(Ed. note: The following is a reprint of an article that ran one year ago, on the day of the 2001 draft.]
Right now, 30 major-league organizations are making decisions that will impact the success of their franchise over the next few years, and in some cases, for a decade or more. Unlike the football and basketball versions, though, the annual draft of young talent doesn’t receive national television coverage or make men with good hair and strong opinions famous and wealthy.
Doug Pappas starts his series on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement today with a look at Articles I-IV. Over the next few weeks he’ll explore some of the key clauses in the CBA as well as some of the most important changes made in this latest edition.
Today’s PTP looks at Shea Hillenbrand’s place in Red Sox 3B history, shrugs at the Reds’ new leadoff man, Adam Dunn, and hails the return of The Shooter, Rod Beck. Plus more news and notes out of Boston, Cincinnati and San Diego.
The Braves deal with injuries to the Jones boys. The Reds’ pitching experiment has been a disappointment so far this year. The DL is not a magic elixir. Will Carroll covers these and other topics in today’s UTK.
Interleague play kicks off tonight with 14 mixed matchups. This year, we again have a new set of games, with the AL West taking on the NL East, the AL East playing the NL Central, and the AL Central and NL West hooking up for 18 games.
Mostly, anyway. The odd sizes of the AL West and the NL Central complicate things, for one. Then there’s MLB’s desperate need to schedule the six or seven series for which the whole concept of interleague play exists, so the Yankees will again play the Mets home-and-home, the Cubs will play the White Sox and so on. Some teams will play as many as 18 interleague contests, while others will play just 12.
All of this schedule-rigging trades fairness for a few extra bucks. Of course, MLB already tossed fairness out the window with regard to the wild-card spot years ago, as interleague play and the unbalanced schedule mean that teams fighting for the league’s fourth slot can play wildly differing slates. Most notably, the 2001 Cardinals edged the Giants for the NL’s last playoff spot by two games, benefitting not only from a weaker division, but a much weaker set of interleague games.
The breadth of the draft allows everyone–including the fans–plenty of room to work out their theories. And it gives us armchair GMs a chance to learn that it’s not as easy as it looks. As a fan, I don’t know what GMs or scouts know. I don’t get to watch high school baseball, and the only college ball I see is when ESPN runs the College World Series. The good news is that my eyes won’t fool me. The bad news is that I don’t know anything about a player’s mental or mechanical defects, his signing demands, or injuries.
I have the numbers, though, and I know how to read them. It’s true that numbers can be made to lie, and they can be misunderstood. The variances of league, park, and competition make high school numbers notoriously untrustworthy. If you’re going to scout the high schools, you have to rely far more on scouts’ observations than data. If you’re a frequent visitor to this website, you’re highly suspicious of wholly subjective analysis. You’d be more comfortable if you could play with some numbers too. So you prefer to look at college players.
College numbers are difficult to interpret, but not as hard as some people think. If we account for strength of competition, strength of conference, age, and park factors, we can get a crude but helpful idea of a player’s projectable skills. Until recently these factors have been hard to come by, but Boyd Nation has revolutionized the processing of college baseball data. Using Boyd’s rankings and comprehensive collection of hyperlinks, we can make substantial adjustments for context. We could use these sources to collect our field of draftables, or we could use them to modify Baseball America’s many lists. BA is second to none in its coverage of the draft, but if you lean toward performance over tools, you’re bound to be dissatisfied with some of BA’s conclusions. Even so, its subjective observations are often invaluable.
So with Boyd’s rankings and hyperlinks, and BA’s multiform coverage, you settle in for the draft. You know that Delmon Young, Rickie Weeks, Tim Stauffer, and Kyle Sleeth are going right up top. You know that Vince Sinisi will probably fall a bit because of the Boras factor. By draft day, a lot of the drama has already been diffused. But there are choices to make: