Lyle Spencer Twitter Orgy of Jeff Mathis Love Embarrasses All Who Cover the Game

Do You See What I See?
In case you are just joining us, Major League Baseball employs a baseball writer to cover the Angels named Lyle Spencer. If you were directing a movie about Lyle's relationship to Angels fans and you called central casting and asked for a crusty, backward dinosaur so blinded by the smug arrogance of his lofty journalistic post that he was laughably out of touch with two generations of his readers who were more educated about the subject he covered, central casting would inform your movie studio that your screenplay was too clichéd to ever be believable.

While Major League Baseball claims that its reporters are independent voices, it is just too suspicious that the easiest thing for a casual fan to criticize about the Angels is manager Mike Scioscia's commitment to playing catcher Jeff Mathis because of intangible Catcher skills. Mathis is a terrible batter but his defenders cite his game-calling ability and defense behind the plate. There are few, if any, statistical measurements of Catching that reveal Mathis to be anything but beyond ordinary. As a batter, he is one of a handful of non-pitching players in history with 1300 Plate Appearances and a batting average under the Mendoza line of .200, and the only one with no definable defensive greatness beyond the word of Mike Scioscia and Lyle Spencer.

Add in these facts:

  • Mike Napoli was traded away this offseason and has gone on to handle the pitching staff of the Texas Rangers just fine and has produced with the bat at a stellar level.
  • The very blogging analysts that Lyle Brontosaurus regularly mocks with snide asides were the most vociferous against Mathis last season.
  • Said peanut gallery was the most passionate against the trade of Napoli for Vernon Wells this offseason.
  • Core blogosphere continues to point out the stunning negative production on both ends of the plate by Mathis.

In the face of this, Lyle Spencer has stridently painted himself into a corner regarding the alleged greatness of Jeff Mathis. This morning, after a particularly bitter loss to the Rangers, Spencer took to Twitter (not happy with his mlb.com Bully Pulpit) to glorify the great mediocrity of Jeff Mathis and bemoan those of us who would criticize this Double-A hack.

I have assembled Lyle's tweets from this morning and removed hashtags and response codes. Here is all that Lyle Spencer had to say this morning, in tweet-by-tweet-by-pathetic-tweet, after the Angels fell to five games behind Arlington...

Catching is 80 percent defense. Offense is icing. Mathis is an excellent receiver.

This is pure opinion. There is no research that supports Lyle Spencer's "80%". All statistical research has shown that catching defense, while admittedly difficult to measure in a manner that it can be solidly quantified, has no demonstrable need to be so singled out in a player that the potential offense from the position can or should be mitigated. The difference between a league average defender at the position and a great defender at the position is minimal. To quantify that minimal difference as 80% is a random calibration that this egomaniac writer/twitterer has pulled from the ether. It means nothing. And there is no way to quantify "excellent" other than, again, it is one man's opinion, a man who has not shown he can persuasively analyze baseball at the ability with which his exclusive job description might imply.

I like Conger a lot. His time is coming. The vemon [sic] toward Mathis is counterproductive and out of proportion to reality. Not sure why but Angels followers come out of woodwork on nights like this. They're quiet in good times.

Here is Lyle holding the pom-poms of mlb.com, cheerleading a minor league prospect who has been robbed of MLB playing time by an outdated approach to lineup management. Tool Spencer is a better byline. The "venom" toward Mathis is a mass-comprehension of what the Angels gave up with Napoli, the paucity of the return received and the refusal ...and that is important REFUSAL, not NOT inability... the refusal of the team to try to fill the absence of Napoli's bat in a sickly offensive lineup. And Lyle Pressbox doesn't understand why we come out of the woodwork on nights of complete failure? What, we don't appreciate the blueberry pie at the pressbox cafeteria? And note his choice of "followers" - semiotically implying that we are brain-dead and passive in our thinking, as opposed to fans. Maybe we fans are quiet in good times because it is just such a relief to win with this Napoli/Conger-free lineup that we cannot afford to upset the natural order of things.

Mathis entered late in the game when it was 8-4. If my math is correct the 27 outs Jeff Mathis has a firm hand in creating are 9 times more valuable than 3 he gives up with bat.

The implication is that a catcher has a firm hand in creating the outs that we usually assign to pitchers. Hey, let's channel Ron Paul. What would the free market say about this? The free market would say that a player is paid on his ability to excel at his job. Free agent pitchers make way more than free agent catchers. Pitchers are supposed to get 27 outs every five games. If catchers were truly responsible for "firm-handing" 27 outs for four out of five of those games, their salaries would dwarf that of Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Gonzalez. But catching salaries are in line with average position player salaries. You wanna know why? Because the impact of catchers affects a single digit of those 27 outs in even the most involved defensive catching situations and the market reflects this in its catching salary valuations.

Resorting to name calling over disagreements never accomplishes anything. It is childish behavior

Being a smug elitist, though, has served Lyle Spencer quite well. Learn from the master. Discredit your opponents with a sneer instead of accurate arguments and ongoing dialogue.

Mathis has produced a lot more Ws than Ls with his 27. Gets no credit for Ws inordinate blame for Ls.

The pitchers record the 27 outs. Look at the box score. Where is the handy stat that reveals the Catcher's relationship to those outs? There is none. If there were, Mathis might be in the negative some games. He should get no credit until his ole can be measured and for Lyle to imply that this ability is apparent without explaining the specifics is your basic journalistic hubris made scarce (but not extinct) by the democracy of the internet.

Napoli has benefited by getting into fresh environment. Same would happen to Mathis. Hope it happens this winter.

How do you quantify "fresh environment" instead of simply looking at, oh, maybe that elusive stat of "how he always did with regular playing time". And note Lyle Spencer lamenting the victim status of Jeff Mathis. There is something inherently "unfresh" about the catching environment in Anaheim. Mike Napoli was pretty good here and is now pretty good in the fresh environment of Arlington. Mathis is lousy here and will benefit by not being here? The logic is assaulted by the pathos.

Most undervalued in franchise history by far. 94, 97 100 wins his first 3 years. No credit at all.

Mathis was not the catcher in all those victories, not that it matters a whit. He gets no credit at all because his offensive production has been negative for his career, in those seasons specifically, and there is no way to factor in his defensive contributions in a manner that has any meaningful impact on what his batting failed to produce.

Mathis had one AB. Can we at least be fair for a change?

If the dialogue about Mathis were just about last night, all would be fair. But the criticism of Mathis has been quite fair, with stats telling the story and defenders of Jeff relying on fairy dust and assertions of superior analytical skills that are left unexplained. This latter method has the initials B.S.

Catchers guide defense and call pitches. They are most valuable aspect of defense. Sorry so few grasp that.

Where are the numbers for this in the box score? Why is Mathis such a great "guide" when Jered Weaver is pitching but not when Joel Pineiro is pitching? Why don't catchers make four times the salary that pitchers do?

No. You all win. I'm begging Angels to move Mathis this winter so he can get clean slate like buddy Nap. He needs out of this.

Jeff needs out of what? Out of internet criticism? I would wager, strongly wager, that Mathis doesn't read anything much more than his email on the internet. We all win because Lyle Spencer cannot pontificate from the castle tower any more without hearing the cries of the crowd below, the logical analysis of his methodologies are gaining traction and his reputation as a hack is becoming solidified because he picked a fight he had no idea required preparation for which he was not intellectually nor emotionally equipped. And so his sobbing for Jeff is a sobbing for what it once meant to be a mainstream reporter.

Catchers are heart of any defense. Every good manager will tell you that. Not just Mike.

Are shortstops the liver? is Howie Kendrick our team's kidneys? What will every good doctor tell you?

You'd be surprised. I'd love to see Mathis in Milwaukee or Cincinnati or TB. Even Boston. Can see him excelling all those places

Want to bet your job on it? Of course, Lyle Spencer has been insisting that Jeff Mathis has excelled in Anaheim, so the definition of "excel" falls under the umbrella of "weasel words"

OK. I'm done with the Mathis subject. Feel free to hack away at will. Have fun.

Lyle Spencer is under the impression that he can take his ball and go home. How can bloggers be derided in the presence of outrageously obtuse hacks in the professional sphere?

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