Winter Meetings Coverage

On Monday, baseball’s winter meetings kick off down in Orlando. Over the last few years, we’ve made a point out of covering every transaction, and many rumored transactions that may or may not take place, with around the clock coverage on the site. That will continue this year, and you can expect detailed breakdowns on every move that takes place next week. But we’ll be adding a new twist this year – we’ll be on site.

Along with David Appelman, Maury Brown, Joe Pawlikowski, and Eno Sarris, I will be down at the Swan and Dolphin wandering around lobbies and listening to Scott Boras compare one of his mid-level clients to an inner circle Hall of Famer. It’s really the kind of thing I’ve dreamed about since I was a boy.

Since this is our first trip to the meetings, it might be a bit of an experiment. After all, we’re not traditional reporters, and we won’t breaking any stories or landing any big scoops. We can offer analysis and commentary without actually being in the same city as the people making the moves, so I don’t expect that aspect of our coverage to change much. But being in the same geographic location does offer some advantages, and gives us the ability to do some things that we otherwise couldn’t do.

Before we decide what we’re going to do for four days, I’d be interested in getting input from you guys on what you’d like to see from the four FanGraphs staffers on site. Are you interested in us asking questions at the press conferences, or would you prefer that we leave the gathering of public quotes from team officials to those who specialize in that kind of work? Do you want some accounts of what it is like to be at the meetings, or are you tired of people telling you that they’re standing around watching an agent talk on his phone?

We’ve got something of a clean slate. We have a few ideas that I think could be interesting, but we’re also up for doing things that you guys want to read. So, you’ve got a few days to make some suggestions, and starting Monday, we’ll see what we can do.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

60 Responses to “Winter Meetings Coverage”

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  1. John says:

    I think you guys should each bring an escort and let them do the stories.

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    • Eliot Spitzer says:

      Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?

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  2. Xave says:

    Would definitely like to hear your impressions on the personalities of people you meet – which players, reporters, agents, execs are friendly, which aren’t. I realize you probably don’t want to insult anyone, so maybe you could devise a codename system which you e-mail to the Mom’s Basement Email List. We won’t tell anyone. Promise.

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  3. astat says:

    Would love to hear about how different organizations value draft picks. Do teams that are worse at developing players take that into account and value them less? Is there a percieved difference in ability to draft/develop well in the community?

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  4. Bernard says:

    I personally would like to see some questions at the press conferences focused on advanced metrics. I’d love to push DiPoto on the value of ‘wins’ and the Saunders deal or see the efficacy of RBIs questioned to a GM (“Do you really believe there’s some intrinsic ability of a player to drive in runs? What proof is there?”).

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    • mk says:

      I’m interested in this too. I’d love to get a sense of front office staff’s awareness of/faith in the newer metrics that people are throwing around these days.

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      • Okra says:

        I second this. While i’m sure every club has several sabermetrics guys on staff, some teams act as if they’re completely oblivious to this type of stuff. Asking GM’s specific questions about the topic would probably be rather reveling in regards to their understanding/acceptance of advanced metrics.

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  5. I’m really interested in the decision processes that go into these deals, whether they get consummated or not. Are front office executives and club officials reading Fangraphs? Does public domain baseball analysis actually have an effect on baseball operations, or are we mostly talking to each other while the teams rely on their own proprietary information?

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    • I shouldn’t have said public domain. I meant, free.

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    • Someanalyst says:

      Wish I had a source for baseball but my understanding is that the proprietary methods (which integrate game-based metrics with scouting and, perhaps, medical data) are inherently more useful. Baseball is so different from other sports in the extent of public analysis available (e.g. there have been boxscores since there has been baseball, PITCH F/X data is published, Baseball America exists, etc). But the executive strategies are not so different between sports. Do the Houston Rockets use only proprietary data because there is virtually no publicly available analysis for basketball or regardless of the fact? I suggest that the amount of savings in using public analysis would be negligible for an MLB (or other pro team) whereas the risks would be non-negligible, even if not that great. (For NBA context, there is some interesting info here:

      Simply put, I think public analysis contributes to pro teams in the following way: it expands the pool of analytical talent they can invest in and makes evaluating this talent easier.

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  6. Seth says:

    I think it would be interesting to ask sabermetric-related questions at press conferences. Not being a traditional media outlet has its advantages too; you don’t have to dim down the material you ask about or produce based on your readership.

    It also might be interesting to find out to what degree you hear those on the other side discussing Wins Above Replacement, etc.

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    • John says:

      With all the discrepancies with WAR, I’d be disappointed if they used it. Considering two different sites come up with two different totals using two different formulas, I’d consider that a problem.

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      • Someanalyst says:

        Agreed. WAR badly needs a standardization effort. The various versions are fine for the highly interested (i.e. willing to try to understand the nuances) but the metric needs to have a consistent meaning before it can be used in general discussion.

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  7. Mike says:

    I would love to hear you ask an Agent or a GM a WAR/wOBA/FIP related question, just to see the reaction.

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  8. Navin V. says:

    Would love some accounts of what it’s like to be at the meetings, the atmosphere, especially late at night in the hotel lobby/bar, and how you as media members of FanGraphs are dealt with. Enjoy, have fun, and am looking forward to the coverage.

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    • Chadam says:

      I second this. It would be very cool to hear about the atmosphere of the winter meetings from the perspective of a regular fan.

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  9. astat says:

    I second Alex Remington’s question. I am infinitely curious about the the interplay of acutal MLB decisions and the online analysis community.

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  10. Andrew says:

    I think it would be cool to see if you guys could find out how some of these agents are marketing their players.

    I know Boras is a fan of using future projections, so it would be interesting to see articles analyzing the selling points of these agents, and how the data either contradicts or validates them.

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  11. Zobmie says:

    “It’s really the kind of thing I’ve dreamed about since I was a boy.”

    I think as long as you come at it from this angle, a place from which most of us would approach the situation, I think you’ll be fine with whatever you write.

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  12. Piccamo says:

    I agree with Alex’s suggestion for gathering opinions of officials, agents, and any other people available (managers, players, etc.) about the use of free baseball analysis. I’d also like to hear their opinions about the cutting edge statistics used by the community to evaluate talent. Which statistics do those people prefer?

    I would also like to see some questions related to your analysis of the situation. If someone manages to make a deal and you think it is lopsided in one direction or the other, ask about it. Ask what the process was behind making those deals.

    I’m excited to see this year’s material. Keep up the good work.

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  13. Hizouse says:

    I hope you report how different people react when you identify yourself and your organization. Oblivious (“never heard of fangraphs”), annoyed (“don’t want to waste my time with the amateurs”), appreciative (“you guys do good work”), etc.

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  14. BlackSwan says:

    Prank Boras and help me understand why the Tigers pay so much for mediocre players.

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  15. Steve says:

    I’d really like to know what is going on with the Derek Jeter negotiations. The lack of coverage by the mainstream media has been criminal.

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  16. Socrates says:

    Wait… this is Fangraphs not MLB Trade Rumors. I think that it is great that you are on site, but not offense, I dont really care what the personalities of agents/GMs/etc. are. Stick to the site’s mission and I think it will work the best.

    Get an idea of how team value players. See if GMs and other front office people are using advanced statistics to make decisions. Find out which agents are making strong statistical arguments for their clients and which ones are just cherry picking the worthless stats (ie: saves or wins or errors).

    Also, hold agents and GMs to account for being behind the times on stats.

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  17. MDB says:

    I would like to hear from GM’s how they evaluate players. How much do they weigh Sabermetrics vs. traditional scouting.

    Specifically ask Dayton Moore if he thinks OBP is a worthwhile statistic.

