06 March 2010

Kiley McDaniel is Part of the Orioles Front Office

Kiley McDaniel is now with the Orioles. His responsibilities have not been announced to the public, but the gist most likely has something to do with amateur talent acquisition. Most recently, McDaniel was writing for Baseball Prospectus with a slant on the Latin American market. Before then, he was co-founder of SaberScouting.

His partner in crime there, Frankie Piliere, is now a writer with AOL Fanhouse and focusing on minor league prospects. We have linked to him before.

Anyway, we wish McDaniel the best and hope this is something that help boosts our amateur talent coming into the system.

03 March 2010

A somewhat blind stab at revenue sharing . . .

In a recent article at Baseball America, Maury Brown discusses revenue sharing. He wrote:

Revenue-sharing money comes from two pools. One is central fund revenue, which comes from national television and radio deals, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, merchandise sales and the newly formed MLB Network. Each of the 30 clubs got a check for about $30 million in 2009 through this arrangement.

The other pool is the one that has created tension between small- and large-revenue clubs, as it is the one that transfers money between franchises. This pool is made up of net local revenues, such as ticket sales, concessions and media deals that each club negotiates for television and radio.

What is uncertain is how the second pool is dispersed. The following numbers are based on the total of 433MM of revenue sharing reported in the Biz of Baseball. I then merely assumed the money was paid out similarly to the 2005 scheme, but that is probably a rather large assumption.

Tampa Bay Rays 45.9MM
Marlins 43.1MM
Blue Jays 43.1MM
Royals 41.7MM
Pirates 34.8MM
Tigers 34.8MM
Brewers 33.4MM
Twins 31.6MM
Athletics 26.4MM
Reds 22.3MM
Rangers 22.3MM
Diamondbacks 18.1MM
Indians 8.3MM
Phillies 8.3MM
Padres 8.3MM
Nationals 5.6MM
Orioles 2.8MM

This method would suggest that Scott Boras was correct in his assertations earlier this offseason. It also suggests that MLB cuts a check for the Orioles at the tune of 32.8MM.

There is no text after the jump.

Projected Season Wins: Vegas vs Diamond Mind Projections . . . Part II

Last week I compared actual season wins against projected seasons wins using projections systems and the Vegas Line. In general, what we found was that each system was pretty accurate. We also found that teams do not overperform considerably (exceeding one standard deviation) if either system predicts the team to win more than 90 games, but that there are several instances of underperformance for these teams (particularly with the projection-based system). Two interesting and most likely non-applicable observations were that Vegas lines tended to under estimate teams they predict to win 85-90 games while the Projection systems tend to underestimate teams in the 73-78 win range. I do not know why in either instance and think it may just be a statistical abnormality.

Today, after the jump, we will be comparing the Vegas line to the Projection system. Again, I have little to no clue about gambling, so I am not sure what it all means related to that . . . if someone wishes to guest blog something about that would be swell. For me, it has more to do with differences between the wisdom of the crowd and the wisdom of a carefully optimized set of algorithms as well as how that might apply to betting . . . which again is something I do not well understand. In this set of analysis, I will be looking for instances where the crowd wisdom would prevail in an over/under bet against the projection system.

The way I chose to compare the Vegas line against the Projection system is to look at instances where they differed against each other by a standard deviation (~8 wins) and then by an arbitrary number that sounds nice (5 wins).

There are 11 instances in which the two system disagreed by 8 or more wins. In three of these instances, siding in agreement with the projection system would win up with losses against the crowd line. I cannot find much in agreement with these three data points other than all three have Projection estimates of under .500 winning percentage. Limiting it to that criteria, we would get a 4-3 betting scenario. The data here is limited, but that might be a decent working hypothesis: trust the projection systems when there is an 8 game spread between the two and the projection system guesses a winning season. Another working hypothesis is to go with the projection system when the spread is 8 games and the projection system predicts fewer wins (5-1) as opposed to more wins (3-2) than the Vegas line. Still, the amount of data is not very great.

There are 27 instances in which the two systems disagreed by 5 or more wins and again the rate at which the Vegas line wins is about 25%. Using the working hypothesis generated above with 5 game or greater spread and a winning Projection-based record, 9-2 is slightly better than the entire data set. The second working hypothesis (5 or more spread with projection predicting less) winds up with a 10-2 result, which is better than the alternative 11-5). Again, the power of this study is pretty limited, but it is something that we will tease apart more so in the future.

When all of the projections come in, we'll comment on who fits into these classifications and follow how well the working hypotheses work.

02 March 2010

The Giants and Steve Johnson

Last December we explained why it made complete sense why Steve Johnson was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and why he was likely to return to the Orioles. Today, I'd like to explore Johnson's potential for sticking with the Giants this season. First off, the Giants will carry seven arms in their pen. Five are essentially locks to being the season. They include the closer Brian Wilson, whom many compare favorably to Jonathan Broxton. He has a live arm and was successful in the role last year for the Giants. Their set up also return. Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo also had solid years and are definites. In middle relief, Brandon Medders solidified his role last year and Dan Runzler emerged as the minor league Giants pitcher of the year as well as being fairly unhittable in his short time in the Majors last year.

This leaves two slots open for Steve Johnson to fill: middle relief or long relief. With both Runzler and Affeldt as southpaws, Johnson's righthandedness should not impede him. It also helps that his role is one in which very little is expected. Merkin Valdez and Joe Martinez/Ryan Sandowski held down the middle relief and long relief/swingman roles, respectively. Of those players, only Joe Martinez remains. What also works for Johnson is that Giants personnel are very positive about Johnson after watching him for several seasons in the Dodgers' system.

After the jump, Johnson's competition for these two positions and what this may mean for the Orioles.

Todd Wellemeyer, RHRP (has started in the past)
Wellemeyer is a non-roster invite to the Giants camp. He came up as a reliever in the Cubs system. After winding up in St. Louis in midway through 2007, he proceeded to pitch quite effectively as a starter for a year and a half. He kept his strikeouts above 6 per 9 and did well to limit walks. That fell apart last year as he missed awfully few bats. Wellemeyer is something that the Giants brass are known to love . . . veterans. He has pitched for many years and has shown a great degree of competence. Todd Wellemeyer is basically Steve Johnson seven or so years from now.

Joe Martinez, RHRP (has started in the past)
Martinez filled the role of swingman and long relief last year. He did not do well posting a 7.50 ERA over 30 innings. Unless he shows some promise, he most likely will be sent down to AAA and be the first brought up. Based on my math, he should have 2 options left.

Kevin Pucetas, LHP (starter in minors)
Pucetas has rather average pitches, but was shown to pitch quite effectively in low and hi A ball. Last year, the Giants chose to skip him over AA and he proceeded to be rather ineffective at AAA Fresno. A conservative organization would allow him another year to start at Fresno. If the Giants think they are close to the playoffs, they might prefer having another left handed option in the pen. I'd be doubtful that he could start in the Majors with his repertoire.

Waldis Joaquin, RHRP
Joaquin threw 10.2 innings at the Major league level and showed that he could miss bats (10.1 k/9) and strike zones (5.9 bb/9). He tasted the Majors last year after dominating AAA for 8 innings. That may have been an aberration.

Guillermo Mota, RHRP
Mota just signed as an NRI and would be considered for the middle relief position. He is a veteran who has pitched as a closer and setup man. It is the typical M.O. for the Giants organization to employ a player like Mota in the pen. His peripherals have been slightly shaky the past two seasons, but he has been an integral part for the Dodgers and Brewers bullpens. I would be surprised if he did not wind up being the 6th man in the pen.

I doubt any of the non-roster invites will put up much competition to these guys. NRIs: Denny Bautista, Santiago Casilla, Rafael Cova, Steven Edlefsen, Eric Hacker, Osiris Matos, Tony Pena Jr., Felix Romero, Dan Turpen, Craig Whitaker, Craig Clark, and Clayton Tanner.

Who is likely to get the middle relief role?
1. Mota
2. Joaquin
3. Wellemeyer
4. Johnson

Who is likely to get the long relief role?
1. Wellemeyer
2. Martinez
3. Johnson
4. Bautista

I find it near impossible for him to win the last middle relief slot. I find there to be some chance he could stick on in the long relief role. My bet is that Mota and Wellemeyer wind up in these two slots. The Giants tend to embrace veterans and might be reluctant in giving slots for a rookie to hide and take his lumps. I do think the Giants value him and believe they will be looking to trade for him.

