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Friday, March 02, 2012

Brookover: Who needs sabermetrics? Phillies evaluate players the old-fashioned way

Yeah! And wait’ll “Vomitoushawaiianshirtball” hits the remaining bookstore!

VORP. BABIP. PERA. They sound like intergalactic words once uttered by Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek. In truth, they are a trio of acronyms created by the sabermetricians of the baseball world.

...WAR - wins above replacement. What is it good for? The Phillies will not tell you “absolutely nothing,” but when it comes to evaluating talent, they are much more inclined to rely on human eyes than sabermetric calculations.

“We do utilize some of the information,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said during a recent workout at the Carpenter Complex. “There are times when I think maybe we should use it some more, but, frankly, I have a great deal of confidence in the people that we have hired to help us make some of the scouting and personnel decisions. I err on that side probably because I believe in our people.”

...“I honestly can’t tell you the last time WAR or VORP or any of those things were brought up in a conversation,” assistant GM Scott Proefrock said. “We’re aware of them, and we understand what they are. It’s just not something we find relevant.”

...Amaro said statistical analysis should not be a big part of minor-league scouting.

“It’s just too difficult to really project what the numbers will say,” Amaro said. “I lived it myself. I was a great minor-league player but a terrible major-league player. If you looked at my OPS and my on-base percentage, it was ridiculous. But I wasn’t a good major-league player because I couldn’t hit a breaking ball. That’s something that the scout will find out and see and then you can exploit that area on a guy.”

Repoz Posted: March 02, 2012 at 07:07 AM | 72 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: phillies, sabermetrics

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   1. Flynn Posted: March 02, 2012 at 07:59 AM (#4072568)
May I be the first to get in a cheap jab about Ryan Howard's contract?
   2. JE (Jason) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 08:25 AM (#4072578)
May I be the first to get in a cheap jab about Ryan Howard's contract?

Be careful if you do. Howard's ankle is still tender.
   3. Run Joe Run Posted: March 02, 2012 at 08:39 AM (#4072580)
I wonder... when talking to beat reporters if it isn't a good idea to talk about the value of scouting over sabermetrics. Feed BS to the reporters, keep 'em happy and move on. I am not trying to evaluate whether the Phillies do this or not - just wondering from a media relations standpoint
   4. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 02, 2012 at 08:49 AM (#4072583)
Edwin Starr and Star Trek references? This guy is really breaking new comedic ground.
   5. AROM Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:13 AM (#4072589)
Ruben is right on his own career. I remember looking at his minor league numbers and praying for the Angels to give him a chance to lead off and put up a .380 OBP. In the majors he was good enough to stick around a few years, but as nothing more than a weak hit, good field 5th outfielder.

I'm not sure what a projection today would say about him. I think the field has improved to the point where the false hope would not be raised. His age relative to level (24 when he first reached AA) and hitters park (Midland, Edmonton) would be red flags.

No, I know he'd be projected more modestly today. He's the original Reggie Willits. Reggie was never expected to be more than a backup OF despite great OBP in the minors. When he had his great rookie season it wasn't expected that he'd be the new Brett Butler. More a case of "enjoy this while it lasts".
   6. fra paolo Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4072602)
I'm not sure what a projection today would say about him.

Historical Marcel slash lines for Amaro from Minor League Splits:

1991: .270/.337/.399 (Given a reliability rating of '0'.)
1992: .259/.330/.381 (Given a reliability rating of ten per cent.)
1993: .234/.315/.357 (Sixty-five per cent reliability, and close to his career levels.)

Marcel basically took about 450 major-league PAs to sort him out.
   7. Sean Forman Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4072605)
I was a bit shocked to see just how much the Phillies are outspending the rest of the NL. $50m more last year and any other team and $67m more than another other playoff team. They might not need to boost the payroll so high with a bit more of a sabermetric bent.
   8. Ron J Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:54 AM (#4072611)
#5 And minor league walk rates don't translate all that well to the majors. If a minor leaguer needs a big walk rate to be interesting, well it's not exactly a red flag, but it is something to be concerned about.
   9. Ron J Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4072612)
It's funny. The Phillies of the mid to late 70s were the first team since the Dodgers (with Roth) to have a numbers guy (Steve Mann) but they had a very strong scouting culture at the time. General speaking, smart scouting, innovative thinking on the stats front and a management that was open to input from both sides.

In other words, "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!" You'd never want to go back to that team.
   10. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4072625)
"How do you measure yourself against other players?"

"By height."
   11. AROM Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:16 AM (#4072629)
Historical Marcel slash lines for Amaro from Minor League Splits:


Those are based solely on his major league stats and regression to the mean. Doesn't tell you at all what a projection would think of a 24 year old hitting 368/466/523 in a season split between low A and AA in a hitter's paradise.

Ron, His walk rate was the only thing interesting in 1988 at Palm Springs. The next 3 years his batting average was the main attraction, with a very good but not crazy walk rate.
   12. AROM Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4072632)
Looking at his minor league record I forgot he started as an infielder. The Angels must not have liked his glove enough there so he went to the outfield.
   13. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:25 AM (#4072635)
You need both. You need to know what the numbers say about projections and expectations, and you need scouts to try to discern the likelihood of deviation from the projections.

