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The Nationals and sabermetrics

Lots of great reading material to spotlight this morning, beginning with Tracee's excellent feature on pitching prospect Josh Wilkie, who was little-known outside our circle of hard-core Nats (and GW) followers, but who is certain to have lots of folks rooting for him now thanks to Tracee's piece. Here is my news story on the announcement of the Davey Johnson hiring. And here is Boswell's solid take on the Nats' newly revamped front office. (Also, remember to tune in for Boz's chat Thursday at 11 a.m.)

Here's a look at how the new hierarchy (still missing a couple of pieces) looks, straight off the team's official Web site. Interestingly (or not), Bob Boone, one of the few remaining high-level holdovers from the Jim Bowden regime, has the spot just below Rizzo under the Baseball Operations heading.

In his column, Boz makes mention of Mike Rizzo's firm stance on the issue of balancing scouting versus stats in a modern baseball front office: Rizzo, it is clear, is a scouting guy. Here is the full context of some remarks Rizzo made on that issue Tuesday:

"I think [sabermetrics are] certainly a part of the evaluation process," Rizzo said. "We utilize it. I always say a perfect evaluation is when my eyes say what the numbers say -- when they meet up. My philosophy is, we always lean towards the scout rather than the numbers, but it's part of our process. It's a piece of the puzzle that we utilize. I wouldn't say we go overboard with utilization of it."

According to Rizzo, the Nationals' numbers experts are "two very high-achieving guys in sabermetrics." One of them is a holdover, Adam Cromie, who joined the Nationals in 2007 and last year was promoted to assistant director of baseball operations. The other is Jay Sartori, who isn't yet listed on the team's official Web site, but who was hired last week as director of baseball operations after previously working in MLB's labor relations office as a contracts administration manager.

The Nationals clearly spared no expense in restocking their front office with some of the most respected, accomplished and (I'm told) well-paid scouting types in the game. But could they be doing more on the sabermetrics side at a time when other teams are pouring lots of resources into it?

By Dave Sheinin  |  November 19, 2009; 9:13 AM ET
 
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Next: The status of the Nats beat, going forward

Comments

Oh, I wish I were paid 50-cents a word for every word posted by you seamheads on this subject, sabermetrics. Go at it, guys.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | November 19, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

From Boz's column: " Three years ago, Clark was Kasten's first choice to be Bowden's top lieutenant. Clark said no. Kasten picked Rizzo. Now, full circle, Clark is Rizzo's right-hand man. So, Kasten ended up with his two top picks."

This with other parts of the artilcle got me thinking a little bit. Will we will ever know what happened that kept Bowden in DC once the Lerners took over? Why didn't this FO overhaul happen sooner? Did Bowden not push for it or say he didn't need anymore support? Did Kasten want to get somebody new 3 years ago, and withhold resources in an effort to sabotage Bowden? I hope someday the truth of what happened between the Lerners buying the team and Bowden's "resignation" (aka firing) comes out. I imagine it will be a thrilling read.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | November 19, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Hey all, I might be late on the ball on this one, but according to Mike Harris of the NatsFanboyLooser blog, Chico Harlan will not be the Nats beat reporter next year. He seems to imply that Chico is getting a promotion, not getting canned. I know Alexa Steele said Chico will be back, so I don't know what to tell you regarding the discrepancy there.

Mike Harris describes himself as, "a former newspaper writer and editor who escaped to a better job in college athletics." He still has numerous contacts in the newspaper industry. Check out what he says if your interested:
http://natslooser.blogspot.com/2009/11/new-beat-writer-at-post-coming.html

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | November 19, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The mix in the Rizzo regime between old school scouting vs. moneyballers/sabrematicians is a question I've had too. It certainly seems the pendulum has swung full tilt to old school with these hirings. Don't see too many guys who embrace a mix of the two being hired. Ideally I would want evaluation to be 60-40ish, but I don't see it. Though for some reason Davey Johnson strikes me as one who embraces both? Is that right?

I hope we don't draft and evaluate solely on "projectibility" and "tools", too many nightmare-ish flashbacks to Bowden's love affair with "toolsy" outfielders.

Posted by: VladiHondo | November 19, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

cheeburger (cheeburger cheeburger - sorry, lost my train of thought there). There are multiple posts about Chico in the prior thread, though there's been no formal announcement by the Post here.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Pardon my ignorance, but are there any long-term studies/stats on the W-L records of scout-heavy vs. sabermetrics-heavy teams? 'cause I don't much care how they get there, if they get there.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Two dead tree articles as well as on line activity! Holy hot stove, Natman!

