An open letter to RJ Anderson

[ In response to RJ's article ]

What kind of a valid argument is really presented when the players pointed to as being "not good" aren't even with the team?  Further, I think there's a flaw in using WAR thresholds as proof positive of "good" and "bad. "What about Alberto Arais (.4 WAR in 32IP), LaTroy Hawkins (per ZIPS ROS 3.79 FIP...that's bad? Currently 23% LD% that'll likely come down), Jose Valverde (.3 WAR in 24IP)? Those guys are somehow bad? Or is it that because of limited playing time, thus far in 2009, they just haven’t accumulated an arbitrarily decided upon WAR threshold to "prove" they’re "good." To me, it seems more like the evidence present in this article isn't capturing a lot of the things that it intended.

15 days of no Lance Berkman somehow sinks the Astros in an NL Central in which even Matt Holliday to the Cardinals isn't enough to shake things up significantly?  Maybe the Astros not legitimate playoff contenders in other divisions, but does that make them not good relative to their divisional peers?  So perhaps "good" needs a stronger definition for this thesis to be more acceptable.  I would think that the context of the Astros division would likely be important.  BtB's latest Poor Man Standing's projects a four game spread between 1st and 4th in the NL Central with 84W's taking it.  Are any of those teams "good"?

The luck article pointed seems a little wonky in its methodology (estimating using an estimate? I'd like to see a justification for that).  Further, the Astros traditional Pythag Record is skewed by the fact that when back end starters have been bad—they've been really, really bad.  Does that actually speak to the quality of the team? I don't think so.  So, please, convince me.  I think accomplishing this task would take far more than macro analysis stats and a lot more actual knowledge of the team than has been demonstrated in this article.  However, I’m certainly open to the idea that the Astros are not a good team, possibly even a bad team, and that an objective case could be made for it, but that hasn’t been accomplished in your article.

I utilize Fangraphs just about every time I sit down to write about the Astros.  Sabermetrics drives my thinking and analysis of this team in just about all instances and yet I'm struck by the logical flaw present in this article.  It pretty much only uses evidence that supports its claim without justifying a) Why the terrible performance of players not currently on the Astros roster are some how relevant for their future, b) why the WAR thresholds you chose are valid and how it is that certain player’s who have seen limited playing time, but have outstanding WAR-rates don’t count as "good" players, and c) why Matt's article is a valid methodology that is universally applicable.  In other words, it presumes to be true what it intends to prove without providing proper justification for the presumption.  I genuinely respect your work wherever you publish it and owe a huge debt of gratitude to FanGraphs, but this reads like a recycled argument with logical loopholes that need to be addressed before I put stock into this argument.

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