If I'm a GM, that's the template for all my scouting reports -- here's what he's projected to do, here's why I think that's a good projection, here's why I think that's a bad projection. The scout works the players' tools and potential into that template. I don't care about the scout's free-floating opinion on whether Nick Castellanos will be able to hit a major league curveball. If the scout's entirely non-conversant in the concepts of projections, probabilities, and expectations, I don't have much use for him.
   14. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:34 AM (#4072638)
#5 And minor league walk rates don't translate all that well to the majors. If a minor leaguer needs a big walk rate to be interesting, well it's not exactly a red flag, but it is something to be concerned about.
Oh yeah, tell it to James Skelton!
Wait.
Tell it to Jackie Rexrode!
Wait.
Tell it to...

***

SBB, I completely disagree. I want the scouts to scout - other people can synthesize that with performance stuff.
   15. TDF, situational idiot Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:38 AM (#4072640)
“I honestly can’t tell you the last time WAR or VORP or any of those things were brought up in a conversation,” assistant GM Scott Proefrock said. “We’re aware of them, and we understand what they are. It’s just not something we find relevant.”
This makes sense, especially when evaluating talent.

WAR and VORP are measures of past performance, but aren't terribly predictive; they also are meaningless when talking about prospects (unless I missed WAR for college and minor league players somewhere).
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4072642)
This makes sense, especially when evaluating talent.

WAR and VORP are measures of past performance, but aren't terribly predictive; they also are meaningless when talking about prospects (unless I missed WAR for college and minor league players somewhere).


Well, it makes sense in terms of talking about a player's future, i.e. we expect him to peak as a 3 WAR player, etc.
   17. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 10:50 AM (#4072646)
The value add in the business is being better at evaluating risks of deviation, both up and down, from projections.(*) I can take the 2012 BP I bought for less than 10 bucks on Kindle, put up a eraser board in the office, and use its PECOTA projections to cobble together a baseline of projected runs scored, projected runs allowed, and projected WAR. That stuff is a cheap commodity at this late date. The key is in measuring and projecting my upside and downside from that baseline and the probability of hitting or deviating from that baseline.

(*) And that's the language I want my organization speaking in.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:01 AM (#4072658)
The value add in the business is being better at evaluating risks of deviation, both up and down, from projections.(*) I can take the 2012 BP I bought for less than 10 bucks on Kindle, put up a eraser board in the office, and use its PECOTA projections to cobble together a baseline of projected runs scored, projected runs allowed, and projected WAR. That stuff is a cheap commodity at this late date. The key is in measuring and projecting my upside and downside from that baseline and the probability of hitting or deviating from that baseline.

(*) And that's the language I want my organization speaking in.


But why do the scouts have to speak that language?

Can't the scouts just tell you: "Can't hit the breaking pitch", "Can't catch up to a really good fastball", etc., and let your evalutaion staff conclude that those guys are likely to fall short of their projections?

The value of an organization lies in specialization. Why force everyone to be generalists?
   19. Clemenza Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:04 AM (#4072661)
Has anyone of consequence (GM, respected SABR writer), ever, anywhere suggested that all scouts be fired and a team use only Sabermetrics to build a franchise? Amaro's example of himself will happen no matter what combination of scouts and numbers you use. Is he suggesting scouts don't make these mistakes? How people can't understand that SABR analysis when ADDED TO scouting is a way to tip the deck a little more in your favor is beyond me. It's not and never has been one or the other. If anything, it's the scouting side of the argument that has pushed the one or the other discussion.
   20. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:15 AM (#4072668)
I was a bit shocked to see just how much the Phillies are outspending the rest of the NL. $50m more last year and any other team and $67m more than another other playoff team. They might not need to boost the payroll so high with a bit more of a sabermetric bent.


Why worry about the statistical margins when you can just outspend the competition by $60 mil?
   21. JPWF1313 Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:19 AM (#4072674)
...Amaro said statistical analysis should not be a big part of minor-league scouting.

“It’s just too difficult to really project what the numbers will say,” Amaro said. “I lived it myself. I was a great minor-league player but a terrible major-league player. If you looked at my OPS and my on-base percentage, it was ridiculous. But I wasn’t a good major-league player because I couldn’t hit a breaking ball. That’s something that the scout will find out and see and then you can exploit that area on a guy.”


The funny thing is I was talking to someone in my office yesterday, we were discussing the minor league portion of our upcoming Roto draft and I said something like it was impossible to project Phillies prospects based upon their minor league numbers, they either do far better than their numbers would suggest (Utley, Howard) or vaporize and do far worse...

That happens of course, minor league numbers are not as reliable predictors of MLB performance as Bill James once asserted, but t seems to me tat they are even less reliable when talking about Phillies' minor leaguers. It could be that the Phillies have more or less noticed that themselves...
Ruben Amaro, Jr. hit .368/.466/.523 in 1989, 24 years old, most of the year in the midwest league- you really want your prospects to be YOUNGER in that league, like 19 or 20, OTOH the league hit .239/.321/.334, plus up to that point in his minor league career he'd done nothing much of anything except draw walks...
The next year he went to town in the Texas league, .357/.447/.531 in 57 games, but the Texas league line was .266/.338/.383 and Midland was the best hitter's park in the league.- so despite a superfical similarity to 1989, his 1990 Texas League OPS was actually quite a bit closer to league than 1989... then he went to Edmonton and hit .289/.378/.390 in 82 games, PCL, league was at .277/.356/.409 the mle on that AAA time alone would likely yield something like a 75-80 OPS+

He hit .326/.411/.460 in Edmonton in 1991, he was also 26, the league was at .284/.355/.416, Eric Anthony was 2 year s younger and hit .336/.387/.503 that year (I mention him because a friend of mine for years referred to Anthony as Super Bust), Jeff Manto hit .320/.443/.542...
In 1993 at age 28 he hit .291/.346/.454 in Scranton (the IL), the league hit .262/.330/.403- which was a high offense year for the IL, offense in the IL went up pretty much the same time it did in the MLB.

