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With warmest regards, a letter about Padres Public

March 2nd, 2013 by

My Dearest Sac Bunters,

It is with great pleasure to inform you that The Sacrifice Bunt has joined an awesome collective of Padres Bloggers called Padres Public. Join us there for content from your best buds Ray and Mel, plus loads of other great Padres writers.

Forever Yours,

Melvin

Posted in misc | No Comments »

Closers

January 18th, 2013 by

Padres Season TicketsEver been stalked by a new friend from the Padres season ticket sales office? I’m not a season ticket customer/member, but I’ve spoken with a number of those who are about their experience. There are quite a few interesting stories which put season ticket representatives into two general categories. Some are helpful, respectful, and willing to work with customers to bend even the Padres’ own rules in order to help.

Oddly enough, the other group’s behavior seems the exact opposite. People talk of a barrage of phone calls, sometimes a few calls a week for multiple weeks at a time trying to sell tickets. Emails too. Here are a few fans’ reports, I’ve heard similar stories from others. It is important to consider our good bud selection bias could be in play, as people loudly report experiences most when they’re at one extreme or the other.

I’ve tried wrapping my brain around what kind of organizational structure could lead to this behavior, and it wasn’t until talking with someone who knows that it’s starting to make sense.

Season ticket salespeople are required to make 50 phone calls to perspective customers a day. And their managers check the phone logs. So no matter how many leads a rep may be following up on at any given time, they still have to call 50 people. It makes sense then that during slow times, those fans being courted by salespeople get more of the phone calls. Maybe a lot more, depending. And it makes sense that the messages get a little weird. What would you say if you had to call some dude for the 8th time in a couple weeks?

Update: Also getting reports from people who have received handwritten notes. I recommend carrier pigeons next.

Posted in gripes | 2 Comments »

Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2%

January 7th, 2013 by

The Extra 2%While reading The Extra 2%, I often consciously stopped myself from making comparisons  to Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. It was difficult. I’ll also attempt to keep the comparisons to a minimum in this review, but that will also be difficult. After reading just the description of The Extra 2% you’ll know the premise of both books are just so similar. A small market team uses outside the box thinking and an analytical approach to compete with and beat clubs with much larger payrolls.

Much of The Extra 2%’s story focuses on the Rays’ work improving their fan experience, a topic not addressed in Moneyball. This was the storyline I found most interesting in Keri’s work. Discussion about on field baseball decisions are both stimulating and plentiful in this golden era of baseball analytics, but the other aspects regarding running a club receive less attention. For example, the descriptions of previous Rays owner Vincent Naimoli’s crazed quest to save pennies at the present but forgo future dollars is entertaining and eye opening. It’s a great reminder, one that Keri may or may not have intended, that a business treating people well is both beneficial from a “feel good” perspective, but also often leads to greater business success and profitability in the longer term.

Other aspects of the book were less engaging. We spend a chapter following game accounts from a season of Rays baseball, which would be more entertaining if I were a nostalgic Rays fan. But I’m a Padres fan, and what’s “magical” to me is not the same.

We also learned about Joe Maddon’s upbringing and career path to becoming the Rays manager. He seems like a good dude, but instead of learning about his family and the town in which he grew up, I’d have preferred more focus on Joe’s controversial stance on decision making. From the book: “Maddon makes decisions one way with one thing in mind: trust the process, don’t sweat the results.” I’m the kind of baseball fan who cheers when Chase Headley lines out, and slumps in my seat when Everth Cabrera beats out a swinging bunt. That kind of thinking is up my alley!

And that process of looking at our favorite pastime in a new light than we’re used to brings us back to Moneyball, which I read and found my mind blown fairly consistently. This issue with expecting The Extra 2% to be the next Moneyball is I read it 6 years ago, and I’ve followed baseball much differently in my six most recent years compared to the 6 years before. Baseball fanhood has changed a lot in those years as well. Which is why it’s unfair in a lot of ways to compare these two books, no matter how difficult the plots of each make avoiding comparisons difficult.

