At the SABR Virtual Analytics Conference on Thursday, March 17, 2022, Brian Kenny of MLB Network and Sarah Langs of MLB.com opened the conference with a discussion on “The Year in Baseball Analytics.”
Here are some highlights:
On evaluating and ranking players today:
- Kenny: “What I think the big question is: have we all arrived at the best way to evaluate players or are we all just thinking the same again? Will we look five years from now and say, ‘What were we thinking just going by “our numbers?’ … Are we doing it as good as it possibly can be done? Or are we all just now in a new state of groupthink?”
- Langs: “The number one thing that I always stand by when I’m talking about baseball, or anything, is that I want to be able to prove it. And when you’re talking about a list … talking about the difference between 8 and 9, it can be so painstaking to try and make that point. … I really wanted to make sure that I would be able to defend each and every spot on that list.”
On quantifiable measurements and the eye test
- Kenny: “I think there are things that are in the weeds, when you’re watching, that the old boys were probably right about, that we just don’t have the language — Bill James has written about this — to specifically bring it up and quantify it. But we should try to apply it. I advocate ‘cut of jib index.’
On if baseball analytics has reached “mature design”
- Langs: “As you’re going to see over the course of this conference, there are so many new realms to still be explored, especially with biomechanics and the more scientific part. But I think in terms of the actual statistics, we have so much at our fingertips. … Defensive metrics are so much more advanced than two years ago. … Baseball is really, truly being analyzed and broken down in ways that it never has been before.”
On the importance of a player’s makeup
- Kenny: “That thing was so overdone for so many decades, I tired of it with all of the old boys. Two years ago, I found room in my Top 10 for Joey Votto … his ability to adapt and to evolve, I think he can come up with something. I think he’s going to figure something out … but what happened this year? Joey Votto figured it out. So sometimes it is belief in a person, belief in an athlete. Now, more than ever, your ability to learn is vitally important. Maybe that’s the next wave: a player that can adapt, learn, use the tools to become a different player.”
On players using analytics:
- Langs: “Whenever I see a quote from a player about using analytics, not just checking a few things or checking his batting average, but really using tools, my antenna perks up. Oh, that is someone to watch. That is a player who is going to be able to evolve himself.”
To learn more about the SABR Virtual Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.
Transcription assistance by Patrick Milum.
Originally published: March 27, 2022. Last Updated: March 28, 2022.