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Thread: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

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    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Dave Cameron wonders at fangraphs how Moneyball might read if Micheal Lewis were writing it this year....

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cameron;
    The New “Moneyball” Approach

    Posted By Dave Cameron On December 28, 2009 @ 12:00 pm In Daily Graphings | 46 Comments

    It is not very controversial to state that “Moneyball” was a divisive book. Michael Lewis wrote some things that can only be interpreted as denigrating to the scouting community, painting a picture of an out-of-touch collection of old men being replaced by smarter, better analysts. It should have been no surprise that people who considered themselves scouts, or had a lot of respect for the profession, were offended by some of the stuff Lewis wrote.

    I wonder how different the book would be if it written today, though, because we are currently in the midst of a market correction based on statistical analysis agreeing with long held scouting beliefs. Defense is at a premium while high strikeout sluggers are struggling to find offers, and this charge is being led by the “smart teams” that Lewis would espouse are doing things the right way.

    The Mariners focus on defense under Jack Zduriencik is a well known story by now. But, they aren’t the only ones heading that direction. The Boston Red Sox signed Mike Cameron to replace Jason Bay and have made their interest in Adrian Beltre well known. The A’s signed Coco Crisp and currently have an outfield with three center fielders penciled in as starters. Defensive specialists Adam Everett, Alex Gonzalez, Jack Wilson, Placido Polanco, and Pedro Feliz have all signed, while the guys who provide value with their bats are still sitting on the market.

    The teams that use statistical analysis the most are doing what their scouts have been recommending for years. Stats geeks are validating the insights of scouts. If Lewis was following the game right now, documenting stories from inside a “smart” front office, the tone would have to be dramatically different, even if the point was still the same – good teams spend money on undervalued assets.

    Timing really is everything. That Lewis chose to write the book when on base percentage was undervalued created a division between stats and scouting that simply would not exist if the book was written today. With the new found appreciation for defense and its place in a player’s total value, stats and scouts agree more than they disagree at the moment.

    Perhaps the subtitle for the sequel to Moneyball should be “Why The Fat Scout Was Right All Along”.
    Thoughts? Comments? Discussion?
    Last edited by jojo; 12-28-2009 at 11:24 PM.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    The rest is drama. marcshoe's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Reading through recent threads, I've seen quite a few absolute statements that decrease the possibility of understanding and agreement. Perhaps a both/and approach is more beneficial than an either/or approach.

    This article itself likely overstates it's point. If you accept the "Moneyball" approach, you have to accept the idea that conventional wisdom is wrong about some things. The importance of batting average would be the most obvious one. Yet there is room for each side to try to understand the other's point of view a little better. Perhaps fewer absolute statements and more attempts to understand the context of the stats would be a good first step.

    I believe that the "new stats" increase the understanding of the game greatly, and that they should increase the efficiency of intelligent organizations. Yet perhaps viewing the micro wouldn't completely destroy the value of the macro.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    I tend to think that when just one approach is used exclusively, those on either pole (i.e. in either exclusive camp) face a greater danger of overstating their position. The most compelling argument is when the metrics and the eyes agree.

    A talented scout is worth a million-fold his weight in gold and his eyes/knowledge are vital to the success of player development. There is no replacing talented scouts. That said, a talented scout still yields subjective data and it's always handicapped by sample size issues.

    I'm drawn to sabermetrics because of their great potential to yield new insight and understanding about the game. They (sabermetrics) also rely on logic, rationality, and a great deal of data so they can be considered an objective measure. Also, the nice thing about the saber community is that it can be brutal to ideas and metrics that don't quite measure up upon rigorous testing. It's a self-correcting process.

    To me, the scout's eyes are much stronger when coupled with objective measures that can verify his report. On the other hand, the interpretation of sabermetrics is on much stronger ground when given the invaluable context a scout can provide.

    There isn't the fight between stats and scouts in the industry that there is on places like Redszone. I bet many in FO's across the country would get a chuckle at some of the crab cakes we tend to hurl across what truthfully has to be considered arbitrarily and unjustifiably drawn battle lines.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    I think this would be a good topic to toss around idea's on how each side can help an organization. While I am a very statistically friendly person I lean a lot toward scouting at the minor league level. Here are some ways I thought of that scouts can really help a team. Lets add some more and someone else can start a list for how Stats can help a team.
    How scouting can help:

    Drafting and developing. You can't just look at college or high school numbers and pick out the studs. It just doesn't work that way because of the highly unlevel talent on the field every game.

    Finding and correcting problems with players. Stats can tell you that a guy isn't doing something right. Scouting can tell you what that thing is and hopefully your coaches can go about fixing it.