Another difference is that Michael Lewis is an experienced novelist. His strength is developing a narrative, in this case creating an “us vs them” theme in that made the book entertaining. Though the story lines are probably exaggerated, to the point of  distorting the minds of developing baseball minds to whom Moneyball became an introduction to the world of baseball analytics. Scouts have more value to the game than one might conclude after reading Moneyball, for example. It took this relatively young (I’m 28) baseball fan some self discovery before allowing myself to venture outside Lewis’ framework.

Keri, on the other hand developed his chops in baseball analytics, having co-authored Baseball Prospectus’ excellent Baseball Between the Numbers and written for BP’s website. This background in the current state of baseball thought means he can use wOBA when necessary and eloquently explain it in a sentence.

Jonah Keri references additional developments in baseball thinking, but nothing is life changing. One of the “Wall Street Strategies” was the Rays’ plan to young players like Evan Longoria early in their careers to long term deals. It’s a good strategy that teams including the Padres are incorporating. But JC Bradbury wrote about how players are risk averse while teams can afford to be risk neutral right when the deal was announced. The Rays’ plan hasn’t been a secret since. I learned that they tried to do the same with BJ Upton, who wasn’t interested, which exemplified the nuances of applying these ideas to actions in the real world, and real people.

The story is also a great example of why The Extra 2% is an entertaining read for those who are interested in the details behind running a baseball team. But if you’ve been following the sport, don’t expect it to change the way you think about the game.

Posted in media | 3 Comments »

A Different Approach to Fence Moving

October 22nd, 2012 by

Petco Park ScoreboardFences have been a popular topic among Padres fans since the team moved to Petco Park in 2004, including our little corner of Padre-land-ville.

We approach the subject from different angles, from chats about what type of baseball is most entertaining (and to what type of fan), to how the park affects free agent signings, or most annoyingly the “other teams can hit in Petco just fine” crowd, which is clearly not true.

After so many keyboards have died discussing the subject, the Padres today announced they’re finally moving in the fences. Lets have fun and approach this a little differently. Lets re-write Padres history. Pretend for a moment it’s 2004. Petco Park debuted and played perfectly neutral to hitters and pitchers. Phil Nevin never pointed and glared at Kevin Towers after that long fly out. We were then more aware that Brian Giles kicked all kinds of ass on offense, and we spent more time talking about the best looking Padres ever and a lot less time discussing the fences.

Now you’re sitting in 2012 following 9 years of completely neutral baseball reading The Sac Bunt on your tablet or phablet or whatever, and I make a rather indecent proposal:

The Padres should move the fences out. Way out, so far that Petco Park becomes the most extreme ballpark in baseball.

When looking at making a change, it helps to imagine what things would be like had that change always been the case, and propose the opposite. This process is a great way to remove potential bias based on what we know and are used to. And it’s helpful with the fences debate, because taking a neutral park and making extreme seems rather silly. Don’t you agree?

There’s more to it than that

Of course this isn’t the only way of looking at it, but it is enlightening. Other things to consider include the result–how sure are we that the changes will make the game neutral, or close to it? That’s a hard question to answer without looking at what studies have been done. Considering the Zona Boyz have been with the team 3 years now, and the Padres have presumably been collecting data for the 9 years it has been available, I’ll assume they’ve done their homework as best as can be done and this isn’t something taken lightly.

Another consideration is the potential advantage of an extreme environment. Opinions from people I respect about that possibility vary. Dave Cameron writes that the Mariners, after adjusting their fences this year have been “freed from [the] bondage” of having to rely on players with a particular skill set  in their formerly non-neutral park.

MGL asks if anyone has evidence that pitching, speed, and defense can be tailored to provide a home field advantage. He doesn’t seem convinced by what’s out there (in 2009). Interestingly, in the comments section the same Dave Cameron suggests a team can indeed build a roster that creates an advantage for the home team. This discussion was from 2009, perhaps Dave has since changed his opinion about what’s possible or advantageous.

