Archive for May, 2005

Youth Movement

Finally, the Braves implemented the first step towards fixing the outfield corners problem. Raul Mondesi and his .211/.271/.359 are gone. But, don’t think of this move as John Scheurholz admitting failure. In fact, its part of his plan working. I think JS would have surely preferred a productive Mondesi, but Raul Mendozza (I mean Mondesi) was always a gamble. A gamble that could only be made with the amazing core of youngsters. Mondesi’s replacement, Kelly Johnson simply outgrew AAA. . His .310/.439/.581 in Richmond just could not be ignored. Right behind him are Andy Marte (.278/.374/.485) and Billy McCarthy (.287/.355/.463). Let’s not forget about the other young players already in Atlanta. Ryan Langerhans (.190/.253/.430) has had some trouble getting on base, but when he hits the ball…look out. In less than half the at-bats of Mondesi, he’s outhomered him. And his defense has been outstanding. He will now platoon with Jordan, who ought to be very careful. Wilson Betemit (.275/.408/.500) seems to be the playing like the prospect he was supposed to be. Recent catching call-up Bryan Pena was seriously in danger of hitting over .400 in AAA. With 3 hits in his first two games, Eddie Perez may take some extra time nursing his injuries. And finally, let’s not forget Kyle Davies. While I didn’t think he was ready for the call-up, he’s certainly proved me wrong. In two starts he’s struckout more than a batter an inning, walking very few, and he is yet to give up a run. At worst the kid seems to have at least earned a bullpen slot when the starters get healthy, but he may prove he’s worth more. Addendum: I forgot Pete Orr, who’s playing quite well in his bench role.

Overall, the Mondesi move says something more powerfully indirectly than it does to directly improve the team. If you don’t perform, you won’t play; because there are plently of people in the organization that can.

Sabermetric Hubris

I’m pissed, and I cannot contain my anger any longer. Because remaining silent about this ingrained attitude of what constitutes a good argument within the sabermetric community sets a broad precedent for how we as an online community are going to determine what is truth in the game of baseball, this issue must be addressed before we go any further. While I noticed this bizarre clubish backlash against reasonable yet unpopular arguments in the response to Steven Levitt’s critique of sabermetric dogma, I really didn’t realize the full extent of the problem until I became the target. I am being asked to defend an undefendable position, which is not undefendable because my argument is wrong. I’m being asked to produce deductive truth where the the only logical tools we have are induction or abduction. And this standard is wholly unacceptable and must not be tolerated if the quest for knowledge about baseball is to continue.

I must say that the most recent Baseball Primer thread discussing my THT article on DIPS has been the low-light of my association with the online sabermetric community. The general approach of the posters involving sheer ignorance of statistics or the role of the scientific method in determining truth is embarrassing. I cannot prove that there are no flaws with my study anymore that I can prove that God did not create the world in 6 days a little over 5,000 year ago. (And just so I don’t offend anyone, I am a Christian and serious about my faith. I don’t believe the several conflicting accounts of God’s creation of the world should be read literally.) All I can do is offer up the best argument from the data that exists as I wrote in the Primer thread.

Here are some limitations any study of DIPS must face. Take your best shot at working around them. I will gladly applaud your efforts.

Predictions involve a BEFORE and an AFTER. You have to gage the efficiency of predictions from some unit of measurement in the past and in the future. It could be a season, half-season, a moving 3-year average, batter-to-batter, etc. We also have to have a cut-off to allow entry into the study to minimize noise. A pitcher who faces one batter is certainly too small. Facing 1000 innings is too high. There is a tradeoff that must be made when choosing the cutoff. If you don’t like my choice, which is the lowest cutoff of any study on DIPS that I am aware of, pick a new one and go to it. The data is available at www.baseball1.com. Have a field day.

