Recently, M-SABR had the chance to speak with Ken Davidoff. We discussed topics ranging from 2019 MLB Free Agency to the NL MVP race. Ken Davidoff has been a baseball columnist for the New York Post since 2012. He attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1993. We would like to thank Ken for his time amid a wild MLB postseason!
M-SABR: At M-SABR, we do a lot of in-depth player analysis. What are your go-to statistics for player evaluation? What numbers do you look towards first?
Ken Davidoff: I look at OPS+ for hitters and ERA+ for pitchers, WAR (usually Baseball-Reference.com first) for everyone.
M-SABR: MLB has work to do in terms of marketing their players and appealing the game to millennials. What steps do you believe they can take to make the game more fun?
KD: That’s the critical question. I think the two areas where they can make themselves more appealing is by highlighting the individuality of the players—I like their current ad for the postseason featuring Ken Griffey Jr., in which he urges them to “Let the kids play”—and finding ways to make the game quicker. I think pitch clocks should be instituted. The limiting of mound visits was a good idea that went very smoothly.
M-SABR: Looking at NL MVP, obviously Christian Yelich has done amazing things for the Brewers. However, Jacob deGrom has dominated almost every advanced statistic. What are your thoughts on Jacob deGrom as an MVP candidate?
KD: I understand both schools of thought. On one hand, Yelich got his team into the playoffs, which makes more money for the Brewers, so there is true “value” in that. On the other hand, unless you can find me phone records or emails from Jacob deGrom that show it was his idea for the Mets to have a mid-market payroll, then it’s not his fault the Mets weren’t in the playoff race. And he did provide immense value for his team in making the Mets far better than they would have been without him.
M-SABR: The 2019 MLB free agent class has been talked about for years. Any bold predictions for the offseason?
KD: In a general sense, I think we’ll see a lot of players signing quickly after last winter’s fiasco when so many guys were left hanging well into spring training and beyond. Concerning this specific class, you’re right: There has been a lot of discussion of it for a long time. Now that we’re here, the lesson is that it might not be very worthwhile to tout a free agent class years ahead of time. Things happen and statuses change. This is still a very good free-agent class, but there are only two break-the-bank standouts in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. I expect both of them to at least flirt with, if not break, Giancarlo Stanton’s record contract of $325 million.
M-SABR: Going off offseason talk, what do you believe the best strategy for the Angels with Mike Trout is moving forward? Should they think about trading the best player in baseball and start rebuilding?
KD: No, they should try very hard to extend him and then build around him.
M-SABR: I wanted to end our conversation with a question on the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) How did your experience as a Wolverine help shape your future career in the baseball industry? What advice do you have to college students trying to break into this business?
KD: At the risk of being a party pooper, I don’t consider myself part of the “baseball industry.” I’m in the journalism industry and I happen to cover baseball. Some people have made the leap from journalism to actually working in the industry, but that has never been a goal or thought of mine and I’m pretty old now. Writing for The Michigan Daily (I was on the men’s basketball beat the year of Chris Webber’s timeout) gave me a remarkable head start in terms of covering big events, competing against bona fide media outlets and writing on tight deadlines. For those who want to get into the baseball industry, I think studying analytics is clearly the best avenue. And then using that knowledge to get your foot in the door via an internship with a team, with MLB or even with a player agency.