Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kevin Goldstein Talks About The Rays - Part 4

Reid BrignacOn a recent broadcast of the Minor League Notebook Weekly radio show, host Tyler Hissey interviewed Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. They discussed several Rays players including Desmond Jennings, David Price, Jason Hammel, Tim Beckham, and Reid Brignac.

Tyler was kind enough to type up a transcript of the Rays-related portion of the show and send it to me. Here is Part 4 of 4, focusing on Reid Brignac (TH = Tyler Hissey, KG = Kevin Goldstein):

TH: Another Rays' shortstop prospect, Reid Brignac, has seen his star dim with poor performances against advanced pitching at the higher levels. His strike out and walk rates are concerning, but reports have said that his defense at the position has improved a great deal. How good is his defense? Does he even have a chance to push Jason Bartlett this season?

KG: I don't know about this season. I think he should. I don't think the Rays are going to just because of the whole kind of strange "Bartlett-is-MVP" mythos that has been out there lately. It's a strange situation. I think that Brignac is a better player than Bartlett. But that said, he's a weird prospect. He is a prospect who has kind of transformed into something very, very different than what he once was. And you don't see this a whole lot. It's hard to project a guy like that.

Almost everything we do at Baseball Prospectus, the hardcore number stuff like our PECOTA projection system, but even the stuff I do - the scouting/player development - everything's based on history. It's based on looking at a player and going who does this guy compare to the most in baseball history? And what can we learn about those player's careers to help us better project this player's career? And scouting and player development is the same thing. What does this player do, what do other players with this kind of skill set and tool set have in common? What can we learn from those guys to help us better predict future performance with this guy?

And the problem is Reid Brignac's been a moving target. I mean, you think about what he was a couple years back. He was the California League M.V.P. Monster bat. A ton of power. Much better contact rate than he has nowadays. And a pretty bad shortstop, the kind of guy you go he's probably a third baseman in the end. Not going to matter because he's going to hit.

And now he's this totally different thing. And you go, you know what, he's a really good shortstop with average to maybe a little bit above-average range, outstanding hands, a strong, accurate arm, great instincts, great positioning. But his hitting is not so great anymore. He shows doubles power, occasionally more. Maybe he's going to hit 15-to-20 home runs a year, doesn't walk much, strikes out a lot.

He kind of looks, to me, like a - as strange it may sound - like a good version of Khalil Greene. Remember when Khalil Greene was good? He was a pretty good shortstop, and he hit like .260 with 20 home runs and very few other secondary skills. I think Brignac can be that kind of player. But that's such a different thing than what he used to be, so it's hard to say with a lot of confidence, because he really has turned into something else. So he's a strange guy to kind of get your arm around.

Links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the interview.


  1. I don't want to review again the defensibility of Bartlett receiving the MVP from local writers. I don't think it was correct, but I do think it was reasonable.

    The "mythos" is not that Bartlett was the MVP. It is that there is some kind of "Bartlett is MVP" mythos out there. Most bloggers have unkindly, and I think unfairly, mocked the choice. Those who made it provide reasons that indicate they are not calling him a great player but saw him as a symbol of the improved defense that accounted for much of the Rays' 2008 success. It is not that they evaluate him as among the game's elite statistically or even using the more traditional intangible arguments. It is that their perspective on how to select the Rays' MVP in 2008 is different from sabermetric orthodoxy. It is small minded to ignore that different perspective.

    K. Goldstein (and others) are attacking a straw man. I think the attacks on that selection have become an obsession to the extent that it is now considered "fact" that the choice was nonsensical and without merit. There has rarely been a fair minded discussion of the selection, symbolized I think most clearly by Posnanski's uncharacteristically mean-spirited and narrow-minded attack on it.

  2. Oops. I had forgotten that I went through this in slightly different form just the other day. Maybe I am the one with the obsession. Sorry, I did not mean to become repetitive and irritating.

  3. I understand your point, Anon, and agree with regards to what other writers have said, but I just think you are making too much of KG's comments.

    I don't think this small statement amounts to an 'attack' or an 'obsession': "I don't think the Rays are going to just because of the whole kind of strange "Bartlett-is-MVP" mythos that has been out there lately. It's a strange situation. I think that Brignac is a better player than Bartlett."

    It was a toss off line leading into his analysis of Reid Brignac, not a diatribe against Bartlett.

    BTW Anon, I enjoy your comments, contribute as much as you want.

  4. Thank you Doug. This is a terrific site.

    I know this drives some people nuts, my somewhat anal retentive focus on apparently minor issues, but in a way, it is just because it is a throwaway line that I commented on it. That is because when something becomes a throwaway line it has attained the stature of fact. And it then becomes simply understood-accepted without quibble-when used in any further discussion related to Bartlett or the reasonableness of Rays' beat writers or any other relevant issues.*

    In any case, I don't think that KG was attacking Bartlett; that was not my concern anyway. I think the implied attack is on the journalists' choice of him as the MVP, his assumption being that there is some kind of Bartlett cult in TB that perceives him as a real star. And in my view that is a misreading of the vote and of the intentions of those journalists as well as of TB fans who are so happy with Bartlett's production last year. For many of us, Bartlett simply represented the larger issue of solid defense that propelled the Rays to the top. He was the stand-in for the entire defense, nothing more.

    Ok. I won't pursue it further. I appreciate your invitation and will try not to abuse it.

    * I never talk politics on baseball sites but want to use one example to make my point. After Allende of Chile was ousted by a coup the commonly held view in the U.S was that he had destroyed the Chilean economy and that led to the uprising. What was omitted from this view was the role of the U.S in helping to destroy that economy. I think it was Kissinger (perhaps Nixon) who was quoted as saying "We will make the Chilean economy scream".

    But what struck me in reading essay after essay for years afterword in magazines and newspapers was how the statement that Allende had destroyed the economy became a throwaway line. It became "fact", not interpretation, and so colored all discussion of the coup and the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship, lending it legitimacy for overcoming the disasters that Allende supposedly had brought on.

    That is why I seem to be obsessing (ok, am obsessing) over these kinds of "throwaway" statements.

  5. Well, now there's two of us around here that were alive when Nixon was President. To me it comes down to this: it's up to the guy(s? only one, right?) who voted for Bartlett to defend themselves and their decision. I don't how others defending the pick are any more credible than the ones attacking it. Only the guys who voted can explain their rationale.