The rest of the world knows him as Morgan Ensberg.
A former All-Star and the fourth-place finisher in the 2005 NL MVP voting, Ensberg burst onto the baseball scene in 2002 and was one of the top third basemen in the game from 2003-07. Now retired, he is trying his hand at broadcasting and writes a blog, Morgan Ensberg's Baseball IQ.
He very kindly accepted my request for an interview last week, and I had the great honor of talking to him about the ups and downs of his career, the sabermetric revolution, and what life is like as a retired baseball player.
LJP: You had great years in '03 and '06, but there's no question that your 2005 season was the best of your career. Can you talk about that? Did you do anything differently? Was there a tangible feeling that you were playing at a new level, or did it seem like you were just doing the same things with different results?
ME: In 2005, the Astros organization didn't believe that the team was going to win, so they simply let our "starting lineup" play. But besides that, I was really aggressive at the plate and I tried to swing as hard as I could.
LJP: On the other side of the coin, things sort of fell apart for you in 2007. Do you know what happened? Did you feel like you were a step behind while you were playing, or did it seem more like plain old bad luck? If you were a manager, what would you have done to try and right your ship?
ME: 2007 was bad because I was more concerned about getting "booed" by the fans then concentrating on the game. It wasn't anything that had to do with my body or anything else. I was physically fine.
LJP: Your guys' run in 2005, that was just an amazing postseason. The 18-inning game with Atlanta, getting revenge on the Cardinals, even in the World Series there were some great games and you fulfilled every boy's dream by hitting a home run on the national stage. How incredible did that feel? What was the most memorable part of that October?
ME: I want to tell you that it was the most incredible feeling ever. But the reality is that we didn't get to enjoy the experience.
It is about winning. Sure, I had some time to look around before the game and think how cool this was. But we are in the "fire" so to speak.
LJP: Based on the theory that we are unable to see the whole story by simply watching games, the "sabermetric revolution" has changed the way fans think about baseball. As a player, you were even more entrenched in the heat of the game, and therefore, some would say, even more susceptible to losing sight of the big picture.
How did it feel to have your contributions quantified in stats like Ultimate Zone Rating and Wins Above Replacement? Did you ever pay attention to those numbers? Do you agree that a more detached approach is necessary to identify larger trends?
ME: I don't think it matters how my stats are quantified. However, it is important for players to understand what is expected of them.
As for larger trends, I agree in most instances. But again, it is important to understand the situation the stats are presented.
For example, if you simply pull our black and white numbers and not understand the teams dynamic, you won't get accurate answers. You can use the "Garbage in, garbage out" mantra if you like.
Ultimate zone rating still needs adjustments. UZR takes into consideration "range" but that assumes that "range" is something that is needed. I would agree that a certain amount of range is important, but teams will get better and better at positioning so a premium will be placed on ground balls hit right at the players.
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