Can you feel it? Pitchers and catchers report today (spring roster). What can we expect in ’07? A couple of articles this morning may hold some clues. Hint: throwing strikes is good.
First, the guys at Gaslamp Ball continue their interview with Paul DePodesta. Among many other things, DePo talks about how difficult but important it is to measure defense:
I think there is a lot of work being done in general with defensive metrics. I don’t think there are any that people are perfectly happy with. There is a lot more subjectivity with defense. It’s also just a lot tougher to measure. The primary reason being, as of right now, we can’t measure where every single player starts. So just measuring ultimately the outcome deprives us of the beginning context of the play, which is critically important if you are going to use it as a reliable metric. So we’re all going to keep trying because it is a critical element of the game and can’t just be overlooked.
This goes hand in hand with something DePodesta mentioned in Part 1 of the interview, that rotation newcomers Greg Maddux and David Wells “force contact.” We’re basically looking at the Minnesota Twins model here: Get pitchers to throw strikes and put your defense to work.
Another point DePodesta makes relates to innovation, which is paramount to the success of a “small-market team”:
We certainly don’t want to be behind the curve, but we also more importantly and more positively, we want to be on the cutting edge as much as we can. Sandy has a reputation and history of being on the cutting edge.
That last sentence is an understatement. Sandy Alderson was reading and applying the wisdom of Bill James back when most baseball folks thought James was a nutcase.
I also love DePo’s eloquent reminder of baseball’s appeal:
We know we don’t have this game figured out. That’s kind of the beauty of baseball is that we know we never will.
Can I get an amen from the congregation?
Meanwhile, over at the U-T, the emphasis on “throwing to contact” also turns up in Tom Krasovic’s article. One area where the Padres have been able to gain a competitive advantage in recent years is through building a cheap but effective bullpen. Here’s a great quote from GM Kevin Towers:
With relievers, it’s easier to get somebody who is on the rebound, if you identify the right type of pitcher.
Did you notice the way Towers just slipped “if you identify the right type of pitcher” in there like it’s no big deal? Folks, that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
Spring training begins now. Yeah, I think I can feel it.
. . .