November 3, 2012 - Seattle
Written by Mark Brunke
The Northwest Chapter of SABR held a meeting in the conference room of the Seattle Pacific University library from 12 to 5:30 PM on Saturday, November 3, 2012.
The meeting was attended by 36 people, including nine who were attending their first SABR meeting.
The meeting began with a welcome from Bill Woodward, our host, SABR colleague, and Professor of History at SPU. Many of the new attendees were Bill's students and their family members.
Rick Solomon discussed chapter business. He announced this would be the last meeting for John Henshell as President. The chapter gave John a hearty round of cheer as he is finishing his current two-year term in that capacity preceded by two years’ service as Vice-President. VP Rick Solomon becomes President in January. Mark Armour is our Vice-President-elect. Mark and John are both from Oregon, and Rick is from Seattle. The chapter's tradition is to have the leadership roles alternate between Washington and Oregon. Tim Herlich provided a report of the chapter treasury, which is free of usury at the present time and in a healthy condition. We held a book exchange to spur donation efforts and it raised $32.
Scheduled guest Mel Stottlemyre had to cancel for health reasons, but we hope to have him for a future meeting. Our first presentation, Tim Herlich's “1964 American League Pennant Race,” would have dovetailed nicely into Mel's appearance. Tim covered how teams finished in the 1963 season and off- and in-season roster changes that would influence the 1964 Pennant Race. The season had a number of memorable characters, including Charlie Finley, erstwhile journalist Jim Brosnan, and amateur harmonica player Phil Linz. Tim showed how the August 11 call-up of rookie Mel Stottlemyre saved the Yankees. The White Sox, Orioles, and Yankees finished within two games of each other, trading the lead in a round-robin fashion until the Yankees finally emerged on top.
In the second presentation, Melissa Booker looked at “Corporate America's Best Example of Business Intelligence: Major League Baseball”. Melissa gave an overview of business intelligence, a term used to describe the way companies collect and organize data at different levels for usage in supporting decision-making. Melissa modified a presentation she usually gives to business management, and showed how baseball's unified system of information and measurement allows managers to make instantaneous, sound decisions. The Reds fan cited George Lee “Sparky” Anderson as the greatest user of business intelligence. Melissa noted how “Captain Hook” would always have the most recent and relevant information necessary to make the right decisions, and this was reflected by the success of the Reds and Tigers under Anderson.
Mark Brunke gave the next presentation, on “The Spread of Baseball in the Pacific
Mark Brunke on the Spread of Baseball Northwest to 1890.” Mark began by giving an overview of the Spread of Baseball project, which is currently underway at www.sabrpedia.org. The Spread project is an attempt to locate the first games and clubs to use New York rules in each state, as well as document any predecessor games related to baseball. Mark coordinated efforts for the Northwest, and included information found by fellow sleuths Bob Webster, Melissa Booker, Michael Lynch, and Terry Gottschall. Mark showed how the Northwest had a competitive amateur baseball environment from 1866 on in Portland, Walla Walla, and Victoria. For the final part of the presentation, he used a photograph of Seattle's first club, the Alkis of 1876-79, to show how the players had each brought a background of organized baseball with them as they migrated to Seattle.
Next, Rob Garratt presented “Matthew Fox & the Move West by the Giants and Dodgers.” Rob described the influence of Fox and his company, Skiatron, on baseball's decision to move west. Fox was an early proponent of pay-per-view broadcasting, and he was a behind the scenes player in the decision making of both Horace Stoneham and Walter O'Malley.
The final member presentation was Mike Rice's “Who Really Belongs in the Hall of Fame.” Mike looked at all the members of the Hall of Fame elected by the BBWAA, and then used a stepwise methodology to see who should “really” be included. Mike looked at WAR, Black Ink, Grey Ink, Hall of Fame Monitor, and Hall of Fame Standards measurements. Mike's methodology gradually grew to include most of the elected players in the Hall. The definitions of each of the measurements can be found on Baseball-Reference.com. Mike's inclusions, exclusions, and methodology generated passionate discussion.
John Henshell hosted a discussion of the state of the Mariners based on our recent chapter poll. NWSABR members were sent the poll results after the meeting.
The next meeting will be in late January, so please check back for details.
June 16, 2012 - Seattle
Written by Mark Brunke
The Northwest Chapter of SABR held a meeting in the conference room of the Seattle Pacific University Library from 12 to 5 PM on Saturday, June 16, 2012.
The meeting was attended by 16 members of the Northwest chapter. We had five member presentations.
The meeting started with announcements of upcoming events. Dave Baldwin will be giving a talk titled "The Weird Science of Baseball" at an event called Triple Play in Yachats, Oregon. The event starts at noon on July 28. Our next meeting will be August 11 at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, B.C. Details about both events can be found under the Upcoming Events banner on our Web site. Our next U.S. meeting will be November 3, also at the Seattle Pacific University Library. Past president Tim Herlich will be presenting “21,“ about Tom Cheney’s amazing 21-strikeout game, at the Hall of Fame. This presentation won the Doug Pappas Award for Best Oral Presentation at the 2009 SABR National Convention.
The first presentation was by Steve Steinberg: The Day John McGraw Lost Control of His Team...and Quit. Steve’s presentation covered the events leading up to, during, and following a game played on October 3, 1916 between McGraw’s Giants and Brooklyn, which was led by his former teammate, business partner, and pitching coach Wilbert Robinson. Steve’s presentation covered issues, relationships, and characters surrounding McGraw’s behaviour during and after the game. He showed material published in the newspapers that failed to document the full story. Steve will be doing an abridged version of this presentation at the convention.
The second presentation was by John Henshell, titled Strength of Schedule: The Hidden Context Factor. John explained the history of the schedule and how it became progressively unbalanced. He noted that all-in-one formulas do not include strength of schedule, yet it is the most significant context factor for evaluating and comparing players and teams. As examples, John showed how strength of schedule benefitted recent award winners Josh Hamilton and Clayton Kershaw. As a sidebar, he documented that ballpark effect on performance is highly individual, and formulas that standardize it hide more truth than they reveal. John showed that the AL has dominated regular season, All-Star, and World Series interleague play in the past 20 years.
Mark Brunke's presentation was about Leadoff Hitters. Mark presented a study of 189 leadoff hitters from 1919-2011, looking at their per-game averages and career production. He contrasted using Times on Base with Reaching on Error to OBP to find players who reach on error a signficant amount of time. Mark then presented a set of three formulas to show which leadoff hitters:
- produced the most bases per game from total bases, walks, hit-by-pitch, reached-on-error, and stolen bases;
- had the most extra bases per game; and
- reached first base while not producing an out the most times per game.
Melissa Booker‘s presentation, “The Undefinable Satchel Paige,” objectively documented the many conflicting sources of factual information about Paige’s life and career. Melissa described the difficulty of evaluating Paige’s performance through statistics. For instance, he often left ballgames before the fifth inning once he acomplished what he wanted to prove. She discussed the sources of information and evaluated their credibility. Melissa will be reprising her presentation at the 15th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference in Cleveland next month.
The final presentation was by Tip Wonhoff, entitled 40th Anniversary of Curt Flood v. Bowie Kuhn. Tip opened with a slide showing Marvin Miller speaking to players about Curt Flood. Tip then described the case, which was decided on June 19, 1972, and how its impact lead to arbitration and free agency. Tip also presented an overview of the legal decisions going back to the Federal League case (1922) and Toolson (1953), and looked at the substance of the Supreme Court’s decision, including Justice Harry Blackmun’s listing of 83 players he considered greats of the game, and that Blackmun always regretted not including Mel Ott on that list.
February 18, 2012 - Portland
Written by Mark Brunke
The Northwest Chapter of SABR held a meeting February 18, 2012 at the Multnomah County Library in the Hillsdale neighborhood in southwest Portland. The library is a block away from Wilson High School, where two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, Wayne Twitchell, and former NBA point guard Damon Stoudamire attended.
Our guest speaker was former Colorado Rockies catcher Ben Petrick. Ben starred at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, about 20 miles west of Portland. He was drafted in the second round by Colorado in 1995, and progressed to the big leagues for 19 games in 1999. During that stretch, Ben hit .323 and slugged .565. He did as well in half a major league season in 2000. Ben detailed how before that season he went to the Arizona Fall League and began to notice problems with his left hand. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with Parkinsonism symptoms at the unusually young age of 22. His father, age 54 at the time, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease only seven months earlier.
The Rockies did not realize that Ben had Parkinson’s disease, but it progressively hindered his playing ability. Ben’s story is compelling and his recounting was inspirational. He talked about the remainder of his baseball career and his life today. He answered many questions, including the type of support he had in baseball regarding his condition, how pitching and hitting at Coors Field is different than elsewhere, and the Buster Posey injury. Ben has a website, http://www.benpetrick.com/ and a book about his life and work, Forty Thousand To One.
