Thursday, September 12, 2013
And sometimes you draft a guy who strikes out 37 times in 39 at-bats.
Bill, Is there any good reason for umpires to have a rotation? Doesn’t it seem more likely that having the best ball-strike umpires always do the plate and the best base umpires at 1st, etc., would lead to more calls being made correctly?
... It was done that way long before the umpires were unionized. The problems inherent in the other alternative would seem to me to be almost limitless. Umpires rotate not merely from position to position but also from crew to crew, the crews re-forming constantly during the season with the goal of getting uniformity—and anonymity—in the umpiring. Since umpires change crews all the time, the guy who was the third-best ball-and-strike umpire on one crew would be the best ball-and-strike umpire on another crew, and the guy who was the best first-base umpire on one crew would be the fourth-best first-base umpire on another. You’d have to maintain a monster chart to figure out who should be positioned where.
The bigger issue, though, is skills development… If each umpire was “locked” at a position, what happens when an umpire retires, or is sick and injured and misses a game? Then you have to promote somebody who hasn’t been umpiring the plate to become a home plate umpire. This seems to me, frankly, about a thousand times worse than the current system.
I’m curious as to your views on what factors we should or shouldn’t adjust for when calculating a time line adjustment to rate old-time players against modern players…
My perception, before I worked for the Red Sox, was that process of trying to improve teams was offset by natural aging/breakage, keeping the game essentially on a treadmill. My perception NOW is that teams work so hard to improve constantly that they DO improve constantly—all of them. There have been a thousand little innovations in the game in the last ten years, innovations that spread rapidly from one team to another, so that a team that doesn’t work hard to keep up would get very rapidly left behind.
These innovations occur so rapidly and yet so gradually that they’re virtually impossible to document. We just do a lot of things differently—and better—now as opposed to 2003. Everybody does. Some of those things could be grafted onto Home Run Baker; others couldn’t.
I guess what I am saying is that accurate generalization requires clarity, and I just don’t have enough clarity on this issue to generalize about it in a way that would be useful.
Would Denver still have been chosen for an MLB expansion team if the effects of altitude were known (or at least more widely understood) 25 years ago?
... It takes 40 years to build a (reasonably) mature fan base, and there are dry patches in those 40 years when it looks like nothing is growing.
We haven’t expanded now in a long time, and baseball is getting kind of behind the curve with the population. San Antonio is now the 7th largest city in the country or something like that, and. . .no baseball. It’s a problem.
Let us say that baseball were to expand into San Antonio. First of all, you’d have to make some sort of local deal to get a stadium built, and then you’d have two bursts of interest/attendance: 1) When the team started to play, and 2) When the new stadium opened two to five years later. When those bursts of interest/attendance passed, then you’d have some dry years when the attendance was poor and interest lagged, because the San Antonio team—despite the population of the area—just would not have what the old, established teams have. People in Boston grew up going to opening day games with their grandpa. People in Kansas City now grew up going to Royals games with their grandpa. It takes a long time to establish that.
The Rockies now are kind of half-way through that process, and they’re in a little bit of a dry spell—but in the big picture, the organization has done well and the organization has been successful.
... Could you give some examples of ways teams have improved in the last ten years?
Ten years ago teams had a training staff of one or two people. Now we have staffs of people. . .trainers who speak Japanese and double as interpretors. The trainers are half doctors now, some of them. They’re veteran people who know the athlete’s body better than a doctor does.
We’re much more aggressive in using the options process to keep 25 players on the major league roster who are ready to play. Ten years ago if you had a reliever who had a tired arm, you’d wait it out. Now you DL him, call up somebody else and let the other guys’ arm come back.
All of the information that is produced by our field is mined by the operations guys and put to practical use pretty much immediately. Ten years ago we knew SOMETHING about where each hitter was likely to hit the ball. We know a lot more now.
Ten years ago we’d have a scouting report that said “Will use the change to RHB on occasion.” Now we know how many changeups and sliders and cutters and curves the pitcher throws to right-handers and left-handers.
Ten years ago we hardly scouted the Far East. Now we’ve got scouts everywhere checking out rumors of a baseball player. The Dodgers got Ryu out of some league that hardly existed ten years ago.
Ten years ago the Dominican Development Leagues were just getting started.
Do teams do continuous review of their scouting?
... I don’t know that we have systematic, organized review. I do remember Theo trying to organize a systematic, organized review of our scouting a couple of times, but I don’t know that anything ever came of it.
In a less organized fashion, we do a lot of that. During draft meetings we’ll start talking about old drafts, past drafts… We talk through those issues at great length (and with great frequency) after the fact, so that the mistakes we’ve made in the past become a part of our organizational DNA.
One thing you kind of missed on. . .when a draft goes wrong, you generally KNOW why it went wrong. Sometimes we read a guy as a great kid, and he turns out to be not such a great kid. A kid stalls out at High A; the scouts will know why he stalled out at a level that somebody else would miss. . .his swing path was too rigid, locked him out of certain zones and made him vulnerable, whatever. Sometimes you write a guy off because you don’t like his work habits, and he turns out to be one of those guys who is just a natural.
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