Ruben Amaro Jr & Charlie Manuel and the value of the walk

No one will make the argument that either Ruben Amaro Jr or Charlie Manuel were great baseball players, though they did play a combined 14 years in the major leagues. Neither was an everyday player so it is difficult to compare them to other players, and their use as pinch hitters and replacements greatly skew their per/162 game numbers.

Here are their career slash lines:

Amaro – .235/.310/.353

Manuel – .198/.273/.260

But what is more interesting to me is what they were like in their peak year.

Amaro (1992) – 427 PA, 7HR, .219/.303.348, 37 BBs, 54 SOs (though on small sample size his 1996 season line of .316/..380/.453 over 130 plate appearance is pretty good) – Delmon Young’s highest amount of walks in a season is 35

Manuel (1969 – rookie year) – 194 PA, 2 HR .207/.320/.280, 28 BBs, 33 SOs

This got me wondering, did these two players have as good plate discipline as it appears they do? career BB% (with the MLB average) and K% (with MLB average) are below:

Amaro – 8.4% (8.8%) BB%, 12.2% (16.0%) K%

Manuel – 9.3% (8.8%) BB%, 17.8% (14.1%) K%

Though neither were exceptional both drew walks at a good rate and especially Amaro did not strike out at a high rate. Neither made good contact at the major league level with low career BABIPs of .255 (Amaro) and .233 (Manuel) and neither had exceptional power.

Just for fun I looked at their minor league careers, it is very clear that the stats for Manuel are utterly unreliable (for some reason minor league stats in the 60s weren’t tracked well). Amaro has an immense minor league career to look at but for fun here are his years leading up to his major league debut:

1987 : age 22 : A- : 306 PAs, .282/.409/.373, 49 BBs, 28 SOs

1988 : age 23 : A-AA : 573 PAs, .257/.410/.328, 109 BBs, 66 SOs

1989 : age 24 : A-AA : 375 PAs, .368/.466/.523, 52 BBs, 44 SOs

1990 : age 25 : AA -AAA : 639 PAs, .317/.407/.448, 69 BBs, 66 SOs

1991 : age 26 : AAA : 552 PAs, .326/.411/.460. 63 BBs, 48 SOs (made debut for Angels) – Amaro hit 42 2Bs in AAA that year

Just for a second think about if Amaro was in the system right now. How would we evaluate him as a prospect? Now add to that he was playing both 2B and the OF, but could sub at SS, C, or 1B in a pinch. There would be a Twitter campaign of “Free Amaro” and articles about his plate discipline. Over his entire minor league career Amaro had 439/387 BB/K rate which is quite exceptional for a player without good power.

So this all matters very little, the question is just how did a player who relied so much on the walk come to despise it so much? Giving little thought to advanced metrics there should be a connection between the player and the General Manager of a major league franchise. As for Manuel, he was never the prolific hitter that Amaro was but he certainly saw the value of a walk during his playing days.

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

52 thoughts on “Ruben Amaro Jr & Charlie Manuel and the value of the walk

  1. For Amaro, I think he is just bad GM. He’ generated excitement with some sensational splashes, but the wins accrued under his watch are due to Pat Gillick and Ed Wade,because they put together the core of the current team. Amaro said that the type of hitter he wanted was like Placido Polanco–someone who always gives you a tough at-bat and makes contact. Yet, he has gpne out and acquired a lot of free swingers that will be providing a lot of quick 1-2-3 innings this year. Amaro has done a horrible job grooming Dom Brown, he made awful acquisitions like Danys Baez, Chadd Qualls, and Ty Wiggington, and has traded away the best first base prospect in baseball, as well as two other high-upside players, for a humdrum year from Hunter Pence, who also swings away freely.
    As for Manuel, he’s in love with power. That is not the right approach with the current team, which is composed of aging veterans that can no longer just hit homeruns the way they used to. The proper approach with this lineup is to run a lot and make productive outs, but Manuel is stuck in his ways. Manuel was also a big-time power hitter In Japan.

    1. I like what you’ve pointed out, but I would adjust the thought of getting “productive outs” to playing station-to-station baseball, with 2 or 3 power hitters in the right spot of the lineup to drive in those who came before them, although also being smart enough to not over reach but rather work with what’s given them to get on base and move or score a runner if the pitcher can’t be manipulated into offering more.

      The concept of “productive outs” limits what a team can do; one should almost never concede an out, but try to put it in play to get on base, with the fallback that if he is unsuccessful he will at least make a productive out. But one should not go to the plate with “the sacrifice” in mind.

    2. I want to make a distinction here which I think partly explains Amaro. This isn’t more piling on; if anything, it rationalizes some of his moves.

