clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ESPN ranks Miami Marlins' approach to analytics as one of lowest in all of sports

The Marlins were one of the lowest ranked teams in all of sports in terms of their use of analytics.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For a number of years there has been a common debate across all four major sports, baseball, basketball, football, and hockey on the topic of analytics.  There are a lot of different aspects of analytics, and there are different analytical statistics for each sport.  But in its simplest form, analytics is the use of advanced statistics to help make better decisions on personnel.

Recently, ESPN The Magazine and released a ranking of all 122 major sports teams based on, "the strength of each franchise's analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics."  They also subdivided all of the teams into their own respective leagues and ranked them by their stance on analytics.  In ESPN's rankings, the Marlins came in at number 115 among all 122 sports teams and were in the "Non-Beleivers" section of MLB, joined only by the Philadelphia Phillies.  Here is what ESPN had to say about the Marlins use of analytics:

While the thrifty Marlins might have broken convention by shelling out $325-million for Giancarlo Stanton, they're still reluctant to spend big on sabermetrics. After going through five managers and five losing seasons in five years, they are looking to hire, um, interns to get their analytics program off the ground. Baseball America has called Miami "among the game's more scouting-orientated organizations," which is simply code for a non-sabermetric approach. GM Dan Jennings has a scouting background and new skipper Mike Redmond doesn't have an inclination for metrics, having spent most of his catching tenure with the Marlins and Twins, who are also analtyics skeptics.

Within the analytics debate, there is a butting of heads between 'old-school' thinking and 'new-school' thinking.  The 'old-school' thinking goes off the basis of the eye-test of scouting and traditional statistics.  Analytics builds off that and adds the use of advanced statistics to help make more educated decisions on personnel.

The Marlins are obviously on the 'old-school' way of thinking side.  As ESPN noted in their piece, General Manager Dan Jennings has a scouting background, which is most likely one of the main reasons as to why analytics is almost non-existent in the Marlins front office.  An organization does not have to base itself off of analytics, but to completely ignore them is closed-minded.

A prime example of the Marlins not being analytics friendly is the case of Adeiny Hechavarria.  After improving his batting average and making a countless amount of highlight reel plays in the field, the Marlins front office lauded Hechavarria as a future all-star based off of his performance in 2014.  While Hechavarria might have passed the eye-test, he is not one of the more sabermetric friendly players.  That is not to say Hechavarria has no chance of blossoming into an all-star, but rather that sabermetrics revealed that he did not have the kind of impact that people in the Marlins front-office thought he did.  This kind of scenario can lead to a ball club over-valuing a player and, possibly, overpaying for one as well.

For some reason there is a negative connotation that comes with analytics from people who prefer the 'old-school' way of judging personnel.  The general idea of analytics that they have formed is smart people, who neither watch sports nor know anything about them, that come up with stats that have no use.  But that is not the case at all and analytics is where the game of baseball, along with the other sports, is going towards.

ESPN ranked 16 teams in the MLB that are either "All-In" or "Believers" in analytics, which was the most of any sport. Of those 16 teams, eight of them were playoff teams last season and a few more of them are capable playoff teams this season.  This is not to say that a team needs analytics to win a World Series, or if a team uses them they will automatically be good, but if the rest of the league is progressing towards it then eventually a team without it will be at a disadvantage.

One of the biggest misconceptions about analytics is that people that use them solely to base their decisions off of advanced stats, while ignoring the eye-test and traditional stats.  The reality is that advanced stats are used as another tool for front offices to help make better decisions, in addition to 'old-school' way of evaluating talent.  So the Marlins do not have to turn into the Oakland A's, in terms of their use of analytics, overnight but it would be smart and forward-thinking to begin to consider sabermetrics when evaluating talent.

So what do you guys think about analytics and sabermetrics?  Do you think the Marlins are making a mistake by not having any analytics involved in their front-office decisions?