Friday, April 07, 2006


There is a new stat geek book out that focuses on fielding. The crux of the book is a new way of looking at fielders by giving them a +/- rating similar to hockey players. The book evaluates players and calculates how many plays they should have made compared to how many they actually did make. The book loses value, in my view, when Kevin Millar gets a higher rating than J.T. Snow.

Baseball organizations are hungry for ways to evaluate defensive talent. There are so few statistics for defense especially compared to those for hitting or offense. This book gives clubs a new way to look at players, but I think the way itself is in error. Pun intended.

First of all, defense is the most team oriented aspect of baseball. Many plays involve multiple players, and almost all infield plays involve multiple players. Secondly, defense is the most specialized aspect of the game. Each position has nuances that other's don't. This means trying to evauluate all defensive play with a solitary statistical method will always fall short of doing so.

The only way to really gauge defensive players is to watch them. Range cannot be statistically calculated. Jump on the ball and tracking cannot be calculated. Arm strength cannot be calculated. When runners don't run on Ichiro or Guerrero for fear of their arm, that cannot be statistically factored.

In the baseball community, there is a faction obsessed with simplifying the game into a mathematical equation. This goal is unattainable. Stats can be used for general comparisons and to make gameplans, but they can never tell the whole story because some things simply cannot be expressed by numbers.


Don't you just love Red Sox Nation? After three games, comprising only 1.86% of the season, RSN is clamoring for Papelbon to be the full-time closer and for Foulke to be out of that job. Yes, Foulke had a bad inning on Monday, and it could have been worse had it not been for Coco Crisp. And yes, Papelbon had a stellar inning on Wednesday, baffling Rangers hitters. However, I don't think we should be rushing to conclusions about the closer role just yet.

Foulke got an extremely late start in Spring Training. He never pitched to competition until the final weeks down in Fort Myers, and even then it was only in minor league games. Papelbon seems like he has the stuff and the grit to be a closer, but I think down the line we will need him to be a starter.

Wells is either going to be traded if he pitches good, or knocked out of the rotation if he doesn't. If Wakefield has a few bad starts reminiscent of his first one, he's not going to be long in the rotation. Papelbon is probably our first starting option out of the pen. DiNardo can start, but I don't want him in the rotation unless absolutely necessary. Alvarez and Lester are down in the minors, but I don't think they're yet ready to be full-time starters.

In 6 or 7 weeks, Foulke will be at the form he should be. At least he should be at the form he should be. I think he'll eventually be good in the set-up role and will give us two options at closer. There's always a situation when you need a closer but you're regular closer is unavailable. This will become an audition for Foulke to reclaim his old job. Hopefully, he'll be good enough to take it back. That's a damn good problem to have, two really good closers.

Until then, it appears Papelbon will be the closer. So there really is no controversy. But Red Sox Nation needs to relax a little bit before we crown Papelbon King of the Bullpen.

Boston College avenged last year's tournament loss to The Fighting Sioux and earned a spot in the finals for the first time since their 2001 National Championship against North Dakota in Albany, NY.

The Eagles will face the Wisconsin Badgers. Madison is only about 70 miles from Milwaukee, home to the Frozen Four tournament this year. The game will essentially be a home game for the Badgers, who are believed by many to be the best team in the tournament. Then again, BC already beat the team that was ranked #1 in the nation in the 2nd round when they shut-out BU 5-0. The game should be a good one.

Unfortunately, an all New England Final was ruined by the Badgers last night as they beat Maine 5-2. The tournament was still dominated by New England teams. Two teams in the Frozen Four, 4 teams in the final 8, and 6 teams overall in the tournament. Not a bad year for New England college hockey.