Archive for July, 2004

Andruw Jones is a Sunk Cost…but I Still Like Him

I’ve been checking out several Braves message boards lately out of curiosity. I’m not a message board type of guy, but it’s been interesting to see what some my fellow fans think of the Bravos. One of the most consistent economic fallacies I keep running across has to do with Andruw Jones. For some reason, fans love to hate this guy, and everyone wants to dump his contract. In my book, a solid defensive center fielder with .850 OPS creates little room for complaint, especially when the guy is only 27 with a HUGE potential upside. Even without this potential, the guy is a solid MLB baseball player. But whenever someone brings this up the #1 message board response is “but he makes $12 million a year.” Yes, this is a lot of money, and given the current market for Andruw’s skills he does seem a tad overpaid. However, the fact the he might be overpaid does not mean that dumping him eliminates the problem.

Andruw Jones signed his contract at a time when baseball salaries were on the rise. In fact, AJ was considered to have taken less than market value to stay with the Braves at the time of his signing. The market has since adjusted, and now I am sure John Scheurholz wishes he had not given so much of his payroll to Andruw Jones, as well as Chipper Jones and John Smoltz. But this is a problem faced by many teams. Boston wishes it did not have to pay Manny Ramirez’s hefty $20 million salary despite the fact that he is probably one of the best three hitters in baseball (along with A-Rod and Bonds). The thing is the Braves can’t dump Andruw and then feel financial freedom. As long as Andruw plays Major League Baseball, someone has to pay him $12 million a year to do so until his contract expires. To get another team to pay AJ his salary the Braves must give up more than just Jones, since his salary could be used to buy more on the open market.

Jones’s contract is a sunk cost, and sunk costs are irrelevant to economic decisions. Assuming the market for baseball talent is rational (which to some is a strong assumption), getting that $12 million/year back is impossible, so Braves fans should forget about it. This is not to say the Braves could not trade Jones. Yes, gains from trade may exist, but my main point is that Jones can not be dumped for free. Getting rid of Jones may mean getting rid of prospects like Marte and Capellan or acquring another albatross contract that includes a player who better fills the team’s needs. So just be happy that we’re not watching Juan Pierre out there.

The DH and Hit Batsmen, Again

As some of my readers may know, I have done some research on the causes of hit batsmen differences between the NL and the AL. I certainly didn’t start the discussion in the economics literature, but if you read the papers linked below you can find its origins. As the graph below demonstrates, from the early 1970s until the early 1990s, the AL HBP rate exceeded the NL HBP rate by an average of almost 20 percent.

It just so happens that the higher HBP rate in the AL compared to the NL coincides with the introduction of the DH in the AL. There have been a few theories as to why this is. The first is that AL pitchers do not have to bat, where they might face retaliation for plunking, and therefore shirk in their pitching. NL pitchers bear a greater cost from hitting batters than AL pitchers and therefore hit less batters. In terms of the law of demand (a phrase that could ruin any good discussion), as the price of hitting batters falls, pitchers will hit more batters (or consume behavior that leads to more hit batters). But don’t get caught up in the economic terminology, this is traditional baseball folklore. When the pitcher doesn’t have to face the music, he may be a little less careful pitching high and inside.

However, the higher hit batter rates in the AL do not necessarily prove this theory. A competing explanation is that because pitchers are such poor hitters, the NL hit batter rate is lower than the AL. Hitting a pitcher puts the easiest out on the team (almost always) on base. So pitchers in the NL are extremely careful not to hit pitchers when they bat. AL pitchers do not have to be as careful against the DHs. So, we have a competing theories that both predict higher hit batter rates in the AL.

But, things get trickier. In 1994, the NL hit batter rate rose above the AL for the first time in two decades. In fact, in four of the past ten years the NL rate has exceeded the AL rate. What the heck is going on here?

Well, my colleague, Doug Drinen, and I think we have found some possible answers. Using two datasets from Retrosheet event files and game logs, we have been able to examine the causes of hit batters with the DH and without. The disaggregated data allow us to control for many factors to distinguish between alternate hypotheses. For example, we can look at the impact of the quality of the hitter on hit batters. If, after controlling for the better batting lineups created by the DH, DH games are still associated with more hit batters, then something else must be going on. Our first paper on the subject uses play-by-play data from the late-1960s/early-1970s and 1989-1992 to examine the likelihood of a batter being hit, controlling for game situations. From this data we determined that the lack of fear of retaliation among AL pitchers explained between 60-80% of the difference in hit batters between leagues during these time periods. Additionally, we found evidence of pitchers being hit in the half-inning following a plunking.

