Friday, March 23, 2007

I'm Feeling Socratic this Morning

Peter King spent years extolling just about anything that the New England Patriots did, but he had a specific affection for their low-budget approach to free agency, where they eschewed signing big-ticket free agents and instead looked for bargains that would improve their depth. He also babbled on endlessly about how the Patriots would only bring in character guys. So now that New England is on a free agent spending spree and have gone after a collection of former Tennessee Vol receivers with demons (Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington), what's King's reaction? Brilliant! Not a hint of acknowledgment that all of his former praise might have been flawed. Scott Pioli could form a group of Patriot Ultras to pay homage to Arkan and Peter King would hail the move as a visionary step to mimic the best traditions of European fandom.

Meanwhile, Tom Verducci is busy castigating the Yankees for taking a flawed approach to team development. This article would have made sense about four years ago when the Yankees were busy trading prospects every year for mediocre, "proven" veterans, but Verducci is completely behind the times. I am loathe to praise the Yankees in any respect, but they've done a commendable job in the past couple years of not mortgaging their future and of looking to their farm system to plug holes instead of signing the Gary Sheffields and Randy Johnsons of the world. As a result, the Yankees have, gasp, an honest-to-g-d good young player in Robinson Cano and another one in the pipeline in Philip Hughes.

The major problem that I have with Verducci's piece is that he contradicts himself. He argues (correctly, in my opinion) that the baseball playoff are a complete crapshoot and he cites some truly startling numbers:

In all postseason series from 1995 (the start of the wild-card era) through 1999, the team that won the greater number of regular-season games came out on top 52.5 percent of the time (21-19). But from 2000 to '06, the team with more regular-season victories won only 36.2 percent of postseason series (17-30).

Then, instead of simply concluding that the Yankees are, barring an unforeseen disaster, going to be in the playoffs and they'll have a 1/8 chance of winning the World Series once they're there, Verducci goes on to make the claim that teams with older players are at a disadvantage in the playoffs. If the playoffs are random, then it shouldn't help or hurt having older players, right? It has to be one or the other, but it can't be both.

Looking more closely at the Yankees' exit last year against the Tigers, there is no rational way to conclude that the Yankees were done in by their older players. Look at the OPSs for their position players:

Abreu - .812
Cano - .266
Damon - .690
Giambi - .800
Jeter - 1.467
Matsui - .562
Posada - 1.348
A-Rod - .142
Sheffield - .166

Yes, a couple of the Yankees' older players were dreadful, but their best hitters in the series were 32-year old Derek Jeter and 35-year old Jorge Posada. Conversely, their one young player (Cano) did nothing for them. The age factor that Verducci likes to tout doesn't prove much at all.

No comments: