Wednesday, October 3, 2012

6 comments Murray Chass Has Resorted to Lying in Order to Prove His Position as Correct

Murray Chass had a few thoughts about Stephen Strasburg and his innings count on his non-blog recently. Murray also takes a shot at defending his belief the wins statistic is very, very super important. Murray then takes on a reader who dares to question the all-knowing and relevance of the wins statistic, but as usual, really fails to make his point very clearly. For his grand finale, Murray loses the ability to read and criticizes a columnist for something he didn't write.

On the subject of Felix Hernandez, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: He is the best pitcher in baseball.

Murray believes Felix Hernandez shouldn't have won the 2010 Cy Young Award because he didn't have enough wins. Also, I'm not sure Murray has ever said Felix is the best pitcher in baseball before, but maybe he has. In my defense, I'm trying to lower my blood pressure so I only read Murray's non-blog once a week and I could have missed Murray's proclamation of love for Felix Hernandez.

I bring it up now for two reasons: his performance in his last three starts

And really, why wouldn't Murray fall in love with Hernandez based completely on a small sample size? It's really fitting that Murray hates on Hernandez for having a great 2010 season but not having enough wins, then falls in love with Hernandez in 2012 based on a three game sample size.

and the Washington Nationals’ mean-well but questionable pampering of Stephen Strasburg.

Naturally, Murray loves Hernandez based on a three game sample size and for another reason that has nothing to do with how well Hernandez pitches, which is based on how the Nationals are pampering Stephen Stasburg. I wouldn't be surprised if Murray states there is a third reason he loves Hernandez and that third reason is because Hernandez emigrated to the United States legally. Everything is on the table right now in terms of Murray's reasoning.

The pampering, of course, is intended to protect young pitchers’ arms. But if the idea is intended to protect and preserve young pitchers’ arms, why are 20 young pitchers from major league rosters among 30 pitchers recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery (a.k.a. Tommy John surgery) and why are 6 other young pitchers among 9 pitchers recovering from shoulder surgery?

I don't know. Are the attempts to preserve these pitcher's arms the reason they are getting injured or are these pitchers getting injured, so that means they need their arms better preserved? I hear there may be a new "X-Files" movie, so maybe they will tackle this big mystery.

I asked Chuck Armstrong, the Seattle Mariners’ president for 20 years, if the Mariners proceeded carefully with Hernandez in his early major league years.
“Actually, we did in his formative years,” Armstrong said, then cited a rule of thumb some people espouse: “No more innings than 10 times a pitcher’s age.”
This number is no less arbitrary than the Nationals putting a 160-180 inning limit on Stephen Strasburg. No one knows the correct amount of pitches a pitcher should throw to stay healthy, outside of "zero" pitches, of course. So to pretend "No more innings than 10 times a pitcher's age" is actual science is actual bullshit.

In six full seasons he has started, in order, 31, 30, 31, 34, 34 and 33 games (27 so far this season, with 7 more likely to follow). But he has had no need for elbow or shoulder surgery.

Why do some football players blow out their ACL when other football players do not? Why did Greg Maddux have a rubber arm? The reason for elbow injuries is incredibly hard to pinpoint. It isn't like an ACL or sprained ankle. A pitcher could feel a twinge and then it turns out his arm is shredded. It isn't like the pitcher's arm starts turning red as the elbow starts to get irritated and then finally falls off once the elbow is shredded. No one really knows why some pitchers have elbow problems and others don't.

The only person who has the answer to questions about Tommy John surgery and how to prevent a pitcher's elbow from blowing is probably Dr. James Andrews and he isn't talking because he makes a ton of money off performing the surgery. I know Dr. Andrews knows how to prevent these injuries, but until he is captured in the middle of the night and tortured until he gives the secret up, we as a general public are stuck guessing as to how to prevent pitchers from having elbows that get blown out.

“I wonder how many pitches he has in his arm. He’s not a maximum effort guy anymore. If he needs to get up to 95, 96, he can, but he doesn’t have to. Early on he often threw a lot of pitches. Now he tells me ‘I’m going to throw 98 pitches tonight’ and he does it.”

Hernandez is a 26 year old. Strasburg is 24 years old. Hernandez isn't a maximum effort guy anymore. What does this mean? I'm not sure, but the insinuation I get from the Mariners president is if Hernandez were a maximum effort guy perhaps he could have a higher propensity to get injured. Maybe that's part of the key to staying healthy, not being a max-effort pitcher.

