September 10, 2012
Reading Lolita in Teheran, Part 1: Intro and Losing Focus
I want to do something experimental.
I promise that I'll eventually get back to spattering the pages of BP with the blood and regression coefficients that you've come to expect from me. But for right now, I want to do something different. I want to write a concept album. I want to talk about player development. And I have no idea if this is going to work.
It's something of a forbidden lust for a numbers guy to get into the business of talking about prospects and player development. After all, we stat guys are supposed to be spending our time setting humane scout traps baited with extra fancy stopwatches and radar guns. I used to release the ones that I caught in an abandoned field 25 miles away. They always somehow found their way back with a report about a guy with projectable 70 power, but concerns about how his hit tool would play. Then again, in my head, this makes complete sense. I spent six years in graduate school studying, teaching, and diagnosing problems in child and adolescent development. So, why not apply it to baseball?
On what turned out to be one of the final episodes of "Up and In," Jason Parks answered an e-mail question by encouraging sabermetricians to open up to new ideas of what could be considered a data set. Oddly enough, it was Jason's series on "What Could Go Wrong?" from the beginning of the year that inspired what I am about to undertake... and which will serve as my data set.
The "What Could Go Wrong" series was a veritable catalog of, well, things that could go wrong with the developmental process of a baseball player. It's tempting to think of player development as a nice, linear process by which everyone gets a little bit better as the years go by. The problem is that this doesn't describe development of any kind. It goes in fits and spurts, and there are plenty of pitfalls. Some players who have massive potential never realize it. Some seem to peak at age 22 and never get better. Some actually take steps backward. Need proof?