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January 3, 2004

6-4-3: Bad Habits Learned from Joe Sheehan

by Gary Huckabay

Next week, Peter Gammons is hosting Hot Stove, Cool Music in Boston. All proceeds from this benefit concert support The Jimmy Fund, which raises funds to support cancer treatment and research. Baseball Prospectus has pledged 50% of all proceeds from new subscriptions during the next week as a donation to The Jimmy Fund, so if you were thinking about subscribing, this is the time to do it. More importantly, if you'd like to support the Jimmy Fund with a donation, simply click here. Yeah, people are hitting you up for money all the time, and we all get tired of it, but The Jimmy Fund is worth both your money and time. Cancer is an indiscriminate killer, and it's likely affect either you or someone you love. Pre-emptively strike with a donation. Maybe an hour's salary. It's cold over much of the country, but Spring Training is not far off, and beginnings of all types are actually pretty cool, when you think about it. New Year's Resolutions don't, on a percentage basis, pay off, but occasionally, they stick, and if you make one to be generous in some way to someone in your life, you'll be happier, and so will they. I It sounds corny, but it's true. Think about it: do you ever really feel better--and deservedly so--than when you're helping out someone else? So, at the very least, show some pity to a Devil Ray fan this year. I only know of one--Tony Constantino--so you'll have to find your own.

December 19, 2003

6-4-3: Hart to Hart

by Gary Huckabay

In case you've been living under a rock, it's been a pretty interesting couple of weeks in the news. If you've been feverish, like most of the populace of California's scenic Contra Costa County, you may have observed that a bombastically hirsute Alex Rodriguez was liberated from a sort of cave/hutch just north of Tikrit and west of Odessa by a U.S. Army strike force, who then checked him for ticks, packaged him in a box, and shipped him to Worcester, where he was unpacked by Larry Lucchino and Gene Orza, then shipped back to Houston, Texas, where he was awarded a Hummer by noted conservative talk show host Michael Savage. The more coherent among you are aware that the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers have been discussing a deal that is, at its center, Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez. Since both players have very long, lucrative contracts, money has been a significant component of the deal. So let's dive in and take a look...

November 7, 2003

State of the Prospectus: November 2003

by Gary Huckabay

An update on BP happenings, including baseballprospectus.com's redesign, the latest on Baseball Prospectus 2004, and BP-related events.

October 17, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Puddle of Conciousness, Redux

by Gary Huckabay

Does it really get any better than this? I live the East Bay in the Northern California, about 20 miles from Oakland. It's not as if there's any love for the Red Sox or Yankees based on favors done for the A's over the last few years. Nonetheless, the renaissance has hit. People are dashing into stores, grabbing coronary artery-busting snacks, and rushing back into cars to get home to watch the game. As I was coming home from Roseville, I was stuck in traffic next to two cars driven by goateed young men, one with a Red Sox hat, one with a Yankee hat. Both shared my concern about the crowded nature of the throughway, and both shared their opinions rather vocally. How cool is it that 3,000 miles away from tonight's baseball epicenter, people are rushing home to sit in front of the TV? A lot of the people who cover baseball exclusively are concerned and/or bitter about baseball's loss of mindshare to lesser sports, like, well...all of them. The stages of college basketball, football, hockey, and even preseason basketball have expanded, often at the expense of attention on what could once be called "America's Pastime" without challenge. How bad has it gotten? It's gotten pretty bad. Two nights ago, KHTK 1140 in Sacramento--one of the premiere (and highest rated) sports radio stations in the country--ran an 88-72 preseason loss of the Sacramento Kings instead of Game Seven of the ALCS. In March, cactus and grapefruit league coverage has diminished, and far more attention nationwide is spent on tracking NCAA College Basketball brackets than rookies and veterans competing for jobs or getting in shape in places like Scottsdale and Vero Beach.

