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Montero Being Manny, Flooded Ballpark, HoJo on Moneyball, A.J. In the Mix



By Mike Silva ~ September 6th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

Excited about Jesus Montero‘s two-home run game? The last player 21-and-under in baseball history to homer twice in one of their first five games was Manny Ramirez, who accomplished the feat at Yankee Stadium on September 3rd, 1993 as a member of the Indians.

It was only the second game of Ramirez’s big league career.

Sara Rimer wrote a piece about Ramirez for the NY Times the day after his clubbed two home runs. It talks about Ramirez growing up and his family watching him play for the first time, ever, at Yankee Stadium. Here is an excerpt:

In Washington Heights this summer, the sweetest sentence in the Spanish language is this: “Mami, ya me subieron a las Grandes Ligas.” Mommy, they called me to the major leagues.

That is what Manny Ramirez said when he telephoned his mother, Onelcida Ramirez, a factory worker, Wednesday night.

Within hours, the news was all over the Dominican immigrant neighborhood, passed from street corners to bodegas to beauty salons to parks to Manny’s old hangout, Las Tres Marias, where he and his friends used to chug orange juice after games. And yesterday the 21-year-old onetime star of the George Washington High School team, who just two seasons ago was the best high school ballplayer in New York, came home. His new team, the Cleveland Indians, was playing in Yankee Stadium. A Favorite Meal.

“I miss my friends,” Ramirez said as he held court in his unassuming fashion at Las Tres Marias, at Amsterdam Avenue and 170th Street. “I miss my food.”

Her kid brother is bigger than when he left, and he has a car — a black BMW — but the consensus in the neighborhood is that he is still the same modest Manny who used to slam one home run after another out of the park, and then say that he was just another ballplayer. But no other ballplayer could have worked harder than he did, getting up at 4:30 every morning to run up the steepest hill in Washington Heights with an automobile tire roped around his waist, the way they train back in the Dominican Republic. On weekends, when there was no high school practice, he made the two-hour round-trip ride by subway to Brooklyn for all-day workouts with his sandlot team, Youth Service.

In Washington Heights, where baseball is nearly a religion, they used to wear Yankee caps. But there has been only one cap in Washington Heights since Ramirez got drafted in the first round by the Indians.

Brian Cashman already predicted that Montero can be a “Manny Ramirez or a Miguel Cabrera type of hitter.”

Of course, Ramirez hit .335 with 31 HR and 115 RBI between Double and Triple-A before his call up. Big difference from the 18 HR, 67 RBI, and .288 batting average of Montero at Scranton this year.

Good start; let’s not start to drool over a prospect until he spends some time around the league.

***

Did you hear John Sterling’s home run call for Montero?

XM MLB Chat caught both calls:

Yankee rookie Jesus Montero as DH today hit home runs in both the 5th and 7th innings, his first and second as a Yankee. John Sterling’s tags on radio were as follows:

For the first home run: “Jesus is loose!”

For the second home run: “Jesus has been turned loose!”

***

Check out what TD Bank Ballpark in Somerset looked like last week after Hurricane Irene made its way through. Of course, it’s the home of the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.

The park was flooded back in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd made its way through New Jersey.

Amazingly, the water receded by the following day and the Patriots have played on as they wind down the season. You can double-click to enlarge.

***

Add Howard Johnson to the list of people that doesn’t see value in Moneyball


saw ad for Moneyball the movie. Sorry, you can’t win with a computer program. one of those theories that looks good, but doesn’t play wellless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

***

In case you missed it, I had a chance to watch HoJo’s comeback with the Rockland Boulders yesterday. You can watch video and hear a brief postgame interview here.

Here are a couple of pictures of HoJo signing autographs and standing on the on deck circle. In two games HoJo went 0-4 for a walk. He was taken out for a pinch runner after the first inning walk yesterday. His body was too sore to handle running the bases.

***

Again, I think the concept of Moneyball is largely lost on the public, especially those in baseball. They view it as teams using computers to run the organization or going after players that walk. Moneyball simply looking at market trends and spots out inefficiencies that one could exploit. It’s using new information to help assist with the decision making. With the rising cost of payroll every team needs to have some elements of Moneyball in their front office repertoire. You need to constantly challenge the status quo and look at new ways of doing business.

I say this because I read Moneyball when it came out, but didn’t quite get the concept until started to do this site and radio show and delved into it deeper. Opening my mind and talking to people around the game crystallizes what the concept is all about.

Bill James disciple Rob Neyer, formerly of ESPN, and now SB Nation, called the book Moneyball  ”the single most influential baseball book ever.”

He did a Q&A with over at sportsnet.ca 

I don’t think there’s any question about it. I would take that a step further and suggest that it’s been more influential than every other baseball book combined.

I should throw a caveat in there.

It’s possible that Moneyball would exist without the Bill James Baseball Abstract in the ‘80s, so maybe my statement is a little overblown, but it’s hard to think of another book that’s had any sort of impact like Moneyball has had.

I think before Moneyball the only books that were really influential in terms of changing something in our society, let alone within the sport, were probably Ball Four and Bill James’ books, which certainly had an impact.

Maybe Moneyball wouldn’t exist without Bill James. I don’t know. There’s an argument to be made there. Certainly Bill’s books had an impact. There are a lot of people who trace their take.

I agree with Neyer’s statement about Moneyball being the most influential book in baseball. Ball Four had a similar impact, but all it did was create transparency for the fans about the off the field lives of ballplayers. Before Bouton’s Ball Four, fans probably knew the party life of players like Mickey Mantle, but were comfortable not “looking behind the curtain.” Baseball was comfortable portraying its players with a “milk and cookies” image. Different time in our society where television shows didn’t want married couples sleeping in the same bed.

Moneyball had everyone “look behind the curtain,” but it was baseball insiders that received the bigger shock; not the fans.  You saw the lack of forward thinking, fear of change, and the inability to do what every other business in the global world was doing- using technology and information to help make decisions and gain a competitive advantage.

Again, no scout should ever fear losing their job. No front office is going to replace its people with a computer that spits out numbers. There is a need for scouts to be the engine behind the process numbers that will fuel decision making.

Moneyball is much deeper than OBP or any other advanced stat.

Because of misinformation provided about it (much of it by the mainstream press), you have lots of baseball people, like Howard Johnson, who trash it, but probably don’t know what it’s all about.

I can assure you, HoJo, you weren’t fired because of Moneyball. I think being part of Jerry Manuel‘s staff had a large majority to do with what happened.

***

Yes, HoJo is on Twitter and you can follow him @20Hojo

***

I actually spoke to Jim Bouton about Ball Four a couple of years ago. If you missed that show, you can download the replay here.

***

The Yankees will continue with another round of six starters. I think this is good news for A.J. Burnett. It’s actually great news for him.

Freddy Garcia had one of his worst outings yesterday. Bartolo Colon is 2-5 with a 4.58 ERA in the second half. I believe the extra round of six starters is to evaluate what they have with Garcia and Colon.

I think Garcia deserves a playoff spot unless he suffers a severe performance decline in September. Yesterday’s outing didn’t change anything for me. I said at the beginning of the year that Garcia is the type of guy that will throw a stinker when he doesn’t have it, but by and large will give you quality outings. His ERA in Chicago last year was deceptively high because of the “feast or famine” type outings. Garcia has postseason experience and knows how to pitch when he has less than his best stuff. I don’t expect him to produce 7 runs in 2+ innings in the postseason.

Phil Hughes is better suited for the bullpen in October. I trust him more in long relief than Luis Ayala or Cory Wade. Bullpens are what ultimately wins championships, and Hughes will “lockdown” the game from the sixth inning on with Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera. He basically will take the role that Joba Chamberlain would have if he were active.

I think the fourth starter comes down to Colon vs. A.J. Burnett. Yes, the guy we all were about to write off might actually have a shot to not only make the postseason roster, but start a Game 4.

Down 2-1 in the best of five do you trust Burnett or Colon? You probably will say Colon, but remember Colon was a pitcher that hadn’t lasted a full season since 2005. He is a great comeback story, but his arm is surgically repaired by a controversial procedure. We don’t know when or if he will turn into a pumpkin. If I asked you this question in March would you even have to think about it?

Do I feel comfortable giving the ball to Burnett in a big spot? No. But this is the type of rotation the Yankees have won with all year.

They probably can score 11 runs against Texas, Detroit, or even Boston to compensate for a bad outing by Colon, Burnett, or Garcia. They won’t be having those slugfests if they make it to the World Series against the Phillies. That’s when their pitching becomes a concern.

***

Former big leaguer Bill Buckner appeared with Larry David on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm. There have been a couple of baseball references this season on Curb.

I thought you might enjoy some clips from the Buckner episode.

I don’t know if YouTube will keep the videos up so enjoy it while it lasts.

