Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Mike's Baseball Rants


10  09  07 
06  05  04  03 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
Links to MBBR
Joe Morgan Chat Labor Day
2003-09-02 12:43
by Mike Carminati

The happiness of men consists in life. And life is in labor.

- Leo "The Lip" Tolstoy

The product of mental labor...always stands far below its value, because the labor-time necessary to reproduce it has no relation at all to the labor-time required for its original production.

- Karl "Tuffy" Marx

For nought so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give,
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse;
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.

- Romeo and Juliet. Act ii. Sc. 3 by William "Author" Shakespeare

Joe Morgan, the baseball analyst, is a lot like being in labor (and I should know because my wife is nine months pregnant). Analyst Joe leads a bloated existence, his ideas are scattershot and scatterbrained, and he retains water. I never said it was a perfect analogy.

What better time to celebrate Joe's analytical pregnancy (as well as to celebrate bad puns) than Labor Day itself. Many's the time that I hear or read one of Joe's comments and the first thing that pops into my mind is "Fecund!" or homophones to that affect. Joe's analyst career was born from one of the best playing careers in recent memory, but like Adam's Cher-like rib removal from which sprang Eve, Joe's analyst life was born of great sorrow.

Joe's thoughts give birth to many prolific ill-conceived myths in the sport: batters are best evaluated by runs and RBIs, pitchers are best assessed by wins alone, baseball was just better in Joe's day, etc. My goal is to be Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil trying to nip the Mini Hitlers (i.e., Joe's malaprop ideas) in the bud before they take root (of course, he should have followed Elvis Costello's advice and let the "Two Little Hitlers" fight it until one little Hitler does the other one's will).

So without further ado, let's get it on but remember to practice safe sabermetrics:

The Good

Shorter than a Braxton-Hicks contraction.]

The Bad

Ryan (PA): Hey Joe, Is there anything you could look forward to in 2004 if you were a Reds fan? Thanks

Yeah, that the season will open on time. I can't give you much more encouragement than that. I wish I could.

[Mike: Wow, it's a pity party for Reds fans. Oh, boo-hoo, we haven't won a World Series in 13 years. The Reds have stunk since letting Davey Johnson supposedly for living with his wife out of wedlock.

Look, the Reds have a lot to look forward to: the return of Ken Griffey, Adam Dunn, and Austin Kearns, the best outfield in baseball, from injuries; the growth of Jose Acevedo and Ryan Wagner; a new (official) manager that has to be better than Bob Boone; an offseason without Jim Bowden's bumblings, etc.]

Jon (CT): Seattle, Oakland, or Boston. Who plays golf in October???

This is what makes baseball such a great sport. Two weeks ago it looked like Seattle was in easy. But things change. Right now the Mariners look to be on the outside looking in. There aren't any great teams anymore. Good teams but not great. Everyone has weaknesses. Anytime those weaknesses show up, you go on a losing streak. That's what we've seen with Oakland and Seattle lately. Boston's offense fell off for awhile but now it's back. Every team's weakness will show up again before the end of the season. Whoever is hot at the end will be in.

[Mike: To quote Billy Ray Valentine in Trading Places, "Thanks, you've been halpful." Let's look at their second-half stats. Oakland is 4th in ERA, Seattle is 14th, and Boston a whopping 26th (4.92) in the second half. Offensively, Boston is 2nd in OPS, Oakland 13th, and Seattle 16th in the second half. I'd say that Oakland has the best shot. Seattle and Boston will battle it out for the wild card. Seattle is steadily average whereas the Sox have huge holes in their staff but have been knocking the leather off the ball all year. I would bet on steadily mediocre, but the Sox could capture lightning in a bottle: get enough pitching and eke out the playoff spot.]

Claudell, NJ : Joe, Is Aaron Boone pressing, is it tough changing leagues mid-season, or a combination?

It's a combination of changing leagues and trying too hard. You go to the Yankees, you want to impress everyone and your new teammates. Sometimes you try too hard. He is a good player and will be OK.