You may be asking yourself, “Did Ben Petrick catch more innings than Miguel Olivo for the Colorado Rockies?” The answer is yes. Petrick’s 1,246.7 innings is seventh all-time for the Rockies, while Olivo is tenth on their list. Olivo is, however, seventh all-time for the Mariners. We learned this from the presentation, “Defensive innings by position players from 1955-2011” by Dan Schlewitz. This was an extension of his meticulously researched and enlightening study of team stability and player mobility.
Dan delivered much of his information in trivia-quiz format, as we guessed leaders for various teams. Dan presented graphs showing the top 10 players for each team at each position as a percentage of cumulative defensive innings, and gave a handout showing the top 10 players by defensive inning and position for every major league team for the period covered by the study.
Greg Rybarczyk made a presentation about his invention that measures the distance of home runs, which is now known as the ESPN Home Run Tracker. Greg described his background as a Red Sox fan and his experience in the U.S. Navy with navigation and projectile analysis and teaching physics. His inspiration for developing the Home Run Tracker came from watching video of Manny Ramirez hitting a home run over the left field lights at Fenway Park that was “officially” announced as being 451 feet, an announcement he found curiously one foot short of Ted Williams’ 452 foot shot to the now famous red seat. Greg analyzed the flaws with the “IBM tale of the tape,” and explained his invention and the models it uses to measure home run length. He further developed his aerodynamic model.
The ESPN Home Run Tracker now has information for every home run since 2006. You can sort the information by hitter, pitcher, and ballpark; as well as see a scatter plot of each player’s home runs. Greg further demonstrated his expertise and the depth of his preparation while answering our many questions.
We briefly discussed several items of chapter business. Mark Brunke has accepted the Secretary position. A new Vice President/President-elect (preferably from Oregon) will be needed next year. Contact Rick or John with nominations or questions. We didn’t settle on a date for our spring/summer meeting in Seattle, but narrowed it to May 5 or June 16. Send your vote to Rick. Interest in a summer meeting in Oregon was inconclusive. John will poll members with options.
David Alvarez followed with a provocative proposal entitled, "Let's Truly Realign MLB." David’s inspiration was other realignment proposals from the past 20 years and Houston’s impending move to the AL West.
David provided a handout for the presentation and discussion. His idea is to realign teams into three leagues with no divisions. The leagues would be geographically organized with a shorter, albeit more balanced schedule of 146 games. Playoffs for eight teams in each league would begin in mid-September with a World Series ending in October. The three league champions would play each other in a round-robin tournament. David acknowledged flaws in his proposal, including its complexity, and reasons why it would not be implemented by the owners. Still, audience response was favorable.
The final presentation was Mike Rice’s eagerly anticipated annual Mariners roundtable discussion. Mike provided an overview of the Mariners roster and off-season moves and looked at some of the big issues facing the Mariners, such as producing more runs and where is Ichiro going to hit.
Mike analyzed the trade of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero, and the possibility of Montero becoming a productive hitter. Mike and others concurred that the Mariners were hurt long-term by the two winning seasons they had in recent years.
Mike concluded by having everyone guess the Mariners win total this year. Our predictions ranged from 59 to 77. The median, 72, was pretty close to the average, 71.12 wins. We’ll see.
John Henshell concluded the meeting by awarding baseball books to members who volunteered at Mariners FanFest 2012, traveled a long way to the meeting, and correctly answered trivia questions.
Mariners FanFest Meeting 2012
By Mark Brunke
The Northwest chapter of SABR (NWSABR) held its first meeting of 2012 at Safeco Field from 12 PM to 3 PM on SABR day, Saturday, January 28. This was the fifth year in a row the Seattle Mariners played host to the chapter meeting.
In addition to the meeting, NWSABR members staffed an informational booth for Fan Fest. This year, volunteers for the booth included Mike Rice, Tim Jenkins, Anthony Salazar, David Alvarez, Mark Brunke, Bob Webster, Tip Wonhoff, John Henshell, and Rick Solomon.
We thank Mandy Lincoln, Kevin Martinez, and the Mariners for providing both the facility and an excellent group of speakers: Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge, Tony Blengino, Tom McNamara, and Jeff Kingston. Thirty-five members from around the Pacific Northwest made their way to Safeco for the meeting.
