Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mitch Williams Is An Idiot

You probably knew that already anyway. If you don't recall as such from his playing days, perhaps you've listened to him trip over his own tongue repeatedly on the MLB Network this year. If not, simply refer to the picture below.

"I cut the sleeves off because it looks awesome, now get your head in the game!"

Last night, after finishing the recap, I checked a few other Yankee sites and had MLBN on in the background. I was only half listening. I noticed that recently DFA'd former Yankee and all-around good guy Tony Clark had joined the studio team - good for him. Combined with Sean Casey, last night's panel had two of the most well-liked Big Leaguers of the past twenty years or so.

But for all the goodwill that The Mayor and Tony the former Tiger can generate, one meandering argument from The Wild Thing ruined it all for me.

I'm not even quite sure what point Williams was trying to make. Maybe that's because I wasn't dedicating my full attention, or maybe it's because Williams hasn't made a lucid argument in his entire time with the fledgling network.

Regardless, the conversation started with the increasingly tiresome AL MVP debate. Williams stated that Mauer is at a disadvantage because he's a catcher and his legs are going to go on him at some point before the season's over. Except then Mitch said that Mauer is at an advantage because he missed the first month of the season, so he's fresher than he would be. Ok, advantage: push.

Then Derek Jeter came up. And Mitch made some point about batting average being an overvalued statistic. "Wow," I thought, "Mitch Williams is making a salient point."

Then Mitch took a turn for the inane. For some reason, Williams started comparing Jeter to Jimmy Rollins, who while a shortstop, plays in an entirely different league - so I'm not quite sure what any of it had to do with the AL MVP discussion.

That said, Williams, again emphasizing that batting average is an overvalued statistic, illustrated this by pointing out that despite a cavernous gap between them in batting average, Jimmy Rollins has 10 more doubles than Derek Jeter and has a fielding percentage that is superior by .007. End of story.

Well that's just great Mitch. Now let's finish the discussion. A .007 advantage in fielding percentage is nearly meaningless. The average Major League shortstop last year fielded 728 chances. A .007 difference in fielding percentage means that over the course of a season Rollins would turn roughly five more chances into outs. Five. That's less than one per month over the course of the season.

Of course, since Mitch is so plugged in to which stats are overvalued, he probably knows that fielding percentage is not a very accurate method of measuring a player's defensive value. A more advanced metric would be UZR/150. Now there's no denying that over the course of their respective careers, Jimmy Rollins has been a much, much, much better defensive player than Derek Jeter, holding a career edge in UZR/150 of 10.2 runs. However, this year, Derek Jeter's UZR/150 is 6.8 as opposed to Rollins' 5.9. So for 2009 at least, advantage Jeter.

How about offense? Well yes Mitch, Rollins does have a whopping 10 double lead. How about the other three types of hits a batter can get? 2009 slugging percentage Jimmy Rollins: .415. 2009 slugging percentage Derek Jeter: .482. And before anyone mentions a word about the new Yankee Stadium, let's remember that Citizens Bank Park is also very hitter friendly. Its one year park factors (102/101) are only slightly less offensive than Yankee Stadium's (103/103), and its multiyear factors (103/102) are nearly identical to how the Stadium has played in its brief history.

But, offense is more than just doubles. As Mitch knows, batting average is overrated. On base percentage is probably the best single measure of offensive value. 2009 OBP Rollins: .290. 2009 OBP Jeter: .398. Huge, huge, huge advantage Jeter. Both men bat leadoff. Over the course of a full season, Jeter will be on base roughly 83 more times based on their current OBPs. Jimmy Rollins' OBP is the absolute lowest of any Major Leaguer with at least 450 plate appearances this year. There are but six American Leaguers with a better OBP than Jeter.

How about something really advanced and all-encompassing: 2009 Wins Above Replacement Rollins: 1.8. 2009 Wins Above Replacement Jeter: 5.9. Once again, huge advantage Jeter. He's been worth more than three times as much to his team this year.

I'm not trying to bag on Jimmy Rollins. I'm not trying to suggest that Jeter is or isn't the AL MVP. But I am absolutely stupefied as to what point Mitch Williams was trying to make. That Joe Mauer has legs? That Jeter's not the MVP? That Jeter hits for average and that's all he's good for? That Jimmy Rollins isn't having an absolutely abysmal season? I don't know. I'm not sure Mitch knows. But, by virtue of his employment at MLBN, the guy is supposed to be a national authority on the sport. Whatever point he was trying to make, it was poorly, poorly constructed and its delivery was even worse.

In summary:
Joe Mauer's legs = a blessing and a curse, he may want to hedge his bets and cut one off
Batting average = overrated
Doubles = underrated
Fielding percentage = just right
UZR/150, OBP, WAR = non-existent
Mitch Williams = rivaling John Kruk for dumbest '93 Phillie turned analyst


  1. The point of this post comes across extra strong when you start it out by saying: "I was only half listening."

    The MLB Network is hardly "fledgling" and Mitch Williams is the fucking man.

  2. I watched the very same thing and had the very same thoughts...

    First, maybe Mitch is onto something.

    Second, nope.

    And even with Mitch, MLBN is a hands-down favorite over BBTN.

  3. Anonymous, sorry but Mitch Williams is an asshead--was as a player, still is now masquerading as an analyst.

    Great stuff, Matt, especially the drastic OBP difference between Jeter and Rollins. I have to admit to being a big advocate of OBP as a measurement of player value. That and RBI rank at the top of my statistical book.

    Although I didn't see the segment you've critiqued, it sounds to me as though Williams did what so many so-called analysts--especially the ex-players with the residual jock mentality--do--recite a few statistics to pose as salient commentary, regardless of their applicability. The fielding percentage point from Williams is particularly weak. It smacks of a cheap attempt to show he did his homework, while in actuality missing the point of his own assignment--in this case, worthwhile comparative analysis between two benchmark players at their position. I'm also left wondering whether or not Williams even considered how impressive Jeter's year is turning 35, or his being healthy, compared to last year.

    Hopefully Tony Clark will thrive at MLBN. He deserves it--great teammate by all accounts, excellent glove, smart.

  4. Mitch Williams is the biggest dipshit on the face of the earth.

  5. @Anon #1
    I'm not doubting that Williams is The Man. Clearly, his head band/shades/stache/mullet/cutoff sleeves ensemble in the picture cements his status as such.

    "Fledging" is defined by Wesbster's as "one that is new". Given that MLBN launched on Jan 1 this year, I'd say it's safe to call it a fledgling network.

    And while I was half listening at the outset, Williams moronic statements captured my full attention pretty quickly. Regardless of what level of attention I was paying, the fact remains that Williams stated that batting average is overvalued and then cherry picked two equally value-less statistics to try to show than Jimmy Rollins is as good or better than Derek Jeter this year. And little could be further from the truth.

    @Jason #1
    Completely agree. Outside of the Wild Thing, I don't have many complaints against MLBN which is much, much, much better than BBTN

    @ Jason #2
    Thanks - though many would argue that RBI is another overvalued statistic since it is largely based on opportunity rather than performance. Either way, you're spot on about Williams and Clark.

    @ Anon #2
    He may not be the biggest, but he's gotta be in the top ten.

  6. In a way, Matt, you're definitely right about RBI. What I meant about RBI was that, in some ways such as delivering with an out, RBI can outweigh average. It is about performance, but can involve an unselfish performance that, while helping the team, can hinder one's individual statistics, such as turning over the wrists to hit an RBI ground out on a tough pitch. In the end, the run scored is what counts regardless of how.

  7. dumb article. like you said, you werent listening and it shows.

  8. As I stated in a previous comment, Williams remarks got my full attention pretty quickly.

    Either way, I'd love for you to explain to me why this post is dumb and why Williams' "points" make sense.

  9. Or you could half listen to this when I say that they need to fill time on that show, so when that conversation deemed Jeter needing a comparison, Mitch turned to a player he is VERY familiar with, Jimmy Rollins. (Mitch did postgame for Phillies last few years as well as Phillies sports radio)

    Easy to recall comparisons:
    Gold Gloves
    Team Leaders
    World Series Winners
    Leadoff Hitters
    Great Fielding

    I think Peter Gammons would be reaching if he brought up anyones "UZR/150" hahaha

    When have you ever heard ANYONE talk about that stat....

    Well you can damn well hear anything you please when you "half-listen."

  10. You're really not answering Matt's challenge, Anonymous. I can't say I'm surprised, given the dearth of relevant information you've mentioned. So now you've retreated to an attempt at conversational safe ground by trying to chalk up Williams's "points"--which Matt unlike you discussed directly--to "fill time." That smacks of a cop-out to allow a dullard like Williams to say whatever he likes. Plus, if Williams were so familiar with Rollins, why not mention statistics that actually merit a detailed comparison with Jeter, such as OBP and how, as a lead-off hitter, Jeter has far outperformed him? It sounds to me like Williams cherry-picked, a tactic you're trying without success to emulate here.

  11. Yes, they do have time to fill. So rather than do some research or something like that, Mitch can turn to Rollins because he's familiar with him rather than find a more apt comparison for this year such as Tulowitzki, HanRam, Bartlett, or even Yunel Escobar.

    While there may have been other seasons in which it would have been worthwhile to compare the two players, there's absolutely no way anyone could compare the two this year and have it be remotely close. Jeter is an MVP candidate. Rollins is having the worst season of his career and is amongst the worst shortstops in baseball this year. I'm not saying he's done. I'm not saying he hasn't been a good player in the past. But it's impossible to spin his 2009 season as anything but poor.

    One way or the other, I still don't know how selectively choosing two relatively meaningless statistics in which Rollins is currently bettering Jeter somehow proves the point that batting average is overated. Does that mean Rollins and Jeter are equals? Does that mean Rollins is better? Are we took overlook Jimmy Rollins' .290 OBP because he has a few more doubles and because he has an insignificantly better fielding percentage? Mitch didn't explain these things - and I wish he did because they're kind of obvious questions to ask, and you know, they have time to fill. Or maybe he did give compelling and well thought out answers I just wasn't listening again.

    And just because *you* haven't heard anyone talking about UZR/150 doesn't mean that it's not far superior to fielding percentage as measure of defensive performance. You know, just like OBP is far superior to the overrated batting average as a measure of offensive performance. Even Mitch Williams could tell you that. I think.

  12. the dipshit made $25,000,000.00, maybe he"s blown it ? That"s why he took that job at mlb network.

  13. i totally agree with you man, john kruk and mitch williams are complete imbeciles and i feel like punching them when i see them open their dyslexic mouths on tv. that said, i don't even watch baseball tonight anymore since harold reynolds was fired and only watch mlb, but not even that if bitch williams is on either. one final thing, that dicksmack should grow that mullet out and move back to texas - that's where he belongs, not in nyc.