Albuquerque, NM: Are the Dodgers ever going to get any real offense? I mean, even if they should go and get top free agents this off-season...Do you think they're offensive skill will fall when they walk into the Dogers' clubhouse?

I don't think they can get enough this season. But I think they will over the winter. It depends on who will own the team. There will be some good players available and guys will want to play in LA. It's a good place to play.

[Mike: Hmm, companion pieces. First, Boone is not pressing. He just left a hitter's park and his stats are suffering. He'll be OK. He's just not as good as his first half stats purported him to be.

The Dodgers play in a pitcher's park. They like it that way. They have been caught from time to time doctoring the mound to make it even more of a pitcher's park. I think that the Dodgers as a result are the reverse Rockies. Their offense will never be overpowering. It will just be good enough to win. Extreme stadiums seem to affect their hitters in extreme ways. The Rockies home-road splits are always awful (this year they are 27th in Road OPS). The Dodgers suffer in the same way, their home and road OPS are both awful (.658 at home-29th in the majors and .665 on the road, last in the majors). Jeromy Burnitz saw his OPS drop 200 points after joining the Dodgers.

Should the Dodgers go after no-hit, all-field types like Cesar Izturis? It's the same question (or the reverse thereof) that the Rockies have been facing over their tenure in Coors. I guess they should work a few in that are worth it, i.e., play defensive positions already and play them extremely well. Adrain Beltre is a third baseman that gets out-hit by most shortstops. Can they possibly get by with two middle infielders with OPS under .600? Is Dave Roberts .304 slugging average something that they can continue to carry?

For next year, a normal Shawn Green should help immensely. He has 2 home runs in the second half so far. Last year, he had 16. The rest of the team should be up in the air going into next season. As far as help this year, to quote Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca, "It would be a miracle...and the Germans have outlawed miracles". ]

Alvin (Bay Point, CA): Hey Joe....the Giants are cruising in the NL west and are on there way to October baseball once again....Do u think that we are a better team this year than last??...and can we win it all this year??...cuz im concerned about our in-consistant offense...what do u think?

I think they are more versatile than last year. By that I mean they can manufacture runs in more ways and are a better defensive team. I'm not sure their pitching is better but overall they might be a better team. They are certainly a different team. They way they are set up now, and esp. before they got Ponson, you had to question how far they could go. They just didn't have the experience.

[Mike: The Giant staff is fourth in the majors in ERA this year (3.73). They were second last year (3.54). Their team OPS is .751 which ranks 18th in the majors. Last year it was .786, second in the majors and in a pitcher's park. They are also 20th in runs scored (613) and in 2002 they were 11th (783).

So what's the difference this year? They are six games above their expected won-loss percentage. I think the difference is Barry Bonds. He won three games in the last two weeks with walk-off homers (and he hit another game winner tonight in the ninth). I think he just makes them seem like a better team than they may actually be. Meanwhile, Pujols' Cardinals are two games worse than expected. If Bonds is not the MVP, I don't know what is.

Oh, by the way, "before they got Ponson,...They just didn't have the experience": Ponson is 26 and has never appeared in the postseason.

Walter, Mt. Vernon IL: Hey Joe! I love the way you don't take any lip from people in here! Can the Cubs get by on a 4-man rotation or is it too risky for their young pitchers? Who can they(cubs)add to the bullpen, if anybody, at this point?

I think the answer is yes and no. They could get by the last 2 or 3 weeks. I don't think they can do it from this point on, because of the young arms. I've noticed that anytime Kerry Wood pitches 9 innings, he just isn't as good in the next outing. I just don't think they can do it for a long stretch, but they could for the last couple weeks.

I don't take any lip because I do understand fan's frustrations ..

[Mike: Kerry Wood has thrown nine innings twice this year to mixed results the next appearance. On June 18, he went nine allowing one run and the next time he went seven innings and allowed one run. On July 9, he went nine and allowed one run. His next appearance was 10 days later and that was his second nine-inning outing, a shutout. His next appearance (7/24) lasted only five innings and he allowed 8 runs. Last year he had two nine-inning appearances (5/7, a shutout and 5/25, one run allowed). They were followed by a six-inning, three-run affair and one five and one-third with five runs allowed.