Unfortunately, the available play-by-play data exists only for the period before the league HBP rates began to narrow in the mid-1990s. So, to look at the more recent data, we used game-by-game data from the Retrosheet game logs, which extend all the way through the 2003 season. Using the data in a second paper we find that the incidence of hit batters is about 8% higher than games with no DH, controlling for many relevant factors. From 1973-2003 the hit batter difference between leagues was about 15%; therefore, the DH explains roughly half of the difference. In interleague games the difference is even more pronounced, with the DH being associated with 11% more hit batters than in non-DH games. We also find evidence of retaliation for hit batters. The more batters a team hits in the game, the greater number of batters on that team are hit themselves.

But still, what about the 1990s? Though we show that the difference in hit batsmen is still real when the more recent data is added, it still seems odd the the NL’s HBP rate should rise relative to the AL. Well, it turns out there is are two explanations for this. First, the NL expanded in 1993. This would not be problem except for the fact that the expansion draft rules allowed AL teams to protect more players from the draft than NL teams. Therefore, the talent dilution affected both leagues, but hurt the NL more than the AL. Talent dilution ought to increase the number of accidental hit batters from inexperienced players. From 1993-1997, the NL HBP rate exceeded the AL rate in 3 of the 5 years. In the 1998 expansion, there was no such asymmetry in the expansion draft, and only in one year since expansion (2000) has the NL rate exceeded the AL rate. Expansion is also consistent with the rise of hit batters in both leagues. Second, in 1994 MLB adopted the double-warning rule for hitting batters. The double-warning rule requires the umpire to warn both teams following a hit batter (or a nearly hit batter) that he deems to be intentional. After the warning, any future hit batters result in the ejection of the offending pitcher and manager. Why is this important? Well, it significantly raises the cost of retaliation. If a pitcher hits a batter, he knows that retaliation will be very costly for the other team. Therefore, pitchers in the NL could feel a little more like their AL counterparts in knowing that retaliation is less likely. The narrowing is expected.

So, there you have it. I could say a lot more, but already this post is very long. Read the papers if you are interested in this. Doug and I welcome thoughts and suggestions on the papers.

Thoughts on Zone Rating

I am very sympathetic with people who want to develop objective statistics to judge fielders.  While I think much progress has been made, I am still not satisfied with what is available.  One valiant attempt at improving the quantification of fielding is the “zone rating” (ZR).  ZR is a statistic that is like a batting average for fielding.  Every fielder is assigned a zone of responsibility on the field.  The zone is malleable based on the trajectory of the ball.  Fielders have less territory of responsibility for line drives and more responsibility for fly balls, due to the different reaction times needed to get to the ball.  Every ball that passes in that zone is either a putout (PO) or a hit.  We then divide the PO by the Balls in Zone (BIZ).  A balls caught out of the zone (BOZ) are counted as a PO and added to BIZ.  Thus, the formula for ZR is:


I believe there are a few major problems with this metric that dampen its value.  First, like errors, ZR requires the subjective evaluation of the scorekeeper.  While the standards for ZR are much more objective than for errors, I still worry about he borderline cases.  At what point does a line drive become a flyball?  How can an observer identify the edge of the zone precisely?  Do scorekeepers vary in how they make these judgment calls?  I think that the people at STATS Inc. that calculate the ZR do a pretty good job at solving these problems, but pobody is nerfect.   But, even if we could design an unbiased system, say using satellites tracking a computer chip in the ball, I still think ZR is fundamentally flawed.

ZR suffers from two serious problems that are intertwined. First, it cannot handle defensive shifts.  In 1946, Cleveland Indians player-manager Lou Boudreaux designed a unique defense to combat the left-handed pull hitter Ted Williams.  He shaded his fielders to the extreme right of the field.  I am not sure he was the first person to adjust his defense to reflect the batting styles of individual hitters, but it is the most famous case of such a shift being employed.  The shift was used against Williams through much of his career, and since that time managers have adopted strategies of moving fielders to according to the tendencies of batters. For modern day examples see Barry Bonds and Jim Thome.  With the invention of computers, these tendencies have become very easy to measure.  Today, any fan can purchase a scouting guide with the placement of every hit ball for every batter in the big leagues. In terms of ZR, such shifts constitute players moving out of their pre-defined zones.  Even if a player is still standing within the zone, certain balls within the zone become harder to reach, while others outside the zone become outs.

This is where the second problem arises.  Because of the ZR formula treats all PO as BIZ, players can be punished for catching balls out of their zones.  How can fielders be punished when they are credited for POs out of the zone?  Well, because defensive positioning that allows balls to be caught outside of the zone necessitates a tradeoff of other balls falling for hits in the zone.  The POs outside of the zone count for both the numerator and the denominator, which has the effect of expanding the zone of responsibility of the player.  Here is an example of the bias using Andruw Jones’s 2002 fielding statistics.  During the 2002 season Andruw Jones led all NL center fielders with 404 PO.  His ZR was .876, which means that the sum of BIZ plus his BOZ outs was 461.  Let’s see how a few out of zone POs due to positioning may bias the zone rating.  I am going to assume that positioning is going to allow Andruw Jones to catch 10 BOZ; however, the tradeoff for these 10 BOZ is the 10 balls he could have caught had he been in the middle of the zone.  To the Atlanta Braves, the tradeoff means absolutely nothing.  The shift translates into 10 outs gained and 10 outs lost.  But, Andruw’s ZR is going to make Andruw look like a much worse fielder. First, let’s take away his BOZ POs from both the numerator and denominator.

ZR- BOZ  = 394/451 = .874

His ZR is virtually identical, but here is the problem. Andruw converted 10 balls into outs that were not in his zone.  Remember, he is still being punished for not catching the 10 balls that fell in for hits in his zone.  If Andruw played at the center of his zone his ZR would be:

ZR* = 404/451 = .896

That may not seem like much, but that would put him in first place in the NL ZR, rather than sixth place.  However, my assumption about an equal tradeoff between BOZ and BIZ POs is not realistic.  Why would the Braves make such a shift if they gained nothing? In fact, this assumption makes Andruw Jones look even worse.  Let’s assume Andruw is so good that he catches 15 balls out of the zone, while giving up only 10 in the zone. Then, his ZR would have been:

ZR** = 404/446 = .906

My point is not that Andruw Jones was robbed of the ZR crown.  Plenty other center fielders suffer the same fate as Andruw, and it would be unfair for me to target any player as a winner or loser in this system without a detailed analysis of all players.  I simply want to show why ZR are not very reliable, because of all the shifting that goes on in major league baseball.  These shifts are not just the mammoth “Williams Shift,” where all players move to one side of the field.  A few steps forward or back for every hitter is all it takes. And if you watch baseball regularly, you know that shifts are made for almost every player.

Although I use an outfielder as an example, I think the problem is just as bad, if not worse, for infielders.  The criteria used for infielders are slightly different (only grounders matter and there are adjustments for double plays), but the general idea is the same.  Infielders adjust their position not just to the tendency of the hitters, but also in response to the runner configuration and game situation.  A runner on first with less than two out sets the infielders at “double-play” depth, which increases the chances that a fielded ball will result in two outs but lowers the probability that a ball will be fielded.  This is just one example.

For these reasons, I don’t pay much attention to ZR or ZR-type systems. There are several other measures of defense used, such as base runs allowed and ultimate zone rating (UZR), that offer some slight improvements, but I am still not sold on these systems.  Unfortunately, measuring defensive ability is hard, especially from a historical perspective.  I am sure that general managers, mangers, and scouts have some methods for measuring fielding quality using drills and other off-field tools, but I don’t think we will ever get a system that can precisely measure fielding ability as well as we can measure batting ability.  I think it is clear that the very good players will have better ZRs than very bad players, but differentiating players of similar ability is much more difficult. 

Things that Make Me Mad

The BCS is changing is formula to minimize computer rankings in determining which college football teams play in the title game. I think it’s a stupid idea, but I really don’t care. In my opinion, the BCS is only slightly better than the old format and far inferior to a playoff. However, this quote about the change angers me.

The ESPN-USA Today poll of college coaches and The Associated Press poll of football writers will each count for one-third under the new formula Bowl Championship Series officials unveiled Thursday in attempting to find a simpler, more equitable way to determine a national champion.

Under the new formula, computer rankings will count for the final third of each team’s overall BCS ranking, while strength of schedule, team record and quality wins, three components used under the old system, have all been eliminated.

How is this system simpler? Once you have the computers it’s no more complicated to adjust for all of the dropped factors. Of course, there may be some double-counting, because the polls also consider these factors, but the change is hardly about simplicity. But the word “equitable” really gets me. How on earth is this more equitable? Didn’t USC, LSU, and Oklahoma know the rules when the season began last year? What was inequitable about last year’s system compared to this year’s system? What happens when some school with an easy schedule lucks into a top spot after some big schools beat up on each other? Is that somehow more equitable?

