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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anft: The New Balance For MLB Executives, Fans

As Triandos of Clap said…“The WAR ain’t ovah!”

Among front-office types, it’s not just the numbers, but also how you balance them that is important. If, for example, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado has a high RF (range factor: a formula that is nine times a player’s putouts and assists divided by innings played) and UZR (ultimate zone rating), showing that he saves runs with his defense, how important is it to watch him play? Do those numbers make him more valuable than, say, former Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson?

“It’s important to remember that these numbers are just another tool scouts can use,” said a longtime big league scout, who requested to remain anonymous. “When you size up a player, you have to look beyond the obvious athletics. Brooks was slower than the typical player, but he had a great first step and terrific hands. You need more than numbers to see that, particularly early on in his career.”

But the old scouts-versus-numbers dichotomy no longer applies, the scout said.

“Ninety percent of the time, the analytics support a scout’s report,” he said. “When I started, we had no radar guns or computers, yet we could still zero in on the right players. There are no absolutes in baseball. You can’t make a definitive statement about much of anything. You’re dealing with human beings.”

Sabermetrics is hardly a hard and fast measuring tool, he said. A player is a moving target.

“Guys change from month to month,” he said. “Eighty percent might be the same player at any given time, but 10 percent are on the way up, and 10 percent are on the way down. You have to know which is which.”

Joe Klein, formerly a front-office executive for four major league teams and now the executive director of the independent Atlantic League, said statistics alone weren’t enough to evaluate a player.

“You can’t equate 200 at bats to an answer to a question,” Klein said. “How a guy is going to perform—if you use nothing but numbers, you’re going to get beat. I’d rather trust [Orioles manager] Buck Showalter’s instincts than rely purely on numbers.”

But if the stats and formulae support a scout’s judgment, Klein said, they might help him find the right players and put his role players in a better position to win.

Repoz Posted: May 25, 2014 at 09:20 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: orioles, sabermetrics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4713198)
I don't know what he looked like in the minors nor what fielding numbers you get in the minors but ...

Brooks got cups of coffee from 18 to 20 and it's true that in those 400 innings he graded out as average by Rfield.

At 21, in his first full season, the numbers put him at +6.

At 22, in just a bit over a half-season, the numbers put him at +13.

I guessing you coulda told how good he was just by the numbers.

Wow, we have some minors fielding numbers on Brooks so maybe this is what the scout is referring to ... at age 19, he did commit 26 errors (957 FP%).

By the way, that was almost 60 years ago now ... just how old is this guy that he was scouting Brooks then?
   2. Bhaakon Posted: May 25, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4713199)
Brooks was slower than the typical player, but he had a great first step and terrific hands. You need more than numbers to see that, particularly early on in his career.


The issue of early-career sample size aside, isn't that EXACTLY what the defensive numbers are supposed to show you? Guys who play better or worse than their arm strength and time in the 40.

To answer my own rhetorical question, yes. Yes they are. Just not range factor, which is garbage.

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