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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big Lead—Why Do the Sabermetric Teams Stink in 2008?

Can’t we just let the whole scouts vs. sabermetrics thing go? One without the other is like a hot dog without mustard.

Maybe they don’t know anything after all: Statistical baseball analysis is such an attractive discipline because it’s so inclusive, and in some cases, so easy. The numbers don’t care if you’re a novice, tinkering in your study, because analytics is a science, and the numbers speak for themselves. A person doesn’t need years of experience on dusty sandlots with a radar gun and the “right eye,” or the ability to look a prospect and see the types of “baseball moves” that scream “big-leaguer.” All one needs is a calculator, an excel program, a few message boards, and a lifetime membership to baseball prospectus, and voila! Not only can one be smarter (and theoretically have more successful ideas) than the ignorant scouts who have the audacity to practice their craft the same way it’s been done for decades, one also has the license to high-mindedly scoff at the mere mention of the words “hustle” and “character.”

Jim Furtado Posted: August 28, 2008 at 01:47 PM | 80 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, scouting

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   1. Brandon in MO (Yunitility Infielder) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:03 PM (#2920013)
because sabermetrics is a failed idealogy and sacrifice bunting is the real baseball

GET OFF MY COMPUTER, RYAN LEFEBVRE
   2. Steve Treder Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:03 PM (#2920014)
Yawn.
   3. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:13 PM (#2920026)
Wow. People are STILL writing these articles? It's a bit pathetic.
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:17 PM (#2920029)
The Royals, Nationals, and Tigers are sabermetric teams? They aren't usually listed on the concordance. I hear the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Richmond Braves have guys who keep track of stats too, and hoo boy do they suck. Not to mention the Chinese national team. And every other team in the sport except possibly the Mariners.
   5. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:20 PM (#2920033)
I hate mustard
   6. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:20 PM (#2920034)
It's a false dichotomy. All teams are "sabermetric" to some extent these days. All of them employ baseball analysis.
   7. Dan The Mediocre Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:20 PM (#2920035)
The Nationals are a sabermetric team?
   8. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:20 PM (#2920037)
The Royals, Nationals, and Tigers are sabermetric teams? They aren't usually listed on the concordance. I hear the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Richmond Braves have guys who keep track of stats too, and hoo boy do they suck. Not to mention the Chinese national team.

Those teams seem to be selectively chosen, no? The Cards and Rays are both stat friendly, while the Mariners are not. No mention of them. Of course, the whole thing is just stupid anyway. All teams employ some kind of statistical analysis and all teams employ scouts. The A's didn't fork over 5 million to Michel Inoa because they liked his pony league stats.
   9. The Good Face Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:24 PM (#2920046)
Lack of veteran leadership and good old fashioned gumption!
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:24 PM (#2920047)
Who are the saber friendly teams and who aren't?

Obvious Saber teams?
Red Sox, A's, Padres, Indians

Lean Saber
Cardinals,Brewers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Royals, Blue Jays(sorry they aren't an obvious team when you look at their actions) Nationals, Dodgers

unknown????
Orioles (I don't think they have an organizational philosophy at all)
Rangers (I just don't know them that well to offer an opinion)
Rockies (they are willing to try anything)
Phillies (see Orioles, but successful version)


Lean by heart
White Sox, Rays, Rays, Tigers(I could see obvious heart also, but then sheffield wouldn't be on the team)
Mets, Braves, Reds, Phillies,

Obvious Heart.
Angels, Giants, Mariners, Twins , Cubs, Astros, Marlins




This is the way I see it, any clarifications out there? And of course even the hardest obvious team still has some tendencies that are from the other camp. There seem to be good and bad teams on both sides of the equation, but the most perplexing thing is the teams that are seriously underperforming is the saber friendly teams (Indians before the recent winning streak, Padres, and A's)
   11. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:31 PM (#2920053)
So, the team that leads the NL in BB's and OPS is "Obvious Heart".

Also, the Mariners are a lot worse, with a lot more resources, than any of the failing "SABR teams"...
And the Stros are pretty lousy, too.
   12. JJ1986 Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:33 PM (#2920055)
The White Sox might not be a sabermetric team, but they do live by the home run, both on offense and they allow very few, and they're good at both walking and preventing walks.
   13. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:33 PM (#2920056)
Also:

White Sox, Rays, Rays, Tigers

Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay.
So good they named it twice.
   14. John Northey Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:33 PM (#2920057)
Of course, the A's announced this was a rebuilding year then played over their heads and Beane sold high on a few guys bringing them back to earth. The Padres were smart for a few years now dumb this year. Orioles used to be Saber-leaders as I think they were the first to publicly acknowledge having a stat guy back in the early 80's but now are more a owner vanity team than anything else.

