Thursday, July 12, 2012

3 comments Murray Chass Gets All Sarcastic about Wins

We all know Murray Chass hasn't enjoyed the increased use of advanced statistics and the changes in thinking have helped to cause in baseball. He prefers baseball how it used to be. Uncomplicated and easy for him to understand. It makes Murray sad and other emotions similar to that when he thinks about the days when math and baseball were separate. It also makes him sarcastic. Murray gets all sarcastic today when discussing "wins." He loves wins much in the same way Joe Morgan loves wins. Wins determine if a pitcher pitched well or not, at least in their eyes. It seems Murray doesn't want to expand the criteria beyond the use of wins in order to evaluate a pitcher's performance during the season. I thought for a second that Murray had changed his mind about wins, but was let down in finding out he was merely using sarcasm. Also, since he hasn't done this for two weeks, he evaluates Mike Piazza's Hall of Fame credentials on his non-blog.

First, Murray starts the column off by saying Andy Pettitte changed his story when asked to testify during the Roger Clemens trial. I've written before that I don't believe Pettitte changed his story, but merely says he could have misunderstood Clemens when he originally admitted to using steroids. Maybe he was protecting his friend, I'm not so sure. It seems Pettitte kept a pretty consistent line of answers when discussing Clemens' accused steroid use. The idea he could have misunderstood Clemens in 1999 during their conversation is possible. That's what Pettitte was acknowledging. He seemed sure of what he heard in 1999, but then Clemens says Pettitte misunderstood what Clemens said a few years later, so that seems to have left some doubt in Pettitte's mind. I found some of that doubt to be present in his original testimony to the grand jury.

Then Murray begins discussing the Hall of Fame and PEDs, finally to get around to speaking my native language, sarcasm, when discussing wins. Sarcasm or no sarcasm, Murray Chass is still wrong about wins and he relies on wins too heavily in determining whether a pitcher had a good year or not.

“My overriding feeling on both cases is they both lost,” said Sam Reich, a former federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh. “I don’t agree with CNN that the Clemens acquittal vindicates him. A jury decided it had a reasonable doubt. That’s the way juries decide.”

I don't think the trial matters either way in terms of public opinion. If neither Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens had been brought to trial for lying to a grand jury about using steroids, the court of public opinion would still hold that both players were dirty and did indeed use steroids. It seems the majority of people will believe Bonds/Clemens were guilty of steroid use regardless of the trial's outcome. I think the court of public opinion is irrelevant in terms of whether it affected public opinion one way or another. Both Bonds and Clemens have been convicted in the minds of many in the public, so verdict of the jury I believe to be irrelevant to change many minds one way or another.

“In terms of history, both lost tremendously,” Reich added. “Up until the trial the public had only a lot of speculation to go on. In the trials there was a lot that came out.”

In terms of actual proof, maybe Bonds and Clemens lost tremendously. I don't want to speak for anyone else, but my mind hasn't ever changed about Clemens or Bonds. One only has to look at their physical appearance and late career statistics to assume where there is smoke there is fire in regard to steroids. There is some evidence Bonds and Clemens did use PEDs during their career.

“When the 1919 Black Sox players were tried in court,” he said, “they were acquitted, but the verdict of history is unanimous. They were guilty. Most people will conclude both did it just like they have with the Black Sox and O.J. Simpson. I think the majority of people will find them guilty. Both lost by going to trial.”

What were Bonds and Clemens options though? Were they supposed to accept a plea deal and possibly have to do jail time? Wouldn't that have been the option if Bonds or Clemens had not gone to court? That would look like an admission of guilt to many. So I'm not sure either person had an option of avoiding the trial or accepting a plea deal where they would plea guilty...which neither wanted to do.

The next verdict on Clemens and Bonds will come in January when the Hall of Fame announces the results of the voting by the Baseball Writers Association.

I'm making an educated guess that those two aren't getting in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. It's sad because Bonds at least would have been a Hall of Fame player even without his late career resurgence. The steroid allegations seem to have robbed of a spot in the Hall of Fame that he probably deserved even without the accused steroid use.

Piazza has never been formally linked to steroids, and that’s what enrages his passionate fans whenever I write about my suspicions.

