Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Inanity of ESPN

I was watching ESPN's Baseball Tonight the other day, and they mentioned Brett Favre. By itself this wouldn't be particularly surprising, as it's ALWAYS appropriate to work the 40-year-old quarterback into media coverage of any kind. No, what was shocking to me was the context of the mention, when they implied that the impact Jim Thome would have on the Twins would be comparable to the impact Favre had on the Vikings.

Lull in the conversation? Let's talk about Brett Favre!

There are so many things wrong with this that I hardly know where to begin, so let's start with the obvious: comparing baseball to football is like comparing apples to tires. Take the sport with by far the most games, and compare it to the one with the fewest, and then take it one step further and take a DH and compare him to a quarterback. If you had to choose the position on the diamond to dub the "quarterback" it would be catcher, and maybe pitcher, center fielder, or shortstop, but never designated hitter.

Then there's the sheer inanity of the idea that one [aging] hitter could have a season-changing effect on a team. In 2008, Thome had a WARP of 2.9. To put that in perspective, his new teammate Joe Mauer had a WARP of 7.1. Bill James predicts that Thome's 2010 line will look something like this: .245 BA, .374 OBP, 29 HR, 81 RBI. I'm not trying to belittle a line like that, since it would be rather impressive, but (as much as it pains me to say it) what Favre did for the Vikings was pretty special, leading them to a 12-4 record and the playoffs. If Thome can have that kind of impact on the Twins season, expect them to finish some where around 122-40.

I actually hope Thome does well with the Twins: I like them (unless they're playing us), and I'm always impressed with their ability to field such a good team for reasonable cash. However, the ESPN analysts need to do some work on their comparison skills, and here's a special tip: I never turn on Baseball Tonight to hear about Brett Favre.

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