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Team Joy Squad 2011: Introduction

Many people in my life (and by “many people,” I mean these three interns at FanGraphs who’re paid by David Appelman specifically to keep my self-esteem afloat) have riddled me a question this offseason about Curator of Cosmoses Colby Lewis. These guys have said to me, they’ve said, “Cistulli, with regard to Colby Lewis, are you pee-your-pants excited to watch him pitch this year, or pee-someone-else’s-pants excited?”

It’s a reasonable question, this, on account of how I made my affections for Mr. Lewis quite clear last year — starting with a declaration about his greatness during an opening-day live chat and ending sometime around one of those absurdly successful postseason performances of his.

The answer I’ve given is one that I’m almost totally sure will shock the nation. The answer is this: “In fact, no, I’m not particularly excited at all.”

Why? Well, to understand this we might consider the model that Famous Baseball Writer Joe Posnanski has given us with his Movie Expectations Formula. By said Formula, writes Posnanski, “you give every movie a +/- rating based on how good/bad you expected it to be in relation to how good/bad it actually is.” So if, like Posnanski, you thought the movie Hook was going to be a playful four-star romp and, subsequently, found that it bit hard — to the tune of zero stars, even — you would give Hook negative-four stars.

Something similar can be applied easily to our expectations of a ballplayer — a ballplayer like Colby Lewis, for example. What made Señor Lewis so interesting last year was that there were few expectations about what he’d do in 2010 and yet, given some optimistic projections and his crazy Japanese numbers, there were reasons to think that he might be superexcellentamazing. The difference between what was expected of him and what was possible — even likely — from him was substantial.

Capturing these differences between the expected and the possible was one of my main interests last spring while cobbling together the All-Joy Team that I presented in these pages. More generally, the Team represented an attempt to assemble a roster of players who would provide joy to the sabermetrically oriented fan — not just in the way that Colby Lewis did, but in the way that R.J. Swindle and his 55 mph curveball might or Peter Bourjos and his plus-plus glove might or Daniel Nava and his circuitous path to the majors might.

For this year, there are a couple of changes to the All-Joy Team. For one, it’s not called that (i.e. All-Joy Team) anymore. It’s called Team Joy Squad. Why? Because the redundancy of “team” and “squad” makes me giggle audibly, for one. And for two, because the name resonates with Teen Girl Squad, a famous internet thing and important contribution to the field of Joy Studies.

The other big difference between this and last year’s iteration of the Team is the presentation. Instead of last year’s sprawling and two-month-long effort, this year’s is more succinct, as I’ll be rolling it out, five players per day, over the course of this week. Also, to make it seem considerably more authoritative than it really is, I’ll be more or less copying the format that Dave Cameron uses for his Trade Value series — the idea for which Cameron invented all on his own and totally without the assistance of a certain bean-eating sporting media personality. The idea, of course, will still be to assemble the ideal squad for the sabery fan. And, fortunately, because we all believe the same things, there will be no dissent whatsoever from my choices!

Team Joy Squad begins in earnest at 11am ET today. Prepare for a Joy Explosion™!*

*Maybe a gross thing, actually.