Jay-Z and the 'Baltimore Draft'
... baseball's Dalai Lama cherrypicks the low hanging fruit :- )


At BJOL, Les Lein axed an innocuous question:


In the manager's book you wrote about how Earl Weaver had great pitcher durability. You said you knew what a "Baltimore draft" is. What is a Baltimore draft? I remember Tom Boswell writing that a promising pitcher should stay in the minors an extra year, then spend his rookie year in long relief. Is that a Baltimore draft?
Asked by: LesLein
Answered: 9/18/2012
A Baltimore Draft was a pitcher, usually a left-hander, who didn't have great stuff, didn't light up the radar guns and didn't have a killer breaking pitch, but who compensated by changing speeds and hitting his spots.     Tom Glavine would have been the ultimate Baltimore draft; now everybody describes them as Tom Glavine types.   
The Orioles in the 1970s had Scottie McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar; they always had a couple of pitchers in that mold.   The Whitey Herzog/Dick Howser teams in Kansas City had a bunch of those guys (Larry Gura, Paul Splittorff, Buddy Black, Charlie Leibrandt), and John Tudor, with Whitey in St. Louis, was that kind of pitcher.   That was what was meant by the term "Baltimore draft."    The scouts meant that this was the kind of pitcher that Baltimore would draft.  
In the 21st century most of those guys are converted to the bullpen to be bullpen lefties, and are not given much opportunity to start.  


But there's a certain GM in the majors now who is similarly undeterred by the flaccid impression that this kind of lefty makes.  He has ridden Jason Vargas to a Gura-, Black-level of cheap success.  He selected Luke French as his big July 31 cash-in at a time when everybody in baseball, it seemed, thought he'd "selected" a dime-a-dozen lefty.  He carried the (still) unremarkable Lucas Luetge as a Rule 5 pick all season, totally ossifying a roster slot that is normally used to shuttle players back and forth to meet emerging in-season needs.  

Those 88 MPH lefties were gifted a whale of a lot of Jack Zduriencik face time.  Aaron Laffey was gifted more than most would have gifted him.  Anthony Vasquez got a Goood. Looooong.  Loooook. in a triple-decker stadium.  Remember Garrett Olson?  SSI sat in stunned silence through the entire saga.  Well, after the initial pickup it did.

Vargas and Luetge have been a pretty sizeable meal off this amount of 88-LHP spaghetti against the wall.  When James pointed out Earl Weaver's and Whitey Herzog's exploitation of this "market infficiency," we axed James:


... and if Whitey Herzog got more production out of "pitchability" LHP's than most managers did, do you think that there was anything to this success beyond giving them an opportunity? Perhaps he could pick the good LHP's out of a pile because he had an ability to project intelligence, or grace and balance in their deliveries, or .... ?
Asked by: jemanji
Answered: 9/21/2012
Well, I vividly remember being in Herzog's office on September 26, 1978.   Gura, then almost 31 years old, pitched a 3-hitter that day to beat Seattle 4-1, making him 16-4, and a reporter asked Whitey to what he attributed Gura's success.    Gura was one of those pitchers. . .a guy with a modest fastball; he had waited a long, long time to get his chance, and he had bounced from team to team.     "It's just a guy getting his opportunity and taking advantage of it," Herzog said.
I was very impressed with that answer, because it would have been so easy for Herzog to say something that suggested that he had played some role in Gura's emergence.    "He's finally learned to use his changeup to set up his fastball," for example; who's going to prove that's not an accurate answer?   Or "We've been working with him on establishing his fastball early in the early innings."
Instead, Herzog frankly admitted that Gura had ALWAYS been a good pitcher; he merely had lacked the opportunity to succeed.   This implied that Herzog himself maybe should have given Gura an opportunity before he did.   It was a simple answer of very unusual integrity.  



If that's a light bulb, then here is another that follows:

Part of the ability to "exploit a market inefficiency" is no more than --- > overcoming bias.  

Okay, here's one type of negative label ... "Dime a Dozen Lefty" ... that Zduriencik will cheerfully exploit.  Following this article is one that identifies another species of baseball player that everybody hates:  the nonathletic (wimpy) RHP who uses a changeup to defend himself.  I count three of those in the big leagues, of which two pitch for Jack Zduriencik.

He's rather famously celebrated for his willingness to use, um, fat players.  Aside from Fielder in Milwaukee, drafted by Zduriencik, and chased this winter ... well, there is a list of players who shall remain nameless look really ugly out there, from field level, and Jay-Z isn't afraid to use them.  Nobody else gave Luis Jimenez his 15 minutes of fame at the end of a Million Mile Bus Ride.

Would you put position switches in there?  It's completely forgotten now, but do you remember the ferocity of the debate over Dustin Ackley playing 2B?  It's one thing for bloggers to argue about Jesus Montero playing catcher.  It's another thing for Jack Zduriencik to push him forward, over ex-catcher Eric Wedge's lack of enthusiasm.

Joke histories, such as Wilhelmsen's and Delabar's?  How many baseball execs would have been much slower to be identified with those two pokeys?  Strange players, maybe.  Charlie Furbush and Josh Kinney have sports movements that are as strange as anybody's in the game.

 Maybe he has a big advantage in the openness of his heart.




So, would Earl, sensing the LH bullpen emergence of Luetge, move Furbush into the rotation?
Is that a Baltimore move?
Maybe not, considering our young pitching depth and Furbush's dominance in his current role.
Good post.


I really like these posts riffing on James' insights. Always thought provoking. JackZ does seem to have a knack for picking up undervalued guys that haven't got a good shot elsewhere. Now, if we can only dump Armstrong, bring in Gillick as president and add his knack for picking the mid-range free agent that outplays his contract...

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