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Inside the SABR Analytics Conference — Part 3

When I attended the 2013 SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix in March, I talked to big-league players and MLB general managers about the role sabermetrics (basically new statistics in baseball that involve more numbers than traditional stats) play in baseball. I also got to hear experts use stats to debate who the best player of all time is, predict who will be the game’s next great players, and their thoughts on the 2013 season.

Brian Kenny, host of Clubhouse Confidential on the MLB Network, moderated a panel discussion about just those topics. The people who participated were Dave Cameron (a writer for FanGraphs), Rob Neyer (an author and writer for ESPN and SB Nation), and Vince Gennaro (an author and MLB consultant). Kenny began by asking everyone the same questions: Who is the best baseball player ever (aside from Babe Ruth)? Who is the best player today?

Gennaro said he thought Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was the best active player, while Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams was the best ever. Cameron agreed that Verlander was the best player in baseball, but argued that Barry Bonds was the best player aside from the Bambino. Neyer, meanwhile, couldn’t give an answer to either question. But hesaid that Willie Mays deserves some credit because he was a five-tool player: He could hit for power and average, could run, could catch, and could throw. Neyer added that he thinks Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout could be the best based on how high his traditional stats and metrics have been lately.

When the conversation shifted to discussing the 2013 season, all three panelists focused on the fortunes of the Houston Astros. Gennaro said that the Astros have a lot of young talent, but he doesn’t think they will win 90 games in any of the next five seasons. Cameron agreed, while Neyer said that the Astros’ prospects (like Carlos Correa, Jarred Cosart, and Jonathon Singleton) will give the team the boost it needs as it rebuilds.

The panelists discussed other issues, too. They all said it was a smart move for the Arizona Diamondbacks to trade Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves. They also agreed that the Toronto Blue Jays could be in trouble due to the number of injuries that have hit the team’s star players, but Neyer added that he thought the Blue Jays have potential. The panelists also discussed Mike Trout’s new contract (he finished second in American League MVP voting last season, but is making less money than he wants). Everyone thought that Trout will be OK, but Neyer said the Angels should have given him twice as much money and Cameron added that the contract could become a distraction.

They wrapped up the panel by giving their predictions on the season. Gennaro said the Angels will have the best record in baseball in 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers will finish second in the NL West, and the injury-plagued New York Yankees will finish with 81 wins. Neyer and Cameron think the Washington Nationals will have the best record and that the Dodgers will finish second in the NL West. They also have similar predictions about the Bronx Bombers’ season: Neyer thinks they will earn 86 wins, Cameron says 85.

This panel showed that even baseball analysts often have different opinions on topics, small or big. Now that the season has begun, I think that many of their opinions will be successful, while others won’t.

Max Mannis is an 11-year-old special correspondent for and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit

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