Show me the Numbers
I have no problem with constructive criticism of Mariner personnel moves, but I have a problem with this story ["The New Bleacher Bums," March 31]. It provides zero evidence that sabermetrics provides a better foundation than conventional baseball wisdom on which to build a team.
The article holds up the Oakland A's as the shining example of sabermetric success —one of four "sabermetric regimes," including Boston, Toronto, and Los Angeles. But Boston and L.A., big-payroll teams, have no recent World Series appearances, indeed no more average success than the M's.
If sabermetrics is so successful in forecasting performance, why doesn't Jim Thomsen provide accurate won-loss projections for various teams in recent years? The proof is in the results, not the arguments. He questions personnel moves executed by the M's, many too new to evaluate, as if sabermetrics would have replaced them all with a stellar roster. But let's take a closer look. He refers to Jeff Cirillo as "cringe-worthy," but what did sabermetrics project for Cirillo when the M's brought him here? He was a .300-plus career hitter in his prime, who played impeccable defense. Sure, he played at mile-high Denver, where the ball flies, but did sabermetrics project a .100 decrease in batting average over two years? Thomsen blasts the M's for trading Cirillo for worthless players. Does sabermetrics have a way to trade a .205 hitter for good players?
Thomsen says, "This isn't the usual reactionary sports-talk-radio blather." Then he criticizes the trade of Greg Colbrunn, even though he was of little value last year. He blasts the presence of Raul Ibanez and Ron Villone as blocking the advancement of minor-league prospects, suggesting that a starting outfield position would be better handed to oft-injured 22-year-old Chris Snelling. None of these criticisms includes any indication that they are backed by sabermetric projections of player productivity. It is, in fact, the typical radio-talk-show blather—just a know-nothing caller who is ready to chuck "over-the-hill veterans" and bring in new blood from the farm system. A team needs to develop minor-league talent, but it doesn't win championships with them.
Thomsen criticizes the replacement of Carlos Guillen, whom he characterizes as a player with rising or stabilized value, with Rich Aurilia, whom he sees as past his best years and not projecting well for 2004 and beyond. But Guillen did not prove durable enough to depend on through a 162-game season, and durability is key to team success. As for players who don't project well, what about Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer, John Olerud, and Mark McLemore, all well-aged heroes of the recent successful M's run? Would they have been M's in a sabermetrically run front office, or would we have been trotting out rookies and hoping they played to their projected potential?
Derek Zumsteg dismisses money spent on players who exhibit intangible qualities like "clubhouse leader" and "good character" as "money they might as well have rolled up and smoked." But any player on any championship club in any sport will attest to the value of these intangibles.
Numbers, statistics, and databases may provide useful insights, but they don't accurately predict results. If they did, the Florida Marlins would not be World Series champions. Until such point that Thomsen can write an article comparing the forecasts and results of a single sabermetric system—over time and in their entirety—with the forecasts of respected baseball publications, and show them to be clearly superior, there is no case to be made.
Derek Zumsteg and his minions are just another reincarnation of the spoiled child who gets pissed off because he didn't get everything he wanted for Christmas, even though he is surrounded by presents ["The New Bleacher Bums," March 31]. This disaffected group is also most likely to be found joining numerous fantasy leagues. They have no knowledge of baseball, and their knowledge of statistics is just as flawed. Lies, damned lies, and statistics. How many sabermetricians have been hired by the Yankees?
The only thing that will succeed in shutting these clowns up is a World Series ring in Seattle. And then they will find something else to bitch about . . . maybe the high price of beer. Let's see how Bill James fares in the East this year.
I'm hoping your paper will revisit this issue at the end of the season when Zumsteg and his cohorts are eating large doses of crow. I, for one, will be force-feeding him.
P.S. OK, at least I know you're trying to be objective. Mike Henderson's "Spread vs. Spreadsheet" told it like it is. Dumbsteg might take a page from this piece. Thanks for including it.
Did Berger Back Bush?
Is Knute Berger trying to tell us something [Mossback, "The Wrong Answer," March 31]? Perhaps that he voted for Bush?
I don't know who he's talking to when he suggests that we have to "overcome our inner Bushes." He might have to, but most readers of the Weekly stand innocent of the charge, because we weren't stupid enough to vote for that moron. The corruption and bullheadedness of this administration is breathtaking in its extent, but it was predictable in 2000, which is why the majority of Americans voted against putting these people into power.
If we don't boot that Texas cowboy and his conspirators out of the office they stole, Berger can write about more than healing the "wound within ourselves"; he can lament the loss of a democracy, as corporate profiteers run rampant over the rest of the world in the name of America.
Back to Camp
We are grateful for Samantha Storey's humorous—if occasionally scathing— essay about her experience at Centrum's Port Townsend Writers' Conference ["Writers' Camp Confidential," March 31]. We encourage feedback from participants and make changes based on their observations. Unfortunately, the conference she described took place eight years ago. Times have changed, and so has Centrum. We hope she would be willing to visit again so that she might offer a more contemporary critique. We know there is always room for improvement.
Executive Director, Centrum, Port Townsend
Let me start by thanking Nina Shapiro for writing a very fair article ["Birth Rights and Wrongs," March 24]. After reading it, however, I called Dr. Robin de Regt, who I have had the privilege of working with for several years. I asked why she made the comment, "There is not the capability for resuscitating a baby adequately," knowing that we had spoken on the topic and that at that time she was corrected in her misconception. She said she knew that at the Puget Sound Birth Center we had adequate oxygen and a neonatal bag and mask for resuscitating babies, but didn't know if home-birth midwives carried the same to clients' homes. All the licensed midwives I know in the community carry these tools and are trained every two years in the most current neonatal resuscitation protocols.
Ali Toperosky, LM, CPM
Vice President, Midwives' Association of Washington State
'Birth' Lacked Balance
I'm writing in response to "Birth Rights and Wrongs" [March 24]. I was appalled at how one-sided it was. Nina Shapiro clearly had her mind made up about Debra O'Conner, home birth, and midwifery in general before she started the article. I would have appreciated an additional article with a "pro-midwifery" view to balance the discussion and really educate women about their options instead of scaring them. Also, there was no mention of the many malpractice suits that are filed against doctors every year. If Shapiro wrote a six-page article about every obstetrician that was sued because something went wrong during labor and delivery, you would have to devote half the paper to these articles.
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