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Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Scouting the Minor Leagues, It’s Data That’s the Clincher

“A college pitcher with a knack for numbers and his statistics-loving coach have found a way to mine baseball statistics that could help big-league scouts and managers more accurately assess minor-league prospects and bring better hitters to The Show.

Major-league teams analyze reams of data when building and managing squads, a numbers-driven endeavor that’s been part of the game since the Brooklyn Dodgers hired the sport’s first full-time statistician in the 1940s. But while much work has been done on properly valuing major-leaguers, little has been done with minor-league hitters.”

NattyBoh Posted: December 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor leagues, prospects, scouting, statistics

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   1. Danny Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4323809)
This looks like the typical academic paper about baseball, in that it doesn't appear as if the authors have read anything that wasn't peer-reviewed (except Moneyball). There's no mention of MLEs (or Bill James), park factors, or league factors (they separate by level, but not between leagues at the same level).

They also use a binary measure of "major league success," which is simply 320 games played in the majors. Aside from the fact that they don't differentiate between the success of a Milledge and a Bonds--they don't consider defensive position or defense, so their study doesn't catch the fact that a 1B generally has to hit much better than a SS to get his 320 games in the majors.

This is my favorite part:
To check the generalization of our results to other years, the New York Mets organization allowed us access to a data set of a selection of draftees by all clubs from 1995-1998, the four years immediately preceding our window.

So they sent you a link to Baseball-Reference?
   2. Tricky Dick Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4323810)
"But while much work has been done on properly valuing major-leaguers, little has been done with minor-league hitters.”


Is this really a true statement? It doesn't ring true to me.
   3. McCoy Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4323828)
In their kitchen.
   4. plink Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4323834)
I'm not seeing the quote in #1; did that get taken out of the article?

I wonder how much is lost in the reporting here. While there certainly are academic papers that are not up-to-date on current baseball research, I also know plenty of academics who do know their baseball stuff and actually cite what they should. (Admission: I'm a math prof.)
   5. DA Baracus Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4323839)
There's nothing in this article that hasn't been covered many times a decade ago.

The methods of evaluating players also caught their eye while researching the paper. Some clubs, like the Oakland A’s, put a premium on a player’s on-base percentage and have found success even with a limited payroll. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates choose to give more at-bats to players who they believe will be successful, and have found considerably less success, despite having high draft picks.


...or written many times since.
   6. JJ1986 Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:48 PM (#4323841)
Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates choose to give more at-bats to players who they believe will be successful, and have found considerably less success, despite having high draft picks.


Most of their high draft picks were blown on pitchers (or hitters who were immediately converted to pitching).
   7. Ron J2 Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:49 PM (#4323843)
#2 It's not a true statement. Just because the author isn't familiar with Bill James, Clay Davenport, our own Szym (and others) doesn't mean an awful lot of work has not been done.

It's not perfect, but results at AA and above carry (within noise) as much signal as major league results. Yes, there are a handful of exceptions (guys who -- even after adjusting for offensive context -- hit in the minors and not the majors) but not that many.

Pitchers are a little more problematic, but it's not like major league pitchers are models of consistency.

Note that the claim is not that minor league results perfectly predict major league results, merely that they're broadly speaking as useful as major league stats in projecting players.
   8. Der-K: downgraded to lurker Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4323849)
my (not so great) masters thesis was on baseball and the labor market and i basically had to say 'this is my bailywick - defer to me on what metrics should be and how to mess with the raw data and i'll listen to you about concerns with regard to the mechanics of how i build the ensuing statistical models.' which makes sense, they were in the academia business, not the baseball business.
(leading to a comment - 'this paper is great (again, it wasn't) and all, i just wish it had more economics in it').

It's not perfect, but results at AA and above carry (within noise) as much signal as major league results.

i did not find this to be the case, nor do i believe it to be - nor should we believe it to be. (take that, bill james.) it's a fundamentally different environment, even if that's so in small ways (like the interplay b/w skill/athleticism, consistency of the quality of in-season competition, less precise park effects, and so on). i certainly think it's close enough that mles and the like are useful tools, but the signal is a bit weaker.
   9. Danny Posted: December 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4323850)
I'm not seeing the quote in #1; did that get taken out of the article?

It's from the actual journal article, which you should be able to download from here.
   10. Bug Selig Posted: December 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4324141)
Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates choose to give more at-bats to players who they believe will be successful,


Are there teams that give more at-bats to players they believe should be driving a taxi?
   11. Bug Selig Posted: December 13, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4324147)
It's from the actual journal article, which you should be able to download from here.


I guess I'll just trust you and save the $42.
   12. Danny Posted: December 13, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4324169)
I guess I'll just trust you and save the $42.

Hmmm, I downloaded the PDF for free earlier.
   13. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: December 13, 2012 at 04:50 PM (#4324206)
Are there teams that give more at-bats to players they believe should be driving a taxi?
Yes, the Cleveland Indians

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