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Monday, December 04, 2017

Cahal Kelly: Metrics Supplant Managers

The onus moved from learning the game’s codes and secret handshakes to understanding spreadsheets and numbers.

(An extreme example of this is an Azerbaijani soccer team, FC Baku. Five years ago, it hired a 21-year-old to run its player-acquisition set-up. His chief competency? Being very good at the video game Football Manager.)

The effect of metrics on hiring has been slowly (and now rapidly) trickling down. A manager is no longer a teacher. He doesn’t need an intimate knowledge of the cutting-edge thinking in the field (that’s what the GM and his army of wonks are for). When he wants to know what to do late in a game, he has a binder that tells him what to do.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

fra paolo Posted: December 04, 2017 at 04:40 PM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: managers, metrics, yankees

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   1. RMc's Unenviable Situation Posted: December 05, 2017 at 07:16 AM (#5586196)
(An extreme example of this is an Azerbaijani soccer team, FC Baku. Five years ago, it hired a 21-year-old to run its player-acquisition set-up. His chief competency? Being very good at the video game Football Manager.)

It must not have worked out too well, since FC Baku became defunct as a pro club in 2016, and now plays as an amateur team.
   2. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: December 05, 2017 at 07:28 AM (#5586197)
I mean it's a funny story, but completely ####### meaningless. FC Baku was what? The nth-thousandth team in world football? They are a nothing team, in a nothing league, nobody had ever heard of. The signing was 100% a publicity stunt. It has nothing to do with analytics, or anything like that at all. And from that point of view, it worked spectacularly. And why not? It's not like they have a prayer of signing a competent manager in any case? It's about as low stakes of a risk as you could imagine.

To take a random publicity stunt as an example, the Mets signing Tebow, and giving him a bunch of minor league PA's is about a thousand trillion times more important than anything FC Baku ever did. And signing Tebow was completely and totally unimportant.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2017 at 08:49 AM (#5586217)
I love the assumption that the control device for soulless 21st century technocrats is still a binder.
   4. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:13 AM (#5586268)
I love the assumption that the control device for soulless 21st century technocrats is still a binder.

Yes, but the binders are no longer full of women. Just numbers.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:22 AM (#5586283)
I love the assumption that the control device for soulless 21st century technocrats is still a binder.

Paper is still a much more efficient medium for quick retrieval of structured information. In a game situation you need to be able to quickly flip to the right "tab", which is much more easily down in a binder than on an iPad.
   6. puck Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:29 AM (#5586294)
The Colorado Rapids also use Football Manager in the front office. They also had a bad manager though he was not hired by the analytics guy. They finished 20th in a 22-team league in 2017.

In this case though, while the jury's still out on the FO, the analytics-driven guy managed to push out the other guys who had presided over 3 crapola seasons in the past 4.

The new manager is Anthony Hudson, who was the New Zealand manager through the (losing) WCQ playoff. Apparently the Kiwi's won one non-Oceania games under him, vs Oman.
   7. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:42 AM (#5586311)
Paper is still a much more efficient medium for quick retrieval of structured information. In a game situation you need to be able to quickly flip to the right "tab", which is much more easily down in a binder than on an iPad.


Depends. If I can write an app that lets a manager click on an inning, then an out state, then a batter, that can also remember who's been used and eliminate options based on that... I have to think a team could do so 100% more efficiently.
   8. Greg Pope Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:43 AM (#5586314)
I love the assumption that the control device for soulless 21st century technocrats is still a binder.

Also, despite all the talk about data in binders, I have yet to see footage of a manager looking up strategy in the middle of a game. Also, managers continue to make really stupid moves. I don't think this is as prevalent as the author seems to think.
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:49 AM (#5586324)
Paper is still a much more efficient medium for quick retrieval of structured information.

Wait, I thought you weren't a partner in a law firm.
   10. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:53 AM (#5586329)
The thing that struck me about the article was the writer talking about Epstein, Zaidi and Anthopolous as examples of the trend and I was thinking "that's about three World Championships, four pennants, and seven or eight division titles between those guys. Is that pro or con?"

