Lindbergh: Sabermetrics is killing bad dugout decisions

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight on January 14, 2016:

How would a baseball fan from the 1980s, awoken from “Futurama”-style suspended animation, be able to tell that teams evaluate data differently in 2016 than they did 30 years earlier?

Once our unfrozen fan figured out what a website is and how it works, the best tipoff might be the number of teams whose front-office pages include job titles like “quantitative analyst” or “decision scientist,” or the number of times per public statement that baseball executives say “process.” Maybe it would be on-base-percentage standout Shin-Soo Choo’s salary, which is tied for the sixth-highest among outfielders under contract for 2016 despite his pedestrian single-season highs of 22 homers, 22 steals and 90 RBIs. Or maybe the clincher would be the report that roughly 20 teams checked in with the Atlanta Braves about the asking price for starter Shelby Miller (including the Arizona Diamondbacks, who eventually landed him) despite Miller’s 6-17 win-loss record last season.

In-game, the evolution would be obvious if you knew where to look, broadcast by tactical details like how few hitters shorten their swings to make contact or how willingly fielders play out of their typical positions. (There were seven infield shifts per game last season, up from less than one per game as recently as 2011.)

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Originally published: January 14, 2016. Last Updated: January 14, 2016.