16 December 2003

Flashes of Adequacy

Douglas Coupland has “Generation X.” to characterize anyone born between 1968 and 1988, especially if they’re lazy or indifferent.

Pat Riley’s got “Threepeat”, so that now even when the Bulls or Lakers win back3back championships, he makes money.

Somebody came up with LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY) to characterize the Dan Plesacs, Buddy Grooms and Jesse Oroscos of the world. Write me if you know whom, so I can give them credit.

And now it’s my chance to coin a term.


The St. Louis Cardinals yesterday announced the signing of LAIM Jeff Suppan for two years and $6 million.

LAIM stands for “League-Average Innings Muncher” and is generally applicable to the likes of Jeff Suppan, Dave Burba, Steve Trachsel, Sidney Ponson, and lots of other pitchers.

Some pitchers, like Suppan, are basically LAIM their entire career, racking up about 200 or more innings without their league adjusted ERA deviating from average by more than 10 or 15% in any given season, and typically ending up within about 5% over the courses of their careers.

Some pitchers, like Aaron Sele, Rick Helling and Charles Nagy, have the benefit of spending the majority of their LAIM career pitching for a good team, and so they win many more games than you might expect for such a LAIM guy. Hence, their LAIMness is disguised somewhat, to the casual observer.

Some pitchers, like Orel Hersheiser, were once great, but due to injuries and/or ineffectiveness, become LAIM and finish out their careers that way. David Wells and Roger Clemens come to mind. (Hey, this isn’t a knock on either of them: If you’re good enough that the “tapering off” stage of your career looks like about 200 innings with an approximately average ERA, you must be pretty talented, right?)

Some pitchers are so bad/inconsistent/often-injured when they start their careers that they aspire to be LAIM and consider it an accomplishment when they plateau for a while, making 32-35 starts and racking up a 4.30-4.70 ERA. (cf. Chris Haney, 1996 and Brian Anderson, 1998)

LAIM pitchers are most certainly not useless ones. You can't jst take them out into the back pasture and shoot them, even with a water pistol. You have to get those ~200 innings pitched anyway, and it’s better to let one Jeff Suppan do it than, say, Brian Meadows, Rob Bell and Joe Beimel, right? I mean, at least you know what you’re getting, it’s better than awful, and you get it just about every time out there: Mediocrity at its finest. You can pencil those guys in to be Decent-if-Unspectacular 30 to 35 times a year, and that’s what you get.

On a good team, only the fourth/fifth starters will be LAIM, while the first two or three rotation slots will be filled with somewhat more studly fare. One measure of a team’s quality, and perhaps more usefully, its understanding of what is needed to win, is how the front office bills the signings of/trades for LAIM pitchers. If they make a lot of fanfare and/or pay more than about $5 million/year to a LAIM pitcher, they clearly don’t get it. If, on the other hand, they use phrases like “shoring up” or “filling out” the rotation, or they talk about “consistency” more than “greatness”, maybe they understand that this LAIM guy is useful, but replaceable, and not worth overspending for.

And, if you’re lucky and he has a decent year or wins more games than you’d expect but your team is out of the race, you can trade him to some unsuspecting contender for prospects. Their GM will think they’re getting a stud for the home stretch when really the guy was just LAIM all along. And you make out like a bandit.

So there you have it: hopefully the newest term to catch on inthe baseball world. Be sure to give proper credit. You heard (or read) it here first. LAIM. League Average Innings-Muncher.

Now go tell your friends.


By the way, if you like historical comparisons, go check out Dan McLaughlin's Baseball Crank, with a look at Bob Gibson vs. Pete Alexander. Should be pretty interesting.

Also, Alex Belth has an interview with Tom Verducci, whom, I hear, has written a little himself. Some sports magazine, I think. Should also be good.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: