October 27, 2005
SethSpeaks: Specifically, would Ron Gardenhire look at things like, lefty-righty splits? It would appear that he doesn't as he continued to play Jacque Jones against lefties and Matthew LeCroy against righties?
Mark Sheldon: I know for a fact that he does often look at splits because he's mentioned that in his reasoning for why he might pinch-hit a guy in one situation or start another guy in a game. But there are obviously variations. Not everything a manager decides can always be by the numbers. Personalities often come into play too. With the exception of this year, Jones had shown improved numbers vs. lefties since earlier in his career. Some of that came from having his manager's confidence and knowing he would play every day.
While Sheldon's statement about Jacque Jones improving against lefties "with the exception of this year" is technically true, I found it very misleading.
JACQUE JONES VS. LEFTIES
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS
1999 .222 .231 .361 .592
2000 .230 .269 .297 .567
2001 .182 .224 .200 .424
2002 .213 .259 .331 .590
2003 .269 .310 .393 .703
2004 .245 .328 .329 .657
2005 .201 .247 .370 .617
CAREER .227 .277 .339 .616
I don't mean to pick on Sheldon here, because he does an excellent job covering the Twins and has been very friendly to me in our correspondence. With that said, this is the sort of thinking I wish more local media members would avoid. Yes, if you ignore his horrible numbers against lefties this season, as Sheldon suggests, then Jones has shown some minimal improvement against lefties "since earlier in his career."
However, does saying that Jones' limited improvement "came from having his manager's confidence and knowing he would play every day" have any real value analytically when we're still talking about a guy who narrowly cracked a .700 OPS against lefties once, back in 2003? I would think that an objective look at Jones' numbers would lead to a conclusion more along the lines of "Jones has been given everyday playing time and still hasn't learned to hit lefties acceptably."
Now, this was just an off-the-cuff remark said in a very informal interview. Still, it is ideas like the one Sheldon expressed -- that Ron Gardenhire sticking with Jones every day has somehow paid off -- that really bugs me. We need the intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded members of the local media like Sheldon and Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writer LaVelle E. Neal challenging ideas like that, rather than perpetuating them.
And yes, I sure do have a funny way of thanking someone for saying something nice about my blog.
It's as if the fact that he ran for 902 yards last year and is on pace for 805 yards this year doesn't count. Vick's career quarterback rating is a mediocre 75.3, but if you take an average quarterback and then add on the ability to rush for nearly 1,000 yards a season while chewing up 6-7 yards per carry, doesn't that equal a very good player? He doesn't derive his value in a standard way, but it's still there.
As you might expect, Vick's coach, Jim Mora, agrees with me:
I think it's unfortunate that people always put him in a mold. Let him be him. He's a quarterback. He's a great quarterback. ... When are we going to start talking about when Peyton Manning is going to start doing what Mike Vick does? Let's flip it. The guy wins games, and that's the role of a quarterback, to win games. ... I don't know why people are so narrow-minded that they can't understand why the guy is a great player.
I believe that running quarterbacks have an impact on the game that is not accurately measured by traditional stats or even accounted for in the outstanding work the guys over at Football Outsiders are doing with sabermetric-style analysis. And at the risk of sounding like a Derek Jeter fan, Vick must be doing something right because the Falcons keep winning.
In fact, here's a stat to chew on: When Vick starts, the Falcons are 28-13-1, for a .678 winning percentage. Over that same span when Vick doesn't start, the Falcons are 9-20, for a .310 winning percentage. The guy has won nearly 70% of his career starts, including going 16-5 over the last two seasons, and yet people act as if he's Bobby Douglass.
* It's difficult to admit this, but there was a time when I favored Britney Spears over Christina Aguilera. That sounds crazy now, with Britney spitting out kids and generally aging slightly worse than Terrell Davis, but there was a period when Christina was not looking her best and Britney was still in her prime. However, Britney has had her Waffle Crapping privileges rescinded until further notice, while Christina is now looking better than ever.
* I liked Avril Lavigne a lot better when she didn't look like Nicole Kidman. And not the old-school, Waffle Crapping-version of Kidman, either.
* I'm not sure how they did it, but Arena magazine managed to make Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com, Elisha Cuthbert, look less than incredible.