You Are Sorry You Were Right?
It is a tough spot to be in. You are right about something that you were the overwhelming minority opinion on. You got ripped up and down and now... what do you do? Do you say, I told you so?
To complicate matters more the argument is about a Minnesota Twin... after a horrible Twins year. Now, to say something, is a bit of piling on. Not only do I call out Jesse, one of the main SB Nation Twins Bloggers, but also numerous fellow Twins fans and Twinkie Town contributors.
When you are wrong about something it is easy to write a mea culpa... in fact, it is honorable. To say that you were wrong about something not only warms you to those who disagreed with you in the first place, it brings you to their side. You are now on their team. We are in this together now... if you forgive me.
The other side wreaks of arrogance though. Why? Maybe it is the same reason people thought Jim Harbaugh looked like a raving jackalope yelling "Yee Haw!" as he shook Lions Coach Schwartz's hand after winning a week 6 game.
In February I wrote a quick piece on Francisco Liriano.
I thought the Twins were right to not pay him the money that young #1/#2 would get coming up to their last year in arbitration. I saw the stuff that he has but I also saw glaring weaknesses that if not improved upon were going to keep him from being a consistent MLB starter.
It is also a weird feeling to have taken such a strong stance against someone and then cheer for him every 5th day with the thought that if he pitches great, I'm wrong... but the Twins probably win. If he pitches poorly, I am closer to right... but the Twins probably lose.
In the end though, this isn't about the Twins... this isn't about Liriano... this is about taking a stance against the ridiculous notion that Francisco Liriano is an MLB ace instead of what he really is; He is a solid #3 that will dazzle you with his stuff but confound you with his lack of trust in it; try to fruitlessly paint the corners until you look up and he has 109 pitches through 5 or 6 innings and have to turn the ball over to someone else. To all those who took fearless, overconfident potshots at my take by looking up his stats on baseball-reference, pretending to really understand what outliers means, overemphasizing ratios, sabre formulas instead of doing what is and what always will be the best method for evaluating talent (Actually watching baseball games) this is my anti-mea culpa.
The Sniff Test
I know I am old school. I don't shy away from that fact at all. As a guy in my early 30's I may just be on the edge of the sabremetrics emersion into baseball. Most baseball guys younger than me obsess about it. Don't get me wrong, I read Bill James' Handbook cover to cover every year. I also get Baseball Prospectus, Ron Shandler's Forecaster and The Fielding Bible. I understand the value that each of these have. The confusion that lies within these publications is the notion that this is the way to evaluate. When I talk to people about talent what they read in these publications are the things they bring up. For hitters they don't talk about bat speed, how a batters hands get through the zone, plate coverage, plate discipline, inside coverage... they talk about line drive % and isolated power, baBIP and WAR. For pitchers they don't talk about tilt, movement, command and pitch selection they talk about xFIP and WAR, fly ball % and baBIP.
All these are fine in their own right. I understand the attraction to these stats. You can calculate them, sort them and if that stat is what you believe best illustrates a hitter's or pitcher's ability then it is tough to argue against. From a quick reference standpoint these stats do a great job of generalizing a players ability but it definitely can overstate it as well.
To take the stance that sabremetrics is not perfect or that there are limitations and flaws within them to those who follow sabremetric tools is like telling the Pope there is no god. Sabremetrics is like a religion in baseball with a growing number of people and one that you better be on the inside of or at least be the good citizen church go-er or be warned of the ramifications.
So what religion do I follow? I watch baseball... more than you (in most cases). To a fault I watch it. That in itself is not enough. To truly evaluate talent you need to watch it in person... and close to the action. Where do scouts watch games when they are evaluating someone? Do they sit in the LF bleachers? Do they sit in the press box? No, they are right behind the plate (or close to it). They don't stop evaluating in-between innings either. They watch everything they can. They don't leave to get a hot dog, they don't go online and grab their scoutees outliers and they certainly don't show up at first pitch. The evaluation is happening during batting practice & seeing them work on their craft well before any paying customer is anywhere near the concourse.
This isn't the world most of us live in so the general tendency is to trust the sources that other people trust. If really smart people came up with a generally accepted principle then what's wrong with following their lead and regurgitating it in conversation? Nothing.
