Padres bloggin' since 2007

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 »

Orlando Hudson butt slap from every angle

May 3rd, 2011 by

What, did you expect anything else?

Posted in media | No Comments »

The one where I wish you a Happy Opening Day — and other fun stuff

March 31st, 2011 by

5&adime Bring Back the Brown PadresHappy Opening Day!

The new look Padres are here, stealing our hearts with their well balanced lineup and bothering me with their boring jerseys.

I’ve got some IRL blog related action to report, starting with a special event brought to us by the cool chaps at RJ’s Fro…

Padres Blogs Unite!

This Sunday, April 3rd, a bunch of Padres blogs, The Madres, Jane Mitchell, The Lake Elsinore Storm, Randy Jones himself, and others will be uniting for fun and charity at the Randy Jones BBQ in Mission Valley. The game starts at 11:15am. What’s that, want food and drink specials? You bet your food and drink specials will be all over this piece.

And the best part? I have a prior commitment, so I won’t be in attendance. If I knew of a way to accept gifts of food and drink via Twitter, that would be encouraged. Instead, be sure to join us for the first ever…

Crowd in Brown

We’ll be partying it up April 9th at the Bring Back the Brown pregame party! Come hang out at 5&A Dime downtown from 1-4pm for a live DJ, BBQ, and craft brew provided by Left Coast Brewing Co. A bunch of bloggers including myself will be there doing whatever it is we do when not blogging, plus the brains behind the Bring Back the Brown campaign from Product Etcetera™.

After the party we’ll mob over to the game in our stylish brown. No blue allowed!

Posted in media | 2 Comments »

Regarding Jayson Stark

February 10th, 2011 by

In case you missed it, Jayson Stark of ESPN posted his assessment of the various offseasons had by the five NL West teams. For the Padres, he broke it down like so:

The good: Should be much better defensively up the middle, with Hudson, Bartlett and Maybin.

The bad: Substituting Harang (18-38 with a 1.44 WHIP the past three years) for Garland has a chance to get messy, though that magic Petco Pitcher Elixir won’t hurt Harang.

Now the ugly: Exit Gonzalez, stage right. Enter the new first-base platoon of Hawpe and Cantu, who combined for five homers, a .222 average, .295 OBP and 331 SLG after the break last year — and now have to play half their games in Petco.

Overall, Stark gave Jed and the boys a C and overall, I can’t really disagree.

As I myself broke down a couple of days ago, the Padres are going to need some lucky bounces if they’re going to perform an encore in 2011. Players like Ludwick and Bartlett are going to have to go above and beyond to help replace Adrian’s production. But Stark’s take seems apropros. His positives are positive and his negatives are negative, but they both come with reservations.

Over their careers, Harang and Garland have both been worth +23.2 WAR, though they’ve taken different routes to get there, with Garland taking the slow and steady (2029.1 IP) and Harang powering his way (7.47 K/9). For what will likely be the third or fourth starter’s spot, the change should be seamless (assuming Harang’s healthy again).

Having said that, I think Stark is underrating how good our defense was last year. Up the middle, the team had a combined +26.5 UZR. Despite their reputations, the team can’t expect Hudson (+2.2 UZR/150) and Bartlett (+4.5 UZR/150) to anchor a squad that matches that, especially with Maybin being the unknown quantity that he is.

I’ll tell you like I told my parents: a C ain’t so bad. Jed busted out his bag of tricks this offseason, making some shrewd signings but he took some risks as well, and risks don’t always work out. Ultimately, though, this offseason sits in the shadow of Adrian Gonzalez and, until the calendar turns to October and we find out just what they’re made of, the entire team will be right there with it.

Posted in media | 2 Comments »

What Jed said

October 7th, 2010 by

Jed Hoyer gave an interview to XX yesterday and thanks to the good people at Gaslamp Ball, neither of us have to listen to it. It was surprisingly (at least to me) candid, as if Jed were paying tribute to the Gunslinger. It gave us a good window into his mind. Here are some of the choice hits, as well as my valuable (you’ll see. i’ll show you) opinion.

Hoyer wishes that he and Buddy would have put Tim Stauffer back into the rotation earlier. That’s the one thing that keeps him up at night. It could have brought them 2 or 3 more wins. They waited longer than they should have. They waited until the rosters expanded.

Doi.

Stauffer was the second best “starter” on this team, behind Mat Latos, but he only received seven starts. His 3.02 FIP was only .02 behind Latos and was .79 ahead of Clayton Richard, Mr. Third Place. His xFIP was also solid (3.74), putting him behind Latos and Cory Luebke and his three starts.

In his place, Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Correia combined for 51 starts, or almost a third of the season. The two also combined to give the team a total of 0.1 wins above replacement. In almost 300 less innings, Stauffer contributed 1.3 wins. I hate to have to say this, but the Padres really could’ve used an extra win there at the end of the year.

The Padres struggled all year getting on base in the 1 and 2 spot in the line up. They ranked 27 or 28th getting on base in those positions. It really hurt the run scoring. Hoyer thinks very highly of David Eckstein, he had a really good year but he won’t say if he’ll be coming back next year.

David, David, David. He actually had his best season in years (five, to be exact). Unfortunately, that had nothing to do with his hitting. He had his best defensive year ever, managing average range and letting his sure handedness do the rest. Offensively, it was the same story. A 91 wRC+, which is worse than his career 95, and a total of -5.1 runs contributed. On a team that wasn’t exactly Murderer’s Row, Eckstein had the fourth worst year with the bat. It’s just that Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Everth Cabrera, our other options at second, were worse.

It was nice of Hoyer to lie and say that Eckstein had a really good year. But if he’s looking to upgrade, we’ve found somewhere to start.

Ryan Ludwick is a really good player who struggled in the new environment. He put too much pressure on himself. He thinks that Ludwick will be moved to left field because Hoyer likes Will Venable’s glove in right field.

Ahem:

**Not to editorialize, but I wouldn’t be against the Padres putting Ludwick in left. With a starting trio of Ludwick-Gwynn-Venable, I’m not sure anything would fall in that outfield.

Good Ludwick the rest of the season

Getting past that, it’s good to see that Hoyer isn’t among the masses calling for Ludwick’s head. He definitely stunk while here (78 OPS+) but luck was not on his side (.257 BABIP). Both numbers are considerably down from his career averages (114 OPS+, .309 BABIP). Add in that he was still coming off of an injury and it’s likely that we didn’t see the real Ryan Ludwick these past two months. It was his evil twin, Ryan Ughwick.

Jon Garland had a great year. They’ll talk about exercising his option over the next two weeks. He felt that he performed exactly as they hoped.

A great year might be something of an overstatement, but Garland was who we thought he is (4.41 FIP, 106 ERA+, 200 IP). His option is for $6.75 million and that might be a bit steep, but Garland is a dependable pitcher and the rotation would still only be around $8 million with him.

Gwynn had a good season defensively. The team missed him in the outfield when he was injured. He struggled offensively. He’s a reason for the success of the pitching staff.

AJ was amazing this year, posting the highest UZR/150 of all players with at least 700 innings (33.6). Even being four-to-five hundred innings behind the rest of his competition, he still ended the year second in UZR (12.9) behind only Michael Bourn. This guy can play him some centerfield and seemed to be unaffected by the grand expanse of Petco Park (6.4 home RngR). He had a down year with the bat but like Ludwick, luck was not on his side (.236 BABIP, .050 BABIP-LD%). It’d be a big risk for the team to go into 2011 with AJ installed in center but his defense makes him a valuable player (1.7 WAR in 2010).

Personally, I’d like to see Venable get first crack at centerfield. He showed a lot of promise when Black finally gave him the shot and with his bat, the Padres wouldn’t have to make sacrifices or choose one facet of the game over the other. But given that Black sent Chris Denorfia out for 360 innings (we’ve been over this) I would gladly take another year of Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Posted in media, statistics | 8 Comments »

The one post of the year in which we talk about ourselves

April 27th, 2010 by

So hey, big changes going on here at The Sac Bunt offices. Ray is living and reporting on location in Santiago, Chile, also known as “The other breakfast town.”

I was recently hired by a web agency, which has been fantastic. It’s nice going out to lunch with coworkers and complaining about the font on the menu without getting weird looks.

