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Report from the front: The Great Analytics War is over

You can read all about it in this new article from baseball writer Rany Jazayerli, formerly at Grantland and Baseball Prospectus. The Chicago-Cleveland World Series threw the final shovel of dirt on the debate about the primacy of analytics in designing a successful baseball team. Turns out, data is a fancy word for information and the key to winning baseball games now.

Here are a few highlights from Jazayerli’s piece, but go read the entire article.

The success of the Cubs and Cleveland show the analytics battle is over:

There is always more information to be had, and more information is always useful. The battle was never between the quants and the gut-instinct types, it was between the curious and the incurious. The curious have won. Like Japanese soldiers hiding in the mountains of the Philippines for 30 years after World War II, there will still be pockets of resistance for some time in the form of small-town columnists desperate to serve up clickbait with an anti-analytics screed. But make no mistake: The war is over.

Change in baseball is coming at us fast:

“And then there’s Arizona, where in 2014 Diamondbacks ownership got the bright idea of naming Tony La Russa, who had been a brilliant manager but was retired and had no experience running a team, chief baseball officer. They also let La Russa hire Dave Stewart as GM. His main qualifications for the job were that he (1) had been the ace of the La Russa A’s team that won the 1989 World Series and (2) had worked as a player agent after retiring. It took barely two years for La Russa and Stewart to prove that knowing how to build a winning team in 1989 is as useful today as an Apple IIe.”

The Cubs focused on drafting and developing hitters instead of pitchers:

The Cubs focused on drafting and developing hitters over pitchers because the data makes clear that young hitters are a much safer bet to develop: All you need to remember is that before the Cubs selected Bryant no. 2 overall in 2013, the Astros used the no. 1 pick on … Mark Appel. Along with nailing their draft picks for Bryant and Schwarber, they traded a pitcher (Andrew Cashner) for a hitter (Anthony Rizzo), and capped off the rebuilding process by trading a pair of starting pitchers (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) for a top shortstop prospect named Addison Russell.

Seriously, go read it all.

83 thoughts on “Report from the front: The Great Analytics War is over

  1. And our Cincinnati reds got the best bat in the 2016 draft and are poised to repeat that if they are smart in 2017.

    • The Big Red Machine was built by Bob Howsam drafting hitters first and building his starting eight. The Reds also had lots of good young pitchers but many of them ended up with broken arms- Gary Nolan, Wayne Simpson, etc. Then others were traded away- Ross Grimsley and Mitch Wilcox. I have always felt that it was best to get the bats and build the starting eight first. I hope the Reds look at their own history and then look at the Cubs. The truth is out there.

  2. I am worried about the Cubs confluence of front office talent and financial power. What the Reds are doing is similar to how the Cubs started this… trading pitchers for prospects, “tanking” for draft picks (it worked whether or not they tried)… but I don’t think the Reds have the finances to finish the deal the way Chicago has. They just signed free agents Heyward, Zobrist, and Fowler to positions that could have been filled by Soler, Schwarber, Baez, and Almora. This in addition to signing Lackey, a year after signing Lester. The Reds will have to sink or swim with Peraza, Herrera, Winker, and Senzel… and Reed, Stephenson, and Garrett, as well. One more thing… does anyone think Rizzo or Bryant would ever leave the Cubs? Me neither. If Senzel is as spectacular as Bryant, does he stay a Red? Maybe, but I’m not confident about it.

    • Andy, you make good points. I fear the Cubs will compete for championships for years to come. They are stacked plus Schwarber only played a few games this year. In a few years the curse could be a distant memory. The Reds were 4-15 against the Cubs this year. I see more of the same. The Reds have a lot of work ahead of them.

        • I’d say that the current edition of the Cubs would suggest otherwise. Even if they slip back to their old ways, they are still WS champs. If I’m a Reds fan, I’ll take that kind of “Cubness”. The best we can do in the last quarter century is look wistfully at the great missed opportunity of 2012. Good times…

        • I was whistling on my way past the cemetery. I agree that the Cubs are no longer the Cubs.

    • Bryant will leave the Cubs. If he keeps on this pace, he’ll get a 8-year, $350M free agent deal or something around there. And, remember, the cubs service time shenanigans with him (after he hit like 10 HR in spring training, the year after leading the minors in homers, the year after leading college in homers) are delaying his huge pay-day by a full season. I’d say Bryant leaving is a lead-pipe-lock.

      Regarding Senzel, I think the best case scenario is that he is very good, very quick, and the Reds sign him to a 6/7-year deal after his first 2 years (buying out all his Arb years and 2 FA year) for something like 6-90 or 7-105. It gives Senzel his “set for life” money early, protecting against the risk of injury and him never getting a huge pay day, and it lets the Reds keep for 2 additional years they’d likely not get him (assuming he’s good).

      • Patrick, is there a fact somewhere that confirms that Kris Bryant will indeed “leave the Cubs?” A quote by him, his agent, the team or something related?

        You are offering an “eye test” on Bryant’s future, even to the point of projecting the years and dollars of a hypothetical free agent contract.

        • Yeah, that is an absurd conclusion based on nothing.

          The Cubs could easily make good on potential money lost in a LTC that rewards Bryant. And Bryant could, you know, enjoy winning, his teammates, and the friendly confines.

          I hate the Cubs and their low level bandwagon fandom as much or more than the next guy, but nonsense like this should come from nonsensical posters on message boards, not contributors to the site.

        • I wasn’t aware that I am not allowed to have an opinion.

          I think Bryant will leave. Which is what I stated. I never said it was a fact. I said “I’d say Bryant leaving is a lead-pipe-lock.”

          Since the sentence began with “I’d say…” you should have recognized that was an opinion and moved on or posted dissent to the opinion, rather than critiquing the fact that I chose to give an opinion.

          And, to MARK FROM NC… it is absurd to think a player will leave a team in free agency based on their less-than-forthcoming treatment of him?

          You can disagree with me, no worries there, but to call it absurd is a bit of a stretch.

          And you said the Cubs “could easily make good…” which is also an opinion just like the one I offered. I could call your opinion absurd, but I won’t, because it is perfectly reasonable. Just like a player leaving to chase the money is reasonable. It happens all the time.

          Regardless, next time I post, I’ll try to live up to your lofty standards of internet message board posting. My gross negligence won’t hurt your livelihood or offend your delicate sensibilities ever again.

  3. And with starting pitching being a top priority for almost all teams and with such a poor free agency market, who should the Reds trade to get a young very good bat back in return? I know the Astros, Rangers, Dodgers and Yanks are all looking for pitching. Knowing that the Reds best wave of tAlent will likely not be arriving and/or fully adjusted to mlb until 2018 or 2019, I would be trading Desclafani now.

    • Unless the Reds are given an offer for DeSclafani they can’t refuse (similar to what the Diamondbacks sent to the Braves for Miller), I wouldn’t trade him anywhere. He is under team control through 2020 (4 more seasons). If the Reds aren’t planning on contending for at least the latter two of those seasons, they have bigger problems to worry about.

      I personally think the Reds need to hold off on any major moves until next winter when the team has had another year to develop and improve. Then they can evaluate the team and go from there, making trades to fill in the missing pieces. The one player I would be most open to moving on the current Reds’ pitching staff (besides Homer Bailey of course) would be Dan Straily. Numbers indicate he is due for regression next year, so the Reds should try to get as much for him while his value is still relatively high.

    • The thing is, the wisdom of drafting and developing hitting talent doesn’t mean that a team doesn’t need pitching: It just means that pitching is a more fragile and less predictable asset, which could be taken as an argument for stockpiling it. While I’m at it, I find the assertion that knowing how to build a winning team in 1989 doesn’t apply today to be puzzling. To my knowledge, the Earth hasn’t tilted on its axis since ’89, and I doubt that analysis wouldn’t have been relevant then. Good teams are good because they have good players and execute successful game strategy. True then, true now. The analytical tools have changed, certainly, and that’s good, but analysis with different tools built good teams then, as more-inclusive analysis builds them now.

      • Back then, players like Mark Trumbo would be regarded as the best player in baseball. Today, we know he’s a fine, contributing, solid player, but no where worthy of such high praise.

        The DBacks, after drafting Trevor Bauer, got rid of him because he was too curious and liked to tinker with his pitches/grips/deliveries etc. The DBacks are so against progressive thinking, they basically just gave him away. A former 3rd overall (IIRC) pick. Now, of course, Bauer isn’t a world-breaker, but the fact that they butted heads with a pitcher who only cares about getting better makes you think they are pretty lousy managers of a team… which has been proven out by the fact that they are terrible, even with a perennial MVP candidate at 1B.

        Also, the argument for stockpiling pitching is a terrible one. If you have a finite amount of players, why spend more of those finite spots on guys who are less likely to work out? Pitching is not more valuable than hitting. It’s equal, if anything. You need eveyrhting to win, but you can acquire it different ways. Spending money on pitchers that you know aren’t busts, and stockpiling hitters are less likely to be busts seems like the only reasonable way to run a team (in my eyes). See Mets, New York.

        • I don’t entirely disagree, Patrick, but there is another factor: A team needs lots of pitchers, The pitcher takes up one spot in the daily lineup, but that one spot requires 6 or 7 players to fill it, potentially, in each game. And a team needs 5 starting pitchers. Add the possibly greater fragility of pitchers compared to position players, and it seems clear to me that a team needs more of them than, say, middle of the order hitters, though–no argument–a good team needs both along with many other things. Having enough serviceable pitchers to be successful requires a certain amount of stockpiling, though we could call it something else. You will say, and you will be right, that a roster has as many or slightly more non-pitchers than it does pitchers, but it takes that many pitchers to cover just one position. To be good, a team needs the whole shooting match–hitters, pitchers, fielders, bench players. If the best guy available is a hitter, you draft him. If he’s a pitcher, ditto, even though his future success is less certain. The decisions tempered, of course, by the existing stockpile of talent in your minor league system.

        • That is exactly the way Bob Howsam built the Big Red Machine long before analytics.

        • Why you stockpile pitchers even if they are less likely to work out:
          Because pitchers get hurt and you need a whole lot of them.

          Look at the Reds of 2016. Before May ended they had sent 10 different pitchers to the disabled list that were either starters, or had been used as starters in either April or May. Now, that’s not likely to happen very often – but you stockpile pitching because you need boatloads of pitchers.

          You’ve got to be smart with everything, but the idea that you shouldn’t stockpile pitching, is not a good one. You should stockpile any and all talent that you can.

        • Stockpiling an “Asset A” that has negative value more often than “Asset B” is not the correct way to run a business. The exception being, of course, if Asset A has a much higher reward to account for the added risk.

          Do pitchers have a higher reward? Well, no. By WAR, the best pitchers and best hitters generally have around the same WAR each season. Sometimes it is slightly skewed (like this year, Kershaw was hurt and couldn’t keep up with Trout).

          Regardless, if you aren’t getting more potential reward for your potential risk, you are running your business incorrectly. I’m really not sure how anyone can argue this point… it’s a basic economic principle.

          (Note: This has nothing to do with “talent.” My argument is on a quantized-scale where the availability of talent is equal and plentiful. Of course, if there are terrible hitters in the draft and great pitchers, you take pitchers [a corollary to risk/reward mentioned above]).

      • You are absolutely correct. I get a kick out of the arguments regarding statistics. In the end, the best baseball teams are often rather similar. They are balanced teams throughout, with some power, good OBP, to go along with very good starting pitching, and a solid bullpen (solid defense as well). And of course, a manager who makes good decisions, and doesn’t get in the way too much. All you have to do is look at the A’s of ’89, to your point. The A’s really had no ONE crazy outstanding player, just a lot of really good solid baseball players.

