I think the problem that EV and a lot of others around here share is that they either didn't play or they didn't pay attention to organized team sports growing up, and thus, it's impossible for them to shake the fact that it's both possible and extremely reasonable to understand that sometimes, a team that has a ton of talent, gets out on the field and SUCKS. I can think of a dozen teams that I played on up through the high school level that were supremely talented to the teams we faced in a given season, but when the final standings came out, we weren't at the top, or even close to it in some instances. There were a million reasons for this, injuries, coaching, suspensions, and even some of the nonsense Eric just cited like "confidence, concentration, relaxation, freedom from distraction." However, at the end of the day, we sucked, just like the Red Sox suck.
The ownership has now given this team basically a year, dating back to last September, to take all of this alleged talent and make it translate to the only thing that matters, wins. They couldn't do it. Maybe they would have started doinigj it tomorrow, but I'm the kind of guy that believes that the recent past is a much better indicator of future results than hoping for different results because they should be better due to how they look on paper.
Finally, something we can agree on [blaming BV]. But, as you may recall, this team ran a guy out of town that had previously instilled plenty of confidence, concentration, relaxation and freedom from distraction. Let's hope the third time is the charm, just like we're going to hope that they don't suffer an "abnormal" amount of injuries again.
That said, I'll grant you that's unassailable and incontrovertible that with better clutch performance, this team would have won 87 games. Now, you have to do this: Prove to me that this group of players is capable of average clutch performance. I'll hang up and listen.
I don't disagree with any of this. Of course the results have sucked. It's the same group of guys, though, that were the best team in MLB for most of last year. When they started sucking unexpectedly, they couldn't stop sucking
. BV was hired to turn that around.
I've been saying since last winter that they may need one or two more Damon / Millar free spirit types in the clubhouse, so I'm not putting it all on BV. I've been saying for about a week (slower to see it) that what they really needed was not a new personality 180 degrees away from Tito, but just a Tito type who was not distracted by ill health and undermined by too much familiarity. So, yeah, hiring the right guy is paramount.
Just so we're clear, clutch now exists or it doesn't? I'm just not sure anymore, seems like Bill James and his acolytes changed their mind on that every couple weeks not long ago.
Both BP and Tango have shown that 10% of it is predictive. I showed at SABR a few years ago that career RISP-hitting differences (actually, men-on hitting differences versus bases empty) are real, convincingly enough that Dick Cramer (the guy who originally seemed to prove they weren't) heard about it and e-mailed me and called it the first good agument he'd heard in 30 years. And personally, I'm convinced that the 10% predictive is a mixture of a lot of 0% and instances where team or player psychology is very out of the ordinary, often for discrete time periods. What Papi did in walk-off situations for a couple of years there has odds of something like a billion to one of coming up in a baseball sim. And he's been absolutely ordinary in the clutch since.
If it's ok to assume all of those things, is it also ok to assume a new manager will be worse than BV at getting them to play to their alleged talent level? Is it ok to assume that Ellsbury gets hurt again? Is it ok to assume that WMB doesn't stay healthy and we get 1 WAR from 3b next year, or he goes into a sophomore slump or maybe he just isn't as good as this season would indicate? How about if Pedroia isn't healthy? What if Ortiz finally gets old or Aviles and Salty and Ross and Nava and all of the other guys that played above their career norms regress a bit? Or Clay or Lester get hurt?
I understand precisely what you're saying and why you're assuming what you are, but why do you always seem so surprised and perplexed when these assumptions don't always pan out the way you envision, And when they don't, why do you always attempt to explain it away as some unforeseen circumstance that couldn't have been predicted as opposed to just the unfortunate reality that they aren't as talented or durable as you assume them to be?
This is where I've been massively unclear about my intent when I make these arguments, and I genuinely thank you for challenging me in a way that points that out to me.
1) I'm neither perplexed nor surprised when shit happens.
