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Alan Schwarz
Well folks, I just signed on and see that there are a lot of questions piling up already, so why don't we start a few minutes early? Keep your hands and feet inside the car ....
Dan (Miami)
Do you discuss Eric Walker in your book? Have you ever seen the 62-page "pamphlet" that he gave Billy Beane?
Alan Schwarz
Yes and yes. Eric Walker, who was hired by the A's in 1982 by Sandy Alderson -- Billy Beane was still in the minors, remember -- was probably the father of the modern on-base revolution. His manifesto, Winning Baseball, had a huge impact on the A's philosophy through the '80s, long before Beane arrived in the front office. I discuss his influence a great deal in the book and have many of his original memos, but I can't publish them because of course Eric Walker owns the copyright. You can find Eric at his website "High Boskage House".
Aron (Boston)
Hey Alan, I just heard you on WEEI here in Boston! I was wondering if there have ever been statistics kept regarding B.A. against with runners on base as opposed to the bases being empty?
Alan Schwarz
These are relatively new statistics, but are in fact available on the ESPN website if you know how to find them. Go to pitching stats, and then the tab for "Opp. Batting". When you get there, choose the split at the top right-hand corner for runners on base, and you'll see the breakdown for that situation. (Remember to make the dataset non-qualified, since pitchers won't have enough innings in those situations to show up otherwise.)
Chris (Norwalk, CT)
Hi Alan, What exactly do we know about how/when the "unearned" run distinction came about? And, is it time to do away with it? It seems to be a flawed concept at best.
Alan Schwarz
Believe it or not, the distinction between "earned" and "unearned" runs began in the 1860s and 1870s -- and not to measure pitching! It was to measure DEFENSE. Back then, a ton of errors were made, about 10 per game, and there were wild fluctuations in the number of R and ER each team gave up. Meanwhile, back then, pitchers weren't considered all that important, so there were very few stats to describe them.
sarang - DC
Outside of individual records, what do you think is the most unattainable record in baseball is?
Alan Schwarz
If you're talking team records, I'd have to say the Yankees' 26 World Series championships. No one will ever catch them, and something tells me they'll add to it every now and then.
Nowlin (Lansing, MI)
Do you have a formula for normalizing today's stats to, say, 1975 numbers? I look at starting pitchers' ERAs in the 7.00s and 8.00s, and I wonder how I can adjudge their effectiveness when my frame of reference is the era of Jim Palmer and Ferguson Jenkins.
Alan Schwarz
Many people have done this. At the risk of plugging other websites -- hey Disney, if you don't like it, tell me soon! -- you can go to baseball-reference.com, which has a lot of stats that are "normalized" (the accepted term) for league average, ballpark size and all sorts of other things.
Mike (miami)
hello, i'm not for or against moneyball and the previous things Cook had written, but my problem with .obp is i think walks are valued too high... for a leadoff hitter, maybe not. but for someone like frank thomas, who should be driving in runs, not walking to first... plus, it will take probably 3 hits to score frank thomas from first... do I have a legitimate point here?
Alan Schwarz
One of the problems today is that our reaction to the undervaluing of the walk -- which was the case for decades -- is that many people now OVERvalue it. I just was speaking about this with David Neft (the brains behind the 1969 debut of the Baseball Encyclopedia) about this. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but he and I are going to work on something that I will write about in my New York Times "Keeping Score" column in September. Stay tuned!
Phil (Atlanta, GA)
Couple Greg Maddux questions here: Will we ever see the Maddux of old or are we stuck seeing an old Maddux? Does he still have a legit shot at another 15 win season and how does that rank among the streaks? Why does Clemens get so much more respect than Maddux when Maddux has done arguably as much as Clemens and has done so with arguably less "stuff"?
Alan Schwarz
I'm going to try to focus on stat-related questions, but figured I'd tackle this one since we have time....I think Maddux could definitely win 8 more games this year to finish at 15 yet again. I'm not a big fan of streaks in general, and I think we all know that wins are a pretty dubious measure. As for Maddux' reputation w.r.t. Clemens, well, you can thank two things: the Boston and New York media, and also the fact that Clemens really was a slight notch more dominant, stuff notwithstanding.
Jeff (New York)
Hey Alan, I'm a yankee fan and I'm worried about our starting pitchers. I mean javier vazquez, mike mussina and kevin brown will all be fine but what about lieber and contreras? Also do you think cashman will start making some moves to improve the rotation?
Alan Schwarz
I think there's virtually a 100 percent chance that Brian Cashman lands a pitcher in the next 4 weeks. When Rockefeller missed his limo, he didn't walk; he just ordered another one.
Steve (NY)
what's your opinon on Derek Jeter? the guy has good stats, not the best, but it seems this guy comes through time after time in clutch situations.. stats can't account for this....can they?
Alan Schwarz
Derek Jeter drives a wedge between stat folks and traditional scouting folks. I believe that the debates have been so polarized that we really can't appreciate the benefits of each side. OK, so Jeter's (reputed) skills don't show up in the stats, particularly defensive ones. But I don't think that in itself means we can dismiss his influence on the Yankees. I say that, though, with two HUGE caveats: One, I think that clutch hitting is disastrously misunderstood (in particular by Derek himself, though that isn't the point) and I hate judging players by saying, "Yeah, but he has 4 rings." That was a product of far more than Jeter himself.
Paul Mocker - Goleta, CA
In the evolution of statistics, which ones will wind up being dominant? BPro's are the best (WARP, SNVA, and EQA) but I doubt they will become generally accepted by the mainstream. Your thoughts?
Alan Schwarz
We have to wait 10-20 years for this stuff to creep into the mainstream -- because it will take that long for the people making the decisions (writers, editors) to include them. It was the same way with stats we now take for granted, like OPS. It first appeared in print in The New York Times in 1984. The youth of one generation becomes the decision-makers of the next, and stats will ride on the coattails of that yet again this time.
YANKEE HATERS OF THE WORLD
STOP with the Yankees Chat. I have submitted 3 stats-related questions already without a response!!
Alan Schwarz
Hey, I'm trying to avoid that, too. Give me a break! I'm getting hundreds of questions and sometimes it's hard to sift through them deftly.
Alan Schwarz
Yankee Hater, point out your other names and I'll get to them....
Paul Mocker - goleta, ca
Did you interview Cook or Davey Johnson when doing research for the book? How many of the characters in the book did you get to interview?
Alan Schwarz
Alas, Earnshaw Cook died many years ago. But I did speak with Davey Johnson, who was a disciple, about him. I interviewed as many subjects as were alive: George Lindsey, Eric Walker, Steve Mann, Pete Palmer, Hal Richman, and dozens and dozens more. It was a blast.
Steve (NY)
can you explain how clutch hitting is disastrously misunderstood?
Alan Schwarz
This is explained in Chapter 10 of my book, which deals with the gradual discovery of luck's importance in baseball statistics. In general, it has been proven that while some hitters HAVE performed well in the clutch, that doesn't mean they will in the future. They usually just revert to their original performance, which means that it isn't an inherent skill, just a residue of randomness.
Barth (Detroit, MI)
I will be interested to read about Hal Richman, creator of by far the best stats-based tabletop baseball game. Is the market for tabletop baseball games holding its own against the Xboxes and PlayStations?
Alan Schwarz
I devote several pages to Hal Richman, who invented Strat-O-Matic when he was 11 years old. As for the market for these games, I'm afraid I have no idea.
Joe
Alan, ESPN.com recently added some cool features like DIPS ERA and Park Factor and Productive Outs to their stat selection. 1. What's the most interesting of these new pieces and 2. What else would you like to see there?

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