Sunday, January 24, 2010
Theory: Sean Casey isn't all that nice (a misguided sabermetric analysis)
Thorzul posted today when going through one of his group breaks that Sean Casey is pretty universally recognized as one of the nicest guys in baseball. I don't know Sean Casey. Have never met him. Never interacted with him. But I have a theory that he really isn't the nicest guy in baseball. He's just sort of average nice but given the circumstances of other players' interactions with him, he is made out to be extremely nice. Let me explain.
As with any good theory, we have to make assumptions about the conditions in which we are operating. Assumption 1 is that Sean Casey did not become recognized as a nice guy until 2001. Up until 2000 he was still a young guy, probably kept quiet, maybe even went unnoticed. Then things changed in 2001.
What happened in 2001? The Reds pitching fell apart. Here is the Reds staff ERA rank in the NL out of sixteen teams by year:
That is five years of subpar pitching. Five years where opposing teams hitters were getting hits and drawing walks at a frequency not encountered anywhere else in the National League. Now imagine you are an opposing player facing the Reds in a three game series. Chances are you reached first a lot. Chances are you were feeling good about yourself and how your team was doing. You get down there and the first baseman says "Hey, nice hit". Next time up you draw a walk and you hear "Good eye up there". Maybe you get out the next time but the next time up you single again and you get a word of encouragement again. By the end of the series, you might have had 7 or 8 encounters with this "friendly" first baseman. Maybe you say something to one of your teammates and they have experienced the same thing.
This goes on for five years. Five years, every time you face the Reds you seem to have a good game and there is Sean Casey with his two or three little words of encouragement waiting for you down at first base.
Who do opposing players encounter more than the first baseman? The catcher but the umpire is always there too making things awkward. Plus, Casey was there ALL THE TIME. The only National League first baseman to play more games for one team during that time was Todd Helton and Helton always had that scary beard going on.
Maybe Casey is really nice but let's not discount the possibility that he just had more opportunities to than anyone else and that even a modest level of friendliness seems like a lot when you're having your third straight three hit game and your team is winning 12-2.