Friday, December 26, 2014

2 comments Lowell Cohn Is Not Impressed With the Oakland A's Signing Billy Butler

Previously when covering a Lowell Cohn column on this site, he was angry over Colin Kaepernick's contractual demands. I wouldn't say Lowell is a Kaepernick-hater, but he's not a fan of the guy at all. Lowell seems pretty old-school, so he's taking a few shots at Billy Beane through the years as well. Lowell is not happy with the Billy Butler signing. On his personal blog, Lowell provides the same article, but uses the sarcastic title "A's Win World Series Early" as if Billy Beane had come out and stated that, yes, the A's will now win the World Series. The title is less sarcastic in his article on the "Press Democrat" site. Either way, Lowell is unimpressed with the Billy Butler signing. Obviously Billy Beane would have been better off simply not trying to improve the A's team. I'm sure that would have made Lowell much happier.

The Oakland A’s are a great offseason team. One of the best. 

Considering the A's are a team that generally stays out of the free agent market and don't make a splash in the offseason with big trades or throwing money around, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. If anything, the A's are a great regular season team. That I can see. 

No club wins a pennant or a world championship in the offseason like the A’s. 

If Lowell is referring to teams that do great things in the offseason and then underperform during the regular season, he's factually incorrect. That's not what the A's do. If Lowell is referring to the A's making a splash with big trades and big signings in the offseason that don't pay off, he's still factually incorrect. That's not what the A's do either. Something about Billy Beane makes baseball writers crazy.

The A’s, under the stewardship of Billy Beane, just pulled off another major offseason coup. They signed former Royals DH Billy Butler to a three-year contract.

Considering Butler is 28 years old and was signed for three years at $30 million and his career line is .295/.359/.449, and last year was the worst year of his career, I would say it isn't a bad signing. Lowell will use terms like "coup" to try and overstate the case in order to disprove something no one else believes. It's his only chance to be sarcastic and misstate the opinion of Butler's signing as a part of his anti-Billy Beane agenda.

People are falling all over themselves praising Beane because he did it again, won the American League title before November came to a close. This is so special.

Really, Lowell? People are "falling all over themselves praising Beane"? Look at the fawning on this SB Nation site. Then if you do a search for "Billy Butler signed by A's" and the praise for Beane is vast that it is almost non-existent. Then if you do a search for "Billy Butler A's win American League title" and you find...umm...well, no one saying the A's have won the American League title. In fact, most of those articles point out that Butler is just one piece of the puzzle if the A's want to compete again in the American League.

The A’s also are a great pre-September baseball club. Take last season. They were 28 games over .500 in early August. Their phenomenal record was virtually unheard of and they were outscoring opponents by an obscene margin and many experts were calling them a great team and everyone was praising their platoon system of batting. Believe me, the A’s don’t get enough credit for what they do before September year in and year out.

Writes Lowell Cohn with only the slightest hint of condescension. He won't be giving the A's credit for much longer, that's for sure. Billy Beane has the reputation for using methods to build the A's that Lowell finds scary and new (even though they are old by now, of course) and Beane's method of building the A's team can't exist without every failure of the A's during Beane's tenure also being pointed out.

I would like to add something else. This signing of Butler — more on his stats in a moment — is Beane’s best offseason signing since he nabbed closer Jim Johnson before last season. 

There we go. There's a mention of an A's player who didn't work out. Of course, it wouldn't be Lowell Cohn writing this if he wasn't somewhat factually incorrect. Johnson wasn't signed by the A's, they traded for him. The A's gave him $10 million in arbitration for one season and then later released him during the season. It's not exactly a historically terrible blunder that will drag the franchise down for years to come.

But Lowell's point is that just last season Billy Beane paid a player $10 million and that player ended up being a disappointment. So Billy Beane isn't perfect. YOU GOT HIM NOW, LOWELL! Now go for the kill by pointing out that Beane has (gasp) probably signed other players who didn't make the All-Star team. Just be sure to ignore all the free agent signings and trades that Beane has made which worked out.