October 8, 2003

Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

by Gary Huckabay and Nate Silver

The Yanks took far more balls per plate appearance than any other playoff team, but relatively few strikes. That's a sign of a mature, disciplined team. Taking bad pitches could be especially beneficial against the Red Sox: Boston's two best starters, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, are not known for their stamina, and the bullpen is in tatters between Byung-Hyun Kim's breakdown and their heavy use in the Oakland series. Knocking Pedro out an inning earlier because of higher pitch counts could well be a game-winning strategy. Despite their refined approach at the plate, the Yankees don't have a better offense than the Red Sox, who outscored them by nearly 100 runs during the regular season. The Sox remain the best offense in baseball, with a lineup that has absolutely no weaknesses in it. Both of these teams have the capability to knock a starter out early and put up crooked numbers in multiple innings. Even if you don't want to get into the numbers, think only about the two main criticisms of these offenses over the course of the year: Yankees: "Alfonso Soriano isn't suited to hit leadoff." Red Sox: "Walker, Ortiz, and Nixon can't hit lefties." Think about that. The problem for the Yankees is that the leadoff guy has too many extra-base hits, and too few walks. The Red Sox somehow have to work around the issue that their three worst hitters, who average about a .950 OPS against righties, don't hit lefties particularly well. Think the Tiger front office would like those problems?

October 3, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Fluffy Goodness

by Gary Huckabay

"What are the best and worst things about the broadcasts so far?" - M.T. So far, it's been pretty grisly from a fan's perspective, I think. The 10 p.m. EDT start for the Hudson/Martinez matchup was unconscionable. Then, to add unbelievable insult to injury, ESPN adds David Justice to the broadcast booth in violation of the Geneva Convention. I know that everyone watching the game has probably done something during their lives that warrants strict and painful punishment, but inflicting Justice and his commentary on an unsuspecting public was beyond the pale. It's also possible, if the game was broadcast outside the U.S., that ESPN may have committed an act of war against a number of sovereign nations. But now that they've done that, they might as well finish us off with a healthy dose of Chris Berman and his old-10-years-ago nicknames. Should Justice return to the booth, I will personally make an appeal to Amnesty International to begin a letter-writing campaign. I'm pretty sure that if we work together, we can get Bono to make a mission of conscience to Bristol.

October 1, 2003

Playoff Prospectus: Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics

by Gary Huckabay

Two of baseball's best front offices have once again done their jobs well, and Oakland and Boston will face off in the five-game ALDS. It's really a classic matchup, with a tremendously vicious offense against a team built primarily on pitching and defense. The thing that would surprise many in the mainstream media is that the team built on pitching and defense is wearing Green and Gold.

September 26, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Take it to the Bridge

by Gary Huckabay

Hello Gary! In your chat session, you stated that you thought Keith Woolner's research into replacement level was the most important work in sabermetrics. Why is it so important? I think that your work on PAP is much more important. It can change the way teams handle their pitchers. The pitchers will be healthier, and the teams will be better because of it. Why is replacement level more important than that? --R. J., Baton Rouge, LA First off, let me clarify something. Pitcher Abuse Points was a system developed by Keith Woolner and Rany Jazayerli, not me. And if you review it, you'll find a curve fit that you'll be lucky to find again in your whole life. The answer's pretty straightforward: replacement level is essential to know because it's the only way you can accurately assess marginal value. Let's say you can sign Joe Slugger, who's likely to play a pretty good corner outfield spot and post .280/.360/.550 each year, for $6,000,000 annually. Is that a good deal? There is absolutely no way to tell unless you know what your options are--you need to know the marginal value of that player's production, and for that, you have to know what your replacement options are. Or, put another way, you have to know replacement level.

September 12, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Know Loss

by Gary Huckabay

Last week, I laid out a reading list for new and potential GMs. This week, I want to draw attention to another excellent book, one with a slightly different viewpoint, but with a number of important and actionable concepts. Bear with me during this lengthy quote... "Micromanagement is risk free as long as you have the power to assign blame to the innocent. If your galactic incompetence ends up micromanaging a perfectly good project into swamp, blame the closest employee for not "speaking up" sooner." --Dogbert, nee Scott Adams, Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook Which, of course, brings me to Peter Ueberroth. It never fails to amaze me that people who demonstrate incompetence on a massive, majestic scale actually gain credibility, either within their own organization, or in an entirely new arena, where they're given approximately the same responsibilities which they bungled so horribly in the first place. In case you missed it, former Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who had positioned himself as a responsible, proven leader running a dignified campaign in the Hunter Thompson-inspired California Gubernatorial Race, dropped out of that race on Tuesday, leaving the field wide open for the remaining "candidates."

