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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Live from SABR 39!

I hope everyone is having as good a day as I am.  I arrived in DC yesterday for SABR 39, and enjoyed standing around and shaking hands with the guys.  Yes, it was at the hotel bar before I ever saw my room.  Joe Dimino, Ben and Stacy Jacobs, Matt Rauseo, Anthony Giacalone and Mike McCullough, Mike Emeigh and Mike Webber.  We started there, then moved on to a place for other drinks whose name escapes me where we met up with (first names only) Nathan, SJ, Tim, Aaron, Chone, Sean Forman, Josh, Larry and who else?  Goodness there were 14 or 15 of us.  Evidently another Darren was there, but I didn’t get there in time to chat with him.

Then we closed that place and moved on to the next place, which was Harry’s on 11th, I think.  We were there very late,a dn it was all sorts of a BTFing good time.  Hopefully we’ll get a few more of you in the area tonight and through the weekend.

So this morning the presentations didn’t start until about noon and so I took the opportunity to take a cab down to the East Potomac Golf Course, where for just $39, I could get a cart and tee off straight away.  The course opens at 5:30 am.  5:30!!  I play quickly when alone, so I tend to play through people from time to time.  The course is not a difficult course (70.5/115), but it has some length, listed at 6500 yards or so.  As I came to the 6th hole, the par 5, it is under construction, so they presently have it set up at as a par 3 about 135 yards.  There were two guys walking about to tee off as I drove up, and so I asked if I could play through.  Sure they said.  I said I wouldn’t take long and I play fast, and they said “Take you time.”  I replied “I’m not that good.”  I pulled out my Callaway Big Bertha 10-iron (I don’t know, that’s what they call it).  I hit the ball, on a good trajectory, and as I always do, began walking back to my cart while it was in flight, watching over my shoulder to see where it ended up.  Once bounce and a slow roll right into the cup.  ACE!  I froze and asked the guys if it went in and they cheered and said yes.  We exchanged some fist bumps and they took my picture and I grinned like a stuck pig (I don’t know, but it’s something my dad used to say).  I proceeded to birdie #9 and #13, and shot a 70, for a round of par and my lowest score ever, and I completed the round at 10:50.  An hour and forty minutes!  I got back to the clubhouse and bought everyone drinks.  Which, at 11 am on a Thursday morning, was just me. 

Oh, yes, there’s the SABR conference.  I got back to the hotel to meet Clay Davenport and chat with him and Sean Forman briefly before the talks.  Seth Gitter presented on minor league attendence, and the things at affect it.  It was well done and he did a great job of looking at lots of possible variables, which is always a tricky part of SABR.  At the end of every presentation, someone is going to ask you if you consider to take XYZ into account.  Seth presented work that he and Thomas Rhoads had done.  They are both Econ profs at Towson.  Then I went to lunch with Greg Spira and Ben and Matt, so I missed a presentation on Walter Johnson versus Babe Ruth.

After lunch, we had to hustle back to see Anthony Giacalone’s presentation on the effect of the Great Depression on baseball in the 1960s.  See, the people who werenot born then didn’t play, and depressed the number of available players.  Anthony is a very polished speaker and presenter.  His slide deck is always crisp and he looks like Jack Bauer, so everyone likes his stuff.  Anthony really got lots of discussion afterward too - that’s generally a sign of a topic that gets people thinking, rather than just telling people how it is.

Vince Gennaro then presented on the effects of defense on a team’s pitchers - errors or misplays that lead to a pitcher throwing more innings and then you get into the bullpen and then the worst pitchers get more opportunities.  VInce uses data from BIS and that really makes for a good statistical basis for his research.  Some of it I felt we’ve answered before, but there were some stark contrasts one may not have been aware of.

