Stone, taking it to the people

DMZ · February 26, 2009 at 10:46 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhh

Preach it, Larry!


31 Responses to “Stone, taking it to the people”

  1. TumwaterMike on February 26th, 2009 11:00 am

    If he would just walk more he could be the best lead-off hitter in all of baseball.

  2. TheSkewedObserver on February 26th, 2009 11:01 am

    THAT’S why Silva has a problem with Ichiro!

    TOO much hustle makes everyone else look bad. And running fast makes it hard for teammates to talk to him…

  3. TumwaterMike on February 26th, 2009 11:05 am

    I heard no one hustles faster then Silva (to the Jack-In the-Box drive through).

  4. Doc Baseball on February 26th, 2009 11:08 am

    This article is terrific in only about a dozen ways. Stone is so far ahead of the other mainstream writers it really is breathtaking.

    (Notice the comment late about “while doing research in order to write this post…” !)

    What has been troubling to me about the whole Geoff Baker compulsion to overhype the Ichiro selfishness-non-team-player-clubhouse-rift meme has been his failure to take what would seem like a responsible route: why not actually TALK to the players — engage in dialogue — not just LISTEN to them — in order to more fully explore what is going on. Why not raise the kinds of analyses that Stone presents here and ask the players how any view they may have about Ichiro playing for personal stats and not for team winning squares with these analyses? You don’t have to challenge players, but helping them to think, and getting them to probe their own thinking, and digging deeper into what is going on is what I would think a sophisticated reporter would be doing — not just beating the drum of mindless controversy by blindly ignoring verifiably false assertions from players.

  5. JI on February 26th, 2009 11:13 am

    I think most people think Ichiro doesn’t hustle because he doesn’t run himself into a bunch of stupid outs. Work smart not hard.

  6. JerBear on February 26th, 2009 11:21 am

    Yeah, I saw this article this morning and knew it would only be a matter of time before you guys linked to it. Excellent stuff.

    I still completely fail to understand the mindset that believes “stealing bases only when you believe the odds are in your favor and you won’t make a useless out is selfish and detrimental to the team…” Completely nonsensical.

  7. joser on February 26th, 2009 11:22 am

    I heard no one hustles faster then Silva (to the Jack-In the-Box drive through).

    No, not Jack-in-the-Box: In-And-Out burgers are apparently Silva’s self-abuse weapon of choice.

  8. Thick McRunfast on February 26th, 2009 11:22 am

    Larry Stone has officially become a part of my daily reading after this post. He even gives credit and a link to LL for a similar post. Great job on his part.

  9. joser on February 26th, 2009 11:33 am

    I think most people think Ichiro doesn’t hustle because he doesn’t run himself into a bunch of stupid outs. Work smart not hard.

    Yes, this is akin to the “doesn’t dive enough” criticism. When good journalists have actually, you know, asked him about it he’s explained it very clearly (and hey, look who is on the byline — yet another reason to love Larry Stone)

  10. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on February 26th, 2009 12:19 pm

    With all this criticism of Ichiro “not playing the game the right way,” I’d like to see each one of the criticisms taken and analyzed, just as Larry has done with baserunning.

    Here’s the list I have (please let me know what needs to be added):

    1. Doesn’t steal enough – Larry’s reported on the truth there, and this blog has shown that he doesn’t just steal in low leverage situations.

    2. Doesn’t hit the cut-off man often enough – is it possible to look at the info there and figure out how often that’s true and the impact? Is there a body of data to use as a starting point?

    3. Doesn’t sacrifice bunt (?) enough? – Again, sacrifices have been shown to be of marginal utility. What did it really cost the team, if anything, last year? Does the utility and probablity of a hit outweigh a decision to sacrifice when you get as many hits as he does on average?

    4. Doesn’t dive enough (not sure if any players have said this, though some were angry about his claimed reduced ability to get to balls in the gaps(?) due to his hamstring). How many times did he dive? Were there other balls in range that looked like they could have been caught with a dive? I don’t even know how you’d figure that out, but we do have data for turning fly balls into outs based on where they are in the fielder’s range, right?

    5. Doesn’t send written invitations to others to join him in work-outs. This one is subjective leadership stuff, but how’s it normally done in Japan, I wonder. Is Deana around? Does the sempai, kohai hierarchical code make it difficult for Ichiro to reach out to folks he finds not to appraoch the game with intensity and preparation, or otherwise have not earned respect? It’s interesting that some of his critics have been pitchers. Is the distant relationship between pitchers and fielders that is normal in Japanese baseball a clue as to why Silva and Putz criticize him?