I think that except perhaps for his half year in the Texas league none of his high minor MLEs indicated he was even an average major league hitter - and even worse, a lot of his minor league value was in walks- which do not translate well.

I carried Amaro Jr., for about two years as a farm guy in my Roto league back in the day- I was taken in by the shiny raw numbers- but he wasn't a prospect- the scouts were not fooled, and the statheads should not have been either.
   22. DA Baracus Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:28 AM (#4072682)
"If you looked at my OPS and my on-base percentage, it was ridiculous. But I wasn’t a good major-league player because I couldn’t hit a breaking ball. That’s something that the scout will find out and see and then you can exploit that area on a guy.”


Writers still need this to be pointed out to them? I'm not surprised.
   23. Dale Sams Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4072684)
Not surprising. It's only been three years since I said that the Phils had set back the SABR movement by winning a World Series and promptly letting a guy with a .296 OBP lead-off for 145 games.
   24. OsunaSakata Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4072690)
To oversimplify:

Scouts say Billy Beane will be a great player. He isn't, so he rejects scouts for stats.

Stats say Ruben Amaro, Jr. will be a great player. He isn't so he rejects stats for scouts.
   25. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4072696)

Why worry about the statistical margins when you can just outspend the competition by $60 mil?


Two reasons;

1. Because you may not always be able to outspend the competition by $60 mil

2. Because a couple of big money mistakes can blow away that advantage pretty damned quickly.

If you can be smart while spending big money you can really clean up. Spending big can cure a lot of ills but not all of them just as being smart can only take you so far.
   26. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4072703)
Can't the scouts just tell you: "Can't hit the breaking pitch", "Can't catch up to a really good fastball", etc., and let your evalutaion staff conclude that those guys are likely to fall short of their projections?

Sure, but the more voices weighing in on the relevant point the better. At a bare minimum, I want the scouts knowing the projection and tethering their thoughts to the type of player the computers say the guy they're evaluating projects to. I don't want them engaged in free-floating scoutspeak. Their value-add is helping me figure out whether Kila or LaHair is going to hit the numbers the computer (be it PECOTA, Marcel, ZIPS, or my own model) is spitting out. (Obviously we're looking at everybody, not just Quadruple-A type guys.)

If we're all in agreement on what we're shooting for, we can play with the details to use everyone's skills and talents most effectively.

Ultimately, it's my job to synthesize what they say and make the final call.
   27. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4072710)
Can't the scouts just tell you: "Can't hit the breaking pitch", "Can't catch up to a really good fastball", etc., and let your evalutaion staff conclude that those guys are likely to fall short of their projections?


Because scouts get it wrong sometimes (so do the numbers guys). While paralysis by analysis is always a risk I would prefer more information than less. If a guy "can't catch up to a good fastball" but keeps outperforming my good looking stud at every level I don't want to write him off.

At the same time a good scouting department should be able to tell me things the numbers are missing. If Bryce Harper's attitude is going to be a problem, they should be able to tell me that. If Xander Bogaerts is cheating on the fastball in a way that simply won't work at higher levels, I want that information.

More is better than less.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4072711)
Sure, but the more voices weighing in on the relevant point the better.

This is the important point.

I think the next frontier is video scouting. If I ran a team, I'd invest a bunch of money in having local stringers record every minor league, college, and high school game that involved interesting talent.

Then when one of you field scouts likes or dislikes a guy, you can have a ton of film that all your scouting guys can review, in edited format, in the home office.

Substitute plentiful cameraman and editor time for scare evaluating resources.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 11:55 AM (#4072712)
Because scouts get it wrong sometimes (so do the numbers guys). While paralysis by analysis is always a risk I would prefer more information than less. If a guy "can't catch up to a good fastball" but keeps outperforming my good looking stud at every level I don't want to write him off.

At the same time a good scouting department should be able to tell me things the numbers are missing. If Bryce Harper's attitude is going to be a problem, they should be able to tell me that. If Xander Bogaerts is cheating on the fastball in a way that simply won't work at higher levels, I want that information.

More is better than less.


I'm not disagreeing that more is better. What I'm saying is that there's no reason that scouts have to speak the language of projections, and probabilities. It's easy enough for someone else to integrate their opinions.

If a scout says a guy can't hit a curveball, video of all his at bats would be really useful (as per my [28]) to have other scouts review all his swings vs. curveballs.
   30. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4072720)
What I'm saying is that there's no reason that scouts have to speak the language of projections, and probabilities. It's easy enough for someone else to integrate their opinions.


Ah, gotcha. Yeah, I agree 100%. I think SBB's point "it's my job to synthesize what they say and make the final call" was a good one.
   31. Textbook Editor Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:11 PM (#4072724)
Substitute plentiful cameraman and editor time for scare evaluating resources.


How much would you have to pay cameramen to do one game from a CF POV and a behind the plate POV? I'm thinking at least $50, if not $100. A good idea, though, if you can keep costs down.
   32. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4072727)
How much would you have to pay cameramen to do one game from a CF POV and a behind the plate POV? I'm thinking at least $50, if not $100. A good idea, though, if you can keep costs down.

Scouting interns filming via their self-provided smart phones.
   33. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM (#4072732)
At a bare minimum, I want the scouts knowing the projection and tethering their thoughts to the type of player the computers say the guy they're evaluating projects to. I don't want them engaged in free-floating scoutspeak.


