Want to set a Hall of Fame voter straight? Here's how to do it.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Derek offered a handy guide to persuading Hall of Fame voters to see things your way in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Prospectus Toolbox" column on January 22, 2008.
An overview of a series that features all four leagues' champions this time around.
Normally, I'd start this preview by setting the scene in Mexicali, Mexico, the site of this year's Caribbean Series-you know, lightly bragging about the good weather and local hospitality while the bulk of our readership suffers through yet another harsh North American winter. But I can't open with that intro, because I am in fact writing from New York City. Although I was looking forward to finally visiting Baja California, for reasons too boring to get into in this space, unlike the past coupleof years I'll be following this year's series on TV, courtesy of the MLB Network. For that reason, we won't have daily columns on the Series, and most updates on any issues that may arise during the Series will go up on Unfiltered.
For anyone who's new to the Caribbean Series, this is how it works: a field of four national teams, representing the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, face off in a week-long round-robin tournament, each team playing its three opponents twice apiece-that's a doubleheader per day at a single site in the host country. The national teams are their respective winter leagues' champions, "reinforced" with talent from throughout the league. So, for example, if the US were participating in this kind of tourney, their representative would be the Phillies, and the Phils would be free to select an American third baseman or catcher to strengthen themselves at those positions. Ideally, the ultimate effect is something that's better than just a good winter league team, but a bit more cohesive than a hastily assembled national all-star team. I say "ideally" because, particularly in recent years, the reality is that many of the winter league stalwarts who are the property of a major league club are denied permission to participate, or they decide on their own to rest up for spring training, rather than play in the Series. These defections, which seem to have been exacerbated this year by the World Baseball Classic, leave some Caribbean Series teams as an undistinguished patchwork of mediocre talents. Without further ado, here are some quick highlights of the teams who'll be taking the field in Mexicali.
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The experience of showing up early and engraving a send-off into one man's memory.
Uncomfortable confession time: unlike just about all the big-time sports fans I know, I don't have any real recollection of the first professional game I attended. I've tried everything short of hypnosis to recapture the memory-I've done memory exercises, scanned old papers, scoured Retrosheet like a man panning for gold-but every time I think that I have a finger on that first memory, I'll find a contradiction that makes my recollection out to be a liar. I don't remember who started, who won, who the opponent was, and I've come to doubt anything I speculated about the lineup or the roster.
The one memory that I have, clear and true, is of my very first reaction to the ballpark. I remember walking out of Yankee Stadium's cavernous concourses, and out into the sunlight, and being absolutely shocked when I saw the playing field. All I could do was gawk at Yankee Stadium's perfectly manicured turf. I'd seen this very field hundreds of times on television, but nothing had prepared me. I simply did not know that grass could be so green.
Answering a few readers questions, and addressing the relative merits of a few metrics.
Yes, I know, another mailbag article. All I can say in my defense is that as long as folks send me thought-provoking e-mails, I'm going to get distracted and run a little off-course. So it's all your fault, really.
In search of reader-friendly clarity on minor matters.
At the end of Saturday's installment of Toolbox, I promised to move ahead to the pitchers this week. Once again, good feedback and a general desire to make sure the class is all on board with what we're talking about before moving on to the next thing keeps us from going forward. That's mainly my fault—the last few Toolboxes have been light on the Further Reading and bullet point sections, which might have helped clarify issues before they got out of hand.
All things being equalized... the new report on the Baseball Prospectus Statistics page.
The bookmark on my browser that brings me to Baseball Prospectus every day is set to the Statistics page. Even if I'm not looking something up—say if I want to go to one of the chats or see what's new on Unfiltered—that's where I start off. Often, I don't really look at the Stats page—either because it's a way station to wherever else I'm headed, or because I'm so familiar with it that I take it for granted. A few days ago, I was en route to the Glossary when something stopped me cold.
Installment the Third in an examination of deviations and their ramifications.
