Peter Gammons & The AL Cy Young Race

September 1, 2010

While eating a delightful sandwich that I made for myself this afternoon, I caught a bit of Joe & Evan’s interview with Peter Gammons on WFAN. This exchange struck me as problematic:

WFAN: Would you actually consider a guy like Felix Hernandez – I know he’s 10-10, but you look at his other numbers for a bad team – would you consider a guy like that for the Cy Young, Peter?

GAMMONS: I would consider it. I just don’t think that when you look at his body of work… He’s been great, there’s no question about it. He’s got the highest quality start percentage and all that, and he leads the league in innings, which I think is very important. I take that into consideration. I think he’s there, but it’s just that there are some pitchers with really good records that have had extraordinary seasons. I mean, I think Sabathia – it’s not just leading the league in wins, it’s that consistency. He’s always there . . . I still think that right now, CC is the leader. It’s not just the wins but also what he means to that staff. He’s been the one guy all year long. They’ve run a lot of different guys in there behind him . . . I was actually thinking this morning “where is he going to sit in terms of the MVP race?”

There are some pretty obvious themes that I write about here on the blog: old school analysis versus new school analysis, scouting versus statistics, subjective arguments versus objective arguments, etc. Certainly, Gammons’ belief that Sabathia should win the AL Cy Young award could easily be turned into a classic “baseball men vs. nerds” post. I could go into detail about why Sabathia is more like the fifth best pitcher in the AL, citing statistics like WAR and xFIP along the way. But forget about all that for a moment. This isn’t about that.

My problem with Gammons’ argument is simply the inconsistent thinking behind it. Gammons likes but doesn’t love Hernandez because of his 10-10 record. We can agree that this record is largely because the Seattle Mariners stink. To be clear: it’s Hernandez’s teammates’ fault that his record is middling. Then, Gammons loves Sabathia because he’s been “the one guy” the Yankees can count on all season long. Why has Sabathia been “the one guy”? Because the rest of the Yankees’ rotation has been shaky. Sabathia shines because the rest of the starters are inconsistent or outright bad.

You probably see where I’m going with this now. Gammons isn’t into Hernandez because his teammates stink, but Gammons loves Sabathia because, well, his teammates stink.

In my vision of a perfect world, baseball analysts would routinely use advanced statistics (or at least convey advanced concepts in accessible terms) to make arguments for or against something. I would turn on ESPN News and see the league leaders in xFIP scroll across the bottom of the screen instead of league leaders in wins. But I realize that that’s unrealistic right now. In the meantime, all I want is a fundamental level of consistency when making a point, and Gammons falls short of that here.

Although if Gammons starts actively pushing CC Sabathia for AL MVP, you might see my patience deteriorate pretty quickly.


Unrealistic Expectations Surround Yankees’ Ramiro Pena

April 1, 2009


As Spring Training mercifully draws to a close, the New York Yankees have filled 24 of the 25 spots on their active roster. The final spot is for the unenviable position of utility infielder. Cody Ransom was set to fill this role, but Alex Rodriguez’s injury has thrust Ransom into to the starting lineup, creating a vacancy on the Yankees’ bench. The competition has come down to former Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa and Yankees farmhand Ramiro Pena. Berroa has had the superior performance offensively, hitting .373/.383/.610. He is, however, 31 years old and nothing more than the .260/.305/.378 hitter revealed by his career line. The 23-year-old Pena has posted a .295/.348/.361 line – slightly better than his career minor-league line. By all accounts, his defense has been exceptional. It has been a fairly uninspired competition, as one would expect when the prize is the utility infielder’s role.

The real story here is not the competition, but the incomprehensible excitement over Pena’s merely average performance. Both local and national writers have begun to include Pena in the discussion of elite Yankees prospects. The New York Daily News‘ Bill Madden wrote the following about Pena: Read the rest of this entry »

Basic Tenet of Journalism #1: Remembering Factual Information

May 21, 2007

Hey, kids! It’s Keesup, and tonight I’ll be hosting a crash course in how to be a good, responsible journalist! Let’s dig in!

The first lesson is about keeping stories in context, so you know whether something is truly newsworthy. A big part of this is remembering other stories, so you know whether or not your story is repeating information that’s already well-known. We’ll start with something that’s not newsworthy.

Jason Giambi did an interview with a shoddy national newspaper and touched upon the issue of performance-enhancing substances:

“I was wrong for doing that stuff,” Giambi said Wednesday before the Yankees played the Chicago White Sox. “What we should have done a long time ago was stand up — players, ownership, everybody — and said, ‘We made a mistake.’ We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward. Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it.”

But good students will note that Jason Giambi testified to a grand jury in 2003. He admitted that he used anabolic steroids and HGH. And he publicly apologized. So, there’s not really any new information in the USA Today Story. I guess that he’s expressing an opinion on an important matter, but still, I might save this for a news-in-brief tucked away. Everyone got it? Okay, class dismissed. Time for ice cream!

