Sunday, February 27, 2011

BASEBALL STATISTICS

I recently answered some questions by Matthew Coller from The Biz of Baseball on a variety of baseball topics including the importance of on-base percentage, fielding statistics, hitting statistics, and much more. I hope you enjoy!

On-base percentage is something that is quickly becoming a favorite of General Managers around the league, and in many ways is becoming the measuring stick for a hitter's overall ability. When I was drafted by the Padres in 2006, they were one of the teams in the league that were extremely concerned with a hitter's OBP. That is one of the reasons I was drafted by them. I have never been a power type hitter, someone that was going to hit a bunch of home runs and drive in a lot of runs, but I've always been very effective at working the count, having a good ability to control the strike zone, and ultimately get on base.

The good thing was, I never had to change my thought process and try to adapt to the Padres way of working the count and drawing more walks, because it was already a part of my game. Many players however do have to adapt their games in certain ways to fit a certain style or system that a team may believe in. If you want to increase your OBP there are certain ways you can do so. The first thing you need to do is really understand the strike zone. I was always the type of hitter growing up that would take a lot of pitches. Some coaches didn't like this approach because I would often take very hittable first pitch fastballs for a strike and fall behind in the count. I would also have a lot of at-bats with two strikes on me, which isn't always the best situation to hit in. However, because of my style of hitting, I would walk at a very high clip, and being a leadoff hitter my entire life, my main job was to get on base and set the table for the hitters in the middle of the order. I've learned the strike zone very well over the years because of how many pitches I took. Many of my at-bats would go four or more pitches, and when you add all those pitches up over the years I've been able to learn what is a strike and what is a ball. I've actually had to adjust my game to allow myself to hit for a little more power and drive in more runs. I think there is the right balance between taking pitches and swinging at a pitch that you want. The whole idea of hitting is to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. There is definitely a happy medium when it comes to pitch selection and how many pitches you take in an at-bat.

As far as fielding statistics go, I really have never checked them before. I came up in baseball when the "error" was really the only stat infielders would use to judge their defensive performance. I don't even understand all the new statistics like UZR or TZR or whatever it is. I think fielding is something that is very tough to judge simply by looking at all these different formulas. I feel a lot of times defensive numbers can highly depend on your pitching staff. If you have a lot of ground ball and sinker ball pitchers on your team you are going to get a lot more defensive opportunities than you would if your staff was filled with fly ball pitchers. I think your eyes can tell you a lot about a player's defensive ability. I understand that baseball people want numbers to justify everything that takes place on the field, but I really think defense is tough to judge solely on numbers.

If I was looking at hitting statistics there are a few different things I would look at to determine what type of year I was having. I think it is also important to realize that every player is going to be a little different when looking at the numbers. Certain guys are called upon to get on base, certain guys are called upon to move those guys around the bases, and certain guys are called upon to drive those runners in. I'm a guy that has mostly hit lead off, so my important statistic is obviously on-base percentage. I've always tried to have an OBP of .400. I know that if I'm getting on base at a 40% clip then I'm doing a good job at setting my team up to score some runs. I think runs scored is also an important statistic for me. Obviously that has a little to do with how successful other hitters around you are, but if I'm getting on base at a good clip with my ability to run I should be scoring runs no matter who else is in the lineup.

Looking at offensive numbers in general, on-base percentage and slugging percentage seem to be the big statistics to look at to judge most players success. I think all the best hitters in baseball show a great ability to get on base and also do damage when they put the ball in play. With all this being said, there are some players that you need on the team that are going to do the dirty work. It's not always strictly about the numbers, and sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole truth. I have seen a lot of players that sacrifice their personal numbers for the good of the team. Ultimately these guys are the ones that help you win ball games. When a guy is on second base with no outs and you give yourself up to hit a ground ball to the right side to get that runner over the 3rd. Your statistics are going to go down, but you did your job and helped your team. When there is a guy on 3rd with less than two outs and the infield is playing back and you hit a ground ball to the infield to score the run. Your batting average and OBP is going to drop, but you did your job and you helped your team score a run. Like I said, these are the guys you want on your team. Guys that put the team above personal statistics. I had the opportunity to play with David Eckstein, and he really comes to mind as one of these guys. I really don't think he cared about his personal statistics at all. He just wanted to do whatever it took to help the team be successful. I've seen him put the team ahead of himself over and over and over again.

