An Oral History of The Phillies’ Statistical Analysis Department
In what appears to be the twilight of an enormously fruitful competitive run for the Phillies, much has been made of the internal machinations that factor into their valuation of players. Through extensive interviews1 with a wide array of inside sources, I’ve assembled what I consider to be the most comprehensive story of the Statistical Analysis Division of the Phillies’ Baseball Operations department compiled to date. Be advised before reading: I’ve elected not to censor their language in any way.
Dallas Green, Senior Advisor to the General Manager
What is that, like computer stuff? I think you need to talk to Brian?
Brian Lamoreaux, Director, Information Systems
Oh! Yes. Wow, nobody is ever interested in this stuff. That’s fantastic. Well we just finished migrating to Windows 8, and I totally revamped the Exchange server to allow for — what? Oh. Oh. No, I’m the head of information systems, like — yes, IT I suppose. No, no baseball stuff. Haha, you’ll never guess what I found on Benny [Looper]‘s computer one time though — oh, yes. OK.
Susan Ingersoll Papaneri, Director, Baseball Administration
Well, back when Ruben was just an Assistant GM, we had Jay [McLaughlin, Baseball Information Analyst] doing the stats stuff. It must have been intense stuff because he was always taking a breather in the break room, grabbing some coffee and sighing a lot. Come to think of it he was always fiddling with that coffeemaker. I guess he drank so much of it he felt obliged to brew another pot.
Jay McLaughlin, Baseball Information Analyst
I make the coffee.
Charley Kerfeld, Special Assistant to the General Manager
We had Jay making the coffee. He was our renaissance man, heh. He could always get those numbers right. Because it says on the back to use like 2 tablespoons for every six ounces of water, or whatever, but I didn’t even know water came in ounces. It’s a liquid! And like, that’s two different numbers and two different units, and who the hell even knows? Jay always had the kind of mind you needed for that stuff. Once Ruben got promoted [to General Manager], he had this idea that we could expand Jay’s work a bit, really widen his role in baseball ops. He could still make the coffee, but also, like, pull out the used filters afterwards, and occasionally wash out the pot with some water and a tiny bit of dish detergent so you didn’t get those black streaks.
Marti Wolever, formerly Director, Scouting, currently Assistant General Manager, Amateur Scouting
Jay was such a stiff man, haha. I used to mess around with him all of the time. “Calculate that!” I’d yell at him. I would throw like, binders and stuff at him and be like, “Calculate that!” I had all the scouts do it too, haha, oh man. I probably should’ve come up with a new punchline but y’know. “Calculate that!” One time I yelled that and it turned out his grandma had just died and he cried a little I think. “Calculate that!” Then Ruben was all, y’know, Marti, your guy that holds the radar gun — we could get Jay to do that. And I was like, what about the coffee? But it turns out he could do both. That’s what we’re all about here, finding crazy efficient ways to get stuff done.
Mike Arbuckle, formerly Assistant General Manager, Scouting & Player Development
Jesus christ. Goddamnit.
Frank Coppenbarger, Director, Team Travel and Clubhouse Services
Jay is some kinda numbers super-magician. My secretary used to have this giant paper log where she would keep track of our mileage and travel expenses for transporting the equipment. But Ruben sent Jay down here one day, and he had this special software, he must use it for that stats stuff, where it takes numbers and like, puts them all in rows and columns. And you can make the rows different colors and bold the text and stuff, it was really something neat. He tried to show my secretary how to use it, but she doesn’t have time for that shit so I just told him to do it from now on, and man, now everything looks so neat.
Sometimes I like to sit in the park and just watch people and make up stories about them. Like, look at that guy and gal. They’re off to see a jaunty theatre show! And experience happiness.
Scott Proefrock, Assistant General Manager
I’ll tell you what I told Ruben. You just can’t quantify baseball like that. Jay’s great at numbers I guess, but what good was that going to do us? If a guy goes up to the plate 10 times and gets 5 hits, some super complex formula is going to say he’s worth 6 UZRs or whatever. Get, hahaha, get this. Check this out: “WAR, what is it useful for?” [knee-slapping laughter] I can’t get enough of that joke. Like the song. Got that from a writer friend of mine. Anyway, all that horse puckey doesn’t tell you what’s in a guy’s gut. The gut is like, deeper than the skin. Than the ribs even. The gut is where production comes from. Production is how baseball is played. Guys produce stuff. From the gut. What our scouts look for is a whole heaping mess of that production. Just a big pile of production from the gut. I have a good friend in the Mets organization, long-time friend of mine, and he totally agrees. Yeah Scott, he told me, none of that stuff matters at all. You can’t put numbers on production! Just ignore all those complicated formulas. He was laughing really hard as he said all this to me, because he realizes how ridiculous that stuff is too.
