September 4, 2003

Perception and Reality

I put forth many opinions on this website. Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right, sometimes they are widely-held opinions, sometimes they aren't. Whatever the opinions, I think my willingness to express them is a big part of why so many of you stop by here to read my writing every day.

Of course, along with putting your opinion out there for everyone to read comes the fact that there will be people, sometimes many people, who don't agree with you. And, along with that comes emails from those people who don't agree with you. For example, the other day I got this one that I think correctly portrays the average Chicago White Sox fan:

"Subject: Twins are weak

I am a strong follower of the Whitesox, and i am just saying go SOX! I guarntee that the Whitesox are going to win that division. The Twins hitting isnt good enough to be able to get back in first place, and the Royals arent a good enought team. The Whitesox easily have the ability to win the division, especially now that Billy Koch is back. The twins are a lucky team and thats the bottom Line."

Typically, when I post an email from a reader, I correct any major spelling, grammar and capitalization mistakes. You may have noticed that I didn't fix anything in that email, mostly because it is just funnier that way. Not as funny however, as the idea that they will win the division, "especially now that Billy Koch is back." Billy Koch, in case you are wondering, has a 5.55 ERA in 51 appearances this season.

Along with the many emails I get in response to things I say on this blog, I also get responses by way of other baseball blogs out there. For example, over at "ChiSox Daily" (which, aside from the team it covers, is a very good blog), Michael Labuda wrote an entry recently that was partly in response to the entry I wrote way back on July 2nd, when the White Sox traded for Roberto Alomar, replacing D'Angelo Jimenez as their second baseman. Here is some of what he said:

"The improved infield defense up the middle is a big reason for the Sox resurgence. A lot of people questioned whether replacing Jimenez with Alomar was actually an improvement (see here, here and here). The only thing I can say to these people is that they haven't watched these guys play everyday. I follow numbers and see where they are coming from. But in this case the numbers do not tell the whole story.

Jimenez was not liked by fans, teammates or management. He made stupid mistakes that did not always show up in the boxscore. I noticed earlier in the season how he used to barehand the ball needlessly to turn double plays. The first time I saw him barehand a ball I actually shouted at my wife that the guy was an idiot and that eventually he was going to drop one of them. And of course he did. Against the Cubs. The Cubs series turned out to be the last straw for fans and management alike. He was gone less the week later and no one had a kind word to say about him. I'll take the sweet fielding Alomar, even with his limp slugging %, any day."

I would be one of those people who "questioned whether replacing Jimenez with Alomar was actually an improvement." To be more specific, I am the very first "here" (you know, when he says "here, here and here") and this is exactly what I said at the time of the trade:

"I am not sure I see an upgrade here, long-term or short-term.

Of course, it is entirely possible Alomar will be rejuvenated coming back to the AL to play with his brother Sandy in a pennant race. I think it is more likely that Alomar plays, more or less, like he has for the last one and a half seasons or so, which is at about the same level as D'Angelo Jimenez and nowhere near the level of the pre-2002 version of Roberto Alomar."

I've never been afraid to toot my own horn, so I'll go ahead and say that I think what I said was right on the money.

Here are Jimenez's numbers while with the White Sox and Alomar's numbers while with the White Sox:

             AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA

Jimenez .255 .332 .410 .255
Alomar .271 .347 .359 .251

According to EqA, my preferred offensive metric, Jimenez with the Sox was slightly better offensively than Alomar with the Sox has been. And, since moving on to Cincinnati, Jimenez has been even better offensively, hitting .305/.376/.424 - good for a .280 EqA, which is much better than Alomar's performance with Chicago.

Of course, Labuda is suggesting that the big improvement has come on defense. That is a little tougher to compare, but I think it is still fairly obvious that if you are going to go by actual numbers and not personal observations, even those that come from watching them play everyday, Alomar has not been much of an improvement, if any, over Jimenez.

Range Factors while with Chicago:

Jimenez 4.51
Alomar 4.30

Zone Ratings while with Chicago:

Jimenez .813
Alomar .780

If Alomar has been so much better than Jimenez defensively, it certainly isn't showing up in either of those stats, which both show Jimenez ahead of Alomar. Jimenez made more plays than Alomar and he made a larger percentage of plays on balls hit into his "zone."

One thing that I have heard suggested is that Jimenez was very poor at turning double plays, while Alomar's main asset is his ability to turn two, helping to explain how his impact on defense goes beyond Range Factors and Zone Ratings. It's an interesting theory and it certainly seems very possible. But when you look at actual numbers instead of opinions and theories, that whole thing sort of falls apart too.

According to a recent article by Baseball Prospectus...

