August 9, 2018

Blue Jays Announcers Say The Red Sox "Took A Lot Of Heat" For Signing J.D. Martinez

How annoyed was I by all the crap during Tuesday's NESN broadcast? I realized, in the interest of my short-term sanity, I should listen to the Blue Jays' feed, with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, on Wednesday.

Although Martinez and Tabler praised every facet of the Red Sox team and organization for three hours, it was dreadful. Martinez's nasal whine is something you never get used to and Tabler's analysis invariably devolves into an aural instruction manual on how to play the game. But they did say a few amazing things while the Red Sox were pounding out 10 runs:
1. The MVP doesn't just have the best stats or is the best player. He's the most valuable.

2. The "analytical world" discounts the value of the stolen base.

3. The Red Sox took a lot of heat for signing J.D. Martinez.

4. A player with an OPS of .800 or higher is a "superstar".
T2, Jackie Bradley at the plate:
Buck Martinez: And that's the beauty of this Red Sox ball club. You can shut down their big guys, but there are enough bats in this lineup to do a lot of damage.

Pat Tabler: And that's why I think J.D. Martinez is going to get a lot of votes for the MVP. It depends on how you define MVP and what he means to a team. It's not just the guy with the best stats or the best player. It's the guy who is the most valuable, and by him going into this lineup, it's made everybody around him better and they've got some really good hitters at the bottom of the lineup now. ... That was the one thing missing from the Boston Red Sox last year, was that run producer in the middle of the lineup. Right now, they are the best hitting team in the American League. [Bradley walks]

Martinez: Yeah, and you know this, having been a player. When you have that horse in your lineup, everybody kind of defers to him. They say, well, okay, if we get in a jam, J.D. will take care of us. If we get up against a tough pitcher, J.D. will take care of us. Really takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the lineup.

Tabler: I remember that like it was yesterday, in 1992, when Dave Winfield came over here. That was the type of influence he had on the team, exactly the same kind that J.D. Martinez has had on the Red Sox this year.

Martinez: David Ortiz was that guy for so many years for the Red Sox. Of course, he didn't play last year and they really missed that presence. 1-0 to Eduardo Nunez. Bradley is perfect this season in steal attempts, he's 11-for-11. As I mentioned on the pre-game show, this is another aspect of the Red Sox that people were overlooking, their ability to steal bases.

Tabler: Yesterday, going into that game, they were tied for the league lead with 87. They picked up a couple more yesterday.

Martinez: The analytical world discounts the value of the stolen base, but having been a former catcher, I can tell you - it's a distraction. It's a distraction for the pitcher, the catcher, and the middle infielders. Everybody's got to keep an eye on Jackie Bradley Jr.
Tabler's explanation - the Most Valuable Player is the most valuable player - is not helpful.

When things look bleak, other Red Sox hitters are saying "J.D. will take care of us"? I do not believe that for a micro-second.

The analytical world does not discount the value of the stolen base. That is nonsense. Theo Epstein is happy to tell you there is a place for the stolen base in the modern game. But, as with bunting, the risk in many cases is not worth the reward. This FanGraphs article states that "stolen bases are only beneficial if they are swiped with roughly a 75% success rate":
This number stems from looking at a run expectancy chart and comparing the difference in expected runs after a successful stolen base and the difference in expected runs after a failed attempt. ... Of course the break-even point is not the same for every situation. Previous studies have shown this required success rate drops as the game moves into the later innings and increases the further a team is down by ...
I'm a huge supporter of "the analytical world" and I love the fact that the Red Sox run. They do it smartly and that shows in their high success rate.

T5, Mookie Betts leading off:
Martinez: Boston, the first team to record 80 wins this season. They were also the first team to have 80 wins in 2009.
No, they were not.

The 2009 Red Sox won their 80th game on September 8. At that point, four other teams had already won more than 80 games, including the Yankees with 90. Before 2018, the last time the Red Sox were the first team to 80 wins was 2007, when they were 80-51 on August 26.
Still T5:
Martinez: We mentioned the 80-34 record, the franchise's best winning percentage all-time. And they are projected to have 114 wins. Been a long time since they've gotten off to this great start.
Yes, never before is certainly a long time. Also, can 114 games be considered "a start" of a season?

