Thursday, September 27, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Mike Schmidt, 63. There are four positions where "greatest ever" is contested, and four where it's uncontested. Of the uncontested, only two are recent: Barry Bonds in LF, and Michael Jack.Schmidt (I'm assuming that Alex Rodriguez counts as a worse SS than Wagner, and not as serious competition for Schmidt). How about top-ten in the NL in OPS+ almost every year beginning in 1974 and going through 1987, missing only once, and leading the league at one point five years running and six out of seven? And a great glove. Wonderful, wonderful, baseball player.

The good stuff:

1. Can't-miss NYT piece by Suzanne Mettler and John Sides about who really draws government benefits. It's not 47%.

2. Possible bias in polling, assessed by Dan Hopkins. Also, he sends us to Drew Linzer for possible effects of bias.

3. Brutal takedown of a Paul Ryan comment on Libya and Iran by Heather Hurlburt.

4. And is a Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel opinion shredding civil liberties still in effect today? Rachel Levinson-Waldman has the (newly uncovered) Jay Bybee opinion; now, reporters should be pressing the Obama Administration about it.


  1. How do you have a discussion on polling bias without mentioning likely voter screens?

  2. I used to work with a guy who was a contemporary of Schmidt's in the same high school baseball league.
    Today's post leads to two conclusions:

    1) My former coworker is ~63, and
    2) Where in the world does the time go?

    1. I've given myself two rules about the birthday person -- one is to not call them "the great..." because I'd be doing that 4 or 5 times a week and it would get annoying, and the other is to not note my astonishment and, perhaps, dismay, about how old many of them are. But yeah.

  3. what's the full list of contested/uncontested?

  4. Ruth - RF
    Mays - CF
    Bonds - LF
    Schmidt - 3B

    Is there really an argument about
    Wagner - SS
    Gehrig - 1B

    2B is Morgan v. Hornsby
    C is up in the air?

    1. Far be it for me to say anything bad about Mays, but CF is a four-way fight between Mays, Mantle, Speaker, and Cobb. 2B is Morgan, Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie, or even Robinson. C is all over the place; I think it's Piazza, but I also think that defense is too hard to judge to really have any idea. Bench, Yogi...

      And I counted wrong. That's three contested ones, and five clear greatests. I think I was counting LF as contested, because it used to be, but it certainly isn't any more (stupid late-night post-fast part of my brain was writing post-Bonds, and the other part pre-Bonds). So Ruth, Bonds, Schmidt, Wagner, Gehrig. Which is five.

    2. Fair enough - I'm a SF guy too, hence my bias towards Mays.

    3. So hey, if we're veering off on a baseball tangent...who'd be everybody's #2 shortstop behind Wagner? After all, pre-1920 baseball was almost a different game. At one point I'd have said A-Rod, but he's played too many games at third. Ripkin? Ozzie? Cap'n Jetes?

    4. Oy, Morgan at 2nd?

      You kids, I tell ya'.

  5. Left field is uncontested? What about Ted William???

    1. Absolutely right. The different eras make it tough, of course, but so does the pharmacology.

      Given the choice, I'd take Teddy Ballgame.

  6. Oops Wlliams, not William.

  7. I'm jumping on Gordon's bandwagon, even though he got there first. I tend to be a Barry Bonds apologist, but I hear this Ted Williams guy could play a little. I don't see how Bonds can be the uncontested best LF ever.

    I think the part of your brain that said 4 was right. Unless you want to say that The Kid was the uncontested best LF ever. Then you're back to 5. I'm OK with LF being contested between Williams & Bonds, though.

    1. On the field, I don't think it's close. Bonds has an extra 3000 PAs, and while Williams was a better hitter, Bonds just clobbers him in defense and baserunning. Baseball-reference's WAR says that adds up to a 40 wins difference, which is huge -- half of that is from fielding, and their system doesn't particularly like Bonds's glove. Or count the 2002 postseason.

      Against that, you basically have five lost seasons for Willaims for military service. It's certainly not crazy to think that Williams could have been worth 40 games over those seasons...but then again he really did miss them, and that's an awful lot of value to assume (after all, while he obviously was at much greater risk as it was, it's also possible that he could have lost time or even long-term value with injuries had he been around).

      I don't think that's enough on the Williams side of the ledger to make it a true close call, but I guess I can see how some might.

    2. Williams put up WARS of 10.4 and 9.7 before WWII, and 10.2, 9.6, 8.3 and 9.2 after. So, let's assume 3 years of 9 WAR there (27). By Korea, he's aged, and it's more like 6.9 the year before and 7.2, 5.9 and 5.7 the years after. (Though his 1957 campaign is very resurgent). So, how about assuming a 6 for those two years (12). Now, he did manage 2.6 during those Korea-shortened years, so maybe call it a 10.

      So, a reasonable guess at Williams lifetime WAR without wars (heh heh) is about 3 shy of Bonds.

      After that, we can have plenty of discussions on the value of hits versus power, walks vs hits or whatever. I am not willing to say Williams was the best LF ever. I AM willing to say that any GM who had to choose between Bonds and Williams would have had to make a very tough choice.

  8. Gotta second the vote on Williams. Yes, Bonds' WAR is higher, but Williams is the career #1 OBP, #2 SLG, and #2 OPS. Naturally, there's the problem of war years to deal with. And we don't need to settle the debate here...I'm honestly not sure who I'd vote for.

    But I'd say LF is certainly contested.

    And, to respond to Rob and JB above, I'm not sure Wagner is uncontested. I mean, everyone tosses out Wagner but forgets that he played a ton at other positions (about 1/3 of his games). If Wagner qualifies as a SS, then ARod kinda does, too (57% of his games are at SS). Wagner has a higher average, sure, and he played before infields were smoothed over, so his fielding % probably compares well with ARod's. But you are kinda tossing out the #5 career HR hitter at a weak hitting position....Wagner has the career #35 batting average.

    Honestly, I think RF and 3B are the only two positions where reasonable people couldn't disagree (assuming you're calling ARod a SS!)

    1. Who do you have up against Gehrig?

    2. @Mark:
      Nobody, really, but in the modern era of really powerful 1Bs, that might look like "Gehrig(*)"

      Pujols is coming up on Gehrig, though not if this year and last are any indication.
      (Baseball Ref has Pujols at 88.8 WAR, and Gehrig at 108.3, over 5 more seasons). If Pujols finishes out as 2011/2012 Pujols, it's Gehrig's slot for at least another decade. If Pujols can put up anything like 2003-2010 numbers for just a few years though (honestly, three more years like any of those would do it), then we start having to debate "Gehrig had better protection! Pujols played in smaller parks! Etc!" If Pujols somehow plays like 2003-2010 Pujols for 5 more years,

      So, right now, in 2012, it's Gehrig's job free and clear, and I simply spaced and forgot, so it should say 3 positions and include 1B. But, it's also interesting that the best 1B in history is only ranked #18 in WAR. Given that 1B tends to be a much deeper position in the last few decades (at least, offensively), that's strikes me as odd, and not likely to stand the test of time.

      If you told me the best 2B of all time was the 40th best player in all of baseball history, I'd buy that. For catcher, I could see as low as #80. But for OFs to simply dominate over 1Bs that much? I gut tells me that, when we stop playing baseball to focus our attention on the zombie apocalypse, there's likely to be a 1B in the top 10 players of all time.


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