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  18. Brett W says:

    New statistics please:
    BS: Lying to get something
    BS/150: Lies per 150 phrases
    H/BS: Hyperbole to lie ratio
    T/BS: Truth to lie ratio
    BS/BSS: Lie per Brian Sabean sightings
    Drink/FA: Drinks obtained per free agent signed (for GMs or agents)
    Gab/FA: Interviews given per free agent signed (GM or agent)
    S/B: Sources per byline (traditional media reporters)
    NS/B: Names sources per byline (same)
    Boobs/boobs: (2 * Scantily clad Florida women) per senseless baseball insiders

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  19. Christopher Taylor says:

    The flip side of GMs using non-traditional — what agents use non-traditional stats? Do they believe that they are persuasive to GMs?

    I suspect/hope the agents might be more candid on this point, as the GMs have more to protect and generate/collect more proprietary information (both with metrics and eyeballs).

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  20. Jake in Columbus says:

    Sabermetrics vs. traditional scouting indeed, but to what extent are these approaches valued in relation to both talent evaluation (internal and external) and actual in-game strategy/game plan formulation? Evaluation and strategy may or may not be universal in some minds.

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  21. Mike Ketchen says:

    Just interview everyone!

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  22. Bobo says:

    Please ask other GMs where they would rank the M’s Organization in 2011.

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  23. psychUMP says:

    I want pictures or it didn’t happen!!

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  24. Clark says:

    I’d like to see you guys ask questions related to the article that you might have written had you asked no questions at all. In order words, if you were going to write that the trade/signing was bad for one team- please ask the GM the question about the basis of your analysis. For example, after the Tigers sign Victor Martinez ask the GM if he’d play C or DH. Then follow up with a question related to the money being high for an average DH.

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  25. Dusto says:

    I would like to know how long Ned Colletti sleeps through the meetings.

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  26. ThundaPC says:

    It would be cool to see what GMs look for or hope to accomplish while they’re down at the Winter Meetings. Not to mention how they value the market and certain players (ala Dan Haren’s actual vs. perceived value). Heck, even an interesting tidbit from an “anonymous GM” would be neat.

    Of course, I’ll be interested in the site authors’ overall experience down there as well. Looking forward to it!

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  27. Okra says:

    1. Acceptance of sabermetrics by clubs
    2. Are the winter meetings really just a bunch of BS? I have a feeling that it’s really just a paid vacation for industry folks that produces lots of gossip and not much else.
    3. How often are clubs sending actual trade proposal to one another? Hourly, daily, weekly??

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      1. Acceptance of sabermetrics by clubs

      Define sabermetrics.

      You might be referring from everything from statistical analysis to a specific stat like WAR or FIP.

      Baseball and statistical analysis have long been good friends. My guess is that you’re wanting to know if/how teams use advanced or secondary metrics like FIP, WAR, wOBA, etc.

      Personally, I want to know what a team expects from the staticians they employ, and they weight the input they receive when deciding how to make a decision.

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  28. Gio says:

    I want you to go around telling everyone about the good news of sabermetrics.

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  29. Daniel says:

    First off, I’ll be there too, so I hope to see you there.

    And honestly, any insight into how exactly trade or free agent talks progress would be cool. Usually we get the outlandish beginning proposals or the final trade, but rarely do we see the steps in between. And also how teams decide exactly which players they want would be interesting too.

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  30. fergie348 says:

    You guys need to be the WikiLeaks of professional baseball. Just accumulate as much data as you can (proposed deals, rejected deals, accepted deals, contract terms, riders, etc. Essentially any conversation you ever had with a member of any baseball organization or MLB corporate, or agents, players, wives and girlfriends, whatever..) and dump it a separate section of the site. We’ll crowd-analyze it for relevent content. Should be fun!

    Julien Assange would be proud..

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  31. Steve Slow says:

    I don’t really care if you bother with questions during the press conferences, since I feel like you’re more likely to get honest answers behind the scenes anyway. That said, if you could “field” some questions to GMs and such on the current state of fielding metrics, I feel like that would be really cool.

