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November 15, 2013 6:00 am

Transaction Analysis: What Do the A's Really Believe?


Sam Miller

The A's just signed noted intangibles guy Nick Punto, but did they sign him for his intangibles?

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Veteran players are often perceived to have a positive effect on their younger teammates, but can we see it in the stats?

Last week, I wrote a piece on the social development of young baseball players (and humans in general). In the piece, I suggested that one reason that teams might employ older players who are well past their prime, to the point where they are barely replacement level, is that there might be something to the "clubhouse guy" effect, particularly on young players. Players in their early 20s are going through a seldom recognized and only recently understood period of neurological development, and in addition to being baseball players are also trying to figure out how to be adults. There might be some value to having a guy around who is... well, already an adult. Someone who could take a young player under his wing.

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You think you have what it takes to be a major-league manager? In that case, Russell has several assignments for you.

We know. You could totally do it better than the pros. You'd have brought in a reliever for Pedro. You prove it most nights on your PlayStation. I bet you once played a whole season in MLB: The Show and went 102-60...or at least 35-15 in a shortened season.

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Why the next big step for baseball teams might not be learning something new, but making better use of the information they already have.

“The management and analysis of data, whether it be scouting reports, statistics, medical information or video, is a critical component of our operation. We look forward to developing a customized program that utilizes the most advanced and efficient technology available in the marketplace today to facilitate quicker, easier and more accurate access to all the sources of information we use to make baseball decisions.”—Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, January 2012

“[Statistical analysis] helps but doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. There is a lot of gut feeling you got to make. If you have a stat and see a flashing number and you see that this guy is doing very good against this other guy, you can use that in a game during a key situation. Yes. But we cannot just depend on stats alone. You got to depend on many other things… I don’t like to become a fantasy manager. The goal for a good manager is to have players who are able to manage themselves on the field.”—Unsuccessful Cubs managerial candidate Sandy Alomar Jr., November 2011

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January 26, 2012 3:00 am

Inside The Park: Why We Want Players to Remember the Past


Bradford Doolittle

We shouldn't be surprised when players don't show the same appreciation for baseball history we do, but sometimes the truth still hurts.

In sports, familiarity is more of the heart than the mind. As player valuation becomes uniformly sophisticated across baseball, familiarity has become a non-factor. The new wave of decision makers are as versed in Wall Street jargon as they are in scout speak and aren't too prone to sentiment. (Nor should they be.) The Theo Epsteins and Andrew Friedmans of the world are savvy enough to avoid communicating to fans in those terms, but the mindset is still there. Players are assets, and transactions are opportunities to add value to the franchise. The bond between a player and the team's fan base may be given lip service in the media, but in reality, it matters not at all, or very little. As for the players, the bottom line is almost always the ultimate deciding factor—he's going to go where the dollars flow.

Sometimes, the sentimental and the pragmatic line up nicely. That's what I was thinking when the first messages popped up in my Twitter stream this week bearing the news of Prince Fielder's new contract in Detroit. The kneejerk reaction of many was that the deal was absurdly bloated. (It was.) Others thought Detroit moved well ahead of the competition in the AL Central. (As a Royals fan, that was my second thought.) If you're a Tigers fan, you might have jumped up on your desk and started doing the Dougie. (Can't blame you.) Me, I just thought it was cool that Prince was going to play for the same team on which his father made a name for himself. It's not clear why I should care.

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With Tony La Russa retired and Albert Pujols weighing other offers, we look back at a historic manager-player partnership.

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.

In a piece that originally ran as an "Inside the Park" column on December 8, 2010 and which will also be appearing in the soon-to-be-released Best of Baseball Prospectus, Bradford Doolittle wrote about the special La Russa-Pujols era in St. Louis.

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March 21, 2011 9:00 am

The BP Broadside: Babe Ruth's Fat Dead Cat(s)


Steven Goldman

Teaching the meaning of the replacement level to old sportswriters and other children.

Integral to those numbers is something called WAR, which stands for wins above replacement. What replacement? A replacement player, of course, but he’s mythical.
Statistics zealots apparently love to deal with mythical or hypothetical players. The problem for those of us who prefer dealing with reality and actual human beings is we can’t buy into the idea of using mathematical formulas instead of real players.
—Murray Chass, September 5, 2010.

I have considered WAR and VORP (“value over replacement player;” yes there’s that replacement guy again), and I have a basic problem with them. The replacement player isn’t real; he’s a myth, and I’ve never seen a myth play baseball. It’s like fantasy baseball. That stuff isn’t real either. —Chass, March 6, 2011

Before we begin, a disclaimer of sorts, or at least a plea for indulgence. I know we hit ol’ Murray quite recently, and at that time some of the comments suggested that we stop shooting at this fish and leave him in his Hall of Fame barrel. I’m sympathetic to that point of view to the extent that I suspect we in the sabermetric community are the only people paying the slightest attention, and unsympathetic because (a) the existence of retrograde thought offends me, (b) battling ignorance is part of my job description, and (c) attacking it is so darned fun.

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The Tony La Russa-Albert Pujols era in St. Louis is nearly unprecedented.

It’s the last day of the season at Wrigley Field and I’m determined to wait out Albert Pujols.

I’ve been assigned to cover the Cardinals for the weekend series, the last three games at the antique ballpark in the 2010 season. Before each game, I spend about three hours hanging around the Cardinals in the visiting team clubhouse at Wrigley—a dank, cramped space that isn’t as big as the locker room at the high school I attended in small-town Iowa. It’s an awkward setup, leaving you hovering around 30-35 big-league personnel with no place to stand. On the flip side, there really is no place for them to hide. If you need to interview someone, this is the place to do it. Only the most resolute can avoid the press in there.

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Various people throughout baseball talk about the importance of the Tigers' long-running double play duo.

“Tram” and “Sweet Lou." The longest-running double-play combination in baseball history, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker played 1,918 games together from 1977-95, the most ever for American League teammates.  During that time they combined for 11 All-Star berths, seven Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards, 4,734 hits, and 429 home runs.  They were, quite simply, the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers for nearly two full decades.

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A well-read hurler talks books, card games and electronics.

In a clubhouse filled with Xboxes and iPads, R.J. Swindle is the Durham Bulls’ bookworm. The 27-year-old left-hander is with his sixth organization -- he has big-league time with the Phillies and Brewers -- and at every stop along the way he’s had a book [and now a Kindle] in hand. Swindle, who has a 1.70 ERA in 29 appearances for Tampa Bay‘s Triple-A affiliate this season, is a graduate of Charleston Southern University.

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The reigning American League Rookie of the Year gives a light-hearted lowdown of the diverse personalities in the Athletics' clubhouse.

Andrew Bailey is the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, and he is also one of the game’s most engaging personalities. The Athletics’ closer clearly has a talented right arm, as evidenced by his 1.81 ERA and 40 saves in 98 big-league appearances. Based on his responses to questions about several Oakland teammates, he also possesses a keen and calculated wit.

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May 28, 2010 9:13 am

Prospectus Q&A: Michael Cuddyer


David Laurila

The Twins right fielder talks about his teammates and other subjects with his usual keen insight and candor.

There are a number of quotable players in the Twins’ clubhouse, but there is only one Michael Cuddyer. The 30-year-old right fielder hits home runs—he clubbed 32 last season—and no one in the game does better card tricks, but more than anything he knows how to respond to a reporter’s queries. Cuddyer did just that when Minnesota visited Fenway Park earlier this month.

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