On the same account, what is wrong with watching someone and evaluating his skills over a certain period of time and coming to a conclusion about his ability? If it is seen that a guy continually does something over and over and over... either really good or really poor... isn't it better to say that I have seen this skill rather than I saw this guys xFIP or baBIP? Apparently not anymore.
It may be as simple as not knowing who someone is to argue against a non-stat supported take. If I were Ken Rosenthal I doubt that I would have gotten the response that I got from my Liriano post. The ironic thing is that Rosenthal is less of a baseball nerd that most of us. He is great at articulating his thoughts, rumors and passing the word on what he has heard in his obscenely connected life but, even self-admittedly, he isn't a talent evaluator. Yet if he said that, at best, Francisco Liriano is a #2 or #3 MLB pitcher, I doubt it would have drawn the same ire I did and it would have almost been taken as fact.
The same can't be said for me. Baseball is not my career... it is just my passion. Watching a game that I was never great at, but wanted to be so bad, has stuck with me to this point. This alone does not give me any credence. It does not allow me to give me an unsolicited opinion without reprisal. In fact, especially in this case when we are talking about a Twin, it opens the doors up even more. So what was the big deal anyway?
Liriano Is Too #56
I did not want Liriano to get a 3 year/ $39M extention that his agent was offering. This is how the whole thing started. I appreciated the fact that the Twins were not giving in to a pitcher who showed only a few signs for such a deal and too many indications against.
Liriano has had an extensive injury history, dating back before the infamous Oakland game where he was taken out and it was eventually deemed that he needed Tommy John surgery. But you go back even further and you will see arm and shoulder trouble from the time he was 20.
Liriano still has not thrown for 200+ innings. This alone should show that he isn't an ace. To have 1 complete game in 113 Starts is absurdly bottom of the rotation indicators. To average about 5 2/3 innings per start over his career shows me that he constantly puts a ton of pressure on his bullpen. This is not an ace quality.
But for some, these really simple indicators were not enough. They talked about his overall bad luck (baBIP), his low HR rate, his high K rate and that he got 11th in the Cy Young voting in 2010 (after winning 14 games on a 94 win team). To avoid the preverbal salt in the wound I will not discuss his 2011 season. We all know what happened to him and his team but I hate to say it in terms of Frankie alone; I told you so.
1. Roy Halladay - No Argument
2. Tim Lincecum - No Argument
3. Ubaldo Jimenez - Tough year for Ubaldo... exclusion of next year's top pitchers may be in order. I will still take him over Frankie
4. Felix Hernandez - No Argument
5. Josh Johnson - Injured again... I will take my chances in 2012 with JJ over Frankie
6. Cliff Lee - No Argument
7. David Price - No Argument
8. Jon Lester - Not the best year from Lester, especially in light of the PR nightmare the Red Sox are in because of some accusations against him but he is still light years ahead of Liriano in terms of just about any evaluation process you use.
9. Justin Verlander - No Argument
10. Jared Weaver - No Argument
11. Chris Carpenter - No Argument
12. Clayton Kershaw - No Argument
13. Tim Hudson - No Argument
14. Roy Oswalt - He showed his age in 2011, was often injured, but even though he had the worst year of his career, he was still better than Frankie was this year. I plan on keeping him on my "Better Pitchers Than Francisco Liriano" list next year.
15. Zach Greinke - Come on guys, Greinke is better... it's okay.
16. Fausto Carmona - I think we have found the Mendoza line for pitchers better than Liriano. When on, both are really really good. When off? Awful, just plain awful. The career results are about the same though, the age is the same but the edge goes to Carmona who at least has shown some ability to complete a game or two & overall has done a better job of keeping guys off base (on a perennially worse team defensively) than our guy Frank.
17. Mat Latos - Please stop arguing that Liriano is better than Latos.
18. CC Sabathia - No Argument
19. Tommy Hanson - An injury filled 2011 may lead some to think that FL is better ... he just isn't
20. Matt Cain - No Argument
21. Mark Buehrle - Although getting up there in age Mark showed why he is generally considered a consummate professional. Another 200+ inning season with around 50 walks (go look, it's freakish!) which indicates tremendous command.
23. Adam Wainwright - Uhg... Tommy John... Let me ask you this: Honestly, who would you rather have in 2012? Alright, probably Liriano.
