Thursday, January 01, 2004

A Critique of Pure Nonsense

You all know that the Crankees seemed to have a deal in place for the Big Ugly. If the details of the trade are as reported, then it is actually a good baseball trade for both teams. Responses have been predictable, ranging from the “Yankees are destroying baseball by spending astronomical sums on their payroll” to “God bless George Steinbrenner for doing everything possible to make his team a winner.” Also predictable is the reaction of the media and “baseball people” who view all moves made by the Crankees as divinely inspired. Randy Johnson is awesome. That cannot be denied. Reporters and Crankee sycophants (is there a difference?) can shout it from the rooftops with no criticism from this little corner of Metropolitan land. Randy Johnson is a stone cold stud, an all-time great, and damned close to still the best pitcher in baseball.

What then, you ask, has instigated what is sure to be an oncoming rant against injustices perpetuated against the Metropolitans? Simply this – the idea that Randy Johnson is more likely than Pedro Martinez to stay healthy over the next several years. This seems to be the conventional wisdom in the media: The Mets got bamboozled by a broken down pitcher on his last legs (or last labrum) and the Cranks went out and got a pitcher in the full bloom of health and well-being. Take today’s Newsday, for example. Two veteran major league scouts reveal their opinions on the RJ deal. Under the category of “Durability”, one of these sage gurus opines of the Big Ugly that “He’s more durable and stronger than Pedro.” Oh, really? And what is this based on? Well, based on actual data, this opinion must spring from a combination of the following foundations of logical thought:
1) Pure whimsy
2) Unadulterated nonsense
3) Hallucinogenic Drugs

Aside from the obvious – Johnson is 41 and Pedro is 33 – let’s blow some holes in the gospel according to two anonymous scouts. And, as an aside, let me add this. Sometimes I deal with scouts. Overall they are typically uninformed dullards who possess very little baseball acumen. Read Moneyball, if you haven’t already. That’s a very accurate description of how scouts think (apologies to the word “think”). Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Over the past two years, here’s a look at the two shiny new acquisitions for Gotham’s two baseball clubs.

Pitcher Games Started Innings ERA Record
Randy Johnson 53 359 3.43 22 & 22
Pedro Martinez 62 403 3.05 30 & 13

Hmm. Yep, them thar scouts sure know their stuff. The much older guy who has been hurt much more over the past two years is far more durable than the younger pitcher who has been much healthier in recent years. Seems highly logical to me. I wonder what other pearls of wisdom dropped from the lips of these baseball prophets. Jose Reyes will play more games than Miguel Tejada? Joe McEwing will gather more hits than Ichiro? David Ortiz will steal more bases than Juan Pierre? These predictions all are about as logical as the ruminations on Randy and Pedro.

We all know that the health of every pitcher is tenuous. Each pitcher is one thrown ball from career oblivion. But here’s a guarantee you can take to the bank. Pedro Martinez will start more games next season then Randy Johnson. Any logical analysis of the question would yield the same answer.