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Revenge of the Joe Morgan Chat Day—On the Sith Joe Morgan Chat Day God Created Sabermetrics
2005-06-06 12:04
by Mike Carminati

A LONG TIME AGO
IN A BLOGOSPHERE FAR, FAR AWAY…

We were under the delusion that George Lucas was a cinematic genius. By merging the austere palette of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western and the Eastern ethos of an Akira Kurosawa's samurai film, Lucas came up with a fun new kind of science fiction genre. He improved on it for another film, but then the chinks in the armor started to appear, those damnable Ewoks.

But the original trilogy was done, and it seemed like a masterpiece. Lucas would go on about the other two trilogies that he had already written, one before and one after the original three, but other than Lucas's speech pattern getting more stilted and ever so pedantic and his developing a Jabba-inspired dewlap under his signature beard, nothing became of it for a decade.

Then suddenly the originals were revamped and re-released to huge audiences. Never mind that Lucas toyed with every characteristic blemish of the original, finished unfinished scenes, pulled some scenes in favor of new ones, and upgraded the special effects to the then-current standard. And never mind that they had stuck these add allusions to episodes four, five, and six.

Who cares?!? A new trilogy was on the way! When the first new Star Wars revealed a whole new look into Darth Vader's go-carting skills, not to mention tremendously annoying characters who offended a broad swath of nationalities from Jamaican to Chinese to Jewish.

But we forgave the first cinematic stinkbomb when the second film came out. Our friends said it's better than the first, a claim every film in the last twenty years except for Gigli and Carrot Top's and Cindy Crawford's sole masterpieces could make. The film was revelatory. Bobba Fett's father provided the genetic material to create the entire imperial army! If anything in the last sentence appeals to you, you are officially a geek. It also revealed that a major motion picture could be crafted without any modicum of acting or screenwriting ability. And apparently Darth Vader's evil emanated from extreme peevishness. But you had to agree with your friends that these was an improvement over the first for no other reason than the dearth (I wish that was actually "death") of Jar Jar Binks (and I may have misspelled that name but I can't invest the intellectual wherewithal to give a …never mind).

Now, everyone is saying this one, the third or sixth Star Wars depending on one's point of view, is as good as the original trilogy. Yeah, the acting and writing still sucks (even though that egomaniac Lucas turned the screenplay over to someone who actually was interested in having some semblance of a plot), but it's good, it really is, we're told. Suddenly, Lucas has foresworn any knowledge of the final three films so that he can go out on a high note. And I am torn between my desire to complete the last chapter of a story in which I have apparently invested way more than I ever intended and my desire to never give another dime to that charlatan Lucas.

In a parallel Schrodinger-cat-like universe, our hero, Joe Morgan, took a career that personified the sabermetric ideal and became a broadcaster who had been tempted by the dark side. I used to parody this apostasy (as well as his entire existence) on a weekly basis by analyzing his chat sessions, but I had to give that up in protest when ESPN.com decided to put Joe and a Padilla flotilla of content behind its premium firewall (which is another way to say I was to cheap to pay for it though I'll couch it as a moral stand).

But I had to revive the franchise when Joe decided to cast off the dark side and embrace the sabermetric force. At least that's the vibe that he promulgates in his latest article, a screed on closers, a subject near and dear to my heart. Somehow the confluence of these two events, Joe's pseudo escape from the Dark Side and Darth's cinematic descent into it, was too good to resist. You see, I believe that Joe's latest article is merely an attempt to lure us all down the path of evil. The student has become the master. Grab this pebble from my hand, Grasshopper. And all that rot…

The Good—The Force is strong with this one

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

—Darth Vader, "Star Wars"

I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.

—Dark Helmet, "Spaceballs"

I'd like to see a change in the way closers are used.

Mike: You go, Joe—Gojo, a fine product, available at the Mike's Baseball Rants ™ E-Store ("May the Schwartz be with you").

I don't blame the closers, though. I blame the managers…

Mike: See Clerks quote below.

[T]he most critical situation in a game might be in the eighth, when the opponent's best hitters are up. At that point, you want your best reliever on the mound - and that's your closer.

Mike: News Flash!—"Joe Morgan Embraces Sabermterics". It's Joe's lite SABR—hardy har har.

Really, this is something that's been advocated since Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley revamped the closer role. But kudos to Joe for finally reading his old Bill James' Baseball Abtsracts.

The Bad—You underestimate the power of the Dark Side

Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they.