24. Ryan Dempster - He's done, a nightmare to watch... In a bad year it was still better than FL... age may keep him off the 2012 BPTFL List
25. Clay Buchholz - He only pitched 82 innings in an injury shortened year but my bet is 2012 will be a big year for Buck.
26. Brett Anderson - Another Tommy John casualty... at 24 he won't be rushed back so 2012 may be a year where he is off the BPTFL List.
27. Erik Bedard - Even Mr. Fragile himself showed (at times) why he was on this list. I take it back now though... FL is better.
28. Dan Haren - No Argument (Even after the 'He is just an NL pitcher' argument... He is BETTER in the AL)
29. Chad Billingsly - Another guy, like Liriano, who just seems to get in his own way from a command perspective. He will be on the 2012 BPTFL List.
30. Edinson Volquez - I was wrong... Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa (I am right though, a Mea Culpa is much easier to wr)
31. Cole Hamels - No Argument
32. Yovani Gallardo - People aren't going to still argue with me are they?
33. Madison Bumgarner - No Argument - right? (Except those whose only time seeing MB pitch was versus the Twins - Wasn't that fun!)
34. Matt Garza - People lobbied for the ballpark effect on his stats. Good pitchers can pitch anywhere. He is proving to be a consistently reliable #2 - type pitcher
35. Dallas Braden - Another Tommy John guy... will be coddled back to health and will be excluded from the 2012 list.
36. Jeremy Guthrie - 3 straight 200+ innings and although his W/L makes him look terrible playing on that team, in that division, says a lot about how good Guthrie is. Still better than FL
37. Johnny Cueto - Got injured a bit this year but showed the ability to become a #1. He will absolutely stay on the BPTFL.
38. John Danks - I can't take him off... battled some injuries and came up with a better 2011 than FL... I expect growth in 2012 and another inclusion.
39. Trevor Cahill - A sub-par year for Cahill but one FL wishes he had.
40. Colby Lewis - Despite the high HR rate I would take Colby over FL
41. Ervin Santana - No Argument, right?
42. Max Scherzer - More consistent ... I expect a big 2012 from Max.
43. Wandy Rodriguez - Twins fans were begging for a guy like Wandy to join our rotation at the deadline. Why? BPTFL.
44. Jeremy Hellickson - No Argument
45. Ted Lilly - He may be near the end of his rope but can we just agree for now that Lilly is better than Liriano? One more year on the BPTFL sounds about right.
46. John Lackey - oops. Got me here.
47. Ricky Romero - No Argument
48. C. J. Wilson - No Argument
49. Phil Hughes - You got me this year (but not by much) - he will be on the 2012 BPTFL list again though.
50. Stephen Strasburg - I will take 1+ months of Strasburg over a full season of .... nevermind. There will be no argument to his inclusion in the BPTFL List next year though... if I get any I may rage... (just kidding, I won't)
51. Josh Beckett - No Argument
52. Bronson Arroyo - Still better... last year on the BPTFL List though... He looked done at the end of this season... I mean, retired done.
53. Jake Peavy - The White Sox have paid Peavy about $37 Million the last 3 years... that is the bad news... the worse news? They are on the hook for $36 Million more. I may put him on the 2012 List anyway. Look for a comeback from "The Peav"
54. Gavin Floyd - another solid year for Gavin who is coming into his prime.
55. Hiroki Kuroda - Probably too old next year for the BPTFL List in 2012 (and may not pitch in MLB) but this is a guy who continues to impress me with his command. He does more with less than anyone on this list.
Unfortunately, along with the guys that I have already forwarded their inclusion there are additional guys that will either be on the 2012 list or at least will be under serious consideration. (Shields, Kennedy, Pineda, Ogando, Marcum, Daniel Hudson, Johan Santana, Gio, Jhoulys, Morrow, Ar Vizcaino, Chapman, Fister, Moore, Nova, Vargas, Holland, Hairston, Garcia, Baker, Karsens, McDonald & Vogelsong for starters)
Let's hope for a rebound year for Liriano. The timing is perfect. Because of his poor 2011 he is unlikely to get long-term contract before the 2012 season. That being said, he has a lot to pitch for next year. I will wear my Liriano jersey during his starts and hope for the best. It is in there somewhere