Writing the Book (17 Nov 08)

Some friends of ours lent us their Wii, so we’ve been playing Guitar Hero in the evenings. I’d heard about it for years but never tried it, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Although it’s not the same as playing an actual guitar, many of the same skills — ability to keep rhythm, anticipate the next note while focusing on the current one, etc. — are required. I can’t see myself ever getting hooked on the game, because after a while it starts to feel like rehearsal, but it is a surprsingly good simulation.

I also did a lot of walking this weekend. Four miles to Teri Cafe and back (with a long rest in the middle for sushi) on Saturday, five around Miramar Lake on Sunday. No pain in hip, no pain in knee. My legs haven’t felt this good since the ’90s. It’s kinda freakin’ me out, but I like it.

Anyway, enough of my showing off that I have some semblance of a life outside of baseball. I did manage to get a lot of work done on the book this week. I’ve received some feedback on the Player Dashboards chapter as well as the 1969 chapter (tentatively called “Hatching a Franchise,” which may be too eggy, or maybe not). Most has been positive, which pleases me, but some areas that could be improved also have been identified, which also pleases me because — well, better now than later.

As for the writing itself, I’ll be immersed in the Padres farm system for the next few weeks. I’ve done some preliminary background work on each of the minor-league teams and the leagues in which they play. I’ve also started on the player commentary section, which will make up the bulk of the chapter. Each position will begin with a depth chart, ordered by level, age, then year acquired/round drafted. For example, here’s what the catcher chart looks like:

Catcher Depth Chart
Name 2008 Level 2009 Age Acquired
Colt Morton AA 27 2003, 3rd round
Jose Lobaton AA 24 2002, free agent
Mitch Canham A+ 24 2007, 1st round
Luis Martinez A 24 2007, 12th round
Adam Zornes A- 23 2008, 7th round
Logan Gelbrich A- 23 2008, 35th round
Emmanuel Quiles A- 19 2007, 6th round
Robert Lara R 22 2008, 19th round
Hans Wilson R 18 2008, free agent
Others: J.D. Closser (FA), B.J. Dubarry, Barry Gunther, Clinton Naylor, David Parrish, Wary Polanco, Jhonaldo Pozo, Maykor Rojas, Ali Solis, Matt Stocco, Shawn Wooten (FA)

The “Others” category is pretty nebulous. Generally I’m using 100 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched as the cutoff, but I’m giving myself a lot of leeway if I think someone is or isn’t worth mentioning. For instance, it would be ridiculous to exclude guys like Allan Dykstra and Logan Forsythe, to say nothing of the international signings. These players are in the organization’s plans and you need to know about them.

That said, not everyone listed in the depth charts will have commentary; I’m saving those for the top 80 or so players in the system. So far I’ve gotten through the second basemen, with commentaries on Jose Lobaton, Mitch Canham, Emmanuel Quiles, Kyle Blanks, Dykstra, Felix Carrasco, Matt Antonelli, Eric Sogard, and the intriguing Jorge Minyeti (who walked in 22.3% of his plate appearances as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League; even for skeptics of Rookie Ball numbers, such as myself, that is impressive).

This week I hope to get through third base and shortstop, maybe start on the outfield so I can concentrate on pitchers over Thanksgiving in Hawai’i. I’ve also got a few other projects on the plate right now: I’m working on a piece about Ted Simmons and assembling my chapter of The Hardball Times Season Preview Book, plus — oh yeah, the day job. We’ll see how it goes…

Research Notes

The book is going to have lots of tables and charts. Shock, I know, but this may be my favorite:

Padres Minor-League Affiliates Walks Drawn Per Game, 2008
Level Team League BB/G Rank
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
AAA Portland Beavers PCL 4.22 1/16
AA San Antonio Missions TEX 4.19 1/8
A+ Lake Elsinore Storm CAL 4.28 1/10
A Fort Wayne Wizards MWL 4.15 1/14
A- Eugene Emeralds NWL 5.05 1/8
Rk AZL Padres AZL 5.84 1/9
Rk DSL Padres DSL 4.97 5/37

Welcome to the organizational philosophy…