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Extending Terry Francona and wearing too much green … While We’re Waiting

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Beane Counters. I am obviously not one of the big advanced metrics guys on the site. I did enjoy this piece by Grantland’s Jonah Keri. In it Oakland GM Billy Beane talks about the kind of people he wants to hire in his organization and says that sometimes these lower tier front office types could be more valuable in the long run than free agents.

I’ve thought for a while that the two most important skills in an organization are identifying (or evaluating) and developing talent. In baseball terms, how good would an organization be, regardless of market size, if they had a pipeline of talent coming through the minor leagues every year? The answer is obvious. In the NFL the draft is such a HUGE deal, but what if you could increase your chance of hitting on each pick by 15-25%? How much better would your team be year in and year out?

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Terry Francona is the closer. At least according to his new closer John Axford. Francona, WFNY’s sportsman of the year for 2013, is more than just a manager. He is a recruiter as well. We’ve heard it before about players like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, but even guys like Ryan Raburn and John Axford are saying this guy is the reason players want to come to Cleveland.

Perhaps this season, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to think about a contract extension for Francona, who signed a four year deal last year. It couldn’t hurt to let the players know that the manager they love so much is going to be around for the long term. That’s kind of a funny sentence to type in this town.

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 Cavs Rank continues at Stepien Rules  with #6 Austin Carr.

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The St. Patrick’s Day special uniforms are getting a tad ridiculous. I totally get the Celtics having a special uniform for the day. I could even understand an NBA or NHL franchise playing a home game that has a significant Irish population getting in the act.

But why in the world are MLB teams playing spring training games in the middle of the desert undergoing such drastic changes for a game? Makes no sense. I know, I know. $$$$

  • saggy

    I, personally, AM an advanced metrics guy. But I’m not married to the numbers for 2 simple reasons:

    1. People change. I don’t like metrics that use 1 micro-cycle (even this term is hard to define) of data to let me know what a player will do for the rest of his career.

    2. I think metrics are a way for people to hide behind the numbers without absorbing the accountability. If the numbers say to do something, they do it, and sometimes that’s not the right move. But pure numbers people will always come back to the numbers when, you know, the games ain’t played on paper.

  • boomhauertjs

    I think I’d be willing to let Francona manage the Tribe for as long as he wants to.

  • mgbode

    how good would an organization be, regardless of market size, if they
    had a pipeline of talent coming through the minor leagues every year?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the St. Louis Cardinals

  • mgbode

    Yes. But, once he wins 2 World Series for us, he may want to go and break the Cubs curse for them 😉

  • mgbode

    I completely agree. The numbers are meaningless without being properly analyzed and applied.

  • mgbode

    St. Patrick’s Day uniforms: I have no problem with them though I think the best ones are more subtle like the Angel’s did:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bi9qVGNCcAAirb0.jpg

    I also enjoyed the green w/ white shamrock bases that the Red Sox did. And, anytime you can add a green shamrock to a baseball hat, well you just should do it.

    But, I do agree that going All-Green for a non-green team is a tad ridiculous (outside Boston whose Irish population warrants such measures).

  • mgbode

    From that Uni-Watch article: Nick Swisher is doing his best to win me over. If I just don’t listen to his interviews, I think I can get on board (Skyline & Area Code is a nice touch):

    https://twitter.com/CatchThat17/status/445680747505274880

  • Jason Hurley

    And I know it’s really and “N”, but it looks like a Big Z on his shoe, too. Nice touch!

  • Jason Hurley

    Practically, it seems like you’d wait until after his 2nd year until you actually talk extension, but so far so good!

  • Steve

    “I don’t like metrics that use 1 micro-cycle of data to let me know what a player will do for the rest of his career”

    I would argue that this isn’t an advanced metrics flaw. This is an everywhere flaw. The advanced metrics guys have a great grasp on how predictive their numbers actually are.

    I’d guess the same can be said for #2, but could use some examples to get at exactly what you mean.

  • saggy

    fair enough.

    In a too simple, vague, example: fantasy baseball websites. they take a guy’s 67-game sample size and immediately say he has a certain “hit tool” or whatever (another term i can’t stand). They say he will steal X bases and hit X homers, etc… They may even invoke his minor league stats – which we should know are bogus since they are against, you know, minor leaguers.

    but so many things in all of life are immeasurable. I can run a mile at a certain pace, and when my arthritis isn’t bad I can run faster. But numbers don’t actually account for that sort of thing.

    Are broad strokes relevant? sure, that’s why analytics work at all. But they often miss the finer points like how a change in diet, or a divorce, birth of a child, or a bearish stock market affects a person. Those things may one day be able to be quantified, but it will take a lot more than numbers to get to that point.

  • CB Everett

    Couldn’t agree more. They don’t overuse that Bud money and usually end up middle of the pack in the payroll rankings. Just amazing talent eval and selective FA veteran signings over the years to push them into contention (Beltran, Holliday, Berkaman, now Peralta). Great rabid fans as well (at the risk of rankling people here, StL is a devoted baseball town, and they are all about their Cards).

  • Steve

    “fantasy baseball websites”

    Let me stop you right here. These almost never count as “advanced metrics guys”. They may be people who use advanced metrics, but they’re just consumers, not producers. The ones who are unable to properly analyze advanced metric data are the ones who are unable to properly analyze batting average and RBI too.

    Disagree on minor league stats, there’s some value in using them if you know how the league translates, but it’s not worth quibbling over.

    You seem to be looking for specific day-to-day info, which just won’t be feasible, and no one knows this better than the “advanced metrics guys”. Even if a guy is having a bad day because of a divorce or his arthritis, he might run into one. The samples are too small from day to day to put much meaning in any one, or think we can predict one.

    I find it frustrating when the “advanced metric guys” get knocked for stuff like this, for seemingly being unable to square the circle. They’re the ones who have made the biggest strides in providing us with new, excellent data recently, and telling us how difficult it actually is to obtain that data you’re looking for. They know their own current limits better than anyone else and realize how much more they have yet to learn, yet they are the ones who get talked about like they think they’re smarter than everyone else and already know everything.

  • saggy

    you’d be making a mistake if you really think fantasy websites don’t use advanced metrics guys. I know 2 kids from MIT who ran their own projections and sold them to one of these sites. there is huge money in fantasy sports, and there is competition. I don’t pretend that these are the cream of the crop in analysis but there are some very intelligent folks there.

    One example: A guy i know wrote a fantasy football program years ago – it was the first of its kind. He sold it to an NFL football team, and his cousin became a head coach in the league on the strength of those analytics.

    As far as day-to-day stuff goes, you can’t just poo-poo it by saying “no one knows this better than advanced metrics guys” when the case is that NOBODY knows how that stuff affects you. That the definition of a variable.

    I love research and i love to play devil’s advocate because i consider myself a good scientist. I work with the human body and I am always looking for a way to quantify things. it’s impossible because the external validity is low – there are way too many things to control. Even though we try to eliminate the noise, there is too much of it to be perfect.

  • saggy

    you know, forget my whole diatribe. i really think my stated #1 reason above is the reason i least like metrics (even though i do like them). People Change. pure and simple. One of my teammates was 5-3, 135 when he was 16. He is 6-2, 200 now. he’s better than he used to be. I know kids who have put 200 pounds on their squats in a year. where’s the metric that takes that into account?

    Would there have been a metric for Ronnie Lott after he cut off his finger? How about for Kellen Winslow after his moto accident?

    People change. SItuations change. Metrics can’t keep up with that.

  • Steve

    It’s been a while since I played fantasy baseball, but from my experience, many more are shooting from their hip than buying data from actual scientists.

    And it’s not just how that stuff affects you day to day. It’s also that one day is a near-useless sample size. Even if we know how one of those examples affects you we still wouldn’t be able to glean useful information from the results.

    And who said anything about having to be perfect? Making perfect the enemy of good is incredibly shortsighted.

  • Steve

    Sigh. Everyone, especially the “advanced metric guys”, know that freak occurences like Lott and Winslow can make big differences, and, again, no one knows better than them just how much they can be off from the expected data.

    Same with 16 year olds. People who act like they can figure out what teenagers will be like an hour from now, much less in five to ten years, are fooling only themselves,

    The “advanced metric guys” qualify any metrics in those cases. They qualify their statements a lot more than anyone else making the prediction game because they know how difficult it is to make predictions. But they also know that throwing up our hands and going “well, we don’t really know” is going backwards not forwards.