Differing ideas exist from inside the baseball world as well, even from former Padres employees. Former GM Jed Hoyer famously said he’d prefer to move the fences OUT rather than in, believing he could build a team around the park. Or he was just making a point, I wouldn’t know as I interpret everything I hear literally.

Former CEO Sandy Alderson favors a more neutral environment, supporting the potential move for the Padres and later an actual move as GM with the Mets. But I take anything an employee says about their employer’s ballyard with a blue and white grain of salt.

After following the debate for a large part of the decade, it’s obvious to me that anyone who’s absolutely convinced they know what’s best either knows something everyone else doesn’t, or needs to chillax a bit.

How many teams are there again?

“Uh sir, I have some bad news. Remember when you put me in charge of designing the bullpens at Petco Park, and I said that probably wasn’t a very good idea because I’ve never watched baseball before in my life, then you said ‘It’s cool brah’ and went back to your game of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3? That may not have been so cool, brah, because apparently there are supposed to be 2 bullpens.”

A conversation I’m pretty sure happened circa spring 2004. It’s about time that gets fixed. Same for doing something else with the weird party area in left field that never made any sense and no one will miss. Except maybe that dude who passed out there while simultaneously being only interesting event that happened in 9 years of that area being a thing.

Sorry to bring this up

It sucks the Padres won’t be able to use the park as an advantage, but we considering nobody knows if that’s even possible it’s hard to get upset about it. And if the Padres can fix other ballpark issues in the process, I say great. I also say we want Sculpin available while your’e at it. And that’s one more seemingly endless discussion we can put to rest. If we can move in the fences on Matt Bush I’ll be golden.

Posted in petco park | 4 Comments »

All time Padres hunk-off results

August 28th, 2012 by

Padres Social Media Night

Padres social media day meant meeting tons of passionate and fun Padres fans. I also took the opportunity to talk to folks about hunks. That meant collecting votes and opinions regarding the best looking Padres of all time, as a follow up to a recent discussion about current Padre hunks. After getting past the awkwardness of explaining what I was doing, people submitted their choice for the biggest Padres hunk, which also led to some hot (pun not intended) and passionate (pun also not intended) debate. Some special celebrity voters were included as well.

Padres Social Media

Does this thing get Pinterest?

The rules were simple: any player on the Padres roster at any time in history was eligible. Opinions varied greatly, with a large number of names mentioned and justifications from preferring the brains of pitcher Chring Young to the squatting ability of Fred McGriff. We received a total of 25 votes, and after disqualifying the top vote recipient “Why Are You Doing This?” an ultimate all time Padres hunk was crowned: Ken Caminiti.

Here’s a listing of all the nominees, and their vote total:

  • Ken Caminiti (4)
  • Brad Ausmus (3)
  • Steve Garvey (3)
  • Cory Luebke (2)
  • Trevor Hoffman (2)
  • Ed Whitson with shirt off (2 – votes independent of each other)
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff (1)
  • Ben Davis (1)
  • Fred McGriff (1)
  • Benito Santiago (1)
  • Chris Young (1)
  • Kurt Bevacqua (1)
  • Greg Vaughn (1)
  • Huston Street (1)
  • Carmelo Martinez (1)
Bud Black Batting Practice Social Media

Also we saw batting practice

Vote for your favorite hunk here!

Who is the Padres all time hunk?

  • Ed Whitson with shirt off (25%, 3 Votes)
  • Trevor Hoffman (17%, 2 Votes)
  • Steve Finley (17%, 2 Votes)
  • Fred McGriff (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Steve Garvey (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Ken Caminiti (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Huston Street (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Brad Ausmus (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Cory Luebke (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Carmelo Martinez (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ben Davis (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Benito Santiago (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Chris Young (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kurt Bevacqua (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Greg Vaughn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Carlos Quentin (1%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 12

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PS – If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, you’ll have to view the desktop version to vote on the poll. Our engineers are working on a fix soon.

