sitemeter:

April 18, 2005
  
Interview: Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer cut his teeth working with the legendary Bill James, spent more than two years at STATS, Inc., and has written a column for ESPN.com since 1996. He can also be found writing on his personal website robneyer.com. Rob has written or co-written four books on baseball: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Times, Feeding the Green Monster, Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups, and The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers.

Speaking personally, Rob is the reason I have as much interest as I do in baseball statistics and the information those numbers tell us. One of the first Rob Neyer columns that I ever read was Jeter’s no A-Rod or Nomar from 2/7/2001, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Rob was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for MetsGeek.com.


MetsGeek.com: Your ESPN.com column ran in the “free” portion of the site for a number of years before it was moved to the Insider premium portion about a year ago. Did you experience any backlash from fans who felt slighted by that move?

Rob Neyer: You bet I did. I’ve got a file containing a few hundred e-mail messages from people who 1) were upset with the switch, and 2) swore they weren’t going to pay. After a while I stopped saving them, and even today, nine months later, one still shows up every week or so. I wasn’t thrilled with the move, of course, and contrary to popular opinion I didn’t have any say, or derive any direct benefit, from the change. But ESPN is run as a money-making enterprise, and in the end I have to respect the company’s desire to make money, considering if they don’t make money eventually I’ll stop getting paid.

MetsGeek.com: There is an ongoing tension between traditional scouts and statistical analysts as to which is the best method for evaluating prospects. Those within the industry tend to be polarized on this issue, though some take the high road and attest to utilizing data from both systems. What is your take on this rift, and where do your loyalties lie?

Rob Neyer: I think the dichotomy is a false one. There are “traditional scouts” who acknowledge the importance of objective analysts, and there are “statistical analysts” who acknowledge, and sometimes even embrace, the importance of scouts. They’re all pieces of the puzzle, and eventually the teams that win will be the teams that figure out how the pieces best fit together.

MetsGeek.com: In many ways, Yusmeiro Petit epitomizes the philosophical differences between scouts and statheads: He doesn’t have the “body” or the “stuff” that scouts look for, yet hitters can’t seem to do anything against him as he piles up the strikeouts. What is your opinion of Petit as a prospect, and are the comparisons to Sid Fernandez apt?

Rob Neyer: Oh, I don’t think there’s much question about Petit, who Baseball America ranked this winter as the No. 2 prospect in the organization (behind Lastings Milledge). Yes, he’s maybe six feet tall, but that’s an inch or two taller than Tim Hudson. Petit’s fastball is MLB-average, maybe a touch better, and his change-up and slider are both plus pitches. So the “stuff” is certainly there, and the body’s not an issue. As for comparing Petit to El Sid, Fernandez’s success was due to an uncanny ability to hide the baseball from the hitters, and I’ve not read anything similar about Petit.

MetsGeek.com: In your “Big Book of Baseball Lineups”, you rate Lee Mazzilli and Tommy Agee as the first and second best centerfielders in Mets history and Howard Johnson and Robin Ventura as the first and second best third-basemen in Mets history. When their Mets careers are finished, where do you expect Carlos Beltran and David Wright to appear on their respective lists among the Mets all-time greats?

Rob Neyer: I think Wright will be No. 1 among the third baseman, and Beltran will top the center fielders if he’s a Met for the life of his contract.

MetsGeek.com: Right now, where does Pedro Martinez rank among the best pitchers since World War II? What about Tom Seaver?

Rob Neyer: Pedro’s got a lot of competition; I’d rate him behind (in roughly this order) Clemens, Seaver, Maddux, Spahn, and probably Randy Johnson. What’s more, the presence of so many currently active pitchers on that list should make us a bit suspicious, don’t you think? If the playing field were really level over the last fifty years, would four of the six best pitchers hail from the same era? There might be something going on here that we just haven’t figured out yet.

MetsGeek.com: Is Tom Glavine a lock for the Hall of Fame? Are there any left-handed pitchers who were better than Glavine who are not already in the Hall of Fame?

Rob Neyer: Yes, Glavine’s a lock. He’s got a big career and a number of big seasons, plus he pitched all those games in October. There’s no left-hander better than Glavine who’s not in the Hall of Fame, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make it on his first try.

MetsGeek.com: In the last ten years, the Mets have made two blockbuster trades with the Indians for All-Star second-basemen. Which trade was a bigger bust: The Roberto Alomar trade because he fell from such a high level of play, or the Carlos Baerga trade because he cost the Mets Jeff Kent?

Rob Neyer: The second of those, definitely. The Alomar didn’t work out, obviously, but at least all they gave up (as it turned out) was Matt Lawton. Giving up Kent for essentially nothing must rank as one of the worst trades of the last twenty years.

MetsGeek.com: What do you think of New York’s non-Beltran and non-Martinez offseason moves? How much does Carlos Delgado signing with the Marlins and not the Mets hurt them?

Rob Neyer: Well, you know . . . even New York teams can’t sign everybody. The Mets certainly would have been better with Delgado than without him, but I assume even the Mets do have a budget. Plus, Delgado’s knees are wrecked and he’s probably going to be vastly overpaid in the last year or two of his contract (of course, the same could be said of Pedro). So I don’t hold the non-signing of Delgado against the Mets. At some point, though, they’re obviously going to need a better player than Doug Mientkiewicz at first base.

MetsGeek.com: New York’s recent bullpen moves have left most of us cringing. Manny Aybar? Roberto Hernandez? The Run Fairy? Right now, most of us Geeks agree that Norfolk’s bullpen (Heath Bell, Orber Moreno, Bartolome Fortunato, Scott Strickland, etc.) is superior to the major league team’s, with the possibility of being similar to that of the Angels middle-relief (no-name, high strikeout guys). What do you think of the guys that the Mets picked, and what would you have done differently?

Rob Neyer: Well, now you’re asking a question that explores the limits of my knowledge and interest. I mean, I think you have to really love a team to care about its middle relievers. But this did come up during a recent ESPNews appearance, so I did spend five minutes analyzing the non-Looper components of the Mets’ bullpen. And I have to say that I was somewhat less than overwhelmed with their talent. Just looking at their projections, I saw a bunch of guys with ERA’s ranging between 4.25 and 4.75, and very little upside. In these days when some teams have three or four middle guys with 95-m.p.h. fastballs and killer sliders, you expect a (supposedly) contending team to do better than this.

MetsGeek.com: Do you have any upcoming book projects you’re working on? How large of a book advance would you have to be guaranteed to subject yourself to a season’s worth of games at Shea Stadium?

Rob Neyer: Hey, I love New York and I don’t mind Shea Stadium. That said, 81 games wouldn’t be my favorite way to spend a season. Not that I have to worry about it; the last time I spent a season in a ballpark, the resulting book didn’t exactly set any sales records. But since you asked, yes I’m working on a couple of books right now. They’re follow-ups to the aforementioned Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups, and one’s about baseball wars, the other about baseball blunders.

MetsGeek.com: Do you have any explanation as to how Harold Reynolds, John Kruk, and Steve Phillips have actual paying jobs as baseball analysts?

Rob Neyer: Phillips seems to know his stuff, and by all accounts Harold Reynolds is one of the nicest guys in the world. Krukker . . . well, he’s a character. Just like in baseball, in broadcasting there are different ways to succeed.


7 Responses to “Interview: Rob Neyer”

  1. Comment posted by Benny Blanco from da Bronx on April 18, 2005 at 10:49 am (#1067)

    HEY! Leave HArold Reynolds alone! I like this guy he actually has some common sense and when he makes a point unlike the other clowns…he EXPLAINS WHY!!!

    John Kruk and Steve Phillips are probably the 2 biggest idiots on television. John Kruk with his 30-0 season projection form Randy Johnsaon, lol, c’mon now.

    And I don’t blame Rob Neyer for thinking Phillips knows his stuff cause the man knows how to bullshit but if he was a MEts fan during his tenure here he wouldn’t be saying that. Phillips is full of shit and is actually quite the hypocrite.

  2. Comment posted by Michael on April 18, 2005 at 11:42 am (#1068)

    ESPN has been awful with their commentator hires/fires recently. Reynolds isn’t bad, but he isn’t good either. And what ever happened to Dave Campbell? He was excellent. Kruk really doesn’t know what he’s talking about; he’s the Michael Irvin of baseball commentary. Tim K is always very good, but I’d love to see more of Gammons (the best) and Stark as well.

    (and basketball, how can they fire David Aldridge and hire S.A. Smith?)

  3. Comment posted by Alex on April 18, 2005 at 1:14 pm (#1069)

    A better player than MintKayVich? What?! He’s a solid player making a reasonable salary. I dunno why so many people rip the guy. Gold glove D, hits for average, gamer.

  4. Comment posted by David on April 18, 2005 at 1:17 pm (#1070)

    There is an ongoing tension between traditional scouts and statistical analysts as to which is the best method for evaluating prospects. Those within the industry tend to be polarized on this issue, though some take the high road and attest to utilizing data from both systems. What is your take on this rift, and where do your loyalties lie?

    What the hell does that question mean?!?!?!?!?!

  5. Gravatar
  6. Comment posted by Eric Simon on April 18, 2005 at 1:22 pm (#1071)

    There is an ongoing tension between traditional scouts and statistical analysts as to which is the best method for evaluating prospects. Those within the industry tend to be polarized on this issue, though some take the high road and attest to utilizing data from both systems. What is your take on this rift, and where do your loyalties lie?

    What the hell does that question mean?!?!?!?!?!

    This interview is a good primer on this feud.

  7. Comment posted by Jeff Maynes on April 18, 2005 at 1:33 pm (#1073)

    What I think is most interesting about the debate you referenced Eric Simon, is that McCracken and Hughes share the animosity that has made “bridging the gap” so difficult. The animosity is what leads to the stereotyping, which is really what is preventing the two camps from realizing exactly what Neyer said, that it is a false dichotomy.

  8. Comment posted by wally on April 18, 2005 at 8:16 pm (#1083)

    What I think is most interesting about the debate you referenced Eric Simon, is that McCracken and Hughes share the animosity that has made “bridging the gap” so difficult. The animosity is what leads to the stereotyping, which is really what is preventing the two camps from realizing exactly what Neyer said, that it is a false dichotomy.

    mccracken and hughes are on the fringes of their camps though. for each of them, there’s a mzrk shapiro. besides…who says the marketing and finance departments at IBM have to like each other? you just need a chief operating staff who knows how to value each sides inputs.

rss/syndication: