SABRanalytics: Scouting and Analytics Panel

Here are some highlights from the Scouting and Analytics Panel on Saturday, March 17 at the SABR Analytics Conference, which featured Joe Bohringer, Director of Pro Scouting for the Chicago Cubs; Corrine Vitolo, CEO of SmartKage; A.J. Hinch, VP/Assistant General Manager of the San Diego Padres; and moderator Dan Migala of Property Consulting Group:

On building a player development staff

  • Bohringer: “Ultimately it comes down to what we want. We don’t want groupthink or a certain type of scout. We want somebody who knows pitching or someone who knows hitting. We want somebody who feels more comfortable with statistics and we also want somebody who feels more comfortable with scouting. At the end of it, we’re trying to balance all of those things. What we’re talking about — and to give credit where credit is due, (Angels GM) Jerry Dipoto probably came up with the best analogy of it — he called it a seesaw. It’s a weighted scale; on one end, it’s pure information, your pure data. The example I always use is that I can send my grandmother into a ballpark for five days and she can tell me that Albert Pujols is good. … Information can tell 95 percent of the story on Albert Pujols, and that’s one end of your seesaw, one end of your scale. The other end is your pure instinct scouting. It’s that 15-year-old kid from the Dominican Republic who’s got his cousin’s shoes that are two sizes too big, with the newspaper shoved into the toes, he’s running the 60-yard dash, and you’re trying to figure out exactly what you have. As a scout, what we try and talk about as a group is that we want scouts, we want evaluators in our organization that are flexible enough to decide where we’re supposed to stand on that seesaw, because where we stand on that seesaw varies for each player. For Albert Pujols, we’re going to stand all the way on one end and I’m going to use the information that tells 95 percent of my story. When I’m in the Dominican Republic looking at a high school kid in the backwoods somewhere, now I’m standing all the way on the other end of the seesaw.”

On the amount of data available for player evaluations today versus 50 years ago

  • Hinch: “For us to be able to be in a predictive game with all of the information that we have today is pretty remarkable to think about how players signed and how players are analyzed have changed from back in the day when that information was harder to come by. For me to take what we have today, and how to be more accurate, there’s not necessarily a specific analytic I would take back in time but I would love to go back and ask, ‘Why? What was it (about that player)?’ There had to be something that they (scouts) analyzed in order to predict future success. Our approach, our process, our ability to find what it is that leads to a decision to sign a player, to trade for a player, to ultimately sign that player to a long-term contract or to release that player, I would want to take the openness and the open mind of the people in our organization, the people in our industry and take it back in time and troubleshoot it with the process that was in place then.”

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Originally published: March 28, 2012. Last Updated: March 28, 2012.