Mike Emeigh’s talk followed on the evolution of the bullpen usage from 1960 to present.  He found out several interesting things, but I was amazed at how little bullpen usage changed from 1960 to 1975.  It was really amazing to see how flat the line was.  Then he showed the beginning trend with Fingers and Sutter and Lee Smith and Gossage and then on to Eckersley.  Mike noted that the first “9th inning only” guy was Tom Henke, rather than Eck.  And that Johnny Oates really pushed this to the limits, rather than LaRussa.  After using Henke that way, Oates took it to Greg Olsen as well.  I think Mike under-estimates how Eck started that, but his data does show Eck as a transitional guy (rarely before the 9th), albeit severe, rather than the “not before the 9th” guy.  It was also a very good bit of info, including he noted that the use of LOOGYs had peaked and is in some decline.  Mike always has strong presentations, but his graphics were weak, and he had a 50 minute talk he had to do in 25.  He usually does though.  Mike, and Vince before him, and Seth were all giving lots of appreciation to Sean Forman and David Smith and Ted Turocy and John Dewan.  That’s always a nice thing to see at a presentation.

David Smith of Retrosheet presented on whether or not pitchers batting adversely affects pitching performance.  Uh, no.  Dr. Smith was more adamant about it with a bouncing “NO!” on his last slide, but he did go through a million plus innings and sorted the data a myriad of ways before coming to that conclusion to head off all the “Did you look at it this way?” questions.  McCullough still managed to ask a question that Smith had specifically said he tried on the previous slide.  Humorously, pitchers actually pitched *better* after an inning where they had batted.  Take that DH fans! 

That ended about 4:30, and then I ran up to my room to tell you all about it.

Talks/things I missed: Christina Kahrl as a panel of one.  I didn’t go, so I don’t know what the topic was.  On-base improvement by veterans.  Vin Scully’s niche.  American League expansion in 1961.  The first draft.  The effects of your defensive position on your offensive performance. 

Tomorrow, Rick Dempsey and Frank Howard will be here, Presentations I will definitely see: Treder, Mark Armour, Gore/Snapp, then the baseball game. Chris Jaffe and Phil Birnbaum go head-to-head at 12:30 tomorrow.  I may have to eat lunch to not offend one over the other, and offend them both equally.

Now we are all going out to the Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th for dinner, followed by cocktails somewhere.  We’re blackberrying, so we’ll keep you up-to-date on where to find us if you are in the area.

Where we can, we’lltry to provide links to the presentations as they become available.  SABR is a terrific experience, the convention is wonderful (and you can attend if you are not a member) and I encourage anyone who would bother with this site to join, if only to support our friends’ research (B-R, Retrosheet, Jaffe and his book, etc.)

Chris Dial Posted: July 30, 2009 at 09:02 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Chris Dial Posted: July 30, 2009 at 09:51 PM (#3274644)
Also, I apologize if I left anyone out. I loved as always catching up with Scott Fischthal. Yes, I did make a reference to how we did all this on USENET already...
   2. Repoz Posted: July 30, 2009 at 10:23 PM (#3274687)
Christina Kahrl as a panel of one

Heard (Facebooked) Christina was late due to traffic and David Vincent stepped in for a while taking questions about official scoring.
   3. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: July 30, 2009 at 10:29 PM (#3274693)
It's "bleed like a stuck pig", and if you've ever seen a pig properly "stuck" you wouldn't question the turn of phrase. Pigs, they bleed when stuck.
   4. Chris Dial Posted: July 30, 2009 at 10:38 PM (#3274700)
Yes, that is what it was. Old age got me again.
   5. Mister High Standards Posted: July 30, 2009 at 10:56 PM (#3274727)
Vinay I can't believe your not here.
   6. burnsides Posted: July 30, 2009 at 11:02 PM (#3274733)
(This is Seth Gitter)

