September 14, 2018

Prior to a few weeks ago, I never thought it wood happen again

In what's news to literally no one at this point, Dusty Baker absolutely abused Kerry Wood and (especially) Mark Prior down the stretch of the 2003 season. I mean, just look at this insanity:

While plenty of people were rightly outraged at the time, things have progressed so far that there is a zero percent chance of something like that ever happening again.


Allow me to rephrase: There is a zero percent chance of a manager overworking two young starters like that again. But there is something similar happening right now, a mere 15 years later. Right here in Chicago, too. Because except for the future value of the assets involved, what Joe Maddon is doing to his bullpen is just as unconscionable as what Dusty Baker did to Wood and Prior in 2003. I mean, just look at this insanity:

Joe Maddon has pitched Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, and Justin Wilson six times each in the last eight games, spanning nine days. Or, if you prefer: Of the seven days the Cubs have actually played games, each has pitched on all but one of them. Carl Edwards, Jr. has sat out just twice. That is simply not enough rest, and someone is going to get hurt.

Someone, that is, besides Pedro Strop.

I started writing this post before Pedro Strop's injury, which was a fluky thing not related to being an abused bullpen arm. In fact, Strop was among the fresher guys in the pen, because Joe has him as The
Closer and the Cubs, sadly, haven't had many leads of late. At the same time, batting Strop in that situationbases loaded in the tenth, one out, up 4-3was a result of Joe's compulsion: he had already burned through the four other guys he trusted the most, with two of them (Cishek and Wilson) coming in to get just one out.

Yes, I know these games are important. Yesterday's win was huge, as was Tuesday's. But for more than a week now, Joe has been managing every day like it's Game 7 of the World Series. And it's not. (Nor is that where Joe is at his best.) Even the strongest, most durable arms can only take so much. These guys need more rest. Poor Jesse Chavez has pitched 13 times in the last 20 games, and hasn't had two consecutive days off since August 22-23, more than three weeks ago! I generally like Joe as a manager, but he has to start using his main arms less often and letting them work for longer. In short, he needs to start trusting them, or there's not going to be anyone left to trust come playoff time. 

September 9, 2018

Mack Draft Picks Made Me Jump, Jump

I know I'm a little late to the party, but as someone who considers himself to be a sports knower, I figured I should probably get my thoughts on the Khalil Mack deal on the recordthis site has a notary on staff, right?so that in the future, everyone will be clear as to just how little insight I have into this crap.

Before we fully get into it, virtually every statement of value that follows should be read with the understood caveat, Barring a catastrophic injury to Khalil Mack. That risk is certainly a part of the equation when trading a number of playerseven in pick formfor one guy, but it also seemed ridiculous to throw that in 17 different times over the course of this post.

Another reason I felt compelled to write about this is because I was surprisingly dissatisfied with he analysis the trade by the normally astute Bill Barnwell, who I regard as the best NFL writer around. From Barnwell's analysis:
Teams rarely trade two net first-round picks in moving up for rookie quarterbacks, who offer the most surplus value of any player in the league. The moves up for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, for example, included two first-round picks in a swap to move up for one first-round pick. 
Sorry, Bill: This makes no sense. Those teams didn't trade a net of two picks only because they got a pick instead of a player in return. The end result was the same: both the Chiefs and the Texans traded two first round picks to acquire one guy. While I get that acquiring a player on a rookie contract can have a lot of value, there's also a much greater likelihood that guy bombs out. Mack is the surest of sure things. There's also this:

Essentially, the Bears are getting Khalil Mack a year early. Additionally, if this trade had been consummated on draft day like Mahomes and Watson's deals, the Bears would have given up Roquan Smith and Kylie Fitts (plus next year's 1st and 3rd). Instead, they keep all three for this year. Getting that extra year of your own picksand also, only losing a 6th next year instead of a 3rdPLUS AN EXTRA YEAR OF KHALIL FREAKING MACK provides the Bears a substantial amount of surplus value. By the end of the 2020 season, the Bears will have gotten three seasons out of Khalil Mack, and the Raiders will have gotten three seasonstwo rookie, one second yearout of Chicago's two first rounders. There is virtually no way Mack doesn't provide the Bears far more production over the course of those three seasons.

I intentionally chose the word production there, because value is a much more complex concept. And here's what Barnwell had to say about paying Mack market value as one of the premier defensive players in the NFL:
Unless he's the Defensive Player of the Year four seasons in a row, the Bears aren't going to get much at all in the way of surplus value on this contract. At best, given the way the top of the defensive market will grow, they're probably looking at $10 million to $15 million over the next four to five years if everything breaks right. ... Paying two first-round picks for the right to possibly gain $15 million in excess value just doesn't make economic sense.
He's right, to an extent. But constructing a team is not a simple accounting exercise, and at some point, overall talent level matters. Even with their recently signed, market-value extensions, would Aarons Rodgers and Donald not command a huge return if they were on the market? Of course they would, because to win, you need impact players. You could have a team of nothing but players on seventh-round rookie deals who each deliver third round production, but all that "surplus value" isn't going to win you squat. At some point, you need guys in various spotsparticularly at high-impact ones like QB or, say, edge rusherwho are going to produce at a much higher level than others who play their position. 

