John Korsgaard / The Players
[Editor's Note: For a description of Korsgaard's ON DECK method or to subscribe to his newsletter, email him at Kors@BaseballGuru.com]
by John Korsgaard
One of the things that has been of interest to me over the years is what I'll call the ENTRENCHEDNESS of error. In many arenas, including the political, educational and religious, there are segments of folk that take the most appallingly undocumented and sometimes thoroughly disproven "facts" for granted as reality.
I guess I've given up on correcting Spahn and Sain etc...That showed up again in a recent issue of Sports Weekly. It's the same sort of thing though. No research, no check of the records, no awareness of qualified debunkings (BRJ exposed the jingle years ago)
Those of us in SABR and it's orbit...at least a goodly number of us are in the same camp as Dr Luke, the gospel writer, in holding that accuracy is good because it is accuracy (Luke 1:4 "I've written so that you might know the exact truth...").
The phrase "no harm done" appeals to us also. It appeals to us as regards the seriousness of error but it does not appeal to us as an excuse for careless error.
The daily sports page in its reports on baseball are constantly in error. And here is what gets me. I know they have deadlines to meet and lots to do and cover. I know they need quotes whether the quotes are true, germane, redundant or stupid. It doesn't bother me that they make the errors. Two things bother me, actually three.
1. They keep a lot of the same errors going without being open to change. Why else are leaders in hits per at bat still called batting leaders after 18 years (since publication of The Hidden Game). Spahn and Sain, by the way, has become Spahn and Sain and pray for rain instead of Spahn and Sain and two days of rain....I guess they don't want to have to explain the non-existence of a five man rotation....
2. It doesn't seem like they care when a simple cross check would do. Take almost two minutes to look up the records of Bickford and Voiselle.
Two recent items
1. Jimmy Bloodworth's obituary. The one I saw included only one piece of his career aside from identifying his status as "infielder." It spoke of his being with the whiz kid Phillies. Jimmy was with the 1950 Phillies half a year with under 100 at bats. He was 32...of 17 non-pitchers, 4th oldest. Jimmy is one of my targets in my analyses because my numbers find big flaws in his game. An obit is no place for that. You put a guy's accomplishments in an obit. What should have been there is that he had a 12 year career before swan songing with the Phils in 1950-51. He was the regular 2b man for 4 Major League teams totalling 8 seasons.
2. Mets fans were recently given an opportunity to pick an all time team. One of the applications of the kind of research that we do is to be able to ask the question "How well did the fans do?" NOT from our opinion of their opinion but from objective material.
The fans chose Piazza as the catcher. This is already accurate. Through 2001 he had 27 ON DECK and 94 winshares to Jerry Grote's 25 and 90. That gap should continue to widen enough so that, even with Jerry's incredible pitcher handling and Gary Carter's short term excellence (24-81 in 4 years...same as Mike from 1998-2001) Of course, given the material I've shared with all of you on the comparative portion of the schedule that catcher's play vs other spots, I have no idea why all-time teams don't include two catchers...on the same logic that they include multiple pitchers.
Keith Hernandez was the fan choice at first base. That is also totally accurate. ON DECK and win shares of 34-146 completely eclipse runner up Olerud 18 ON DECK and Kranepool 110 win shares. The fans made Kranepool a pinch hitter. Ed's claim to be on any all time Met team has to do with darlingness, firstness and longevity. If the team is to be chosen on ability, there are three or four others ahead of him on the franchise first base list. Again, it is pure sentiment that made room for him as a pinch hitter while excluding Grote in terms of contribution and baseball sense.
Alfonzo was the choice at 2B. He is the win share leader. He is not the ON DECK leader, but then he played 3 years at third. ON DECK leader is Ron Hunt. Hunt is remembered for getting plunked to get on base. That is another historical gloss...look up his on base % EVEN WITHOUT THE PLUNKS.
In his three years as the regular with the Giants Hunt outwalked his shortstop partner, Hal Lanier, by a 3 to 1 margin. IN FACT, HE ACCUMULATED 76 HIT BY PITCHES IN THOSE 3 YEARS TO LANIERS' 58 WALKS.
Shortstop for the fans is Bud Harrelson. That makes sense also. Ordonez does not yet have half the win shares that Buddy has. I'm going to make someone mad here, but the numbers (both win shares and ON DECK)show that Bud's slick fielding was worth some marginal offense while Ordonez is all glove man and a hole in the lineup that can only be tolerated if the other bats are big enough.3b is Hojo. That also squares with the facts. ON DECK Hojo 34. 2nd place Ventura 13. Win shares: same guys 152-62.
RF is a no brainer for Darryl as well. 59/195 to Rusty Staub's 13/65. Staub was chosen as the other pinch hitter.
Now we come to my problem. For CF the fans chose Lenny Dykstra and for LF Mookie Wilson. Mookie was, of course, the regular CF for five years. Lenny for 3. Mook played 1986 as the guy with the most games in LF, but there he was under half the schedule with 78 games. The rest of his Met career he added 59 LF games. Thus he has zero LF ON DECK pts and 16 win shares for his combined LF-CF season of 1986. For the record, [rather than me saying "what about this guy or that guy"], here are the Met LF and CF leader boards. (ON DECK followed by win shares)
McReynolds 25 114
Cleon Jones 24 111
Steve Henderson 16 57
George Foster 9 61
Lee Mazzilli 16 59 and subjectively almost as much a Met icon as Kranepool
Dykstra 16 55
Agee 14 86
Mookie 10 80
Someone says "Wellll John you know the sportswriters, not to mention the fans, haven't caught up with Pete Palmer's outfield games by position yet."
My answer is: They should have. OR...."Give 'em a list of guys, never mind the numbers. Are we to believe that they didn't know Mookie played CF and that they haven't heard of Mazzilli, Jones, Agee and George Foster???"
BUT that is not what bugs me. Not at all.. the fans will always gloss...what bugs me is that the report I read doesn't even seem to be aware of the conundrum.
Six fan choices were excellent and squared completely with two sets of modern numbers. The last pair of choices displays a fundamental hiccup in knowledge of the game as to both it's history and how it is played. The fans is one thing. The person writing the report responsibly could have at least said. "Somehow, the fans chose a CF as a LF."
Oh and the thrid thing that bothers me. I admit it. These guys get to make their living writing baseball. Those of us qualified to correct them.... don't.
See ya' next time with a return to team ON DECK scores.