Monday, March 26, 2007

Nick Punto Explains It All

From CNN's pre-season baseball preview of the Phillies:

In the off-season Rollins met up with former teammate Nick Punto, now with the Twins, who told Rollins he'd love playing on a team with five solid starters. "Do you know how easy it is to hit when you don't have the pressure of always playing from behind?" Punto asked him.

"No," Rollins replied, "but I'm excited to find out."

I cannot figure out what anybody is trying to say here -- not Punto, or Rollins, or Peter King, the writer.

First, to whom does the pronoun "he" refer to in this phrase:

who told Rollins he'd love playing on a team with five solid starters
If it refers to Punto, it should read, "who told Rollins he (Punto) would love to play on a team with five solid starters," implying jealousy on the part of Punto because Rollins will have that pleasure this season.

If it refers to Rollins, it should read, "who told Rollins he (Rollins) will love playing on a team with five solid starters," implying that Punto is speaking from personal experience and letting his former teammate know what to expect.

Second, the premises are all wrong.

The Twins don't have five solid starters, and haven't in any of the three seasons Punto has been there. They've had Johan Santana and a gaggle of semi-warm bodies, for the most part.

The Phillies don't have five solid starters. Let's use a generous definition of, say, 160 innings with an ERA+ above average, and ask who's likely to meet it this year -- in short, someone you can count on to push the team toward the pennant this season:
  1. Myers: better than solid
  2. Garcia: well, I was all set to call him solid, but he just got hurt.
  3. Moyer: probably solid, but putting a 44 year old lefthanded pitcher in Citizens Bank Park with Wes Helms playing third base and Pat Burrell in leftfield is asking for trouble
  4. Hamels: young, mercurial, talented, but far from solid. I think he'll be a good pitcher for the next half dozen years or more, but you can't count him as solid for this season.
  5. Eaton: ha!
  6. Lieber: He's hurt, too. He'll be 37 years old by the time he throws his first pitch this year, and had an ERA+ of 94 in 168 innings last year. He's finished.
Third, what does Nick Punto know about "how easy it is to hit"? Hitting, for Nick Punto, is exceedingly difficult under any circumstances. He had his best season last year, setting career highs in almost every category, and finished with an OPS+ of 90. That means that, even at his very best, he's still well below average. For his career, he's got an OPS+ of 77. Hitting, easy? It's about as easy, for Nick Punto, as flapping his arms and flying to the moon.

Fourth, Punto has been with the Twins for the last three years. They've won their division twice in that time, and won 83 games the other year, which hardly proves that they've experienced "the pressure of always playing from behind." If this is how he hits without "the pressure of always playing from behind," he should hope he doesn't wind up with the Devil Rays.

Fifth, the Phillies have won 80-88 games each year that Rollins has been a regular. That hasn't been good enough to get them into the playoffs, but it's not like they've experienced "the pressure of always playing from behind." I don't know the detailed numbers on their losses, but the team, fans and media have been obsessed with the (perceived) failures of the bullpen for at least the last half dozen years, which indicates that they've often been playing with a lead, only to lose it late in the game.

Play ball!

Stop The War.

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