It seemed obvious at the time. Ben Zobrist, a shortstop, had been having a fine year at the plate with the Rays in 2008, complemented by some monster numbers in Durham. Gabe Gross was an eyesore on the untrained eye at the dish with a ..238 batting average. If Zobrist could play shortstop, of course he could be expected to play a respectable corner outfield. Gross batted only .143 in July and .211 in August. As the postseason arrived I was beside myself, and a DRB username was born.
It turns out I was a bit lucky on my first argument. The percentages were against Zobrist over Gross in right field, and the responsible choice in the thick of a pennant race was Gross. Zobrist's major league sample size gave an indication his power surge likely was not real, Gross turned out have had an above average overall season at the plate against right-handed pitching with a wOBA of .349, and it turns out it's not so easy to learn a new position on the fly in a pennant race. However, the fact that known sabertruths are not absolute truths, merely a guide, has not been lost on me.
The debate with those much more informed with me at the time, namely R.J. Anderson and Navi's Navy created an unquenchable thirst for the pursuit of advanced savermetric knowledge. The respect and admiration I developed for the way the Rays organization is run left me wanting to try to predict their next move in the way that Tommy Rancel seems to pick bullpen options out of the blue for the Rays on an annual basis. Even more so, when a move seems unusual such as batting Jason Bartlett against most right-handed pitchers over the slicker glove and more left-handed bat of Reid Brignac, I wanted to try to backdoor the reasoning behind the move. This is what drove me to writing as a hobby.
Early in the 2009 season, Tommy Rancel asked me to come on board the DRB staff and do minor league recaps after a few literate amateur fanposts. I knew little of the farm system at the time and never imagined I would be checking the nightly minor league box scores and newspapers long after I stopped doing the recaps. Writing turned into a full fledged hobby, one that upon the birth of our second child and my in-real-life career progression, no longer could be afforded the same amount of time.
As the 2010 season would down, I informed Steve Slowinski that I could no longer be depended upon for regularly scheduled pieces, but would like to continue to contribute as time allowed. Slow was more than gracious in accomodating my schedule and for that I am grateful. It had been a rough year for DRB having lost both R.J. and Tommy, and I didn't want to see the brand devalued. Steve has successfully navigated the seas of transition having brought on very talented new writers in Bradley Woodrum, Mr. Negative, PGP, and CB Jones. This week he scored his greatest coup bringing on the nationally acclaimed tandem of Jason Collette and Jason Hanselman, and there is more on the way.
This restocking of talent has created a broader lineup of talent than ever before, and my individual marginal value is no longer what it once was, allowing me to bow out gracefully and guilt-free. I won't be disappearing from the site. I look forward to being a daily reader for years to come, and as frequent a commenter as there will be. DRB will always be the forum where the voices of the Rays blogosphere meet to debate, and the future is brighter than ever. I won't be giving up writing entirely as I will be joining Tommy and R.J. over on theprocessreport.com where I will be able to write on an as-inspired basis, and not interfere with the regular DRB rotation. I encourage all of you to sign up for the TPR mailing list to know when a post has been made.
I'd like to thank Tommy for bringing me on board and R.J. for teaching me more than anybody else has about saber-concept and putting up with my constant devil's advocate positioning. Thanks to Steve for putting up with me over the past 9 months and for being understanding. Thanks to Erik and all the other writers I have had the privilege of sharing the masthead with. Thanks to SBN for their top of-the-line formatting and commenting system. The biggest thanks of all goes to the readers and commenting body. Tommy built a brand that should live eternally due to the voice of the readers. Every year new writers emerge from the pack, and the camaraderie amongst the regulars is top notch. The concept of internet friends seems so absurd to a 30-something family man, but here I am a professional father of two with a bunch of internet friends ranging from teenagers to retirees. You are the engine that drives DRB and always will be.
As I take off the mask of FreeZorilla, to reveal the name of Heath Baywood (the name to be found on TPR), I want to thank you for reading my work as a make-believe baseball analyst on DRB. Its been a blast and allowed me to fulfill my road not travelled in life. I look forward to continuing the discussion for years to come. Go Rays!