Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Bill Ferris, Detroit Tigers Blog
Yesterday, I re-posted a conversation with David Bergner, The Baseball Savant. Today, I share with you another Q&A with a fellow blogger. Bill Ferris writes an excellent blog called The Detroit Tigers Blog which, ironically, is a blog that covers the Detroit Tigers! The Tigers have been in the rumor mills throughout the Hot Stove season, but have not yet signed an impact free agent. Bill answered questions about his baseball history, his blog, the Tigers, the AL Central and much more.
I really hope that you enjoy reading this conversation as much as I enjoyed it! If you have any questions for myself or Bill, send me an e-mail. If it is for Bill, I will forward it to him. Or, head over to The Detroit Tigers Blog and drop him a line. Iím sure heíd be happy to hear from you!
So letís get to the questions! Enjoy!
THE CONVERSATION BEGINS
SethSpeaks: What is your baseball history and background? (Did you play much?)
Bill Ferris: As a baseball fan, I think it started for me probably around the age of 7 or 8 when and older kid in the neighborhood gave me some of his common baseball cards. About the same time (1982ish) the Tigers were turning into a pretty good team. By the time 1984 had come around, I was already a big Tiger fan and Lou Whitaker was (and still is) my favorite player.
The first game I attended was a twi-night doubleheader in August 1982 against the Blue Jays. My dad had gotten us great seats through his work. They were a couple rows behind the Tigers dugout. Kirk Gibson had a broken wrist at the time, and was sitting in street clothes 2 rows in front of us. Coincidentally enough, at the last game at Tiger Stadium Kirk Gibson was sitting with his family a couple rows in front of us. Kind of a neat symmetry.
As for my own baseball prowess, I was mostly average with occasional bouts of decentness. I started out as a catcher until breaking my hand on a play at the plate. When I came back they moved me over to first base. I also pitched occasionally, but my effectiveness was limited by my 2 to 4:30 curveball. Now I play first base for my D league softball team.
SethSpeaks: You've been writing The Detroit Tigers Weblog for awhile now. What was it that made you decide to start the blog and write for a larger audience? What were your goals for the site? And, where do you see the site going?
Bill Ferris: I had started a personal blog a few months prior to that. I was using Blogger, and on their homepage they have a list of "Blogs of Note." One blog I noticed on that list was BaseballNews.Blogspot.com. I checked it out, and was looking at the list of team specific blogs when I noticed there wasnít anyone blogging the Tigers. I started up the blog that day, and invited a few friends to help out. Back when I started I did much less writing, and much more linking.
Thatís kind of evolved over time to be the other way around. Oh yeah, and it is a solo project now.
I didnít really have any goals for the site when I started. It was just something to do. Now I keep doing it, because Iíve come to like writing. I take the writing more seriously now than I used to. Itís a challenge to come up with stuff on a regular basis, and then actually spend the time doing the necessary research to go along with it. I write more for myself than my audience, but Iíd be lying if I said that I didnít care if people were reading or not.
As for the future, right now Iím trying to garner more attention for all the independent Tiger writers/bloggers. I know in other markets, blogs are more accepted (i.e. Twins Geek in the Strib). That hasnít happened in Detroit yet so Iím trying to raise our level of visibility.
SethSpeaks: What is your process for determining what you will write about each day?
Bill Ferris: I donít really have a process. One thing I donít do is feel the need to have new content everyday. I get stuff up when I can. Iím at the point now where if I donít have the time to invest in writing/researching something Iíll wait until I can give it the attention it deserves. Iíve seen several prominent baseball bloggers "retire" because the burden of doing it everyday is too much. I donít want to be a slave to the blog. This is supposed to be fun right? Plus, given how poorly the Tigers have performed it is tough to churn out content everyday when the season is over in June.
Many of my topics start off with something I observe in a game. Iíll often times then go and look at the stats/numbers, to see if my perception is actually matching reality. For example if Iím watching a game and I see Omar Infante have a couple really good at-bats I may think to myself, "Omar sure seems to be a lot more patient at the plate lately, I wonder how that has effected his performance." I then go and see if he has been more patient, and if it has effected his performance. Not very exciting, but thatís a typical process.
SethSpeaks: The Tigers made huge strides last year with their addition of Ivan Rodriguez and a couple of other veterans. This offseason, Mr. Ilitch doesn't have to pay the Redwings, so the Tigers were mentioned as possibly getting free agents Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran, Edgar Renterria, Adrian Beltre, Carl Pavano, Matt Clement and others, yet they have not been able to sign anyone.
Seth Speaks: What do you think it says about the organization that they didn't sign any of these players?
