MIND GAME: Squeezing the Merchandise, Varieties of Relief, Walking Wounded, Arms and the Man

MIND GAME: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created A New Blueprint for Winning is a book penned by the writers of Baseball Prospectus, and I am reviewing an advance copy book on Fire Brand of the American League as I read the book.
I. Introduction to MIND GAME
II. Chapter 1, 2, 3 – The Banality of Incompetence; Shopping for Winners; The A-Rod Advantage
III. Squeezing the Merchandise, Varieties of Relief, Walking Wounded, Arms and the Man
The fourth chapter is basically just talking about the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. I know it was eons ago but remember spring training in 2004 when the Red Sox and Yankees handed out commemorative pins marking their spring training matchup? Yikes, That is one hell of a rivalry. They also went through each person projected to start, using their projected statistics and VORP (interesting to see how the projected statistics truly turned ot, remarkably close) and the final analysis was that both clubs were very closely matched, while the Yankees took many risks and the Red Sox very few.
This chapter also talked about how terrible Jeter is as a fielder. Did you know that from 1999 to 2003, he allowed 94 runs to cross the plate? He’s consistently been around -19 Fielding Runs Above Average. And get this – Edgar Renteria was just as bad as Jeter was. The key word here is was. Because while Jeter hung around -19 from 1999-2003, something happened in 2004. In 2004, he turned into Edgar Renteria – the non-2004 version. And this year, he’s above zero! I don’t know what happened, but that’s a marked turnaround, and it illustrates how bad Renteria has been this year, but over his career, he’s at least 15 runs better than this year, so that bodes well.
Chapter five deals with the bullpen. CHoice quote:
“The legacy of the previous season’s bullpen experiment was the belief that overall talent was more important than strict bullpen roles and a flexibility regarding the use of Foulke or any other reliever.”
The idea of a closer by committee is to use the best pitchers for the situation, not the conventional pitchers for the situation, pioneered by Dennis Eckersley, the one-inning closer. Why use Foulke two up in the ninth when you can use him in a tie game in the seventh? Epstein wanted to build a new kind of closer, for he knew saves were misleading. For example, in 2004, Shawn Chacon had 35 saves, but his Wins Above Replacement Player was -1.7, which means he was worth 1.7 less wins than a replacement player! Foulke was +4.4 wins.
The bullpen by committee theory was right, but the players were not – they were too bad.
Did you know that Keith Foulke is better than Mariano Rivera?
In the 5 years preceeding 2004, Foulke was indeed more valuable than Rivera
Years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 VORP (RANK)
Foulke 51.2 (1), 35.6 (2), 33.6 (2), 25.5 (10), 37.7 (4)
Rivera 36.8 (5), 31.2 (7), 30.4 (5), 14.5 (35), 32.9 (7)
This just goes to show you how good Foulke is, and how sorely we have missed him this year.
The sixth chapter just gave a recap of the Red Sox and Yankees struggles to start the season. Did you know that Cesar Crespo has the eighth lowest OBP lifetime with a minimum of 75 Plate Appearances? He hit .165 in 79 PA. #1 is Marty Castillo for the ’85 Tigers, he had an OBP of .137 in 87 PA.
This chapter also bears out that the Yankees were extremely unlucky in April on Batting Average on Balls in Play. I wouldn’t be surprised if the BABIP tendency repeated itself this year too, for they were terrible in April and then were themselves after.
Chapter Seven talked about Pedro and pitch counts. Pedro may have had 3.90 era but he was still Pedro, he made 33 starts, tied his career of most ever times over 100 pitches, 26 times. He averaged 105.8. Instead of the Red Sox babying between starts as they used to do, they also babied him during. He would consistently be at 100-120 pitches not 140 one start, 80 the next. This kept him healthy into October, where he went 4-0, 3.46 in the playoffs.

Arrow to top