OPS in baseball statistics

OPS in baseball statistics

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, attempts to quantify how good or bad a player is with statistics. Most baseball statistics only measure a small part of a player’s ability. One statistic that gained popularity in recent decades is On-base Plus Slugging, or OPS. Here’s an explanation of OPS in baseball and what it means.

OPS is the sum of a player’s on base percentage plus slugging percentage. Modern analysts argue it’s a better measure of a player’s ability than traditional stats like batting average or runs batted in.

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Attention St. Louis: Two shock jocks don’t speak for Kansas City, or for the Royals

I noticed a lot of St. Louisans were rooting for the Royals, then, suddenly, they turned into die-hard Orioles fans. That’s odd, especially considering the Orioles used to be the St. Louis Browns, who left town in 1953. That’s like Kansas City rooting for the Oakland Athletics or Sacramento Kings.

Then I found out two Kansas City shock jocks, Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison, ranted and raved about St. Louis for about an hour one day, and a bunch of St. Louisans took it seriously.

Whatever.

OK, so Kansas City has a couple of guys with no class on the radio. So does St. Louis. What town big enough to have more than one radio station doesn’t? But let’s talk about class for a minute. Read more

Let Eric Hosmer hit second

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians humiliated the Kansas City Royals 8-3 in what really looked like a showdown between two bad teams. Neither team played especially well, but the Indians were less bad. And in any given game, less bad is all it takes to win.

The Royals fielded poorly in the first inning and that made the difference, but the makeshift lineup the Royals fielded made it difficult for them to catch up. And catching up wasn’t out of the question. The Indians didn’t have Cy Young or Walter Johnson out there; it was the aging Derek Lowe. Read more

Eric Show and the wrong side of history

ESPN has a moving article about Eric Show today. Eric Show was one of several tragic figures from the mid-1980s San Diego Padres who stood in the shadow of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest hitters ever.

Show’s family would prefer that people remember him as the millionaire pitcher who was fond of inviting the homeless people he passed on the street to dinner.

But generally speaking, people remember him for a hit he allowed in 1985. A hit to a much lesser man. And nine short years later, Eric Show was dead at age 37.

Show’s tragedy, sadly, wasn’t unique among his teammates. Left-handed pitcher Dave Dravecky lost his arm to cancer. Second baseman Alan Wiggins became the first baseball player to die of AIDS. Tony Gwynn, of course, died much too young as well.

Supposedly the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are cursed, but their 1980s teams have nothing on that.

But I’m way ahead of myself.

In some ways, Eric Show was a Greg Maddux-like pitcher. He didn’t have overpowering stuff, but he threw a lot of pitches well, and was much smarter than most of his opponents. Show never matched Maddux’s best numbers, but spent most of his career just short of the brink of Maddux-like superstardom. Scarred by a poor relationship with an abusive father, Show’s difficulties bouncing back when little things went wrong turned him into an all-or-nothing pitcher, and those occasional games where he had nothing were the difference between him and guys like Maddux.

Show put together a perfectly respectable career, even if he never lived up to his full potential. During his career, the Padres went from last place to the World Series, and he played a key role in that transformation. Even ignoring what he did off the field, people should remember him as a very good pitcher for a very good team.

Instead, he’s the guy who gave up a record-setting hit. He’s also the guy who hit Andre Dawson with a beanball in 1987. That is, when someone remembers him at all.

But there was a lot going on with him behind the scenes. Show was a gifted musician. Routinely he asked homeless people to join him for dinner. He handed out $50 bills like candy to people less fortunate than him. He was a committed Christian. Finally, he was a deep thinker and only two of his teammates understood him.

Show started falling apart in 1987, when the Padres traded those two friends–Mark Thurmond and fellow tragic figure Dave Dravecky. That was the same year he hit Andre Dawson. I’m familiar with the other side of that story. I was a Cubs fan in 1987, and I’m related to ex-Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe had lobbied hard for the Cubs to sign Dawson. When he saw his man go down, Sutcliffe went after Show. The commissioner fined and suspended him 8 games for his role in the brawl.

