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Saturday Notebook: Chief Wahoo, Platoons, fWAR & bWAR, and Uehara

Today's Notebook looks at my continued depression of the Twins, the offensive Chief Wahoo logo and the push to eliminate it, the Athletics using platoons to guide their way to the AL West championship, Mike Pelfrey demonstrating the difference between fWAR and bWAR, and how Koji Uehara dominated the American League while throwing less than 90 MPH.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

And then there were three.

Last week, I wrote a list of pros and cons to determine which team would receive my fandom for the rest of the playoffs, and I eventually settled on the St. Louis Cardinals. It looks like a wise choice as they just clinched the NL pennant and now await the winner of the Tigers/Red Sox series.

However, I still find myself disinterested with this whole charade. I was bowling last night with my usher friends from the Twins and the Dodgers/Cardinals game was on TV. It was already 4-0 Cards when I arrived, and although I watched bits and pieces of the game, it was hard to get engaged with it. Perhaps it's because the Cards kept their foot on the accelerator and the normally dominant Clayton Kershaw looked human last night... or maybe it's because truthfully, I don't really care.

I bet anything that my apathy stems from having to watch teams that have hordes of great players, while the Twins are significantly lacking by having only Glen Perkins. It might be that I'm pained to know that the Twins still have a long way to go to improve and reach the upper echelon of talent currently occupied by the four teams that made it to their respective Championship Series. Sure, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are on the way, but it will be far more enjoyable once they actually arrive, rather than playing this waiting game.

So when the World Series comes around and we learn whether the Tigers or Red Sox will be duking it out with the Cardinals, I'm only going to have faint interest. Oh, I'll tune in to a couple games here and there, but it's just not the same as watching the Twins. They've only ceased playing for about 3 weeks, and yet 2014 cannot come fast enough.

I'll be right back, I've got to promote this Doug Bernier signing somehow.

  • I actually meant to link to this last week and then completely forgot. Recently the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians nicknames have come under more fire as multiple groups want their nicknames changed, and in the Indians' case, for them to eliminate the cartoonish Chief Wahoo logo. Clearly the people that are in favor of the change believe that it's racist and insensitive, while those that oppose the suggested changes typically are saying that we're either too sensitive or that the political correctness police are getting out of hand, or they are Native American or know a Native American that is not offended by the logo. Regardless, the National Congress of American Indians put together a poster that gives us some context as to how awful the Chief Wahoo logo appears by putting it next to a "New York Jews" and "San Francisco Chinamen" cap. Once you compare these two with the very real Indians cap, I think it becomes much clearer just how offensive Chief Wahoo can be.
  • Jesse and I already wrote about platoons earlier this week, and here's some more literature to show you how some teams are using them to their advantage. This time it's Jack Moore of Sports on Earth who writes about the Oakland Athletics and their penchant for platooning, leading them to have two entirely separate lineups depending on the handedness of the starting pitcher. Moore points out that platooning has allowed the A's to maximize their offensive players' strengths while minimizing their weaknesses, something that seems so obvious to a baseball team but is often ignored. For example, A's 1B/OF Brandon Moss has a career OPS nearly 100 points higher against righties than lefties, and the Athletics took note of that by having him face a lefthanded pitcher only 88 times last season. Meanwhile, the A's faced the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS and the Tigers typically had a set lineup regardless of the handedness of the pitcher, a setup that the Twins often used as well. However, the Tigers were able to do so because their players featured smaller platoon splits than the A's lineup, allowing them to use the same players daily instead of rotating in two to four new players each game if a different handed pitcher was on the mound. It shows that you can use two different methods of roster construction and still come out with above-average offenses.
  • Twins pitcher (or perhaps former Twins pitcher) Mike Pelfrey allows us to do an exercise in the differing calculations of WAR. Twins Daily's Parker Hageman tweeted that FanGraphs' WAR calculation had Pelfrey at 2.1 WAR in 2013, while Baseball Reference listed it at -0.3. Based on what we saw last season, I think most of us would say that Pelfrey looked more like a -0.3 WAR pitcher than a 2.1 WAR pitcher, but we need to understand the inputs used for these two websites' WAR statistic. FanGraphs uses a pitcher's FIP, which is an ERA predictor based entirely on strikeouts, walks, home runs, and now infield flies (the things pitchers can control) while Baseball Reference sticks with runs allowed per 9 innings (RA/9). Simply looking at Pelfrey's ERA and FIP, the differences in WAR appear much clearer. Pelfrey's RA/9 was 5.42, leading to his bWAR (Baseball Reference WAR) of -0.3. However, his FIP was a league average 3.99, creating a much better looking 2.1 fWAR (FanGraphs WAR). Despite the positive look by FanGraphs and the fact that it's one of my favorite baseball websites, I cannot agree that Pelfrey was worth over 2 wins last season, and I think all of you could agree with me. While I do understand that FIP is used because it measures what the pitcher can control, just simply from watching Pelfrey pitch I think we can all agree that his bWAR seems like a better representation of how he pitched last year. Oh, and if you're letting Pelfrey's glacial speed on the mound influence your opinion of him like I am, his pace (time between pitches) of 24.6 was a full 3 seconds longer than his career average. I don't know, I might have to look at the Twins coaching staff rather than Pelfrey himself to explain that one.
  • Lastly, we take a look at Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara. He came over to MLB from the Japanese NPB in 2009 where he pitched as a decent but often hurt starter for the Baltimore Orioles. Then the O's moved Uehara to the bullpen in 2010, and well... he became one of the most dominant relievers in the major leagues, even though his fastball averages under 90 MPH. He has earned his success by using pinpoint control and a devastating splitter that very likely makes his fastball look more like 93 MPH instead of 89. Joe Posnanski takes a look at Uehara on his personal blog and shows us just how dominant Uehara was this season as he marched to an ERA around 1 and a WHIP around 0.5. Yeah, just to give you an idea of how low that WHIP is, the Twins' best WHIP from a single pitcher was Caleb Thielbar's 0.83, and you don't need me to remind you how well Thielbar pitched this season.
Now, I must apologize as my Lightning Round contains only one thing today. However, it is something that brings me great joy, not because it involves a former Twin, but simply because it's not every day you get to see someone flip over an outfield fence. Also, because of that police officer's exuberant celebration.