The Yankeeist Interview with Replacement Level Yankees Weblog's SG

For this latest edition of the Yankeeist Interview series, I am once again pleased to bring you a stalwart of the Yankee blogosphere, SG of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.

I found RLYW — which was founded by Larry Mahnken, who is a hell of a baseball analyst himself — shortly after discovering Bronx Banter in 2004, and have been reading the site on a daily basis ever since. As Larry began posting with less frequency as time wore on, eventually the day-to-day posting was taken over by SG.

During the last five seasons RLYW has been a revelation, essentially responsible for the transformation of the way I enjoy the Yankees. I no longer just watch baseball games, I now mentally statistically analyze every single pitch of every at-bat, armchair managing the hell out of every move along with the rest of the sabermetrically-inclined portion of the Yankee fanbase.

SG has been at the forefront of advanced Yankee statistical analysis, even creating his own projection system, CAIRO, which has routinely been more accurate than several of the more well-known systems. One of the biggest treats of the offseason is SG’s annual individual player projections as well as the Diamond Mind Projection Blowout. I imagine most people reading this blog already read RLYW, but if you don’t, you really should be.

Yankeeist: What compelled you to start writing about the Yankees on the internet, what was the date of your first-ever blog post and what was it about?

SG: It really started out by posting a lot at Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory), which is where I found a few Yankee fans who were similar to me in appreciating the statistical side of baseball. It’s a lot more common nowadays, but back then it was a lot rarer. Larry Mahnken started the RLYW from there and we all just used to sort of read there and comment, then Larry asked a few of us if we’d be interested in helping him out.

My first official post is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, as I advocated signing Matt Clement and Odalis Perez as part of an effort to rebuild the Yankees on the fly in 2005. It was posted on August 11, 2004 and is still available here.

At least I also advocated signing Carlos Beltran.

Yankeeist: While Larry Mahnken founded RLYW, you have basically been its caretaker for the last several years. RLYW could have easily fallen into disrepair without a daily contributor. What made you decide to shoulder the burden of RLYW?

SG: I guess I never really saw it as a burden, I’ve always enjoyed blogging about stuff that popped into my head then having people discuss it and tell me what they think about it, good or bad. There was no official changeover or anything. Basically, Larry M. and Fabian just stopped writing as much and I started writing more.

I do wish some of the people that used to post more in the beginning would get back into it at times because it’s always good to get different takes on stuff. Even if it’s just a post every month or so.

Yankeeist: Are there any plans for Larry to post semi-regularly again? How and when did Jonathan join the RLYW team?

SG: I still consider the RLYW Larry M.’s blog, and hope that he will be motivated to post more often, but I have no idea if that will ever actually happen. Jonathan was one of our most prolific commenters (posting as “Cutter” at the time) and we thought he’d make a good addition since he seemed to have a good knack for finding news stories and stuff, and that’s certainly been the case. He also fits right in with some of the reverse jinx and superstitious stuff we are guilty of. He’s pretty much been a part of the blog since we moved over from Blogger in April of 2007.

Yankeeist: SG, your Monte Carlo simulations, CAIRO projections and other high-end analyses have made you the preeminent statistician among the Yankee blogosphere, providing tons of content and data that is literally unavailable anywhere else. You’ve also cultivated a very unique audience and community, with one of the few commenting sections in which almost every comment is worth reading and adds value to a given discussion. What were your initial goals in blogging about the Yankees and did you ever expect to become such an influential voice among Yankee fans and the site to become the go-to resource for statistically-inclined Yankee fans that it now is?

SG: I do appreciate that sentiment Larry, although I never really had any goals as far as where the blogging would go. I’ve always been a numbers dork, so that’s just where the blog headed over time. I know that the pure statistical stuff isn’t always interesting for a lot of people, which probably limits the type of audience the blog will ever have, but I never really cared about that. I’ve never really had any aspirations of this turning into more than a hobby.

In the five years I’ve been blogging I feel that I’ve learned a lot about the statistical side of baseball myself, and I don’t think the blog would be where it is now if not for the work of people like Tango Tiger, MGL, Sean Smith and Dan Szymborski, just to name a few of the people whom I’ve interacted with and whose work I’ve often used as the basis of the analysis I do.

Yankeeist: What Yankee and/or baseball blogs/websites do you check in with every day?

SG: There are a lot of good blogs out there, although I generally don’t like to check them before I do my own blogging for the day because I don’t want to risk stealing their work or having my own thoughts influenced, but going through the ones I generally look at at least once every couple of days.

