A Primer on What’s Important

Perhaps the greatest post I’ve ever seen on the specifics of what is important and what isn’t in the mind of modern baseball has been reposted in the Pinstriped Bible this week. Check it out here and be enlightened. The list of commandments is long, but I agree with 99% of what’s written here. I’ve listed them below, with some of my own comments on a few of my favorites. You’ll have to follow the link and give them the unique visitor or whatever to get the full text on each, but it’s definitely worth the read:

  1. It’s how often a player reaches base and how much power he has that’s important, not batting average, not RBIs.
  2. Remember league and position averages: numbers have meaning only in context.
  3. RBIs are opportunistic; RBIs are a team stat and are not indicative of a player’s ability.
  4. Stolen bases just don’t matter. I have a little bit of a tough time with the one, but I’m willing to admit they are extremely overvalued.
  5. The main function of the batting order is to distribute plate appearances.
  6. A strikeout is just another out. In fact, sometimes it’s better. With a runner on third with less than 2 outs, you’d rather have an out be a deep fly ball to CF, for sure. But in that same scenario with a guy on first and less than 2 outs, you’d much rather have a strikeout than a hard hit ball to an infielder. Guess which scenario comes up more often?
  7. Placing good bats on the right side of the defensive spectrum is one of the keys to winning. Yes, hopefully by now we’ve figured out that if Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina finish the season with a very similar OPS, Desmond was the much more valuable player.
  8. The 27 outs of a ballgame are precious. Managers should not give them away lightly.
  9. A player’s offensive and defensive contributions must be in balance.
  10. The difference between the best and worst defender is not as large as you think. How many games does a bad fielding Dunn lose compared to how many games his bat wins? It’s a question Rizzo needs to figure out.
  11. When formulating expectations for your team’s latest veteran acquisition, keep the aging curve in mind.
  12. The best indicators of growth potential in a hitting prospect: (1) Age vs. level: the greater the proficiency, the younger the age, the higher the level, the better the prospect. (2) Strike zone judgment.
  13. The best indicators of growth in a pitching prospect: (1) key bit of info: does he throw hard? (2) Strikeouts to innings-pitched ratio. (3) Workload. (4) Mechanics and Injury history.
  14. Middle relievers are fungible.
  15. The odds are on the closer’s side. I remember the day when saves meant something. For 20 years or so, they seemed really important. Today, they seem to be there to add another fantasy category for pitchers.
  16. The increasing reliance on situational pitchers (such as situational lefties) is actually counter-productive. Go read what Goldman says here, it’s totally true.
  17. The manager’s primary job is shaping the roster so that the 25 players fill identifiable roles.
  18. A player’s character and leadership contributions are emphasized in inverse proportion to his actual contributions on the field.
  19. Being a fan of a player or team does not mean sacrificing your critical judgment.

Sure, if you read what Goldman wrote, it’s a little Yankees-focused, but he is writing a Yankees blog. Frankly, I think everyone who follows baseball regularly should be forced to read this at least once a year. Maybe it should be a spring training tradition.

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