I've been a lurker here for years, in between classes since starting my PhD. Thanks for the kind words on the presentation. It was great to meet you and the other SABR people.
   7. Obama Bomaye Posted: July 30, 2009 at 11:23 PM (#3274776)
So why was he bleeding after making a hole-in-one?
   8. A triple short of the cycle Posted: July 30, 2009 at 11:39 PM (#3274808)
Cinderella story... former greenskeeper.
   9. Daryn Posted: July 31, 2009 at 12:22 AM (#3274884)
Johnny Oates never managed Tom Henke.
   10. Chris Dial Posted: July 31, 2009 at 12:23 AM (#3274896)
What if it wasn't Oates?
   11. Daryn Posted: July 31, 2009 at 12:31 AM (#3274910)
And that Johnny Oates really pushed this to the limits, rather than LaRussa. After using Henke that way, Oates took it to Greg Olsen as well.

Then these two sentences don't make much sense.
   12.  nddc Posted: July 31, 2009 at 12:44 AM (#3274931)
Chris, you left out Ted, Jon, and Steve from the crew at the Elephant and Castle. Work is keeping me from going to the conference, but I'm glad I made it out to see everyone for at least a little while last night. As always, it was good to talk with people I know, and I'm sorry i didn't get a chance to meet everyone - but I'm going to try to travel to the conference next year, so look out Cleveland!!!

Wait, it's in Atlanta? Oh. Well #### it, I can make that work too. Congrats on the ace today, by the way.
   13. Chris Dial Posted: July 31, 2009 at 01:07 AM (#3274968)
Then these two sentences don't make much sense
give me a little slack...it's been a long week.
   14. Mister High Standards Posted: July 31, 2009 at 01:25 AM (#3274996)
Dial got Henke confused with Greg Olson. Mike stated that Olson and Henke were the first two true one inning with the lead save types... and Oates managed Olson and then Lee Arthur who was used in the same way.
   15. Daryn Posted: July 31, 2009 at 01:30 AM (#3275013)
I get it now. Just busting some balls.
   16. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: July 31, 2009 at 01:37 AM (#3275022)
I got back to the clubhouse and bought everyone drinks. Which, at 11 am on a Thursday morning, was just me.


This wins the Internet.
   17. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: July 31, 2009 at 12:37 PM (#3275273)
I think I'll see if I can make next year in Atlanta.
   18. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: July 31, 2009 at 05:11 PM (#3275736)
Incidentally, if anyone sees Gleeman, tell him I saw his clone on the B train this morning. It was a little creepy.
   19. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: July 31, 2009 at 06:06 PM (#3275810)
I think I'll see if I can make next year in Atlanta.


I have heard that many people would strongly consider attending if it is a Sam Hutcheson Memorial SABR Conference.
   20. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 01, 2009 at 02:52 PM (#3276739)
Sam Hutcheson Memorial SABR Conference


Don't you have to be dead to have a memorial? (pause) Oh, NOW I get it!

-- MWE
   21. Repoz Posted: August 01, 2009 at 03:02 PM (#3276742)
Where are this year's pictures?!
   22. Red-Headed Beard Guy Posted: August 01, 2009 at 03:15 PM (#3276745)
I think there's been too many pictures already this year...
   23. bunyon Posted: August 01, 2009 at 03:56 PM (#3276759)
So, perhaps a stupid question. Is this a conference that one can simply register for and attend? I can probably make Atlanta next year - turns out I have an old roommate moving there in a few weeks and it's a fairly short drive. It sounds like fun.
   24. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 01, 2009 at 06:54 PM (#3276847)
Is this a conference that one can simply register for and attend?


If you pay for it, yes - it ain't free.

-- MWE
   25. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 01, 2009 at 06:56 PM (#3276848)
Where are this year's pictures?!


I'll post some of mine when I get home, as I am sure Dial will as well.

I missed Treder and Jafee's presentations because of this, but I was told that they were both excellent. Giacolone's was excellent as well. The guys told me mine was good, although it ended up going down a very different path from which it started and I wasn't all that happy with where it ended up going.

-- MWE
   26. bunyon Posted: August 01, 2009 at 07:04 PM (#3276851)
Of course, Mike. Sorry if I implied I thought it might be free.
   27. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 01, 2009 at 07:11 PM (#3276857)
Beginning in January, you can register for 2010 via the SABR Store.

