ESPN Hack Projects deGrom Regression

Tony Blengino, the failed former Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Seattle Mariners (aka the baseball version of Dwight K Schrute), tried to predict the futures of several first time ERA qualifiers. In so doing, he absolutely slandered Jacob deGrom’s career to this point and flat-out lied about what the underlying statistics tell us. Here’s what he had to say about deGrom:

ESPN – 2015: The oldest of the Mets’ crew of young lions at age 27, deGrom excelled in all facets last season. His K and BB rates were both over a full standard deviation better than league average, and coupled with a strong Adjusted Contact Score of 85, he yielded a 66 Tru ERA, tied for fourth in the NL. There are some areas of concern, however. He has no discernible BIP frequency tendency. He did post a slightly better than average popup rate, but he’s not a grounder guy. A bunch of his 2015 success is attributable to very low fly ball/line drive authority (82) — second in the NL — which is ripe for regression. Just ask the Dodgers’ Alex Wood, whose similar Year 1 performance swung the other way in 2015.

Comps: There have been 81 27-year-old first-time ERA qualifiers since 1969. Of the K/BB achievers among them, there is a disturbing amount of injury incidence; Brandon McCarthy, John Patterson, Bob Johnson (in the ’70s) and deGrom’s closest comp, Rich Hill. Hill had a +0.75 standard deviation K/BB and +1.31 standard deviation K/9 in his initial qualifying season, and here we are, nine years later, with him still searching for his second qualifying season.

Expectations: Sorry, Mets fans, but there’s just not enough to hang your hat on here for me to project long-term excellence. We may have already seen the best of deGrom.

Considering the piece is on ESPN, I probably shouldn’t let it get to me the way it has. But I refuse to live in a world where someone can take a shot at deGrom and his locks and not pay the Iron price.

First things  first, the biggest knock against deGrom’s performance by Mr. Blengino is that he has no discernible frequency tendency on BIP. Presumably he’s talking about “Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP)” as there is no stat for “BIP” (it stands for “balls in play”); there is an “h/BIP” which is literally the same thing as BABIP. This is a pretty odd observation given that deGrom has had similar BABIP results over his first two seasons in the league (.297 and .271).

His second big criticism of deGrom is posting a low fly ball/line drive authority. He tries to make this attributable to luck by first citing that deGrom doesn’t give up a lot of ground balls. Using those two stats in isolation is literally batshit crazy. It isn’t really surprising that deGrom would excel in these areas as he’s one of the best in the game at inducing weak contact. Actually the type of contact deGrom typically induces closely mirrors that of Curt Schilling.

Blengino then implies that deGrom is likely to suffer an injury without using a shred of real evidence. He states that there have been a lot of injuries to occur among pitchers who had their first year qualifying for the ERA crown at age 27. Bengino proceeds to cite several players who fit the bill. Beyond that, however, Blengino provides no actual statistics regarding how many of these pitchers have suffered injuries. The lack of real stats makes one wonder whether he understands the difference between correlation and causation. Furthermore, had Blengino even taken five minutes to research deGrom’s career, he would have seen that the only reason deGrom didn’t make the majors until 27 was due to the fact that he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted in 2010; missing the entire 2011 season.

Blengino’s argument for a deGrom regression is based on an observation that’s not yet statistically significant (BABIP), a statistic that is actually misleading(types of contact), and the type of assessment of injury history of similar pitchers that you’d expect from a 10-year-old baseball fan rather than a “professional” writer and scout. The fact of the matter is that virtually every predictive stat says that deGrom wasn’t lucky in his first two years. deGrom’s SIERA, FIP, and xFIP are all within a half run of his actual ERA; meaning his actual performance was about what you’d expect. Furthermore, Zips and Fangraphs both predict a similarly dominant season for deGrom in 2016.

That ESPN would proceed with this piece makes me wonder why ESPN would:

1) Hire a scout whose knowledge of sabermetrics is equivalent to a 7-year-old’s knowledge of the industrial revolution. Blengino is most famous for publicly stabbing his former boss in the back in 2013 when Seattle’s front office imploded. It’s ironic, however, that Bengino cited former Mariner’s GM Jack Zduriencik’s lack of understanding when it came to statistical analysis, as he shows no understanding of it himself.

