SABR 50: Listen to highlights from Sig Mejdal’s opening remarks

Baltimore Orioles VP Sig Mejdal speaks at SABR 50 on August 18, 2022, in BaltimoreAt SABR 50 on Thursday, August 18, 2022, Sig Mejdal, the Baltimore Orioles Vice President and Assistant General Manager, delivered the opening remarks at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

Mejdal oversees all aspects of the club’s growing analytics efforts while assisting GM Mike Elias in all manner of baseball operations decisions. He spent six seasons working in the Houston Astros front office and contributed to the Astros’ 2017 World Series championship, and also worked for the St. Louis Cardinals for seven seasons. Prior to his baseball career, he worked for NASA as a biomathematician and first joined SABR at 12 years old before earning his bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering from the University of California at Davis and master’s degrees in operations research and cognitive psychology from San Jose State University.

Here are some highlights:

On “asking the simple question” in baseball

  • “If a person like myself has any value within baseball, it’s that there have been so many smart people that come and go in baseball, and what they left behind is what we call ‘convention.’ If I have anything to add, it’s creatively looking for an understanding of how this baseball world works, and then putting it through the rigors of math. Whether that’s a regression or retrospective analysis or whatever … that’s all you need to do for progress, is to continue to question and test. SABR’s Statistical Analysis Committee is focused on testing existing beliefs.”

On the impact SABR has had on his career

  • “I know I’m lucky to be here and I know I wouldn’t be here without SABR. It’s the truth. I mentioned Pete Palmer and Bill James and also Dick Cramer. There’s rumors that Dick may be in attendance, is that true? (applause) … I want to thank Dick and all the founding fathers, all of SABR for creating this world with this amazing timing that’s enabled this change in baseball, and for me to happen to be in the middle of it, coming in at the right time, it has meant the world.”

On reading Moneyball, by Michael Lewis:

  • “(That book) changed my life. I remember I read it in one sitting with a poor night’s sleep in between and I was so naive, I thought, ‘Oh, I just need to let the teams know that I’m here. I’m available, I’m willing to relocate, I get along well with people, and I’ll have a job by the end of the week.’ But I couldn’t have been more wrong. … After about a year and a half of efforts to get in, amazingly, it lined up with me at the St. Louis Cardinals.”

On tension between scouting and analytics

  • “I think I came (into baseball) with a crazy bias. My world was academia and then NASA aims, research, so data-driven and evidence-based decision-making is just like the air you breathe. And so I naively came into baseball thinking, ‘OK, what these scouts need is a scatter plot with some p-values and all is going to be well.’ And I quickly learned that is not how the real world works. I think when I look at how I’ve changed, it’s a realization on how you communicate these type of things to the real world, or to anybody other than a NASA engineer. There’s a lot of techniques that work to different degrees. … The portrayal in Moneyball has not been my experience. (Scouts) are for the most part open-minded and interested and excited to get better.”

On his decision to join the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles

  • “I can’t accomplish anything in baseball, no matter how polite I am or how convincing the data is, without ownership support and GM support throughout. In the interview process with Baltimore, it was clear that John Angelos was like-minded. He had come in the middle of 2018 and overhauled the business side. He had hired (general manager) Mike Elias and myself from Houston for the baseball side in late 2018, and really just committed to modernization. So the first thing we did was change the analytics department from zero, and we’re at about a dozen now with six really skilled interns.”

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Originally published: August 19, 2022. Last Updated: August 24, 2022.