        And to Patrick, no, Mark Trumbo would not have been regarded as the best player in baseball in ’89. In fact, I doubt anyone has ever won an MVP with that low of an OBP, in the history of the game (I probably should have checked first). Couple that with a .250 batting average; no way.

        • True, my Trumbo point was a bit of hyperbole. Thanks for calling me on it. However, he would have been regarded as a very, very valuable baseball player. I mean, all high HR, High RBI guys were lauded universally. Nowadays, they are still valuable, but we understand more how much defense, base running, and simply not making outs are.

          And agreed, having a bunch of good baseball players is important… but the point is HOW do you get to that point? The premise is that you can more easily get to the point where you have a well-rounded roster by drafting and developing hitters (who have a lower bust potential and lower injury risk), and then spending your money on pitcher who have already passed through the riskiest phases. Let other teams take on the risk of the pitchers, then capitalize when the time is right. Seems logical, right?

        • My love for baseball is account of the stats. Understanding a player’s worth by analytics is like understanding the health of a human body. Progressive discoveries of human physiology in cellular and molecular biology has given us better pic of a person’s health. Growing up in the 70’s & 80’s, the hr, rbi, avg stats were king. But now with advanced sabermetrics, we have a more accurate understanding of a player’s contribution & overall worth. Yet, I must agree that the eyeball & instinct are still important contributions at the micro, game-management level; for example, John Maddon almost lost game 7 for his team because of his micro, over-managing style with his pitching decisions. Notwithstanding, advanced analytics brought the team to that point in the first place.

        • Me again, Patrick. The problem with plucking established pitchers to build your staff is, I would thing, the huge expense, unless you’re suggesting that a championship team would be ok with veteran journeymen.

  4. Given that the narrative all along during the rebuild has been that the Reds will contend in 2018, the 2017 season has to be about getting the young players and prospects major league experience. The Reds must make giving regular (everyday) playing time to Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, Dilson Herrera, and Scott Schebler a top priority. As soon as the two or three-week waiting period has passed at the beginning of the season to give the Reds an extra year of control on Winker, he should be called up and playing everyday. The best-case scenario regarding Nick Senzel is that he will be called up at some point during 2017, even if only in September.

    As for the starting pitching (which absolutely must continue to develop and improve if the Reds want to have any shot at contending in 2018), the Reds must use 2017 to continue to sort out the potential future starters. Some will end up in the bullpen, others in AAA to continue development, and others as trade pieces or simply released due to roster constraints or poor performance (i.e. John Lamb and JJ Hoover). Amir Garrett will likely get his callup to the majors at some point in 2017.

    After the 2017 season, the Reds can then identify areas that still need improvement and make trades using their strong farm system to attempt to contend in 2018 and beyond.

  5. As for Jesse Winker, do you guys think the Reds will call him up in mid-April (as soon as they gain an extra year of control after the waiting period), or do they wait until later in the 2017 season (possibly not until September)?

    • I think they call him up in mid-April unless Scott Schebler has a great spring training and first few weeks of April.

      That is assuming, of course, the loud section of fans saying Winker hasn’t “earned” a spot in the majors because of his power outage aren’t heard by the Reds FO. As if a player with an almost .400 OBP in AAA as a 22/23 years old hasn’t “earned” a spot.

      • “As if a player with an almost .400 OBP in AAA as a 22/23 years old hasn’t “earned” a spot.” Amen. Especially on this team.

      • And if that OBP drops off to to even .370ish at MLB and he slugs no better than at AAA what do they have?.

        Doug (Gray) just opined on his site within the last couple of hours that he believes Winker has to hit “in the teens” of home runs to be more than an average MLB player in LF. Answer #3 to “Andrew” on the link below.

        The issue as Doug points out (at least by inference) is that a Winker who doesn’t slug out of the LF position creates a power shortage that has to be made up elsewhere.

        He needs to be in AAA long enough to start showing he can still slug, not brought up in hopes that the skill will return at MLB when he likely will be taxed just to retain his OBP %..

        http://redsminorleagues.com/2016/11/04/top-25-prospect-list-questions-answered/#comment-161909

        • Jim, if he can reach .370 OBP with 5-10 hrs, he’s a positive contributor to this lineup. Not an All Star by any means but a guy you have no problem plugging into the line up every day.

          And why do we need to measure things by HRs? He’ll hit more just by virtue of playing at GABP vs. playing at Slugger field. No need for HRs in the teens, but of course, we would all take that.

          Respectfully, I think this is a lot of hand wringing for nothing.

          • I agree with your positive contributor assessment. And the Reds appear to already have such a guy in Schebler who OPSed in the MLB at .762 with a .330/.432 line. What they need is somebody clearly better to build around. However, if Winker doesn’t get his slugging up well up over .400 they would just be trading one largely similar piece for another and in the mix likely have a weaker defender and lesser baserunner.

            Taking a look at AAA in 2016, Winker was .397/.384/.782 in 448PAs while Schebler was .370/.564/.934 in 319 PAs.

            In 2015 (AA) Winker slugged .430 with an OBP similar to his AAA OBP for an .823OPS. If he is going to be a true impact player in MLB, he’s got to get that slugging at the very least back to where it was in AA while maintain the ~400 OBP which will be tough in itself. Yes, he’s still young and developing; but, one has to think the area left where the bulk of the development can (must) come from is power such as he displayed in his A+ level days.

            As for the importance of HR’s, throughout the playoffs, SteveM has chronicled how it was usually a HR (or 2) that ended up making the winning difference, not to the exclusion of OBP, base running, pitching and defense but in addition to the other components.

        • Comparing Schebler’s best stretch (this year in AAA) to Winker’s worst power stretch is a bit dubious, no?

