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Hubris? Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik to speak at 2014 SABR Analytics Conference in March

Dec 13, 2013, 11:00 PM EDT

jack zduriencik getty Getty Images

Tremors from Geoff Baker’s earth-shattering piece in the Seattle Times are still being felt. At the same time the Mariners were closing in on a ten-year deal with second baseman Robinson Cano, many were questioning the authenticity and direction of GM Jack Zduriencik’s front office as a result of revelations in Baker’s piece, reliant on quotes from former special assistant Tony Blengino and ex-manager Eric Wedge.

In the piece, Blengino calls into question Zduriencik’s true understanding of analytics, as Zduriencik was hired by the Mariners in large part due to his perceived ability to blend stats and scouting. Blengino, from Baker’s piece:

“Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “But Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door.”

Perhaps this particular domino was set up well in advance of the unexpected column by Baker, but the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) just announced that Zduriencik will be a speaker at the 2014 Analytics Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in March. Interesting timing, yeah?

  1. alexo0 - Dec 13, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Only one question can reveal Zduriencik’s true colors:

    “Hey Jack, Cabrera or Trout?”

    • dinofrank60 - Dec 13, 2013 at 11:50 PM

      He might be thinking that Orlando Cabrera would be a good fit for the M’s!

    • baseballisboring - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      I would assume it’s gonna just be a speech that someone else wrote for him, don’t think he’ll field any questions. God what an amazingly revealing question that would be. “Which player is better, and why?”

  2. andreweac - Dec 13, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    Will Mickey “walks are a false stat” Hatcher be copresenting?

  3. meatcarroll - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    Sabermetrics are the cancer that is killing baseball. Miguel Cabrera is the rightful MVP, turbo-nerds. Deal with it.

    • baseballisboring - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:14 AM

      Troll.

    • cohnjusack - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:33 AM

      You lose all rights to call anyone a nerd when you are commenting on an article at 12:51 am on a Friday night/Saturday morning.

      (And yes…I realize I am responding to this at 1:32 am. That’s because I in no way hide my nerdiness or the fact that I spent my Friday evening listening to Bad Religion albums…on CD…because I like to read the liner notes while listening).

      • frank433 - Dec 14, 2013 at 2:42 AM

        He is the rightful MVP because he won it, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a debate as to another player(s) being worthy of it. )(coming from a Tigers fan who pulled for Cabrera and Verlander to win it the last few years)

      • albertmn - Dec 14, 2013 at 8:22 AM

        How does the time of day or night that someone posts have anything to do with them as a person and what they may comment on? Various people work all kinds of different shifts for whatever job they may have and/or their sleep schedule may be wildly different than yours. Are you implying that all the cool people have to be out partying every Friday/Saturday night?

      • cohnjusack - Dec 14, 2013 at 9:17 AM

        Are you implying that all the cool people have to be out partying every Friday/Saturday night?

        Yes.

        I’m not really sure why you had to ask…I felt the implication was extremely clear.

      • djpostl - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        @albertmn he didn’t judge them as a person. He very accurately pointed out that if you’re trolling an interent forum at nearly 1 AM on a weekend night then you shouldn’t be tossing the wrod “nerd” around at other people.

        It’s not that hard a concept to grasp.

      • rnrfan - Dec 15, 2013 at 6:13 PM

        #1) Nerds are cool. It’s the 21st century.
        #2) Bad F-in’ Religion!?!?!?! Cohnjusack, you are officially the coolest person commenting on HardballTalk. :) Yeah, I’m a big fan (since I was in high school, which, sadly, was a long time ago)…

    • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      I know, right.

      Science has killed many things. Health care. Dentistry. Travel. Communications. Manufacturing. You name it, and better understanding of it has totally killed that thing.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM

        To be fair, it is killing religion.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        Well, yes. But it is killing it mostly by not being able to study it.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 14, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Only for those who fail to understand that faith and science are not incompatible.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM

        This as well. Just because you are taught something by organized religion that appears to be incorrect….that should have no bearing on your faith. It kind of amazes me that people don’t understand the difference between faith and organized religion. Organized religions are mostly designed to accumulate and wield power, they should have little to do with one’s faith.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        They’re perfectly compatible if one is willing to take a loose interpretation of a religion’s texts and re-interpret them every time science demonstrates the old understanding of them is wrong. But it does weaken the authority of the religion every time that happens. It just weakens the authority more when the religion doesn’t adapt.

  4. meatcarroll - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    Sabermetrics are the cancer that is killing baseball. Miguel Cabrera is the rightful MVP, turbo-nerds. Deal with it.

    • largebill - Dec 14, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Now you’re just repeating yourself.

      Debating awards winners long pre-dates the existence of sabermetrics. Also, creating new and more revealing stats to understand how players compare has been a part of baseball since the beginning of the game. In 1869, batting average and ERA were not calculated. Teams barely kept track of runs scored. As time went on more and more specific stats were tracked to keep a more complete record of what happened during games. We don’t know how good a base stealer Ty Cobb was because caught stealing stats are incomplete for his career. Someone is not a turbo nerd merely because they want to have a better understanding of the game. Also, since the meaning of “most valuable” is debatable, we are not automatically right just because Trout had a better overall season.

  5. blynch67 - Dec 14, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Well, at the very least, this should be an entertaining presentation.