Also, Juan Cruz had two effective outings in August and as he is 24, should enter into their plans for the coming year. Therefore, a four-man rotation is not necessary.

Lastly, Joe should "understand fan's frustrations" because he causes a good deal of them.]

Drew-Madison, WI: Hey Joe, great job this season. What are your thoughts on the rebuilding teams this year (Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Mets, Etc) which has the best chance to be competitive in a few years based on thier farm systems and history of making deals to improve?

Hard question to answer. You never know who is willing to take chances next year as far as bringing in new personnel or someone that will make a difference. You never know how minor league guys will perform once they get to the majors. There is no clear cut map as to how to rebuild in today's game. In the past you could always depend on your minor leagues but now I'm not sure there is enough talent down there to rebuild a system. Because of expansion, most teams just don't have enough in their minors to change things around. They have to get help from the outside.

[Mike: I'd say none of the above. How about the Cleveland Indians? They have a decent young club, their minor-league organization is currently ranked first by Baseball Weekly (I don't recognize any other name), and they are in a relatively weak division. Of the teams mentioned the Mets should be giving their prospects a chance to prove themselves (#2 organization). They may also grab a free agent or two in the offseason and they may not be total busts with the inept Steve Phillips now gone. The Brewers organization is ranked 12th, the Pirates 8th, and the Reds 28th. Others worth mentioning: the Rangers (4th org, but in a tough division) and Toronto (5th, ditto).

Eric (Wheeling, WV): Hi Joe! Love chatting with you! I was wondering who on the RedSox is the most crucial for them to make the playoffs this year? A lot of people would say Pedro, Nomar, or Manny. However, I think that Derek Lowe is. What are your thoughts on this?

Well, it depends on how you view the team. You know what you will get from Ramires, Nomar and you know what you'll get with a healthy Pedro. I guess in your terms, if Lowe can pitch like we know he can, he could be the most important piece. All of them are important, if you take Pedro away and add Lowe it doesn't do you any good. Same with the other guys. If all those other guys do their thing, then you will need Lowe to do his part to make it work.

[Mike: Joe's view of the team is multitudinous and variegated. Witness, from last week's AL MVP article:

"Day in and day out, Manny Ramirez is Boston's most important player, but Nomar is the most valuable player. Ramirez makes the Red Sox go offensively, but Nomar contributes excellent shortstop defense as well as a potent bat. "

Why not mention Mueller, Nixon, Kim, Millar, Walker, Ortiz, Wakefield, etc? Look, for a team to succeed, its players must excel. This isn't the NBA where one star can carry a team (well, maybe Bonds can). This is a true team sport. Grady Little apparently doesn't even see the need to have Ramirez, arguably their best player, in the lineup.

Besides who cares about the "most critical" senior superlative tag. I would worry more about the M's.

And here's some advice to Red Sox fans: enjoy the game. There's enough drama in the game itself; you don't have to invent through some ancient curse and its subsequent mythology. That way leads to madness and to more Dan Shaugnessy book sales.]

Dré, Sacramento/CA: What would happen if... A batter is pissed off with the umpire has words and gets close to being ejected. He gets a pitch that he hits for a home run. Before he leaves the batters box, he says something to the umpire to get himself ejected. Does the umpire have to wait until he rounds the bases? If the ump tosses him right there does the run not count? Will a pinch runner have to be sent in to circle the bag?

I'm not exactly sure. I think the umpire would wait until he runs the bases. Once a home run is hit, it counts. You can't take it off the board. They would probably have to send a pinch runner to run the bases.

[Mike: No. From Rule 9.01:

(d) Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field. If an umpire disqualifies a player while a play is in progress, the disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play.

Jeff, TX: how good does getting Giles make SD next year??

