Let me first say that I’ve been a huge RAB fan almost since its inception. Even before there was “The Big Three,” “Wednesday Night Open Thread,” “Friday Live Chat,” “Mailbag,” “Fan Confidence Poll” “Holding Steady at 9,” “Bloversimplification,” “The RAB Radio Show,” “This,” “ “Co-sign,” “The Stats We Use: wOBA,” “Days of Yore,” “getting Torre’d,” “Proctorized,” “You know the drill, just be cool,” “What Went Wrong,” “What Went Right,” “The Mystery Pitcher,” “Prospect Profile: Caleb Cotham,” “My Aaron Heilman Nightmare,” “The Case for Felipe Lopez,” “BUT TEH 8TH INNING!!!1!” “The Obligatory Hideki Okajima Post,” “Food for Thought: Robbie Cano,” “/MSM’d,” “/Kay’d,” “/bexy’d,” Rose baiting, and “10 Undeniable Reasons Why the Yanks Must Sign Shea Hillenbrand,” there was Ben, Mike, and Joe posting insightful baseball analysis from the mother ship to just a handful of us – relatively speaking.
Qualitatively and stylistically, the typical RAB post back in ‘07 bore a striking resemblance to the current ones while being a welcome departure from what I was seeing on most other Yankees blogs at the time. Rather than issuing ad hominem attacks over Brian Cashman’s occasional miscues, promulgating irrational exuberance over a new pitching acquisition or drawing unsubstantiated generalizations about why A-Rod wasn’t “clutch,” the guys at RAB chose a far more measured, evidence-based approach on which to formulate their arguments. Which meant predicating their positions upon a bedrock of long-term statistical trends rather than small sample sizes, gut feelings, conventional wisdom, or liberal usage of the CAPS LOCK KEY to drive home their respective points. Not only did the RABis offer a rare online venue for in-depth baseball analysis, they did so in an unpretentious, user-friendly manner that enabled slightly more visceral fans like myself to embrace a more empirical approach to the national pastime. With that said, I’ve always sort of had a thing for stats – even if their main utility for me was to show up the opposition. As a kid who had once been sent to the principal’s office for holding court in homeroom over why Tim Raines – and not Vince Coleman or Lenny Dykstra – was the best lead-off hitter in the NL, reading RAB put me smack back into baseball nerd heaven. Except now, sans Lumberg glasses, orthodontic headgear, pegged Z-Cavaricci jeans, and a one-way ticket to after school detention, I could learn, analyze, and debate from the comfort of my Snuggie and relative safety of my parents’ basement (/RAB meme’d).
Despite my undying loyalty to and appreciation for this blog, it should be known up front that I don’t always hew to the prevailing RAB party line. While I do agree that statistical data should be given primacy in most cases, I also see value in the more primal and mystical elements of baseball, which are virtually impossible to quantify and mostly verboten among sabermetricicians: I think that “good” team chemistry isn’t necessarily a product of winning and often goes deeper than merely whether or not teammates like each other, that most players who look like they’re mailing it in likely are (with Robbie Cano being a notable exception), that having a perceived “shutdown bullpen” has a psychological impact on the opposing team that supersedes its projected statistical advantage, and that, yes, the concept of clutch – while overused by underprepared, hyperbolic sportscasters – does in fact exist beyond subjective and selective observation. (Anyone who’s ever had to perform a complex task at a high level in front of a large audience can probably attest to this.)
Maybe my less-than-progressive approach to baseball analysis is a generational thing. I am, after all, a kid of the 80s – an era in which the value of a player was often measured by “grit,” “gumption,” “hustle,” “horse-sense,” and the most eminent metric of all: mustache splendor. It was a time when invoking slugging percentage as a hitting statistic was not only viewed as pretentiously esoteric but plenty grounds for being stigmatized as an “egg head,” a “wise-ass,” or a “wussy.” (Or, in my case, being ceaselessly pegged in the head during dodgeball tilts by Bobby DiStraccio and his gang of furry minions.) Imagine today arguing with a random patron at a neighborhood bar that Pitcher X is better than Pitcher Y based on Pitcher X’s superior BABIP, and you can probably get the gist of what it was like back in ’87 to build a similar argument around something as rudimentary as ERA.
Oh, and regarding doing that whole BABIP argument in a bar thing? Don’t.
Sadly, a generation later, some of that antiquated mindset remains. For instance, how many broadcasters from the Hawk Harrelson-Joe Morgan-Mike Francessa school of baseball analysis insistently cling to the notion that wins are the be-all statistical metric for pitching excellence, or that one’s eyes are the best measurement of a ballplayer? And, as many of us have witnessed during those seemingly endless 20-minute stretches between RAB posts, when our unslakable minds seek out even the most banal of Yankees-specific content, there are legions of other posters on countless Yankees blogs who embrace the same stubbornly uninformed mindset. That the guys at RAB have carved out a niche that allows differences of opinions and open debate that’s predicated on evidence rather than juvenile notions, stubborn prejudices, and sweeping pronouncements has been a boon to a community of Yankees fans who yearned for something more than “A-Rod Sucks: Discuss.”
When I’m not teaching high school, grading stacks upon stacks of essays, doing reading for grad school, or writing, I spend much of what’s left of my spare time on the couch with my wife, Katie, indoctrinating her in the finer points of Yankee fandom and the virtues of advanced statistics. The high point of this past season came not on a walk-off Juan Miranda hit, but when Katie complained out loud that the Tampa Rays home TV feed didn’t include on base percentage in their in-game stats package. As if that didn’t already make me feel like the luckiest guy alive, she later inquired as to why “that idiot” (Joe Magrane – go figure) insisted on belaboring the fact that the Yankees had a $200 million payroll. Needless to say, it was incomprehensively hot. Had she added something about RBIs being more a product of circumstance than slugging skill, I would’ve been forced to drive down to Zales and purchase her something shiny and expensive.
Katie, if you’re out there, you had me at “that idiot.”
As for my Yankees allegiance, I’ve been a loyal and vociferous fan ever since my frenemy, Ray, sold me a glove with a plagiarized “Greg” Nettles signature on it for five bucks back in fourth grade. The glove actually served me well throughout Little League and even my first tumultuous year of Babe Ruth. (I was learning a new league.) Ray, on the other hand, ended up moving to Arkansas. Or was it Oklahoma? (Either way, I win.) My all-time favorite player is Dave Winfied, with Rickey Henderson a very close second. In other words, as a Yankees fan, I have absolutely no compunctions about rooting for a “bunch of mercenaries.” Still, I do derive great satisfaction from watching the homegrown kids carve their way into the big leagues. I even rooted like crazy for Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson this year (and admittedly stewed when Curtis Granderson was mired in his three-month swoon).
My objective in writing for RAB will be to deliver content that serves as a strong complement to its founders – and my new fellow weekend contributors – while still adhering to RAB’s analytical, anti-reactionary platform. I plan on doing some combination of satire and analysis. And I plan on writing anecdotes about my continued struggle to adopt a more rational, learned, “zen” approach to being a Yankee fan, despite my seemingly innate visceral, knee-jerk, Vinnie From Yonkers darker half – which inevitably emerges amidst their annual late-August swoon, brought into full relief by an error-plagued three-game sweep at the hands of the Royals. And so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity, and I hope my posts can come close to matching the excellence and insight that the RABis have provided for the past three-plus years.