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Kevin Towers extolls “playing to the scoreboard”

Apr 1, 2013, 11:01 AM EDT

Kevin Towers

We’ve talked a lot about the Diamondbacks’ embrace of “gritty” players this year. The latest: Dbacks’ GM Kevin Towers sat down for an interview with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic and, during the part of the conversation about the team’s attitude — and yes, Nick asks Towers about “grit” — Towers brings up a new old thing when talking about his new kind of player:

They want to be there. It’s positive thoughts. They feel they’re going to come through. They thrive on it. There’s others that, they may not tell you, but you can tell in their body language and even in their approach. It’s a mind-set. It’s kind of what Gibby alludes to, which is very important, it’s playing to the scoreboard. What do I need to do right now to help my ballclub win? I think we were missing that the last two years. Those type of players who understood the game and the scoreboard and what you need to do to help your club win that particular night …

The only other time we’ve heard about playing to the scoreboard or something like it is when folks have trotted out that lame, post-factual chestnut about how Jack Morris’ high ERA was a result of him “pitching to the score.” I can’t help but think that Kirk Gibson, a Morris teammate, somehow has carried that mysterious skill with him to Arizona and is now sharing its secrets with the Diamondbacks.

Look out, NL. There’s a team in Arizona that knows what time it is. Er, I mean what the score is.

  1. danaking - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    it’s weird he’d use that term in that context. To me, “playing to the scoreboard” means don’t do anything low-percentage like crashing into a wall when the game is out of hand.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:29 AM

      I swear, Rafael Palmeiro (while in Baltimore, at least) hit every last one of his home runs in 7-1 games. If I were a manger or a GM, I’d take note of that type of thing. I’d also have a harder time getting mad at a guy for jogging out a grounder in some situations than others.

      None of this sounds unreasonable to me. And if I were in the dugout, watching the team all the time, I’d notice it, too.

      • jarathen - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        You’ll see aging sluggers do this often, I think, because pitchers aren’t throwing their best stuff out there. Games are out of reach, low-leverage reliever is in, they get better stuff to launch. New Yankee Vernon Wells hit lots of one-run useless dingers over the last two years.

  2. a125125125 - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    How can anyone take noted buffoon Craig Calcaterra seriously when he (with absolutely no resume or display of baseball knowledge) criticizes the strategical insight of a General Manager that got the San Diego Padres to the World Series?

    • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Well, you can do it because what Towers is saying is absolutely bonkers. There is really no such thing as “knowing how to win” in professional baseball, either players are good enough to win, or they are not….yes, that “skill” may exist, but players have to have it just to make it to the majors….if a guy can’t step up in a pressure situation, he wouldn’t be able to overcome the pressure to be an MLB player.

      This is just like “clutch hitting”…yes, there are clutch hits, but there are not “clutch hitters” (i.e. guys that are better in the clutch than in the non-clutch). Good hitters hit equally well in the clutch and non-clutch, and bad hitters hit equally bad in the clutch and non-clutch….and there are decades of data that demonstrate the fact….similar to the data to demonstrates that there is no such thing as “pitching to the score”.

      • heyblueyoustink - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        Bonkers! I promise to use that word in a sentence today. Totally blows away the word I was going to try and squeeze in, “umbrage”.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        Your faith in MLB players never fails to amaze me.

      • spudchukar - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        Sorry PL, but it is a ridiculous analogy, and totally inaccurate to boot. There are “decades of data” that dispute your claims about “clutch hitting”, and “pitching to the score”. First off, your categorization of “good hitters” and “bad hitters” is way too narrow. Yeah, bad hitters are generally bad, and good hitters are generally good. Wow, rocket science.

        Reductionism has its place, but it is fraught with the same type of misgivings, and creates the same type of errors as traditional generalities.