What I didn’t know was that Eric Show hand-wrote an apology and tried to give it to Dawson.

Abandoned and injured, Show did something completely out of character. The man who talked junkies on the street into going into rehab turned to drugs himself. First it was greenies, which propelled him to his last great season in 1988. But that soon led to crystal meth, cocaine, and heroin. After two barely mediocre seasons, the Padres let him go, and at age 35, he signed with Tony LaRussa’s Oakland Athletics. The ESPN article calls the move naive, but I disagree. Show was exactly the kind of reclamation product that LaRussa’s longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan, specialized in.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, it didn’t work out. Show didn’t turn into one of Duncan’s success stories.

In 1992, Show was out of baseball and in rehab when he went to see his former teammate, Dave Dravecky, give a lecture. Dravecky wrote two books about his battle with cancer and embarked on a long career as a speaker and author. Dravecky recognized him and asked him to call, but Show lost his number.

ESPN has the rest of the story.

But I agree with his family that Eric Show’s legacy ought to be as a man who took homeless people out to dinner and who forgave and repeatedly tried to reconcile with his abusive father.

I’ve been following baseball for as long as I could read. I’m sure Eric Show isn’t the only baseball player who ever took a homeless person to dinner. But I never heard of any other.

My baseball heroes

Joe Posnanski just did an entry on his childhood baseball idols, and lots of people chimed in about their unlikely heroes. So I got to thinking about mine. When it comes to likely heroes, of course George Brett and Ryne Sandberg were on my list, but that makes me no different from about 10 million other people. Bo Jackson is more of an underdog because his career was so short, but he’s a pretty obvious choice too. There’s an old joke in Kansas City that nobody can name a current Royals player except for George Brett. I mean Bo Jackson. I mean Bret Saberhagen.

If you followed the Royals through the 1990s, it’s funny. I’m sure the overwhelming majority of people who come across this page will have to take my word for it.

Anyway, here’s my list.3. Calvin Schiraldi.

I have no connection to Boston except for a little bit of personal baggage that isn’t Boston’s fault, but in October 1986 I was a Red Sox fan. Why? They were playing the New York Mets in the World Series, and if the Mets were playing the Cuban Nationals, I’d probably root for the Cubans. The only time I root for the Mets is when they play the Yankees.

In 1986, Boston’s closer was a young fireballer named Calvin Schiraldi. Schiraldi pitched well early in the series, but not so well later on. In the fateful Game 6, an exhausted Schiraldi was the pitcher who gave up a single to Ray Knight, setting up the infamous Mookie Wilson ground ball between Bill Buckner’s legs that forced Game 7 and cost Boston the World Series. Schiraldi didn’t throw that pitch; he watched helplessly from the dugout while Bob Stanley tried to pitch out of the jam.

I still remember the images of Schiraldi sitting in the dugout afterward, his face buried in a towel.

Schiraldi took the ball again in Game 7 and took the loss in that game too.

For me, Schiraldi came to symbolize the guy who takes the ball when his team needs him, whether he has his best stuff or not, and no matter how tired he is.

I had the chance to meet him a couple of years later, but I had no idea what to say to him. I wish we’d talked baseball a little, but I don’t know what I would say if I had the opportunity again tomorrow either.

2. Ron Hassey.

I think I told this story before. Ron Hassey was a left-handed hitting catcher who worked well with pitchers and had some pop in his bat. In 1984, the Indians packaged Hassey up along with relief pitcher George Frazier and starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe for outfielders Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Yes, Joe Carter as in the hero of the 1993 World Series.

Rick and I are related, but it’s not like he looks me up when he’s in St. Louis or anything. I’ve met him twice. Once the day after his 200th major-league win, and once at his grandmother’s funeral. (His grandmother was my great aunt.) But I digress.

The Cubs didn’t really know what to do with Ron Hassey. Jody Davis was the Cubs’ catcher, and he made the All-Star team every year as Gary Carter’s backup and he was a fan favorite. One night that summer, Hassey got a rare start at first base, which wasn’t his usual position. I don’t exactly remember how it happened, but Hassey hurt himself on a play at first base. It was either his leg or his knee. Writhing in pain, he hit the ground, but he had the ball. He had the presence of mind to literally roll over to first base and tag the bag to get the out.

I’m not sure that the team doctor approved, but I always thought that was the way baseball was supposed to be played. Play hurt and play hard.

So, for all those times I played softball trying to disguise a sore hamstring so the opposing team wouldn’t get the wrong idea… I guess you could day I got the idea from Ron Hassey.

At the end of the year, the Cubs packaged him up in a deal with the Yankees for a couple of forgotten names, Brian Dayett and Ray Fontenot. Trades involving Hassey then became something of an annual offseason tradition for the Yankees for a few years, kind of like firing Billy Martin. Eventually the Oakland Athletics got their hands on him, and he became Dennis Eckersley’s personal catcher.

1. Lyman Bostock.

There’s a lot I can say about Lyman Bostock, but I’ll start with this: Lyman Bostock is the greatest baseball player of all time that you’ve never heard of. He only played two complete seasons, but he was a contender for the batting title both years. He was kind of like Tony Gwynn, only with better speed and range.

But his final season is the reason he’s on my list. He signed with a new team and stunk up the place his first month, so he went to the owner and tried to return his salary. He refused, so Bostock announced he’d give the money to charity instead. He received thousands of requests, and personally went through all of them to see who really needed the money the most.

These days, when a free agent signs a fat contract and promptly tanks, he laughs all the way to the bank.

There’s a good reason why Bostock isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and it’s the same reason you’ve never heard of him. Toward the end of the 1978 season, he was visiting his uncle in Gary, Indiana. Bostock’s uncle pulled up to a stoplight with his goddaughter in the front seat of his car and Bostock in the back. The goddaughter’s estranged husband walked up to the car and fired a shotgun blast into the car. The shot hit Bostock in the head and he died two hours later.

I never actually saw Bostock play, seeing as he died when I was 3, but he posthumously became one of my heroes. He wasn’t just the kind of guy a father can point to and tell his son, "Play baseball like him." He was the kind of guy a father should point to and tell his son, "Live your life like him."

When will we learn to ignore Pete Rose?

I’d really rather not acknowledge that Pete Rose is in the news again. I love baseball, and Pete Rose did a lot to hurt it, and talking about him doesn’t do much to help it.
I’d much rather talk about how the Royals just signed Juan Gonzalez and he’s a huge upgrade over anything the Royals have ever had in the lineup to protect Mike Sweeney. With Beltran, Sween and Gonzo in the lineup, this looks like it’s going to be a good year.

For that matter, I’d rather talk about Tug McGraw, one of the great characters of the game and probably the first of the great colorful relief pitchers, who died this week of brain cancer, much too young at 59.

But Rose’s half-hearted confession will appear tomorrow, so nobody’s going to be talking about any of that. It doesn’t change anything. Some people would argue that Rose’s never betting against the Cincinnati Reds somehow excuses his gambling, and his betting on his own team, while the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It does not.

Contrary to what one might think, a good manager does not set out to win every game. You can’t. You have to pick your battles. You might rest your star players when you’re playing a team like the Detroit Tigers because chances are you could beat that team with your 92-year-old grandparents in the lineup. Or you might play your star players against Detroit, in order to ensure victory, and rest your stars when playing a strong team you’re not likely to beat, such as the New York Yankees or Seattle Mariners.

The reason is pretty simple. The season is 162 games long, and not everybody is Cal Ripken Jr. Play everybody every day, and your team will break down. Witness the Oakland Athletics of the early 1980s. Fiery manager Billy Martin came in, and in 1981, it looked like he’d succeeded in turning that young team into another dynasty. He had young, energetic players, and he played them hard. In fact, he played them too hard. Within a year, all of his talented young pitchers had sore arms and while most of them stayed in the majors for a few more years, none of them ever lived up to their initial promise. For that matter, outside of Rickey Henderson, none of the 1981 Athletics’ everyday players had particularly and distinguished careers either.

It’s in the best interests of a Pete Rose who’s not betting on baseball to manage his team wisely by resting his star players when they look tired, pulling his starting pitcher after he’s thrown about 110 pitches, and using opportune times to give his inexperienced young players some playing time. Betting on your own team changes the equation. Suddenly meaningless games become must-win games. You leave your 20-game winner in the game longer because winning that bet becomes more important to you than the risk of hurting his arm. You take other unnecessary risks.

Rose tries to justify his actions by saying he never bet from inside the clubhouse. Well whoop-dee-do. I’m sure he never beat his wife or cheated on her in church either. That doesn’t make those action OK either. When asked why Rose bet on baseball, he said it was because he thought he wouldn’t get caught. There’s a long list of illegal things that I could do and not get caught, but that doesn’t make any of them right either.

It’s like a little kid, caught in the act of bullying, forced to tell the other kid he’s sorry. So he lets off the words, insincerely, and does the minimum, and spends the rest of his time trying to justify his wrongdoing.

Now Rose says he’s confessed and he wants reinstatement, and induction into the Hall of Fame.

Some people argue that Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame because he hit the ball between the opposing fielders 4,256 times. Fine. Let’s look at what constitutes a Hall of Famer.

Hall of Fame rules state that induction is dependent upon “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

One at a time: Record. Rose has more hits than anybody else, partially by virtue of having more at-bats. But his statistics, while not as great as his fans remember, are better than some people who are in the Hall of Fame.

Ability. His playing ability is probably adequate. But Rose was a one-dimensional player. He wasn’t a particularly good fielder, he hit for very little power, and he was at best an average baserunner. Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, and Ryne Sandberg, three players on this year’s ballot who are unlikely to make it in, all had far more ability than Rose. Pete Rose was Wade Boggs with a character disorder.

Integrity. Besides betting on baseball, Rose served prison time for cheating on his taxes. He beat his wife and cheated on her. Pete Rose isn’t the kind of guy you want hanging around your daughter, if you catch my drift, nor is he the kind of guy you want your son to model his life after. Pete Rose ain’t no Roberto Clemente.

There are lots of unsavory characters in the Hall of Fame, yes. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and even Joe DiMaggio all have skeletons in their closets. But last I checked, none of them ever stooped as low as Rose, and they also had Rose beat in the other categories.

Sportsmanship. In the 12th inning of the 1970 All Star Game, Pete Rose plowed over American League catcher Ray Fosse, dislocating his shoulder and destroying his career. It was a game that didn’t even count. Fosse, who had drawn comparisons to Johnny Bench, was never the same.

Character. See integrity.

Contributions. To Rose’s credit, he moved around a bit on the field to make room for other players. The Reds had a young power-hiting outfielder named George Foster sitting on the bench. Rose was playing the outfield. The Reds’ weakest position was third base. At the request of his manager, Rose learned how to play third base, which opened the door for Foster to get into the lineup, giving additional protection for Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. In 1980, Rose signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, who had a Hall of Famer named Mike Schmidt playing third, so Rose moved across the diamond to first. Philadelphia was a better team with Rose than without.

Late in his career, this changed. An aging Rose became a part-time player in Montreal. When Cincinnati traded for him and made him player-manager, Rose made himself a regular again, at the expense of playing time for younger players like Nick Esasky and Eddie Milner, and Hall of Famer Tony Perez. Esasky, who usually would have played first base, instead played left field, where he wasn’t as good defensively. Milner was a better defensive player, had good speed, and was at least as good at getting on base at that point as Rose. The Reds had a better lineup with Esasky at first base and Milner in left field, possibly in a platoon situation. People were more likely to buy a ticket to see Rose play than Eddie Milner, but the Reds were a better team with Rose on the bench.

Milner was never much more than a fourth outfielder. Esasky fared better, putting together a couple of really good years after the Reds traded him to Boston, before an injury ended his career.

Playing ability tends to get judged higher than all the rest, so I’ll grudgingly admit that if Rose were eligible, he’d probably get elected.

So what’s one to do?

Here’s my Solomon-like solution. Rose has been banned for life. What’s banned for life mean? He’s banned until he dies. So reinstate him after he dies. Then the Veteran’s Committee can evaluate him on his merits.

But there’s no precedent for reinstating a player banned for life.

Fine. Make one.

Shoeless Joe Jackson by his own admission took money to throw the 1919 World Series. He was one of the eight Black Sox who so accused. There’s also some indication that Jackson, unlike some of his teammates, played to win anyway, because he put up good numbers in the series, although his detractors point out that in the games the White Sox lost, Jackson never drove in any runs. Of course, it’s harder to drive in runs when there aren’t people on base.

Jackson may not have known what it was he was agreeing to do. Jackson was uneducated, and, by some accounts, not terribly bright. Even dumber than Pete Rose.

After the series, Shoeless Joe, like six other players who took money from gamblers and like one player who knew what was going on but didn’t participate, was banned from baseball for life. Thus the owner of the third-highest lifetime batting average in history, and the youngest player ever to hit .400, was denied his otherwise certain entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Joe Jackson has been dead for 52 years. Baseball still has never seen fit to put him into the Hall of Fame. Baseball has never seen fit to clear the name of Buck Weaver, the teammate who found out about the conspiracy but didn’t report it.

So reinstate Jackson and Weaver. For that matter, reinstate the other six guys as well. Let the Veterans Committee evaluate them for Hall of Fame entry. Then, when Rose dies, they can do the same for him.

Meanwhile, the best thing to do is just ignore the jerk.

Pete Rose, that is.

This is a so-you-know-I’m-alive post

I don’t expect my daily doings to be interesting to anyone. I mean, c’mon. Who wants to read ordinary? But since I haven’t posted in forever, I’ll post what I’ve got, which is this.I’m getting a lawnmower today. That’s good because I can’t get anyone to mow my itsy-bitsy yard for less than $25. For that kind of money, I’ll do it myself.

A friend is coming over this afternoon to help me install a programmable thermostat. That’s good because my utility bills are out of control. If I’d done it in December, I’d be about $400 richer right now. I’m also looking at some other creative ways to knock utility costs down, like compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use about 1/5 the wattage of a standard bulb and have about 10 times the life expectancy. They claim to save you about $30 in energy costs over their life expectancy. Multiply that by the 20 or so bulbs around the house that they’d be suitable replacements for, and you’re talking some real money.

My DSL connection has been sporadic the last couple of days. It seems to finally be stable. I’d get better reliability by upgrading to a static IP, but that won’t happen before summer. I’m still dealing with those unexpected expenses that creep up on new homeowners, and, well, I’m young. I don’t have the kind of resources someone 10 years older than me would have.

If I can find a steady writing gig, that’ll help.

I’ve got a couple of tape backup issues to look at for work. And that’s pretty much my day.

I wrote what I thought was a decent piece on bleeding-edge hardware. But somehow I managed not to save it. I may get time to rewrite it tomorrow, depending on how productive I am today.

Oh, and, tee hee hee, my Royals are 8-0. The last team that started the season 8-0 won the World Series. It was the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, who beat an awfully good Oakland Athletics team. And there’s reason for hope: The Royals have been doing it without Carlos Beltran (leg injury), and yesterday they won in spite of half the team battling the flu. Beltran and Mike Sweeney are the Royals’ only star players.

But the 1990 Reds only had two bona fide stars too, in Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.

Do I really think my Royals will win the World Series? Not yet. But I think this is going to be a fun year.

