Garfoose wrangler, author, and newly-minted Italian leaguer Dirk Hayhurst discusses baseball, his new book, and his decision to move across the pond.
I recently chatted with former Padres, Blue Jays, and Rays right-hander Dirk Hayhurst about baseball, his new book, and his upcoming move to Italy. I've talked to Dirk (who has a blog and is active on Twitter as TheGarfoose) a few times over the years, and it's always good to catch up with a fellow “Monty Python” fan. (Sadly, we did not discuss “Python” this time, so you'll have to settle for Sir Not Appearing in This Interview.)
We did discuss Dirk's decision to make Italy the next stop in his baseball career. This strikes some people as an unusual choice, but Dirk views it as an adventure. Although he has never been to Italy, he looks forward to working and living in a country whose culture moves at a more relaxed pace than the United States.
I have seen the future, and its name is FIELDf/x. OK, so we kind of knew that. But today, FIELDf/x started to seem a lot more real, and even more exciting than I’d imagined. You may have noticed that BP had a man on the scene at Sportvision’s PITCHf/x summit whose liveblog was actually live. So why am I doing this, when Colin already did? Well, for one thing, Colin arrived fashionably late, and I was all over those first 14 minutes that he missed. For another, his computer died before a lot of the fun started. And for still another (this is a third reason, now), I thought it might be fun to do a Simmons-style quasi-liveblog (written live, published later) that would free me from worries about frequent updates, and allow me to write at length. Most likely that length turned out to be a good deal longer than anyone has any interest in reading, but if you’re determined to catch up on the day’s intriguing events without sitting through eight hours of archived video, you’re welcome to peruse what lies below. If you’d like to follow along, here’s an agenda, and here’s where you should be able to find downloadable presentations in the near future.
Here we are in sunny California, home of the cutest girls in the world, if the Beach Boys are to be believed (I gather there’s also a more recent chart-topper that expresses a similar view). Okay, so by “we,” I mean the attendees at the 3rd (annual?) Sportvision PITCHf/x summit, held at the Westin San Francisco in—you guessed it—San Francisco. I, on the other hand, am watching from the other end of the continent, via a webcast that dubiously claims to be “hi-res,” despite being blurry enough to make deciphering text an adventure (I guess “hi-res” is relative, in the sense that there are even lower resolutions at which it could’ve been streamed). And sure, maybe the Beach Boys weren’t thinking of this particular gathering when they extolled the virtues of California’s beach bunnies. But never mind that—it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in New York, and how better to spend it than to watch a video of some fellow nerds talk about baseball in a dark room some 3,000 miles away? Well, to describe the experience at the same time, of course. Let’s get this quasi-liveblog started.
Clay returns with Part Two of his look at the WBC participants.
Pool B - United States, Mexico, Canada, South Africa
The US is probably the strongest team in the tournament. The secret to that rating is their depth. There are a lot of countries who may have a .280 EqA third baseman, say…but if for some reason he doesn't play, their next choice is down at .250, and if he can't play, their next choice is at .230. By contrast, if the US loses a .280 player, they've got .275 and .270 guys lined up right behind--minimal dropoffs, even if they don't get their first choice. The upshot of that is a US lineup with someone like Johnny Damon as their worst hitter, which is how they get an overall batter rating of .290--a narrow second place to the Dominican's .292. But it is the pitching, and especially the bullpen, that really sets them apart, where they will line up Chad Cordero, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Huston Street, and Billy Wagner. Overall, the US gets a 134 rating--tops in the tourney. The US' Batting DT is here and the Pitching DT is here (again, the file can be viewed in your browser, or in a plain text editor).
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As Cuba celebrates their return to the top of the heap, Clay Davenport takes a look at the field they conquered and comes away less than impressed.
But how good was the level of play in a tournament that had nearly as many European teams (three) as representatives from the rest of the world (five)?
Fortunately for the answer to that question, the skill level of many of the players in the Olympic tournament was a known quantity. Most of the players for Canada, Australia, Greece and the Netherlands are or have been in the American minor leagues, and we have a very good understanding of the level of play in the minors. A few, like Dave Nilsson and Gene Kingsale, have major-league experience, but because Major League Baseball would not release anyone from their contracts to participate in the Olympics, no one on an active major-league roster was present. All of the Japanese players came from their major league, and while we aren't quite as certain about rating the Japanese leagues (see Baseball Prospectus 2004) as we are with the American minors, we still do pretty well. The Taiwanese were mostly unknown, the team drawn mainly from their professional leagues, which I have never been able to translate in either a baseball or a linguistic sense. Their top players, Chin-Feng Chen and Chin-Hui Tsao, do play in the States and are on the verge of playing in the majors. The Italians were unknown, coming from their home leagues, but a couple have played in the U.S. before. The Cubans were all unknown.
One of the things that I heard the Olympic Committee really wanted to get
was "foot speed". I read that over and over, and it made me think
that maybe they were going to go out of their way to get former major
leaguers, like Vince Coleman, so they could steal some bases.
They didn't. I'm happy about that. The big speed threat is Brent
Abernathy, who was 21-for-36 in steal attempts when I pulled his stats
on selection day. Foot speed, apparently, has run out.
The potential makeup of the United States Olympic Baseball team is becoming
public, and there are ill omens for USA Baseball's chances against the
world. There will be 24 players and six alternates on the team, so we can
look for team manager Tommy Lasorda to take a more-or-less standard roster
with 14 position players and ten pitchers, give or take one hitter or
pitcher. The team will be announced August 23, after which there will be a
one-week window to pull players off for emergencies. After September 1,
players can't be pulled off the team.