Both 'pure scout' and 'pure number' methods can work if you have people who are the best at using their talents to find players under those systems. However, not everyone watching baseball games is a good scout, nor is everyone with a calculator a good statistician. Smart teams (in either area) will always outperform dumb ones.
   15. villageidiom Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:33 PM (#2920058)
Wow. People are STILL writing these articles? It's a bit pathetic.
Think of how many years some people have been waiting to have the chance to say it.
   16. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:35 PM (#2920059)
I haven't seen any indication that Dayton Moore leans towards sabermetrics.
   17. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:36 PM (#2920061)
5. Fancy Pants Handle Posted: August 28, 2008 at 10:20 AM (#2920033)

I hate mustard

Fancy Pants Handle and Barrack Obama are so anti-American that they hate mustard.

I think that the Phillies are a blend with no overarching philosophy (other than to pretend to be a mid-market team salary wise). They tend to be very toolsy in their drafting. Their homegrown players run the gamut from moderate hacker in Rollins to extreme patience in Burrell. For acquisitions, they seem to weigh the overall talent without specific sabrness. They've picked up Werth (patience/VG defense) and Victorino (hacky/great D) and Dobbs(hacky/no D) and Jenkins (middling patience/not bad D) and Feliz (hacktastic/great D).
For pitching they've done stuff like promote Kendrick because they thought he was mature enough to handle the majors out of AA (which is true), ended up giving Geary a couple of shots because he performed.
   18. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:37 PM (#2920062)
Colin's dead-on in #6. Every team uses sabermetric tools to inform their decision-making process to some extent these days; it's merely a question of the extent to which they rely on the information.

-- MWE
   19. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:38 PM (#2920067)
I'd consider the DBacks to be an "obvious saber team" and the Rays to be at least a "lean saber" (if by "saber" we're talking about quantitative and qualitative objective analysis). But such designations are silly, anyway.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:39 PM (#2920069)
So, the team that leads the NL in BB's and OPS is "Obvious Heart".

Also, the Mariners are a lot worse, with a lot more resources, than any of the failing "SABR teams"...
And the Stros are pretty lousy, too.


that was my take on it, the Cubs as a team just don't strike anyone as a team wanting to be SABR. It's definately not their philosophy to lead in BB's. I mean if you think I should have rated them someplace else that is fine, but there is no way that I can imagine the Cubs as a 'stat' team.
   21. Boots Day Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:40 PM (#2920071)
Rockies (they are willing to try anything)

I feel like I ought to know the answer to this, but I don't - I grasp the Rockies' strategies for building their ballclub, but I have no idea, at this point, what a sabermetric team would look like. If the Rockies have a statistical analyst in their front office, I haven't heard anything about him or her, but they do seem to grasp some sabermetric principles:

* They understand park effects (how could they not?) and build their team accordingly.

* They get the concept of freely available talent, and generally fill holes from within or with bargain talent rather than going after fading big names.

* They're not afraid to use young players.

* They're somewhat above average in drawing walks (and right at average in issuing them).

* They emphasize defense (I don't know if that's really a sabermetric virtue, unless you're talking to Chris Dial).

The question that needs to be answered, for the Rockies and for most of the other teams on the list, is not "Are they sabermetric?" but rather "What does it mean to be sabermetric?"
   22. bunyon Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:41 PM (#2920072)
You can't classify a team based on results. You have to go with their stated philosophy. Isn't the saber viewpoint that, no matter how you assemble the team, a good team will be one that scores runs and prevents runs best and that you do that by limiting OBP/SLG against and maximizing for?

You can clearly build a good team without adhering to an explicitly saber philosophy. Go out and scout and pick your players based on talent, heart, etc. When they play well, they'll tend to lead the league in things like OPS and VORP no matter how they were assembled.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:43 PM (#2920076)
I'd consider the DBacks to be an "obvious saber team" and the Rays to be at least a "lean saber" (if by "saber" we're talking about quantitative and qualitative objective analysis). But such designations are silly, anyway.

I listed the Rays as lean heart because of the makeup of their team, they now do lean saber as an organization, but guys like Baldelli, Crawford, Upton etc are guys drafted because of their tools, and they don't really push a patient approach at the plate that is part of the saber philosophy.

I could see moving the D-backs up, but I feel that they also leaned 'heart' just a few years ago and the philsophy hasn't completly switched over and some of the heart choices are the guys they are using on the team now. I mean some teams strategy has changed but they have remnants from previous regimes that is affecting their team today.
   24. The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2008 at 02:59 PM (#2920099)
Can’t we just let the whole scouts vs. sabermetrics thing go?
Maybe somebody should organize some sort of "roundtable" where the two sides could meet and discuss the issue.
   25. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:02 PM (#2920103)
Beane sold high on a few guys

Namely...?
   26. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:03 PM (#2920106)
What exactly do you mean by heart, carsfanboy? Do you mean intangibles? I thought that the dichotomy was more tools vs skills; not that teams value one to the exclusion of the other.

In his recent book Blindsided KC Joyner divides football head coaches into four quadrants:

Personnel Hitter, Personnel Athlete, Scheme Hitter, and Scheme Athlete

Personnel coaches are more into beating teams by motivating their players than by designing ingeneous plays and systems that the scheme coaches do(think Bowden vs Spurrier.) Hitter coaches prefer tough guys and may not necessarily rely on combine scores like Athlete coaches do.