With that out of the way, let's move onto the picks, particularly those in 2020, because that's what really stood out to me when I learned the details of the deal. While I would love to know exactly what would have to happen for the Raiders 5th rounder to be included, I have been unable to find the conditions anywhere; if you've come across that information, please share it in the comments. So I'm going to assume the pick only conveys if Mack is unable to play a certain number of games, meaning we should probably all be rooting for it not to happen. Because of that assumption, I'm also going to be looking at this as if the Bears will not get the pick, because if they do that probably means a poor outcome that's unlikely to be salvaged by a single Day 3 selection.

To compare the various picks, I'm using Chase Stuart's more-accurate-than-Jimmy-Johnson's-version-that-he-used-to-try-to-bamboozle-stupid-front-offices-into-giving-him-a-king's-ransom-for-higher-picks draft value chart, which is based on five-year approximate values.

I've assigned a draft position to the picks by creating tiers and then taking the approximate average selection for each. Contenders (the 12 playoff teams) choose 21st to 32nd, so I've chosen pick 26. On the other extreme, for the bottom 12 teams in the league, I've chosen pick 6, while pick 16 represents a middling team. Here's what that looks like (I've highlighted the good outcomes for the Bears in green, the bad in red, just like a real adult business person professional work product dashboard!):

Looking at the extremes, if this trade helps boost the Bears to contender status while the Raiders struggle under Coach Hooter Ogler, the difference between the 2nd round pick the Bears receive and the 1st they give up will amount to a late 5th rounder (which, I should add, they might be getting back anyway). Or if you add that 2.5 points to the 3rd rounder they're giving up, it's equal to a late 2nd round pick. And Khalil Mack for a 1st and a 6th a year from now, and a 2nd in two years is an insanely good deal.

However, if the outcomes are reversed and the Bears continue their devolution into Brownsdom while the Raiders recreate their Chucky glory days, then the Oakland 2nd is nearly canceled out by the Chicago 3rd. Deducting that 1.2-point differential basically lowers the value of the Bears first-round pick by a single slot. Which makes the deal far less good from a value perspective and also a massive disappointment, because the whole point of acquiring Mack was to springboard the Bears back to relevance, not to continue to be a steaming pile that selects near the top of the draft.

And so, whether this ends up being a great trade or near-disaster is almost totally dependent on Mitchell Trubisky, actually. If Trubisky is the franchise quarterback the front office believes him to beand don't get me wrong, I'm highly skeptical that he isthe team will be a contender and this will end up being a very good deal. If he's not, well ... I'll still consider it a decent trade, but only because I am supremely confident this franchise would have botched those picks anyway.

August 25, 2018

Under Pressure, David Bote Says Let's Dance

Much was written in the aftermath of David Bote's pinch-hit "ultimate" grand slam nearly two weeks ago. (Some of it by me, although I never got my shit together enough to actually publish anything.) First time since 2011, or 1996, or 1936, or maybe ever, depending on what criteria you use. Regardless of the exact infrequency, though, it was rare and cool and awesome.

A few random items caught my eye at the time, most involving Win Probability Added (WPA). And so I started writing this piece. But my fuckheadedness got in the way, and pretty soon several days had passed and eventually I lost my window to post anything. Or so I thought, until Bote went and hit another walkoff yesterday and saved my lazy ass.

So I'm back in business, baby, and here are the top WPA seasons of all-time, provided you believe that time started in 1974, when (I'm guessing) Fangraphs play-by-play data became thorough enough to make accurate calculations:

I went 25-deep in part because HOLY SHIT Barry Bonds. He's got more than a quarter of the listed seasons, and even if you don't include the time he went all HGH on everyone's asses, he's got three years on there, which is still more than anyone else, as only Pujols and Prince Fielder(?) have two. But no, Bonds should definitely not be in the Hall of Fame for capping his career by doing something that damn near everybody else was doing.

Anyway, as of today, David Bote's seasonal WPA is 1.93, which doesn't even crack the top 2000 (not a typo). Still, I've added him to the list. I've also added plate appearances, so that I could then turn WPA into a rate statistic, normalizing it over 600 PAs:

On a per-plate-appearance basis, David Bote's WPA is topped only by the meta-human version of Barry Bonds. Now on-pace-for stats are always kinda bullshit, but WPA's inclusion of negative events makes it especially so; a bases-loaded double play in the ninth while trailing by 1 would wipe away more than a quarter of Bote's total. But this is still insane! Several of the seasons listed are among the most legendary offensive years in all of baseball history, and Bote, with his very-nice-but-hardly-spectacular 127 wRC+, has been so incredibly clutch that he's right there with them! Why are you not freaking out more?!?!? Should I not have said on-pace-for stats are bullshit?

I shouldn't have said on-pace-for stats are bullshit.

But seriously, they are.