Thursday, June 20, 2013

10 comments Bruce Jenkins and Terence Moore Add Two More Entries to the "Back in My Day" Catalog

You may not know this, but everything was better back then. "Back when" you may ask? Back then. You know, back before yesterday and today and WAY before tomorrow. That's when things were great. At least this is what a lot of baseball writers seem to think. The old days were so much better than today, before everything got complicated with change in sports and different opinions about sports that cause change in sports. Many older baseball sportswriters are terrified of change. They drink out of the same coffee cup they drank out of 30 years ago and watch the same television shows they watched 30 years ago and definitely talk about sports using the same statistical measures they used 30 years ago. Today, Bruce Jenkins and Terence Moore remember the good old days fondly.

I'll start first with Terence Moore. He thinks players today aren't as durable as they used to be. Terence pretty much hates how everything is in baseball today. This includes modern celebrations, expanded replay, and how durable modern players are. Yes, that's right, Terence has already written on this topic. This doesn't stop him from writing about this topic again.

Slowly, "durability" is joining "true doubleheaders" and "day games during the World Series" as entities in baseball from a bygone era.

Two words: Bryce Harper.

One word: What?

What's up with this? He's 20 years old with a slew of baseball gifts, but durability isn't one of them.

Harper played in 139 games last season, and because he is human, his body is not made of steel, and therefore when he collides with a wall, that wall wins and causes Harper to need stitches. If only Harper could find a way to make his body stronger when colliding violently with a wall.

It seems as if most players in the Major Leagues today are just one diving catch, sprint to first or sizzling fastball shy of joining the disabled list.

That's why some MLB teams are having difficulty even fielding a roster of 25 players and each team's minor league system is depleted to where they can't even start a full rotation of healthy pitchers. Wait, this isn't happening? Then what the hell is Terence talking about?

Ask the Yankees. Nearly all those in pinstripes are susceptible to having "DL" next to their names.

The Yankees are a pretty old team. You can't expect a team full of players on the wrong side of 30 years old to stay healthy on a consistent basis. Injuries will occur, especially when guys like Jeter or A-Rod are closer to 40 years old than 30 years old.

I mean, Yankees cleanup hitter Curtis Granderson has been disabled twice with forearm and finger injuries, and the season is barely two months old.

So Granderson should learn to play through a broken arm? I'm sure Joe DiMaggio would have played through a broken arm with no problems.

Remember, too, we're living in a baseball generation of strict pitch counts, starters going every fifth day instead of four, complete games as dinosaurs and advanced fitness training.

Shouldn't the arms of pitchers be stronger? Not only that, with the aforementioned training for everybody, shouldn't players in general have more durability?

Not unless science has found a way over the last 50 years to make the human body stronger and more durable. There have been advances in improving rehab time, but a broken bone is still a broken bone. It's not like Curtis Granderson's bones should be stronger than George Brett's bones because Granderson plays baseball 20-30 years after Brett played baseball.

Earlier this month, Harper slammed into a wall at Dodger Stadium, where he first damaged his left knee while suffering a gash to his chin that required 11 stitches.

They don't make chins like they used to. Little known fact: Willie Mays actually had skin made out of metal, so when he hit a wall, the wall was hurt and Mays' chin was fine. 

He reinjured the knee three times on Sunday in a home game against the Phillies. There was his fouling a pitch off the thing, and there also were his two head-first slides.

Head-first slides are gritty! Shouldn't Terence Moore like a gritty player?

Is that really Harper's problem, though? What comes to mind is a discussion I had not long ago with the guy who virtually invented and perfected the head-first slide -- Pete Rose.

And guess what? Rose never was hurt.

It seems Terence is having causation issues. Pete Rose also bet on baseball while he was a player and manager. And guess what? Rose never was hurt. So if a player bets on baseball then this should decrease his odds of getting injured, right?

Rose also has more hits than anybody in baseball history, but here's what makes his accomplishments even more impressive: 10. That's how many games he missed during the entire 1970s. During 10 seasons, he played in 160 games or more, and that includes the 162 he played for the 1982 Phillies at 41 years old.

Terence Moore's point seems to be that one player over the last 30 years was very durable, so every player in 2013 should be as durable as that one player from 30 years ago was. I'm not sure how this is even supposed to make sense. It's like saying a guy at your work only missed 10 days due to sickness during his 30 years with the company, so every employee at the company should only miss 10 days due to sickness over 30 years. It makes not of sense.

No, the head-first slide has to be in you. It was part of Rose's competitive spirit, and that spirit dominated his era -- along with the ones before that.

Today's players aren't durable and they don't have the competitive spirit of Pete Rose. I'm not even sure why Major League Baseball bothers to play baseball games every summer. They may as well just fold the league up and move on. Baseball is ruined because nothing is the same as it used to be.

Even so, despite such a relentless approach to playing, you still didn't have many guys missing games as you do now.

A normal sportswriter would provide some sort of evidence to support this statement. Terence Moore is making shit up as he goes along and doesn't feel the need to support his supposedly fact-based statements with actual facts. He's old school in that way. Facts are for new-age statistics types who only care about computers and numbers. Terence doesn't need facts to support his statements because he was THERE. He knows because he was THERE. Players today are less competitive and less durable than they used to be. It's a fact because Terence wants it to be a fact.

Ty Cobb was Rose of the early 20th century, but despite his reckless abandon style, he played and played and played. Walter Johnson's arm was so famously dependable that he spent nine straight years throwing more than 300 innings during a season.

Stan Musial. Hank Aaron. Bob Gibson.

They all played and played, too.

So six players over the last 100 years have been very durable, so EVERY current MLB player should be as durable as these six players from the last 100 years. How the hell does this even begin to make sense? This is the kind of sportswriting we are up against. Logic has no place in much of today's sportswriting.  

The same went for Dale Murphy, who had the same Iron Man reputation as Rose and Garvey while starring on Braves teams that often were as lackluster as Rose's Big Red Machine and Garvey's Dodgers were potent.

The point is, Murphy played anyway.

Right, Murphy played anyway because he didn't have a broken arm. A broken arm makes it hard to swing a baseball bat.

You already know Cal Ripken Jr. (2,632) and Lou Gehrig (2,130) are at the top of the list, and they will be forever.

Then again, Prince Fielder is looking old school. He's the slugging first baseman of the Tigers who is more than that. He'll dive in a flash for grounders. He'll finish his mad dashes for second in search of stretching a single into a double with (dare I say) a head-first slide.

Plus, Fielder is fat. Being fat must be the key to staying healthy!...if we used Terence Moore logic this would of course be true.

He hasn't missed a game since Sept. 14, 2010, when he was with the Brewers. Entering Tuesday's action, his consecutive game playing streak was at 393 and counting.

Let's see how old school Fielder can be when he breaks his fucking arm.

So Fielder is 2,240 more consecutive games from Ripken.

That's all.

Every current player isn't threatening Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak so that must mean today's players aren't as durable as they used to be. It's so ridiculous. It took 56 years for Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak to be broken, so doesn't this mean players from "the good old days," including the Big Red Machine, weren't as durable as Terence remembers? Terence worships the Big Red Machine and the only player on the 1975 and 1976 teams that played all 162 games was Pete Rose. Another fun fact: the 10th longest games played streak in MLB history is 822 games. That's a lot of games in a row, but it also shows players throughout MLB history haven't been as durable as Terence wants to believe they have been.

Now for Bruce Jenkins. Bruce Jenkins hates the use of advanced statistics and today he (I swear) warns about the dangers of a batter getting ahead in the count. 

We like to think of the Bay Area as an enlightened corner of the world. We're big on tolerance, understanding, to each his own.

Except when it comes to acceptance of advanced statistics or any other method of evaluating baseball players that Bruce Jenkins doesn't like. He's tolerant of anything that he understands. If he doesn't understand something then he doesn't have to be tolerant of it.

There's an alarming trend in play, eating away at the game's fabric, and we have mercifully been spared its distasteful residue.

Old sportswriters who refuse to embrace new ideas?