    This link from 2006 is telling, I think:

    It gives insight into how Ichiro approaches clubhouse friendships. Why is none of this being explored? Some key quotes:

    “The starting point for all relationships is the human element,” Ichiro explains. “You learn what kind of person someone is by observing their everyday behavior. Some people are honest with their feelings and others are superficial. I’m particularly sensitive to the difference between the two.

    “The more time I spent with Joh in the clubhouse and on the field, I discovered he wasn’t superficial; to the contrary, he’s very honest and straightforward. I respect that. I found him to be a very decent human being, and that made me respect him as my teammate.”


    “Ichiro has been in the kohai role with his other Japanese teammates during his six seasons in Seattle, but Kazuhiro Sasaki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Masao Kida were all pitchers, a group traditionally distant from fielders, especially in Japan, so the hierarchy wasn’t as much of a daily issue. ”

    There’s more gold in there that should be focused on. Do the Latin members of the team get where Ichiro might be coming from culturally? Does Ichiro feel the requisite respect for the young players to reach out (if in fact he’s not doing that). Should he change that? Does he feel, like I do, that leadership is organic and not forced? It’s not a feel-good story to go here, I think, but an avenue of exploration that – if the desire by media or teammates is to show that Ichiro is a problem – I’d like to see explored. Could there be a reason he doesn’t mentor everybody he meets?

  11. Kunkoh on February 26th, 2009 12:19 pm

    There seems to be quite a few catch-22’s when it comes to a lot of subjective fans view on Ichiro.

    1. He’s better than good, he’s great and people expect more. “When you start a new job, don’t be too good at first, or they will expect it (and your co-workers will hate you for showing them up).” If he was only good the first year with us, I don’t know that people would be expecting so much from him now.

    2. If you make something look easy, then you weren’t trying because it was easy. Forget how good a job you did or how many others couldn’t have done it. They make it look hard, they DIVE, they struggle; Ichiro doesn’t need to.

    3. When someone fails, we are taught to give them an “A” for effort. It seems that people like Raul (on D) or Bloomquist (for everything) get credited for more hustle than Ichiro because it’s more obvious they are trying very hard (but not succeeding).

    4. Logic has no place in sports. (I was guilty of this! And so glad I read here more now) If you aren’t diving, you aren’t trying… because it’s faster and risking injury helps the team. If jumping faster, why don’t sprinters dive & hurdlers times faster? Is that one potential out really worth the risk of losing a player for 1-162 games, missing the ball(turning a single into a extra base hit), allowing the runners to advance as you have to get back up to throw the ball?

    So, by being great, thinking logically and making everything look easy, while on a team full of people that constantly struggle offensively, defensively, and on the base paths; he’s cursed himself to be underappreciated and scorned by subjective illogical fans.

  12. Mike Snow on February 26th, 2009 12:39 pm

    Doesn’t hit the cut-off man often enough – is it possible to look at the info there and figure out how often that’s true and the impact? Is there a body of data to use as a starting point?

    I would think this can be evaluated in much the same way as baserunning or outfield arms generally, according to the situation and relative benefits of the decision, with the rest of the league as a baseline. Does Ichiro actually throw home instead of third more frequently than other outfielders? Based on his throwing ability, is that decisionmaking optimal? How often do his throws get cut off? I think that data should be out there, although it’s a bit more detailed than basic Retrosheet play-by-play. I’ll admit this issue is the one regular criticism of Ichiro I’m inclined to give some credence to, but that’s just going anecdotally.

  13. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on February 26th, 2009 12:55 pm

    It’s further complicated by any impact on holding runners based on past successful thorws to home. How do you quantify folks who “haven’t” run because he’s actually nailed some folks at home and is a threat to do so? Does that make it a better decision to throw home a bit more often, or would factoring it in just create statistical noise in what could be a fairly straightfoward analysis? I don’t know, but there’s some guys you’d take off on before others right?

  14. smb on February 26th, 2009 1:11 pm

    Is the title of the link more channeling Randy “Macho Man” Savage, or Kool-Aid Man?

  15. BoiseMoose on February 26th, 2009 1:31 pm

    Ichiro should really hit the cut-off man more often

    Not that its in MLB, but still. If you can gun down guys like that, is it really detrimental to the team? Save a run vs. prevent another runner from advancing… seems to me like the run should be saved. Isn’t that the point of the game?