The vast majority of scouts today are more sophisticated than the hard-bitten old guys filing "Good field, no hit" reports of yore. The type of "free-floating scoutspeak" referenced above doesn't really exist any more.

I absolutely would NOT want my scouts tethering their thoughts to projections. I'd much rather convert what the computer is saying to the scouting scale, compare what the computer is saying to what the scouts are saying, look at the differences, and then ask the scouts *why* they think as they do about a player (assuming it's not already clear in their reports, which if they are doing their job correctly it should be) in the areas where they differ with the computer. If the computer projects, say, 55 power from a prospect, and my scouts project 70 (or 40), I want to know what they are seeing that causes them to be radically different.

-- MWE
   34. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4072734)
I think the next frontier is video scouting.


The Orioles are already headed in this direction. The Nationals, too, do a lot of video scouting in lieu of in-person viewing and reporting.

-- MWE

PS I also remember a guy who worked for the Cubs' organization who would take video at the Smokies' games with the Mudcats - he'd come up in our section behind home plate and then move down the lines during the game. Haven't seen him in a couple of years.
   35. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4072735)
Ultimately, it's my job to synthesize what they say and make the final call.

So we all agree then, right?
   36. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4072737)
Projecting minor league players, let alone amateur players is comically imprecise. I wouldn't want twenty different projections floating around, and I don't want my scouts doing a GM's job and consolidating all the possible information into a single projection, which is going to be terribly imprecise anyway.

What you want from scouts is their expertise - he can see skills and tools, mechanics that can be altered, tendencies and so on. You want that stuff to be as detailed as possible, with arguments and explanations for the evaluations. Scouts can give you precise, clear, and reasoned information - no reason for them to much that up with terribly imprecise amateur projections. I wouldn't want my scouts wasting their time with projections, for the most part.
   37. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4072738)
I was a bit shocked to see just how much the Phillies are outspending the rest of the NL. $50m more last year and any other team and $67m more than another other playoff team.


Gotta take advantage of that window when the LA, NY, and Chicago teams have all been using dart-throwing monkeys to make critical decisions.
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4072743)
Ultimately, it's my job to synthesize what they say and make the final call.


So we all agree then, right?

I'd say it's the job of someone in the front office. A GM can't have a meaningful opinion on 5,000 minor leaguers and the 1500+ guys that are getting drafted each year.

He has to set up a system, and trust his subordinates (with constant evaluation) to provide him good insight. He should only be "digging deep" on major decisions, e.g. first 2 or 3 rounds of the draft, B or better prospects involved in trades, etc.

If the GM has an opinion on who you're drafting in the 27th round, he's not allocating his time well.

   39. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4072755)
PECOTA projects Bryan LaHair to have a 2012 batting average of .256, an on-base percentage of .326, and a slugging percentage of .456 if he plays for the Chicago Cubs. As a GM, I want to know the likelihood he can do that, the likelihood he can do better, how much better, the likelihood he will do worse, and how much worse. The reason these are the questions is because they're the inputs into my eraser board projected team runs scored, runs allowed, and wins that I'm using to judge my team's potential and quality.

Should my scouts be able to opine on these questions? It'd be better if they could. I don't just want to know whether LaHair can hit a major league curveball; I want to know what's going to happen to his numbers if he can't. I want to set up an organizational culture where everyone's thinking of the ultimate questions, understanding that some people are better at it than others.

Projecting minor league players, let alone amateur players is comically imprecise.

If it wasn't, we wouldn't be afforded the opportunity to be better projectors than everybody else.
   40. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4072758)
38 - Which is what teams (generally) do, as I understand it.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4072759)
PECOTA projects Bryan LaHair to have a 2012 batting average of .256, an on-base percentage of .326, and a slugging percentage of .456 if he plays for the Chicago Cubs. As a GM, I want to know the likelihood he can do that, the likelihood he can do better, how much better, the likelihood he will do worse, and how much worse. The reason these are the questions is because they're the inputs into my eraser board projected team runs scored, runs allowed, and wins that I'm using to judge my team's potential and quality.

You don't actually need to know that.

If you knew whether LaHair would be a league avg. hitter, or a little or a lot above or below, that's good enough. You're trying to force false precision into an ultimately imprecise discipline.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4072761)
38 - Which is what teams (generally) do, as I understand it.

I would assume so, but this,

Ultimately, it's my job to synthesize what they say and make the final call.


sounds like the GM is poring over every scouting report and grading players, which is not his job.
   43. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4072772)
For the 27th round pick, I'm delegating the final call, but asking for the reasons why that's the choice, asking who the two or three runners-up were, and trying te get a sense of whether there's unanimity or division on the right call. I'm encouraging free discussion, breaking ties, but only rarely overruling. You have to be able to sit with two or three people you know and trust, have an everybody's equal discussion, and get a sense of what they really think.
   44. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4072776)
Should my scouts be able to opine on these questions? It'd be better if they could.


No, what you want to do is to have the scout's judgments as input into whatever projection model you develop, as an independent source of data from the statistics rather than as a dependent source of information. You don't want to start with the statistical model and then feed that to the scouts, you want your scouts' expertise to be part of the model. How you weight those factors depends on the extent of your scouts' expertise.

A projection is far too granular for this purpose, anyway - if LaHair hits .265/.335/.465, is that really better than the projection? What you really want to know, most of the time, is not whether or to what extent the player will exceed his projection, but in what ways he is likely to do better.

