Friday, October 31, 2008

Essential Influences on Baseball Thought

I am a huge Seattle Mariner fan.  Recently, the team has been woeful, and many of the solutions the franchise has tried have backfired immensely.  During the anomaly that was the 88-win 2007 season, I got excited about the Mariners contending.  I had recently embraced TrueHoop, an NBA blog, and was learning quickly that ESPN and the mainstream print media are not the only ways of following a team (ironically, TrueHoop, the site that initially alerted me to the knowledge bloggers bring, only came to my attention when ESPN began hosting it).  In reality, especially in baseball, these mainstream media sources can be woefully ignorant of new, more effective analysis.  As I spent my 2007 summer following the Mariners, I started looking for better coverage than I was getting from ESPN and Southern California media.  I found U.S.S. Mariner.  It is easily the best, most comprehensive coverage of a specific topic I have ever encountered in my life.  The primary writers, Dave Cameron and Derek Zumsteg, have embraced sabermetrics and their applications in baseball.  For those unaware, sabermetrics is the use of statistical analysis in baseball evaluation, beyond the tradtional statistics such as batting average, RBI, ERA, etc.  They brought to my attention the (now) obvious fact that defense is important, as saving runs is as beneficial to winning as scoring runs.  I will probably create some sort of primer on the importance of sabermetrics in baseball that includes a definition and a limited history of the field, but essentially, U.S.S. Mariner and their allies in the Mariners blogosphere represent the next phase in the Moneyball era.

Anyway, U.S.S. Mariner ensnared me with its criticism of Jose Vidro.  I had felt the entire season that he was not hitting as well as his traditional numbers bore out, and Dave and Derek agreed.  I kept returning, eventually read the USSM Orientation materials, and ended up over at Lookout Landing.  Now, when I say that U.S.S. Mariner is the best coverage of a specific topic I have ever encountered, a significant amount of that credit goes to the community that regularly reads and contributes to the site.  U.S.S. Mariner is the only blog that I can read through the comments section and not feel dumber, as ignorance is not tolerated.  Aiding this is the presence of an extremely educated group of contributers, several of which are the operators of Lookout Landing.  Lookout Landing may feel more like a fanboys blog, but the content is extraordinary.  The guys at LL are phenomenal at statistical analysis at its most basic level: creating the statistic.  The staff of LL essentially created one of the most accurate measures of pitching available in tRA (and tRA*).  Browsing these sites eventually led me to FanGraphs, which Dave Cameron of USSM and Matthew Carruth of LL write.  FanGraphs is probably the most useful and fan-friendly stats site around, and the writers do a great job of posting interesting and concise entries on a wide variety of topics within baseball.  FanGraphs, more than anything, has helped me understand alternative methods to results based analysis.

The sites I described form the basis for my understanding of baseball beyond the traditional model perpetuated by ESPN and the rest of the traditional media.  They by no means represent my only influences.  Take a look at the links I have posted in the sidebar.  A pretty large amount of them are dedicated to the Mariners.  Most of the Mariners blogosphere has embraced sabermetrics.  However, each blog has its own specialty.  USSM has an incredible ability to take a complex problem or idea (such as win values) and present in easy to grasp, everyday terms.  LL is incredibly statisticaly proficient and posts at a higher frequency than most.  Prospect Insider is Jason Churchills prospect blog, using his experience as a scout to evaluate Mariners prospects.

If you are interested in my baseball thoughts, then start at USSM with their orientation materials.  If you enjoy it, check out a few of their posts or head over to Lookout Landing.  You might be intrigued.

Mariner Link Roundup

  • Jon Shields wonders if Zduriencek is going to try to bring in JJ Hardy amid rumors he is being shopped.  As long as its not an Adam Jones style disaster, I'm a fan (Bleeding Blue & Teal)
  • Official site article on Justin Thomas (Official Site)
  • Mel Stottlemyre wants to stay with the Mariners.  Only if he promises to end his obsession with "establishing the fastball."  (Official Site)
  • Ibanez, Cairo, and Bloomquist file for free agency.  Mike Morse was added to the 40-man roster.  Get Morse out of the organization.  He can't hit.  He can't field.  He took steroids.  He is injury prone.  What are his positives? (Seattle P.I.)
  • Larry LaRue on Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariners Insider)
  • USSM on Griffey (U.S.S. Mariner)
  • Beyond the Box Score finds that Adrien Beltre was the fourth most valuable third baseman of 2008.  Please stay.  We need you Adrien. (Beyond the Box Score)
  • Are the Mariners going to make a play for Hank Blalock? (Bleeding Blue & Teal)
  • Dave Cameron lists some free agent bargains (FanGraphs).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mavericks Game #1 and Tom Ziller

Just got back and there are about 3 minutes to go, not looking good for the Mavericks...and thats it.
Aaron Brooks can score.  Damn.  Looking at the box score, Carlise wasn't lying about running, the offense looks great, especially Dirk and Josh Howard.

About Tom Ziller, he is one of the smartest writers in basketball.  I have had debates with Laker fans (I go to UCLA) about whether Ron Artest represents fair value for Lamar Odom.  Their argument always centered around Lamar Odom not fitting in with the Lakers because he needs the ball.  However, if this is the contention of Laker fans, Ron Artest would fit even worse with the Lakers.  Odom needs the ball to be effective, but he does not demand it.  He recognizes that despite his talents on the ball, he is not Kobe Bryant.  Ron Artest is more effective when the offense does not run through him.  However, he demands the ball.  He does not recognize when his team is better served by him playing a secondary role on offense.  Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse and Sactown Royalty (one of my favorite NBA blogs) spent an entire season pointing this out.  Despite the presence of Kevin Martin, one of the most efficient scorers in the league, Ron Artest repeatedly would operate outside the offense and act as the focal point.  Now, how does this relate to tonight?  With about three minutes to go in the 4th quarter, Ron Ron waved of Rafer Alston and isolated himself on the perimeter while Yao battled Erick Dampier for positioning.  Artest took a contested three.  It went in, the Rockets went nuts, and it was essentially the final nail in the coffin for the Mavs.  The fact that it went does not excuse Artests actions, however.  One of the main things that I have learned since I started following baseball more closely is the folly of results based analysis.  Let's say that I have a test and am given three potential essays to study for.  I choose to study for only one.  When I get the test, that essay is the one I am given.  Does that mean my method of studying is correct?  Ron Artest initiating the offense instead of Rafer Alston or T-Mac is not the most effective offense Houston can run.  The fact that he made that three does not prove otherwise.  I have gotten way off topic, and I feel like I am driving a point home that does not need to be, but I have heard defenses of Artest as a potential member of the Lakers far too many times, plus it was a chance for me to plug Tom Ziller, who is without a doubt one of my favorite writers in basketball.

Now, the real question: where was Gerald Green?

Welcome to Mariner Maverick

Welcome, my name is Alec, and I am a die hard fan of both the Seattle Mariners and the Dallas Mavericks.  An odd combination, I know, but I follow them both religiously.  While my fandom for both is equal, I am at heart a basketball fan, and I feel much more comfortable making observations and comments on the NBA than I do on the MLB.  In light of this, my content will initally contain more analysis of the Mavericks.  I will use the blog to create link roundups of the Mariner blogosphere (the most knowledgable community I have come across in any sport for the most part), and voice my inexpert (and generally superficial) opinions on what has recently been one of the worst run franchises in sports.  As I begin my blogging, my posts will focus on the Mavericks (convenient as the season is just beginning, but I will try to expand my horizons.


Oh, and I will have more posts writing about other blogs and/or writers who influenced me/I respect.