Can’t get everything right: Five errors I made during the season
The first lesson of baseball writing — and the first lesson of baseball decision-making, too — is that you’re going to be wrong once in a while.
I know, I know — not every writer gives off that vibe. And certain sabermetric absolutists — YOU, BRIAN KENNY — rarely, if ever, admit flaws in their thinking.
Well, the game humbles everyone. Which is why, once again, I am offering my end-of-the-season mea culpa column, an acknowledgement that some of my grand proclamations this season amounted to, well, rubbish.
I do not expect this heartfelt confession to satisfy all of those 140-character experts on Twitter, most of whom are convinced that I hate their team and their team only.
I also do not expect my admission of past sins to translate into fewer sins in the future. Sorry, I likely will author the same number of dumb columns in 2015, if not an even greater number.
Let my critics keep score.
It is now time for me to cleanse my soul.
The offending passage, written the day after Cano signed his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners:
This is the strangest move by a free agent since Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers after the 2000 season.
It also is strange for the Mariners, who — for all their payroll flexibility and new local TV money — are not anywhere close to contention.
I obviously sold the Mariners short — they’ve contended all season. I sold Cano short, too. Yes, this was only Year One of 10. But rarely has a big-money free agent performed at such a high level for his new team.
Cano is in the top 10 in the American League in both widely accepted versions of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). His OPS adjusted to park and league — is nearly the same as it was in his last two seasons with the Yankees.
The Mariners, in general, have demonstrated the value of star power — Cano, third baseman Kyle Seager and pitchers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma all are among the league’s top performers.
Mariners fans, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t Rosenthal going to apologize for all his “Trade Felix” columns, too?
Been there, done that.
And besides, I only wrote two.
The offending passage, written two weeks ago:
Yes, Billy Hamilton ranks 60th out of 68 in OPS among NL hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. But his defense and baserunning more than compensate for his hitting deficiencies, and he has been with the Reds all season, appearing in 139 of 145 games.
DeGrom’s case lacks the same bulk — he did not join the Mets until May 13 and was on the disabled list from Aug. 12 to 23 due to right rotator cuff tendinitis.
Mets fans can stop tweeting at me now.
I take it back. I TAKE IT ALL BACK!
Those who dwell on Hamilton’s offensive shortcomings tend to overlook his other attributes. But in the end, I also can’t get past Hamilton’s .293 on-base percentage — .256 since the All-Star Break through Monday.
deGrom, on the other hand, kept improving, pitching to a 1.33 ERA, holding opponents to a .457 OPS and producing a 38-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in September.
He’s fun to watch. And yes, he’s Rookie of the Year.
The offending passage, written in June when the Nationals were talking about moving Ryan Zimmerman back to third base once left fielder Bryce Harper returned from left thumb surgery:
In this case, there is a way out:
Trade or bench Span.
Several Nationals veterans scoffed when I broached the idea to them last weekend, saying that Span was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. The advanced metrics, while not always reliable in rating defense, do not support their contention.
As it turned out, I read Harper’s mind — he, too, later suggested a lineup that did not include Span. But the mistake I made — which I later acknowledged in print and on television, and am acknowledging again — was placing too much value on defensive metrics in a small sample.
Span continues to rate below-average in both defensive fWAR and defensive runs saved, but even full-season samples are not always accurate. The previous three seasons, he rated above average. And beyond all that, he has batted .343 with an .855 OPS since the break.
I actually am a huge fan.
The offending passage, written in spring training as the Dodgers planned to start Gordon and his career .614 OPS at second base while proceeding with a questionable bench:
The Dodgers’ payroll is projected to exceed $225 million, and this is how they plan to round out their roster?
The consensus among evaluators in Arizona is that the Dodgers’ bench is the weakest in the NL West.
I wasn’t completely wrong — the Dodgers ended up demoting outfielder Mike Baxter, releasing infielder Chone Figgins and going with Drew Butera over Tim Federowicz as their backup catcher.
On the other hand, I failed to anticipate that infielder Justin Turner and outfielder Scott Van Slyke would prove invaluable — and that Gordon would develop into an All-Star, albeit one who has a .639 OPS since the break.
Oh, and one other thing:
I will not apologize for writing in May, “Several veteran players believe something is missing in the Dodgers’ culture, and club officials wonder about the team’s makeup, too.”
Manager Don Mattingly, alluding to the team’s internal friction, recently compared the Dodgers to the ’72 A’s.
The offending passage, written on Aug. 21, the day after Garrett Richards suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
“Woke up this morning, and the Angels stood a 98.6 chance of making the postseason and 55.1 percent chance of winning the AL West, according to Fangraphs.
“But without right-hander Garrett Richards, who is almost certain to miss significant time due to a left-knee injury, does anyone seriously think the Angels are as strong a possibility to win the division?”
At the time, the Angels held a 1½-game lead in the West. The Athletics already had begun their free fall. But Richards’ ERA was 2.61, and the rest of the Angels’ starters were at 4.04.
It sure didn’t seem likely that the Angels would win 18 of their next 23 games and run away with the division. But that is exactly what they did, and for my next trick I will underestimate them in the playoffs, too.
Oh, you’ve never seen my postseason predictions?
Haha. They’re coming soon.