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The All-Joy Team, Some Notes Toward

I don’t know who this R.J. Anderson character thinks he is, but if he’s under the impression that I’m just gonna sit back and let him destroy FanGraphs all alone, he’s got another thing coming his way. No, if FanGraphs is going to be ruined by a series of highly speculative posts almost entirely devoid of advanced metrics, I’m going to have a say in it. Consider this my riposte, Anderson!

In the event that you didn’t read Anderson’s post yesterday, go for it: it’s a free country and nobody’s stopping you.

In the more likely event that you’re already mesmerized by my prose styling and must keep reading straight through to the end, here’s an outline of Anderson’s article: First, he looks at some Tampa Bay attendance figures and finds that many more fans go to see the Rays play the Yankers and Sox than the Orioles. Then he discusses how we can assume generally that a win is more fun to watch than a loss. He then wonders why, if wins are more fun to see, why Rays’ fans might go to those types of games and not games against, for example, the Orioles.

What Anderson’s post and a number of the more thoughtful comments that follow it bring to light is something that many of us have probably intuited: that the quality of the visiting team matters considerably as we evaluate how best to spend our baseballing dollar. Of course, in some cases — as with the Red Sox-Yankees matchups — the presence of a heated rivalry provides an extant narrative that ensures drama and creates an atmosphere of excitement. In other cases — such as a visit from the Yankees or Red Sox or any perennial contender — the prospect of beating a talented team is the draw.

Commenter Chris addresses this point concisely, admirably:

I go for the highest upside. Seeing a game a team is ’supposed to win’ means that anything less than a win is super disappointing and a win is expected. Seeing your team play the best, even if there is a lower probability of leaving with a win, allows for a much higher euphoria when they do win.

This is why mediocre college basketball teams that host the #1 team in the country get the best attendance – because the win means a rush of the court and great excitement.

In fact, at the very moment that Anderson submitted his article, I was losing some of my money at Portland Meadows — i.e. Portland, Oregon’s finest (and, not so coincidentally, only) venue for live thoroughbred racing. The appeal of horseracing is almost entirely based on the prevalence of victories of the high-upside variety. Consider first that each race is itself composed of seven or eight or more horses, thus creating a situation where even a heavily favored horse must contend with many variables. Moreover, horseracing allows one to make any number of longshot-type bets, such as Superfectas or Pick Fours, where, though the chances of winning are low, the sweetness of victory is, uh, really sweet. Though baseball’s underdog triumphs are less surprising, they at least provide a similar pleasure.

Finally, a number of the commentariat suggested that they are most interested in attending games that will feature specific players — regardless of whether said player belongs to his (i.e. the fan’s) team or not. Certainly, some players are bigger draws than others. In particular, starting pitchers — Felix Hernandez, for example — seem to exert a particularly strong influence over the baseballing imagination.

Of course, as fans, we have almost no control over our own team’s personnel (a fact that is all-too real for residents of the Paris of the Plains). However, by picking and choosing games by opposition roster, we are, in a sense, exercising our somewhat limited powers to construct the ideal team.

I’ve seen — in some of my electronic travels — I’ve seen the term “rosterbation” used to describe the act of re-arranging a team’s roster to reflect a fan’s preferences. I disapprove of this term (i.e. rosterbation) on account of it forces me to think about private parts. As a Christian Gentleman, I spend a great deal of time and effort pretending that private parts do not exist, and such a term makes it difficult for me to persist in my illusion.

That said, I approve highly of the act itself — that is, of dreaming about and re-arranging rosters. But I believe it is best used not merely to address our favorite teams’ rosters, but a sort of platonic roster, composed entirely of ideal players.

To that end, I plan on unveiling soon, in these electronic pages, something that I plan on calling The All-Joy Team. (The Mark Fidrych All-Stars is another possibility — in honor of the all-time single season leader in joy.) While personal taste is obviously inherent to any such enterprise of this description, I believe that most FanGraphs readers will agree on the five criteria that I suggested back when it was warm outside.

A member of the All-Joy Team will probably be:

1. An MLB player whose advanced metrics (i.e. EqA, wOBA, VORP, UZR – really anything that attempts to improve upon AVG, HR, and RBIs) suggest greater production than is commonly perceived.

2. An MLB player whose peripheral numbers (i.e. xFIP, PrOPS, tRA) suggest greater production in near future.

3. Either an MLB part-timer or older (27 and up) minor leaguer whose production suggests probable success in expanded MLB role.

4. A younger (under 27) minor leaguer, but not top prospect, whose minor league numbers suggest success at the MLB level.

5. A player who demonstrates vigorously what Americans, quoting French poorly, call je ne sais quoi.

When will this All-Joy Team appear? Probably Thursday, provided that Anderson doesn’t give me any more reasons to fly off the handle.

Moreover, any nominations will gladly be accepted below, and will be given consideration directly proportional to the civility and enthusiasm with which they are proposed.

[Edit in response to The Boomer’s comment: I didn’t mention specifically that the players would be composed of current players, but that’s what I meant. That said, an All-Time All-Joy Team would also be an interesting project. I’m just not sure I’m smart/old enough to pull it off.]