-- MWE
   45. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4072778)
As part of the scouts' input, though I would want to develop some sort of grading system for the scouts. It seems like a scout's rep ends up being based on "He discovered Albert Pujols" or whatever. Well, unless the scout came to me and said, "There's this Pujols guy and nobody wants him, but he's the next Frank Thomas", then I'd chalk it up to luck.

I don't expect them to be able to accurately predict numbers, but if a guy has a track record of finding unheralded talent that becomes Major League talent, I want to know that and give the guy a raise. Also, if I have a scout who keeps telling me that certain highly touted prospects will fail, and those prospects do fail, that's valuable as well. And, lastly, I don't want a scout who always tells me that he's got the next great star and the prospect flames out.

In other words, have a system to analyze and evaluate your scouts.
   46. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4072781)
For the 27th round pick, I'm delegating the final call, but asking for the reasons why that's the choice, asking who the two or three runners-up were, and trying te get a sense of whether there's unanimity or division on the right call. I'm encouraging free discussion, breaking ties, but only rarely overruling. You have to be able to sit with two or three people you know and trust, have an everybody's equal discussion, and get a sense of what they really think.

As GM? Nah, that should be the scouting director's role at that point in the draft.

A Chief Executive is largely a manager of other managers. Your role is to select good "heads of divisions", set up a solid system and organizational philosophy for them to work in, and have the final say on major, major decisions. They really should focus on making a few big decisions well, and otherwise just helping their managers be in position to make good decisions.

By even the 5th round, I wouldn't expect a GM to ever overrule his Scouting Director. You just can't know more than he does. He's been spending the last 12 months exclusively forming opinions on amateur talent. You haven't.

If you find yourself wanting to overrule him after the first couple of picks, you should probably just fire him.

Where the GM has the key decision role is when you're allocating resources across "divisions". Trading prospects for major leaguers, allocating budget between the draft, int'l FAs and the MLB payroll, etc. That, and most meaningful decisions impacting the big-league roster.
   47. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4072788)
As GM? Nah, that should be the scouting director's role at that point in the draft.

It will be a very short conversation 95 times out of 100:

"Who we picking?"

"Was the runner-up a close call?"

"Everybody on board?"

"Pick him."

   48. DA Baracus Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4072790)
It will be a very short conversation 95 times out of 100:

"Who we picking?"

"Was the runner-up a close call?"

"Everybody on board?"

"Pick him."


At that point in the draft you are just going off a list you had been working on for months and is finalized, you just take the guy at the top of it. If you're making game time decisions then it's time for your superior to re-evaluate your job performance.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4072794)
It will be a very short conversation 95 times out of 100:

"Who we picking?"

"Was the runner-up a close call?"

"Everybody on board?"

"Pick him."


That's the conversation he's having with his subordinates, since he's very likely never seen the 900th player drafted play. The GM's not even in the room at that point.
   50. DL from MN Posted: March 02, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4072828)
Sounds like there's more than one organizational philosophy here. Any thoughts on how scouting should feed development? Your guy can't hit the curve ball. Can he learn how or should I trade him now?

There's so much gray area. Sometimes it's worthwhile to keep an "organizational soldier" around just as a good example for the real prospects. Who cares if the guy never sees the big leagues. This is an area where the Twins pride themselves - providing a good environment for development. If they can take their flawed 6th round pick and turn him into a big leaguer they come out way ahead. It's the reason they fired their AAA staff after last season - not enough work on development.
   51. Dan Szymborski Posted: March 02, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4072852)
For the total of Amaro's minor league career, I get a translation of 254/322/354 (he was 235/310/353 in the majors).
   52. base ball chick Posted: March 02, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4072856)
interesting about amaro jr's career

what interests me is why, if he's hitting so well in A ball, didn't they move him up a level after 6 weeks or so? why have him kill pitching for an entire year?

i've often thought that there's a point at which a minor leaguer's "sell by" date expires - meaning that if they are kept in the minors too long at too low a level, they fade or they are 28 years old and no one will give them a chance unless it is pure damm luck - see chris coste

other thing i've noticed is that many times a team calls up a AAA guy who has been killing the ball and immediately benches him, gives him a couple of pinch hit opportunities here and there - i'v e seen the stros do that too many times. and the c*bs too. same thing with calling up a pitcher - he just sits in the bullpen for days with maybe a mopup inning here and there which seems to be a crazy thing to do with a starter

oh yeah
and the reason i think that the reporters keep hammering on this stats suck theme is because they identify with the scouts who evaluate "intangibulls" and can comment on whether or not a guy can hit a ML FB. scouts are BITGOD guys and so are the reporters/columnists
   53. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 02:39 PM (#4072857)
That's the conversation he's having with his subordinates, since he's very likely never seen the 900th player drafted play. The GM's not even in the room at that point.

I'm in the room when we're bringing assets to the organization. Passively in the room, and in the room after I've set the culture of the organization, but in the room. I want to hear if the number one guy on the board is a meh-ish college guy and the number two is a high-upside high schooler everyone thinks is taking the football scholarship at Nebraska. And I most definitely want to make sure the guys aren't letting their perceptions of signability and the like influence their baseball judgment -- that's above their pay grade and my call.

I'm really just looking for situations where it's a really close call and/or there's a split in the ranks. We might have already had discussions about it pre-draft. I'm not micromanaging, or anything close.
   54. JPWF1313 Posted: March 02, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4072865)
To oversimplify:

Scouts say Billy Beane will be a great player. He isn't, so he rejects scouts for stats.

