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Spreadsheet Baseball: Dancing With Myself

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Ugh. That's all I can say to describe this week. I've been in the public school system for way too many years (and yet less than most people my age), and I can never remember a week where I've had this much schoolwork. Never. It's absolutely ridiculous, and I anticipate being up past 3 AM for the third straight night. This all said, my brain is absolutely fried, and I have a very limited capacity to actually do anything that requires the sort of stats analysis I usually want to do. So, you'll have to forgive me for this rather stupid post. It's a rip-off of one of Will's, and it's not a particularly good one.

Continuing our series of "writers on this blog having ego trips and interviewing themselves," NHZ recently met with man himself, NHZ, at NHZ Enterprises' Offices, a subsidary of the juggernaut that is Royals Review Incoporated. NHZ was somewhat hesitant at giving an interview to NHZ at first, fearing that it would make him certifiably insane, but ended up relenting because he realized that he's been so far over the deep end for so long that it hardly matters. The questions varied in topic from Royals Review writing to the Royals to things that have nothing to do with the Royals, and are documented below. Enjoy. Questions are in bold.

Q: Thank you a lot for granting me this interview.

A: No problem. I've always liked you, to tell you the truth. An honest man, if nothing else.

Q: Thanks for that. I've always appreciated your work. Anyhow, first question. A lot of people, when you've brought up Royals Review in conversation, have asked you "why write for a Royals blog?" So, what is it that appeals to you about writing for a blog of a team that you're not really loyal to?

A: Yeah, you're right. I've got that question a lot, especially among Red Sox fan friends. The fact of the matter is, the people who scoff at the fact that I write for a Royals blog are usually just homer fans who know nothing about the 29 other teams in baseball. That's never been me; from an early age, I learned it's much more fun for me to know as much I can about MLB in general. I love the Sox, but it's a much better approach, in my opinion, to follow the game. To be a fan of the game itself, I guess.

Getting into stats analysis has been more of a recent development, as I purchased my first Baseball Prospectus annual in 2004. Given that Will's job offer was to be the resident 'stats guy,' how could I refuse? It's a chance to put my own analysis out there and get feedback on my writing, which I really like, and I'd certainly be lying if I said Royals Review hasn't grown on me. It's a great blog community, full of people that really love their team despite the hard times the franchise has been through. One thing that drives me crazy about being a Red Sox fan is some of the sycophatic, fair-weather fans that latch onto the team when they win. With a team that's struggled, the fans can come off as much more loyal. And they do on this blog.

Plus jeez, it's writing about BASEBALL! Maybe this isn't a paying job, but that sure as hell doesn't matter to me. Baseball has always been a huge part of my life, for better or worse. To write about it and have others appreciate my writing is kind of a dream come true.

Q: You're too long-winded, do you know that?

A: I don't need to take this from you.

Q: Moving on, what's the deal with Alex Gordon? Has he completely lost his shine in your eyes, or is he still a future superstar?

A: Gordon has struggled in all facets of the game early, but I honestly remain optimistic, newfound Royals affection or no. Gordon is a tremendously talented ballplayer who is probably struggling for the first time in his career, if not one of the few times. He has a broad range of skills, and definitely some development time left to go. I do wonder, with hindsight, how he would've done if he'd mastered AAA ball first and seen some veteran pitchers. He's been better--not good, but better--lately, so I think he'll come around. It's much too early to predict how his initial stuggles will impact his entire career.

Q: Who ends up as the more valuable player, Butler or Gordon?

A: Good question. I really think that Butler actually has more talent with the bat than Gordon does--Butler has done nothing but rake and has a longer track record--but Alex is the only one of the two with any defensive value whatsoever. Butler in the outfield is going to be a bit like watching Manny Ramirez, only instead of commentators calling the latino Ramirez "lazy" they'll just acknowledge Butler has no real skill as a fielder. In the end, Butler will probably end up as a DH, so I've got to give the nod to Alex in terms of overall value. Butler will be the better hitter, however. I'm convinced the guy will be a monster in his prime.

Q: No Joe Morganisms. Define "monster."

A: Monster=.300/.390/.550. The kid will rake. I'm not Joe Morgan and you know that.

Q: Let's stick with the theme of simple questions so you stop rambling. Do you play baseball or have you in the past?

A: I played four different sports during high school at different points, and Soccer is the one I ended up playing in college. I love to play Soccer, but the pro game I'm not actually that big on. I've always been much more a baseball fan, even if I don't play it up here. My last year of organized baseball my high school coach acted like quite the jerk and yanked my around through different positions and line-up spots, and I'm proud to say I still hit .250/.500/.375 or something like that despite my issues with him. The previous year I hit .381 when I was getting regular playing time. I never had any power, really, and that's the biggest reason I never played in college. That and sucky coaches, of course, but who didn't have a shitty high school coach?

Q: Speaking of high school, where did you go and where do you live/go to school now?