What is Steve Johnson worth and what do the Orioles need?
John Sickels rates Steve Johnson as a C+ prospect (all Sickels grades links here AL - NL). In return the Orioles would probably receive a prospect with a similar grade. Areas of organizational need for the Orioles would be second base, short stop, and left-handed relief. The following players fit that criteria:

2B Nick Noonan (C+) - Noonan has his supporters and is thought to be more valued in the Giants front office than elsewhere in baseball. It remains to be seen if they would entertain a straight trade for Johnson. Last season saw Noonan as a 20yo in HiA. Poor contact skills, good plate discipline, average power, below average speed, and very good base running. He seems to be a very smart player. He is a kind of prospect who could break out in the next season or two. He would slot in at AA and compete with Ryan Adams. Both profile as offensive 2B, but Noonan has much more speed. Noonan is an NRI this year.

LHSP Aaron King (C+) - King has a powerful arm and would be shoehorned into a tight starting rotation in Frederick. It might be more realistic though to begin shifting him toward being a potential dominant bullpen arm. The hope would be that pitching from the stretch and focusing on his low 90s sinker. His mechanics are a bit of a mess, so I doubt he will be valued by many as a starter.

LHSP Clayton Tanner (C+) - Tanner is similar to Johnson in that he is a lefty that is better known for pitchability than how impressive his actual pitches are. After repeating HiA and getting hit much harder the second time through (1hr in 2008 vs 18hr in 2009), he still managed to do pretty well. His soft spot was right handers hitting him hard. His FIP against lefties was 3.04, while it was 5.11 against righties. Only one lefties hit a home run off him. He will probably start in AA, but is beginning to look like someone who will eventually be shifted to a LOOGY role.

SS Ehire Adrianza (C) - His raw tools are very solid. His glove is excellent. He has an athletic body that can probably put on another 10-15 pounds. He also has shown very good plate discipline. At 19, he held his own quite well in loA with a 258/333/327 line. His contact rate is not good and I doubt he will develop much power. That said, a young SS with a solid glove and good discipline is a rare find.

SS Brandon Crawford (C) - Crawford, as you many remember, was our 4th round selection in the 2008 shadow draft we ran in real time. His glove is solid and compares rather well with Adrianza's. Both should be MLB quality in their defense. His bat? Back in 2008 we wrote this:

Dating back to the Cape, he has been pressing rather than letting his game flow naturally. As his struggled continued, he pressed harder -- regularly lunging at pitches and frequently showing signs of frustration. He has demonstrated a potential for plus-power, but he'll have to improve his contact rate to realize it.

In HiA, Crawford was either excellent or was no match for the pitching at that level. He broke out with a 371/445/600 line in 105 at bats showing off very good power. He was then promoted to AA and struggled. He struck out 25% of the time. Had difficulty earning walks. He did show some gap power (ISO - .107), but nothing very extraordinary. It would probably benefit him repeating AA. He needs to show better plate discipline and a better contact rate. In the Baltimore system, he will be having to share time with Pedro Florimon, Jr., whom the Orioles seem to favor.

Who would I want?
1. Ehire Adrianza
2. Nick Noonan
3. Brandon Crawford
4. Aaron King
5. Clayton Tanner

I think the Giants would probably look to move Crawford or King from that group.

01 March 2010

Beyond Batting Average and interview with author Lee Panas

As many of us who discuss sabermetrics and statistics in general and how they relate to baseball; it is a subject that carries a broad range of awareness and acceptance in conversations about the game. The most recent statistical discussions have occurred over the past decade and taken place on the internet. As conducive as the internet is to share information and quickly acclimate to new truths and create or discover new applications, it has some problems as it is a very ephemeral library. Little is written down and much is carried on in a digitalized form similar to Homer. Web sites close shop, people get hired and their work gets scrubbed, and many baseball critics do not follow rules of citation very well. It makes it difficult to get caught up to speed on the conversation even if you are interested in how to use metrics in baseball.

A problem I have often seen when a book is written about sabermetrics is that they are often grooved for those in the mid- to hi- level of competency in the field. Introductory level works are hard to find and are a major reason why many web sites are beginning to post running SABR 101 FAQ's on their sites. It has also led to SABR series on Yahoo! and other online publications. Thankfully, I think I have found an actual book that is somehow both a handy introduction to what statistics mean and their utility in baseball as well as a resource for more advanced users of metrics (which is quite needed as metrics are often used incorrectly). Lee Panas' Beyond Batting Average is this book.

Panas does well to present the historical time line of statistics from Chadwick's original descriptive statistics to Branch Rickey and his usage of ISO to present day concepts like linear and nonlinear metrics. One amusing side note indicates how folks complained about new metrics in the late 1800s just as people do now with stats like WAR or xFIP. Panas does well to give you the formulas for advanced stats if you wish to play around with them, but moreso they act as an illustration letting you know what each statistic accounts for and how they are weighted. In the text, he simply and straight-forwardly explains what the formulas mean and how that effects statistical outputs. He informs the reader what each stat does well and their limitations.

As you have noticed I rarely review a book, but this is one that I think merited that. It is a solid addition to anyone's library. The introductory baseball statistics reader who wants to learn more and be able to start engaging in conversations about metrics would find this most useful. More advanced readers will see this as being useful at times for the quick to grab metrics and have a solid citation when making a claim about repeatability for a certain statistic and how that might relate to a skill.

Lee was kind enough to take part in an interview with Camden Depot. It is shown in full after the jump.

Camden Depot: I often find it important when reading a book to understand who the author is and from where personal experience is he/she writing. I was hoping you could give us your background, information about the blog you write, and other items you think potential readers of your book would be interested in.

Lee Panas: I have been interested in sabermetrics since the early 1980s. Bill James was writing his Baseball Abstracts at the time and he was a big influence on me. In addition, I was studying mathematics and statistics in college and some of my classes required me to apply statistical methods to real data. So, I used baseball statistics in a few of my projects. This gave me the opportunity to prepare for my career as a research analyst while learning more about baseball at the same time.
I have been writing at DetroitTigerTales.com since 2005. I discuss a lot of topics besides statistics there - Tigers history, prospects, transactions, etc - but sabermetrics has always been the overriding theme. I have written a lot about baserunning and fielding statistics in particular. In addition to my blog , I am currently writing about the Tigers for John Burnson's Heater Magazine. I have also contributed to books such as Tigers Corner, Graphical Player and How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball.

CD: From experience, I have found that taking on a large endeavor (i.e. a book) often comes from a moment of transcending excitement and then several months of trying to pay dues to that initial moment of inspiration. Was there a singular moment that convinced you that you had to write this book? If not, where do you think this urge originated?

LP: There was not really a single moment where I decided to write a book. It's something that has been building for a long time. I have avidly been discussing baseball on message boards and blogs for a couple of decades. Much of my time has involved explaining sabermetrics to people. In the early years, there wasn't a great deal of interest in the subject. However, I have noticed a lot more people getting curious about it in recent years. Blogging has been a good way to educate more people about the field but I can only give small does in that format. Thus, it became increasingly clear that I wanted to write a book where I could tie all the information together into a complete story.

CD: The sabermetric field has seemed to me that it is moving toward a goal that is to evaluate the true talent of a player. That is, a progression from simple descriptive statistics to predictive/evaluative ones. From what I have read in your book as well as the outline, it seems to me that you very much support this perspective on moving toward predictive statistics. Do you think anything (i.e. blind luck, MVPs) is lost or being lost (or devalued) in terms of appreciation by doing this and is that bad?

LP: For the most part, I think trying to evaluate a player with predictive statistics is a good thing. As you know, some of the more traditional statistics are based on things that are largely beyond a player's influence. It makes sense to eliminate as many outside factors as possible and to evaluate a player on things he can control most easily. I think that we are getting increasingly better at finding statistics which more accurately define a player's true talent.
There is, however, the potential for skills to get lost in this approach if we are not careful. I'll use ERA as an example. Statistics such as a strikeout rate, walk rate, ground ball percentage and FIP are more predictive than ERA for most pitchers. However, they don't take into account the ability of a pitcher to pump up his fastball or to induce a double play ball with runners on base. It has been shown that this has more to do with overall pitcher quality than clutch pitching ability. However, I think more work needs to be done to identify pitchers who may have more ability to pitch in high impact situations than others. For these pitchers, ERA might be telling us something that the so called true talent stats are missing.

