Friday, June 16, 2006

All things Kip Wells

Today's read-the-whole-thing post is the lengthy dissertation by Pat at Van Slyke about Kip Wells. Don't miss the attached comments thread either.

I fall squarely on the side of inserting Kip into the rotation when he returns, though my reasons aren't nearly as well researched or carefully considered as Pat's. I was at his best game of the year last year, against the Phillies--sang the national anthem that day, in fact--and I can't get the memory of what Kip can do out of my mind.

In the absence of disciplined statistical analysis, we are all blind men describing elephants and then disagreeing with each other about what they look like. I say disciplined statistical analysis because it's also true that interpreting statistics objectively is not easy. Most often, people use statistics selectively to support opinions they already hold.


Anonymous bucdaddy said...

I'm just not sure than in baseball -- or any sport, where so many factors can intervene in such a short time -- citing what a guy did three years ago is in any way relevant to today. Most players have a pretty wide range of statistical variance from year to year, even -- it's the very rare player who is truly consistent; Jason Bay is showing signs of becoming such a player, a guy you can really pencil in the numbers every season.

Basing our hopes and expectations for Kip Wells on what he did in 2002 and 2003 just seems absurd to me. (And basing your hopes and expectations for Sean Casey on what he did when he was 24 is nuts -- sorry, I had to get that dig in).

It's true that some pitchers hit a maturity level where they really learn to pitch, and blossom when they're 30, or 32, or 34. But it's also true that the VAST MAJORITY of them don't, just as it's true that the vast majority of hitters who ever made it to the majors were out of the game by 32, and of course far more of them who never make it to the majors are gone well before then.

We gotta be realistic here, and not get caught up in nostalgia. It's possible that Kip Wells was awful for two years because he was hurt all the time, or didn't like his manager or pitching coach or whatever. It's far more LIKELY that, like the vast majority of people who ever tried to do his job, he's just not a very good pitcher, and never will be.

Of course, I hope I'm wrong.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

... And now here's Gorzo pitching lights out.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

I don't agree that citing what a guy did three years ago is irrelevant to today. It's been shown conclusively, for example, that minor-league stats are the most reliable predictor we have of major-league performance, and those stats generally do go back three years or longer.

In the case of Wells, we have a pitcher who seemed to be on a predictable trajectory of performance improvement who suddenly and mysterious began to have control problems that were vaguely related to things like (possibly misdiagnosed) carpal tunnel syndrome, blisters, and numbness in the fingers, followed by discovery of a blood clot that was affecting circulation. It's at least a reasonable hypothesis, worth testing in the field, that there is some causal relationship between the poor performance and the medical problem. I think that hypothesis is more reasonable than the suggestion that what we were seeing was the revelation of Wells's gutlessness, or some such notion.

It's also significant that Casey is older than Wells, and Casey's rapid deterioration has been accompanied by an assortment of injuries that are typical of what happens to middling ballplayers when they get around Casey's age. I'm arguing that, unlike Casey's recent performance, Wells's performance of the last two years was unusual and unexpected, and correlated with the development of an unusual and unexpected injury.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Billy said...

And speaking of gutlessness,

... And now here's Gorzo pitching lights out.

We have Craig Wilson, whom the team has, for reasons known only to itself, given up on and decided not to re-sign; three fine young infielders each capable of performing well at two positions on the diamond; and a surfeit of young pitching, including lefthanded pitching, a much-coveted commodity.

A GM with some guts could make a deal for an impact bat that would appreciably improve this team. I wish we had one of those.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...


Tell you what. I'll agree not to believe Wells' 2003-04 seasons are irrelevant if you'll agree that as long as we're looking at ancient history, his 2001-02 seasons are much more in line with the mediocre-to-awful pitcher we've seen the past two years.

So what we have here is a guy who has been middling to terrible in four of his six major-league seasons, but you choose to focus on the two fair to good seasons and believe that's who this guy really is, do I have this right?

Well, I guess we'll see starting Tuesday -- too bad he won't be pitching Monday when we're there. The Geek might have to separate us :-) At least we agree on DL and Casey.

BTW, I realize that I've been doing so much serious Wells bashing that I forgot to say: I'd have no problem if they brought him back and worked him in long relief for awhile, like you'd normally do with any average pitcher (I'm being generous here) coming off a serious injury. What I have a problem with is the notion that this eminently mediocre (at best, IMHO) pitcher deserves to waltz right into the rotation ahead of anyone else who's pitching better right now than he did last year, which would include the entire starting staff, even Victor Santos.

12:16 AM  

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