Tagged: Stephen Strasburg

That’s What He Said- Larry Beinfest

I’m back from England, where I had a great time watching Aerosmith headline the Download Festival and walking around London for a few days.  A lot has happened since I’ve been gone in the sports world, but hey I guess you could say that about any week.  

First of all, although this is a baseball blog, I have to give a shoutout to the Boston Celtics, who came this close to taking home championship number 18.  I won’t pretend to be a diehard fan but I watch them casually throughout the season and try not to miss the playoff games, so thanks guys for another great year.  Next year starts tonight with the NBA draft, so good luck to the Celtics front office with that one.
On to the point of this post, Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez was fired yesterday amid some confusion from the fans.  

(Photo Cred: si.com)

I guess this was because usually mid-season managerial firings are from teams that are really struggling, and the Marlins don’t really fall into that category.  They were 34-36 under Gonzalez, who accumulated a 276-279 record in his time there.  Nothing to write home about, but not usually grounds for a firing, especially with a lower profile team like the Marlins that doesn’t expect to bring home division titles every year.  He was generally regarded as a good manager too, finishing 7th in NL Manager of the Year voting in 2009 and 3rd in 2008.  So why the axe?  I figured I’d turn this into a “That’s What He Said” and let Marlins president Larry Beinfest explain:
“This team seems to be stuck in neutral, and our competitors are on the accelerator.  We were looking for a change to hopefully get us on the accelerator.  That’s a big part of what we did today.”

I guess having a record hovering around .500 is the definition of being stuck in neutral.  As for their competitors, the Marlins currently sit in 4th place in the NL East, 6 games behind the division-leading Mets.  The NL East is one of the more competitive divisions right now, with even the last place Nationals looking more powerful every day with Stephen Strasburg throwing heat.  
But before we go praising the Marlins front office too much for shaking things up, let’s realize something.  The Florida Marlins have the lowest payroll in baseball, and if I’m not mistaken it’s by a fairly large margin.  Shouldn’t they be expected, then, to underperform most if not all other teams?  It seems rather hypocritical of Beinfest to be asking for his team to step on the accelerator.  It’s a two way street buddy- open up the wallet and your team will win more games.  And by the way, despite having a small fan base, the Marlins’ hesitancy to spend money allows them to be the most profitable franchise in baseball.  The Marlins have even been investigated by MLB more than once for spending taking too much profit and not reinvesting enough in the team.  
So instead of, you know, signing a good player or something, the Marlins opt to fire the manager.  It’s difficult to measure how well Gonzalez was doing, or how well any manager does outside of team wins and losses.  I took a look at managers and their success in an earlier post.  If for no other reason than to give me something to write about, let’s define a manager’s success by how much better a team’s win-loss record is compared to their statistics.  For example, if a team has the worst offensive numbers but has a .500 record, then the manager must be doing something right.  The Marlins currently rank 3rd in the NL with 4.80 runs scored per game, 5th with a .261 team batting average, and are above average in most other offensive categories including OBP, SLG, and home runs.  Most relevant pitching statistics are also above or at league average, including a 4.02 team ERA, 7.2 K/9 innings, 3.5 BB/9 innings, and a 1.37 WHIP.  They do, however, sport the league’s worst fielding percentage, at .977.  
Given this performance by his team, assuming an “average” manager would neither add nor subtract to his team’s success, an “average” manager should at least be fielding a league average team, probably slightly above average.  This would translate to a winning percentage of somewhere around .520.  When Gonzalez left they were slightly below average, with a .486 winning percentage.  So by these criteria, Gonzalez was in fact a below average manager, by about .035 percentage points.  Maybe this call did make sense, Larry Beinfest, but there’s still no denying that the real change that would get this team on the accelerator starts with you.  There’s nothing worse than management that cares more about turning a profit than they do about winning games.

Stephen Strasburg & Game Score

pirates nationals baseball-54466386.rp420x400.jpg(Photo cred: AP)

Did everyone see Stephen Strasburg‘s debut on Tuesday?  If you didn’t you missed a truly historic performance.  Strasburg managed to exceed the seemingly un-exceedable hype while tallying 7 innings, 4 hits, 14 breathtaking K’s, and his first big league win.  His fastball had more movement than any I’ve ever seen and his curveball had me shouting at my tv in amazement.  His only mistake was a changeup that Delwyn Young took out of the park for a 2-run homer, but Strasburg kept his composure and finished by striking out the last SEVEN batters that he faced.  I can honestly say that I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life, even if it ends up being the best one of his career ($5 says it won’t be).

But you don’t come to The 26th Man for numbers you’ve already found in the boxscore- so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a Bill James stat called Game Score, if you are not already familiar with it.  Game Score is a great stat because it’s fun to tally and it’s useful too.  It’s aim is to provide a measuring stick for a starting pitcher’s performance.  Game Score is calculated like this (from Baseball-Reference):
1. Start with 50 points
2. Add 1 point for each out recorded, so 3 for every inning pitched
3. Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th
4. Add 1 point for each strikeout
5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
8. Subtract 1 point for each walk
For those following along with Strasburg’s boxscore from the other night, that’s good for a Game Score of 75, which is more than respectable for a Major League debut.  I’m sure you’ve heard from the media that Strasburg’s 14 K’s places him behind Karl Spooner and J.R. Richard for most all-time in a Major League debut (they each had 15).  Richard’s game is a great example of how you can arrive at the same Game Score in different ways.  Strasburg matched Richard’s Game Score of 75 exactly, even though Richard allowed 3 runs and 7 hits.  Richard’s Game Score was boosted, though, by his 9 innings pitched.  It is interesting to note that Game Score doesn’t care whether you win or lose.  Statisticians and even fans have begun to drift away from win-loss records and towards more significant numbers such as ERA and WHIP when determining a pitcher’s success, and Game Score matches that sentiment.  
Spooner’s game was in fact much better than Richard’s and Strasburg’s, as he posted a Game Score of 93 while hurling a complete game shutout.  Spooner’s start ranks 2nd all-time among pitchers making their Major League debuts though, falling just shy of Juan Marichal‘s 96 Game Score in 1960.  Marichal also pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 12.  Andy over at the Baseball-Reference blog recently posted about the best Major League debuts of all time.
In case these Game Score numbers seem a little arbitrary to you, here’s some sort of a frame of reference.  Roger Clemens‘ 20-K game in 1986 registered a 97.  Last night, Clay Buchholz took the loss after pitching 7 innings and registered a Game Score of just 56, while his counterpart Justin Masterson earned his second win of the season with a complete game shutout and a Game Score of 87.  In Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004, Kevin Brown lasted just 1.1 innings for the Yankees and was rewarded with a Game Score of 25.
(Photo Cred: sullybaseball.blogspot.com)
Poor baby.
So here’s to many more fantastic starts for Strasburg- at this point the Nationals are still bad enough and irrelevant enough to the Red Sox that I can root for him in the same way you root for the little geek to finally beat up the bully.  Plus, team allegiances aside, the young man is truly a sight to see and real exciting to watch.  
24 hours from now I’ll be at the airport England-bound.  But dry your tears, I’ll be back in a week for your reading pleasure.