Goldy should be MVP

I’m obviously biased toward Goldy.  His ability to do everything way above average and his team making the playoffs are distinguishing factors from the other two candidates.

The other players are MVP caliber but not as complete because they lack Goldy’s base stealing.  While he didn’t steal 30 again because he had JD behind him, his 18 are way better than the other two.  Also, I know some argue that MVP shouldn’t take into account a team accomplishment, but the fact is that voters have made a precedent for doing that and I agree their arguments are compelling.  For instance, Goldy was cheated out of one for not making the playoffs when McCutchen won it.

No knock on Stanton or Votto, but I think Goldy’s character should be taken into account.  He’s such a respectful and quiet leader.  His personality is the type that usually doesn’t get recognized but should.  It would make a statement that “value” is value to the team and not value to the industry.  He was also nominated for the Clemente Award because he’s an example in the community.  I cite this example because his impact on the community is further evidence of his leadership within the clubhouse.  Clubhouse leadership is an intangible that should factor in.  I’m just saying that Goldy’s character and leadership is at a very high level that is worthy of an MVP.  Teammates have tremendous respect for him because of the way he leads by example and values the team above his own accomplishment.

I like Votto and Stanton but I believe Goldy is most worthy of the MVP and it would make the league look better if he wins.  While Stanton did some great things this year, I feel like Stanton winning is mainly motivated by commercialism because he might be the more marketable player.  Fans love home runs and a young good looking player.  While I agree that a player’s marketability is great for the league and great for team profits, it isn’t ‘the type of value measured in the MVP award.  Commercialism value should not influence a single vote but I would argue that it does if they give it to Stanton while his team had a losing record.  I believe voters need to be self-aware and avoid the commercialism value argument.  Voters need to have a lot of journalistic integrity in their reasoning, just as they would for a hall of fame vote because this award can influence a later hall of fame election.

Of course I am biased to Goldy and I would be so happy if he wins because he is my favorite player and I would love to see a player and person like him be awarded with this award because it would be the best thing for baseball.  I think an Altuve and Goldy MVP would be very fitting for several reasons, especially since both represent Houstan, since that is Goldy’s home town.

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Manager of the year should go to Luvollo

Torey Luvollo should win the NL Manager of the year.

I would rank them as Luvollo, Black, Roberts, then Counsel, Maddon, Baker, Green.  I know they don’t rank them that far down, but I wish they would rank them as the top 10, where I believe it is a tie after the top 7.  While I think there are other good coaches that just didn’t have enough go their way to have a winning season (i.e. Bochey, Hurdle), I can make a compelling case for each of these managers doing an excellent job with what they had.

I think it is ridiculous that any manager got fired after making the playoffs.  Those franchises deserve to not make the playoffs next year because it shows the arrogance of how special it is to win enough games in very difficult competition.

But I digress.

Of course I prefer Luvollo because I really appreciate what I saw this year.  So many fans questioned his every move and could not stop complaining.  Meanwhile, the players and coaches had his respect.  Luvollo was instrumental to the culture change.  Similar to Hinch, he brings both intelligence and personality.  I love the example of how he cancelled batting practice to attend a coach’s loved one’s funeral.  Of course we had tragic things with players–Marte losing his mom and players from Puerto Rico worried about their family’s safety after a terrible storm.  Luvollo built family and the players loved playing under his leadership.  Consequently, the results were really good.  While we would have like to go deeper into the playoffs, it was a great season.  Hopefully they come back that much more determined to be at their best at the very end.

Luvollo’s D-backs won more regular season games against Roberts and Black.  I think the head to head should be a factor in a close call.

While I believe Roberts deserves to be a finalist, I don’t believe he deserve a repeat Manager of the Year for the following reasons.  First, his team spends the most money in the NL.  Second, the Dodgers boast of a winning tradition, where they’ve won five straight division titles.  They were good before Roberts and they’ll be good after Roberts because they have too many resources (money and a great job developing assets) not to be successful.  Last, I would have agreed that Roberts deserved it if his team didn’t finish the regular season so bad, and they shattered the wins record.  I’d give him credit for keeping his team composed enough to make a good playoff run.