Stats say Ruben Amaro, Jr. will be a great player. He isn't so he rejects stats for scouts.


there may be no small kernal of truth to that oversimplification there.

As a life long Mets fan, I recall hearing about Beane after Strawberry had been called up, in Moneyball it said that some Mets scouts had wanted to spend the 1st pick of the draft on Beane- but I never heard a peep from the announcers or MSM about Beane until Straw was up- then Beane became THE guy bubbling under, the guy who projected to be 20/20, who'd be up patrolling LF in Shea in, oh, real soon... (James was silent on Beane, he discussed few Mets prospects around this time, but said that the "really exciting" guy was Lenny Dykstra)

Beane hit .281/.352/.490 in AA at 22 and .284/.341/.480 in AAA at age 23, the best hitter on that AA team was actually Randy Milligan followed by Ed Hearn, Milligan did have an MLB career- just not with the Mets, and the Mets got value for Hearn :-)
In AAA at age 23 he marginally outhit Kevin Mitchell- same age- .290/.351/.448

Oh one other guy, Mets announcers spend 2 years hyping John Gibbons, but forgot he existed after the Gary Carter trade...
   55. JPWF1313 Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:03 PM (#4072878)
other thing i've noticed is that many times a team calls up a AAA guy who has been killing the ball and immediately benches him, gives him a couple of pinch hit opportunities here and there - i'v e seen the stros do that too many times


the Royals of recent vintage did that a lot as well... I remember when they did that to Justin Huber, hitting .343/.432/.570 at Wichita, bring him up, one or two starts, then let him rot on the bench, some reporter actually asked the manager after a game whether that treatment made any kind of sense, the response is best described as confused babbling... Then the Royals did that to Ka'aihue and a few other guys too.

I think what happens in some orgs is that some player is doing really well in AA/AAA, and there is a roster spot open, so the GM promotes him, without discussing anything with the manager, without any kind of plan really, the guy shows up in the clubhouse and the manager's attitude is, WTF am I supposed to do with this guy? He'll get a start because the manager thinks he's being nice, and then he may get a few PH Abs, or if he's really lucky someone will get hurt.

True story, in 2005 Mike Jacobs was hitting .321/.376/.589 in AA, he gets called up, and sits...a reporter asks Willie Randolph about the kid, Randolph shrugs, are you going to use him? "no"
The Mets then announce a series of moves, one guy being activated, one guy going on the DL, Jacobs being demoted...
Last day in the Majors, Jacobs is once again sitting on the bench, Mets are down 7-0 in the 5th, Randolph, undoubtedly thinking that he's being "nice" lets the kid get his first (and possibly last) major league at bat.
and he CRUSHED a 3 run home run. I think it was the hardest hit HR I'd witnessed from a Met since the days of Strawberry.

The next day, Jacobs is at the airport to go back to the minors- when the Mets send someone there to stop him. He not only stays up but starts games, and goes .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers in 100 at bats- and went on to have a 2000 PA career... the funny part is this- he really wasn't that good- I mean every now and then he'd absolute;y crush the ball, but he didn't walk, hit for average and had no defensive skills, but he had a career all because one freaking at bat impressed his imbecile manager at the right time..
   56. Greg Schuler Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4072891)
Mike Emeigh (as usual) is more correct about modern scouting than anyone else in this thread. Scouts do use grading systems and rate players numerically and depending on the organization, will supply as much data on a player as the scouting director demands. And it is not "scout-speak" - most scouts don't abbreviate the good PHFB (pecker-high fastball) and don't get away with simple generalizations. Scouts and scouting services do video amateur games and there are, I understand, plenty of video libraries at all levels available for analysis.

As far as the dynamic between the GM and the scouting director, the GM simply doesn't have time or energy to be that involved in the scouting season or draft. Aside from the first pick, a GM lets the person he hired do their job (shocking!) and make the rest of the picks. The GM will probably attend the pre-draft scouting meetings where the boards are set and ranked, but from my experience, the GM tends to have other work more important than who the 36-th round pick is.

I also agree with Mike - the value of a scout is the ability to recognize physical ability, skills and talent and know the background of the player to provide an informed opinion as the player's chance to physically perform at a level that could be considered major league. No more, but no less. It is not to be a drone to confirm the projections of a player (amateur or minor league) - if the scout disagrees with the projection, what factors alleviate that dispute? Is the model for a player more accurate than a personal assessment?

The days of the ivory hunters are long gone - most scouts crave technology since it reduces the work burden and allows them more time to evaluate players. The crusty cigar-chomping lifer with the polyester pants and windbreaker cackling about the good face have all but disappeared from the scouting ranks.
   57. Greg Schuler Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4072895)
I'm really just looking for situations where it's a really close call and/or there's a split in the ranks. We might have already had discussions about it pre-draft. I'm not micromanaging, or anything close.


No, you're exactly micro-managing. Passively, but your presence sends that exact message to the subordinate.

Typically, a team will set its draft board a week or so in advance, based on all the input of the part-timers, bird-dogs, area scouts and cross-checkers. The GM might have some say over the first fifty picks, but not having seen any of them, or seen only a few, the GM probably doesn't have the experience with the players the national and regional cross-checkers do and therefore his opinion on the players is biased.

