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hawk-harrelsonWith some heavy stuff on your plate earlier today, how about some lighter fare from around MLB …

  • Meddling Miami Marlins master (I promise never to do that again) Jeffrey Loria is in some more hot water after reports said that he personally demanded that Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez flip-flop starts in a doubleheader earlier this week, contrary to the wishes of the manager and the players. Apparently messing with lineup/pitching decisions is not a new thing for Loria, who Jeff Passan says tried to make lineup suggestions to Ozzie Guillen. To his credit, Guillen ignored those suggestions.
  • For his part, Loria tells Ken Rosenthal that he had nothing to do with the decision, and that his baseball ops department made the decision and called Loria to inform him. “I don’t make decisions on who to pitch and when, how to go about it — that’s not my role,” Loria told Rosenthal. “Sometimes they call me and tell me what they’re doing. But I don’t call them up and say, ‘This is what is going to happen.’ That’s not true.” Here’s why Loria’s explanation smells bogus: he says he doesn’t make any lineup/pitching decisions … but the baseball ops guys call him to tell him about a rotation flip-flop for a doubleheader? Does manager Mike Redman phone Loria every time he brings in a reliever?
  • For months now, the Yankees have been operating with a pretty clear goal in mind: get payroll under $189 million in 2014, which is under the luxury tax cap, and which would reset their ever-escalating luxury tax obligations. With some odd moves in the last couple months – like taking on a relatively large chunk of salary in 2014 for Vernon Wells of all players (yes, he’s hitting right now … ) – it’s become harder and harder to see the Yankees actually pulling it off, especially if they hoped to re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano. Jeff Passan reports that Yankees sources now concede that it probably won’t happen, in part because some of the money they expected to get back from the revenue sharing pool (large market teams are going to get revenue sharing money back if they’re under the luxury tax cap, starting this year and escalating through 2016) won’t actually be available to them. The upshot here: don’t expect the Yankees to be sitting on the free agent sidelines anymore.
  • (Side note from the Passan piece: revenue sharing is an important part of the financial discussion for the Cubs. It sounds to me like their revenue sharing bill is going to be going down in the coming years, which should further help their available cash in 2014 and beyond.)
  • Hawk Harrelson was on MLB Network with Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds discussing sabermetrics (a treat for Kenny, I’m sure), and the result was about what you’d expect:

  • Colin Wyers at BP put Hawk on blast for his arcane thinking, which is kind of like writing a 10,000 word letter to a cat on why he will never “catch” the laser pointer light. Still, there are some interesting thoughts in his piece.
  • Dave Cameron and Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs took a statistical look at the age-old question of “lineup protection.” They do so primarily through the prism of the percentage of pitches in the strike zone over the past five years for each spot in the batting order. Their results are quite interesting, and maybe even counterintuitive. The National League data shows the highest strike percentage for 8 and 9 hitters, which makes sense, because pitchers don’t fear them. From this, the guys conclude that the caliber of the batter at the plate – and not the man on deck – dictates the quality of pitches the batter sees. I get that, and I think that’s a strong conclusion. The AL data, though, shows the highest strike percentage in the 1 through 4 spots, which would strongly support the lineup protection theory. The guys don’t really address that, which was a touch disappointing. I want to know what smart people think those numbers say.
  • MLB Trade Rumors has the projected Super Two cutoff for this year, and it’s right around June 3. That means, for youngsters who come up the first time this year (and stay up) between now-ish and that date are going to qualify for an extra year of arbitration after the 2015 season (and will be arb-eligible in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018). It doesn’t look like there are any Cubs prospects that this will impact, though there are some guys – Brett Jackson, for example – who could come up later, and, together with service time they’ve already accumulated, could end up falling into this category. In that respect, the notable number is “two years and 119 days” – that’s what the cutoff will be. If this is all Greek to you, don’t worry about it. As this comes up for specific players, I’ll surely re-address within that context (and you’ll understand then).
  • The best baseball gif you’ve ever seen. It’s all five of Yu Darvish’s pitches at once (kudos to the creator, Drew Sheppard):

  • Featherstone

    That GIF is mesmerizing. I cant stop watching it.

    • Serio

      The GIF is like watching a large breasted woman running in slow motion

      • pete

        OK, how pitiful am I? I didn’t look at it til I read Serio’s post.

  • DarthHater

    “kind of like writing a 10,000 word letter to a cat on why he will never “catch” the laser pointer light.”

    Very nice, Bert. ;-)

    • Internet Random

      Agreed.

      • Dumpgobbler

        Lol nice one.

        • Oswego Chris

          That’s pure genius Brett…

  • SirCub

    Listening to Hawk Harrelson talk sabermetrics makes my brain hurt.