CD: One of the more fearsome aspects of writing a book on baseball statistics is that the community is internet based and the level of information progresses so quickly. I think you have done a great job is writing something that is rather resilient in light of that. How did your recognition of the blinding pace of statistical innovation direct you in writing this book?

LP: First, I think the fast pace of sabermetrics has left some people frustrated because they can't keep up. That is one of the reasons I wrote the book. By organizing all the information in one place, I think it helps people catch up. I also hope through reading the book, fans will understand more about the reasoning behind the statistics. This should help readers make sense of future measures more quickly.

One thing I have done throughout the book is to include a bit of history showing the evolution from simple traditional measures to the more advanced measures of today. I think this better prepares readers for the future advances in statistics than if I just dove into the present and talked about the statistics developed in the last two years.

CD: You have mentioned before that you largely relied on peer review for this book. Can you tell us some of the people you consulted in writing this book?

LP: I think peer review is essential in this kind of effort. It's a complex subject and I wanted make sure I got everything right. There are a couple of important sections of the book that might have been left out if it were not for the suggestions of others. There was also a matter of educating myself in certain areas. I had a good handle on most of the statistics coming in but there were a couple of instances where I was not interpreting statistics as accurately as I could. So, I was glad to have the developers of the statistics correct me. Finally, I think peer review helped me write the book in a way that would make it accessible to as many people as possible. For example, there were some sections in early drafts which reviewers felt were a little too mathematical for my target audience. I either eliminated those sections or wrote them more simply.

The reviewers ranged anywhere from very talented sabermetricians who know the field better than I do to intelligent baseball fans who are relatively new to sabermetrics. Some of the key contributors in alphabetical order are John Dewan, Brandon Heipp (aka U.S. Patriot), Chuck Hildebrandt, Justin Inaz, Mitchel Lichtman, Kurt Mensching, Pete Palmer, Samara Pearlstein, Tom Tango and Geoff Young. There were many others but I think this gets the point across that I got input from a lot of different kinds of people.

CD: Thanks again Lee. Very well done.

LP: Thanks very much for the interview.

Lee Panas' blog is Tiger Tales and has recently written, Beyond Batting Average.

26 February 2010

Interview with agent Joshua Kusnick

In the past few weeks we have interviewed Jon Paley (one of the creative minds behind the baseball documentary Pelotero) and a local blog that focuses on amateur talent emerging from Cuba. Today, we are talking with Joshua Kusnick an agent who represents three players in the Baltimore Orioles organization: Jonathan Tucker, Vito Frabizio, and Joshua Bell. His approach is considered somewhat non-traditional in comparison to other agents. He is quite accessible. Kusnick runs a blog and even appears on message boards drumming up questions from fans. It is a style that appears to resonate well with many of the younger professional athletes including Bobby Cassevah, David Herndon, Zack Kroenke, Trayvon Robinson, Kenley Jansen, Michael Brantley, Darren Ford, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Periard and Phillippe Valiquette. Kusnick has also just signed on to write a column for Baseball Prospectus, which is quite exciting.

Tigers Prospect Scott Drucker and Joshua Kusnick at the Moves Magazine Super Bowl Party.

Camden Depot, among other blogs, often overlooks the contribution made by sports agents and their effect on the game. In response to that common oversight, we invited Joshua Kusnick here today to discuss the path he took in becoming an agent for baseball players, discuss Frabizio and Bell, and his beliefs in how an agent should represent his clients.

Entire interview after the jump.

Camden Depot: I have read that your start in scouting was rather unique in comparison to other agents. Could you introduce the reader to your background and how you think that helps you secure and well represent your clients?

Joshua Kusnick: My career in sports started when I was around 10 years old. I had the opportunity to be the batboy for the Orioles during spring training a couple of times when I was a kid so that was really my first exposure being around a big league club house. During my teenage years, actually when I was 14 years old, I began getting autographs of minor league baseball players. Most of the games I attended were in West Palm Beach watching Florida State League baseball, so I had the good fortune of watching guys like Vlad Guerrero, Brad Fullmer, Roy Halladay, Matt Morris, Freddy Garcia, Ramon Castro etc….

During one of these games, I believe it was my last year of getting autographs so that had to be the year 2000, I was sitting next to a scout who basically changed my life forever. We chatted the entire game, he gave me his card and over the course of several months we developed a pretty good friendship. He told me if I ever wanted a job in scouting to let him know so in time that’s exactly what I did. Back before everything was readily available on the internet I crunched all the draft figures for this scout every year in addition to doing some very low level unofficial bird dog work. After a couple of years of part time work I decided to start my company with my father and the rest is history.

I feel one of the advantages I have in this field is my ability to independently evaluate talent. Some agents rely on scouts and some even hire scouts to find players for them because they lack the ability to determine a player’s ultimate value. I am beyond fortunate that I don’t have to rely on anyone other than myself to scout players. The fact that I can scout does not mean I don’t talk to other people in the game to get their input on certain players and it doesn’t mean that I’m right far more than I’m wrong but what it does do for me is provide a slight edge on some of the competition. When you represent a player you have to know what you’re selling. You have to know your product better than anyone else because you’re making a long term commitment that will cost you ample time and money, so you better be damn sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and lucky for me, I usually do.

CD: Vito Frabizio is a client of yours who has also taken a unique route to the professional ranks. We here at Camden Depot first took note of Frabizio in Perfect Game's 2008 World Showcase. How did you come to represent him and how would you describe his current talent and his progression as a ball player since you can to represent him?

JK: I met Vito through a mutual friend during the 2008 off season. Vito was working out at my old high school American Heritage in plantation Florida, a school where I represented two players who were drafted that year (JC Sulbaran and Adrian Nieto). Vito is like a brother to me and we clicked instantly. Our personalities are quite similar and we’ve shared a lot of the same experiences in life so getting hired wasn’t terribly difficult fortunately. Vito has added some weight to his frame since we signed him which has made a world of difference on the field. His ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes has improved in addition to adding velocity to his fastball since we’ve represented him. Vito is a very special young man and the sky is the limit when it comes to his potential. It’s all going to come down to his attitude and his health.

CD: Your client, Josh Bell, has always been on the periphery of scouting lists, but really established himself as a prime prospect this past year by making great progress in his defense at third and his development from the left side of the plate. Keith Law mentioned that Bell has a promising career in front of him, but is still a work in progress. It was also mentioned that the Orioles have a better development program than the Dodgers, which took me by surprise. From your perspective, what new opportunities or benefits opened up for Bell when he was traded to the Orioles?

JK: I think very highly of both organizations with respect to player development. We have several Dodgers prospects in our company (Trayvon Robinson, Kenley Jansen, Justin Sellers) as well as several Orioles prospects (Josh Bell, Jonathan Tucker, and Vito Frabizio). I feel that all these kids have been given every chance to succeed in their respective organizations. The Dodgers always viewed Josh as a very special prospect and I know it was difficult for guys like [Assistant General Manager (Player Development)] De Jon Watson and [Assistant General Manager (Amateur/International)] Logan White to give up Josh in the Sherrill trade last season. I think Josh had a great chance to make an impact with the Dodgers over time but it seems he’s on the fast track to some extent now that he is with the Orioles. Baltimore seems to have a clear plan in place for Josh and I think this trade was the best thing to happen to Josh since signing his first contract out of high school.

CD: Another question about development . . . to what extent do you think an agent should encourage his client to disagree with his organization? For instance, in the Orioles system there have been alleged instances where a player's individual trainer/coach has provided contradictory instruction in comparison to the team's instructors. Do you think an agent should encourage third party instruction or evaluation? How do you handle such a situation as I imagine the organization likes to act with as few people in the decision making process as possible?

JK: My responsibility always is to the player. Obviously it is mutually beneficial for the player, the agent and the team to all be on the same page because ultimately all three parties are working towards the same goal but at the end of the day I will always side with my client. I think an agent should always work towards the best interests of his clients no matter what. I also think a player should always do what he feels is in his best interests regarding his career. An agent is the player’s voice to his organization and that comes with a great deal of responsibility. Do players and the teams see eye to eye on every issue? No, but that’s what an agent is there for, to bridge the gap and hopefully come to a mutually beneficial conclusion.

