November 2, 2013 - Seattle
Written by Mark Brunke
The Pacific Northwest chapter of SABR held a chapter meeting on Saturday, November 2, 2013. The meeting location was in the 2nd floor conference room at the Seattle Pacific University Library. As in the past for our meetings at SPU, the meeting was hosted by SABR member and SPU Professor Bill Woodward and his students.
The meeting began with PNW SABR Chapter President Rick Solomon covering chapter business, including the expected January meeting at Safeco Field for SABR Day, the February meeting in Portland on Presidents Day Weekend, and the upcoming Spring meeting, which this year will be in late April. In addition, mention was made of the upcoming visit of Nate Silver to lecture at the UW Graduate School. PNW SABR has a block of reservations, and local SABR members can email Anthony Salazar.
The first guest speaker was a returning guest of the Chapter, Larry Stone, columnist of the Seattle Times. Now a general sports columnist, Larry has been a beat writer on the Seattle Mariners for the last 18 years. Previously, Larry had been a beat writer in the Bay Area on the San Francisco Giants, and before that had started his career in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Yakima, Washington. His first opportunity to cover baseball was for his college paper at UC Berkeley. Other than a brief introduction, Larry spent his time doing a Q and A with SABR members. Questions covered the lack of Black American baseball players in the most recent World Series, the most compelling sports figures Larry had covered in his career, the life of a baseball writer and the future of sports journalism, as well as a number of questions about the Mariners. Larry has moved from being a beat writer to a general columnist, but hopefully he has baseball news to ponder on in the coming year.
In a day that would have made Yakima proud, former Yakima Herald sportswriter Larry Stone was followed by Yakima Valley's own Mel Stottlemyre, who hailed from Mabton High School and Yakima Valley College before signing with the Yankees at the age of 19. Mel was near celebrating his 72nd birthday, so he was given a rousing Happy Birthday. Larry had pointed out that in the early 1980s Yakima was the residence of World Series winning pitching coaches Hub Kittle (1982 Cardinals, and a former 20 game winner of the 1939 Yakima Pippins) and Mel Stottlemyre (1986 Mets).
Mel gave a brief overview of his career. He said he had benefitted as a young pitcher by getting good coaching. At Mabton High School, his coach was Jim Rodgers, and for his year at Yakima Valley College, it was Chuck Brayton. Mel also said he was fortunate to learn from his fellow pitchers, such as Whitey Ford. Regarding his career as a pitcher, Mel said one of the things he was proudest of was that of his 356 games started, he completed 152 of them. Such consistency in completing games would be unheard of today, and Mel commented on that, with his unique background of being both a top American League pitcher for 10 years, and a World Series winning pitching coach. Regarding pitch counts, Mel pointed out an important difference now is that pitchers are only trained to go 7 innings, so you wouldn't expect to see more complete games. Asked about the decline in offense since 2004, and the possibility of rules changes, Mel replied with a smile asking why change the rules against the pitcher, and that its time to let the hitters make the adjustments.
Mel covered many great topics, and was a fantastic speaker. He told the story of being on the mound for one of Gene Michael's hidden ball tricks. It was in the bottom of the ninth with no outs. Mel had given up a single and a pinch runner was brought in. With the score tied, it was a late-inning bunt situation. Mel threw to the shortstop on the bunt, but the runner was safe. According to Mel, Gene never threw the ball back to him. After the play was over, Gene asked the runner to step off the base so he could clean it, and with that tagged the runner out. The Yankees made it out of the ninth and won the game with 3 runs in the top of the next frame, a 10-inning complete game for Stottlemyre. Mel covered many other areas, such as his time with Dwight Gooden, his years with the Yankees and Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner, pitching regimens, and much more.
The next speaker was SABR member Mark Armour, who gave a presentation on Thoughts on the Draft. Mark started with a brief history of the draft and the different ways it has been done since the 1960s, as well as looking at the impact on rosters of drafted players. Mark used WAR and presented the draft as a way of teams drafting future WAR. He said a number to consider is that a team needs to have 34 WAR coming into their team every year to be average. Another thing to consider is that unlike when the draft first started, it is now incredibly rare for a non-International player to make it to a Major League Roster, so combined with international signings, the June draft has become especially important.
Mark broke the draft down for each team into 3-year sections. He then ranked the team performances by the WAR they accumulated in the draft for those 3-year sections. This helped to mitigate the impact of a single down or up year. The rankings were impacted of course by the length of the career and amount of time passed. Several of the top 10 in rankings were from teams drafting in the mid=1980s, including good stretches from the Royals, Red Sox, Astros, Pirates, Indians and Cubs. The top 3 performers were the 1965-67 A's, the 1974-76 Tigers, and in first, the 1966-68 Dodgers. Mark then concluded his presentation with an in-depth look at the Mariner's drafting history, which, in spite of having two of the highest performing draft picks in MLB history, did not manage to have a 3-year stretch of any great significance. Mark's research will be continuing and we look forward to more insights from him on the impact of the draft on rosters.
