Joining us this week, after our short hiatus, for the Thursday Q & A is Jack Moore from Disciples of Uecker.  Disciples of Uecker is a relatively young blog but has a tremendous following and a unique spot in the Brewers Blogsphere. So without further ado, here we go.

Disciples of Uecker, obviously a blog name that we here at Pocket Doppler can get behind.  Tell us a little bit about how and why you started up?

Back in April, Rob Neyer over at ESPN was looking for entries into his SweetSpot network, and he asked me if I was interested in joining as the representative for the Brewers.  I hadn’t really considered a blog solely devoted to the Brewers as I wasn’t really sure if I had the time for it on top of my work over at FanGraphs, but the opportunity to be affiliated with ESPN was one I couldn’t pass up.  And so, in early April, Disciples of Uecker was born.

Now, as a blog more stats/sabermeterics oriented than most, do you have a hard time creating content/graphs/numbers that are easily understandable to the statistically challenged, like say…me?

I really hope not.  I do think that some of what I write is a little bit “advanced,” when it comes to baseball stats and analysis, but I try to present it in a way that alienates as few people as possible, and I don’t really feel like I have to go out of my way to do that either.  Graphs, I think, can be a very efficient way to present a concept in a way that’s easy to understand, and that’s why you see graphs on the blog quite often. 

Wally: I think you do a very good job of ‘dumbing’ things down for those of us that aren’t statistics wizards.  Your style and explanations are all very easy to understand and as you said, the graphs help immensely. 

What do you consider the most meaningful stat categories for offense?

OBP and SLG can do a good, quick and dirty job if you understand that OBP is a little less than twice as important as SLG, due to the huge value in simply not making outs.  That little bit is why I’m not a huge fan of OPS; instead I prefer wOBA.  Here’s the technical definition:

WOBA is based on finding proper weights for all the events (BB, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR), and using those.  Batting average uses 1 for all hits and doesn’t count walks.  OBP uses 1 for all hits and walks.  SLG counts HRs as 4, 3Bs as 3, etc.  The weights for wOBA are empirically found as the number of runs the event typically adds, using data from multiple seasons.  It properly weights each of the events relative to each other, and you can even use it to get a number of runs above average.

That’s a little technical, but thanks to the extra work, we can be ever more precise.

Same question as above but for pitching?

I’m a big fan of DIPS theory, or Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics.  DIPS theory is predicated upon the idea that pitchers have either no control or limited control over balls in play. What they do have control over are things like strikeouts, walks, and homeruns, or as some of the statistics go farther with, ground ball rate and fly ball rate. 

FIP, of Fielding Independent Pitching, is on the ERA scale and is only based on Ks, BBs, and HRs.  xFIP, a variation, looks at fly ball rate instead of HRs.  tRA is based on Ks, BBs, HRs, and all batted ball types.  All three are very useful.  According to these, the best pitchers are high-K, low-BB, ground ball machines.  That’s why FanGraphs has Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay as more valuable than Ubaldo Jimenez this year – Jimenez’s K/BB ratio is a pedestrian 2.47 (league average is 2.03).

A lot of people discredit fielding percentage as a way to measure defensive play. Is there a stat that really tells us anything about how good a guy is in the field? 

In order to make an error, you have to at least make it to the ball.  This is an especially poor way to rate outfielders (see Ryan Braun, 2008).  FanGraphs uses two statistics, DRS (defensive runs saved) and UZR.  Both have a ton of variation in small samples, though, so I actually prefer scouting reports if I can get my hands on those.  A nice crowdsourced project is TangoTiger’s Fans Scouting Report, which can be seen here:

Unfortunately, due to the complexities of evaluating fielding, we need about 3 years of data for UZR and DRS to start making sense.  For established major leaguers, those are typically pretty good to use.  For players like Alcides Escobar, stick with the scouts.

Ken Macha has been tinkering with the batting order of late.  From a purely statistical standpoint, what would be the ideal batting order?

This is what I would do, and it’s slightly unorthodox, but not too much.

  1. Weeks
  2. Braun
  3. Hart
  4. Fielder
  5. McGehee
  6. Edmonds/Gomez
  7. Kottaras/Lucroy
  8. Escobar

The main thing is that you really don’t want your best hitter batting 3 rd , because of the high percentage of at bats they see with 2 on and nobody out, where the only real game-changing result is the HR.  Hart doesn’t get on nearly as much and he hits a ton of HRs, making him ideal for this spot.

We’ll move away from the stats questions here and get your overall feelings on the Brewers season thus far.  First off, is Ken Macha really to blame for the poor season thus far or is he just becoming the scapegoat?

The Brewers were set up to fail this season.  It’s a poor pitching staff with a poor defense behind it.  I would have supported Macha’s firing earlier in the season, as I really didn’t see any upside in keeping him around, and he had made some questionable personnel decisions (pitching Stetter against RHBs, Narveson against RHBs out of the pen, Suppan in the rotation).  The truth is the playoffs were an outside shot at the start of the season, and things went wrong.  Macha deserves some blame, but so does essentially everybody else in the organization.

Wally: I agree, as much as I want to place blame on someone here, I can’t put it all on Macha as at the end of the day he can only use what he was given.

Do you think that even a .500 season is salvageable at this point?

Yes, I do.  The Brewers offense is a top-5 NL offense, and should go on some streaks as the season goes on.  Maybe Narveson and Parra develop into a solid #2 and #3 (even a #3 and #4 would be appreciated), and I would be surprised if Wolf doesn’t start pitching a little better.  The bullpen is already much improved.  Unfortunately, the hole is too big to reach the playoffs without a minor miracle, but there is reason to hope for 2011. 

In my mind, there is no doubt that Melvin should be shopping Prince Fielder behind closed doors right now.  What are your feelings on that topic?

I absolutely agree. Prince Fielder is a DH, and he has no place on a National League team.  Mat Gamel is primed to move to first base as early as this season.  The Brewers desperately need SPs at any professional level and really any sort of talent infusion.  Not only that, but trading Prince would open about 10-15 million dollars to spend on the free agent market next season.  I love Prince as much as the next guy, but he’s far more useful as a trade chip than he is as a player at this point.

Wally: Finally someone who agrees with me on this topic with no caveats.  ;-)

And the ‘mentor’ question – What advice would you give to sports bloggers (or bloggers in general) as it relates to starting or maintaining their blogs?

If you have good ideas, people will notice.  The best practice is writing.  Sports blogging is a fantastic community, and you should never be afraid to throw ideas out there.

…and now for the lighting round.

Your all-time favorite Brewers player is:

Robin Yount, but I was too young for his days.  Ben Sheets for “current era.”

Your favorite Brewers blog to read that is not named Disciples of Uecker is:

Brew Crew Ball 

If there were no Brewers, you would have a blog about:

I wouldn’t be a blogger.

If you were a pro baseball player, your position would be:

I play first base for my club team at UW, so that’s gotta be it.

Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.

Spotted Cow or Leinie’s Red

I would like to thank Jack for taking the time to answer our questions this week and also provide some great information on the ‘numbers’ side of baseball.  Make sure to make Disciples of Uecker a daily visit if you’re a Brewers fan.


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