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Three Up Three Down is our irregular interview series with the thought leaders, media, celebrities, bloggers, fans or just about anyone who will answer our questions about baseball. 


@mcuban : An Entrepreneurial Maverick

Mark Cuban is arguably the most dynamic owner in professional sports. His entrepreneurial success is well documented (MicroSolutions to to AXS TV) and his desire to innovate has never waned. He is a maverick and his passion is unparalleled. You can keep up with Mark by reading his blog (Blog Maverick) or following him on Twitter (@mcuban). You can also access Mark's e-book, "How to Win at the Sport of Business" by clicking here.

Baseball Analytics: What has been the most interesting thing you have learned since becoming the owner of the Mavericks?

Mark Cuban: That I don't really own the team, the community of North Texas owns the team. Sports is unlike any other business. There has never been a parade celebrating a great quarter or year for any other type of company. The connection is far beyond anything I could have expected.

Baseball Analytics: In the 20 years prior to buying the Mavericks their historical winning percentage was 40% - what was the key to bringing an NBA championship to Dallas?

Mark Cuban: Building a culture that expected winning and wouldn't tolerate players who were not interested in winning. Fixing my mistakes as quickly as possible and relying on this big German guy we had.

Baseball Analytics: What could Major League Baseball learn from the NBA and what could the NBA learn from MLB?

Mark Cuban: MLB could learn that the league is not a kingdom and the NBA could learn how to stay relevant to fans for twice as many games.

Click here to share this interview on Reddit.


Rob Bradford:

Rob Bradford joined after serving as a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Herald and the Eagle-Tribune (Lawrence, Mass.). Prior to manning the Red Sox beat, he spent several years at the Lowell Sun. He has written two books: “Chasing Steinbrenner,” following the front offices of the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays through the 2003 season, and “Deep Drive: A Long Journey to Discovering the Champion Within,” which he co-authored with Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.

You can follow Rob on Twitter at @bradfo.

Baseball Analytics: You are well known for your indepth analysis of the Boston Red Sox and you've seen the highs and the lows over the last ten years. What are your thoughts on their moves this off season and the direction of the team in 2013?

Rob Bradford: I think the success and failure of the Red Sox for the coming season will depend more on their preexisting core players performing at their highest levels than if the offseason acquisitions can live up to their salaries. The plan is seemingly to be better across the board, spreading out the money (as seven players averaging $9.5 million in '13 -- fourth-most in the majors -- would suggest). But while each acquisition has targeted specific needs, the biggest need for this team is for Lester, Buchholz, Ellsbury, Ortiz, Middlebrooks and Pedroia to stay on the field and be the 'best team ever' type of core they thought they had. I've said this before, but one of the biggest failings for last season's team was the fact that -- due to injury and under-performance -- an argument could be made that not one of the top 10 paid players on the Red Sox lived up to expectations, where all but one or two of the Yankees top 10 contributed in significant ways.

Baseball Analytics: There appear to besome very interesting story lines in the American League East this year. What stories fascinate you the most?

Rob Bradford: The Blue Jays are fascinating to me. I think the initial reaction in these parts was to discount the Dickey move because of the knuckleball and National League factors. But it is very difficult to see him falling off so much that he doesn't represent a significant factor in the American League East. When you don't have to rely on your Opening Day starter of the year before (Ricky Romero) in any sort of role other than No. 5 starter entering the season, that suggests tremendous potential in spots 1-4 (whether it's with Buerhle's innings, or Johnson/Morrow glimpses of excellence). Other stories in division that are of interest: 1. Rays filling in for Shields' innings; 2. Can Orioles live with a No. 2 starter pitching just 130-something innings while leaning on the bullpen -- a model I can't see repeating; 3. Can Hughes/Nova emerge to take pressure off Sabathia/Kuroda; 4. Contract years of Youkilis and Cano.

Baseball Analytics: Outside the city of Boston, what sports media personality do you most admire and why?

Rob Bradford: I have to go with Ken Rosenthal of and Buster Olney of I just really admire the way they go about their business and the respect they've garnered from the world of baseball. And I know you said outside of Boston, but there is really nobody I respect more in the baseball-writing business than my colleague at, Alex Speier. It's a fascinating (albeit exhausting) time to be in this business, and it gets legitimately more intriguing every single year. There's so much you can do and so much that needs to be done on a minute-by-minute basis. (Thanks a lot, Twitter!)



