Cleveland Sports Insiders

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The Briefest of Reviews of The New York Post

One has occasion to remember the physis, the inherent nature, of a certain publication that has recently launched a thousand figurative ships to cover both a one Mr. J. Footballs and also the Cleveland Browns.


This has been a brief review of the physis of the New York Post.


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Nick Swisher’s Zemblanitous Season

S: Wikimedia

The Island of Nova Zembla (Wikimedia)

Located off the northernmost peninsula of the European continent and bisected by the 75°N parallel, the island called Novaya Zemlya – known to the west as ‘Nova Zembla’ – is, neither figuratively nor literally, warmly regarded. Boasting a mean annual temperature of a balmy 23°F and notable for serving as the testing site for the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, Nova Zembla was regarded so bleakly by British author William Boyd that, in his 2001 book, Armadillo, he coined the term ‘Zemblanity’ as a previously non-existent antonym for ‘Serendipity;’ in contrast to serendipity meaning ‘the unexpected, coincidental occurrence of lucky events,’ zemblanity means ‘the unexpected, coincidental occurrence of unlucky events.’

Zemblanity is perhaps a nearly-perfect word to describe Nick Swisher’s 2014 campaign. Although, unlike the island, Nick Swisher has not been radioactive hitherto in 2014, nevertheless, entirely like the island, Swisher has been below-freezing. Most applicable of all, however, is the actual definition: Nick Swisher’s season has been zemblanitious in the sense that his presently sub-Mendoza batting average is as the result of terrible luck.

While it’s frequently difficult for baseball fans – people, generally – to accept, the fact is that in all things, results can vary widely without regard to its input processes. In sum, a good approach at the plate infrequently leads to great results, frequently leads to good results, and infrequently leads to poor results. This unlikely situation – that Swisher’s approach has been good but yielded poor results – is precisely what has occurred. Continue reading

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Cleveland’s ERA-FIP Gap: The Defense IS That Bad

The ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis’ process is regarded as a central tenet of Western Dialectic; namely, one begins with a thesis, an original assertion, which is refuted by an an antithesis, a rebuttal of the thesis, before finally a synthesis is reached, a combination of the thesis and antithesis, perceived to be the truth of the matter.

In terms of evaluating pitcher effectiveness, the thesis in question is what has been termed the ‘Old School’ of baseball thought – the idea that pitchers can will the ball to be hit harder or softer, that pitchers have control over how hard a ball is hit once it reaches the bat. The antithesis, then, is Voros McCracken’s idea of Fielding-Independent Pitching, the idea that the Three True Outcomes – strikeouts, walks, and home runs, those outcomes considered most within a pitcher’s control – are the only things within a pitcher’s control.

The synthesis of these two, then, has been the advent of derived, or regressed, FIP-like equations, such as SIERA or xFIP. It’s been proven to be the case that pitchers do have control over Ground Ball and Fly Ball rates – Justin Masterson’s sinker, for instance, induces ground-ball contact at an elite rate, but it does not limit the strength of contact that is made with the sinker. Hence, the incorporation of the two pitcher-dependent Batted Ball outcomes – GB/FB – has led to the advent of xFIP, the synthesis between old-school and new-school.

Yet there exists an opinion that the Indians’ pitching staff is not so skillful as their xFIP lets on. In the article ‘The Indians’ Paradoxical Pitching Staff‘ published nearly a week ago, Tony Blengino detailed why he believed the Indians’ pitching staff was better than its below-average ERA but worse than its xFIP. While Blengino has compiled thus far an extremely lucid, intelligent body of work, this particular assertion is very probably incorrect. Continue reading

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Haden Extension Fallout: Patrick Peterson’s Quintuple Factorial Demands

Earlier this morn, after the author had cracked for himself some eggs and roasted up a homestyle country breakfast, the brazen alarum bells of domestic politics sounded. According to Pro Football Talk, the Browns have signed Joe Haden to an extension through the 2019 season, with $22M guaranteed and an additional $23M guaranteed in case of injury – in short, Joe Haden is guaranteed $45M.

In this offseason, the Browns have added substantial help to the secondary, adding, in the first round of the draft, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and, in free agency, Ohio State safety, known by no one as Margrave Whitner of Hits. At this point, the Browns have – to the shock and awe of all – assembled what is on paper one of the best secondaries in the league in the next several years. And while a great secondary on paper isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s also not the guarantee of mediocrity that the Browns have had for over a decade. Browns fans are allowed to feel #blessed for at least few minutes.

