Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jonah Keri shits out a worthless 2013 retrospective, part 2 of 2

Before we get started, earlier today Deadspin informed me that Scott Miller and Danny Knobler were fired by CBS Sportsline.  Cue up the Nelson Muntz laugh, especially for Knobler (Miller wasn't THAT bad, although he certainly was bad), but mostly, be angry that Heyman remains employed.  Fuck that guy with a blender.

Now for the rest of Keri's groundbreaking opus regarding how baseball teams should be constructed and managed.

3. Having no weaknesses can be just as effective as being loaded with multiple stars.

Which team wins--Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Rickey Henderson and twenty two high school players?  Or 25 above average MLB players?  THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU.  Buckle your seatbelts and get ready for some fascinating analysis.

The A's have turned this idea into an art form. Josh Donaldson enjoyed a big breakout season in 2013. Otherwise, this was a team that relied on contributions from a wide array of players, all the way down to the bottom of their lineup, the back of their rotation, relief middlemen, and key guys off the bench. 

The Astros and Marlins, meanwhile, actually used no relief middlemen (who the hell came up with that term?) or key guys off the bench.  They just ran out the same 9 guys for 162 straight games.

After two decades of losing seasons, the Pirates finally broke through, rolling all the way to the playoffs. 

Did they do it because of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and a dominant bullpen?  No, of course not.  CLINT BARMES WAS THE KEY.  (Side note: Clint Barmes appeared in 108 games and had 330 PAs.  He OPS+ed 58.  Clearly, the Pirates had no superstars or weaknesses.)

Though Andrew McCutchen will likely take home NL MVP honors soon, the Buccos succeeded largely on the strength of diversified talent. They got solid contributions from their nos. 3 through 5 starters (Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton), from the bottom of their lineup (Jordy Mercer, once he grabbed the starting shortstop job), 

Fair enough, Barmes eventually lost his job.  But still, even if we allow for the fact that I'm picking nits and the Pirates actually were a very well-balanced team, holy Jesus on a pogo stick, no fucking shit not having any weaknesses can be as good as having some superstars to go with a bunch of terrible players.  I'm a Rockies fan.  I get it.  So does everyone else who knows anything about baseball.

and from several relievers beyond the closer and primary setup man (Justin Wilson and Tony Watson chief among them). With the trade deadline approaching, there were some wildly ambitious calls for a blockbuster move. Instead, Pittsburgh filled out its roster with useful complementary parts: Byrd to plug a hole in the outfield (he was great), and a past-prime but still functional Justin Morneau to help at first base (he hit for zero power but did at least post a .370 on-base percentage in 25 games).

I'm not going to point out the fact that the Pirates lost in the first round, as did the A's (for like the 7th time in their last 8 playoff appearances), because that's a doucheball thing to do.  Nevertheless, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that if the goal is not just to make the playoffs but to succeed once you get there, you might want some superstars like David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, etc.

Lest you think this is only a worthwhile strategy for low-payroll teams, remember the mockery the Red Sox went through when they devoted their offseason energy to acquiring players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and Uehara, and the results they got from these complementary players.

That's the worst anecdotal support for a bad argument I've ever read.  
1) The Red Sox already had a bunch of stars which is why it made sense to surround them with complimentary guys 
2) Victorino, Napoli and Uehara are hardly "complimentary guys," each would play a significant roles on any team in MLB 
3) What mockery did the Red Sox go through for signing those guys?  I sure didn't read about it 
4) Jonah Keri is a twat

4. Keep an eye on the minors.

No fucking way.  Again, beyond those three quick words, sarcasm escapes me.  I can't even respond to that in greater detail.

As productive as in-season trades can be for some aggressive teams, the ideal scenario is to promote from within and have rookies shine. 

More of Jonah Keri's patented, trademarked, top secret team building tips:
1) Be sure to have both pitchers AND hitters
2) Guys who were good in high school and college tend to be good as pros
3) It's easier for guys to catch the ball when using gloves, make sure all fielders are using them

The Cardinals 

Oh fucking hell.  Not this narrative again.  HERPA DERP CARDINALS BEST RUN TEAM IN BASEBALL DO THINGS THE RIGHT WAY (as if such a thing exists) HOME GROWN PLAYERS LOW PAYROLL (they're in the top 10 or close to it every year) NONE OF THIS FANCY FREE AGENT NONSENSE.  But yeah, I'm sure Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday (technically a trade, but they still had to resign him on the open market while he was shopping around) have nothing to do with their success during the past several seasons.  That's only, you know, two of their three best hitters.  Go back to 2011 and you've got Holliday and Lance Berkman, another free agent.  BUT BUT BUT YADI  Kill yourself, imaginary Cardinals fan talking in all caps in my head. 

rode great hitting with runners in scoring position and big contributions from veteran stars like Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Adam Wainwright in their pennant-winning campaign. But they probably don't make the World Series (or maybe even come close) without huge contributions from their rookies: 

This is true of like, every championship team ever.  Yes, they got huge contributions from established players.  BUT ALSO THERE WERE SOME YOUNG GUYS HOW NOVEL.  Can you name a recent championship or EVEN playoff team that DIDN'T get help from a variety of experienced and young players?  Christ, even the 2009 Yankees, with a payroll of a jillion dollars and an average age of like 35, had 23 year old Phil Hughes, 24 year old Melky Cabrera and 23 year old Joba Chamberlain playing significant roles.

If you're looking for teams that might outperform expectations next year, scan the high minors of their farm systems for major league–ready talent. 

This is like a tip you would read in a baseball video game instruction booklet.  "To improve your team try to trade with other teams for some of their young stars."  No fucking way, really?  Look for major league ready talent in the high minors as an indicator of future success?  You don't say.  Got any tips as to how I could more effectively drive my car?  Should I insert the key into the ignition before pushing the gas pedal?

5. Don't overreact to a bad season.

This is the only one of his five points that has any level of nuance.  And it's still fucking moronic.

Last Sox reference: 


If a talented team can play poorly enough to lose 93 games, then come back the next season and win it all, that bodes well for some of 2013's biggest disappointments. Everyone in the world loved the Nationals heading into this season. But Washington disappointed thanks to subpar seasons by multiple players. 

I don't mind the Nationals, but they disappointed because their 2012 was lucky as hell.  Look at that roster--how did it win 96 games?  They're not as bad as they were in 2013, but they sure as fuck aren't as good as they were in 2012.  That's an 86 win team right there if I've ever seen one.  A rotation that's good at the top but has no depth.  A so-so bullpen, featuring really only one shutdown guy (Clippard).  A lineup that should be good if everyone stays healthy, but which will never come close to staying healthy, because Ramos, Zimmerman, Harper and Werth are hurt all the time.  Let's not get carried away about the potential of the 2014 Nats.  They'll probably miss the playoffs again.

Adam LaRoche's power dipped dramatically, 

He's 33 and was never that good in the first place.

Wilson Ramos missed half the year 

Who could have seen that coming, what with his 238 GP in 4 MLB seasons?

(and Kurt Suzuki stunk in his stead), Bryce Harper missed 44 games, Danny Espinosa was awful, and the bullpen ran into trouble frequently. Think of the Nats' 2013 season as a bad result among a range of outcomes for a young and very talented team. And expect them to be right back in the playoff hunt in 2014, with a great trio of starting pitchers, a balanced lineup, and better luck than they had this year.

Oops, nevermind, let's get carried away and assume those problems with rotational depth, the so-so bullpen, and the injury-prone players will just solve themselves.  I don't know what their team BABIP or BABIP allowed was, but if we want to talk about luck from another angle, they actually outperformed their pythag wins by two last year.

The Jays can't claim the recent success the Nats had in 2012. 

Oh my God, this team again.  TORONTO BLUE JAYS, 2012-2013 OFFSEASON CHAMPS.  Wait, wasn't one of his points from this very article (in my last point) that we shouldn't get carried away with that kind of thing?  I forgot, the Blue Jays are the darling of every hipster baseball writer, so now we get to hear about how they're sure to turn things around in 2014 after somehow failing to win the AL East in 2013, as every Jonah Keri in the world told us they would last year.

In fact, with the Pirates making the playoffs this year, Toronto now owns the second-longest playoff drought in baseball, behind only the 28-years-and-counting Royals. But there were some good reasons for the baseball world to get excited about the Jays this year, even if 2013 ended with a last-place finish in the AL East. 

It didn't just end with that.  It also consisted of that throughout pretty much all of April, May, June, July, August and September.  It was kind of a running theme.  They sucked.  Badly.  Thoroughly.  Deeply.

Granted, the starting pitching sucked, the defense sucked, and Jose Reyes missed a big chunk of the season as everyone figured. But Toronto had a bunch of terrible players suck up tons of playing time this year, which in a twisted way bodes well for 2014. Replace the replacement-level performances of Melky Cabrera, J.P. Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio, and Maicer Izturis with even average production and that alone could spur a charge back to contention. 

Just get a new catcher, second baseman, left fielder and shortstop (to play during the 120 games when Reyes is hurt)!  Just like that!  That'll fix those starting pitching woes!

As we wrote back in August: 

Oh good, a dash of Will Leitch-esque-ian first person plural.  Thank you so much.

"It's entirely possible that the Jays are a pretty good team hiding inside a terrible season."

I hope they lose 130 games next year.

We'll have to wait a while to see how it all plays out. 

Oh, will we?  Can't we just go down to the mall and buy a time machine to speed things up?

In the meantime, get ready for another hectic Hot Stove season, then for new contenders and new stars to emerge next year. Just 104 days until pitchers and catchers report. Can't wait.

Can't wait for Jonah Keri to hopefully one day go the way of Miller and Knobler.  I can only dream.


Fred Trigger said...

"3) What mockery did the Red Sox go through for signing those guys? I sure didn't read about it "

Keith Law, Joe Sheenan, and Craig Calcaterra mocked the shit out of the Sox for the Victorino signing. I believe Law said something along the lines of "Thats a lot of money for a fourth outfielder", or something to that effect.

Anonymous said...

Regardless can we all agree that its a shame no one has tackled Simmons' Red Sox world series piece? With gems such as "Winning is always fun. But this team? This team was REALLY fun." and "In mid-August, they outplayed a scorching-hot Dodgers team in Dodger Stadium; that's the first time I remember thinking they had a chance." (read: that's the first time I watched them play). He also says that Brady isn't on the Boston mount rushmore because he couldnt complete an undefeated season.

Come on!

Larry B said...

Fred: fair enough. I missed that somehow. Seems like silly criticism, not just in hindsight. Victorino was a 3-5 rWAR player from 2007 through 2011. In 2012 he was worth "only" 2.6 rWAR, which is below expectations, but still not 4th OF material (particularly as a switch hitter). He was on the wrong side of 30, but still.

Anonymous: I didn't even know he bothered to write anything about that. I thought he was too busy putting up horrific NBA team by team season previews. I'll take a look on Sunday night.