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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.)
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