Posted by: NatsFly | November 19, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Natsfan- Thanks for the update. Unfortunately I've missed this as work has gotten in the way of my usual participation (or at least reading) in the comments. I hate when I actually have to work for my money instead of looking for Nats info all day...It just ruins everything.

I don't know of any hard studies about sabermetrics. Part of the problem is that teams have been slow/late to pick up on the practice. The most widely-known team to embrace this concept has been the RedSox (and it seems to have worked well for them) and to a lesser extent, the A's. I think the different results from these franchises shows that even when using sabermetrics, payroll has a large influence on the results.

Also, I've read that more teams are embracing the advanced statistics. The Mariners, Giants and Twins all have recently hired statistical "consultants" to help them study and evaluate talent from a pure-numbers perspective. We'll see how much weight they put on the numbers, and what results are produced, with time.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | November 19, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Not meaning to fan the flames, as I like Chico, but there's this today from dcrtv.com

Harlan Gives Up Nats Job At WaPo - 11/18 - Chico Harlan is leaving his spot as a Nationals reporter at the Washington Post. And the Post is looking for someone to replace him. Harlan will be moving on to another, as yet unnamed, writing gig at the Post.....

Posted by: BangZoom | November 19, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I feel your pain, cheeburger (if I may call you that). I also hate when work gets in the way of my fandom. ;-)

I was aware of the Sox and A's connections, and I would tend to agree with your assessment on that front.

As you say, it will be interesting to see what develops with time as far as data on results.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

What the Moneyball guys seem to forget is that SABRmetrics is an evolving science. Virtually every new year, a new statistical tool is introduced at the SABR convention. It is then evaluated, accepted, rated, and/or rejected. In more traditional scientific circles, this is called peer review. Those involved know that SABRmetrics has yet to come up with a pure predictor. That doesn't mean that the attempts aren't there. It just means that there is much to learn (see: meteorology for a parallel) and that things will be more accurate next year and the year after.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 19, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that it's fanning the flames, BZ. I think that it's natural for discussion to arise on that front.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Re: The Lerners and transfer from the JimBow type F/O to a better run operation...Let's remember that the Lerners are in real estate development. One of the primary pieces of their operation is building buildings. One of the principal rules of builders & carpenters is: "Measure twice, cut once". 'Nuff said.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | November 19, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Re the balance between the number of sabermetric guys vs the number of scouting guys in the Nats FO, if you really want to consider both sides of the equation equally, you need a LOT more scouting guys than you do sabermetric guys. Reason being that one sabermetric guy provides the whole story as far as the numbers go. They are what they are. But on the scouting side, each guy provides a different viewpoint, another data point. If you want to get the full story on the scouting side, you need many sets of eyes and many different opinions. It's the GM's job to take all that input and come to a decision on what to do.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

On another note, I recently learned that Sugar is out on DVD (I found it on Netflix). You may recall seeing some mention of the film here when it first came out, as Jose Rijo was a consultant on the project.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I have no interest whatsoever in untangling who was hired when and why they stayed as long as they did, etc. On with the new season.

Posted by: markfromark | November 19, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Seemed appropriate for the sabremetrics discussion:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hotstove09/columns/story?columnist=crasnick_jerry&id=4666623

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | November 19, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

That is a timely piece, cheeburger. I was particularly interested in the defensive performance system roll-out, which I don't recall hearing about before. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Say what you will about sabermetrics, but my "fantasy" team consisting of this year's Nats in the correct batting order ended up six games ahead of the real Nats. It may not be magic, but I'd rather have had those six games than not. Nothing ever replaces skill, but playing the odds never hurts.

Also, I'm glad that Chico doesn't have to cover sports anymore, poor baby. It's much better having columnists who are actually fans.

Posted by: nobleman1 | November 19, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Was'nt Manny Acta well into sabremetrics' influence? Are we going down that road again? Hope not.

Posted by: bsballu5 | November 19, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I read somewhere (I believe the OP) where Rizzo said it was a 65/35 split between scouting and SABRmetrics, but that the goal was when the numbers and the eyes say the same thing. I think this is about right. He also said he believes the future of the game is headed back to small ball, due to the absense of PED's and greenies.

