Back, Back, Back

Call off the search party. It’s been nearly three weeks since I posted, and in that span I’ve been swallowed up whole by the Baseball Prospectus 2009 book tour and the Fantasy Baseball Index Spring Update deadlines, a brutal schedule around which I’ve salted 10 radio hits and two TV appearances as well as a few BP articles. Hitting the highlights:

• Spent two nights in Washington, DC for one exhilarating and exhausting day of promotional work that began with a 9 AM TV spot on the local Fox affiliate, WTTG for the Fox 5 Morning Show. From there it was onto XM Studios, where Steven Goldman and I did a half hour interview with former general manager Jim Duquette for “MLB Home Plate.” Duquette was a class act, engaging and open-minded, and he didn’t miss the opportunity for a moment of self-deprecation regarding the infamous Scott Kazmir-Victor Zambrano trade for which he’ll be remembered. He told that during his time in the front office, his teams had underlings digesting BP articles so the FOTs could glean whatever insights were to be had from the research end of things, and he gladly kept chatting with us for several minutes after the segment was done. An impressively good egg, all told — so much so that I’ll take an indefinite moratorium from bashing that trade.

After that and a quick bite, it was onto Georgetown University, where Steve and I lectured to a small class called “Sports Personalities of the 20th Century,” featuring our BP intern Ben Lindbergh. We talked about BP, Bill James, sabermetrics, Moneyball, steroids, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and more. Then it was off to give another talk for the Georgetown Lecture Fund, and finally onto Politics and Prose, the great DC independent bookstore, where BP’s annual events are legendary, as we pack the house with about a hundred people, the store serves refreshments, and we sign and sell more copies of the book than anywhere else. I heart our New York area readers, but they can’t bring it like our DC ones can.

• Alas, no other promo stop could live up to the DC one. In Philadelphia we were the victim of an overzealous event coordinator who whisked us off the podium after less than an hour, which isn’t how we roll. Apparently, she’d double-booked events. Rutgers featured a small audience that inlcuded the Goldman family as ringers both in the audience and behind the podium, but we were joined by the always-entertaining Allen Barra, who is promoting his new book, Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee. Also, one reader brought us custom-decorated Rice Krispies treats:

• Writing, you say? I’ve squeezed in the last two installments of the “Outside Help” series at BP on the AL Central and the AL East. Here’s what I had to say about the Yankees:

Some shocking stats via ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker:
  • Of the $1.16 billion spent on free agent contracts this winter (not including minor league deals), roughly 38 percent of that was spent by the Yankees.
  • The $441 million they committed is more than the next five highest-spending teams (the Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Mets and Phillies) combined.
  • That $441 million is also more than the bottom 26 teams combined.

Luckily for the Yankees, that money actually bought real talent. Sabathia has the highest PECOTA weighted mean WARP forecast of any pitcher in baseball, while Burnett ranks among the top 25, and third behind his new teammate and Francisco Rodriguez among the winter’s hired hands. Teixeira has the highest forecast of any free agent hitter and the 19th-highest forecast among all hitters. While the commitments are long, in Sabathia and Teixeira the Yankees paid for players who are entering their age 28 and age 29 seasons, respectively, a welcome strategy given the general tendency to sign free agents well into their 30s.

Not surprisingly given the expenditures, no team brought in more outside talent than the Yanks did, and none netted more once last year’s departures are considered (and yes, I’ve excluded retired players such as Mike Mussina across the board throughout this series). And while the Yanks have taken on a ton of salary, they shed so many big contracts that their Opening Day payroll should wind up a few million dollars shy of last year’s $209 million barring a late-spring trade to cover for Alex Rodriguez’s injury. Even given that situation, a sub-optimal playing time arrangement in right field (Xavier Nady over Swisher) and the mothballing of Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, PECOTA is extremely enthusiastic about the remade Yankees, forecasting them for an MLB-high 100 wins.

Back soon with more stuff.

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