Have any of you watched MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential? If there is a baseball show on that network to watch, it is that one. It is an analytics based show using advanced stats to tell stories and analyze the game, just the sort of thing we here at Fish Stripes really enjoy. Furthermore, it is hosted by former ESPN broadcaster Brian Kenny, who is well known for being saber-friendly and more than interested in the numbers. They could not have picked a better host and a better topic for today's baseball world. Sabermetrics is more important than ever in the evaluation of players at the front office level, and it is really coming to the forefront.
One place sabermetrics has not necessarily penetrated is the managerial world. We have all screamed at our team's managers in past for making dumbfounding moves, and it is not surprising. So many managers are stuck in the old school ways of managing that it seems they are not open to new ideas that the data has shown to be significant. It was evident in the World Series when Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington intentionally walked like a million guys, and it again was evident a few nights ago with the Miami Marlins' own Ozzie Guillen.
A few nights ago, Clubhouse Confidential brought in Mitchell Lichtman, a.k.a the (in)famous MGL, to the broadcast. He was there to discuss some of the findings that were highlighted in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, one of the best baseball books one can find. These findings include the absence of a "clutch hitting" skills, the most optimal batting order synthesis, and the way that National League teams can avoid giving away runs.
Overall, it was an excellent segment from both MGL and Kenny, as they both played their roles well. Because of the environment and the nature of the questions, it seemed MGL was more calm than he usually would be if he were dealing with a typical baseball blowhard on television or radio. This is totally worth a watch.
Of course, what interested me a little more is the response that Ozzie Guillen gave on Twitter.
Now, I don't know about you, but does that not come off as sarcastic more than anything else? Guillen seems to merely dismiss the work of Tom Tango, MGL, and Andy Dolphin (the authors of The Book) with a laugh. The comment on "writing books" sounds an awful lot like the "get your head out of a spreadsheet and watch the game" mentality we often hear from folks who dismiss sabermetrics.
If this is the case (and there is always the chance that Guillen is being sincere, though in this case it is highly doubtful), it does not surprise me at all to see Guillen dismiss these ideas. SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score recorded a Traditional Manager Index for both the AL and NL; this was a measure of intentional walks issued by pitchers and sacrifice bunts laid down by position players, pro-rated to 162 games. Guillen lead all AL managers in 2011, showing once again that he has an extremely high propensity for old-school strategies. He is also well known for being a fan of stealing bags at all times, and on more than one occasion he has had a pitcher bean an opposing hitter as retaliation (and in one instance, he demoted a guy for failing to hit someone).
So Guillen probably does not see the appeal of advanced analysis in baseball. He is probably more than stuck in his old ways, as managers such as Jack McKeon, Edwin Rodriguez, and Fredi Gonzalez were before him (these three managers were among the top four in Traditional Manager Index in 2011). The Marlins went from really old-school to slightly less old-school, but in terms of managers, they remain as backwards as ever. It does not help that we are not fully aware of just how much the Marlins front office is aware of sabermetrics either. We truly do not know if sabermetrics and advanced analysis has any place in the Marlins' organization, and that cannot be a good thing. In this day and age, with more and more teams picking up intelligent, analytic minds to go along with scouting cores. These teams are evolving enough that having this may not even become an edge any longer. But you can bet that not having it will be a detriment.
Right now, the Marlins are getting away with a strong backbone of scouting headed by Larry Beinfest. However, the failure of the team's drafts in recent years along with the fact that now the club can spend money a bit more freely leads to some trepidation about the direction of the future of this club. We've already seen them make some terrible moves even this offseason, and when you consider that the culture of the organization seems stuck in the 1980's and 1990's in terms of managing and front office work, a slightly larger payroll can easily turn a cost-conscious and efficient mediocre team to a wasteful mediocre club in no time flat.