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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Life of a scouting report: How the Cubs have streamlined an age-old process – The Athletic

A lot of good stuff at The Athletic recently. If you can get access at a discount, you should.

“Our scouts don’t travel to the draft,” Dorey said. “So it’s my job to really challenge analytic information we have if it doesn’t align with what our scouts are saying, and try to find the sweet spot there. I’m constantly trying to make sure that the voice of the scout doesn’t get lost in the entire profile of the player. And I think we’ve done a really good job of that, but it’s something we could continue to improve on. We’re still talking about 17-, 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old human beings, and the human nature is so tough to evaluate and project on.”

In recent years, the Cubs haven’t weighed hitches in a pitcher’s mechanics as heavily as they have in the past — burned, too often, by pitchers they passed on finding success with other teams. And they’ve learned that certain players, often upper-middle-class travel-team types, can be taught the right things to say at meetings with scouts, even when those things aren’t necessarily reflective of the player’s actual personality or skills.

Weighed heavily, by contrast, are scouts’ evaluations of a player’s overall athleticism (a term the Cubs operationalize as carefully as they do secretly), that player’s hatred of losing (which the Cubs care about far more than a player’s desire to win), and of course the R&D reports that the nerd squad at the Cubs’ offices in Lakeview dig up. Even so, it’s still tough to get it all right.

The long timelines that baseball imposes on front offices make the job difficult, too. Unlike in basketball or football, where a draft’s success or failure can be measured within 12-24 months, the Cubs’ front office is only now starting to understand how and why their 2012 draft worked or didn’t, and only now able to fully integrate the lessons of that year into their planning for the next one. It’ll be another half-decade before they know if they got that one right, either.

And so today, right now, the Cubs are hard at work, ferociously collecting all the data they can about the past, making with it the best possible decisions they can about the fleeting present, and constantly revising their expectations of what those choices might mean for their future.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 09, 2018 at 10:23 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, pay site, scouting

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   1. Rally Posted: January 09, 2018 at 11:24 AM (#5603328)
that player’s hatred of losing (which the Cubs care about far more than a player’s desire to win)

That is great and timeless debate. Two longtime managers in my APBA/OOTP league took opposite sides on this one.

Based on the objective data, I've got to go with love of winning. The desire to win guy once won 117 regular season games and the world series. The hate losing guy once avoided losses for all but 46 regular season games, but was upset in the first round of the playoffs.

But to each his own, small sample size.
   2. McCoy Posted: January 09, 2018 at 11:38 AM (#5603341)
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say their 2012 draft sucked. It probably won't be as legendarily bad as the 2005 draft but all hopes of a non horrible draft rest on the shoulders of Albert Almora.
   3. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 09, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5603505)
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say their 2012 draft sucked. It probably won't be as legendarily bad as the 2005 draft but all hopes of a non horrible draft rest on the shoulders of Albert Almora.

Wow, you aren't kidding about that 2005 draft. That is impressively bad. 2012 has more hope than just Almora though, looks like some of the guys are still in the minors, and Blackburn is on the A's, not sure why his stats aren't showing up on the BBREF draft tracker tool.
   4. Rally Posted: January 09, 2018 at 03:51 PM (#5603554)
Angels 2012 draft has 3 guys who have made the majors, all with negative WAR. Looking around the league there are a few others in a similar position. Still too early to judge the 2012 draft. Having one player able to contribute in MLB five years later might not be terrible.

I'll just look at the division, WAR by 2012 draft
CHC 3.3 (correcting for Blackburn)
MIL 3.6
STL 13.9
CIN 0.9
PIT 1.0
   5. Rally Posted: January 09, 2018 at 03:58 PM (#5603563)
WAS 0.7
ATL 10.8 (mostly Alex Wood)
PHI 0.0 (3 players, had to click on 2 of them to get their WAR)
NYM 1.7
MIA 8.6 (but 6.6 of that is Kendall Graveman, who did not sign)

LAD 17.2 (mostly Seager)
SDN 3.3
SFN 10.0
COL 6.6
ARI -0.1

So 4 teams had a clearly better draft than the Cubs, the other 10 have nothing to brag about either.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2018 at 04:29 PM (#5603612)
SFN? Is there a SFA I'm not aware of? :-)

Real questions:

1. I still don't understand what data the statnerds are working with, especially for HS players. Is it just scout/combine-collected velocity, sprint speed, etc. I'm still of the opinion that performance data is nearly useless at the HS level, probably not too useful at college.

2. I think the excerpt is still confusing "draft" and "develop" when they are two separate processes. It seems to me that you should be able to assess the success of your draft process relatively quickly. That's a matter of focusing on the raw talent and, now that you've had a closer look for a couple of years against tougher competition, I would think you should have a reasonable idea whether the pre-draft talent assessment was reasonably accurate. It's the develop side of things where you may have to wait several seasons. Even there, some of that should be available relatively quickly -- are your talented HSers performing to expectations and advancing as you'd expect over the first two years? Are your A-ballers (on whom you may now have two years track record) performing and advancing?

So sure it takes six years or so to decide if the 2012 draft process was good and the lower-level development process of 2013-14 was good and the upper-level development process of 2015-17 was good. But they should have had a pretty good idea whether the upper-level development process was working well for 2012-14 before 2015 and made any changes they thought necessary by then.

3. It is an interesting mix for the Cubs. On the one hand, Bryant, Schwarber and (somewhat surprisingly) Happ needed very little development but were big draft successes. We can add the trade acquisition Russell to that non-Cub-developed pile as well. On the other equally good hand, the Theo Cubs deserve most of the credit for the development of Baez, probably most of the credit for Edwards, all of it for Almora and probably a good chunk of Hendricks which is a very nice track record.

Where it so far has not matched Theo's time in Boston is in the lower-levels of the draft. Those Red Sox teams got lots of nice production out of later picks. I don't know that we've seen any of that yet, even with inherited Hendry late picks. Not even some fireballing reliever coming up and having a hot season. Given the team's success converting their own (Happ, Schwarber, Almora) and other teams' mid-level prospects (Hendricks, Edwards) into good players, that might be a failure in either drafting or lower-level development. (That is they haven't yet turned their own 3rd round pick into a team #5 prospect and maybe eventually into a #50-100 overall prospect.)

Maybe I'm being too harsh. They have traded guys like Candelario (who hovered around #100) and Cease (a 6th round pick now in some top 100 lists) and probably 1-2 others I'm forgetting.
   7. Rally Posted: January 09, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5603630)
SFN? Is there a SFA I'm not aware of? :-)

Sometimes I use the retrosheet team abbreviations. They all have to be 3 digits, so SFN, SDN, TBA, and so on.

I'm still of the opinion that performance data is nearly useless at the HS level, probably not too useful at college.

College data is probably 100x better than HS, though that's not saying much. With HS you have 2 problems - small sample size, and quality of competition. If you want to know how a guy might handle a 95 MPH MLB fastball, there really is no amount of watching him swing at my 70 MPH heater that will tell you anything useful.

The best I can come up with for using HS stats is:

1. Is the hitter putting up video game numbers? If yes, then look more closely at the tools. For every 100 guys who can hit .500 in HS maybe 1 can hit anything at the MLB level. If no, then write him off as a non-prospect.

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