The Indie Leagues

I didn’t know there was such a thing as the Indie Baseball Bestseller List, but there is, via the American Bookseller Association, and The Cooperstown Casebook is on it. It’s published “In celebration of the Major League Baseball postseason,… based on sales at independent bookstores nationwide for the eight-week period ending October 1, 2017.”

The list goes 25 deep, and my book is at number seven among familiar names like Michael Lewis, Tom Verducci, Jeff Passan, Keith Law, Ben Lindbergh, Roger Angell (!), Marty Appel, and, via as-told-tos, ex-players such as David Ortiz, David Ross, Rick Ankiel and Chipper Jones. No doubt having Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore to fulfill requests for signed, personalized copies is part of that, as is the IndieBound system. Thanks to everyone who chose to support their local independent bookstore in buying the Casebook.

The Hall of Miller and Eric Q&A

I’d stumbled across The Hall of Miller and Eric a few times over the years, a blog in which two self-described “baseball obsessives” have built their own alternative shrine based on their analysis and methodology, mirroring the size of the actual Hall but doing their level-headed best to get it right. So of course I was down for a Q&A about The Cooperstown Casebook with HOME’s Eric Chalek. A taste:

Eric: Something cool about The Cooperstown Casebook was how many different perspectives you personally brought to the writing: Fan, critic, BBWAA member, researcher, analyst. Over the years, how have these experiences changed how you think about the Hall?

Jay: I’m not sure I’ve thought about it in quite those terms before, but I’d say that the different perspectives reflect my own growth and the expansion of my horizons. When I started writing about the Hall voting at Futility Infielder in the winter of 2001-2002, I was a moonlighting graphic designer, just a fan who wanted to share some of my knowledge and perspective while connecting with others.

Pretty quickly, once I brought the project to Baseball Prospectus in late 2003, I developed a more critical edge, and the backbone of this book is a few of the major beefs that I had with the Hall as it stood, namely the omissions of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo and the mess that the Veterans Committee had made that had permanently compromised the Hall. Each of those topics has a chapter devoted to it in the first half of the book.

Eventually, I was able to devote myself to writing about baseball full time. Not only did I get to  sharpen my analytical and researching skills, I was given a platform to produce what might be the largest annual volume of Hall-related writing at SI.com — my editor, Ted Keith, let me run wild with the topic in December, basically. I was admitted into the BBWAA (for 2011) and was eventually able to participate in a committee that examined the case for changing the voting process; I was involved in drafting the final proposal that was submitted to the Hall of Fame board of directors. The proposal was tabled, but BBWAA voters do read my work and sometimes cite it when explaining how they filled out their ballots.

I’ve gone from being a total outsider to something of an insider, even if I don’t yet get to vote.

The Trip to Texas

There is no shortage of highlights or documentary evidence from my unforgettable August 25 adventure at the El Paso Chihuahuas game. My deepest thanks  to the Chihuahuas, who rolled out the red carpet for me: VP/GM Brad Taylor and his staff, including Angela Olivas, Andy Imfeld, Alex O’Connor and play-by-play man Tim Hagerty, who let me hang out in the booth; sponsor Loren Hodges and Longhorn Distributing, who underwrote this adventure; Scott Lewis of Townsquare Media, who documented it; and Steve Kaplowitz of ESPN El Paso, who conceived it and hosted me. You’re Hall of Famers in my book!

Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso

For nearly 10 years, I’ve been doing weekly radio spots — covering not just baseball but craft beer — with Steve Kaplowitz of ESPN El Paso. In early 2015, he was able to bring me down to his fair town for a craft beer fest. This time around, he’s arranged to bring me to the August 24 Chihuahuas game to promote The Cooperstown Casebook:

Jay’s second appearance in the Sun City is sponsored by Longhorn Distributing.

The book is Jay’s first and takes a sabermetric look at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Over the years, Jaffe has developed his own metric for analyzing a player’s Hall of Fame resume. His JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) has been adopted by Baseball Reference and other websites as well as individuals who take a closer look at a baseball player’s Hall of Fame resume. The Cooperstown Casebook is a must for any baseball fan and Jay will also be throwing out the first pitch tomorrow night as well as spend an inning in the radio booth with Tim Hagerty.

First pitch! Color commentary in the broadcast booth! This should be a lot of fun. Now, who wants to hear some Marty Robbins?

As seen in The Boston Globe

His Boston Globe colleague may not be a fan of my work (nuf ned), but Peter Abraham — who’s been following me since his days as a beat reporter at the Journal News (LoHud.com), and vice versa had some kind words to say about The Cooperstown Casebook in his August 18 column:

Voting for the Hall of Fame is a lot of fun and Jay Jaffe has helped solve some tough decisions with his research and interpretation of statistics.

His new book “The Cooperstown Casebook” is a great read if you’re willing to have an open mind about who should be in the Hall.

No writer has studied the Hall more closely than Jaffe in recent years the book reflects both his passion and hard work. Imagine caring about something so much that you came up with a unique way to appreciate it. That’s what Jay did.

Very cool.

The Athletic Toronto Q&A

The Athletic Front Page.pngLike most of the content from the various regional Athletic sites, this one is behind a paywall — just as much of my JAWS-related stuff was back in the Baseball Prospectus days — but I was happy to take some time to answer a set of thoughtful questions from Stacey May Fowles, who called the book “a buzz-worthy, incredibly in-depth dive into the Hall’s storied history.” Here’s a sample:

SMF: Can you leave us with some of your personal Hall of Fame inductee predictions for the next few years? Current players that you believe are Hall of Fame bound?

JJ: After every election I do a five-year outlook, which I have to crumple up and do over the next year because, thankfully, some of these guys are going in faster than I expected. In 2018 I think we could see a four-man class, with newcomers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome joined by holdovers Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero, both of whom had at least 71% this past year. At worst, one of those guys slips to 2019, when Mariano Rivera will be elected, and, I hope, Edgar Martinez, who after the 2017 cycle is slightly ahead of where Raines was two years ago.

In 2020, it’s Derek Jeter hitting the ballot, and I think by then Mussina will go in. In 2021, I think that’s the year Bonds, Clemens and Schilling all get in. David Ortiz becomes eligible in 2022; I doubt he’s a first-ballot guy but I strongly suspect he gets in eventually even with the handicaps of being nearly a full-time DH and having the leaked survey test results out there.

After that, looking at active guys, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki and now Adrian Beltre, who just go this 3,000th hit, are locks. Miguel Cabrera is on the verge of cracking the top 10 at first base and I’d say he’ll be a lock when it’s all said and done, and Joey Votto too. Robinson Cano, who’s eighth at second base. I’m hopeful Carlos Beltran (eighth in JAWS among centerfielders) and Joe Mauer (seventh among catchers) get in, optmistic about Dustin Pedroia (15th among second basemen), but less so regarding Chase Utley, who’s 11th at second. Utley’s probably going to fall short of 2,000 hits, and the voters haven’t elected anybody from the post-1960 expansion era who’s failed to clear that bar.

Among the younger guys, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout — the latter’s seven-year peak (WAR7) is already sixth among centerfielders, and he’s played just five full seasons and two partial ones! That’s insane. Buster Posey is already tenth in peak among catchers, so I’d say he’s on his way. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are doing the things at a young age that Hall of Famers do, but they have to keep doing them for a long while.

The -30- Q&A

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jared Diamond and freelance sportswriter Mike Vorkunov run a mailing list and a site devoted to conversations with other writers about their work, their interests and their various processes. This week, they invited me to participate. We discussed the process of writing The Cooperstown Casebook, Hall of Fame voting and the biggest Cooperstown snubs. Here’s one of the 10 questions I answered at length, a question I’m asked with some regularity:

6. Why do people get so darn worked up over the Hall of Fame vote? Seriously, every year it’s total chaos on the internet for a month, and some of the rhetoric from fans is ridiculously intense. What is it about this topic that gets to people? And what sort of feedback do you get, especially when JAWS doesn’t bode well for a particular candidate?

Because baseball has such a connection to the icons of its storied past, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, the Hall is a place that transcends the limitations of its geographic isolation. Practically every fan has some strong reaction to the Hall, whether it’s, “I don’t care,” or, “I don’t think [this guy] should be in,” or, “I can’t believe [this guy] isn’t in!” Fans can conjure up those plaques in their mind’s eye every time they take stock of greatness, and they want their experiences validated. They want to say, “I saw [this Hall of Famer] play when he was in his prime,” or something along those lines.

Because of that, and because of the increasing transparency of the voting — with more and more voters revealing their ballots either before or after the results are announced — the annual election season has become a spectator sport unto itself, a companion to the Hot Stove transaction chatter. As I discovered in my first winter of blogging (2001-2002), and particularly when I wrote about that winter’s ballot (pre-JAWS), fans love to read about baseball during the harsh winter months, even if they don’t necessarily agree with you. They want to be reminded that spring, and baseball season, is coming!

With the rise of social media, the process has certainly become more unruly than it was in the past, because readers have access to the voters and not only can tell them that their ballots stink but offer lengthy rebuttals to a given voter’s position. They want to hold voters accountable. To some extent, the expectation isn’t of a democracy but of a republic, with the voters representing the will of the people.

Certainly, not everybody — fan or voter — buys into JAWS. Some who disagree believe that the metric’s position on a given candidate debunks the validity of the entire advanced statistical movement and its adherents; we saw that with the Blyleven/Morris debate just as surely as we did in the Cabrera/Trout 2012 AL MVP race. In both of those, a lot of the rancor and petty, childish name-calling was from those in positions of authority, the voters, even some of the big names. Spink Award winners going on about “sun-starved stat geeks” and the “vigilante sabermetric brigade” and nerds living in mom’s basement. That just poured gasoline on the fire and produced a spectacle that now draws even more people to it.

In case you were wondering…

sunstarved

Numbers Schmunmbers?!

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, especially those who can’t be bothered to do even a teensy bit of research into what they’re buying…

 

Shoutouts in Seattle

My longstanding support of the Hall of Fame candidacy of Edgar Martinez hasn’t escaped notice in the Pacific Northwest, but it was nonetheless very cool to get a shoutout from the Mariners’ booth during Wednesday’s M’s-A’s game. In the context of discussing the team’s upcoming Martinez jersey retirement celebration, they plugged The Cooperstown Casebook and cited my work and my discussion with Joe Posnasnski on the 8/3/17 PosCast.

What’s more, the Seattle Times‘ Larry Stone, who noted last December that I was winning over some BBWAA voters, interviewed me for his latest feature setting up Edgar’s big weekend and gave me the last word:

After crunching the numbers, Jaffe concluded that even with the built-in penalty assessed to a designated hitter in statistics such as Wins Above Replacement, Martinez still attained value commensurate with a Hall of Fame player.

“We’re talking about a guy who transcends the limitations of the DH role,” Jaffe said.

Transcending limits has pretty much been the Edgar Martinez life story.