It’s time for my critics to put up or shut up. I have made my case, put some alternative empirical evidence on the table if you wish to claim that there is something biased in my findings and the findings that many others have made. I am trained as an empirical researcher, and I am of an open mind. I only wish to find truth. In fact, one of the reasons I set out to do this study was to verify or reject some previous work that I thought was not statistically rigorous. For example, I have no knowledge that any previous person studying this issue had identified serial correlation in the data. Well, it exists and must be addressed. This is something I did in the study, and it turns out that the past conclusions of those studying DIPS still stand up to this. It would have been wrong for me to simply state “there could be autocorrelation” and end my critique there. Had the results of my reevaluation of DIPS gone differently, I would have been the first person to say, DIPS has to go.

If you find fault with what I have done, demonstrate the errors of my study with empirical data. I will be the first person to link to and praise any study that does so. As Bill James once said about new offensive metrics, “What we really need… is for the amateurs to clear the floor.” I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Get serious or get a life. No more nit picking, no more pretending to understand statistics by merely tossing around relevant statistical terms. I want real hard-core statistical evidence if you would care for me to change my mind. And maybe changing my mind isn’t anything you’re interested in. If not, then don’t criticize my work.

And if you are offended and think I’m being rude? Good! Now I’ve got your attention. I asked politely several times only to be ignored.

An Interview with Farhan Zaidi of the Oakland A’s

Last week I posted James Hall’s interview with a baseball scout. Now, I have have an interview with a member of the A’s front office Farhan Zaidi. Who is Farhan Zaidi? Well, he’s the newest member of the A’s front office, and he has an interesting background of interest to me: he’s a PhD economist (from Cal). When I saw that Farhan had been hired, I sent him an e-mail requesting an interview. To my delight, he agreed to answer some questions once the season started. I sent him some questions just over a week ago, and he quickly got back to me. His answers are extremely fascinating, and I hope you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did. I learned quite a few things from his answers that I did not expect to hear, especially about what front offices really do. And if you are interested in working your way into a position like his, he has some interesting advice for you.

I would like to extend a special thank you to Farhan for taking the time to do the interview. This was an extremely nice gesture. I am grateful for your kindness.

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What exactly do you do for the A’s?

The job has evolved into a mix of a traditional baseball operations assistant position and an analyst position. I chart all our games and prepare advance reports for our coaching staff. Right now, I’m spending a lot of my time doing analysis for the draft, in particular flagging strong statistical performers that our scouts have not gotten a chance to see yet. Once the draft is done, I’ll probably spend more time doing the kind of analysis we’re used to seeing on Baseball Prospectus, Primer, and other related sites — efficient bullpen usage, things like that.

Economists tend to have two sets of skills that are good for working for an organization like the A’s: 1) Critical thinking, which we economists imperialistically call “the economic way of thinking” and 2) technical econometric skills. Which of these do you think is most important to your job? And is there another skill that I missed?

I would definitely say the first. There are steeply diminishing returns to using advanced econometric methods in this job. Time is of the essence, and even if time weren’t an issue, I would rather do a simple analysis that is easy to explain than a more econometrically-kosher analysis that no one’s going to understand. As it is, we’re usually dealing with such big sample sizes that the signal from the data is generally strong enough to be picked up even by the most basic econometric approaches.

I do think critical thinking is incredibly valuable in this job. Ultimately, baseball operations is all about finding the right distribution of resources across the organization, and evaluating tradeoffs. Having an economics background helps in framing every decision we have to make as a tradeoff — what does a move get us, and what are we giving up? I think framing those decisions the right way goes a long way towards making the right choices.

I know you’re a student of Matthew Rabin. Rabin’s known for his work in behavioral economics, challenging some elements of the standard neoclassical paradigm. My guess is that Michael Lewis is a big fan. Is Billy Beane tapping your brain in search of new inefficiencies that only a trained Rabin student could spot?

I don’t think Billy and David really set out to hire an economist — they were looking for someone with a quantitative background who had some knowledge of the game. We don’t sit around and specifically talk about what behavioral economics models might be useful in evaluating the markets we deal with.

That being said, I do think those markets are prone to the types biases and inefficiencies that are the focus of the behavioral economics field — confirmatory bias, overconfidence, present-biasedness, loss aversion, the list goes on and on. Not all of them can necessarily be profitably exploited, but I do think the background in the field gives me a different perspective on things.

Which did you find first, sabermetrics or economics? Is there an interesting story here?

I discovered sabermetrics when I bought my first Bill James abstract way back in 1985. Can’t say I was writing economics papers back then, so I guess sabermetrics came first. I didn’t really discover economics until my senior year in high school, but even then I never saw myself combining the two. I always just thought of myself as a baseball fan who was more interested in stats than the average fan; and at the same time someone with an interest in economics.

What has been your biggest thrill so far in the job? I heard you worked on the Juan Cruz arbitration. What is working on an arbitration case like? Why do you think you won?

Hopefully once we get on a hot streak, my biggest thrill will be something that takes place on the field, but so far I’d say it was winning the arbitration case. That was really the first thing I worked on after starting with the A’s so to win the case was very validating. It was a good first thing to work on because preparing a presentation was something I was familiar with from my management consulting days (I worked at the Boston Consulting Group from 1998-2000). It was a pretty intense process, and David Forst (the Assistant GM) and I had to work pretty diligently to build our case up, piece by piece. I think we ultimately won because we established precedent was on our side. That was the big surprise to me about the arbitration process — it’s all about establishing precedent. The weight given to precedent is pretty pervasive throughout the industry — from draft bonuses to arbitration cases to free agent signings — much more than I anticipated.

Why did the A’s want Charles Thomas from the Braves over Ryan Langerhans? I can’t believe Schuerholz would have allowed a player that can’t find playing time in the current Braves outfield to be a sticking point to the Hudson deal, so you guys must have wanted Thomas. Was it defense, or did you see something else? I was pretty shocked at how well he hit in the majors, and he didn’t project badly, despite his low walk rate, in my cornball projection system.

I wasn’t with the A’s when the trade was consummated, so I can’t really speak to Thomas vs. Langerhans. I don’t think it’s some big sabermetric secret that Charles Thomas is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league. He’s also a very good baserunner (if not base stealer) and he does have some pop. I can understand the question because his offense took a quantum leap in 2004 and it’s reasonable to be suspicious of that improvement. But I think he can be an above-average hitter at the major league level (2005 start notwithstanding) and he brings a lot to the table on defense and on the bases.

What’s it like working in MLB?

It’s amazing. I absolutely love my job and feel very fortunate to be in this position. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and lose perspective on things, so every once in a while I force myself to take a step back and appreciate the chance I’ve gotten to work for a baseball team.

That said, it is an incredibly intense and consuming position. The one thing about this job, and this industry as a whole, is that there is more information out there than any one single person could ever process. You have to accept that you can’t know everything all the time and learn to draw the line somewhere. The problem is, drawing the line is such a difficult thing to do because we all love the game so much and going through that information is generally fun and enjoyable.

What’s it like working for Billy Beane?

I feel fortunate to have the chance to seem him go about his business every day. Being a GM is an incredibly demanding job — they juggle more balls in the air than the average fan can imagine. It takes a pretty unique combination of an analytical mind, leadership quality, personality, and organization skills to be a GM. To be able to manage it all with the ease that Billy does is pretty amazing. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by all the “to-do’s” and responsibilities in my position, all I have to do is look to him as an example of someone who manages everything so effortlessly.

Are there any GMs on other teams that are just plain suckers?

Absolutely not. Working in baseball has given me a newfound respect for GM’s in baseball. It takes a lot to rise through the ranks of the industry to one of those 30 positions. Fans and media like to deride some GM’s as being clueless, but from what I’ve seen, being a clueless GM is an oxymoron of the highest order.

Who are the “Moneyball GMs” that we don’t know about?

