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The Kelley Blowout: As always, avoid April

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This week, it's what to take away and what not to from the first month, how to replace Dee Gordon, why nature vs. nurture can be stupid, my own awesome commercial idea and of course some zombie talk.

I'm back this week with more shameless pandering.

As I said a week ago, we're within a couple of months of the release of my zombie novel After Life. In preparation for its release, I'm working on some marketing ideas, because while I'd like to think I'd release the book and mere word-of-mouth would propel me to the top of all sales lists, um, not so much. So I'm doing whatever I can to drum up some buzz.

As part of that, I debuted a site this weekend. You wouldn't notice it's about a book if you didn't click the "Contact" page or the Twitter link. Instead, it's just a fictional blog.

The book is set 20 years after the first zombie outbreak, in 2010. Part of the conceit is that, in the years following 2010, social media collapses, as survivors look to be with their families, with themselves, instead of communicating with people who might be dead the next day if the zombies return. And that's that, until years later when a site called Out Theres debuts. It's a zombie-survival social network, with the people who survived 2010 "out there," out among the zombies as opposed to holed up in a stocked cellar or bunker or whatever, becoming veritable folk heroes.

This site, then, is my mock-up of that site. It features stories of survivors, many of whom end up as characters in the novel. It features side stories and blurbs from connected pieces. I think it's interesting and fun, and I'd like to spread it around and see if it can catch on. So, you know, read, share. Make people read about zombies.

Meanwhile, a note: This is the last Kelley Blowout for a little while. I'm starting my new job Monday, and it promises to take up a lot of my time, at least at first. I'm hoping I will be back in this space within a few weeks, but we can all check out of the Blowout for a month or so.

On with The Kelley Blowout:

Blowout

Repeat after me: It's May 2

My original idea for this section today was to run a graph of ERAs plotted against FIPs. I was going to track 2016-to-date, 2015 through April, and 2015 for the whole season. The idea was to show you guys how uncorrelated ERAs and FIPs are this early in the season, and how they balance out as the season wears on.

I mean, that's all true. The graph of those two numbers for the season so far (through the end of April) yields an R-squared value of .1659, and April of last year was at .2186. Meanwhile, the full-season R-squared for 2015 was at .4079. Still wildly imperfect, but clearly a much stronger alignment than the one-month samples.

Except ... that's the whole point, isn't it? We're smart folks here; we know that a month isn't a big enough sample for much of anything. You simply can't separate real changes from a hot or cold stretch right now. (If you want to debate that point ... well, I'll listen, but you have a heck of a lot of proving to do.) So I abandoned that tactic, and instead I'm going to have some fun with numbers and such, by looking back through the league leaders at the end of April last year. Maybe we'll learn something, or maybe we'll just confirm what we'll already know, but I bet it'll be fun.

  • Your major-league leader in ERA at the end of April 2015? Nick Martinez of Texas, who was 2-0 in four starts, with one earned run allowed in 26 innings. This despite 11 strikeouts and eight walks in that time. He went 5-7 with a 4.91 ERA the rest of the season to finish with a 3.96 ERA overall, striking out six per nine the rest of the way.
  • Honestly? The rest of the top 20 is varying degrees of "Oh, all right then." The weirdest names after Martinez are Scott Kazmir, Anthony DeSclafani, Ubaldo Jimenez, maybe Carlos Martinez, maybe Trevor Bauer. It's not until Mike Pelfrey at 21 that we get a real WTF again.
  • You can find some fun numbers when you look at one-month BABIP numbers. This time last year, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Stephen Strasburg were allowing BABIPs over .400, while Dan Haren was sitting at .131 (!!!), and 10 different starters were better than .200.
  • On the hitting side, Hanley Ramirez ended April tied for the big-league lead in home runs, with 10, sitting alongside Nelson Cruz. He has hit 10 home runs in the full calendar year since, counting his one this season.
  • Once again, you can have fun with BABIP, now on the offensive side. Ten different players ended April a year ago with BABIPs over .400, headed up by Matt Holliday's .471. That was the driving force behind his .379/.500/.485 April slash line, and he only managed .239/.347/.380 the rest of the way.
  • The flip side of the BABIP list is an interesting mishmash of guys who never got it going in 2015 (Chase Utley, Stpehen Drew, Mike Zunino) and guys who actually had fine years (Jose Bautista, Mark Teixeira, Rougned Odor).

