In which, five years before he himself broke out, Nate Silver addresses breakouts.

Breaking Out
January 23, 2003

Abstract: Nate introduces his new forecasting system—the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm—and uses it to go over a list of breakout candidates produced by Peter Gammons’ survey of front offices. While the piece provides plenty of amusing-in-retrospect assessments (“Beltre is a small player by today's standards — 5' 11'', 165 lbs., too small to be a great power hitter, and he might do well to follow Miguel Tejada's example and hit the weight room. If not, he's more likely to follow the long but unremarkable career path of his most historically comparable player, Aurelio Rodriguez”) of players who are now old, it’s more about the nature of breakouts, and whether common themes stick out to help us predict them. Among the rules of thumb:

  • Players who are most likely to improve are often those who have the most to improve upon in one particular facet of their games
  • Reaching the majors late normally correlates with a more rapid decline phase
  • Catchers are more likely than others to develop late, but also more likely to fade early

Key quote: “If one needs any reminder that lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, it's worth reviewing a similar list that Gammons produced last year. That list includes roughly equal representation of the good (Alfonso Soriano and Derek Lowe), the bad (J.D. Drew), and the ugly (Juan Uribe), as well as four players whose performances were so impressive that they made repeat appearances on this year's list.”

Tangential reminder buried within a link within the piece that the 2003 draft was so, so bad, and also that spelling amateur players' names can be tricky:

10 players we can't wait to see drafted in the first round come June

1. Kyle Sleeth, RHP, Wake Forest

2. Matt Murton, OF, Georgia Tech

3. Delvin Young, OF, Los Angeles HS. Simply great.

4. Richie Weeks, 2B, Southern

5. Pete Stonard, OF, San Diego State

6. David Aardsma, RHP, Rice

7. Matt Brown, RHP, California

8. Tim Stauffer, RHP, Richmond

9. Scott Baker, RHP, Oklahoma State

10. Anthony Gwynn and Rod Allen, OFs, San Diego State and Arizona State. Gwynn and Allen, like Jonathan Schuerholz, prove that just because your father is famous doesn't mean you can't be the type of person that everyone would like to call son.

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On the Nate Silver Must-Read Scale: 1

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