So you’ve probably seen Chris Jaffe’s SABR recap already today. (You’ll see The Common Man in that first picture…if you know what a sliver of the top of his head looks like. He’s sitting directly across from Aaron Gleeman at the far end). But if you don't trust Chris (and why should you?) here’s what The Common Man thinks you missed out on if you didn’t attend:
- Terry Ryan – Ryan said a lot of things in his discussion that TCM doesn’t agree with about closers and about playing hurt, but Ryan also proved a warm and engaging speaker, and incredibly genuine while trying not to stray too far from his corporate-speak. He’s very self-effacing as well and blunt about the team’s performance in 2011 and 2012. He’ll receive next year’s Roland Hemond Award at SABR43
- Terrific Presentations – As much as The Common Man thinks he knows about baseball, there are so many stories and facts that he’s never come across. And probably never would without the tremendous presentations at SABR. Alan Nathan gave a tremendous talk about bat construction (which TCM didn’t attend, but which Bill recommends very highly). Robert Fitts’ video and photography from the 1934 MLB tour of Japan that made Babe Ruth a cultural icon in the Far East was incredibly entertaining (Robert’s got a book out on the trip, by the way). Mark Armour, who heads up SABR’s excellent biography project, gave a terrific presentation on the spread and development of artificial turf, and how (paradoxically) the more traditional-minded owners were the ones most eager to use it.
- The Perils of DNA Testing in the Dominican Republic – This was a presentation by University of Minnesota PhD candidate Ben Wiggins, which looked at how Major League Baseball and individual teams are conducting DNA testing on Dominican prospects to ascertain players’ identities and (perhaps in violation of US law) test for potential genetic problems. This is some serious Gattaca-level controversy, as it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on their DNA profile. It also speaks to the Wild West that has been the Dominican, which is being addressed in the forthcoming documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero, produced by Bobby Valentine and due to be released on July 13. We’ll have a review up on the film next week.
- Ping Pong with Rob Neyer – On a little-known 6th floor area of the hotel, we found a ping-pong table. The Common Man was victorious over Bill and Cee and thus claimed the title of Supreme Ruler of The Platoon Advantage for the next year. But TCM was also roundly defeated by both Carson Cistulli and Rob Neyer, though TCM demands a rematch at a future date after several months of intensive training. If you haven’t watched Rob Neyer and Carson Cistulli play table tennis into the wee hours, you haven’t lived.
- Official Scorers – There was a panel of three official scorers who discussed various plays, guys who tried to get them to change calls, and why they make the calls they do. If you ever think that an official scorer is being too lenient, this is exactly the kind of talk that can turn you around on the issue. Their stories of terrible and interesting plays was great (and their recall was tremendous) and it generated the line of the conference, as the “save rule” was rechristened the “didn’t totally shit the bed rule.”
- Old players – Because the Twins had a double header on Saturday, only Tim Laudner could show up for the players panel. But he was incredibly engaging before he had to leave early, far more entertaining and likeable than his on-air personality. Then Frank Quilicy, Bob “Rocky” Johnson, and Bill Davis told stories about their time playing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Davis was especially interesting, as he was a huge prospect and the first 1B in Padres history, but had his career derailed by an Achilles tear. He had great stories about playing for Warren Spahn and rooming with Lou Piniella at AAA.
- Drinking – SABR is kind of like Mardi Gras for baseball nerds. The Common Man was giving out beads whenever someone showed him their slide rule. Seriously though, it was a great opportunity to meet and get to know legends in our community. Guys like Neyer, Sean Forman, John Thorn, Dorothy Seymore Mills, Aaron Gleeman, Chris Jaffe, Steve Treder, and more. Also, Carson Cistulli was there. And people seem to like him.
- Lots of Baseball – Two games at Target Field for The Common Man, and a game back in Madison last night.
- New Friends – In addition to the people above, you missed out on coming to love TCM, Bill, Cee, Wendy Thurm, Colin Wyers, the impossibly young Jack Moore, Liz Roscher (of The Good Phight), Jeff Polman, Dianagram, newbie David Temple (@templedavid; follow him) and more who I’m missing.
So come next year, when we’ll be in Philadelphia. The Common Man needs more people to buy him beer.
