Catching up with Dan Fox.
The Pirates hired Fox in 2008. His first task was creating the club’s computer database, MITT, an acronym for Managing, Information, Tools and Talent. With the click of a computer mouse, the player-information system unified scouting reports, medical and contract information. There are nearly 200,000 professional and amateur players in the database. After MITT was operational in 2009, Fox turned his focus to creating proprietary analytics and offering data-driven analysis, his foremost interests.
Fox’s influence as an analyst has reached a peak this season to include:
• Being consulted on nearly every player acquisition decision.
• Supplying the data behind defensive shifts.
• Playing a role in recommending a focus on increasing groundball rates.
• Conducting research on the draft and preventative health practices for pitchers.
The Pirates now have five full-time staffers working under Fox dedicated to data architecture and quantitative analysis.
That the Pirates have accepted Fox’s analysis is not a surprise to Dan Ducat, who worked with Fox at Compassion International.
“He had the ability to talk to nontechnical people about technical things,” Ducat said. “He was a tremendous bridge. You don’t find a lot of tech people who have that ability.”
Fox does not fit the classic IT stereotype. He is visible. He’s often in the clubhouse. He watched video with players during spring training, asking questions. He meets with manager Clint Hurdle before every series, in person or via teleconference, to go over lineups and defensive alignment. Hurdle, an old-school baseball type, has grown to trust Fox.
“One of the things I’ve always said is, ‘I don’t have all the answers,’ ” Hurdle said. “It was time for me to challenge myself.”