Did you hear that up-and-coming pitchers? The key to not getting hurt is not trying your hardest. There will be a seminar at the Winter Meetings this offseason led by Hanley Ramirez and Brad Penny on exactly what this means and how to go about not trying your hardest. Red Sox fans upon learning this is how pitchers can prevent from being injured are shocked that John Lackey needed Tommy John surgery.

I had Hernandez in mind recently when I replied to a reader who disagreed with my view that wins for pitchers remain meaningful despite a contrary belief of advocates of new-age statistics.

Three complaints:

1. Wins are still relevant, but they aren't the end-all-be-all for how well a pitcher pitched. I've covered this repeatedly.

2. I use the term too often, but calling them "new-age statistics" makes me feel like I am burning incense and playing Yanni while crunching numbers. Can we call them "modern statistics" or "post-millennium statistics?" Just something that sounds cool and progressive...not something that sounds like I am drinking green tea and hanging out in a tent somewhere.

3. If Murray had Hernandez in mind when this reader questioned the use of the "wins" statistics and loves Hernandez now, does that mean he is ready to admit he was wrong about Hernandez not deserving the 2010 Cy Young Award?

Spoiler alert: No, it does not.

“How does a starting pitcher have ‘control?’” the reader wrote, referring to relievers’ giving up the starter’s lead.

A pitcher never has complete control of the outcome in a game. The only way a pitcher has some control over the outcome of the game is if he pitches 9 innings of shutout ball and hits a home run when he comes up to bat. Otherwise, he is subject to his team not hitting or fielding the baseball well. That's the bottom line...well, for Murray that's not the bottom line.

“By pitching nine innings,” I replied.

No, no, no, no, no. A pitcher still doesn't have control if he pitches nine innings. I can pitch nine innings and lose 1-0. I can pitch nine innings and lose 12-11. Sure, a pitcher who throws a complete game probably has a better chance of winning that game because the fact he pitched the full nine innings indicates he was pitching well. The number of innings a pitcher pitches (over five innings to earn the win of course) has nothing to do with the amount of control he has on whether he gets the win or not. "Win" is a team statistic. I don't hate this team statistic, and a pitcher can certainly take some variables out of the equation to earn the win by pitching the entire game, but this isn't a cure-all answer for a pitcher to gain control over whether he gets the win or not.

In today's game, pitchers simply don't pitch nine innings in most of their starts. This is part of the reason the "win" statistic has lost some relevance, because the rise of the specialty reliever has caused pitchers to have less control over whether they win or lose the game. This is how the game of baseball is evolving. Instead of admitting the direction baseball has evolved, Murray clings to the idea wins are still very, very relevant when this isn't true. Murray is more willing to hold on to a less-relevant statistic than he is willing to admit the direction baseball has evolved. It's kind of sad. I will give a very brief example to show how a team's offense affects a pitchers wins using very basic statistics that Murray should be able to understand.

First, I will compare Felix Hernandez to CC Sabathia over the last two years.

In 2010, Felix Hernandez had 6 complete games and won 13 games.
In 2011, Felix Hernandez had 5 complete games and won 14 games.

In 2010, CC Sabathia had 2 complete games and won 21 games.
In 2011, CC Sabathia had 3 complete games and won 19 games.

That was with the Yankees. Before that, Sabathia played for the Indians/Brewers when he managed to throw more complete games, but not win more games. As you can see, Sabathia didn't have to complete more games to ensure he got a win, while Felix Hernandez had to complete more games to ensure he got a win. It's almost like there is another variable the pitcher can't control which decides if a pitcher gets a win or not.

In 2006, Sabathia had 6 complete games and won 12 games.
In 2007, Sabathia had 4 complete games and won 19 games.
In 2008 (with the Indians and Brewers), Sabathia had 10 complete games and won 17 games.

A pitcher who completes a game has a better shot at getting the win, but if a pitcher has enough offense, he doesn't have to complete a game to get the win.

Should the Nationals, who have led the National League East since May 22, suddenly encounter trouble, Strasburg will not be able to help rescue them.

Well, he could theoretically pitch again if he had to. Strasburg could pitch in late September after a 2-3 layoff.

They are being cautious, overly cautious, I believe. Elbows are supposed to be stronger after Tommy John surgery. Using the rule of thumb Armstrong cited, 10 times Strasburg’s age would give him a maximum of 240 innings, well above the number he will have, even accounting for the operation.