CD: A week or so ago on your personal blog you commented on the Tiger Woods apology press release. I thought it to be a very interesting and informative look behind the scenes in what an agent does for the player and how each partner in this relationship is dependent on the other for success. I was hoping that you could elaborate on how you, as an agent, are involved with a player and his family beyond the contracts and interviews with the press?

JK: I literally am on call 24 hours a day for all of my players regardless of what I am doing. The long term goals of my career are directly dependent on my clients and how they perform on and off the field. Personally, I try to get as involved as I can with a player and his family. I get to know players wives, girlfriends, mothers and fathers. I’ve been in fantasy baseball leagues with some clients and their families, I go to dinner with many clients’ parents, I stay in touch with the players wives, girlfriends and families as much as they allow me to. Every relationship is up to the player. Some guys prefer to keep it business only and other players appreciate how involved I am willing to get in their lives and careers. I’ve had several players live with me and I take great pride in being as hands on as I am with respect to my clients lives off the field.

CD: I would like to thank Joshua Kusnick for taking time to discuss his practice and some of the players he represents.

25 February 2010

Two More Top 100 List: Project Prospect and Baseball America

Project prospects list can be found here. They are very, very tough on pitchers. I think too tough. A method like this seems too aware of Wang's work and ignores the effect of free agency on the worth of prospects.

Where do the Orioles fall?

7. Brian Matusz (2nd best pitcher)
16. Josh Bell (2nd best 3B)
46. Brandon Snyder (6th best 1B)
51. Zach Britton (13th best pitcher)
58. Jake Arrieta (16th best pitcher)

Baseball America's List?
5. Brian Matusz
37. Josh Bell
63. Zach Britton
99. Jake Arrieta
Jim Callis also mentioned that Brandon Snyder would be in the 101-105 range.

24 February 2010

Article Retro: Brian Roberts Extension

Sometimes a past article we wrote deserves another look back.

This time it is the Brian Roberts Contract extension, which we commented on last year on February 21st. We were non-plussed, to say the least. Recently, we have learned that Roberts has a herniated disc. Not too good. The signing flew in the face of a rather strong historical trend of second basemen precipitously decreasing in worth in their early 30s. Hopefully, Roberts can right the ship.

What I put forth last year was that Roberts should be worth his contract for the next 3 years given the market rate for a win. I estimated a value of 4.5MM and that seems like an overestimate by 10%. Additionally, his defense decreased at a greater rate than I imagined . . . though to be fair one year of UZR is just not enough of a sample size. That said, if he continues to perform the way I predicted . . . he should be worth his contract for 2 more seasons with the market adjustment. If not, he may be worth it for one season or less.

After the jump the article in full.

Projecting the Next Five Years with Brian Roberts

February 21, 2009
by Jon Shepherd

This past week, the Orioles signed Brian Roberts to a 4 year, 40MM extension. Add this on to the current contract which pays him 8MM for 2009. I think it would be unfair to think of this as a 5 year, 48MM dollar deal as I would regard this year as a sunk cost that we would have been unable to relinquish given the current trade market. This post will focus on projecting Roberts' performance over the life of the extension and trying to determine whether this was a good deal to make.


Predicting Offensive Performance
The offensive projections for Brian Roberts were taken from the CHONE projections. I believe that this is an optimistic system to use given Roberts age and position. CHONE is quite useful for short-term projections, but is not really geared to predict long-term performance. PECOTA may be slightly better determining long term performance as it makes predictions based on similarity scores. I will be using the CHONE numbers though as they are publicly available and allow for a bit more transparency in this exercise. Performance is converted into LW runs and related to replacement level value after accounting for projected playing time. For second basemen, replacement level was considered 62 runs while average production was considered as 85 runs.

Predicting Defensive Performance
Last year, Roberts was rated as below average at 2B by UZR/150. We actually rated him slightly above average. We think over the course of the next 5 years, he will probably miss about 5-8 plays more with each following season. That might seem aggressive, but that follows the path of typical players at this position. With this in mind, it was simply assumed that he will give up an extra 4 runs each season. This makes him a slightly below average fielder this year (-5 FRAA) and a poor one in 2013 (-21 FRAA). It should also be acknowledged that in this work average fielding ability is considered on par with replacement fielding ability. There are arguments for and against this approach, but we feel it is a pretty accurate description of what is truly available at the replacement level.

Predicting the Value of a Win
Offensive and defensive production expressed as runs above replacement value were than added. The total runs value was then divided by 10 to determine WARP, which was then multiplied by assumed market value. It is generally accepted that a win over replacement production is worth about 4.5MM. There is growing sentiment that the economic crisis may put that in doubt, but I think a correction will occur and it will remain at about that level. That being so, I have attached the 4.5MM value to 2009 and increased the value by 10% each year. In 2013, the value of a win is projected to reach 6.6MM.


In the table below, I have listed Roberts' offensive production over the four years of the extension as well as his total production.

What you will notice is that over the course of the four year extension, he rates above average for two of those seasons and below average for two of those seasons. His lowest mark with regard to replacement value is being worth 0.9 WARP in 2013. Overall, he produces 7.7 WARP over the course of the extension. This could also be expressed as 0.5 wins above average. This potentially becomes problematic as the second half of his contract has his as -0.9 wins above average. Particularly in his final season, it may serve the team best if Roberts is on the bench.

The following table shows Roberts' actual contract against his projected worth over the course of the extension.

The projected value of his performance is worth 42.5MM with 63% of that worth coming in the first two seasons. Overall, the Orioles pay below the predicted going rate of cost per win. Although in the final two seasons they pay above.


The contract is fair, but may not be in sync with the Orioles development plan. Roberts' career path is not in line with the young arms in AA and AAA that this team is relying on to make it competitive. If the team is viable in the playoff race in 2013, it will most likely see Roberts losing time to L.J. Hoes or another second baseman. At this point, we assume that the Orioles should be able to stow away a moderately poor contract this year. In the end, the open question is whether or not the 40MM spent here could have been better applied on future free agents, international talent, or the draft?

Personally, I would not have extended such a deal, but it is understandable why Andy MacPhail chose to do so. Actually, a reason why I would offer Roberts an extension is if I was not planning to depend heavily on the young arms for plus performance. He is probably the best option we can obtain to bat lead off and he is a fine player for the next few years. If this is the plan, then I would expect major acquisitions in the next off-season cycle. The holes the Orioles will need to fill are most likely 1B, 3B, DH, and a top tier starting pitcher.

Although I doubt Ty Wigginton will actually produce well for the Orioles, he is an option at first base (his defense at third is incredibly bad). Next year's market is awfully thin at first and he is projected to hit 268/338/466. Though, he probably should be protected against excellent right handed pitchers. This might mean that this would be a good role for Luke Scott to platoon part time at first. A more expensive option would be to extend Aubrey Huff's contract. He most likely will not repeat last season's amazing performance, so he might be an option. Outside the organization, they could sign Nick Johnson and have him face all right handers and Wigginton play against lefties and backup other positions. It may be a situation where we look to find a left handed platoon player at first. Again, Luke Scott might be that guy.

As mentioned earlier, third base should not be left for Wigginton. They could resign Melvin Mora to a one year deal, but I think that would not be ideal. His defense is dipping to below average, he has trouble charging the ball, and he is at an age where batting performance could evaporate and be left way below average. In fact, the two seasons prior to last year were not good and it will be unlikely that he will play a solid third in 2010. The FA market will offer Troy Glaus and Adrian Beltre. Glaus projects as a fine hitter and a decent glove at third base. His age (33) and his previous back issues make him a dicey acquisition. I view Adrian Beltre as a better choice. He is 2 years younger than Glaus and will probably offer a level of play that is not commensurate with his actual performance. Many underestimate Beltre's glove and SafeCo's effect on his offensive performance. He will never be an offensive star, but, if he continues to provide a win to a win and a half with the glove, he is easily worth a four or five year deal at 13MM. He is someone the Orioles should target.