Posted in awards | 1 Comment »

Padres Social: What makes Padres games fun

August 15th, 2012 by

The Padres today announced Social Media Night, a fun sounding event I was barely able to acquire tickets for due to the speed at which it sold out. It got me thinking about what it was that made the event to desirable to attend. Sure, it includes access to a suite, a shirt, and an opportunity to rub elbows with various Padres brass. But that’s not what sold it for me.

As best as I can tell, here are the three main reasons I attend Padres baseball games:

  1. To watch and cheer on talented and exciting Padres teams
  2. A feeling of pride in the team and city after being a fan my whole life-. This is weird and complicated, and something I’d like to address more in future posts.
  3. To spend time with people I like

The third reason is obviously the motivating factor behind the fun of Social Media Night. There’s a great community of Padres fans on Twitter, which has enhanced my fan experience more than perhaps anything in my personal history of Padrefanhoodom.

The routine when going to games during the Jack Murphy days was parking or taking the trolley, finding our seats in the ballpark in whatever group I came with, watching the game, then turning around and heading home. It might be my maturity as a person, the proximity of Petco to downtown, or a combination of factors, but that’s changed! Meeting and talking with other passionate Padres fans at games and otherwise has been an absolute blast. It’s made Petco Park feel like a place at which I belong.

This is be exactly the relationship the Padres want to have with fans. They want fans to feel that sense of association, and to have fun at the ballpark while almost completely detached from the outcome of the game. The team can encourage more of it by curating small to medium sized groups of fans.

It’s easy to see how a social media fan group developed because Twitter did the curating for us. We’re all die-hard Padres fans who like talking about the Padres on the Internet. Through that medium, we get to know each other, enjoy games together, build relationships, and greatly enhance our fan experience. I’m convinced that if the Padres can find a way to replicate those experiences for larger numbers of fans who aren’t doing it themselves on Twitter, they would be well on their way to building the fan culture we longtime die-hards have always wanted.

It would be difficult. It would require lots of thinking outside the box. But it’s not impossible. The Friarhood, and the guys behind the Bring Back the Brown campaign have done it, albeit on a smaller scale.

The power behind a self-perpetuating, connected group of Padres fans who feel a part of something is undeniable. It’s what the Padres need to create the identity they want. And it would be a lot of fun.

Posted in petco park | 5 Comments »

2012 Padres Ultimate Hunk Off – Pick Yours!

July 27th, 2012 by

Everyone on Twitter agrees this merits a discussion, so show your support for your favorite Padres hunk! We’ll announce the Ultimate Hunk shortly!

Vote for up to two hunks.

Who is the 2012 Padres Ultimate Hunk?

  • Carlos Quentin (47%, 9 Votes)
  • Anthony Bass (21%, 4 Votes)
  • Cory Luebke (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Clayton Richard (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Huston Street (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Yasmani Grandal (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Other - specify in comments (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Dick Enberg (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

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Posted in awards | 4 Comments »

Measuring the Minority: Padre Palette Preferences

July 12th, 2012 by

Brown or Blue Padres jerseysHi from Twitter!

I’m back, and discussing once again a favorite  subject matter when we Padres fans and bloggers get together, drink beer, and watch baseball: fashion.

Uniforms! We’re still talking about them, and I don’t know when or if we’ll ever stop. Perhaps if the Padres do ever bring back the brown. Or perhaps if the team manages to come up with a set of truly inspired, beautiful, and unique blue uniforms. Neither of those have happened yet, and so here we are on the subject once again.

Padres interim CEO and former non-interim COO Tom Garfinkel once famously referred to fans of brown jerseys as a “vocal minority.” He never explained how that determination was made, though presumably the color scheme fanbase was estimated through a combination of focus groups and anecdotal evidence.

I’m here to announce that thanks to a job in downtown San Diego, I’ll be attempting another method of scientifically studying Padre fan palette preferences: counting. Through the next several months I’ll analyze the fashion choices of every Padres fan I see, returning to the Sac Bunt Lab for some quick calculations, and finally determining if said fan prefers the Brown or the Blue.

Due to my squeamish tolerance for pain and the safety hazards involved with carrying needles everywhere to tattoo the results on my body, I’ll keep track on my cellular phone (pictured, right).

Some readers may be suspicious about any bias interfering with these scientific findings. Therefore, here are my proposed ground rules:

  • Once I see someone wearing Padre gear, it must be recorded. Obvs.
  • If I’m unwilling / able to keep track at any point I will make that decision before seeing a jersey. If I don’t consciously decide I’m not keeping track before seeing the jersey, I must record the result.
  • Any item of clothing bearing an official mark of the San Diego Padres will count. If the primary color of either the item itself (a blue shirt), or the print on that item (a white shirt with brown writing) is blue or brown, it will count toward that color. If the item does not have a dominant blue or brown color scheme, it will not count.
  • Someone wearing two color schemes in one outfit will not count.
  • I will not attempt to keep up at games I attend. Instead I will drink microbrew and Tweet while I should be watching the game. Padres bloggers meetups are also off the record.

Feel free to suggest additional rules, I want to keep this fair.

In all honesty, I do expect the Blue crew to win. The most common Padre garment I’ve seen worn downtown this season, and it’s not even close, is the “San Diego” visitors jersey wordmark shirt given away on opening day. And as far as I know, the Padres have not given away any brown gear this season.

Either way, I’m excited to see some cold hard data on this hotly debated subject. Funny how calling it a “hotly debated subject” isn’t as sarcastic as one might expect.

Sharp eyed readers will no doubt notice the Brown counter on the screenshot of my phone currently reads “2″, while the Blue indicator “0″. This is due in no small part to the Awesome Mohawk With Brown Padres Flags On His Wheelchair Guy I’ve seen around after starting this project. Be sure to say hi if you see him. I’ve never spoken with him, so I don’t know if he’s friendly, but this way you can find out and let me know. Thanks.

Let the great experiment begin!

Posted in controversy | 3 Comments »

The Sacrifice Power Rankings: April

April 3rd, 2012 by

Here’s another idea I’ll probably drop real quick: Every month, I’m going to go over which players are giving the owner-less Padres the most bang for their buck. As the season hasn’t started yet, this is based on projections but as the season goes on, I’ll update it with real numbers.

1. Cameron Maybin

The centerfield stud with the new contract is still making less than a million dollars and is one of the best bargains in baseball.

2. Cory Luebke

The starting pitching stud with the new contract is still making less than a million dollars and is one of the best bargains in baseball.

3. Chase Headley

The third base stud who probably won’t get a new contract until he’s with another team is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

4. Tim Stauffer

This ranking is a bit generous and Stauffer needs to show that he can put it all together and doesn’t need to lean on Petco to get results, but let’s hope he rewards our faith in him.

5. Yonder Alonso

The Reds just announced that they think Joey Votto is $225 million better than Alonso. Let’s hope that fires him up a bit.

6. Nick Hundley

Don’t be surprised if Hundley jumps up this list as the season progresses. Even now, you wouldn’t be out of line arguing that he needs to change spots with Stauffer.

7. Andrew Cashner

This ranking assumes Cashner stays in the pen but he wouldn’t be the first Padres pitcher to make the transition from reliever to starter. He’s the only one who throws triple digit heat with nerve-racking shoulder, though.

8. Clayton Richard

Who? Just kidding. Not really. Who? With Volquez starting Opening Day, it sounds like Richard needs to be looking over his shoulder at Kelly and Co.

9. Will Venable

This is the year! His swing’s looking good! He’s got it all working! Words that have never been said about Will Venable before!

10. Edinson Volquez

Like I said, Volquez is starting Opening Day. For a former pitcher, Bud Black sure doesn’t think that starting Opening Day is a very big honor.

