Chicago Goes Solo for SABR Day 2018

When SABR Day was instituted in 2010, a few chapters sought to make their event distinctive from their other meetings. In Denver, they play catch, rain or shine. Some chapters get outstanding ballpark events in their regions. And in the Midwest, Chicago and Milwaukee met half-way for a joint meeting.

For years, this caused a conflict for Chicago members whose rooting interests lay with the club residing at 35th and Shields. Go to SABR Day in Kenosha or to SoxFest in the city? For the avid Sox fan and baseball historian, this is no simple calculation. The leaders at be felt it was time this conflict be avoided.

Thus, a week before most of the society met for the official SABR Day, the Emil Rothe chapter gathered at the Nichols Library in Naperville to celebrate on the weekend in between the local teams’ offseason fan fests. Despite the challenge of parking, 35 seamheads found their way there to enjoy an afternoon of baseball chatter.

Batting leadoff was Aaron Nieckula of the Oakland Athletics. The Berwyn native discussed the types of things he tries to do in his current role as the minor league field coordinator for the organization. His other role as manager of the Vermont Lake Monsters (NY-Penn League) helps to ensure he gets to meet with most of the players that come into the As organization. After talking about these roles and the upgrades the As made to HoHoKam park, Aaron spent the bulk of this time discussing how the A’s develop players both on and off the field. I found the off-field aspects just as fascinating. The As have players create a personal leadership model to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, much like the programs offered by large companies. They also emphasize SMART (Structured, Measurable, Appropriate, Reasonable, Timely) goal setting for the players. He also shared one of the sheets they use to measure on field success in playing the game “The A’s Way”. It was a fascinating look at how one organization does player development, especially since the A’s depend on this pipeline of talent for its major league success.

After going behind the on-field scenes, the next presentation peeled back the curtain a small bit on the White Sox gameday production with Dave Marren, a producer of scoreboard trivia for the Sox and the proprietor of the Sox Nerd blog. The Kenosha native walked through some of his favorite tidbits that made it to the scoreboard and described the various elements that come up on the scoreboard and what he looks for in trivia and information that makes it to the scoreboard. Dave showed the early versions from the old scoreboard at the old Comiskey Park (Red for the away side, Blue for the Pale Hose) as well as the current look for the player facts, game notes, trivia, and other scoreboard features that occur each game. Some key themes of his work include an attempt to stay positive even when the team isn’t doing well, many of the in game features like 6th Inning Trivia, Game Notes, and the Sox Almanac are scripted before the game, and it helps to have a good rapport with the guys in the television production truck as they end up helping each other out with on-the-fly information related to what occurs in-game.

At this point, it was time for a break in the proceedings. After a few announcements about upcoming meetings for the chapter, some historical trivia questions were asked of the group. Here’s one of the questions that you can try and find the answer to:

Closing out the afternoon was Josh Nelson, host of the newly independent Sox Machine podcast, with his look to preview the 2018 Chicago White Sox. Using Dan Zymborski’s ZiPs projections, he showed the poor projections for the 2018 lineup, which features Eloy Jimenez as the 3rd most productive hitter in a line-up he’s not expected to be a part of until the All-Star Break at the earliest. Comparing the projections to the results of last 5 years showed the White Sox regularly falling short of expectations, even if only by a game as in 2014 and 2015. 2018’s projection isn’t much better, but the hope for the future with the Sox is real. Josh suggests that the core 4 for a playoff run are Moncada, Jimenez, Tim Anderson, and Luis Robert, the latter whom has impressed with his contact in offseason camps and winter ball. The key for team success is to expect these players, and hopefully some others, to produce at least 3 WAR to make the playoffs, as each of the last 5 playoff teams for the South Siders featured 3 players with at least that much production.

This year’s event was also broadcast live via Facebook, and you can find those videos and more information on coming events, including a July date to see the Kane County Cougars, on the chapter’s Facebook page.

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