I think the asterisk can be taken off the Pirates. I actually applied to two positions within the organization this past winter: Data Architect and Quantitative Analyst. Sounds very much like a highly analytical team to me.
I would add that a couple of the teams you put into “old school” I happen to know for a fact employ some very very intelligent saber oriented people at lower levels in the organization. So it is really a mixed bag in any organization and probably more determined by who the big boss is at the moment.
This differentiation seems very out-dated in the current climate of baseball. I’d argue that there are very, very few teams that are rigidly “old-school” and that the average level of analytical-ness for teams is clearly shifting one way.
Lists like this obfuscate the decreased spread in analytics between most teams and the incredible shift of MLB towards analytics in the last decade.
Comment by azruavatar — February 7, 2012 @ 11:26 am
Since the Astros pilfered at 2 of the Cards highly analytical guys (Luhnow and Mike Elias) and STL brought in Kantrovitz (from the A’s) as Director of Amateur Scouting, I have to think STL probably should be in the highly analytical group.
As said by a couple others, the Cardinals should be in the analytical group.
With LaRussa there, I would be on the fence (and might agree with you), but with LaRussa retired, Mozeliak has a much stronger influence.
Also, Luhnow (who is turning the Astros from old school to analytical very quickly) came out of the Cardinal organization. Walt Jocketty (former Cards GM, now Reds GM) was pushed out because he was at odds with Luhnow.
Mejdal was the primary analytics guy under Luhnow while in StL though. (Not that Elias isn’t inclined that was as well.)
Comment by azruavatar — February 7, 2012 @ 11:44 am
Quote from one of the links: We [St. Louis] had a lot of skilled people and we had very supportive management and ownership, and we had perhaps 16-18 person years of work dedicated to creating these decisions aids. To come to a team that hasn’t embraced it quite as much as St. Louis certainly makes you realize what you don’t have
That being said, I really hope Luhnow is done taking people from the Cardinals.
In Atlanta you often hear the Braves are at a disadvantage because their corporate ownership will not spend on par with some of the other teams in the NL East. While that may be true, they certainly are no longer enjoying the Ted Turner days, the greater concern is that while they have never been an organization on the cutting edge of implementing statistical methodology, they also refuse to go over slot in the draft. Their last several drafts have not been very good, reaching for signable, relatively cheap players rather than the best talent available. While they remain strong at the top with some good young players having already graduated to the majors, and a few more coming soon, I don’t see where this organization goes from here to remain competitive in the second half of this decade. I’m no longer sure what they do well.
I think it’s fair to say from this list that while the highly analytical teams do better in evaluating position players, they don’t seem to have a real advantage on the pitching side. To me, that says a few things:
1. Old school pitching stats were better than old school hitting stats for predictive value.
2. Many pitchers peak early enough that a huge amount of pitching quality is projecting young guys in development, rather than regressive-type analysis.
3. The advanced pitching stats have not had all that much added-value from a team standpoint yet.
To an extent, that kind of makes sense. Good pitchers always knew that walks were very bad things and strikeouts were good things. I suppose that modern approaches might have decreased the value of wins a bit, but I don’t think there was ever a day when a weak-hitting team saw a 20 game winner on the Yankees and said: “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we got him? Then we’d win 20 games too!” Moreover, even on highly analytical teams, the save stat seems to be somewhat important (except maybe in Oakland).
I mean, it sort of makes sense, right? After 300-400 innings, ERA is a better predictor of ERA than any of our nice advanced stats (FIP, xFIP, SIERA, etc). Most pitchers worth anything is going to give you 300+ innings while still under team control. And for the first 100 innings of a pitcher’s career, we’re still reducing the RMS on things like FIP. So basically, advanced pitching stats seem useful for valuation between about… 200-300 innings of a pitcher’s career. And maybe in a similar period after a major injury (though maybe not). For starters, that’s about a year or two. Maybe it’s been helping for reliever evaluations though? 300 innings is more like 4-7 years of relief pitching.
P.S. I know that few, if any teams, would even have “sabermetrics” in a job’s title, but to me, “statistical research” sounds like the Twins are even trying to rebuff the fact that they’re foraging into the advanced-stat world.
Just curious, but how many people in a team’s department are required to be Highly Analytical? Do you need a whole squad of data-crunchers? It seems as though a team of 2-4 people can analyze stats (or invent new ones), whereas a team of advanced scouts has to be rather large.
My point is that even the “old school” teams you listed actually have one or two people that use and apply advanced stats.