Paper is still a much more efficient medium for quick retrieval of structured information. In a game situation you need to be able to quickly flip to the right "tab", which is much more easily down in a binder than on an iPad.


I suspect that is very much dependent on the individual. I think a properly written program would be a lot easier to look up data than a stack of paper. Just as an example I can find a player on BBRef quicker than I can in a Baseball Encyclopedia (not that either is difficult). To Greg's point it seems like the iPads are more used for scouting report type stuff "hey, let me get a look at video of this reliever" than statistical stuff.
   11. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: December 05, 2017 at 10:55 AM (#5586334)
The Red Sox used Diamond Mind simulations when they hired Francona. Bill James mentioned it somewhere along the line (pre-Sox I think) noting that while that wasn't the be all end all that sort of simulation is useful to make sure the prospective manager has some basic understanding of tactics.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2017 at 11:54 AM (#5586413)
Depends. If I can write an app that lets a manager click on an inning, then an out state, then a batter, that can also remember who's been used and eliminate options based on that... I have to think a team could do so 100% more efficiently.

And if you use the program in adavnce, and have all that data printed out in a handy table, you can retrieve it a lot quicker than clicking all those buttons in game.

It's like when I prepare for live fantasy baseball drafts. I do all my work in Excel, but then I print it out, because it's quicker to scan visually than to click around, and I can much more easily take notes on the fly.

   13. Captain Supporter Posted: December 05, 2017 at 02:49 PM (#5586611)
Most people's approach to evaluating a manager's in-game decisions (in this example, a pitching change) go along the lines of : 1) He left the starter in and the starter got hit; he should have taken the starter out so he should be fired; 2) He took the starter out and the reliever got hit; He should have left the starter in, so he should be fired. Implicit in all this is that the fan, of course, knew better.

The fact that all a manager can really do is cause a small change in the probabilities that a hit or an out will follow a pitching change is virtually never mentioned, yet that is actually what happens.

I incessantly played APBA as a kid, and i don't think that it (or Diamond Mind) is a useful tool for teaching managers. However, I am ready to serve if needed.
   14. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:09 PM (#5586629)
I incessantly played APBA as a kid, and i don't think that it (or Diamond Mind) is a useful tool for teaching managers.


I think those sorts of simulations are very useful for getting a feel for tactical decisions. However, a managers job is so so so much more than just tactics. Sometimes you gotta make a "dumb" move to get a long term gain.

Billy Martin told a great story in his autobiography. Guidry had been getting a reputation as a guy who couldn't complete a game (back when such things matter). Finally with a sizable lead Martin decided Gator was going nine if it killed him. According to Martin the ninth was far from clean but Guidry got through it and was on his way to being the pitcher he was. I never did a tracer on it but whether or not it is a true story is beside the point. That's the kind of thing managers sometimes have to do.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:18 PM (#5586644)
Billy Martin told a great story in his autobiography. Guidry had been getting a reputation as a guy who couldn't complete a game (back when such things matter). Finally with a sizable lead Martin decided Gator was going nine if it killed him. According to Martin the ninth was far from clean but Guidry got through it and was on his way to being the pitcher he was. I never did a tracer on it but whether or not it is a true story is beside the point. That's the kind of thing managers sometimes have to do

You mean, they have to make a "dumb" move so they can falsely assume causality for a long term gain based on a single inning?
   16. Rally Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:25 PM (#5586650)
I incessantly played APBA as a kid, and i don't think that it (or Diamond Mind) is a useful tool for teaching managers. However, I am ready to serve if needed.


None of the simulators will prepare you for the most important part of the job, leading and motivating millionaire athletes.

For the pure strategy, APBA did not require you to warm up pitchers in advance. Microleague had this, you had to warm up pitchers or presumably face a penalty if bringing them in cold. And they would be tired if you left them warming up too long without using them.

Another thing APBA did was give pitchers a hot hand bonus, if he was a 10 rating pitcher throwing a shutout through 7 innings he'd be a 15 for the 8th, and if the shutout was still going a 20 for the 9th. That's not quite how current MLB bullpen management sees things.
   17. Rally Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:42 PM (#5586673)
I never did a tracer on it but whether or not it is a true story is beside the point. That's the kind of thing managers sometimes have to do.


