Tag Archives: Sabermetrics

Baseball Writers ~ Who Cuts the Mustard and Who Cares?

This week the Baseball Writers Association of America has been in the news.  It’s been in the news a lot.   For only the second time in its history the Association has failed to name one eligible baseball player worthy of entering the Hall of Fame.  

So I’m pondering this little ditty thinking about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and their alleged partaking of performance enhancing drugs, and thinking about the BBWAA.  Who are these people?  What are their credentials?  Why does it matter what they think?   When I read their membership list I’m surprised that I only recognize a couple dozen or so names.  Most of the names that would have been at the top of my favorite baseball writers list aren’t even listed as members of  this association.  

The primary purpose of the BBWAA  is to assure clubhouse and press-box access, and to elect players to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  That’s it, at least according to Wikipedia.  All writers with 10 years membership in the BBWAA are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame.   It was founded in 1908 and as far as the baseball world is concerned, the sun rises and sets with this organization, and my question is “why”?

I compiled a list of  a few of my favorite baseball writers and tried to give a reason why, though sometimes it’s not apparent even to me.   These are good writers because what they write makes me want to read more, even after I’ve finished reading their articles.   Note that none of these have BBWAA associated with their names.  They might be a member, but it’s not known to me and honestly I could care less whether they’re a member or not.  

JON STEINER.  I discovered Jon back in April, 2011, while researching a piece I was doing on the Cleveland Indians and the lack of attendance at their beautiful ballpark.   His blog, “Waiting for Next Year” was written like I talk so it was an easy read and I was sorry when it ended.  I don’t know a thing about this guy, just that I’d buy his book if I ever found out he wrote one.   Here’s the April 5, 2011 article that made Jon the ultimate writer in my mind.  “Some Thoughts on the Indians’ Record Setting Attendance.” 

ALEX PAVLOVIC.  I’ve been following this writer for the past several years as he stood in the shadows of Andrew Baggarly at the San Jose Mercury News.  When Baggs left last year to join the ComCast News Group, Alex stepped up big-time.   I like writers who are  up-front, in your face, and don’t try to sugar coat interviews and the news.  You know, just put it out there and let me decide what my opinion is about the subject.   That’s what this guy’s about.  He writes a blog, “Giants Extra“, that I read on a regular basis and always look forward to his meanderings. 

BRYAN O’CONNOR.  My acquaintance with Bryan began when he made some astute comments on one of my blogs a few years ago, so I checked him out and my mind’s still whirling.  His blog is “Replacement Level Baseball” and I’m not sure why he doesn’t write professionally for the main stream media, but goodie for us that he doesn’t.  It gives him more time to overwhelm us with his baseball knowledge.  Warning:  He’s a Bill James sabremetrics fan and goes way over my head on occasion.   But here’s a recent analysis of his personal “Hall of Fame Ballot” vote, if he had one, that was especially entertaining.   

JONATHAN HACOHEN.  But of course Jonathan’s one of my favorite writers.  He was very generous with his review of my book “Garlic Fries and Baseball” and I’ve been reeling ever since.  But before the review I had already subscribed to “MLB Reports” that Jonathan founded in 2010.  He’s been writing baseball for over twenty years and if he had a specialty I’d have to say it was his in-depth interviews, done only as he can do them.  His website is growing leaps and bounds and I rather miss that he doesn’t personally write as often now, but I latch onto whatever he does write as soon as it’s posted to my “Inbox”.  

CRAIG CALCATERRA.   I really hate to admit that I like this guy’s writings so much because, to tell you the truth,  a lot of what he writes irritates the socks off me.   I rarely agree with anything he says.  But it’s the way in which he says it that kind of grabs you, hooks you and draws you in.   Usually when I read one of his articles I find myself running to Wikipedia or other resource material just so I can prove him wrong, which I rarely do, because most of what he writes is opinion as he’s quick to point out.  Craig writes for NBC Sports HardBall Talk  and I guess the reason he’s on my favorite baseball writers list is because, whether we agree or not,  I always look forward to reading whatever little morsel he decides to throw my way for the day.

HENRY SCHULMAN.   Hank Schulman writes “The Splash” for the San Francisco Chronicle.  He’s a full-fledged newspaperman, sports reporter and columnist, with sports jacket and everything.  When he starts off with “I just talked with Bruce Bochy “or whoever it might be that morning, it grabs my attention and I latch on to every word.  He’s that “if it’s written it’s real”  type of writer.   He’s one of those guys you’d most like to have dinner with, have a conversation with.  You know what I mean.  There’s a thousand stories in there somewhere and I’d like to hear them all.  But in the meantime I’m content with reading the morning paper with my morning coffee and telling my hubby, “Guess what Hank Schulman said today?”  My husband gets it. 

Baseball writers each have their own style of writing; some you like and some you don’t.  And that’s okay.   This year the BBWAA decided to make the Hall of Fame vote into a popularity contest and that’s okay too.  I mean if they want to tell us which players cut the mustard and which ones don’t, who the hell cares? 

Really, who cares, because baseball fans have always made up their own mind on this type of thing and, after all, in the court of public opinion, isn’t that what really matters?