    Advanced Scouting Reports. While we have come a long way in terms of what stats can indeed tell us about who is going to throw what pitch in which counts and that X player pulls the ball to the outfield but goes the other way on the infield.... stats don't tell us that X pitcher tips his curveball or that B third baseman can't charge a bunt well anymore. There are plenty of other things, but those are just some examples that stats can't tell us that a scout can.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    There isn't the fight between stats and scouts in the industry that there is on places like Redszone. I bet many in FO's across the country would get a chuckle at some of the crab cakes we tend to hurl across what truthfully has to be considered arbitrarily and unjustifiably drawn battle lines.
    As of last season, incredibly enough, two teams had no stats person in their front office. There are still plenty of teams out there that lean heavily one way.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    As of last season, incredibly enough, two teams had no stats person in their front office. There are still plenty of teams out there that lean heavily one way.
    I agree, but it's not because they're the Hatfields and they hate the McCoys.... Even the Reds pay attention to sabermetrics on some level.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    I hate the Cubs LoganBuck's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    I agree, but it's not because they're the Hatfields and they hate the McCoys.... Even the Reds pay attention to sabermetrics on some level.
    What level is that? Dusty sure isn't getting the printout.
    The Sox traded Bullfrog the only player they've got for Shottenhoffen. Four-eyes Shottenhoffen a utility infielder. They've got a whole team of utility infielders.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    As of last season, incredibly enough, two teams had no stats person in their front office. There are still plenty of teams out there that lean heavily one way.
    When any of us could get any stat on any player in just a mater of seconds why is it so incredible that a few teams don't employ a stat person.What exactly does a stat person do?It's very possible that I'm missing something here but it just doesn't seem all that important to have a stat guy.
    Last edited by Captain Hook; 12-28-2009 at 11:39 PM.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by LoganBuck View Post
    What level is that? Dusty sure isn't getting the printout.
    Which is concerning to say the least.... but the Reds do employee a 'stats guy' who knows stats beyond AVG, W/L Record and ERA. How much say he actually has in player evaluations though, I have no idea.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Which is concerning to say the least.... but the Reds do employee a 'stats guy' who knows stats beyond AVG, W/L Record and ERA. How much say he actually has in player evaluations though, I have no idea.
    Exactly, it's not about having a stat guy per se'. It's about decision makers, the decision making process, and the usage of both qualitative and (advanced) quantitative input. Some organizations make better use of all of the available information than do others. My concern with the Reds organization, particularly in light of how Jockety's exit from St. Louis reportedly went down, is that the pendulum swings quite heavily towards the qualitative side of things.

    As a consultant I've seen many organizations with great "stat shops" where that data is routinely ignored by executives who feel threatened by what they don't quite understand.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 12-29-2009 at 12:02 AM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by LoganBuck View Post
    What level is that? Dusty sure isn't getting the printout.
    Dusty refers to stat based in game decisions frequently. He pays attention to splits, he talked to BP about selectivity in relation to OBP, just to name two examples I can think of right off the top of my head. He may not have the same, or at times even sane, conclusions about the data he is looking at, but he clearly pays attention to the numbers.
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by traderumor View Post
    Dusty refers to stat based in game decisions frequently. He pays attention to splits, he talked to BP about selectivity in relation to OBP, just to name two examples I can think of right off the top of my head. He may not have the same, or at times even sane, conclusions about the data he is looking at, but he clearly pays attention to the numbers.
    Exactly. He may have some blind spots, but he has an idea in the overall picture.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    I'd love to hear more from the scouts. Unfortunately, I have no access to them.

    Quite honestly, I would wager that scouts don't "see" things that much differently than the stats do. It's more a matter of how "what" both "see" is communicated.
    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    There isn't the fight between stats and scouts in the industry that there is on places like Redszone. I bet many in FO's across the country would get a chuckle at some of the crab cakes we tend to hurl across what truthfully has to be considered arbitrarily and unjustifiably drawn battle lines.
    JoJo this is a very good point and it is part of the reason I can never fully wrap myself around the enhanced statistical analysis part. You can create a formula to measure pretty much anything. Sometimes the deeper you get into sabermetrics the more abstract you become from the actual game itself. Sometimes I read some of the debates and feel like I am back in Stats 133 at Ohio State.

    That said there needs to be a yin and yang in an organization. Every organization needs a stats heavy analyst or two. You need someone to come in and present a different argument, take the emotional aspect away from the decision. I think Jocketty takes quite a bit of heat from being a tobacco chewing traditionalist but I don't think he is as traditional as people thing. Maybe the Reds don't have as deep a statistical department as other teams, but I think it does have a presence in the front office's decisions.

    I am in agreement with Doug in the use of scouts in the minor league level. With prospects its all about projectability. Its not so much about numbers rather how a given player will develop by the time he reaches AAA and the majors. I think one of the most difficult thing to do in all of sports is develop and project where prospects will be in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years etc.

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    Re: 'Tis the Season for Statheads and Scouts to live in Perfect Harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    JoJo this is a very good point and it is part of the reason I can never fully wrap myself around the enhanced statistical analysis part. You can create a formula to measure pretty much anything. Sometimes the deeper you get into sabermetrics the more abstract you become from the actual game itself. Sometimes I read some of the debates and feel like I am back in Stats 133 at Ohio State.

    That said there needs to be a yin and yang in an organization. Every organization needs a stats heavy analyst or two. You need someone to come in and present a different argument, take the emotional aspect away from the decision. I think Jocketty takes quite a bit of heat from being a tobacco chewing traditionalist but I don't think he is as traditional as people thing. Maybe the Reds don't have as deep a statistical department as other teams, but I think it does have a presence in the front office's decisions.

    I am in agreement with Doug in the use of scouts in the minor league level. With prospects its all about projectability. Its not so much about numbers rather how a given player will develop by the time he reaches AAA and the majors. I think one of the most difficult thing to do in all of sports is develop and project where prospects will be in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years etc.
    Great post!
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