2) Run a piece that was so thoroughly unresearched. In the same piece Blengino also takes a shot at Jake Arrieta and claims his 2015 dominance was the result of a “perfect storm” of events, rather than sustainable greatness. I mean look, Arrieta will likely never post a sub 2.00 ERA again, but he was incredibly dominant in 2014 as well. Yet Blengino treats the 152 innings by Arrieta and 141 by deGrom in 2014 as if they didn’t happen because “they didn’t qualify for the ERA crown.”

Hot take fodder like Blengino’s piece has become the norm for ESPN’s online sports coverage. This is how the ESPN machine turns a slow week into one with a major story: One of their employees writes  a controversial piece, they wait for someone else to pick it up, as soon as it’s picked up they run non-stop coverage on their various daily shows arguing about said article. It’s truly pathetic behavior by the “worldwide leader”. There was a time not too long ago when it seemed like ESPN was changing the face of sports journalism with Grantland. But now they’ve been shutdown and ESPN.com has continued to sink closer to the Buzzfeed and Bleacher Report corner of the internet.

There is some good news to be taken from this piece: If you’re willing to just yell and write outrageous, non-sensical sports commentary, you could one day work at ESPN.

 

 

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Cespedes Update Plus a Few Notes on the Blog

So since my tirade about the Mets  and Cespedes, a lot has changed. Although, when I say “change” I merely mean it looks like the Mets are more likely to sign him. The actual situation hasn’t changed at all:

  • The Mets seem to be holding firm at a 3 year maximum deal for Cespedes. Some have reported they’re considering upping the length of the deal or offering an opt-out after year one.
  • Though the Orioles appear to be out on Yo, the Nationals have reportedly made a 5 year offer for an undisclosed amount of money.
  • Cespedes appears to be weighing his desire to go back to the Mets vs. more years and dollars from the Nats.
  • According to some sources, Yo may be open to the Mets 3 year offer, provided they give him an opt-out after each year.
  • If Cespedes goes to the Nationals, I may do something that either lands me in jail or in my eternal resting place.

So basically not that much has changed on this front, though it appears Yo is close to making a decision. But even though the situation is less  murky than it was a week ago, it seems like it has gotten even more bizarre. For one thing, if Yo actually has a 5 year offer form the Nats on the table, it can mean only one of two things: Either it’s Average Annual Value (AAV) is low similar to the offer the Orioles presented or the deal’s present day value is fairly low due to deferment payments included. I say this because if the deal had a similar AAV to the Upton contract, I don’t see any reason why Yo wouldn’t have signed yet. Mainly because it seems crystal clear that the Mets aren’t willing to go to 5 years with him.

By my way of thinking, the ball is in the Mets’ court right now. If in fact the Mets really can get him on a three year deal provided they include opt-outs after each season, I don’t really see what the hold up is. Obviously this provides more risk  for the Mets, but they’re already effectively spitting in Yo’s face by shouting from every skyscraper in New York City that he isn’t worth a 5 year deal. The fact that he’s even willing to consider coming down to a three year deal should make them more than willing to come to the middle a little bit here. Frankly, if he takes the Nats deal and it comes to the public that it was over an extra opt-out, the fan base should riot. If he wanted an opt-out each year in a five year deal I would understand the Mets’ trepidation. But 3 years? The risk is fairly minimal on the Mets end both financially and otherwise:

  • Let’s say they do ink him to a 3 year contract with two opt-outs and he crashes and burns. From a financial standpoint this still doesn’t hurt that much. Granderson will be off the books after year 2 of Yo’s deal and none of their big pitchers will be eligible for free agency until his deal expires. As it is the Mets are in the bottom third of the MLB in payroll, getting dinged for $20 mil a year when you only have three guys making over $10 million really shouldn’t hurt a New York team.
  • From a skill standpoint, even if he does diminish to the point of being unplayable (not likely), they can go back to Lagares or call up Brandon Nimmo; a pretty well regarded outfield prospect.

No matter how you look at it, a 3 year deal for La Potencia is a win for the Mets. The downside is minimal, and the upside is he helps us win a World Series. Unfortunately, Mets fans weren’t blessed  enough to have owners who actually care about their on-field product. I’m convinced the only reason the Mets have suddenly come sprinting back to the table is because of the borderline fan revolt that occurred on social media yesterday when news of Cespedes receiving an offer from Washington broke.