The moral of the story is that words like equitable ought to be used with care. This system is different than the old. It may be preferable to some, but that in no way gives this system any moral superiority over the old one.

Selig on Feller on Ali

I am not a Selig hater. I would describe myself as a mild disliker of the man, but I think that it is only because of my contrarian nature that I choose not to hate a man so easy to hate. But anyway, Bud’s recent response to Bob Feller over the Muhammad Ali situation was just…well very irritating.

If you don’t know the story, here is the background. Muhammad Ali threw out the first pitch at Tuesday’s All-Star game. Ali is certainly a controversial figure. He openly avoided the draft, has made several anti-American statements, and has been associated with the Nation of Islam (although, I’m not sure of his current level of involvement with that organization). I find Ali’s fame to be annoying, not because of any of his political/religious actions, but because I don’t care much for loud-mouthed boxers. So to me, having Ali throw out the first pitch at the game is like having Air Supply sing the national anthem; I’m not particularly happy about it, but I’ll get over it as fast as the event ends. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, on the other hand, was a bit more troubled. Feller is a veteran of WW II and didn’t care much for Ali’s presence.

“I object very strongly to Muhammad Ali being here to throw out the first pitch, and you can print that,” Feller was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s Boston Herald. “This is a man who changed his name and changed his religion so he wouldn’t have to serve his country, and, to me, that’s disgusting.”

“A man who turned his back on his country shouldn’t be honored this way,” Feller told the Herald.

“I protest his being here [at the All-Star Game],” Feller told the Herald. “I don’t like the message he sends out, and [Major League Baseball] shouldn’t have invited him.”

I’m perfectly fine with Feller’s sentiments, with which many Americans and MLB players agree. I think Feller ought to be commended for speaking up. However, Selig doesn’t seem to get it. Here is Selig’s response.

“Muhammad Ali is one of the sports legends of our generation,” Selig said before the game. “I don’t think that that’s valid criticism.”

Not valid! Is he serious? OJ Simpson is a sports legend, so should he be invited next year? I guess being a sports legend makes all criticisms by respected ballplayers invalid. What a jackass! Insulting Feller a second time isn’t the right thing to do here, Bud. All he had to say was something like, “Ali is a controversial figure in sports, like many players, but we are just happy to see a person who has successfully battled Parkinson’s disease stand up for all those who suffer from this awful affliction.” Then everybody is happy just to disagree. Instead, he calls Feller an idiot.

Selig wonders why he is so hated. If you can’t do the easy parts of the job right, why should anyone think you can handle the hard ones? And by the way, where is Selig’s little shill, George Will, on this one?

THT on The Braves

Aaron Gleeman’s first half review of the NL is up at The Hardball Times. He spends a large portion of the review discussing the Braves.

The Braves Mid-Season Report

At the All-Star break the Braves are 45-42, one game back of the division leader in a four team race for the NL East title. The Braves are 3 game back in the Wild Card standings with 5 teams ahead and 3 teams just behind. The second half is going to be fun. I’ll start off with a discussion of the first half then discuss the prospects for the second half.

The first half of the season actually went pretty well, considering the injuries the team suffered. Marcus Giles, Rafael Furcal, Eli Marrero, and Chipper Jones all missed significant time due to injury. If you had told me all of this would happen at the beginning of the season I would have been content knowing that the Braves would likely be out of it. The Braves have not only been lucky in playing in a week division, but they have played quite well. The Braves have also been victims of bad luck. According to the Pythagorean standings the Braves ought to be very respectable 48-39. I want to look at what went wrong and what went right, to put the Braves in the position they are in.

What went wrong?
1) Injuries, duh! The injuries have not just been time missed, but the accompanying adjustment period from guys playing hurt. We still don’t know the impact of the Giles injury. He might come back, like last year, and prove he is the mirror image of his big brother. But, the biggest damage from the injuries to Chipper and Furcal is that they have been playing hurt. I thought Furcal was off to a great start. The batting average was a little lower than usual, but I was sure the hits would start falling. But then came that day Furcal tried to steal third. Why!? One thing I know from watching Furcal is that he is fast, but not a particularly good base stealer. For whatever reason, he gets terrible jumps. Anyway, the end result of the play was that he was out and an on on-track Furcal missed nearly a month of everyday duty (he did pinch hit some). Only now is he returning to form. Chipper has played hurt, switched positions, and is now fighting the Mendoza line. His inure has cost way more than his games missed. Chipper is hitting with power right now (an Iso-Power of .200) and he is walking. I suspect that a healthy Chipper would be putting up a +900 OPS year.

2)The Roster. Mark DeRosa couldn’t handle third base. I thought he could and I don’t blame Schuerholz for trying. Jesse Garcia has been himself at the plate, and I think his defense has not been good enough to keep him in the big-leagues as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. DeWanyne Wise has had some moments, but his overall stats suggest he just can’t hit big league pitching. If he would just learn to walk I think he could stick with a big league club. To be fair to Wise, he has played better than I thought he would and his defense has been good. I probably ought to put Eddie Perez in here, but he’s doing exactly what he was expected to do: catch every fifth day and play good defense. LaRoche cannot handle the job at first yet. His platooned .250 BA is not much better than DeRosa. Wilson Betemit should never have been called up as his minor league numbers were not very good anyway. Mike Hessman can’t hit at the major league level.

3) Managing. Cox’s first half managing job has been subpar. I am a Bobby Cox fan, and I would never suggest replacing him, but a few of his in-game moves have been suspect. First, If not for the emergence of Nick Green, the Braves would have had a sub-.300 OBP guy in the top three of the line-up for much of the season. This makes no sense. It just gives out-producers such as LaRoche, Wise, DeRosa, Betemit, etc. more at-bats. I don’t know that it has cost the Braves any games, but it hasn’t helped. Second, bullpen use has not been good. Kevin Gryboski is the WORST pitcher to bring in with men on base in a close game. He strikes out no one and walks many. The one good thing the Grybo is good for is keeping the ball in the park. He is the perfect pitcher for games when the Braves have big leads. He may give up a run or two, but the other team won’t get it back with one swing of the bat. Smoltz, Reitsma, and the invisible Juan Cruz can get the strikeouts needed in tight spots. They should be used instead of hoping Grybo can luck into a double-play.

What went right?
1) Richmond. Nick Green has saved the Braves. I don’t know whether it is a fluke nor do I care, but finding a league average OPS second basemen in the minor league system saved the team. Imagine what would the season look like with Jesse Garcia batting and playing second. It would be a three-team race in the NL East or the Braves would have had to trade a prospect to find a replacement. Nick Green saved the Braves a lot, and when Giles comes back I suspect he will become the number one utility guy off the bench. DeRosa and Garcia will slide one step back. Green might also be traded, but I suspect with Marcus’s injury so uncertain it is worth it to hold on to Green through the end of the season. I would look for him to be moved after the season is over or if the Braves fall out contention. The other help from Richmond has been Charles Thomas. Though he has had only about 50 PAs, he looks to be a replacement for Wise. An OPS of over one is always welcome, especially when you can play defense. He will struggle before the season is over, but with a healthy Marrero and two lefty outfielders doing well in Richmond, I suspect the club will gamble on Thomas and release Wise when he comes off the DL. I would like to mention that Jurries is playing quite well in Richmond, and probably ought to come up if either Adam or Julio go on the DL. His impact may have yet to be felt.

2) John Schuerholz’s moves. Johnny Estrada, JD Drew, Jaret Wright, and John Thomson. Wow! Who would have thunk it. JS, You traded Kevin Milwood for a backup catcher and we all laughed. You sign Jaret Wright off waivers. You sign 40-something first baseman from the Mexican League who hits with a tree trunk. I worship at your feet. Forget Billy Bean, John Schuerholz was doing it first. If these guys play like their past major league seasons, the Braves are done. JD is healthy and Johnny can hit, though I wish he had more power… but am I really in position to complain? JD’s All-Star snub was embarrassing. He is the team MVP, and JS ought to make a run at resigning him. I suspect the Braves are in a good position since Drew is from the area and his brother is on the team. The pitchers have been outstanding.

3) The walking wounded. Chipper Jones is hitting .214, but he’s putting up a .740 OPS. He’s been brave to fight through an annoying injury and his father’s health problems. He walks and hits for power. This is a perfect example of why batting averages can be misleading. His play at third has been great. Watch out for Chipper in the second half. If his Iso-Power stays the same as his average rises, it could be glorious. Furcal has also played well through his injury. His walk and HR rates are up from his career average. I think that if he had not suffered some injuries he would be in the All-Star game. Raffy gets a lot of flack that is undeserved. JS needs to think about working on a long-term deal while some of his more visible numbers are down. Andruw has also been playing hurt and going through an AJ funk. Remember the Jones plays a defensive position very well and has a +800 OPS while in a funk. Andruw is a good player who can just look bad. As Obi-Wan Kanobi said to Luke Skywalker, “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.” An at bat by Jones can look ugly, but I am glad he is on the team. I’m pretty sure JS understands Andruw’s value and would not trade him for a quick fix or salary dump.

