It seems like Griffin has been a little muted lately (even to the point of the Toronto Star blog featuring some numbers and a graphy thing on Halladay the other day Cathal Kelly, you turncoat!). But of course he’s all over this Frank Thomas release, and calls it the “worst FA signing in Toronto history“.
I’m not going to get into the completely-subjective rankings, except to say that it’s hard to call the Burnett contract one of the worst in team history when he is 100% guaranteed to opt out of it at the end of the season because he’s not being paid enough. (And in fact, The Hardball Times salary calculator says that by putting up pretty good numbers for 150 innings on average the Jays have already ended up 542,464 ahead of the free agent game by signing him. But then they’re looking at all those stupid stats about how many hitters a pitcher gets out instead of wins, wins, WINS!!)
But Griffin has broken new ground here by repeatedly using one of Dusty Baker’s favorite phrases, “clogging the bases”, to explain why the one year we got out of Hurt wasn’t even very good even though he made fewer outs than anyone else on the team. It’s the sort of thing that isn’t just dumb but actually makes people who believe that numbers might have something to do with scoring runs go into convulsions. No question that Frank Thomas has less value as a baserunner than your average player, but “clogging” implies that it’s actually a bad thing to have him on base, yes? Let’s think about how that could happen:
Thomas is on First Base
- Someone hits a double and Thomas does not make it to third, stopping the batter at first. This has never happened.
- Someone hits what could be stretched into a triple but Thomas stops at third. Slightly more plausible. (That had better be a burner behind him though, because he still chugs around from first on a double occasionally).
Thomas is on Second Base
- With a runner on first, Thomas does not score on a single, thus stopping the runner from going first to third. If only it wasn’t for all this clogging, the team could have a runner on third instead of runners on second and third! The pain of it all!
- Thomas stops someone from stealing second by being there already. The team is not able to risk a 30% chance of being thrown out to get a runner in scoring position because there is already one there. Again, simply a terrible result.
Thomas is on Third Base
- With nobody out, Thomas does not score on a middle-range sac fly/fielder’s choice that would have allowed the runner on second to advance to third, which would have set up another sac/fly fielder’s choice that again doesn’t advance Thomas but would have scored the other guy. This is known as the “planets aligning” theory of how you score runs. Personally, I’ll take the runners on second and third with nobody out since on average teams score AN EXTRA RUN in that situation.
So how often does “clogging” really happen in a season? 2? 3? And how much better would the team be exactly if he had just made an out about 40 more times like your average hitter instead? Baserunners suck. I hate baserunners. Let’s just keep everything open so the team can just whizzzzz around the bases one at a time. Take that, you clunky, 3-run home run hitting Yankees!