          Agree with Doug… he’ll likely need to hit 10+ HR to be an average (2.0 WAR) outfielder. But, last time I checked, players can get better. There’s no reason to let that 1.5-2.0 WAR sit in AAA if the Reds want to compete in 2018. Because with a year of experience, that 1.5 to 2.0 could possibly change to 2.5-3.0, and then you have a contributor on your hands.

          • The comparison is what they both did at the same level of competition at the same point in time facing the same pitching in the same line up in the same venues. If had been cherry picking, I would have dropped Schebler’s 1st couple of weeks at AAA when he did virtually nothing. Same with his MLB stats. I used his full season and did not drop the his 5 week stint at the front of the season when he was terrible (which would have been ~+.020 on his OBP and ~+.065 on his OPS).

            The material growth left to come from Winker, if it comes, will almost certainly be in power/ slugging because he is already at nominally .400 in OBP. That figure will likely drop off at MLB then recover as adjusts over time but is not likely to go much above .400.
            Meanwhile on the slugging side, Winker has plummeted over the last 2+ seasons since he left A+. The fact that he has maintained and even slightly grown his OBP over the same period should be setting off cautionary alerts as to whether slugging will ever return; and to his eventual ceiling.

        • Honestly Jim, I think worst case for Winker is a Hal Morris type player. I don’t think that would be too bad.

      • The problem is that without some power those walks will drop and the OBP will too. Who are the low power, high OBP guys in the majors? There really aren’t any. Dexter Fowler and Brett Gardner maybe. But even those guys are good for about 15 homers. Tyler Holt put up some really good OBP’s in the minors and you see how well that translated. OBP and power are correlated.

        • It’s far too premature to judge winker..he’s had a great minor league career and a recent wrist injury…with really good numbers including his AA at his age 21 season…schebler is 3 years older at 26 and interestingly his A+ and AA years were outstanding with great power…he did poorly in his first year at AAA…but then rebounded this year with an incredible month earning a promotion and proved to be an aggressive player with power solid….I like both players….give winker his 23 age season for at least 2-3 months and 150-200 at bats at AAA to prove himself though. I think.he will be live up the rankings pedigree. It would not surprise me to see schebler hit 25-30hr either. Four outfielders is a great problem.

        • Old School…. That is pretty much what I have been trying to say. Don’t be afraid to let Winker prove his chops at AAA, especially given the Reds situation and the fact that they have what appear to be two league average corner OF under the age of 30 in front of him. Until the slugging comes along in Winker, he’s just a 3rd league average guy who gets there in a different way; so, why rush him.

        • I enjoy watching good young players develop and compete. Should be a compelling spring training and fun year. Hated the veteran FA 2 year mutual option guys WJ rescued with a final contract.

        • Is there really a clamor to bring Winker up at the beginning of next year? That seems like a false argument. As it stands, there is plenty of reason to start him at AAA next year. At least until he can’t achieve super-2 and he can get more healthy reps. Proving that he has power isn’t really a reason to hold him back now. He’s either going to develop it or he isn’t. My bet is that a 23 year old has room to develop it and it’s not like his plate approach needs more improvement. That will play now at the MLB level.

          Others have pointed out that the Reds can run with Schebler and DuVall in the corner OF positions to see what each of those guys have. But, at some point next year, they have to get Winker in the mix if they want to keep this rebuild on schedule.

  6. Seems funny to me, that after a team, (the Cubs), bought themselves a championship, suddenly agenda driven writers touting analytics are back. The Cubs are only World champions because of their acquired pitching. The Indians, who were working short in their starting pitching, became exposed during a drawn out series, a position they were not confronted with until the World Series.

    • Curious about your comment that “agenda driven writers touting analytics are back.” Where did they go? I can find articles with this slant daily. Seems like they’ve been out there for a while now. So what’s your agenda?

      Re: the Cubs. I thought that their core players were scouted, drafted, signed and developed by the team; not just acquired through free agency. They’ve always had money to sign guys. And in fact, they’ve spent the bucks over the years with nothing to show for it. Do you think it’s possible that it’s not just their resources but how they’re managed that helped them win?

      Indians had the misfortune of losing too many guys to injury. Yet, they nearly won anyway. Their starting pitching was adequate. Where they had the advantage was in the bullpen. In an all or nothing series, that tends to even things out on the starting pitching front.

      I’d spend more time focusing on the analytics if I were you. If the guys that are actually getting paid to run teams are focusing on them, why do you think you’re smarter than them?

    • The key word in your comment is “acquired” – the article points out the Cubs were smart to use their big draft picks and a few trades to get hitters who more reliably develop. They *acquired* pitchers after they were already developed. That sounds smart to me. There’s no magic special sauce for winning in the regular season. Run prevention is worth exactly as much as run creation. Run prevention breaks down to pitching and defense. Every time writers – funny, the anti-analytics holdouts aren’t agenda driven – point to specific examples of teams or games where pitching matters, the flip side of that is that hitters are in on those plays, too. The Cubs scored 5 runs in game seven on Kluber and Miller. I could point to that and say see what a great difference hitting makes. But it’s just an anecdote. You point at pitching, I point at Ben Zobrist’s hitting.

      It’s equally reductionist to say the Cubs “bought” themselves a championship, implying that they won solely because they spent money on free agents. That’s (not even) half the story. The other part is their acquisition of great hitting up and down their lineup and on their bench. The article, if you bothered to read it, made a compelling, specific case for that.