I think whether a GM is a “Moneyball GM” or not is ultimately determined by the moves they make, which are, of course, open to public scrutiny. So your guess as to who those GM’s are is as good as mine. The one thing I have noticed is an increasing number of GM’s have some analytical resources at their disposal, be it a consultant or a full-time assistant. How much they actually use those resources is another matter altogether.

How are the A’s having such a collective hitting slump? It’s like the Great Depression happened to the A’s offense. I don’t think a single player is hitting up to what he should be. Is this something you plan to ride out or do you think something is really wrong? (It looks like bad luck to me).

Given the track records of the guys on our team, it’s hard to believe we’re as bad as we’ve collectively been so far. Eric Chavez is not a .213 hitter. We’re not a .669 OPS team.

This team has been built to have consistent threats 1-9 in the order, albeit without anyone at the level of a Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez. Even if things were going well, we’d probably still be leaving a lot of runners on base. The way things are going, with guys injured and slumping, we’ve been even more exposed. I’m not saying we wouldn’t love to have another power bat in the middle of the lineup, but if guys were doing what they were expected to do, our offense might even be a relative strength.

Do the A’s know how to quantify fielding as well as hitting and pitching?

The industry in general has gotten better at quantifying fielding value, through zone ratings and the like. The biggest issue is getting that kind of fielding data at the minor league and amateur levels. In those instances, we’re still fairly reliant on scouting assessments of fielding ability and potential.

Who is the best prospect in the A’s system that we haven’t heard of yet?

Given how high-profile our farm system is because of the book, that’s a tough one. I’ll just cite two guys who are off to spectacular starts in ’05 who were probably not on the radar before this season — Andre Ethier, an outfielder and ’03 draftee out of OSU, and Dallas Braden, a left-handed starting pitcher and ’04 draftee out of Texas Tech. Braden started the year in Stockton but was recently promoted up to Midland (whether Ethier has been all year).

What advice do you have for a young sabermetrician baseball fan for getting a job in a front office?

It would be a little presumptuous for me to give advice here, since that would imply that I had some sort of well thought-out plan that landed me here. The most accurate advice I could give would probably be, “get lucky.”

The one thing I’ll say is that, if an opportunity every presents itself, you have to treat it like it’s the last opportunity you’ll ever have, because it probably will be. When I found out I was going to interview with Billy and David, I spent the week before the interview preparing non-stop, for probably 18 hours a day. And I would say every last minute was worth it. So I suppose other than the somewhat facetious, “get lucky,” I would add, “be prepared.”

Another Look at DIPS

Today, The Hardball Times has published my latest project, Another Look at DIPS. This represents my take on DIPS theory, and it reports on my findings from a study involving over 500 pitchers and more than 2000 pitcher seasons from 1980-2004.

And what did I conclude?

The effect that pitchers have over hits on balls in play is small compared to the effects of the other DIPS metrics; however, it is large enough to tell us that pitchers do have the ability to prevent hits on balls in play. So where does this leave us? Well, it turns out that though pitchers do seem to have the ability to prevent hits on balls in play, it does not alter the predictive element DIPS theory one bit. Why not? Because that ability is captured in DIPS statistics. Those who are comfortable evaluating pitchers using DIPS can continue to feel comfortable doing so. …

In summary, DIPS is right. Knowing DIPS can tell you more about a pitcher’s future performance than his previous ERA. While pitchers may have some ability to prevent hits on balls in play, the effect is small. And any effect a pitcher does have is reflected within DIPS metrics.

I can’t thank Studes and Greg Tamer enough for their suggestions and patience. They both put quite a bit of effort into helping me get the final product ready for presentation. And as with any thank you I make, they deserve credit for the good things and none of the blame for any mistakes.

Keeping Score with Leo Mazzone

The success of Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone is the subject of Alan Schwarz’s Keeping Score column in this Sunday’s New York Times, The Mazzone Touch is More than Just Perception. And the study I did over at Baseball Analysts, The Mazzone Effect Revisited, plays a major role in the article.

