Thursday, June 23, 2011
MARK REYNOLDS NOT SO BAD: POINT FROM BRIAN
Thanks for putting this together, Rob. I look forward to solving the age-old O’s fan question together: what in the world are we to make of current O’s third baseman Mark Reynolds? I’m taking the pro-Reynolds side, and this is my first installment.
Reynolds may not be an All Star-caliber third baseman, but guess what: over 90% of all third basemen aren’t, either! Despite his obvious flaws (one of which is that he plays third base in a town where the legacy of Brooks Robinson as the greatest defensive third baseman of all time hangs like a Michael Gonzalez breaking ball), he has already proven to me that he is one of the better AL third basemen, one of the best current Oriole hitters, and a huge upgrade from the rotation that held down the position for the Birds last year. The numbers bear this point out well (all figures are through 6/19/2011).
Reynolds ranks third among AL third basemen with a .352 wOBA (for my money the single most important offensive statistic). He also is fourth in OBP (.335), third in SLG (.451), and first in P/PA (4.26). You might counter that these position rankings only include those third basemen who regularly occupy the position; situational players and platoons are not included. I’ll grant you that, but why should we discount Reynolds’s consistency and ability to play in 68 out of 69 games this season for the Orioles?
Still not convinced? Let’s examine his performance compared to the production the team got from third base last year. O’s third basemen in 2010 compiled a .283 wOBA, 16 HR, 71 RBI, and a .668 OPS. Reynolds is on pace to destroy these numbers, projecting to 30.5 HR and 84.5 RBI and exceeding last year’s wOBA mark by .069 and last year’s OPS figure by .118. Unless Rob intends to claim that Ty Wigginton is a Gold Glove-level defensive third baseman, Reynolds is clearly a huge upgrade for the Orioles compared to the gaping hole in the lineup that third base represented last year.
Still not convinced? Wow, Rob said this would be easy. OK, let’s check out how Reynolds stacks up to his current Oriole teammates. So far this year Reynolds ranks second among regulars in wOBA, first in HR with 13, second in RBI with 36, and second in OBP with .335. So if we were to take him out of the lineup tomorrow, the Orioles would lose one of the only relative bright spots in the lineup so far this year.
To sum up: Reynolds is among the best offensive third basemen in the AL, he is among the Oriole team leaders in every offensive category, and he represents a monumental improvement over the third base platoon of last year. Is he perfect? Heck no. I have big qualms about the defense, and the strikeouts and batting average tick me off. But the production is there, and frankly it’s time that the Reynolds-haters come up with some sort of alternative. Every team can’t have Kevin Youkilis; I’m happy that we have Mark Reynolds.
MARK REYNOLDS SUPER SUPER BAD: COUNTER POINT FROM ROB
Brian makes a lot of comparisons to Orioles’ seasons past, even invoking the hallowed name of Ty Wigginton, but that’s a false dilemma. If I gave you the choice between a rotten tuna sandwich and a poop sandwich, you’d pick the rotten tuna sandwich. It doesn’t mean the rotten tuna is delicious. And the Orioles paid $12.5 million for rotten tuna.
Yes, he is an upgrade over trash like Wigginton and whoever else has manned the hot corner in recent years. But garbage is garbage, and Reynolds is garbage.
Mark Reynolds is, by most calculations, a decent-to-good hitter. The problem is that Mark Reynolds plays defense, and Raul Ibanez is the only thing keeping him from being worse at fielding than anyone else in the major leagues. All of that nice, semi-above-average offense is almost completely wiped out by his abortion of a defensive performance.
The stats support what you see on the field: Reynolds is a typical, unspectacular “three true outcomes” player (home run/strikeout/walk) that plays abysmal defense. His WAR (wins above replacement) right now is .3, meaning for the first 68 games of the season, he has generated about three more runs than you’d expect a AAAA-level player to generate. He’s basically Josh Willingham.
He produces enough on offense (20 percent better than the average player), but he’s given away about 14 runs on defense. Basically, he’s a 1.7 WAR player on offense (winning 1.7 more games than a replacement) and a -1.4 WAR player on defense (losing 1.4 games more than a replacement). In the end, he’s a replacement player. Which is to say, replaceable. And for much cheaper than $5 million this year and $7.5 million next year.