The informal themes of the day were young talent and the Michael Pineda trade (inclusive of discussions of Jose Campos, Jesus Montero, and Hector Noesi). The method of discussion with each of the speakers was a refreshing and forthcoming Q and A format.
The first speaker of the day was Special Assistant to the GM Tony Blengino. Tony fielded questions about many of the young players who made it to Seattle last year, as well as some players throughout the minor league system he thought fans could expect to see before the end of this year. Tony answered SABR member’s questions about specific players, including Michael Saunders, Adam Moore, and Carlos Peguero. He also said he expects fans will get to see a solid season out of Justin Smoak, who’s coming off a tough year, but is healthy and in good shape.
Tony said although he would love to go with the Mariners to start the season in Japan, he was glad to stay behind and observe the players staying in Arizona for that extra nine days. Tony said having all of the young talent together in Arizona allows him to do about the same amount of observation as it would in a month of travelling throughout the minor league system. One thing Tony didn’t divulge is how he did on the trivia show Baseball IQ.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik began his comments by wishing everyone a happy SABR day. Jack fielded questions about the young talent the club has acquired, and discussed how difficult the Pineda trade was to make. He shared that the trade was initially broached when he asked fellow former second baseman Brian Cashman at the winter meetings if Montero would be available. Many calls, e-mails, and names were discussed before the trade was finalized. Jack implied that the Mariners are expecting Noesi to be a fourth or fifth starter this year.
Jack and others mentioned Vinnie Catricala, who spent last season between playing in California with the High Desert Mavericks before moving up to the AA Jackson Generals of the Southern League. Vinnie had actually improved his numbers in spite of going to the more balanced Southern League. He seems to fit a mold the Mariners are developing: players who can man several positions. Jack also discussed new rules that have been passed for the draft budget, and how that will affect the way teams approach the draft and signing players. He said the MLB draft has always been more about “signability” than talent, but with the new rules, it may lean toward “talent.”
Manager Eric Wedge spoke next. Whereas Blengino provided great information about hitters coming up through the system, and Zduriencik talked about the budget and draft approaches, Wedge spoke about putting expectations upon the players and motivating them to win. He stated he recently had the following position players to his house in mid-January: Dustin Ackley, Casper Wells, Kyle Seager, Miguel Olivo, John Jaso, Justin Smoak, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez, and Brendan Ryan.
Wedge also stated he’s going to be mixing up the lineup this year, and that such an approach has to happen with young players. Regarding Figgins, Wedge said he thought Figgins had a great difficulty hitting behind Ichiro, and that he still thought Figgins could be a productive leadoff hitter and third baseman. Ichiro was mentioned in this context, and I believe that was the only mention of him during the meeting. Everyone apparently realizes that the youth movement is here. Wedge’s main point about Ichiro was more about how he felt Ichiro has too much impact on the hitters around him, and that had a negative impact on Figgins performance as a Mariner.
The last two speakers were Director of Scouting Tom McNamara and Assistant GM Jeff Kingston. Jeff was asked how he got a front office job and what someone should do to get such a position. He stated with an internship in San Diego under Theo Epstein. From there, he was able to get a lower level position doing odd, menial tasks needed to make a baseball team run, but eventually was able to build a relationship with Theo that allowed him to move closer to his goals.
Jeff also fielded questions about players coming up through the system. A player he highlighted with a bright future is 21-year-old Francisco Martinez, who shared time at third base in Jackson after he arrived in the Doug Fister trade. Regardless of how third base works out with Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi and others, Martinez may end up being the answer in the not too distant future.
Tom McNamara talked about his general approach to the draft, how the Mariners set up and organize their draft “war room,” and discussed some prospects fans could expect to start creating a buzz as the MLB draft a
pproaches. In response to a member question, he addressed the Virginia/Carolina pipeline the Mariners seem to have developed. In each case, many trips to see a single player (Hultzen and Ackley) led them to noticing the other players. The Mariners drafting three players from those schools in the last two years was nonetheless mostly coincidental.
Tom McNamara, Jeff Kingston, and all the speakers are confident that the Mariners minor league system is finally going to start producing hitters. Aside from a brief mention of Ichiro, the only discussion of veterans was the utility of Brendan Ryan, the mind of Chone Figgins, the health of Franklin Gutierrez, and the time frame of Felix Hernandez. The youth discussed should provide opportunity for plenty of speculation at the annual NWSABR Mariner’s Round Table during the February 18 chapter meeting in Portland.