The birth, life, and death of the game-winning RBI.
In 1980, the Elias Sports Bureau - baseball's statistical keepers - quietly introduced a new statistic into the sport's vernacular: the game-winning RBI. The introduction was so quiet, in fact, that I can't find a single article mentioning the new statistic in 1980. Instead, it just suddenly appeared in box scores that spring, innocently tracking players' ability to hit in the clutch. Or so Elias hoped.
The phrase "game-winning rbi" invokes images of big hits, players coming through in the clutch to put their team ahead for good. A two-run double in the bottom of the eighth to make it 3-2, a tenth-inning leadoff home run, even a bases-loaded sacrifice fly... The problem with statistics, though, is that they need a rigid definition to be useful; a vague "I know it when I see it" just won't do. The game-winning RBI was defined in Rule 1004-a as "the RBI that gives a club the lead it never relinquishes."
Checking the 2012 annual for potential new additions to the baseball dictionary.
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.
Cecilia Tan is the Publications Director for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), where she edits the Baseball Research Journal. Her next project after Baseball Prospectus 2012is launching a new digital magazine, Yankees Yearly: An Annual Look at the New York Yankees.
Taking a (superficial) look at how well each team uses their Spanish-language website.
Do you ever look behind home plate at certain stadiums and notice the website URLs on the advertising blocks? Usually it's just something simple like brewers.com or redsox.com, but oftentimes you'll see a second one sitting next to it: yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, for example.
If it isn't immediately obvious, that second URL is the address to the team's Spanish-language website. For teams with a large enough Spanish-speaking fanbase, the Spanish URL is a no-brainer. The makeup of that URL isn't uniform, however. While the Yankees may feel yankeesbeisbol.com works for them, their crosstown rivals instead go with losmets.com while still other teams choose something different.
The mysterious art of scouting needn't defy analysis, as long as ratings are applied consistently.
Consistency: the word itself a food metaphor, irony dripping from it like ice cream from a half-melted cone. Despite the rhetoric, consistency doesn’t matter much in baseball. What matters is being good. In the process of evaluating ballplayers, however, consistency is all that matters.
Scouts grade prospects based on a 20-80 scale where 50 is average, and, according to one scout*, “one grade is a standard deviation. Think of it as a bell curve.”
The Diamondbacks' catcher discusses coming to the United States, life in the minor leagues and relating to pitchers.
When healthy, Miguel Montero is one of the better-hitting catchers in the National League. Regardless, he is among the more personable. A 27-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, Montero was signed by the Diamondbacks in 2001 and climbed steadily through the system before making his big-league debut in 2006. After hitting .294/.355/.478 in 2009, he was limited to 85 games by a knee injury in 2010 and saw his slash line drop to .266/.332/.438. Montero talked about his climb through the ranks, including learning to speak English in Montana, when the D-backs visited Fenway Park this past summer.
The Mets AA pitching coach discusses working with Latin-American players.
For Mark Brewer, it’s all about comunicación and comprensión. Currently the pitching coach for the Double-A Binghamton Mets, the 51-year-old Brewer previously served as the Mets Latin American pitching coordinator. The son of former big league reliever Jim Brewer, he has also worked for the Dodgers, Rangers, Royals and Pirates.
Manny Ramirez has an odd first press conference with the White Sox, along with other news and notes from around the major leagues.
Very little information was revealed by Manny Ramirez in the mercurial slugger's introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon. In fact, about the only thing that was clear during the bizarre 10-minute affair was that non-answers and clichés spoken in Spanish translate into non-answers and clichés in English.
Detroit's Triple-A catcher talks about his unique, and difficult, journey.
When Latin-American and Asian players sign professional contracts, they are typically immersed in English-language classes and, in some cases, assigned translators. Max St. Pierre wasn’t so fortunate. Taken by Detroit in the 26th round of the 1997 draft out of French-speaking Quebec City, the now 30-year-old catcher came into pro ball with neither a support system nor teammates who spoke the same language. What followed was a tumultuous ride through the minor leagues, one which featured not only loneliness but also a battle with alcohol abuse. St. Pierre, who is back with the Tigers organization after a brief hiatus, has his life back in order and is hitting a perfectly-fluent .324/.358/.419 with Triple-A Toledo.
The Rangers' center fielder talks about what it is like to experience both the Dominican and American cultures.
Julio Borbon is a multi-cultural player in a multi-cultural game. The speedy center fielder came to the Rangers via the University of Tennessee, but he spent his formative years in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Borbon talked about his Latin-American upbringing, and the baseball-crazy cultures of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, when Texas visited Fenway Park earlier this month.
The Dodgers coach discusses coming to the United States, his playing experiences, and those who influenced him.
Manny Mota is known to most baseball fans as one of the best pinch-hitters of all time, but he might be better described as one of the game’s finest ambassadors and gentlemen. A coach for the Dodgers since 1980, the 71-year-old Mota came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1957 and went on to play for the Giants, Pirates, Expos, and Dodgers for 20 big-league seasons, retiring with a .304 lifetime average and 150 pinch hits. He encountered prejudice along the way, having emigrated to a country that didn’t see racism totally disappear with the breaking of baseball’s color barrier a decade earlier.
Pablo Sandoval talks about coming to pro ball from Vanezuela.
A native of Puerto Cabello, Carabobo, Venezuela, Pablo Sandoval was signed by the Giants in 2003 and began his professional career the following season in the Arizona Rookie League at the age of 18. He has since gone on to become one of the best hitters in the National League, but first “The Kung Fu Panda” -- is there a better nickname in sports? -- had to learn a new language and a new culture. Now a third baseman after beginning his career as a catcher, Sandoval has hit .320/.371/.512 since breaking into the big leagues in 2008.