First question. Was this a bad throw by Larry or should Buckner have caught it?

In the next clip I think they were a little harsh on Buckner – no? I guess that’s what you get when you do something for a free lunch.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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18 Responses to Montero Being Manny, Flooded Ballpark, HoJo on Moneyball, A.J. In the Mix

  1. Brien Jackson

    Actually, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Moneyball *is* about computers, to an extent. Sure, it’s about exploiting the market and winning on a low budget, but it was also about challenging the received wisdom of “baseball men” and subjecting theories and beliefs to actual scientific testing whenever possible. And that’s what computers let you do. Something like run expectancy isn’t a statistic based on a complicated mathematical formula, it’s a computer crunching actual results from various situations that occurred in over 100,000 games played. Obviously a human being could never do that, which is why before it could be done managers, hitting coaches, and baseball people were “going with their gut” or, well, acting as if they had super special insights into baseball.

    And now that once impossible examination of actual data is proving them to have been completely wrong about a number of things and showing rather clearly that they don’t have any special insight into much of anything, it’s understandable that a lot of them don’t like it.

  2. spike

    I take your point Brien, but I think Mike (credit where it is due) is pointing out that the fear of Moneyball is because it views skeptically assertions that have not only been held dear for decades, but are the foundation of a lot of careers in and out of baseball. Moneyball, at its root, is about applying critical thinking to any system, and letting the results drive the management of that system wherever it ought logically go.

    Up until it’s publication now adhering to the Book was the only course of action. If you wanted to move from manager of Durham to 1B coach at Richmond, from assistant GM to GM, or from stringer to beat writer there was one way to do it. Moneyball’s skepticism regarding these tenets made “instant enemies of those who prospered under the old system, and only lukewarm friends of those who might do well under the new” to quote Machiavelli. Its detractors view not just the ideas as wrong, but the PROCESS as heretical. Coaches hate it because it complicates in-game tactics. GMs hate it because they have to be flexible in their personnel strategy. Writers hate it because it ruins articles about grit and clubhouse chemistry. The Church didn’t suppress Galileo because of heliocentrism, they did so because his process challenged the power of the already entrenched. If being a “baseball man” is no longer necessary to run a baseball team, then a whole lot of folks need to validate their existence – that’s what brought on the counterrevolution of the Morganites.

  3. Brien Jackson

    I think that’s pretty much what I was saying too, so I don’t know that there’s much disagreement. I was really just meaning to elaborate a bit, in that I do think a lot of “baseball people” resent computers and other forms of technological advancement because their careers and personal mythology are based on a bunch of voodoo that said technology is rendering moot.

  4. Mike I

    Mike, is it possible that there is some resentment from the Mets of the 1980s toward their former teammate Billy Beane? Beane was such a highly touted prospect who became a total bust and left the Mets after 1985. HoJo and Beane were both on the 85 Mets. Imagine if Beane was the prospect that the scouts thought he would be and the possible additional firepower that could have been added to the franchise’s ultimate decade.

    There is definite value in Moneyball. The biggest value is how patience at the plate can pay huge dividends. The difference in a hitter’s stats from having a 2-1 count to a 1-2 count are enormous. But, it is not the be all and end all to scouting talent. Some guys are great hitters and could care less about having patience at the plate.

    Beane was wrong about a few of the prospects in Moneyball like Jeremy Brown and some others, but did get it right with some low-priced free agents and drafted players like Nick Swisher. He was also right about Kevin Youkilis at a very young age, when nobody knew who he was.

  5. Chuck Johnson

    “Something like run expectancy isn’t a statistic based on a complicated mathematical formula, it’s a computer crunching actual results from various situations that occurred in over 100,000 games played”

    Which required a complicated mathematical formula to achieve.

  6. spike

    But it was the idea to go looking for it that was and is dangerous to the baseball establishment. Moneyball is a strategy of re-examining the established precepts of the game. The new crowd has gone from walks and home runs to defensive value already in search of inefficiencies. I concede that technology plays an outsized role in finding and exploiting them, but it’s the willingness to challenge the conventional wisdom that is (was) the basis of action for so long that gets the blood boiling on the part of the old guard.

  7. Chuck Johnson

    “But it was the idea to go looking for it that was and is dangerous to the baseball establishment.”

    There’s nothing about Moneyball that was or is dangerous to the baseball establishment.

    As stated before, Beane didn’t take advantage of weaknesses in the system, he took advantage of the weaknesses of his peers.

    Theo Epstein has a degree from an Ivy League school in business, Andrew Friedman in Finance.

    Beane’s degree is in baseball.

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who has the advantage.

    The only thing Moneyball is good for is lining the bird cage.

  8. spike

    There’s nothing about Moneyball that was or is dangerous to the baseball establishment.

    The only thing Moneyball is good for is lining the bird cage.

    And yet many of them, as well as apparently yourself, react quite emotionally when discussing it. Purely coincidence, I’m sure.

    As stated before, Beane didn’t take advantage of weaknesses in the system, he took advantage of the weaknesses of his peers.

    Err, the “system” was maintained by said peers.

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who has the advantage.

    Right, it’s the one with the $160M dollar payroll…oh wait.

  9. Russ Cress

    To call Moneyball the most influential baseball book in history is ridiculous.

    Look at sports books written before Ball Four and what came after, then factor in how the media’s coverage of sport changed directly following Ball Four and it’s not even close.

    Plus, it’s the book that established the “season diary” as a book format for the mainstream masses.

    Finally, on top of all of that, Ball Four is also influential on a completely different lever than the primary reason, in that it’s also the definitive history of the Seattle Pilots in a way.

  10. Brien Jackson

    “Which required a complicated mathematical formula to achieve.”

    Complicated? Not really. But even if it was, so what? I assume you would consider the math behind rocket science extremely complicated. Does that mean space exploration is a myth?

  11. Brien Jackson

    “Theo Epstein has a degree from an Ivy League school in business, Andrew Friedman in Finance.

    Beane’s degree is in baseball.

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who has the advantage.”

    Um…

    And your insistence that you aren’t threatened by it is given the lie by your dismissal of run expectancy because you don’t understand the math behind it.

  12. Chuck Johnson

    “And your insistence that you aren’t threatened by it is given the lie by your dismissal of run expectancy because you don’t understand the math behind it.”

    You know, Brien, I’d respect you a lot more if your ghost writer wasn’t Jack Daniels.

    Although I must say you’re slightly more intelligent here than you are on Twitter.

  13. Brien Jackson

    That’s clever, but you remain the one who implied something is invalid if the math is too hard. Tell me, what do you think of win expectancy? Is that based on a complicated formula?

  14. Chuck Johnson

    ” but you remain the one who implied something is invalid if the math is too hard”

    No, YOU implied that’s what I meant.

    1+1 is a formula.

    To total the homers hit by the Yankees this year requires a formula.

    To total the homers hit by the Yankees in the history of the franchise requires a formula.

    To take those numbers and equate it into something such as “expected runs” requires a more complicated formula.

    No one in baseball is “threatened” by sabermetrics, Brien. It’s a fad developed and preached by those whose knowledge of baseball is elementary at best and and who use numbers as a crutch.

  15. Brien Jackson

    “To take those numbers and equate it into something such as “expected runs” requires a more complicated formula.”

    No. You can say that all you want, but it really doesn’t. What it requires is a level of aggregation and notation that would be impossible, for all intents and purposes, if human beings were required to do it by hand. But once you have the technology to do that, the math is merely a matter of a (relatively) simple probability calculation.

    wOBA is a good example of this too. Believe it or not, Branch Rickey actually developed an early version of the stat that, in concept, was the exact same thing. What he lacked was the proper linear weights, because he didn’t have the means to discover them. Now we do. I welcome you to write a blog post expressing your opinion that Branch Rickey’s knowledge of baseball was elementary at best.

    And of course, that still doesn’t address that the fact that the complexity of a mathematical formula has nothing to do with whether it’s valid or not.

  16. Chuck Johnson

    ” I welcome you to write a blog post expressing your opinion that Branch Rickey’s knowledge of baseball was elementary at best.”

    What does Branch Rickey’s knowledge have to do with yours?

  17. Brien Jackson

    Well, you wrote this:

    “It’s a fad developed and preached by those whose knowledge of baseball is elementary at best and and who use numbers as a crutch.”

    And I pointed out that Rickey basically wrote the formula (in idea anyway, the numbers weren’t quite right) for wOBA (probably the best metric for total hitting) decades ago. I realize you are trying to avoid logical progression here, but obviously if you put two and two together you must believe Rickey fits your description.

    And just because I’d really like to hear the answer: at what point do you consider a formula too complicated to be valid? Do you apply that standard to all aspects of life?

  18. Brien Jackson

    I suppose your non-response says it all.

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