Friday, February 25, 2011

FIRST DAY OF WORKOUTS...KIND OF

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6:30 AM and took the twenty minute drive over to a local hospital to receive my Spring Training physical. Every year before you are allowed to get out on the field you have to go through a list of tests to insure your healthy enough for action. The tests I had to do today are pretty much the same as the ones I've had to do in the past. First you give blood, then you're given a drug test by peeing into a cup. After that you will do your blood pressure, get an EKG done, take a chest x-ray, get your vision tested, and have a sit down meeting with a doctor to go over any past injuries or current ailments. Today's meeting with the doc obviously went a little longer than usual, as I had to explain my last two surgeries and how I'm feeling now. We went over my MRI to make sure nothing is showing up that shouldn't be there and everything checked out fine.

I wasn't allowed to do any on field activities yesterday, just to make sure my hand was 100% ready for action. Our first official practice isn't until tomorrow, but today the infielders went through an informal workout where we stretched out, threw, and fielded ground balls for about thirty minutes. We also performed some of our conditioning tests, including the 300 yards shuttle and the sit-up test. Because I wasn't allowed to do anything I will perform those tests tomorrow. I'll also be able to participate in team practice at that time. It felt really weird to not be allowed to do any baseball activities today, and I kind of felt like a waste of space out there, but sometimes you have to err on the side of caution.

Although I wasn't able to practice with the team, I can already tell I am really going to enjoy getting back on the practice field. All I heard about our organization before I signed with them was that they had a bunch of great people throughout the organization. After meeting most of the managers, coaches, and instructors today I can see why people were saying that. There was a great atmosphere out at practice, and it was only considered an "informal workout." I'm looking forward to tomorrow's first practice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!

Hey guys! I have successfully arrived in Viera, Florida for the start of Spring Training with my new team, the Washington Nationals. Yesterday I spent most of the day driving around town and learning my way around my new home for the next month and a half. Because I am such a picky eater, my first objective anytime I arrive in a new city is to make sure I find three or four "go to" restaurants for dinner. The first one I always look for is Chiptole, but unfortunately the closest one is more than an hour away. I did find an Outback Steakhouse, which was where I went for my first dinner of Spring Training. The over/under for dinners eaten at Outback over the next month is set at 12, and I'd definitely put my money on the over. I'll spend some time tomorrow looking for more places to eat out at.

I spent some time in the morning heading over to our complex and meeting some of the medical staff. It definitely felt weird pulling into the parking lot and having no idea where the hell to go. Luckily there was a player just getting out of his car at the same time as me that helped me find my way around. I had to fill out some questionnaires on my past surgeries and injuries for the staff. It was a lot more fun a few years ago when I just checked "No" on every question, but unfortunately after last year there are a lot more "Yes" check marks now. After that I received my uniform and equipment, and strange enough I received my favorite number 9 without even asking for it. I guess that's a good sign.

I finished off the day by driving to a local hospital and taking a thirty minute MRI on my hand. Our doctors here just want to make sure that everything is looking good before they let me get out onto the practice field. It was probably my tenth MRI over the past year, and boy do they suck. The hand is a really tough thing to MRI, so I have to lay on my stomach with my arm stretched out over my head. It may have been the most uncomfortable thirty minutes I've ever experienced in my life. I'm just glad I got it over with, and hopefully that will be the last MRI ever.