        Buster Olney conducted an interesting interview with Houston GM, Luhnow. Hope you saw it. Basically, Luhnow, who is known to pay more attention to new baseball metric analysis, stressed the importance of a holistic approach to player procurement. It was in reference to a new rotation strategy employed by some teams by lower level minor league teams, something called tandems. Houston is going to employ it at AA and AAA. For Houston at their present stage, it makes a lot of sense, but would seem idiotic for some teams and players particularly at the AAA level.

        But what Luhnow offered generally speaking, is the only truly intelligent approach. Which is the melding of modern statistical analysis, and common sense age-old lore and will enable some enlightened organization to out think any that employs only one or the other.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM

        There are “decades of data” that dispute your claims about “clutch hitting”, and “pitching to the score”.

        yes, and the data says there’s no such thing. For hitting, we have this study:

        money quote:
        The correlation between past and current clutch performance is .01, with a standard deviation of .07. In other words, there isn’t a significant ability in clutch hitting; if there were, the same players would be good clutch hitters every year.

        For pitching to the score, we have this one disputing Morris:

      • a125125125 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        Plus 1000 to spudchukar. If you think anyone (even Billy Beane, Jeff Luhnow, Theo Epstein etc) relies strictly on sabermetrics, you are mistaken. This relentless Stats v. Scouts debate was resolved many years ago in baseball circles. The result? It was a tie.

      • a125125125 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        Also….the only reason this debate persists in the media is because buffoons like Craig convince buffoons like his worshipers that you either have to: a) believe in stats and only stats OR b) believe in scouts and only scouts. And then Craig (and other writers like him) set out on the fool’s errand of pigeon-holing each GM as either a “Stat Guy” or an “Old School Guy.” Wise up people.

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Spud, there is nothing narrow about the definition….hitters hit exactly the same regardless of situation, yes, over small sample sizes odd things can happen, and those anomalies are then used to construct narratives that maintain….despite that fact that if you looked over a players career, he hit exactly the same in clutch situations as non-clutch situations.

        There are no examples of players that always hit better in the clutch.

        There are no examples of pitchers that have different results based on current score.

        …and there are no examples of players that step modify play in a positive fashion based on the scoreboard….they are always trying to do their best…there is no actual extra 10% to give 110% when it REALLY matters….there is no harder to try or to concentrate because that is the baseline required to be in the majors to begin with.

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        Note: I am not saying that “characterize”, effort, work ethic, etc are not important, of course they are…but the degree to which they are important is already manifest in their performance….there is no extra credit above and beyond how those things translate to performance.

      • blacksables - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        paperlions, here is more to the game than the stat sheet. Your refusal to accept that doesn’t mean you know more about the game than anyone else.

        It means you have tunnel vision and can only see numbers. That’s really sad, because its a great, beautiful game, full of many moments that can’t be captured by a formula, but still have an impact on the game.

        I’m not against sabermetics, but your refusal to look at the game in any other manner is really diminishing your understanding of it. For such a hard core baseball fan as you are, its really sad that you’re missing the action in front of you by reading a spreadsheet.

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:53 PM

        Yes, and that thing is understanding. You can ignore all the data and go happily about your way enjoying baseball and thinking whatever you like completely oblivious to fact. Personally, I can’t do that…I am curious about what is true and understanding things I am interested in. Knowing that clutch hitters don’t exist has no bearing whatsoever on my enjoyment of clutch hits…I will forever love David Freese because of his awesome clutch hits in the WS in 2011….I will also remain completely aware of the fact that his is not better in the clutch than he is during any other time.

        Enjoying baseball and understanding it are not exclusive, and both are not required, but they are complementary.

