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Archive for the ‘SABR’

Masanori Murakami speaks at #SABR45

June 27, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, SABR

This year we have many distinguished speakers at the SABR convention, as usual, but one I did not want to miss was Masanori Murakami. “Mashi” as he is known, was the first Japanese player to appear in the major leagues back in 1964. He is the subject of Rob Fitts’ new biography (Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer) and they’re doing a nine-city U.S. tour, starting here, Boston Monday, and several cities in California including Fresno and San Francisco.

The program began first with a quick nine-minute preview of the film Diamond Diplomacy by filmmaker Yumiko Gamo Romer, which will be a documentary about “US-Japanese Relations Through A Shared Love of Baseball.” Tracing that relationship from Horace Wilson, who brought baseball to Japan in 1871 where he was a teacher until 1877. (Here’s an interesting NPR article and story about his descendants being invited to Japan in 2000: National Public Radio). I hope we will get to see the finished film at the SABR convention in 2 years?

Rob Fitts, for those who don’t know him, is a previous winner of the award for best presentation at a SABR convention (if I’m remembering correctly), and the author of Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and Assassination during the 1934 Tour of Japan, and a book about Wally Yonamine as well. After the film clips were done, Rob got up and narrated Mashi’s story, turning to the man himself to speak at various points to illustrate or explain various parts.

Here are some excerpts from the talk they gave:

Rob: As some of you know, in Japanese baseball the training is very infused with the martial arts. Sometimes to toughen up the players they were not allowed to drink water.

Mashi: We could not drink the water. But sometimes we would very quickly drink some water. You would go to pick up the ball and there would be the little bit of water with the baby moquitoes in it. [Puddles.] Sometimes you would put a towel in that water and (*slurp*).

Rob: As you saw in the film clip, the manager of the Nankai Hawks came to Mashi’s house when he was in high school and asked if he would sign a contract to play with the Hawks. Mashi said no, he wanted to go to college. But just as Manager Shuroka was about to leave, he said if Mashi would sign, that they would send him for training in the United States.

Mashi: My third year [in high school] in the summer time, Hawks manager came to my house. he said hey Mashi, please sign contract for my Hawks. But I said no, I want to go to college. But he said if you sign the contract, we will send you to the United States. So I changed my mind. I had seen Rawhide, Hollywood movies with John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, and I wanted to come over here.
(more…)

White Sox Player Panel at #SABR45

June 27, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, SABR

One of the highlights of today’s SABR convention was the White Sox player panel. I also think I saw the best two presentations so far of the convention today, as well, but I’ll try to write up research presentations later! Right now, here are a couple of the amusing anecdotes and funny stories told by the players to moderator Dan Migala.

The players were Carlos May, Ron Kittle, and Mike Huff. This is a bare fraction of the panel, because these guys talked fast and were packed with stories! Hopefully they captured video or audio of the whole thing for the SABR website because I didn’t manage to get down stuff like the time a family named their kid after Mike and much more.

white_sox_players_sabr45
Dan Migala: A lot of White Sox history in this hotel [thehistoric Palmer House Hilton]. Roland Hemond used to set up camp here. A lot of trades happened here. I think we’ll be adding to this legacy here today! Could you each tell me about coming to Chicago? Ron let’s start with you. (more…)

Women in Baseball Panel at #SABR45

June 26, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR, Women In Baseball

SABR’s national convention very often features a panel discussion on “women in baseball.” (I have spoken on the panel in the past.) The speakers vary from former female players in the All American Girls (AAGPBL) and Negro Leagues to current women trying to make it in baseball or in umpiring to writers, front office personnel, and wives. As moderator Leslie Heaphy put it, “We take the broadest possible view of women’s participation in baseball.”

With such disparate experiences, sometimes there is not a lot of direct back and forth between the panelists, but each one always has fascinating and insightful things to say about the game we love. So here I present a smattering of quotes from today’s panel. I didn’t come close to writing down everything that was said by everyone, so it’s only a pithy percentage of the complete experience. (You should all get to a SABR convention someday if you love baseball. No really.)

Today’s panel included:

  • Caroline Phillips from the Cubs — working on the premiere club seating/renovation development
  • Martha Jo Black from the White Sox — working in Fan Experiences (and btw Joe Black’s daughter)
  • Christy Spisak, player for the South Bend Blue Sox (all women’s team)
  • John Kovach: former chair of the SABR women in baseball committee, curated the Diamond Dreams exhibit, longtime coach and advocate for women’s baseball
Christy Spisak, John Kovach, Martha Jo Black, Leslie Heaphy, Caroline Phillips at the SABR 45 Women in Baseball panel

Christy Spisak, John Kovach, Martha Jo Black, Leslie Heaphy, Caroline Phillips at the SABR 45 Women in Baseball panel

Leslie opened by asking each panelist how they got their start in baseball. (more…)

SABR’s first rock concert! (I think)

June 26, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, SABR

bpballI’m here at the SABR convention in Chicago, and today we had a lackluster performance from the Cubs at Wrigley, but that’s okay, because the nightcap was the absolutely bang-up job by The Baseball Project. Has there ever been a rock concert at a SABR Convention before? We’ve had plays and theatrical productions, movie previews and premieres, but I don’t recall anything like this.

THE BASEBALL PROJECT is a supergroup of alt-rock veterans including founders Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, R.E.M.) and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3, Gutterball), drummer Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3, Zuzu’s Petals), and Mike Mills (R.E.M.). Also usually with the group is Peter Buck (also of R.E.M.) and some days their keyboard player is even Josh Kantor, the Fenway Park organist.

I’ve been to see a lot of aging alt-rock lately (I’m 48, remember–heck, this blog is now 16 years old) including bands like X and The English Beat, and recall that my first big stadium rock concert was R.E.M., Joan Jett, and The Police at Shea Stadium in 1985. How odd a coincidence to have seen Mike Mills at a baseball stadium when we were both so freakin’ young (it poured rain during R.E.M.’s set and so some of it we only heard from the concrete corridors inside Shea), and to now be taking a selfie with him and getting his autograph on a baseball at a baseball research convention.
(more…)

SABR 44 Ends With a Flourish: A Fantastic Time at the Ballpark

August 03, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Ballparks, Great Games, SABR

Today was the last day of the SABR convention in Houston. I think this might have been the best one I’ve been to since Boston in 2002, which was my first and therefore special. Every convention has had some outstanding things about it–Jim Bouton’s keynote in Seattle comes to mind–but this one was on a high par in every aspect. I didn’t see a single research presentation that I felt was a dud, and all the panels were top notch, especially since all the panelists were top notch.

But it was all wonderfully topped off today by the Houston Astros themselves. First they invited us into the ballpark for two last amazing panels, one with three former Astros–Alan Ashby, Larry Dierker, and Art Howe–and one with three members of the front office–Sig Medgal, David Stearns, and GM Jeff Luhnow. Those guys really hit it out of the park, figuratively speaking.

But then the actual young Astros hit it out of the park, literally speaking. We saw one of the most entertaining games of baseball imaginable. If you were going to take a person who didn’t know baseball to a game to show them how exciting and nifty it is, this one would have been a good candidate. Here, I made a list of awesome things that we saw in this game: (more…)

SABR 44 Research Presentations: Injuries, Surgery, and Drugs

August 01, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, SABR

These SABR researchers are sharp as tacks. Or maybe needles: the first three research presentations today were on surgery, injuries, and drugs. All of these are complex issues and of course each research presentation is only 20 minutes long, so you really only see the very tip of the iceberg on each presenter’s research. I urge anyone reading this who is interested in what you see to contact each researcher individually to find out more.

In this set:
Framing of Experimental Medical Procedures in Baseball, Coral Marshall
Just a Little Bit Outside…, Nicholas Miceli and Tom Bertoncino
Too Much, Too Fast, Too Young: Major League Baseball’s Struggle to Control Its Menacing Drug Problem, Joe Thompson

Under the cut: (more…)

Reid Ryan addresses #SABR44

July 31, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings, SABR

Here are my notes on the SABR 44 keynote by Reid Ryan in Houston. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Ryan you might have thought you were about to hear a speech by a dull front-office wonk. Savvy folks however might have realized that Ryan is a pretty big name in Texas baseball.

Houston Chapter President Bob Dorrill introduced the speaker with a recounting of Reid Ryan’s career and accomplishments, which are significant. Among other things he pitched for the Texas Rangers after graduating from TCU, was the founder of the Round Rock Express minor league team, and of course more recently has taken the job as president of the Houston Astros. He left it to Ryan himself to reveal to anyone not in the know that he also happens to be Nolan Ryan’s son.

What followed was an anecdote-packed recounting of some of Ryan’s favorite memories of the journey through baseball that led him first as a kid following his Dad from major league city to major league city all the way to what he’s trying to accomplish with Houston today. (more…)

SABR 43 Research Presentations

August 04, 2013 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Baseball Musings, SABR

After only making it to one research presentation yesterday, I hit three in a row today. I was too fatigued upon waking this morning to make it to the Media Panel. Having made myself rather ill last year by pushing too hard and doing too much (at all conventions, not just SABR’s), I made the decision to go back to sleep and hope that the audio or video of the panel will be online later.

Including yesterday, here are four of the RPs I saw:

* What About Solly Hemus? (Mark Armour)

* Analyzing Batter Performance Against Pitcher Clusters (Vince Gennaro)

* Baseball in the Age of Big Data: Why the Revolution Will Be Televised (Sean Lahman)

* Statistical Predictors of MLB Players’ Proneness to Long Hitting Streaks (Alan Reifman and Trent McCotter)
(more…)

SABR 43 Lunch Keynote with Larry Bowa

August 03, 2013 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

I couldn’t come up with a good way to transcribe the luncheon keynote and still eat lunch and have room for my computer, so instead I tweeted just some of the choice comments from Larry Bowa and his interviewer Barry Bloom from my phone! Here’s the text of those:

@whyilikebb So we have a pinch hitter for the keynote. The MLB rep (Rob Manfred who was supposed to, I guess is tied up with BioGenesis stuff? So we got Larry Bowa!

@whyilikebb Apparently Barry Bloom will actually be grilling Bowa for the talk. This should be good.

@whyilikebb But first a standing ovation for John Zajc, SABR’s former director, who is here. :-) (more…)

SABR 42 Panels, Morning of Friday August 2

August 02, 2013 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, SABR

Two panels this morning:
* Scouts & Front Office Panel
* Imagining Baseball Panel

Whew! Made it to the SABR Scouts panel! I was 5 minutes late thanks to loooong Starbucks line, but the panel were 5 minutes late starting. Perfect timing. (And the team at Starbucks was really crack, four on the register, including one just on pastry duty, and four baristas working the steam. I now have a Soy Green Tea Latte, Unsweetened, because you know I’m sweet enough.)

Now to the first panel. Here’s my transcript, typed on the fly as it went along:

SCOUTS PANEL

Barry Bloom presiding. Introducing the legendary Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks now, formerlyWhite Sox, etc), Tom Tippett (director of information for the Red Sox), and Ian Levin (who is in analytics for the Mets and now is doing more international stuff with them). Tippett is one of the instrumental figures in building the analytics approach for the Red Sox.

Bloom: Roland, what do you do as Special Assistant for the GM with the Diamondbacks?

Hemond: Well, I get to come to the SABR convention. (*big laugh*) (more…)

SABR 43 Thursday August 1 2013

August 01, 2013 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, SABR

Hello, my baseball-loving friends. I’m at the annual SABR national convention, where the presentations, research, connections, and interests run both wide and deep.

Unlike in some past years, where I’ve literally taken in 5-6 research presentations AND liveblogged the keynotes and panel discussions, this time I’m having to slow down a little. I was so tired this morning I had to sleep through the SABR business meeting and the keynote opening by Phillies CEO David Montgomery. (Fortunately for me, Montgomery’s speech can be heard live on SABR.org. The audio and a recap can be found here: http://sabr.org/latest/sabr-43-listen-phillies-ceo-david-montgomerys-opening-remarks).

The result was I started my day not with a brain-bending dose of stats or an eye-opening look at a sliver of fascinating baseball history, but with a bowl of crawfish ettouffee from Beck’s Cajun stand in the Reading Terminal Market, which is right across the street from the hotel. It was pouring down buckets, but I brought an umbrella with me!

I may have to accept the data that my umbrella-carrying habits are not, in fact, causal to the weather. Usually if I bring an umbrella it doesn’t rain, but if I forget one, we get poured on. This time I brought one and it poured, but the good news is… that meant I had an umbrella in the rain. The ettouffee was delicious and very filling.

