Archive for March, 2007
I’ve nearly finished my first day of radio interviews. It’s tough to answer multiple open-ended questions in a 3-5 minute time span. Every host I have talked to has been great, though.
One topic that keeps coming up is my finding that the Cleveland Indians are the best managed organization in the American League—the Marlins hold the title in the National League (see Chapter 7, “The Marlins and the Indians? C’mon.”). Therefore, it is fitting that Indians GM Mark Shapiro was rewarded today with a five-year extension. Under Shapiro, the Indians have not only spent efficiently, but have put good teams on the field.
Congratulations, Mark! You’ve earned it.
It’s hard to believe the day is finally here, but The Baseball Economist is now officially on sale. You may purchase the book at your local bookstore, or you can use one of the links below.
Be sure to tell your friends and family. Mention it on blogs, forums, and chat rooms. Let your local beat writer or sports talk host know about contrary or supporting evidence in the book. I appreciate any buzz that you can generate.
It’s going to be a busy day for me, so I don’t have time to add much. But I do want to thank Sabernomics readers for your support.
Tomorrow, I’ll be embarking on a “radio tour” of the country to promote the release of The Baseball Economist. By “tour” I mean, I’ll be talking on the phone from Atlanta to many different radio shows around the country. Here is a list of when and where you can hear me. Some times are approximate. On the shows that allow call-ins, I’d love to hear from you.
Thursday, March 15
(These are times I’m doing the interview. In some cases these will be taped and replayed later in the day. If I can get on-air times, I will post them.)
Grand Rapids WOOD Gary Allen & John Matlak 8:00 Portland KEX Paul and Scott 8:20 Fort Walton Beach, FL WKSM Woofy Ramone 8:30 St. Louis KSLG Vernetti,Gordon,& Leinwand 8:40 Michigan Talk Network Michael Patrick Shiels 8:50 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale WBGG Paul, Young Ron and Dave 9:00 New London, Ct WXLM Lee Elci 9:10 Memphis WREC Craig Robbins 9:20 Montery-Salinas KION Mark Carbonaro 9:30 Premiere Prep Steve Reynolds 9:40 Miami/West Palm Beach WILD Kevin and Virginia 10:00 Yakima KBBO Brian and Dorothy 10:10 North Platte, Ne KODY Scott Allen 10:20 Youngstown WKBN Dan Rivers 10:36 Springfield KBBL Bill and Marty 11:00
(All times AM)
Friday, March 16
Hartford, CT WDRC-AM “Brad Davis Morning Show” 7:20am
Saturday, March 17
Boston, MA 890-AM ESPN “Russ Francis Show”
Tuesday, March 20
Blacksburg, VA 1430-AM ESPN/Sports Addict Radio 4:25pm
Friday, March 30
Baltimore, MD 1090-AM WBAL 8pm
David Pinto at Baseball Musings is having his annual pledge drive this March. This is my third year contributing a small amount to help out the full-time blogger that we all love to read. It’s one of the first things I read everyday.
If you would like to contribute to Baseball Musings and own a copy of The Baseball Economist, you are in luck. David is offering a signed copy of the book for pledges of $75. He had three but one is already gone.
Update: The books have been snatched up. But, don’t worry, the official release is on Thursday (I saw copies of the book at my local Borders today), and David will still take donations.
The title notwithstanding, though, the book isn’t principally a book of economics but a book applying the analytical tools used by economists to statistical and other data about baseball. On the whole, I found the book incisive and well-written, as you would expect from Bradbury. Probably the best chapter (the book is basically a collection of 16 essays on distinct subjects) was a careful study of the case for Leo Mazzone for the Hall of Fame. There are also particularly interesting reviews of manager lobbying for ball and strike calls (using a comparison of data from Questec and non-Questec parks) and the demise of left-handed throwing catchers.
A few months ago, I started a Facebook profile. I soon realized the magnitude of this social network when I began to “befriend” a lot of Sabernomics readers. It’s been a really fun to get in touch with so many new people.
One of my new friends turns out to be someone with a lot of knowledge about baseball, San Diego Padres prospect Brent Carter. I am curious about the player perspective, so I asked Brent if he would be willing to do an interview on the blog. He was kind enough to say yes. So, here is the interview.
JC: How are you feeling? Has your Achilles healed or is there more rehab in your future? (Brent blew out his Achilles last season.) How have you worked through the mental anguish of having a good year cut short?
