Something for Everyone

To the AN community: Along with our regular rotation of "starting pitchers" (front page writers), I'm aiming to create a wider list of "super-subs" who can step in to take some of the week-to-week pressure off of our sterling crew. 

Along with well-known AN veterans like Taj Adib, notsellingjeans, jeffro, and Blez (he made puppy dog eyes; how could I say no?), I have gotten a recommendation to add former espn.com writer Dan Hennessey to the potential "super-sub" mix. 

What follows is an introductory "audition post," and if the community is on board Dan will join the mix of writers our regulars can contact when they know they will need a sub. -Nico

Last December, after the A’s made several of the transactions that made them who they were in 2011, I wrote a post titled "Fun with WAR Projections."  In it, I tried to use individual WAR projections to predict how the A’s would fare as a team.  For each player, I estimated how much they would play and how well they would play in that time.  I even summed up all the plate appearances and innings pitched to make sure I had a full season.

Now, obviously this was an exercise in futility.  The entire first paragraph was a disclaimer.  I think I had additional qualifiers in every other sentence.  As I skimmed that article today, here's a sampling of statements that I thought were smart last December:

"Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui, the two hitters the A’s acquired last week, will be their best hitters.  I like David DeJesus, but if he struggles adjusting to right field, he’s going to have to hit a lot to be an average rightfielder.  And a re-birth for Kurt Suzuki?  He really can’t be as bad as he was last season, and it’s not hard to be an average catcher."

And inevitably I hit a few and missed a few (I’d also like to formally apologize for hexing Brett Anderson).  Yes, Willingham was the best hitter.  Not sure who his competition was, but he gets that prize.  Hideki Matsui had an inspired two-month resurgence late when nothing mattered.  Apparently, it never occurred to me that DeJesus could fall flat on his face.  And Suzuki?  I’m not sure if I was cautiously optimistic or passively pessimistic, but he was almost every bit as bad as he was in 2010 AND a perfectly average catcher.

There are lots of reasons to like baseball.  I know people who enjoy it because it’s something to do in the summer.  I think they like going to the ballpark, and they float in and out of the game while they’re there, just like they float in and out of the season for six months.  The pace of a game while in the ballpark, the soft humming of the stadium.  I think that’s why my dad loves baseball.  I’m not even sure he actively thinks about the game like that, but it’s a major reason why he loves baseball. 

I have friends who devote themselves to their favorite teams and players.  Question something about their home nine and a sharp-tongued rebuke will be coming back quickly.  "No, I don’t think Josh Tomlin will repeat his 2011 season.  HE’LL BE BETTER." "Hey, I know it’s been four years, but Miguel Tejada can still be a major-league caliber shortstop."  "I have no problem with Brandon Lyon at the back end of our bullpen.  Dude was nasty in 2007."  I’m sure you know the type.  Their guys can do no wrong, and even when they do, there’s a reason, batty as it may seem.  But that’s why they love baseball.

I know still others who love the numbers.  Ah yes, the numbers.  They drive some fans crazy.  But every fan loves some form of the statistics.  Whether the stat of choice is RBI or batting average with runners in scoring position or wOBA, everybody has one.  One of my best friends refuses to go to games and has a favorite team by chance only.  He thinks games are boring in person, he doesn’t like big crowds, and he says he can get everything he needs to know from television or box scores.  He’s among the biggest baseball fans I know, and he rarely attends a game.  But he loves burying himself in the numbers and finding some nugget of information that no one had before.  Usually there’s a good reason no one knew that fact – no one cares, it’s so irrelevant that there’s no reason for anyone to care.  But sometimes he finds something that’s really cool, and that’s why he loves baseball.

Last season, as I dragged a string of friends to the Coliseum, one of them continually asked if I liked Kurt Suzuki.  He'd follow that up by asking if he was a good catcher.  To my friend, those questions were the same.

I never had an answer.  Not a good one, anyway.  Suzuki shows up every day.  No one questions his effort.  He seems to do a good job with the pitching staff, and they love the guy.  He’s fun to watch play, and he’s an easy player for which to root. 

Kurt Suzuki is an out machine.  Expectations for catchers are low, but he’s not very good offensively.  And there’s a part of me, no matter how hard I root for him, no matter how much I want him to succeed, that sees him as a force working against scoring runs.

Myself, I’m all of those fans I listed above.  I love baseball because I like being at the park.  Reminds me of playing a little bit. Reminds me of my dad taking me to games even when two awful teams were playing, but we enjoyed it anyway.  I’m as much of a nut about my teams as anyone else.  No professional team I’ve ever rooted for has won a championship.  My only moment in the sun was the 2002 Ohio State football team, which a) I was too naïve to enjoy and b) had questions surrounding it shortly before that championship game was even played.  I’m not even sure how I’ll react when a team that I care about wins. 

And I love the numbers.  I love what they tell us, what we think they tell us, and how they help weave the narrative of the game.  At the beginning of a season, I can have a good idea what will happen, while having no idea how it will happen.  Lots of people predicted a playoff spot for St. Louis last March.  No one had any idea that the Cardinals would come from 10 games down in September and win the World Series.  I know the Yankees and Rays and Red Sox will be good, but I couldn’t have scripted a better final day of the regular season.  In any given game, the same phenomenon occurs.  I know Roy Halladay should get Yuniesky Betancourt out, but that doesn’t mean he will.  Mike Cameron might hit four home runs tonight, who knows?  Bud Smith could throw a no-hitter.  Yeah, that's a real guy.

Athletics Nation is a closely-knit community, with an insanely strong presence for a team website and an outrageously talented group of writers.  I hope to become a part of that community, and with any luck, I’ll add something to it.  I think there’s a little bit of something for most people in my writing.  Tyler, Nico, and the gang have given me a little space on this very large forum, and hopefully you’ll give me a chance to be part of something special.

And Mac: yeah, I like Kurt Suzuki.

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