    • hawkcub

      TWTW

      • Featherstone

        I actually feel dumber after listening to him.

        • DarthHater

          And it was already pretty dumb to listen to him at all, wasn’t it? ;-)

          • Featherstone

            I want the 10 minutes of my life back. Along with the numerous brain cells that died in vain.

            • DarthHater

              I wish I could share a few cells with you, but I’m afraid I need all I have left. ;-)

    • Toby

      Just look at how knowing TWTW helped his career as Sox GM.

    • Boogens

      He really is a knucklehead and the other guy was a lousy debater. Moneyball or Sabremetrics has evolved to the point where it’s fully recognized that it’s not an either / or situation when evaluating the value of scouting vs. metrics.

      The best argument the moderator could have made is the value of Hawk’s “W’s”. So, a pitcher that amasses a lot of wins is better than one that doesn’t? Is Hawk suggesting that his TWTW is really reflected in the number of wins that Peavy gets? This last week alone Marmol recorded a win and Villaneuva didn’t. Is Marmol then a more valuable player?

      The moderator should have made Hawk provide examples of how Konerko’s leadership has resulted in wins. He wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s just absurd and Hawk’s a dinosaur.

      Last thing… the line about “It’s a kid’s game and will always be a kid’s game” was total BS. That’s akin to Andy McPhail’s lightning-in-a-bottle theory. I guess that there’s no need to analyze players statistically. Just throw about guys with arbitrary leadership and TWTW skills and hope to win.

  • AP

    “…[W]hich is kind of like writing a 10,000 word letter to a cat on why he will never “catch” the laser pointer light.” This made my day. Although, I must thank Harrelson to some extent. He was so awful when I was kid that I couldn’t watch White Sox games and thus became the Cubs fan you see before you today. (WGN/TBS – it was either Cubs, White Sox, or Braves, and despite recent years, I think I chose correctly)

  • MightyBear

    I just can’t listen to Hawk Harrelson period. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

    • Cubbie Blues

      At this juncture.

      • hansman1982

        Read my lips, no more Harrelson

        • JulioZuleta

          Hans, how can we synthesize TWTW with sCRAP+? THAT’s the total package.

          • hansman1982

            that’s factored into BELLYf+…BELLYf+ is kind of the current, end all be all stat for measuring a player’s TRUE contribution to their team.

            The exact formula is highly secretive and if I tell you I’ll have to force you to watch nothing but Sox games all the time.

            • JulioZuleta

              You know in movies where they torture people by blasting loud sounds and bright lights at people for days at a time? If someone wanted to effectively torture me, they’d just have a commercial free loop of White Sox games on.

            • hansman1982

              FWIW, TWTW is factored as “Knowledge of Winning”. BRef calls this portion Carnal Knowledge, Winning. Fangraphs lists it as simply KnoWin

            • Jp3

              Perfect time to bring out the Scrap+Hussle+belly fire stat. He was definetly saying Harold Reynolds had really high BF% that can’t be measured in stats… He apparently can’t read either is the other impression I got from that clip

              • Cubbie Blues

                That’s quantified in #winning

    • DarthHater

      I’d rather eat broccoli.

  • Cubbie Blues

    It looks to me like the delivery in all of his pitches were exactly the same until just after the release point. Very very cool gif. I only wish I could take it frame by frame.

  • JulioZuleta

    Pfffttt, “Numbers, knowledge…” You think Carl Yastrzemski had knowledge? None, but that sum bitch had TWTW like I ain’t never seen before.

  • JulioZuleta

    I hadn’t had a chance to watch that yet. I knew it’d be bad. Wow. There’s not much to say.

    It’s probably not advisable to listen to a guy that fired Tony LaRussa when he was GM.

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    Yeah the only way the A’s won 94 games last year was because of twtw. And every team that didn’t make the playoffs had no desire to win.

    All I can say is, lol.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      For those not brave(or dumb) enough to watch “twtw” means “the will to win”.

      • JulioZuleta

        But when Hawk says it, it’s really “T Dubya T Dubya.”

    • wvcubsfan

      but they had pitching and that’s where defense starts which is the most important part of scoring more runs than the other team dontcha know

  • JulioZuleta

    “Mr. Madison (Harrelson), what you’ve just said… is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

    • Sabometrics

      Damn you beat me to it. My ears are bleeding after listening to that.

  • Still Love the Cubs

    I gotta tell ya. I literally laughed out loud about 5 times when I was watching that 10 minute Hawk video. Kenney was utterly shredding him, and his comebacks were horrible.

    He actually said that sabermetrics will only be useful in 40-50 years when they match the numbers with the TWTW (the will to win).

