An Interview with The Southpaw

Earlier this week, Jeff Merron interviewed me for his blog The Southpaw, of 108 magazine. Jeff is an excellent writer, and you may remember him for his in-depth article on Leo Mazzone and his interview of Malcolm Gladwell.

Jeff posts the full interview here, and here is a brief sample.

JM: To me the most important finding in your book is the lack of influence of the on-deck hitter. It’s such a well-worn and consistent strategy that you’d think that someone would have changed it if it didn’t work. What were your thoughts about that particular study?

JCB: I was convinced before we started the study that there had to be protection. There’s no way the on-deck hitter does not influence the pitcher.

But the more I thought about it and saw the results were in the opposite direction, and it fit with what I later thought and talked about, which is that pitchers frequently alter their effort.

There are two things to think about. One is that a manager may do better to think more about lefty-righty matchups more than protection. And I think as a general manager it could make a huge difference in what players you sign.

Jeff also offers a brief review of The Baseball Economist.

The range of topics Bradbury covers is impressive. The first chapter is on hit batsmen and how differences between rates in the AL and NL can be explained by the “price” of hitting a batter (which has changed over the years). The second chapter presents a surprising finding about how much “protection” on-deck batters really provide. The topics then expand in scope, to scouts vs. stat-heads, player salaries, steroids, the issue of whether or not MLB is a monopoly, and finally expansion. This is a book you can dip into at random: each chapter stands alone. And you’ll find plenty of variety.

Although Bradbury is an academic, his writing style is fluid and accessible. He doesn’t use many technical terms, but when he does, he explains them clearly and briefly, in a fashion that makes the material more easily understood. This is a book that’s worth your buck. Let’s hope we’ll see another collection from Bradbury in a couple of years.

I very much enjoyed chatting with Jeff, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get to catch a game together one day. If you’re a fan of baseball history and you’re not reading The Southpaw, you are missing out. I highly recommend it. Thanks to Jeff for giving me the opportunity. :-)

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