Monday, August 29, 2011

Observations from the Oakland Series

The Red Sox/A's three-game series was a game of three lopsided games.  There are a few things that I'd like to briefly discuss before we get into another Red Sox/Yankees series with first place on the line.

1.  Should Billy Beane be on thin ice yet?  The sabermetric/Moneyball genius burst onto the scene when hired as A's GM in 1998.  Between 1999 and 2006, the team strung together eight consecutive winning seasons, six of which were 90-win teams and two of which were 100-win teams.  Since 2006, however, they have hit .500 once (2010).    With the resounding failure of Moneyball II (defensive prowess as the next undervalued commodity) and the outing of the secret of Moneyball I (on-base percentage as the first undervalued commodity), how much longer is Beane's shelf life?  Was the Michael Lewis book his downfall, as it popularized OBP and SLG, making it no longer undervalued?  Will there be anything as undervalued as those two statistics were in Beane's first years now that sabermetrics is the hobby of legions of nerds?

Whatever.  I'm looking forward to the movie, too.

2.  Can't feel bad for Tim Wakefield this time around.  In attempt #6 he got lit up, plain and simple.  With a 2.5-game lead on the Yankees, however, it's not time to force him into early retirement.  Let's just hope he's not stranded at 299 a month from today.

3.  Did Erik Bedard make a pass at Tim McClelland's daughter or something?  We know about the slew of unwarranted balls called against Bedard by McClelland a couple of weeks back.  He was squeezed pretty badly in Saturday's Game 2 as well.  What did Bedard do to piss off McClelland and his staff? 

4.  Good for McClelland's crew and the Red Sox' grounds crew for doing all they could during a less-than-ideal situation in the rain on Saturday.  The rain started in Boston earlier than I expected it to, and conditions were downright miserable for both games.  Making sure the field was playable enough that injury risk was minimized was a huge thing, and it was accomplished.  It was important for both teams' September schedules (and probably TBS's broadcasting schedule) that these games were fit in, and everyone involved should be commended.  I wrote this in the comments section yesterday, but I feel like thumbs-up from me are rare, and this one should be put out in the spotlight a little more.

5.  Same thumbs up go to the Red Sox.  I have given them a lot of heat for bilking the fans on a lot of things over the years.  Justifiably so.  They don't need to be enumerated here, but I will say that Linda Pizzuti Twittering a rainout 20 minutes before it was announced was probably the most heinous of all.  Saturday does not make up for it, but it was a good gesture letting fans with Game 2 tickets show up for the end of Game 1, and letting anyone from the street sit in the rain (or under a grandstand) for free is something that goes against the way this team has been run, both since 2002 and especially before.  They strike out a lot, but they got this one pretty well.

6.  Playing baseball on a losing team...in an empty park on the road...in a driving rainstorm...twice in one day is miserable.  The entire A's team made that abundantly clear by the way they went about playing in Game 2.  I don't really blame them.  If they were the Red Sox, however, this would be a senior thesis.

7.  Thursday is the first day of school for JD Drew.

8.  I hope this time around nobody says "this is a big start for John Lackey."  News flash:  Every start right now is a big start for John Lackey.  Though he's the anti-Burnett (in other words, he's "bend-don't-break"), he's been short of awful but short of good since the July 4th meltdown.  Every start is big because he's competing for 3rd-spot job against Bedard.  He's on thinner ice than Bedard because he's been more prone to the meltdown.  But he's also more likely to throw a seven-inning, one-run gem.

There are still a lot of interesting things going down in the last month of the season.  Even though it looks like both of our teams will be playing beyond September 28th, there is an awful lot to watch.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. we could probably go on forever about this, but i think what you are seeing from beane/oakland now has more to do with the situation in oakland and less to do with beane. that is, there are only so many undervalued commodities you can probably find. the reason i say this is because, if they could be found, beane would probably find them. he's obviously trying (defense). further, there are now more people (as in like, every team) has people looking for said undervalued commodities. he had his run with the early metrics that was able to cover up the tough situation to win that is oakland. now we are seeing just what a tough situation to win oakland is. didn't one of their players openly complain a few weeks back about how empty the stadium always is? i'm not sure many, if any, could do any more than what beane is doing with that situation.