Hard question. It looks like they could lose 100 games if they don't lose well. Giles is a very good productive player. If they can keep the nucleus of the team, they can be good. I don't expect them to win the division next year but they will be a better, more entertaining club.

[Mike: Brian Giles makes the Padres much better. He is clearly the best player on the team and arguably the best in franchise history.

That said, San Diego still has their problems. They have a staff ERA of 4.90. Mark Kotsay and Sean Burroughs have been a disappointment this year. Is Miguel Ojeda the solution at catcher? Can they build a rotation around Peavy, Eaton, and Lawrence?]

randy, conover, nc: Patch work bullpens seem to be dominating the division leaders - Braves, Royals, Yankees, St. Louis just a few. Which teams / bullpens will make it through the Playoffs?

Very good observation. It's a strange phenomenon that's going on now. 2-3 years ago a lot of teams had good bullpens. I'm not sure if they have been overused or used improperly or what. Most teams now do have a bullpen problem. That in itself does not bode well for the playoffs. But since everyone is having the same problem, maybe it's a non issue.

[Mike: Nice copout, Joe. Of course, not "everyone is having the same problem." Two things about postseason bullpens: 1) good ones are usually not as valuable in the postseason (ask the Braves) and 2) given that the team uses only three or four starters, they are deeper in the postseason and don't necessarily reflect the makeup or use of the bullpen during the year.

That said, I would say that looking at each team's overall staff numbers in the second half may be the most informative. Using that criterion, the Royals (5.47 ERA), Red Sox (4.92), Phillies (4.90), Cardinals (4.73), and Yankees (4.70) may have the most to worry about. ]

Kelso, NY: Hi, Joe. Matsui played 120 games per year in Japan, so I'm wondering whether fatigue is a potential issue with him down the stretch?

I'm told by people who have been there that Japanese players are in better shape overall than American players. They work harder all year round. Their training regimen is tougher than American players. He will feel some fatigue but I think he'll get past it. Ichiro was even more of a risk because he was smaller but he made it. I expect Matsui to do the same.

[Mike: Yeah, and you probably believe they make better cars. Hmm, well they do make better cars, but Ichiro has experienced a very large dropoff each year in the second half. Will Matsui? How about a peek at real, live statistics instead of guessing? It's just crazy enough to work!

Here are the numbers per month:

Pre All-Star38146966.299.356.449.805
Post All-Star15525626.258.333.426.759

He has dropped off significantly since June but is better now than he was prior to June. His year has been one tremendous month yet far. I am not certain we can determine what expectations should be for him. I guess you could say that he was learning the majors until June and then has been declining due to fatigue since. You can say it; I don't think you can determine if it's true. Give the guy a year or two and then we'll know what to expect from him. However, I would say that the possibilities for another June are slim (you may have noticed that June comes but once a year).]

Utek (LA): With Rafael Palmiero having another quietly productive season with 30+ HRs and 100+ RBIs, it is worth remembering that the Cubs once traded him because they felt he couldn't hit for power. Yet whereas Palmiero learned to hit for power, the man who replaced him, Mark Grace, never did, even though Grace was a very good hitter for many years. My question is, how does one "learn" to hit for power, and if it can be learned, why don't more hitters (like Mark Grace) learn how to do it?

Good question. When he was with the Cubs he hit to the opposite field and it's hard to be a power hitter doing that. He learned to pull the ball more and when to pull it. I'm sure he matured as a hitter and learned which balls to hit for singles and which balls to pull.

[Mike: Three things: 1) Yes, Palmeiro bloomed late but he is one of the greatest late bloomers in baseball history. It's not like everyone can be expected to "learn" to hit for power at the major-league level like Palmeiro did, but it's not rare for a player to develop more power as he matures even in the majors. 2) Two seasons before he was traded he hit 14 homers and slugged .543 in 221 at-bats. He dropped off in 1988 to eight taters but slugged .436 and hit 41 doubles. Grace slugged .403 in 1988. 3) Palmeiro played mostly left for the Cubs and was not replaced by Mark Grace but by Dwight Smith. ]

Evan (Canada): It was a great week to be an Expos fan! It was stunning to see them sweep the Phillies and exciting to see fans starting to come back to Olympic Stadium! It would be even sweeter to see them stick it to Jeffrey Loria's Marlins this weekend! I know there's still a month to go until playoff time, and the whole NL Wild Card race is still a mess, but do you think the Expos have what it takes to get to the playoffs and cause some damage in the postseason?