That is true, but if Strasburg gets hurt and needs Tommy John surgery then they will be out until next year at this time. I don't know if it makes sense to sit Strasburg, but the "10 innings for every year of the pitcher's age" theory is still just a guess. It isn't an exact science, so Murray shouldn't act like it is.

A column in The New York Times two weeks ago said injury experts “have praised the team” for its stance on Strasburg’s injury, but the writer doesn’t name or quote any of his experts.

Scott Boras think it was a good decision to shutdown Strasburg. He is not an expert, but neither is Murray Chass. Again, there isn't one definite way to know what the best move in this situation was.

The writer, David Leonhardt, is the Times’ Washington bureau chief. Geography apparently qualifies him to make other questionable statements.

Apparently being an ex-sportswriter qualifies Murray Chass to make questionable statements about wins and how many innings pitched is too many pitched for a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery.

Leonhardt also makes conflicting statements about the Nationals’ status.

This is annoying. I don't know what old-school sportswriters believe, but I believe it is polite to provide a link to an article that you are not only citing, but also criticizing at-length in a column. I thought Murray was supposed to be a professional sportswriter, not a blogger who completely disregards years of proven writing etiquette? Provide a link to the article you are criticizing.

I will link the article. Here is the part where Murray starts lying. Murray never provides a link to Leonhardt's column and the reason he doesn't do this is so he can misconstrue and lie about what Leonhardt wrote. What Murray wrote is in bold black and what Leonhardt wrote is in bold black italics.

On one hand, he writes that the Nationals are good enough to have a chance to make the World Series even without Strasburg, which probably isn’t so.

What Leonhardt wrote:

Even without Strasburg, the Nationals are a good team, good enough to have a shot at the World Series title.

Murray is talking about the Nationals simply making it to the World Series, when the sentence written by Leonhardt actually stated the Nationals have an actual shot at winning the World Series title.

On the other hand, he says that even with Strasburg, the Nationals probably wouldn’t make it because Baseball Reference ranks them only as the third best team in baseball, based on various statistics.

Here comes the lie. What Leonhardt actually wrote:

But it is certainly less likely. As is, Washington appears to be only the third best team in baseball, behind the Yankees and the Texas Rangers, according to a Baseball Reference ranking that takes into account team records, strength of schedule and run differential.

Leonhardt says the Nationals probably wouldn't WIN the World Series title. He didn't say they wouldn't make it to the World Series. There is a huge difference. The fact Murray has either (a) lied or (b) read this sentence like he wanted to read it, rather than read what it actually says causes Murray to continue with his criticism of Leonhardt (without providing a link to the article of course).

Two comments about that observation:
Baseball games are won and lost on the field, not on a sheet of statistics.
He was simply saying the Nationals are the third-best team when Strasburg is pitching every fifth day, so when Strasburg is no longer pitching every fifth day the Nationals may not be able to win the World Series. Murray shouldn't get his panties in a bunch because Leonhardt used statistics that Murray doesn't want to understand or is incapable of understanding.

If Leonhardt thinks the Nationals’ chances of getting to the World Series are not good, even with Strasburg, because they are ranked third behind the Yankees and the Rangers, is he suggesting that the Yankees and the Rangers would meet in the World Series?

Leonhardt said the Nationals chances of WINNING the World Series aren't good. He wasn't talking about the Nationals making it to the World Series without Strasburg when comparing them to the Yankees and Rangers, but WINNING the World Series with Strasburg. Reading comprehension is FUNdamental.

That’s not likely to happen because both are American League teams.

Great point dipshit and not a very good criticism. Perhaps you should read the sentence a little closer before criticizing what Leonhardt wrote.

A team from the National League would be needed, and if the Nationals are the top-ranked N.L. team, maybe they would be the N.L. representative.

It's always frustrating when a blogger like Murray Chass reads what he wants to from a column written by the mainstream sports media, then goes off half-cocked and criticizes this sportswriter for no good reason. Bloggers are so annoying.

It’s commendable that the Nationals want to protect Strasburg’s future, but even if he were to hurt his arm, he would live to pitch again and he and his grateful teammates might have World Series rings to gaze at as he awaits his next recovery.

What if Strasburg hurt his arm during the NL Divisional Series? Then Strasburg would have hurt his arm and the Nationals wouldn't have any World Series rings to gaze at.

I find it interesting Murray Chass finds bloggers to be so bad for the future of journalism, yet Murray is the one who doesn't provide a link to an article he criticizes, misconstrues what that article is stating, and blindly sticks to his point of view even in the face of contrary evidence.


ivn said...

