Is the traditional strike-ball dichotomy too simplistic?
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.
Matt Lentzner has carved out a (very) small niche in the baseball analysis world by examining the intersection of physics and biomechanics. He has presented at the PITCHf/x conference in each of the last two years and has written articles for The Hardball Times, as well as a previous article for Baseball Prospectus. When he’s not writing, Matt works on his physics-based baseball simulator, which is so awesome and all-encompassing that it will likely never actually be finished, though it does provide the inspiration for most of his articles and presentations. In real life, he’s an IT Director at a small financial consulting company in the Silicon Valley and also runs a physical training gym in his backyard on the weekends.
A low payroll and thin farm system do not bode well for the opening of a new ballpark
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade -- whether in September (or before), the League Division Series, League Championship Series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.
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An Athletic and a Royal join the pack, while a late-inning Angel bids farewell.
Since I’m constantly suggesting that you can always find saves throughout the season and therefore shouldn’t spend too much in the draft to secure them, I thought I’d put my convictions to the test. In one of my main leagues, I’m leading the group in saves by a wide margin. Only one of my current relievers was acquired in the draft, Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan, and though I’ve always been high on him, even he was a pretty late pick. Otherwise, I’ve been able to pick and choose with the names that have popped up in this column throughout the season, and it’s served me pretty well. I hope you’ve found value in it as well, but as always, feel free to speak up in the comments if there’s something we can do to serve you better.
The Angels' first baseman shares his thoughts on quotes about the game, hitting, and his own abilities.
Mark Trumbo is a thinking-man’s power hitter. The Angels’ first baseman went deep 36 times in Triple-A last season, and this week he homered in consecutive games—his fifth and sixth of the 2011 campaign—at Fenway Park. He also sat down to share some wisdom, offering his interpretations of a dozen quotes, primarily on the subject of hitting.
No analysis of a major move is complete without some consideration of what it might mean for the fanbase.
Why would a team sign a 27-year-old Ryan Braun to a five-year, $105 million contract extension when the extension is still five years from kicking in, as the Brewers did last week? There are certainly practical reasons, but one overriding one that rarely receives its full due from analysts is fan service. The small market curse—that teams can develop superstars, but cannot afford to retain them—is very much alive in Milwaukee, and fans are keenly aware of it. The Prince Fielder situation is a perfect example of this.
In Prince Fielder's final plate appearance at Miller Park in the 2010 season, the 30,000 fans in attendance gave him a rousing ovation. Later, after Fielder walked and was replaced by a pinch-runner, the ovation was louder and longer, forcing a curtain call from the slugger. It wasn't because Fielder had just hit a walk-off home run or knocked in the winning run. It was because not a single person in the stadium believed that the power-hitting first baseman, who had finished third in MVP voting in 2007 and fourth in 2009, would ever play a game in a Brewers uniform in Miller Park again. The fans wanted to make sure that he knew how much he was appreciated.
Only a few of the preseason's roster battles are likely to have lasting consequences, but one of the few that will resides in the AL West.
It’s March 24, and the villagers are growing ever more restless. By this juncture in spring training, the beat writers charged with covering each team on a daily basis have all but exhausted their reserve of convenient storylines and mildly interesting interview subjects, and those of a more analysis-oriented mindset are generally found to be discussing one of two things: (a) season or individual player projections of a let’s-try-to-predict-the-future sort, or (b) Opening Day roster projections.
Alas, the latter rarely hold the kind of retrospective appeal that the former do, for the Opening Day roster is but a snapshot in time that is subject to modification from all directions as soon as the first game is in the books. In due time, the injured file dejectedly toward the disabled list, the vastly underperforming are faced with the prospect of a major reduction in playing time, demotion, or outright release, and the narrow losers of those heated spring training roster battles—especially the pitchers— very often earn another chance at winning a major-league roster spot later on in that same season. The end result? The initial makeup of a ballclub’s 25-man roster seems to matter greatly at the time, but usually doesn’t end up mattering that much (except for the most flagrant instances of choosing the wrong guy over a more qualified field of roster candidates), as the roster usually ends up sorting itself out in fairly short order. Operative word: usually. Fortunately, few of the AL West’s roster scrums buck the trend with a potentially irreversible outcome—the great exception residing with one foot in the Rangers' rotation, the other in the ‘pen.
After going from worst to first, the Rays have hit hardcover, and Ben brings you the verdict.
Three years after PECOTA projected 88 wins for a Tampa Bay Rays club that had never before surpassed 70—only to see those expectations eclipsed by a team that went on to earn 97 victories and an American League pennant—the team's rise to relevance in baseball's most competitive division has received the full-length book treatment, courtesy of Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First(available now at an online retailer or brick-and-mortar bookseller near you). Jonah is a friend—not to mention a former author of Baseball Prospectus—so if I'd had nothing nice to say about his book, I likely would've taken my mother's advice and said nothing rather than publish a negative review (not that I imagine my condemnation would have made much of a dent in sales). Fortunately, I was spared that decision, since The Extra 2% is consistently well-researched, informative, and entertaining, which should come as no surprise to regular readers of Keri's previous work or those intrigued by the tale of an underfunded team that could.
The book’s title refers to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s philosophy that rather than attempt to lap the field—an unrealistic goal, given the team’s financial realities and the challenge posed by sharing a division with baseball’s behemoths—he and his subordinates should merely seek to gain a 52-48 edge on the competition. Although the subtitle promises to explain the team's success under its capable cadre of Wall Street-trained executives, a considerable portion of the text is devoted to recounting how the franchise first plumbed the depths of failure. The bulk of the book's first third examines how the franchise got itself into the hole that the regime fronted by Sternberg, Matt Silverman, and Andrew Friedman was forced to dig it out of after acquiring a majority stake in October 2005, so once you’ve completed the prologue, be prepared to wait a few chapters before being reintroduced to the principal characters behind the organization’s rebirth.
Exploring the insurance calculus of big-money deals.
The Blue Jays' signing of Jose Bautista last week set off a frenzy of analysis in which authors attempted to determine whether or not his projected performance would live up to the value of his new contract. This is a common analytical template, as it allows the writer to determine whether the deal was more beneficial to the team or the player. From the standpoint of the player, as long as the performance-to-currency translation is sound, the calculation generally works. However, there are factors beyond the reported salary that influence whether or not the deal benefited the team. One of these factors is disability insurance. Granted, the amounts of the insurance premiums paid to take out a policy on a player are not common knowledge, but it is important to understand that a team is likely to pay more than meets the eye, and that the insurance introduces a new level of risk.