Yes, amongst qualifying third basemen in the AL, Reynolds has top-five rankings, or whatever. Until you realize that you’ve cherry-picked a criterion that only eight guys in the universe (third basemen in the AL with at least 225 plate appearances in 2011) actually fall under. If you look at more guys who are playing baseball, you’ll find that about the only time Mark Reynolds is a top-five player is when you’re only looking at five guys.
His high wOBA would be super nice, if baseball were a competition to see who could produce the highest wOBA. Unfortunately, somewhere between 5 and 10,000 other factors go into being a baseball player, and Mark Reynolds is not good at 95 percent of them.
Like I said, he gives you the three true outcomes – he homers (24th in the league), walks (14th) and strikes out (fourth). But he doesn’t really do anything else, and when you combine that with defense that should make women and children avert their eyes, you get a guy who is worth three runs over 68 games.
Comparing him to other Orioles, old and new, is like comparing a banana peel to a pile of used hypodermic needles. One is preferable to the other, but they’re both garbage.
MARK REYNOLDS REALLY NOT SO BAD: COUNTER COUNTER POINT FROM BRIAN
Wow, some tough talk from Rob. Mentions of poop, needles, and garbage obviously resonate with all O’s fans, but let’s dig a little deeper into Rob’s response to look at the substance of his argument.
First of all, I’m glad he brought in WAR because WAR is a great statistic that pretty handily summarizes a player’s overall contribution to the success of the team. While Reynolds currently has a WAR of 0.3, it should be noted that as recently as a week ago his WAR was negative. Therefore, his performance is clearly trending in the right direction, as you would expect from someone adjusting to the AL East. I’m also glad Rob brought up WAR because WAR shows that Reynolds is far from the biggest problem on this team. WAR statistics indicate that only three Orioles are playing at a very high level this year: Wieters (1.4), Hardy (1.4), and Jones (1.3). Reynolds – the $5 million man – has thus far produced a higher WAR than Vladimir Guerrero ($8 million, 0.2 WAR) and Derrek Lee ($7.25 million, -0.1 WAR), among others.
The other main point I need to make regards Reynolds’s defense. Rob claims that it is an abortion, and certainly the numbers aren’t pretty at this point. But I feel it is appropriate to moderately discount his defensive statistics for several reasons. First, without wanting to beat a dead horse, defensive statistics are troublesome, frequently misleading, and not as telling as offensive statistics. They need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
Secondly, third base is not a tremendously important defensive position. The consensus in baseball is that the most important defense position is catcher, followed in some order by the rest of the up-the-middle defense (second base, shortstop, and center field) because these positions face more chances and record more outs. After those four, I would argue that first base is the next most important position. That puts Reynolds at the 4th least important defensive position on the field. Would we like his defense to be better? Sure. But it’s not like he’s playing shortstop or something.
Thirdly, as previously mentioned, Reynolds is just starting to warm up and become comfortable. He is not going to end up with 35 errors (his current pace) and a .901 fielding percentage. In the past two years with the Diamondbacks he has recorded fielding percentages of .951 and .945 while registering 18 and 19 errors. Over a larger 2011 sample size his defensive performance will probably converge to his mean.
Finally, his poor defense is not overwhelming the team as a whole. The Orioles have committed 47 errors so far this season. This total is only 5 worse than the MLB median. Also, the team’s overall fielding percentage is .982. Reynolds must not be dragging that down too far, because the MLB-leading fielding percentage is .988. .Reynolds’s teammates are picking him up sufficiently on the defensive end and he is more than picking up for them on the offensive end.
Before I close up here I need to call Rob out quickly and respectfully on one thing. He went on rhetoric-overload to disparage Reynolds without answering the basic question I posed: who else? Name someone who could realistically be playing third base for the O’s right now and justify to me how he is better than Reynolds. I totally support the time-honored Baltimore tradition of calling O’s players trash (actually, “bum” was the term of choice in my house), but calling Reynolds names is less persuasive than providing an alternative.
The argument will rage on into infinity. Expect more long-winded retorts from both of us as time rolls on, and please make sure to leave your invisible comments (as you, a reader, do not exist) and weigh in on this super-unimportant issue.
