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January 06, 2007

Chris from West Nyack, I Hear You

Fire Joe Morgan recounts an interesting Michael Kay rant (on a caller) the other day. It's worth reading. (Hat tip to BaseballThinkFactory.org)

I was listening live when Kay went off on this caller, Chris from West Nyack.

It was amazing to hear Kay say things like:

"I believe by watching baseball my whole life and being involved with it for 25 years is that there is nothing harder to do in sports than to win a game by a pitcher."

"All these Sabermatricians get locked up with all of these stats and I don't. You know what stat I care about? Did he win the game?"

Michael is obviously lost on the concept of run-support. The Yankees scored 7.51 runs per 9 innings in Johnson's games last year. That was the highest run-support for any qualified starter in the majors - by almost a full run. Neutral Wins is a projection of how many wins a pitcher would have if he was given average run support, considering the amount of decisions (W+L) he had in a season. Last season, Randy Johnson had 12 Neutral Wins. (In 2005, he had 14.)

Here's a comparison for you: Last season, Kris Benson had 11 Neutral Wins - just one less than Johnson. Therefore, if Kris Benson had pitched for the Yankees last year, and got the run support that Johnson had, he probably would have won around 17 games too.

Replacing the "2006 version" of Randy Johnson in the Yankees rotation is not really going to be a big deal for New York. The caller to Kay's show, Chris from West Nyack, gets it. Kay is clueless on this one.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 6, 2007 09:23 AM

Comments

Just so you know Steve, there are those of us, yes we even read your blog, who skip all of the sabermetrics stuff because we really agree with Michael Kay. Your answer betrays you as you roll off into sabermetric language. Some of us don't watch the game as an accountant, we watch the game for the emotion it brings. In that case, the bottom line is "Did he win the game?" As much as you are saying MK doesn't get it and Chris does, the same could be said for those folks whose response is always couched in algebraic formulas for a game that is played on grass. The two don't always mix. If they did we wouldn't play, we would just do the math.

Posted by: Scott Coulter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 10:00 AM

"Some of us don't watch the game as an accountant, we watch the game for the emotion it brings."

Personally, I can't even watch baseball without my good, old-fashioned slide rule handy.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 10:45 AM

I don't understand why this is such a concept that's so hard for folks to understand....?

Randy Johnson was not a very good pitcher. The Yankees scored lots of runs when he pitched. So even when he pitched badly, the opposing pitcher often pitched worse, thereby letting Randy win 17 games. It is unbelievable to me that anyone could truly think Randy Johnson was worth 16 mil last year.

Sabermetrics is about truth via numbers. You can do like Michael Kay and stop thinking once you get to "17 wins", and say "Well he HAS to be a good pitcher to win 17 games." Or, you can look at what Randy did beyond his 17 wins, and see how he REALLY pitched last year: he was not a very good pitcher. There is no way around it, just like there's no way around the fact that Michael Kay is a dope. He did not pitch terribly well. That was not a 16 million dollar performance.

Don't hate on Sabermetricians just because we're able to do a little math. I like being able to grasp the game on a deeper level, if anything it enhances my emotional enjoyment, and I probably speak for many other statgeeks.

And Steve - I thoroughly enjoy reading your musings, sabermetric or otherwise. I don't like my baseball dumbed down. ;)

Posted by: Jersey [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 10:56 AM

Clearly the only person who hates Mike Mussina more than Steve is Michael Kay. He's always killing him on his show.

The idea that he can't see that Moose had a better year than Johnson is unbelievable.

It shows that either Kay is really dumb and knows nothing about baseball (which has become clear) or that he's just a really biased guy (which has also become clear).

This is why I find it amazing that the Yankees allow him to keep this job or don't just fire him. He becomes this two-faced pansy by attacking the players on his show and kissing their butts on the air.

Cashman got rid of Wright, Sheffield and Johnson -- now he needs to get rid of Kay.