—Yoda, it is, "The Empire Strikes Back"

So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

—Dark Helmet, "Spaceballs"

Fluke Starbucker: Jeepers! What is it, Augie Ben Doggie? Did you feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?
Auggie Ben Doggie: No, just a little headache.

"Hardware Wars" ("You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll kiss three bucks goodbye!")

(Deftly explaining the save rule) A closer records a save when he starts the ninth inning with a three-run lead and finishes the game (of course, a closer can enter the game earlier, and with runners on base the rule varies a bit).

Mike: "The guy on the top bunk has gotta make the guy on bottom bunk's he's gotta make his bunk all the time. See it's in the regulations. See if we were in Gremany I would have to make your's, but we're in Italy and you gotta make mine. It's regulations." (John "Barf" Candy in "Stripes").

What?!? The rule varies, how?

Here's the rule:

SAVES FOR RELIEF PITCHERS
10.20
Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions: (1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and (2) He is not the winning pitcher; and (3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions: (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); or (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

The pitcher can enter the game to start the ninth or earlier or with three men on, two out in the ninth, and a five-run lead to be credited with a save. With runners on base it does not vary one iota. The tying run either has to be on base, at the plate, or on deck. Period.

In the past, though, Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers used to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to get one save. In today's market, that's the equivalent workload of three saves.

Mike: Rollie Fingers used to pitch three innings for every save? I looked at Rollie Fingers' big season (1981), Rollie Fingers is a friend of mine, and sir, Rollie Fingers is no Rollie Fingers.

To set the record straight, once Fingers became a closer for good (1972) through the end of his career, he had 30 three-run saves while recording 310 saves in 790 appearance. That's less that ten percent. Yes, today's closers rarely, if ever, go three innings, but Fingers did average just over 1.5 innings per appearance over that span (1.65 actually).

Pitching changes. Old Hoss Radbourne once pitched 678.2 innings in a 112-game schedule. That seems crazy today. OK, that was 1884. How 'bout 1972, a year in the middle of Fingers' career? Wilbur Wood threw 376.2 innings that year. Livan Hernandez was the major-league leader last year with 255. Things change. Roll with it.

Also, the statement that pitching three innings in one appearance is equivalent of three saves today is just plain nuts. The save run states that if your team wins the game, you do not get credit for the win, but you finish the game and pitch three innings, you get a save. Your team could be up 10-0 when you start the seventh, and you could give up 9 runs. It doesn't matter—save. How is that the equivalent of three ninth-inning appearances with the game on the line and perhaps a one-run lead?

With better training techniques, players today are in better shape - and pitchers today, who usually throw on four days' rest, should be able to go deeper into a game.

Mike: Not to be outdone by…himself, Joe has a go at the starters as well. Can't go six innings and turn the game over to your closer for the last two, bah! What sissies! Joe would go with six-man staffs, five starters and a closer.

Joe also hearkens back to the days when pitchers "would throw on three days' rest". Wait, what do you need a fifth starter for anyway? Five-man staffs. Done. (Let's just ignore the fact that ballgames are longer now and way more pitches are thrown.)

What will Joe say next, that the pitchers of today are a bunch of babies? No, not next, but it's coming…

The Ugly—He's more machine now than man; twisted and evil (especially in "ludicrous" speed.)

Emperor: Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete

Luke: Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.

—"Return of the Ewoks, er, Jedi"

Lone Starr: So, Lord Helmet, at last we meet again for the first time for the last time.
Dark Helmet: Before you die there is something you should know about us, Lone Star.
Lone Starr: What?
Dark Helmet: I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.
Lone Starr: What's that make us?
Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.

Take it easy kid, it's only a movie.

— Ham Salad, "Hardware Wars" ("A thrilling space saga of romance, rebellion, and household appliances!")

My friend here is trying to convince me that any independent contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when it was destroyed by the Rebels.

— Dante in "Clerks"

Baseball has babied closers for so long…

Mike: My mistake, it was next. This statement is sandwiched between his first two statements from the "The Good" section above. "Blame the manager but closers are babies."

The mind-set of today's closers is that they don't want to enter the game unless they can record a save.

Mike: So much for blaming the manager. That's two out of three "Goods" down by contradiction.

[M]anagers follow the conventional wisdom of today's bullpen approach.

Mike: Ha ha ha….Hold on….Oh, Nelly…Just a sec… Oh, mercy!