DOES MARK REYNOLDS SUCK? The true answer ... we may never find.
Monday, April 25, 2011
This is a dumb piece on golf from Wojo that assumed two things:
(A) There is some kind of international rivalry system in golf wherein all golf fans are also fans of their country's players to the point where there is a "golf war."
(B) The US has lost the "golf war," which isn't a thing.
The golf war is finished. We -- the USA -- lost.
Ha-ha, get it? It's like "Gulf War." People died.
We're no longer masters of our golf domain. We're No. 1? We're not even No. 3. Four of the top five, 16 of the top 25 and 32 of the top 50 players in the world rankings are non-Americans.Golf, of course, is the Great American Pastime, invented by George Washington and Ben Franklin in 1764. The duo was drunk off of America's Beer (Heineken).
So it goes without saying we should be bummed that in the great American sport of golf, none of our boys can top current no. 1 Lee Westood. I mean come on, the guy's English. What type of golf tradition does that country have?
Also, way to cherry-pick, Wojo. A solid half of the top 14 golfers in the world are American, including no. 6 Tiger Woods, which is pretty crazy when you think about it.
"The rest of the world of golfers has grown up," said player agent Chubby Chandler, who represents an A-list of international players.
If nothing else, we could always depend on Tiger Woods. He was the surest thing since red shirts on Sundays. But he hasn't won a PGA Tour event since September 2009, hasn't won a major since June 2008 and his five-year reign atop the world rankings ended in October.
Yeah, it's almost like his entire life completely shattered into ten million pieces within a couple short months in addition to his body finally breaking down! Almost.
And guess what? That's OK. It's more than OK. It's actually pretty cool.
Curveball, Wojo style.
I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that, save for the week (or however long) that the Ryder cup is relevant, there is absolutely not one single living soul in this country that attaches one modicum of an element of national pride to fucking golf.
"There needed to be life after Tiger -- and I'm not saying that Tiger's finished," said Chandler, whose clients include new world No. 1 Lee Westwood, No. 7 Rory McIlory, No. 11 Charl Schwartzel, No. 15 Ernie Els and No. 31 Louis Oosthuizen. "But there needs to be a continuation of what goes on in golf. And if that's a different continuation, then good."
Sheesh, McIlroy at 7. You're telling me they play golf in Ireland? I don't want to live in this world.
If you're waiting for a point, please don't hold your breath. The combination of a lack of oxygen to the brain will either kill you or cause you to write going-nowhere stories about the internationalization of golf.
Three of the last four Masters winners are non-Americans. Five of the last seven U.S. Open winners are non-Americans. Three of the last four Open Championship winners are non-Americans. The last three PGA Championship winners are non-Americans. Four of the last five Players winners are non-Americans.
Seriously, he's never going to make this seem relevant, unless you woke up this morning to read columns thinking, "I wonder what Wojo thinks is like, super neat."
By the way, did I mention that Europeans have kidnapped the Ryder Cup? They've won four of the last five, six of the last eight. If the Cup spends any more time overseas, it's going to develop the Stockholm Syndrome.
Boom, another classy reference. Charl Schwartzel totally apharteided the Masters.
"What's happened is that you now have the best young kids from all over the world come to play here," Chandler said. "It's not a European or anything domination. It's just the way that you've got a lot of players around the world that are as good as some Americans. Whereas you used to have a lot of Americans who were very good and kept all the other players off the [PGA] tour, it's not like that anymore."
And then Chandler chided those (hello)
who look at a leaderboard and count the number of U.S. players on it.
Seven out of 14 is still pretty good, right?
And, I mean, did anyone like Tiger specifically because he was American? I thought people liked him because he was good at golf. Maybe I'm the idiot.
"You should be focusing on how good the game is right now," Chandler said. "You should forget about this domination. You've got 10 great kids out there."
Wait, the country with half of the world's top 14 all to itself is the one getting dominated?
He's right. The rest of the world was going to catch us one of these days. After all, the world had numbers and time on its side. It drafted us for years and then did a NASCAR bump and run. We lost traction and now we're sucking fumes.