Wait, I’m sorry. You, in the back, you have something to add? Could you take off those Mickey Mouse ears? They’re a bit distracting. Thanks.

Okay, I think you need to calm down? You’re angry? Why are you angry? What do you mean, this is the closest to admitting that he took steroids? He did admit it. Four years ago.

You think it showed poor judgement? Why? How? He discussed something that was public knowledge. It was hypocritical? Maybe, but I think you’re making way too big a deal out of this.

Why should anyone investigate this? There’s nothing actionable here. Cashman wants to get out of his contract? I would too. (Jason Giambi is grossly overpaid.) Why are you making such a big deal out of this?

No, actually, I didn’t know “Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End” is only in theatres May 25. It’s not like there have been any advertisements or anything.

Any more questions?

At Least TRY To Hide Your Bias, Peter Gammons

May 20, 2007

During tonight’s Mets-Yankees game on ESPN, Peter Gammons chimed in from the little near-dugout media box thingy about the state of the Red Sox. Fine. He said the Red Sox’ only real concern right now is Josh Beckett’s injury, which Gammons went on to say is pretty mild and “not a blister”. Beckett should only miss one more start. Fine.

Then Gammons said the blister avulsion was caused by a “defective baseball”.

Wha…what? I know your Red Sox homerism comes through sometimes, but at least try and be subtle, Mr. Gammons.

Making Amends

April 12, 2007

Our self-appointed job here at Fan Interference is to ridicule and correct the mistakes of professional baseball writers. But it should also stand to reason that if one of them says something uncharacteristically smart or insightful, we should point it out also. Picking up on a pet peeve of Special K’s, I found a choice nugget in Steve Phillip’s weekly online chat. Normally, the former Mets GM is intolerable on the air, always trying to sneak big economic jargon into simple trade stories. But here’s what he had to say about the Red Sox’ suspect credentials this year:

    Jim Nj: The Red Sox bats are shaky shut out against Texas and Now Seattle. What moves can be made to make sure the Sox don’t get shut out 45 games this year, and get the pitchers more wins? 1 win was taken from Wakefield another from Dice-K I will take 2-3 runs allowed by a starting pitcher every ouoting.

    sn21.gifSteve Phillips: I agree with you that, if Matsuzaka gives up 3 runs in 7 innings every time out, he’ll win 15 games for sure. He certainly pitched well enough to win yesterday. The Red Sox offense is off to a bit of a slow start. The main culprit is Manny Ramirez. This season, like last year, Manny just doesn’t seem locked in. I think JD Drew will have a productive season behind Ortiz and Manny, but there are some holes in the lineup that could limit overall production. Mike Lowell looks like he might be slowing down a little bit, and I have questions about Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp at the bottom of the lineup. There’s just not enough sock to go with the big 3 in the middle. People think I’m crazy to pick the Red Sox 3rd in the East, but when you look at the ‘ifs’ for this team, you have to have some concerns.

    sn21.gifSteve Phillips: Here’s what I mean; the Red Sox can go to the playoffs IF Curt Schilling doesn’t drop off and IF Josh Beckett can be the ace they traded for and IF Wakefield and Jon Lester can win 12 games each and IF Papelbon can stay healthy all season and IF they can find someone to take the ball in the seventh and eighth innings and IF they get decent production from Crisp, Lowell, and Pedroia. It may happen, but experience shows that not everything does.

You might remember that Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark*, and even the dear-to-our-hearts Buster Olney predicted Boston will win the AL East under the assumption that all these hypotheticals are certainties; so it’s nice to one of the regulars breaking through the Bristol-based hype machine for an instant. I know, this is kind of like rewarding the slacker student for finally doing what’s expected of him, but still: baby steps.

*I just noticed the unnecessary letter “y” in Stark’s first name. What a jerk.

Peter Gammons + Red Sox = Blissful Unity

March 22, 2007

Peter Gammons’ most recent blog entry, prompted by Jonathan Papelbon’s reassignment to the closer role, is beautiful in that it is a short, sweet, concise example of Red Sox homerism/journalistic incompetence. Maybe both.

This also means that there will be further Roger Clemens speculation as a complement to what should be a very good, contrasting rotation of Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield.

Fair point about Clemens. See previous posts for my unwavering opinion about that rotation probably being really good. Again: fat declining 40 year old, unknown quantity, 5.00 ERA, and old knuckleballer.

Now, with Mike Timlin returning around April 10 and a setup staff of Brendan Donnelly, J.C. Romero, Snyder, Hideki Okajima and Joel Pineiro, there is order. Craig Hansen can go to the minors and try to find his lost natural delivery. When Timlin returns, Manny Delcarmen can get regular work at Pawtucket, if necessary.

