You know, a staple of this site used to be taking apart a ridiculous mainstream article line by line. I haven’t done that in quite some time, and I’m not quite sure if that means I’m getting old or writers are just getting smarter. (I… think I may have just answered my own question there.) While I’ve tended to stray from that, there’s an article floating around in today’s Philadelphia Daily News that is just so unbelievably wrong on so many levels that I can’t help but call it out here.
The first thing you’ll probably note about the article is that it’s about Juan Pierre and how he “gets things done the old-fashioned way,” and assume that I’m just hating on Pierre like it’s 2007 all over again. Not so, for the most part, because Pierre has been having a nice .307/.344/.378 season for the Phillies. This is more about the total ignorance of “author” Marcus Hayes than it is about Pierre… with one notable exception.
After a generic intro about how Pierre arrives at the ballpark 8 weeks before each game to practice his bunting – and a bizarre reference to cotton & tobacco crops – Hayes dives into a sad-sack tale of woe, a portion of which I’m including here from later in the piece as well:
Pierre loves his job.
Even if no one loves him.
After hitting .279 and scoring 80 runs in 158 games for the White Sox last season, Pierre could not find a major league job this season. The Phillies signed him to a minor league deal as bench insurance.
Even if nobody is very serious about him. He made more than $50 million, leads active players with 574 stolen bases . . . but he did make seven errors in the outfield last season, and was caught stealing 17 times in 44 tries.
Still . . . a minor league deal?
Pierre’s .329 OBP was the second-worst of his career. His .293 wOBA was in the bottom fifteen of all major leaguers. Advanced stats too much for you? Well sure, he stole 27 bases, but he was also caught 17 times, an atrocious ratio. His defense, as Hayes admits, was poor with an arm that was never good and wasn’t getting better. Heading into his age-34 season, we’re surprised a guy with lousy on-base skills who has no power, isn’t an asset in the field, and was declining on the bases couldn’t find a gig? Ooookay.
Pierre then adds the greatest statement I have ever read:
With all the computers, the cybergenics [sabermetrics], whatever they do, I think I rate the lowest possible in those things.
That’s “cybergenics”, folks, known in some circles as a “steroid replacement system“. A mere slip of the tongue? Hayes does refer to him as “175 chiseled pounds”, after all. Scandal!! (I shouldn’t have to note here that I’m not really accusing Pierre of taking PEDs, right? I feel like I probably do.)
That movie Brad Pitt was in? It was about really about Billy Beane attempting to sell a “brand-name exercise routine system that combines strengthening and muscle-building exercises with supplements” to his unsuspecting players. They really were trying to sell jeans! Or at least that’s what I learned from noted Adonis Bill James, the father of cybergenics.
The things I do don’t show up in box scores. Sacrifice bunting doesn’t make any sense to do.
Well, the things you do show up in the box scores in the sense that all of the times you don’t get on base lead to a poor OBP, if that’s what you meant. I guess things like “allowing runners to tag up on even short fly balls due to weak arm” probably don’t appear. Hits and walks and runs do appear, though, and more of those would help – as, I will admit, they are helping this season.
I’m not even touching the sacrifice bunting thing. It’s too bad he’s saying that sarcastically, because in 95% of cases, no, it doesn’t make any sense to do.
They don’t look at the guy going first to third or taking that extra bag.
Yeah! They don’t! Except, wait, the opposite of that.
According to Litchman, here are the different base running events that are accounted for in UBR:
1) On a hit, advancing an extra base, not advancing an extra base, or getting thrown out trying to advance an extra base, as long as no other base runner is blocking an advance.
Base Running Runs. Measures the number of runs contributed by a player’s advancement on the bases, above what would be expected based on the number and quality of the baserunning opportunities with which the player is presented, park-adjusted and based on a multi-year run expectancy table. BRR is calculated as the sum of various baserunning components: Ground Advancement Runs (GAR), Stolen Base Runs (SBR), Air Advancement Runs (AAR), Hit Advancement Runs (HAR) and Other Advancement Runs (OAR).
I actually don’t even mind that Pierre doesn’t know this, because it’s not his job to be a dork and look into how stats that paint him poorly are conceived. I mind that an author who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing presents it as gospel with no research whatsoever.
Speaking of which…
In fact, Pierre’s sabermetric WAR-wins above replacement, the gold standard of metrics – stands at 1.4 this season.
Which, according to one pocket-protected website, rates him as a “scrub.”
Hayes is referring to Baseball-Reference with this oh-so-timely pocket protector gag, and here’s where it gets more than mildly infuriating that a paid, credentialed member of the press is allowed to publish articles full of factual inaccuracies and outright misconceptions with no repercussions.
First of all, as you can see just above the value chart on Pierre’s B-ref page, a WAR mark of 0-2 does not make him a “scrub”. It says “sub”, and I’m not sure if it’s ignorance or laziness on Hayes’ part, but there’s a huge difference in the connotation of those two words. Right there, Hayes fails the sniff test, because his facts are just wrong.
Second, Hayes is completely misunderstanding how WAR works in this context. It’s July 14, and WAR is cumulative. If Pierre keeps up this pace over the rest of the season, he’d end up with something like ~2.5 WAR, and while there are certainly issues with WAR, that would put him in the 2-5 range that makes him a “starter” yet less than an “All-Star”, and that seems pretty accurate to me. It’s July! What, you didn’t know that when Matt Kemp collected 7.8 WAR last year (by b-ref, anyway), he had done it all by the All-Star break? It’s true!*
*may not be true.
But wait! There’s more fantasy to come…
If Pierre has supplanted Shane Victorino as the Phillies’ No. 2 hitter, what does that make the Flyin’ Hawaiian? Toe cheese?
Mmm, cheese. This would make a great point, if there was, you know, any truth to it at all. As written, it appears to say that Pierre has been so good that he’s forced Victorino out of his traditional second spot in the order. You see, stat dorks?! Pierre has been so incredible this year that he alone has pushed out longtime Philly hero Victorino. Why can’t you love him?
Except, nope: you’ve probably heard that the Phillies have been without Chase Utley & Ryan Howard for most of the season, right? Marcus Hayes apparently hasn’t, because that’s where Victorino has been – filling in for them in the middle of the order, particularly the #3 and #5 spots, where he has 65 starts this year. Wouldn’t you know it, in the three games since Howard has returned, Victorino is right back in his traditional two spot as Pierre has been bumped to seventh. Supplanted? That’s… not quite the word I would use there.
Hayes ends with a real doozy…
“People don’t take too much stock in what I do. That’s just how it is. Nobody cares about guys bunting and running the bases.”
Except, you know, those Giants and Cardinals.
Who won the last two World Series bunting and running the bases.
Yeah! Who can forget those 2011 Cardinals, led by superstars Nick Punto & Ryan Theriot? They carried the team while overpaid “stars” Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig & Chris Carpenter really weighed the club down. I don’t think the game-winning walkoff Skip Schumaker bunt that ended Game 7 last year will ever be forgotten, amirite? It’s not every year you can have a team finish 24th overall in baserunning value, after all. And don’t get me started on those 2010 Giants, who punished every single one of their seven players with double-digit homers by making them all get “bunting 4 life” tattoos on their foreheads, while Tim Lincecum & Matt Cain somehow won by inventing a new method of bunting while on defense. Aubrey Huff‘s 26 homers and .388 wOBA? Nah. Bunting!
Hey, Marcus: it’s 2012. The Internet exists, and facts can be pretty easily found. If you have old-school preferences, that’s cool. Not everyone is expected to be, or even should be, a proponent of advanced stats. But for a journalist to mislead his audience like this, whether intentionally so or not, is inexcusable. Do better, if you’re able. I don’t have high hopes.