Tuesday, September 25, 2007

John "small sample size" Brattain is back and we still disagree

See, way back when this blog was trying to find an identity (still searching), John’s rather silly article at MSN sports was the perfect excuse to beat up and verbally abuse a guy none of us had ever met. Even though John turned out to be a solid dude, the MSN article was still pretty poorly though out. So bad in fact, that (with our help, we believe) it spawned this new article over at THT. I have to admit; this argument is much more thought out, balanced, and aggressive than the previous one. Overall, Brattain made a case for his point (Although we are wondering where the editor was on it, a little long and repetitive, or as Portnoy likes to say, “tautological”).

In the end, Brattain states the same thing he did in the MSN article, “that Gibbons should have been more flexible and creative in his approach and realize what the talent on hand could or could not do.” There it is. The same argument as the previous article, that Gibbons is not doing enough. And like last time, I must disagree.

I am not going to disagree with Brattain’s reasoning but rather the argument. The THT article has flaws, but nothing I can’t look past. There is still the problem of selectively small sample sizes. I don’t think you can pull out a handful of games (less than 10% of a season) to prove a point. Not in baseball anyway. The 50$ bill example is so rudimentary it makes us question the intelligence of his readership (which makes us question us, which makes us question Brattain for making us question ourselves).

Looking back and picking 15 games where the Jays scored 4 or fewer runs is fine although not ideal. The only reason we are talking about these games is because the Jays lost these games and by the time the games were over the score indicates the games were close. Every team in baseball has a handful of these games. And for every close game the Jays have lost there is the same number of close games they have won. Aside from that, just like all runs are not created equal, all one run games are not created equal. We still don’t know what point in the game the Jays should have figured out one run would be the difference? If the Jays are down 5 nothing in the 1st what approach do they take with a lead off walk in the second? Even if the final score was 5-4 there is no way to know that you should have tried to manufacture that second inning lead off walk instead of playing for a rally or a series of runs. Playing for one run is a selective thing. A baseball game can go in a thousand different directions after almost every pitch. Because a base runner gets thrown out stealing and the next pitch is a homerun, it doesn’t mean the same pitch in the same location would have been made with the same result had he been safe or even not attempted to steal. The game, and potential outcomes of the game change with every pitch. It is folly to point out 15 games and say if things were done different the Jays would be in the wild card race.

To be fair there is more to Brattains article than this. The point is the Jays need to score more runs to win games. So the question is what could the Jays have done to score more runs? And an extension of that is what can John Gibbons have done to help the team score more runs? Well the Jays do not have the speed and power of the Yankees. Nor the pitching and patience of the Red Sox. They don’t have the slugging of the Indians they can not play “small ball’ like the Angels. All these teams win games with what they have and in different ways. However, there is something these four teams do have in common and it is something the Jays are well aware of.

The top four AL teams in OBP are New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland. Yes, the four teams that are going to the playoffs. (In case you were wondering the Tigers were 5th in OBP) As far as I know, this is the Jays philosophy. Get runners on base, work the pitcher, wait for your pitch to hit, get into the bullpen early, etc. The Jays are just not doing this. In fact they have a horrid .325 OBP this year, good for 12th in the AL. But it is their plan, and it seems like a good plan.

Now Brittain’s explanation of the reason why this plan is not working is “Having a sabermetric outlook will not turn Jason Phillips into Jason Giambi nor will a "small ball" approach turn Alex Rios into Alex Gonzalez. They will play to their expected levels regardless of the club’s philosophy.” (I know I am picking out 35 words out of 10,000 but it is important) Actually, Brattain is wrong here. Players won’t always play to their expected levels regardless of the clubs philosophy.

Here is a table, which in my mind shows as much.
Position Name 2006 OBP 2007 OBP
C Gregg Zaun .363 .336
1B Lyle Overbay .372 .316
2B Aaron Hill .349 .328
SS John McDonald .271.272
3B Troy Glaus .355 .366
OF Reed Johnson .390 .298
OF Vernon Wells .357 .304
OF Alex Rios .349 .353
OF Matt Stairs.373
OF Frank Catalanotto .376
DH Frank Thomas .381.376

Last year their team OBP was .348, good for 4th in the AL. In 2005 they were 4th in the AL as well. In 2003 they were 3rd. The only year in the past 4 that the Jays were not in the top 4 in OBP was the disastrous 2004 season in which they were 12th and won 64 games. Well at least this year they will win a considerably larger amount than that.

A bunt here, a SB there, even Joey Gathright not playing LF will not change the 2007 problem. The team’s hitters (if you believe in last years numbers) are grossly underachieving. Their philosophy is right; it’s just not being followed. Who is to blame? I don’t blame John Gibbons, although I guess we could. We could also blame the players, the batting coach, the general manager, the fans, or the local media? Brattain blames the manager for basically believing that his philosophy is right and he has the players to make it work. Many want to blame the GM for believing the same thing. However, the success this collection had last year leads me to first blame the players, then bad luck (injuries), and finally the batting coach. I think the best course of action is the one being taken. Come back next year with the same group, hope that the hitters regain their ’06 form, the bullpen remains as strong with the addition of BJ Ryan, and hope the starting pitching doesn’t slip too far.

The philosophy is right, the personnel has shown it can do the job, now all we need is for it to come together and give us all something to cheer for. And if it does come together, John Gibbons is more than capable of managing this team to it’s ultimate goal.

1 comment:

John Brattain said...

Razzer/Dr. K:

I knew I could count on you. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my column (two posts no less ... woo hoo!(/Homer Simpson).

I'm looking forward to mixing it up again in '08. Hopefully the Jays' offense will make the debate on a different topic (setting up the ALDS rotation would work or whether we should have lefty/righty co-closers in the ALCS).

Thanks for the feedback (both past, present and hopefully future). Keep up the great writing.

Go Jays! (in '08 ... I'm not sure it's really helpful at present)

Best Regards