Player of the Day: MAT OLKIN
YOWZA! Caps fly in air like 'Bama just scored on Tennessee
Mat Olkin, meet the Seattle internet. Olkin is nationally famous or something, has been published a lot and stuff, but who cares about that. What’s really important is that Olkin hung out with us on the STATS AOL board during the '90's.
Olkin’s pretty much the best there is. He’s a book smart Trump contestant who has all of the plusses of the brainiacs, but none of the minuses that drive you so batty with, say, your ‘Dr. Detecto types’.
A bona fide saber expert, a fish in the modern waters of cutting-edge stats
Heavy in the tools/scout abilities, also
A guy with good judgment and perspective. He ducked underground during the Sabermetricians – Tools-Scouts Eugenics Wars and remains able to learn from the Old Guard
A humble sort, having shunned the "I'm always right and everybody else is always wrong" syndrome
A super nice guy
A terrif writer as well, and excellent with verbal logic
In the James/STATS Inc./etc., sensei loop since, um, forever
Olkin came up with the discovery that if you take OBP x SLG x 31, you come up with a simpler version of ‘Expected ERA’ (XERA) that works just about as well. (In some years you tweak the constant 31 by a tad.)
OBP x SLG x 31 is called "Olkin ERA" and many of us still use it all the time. Some amigos get fascinated by the will-o-wisp lights in the long-formula swamp, but as they gain 1% of precision, they lose the ability to do quick-scans. “Olkin ERA” is an illustration that he seeks the 30,000-foot view of the baseball landscape. He uses statistics as one tool in the search for truth, nothing more.
Detect-o-Vision would sum up Mat Olkin as ‘well-rounded’ and ‘people-friendly’, in addition to being, um, real smart, and like totally saber-literate, dude.
If they had asked Dr D's recommendation for a saber consultant - readers run screaming with laughter into the night! - then Ron Shandler and Mat Olkin probably would have been the top two chaps on the list.
Olkin will help with all kinds of things, but the BIGGEST value of a Mat Olkin?
He will walk you around the highly explosive SABR landmines. If you, as a tools scout, are thinking, "Hmmm, maybe Russ Ortiz is worth more than the minimum wage. Let’s say, about $8 million more!"
Mr. Olkin is going to tappity-tap-tap your shoulder and call your attention to the problems with paying Russ Ortiz more than you pay Ryan Franklin. More importantly, because of his outstanding people skills, he will then actually persuade you. He’ll deploy specific arguments, some give-and-take interaction with you, that you are careening off a cliff towards a flaming fireball landing.
A dash of respect for the old school bakes a nicely-rising persuasion cake, and Olkin’s the best in this regard.
Specialty consultants are at their very best, when pointing out the most inescapable conclusions. Such as “Derek Lowe for $36 million isn't the best idea you've had all day, boss.” They clue their bosses in, when a decision X-Rays as an unquestionable, uncontroversial mistake (from the lens of those specialty goggles).
Positively speaking, also, a Mat Olkin can get you a bullet list of "saber specials," such as the Stephen Aldrete 14-strikeouts-a-game type that Toronto’s saber team found - he can call your attention to a neat little pickup here and there.
It’s like in Roto, y’know what ‘m sayin’? You have a half-dozen stickies on your War Room wall ...
High K pitchers list
Off year in ’04, but great in ’03, don’t forget list
Age 26 with experience, about to bust out list
Great 2nd half of 2004 list
The "Olkin Bag" of potential player Big Grabs will be a nice resource for Bill Bavasi.
Even those saber amigos who've been nervous about Bavasi doing something genuinely dumb, can now relax. One of your own is in the house. Daps, bab-eh. --bop knuckles--
Coffee Break, Dept.
Granted, it’s been a busy offseason for Bavasi. He’s revolutionized Seattle Mariners baseball, and built a Frankenstein monster out of ‘Stars and Scrubs.’ He’s tossed us not one cleanup-hitting bone, but a duo. Arf, arf! Wag, wag.
He’s dropped all of our jaws, by finding a pennant-winning manager THAT NONE OF US EVER THOUGHT OF. B’lee DAT!
He’s added another bigtime manager to the staff, as hitting coach. He’s created The ‘Perfect Infield Storm’ on defense.
And now, he’s hired one of the world’s best performance analysts to sit at his elbow. Bavasi will suck the brainpower from all these dudes like Jim Carrey leeching everybody else’s brain in that Batman movie. Does anybody else feel like a fried egg?, he laughs maniacally.
But I’ll tell you who needs the real rest here. Us ‘net rats. We work hard during the offseason. We put our saberdweeb goggles on, stay up until 2 a.m. figuring out the best moves for the Mariners, and then we pound our spoons on the table demanding them.
“GET BELTRE!,” we scream, like Jim Belushi the chess coach in that Saturday Night Live skit. “NOT THE PAWN! NOOOOO! YOU IDIOT! TAKE THE BISHOP! OHHHHH I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! WHY don’t you just GIVE him the King!!”
It has been exhausting, but it’s been important work. After the addition of Olkin, we can all take a week off.
Dubya “I Earned Political Capital And Now I Intend To Spend It!”, Dept.
Bill Bavasi is NOT Gary Huckabay and doesn't pretend to be. But he is humble enough to know that he can benefit from running his ideas past a saber consultant. As he apparently began to do on an informal basis, in Anaheim.
But how much will Bavasi listen to our herodweeb, we wonder? C’mon. Bill Bavasi rearranged the deck chairs specifically so that Olkin could sit down in the middle of the Royal Brougham conversation. Bavasi secured the go-ahead for the new position, precisely because he values performance analysis so highly.
Finally, this is another measure of the fact that Bavasi can now spend the political capital that he earned, by being such a team player, during the first-half transition in 2004.
The old guard at Royal Brougham was definitely old school, and a young man can get the seniors’ backs up if he’s not careful. For some people, introducing them to a horn-rimmed, “book smart” statgeek calls into question their own street smarts. The time has well-and-truly arrived. The new regime can do things its own way.
Not that Mat Olkin is anybody’s geek. He’s a normal guy, if by “normal” you mean a well-balanced man, who’s kissed a girl before (kidding, kidding!), with an IQ of 150 and the Baseball Prospectus library memorized.
It’s hard to see how Bavasi's worst critics can do anything but Standing O him on this one.
It is going to be big fun for the new regime on Royal Brougham.
And for us.