Johnson had 50 saves for Baltimore the year before Beane got him. And Johnson lasted almost to August before the A’s released him.

Fire Billy Beane! He made a mistake!

Maybe it’s unfair to compare the Butler and Johnson signings because, obviously, Johnson came to the A’s with more recent success than Butler. If I’m being unfair to Butler, forgive me.

You are not forgiven and you are being unfair. It's unfair to compare Butler to Johnson because one was a 30 year old relief pitcher and the other is a 28 year old DH/1B. It's unfair to compare Butler to Johnson because Billy Butler has had success every year in the majors except for 2014. It's clearly an outlier year on his resume.

Here’s the big point. A’s fans should no longer mourn the loss of Yoenis Cespedes because now they have Butler, a man who slugged, slammed, smashed nine home runs last season in 151 games.

I'm not sure if a person can smell sarcasm, but I am definitely getting a strong whiff of sarcasm from Lowell Cohn right now. Butler hit 21, 15, 19, 29, and 15 home runs the five full years before 2014 though. Of course, why would Lowell pay attention to Butler's entire career when he can choose one year of that career to represent his talent in an unfair way?

It’s an astonishing accomplishment. I mean, sure, Beane ruined the A’s chances last season when he traded Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, 

Sure, this is an opinion and not a fact.

but now he’s back on track with Butler who, in addition to his nine big dingers last season had 15 the year before. It’s hard to find sluggers like that.

Comparing Butler and Cespedes by one statistic isn't exactly a fair comparison (which is obviously Lowell's intent). I'll dive deeper since Lowell is too lazy to do this.

Butler has a career line of .295/.359/.449. Cespedes has a career line of .263/.316/.464. You know what? Let's talk easy numbers that Lowell understands. Strikeouts are bad, right? Butler has struck out once every 6.2 at-bats in his career. Cespedes has struck out once every 4.4 at-bats in his career. Walks are good, right? Butler has walked once every 10.1 at-bats in his career. Cespedes has walked once every 14.0 at-bats in his career.

Billy Butler averages 38 doubles over his career in a 162 game season and Cespedes averages 32 doubles over his career in a 162 game season. Cespedes has more raw power and Butler is more of a gap hitter who gets on-base. There should be no real comparison between the two, especially since they don't even play the same position. Yet, in an effort to rub Beane's nose in the dirt, Lowell insists on a comparison. Butler isn't a slugger.

One other thing, Butler is making $6.667 million next year and turns 29 in April. Cespedes is making $10.5 million next year and turns 30 in October when he will be a free agent.

In a conference call, Beane explained why he made this epic Butler deal. “He’s a right-handed, middle-of-the-lineup guy, which is really hard to come by these days. His age (28), certainly his body of work over the last few years. He stayed very healthy his whole career. Bats are rare, not the easiest thing to come by these days.”

"Epic"? This isn't an epic deal. If Lowell wants to see an epic deal maybe he can pay attention to what Yoenis Cespedes will get on the open market next summer or look at the $36 million over four years that Beane gave to Cespedes when he had zero track record of success in the majors.

Beane acknowledged Butler’s nine big flies last season was a bit underwhelming. Beane admitted he didn’t know why Butler’s power numbers fell off. He referenced Butler’s 2012 season when he hit 29 home runs with 107 RBIs.

In fairness, 2012 wasn’t that long ago.

But why be fair when there is an agenda to be pushed? Lowell doesn't really like Billy Beane and wants to discredit any successes he has while also pointing out all of Beane's failures, as if the A's haven't been one of the most successful regular season MLB teams over the last decade with one of the lowest payrolls in the majors.

Beane kept talking about Butler’s “body of work” — like Butler was a novelist or composer — to deflect attention from recent history.

