"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Baseball Prospectus

Redbird Backlash

From my pal Brian Gunn:

I have some friends—Cardinals fans—who went to a game in Yankee Stadium in 2003. During a rain delay a segment of Yanks’ fans in the bleachers began serenading them with the sing-songy chant, “Dar-ryl Kile!… Dar-ryl Kile!” This was about a year after Kile, ace pitcher for the Cardinals, died suddenly in a Chicago hotel room. Now, do I hold this assholery against all Yankees fans, much less all of New York City? Of course not. That’d just be innumerate crap.

But of course we do this all the time: Red Sox fans, you often hear, are loudmouths; Dodgers fans are too distracted to arrive at the game before the fourth inning; Cubs fans are just there for the beer and brats. These are lazy stereotypes, false more often than not; yet places like Deadspin and Grantland and Bloomberg have no problem pushing these clichés as if they were actual think pieces.

The truth is, there are literally millions of Cardinals fans throughout the country—a mix of earnest Midwesterners, shrill dickheads, corny suburban dads, jorts-wearing dudes with rattails, hedge fund managers, soybean farmers, restaurateurs, night-shift nurses, old folks, schoolkids, PhD students, carpool moms, ex-cons, and that one guy who used to live down the street from you. For a sportswriter to think he has a handle on a fan base this big and diverse is so wrong-headed you feel kinda silly pointing it out.


When Nerds Collide

Check out this cleverness from BP:



Over at Baseball Prospectus, Sam Miller has a fun piece about Error Faces.

Check it out.

[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News]

Going Prospecting

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein runs down the Yanks’ Top 11 prospects. Here’s some tidbits on the big names:

1. Jesus Montero, C

The Good: . . . plus-plus power and hitting ability. . . . excellent bat speed, fantastic hands, quick wrists, and immense strength . . . drive balls out of any part of the park while maintaining a high batting average. . . . continued improvement in his approach . . .

The Bad: . . . remains a well below-average catcher . . . just isn’t designed to play to position. . . . poor receiver who handcuffs balls. . . trouble blocking pitches in the dirt, . . . arm strength  mitigated by the amount of time it takes his immense frame to get out of a crouch and release the ball. . . .

2. Manny Banuelos, LHP

The Good: . . . added significant velocity in 2010, with a fastball that suddenly was sitting at 92-94 mph while touching 96. His changeup is a true plus offering with excellent fade and deception . . . consistency with it rarely found in a pitcher so young. . . . a good curve, . . . extremely easy mechanics and clean arm action that combine to provide above-average command and control.

The Bad: . . .  curveball can be inconsistent, and he clearly loses feel for the pitch at times. . . . small frame is cause for some concern, and he has yet to throw more than 109 innings in a season, so his ability to handle a big-league workload is unproven.

4. Dellin Betances, RHP

The Good: . . . fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, consistently touches 97 mph, features some natural tailing action, and that’s not even his best pitch, power curveball . . . comes in hard and then falls off the table. . . . made some progress with a changeup, . . . delivery is much cleaner than the one from his pre-surgery days.

The Bad: . . . only pitched 85 1/3 innings last year, has thrown less than 300 in his five years as a pro, and he needs to prove that he can maintain his stuff over a full season. His changeup is still highly inconsistent, as he can lose feel on it and overthrow. He has put significant bulk on his frame over the past three years, and conditioning could be an issue down the road.

7. Andrew Brackman, RHP

The Good: . . . fastball generally sits in the low 90s, touches 96 mph, and his height adds considerable downward plane to the pitch, leading to plenty of ground balls. His curve was once a fringy offering, but he’s refined it into an easy plus offering by focusing more on spin than velocity. . .  scouts noted a much more consistent delivery.

The Bad: . . . had starts where his heat sat at 90-92, and others where he rarely went below 94, and still had some occasional struggles with finding the strike zone. His changeup remains a below-average pitch, as he telegraphs it with notably different arm action.

Bosom Buddies

Picking up on her Varsity Letters presentation, here’s Emma’s debut article for Baseball Prospectus:

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the maxim that if you can imagine it, there’s porn about it on the Internet. That’s no joke. It was only a few years ago that I first learned of fan fiction, when a friend explained that one of his coworkers not only contributed to, but ran, an extensive website entirely dedicated to fan-written stories about the characters from the animated series Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. The stories that turned sexual—yes, stories about cartoon chipmunks that turn sexual—were called slash fiction, named for the typographic symbol in the “Kirk/Spock” liaisons that launched the genre in the 1970s.