Then I saw three presentations:
* RP06: Rube Waddell and the Great Straw Hat Mystery of 1905
* RP12: A Probabilistic Approach to Measuring the Excitement of Baseball Games
* RP14: Markerless Motion Capture Technologies For In-Game Player Performance Assessment
(more…)

SABR42 Day Three

July 02, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

The last three research presentation slots were on Saturday, along with the player panel, the reprise of the Case Competition winners from the Analytics Conference, and a bunch of committee meetings, as well as the Trivia Contest finals. (By all accounts the Trivia Finals were a blast–I followed them on Twitter from my room.) Between trying to sleep off my cold and publications-related meetings, I managed to miss just about everything Saturday except for the research presentations themselves:

Andy Andres: The Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Pitching
Heroes at the Mike: Baseball’s Longest Serving Broadcasters
Michael Humphreys: We Have Underestimated Fielding Value. A Lot.
(more…)

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SABR42: Day Two afternoon presentations

June 30, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

I saw five research presentations yesterday, one before lunch and four after, before it was time to walk over to the ballpark. On the slate:

Steve Steinberg: on the crazy end to the 1908 season for the Giants
Alan Nathan: what have we learned about bats (aluminum/wood) in 10 years
Mark Armour: on the history of artificial turf
Benjamin Wiggins: on DNA testing of prospects by MLB teams
Bryan Soderholm-Difatte: on just how much effect did the 1951 Giants spying help them?
(more…)

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SABR42 Day Two: John Thorn’s keynote speech

June 29, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

I overdid it yesterday. As I was posting my blog entries last night, my nose started to run and my throat started to hurt. Blame the freezing cold AC in the ballrooms. Blame Neal Traven: he came up to me in the bar last night and said “I have a cold.” More likely, the blame lies with the fact that I’ve been so overworked and underslept in recent months that every time I travel I can’t fight off whatever viruses I come into contact with.

The result was I slept through Terry Ryan’s GM speech this morning in an attempt to make myself functional for the rest of the convention. I got up in time to catch the first research presentation and then the awards luncheon, though. So… here is my writeup of John Thorn’s keynote speech.

John Thorn, who is one of SABR’s most distinguished members, was recently appointed as Official Historian of Major League Baseball, and was asked to give the keynote speech at the awards banquet at the convention. The topic he chose was SABR itself, or perhaps meta-SABR: nerdhood. (Nerddom?) A subject close to my heart, as just as the game of baseball is something more than a bunch of guys running around on grass, SABR is–socially and sociologically–something more than just a bunch of smart people who like numbers and letters.

I did not come close to capturing all of Thorn’s speech. Normally when doing the kind of note taking I do with simultaneous typing, I can capture up to 80% of what someone says. But Thorn is so articulate, and the logical threads of his thoughts carry through so long from paragraph to paragraph, that I would say this represents no more than 50% of it and I may have dropped some important connections. I think audio and/or video of it may be on the SABR website later for those who wish to hear the whole thing more accurately represented.

UPDATE: John has posted the entire “Nerd Manifesto” on his MLB.com blog! Check it out here:
http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/06/29/nerd-is-the-word/

Below I will excerpt just a few of my favorite quotes:

JOHN THORN:
“I like talking off the cuff, but I figured if I did that to you guys AND the lunch was disappointing, that would put the burden too much on the culinary side. So I did prepare a little talk just for you.” (more…)

SABR42 Day One: Afternoon Presentations & Knuckleball movie

June 29, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

SABR42 Day One: Afternoon

I saw three research presentations (out of four possible) this afternoon, and then went to meet up with my fellow panelists for the Women in Baseball panel, which I had the honor of speaking on. I can’t really blog that one since I was on it and couldn’t take notes! So someone else will have to write up what that was all about, haha.

This afternoon I saw:
Vince Gennaro: Value Strategies for Building A Roster
William Spaniel: The Fear of Injury, Explaining the Delay in Contract Extensions
David W. Smith: Shutting Down the Running Game by Limiting Steal Attempts

Here are detailed descriptions on each: (more…)

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SABR 42: Day 1 Morning Research Presentations

June 28, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

SABR42 Research Presentations: Day One, morning

Saw four sessions this morning:
-Herm Krabbenhoft on correcting the AL RBI records
-Steven Glassman on how the Hall of Fame selection process has changed
-Tom Harney on how the development of baseball since 1895 in Taiwan related to their national pride and politics
-Rob Fitts on the 1934 Japan tour of Babe Ruth, Moe Berg, and the All American team.

