Livan Hernandez

May 12, 2010

Joe Morgan participated in a pretty harmless chat today, which was honestly a little bit disappointing. He did, however, leave one gem in his wake:

Pete (NC): Are you surprised by the Nationals being over .500? Can they keep this up?

Joe Morgan: I think I’m pleasantly surprised. I thought they would be better. I am surprised that they’ve played so well. Part of the reason is Livan Hernandez has pitched great for them. He’s a veteran and when a veteran pitches well, it gives the team a little more confidence. You know he can sustain it.

I’m not angry or insane enough to accuse Morgan of actually believing that Hernandez is going to finish the season with a 1.04 ERA. I know he doesn’t actually think that. But the “you know he can sustain it” bit is problematic in one of two ways.

If Morgan is using “he” as a substitute for “veteran pitchers,” then that’s obviously ridiculous because being a veteran has nothing to do with whether or not a certain level of performance is sustainable. Hernandez is not more likely than other players to continue his hot start simply because he’s been around the league forever.

If Morgan is using “he” as a substitute for “Livan Hernandez,” then it’s possible Morgan has reached a new personal nadir in his career as a baseball analyst. Hernandez’s ERAs in each of the last three seasons are 4.93, 6.05, 5.44 (in 567 total innings of work). He has struck out 14 batters in 43 innings so far, making his K/9 a pathetic and foreboding 2.91. Opponents are hitting .188 on balls in play against him. He has stranded an absurd, insane, he-must-have-a-horseshoe-AND-a-four-leaf-clover-up-his-butt 98.9% of baserunners so far. In short, at this very moment, it’s possible that Hernandez is overachieving by a wider margin than any other baseball player in history has overachieved. So, no, Joe Morgan, we do not know he can sustain it. In fact, we know the opposite. We know that Hernandez has benefited from some unfathomably good luck, and that he’s going to come crashing back to earth dramatically and soon.

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Joe Morgan & J.D. Drew

May 10, 2010

In last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, Joe Morgan said that the reason Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew has emerged from his slump is because he is taking fewer pitches, being more aggressive, and swinging earlier in the count. I had a sneaking suspicion Morgan was totally making this up – mostly because he had just seen Drew rip an early-count single into center field off A.J. Burnett. Actually, Morgan’s “thinking” reminded me a lot of the 2:00-2:20 clip in this montage:

“Do you really love the lamp, or are you just saying it because you saw it?” But I digress.

Anyway, I looked it up. From April 4th-April 28th, Drew’s OPS was below .600. He saw an average of 18.1 pitches per game during that span. Since April 30th, his OPS has steadily risen from .695 to .834. He saw an average of 18.4 pitches per game as he emerged from his slump.

In conclusion, Joe Morgan is making things up. Again.


Another Joe Morgan Chat

April 27, 2010

This was another solid showing from Mr. Morgan. Let’s get serious:

Joe Morgan: One thing that I’ve taken notice of this year has been the fact that the stars are still being the stars. They’re being consistent from the beginning of the season. Whereas, we’re finding that a lot of teams that were supposed to be at the top of the division are struggling, but the star players are still playing like stars. I’m specifically talking about guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jeter. Guys like that are playing consistent. I think that separates them even more from the pack.

What do Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Lee, Mark Teixeira, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, RYAN HOWARD, Matt Holliday, and Michael Young have in common? They are “star players” that have gotten off the bad starts. Morgan’s opening statement is gibberish. He is making things up.

Q: What are your thoughts on A-Rod walking over the mound against Oakland?

Morgan: I have to admit that I have been corrected, because I didn’t know that unwritten rule. I’ve seen different reports. One said that he stomped on the rubber. The other said that he walked over the mound. But I was never told or thought about the fact that you should never walk over the mound. The pitcher said that was his mound, but it could be the Yankees’ pitcher’s mound too, right? If he’s standing on the mound, I understand that. But I don’t think he was. If that’s the case, then pitcher’s shouldn’t stand in the hitter’s batting box. I find it humorous that it was a big deal other than the fact that it was A-Rod. I still think that players are jealous of him because of the money he’s made. I guarantee you that he’s not the only one that’s run over a mound this year.

So help me God, I agree with the last three sentences of Morgan’s response. Let’s move on before I think about this too much.

Q: Is Ryan Howard really worth 25 mil/year?

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. NO.

Morgan: Well, let’s put it this way. If Joe Mauer is worth 23 or so. A guy that hits 40 plus HRs and drives in 140 runs a year and Joe Mauer has never done that, then I would say yes. Howard produces numbers and that’s what we’ve come to in this game is about numbers. I don’t necessarily like the fact that it’s about numbers, but he produces them. It also begs to question, what is Albert Pujols worth?