Naturally, this prompted my friends and I to go online and see if there was any kind of subject, anything at all, and that did not have something pornographic written about it and posted on the Internet. The answer: not really, no. We couldn’t find anything pairing Jay Leno with bandleader Kevin Eubanks, but that was about it.

What we did discover was a trove of imagined romance and sex between baseball players, on multiple websites. I thought that over the years I’d seen most of the dark corners of sports fandom, but as it turns out, I still was not fully prepared for baseball fan fiction. If you’ve thought about it at all, you might expect to find quite a few tales of Jeter and A-Rod, and those are certainly there. But I was less braced for just how prominently players like, for example, Doug Mirabelli feature. You just do not ever expect to encounter the phrase, to quote one story, “Doug Mirabelli’s huge, unlubed…”

Well—Doug Mirabelli’s huge, unlubed anything, really. Let’s leave it at that.

Hey, Now…

Happy PECOTA Day!

There’s a movement to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday; I don’t know about that, but today I’d be all for it because it’s also PECOTA Day, when Baseball Prospectus unveils its yearly projections regardless of what that silly groundhog might’ve said last week. Always fun to look at, and today, the site is free to all, subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

I’ll try to check in later with some thoughts once I’ve had a chance to take a good look.

Sherman and Mr. Peabody set sail for 1997

I recently picked up a used copy of Baseball Prospectus 1997, which was the first mass-produced annual from Messrs. Sheehan, Davenport, Kahrl, et. al. (The 1996 edition was self-published).

Here are some of the player comments based on the 1996 seasons for the now “Core Four”, and the current manager:

Derek Jeter:

Impressive debut, overshadowed by the historic season of Alex Rodriguez. Jeter hit a little better than expected and his defense, questioned in the minors, was steady all year. Odd development during the year: he hit .277 with a good walk rate and very little power in the first half, .350 with more power but few walks in the second. I expect him to keep the average and power, improve the strikeout and walk numbers and be a great player. . .

Mariano Rivera:

. . . quite possibly the most important player in baseball in that his dominance, or more accurately the threat of it, dictated the flow of the postseason. Rivera has a great fastball and not much else, which is why his current role may actually be perfect for him, allowing him to go through the lineup once but still be used more than a typical closer.

Recent history tells us that 100-inning relievers disappear quickly, but there are reasons to believe Rivera will be an exception: 1) despite the high IP total, he wasn’t used in an abusive way. No 70-pitch outings or being used for 25 pitches four straight nights; 2) he was a starter, so he’s used to a higher workload than the relievers who have burnt out and 3) he doesn’t throw a dangerous pitch, like a split-finger or slider.


What are you doing on January 29th?

January 29th, 2011 is the annual SABR Day, with SABR chapters hosting events nationwide to celebrate the grand old game and publicize SABR.

In New York, our chapter will be teaming up with the folks from Baseball Prospectus for a gathering at Foley’s Pub in Manhattan.  The list of guests is quite impressive (including SNY’s Gary Cohen, and MLB.COM’s Cory Schwartz), and for $20, you get to nosh and schmooze and hobnob with some of the brightest minds in the game.

You need NOT be a member of SABR, or a subscriber to Baseball Prospectus to attend.  However, tickets are going fast (less than 20 left at this writing). (update) now sold out.

Hope to see you there!

(image: slurvemag.com)

Rest Assured

Javy Vazquez will not pitch against the Red Sox this weekend in Boston.

Yesterday, Jay Jaffe, took a detailed look at Vazquez over at BP:

Taking a more dramatic route, if not necessarily a smarter one, the Yanks could also start Sergio Mitre in Vazquez’s stead, though it’s tough to imagine Mitre’s lone supporter (Girardi) subjecting a pitcher with a career ERA of 5.48 to such brutality even given Boston’s recent struggles. More elaborate solutions are unlikely, at least at this juncture, given that the Yankees have few places to stash an $11.5-million pitcher in a funk. In years past, struggling pitchers like Jeff Weaver or Jose Contreras have been sent to the team’s spring training facility to work with pitching guru Billy Connors, taking the so-called “Tampa Cure.” But that would require a DL stint, and thus far, nobody has suggested Vazquez is injured. Short of a serious injury which could shelve the struggling starter for awhile, the one thing the Yankees almost certainly won’t do is haul Chamberlain back to the rotation, particularly given the concerns they have about their set-up corps, with Chan Ho Park lost to a hamstring injury and David Robertson and Damaso Marte just lost, period.

