Friday, June 8, 2007

This is just hilarious

An article by Joe Morgan a while back talking about Rickey Henderson:

Despite what some may think, Rickey's greatest quality as a leadoff man was not his high on-base percentage. In fact, for those who consider Jeremy Giambi to be the right choice as Oakland's leadoff hitter, the ability to get on base is not even the second most important quality.

(which is, as he writes later in the article...)

The leadoff man must have the right mentality and realize the importance of his job the first time up. He has to be willing to take pitches and sacrifice part of his at-bat to give his team a longer look at the pitcher. Taking as many pitches as possible allows his teammates to see how sharp the pitcher's breaking ball is, how much control he has with his fastball, and how much movement is on his pitches. The more pitches a team sees, the better.

This is stupid. Joe never reads anything about baseball. OBA, which correlates best with runs scored, at least among traditional stats (stats like eqA, OPS+, gross production average, etc. are better), is not even the second most important quality to him, but the right mentality is.

B.A.: Hey, sucka? Biologically, what’s the most important component of procreation?
Morgan: Well, contrary to what people think, it’s not sex.
B.A.: Huh?
Morgan: It’s all about the mindset of the two people.
B.A.: Well yeah, responsibility, being ready for a kid...that stuff is important but I'm just saying biologically.
Morgan: That's what I mean. Biologically, you have to have the right mentality. People with the best mentality have the most kids.
B.A.: Do you have any proof of this?
Morgan: Trust me, I've had kids.
B.A.: So, the right mentality about procreation is salient and the physical act of having sex is biologically insignificant?
Morgan: That’s right...I guess...I don't know what salient means.
B.A.: Of paramount importance...
Morgan: Oh I love movies from Paramount!
B.A.: Not Paramount studios...basically salient means it's very important.
Morgan: Oh, alright, well yeah, sex isn't biologically important if you want to have kids. Believe me, I'd know.
B.A.: Thanks Mr. Father-of-people-who-have-in-turn-had-more-people.

#1 on his priority list was speed, but I'll get into that later.

On-base percentages are overrated for a leadoff hitter. All the sluggers have high on-base percentages. Jason Giambi led the American League in on-base percentage a year ago, but what does he do once he is on base? All he can do is stand at first base and wait for someone else to move him around. But if a player has speed and the right mental approach, on-base percentage becomes more important for a leadoff man. The more times he is on base, the more he can use his speed.

So on-base average (it's not a percentage) isn't important unless you have speed? Alright Joe, I'm going to go inform Jason about your opinion now:

B.A.: Hey Jason?
Jason Giambi (finishes amphetamines): Yeah, B.A.?
B.A.: Joe Morgan thinks you should stop being so patient and being good at not making outs. I think Torre hates your getting on base so others have opportunities to drive you in.
Jason Giambi: Well Torre doesn’t have to worry about my not making outs because of my foot.
B.A.: Great. I’m sure the Yankees are thrilled to not have your not-profusely-making-outs bat in the lineup anymore.
Giambi: Yeah, but that's alright. Douggy Bombs is lighting up the scoreboard in my absence.
B.A.: Nah, that puny prick Lowell gave him a concussion and a broken wrist.
Giambi: What? That skinny fuck. That limpdick got no heat for all the roids he took.
B.A.: Yeah I know. You shoulda heard the convo he was having after last Saturday's game.
Giambi: What do you mean?
B.A.: He's on "the queer" and he takes HMH.
Giambi: The queer AND Human Mojo Hormone?!
B.A.: Yup.
Giambi: I hope he dies.
B.A.: We all do.

Just because Giambi is slow does not mean that his getting on base is not valuable. Speed is valuable gravy, but not necessary. Jeter getting on base will likely lead to more runs than Giambi at the same clip, but that would be a marginal difference:

Giambi (2002)
120 runs scored

Jeter (2002)
124 runs scored

"Jeter scored 4 more runs with an OBA 62 pts lower!" you might say. However, think about it. Jeter's batting behind Giambi who would generally either drive him in or draw a walk, leading to a guy behind Giambi likely driving Jeter in. However, after Giambi, the lineup gets weaker aside from when Bernie (.908 OPS) hit behind him:

Jorge Posada
.828 OPS
Robin Ventura
.836 OPS
Raul Mondesi
.745 OPS
Rondell White
.666 OPS

Does anyone think a guy with a significantly lower OBA but more speed would have helped score more runs? Giambi having a .435 OBA is incredibly valuable because by being on base all the time, the guys behind you WILL knock you in. Look at the RBI totals for a couple of these guys:

Posada: 99 RBI in 511 AB
Ventura: 93 RBI in 465 AB

If Giambi were faster, he’d have probably scored a few more runs, but seeing as how the Yankees won 103 games and scored 897 runs to lead the league, I think Giambi’s .435 OBA with little speed was plenty. What else did they lead the league in by the way? OBA. Coincidence? I don’t think so, foo! Where were they in stolen bases? 6th. The team to lead the league in stolen bases was the offensively minded Kansas City Royals, who scored 24 runs that year, all on Mike Sweeney solo homers.

Overall, Morgan makes decent points about how speed on the bases can disrupt a pitcher and what not, but these things are what I’d call bonuses, not priorities. Mickey Rivers disrupted pitchers on the bases, but only 32.7% of the time because the other 67.3% of the time he was making outs. His “disruption factor” led to a total of 785 runs scored in 5629 AB, or a run scored every 7.17 AB. Versus say someone like…Joe Morgan! His .392 OBA led to 1650 runs scored in 9277 AB, or a run scored every 5.62 AB. And Joe, no, it was only marginally due to the fact that you stole more bases or that you were a pest on the basepaths with that team, oh what are they called, oh how could I forget? The Big Red Machine. I should have remembered that sooner, you only talk about it every 3 minutes. Anyways, you scored more runs because you got on base at a clip that was 65 pts higher than Rivers. End of story.

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