Comment by Curdamundo — February 7, 2012 @ 12:24 pm
That’s what I thought, too.
Other than some silly transactions that seem to be necessitated or motivated by a desire to spend less money, AA doesn’t appear to make any decision whatsoever without first consulting every statistic possible. Nor will he sign people like a moron either, despite doing a poor job of managing fan expectations, haha.
At this point, there really isn’t a team in baseball that fits the “old school” model anymore. There are teams that have old school executives or GMs, but even those teams now have a ton of smart young guys on staff making recommendations, building out systems, and improving the overall efficiency of the organization. They might not get the final say, but there are “highly analytical” people working for every team in baseball now.
That was my first thought too, but then I thought about how heavily the Jays use scouts, which is definitely Old School. I think the “In Between” label is appropriate.
The labels themselves are a bit pejorative. Perhaps it would be better to say there are Analytical organizations, Observational organizations, and Hybrid organizations. And just because an organization is Analytical, that doesn’t necessarily make it good.
I’m surprised by Arizona’s place on this list. I don’t claim to know too much about it, but I was under the impression that Towers leaned anti-saber. Can someone more knowledgeable about that FO comment on it?
Yeah, I agree with that 100%. Everyone’s got at least one stats guy, and each organization is filled with talented, brilliant people.
But, I still think there is a spectrum of saber-ness — some are ankle or knee deep, some are chest and shoulder deep. Granted, there is no unified definition of “saber-ness,” so who am I to try to guess who is who?
Also, Bradley, you need to take into account not just the signing/resigning/trading/drafting of players, but also the on-field decision making process. In this respect Joe Maddon would be on one end of the spectrum. Charlie Manuel is clearly on the other end, or close to it – he’s admitted many times he tend to go with his gut on decisions, not based on heavy research.
I couldn’t agree more about the Marlins, they are obviously a mindless organization that has no care whatsoever how deep a hole they dig.
However, the Texas Rangers, whether they claim to be or not, are now in my opinion not at all analytical. The Yu Darvish experiment will fail regardless of what he does. To commit money like that to an unknown commodity is a knee jerk reaction to the market. They are not going back to the World Series or playoffs any time soon and they seriously need to reconsider what they are doing.
I agree, but in the context of the article and statements like “sabermetrics is more the search for knowledge, not the praise of numerals. Scouting is a big and important part of sabermetrics” clearly put the Blue Jays in the Analytical camp.
Comment by Phil Pearson — February 7, 2012 @ 1:30 pm
No matter what he does? So if Yu Darvish goes 32-0 with a .05 ERA and a negative FIP he will still be a failure?
I think your take on whether or not the Rangers are a sabr-friendly organization is a kneejerk reaction to the Darvish signing.
Comment by Keystone Heavy — February 7, 2012 @ 2:20 pm
There is nothing “over the top” or “arbitrary” about it. They actually committed over $110 million to a pitcher when they could have had at the very least a comparable pitcher in C.J. Wilson for less money. At least Wilson has proven to be a solid starter in MLB with a good strikeout rate. Even if he is older I don’t see the appeal of signing someone else who hasn’t even competed against anyone you have ever heard of. Regardless of what numbers Darvish put up, its too big of a risk to take for that much money. What is “over the top” about that, educate me.
Very surprised to see the Reds in that middle group. I’ve not seen/heard anything out of Cincinnati suggesting they’ve got a meaningful stats operation and my understanding that Jocketty’s ouster from St. Louis was due, in large part, to his lack of agreement with the stats crowd.
$110 million is a lot to spend for a MLB team on one player. I think many would agree with that. Everyone here knows the track record of players (especially pitchers) who were paid that kind of money. I don’t really see how much “analyzing,” is involved in throwing lots of money at the big name foreign pitcher that every other team is looking at.
It’s kind of like how Boston “analyzed,” their way to signing Crawford and Gonzalez last year. Wooooowww, who would have thought about signing these guys?
You know, I think you have a point. That certainly explains the Giants success and improvement the last 3-4 years. Having said that, before Neukom left, he was pushing the Giants to change, but with his departure, it’s an open question what comes next.
I think ‘old school’ is a fair term. From what I’ve seen, it’s not the number of analytics guys on a staff, it’s where they are placed and the input/leverage they have in the decision process. That’s a really hard issue to quantify the impact of. You guys should look a bit at analytical staff’s placement in the hierarchy of a teams management structure.
