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A (pretty accurate) look at the seedings

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The Perfect Length of a Baseball Season?

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Photo

Q and A with Sports Illustrated Writer Jay Jaffe, Thoughts on Joe Mauer

Posted by ScottyBroco , 15 July 2015 · 2,677 views

jay jaffe joe mauer graphic design twins
One of my favorite people to follow on twitter for baseball news and analysis is Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated. He used to write for Baseball Prospectus and while there he developed a metric Jaffe War Score System. The baseball fan’s favorite website Baseball Reference explains Jaffe’s metric. “JAWS measures a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history”. For Shortstops, The highest WAR (131.0) and a JAWS (98.2) rating goes to Honus Wagner. The second highest WAR is Alex Rodriguez with WAR (117.8) and a JAWS (64.2). Omar Vizquel is ranked 30th with 45.3 WAR and a 36.0 JAWS. Former Twin Christian Guzman is ranked 157th with a WAR of 12.5 and a 16.2 JAWS. For a more advanced breakdown click here.
Jaffe is important because he objectively quantifies a flawed Hall of Fame voting and election system. But he understands how JAWS explains a polarizing topic among Twins Fans, former catcher and current twins first basemen, Joseph Patrick Mauer.
He absolutely nailed the Hall of Fame analysis this year.
I was lucky enough to pick his brain for a couple Questions and Answers.

Q. From what you told me previously it was not a straight career path from graphic design work, how did you get your start as a writer?
A. Long before I wrote about baseball, I wrote about music - the local scene and cool indie stuff - for good clean fun, the weekly entertainment magazine of the Brown Daily Herald. An internship at a music magazine called Boston Rock led me to the revelation that I could make far more money learning to use the page layout software (Pagemaker) than writing, and that sent me down a decade-and-a-half long road into graphic design.
Most of the design work that I did was centered around textbooks and children's books; the pinnacle of my career was as the Creative Director on the World Almanac For Kids from 2002-2004. All of that work was for print, I didn't have any experience doing web design. At some point in early 2001, I decided I wanted to start a baseball blog and learn a bit of design to fancy it up. That experiment became FutilityInfielder.com, which survives in some half-neglected form today, because the paying gigs take up my time and I'm no longer current with my HTML/web design knowledge.

Q. Was there a certain moment that you caught the writing bug?
A. I can't really pinpoint what started me to writing about music but what got me into writing about baseball was arguments with my friends over the state of the Yankees in the late '90s, and then discussions on Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory) and Baseball Prospectus, as well as the columns of Rob Neyer at ESPN. I was an early convert to Bill James back when his Baseball Abstracts were hits in the early 1980s, and it was very cool to see his concepts being updated and applied - I previously had little idea of where to find other baseball nerds.

Q. What is one thing that most do not know about you professionally?
A. That I not only had a previous career in graphic design but that I have a biology degree (see http://www.asbmb.org...es/AnalyzeThis/). Also that my wife's yellow laborador, Pearl, writes some of my columns (try to guess which ones!)

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
A. Writing is a muscle and needs to be strengthened via regular repetition. Write every day, even if it's not for publication. That's the only way you're ever going to find your voice.

Q. How did you become involved with Baseball Prospectus?
A. At Futility Infielder I had done two annual reviews of the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot (2002 and 2003) that got a lot of traffic. BP asked me if I'd like to write something for them on the 2004 ballot - what came out of it were my first two contributions and a forerunner to the system that became JAWS.

Q.Why do you think writers for Baseball Prospectus and other online websites are hired by Major League front offices? What exactly are they looking for in these writers and or sabermatricians?
A. They're not looking for great stylists of prose, they want people with skills in quantitative analysis and the ability to manage large sets of data. They want the ones with the ability to pick out the signal from the noise when it comes to pitching or defensive data or college stats, stuff like that.

Q. Currently, Mauer is tied for 3rd with Albert Pujols with a career batting average of .3156, among active players.
1. Miguel Cabrera (13,32) .3213 R
2. Ichiro Suzuki (15,41) .3165 L
3. Joe Mauer (12,32) .3156 L
4. Albert Pujols (15,35) .3156 R

After starting off his career with 3 batting titles as a catcher, Joe Mauer’s Hall Fame stock seems to have fallen. Mauer moved to first base because of the concussions he suffered, the need to keep his bat in the lineup daily, and the need to increase his career longevity.
How did that position change affect his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame?
A. Mauer had already established himself as one of the best-hitting catchers in history, had done so much that his place in Cooperstown is justified. Via my JAWS system, he already surpasses the peak value (best seven seasons) of the average Hall of Fame catcher by a substantial margin. Even if he winds up playing more games at first base than catcher, he's never going to be identified as a first baseman — a similar situation as Ernie Banks.
The problem for him is that it appears he's headed towards a long dénouement, 3 1/2 more seasons of being a light-hitting first baseman who's nowhere near worth what he's being paid. Voters tend to hold that stuff against candidates, sometimes to an unreasonable degree.

Q. But what does he need to accomplish statistically to increase his chances of getting into Cooperstown?
Having already surpassed the 10 years needed for eligibility, the one thing that he really needs to do is get to 2,000 hits. No position player whose MLB career crossed into the post-1960 expansion era has gotten in with fewer than that. Otherwise worthy candidates like Dick Allen and Bobby Grich can't get in despite strong resumes and stellar advanced metrics, and the same will be true for Jim Edmonds when he becomes eligible this winter.
Mauer's at 1,622 at this writing, so he should be able to surpass that by the time his contract ends following the 2018 season. He'll be just 35 then; it remains to be seen if he's got anything that keeps him around.

Q. Do you have book coming out soon? What is in the works besides Sports Illustrated?
A I'm working on a book called The Cooperstown Casebook, to be published by Thomas Dunne, a division of St. Martin's Press. It's about my work with JAWS and the role of sabermetrics in choosing who goes into the Hall of Fame. It's tentatively due for Fall 2016, and when I say tentatively...
Other than that, I do the occasional TV appearance on MLB Network's MLB Now and ESPN's The Olbermannn Show, and once in a while I write at Futility Infielder, though it's usually about beer, not baseball.

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