Tonight I put everything on the back burner and wallowed in a night of baseball geekdom. Yes, it was the annual pre-season visit to Politics & Prose bookstore by the editors of Baseball Prospectus. And it was a night of VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), BQS (Blown Quality Starts), BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and other incomprehensible acronyms and statistics. It was also a night for a long soliloquy by co-editor Steven Goldman on why the Yankees will be facing a huge decision in 2010 on Derek Jeter, when they predict his bad glove, age, slumping hitting, and a chase for 3,000 hits will all come together the year his contract expires. As they note,
…famous-player milestones sell tickets and merchandise, but as veterans of the Astros’ “Biggioquest ’07” can tell you, subjugating team goals to the greater glory of a fading star isn’t conducive to winning. By 2010, Jeter’s glove won’t play in the infield and his bat won’t play anywhere else. His 3,000th hit will have zero benefit to the winning effort.
As you can see, these guys aren’t afraid to make a prediction. In fact, its what they do very well. As the book cover screams, Baseball Prospectus ’08 correctly predicted the Rays franchise-wide reversal of fortune, the tumble of veterans like Tom Glavine, and the house of cards that was the 2007 Florida Marlins. As much as I enjoy reading the predictions, what I really love is the writing. Let’s give an example from our home-standing Washington Nationals:
Like the crystal egg from “Risky Business,” the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” the tablets in “The Ten Commandments,” or wind in a Kevin Smith movie, Nick Johnson always gets broken.
When I spoke afterwards with editor Clay Johnson and asked if there was anything to like about the Nationals, he said, “Well, I do like Jordan Zimmermann.” But everyone around me agreed that the Nats could blow it by making this pitching prospect throw 220+ innings. Given the Baseball Prospectus’ bashing of former Nats General Manager Jim Bowden (printed before his resignation), I suspect the editors would add that his replacement is likely to be an upgrade. And they like Manager Manny Acta (as do I) but worry that the Nats will never give him a team worthy of his skills. Let’s hope that the Lerners and Stan Katzan are reading Baseball Prospectus and are determined to prove the editors wrong. I hope so.
Check out the Baseball Prospectus website for stats, stats, and more stats throughout the year, and enjoy.
More to come…