Several years ago, when on-base percentage became baseball's most popular statistic, it got into people's heads that hitters should force the issue: be patient, run up the count, work a walk, generally spend as much time in there as possible.

Whoever thought that being patient, waiting for a pitch to hit, and then trying to get on-base was a bad thing? Apparently Bruce Jenkins thinks this.

If the opposition's pitch count begins to skyrocket, all the better.

In an age where starting pitchers are on pitch counts, then it might make sense to try to work the count. Working the count sounds like a bad idea until a player starts going up to the plate hacking at everything he sees and pitchers know this so they don't give him anything to hit.

This isn't necessarily a terrible idea -

Except in this situation Bruce Jenkins does think it is a bad thing.

Something happened, though. In the words of my friend Pedro Gomez, of ESPN, this approach to hitting forged "a generation of lookers." An aggressive approach became secondary, even discouraged.

I hear there is "a generation of lookers" as I watch B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and many other Braves slump and swing and miss at (it feels like) every pitch they see.

That's where it all went wrong. Baseball isn't the Army; it thrives on individuality and creative expression. All hitters are not the same.

Of course all hitters aren't the same. No one is saying all hitters are the same.

Don't you love how Sabermetrics gets blamed for hitters striking out too much and also gets blamed for hitters being too patient? It can't always be both. Sabermetrics can't always make hitters more patient, while also not discouraging strikeouts. I feel like the complaints about Sabermetrics aren't entirely consistent.

The Giants might be the most tolerant organization in the game - winning world titles as they go. They didn't try to standardize the eccentric Tim Lincecum or free-thinking Barry Zito.

Bruce Jenkins does realize Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum are pitchers and the supposed standardization of hitters doesn't apply to how the Giants have treated these two pitchers? So how the Giants treated Zito and Lincecum has very little to do with how they teach their hitters to be patient (or not patient) at the plate.

Sandoval, a .300-caliber hitter by anyone's measurement, leads the major leagues in swing percentage. Whatever the count, he swings at more pitches than anyone, and he's got some fairly elite company in that statistic's top 20: Miguel Cabrera, Jay Bruce, Yadier Molina, Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper.

Here is the issue where Bruce Jenkins seems to be having causation issues. Are Cabrera, Bruce, Freeman, Harper, etc great hitters because they have a high swing percentage or do these players have a high swing percentage because they are great hitters and know they can swing and hit most pitches that a pitcher will throw? Cabrera could swing at a lot of pitches because he knows he is talented enough to hit most pitches a pitcher will throw.

Hunter Pence has a style all his own, and it can be comical in futility, but the man is a player, and the Giants don't mess with him.

Again, causation problems are seen here. Do the Giants leave Pence alone because he is a great hitter or is he a great hitter because the Giants leave him alone? Why would you change success?

Also, what the fuck does "the man is a player" mean? It's useless hyperbole.

The reasons run off the page, but it's partially traceable to hitting coach Chili Davis and his willingness to let men be themselves. "That on-base philosophy's still there," he said in the A's dugout before Tuesday's game. "But when I interviewed for this job, I knew Billy was going to allow me to do it my way. I'm not an advocate of either extreme. I don't want a guy going up there swinging at the first pitch just to be swinging. But if you've been studying the pitcher two, three hitters before you, and you see him starting guys with fastballs down the middle, go jump on that thing.

So what we have learned is if a pitcher throws the ball down the middle of the plate then a hitter should swing at it? Wow, you learn so much listening to Chili Davis.

And how about the pitchers? Guys like Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander laugh at hitters trying to wear them out.

They are exceptions to the rule, not the rule. Darvish and Verlander can throw a ton of pitches during a game with success, while an average starting pitcher can't do this. So using outliers as an example of how batters aren't wearing out pitchers doesn't mean very much.

A lesser guy might be laboring, badly, and can be driven straight to the showers by patience.

Which might be a good reason to be patient at the plate, no?

Fans, managers and teammates love a really aggressive hitter who takes charge of the box and is up there to crush the ball - and someone's spirit - not fiddle around with the bat on his shoulder.

