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Monday, September 11, 2017

Baseball’s next Moneyball concept: Turning internet writers into prospect scouts - CBSSports.com

“Teams want young people with very few ties. They want people who would be willing to travel 300 days,” Newman told CBS Sports. “I was very cognizant of the fact that the only way that I could scout was if I had a team that thought I was good enough to cater to my family and some of my scheduling needs. I was also cognizant of the fact that, why would they ever do that with a thousand other people in line behind me to get a scouting job? I’m not that [freaking] special.”

Newman ultimately bowed out of prospect writing for the same reason, having realized his personal site, RotoScouting, wouldn’t be viable for at least five years. “It was one of those things where I thought, ‘Man, if I could just make 40 [thousand] a year leading prospect coverage for one of these majors site, then I would be the luckiest and happiest person alive.’”

Jim Furtado Posted: September 11, 2017 at 07:11 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: scouting

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   1. Michael Paulionis Posted: September 12, 2017 at 04:29 AM (#5530014)
Interesting article.

Does anybody remember this Mike Newman guy? The article says he used to write for Fangraphs.com, but now by the writer's words, "works with technology in education". Is that supposed to mean he is a teacher now? Online education?

“It probably wound up costing me a career because I didn’t mix a bunch of dick and fart jokes into my writing. I didn’t worry so much about being a personality who did scouting. I worried about being the best prospect evaluator writing, period.” Newman said.


I highly doubt Newman couldn't find more success as a baseball prospect blogger because he didn't have a bunch of color involved in his writing style. Do I understand that writing for prospect blogs is better done as a side hobby rather than a career? Absolutely. But I think Newman might be a bit naive in his reasoning as to why he isn't in the same position as those bloggers that have been hired by MLB front offices.

I wish him the best of luck. Sounds like he is still getting interviews based on his past work. I'd be interested to see if his writing/evaluations were in fact very worthwhile.

   2. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: September 12, 2017 at 09:14 AM (#5530046)
My idea - and I'll gift it free to any team that wants to employ it in exchange for free tickets of my own - is that teams really ought to consider just gifting interested fans tickets to minor league games (something I imagine would come really cheaply to a team)?

Give them an app to download to record insights on particular players, each user/'contractor' has a unique ID the scouting reports get stored against; rinse, repeat often with many different 'contractors'.

The idea is just to accumulate as many reports as you can, from as wide an audience as you can. Eventually, certain users are going to stick out -- perhaps you offer them full-time positions. But even if not - you're talking about a capability to potentially cast a huge net for virtually zero cost beyond the initial system development.

How many fans would gladly take a free ticket and even love to say that s/he is a "scout" for a particular team?

System development costs seem like they'd be eminently reasonable - run it like stubhub or somesuch, posting minor league games, HS games, college games, etc around the country. A simple interface to record reports as general or as specific (i.e., you could attach specific players to games you wanted some reports on) as the instance dictates.... Even offer up team baubles or running 'point' totals or some such to exchange for tickets or gear.

Maybe the data you'd get would be garbage.... or maybe - you'd revolutionize scouting by being able to deploy eyes X 1000, and then use our old friend Big Data to both ID potential scouts who might be worth actual contracts, even if part-time, as well as many times over cross-checking of players you might be after.
   3. GGIAS (aka Poster Nutbag) Posted: September 12, 2017 at 09:29 AM (#5530055)
I like that idea. I'd sign up for sure.
   4. Russ Posted: September 12, 2017 at 09:53 AM (#5530065)
Give them an app to download to record insights on particular players, each user/'contractor' has a unique ID the scouting reports get stored against; rinse, repeat often with many different 'contractors'.

The idea is just to accumulate as many reports as you can, from as wide an audience as you can. Eventually, certain users are going to stick out -- perhaps you offer them full-time positions. But even if not - you're talking about a capability to potentially cast a huge net for virtually zero cost beyond the initial system development.

How many fans would gladly take a free ticket and even love to say that s/he is a "scout" for a particular team?


They could even Amazon Turk this whole process. Reimburse people for the tickets when they submit their reports... Amazon handles the management of payouts, etc. (with some vig off the top).

   5. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: September 12, 2017 at 10:03 AM (#5530068)
They could even Amazon Turk this whole process. Reimburse people for the tickets when they submit their reports... Amazon handles the management of payouts, etc. (with some vig off the top).


Indeed - even if the data you get ends up ultimately being worthless, the thing could even still have fan outreach value... i.e., aren't teams also looking for ways to get the younger generation, forever glued to their smartphone screens, more interested in baseball? Heh... in fact - if you REALLY wanted to get nefarious... Pokemon Go the thing -- rumors that the college junior you're targeting for a top 3 rounds hits the sauce a little hard? Tag the prospect doing shots of Jack:-). OK, I wouldn't support implementing THAT aspect...