Sort of like how you aren't mentioning Cespedes home run and walk rate have decreased every year he's been in the majors and he's essentially becoming a powerful hitter who can't get on-base? How some of his comparables are Craig Monroe, Bubba Trammell and Larry Sheets? You don't mention how some of Butler's comparables are Harold Baines, Will Clark, John Olerud, Alvin Davis, and Nick Markakis?

Beane admitted Butler’s two so-so years in a row drove down his value so the impoverished A’s could afford him. Now, we understand the logic of this move. It was good Butler had only 66 RBIs last season and pretty much sucked. That made him available to Oakland.

RBI's are the product of having people on-base that can be driven in. Butler isn't a big RBI guy and isn't a big home run guy. Don't criticize him for what he isn't going to be, while ignoring what he can be.

To put middle-of-the-lineup Butler’s stats in context, compare him to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, that known power hitter.

I get continuously frustrated with these baseball sportswriters who have no fucking clue how to use numbers and notice outliers in a set of data. How terrible were the math teachers at public schools in the 1960's and 1970's? Prior to last year, Crawford had never hit more than 9 home runs in a season. Lowell is taking the best power year of his Crawford's career and the worst power year of Butler's career and trying to make them the same type of hitter. It doesn't work that way.

True, Crawford mostly batted eighth, just before the pitcher, which means he’s the worst hitter among the regulars.

Crawford actually batted seventh mostly. He had 212 plate appearances as the 8th hitter and 255 plate appearances as the 7th hitter. But again, what are facts when Lowell has a point he wants to prove? I bet he misses the days when everybody believed what he wrote and refused to do research to find out if Lowell was too lazy to do research in backing up his claims. Those were the good ol' days.

But a comparison with Butler seems warranted. Last season, Crawford hit 10 home runs, one more than Butler. Crawford’s slugging percentage was .389. Butler’s was .379.

Crawford's career slugging percentage is 0.359 and Butler's is 0.449. I know, I know, I am daring to use statistics from years prior to the 2014 while outrageously acting like neither Brandon Crawford and Billy Butler were rookies last year. How dare I act like two players who have played multiple years in the majors aren't rookies in order to allow Lowell to push his agenda!

Maybe Butler can help the A’s improve from September on. They are not so good at “from September on.” In 2012 and 2013, they got run out of the playoffs in the Division Series. 

Lowell thinks that Billy Beane should figure out how to build a team that wins in October. Since Lowell is so smart, maybe he can figure out how to build a team that will win every year in October and then share it with the rest of the MLB teams. I'm sure they would love to know how to do this.

Last season, despite having a terrific record for a long time, they finished 10 games behind the Angels and got dismissed — yes, dismissed — in the wild-card game by Kansas City.

They weren't exactly "dismissed" by the Royals. The Royals threw a late comeback on the A's to win the stupid one-game Wild Card playoff. In fact, if Lowell wants to talk about what Billy Butler has done most recently, perhaps he would mention Butler was 2-for-4 with two RBI in the American League Wild Card game. To do that would be giving Butler and Beane credit, so no matter if Butler helped the Royals win the one-game playoff against the A's, Lowell won't mention this. He sure as hell will mention the Royals beat the A's in that game, but won't reveal how. Narratives and agendas. That's all that matters.

It is distressing when a team wins the World Series in the offseason but can’t win the wild-card game on Sept. 30.

The A's have never won the offseason. I don't know where Lowell gets this from.

Some of the blame goes to Beane. He loused up the team by trading Cespedes. Hardly anyone knew it at the time. I sure didn’t. Beane should have known. It’s his job to know.

Yes, it's Billy Beane's job to predict the future and know that a risky trade he made would not pay off. I don't know if he loused up the team by trading Cespedes. He wanted a proven ace to carry the A's through the World Series. As seen by Madison Bumgarner's performance in the postseason, Beane clearly had the right idea about finding an ace. Again, Lowell won't mention Beane's idea to find an ace who would put the team on his back worked out for the Giants.

