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Billy Beane thinks teams will have “IT coaches” someday

Mar 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

Billy Beane AP

Jonah Keri of Grantland sat down with Billy Beane to talk about a great many things. One of those things: the future integration of technology into the game. Here’s Beane, either looking into the future or willfully trying to give old baseball writers coronaries:

“There will be an IT coach at some point” in the dugout, crunching numbers in real time and sitting right next to the manager, Beane said. The A’s have yet to actually create such a position for very practical reasons. “It would be an extra coach, and [MLB] is pretty strict — we aren’t even allowed walkie-talkies,” Beane said about league restrictions on how many coaches a team can have, and what kind of contact they can have with the outside world during games. “But I believe at some point this will happen. There’s too much data that’s available not to want to use it.”

Absent access to a laptop or a smart phone during the game that may be of limited utility. But given that big binders are allowed I’m not sure why a laptop shouldn’t be. And if you have that information, what’s the harm in having someone there feeding it to a manager?

Apart from, like I said, giving old baseball men coronaries.

  1. gibbyfan - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Can’t see why computers wouldn’t be allowed in the dugout……….I’m surprised to learnthey are restricted.Maybe MLb considers them to Like an intellectual PED

  2. historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Show some grit, you math punks. Is there a rule against an abacus in the dugout? I thought not. If you’re so smart, do it longhand.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      BTW, I love the idea of two nerds in the corner frantically conferring with pencils and paper — the manager looks at them desperately as the batter waits for the sign and they jump up and yell: Don’t bunt!

      …And then they have to set up nerd rules and there are reviews to determine if the nerds are committing an infraction by using a calculator (prohibited) or if technically it qualifies as a digital abacus app on their phones.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      Slide rules are much more efficient.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        That’s a PEE — performance enhancing equipment. Not gritty.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        Are you saying I just failed a pee test?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        Never. I know you Florida “doctors” have ways of beating the tests.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:49 PM

        Also, is not the opposite of gritty smooth? I think I’d rather be smooth.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        That’s what Craig says.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        Poor, follicularly challenged Craig.

    • Eutaw's Finest - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      Would the nerds in the corner be subject to bench clearing brawls?

      “Hand my my inhaler… I’m going out.”

  3. halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    A laptop or smart phone will be unnecessary. In the future, the IT coach will have a positronic brain like Commander Data from Star Trek. Every team will have a Data.

    • sdelmonte - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      Or, if your fandom is Wars instead of Trek, a Lobot.

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        I had to just look up what a Lobot was. I didn’t realize that Lando’s aide with the weird headphones had a specific name. I thought he was just listening to Billy Idol or something with those ear muffs.

      • forsch31 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        To be honest, the only people who knew who/what Lobot was where the people who bought that action figure.

        Yes, I have one. Hey, the toy store was low that day.

      • sdelmonte - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Let’s just say that baseball is only one of many obsessions I have.

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        @forsch31,

        I know what you mean with the toy store thing. I remember going to the store with my dad as a kid wanting to come home with a Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo action figure and coming home with only a Princess Leia and Boba Fett action figure. I didn’t like it.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        You are incredibly lucky if you came home with Princess Leia, sir.

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        historiophiliac,

        Not if you are a 7 year old boy playing Star Wars with your friends. Having a Princess Leia action figure will not help the little boy with his friends.

    • forsch31 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Or if it’s Babylon 5, a Technomage.

      Hell, just get a Technomage. Gives “performance enhancing” a whole new meaning….

  4. stoutfiles - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Why would you need an IT manager? Have your stat guys give the percentages to the manager in a notebook to use during the game; most scenarios can be covered.

    Of course, the manager will ignore these stats due to his intuition, and the fact that he’s going to want to prove he’s better than the computer that’s doing his job for him.

    • clydeserra - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:38 PM

      I don’t think its “stats” the coaches would be looking at. those past data points are pretty well covered in managers meetings before the series.