Regardless it’s going to be an interesting situation to watch from here on out. I’ll have a full recap posted on the entire Mets offseason as soon as we see a resolution one way or the other.

I’m currently reading Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. I should have a book review up within the next week. I’m going to try to make reviews of what I’m reading a staple of my writing on here. Hope y’all enjoy it.

In other news, I’m going to be transitioning from this blog into a new blog in the coming weeks. I’ll have more details when the new site is set up. I’ll be writing the new blog with a couple of my buddies. It’s primary focus will be on basically all of our common interests. Namely:

  • Video Games
  • Fantasy/Syfy Books
  • TV
  • Movies
  • Sports

We’re also hoping to add a podcast and expand to our own website at some point. I’ll have more details soon.

“Billions” S1 E1 Recap: Weird, Sexual & Aggressive

My initial reaction to “Billions” is that so far it has been both outrageously ridiculous and somewhat entertaining.  I mean the opening scene is a microcosm for the entire first episode:  A man is bound and gagged on a hardwood floor. A dominatrix-type girl stands over him with stiletto heels pressed into his bare chest. Said dominatrix proceeds to put an old fashioned cigarette out on this man’s chest. We then see the dominatrix crouch over him while his wound is still smoking. As the camera cuts to his face, we hear the sound of piss putting out the spot where she burned him. Weird right? Even weirder that the dude getting pissed on is Paul Giamatti. If I told you that’s the opening scene to a show about high finance you probably wouldn’t think it was that weird though– after all about 6 different scenes in the Wolf of Wall Street make this look like Sesame Street. Except Giamatti isn’t in finance, he plays a hard-ass US Attorney who perpetually looks like he has a stick shoved up his ass. So yea it’s REALLY strange, but also kind of sort of compelling? At the very least it makes you want to know what the fuck is going on.

“Billions”, so far at least, follows Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, the New York US Attorney, as he ponders whether to go after Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, a cocky New York hedge fund magnate played by Damian Lewis. Rhoades a cautious but effective US Attorney who boasts a perfect record when it comes to prosecuting “financial predators.”He’s also clearly under his father’s thumb and, as stated above, has a passion for weird sex. Early in the episode Rhoades has some info  brought to him by the SEC that suggests Axelrod may be at the center of an insider trading scheme. This sets off 60 minutes of Rhoades pondering whether to pursue these leads and try to take down Axelrod.

The show also spends that time introducing us to Axelrod. In Axelrod we get a self-proclaimed billionaire, a 9/11 survivor, and possibly a new-age Robin Hood. I say Robin Hood because it appears Axelrod has been using insider trading to not just build a fortune for himself, but also prop up the failing local pizza shop and pay the tuition of all his deceased partners’ (all of whom died in 9/11) children. What’s less clear about Axelrod are his long-term motivations and goals. Over the course of the hour we get two different characters from Lewis. One is a caring family man who just wants to do right by his kids, the kids of those whose parents weren’t fortunate enough to survive 9/11 and also to do right by  the community he grew up in. The other character Lewis depicts is that of an Axelrod who is a cold-hearted corporate pirate who will do anything to get ahead and won’t hesitate to stick the shiv into the back of one of his co-conspirators. So far this has been the most interesting part of the show as it’s unclear who the real Bobby Axelrod is.

Over the course of the hour we also meet the two main combatants’ wives, Wendy Rhoades(played by Maggie Siff) and Lara Axelrod (Malin Akerman). Wendy adds an interesting wrinkle to the show as she’s not only Rhoades’ wife, but also the in-house psychologist at Axelrod’s hedge fund; she also apparently moonlights as a dominatrix.

As far as Lara Axelrod goes, I’m not really sure what purpose she serves. The only extended look we get of her is a brief, weird, and aggressive conversation she has with one of Axelrod’s former partner’s widows. While Axelrod had been handing out tuition checks to the deceased partners’ kids, the widow interrupts to basically say “it should have been you”(who died in 9/11). The scene that follows with Lara is bizarre as she tells the widow this anecdote about growing up in Inman and how they never air their grievances in public. At the conclusion of the scene she confirms for the widow that she is, in fact, threatening her. She’s threatening her because “it’s how she grew up.” I’m not really sure how this forwarded the show except to possibly show that the Axelrod’s are not your typical douchey Hamptons via Greenwich hedge fund assholes.