And there’s something else. Beane is more intrusive than other GMs. What does intrusive mean in this case? I believe Beane involves himself in the day-by-day managing of the club. He doesn’t phone manager Bob Melvin once the game starts and tell him what to do. Nothing like that. But he gets involved with the lineup. And I imagine he’s the one who insists on strict platooning — which sometimes takes a hot batter out of the order.

I don't know if this is true or not, but neither does Lowell. He has no idea if Beane is more intrusive than other GMs. He's just making a guess that (shockingly!) goes to prove the point he wants to prove. Look at the language Lowell uses here to make it seem like he knows something about Beane that he doesn't in fact know. He's guessing.

Beane is more intrusive than other GMs.

That is a statement of fact. Beane IS more intrusive than other GMs.

I believe Beane involves himself in the day-by-day managing of the club. 

This statement shows that Lowell is guessing and passing it off as fact. "I believe Beane involves himself..." He's guessing, he doesn't know like he indicated in the previous sentence.

But he gets involved with the lineup.

Another statement of fact. Beane gets involved with the lineup, which other GMs tend to do as well. Lowell appears to know this is a fact and not an opinion. But wait...

And I imagine he’s the one who insists on strict platooning — 

"And I imagine..." Lowell gives himself away that he's making statements of fact and then admitting that he doesn't know those statements are true. It's what he "believes" or "imagines," which is so clearly far from the facts that he presents them to be that no credible sportswriter could pretend he is doing anything here other than guessing.

But don't worry, here comes the kicker. All of the speculation, it leads to Billy Beane pulling hot hitters from the lineup and directly affecting whether the A's win games. Not only is Beane a terrible GM who can't win in the postseason, he is personally responsible for the lineup decisions that causes the A's to lose games. Lowell is taking his guesses and coming to the conclusion he desperately wants to reach.

which sometimes takes a hot batter out of the order.

You hear that? Billy Beane sometimes takes a hot batter out of the order because Lowell "imagines" that Beane is the one who insists on strict platooning and "believes" that Beane involves himself with the day-to-day managing of the club. Can you believe what Billy Beane does? Based on the potentially imaginary tale that Lowell has just spun, he is removing batters from the order, which causes the A's to lose games. WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS BE STOPPED?

And of course, Beane only gets intrusive and insists on strict platooning in the postseason, because otherwise Lowell would have to admit IF Beane is intrusive on Bob Melvin's decisions then they tend to work out a lot. But Lowell wants it both ways. He wants to blame Beane for being intrusive, blame him for the team's failures, while also shutting Beane out for getting any credit for the A's success in the regular season. What agenda? Lowell ain't seen no agenda.

This meddling is noticeable. I notice it. You notice it. The players notice it. There’s the rub. Beane runs the risk players will lose respect for Melvin, a perfectly respectable man and a fine manager. Beane should think about this.

But he won't think about this because HE'S A MONSTER! Beane insists on taking the A's to the postseason and running the team his way. What GM other than Beane would have such a huge ego?

But he doesn’t have to think about it right now. The baseball season is months away and life is wonderful and the A’s just won the World Series.

Nobody said that. You are setting the expectation so you can later knock Billy Beane down when/if that expectation isn't met.

Lowell's agenda in regard to Billy Beane is so transparent it's almost laughable. He sets a high expectation that no one else has set for the A's, just so he can brag when Beane doesn't meet this expectation. Then Lowell creates a narrative based on his own assumptions in order to make Beane look like a controlling overlord. What a joke.


Snarf said...

Wait... When have the A's been the team that won the offseason?!?!?! Just off memory that was Boston three years ago, Miami two years ago, Toronto last year and San Diego this year.

Bengoodfella said...

You got me when the A's have been the team that won the offseason. I don't remember that at all. I think Lowell is just saying that because it fits what he is looking to write.