Finally, before I head out I want you guys to watch this video and witness one of the most amazing things to ever happen on this earth. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I still thought it was pretty cool. For some reason it isn't allowing me to embed the video on here, but click the link below to see it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

GLORY DAYS

Back to the good ole' days. Yesterday I was back on campus at Wake Forest for the first time in around four years and a lot has definitely changed. For one, the baseball field I spent three years playing on has been blown to smithereens, and replaced with a putting green. It was a little sad that the field was no longer there, but the new field that it has been replaced with is amazing. I found myself wishing I attended college six years later than I did. The field, locker room, and batting cages all made me feel like I attended school back in the stone age. I remember wearing cotton shorts small and tight enough to fit my twelve year old sister. Now they are decked out head to toe in more Nike apparel than I've seen since playing professional baseball. Where did I go wrong?

One of my former teammates Grant Achilles is now an assistant coach with the baseball team and was nice enough to take us on a tour to see the new renovations and also introduce us to the new coaching staff, all of whom were great guys. After speaking with the coaches and viewing the facility the future is looking bright for Wake baseball.

Laura was amazed at what school is like down here. We pulled in and the first thing she saw was a girl wearing a prom dress and high heels shoes and a guy wearing slacks, a collared shirt, and a sports coat, and she asked, "where are they going?" I said, "to class." I was probably a little out of place when I used to roll into History in my sweatpants, cutoff sleeves, and sandals, but I was damn comfortable. Another thing we both noticed is, we are really, really old. You know you're an old bastard when you walk onto a college campus and ask, "Is it just me or do college kids look a lot younger than they use to?" I guess I have to accept my role as, "the creepy old guy."

Anyways, we had a great time and would have liked to stay longer, but we had to get back on the road to our final destination of Florida. Below is a quick video I took of campus. I hope everyone enjoys and go Deacs!


Monday, February 21, 2011

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Hey what's going on guys? I just woke up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina after arriving late last night around 11:30 PM. We left Boston around 8:30 AM yesterday morning and started our journey to Viera, Florida for the start of Spring Training. A lot of people are telling me I'm nuts for driving my car all the way down there for only a month and a half of Spring Training, but I drove the 45 hours to Peoria, Arizona last year, so driving 22 to Florida will be cake.

On our drive to Spring Training last year we made sure when we mapped out our trip we selected a bunch of cities we thought it would be cool to stop at and do a little sight seeing. This year we're only really stopping in two cities along the way. Yesterday, we decided to make an hour pit stop in Baltimore, Maryland. We'd never been there before, but the main reason we decided to go a little out of our way to stop there was for the food. Spending most of my time in the Southwest over the last few years we've grown very fond of the restaurant Ra Sushi. If you've never been there and like sushi you have to make sure to stop by. I'm not crazy about the real sushi with the raw fish and stuff, but the Tootsi Maki rolls are to die for.

After making an hour stop there we jumped back in the car and continued our trip down to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to make a stop at Wake Forest University where I went to school and played baseball from 2004-2006. It has been about four years since I've been there, and even though everyone I went to school with has now moved on to the real world I am still excited to go back and see how much things have changed. Also, Laura has never been to Wake, so she was also excited to see what life was like for me back in my college days. We will probably take a little tour around campus and then stop in and say hello to the new coaching staff. When we're done we'll be getting back on the road for the remaining ten hours to Florida. I'll speak with everyone when I arrive to camp. Have a great day!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

FANGRAPHS

Hey guys! I wanted to throw up this interview I did a few days ago for Fangraphs, a website dedicated to all types of baseball statistics and data. Check it out and let me know what you think. Only one more day until the weekend! Have a great friday.

FanGraphs Audio: Matt Antonelli, Washington National

Episode Sixty-Three
In which the guest is a real-live baseball player.

Headlines
Some Notes on Plate Discipline
The Case of the Declining BABIP
The Art of Blogging
Matt Antonelli: Real or Olive-Garden Italian?
… and other super-serious matters!

Featuring
Matt Antonelli, Baller and Blogger

Finally, you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio on the flip-flop. (Approximately 40 min play time.)