8. tomorrow is a big start for lackey, but for a more micro-reason than i'm assuming most people talk about when they say "this is a big start for jon lackey" like you are referring to. if he can find a way to beat cc sabathia - who has not been hard to beat if you're the red sox this year - he puts the yankees in a very precarious position. that is, he sets the red sox up to drop the hammer on the yankees. if they sweep, the yanks will be 4 back in the loss column. not remotely insurmountable with 30 games to play, but that would be a statement. of course the yankees could theoretically sweep too, but that is far less likely. even if they win sabathia/lackey, they'd then have to win hughes/beckett and lester/burnett(!). if the sox get game 1 a sweep is highly possible if not likely.

which is why i'll end with what i always say when the yankees are visiting fenway: don't get swept. it is especially true in this series, considering the way these two teams have played against each other and the way they have played against the rest of baseball. the yankees have proven they can win this division against everybody else. it's harder to do that when you continually put yourself at a head-to-head disadvantage against the sox. don't get me wrong, i'd love to win 2 of 3 and walk out in first place. but i'm much more concerned with getting swept. get 1 win, worst case scenario you walk out 2 down in the loss column, and you go from there.

- pf

the gm said...

Pat,

I think we are on common ground when it comes to Beane and Moneyball. The publication of that book and the rise of sabermetric thinking was to Oakland's advantage just as steroid testing was to Nomar's advantage. Before Moneyball and sabermetrics being mainstream, there were hidden inefficiencies in the game. Now it very well may be that all inefficiencies are either unhidden or (like defense) of little magnitude. OBP/OPS may have been the only one. I do like to say that the book is NOT about OBP or OPS, but the more time goes on, maybe it is - in the sense that OBP/OPS was THE one and only statistically significant hidden, exploitable inefficiency in baseball talent evaluation.

Anonymous said...

DV

I wish more rainy day games were handled like Sunday's games. I've been to three games seriously affected by rain and two that were rained out. I can honestly say that in all three situations I would have preferred to play on even though it meant sitting in crappy weather. To me, if the weather is such that it creates a situation that will cause long term damage to the field or makes conditions very dangerous for the players, then don't play. Other than that, get the game in.

Lackey can do the whole "bend-not-break" deal because he's getting 10 runs a game. All he has to do is not be completely horrible and he's in business.

Erik Bedard has a reputation as a complete jackass. Tim McClelland is widely regarded as the best umpire in the game, so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. That said, Bedard's strike zone DID look very small the other day.

On Bedard/Lackey--I want to see a little more from Bedard, but I think ultimately he is your best bet because of his ability to strike guys out. Lackey allows too many balls in play and all it takes is one lazy 89 MPH fastball to lose a whole series. If I can avoid the John Lackey playoff experience I'll breathe easier.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

dv/gunn -

i'd just like to point out that this was one of my more enjoyable comments sections in a long time. quality, not quantity.

we start with dv just crushing it with a moneyball comment. which, in a way, is sort of dissapointing because there is so much i feel we could do with this topic, and we are leaking some of it out now. without question, considering this site was sort of born in the moneyball era and was heavily infused with moneyball ideology early on - and the journey we have taken with sabermetrics since that time - there will have to be some sort of "best of" on this topic. i think the need for that "best of" was really solidified here and that alone makes this a great post/comments section.

then we go to just an absolutely classic gunn comment. and i mean "classic" both in terms of its outstanding substance and in that we have seen this exact genre of comment from the gunn so many times over the years. he's trying to be positive because he knows it would be nice if one of these players performed down the stretch, but he lets you know what his true confidence level/feelings are towards said players with a series of hysterical passive aggressive/sarcastic statements. priceless stuff.

- pf

the gm at work said...

Admit it - you're gonna miss this s***.

I have "Sabermetrics - a look back" as topic #5 to tackle when all is said and done this fall.

Anonymous said...

drop the hammer -JB