We all know wins aren't a good way to judge pitchers, but we'd miss them if they went away.
"My choice for the front-runner is Welch, but I know a lot of people say Clemens. I know what Clemens has done for Boston, but now is not the time to change the rules. The guys who won it the last three years won the most games and had good stats. If Bob Welch continues to win at this pace, and he doesn't get it, something is terribly wrong with the judging." | A's pitcher Dave Stewart, in a 1990 Sports Illustrated story on that season's Cy Young voting
Bob Welch had just won his 20th game when his Oakland teammate was asked about the voting, and it was just Aug. 17. It was his 13th season and the first and last time that the 33-year-old Welch would win 20 games.
While third base is often considered an offense-heavy position now, last year proved to be a major down season.
As so often happens, my recent Replacement-Level Killers and Vortices of Suck miniseries have focused my attention on the landscape of offensive production at each position. Back in July, while putting together the midseason Killers, I was struck by just how awful a year it had been for third basemen. Age, injuries, and mysterious slumps had sapped the production of so many hot cornermen that their collective True Average (.253) trailed that of second basemen (.256)—a seven-point swing from the year before, a change that couldn't simply be explained by Chone Figgins' switch in positions. As someone who internalized Bill James' defensive spectrum before I was old enough to drive, this anomaly fascinated me.
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The foremost movie critic of the last thirty-plus years has, of course, been Roger Ebert. He's been reviewing movies for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and has been synonymous with film for nearly my entire life. Thanks to this wonderful internet-age that we all live in, his entire collection of movie reviews can be found online at his website, rogerebert.com. Using that as a resource, I went through and found Ebert's reviews of a few of the most popular baseball films of the last three decades. How did he see them at the time? Are our memories and feelings tinted with years of nostalgia, or were these movies just as good when they were new? What did people think of them with a "fresh" pair of eyes?
How one man came to support a borderline statistical candidate for the Hall of Fame whose other contributions strengthen his case.
My first memory about Minnie Minoso stems from 1977, on one of those bright afternoons when I had talked my grandfather into stopping at the dime store on the town square in Red Oak, Iowa. It's just as Sinclair Lewis as it sounds. The store sold baseball cards, and I was working on my Topps collection that summer by picking up four or five 10-cent packs at a time. Not everything at the dime store actually cost a dime, but fifteen baseball cards and one rock-hard piece of bubble gum did, and they came bundled in colorful wax wrappers that I liked so much that I refused to throw them away. My parents didn't give a rip about sports, but my grandfather had played second base in Class-B ball in southwest Iowa in the 1920s and understood what baseball could mean to a young boy. He was glad to fork over change for the cards.
Red Oak had, and still has, the type of rustic town square that was once the primary business district of small midwestern towns. Some communities have courthouses stuck in the middle of their square, but Red Oak has trees, a fountain, and a park. That day, I sat in the grass opening my cards, stuffing the gum in my mouth one piece at a time, while my grandfather lounged on a bench under a tree talking to a fellow retired farmer, who wore a green John Deere hat. The names on the cards didn't mean much to me at the time—it hadn't been that long since I had learned to read—but I loved the team names, the pictures, and of course, the numbers on the back. Suddenly I came across card No. 232 from the 1977 Topps set:
Bill James may claim to study baseball questions, not statistical ones, but what happens when a statistician studies Bill James?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. He occasionally blogs on baseball, including here, here, here, and here.
Contrary to what you might hear from more retrograde members of the baseball establishment, sabermetrics and storytelling don't have to be at odds.
As Opening Day approaches, hope springs eternal all around the majors. Some teams' bids at contention are founded upon the presumed maturation of exciting youngsters. Others rest their hopes on their stars' ability to turn back the clock and play as though their time had never passed. You could be forgiven for thinking that the latter was the strategy of the Anti-Sabermetric Brigade, a constellation of writers who insist upon fighting a war that has been fought and largely settled. Yet, signs of their resurgence keep popping up.
More memories from a childhood's worth of ballplayers in Utah and Walla Walla.
Today we pick up where I left off last week in covering some of my favorite minor leaguers I saw in Salt Lake City, Utah (where I grew up) and Walla Walla, Washington (where my grandparents lived) during the late '70s and '80s. Some went on to have notable major-league careers, and one even reached Cooperstown. Others would earn less distinction, though they retain my considerable affection.
A conversation with as diehard a baseball fan as they come, one who also happens to be one of America's great voices in sports. UPDATED 11/7 with a transcript.
If you've watched sports in the last 25 years, you know who Bob Costas is. Bob sits down with Will to talk about the place of baseball in the American psyche, from Jackie Robinson to Mickey Mantle to Barry Bonds. Costas has a unique perspective reaching from coming up with the classic Cardinals and Yankees to today's global era. Join us for a special BPR with one of the biggest names in sports, Bob Costas.
Will MLB live down to its past when it comes to its relationship with Japan?
Professional Japanese baseball faces an uncertain future. With the success of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, the World Baseball Classic win, and the hoopla surrounding Daisuke Matsuzaka, Major League Baseball sees Japan as a new pool of talent for North American teams. Through the posting system and soon through signing talent out of school, the one-way flow of stars from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere could drain talent from the Far East. Unless talent--star talent--actually flows both ways across the Pacific, the Japanese major leagues may slide into outright dependence on Major League Baseball instead of becoming a major league equal.
Allen Barra has written for numerous publications since the late-1970s, including The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, and currently The New York Times. In 2002, Barra authored Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century, which took a refreshing look at some of baseball's most argued topics. Recently, BP correspondent Alex Belth caught up with Barra to discuss his early days as a writer, the influence of Bill James on his work, and Major League Baseball's marketing department.
Baseball Prospectus: So what team did you root for as a kid?