Still T5:
Martinez: This is the guy, J.D. Martinez, signed as a free agent and - the Red Sox took a lot of heat for signing him. Like, really? We don't need his bat. Boy, do you ever need his bat. And the difference is dramatic.

Tabler: It was late, too, wasn't it?

Martinez: Real late.

Tabler: Late in the off-season.

Martinez: February, yep. Nobody wanted to step up.
Who with any connection to the Red Sox - from John Henry all the way down to seven-year-old fans - said of J.D. Martinez: "We don't need his bat"? And the organization took heat for signing him? When? Where? Who? ... Maybe other teams in the AL were pissed that a division winner for the last two seasons had now added a great hitter to its lineup, but that's about it.

They also seem to fault the Red Sox for not "stepping up" earlier to sign JDM. Dave Dombrowski's waiting game was an off-the-charts success because the Red Sox were able to get Martinez for about $100 million less than what he was reportedly looking for/expecting. This was one of the biggest stories of the winter - and Martinez and Tabler get it wrong from every possible angle.
B4, Devon Travis leading off:
Martinez: He got off to a slow start and was eventually sent back to the minor leagues. ... Since he's come back from AAA, Pat, he's been a very consistent hitter.

Tabler: And I love the OPS. His on-base plus his slugging. Up over .800. That's superstar territory right there. If you have a second baseman with an OPS of .800 or better, you've got a really good player.
Tabler considers a player with an .800 OPS a "superstar"? Going into last night's games, there were 63 players in the major leagues with an OPS of .800 or higher. That seems like an excessive amount of "superstars" to me.

Among MLB second basemen, there were five with an OPS over .800 and another two above .790. Could there be five (or seven) second basemen that qualify as superstars? If seven, that would mean that roughly one out of every four teams has a superstar at second base. Not just a really good player, or a star, or an All-Star, but a "superstar".

In May, Bill James posted an article titled "So what is a Superstar, zactly?"
You can make a relatively clear determination as to how many players in baseball are considered "stars". It's 2 to 5 per team. It is very clear, from the way that the word is used, that every team has stars. Baltimore has not been winning a lot of games this year, but you can still say who the stars of the team are (Manny Machado and Adam Jones). ...

An announcer will say about an opposing team that "There are a lot of stars on their roster" or "there are not many stars on this team", but he will very rarely say that there are NO stars on the team. ... The number of "stars" per team has to be somewhere between 2 and 5, so let's say that it is 3 or 4.

I'm not trying to tell you how many players should be considered stars; I am merely observing how the term is used. If you want to say "That is too many players to be considered stars; there should only be about 20 players in baseball considered 'true stars',", that's fine, but what you are really saying is that "I want to define the word differently than everybody else uses it." Define it however you want, but don't expect other people to pay attention to you.

If there are 3 or 4 stars per team, that means 90 to 120 in baseball. Let's say 100. If we have 100 "stars" in baseball, and 7 players who are superstars [this info from more than 2,000 fans in a poll James conducted], then we have an answer to one of the questions which causes confusion in this discussion: What percentage of stars should be considered superstars? It's about 7%. My best guess.

Having reached that realization, I then thought that maybe it would be fun to draw up a list of who exactly was a superstar at each moment in baseball history.
I love it: "maybe it would be fun". ... James quickly realizes that the number of superstars "has to be more like 15%". The entire article is, as you might expect, extremely interesting.


Jim said...

I feel for you putting up with those two for longer than 1 inning. What always got me was Buck would say something, Tabler would basically repeat what Buck said with a little embellishment, then Buck would repeat the same point. Over and over. Inning after inning. And Tabler's drawl seems to lengthen the further south and west they get from Toronto. The only redeeming thing about Jays broadcasts is the relative shortage of in-booth promo reading. But then NESN may lead the majors in this.
It's the mute button for me when the Sox play Toronto and damn MLB and their blackouts, although O'Brien with Lyons is painful. MLB-tv somehow dropped my Samsung 4 from their radio stream so I'm fucked there, too. Getting used to silent watching.

Shawn K said...

I live outside of Buffalo and used to listen to tons of Jays radio games and got some on basic cable. The tv guys have always been just awful. The radio guys actually are pretty good. They helped me through many a kids soccer game.