McDaniel: The status of the scouts vs. stats debate in baseball

From Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs on January 9, 2018:

“Scouts vs. stats” is an expression that boils a complex, gray issue into clear black-and-white sides,in a way that’s familiar to those who follow political media. In the reality of front-office decision-making, however, this “debate” has been settled for years and the obvious answer was always “both.”

In fact, the issue has moved past simply using both. Until recently, if one suggested that a club should move further toward one side at the expense of the other, anyone could shoot back with a counter example of recent success from the other end of the spectrum. That’s a bit harder do now: two years removed from the Royals’ latest World Series appearance and three years out from the 2010-2014 Giants run, there isn’t a current standard bearer for the traditional point of view, even if that’s just cyclical and I’m using a somewhat subjective label.

The final four clubs standing in each of 2016 and 2017 — the Astros, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, and Yankees — would all rank among the top 10 of any industry poll of the league’s most progressive clubs. If you want to argue that their success is the result of variance, a blip, or mere coincidence, this development isn’t just the product of randomness. There’s an actual explanation. In these last two seasons, we’ve seen a fundamental change in the style of play (a greater emphasis on the air ball, quick hooks on starters, more aggressive bullpen usage, etc.) — particularly in the postseason. A progressive club, by definition, will adapt more quickly to such changes.

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Originally published: January 9, 2018. Last Updated: January 9, 2018.