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

Hey everybody, what's going on? Man, I haven't been on here in a while and I apologize about that. The last week or so has been crazy busy, and I'm just trying to get everything done before I take off for Florida this weekend. The good news is, the bathroom paint job is finished, most of the meetings I had to go to are over, my equipment is ordered and on its way to Spring Training, and I even finished all my chores AND my mom gave me my weekly allowance and a gold star on my "Daily Chores Calendar." Things are looking up from here!

I want to wish everyone a very happy Valentine's Day. I know all you people out there with a significant other enjoyed the holiday, and those without one say the day is even better that way, so woohoo to all of us! I celebrated my Valentine's Day on Sunday night by accompanying Laura to a good meal of calamari and steaks. Man was it good. Last night I spent my time at the batting cage trying to get my swing ready to go for next week. I'll put a few swings from the end of the workout below for everyone to see. Every time I put a video up of me swinging I usually get 100 emails from people letting me know what I need to change in the swing to become the next Albert Pujols. I appreciate everyone's help.

Anyways, it is getting a little late and I need to head out for some dinner. I hope everyone has a great day and I will talk to you all later.

Friday, February 11, 2011

PROCRASTINATION

Hey guys! Right now is probably one of my least favorite parts of the year. It is about a week before I head out for Spring Training, and because I have procrastinated with many of the things that needed to get done before I leave, I am busy doing everything over the next few days. I have to finish painting and fixing my bathroom which was a disaster area, get all my taxes together, bring my car to the shop to fix some dents and scratches, get all my equipment orders placed, finish up my last few lessons with guys, continue to train and hit five times a week, do some interviews for the upcoming season, pack up my car with everything I need for the summer, and about 2,000 other things. I don't know why I wait until the last minute to get everything done each year. It will feel great when everything is done and I'm able to head down south without anymore worries. Anyways, I probably won't write too many times over the next few days just to make sure I get everything done, but once I get down to Florida I will be back to writing a bunch of times each week. Talk to everyone soon!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CAMELS MAKE ME LAUGH

Hey guys! Thanks to all that chatted with me on Ustream a few nights ago. It gave me a chance to answer a bunch of questions for everyone and also an opportunity to just have a relaxed talk about all types of different things. I'm pretty excited to watch Superbowl XLV later on today between Pittsburgh and Green Bay. It will definitely be tough watching two teams that the Patriots beat this year, but both the Steelers and Packers deserve to be playing for all the marbles. I've been racking my brain over the past few days trying to decide who is going to win this game. I know everybody and their grandmother are on the Packers bandwagon, and I can't really blame them. Aaron Rodgers looks unstoppable and the Steelers have some injuries, but I just can't make myself pick against a Steelers team getting three points and going for their third Superbowl in six years. I think I may stick with the Black and Yellow.

I'll be leaving for Florida two weeks from today, taking the twenty-plus hour drive down south and finally getting out of the snow. My report date is February 23, and our first workout is the 24th, but I'm going to take a few days to drive down and visit a few places I haven't been in a while. Anyways, I hope everyone has a great Superbowl Sunday and good luck to whichever team you cheer for. Also, below is what I feel should be a new Olympic sport. I am the last guy in the relay team, so check out my skills. As you can see I've been working on my speed over the off-season. I'm wicked fast. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BLOGGING FROM THE BLEACHERS

Hey guys! I hope everyone is enjoying their week. I received a call last night informing me that my report date for Spring Training is February 23, so my trip to Florida is fast approaching. I've decided that instead of flying I will take the 24 hour drive down south so I will have my car for the month and a half of camp. I think where I am staying is about a ten minute drive to the park, so being without a car and walking probably wouldn't be the best idea. Plus I think I may make a stop at my old stomping grounds, Wake Forest, to see how much things have changed since my departure from school five years ago.

I did an interview with a website called Blogging From The Bleachers that I thought I would throw up here today. Below are some of the questions I answered, but if you would like to read the entire article click here Blogging From The Bleachers.

