September 18, 2002


Does ESPN The Magazine have a cover jinx?

In the midst of the all-California battles that are going on in the AL and NL, the Minnesota Twins, having already clinched the division title, are getting some serious pub over at ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.

They are featured on the cover of the current ESPN The Magazine as well as ESPN.com's front page (although they will undoubtedly get bumped later tonight, at the latest, by bigger news or football).

Here are the articles from ESPN The Magazine that ESPN.com currently is featuring:

Jim Caple on the Contraction Kids.

Jeff Bradley introduces us to the Twins' "League of Nations" infield.

Andy Latack on catcher A.J. Pierzynski and his various beanings.

Tim Kurkjian reminding everyone to "Beware the Metrodome."

Most of what the four articles talk about are pretty harmless, basically fluff pieces.

But in the article on A.J. Pierzynski, I found a few interesting tidbits:

The author's main premise is that A.J. Pierzynski is disliked by other teams, which I don't think anyone who has seen him get beaned over and over this season would disagree with.

He goes on to say that, "Some of Pierzynski's teammates can't stand him either. Doug Mientkiewicz calls him a baby. Torii Hunter prefers "smart-ass." To Jones, he's just a knucklehead."

Now this might be true for all I know, but I find it a little "fishy" to say the least.

My best guess is that the reporter was in the Twins' clubhouse doing a story on Pierzynski not being liked by teams like Cleveland and Chicago and he asked everyone on the Twins about it.

So, like good natured guys with senses of humor, they responded with things like, "Oh yeah, A.J. is a knucklehead," or "Yep, A.J. is a real smart-ass."

But, when you read the article, you get the impression that A.J. is a clubhouse cancer that no one likes!

Which, from what I have seen and what I have read here locally is about as far from the truth as you can get.

Here is another gem from the article:

"Pierzynski, the team's third All-Star, is their best hitter."

Remember back a few days ago when I was talking about my "baseball compatibility test" that I put people (specifically writers) through when I first read their stuff?

If you don't remember, (shame on you!) basically there are several very basic things that I believe to be true about the game of baseball.

Things such as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez being the MVPs for this season or on-base percentage and slugging percentage being the most important stats for a hitter, etc.

Upon first being introduced to someone's baseball writings, I put them through a test to see if they agree with my basic beliefs, which in turn helps me decide if I will "buy into" much of the other things they write about or if I will simply write them off as not worthwhile to read.

Well, this particular writer, Andy Latack (whom I have never heard of before) has flunked my baseball compatibility test as a result of the last quote I just showed.

"Pierzynski, the team's third All-Star, is their best hitter."

Say what?!

Right off the bat we know that this statement is based entirely on batting average, which immediately flunks my "baseball compatibility test."

Just from that one statement I know that this guy believes that batting average is the stat and because Pierzynski has the highest batting average, he must be the best hitter.

Let's say that a writer who has passed my test were to write about the Twins and who their best hitter was, what would he find?

Well, first of all he would use a stat called Equivalent Average or EqA for short which takes into account the value of on-base % and slugging %, as well as the ballpark in which a player plays in.

And by using that statistic, along with batting average, on-base % and slugging % (which I show as .300/.400/.500 on the list below) that writer would come up with this list:

Bobby Kielty .287/.407/.460 (.315 EqA)

Torii Hunter .291/.335/.527 (.294 EqA)

David Ortiz .272/.337/.496 (.289 EqA)

Jacque Jones .299/.341/.511 (.285 EqA)

Corey Koskie .269/.373/.432 (.283 EqA)

Doug Mientkiewicz .269/.373/.405 (.282 EqA)

A.J. Pierzynski .304/.336/.446 (.272 EqA)

Now, when you venture outside the world of batting average, you see that making outs a lower percentage of the time is a very important thing, as is the amount of bases you gain with each hit.

And once outside of that world, you will see that A.J. Pierzynski is far from the best hitter on the Twins and is actually no better than the 7th best hitter on the team.

A.J. has a great ability to hit a lot of singles and a few doubles, but because he doesn't take a walk (despite his high average, there are 5 guys on the team with higher on-base percentages) and doesn't hit for much power (there are 5 guys with higher slugging percentages) he is not anywhere near the best hitter on the team.

Which isn't in any way meant to say that A.J. Pierzynski is not a very valuable part of the Twins, because he certainly is.

In fact, Pierzynski has been, according to that wonderful EqA stat we used earlier (and adjusting for playing time), the 6th best hitting catcher in the Major Leagues this season, which along with his acceptable defense, makes him very valuable.

Just not the "best hitter on the team."

Maybe the day will come when every single baseball fan on this planet and every single baseball writer will pass my "baseball compatibility test" and I can happily read all of their articles and put aside my cynicism and simply take their words as the truth.

Nah, where would the fun in that be?!

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