Billions spends most of its first hour playing with ridiculous ideas and even more ridiculous scenes. For one, a part of me wonders how much familiarity the show runners actually have with the subject matter. Perhaps this will change, but over the course of the episode, insider trading is treated as the root of all evil in the world. While there are plenty of predatory practices committed by Wall Street and hedge funds that would have made for interesting and compelling television, this is not one of them. Let’s not forget folks, that Martha freaking Stewart was once convicted of insider trading.  Sure there are times where insider trading is egregious, but this isn’t it. Axelrod’s underlings acting on info that Superior Auto Tires has an unmovable surplus of titanium tires is far different than Enron’s partners dumping shares en masse while knowing that the company was about to go under. While Lewis and Giamatti seem like perfect foils for each other, the content of the actual show doesn’t do them any favors; which leads to equally ridiculous scenes.

At the end of the first episode Axelrod and Rhoades finally meet each other face to face. Even though, by virtue of the fact that Rhoades’ wife has worked with Axelrod for 15 years, these two have almost certainly met before, the show treats it as two combatants squaring off in the Roman Coliseum for the first time. The scene is ridiculous on its face and so poorly written that even Giamatti and Lewis can’t save it from being at best cringe-worthy. The verbal exchange takes place over Lewis’ desire to purchase a $60+ million beach house. Giamatti warns him that should he buy it he’ll lose the public’s goodwill (heavily implying this will open the door for him to be attacked legally as well). The response is brutal to watch as Lewis ineloquently states  “What’s the point of having ‘fuck you’ money if you don’t ever say ‘fuck you!'” Ouch. Poor dialogue and awkward situations are staples throughout episode one. And yet…

As rough around the edges in terms of content and dialogue this show is, I found myself being entertained at times. Even when they’re working with nothing, Lewis and Giamatti are both terrific actors. Both of their characters have very interesting and compelling back stories and questions about them. With Lewis the question is whether he’s actually kind and generous or a devious law-defying crook, dead-set on personal gain at everyone else’s expense. With Giamatti it’s whether his obvious daddy-issues have led to his hyperbolic anger with insider trading in addition to his obvious obsession with BDSM. The obvious conflict of interest between Giamatti and his wife also adds a layer to the show that makes it worth looking forward to future episodes. So far these stories have been interesting enough to me that I’ll definitely continue watching; at least for another episode.

 

A Cespedes for None of Us

Earlier today, Jesse Sanchez from mlb.com reported that Yoenis Cespedes is currently weighing two deals: a five year deal from the Baltimore Orioles  believed to be valued in the $75-90 million range AND a one year deal from the Mets.  You would think this would excite Mets fans given how it’s a major departure from their apparent lack of interest in the Cuban slugger. But it doesn’t excite me at all. Why? Because as a Mets fan I intuitively know it’s never going to happen.

Throughout the years the Mets have made “runs” at players only to come up just short. And if you ask any serious Mets fan about the Mets “effort” to land big-time free agents, they’ll recite you the same list: Mike Hampton, A-Rod, Vlad Guererro, Juan Gonzalez, Barry Bonds, Matt Holiday, and even freaking Michael Bourn. In each case the Mets made “late run” to sign one of the above stars (and Michael Bourn), only to come up “just short.” And every Met fan will tell you the same thing about those efforts : They offered just enough to say to their fans that they tried, but never enough to actually land the guy. It appears right now, that Yo is going to be the next name to add to that list.

The funny part of the Cespedes saga is, at the start of the offseason, I completely understood why they probably wouldn’t bring him back. Every insider kept bandying around six years and $150 million as Yo’s most likely contract. I agree that’s probably too much for a 31-year-old outfielder with no plate discipline who will play 150 games a year out of position. But then the offseason started getting really strange. All of the pitchers went off the board first. As of now, every big-time position player aside from Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon is still on the market. Until Baltimore’s offer, the only firm offer that any of the remaining stars had received was Chris Davis’ being extended a $150 million pact; which he still hasn’t signed. Consequently, the market for position players began to plummet.

After I saw Gordon’s deal with the Royals (4/72), I thought the Mets had a real shot at bringing back Yo. After all, if you look at their advanced stats, Gordon and Yo are VERY similar players. In fact, other than this past season, Gordon has had a considerably higher WAR than Yo every year they’ve been in the league together. As a result, I figured Yo’s market would plummet; and it has. The problem is, despite Cespedes’ only offer being a fraction of what he was projected to sign for at the start of the offseason, the Mets brass STILL aren’t willing to take a real shot at him.