I'm reading this, and I know the words are different, but they process in my brain as "Slow news day. Slow news day slow news day slow news day. After all, slow news day. Slow news day NASCAR slow news day. Slow newsday I suck at writing." Did I get the general gist?
Again, this isn't a bad thing for golf. It's just a bad thing for our USA golf egos.
I move to strike on the basis that "our USA golf egos" are nonsense things that don't exist.
"I think these are all global players now," said George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour. "They are just players."
Did this really happen? At some point people watched golf going "USA! USA!"? I just... what? Why? No. This is stupid.
This is a polite way of saying that the world is sitting on our couch, feet up on the ottoman, drinking our beer, petting our dogs and changing the TV remote from Knicks-Celtics to a Manchester United-Newcastle game.
Petting... dogs... ?
Something had to give. Tiger is 35. He broke his life into a thousand pieces
Fun fact: I used almost that exact same wording earlier in this rant before I had even read this part. I don't know how funny that is to anyone but me, but I'd just like to point out that the exact verbiage I used to show how Wojo is a dummy that's writing a bad column appears later in the same column.
and he's trying to weld it back together -- and he will. But his window of majors opportunity has smaller panes of glass than it used to.
Such a shame for Team Golf USA Which Is A Thing.
Same goes for Phil Mickelson. He turns 41 in mid-June.
Same goes for Phil Mickelson?!?!?!? Great editing. "Tiger Woods's life fell apart. Same for Phil Mickelson." SIC SIC SIC SIC SIC.
Mickelson is ranked No. 4. Tiger is No. 6. Fellow American Steve Stricker is No. 9, but he's also 44 years old. Matt Kuchar, ranked 10th in the world, turns 33 in two months. They're not out of their prime, but they're not exactly in the sweet spot of it anymore.
Yes, because golf is certainly not a sport people play until they're a fucking hundred.
USA reinforcements are on their way. Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Gary Woodland have lots of potential, but zero majors among the seven of them.
Remember that time I said that American golfers were getting old? Here's a list of young, up-and-coming American golfers.
Meanwhile, Kaymer and Oosthuizen already have majors and is there anybody who doesn't think Westwood, Luke Donald, McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Casey or Ryo Ishikawa isn't going to eventually win one of the Big Four?
Love this argument. He names seven Americans and dismisses them for having not won majors. Then he names six non-Americans who haven't won majors and scoffs that they'll all eventually win a major. I would absolutely love to see odds on this.
Oh, and one other guy: Italian Matteo Manassero, who recently outkicked McIlroy in the final round to win the Maybank Malaysian Open.
Yeah, an Italian who did really well in a round one time! PACK YOUR BAGS, AMERICA. IT'S THE WORLD'S GAME NOW.
And, I mean, on top of everything, he took down Rory McIlroy, world-renowned big-time pressure-situation final-round golf monster.
"You look how good Manassero is," O'Grady said. "He's only 18, by the way. He's certainly got a major championship within him somewhere."
What the living fuck are we talking about any more?
Tiger or no Tiger, this really has the possibility of becoming golf's next golden age. Fifty years after South Africa's Gary Player won the Masters (and was referred to as "a foreigner"),
Wow, how far we've come. People in America would never refer to someone from a foreign country as "a foreigner" nowadays.
the game is borderless. Country flags no longer matter. Or they shouldn't.
They don't. They never did. This column didn't get written. Wojo didn't get hired at ESPN. I did work at my job instead of writing this.
"You've got an absolutely brand new era here," Chandler said.
An era of new names, not nations. It took a while, but it was worth the wait. Really.
A distraught Tiger Woods, captain of Team USA Golf, finishes reading Wojo's column. He looks away as tears form in his eyes. Slowly, he opens his desk and clears out its contents into an old leather suitcase.
He starts toward the door but stops for just a moment, looking around his dusty office at the memorabilia from all those years of Golf World Cups (which is a thing) and international team championships (Which totally happen besides the minuscule amount of time we pretend to care about the Ryder Cup).
He stops specifically at a picture of he and best friend and teammate Phil Mickelson. After a final glance, he sighs and turns out the light, letting the door shut slowly behind him as he walks into this new world.