In 1980, the world witnessed a hockey Miracle. In 1999, the United States watched its down-and-out Ryder Cup team explode into a jarring celebration on the 17th green. We love international competition. In 2005, we’re hoping to see a rumored World Cup of Baseball.
So, as is our wont, we’ve started poking into some numbers. Assuming the World Cup comes to fruition, and assuming (big assumption) everybody plays, how might the teams stack up?
So far, it’s been all U.S. On the hitting side, we named eight starting position players to come up with each team’s total MLVr+D, a crude measure of hitting and defense, measured in terms of runs plus or minus Major League average. We focused only on those countries with a sufficient number of players in Major League Baseball to field teams: the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (treated as a separate country just for fun), and Venezuela. At the end of our analysis it was readily apparent that Team U.S.A., and even a Second Team U.S.A., had more than enough firepower to cover the competition–so we posited a “World” team made up of all other countries except the U.S. mainland.
Talk of a World Cup of baseball, potentially starting as early as 2005, has inspired early speculation about what the lineups might look like. The team from the Dominican Republic promises to be a monster. Vlad, Manny, Pujols, Sosa, Pedro–yeah, that’s going to be tough. Tough enough to threaten the U.S.A.? I caught the Errol Morris documentary “Fog of War” recently, which offers 11 lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara, seven-year Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson. McNamara, one of the celebrated “Whiz Kids” who brought the science of modern management to a struggling postwar Ford Motor Company, was an early adopter of quantitative analysis. McNamara’s Lesson Six: “Get the data.” A World Cup of baseball is hardly the Cold War, but the McNamara in me relishes any opportunity to take the 2004 PECOTA Weighted Mean Projections out for a spin. Data? We’ve got data.
Baseball Prospectus: One risk that you took last year was an unorthodox relief strategy. In retrospect, do you think it would’ve been more prudent to just go ahead and try it, rather than announcing it beforehand? Theo Epstein: In retrospect, if I could do last year’s bullpen over again, for starters I hope I’d do a better job putting together quality relievers. I didn’t do a very good job. No matter what we said about it, I didn’t have the right guys in here to get the job done. I think both sides of the debate missed a big issue. The general public and traditional media thought we were trying to do a “bullpen by committee,” a revolutionary idea. They decided to just blame the whole thing on Bill James, and got it all wrong. On the other side, the new school guys like yourself thought, great, they’re not going to overpay for saves, and they’re going to try to apply what Bill wrote about the ace reliever and unconventional usage to create the “optimal bullpen.” The truth was really somewhere in the middle.
Theo Epstein became the youngest general manager in major league history when he was hired, at age 28, as GM of the Boston Red Sox. Epstein, who turned 30 one month ago, now has 14 months under his belt as GM and 11 years in professional baseball. He also has three decades of experience with the Red Sox; Epstein grew up in Brookline, Mass., within walking distance of Fenway Park. As GM, he still walks to the ballpark every day. (Hours after this interview, the Red Sox re-acquired veteran designated hitter Ellis Burks. Burks, when he came up as a rookie with the Red Sox in 1987, was patrolling center field in front of his 13-year-old future GM.) Baseball Prospectus spoke with Epstein at his office inside a snow-covered Fenway Park.
BOSTON, Mass. — I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. When I go to a rock show I expect to see someone onstage howling like a banshee and whaling away on the rhythm guitar. I just don’t expect that someone to be Peter Gammons.
Sunday night’s “Hot Stove, Cool Music” show at the Paradise Rock Club featured not just Gammons onstage, but a slew of baseball rockers and an audience full of VIP baseball guests. It was the fourth annual event, but the first for me. I’ll admit to being star struck–the following is what I can make of my notes…
Ivan Santucci, 32, is project manager for the Umpire Information System (UIS) created and administered by QuesTec, Inc., of Deer Park, N.Y. He manages technical issues, training, installations, upgrades, and maintenance in the U.S., Korea, and Japan. He’s on the road for 80 percent of the regular season, but when he’s at home (down Beacon Street from Fenway Park) Santucci is also one of three QuesTec technicians who handle the pitch-by-pitch UIS duties for home Red Sox games.
The UIS, which has been a topic of much controversy in its brief MLB lifespan, is a system of video cameras used to evaluate umpires’ strike zone accuracy. Baseball Prospectus interviewed Santucci in a series of emails before and during the 2003 winter meetings.