Here’s the problem, the Mets right now are trying to seem like the adults in the room. They keep intimating publicly that they’d be willing to sign Cespedes for anything in the 1-3 year range. By doing so, they’re acting as if a pact of longer than 3 years would be an extreme commitment to Cespedes. But the reality is, while a five year deal might seem like a lot, you don’t need to keep him for all five years. Let’s go over their possible options real quick:

  • Give him a 5 year deal with an opt-out after year one. The odds are, unless Yo completely flames out, he’s going to exercise that option and test the waters in a crappy FA market next year. Even if he does have a terrible year, there will absolutely be teams willing to take a shot on him via trade if the Mets really want to move that deal.
  • Offer him a straight 5 year deal in the $80 million range. Again this is a pretty low-risk move. $16 million a year is next to nothing for an elite outfielder in 2016. Plus this is the type of deal that if it doesn’t work out, really won’t ding you too much long-term. Additionally should he have another huge year next year, and the Mets  still not want him for the whole deal, they could easily find a deal where they get multiple blue chip prospects.
  • Offer him the 4 year deal Gordon just got. Here’s the thing, if the Mets are really willing to go to three years, why wouldn’t they go to four? It’s only one extra year, and you’ll only have one more year of that contract when the first of their starting staff (Harvey) hits free agency. Cespedes has made it very clear he prefers to stay in New York. So this deal is more than worth a shot. At the very least, if they offer 4/72 and get rebuffed, they can always legitimately pull out the “at least we tried” card again.

In reality, though, I don’t expect any of the above types of deals to come to fruition. Instead Sandy and Co. are going to try to sell their fans on the same brand of bullshit they’ve been selling us for years. They will try to convince us that Asdrubal Cabrera booting groundballs and Alejandro de Aza not being able to cover more than 20% of the outfield will provide us enough pop and “depth” to get us back to where we were last year. In the end though, none of us believe it.  We all know in our heart of hearts that we’re sinking money into a team we love whose management and ownership just doesn’t love us back. In the end it will be a Cespedes for none of us. And worse yet, a championship for none of us as well.

Spike the Ball Barack!

Not much has been made about Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address. He’s set  to deliver it tonight before both Houses of Congress. I suppose this is understandable given that he has no real chance to do anything substantive in an election year and both the house and the senate have ostensibly said they’re done working with him. Needless to say, I wasn’t planning on passing on a night of COD with the boys to watch Barry talk about nothing for 90 minutes. But then I read something interesting: Tonight’s SOTU won’t be about the White House’s policy going forward, but rather Barack’s accomplishments since he took office in early 2009….And boy does that fucking change things!

Before I go any further you can find a couple of articles  regarding Obama’s legislative achievements here and here.

Obama’s ambivalence when it came to touting his record has driven me crazy. His hesitance to talk about his obvious achievements has led to two disastrous outcomes:

  1. The Republicans, never afraid to swindle the public, have been able to control the narrative in the press by ceaselessly shouting incoherent non-sequiturs about taxes, the constitution, and death panels. This always leaves Barack and the Democrats flummoxed as they can’t come to grips that there are people that actually believe this crap; probably because his time frequenting the flyover states has been pretty limited.
  2. Obama’s inability to sell his achievements to the public led directly to the Republicans retaking the house and subsequent obstructionism we’ve seen from the party of hicks and Wall Street over the last 6 years.

Despite that however, Obama has managed to pass  a large portion of his agenda. He’s been so effective at executing his agenda in spite of unprecedented opposition from the GOP, that he may have forever changed the face of electoral politics. His successes may lead directly to the end of the modern Republican Party. In fact his tenure as President, and the effect it’s had on the GOP long-term reminds me of a quote from the Dark Knight:

You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

Trump

Obama’s successes have driven the flyover nuts so crazy that they’re on the precipice of nominating one of the biggest assholes in the history of American Politics as their party’s standard bearer for President. Such a nomination would likely result in the permanent fracturing of the party’s base; and that’s a win for everyone.

And it sounds like tonight Barry O is ready to finally celebrate those successes.  I personally can’t wait. I hope he unapologetically spikes the ball right in their faces. Go crazy Barack, you’ve earned it!

Barack