      “Contact hitters” and “free swingers” are not opposing concepts; often they are correlated. Looking at Amaro’s revealed preferences, he DOES like contact hitters. He tends to like “aggressive” contact hitters, or, put another way, free swingers. Polanco is a guy who is a contact hitter who doesn’t walk a lot, in some ways the prototypical Amaro player. Mind you, he also wasn’t a real free swinger, especially in his younger days (by the time he joined the Phillies, his O-swing percentage had increased significantly). Even this off season, M. Young has good contact skills (arguably all he has left as a hitter); D. Young isn’t exactly a contact hitter, but his K rate is about league average. And of course Revere’s only strength as a hitter is his exceptional contact skill..

      And liking contact hitters is not crime. Of course there are. ahem, more than a few other problems.

      Manuel has his faults, but his instinctive and correct understanding that a “productive out” strategy is essentially a “score fewer runs” strategy is one of his biggest strengths, and why, despite his faults (the veteran preference is a real thing and increasingly a problem) I still sometimes defend him.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful perspective on our two most important management people. Often, people like Sparky Anderson, who was a marginal major leaguer, soak up enough knowledge on the bench to become HoF material as managers. Charlie has been ideal for this group of players. Ruben has been very good (in spite of the feelings of members on this site) because he has not been afraid to move players to make the club better. It is better to make decisions than to sit around and be afraid to do so. I imagine he will get better at making wise decisions over time. I’d keep him around.

  3. What was Amaro doing back in A-ball in ’89 after the year he had in ’88? Not a high enough BA for their tastes back then maybe.

  4. I think people took Amaro’s comment too far. He was technically correct about the fact that total production is what he evaluates a player by. Walks are part of it. I don’t think anyone hates the walk, just the fact that they don’t think players should be judged solely by it.

    1. It wasn’t the statement itself that bothered me, for the reason you just laid out. What bothered me was the implication that Delmon Young is productive.

      1. I suppose you could hate the Delmon Young signing so the decision itself is terrible and there is nothing Amaro could say about it that would make any sense. I understand that line of thinking.

        However, if one assumes that Delmon Young is still a young player with some potential upside that was signed for cheap, then what should the GM say? “I just signed a guy but I think he cannot walk and is unproductive.” Amaro would ceratinly have difficutly signing future free agents with that type of statement.

        It is quite obvious that Delmon has a low walk rate, is a poor fielder, and is coming off an injury. I figure he might be better than Vernon Wells so there’s that.
        Plus I hear Nick Johnson is still available, he walks alot.

        1. Sigh. First of all, obviously if he hadn’t signed such a horrible player, he wouldn’t have had to say nice things about him on talk radio. But having put himself in that position, there are PLENTY of non-idiotic things Amaro could have said. He could have pointed out his platoon split and talked about how useful that could be in a platoon with a left handed hitter. He could have talked about his tools, and the fact that he is still young, maybe throw something in about a “fresh start.” I don’t buy that for a second, but it’s a much more sensible thing to say than what he actually said. He could acknowledge the plate discipline issues, but contrasted it with his meager positives and suggested that the organization will work with him on his approach, .The fact is you can say some sensible nice things even about a horrible player like Young. Instead he managed to make 3 statements that, if meant seriously, disqualify him from running even a little league team.

        2. I would have been ok with him saying exactly what you just said: I just signed a young player with some potential upside for cheap. Not I just just signed our starting right fielder.

  5. Nice to have a thread dedicated to bitching about Amaro. Hopefully that will provide an outlet so that every other thread doesn’t devolve into the same old tired diatribes.

      1. Here’s a HOF’er who rarely walked and would probably be panned today as a prospect because he’s just a “contact” guy (and no, I’m not comparing him to any current Philly hitter)
        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gwynnto01.shtml

        I don’t dispute the value of the base on balls or that a line-up needs guys who can get on-base but the vast overreaction to a throw-away statement by Amaro regarding Delmon Young (who signing I don’t like) is ridiculous.

        Last year Juan Pierre was the disaster signing and he turned out to be the teams most consistant hitter in the OF. This season, if Delmon Young gets 500 at-bats it will be because he had a good year or because Brown, Ruf, etal haven’t done anything to win the job.

        1. I don’t quite understand the use of Gwynn here. Gwynn was no Bonds when it came to walking but he certainly was not a pure contact guy. Gwynn averaged 52 walks a year and had a career BB% of 7.7% (league average is 8.8%), he also didn’t strikeout (career K% of 4.2%), you don’t have to walk if you put everything in play. Even the most noted free swinger of the past 2 decades Valdimir Guerrero drew 56 walks (8.1%) a year.

          The worst walking Hall of Famer (who played post WW2) that I could find was Bill Mazeroski who had a career OPS+ of 82 and did not get in on his bat, and he drew 33 BBs a year (but only struck out 53 times). Your average hall of famer drew walks at a 9.9% clip and that includes the batting lines of all of the pitchers.

        2. 3up, your a smart guy but this is not one of your stronger comments. First of all, Amaro’s comment in isolation wouldn’t have gotten the reaction it did. It’s the comment in context – the other stupid things he said in that interview, the Young signing itself, and his history of moves (which demonstrate a disdain for the BB).