A: I don't really like to give away specifics on the 'net. (shrugs) Mom said not to. I currently live in Marblehead, MA, with my four younger sisters and my parents. Where I went to high school is Small Town, Small Minds, USA. I'm currently a Sophomore in the UMaine system studying Psychology and planning on going to grad school at some point.

Q: What? No GM aspirations?

A: Well, there isn't really a "baseball management" major, you know? Plus, the mental health biz is something that I honestly am really interested in.

Q: Real hardball question here: what's your favorite band/musical group?

A: Green Day. Not a particurly creative choice, but whatever. I've been buying their stuff since they were just a punk band, and I think it's cool that they've started to show some maturity later in their careers. I really like the newest CD ("American Idiot") and I could probably recall all the lyrics from every International Superhits song. Beyond them, I'm a classic rock guy as well: Beatles, Stones, The Who, Bad Company, ACDC (don't know why though), Bob Dylan, Springsteen on a good day, Van Halen...etc. The other bands I like that are active right now include AFI, U2 (don't know if they count as active), The Killers, Eve 6 (they broke up recently...), Dispatch, Audioslave, and others that I'm too tired to recall. In the random category, I'll throw in Warren Zevon (RIP) and Spinal Tap ( :) ). Blink-182 sucks and I still like Smash Mouth's old stuff. That's about it.

Q: If you could be any type of MLB player, what would you be?

A: A relief pitcher of the set-up man phylum. I wouldn't want to close, I'd want to be the guy who comes in with the bases loaded and his team clinging to a small lead in the seventh or something. Or come in to bridge to gap to a Papelbon or Rivera or Soria ( ;) ). There's some almost romantic appeal to being a stopper-type like that. Scot Shields, I salute you.

Q: Enough about you for now. Predict how the Royals do the rest of the way.

A: I think they'll avoid a hundred losses for sure, as some of the hitters will either come around or get dropped from the line-up. The pitching has actually been decent, which has surprised many, I think. That includes me. This team is not as bad as its April showed, but it's still a work in progress. I'll say 68-94. But seriously, focus on the young talent! Those are the guys who'll be helping the Royals when they field a competitive team. This season will not be without positives.

Q: Which Royals' farmhand not currently in the majors are you looking forward most to seeing get a call-up?

A: Hochevar. Scouts and statheads seem to agree that the guy can be a successful major league starter. It interests me that some people already have pegged him as a disappointment. I like him a lot, actually: I think he can be part of the solution, for sure.

Q: Can Gil Meche keep it up?

A: No, of course not. At this rate, he'd comfortably outpitch Johan Santana and that's not going to happen. However, so far I think we're seeing why Dayton Moore made the acquisition, and I'm optimistic now that Meche can beat my 4.40 ERA prediction. Is he the next Carpenter? I dunno. Hard to say given how irregular Carpenter's career was, but I'm liking the deal right now along with a lot of Royals fans. My initial reaction was a stupid kneejerk blog post, and once I thought about the market and the available hurlers the contract was sort of half-justified in my mind. I still think $55 mil over 5 years is a lot of money for KC to commit, but I now think they knew something that a lot of other teams didn't. Props to Moore for this acquisition, even if Meche fades into the fours. It took a lot of guts, that's for sure.

Q: Is Dayton Moore the long-term answer at GM?

A: Yeah, I think he is. Despite well-documented struggles of some 'his guys,' I think the depth that the organization has thanks to him is much better than before, and I think he really is building towards a competitive team. There will be growing pains, but Allard Baird ain't much of an act to follow.

Q: Gotta ask. Is Buddy Bell going to still be the manager when the Royals win the division in 2009?

A: No. There are some good, old-school things about Bell, but the bottom line is he's nothing special as a manager. One of the few times a manager can actually impact a game is when he manages the 'pen and--surprise!--writes out the line-up card. Buddy's not good at the former and so anal retentive about the latter that it's very annoying. I know there have been studies done about how line-ups don't matter and such, but I'm reasonably confident that most players appreciate not getting jerked around through various line-up spots. I imagine that Bell's tenure will end when the organization feels like it's really about to take a step forward and realizes it's got a loser in the dugout. Sort of like Mike Hargrove's tenure in Baltimore. Oh, shit, what a bad example. But I really think Bell will be gone once it can be reasonably expect to have a winning team one the field. I know that's vague. Sorry. He ain't a good manager, how's that?

Q: I just heard you say the Royals will win the division in 2009. Pigs will also fly and Canada will invade Michigan, right?

A: First of all, if Canada invaded us the general public would realize what it's really like to deal with a war. What was the last term the American people actually had to worry about war on their own soil? But that's politics and I shouldn't discuss it.

Q: Christ man, stay with baseball. It's what you're good at.

A: Point taken. Yes, the Royals can win the division in 2009. Meche, Greinke, Hochevar, and two others from Hudson/Soria/Buckner/Lumsden/Hochevar/JDLR/(some FA possibly) actually looks like a good plan to me! Two years from now the Royals could have a really good starting staff that's not all that expensive beyond Meche. Then, if Gordon comes around (you know my feelings here), Butler rakes the way I think he can, DDJ keeps it up, Buck stays useful, Teahen keeps it up, THE ROYALS FIND A GODDAMN SHORTSTOP, German or someone else replaces Gruzielanek eventually, one of the young first base guys (Huber, Shealy, etc.) does okay or is replaced...you get the idea. It seems like a lot to ask, but remember we're talking about two off-seasons from now. A little bit of luck here, a lot of young talent there, and why the hell not?

Q: Obviously, baseball is a huge interest of yours, and you've enjoyed blogging in general and writing for Royals Review. Does writing, for you, extend beyond baseball or is most of your work sports-related or what?

A: Heh, baseball and sports-related writing are certainly a big part of my writing interest. The reason I'm no english major is that I write about what interests me, and thus can't stand english courses because of the class structure that forces me to read some poem by some dead guy and try to interpret what he meant and get it wrong. No appeal for me there, though I get that some like it a lot. My blog, which has suffered greatly during the last couple weeks because of schoolwork, is one of my writing outlets. Royals Review, of course, is another. I terms of non-sports related stuff, I'm a sci-fi nut (not a Trekkie, though. I hate that stuff) and I'm working on my own sci-fi novel which is up to 130+ pages. Hopefully I can get it published before I graduate, somehow. :)

Q: A sci-fi nut, eh? Is that why you believe the Royals can win someday? Also, why do you keep referencing WH40k from time-to-time?

A: The Royals can win without any help from laser beams, though it would be cool if Gload actually exploded due to one or Buddy Bell got trapped in a sandpit by Jabba the Hut or something. But anyways, yeah, sci-fi appeals to me a lot. The Dune series houses some of my all-time favorite books, including ones by both Frank Herbert and Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson. I reference WH40k's Gaunt's Ghosts military sci-fi series by Dan Abnett because Abnett is up there with the Herberts, Terry Pratchett, T.A. Barron, and Graham McNeill as one of my favorite fiction writers. I'm not into the WH40k game or anything. It's just that Colonel Gaunt is my hero. He'd be yours too if you'd read the series.

Q: I have read the series. Returning to baseball once again, who's the best player in the baseball?

A: Pujols. Hands down. Unlike Ryan Howard or David Ortiz, Albert Pujols is a great hitter and a great fielder. His whining about losing the MVP to Howard last year was overblown, and I think he's destined for the HoF on the first ballot he's eligible for. If he could stop getting hurt, his production would come close to rivaling Bonds's, only without the drugs.

Q: You're not a Barry Bonds fan, are you?

A: I'm not a fan of cheaters. If you're of the opinion he didn't cheat, I'm not going to try and convince you, though, because I don't think you can make a legit argument. In my mind, the evidence against him is damning, and he's a joke. One of the worst things to happen to baseball in a while.

Q: With your studies, sports and sci-fi obsessions...er...is there any Ms. NHZ right now?

A: I'm currently in the market, as it were. Last semester was a little better on that front, to tell you the truth. I go through stretches where I just tell myself the world is crazy and not me.

Q: Er...so no one will be mad if you answer this question! Jenn Sterger or Alyssa Milano?

A: Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The stuff you can get out of that show is amazing, really; there's a psyche course on it at my college.

Q: You didn't answer the question. Sterger or Milano?

A: Zooey Deschanel. She was awesome in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Bridge to Terebithia. Not just a pretty face.

Q: Why are you avoiding this question?

A: I'm afraid Will might terminate my contract if I don't go with Jenn, but I can't do that in good conscience.

Q: Contract? I thought it wasn't about the money?

A: It's not. My pay is the free Royals Review T-Shirt. Hopefully, Will wins the lottery and starts paying me. Until then, I look like a Rock Star in this shirt.

Q: We're digressing.

A: You look tired. Not getting much sleep recently, are you?

Q: School sucks, man. Busy week.

A: Amen to that. At we...er...I get my check on friday. Lifeguarding pays the bills.

Q: Ahem, anyhoo, do you plan on attending a Royals game this summer?

A: I'd love to. I stick around for the four-week term to take one more class, but I get out of school the second week of June. Ideally, I'd want to coordinate it so I could sit with/meet as many Royals Reviewers as possible. I need to check out plane fares/hotels and such first, but I definitely think it'd be a blast.

Q: Shouldn't you be assembling you lab notebook so you don't flunk an 150-point assignment?

A: Yeah, okay, it's almost done anyway. I just have to do it.

Spreadsheet Baseball returns to tangible analysis next tuesday when my brain is working properly. Sorry this turned into a "getting to know NHZ" post. I really am sapped of energy right now. Comments are welcome/encouraged, including those questioning my sanity.