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Think your team has a great clubhouse culture? That's what they all say.

We’re 27 days away from the first pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. We’re also 27 days away from the first reporters reporting,* which means we’re no more than 28 days away from reading quotes about team chemistry.

Chemistry is confusing, and not just for those of us who haven’t played professional sports. Even among players, opinions on its value fall along a wide spectrum from “essential” to “superfluous.” On one extreme, you have Eric Hinske, who believes that one can’t win without chemistry (and whose presence was, conveniently enough, perceived to promote it):

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And why maybe they should more often.

On Thursday’s episode of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast, host Buster Olney, while discussing the Cardinals’ NLDS victory over the Pirates with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, made a comment that sabermetricians do not often discuss matters of team chemistry or clubhouse culture. (Well, maybe once in a while…) Olney then proceeded to talk about how he believed that one reason for the Cardinals’ success, both within the NLDS and more broadly over the past few years, has to do with the culture that the club has worked to cultivate. Olney cited, among other things, that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, himself worthy of some legitimate MVP support this year, is also one of the hardest workers on the team. Olney pointed out that Cardinals management (Tony LaRussa and, later, Mike Matheny) has gone out of its way to specifically ask its star players to set an example for the rest of the team. He reasoned that other players on the team see this sort of commitment from Molina and are inspired to commit themselves to similarly hard work, and pointed out that it’s rare for sabermetricians give much credence to this as a reason that some teams win while others fall by the wayside.

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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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After being written off as a useful asset in 2011, Alfonso Soriano unexpectedly assumed an important role for the Cubs in 2012. How did it happen?

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.

Sahadev Sharma is a contributor to ESPN Chicago and ChicagoSide, where he regularly covers the Cubs and White Sox. Sahadev spent four years as a radio producer at ESPN 1000 in Chicago and often dabbled in the blogosphere. In the fall of 2010, Sahadev focused his attention on the writing side of the business and quickly realized that was where he belonged. If not spending his free time with his wife, one-year-old son, and two Italian Greyhounds, you’ll likely find Sahadev appreciating Starlin Castro’s ability to hit, defending Adam Dunn, or watching YouTube clips of the Illini’s 2005 NCAA tourney comeback against Arizona. Follow him on Twitter @sahadevsharma.
 


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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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The Rangers have a burgeoning farm system, but what could be some stumbling blocks for their top prospects?

Prospect #1: SS Jurickson Profar
Background with Player: My eyes
Who: This highly-touted prospect comes from Curacao. Many saw the former Little League World Series star as a pitcher because of his already promising fastball and ability to spin what projected to be a quality breaking ball. Signed as a position player for a bonus of $1.55 million in 2009, Profar exploded in his full-season debut in 2011, showing an advanced feel for all aspects of the game and emerging as a premier prospect in all of baseball.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Not that Profar is all polish and no projection, but unlike most teenaged prospects, the gap between his representational present and his abstract future isn’t as wide. As such, Profar isn’t going to continue his physical tool-based ascent at the same accelerated pace. That isn’t to say his status isn’t legit; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Profar is a rare breed of prospect, one that combines all the physical characteristics of a future first-division major-league starter, with the intense desire to not only reach those heights, but to ultimately eclipse them. This might seem like an odd thing to criticize, but the intense desire to be the best might end up being a hindrance in the short term, even if the #want makes him a better player in the long term.



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September 21, 2011 9:00 am

Clubhouse Confidential: An MVP By Any Other Name

16

Marc Carig

If voters took the MVP voting instructions literally, Jose Bautista would likely be bringing home some hardware this season.

TORONTO—The following—courtesy of a living, breathing, American League voter who hopes to be compensated with an alcoholic beverage to be named later—is a copy of the instructions given to those within the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have been tapped to elect this season's Most Valuable Player.

I present them here because of Jose Bautista.

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August 19, 2011 5:49 pm

Manufactured Runs: Multifold Changes

23

Colin Wyers

Jim Hendry is gone - will it make a difference for the Cubs?

It’s the end of an era for the Cubs. Tom Ricketts, public face of the Ricketts family trust that bought the team in 2009, announced this morning that general manager Jim Hendry had “stepped down,” which left out the little detail that he was given a bit of a shove first. It’s become increasingly clear that the Cubs have needed a new direction for many years, and now they certainly are going in a new direction.

Nobody will accuse Hendry of being the world’s greatest GM, but he is perhaps taking more than his fair share of the blame from Cubs fans. Ricketts was careful to avoid turning Hendry into a scapegoat, praising him for his work and dedication. Today’s press conference shed some new light on the baffling behavior of the Cubs this past month; Hendry was informed of the decision to move on back on the 22nd of July, just over a week before the trade deadline. He was asked to stay on to finish signing the team’s amateur draft picks, and he agreed. This explains the inactivity of a man nicknamed “Trader Jim” for his wheeling and dealing ways; taking a laissez faire approach gives his successor more freedom.

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The Diamondbacks manager talks about his unorthodox path to managing, playing defense in a hitter's park, and where he'll be ten years from now.

A.J. Hinch isn't your typical big-league manager, but he just might be the perfect fit for an information-driven Diamondbacks organization. Named to the position last May, the 35-year-old Stanford product is well schooled in not only statistical analysis, but also the ins and outs of the D'backs' system, having served as the club's farm director prior to assuming his current role. Hinch talked about his first season on the bench, and the vision he shares with GM Josh Byrnes and the rest of the front office, during MLB's Winter Meetings last month.

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The Mariners' skipper on his relationship with GM Jack Zduriencik, the expectations on his club for 2010, and the acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins.

There are some loud tremors emanating from the Pacific Northwest this offseason, and nobody feels and hears them more than Don Wakamatsu. The Mariners skipper isn't quite quaking with excitement, but with the recent acquisitions of Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee, there is clearly an extra bounce to his step. There may also be an elevated heart rate, as Mount Rainier-sized expectations are already beginning to cascade down upon a team that won 85 games in Wakamatsu's first year at the helm. The 46-year-old skipper talked to Baseball Prospectus via phone-a conversation briefly interrupted by a call from GM Jack Zduriencik-to discuss the season that was, and the future of what clearly seems to be an organization moving in the right direction.

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The Diamondbacks' Director of Baseball Ops talks about wedding the subjective to the objective in player evaluations, and the organization's approach to various aspects of team-building.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' front office is among the most forward-thinking in the game, and one of the best analytical minds in the organization belongs to Shiraz Rehman. Currently the club's Director of Baseball Operations, Rehman earned a bachelor's degree in Finance and Accounting from McGill University, and an MBA from Columbia Business School, prior to joining the D'backs in 2005. Rehman sat on the baseball analytics panel at last weekend's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. Afterwards, he talked with Baseball Prospectus about the importance of statistical analysis in the Diamondbacks' organization.

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June 22, 2008 12:00 am

Every Given Sunday: Dropping the Axe

0

John Perrotto

Willie Randolph wasn't the only manager fired this week, but the manner of his dismissal caused an uproar.

Nearly a week has passed since the Mets fired manager Willie Randolph, and egg is still being wiped off the organization's collective face. The Mets have been castigated inside and outside the industry for the way they handled the move, having Randolph take a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles after last Sunday's doubleheader with the Rangers at Shea Stadium, then dropping the ax on him after a win over the Angels.

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