Mailbag: Ron Washington to the rescue for Oakland Athletics
Look, I understand why so many people aren’t fans of my column about Bryce Harper and Marvin Hudson. I rehashed everything too many times already in my Twitter feed, and you’re welcome to catch up if you’ve got that much time on your hands. But there’s one more thing I do want to mention …
There seem to be a significant number of you who believe that an umpire should never, ever eject a player or manager, unless maybe in the case of physical violence or a refusal to leave the field or something. But not because of anything an offender says. Or screams.
I don’t believe that’s either fair or realistic. Yes, taking abuse is part of an umpire’s job, realistically. However unpleasant. But there should be limits, no? There always have been limits. It strikes me as unrealistic to believe that suddenly we’ll have an entire roster of umpires who will tolerate the most vile of invective screamed directly at them from just a few feet away for minutes on end, day after day after day for six months. Does that seem realistic to you?
A lot of you would prefer robot umpires. I might, too. But until that glorious day arrives, it’s hardly fair to expect the human umpires to behave like robots. Don’t believe me? OK. You try it.
Now, this week’s best mail …
How long will the A’s put up with Semien booting the ball around?
– Colin Larkin
Well, they’ve taken the extraordinary step of essentially hiring a high-priced personal coach for Marcus Semien, in the person of Ron Washington. Now, if you read (or saw) "Moneyball," you know Washington’s got a reputation for being able to teach an infielder just about anything. I do wonder how well this is going to work in the middle of a supposedly contending season. I also wonder what might be wrong with Semien that the A’s never spotted before trading for him.
If he doesn’t stop making an error per game, then obviously the A’s will have to send him down and see if that helps. Or, hell, maybe they can just start DH’ing him, since he’s been hitting the bejeezus out of the ball. It’s been some sorta crazy season for this team, huh?
Rob, are the Indians already too far behind in the AL? Bauer and Carrasco seem legit, but it’s almost June and they’ve been very unlucky.
– Haris Hadzimuratovic
Hey, the Indians aren’t terrible. But you’re right, they’ve been unlucky ("very" or otherwise) on their own, which is compounded by the Royals and Tigers playing so well.
It’s way, way too early to give up, though. The Indians have four legitimately good starting pitchers, which isn’t something that many teams can say. For me, it comes back to what I wrote in my preseason Indians preview: They really need to get something from Michael Bourn and/or Nick Swisher, their two highest-paid players. And so far they’ve gotten approximately nothing.
Do you think the Marlins have set up Dan Jennings to fail?
– Hollie Hamilton
You mean on purpose? No, I don’t think so. I think this is one of those utterly personal decisions that so often defies any sort of logical analysis. Did it make sense for the Angels to sign Josh Hamilton for all those years and all that money? No, of course not. The Angels’ owner made what sure looks like an emotional decision. Does it make sense for the Angels to pay Hamilton to play for the Rangers for these next few seasons? No, probably not. The Angels’ owner made what sure looks like an emotional decision.
I think the Marlins’ owner wanted a new manager and wanted someone he really liked a lot, personally. And he looked around and hey, there’s Dan! But there’s not much reason to think Jennings will be there a year from now, and I’ll be mildly surprised if he’s still there in September. Seems like a good interim job for a minor-league manager or a trusty third-base coach.
Who do you think would win in a game between a team made up of 9 Pete Roses vs. 9 Willie Mayses?
– Michael Bradley
I think Team Willie would destroy Team Charlie. Mays hit better, threw better, ran better and fielded better than Rose. Unless Rose had a really wicked knuckleball or something – and if he did, don’t you think we’d have heard about it by now? – he just wouldn’t be able to keep the Willies from scoring a dozen or so runs per games. My guess for average score over a season: Mays 11, Rose 8.
I know you’re a huge fan of the newer stats like WAR, etc. But what are your thoughts on bringing back the game-winning RBI or even a more clutch stat like two-out RBI as more prominent?
– Philip G. Bokan
Philip, I don’t put much (OK, any) stock in clutch hitting as a repeatable skill, per se. Given enough time, the best hitters will have the best clutch stats, the worst hitters the worst clutch stats, etc. This has been confirmed in innumerable studies since the 1970s.
Does that mean clutch hitting’s not important? Of course not! Every year, pennants are won or lost because of clutch hitting. Here’s the thing, though: If you really want to know, it’s exceptionally easy to find clutch numbers. OK, so the once-official game-winning RBI is gone (or if it’s not, I haven’t seen otherwise). But various clutch statistics, including two-out RBI and many others, are available on just about any website with player pages.
But the best clutch-hitting statistic is probably Win Probability Added (WPA), which is prominently tracked over at FanGraphs; here are the current rankings! (Along with various other clutch-type stats.)
So everything’s out there, if you want it. Frankly, I almost never look at clutch stats unless someone’s raving about a particular player (Allen Craig comes to mind). I do look at them in Most Valuable Player discussions because I think if you’ve got two closely matched candidates, clutch stats can be a nice tiebreaker. I just don’t try to convince anyone they tell us much about a player’s abilities.