Ugh. Okay, so I was going to devote an entire post to the absurdity of Ryan Howard’s fat new extension. But now I see an opportunity to criticize Joe Morgan’s analysis and Howard’s deal, and I can’t pass that up. I’m not even going to make a big stink about how Morgan, like the Phillies, looked at Howard’s RBI totals and decided that he’s worth $25 million a year because of them. Rob Neyer has already written about this, and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need to be convinced that RBI is a worthless statistic. Instead, let’s just focus on two things that the Phillies apparently chose to totally ignore: Howard’s (gasp!) performance and his age.

Contrary to popular belief, Howard is not an elite player. Part of this is that the offensive standards for first basemen are quite high. The other part is that, well, Howard’s performance is not elite. He can’t hit lefties. His career .225/.308/.442 line against southpaws, which is already bad, masks the fact that this ability has been in steep decline since 2006. Look it up, it’s striking. His walk rate has also been declining since 2007. Add this to his mediocre defensive ability and it paints a pretty grim picture, once you get past his huge RBI totals.

Also contrary to popular belief, Howard is not all that young. He’s 30 years old. Many people seem to forget that Howard’s first full season (2006) came when he was 26 years old. This isn’t entirely his fault; the Jim Thome era was winding down in Philadelphia, and the Phillies didn’t have a place to play Howard. But 26 years old is still awfully late to be making a full-season debut. Howard’s meant that he broke into the big leagues right at his prime. Sure enough, his 2006 season (.313/.425/.659) was monstrous even to statheads like me. He was quite good in 2007 too, but since then, there have been hints of decline. And let’s not forget how big, lumbering, unathletic 1B/DH types tend to break down earlier than other players. Howard’s top five “most similar players” through age 29 are Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, and David Ortiz. Not auspicious.

There’s an argument to be made that Howard is only the fourth most valuable Phillie (certainly behind Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, probably behind Jayson Werth, and possibly behind Jimmy Rollins). Extending his contract – needlessly, and right at the beginning of his decline phase – is poor business by itself, and even worse when his salary will be the second-highest in the game. Read the rest of this entry »


Worst. Chat. Ever.

February 24, 2010

Does it make me insensitive or a racist to criticize Joe Morgan in a chat that was held as a part of ESPN’s tribute to Black History Month? I hope not, because I’m going to do it anyway.

Joe Morgan (12:00 PM): It would be impossible to record black history without recording what baseball has contributed. From the Negro Leagues to Jackie Robinson breaking of the color barrier, baseball has contributed a lot towards our society moving forward together.

Poignant. Note the time.

David (Florida): Hey Joe!Who do you think is the best improved team this year?

Joe Morgan (12:02 PM): I guess you would have to say the Giants in the National League because they have made the most moves. If their moves work out or not, we’ll have to wait and see. In the American League I’ll say Seattle. On paper both teams did a good job of improving themselves.

“The Giants improved the most because they made the most changes. I’m not sure if the Giants improved themselves. Like Seattle, the Giants improved themselves.”

victor ( monroe,la): what are the cubs chances on winning the n.l.central this year?and do you think aramis ramirez will remain in chicago?

Joe Morgan (12:03 PM): I think the Cubs chances are pretty good in that they have a lot of talent but they always seem to find a way to under achieve. Until they get over that, it’s always a mystery to see what they will do. I especially like their starting pitchers.

“I don’t know! And I’m ignoring your second question even though I could just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY): Between Joba Chamberlain & Philip Hughes who do you think will be the 5th starter for the New York Yankees?

Joe Morgan (12:04 PM): I think Hughes will be the fifth starter. Chamberlain is a late inning set up man and maybe a future closer.

Joe Morgan proves that he is, in fact, capable of directly answering a simple question. Victor in Monroe fumes.

alex (dc): Joe how long till my nats can make a run for a wild card considering the moves we have made

Joe Morgan (12:06 PM): I think they defiantly improved their team and they do have some veterans like Ivan Rodriquez that can lead this team. Like everyone else, we’re waiting to see what Strasburg can do. I defiantly think they have an improved team this season.

Wow, so much defiance. Why would the Nationals improve themselves in a defiant way? I know not much is expected of the Nationals, but there’s no shame in self-improvement. Good for them. And good for you too, Joe. Nice job coming down hard with your opinion and stating it firmly. You should try that more often; a fairly common criticism of your opinions is that they aren’t, well, opinionated enough.

Oh. Wait.

You meant “definitely.”

Oh.

Joe Morgan defiantly (definitely works too) refuses to learn how to spell “definitely.”