Bill Ferris: I think it says that the Tigers are still paying for the last decade of crapulence. Pudge helped them gain some respect, but people still look at the Tigers as a losing club. Also, the city isnít well thought ofÖyet. It also says the Tigers can show some fiscal restraint. Out of the players the Tigers actually pursued and missed, the only one Iím really disappointed about is Beltre. Then again, it probably would have taken $16-17 million a year for Beltre to sign here and at that point heís not such a good deal. Iím not sure they ever pursued Clement (which is too bad), but at the prices that Glaus and Renteria ultimately signed for I wouldnít have wanted them anyways.
SethSpeaks: Are there players that the team should be pursuing? Where are their primary needs yet? (OF, another starter and bullpen help?)
Bill Ferris: Ordonez is the most interesting case still out there. Iíd almost like to see the Tigers not even wait for the workouts. Just offer him a contract now that is voidable if he misses "x" number of games due to his knees. It would be similar to the Pudge deal with the out clause for his back. The Tigers outfield is extremely underwhelming. Now if they get Pudge that means platooning Higginson/Monroe/Sanchez in center which in itself is terrifying. As for pitching, I donít think there are starters left who would be a substantial improvement over what they have. Jason Johnson is the weakest member of the rotation, but the Tigers only owe him one more year. I would have liked to see them pursue Odalis Perez and Matt Clement. Iím comfortable with the back of the bullpen, and Jamie Walker is a fine lefty specialist. Itís the long relief that scares me right now. German and Rodney have some great potential but neither has put it together yet.
SethSpeaks: What are your thoughts on the 2005 Detroit Tigers and where they will rank among the rest of the AL Central?
Bill Ferris: I havenít delved into my predictions yet, but off the cuff Iíd go with 78 wins and a battle for third place with the White Sox. I think theyíll pick up a couple wins from the bullpen over last year, and a couple game correction for underperforming their Pythagorean last year. This will be offset by regressions from Carlos Guillen, Pudge, and Brandon Inge. Plus a full season of Sanchez in center will cost them a couple games. The starters should be a little bit better.
Iíd say the Twins are still the class of the division, but Cleveland will push them this year. The Tigers will push the White Sox for third and the Royals will bring up the rear.
SethSpeaks: Is this the year that Jeremy Bonderman breaks out?
Bill Ferris: He wonít be competing for the Cy Young, but I think this is the year he becomes a top of the rotation guy. The strikeout numbers are impressive, and he could top 200 this year. He also seems to have the mental makeup to be "the guy." Fortunately Trammell seems to have taken care of his arm the past couple years so theyíve done what they can to minimize injury risk.
SethSpeaks: Over the past year, I've written a few times that I think Wil Ledezma could be a star. What are your thoughts on the young lefty? Does the farm system have much hope to provide a lift in the near future? (Kyle Sleeth, Joel Zumaya?)
Bill Ferris: I have a dream that 3 years from now people are debating who was the better rule 5 pick-Santana or Ledezma. I love to watch Ledezma pitch, because he gets the ball up there in the mid 90ís and yet his delivery looks effortless. From what I hear, the big thing with him is his ability to spot his fastball. When his command is on heís very tough to hit. When itís off though he will get killed because his fastball is very straight.
As for the farm system, it looks bleak-especially for position players. Iím not sure on Sleeth yet, and Verlander has pitched professionally. I think the Tigers are planning on at least one of the two in the rotation next year. Zumaya is starting now, but he looks like an injury risk and may be better suited as a reliever. A guy to watch this year is Humberto Sanchez. I have high hopes for him.
As for position players, there are only two of note at the higher levels. Shortstop Tony Giarrtano has excelled at Rookie, Low A, and High A over the last two years. Curtis Granderson put together a solid year at Erie last season and could push Sanchez for the spot in centerfield this year.
SethSpeaks: Where do you stand on the whole Moneyball, SABRmetrics versus traditional thinking topic?
Bill Ferris: I love Sabrmetrics, but I donít dismiss the traditional thinking. I know that when Iím trying to make judgments on guys I rely mostly on the numbers, because thatís what I can look at. I donít get to see these guys play, and I donít have a scoutís eye anyway. The stats are much more accessible to me.
Now as for building a team, I think you need to do both. Dismissing any potential source of knowledge is foolish.
As for Moneyball, it is more an economics book than a baseball book. It is the formula that works for the Aís, finding undervalued, low risk players. It doesnít work for everybody.
SethSpeaks: Who were your favorite players growing up? Big names, or guys that only big-time baseball fans will remember?
Bill Ferris: Lou Whitaker was and is my favorite player and it is a travesty that he was kicked off the HoF ballot his first time. Iím willing to concede that he might not be a HoFíer, but Ryne Sandberg wasnít that much better than him that Sandberg gets in, and Whitaker got like 7 votes.