Sure, I mean, I guess there’s order. The Red Sox’ bad relievers come in before their good one now, as opposed to just a constant onslaught of crappiness before Papelbon became the closer. So there is a sequence, sure. Again, refer to my previous posts about the Red Sox’ relievers. Donnelly is okay, Romero is awful, Snyder is okay, Okajima is an unknown quantity, and Pieneiro is awful. Also, Mike Timlin is 41 years old and had an ERA of 6.02 after the All-Star break last year. Just saying.

If Julio Lugo, Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek are healthy spread around Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox are going to be back among the top three offensive teams in the American League.

This is completely unrelated Peter Gammons, but because you included it, it’s fair game. In case you readers haven’t noticed, I love (and by “love” I mean “hate”) conditional sentences that list a long list of things – many of which are improbable independently, making it near impossible dependently – that have to happen in order for something super-good to happen. Like this one, for instance.

Yes, if Lugo and Crisp (not huge health risks) are healthy, as well as Drew and Varitek (two huge health risks), then the Red Sox’ offense will be good. But my main issue with this excerpt is the inclusion of Dustin Pedroia in the sentence outlining the Red Sox’ main offensive weapons. That has to be what the second group is, right? It’s got Manny and Ortiz in it, so Gammons is talking about the big guns here.


Someone, please explain to me what exactly Dustin Pedroia has done to warrant mentioning in this particular context. Please, I’m not going to sleep unless someone helps me out. Might he be good someday? Absolutely. But to include him in this group of established, proficient offensive players is pure journalistic stupidity.


  • Stop calling the Red Sox’ rotation very good. If you look at it componentially, this is really unlikely.
  • Stop calling the Red Sox’ bullpen improved or even average. It is a wasteland. Look at their stats.
  • Stop calling Dustin Pedroia good. It’s not nice to mess with his head like that.
  • In general, in the name of all that is holy, look at players’ statistics once in a while. It’s your job.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I Present The DTBGI

February 25, 2007

Unbeknownst to the entire baseball community, ESPN’s Peter Gammons has been hard at work at developing a revolutionary new statistic. I know, I know – like baseball needs a new statistic. VORP, WARP1, WARP3, OPS, EqA. When will it all end?

The good news is that Gammons’ new statistic is different from all the others in that it is completely subjective, unquantifiable, and open to intense debate. It is based on nothing but perception and, potentially, bias. Sounds great!

Without further ado, I present to you the Desire To Be Great Index (DTBGI for short).

To be serious for a moment, I have to come clean and reveal that the main impetus behind this post is an asinine swipe at a current Yankee pitcher. In the column, Gammons talks about Roger Clemens’ famous drive, work ethic, devotion to his craft, etc. Fine. But then he just starts randomly mentioning current pitchers and subsequently assesses their respective DTBGIs. I guess that’s okay, even though it is superduperextremelyhypersubjective. Then he says:

“Pedro Martinez always wanted to be great, but Mike Mussina, who is a borderline Cooperstown candidate, never did.”

Gammons has apparently used his sophisticated and advanced mathematical methods and determined that Mike Mussina’s DTBGI is low. If only Mussina had wanted, prayed, yearned a little more to be great, then he would have been a better pitcher. If only he had exchanged the time spent practicing his crazy multitude of pitches, getting in good shape, and maximizing his talent for a few more moments of serious inner contemplation, then Mussina would be better at playing baseball.

I think you get my point. I agree with Gammons that there are players in baseball – and every sport – who are obviously less devoted than others. Ricky Williams in football (marijuana), Carl Pavano in baseball (lack of penis), even Shaq (questionable physical fitness) in basketball. But let’s not get carried away here, Gammons. Mussina has put up a 125 ERA+, 3.63 ERA, 2572/719 BB/K, and 239 W (for those of you who like that stat) in his career. He’s a really good pitcher.

Gammons, in this instance, attributes the difference between Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina to the Desire To Be Great. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with talent. Pedro Martinez is a better pitcher than Mike Mussina. Period. One is superb, and the other is very good, end of story. Neither one would have had this much success if they didn’t want to be great at their profession. Gammons’ statement makes Mussina sound like a indifferent slacker, and Pedro like a man of destiny. They just have different levels of talent.

“He sees the fire that’s driven Daisuke Matsuzaka since he was in high school. He sees it in Josh Beckett, embarrassed by a 5.01 ERA as he works on his changeup to move hitters’ feet and his two-seamer to alter eye level. Farrell sees it in Jonathan Papelbon, and believes Jon Lester may have the greatest drive of them all.”

He’s just trying to piss me off here. Apparently Matsuzaka, Beckett, Papelbon, and Lester all have DTBGIs that are incalculably high. Despite the fact that Matsuzaka has never pitched in MLB, Beckett has never had one full good season, Papelbon has never started full-time, and Lester is coming off cancer treatment (and was awful before his diagnosis), they all have DTBGIs higher than Mussina (who has had two below average years in his healthy, durable 16 year career). Mussina is such a slacker.

This entire column is incredibly subjective. I’m just going to stop writing now.