    That was Gold Jerry. Pure Gold.

    • wvcubsfan

      Actually you have to figure out how to measure “The Will”, and then separately figure out the way to measure “to win”. Then and only then can you mesh those two together and come up with a legitimate saber-metric statistic. At least according to the all knowing Hawk.

  • Still Love the Cubs

    Darn that he isn’t a GM. We could have fleeced him for Tony Campana. That guy has TWTW in spades.

    • hansman1982

      Ummm, we did fleece the GM version of Harrelson in the Tony Campana trade.

      • JulioZuleta

        Speaking of that, those pitchers are throwing pretty well in EXST.

        That video brings back memories of Dusty Baker lamenting the “bases clogging walk.”

        • Featherstone

          What about Sveum’s “They are called pinch hitters not pinch walkers” comment. Im sure i took more than a little artistic license with that one.

  • Still Love the Cubs

    “I also said there’s a place in baseball for numbers. But, I also said that it’s the most overrated issue to come into baseball in the last 10, 15 years. And I stand by that, because it’s not ready yet. Down the road 40 or 50 years… when you can put some of those categories, you know you got your oh-bee-pee-ess, and all that, and the vee-oh-arr-pees. When they put in tee-dubya-tee-dubya and then interface those numbers with tee-dubya-tee-dubya, then you might have something cooking. And that’s the will to win.”

    If you didn’t watch the video, that is Hawk’s argument in a nutshell. And it is hilarious. I am still laughing out loud right now every time I read it. OBPS doesn’t even exist and when was the last time you hear VORP? LOL

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      I think he actually said opbs. But I don’t think it really matters lol.

  • Stinky Pete

    I think it’s awesome how Hawk talks down to Kenny like he’s three and has never played baseball.

  • Not Kyle

    The whole Hawk Harrelson-sabermetrics thing brings up a point I’ve written an article about and talked about at length.

    Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer takes Ned Flanders (who had recently admitted to being sixty years old) to Las Vegas to make up for lost time due to his boring lifestyle? After they woke up in a trashed hotel room and found they had drunkenly married cocktail waitresses, Ned flips out at Homer.

    (Ned) “This is all your fault! You and your stupid program!”

    (Homer) “Blame me if you must, but don’t ever speak ill of the Program! The Program is rock solid! The Program is sound!”

    Sabermetrics (“The Program”) *is* sound. It is an area of study all about baseball data; raw information that has been studied in numerous ways from all angles. It has the capability to evolve after people work together to discover inaccuracies, research theories, and eliminate any sort of assumption, no matter how trivial.

    True statisticians care only for the results. That is why FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have been working to compare their formulas, unify the definition of “replacement level,” and ultimately be transparent about the process of calculating WAR. All while noting when new discoveries are made that ultimately affect the final product. If a humanity-killing meteor was going to hit the earth tomorrow, those with a statistics-type background (like ol’ DocWhimsey here on the BN boards) would shrug their shoulders and calmly say, “Well. . . there was always an X% chance, with error bars of course, that this sort of thing would happen. Oh well. . . *Grabs a sledgehammer* Time for some end-of-the-world pillaging.” I read posts from Bradley Woodrum on Fangraphs, pausing to look through countless graphs of data noting pitcher release points, minor league regression formulas as they move up the ranks, wRC+ and wOBA figures from WBC players in Chinese Taipai (complete in Mandarin), all while standing up and saluting the sheer level of nerdery required to calculate it all. (It is a compliment) These guys are the most rational people, wanting to find out the truth, the reason, the “why,” while many sportswriters/bloggers/media personalities are some of the most irrational. You can see why the friction between the two exists in the first place.

    But there are people (albeit, very smart and educated people) who can be *blamed* for using the blanket of sabermetric thought to argue semantics, reek of egotistical snark, and flat-out insult people. (“This guy is TERRIBLE, AWFUL. He SUCKS.” Well. . . what is the definition of “terrible?” Is it a minor leaguer? An AAAA type replacement-level player? 2011 Adam Dunn? 2011 Alfonso Soriano? Heck, what about 2012 Darwin Barney?) They will make a solid point with thorough statistical analysis and then try to ram it home by saying stuff like “Player X *WILL* suck this year.” “The Baltimore Orioles *WILL* regress to the mean and be mediocre, etc etc.” like it is a statistical guarantee. A lot of people are guilty of this in the blogosphere, on radio shows, heck. . . even on major websites and networks.

