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Great moments in False Dichotomies: the Twins stats guy

Apr 25, 2013, 9:42 AM EDT

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The only instance I’ve ever heard of a sabermetric-oriented front office actually believing that scouting was for suckers came about 11 years ago when — rumor had it anyway — J.P. Ricciardi of the Blue Jays was actually peddling that stuff. And even then it was likely just big talk from a guy who was in over his head as a general manager.

In every other instance, the teams which have most famously embraced advanced baseball analysis — the A’s, the Rays, the Red Sox, etc. — have made the smart and, in reality, obvious and pragmatic decision to utilize and value the insight and data gathered by scouts as well as whatever they’ve gotten from their research people. There is literally no baseball team which has some dudes in rooms with laptops upon whose data they exclusively rely.

Yet we still read things like this from Mike Bernadino of the Pioneer Press, describing how the Twins actually do, contrary to popular opinion, have a stats guy on staff:

While major league front offices increasingly lean toward youthful Ivy League types weaned on the writings of Bill James and, more recently, publications such as Baseball Prospectus, the Twins seemingly have held the line on such supposedly outdated concepts as “makeup” and the “2-through-8 scouting.”

All of that is the basis for introduction of Jack Goin, the Twins’ Manager of Major League Administration and Baseball Research. Yes, the Twins stat dude.

I don’t know why Bernadino, like so many other writers, feels it necessary to set this up as some shocking reveal or major dichotomy, but that approach to this is the sort of thing which just perpetuates the dumb stats vs. scouts culture war in which many in baseball’s chattering classes engage. All teams have stats guys. All teams have scouts. Some may rely more heavily on the input of its scouts, some more on the input of its analysts, but everyone is gathering as much information as they can.

This should not be a shock, but it’s so often presented as though it should be. I find that baffling.

  1. randygnyc - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    In today’s world, made smaller through technology, there are no longer any secrets to be uncovered. Every team has equal access to information regarding prospects, here in the states and now, worldwide. Some teams focus on specific regions more than others though. MLB has changed recently away from being able to rely on free agency and more on home grown talent. I’d imagine that these teams, all of them, utilize every bit of info they can. Stats matter in how their crunched and who evaluates it and how much weight they’re given. Scouting is only as good as the evaluators. Experience matters here. Intuitively, the better scouts know how the skinny, 5 foot 6 inch, 16 year old kid is going to grow, fill out and progress physically over the next few years. It’s almost a study in genetics. My father had coached Denny Walling early in his career. They often spoke about talent evaluations. Today, it’s a science.

  2. Old Gator - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    Dichotomies? Look, there are two kinds of people in the world, Craig. Those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t.

  3. jcmeyer10 - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Hawk Harrelson just busted a vein upon hearing this heresy.

    • jwbiii - Apr 25, 2013 at 6:40 PM

      But he has the will to win®.

  4. Ben - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Scouts and stats answer different questions. It’s really that simple. No team can exist without both.

  5. hgulkkcaj - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Wow – great article Craig.

  6. zzalapski - Apr 25, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    Guess the Star Tribune doesn’t have a monopoly on local writers who are full of shit.

  7. Kevin S. - Apr 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Keith Law has said (with regret) that Ricciardi did indeed foster that anti-scouts attitude in the Jays front office.

  8. Jonny 5 - Apr 25, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Baffling? You are baffled that the media would twist “news as information” into “shocking news” for page views= revenue? Don’t be. Get used to it. With the Internet these guys are fighting for relevance. They need to twist it a bit to stand out from the herd. See it for what it is and not for what they say it is. Then it’s not as baffling.

  9. dsmaxsucks - Apr 25, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    I too am baffled by the word baffling. It doesn’t take too long on this site to be exposed to a weird stats vs. old guys dichotomy. Ever read posts about Cy Young or MVP or Harold Reynolds or Brian Kenny head going to explode.

    When don’t we see some version of the “that old guy believes that winning is more important than WHIP” or “Jack Morris didn’t pitch to the score because I have a formula that proves it”.

    And as we all slobber all over the geniuses at the Red Sox, perhaps we should ask why the Dodgers are so stupid that they traded for Crawford and Gonzales and Beckett when the mighty Sox gave up on all of them. Don’t they all suck?

    Dude went with the major dichotomy because Aaaron Gleeman has pointed out the Twins lack of a “stats guy” for years.

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