As for the playoff issue: Mussina actually DID win a playoff game in the last two years, unlike Johnson -- and if Kay was paying attention, the run-support issue shows itself in the first two games in the support Wang got and Moose didn't.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 11:13 AM

It is easy to determine if Kay's hypothesis that Johnson pitches to the score is valid. Simply check each of his starts that the Yankees won and see whether he yielded early leads to opponents or gave up tying or go-ahead runs once the Yankees got a lead. As a matter of fact, a very quick check of his starts showed 12 in which he did one or the other-or both. In some cases he gave up Yankee leads more than once, even when NY was ahead by 3 or more runs. Clearly, he could not "pitch to the score", and Kay is talking nonsense.

Posted by: Bob R. [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 12:01 PM

Kay talking nonsense? Imagine that!

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 12:34 PM

As for the playoff issue: Mussina actually DID win a playoff game in the last two years, unlike Johnson
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And even so, the Yanks were in a position to win two of the games Johnson pitched in. They were shut out in the other.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 12:36 PM

Scott, SABR stats certainly dont get in the way of enjoying ball games. They're as or more enjoyable knowing the 'inside' stuff that one can get from examining the stats.

and yes, Kay is an idiot. Just another rant where's he's being stupid again. He's had numerous dumb rants.

Wasn't his last rant related to steroids and Nazis, or something?

Does anyone really think RJ was better than Moose bc he wont more games?! I'm still a big believer in ERA (or ERA+), which really tells the story: games are based on runs. RJ had a 5.00 era last year, the highest on the whole team. Nuff said.

And the projections are ridiculous. RJ having a sub 3.80 era in the AL next year?! No f'in way. In the NL west, sure.

Posted by: Travis G. [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 01:07 PM

Kay is bad enough when taken by himself, but if you listen to an old game with Scooter, Messer and White, it's really clear how far we've fallen. Losing Jim Kaat was pretty much the last straw. Don't we have any prospects for those positions?

Randy's numbers (other than W's) were bad enough, the way he pitched was ineffective, and he was overdue to have a very poor year in NY this year. The worst thing about him was seeing him hang that stupid slider and get shelled, when he never did that before coming to NY, certainly not in the '01 World Series, nor in the perfect game he tossed. People were way too comfortable against him, and the ridiculous ESPN crew just would not shut up about what a dog he'd become since he put on the pinstripes. We paid all that cash and got Benson (without the wife) instead of Johnson. Any worse he would've been like Beckett. I'll be glad to see his tail lights.

Posted by: Exit9 [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 01:22 PM

I get irked whenever I hear people talking about how one should or shouldn't enjoy the game of baseball. Personally, I enjoy talking stats, but I also believe that there is a human component to the game that absolutely cannot be quantified (Melky's infectious enthusiasm, A-Rod's skittishness, Wang's poise, Posada's physical toughness, et. al.)

Listening to Kay's show should be avoided at all costs, not because he hates on SABR but because he is a complete buffoon.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 01:46 PM

"And even so, the Yanks were in a position to win two of the games Johnson pitched in."

Umm . . . we are giving Johnson CREDIT for allowing 5 ER is 3 IP in his start against the Angels? Because the Yankees put themselves in "a position to win" by scoring 7 runs after he LEFT THE GAME? I'm pretty sure this was exactly the kind of thing Chris from West Nyack was talking about.

Posted by: NewAmsterdamYanks [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 03:06 PM

Umm . . . we are giving Johnson CREDIT for allowing 5 ER is 3 IP in his start against the Angels? Because the Yankees put themselves in "a position to win" by scoring 7 runs after he LEFT THE GAME? I'm pretty sure this was exactly the kind of thing Chris from West Nyack was talking about.
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Don't know, I don't listen to sports radio.

I'm not giving Johnson credit for anything. I'm just stating a fact. There's a tendency to remember the bad, and forget the good. Johnson got shelled his first start in '05, but he also shut down the Angels in relief in game 5. In 1995, Wetteland was torched in game 4 (which may or may not have influenced Showalter in game 5), but what's overlooked is the 3 scoreless innings in game 2. I think he may have been raked in gm 1 too, I'll have to check.

I said something similar in another thread, about guys "stepping up" that baseball is a sport that even if you do your part, it's not guaranteed you win. Johnson & Schilling may have pitched "lights out" in 2001, but the World Series was decided in the bottom of the 9th, with the D-Backs losing.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 04:26 PM

"Kay is clueless on this one." On this ONE?

That's taking charity beyond all reason.

Posted by: Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 04:48 PM