      It would have to be some real time data (off the top of my head) like weather, speed of batted ball, speed of runner, speed of pitch, break of pitch, elasticity of the ground.

      Frankly I am not sure what would be helpful information. these are all guesses. Of course, its not my job to come up with productive data for in game decision making.

  5. chadjones27 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    I’d assume laptops aren’t allowed in the dugout because it could be a means of communication (ie: wi-fi-,text messaging,streaming live video of the pitcher holding a curve ball, etc…)

    • happytwinsfan - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      i think it’s the excuse but not the real reason. if they wanted they could mandate that only laptops with no wi-fi or any other communicative features be allowed.

      • chadjones27 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Right, because no one would try and cheat that.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        brian mccann wouldn’t let them

  6. rbj1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Why not have the IT coach sit in the stands in a seat right next to the dugout and talk to the manager. Or is that also not allowed? Plus it is only doable for the home team.

    • stoutfiles - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      That’s what the article just said. It would be a coach, not the manager. But you don’t need either, just a big ol’ notebook of scenarios cranked out by the stat boys for each game.

      • rbj1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        That’s actually what Girardi has. Earl Weaver used 3×5 note cards.

  7. mikhelb - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    electronic devices like computers and radios are not allowed to avoid the possibility of a team watchinga tv feed of the game and steal the catcher signs though more and more channels only show when the visiting team catcher sends signals to his pitcher (or rather they show the team that doesn’t have a contract with the channel).

    But still… a laptop is not needed if you have a binder with all the info (Joe Girardi style). Graphs and charts for every rival player could be printed before every series.

  8. nymets4ever - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    i’m sorry but the mental image this conjures up is pretty freaking dorky…hahah

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      And it was said by a guy with a World Series ring that was considered a better prospect than Daryl Strawberry.

  9. mdpickles - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Well, everyone but the Phillies will have an IT coach.

  10. timmmah10 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    The MLB can partner with Apple or some other tablet maker and have them create tablets without wireless modems… this would be the same as a binder. Just a database utility that the coach can use to crunch numbers.

    Not sure why this hasn’t happened yet.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Hey, remember the pink cell phones that were supposed to be installed for last season to replace the dugout phones? Yeah.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        Yea, but really didn’t we all figure a project partnered with T-Mobile not getting done on time?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        Oh sure, blame the girl on the motorcycle.

  11. Eutaw's Finest - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I get the premise but wouldn’t that technically be a statistical analytic coach, not so much an IT coach?

  12. stex52 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    Let’s go the next step. Build the statistical modeling into a pad without communication capacity and write an expert system that the Manager can key in one or two parameters and get a recommendation from. You don’t need a person if you write the expert program right.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      Don’t tell the pitcherwannabehitterballers. Their managers have to strategy and stuff. It’s super-complicated…but the solution is almost always that their pitcher bunts while folks in the stands go to the bathroom.

  13. leylandshospicenurse - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Easy, find a stat head that speaks multiple languages and call him a translator

  14. crackersnap - Mar 20, 2014 at 12:44 AM

    All this is presented as though there would be some kind of startling surprise for us to learn that the clubhouse behind the dugout is already loaded with people using technology to do things like run video loops of the game in play so that batters can see what the pitcher is doing pitch by pitch at-bat by at-bat.

    So you have stat guys with laptops running live a short walk from the dugout, and players and coaches walking back to those stat guys during the game, and all that happening anyway. So, crap, just give the manager Google Glass and build an app to feed him data right there at the rail as he looks out onto the field.

    It could get kind of cool for the advanced teams capable of developing new apps, which is where the Beanes of the world would hone their competitive edge. The manager might look out at the defensive infield alignment through Glass and the proprietary app scans what he sees and what it knows about the current batter and current pitcher and their most recent performance trends, and makes a suggestion pulled from the team scouting database to shift one side of the infield a few steps.

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