswell certainly isn't perfect - runs + rbi is really stupid - but he at least makes an effort to understand and incorporate analytics into his thinking. Just because he doesn't get an A doesn't mean he should get an F.

Nick said...

Derek, you are right that it's unfair to equate Boz to Albom because Albom really is the absolute worst (that Cabrera/Trout article was the worst thing I have ever read). But IMO, Boswell's understanding of analytics seems misguided at best, and he is way more dismissive than open minded. It's not that advanced stats are infallible (they aren't), but they provide a better picture than Runs/RBIs (which I don't think Boz agrees with).

Section 220 said...

derek moore - that's well said. I'd add that, even as a devoted stathead, I think that when Law and others express a "you're either with us or against us" worldview, which I understand to be his position, it allows Luddites to paint statheads as shrill and intolerant, which doesn't help advance the baseball conversation out of the stone age.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny Normally I would agree with you, but there seems to be prevailing thought that there's issues in the Nats clubhouse. I don't think the clubhouse will fall apart because of what Frandsen has said, but it doesn't help and was incredibly stupid because it served no purpose and had zero upside. Now everyone in that clubhouse has to deal with the controversy.

As for Boswell, I don't read anything he writes anymore because it just pisses me off. To be fair to KLaw though, here's what he said about Boswell,

"Boswell is way out of tune with the game at this point, and his attitude on Harper this year is just bizarre. Twenty-nine other teams would like to have him if the Nats don't - and frankly I don't believe that they don't."

It's not just that Boswell knows very little about stats (he's like a D+ as opposed to Albom's F-)it's just his smug way of writing. If you're going to be a dick, own it and be a dick, but don't act all morally superior about it.

blovy8 said...

I'm not paying for Insider either, but Law's excerpts sound a lot more like a tirade than anything I've heard out of Williams. If he manages personalities like Dusty Baker and gets Harper to produce like Bonds, I'll be fine with that.

Wally said...

@derek moore - I agree with you, and would even ask whether Boz is always so wrong (agree that the example in question was a poor use of stats). I think that sabermetrics is not usually about finding a specific right answer, but instead looking for causes and correlations over large masses of data. Boz usually tries to give his own spin to it, and offers new suggestions to what the data is showing. Personally, I like hearing different perspectives even if I don't agree with them. All of the points of view help me form my own, and I give him credit for not just parroting whatever is the latest fancy stat. Although I completely get how easy it is to make fun of him; it is like your grandfather trying to FaceTime.

As for Law, he does have a bit of the 'with us or against us' mentality that Section 220 mentioned, but even more than that, he has a predisposition to rail against the 'establishment', and kind of is always on the side of what he thinks is the underdog. I like him and read his stuff, and when you do, you'll find that he is most acerbic against what he thinks of as abuses of young athletes by embedded establishment types: either college programs (usually overuse of pitchers), MLB in the form of wage restrictions of young players through the 7 years of control, small market teams being penalized by large market ones by limiting how much they can spend on the draft, and old school types who want to repress a young talent that acts a little differently than the normal way baseball players have acted. Puig and Harper fall squarely in the last one. I think that he is more right than wrong in most of those issues.

He has been really spun up about Harper since the Williams benching. I think that he views Boz and Frandsen as just yet more examples of resentful types who want to beat Harper into conforming to their worldview, and will diminish his talent, if necessary, to do it. I think that he went too far in his Boswell and Frandsen attacks (he actually said in his chat that he was disappointed that the Nats didn't DFA Frandsen immediately after the comments: that is just so ludicrous for several reasons that it just feels like an in-the-moment overreaction), and wouldn't be surprised if he feels that way in hindsight.

JWLumley said...

@blovy8 Yup, that's pretty much my biggest fear is that he'll pretty much be Dusty Baker. No manager has wasted more talented teams than Baker, perhaps in baseball history.

Sirc said...

Bryce's first season was more productive than Rendon's. Bryce was also on a better team his first season than Rendon was.

Their second full seasons are pretty similar (so far). Last April, Bryce Harper was Babe Ruth. Then he got hurt. But still, the April numbers were great, and he largely carried the team offensively. This season Rendon put up big April numbers and was probably their most productive player offensively.

I'm not really going anywhere with this. I just like the parallels.

Rendon is 2.5 years older than Bryce, which is a quarter of a good baseball career. That probably means something.

Nick said...

The whole Rendon vs. Harper argument seems silly to me. Both are good players, both are on the Nationals, so why would anyone have to choose between them?

JWLumley said...

@Nick Totally agree that I'm not interested in arguing who's better, but if I--as a Nats fan--am not interested in arguing it, why in the world is Kevin Frandsen interested in arguing it....publicly. What a toolbag.

Eric said...

While generally I share the disinterest in debating Harper v. Rendon, my disinterest in the Frandsen "controversy" is deeper than the chasm beneath the bridge of Khazad-Dum.

Who cares?

Bjd1207 said...

I can't find this Law article...can someone help me? Is it the "Mishandling Bryce Harper" one?

Wally said...

It was in his chat the other day, which needs an ESPN Insider subscription to read.

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/50555

Anagramsci said...

What's the only thing worse than batting Span leadoff? Filling out a lineup card with a 1B batting ninth. What is Frandsen doing there? The guy cannot hit well enough to play 1B (or LF). Teach Walters to play first base something

John C. said...

Frandsen is more likely to hit LHP than Walters, certainly than any of the other bench options. Go look up his stats against LHP, both last year and for his career as well as this year, before popping off about THAT.

I agree Span shouldn't be hitting leadoff, but unlike many here I don't think it makes that much difference. As the excellent Joe Posnanski recently noted: "The difference between a good and bad lineup in baseball, for instance, is so small that if a manager deeply believes in a non-optimal strategy (like putting a .300 on-base percentage guy in the leadoff spot) there’s a decent chance it will not hurt the team much, especially if that leadoff hitter is widely respected in the clubhouse."

That was in his recent post creating the "Intentional Walk Rage System," btw.

Anagramsci said...

Giving more at bats to your worst hitter cannot be good for an offense. Frandsen slg and obp against lhp are both hovering around .300. That is not what you want at first base. Even for one game

John C. said...

Stipulated that Frandsen is not what you want at 1b. He is simply, given the players available and the decision to DH ALR, the best of a mediocre lot. And he has to hit somewhere, so he hits 9th. Not sure what you're expecting Williams to come up with there.

Anagramsci said...

Walters.

Anonymous said...

So, here's the problem I see with Boswell, and by extension with the defense of Boswell. An argument without support is just an opinion. You can't say, "We'll, his evidence was all wrong, but that wasn't his argument" because the evidence is what makes the thing an argument in the first place. If the stats he gives don't support his opinion, it's just uninteresting blather.

Chaos said...

Looks like we'll be Fransden at first for a while.....or maybe T-mo comes back up. The hits never stop.

Chaos

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