Tuesday, May 18, 2004

How Bavasi can increase the importance of his scouts

We know how much Bavasi loves his scouts. He was let go from his GM job in Anaheim in part because of his refusal to fire scouts in his organization. Not that Bill would be reading this, but for rhetorical effect:

Dear Bill,

I know you love your scouts. Those guys know baseball, like they were born in the dugout. You know there's no substitute for actually seeing a player, watching the way he approaches the game, the at-bat, the pitch. It tells you about character, whether this player has what it takes to fight his way through adversity and make it to the Show. You want to show the world how important your scouts are? Get a stats guy.

Face reality: in 2004, any team that doesn't lean heavily on statistical analysis just isn't playing on a level field. Your competition has laser levels, and you're eye-balling it. Betting the future of the organization on a young guy without some objective measurement is too expensive and takes too long for trial-and-error. You've gotta have some sort of foundation.

That stats guy will show you where to start. He'll keep you from missing the guys your competitors are signing and turning into all-stars. He'll warn you about signing the guys that will likely fall off the table next season. The point is this: You'll now have the same tools that every other team has. The numbers are easily available, Bill, and there are thousands of guys out there—literally thousands—who can help you make sense of them. Every team—every one of them—can do statistical analysis. This isn't a zero-sum game, where if you look at the stats, the other guy can't, or vice versa. Not having a stats department would be like not employing a pitching coach. You'd be starting three meters behind everyone in the race. Getting your organization looking at statistical analysis just puts you on the same playing field.

This is where your scouts come in. Once you have (and use) the tools that every other team has at your fingertips, your scouts become your most important resource. They'll tell you that that young pitcher you were thinking about drafting has the worst mechanics in the world, and won't make it out of A-ball before injuring himself. The numbers can't tell you that. They'll tell you that your young hitting prospect is going through some personal issues, but you should hang onto him for another year to make sure he really isn't going to develop before you let him go.

But remember, until you start paying attention to the vast amount of objective baseball information out there, your organization will be fighting with one arm tied behind your back. That's the same arm other teams are using to cut you up with right now.

Remember, everyone has access to the same statistical resources that you do. Once you start using them, you'll be on the same playing field as everyone else. That's when your scouts are going to give you an advantage, but not before then.

You've got your scouting department. Get your statistical department, now. Because your team's broke, and you need to make sure you make it better, not worse. We don't care about your loyalty to your scouts, or how great an executive your dad was. We want this team to win, and that ain't gonna happen with your best hand tied behind your back.


Nate Woodward

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