What is going to happen in the second half?

I think the Braves are in a very good position. They survived some early problems and the team appears to be on a real upswing going into the break. I suspect that Giles will be back to full strength by the beginning of August. I see Chipper and Furcal continuing to improve as they heal, and Andruw may get a little better himself. If JD and Estrada continue at their current pace, and the pitching remains adequate, I think the Braves will win the division. But, the margin for error on this team is thin. A few injuries clustered together could bury the team, so the Braves need to win when they can. This means, if LaRoche can’t hack it the Braves can’t waste time waiting for him to come around. Go ahead an bring up Jurries just to see if he can do it, or put Green at first to give Julio a break. No more pinch hitting with Garcia or Hessman. If a starter goes down, don’t be afraid to bring up Capellan for a spot start if needed. Use Cruz before Gryboski out of the pen.

In summary, I’m quite optimistic. I had some more stuff to add, but as it is I’ve written way more than planned. I may post some more numbers in the next few days, but I’ll leave it at this for now. Go Braves!

Is the Sun Setting for Japanese Baseball?

Eric at Offwing has a very interesting post on the troubles of Japanese professional baseball. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) is experiencing a team merger and a possible merger of its two leagues. I don’t know much about NPB, but I am fascinated by the league’s attempt to replicate not just the American game, but the structure of MLB. Though the league only has 12 teams, it has two separate leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, to mimic the AL and NL of MLB. And only the Central League employs the DH rule. For more discussion on the similarities between Japanese and American baseball see this paper: Baseball in Japan and North America: Same Game, Same Rules, Same Results?

But, back to Eric’s post. Eric notes that NPB’s problem is that it is NOT run like a business as most American teams are. Well, maybe some billionaires will lose money to win, but I think the monetary incentives to turn a profit are pretty strong in MLB. Anyway…

What’s the problem? For the most part, Japanese baseball isn’t really run as a business, but as more of a promotional arm of the companies that own the teams. For the most part, teams are run by lower level executives of the larger conglomerates that own the teams, so a career in baseball is more of a pit stop on the company ladder, rather than an all-consuming career for a Billy Beane-type….

What we’re really seeing here is just another example of globalization in action. Japanese baseball as currently constituted simply can’t compete anymore. Because of the inherent weakness of their business model, they can’t afford to retain top athletic talent, and because of the way they manage their organizations, they can’t seem to develop top-flight front office operations either.

I don’t have much more to add to this other than I think it is something worth watching.

Media Alert: CBS Marketwatch

I am quoted in a CBS Marketwatch story “Base on Balls: Major League Baseball Succeeding Despite Whiffs, Errors” (Registration required). Here is what I had to say about the infamous “Spiderman Incident.”

“Baseball didn’t even market that [plan] right,” said John-Charles Bradbury, an economics professor at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn. “When it sticks to selling baseball, then baseball does well, but this was bad for both baseball and the movie.”

Why I Don’t Like the All-Star Game

I don’t like the All-Star game. 1) It’s boring. 2) The selection process is stupid. I think I was the only person on the planet happy to see Bud Selig end the game in a tie two years ago. It’s an exhibition, and I don’t want to see any players hurt trying to pretend it is not. If the All-Star game is serious, then why allow switch-hitting by Larry Walker and other shenanigans? I guess I don’t hate the game, I just hate that so many people pretend that it is something more than a friendly baseball-type event.

The selection really bothers me. For example,

JD Drew: .293/.425/.613/19 HRs
M. Alou: 286/.338/.527/ 19 HRs

If you were picking an All-Star team in which the outcome really mattered, would Alou be on that team? Of course not. JD is having a monster year, second only to Bonds among NL outfielders in OPS. Of course, that is supposed to be part of the fun, quibbling over the selections. But is this really quibbling? What GM in baseball would choose Alou over Drew? Drew is having a better year, he should be on the team. I’d like to point out that Drew is getting especially screwed because Gary Sheffield made the team for the AL. Drew has matched and surpassed the production of the man he replaced in RF. What do you tell JD? It doesn’t matter? Because if it doesn’t matter, why are we making such a big deal about the game?