I’d like to thank Alan Schwarz for such a fantastic write-up. I talked with Alan several times over the past week, and I certainly enjoyed the experience. If you ever get a chance to talk with Alan, don’t pass it up. What a nice guy, and he knows A LOT about baseball. I think the article turned out very nicely, and I appreciate his covering my research on Leo. Alan’s a very good writer, and if you haven’t read The Numbers Game yet, you should.

I also want to thank the online sabermetric community for promoting my research in this area since I published the first study last December. The postings at Baseball Think Factory by Repoz, and most certainly the invitation from Rich and Bryan at Baseball Analysts to DH gave a tremendous boost to the project. Thank you all.

A Nice Problem

Brad Dowdy is taking a much deserved break over at No Pepper (it’s the good kind of break you deserve after earning a promotion), so now I’m beginning to realize how lost I am without his guidance through the Braves minor league system. Anyway, I was looking through the stats and ran across this. These are all of the guys playing catcher for the Braves through low-A.

Team		Name			AB	HR	BB	SO	AVG	OBP	SLG
								
Rome		C Sammons		116	0	15	16	0.345	0.419	0.440
Myrtle Beach	M Bernard		65	4	1	8	0.323	0.362	0.662
Myrtle Beach	J Saltalamacchia	117	5	14	31	0.265	0.351	0.462
Mississippi	B McCann		111	5	15	18	0.297	0.369	0.568
Richmond	B Pena			103	0	10	6	0.417	0.465	0.485


Not too bad, unless you are one of these guys. There’s no place to move up!

Come back soon, Brad. We miss you! And congrats on the promotion.

Lightsabernomics

In honor if the release of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, I give you the most relevant sabermetric quote from the Star Wars saga.

Obi-Wan Kanobi in Star Wars: A New Hope:

Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.

May the force be with you. I’ll post a review shortly.

Interview with a Scout

I’ve got a special treat for readers today. My buddy and recently graduated Sewanee pitcher James Hall sent me this interview with retired baseball scout Dennis Meeks. Mr. Meeks lives in Sewanee, and was kind enough to allow James to interview him for Sabernomics. James, who recently completed Rob Neyer’s Baseball General Manager and Scouting Course, asks some good questions and Mr. Meeks has some interesting answers.

The credit for this interview goes entirely to James and Mr. Meeks. I am only reporting here. If you have any comments like “nice interview” remember to direct them to James or Mr. Meeks. I hope you enjoy it, I sure did.

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How did you start your career in baseball and how did it lead you to scouting?

I played high school baseball and played football in college, yet always was a baseball fan. It was only once I retired from my real estate job that I considered going into scouting.

I read in the newspaper that a man named Lou Fitzgerald of Cleveland, TN left the Braves and joined the Marlins after they were awarded a franchise (1991). I cold called him and was granted an interview, after which Lou sent me down to spring training to meet Calvin Boles, a national cross-checker for Florida. Calvin notified me that they were not hiring anyone at this time. I Refused to take no for an answer and was incredibly persistent. I called and sent letters often, making sure that the Marlins would not forget that I was still very interested. After the 1992 season, the Marlins called to notify me that I was offered an associate scout position. From there I worked much harder than expected of associate scouts with hopes of becoming a full time guy.

In 1995 I called Owen Freeman, the Marlins scouting director, asking for promotion to a paid position, and was denied. I then called a friend who was a cross checker with Baltimore, who referred me to Jeff Kahn, an area scout with Montreal. The Expos had an opening and offered me a part-time, paid, position sharing Tennessee with one other guy. After the 1995 season the other guy was transferred and I was called by the scouting director out of the blue and drilled with questions. I must have answered them well, because I was soon promoted to area scout for Tennessee and North Georgia. After doing that for a year I was asked to send some reports to the scouting director for Texas, and was then asked to interview with them. I soon was offered and accepted a full time position as an area scout for the Rangers, covering Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Southern Illinois for my last five years.