I was thinking of applying similar alignments to GMs. I thnk that tools vs baseball skills is one axis, but I haven't thought of another alignment that divides the differing organizational philosophies starkly enough.
   27. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:03 PM (#2920107)
Swisher, Harden, and Haren?
   28. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:08 PM (#2920114)
Swisher, Harden, and Haren?

Don't forget Cupcakes!
   29. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:09 PM (#2920115)
Of course, the A's announced this was a rebuilding year then played over their heads and Beane sold high on a few guys bringing them back to earth.

So "no" to one and three on those grounds.

And the idea that they sold high on Harden is laughable.
   30. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:09 PM (#2920116)
I was thinking of applying similar alignments to GMs. I thnk that tools vs baseball skills is one axis, but I haven't thought of another alignment that divides the differing organizational philosophies starkly enough.

Veteran / Youth?
   31. bunyon Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:09 PM (#2920118)
Can’t we just let the whole scouts vs. sabermetrics thing go?

Maybe somebody should organize some sort of "roundtable" where the two sides could meet and discuss the issue.


Link please.
   32. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:10 PM (#2920121)
And the idea that they sold high on Harden is laughable.

Until he blows out his arm again...
   33. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:12 PM (#2920125)
The Blue Jays are hardly a sabermetric franchise as their only guy who really understood sabermetrics is an ESPN employee. Yeah, Ricciardi said some stathead-friendly things at the start, but George Bush also campaigned as being against nation building, but nobody would take the position, whether for or against Iraq, that that's his position today.

I normally like Pinto (some of this article is his fault), but he was off his rocker here. Bannister being a sabermetric-familiar pitcher that's pitching poorly is a strike against sabermetrics? I don't think anyone says that knowing sabermetrics makes you able to personally play baseball.

Pinto basically picked a lot of disappointing teams and then went and figured out how to make them sabermetric. Why aren't the Rays in there? James Click has a lot more influence over personnel than Brian Bannister would. Jeff Luhnow, stathead GM of the Cardinals thanks to drama that resulted in the departure of Jocketty doesn't make the Cards a stathead team?
   34. villageidiom Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:15 PM (#2920130)
I thnk that tools vs baseball skills is on axis, but I haven't thought of another alignment that divides the differing organizational philosophies starkly enough.
Resources divide organizations far more than philosophies. They can have whatever philosophy they want, but how they execute that philosophy depends on the resources at their disposal.
   35. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:17 PM (#2920133)
Bannister being a sabermetric-familiar pitcher that's pitching poorly is a strike against sabermetrics? I don't think anyone says that knowing sabermetrics makes you able to personally play baseball.

It's especially dumb, when you consider that Bannister himself has conceded, that from a sabermetric point of view, he shouldn't be a sucessful pitcher...
   36. Padraic Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:18 PM (#2920134)
The problem isn't that there are no such thing as teams that lean saber or scout. It's pretty obvious that there are. The problem is we simply don't know the behind-the-scenes decision making process for any teams (other than a certain year in Oakland).

Not only is there a interteam spectrum, but there is also an intrateam spectrum that we know almost nothing about.

On another note, i do like the two primary objections to the article - 1) these labels are meaningless and 2) he labeled the wrong teams - are in contradiction to on another. There might be more to gain from a discussion from these two camps then both of them just beating up the author.
   37. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:21 PM (#2920140)
In the show, both are needed, both are used, and I think that's obvious. Teams will sway one way or another depending on the GM and his proclivities. However, and this is important to note, in the minors, and in particular in the low minors, there is a distinct need for scouting. Players of good character and athleticism can be 20/21 years old and still unproductive, even in their 3rd or 4th pro season. Here, it is important to have scouts to tell you how the player is progressing, how he's handling rough times, and if he's still keeping himself in first class condition.

While stats can tell you some of how a players numbers came to be, they still won't tell the whole story (in particular, in regard to upside and progress), the way a well-trained scout can. Whether Torii Hunter, Kenny Lofton, Magglio Ordonez, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Beltran, or scores of other players, a purely statistical organization would have written off these future All-Stars early in their professional careers. There will always be very raw players who need tons of developmental time, and scouts will remain the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff in that class.
   38. regfairfield Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:22 PM (#2920142)
You can't give Oakland a pass on rebuilding without acknowledging that they had to rebuild because they drafted a bunch of low ceiling guys.
   39. Boots Day Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:27 PM (#2920146)
The criterion seems to be that a sabermetric team is one on which a prominent part of the franchise has spoken publicly about understanding sabermetrics. There is no concern given to how decisions are actually made.

I think that applies to a lot of BTF posters as well as the article linked to. We're told that Arizona is an "obvious saber team." Why is that? They've used some innovative objective methods to rate their players, and they've got a lot of young talent; they're also below average in OBP, and traded away one of their best young players before giving him a chance so they could play a mediocre veteran in his place. They don't seem to me to make their decisions any more (or less) sabermetrically than anyone else.
   40. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:29 PM (#2920151)
Since the Royals will finish with less than 400 walks drawn this year, can we take them off the sabermetric list?
   41. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:33 PM (#2920160)
Until he blows out his arm again...