Before I get to the article, I'm thinking about going with this look below, so let me know what you think. The only difference is my beard is really red. I think it would still look pretty sweet, and would probably be worth 20-25 home runs. Anyways, I hope everyone has a great rest of the week and I will catch up with you all later.


Now, I know there aren’t many players in the history of the game to originate from Massachusetts (649 in total, according to Baseball Reference). Going back to your high school playing days, do you remember being scouted much? Anything specific the scouts might have advised you to do if you wanted to really stand out?

I definitely don't run into too many professionals players from my home state of Massachusetts. During my high school years I was scouted by a decent number of teams and ended up being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Being a northeast kid who didn't really get to play a whole lot of baseball year round I was considered a "raw" type of player by many scouts. I knew if I wanted to succeed in professional baseball I had a lot of developing to do, which is one of the reasons I chose to attend Wake Forest University in North Carolina instead of deciding to go pro.

That summer, the 2003 draft, you were selected by the Dodgers in the 19th round. What made you decide to go to college instead of signing? Would you have chosen that route regardless of what might have been offered?

I guess I should have read question # 2 before I answered # 1 ha ha. I think if I was chosen in the 1st or 2nd round my decision would have been a lot tougher. I always wanted to play professional baseball, but I understood that I could always go to college, get my education, continue to develop as a player, and re-enter the draft after my Junior year. That is the route I ultimately chose.

After your career at Wake Forest, you were taken in the first round of the 2006 draft. Take us back to that day for a moment. How’d you find out? What was your reaction? How did you feel being a first round draft pick?

We had a get-together at my house for draft day where a lot of family and friends attended. I found out I was drafted when the Padres selected me and called to inform me of their choice. It definitely felt great being a 1st round pick. One of my goals after being selected in the 19th round out of high school was to be a 1st round pick out of college.

Just two years after being drafted you were named as #50 on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects going into the 2008 season. Did you feel the ranking put more pressure on your shoulders to perform at a high level that year?

I actually had no more pressure on me after the 07 season than any other season. I haven't played well since 07 after a combination of things have occurred. I have had unfortunate injuries over more than the last two seasons and somehow lost my swing during that time. I would have loved to cruise through the Minor Leagues and straight to the Major Leagues for good, but I think every person that wants to accomplish a goal is going to be met with adversity at some point along their journey. I feel very good heading into this year.

Despite having an off year at the plate for AAA Portland, you made your debut that September for the Padres. What was it like to find out you had been called up? Were there any nerves or did you feel completely confident in yourself?

I felt very weird being called up in 2008. I was in the middle of my worst baseball performance of my life. I was obviously very excited to make my Major League debut, but it definitely wasn't the way I had envisioned it a few years prior. My next call up will be much different from that in 2008.

Your debut came on September 1st against the Dodgers. Greg Maddux was the opposing pitcher. You singled to center field in your first at bat for your lone hit on the day. Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. So how’d it feel to get your first career hit off of a legend? Did you get to keep the ball? Do you still have it?

Just being able to get my first hit in a Major League uniform would have definitely been a tremendous highlight in my baseball career, but to be able to do it against one of the better pitchers of all-time was something very special. I did get to keep the ball and have it at my house in Massachusetts.

Unfortunately an injury struck during the 2009 season that caused you to miss most of the year and then nearly all of 2010. How’d it happen? How’d you feel about the situation? Did you ever feel like the doctors were wrong in their diagnosis? Did you think you could return faster than they estimated?

Over the past two years I have had two different injuries that have cost me a lot of playing time. The first was a minor leg injury that kept me out of the lineup for about 40 games or so. It took a little while to figure out what the problem was, but once we did it healed pretty quickly. The major injury I had was a broken hamate bone in my hand and the removal of a cyst that had formed. It is kind of complicated to explain, and may take a couple of pages ha ha.

After sticking with you through your rehab the Padres let you go at the end of this past season. Was there a part of you upset or disappointed by their decision?