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        Also….there is no need to refuse to accept something. This isn’t some unknowable hokum. There is over a centuries worth of data to test theories, when the data do not support the theory…you need to adjust your theory. Accepting something for which there is no evidence is somewhat defensible….accepting things for which there is a ton of evidence that it does not exist is just stupid.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        Actually, sables, I think the numbers really do make the game for paper, and that’s okay. Some people like it that way and some people don’t. The problem on here is that everyone thinks they’re right and doesn’t respect other people’s views as different but equal. That cuts both ways. It’s the refusal to acknowledge that both sides are legit and their view has value that is the problem. Of course, the threads on these posts would be a lot shorter then…

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Nope, that isn’t it at all. The data allow for understanding, which can complement enjoyment, but is not required for it. One can go happily along believing that there are clutch hitters or guys that pitch to the score…or you can understand that such beasts do not exists….and neither perspective should detract at all from enjoying the on-the-field product.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:00 PM

        Ok, fine, you’re superior to the rest of us. Happy?

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:04 PM

        Again, not a question of superiority. Just a question of curiosity and wanting evidence to support opinions/theories rather than accepting them blindly or based on post-hoc narratives. I know you find this hard to believe, but I generally have no opinion of something until after I have information on which to base that opinion…at which point the opinion will probably be pretty strong until there is suitable information to change it.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        Stick a t-shirt in it.

      • blacksables - Apr 1, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        “Enjoying baseball and understanding it are not exclusive, and both are not required”

        Why would anyone do one without the other?

      • paperlions - Apr 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        I don’t know…but people do all the time by thinking things are true that are not (i.e. not understanding), and often these are things that can and have been evaluated….like each of the examples cited above. Extensive studies have evaluated each of those claims and found each to be unsupported.

    • cur68 - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Haha! Irony, right? I mean, YOU are calling someone else a “noted buffoon”. That’s hilarious.

      Seriously, if YOU’RE such the aw-thor-i-ty why don’t you get your own blog? After all, if Craig’s so awful, and you know it, then you could get an MSNBC blog and do your own sports commentary, right? ‘Cause you’re SO much better. So if this “buffoon” has a blog, and gets paid for it, you could EASILY do the same, right? Just link that when you do, mmmkay?

      Also, why do you keep reading this and commenting under multiple screen names? Surely you have much better uses for your doubtless valuable time.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:31 AM

        Be serious. a125:II would never get any traffic on his own. He has to piggy-back off of Craig to get attention.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        What other screen names does this guy use?

      • cur68 - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        18: he can tell you for sure, but there are suddenly WAY too many comments like this guy’s. All in the same vein, all with the same tone. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize writing style and its real easy to create a couple new handles. What we have here is a serial troll.

      • a125125125 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

        I have never and will never use multiple screen names on this site. I have no problem taking responsibility for what I write.

        I keep reading this awful site because it links to useful articles written by intelligent writers. I comment because I’m amused at how anyone (much less the multiple posters on this board) could put any stock in noted buffoon Craig Calcaterra’s worthless opinion.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        Not for nothing — and this coming from a guy posting under a pseudonym, too — but I’d accept the idea that you were accepting responsibility for your comments if you used your actual first and last names.

        I’ve picked a few fights here. The reason I use a pseudonym is because one of the people I slammed scared the hell out of me. (And one of them would, except for the fact that I’m quite sure we’re in different timezones.) What’s your excuse?

      • jm91rs - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        A125 and spudchukar I can see your frustration. The metrics guys don’t believe effort or clubhouse morale has any value because it should already be reflected in the metrics. I agree that there’s certainly use for both and I do believe the guy that figures out the best way to meld the two together will be the best GM.

        It’s nice to see some different views in the comments from time to time, there are about 5-10 screen names on here that I could swear were made for the sole purpose of supporting Craig’s posts. Either they’re all Craig or they’re all best friends sitting around having conversations via blog message board rather than actually talking in person.

        Either way, I enjoy the site for baseball news and some analysis, but mostly skip over the comments as it offers no useful argument when the main people posting (those of you that clearly post so often that’s there’s not much else going on in your lives) all try too hard to make it feel like a fraternity where everyone with a different opinion is not welcome. If Historiophiliac and paperlions are getting to you with their “we’re all friends here, you’re not welcome because you have a different opinion” crap, I suggest you skip the comments as well. You’ll enjoy the site much more that way.

