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These Are the Joe Morgan
2002-08-02 13:42
by Mike Carminati

These Are the Joe Morgan Chat Days of Our Lives

Joe Morgan thought he could avoid us this week by moving his chat a day up to Thursday, he claims because of a scheduling conflict. This begs the question that if a Joe Morgan chat session was held in the woods, would anyone hear it? Well, we would here at Mike's Baseball Rants because it is our (again my overuse of the royal we manifests itself) rasion d'etre so to speak and you know, le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. Joe is the Gödel's Theorem of baseball analysts: at once he's intriguing, ludicrous, and stupefyingly inscrutable, saying things like, "This statement of baseball theory does not have any proof in the system of Principia Baseballica and claiming it's a tautology of all things, until you have to rub your temples to make the pain stop. Joe is in rare form this week-nary a lucid statement to be found. So without further ado...

The Good

Elias, New York: How are you doing Mr.Morgan. Any chance of Texas trading A-Rod in the near future because of his salary? If so how many teams can afford him$$$$ And also at what point do we star saying he is the greatest ball player ever!!! Thank you

Joe Morgan: A-Rod, in my opinion, is the best player in the game today because of his age and his production, etc. I've always said Bonds was the best, but because Bonds is toward the end of his career, he doesn't run as well and do some things A-Rod can still do. He is on his way to becoming one of the best players ever at any position. I don't think they will trade him because they won't trade the best player in the game. Trading him will not make the Rangers better. They need players around him.

[Mike: Sounds reasonable. Almost lucid.]

The Bad

Jeff Schwartz: Which team after the trading deadline has improved themselves the most approaching the stretch run of the season and why?

Joe Morgan: A lot of teams improved themselves, but we have to wait and see how the new players perform at the new places. Like Ryan Dempster in Cincinnati or Jeff Weaver in New York. They haven't done anything. The Giants were in need of a starting pitcher and a leadoff man and only got one. They were OK, not great. Again, these teams only think they improved themselves. We don't know if they actually have yet. It will depend. On the surface, St. Louis improved with Scott Rolen. Cliff Floyd in Boston. He didn't do anything in Montreal. A lot of them look good, but we have to wait and see.

[Mike: Way to go out on a limb, Joe. That's the kind of insightful reporting we've come to expect from you.]

midwayMonster: Why didn't Seattle make a move to keep pace with the AL West and do you think they'll make any moves via the waiver wire?

Joe Morgan: They may have felt like Boone was starting to hit better. They are getting more production from guys who were struggling. And they say they are at the limit of their spending, which I don't understand. The Mariners make money, and may have made more money than Steinbrenner last year, but they don't want to spend it. Steinbrenner reinvests in his team.

[Mike: Obviously, Joe subscribes to the owners' numbers when it comes to team profitability. Forbes magazine, that scandal sheet, claims that the Yankees made about $4 million more than the Mariners. Besides that's a conservative estimate considering what Steinbrenner's Yankees will make with their new YES network.]

The Ugly

Scott (Nashville): I know the Cardinals upgraded the offense and defense by picking up Scott Rolen. However, do you think that their pitching staff is "champion" material without picking up a good #3 starter and the return of a healthy Woody Williams and Garrett Stephenson?

Joe Morgan: Just about every team needs another starter, except maybe the Yankees. They just need their guys healthy. The D'Backs are looking for pitching. Everybody wants Kenny Rogers. I think the Cards upgraded the defense, but we will wait and see if they upgraded it on offense. I'm a big fan of Placido Polanco; I never saw him make a mistake on the field. Pitching won't kill the Cardinals because everybody needs it. Look at the Reds. They still need it too.

[Mike:Of course Joe loves Polanco. It makes perfect sense. As a third baseman, Polanco is a converted second baseman. Rolen has won three Gold Gloves at third. Polanco has good range and makes fewer errors but does not possess Rolen's arm. Although looking at Polanco's smaller sample, the numbers don't completely bare this out (their Range Factor and Zone Rating are almost identical though Rolen's RF is slightly higher; Their Fielding Win Shares are both about 11 for 2000-01, but they are not divided up by position-Polanco played a lot of second and short in 2000). Rolen's Fielding Win Shares per 1000 Innings is 4.23, which is slightly behind a group of recent greats: Boyer (4.97), Schmidt (4.51), Nettles (4.40), Robinson (4.24).Rolen is rated a B+ overall. Polanco did not play enough innings at 3rd to be listed. I think there is enough evidence to say that Rolen is a very good third baseman. Polanco is good but just how good cannot yet be determined. The disparity in batting is more pronounced. Polanco's career OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) is .714 or 85% of league park-adjusted average, OK for a middle infielder. Rolen's is .877, 25% above the park-adjusted league average. Nuff sed?]

