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Thursday, December 30, 2004

2004 Bowl Picks, Paper Fortune Teller Method 

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The fortune teller.

Since sports betting against speads, money lines, and over/unders is pretty much a crapshoot, my brother and I wanted a method of making selections that removes all bias from the process. Behold: the paper fortune teller method. To make each bowl's pick, we asked my 13-year-old sister Sara to pick a number from the outside of the fortune teller (see above photo). Then, she was asked to select an animal from the inside:

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The animals.

Underneath each animal is a bet:

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The bets.

The bets are Take The Points (bet on the underdog and take the point spread), Give The Points (take the favorite and give up the spread), Over, Under, Money Line: Favorite, Money Line: Dog, and Stay Away From This One (don't bet).

The results:

Houston Bowl (Colorado vs. UTEP):
Favorite (Colorado) with the money line (-165)

Alamo Bowl (Oklahoma St. vs. Ohio St.)
Oklahoma -3.5

Continental Bowl (UNC vs. Boston College)
Under 51.5

Emerald Bowl (New Mexico vs. Navy)
New Mexico -2.5

Holiday Bowl (Cal vs. Texas Tech)
Over 65.5

Silicon Valley Bowl (Northern Illinois vs. Troy)
Favorite (Troy) with the money line (-160)

Music City Bowl (Alabama vs. Minnesota)
Alabama -1

Sun Bowl (Purdue vs. ASU)
Stay Away From This One!

Liberty Bowl (Louisville vs. Boise St.)
Stay Away From This One!

Peach Bowl (Miami, FL vs. Florida)
Florida +3.5

Outback Bowl (Georgia vs. Wisconsin)
Favorite (UGa) with the money line (-320)

Cotton Bowl (Texas A&M vs. Tennessee)
Stay Away From This One!

Gator Bowl (FSU vs. West Virginia)
Over 45.5

Capital One Bowl (LSU vs. Iowa)
Iowa +7


Rose Bowl (Tex-ass vs. Michigan)
Dog (Michigan) with the money line (+230)

Fiesta Bowl (Utah vs. Pittsburgh)
Under 66

Sugar Bowl (Auburn vs. Virginia Tech)
Dog (VT) with the money line (+210)

Orange Bowl (USC vs. Oklahoma)
Stay Away From This One!

So, perhaps in commentary of the BCS system that orchestrated the game, the paper fortune teller advises us to stay away from making a pick in the Orange Bowl. Sage-like advice, indeed.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Why Nobody Like Richie? Why? 

Now that we're all feeling better about the state of the Mariners, maybe we should revisit the Richie Sexson signing with an open mind. Eh?

I was kind of taken aback by the hyper-negative reaction by M's Blogvania to this signing. I actually like it (full disclosure--I have a major soft spot for big guys who hit big homers). The reasoning behind those who despise the deal makes perfect sense and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean our fellow bloggers are right. I don't think they are. I think this is a case of risk-aversion gone berserk.

First, I'd like to make a case for Sexson the player. He's very good, you know. Whether you think he's being overpaid or not, and whether you think he's a major injury-risk or not, it's simply not accurate to say that he's not, when healthy, one of the elite players at his position. In 2003, his last full season, he finished the year among the top twenty players in baseball in total Win Shares. Among first basemen, he finished with the fifth most win shares in the Major Leagues. Was this an unusually great season for Sexson? No, it was the exact season he'd had in 2001 (okay, slightly better--he walked more), and it was only four win shares better than his 2002 season.

He's not Pujols, and he's not Jason Giambi in his prime (speaking of whom, lankiness has its virtues), but that doesn't make him "mediocre" as some are now labelling him. He is very, very good. There are probably five or six better first basemen (with a half-decent glove) in the world. Except for Mark Teixeira, they all make a lot of money.

Yeah, he popped his shoulder swinging a bat last year. From what I hear, this is an injury that, once surgically repaired, rarely reoccurs. I could eat these words later, but there are very few baseball players past the age of 25 who don't have a preexisting condition of some kind. That's just part of the risk of doing business. The fact that we all know about Sexson's doesn't make it an unacceptable long-term risk. We all have a tendency to believe that the information we have access to gives us an edge in making decisions, no matter how much information we don't have access to. I'll also point out that, not long ago, teams were scared to sign pitchers who had recently had Tommy John surgery. Now they're paying them to rehab.
One last point. Among the lukewarm-to-positive responses to the signing, many (including me) pointed to the Troy Glaus deal and said, "Well, if Glaus got eleven, why not twelve for Richie? You can't say the market's wrong." In response to this, some ranted that you can and, indeed, must say the market's wrong. To quote Dave from USS Mariner (and I don't mean to pick on the best M's blog in the universe, but):

There seems to be a school of thought that MLB is a captialist ideal where each player’s actual value is determined by what the top bidder is willing to pay for his services. The comment “Player X is worth his salary because that’s what the market is.” is idealistic crap.