Sorry I was just cackling to myself like Bobby D in "Cape Fear". Joe discussing conventional wisdom? That's like Rush Limbaugh denigrating drug users. Or George Bush criticizing John Kerry's war record. It's like rain on your wedding day…

[You should use] your closer in the toughest situation, regardless of how that will affect his save statistics. Stats have become far too important.

Mike: SABR bashing plain and simple. First, Joe bases managers. Then, he bashes closers. Now, he bases the analysts. Who next, hot dog vendors?

My solution is change the save rule which I discuss here.

Mike: Now. here's a fine bit of self-contradiction:

In the playoffs and the World Series you can't make any mistakes. In the regular season, if a closer blows a save, there are 161 other games to make up for it.

Mike: Wait for it…

(While critiquing the overuse of middle relievers—Oops, he forgot to bash them earlier) [W]hen a closer blows a save, it can be devastating psychologically to a team.

Mike: To quote Bugs Bunny, "Who? What? Where? How?"

(Still critiquing the emphasis on middle relief) The Yankees realized in the offseason that starters are more of a priority than middle relief, and they acquired Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright.

Mike: Ah, Joe, on June 6, 2004, the Yankees were 35-20, in first place, 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox. Today, the are 28-28, in fourth place, six behind the O's.

OK, that might not be just the fault of the pitching. Last year, the Yankees were 19th (4.69) in the majors in ERA and 18th in starters ERA (4.82). This year, they are 22nd and 21st respectively even though both figures have, admittedly, gone done (4.57 and 4.69). I guess the emphasize on starting pitching really helped.

Mike: OK, so Joe has spent an entire column bashing idiotic managers, babied closers, coddled starters, overemphasized middle relievers, and geeky statisticians, so what does he feature in his sidebar? "Overblown"—his word, not mine—closer stats. First, he salivates over Francisco Cordero's 16 saves this year and 49 last. Then…

In the NL, Trevor Hoffman leads the league (also 16 saves). He isn't the dominant closer he once was - he doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he still gets the job done.

Mike: So he uses the overblown stat of saves to show that Hoffman (3.20 ERA, just OK for a closer) is still getting the job done? Well, cut off my hand and call me Skywalker.

Yogurt: Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs-the T-shirt, Spaceballs-the Coloring Book, Spaceballs-the Lunch box, Spaceballs-the Breakfast Cereal, Spaceballs-the Flame Thrower. The kids love this one. And last but not least, Spaceballs the doll, me.
[Pulls string]
Doll: May the schwartz be with you!

—"Spaceballs"

A day that takes us through the darkness/a day that leads us into light/a day that we celebrate/the LIGHT!"
— Princess Leia singing to the Star Wars theme in "The Star Wars Holiday Special"

Comments
2005-06-06 14:15:05
1.   Tom
I wish every day could be retro-Joe Morgan Chat Day(TM).
2005-06-07 05:31:44
2.   Mike Carminati
Sorry, but everyday is sundae at Carvel's.
2005-06-07 06:56:08
3.   Tom
I know that Everyday is Like Sunday.

I was trying to recall the titles of previous JMCDs, quite like the names of Itchy and Scratchy Episodes. So far I can remember:

-G.I. Joe Morgan Chat Day
-These Days are yours and My Joe Morgan Chat Days.

I apologize for any errors. There was also the bad TV spin-offs, but I don't recall the name of that one.

2005-06-07 08:22:42
4.   Mike Carminati
Tom,

Thanks for remembering. The spinoff one was "These Happy Joe Morgan Chat Days Are Yours And Mine, Happy Joe Morgan Chat Days!": http://mikesrants.baseballtoaster.com/archives/013263.html

2005-06-07 08:28:20
5.   Mike Carminati
By the way, here's a listing of all of them at the old site: http://www.all-baseball.com/MT/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=10&search=joe+morgan+chat+day. I should add a link to them from the new one.

By the way, my personal favorite was "Mojo Jo-Joe Morgan Chat Day".

2005-06-07 08:35:21
6.   Tom
The link didn't work.

Maybe you can put together a nice, leather-bound addition for fans of MBBR. Have Joe write the foreward. I am sure he loves criticism.

Was there a Joe Morgan Chat Days of Thunder? If not, there should have been. Days of Thunder made auto racing seem cool. Wait, no it didn't.

2005-06-07 09:07:10
7.   Pinski
It also seems Joe is a really good talent evaluator, at least if I undestand Gammons correctly.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/gammons/story?id=2077261

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