Clubhouse Confidential and SABR Analytics Conference

While our writing here on FanGraphs normally revolves around news and transactions related to the Major League clubs, I wanted to take a quick break today and highlight two items that are probably of interest to people who read FanGraphs. Or, at least, are of interest to me, and so I’m choosing to share them with you here.

On Monday, MLB Network rolled out a new show hosted by Brian Kenny called Clubhouse Confidential. The show billed itself as an analytical take on the day’s news and the happenings in the sport, and the description of the show mentioned that it would involve contributions from the sabermetric community. Given that I’ve always enjoyed Kenny’s work and that this was something of a new venture, I was interested enough to watch the first couple of episodes on Monday and Tuesday.

So far, I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well the show has been produced. Since we’re at the start of the off-season and there isn’t a ton of news to report on just yet, the show centered around a different central topic each day, and I thought both were interesting and well-handled.

On Monday, Kenny proposed what he called a “tournament baseball” model for handling a pitching staff, pointing out how heavily the Rangers and Cardinals used their bullpens in their respective League Championship Series, and how that helped propel them into the World Series. It’s a topic we wrote about here during October quite a bit, and it was great to see a national broadcast discuss the relative effectiveness of starters and relievers using relevant data. Kenny not only offered his own take on the subject – he was clearly a fan of the way Washington and LaRussa leaned on their bullpens – but he also brought in the perspectives of various baseball minds, including SB Nation’s Rob Neyer and the always entertaining Peter Gammons. Both made interesting points on the subject, and helped discuss the issue rationally without getting into some kind of contrived shouting match where one side had to play contrarian.

On Tuesday, the central theme revolved around the wisdom of giving out $100+ million contracts, and Kenny brought Vince Gennaro (president of SABR) onto the set to discuss the risks associated with committing that much money to any one player. Gennaro and Kenny had a nice discussion about the various risks and rewards of that kind of contract, and were able to explain things like aging curves in a manner that still seemed relatively accessible to the common fan.

In addition, Kenny worked in interviews with baseball insiders like Brian Cashman, Larry Bowa, and Buck Showalter, so the show doesn’t simply come across as a bunch of nerds discussing their metrics in a bubble. While I wouldn’t describe it as perfect – I’m just going to pretend that Kenny didn’t actually suggest that the World Series should be a one game showdown in order to heighten drama – it’s certainly been entertaining, and if you’ve been looking for a baseball show on TV that discusses things in a manner somewhat similar to how you see them discussed on FanGraphs, I’d recommend checking out Clubhouse Confidential.

The show airs at 5:30 eastern each day, but as I learned from my decision to “record series” on my DVR, it replays many, many times, so you can probably catch it at any time that is convenient to you. They also have clips online at their website, and you can check out portions of the first couple of shows there. I’m hopeful that Kenny’s show does well and shows the networks that there’s a market for this kind of analysis. It’s probably never going to overtake the likes of Baseball Tonight, but it’s a nice step forward to have a solid baseball show giving casual fans a place where they can get actual analysis of what’s happening in the sport.

Speaking of Vince Gennaro, I also wanted to highlight an announcement that SABR made yesterday regarding a new Analytics Conference that they’re putting on in March. During the middle of Spring Training, SABR is going to be putting on an event in Phoneix, Arizona that brings together many of the most interesting minds in baseball under one roof, and offers attendees a chance to hear a wide range of speakers talking about various aspects of the game.

The Sloan Sports conference in Massachusetts has proven to be a great success, but as anyone who has attended will tell you, it has a very heavy basketball slant, which is only natural since it is organized by Daryl Morey, the GM of the Houston Rockets. Sloan has managed to attract some great speakers over the years, but it’s tough to find a lot of baseball discussion going on, and SABR is looking to offer a conference that is solely dedicated to the best sport on the planet.

We’re proud to be partners with SABR in this conference, and will be involved in helping with various events that will be announced as the dates draw closer. For now, I’d encourage anyone who will be traveling to Phoenix in March to consider this conference as a potential addition to your spring training trip, and for anyone local to the Arizona area, consider yourself lucky that this is coming to your back yard.

It should be a fun event, and we’re looking forward to being part of it. The early registration rates are almost certainly going to be quite a bit less than what you’ll pay if you wait to sign up, so the most cost effective way to attend is to register early. We look forward to seeing you guys in Arizona.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

10 Responses to “Clubhouse Confidential and SABR Analytics Conference”

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  1. chuckb says:

    I watched Clubhouse Confidential yesterday and agree that it was a pretty good show. It’s not perfect, of course, but it certainly takes baseball analysis further into the mainstream than most of what’s on mlb network.

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  2. nickmirto says:

    Best sports show I’ve ever seen.

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  3. Jibraun says:

    Not a perfect show by any means, but it is definitely on the up and up. I also agree that Brian Kenny is insane to suggest a one game World Series. A more rational proposition is having Game 1 at a neutral site, then have games 2-7 played in the stadiums of the teams competing.

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  4. Bob R. says:

    I am a bit surprised by the positive review. In the first show, the featured issue was the proposal to equalize innings for relievers and starters during the regular season. The primary argument for that was presented in a graphic pointing out that relievers usually have better ERAs than starters.

    Is that a valid use of sabermetric analytical principles or a misuse of data?

    There was also a snippet asking whether Mays or Mantle deserved more MVP awards. The answer given was Mays:10 to Mantle: 6 (I think) based on their WARs. But there was no further explanation given. It was simply a sabermetric type factoid no better than the ones McCarver parrots about a hitter’s success against a pitcher based on 11 PAs.

    I think the second show was marginally better. The discussion of high priced free agents was useful. But overall, the show strikes me as more flash than substance so far.

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    • I don’t think it’s a misuse of data. ERA is (basically) what happened on the field. Runs are what you’re trying to prevent. It’s just a bad way to value one player because there are 9 guys out there preventing runs, and it varies too much in a small sample.

      That being said, relievers, many of which became such because they were poor starters, tend to give up less runs than starters.

      So it makes sense that if you pitch them more, and pitch starters less, that eventually you’d hit an equilibrium and get the best results.

      I didn’t actually watch the show, so I’m just guessing that’s what they meant by that.

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  5. AustinRHL says:

    I think this might be a record for fewest comments on a Dave Cameron post.

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  6. Tyler says:

    I’ve liked the first few shows as well but only in the sense that it’s “better than anything else available on TV for baseball” I’ll take what I can get with MLBN at this point so it was a pleasant surprise in my opinion.

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  7. James says:

    Aren’t Bill James, Scott Boras, and Mark Shapiro at the Sloan conference this year? Seems like baseball will be a strong focus this time around

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  8. Tito Landrum says:

    I would hope that you, Dave, will be an invited guest on the show at some point. I also was taken aback at Kenny’s suggestion that the WS be made a 1 game, neutral site showdown. I was also laughing at myself for being on Mitch Williams’ side of an argument against Brian Kenny!

    I thought Wednesday’s show in which the whole idea of closers, who they are used, how much money they get, leverage situations was pretty good as well.

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  9. Chris says:

    Word on the street is that Bill James is going to be on today’s show.

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