I was a BV agnostic at the start of the year. Once I saw how he was handling the team, I had no great hopes of turning around the September psychology. Right now I'm fucking fatalistic
about the team's clutch ineptitude. The day before they made the trade, they blew a 95.8% chance of winning, at home, to the struggling Angels. The day after the trade, they blew a 98.6% chance of winning to the Royals. My reaction to that was sarcastic laughter, essentially.
2) "why do you always attempt to explain it away as some unforeseen circumstance that couldn't have been predicted as opposed to just the unfortunate reality that they aren't as talented or durable as you assume them to be?" -- To me, that's the same thing. And the negative circumstances are never unforeseen; you always consider that shit might happen, just as you always consider that good stuff might, and that's why we play the games.
And it's not explaining it away
. It's explaining it in order to understand what happened, and in order to understand what needs to be done for next year.
3) Yes, it's perfectly OK to assume that a lot of bad shit happens. I always try to knock off a handful of wins when doing these quick-and-dirty, back-of-the-envelope assessments of team performance (one of the reasons I didn't count the Bailey upgrade). But -- and this is something that hasn't happened here in a long time, and people have forgotten it -- sometimes unexpected good shit happens. The freaking Orioles have already won fourteen
more games than their stats say they should have.
I've watched a lot of baseball, but this year, I've only followed the Sox pitch-by-pitch onlne and I agree with you that had this team suffered no injuries and had this team all played to their career bests and had this team had a better manager and had this team not had a clubhouse full of assholes and entitled douchebags, they'd be right in it.
The actual argument is that with average
clutch performance (and average AED%*) and average
injuries, they'd be right in it, without any change to player performance at all. And that is pretty damn rock-solid. The actual sabermetric argument I've been trying to hammer home is that, given those things being average,
everyone would be saying, wow, what a talented roster, no wonder why they were on their way to 100 wins last year, they're right in this despite Lester and especially Beckett sucking. The continual focus on the underperformance of the rotation is just plain wrong. They could and should have survived that in a kind of amazing fashion.And you have to understand that in order to figure out if it is likely that the team can contend next year.
*AED% = asshole and entitled douchebag percentage, of course. But I will argue that if you have talented AEDs, you don't jettison them, you get a manager with a superior AEDN (AED neutralization), especially because being an AED actually correlates positively with competitiveness, and any good team will have its share of them. (Once the AED becomes mediocre, you do ship his ass out of town, thanks, Josh.)
But you know what, that didn't happen, and more often than not, it doesn't happen (Hello Phillies).
No, by definition, it happens exactly as often as not, hello Orioles again.
Look, I share your concern that the clubhouse is prone to underperforming their talent. I share your concern that the team may be more injury prone that most, for some reason since they had two amazing injury years while, if I'm not mistaken, changing the entire strength and conditioning staff in between. (OTOH, the biggest injuries, to Ellsbury, were freak injuries, and I'm not sure if guys are really ever prone to those.)
So what this means is that I'm not actually as optimistic as I always sound. (I'm an optimist, but about as much so as any optimist.) The scenarios I construct are not what I think is likely to happen, they are not arguments that the team should be expected to win 90-95 games next year. They are arguments that the front office should proceed with that expectation in assembling the roster, with the understanding that the clutch and health issues are what's actually killing the team and need to be addressed.
The bottom line is: fix what is broken. Do not attempt to fix what is not broken.
If they keep BV and spend all their effort at upgrading SP, they will likely fail. They will likely have a 6 or 8 win clutch differential again, and I'll still
argue that the team is not playing up to their talent, and it won't be making excuses or predicting a better 2014 -- it will just be explaining what actually happened.
If they make no effort to contend because they think that's not possible (as many here believe), that will be a tragic waste of an opportunity.
Get the right new manager, make the appropriate roster tweaks (a good new 1B or corner OF), maybe try to pick up a player with a reputation for keeping teammates loose and competitive when things are going poorly, and hope
to seriously contend. But it's a very reasonable and rational hope.