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  32. Thurston24 says:

    I would like to know what stats are most valuable to players, agents, and GMs. Specifically, do some preach wOBA, while others like WAR and ISO. Also, if you could get some perspective from a team on which pitching metrics they like and why, be if FIP, tRA, or WAR (based on fangraphs or whichever other version).

    Also, thanks for the opportunity for input.

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  33. Mark says:

    It would be excellent to hear exactly what goes on, on an hour by hour basis, almost like a diary approach. Try and get a reasonable answer from some senior industry people about the perception of advanced statistics; are they relied upon, or do organisations (I’m English, its spelt correctly to me) still trust the observations and traditional scouting methods?

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  34. Looking forward to meeting you guys on Monday – weather should be awesome.

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  35. Max says:

    It would be interesting to hear about what these guys do all day. We always get stories about possible deals and quotes from various scouts but never the logistics of how GMs go about consummating a deal in this type of environment. I feel like alot of stuff goes down that normal media overlooks because it is second nature to them but totally foreign to the rest of us.

    Do they have meetings set up all day with other GMs they feel they could make a deal with? Is it like a dorm floor in college where people mill about through common rooms casually talking with a drink in their hand (Sabean’s preferred method)? Do they go out for fun at night drunkenly drawing up trades on bar napkins like the rest of us, but for reals?

    Does Hendry sit at the corner table in the sports bar eating the never ending beef sammich waiting for Littlefield to show up and ask for a bite? Do Wade and Colletti go arm-in-arm down the new waterslide at the hotel? Does Jim Bowden show up pretending to still be a GM, only to be kicked out by security?

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  36. Charley says:

    Aside from dollars and years, what are the fun details of contracts? Anything unusual that players request??

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  37. Rob says:

    I’d be interested in learning about (if possible) some of the statistics used in the front offices of baseball. Do some teams use a fWAR like system and some teams a rWAR? things like that

    aside-REALLY looking forward to reading your winter meetings coverage

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  38. Justin says:

    I would like you to garrotte Ned Colletti, and (if possible) frame Jamie McCourt.

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  39. diderot says:

    Aside from what we want, you guys should pay as much attention to what you want.

    There were be dozens of reporters down there who have no clue what you’ll be talking about. Work to become sources for some of them–providing analysis and approach that they aren’t equipped to produce. This year you can do it for free…over time, their employers can consider paying Fangraphs for the service.

    Market yourselves.

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  40. Fellow Fangraphians,
    GM’s are not going to tell a blogger, or any other member of the media for that matter, which stats they prefer and exactly how they go about valuing players. Furthermore, anything seemingly substantive from an agent’s mouth is almost certainly a lie or half-truth. Granted, the gestalt of the event holds intrinsic entertainment value, but I’m not sure how it could be anything but frustrating for a writer attempting to view each situation through The Prism of Sabermetrics.

    The Prism of Sabermetrics makes a fantastic holiday gift for the baseball lover in your life.

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  41. Mark M says:

    I suspect that most teams will tell anyone asking that they use both advanced stats and scouting. I wonder if they’d be candid about which questions are best answered with respect to each form; i.e., if the stats and scouting are saying opposite things, when are the teams more likely to rely on each method?

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  42. cs3 says:

    I’m more interested in hearing about deals that are proposed, but don’t actually happen.
    Everyone hears all the details about deals that are actually completed anyway, but it would be interesting to analyze why certain trades were rejected or countered, and how the trades that are actually completed (involving those same players) compare.

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  43. Try and be different from everyone else. Year after year we get the same boring coverage from the mainstream media. Lots of hype such as rumors and stuff that never actually happen.

    Ask exciting and different questions. For instance…

    Ask Jack Z. of the Mariners what exactly he thinks he’s doing. Does he want a championship or does he just want to be an average executive.

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