I’m not sure what this means for The Sac Bunt. We generally post sporadically, so it’s best to stay up to date by subscribing via RSS feed. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more bite sized Bunt morsels.

To change gears, I have to honestly cop to being disappointed we missed the cut for invitations to Padres media night.  Although I admit, we’re not ever going to be the type of Padres blog that wins the competition for most lunches with Garfinkel. If you know what I mean.

I think that’s it. I don’t want to be a wet blanket by publicly re-affirming by 78 win pre-season prediction, but it just happened. Thanks everyone for commenting. Go Padres.

Posted in media | 1 Comment »

Nick Canepa now a parody of himself

April 13th, 2010 by

That’s the only way I can read Canepa’s newest piece without honest to goodness, not a trace of snark, feeling sorry for the guy. Then he called me a geek.

Baseball has lost some of its charm

When we were kids, baseball players played baseball, so that’s what we did…

Regardless of the outrage you’re haplessly manufacturing, baseball is still played. It’s not like a game of quidditch broke out on the field. There is a pitcher and batter, the batter hits a pitched ball with a bat. Fathers watch with daughters. Kids play in the park. I managed to drink a beer yesterday without dropping my calculator. None of the stuff you hate takes away from the things you claim to like. Even this response to your argument is cliche by now.

The Grand New Game — if that’s what you want to call it (I prefer the old one) — is being overanalyzed into embalmment. Baseball history always has been driven by stats, which is why the steroid era has smacked it in the mouth and it’s still bleeding. But we never knew what an OPS or UZR or any of these other geek formulas were. And, if we didn’t know, the real ballplayers didn’t know. They didn’t need to. They just went out and played.

Go into Padres manager Bud Black’s office and you’ll find him sitting at his desk, laptop open. Used to be, when you went to see a skipper after a game, his fly might be open — or he might be naked. How I long to see Dick Williams in there, two legs propped up, stripped down to his sanitaries and a few other things, sipping Chivas Regal out of an 18-ounce beer cup, speaking in a tongue salted by a lengthy stay in baseball’s inn.

Man, how I miss that.

Yikes. You did see the primer printed in your very own newspaper on UZR? I don’t think I need to point out the name calling implications toward your own readers.

Joe Banks, eighty-two years young, has come to this pond every day for the past seventeen years, to feed the ducks. But last month, Joe made a discovery. The ducks…were gone. Some say the ducks went to Canada. Others say, Toronto. And some people think, that Joe used to sit down there, near those ducks. But it could be, that there’s just no room in this modern world, for an old man…and his ducks.

Oops, that quote isn’t from your article.

Sorry Nick. This piece is 10 years late. It is cliche by now. You are cliche. These sappy, emotionally manipulative, empty space where content is supposed to be pieces are what strangled your beloved newspapers. Strangled past tense. You don’t deserve to earn a living writing about baseball. Readers have already voted with their feet.

It’s your own fault. It’s not numbers, players, “society”, or any other imagined entity you think is to blame because people don’t listen to you anymore. Silly words of yours on a computer screen in a pitiful attempt to convince yourself and your readers you are not at fault will not change that.

It has been laundered by too many statistics, too many Ph.Ds, and too much money has nearly washed it clean of characters.

“The players are bigger, stronger, faster than we were,” Coleman says. “You can’t knock today’s players. I don’t think they play the same game we did. They don’t use their brains the way we did, but they’re better players than we were.

Honestly, I don’t even know what this article is supposed to be about. UZR is ruining little league? There are too many “Ph.Ds” in the game, but Jerry Coleman is complaining that “They don’t use their brains the way we did”? Stats were fine and dandy until OPS came around, but that was the breaking point? Did you read this? Do you ever read your stuff?

You don’t like baseball anymore? Then stop writing about the subject and quit embarrassing yourself with this shit. I’m sure you can still find Dick Williams’ open fly around somewhere. Have at it.

Posted in gripes, media | 16 Comments »

UZR in the UT

March 31st, 2010 by

Photo by Dirk Hansen

I didn’t see this one coming.

It’s true, the Padre blogosphere likes to rag on the San Diego Union Tribune’s baseball coverage from time to time. I’ll admit, it can be fun to snicker from the back of the room while the mainstream media, who once derided new technologies like blogs and analytical approaches to evaluating baseball.

