Saturday, May 19, 2012

A night with Baseball Prospectus

So I don't spend a lot of time on Baseball Prospectus (BP).  However, I do follow Geoff Young (formerly of Ducksnorts) on Twitter, so when I saw some tweets to him about a BP event at the stadium I checked into it, and ended up signing up.

Well, the event was tonight.  And it was great.

We formed up (sorry - Navy term.  We stood around) at the Park Ave gate at 1645, and about 15 min later Joe Hamrahi arrived with the tickets.  After everyone had checked in and gotten their seats, we entered the stadium and were escorted to a small conference room above the concourse down the third base line.

There we had two question and answer periods.  The first was with BP staffers and included Dave Pease, Corey Brock (Padres beat writer for MLB.com), Geoff, Sam Miller, Stephani Bee, and Jason Martinez.  About 30 min in, Dan Evans entered the room; he had been held up in traffic trying to come down from LA.  Too bad on Evans being late; he was a dynamic personality in the room and I for one would love to pick his brain.

Oh, the questions.  The first one asked about why the Padres didn't sign Adrian Gonzalez, which was hilarious because Padres COO Tom Garfinkel walked into the back of the room right as the guy started asking it. Garfinkel's smirk was awesome, kind of a 'still gotta answer that question, eh' look.  Then the inevitable ownership inquiry.  In fact, that the 'move the fences in' question DIDN'T get asked was the surprise of the evening.

Joe H. jumped in with a minor league system comment, which led to a CBA question about how it will help the small market teams during the draft.  Miller's comments on how he believed it would help the small market clubs in the long run was interesting; new perspectives are always good.  Follow up to that was about high-end talent in the Padres system.

I think it was Brock who made the point about how bare the Padre system was 4 years ago in a discussion about organizational depth.  San Diego couldn't focus on the high risk, high gain players because the cupboard was completely bare.  They had to completely restock the system; when there's no one there you can't afford to take a big risk and be wrong.  Only now are the Padres in a position to start taking a chance on guys who could be gigantic stars but have some hurdles to over in the near term.

A player development discussion followed, then a 'does Josh Hamilton resign with Texas' question, and will the DH be required in the NL (most agreed it would).  Here Evans had some great points.  He thinks it a disadvantage for AL teams to play in an NL park.  First, they have to pull one of their main hitters out of the lineup.  They are also scared to death one of their starters will get hurt running the bases; starters take up ~60% of the team payroll and are hard to replace.  Just ask this year;s SD team.  He thinks it an advantage for an NL team to play in an AL park, because it's so much easier to add a hitter to the lineup than to take one away.

Most interesting to me, Evans believes NL managers are more push-button; that the game situation largely dictates when to take a pitcher out, double switch, and so on.  AL managers manage more by feel, because the pitcher never comes up so theoretically you could leave him in the game forever.  I should note that Evans grew up in the Chicago White Sox organization before becoming the GM of the Dodgers.  That might play a role in his thinking; but there is some truth to what he said.

Last question was on which fanbase should be more disappointed at this point in the season, SD or LAA?  Consensus - LAA.  Something about some guy named Pujols hitting less than .220.

After that question Garfinkel and Padres Senior Analyst Chris Long took the stage.  We only had about 35 minutes with the two of them, so not many questions asked.  But the ones that were focused on
  • how they got into baseball
  • any word on the sale of the franchise
  • lots of good info on the draft process
  • what is being done so all fans can see the team locally.  I finally had a question answered on MLB blackout rules - Major League Baseball doesn't drive them, the rules are written by WHO HOLDS THE TV RIGHTS.  We can't get the Padres locally via MLB Extra Innings because the network with local broadcast rights doesn't want us to. It's the same nonsense as why one can't watch a ML game via Extra Innings on Saturdays between 1000 and 1700.
Since all those questions were aimed at Garfinkel, he tried to bring Long back into the discussion.  Long made two comments - that college player analysis is an untapped area, and that there is original research out there to be done (it all hasn't been covered) - figure it out and do it.

That was it.  Great night.  We hung around in the conference room for another 10-15 min before they kicked us all out.  The missus and I never made it to our seats, but that's a story for another time (get your mind out of the gutter - we were engaged in conversation).  However, we were in the ballpark during the game on a night the Padres won, so that counts - my personal record now is 6-4 this season.  Or, look at it this way - San Diego is 5-12 when I don't attend.  I look forward to my season pass.

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