This quote represents the only resonant moment in the apocryphal third Godfather movie-a film ruined by, in no particular order, nepotism, over-acting, a filmmaker in financial difficulty, and a script that went through approximately 8,000 drafts and was compromised by cast defections. Regardless of the above flaws, whenever I think I've wrapped something up nicely, and then find that I can't move on, it's Al Pacino's voice I hear in my head, in full Scent of a Woman scenery-chewing mode, lamenting his inability to move on to a post-Cosa Nostra life. Two installments of the Scales Project ago, I announced that we'd conclude last week, but the previous edition seems to have raised more questions than it answered. Since I'm a question-answering kind of guy, we'll stick with relievers for another week-I trust you'll let me know if this looks as if it's becoming a quagmire.
With the aid of feedback and some mathematical daring, sorting out what words like good, bad, and average mean.
In the past few editions of Toolbox, we've been discussing pitching statistics, and trying to answer one of the big questions that I receive frequently in emails: with all of these fancy statistics we've got here at Baseball Prospectus, how do you know what's good, bad, or in between? The answer so far has been to go stat-by-stat, comparing and averaging out performances over the last three years using a methodology borrowed from Kevin Goldstein and William Burke. You can check out the first two articles in the series here and here.
The Feds target Greg Anderson's wife, the House Oversight Committee causes more commotion, and the Supreme Court doesn't play fantasy baseball.
Since the last edition of Stupid Lawyer Tricks, we've had a lot of legal wrangling affect the wide world of baseball. Here's a quick rundown of the latest legal news that somehow involves the industry.
Reader response to defining the good, the bad, the and ugly bad, and turning that same firehose on relief pitching.
After a short delay, we're back with the next phase of the "Scales Project," this time bringing the methodology we borrowed from William Burke and Kevin Goldstein to bear on relief pitchers. Recapping from last time, the method I used for the starters was to take the top 150 pitchers each year (basically, the equivalent of five starters per team), ranked by the number of innings they threw as starters, and then within that sample I ranked the players according to various statistics (ERA and SNLVAR). Those pitchers were then averaged out with like-ranked players from the years 2005-2007. So the top pitcher profile, per SNLVAR-a composite of Roger Clemens's 2005, Johan Santana's 2006, and Jake Peavy's 2007-posted an average SNLVAR of 9.0, had an average record of 17 wins and 6.7 losses, an average VORP of 79.9, and so forth. We then used these rankings to divide the sample into thirds-Good, Average, and Bad, as ranked by that statistic-and further took the top half and bottom half, respectively, of the Good and Bad groups to have a profile of Elite and Superbad performance in each statistic. For the starters, this method outlined a scale for each statistic, which looked like this:
Not all the kids can be above average, so how do we define it?
When it comes to baseball's numbers, I'm often more interested in how they function as language than anything else. As Joe Sheehanrecently pointed out, the 500- and 600-home run milestones don't, for analytical purposes, have that much value over the numbers 499 and 599, or 501 and 601, for that matter. They're round numbers that end in double zeroes, and that's why we paid more attention to Manny Ramirez's at-bats this weekend than we did his at-bats the weekend before, and more attention than we'll pay to his at-bats during the weekend to come.
The quest to best determine offensive efficiency continues.
I was ready to move on, but last week's column generated a lot of comment, so we're sticking with baserunners left on base for today's column. Now, last week we looked at the correlation between leaving runners on base-the Team LOB statistic-and run scoring, by looking at team totals of those stats going back to 1971. I kept the conversation limited to raw totals of runners left on base, times on base, and runs scored for two reasons: first, because that was the question that had been asked, and second, because raw totals are the way the left on base stat is most often used and discussed. Once the strike-shortened seasons of 1981, 1994, and 1995 were omitted (although I failed to take the first strike year, 1972, out of the sample) the teams were on more or less equal footing in terms of opportunities to put men on base, score runs, or strand them.