I guess it all comes down to what exactly the criteria are. I think you’d be hard pressed to say that the Jays aren’t one of the best run organizations in the last 2 years, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are extremely statistically oriented. I’m sure they are to some degree, but Anthopoulos was also the Jays Scouting Coordinator for a number of years and beefed up their amateur scouting in the US and Latin America. Then again he’s 35 and has an economics degree, and Tango Tiger is a consultant. I think you have them rated correctly.
I’d say it is analytical to go to every Darvish start and to make a determination on how his pitching and stats in Japan will translate to the US. The results of this analysis can differ by quite a bit, leading to different opinions on Darvish’s value.
What I would say is arbitrary is saying that Darvish hasn’t pitched against anyone I’ve heard of, so he can’t be worth the money. This is easily false. There are 25 year old pitchers that are worth the money – the key is deciding if Darvish is one of them.
So, you think that just because its common knowledge that a player/prospect is good, that teams invest no analysis into said player before they sign him? You really think that no team puts any analytical thought into a big name player and just throw money at him? You don’t think its possible at all that the Rangers look at Darvish and think “wow, this guy had a FIP- in the mid 60s the past few years! And in something close to a AAA league! This guy may be worth an investment!”
Comment by Keystone Heavy — February 7, 2012 @ 4:01 pm
First off, I agree with the questioning of the Blue Jays placement. Considering that sabr/analytic research is a part of every organization now, these categories probably hinge on the use of the data, not just whether it is collected. I would say that it’s fairly obvious that AA relies on this information far more than his counterparts in the middle class. Furthermore, if use of the data available is what is being measured, then the Tigers belong in the “ancient” group, as any Jim Leyland lineup card can attest.
Comment by TheWrightStache — February 7, 2012 @ 4:11 pm
And to anyone who thinks the Reds are not Old School, I dare you to ask ol’ Dusty his feelings on those silly Pitcher Abuse Points.
Comment by TheWrightStache — February 7, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
What about Ruggiano screams that he is a “saber-friendly” player? Besides defense? You say he has “above average patience”? He walked 3.6% of the time last year and saw less than 4 pitches per AB. His O-Swing, Z-swing and straight up Swing% were all slightly ABOVE average!
His OBP was .273 and his wOBA was .290! I would think that his .248 BA would be alot more appealing to an anti-saber team than all that would be to a pro-saber team. I think that its alot more likely that the Astros thought “he hit .240 last year and has one career error! Lets give him a shot!” than “His .262 career OBP and .273 OBP last season would make Billy Beane proud! Lets sign him up!”
Also, I believe you are guilty of seeing one player that (you believe) is saber-friendly sign with a team, and automatically assume that the team is pro-saber, as if it is unfathomable that an oldschool team could do such a thing even once.
Comment by Keystone Heavy — February 7, 2012 @ 4:21 pm
It also, might I add, assume that the Astros did in fact know that Ruggiano plays great defense by using something like UZR instead of scouting or some other old school method. It’s very possible that they could have come to the same conclusion with a diferent method than what shows up on his Fangraphs page.
Comment by Keystone Heavy — February 7, 2012 @ 4:27 pm
Teams considering signing Yu Darvish had many things to consider, even if their interest was only the on-field result. Even if Yu Darvish performs below expectations (say, as a #2-3 starter), he can still help the Rangers build a broader fan base, possibly leading to increased revenues and thus a better on-field product in the future.
Also, I would not make the mistake of assuming that every decision that does not fall in line with the mainstream is necessarily wrong. These guys have access to far far more data than the fans of the world will ever see.
Both the writers and readers on this site are pretty quick to criticize while almost always lacking in quite a bit of information.
I don’t think its just looking at one player. Ruggiano, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, and even Livan Hernandez are all players that Houston has signed this year that fit that “saber” mold and that came at a very economical cost. I absolutely think they are strongly working to toward that type of thinking with Luhnow and their other hirings to go along with the free agent signings. Cust only costs 600K IF he makes the roster and Snyder’s contract is for 750K(only 350K guarenteed). They are obviously targeting high OBP guys that can be had on the cheap to fill out there roster. If they aren’t already highly analytical/saber minded then they are obviously moving quickly in that direction.
What we need to avoid is suggesting that “Old School” is bad. I would consider the Braves an Old School organization but they are extremely good at what they do. They have great scouting and teaching in a well run system. Their shrinking budget hurts them more than the apparent lack of highly analytical types in a position of power.
Then we have the New York Mets who have lots of saber-friendly personnel but are clearly one of the worst run organizations in the game. You can make an argument over who is to blame but the Mets still stink.
If you knew how much work the Rangers put into the Darvish scouting and signing you still might not agree with the move but you’d appreciate that the decision to sign him was based on a ton of information and to the Rangers he was not an unknown commodity.
I disagree with the Nationals’ placement. Just because they’re stuck with a bunch of low-OBP guys doesn’t mean that they like them. Rizzo at least says that he likes to balance an equal emphasis on scouting and sabermetrics.
C’MON people….this line at the end of the article is so comical: “Scouting is a big and important part of sabermetrics, but I digress.” its amazing that research has trumped the meta-function which is scouting. Working in an actual front office, I have to say: the blogs/experts on the saber issues are out of control when they start thinking that scouting is a mere component of statistical analysis.
Comment by reverand maximus — February 8, 2012 @ 8:51 am
And now RAJ will have Ed Wade as one of his assistants/scouts.
I think I would disagree with that statement, with respect to Luhnow. Given his background, I think he could do that as easily as I could. Undoubtedly he relies on his analysts to do most of that work, in part because the GM doesn’t have the time to do it.
Speak for yourself, assclown. Some of us can read thousands of words per minute, and would prefer to not be done with an article in .2 seconds when we have at least .8 seconds more free time to spend reading about baseball. If you find it extraneous, take your 4th grade reading level back to the kid’s area of your local library, or go back to reading the backs of your baseball cards, where you won’t have to deal with annoying stuff like complete sentences and original thought.
I couldn’t agree more here. I don’t see how you could include ANY small market team in the “Old School” category. The shift in culture has occurred very rapidly (considering MLBs snail pace) in terms of data crunching.
My argument is that the use of the numbers drive a different kind of list. Everyone has some kind of analytics team but they should be seen as Advanced, Average, Poor.
Poor performing teams may place higher values on “incorrect needs” their clubs face or use incorrect measurements to make decisions. We have argued that Batting Average is a weak statistic; but it is no less a statistic and is analyzed still by clubs.
It is more about effective use and understanding of available statistics; not really new/old school at this point. Small market clubs I believe especially utilize (sometimes poorly) analytics. They have less dollars available to make a mistake with!
I would never advocate that scouting is “a mere component of statistical analysis.” Here we have diverged in the understanding of what sabermetrics is.
I believe sabermetrics is the pursuit of baseball knowledge. Scouting, statistical analysis, business analysis, and so on are each distinct (though equally valuable and often inter-useful) branches of sabermetrics.
If sabermetrics is merely statistical studies, then no, scouting is NOT a part of sabermetrics. It’s a matter of definitions, I think.
I have done some quick analysis based on a few values over the past 5 years. I tracked simply wins and payroll over the past few years.
What I found was interesting; but easily beat up as all statistical analysis can be.
Highly analytic teams – avg’d 81 wins over 5 years; avg team payroll 91.8 MM
In between teams – avg’d 85 wins; avg team’s payroll 93.3 MM
Old school teams – avg’d 80 wins; avg payroll 83.1 MM
Looking at the each team’s 5 year win total/5 year total salary I found an interesting statistic. The top 10 wins/million is heavily Highly Analytic teams (7) and 3 (Old School teams)
Teams (Wins per Million)
Miami Marlins 1.94 *Old School
Tampa Bay Rays 1.78 High
Pittsburgh Pirates* 1.53 High
San Diego Padres 1.50 High
Az Diamondbacks 1.31 High
Oakland Athletics 1.24 High
Washington Nationals 1.22 *Old School
Texas Rangers* 1.21 High
Cleveland Indians 1.18 High
Kansas City Royals 1.14 *Old School
The bottom 5 are interesting too
Chicago White Sox 0.73 In between
Chicago Cubs 0.66 High
Boston Red Sox 0.64 High
New York Mets 0.61 High
New York Yankees 0.47 High
So are the highly analytic teams REALLY analytic? Or are they good at talking the talk? Talking about how a team uses analytics can go in many ways. I think you have to consider wins for your dollar to help get a picture of what is happening. Sabermetrics as mentioned is “sabermetrics is more the search for knowledge, not the praise of numerals. Scouting is a big and important part of sabermetrics”. So our search here for how a team uses sabermetrics can be seen by what they get for their money too!
I thought SIERA was a better predictor of ERA than ERA was, correct me if I’m wrong. Wasn’t there a pretty big article explaining how SIERA predicted ERA better than any big name projection system or publicly well known stat including ERA itself?