They love it until the player starts to swing and miss at pitches. Once a really aggressive hitter can't hit the baseball, fans, managers and teammates all want the hitter to be patient and try to find a pitch to hit. Bruce Jenkins says there is no one set way to hit, yet he seems to think being very aggressive is the best way to hit.

Strikeouts have been on the rise in the major leagues since 2006, with no end in sight, and think of the risk in trying to work a count in your favor: "You go 1-0, 2-0, that's not necessarily a fastball count any more," Davis said.

So it's a BAD THING when a hitter gets ahead in the count? It's not good to get ahead in the count because then you run the risk of not getting a fastball to hit and apparently professional hitters can only hit fastballs and in no way are able to hit offspeed pitches.

"The way guys throw changeups, splits, cutters, they can throw you totally off-balance.

I'm in disbelief. So it is bad to get ahead in the count? Shouldn't this beat the alternative of getting behind in the count? How is getting ahead in the count a bad thing? It forces the pitcher to throw a pitch closer to the strike zone or risk walking the batter. If changeups, splits, cutters are so hard to hit then why don't pitchers just throw those pitches all the time and never throw a fastball? It sounds ridiculous to ask that, but Chili Davis seems to overly-afraid of his hitters getting ahead in the count and having to face pitches that aren't fastballs. It's just dumb to state getting ahead in the count is in any way a bad thing.

Like Romo: tight spot, second and third, he ain't gonna throw a 2-0 heater down the middle. Here's the slider. Try to hit it."

And if the pitch is over the plate then the batter will try to hit. If the slider is off the plate then the batter will ignore it. That's the advantage of being up 2-0 in the count. A hitter doesn't have to swing at the next pitch. Romo isn't trying to throw a heater down the middle of the plate at any point, so why should a 2-0 count be a bad thing?

My point is that when a hitter is up 2-0 in the count, he doesn't have to try to hit a slider. That's the luxury of being up 2-0 in the count.

There's a bit of a firestorm burning in Seattle over Dustin Ackley, a tremendous hitting prospect out of North Carolina and the second overall draft pick in 2009. Minor-league coaching took the aggressiveness out of his approach, to the point where he floundered in the Seattle lineup and was sent back to the minors this week with the third-lowest swing percentage in either league.

Of course this hitting approach didn't prevent Ackley from succeeding in the minors and getting called-up to the majors, but I guess that's beside the point.

Manager Eric Wedge went crazy, railing about sabermetrics and how new-age thinking "ruined" Ackley. Wedge said the game was being taken over by "people who haven't played the game since they were 9 years old, and they've got it all figured out."

Obviously whenever a manager starts going crazy he is thinking very clearly and should immediately be listened to. The fact his rant makes complete sense to some people doesn't say much for those people.

The analytical types are firing back, portraying Wedge as a hopeless old fool, and it all gets to be rather pathetic.

Only in sports is being analytical portrayed as a bad thing. At a job interview no one tries to avoid being seen as too analytical. Being analytical is usually seen as a good thing, unless you are evaluating athletes apparently.

How nice to witness the Bay Area's theater of the forgiving, with a cast of characters well above the fray.

Just wait until Pablo Sandoval goes into a slump and his swinging at everything becomes a bad thing. It's nice to have a high swing percentage if you can hit the ball when you swing. Not every MLB player has the talent to have a high swing percentage and be successful at the plate and getting ahead in the count is definitely not a bad thing. I would say statistics back this statement up, but everyone knows Bruce Jenkins doesn't give a shit what the statistics say. 


Snarf said...

Was this written recently? Because Chris Davis is putting on a show right now and one of the biggest reasons is that he finally developed better pitch recognition and has become more patient/selective. Always had power but wasn't able to harness his potential because he swung too freely and pitchers knew that and could avoid the zone.

HH said...

Shouldn't the arms of pitchers be stronger? Not only that, with the aforementioned training for everybody, shouldn't players in general have more durability?