      • I agree with your analytics position. Simple principle being that more statistical information on a statistical oriented game is always a benefit. Where I don’t quite agree with you, is your simplification of the word “acquired”. The fact is the Cubs did benefit with big dollars. What they have done is something the Reds can never do. The Cubs had the 5th highest payroll in the game this year. Yes, they made some very good moves, building a core of offensive youngsters, but you can’t ignore that their whole pitching staff is bought, and loaded with mid 30 year old veterans that are at their pinnacle. They also could afford to miss the mark with two horrible huge contracts, in Montero and Heyward. Heck, their WS MVP was also bought. How many teams that are already loaded, can afford to bring in a 35 year old guy like Zobrist, and pay him 10.5 mil. The risk alone would make him a non option for most teams. Let’s not forget the 8 mil they paid Fowler, or the 5 mil they paid for a player like Coghlan. How many teams with that payroll, could then go out and make a deal adding another 4.5 mil for Chapman? The Cubs are really a bad example for those who think the Reds should follow their model. The Reds can’t follow their model, because they will never have that financial ability.

        People keep saying the Cubs and Indians will be there for a long time. That’s only partially true. The Cubs probably will because they have a young core of offensive players, and can buy pitching as the old guys fall off. The Indians though, have another year or two, but then will be faced with a financial crunch, just like the Royals are facing, and will fade away.

        • Wish someone could point to anywhere I said money or free agents didn’t help the Cubs win, instead of just posing this as a false either-or explanation.

          The Cubs traded for Jake Arrieta, traded for Kyle Hendricks, traded for Aroldis Chapman, traded for Pedro Strop, traded for Mike Montgomery and developed Hector Rondon.

          One of the reasons they can afford to spend a bunch of money on pitching is the good, cheap offense they’ve drafted/developed.

      • Steve, I focused on the “acquired” word that you used, because, at least from my perspective it downplayed a previous point made that Money was a huge factor for the Cubs. You seemed to take offense to that but, then go on to state the Cubs built their team on trades, and were able to spend the money because of the good/cheap offense that they drafted and/or developed. Just curious, how many teams in baseball can trade for those huge contracts? The Reds could NEVER have done that a few years ago, even if they had perfect drafts. In fact, they actually did the part the Chicago did, they drafted and/or developed very good young talent, but did not have the money to do the additional that Chicago did, and they especially didn’t have the funds to bring in big talent like Chicago did, AND bring in guys under big contracts that were busts.

        And yes, it is a either or explanation. You either have the payroll flexibility that the Cubs have, and do the other things right, or you don’t have their flexibility and do the other things right, which is why I compared the Red’s ability in the future to possibly match up to what the Indians have done, or to what the Royals did, but in either case, a team like the Reds, Indians, or Royals can only stay at the top for a brief amount of time, while the Cubs can stay much longer because they have financial flexibility.

        • Which of the contracts they traded for were huge?

          Again, I never said money didn’t help them in this case. Again, you can’t find a place I wrote that. In fact, I’ve written the opposite. Should I write it again? On the other hand, money isn’t a silver bullet. Ask the Dodgers or Yankees. The Reds have more than enough money to get what they need as long as they spend it wisely. And being at the top of the money isn’t destiny either. Ask the Royals or Cleveland. That’s why either-or is an oversimplified, inaccurate way of looking at it.

          The original article addresses all of this.

    • They aren’t “back.” They never went away. You just don’t frequent the places they write, I assume.

      • My comment was more simplistic in approach than the responses to my position. I simple stated, in my opinion, that without the acquisitions of Lester, Hendricks, Chapman, and Lackey the Cubs would not have won this series. Even still with injuries to the Indians staff, the Indians should have won. The Cubs saw the Indian starters too many times in the series. Just as the Cubs exposed Chapman.

        The Analytics predictive model, predicted the Royals to finish last the two years they were in the World Series. How could those sacred numbers not be accurate.

  7. Yeah I wouldn’t draw too much from the WS, as always. It is about the 162 games that tell us the story – and the fact that the Cubs spent a lot does help when you heap that on several top draft picks that have panned out.

    It isn’t new news that hitters are surer things than pitchers. I’d be interested to see how strongly the hypotheses are backed that:

    1) Hitter prospects are more likely to become players relative to their prospect status than pitchers

    2) Hitters have less variance in their performance year-to-year; and

    3) Hitters are less likely to have serious, long-term injuries.

    Anyway, regardless, the idea that the debate is over and it is irrefutable that the curious vs. incurious is no longer a contest is something I think a lot of us here have been believing for a long time… I guess the piece is trying to make the point that there are no more doubters?

  8. Congrats to the Cubs for winning. They certainly tried to honk it away. I am still trying to figure why Maddon brought in Lester (to mediocre result) and Chapman almost gave it all away. The key to the game was them finally getting to Kluber and Miller.

    Billy Beane of the A’s said it best, “My bleep doesn’t work in the playoffs.” so to draw any conclusions from Tribe vs Cubs is just hot air.

    The similarity between the 2016 cubs and 2012 Reds is remarkable. Maturation of young talent coupled with some FA deals that panned out. Biggest diifference is their key injuries hit a positional depth (OF-Schwarber), while JV just wasn’t the same player late in 2012. Cubs also didn’t have to deal with any injuries during the playoffs (Cueto)

    All in all, playoff success depends on haveing a good team playing well at the right time and fair amount of good luck.

    • …And the Cubs had the 5th highest payroll in the game. Their whole rotation are high priced brought in arms. I honestly think the 2012 Reds were a little more like the Indians, but with an outstanding manager.

      • I don’t get why anyone would say the Cubs “bought” a championship. Yes, John Lester was a high-priced free agent. Lackey was also a free agent. But I will take Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks (two players obtained through shrewd trades) over the two old guys any day, every day. Both Arrieta and Hendricks were absolutely lights out in the 4 games they pitched in the World Series.

        • I’m not trying to say that the Cubs bought the championship. I certainly don’t want to trash what they accomplished both with the draft and some extremely astute trades. My point though, is that unlike the Reds, they were able to supplement their excellent drafts, and trades for youngsters, with high dollar moves. Lester and Heyward alone are on combined contracts of over $250 mil. Zobrist and Lackey are another $100 mil. They did make some great trades, but they also could afford to make those trades because they could take on the large contracts.