The next presentation was from another veteran newspaperman, Dan Raley, on his book Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers. Dan had been at the Seattle P-I for 29 years, with 26 of the them being as a sportswriter when the paper closed up. He then moved to Atlanta for work, and returned to the Northwest 2 years ago. Dan relayed to the SABR group his personal relationship with baseball and importance, and gave the group not just a recap of the story in the book, but how it was written. According to Dan, he came across the story at a fortunate time, while there were still members of the Rainiers team and management alive that could be interviewed. The book has been highly reviewed and should be on the bookshelf of any fan of the game in the Northwest.
After a short break, the SABR member Robert Garrett gave a presentation on Roger Craig and Humm Baby Giants. Robert talked about the evolution of the Humm Baby name, and how it developed into a rallying cry for the team. He showed images of various Humm Baby items that had been marketed on t-shirts and such. Robert reviewed how the group of players that made up the Humm Baby team came together under Roger Craig and Al Rosen. Craig was hired in late 1985 and in 1986 the team turned around their performance. By 1987 they had a division title and in 1989 they won a pennant. Robert said the term Humm Baby came from Craig using the term to describe third catcher Brad Gulden and that it "basically meant a player who gave 180%".
What Robert emphasized was that the Giants success at that time had made them a commodity and raised fan interest and expectations. During that same run, the city of San Francisco was not a baseball town due to the success of the 49ers. It was in 1992, as the Giants were experiencing a losing season under Craig after years of success, that the team was all but sold by the Lurie's to interests from St. Petersburg. It was at this time that a group was put together by Peter Magowan to purchase the team and create a long term future for the Giants in San Francisco. However, it is Robert's contention that the success of the Giants under Craig had a big impact on the effort that led to saving the Giants.
The final presentation of the day was from SABR member Tip Wonhoff, and was on Baseball and Climate Change. Tip started off by reviewing a quote from Tim McCarver that had caused some controversy in 2012, "It has not been proven, but I think ultimately it will be proven that the air is thinner now, there have been climactic changes over the last 50 years in the world, and I think that's one of the reasons balls are carrying much better now than I remember." Tip looked at a lot of the research that has been presented on the physics of baseball to show that essentially McCarver is correct, warmer weather makes a baseball carry farther, all other things being equal. Tip first looked at how temperatures impact the game. He reviewed a 2004 study from the University of Massachusetts on temperature effects of more reactive equipment, showing warmer bats and baseballs will travel farther. Next Tip looked at the impact of warmer temperatures on fatigue and injury, relating the story of a player who had died from organ failure due to heat exhaustion. Tip also looked at increased pitcher stresses brought on by temperature changes, citing a study of 50 years of pitching data from Duke University.
Tip then looked at the impact of increased precipitation causing more rain delays, and in the opposite direction, the impact of long droughts on games, field conditions and stadium design. As an example, he looked at Atlanta, which had been in a 5 year drought as of 2012. Finally, Tip looked at the impact of rising sea levels on stadiums located in coastal areas. There are 2 stadiums that will be impacted by sea levels rising by 2020, both of the stadiums in the Bay Area. Tip's overview of the range of impacts climate change demonstrated the many different ways in which environment can impact the game on and off the field, as well as the field itself. The SABR meeting was then concluded with a thank you to Professor Bill Woodward and his students for hosting the event. The next meeting for Pacific Northwest SABR will be during the SABR Day events nationwide that coincide with MLB team fan fests at the end of January.
May 25, 2013 - Seattle
Written by Mark Brunke
The Pacific Northwest Chapter of SABR held a chapter meeting on Saturday, May 25, 2013 at the Seminar Room of the Main Library of Seattle Pacific University. The meeting was attended by 25 members from around the state of Washington and several who drove up from the Portland area. The meeting was run by chapter President Rick Solomon and hosted by SPU faculty and SABR member Bill Woodward.
The meeting started with brief introductions from attendees and covered some Chapter business. There will be a chapter meeting in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, August 17. The next chapter meeting in Seattle will be on November 2, 2013. That meeting will return to the SPU Library.
The meeting started with a review of what to expect at SABR 43 from Neal Traven. Local members who will be presenting in Philadelphia include Tim Herlich, Mark Armour, Steve Steinberg, and Bill Mullins.