Let me try a tracer. Guidry had no complete games coming into 1977. He had a great year and ended up with 9 CG. He started the year in the bullpen, in his first start:

Shutout through 8, got the first out, then gave up 2 singles. Sparky Lyle relieved him, and completed the shutout.

Next start: Came into 9th with 2-0 lead, got one out, gave up 2 homers, and game went to extra innings.

5/22: Another 8.1 innings. Leading 8-1 Guidry got one out, gave up a homer, a walk, and the bullpen finished up.

6/1: 2 run lead going into 9th, Guidry gave up 3 straight singles, was relieved, and Lyle allowed the inherited runners to score.

6/10: 3 run lead into the 9th, got one out and let 2 on. Lyle came in and got a GIDP to finish it.

So yes, there was a pattern of Guidry pitching great and running into trouble in the 9th.

Next game he did throw a complete game shutout. In the 9th he walked the leadoff hitter and then got the next 3 guys. His next 4 complete games were 3 shutouts and a game allowing one run, but featured a 1-2-3 9th. I don't see a game where he struggled through a 9th but completed it anyway. His successful CG efforts were either perfect innings, or he allowed just one baserunner.

   18. TomH Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:48 PM (#5586683)
Yes, if I were in a dugout, I would still go Earl Weaver and use index cards.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:49 PM (#5586686)
Other than FC Baku, I don't think anybody said the only evaluation you make is whether a manager's tactical decisions match those of the simulation. James suggests the Red Sox did that to evaluate Francona's tactical decisions, not that this was the only thing they cared about.

On information retrieval ... there shouldn't be any need for retrieving. A program/app should be running live and always updated on the current situation -- i.e. keeping a scorecard. No button pushing other than the "quality assurance coach" enters in that Bryant just had a single. The computer already knows Rizzo is up next, knows who you've got available in the pen, knows the base/out and score situation, knows who the Cubs have on the bench, etc and retrieves and displays whatever info the manager/GM/team nerds think is relevant a milli-second after the QA coach enters that Bryant singled.

I mean c'mon, an ESPN live game tracker has been doing this on a simple basis for 5+ years now. I'm not a programmer and I bet I could have something like this up and running before spring training.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2017 at 03:54 PM (#5586699)

On information retrieval ... there shouldn't be any need for retrieving. A program/app should be running live and always updated on the current situation -- i.e. keeping a scorecard. No button pushing other than the "quality assurance coach" enters in that Bryant just had a single. The computer already knows Rizzo is up next, knows who you've got available in the pen, knows the base/out and score situation, knows who the Cubs have on the bench, etc and retrieves and displays whatever info the manager/GM/team nerds think is relevant a milli-second after the QA coach enters that Bryant singled.

I mean c'mon, an ESPN live game tracker has been doing this on a simple basis for 5+ years now. I'm not a programmer and I bet I could have something like this up and running before spring training.


Doing it that way makes you a slave of the hidden assumptions in the model.

All models are wrong, some are useful. When you blind yourself to the assumptions and mechanics of the model, you prevent the model from being useful.
   21. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2017 at 04:04 PM (#5586709)
Doing it that way makes you a slave of the hidden assumptions in the model.

How would whatever data you have in your binder not have the same hidden assumptions, unless you've got something like a ginormous binder with the results of multiple models? And even if you do have that, guess what's a much more efficient way to store data than in a ginormous binder?
   22. Eddo Posted: December 05, 2017 at 04:06 PM (#5586711)
Doing it that way makes you a slave of the hidden assumptions in the model.

All models are wrong, some are useful. When you blind yourself to the assumptions and mechanics of the model, you prevent the model from being useful.

All models are going to have assumptions (though that does not necessarily make them wrong), that's true. But why is printing out the model's data onto paper better than having it in software form?

Also I don't believe many people are saying that the manager should blindly follow the model, just that the information can be given electronically as opposed to having to carry around a binder full of paper.

EDIT: Coke to What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?
   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2017 at 04:08 PM (#5586713)
Cherry Coke, please. Love that stuff.

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