DH is another position with in house options. Those include Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, Luis Montanez, Ty Wigginton, and Nolan Reimold. Outside the organization, the list includes Jason Bay, Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu, and Hideki Matsui. If they do not expect Huff to play 1B for them, then they should probably play the market. This past year saw player value plunge for DH type outfielders. With the market so limited to AL only teams and with many teams already filled at the DH slot, it may make sense to roll the dice and see what is out there. At worst, the in house options should perform at a high enough level to provide average production.

Finally, a starting pitcher would have to be acquired. I think it is doubtful that the inevitable parade though the middle and lower rotation this year will produce much in terms of dependable pitching. In reality, we will probably have Guthrie (a solid middle order pitcher on a competitive team) and two lower order guys emerging from this season. Next year, we can probably slot one of the young guys (i.e., Matusz) at the five slot. This leaves us with a front line pitcher. Next year's market may potentially carry John Lackey, Eric Bedard, and Rich Harden. Signing one of these guys will make the team far more competitive.

A potential lineup would look like this:

2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
1B Aubrey Huff
C Matt Wieters
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Luke Scott/Ty Wigginton
LF Felix Pie
SS Cesar Izturis

to go along with a top tier starter and a collection of third and fourth pitchers. This team rates in a highly competitive division as a 91 win team. Adding Beltre and a pitcher like Harden or Lackey is all that is needed in this scenario. If ways can be found to upgrade other positions, it should make the team more capable of reaching that level. I guess we will know a year from now.

23 February 2010

hGH Test Claimed Successful; Rugby Player Banned

A rugby player was found to have hGH in his system and will now serve a two year ban from the sport. Here is a quote from the article:

Both the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency (UKAD) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) trumpeted the positive HGH test of British professional rugby player Terry Newton as "proof positive" that the drug can be detected in blood tests. Newton, who was tested in November, did not contest the result and yesterday was banned from the sport for two years by UKAD. Newton's rugby club, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, also canceled his contract. Newton is believed to be the first case of a professional athlete testing positive for HGH using a blood sample.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/2010/02/23/2010-02-23_hgh_positive_in_rugby_puts_mlb_on_deck.html#ixzz0gO14EjBK

What does this mean for baseball players?

They should immediately demand that they be tested for it. After all, there is no evidence, despite years and millions spent, that any hGH treatment (alone or in conjunction) improves athletic performance.

Making Baseball an Olympic Sport

As you all probably know baseball is not an Olympic sport. It was removed for several reasons:

1. The best players were not involved as they were in professional leagues.
2. Baseball prowess is basically limited to the Northwestern Quadrisphere (is that a word?) and the Pacific Rim.

Baseball though is no different than other sports in the Winter Games. Hockey is ruled by only a few countries. Same is true about curling, biathlon, and even figure skating to a degree. Baseball is just as diverse country-wise as these other games . . . so I think Baseball should be welcomed as a Winter Olympic sport for these reasons:

1. No competition from the Major professional leagues, so the best players will be available.
2. Most winter destinations have domed stadiums available for use or modification that could house a baseball facility. For instance, Vancouver has the BC Place Stadium which was designed as a multi-use stadium to attract a MLB club.
3. It will help diversify the Winter Olympics and bring more countries to the plate, which is good for the sports and good for the IOC making money.

I digress.

Projected Season Wins: Vegas vs Diamond Mind Projections . . . Part I

Each year we get bombarded with projections, predictions, and betting lines about season win totals. Such an endeavor is often foolhardy because injuries and depth charts are exceptionally difficult to estimate. Nonetheless, we try year in and year out. I think it is useful in that it gives us the chance to temper our expectations each year. The problem often is though that we utilize the projections/predictions at the beginning of the year and then promptly forget them and never assess how well they fit the actual result. Also, one thing I want to make clear . . . I know nothing about betting. I just grabbed the over/under. In no way am I suggesting that the Vegas line is the only line or that any differences in accuracy between the systems results in you making any money. None of that is my concern. I am more focused on the Vegas line as being representative of a generic mob of people model.

One thing to recognize is the usage of the terms prediction and projection. A projection in this exercise is an estimation of what would happen given a set of assumptions. When you read about games won using the PECOTA, CHONE, or CAIRO projections . . . it is not a prediction. No one is saying that the Orioles will win 79 games. They are saying they are projected to win 79 games. A prediction is an estimate of the actual outcome, a foretelling of a future event or series of events. Does that make sense? Projections are often used within the framework of a prediction, but they really are not synonymous. Anyway, I digress.

I will be using the current Vegas over/under for season wins as a sort of crowd model, while using a composite of ZiPS, CHONE, CAIRO, MARCEL, and PECOTA from the Replacement Level Yankees Blog to represent an projection-based model. First, I will present the current Vegas projections and the current model projections (only CAIRO, so far). After the jump, a few graphs and analysis discussing how 2006-2009 performed for each model.

In parentheses are the current projected wins based on CAIRO (this will be adjusted when all projection systems are incorporated)

AL East
YANKEES 95.5 (99)
RED SOX 94.5 (95)
RAYS 90 (95)
ORIOLES 76 (71)
BLUE JAYS 72.5 (70)

AL Central
TWINS 84.5 (82)
WHITE SOX 82.5 (87)
TIGERS 78.5 (72)
INDIANS 75.5 (77)
ROYALS 72 (70)

AL West
ANGELS 85 (80)
RANGERS 83.5 (82)
MARINERS 82.5 (80)
A'S 79 (78)

NL East
PHILLIES 92.5 (90)
BRAVES 85.5 (85)
MARLINS 81 (72)
METS 81 (80)
NATIONALS 70.5 (71)

NL Central
CARDINALS 87.5 (91)
CUBS 83.5 (86)
BREWERS 80.5 (81)
REDS 79.5 (84)
ASTROS 73.5 (66)
PIRATES 69 (73)

NL West
DODGERS 85.5 (91)
ROCKIES 84 (83)
GIANTS 82.5 (77)
PADRES 72.5 (78)

The first graph shows the predictive ability of both the Vegas and Projection systems for every data point generated from 2006 to 2009. As you can see the R2 for either the Vegas (0.28) or Projection (0.30) systems are pretty much equivalent. In a raw sense, they predict equally well. As most projection systems can predict about 75% of performance, it is understandable that quantitative systems and qualitative systems would be pretty similar.

The next graphic is a table of the standard deviation of the difference between the Vegas/Projection systems against the actual value. It varied from around 6 to 11 during these three years with the Projection system being narrowly more accurate for three of the four year, but not significantly so. A rough estimate is that 95% of all teams will fall within two standard deviations of the mean. So, using the composite standard deviation, a team with 79 wins would range between 64 and 94 wins. That is the realm of possibility. Since 2001, only the 2007 Yankees were able to get the Wild Card with as few as 94 wins. A 79 win team effectively is out of the post season based on these numbers although there is a 1 in 40 chance for a team to defy those odds and win more than 94 games. The only example of this would be the Vegas prediction for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

Another way to evaluate this data in order to evaluate the potential for teams to outproduce their expected wins is to see when systems incorrectly project wins by a large amount. The second graph shows all data points that are greater than one standard deviation off the actual value. As one would expect, there is a line where predicted and actual values cannot exceed. In other words, if your team is predicted to win 90 games then it is very difficult to win more than one standard deviation above that. In fact, the highest prediction on this graph that ever resulted in a somewhat significant underestimation was it has ever happened was 89 wins. Once you hit that level, there really is not much room to break out. It is exceptionally difficult to win more than 97 games. The opposite end is not as much of a hard line as team predicted to win as few as 68 games still underperformed. This may be a result of a dispersal of assets at the trade deadline or an influx of substandard talent that is permitted to play more often in September.

Part II will go a bit more into the data looking at situation where the Vegas and Projection system disagree and whether this disagreement isolates one system as being more accurate than the other.

22 February 2010

An Interview with Cubano, author of the Cuban Ball Players blog

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to interview Cubano. He was also kind enough to provide a Spanish translation.

Cubano is the author of an essential blog if you wish to be aware and up-to-date on Cuban Baseball. It is called Cuban Ball Players. I have found it to be quite useful in understanding talent on the island. I'll let Cubano speak for himself:

Camden Depot: Could you introduce your site for us? (What is it that you do, information found at the site, your background, any personal experience with baseball in Cuba)

Cubano: I maintain a blog about Cuban baseball players and Cuban baseball in general. I post news, stats, videos and commentary on Cuban players participating in the different world leagues as well as the Cuban League and international tournaments. I was born in Cuba and I am a baseball aficionado. I hold a degree from Maryland. For all of you Terps fans out there, Go Terps!

