Saturday, May 20, 2006

Crush 'em like so many paper beer cups

While the supremacy of the free world is being decided at 35th and the Dan Ryan, FOX is broadcasting to most of the nation a game between two obscure teams called, I think, the "Mitts" and the "Yank-mes". Now, from what I hear, the "Yank-mes" have an outfield populated by rookies, and an infield populated by, shall we say, players with reputations for sullenness.

I will probably have to surrender my White Sox fan party card for this, but I have to confess, I just don't hate the Chicago Cubs. I don't like them, either; they exist in that vast nebula of baseball teams about which I have no opinion. That's the way it is. Right now, they are The Team Playing The White Sox, though, which always moves them to Honorary #30 on my top-to-bottom list.

  • Based on a seven-game road trip where he hit .238/.217/.429, some people are already writing The New Joe Crede's obituary. I say, check the splits. Joe doesn't hit well in Minny, Tampa, or on plastic in general. I won't speculate on why this is true -- there may not be a bigger BS dump in baseball than theories on offense on Astroturf (or its relatives) other than to say that the turf probably favors fast slap hitters, which is the opposite of what Joe Crede is.
  • Peter Gammons called the Tiger pitching the best in baseball yesterday in his ESPN blog (pay site). Now, this is an defensible point; but it seems when Peter Gammons says something, it's jumping the shark. Cincinnati slaughtered the Tiger pitching staff. Coincidence?
  • Outgoing Sewanee economics professor J. C. Bradbury has web-published a study suggesting that pitching dilution, not steroids, is responsible for the home run epidemic of the last 20 years. He extrapolates a Stephen Jay Gould argument that decreased variance in statistics implies increase in overall quality when you are operating at the extreme end of the normal curve. Since the hit batter rate tracks the home run rate reasonably, it's logical to presume that pitching quality dilution is the primary motivator. All this sounds correct, but as the comments to Bradbury's blog say, there is a problem here. Technically, I think the best way to put it is, nobody knows if the performance distribution curve is wide sense stationary or egodic. Practically, this means that the observation that the strike zone is smaller than it was 20 years ago and the prevalence today of Chet-Lemon-style plate crowders could be affecting both home run rates and HBP rates. Further, one could argue that smaller parks not only increase the home run rate, they encourage teams to flirt with wild power pitchers. Personally, I don't buy the steroids-as-cause argument alone, because power hitting in baseball is not purely a function of strength, and because pitchers were also users too.

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