Did you do more professional or amateur scouting, and which did you prefer?

In the summers I did professional scouting. I scouted the prospects in the Carolina League and Gulf Coast League, and when I had time would report on the Chattanooga Lookouts, and West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. My springs were spent catching as many high school games as possible. The pro level was preferred because it is much easier to get settled into a city and catch a full series. Also, you can always find out who is pitching when, and there are fewer cancelled games.

What are your thoughts on the Moneyball philosophy of scouting based on statistics rather than tools?

Sabermetrics is useful for scouting minor leaguers, but you cannot draft just based on stats. The tools simply cannot be ignored. I saw David Beck (the pitcher known as “The Creature” in Moneyball whom Oakland signed sight unseen) pitch for Cumberland, and would never have drafted him, his fastball was well below MLB average and he didn’t have the arm speed needed to generate sharp breaking stuff. He was released the next year after getting knocked around, as he should have been based on how poor his stuff was. There is a lot of good work being done using sabermetrics, but I think it should be used to enhance the job of the scout…not replace him.

Do you prefer college or high school players?

I always wanted to get the college guys, but this is more of an organizational question really. Some organizations prefer college players because the risk is lower, yet others prefer high school players with higher ceilings. I personally prefer college guys because of the track record against better competition. Given two comparable players, I would take the college guy.

What are some of the specific things you look for in hitters and pitchers, and more specifically, what are some of the things you look for in a hitter to gauge how well he’ll make the switch from a metal bat to a wood one?

With a hitter, the first thing you look at is his approach to hitting. You have to see his stance in the box, how well he loads up, and if he has a good trigger to start his hands. Most importantly though is whether his lower half get him going, and how well does he rotate the hips and drive off the back foot. Last night I went to watch a HS player who was a strong kid, but has a stiff lower half…unless he makes some significant changes to his swing, he will never hit good pitching. You cannot hit professional pitching without generating power from your legs.

Scouts are always afraid of the “front foot hitter” — one who has trouble staying back and jumps at the ball. I had a kid I really wanted from University of Louisville (Adam Haley) when I was with Texas, but the scouting director wouldn’t take him because he was too much of a front foot hitter who the organization feared would never hit good breaking stuff. He obviously has made the adjustment, as he is hitting .400 now in AA ball. 10th rd pick. You can tell a good hitter by listening to the sound of the ball off the bat. Hitting is the most difficult tool to evaluate. It is hard to project whether a college kid can hit well with wood, and whether they stay back and use their lower half is the best indicator. The front foot hitter will be fooled by a good pro breaking ball. The best way to determine how well a hitter will adjust to the wood bat is, again, how well he uses his lower half. It is possible to generate power by just using the upper body if swinging an aluminum bat. However, in order to have a powerful wood bat swing, the hitter must drive through the ball with his legs.

Pitching — The number one tool you have to evaluate is his arm strength. Radar gun isn’t really necessary after you’ve become an experienced scout. I could tell within 1 or 2 mph of his velocity. Number two is the fluidity and effortless of throwing mechanics. The more fluid the throwing motion and arm action, the more likely he is to remain healthy in the long run. Pitchers more than any other position have to be projectable. You want to draft a guy who will have the strength and stamina, combined with the good arm action, that it takes to pitch 200 innings in a season.

What are some of the things about scouting people may not know about?

The amount of travel that is involved is amazing. Also, people assume we make good money…and we don’t. The lifestyle is similar to that of a truck driver. We are on the road, sleeping in a different bed every night. You must really love baseball to be a scout. If you want to go into scouting because you think it is glamorous to work for a MLB team, you have a rude awakening ahead of you. Scouting is fun, but it requires a tremendous commitment and a willingness to basically change your entire lifestyle.