Joe Morgan (12:18 PM): I would like to end this chat with one of my favorite quotes. “A people without a knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots”. All this is saying is that African Americans should really think about our ancestors and what they had to endure in order for us to be where we are at today. Thanks for taking the time out to chat.

I, too, would like to share one of my favorite quotes. It goes “a baseball analyst with a habitual aversion to analysis, a horrid grasp of English, and a stubborn refusal to improve either is like an infant with a bazooka.” It comes from Tortola, I believe.

Note the time.

Talk to you later, Joe!


Team-Wide Trends Continue To Elude Joe Morgan

September 22, 2009

I’d like to apologize for the lack of content recently. I spent much of last week working on a large piece, hoping to post it on Friday. Then I sent it to the smartest person I know, who lived up to that billing by pointing out several problems with the argument and its lack of focus. So, licking my wounds, I’m returning to the drawing board with no estimated time of arrival. I’ve also started a new job working with middle schoolers to improve their literacy skills (those of you that have followed Fan Interference since its inception can feel free to shudder now). Although it’s only part-time, it requires a significant commute and some work outside the classroom, so finding time to post will become marginally more difficult. But, much like utilizing both sabermetrics and scouting, I’m confident that a balance can be found.

Today’s offering is meager but meaningful. One week ago, I posted a blurb about ESPN analyst Joe Morgan’s infamous reluctance to look things up before offering his opinion. Well, Morgan did it again in today’s chat:

Matt (St. Louis): Hi Joe, From the current playoff contenders which team do you think is the best well rounded?

Joe Morgan: I think St. Louis in the National League. They have excellent starting pitching. Good relief pitching. Until recently Ryan Franklin was great as a closer and I think he can be again in the playoffs. In the American League, I’ve been believing in the Yankees for the last month. But you have to wonder about their starting pitching. Sabathia will get the job done, but you have to wonder about Burnett. Pettitte has the shoulder problems and Joba is a star in the Yankees’ minds and no where else. But I guess all the good teams have some weaknesses. Philly doesn’t have a closer. Anaheim is just now getting their pitching in order, but you have to wonder about their power. Boston, their starting pitching, Lester and then Beckett, but he’s been struggling until recently.

Astute baseball fans will quickly notice Morgan’s incorrect assessment of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s perceived deficiency – lack of power. The Angels rank fifth in baseball in slugging percentage, 11th in home runs, 12th in triples, and 14th in doubles. Morgan’s argument for the St. Louis Cardinals is peculiar in two ways: (1) the Cardinals rank 12th in slugging, 15th in home runs, 19th in triples, and 11th in doubles and (2) his argument consists entirely of touting their pitching. I’m not sure the answer to Matt’s question is the Angels. But if Morgan is going to pass over the Angels because of their weak hitting, he can’t go for the Cardinals either.

The more interesting aspect of Morgan’s response is its relationship to the rest of the mainstream sports media. Traditionally, the sports media is slow to pick up on changes in a team’s style of play. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, in which people base their analysis on their perception of a team’s style (usually rooted in history) rather than what the data tells them. Good examples of this include last year’s persistent declaration that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a running team, even though they finished the season ranked 23rd in rushing. Or that the Minnesota Twins are built on defense and unselfish play (read: bunting), when in reality they rank 21st and 25th in those categories. It’s a pretty common practice.

Joe Morgan has consistently demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to evaluate each edition of each baseball team on its own terms. That much is unsurprising. What’s quite surprising – and more than a little disconcerting – is how he’s been left in the dust by even the most obtuse of his peers. I will refrain from naming names, because I still haven’t given up hope that a major sports media network will offer to buy this blog from me for millions of dollars (note: kidding), but I’ve consistently heard these members of the mainstream sports media admire the Angels’ sudden shift from a punchless team to a slugging one. I never thought I’d see the day when the talking heads aren’t praising the Angels for their headiness, grit, guts, baserunning, and timely hitting, but that day has come. The word is out, and everyone knows it: for the first time in years, the Angels can really, really hit. Everyone but Joe Morgan, professional baseball analyst, that is.

… And there goes my multimillion-dollar absorption.


As Surely As The Sun Rises In The East, Joe Morgan Will Not Look Up A Statistic

September 15, 2009
Rajai Davis is the only athletic Oakland Athletic, as judged by Joe Morgan

Rajai Davis is the only athletic Oakland Athletic, as judged by Joe Morgan

I’m working on a fairly large (or dense, depending on how it works out) piece for the end of the week, so in all likelihood, posts will be sparse until then. For now, I offer you this irresistible nugget that confirms three things: Joe Morgan still hates the Oakland Athletics, Joe Morgan still has no idea when he’s being baited, and Joe Morgan still doesn’t look anything up.