Bill Plunkett - Orange County Register 

Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Bill Plunkett has worked at daily newspapers since 1983 while covering everything you can think of – from rodeo and golf to boxing and the NFL. Bill has covered Major League Baseball on and off since 1989 and joined the Orange County Register in 1999. He worked the Dodgers beat for a years and has chronicled the Angels' triumphs and travails since 2007.

1. Mike Trout is having an historic season, trailing just Ty Cobb and Mel Ott in OPS+ among hitters getting 150 or more plate appearances during their age-20 campaign. What aspects of Trout's game have impressed you most?

His superior athleticism is the first thing that jumps out at you – he has an NFL running back’s combination of speed and strength. I remember seeing him for the first time in a spring exhibition game (against the Colorado Rockies in Tucson, I think) in 2011 and immediately being impressed by that.

The other thing that has been striking this year is how savvy his approach is at the plate. There are few 30-year-olds let alone 20-year-olds who can be in charge of every at-bat the way Trout seems to be these days. The skill set was obvious when he made a big-league cameo last year but that didn’t surface as much until this season. I don’t think there was ever a doubt in Trout’s mind that he belonged in the majors. But he was a little bit wide-eyed and overanxious last year. That is gone this year. I have the sense watching him on a daily basis that we are watching the early stages of a special career.

2. Albert Pujols' Angels career got off to a brutal start, as he went homerless and had a .570 OPS in April. He has been at least moderately productive since by tapping into his power. How has Pujols' approach changed since May?

I think there were a number of factors all at work in the worst six-week stretch of Pujols’ baseball life – I’ve used the ‘perfect storm’ cliché/analogy. I think the jump to the American League was more difficult than he expected (let’s be honest – the level of competition is simply better in the AL). Facing a steady diet of unfamiliar pitchers was difficult. Uprooting himself from the only baseball home he had ever known – the only baseball manger (LaRussa) he had ever played for in the big leagues – and being 1,800 miles away from his family was more difficult than he would admit. And I don’t doubt the pressure of trying to live up to the massive expectations that came with his contract was a huge factor (something else he will not admit).

That all led to him pressing at the plate. He was chasing pitches he would never have swung at in the past or got caught being too passive at times because of his unfamiliarity with pitchers. It put him on the defensive in way too many at-bats and pitchers exploited that. He seemed to be down 0-and-2 in the count before he even left the on-deck circle during April -- and then bounced a ground ball to third base.

Most of those factors finally started to dissipate in May and Pujols has started to look more like himself since. The team around him has played better too – Trout’s arrival breathed life into a dysfunctional offense – and that has allowed Pujols to relax. He was actually giddy after last night’s game (well, by his standards) talking about playing with Trout for years to come.

3. If you're Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, who are you targeting at the trade deadline in hopes of staying in the AL West race?

Dipoto has already addressed the Angels’ two most urgent needs – leadoff (by promoting Trout) and the bullpen (by acquiring Ernesto Frieri). I think he will be less inclined to make a big move at the trade deadline now.

The rotation could be an issue if Ervin Santana doesn’t straighten himself out. But I think bullpen depth will probably be No. 1 on his trade deadline agenda. You could see the Angels target someone like Mariners right-hander Brandon League or Houston’s Brett Myers. But I think it’s more likely Dipoto and his staff will try to find another buried treasure like Frieri in someone’s bullpen and get him at a much lower trade cost.


David Schoenfield - ESPN SweetSpot Blog

David Schoenfield was’s baseball editor from 1996 to 2002 before moving over to Page 2. He took over the SweetSpot blog in 2011.

1. You're the GM of an expansion team, and you can select any pro player (major or minor leagues) to build your budding franchise. Who are you taking, and why?

- I’ll assume contracts and service time matter, so if I wanted to take a minor leaguer, for example, I’d only get his six full seasons of pre-free agency time. As tempting as it may be to take Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, I think I’d have to take a little more proven commodity. Considering the risk involved with pitchers, you have to take a position player.