-- MWE
   28. Dag is a salt water fish in fresh water world Posted: August 02, 2009 at 01:23 PM (#3277272)
So, who won for best presentation? Did Giacalone pull it off?
   29. Repoz Posted: August 02, 2009 at 02:00 PM (#3277281)
So, who won for best presentation? Did Giacalone pull it off?


Cecilia Tan reports Tim Herlich won.
   30. Dag is a salt water fish in fresh water world Posted: August 02, 2009 at 08:05 PM (#3277631)
Cecilia Tan reports Tim Herlich won.

21* about the Tom Cheney game. I was tempted to see it but didn't. I heard good things about it from those who did see it, though.
   31. Justin T is going to crush some tacos Thursday Posted: August 02, 2009 at 08:36 PM (#3277687)
I thought the link in 25 was going to be a Washington Post article about Larry Mahnken leaving a backpack unattended in the hotel causing the whole place to be evacuated.
   32. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: August 02, 2009 at 08:39 PM (#3277694)
   33. TomH Posted: August 02, 2009 at 08:40 PM (#3277697)
Congrats Chris on the Hole In One!!!

Wow, what a great time. Superb to put faces to so many screen names. And what a lucky dog I was to be drug onto Cliff's trivia team; it was like being a teammate of Bonds who was trying to carry the Giants to the 02 World Champtionship.
   34. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 02, 2009 at 10:22 PM (#3277794)
As I forgot to bring my camera everytime I left the room, I didn't take any pictures. Can anyone email me whatever pictures they have?

I thought the link in 25 was going to be a Washington Post article about Larry Mahnken leaving a backpack unattended in the hotel causing the whole place to be evacuated.

He was too busy trying to kill us to leave his backpack anywhere.
   35. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 02, 2009 at 10:56 PM (#3277812)
My first convention was a lot of fun. Great to meet everyone. I'm looking forward to Atlanta next year.
   36. Obama Bomaye Posted: August 03, 2009 at 12:44 AM (#3277885)
Frightening
   37. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: August 03, 2009 at 01:27 AM (#3277902)
McCullough still managed to ask a question that Smith had specifically said he tried on the previous slide.

Dave misunderstood my question. In his presentation, he said that he looked to see if the pitcher hitting/not hitting issue changed in long innings in which the pitcher batted. (He said when pitchers bat in long innings it has no effect on subsequent performance.)

What I was wondering was something else: Regardless of whether the pitcher bats or not, does the length of the inning impact future performance?

I was thinking specifically about Yankee games, where the visiting team bats in the 7th, then there is a lengthy delay for Ronan Tynan to sing God Bless America, then there is the rest of the 7th inning stretch (with all commercials), before the pitcher *finally* takes the mound in the bottom of the 7th. I have heard many commentators speculate that all that down time freezes the pitcher, putting him at a disadvantage in the bottom of the 7th. Is that true?

Dave didn't answer the question -- I think it was outside the scope of his presentation, but worth examining.
   38. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: August 03, 2009 at 01:29 AM (#3277904)
I did see the 21* presentation. Most of the presentation was good, though I think the presenter spent far too much time at the end getting on his soapbox to complain about how Cheney is being screwed.
   39. Dag is a salt water fish in fresh water world Posted: August 03, 2009 at 01:34 AM (#3277907)
My last day-and-a-half:

1) Stay awake for 26 hours straight (not intentional, just insomnia)
2) nap upon arriving home
3) write a SABR39 recap.

Yup, I really am that lame.

The recap should go up tommorrow provided that the syntax isn't too sleep-deprived.
   40. AndrewJ Posted: August 03, 2009 at 01:52 AM (#3277912)
I just got back home after a day of DC sightseeing. SABR 39 (my third national) was wonderful.

Alan Schwarz of the NY Times was there and just posted this nice wrapup of the trivia finals.
   41. Dag is a salt water fish in fresh water world Posted: August 03, 2009 at 02:26 AM (#3277937)
I'm amazed anyone could beat Cliff Blau on baseball trivia. When he proofread parts of my manuscript for me, he came up with some amazing catches. Personal favorite: he noted I misspelled the last name of Roarin' Bill Hassamaer.

Who the hell had ever even heard of Roarin' Bill let alone could correct the spelling of his name?
   42. Aaron Gleeman Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:09 AM (#3277975)
If anyone has some good (or bad) pictures from SABR, please e-mail them to me so I can use some for my recap. As usual I took a camera and didn't actually use it, but I'm sure there are some amusing shots out there.
   43. Bob Loblaw Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:16 AM (#3277983)
Aaron, Stacy uploaded some to facebook. Just go to her profile and you should be able to see and download them.
   44. Chris Dial Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:22 AM (#3277989)
I'll have a bunch up on FB shortly.
   45. jayjaffe Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:55 AM (#3278002)
Gents, it was a pleasure to meet/catch up/talk baseball/bend elbows with you, though my liver might beg to differ. Somebody PLEASE tell me next year's convention won't coincide with the trade deadline, so I won't have to miss presentations and cocktail hours the way I did this time around in the service of trying to finish a column.

Also, I found the last of the Jim Hegan seven - the trivia question we were kicking around on Thursday night, about the catcher who caught the most Hall of Fame pitchers. Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Satchel Paige, Hal Newhouser, Robin Roberts, and... Jim Bunning. Jim F*ing Bunning.
   46. Neal Traven Posted: August 03, 2009 at 07:03 AM (#3278066)
So, who won for best presentation? Did Giacalone pull it off?
Giacalone's scores had a very high standard deviation ... a few of the judges really, really hated it. (I know who they are, but I ain't talkin'). Of the Primates and friends, Treder scored best. Gitter, Gennaro, Jaffe, and Emeigh were also viewed very favorably. With all my free time (heh!), maybe I'll be able to send out the judges' comments reasonably soon. It's tougher for judging than blind review, because I have to actually read and transcribe what's scrawled on the papers. Copy-and-paste is much easier.

No one came close to the poster winner (I had some issues with her methodology -- using linear regression to estimate a percentage?), but it had a great look and she knew what she was doing. We had a much more difficult time with the oral presentations, because there were four that you could throw a blanket over. We chose to name the other three as "honorable mentions". In alphabetical order:

Jen McGovern, The Promotion of Baseball Players in a Global Market: Major Disparities in the Minor Leagues
Monica Nucciarone, An Overview of Alexander Cartwright’s Life and the Claims for his Baseball Fame
Geri Strecker, The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field: Biography of a Ballpark

Geri's talk was a pinch-hitter for a presenter whose data disk was irreparably damaged a couple of days before the convention.

One thing Chris didn't mention (because it hadn't happened yet when he wrote this) is the proposal that he, Brewer, and McCullough brought before the SABR Board at their Sunday meeting. It was enthusiastically received, really welcomed by the Board. Kudos for reaching out like that, guys! I think this will be a very positive, win-win, program.
   47. Neal Traven Posted: August 03, 2009 at 07:10 AM (#3278069)
Oh, and hearty congratulations to Tom Ruane, king of Retrosheet data analysis (and much, much more). He's this year's richly deserving winner of the Bob Davids Award.
   48. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: August 03, 2009 at 11:56 AM (#3278093)
I found out that I had a potentially correct theory about 19th Century baseball that none of the experts I talked to had ever thought about.
   49. TomH Posted: August 03, 2009 at 01:43 PM (#3278144)
Neal, did I catch that correctly, that the poster winner was the one on pythagorean?
   50. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: August 03, 2009 at 02:03 PM (#3278157)
I'm not Neal, but you are correct Tom.
   51. TomH Posted: August 03, 2009 at 02:19 PM (#3278183)
Wow. It was VERY professionally done, but
1) not exactly virgin territory here, and
2) weak methodology

[ as opposed to my poster, which was not Nearly as pretty, AND did not exactly provide anything earth-shattering either :) ] maybe i shoulda been a judge.