When a good organization drafts, they have the board set and just, as another poster commented, pick the top remaining pick. It's not that simply, but that is the simplification. As the Boss, you should simply let that process proceed with the people you have hired to execute the job. If you want to be that involved, then be a scouting director. I think you underestimate the amount of work involved in being in a baseball front office, or what it takes to successfully be a boss and manager.
   58. Greg Schuler Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4072900)
and the reason i think that the reporters keep hammering on this stats suck theme is because they identify with the scouts who evaluate "intangibulls" and can comment on whether or not a guy can hit a ML FB. scouts are BITGOD guys and so are the reporters/columnists


And because some scouts are good story tellers and blabber mouths and the statistical analysts aren't. It could be as simple as that, though I do agree the similarity between reporters and scouts (both logging hard hours [in their minds and in truth sometimes] to find the truth and report it for low pay and no esteem) might have something to do with it.

I've met many a scout who was happy to chatter away about any topic - most are highly opinionated. That's what a reporter craves - information. If the analysts would simply tell better stories about the one night in mom's basement, then you might see the media coverage shift.
   59. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4072901)
also agree with Mike - the value of a scout is the ability to recognize physical ability, skills and talent and know the background of the player to provide an informed opinion as the player's chance to physically perform at a level that could be considered major league. No more, but no less. It is not to be a drone to confirm the projections of a player (amateur or minor league) - if the scout disagrees with the projection, what factors alleviate that dispute? Is the model for a player more accurate than a personal assessment?

I'm not sure there's much disagreement here ... is the question "Do you think Bryan LaHair can hit .256 and/or slug .456 in 2012 playing in Wrigley?" really out of bounds for a scout? I wouldn't think so. It's really just the follow-up question to the things in the report, including the 20-80 hitting and 20-80 power numbers ... more of a translation of scouting scale numbers into statistical output on the baseball field.

I'd have a database in my office of the scout's projection history and how the projections translated (*) , but I'd want to hear it from him or her, too.

(*) I.e., how have his other 65 power/50 hitting 25 year olds performed?
   60. hokieneer Posted: March 02, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4072935)
I think the next frontier is video scouting. If I ran a team, I'd invest a bunch of money in having local stringers record every minor league, college, and high school game that involved interesting talent.

Then when one of you field scouts likes or dislikes a guy, you can have a ton of film that all your scouting guys can review, in edited format, in the home office.

Substitute plentiful cameraman and editor time for scare evaluating resources.


I like it. The biggest resource investment would be in the editing and indexing of the raw video in a way where it can be quickly consumed by decision makers. Paying someone a few bucks to record 20-40 AB of a college or A ball game is nothing. Having a seasons's worth of that information compiled and searchable is another.
   61. Walt Davis Posted: March 02, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4072952)
So we all agree then, right?

I think we need a roundtable first!

what interests me is why, if he's hitting so well in A ball, didn't they move him up a level after 6 weeks or so? why have him kill pitching for an entire year?

Maybe because the scouts didn't think he'd be any good.

i've often thought that there's a point at which a minor leaguer's "sell by" date expires - meaning that if they are kept in the minors too long at too low a level, they fade or they are 28 years old and no one will give them a chance

I think this too but can't prove it. It's one area where I think "psychology" plays a part. When a guy has earned his chance at a higher level and he's not given it, it's got to be hard for that guy to maintain a hard working attitude. Obviously many people will but it's understandable when some may not.

I often point to Roosevelt Brown. At 22 at A+, he hit 344/402/557 and the Cubs rightly moved him up to AA where he struggled. At 23 in AA he hit just 296/376/464 (141 PA) but the Cubs moved him up to AAA anyway where he hit 358/401/713 in 294 PA. That got him a cup of coffee but not a ML job the next year. So at 24 he hit a solid but not great 309/381/496 in 409 PA ... but the Cubs traded for Rondell White instead ... who promptly got hurt so Brown got a call-up and he hit 352/378/538 in 98 ML PAs. (Note Brown was also something of a CF in those days but the Cubs played Damon Buford instead.)

This was still not good enough to earn him a chance and the Cubs kept White, put GMjr in CF. In 388 PA in AAA, Brown hit 346/381/626 which got him another late-season call-up (with White hurt again) and hit 265/326/506 in 92 PA. He's 25, has 190 ML PA with an OPS+ of 124 and 1100 AAA PA with an OPS a bit under 1000 ... and not good enough for a job the next year. First, the Cubs sign Alou. Then, in spring training, they nearly publicly say the CF job is Brown's with one week left in spring training but this may have just been a ploy to motivate Patterson who tears it up in the last week and gets the CF job. Out of options, Brown spends the year on the Cubs bench (111 g, 231 PA) and stinks (so does Patteson of course). He is released, is now 27 and goes to Japan. He did bounce back stateside after a few years but never did anything.

It's obviously quite likely Brown never would have been anything in the majors. And I don't think anybody thought he'd really stick in CF. But he did some real destroying of AAA and he did well in two ML stints and had earned a real shot. Not getting that shot and the last little game the Cubs played -- I have to believe that broke him.

Dan will now rock up with MLEs of 220/280/340. :-)


   62. Walt Davis Posted: March 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM (#4072962)
SBB ... one of the things you're missing is that the 27th round pick is barely any sort of asset that's coming to your organization. Querying his/her staff about the 27th round pick is about as good a use of a GM's time as another manager quizzing his staff why they ordered A-1011-A ball point pens rather than A-1011-B ball point pens out of the stationery catalog.