Click on the link to read the rest of the interview.

CD: Adeiny Hechevarria has been garnering interest lately as he waits for the OK to sign his first professional contract. What are your thoughts on him and how would you compare him to Jose Iglesias?

C: I really like Hechevarria. He has good hands and great range. I have posted a couple of clips in my site featuring his range. I am glad he is receiving the attention he deserves. It is hard to project a player, but I think Hechevarria will be a MLB player one day. Hechevarria was the starting SS for one of the Cuban junior teams and Iglesias was the starting 2B. Hechevarria played for the Santiago de Cuba Wasps in Cuba.

As for the comparison among them, Iglesias is a very smart individual and he likes to be flashy and gather attention toward him. He reminds me of three time Gold Glove winner Rey Ordonez who played for the Mets in that respect. Hechevarria is a faster runner and probably will hit for more power that Iglesias thought Iglesias would probably hit for a higher average. He is a few months older that Iglesias too. I think both players are capable of winning a gold glove. Both have good arms too.

CD: Who should people be focusing on next as a premier talent still in Cuba? Can you provide some information on that particular prospect?

C: I asked my friend DViera who also has a column in my blog about young Cuban players to help me out. We agreed on most of the players except the SS position. I like Ciego de Ávila SS Yorbis Borroto for his defense. I think he has more range than Las Tunas Alexander Guerrero though Guerrero’s bat is hard to ignore. I also like OF Kenen Bailly from Guantánamo.

These Players will be this age this year (2010) regardless if at this time have turned a year older or not. The one in red are premium talent.

Catcher: Yosvany Alarcon (LTU) 25 years old
1st Baseman: José Dariel Abreu (CFG) 22 years old

José Dariel Abreu homered against Puerto Rican José Santiago during the 2009 BWC in Europe
Source: Tele Rebelde TV

2nd Baseman: Hector Olivera (STC) 25 years old
3rd Baseman: Yuliesky Gourriel (SSP) 25 years old

Sancti Spíritus Roosters Yuliesky Gourriel homered against Habana Cowboys Jonder Martínez.
Source: Tele Rebelde TV

Short Stop: Alexander Guerrero (LTU) 24 years old
Outfielders: Alfredo Despaigne (GRM) 24 years old

Granma Stallions Alfredo Despaigne homered against USA in the final game of the 2009 BWC in Europe.
Source: Tele Rebelde TV

Leonis Martin (VCL) 22 years old
Henry Urrutia (LTU) 23 years old
Yoennis Cespedes (GRM) 25 years old
Ramón Lunar (VCL) 23 years old
DH: Lerys Aguilera (HOL) 25 Years old

Pitchers: Vladimir Garcia (CAV) 22 years old
Dalier Hinojosa (GTM) 23 years old
Odrisamer Despaigne (IND) 22 years old
Onelkis Garcia (GTM) (L) 21 years old
Freddy Asiel Alvarez (VCL) 22 years old
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (LHB) 24 years old
Yadier Pedroso (LHB) 25 years old
Ismel Jimenez (SSP) 24 years old
Miguel Lahera (LHB) 24 years old
Noelvis Entenza (CFG) 25 years old

CD: Based on your knowledge, how is baseball different in Cuba in terms of player development as opposed to the Dominican Republic (i.e. trainers and academies) or in the US or Puerto Rico (i.e. high school, travel leagues, showcases)? Is it privatized? Does the government provide any funding?

C: In Cuba, everything is run by the government. There are schools called EIDES and ESPAS where athletes are trained and also attend classes. Every province has one EIDE and one ESPA. EIDE is from 7 through 9 grades and an ESPA is from 10 through 12 grades. They play against each other in a yearly basis. There are also tournaments yearly in every province called Serie Provincial. It would be something like Baltimore playing Annapolis and Rockville playing Cumberland and so forth. Many times the top players take part in these leagues something I found ridiculous and unnecessary because injures can happen and players could use some rest.

The Serie Nacional is the Cuban top league. Every province (14 totals) is represented including the Municipality Isla de la Juventud which is the other island south of the main island. Havana city (Ciudad Habana) has two teams, but one team Metropolitanos functions literally like a minor league team for the main team Industriales. There are 16 teams total.

CD: What are your personal thoughts on the Orioles facing the Cuban national team a decade or so ago and Peter Angelo’s' potential interest in taking his team back to Cuba for another exhibition?

C: I am in favor of MLB teams going to Cuba. It is good for the Cuban players because they are in the same field as MLB players. This is one reason I like the WBC because Cuban players can measure themselves against MLB players. So far they have fared well despite all defections. Cuban players are isolated from the world. It is true they travel to international tournaments but often they are confined to the hotels. When a Cuban hitter singled and reached first base and Albert Pujols greets him and he tells him ‘Gourriel, you are good enough to play in MLB’. This will only resonates in Gourriel’s ears and maybe he will come. It is a personal decision for the player to leave or not, but it is the right thing to do if you think about your family’s future. How can not you leave when you can stop worrying about putting food in the table for your kids especially if you are a top player?

What I am concerned about these games is any Gentlemen’s Agreement to somehow prevent or block Cuban players pursuing their dream in MLB. I ask your readers to do a search online and look for ex Orioles General Manager Syd Thrift statements with respect to signing Cuban players and make your own conclusions after the first Orioles-Team Cuba games.

The same agreements exist between MLB and the Japanese League. Japanese players should be able to play whenever they wish. This type of conduct is so un-American and as an American citizen myself I repudiate this behavior. I know the Orioles have signed several Cubans after they have been in the states for many years like Danys Baez, Alberto Castillo and Michel Hernández, but they have shown little effort to sign any recent newcomer from Cuba.

En Español

1. ¿Puede usted introducir su página a nuestros lectores?

Yo administro un blog acerca de de los jugadores cubanos en las diversas ligas de béisbol incluyendo la Serie Nacional. En nuestra página seguimos el rendimiento y las carreras de los jugadores cubanos.

2. Adeiny Hechevarria ha generado mucho interés últimamente. ¿Cuál es su opinión acerca de Hechevarria?

Yo creo que Hechevarria va a dar mucho de qué hablar en Grandes Ligas. Este muchacho que jugó par a las Avispas de Santiago de Cuba posee una defensa magnífica con un desplazamiento increíble. Tiene un brazo excelente y es muy veloz. Necesita mejorar su bateo pero yo pienso que puede batear entre 10-15 jonrones y batear 280 en GL.

Ambos jugadores son muy buenos a la defensa. Hechevarria es un poco más veloz y tiene más fuerza al bate. Iglesias quizás bate para un promedio mayor que Hechevarria. Ambos poseen un brazo muy bueno.

3. ¿Cuáles son los mejores jugadores en Cuba en estos momentos?

Bueno actualmente en Cuba hay varios prospectos muy buenos y jóvenes. En el bateo tenemos a al jardinero Alfredo Despaigne quien no impresiona por su físico pero es un tremendo bateador. Despaigne posee el record de HR para una serie con 32. Tenemos también al 3B Yuliesky Gourriel quien es un jugador muy completo. La revelación en esta temporada ha sido el 1B José Dariel Abreu quien ha bateado muchísimo. También te puedo nombrar al 2B Héctor Olivera que es una máquina de batear dobles. En el pitcheo están Vladimir García, Dalier Hinojosa, Onelquis García and Odrisamer Despaigne entre otros.

Catcher: Yosvany Alarcon (LTU) 25 years old

1rs Baseman: José Dariel Abreu (CFG) 22 years old

2nd Baseman: Hector Olivera (STC) 25 years old

3rd Baseman: Yuliesky Gourriel (SSP) 25 years old

Short Stop: Alexander Guerrero (LTU) 24 years old

Jardineros: Alfredo Despaigne (GRM) 24 years old

Leonis Martin (VCL) 22 years old

Henry Urrutia (LTU) 23 years old

Yoennis Cespedes (GRM) 25 years old

Ramón Lunar (VCL) 23 years old

DH: Lerys Aguilera (HOL) 25 Years old

Pitchers: Vladimir Garcia (CAV) 22 years old

Dalier Hinojosa (GTM) 23 years old

Odrisamer Despaigne (IND) 22 years old

Onelkis Garcia (GTM) (L) 21 years old

Freddy Asiel Alvarez (VCL) 22 years old

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (LHB) 24 years old

Yadier Pedroso (LHB) 25 years old

Ismel Jimenez (SSP) 24 years old

Miguel Lahera (LHB) 24 years old

Noelvis Entenza (CFG) 25 years old

4. ¿Cómo difiere la formación de peloteros en Cuba con respecto a otros países como Dominicana, Puerto Rico o Venezuela?

