December 28, 2012

Edgar Martinez — Hall of Fame for #Gar or not?

Edgar Martinez as a possible Hall of Famer is a tricky one indeed.

First, if you get the "luxury" of playing DH, you have to do better on both sabermetric stats and especially on counting stats than you actually did, I think.

There was some controversy, or discussion, at least, when Paul Molitor was elected. That said, he wasn't a career DH; in fact, he played the majority of his games in the field until he was 34. He still played 600 more games than Martinez.

Now, Baseball-Reference reflects that, in giving him, on a second-generation sabermetric stat, a big -139 on runs from positional scarcity. With no glove to offset that (although arguably, no glove to worsen WAR, either), that's an issue.

Then, there's that game-playing.

In blogging about the HOF chances of Dale Murphy, I've talked about how he struggled with nagging injuries later in his career. Yet, he played more games than Martinez. If you're a career DH, and you have trouble with missing games, that's another issue.

And, so, Martinez's counting stats aren't that high. And, given the lineup Seattle had many years (for example, in 1996, A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner) coudn't he have done even better on either RBIs or runs, among other things?

It wouldn't crush me if he never got in. But, for never having a single WAR season above 7.0 or WAA above 5.0, his case simply doesn't persuade me a lot.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll.   

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.


December 27, 2012

Larry Walker — injuries, Hall of Fame shot? #stlcards mainstay

Larry Walker with his sweet swing,
from Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.
More than Don Mattingly, and even more more than Dale MurphyLarry Walker to me illustrates the issue when a very good player fights injuries that shorten his overall career and also cut into games  per season.

I say "more" and "more more" for two reasons.

First, Walker was better than Mattingly and definitely better than Murphy. Somewhat better as a batter and much better as a defensive player.

Second, Walker had a variety of chronic, nagging, neck/back injuries that underscore the "injuries" issue.

(Disclosure: In case you either haven't read much of my baseball blogging or the hashtag didn't tell you, I'm a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. But NOT a "homer." Previous posts on Mark McGwire show that.

First, the basics.

Walker has 141 OPS+, 48.3 WAA, 69.7 WAR, 59.6 oWAR and 1.5 dWAR.

Mattingly: 127 OPS+, 17.7 WAA, 39.8 WAR, 36.9 oWAR and -6.8 dWAR.

Murphy: 121 OPS+, 16.3 WAA, 42.6 WAR, 44.9 oWAR and -7.6 dWAR.

If we're comparing just the two outfielders, let's add that Walker got his WAA, WAR and oWAR with fewer games than Murphy, making his per-162 average a LOT higher.

And so, Walker breaks the plane of the end zone on both Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards at Baseball-Reference. Mattingly and Murphy do only on Monitor.

But, there's that injuries problem. It kept Walker to just 2,160 hits. He still had nearly 400 HRs and more than 1,300 runs and RBIs.

So, at that point, I'm ready to lean in his favor.

But, there's one issue I didn't yet mention.

Let's look at a few of his sabermetric stats, by team, for his career:

                                         
                  BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
COL (10 yrs)    .334 .426 .618 1.044  147
MON (6 yrs)     .281 .357 .483  .839  128
STL (2 yrs)     .286 .387 .520  .908  134

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2012.

Yes, he played the peak of his career there, but, just a peak-years issue isn't all.

Larry Walker, more than Dante Bichette or Todd Helton, even, is arguably a beneficiary of pre-humidor Coors Field.

Additional proof? He moved from Colorado to St. Louis in the middle of a season in 2004. His OPS in Colorado? 1.093. In St. Louis? A still-nice, but much lower, .953.

And even with something as obvious as this, B-R fans think he's the 42nd best player of all time? Either there's a lot of Rockies "homers" voting, or a few Cards "homers," despite the lateness of his career time there, or else more B-R fans are more sabermetrically illiterate than I thought.

So, he's probably more near No. 75 on player lists, and right now, he's on the borderline of the borderline for the HOF, in my book. I wouldn't say an absolute "no" to him, but I would not at all be upset, either as a Cards fan or as a baseball fan, if he didn't get in.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

What's next for EPA with Jackson leaving?

Lisa Jackson/via New York Times
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's announced resignation isn't really surprising. It is the start of a new term, but, there's more than that.

As the story indicates, Dear Leader undercut the EPA, especially after midterm elections, and for the political goal of his own re-election this year. That's why, over the past two years, we've seen a variety of EPA standards postponed, rewritten or otherwise softened.