My conclusions? Well, some. First off, I think you can see more craziness among pitchers than hitters, and divine more from the craziness. I told you about Matt Holliday's big BABIP April that didn't portend a good rest of the way. Well, also ranked highly in April BABIP were Dee Gordon, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Carpenter. Good years all. Parsing who will and won't maintain early success in that regard requires more than one spreadsheet. (You can and should absolutely find it, but that's not what I'm doing here today.)

But on the pitching side? ERA and FIP carry the day, just like I was talking about when I started. It's just so easy, and in the long run, guys outperforming their FIP will see worse results, and guys underperforming their FIP will see better. So let's check that out.

Guys who could get worse: Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis are both outperforming their respective FIPs by 2.57, which is horrifying as a Rangers fan. Mat Latos, Jordan Zimmermann and Jimmy Nelson also pop up here, completely unsurprisingly.

Guys who could get better: David Price is putting up a FIP miles better than his ERA, 2.38 to 5.76 (before Sunday's start). R.A. Dickey, Adam Wainwright, Jose Fernandez, Corey Kluber, Dallas Keuchel, Matt Harvey ... there are a lot of apparently hard-luck stars down there.

Trust the track records. Trust them over the in-season sample. This is definitely true in April and May, but hell, for me it's true in July, in August and in September.

Nature vs. nurture vs. who the hell cares

A piece in Nature discusses the idea that we really aren't binary creatures, only male or female, when it comes to sex and gender. At this point, there's really no reason other than "Nuh uh!" to argue that there are two and only two distinct genders.

In theory, this should be a big help in the whole North Carolina/bathroom bill/transgender/Curt Schilling conversation. In practice, it won't change anything, because I've never seen a mind changed on such things because scientists found a thing.

On top of that, though, the real point that no one ever seems to break up is that it doesn't matter. Literally, whether you're born male or female or something else, or whether you're born gay or straight or choose it later, or if it's assigned to you during puberty in a Giver-inspired scenario, it is (or ought to be) wholly irrelevant.

I live in central Kentucky, and at risk of playing into stereotypes, I'd wager I hear as many gay-disparaging remarks as most any American. The "choice vs. genetics" conversation comes up a lot, and I never engage. It's a smokescreen. When you're debating that topic, you aren't actually discussing the topic you started to discuss. You're discussing nature vs. nurture, which is pointless, and even if you come to a decision on that, you haven't decided the initial point. The best you can hope for is the person to end up with "Fine, they're born that way, it's still wrong and they should ignore those urges." Literally, that is the best outcome. The same holds true of the transgender conversation. Convince Curt Schilling beyond any doubt that there is more than just male and female and that there's a gray area, and dollars to doughnuts he says it doesn't matter and keeps posting his memes.

Pieces like that one in Nature are good, because knowledge is always valuable. But bringing that knowledge into the debates in which is most commonly used? You aren't accomplishing anything. Focus on the right fight.

Indentured internitude

(Yes, I made up a word.)

Surely you saw the posting that went viral Sunday, in which the Madison Mallards asked for a person to serve as their game announcer, PR person, travel secretary, advertising manager and probably team barber for the season, and to do all those things for exactly zero dollars.

First off, nowhere in that job posting does the word "intern" appear. For all we know, the Mallards want Vin Scully to finish up his Dodgers tenure and head over for a little retirement hobby. But regardless, let's just assume that that is technically an "internship," and here's hoping that job posting forces some common-sense reform on the whole intern process. (Yes, I've seen indication the posting has been listed as a "mistake" and supposedly it "pays a stipend," but that's largely irrelevant to my greater point.)

There were questions in the preseason about minorities and women gaining more of a presence in front offices, and the Major League Baseball party line was basically "internships are the way." I'm breaking no new ground here, but internships, especially unpaid ones, are incubators for upper-class, wealthy college students, ones who can afford to work for free for one reason or another. It's the prototype for white people. Yes, there can be and are wealthy minorities, but we all know where the odds lie. Internships aren't how to get overlooked people into high-end positions; internships are exactly how to maintain the status quo. Overhaul the whole damn thing.

The deets on Dietrich

I'm not going to get into the Buster Olney foolishness about Dee Gordon's suspension (though I could if you wanted!), but let's talk fantasy.

Gordon, if he was recreating his 2015 season, would be just about irreplaceable. Luckily (?), that's not the player you're losing for half a season (and if you had believed me in the preseason, you wouldn't have been expecting anything more). Through 21 games, Gordon was slashing only .266/.289/.340 with six steals. His OPS+ was 114 a year ago, and was at 68 this year. Yes, it was only April, and as I mentioned above, April is often misleading, but like I said, I believe Gordon was unlikely to recreate his 2015.

