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Phillies front office: “Sabermetrics? We don’t need no stinkin’ sabermetrics!”

Mar 2, 2012, 9:13 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

That may not be an exact quote. And really isn’t anything close to what the Phillies people said in the article. I just like “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and try to use that construction whenever possible.

But Bob Brookover of the Philly Inquirer does write today about how Ruben Amaro and his team aren’t as taken with statheaddy concerns as a lot of other teams:

WAR – wins above replacement. What is it good for?

The Phillies will not tell you “absolutely nothing,” but when it comes to evaluating talent, they are much more inclined to rely on human eyes than sabermetric calculations.

“We do utilize some of the information,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said during a recent workout at the Carpenter Complex. “There are times when I think maybe we should use it some more, but, frankly, I have a great deal of confidence in the people that we have hired to help us make some of the scouting and personnel decisions. I err on that side probably because I believe in our people.”

Brookover goes on to quote the Phillies’ analytics people who say that they use some stuff and not others and that their biggest use for some of the advanced metrics is to try to figure out how other teams — who do use them a lot — might value a given player.

Interesting enough, but the whole “stats or no stats” thing is so very ten years ago. Every team uses stats in some capacity and every team relies on traditional or more advanced eye-witness scouting techniques too. Indeed, you can read the quotes from Amaro and the other people to mean “we don’t use WAR because, dude, we have our own proprietary analytics that are way better than that.” ¬†Which most teams do.

The binary stats vs. scouts thing in front offices basically doesn’t exist anymore. Teams have different ways to skin the player development cat, but none of them take some stubborn position that certain types of knives shouldn’t be used.

  1. phillyphreak - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    At least Brookover was able to work in the lazy WAR joke.

  2. gendisarray - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    Sad to admit, but it was years before I knew that came from “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and not from “Blazing Saddles.”

    • 12strikes - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      Sad to admit but I did not know till I READ THIS POST.

      • Cran Boy - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        Actually, it is from “Blazing Saddles.” The line in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” The line “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” is from “Blazing Saddles.”

      • snowbirdgothic - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:18 PM

        But what about “Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!”

      • foreverchipper10 - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:58 PM

        badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger MUSHROOM MUSHROOM

  3. Alex K - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    I doubt any teams use fWAR or rWAR for anything. If they do use metrics I’m sure they are probably thier own. I would love to see CubsWAR differs from RedSoxWAR or PadresWAR since the front office changes. Heck, I would love to see what any of the proprietary stuff looks like and how if values certain players.

    • phillyphreak - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:32 AM


    • bravojawja - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      I wonder how proprietary these stats are. Can Epstein even take RedSoxWAR with him to Chicago or is that Boston’s intellectual property?

      This is Masturbating Bear territory here.

      • Alex K - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:37 AM

        I doubt he can. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some similarities between the two. I would imagine that every team’s is somewhat similar, in that they probably have very similar inputs (OBP, SLG, ect). Where the biggest difference would most likely be is in weighting of inputs and how they measure defense.

      • mcsnide - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:44 PM

        Well, sure, he took whatever of it with him he can remember or has notes on. But as for the software that spits out the analysis, nope. That belongs to the Sox:–20111017_1_sabermetrics-cubs-convention-chairman-tom-ricketts

  4. kandh2004 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Whatever they are doing has to be right RIGHT?

  5. ame123 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    So you mean to tell me that being able to sort by the WAR column on fangraphs doesn’t make us into professional talent evaluators?

  6. stex52 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    A lot of discussion swirls around “What is the next big inefficiency?” and I think that is what this conversation is morphing into. As Craig says, most of the organizations that tried to ignore the more sophisticated tools are past that, now – Astros being the latest to fall. But I wonder if the next advance isn’t more in the direction of quantifying the tools that scouts use and getting better projections for the young players. Examples: prone to injury? work ethic? stable emotional background?

    To pick a couple of examples from the Astros, which I know best; why did a 23rd round draft choice (Roy Oswalt) become a #1 pitcher? What did we miss? Similarly; Derick Grigsby is drafted #1 in 2002 and never makes it to the majors due to mental illness. What did we miss?

    Everyone says the whole draft process is hit or miss – particularly on #1 draft choices. But find the weaknesses there and improve on the choices you make, and you will profit enormously.

  7. cur68 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Ahhh, but do any of them use TOOTBLAN? That’s a team I’d root for.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:54 AM

      TOOTBLAN rocks!

    • Gamera the Brave - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      Since Theriot now plays for los Gigantes, you must now root for them.
      It was the Theriot trade to the Giants that first exposed me to the concept of TOOTBLAN.

    • stex52 - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      Love this blog. Never heard of TOOTBLAN until today. I will add to my baseball lexicon.

      Sue Ellen likes.

      • cur68 - Mar 2, 2012 at 4:22 PM

        Its my hope, Suzy, that McCarver will have a go at defining it on air.

  8. hasbeen5 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    They rely on their “Talent Scouts,” they buy them shirts and everything.

    • Gamera the Brave - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      Nice use of blog entry cross-pollination!

  9. lardin - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    IMO you need both to build a quality team. Stats tell you almost everything you need to know about a player. But they dont tell you things like, how they rebound from bad outings or can they make adjustments from at bat to at bat. Are they comfortable in a big spot? The great closers like MO or Papblebon dont let a blown save roll over into the next game. Great hitters will realize how a pitcher is going after them and adjust. Tom Gordon was throwing up in the Yankees bullpen in 2004, scared to pitch.

  10. metalhead65 - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    well that explains why the phillies are such a lousy team and never win! I mean how can they expect to win by simply relying on what they see on the field? they really need to rely on the expert advice of the saber experts if they really want to turn that team around..what? oh nevermind then.

    • nategearhart - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      I get that you are being sarcastic. But they don’t “simply rely on what they see on the field”. If you think they don’t use any advanced metrics you’re outta your mind.

  11. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Just seeing a picture of NinJr putting on his Jedi Vision Shades makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Play Ball!!!!!

  12. phillyphreak - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Still adding my shameless plugs: still need about 6 more people to fill out a 5×5 roto league….interested parties please inquire to this name at yahoo.

    Also, maybe RAJ is just pulling the wool partly over people’s eyes. I’m sure they have their own metrics they use.

  13. flavius217 - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    When you hand out ridiculous contracts to an overrated, platoon-needing 1B and an overrated pitcher who will throw 60-70 IP, maybe you ought to consider listening to your quantitative guys some more.

    • ame123 - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      U Mad? Sounds like U mad.

  14. El Bravo - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    hahahaha, the Phillies are terrible

    • nategearhart - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      They could be on their way. Amaro is great at the savvy trade for a player everyone knows is good, but long term they need to keep developing well. That Howard contract is going to turn into an albatross, and they are going to need cheap talent very very soon.

    • mercyflush - Mar 3, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      “hahahaha, the Phillies are terrible”

      9 straight winning seasons, and 10 of 11.

      They’re doing something right.

      Also, for a team saying they don’t use sabermetrics, that second baseman and that starting rotation are pretty freaking sabermetrical. (sabermetric-ish?)

  15. rpd118 - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    The Howard accounts for 13% of annual payroll, roughly the same as the sunk Jenkins and Eaton contracts when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

    Did they pay $2M more than they needed to annually to sign Papelbon? You can make that argument, but the fact is they got the best guy available. Wouldn’t it be negligent for a luxury-tax-touching team NOT to do so?

    It’s time to stop pretending the GMs of the Phillies and Yankees and Royals and Rays should be judged by the same criteria.

    • ame123 - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      Fans of poor teams like the Braves don’t know any other way to judge decisions.

  16. paperlions - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    No teams use sabermetrics to evaluate talent….that is what scouts are for….sabermetrics attempt (within statistical analysis, everything is an attempt as there is always some level of error…just as scouts attempt to evaluate talent, but are never 100% correct) to identify which aspects of performance can be attributed to players and how those aspects contribute to wins and losses…which is totally different that scouting or evaluating talent.

    FWIW, there has never been a team that fired all its scouts or stopped relying on scouts to evaluate talent. Teams just realized there were aspects of winning that they had no ability whatsoever to evaluate, estimate, or understand, and that they needed new tools to address that knowledge gap because the extant ones simply were not able to do so.

  17. badmamainphilliesjamas - Mar 2, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Did I mis-read Moneyball? It is another way (beyond scouting) to evaluate talent and more accurately value players in the marketplace–basically value investing in the baseball market.

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