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Monday, August 21, 2017

Can Scouts and Statcast Coexist? | FanGraphs Baseball

Yes, still beating this dead topic. At least there is a new spin.

“I think context on a personal level,” Daniels said. “I think in general, when we talk about evaluating players, that is the piece [missing]… You’re not there everyday. And that includes myself… That’s becoming more and more the skill of the scouts; their top responsibility is to identify that context. Identify that personal piece… that is an element you cannot access unless you are on the ground. The best scouts are able to fill in that blank.”

Jim Furtado Posted: August 21, 2017 at 10:25 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, scouting

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   1. villageidiom Posted: August 21, 2017 at 11:11 AM (#5517849)
Perhaps if we could arrange a roundtable discussion between the stats folks and the scouts. I bet that would be interesting.
   2. DavidFoss Posted: August 21, 2017 at 11:31 AM (#5517858)
I know this is clickbait, but what's the issue? If the Cape-Atlantic League's parks were all equipped with a dozen high-def cameras each then Mike Trout doesn't slip to 25th in the first round?

At the major league level, it seems like it would just be used to suggest shift alignments and perhaps aid in outfielder instruction. But evaluation? Are they upset that they no longer set the conventional wisdom which used to pick the gold glove?

The picture of 'scouts' in my head is that they're on the road all the time watching HS and college games, talking to the kids coaches and stuff. What does any of that have to do with statcast?
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 21, 2017 at 12:09 PM (#5517887)
The picture of 'scouts' in my head is that they're on the road all the time watching HS and college games, talking to the kids coaches and stuff. What does any of that have to do with statcast?

Exactly. And I think that's what Travis Sawchik and Jon Daniels are suggesting in the article, that Statcast (or systems like it) can handle the mechanical stuff that scouts do and free up the scouts to focus more on things that the technology doesn't do and which is hard to do when you're not physically at the game.

There were times when I was going to minor league games regularly that I would try to watch a particular player rather than the game itself. I'd watching how he reacted on the field - where he was positioned, how he moved around, how he reacted to situations, what Daniels calls the "flow of the game". (Personally I found this really hard to do, by the way - as a fan you're typically following the ball rather than the player.) I think that's going to be the role for the scout going forward.

-- MWE
   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2017 at 06:15 PM (#5518133)
Basically, if you could put Statcast (or some cheap equivalent) into high schools, then there's no more need for the 20-80 ratings of arm, speed, power, etc. you'd have direct measurements of those. To the extent those are measures of a player's physical potential, that would be one aspect of a scout's job gone. If you want to measure the social/psychological "potential", you're better off hiring a psych grad student. (not that I put much stock in such things but I don't put much stock in scout ratings of such things either.) The flow of game stuff potentially could be done through video.

But none of that technology stuff sounds too economically feasible, especially relative to scouts who aren't exactly paid a ton. Maybe if statcast Lite can be put into an app, you'd have something. That said, I'm not sure any of that needs the precision of statcast. We're not calling balls and strikes, I assume the break angle on some kid's slider is not an important predictor of the future -- they'll teach him that later, they just want to know how hard does he throw and is he reasonably accurate. If the kid is fast enough to be a key component of his potential, he's probably running track too and you've got plenty of his speed readings there -- if not, stick him on a track and tell him to run as fast as he can. Or just start having NFL style combines where you do have statcast set up.
   5. Jim Furtado Posted: August 21, 2017 at 10:59 PM (#5518256)
Amateur and professional scouting are two different things. While amateur scouting still needs scouts to handle radar guns and stopwatches, professional scouts no longer need such gadgets.

It makes sense, now that teams can quantify stuff like speed, arm strength, etc. with technology, they want their scouts to focus on the softer intel (stuff like makeup and work ethic). It also makes sense, now that teams can systematically track that soft intel, there will be occasional upheavals in scouting departments.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2017 at 05:48 PM (#5518827)
But how much "soft intel" do you need about ML players, how hard is it to obtain, are scouts any better at obtaining it? Is some Cub scout going to get more about Alex Avila out of Brad Ausmus than Joe Maddon is? Or Epstein talking to Avila Sr (OK, he might be biased :-). No doubt there's an informal grapevine among the players about who the clubhouse jerks are.

Pro scouting has always been kind of a weird thing. The "advance scout" who's trying to find out how to pitch Ryan Braun (or to run on Lucas Duda's arm) made some sense but doesn't anymore with statcast. But the pro scout who's telling you "Yu Darvish is pitching well, trading for him would be fine" never seemed very useful to me. I suppose you wanted somebody to hold a radar gun on Darvish but that's not skilled work. Beyond that, look at his stats. Does the scout then take the clubhouse guy out, get him drunk, and learn all the Darvish dirt?

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