Yet while the move eclipses Richard Sherman’s deal as the most lucrative guaranteed deal for a defensive back thus far this offseason, other premier cornerbacks in the league have their eyes on even bigger amounts. In response to Haden’s extension, Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson puts forward his own contract demands – demands not only outrageous, but wholly unprecedented. Continue reading

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2015 Mock Drafts: An Exercise in Antique Vase-Smashing

George Santayana is the only Spanish-American philosopher who has made any advancement into the American consciousness. ‘Any,’ of course, is the operative word in that sentence, given that he’s known for precisely one (1) sentence(s). “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” blithely repeat political analysts. Given that shows involving Charles Krauthammer and others like him are frequently as entertaining as they are incisive, said analysts frequently forget that they had uttered that same phrase only several seconds previous. “Those who do not remember what they said only several seconds previous are doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana never said.

Mock draftists have taken to heart Santayana’s words. With the memory of the 2014 NFL draft vividly implanted in the hearts and minds of America and now formally part of The Past, draft personages wish to ensure that we not only remember the past, but also apply its lessons to the future. Primary among these lessons: “The Draft happened.” Secondary: “The Draft will happen again.” Continue reading

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Deluded Ralph Individually Flips Each of His Shits About Kluber

Patience is a virtue instilled in each of us from a young age. From the outset, it is poured into us by parents (or in the case of Tarzan, benevolent gorillae) like waffle batter, and very much like waffle batter, it is surveilled thereafter to determine whether the batter of knowledge has blossomed into the waffles of patience.

And if patience is a waffle, I am IHOP: I, RalpHOP , begrudgingly serve patience, but I don’t openly advertise it, and moreover, I typically only converse with the intoxicated. Yea verily, I am presently impatient and conversing with the intoxicated as we speak – ‘we,’ of course, refers tautologically to the aformentioned drinkyfolk – ‘as we speak’ only incidentally occurs at the time of writing; this account’s writing, whimsically, happens to occur inside an International House of Panc#DIV/0!

Yet for Zion’s Eggnog Pancakes’ sake, I shall not be silent – and I sound the trumpets of Cincinnatus! Cleveland must be defended! Patience must be discarded like a former NCAA football player, and we must declare that the future of the Cleveland Indians’ rotation does not lie with Corey Kluber. Continue reading

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Deluded Ralph Concedes Dave Dombrowski the Tactical Victory

As I sat plainly at my desk (the desk of the High Minister of ‘High AF’ Ministries of the Republic of Sealand), I received an important telegram, conscientiously transcribed by my secretary dolphin, telling that Detroit Tigers Dave Dombrowski has executed a masterstroke of capitalist brilliance and signed Miguel Cabrera to a long-term deal that would catapult the former Miami Marlin into the forefront of the league’s plutocracy.

As a minister of Sealand, my concern is justified – not only is Miguel Cabrera’s extension several hundred million times the GDP of This Proud Island Nation, but he was once a Marlin: to see a Sealand expatriate, be he a Marlin or a Devil Ray, turn his back on his country extracts a single patriotic tear.

Nationalistic fervor stirred and subsequently shelved, it was clear that Dave Dombrowski was the architect of this new geopolitical superstructure that keeps Miguel Cabrera in Detroit through 2025 – and a cunning edifice it is. He has turned the league upon its head, using the forward-looking, innovation-stuffed strategy of using record contract extensions as spoils of past MVP awards. It’s ideal.

You see, the Cardinals congratulated themselves for not signing Albert Pujols to a ten-year contract despite his three MVP awards. If Dave Dombrowski had helmed the Spirit of St. Louis that fateful offseason, he would have steered that ship into a future anchored by Albert Pujols – not merely a ten-year deal, though. Given the 5:1 ratio Dombrowski has ingeniously manufactured, Pujols would have received a 15-year deal worth $360M.

Barry Bonds? With his 7 MVP awards, his 35-year-contract would have kept the ageless son of Darius the Great playing baseball until 2042, at an AAV of All The Gold In The Roman Emperor’s Treasury.

Dombrowski’s move is just the most recent in a string of shrewd moves to keep the Tigers at the top of the AL Central. Doug Fister – I’m sorry, how many MVPs has he won? Talk to me when he trades someone of value. Results are what matter here in Sealand; perhaps you Americans take a different approach to things. Given the criticism of the Fister trade, it seems that American GSM Gulfstream Media writers don’t care much about the bottom line.

With Dombrowski’s recent acquisition, I must now beat him to the punch. He’ll soon be going after another MVP, a proven hitter. I must sign Jason Giambi to a five-year, $150M deal before Dombrowski gets the chance. Stealing his next target before he has a chance to should serve as some poetic justice.

I must prepare contingency plans, however. If Giambi refuses his post as Executive Cabinet Minister of Orca Training, I should prepare to execute a trade with the Holy Gold’s Gym Empire. Since Giambi is a former Athletic, Gold’s Gym should be pleased to see one of its own heroes back in the fold.