If you are going to pass out kudos to players for doing a great job and overcoming adversity, Montreal is head and shoulders above everyone. It's a travesty how they have been treated by MLB. A 23-game roadtrip? If Vlad hadn't have been injured and they didn't have that massive roadtrip, they would be first in the wild card. It will be hard to overcome everything they have had thrown at them, but I'm pulling for them. They have shown a lot of charachter as a team.

[Mike: Again file under the "Halpful" rubric. Do the Expos have what it takes? Who knows? They have a .722 OPS which is 24th in the majors. Couple that with a 4.09 ERA, which is 9th, and you do not have one of the strongest teams in baseball. They've just fallen off the wild card pace by four games, which is probably where they should be. Like all baseball fans, I am pulling for them, but they are now seventh in the wild card.]

Kevin Henderson, WASH DC: Hello Mr. Morgan... I grew up in Michigan, thereby making me a lifelong Tigers fan. It is one of the hardest things to do. For over ten years they have been horrible at best. I continue to cheer and hope but I see no change. What is going on with that organization? How can we have no decent farm system, and so many big money, no game players evry single year for over a decade? Is it because Mike Ilitch puts all his money in the Red Wings? Or is it because they haven't had the right people in the front office and in the dugout? Thanks

Without being close to the situation I can't say you don't have the right people in the front office. It's hard to be fair in evaluating an organization.

[Mike: Never did. Never will. This is the worst organization in baseball since the Cleveland Spiders, who were purposefully gutting by owner Frank Robison, who bought the St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals) in an auction and transferred the best Spiders to that club, which he renamed the Perfectos.]

Tim (Ottawa): Hey Joe, considering the travel, injuries and uncertainty, involving the Expos this year, does Frank Robinson have a decent shot at Manager of the Year in the NL? Thanks.

I think he has a shot. It depends on where they will finally finish. If I was voting, you have to look at Bobby Cox, Felipe Alou, Dusty Baker. The Cubs lost 95 games last year! A lot of managers have done a great job and Frank is one of them.

[Mike: Hey Joe, I know he doesn't meet your criteria for a great manager because he wasn't a player when you were, but Jack McKeon took over a 16-22 team and has them contending for a playoff spot. He is 58-42 since taking over.]

Dennis,Portland: Mr. Morgan, you rock by the way...I've become a Pujols fan even though I root for the Yankees. Do you think this kid will eventually post Bonds like numbers by the time he's done?

I think he will have a great career. Barry Bonds like numbers? No. People think you can have a couple good years and be like Bonds but you have to have MANY GREAT years to be like Bonds. The only guy who might have a chance is Alex Rodriguez.

[Mike: Which numbers? Pujols does not have Bonds' baserunning nor defensive skills. Given that, it is difficult to project Pujols as a being a great hitter at 39-one would expect his game to atrophy much earlier because he doesn't have other skills to rely on. He could do it. He has been more dominant in his first three years than Bonds or A-Rod were in their first three. It's just too early to say. One does get concerned when a player is not as well rounded as a Bonds or A-Rod to project that player as one of the best ever.]

Chris, Houston: Hey Joe, do you think Bagwell and Biggio will be the 1st Stros in the HOF? And if you never got traded do you think you could have won any MVP's or made it to the HOF eventhough we had bad teams in the mid 70's? Your still one of are top 5 players ever!

To answer the first question, they definately have a shot. Bagwell a better chance than Biggio. And I doubt I would have made the HOF if I had stayed there. My talents were showcased better on a team like Cincinnati.