    Harrleson is the kind of punching-bag that the saber community loves to bash on; a stubborn curmudgeon who won’t listen to any other opinions, pines for yesteryear, and blabs to anyone with a microphone. I understand the animosity. But everyone else who likes baseball for its *gasp* ENTERTAINMENT and doesn’t nerd it up by spending hours on websites (people like myself included) isn’t necessarily against learning about “The Program” in a normal, level-headed discussion.

    Sabermetrics isn’t being hindered by the Dave Camerons, Seth Smiths, and Nate Silvers of the world. It’s the insecure, ego-driven, elitist snark. The WORST way to get people interested in something they are willing to learn but they know nothing about is to call them idiots when they make a statement and try to get their feet wet. That makes them A) defensive, and B) gives them the wrong impression about everyone in the field.

    Harrleson-types will always exist in every field of life. You reason, they lash out, you move on yourself and ignore them. There are others who will want to have a discussion with you and try to learn something instead.

    • Still Love the Cubs

      Well said in every way. Now I feel a little bad for what I have been writing.

      Although I want to emphasize, I don’t blame people for not knowing much about sabermetrics, or not being interested, or not caring. I just think that Hawk himself is irrational and unintelligent in his arguments that you can’t help but make fun of him.

      He brings it upon himself with ignorance. He admits he’s never even investigated by reading the book. His ignorance makes his argument sound so bad.

      At least Kenney and others have taken the time or already understand the old school way of thinking and the few benefits that it still has.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Hey, this robot says that it’s always time for some end of the world pillaging!

  • Leo L

    my favorite part is when he is asked if his basis of knolwedge of sabermetrics is from the movie money ball. He really could not give another source. also he would not read the book even though he saw teh movie. but i wonder, if he was willing to see the movie why not the book? I think i better ask him in person. verbally.

    • JulioZuleta

      Reading is for sabermagicians.

      -Hawk Harrelson

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Here is my off-the-cuff explanation for the disparity between AL and NL strike distributions. A lot more AL teams have gone to models of clustering guys with good batting eyes at the top of the order. If a pitcher wants to get these guys out, then he has to throw strikes: otherwise, they will take the walk.

    There seem to be more NL managers than AL managers who prefer to bat fast guys at the top of the order even when they have low OBP. One of the most common traits of low OBP guys is that they swing at non-strikes: and although they often are *relatively* good at hitting bad pitches, they still do not hit non-strikes as well as other guys hit strikes. PItchers aim for the “blue zones” and the blue zones for these guys includes a lot of non-strikes.

    My prediction is that if you plotted these numbers by OBPs (or, better still, the tendency to swing at non-strikes), then the difference between the leagues would go away.

    • Cyranojoe

      Nice logic. Makes sense to me.

  • Stinky Pete

    I agree. And it works both ways. For every caveman who believes in pitcher’s wins and RBI’s and simply will not admit there could be another way to look at it, there is a snob that looks down on everyone that doesn’t know or understand the new systems as much. It’s the same thing with the gun control debate. The loudest noises most ridiculous arguments are made by the craziest fringes on both sides.

  • JulioZuleta

    Obviously advanced numbers tell you a lot. Obviously Hawk is senile. I will say, however, that I don’t like it when people try to entirely take away the mental aspect. When guys like Keith Law say there is no such thing as being “clutch,” that takes it too far. Anyone that has ever played sports, even as a five year old, knows that there is a difference between stepping to the plate in a big situation and in a situation where you’re up 10 runs. There does have to be ssoommee balancing. But Hawk is just…ridiculous.

    • Spriggs

      He’s an embarrassment for a lot of reasons. I didn’t listen to this though. I just can’t stomach the guy. I imagine he’s just a sad old man trying to hang on to the only thing he knows. And he probably feels it slipping away but can’t acknowledge it. Of course, he is also an expert in golf and boxing…

    • Hansman1982

      They’ve done studies that show clutch does exist. Some people are just naturally better at being able to ignore the pressure.

      The people who can’t ignore the pressure, probably, are not the types who become professional athletes. Imagine the pressure that Appel and Grey feel right now even if they have a 50 run lead.

      Those who have no clutch, fail long before they get a chance to sniff an MLb pressure situation.

  • Die hard

    Johnny Bench once showed he could hold 5 at once… Am sure he could’ve done that for real

  • cubzforlife

    Warmish weather has finally arrived to our fair city and I look forward to the Cubs coming home. Maybe Rizzo will warm up too.

  • ETS

    I wish the Firejoemorgan guys were still writing. They’d have loved this hark interview. :(

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  • Can’t think of a cool name

    Anyone catch Fred Hubner and Bruce Levine supporting Harrelson and TWTW on the radio today? Only caught about 5 minutes but their argument was ridiculous. They noted several guys who got hurt as examples of TWTW.

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