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New Bucs Q+A

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It's not good:

What was disconcerting about [Nate] McLouth, though, was that he struck out too much -- 20 in 109 at-bats -- and was miserable in the clutch, going 1 for 21 with three RBIs with runners in scoring position.

Disconcerting to whom? Jeez, that's terrible analysis. Whatever you think of "clutch," 1-for-21 is like five bad games. It's ridiculously riddled with sample-size problems. And - I'm not going to cite the evidence for this yet again, since you can find it in about a dozen places in the archives, but strikeouts are almost literally no worse than any other outs. If, on the other hand, Kovacevic thinks the strikeouts are a problem because they don't bode well for McLouth's ability to make contact in the future, then he should say that, and anyway, he'd be wrong. McLouth has never had problems making contact in the minors, and one strikeout in every 5.5 at bats is not an excessive number at all. That's actually a much better rate than the one at which Jason Bay and Craig Wilson struck out last season, and about the same rate as Jeromy Burnitz and Chris Duffy. If strikeouts really are the problem, then I find it pretty amazing that Wilson and now McLouth are the only ones who get called out for it. (Shouldn't you guys be whining about Jason Bay's strikeouts? He does it a lot, you know.)

Later:

This past season, Burnitz batted .236 against lefties, Casey a superb .335, which undoubtedly is something Jim Tracy will want to weigh when figuring out the configuration of his 3-4-5-6 part of the order. Wilson, for the record, batted .283 against lefties in his injury-marred 2005 and .259 in his last full season (including only six of his 29 home runs, which is way odd).

What does all that mean? It means using Wilson to spell Burnitz against lefties is not something that should be relegated to a Pavlovian lefty-righty decision by the manager...

Well, a team that had advanced to "Pavlovian"-level mental functioning wouldn't have signed Burnitz in the first place.

As for Kovacevic's analysis: again, it's bad. Actually, for a guy as smart as Kovacevic, I can't believe how bad it is. Allow me to unpack the ways in which it is bad.

First, Kovacevic cites a statistic that makes Burnitz look bad against lefties. Then he cites a completely irrelevant statistic about Sean Casey. He then cites two more statistics which make Wilson look markedly better than Burnitz against lefties. He then draws the conclusion that Wilson should not be used regularly against lefties. I'm sorry, but what?

Also, I'm not sure why he's using batting average here, because it makes Wilson look like a mediocre hitter again lefties when, in fact, he is not.

Wilson against lefties by OPS:

  1. 864
  2. 912
Career: 966

Wilson was fantastic against lefties in 2004, but what does Kovacevic say? Again:

Wilson... batted... .259 in his last full season (including only six of his 29 home runs, which is way odd).

Six homers in 108 at bats is not way odd. In fact, it's pretty good. But you wouldn't know that, since Kovacevic didn't say how many at opportunities Wilson had. And Wilson also drew 16 walks against lefties and slugged .537. In other words, he was terrific. But you'd never draw that conclusion from what Kovacevic says.

Burnitz against lefties, by OPS:
2005: 713 (.268 OBP, by the way)
Career: 767

I'm not sure how much more "Pavlovian" this could be.

I certainly don't expect Kovacevic to go busting out Win Shares or WARP3 or even OPS in a Post-Gazette column. I do, however, expect him to look at the results and find an accurate way to convey to his readers what went on. I also expect him to be smart enough to not parrot baseless management cliches about strikeouts (although Kovacevic, to his credit, did manage to find a new player to villify). Kovacevic's fretting about offensive strikeouts and his faulty anti-Craig analysis both sound like they could've dribbled (a little more wishy-washily) out of the mouth of Dave Littlefield. Littlefield is not a good judge of baseball talent, and neither is he particularly honest. It shouldn't be hard for the Pittsburgh media to do better than his silly arguments. Kovacevic is normally a good writer and a conscientious thinker. I'm not sure what went wrong here.