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The Brian Kenny Show is doing God’s work

May 8, 2013, 8:57 AM EST

My snark at Matt Harvey‘s alleged lack of The Will to Win continued on to Twitter this morning, where I decided to be a pest to the MLB Network people:

Then this response.

 

God Bless Brian Kenny and the wonderful people who work on that show over at NBC Sports Radio.

My guess — as some of you mentioned in the comments this morning — is that Harold or Hawk or whatever “pitcher wins matter” guy they get a hold of will say that Harvey should have done more with the bat or something. If so, this will be me:

  1. andreweac - May 8, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    If Matt Harvey had more Willingness to Wjn his teammates would have done better at the plate. Don’t you know, there is a direct causation — not correlation — between a pitcher’s WtW and how many runs his offense delivers? The opposing pitcher’s stuff and talent + the talent of a pitcher’s own hitters is not as important as the pitcher’s WtW.

    • indaburg - May 8, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      Right on, andrew. You are clearly a man who gets it. Hawk would be so proud.

      Brian Kenny has quickly become my favorite broadcaster.

      • APBA Guy - May 8, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        Brian was always terrific, back in the day at BBTN w/ Harold Reynolds. What’s elevated him even further is that he’s acquired an expertise with statistical analysis, and can use his baseball experience and broadcasting talent to apply the new expertise to the current game. His off-season show “Clubhouse Confidential” is absolutely must viewing.

      • indaburg - May 8, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I agree, APBA. It’s easily my favorite show in MLBN. I wish it was on year round. I’ve learned so much from that show and its statistical analysis. My perception is frequently not reality.

      • hep3 - May 8, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        I have always thought Harold Reynolds was worthless. He was awful at ESPN, too. Reynolds is kind of like the Lee Corso of baseball. His opinions usually straddle the fence and either way it goes he can claim he is correct.

  2. 18thstreet - May 8, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    I subscribe to the print version of the Washington Post, and their box scores are very narrow. So they print the winning and losing pitchers under the pitching lines instead of next to the pitchers’ names, which is what I’m used to. (I.e., Dempster [L (2-2)])

    It’s become a little habit of mine to look at which pitcher had the best line and then see who was actually awarded the win. Obviously, this is just a judgment call and it’s not something I give a ton of though to. But I’d guess that the best pitcher in the game pitched for the losing team about 25 percent of the time. And the best pitcher for the winning team is awarded the win maybe 50 percent of the time. And the other 25 percent of the time, no one pitched *that* much better than anyone else, but someone has to be awarded the win.

    • pmcenroe - May 8, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      I wish official scorers used more judgement when determining the winning and losing pitchers. Not like who is awarded the W/L really matter but I think its bogus when a LOOGY comes into a tie game w/ runner on 2nd and gets an out, then his team scores some runs in their half then he gets he the W. Meanwhile the starter went 6.2 and gave up 1 run and gets the ND.

      • blacksables - May 8, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        The ‘Official Scorers Association’ called. They said talk to the Rules Committee, as there is only one occasion where the scorer can determine who gets the win.

        The rule book defines every other case.

      • pmcenroe - May 8, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        @blacksables yep I’m aware, I guess I should have phrased it “I wish official scorers *were able to* use more judgement when determining the winning and losing pitchers. that’s my bad

  3. baseballicious - May 8, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Kenny B. must be like a kid on the night before Christmas. And Harold, oh poor Harold, he’s going to be destroyed today – He knows he’s going under the guillotine today.

  4. andreweac - May 8, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Craig, what is your Willingness to Win grade on the 20-80 scale?

  5. The Dangerous Mabry - May 8, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    I think it’s obvious that Harvey was pitching to ERA instead of pitching to Wins.

    • RickyB - May 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Incorrect. He was obviously pitching to the score …

      • rbj1 - May 8, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        If he was pitching to the score, he’d have given up negative one runs. Mets would have won 0 to -1. Obviously Harvey doesn’t play the game the right way.

  6. apmn - May 8, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    I get your point, Craig. But based on yesterday’s trend, shouldn’t this headline have read “Great Moments in Harold Reynolds Hate”? You should call yourself out in another post this afternoon.

  7. scoocha - May 8, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Cmon guys, you know that the Win proponents are basically saying “stopping pitching just 5 innings and tough it out to at least 7 innings to give our team a better chance of winning.” Harvey went 8 (right?), that’s great, helped him team avoid using a terrible bullpen and gave the Mets a better chance of winning – which they did against maybe one of worst hitting teams in years.

  8. buddaley - May 8, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    This is the problem I have. The ongoing argument between Kenny and Reynolds is symptomatic of the inane effort to appear balanced, as if pitting a reasonable person against a lunatic would avoid the appearance of bias.

    There are legitimate arguments regarding the nature and meaning of stats and the role of psychology and “intangibles” in sports. But it seems having discussions of such issues does not make for exciting TV. The apparent view is that only by pitting polar opposites, particularly if one is more a screamer than talker, can you draw an audience.

    Reynolds is probably not stupid, and in some areas he can bring real insight into the game, but in these confrontations he is moronic. Giving him time to express such nonsense does not help illuminate anything except occasionally by accident.

    I am emphatically not saying that Kenny’s position is always right or unassailable. I am saying that a discussion that begins with people starting from some common ground, some basic agreement as to what constitutes rational argument and evidence, and then exploring the differences of emphasis or balancing of various factors is both more interesting and more worthwhile than having someone simply repeat his admission of ignorance as a counter-argument.

    For example, I don’t know whether the “will to win” has any effect on outcomes or whether such a claim is probable or even demonstrable at all. But I do think it is an interesting question and might be explored intelligently. I don’t think simply mocking the notion or oversimplifying it so it becomes a punch line is any more legitimate than crediting it as the ultimate factor in a game with no evidence in support. Both sides become foolish that way. In reality, there probably are not 2 sides but many gradations of opinion that might be fun to consider.

    • blacksables - May 8, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      Stop making sense. People here don’t like that.

  9. ryanrockzzz - May 8, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    When i hear the will to win thing, I always get that underlying tone that it bothers stat heads in baseball. Mainly because you can’t measure something like that, so some people give the sense that it is useless to use. But obviously effort matters. Just because you can’t come up with some stat for it, does not mean that it has no use. Certainly the “will to win” is a phrase that many people use in all sports. Like when they talk about Delmon Young. Or Elijah Dukes back in the day. Obviously they had/have a will to do what benefited them, or what they cared about. Which wasn’t really a “will” to win any games. If Delmon has a “will” then he wouldn’t have waited this long to drop some of his beer weight. List can go on and on, although the debate lies in the subjective manner it can be applied.

    • Kevin S. - May 8, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      But effort is reflected in stats. If some guy tosses up a eight-inning, two run, seven K, one walk line through his maximum effort, and another guy cruises to the exact same line, is there any difference in their performance? No! It’s still the same performance. Effort matters, but only insomuch as it affects performance.

      • blacksables - May 8, 2013 at 1:10 PM

        If one player hits 3 solo home runs, stole a base after a single, and made 3 great defensive plays; and another player on the other team strikes out 3 times, made 2 errors, missed a hit-and-run sign, and then hits a walk off grand slam, and his team wins 4-3, who had the better effort?

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        Effort as in who tried harder? Who cares?

        Effort as in who had the better performance? Pretty clearly the first guy. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here.

      • blacksables - May 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        The first guys team lost the game. Are you saying individual effort trumps team effort?

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        If we’re judging the individual players, yes. It would be asinine both to judge the entire teams based upon the contributions of one player each and to judge the individual players for their team outcomes. The first player unequivocally performed better. It’s not his fault that his teammates did nothing, nor is it to the second player’s credit that his teammates bailed out his foibles and then got on base in front of him the one time he did something. Judge teams by what teams do and players by what players do. This isn’t basketball, where team performance can be tied to stars.

      • buddaley - May 8, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        Yes, I agree absolutely, but effect on performance may be much more subtle than you are suggesting. It may be useful to recognize a player’s ability to encourage winning if such a thing exists.

        A possible example. Has Shields helped the Royals coalesce into a winning team beyond his personal contributions on the mound? Of course, it is too early to tell whether they really are a winning team. And perhaps if there is an effect, it is not measurable. Or it may be that if there has been a culture change, it proceeds from factors other than the presence of Shields.

        Now, if Reynolds were to assert the Royals are better because Shields is a winner and is transferring that spirit to the team, I would be irritated because it is such a lazy, BS, oversimplification, and he has no evidence of a cause-effect relationship other than coincidence.

        But I don’t think Kenny would (or should) simply discount the possibility. Perhaps there is evidence one way or the other. Perhaps some part of his influence, if it exists, is measurable. Perhaps there is a whole field of study regarding clubhouse culture amenable to research, maybe using sociological models. Often it is coincidence (and the parallel coincidence of problems with the Rays staff) that sparks interest in a question.

        Are the better than usual performances of Santana and Guthrie linked to Shields’s leadership of the staff, a role accorded to him in TB? Are the Royals winning games despite the poor/mediocre performances by 3 of their critical players (Moustakas, Hosmer, Butler) and Francouer being Francouer because of some variety of a “will to win” associated with Shields?

        I am not claiming any of that is true or even likely, nor do I deny that scouting and statistical studies may discover answers to those questions that leave no room (or reason) for a Shields influence. But I do think that there are analysts who might discuss the question and possible ways to consider it with Kenny, discussions that would be interesting and valuable.

        The way Reynolds and Kenny are doing it now confuses the real issues. Particularly egregious was a recent discussion of whether hitters should avoid Ks at the expense of power during which they proceeded to demonstrate their opposing views while watching a game where it became an issue. When the batter made contact and bounced into a 1-2-3 double play, Kenny could gloat while Reynolds fumbled around for some way to save face. That is barroom chatter, not discussion.

    • 18thstreet - May 8, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Question: You still work to understand the game better?

      BILL JAMES: I – every day, I understand more and it helps me understand how little I understand.

      Q: Because there are intangibles, you’ve been spending your life trying to measure them, find ways to measure them. But there are such things.

      BILL JAMES: There are many things that you can’t measure. But the great fun of what I do for a living is figuring out ways to measure things that people previously considered intangible.

  10. ch0psuey - May 9, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    I’m sorry. Brian Kenny may know baseball stats but he does not know baseball.

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