Well, Obama got his re-election win. So, will he take a tougher line again?

Not too likely.

The bottom line is that he is, indeed, a neoliberal, and further environmental work by his second-term administration will be business-friendly. (That's except for any stimulus money that gets in a fiscal cliff bill; there will be no solar industry money, you can count on that.)

The bottom line No. 2 is that Obama just isn't that environmentally minded of a person. He's done bupkis on National Monument creation, for example. The National Park Service's centennial will occur during his administration, and so far, we have heard bupkis from Dear Leader and Interior Secretary Kenny Boy Salazar (who, notably, has said nothing about leaving his job) about celebration plans, let alone a special funding push similar to the NPS' "Mission 66" leading into its 50-year anniversary.

So, don't hold your breath, environmentalists. And, staunch environmentalists, don't believe anything you hear from Gang Green groups, either.

GOP demographic woes may be worse - racial or religious?

Whoa, the GOP may be in even greater demographic trouble than even many of us progressives have thought. Here in Texas, there's an old election saying that: 1 white = 2 blacks = 3 Hispanics. It's overstated, but it's based on historical differences in voter turnout. Well, according to Pew, nationally, 1 white now equals 1 black.

Now, as the chart shows, the difference in black-white turnout rate has been gradually, very gradually, narrowing for some time.

But, in this election, it really narrowed.

So, the obvious next question is "why"?

Two words come immediately to mind, and they are: "Mitt Romney."

Why do I say that? Black voters continued a steady uptick but white voters, who are overall, Republican voters, declined.

(It is true that some white liberals, as well as some black liberals, stayed home rather than either voting for Obama or thinking about Green candidate Jill Stein, but those numbers are probably small.)

So, why did white Republicans stay home?

One possible reason is that, due to his wealth, offshore bank accounts, etc., Romney did turn off some tea partiers who saw him as part of the problem more than part of the solution.

The second (and the two aren't mutually exclusive) is that conservative evangelicals, especially tea partier ones who believe all the Muslim lies about Obama, weren't and aren't ready for a Mormon president.

If it's the former, then any Republican candidate in 2016 who's not a current political office-holder, but instead, has cashed in on political connections, may be a GOP liability.

If it's the latter, then it may not be a GOP demographic issue but a religious one. (That said, are some of those conservative evangelicals still unreconstructed anti-Catholics? I'm sure the numbers are smaller than anti-Mormon ones, but, nonetheless,  it could be a small issue. Food for thought for Santorum and Gingrich, among others.)

Anyway, whatever the cause, the turnout rate issue would partially (other than pure hubris on Team Romney's part) explain why the Romney camp and Rasmussen Reports polls, among others, blew the election. In either case, I wonder if they even thought about polling for the possibility of a Mormon  "Bradley effect"?

Kenny Lofton — will he get much HOF love?

Even more than a previous blog post where I compared Dale Murphy and Dave Parker, Kenny Lofton stacks up pretty closely to Tim Raines, whose HOF chances, and qualifications, I analyzed here.

That said, Lofton has several problems Raines doesn't.

First is what is normally a deal-killer for me. At just 107, his OPS+ is below 110, and that's a baseline snap judgment tool for me. That in turn primarily reflects much worse BB/K ratio than Raines. He also is not quite as impressive on the stolen bases front.

However, on the flip side, Lofton won multiple Gold Gloves and deservedly so. His career dWAR is well into positive numbers.

On the third hand, though, his black and gray ink figures are even skimpier than Raines' numbers. Plus, whatever sort of peak he had seems even shorter — and earlier in career — than Raines.

That second one could hurt. People see you start well, but then you don't hit another gear, and they start to write you off a bit.

A second hurt? The number of teams for which Raines played. Since admission is based on baseball writers, many of whom work for specific newspapers in specific cities, not having a "home city" will probably hurt Lofton a fair amount with voters.

On "deserving," I'm not sure whether he's a legit candidate or not, but, really, I'd put him just a skoosh behind Raines.

On "likely"? I doubt he'll get in. I doubt that he'll break the 20 percent mark in this, his first year.

Oh, and please vote in my poll!  

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

December 26, 2012

Christian existentialism, Ground of Being, Christmas and faith

Three columns finally led me, at my philosophy blog, to put together some in-depth refutation of liberal theological mush, as I call it.

