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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Bill James Mailbag - 1/4/15 - 1/6/15

But what does this have to do with… oh.

Bill, I saw an early return on a few (under 100) HOF ballots online, and Smoltz has over 75% needed to get in. Schilling has under 75%. Would it surprise you to see Smoltz get in ahead of Schilling?...

Well, I would certainly vote for Smoltz over Schilling. If you compare them as starting pitchers Schilling is ahead, but he wins by an NBA score. . . .98 to 93, or 102 to 97, something like that. If you put Smoltz’ three seasons of top-shelf relief pitching into the equation, I think he beats Schilling. In overtime.

What are the parameters in estimating improvement in MLB play over decades? For example, in sports that are measured quantitatively (track, swimming, weight-lifting, etc.) we know that runners have not improved their times in the 400 meter dash by 200% over the last few decades but that new records have been set, and we can eyeball what that improvement has been. Can we use a variety of comparative measures, not necessarily from these sports but including them, to estimate the ranges of improvement in MLB, or is it all just guesswork and BS and bias?

It’s not easy. The problem with the “parallel track” assumption is that the time line doesn’t match. The improvements that have taken place in track and field from 1960 to 2010 may have occurred in baseball from 1876 to 1920. (Certainly it is obvious that there was vast improvement in skills in baseball from 1876 to 1920. . .less obvious what the improvements have been since then.) Also, improvement in a complex set of skills is not parallel to improvement in a simple, direct skill such as runnin’ real fast or picking up something heavy. Baseball requires a mix of 100 or more highly refined skills. All of those improve at different speeds, and improvement in one waits on improvement in the others. One cannot learn to hit a 92 MPH breaking pitch until a significant number of people are around who can THROW a 92 MPH breaking pitch in the strike zone. We can work on the problem and gain some insight, but I’m not confident that we can measure improvement in baseball skills relative to other activities.

Bill, I dont remember if youve been asked this before? Do you support the pitch clock for pitchers? I think there should be a 30 second limit from when the pitcher receives the ball. And you?

I don’t know that a CLOCK is necessary. DIscipline is necessary. Stop calling timeout when there is no REASON to call time out. ALlow the umpire to call a “ball” when the pitcher dawdles. Skip the clock; it’s just discipline.

Hey Bill, It’s 1959 and you’re transported back to the Kansas City A’s owner’s office. You have one day to talk with him and the GM to try to impart as much as you can to them with the goal of trying to create a Kansas City A’s dynasty in the 1960s and beyond. Without naming names or saying stuff like “go trade for that young 1st baseman on the Giants”, that is, teaching them how to fish instead of giving them a fish, what are the things you would tell them to look at or to do? What are your priorities to get across to them to turn their club around?

The number one thing, certainly for THAT organization, is to get them to understand that player development is a process that takes time and requires patience. 1959 is a little bit too late to save that franchise. In 1959 they had no farm system to speak of. Connie Mack’s old farm system from Philadelphia, that moved to KC in ‘55, was way behind the time, and didn’t produce anything from 1955 to 1959. There is nothing you can do with nothing; you can’t trade your way to a pennant if you have nothing to start with, so the first thing you have to do is build a farm system. By 1959 that process was underway but slow. By 1963, with the hiring of Hank Peters, their development system started moving, and by 1967, when they left for Oakland, this was producing talent. So if you could move that process forward by 4 years, from 1963 to 1959, that would have helped, and if the organization had shown more patience with young players like Lou Klimchock, Nelson Mathews, Manny Jimenez, Bill Bryan, Fred Norman and others, that would have helped, and if you put those two things together, we could have moved the clock back to where the organization was rolling in 1964, rather than in 1968.

Hey Bill, did Brian Giles just become the best player ever to get zero Hall of Fame votes?

Frank Tanana. It was in the New York Times this morning. Same article mentioned my name. . ..thanks to whoever wrote that.


Monday, January 05, 2015

One man’s ballot

But after asking around, I decided to stick with what Bill James advised: Vote for the 10 best players. “I don’t believe in trying to outsmart the system, no matter what the system is,” Bill said. “I think it backfires on you much more often than it works.”

So, here are the 10 players I voted for:

– Bonds

– Bagwell

– Clemens

– Johnson

– Martinez

– Mussina

– Piazza

– Raines

– Schilling

– Smoltz

I offer deep apologies to Craig Biggio, who might really need my vote. But at the end, it came down to Smoltz, Piazza and Biggio for the final two spots, and Biggio was third of the three for me.

FWIW, here’s the top 10 players on this ballot on his Best of the Rest column a few weeks back: Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Pedro, Bagwell, Raines, Schilling, Mussina, Biggio, Piazza


 

 

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