DPs per 9 defensive innings:

Jimenez 0.63
Alomar 0.59

Again, if what Michael Labuda is saying is true, it certainly isn't showing up in any sort of actual numbers. And, to his credit, that is exactly what Labuda said:

"The only thing I can say to these people is that they haven't watched these guys play everyday. I follow numbers and see where they are coming from. But in this case the numbers do not tell the whole story."

Whether or not that is a valid argument is debatable, but certainly you would have to look beyond the numbers to find a way to make the case that Alomar has been an improvement over Jimenez. Personally, one of my biggest pet peeves in sports is the dual cliches of "I know because I've seen him play everyday" and "You don't know because you haven't seen him play everyday."

It really is amazing how much actual numbers can differ from someone's perception of something. In this case, Jimenez was said to be a lousy defensive player and, accoring to ChiSox Daily, someone that was lazy and not particularly liked in the clubhouse. Meanwhile, Alomar came with a reputation for being a defensive whiz. A reputation that has long since ceased being accurate, but a reputation nonetheless.

And after about half a season with Jimenez as the starting second baseman and half a season with Alomar as the starting second baseman, the numbers are almost identical and, if anything, give a slight edge to Jimenez. Yet Alomar is somehow seen as a savior, someone who has rebuilt the defense and been far and away better than D'Angelo Jimenez.

Watching a team every day is extremely valuable in judging a player, there is no doubt about it. I would never feel completely confident basing my judgments about someone entirely on their numbers, particularly defensive numbers. But there is also something to be said for what has actually happened, what can actually be proven through evidence and stats and recorded performance. And I'll take those any day over some highlights pieced together on ESPN or some reputation a player "earned" a decade ago.

Just remember folks, it's not the truth just because Hawk Harrelson says so, as hard as that may be to come to grips with.

In other news...

Since the start of this season, I have been making daily picks on baseball games, placing hypothetical $100 bets on an average of 3-5 games per day. Surprisingly, I have done quite well. As of right now I am up $2,665 on the season.

Anyway, baseball is obviously my area of expertise, but I am always looking for new ways to show everyone how smart I am. Luckily for me, I have found a new place to do so. Seth over "Seth Speaks" got a bunch of baseball bloggers together with a few of his friends for an "NFL picks" contest for this season. Each week, 9 people (including myself) will pick the winners for every NFL game. I don't think there is a big prize for the winner, but I know I'm interested to see if I know anything about picking football games or not.

After the Redskins' win last night over the Jets, I am officially 1-0! To see the rest of my picks, along with everyone else's picks for this week, check out the following link:

Seth Speaks: Football Picks

I'll be making new picks every week and will definitely keep you updated on how I'm doing. Unless, of course, I start to do really badly, in which case you'll never hear another word about the contest again.


At some point I promise to stop talking about this whole PayPal Donations thing, but you guys have been so amazingly generous that I simply have to mention it one more time.

I put the link to PayPal Donations up last weekend and in the first 6 days it was up, I got 11 donations, which was far more than I could ever have imagined. Then I got 9 more donations yesterday alone, which was incredible.

I want to thank everyone who has donated so far and say that I am truly greatful for and appreciative of each and every donation. It makes me feel so great everytime I hear from someone that they enjoy stopping by this site on a regular basis, whether I hear by way of a donation or a simple email note.

Yesterday's contributors were Jim, Eric, Charles, Tim, Jamie, Mike, Rick, Larry and last, but certainly not least, David - who is now the "leader-in-the-clubhouse" with the highest donation yet.

While I am thanking people, I also want to say a special thank you to everyone who sent me emails regarding my move back to school and the entries I wrote about my college experience. I am always a little leery of veering too far away from baseball topics on this blog and I don't plan on making this anything but a baseball website anytime soon, but every once in a while I enjoy writing about my life.

When I do so, it's good to know that many of you also enjoy when I do that, and it's a good feeling to know I am can share my feelings and experiences with you all and get such wonderfully thoughtful responses back. I've been very busy with the start of school and I know I haven't had a chance to respond to every email I have gotten of late, but you can be sure I have read what you sent me and you can also be sure that I appreciate your thoughts and support.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday, when I will hopefully have a pretty big surprise for everyone...

If you missed any of this week's previous entries, you can check them out right now:

Monday: The Big Move

Tuesday: In with the old, in with the new

Wednesday: Battle of the Titans

Thursday: Timing is everything

This Week's Featured Links:

Monday: Major League Baseball Graphs

Tuesday: Seth Speaks

Wednesday: Al's Ramblings

Thursday: John's Dodger Blog

Today's picks:

Florida (Redman) +125 over Montreal (Hernandez)

Arizona (Webb) +110 over San Francisco (Williams)

Boston (Martinez) -130 over New York (Pettitte)

Kansas City (Anderson) +150 over Anaheim (Washburn)

Total to date: + 2,665

W/L record: 225-223 (0-1 yesterday for -100, although I came soooo close to winning the +180 against Randy Johnson.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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