(Jeff, with extensive other-author contributions)
The long awaited, sometimes anticipated, USSM FAQ: for use in easy reference to the arguments that seem to come up every day.
Please use the search box. You may find that we’ve covered the topic you’re interested in ad nauseum, and rather than rehash old subject matter, you can get the primary source material.
Who are you folks?
In alphabetical order:
Jason Barker used to write for the Grand Salami mag and strikethree.com, but has decided he wants to be a chef.
David Cameron’s a noted prospect maven who gets his stuff printed all over the place, but most recently wrote an essay in The Hardball Times annual. He’s also written for Baseball Prospectus.
Jeff Shaw is a Fulbright scholar who spends most of his time writing about Okinawa and environmental topics. He’s living in Okinawa from Nov. 2006-August 2007 while finishing his first book, which is not baseball-related. That’s why his posts have dropped off; he’ll be back.
Derek Zumsteg wrote for five editions of the Baseball Prospectus annual and wrote the “Breaking Balls” column for the Prospectus website, did a weekly column for the Seattle PI site during the 2005 season, and has a baseball book due out in 2007 published by Houghton-Mifflin. He’s also been published on ESPN.com, in the Seattle Weekly, and other random places.
Why do you believe [X]?
Hold your horses, there. We’re happy to answer questions about why we wrote something, why we hold a certain opinion, how we got that way, etc. But consider: there are multiple authors on this blog.
While we’re in concordance on many issues, there are certainly points of disagreement among USS Mariner writers, and we definitely have different styles and emphases. Before you politely inquire why Derek wrote that post kissing up to Art Thiel, check out the name under the post title, and you’ll find that Jeff is who should blame. Er, credit.
Why are you guys so down on pitchers that don’t get many strikeouts, like Ryan Franklin?
Franklin has value as a rubber-armed innings eater who can start and relieve. He’s also well served by pitching in Safeco Field, since he’s an extreme flyball pitcher, and Safeco is big. But a big part of his success or lack thereof is his defense and the ballpark in which he pitches.
OK, I’m interested. Tell me more about evaluating pitchers.
You’re aware that’s not a question, right? We’ll let it slide this once. Anyway, our own Dave Cameron wrote a brilliant post called Evaluating Pitcher Talent that tells you, in a nutshell, everything you need to know about this topic.
Why do you guys rip Willie Bloomquist all the time?
It isn’t that we think Willie Bloomquist is the worst major league player ever. This gets lost frequently, but we think while he’s cheap he’s a good guy to have on the bench: he’s defensively flexible, he has speed on the basepaths, he’s not a good hitter but he’s much better than most guys who fill this role on other teams, and if you have to play him regularly for a week or two, he won’t sink the team’s offense or defense. Plus, he seems like a nice enough guy and while he occasionaly carps about not getting a starting job, he doesn’t appear to be a guy who generates a lot of controversy or rankles his teammates, which is good.
The problem is that what he offers the team could easily be replaced by any number of minor league players; that he gets so much irrational love from the team, the media and fans due to his local ties; and because of the dramatic divide between the playing time his skills merit and the playing time he actually gets/people want him to get.
Who is Doyle? Why do you call him that?
It started with this post. To summarize: Chris Snelling has been plagued by injuries, so as he came back this year, scorching the ball, we called him by a related nickname in the hopes whatever supernatural forces were cursing him would not notice we were getting excited for him again, and so spare him from further mishaps.
Why do you insist Beltre was a good signing?
This position roundtable is the best single summary we’ve written of different authors’ reasons for supporting that signing. The short version is that Beltre was signed extremely young (illegally, as it turned out), put up stellar minor league numbers, put up two good seasons in Dodger Stadium, a severe pitchers’ park, in 1999 and 2000 while 20 and 21. Players who can do that are rare things and usually go on to great things. Then he underwent a botched appendectomy that nearly killed him, required several follow-up surgeries, lost a ton of weight, and wasn’t the same afterwards.
The 2001-2003 seasons had flashes of brilliance but were on the whole disappointing. While not absymal, he did not hit as well as a league-average third baseman. But 2004 was amazing, with Beltre suddenly seeming to turn into the player better even than the star everyone had thought he’d become in 1999-2000.
In essence, then, there are the two versions of what the M’s signed: a young, 26-year old third baseman who early in his career was on a star career path and was derailed by a horrible accident and last year seemed to regain his powers again, or a 26-year old player with a career line of .274/.332/.463 with only one great year under his belt.
Why do you insist Sexson was a bad pickup?
It’s important first to note that contracts don’t play on the field every day. A player can help their team win while dramatically overpaid.
To summarize the author feelings on Sexson’s signing, expressed in longer form in this roundtable: Sexson will help the team a lot if he’s healthy, but the contract he signed is extremely rich for someone who’d had brutal, career-threatening shoulder problems. In particular, while he may produce enough in the last years of the deal that his contract will be a good deal, power-and-walk players tend to decline faster and more dramatically than others, and that could be ugly.
Or, as Dave wrote:
Even ignoring the risks surrounding his injury (which is fool hardy, but is another post all together), his expected performance from 30-33 will not put him in the superstar elite class. He’s going to be a good player making great player money, returning less marginal wins than should be expected from a player with his contract.
The richness of the deal and the health issue contributed Dave to putting Sexson’s contract #3 on the January 1st “free agent rankings” post (it was 2nd in December). Jason argued JD Drew’s contract was a better investment than Sexson in a short post, again citing the shoulder.
This year, though, at $4.5m? We’re all for that.
What’s the deal with you guys and steroids?
There are two pieces to this. First, we frequently don’t allow comments on steroid stories. Operationally, it’s the worst topic for us to manage. It has almost always led to accusations that one player or another is taking steroids, immature insults, and eventually requires us to spend a lot of time deleting comments, banning people, and cleaning up. We don’t have the time or resources to police discussions that go so badly so fast. In some cases, we’ve decided it was worth it and related to the team (Ryan Franklin’s suspension, for instance).
This has led to a entirely incorrect belief that we’ve got our heads in the sand about the issue, a belief that is entirely contradicted by even the most casual search of the site. Derek wrote a huge condemnation of steroids and applauded the new steroid policy and the progress owners and players had made.
In general, I would say that the authors agree on a couple of things:
– steroids and other drugs are bad and testing’s good
– players shouldn’t be tarred by unsupported speculation. If we could tell who was using by looking at pictures of their heads, we wouldn’t need drug testing
Or, as Jeff wrote about reaction to Jose Canseco’s book and in particular to his extremely high number of users:
…of course there are steroid users in baseball. No one doubts that. But it is unwise and unfair to let that truism kick critical analysis out the window. Legitimate concern over drugs in sports should lead one to investigate how best to curb abuse, something that crass opportunism undermines.
It would be fair to say that we are strongly in favor of baseball’s attempts to protect itself and its players, and also that we are strongly against steroid use and conducting witch hunts for steroid users.