Mariners Insider Blog

Linkage: Mike Curto tells it how it is in the minor leagues, Jim Caple goes to war with WAR and other stories

As I've said often on here, Mike Curto is a good buddy of mine. I lobbied on numerous occasions for the longtime radio voice of the Rainiers and some-time contributor to the News Tribune to get the open Mariners radio broadcasting postion. For whatever reason, he did not.

So Curto will be back with the Rainiers and for us around the South Sound, it's a good thing. It's also good for me in a way because he can let me know who is and who isn't playing well for the Rainiers. I trust his knowledge completely.

Today, Baseball Prospectus published a story by Curto about the not-so-glamorous life of a minor league radio announcer. It's a fantastic read.

From Curto's story ...

Upon arriving at the stadium, you spent 30 minutes setting up equipment in your booth before going downstairs to check in on the team. You took 10 minutes’ worth of good-natured insults from your team’s manager before asking him why one of his relief pitchers was wearing a gas mask while running laps (“you’ll have to ask him”). 

You went back upstairs to the booth to prepare your stats. After a cursory glance at the team-issued game notes—mostly full of stuff you already looked up online during that layover at LAX—you started your pre-game show.

You conducted a 15-minute pre-game show, called all nine innings of a 3 hour, 46 minute, 11-6 loss by your sleep-deprived team, and then hosted a 20-minute post-game show. You talked to yourself for nearly four-and-a-half hours.

Immediately after signing off, you turned to your laptop and frantically banged out a 450-word story on the game for the newspaper back home. Fortunately, the newspaper’s 10:30 PM deadline is merely suggested and not strict. Often, you are still on the air at 10:30.

Once the newspaper was satiated, you packed up your computer and went back down to the locker room. The players were all gone, but your buddies are the coaches. You grabbed a snack from the clubhouse and a can of domestic light beer from the manager’s secret stash, sat back, and listened to your buddies complain about the game.

The travel day, the sleep deprivation, and the long game culminating with the sour result left everyone a little testy. The 10-minute drive back to the hotel—seven grown men stuffed into the soccer mom van the team trainer rented—passed by in total silence.

You are a Pacific Coast League baseball announcer, and this is your life.

At least the game had three triples.Meanwhile, ESPN's Jim Caple talks about the new and more frequently used sabermetric state - Wins Above Replacement Player" or WAR as it is called in baseball circles. To be honest, I will use the WAR statistic from time to time. It's has its value. But like Caple, my biggest problem with WAR is the use of defensive metrics and their imperfections. For me, defensive stats like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) are OK. But for a position like catching, the measurables used in UZR and DRS are about 1/10th of the defensive responsibilities of a catcher.  Look, some of the new SABR stats are imperfect. But really, more traditional stats like RBIs, ERA and fielding percentage can also be found to have flaws. I've said it before, I embrace all baseball thinking, including the new stats. You have to evolve with the game.

Like me, Caple isn't against the use of WAR as a measure. But he's asking it for not to be the be-all, end-all in determining the value of a player

From Caple's STORY ....

In other words, most baseball stats are based entirely on indisputable math calculations. WAR has an element of theory and assumption to it.

As I wrote at the beginning, WAR can be a valuable measure. The problem is when it is used as the DEFINITIVE measure. Such as, "Mike Trout had a 10.7 WAR and Miguel Cabrera had a 6.9 WAR, so anyone who thinks Cabrera deserved to be the American League MVP should be strip-searched, tied to an anthill and forced to rely on dial-up for his Internet connection for the remainder of his pathetic life."

Look all stats have their limitations. If a player has a .329 batting average, that probably means he's pretty good. But for an accurate measure of the player, we need more information. How many extra-base hits does he have? How many times does he walk? How many stolen bases? How many runs, how many RBIs? How many double plays has he hit into? The same is true for a player with 40 home runs. Does he have a .300 average to go with them, or a .230 average? Does he strike out a lot? How often does he walk?

The same approach should apply to WAR. We need to look at many stats to assess players, and one of them should be WAR. But it shouldn't be the only stat we look at or cite.Here's a few other things worth reading ...