    Is there a metric for a situation such as this? How many times Ichiro prevented a run, versus how many runs he allowed with a poor throw?

  16. joser on February 26th, 2009 1:47 pm

    WRT throwing home, there’s also the misdirection factor. Even if there’s no chance to get the guy out at home, throwing there tempts the guy rounding first to continue on to 2nd (especially since he’s watching the outfield, not judging the play at the plate). Over the past couple of seasons I can recall a few times when Johjima came up towards the mound to field the throw and then tossed immediately to 2nd (or in at least one case, 3rd) to pick off the runner — a runner who would not have thought about advancing if the throw had been to the traditional cutoff man.

    You’d really have to go through every outfield play and try to sort out opportunities and outcome in each one, and it’s going to be a least a little subjective. Apparently Beltre thinks Ichiro should be hitting the cut-off man more, and while he’s got a much better sense of those factors than I ever will, I don’t know that his opinion necessarily includes all such “big picture” factors.

  17. BurkeForPres on February 26th, 2009 3:50 pm

    I can not tell you how HAPPY reading this article made me. It is so nice to know that these kind of things are getting out to the public.

    I heard a lot about Stone before, and had heard him with Groz on KJR, but I never really was exposed to his writing until this blog, and it’s safe to say, I have a bit of a man crush on Stone.

  18. Breadbaker on February 26th, 2009 3:55 pm

    Given that Yuni’s been the guy hitting ninth most of the last few years, how often would Ichiro even have a man on base to sacrifice for?

  19. gwangung on February 26th, 2009 5:07 pm

    Given that Yuni’s been the guy hitting ninth most of the last few years, how often would Ichiro even have a man on base to sacrifice for?

    Was about to say that…

    And given his skills, wouldn’t it make a heckuva lot more sense just to get on base and let the #2 man sacrifice THEM over? Or, have the #3 man HIT them in?

  20. joser on February 26th, 2009 7:31 pm

    In his career, 2330 (39%) of Ichiro’s 5929 career PAs have been leading of an inning; only 2085 (35%) of his PAs have occurred with men on base (vs something like 50% for middle of the order hitters like Pujols or Manny). If you throw out those lead-off PAs, you’ll see he’s had men on about 58% of the time when he wasn’t leading off an inning. I’m way too lazy to compile his PAs with Yuni batting ahead of him, but if we do the same exercise for the three full seasons (2006-2008) Yuni has been with the team (2237 Ichiro PAs, 894 lead-off PAs, 774 PAs with men on base) we find the percentage (58%) is the same.

    Ichiro rarely has a man to sacrifice for because he is so often leading off an inning. Yuni hasn’t really had a significant effect on that vs the various other BoTO hitters in the lineup in Ichiro’s time with the M’s.

    However, while I’m digging through these numbers…. I’d like to take the opportunity to note that Ichiro’s batting average with men on base is .333, with RISP it’s .341, with two outs and RISP it’s .355, and with the bases loaded it’s .434 (! — but just 91 PA, hello small sample size). I don’t know why he never gets included in the “clutch” discussion (perhaps it’s his relatively low SLG — though when it’s 2 outs and RISP he sports a .946 OPS — or maybe it’s just the fact he doesn’t play on the east coast).

  21. msb on February 26th, 2009 7:43 pm

    the lack of stealing and diving seemed to be what ticked off the traditionalists in the clubhouse (Bloomie, Sexson?), whereas Beltre’s worries seem to be ‘hit the cut-off man’ and ‘move guys over’.

    so, get Stone to write them up, and then pay someone to post them on the bulletin board?

  22. joser on February 26th, 2009 9:06 pm

    The thing is though, Ichiro was doing all these same things in 2001 and 2002, and nobody seemed to have a problem with it. Maybe the guys on those tams didn’t care; maybe (you think?) winning seasons make people a lot less critical.

    Now, he had a down year last year — no doubt about it (hey, get out of here Blowers!) — but so did the team as a whole. And really, it wasn’t that far off his 2003 or 2006 seasons. I know there’s the view that “so goes Ichiro, so goes the team” and perhaps it’s valid but he can’t carry the entire team. And to the extent people weren’t doing “the little things” to win games, there’s a lot of blame to hand out before you get to Ichiro. Per Riggleman’s immortal phrase: “Hey, I’ve got to stop bitching about Ichiro and get my ass in gear here.”

  23. Doc Baseball on February 26th, 2009 9:30 pm

    “And to the extent people weren’t doing “the little things” to win games, there’s a lot of blame to hand out before you get to Ichiro.”