September 5, 2003

6-4-3: Winter Reading List

by Gary Huckabay

One of the best things about being involved with BP is the people you meet. Since we started doing Pizza Feeds a couple of years back, I've been fortunate enough to meet several hundred people who trudge their way to a Feed, all of whom have an intense interest in baseball, and all of whom are very generous with their time and support. It's pretty common for people to hang out and talk after the main event's over. Sometimes, someone will have an in-depth topic they want a long answer on, or they want to talk about available positions with BP or in a front office, or they want to argue with me about Derek Jeter's defense. The most common question I get after the end of the feed is about books. Some recurring themes come up during the evening, and one of them is often: "What skills does a general manager really need?" The question that inevitably follows is: "What books do you think a GM should read when they first get the job?" It's a good question, so I thought I'd make some suggestions here. I'm going to stay away from baseball books, including our own, and focus instead on the first books anyone should they read if they're going to be serious about their business. Many of these books are applicable to a number of industries, but I believe they're particularly relevant to running a major league club. So, in no particular order:

August 29, 2003

6-4-3: All the Leaves in Need of Raking

by Gary Huckabay

I've had a number of discussions over the past week or so that center around QuesTec, and all the issues associated with the company--their financial viability, the role of their technology in the administration of games, the aesthete and on-field consequences of usage, etc. I wrote a piece about the problem of asking umpires to handle ball/strike calls two years ago, and my views haven't changed since then. Simply put, given the operational needs of the game on the field, (e.g., limitations on the options available for positioning of umpires), it's just not possible for home plate umpires to do an adequate job of determining whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. Whether in person, by e-mail, or on the phone, I've been listening to a number of arguments, recently, regarding QuesTec as part of a comprehensive system of umpire review. Eventually, most people come to agree that the job of accurately calling balls and strikes is simply too difficult for someone to do well. From there, however, nearly everyone who opposes QuesTec's use falls back on the "It's part of the human element of the game" argument. The thing is, if you take that argument and drill down, you end up with the following call to action: "Hey! Let's go out to the ballpark and watch umpires @#$% up calls!"

August 8, 2003

6-4-3: Back To Basics

by Gary Huckabay

We've collectively fallen prey to a common mistake. As we've been fortunate enough to reach a large number of new people, we've not done a particularly great job of talking about why we do what we do. Or, put another way, how come we don't like to talk about RBI when evaluating hitters? I forget about this because of the kind of cloistered atmosphere we tend to run in, but a lot of stuff that we take as stone cold gospel is completely foreign and brand new for the vast majority of baseball fans. So, as a service to the people who may be exploring serious baseball analysis for the first time, or who may be new to Baseball Prospectus, here's a brief rundown of some basics of performance assessment. It's spotty, but it's a start. For you longtime readers, please consider this a cheat sheet you can use when discussing baseball in bars, or with Bob Feller.

August 1, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Alex In Wonderland

by Gary Huckabay

Alex Rodriguez, who might as well have the number 252 tattooed on his face a la Mike Tyson, inspired a media circus this week by suggesting he would accept a trade if the Rangers believed it to be in the best interest of the franchise. This was immediately misinterpreted as a request to leave Arlington, and brought out the same yahoos who are going to follow Rodriguez around for the rest of his career, criticizing anything he does short of tossing 225 innings with a 3.10 ERA for the Rangers. But let's put aside for a second whether or not it makes sense for the Rangers to make a deal that moves Rodriguez. Let's similarly put aside any ridiculous, ill-informed tripe that suggests Rodriguez isn't a team guy, or that "winning obviously wasn't a priority" when he signed with Texas in 2001. Let's ignore that the Rangers have done an impressive job of blowing money down the toilet on a number of other players with a heck of a lot less return. And for this exercise, let's not even admit that the Rangers develop pitchers about as often as TV producers improve a show while it's "on hiatus."

July 25, 2003

6-4-3: Next Anonymous Friday

by Gary Huckabay

At the end of January, I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with executives from a couple of clubs, and reader response was heavy and extremely positive. So we've imposed once again on the executive of the AL Club who was so generous with his time back in January, and here's what he had to say as we approach the final third of the season.