That said, critics from traditional news outlets do make some good points. One of them is that sitting in the back of the room shooting spit wads doesn’t contribute much to a conversation.

The Union Tribune appears to be coming around in its coverage using these new tools, though this process took a step backward when the most forward thinking of the bunch, Tom Krasovic, was let go.

This story begins in mid January, after the Padres traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A’s for Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston. Due to Kouz’s excellent fielding percentage last year, members of the traditional San Diego media (and others) called for him to be awarded a gold glove. The UT’s Tim Sullivan described his defense as “near flawless”. Here was my response, via Twitter (You do follow The Sac Bunt, right?):

@sdutSullivan Thinking Kouzmanoff is a defensive whiz because of fielding percentage suggests range isn’t important.

Fielding percentage by itself is a bad way to measure fielding. It doesn’t consider range, an important aspect of a player’s ability to turn his share of batted balls into outs.

Much to his credit, Mr. Sullivan made a note of this information in a subsequent article:

Though fielding percentage is often a misleading metric, in that it makes no allowances for the relative range of different players, Headley’s .907 rate was the lowest among big league third baseman who started at least 25 games last season. The frequency of Headley’s errors — he made five of them among 54 total chances — occurred at nearly six times Kouzmanoff’s clip.

Although he isn’t completely off the hot seat considering his “results” from Headley’s 54 total chances aren’t worth the pixels they’re read on. But I digress.

Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, is the most reliable freely available defensive metric. Unlike fielding percentage, it does consider range. UZR rates Kevin Kouzmanoff average to above average defensively, over the necessary sample size of a multiple seasons.

My attempt to contribute something positive to the discussion, no matter how helpful rolled up pieces of paper shot through a straw may be:

Shout out to @sdutsullivan for reminding readers that fielding % is misleading. Good work. Next up, UZR!

And wouldn’t you know it? Here comes a primer from Bill Center of the Union Tribune on UZR, published at 12am last night by that party animal.

It’s a good article which covers the positives and negatives of UZR, including its inability to measure the context of player positioning at the start of a play, and that catcher defense is still a challenge.

There is this note from 3rd base and infield coach Glenn Hoffman that gives me a giggle:

“So much of defense is based on what you see and what you feel over pure statistics.”

Well, ok. Statistics are an attempt to quantify what we see. They allow us to compare players using the same criteria over tens of thousands of performances. I don’t want to discount the important of scouting, especially if information is only available in small samples or unique immeasurable circumstances. But lets just say if they were my millions of dollars at stake, I’d have a second thought about basing decisions on things people “feel”.

But I don’t want to distract from Bill Center’s effort with this article. I’m glad for the opportunity to hear from players, coaches, and front office personnel about UZR. Cheers to Bill Center and the Union Tribune. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Also, someone at the UT owes me a beer. Or a job. I’m good for either.

Posted in media, statistics | 9 Comments »

Quick Quote: Adrian Gonzalez

March 13th, 2010 by

“It’s sad to say, but having been traded a couple of times, I play for the guys in the clubhouse, the players, Buddy [Black] and his staff,” Gonzalez says. “I play in San Diego, but I’m not playing for the name across the jersey. I play for the guys in the clubhouse. You learn that you play for them.”

The Padres have given Adrian Gonzalez around $4.7 million dollars over his career. That’s not $180 million, but apparently it hasn’t been enough to convince him to play for the team. At the very least it should be enough to not say stupid things like this to the public.

I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but hearing Adrian and remembering Jake Peavy talk sure makes me appreciate Heath Bell, the only face of the Padres the last few years who seems to like the team.

Via CBS Sports

Posted in media | 11 Comments »

Padres street banners gallery

March 6th, 2010 by

The team is on the ball showing off the new banners via their Twitter account. Here are a few more hi-def cell phone shots, courtesy of Padre Homer.

No sand anywhere. I know Jeff Moorad doesn’t like the color, so how about a compromise: no sand in the marketing stuff, but the jerseys stay. Deal?

Apparently I’m in the bargaining phase of the grieving process.

With this hit we are off to the store!

Posted in media, petco park | 7 Comments »

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