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Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

Reveille 7/14/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your All-Star Game Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

  • Watch rookie sensation Mookie Betts delight the Fenway faithful as he turns on the jets against the White Sox infielders in a game his Red Sox would eventually come back and win, 5–4.
  • Via Danny Ecker of Crain’s Chicago Business, the Commission of Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the Cubs’ request to erect several signs above the Wrigley Field bleachers and move the bullpens behind the outfield walls as part of the organization’s already-approved $575 million overhaul of MLB’s second-oldest ballpark.
  • Utilizing Inside Edge technology, Beyond the Boxscore ’s Bryan Cole is better able to evaluate Miguel Cabrera’s infield defense.
  • Also from BtB, Jeffrey Bellone attempts to determine LeBron James’s worth were he having similar success on the diamond:

By looking at LeBron’s final four seasons in Cleveland and his previous four seasons in Miami, we can compare his impact across the same number of seasons on each team. It is clear to see that his win share total in each season accounts for roughly 30% of his team’s wins. He had a greater impact in Cleveland, which makes sense considering the talent differences between there and Miami.

So, if LeBron is accounting for roughly 30% of his team’s wins based on win shares, what would be the equivalent in baseball?

The most obvious way to measure win contribution in baseball is WAR. Although, we can’t compare LeBron’s win share total to WAR directly because they measure two different things. Remember, WAR is wins above replacement, so it assumes a baseline of about 43 wins for a team of replacement level players. Therefore, in calculating the impact of a baseball player on his team’s success, we will subtract 43 wins from the team’s win total each season.

If we are going to compare LeBron James to a baseball player, why not Mike Trout. . . .

To be fair in comparing LeBron to Mike Trout, we would have to do so using the same winning percentage of their respective teams. If LeBron James played on a good basketball team that won 60% of its games, or 49 wins per season, using his win share total since 2006–07 (133 WS), that would equate into 33.9% of the team’s wins. Doing the same for Mike Trout, using a 60% team winning percentage, or 97 wins per season, his WAR, taking into account replacement level wins, would equate into 18.6% of the team’s wins. LeBron almost doubles Trout!

What this comparison shows us is that all of the craziness surrounding LeBron James is justified. On a 97-win baseball team, a player would need a fWAR close to 18 to account for the same win share percentage to win total as LeBron has averaged since 2006–07. For those of us who think in baseball terms, it would be like Mike Trout doubling himself, declaring for free agency, and having both him and his clone sign on the same team.

More realistically, the Astros have a 1–2 combination of factors that make them a fascinating team for the future. The first one is obvious: The farm system is loaded. They have prospects like George Springer already doing well in the majors, with others like Jonathan Singleton and Jared Cosart adjusting to the majors already. They have a host of younger prospects, like Carlos Correa, Delino DeShields, and Rio Ruiz. They also have Jose Altuve locked up, and he’s young enough to be a prospect.

The second factor might not get you excited just yet, but it’s just as important: They have hardly any long-term commitments. They’re a blank slate. They have $5.5 million committed to 2016, and that’s to Altuve and Singleton. They could sign Giancarlo Stanton to a deal worth an annual salary of $30 million and still have enough left over for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. That might put them above $100 million, but not necessarily.

This is the sort of flexibility that allowed the Mariners to sign Robinson Cano to a crazy contract, while not caring that it was crazy. The Astros will be that kind of menace if they want to hop into the free agent market in the future. Even though they’re having issues with their TV deal, they still play in the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the country, and they have a newer, desirable ballpark.

  • Bruce Schoenfeld of the New York Times explores why the screwball, the off-speed pitch made famous more than a century ago by Christy Mathewson, is rarely thrown in anger today. After finding no proof that the screwball is harder on the arm than any other pitch, the author concludes that “the pitch has been abandoned by baseball without cause.”

After this er, generous strike-three call, Nick Punto got tossed for his two-handed spike of the batting helmet. Not that it mattered: Fernando Rodney’s response indicates that it’s the final out of the ballgame, a 3–2 victory for Seattle.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!


Tags: MLB


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