All three managers are the correct finalists.  I wouldn’t be mad if Roberts wins because he’s obviously one of the better managers and his team won the most games in baseball.  Plus, it is cool that all three are in the NL West!

What will Hazen do now?

I love J.D., but he won’t be a D-back any longer.  It’s silly to consider it because it’s simple math once you add up the guys in arbitration.  Maybe if the D-backs didn’t do that horrible Tomas deal, but that’s even unlikely with Hazen because he’s looking for best value not top market price, and Martinez wants and deserves top of the market price.  You must remember and realize that Hazen wasn’t hired to do what other GMs have done when the team wins.  He was hired to approach it differently and make long and short-term moves.  He’s on record saying they hired him to build a consistent winner, and we should be very happy about that because terrible seasons are not nearly as fun.

I don’t have a crystal ball but from what I’ve learned about Hazen, here is what I believe Hazen will do: (1) trade assets where there is positional depth in order to acquire more pitching; (2) deepen the defensive catching depth; (3) sign free agents that are low risk/potential high reward–mainly guys seeking to build their value, especially guys you can get on minor league deals; (4) lock up young valuable players to long-term deals; or (5) find a way to unload Greinke’s contract while he’s coming off a good season.

This is basically what I believe he will do.  Later I will add more specific examples in each area and give the rationale for why I believe Hazen will take this approach.

Dusty Baker Just got Fired!

I understand Mike Rizzo trying to make a statement that they have high expectations but that’s insane pressure that no one can live up to.  It might be acceptable if he had an agreement that he’s not likely to be retained if he doesn’t make the NLCS after two years.  That would be upfront expectations and they’re just keeping their word.  It’s also a disrespect to the level of competition that the Nationals think they’re entitled just because they’ve had a good streak of success.  They’re one step away from the Braves, Mets, and Phillies once again taking over the division because all three of those teams have built a pretty good system of young talent and they have better baseball markets.  Most of us don’t forget that the Nationals are just the revamped Expos.  I firmly believe that the best franchises retain good managers for a long time.  He’s not going to find a better manager than Dusty Baker.

Addressing Popular Complaints: Line-up Changes

Line-up decisions are popular complaints on Twitter and fan forums.  The team is struggling and fans disagree with Lovullo’s line-up decisions.  Is that surprising?  I don’t think so.

First, let me begin this section on fan complaints by addressing second-guessing in general.  The team isn’t playing well and fans have their complaints.  It’s so convenient they complain when the team isn’t playing well.  It’s easy to feel like you’re right, and they must obviously be wrong because they have bad results with their decisions.  I am not saying some don’t complain when they’re playing well.  I have my complaints when they’re playing well.  I have noticed areas they need to improve.  But I don’t think Hazen is unaware of where they need to improve, which is why he went out and got JD and Hernandez.

That leads us to our main discussion.

There are several reasons why line-up changes are such a popular complaint and probably the most predictable.  The first reason is all the variables.  It takes at least nine players to fill out a line-up.  Then there are pinch hitters, double-switches, and pitching changes.  There are so many variables and things for fans to disagree with.  There is so much room for opinion.  One example of probably the easiest decision in making out the line-up is where to hit Goldy.  He either bats third or fourth.  He’s your best player and he gets the most plate appearances.  Lovullo has his reasons for batting him fourth after the Martinez acquisition, but many fans voice their disagreement.

Fans want to say that Lovullo isn’t consistent enough when he makes out a line-up.  Some fans want the same line-up every day, regardless of matchups.  Others understand there is a degree of variation but they want a lot more consistency and have specific players that they want to see more.