(more…)

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SABR42 Official Scorer’s Panel

June 28, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

(I was getting some hot tea since this one is back in the freezing cold ballroom. So I missed the first few sentences of introduction and Stew’s intro. This panel has David Vincent, Stew Thornley, and Gregg Wong, all of whom do scoring for MLB teams.)

Stew Thornley: This year they (MLB) got all the official scorers together in New York, which was great, and it’s all well and good to try to have more consistency. We watched 56 plays together that had been sent to the league office, 18 of them were overturned, and it was great to watch them all together. There was a lot of disagreement among us, which isn’t a surprise. There are a lot of plays out there that even with the push for consistency, there is still subjectivity. That needs to be accepted. There are going to be calls that could go either way. We call them fifty-fifties. We have very qualified people making those decisions. Those are the ones we get paid to make. (more…)

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SABR42 in Minnesota! Dave St. Peter, president of the Twins

June 28, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

Here I am in Minneapolis for the 42nd annual SABR convention. Let me tell you, I am glad to be liveblogging if for no other reason than my laptop is warm! And these hotel ballrooms are BLOODY FREEZING. I’m already wearing long sleeves AND a wool sweater.

I took copious notes during the business portion of the opening business meeting, but if you want to know what goes on at the annual business meeting of SABR, you will have to join the organization and show up. The one thing that was announced which I will mention here is that SABR has a new partnership with MLB Advanced Media, commonly known as MLBAM (pronounced “em ell bam”), the folks who run MLB.com. There will soon be SABR-branded content on MLB.com and more promotion and coverage of SABR’s annual conference and the Analytics Conference in Arizona in March. (Next one will be March 7-9, 2013)

Brenda Himrich is the current president of the Halsey Hall Chapter (for the next two days anyway), and also the wife of Stu Thornley. Both are longtime SABR members and were among the first two people I ever met at my very first SABR convention back in 2002. (Stu is the official scorer of the Twins and is a fixture in Minnesota SABR circles.) The session opens with her comments:

Brenda: I’ve been waiting for you all to get here for the past four years! What took you so long! (laughter) I look out over the crowd here and I see great intelligence, some of the greatest analytical minds here who can retain incredible amounts of information and trivia. Let’s face it, we’re all geeks, but now it’s cool to be geeks! But I want you to know it’s always been cool the be geeks in Minnesota. We’ve bragged for a long time that all our children in Minn. are above average and the most popular TV show is the Big Bang Theory. So welcome and feel at home!”

Coming up, the president of the Minnesota Twins. (more…)

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SABR 41: Final panel! Tommy Davis & Al Ferrara story time

July 10, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

The final event of the SABR convention was the player panel with Tommy Davis and Al Ferrara. (Del Crandall was unable to make it, because his wife fell ill.) This was one of the best “story time with former players” I can remember. Each of them had great stories to tell, and was very personable and.

The moderator opened the event by giving each of them the gift of some old scorecards that a SABR member had left for them, in which each of them had hit a home run. Both men were born in Brooklyn in 1938, and both played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (as well as other teams).

Both of them talked fast, and I only got down maybe half of what they said, but they told some great stories. Read on: (more…)

SABR 41: Day 3 research presentations

July 09, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: SABR

Some strange statistical anomalies show up in my SABR research presentation attendance this year. For example, somehow I ended up seeing everything in the Catalina Room and didn’t see anything in the Pacific Room. I also didn’t see anything on the New York Yankees except Herm Krabbenhoft’s one about correcting the RBI record for Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg. And I didn’t see any stats analysis until the third & last day of presentations, which is also unusual.

But that’s baseball, sometimes it just doesn’t go as expected.

Last night’s game at Dodger Stadium went in some ways exactly as expected For example, everyone was predicting a low-scoring game given that the Dodgers and Padres are both a bit anemic in their lineups this year. The score was 1-0. And that one run took three hits to bring in. And then there are the things no one expects, like the “closer” (Broxton is on the DL) Guerra coming in and loading the bases on a leadoff double and then two consecutive hit-by-pitches… and then wiggling out of the jam with two strikeouts and a line drive caught in center field.

Tonight we’re off to see the Angels and I don’t know whom to root for. My usual policy is to root for the home team whenever I’m not seeing the Yankees on the road, but I like the Mariners and I have never liked the Angels. I suppose I’ll see how I feel when I get there.

I saw four research presentations today. (more…)

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