More of the same.

As I watched my Royals’ parent club, the Oakland Athletics, play the Yankees, I burned a CD under Linux for the first time. I honestly don’t remember when I last used my old Sony CD-R (it’s so old it’s a 2X burner!) but that was under Windows.
But burning an ISO image is insanely easy, at least if you’ve got a SCSI drive. Here’s the voodoo I needed:

cdrecord -v speed=2 dev=0,0 binary-i386-1.iso

By the time I could have pulled up the ISO image in Easy CD Creator, I’d typed the command line and cdrecord had already burned a meg.

How do you know the numbers? cat /proc/scsi/scsi.

And I know now why my people at work who are in the know on Linux love Debian. How big is a default installation of the current release? 141 megs. Including XFree86 3.36. It’s definitely not a distro for those who like the bleeding edge or even the leading edge, but if you’re wanting to build a Firewall, Debian looks like the distro of choice, and it’ll fit on a discarded 170-meg drive with room to spare.

I reformatted my experimental mail server, then I installed Debian. Then I made it a mailserver. Exim, a sendmail replacement, was already installed. So was procmail. So here’s what I did to make a mail server:

apt-get install courier-imap
apt-get install fetchmail

I created a .fetchmailrc file in my home directory:

poll postoffice.swbell.net with protocol pop3
user dfarq password noway is dfarq

Then I made the file secure:
chmod 0710 .fetchmailrc

I configured courier-imap. I had to scroll down to the bottom of /etc/courier-imap.config and uncomment the last line to activate it. Then I configured exim. I searched for the phrase “maildir” and uncommented the line that enables maildir format (courier doesn’t work with the default mbox format, and maildirs are more efficient anyway).

Then I ran fetchmail: fetchmail -d.

That should have worked. It didn’t. Exim continued to use mbox format. So I can connect to my IMAP server, which is populated by fetchmail, which is in turn served by exim, but since exim doesn’t put the mail in a format the server understands, I’ve got nothing to read.

So I guess I’m going to think about ditching exim for qmail. I have no great loyalty to exim except that Debian put it there by default.

And the Cardinals are eliminated (I’m furious with the way LaRussa handled Matt Morris; he won’t win 22 games next season, that’s a given now) and the A’s are going to have to play Game 5 without Jermaine Dye. I see the Royals have problems with the Yankees even when they’re wearing another uniform. Hopefully they can pull it off today. I’d have liked to have seen Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Jeremy Giambi and Mike Magnante go to the Series in Royals’ uniforms, but if they get there in someone else’s, I’ll take it.

Just had a conversation with Dan Bowman to confirm my feeble grip on sanity (but I was afraid I may have let go, so that is good news), and now it’s way late. It’s actually about 11:30; this server runs on Farquhar time. I’m gonna go make friends with my pillow. Apologies if this is poorly edited.

Absenteeism

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I’m recovering from last week, trying to put my life kind of in order. Yesterday I was in one of my moods, because the Royals traded half of their heart and soul, Jermaine Dye, for an overpaid shortstop who hasn’t proven he can hit outside of Coors Field. It would appear that the Royals are happy to be the AAA club for the Oakland Athletics. Among the ex-Royals in the A’s starting lineup: LF Johnny Damon, DH Jeremy Giambi, and now RF Jermaine Dye. I’m convinced the only reason the Royals haven’t sent Mike Sweeney to the A’s for a bag of baseballs is that the A’s are loaded at the three spots Sweeney could play.
But that’s insignificant compared to the news one of my best friends gave me yesterday. He’s been laid off, basically the victim of a personal vendetta. He’d been thinking of quitting anyway, but the time wasn’t exactly ripe for him to make that change. He’ll have no problem finding work, but it’s always bad when you lose your job unexpectedly over office politics.

On the bright side, yesterday I had the best (and longest) conversation I’ve had with anyone since summer 1997, easily. I look forward to its follow-up.

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