He doesn't really even try to connect Hernandez and Strasburg beyond the fact that Felix carried a heavier workload than Strasburg did at that point in his career. Felix is bigger and stronger and has much better mechanics. He is also, as Murray Chass pointed out, far more efficient with his pitches than Strasburg because he doesn't try to strike everyone out the way Strasburg does. The two are barely alike.

and Chuck Armstrong needs to spend less time talking to elderly bloggers and more time finding guys who know how to hit.

rich said...

It's absolutely incredible that Murray doesn't seem to understand that every pitcher is different. Strasburg throws hard and while his off-speed pitches are also very good, the wear and tear on his arm is much greater than a guy like, say, Jamie Moyer.

When you hit the upper 90s and have a biting breaking pitch, your shoulder and elbow are more taxed than if you throw in the lower 90s and don't have such a violent motion on your breaking ball.

Also, when a guy is your franchise player and is just coming off serious surgery you may take it easy on him.

Elbows are supposed to be stronger after Tommy John surgery.

Does Murray actually believe that just having your arm hacked at will lead to your elbow being stronger? It's a major surgery, there's always risks with re-injuring it and while modern day techniques have improved player recovery, it's not an instantaneous process.

Kyle Drabek has required Tommy John twice now. Murray should go talk to him.

That and one of last year's big injuries was Adam Wainwright requiring Tommy John surgery and while he eventually regained his "old" form, he was a shell of his former self for quite a bit of the season.

Nationals are good enough to have a chance to make the World Series even without Strasburg, which probably isn’t so.

I know you tore this statement apart Ben, but this is hysterical to me.

Unless the Nationals odds of making the World Series is ZERO, there is a chance of them making a World Series. Murray even says they probably won't make the WS... which means he's admitting that there is still the possibility of the Nationals making the WS.

"It probably won't" is not mutually exclusive of "there is a chance."

So even if Murray's paraphrased portion of the article were the true version, his sentiments would have been utterly moronic.

he would live to pitch again

Someone tell this to the multitude of guys who got hurt once and never came back, let alone twice.

You think Mark Prior would love to have a second shot at being an ace?

Strasburg pitched well and showed no real signs of lingering affects from his injury, that's a huge positive. He also struggled a lot the last few starts, so it was obvious something wasn't right. The Nationals totally should have kept pitching him because even if he kept being ineffective and hurt himself, they could have WS rings... rings Murray said the Nationals probably weren't winning.

There are only a handful of writers who can destroy their own points this quickly...

CRS said...

I would love to see Jamie Moyer come back next year, if only because at age 50 he could be penciled in for 500 innings.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, there were issues if I remember correctly with Strasburg's delivery coming out of the draft. I don't remember if they were major concerns or issues, but I do remember them.

I think the part of Chuck Armstrong's statement about Felix not going all out for the entire game is part of the reason Felix stays healthy. He knows when to go all out and when to dial it back a little bit. I feel the same way about Maddux. Granted, his motion was smooth and he didn't throw hard...but he knew there were times to take something off his pitches and he didn't have to throw his fastball at 89-90 mph to get a hitter out.

If I were Armstrong I would be searching desperately for hitters too. I hear they bringing the fences in a little bit or something, so that's a start.

Rich, that's my major issue with Strasburg's pitches are that they seem so violent. He has that hard fastball and hard-breaking curveball. The violence of his pitches would concern me he could injure his elbow again. I'm glad the Nationals sat him and if I were the GM I probably would have limited Strasburg's innings through the year once they saw the postseason was a possibility so he could pitch in the postseason.

Elbows are stronger after surgery, but that doesn't mean a pitcher can come back and immediately start pitching. It used to be a full year and a half after TJ surgery when pitchers were coming back and that is being shortened to a year or so now. I don't know how it is for younger pitchers but I know for older pitchers it takes time to get back to where they were previous to the TJ surgery.

Murray completely didn't read that portion of the article. He just read what he wanted to read from it in a desperate attempt to prove his point.

If I am the Nationals I don't know if I sit him, but that's their decision. They are pretty strong without him still. It takes talent to destroy your own point like that.

CRS, that's not a bad workload really. No more than 10 times a pitcher's age. I think Moyer could pitch 500 innings, no problem.

Dave said...

10 times a players age!!! That is the worst!

Bengoodfella said...

Dave, if it isn't the worst, then it is at least not scientific at all. Maybe that's a bigger rule than I know, but I've never heard of it before.