About those glossy free agent brochures …

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Scott Boras famously makes up these big crazy notebooks for his free agent clients, talking up their skills, their marketability and all of that. This past winter we heard about how Carl Crawford’s agent, Brian Peters, made up an iPad presentation (along with a free iPad) for teams interesting in his client’s services.  I always wonder why agents think that baseball teams with sophisticated scouting departments and oodles of video on everyone would want such things, but I think we get a good idea of it in Ken Rosenthal’s notes column this morning:

“It was an innovative idea, and we got a chuckle out of it, though it didn’t really do anything to change our evaluation,” Red Sox GM Theo Epstein says … Crawford said he initially saw no need for the video, telling Peters, “the teams know what I do, man.” But he acknowledged that the finished product was “nice to see” …

It’s to impress the clients, right?  To make the player (a) feel like he’s awesome; and (b) feel like the agent is going working his butt off on his behalf.  It’s a client retention device, not a marketing device.

Or am I nuts?

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.