For the past seven years, I’ve surveyed the members of the Society For American Baseball Research’s Business of Baseball Committee about issues relating to baseball labor and economics, publishing the results and a cross-section of the comments in the winter issue of the Committee’s quarterly newsletter. With a new CBA in place and the Expos still in limbo, I decided to survey my fellow Prospectus writers, too. Unlike the usual Prospectus roundtable, no one saw or commented on anyone else’s answers.
BP writers who responded to the survey included Jeffrey Bower, Will Carroll, Gary Huckabay, Rany Jazayerli, Jonah Keri, Doug Pappas, Joe Sheehan, Nate Silver and Derek Zumsteg. As you’ll see, our views are far from monolithic.
The greatest change in baseball thought over the past 20 years has been the shift of focus from one offensive statistic (number of hits / number of times to plate that did not result in a walk) to a better one (number of times reached base / number of times at the plate). Granted, I realize that I’m omitting sacrifice flies and catcher interferences there, but that’s the essence of batting average and on-base percentage. If you only knew on-base percentage, you’d do pretty well comparing players.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this with fielding statistics–a fact that results in a disagreement between our eyes, instincts, and what we read. I’ve been trying to educate myself on fielding statistics for the last couple years, and I want to admit up front that I have not been able to reconcile them with my own evaluation. When I see Mike Cameron rated as a slightly above-average center fielder last year, I roll my eyes, because I have in my head a mental image of how far he can go to get a ball–a massive expanse few visiting outfielders can cover. The issue, though, is that it’s not an accurate picture or particularly useful in evaluation.
The second most frequent question I get after “What the [bleep] is wrong with Nick Johnson?” is “How do you do what you do?” My friend Robert Herzog called me on my radio show last year and really grilled me. He’s a friend now, but it was really an annoying question. At the time, my answer was “lots of phone calls and a lot of perseverance.” True, yes, but not really the key to it.
Becoming a baseball injury analyst was something of a wonderful accident of luck and timing. Under The Knife started as my answer to another injury analyst who gave incorrect information and answered a question with, “What do you expect for a hundred bucks?” I’d had just enough coffee in me that day to think that I could do better.
I don’t listen to a lot of sports radio, primarily because there isn’t enough
baseball content on it to keep me interested, and what little there is isn’t
particularly insightful. Most of my listening tends to come in the morning,
with the radio on as background noise accompanying a shower.
Yesterday, sometime between soap and shampoo, I heard a promo for the
Angels/Brewers game on the local ESPN Radio affiliate. The game didn’t mean
much to me, but the promised interview with Bud Selig certainly did. I was
eager to hear what Selig, long the game’s worst poormouther, would be saying
seven months after helping to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement that
is the most favorable to ownership since 1975.
The problem with writing about a healthy team is not having enough to say, yet still missing the inevitable injuries the team will have. Over the course of a long season, players break down, have accidents, run into walls, dive headfirst into bases, swing too hard, iron their shirts, trim the hedges, and an infinite number of other products of randomness and chaos. Add to that the infallible fallibility of your humble writer, and hopefully I keep the signal-to-noise ratio tolerable.