2013 SABR Analytics Conference highlights: Analytics Super Panel

They were introduced to the crowd as just Brian, Bill and Joe — no further introduction needed. And as they talked and joked for an hour, Brian Kenny of MLB Network, Bill James of the Boston Red Sox and Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports covered ground from the minor leagues to the Hall of Fame during the Analytics Super Panel on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Video: Watch the 2013 SABR Analytics Super Panel (YouTube)

Audio: Click here to listen to the 2013 SABR Analytics Super Panel (1:12:21; 66.1 MB)

Here are some highlights:


  • Posnanski: “I think it’s changed, and I think it is going to continue to change, but very, very incrementally. I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a point where it’s going to be specifically data-driven.”  


  • James: “In a lot of ways the minor league development system is sort of archaic anyway. A lot of time and effort is devoted to travel, bus rides. One could certainly develop the same amount of talent a lot more economically and efficiently if every team wasn’t trying to develop everything independently. … From the standpoint of the game as a whole, there would be huge advantages to restructuring the minor leagues so that the players were not sorted as belonging to teams until they reached a much higher level.” 


  • James: “There are great advantages to using pitchers in sprint mode rather than in marathon runner mode. We’ve moved to the method that we use relievers in now in large part to get those sprint mode advantages. … You can get that sprint mode value while paying little attention to the left/right percentages and it would be a lot more effective because you could make the bullpen smaller and by doing so you could have an extra pinch hitter, an extra outfielder and get more. I believe if you study it, the runs teams save by making 200 lefty-for-lefty switches a year don’t begin to justify, and are nowhere near justifying, the cost of losing utility infielders.


  • Posnanski: “They’ll carry the 12th guy in the bullpen anyway because the manager wants him, the manager is going to get all upset: ‘Hey, everyone else has a left-handed specialist and I don’t have one.’ There’s going to be times during the year when they are going to find themselves really bullpen strapped and they’re going to go ‘Oh my gosh, if we had that 12th man …’ The first time they blow a save because they couldn’t use the right guy because of that, then the media goes in. There’s just a constant pressure downward to do what everybody is doing.”


  • James: “The risk [in the front office meddling] is that you can weaken the manager’s position at a time when you need the manager’s position to be stronger. … This goes back to the [1920s Pittsburgh] Pirates … a team that probably should have been a dynasty wound up as a very good team that won two or three pennants but wasn’t quite a dynasty. And the principle was established that you don’t put a front office man in a suit in daily contact with the players and we still honor that, and I would still honor that because I think it’s too risky.”
  • Kenny: “The ex-players at MLB Network are saying ‘I can’t have some guy from the front office sitting in [the dugout] next to me.’ Why wouldn’t you want that information? … Now you actually have the actual information and The Kid, as he’s often referred to in Major League Baseball, would actually be there, your assistant GM, to feed you the information. I think eventually it will get to that, where you have an assistant GM down there.”


For more coverage of the SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.

Originally published: March 9, 2013. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.