Only if you don't understand physiology. You can't strengthen ligaments - that's genetic. You can strengthen muscle, and we do, except that it doesn't help pitchers - bigger muscles would ruin their range of motion. Pitch speed depends on range of motion more than pure strength. As a result, you have pitchers pitching harder than ever on ligaments never evolved to throw 90 mph overhead.

Rose never was hurt. Rose also has more hits than anybody in baseball history

Yeah, why can't everybody be like the most extreme outlier in the history of the sport, a man both skilled and lucky enough never to be hurt?

Even so, despite such a relentless approach to playing, you still didn't have many guys missing games as you do now.

Compare footage of three randomly selected games from this year and from 1980. Players today play faster and harder, and will get hurt more. Hitting the wall at Harper's speed is more painful than hitting the wall at the average OF's speed in 1980, because athletes are better condition. And this is anecdotal, but I'd bet today's players dive more and crash into walls more. But if he can assert without evidence that players used to try harder, I can assert without evidence that that try harder today.

Ty Cobb. Stan Musial. Hank Aaron. Bob Gibson.

They all played and played, too.

Does he not understand that you have to be skilled AND lucky to become a Hall of Famer? Part of the luck is not getting injured (and part of that is genetic luck). Why not check how the guys we don't remember did in 1921, healthwise? Y'know, the ones that died of scurvy?

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, I caught this column a little late. The Jenkins column was written May 30, so it's not terribly old. I love the idea getting ahead in the count is a bad thing. Hilarious.

HH, that's a good point that pitch speed depends on range of motion. In 100 years we just aren't (I don't think) going to evolve to where a pitcher can throw a pitch 120 MPH a few times in a game.

The Pete Rose comparison, it's one of Terence's favorites since he loves Rose, but he is the exception to the rule not the rule. Moore basically wants to know why every player can't put up long games played streaks by using one of the biggest exceptions as an example. I don't see how he can't see how faulty this argument is.

He listed four guys over 60 years of baseball as the example, all Hall of Fame players. Part of the reason they are Hall of Famers is their talent, but also because they stayed healthy and had talent. Terence makes this same point a lot and I don't get why he thinks it is so persuasive.

snarf said...

As you have hinted on, isn't he essentially diminishing the greatness of said players by harping on the idea that everyone should be able to keep up with them and their accomplishments?

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, that is a good point. He sort of is saying the difference in a guy like Bryce Harper and Pete Rose lies partly in Rose's ability to stay healthy. So I would think this would diminish a bit from Rose's talent, no?

Dom said...

If Ty Cobb "played and played and played", then Nolan Ryan player and played and played and played and played. Also, I'd hate to work for an old-timer type boss who used Terrence Moore's logic; "Whattaya talkin' about, you caught a stomach virus'? Damnit, Dom. Every winter, it's the same story! Charlie hasn't missed a day in 15 years, and he smokes a pack and a half every 2 days. He didn't even miss any work while getting chemo!"

Bengoodfella said...

Dom, that would suck wouldn't it? Your boss would fire you because you couldn't measure up to the outlier in your office. It's a funny analogy to use and I would like to present that analogy to Terence to see what is response would be.

Bengoodfella said...

Actually, I have a feeling Terence would mumble something about the greatness of the Big Red Machine and then leave the room.

Dom said...

That's exactly my point, and it kinda goes hand-in-hand with Snarf's comment. If my boss, in this completely hypothetical situation, was to fire me, then wouldn't he have to fire nearly everyone else who occasionally got sick for not being a reliable workhorse like good ol' Charlie? It would seem to me that my boss's standards completely changed as a result of Charlie's years of dedicated service. That's what boggles my mind about Moore's column. He talks about Rose's streak" as if it's the most impressive thing since sliced bread, yet it seems like he fails to realize that it might not be quite as impressive if it suddenly became a common occurrence for a player to play as much as Rose did.

Bengoodfella said...

Dom, it's annoying because Terence does this all the time. He takes the outlier and then tries to make it seem like it is the norm. He does this in regard to players who never get injured, pitchers who could throw 19 complete games in a season while not hurting their arm, and in other situations as well.

Terence doesn't get the idea of an outlier and how that outlier isn't the norm.