The agent who hates the draft ends up, almost by accident, with three draftees.
As many of my wonderful readers know, I absolutely loathe the draft process from the agent’s perspective. I hate recruiting. I hate the BS. I hate the lies between the teams and players, the intentional ones and the more subtle avoidances of truth. I hate watching kids fall in the draft. The only good things about the draft are when the player is selected and when the draft is over.
A world of research and development has been put into the very problems and questions that baseball clubs face. Applying instructional design to player development.
With draft day in the rear view, perhaps this is as good a time as any to talk about player development and how those newly-drafted players might refine those myriad skills that make up professional baseball performance. After all, the biggest mystery in the sport is how some players find success while others don’t, despite having similar body types, backgrounds, and amateur performance numbers.
How does Matt Shoemaker find success after years of toiling away in the minors? How does Zack Cozart start hitting for power all of a sudden? How does a first-overall draft pick like Delmon Young never figure out how to have an approach that matches his physical tools? Why does Matt Carpenter succeed where Zack Cox fails? And most of all: Why is it these particular guys?
It’s a big question that requires more time and intelligence than I have. But it all boils down to baseball’s last great black box: player development. The goal of player development—ultra-simplified—is to turn raw human resources into valuable big-league production. PD departments do that by augmenting or creating knowledge, skills, and attitudes in their body of assigned players.
Manny Sanguillen had more intentional than unintentional walks in 1970, 1971 and 1972. In '71, he drew 13 IBBs against just six UIBBs. If I could retain all of the technological advantages of 2016, I would dearly like to experience one entire season of baseball from the mid-1970s. It was almost an entirely different game.
--Joe Sheehan Newsletter, June 15, 2016
If baseball were different, how different would it be? Would it be slightly different or very different?
What to do when the batter fails and the team succeeds?
Two years ago, I wrote one of my very favorite submissions to this website: How To Celebrate A Walkoff Error, in which I closely examined where the teammates on the bench chose to mob up after a batter in a huge spot did something bad (hit a routine out) only to end up accomplishing something great (runner scores walkoff run on botched defensive play). The tendency to congratulate the hitter, instead of the runner, baffled me, but ultimately I concluded that this was akin to the principle of felony murder.
Good play on the field is not just indistinguishable from the qualities of the people playing, but homologous to it.
In a fit of writer’s block, I asked a friend what he wanted to read about baseball. My friend, who’s a pretty incisive guy, tells me to write against the sabermetric orthodoxy and argue for the importance of personalities and character on baseball teams. Basically argue against the stats-for-all approach to team building and management and make a case for the oft-beleaguered “character” types.
I thought about this for a while and at first I was going to go in a different direction, because I think the baseball community has pushed back against some of our earlier blindspots about the human element. Managers like Joe Maddon have shown the power of not only solid game planning, but also good people management. (Writers like Russell Carleton have shown the power of those managers.) And the rise of fun, young players that galvanize and characterize teams—think, for instance, of Jose Fernandez’ smile or Trevor Story’s precociousness—have shown us that, even if they can’t be quantified in terms of “wins,” players’ characters matter to the overall aesthetics of the game. So it isn’t like we haven’t grown some nuance as a group: We no longer, to paraphrase the Great Old Man of the game Joe Morgan, root for computer numbers.
But we still have our biases and it might be worth reconsidering how we think about things like character and personality, about “the human element” as opposed to the pure optimization of efficient team-building. As I suggested in my piece on international free agents, these are in fact people being drafted, signed, used, and released by our favorite teams, and there is a story behind all of them. One reaction to this realization is digging into these stories, trying to put more of a face on the game; this generally leads to depression or despair, a lack of true alternatives to recognize the mass of humanity that makes up baseball. What’s that second option, then?
Ben and Sam discuss their fatalistic feelings concerning Noah Syndergaard, banter about fun facts and Fernando Abad, and talk about impending trade-deadline decisions for the White Sox, Yankees, and Pirates.
Translating the unrecognizable French abbreviations for baseball stats.
Was checking up on an old friend who is playing in the Can-Am League this season and ran into a little bit of trouble: French names for baseball statistics are apparently different enough that the abbreviations are unrecognizable! These are the team starts for the Quebec Capitales; let's see if we can sort this out.