      • cur68 - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        I call bullshit on “a12etc”. Link one article with a comment made by you where it WASN’T by Craig. Your sole reason for coming here is FOR Craig, and Craig alone. You don’t read anyone else or comment on anyone else. Why? You could give a shit about baseball. You just wanna bitch about Craig. Your opinion is valueless, you are not funny and you contribute zilch to any baseball discussion at all.

      • jm91rs - Apr 1, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        Well Cur, as annoyed as I am with the cronyism fraternity type of crap that goes on here on this site (where everyone with an opinion that differs from the 5-10 regular commenters had better be ready to be ganged up on), a quick google search of a125125125 shows that you might be right. Every hit was his (or her) comment on a Craig story calling him a buffoon. His sole existence seems to be to try to call out Craig.

        p.s. the fact that I had time to google a125125125 to research this is a little embarrassing, but I took the day off work and am just waiting for the first pitch! Let’s play ball

    • nategearhart - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      You don’t even know what “noted” means, apparently.

      • gmagic9044 - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    • zzalapski - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      And yet you keep coming back. What does that say about you?

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      Sooo…. I’m guessing you missed this article

      Y’know, the one where the noted buffoon plainly states that most functional front offices use stats and scouting hand-in-hand, instead of one or the other? That one?

      • a125125125 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        Right….and that one article makes up for the noted buffoon’s repeated attempts to paint GMs as idiots for considering (even for a second) non-stat based information.

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 1, 2013 at 4:25 PM

        Your characterization is self-serving and demonstrably false. But I wouldn’t want those annoying little fact-thingies to get in your way. Which obviously they don’t.

  3. historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    I really hate when people try to say they know what you’re thinking from body language and stuff like that. Stupid.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      I know what you’re thinking from the body language of your words.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        Well, the finger is universal, no?

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        Nope, that’s not it. I know you wrote something, but the body language of your words is suggesting something else entirely. Sorry, that’s definitely not it.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        The figure speaks for itself, eh?

  4. chacochicken - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    So, wait, trading Justin Upton, giving away Bauer, and signing Cody Ross wasn’t one enormous April Fools prank? Owwww

  5. Sign Ahead - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Towers’ quote is a fine example of euphemistic Arizona grit, but this weekend’s big winner was Derrick Hall (President of the Diamondbacks). Last night I spotted him on the local 10 o’clock news, telling us that we have a lot of new players who “care more about the name on the front of the jersey than they do about the name on the back” and are “going to play like their hair’s on fire.”

    I’m vaguely optimistic about the new players. Prado, in particular, sounds like he’s going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully they play well enough to help me forget all of the embarrassing things our front office has said during the off-season.

    • professormaddog31 - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Martin’s a damn fine player – enjoy him, for he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the game.

    • nsauser - Apr 1, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      The careers of Hill and Prado suggest a down year or two for both. I think the Dbacks have over committed salary again but not to the point of Eric Byrnes and Chris Young, but we’ll have to see how things shake out. I think the recent Goldie deal is good for the Dbacks but it has the potential to be an albatross too.

      I think the management had to make unpopular decisions in terms of personnel but I wish they were just honest about it. There’s no way you can spin trading Justin Upton and replacing him with Cody Ross (on DL) and Martin Prado. As a Braves fan first I respect the way Prado plays but not sure he’s worth $10 million a year over 4 yrs.

      I imagine Gibby and Towers have about 2 more .500 seasons left before they hit the road.

  6. louhudson23 - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Playing to the scoreboard means not swinging from your heels down with two strikes and down by two runs in the ninth….or on defense,a second baseman knocking down an otherwise unplayable single to keep a tie/winning runner from advancing in that same game….or an outfielder not throwing to the plate and going to second instead to keep the base runner(tie/winning)run from scoring in that same game or a pitcher walking the winning run instead of going after him in that same game. Situation Baseball. The game,not the numbers.

  7. livepredictor - Apr 1, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    I project that Mark T will have a comeback season like the one that I projected for Adam L for Washington.

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