Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Thanksgiving Regurgitation

Dan's mancrush on Josh Beckett knows no bounds. Spewing love for the new Sox ace from the opening line ("Time for the Red Sox to reissue old No. 21, don't you think?"), the next 875 words are a collective big sloppy French kiss to the ex Marlin.

But there will be a new sheriff in town when the Red Sox hit Fort Myers in February. He's a big, strong Texan ...

The new Sox ace said all the right things in his introductory conference call with the media ...

There he is, ladies and gentlemen, your new stopper. The torch has been passed from Clemens to Pedro to Schilling to Beckett. Time to pass along No. 21 now.

Ugh. Jump him now, Dan, and get it over with.

It's instructive to recall what Dan said about Schill when he was the Red Sox ace du jour.

He was gracious toward Pedro Martinez and was happy to accept the role as No. 2 starter.

Think Schilling would blow a 5-2 lead in the eighth against the Yankees, then throw his manager under the bus? Which guy do you want pitching Game 7?

That's the beauty of Schilling. He lives for the big games, has played in the big games, and won't take the apple if things get a little tight and testy in this town without pity.

Schilling is back with the Red Sox. Oh, happy day. Son of Tito can leave Schilling on the mound to pitch the eighth and ninth and no one will call for the manager to be fired.

To recap: Dan 1) warms quickly to the new guy while 2) trashing the old one. Nice. Looks like he simply regurgitated his post Thanksgiving column from 2003. What's the Globe policy on self-plagiarism?

The column is also memorable for two blatant Danesque errors:
1. "[Beckett] said he talked to Don Sutton about pitching in Fenway and Sutton told him that the small venue made life exciting for a pitcher." Interesting hypothesis, but, like Dan, outdated and wrong. Baseball Prospectus' analysis puts Fenway as a "slight hitter's park." According to BP, Fenway ranks at 1.010, with a 1.00 being neutral. Seems the abundance of new, smaller bandboxes have displaced the Old Ballpark as hitters' Edens. But why let the facts get in the way of a column?

2. "With no hope for a new stadium, the Marlins are strip-mining the franchise, much the way Charlie Finley did with his Oakland A's in 1976." As Nate Silver argues here (subscription required), "Each team can enter the hot-stove season with one of three potential strategies: buy additional talent, sell off talent, or hold about the same level of talent as before. The key behind this choice of direction is performing an objective evaluation of how many wins the existing stock of talent is likely to provide, and the attendant probability of making the playoffs. The Marlins won 83 games last year. They had a couple of players, like Juan Pierre and Mike Lowell, who underperformed, but others like Dontrelle Willis and Todd Jones who overachieved. PECOTA projected the Marlins to win 81 games; their Pythagenport record was 79-83. By all indications, they were a .500 club."

Silver's research found that "a team that wins fewer than 82 games will essentially never make the playoffs, while a team that wins more than 96 games will almost always make the playoffs." So the critical range is 86 to 94 wins. And if you can't make it to 86 wins, better to save your bullets and regroup.

The Marlins are guaranteed to lose AJ Burnett (at a cost of about 5 wins, which takes them to 76-78 wins). A team projected to win 77 games will actually win exactly 87 games 2.4% of the time, and it has a 24% chance of making the playoffs when it does, and will win exactly 88 games 2.1% of the time and have a 34% chance of making the playoffs when it does that, Silver finds. His conclusion: "But the fact of the matter is that selling makes sense for the Marlins, and it makes sense in this market. It especially makes sense if they can get some true blue-chip prospects in return, but even without that, it makes sense from a profit-and-loss standpoint, and it does so by a fairly wide margin."

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