Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hey, Sports Guy! Listen Up...
By Blogger

David Ortiz is a baaaaad, baaaaad man. He spits on pitchers' graves. He cures what ails ya'. He hits home runs for the Red Sox. That said, Bill Simmons displays no understanding of the concept of league context in his comparison of Larry Bird and David Ortiz. Observe:

Bird averaged a 26-9-8 in the '86 playoffs, won the Finals MVP and cemented a summer of "Greatest Player Ever" features, then followed that up with a career year in '87 (28 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 53 percent field-goal shooting, 91 percent from the line, 40 percent from 3s, his second straight title in the 3-point shooting contest). Meanwhile, Big Papi just completed the following 12-month stretch (starting on Aug. 1, 2005 and ending July 31, 2006): batted .294 with a .399 on-base and .604 slugging percentages, 59 homers, 165 RBIs and at least 20-25 humongous hits in the clutch. Sorry, those are Roy Hobbs numbers.

I'm not going to mess with the basketball claims, though I suspect someone with more time and know-how can show that Bird's greatness lies in his sustained excellence, not his peak.

Baseball, on the other hand, is right in my wheelhouse. Calling Papi's numbers from last August 1 "Roy Hobbs numbers" is hyperventilating blindness at its best. Papi is awesome, and those numbers sure do look sweet, but he's not so superhuman that nobody else is doing what he's doing. I give you several other hitters and their rate splits from 1 August 2005 through 1 August 2006 (give or take a day or three, due to the database needing time to catch up). They are all very much baaaaad, baaaaaad men. Without peeking, can you guess who they are? Stats via the Baseball Musings Stats Database, which is based on Retrosheet.

Papi: 296/401/642, 59HR
(Simmons's numbers are screwed up. He didn't give Papi enough credit to begin with!)

Player A: 295/413/610, 44HR
Player B: 314/432/649, 46HR
Player C: 291/368/615, 52HR
Player D: 319/426/629, 46HR
Player E: 289/407/619, 33HR
Player F: 327/425/586, 28HR
Player G: 301/406/584, 40HR

I'll tell you who they are right after this next bit of inanity from Simmons...

The DH thing will hurt Ortiz in any voting, which doesn't quite make sense -- so if he played 90 games at first base and gave you a C-plus there, that would make him more valuable? I don't get it. Bonds won the MVP in 2003 and 2004 moving around in left field like Redd Foxx. That gave him more credibility than Ortiz as a DH? Crazy.

If Papi played adequate first base (for the record, I have little doubt he could), Theo could have gone into the season planning on having Manny DH, and therefore have had more and better offensive AND defensive options for the lineup. While the Lowell/Youkilis combo has worked out beautifully at the corner infield spots, there's no way the Sox could have expected Lowell's contributions this year. Playing Youk at 3B, Ortiz at 1B, and figuring out whether Manny should DH and finding an outfielder, or acquiring a big bat to DH would have been a better problem to have than risking a Mike Lowell meltdown in order to get Beckett. Brian Giles, anyone?

As for the Bonds claim, let's see what Mr. "I may have used PEDs without knowing I used them" did over the ENTIRE 2003-04 seasons:

Barry Bonds: 353/572/783

Who was hitting like Roy Hobbs, again?

And the players I listed above...

A: Hafner
B: Pujols
C: Howard
D: Manny
E: Thome
F: Chipper
G: Berkman

Bonus: 8 guys have been intentionally walked as many times or more than Papi has since 1 August 2005 (It's good times hitting in front of Manny, isn't it?). Can you name them? ANSWER


Blogger AwfulAnnouncing said...

Good stuff. I'm going to tackle the basketball for tomorrow. Just assinine on all sides.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

The defense of the Bill Simmons is always that he is a fan; so he behaves like a fan does.

I for one, am sick and tired of hearing it. Simmons gets paid to write for arguably the largest internet sports publication out there and like it or not, his opinion influences his readers, whether they are correct or not. Need I remind everyone of the ridiculous Doc Rivers fiasco?

Here he invents a sample size, which is annoying in itself, screws up the stats AND then neglects to mention there are other players out there who posted similar or better numbers. Of course it also says nothing to the scores of players who posted similar or better numbers from July 05- July 06 or May 03- May 04.

Playing around with sample sizes is fun but can be horribly misleading. For example, if I were Simmons-esque, I could write this:

Carlos Beltran is the best hitter in baseball! Look what he's done on the road this year: .348/.425/ .799!!!!!!!!!/1.223.

So what if he's got an OPS of .811 at home. If he played at Fenway instead of Shea he's have a 1.200 OPS!!

Do you buy that? I sure don't. Beltran's a good hitter, but he needs to pick up his home splits if he wants the MVP.