And you expect agreement on who to draft in the 27th round, why pick the guy you've got ranked 797 over the guy you've got ranked 801? What sort of response would you expect ... "well, if absolutely everything goes right, 6-7 years from now #797 might give us 200 PA as a decent emergency replacement C while #801 (if absolutely everything goes right) might give us 10 innings of replacement-level relief."*

Finally, most of what you think you might accomplish is achieved by setting that "culture." If you want them to pick baseball first and let you worry about signability or weigh baseball 80% and signability 20%, you just tell them that.

*That's a slight exaggeration. The Braves, one of the top draft/develop organizations of all-time, did find Mark Lemke in the 27th round. They also drafted but did not sign Ben McDonald, drafted but did not sign Todd Greene (who wasn't very good but did play 563 games in the majors as backup C), drafted but did not sign Tyler Flowers (who they redrafted and did sign in the 33rd round a year later) and drafted but did not sign Anthony Rendon. Clearly they weren't letting signability outweigh baseball they just didn't close the deals.

In Braves' scouts I trust, all others must bring numbers. :-)
   63. JPWF1313 Posted: March 02, 2012 at 04:55 PM (#4072964)
I found a ZIPs mle of .280/.338/.413 for Rosie Brown's 2005 season

.285/.322/.499 for 2001
.290/.338/.576 for 1999 (74 games in Iowa) and .242/.312/.375 (34 games at West Tenn)

did he go to Japan? BBREF has no MLB or minor league PT from 2003-2004, or was he hurt?
   64. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:05 PM (#4072973)
Yup, in Japan for two years with Orix Blue Wave. Baseball Cube has his NPB stats: 392/539 in 2003, 378/472 in 2004.
   65. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM (#4072974)
Finally, most of what you think you might accomplish is achieved by setting that "culture." If you want them to pick baseball first and let you worry about signability or weigh baseball 80% and signability 20%, you just tell them that.

True. I think in reality there'd be about 20 (to pull a number out of wherever) wild card signability/college football candidate guys who'd fall, everybody'd know it, and only then would it have to be kicked up to my level. You're right; I'd probably eschew the 27th round 799 vs. 801 pure baseball/pure baseball conversation. If I'm setting the tone of "You guys worry about baseball, and only baseball, leave bonus demands and everything else non-baseball to me" it won't be a worry.
   66. Ron J Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM (#4072975)
#62 The book Diamond Dreams has some memos from Peter Bavasi that defy belief.

There are two demanding to see every invoice before they are paid.

Another on the phasing out of black typewriter ribbons.

Another telling the girl in the spring training office not to print up special rosters for free distribution. Sell press guides instead.

Another on the price of coffee for the office staff.

Another telling team doctors to avoid the clubhouse and training room [swear to God] except when they're requested.

And many more. Including one telling the staff to lie to reporters. (and uses those words). Nothing directly on pens, but getting involved in the selection of typewriter ribbons is in the same general neighborhood.

He was not a popular man. Bill James wrote an article on Bavasi in the wake of the Beeston/Gillick coup against him called, "A Solid Financial Footing For Toronto," or "A Man's Outhouse Is His Castle If He Holds His Nose And Pretends The Flies Are Pigeons"

EDIT: Oh yeah, in his spare time he had absolute veto power over every single transaction, including every single draft pick (they did add a fair amount of talent under Bavasi). Pat Gillick claims that he'd worked out a deal to send Bill Singer to the Yankees for a 25 year old minor league relief pitch who had arm problems the previous year but that Bavasi vetoed the deal (saying he needed an established draw).

Bavasi didn't know this Guidry kid (Gillick did -- came from the Yankee organization), but how good could he be?
   67. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:19 PM (#4072977)
... and with the new bonus caps you aren't going to be able to buy Ben McDonald in the 27th round out of LSU anyway ....
   68. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:27 PM (#4072981)
EDIT: Oh yeah, in his spare time he had absolute veto power over every single transaction, including every single draft pick (they did add a fair amount of talent under Bavasi). Pat Gillick claims that he'd worked out a deal to send Bill Singer to the Yankees for a 25 year old minor league relief pitch who had arm problems the previous year but that Bavasi vetoed the deal (saying he needed an established draw).

Maybe he felt sorry for the Yankees after stealing Otto Velez in the expansion draft.
   69. oscar gamble's afro pick Posted: March 02, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4073002)
...“I honestly can’t tell you the last time WAR or VORP or any of those things were brought up in a conversation,” assistant GM Scott Proefrock said. “We’re aware of them, and we understand what they are. It’s just not something we find relevant.”


From the basement, the GMs come and go,
Ignoring the spreadsheets in a row
   70. Walt Davis Posted: March 02, 2012 at 08:13 PM (#4073084)
Oh yeah, I meant to say that I can't recall the last time VORP came up in a conversation around here. Especially once b-r added WAR, the BPro family of space-age terms (WARP, VORP, EQA) disappeared.
   71. AJMcCringleberry Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:02 PM (#4073100)
The next day, Jacobs is at the airport to go back to the minors- when the Mets send someone there to stop him. He not only stays up but starts games, and goes .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers in 100 at bats- and went on to have a 2000 PA career... the funny part is this- he really wasn't that good- I mean every now and then he'd absolute;y crush the ball, but he didn't walk, hit for average and had no defensive skills, but he had a career all because one freaking at bat impressed his imbecile manager at the right time..

IIRC, Pedro helped convince them not to send Jacobs down.
   72. Ron J Posted: March 02, 2012 at 09:10 PM (#4073103)
#70 b-r adding WAR was big of course. I think Keith Woolner's joining the Indians played a part. There was a time when using the string VORP (at least on usenet) summoned Keith into the conversation, and he generally had something useful to add.

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