Pitcher of the Night: Phil Hughes, 8 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 R
Hughes shut down the White Sox to drop his ERA to 4.29 on the season, and looking like he did two years ago. He’s gone eight innings in each of his last two starts, but those were against two AL Central teams, so we should probably only give him credit for half.
Hitter of the Night: Ryan Zimmerman: 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI
As of June 23, Zimmerman was hitting .218/.285/.305 and was looking horrible. In the last week-and-a-half though, he’s been raking at .378/.410/.730 with 4 doubles and 3 homers. He’s got a lot of work to do to dig himself out of this hole, but his mini-resurgence has been exciting to see. Remember when he was the most underrated player in the National League?
This terrific play down the line, and Frazier went 2-3 with a homer and 2 RBI too. He’s hitting .268/.337/.548 (132 OPS+) on the year.
Big Hit Base-running of the Night: Carlos Gomez
This was incredible. A great steal immediately followed by some Little League quality defense by the D-Backs.
Trade Bait of the Night: Carlos Marmol, 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K, Sv
Marmol is volatile enough that he’s unlikely to generate much in return, but surely the Cubs would want to move him if they can. He’s got a 3.65 ERA since May 30 with 18 Ks and 9 walks in 12.1 innings, so maybe Theo can find a sucker before Carlos implodes again.
Injury of Note:
Will Middlebrooks, hamstring
Oh, if only anyone had pointed out that Kevin Youkilis would have represented a great insurance policy in case of injury!
Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, 1-4, HR, 2 RBI
Hanley hit his first home run since June 3 in the Marlins’ 5-2 win over the phlailing Phillies, and is hitting just .259/.332/.449 on the year. That’s certainly better than last year, when back and knee problems hobbled him all season, but it’s becoming fair to wonder whether this is who Hanley is going to be going forward, and whether he’s actually going to be an asset at 3B.
Indians: Justin Masterson, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 2 R
Looking back, the heart of Masterson’s success last year was his lower walk rate (a career low 7.2%), particularly against lefty batters (5.3%). This year, Masterson’s back up to his career rates, and his performance has suffered accordingly. If he’s going to be successful going forward, he’s going to have to find the plate again, like he did last night in defeating the Orioles. Amazingly, Masterson has alternated between 0 and 3 walks in his last seven starts.
Orioles: Brian Matusz, 4 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 2 K, 5 R
Matusz, has allowed 22 runs in his last 22 innings over five starts and was sent down after this game. Is it fair to ask what the Orioles did to him? Probably not, but TCM’s going to do it anyway.
Rays: Ben Zobrist, 2-4, 2B, R
The Rays may be falling off the pace, but Ben Zobrist has been heating up. Hitting .199/.329/.377 through June 6, it seemed like this might be a down year for the Zorilla, but he’s hit .400/.500/.680 in his last 21 games with 7 doubles and 4 homers and is now at .256/.377/.462 and outpacing his excellent season last year.
Royals: Irving Falu, 3-4, 2B, 4 RBI
He’s 29 and has hit .285/.346/.366 over 5 seasons in the Pacific Coast League. But he’s hitting .321/.333/.434 in 56 Major League plate appearances (with just 1 walk), so he’s probably going to be the starter at 2B for the rest of the year. Hurrah. Johnny Giavotella weeps alone.
Twins: Trevor Plouffe, 2-4, 2 HR
Two more solo shots give Minnesota’s new favorite 18 on the year, including 13 just since June 1. He’s hitting .333/.395/.784 over that span.
Pirates: Clint Barmes, 2-3, R RBI
Nice game, but Barmes is hitting .204/.230/.307 on the year with a 49 OPS+. The Common Man thought this was a good signing at the time. Oops.
Angels: Erneto Frieri, 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K
Mr. Perfect has now gone 24.1 innings in LA without allowing a run, and has 42 Ks in 24.1 innings.
Padres and Rockies: Kip Wells, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 R; Drew Pomeranz, 6 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 R
Great games both, but both much less impressive when you take into account they were facing the Rockies and Padres respectively.
Giants: Melky Cabrera, 2-4, 1 RBI
At first, The Common Man thought Melky was a big All Star snub since he’s hitting .352/.394/.514 on the year (158 OPS+). But he was voted in as a starter. So it seems like we’ve all decided to take this seriously. Far, far too seriously.