This is hopefully the start of a new series. Every month or so, I'm gonna exchange some e-mails with people associated directly or non-directly with the Cubs. And what a way to start. Len Kasper has been the voice of the Cubs since 2005. And his mixture of sabre metrics, rock n' roll, and passion for the game of baseball make him one of the best listens going. I reached out to talk about his new partner, the new regime, and a whole smorgasboard of topics. Len reached back. Here's what followed.
Felzz: As a person who loves sabermetrics, baseball, rock n' roll, you must have jumped out of your shorts when Theo was hired. What a perfect match. Frankly, I think your broadcasts have gotten stronger since he came on board. How has your job changed since Theo-Jed-Pi Epsilom has taken over....?
Len Kasper: Interesting question. I don't know if the broadcasts have changed much. I mean, they will change this year just because I have a new partner but I guess the biggest thing last year was that it felt like the beginning of something, not the end. And 2010 and 2011 definitely had that feel of a window closing with a bunch of veterans who were nearing the end of their time in Chicago. So, on that front, I guess the ability to more specifically look ahead and kind of know what's coming made our jobs a little easier.
On the first part of your question, it has been really fun to get to know Theo and Jed and Jason McLeod. All young, incredibly bright guys. I would add Shiraz Rehman and Scott Harris and a host of others to that mix. They're all younger than I am which is bizarre for me to think about, but I have learned a ton from all of them about the game, scouting, analyzing performance. And they've all been incredibly generous with their time. And yes, most are music fans and since we come from the same era, there is a lot in common on that front!
Felzz: Well if the first couple of broadcasts are any indication, the new partnership is going to work out just fine. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jim looks at pitching things differently as a former pitcher where Bob saw things from the other side of the battery.
One thing that's obvious is Jim's love of advance stats. I thought "Geek Sundays" was a rousing success last year. Will that be advanced this year? More like a sabermetrics 202? Or will it be a continuation of what worked last year?
Also, are you going to put Jim Deshais through the away-ballpark-food gauntlet like you did with Bob? The "You know Jim, Bob's record for Rocky Mountain Oysters was nine...." kind of thing?
LK: JD does like to talk about advanced metrics, so you can bet we will be having more of those types of discussions this season. As I always say, it's important to keep in mind that baseball is best digested as a narrative when it comes to broadcasting, so we never want to stray too far away from the game, but the numbers do matter, so where they fit, we will discuss.
On the Sunday question, we aren't going to continue Stats Sunday per se, but we hope to simply do more of those things on every broadcast as I mentioned above. We will add a run expectancy chart that we will drop in occasionally as well. We are planning to do a Sunday theme again but I am not at liberty to discuss. It is a secret that is being held captive at Fort Knox as we speak. It is so secretive, I don't even know if such a plan actually exists.
And yes, we will make sure JD finishes the season either 1) 40 pounds heavier or 2) at the point where he has to run marathons to work off all the new food we will throw at him. I agree he has to try some Rocky Mountain Oysters. Kind of a right of passage in our booth I think.
Felzz: Here here, JD's going to be Terry Forster size or bust I say.
Speaking of narrative, Is it as easy as calling the games and drawing conclusions from what you see? Or are there special stories that you have earmarked to look at and discuss during the season? I personally want to see what James Rowson does with a spring training under his belt...What are some of yours? And how do you keep the focus on the team when so many good stories will take place in Daytona, Kane County, and (hopefully) Des Moines. (Brett Jackson's gonna make the Rizzo leap, Brett Jackson's gonna make the Rizzo leap. Brett jackson's gonna make the Rizzo leap.... If I say it enough len, it's gonna come true.) ?
Len Kasper: I honestly never have any pre-planned season story lines that I specifically plan to follow. I just go into every game and try to 1) cover that game and 2) that day's story-lines. Of course, bigger trends and story lines emerge as you move along and I do think there's been more of an emphasis on the Cubs' minor league prospects over the past year or so, but I don't believe anything will fundamentally change this season just because some of the focus is on development.
Felzz: Alright Len, Bullet round time.....Fill in the blanks.
Starlin Castro will have a slash line of ___/___/___ and hit __ home runs in 2013.
LK: Starlin Castro will have a slashline of 301/340/450 and hit 18 home runs in 2013
Flz: The last album I downloaded/bought and absolutely loved was __________.
LK: Apex Manor's The Year of Magical Drinking.
Flz: The sabermetric that draws the weirdest looks when I say it out loud in public is__________.
Flz: Cub fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by ___________ this year.
LK: How quickly they decide they love my new partner.
Flz: If there wasn't such things as waistlines, cholesterol levels, parking spaces, or wait times, I would eat at _____________ everyday.
LK: Any breakfast diner that serves egg skillets.
Flz: The best baseball writer writing today is ______________.
LK: Joe Sheehan
Flz: The only team I think can beat the Blackhawks 4 games out of 7 is the __________
LK: Ducks (or Bruins).
Flz: When Pearl Jam takes the stage this summer at Wrigley, I hope they open with ___________.
LK: All The Way (Eddie's Cubs song)
Flz: Aug. 1st Matt Garza will be ____________
LK: Still reading his name in trade reports.
Flz: The Ultimate Len Kasper All Star Jam band would feature
LK: Clem Burke on drums, Len Kasper on bass, and Tommy Keene on guitar.
Felzz: Thank you Len, we now have two minutes for your closing thoughts….
Len Kasper: As bad as a 101-loss season seems, last year wasn't as painful as most people think it should have felt. That's because I really feel like we were on the ground floor of something that will grow into a powerhouse and that the Cubs came by their struggles with a bigger purpose in mind--establishing a foundation of fundamentally-sound baseball from top to bottom. We are still a couple years away from seeing it pay off, but I am thoroughly enjoying watching the plan come together.