11. Luke Gregerson

Remember him? He’s the Clayton Richard of relievers.

12. Orlando Hudson

Hopefully he’ll have said something ridiculous on Twitter by the time I run the May ranking.

13. Carlos Quentin

Starting the season the DL won’t help Quentin jump up the list very quickly.

14. Jason Bartlett

There’s really nothing to say here. He’s bad and we’ve got no one else.

15. Huston Street

The Padres’ highest paid player will play maybe 60 innings this year, if he’s not traded, and that’s how small market teams maximize their resources.

Posted in misc, players | 1 Comment »

Why I’m okay with extending Hundley and trading Grandal

March 18th, 2012 by

(Earlier today, Jim Bowden semi-coherently tweeted that the Padres are talking to Hundley about an extension and “fielding interest on impressive catching depth but said they are not motivated to trade from it.”)

Before I start, I just want to say that I understand that I’m jumping to conclusions here in assuming that it’s one or the other. The Padres could very well be looking at Hundley and Grandal as a two-headed catching monster moving forward. However, since I don’t believe that creating this monster is the best use of the team’s resources, I want to start by saying I told you so.

After the 2010 season, when the team announced that Hundley would become the starting catcher, I argued that Nick Hundley is not our enemy and this season, he rewarded my faith by busting out with +3.5 WAR, tying him for seventh in the league among catchers. Hundley was able to reach this mark by being an absolute beast at Petco. At Petco! He had a 160 home wRC+ (!) this season and his 123 career home wRC+ is tied for second (with Mark Loretta) for players with at least 300 PA in Petco. Considering that Byrnes and co. seem to be letting the park dictate how they build their lineup, hanging onto a guy who’s Petco-proof is a good way to start.

Now putting on my old man hat, I like Nick Hundley because he clearly likes being a Padre. Over the past two winters, it feels like Nick Hundley has been everywhere. Every time the Padres unveil a new uniform, he’s there. Every time they’re out there kissing babies or whatever, he’s there. The man is omnipresent. Maybin’s new contract may signal that he’s the new Mr. Padre but as far as I’m concerned, he has to wrestle that title away from Hundley first.

Having said all that, I feel confident that Grandal will end up being the better catcher. He’s the third best catching prospect in baseball (depending on whether or not you still consider Jesus Montero a catcher) because he can flat out hit. He has the kind of bat that could play elsewhere (which sounds like a whole nother article) but it’s for this reason that I want to see what Grandal can bring back in a trade.

Over the winter, the Rockies traded Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Tyler Chatwood and I bring this up because it is the kind of trade that we can look forward to if we put Hundley out on the market. And in case you’re wondering, Tyler Chatwood is something of an Andrew Cashner-type, and while we just traded a top prospect for the epitomic Andrew  Cashner-type, I think that we could do better with Grandal. Maybe the Rays don’t make a deal with Hak-Ju Lee (and with Jose Molina behind the dish, can you blame them?) but he’s the type of player that the Padres could target if they put Grandal out there.

And then there’s Austin Hedges. Maybe it’s a little premature to take him into consideration when making future plans but if there’s anyone worth getting illogical about, it’s Hedges. If you listen to the scouting reports, Hedges’ defense could play in the majors right now at age nineteen and if you listen to Keith Law, he has a “chance to hit for average with 15-20 homer power (at least).” Assuming that he doesn’t get hurt (which is admittedly a big assumption), it’s a matter of when and not if Hedges will reach the bigs. He could very well make it up by 2015, which would be the last year of a three-year extension for Hundley and it would give Hedges a year to apprentice before making the first of many All-Star appearances.

None of this is to say that the Padres have to follow this path. That two-headed catching monster does sound like some kinda nice. But if the Padres do choose to move forward with Sloth, I won’t be too upset and neither should you. He’s still not your enemy.

Posted in misc, players | 2 Comments »

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