It's all well and good to say that you think someone is overpaid, but to suggest that your personal opinion is, in general, a better determinant of "value" than an open market is not just idealistic crap, it's madness. No one ever said that baseball is the most efficient market in the world, and few people believe that markets are perfect, but--and this is the really key point--without markets, there is no such thing as value! Richie Sexson doesn't have an absolute value, so you can't say he's overpaid. He might hit 50 homers a year for the next four years, and in that time, player salaries might rise by a factor of three. You just don't know. The market-price school does not say that Richie Sexson is worth exactly what the M's are paying him. It just says that there is no better way to judge his value. And that's a fact.

Anyway, I understand that Dave was not really trying to make an anti-capitalist point, but there's a sense of flabberghasted, negative certainty among the stathead community that's getting out of control. Prices, over time, tend to rise. There's only one Richie Sexson. He's worth a lot of money.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004


I'm pinching myself to see if this is real. ESPN.com reports that the Mariners have signed Adrian Beltre to a 5-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $65 million. This just 24 hours after signing Richie Sexson to a 4-year deal. I never thought I'd say this, but great job, Bavasi.

But you're not done. the next thing to do may be the hardest, but get Andruw Jones from Atlanta. Find a way to make salaries balance out. Make what Billy Beane refers to as a "fucking-A trade." If it happens, the Mariners have the best Defense in baseball, and the pitching staff's ERA drops by half a run, minimum.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Are Pitchers and Catchers Reporting Yet? 

With the baseball hot stove slowly turning into a warm stew of questionable-or-worse trades and free-agent signings, I think it's time we got things going again here at Who Wants to Watch the World Series?, especially now that the Mariners have made their first major signing of the Dream-Team season (you know, the time of year when you can still imagine your team signing every one of the free agents they need, and you keep telling yourself, "If they had Sexon, Delgado, and Beltre...AND Renteria...that'd be quite a lineup!").

I don't really know what the deal with this offseason is, but, as has been noted ad-nauseum elsewhere, better-than-average players are really expensive. Four years at twelve million sure sounds like a lot for Richie Sexson to me, but what the hell do I know? You can't say the market's wrong. If Glaus is eleven million, I guess twelve isn't all that much. Anyway, he's a very good player if he can keep that socket from popping--as I'm sure we all pray that he can.

I think Delgado is a better player, and if this deal does anything to diminish the M's chances of signing Adrian Beltre, it wasn't worth it. Still, you could do a lot worse than a guy who hits 35+ homers every single year. Is he a difference maker at first base? I don't think so, no. But if he stays healthy, he's definitely a solid piece of the puzzle. But what should the M's do now to fill the holes around the Ichiro-Sexson core? I have some suggestions.

First, aggressively pursue Adrian Beltre. Just like everyone says you should. Forget Delgado, forget Beltran, and get Adrian Beltre in an M's uniform as soon as possible--that's my advice. 12-13 million per year for six years would be a good deal in this market.

Second, shop Randy Wynn and Raul Ibanez all over town. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that one of those two guys could get us something usefull. A mediocre starting pitcher, perhaps (I'm thinking Brad Penny, Adam Eaton, or Milwaukee's Doug Davis--someone like that). Or maybe a real shortstop prospect to plug in the nine-hole every day. Or maybe a DH who can take pitches and hit homeruns (while Ken Williams is blowing up the White Sox, maybe he wants to give away Frank Thomas--just as good as Delgado, much cheaper). The point is that Wynn and Ibanez are not good enough to keep around as DHs or First Basemen, and the outfield is full. Meanwhile, guys like Jermaine Dye are signing two-year $10 mil deals, which should make Wynn and Raul look quite attractive to teams missing an outfileder.

Third, make Meche the closer. I actually stole this idea from David at Your Thoughts Exactly, but it sounds like a good one to me. Why keep trying to force the poor guy to start a whole season? Sounds like he's just not built for it. But he's still young, he's got great stuff, and he's got great control. All he's missing is a stupid-looking goatee.

Fourth, sign Matt Clement (if he's less than $10 mil per year). This guy is just coming into his own, and he's at that age when a lot of guys like him put it together for a strong three-year stretch. Watching him as a Cubs fan has always made me very nervous, but you can't argue with his numbers. I'm probably just spoiled from watching Prior, Wood, Zambrano, and Maddux, the four of whom I have just decided to rename "The Proodbranux"). God, I love The Proodbranux.

As last year proved, just a few questionable moves can turn a good but aging team into a joke. But, as Billy Beane's tenure in Oakland has proved, it's always possible to put together a competitive team, under any circumstances, even on short notice, especially when other teams are overspending on household names.

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