    Attendees will be able to determine once and for all if Jack Z has any analytical skills.

    • largebill - Dec 14, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Maybe, maybe not. Given that much time to prepare a speech (and with the right help) I could give a reasonable presentation on any number of subjects about which I’m actually somewhat ignorant.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 10:14 AM

        Well, they would seem reasonable to other people that are ignorant about it. But if during your preparation you didn’t actually develop true understanding of the subject, it would be very evident to anyone that is an expert in the field that you didn’t know what you were talking about.

        You can always tell the depth at which someone understands a subject when they have to give a talk on it or discuss it.

      • ptfu - Dec 14, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        Wait till the post-speech question & answer session/bull session in the bar.

      • mazblast - Dec 15, 2013 at 12:21 AM

        I made much of my college spending money by writing papers on subjects about which I knew little or nothing, usually for well-off kids who knew even less but who were destined from birth to take over Dad’s business and who were just marking time.

        Judging by Jack Z’s performance as Mariners GM, I’d say he’s just marking time, too, but without the prospect of guaranteed future employment.

  6. Old Gator - Dec 14, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    I like the way everyone assumes that a vomit of accusations by two guys who got fired, one of whom was a manager who couldn’t inspire his team to stretch beyond their talents (or even play up to them) are automatically true. Maybe the Mariners FO isn’t the brightest bunch of bulbs in the ceiling. Maybe budget limitations had something to do with it (as they surely will when Cano runs out of steam with five years left on his ridiculous contract). But these two guys were part of a collective failure in an industry that routinely punishes collective failures by dumping scapegoats and “setting examples.” And who knows how much of this stuff was goaded out of them by a hack spawrtsriter? Something stinks to me about all of the circumstances surrounding this “earthshaking” article. And one thing for sure: it looks to me like JZ, whatever his “statistical analysis” shortcomings might be, has shown a lot more dignity and circumspection in his reaction to the article that its writer and his accusers did in promulgating it.

    • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      A number of people that do chats and that are “in the biz” have been asked about the piece and each of them said pretty much the same thing. Nothing new in there. Everyone in baseball already knows those things and much much more about Jack Z and the dysfunction in the Mariner FO. The only surprise to anyone was that someone would go on record, which makes them think that things must actually have been much worse than people outside the organization had heard….because you essentially blackball yourself by revealing such things to the press.

      • Old Gator - Dec 14, 2013 at 11:37 AM

        Well, there’s nothing new about it if your evidence is that the team has had a long history of mediocrity or failure. That’s a given. And I’m not in any position, obviously, to insist that the article is a farrago of exaggerations or lies, either. Just cautioning that you can’t trust the average spawrtsriter as far as you can throw one.

        But yes, I agree – you shoot yourself in the foot bigtime in an incestuous world like MLB by going on record, which also raises the question of whether, based on their own performances, Wedge and Blengino – unless they were just being stupid or gullible when the reporter questioned them – figured they had nothing to lose anyway. If you and I, sitting out here, know that, you have to figure they understood it that much better.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        It think the “nothing to lose” aspect has nothing to do with their performance, as many people fired by Jack Z immediately landed positions with other teams. I think they think they have nothing to lose because they think that everyone in the industry knows how badly they were treated and won’t blame them for speaking on the record. In other words, them speaking publicly about shabby treatment won’t affect their ability to land new jobs.

      • Old Gator - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It’s hard to imagine that a general manager who wanted to keep his job – especially one whose prior experience was at the same level of his primary accuser – would go out of his way to marginalize or neuter someone in his organization who was entirely competent. I’ve rarely seen situations like this where all the blame came down on one side. I’m remaining skeptical for the time being.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:58 PM

        I have no idea how hard the guy is to work with….what I do know is that Jack Z is not the type of GM he claimed he was….he pretty much never made personnel decisions consistent with being well versed (or even semi-familiar) with advanced metrics.

        I have seen plenty of administrative situations in which a collaboration was successful, but one person thought they were the entire reason for success and then fell flat on their face as they tried to do everything their way because they really didn’t understand the nature of the success before.

        Some of the guys Jack Z marginalized and then fired were immediately hired by other teams.

        You are right. We will see. But there is a distinct lack of people claiming the story is inaccurate. Not a single person has denied anything, and not even an anonymous source has contradicted anything.

        There are plenty of online writers/scouts/sabermetricians with NW roots that grew up Seattle fans and that have contacts in the industry now. Many of them said they were aware of everything in the story and more, but would never write about or discuss any of it because it was off the record. I have no idea how that compared to your “average” organization.

      • Old Gator - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

        Heh – since every so-called organization with which I am familiar was dysfunctional at some level, that is my idea of the “average” organization.

      • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        Yeah, the biggest “problem” with the story is that we don’t know if this is average dysfunction and dickishness as far as MLB goes.

  7. drewsylvania - Dec 14, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Looks like we’ll find out’

  8. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 14, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    I heard he’s chairing the “Why you can never have enough 1B/DH types” panel as well as “The Art of The Overpay; How I Learned To Save My Job” symposium.

    • paperlions - Dec 14, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      I would think the title would be something like: “The art of deflection: how to effectively blame others for your own incompetence”

  9. moogro - Dec 14, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    You’d think that he has to speak there now.

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