Next time'll be the first, genius.
   42. greenback calls it soccer Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:36 PM (#2920164)
Jeff Luhnow, stathead GM of the Cardinals thanks to drama that resulted in the departure of Jocketty doesn't make the Cards a stathead team?

Luhnow is a lot more than a stathead. He's pretty big on the (amateur) scouting front, although I'm not sure that necessarily puts him on the other side of the round table.
   43. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:36 PM (#2920166)
Whether Torii Hunter, Kenny Lofton, Magglio Ordonez, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Beltran, or scores of other players, a purely statistical organization would have written off these future All-Stars early in their professional careers.

Huh? Even Gary Huckabay at his worst "general managers are stupid" behavior would have never written off the two that I saw come up: Rollins and Beltran.

Beltran had an off-year at age 20 in High-A but followed that up with over 1.000 OPS the next year. He had a bad year in the majors at age 23 but no stathead would have just given up on him for one bad year.
Jimmy Rollins minor league career pointed to a projection of an average SS at least. His worst ML OPS+ was 85 as a 23yo. No stathead would have cut him. Now, not batting him leadoff, that's a different argument.
   44. rfloh Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:45 PM (#2920175)
Whether Torii Hunter, Kenny Lofton, Magglio Ordonez, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Beltran, or scores of other players, a purely statistical organization would have written off these future All-Stars early in their professional careers.


Nitpicking, but Beltran doesn't rally fit. In his minor league career, he managed to produce league average, or above average, and in some cases well above average, OPSs for the most part, while playing a premium defensive position, and being somewhat young for his levels.

And in the majors, he produced a 99 OPS+ in 723 PAs, at age 22, while playing well at a premium defensive position. That is hardly a player you would write off if you rely purely on stats.

<edit: didn't see #43>
   45. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:45 PM (#2920176)
Why is that? They've used some innovative objective methods to rate their players, and they've got a lot of young talent; they're also below average in OBP, and traded away one of their best young players before giving him a chance so they could play a mediocre veteran in his place. They don't seem to me to make their decisions any more (or less) sabermetrically than anyone else.

OBP =! objective analysis. That's just a canard.

Also, teams that engage most heavily in sabermetric and/or objective analysis are still going to, from time to time, make decisions that appear (either superficially or not) to violate that process. Teams aren't robots, there are always a variety of factors to consider, and sometimes even smart teams are flat out wrong.

The Diamondbacks have a good, established process for decision-making. They've hired a very bright young woman from MIT as an analyst. At least two of their scouts (that I know of) can converse intelligently about modern analysis tools. Their process is undoubtedly a good one, and one that leans more heavily towards analysis than, say, the Angels (whose successful process might be termed "traditional").

But again, the scouting/saber distinction is silly. The successful teams are, by and large, the ones that have a decision-making process and a core organizational philosophy, and stick to it.
   46. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:47 PM (#2920180)
Next time'll be the first, genius.

Well, I count shoulder as part of the arm. If you want to be that pedantic then fine, but I don't think it really is in any way relevant to the point.

But seen as we're being snarky and pedantic, he did have a Ulnar Collateral Ligament sprain in his elbow. Which I think anybody will acknowledge as part of the arm. So bleh...
   47. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: August 28, 2008 at 03:54 PM (#2920185)
Resources divide organizations far more than philosophies. They can have whatever philosophy they want, but how they execute that philosophy depends on the resources at their disposal.


Right. And Joyner did say that if a football team didn't have superior players, they would have to resort to schemes to have a chance to beat their better opponents. In a similar vein, I don't think there's much of a philosophical difference between going with veterans over youth in baseball. Oh, some teams have differing philosophies on the issue, but the high revenue tems are more likely to go after veterans.

I realize that bringing Joyner up is comparing horsehide to pigskin, but that chapter from his book got me thinking.
   48. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:02 PM (#2920196)
Well, I count shoulder as part of the arm. If you want to be that pedantic then fine, but I don't think it really is in any way relevant to the point.

But seen as we're being snarky and pedantic, he did have a Ulnar Collateral Ligament sprain in his elbow. Which I think anybody will acknowledge as part of the arm. So bleh...



I was taking issue with your preposterous view of what constitutes "blowing out" an arm, not what constitutes the "arm."
   49. Boots Day Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:06 PM (#2920199)
OBP =! objective analysis. That's just a canard.

Well, we're just approaching the question from two different angles (which goes back to what I was saying about how the first thing you need to do to is to define what a sabermetric team is). If you want to define a sabermetric team as one that uses rigorous analysis as part of its decision-making process, that's fine.

My approach is to ask, What have we learned about baseball from the sabermetric revolution? And which teams are making use of those ideas? The importance of OBP as the key offensive stat is one of those things.
   50. AROM Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:09 PM (#2920201)
Edmundo #43,

Cease with the "no stathead would have..." argument. I recall defending Rollins a few years ago from some prominent stat guys who crunched the numbers and said Rollins was a replacement level player after his bad second season.
   51. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:21 PM (#2920220)
I recall defending Rollins a few years ago from some prominent stat guys who crunched the numbers and said Rollins was a replacement level player after his bad second season.
Really? I don't remember it getting that bad. Overrated, sure, should bat 8th, sure, but replacement level? A 90 OPS+ for a 24 yo SS? I know the fielding metrics were not terribly kind to him but not to the extent of moving him to a different position.
Can I change my argument to any stathead as grounded as AROM ...?

