Phillies to Get with the Times?

This article by Tyler Kepner of the NY Times has an interesting quote from GM Ruben Amaro, who suggests the organization may finally get into the analytics game:

The Phillies have been slow to adapt to the analytics revolution in baseball, seeming to overvalue statistics like saves and runs batted in. Now is the time to learn.

“We may be looking to fortify some of our information with some more statistical analysis,” Amaro said. “We have to look at the way we do things and try to improve. That’s our job, to try to get better every year. I’m not so stubborn that we can’t try to do things a little bit different, or think that we can’t make better decisions. That’s what I’ll challenge our people to do, and I think they understand that. That’s part of what I expect of my staff, and of myself.”

While there are some aspects of Amaro’s statement that I take issue with, I am certainly not going to nitpick right after he makes the one move I’ve been begging the organization to make for years. They are one of the last remaining teams that does not officially make use of analytics. While a deeper appreciation of the numbers is no panacea for all that ails the Phillies, it should noticeably cut down on the more egregious errors, like giving Ryan Howard a five-year, $125 million contract extension two years before he becomes eligible for free agency, non-tendering Nate Schierholtz, vastly overpaying veteran relievers, and not trading anyone both by the July 31 trade deadline and the August 31 waiver deadline (this may change, but it seems unlikely).

Again, this is only one step in the hike that awaits the Phillies in their quest to return to National League superiority, but it is a necessary step and one that was well overdue.

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12 comments

  1. Steve

    August 26, 2013 08:13 AM

    So RAJ is going to “Challenge” his personnel to begin to think outside their little box. Unless they bring in someone from outside the organization who has shown an ability to usefully adapt the “statistical analysis” melded with the old school “you are what I see,” I don’t see much change happening while RAJ is in control. Unfortunately, that person would have to be given some authority to make change, I’ll believe it when I see it. I think the best change that has happened, and I liked Cholly, was the change in manager as Ryno has no commitment to the current roster and can make lineup moves that Cholly was not going to do. Right now he is strapped with a pretty pathetic deck of cards but at least the players seem to be responding.

    RAJ, trade Paps and MY, oh wait, we missed that window.

  2. James Kerti

    August 26, 2013 09:00 AM

    My first reaction was to make a snarky comment.

    Seriously though, this statement is great news and a big step in the right direction.

  3. Pencilfish

    August 26, 2013 09:50 AM

    Not trading anyone by the trade deadlines may have little to do with analytics. Not getting someone of value, for example.

    The one thing you missed is that analytics can hopefully help the Phillies draft better players. That’s a far more important issue.

  4. Poohsan

    August 26, 2013 10:55 AM

    Well as someone who used to statistical analysis for a living it would be nice to see some of these changes brought into the equation. That being said, baseball for all it quantifiable aspects is basically a game played by humans and players cannot be broken down into mere stats. The Cardinals organization has it down where they don’t just look at WAR and OBP and it seems to being working pretty well. If Amaro manages to keep his job through the winter he may surprise a few people. I am not saying I am a fan of all his moves but some have been good some, well we don’t need to beat a dead horse. BTW when are you going to have an iPhone app for this blog?

  5. Jonny5

    August 26, 2013 11:56 AM

    IDK Poohsan, it seems to me that statistical analysis of baseball is much much deeper than WAR and OBP. To just look at those things really isn’t statistical analysis, it’s merely analyzing WAR and OBP, which the Phillies probably already do.

  6. Joecatz

    August 26, 2013 12:40 PM

    It’s certainly a nice step. At the same time there has to be a complete embrace organizationally for that to work, and it starts with ownership.

    All you have to do is look at the Angels situation to see how bad things can get when you mix a traditional manager, a sabermetrically inclined GM and a meddlesome owner together.

    You can’t make smart decisions based on analytics and then have ownership call you and say I want josh Hamilton and I don’t care what he costs.

    The succesful transitions have come slowly.

    I would almost rather see Ruben amaro take baby steps, see some success, get ownership excited, and let the next guy work in a more accepted environment, organizationally.

  7. Phillie697

    August 26, 2013 12:52 PM

    Maybe having a bunch of amateurs on a Phillies blog be more right than he has for many many years finally made him realize, “hmmm… maybe there is something to this sabermetric thingie…”

    One can only hope.

  8. Cutter McCool

    August 26, 2013 11:29 PM

    “Statistics shmatistics. You can use statistics to prove anything that’s even remotely true.”–Homer Simpson

    I dont see why you need sabermetrics to figure out that signing players in their post-prime years (age 30+) to long twenty-plus million contracts is a bad idea, but to each their gnome. That’s just common sense. But those owners don’t do it for common sense– they do it to generate heat for their franchises. Espn is a 24hr hydraheaded hype machine that must be fed.

  9. Robby Bonfire

    August 27, 2013 10:46 AM

    The word “Sabermetrics” became politically incorrect, virtually overnight? We are not allowed to use it, anymore, because somehow it is “discriminatory, what with the word “American” in its title, and that wouldn’t be fair?

    The SABR organization folded? Bill James confessed that he has been bluffing his “expertise” all these years, just to make a buck? The sun rose in the west, this morning?

    Ok, so all I know is what I read in the papers, but I don’t read the papers, any more. Not quite ready to throw in the towel to the “New Speak” crowd.

  10. Dave GAUNTT

    August 27, 2013 11:52 AM

    Really Bill, I wish you would stop writing about the Phillies, because all you have negativity. If you were such a guru of baseball you’d be running a team, not writing a blog.

  11. GWB

    August 29, 2013 11:32 PM

    LOL…the discussion of the Phils is realistic not negative…if you had not noticed the last two seasons have been poor and mostly due to the Phils refusal to change/adapt and be innovative, not only with statistical analysis, but in a wide range of ways. They completely bungled this transition and are paying the piper now. If you want only a “positive” blog, start your own

  12. Robby Bonfire

    September 01, 2013 08:29 AM

    Love it. I have been “tarred and feathered” for years in various blogs, because so many Pollyanna’s, for want of a better term, confuse constructive criticism with “trolling” or just being a “Negative Nellie.” Fact is the collective opinion of informed, intensely-focused fans adds a dimension to the discussion the insiders would not otherwise be privy to.

    Also, blog sites such as this one are a lot more sophisticated than what you get out of your local newspaper sports section, which is mostly a P.R. front, anyway, these days.

    Here’s to the refreshing honesty coming down at sites like this one. Serves a real purpose, beyond just being a knee-jerk fan, no matter how decrepit your favorite sports organization has become. In the business world they are called “Yes men,” because they have no spine.

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