Jeremy Wilt, Assistant Head Groundskeeper
I just don’t know that Jay is a team player. I’d heard he had a head for all that numbers junk once, so I figured, hey, that could be useful. I got Ruben to send him over to me and I had him counting the bags of Diamond Dry and taking down the ‘Use By’ dates. And he was doing great, but then one of the staff guys started asking him about the advantages of walks per plate appearance over walks per nine innings and he just started bawling. Weeping like I ain’t ever seen anyone weep, pounding his fists and everything. I mean, he was crying into the Diamond Dry so really, no harm done, but it was super awkward and I sent him back to ops.
I think at some point we started to notice that the quality of the coffee was falling off a bit. Sometimes it tasted a little like blood, which was really weird. I went to Ruben and told him we were maybe over-extending Jay a bit, and we should get him some help. I mean, we won a World Series and another pennant drinking that coffee. The analysis department could only get better if we doubled the complement. We put out some feelers, collected some resumes, and Scott and I interviewed the kids. Guys with econ degrees and stuff, real wiseasses. Supposedly they’re all analysis super geniuses or whatever, but some of them didn’t even drink coffee. And they had all these big ideas and stuff. Like, “ERA is misleading.” No shit, idiot, that’s why the Wins stat exists. Oh and “better hitters make less outs,” real Area 51 crap. You take your less outs, I’ll take production. End of conversation.
So we passed over all those clowns and took a look around internally, and we had this intern in ticketing, Chris [Cashman, Baseball Operations Representative]. And this guy used to be a barrista in high school.
You should see him hold a radar gun too. Better than most of the scouts! Perfect extension, timing on the trigger flawless, this guy was so obviously analysis department material.
Sometimes I wave hello to people I don’t know. Most of the time they never wave back, but I figure, somebody else will think that person was my friend maybe, and that’ll make me seem cool.
Ruben Amaro, General Manager
I don’t really go in for all that stuff. Scotty told you about production right? Gut production? I’m all about that. I will tell you this though: I came up with one of those advanced formulas, all by myself, or maybe I read it somewhere, but I didn’t need a danged computer, unless I read it somewhere that was on a computer. Check it out: Runs + RBI divided by At Bats!2 I mean getting at Production through numbers is total blood from the stone shit, but that’s as close as I can get. ‘Cause if you can drive in runs and also run in runs then you’re making the most runs. If you hit a home run you drive a run in and you run that driven run in. So it counts for two! Now I have Chris tally those numbers while he’s working the radar gun. It’s a lot of work but we like to stay ahead of the curve here.
Ahahahahahahahahaha. No goddamned way. No fucking way.
Chris Cashman, Baseball Operations Representative
Yeah we’re aware of the saber stuff. Very aware of it. I walk around with full awareness of that. If you ever accused me of being unaware of it, you’d, look, you’d be really wrong, friend. And I mean, technology is a huge part of my job. Do you know how a radar gun even works? Lasers, man. That’s what someone told me. And I get a radio, and I read the numbers into the radio. That’s what we call the front lines my friend. This isn’t some cup-on-a-string operation. So I’ve got that AND the awareness of the things. Both of those. I run studies too, saber-y studies. Chris Wheeler comes to me all the time with stuff like “Name the college that Marlins manager Mike Redmond played college baseball at” which, first of all, is a grammatical train wreck. But I have to look that up on Google, and analyze the page for the answer. That’s what we do here. Analysis. “Name the three MLB teams that Mike Adams has played on other than the Phillies.” That’s another one. And, on top of all of that, I have to not tell anyone that he got the answer from me. This is the big leagues, man.
We’re always innovating. In 2014, you know, we’re probably going to have to be making a lot of changes to the roster. So I figure, we go out and get guys that hit the pitching in our division really well. Right? It seems obvious, but I don’t think a lot of teams have caught on to this. And the analysis department is perfect for this. Like I can go to Chris right now and say “We need a guy that can really hit this Gio Gonzalez kid!” And he comes back and says “Ryan Raburn is 6 for 11 off of him!” Boom. Chase Utley replacement. They’re way into that saber-y matchup stuff.
Do you need any coffee?
2Can’t even make this one up.