Bronx Banter – Alex is a damn good writer, and I have a lot of respect for Cliff as an analyst.
Lohud – Still the best source for straight Yankee news.
River Ave. Blues – Ben, Mike and Joe are all sharp guys who do a great job.

Baseball Think Factory
The Book
The Hardball Times

There are a few other ones I check at least weekly:

Pending Pinstripes
Yankee Universe

Then there are others that I check out semi-frequently, too many to list, but we’ve got them all listed on our blogrolls off the main page.

Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?

SG: Probably around 13, during the 1985 season. The August 8, 1985, game sticks out as the one that made me a fan — Dave Winfield hit two home runs and the Yankees won 8-1, and the whole pennant race with Toronto that went into the final series of the season really hooked me, even though the Yankees ended up falling a bit short at the end. I still remember being livid about Bret Saberhagen winning the AL Cy Young over Ron Guidry, even though he had TWO fewer wins.

Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?

SG: Favorite game ever is probably Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS against Seattle. It was the game where Mo the relief ace was effectively born, as he came in to fan Jay Buhner to get the last out of the 12th after John Wetteland gave up a HR to Griffey that broke a tie before the Yankees rallied in the bottom of the 12th to re-tie the game.

Mo then pitched the 13th through 15th, allowing no runs and striking out four. The tension and drama in that game was just amazing, and Jim Leyritz’s two-run home run after 5 hours and 11 minutes was about as big of a hit as I could have possibly imagined at the time.

Favorite season is probably 1998, although 2009 is pretty close. There was just something amazing about the methodical way that ’98 team destroyed the competition that year, plus I was living in New Jersey at that time and got to attend about 20 games in person. The Wells perfect game, El Duque’s MLB debut, Chuck Knoblauch’s defense. Well, maybe not that last one.

2009 was a close second for me for a few reasons. The walkoffs. The way the new faces (CC, AJ and Tex) contributed. Hughes becoming the best setup reliever in the AL. All that plus the continued excellence of Mo, Jeter, Posada and Pettitte at an age when they should all be fading. The redemption of A-Rod, even though it shouldn’t have been necessary, was also fun to watch.

Favorite single moment, probably Charlie Hayes catching the last out of the ’96 World Series. There was an inning in the ’96 ALCS where Mo gave up three straight singles to load the bases then struck out the next two hitters and got a pop-up that always sticks in my mind, too.

Two honorable mention favorite moments in games I was actually at:
– Pat Kelly goes yard in the ninth of a must win game in Toronto on September 29, 1995.
– Bernie goes boom against Armando Benitez to turn a 4-5 deficit into a 7-5 lead, aka the Benitez plunks Tino game.

Yankeeist: I’ve recently gone on record as saying that the 2009 championship has been the most meaningful of my life. While 2009 was obviously a special year, 1996 seems to occupy the top spot in many younger Yankee fans’ hearts. What’s your favorite championship year and why?

SG: Probably 1996, just because it was the first, and because of the way they rallied after dropping the first two at home to Atlanta. 1998 was great, but that team was so good that you almost felt like you were watching the inevitable.

Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?

SG: Up until recently, it was Dave Winfield, but Mo’s passed him on the list. What he’s been able to do over the last few years is just amazing, and by all accounts he’s an even better person than a baseball player.

Favorite bad player? I guess it’s pretty obvious by the name of my projection system, but it’s Miguel Cairo, although I also had soft spots for Pat Clements and Joel Skinner too. I still remember a game where Clements came in and pitched four perfect relief innings and thinking it was the most heroic relief outing of all time.

Yankeeist: You have a fantastically dry sense of humor about the team. As one of the only major Yankee bloggers writing under an alias, will you ever reveal your true identity? You’re not also a comedy writer for an NBC sitcom, are you?

SG: I know some of the hardcore stat stuff can get a little boring/dry, and baseball is supposed to be entertaining, which is why I try to mix in a little bit of sarcasm/humor when I can. The readers and commenters on the blog do a good job of that too, and help keep the blog from getting a little too serious.

I’ve never really cared for the statheads that seem to foster no disagreement or assume we can glean everything from the numbers. There’s a lot of stuff that we can’t quantify, and there are a lot of reasons that a lot of the numbers we look at should at the very least be taken with a grain of salt. That’s another reason to not take everything too seriously.

I’ve thought about eventually just writing under my full name instead of my initials, but I don’t think my employer would particularly appreciate how much time I spend writing about baseball on their dime. But at some point it could happen.

And nope, I don’t write for an NBC sitcom in my real job. I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express though.

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