So the Yankees and their fans will have to endure Vazquez for the foreseeable future. Which shouldn’t be so hard, given that they sit at 16-8, with the second-best record in the AL, and that despite the weight of his personal history in the Bronx and in the league, Vazquez’s current rough patch still amounts to only five starts. In recent years, upstanding hurlers such as Sabathia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Justin Verlander have overcome similarly ugly season-opening patches to wind up ranking among the majors’ top pitchers, and a change in Vazquez’s fortunes may only be a mechanical tweak or two away.

Even with his patchy situational stats, it’s simply too early to resort to panic over a pitcher not expected to carry the team, one whose overall track record is as long and as solid as Vazquez’s is. Expect Cashman, Girardi, and company to resist the temptation to resort to more drastic measures—firing squad, stoning, trepanning, or Clockwork Orange-style loops of the 2004 ALCS—while riding out the storm for a while longer.

[photo credit: YOM]

On The Banks Of The Old Raritan

alma mater

Steven Goldman and I will return to our alma mater to promote Baseball Prospectus 2009 at the Rutgers University Bookstore tonight at 6pm. Jay Jaffe will join us for the hour-long Q&A, and Allan Barra will also be there to talk about his new Yogi Berra biography.

The Raritan, incidentally, is among the 20 most polluted rivers in the nation. It’s unswimmable and unfishable and at times can be as much as 50 percent sewage. It is also the water source for many of the homes and buildings in central New Jersey. I remember that, in the dorms, the water in the showers would smell “different” after a heavy rain. I also have a theory that the water from the Raritan (which does go through purification plants) is responsible for some of the stomach problems I developed in college. At one point during my juinior year, I ate almost exclusively cerial and packaged foods as everything else was cooked in or otherwise contained the local water and would upset my stomach.

So, come see Steve, Jay, Allan, and me tonight and ask us everything you need to know for your upcoming fantasy draft or about baseball in general past, present, and future. Just don’t drink the water.

In an unrelated note, I have a piece up on SI.com about the impact of the WBC upon the health and performance of its participants. Given that the Yankees didn’t let any of their starting pitchers participate, they don’t have anything to worry about.

Come See About Me

Alex and Diane have both been kind enough to mention this already, but I just wanted to post a reminder that I will be appearing at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center this Sunday at 2pm along with Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein, Christina Kahrl, Jay Jaffe, and Neil deMause. This is ostensibly to promote Baseball Prospectus 2009, which we all contributed to (Banter readers note that the Yankees team essay was among my contributions), but for you it’s $6 (or free if you buy a book) to see Yogi’s museum and pepper some of the best baseball minds on the net with questions for two hours.

If you can’t make it on Sunday, I’ll also be at the 18th St. Barnes & Nobel in Manhattan on Thursday March 12 and the Rutgers University Bookstore in New Brunswick, NJ on Thursday March 26.


Prior to my postmortem this morning, I’ve been relatively quiet this week. The main reason for that is that all of my attempts to write about baseball have come out looking something like this.

Still, baseball is never far from my mind, and that was all the more true this week as the election results proved something I’ve known for a long time: Nate Silver knows a thing or two about statistics and projections. By using the sort of corrections and adjustments Baseball Prospectus has long used to normalize baseball stats, Nate normalized the polls and predicted Obama’s popular vote win down to within a tenth of a percentage point based on the votes counted thus far. As for the electoral college, out of the 50 states, the only one he projected incorrectly was Indiana, which he had as a slim red state and wound up just going blue by less than a percentage point, backing the Democratic candidate for the first time since 1964. It seems he also will have missed the one electoral vote for the Omaha area of Nebraska, but that vote was so close, it still hasn’t been called one way or the other. Still, that’s all he missed.

If you need further proof that the BP statisticians know what they’re doing, check out my last post and note how VORP, SNLVAR, and WXLR explain the difference between the 2007 and 2008 Yankees down to the win. Some who know that I’ve edited and contributed to several Baseball Prospectus books might accuse me of being a shill for the group, but those who know me well know I wouldn’t have participated in those projects if I didn’t believe in the quality of the work they do. I just hope they’re smart enough to cash in on Nate’s newfound fame.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver