Day 3 of SABR 38: Cleveland, the city that seems to sleep
by Bob Timmermann
The last day of SABR 38 has wrapped up for me. There are a few events Sunday, but I'm getting out of Cuyahoga County at 6:50 am as long as the air traffic control gods smile on me.
I spent much of today in research presentations, some of which were quite good and quite enlightening.
Bright and early at 9 am, I heard Jeff Katz speak about the series of trades that the Kansas City A's made with the New York Yankees in the late 1950s. Katz detailed the almost insectuous relationship A's owner Arnold Johnson had with the Yankees (Johnson actually owned Yankee Stadium before he bought the A's and he never officially got rid of it.) The A's would gladly take the Yankees older or less useful players (like Hank Bauer or Billy Martin) and give the Yankees players like Hector Lopez or Roger Maris.
Gil McDougald, many years after the fact, would tell an interviewer that he was happy when the Indians sent Maris to the A's because that meant Maris would soon join the Yankees.
Clete Boyer was another player traded to the Yankees from the A's even though the Yankees had scouted him, but they let the A's give him the big signing bonus and serve his apprenticeship on the KC bench instead of the the New York bench.
Following that was Phil Birnbaum's examination of the Hamermesh study. Hamermesh and three others were economists who issued a study last year stating that there was racial bias among umpires in baseball. Namely, umpires favored pitchers of their own race in games that were not supervised by Questec and had a low attendance.
Phil showed that there were quite a few problems with the study. The most salient point he had was that the authors of the original study assumed that every umpire was biased in exactly the same way. You can find Phil's work at his website.
Chris Jaffe spoke about managerial tendencies. I would assume that his work will appear in part on Baseball Think Factory. The computer working Chris' PowerPoint went out in the middle and Chris did an admirable job of continuing on until it got sorted out.
The morning session concluded with Steve Treder (of the Hardball Times) speaking about the life of "Trader" Frankie Lane. Lane made a big splash with the White Sox in the 1950s and quickly established himself as a man who would trade anyone at anytime for anybody. For the most part, Lane was not successful. But he still managed to work for the White Sox, Cardinals, Orioles, and Brewers (and possibly a few others). Lane's most infamous deal was trading Cleveland hero Rocky Colavito to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn. It didn't work out.
Steve had this line attributed to Lane (language warning), "Sympathy can be found in the dictionary in between shit and syphilis." Seven people attended Lane's funeral. One of them was Bobby Bragan, who hated Lane, but Bowie Kuhn made him go.
The late afternoon had a pair of big presentations.
The first was from Dave Smith of Retrosheet. He continued speaking about his earlier work on the importance of strike one. Dave looked at all types of strike ones (swinging, called, and foul) and how players eventually fared after that. The lesson from this: if a batter swings and misses at the first pitch, he's pretty much doomed. Dave's paper should appear soon on the revamped Retrosheet website.
Although this isn't a great photo, here is a shot of Dave:
Dave's Dodger jersey is not one you can buy at a store. The Dodgers gave him an actual Dodgers jersey customized with his age (which I won't say, but no current Dodger wears that number) on the back.
Dave's talk also looked at other counts and I learned that if a batter takes a ball on a 2-2 count to make the count 3-2, the advantage shifts dramatically in favor of the batter than it was at 2-2.
None of these effects may be noticeable at the game level. Dave looks at THOUSANDS of games over several decades.
Finally, Dick Cramer and Pete Palmer, who posited almost 30 years ago that there was no such thing as a clutch hitter and that hitters perform the same in all situations, reconfirmed their study in reaction to Bill James' proposition that there may just be such a thing as clutch hitting. But as the post below noted, the clutchiest hitter since 1957 was Scott Fletcher (others in the top 10 included Jose Uribe and Nellie Fox), while the least clutch hitter was Richard Hidalgo (with guys like Manny Ramirez also showing signs of unclutchiness).
Finally, Phil and I went out to forage for a real meal in Cleveland. We ended up at an inexpensive pizza place near the hotel. I got a pizza called "The Clevelander" which was supposed to reflect the cultural diversity of Cleveland. It had pepperoni, sausage, pastrami, and onions. Make of that what you will.
It was still early so Phil and I headed to a nearby mall food court to look for some ice cream. Except we got there after 7 pm. And it was all closed. But I enjoyed my 3 Musketeers bar from the gift shop.
And tomorrow is a chance to rest up I hope. And I'm in Group A on both of my Southwest flights! Woo hoo!