UPDATE:  “Get the Media out of the Honoring Business” New York Times 1/15/13   http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/get-the-media-out-of-the-honoring-business/?smid=fb-share

Scoring the Old Fashioned Way ~ Paper and Pencil!

Book Review

“HOW TO SCORE BASEBALL, Advanced Edition” By Robert Bulka

This is a comprehensive, well-written book that could easily have been titled “Everything you always wanted to know about scoring a baseball game, but were afraid to ask.”   It’s been years since I’ve scored a game but I wasn’t the least bit daunted in reading the book. I mean how many things could have changed in the last few decades?  A hit’s a hit, a ball’s a ball and a run’s a run.  Well to start with a hit isn’t necessarily a hit as Robert carefully points out in his score keeping basics.

Standard Baseball Scorecard

But this isn’t your ordinary book.  This is a book full of instruction and explanation that helps the reader understand “why” each entry must be carefully entered into a specific area on the scorecard.  It’s a how-to book that’s actually fun as I felt like a school kid learning something for the first time.  And actually I was, as I realized the method I’d learned to score back in the old days was the most basic of basics.  This is the real thing, as it gets into not only runs, hits and errors, but takes you into recording unusual situations such as the four strike-out inning, catcher’s interference and the double switch and much more.

“Scorekeeper photo courtesy of Google Images”

I’m an accountant by trade so one of the more interesting aspects of the scorekeeping was “Proving a Box Score”, or how to be sure your book is in balance so to speak.   But my favorite was the list of formulas the author included for calculating statistics.  If you’ve struggled with Sabermetrics this is a great primer for learning how the various percentages are calculated.

The book is available in Kindle and PDF format, but I’d really love to be able to read it in a regular book format also. The information available in this great little book is such a great resource I’d have the pages folded and yellow highlighting and post-its on every other page.

In case you’re not aware, you can download a Kindle book even if you don’t have a Kindle.  It can be downloaded to any PC, laptop and/or Kindle.

I’m aware there are a lot of electronic scoring systems out there, but to be honest I don’t see how you could become a very good scorer without understanding how and why you’re entering information in a specific place.  This will teach you to do that.

I really enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s learning to score for the first time or for someone who just needs a refresher course.  Today my new score book arrived in the mail and I can hardly wait to settle in and begin practicing my new-found skills with Bulka’s handy little e-book by my side.

“How to Score Baseball”  is available for purchase through Amazon.com.

“See Ball. Hit Ball.” You Kidding Me?

Oakland A's Gio Gonzalez

There was a seminar held at Harvard University recently that included an in-depth discussion on sabermetrics, scouting and the science of baseball.   Michael Richmond, from the Physics Department at Rochester Institute of Technology, was one of the speakers and something he said has changed my mind forever about that super hero of a man (or not) standing alone on a regular basis in the batter’s box.   Here’s what he said:

“The average fastball travels at 2,200 rpm, as opposed to 1,300 for a curve-ball or change-up.  And the only way the player can tell which pitch it is and how much it will move is an immediate judgment call.

The batter has to see the difference and say, ‘Oh, that’s a change-up’.  I find it amazing the batters can pick up the difference in spin when they only have five or six revolutions before they have to make that decision.”

Whoa!  I promise to never criticize another batter’s wild and crazy swing at a pitch unless, of course, he chooses not to swing.   And not even then, because based on what Richmond says, you almost have to make up your mind during the wind-up whether you’re going to swing or not.  Who knew?  I’m still having trouble wrapping my little mind around sabermetrics and now I find the ABC’s of baseball, you know,  the “see ball, hit ball, run theory” is a bunch of hooey folks. Probably most of you already know this stuff, but I’m just saying there’s a reason baseball fans are the most knowledgeable and opinionated of all sports fans.  They have to be.  Who can possibly know all this stuff?  Who even wants to know it all?

The batter and the hitter.  Not necessarily the same and there’s a reason for that!  Baseball ~ don’t you just love it?

Here’s a link to the article written by Spencer Fordin.  It’s  worth the time. “Harvard Hosts in-depth Baseball Seminar.”

Baseball Stats ….. Traditional vs Sabermetrics.

A few months ago I signed up for the Annual SABR conference in Long Beach.  I wanted to learn about Sabermetrics,  the science of analyzing baseball  in unorthodox ways,  at least when compared with traditional “see ball, hit ball, run” stats. The term is derived from  SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research.

After reading everything I could get my hands on about the subject, I found this great  Sully video (what would we do without him?) and discovered everything I need to know about Sabermetrics, which is, I don’t need to know anything.

A few days ago a fellow BBA Blogger, Bryan O’Connor, wrote a post that relates to this very subject.  I had to save and read later, because I couldn’t understand it.  Here, see how you do with it ~ Bumgarnering Around …..

Wow!  How confusing is this stuff?  I jotted down a few abbreviations; WAR, OPS, VORP, OBP, OPS Plus, bWAR.  Good grief!  This game is confusing enough.  Don’t confuse me with facts and details.  Just give me a score card and a pencil and let the games begin!