          Setting that aside, I’ve actually been posting lately on a number of fronts to prompt a somewhat more nuanced version of the BB debate. The thing is, using that more nuanced version of the debate makes Young look worse, not better. First of all, he doesn’t just have a low BB rate, but one of the worst in the game. Comparing him to Gwynn (more about him in a second), he walks much less often than Gwynn did. But more to the point, he’s not really a contact guy, and he is not one of those players with low BB rates because he has zero power and thus the pitcher doesn’t have to pitch him carefully. His plate discipline data (O-swing%, etc.) is even worse than his BB rate. It really is impossible for someone who is as much of a free swinger as he is AND who at the same time has mediocre contact skills to succeed as a major league hitter in the long term.

          The comparison to Pierre really highlights just how irrational the Young signing was. First of all, for all of the negativity about Pierre before last season, he really was good (if perhaps over rated) in his younger days, and even from 2008-2011 he was .. well, I was going to say ten times the player Young was, but that understates it, given that Young is worthless, you can say that even a mediocre player like Pierre in decline was infinitely better than Delmon Young, Comparing the BB rates of the two shows some superficial similarity there, but not really – Pierre is not really a free swinger (he is one of those light hitting players who pitchers don’t need to pitch carefully to), and, even to the limited extent he could be characterized that way (moreso as he gets older, a common pattern), he somewhat makes up for it with a very good contact rate and effective speed. Finally, he was signed to a minor league deal, in contrast to Young. Of course even there Pierre’s BB rate is much better than Young’s.

          Stated simply, last year Pierre deserved the at bats. There is no scenario – none – under which Young getting 500 PA will be anything other than managerial (field and general) malpractice., Even if (maybe especially if) Young has a hot streak that makes him a superficially decent player in 2013, giving him regular playing time would be wholly irrational. I can think of at least a dozen players in the organization who deserve major league playing time more than Young, and there will be dozens more who can be plucked off the waiver wire, even setting aside several score more who are toiling in AA and could be acquired for a bag of used baseballs.

          Finally, Gwynn. His BB rate was not bad really at all. About league average (BB rates were a little lower during his career). More to the point, he was an extreme contact hitter. We all know that for contact hitters mediocre (or even low, though that wasn’t Gwynn) are less of a problem than for hitters with mediocre or poor contact skills. More to the point, while we don’t have O-swing data for any of Gwynn’s career, I don’t remember him as having poor plate discipline. Someone with contact skills THAT good isn’t going to have as many BBs because he will put the ball in play more often (fewer swinging strikes) and thus have fewer long counts. His speed and lack of power may have also meant pitchers were less likely to throw him pitches out of the strike zone, not wanting to put him on base, on the one hand, and not fearing the HR, OTOH. Admittedly this last is somewhat speculative.

          More to the point, I know you weren’t comparing Young to Gwynn, but even invoking him in a conversation about Young is kind of silly. Nothing about Gwynn’s extraordinary career informs the Young debate specifically, or the broader BB debate.

          On the whole, I somewhat regret being so easy on D. Young, bending over backwards to be fair. He is really much more astonishingly awful than any of us realize.

          1. Nothing in my comment was about D.Young specifically but rather the comment regarding base on balls and the reason for this particular thread. I do not agree with the signing of Young but I also don’t think his signing or the comments at his presser indicates that Amaro has some kind of distain for guys who get on base.

            If Young is bad and we both apparently expect he will be, then he won’t be playing much anyway.

            As for Gwynn in relationship to the tread. He is an extreme example of a highly successful player who walked more by accident than on purpose. Matt mentioned that he was just slightly under league average but that doesn’t account for the fact that almost 26% of his walks were intentional (203 out of 790).

  6. Without any doubt those were some strange comments to make on that type of player but again it doesn’t matter much to me what they (RAJ/Charlie) say. I’ll be paying closer attention to what they do…

    And I’ll be paying even closer attention to what Ruf and Brown do. It’s up to them to seize their opportunity. Yes it be nice to have a GM who always says the right thing in an interview. Reality is he was saying saying that stuff about better approach after the 2011 season ended so I don’t believe for a minute that he doesn’t value OBP.

    Maybe like many of us he gets frustrated with rhetoric that says there is an exact science to winning championships in the MLB.

    1. DMAR, I’m not trying to pile on, but a couple of points about judging him by what he does, approach and OBP:

      (1) His revealed preferences – i.e., looking at the payers he has added to the team – don’t show an appreciation for OBP. The best you can say for him is that his apparent liking of contact guys somewhat mitigates (but not entirely) his obvious disdain for the BB.

      (2) His comments about approach were vague, and everyone put their own gloss on the comments. Many of us who value patience in hitters saw this as endorsing our views. IMO none of us can know with certainty what Amaro meant by a “good approach,” but judging him “by his actions,” the “approach” he seems to like is aggressiveness (i.e., free swinging) combined with making contact. In retrospect, what he seemed to be talking about post 2011 was frustration that the team took too many called strikes, not that they swung at too many pitches out of the strike zone. (the team did take a lot of called strikes in 2011, while being in the middle of the pack in O-swing percentage).

      (3) And yes I agree that ultimately you judge him on his actions. His ACTIONS – when it comes to position players – demonstrate massively poor talent judgment. Examples to the contrary are sparse to say the least – pitchers don’t count, I think his talent judgment there is better.

    2. I too value doing over saying, but I can’t see how what RA and Manuel have said conflicts in any way with what they have done. What can you point to in terms of past behavior, which suggests that we should view the comments in a more positive light?

  7. I have a lot of problems with the way that Amaro has handled his situation since taking over in 2008. However, I won’t quantify those problems with personal attacks on the man, which I find to be petty and childish. I think the thing that is a big sticking point is the fact that baseball has trended in the direction to including advanced metrics in everyday evaluation of players. To this point, it seems like the Phillies haven’t included these advanced metrics as part of the organization. This annoys those who are SABR inclined. And I understand that.

    1. Yankess have a 14-person Quant/SABR. Staff according to Brian Cashman…I wonder if the Phillies org has a staff? Dang, the Phillies could get plenty of volunteers from this site alone to help them out on projections and stats.

      1. Here’s the thing – and I know you probably were being a bit sarcastic about the volunteers from the site – a GOOD quantitative analysis department doesn’t merely recycle publicly available advanced stats or feature amateur analysts – a team living in the 21st century hires smart people who do this for a living. None of us knows in detail what goes on internally in the modern front office – obviously they don’t share their insights – but it is almost surely on a much higher level than what you can read in the comment section of a web site devoted to minor league prospects.

        People bring up Sparky Anderson. Two points – one, a manager doesn’t need quantitative analysis as much as a front office does, his job is much more an HR/people skills job. Which Anderson was apparently very good at. Secondly, in Anderson’s day, no one really did much quantitative analysis, so the playing field was level. In the 21st century, the teams that ignore quantitative analysis will, over the long haul, be at a massive competitive disadvantage.

          1. Larry…what you say?……’One aspect would be the scouting, such as bat speed or a player’s mechanics. A second is statistics. For the Cardinals, another important part is work ethic and character. “The character component of our decision-making does not account for anything in the analytical world,” said Mozeliak. “We don’t put it in the algorithm, because it is just not there, but we do try to do our due diligence on the back end on what kind of person they are and how they will fit into our clubhouse, because we really do feel that’s a key component to our success’…

            1. I’ve said the same myself, many times. BUT outsiders are poorly positioned to evaluate “make up.” For people like us pontificating on an internet message board, that means that 90% of conversations about make up are 90% BS. There are exceptions – I think, for example, that D. Young is the poster child of someone with bad “make up.”

              So in practice, conversations about “makeup” among outsiders degenerate usually into either “I like this player, but can’t justify it logically, so I’ll just talk about his good makeup” or the reverse. Whereas major league front offices are generally, at least with their own players (less so players from other organizations, see again D. Young) in a position to make judgments about “make up.” Though even there, you can’t trust what the front office says publicly, as they have every reason to keep their real judgments private.

          2. That was a great article Larry thanks for sharing. The only question I would have asked him was if it was 20-30 years ago when players were being paid on what they have done and today because of analytics they are being paid what they will do how do you explain the contracts of Arod, Pujols, Fielder, Hamilton, Werth, Crawford? Obviously John is a smart guy because stayed true to his philosphy with Pujols.

            I don’t disagree that it is useful my problem with Bill James and his masses is that sometimes they come across as if they somehow invented the game, or that the game didn’t exist before they came along or that their way is the only way. The reality is that none of them have proven they are that much better than traditionalists when it comes to putting WS champions on the field.

            Players are not math equations and they will consistantly enough defy the statistical point of view to render anyone who relies to heavily on them obsolete. So in that sense I am watching a bunch of teams that seem to want to embrace the whole advanced metrics idea but no championships to show for it or no more than those who might down play its role.

            Is that not fair to say? I’m just asking…

            1. No time to do justice to a series of good questions. But, briefly (brief for me, anyway), no, it’s not fair to say. Teams have a lot to show for embracing quantitative analysis (see below). As time goes on, it will become increasingly important in successful teams. That will be somewhat obscured by the fact that it won’t be obvious because EVERY team is/will be doing it. Ten years from now there will be NO major league teams without quantitative analysis departments. Even now, I think the Phillies may be the only hold out. It will be like asking whether a team can compete without a scouting department.