BC: My Achilles is feeling really good. I worked really hard in my rehab to be where I am at, which is about a month and a half or so ahead of schedule. Dealing with the injury was tough at first, especially when you are going through a very good stretch of about 4 very good starts in a row. But, it’s one of those things where you ask yourself if the glass is half empty or half full. I was determined to not let this hamper my development and so far everything is going good.
JC: Where do you plan to start the year? Finish the year?
BC: I have been told by a number of people in the organization that they put my name in to start in San Antonio (AA). But I would not be surprised to start back out in Lake Elsinore. I think it will be based on my performance in spring training. As far as finishing the year goes….of course PETCO Park, but realistically it would be San Antonio with around 175-180 innings.
JC: Tell me what it’s like to be a minor league ballplayer. Is it fun, or does it get old?
BC: Being a minor leaguer is not what it’s made out to be. You hear stories about the long bus rides, crappy hotels, etc. But it’s really a blast. The friendships you make, playing against the stars of tomorrow, being only a couple of levels away from your childhood dreams unfolding in front of you. I would not trade this for anything.
JC: What is the best thing about the Padres organization?
BC: There are a lot things I would put here. The coaches, players, front office people, trainers. Their approach to evaluating players.
JC: You are from Georgia. Did you grow up a Braves fan, possibly idolizing future HOF lefty Tom Glavine? If not, whom did you follow?
BC: Big Braves fan. I still follow them as much as I can. And I pattern my game after Tom Glavine. I throw the same pitches he does—mid 80s fastball, low to mid 70s change (best pitch), and upper 70s, low 80s cutter. Big Glavine fan—wish he would have signed back with the Braves this year.
JC: You list Moneyball as one of your favorite books. Is it because of some familiarity with sabermetrics or for some other reason?
BC: If you’re a baseball fan, it’s hard not to like Moneyball. It’s been a few years since I have read it, but I remember the Chad Bradford story, and Giambi’s Hole pretty well. When it was first published it seemed the “Moneyball” concept was cutting edge stuff, so that’s what I really liked about it
JC: If you have some familiarity with sabermetrics, did you learn about sabermetrics from the book or have you always been interested in this type of thing?
BC: I have been interested in it since I first heard about it. I have a brief understanding about it. There is a lot more that I have yet to learn about it all.
JC: Do you keep up with sabermetric websites? If so, which ones? What do most players think of stat-heads?
BC: I think your website and the links you have are the only sabermetric websites I know about. Stat-heads are looked at differently. Some people think it’s a waste of time, but others, like me, try to use it as a tool I can use to help me get better. Perfect example—my batting average against (BAA) lefties last year was .377. That really hit home with me and told me that as soon as my Achilles got well enough for me to throw, then I have got to start working on a pitch that runs away from lefties. But I know some guys that only know what the scoreboard posts.
JC: Did you know Jeremy Brown when you played at Alabama?
BC: I played with Jeremy my freshman year (his Senior year). Unbelievable eye at the plate and very good to throw to. But I have not talked to him since then.
JC: I consider SD to be a stat-savvy organization—there are two major characters from Moneyball in the Padres front office (Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta). Do you get much stat-driven advice? Do you talk to anyone in SD, or is all of your contact through minor league officials?
BC: We don’t get too much stat-driven advice. The main thing they try to get across to pitchers is force contact in 3 pitches or less. They want strike throwers. My personal goal is innings. Look at Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, Jason Marquis. They are paid $10 million a year just because they will give you 6 innings of 3 run baseball most every time out. Teams nowadays want their guys to be innings-eaters to conserve the pen. It’s amazing how the game is evolving away from CG’s.
JC: As a pitcher, what do you think of DIPS? From looking at your stats, you seem to be doing well in all of the DIPS categories. Is this something you do on purpose or something that just happens? Do you pay attention to the stats during the season?
BC: I honestly had to google DIPS to see what it meant. That is something that is important for guys like me who aren’t going to win the league in K’s year in and year out. I pay attention to stats in the season, but I mainly focus on walks. There is nothing worse that a “pitch to contact” pitcher can do than give free passes. And for me, the stats act as a motivation. I look at them, but am not consumed by them.
JC: Can you hit? I can’t find any hitting stats for you. Also, do you bat righty or lefty? I’ve seen it both ways. If you bat right, how did this happen?
BC: Haha, I have not hit since high school. I do bat RH because my older brother was a lefty thrower and righty hitter, so I got it from him.