Otto (CA): Hello Joe. What do the Oakland A’s need to do to be competitive again? Maybe Billy Beane should quit writing books and start acquiring some athletes.

Joe Morgan: Become more athletic. Sometimes, when I look at the A’s players, I think they’re playing softball. They have some big guys who try to hit the ball out of the ballpark. They strike out a lot. They just are not in position to make things happen on the basepaths. They’ve never really been a team to run or steal bases, bunt guys over or hit and run. They’ve always tried to hit the big home run. Now they have one guy in Davis. Their philosophy was working for a while, but now that philosophy doesn’t work any more. You have to be more athletic, steal some bases in order to be a well rounded team. You don’t have to steal a lot of bases, but you have to have the threat there.

The unathletic, basepath-clogging, stationary, one-dimensional Oakland Athletics have the fourth-most steals in Major League Baseball, having swiped 119 bags this season. Also, does anyone else find it weird that the only Oakland player that Morgan deems athletic is Rajai Davis, who just happens to be the only black position player on the team? Because I do.


Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

July 21, 2009

I’m a little worn down from yesterday’s extra long post and a hectic day at work, so I’ve chosen to produce the easiest bit of content I know: a critique of a Joe Morgan chat. Enjoy these nuggets and – if you’re in New York City – stay dry.

Matt (New Jersey): Hey Joe. Other than Pujols, is there any better 1B than Justin Morneau? What a fantastic player he is…

Joe Morgan: You’re 100% correct, with the exception of Pujols. Justin Morneau for the last 3 years continues to improve. That’s the mark of a great player, that you continue to improve. He’s considered an offensive player as much as anything. He doesn’t run as well as Pujols, but he’s a great hitter. Prince Fielder and Justin Morneau are the future stars at that position, though Pujols is still young.

Justin Morneau was born on May 15th, 1981, making him almost exactly seven months younger than Albert Pujols. I will bet you a popsicle that Joe Morgan thinks Morneau is five years younger than he actually is. Also, I’m pretty sure that Fielder and Morneau’s 1.000ish OPSes make them current stars at the first base position.

Michael (Houston): Do you think the Astros can really do it?

Joe Morgan: Yes. I don’t know what’s the in water there in Houston, but it seems to energize these guys in the second half every year. I thought they could have made the playoffs last year, except for the hurricane that moved those three games from Houston to Milwaukee. I think they can make the run this year.

If Joe Morgan thinks the Astros can make the playoffs, then they aren’t going to make the playoffs. After this anti-endorsement, I’m more confident about this than ever. For more detailed explanations about the Astros forthcoming failure, look here and here.

Matt (Jacksonville): Joe, the Cubs can’t seem to get on a consistent roll. Is there anyway for them to get consistency this year?

Joe Morgan: Last year there was something about the Cubs personality of the team. There was something different. They were a fun team to watch. I enjoyed watching them. I enjoyed talking to them. There just seems to be a different personality of the team this year. In addition, the confidence level has fallen a little bit. The injury to Ramirez set them back. Everyone talked about DeRosa and he’s one of my favorite players, but Jason Marquis is also gone. It’s just a little different now. The answer is, I don’t know if they’ll be able to re-gain that consistency of last year, but they still have a shot at their division.

The Cubs’ mediocre record has nothing to do with a change in team personality. It has everything to do with this:

  • 2008: .354 OBP, .443 SLG, .797 OPS
  • 2009: .323 OBP, .403 SLG, .726 OPS

Their offense has gone from one of the very best in baseball to one of the very worst. But yes, let’s waste an entire paragraph attributing the Cubs’ decline to “a different personality” and not the inability to hit a baseball.

Ben (Lincoln, NE): So Mr. Morgan, are the White Sox legit contenders? Because it seems most analysts still only think the Tigers or Twins have a real shot at the AL Central… and I’m not sure why they ignore the southsiders…

Joe Morgan: I definitely believe the White Sox have a chance. Any time you have Dye, Thome, Ramirez, you have a good team. I don’t know when Carlos Quentin is coming back, but if they can get healthy, I think they definitely have a chance.

Carlos Quentin returned to the White Sox yesterday, as reported by Joe Morgan’s employer. He also played in last night’s game, going 1 for 4 with a single. But that’s okay, I’m sure Morgan’s professional responsibilities don’t include knowing about a 2008 MVP candidate’s recent return from an injury.

Time to grab some dinner, watch Sergio Mitre make his season debut, and wonder why the Yankees refuse to put Phil Hughes into the rotation. Until next time.