In fact, even if the data is bad - bonus points for uploading video taken of players.... something you no longer have to pay someone to go record and something objective that you could even have your own pro scouts look over, if for no other reason than determining which players you actually want to task them to go see live, given the limits of time and travel and such.
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2017 at 10:12 AM (#5530070)
Nice idea, but how in the hell can a mother's basement ever be transported around the country?
   7. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: September 12, 2017 at 10:20 AM (#5530077)
FWIW, just browsing around -- I see that in fact, there are already apps that supposedly allow your iphone to function as a radar gun. In a stadium setting, it looks like the tricky part is that you would need to find a way to accurately peg the distance from the phone to pitcher... but once again, this is something the adopting team could probably configure -- i.e., if you're handing out seats, I imagine it would be simple to ask your affiliate to give you accurate distance measurements from specific seats to the mound.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2017 at 10:50 AM (#5530094)
My idea - and I'll gift it free to any team that wants to employ it in exchange for free tickets of my own - is that teams really ought to consider just gifting interested fans tickets to minor league games (something I imagine would come really cheaply to a team)?

I think a better approach would be to offer fans free tickets if they record video of the game and upload that video to the team's servers. You then have low level employees edit out all the dead time, and your actually talent evaluators can watch way more live action in an 8 hour day.
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 12, 2017 at 10:56 AM (#5530100)
“Teams want young people with very few ties. They want people who would be willing to travel 300 days,”

This sounds a lot like a front for CIA recruiting.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2017 at 11:31 AM (#5530124)
Well I think it's a terrible plan.
   11. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: September 12, 2017 at 11:46 AM (#5530134)
I think a better approach would be to offer fans free tickets if they record video of the game and upload that video to the team's servers. You then have low level employees edit out all the dead time, and your actually talent evaluators can watch way more live action in an 8 hour day.


That's an awful lot of battery life and intermediate storage (or likely cellular-based stream uploads) to ask of most phones. You'd be better served tasking them with specific player PAs or maybe a specific inning from a pitcher.
   12. dlf Posted: September 12, 2017 at 12:38 PM (#5530165)
I've been impressed with the data that comes from Tangotiger's annual Fans' Scouting Report. I suspect that, at least in terms of present performance, the wisdom of the crowds "scouting" MiLB games will be a fairly close match to the strengths of most scouts. Where I'd want more evidence is the ability to project forward to - for example - spot problems that only reveal themselves against higher competition.

For what its worth, my "scouting" abilities really suck. I go to a bunch of games in Gwinnett since the AAA Braves moved here from Richmond and used to have season tickets when I lived just down the road from a different AA club. I was convinced that Freddie Freeman had zero chance - thought his swing was far too long. And have missed equally as much in the other direction. But I do think that if you get a bunch of fans together, the collective knowledge and observation is pretty good.
   13. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: September 12, 2017 at 01:13 PM (#5530189)
I cannot but wonder if scouts DO tend to 'specialize', whether in practical terms and regardless of whether teams recognize/apply any tendencies. Just googling around a bit - I'm not finding much in the manner of "this guy specializes in finding fireballers with a future" or a "big corner bats" or "top to bottom defensive catcher acumen".... and lists of guys famous scouts "discovered" seem to run the gamut pretty well.

Still, this would be just another area where I would think we would eventually get some normalization and standard deviation help once we had enough data.

That would probably be the key for such a system to work -- a team would need to give it years before you'd really know whether it was a success or not. Inevitably, you're going to get plenty of "Hey neat! I'll try it..." one and dones. I think there's a critical mass where that could still provide some manner of value, but it would take time to determine which enduser IDs are worthy of class bumps, etc... and you might eventually discover precisely that - fans that can't judge bat speed on par with providing value, but might be dynamite at say, recognizing pitch framing skills, etc.

But I do think that if you get a bunch of fans together, the collective knowledge and observation is pretty good.


ESPECIALLY if you're able to anonymously distill that knowledge in a blind manner -- which would be the beauty of the case here... Obviously, both the individual and aggregate data becomes private and proprietary, so you also avoid the risk of herd mentalities and confirmation bias.
   14. DL from MN Posted: September 12, 2017 at 01:54 PM (#5530209)
I think you'd get a lot of players' moms signing up to enter data.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2017 at 08:46 PM (#5530450)
Here's my contribution: This Mike Trout kid looks pretty good.

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