NWSABR held a meeting Saturday, November 6 from noon to 5:00 at Seattle Pacific University. We had three member presentations and one local celebrity guest presentation.
Art Thiel of seattlepi.com, which now exists solely as a Web-based newspaper, was our special guest and first speaker. Art has been a columnist for the P-I for many years, and is the author of “Out of Left Field: How the Mariners Made Baseball Fly in Seattle.” He and Mike Gastineau co-authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports.” Art and fellow columnist Steve Rudman are currently preparing a new Web site called NW Sports Press (http://www.nwsportspress.com/). They expect the site to debut before the end of the year.
Art mostly talked about the Mariners and gave us some insight into the personality and character of the people who run the organization. He presented the opinion, expressed in a recent column, that the Mariners are following a good cop/bad cop trend in hiring managers.
Our guest told the history of the relationship between Chuck Armstrong and Ken Griffey, Jr. He believes Armstrong's lack of courage led to the unraveling of the 2010 season. If the M’s president had been willing to acknowledge that the former superstar had nothing left to contribute on the field, Griffey would not have returned for a second last exit. As a team leader in 2009, Griffey supported Wakamatsu. When Wakamatsu was forced to bench Griffey, the veteran soured. Thiel says many of his teammates turned against the manager in support of the popular faded superstar. He attributes Chone Figgins' disappointing first half and expressed frustration to trying to over-achieve to justify his big free agent contract.
After devoting a generous amount of time to his talk, Art answered many questions from members, and even stayed through a meeting break to continue the discussion and answer more questions.
Jeff Bower made the first member presentation. His entertaining and informative topic was “The Worst Offensive Teams since Expansion.” Jeff used advanced statistical analysis to rank each team in offensive ineptitude. He presented information about the top 10 in a countdown (or the bottom 10 in reverse order, depending on how you wanted to see it).
The 2010 Mariners were an obvious inspiration for the research, but were only the seventh worst team, according to his methodology. They weren’t even the Mariners worst offensive team; the 1983 team was worse. An early Blue Jay team was the most punchless team of the past 50 years.
John Henshell followed with the presentation, “Will Justin Smoak be a successful major league hitter? What history says.” He researched all players from 1973 through 2007 and found that Mike Schmidt was the only player to hit as poorly as Smoak (.209 in 235 AB at the time of the trade to Seattle) in his first extended shot in the major leagues who became a superstar, and Brandon Phillips is the only other player to become a star.
Only 18 rookies hit below .210 in the 35-year period, and only 102 rookies hit below .230. No one in the first group got his lifetime BA as high as .270, and only seven in the larger group got into the .270s. With the possible exception of five caught PED users who were excluded from consideration, none hit as high as .280. The median lifetime average for this group is .233. Two-thirds of all sub-.230 hitters were middle infielders or catchers.
Among other first basemen with low BAs as rookies, Greg Brock appears to be the most similar to Smoak. Jason Thompson is also very similar, and his career appears to be the best-case scenario for Smoak.
Following a discussion of chapter business and event planning, Mark Armour made the final presentation of the day. He discussed the building of the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. Mark presented a strong case that Bing Devine made all the best player personnel decisions for the eventual world champions, while everyone else in the organization with input or veto power made or would have made moves that would have hurt the team.
Our next meeting will dovetail with FanFest at Safeco Field. The event is scheduled for January 29, which the national office is promoting as SABR day in America. Then, we will meet in Portland February 19.