Thursday, December 28, 2006
As you can probably tell, this is a blog devoted to the Philadelphia Phillies with a real sabremetric perspective. Sabremetrics is the name given generally to the study of baseball stats, a following that has existed for some time (really, back to the foundations of the game…), but more recently was popularized by the work of Bill James, the author of the Baseball Abstract during the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently the author of The Bill James Handbook and several other books and articles about baseball. SABR means Society for American Baseball Research, so the study of Baseball stats has been called Sabremetrics.
I got started doing A Citizen’s Blog in the Spring of 2004. I was wrapping up my law school studies and I took a class on Legal Research. One of the classes was devoted to legal research on the internet and my professor mentioned that one of the emerging areas of legal research were blogs, people with legal knowledge posting thoughts and ideas on blogs for all of the world to see. Rather than create a blog devoted to the law – that’s my day job, what I do to pay off my extraordinary school loans – I elected to set up a blog devoted to the Philadelphia Eagles. At the time I was very excited about the Eagles direction: they had just signed Jevon Kearse and T.O. and seemed poised to really do something in 2004. Thus, The Bird Blog was born.
The problem with The Bird Blog is that during the NFL’s off-season there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can blog about other than comment on the multitude of “T.O. loves Philadelphia and Donovan McNabb” stories that I feared (accurately) would look ironic in the future. Bored with that, I started A Citizen’s Blog, my Phillies blog. The name was an attempt, largely unsuccessful, to riff on the Phillies new stadium. I’ve been doing this ever since, aside from a break I took from August of ’05 to March of ’06 when I felt very worn-down and needed a break.
Baseball is a great subject to blog. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, noted in his recent book The Blind Side, that football doesn’t lend itself well to statistical analysis because it has eleven guys acting in concert, so there are so many variables in play that assigning credit or blame to a single player is nearly impossible because what you do and how successful you are at it depends on the ten guys around you. Baseball is simpler. When you hit you have a concrete, finite outcome to your At-Bat which helps us figure how you helped or hurt your team. When you pitch, same thing, although it is a little more complex. When you field, same thing, although that is much, much more complex. Baseball is a sport of individuals playing as a team. Football is a pure team sport.
So baseball stats are what I talk about. I’ve been interested in them all of my life, since I began scribbling on a piece of paper trying to assemble the “ultimate” team. I’ve decided to devote my energies to the Phillies because they are my favorite team and at the time there was little out there. The only other team that I really follow is the Oakland A’s, and there are dozens of blogs out there giving you better information and better ideas about the A’s than I could provide. When I began with the Phillies I was one of a handful of bloggers talking about the Phillies. Since, the number of Phillies blogs has metastasized. I’m no longer the only, or the best, game in town. My claim to fame is that I was one of the first.
My goal is basically to look at information and seek to show people little-discussed or thought about pieces of the game. “Here’s why so-and-so is struggling/succeeding.” The particular niche I’ve tried to carve out for myself is that I love to talk about fielding stats and discuss how fielding impacts the Phillies. With Aaron Rowand’s struggles, this is a very interesting and exciting area of Phillies baseball to talk about. As I noted above, fielding is a very difficult subject to talk about. Bill James himself has likened hitting to a solid, pitching to a liquid and fielding to a gas. Fielding is the hardest and most difficult subject to isolate and discuss. This is the subject I’ve sort of hung my hat on.
I have a lot of passion and memory for the game. I went to Steve Carlton Night with my grandfather in 1989, then afterwards I went to the Geno’s and got a true Philly cheesesteak for the first time, one of my favorite childhood memories. I loved going to games with my dad, who took me at least once a year every year of my childhood, watching the Phillies surrender massive 400-foot home runs to Barry Bonds. When I was twelve and thirteen I used to spend summer nights listening to Harry Kalas narrate the Phillies latest debacle, as they stumbled to their usual sixth-place finish. Those are the sort of memories you never forget.
A couple of notes: I grew up in Chester County, so I am from the Philly region. I went to Downingtown High School (now Downingtown East and Downingtown West) and graduated in 1995, but I moved away to go to college and have since stayed in the Pittsburgh region because my wife is a Pittsburgh native. I work as a prosecutor in Pittsburgh. My family still lives in the Philadelphia area, although my parents now live in the Oxford area, in beautiful Elk Township. I am still a Philly fan, which is easy to do during baseball season because nobody in the Three Rivers area cares about the Pirates, but tougher to do in the Fall when people start obsessing about the Steelers. But I am a Philly sports fan. And I will be ‘til the day I die.
That’s it, that’s what this blog is all about. If you need/want to contact me, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always available to share my thoughts. If you have a blog and want it featured, give me an email and I’ll scope you out. Until then, thank you very much for visiting.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Back to baseball ... the Phillies have been mildly busy this Holiday Season:
-First the Phillies brought aboard Jayson Werth, who did not play in 2006 for the Dodgers, to solidify the outfield. Initially looking at Werth’s .338 OBP I wasn’t impressed, but I changed my mind when I saw how many pitches Werth took per plate appearance in 2004 & 2005: 4.3 & 4.6. He displayed some power in 2004 and can play all three outfield positions, so he’ll make a nice bat off the bench and insurance policy in case Aaron Rowand runs through another wall in 2007.
-With Werth on the roster and the Phillies fifth outfield position seemingly a battle between Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn, Jeff Conine became expendable, and thus was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for Brad Key and Javon Moran, two minor leaguers. I can’t say what I think about Moran and Key’s prospects for making the Phillies, although I note that the Phillies are in need of some help with position players in their farm system these days.
-Finally, the Phillies brought aboard Rod Barajas to be their primary catcher in 2007, a deal that leaves me profoundly impressed. This guy’s OBP for the last three years has been .276, .306 and .289. He’s got some power in his stroke, but he’s about three-to-four times more likely to strikeout than to get a walk. Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste played well as a platoon in 2006, so let’s hope that Barajas doesn’t monopolize the playing time.
Alright, tomorrow I have a post and then I leave for the rest of the week for New Year’s.