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Thursday, June 29, 2006

SABR36 Day 2: Afternoon and Evening

Well, after taking a look at the fine display of northwest baseball history and perusing for more books, I took in four more talks in the afternoon.

First up was Vince Gennero who has done some fascinating analysis in quantifying the dollar value of a player to a team, work which he talked about in his articles earlier this year on The Hardball Times. In epitome Vince found that the there is a significant variation in the value of a win by market and team and that as you might imagine generally speaking the wins from 70 to 98 have the largest impact on revenue and the value of a player to a particular team.

I then wandered over and listened to Bill Gilbert discuss the ins and outs of salary arbitration. Gilbert has worked for Tal Smith on the arbitration process and attended 15 or so hearings over the years. He views the system as essentially a positive and constructive one for both sides and noted (using a real overhead projector and transparencies I might add) that the use of arbitration has steadily declined over time to the point where just 6 cases went to a hearing in 2006. The winning percentage of the players has also decreased over the years as well.

1980-1992 45%
1993-2001 37%
2002-2006 31%

What I found interesting was how he illustrated the process by using the salary history of B.J. Ryan, Washburn, and Michael Barrett and showed how a player's salary can go down by being non-tendered as Barrett was in the 2003-2004 off season. He also noted that about half the cases are settled right at the midpoint with the majority of the remainder settled below the midpoint. Gilbert was also quick to point out that although arbitration can often be a painful process for the player, at least on the cases he's been a part of, management goes to great pains to try and make their case without demeaning the player.

In between sessions I was able to meet Aaron Gleeman, Steve Treder, Jay Jaffe and Chris Jaffe among others whose writing and work I appreciate.

From there I took in Mike Carminati's (of Mike's Baseball Rants) presentation on the history and impact of relievers. The talk was quite comprehensive and included more data than you can shake a stick at compressed in the 30 minute format allowed for speakers. In the end he concludes that Hoyt Wilhelm, Mariano Rivera, and Goose Gossage were the best relievers of all time in terms of saving runs. He also had some recommendations based on his analysis on how to change the save rule and to consider some relievers of the past for possible Hall of Fame induction. Interestingly, he also contends that the modern reliever was born on August 19, 1978 when Bruce Sutter gave up six earned runs in 2.7 innings and from that point to the rest of the season was ineffective. The next season he was used in a closer role albeit one not as restrictive as the post-modern closer role ushered in by Dennis Eckersley and Tony LaRussa in the late 1980s.

Finally, Phil Birnbaum the editor of SABR's By the Numbers newsletter had a nice presentation on how players perform in their free agent year. In the end he concluded that statistically speaking there is no evidence that a player entering their contract year performs differently than they would be expected to based on their previous and future performance using an algorithm Phil developed for his talk last year on luck.

Oh, and Maury Brown did a fine job on his talk on the upcoming CBA while I waited in the wings to address questions related to the competitive balance study I did earlier this year for The Hardball Times.

After the talks were done we headed down to a store near Pioneer Square called Ebbet's Field Flannels where they make vintage jerseys and caps from the minor and negro leagues and over to Elliott Bay Books where several authors including Jeff Angus and Rob Neyer were discussing and signing books.

It was a great day and am looking forward to tomorrow with the Pilots panel, more committee meetings, and the Rockies/Mariners games.


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