Bill Mullins was provided the first presentation, "Flight of the Pilots". Bill's talk distilled the subject matter of his recently published book Becoming Big League: Seattle, the Pilots, and Stadium Politics. Bill's presentation showed a wheel of misfortune that covered Major League Baseball, big city and stadium politics, ticket prices and bad decisions.
Steve Steinberg was next, with "Casey Stengel's Baseball: The Greatest Character of the Game". Steve covered Casey's entire career, providing great insight into the lesser known aspects of his National League playing days with Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Casey hit the first home run in Ebbets Field history.
Melissa Booker was next, and spoke about Booker T. Washington's connection with baseball, "Baseball's Quiet Ambassador". Melissa covered Booker's early life including his education at Hampton and the various accomplishments he then had in his life. She then covered how baseball was central to Washington's philosophy about the importance of physical activity and health. This philosophy had a major impact on one of Washington's Tuskeegee students, William Clarence Matthews, one of the pioneering African American athletes of the 20th century. Matthews was an early challenger to the color line, in 1905.
Our host, Professor Bill Woodward, then spoke about about "Population Shifts in Major League Cities Since 1950". Bill's presentation looked at the population increases and decreases in MLB cities over time along with the changes to their game attendence. Bill spoke of the different things that have impacted cities and their population over this time as well, such as the importance of air conditioning, jet air travel, and the interstate highway system as he examined how many people can support a team, and in what ways.
Mike Rice provided the final presentation, looking at "Four Unnamed Pitchers Through Their Statistics: Who is the best?" Mike provided stats for the four different pitchers, asking members which pitcher they would like of the four, and then quizzing the members on who they thought these pitchers might be. All four were great. Mike used numbers set at per 162 games for their career, then showed their ERA+, career WAR, and then looked at their best WAR years, and when and where those were in their particular careers.
Following the several members attended the game between the visiting Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners.
See you at our next meeting!
February 16, 2013 - Portland
Written by Mark Brunke
The Pacific Northwest Chapter of SABR held a chapter meeting on Saturday, February 16 at the Hillsdale Library in Portland, Oregon. The meeting was attended by 24 members and guests. The attendees were evenly split between those from Portland area and Willamette Valley, and those members who drove down from Puget Sound. The meeting was run by new chapter Vice President Mark Armour, and featured three member presentations as well as special guests. The guests were former major leaguer Pete Ward as well as representatives from the new short season A-ball team, the Hillsboro Hops, President Mike McMurray and General Manager K. L. Wombacher.
The first presentation was from Dan Schlewitz, and it sought to demonstrate a method for an objective presentation of ranking pennant races. Dan's method looked at the pennant races from 1903-1993, prior to the inclusion of wild cards. Dan looked at all the pennant races, and alloted a certain number of points to teams based on their ordinal placement in the standings beginning with games following the Memorial Day weekend from each year. Dan then provided a countdown of the pennant races that accumulated the most points.
The next presentation was from Neal Traven. Neal's was titled "All for one, one for all". Neal looked at the extremes of players who had only played one position for their entire career, and players who had played all nine positions in their career. He started with the four players who have played all nine positions in a single game, pointing out peculiarities in each of those games. Neal then looked at the 45 players who have played all nine positions in their career, and broke that down by time periods. Finally, he looked at the different players who have played the most games at a single position without ever playing any other defensive position, as well as showing the top players in that category at each position for both career and active.
Following a break, we welcomed Mike McMurray and K. L. Wombacher from the Hillsboro Hops, the new Class A Short Season club in the Portland area. The Hops play in the Northwest League, and had been in Yakima, Washington since 1990. Prior to that they were in Salem, Oregon. The Hops have been affiliated with Arizona since 2001. Mike and K. L. presented a few slides of the new stadium under constructions in Hillsboro. They expect it to be one of the best minor league parks in the Northwest. In addition, they provided some insight into life in the minor leagues, and many of the players they have sent further up the Diamondbacks system. Mike has been involved in the minors for 20 years, and K. L. has been with the Hops for 12 years, and is in his 9th as a GM.
The Hops were followed by our special guest Pete Ward. Pete played for 9 years in the majors, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, but he saw 8 games in his first year with Baltimore, and ended his career playing in 66 games for the 1970 Yankees. In between, he had his best years with the White Sox. Pete finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1963 and 6th in MVP voting in 1964. He shared many stories of life in the minors and majors. Pete had played high school and college ball in Portland before signing with Baltimore and working his way up their minor league system. Pete also looked quite fit, wearing the same uniform he wore in 1970 with the Yankees.