There are many problems with this complaint.  First, Lovullo is way more consistent than previous managers.  It’s hard to prove to those who haven’t paid attention.  You’d have to look at past game logs.  However, one indicator is how current players praise Lovullo for his communication and how he helps them know the expectations so they can focus on preparation.  Changes occur over the long season, especially when they acquire a player like JD Martinez.  Even with natural changes, the game logs show Lovullo’s consistency of who gets most of the reps and where they usually hit.

Line-up changes are always experimental.  There is no line-up in baseball that has the same pieces in the same spots all year.  They move guys in and out of spots to maximize production.  Teams track production per position and per spot in the batting order.  It is a formula where they look to maximize the output of all positions and all spots in the line-up.  For instance, the decision to bat Iannetta second is an experiment.  They will continue it if he continues to produce.  On the flip side, batting Pollock third versus a lefty is an experiment.  The hope is that Pollock will snap out of his funk and find consistency batting in front of Goldy or Lamb, but Pollock is a top of the line-up hitter either way.

Data and an eye tests help management make decisions.  When I say “eye test” I mean how a player looks because the data doesn’t always match in a smaller sample.  The point is that we do not see this management making rash or quick changes.  They make decisions and let it play out.  Then they tweak it and let that play out.  They have reasons for their decisions.  We’ve never had more information (more intelligence) used to make a decision.  It’s ridiculous for a fan to think they have more information (more intelligence) to have a better decision.  I have not met that fan and I don’t believe they exist.  I don’t believe they can exist apart from a major league organization or some lucrative role–writing books, advising organizations, etc.

That brings me to my last point and main problem with this complaint.  It entirely lacks analysis!  Fans who criticize line-ups usually have wild theories about Lovullo trying to please players more than he is trying to win.  They rarely mention specific players that should be in the line-up, and they never give reasons why management is wrong.  For instance, they don’t acknowledge that players wear down without rest.  They don’t explain how best to deal with it and why Lovullo (and Hazen’s) reasoning for resting (or sitting) players is bad.  They don’t realize that management’s efforts are also proactive–trying to help players turn things around quicker–and they don’t explain why they aren’t doing it as well as it should be done.  The analysis lacks why management has it wrong.

I would actually appreciate a good analysis that backs up this opinion.  So far Hazen (and Lovullo) have better reasoning and they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt because they use information.

They use data and other expert perception.  Have we stopped to think about how many experts are watching them play?  They have a hall of fame coach who they pay to watch the games and give his opinion.  They have Bob Brenly riding on the busses and available to give Hazen his opinion.  They have so many other experts who have been around the game in many different capacities (player, scout, front office), who are watching every pitch and using their experience to give their perspective.  I will give my opinion after the season is over, but I feel too puny and humble to say they are wrong.  It feels so foolish and arrogant to criticize anything valid while thinking they don’t see it.  One thing is for sure, criticizing line-up changes is the easiest criticism to sound smart and make it seem like I am right and they are wrong, but it’s completely fallacious.

I’ll say it again because it deserves repeating: we have never had more intelligence going into the decisions, and it’s the player’s responsibility to perform accordingly.

To the pessimistic fan

Let me encourage fellow passionate fans with some important perspective.  It seems like several are giving into pessimism on twitter and fan forums.

Remember when the D-backs were a very bad and disappointing team last year?  Remember how that felt?  I hate the feeling after one loss, but the feeling last summer was so awful for a passionate fan like me.  I’ll never forget how it felt to realize our playoff hopes were over in May.  It hurt worse to have all those high expectations after spending big in the offseason.

It wasn’t just last year.  The team was supposed to be good after an unexpectedly good 2011.  I don’t know why we thought the team would be so good after 2011.  But they teased us with a near .500 team for three years before things got really bad.  The core was good but they lacked a few key parts.  They were good enough to set-up probably the most disappointing season in 2016.

They are currently 15 games above .500.  They are 36-18 at home and only a few games under .500 on the road.  There is hope they’ll finish over .500 on the road.  They rank high in nearly every category.  They’re a good team.