Bueno en Cuba hay diferentes categorías. Existen escuelas llamadas EIDEs y ESPAs donde los atletas reciben educación en una sesión y en la otra practican deportes. La EIDE es para deportistas del 7 al 9 grado y la ESPA es para deportes entre el 10 y el 12 grado.

Existen un torneo juveniles de 15-16 años y 17-18 años.

El torneo principal es la Serie Nacional.

5. ¿Cuál es tu opinión acerca del enfrentamiento de los Orioles contra Cuba hace una década y la nueva posibilidad de otro enfrentamiento?

Bueno yo siempre he apoyado estos enfrentamientos porque demuestra que los jugadores cubanos pueden jugar de tú a tú contra la elite del béisbol en el mundo. Además, los jugadores cubanos tienen la oportunidad de hablar con un Alberto Pujols o Miguel Cabrera que seguro les dicen que tienen la calidad para jugar en GL.

En lo que no estoy de acuerdo es en que se firmen o se lleguen a acuerdo verbales entre M LB y el gobierno cubano para discriminar a los jugadores cubanos que escapan de la isla. El ex Gerente general de los Orioles Syd Thrift hizo algunas declaraciones después del primer enfrentamiento entre ambos equipos que dejaron muchas dudas en cuanto a los Orioles y sus políticas con respecto a jugadores cubanos exiliados. Si alguien desea más información puede hacer una búsqueda en la Internet acerca de este tema y se darán cuenta de este engorroso tema. Últimamente, los Orioles han firmado a varios exiliados como Danys Báez, Alberto Castillo y Michel Hernández pero han mostrado poco interés con jugadores recién llegados.

Estos acuerdos entre ligas existen también entre MLB y la Liga Japonesa. Pienso que es algo repudiable.

20 February 2010

Bad Idea Jeans: Orioles Hat

(HT PDog at Orioles Hangout)

Over at Lids.com they seem to pride themselves by having a wide array of hats in many different styles. One that caught attention recently was one of their Twins '47 Walker Caps. This cap "features an embroidered logo on the front, along with a year on the back that signify significant moments in that teams history."

Here it is:

The Orioles 1988 season is noted on the back of the hat. The significant moment is losing 21 games.

Who buys that?

18 February 2010

Hey Hey Kids, It's Matt Hobgood

Steve Melewski put out a couple posts yesterday that were focused on an interview with Matt Hobgood. As mentioned here and elsewhere earlier, Hobgood spent the winter at API getting in shape and working on nutrition. He mentioned that he is becoming more comfortable throwing a changeup, but it certainly sounds like a work in progress. That is to be expected. Early reports last year from Baseball America suggested that his repertoire flashed plus potential, but it is becoming more apparent that they misspoke or that they were focusing on his fastball and curveball. It makes sense as most high school pitchers are facing a level of competition where two excellent pitches can result in dominance. The biggest knock on Hobgood was that it did not appear that he had all that high of a potential and that his body and mechanics were so that there did not appear to be much more velocity he could add to his pitches.

What people have focused on though was this comment:

"About a week into API, I went with a company that delivers your food and was on an 1800-calorie per day plan. I did that plan for about a month."

Hobgood said he reduced his body fat from 22 to 17 percent, a nice reduction for about three months of work. Hobgood is 6'4", 245 pounds and he'll likely play at a similar weight this year.

"I didn't get to where they wanted me weight wise. I lost about 17 pounds of body fat and gained nine pounds of muscle. That's 26 pounds total if I had taken off that muscle.

I guess first off, I am very much confused by that last passage. Based on his statements it sounds like he was at 253 lbs and 22% body fat (56lbs of fat) and is now at 245 lbs and 17% body fat (42lbs of fat). I'm not sure you can just add and subtract fat and muscle like he did . . . but that really does not matter. What is noted is that at the end of last season Matt Hobgood was 22% body fat. That is news to me. Last summer, in response to fans concerns about Hobgood's conditioning, Orioles Hangout founder Tony Pente said that he was told that Hobgood's percent body fat was under ten percent. It was a suspicious statement as one could see from pictures that Hobgood was nowhere near showing off a six-pack, but I think most translated that to be slight hyperbole and that the true value was about 15% or so. It is also noted that he was able to slim down to 17%, which is a major drop. Or it sounds like a major drop.

Needless to say, Hobgood was not a popular pick by many. Although the Orioles say differently, it appears he was a signability pick that enabled Joe Jordan to go overslot for guys like Cameron Coffey and Micheal Ohlman as opposed to spending a couple million more on a talent that higher consensus appeal (i.e. Ryan Wheeler, Tyler Matzek). Hobgood then showed up to Bluefield out of shape, pitched relatively poorly, and spent time working on a changeup than showing off what he does best. Now, the current revelation fuels people's concern about his conditioning although the article appears fairly positive about his condition. Hobgood does appear to be taking nutrition and working out seriously. His one month on the 1800 calorie a day diet maybe taught him how to change his meals.

So what do all of these percentages mean? What is considered normal for an average person or an average baseball player?

Find out after the jump.

To remind you, Hobgood was at 22% at the beginning of the offseason and was able to reduce that to 17%. Here are the recommendations by the The American Council on Exercise for males:

Basal Fat: 2-4%
Athletes: 6-13%
Fitness: 14-17%
Acceptable: 18-26%
Overweight: 27-35%
Obese: >36%

Based on these values, Hobgood was in the mid-range for acceptable and slimmed down to the upper limit of fitness. Here is another scale, the United States Army has a program where "unfit" soldiers are required to change their lifestyle and diet if they are measured as having a fat percentage that is greater than what is permitted. It is age based and again these are the numbers for males:

Ages 17-20: 20%
Ages 21-27: 22%
Ages 28-39: 24%
Ages >39: 26%

If Hobgood had enlisted, he would have had to have undergone personal counseling to change his habits. He no longer qualifies at those levels anymore. The US Army would consider him fit. The Marine Corps is a bit more stringent and requires for Hobgood's age group to be below 18% and to never exceed 22%.

So all of this is interesting, but what about baseball players? Baseball players and their fitness is different than the average person or today's war fighter. The best I could find was Coleman and Lansky's 1992 paper Assessing Running Speed and Body Composition in Professional Baseball Players. This document present that average percent body fat with respect to different positions around the diamond. One would expect that fitness levels have improved since 1992, so these numbers may be different 18 years later. The averages are as follows:

Catchers: 9.7%
Infielders: 9.3%
Outfielders: 8.4%
Pitchers: 10.4%

Now, this looks incredibly dated to me. Baseball players back then were incredibly lean, so I hit the University Library and found Hoffman et al's 2009 paper: Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players. Here are the averages separated by level:

Rookie: 12.0 +/- 3.5 %
A Ball: 12.4 +/- 3.6 %
AA Ball: 12.8 +/- 2.9 %
AAA Ball: 13.7 +/- 3.4 %
MLB Ball: 13.8 +/- 3.0 % (which is similar to Coleman's 1998 study on a smaller population of MLB players which found 12.5 +/- 5.5 %)

What is interesting about these two papers is this. We can assume that the distribution of body fat amongst positions is the same as it was. Using this approach, we can modify % body fat by position and league. By doing this, we acknowledge that putting one percent body fat for all infielders and another for all outfielders is problematic as there are significant differences in body type and leanness between these positions. For use as an average and being interested in pitchers though, we think this is a fine approach. The limit of this approach then is obviously useful for pitchers and catchers . . . no other positions. So, the coefficient for use here would be 1.09 for pitchers. This would make the percent body fat chart look like this assuming the same standard deviation:

Rookie: 13.1 +/- 3.5 %
A Ball: 13.5 +/- 3.6 %
AA Ball: 14.0 +/- 2.9 %
AAA Ball: 14.9 +/- 3.4 %
MLB Ball: 15.0 +/- 3.0 %

So what does this all mean?