I blogged about the first and second separately over there, respectively about the Grand Inquisitor and about ev psych proving the need for religion. But, Maureen Dowd letting her column be hijacked was the last straw, so I took it plus the two previous posts to go in depth about the Ground of Being here.

To me, there's an analogy. Much as I like the Green Party, one can't logically demand that conservatives "support the science" on global warming, then turn around and "support the pseudoscience" on anti-vaxxer claims and such.

Ditto, one can't demand that conservatives be honest about what biology has taught us vis-a-vis fundamentalism and then be less than honest about what evolutionary psychology has and has not taught us about religious belief, and what the likes of Chomsky and Wittgenstein have taught us about the use of language.

Two of the three columns, the first of the two about which I blogged previously, and Dowd's priest, were both writing about Newtown. And, that's the ultimate angle.

Some Facebook dialogue helped me to see more of where I was really heading with this post, especially vis-a-vis Dowd's priest, who was writing in light of the Newtown mass shooting.

And, beyond criticizing the Ground of Faith or Christian existentialism, it's a warning shot related to that old Gnu Atheist word "accomodationism."

Sometimes, that's not a four-letter word, but potentially an actual problem for some secular humanists. My answer to that is that secular humanists can challenge liberal Christian as well as conservative Christian theodicy, but in a non-arrogant way. More details on that are at the third link.

Tim Raines — Hall of Fame or not?

Tim Raines, now that Bert Blyleven is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, has become a focus for some sabermetrically inclined fans as to the next "overlooked" candidate who should be in the Hall.

And, to be honest, I'm of two minds about Raines, now in his third year on the ballot.

One of the newest stats is Wins Above Average. It goes Wins Above Replacement one better in that it compares the player in question to a theoretically average MLB player rather than, with WAR, a player theoretically just called up from AAA ball. (That said, I do NOT like Baseball-Reference's WAR7 stat because it's not based on consecutive years and therefore, theoretically, does not measure a "peak." That then said, I'd like a P-WAR5, or a P-WAA5, where we had a five-year consecutive peak — I think seven is too long — based on either WAR or WAA, preferably the latter.)

Anyway, an eyeball on HOF candidates, and some lower-level members of the HOF, says that 35 WAA is probably about the cutoff line on this new stat.

And, Raines is right there.

OK, let's look at the case for and against him. (And please, any commenters, do not cite that Lou Brock is already in the HOF as a way to boost Raines' candidacy. I know Brock is an iffy HOFer, and were it not for the single-season and career stolen base records he had at the time, along with 3,000 hits as a counting stat, he might not be in there now. And, as a Cardinal homer, I can say he probably shouldn't be, or definitely shouldn't be without those then records.)

But, at the same time, Brock makes a handy comparison.

Raines has a better stolen base percentage. He has a much better BB/K ratio, a much better on-base percentage, and slightly better slugging even while having the fewer strikeouts. And, while neither was great in the outfield, Raines wasn't as bad.

The biggest negative is he has less black and gray ink than Brock does. And of course, for both of them, most the black and gray ink comes in the stolen base category.

All in all, I'd say Raines is deserving of the Hall. At the same time, if he has to wait another year, I wouldn't be crushed by that. On the third hand, dependent on some voters changing their minds on roiding, if he doesn't get in this year, it could be a long wait.

Note: This is part of a series on HOF candidates. I've already tackled Dale Murphy, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in context of roiding, and a bit of Jack Morris, who I've covered extensively in the past, as I have Edgar Martinez. (I've said "no" on both ... with multiple exclamation marks on Morris.) Click the "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

December 25, 2012

Bye, bye West Antarctica?

It looks like warming amounts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have been undermeasured. (And shock me that climate change deniers have claimed just the opposite.) Here's what might be happening ahead:
In the summer of 2005, the interior of West Antarctica warmed enough for the ice to undergo several days of surface melting. 
Dr. (David) Bromwich is worried that this could eventually become routine, perhaps accelerating the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but the warming is not fast enough for that to happen right away. “We’re talking decades into the future, I think,” Dr. Bromwich said.

I would like to be that optimistic, but what if Bromwich is too optimistic?

Joe Romm gets blunt about what climate change without major, near-term intervention could cause.

And, I don't think Romm is being too scary. A warming on land of 3C by 2050 is quite likely, I think, per his links and others I've read. That's at best a "few decades," not counting any tipping points.