Still, even a lesser Gordon — say a .280 batting average, 35-40 steals — is a tough replace at a moment's notice. If you have positional flexibility, you're obviously looking to outfield for help. Delino DeShields was projected for a lot of steals, and is only 40 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, but his season has been rough so far, and he could lose time to a Shin-Soo Choo/Ian Desmond/Nomar Mazara outfield. Mallex Smith is even lower owned, at 6 percent, but there's minimal track record and he could be a lesser Billy Hamilton.

No, if you need some quick steals in Gordon's absence, my preferred option is Jarrod Dyson. Dyson is going to play almost every day in Kansas City, is an elite defender, should put up a plenty fine empty batting average, and has already stolen four bases in 11 games (though Sunday's games). He's only 27 percent owned, too. Dyson is the way to go.

Meanwhile, there's another move. Derek Dietrich won't replace Gordon's steals by any means, but he put up an OPS+ of 120 a year ago in 289 plate appearances, and has slashed .325/.426/.650 in limited time this season. He's only 3 percent owned, despite the fact that he'll be a top-10 second baseman or close in Gordon's absence. It won't be the same framework as Gordon, and Dietrich might lose some platoon time, but he'll put up plenty of offensive numbers for the next few months.

Oh, klahoma

A court in Oklahoma made a judgment last week that decided that oral sex with a victim who is unconscious from drinking is somehow not rape, and everyone involved in that decision can go straight to hell

Build your own damn home, Braves

If this article in Bloomberg about the Braves' various (semi-shady) stadium deals doesn't convince people that no good can come from publicly financed stadiums, nothing will. Seriously, people. Stop glad-handing the rich people because they attempt extortion

Daniel's Conundrum of the Week

You might remember me in the preseason talking about my dissatisfaction with my NL-only experts-league auction. After some reflection and a trade with Jonah Keri that cost me Addison Russell and Wei-Yin Chen but netted me Trevor Story and Joc Pederson (among others on both sides), which led to another trade that saw Carlos Gonzalez leave and Gerrit Cole arrive, I talked myself into some optimism.

Instead, I'm running out of players.

Matt Garza, Brett Anderson, Charlie Morton, Jorge de la Rosa, Scott Van Slyke and Travis d'Arnaud are all hurt. Orlando Arcia, Jose Peraza, Josh Bell, Trea Turner, Taylor Jungmann and Jordan Lyles are all in the minors. Marco Gonzales is both of those things. It's a 12-team NL-only with deep rosters; you can't just replace guys without some luck. I literally haven't changed my lineup in two weeks because I'm out of players who could play, and I still have d'Arnaud, Arcia, Peraza, de la Rosa and Jungmann active.

Needless to say, my postdraft doom-and-gloom is looking somewhat prescient. Understated, even. I can only hope my core of Kershaw-Cole-Eickhoff-Lucroy-Rendon-Marte-Pederson-Puig can produce. It ... isn't great.

Everything is so commercial

No actual ad this week. I've always had this advertisement-that-should-happen in my head, and I'm going to tell you about it.

So we're advertising some luxury car. Or not-luxury car, hell, I don't care. We're advertising some car we want you to want, both for niceness and for safety. We're at the home of the crash test dummies. They're all in a line, one-by-one getting picked up and put in various crappy cars we don't want you to want. We see the dummies' faces, flat, expressionless, because they are plastic.

Eventually, we semi-focus on one particular dummy, a few back from the front of the line. It is also expressionless, but we can tell that's the one we are focusing on. The music gets more tense as the dummies in front of our featured one get put into crappy cars, wrecked, destroyed.

Finally, it's our dummy's turn. He gets picked up and placed into a car, and it just so happens to be the car we're wanting you to want. This flat, expressionless crash test dummy gets put in the driver's seat of our featured car, is left there, and we zoom in on its face ... and the dummy smiles.

I love the ad. Maybe we need the dummy to come to life, run its plastic hands over the steering wheel or something, but I want my ad to be an ad. Some advertising guy who reads me, make this.

Tweet of the week

I bought a new taillight for my Passat online this week, and y'all would not believe how many more Passat taillights I could buy if I, I don't know, wanted to have 100,000 spare taillights.

Let's create a league

We pretty heartily decided on Rotisserie-style scoring for our league, pulling in 54 percent of the voting against 23 percent for each head-to-head options. So we have a 16-team dynasty league with an auction draft and roto scoring.

So what sort of roto will we do? I'm going to give a few choices, but also an "other" and an invitation to tell me in the comments: