By Mike Viso | @MikeViso |
Big Leagues Magazine has had some terrific guests since its inception last July. We’ve talked to some of the top prospects in the minor leagues, players with stories of perseverance and nationally recognized pundits. However, we’ve never delved into the business side of the game. Today, we’ll talk to Jonah Keri, author of “The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First”.
Mike Viso: I read your MLB Trade Value piece on Grantland.com, I liked that you had Ryan Braun at six. It amazes me that his disastrous off-season fell by the wayside and he put up monster numbers with no Prince Fielder in the lineup either. Have you seen something like that before?
Jonah Keri: You have to be mentally tough to play baseball. There’s this notion that they are players that are “chokers”. Guys that don’t come through in the clutch or they don’t do this or they don’t do that. I would submit to you that doesn’t really exist all that much because that’s what the minor leagues are for. If you have a five tool guy hitting .120 with runners in scoring position and his knees are knocking, he just isn’t gonna make “The Show” no matter how good you are. So if you look at Braun, yeah he had all this stuff swirling around him, but—and I don’t know him that well, I’ve only interviewed him a couple of times—I would guess he has some mental fortitude to hang in there. And I’d also submit that, yeah it’s true without Fielder there might be less pitches to hit. But with lineup protection we’ve kinda gone down that road a bit and maybe there’s a little bit of an effect there, but that just means he would get more walks than the next guy. I don’t think it was a spectacular loss for Braun so much as the team.
Mike Viso: What’s your personal opinion on how you think it should be determined which players are deserving of the Hall of Fame?
Jonah Keri: The point I usually start, and it’s gained popularity of the past few years but I’ve been on it a long time, but it’s a system called J.A.W.S. where you take wins above replacement. So what J.A.W.S. does is considers wins above replace over a career versus your peek. So for instance, I don’t know if Sandy Koufax has the career numbers, but his peek is one of the two or three best of all-time. You just couldn’t hit him for six years. Pedro Martinez has a little bit of that, as well. Both guys are Hall of Famers, but I try to look at both. Then I try to reverse engineer it and take a look at it personally. Maybe stats that are a little bit simpler like batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. I put those three together and I try to take a look at defense to see what’s out there. For pitchers, I’m not concerned about wins or losses, but run prevention. For instance, if Jack Morris got in, he’d have the highest ERA of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame. So all that stuff is considered, I don’t think it’s exactly one thing and I say, “here’s my list!” For this year, I would have voted for about 13 different guys…There’s so much nuance there that I hope that they don’t go by just the feel of the guy during his playing time, but dig a little bit deeper.
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