    The Mariners were 5th best in the league in sacrifice bunts in 2008, and 6th best in stolen bases.

    They were 12th/14 in homers, 13th/14 in Extra Base Hits, 13th/14 in OPS.

    It wasn’t the little things that people weren’t doing. And anyone — player, reporter, or fan — who complains that Ichiro — or any Mariner — wasn’t doing the little things … is being ignorant.

  24. Breadbaker on February 26th, 2009 10:31 pm

    As far as “moving guys over”, an interesting statistical comparison:

    Career GDP

    Ichiro 42 (in 5929 PA)
    Yuni 45 (in 1961 PA)

    Last year, Yuni grounded into 23 DP. 23 times Ichiro didn’t come up with men on base (give or take). Why is it that you don’t hear these “team” guys getting on Yuni for not having developed any positive skill in four years in the majors, instead of at Ichiro for only being the best player on the team?

  25. davepaisley on February 26th, 2009 10:53 pm

    Interesting that Bloomquist managed to rank 104th despite minimal playing time. If these were rate stats he’d surely be more prominent.

    Kind of shows that with the right usage (pinch runner, etc.) he was somewhat useful.

    Not to suggest he deserves to be starting anywhere, of course, except perhaps on some hated division rival.

  26. joser on February 26th, 2009 11:07 pm

    Yeah, Yuni’s managed enough GDPs last year to place his season 4th on that all-time M’s list of shame:

    1. Jim Presley 29 (1985)
    2. Bruce Bochte 27 (1979)
    3. Tino Martinez 24 (1992)
    4. Yuniesky Betancourt 23 (2008)
    .. Jay Buhner 23 (1997)
    Al Cowens 23 (1985)
    7. Kenji Johjima 22 (2007)
    8. Edgar Martinez 21 (1997)
    .. John Olerud 21 (2001)
    .. Jose Vidro 21 (2007)

    (For all the grief we gave Turbo in ’07, it’s a little embarrassing that he wasn’t any worse than two other plodding guys we remember a bit more fondly).

  27. Breadbaker on February 27th, 2009 12:26 am

    Other than Kenji (who was another guy not leaving himself or others on base for Ichiro), none of these guys batted lower than fifth in the order. GDP is an opportunity stat: in 2001, Olerud was batting fifth behind four guys whose OBP was .381, .333, .372 and .423; 21 GDP looks good when you are up with so many men on base and you’re slow. Three of the guys batting ahead of Yuni last year were Balentien (.250), Kenji (.277) or Clement (.295). It takes some real talent to ground into 23 DP with no one on base ahead of you.

  28. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on February 27th, 2009 8:11 am

    As a former sports editor for a couple local WA newspapers, I’m extremely pleased to see more and more local M’s beat writers integrating non-traditional stats into their coverage. This is something we tried to do (although we were covering mostly high schools and one comm. college, so not as many opportunities). I often wonder why it takes so long for people to latch onto these new stats. Part of it I think stems from the oversaturation of stats (all the daytime/night-time splits, situation-specific stats, etc) that for a long time, people assumed sabermetrics to be another version of these spinoffs. It’s great to see them finally starting to hit the mainstream. What will really be great, and exciting, though is seeing (through hirings of guys like Tango) the integration of these new statistical tools in the game.

  29. Ralph_Malph on February 27th, 2009 9:58 am

    Before you say that Yuni had a lot of DP in few opportunities, look at the numbers.

    Yuni came up with a man on 1st 218 times last year, and grounded into 23 DP. When Jim Presley set the GIDP record in 1985 he came up with a man on 1st 210 times. (using baseball-reference splits).

    I’m not saying Yuni didn’t suck last year, but it’s not as though he got his DP’s in very few opportunities.

    The worst part of his GIDP numbers last year was that, of his 23 GIDP, 8 of them came when there was also a man on 3rd (and less than 2 out, obviously).

  30. murphy_dog on February 27th, 2009 11:17 am

    [too far off-topic]

  31. Breadbaker on February 28th, 2009 2:23 am

    Hardball Times had a great article on DP opportunities (thanks to Tango for linking to it) and indeed, Yuni is not anywhere near the bottom in terms of avoiding them (that would be Miguel Tejada). On the other hand, Ichiro is fifth best in avoiding them.

    Or, what we might call, “the little things.” One good reason not to sacrifice: you’re unlikely to hit into a double play, you’re lefthanded and fast and hit a lot of groundballs. So swing away; you’ll move the runner along anyway. Duh.

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