A look at 10 men who should be considered to run a baseball operations department.
Welcome to Top 10 Week. All week long, various BP authors will be revealing their Top 10s in various categories. Today we start off with Will Carroll ranking the 10 best general manager candidates.
A couple years back, I did a list of the "next GM" crop. It's one of those innocuous exercises that nonetheless tells us a lot about what's going on inside of the front offices. We hear about GMs, about trades, about drafts, but even in Moneyball and earlier in Dollar Sign on the Muscle, we seldom hear about the day-to-day operations carried out by a group of people that is overworked, underpaid, and most importantly, vastly overqualified. This is a group that years ago would be more likely to be putting together a hedge fund, working for the State Department, or something a bit more "important" than the game of baseball. With the money of the modern era, teams got smarter, fast.
Though a large percentage of professional baseball players got where they are by going through the draft, some had to find their own road to the majors.
The three-day event that is baseball’s First Year Player Draft wound to its conclusion Wednesday, and now the 1,525 young players chosen face choices. For high school seniors, should they play professionally or go to college? For most college players, stay in school or go pro?
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The historian talks about the vast research she has done on the social aspects of baseball.
Dorothy Seymour Mills is a giant among baseball researchers and historians. Mills and her late husband, Harold Seymour, were among the inaugural class of recipients of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Henry Chadwick Award, which honors the game’s great researchers, historians, statisticians, analysts, and archivists. She collaborated on three groundbreaking books with her late husband: Baseball: The Early Years , Baseball: The Golden Age , and Baseball: The People’s Game . Her most recent book is Chasing Baseball. Mills, now 82 years young, talked about her life as a baseball researcher during SABR’s annual Seymour Medal Conference, held recently in Cleveland. The award, which honors the best book of baseball history or biography published the previous year, is named after her and Harold Seymour.
Proponents saying throwing at long distances builds pitchers' arm strength and increases velocity.
Major League Baseball is more or less a standardized industry. Everything a player does can be quantified in some manner. Since the dawning of the information age, teams have trended toward statistical analysis as it gives more definite, calculated answers rather than general feelings that can often lead to overvaluing a player. Unfortunately, that precision hasn’t translated to on-field performance, as gut instincts still rule when it comes to pitcher conditioning. For pitchers, those gut instincts have led to an epidemic of pitching-related injuries. According to statistics compiled and confirmed by Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll, Major League Baseball has spent more than $500 million in salary on injured pitchers the last two seasons. It is apparent that the majority of teams are just following the herd rather than researching methods to keep pitchers healthy. The result of this lack of exploration has led to the epidemic that Carroll describes.
Allan Jaeger, of Jaeger Sports, believes he has the program that can save pitchers from injury while increasing their velocity. Jaeger’s program is rooted in a traditional baseball exercise, long tossing. Since the early days of baseball, players have been long tossing. Most performed long tossing because they believed it strengthened their arm. Jaeger agrees. "If muscles are inactive for a long enough period of time, or aren't used close to their desired capacities, the life is taken out of them. When muscles are given proper blood flow, oxygen, and range of motion, they are free to work at their optimum capacity. A good long-toss program is the key to giving life to a pitcher’s arm."
Hard-slotting, appeasing the NCAA, and a possible golden age for college baseball.
Last week, I kicked off this series by laying out the facts about the looming CBA negotiations and how the draft could be affected. When speaking with executives and agents, it quickly becomes obvious that the sides have different assumptions about what the draft should accomplish. There are clear-cut party lines where agents and executives will disagree, just like some small- and large-market clubs are sure to differ.
An AL executive put some of these assumptions in perspective: "The fewer restrictions there are for the club to get the player they want, the better. Trading picks moves us closer to that. If [Stephen] Strasburg isn't the best guy for the Nationals, they can trade down and get value as opposed to passing, getting nothing in return and being killed in the media." This sounds like what I talked about last week; if we assume hard-slotting is in place, teams like trading picks because it allows "smart teams to be smart" and leverage their valuations and strategies.
Back in 2003, just after Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi had cut over 20 million from Toronto's payroll and was still managing to moneyball his way to an 86 win season, some members of the Toronto press foolishly accused him of racism. The accusations, which concerned the racial make-up of the team, were so crudely conceived and without basis in reality that they are not worth going into here, but, ironically, Riccardi was so concerned with finding undervalued players at the time that he'd have surely gone after a certain race if those players were devalued simply because of their skin color. In other words, he'd have loved nothing better than to pick up all the best Negro League players in 1940.
With the signing window for talent about to open, a primer on how things work south of the border.
There's a disease of "more" in baseball prospect coverage, and it has seeped all the way down to the growing interest in the Latin American market of 16-year-old amateurs. While this might seem borderline creepy and of dubious importance, there are many layers to this emerging foreign market. Before I start into a full sprint with scouting reports, rumors, and rankings of talent from south of the border, I want to take a page out of Kevin Goldstein's playbook, when he kicked off his prospect coverage here at BP with a series on scouting theory and lingo by catching everyone up on how business is done in Latin America.
A new publicly-available storehouse of info allows for endless explorations into the game's history beyond the big leagues.
While I'm hardly an authority on the topic, I've always had a soft spot for minor league baseball, probably because my formative years were spent in minor league towns. I grew up attending ballgames in Salt Lake City, Utah, a city with a rich history as a minor league outpost dating back to the old Pacific Coast League and its 200-game seasons. During my childhood and adolescence it played host to the Triple-A affiliates for the Angels and Mariners in the modern-day PCL, and I got my fill of stars like Dickie Thon and Phil Bradley, high-altitude boppers like Ike Hampton, and future flops like Al Chambers. Additionally, every summer I would visit my grandparents in in Walla Walla, Washington, the site of the Padres' Low-A Northwest League affiliate, where I watched Tony Gwynn and John Kruk take their first steps toward major league stardom.
The head of Seattle's new Department of Statistical Research elaborates on the ins and outs and evolution of baseball analysis.
A new era of Mariners baseball began when Seattle hired Jack Zduriencik as their general manager following the 2008 season, an era that will include an increased emphasis on statistical analysis. Helping to lead that charge will be Tony Blengino, who previously served as Milwaukee's assistant director of amateur scouting under Zduriencik, and now holds the title of special assistant to the general manager, baseball operations. A chief financial officer and author of the book Future Stars, before joining organized baseball in 2003, Blengino will head Seattle's newly created Department of Statistical Research. Blengino talked about his new role, and how the Mariners hope to build a championship-caliber team through a perfect marriage between traditional scouting and statistical analysis.
As the deadline to sign 2008's draft picks nears, what do so many big-buck standoffs really signify?
With four days left until the August 15 deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, more than a third of the June draft’s first-round picks remain unsigned, including four of the first five players taken. As Kevin Goldstein noted last week, the implementation of that deadline pushed many players to wait until the deadline to reach an agreement, and those that waited did so successfully. So for many players—such as Buster Posey and Eric Hosmer—this may go down to Friday at midnight.
Question: what's the difference between an agent and an advisor?
This time of year, I get a handful of emails with specific questions
about some draft nuts and bolts, and this year--maybe because of the O.J. Mayo
situation--that handful has turned into a full bushel. The email tends to go
something like this:
A conversation with the veteran scout from the D'backs organization.
In the past, scouts have been called the lifeblood of baseball, and even with the increased emphasis on statistical analysis in today's game, they remain a vital part of a team's success. The best of them, like Arizona's Joe Bohringer, incorporate both analytics and traditional scouting methods as they evaluate talent. Bohringer joined the Diamondbacks in 2006, and has a degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management and previously served as an Area Scouting Supervisor for the Mariners and as the Senior Manager of Player Development for the Dodgers. The 2008 season will be his 19th in professional baseball.