Friday, March 14, 2008

Talkin' Baseball with Chaim Bloom (Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays)

Fantasy players often get their advice from other fantasy players. However, here at SportsJudge Blog (the blog for the fantasy baseball arbitration site SportsJudge.com), we wanted to bring you a step closer to the game.

So, today we are "talkin' baseball" with Chaim Bloom -- an assistant for baseball operations with the Tampa Bay Rays. Mr. Bloom is also a graduate of Yale University.

SportsJudge: Can you tell me what it is like to work in baseball operations for a real Major League team?

Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays): I feel privileged to be working here with the Rays. Our core group of young players has gotten a lot of press and we’re excited about their future, but we also have a wonderful group in the front office and among our coaching and scouting staffs. We have people from many different backgrounds, with a ton of different life experiences, and they are all quality human beings with the best interests of the organization at heart. One of the reasons we feel so good about our future as an organization is because of the people who are here working hard to make things happen. With good people, anything is possible. The caliber of those that I work with and learn from every day is one of the most exciting aspects of my job.

SportsJudge: What type of factors do you consider when projecting a player's breakout season?

Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays): There are so many things to consider when looking for players to break out. Some of them are based on knowledge that we have internally about progress a player has made with his health, mental state, physical condition, or training his core skills. But there are also statistical clues you can seek; a lot of these are well-documented in studies and you can find many of them on the Internet still. Many of these fall under the category of things that are outside of a player’s control and therefore can change independent of him. For instance, we feel we’ve improved our defense dramatically this off-season, and that should help our entire pitching staff even if they perform exactly the same way. You might also look for a player’s runs scored or RBI to improve if he has better offensive players hitting ahead of him or behind him in the lineup. If a player converts RBI opportunities at a high rate, but doesn’t get many of them, he’s going to be limited in how many RBI he can rack up. So it stands to reason that if his opportunities increase, so will his RBI.

SportsJudge: When looking at a minor league player, do AA and AAA stats tell the full story of a player's potential?

Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays): I don’t believe stats ever tell you the full story of a player’s potential, especially in the case of minor league players. Different skill sets will translate differently to the major leagues even though they may result in the same statistical output in the minors. Moreover, many of the minor leaguers on whom you will be focusing are quite young – that’s part of why they are highly regarded prospects. And with young players, there is always uncertainty. They are human beings who are still developing as adults on and off the field, and even looking only between the lines their skills are still evolving. Some players realize their potential immediately, but some of them take longer and if you only look at statistics you’re going to disregard certain players too soon. And of course there are a number of cases where players put up incredible numbers in the minor leagues but could never translate that into major league success. The big leagues are the biggest stage in the world for baseball and finding success there is not just a matter of translating minor league numbers.

SportsJudge: When evaluating a player, what should a fantasy owner consider beyond just statistics?

Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays): You owe it to yourself to consider as many factors as you can – any information on a player can help you make a more informed decision on him. One thing that many people forget is injuries. You might be able to estimate what a player can do when healthy, but you have to factor in the chances of him staying healthy for the whole year, and more important, how you will construct your team to protect you if he isn’t. Certain players might be available on the cheap because they have poor health histories, and if you structure your team with a Plan B in case such a player gets hurt, you might be able to find value in one.

SportsJudge: Having seen inside of a Major League organization, how would this change the way you would approach a future fantasy draft?

Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays): It’s hard for me to say because I don’t play fantasy baseball. I think that the time I’ve spent in baseball has broadened my knowledge of the game and my analytical abilities significantly, even while I know that I’ve only scratched the surface in both of those areas. So I’m sure some of that experience would come into play in any situation pertaining to baseball.

[Editor's Note: The SportsJudge.com team wishes to thank Mr. Bloom for taking his time to speak with us.]




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