People tend to get crazy when sportswriters take unfounded speculation and try to introduce it as some sort of fact as to why a player should be denied an honor such as the baseball Hall of Fame. Human people are crazy in that way.

In my most recent mention of Piazza, I wrote that his book is scheduled for publication next February and suggested that writers withhold their votes for him this time to wait and read what he writes about steroids.

If he writes anything at all about steroids. Of course, if Piazza denies the use of steroids then it doesn't matter anyway. Murray already believes Piazza is guilty of steroid use (which I do too, except I actually require proof before I start holding out Hall of Fame votes due to my own speculation) and what Piazza has to say about it is irrelevant. See, Piazza had bacne during his playing career. That's pretty much the equivalent of pictures showing a needle stuck right in the middle of Piazza's ass to Murray Chass.

There is a difference in players like Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro, Bonds, as compared to players like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. Piazza and Bagwell have been found guilty by some based simply on speculation and zero findings of their PED use.

If he is elected to the Hall in January and he admits in February that he used steroids, it will be too late for writers who oppose electing steroids users to do anything about it.

What if Barry Larkin states he did steroids in a book he will right 10 years from now? It will be too late to take back his Hall of Fame induction too. It's best we don't vote any players into the Hall of Fame over the next two decades until all players have written books and admitted or denied steroid use.

Jeff Bagwell, on the other hand, may avoid the stain of steroids despite rumors about his use. He went up last year from 41.7 percent to 56 percent.

How lucky for Jeff Bagwell. He never got caught using steroids and the voters are starting to pay less and less attention to the rumors, not the facts, about his steroid use. I also think Bagwell used steroids, but there isn't any proof and speculation on my part shouldn't count as proof. If I had a Hall of Fame vote, I would vote for Jeff Bagwell and I don't see how anyone in his/her right mind could not vote for Bagwell if they think he deserves induction based on his career statistics (and consider them compiled without the use of PEDs). Rumors are just that until proof is shown.

The difficulty of forecasting the Hall of Fame fate of Clemens is a feeling among some writers that he had Hall of Fame achievements before he began using P.E.D.’s.

Then base your vote on what these players did during the part of their career where you don't think they did steroids. It's impossible to exactly determine what part of their career this was, but Hall of Fame voters like Murray Chass seem to enjoy using speculation to base their Hall of Fame vote upon, so let's just go all the way with it and speculate about the exact date and time Bonds and Clemens started using steroids. Then Hall of Fame voters can vote for them based on their career up to the point they started using steroids.

One voter, Buster Olney of, offered a novel, if questionable rationalization, for voting for cheaters. He told The New York Tlmes, “The institution of baseball condoned the use of performance-enhancing drugs for almost two decades with inaction. To hold it against a handful of individuals now is, to me, retroactive morality.”

I don't know if I agree with this statement. I do find it funny and interesting how Murray is criticizing Buster Olney's "questionable rationalization" for voting for cheaters when Murray has his own questionable rationalization for not voting for accused and not proven cheaters. Murray believes the mere rumor of PED use should prohibit a player from getting a Hall of Fame vote.

Now Murray moves on to discussing "wins" and how Cliff Lee deserves the Cy Young award.

Cliff Lee appears to be in good position to win his second Cy Young award. He has made it this far into the season without a win and with one of the lowest WHIPs in the National League, 1.12.

Great move to exaggerate the opposing side's point of view. This only goes to show, at least to me, that Murray is still too closed-minded to accept the idea wins aren't the end-all-be-all in determining a pitcher's performance. If Murray has to exaggerate the view of the opposing side this also tells me he has no other comeback to those who advocate using wins to judge part of a pitcher's performance and has taken to making jokes and sarcasm as a way of concealing he is out of salient and convincing points. If Murray really had convincing points to make on this issue he would presented them two years ago when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award. This is a blow Murray still hasn't recovered from. Murray's convincing points at that time seemed to ridicule the opposing viewpoint and then state "this is how it has always been done."

I say this as a veteran user of sarcasm. Sarcasm can be a blanket to cover up a flaw in a person's argument.

It has taken me a while, but I have learned these things, especially where wins are concerned.

More sarcasm!