SethSpeaks: Do you play fantasy sports? If so, what attracts you to them?
Bill Ferris: I do play fantasy football. My friends and I have played in the same league for 6 years now, and I just won my first championship this year. I like it because it adds a new level of interest to watching the actual games, plus you get to talk trash with your friends.
SethSpeaks: This should probably be question #1, but... tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What do you do when you're not writing your website?
Bill Ferris: I grew up in Metro Detroit, and this summer I moved back into the same neighborhood where I grew up. I work as a management engineer which probably helps to explain my fascination with making decisions with data. I went to the University of Michigan for both of my degrees, and my allegiance to UM Football and basketball is right on par with my passion for the Tigers.
Iím married and have a 4 year old son (who has already been to a half dozen Tiger games) and a two year old daughter.
SethSpeaks: Bill, Thank you very much again for doing this!! I think it was a lot of fun. We'll have to keep in touch as the season gets closer and see what the season brings us!
I just wanted to point out a few other brief thoughts today and would do them in Notes form:
Yesterday, I started out my posting with "Good Morning Everyone! No new entry today." I followed that with a few thoughts before re-posting my conversation with David Bergner. I bring that up again because I got a great e-mail from Stick and Ball Guy entitled, "I have to laugh!" I wasn't sure what to expect when I read that. When I opened up the e-mail, it made me laugh out loud! It said,
No new entry...
And then you type in 705 words, with 11 links. I think that qualifies as a new
I then learned how I can find out how many words I type in a day. So, I went back a week to find out how many words I write. The least number of words was just over 2,300. The most was over 4,000. I knew I wrote a lot, but that is ridiculous!!!
Today's Entry? 3,045 words!
I really try not to write too much about politics and that type of stuff, but sometimes it is pretty interesting. A reader who frequently writes to agree with many of my sports opinions but definitely writes when he disagrees with my political opinions sent me this link. In Maryland legislators are working to pass a bill that would do a number of things. First, it would limit some of the frivolous suits that a doctor faces. It would also limit the amount a doctor can be sued when a patient dies from $1.6 million to $812,000. A doctor could only be sued $650,000 for causing 'pain and suffering.' It is believed that by cutting these dollar amounts, insurance for doctors will be kept lower. That should mean that health costs should be decreased. In just the last two years, health costs have raised by 61%! Now, this is happening in Maryland. It will be interesting to see what happens with this. There is also some stuff in the bill regarding HMOs, which I don't know much about, so I won't discuss. But I am in favor of lower health care costs! I won't pretend to know what other bits of legislature are tied to this bill, but it doesn't sound bad at all!
OK, I saw some replays of the Randy Johnson press conference. Did he shave off his mustache, or is it kind of still there? I got up real close to the TV and I honestly couldn't tell.
Our buddy James Baldwin signed a minor league deal with the Orioles.
The Indians signed former slugger Juan Gonzalez to a minor league deal. Should he make the team, he could make up to $2 million with incentives. Probably a pretty safe deal. I just have little to no respect for Gonzalez!
Seriously, if Carlos Delgado signs with the Texas Rangers, how potent is that offense? He likely plays 1B, so does that mean Mark Teixeira moves back to the OF? Maybe Delgado will DH?
Congratulations to Aaron Gleeman whose original web blog Aaron's Baseball Blog just went over the 1 million hit mark. I should hit the 100,000 mark in a month or so. I just figured that Aaron gets literally ten-times the readership that I do! I'm not jealous though! Ha! Aaron's writing is incredible!
I've mentioned this to a few people. Carlos Beltran will be the centerfielder for the Mets. He will be taking the spot of multi-Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron. Both are incredible defensive centerfielders. Unless a trade is made, Cameron will move to RF. Here is what I think they should do. They should play Cameron in right centerfield and Beltran in left centerfield. Then the oft-injured Cliff Floyd could play right on the left field line and be told not to move. That way, he will limit his opportunities to get hurt. Also, Beltran and Cameron have pretty incredible range!
That wasn't the only signing the Mets have made. They also signed their 2004 first round pick, pitcher Phil Humber out of Rice. That may be as good of a move from the Mets perspective!
Toronto GM JP Ricciardi is a big fan of On-Base Percentage, right? So, why is it that they are on the verge of trading for Shea Hillenbran? With Corey Koskie at 3B, you have to assume Hillenbran would play 1B. Does that mean that former Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske would DH, or would he be headed to Arizona?
On that note, I am going to call it a day. I hope you enjoyed today's Q&A, and I encourage any of you to write me any time. If you have any comments, opinions, or ideas for future articles, please e-mail me. Have a great day!
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