With all the memories of how bad it has been, can’t we at least enjoy the fact that they’re currently 15 games above .500?  Is it really time to get negative and pessimistic?  No, it is time to be happy for where they’re at in the standings.  IF they fall, THEN we can get unhappy.  We can get terribly unhappy if that improbable event occurs.

But why be so determined to be unhappy?  Is it a coping mechanism for when things go bad?  Are we just preparing our hearts, where we’d rather be surprised than disappointed?  What kind of life is that?  Do we live like that in other areas?

It seems like the same fans who are pessimistic, are the same fans who never believed the D-backs had a chance this season.  They don’t really deserve to have an opinion, and should be the most optimistic of any because they’ve been more surprised than those of us who always believed they’re good.

Live is better if we live in the moment.  If we enjoy the good and morn the bad.  A feeling life is better than trying to cope with negativism.  Let’s be happy when things are good, refusing to let the unknown tomorrows distract us from the joy of today.  It’s good life advice and it’s good fan perspective.

 

What are the D-backs Playoff Chances?

One thing I know for sure: the same people painting a dark picture now are the same people who never thought they would have a chance before the season started.  I pay close attention and remember things well.  Their opinion is meaningless!  They’re just trying to predict what they’ve subconsciously thought all along in order to feel better about themselves.  If they were neutral or hopeful, I’d respect their opinion.  That describes a few, where their still hopeful but concerned.  That’s okay.

The good news is that the D-backs have played better over the last week or so.  While we don’t celebrate .500 mediocrity, at least it’s going in the right direction from where they were.  The big difference is run production.  They were averaging under 3 for two weeks to start July, whereas they ended July averaging close to what they did in June.  And they were .500 in the recent road trip, which isn’t a bad road trip that includes two winning teams.  The bottom line is that the D-backs are very capable of ending the season with two months over .500, which likely puts them in the playoffs.

Either the Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals would have to go on a Dodger-like streak, which is difficult because one of them will win the division and not probable that two will streak and the D-backs fall off.  That’s why Baseball Prospectus has the D-backs over 90% chance of making the playoffs.  Of course, some are still betting they don’t because it pays better to make long-shot bets.  Most of the money is for them making it.

The challenge the D-backs face is more focused on the top Wildcard spot when their schedule is more difficult than the Rockies.  It’s an important goal because the D-backs are better at home.  While some might see it as a bad thing, I see their tougher schedule as a good thing because it will help them be more prepared for the playoffs.  As we’ve seen with the Giants in 2014, when they went 88-74, it’s only important to get into the playoffs and be hot at the right time.  We won’t care whether they barely make it or clinch with a week to go, as long as they play their best baseball in the playoffs.

I can agree that hopes are low if the D-backs are playing under .500 baseball through August.  Someone said they’ll likely miss the playoffs if they’re under .500.  I don’t completely agree.  I think they’ll make the playoffs and do quite well if they’re one game under .500 from here on out, as long as they’re winning games and have good momentum going into the playoffs.  Here are the big picture likely scenarios:

(A) Worse case scenario is a steady decline and missing out on the playoffs;

(B) Second worse case is mediocre flat line (at or around .500) and losing quickly in the playoffs;

(C) Best case scenario is that they’re on the rise in the last two weeks heading into the playoffs, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re over or under .500 from here on out, as long as they’re playing well the last two weeks and make the playoffs because they could have a .600 record from here to the end and all the sudden tank with injuries during the last 3-5 games going into the playoffs.

Regardless of winning this game or that series, the last scenario of playing their best at the end is the ultimate result we’re aiming for.  They need to play every game as though they’re preparing for being their best in the playoffs.  We just saw them play that way against the Cubs, then they had a let down against the Giants.

Let’s resume this conversation after the current home stand.  It’s the most difficult stretch of games they’ve had so far.  It will reveal where they’re at.  Anything .500 or better is good versus these teams.