One of the favorite terms of baseball officials is “development path,” used to describe the gradual improvement of a prospect into a major league player. As Nate Silver’s PECOTA system shows us, most players follow a somewhat normal path of improvement and can be classified into a certain type of player depending on their skill set. Some low-level shortstops are that in name only, really possessing offensive skills destined for a corner spot. Others are highlight-reel defenders who hit like pitchers, but amaze and entertain with their prowess in the field. Occasionally, though, we run across a prospect that simply bewilders, showing wildly different skill sets in different years, and making future projections a bit trickier. Jose Lopez is one of these players. The 19-year-old shortstop from Venezuela has made a name for himself and has responded well to the Mariners’ willingness to push him quickly through the system, being one of the youngest players in the league during each of his first three professional seasons. However, his performances have been anything but consistent, and the reports on him are nearly as confusing.
I’ve complained a lot about broadcasts, but what do I actually want? As I’ve sat around watching every game I can down the stretch, I’ve given this some thought. I want insight, more than anything, and failing that, I’d like not to be insulted. I don’t want to have the screen read to me: I can read. If I couldn’t, wouldn’t having the dude say “as you can see from the scouting report…” only rub in the pain of illiteracy? There’s so much to talk about in a baseball game–from pitch to pitch, what’s the sequence? How does this fit into a batter’s strength and weaknesses, or the pitcher’s? What kind of strategic possibilities exist, and how does each manager handle that situation? Instead, according to the announcers, every hitter is a first-pitch, fastball hitter who likes his pitches out and over the plate, and every pitcher needs to put the heat right in on their hands (an expression Jim Bouton used to ridicule). With runners on, it’s always a good idea to put the game in motion, I’m told. Put pressure on the defense. Nothing’s this simple. I’d love to see some real debate in the booth. I’ve argued before that the best thing baseball could do would be to copy wrestling and have one announcer (the play-by-play man would be best) who’s a bit of a homer, and the other announcer who’s the critic, and rankles the home fans a little. With the right people, you might find that while fans didn’t like the crew, they were much more involved in the broadcasts and tuned in to see what would happen next.
Brandon Webb gives the Diamondbacks three aces at the top of their rotation. The Royals’ Angel Berroa deserves the AL Rookie of the Year award. Mike Lieberthal should be hitting between Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu for the Phillies. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in your Thursday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
I’d like to thank everyone for all the feedback on yesterday’s UTK. I went into a bit more depth than I normally do, and since there was such a reaction–many being “Jeez, Will, what’s with you using numbers and stuff? Are those BP Math Bullies kicking your butt in the playground?”–it’s something I’ll try to do more of in the future.
In fact, while many of you wrote in to enlighten me with background information on a number of the pitchers who made “the list,” even more you reminded me that the topic was addressed directly in one of the best books on baseball ever written, The Diamond Appraised. In TDA, Craig Wright and Tom House took a close look at the topic of pitcher workloads, introducing a number of ideas that were revolutionary for the time, and are still causing debate today. If you haven’t read this book, do so immediately.
Speaking of books, it’s time for my “big announcement.” I’ve reached an agreement in principle to write a book this off-season on pitcher injuries. I’m excited about the project, which will bring together some of the greatest minds in sports medicine to try and shine a bright light on the problem of pitcher health. More on this project in the future.
Powered by hope of an October beer at Clark & Addison, on to the injuries…