Billy Beane, the A’s general manager who inspired the book and film Moneyball, has some thoughts on the future of baseball GMs. In the Wall Street Journal, Beane talks about Statcast — which he describes as “a 3-D tracking system that provides detailed metrics on the locations and movements of the ball, the players, and even the umpires” — and how it could change the way teams are built. Beane says, “the old ideas of who should play in the big leagues, and who should decide who should play, will be replaced with new ideas.”
“Having advanced performance data at even the most junior levels will make it less likely that players get filtered out based on 60-yard-dash times or radar-gun readings, and more likely that they advance on the merits of practiced skills. The ability to “paint the corners” of the strike zone, to swing only at pitches within that zone, and to manage the subtle footwork required of a difficult fielding play is accessible to any player willing to commit to the “10,000 Hour Rule” (the average amount of practice Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers,” says is needed to excel in selected fields). A whole new class of players whose skill sets previously were not fully appreciated will be able to reach the highest levels thanks to a more nuanced understanding of their abilities.
The current modus operandi of building rosters to maximize the sum of individual talent also will be challenged; data compiled using new technologies will enable management to assemble players in new ways, emphasizing their ability to complement one another. Whereas current metrics describe players’ performance in isolation, front offices will increasingly rely on statistics that measure a player’s value in the context of the rest of the team, picking up externalities such as how a player’s defensive abilities may compensate for the deficiencies of those playing around him.”
Beane drops a Gladwell reference in there, and I can’t even imagine what literary references Ruben would pull out: “I do not like the production in the batter’s box, I don’t like Dom Brown’s outfield drops, I do not like them through the TV cam, I do not like them, like green eggs and ham.”
Beane says the line between the outsiders and insiders that has already thinned because of social media will continue to get narrower. In closing, Beane (himself a former player), said, “increased demand for the technical skills required to interpret the ‘big data’ produced by 3-D tracking systems also will dramatically change the composition and demographics of front offices, which historically have drawn on former players.” Worth noting: Beane’s winning percentage in seventeen years with A’s is higher than Ruben’s since he took over five years ago, and Ruben started with the World Champions.
And speaking of Ruben, this morning he called into the WIP Morning Show to discuss his earlier comments that his team was “poor.” When asked about the comments he made, Ruben said, “I stand by my comments [and] I would predict there would be some changes coming fairly soon … I’m looking for improvement … we haven’t been consistently good in the past couple months. If we can find some players that can help us, that would be great.”
Hey, that does sound great. That’s the Ruben we want to hear. Actually, the Ruben we want to hear is not Ruben at all, but THIS IS CLOSE. He’s acknowledging that this team is terrible and is not going to get any better without making some changes. Again, great! So, who is gonna go? Is it Dom?
“I’m not gonna get specific about guys, we think that all guys could be doing better. Obviously we thought Dom would be playing a different brand a baseball this year. It just hasn’t come out this year.”
Okay, but you gotta mention someone’s name, right? At least acknowledge that there are certain people teams probably want.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on our club … there’s gonna be opportunities [to sell] because we have players who have value”
Well that’s not really saying anything at all Ruben. Will you at least admit that with all the talent on this team — you love saying the team is so talented — that maybe effort is also an issue?
“I got no issues at all with anyone’s effort … it’s really about producing now.”
Right, it’s about production and producing. And it better be, since you used a variation of the word “produce” about 13 times in 10 minutes by my count. And you know how this team will probably produce better? When there are different players on it and also it’s not this season. This season is settled.