              In terms of the “bottom line” of WS championships:

              (1) Right off the bat, I’d say that you can credit modern analysis with a role in at least 3 (the past 2 Boston championships and the Cardinals in 2011). The Yankees have a strong analytics department too, though of course the payroll is probably more important in explaining their success. Sabean gets some grief from some stat heads, but even the Giants have a quantitative analysis team. I think you could make a case that the Phillies are the lone recent WS championships where quantitative analysis played no role at all.,

              (2) Sample size – a big role for modern analysis is relatively recent, and of course there tends to be a time lag in terms of better methods leading to better success. (Successful teams aren’t built overnight.)

              (3) Look at playoff appearances, not just WS championships – once you make the payoffs, luck plays a HUGE role in who wtakes the brass ring. I think if you look at playoff appearances over the past few years you’ll find even more analysis oriented teams.

              (4) To a certain extent, low/medium market teams have been quicker to adopt quantitative analysis (because they need it to compete; big market teams, to some extent, can just throw money at problems). The fact that those teams have relatively few championships to show for that doesn’t negate their success. The Rays are exhibit one, amazingly successful for their payroll. The A’s famously; it’s absurd to discount their success just because they haven’t won a championship. Among mid market teams, the Cardinals and Rangers. I could go on.

              (5) All that aside, of course that’s lots that numbers can’t tell you. Same with scouting. No one says “scouts can’t predict everything, so let’s dispense with scouting departments.” Over the long haul, teams without a good quantatative analysis department are going to be in the same boat as teams without a good scouting department. Increasingly you need both.

              Could say a lot more, but I’ve wasted too much of the day already.

            2. I think the linked article actually goes a long way to answering your objections. Of course stats can’t answer some questions, or can’t answer them well. But other questions are tailor made for statistical analysis. Mozeliak makes some nice distinctions about what kind of questions are most susceptible to statistical analysis, and which aren’t.

            3. I can speak to big contracts, they happen for some reasons:
              1. 4 WAR from one player is better than 2 WAR from 2 players, so you are better off getting less of a bargain on one player with value than on multiple “more efficient” deals, in this way a large market team can afford to “overpay” in order to consolidate more value in a single player
              2. Regardless of the metrics you use Albert Pujols is still a good player so there is no bargain to be had (back to regardless of cost getting the most value from a single roster spot is still the best)
              3. You are paying for certainty (at least over part of the contract), you are banking a certain value as opposed to risking it on injury or development. This is the biggest difference between big and small markets, small markets cannot afford mistakes because they can’t always afford certainty.
              4. Statement signing, the value of Werth to the Nats was not his play on the field but rather the sign to the rest of the league that they were ready to play with the big boys.
              5. Marketing and brand image, how much of Howard’s (or Jeter’s) contract is their place as the face of the franchise.
              6. Non-baseball reasons: fan pressure, ownership pressure (Detroit and Fielder, Steinbrenner and Soriano over Cashman’s advice), job security (Royal’s deals)

              There will always be big money contracts at the top because stars cost money and are almost never bargains. Being smart can tell you when to invest in a big money contract and when to walk away (Cardinals and Pujols because those late years were going to be bad), the biggest thing that analytics can do is filling out the rest of your team. Bad contracts like a Howard or Rodriguez can haunt you for years in any market, but what can come back to bite you is the money given to non-essentials pieces (Ibanez, Papelbon, Michael Young, Chad Durbin, and plenty of examples across the league) because there are easy solutions elsewhere.

              The World Series isn’t where you should always be looking for the success stories of smart front offices (calling them just statistical front offices is dumb and insulting to how they blend numbers and scouting, and all the other information gathering they do). The Cardinals are a huge success story, the Athletics are another, the Tampa Bay Rays are also good, the Blue Jays have turned things around, the Astros look really bad right now but that is an incredible turnaround in the outlook of that franchise, and there are plenty of others across the league who do it without making noise.

        1. I mean it’s really kind of stunning – if anything, even those of us who have been pushing the “modern statistical analysis is relied up by major league front office” line haven’t realized the extent to which it is true.

  8. I am open to being convinced. For me tho you would have to show me the facts on who is and who isn’t employing Advanced Analysis. I think there is a stat geek in all of us and I do appreciate your debate.

    This is my opinion because there is no real way to quantify it but I would be willing to bet there are as many bad moves steeped in advanced metrics as any other method.

    1. Regarding your question, that’s tricky to answer because the great unknown is the extent to which teams who USE quantitative analysis RELY upon quantitative analysis. We don’t know for the most part.

      As for your second paragraph, well sure. The point – and I sound like a broken record on this, but no one is saying advanced metrics instead of traditional scouting. The question is this: will using statistical analysis ALONG WITH traditional methods result in fewer mistakes than traditional methods alone? And I think the answer to that is certainly yes. How many fewer is open to question. And, of course, a team with an analytical bent that ignores or downplays traditional scouting is ALSO going to be at a disadvantage.

      And honestly it’s hard to PROVE that I’m right on this to a skeptic, but I do think that the teams which, over the past few seasons, have had the most success relative to payroll, tend to be teams who heavily use quantitative analysis along with traditional methods.