EDIT: Just in case my light-heartedness was mistaken for sarcasm/snarkiness, assume a smiley after the last question mark
   52. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:25 PM (#2920224)
If Bannister is evidence that the Royals have failed, Schilling is evidence that the Red Sox have failed.
   53. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:25 PM (#2920225)

Beltran had an off-year at age 20 in High-A but followed that up with over 1.000 OPS the next year. He had a bad year in the majors at age 23 but no stathead would have just given up on him for one bad year.
Jimmy Rollins minor league career pointed to a projection of an average SS at least. His worst ML OPS+ was 85 as a 23yo. No stathead would have cut him. Now, not batting him leadoff, that's a different argument.


I should start by saying I wasn't accounting for any of their production in the majors, or when they took off. It's the stuff prior to that which I'm paying attention to. Beltran's off year at 20 was offset by a pair of pretty mediocre years beforehand. Similarly, Rollins didn't hit through the age of 19 (by then, his 3rd season). In both cases, there was little statistical evidence, aside from a weak ARL argument, that these two would become MVP caliber players in their primes. However, as you say, any person who actually saw them play would have clearly seen superior athletes who were excellent long term prospects. This is just my point; that scouting is very, very important in gauging the development of a young player.

Edit : Scouting > Stats in the low minors.
   54. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:29 PM (#2920231)
This is just my point; that scouting is very, very important in gauging the development of a young player.

Bombshell.
   55. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:43 PM (#2920239)
a purely statistical organization would have written off these future All-Stars early in their professional careers

In both cases, there was little statistical evidence, aside from a weak ARL argument, that these two would become MVP caliber players in their primes.


I was responding to the "written off", which I interpreted as release/organization filler. But from their debuts in the Rookie Leagues, no one would look at those numbers and say either was on the fast track to being a MVP Candidate, agreed.

If I may, what is an "ARL argument"?
   56. greenback calls it soccer Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:43 PM (#2920242)
Does anybody think stats > scouting for 19 and 20 year olds?
   57. _ Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:47 PM (#2920244)
The White Sox might not be a sabermetric team, but they do live by the home run, both on offense and they allow very few, and they're good at both walking and preventing walks.

Well you can't do the analysis based on the results. Some people seem to align themselves in this debate or whatever it is based on aesthetics: If you're saber, walks and homers are the 'right' way to do it; whereas scouty teams like the Angels do it the 'wrong' way. Then somebody else said something about the Cubs leading the league in BB and OPS, therefore how could they be a 'heart' team?! FYI, teams that won with walks and homers existed way before sabermetrics. Somehow, the scouts were able to identify those kinds of players without a spreadsheet.
   58. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 04:55 PM (#2920249)
I was responding to the "written off", which I interpreted as release/organization filler. But from their debuts in the Rookie Leagues, no one would look at those numbers and say either was on the fast track to being a MVP Candidate, agreed.


I agree that I think it would have taken the fringiest of VORPies to write off Beltran or Rollins entirely at that age. However, it probably wouldn't be hard to find serious analysts who are sabr-oriented who'd tell you that these players were not destined for stardom, or perhaps even serious major league careers due to their lack of empirical production. However, I'd wager that scouts at the time would have told a very different story.


If I may, what is an "ARL argument"?


Age relative to league. The basic idea is that if a player is young for his league, he can't be expected to produce big numbers. Instead, if he can merely hold his own, he's showing himself to have a promising future. It's the reason why people are so high on players like Fernando Martinez, Elvis Andrus, and a few years ago, why Mets fans weren't ready to give up on a young Jose Reyes. In this case, it's the defense for Jimmy Rollins hitting 264 in High-A. I'm not familiar with that league context, but he was a punch and judy hitter, and it's not as though he was in AA at the time.
   59. Sydney_dave Posted: August 28, 2008 at 05:00 PM (#2920254)
For the record, the Card's GM is John Mozeliak, who was Jocketty's second in charge and who appears to be a lot more stat friendly.

Lunhow, who used to run a dotcom company, is Vice President, Amateur Scouting & Player Development, so he runs the draft and the minor leagues.

My take on the Cards is they are trying to blend the stat guys and the scouts. When Jocketty didn't cotton onto the stat guys, he was fired.

Dave
   60. John Northey Posted: August 28, 2008 at 05:00 PM (#2920255)
It is clear stats mixed with scouting is needed today. However, stats could be useful if taken beyond where they are today. If I ran a MLB team I'd be putting pitchf/x machines in all the teams minor league parks and tracking movement, speed, location, pitch selection, and anything else I could track then using that to see what, if anything, is changing for pitchers during the year, and to see if hitters have a consistent hole that coaches in the dugout can't see. If a 20 year old is throwing with the same movement and speed for all his pitches throughout the year then he obviously isn't progressing and will have troubles if promoted. If a guy in AAA shows great traditional stats but all the other stuff is the same then I'd be thinking you have a random illusion on your hands and not someone who has made a breakthrough. Check fielding for left/right movement via a highly detailed zone rating type thing (measure distance fielders are going, if they get a good jump, etc. and use it to see if guys really are getting better/worse). Use stats on opposing hitters to help when one of them comes to the majors so you can have a full scouting report on them (pitchers you'd have speed/movement/pitch selection, hitters you'd know what they had issues with) to give the major leaguers. Basically, use modern equipment to measure that which scouts have measured by eye for over a century. If you can't measure it you can't evaluate it and counting on personal judgment only will cause many poor choices in the long run.
   61. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: August 28, 2008 at 05:13 PM (#2920271)
60. A fine idea, but two questions :
1) This sounds very cost prohibitive. Does anybody have any idea what this would entail in terms of cash expenditures?
2) This still doesn't measure things like heart. And if there's anything The Scout taught me, it's that pitchers vomit their first time on the Yankee Stadium mound. In all seriousness, how does this account for how a player handles pressure, adversity, etc? IIRC, Billy Beane credits Lenny Dykstra's tougher character as being the reason why Dykstra made it to the big leagues. Or, on an even more basic level, how does this account for how a player's swing is coming along, or whether or not he's working out the kinks in his delivery to add more deception?
   62. rfloh Posted: August 28, 2008 at 05:28 PM (#2920298)

I should start by saying I wasn't accounting for any of their production in the majors, or when they took off. It's the stuff prior to that which I'm paying attention to. Beltran's off year at 20 was offset by a pair of pretty mediocre years beforehand.


How do you define "mediocre"?

At age 18, Beltran had a 654 OPS. League average OPS in the Gulf Coast League was 639.

At age 19, Beltran had a 795 OPS in in the NWL at A- in 246 PA, league average was 705. He also had a 353 OPS in 43 PA at A.

In those 2 seasons, Beltran had an average or above average OPS, while playing a premium defensive position, CF. Hardly the stats that would justify writing him off.

Even in that down year at age 20, it was a 668 OPS, relative to a league average of 724, at A+; he was young for the level.
   63. CrosbyBird Posted: August 28, 2008 at 06:19 PM (#2920410)
Veteran / Youth?

While I'm generally against trying to put teams into buckets, I think risk/safe is a better classification than this. There are teams that go after players that have obvious flaws, hoping they will be able to deal with them, and teams that prefer to sign clearly less talented players that come without baggage.

Minaya might be an example of a risk-oriented GM, signing guys like El Duque or Alou or Pedro Martinez (for examples that didn't work so well) but also trading for Oliver Perez and Church and picking up guys like Pagan and Tatis rather than some established veteran 4th OF. The recent draft, on the other hand, seems very risk-averse, as the Mets avoided some of the riskier picks with higher ceilings.
   64. James SC Posted: August 28, 2008 at 06:48 PM (#2920470)
Risk/Safe doesn't seem to work for me either, as many/most of the times that is going to happen it will be more a product of where the team is as opposed to a philosophy of how they approach their team. For example, the Mets draft focused heavily on safe players they could see getting value out of in a short period of time. Important for a team that is contending now and looking to plug holes in the next year or two not 3 or 4 years down the line. A team like the Braves are in a transitionary stage so they are looking at the long term picture as much or more than they are at the next year or two. A team like the Royals is almost entirely focused on 3 or 4 years from now and is still looking for its impact players that can help them take the leap. So they are much more willing to take a risk to get that impact player than a team like the Mets that has its "impact" core of Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Santana and is looking for players to fill holes for the next 2-3 years. Not that they arn't always looking for a guy they think they can make a big star, but getting a solid replacement level OF (or even more importantly reliever) for the next 2-3 years in the draft has more value to them then it does for a team in a different situation
   65. DH Luddite Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:00 PM (#2920487)
because analytics is a science


I'd mock this writer hard, but I guess they don't teach the scientific method in journalism school. I'll give him a pass. I just someone explains to him that statistical analysis does not equal science.
   66. CrosbyBird Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:05 PM (#2920497)
Risk/Safe doesn't seem to work for me either, as many/most of the times that is going to happen it will be more a product of where the team is as opposed to a philosophy of how they approach their team.

Sure, but even considering that, teams still make decisions within the scope of their needs with some differences toward risk tolerance. I think the Mets had a fairly conservative draft but that was specific to just this year and the completely drained farm system. My expectation will be that the Mets will draft with a more risky philosophy in general once they've established a bare minimum of talent at the AA/AAA level.

The real test for Minaya will be this offseason, especially with Oliver Perez/Pedro Martinez/Ben Sheets/Sabathia. It would not shock me to see Minaya try and grab Martinez for a 1-2 year deal rather than Sabathia for 7 years. It also wouldn't shock me if he signed Abreu instead of Dunn.
   67. SoSH U at work Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:06 PM (#2920501)
I'd mock this writer hard, but I guess they don't teach the scientific method in journalism school. I'll give him a pass. I just someone explains to him that statistical analysis does not equal science.


Or writing in science school. :)
   68. cardsfanboy Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:20 PM (#2920537)
GGC won't apologize for liking the Red Sox Posted: August 28, 2008 at 11:03 AM (#2920106)

What exactly do you mean by heart, carsfanboy? Do you mean intangibles? I thought that the dichotomy was more tools vs skills; not that teams value one to the exclusion of the other.

In his recent book Blindsided KC Joyner divides football head coaches into four quadrants:

Personnel Hitter, Personnel Athlete, Scheme Hitter, and Scheme Athlete

Personnel coaches are more into beating teams by motivating their players than by designing ingeneous plays and systems that the scheme coaches do(think Bowden vs Spurrier.) Hitter coaches prefer tough guys and may not necessarily rely on combine scores like Athlete coaches do.

I was thinking of applying similar alignments to GMs. I thnk that tools vs baseball skills is one axis, but I haven't thought of another alignment that divides the differing organizational philosophies starkly enough.


I went with heart because that is what my buddy in the bar argues against what I would call 'stat' friendly. I probably should have used scout/stat but I don't really see that as an existing argument anymore. As mentioned nobody really does one or the other, they blend and acknowledge the value of both approaches. I was just trying to get a feel where on the spectrum the different teams lie. There are a few teams on both sides of the coin that are obvious (and regardless of the result, I think cubs are an obvious scout/heart/toolsy team) trying to figure out where they lie now is a good exercise and fodder for discussion.


I like your idea of categorizing them, kinda like those personality tests, but I don't think many have thought as deeply as you were talking about to put forth a grid that relates to baseball. And then at the major league level you really have two things affecting your organization, the GM and the manager could have differing philosophies and both be successful. Of course the dominant personality usually wins out (see the A's) but in an organization like the Cardinal there is two competing philosophies(neither would be categorized as hard core toolsy--but heart could be one way to look at TLR) that work well together, and in fact if one aspect became too dominant, I think sustained success at the big league level would falter.
   69. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:40 PM (#2920601)
Thanks, CFB. It's not really my idea though. Thank Gary Gygax, who influenced K.C. Joyner.
   70. James SC Posted: August 28, 2008 at 07:55 PM (#2920638)
The real test for Minaya will be this offseason, especially with Oliver Perez/Pedro Martinez/Ben Sheets/Sabathia. It would not shock me to see Minaya try and grab Martinez for a 1-2 year deal rather than Sabathia for 7 years. It also wouldn't shock me if he signed Abreu instead of Dunn.


To me I really hope these arn't our options at the end of the season. While Santana/Sabathia would be awesome and all that, I am not sure sinking 7 years into another pitcher is a fantastic idea, and I think Minaya already picked the right pitcher for making the 7 year commitment to in terms of long term health choices between the 3 upcoming stud FAs. I think Perez has pitched himself into a requirement for the Mets next year and Minaya almost has to sign him (unless he goes on the crazy spending spree for CC). I could certainly see Pedro returning next year for a 1-2 year deal although I would see that as more insurance to let the 5th spot eventually be filled by a guy like Niese in the system while letting the wily vet give us some savy and post season no how down the stretch.

The OF will be an interesting question, as will 1B. I think Minaya will look to fill one of those internally with something like Dan Johnson/F-Mart in the OF and fill one of those spots externally. I could easily see us going in with Delagado at 1B next year and a platoon like this year in LF with F-Mart getting a strong look in ST and coming up for regular playtime later on.

Edit: I meant to say Dan Murphy sorry unfortunately my boss' name is Dan Johnson and I had him on my mind when I was writing that for other reasons :)
   71. thread killer Posted: August 28, 2008 at 08:41 PM (#2920761)
Speaking as a non-SABR person and having gone through the 5 stages of grief on the trades that Beane made this year, I will be more than happy to be the first one to say he was wrong if the guys that he got for Harden, Gaudin.etc end up being solid to All-star caliber players. Then again if he ends up trading these guys right after they become "solid" players to "rebuild" once again then all bets are off.
   72. I can out-debate Joe Biden; Nieporent said so Posted: August 28, 2008 at 08:53 PM (#2920778)
Obvious Heart.
Angels, Giants, Mariners, Twins , Cubs, Astros, Marlins


As a Cubs fan, I second this. We may be leading the world in all of the "stat-head" offensive categories this year, but we're pretty much leading the world in everything this year. I don't think that Jim Hendry or anyone else in the Cubs front office spends a lot of time analyzing spreadsheets with free agents' OPS+ and VORP on them. In fact, I may almost be willing to agree with:

unknown???? (I don't think they have an organizational philosophy at all)


Except that, sad as it may be, I think the Cubs do have an organizational philosophy; at least since the fall of 2006 when John McDonough made his "we're going to win the World Series, and that's all there is to it" speech. That philosophy is: "we're going to go out and buy players that we think are the best and count on Lou to mold them together into a championship team."

And that makes me sad, because after bashing the Yankees for years, I now find myself rooting for the Yankees Midwest. :(
   73. Martin Hemner Posted: August 28, 2008 at 09:09 PM (#2920801)
This is definitely a non-sabremetric year. What sabre-person would predict that the Twins would lose Santana, Garza and Hunter for nothing (actually, less than nothing since Gomez is awful and has played 125 games), and that they would actually improve? I'm at a loss with this team and what they have done.
   74. hamstrung in april Posted: August 28, 2008 at 09:19 PM (#2920814)
Any team that relies on a computer to hit for them is going to eventually fail.

Plus just you wait until the rest of the league catches up with Beane and realize that this is razzball season.
   75. I can out-debate Joe Biden; Nieporent said so Posted: August 28, 2008 at 09:36 PM (#2920834)
73- What the Rays are doing this year is so eye-popping, that it's so difficult NOT to give Joe Maddon Manager of the Year, despite the fact that I think the Rays are more talented than the Twins. But, damn, to not give Ron Gardenhire the "Doing More With Less" award this year (along with TLR in the NL) would be a shame. Look at the White Sox, then look at the Twins, then figure out how there's all of 1 game difference between them.

Can there be co-winners in the AL this year?
   76. DL from MN Posted: August 28, 2008 at 09:44 PM (#2920844)
> I'm at a loss with <the Twins> and what they have done.

It's simple. A few years ago Terry Ryan decided that his scouts were best at identifying pitching so he pretty much filled up his minor league system with good arms. Right now they have 5 above average starting pitchers all making around the league minimum. The Twins have been able to avoid the black holes at positions like they had last season by mixing and matching heavily.

This may be Gardenhire's best season of managing. He's been liberally platooning, he's had to deal with having a less than stellar bullpen for basically the first time and still managed it effectively, he's taken 5 rookie starting pitchers and put together a strong rotation, he's been successful with the running game. If it weren't for the Devil Rays he would finally stop being a bridesmaid in the manager of the year voting (3rd in 2002, 2nd in 2001, 2nd in 2004, 2nd in 2006). It's kind of funny that he's been beaten out for the award by 3/4 of the managers in his division.

Oh, and Mauer's having another terrific season that nobody notices because he doesn't hit homers.
   77. rfloh Posted: August 28, 2008 at 10:21 PM (#2920887)
(actually, less than nothing since Gomez is awful and has played 125 games),


Gomez' D is very good.
   78. SkyKing162 Posted: August 28, 2008 at 11:42 PM (#2920946)
Dan/38 -- I have no knowledge of Toronto front office goings-on, but their on-field product at least hints that they value and can identify currently underrated skills: fielding and no-name pitching. Are they just good at scouting fielding and pitching (while being able to ignore all the stuff that metrics like FIP ignore)?
   79. CrosbyBird Posted: August 29, 2008 at 12:07 AM (#2920962)
To me I really hope these arn't our options at the end of the season. While Santana/Sabathia would be awesome and all that, I am not sure sinking 7 years into another pitcher is a fantastic idea, and I think Minaya already picked the right pitcher for making the 7 year commitment to in terms of long term health choices between the 3 upcoming stud FAs.

No doubt. Sheets and Sabathia are going to create some interesting choices for the market. Sabathia is younger and more durable, but also doesn't have the most encouraging shape for a long-term deal. Sabathia is insane right now, but he had a rough start to the season. Sheets is no slouch himself and he's doing a lot to make people trust his health this season.

What can we expect these guys to get offered?

The high-water marks for pitchers are Santana ($136/6 but significant deferments), Zito ($126/7), and Zambrano ($91/5). I don't think Sabathia will get Santana money, but he's better than Zambrano and much better than Zito.

I see Santana in the $135/7 range as a fair contract in this market. He may very well get more because of the amount of bidders, but I think he'll be overpaid if it's much more. Sheets is probably closer to $95/5. If Oliver Perez wants $50/4 (not much less than Buerhle), is it a good decision to keep him?

I'd have a pretty tough time picking which of the above would be the best contract. Sheets seems like the right mix of risk/reward there but you're only committed to Perez through his age 30 season and he doesn't cost you a draft pick.

The Mets are definitely keeping Santana and Pelfrey, and playing it pretty safe with Maine, so they will need two pitchers for the rotation in 2009. I don't trust anyone in the system enough to really count on them, so it's probably best to go with one long-term contract and one short-term one if they aren't going to trade.
   80. JMPH Posted: August 29, 2008 at 12:39 AM (#2920996)
What sabre-person would predict that the Twins would lose Santana, Garza and Hunter for nothing (actually, less than nothing since Gomez is awful and has played 125 games), and that they would actually improve? I'm at a loss with this team and what they have done.

In addition to what DL said (he hit the nail on the head), it's important to remember that, despite what any of the national or local media will have you think, Hunter was probably the fourth best player on the Twins. Highlight catches and great quotes will get you a lot of attention.

The big reason the Twins have exceeded expectations is because the rookies have exceeded expectations. They've had the luxury of being able to release the stopgap-type players they'd picked up (Monroe, Lamb, Hernandez) because they simply didn't need stopgaps--the young players (well, except Gomez) were ready to contribute. It's been a pleasant surprise.

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