But I seek not to chastise the judges or the organization thereof. It's a thankless job, and like gold glove votes, the results are typically better than the objections of the biggest whiners. Maybe I'll try to help the process next time.
   52. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: August 03, 2009 at 02:51 PM (#3278227)
I did see the 21* presentation. Most of the presentation was good, though I think the presenter spent far too much time at the end getting on his soapbox to complain about how Cheney is being screwed.


This, as the kids say. I learned a lot about Cheney.

The first presentation was about the last Senators game which ended in a forfeit. It was entertaining, but the audience included some folks who may've known more on the game.
   53. Mark Armour Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:13 PM (#3278259)
I did see the 21* presentation. Most of the presentation was good, though I think the presenter spent far too much time at the end getting on his soapbox to complain about how Cheney is being screwed.


For what its worth, I believe that Tim's "complaining" was partially tongue-in-cheek. I am sure he believes that we should remember the feat more than we do, and he chose to get a little dramatic to make this point. I thought it was well done. (I was not a judge.)
   54. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: August 03, 2009 at 03:31 PM (#3278287)
I also thought it was well done -- it just ran about 3 more minutes than necessary. Not a problem.
   55. Neal Traven Posted: August 03, 2009 at 05:34 PM (#3278437)
TomH says, about the winner of the award for best poster:
Wow. It was VERY professionally done, but
1) not exactly virgin territory here, and
2) weak methodology
I agree with you, Tom. I talked to her a bit, suggesting as a first improvement that a far more appropriate way to estimate a percentage would be logistic regression rather than linear. She shrugged, which I took to mean something to the effect of either "I've never heard of logistic" or (more charitably) "it's not all that easy to do logistic in Excel". I also have the nagging suspicion that she was reinventing someone else's wheel, but I'm not as up on that kind of stuff as the Birnbaums, Emeighs, and Turocys of the world.

Remember, though, that the judges come with their own levels of (non)expertise and (dis)interest in sabermetrics. For those on the other end of the distribution, a high school kid doing a graphically-impressive presentation about a topic on which they're personally clueless is cute.

I don't mean to sound like I'm dissing her so much. Nor like I'm dissing the judges who I'll have to recruit again next year. This is merely an observation on how this sort of thing often operates.

If I had my druthers, there wouldn't be any awards for "best" presentation -- presenting, in and of itself, should be the reward for submitters -- but the awards also produce donations to SABR from USAToday Sports Weekly, and maybe other sources, so I suppose they'll remain in place. Too bad, from my perspective ... it means that I don't get a chance to actually see very many of the ones on which I'm feverishly entering judges' scores.
   56. fra paolo Posted: August 03, 2009 at 06:01 PM (#3278480)
Geri Strecker, The Rise and Fall of Greenlee Field: Biography of a Ballpark

I didn't see 21*, but this was my favourite non-Primate presentation. The key thing is Geri Strecker tracked down some photographs of Greenlee Field that were lying forgotten in a dusty architectural archive. We didn't know much about what this park looked like, nor even its dimensions, before she gave her talk Saturday afternoon.

Jen McGovern's was very good, but she only covered hitters. She basically thinks that Latin players are slightly disadvantaged in the low minors in that an American player of equivalent capability has a better chance of getting promoted up a level. Had she covered pitchers as well, I probably would rate that ahead of Strecker. By a millimeter.
   57. Mike Webber Posted: August 04, 2009 at 02:40 AM (#3279195)
which poster won? I can't recall it from the descriptions above.
   58. Neal Traven Posted: August 04, 2009 at 05:20 AM (#3279280)
Susan Ballentine, the high school senior. It was the right side of the dueling Pythagoreans.

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