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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Technology Threatens Scouts, Could Also Set Them Free | FanGraphs Baseball

As I’ve said for about twenty years, scouts and sabermetrics is complimentary. As Sawchik writes, Statcast (and the like) can make scouts even more valuable, not less.

“When we got the pitch-tracking data… it didn’t eliminate scouts. It freed scouts form having to chart pitches and grind through the data to find trends,” Huntington said. “Now much more is automated. But a scout that sees the pitcher’s tells, a scout that recognizes patterns — patterns that a computer won’t even recognize — there’s still incredible value in that scout that is in the stands… They’re able to watch the pitcher, his mannerisms, his action, his body language. The small things, instead of writing down, ‘It was a fastball down and away and hit to second base.’

“From an advance standpoint, it’s been an incredible advantage… Instead of worrying about the [stop]watch and getting that contact-to-contact, we are able to watch the game. We are able to watch the second baseman not move on a play where he should have moved. That catches our attention. Where are his defensive instincts? Where is his energy? Where is his love and drive for the game? Or does he just like to hit? There will be some other things, perhaps some better things, for our guys to focus on: the intangibles. They’re not [engaged in] glorified data entry.”

Jim Furtado Posted: September 19, 2017 at 11:10 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: scouting

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   1. victor Posted: September 19, 2017 at 11:41 AM (#5534359)
Jim, I think you meant to say complementary.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 19, 2017 at 11:57 AM (#5534374)
Where is his energy? Where is his love and drive for the game?

So scouts are still just making sh*t up, eh? I get that these are listed in addition to things they might actually be able to see, such as if a pitcher is tipping pitches or the second baseman taking a poor first step, but it tends to discredit the whole enterprise that they're still saying they can peer into a player's heart and soul from the stands.
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: September 19, 2017 at 11:59 AM (#5534379)
He doesn't have to peer into their heart and soul, you can pick up a lot from talking to the player, his coaches, family members, etc. It is harder to compile and quantify, but not impossible.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 19, 2017 at 12:02 PM (#5534381)
He doesn't have to peer into their heart and soul, you can pick up a lot from talking to the player, his coaches, family members, etc. It is harder to compile and quantify, but not impossible.

For potential draft picks, sure - but as I read it, the excerpt is talking about advance scouting of opponents. The coaches probably aren't going to be too forthcoming that Player X doesn't care about defense.

EDIT: I skimmed TFA. It is indeed referring to MLB advance scouting.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2017 at 09:31 PM (#5534788)
Statcast should be picking up that poor first step and general poor defensive performance by the 2B. Statcast might not be able to tell you whether he brings his defensive instincts with him or not but it will tell you that, whether he does so or not, he's a crappy defender.

And I don't mean to impugn them or their work ethics (which I've never heard anything bad about) but I'm pretty sure that, oh, Jeff Kent, Daniel Murphy, Alfonso Soriano and many other quite successful 2Bs pretty much "just liked to hit" (and steal bases in Soriano's case). Or maybe not in Kent's case -- didn't he say that he didn't like baseball, it was just a job to him?

That sort of stuff is probably very important for amateurs and minors prospects ... maybe even rookies, etc. But once they're in the majors for a few years, you know what they're worth without seeing them.

I'm also not sure what the team is supposed to do with "the 2B has a poor first step." (1) They already know he's a poor defender. (2) I'm not convinced batters have much control over "hey, I'll hit it to 2B more often then." (3) Even if they do, it's not clear that's better than having them do their usual thing. (4) OK, maybe it makes a drag bunt more attractive. (5) I don't see that it makes any difference to the baserunners -- a runner on second always makes it to third, a runner on first has to run ... (5a) unless he has a slow first step on covering second on a steal, then you might be more likely to steal ... (5b) or maybe for a runner on 3rd, he should go on contact if it's hit towards the 2B.

Which of course once or twice a year could help you win a close game (Hosmer).

And "inside dope" on attitude -- again, for amateurs absolutely ... maybe for other teams' minors just due to volume. But is a scout somehow going to get information out of other teams' ML coaches, managers, FO personnel? If so, those folks should be fired immediately.** And the scout is going to be better at this than the GM, assistant GMs, etc? Are these guys Roger Sterling? (Sorry, just finished binging Mad Men.)

** Unless it's the offseason and the player in question is a FA -- that is essentially a job reference.
   6. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: September 19, 2017 at 10:14 PM (#5534816)
It seems pretty clear that "not move on a play where he should have moved," followed by references to lack of drive, is not describing a poor first step; it's about a player being too unfocused or indifferent to carry out his responsibilities on a given play. If a pitcher fails to run to first on a grounder to the right side, does anyone confuse that with a poor first step?
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 19, 2017 at 10:48 PM (#5534860)
No, but if anyone sees a pitcher fail to run to first on a grounder one or two times and extrapolates grand conclusions about his motivation, desire or personality, that person is just making sh*t up. And Walt raises an excellent point about the lack of utility of such conclusions to an opponent, even if they happen to be true.

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