Well, I definitely enjoyed my time with the Padres over the past five years. They were the team that selected me in the draft and got my career started, so I appreciate the fact that they put their trust in me. Things didn't go exactly the way I would have hoped over the past few years, but many times baseball is like that. I respect their decision and am really looking forward to continuing my career with my new team, the Washington Nationals.

Take us through the free agency process. Did your agent do most of the talking with teams or were you involved? What kind of opportunity were you hoping for or would just simply looking for a chance to play again?

During free agency my agent would handle all of the negotiations with teams and then report back to me on what was said. It was the first time in my life where I had to chose between a bunch of different teams and decide where I ultimately would want to play at for the upcoming season. I was basically looking for an opportunity where I would be able to get my at-bats and prove to the team that I chose that my injuries were in the past and I could help their Major League team at some point during the year.

Coming from MA I presume you grew up a BoSox fan. Were you hoping they’d call you about joining the organization?

I did grow up a huge Red Sox fan until I was drafted by the Padres in 2006. It would definitely be pretty cool to wear a Sox uniform, but I think they are pretty set at the 2nd base position with that guy Dustin Pedroia ha ha.

What made you choose the Nationals? Will you be attending Spring Training with them? Rumor has it they’re still looking for a utility infielder. Do you think you could fill that role if given the chance?

The Nationals seemed to be one of the teams that was most interested in me, so it is always nice to go somewhere that really wants you. After speaking with a bunch of baseball people they all had nothing but great things to say about the Nationals organization and the people that ran it. They were a team where I could go to the minor leagues this year and get my at-bats to show I am fully healthy and can contribute. I will do whatever it is they ask of me, so if they want me to try and play a few positions I would definitely be willing to do that. Whatever it takes to get me back to the Major League level.

What made you start your blog?

My blog started as a way to let my family and friends know how things were going during the season since I was playing across the country and was at the field pretty much all day long everyday of the week. I started to realize that baseball fans had found my blog and were following my writing. It gave me a pretty cool way to interact with people and fans from all over the country, which is something new and fun to do.

What is it about being connected to the fans that you enjoy? What do you dislike about it?

I think what I really like about being able to interact with fans is that I am a huge fan of baseball myself. I would have loved to be able to talk and ask questions to some of my favorite players growing up, so having the chance to talk with fans of mine is very rewarding. I would say that 99% of my interactions with fans is positive, and that's why I have continued to do it. Every now and then I will receive an email, Twitter or Facebook message, or blog comment letting me know that they think I am a horrible baseball player, but that just comes with the territory ha ha.

I’m a big autograph and memorabilia collector. I’ve always been curious, do any players collect autographs and memorabilia? Do you? Have anything cool and unique in your personal collection? What is accepted in clubhouses as far as asking for items? What about asking a player in the opposite clubhouse for an autograph?

Actually a lot of players collect autographs and memorabilia from other guys in the league. I would say the majority of players are fans of the game of baseball and enjoy collectibles. I have a few collectibles at my house, my favorites probably being my baseball signed by Roger Clemens that I got as a little kid at Fenway Park and a signed hockey stick by Bobby Orr that I received from him at one of my hockey games as a youngster. As far as asking players for autographs, usually the first day you get to an opposing teams park or the first day they get to yours, you can ask the clubby to grab you an autograph that you may want from an opposing player.

How do you approach fans who request items from you?

I'd say I sign most of my autographs during Spring Training, but usually before any game I will sign autographs or take pictures for fans. I find it fun and don't have any problem taking a few minutes out of my day to sign autographs. Hey, I think it's pretty cool that someone would actually want me to sign something for them in the first place!

What are your goals for 2011 from a professional standpoint?

I have a lot of goals for myself this season. My first goal is to stay healthy. I went my entire life up until 2009 without ever being injured, so I never knew what it was like to not be healthy enough to play baseball. I think if I can stay healthy I will have a very successful 2011 season. Ultimately, I want to get back to the Major League level and help the Nationals win a World Series.

Thanks for the questions!