Comment by A guy from PA — February 8, 2012 @ 3:46 pm
Even TLR was analytical. His style wasn’t old school at all. Sure, maybe his analysis was flawed like “in 4 at bats he kills submarining lefties between 4 and 6 pm after 3 innings so I’ll pinch hit him” but he was definately stat driven. All his little cards and stuff that he used for matchups, lefty/lefty righty/righty stuff.
Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 8, 2012 @ 4:37 pm
lucky Atlanta, there are now hard cap slots in the draft, so everyone will be drafting with that in mind. Atlanta has been doing it forever now.
I’m not worried, Heyward, Freeman, Teheran, Delgado, Minor, Beachy, Vizcaino, etc. They are stacked with young talent and do draft well. Gilmartin is solid.
Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 8, 2012 @ 4:40 pm
Is it possible that some teams that are super old school actually do stuff that analytical teams do, just call it something different? I’ve read that the Braves say they have their own made up stats they use. Given their track record, I’d like to know what that is.
I think scouting vs sabering can be dividing into different categories. I absolutely believe that scouting is a better measure when looking at amateuer, international, and most minor league players. There is no constant. “.450 on base percentage” awesome, does he actually have good plate discipline? Or are pitchers in wherever just so wild that it’s easy.
However, when evaluating major league talent, I think a sabermetric approach is best. You can basically adjust any stat you want for park/league/etc.
Of course, they should all be mixed. So probably 75/25 scouting/saber on amateurs and most minor leaguers and the inverse for veteran big leaguers.
When you look at the list, it kinda matches up well too. Atlanta’s strongpoint is that every year, some guy comes out of their system with hype. St. Louis (who I put in highly analytical) always seems to milk the most out of 4,000 year old veterans. I’m generalizing obviously, but that’s sort of the trend I see.
Then of course, you have other teams that you really can’t evaluate like Boston, New York, and Philly because they have the financial capabilities to do just about whatever they want.
Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 8, 2012 @ 4:49 pm
“paralysis from analysis”? As in, over thinking?
Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 8, 2012 @ 4:50 pm
wins/million might not be the best stat to use. There is just too much variance in money and not enough variance in wins. If you have a 150M payroll, jumping to 250 probably isn’t actually going to boost you that much.
Also, how much is high analysis a function of a low payroll? It’s like the spoiled brat who has is parents pay for everything. He doesn’t have to budget. He doesn’t have to get creative when saving money. He just says “yea, I can eat out 4 nights a week and also buy beer”. There isn’t as much of a NEED for it. I think you see the same thing in teams. It’s sort of evolutionary if you think about it. Tampa Bay and Toronto are forced to find alternative means to being successful.
Comment by Antonio Bananas — February 8, 2012 @ 4:53 pm
Terry Ryan actually did use the term “sabermetrics” during the Q&A at TwinsFest, and hinted that they’re starting to focus on that stuff a lot more. And I think the moves they’ve made this season, other than re-signing Capps (which just seems to be their curse) and signing Marquis (which was inevitable), tend to back that up.
I agree that the Cards are now in the highly analytical group. La Russa’s departure will allow Mozeliak to assert more authority in this area, an area he treaded lightly before, and the Cards will become increasingly analytical.
Jocketty and TLR were “besties” as best as I can remember… Many people wondered if TLR would even stay in StL after they found out Jocketty was leaving the Cardinals…. They practically walked around with their hands in each other’s back pockets….
Comment by the hottest stove — February 9, 2012 @ 3:46 pm
Huge Twins fan here; I definitely don’t think they are sabre leaning yet. They may be trying to, because they have to, but compared to even the teams put in the middle? Not even slightly.
Yeah, I agree. I might even put the O’s in the “in between” category. Duquette has said he’s trying to improve the team’s OBP. 10 years too late I know, but better late than never.
Comment by Steve S. Lee — February 12, 2012 @ 2:06 am
I was surprised that the even advertised for the later position. That is actually pretty old schooled. I thought they would have plucked someone off of baseball prospectus, like Mike Fast, rather than solicit resumes.
Comment by Steve S. Lee — February 12, 2012 @ 2:09 am
Not sure why the Padres are considered a ‘high’ analytic organization. The current team President has explicitly stated they use quantitative as well an qualitative information, and have been actively trying to get away from the “group think” that went on in the Alderson/DePodesta era. Analytic, sure, I’m just not certain they’re near the top tier.