Finally, Mike Rice covered the Mariners with an annual preseason roundtable. He looked at the 40 man roster, possibly expected starting lineups, and reviewed trades from the last couple of years and how those have impacted the current roster. He concluded by giving a review of the changes for the not only the teams in the AL West, but the changes to the division itself the possible impact of that (Houston). Finally, there was a discussion of what will success be for the Mariner's this year.
The next meeting of the chapter will be in Seattle on Saturday, May 25, 2013. The meeting will be held in the meeting room of the library at SPU. Further details will be posted on our events page. It will be an open meeting, so the members are encouraged to attend as well as the public.
SABR Day meetup - Victoria, BC
Written by Mark Brunke
Martin Monkman in Victoria, British Columbia organized an informal meet-up for members in that area on SABR Day. He has provided the following recap:
SABR Day was celebrated by a small group in Victoria, British Columbia. Five SABR members gathered for lunch at John’s Place restaurant, underneath the large painting of old Tiger Stadium. This was the first time that most of us had met one another, so much of the conversation was about our interest in baseball – just getting to know one another better. Our discussions touched on SABR events and baseball games attended, parks visited, and future plans (including the up-coming World Baseball Classic).
We were joined by Holly Jones, the General Manager of the Victoria HarbourCats of the West Coast League. The HarbourCats are an expansion franchise in the league, which features collegiate players drawn from across the United States and Canada. The team begins its inaugural season in June 2013. Holly fielded a number of questions about the club, ranging from player recruitment to media relations. The club seems poised for a very successful season, with strong season ticket sales and a number of highly-rated college players already signed. The HarbourCats will also be hosting the WCL All Star Game in July, and given the quality of the players in the league, there’s already a buzz in the scouting community.
Another highlight was member David McDonald’s vintage baseball cards. Dave brought a number of cards featuring the players of the Victoria Bees of the Northwestern League, dating from 1911. It was amazing to see these century-old artifacts. There were some chuckles over some of the archaic language used to describe the players, but just as interesting were the things that haven’t changed in a hundred years.
Although it was a small group and very informal, it was great to connect with other SABR members. We pledged to get together again soon; attending a HarbourCats game as a group seems a likely prospect.
January 26, 2013 - Seattle
The Pacific Northwest Chapter of SABR held a meeting on January 26 at Safeco Field in Seattle. The event was one of several local chapter gatherings going on across the country as part of national SABR Day activities. In addition to the meeting itself, several NW SABR members volunteered at an informational booth during the Seattle Mariners Fan Fest. One of the exciting things to see was the ongoing construction in left field, as the Mariners are moving in the fences this year. The view above is from behind our booth along the third base line.
The Seattle Mariners provided a great group of guests for the 35 members in attendance. We were able to meet, listen to and ask questions of each of the guests. First up was Chris Gwynn, the Mariners new Director of Minor League Operations. Chris spoke about his new position and his impressions of the Mariners minor league system and some of its top players. Chris was followed by Assistant General Manager Jeff Kingston. Jeff has spoken to the NW SABR group for several years in a row now, and its always good to hear his observations.
Jack Zduriencik followed and gave some insight into various aspects of his position. Jack talked about the Mariners' recent decision to move in the fences, as well as the expectations he has of some of the young players. Eric Wedge then spoke to the group. Heading into his third season as the M's manager, Wedge provided a candid assessment of the team and expressed a great deal of faith in the talent of the club, expecting to improve both run production and wins this year.
The final guest of the afternoon was the Mariners Baseball Operations Analyst Wesley Battle. Wesley talked about the methods and processes by which the Mariners develop and use technology and statistics across all facets of the organization, and the role the analysts have in developing tools for the coaches, scouts, and managers throughout the organization.
The local chapter members who volunteered for the SABR informational booth at Fan Fest were Tip Wonhoff, Mark Brunke, Bob Russon, Bill Woodward, Tim Jenkins, Bob Webster, Mike Rice & Rick Solomon. We would also like to thank the members of the Mariners organization who assisted us in having our meeting again at Safeco Field. Corporate Business Assistant Kristin Harwood provided invaluable assistance in helping us set up our NW SABR Booth and Marketing Manager Camden Finney did a fantastic job in coordinating our guests with the Mariners Front Office.
Two more items of note. In addition to our regular Chapter Meeting, members in Victoria, British Columbia organized a meetup, and the recap of that can be seen in the Recaps section.
Finally, David Eskenazi exhibited items from his collection of Northwest baseball history in the Diamond Club section in Safeco Field. David is also a member of NW SABR, and there is an online exhibition of photos on our Chapter site. That can be accessed here.
The next Chapter Meeting will be held February 16 at 12:15 PM at the Hillsdale Library in Portland, Oregon. This meeting will be open to the public so all are encouraged to attend. Information about all upcoming events can always be found on the home page of the NW SABR Chapter.