          Let put it this way. The Cubs did something that most high payroll teams don’t do very well. They built a foundation, and then spent huge dollars to fill the other half of the team. It is one of the best uses of big dollars in this game that I’ve seen. And let me add, even more impressive is that after next year, they are really only saddled with three bad contracts (Zobrist, Heyward, and Lester).

  9. The main point of this article is that analytics is about gathering information. Here’s a question for those of you throwing shade on it:

    Do you want your team to be ignoring available information or using it?

    It’s really that simple.

    • Information doesn’t matter, Steve!! It’s all about the dirt on the field, the grit on the ball, and the eye of the tiger!! Everyone knows this.

      • Patrick, in some respects, that is actually true. Sometimes the eye can tell us more than the stats; especially when it comes to defense. I watched Ozzie Smith as a young Padre on a nightly basis. To this day, no defensive metric will convince me that there has ever been a better defensive SS in the game. Same with Brandon Phillips. You can’t convince me that there was a better defensive 2nd baseman in the game during those 5 years or so, despite what some of the defensive metrics suggested. I’m starting to feel the same way about Billy Hamilton. I have watched some amazing CFer’s in my lifetime, but BH looks to be right there among the best I’ve seen. Then you have the factor of how a guy like BH affects other players in the outfield, ultimately causing their defensive numbers to slide backwards due to the amazing amount of ground he covers. I know you were being a bit sarcastic, but I do think there is SOME validity to the “eye” test.

        • Defensive metrics are determined by eye tests, too. Humans evaluate – with their eyes – each play made. It’s just that the defensive metrics are more systematic about their eye tests than any fan. They watch and measure every single play and compare those to every single play made by other players. We may watch Brandon Phillips every game, but other 2B are making great plays, too and our eyes aren’t on them. The people who assign defensive metrics scores do watch every game of every player.

          The “eye” test is the incomplete, fan-biased test.

        • Your examples, in this case, are spot on and backed up by numbers. Yes, Ozzie is the best defensive SS of all time, Brandon was the best 2Bman in the league at his peak, and Billy has made more remote-chance (1-10% chance) plays than every other CF in baseball combined this year.

          It is often quite easy to identify outliers.

          The problem with the eye test is you can’t account for cases near the middle of the pack. For example, who is a better right fielder… Steven Souza, Jr or Kole Calhoun? Eye test can’t tell you that.

    • Steve, I don’t think anyone disagrees with analytics and the gathering of more information. As I stated earlier, how could attaining more statistical analysis on a game based on statistics, be a bad thing? I think the problem here, is that many traditionalists find themselves being offended by the “analytics” guys. I’m very much a traditionalist. I love the BA/RBI/HR stats. I grew up with those. I’m partial to those numbers, and quite often the “analytics” guys love to throw the newer detailed stats around, and follow up by suggesting that the old stats are meaningless, and in not so many words, giving the impression that one is an idiot for paying attention to some of those older traditional stats. Personally, I love the new more analytical numbers; but for me, those are often great tools to dive into and breakdown the traditional statistical categories; not numbers to replace them. Hope that makes sense.

      • One can imply that certain stats are “meaningless” without implying the person using them is stupid. And honestly, there are no stats that are “meaningless,” even to a hardcore analytics guy like myself. They all heave meaning… but *what* meaning… that is the importance.

        When I was younger my favorite player was Juan Gonzalez for Texas. He had 102 RBI at the ASB, one year. I was convinced he was one of the best players in history. Turns out, nope… he just had Rusty Greer and Darryl Hamilton getting on base in front of him at an amazing clip and he was ‘roided out and hitting tons of homers with men on base.

        RBI in a vacuum are a fine stat. Given similar opportunities, a guy with 130 RBI is probably a better hitter than a guy with 90 RBI. However, the “similar opportunity” qualifier is the important piece. Was Addison Russell really a better hitter than Joey Votto this year? No. Not even close. But, he had more RBI.

        So, when we say “meaningless” or imply “meaningless,” we really mean “suboptimal for the current analysis.” That’s the way I see it.

        And honestly, the reason why people like traditional stats is because they are easy to understand. RBI seems like a stat that is measuring run production. That’s great! Run production is very important… it is part of winning the game, along with run prevention (pitching/defense).

        So, what if I told you a stat could measure run production (the thing you might like about RBI), but do it more accurately? Why isn’t that cause for celebration (and replacement)? wRC+ is one such stat. It gives proper credit for each thing that creates a run. For example, why should a guy who hit a medium fly ball get all the credit for a run when the hitter before him tripled into the gap? The guy who tripled had FAR more to do with the run than the guy who hit a fly ball, so why does he get no credit? That’s RBI vs wRC+ in a nutshell.

        • I really don’t think its that’s complicated except for defense.
          Batting average is a good filter….If you cant hit .240….9x out of 10 you aren’t a good hitter….Every now and then Adam Dunn blows that’s up….so then move on to OBP….if you can’t hit .240 and get on base at least 35% of the time….you aren’t a big asset to winning for your team……the next filter is power……if you can’t hit 25 home runs and 35 doubles….you better be able to hit for a high avg and get on base ……There are always those rare guys who do one thing extremely well of the trifecta- BA/obp/power….and they serve as arguing points..but wRC+ is a great combination of the 3…..and helps figure out who is #1 in the MVP race and who is #8. It also helps figure out who is the 4th best 2b vs why BP is #21 or so…..

    • Are there people that don’t believe in it here at this point? I know I have seen a knucklehead or two roll in and out, but it does seem like more/less a preacher/choir situation, no?

    • The debate was never about using information vs not using it. That’s silly. Nobody was trying to build a team by drawing names out of a hat. The debate was about which information is most important. Scouting is subjective information while analytics is mostly objective. And honestly, the best teams use both effectively. Objective info isn’t very helpful when deciding who to draft. Its a little more useful when evaluating prospects, but still scouting plays a big part. The objective info, analytics, is more useful when evaluating major leaguers.

      Still, the Cubs decision to draft Bryant, Schwarber, Baez, etc.and to trade for Arietta, Hendricks, Edwards Jr.was almost definitely based more on scouting than analytics. Signing Jason Hayward was probably based more on analytics and that move doesn’t look too good at the moment

      • Lots of claims from you with nothing to back it up. Plenty of quotes from Epstein with reason for drafting and trading for players they did based on new thinking about the game – priority on position flexibility and plate discipline. This entire article lays out the difference between the organizations that collected information and those that use it for decision making. You can hold out, like the Japanese soldiers in the mountains, but as the article proves, the debate is over.

        • I am not holding out. Love advanced stats. Just pointing out that you don’t build a farm like the Cubs had based solely on analytics. Your scouts have to be doing their job too. And scouting is more art than science.

          This is the problem I have with so many of the analytics flag wavers. They just want to point to success stories and say “see analytics did that” without really digging into what the teams actually did. They take anything that Dave Cameron or Tom Tango says as gospel whether its backed up with facts or not. That’s why framing this as “the curious vs the not curious ” is ironic. Too many on the so called analytical side have stopped being curious and have started to assume that everything that can be known is known and that every success is based solely on analytics.

          • Your comments are filled with phony opposition.

            No one said the Cubs win was based solely on analytics.
            No one said that everything that can be known is known.
            No one said every success is based solely on analytics.
            No one said money didn’t play a role.
            No one takes Cameron or Tango as gospel whether backed up with facts.

            Can’t you make a point without creating these laughable stereotypes that don’t exist? Or, failing that, could you at least point out with specific references examples of the claims you are making about what other people are saying?

            The original article cited in this post lays all that out clearly. This is not an either-or situation. Money helped. Scouting helped. Analytics helped. And non-scouting data is becoming better and more important than it was before. Thinking about baseball (i.e. isolating the impact a player has when determining his value, for example ignoring RBI) has advanced in the past 5-10 years. Advanced.

            Can we agree:

            1. The organization should collect all the data it can – all types of data.
            2. The organization should base its decisions on the data, not tradition or conventional wisdom.
            3. The organization should be open minded about what wins baseball games.

        • Well 10 years ago, many in the analytic crowd would have said a hitters BABIP was mostly a measure of luck. The actual curious kept digging and know we know better. 5 years ago many would have said a pitcher has no control over his BABIP. But now we are finding out that pitchers do have some degree of control over contact management. The truly curious would never say something like “the war is over. Analytics have won. ” because the quest for knowledge is never over.

          We can absolutely agree on points 1 and 3 in your list. Point 2 is a little too vague. What is “conventional thinking”? If the “war” has been won, does that mean that “analytical thinking” is conventional wisdom now?

          Really what I object to is calling it a war to start with. This idea that there are analytical teams vs non analytical teams and they are dug in their trenches on the western front. The last 2 series were won by the Giants and Royals, two teams that would not be on the analytical side of this imaginary war. In fact, those teams have won 4 of the last 7. But now that an “analytical darling” has won, well obviously the war is over. The reality is that all teams use analytics to some extent. We cannot know how much because we don’t know what kind of proprietary data they are using. Some teams place a larger emphasis on scouting. Some teams place a larger emphasis on numbers. But every team does both and pretending like there is some magic combination of the 2 or pretending like there is a war between the 2 is silly.

          • You haven’t presented a single *single* instance of a pro-analytics person saying there’s nothing more to learn. As is the case in every realm of science, the more we learn, the more we understand that there’s plenty we don’t know. It’s ridiculous to imply — again, without the slightest bit of evidence or even one example — that the “analytics crowd” figures that once they reach a conclusion there is nothing more to learn.

            You might think there were no meaningful differences in the way organizations approached analytics. I, for one, am hopeful the days the Reds general manager says he’s looking “for an RBI guy” are over.

            You are mischaracterizing Kansas City and San Francisco. That’s another point made in the original article. You really should read it.

  10. “Eye test”/”gut feel”/”taking a chance”/”looking for a spark”, where a human makes a decision contrary to a verdict data collection delivers, won’t be eliminated from baseball.

    A compelling, fact-based case was made on FanGraphs to start Tyler Naquin in Game 7, despite his defensive blunder in Game 6 and overall postseason hitting slump.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/clevelands-center-field-decision/

    Yet, my Indians fans friends swore the morning of Game 7 that Rajai Davis would start in CF, and Naquin would be on the bench. Primarily for non-quantifiable reasons, such as the pressure on him by the fans.

    Was Francona wrong to start Davis? Is he a luddite to baseball analytics? Seems doubtful in both cases.

  11. Two more 40-man roster spots open up. RHP Josh Smith was claimed off waivers by the Oakland A’s. Ivan De Jesus Jr. was outrighted to AAA Louisville. I had hoped Smith might make next year’s bullpen with a little improvement.

  12. Healthy pitchers that the Reds are waiving seem to be getting claimed with some regularity (Daniel Wright and Smith come immediately to mind). In Smith’s case at least that’s getting the bar pretty high for what it will take to make the Reds pen next year. Let’s hope the actual result meets or exceeds the promise.

    Have you heard anything about Adelman? He would seem to me to be another “‘tweener” they might risk running through to open a 40 man spot for younger guys ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

    • No, nothing yet on Adelman. I feel like you as him being a tweener. But Price really, really likes Adelman, so I would be a little surprised if they chance putting him through waivers to see if he’ll make it through.

  13. I am a traditionalist because I do not u nderstand the advanced stats. I like stats that I can calculate and I cannot calculate theses new stats. I do feel like advanced stats people treat people like me like lesser fans. But if others like the advanced stats that’s great. I will always prefer traditional stats.

    • I’m not sure where you draw the line as advanced but anything much beyond OBP is probably stretching the calculation skills and time of just about everyone who hangs out here except for a few folks like Patrick.

      Most folks get their stats from a site like Fangraphs or Baseball Reference or perhaps a subscription site. For instance when folks here get to barking at each other over fWAR versus bWAR, what they are arguing about is the differences between how Fangraphs (fWAR) and Baseball Reference (bWAR) calculate the same value, WAR.

      What I’ve found is that it is possible to read about what the stats represent and components that go into deriving them and form a reasonably informed opinion of what I think is the relative value of each stat. There a are several glossaries and other site where you could get started.

      If you’ve not been to it before, here is the link to Fangraphs starting point:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/library/getting-started/

      • OhioJimW I have tried to understand the stats but it just doesn’t register to me. Those who understand it salute them.

        • Another salute here to those who understand and work with advanced metrics, but it’s not my cup of tea. My interest lies in the, so-called, soft social sciences which include the beauty of the game of baseball and the basic stats I’ve followed for a very long time. Again, I respect those who are into advanced baseball statistics and I read what is written about them, although I don’t feel prepared to make an intelligent comment in that area.

  14. Analytics has been around for 100+ years. The arrogance of those thinking only recently we had powerful enough computers or portable devices to call it real analytics is mind-boggling. The minute stats started being kept, we had analytics. It’s not complicated.

    Even the worst GMs and franchises use stats, some dive deeper than others and some go so far as to sign players site unseen solely based on stats (which is just as bad as barely using them).

    The Cubs didn’t use analytics to get Kris Bryant, he was the clear top pick and only cheapskates in Houston let them get Bryant. They were fortunate. We were not so fortunate to have a stud college hitter fall to us in 2016, but we may have gotten a good one anyway. I am sure some of the Cubs draftees might have been chosen based on deeper statistical analysis, but at the end of the day, there is a lot of luck involved, and the Cubs were 100 years overdue to have a string of productive drafts. They also enjoyed a near injury free season (did they lose any pitcher worth a darn all year?) Only Schwarber was lost for a long time and magically back just when they would have lost without him.

    I do hope the Reds have checks and balances, some salty old school scouts that can still spot a real player even if they don’t look like some freak athlete, and a few nerds that can point out the obvious, and a few less obvious statistical flags (RED or GREEN kind).

    The Cubs focus on hitting doesn’t say anything about analytics. What if that had backfired, I am sure someone would have noted how they must not have used enough analytics, go get another case Theo.

    This analytics non-sense cracks me up. Just call it what it is, some teams actually looking at stats and others not, and no real correlation to using them or not using them and having a successful franchise. There are just as many bad teams that use stats too, pro-analytic types just act like all the bad teams don’t use any stats.

  15. Summarizing, I think Steve has the right of it.
    First, it is more likely that HIGH draft choice position players will develop and pan out.
    What kind of position player and what kind of offensive skills they have is a matter of scouting AND analytics (especially if they have played college baseball). Choosing guys that have power, some speed and a good OBP is the correct direction, if you can get them.
    Second, HIGH draft choice pitchers are valuable, but this could be tricky and seductive, especially to small market teams with limited budgets. How many actually make it to the Major Leagues? The Cubs had money and hired a could pretty good free agent pitchers, and got very lucky with Arrieta, who became a premier pitcher with the Cubs, from being less than mediocre with the Orioles. And yes, that was luck to get him and the way he turned out, and nothing more.
    Pitching is crucially important, but is frequently a real crapshoot.

    When Theo Epstein arrived with the Cubs, they had a big payroll but a lousy team. The result of bad analytics? Very probably. His first priority was to fix the roster by getting rid of the high payroll players who did not have much value, which he did. And he did find buyers. There’s one born every minute. Remember Soriano?
    He got Rizzo, who he knew from the Red Sox farm system, because the Padres valued Yonder Alonso (just aquired in a big trade) more than Rizzo (more bad analytics by the Padres?), and so Epstein got his first real piece of the New Cubs by acquiring Rizzo. It took him a few years to mature into the hitter he is now, on a couple of lousy Cubs teams. Patience with him while the Cubs were still lousy.

    Some of his high value drafting frankly is still a little shaky. Soler has not panned out. Schwarber is a pretty good hitter without a position to play (which is why some teams passed on him). He is a poor outfielder, a poor catcher, and is probably destined to be a DH someday soon, or play first base.

    Question, if anybody is still reading this thread: If everybody starts thinking this way, what happens to pitcher development? Will there be a cycle, and in 7-8 years drafting pitchers will be the smart thing to do, when there is a dearth of good starting pitching? Because somebody still has to draft and develop pitching talent to arrive at a point where mature and successful pitchers are available as free agents.

    Question: right now, the Cubs payroll, outside of Heyward and Zobrist, is pretty cheap. In a few years, Rizzo is going to want a lot of money; Joey Votto like money. And behind him are Bryant and the other young guys. How do they keep the team on the field AND get talented free-agent pitching if they don’t develop enough pitching in their farm system ?
    This worked for the Cubs in the here and now, and Epstein is a really smart guy. But this could all blow up in a couple of years. Players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo don’t just show up. Everybody is looking for great players to draft, and the Cubs won’t be drafting in the top 10 anymore.

    • You raise good points and I expect that you are right when you point out that the perceived value of talents is probably cyclical. It’s worth noting, as well, that events can be viewed through different lenses, to wit, those home runs so critical to determining the outcome of the WS could just as well be viewed as failures of pitching. The team with more effective pitching didn’t give up critical homers and won as a result. Reality, of course, is rarely or never so clear-cut, and it seems very likely that, for a team to be successful in the long term, it must acquire/develop talent in all critical areas. Even pitching, despite its inherent unpredictability.

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