      1. I would like Ruben to be more forthcoming like Brian Cashman. I would like him to say they do use quantitative analysis, at least to some extent.

        1. But do they. All they talk about are batting average, stolen bases and counting stats. It seems that even simple things like walks and CS don’t factor into their analyses. They seem to disdain guys who walk as not being aggressive enough. They piled on Abreu for years as some kind of sissy walker. Bourn was pushed to walk less and be more aggressive in the minors. His .400 obp didn’t cut it with Bill Dancy.

        2. Wishful thinking.

          Aside from the fact that, looking at the personnel moves, it’s blindingly obvious that quantitative analysis plays no role in the team’s decision making process, there’s plenty of more direct evidence that they don’t use this stuff. They do have one (one) guy on staff who is tasked with statistical analysis (compared to large staffs for other teams), but they are proud of the fact that the information he provides plays no role in decision making. http://articles.philly.com/2012-03-02/sports/31117298_1_phillies-manager-carpenter-complex-sabermetrics.

          But let me make a distinction here. A team that ignores this stuff, but which is led by a guy who has a solid traditional understanding of baseball evaluation, and is supported by a solid staff, while at a competitive disadvantage, can succeed. The problem with Amaro isn’t primarily his lack of appreciation of quantitative analysis, Rather, it is that, when it comes to traditional evaluation of position players, he is just awful.

          1. You know things have been frustrating recently when an article like that actually provides a ray of hope:

            ‘”I’ve always been a guy who looked at OPS and on-base percentage,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.’

            On base percentage! Success!

    2. What you seem to be missing from the discussion isn’t that front offices are turning over their whole evaluation process to advanced stats, that would be idiotic and stupid. There is however, a high correlation between the front offices that use advanced statistics and those that employ a more rounded approach to the game. These front offices employ the strategy that they need to gather as much information as possible to best evaluate talent, during the Moneyball era, the Oakland Athletics actually greatly increased the size of their scouting department in addition to hiring numbers and computers guys, and to this day send all of their numbers guys on scouting trips and all of their scouts to numbers conferences. Players are not just numbers, scouts are imperative especially in the minor leagues (Adam Silver did a study back in 2009 that compared PECOTA to Baseball America, and BA won by a definitive margin), because a computer cannot judge make up. A computer can help you predict things, like aging curves and players with large enough sample sizes (read major leaguers hitting free agency). The idea is to use everything together to make the best decision.

      So the point we are trying to make isn’t that you should turn your whole process over to numbers but you are eliminating a whole resource of information to make your decisions. If the other parts of your evaluations are exceptional you can hang along on the backs of exceptional talent and good scouting (Giants have a great scouting department and they use some numbers, the Phillies were carried by some great players by any evaluation method and good scouting). The thing is, if you don’t adapt a better approach you will be left behind.

  9. I guess I don’t buy that the whole resource of information you speak of contains any great discovery. If the next Ty Cobb walks onto the field the scouts are going to find him and sign him. He is gonna go to the minors and play. He is gonna hit for average and get on base, steal bases etc…he is going to be Ty Cobb is my point with or without SABR.

    or quite possibly you draft a guy in the 7th round send him to the minors and he hits well over 300 at every level with a .412 OBP in 2600 PA’s and by age 24 he is in the big leagues, has an 18 year career with a life time BA of .328 and a .415 OBP HOF. It’s so easy. SABR doesn’t invent great players…they are always there right in front of your eyes.

    Is there a player out there that the advance metrics wizards discovered that without them nobody would have known. And I am being difficult in a fun way. I agree a lot of it can help me understand some things about what went wrong maybe and what we might want to look for in player.

    No problem at all with the teams that blend it in either. My problem is with those that want to say you can’t win without it. Sure you can all you need to do is watch the game. I can get everything I need from baseball reference.com then tell my scouts to go and see a young player for a series and tell me what they think right?

    Another question I have about your point above that talks about certainty. The only certainty for the Anglels is that they are going to pay Pujols $238M. There is no certainty in player production only a good bet or a bad bet. Now I like DiPoto, played against him in HS and got to see a few of his HR’s up close and personal. He was bullied into that signing but advanced metrics alarms should have been going off all over the building but that digresses from your points.

    Well thought out points Matt I just don’t agree with all them. At the end of the day you don’t need to employ a room full of Harvard Math Grads to know who is a good player and who isn’t. You do need to monitor your system stats as well as others and pay attention to OBP/OPS/Avg those are the tell tale signs of future value. You do need to invest in good talent evaluators and guys that know and understand people, actual humans that understand the grind of making it through the minors.

    Last time I checked the game was still the same as it was 100 years ago. Still 9 innings, still 90′ bases, still 3 outs, still 3 strikes and 4 balls. Blah science its wants to get its grubby little hands in everything.

    1. AS I predicted, we’re not going to change minds in a comment thread.But I think you are creating a straw man. It’s not about identifying or not identifying future stars. It’s about improving decision making in a thousand small ways that add up. An organization has to make hundreds of decisions a year. The more information you have at your disposal to make those decisions, the better the decision making process will be.

