Dispelling Some More Myths

Because, why not?

Safeco eats batters alive. Yes, Safeco is a fairly extreme pitcher's park, but there's a reason guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Garret Anderson always seem to do well against us - right field is very hitter-friendly. According to Greg Rybarczyk, the home run factor for right-center is 115 (tied for 11th) and the home run factor for straightaway right is 131 (5th). That this organization continues to acquire and develop right-handed bats while steadfastly refusing to adjust the Safeco dimensions is just completely absurd. Left field is death.

Park factors only affect runs scored. While we may not understand quite why, parks can do all kinds of different things. The Metrodome increases strikeouts. Jacobs Field increases groundballs. RFK decreases the value of line drives. And so on and so forth. You should buy the THT 2006 Annual for Dave Studenmund's They Play In Parks essay alone.

Ichiro has one of the best arms in the league. For the third point in a row, we're going to THT - article #1 and article #2 agree that he's only above average. The true cannons belong to guys like Alex Rios, Andre Ethier, Brad Hawpe, and Jeff Francoeur. Looking at the data, you see that Vlad Guerrero and Jose Guillen also rank lower than you'd think, suggesting that fans equate strength with ability, even when it isn't necessarily true. These guys and Ichiro have strong but somewhat inaccurate arms, but where the missed throws are quickly forgotten, people tend to remember throws like the one that nailed Terrence Long for years. Reputations can be misleading. Write that down.

A strikeout is just another out. Thank Baseball Prospectus for this one. The run value of a strikeout is -0.287. The run value of other kinds of outs is -0.250 (excluding double plays and sacrifices). The general point is correct - strikeout-prone hitters have always gotten a little too much criticism - but BP and other stathead frontiersmen overstated their case.

Billy Beane is overrated. It is very, very easy to look at every move he's ever made and pick out the bad ones, saying things like "no genius would've ever traded for Jason Kendall," but the fact of the matter is that Beane guided the A's to eight consecutive winning seasons and five playoffs despite incredibly scarce resources. A lot of people have responded to Beane's praise and recognition by trying to knock him down a peg. A lot of people are wrong.

Scott Boras is the devil. Scott Boras is really good at his job. General managers are not.

George Steinbrenner and the Yankees ruin baseball. If you have the money, spend it. The Yankees aren't the organization throwing $126m at Barry Zito or $100m at Carlos Lee. Yeah, they've got the astronomical payroll, and yeah, that lets them absorb the mistakes that might cripple another team, but that's just the advantage you get when you have a ton of money and the biggest market in the country. Everybody secretly wishes their team had an owner who cares as much about winning as George Steinbrenner does. If baseball really is being ruined - of which I'm not at all certain - then the damage is being done by guys like Peter Angelos, Carl Pohlad, Brian Sabean, and Ned Colletti.

The Yankees buy all their talent. This one's closely related to the point above. Among important regulars, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Melky Cabrera, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and Mariano Rivera all came up through the system. That's nine players. The Mariners have ten, and that includes Sherrill, who spent the bulk of his formative years in Indy ball, and Raul Ibanez, who re-signed as a free agent. They're not exactly the Cleveland Indians, but the Yankees aren't any more "bought" than any other team that can afford it.

Gary Matthews Jr. plays awesome defense. Among 18 qualified center fielders, Matthews ranks 17th in RZR. He was 15th out of 21 in 2006. UZR had him at +5 runs last year, and +3 this year at the break. He's okay, but nothing special, unless your fantasy league counts Web Gems.

Ken Griffey Jr. is still a superstar. Even ignoring the health problems, Griffey has put up an OPS in the low-.800s away from that Cincinnati bandbox over the past two seasons, while playing some of the worst defense anyone's ever seen. His time as a contributing player is just about up.

Garret Anderson has been the hottest hitter in baseball since the All Star break. Only in terms of RBI. His .940 OPS since early July ranks 20th, and his 1.396 WPA over the same span is considerably lower than you'd expect for a man with that many runs driven in. For the sake of comparison, Raul Ibanez's post-break WPA is 1.097. Any "GA for MVP" movement, if such a thing even exists, is incredibly foolish.

Barry Bonds is the devil. Barry Bonds is neither the first player to (allegedly) cheat nor the first player to be a dick. He is the first player to hit 760 home runs. How come Gary Sheffield isn't greeted by big asterisk signs whenever he goes on the road? How come Jeffrey Loria hasn't been shot dead on his driveway? How come no one wants to kick Tony La Russa out of baseball for driving drunk? The general public sucks.

Alex Rodriguez's contract ruined the Rangers. 2002 salary for Alex Rodriguez: $22m. 2002 salary for Juan Gonzalez, Carl Everett, Rusty Greer, Chan Ho Park, John Rocker, Dave Burba, Todd Van Poppel, Dan Miceli, and Gabe Kapler: $42.7m. Alex Rodriguez didn't ruin the Rangers. The Rangers' inability to surround him with good players ruined the Rangers.

The Royals are hopeless. John Buck, Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen, Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Zack Greinke, and Joakim Soria make for a solid young Major League core, with Luke Hochevar on the way and Justin Huber still hanging around. Dayton Moore makes the front office competent for the first time in centuries. It's the White Sox who're screwed. (Note: I was going to address a "The Orioles are hopeless" point too until I realized that they really are.)

Lowe/Varitek for Slocumb is one of the worst trades ever. This is why it's bad to evaluate trades based on how they turn out. I mean, the Freddy Garcia trade to Chicago looks stupid now, but I'd do it again in a second. Slocumb wasn't having much success in 1997, but he'd built a track record of pitching well in the closer role with the Phillies and Red Sox in the two years prior, and the Mariner bullpen that season was unbelievably terrible (5.47 ERA). He was meant to address a need, and he actually kind of did down the stretch. Meanwhile, at the time of the trade, Derek Lowe was a 24 year old in Tacoma with a history of giving up hits and not missing bats, while Jason Varitek was a 25 year old in Tacoma with a .771 OPS (following 1996's .754). That Lowe turned into a good reliever for a few years before developing into a starter and Varitek figured things out at 31 shouldn't be held against Woody Woodward to nearly the extent that it has. Bad trade? Yes. Worst trade ever? Only in hindsight, which isn't fair.

Good hitters need to walk. Another case that was overstated by Baseball Prospectus back in the day, when it was trying to put an emphasis on OBP. The more aggressive approach works for guys like Ichiro, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Vlad, Adrian Beltre, and Alfonso Soriano just fine. Not everyone needs to walk to succeed.

Reggie Jackson is the most clutch hitter of all time. Reggie Jackson hit .227 in 163 League Championship Series at bats.

The Texas Rangers have more than enough bats. What they need is pitching, pitching, pitching. A lot of people seem to have trouble understanding that Texas' ballpark makes bad hitters look decent and decent hitters look awesome. They haven't actually had a real strong lineup for several years. The Rangers don't need pitching instead of hitting - the Rangers need both.

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