Chris (Tacoma): Do you think wins/losses for a pitcher are overrated? Half of this statistic depends on run support, which in the American League the pitcher has no control over.

Joe Morgan: No. A pitcher is sent to the mound to win, not to just pitch a good game. Wins and losses are important, like runs and RBIs are important to a hitter. An ERA is like a batting average; it's a personal thing. It doesn't make your team better. It's the same with a batting average. It's what you do with it. Do you hit with guys on base or with no one on base. Do you win when your team scores 10 and lose when it scores four? ERA and batting average are just a tape measure.

[Mike: One Joe Morgan special to go please. Where to start? A pitcher is sent to the mound not to win all by himself but rather to pitch well enough to give his team a chance to win. Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee in 1959 and finally allowed the winning run in the 13th. By Joe's criterion ("wins and losses are important"), Haddix pitched poorly, but other than his times at bat he had no control on how many runs his team scored. When Nolan Ryan led the Nation League in ERA in 1987 (2.76 which was 42% better than the park-adjusted league average) but had an 8-16 record, was he just a losing pitcher? ERA's are not like Batting Averages at all except for the fact that they average things for a career, a season, a team, etc. What matters in baseball? Runs. Batting average has not a whole lot to do directly with runs. In ERA runs (earned ones) are what you're counting. Who's better a .275 hitter with a .400 on-base percentage and .450 slugging average or a .300 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging average? Obviously, the former is much better-he gets on base more and is productive as a hitter. Who's better a pitcher with 2.75 ERA, a run support of 3.25 runs per game, and a 10-8 record or a pitcher with a 4.00 ERA, a 5.50 run support, and a 12-6 record? Who would you trade for? (All this assumes similar park factors and league averages.) Situational statistics are also important-how someone hits or bats under pressure. But ERA with the bases loaded tells you more than batting average with the bases loaded. (Take, for instance, a batter who hits a single with the bases loaded and one that homers. They both are batting one thousand in the AB, but the second batter did more to help his team win.)]

Bruce (Columbia, SC): After reading your column about Mays being the greatest living ballplayer I was struck by your hypocrosy. How, on one hand, can you say Mays waws better than DiMaggio and Williams, but on the other hand, not draw a comparison between Bonds and Mays because they played in different eras. Did not Wlliams and DMaggio, for the most part, play in different eras than Mays? It appears that you change the rules midstream to justify your opinion. Joe, your bias, is blatantly obvious.

Joe Morgan: The game only changed completely in the last 10 years, not from the time DiMaggio played to win Mays played. The balls weren't juiced, the players weren't accused of taking steroids, and the pitchers were better. I'm glad you have an opinion; I gave you mine.

[Mike: Bruce, don't you be nasty to Lil Joe. He won two MVPS and is arguably the greatest second baseman of all time. He deserves your respect. He also happens to be right about Mays. I agree that he has always been the best. And he is right again that everyone is entitled to his opinion. But he is ludicrously wrong in saying that the game has only changed over the last 10 years. Here are the runs scored in the NL and AL along with the attendance per game in 10-year increments over the last 100 years:

Year    NL R/G	NL Att/G  AL R/G  AL Att/G
1992-01 4.64    29054.48  4.99    27972.75
1982-91 4.11    23909.46  4.49    23715.39
1972-81 4.09    18872.63  4.24    16302.52
1962-71 4.03    15963.58  3.97    12366.31
1952-61 4.42    13981.82  4.36    13179.90
1942-51 4.32    11532.78  4.34    12514.31
1932-41 4.47     6556.03  5.16     6737.23
1922-31 4.88     7588.17  4.97     7605.81
1912-21 3.91     4546.31  4.10     5527.98
1902-11 3.91     4614.41  3.85     5111.21

Look at the runs scored in the '20s in the NL and AL and in the '30s in the AL. They're higher than today. The '60s are almost a run lower per league than the '20s. (Also, notice how attendance plateued as the scored slowed in the '50s and '60s?) How can he say that the game has only changed over the last ten years? If you don't believe the stats, consider these changes prior to the '90s: the DH, 5-man rotations, expansion, the Babe Ruth-led home run explosion of the '20s, the strike zone, the mound, astroturf, domed stadiums, the constant re-definition of the bullpen, etc. As far as pitchers being worse today that in the past, in the '60s the common belief was that expansion had diluted the batting and that pitchers had too many advantages. This man sits on the Veterans' Committee, think about that.]

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