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Opening the Plexiglas Door

The Plexiglas Principle states that a team that unexpectedly breaks out one year should be expected to decline the following year; rather than continue improving, one should expect that team to decline from their previous year’s success.

Regression to the mean is the basis of this principle. Not only should one expect luck-based statistics like BABIP to return to the mean, one should also expect skill-based statistics to regress toward the mean. Expecting Raburn’s or (pre-injury) Kluber’s exceptional skill-based statistics to hold steady or improve is an unreasonable expectation, but that does not mean that the odds-on likeliest possibility is an almost total return to the mean, but merely a regression toward the mean: excellent performances, ones that exceeded projections, are much more likely to be ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent,’ but they’re also unlikely to return to being merely average. Continue reading

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Foul Ball Rates: Danny Salazar and Projections

Tuesday last, Danny Salazar took to the raised mound at the center of the base-ball diamond for the first time in Spring 2014. While Salazar’s own performance was rather overshadowed by the much-discussed outing of Trevor Bauer, Salazar’s own performance was less-than-inspiring, inducing only three whiffs over the course of his 42-pitch outing, for a Swinging Strike rate of 7.1%, according to my own personal collection of spring training statistics. This should neither surprise anyone nor be cause for concern: spring training means little, and the first start of spring training means even less.

Yet one trait in particular was gripping in Danny Salazar’s outing against the Angels: he induces a great many foul balls. While Tuesday was only one spring training game, it was wholly reminiscent of his 2013 outings wherein his pitch counts ran extraordinarily high – not because he was walking batters, but because batters were making such frequent foul contact. In 2013, Salazar Foul-Per-Contact rate was 55.6% – substantially above the league average of 48%.

Foul contact rate, as illustrated by this well-aged article from 2008, is a fairly unequivocal good for pitchers. It correlates positively and (pun incoming) strikingly with K rates, and correlates negatively with all manner of ‘batting-against’ statistics. Foul rates correlate positively with positive pitching traits and negatively with negative pitching traits. If one is a major-league pitcher who both wishes to succeed and who has an abiding admiration for the aesthetics of ten-pitch at-bats, high foul rates are a way to combine these two, and to varying degrees normal, desires.

More remarkably, it’s true that Foul% also negatively correlates with HR/FB rate – meaning, in short, that given Salazar’s high foul rate, his HR/FB rate should have been average-or-below. In the particular case of Danny Salazar, this leaves one with decided optimism. By far the most prominent criticism of Danny Salazar in the aftermath of his 2013 campaign was that he had trouble with the long-ball, which is certainly true: his HR/FB rate was well above league average. However, HR/FB has been shown to be one of the least stable year-to-year statistics, so simply because HR/FB ratio is high one year, there’s rarely reason to believe it will be high the following year. In Salazar’s case, his extremely high Foul/Contact rate indicates that not only should his HR/FB rate be merely league-average going forwards, there’s reason for Cleveland fans to believe that his true talent level on HR/FB rates should actually be better than league average; in short, Salazar’s home run rate, so problematic in 2013, may turn out to be one of Salazar’s strengths in 2014.

The correlation between Foul% and HR/FB is a weak one, to be sure, but Foul% is the stat that correlates more strongly with HR/FB rate than any other. The idea that Danny Salazar has a home run problem, the idea that his fastball is too straight to not result in large amounts of home runs, is one that’s understandable: last year, after all, his fastball was straight, and he gave up many home runs. There’s little reason, however, to believe that his fastball was a causative factor in his home run rate. A pitcher is extraordinarily unlikely to throw fifty-two innings of transcendent baseball if he has a glaring, fatal flaw. The HR problem he supposedly exhibited in 2013, then, was very likely mere statistical noise.


Carpe Diem: The Browns and Self-Imposed Powerlessness

“I grow old,” an elder murmurs.

It’s not the case that the Cleveland Browns have been merely terrible. It’s not the case that they have merely had the third-worst record through the first thirteen years of their existence of every expansion team in NFL history, operating in an era where rebuilding is only easier than previously. To answer this question, one must also ask whether, at any point in the last fourteen years, Browns fans have had a rational reason to believe they would be good.

“Kelly Holcomb!” we exclaimed, frantic, eleven years ago. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Kelly Holcomb! Behold the messiah, behold the 30-year-old Immanuel with his 3 games started and 10:12 TD:INT ratio!”

Ten years later, we scoff at having believed in the false prophet Holcomb. Yet these sneers transform into wide-eyed adulation when we lay our eyes upon our new savior, Brian Hoyer, who unlike Holcomb is a spry 29 years of age, sage, capable of imbuing all with Wisdom by means of his vast experience (Four games started!) and his miraculous 8:7 TD:INT ratio. “Brian Hoyer!” we cry. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Brian Hoyer!”

And Hoyer shall be called Wonderful, Counselor. Continue reading