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Friday, January 25, 2013
That’s why I’m flummoxed as to why not a single team has placed an analyst in charge of on-field strategy. At least once every other game, I see a manager make a decision that seems obviously wrong, and I don’t usually pay attention. Starters are left in too long, platoon advantage opportunities are ignored, closers are left sitting on their asses during high-leverage moments, lineups are ridiculously composed, bunts are altogether too frequent (as is normal), or not frequent enough (in the case of severe defensive shifts), and these are just the obvious errors. Browse through MGL’s archives over at The Book Blog for a while to find an obssesive’s take on in-game mistakes.
It’s easy to understand why these errors are made. The right decision is only marginally better than the wrong one, and the typical major league manager has with his own eyes observed the wrong choice paying off time and again. He is emotionally involved with every pitch and is biased by his interactions with his players in getting them ready to play. Understanding of sound strategy requires large datasets and often simulations. Why should we expect someone who has spent his life focusing on the mechanics of the game to also have a grasp of the numbers? The pool from which managers are selected consists strictly of former players, many of whom didn’t graduate from college and have never taken even an “Introduction to Statistics” course.
Les Peden…More Wins!
The Cubs are owned by an MBA who gave over complete control of baseball operations to an analytically-minded GM. That GM came in with an excess of goodwill given by a long-suffering fanbase. If you can’t give an analyst control of strategy in that set of circumstances, when can you?
Which is more difficult, finding an analyst who is good at interacting with people or finding a former baseball player who is comfortable writing code and dealing with large datasets? There is no need to eliminate coaches in this hypothetical, there is only a need to delegate responsibility.
Eventually there will be analysts in the dugout, of this I have no doubt. And once again I’ll be left wondering why the Cubs couldn’t be first movers and how long it will take them to catch up to the innovators in the league.
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