      I could come up with a thousand examples. Let’s talk about one of yours – contracts. Obviously a player’s future is not fully predictable, but, given enough of a sample size of major league play, we can make some pretty good predictions. Statistical analysis can make those predictions more accurate. And with better predictions of future performance, more rational decisions about contracts can be made. You point out that there are some bad contracts out there. That proves what, exactly? The reality is that the teams being smart about contracts by using advanced metrics – of their own players and potential free agents – make better decisions. Period. Partly but not entirely because of a better understanding of aging curves.

      An organization that understood advanced metrics would never have offered the horrible Howard contract, one of the five worst contracts in major league history.

      Another is properly valuing OBP. It’s not to say “of course getting on base is important.” Just how important is it, precisely, compared to other aspects of hitting? We can now evaluate that pretty precisely (less true in other areas, e.g., fielding). Twenty years ago, OBP was pretty much routinely under valued. Not ignored, but undervalued. Now that isn’t the case, for, well almost every team in the majors. Because of advanced metrics. And valuing OBP comes up in dozens of decisions a year – trades, free agent signings, and so on. A team that under values OBP, especially now when everyone else properly values it, is at a competitive disadvantage when engaging in trades and FA signings.

      Another straw man is the “can’t win” straw man. A team without advanced metrics can win, IF other advantages – payroll, scouting – compensate. But ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL, over the long run, the team without advanced metrics is going to win fewer games. Inevitably.

      Finally, let me ask you this: why would the people who actually have something at stake in winning and losing – owners, front offices – and who, by and large, started with a bias in favor of traditional evaluation – over the past ten years have shifted so massively to incorporate modern analysis? Are they stupid? Or are they following the evidence? I think the latter is far more likely.

      Remember, the Phillies are an outlier here. Probably the one franchise most hostile to modern analysis.

      I will say one thing. The utter incompetence of the village idiot probably will, in the long run, speed the acceptance of quantitative analysis in major league baseball. As I’ve said, his rejection of same is not the major reason why he is a failure as a GM. But he’s become so associated with rejection of advanced metrics, that the fact that he has managed to trash a franchise with so much recent success and so many resources, financial and otherwise, and that he trashed them so fully and quickly, will mean that, for the next 300 years, Amaro will be a cautionary tale of the dangers of ignoring quantitative analysis. In fact, I think that even 10 years from now, we’ll see people say things like “hmm, I don’t know if that was a great GM hire. I have a feeling that the new GM will Amaro the team in short order, and the next GM will need a decade to dig out from under the ruble.”

  10. I think you misconstrued my reference of contracts. Mozeliak pointed out in his interview that paying for past performance was a thing of the past and because of advanced metrics teams who employ such stats are less likely to overpay so I referenced them as a counter point. Are you saying you like the Pujols contract and the Fielder contract (two teams supposedly big into the SABR way of doing things) or are those teams outliers as well?

    I don’t like the Howard contract either but that thing is going to look like a peach in a few years compared to those two.

    You mentioned the Red Sox how do you explain the Crawford deal? Are they really relying on advanced metrics or their deep pockets.

    My thing is you guys ramble on this stuff but you don’t offer any evidence that these teams with staffs of math wizards win at a rate any higher than those that don’t. And you also can’t account for teams that have to buck their own logic to just get an FA to sign. Chris Antonetti another Mr. Sabr wanted to pay Victorino how much? Chris should be sending Vic a nice check for saving him from looking like the village idiot by passing on that deal and taking less money from the other boy genius Cherington. LOL

    And as far as why are they all doing it- no certainly not stupid but its monkey see monkey do. An over reaction to a modicom of success by one franchise that never was able to sustain its success. Nothing has really changed since 2002 Larry. At least not to a degree where your half can say if you’re not doing this you can’t win. That is a little pompous don’t you think?

    Give me a good staff of baseball guys (Amaro is not my guy by the way) I want to be clear we agree on the moves. I am down playing the necessity of having a bunch of math nerds running around my stadium throwing fantasty algorithms at me all day. Half of whom probably never played the game even at a little league level and have 0 appreciation for the skill it requires to do so. Thats not fact I’m sure but it felt good to write it.

    1. DMAR, the basic problem is that none of this is resolvable on an internet forum.

      Rather than go off on another long diatribe, let me make a few quick concluding points:

      (1) It seems tome that, on the one hand, you’re expecting perfection from the analytically oriented teams, while disavowing the traditionalists you don’t like (Amaro).

      (2) Most of this isn’t really responsive to the main point – that this information SUPPLEMENTS traditional baseball knowledge, doesn’t replace it. And you repeat the straw man I have explicitly disavowed – the “can’t win” one. Of coruse I can’t show that, because it isn’t true.

