For the past few years, we have debated in our baseball analysis what is the best path to success? Some claim you have to spend to win while others contend an analytical approach breeds championships. And this World Series is showing there is no one clear path to the baseball promised land. And it is my contention you can do a bit of both rather than choosing one way or the other.
Analytics has become a buzz word in baseball but to me it is a tool and we can all see by visiting our toolshed that not all tools can be used for all things. For example, a rake is a great tool but you would never use it to clean the living room carpeting.
Analytics can be a great tool but it should never replace the eyes nor should it EVER replace the need for scouts who provide such a real important skill set in player evaluation. That is because what is in the player’s heart and soul can be as important as any stat because it will reflect his coachability as well as his ability to execute adjustments that will help him when others teams adjust to his style of play. And you simply can not tell that from looking at a stat sheet. You must see him play the game and spend time with him to evaluate how his personality will fit into his development as a player.
And we see that mindset in both the Rays and Dodgers. For the Rays, they build a bullpen every year and do that mainly with analytical evaluation but they decide on the roles they receive in a way that would make scouts proud. And despite the fact the Dodgers spend big money on players like Mookie Betts their roster is cluttered with players who have pushed their games to high levels as opportunity has been coupled with a game plan to improve their game.
Their poster child for that is Justin Turner who turned his career around after leaving the Mets as he has evolved from a part time bench player to a core bat in a pennant winning lineup and the Dodger game plan has catalyzed his improvement in becoming a power bat.
The bottom line here is I always hear this analytics vs spending a plethora of money debate rage in the baseball world. But the bottom line is both of them can produce a winner. But even more importantly, every baseball organization should do some of both. I fully realize that the economics of this sport especially with a pandemic still raging could force an organization to spend less money and analytics can assist in building a team in that setting.
But I think organizations that cut payroll by firing scouts and rely solely on analytics could prove to be an unproductive way to build a team. And with the future of the minor leagues in question scouts and coaches become so important to the baseball operations on the major league level.
And with so many teams employing shifts on analytical info you need people to develop game strategy to beat shifts and make teams pay for shifting. And you need to start that training at the minor league level so those skills are entrenched in players as they move up the organizational depth chart. And you simply can not just do that handing the player a shat sheet. It must be done with training that forces the player to develop those skills so well he could almost use by pure instinct.
And the Rays and Dodgers have clearly embraced that strategy which we can all see when players are put in certain roles they perform well. And yes numbers help to predict those moments but you must understand the human factor in player development. It is the only way to get to a World Series.
Back in 2015 who could have predicted Daniel Murphy would have a legendary post-season giving the Mets a league championship. I will tell you who–Omar Minaya who back in 2010 told me he could see him leading the Mets to a playoff win one day we were watching him take swings in the cage. And that was not because of a stat sheet–it was because Minaya knew what was in Murphy’s soul and heart.
And there are toms of players on both the Dodgers and Rays rosters that mirror that analysis that depicted Murphy as a core bat. And to this day I wonder why when the Mets lost out on Ben Zobrist sweepstakes then turned to Neil Walker instead of reuniting with Murphy. That one thing could have changed the course of Met history.