I think there are three guys to consider here: Evan Longoria, signed through 2016 at a cut-rate salary; Matt Kemp, signed through 2019 (age 34) at about $21 million per year; and Troy Tulowitzki, signed through 2021 (age 36), at a slightly lower per season rate than Kemp. The one big advantage Kemp has over Longoria and Tulo: Durability. Dude never misses a game. His improvement last season appears legit, so I’ll go with Kemp, even with the massive contract.


2. At the end of the 2012 season, Albert Pujols has a ___ OPS and ___ homers (fill in the blanks).

- Pujols finishes with an .860 OPS and 28 home runs. In examining the numbers, I think it’s pretty clear he’s not the Pujols of two years ago. He’s expanding his strike zone, his walk rate is down and the bat speed may be in decline. He should get of this slump, but I think his days as the best hitter in baseball are over.


3. If you were a major leaguer, what would your intro music be?

- Some people have no problem answering this question. I guess I’d go with something from Wilco and maybe my favorite song, “I Got You.” As a hitter, you could translate that line to facing the pitcher: I got you. That works, right?


Jason Coskrey - Sports Editor/Writer

Jason Coskrey is a sports writer for the Japan Times. His primary focus is Japanese baseball but he also has experience covering soccer, American football, boxing and basketball. He previously worked for the Marietta Daily Journal in Marietta. Ga. A native of Detroit, he is a graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He was interviewed by BaseballAnalytic's Bill Chuck.

1. Jason, briefly what do you see as the biggest difference between Pro Yakyu (professional baseball) in Japan and American yakyu (baseball)?

Wow, there so many little things that combine to make the game a bit different. But I guess the most glaring one may be pitch counts. I've noticed MLB teams keep their guys on a tight leash in regards to pitch counts. Here, for the top-level guys, not so much.

For instance Yu Darvish just threw 131 pitches in eight innings last night (6/30) and 131 the start before that. He's usually between 100-110 every time out. That's probably in the range for most of the top pitchers.

For the aces, it's still a point of pride to go deep no matter how many pitches it takes. I guess that holds true for the Roy Halladays of the world too, but NPB managers will leave their guys on the mound in many cases.

Though starters here usually pitch once a week, so the workloads are slightly different, although Japanese pitchers practice more on off days.

2. Beyond the Triple Crown categories, are stats followed in Japan the way they are increasingly followed in the States?

Not quite. Most of the mainstream focuses on the Triple Crown categories historical stuff, sometimes really minute historical facts, and tendencies depending on situation and that type of thing.

It is changing though. Advanced metrics are creeping in slowly, but outside of the actual teams, they are not as mainstream as in the U.S. right now.

The website SMR-Baseball Lab ( does great work though and is sort of a Fangraphs for Japanese baseball.

Based on the way front offices are structured here (outside of Softbank now and Chiba Lotte when Bobby Valentine and his staff were here) I don't think the nontraditional stats will ever reach the level they've reached in the states among fans.

Even in the U.S., despite the excellent work of Bill James and others, "Moneyball" really helped get the ball rolling toward the mainstream consciousness faster than it may have otherwise. Hard to see where that jolt comes from on this side the way things are now.

3. I only have three questions and while I want to know more about Yu Darvish, I’m really curious as to how Daisuke Matsuzaka is regarded today in Japan. In Boston the debate is whether he is a gigantic failure or a huge failure.

I'm not sure anyone here really knows what to think about Dice-K. He's kind of faded away, sort of out of sight, out of mind. Not really talked about much anymore. He's definitely gone down a notch or two though.

I think most sided with him initially in terms of the way he wanted to work out and rehab vs. what the team wanted him to do. Was the Japanese way after all. Now maybe more people are wondering what's going on with his uneven performances etc.

Since your really curious, Darvish is having an amazing start to the season (current Japanese Baseball stats can be found here). A few scouts have nitpicked his slider a bit, but he's controlling his pitches and hitting his spots. He seems to have gotten a bit stronger as well.

Like some of the other guys, he's benefitted from a new ball introduced this year that has certainly helped pitchers more than batters.

As of June 30, he's made 12 starts and is 10-2 with a 1.44 ERA, 116 strikeouts, 5 complete games and 4 shutouts (he made it through two of his shutouts without walking a batter). So, yeah, he's good.

Jason can be found on Twitter @JCoskrey.