I’d like to thank Brent for taking the time to talk with me and for being so candid. This was informative. If you have a question for Brent, feel free to leave one in the comments. He may or may not respond, but it’s fine with me if it happens. I’ll be rooting hard for Brent this year. I can’t wait to post “Brent Carter Called Up!”
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.
Last night, I received my first lesson in scouting from an unlikely source: Keith Law of ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. I say unlikely, because Keith is generally regarded to be a stat-head. But, from the lesson I got, Keith didn’t seem to be doing much different than the scouts surrounding us.
When I arrived at the game, I saw the stands were full, which is not surprising for a Georgia high school baseball game. As I waited for the half-inning to pass before I found Keith, I saw two guys behind home plate pointing radar guns. I thought, “a few scouts are here to see this kid.” But, after he proceeded to walk the bases loaded, I realized he must not be the main target.
At the break, I located Keith and sat down. I soon found out that there were way more scouts than I had thought—they filled the stands behind the plate. The fans were sitting down the first and third base lines. As the opposing pitcher took the mound, I saw two-dozen radar guns go up, including Keith’s. “This is the kid everyone is here to see,” Keith informed me. The pitch, the mitt pops, the guns go down and tilt up so they can be read—89, 90, and 91 are on the guns I can see—then everyone starts scratching away in their notebooks.
Also, all of the scouts had stop-watches around their wrists to time the stretch and measure the speed of the batter from home to first. Note to prospects: even if you hit into an obvious out, run as hard as you can to first so that you can be timed. If you’ve never seen a gathering like this before, it’s a pretty cool experience.
Keith explained to me what he looks for in prospects and discussed a few minor prospects on the field—I won’t repeat his opinions here. Then we went over to the Mellow Mushroom for some pizza. We talked baseball, sabermetric gossip, jobs, family, and other odds and ends—we’re both 33-year-old libertarians who like Harry Potter.
If was a fun experience, and I have to say that Keith is a great guy. I want to thank him for inviting me to tag along. If you ever spot him at a game, I’m sure he’d be willing to chat with you if you approached him. I look forward to seeing his body of work grow at Scouts, Inc.
Stephen Dubner kindly mentions The Baseball Economist today in discussing the similar names of our respective “disciplines”: Freakonomics and Sabernomics. Like Dubner, I’ll apologize for using an old cliche (here’s a list from the comments). The “onomics” suffix is abused about as widely abused as “oholic” from “alcoholic”—this reminds me of Homer Simpson’s line, “It’s true, I’m a Rageaholic…..I just can’t live without Rageahol!”
I don’t mind the comparison, and understand that timing seems to implicate me for borrowing Dubner and Steven Levitt’s idea. I don’t help the situation by being a fan the authors and mentioning Freakonomics on several occasions in my book. And there is no doubt that the success of their book has helped me pitch what I am doing. But, I want to set the record straight on the origin of this site’s name.
It’s not because I mind people thinking I borrowed their idea—I didn’t. Hey, it is was a good idea, and I would have borrowed from it had it pre-dated this site. It’s funny to me because before I started the website, picking a short name that captured what I wanted to do on the site was difficult. When thinking of a name, which I also intended to be the name of the book I was writing—the title changed once more before settling on the current one—everyday I’d bounce an idea or two off Doug Drinen. He would offer constructive criticism like, “that’s awful,” “beating,” and “dude, can’t you do better than that?”. One day I said “sabernomics,” and to my surprise, he liked it. If Levitt and Dubner would have published the book a year earlier, I wouldn’t have had to waste all of that time thinking about the name.
Also funny is that I received an advance copy of Freakonomics, and I wrote an early review on this site. I loved the book, but one thing I criticized was the title—talk about the pot and the kettle. I actually suggested “eXtreme economics,” which is about as lame a suggestion as you can get. I learned my lesson. When it came time to pick a title for my book, I told my editor to go with whatever he wanted. I said to him, “I’m the guy who thought Freakonomics was a bum title, it’s in your hands. I’ll be happy with with whatever you pick.” I am.
As Sean Forman pointed out the other day, baseball gets much more PED scrutiny from the media than other sports. When Sports Illustrated broke the story about a new steroid ring linked to baseball, football, and other sports, baseball got the most coverage.
Since that time the NBA has had its own mini-scandal that hasn’t garnered much attention. Lindsey Hunter of the Detroit Pistons tested positive for using a banned substance found in diet pills, and received a 10-game suspension. Let’s compare this to John Rocker, who has been accused of taking HGH, and he hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2003.
I don’t know whether this is good news or bad news for MLB.