After spending a lifetime watching pitchers win games and thinking they were doing something good, I learned from some of the readers here that wins are a meaningless statistic for pitchers,

Again, Murray is intentionally misstating the opposing view in order to make the alternative to his point of view seem more arbitrary and less flexible in reasoning. In fact, it is Murray whose reasoning is arbitrary and lacks flexibility. Murray's readers are not attempting to state wins are a meaningless statistic for pitchers. They are stating wins are not the totality of what a pitcher's performance during a given year should be based upon. Murray and those who think about wins in the same manner he does, are the ones who would deny a pitcher the Cy Young Award because he doesn't have enough wins. Felix Hernandez was the leader in most major pitching categories during the 2010 season, but because he didn't have enough wins Murray Chass didn't believe he deserved the Cy Young Award. It truly appears Murray believes wins to be the most convincing statistic in determining a pitcher's performance since he would not vote for Hernandez because he was deficient in this one category.

Stating his readers thinks win are meaningless is a way to discrediting the opposing view by making it seem more extreme and irrational than it truly is. Wins are not meaningless, but the statistic "win" for a pitcher is based on the team's overall performance. I don't see how anyone can disagree with this statement. A pitcher can't get a "win" if his team's offensive players don't score a run. It's impossible for a pitcher to get a win if his team scores zero runs while during the game, no matter how long the pitcher pitches. Cliff Lee could pitch 30 innings and still not get a win if the Phillies don't score a run. Because the pitcher's "win" statistic is based upon how his offense scores, it is a team statistic, much like a team's wins and losses are a team statistic. So a pitcher can pitch well and still not win a game because his offense hasn't scored runs. This makes the statistic "win" a partially team-based statistic.

Let's say Bob Thompson writes in the Sports section for the Picadilly Daily and it has a circulation of 30,000 readers. If Tom Gilbert writes in the Sports section for the Picadilly Observer, which only has a circulation of 10,000 readers, this does not mean he is a bad sportswriter as compared to Bob Thompson. Both newspapers have a Local section. The Picadilly Daily's Local section is run by the best writer in the state with a team of two other writers and covers 10 pages a day with local news. The Picadilly Observer is run by one staff member and only dedicates one page to local news. It is possible Tom Gilbert is a better writer than Bob Thompson even if his columns aren't as widely read because the newspaper's circulation isn't only dependent on the quality of the work in the Sports section. That's my conclusion.

"Incorrect!" Murray Chass would say, "If Tom Gilbert was a good sportswriter then he could somehow make his paper have a higher circulation than Bob Thompson. So what if the Local section consists only of one staff member who only puts pictures of vegetables in the Picadilly Observer while the Local section of the Picadilly Daily has a 10 page Local section with the best local newsreporter in the entire state? It doesn't matter. Tom Gilbert hasn't done enough to make his writing as good as Bob Thompson's writing."

This is a poor analogy that shows (sort of) what nonsense it is to judge a pitcher on "wins" without somewhat acknowledging his offense has to score runs for him to get a "win."

that they have no control over the outcome of games so don’t pay attention to the column with the W at the top.

In essence, a pitcher only has so much control over the outcome of games. He can give up 10 runs and win a game or give up 1 run and lose a game. A pitcher only has so much control over the game in terms of his job. What this means is a pitcher doesn't even have total control over whether he gets a "win" or not. Like Cliff Lee did this year, he can pitch 10 innings and give up 0-1 runs and still lose the game or get a no-decision.

Again, Murray misstates the opposition's point of view. No one is saying pitchers have no control over the outcome of games. The argument furthered by people like me is the pitcher doesn't have total control over the outcome of games. Much of the control is in the hands of his offense, as well as the pitcher.

I used to think – silly me – that pitchers could control games by allowing the opposing team to score fewer runs than their team scored.

If Murray Chass could read, which I am assuming at this point he can't since he apparently can't read what he just wrote, he would see he has proven my point for me.

Pitchers control games by "allowing the opposing team to score fewer runs"---this is the portion nearly completely in the pitcher's control---"than their team scored." This last part is the portion not in the pitcher's control, especially in the American League where there is a Designated Hitter. Murray essentially writes a sentence that shows he is wrong about runs. The pitcher can't control how many runs HIS TEAM scores, because a pitcher really can't do that anymore than a hitter can control how many runs his pitcher gives up during a game. So to get a win, part of the criteria is out of the pitcher's control. Murray can continue to think this statement is true, because it is partially true, but it also shows the fallacy of saying getting a "win" is in the pitcher's total control.

But apparently that’s not how the game is played today.

Apparently you are willfully ignorant and refuse to use your brain to understand this issue.

Win 13 games, or 15 or 16, and you can win yourself one of those huge, good-looking trophies. Win the award with few enough wins, and you can etch the scores of all of the games on the trophy.

This isn't funny really. It's obvious at this point Murray Chass is incapable of even attempting to understand the issue. Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010 with a win total that was seen as unacceptable and we will never hear the freaking end of it. The Cy Young Award goes to the best pitcher in the American/National League. The best pitcher in the American/National League doesn't always have the most wins just like the best quarterback in the NFL doesn't always play for a team that makes the Super Bowl.

If the award were voted today, R.A. Dickey probably wouldn’t have a chance against Lee.

Isn't it weird how the best team in the majors when Murray wrote this, the Yankees, have four pitchers in the Top 35 of the majors in wins (as of the day Murray wrote this) and how the Yankees ever so coincidentally were in the Top 10 in the majors in runs, home runs, RBI, OBP, and OPS? Another pure coincidence is the Texas Rangers, who are at the top or close to the top in every major batting category, have two pitchers in the Top 15 in the majors in wins. It's almost like a pitcher's number of wins depends partially on how many runs his team scores.

In the meantime, since the award isn’t being voted today, I’m going to take a few minutes and look through one of the baseball encyclopedias and find names like Roberts and Jenkins and Hunter and Palmer and Gibson and try to figure out how bad they really were.

That's exactly the point your readers are making when they take exception to your overuse of the "win" statistic. They aren't trying to prove you wrong, no way. They are trying to prove all of the great pitchers in baseball history were actually shitty pitchers. You got us now, Murray.


rich said...

He has made it this far into the season without a win and with one of the lowest WHIPs in the National League, 1.12.

My defense of Cliff Lee has been made in the comments numerous times, but the biggest reason Lee didn't have a win by the time this was written (late June) is that Cliff Lee was fucking awful in June.

He made 5 starts in June. In two of those, he was spotted 3 run leads and he blew them immediately (as in the next friggin' inning).

His ER for those starts: 2, 4, 5, 5, 6. Sorry, that's pathetic.

The pitcher can't control how many runs HIS TEAM scores

Chass' ignorance has no bounds. How he managed to make a career out of this is beyond my comprehension.

If the award were voted today, R.A. Dickey probably wouldn’t have a chance against Lee.

What? Why? Dickey has a lower WHIP, ERA and is better in every other meaningful metric. So this makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

I love how he doesn't even bother to look at the numbers of the HOF names that he throws out...

Palmer 2.86 ERA 1.180 WHIP 125 ERA+
Hunter 3.26 ERA 1.134 WHIP 104 ERA+
Roberts 3.41 ERA 1.170 WHIP 113 ERA+
Gibson 2.91 ERA 1.188 WHIP 127 ERA+

I don't think any proponents of more focus on more advanced stats would consider these pitchers bad at all. Combine these with the high win totals and these pitchers are all greats.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, the idea Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award two years ago will cause Murray Chass to be sarcastic about pitchers for the rest of his life. Murray is saying that Dickey is clearly the best pitcher, but Lee doesn't have any wins, and because wins are now worth nothing (b/c Felix won a Cy Young w/ 13 wins) then Cliff Lee will win the NL Cy Young. It's an exaggeration that only he finds amusing. It tells me once again he refuses or fails to understand the basic reason why Felix won the AL Cy Young in 2010.

Anon, I think Murray was being sarcastic because these guys all had a lot of wins and Sabermetricians obviously think they are bad pitchers because they have wins. Murray is being an ass and making it sound like those who believe wins are the deciding category on whether a pitcher had a good performance over a season think wins are a useless category as a whole.

He is old, bitter, angry, and too fucking lazy to try to understand the opposing line of thought. Back in his day, when he could write whatever he wanted and no one would question his unbridled wisdom this type of alternative thinking would never happen. Murray doesn't know how to handle the idea wins are the deciding factor in whether a pitcher should win the Cy Young Award so he uses sarcasm to make it sound like those who value other metrics along with wins believe wins are completely unimportant in determining a pitcher's performance over a season or a career. He's lazy and ignorant.