      (3) On the contracts, set aside the fact that I wouldn’t say that either franchise is at the forefront of the analytically revolution (though yes they are both participants in it). Set aside the fact that any franchise can make mistakes. Set aside the fact that we don’t even know the extent to which these contracts were informed by the analytical operations on those teams. Set aside the fact that the contracts probably aren’t as bad as you think they are (though I wouldn’t have done either of them). Set all that aside, and we are talking 2 contracts (Crawford is in a different, smaller category, and I don’t have time to address him now). The simple fact is that there are two huge trends in contracts: more/longer contracts to pre-FA stars or potential stars that lock up FA seasons, and fewer long/high AAV contracts for mid range non-stars in their 30s. Both trends are driven by quantitative analysis, and both trends are good trends from a competitive perspective.

      Much more could be said on the contract front but I have to run.

  11. In my opinion, the use advanced stats should be thought about in different compartments of the baseball spectrum. They are used in…
    1. Helping an organization identify what it values (e.g. power, plate discipline, speed, fielding etc).
    2. Evaluating players value vs. contracts (free agency or otherwise) especially with regard to what was determined in #1
    3. Helping players refine their skill sets, if they’re willing and able to use the information.
    4. Drafting college players; drafting high school players is still left to scouts as I understand it.
    …amongst other aspects

    Clearly there is demand for the data across baseball, and that’s why it is collected and analyzed. I think the Phillies FO does not rely on it as a driver of decisions. But it doesn’t mean we can’t speak to how the Phillies have changed their approach through the lens of the stats, especially on 1 & 2. 3 & 4 are much more opaque.

    At the end of the day, there is an engineering attitude that you can’t manage what you can’t measure… Baseball is not building a bicycle; that said, some of the advanced statistics are flawed, and others are helpful. Thus in my opinion the Phillies are missing an opportunity.

    In my personal opinion they’ve undervalued fielding and plate discipline since 2008. Hopefully Revere is as advertised, and Brown progresses. If that happens, having a Burrell type in LF is fine, as long as the plate discipline compensates. 3b I am very worried though; Maybe they get lucky and Young reverts to his previous form a few years ago, and benefits from switching leagues at the plate; but I think more than likely we’ll miss Pedro Feliz’s steady play; and if Young plays poorly enough, perhaps Galvis subs in.

  12. I don’t expect to ever miss Pedro Feliz. The guy who steps in at 3B if Young fails is Frandsen early and Asche later in year.

    I don’t think Phillies have loved plate discipline in a long time. Burrell and Thome were acquired as sluggers, the plate discipline was a bonus that the team under-valued. They grossly undervalued Abreus OBP and allowed team commentators to basically call him a sissy for ‘being too willing to take a walk’. They allowed Bill Dancy to beat on Bourne for not being aggressive enough, when he was sporting a .400 OBP in the minors.

    I agree the Phillies have taken a recent turn away from caring a lot about defense. Even a few years ago, the Youngs never would have been considered as starters. In drafting HS OF, it might be said that they placed too great a premium on D. They have spent a decade trying to recreate Juan Pierre. They had him in Michael Bourn. THey thought they had him with more power in Gillies. Golson and Kyrell Hudson obvious tries in that direction with primo picks. Also Gose, Eldemire, Altherr. Phillies love this type of HS kid.

    1. If Michael Young turns out to be a butcher, you will miss solid defense at the corner infield spot. With runs scored in baseball down over 5% in the past 5 years in MLB, my thought is the value defense will go up.

  13. If you want to think about Manuel as a player (and how he thinks of OBP), his Japanese stats are probably most relevant. I found these in an article, unfortunately basically triple-crown form, not AVE/OBP/SLG (Charlie was in his early 30s at the time, after his second (more successful) knee surgery):

    “In 1977 in 114 games, Manuel batted .316, clobbered 42 homers and drove in 97 runs in a mere 358 at bats.

    Displaying great plate discipline, Charlie drew 49 walks and only struck out on 60 occasions. Old Charlie also managed to steal three bases on his healed knee. To show that was not a fluke, Charlie followed that feat with an even more impressive year in 1978, batting .312, with 39 home runs and 103 RBIs.

    In 1979, Charlie began a new chapter in Japanese folklore after signing on with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. Charlie batted a robust .324, with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs in a mere 97 games! In doing so, Manuel was named the 1979 MVP, becoming the first American to be so honored with that distinction.

    However, it was the following season with Kintetsu that placed Charlie amongst the elite players in Japanese baseball history. In 1980, Charlie batted .325, with 48 home runs (at the time an American record for Japanese baseball) and 129 RBIs in 118 games! “

    1. I found his slash stats buried in the BBR Bullpen:

      best 4 years of 6:
      1977: .316/.403/.690
      1978: .312/.372/.596
      1979: .324/.434/.712 MVP (despite missing more than a month with a broken jaw from a beanball)
      1980: .325/.400/.673

      NBL career: .303/.385/.604 with 189 HR’s and 491 RBI

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