Your Offseason Workout: The Player Profile Exercise

I’m probably preaching to the choir when I say that the MLB season is truly a grind for the analytically oriented baseball enthusiast. Oh sure, lay fans might see us and say stuff like “Get a life, nerd” or “Ghostly pallor much?” or “Put on pants!”, but it’s only because they don’t understand how much hustle and grit and whatever-all-else-David-Eckstein-has it takes to make it through a season at the top of one’s sabermetric game.

Every single day from basically the middle of February (when pitchers and catchers report) till the end of the World Series, it’s “prep for this fantasy draft” or “read that blog post” or “look up all these other guys’ WARs.” For real, it can be exhausting.

Which is why, when the offseason comes around, even the most sticktoitive of us are thankful for the rest. And sure, some downtime is good: catch up on the movie films, eat some pie (why not, it tastes so good!), visit all our babies’ mamas — you know, the regular stuff. That said, it’s also imperative that we don’t begin to rest on our laurels (wherever those are located). No, some form of offseason training regimen is absolutely necessary, especially as the bar for baseballing nerdom gets set higher and higher.

Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m not a licensed sabermetric trainer or anything like that (although I maybe accidentally performed CPR on a sleeping person once, if that counts). But I can introduce you to one exercise that helps me stay sharp as tacks. And here’s the best part about it: you can do it while drinking beer.

It’s called the Player Profile Exercise (PPE), and it’s the picture of simplicity. All you do is:

1. Pick up a a recent offseason annual (i.e. Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times Season Preview, etc.).

2. Read aloud from any single player profile, being careful to omit player or team names that might give away the identity of this particular player.

3. Challenge your friends to guess whose profile you’re reading. (Oh yeah, I forgot, it’s for two or more people.)

4. Pass the book off and repeat.

Got it?

Let’s try a couple, how about. (Note: These are from the 2008 edition of BP, so set your mental gauges appropriately.)

All of the talk about how BLANK is going to become a better hitter is both misguided and unnecessary. BLANK’s 35 home runs in 2006 already seem like a bit of an outlier, and his career batting average in the minors was .261, but as he’s likely to hit 25-plus homers a year while drawing 100 walks, can play all three outfield positions and first base, and plays the game as hard as anyone in baseball, BLANK has a lot of value even when he hits .250 to .260. He’s not going to get much better, but he doesn’t need to.

Did you guess Eddie Stanky? I hope not, because if you did, you (a) are wrong and (b) probably have some kind of weird psychological disorder that only Oliver Sacks can cure. The actual answer is at the end of this post.

How about this one?

Last year we said that BLANK could succeed as a starter if only the BLANKs would give him the opportunity. It still took an injury to BLANK for BLANK to get that chance, but there’s no looking back now. He’s basically Chien-Ming Wang with better stuff, and his strikeout rate grew throughout the season. If he turns out to be a better pitcher than BLANK for the remainder of the decade, we won’t be shocked.

I can’t tell if that’s harder or easier than the first. I do know that the Wang comp is incredibly helpful. (Semi-related challenge: say “Wang comp” five times fast. Go!) Once again, the answer for this one’s below.

As far as muscle groups go, the PPE works a number of them. In the absence of contextual signifiers like team names or teammates‘ names, the PPE forces one to pay close attention to other telling details — whether they be comparables (as in the second case), playing time or pitcher usage issues (also as in the second case), hitting approach (as with the first one), or defensive positioning (also in the first). Those are all categories of which a first rate baseball nerd should have intimate knowledge.


Answer One: Nick Swisher
Answer Two: Fausto Carmona (and, amazingly, that last “BLANK” is CC Sabathia)

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

22 Responses to “Your Offseason Workout: The Player Profile Exercise”

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  1. RPMcSweeney says:

    Isn’t the answer always Kyle Blanks?

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  2. Brian says:

    I think I’d rather sit at home and BLANK my BLANK.

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  3. Matthew McExpos says:

    Woo got Swisher right!

    And you’re wrong, Carson, the offseason is where we cheat on baseball with other sports. “What was I supposed to do, honey? We were on a break, and I ran into Football at a party, and one thing led to another…”

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  4. walkoffblast says:

    “If he turns out to be a better pitcher than BLANK for the remainder of the decade, we won’t be shocked.”

    So it would not be shocking if he turned out to be a better pitcher than himself for the next month and a half?

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  5. TJ says:

    Got the first one, missed the second by a mile. My guess is because I was never that fond of Carmona or his stuff, never predicted the falloff he had but I didn’t see him as an ace going out. More of a solid #3 starter.

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  6. Bill says:

    Recognized both those quotes, but confused Swisher with Grady Sizemore in the first one.

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    • Mark says:

      I made the same mistake. Sizemore didn’t seem quite right, but I couldn’t think of anyone else with that sort of profile. Carmona came to me immediately; “Wang with better stuff” was a dead giveaway.

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  7. Bryz says:

    Apparently guessing Nick Swisher correctly has been popular so far when you add me to the list. Never would have guessed Fausto Carmona though.

    “…although I maybe accidentally performed CPR on a sleeping person once, if that counts.”

    Is that an Arrested Development reference that I see?

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  8. Logan says:

    Carson- good stuff. That is all.

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  9. R M says:

    Well….now that Swisher is in the new Yankee stadium, I don’t think 30 homeruns is all that unlikely….

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  10. R M says:

    Oh, and Carmona could put up a 1.00 ERA in 250 innings next year and CC Sabathia could give up 75 runs in 1/3 of an inning and then retire due to low morale, and Carmona might come out on top for the years since that statement was made.

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  11. gnomez says:

    Missed the first one, got Carmona, only because I remember reading that line.

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  12. Dan says:

    Haha brilliant. The sad thing is a friend and I used to do something similar to this. Using one of our Sporting News Baseball Register we would quote a year and a couple of statistics and have to guess the player. This is probably about 15 years ago now when we were still in school though! Good times good times.

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  13. ineedanap says:

    Got them both!

    First one was easy.

    Took me a long time to get Carmona.

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  14. Couldn’t get Swisher, but now that I know its Swisher it makes perfect sense, got Carmona, and had a good idea that blank #3 was CC after I figured out the 2nd one was about Carmona.

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  15. Southsider says:

    Carson, you are a funny BLANK-BLANK! Good read…

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  16. Rob in CT says:

    Go ’em both, because of the Yankees connections for both. I recognized Swish due to the talk about his power, patience and (low) batting average.

    The Wang comparison for Carmona was key. The only other guy I can think of who was “Wang with better stuff” was Brandon Webb (or Derek Lowe), and that paragraph clearly wasn’t written about those established guys.

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  17. JP says:

    Make this into an app for the iphone and pre and you’ll make tons…or at least, I’ll buy it.

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