July 11, 2003

6-4-3: State of the Prospectus, July 2003

by Gary Huckabay

As we hit the unofficial halfway point of the season, and a large number of BP Staff hit Denver this weekend, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who come to visit Baseball Prospectus on a regular basis, and have supported us through your purchase of the Baseball Prospectus Annual, and your subscriptions to Baseball Prospectus Premium. We had very high goals for this year, and thanks to you, we've not only met our goals, we've dramatically exceeded any reasonable or unreasonable expectations we may have had. Thank you very much. We've added a number of new team members who we hope you'll enjoy reading, and over the next few weeks and months, we'll be rolling out a number of new features and functionality that we hope you'll enjoy, as well as taking steps to deal with the technical and operational challenges that inevitably come from rapid growth. We know that you have high expectations when you come to Baseball Prospectus, and we're working very hard to earn your repeat patronage.

June 27, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Road Trippin'

by Gary Huckabay

Gary Huckabay takes a look at the first day of road trips to see if road teams' performance declines in that situation, compared to other road games.

June 23, 2003

In Memoriam: Leonard Koppett

by Gary Huckabay

Baseball Prospectus mourns the loss of pioneering sportswriter Leonard Koppett.

June 20, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Overhang

by Gary Huckabay

Everyone knows the shorthand of fan apparel. A Red Sox hat? Well, you know you're dealing with a borderline alcoholic with a proclivity for self-flagellation. (See also: Woolner, Keith.) An old-time White Sox uniform fashioned from modern fabric? Probably a gullible masochist whom you can defraud for a lucrative second income; but be careful--could also be creepy, stalking Scientologist. A Pete Rose jersey and matching haircut? That's a future Wal-Mart greeter who spends the majority of his free time calling political talk radio shows. A cap sporting the colors of both the A's and Giants? Those are David Koresh rejects who should be dragged from their '82 Dodge Colts and savagely beaten into a persistent vegetative state. But save your pity for those gilding themselves with the colors of the New York Mets. As you know, the Mets fired Steve Phillips, and now find themselves facing not only their own intra-Gotham inferiority complex, but with a number of landmines in house that may not be possible to avoid. The days of being able to readily unload horrifying, soul-draining contracts is largely over, and the Mets have their share. They're not going to be able to Mondesi someone about the head and shoulders, a la Toronto. Those days are over. What are they really facing as they try to rebuild a team?

June 13, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: The Peter Principle

by Gary Huckabay

Baseball could learn a lot from Don King. When Don King puts on a fight, there's instantly a thin, greasy film of sleaze on it, but most of the time, King's able to overcome the aversion and distrust inherent in his productions, and sell the damn tickets. When King promotes a fight, he works his butt off to transform the tomatoest of cans into a Mythic Warrior whose nobility and sense of purpose is matched only by his strength and cunning in the ring. Then, after the inevitable whooping of Steve Zouski by Drederick Tatum, the No. 3 contender of the Uzbekistan Boxing Council (not affiliated with the Uzbekistan Boxing Association), people feel ripped off, and know they were stupid for signing up for the $84.95 pay-per-view event--even though they kinda liked the two chicks beating the living crap out of each other on the undercard. The promotion of the fight was great, but the fight itself, the actual product, was pretty lame. Baseball's in exactly the opposite situation. The product is amazing beyond description, providing a mix of rapid, short-term thrills with the mysterious narrative of a 162-game regular season that still actually counts. Collectively, MLB clubs have lost their focus on getting people to actually watch the game, be it on television or in person. Over the past 20 years, management's developed an affinity for publicly trashing their own product, and in terms of holding onto the front of the sports fan's mind, they've had their butts handed to them by Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue, and even the Michael Lerneresque David Stern. From the Commissioner writing off a third of the clubs before the season starts in an attempt to get givebacks from the players, to George Steinbrenner talking about how dangerous it is to come to Yankee games, no stone's gone unturned in the inexplicable quest to keep fans away. To date, no club has come up with "Persistently Infected Sore Night," but at least one club did threaten Jason Tyner bobbleheads. Joe Sheehan calls MLB's efforts "anti-marketing," which is certainly a solid enough label, even if it's overly kind to MLB.

June 6, 2003

Premium Article 6-4-3: Going Batty

by Gary Huckabay

If I were making even the major league minimum, I would think an off-season visit to a woodworking group and a couple hundred bucks investment in various types of stock would be worth the risk. The cost difference between a bat made out of Padauk and a bat made out of maple really wouldn't be all that great, and if it can get you 2% more velocity off the bat, that might be the difference between a multi-year deal that sets you up for life and running the produce department at Giant Eagle. After all, gaining an advantage by going against the rules is called cheating. Gaining an advantage by working around the rules to an area not previously considered by the rulemakers is innovation.

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