What separates Ducksnorts from others is the degree of intelligence with which Geoff Young, the owner and founder, writes about the game and the denizens of his blog posts. Ducksnorts has been mentioned on Padres' broadcasts, MLB.com's Cory Brock is a regular poster and ESPN's Keith Law has even stopped by to defend himself against irate posters accusing him of east coast bias.
In short, Ducksnorts not only a great place for the serious baseball fan, it's also great place to become a serious baseball fan.
This year, Geoff has again published a companion to his blog, ‘Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual'. An indication of how well thought of he is within the baseball community is that Matt Vasgersian, the Padres' play-by-play announcer, wrote the introduction, taking over for Sandy Alderson from last year.
As with his previous edition, the book is a mix of all things Padres: A review of the 2007 season, player commentaries, minor league reports, selected pieces of obscure team history and a very funny diary of his trip to Cooperstown for the Tony Gwynn Hall of Fame induction.
In his book, as in his blog, Geoff demonstrates that one can be keen observer of the game as well as a passionate fan. Ducksnorts already is a must-stop destination for any Padres fan on the World Wide Web and the 'Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual' should be by everyone's favorite chair for every game.
First, can you give us a little bit of information about you how Ducksnorts started and what you try to provide to your readers every day.
Geoff Young: I started Ducksnorts in 1997 with two goals: 1) teach myself how to build web pages and 2) write about baseball, specifically items that interested me but that weren't getting much mainstream coverage. The focus has evolved over time to concentrate almost exclusively on the Padres. In that vein, I try to bring readers information about the club that they can't find elsewhere.
Way too much stuff is always going on in the world, and it's impossible for any news agency to keep track of it all, so a lot gets glossed over or missed altogether. This creates a service gap, which is what I'm trying to fill. And that actually ties into the name "Ducksnorts." A ducksnort is a blooper that falls between the infielders and outfielders -- in other words, an item that gets missed. Also, it's a funny name.
How and why did you decide to write the Ducksnorts 2007 and 2008 Annual? Isn't posting a daily blog, contributing to the Hardball Times, your other blog Knuckle Curve and music enough for you?
Geoff Young: I'd written a couple of "Best of Ducksnorts" eBooks in the past that were basically edited and annotated compilations of a year's worth of material. Based on those experiences, I thought that writing a book containing more in-depth original research might be interesting. It allowed me to look back at some things I'd written during the season and explore those in greater detail. Really, it seemed like a logical extension to what I'd been doing. And then, of course, it turned out to be a much larger undertaking than I'd imagined and I had to quit my job.
You expanded your Padres Farm Report Section fairly substantially this year. Why?
Geoff Young: Shortly after I first started Ducksnorts, the Padres appeared in their second World Series. Not long after that, they started stinking up the joint, and their farm system became the most interesting part of the organization. I covered the minor leagues quite a bit at that time, but as the big-league team enjoyed a renaissance after moving downtown, I returned my focus to the Padres and let the minor-league coverage slip.
That also coincided with a down phase in the farm system. Now that the organization has greater depth in the minors, it's more interesting to cover. Also, since I'm writing full time, there's no excuse for me to ignore it. Honestly, I expanded my minor-league coverage because I never should have let it slip in the first place.
You go to a few Lake Elsinore Storm games during the year, how would you compare the experience to PETCO?
Geoff Young: This is going to sound strange, but there is no park I'd rather visit than The Diamond in Lake Elsinore. My wife and I had a 7-game mini-plan from 2001 to 2003, and we still get up there as often as possible (it's about an 80-minute drive from our house).
Usually we sit behind the plate, where all the scouts and pitchers who aren't starting sit and chart the game. In terms of fan experience, the minor leagues are so relaxed and unpretentious. I love the Padres, so that's wrapped up in my PETCO Park experience, but when I think of hanging out at the ballpark, I think of The Diamond.
For the non-sabermetrically inclined, you used some interesting statistics by the minor league players that you reviewed, especially the last four for hitters – BB/SO, BB/PA, ISO and XB/H. Tell us why you picked these numbers and how you believe they provide extra insight into the players that you reviewed.
Geoff Young: The first two -- BB/SO and BB/PA -- indicate how well a hitter controls the strike zone. As players face stiffer competition, this becomes an important skill to have because better pitchers will try to get hitters to expand their zone and thus reduce their chances of creating a positive outcome (i.e., making contact). If a hitter can't control the strike zone in High-A, for example, then what's going to happen when he goes up against Double-A pitching?
But the flip side of that is if our same hypothetical hitter improves his ratios while moving up the ladder (assuming he's not old for the league), then we may be witnessing a development of skills. And of course, there is no substitute for visual scouting. Statistics only show us tendencies and patterns -- they are the tool, not the thing we are trying to build.
As for ISO and XB/H, these are two metrics I like to use in assessing a hitter's power. I choose ISO over SLG because it removes the batting average component, giving us a better indication of the actual power skill. XB/H is similar, but the emphasis is slightly different -- for example, if a developing young hitter knocks a ton of doubles but isn't driving the ball out of the park yet, he'll score well in this area, which may be an indicator of greater things to come. Again, though -- and I can't stress this enough -- with statistics, we're looking at tendencies and patterns. Each individual case is different.
I know you are pretty high on Kyle Blanks but were you concerned about his drop off in the second half [OPS in first half 1.0009, second half .821].
Geoff Young: Ideally you'd like to see more consistency. That said, Blanks' second-half OPS is nothing to sneeze at, and most of his struggles came in August. Blanks is a famously giant human being, and he may have worn down some as the season progressed, but I don't think we're seeing an erosion of skills here. If a second-half fade becomes a pattern, then the organization needs to find ways to keep him in peak condition for a full season. From a skills standpoint, though, I'm not concerned.
Last, I know you put quite a few caveats around this selection, but Edinson Rincon at #10?
Geoff Young: Yeah, it's a crazy pick. Total speculation on my part. If I were playing it straight, so to speak, I probably would've gone with Chad Huffman, but I thought Rincon would be more fun.