[Mike: Actually, Houston has six Hall of Famers: Don Sutton, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Nellie Fox, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Roberts. I guess he means HoFers who wear Astros/Colt .45s hats. Who cares?

By the way, Joe is being to rough on himself while demonstrating his inability to understand park- and era-specific stats. Morgan never had the kind of years he had with the Reds in Houston but he did register three 130+ park-adjusted OPSs in six full years. That seems Hall-worthy for a second baseman who has yet to turn 27.]

Ron, Boston, MA: Hey Joe, I just wanted to change the tune from MLB to LL for a second. I was watching one of the games last weekend I believe, and I saw one of those little leaguers topping out at around 100 pitches. How do you feel about how little leaguers are managed in big LL games like that?

I can't really address LL. I did college games and the better pitcher was used constantly. Started one day, relieved the next, started two days later. They were overrused. Many think that is what happened to Ben McDonald. Many times pitchers are misused in those types of tournaments.

[Mike: How do I feel about it? To quote John Winger, "I think it sucks."]

Kelso, NYC : Hi Joe. I was at one of the White Sox-Yankees games earlier this week, and some of the White Sox were using aluminum bats during batting practice. How widespread is this, and is just to "put on a show" for the fans?

I don't know what the purpose would be there. I don't think it was to put on a show. It must have been for some reason I just don't know what it would be.

[Mike: Hey, ever since Sammy-gate no one can cork their bats for batting practice especially in Chicago.]

Danny (NYC): Hi Joe, Do you think Jose Reyes is the most exciting position player right now?

I think he is a really good player. He has a lot of energy and a lot of charisma. I still think Ichiro is probably as exciting as you are going to get. Reyes definately has stardom written all over him.

[Mike: Jose Reyes? This guy probably still thinks David West is a prospect.

Reyes may end up being "really good". However, right now he has only 274 at-bats under his belt, has been struck out three times more than he gets walked, gets on base at a .334 clip, and has committed 9 errors in 69 games.

As far as Mr. Excitement, how about Barry Bonds, who has hit ninth-inning homers to win a game four times in the last two weeks? (Actually Jackie Wilson was Mr. Excitement.)]

The Ugly: Knowing less than Butterfly McQueen about birthing no babies

Mark (Bangor, PA): Joe, do you think there needs to be some change in what constitutes a rookie? I know there has been a lot of debate about the Japanese players really being rookies. I think MLB needs to acknowledge the professional service over there to keep ROY award true to rookies.

Originally I agreed with you. I didn't think Ichiro or Matsui deserved the award. But Japanese baseball is not MLB. It's like going from AAA to MLB. The other part of my argument was Jackie Robinson and others who played in the Negro Leagues and were able to be Rookie of the Year. If you have been a professional player you should not be ROY but I'm not saying I'm right. The writers voted for those guys.

[Mike: So Joe is advocating that only players who go directly from college or high school to the majors can be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award? All minor-leaguers are professionals, you know.

"The other part of my argument was Jackie Robinson and others who played in the Negro Leagues"? What other part. He seems to be saying that they should be eligible but then says pro players shouldn't be. It's a bit galling if an African-American who benefited from the players toiling in the Negro Leagues for years saying that those men should not be eligible for the award once they had gained admittance to the majors.

Frankly, I have no problems with the rule. Japanese players are locked in to play in Japan for a number of years. They have to earn their freedom before they can play in the majors. So is Joe saying that they can never be eligible for the award? Does that seem fair?]

Francisco Vicens, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: You stated that wins are most important for determining the Cy Young, yet the only statistic which depends completely on the Pitcher's performance is his ERA, whereas wins depend also on the teams' performance (run support, defensive support, relief pitching, etc.). How could wins serve as the most important statistic over ERA or opposition batting average if the Cy Young is for the best individual performance for a pitcher, not which good pitcher had good luck and a good team to back him up ?