If you could make any changes to baseball today, what would they be?

The DH rule should be eliminated. It takes away from the way the game is meant to be played. Also, I would eliminate all the armor that the power hitters wear today. Pitchers need to reclaim the inside part of the plate if they are going to get these modern power hitters out. Also, it would be tough economically, but I would really like to see all levels of baseball use the wooden bat. It would return the game to the way it used to be played.

Given your experience, what are some tips for those out there who are thinking about trying to get into scouting?

When you start scouting and write a report, you need to come up with comps to help the organization visualize the player. Compare his body, swing, or mechanics to those of a major leaguer. It helps the organization tremendously.

Also, ignore the outcome of the game when scouting a player. Who wins and loses is insignificant. You focus on the player by watching his every move: from how he interacts with his teammates, to the way he carries himself both on and off the field. You must also be able to project and determine, not what a player looks like now, but what he will look like in five years. It is also very important to watch a lot of professional baseball to get a good idea of how good average major league players really are. You might see a guy who looks great relative to his competition in college, but unless you have seen enough pro ball, you really won’t know how talented MLB players are. I remember when Rondell White was in AA with Chicago, it was like night and day watching him take BP compared to the other minor leaguers…and he is a 4th outfielder at the big league level. Also, one great tool is not enough to make it to the major leagues.

What current big leaguers did you scout?
I saw Michael Young play for the Knoxville Smokies in the minors and recommended Texas acquire him…5 days later they got him. I scouted Dewon Brazelton, Aaron Heilman of Notre Dame, and Chris Burke, and Texas was going to take them all, but they didn’t last long enough for us to pick them. I visited Burke in his home and really got to know him and his family well. He’s a great kid who’s going to be a great major leaguer. I scouted Javy Herrera closely (catcher at Tennessee…also one of the minor leaguers caught using steroids). He was a good catch and throw guy but not much with the bat. I got to know Austin Kearns really well; it was between him and Carlos Pena to be our first round pick in 1998. Cincinnati took Kearns with the 8th overall pick, so we got Pena at the ten spot. Sometimes you misjudge players too. We watched Brandon Webb pitch all the time at Kentucky, but didn’t really like his mechanics at the time. Five years later, he has a career ERA in the low threes, and is 3-0 this year already.

One of the more difficult parts is the contract negotiations after the draft. You work so hard at getting to know the player, and really becoming friends he and his family. Now you have to come in and negotiate a contract, operating within the budget of the organization. The dynamics of the relationship change significantly after the draft.

Closing note: Thanks to James and Mr. Meeks for an excellent interview. James, good luck in your new job in Nationals country, and congratulations on your graduation.

PrOPS 2: Sabermetric Boogaloo

I’ve posted my second round of PrOPS over at The Hardball Times. Here’s a repeat of my post over on THT Notes.

I want to thank the many readers who sent me their comments on PrOPS. In response to these suggestions, I made two changes when I recalculated the metric.

  • I controlled for the speed of the players using speed scores.
  • I broke the metric out into three predictive components (PrAVE, PrOBP, and PrSLG).

To proxy player speed, I took the average of the five speed scores referenced in Speed Scores and Reaching Base on Errors by Dan Levitt. I decided on using the mean after trying several other combinations of the individual speed scores. The improvement was real yet modest, improving a fit of the regression model just slightly. Breaking PrOPS out into it’s components is useful for identifying where players are under-performing.

The updated stats, through May 14, are now posted for the AL and NL.

In the Cage

I want to thank of few of my students (Frank Morris and John Davis), who just happen to be on the baseball team, for taking me over to hit in the cage this afternoon. And you can thank Doug Drinen for the excellent action shots of the first time I have faced a “live” pitcher since I was 14. Charles Israel also took a turn in Birkenstocks.

As you can see, I’m making contact. I’m pretty good when the pitcher sits in a folding chair. Also, Frank was pitching and he didn’t know I had already turned in his grades. ;)