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:
2001: 14
2002: 11
2003: 15
2004: 15
2005: 16

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.

5 comments:

--Transfixed Ingress said...

You're extrapolating that bad ERA means lots of guys standing around on first base. Where's the numbers? Do we have statistics for how many times someone is standing on first base? And how duration? Either in # of batters or time?

Of course you presume he's down there chatting them all and being all nice - I'll even give you that (albeit a stretch in my mind). But I won't let you simply state ERA = men standing on first. Prove it.

Mark's Ephemera said...

--TI,

I think that there is a correlation between ERA and the number of batsmen that arrive at first base.

Looking at the Hits/9 innings info for the same years that MG provided there are similarities:

Year : Team ERA : H/9
2001 : 14 : 16
2002 : 11 : 15
2003 : 15 : 14
2004 : 15 : 14
2005 : 16 : 16

Does this prove that bad ERA = lots of guys standing around on first base? No, but it could show is that for these five years, the Cincy club almost invited their opponents to come to first base, even if only on the way to second.

My guess is that Sean had some sort of interaction with them, whether just a nod of respect or some innocent, not-cruel comment.

I don't know what happens, conversation wise, at the bases, but I'm guessing that it won't be too confrontational. The First Baseman knows that he'll be seeing that batter again, especially if his team is pitching poorly and it is a division rival. Creating bad blood doesn't do much good. I can't really see a runner hearing something bad from the First Baseman, throwing down his batting gloves and going to town as if they were in a hockey game.

Speaking of that, when the baseball benches clear for a brawl, do the catchers seek each other out?

Mad Guru said...

Gentlemen,

This was intended as tongue-in-cheek. If I'm going to do rigorous analysis of anything it's not going to be to find Sean Casey's NI in ROF situations (Niceness Index in Runners On First situations). It was food for thought. We hear stuff so much that it becomes fact and we just take it for granted. I, for one, am just not going to accept willy-nilly that Sean Casey is a nice guy.

night owl said...

Nice analysis ;)

Now, let me go beyond the numbers:

I've talked to Sean Casey. I know others who have talked to Sean Casey. We all think he's a nice guy. I've heard stories about the nice things he's done. So, based on all that I'm going to say he's a very nice guy.

The game ain't played on paper you know :)

Mad Guru said...

Cow holy. I'm glad I removed the section in the first draft where I wrote about Casey's suspected dealings with Al Qaeda. I expect I'll be hearing from Sean's mom soon.