Hobgood probably should be identified as a Rookie level pitcher even though he will most likely be in A Ball this year. Rookie level is the most conservative estimate here, so this is what we will use. This gives us the following table assuming normal distribution.

2.2 % (-2 standard deviations) of Rookie level pitchers below 6.1% body fat
15.8 % (-1 sd) below 9.6% body fat
50 % below 13.1% body fat
84.1% below 16.6% body fat
97.7% below 19.7% body fat
99.8% below 23.2% body fat

Hobgood's weight appears to have been somewhat deviant based on what you would expect. It still is. If you count him as an A ball pitcher, about 84% of pitchers at his level have lower body fat. Count in his age, which is about a year or two younger than the others . . . and it looks a little worse for him. At 22% he would have been in the 99th percentile, which is great for the SATs . . . not so great for this metric.

That being said, he could be a player who has been largely ignorant of proper heath and fitness approaches. The Orioles and Hobgood both have it in their best interests to change his past behavior and this past offseason bodes well for him. He currently is not in a good position, but he is certainly much better off than he was. Conditioning is probably still a concern for him, but it is an issue that he is improving quite rapidly.

12 February 2010

Pelotero: An interview with one of the film's creators about baseball in the Dominican Republic

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I made Jon Paley's acquaintance over a year ago as he and his colleagues work on a documentary about amateur baseball talent in the Dominican Republic came to my attention. I found their work very impressive in terms of film aesthetics, but also in the subject matter. Although most baseball fans are aware of the major flow of talent coming in from the Dominican Republic, few actually know anything much about it. The whole industry is quite interesting and works in a way that is very different from what domestic talent experiences. Jon was kind to great us an interview with him, which is printed in its entirety after the jump.

Below is an excerpt from a rough cut of his film. Be sure to visit their site Pelotero: the Movie to see more videos, pictures, and lots of information. One very exciting part of their work is that they were able to cover Miguel Jean as he went through the process of undergoing age related issues and finally earning his first pro contract with the Minnesota Twins.

Click on the following link to read the full interview with Jon Paley.

Camden Depot: Could you introduce the film and describe how you have been able to acquire access to these prospects and any difficulties you have faced?

Jon Paley: Our film, titled Pelotero, tells the story of four Dominican ballplayers, ages 16-19, working day in and day out trying to get signed by an MLB team. We provide a complete look into their lives; at home, with their trainers, at MLB academies where they hold tryouts...everything. We bridge these intertwined stories with a look into how the system works to help give context to the characters and the odds that they face.

We spent 8 months down there which is a big reason why we were granted such amazing access. Scores of reporters and journalists make brief visits to the DR following scandals or hyped players but they never set up shop and try to learn what the motivations and consequences are behind the scenes. By showing up every day to the same fields and hanging around during practice, we gained the trust of trainers, and scouts.

Getting access to MLB teams academies could be a little trickier. Some teams were very receptive and gave us full access. Others were a little wary of having a camera crew hanging around.

We produced Pelotero independently under our company Guagua Productions, by myself, Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Casey Beck. We are all young, hungry, aspiring filmmakers who were looking for a story to tell and found that and more in the world of Dominican Baseball.

CD: How one becomes a buscon and the process of identifying and training players. What relationship does a buscon have with the estbalished academies, and what role does a buscon play in promoting his trainees?

JP: Quick clarification—the term ‘buscon’ has become something of a derogatory term implying corruption, lying and cheating. The majority of trainers in the Dominican Republic prefer the term 'entrenador' or trainer.

There is no barrier to entry to become a trainer in the Dominican Republic. The are thousands of trainers across the country ranging in seriousness and experience. Some begin grooming their sons or nephews in the streets and will hand that player off when they begin to show some promise, while others have neatly manicured complexes with state of the art facilities. Many of the thriving programs are run by ex-players who know how to teach kids, and who surround themselves with talented specialized coaches. Trainers will begin scouting players as young as 12, and enrolling them in their program. Trainers find players in two main ways. First, they maintain a close network with other coaches of little leagues for younger ages who will alert them to any special talents. Secondly, once a trainer is established within a community family members will bring their eligible players to try out. Spots in the better programs are highly desired and often competitive.

Every MLB team has a network of area scouts which travel the country scouting players. These scouts visit several programs a day looking for the best talent. If they like a player they will have the trainer bring that player to the academy for a tryout. The more experienced trainers have signed many players in the past and have close relationships with area scouts and academy directors. The better these relationships the easier time they will have getting attention for their players.

CD: What is the daily routine for an academy ball player as opposed to the daily routine for a prospect with a buscon? Are there differences in resources, amenities, equipment, etc.?

JP: The MLB academies are a huge step up for almost all players in the DR. They are equipped with perfectly maintained fields, experienced coaches, dormitories, nutritional food, and all the amenities one needs to stay focused on playing baseball. Very few independent trainers' programs can match this.

In the majority of programs, kids live at home with their families who may struggle to put food on the table. They will come to their field in the morning and do drills for 4 or 5 hours that focus on fundamentals: hitting, fielding, running, etc. In the afternoon they will continue with more drills or occasionally play an organized game against another program. Some of the better trainers' provide dormitories for the kids as well as food and equipment. Scouts are looking more and more for players with game experience and there is a growing trend for better trainers to emphasize playing games.

Within the academy the schedule is not too different. Players wake up early, practice for several hours, come in for lunch and to lift weights. In the afternoon they will continue with drills or a simulated game. In the summer there is a short season that pits academy teams against each other.

The main differences are the level of professionalism in the academies and the focus. In general the academies teach kids to play baseball while the trainers programs teach kids to excel at tryout skills (batting practice, 60 yard dash, fielding grounders).

CD: Do certain organizations have a reputation for being more friendly/accomodating/inviting for young Latin American players? Are there certain organizations that are viewed more positively than others? Negatively?

JP: Different teams in the DR have different ways of doing things. Some have nicer academies with better coaches, and others are seriously underfunded. One of the biggest disparities between academies is their focus and helping their players assimilate when they get to the States. Every academy is required to have an english program that teaches kids the language, and about American culture. These classes help players acclimatize when they get to the states and help them perform better on the field. Some teams do a far better job of this than others. The Rays for example have a complex system set up where they continue to have classes for Latin American players all the way through the Minors. In some other academies, the teachers barely speak english.

CD: Are families compensated in any way as a result of the academy/buscon/player relationship (monetary, employment opportunities, etc.)?

JP: When a player signs a contract with a team, the trainer will usually take between 30-35%. While this seems extraordinarily high Dominican trainers have far greater responsibilities than anything a coach in the States has. They often pay to house and feed the player for up to 5 years. They pay for the fields to practice on and the equipment to play with. They have a staff of specialized coaches. The expenses are indeed great, and for every player that signs the trainer is fronting the cost for 20 that don't. If the trainer brings in an American agent, a phenomenon becoming more and more common, the agent may take another 5-10%.

The remaining money goes to the the players family. The first thing nearly every player does is buy his mother a house. Its both a gift of gratitude, and a right of passage. For many players this may be their only payoff, so saving the money is crucial. Many trainers and teams provide financial advisers who will help their players families manage the money once they sign.

CD: What are your future plans for this film and beyond?

JP: We are still putting the finishing touches on Pelotero. We are currently fundraising to finish a re-edit of the movie. We will then being the lengthy process of submitting to film festivals and seeking distribution.

We also have plans to continue following several of the players form Pelotero. Miguel Angel Sano (now Miguel Jean) signed with the Minnesotta Twins for $3.15 Million, the second highest bonus ever paid to a Dominican prospect. We have been given access by the Twins to the academy and spring training facilities and will begin following Miguel's story again very soon. We hope to be able to follow him and our other characters all they way to the Majors.

If this is something that anyone out there is interested in seeing, please help make it happen and make a tax deductible donation to the project through our website: Peloterothemovie.com.

CD: I would like to thank Jon Paley for spending the time answering a few of our questions. This is a great project and I greatly anticipate watching this documentary. Be sure to check out the Pelotero site. There are more videos, pictures (those included in this post are from their site), and loads of information to digest. Very exciting.