Sunday, October 01, 2006

After the Boys of Summer Have Gone

I got to catch the very end of the Rangers' season this afternoon--the last few innings on the radio on my way home from an alumni metting, and then the final at-bat for the Rangers on TV. There's no doubt that this season was a disappointment, considering how well things had been going before the All-Star break (hmm, we've heard this before). And while I think I've joined the camp that believes the Rangers would be better off with someone besides Buck Showalter as manager (it's not hard to buy into the idea that a slightly "looser" managerial style would play better in the dog days of summer), there's no guarantee that this will happen.

On a personal note, I was disappointed that I didn't get to use all the ticket vouchers (an annual Christmas gift) this season, but one look at next year's schedule reveals that I'll be able to use a lot of them on a single day in '07; it turns out that they're playing a game on my birthday! I haven't had a Baseball Birthday Bash in about five years, so that'll be fun.

As I've noted before, I'm a huge baseball fan; I think it reflects many of the things that are good about America, and it can even be compared to jazz. I really miss it during the half of the year when it's not being played. Can't wait till April!

Defending Junior: I also wanted to use this post to reply to a comment from regular reader Gary P. from a few weeks ago, to a post where I congratulated Gary Matthews Jr. on hitting for the cycle. Gary P. writes:
Ugh! Matthews is 31 years old and never done anything like this before. The performance just screams FLUKE SEASON, and he's going to make some team very unahppy when he most likely returns to his career norms next year. I just hope it's not Texas (or Boston).

For all the airtime given that one wall-climbing catch, the defensive rating schemes that use play-by-play data tend to rate him quite a bit below average at turning balls hit to CF into outs.... the primary complaints being that he gets a slow break and doesn't take good routes. has a list of the ten most similar players to Matthews through age 30, and what they did the rest of their careers. Only one played more than 283 games for the rest of their careers, and that one was also the only one to be an above-average hitter for the rest of their careers.

Here's my take: If you don't like the way Matthews plays, that's fine, but I for one am skeptical of putting that much stock in the statistics of previous similar players to predict what another player will do. I'll wait for another post to fully expound on this subject, but let's say that, to me, using samples to predict what a populaton will do is hogwash to me; it's why I abandoned my Ph.D quite some time ago (OK, that, and the fact that my next degree really needs to be in the jazz studies area and not music education), because that course of study relies too heavily on that methodology.

So if you're not a GMJ fan, that's fine, but if I were Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels, I would'nt just look at the statistics (or their cousins, "lies" and "damn lies") but also at how Matthews' play energized his teammates and probably helped put people in the seats (an area in which the team otherwise lost ground this year).

But hey, no big deal in the grand scheme of things--me likey, you no likey. It always makes for good discussion 'round these parts.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday Dingus!

1 comment:

Gary P. said...

It's one thing to like Matthews, but it's an entirely different thing to want to have him here as part of (hopefully) a future Rangers playoff club.

When sample sizes get big enough, you can pretty well tell how players are likely to age from where they are at any point. Nothing's absolute, of course, but this kind of knowledge can put the odds in your favor when deciding who you should make long-term high-dollar committments to and who to thank for the memories.

I ran a simple search on my MLB database looking for all hitters who met these criteris:

1) 1500-2500 career AB through their age 30 season (GMJr had 2167). This identifies players who either got a late start on their career or who -- like Matthews -- had a fairly long career to that point but in a mostly reserve role.

2) at least 400 AB in their age-31 season to narrow it down to players who were front-line players in that season, and

3) whose age-31 season had an AVG, OBP, and SLG above their career averages through age 30.

I wound up with about 65 players in MLB history who are at least vaguely similar to GMJr. There were a couple of late blooming stars in the bunch, but it was mostly guys who were a couple of years away from washing out of the majors altogether.

When I changed it to players whose AVG, OBP, and SLG in their age-31 season were at 50 points above their career averages through age 30 (Matthews was +64/+44/+98), there are only 3 players who pulled that off:

1) Scott Brosius, whose numbers got a superficial boost moving from hitter-unfriendly Oakland to more hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium at age 31. He retired after his age-34 season.

2) Dante Bichette, whose numbers got an enormous boost moving into the inaugural season of Coors Field for his age-31 season and managed to be a league-average hitter through age 37.

3) Henry Rodriguez, who had one more season as a decent semi-regular, then 28 more AB for the rest of his career.

If it were me calling the shots, I'd rather look for the next GMJr among guys making the minimum instead of showing the original in cash.