Everything you have said depends on the team. ERA also depends on errors and how good the team plays. If the team makes mental mistakes, the pitcher still pays for it. The game is still wins and losses. The Pirates led the league in ERA in 1989 or around there. The finished last. I guarantee you those pitchers would have rather had wins. You don't send a pitcher out to the mound and say "get a good ERA." You want him to win games. A good ERA might come with wins, but the wins and losses are the most important. If you had a guy with a .001 ERA but never won a game and another guy had a 3.5 ERA and won 25 games, who would you give the award to? Wins and losses is the column that matters most.

[Mike: The granddaddy of them all!

Where to start? ERA does not depend on errors as Joe states. ERA is based on earned runs only. However, a pitcher may lose a game due to errors by his defense. That;s how "the pitcher still pays for it."

My friend Murray points out that it was the 1984 Pirates to which Joe refers. The led the NL with a 3.11 ERA and finished last in the NL East. They were 75-87, which is a decent record for a last place team. According to the Pythagorean formula, they should have been the exact opposite, 87-75. That's a big swing. As a matter of fact it's historically high. Here are the largest swings in baseball history (based on win and expected win differential):

YearLgTeamWLRRAPCTExp PctExp WExp LW DiffPct Diff

They were 6-12 against the Mets, who seem to be the main beneficiaries of the Pirates negative swing, while outscoring them 58-52.

I can't really completely explain the underperforming. They had a good staff including a pen--four relievers with an ERA at or below 3.02 (though Lee Tunnell's 5.27 ERA and 1-7 may have hurt).

They had an anemic offense. Jason Thompson led them with 17 dingers. They had Bill Madlock and his .297 OPS at third, Dale Berra's .273 OBP at short, Doug Frobel's .271 OBP in right, but perhaps worst of all was Marvell Wynne. They threw 653 at-bats at a leadoff hitter who batted .266, got on base at a .310 clip, had a .647 OPS (82% of average), 42 walks (a career high), and stole 24 bases but was caught 19 times (55%). He set the tone for a team that stole 96 bases while being caught 62 times, were last in the NL in walks, and second to last in OBP (.310).

Their home and away stats: Home: 41-40, 282RS-263RA, Away: 34-47, 333-304. It seems that the road really hurt them.

Looking them over at Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet, they are basically an odd team. I guess that's sort of the point: Morgan had to go back 20 years to find a team that proved his point, and they were an odd one at that.

"A good ERA might come with wins": Right, that's the point. Wins and losses are not entirely dependent upon the pitcher's performance.

Finally, his .001 ERA comment: To achieve such a record, a pitcher would need to pitch 9000 innings and only allow one earned run. If someone could do that in a season, I think we would have to give him the Cy Young even if he was 0-25.]

[Epilogue] I want to make sure people understand why wins and losses are more important .. ERA is like a batting average. You judge a player by how he scores runs, drives in runs, etc. The batting average is just a personal thing. In the case of a pitcher, the only way you can truly judge a pitchers is his wins and losses. Take Gagne as an example. He may have 60 saves this year. Would you give him the award for his ERA or for how many games he has won? I've talked to pitchers over and over and they all think innings pitched and wins are how the award should be judged. I feel the same way.

[Mike: "ERA is like a batting average... The batting average is just a personal thing." Q.E.D., by Modus Ponens, ERA is a personal thing, right? Compare and contrast that to, "Everything you have said (re. ERA) depends on the team. ERA also depends on errors and how good the team plays." So ERA is a team thing. "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?"

Now, "Take Gagne as an example. He may have 60 saves this year. Would you give him the award for his ERA or for how many games he has won?" Well, neither. But of the two ERA is tremendously more important. With today's post-modern closers, wins represent blow leads that the closer is allowed to regain. Rarely do closers come in in a tie or losing situation. Therefore, a win, if anything, is a negative for a closer. At least ERA represents something the pitcher did.

"I've talked to pitchers over and over and they all think innings pitched and wins are how the award should be judged. I feel the same way." So Gagne should be disqualified because he has pitched very few innings (70.2) and won even less (2).]

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.