Things like this is the reason I don't really read Simmons anymore. He just gets on my nerves.

As usual, good stuff David.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

I'm not going to get into taking sides on a writer for a formerly-great sports website, because I never bother going to said site anymore. I will, though, add some legitimacy to his points on Ortiz:

One of the cool things about working for STATS is that if a sports question comes to me on a whim I can just look it up. So I decided to look up Ortiz's numbers in situations where the Red Sox are working towards a potential walkoff victory -- at home, ninth inning or later, tied or trailing by one or two. I looked at Ortiz's stats in these situations since 2004, including postseason. The numbers?

14-for-30 (.467), eight homers

Eight homers in 30 AB, and one hit short of batting .500. Any way you want to slice it, that is unreal. And I'm willing to hazard a guess that, no, NOBODY else in the majors can even approach those numbers.

Also, I don't think Simmons' MVP talk is inane at all. I don't think fielding is insignificant to a player's value by any stretch, but I do think the voters are highly hypocritical by costing Ortiz votes for being a DH while they award MVP's to guys like the old Bonds and Sammy Sosa, who are liabilities in the field.

I mean, let's say just for argument's sake that Manny Ramirez bats .350 with 45 homers and the Red Sox win the AL East. If that happens, Manny wins MVP hands down. Yet, Manny is a freakish hitting savant. He is a great, great hitter and every other CONCEIVABLE aspect of his game (aside from maybe his throwing arm) is a liability to the team. He is clearly not helping the team win more games by his presence in the field. Clearly, neither is Ortiz. So if Manny could win an MVP, Papi should also be able to.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

good stuff, and I find the annointing of Ortiz as MVP already a bit tiresome. The guy is a great hitter, but he does have Manny behind him, who is actually a better hitter and having a slightly better year IMO.

2:23 PM  
Blogger sportscolumn said...

You know what I do when Bill Simmons starts talking about Red Sox/celtics/patriots? I find the next article to read. His bias is ridiculous.

People used to send me Sports Guys articles to read all the time but there's no point in them anymore. You know exactly what he's going to say before he says it. Take player A. Compare him to Character B from latest hot TV show C. Mix, Match, Repeat. blah blah blah.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I still enjoy Simmons, but there are two major problems with his latest article:

• Comparing players in different sports is like comparing apples and oranges. Pressure situations vary from sport-to-sport. It's fine to compare them within a sport (say, comparing the clutch performances of Larry, MJ, Magic, and Reggie Miller), but he might as well have brought Vinatieri and Brady into the argument if he wants to compare Papi and Bird. (And for the record, how do you beat a clutch record of game-tying and winning kicks in the snow game, then game-winning kicks at the end of regulation in two Super Bowls?)

• I'm pretty certain that a year or two ago, he referred to Ortiz on at least one occassion as a horrible defender (if I had his book handy, I could probably dig one of them up). Now he's saying Papi is okay in the field. Someone needs to call him on this; I doubt that two years of DHing every day have helped refine the guy's defensive skills.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

As Chris said, Manny Ramirez is probably a large reason why Ortiz's numbers are so good. Remember, in the ninth, no pitcher is going to groove a pitch to Pujols unless the bases are loaded. But pitchers don't want to walk Ortiz to face an even better hitter in Manny Ramirez. So he sees better pitches to hit. It was like calling Rich Aurilia a great player in 2001 because he posted phenomenal numbers batting ahead of Bonds.

First base is not a defensive heavy position yet the Sox won't play Ortiz there. That's an indictment of his abilities. And didn't the Sox play Kevin Millar there last season? (And Millar is an awful fielder) That says that everyone in Boston knows Ortiz is pretty much one of the worst defenders in the league.

For the record, Bonds used to be an excellent defensive outfielder. He's not anymore with knees that don't work. But then again, when Ortiz has an OBP of .600 he'll win the MVP regardless of his position or lack thereof.

12:17 AM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Matt, a guy who can play the field is more valuable than one who can't at all, because anybody can DH. If DH is the only position you have to fill, every available hitter is in your pool. However, if Papi has to DH, then the roster options are limited. On a day-to-day basis, even, guys like Varitek or Manny can't get "off days" in the DH slot. I think some level of subjectivity and imagination is appropriate when discussing the issue; it's not like it's a Thome/Konerko situation in which both guys deserved to be in the lineup over anyone else they could get, and the better defender gets the fielding assignment. As Ben points out, it's not like Kevin Millar was an irreplaceable cog. If Papi had been able to play 1B, it's not out of the realm of possibility the Sox would have been in running for Carlos Beltran's services at the deadline in 2004 since they could have moved Damon to LF and DHed Manny.

10:24 PM  

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