I have a greater appreciation of the new stats than I did before the team came to town, but I still think that scouts in the field are the best way to judge players. There is no stat for mental make-up, ie, the ten cent head that often accompanies the million dollar arm.

Posted by: sec307 | November 19, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Actaully, Alexa said that Chico was on vacation, she did not say that he'll be back as the beat reporter. Assuming Chico stays with WaPo, he could easily return from vacation into his new role, whatever it is.

Posted by: swang30 | November 19, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Boz confirmed in his chat that Chico was out and the search for a new beat writer was on.

Posted by: twinbrook | November 19, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Boz confirmed in his chat that Chico was out and the search for a new beat writer was on.

Posted by: twinbrook | November 19, 2009 12:32 PM
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

the post's early holiday present to nationals fans.

Posted by: surly_w | November 19, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....just a quick note...I wish Chico well. Thought he was a terrific writer-not the same as reporter!-and will miss his talent with words....and jeez, after spending 2 years with this team...weel, it was probably the A.T. or a nut house!Now, about Carpenter.....!
And ya gotta be encouraged by the fact that we now have a professional front office!
John Lackey!
Remember the Mariners......I want a WINNING season, gol darnit !
Go Nats......

Posted by: zendo | November 19, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I also enjoyed Chico's work for what it was. But I didn't like it for what it was missing, that being detailed description of what happened during the games. There were several times I would look to the gamer to see an explanation of something that I had seen or missed during the game and it wasn't there.

Posted by: twinbrook | November 19, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up on the Chico-related chat item, surly. Here's the relevant Q&A (interesting comments re. Tracee. Woohoo! MVP! Oops, sorry. Got carried away there.):

Sec 114, Row E: Der Bozenheimer - DCRTV has reported that Chico Harlan is out as the Nats beat writer.

True or not? When will the WaPo name us a new beat writer? By the way, Tracee Hamilton has been doing a nice job this fall of getting the Nats News out there. When does she get a slot in the chat schedule?

washingtonpost.com: I can say that we've talked with Tracee and definitely have long-term plans for her in the chat-o-sphere, but we're waiting for some things to fall in place first. Don't worry, there will be plenty of Tracee time in the future.

Tom Boswell: Yes, we've been told about Chico. The beat-writer search is on!

You want Tracee on that chat.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Could Davey Johnson be the manager in waiting to take over in 1 - 2 seasons once the team is on the way to winning?

Posted by: natsfan007 | November 19, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Is this question made more complex by the notion that Bowden leaked the Rizzo hire?

-----

Will we will ever know what happened that kept Bowden in DC once the Lerners took over?

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 19, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Could Davey Johnson be the manager in waiting to take over in 1 - 2 seasons once the team is on the way to winning?"

No. He's 66 years old now and has been quoted as saying he's through managing. In two years he'll be 68 years old and probably even less excited about managing.

Unless you're talking about managing the team down at the retirement home. Then, maybe.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"Is this question made more complex by the notion that Bowden leaked the Rizzo hire?"

Apparently the reason that Bowden seems to know so much about what's going on in Rizzo's life is that JimBo is now Rizzo's landlord. Reports have Rizzo living in Bowden's condo in the DC area.

How 'bout a rousing cheer of "Who's your landlord?" next time Rizzo is seen at a game in Nats Park? Nah...

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

That's an even stranger situation than Sydney Crosby living with Mario Lemieux.

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 19, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"Will we will ever know what happened that kept Bowden in DC once the Lerners took over?"

Interesting that you all are interested now....days later after I raised all these issues....

Posted by: JayBeee | November 19, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

One think I can promise with complete assurance is, we aren't ALL interested.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not here to talk about the past."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Um, seeing as how my use of that phrase could be misinterpreted, put me in the "not interested" category re. Bowden rehashes. Bowden's moved on, and Chico has as well. I don't doubt that new objects of scorn will become apparent soon enough, but for now, I'm all about the positive developments. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Methinks there has been much more behind-the-scenes intrigue in the Washington Post Sports department over the past few years (Wise v. Kornheiser, Chico-gate, Boswell exposed as totally dependent on his now-departed copy editors, etc, etc) than there ever was in the Kasten-Bowden-Rizzo front office. Reports of Nats dysfunctionality have been greatly exaggerated.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I have been saying this for quite sometime. Jimbo kissed Mark Lerner's butt. Mark Lerner was just taken in by Jimbo's charms and I would not rule out that Jimbo may have given Mark some sexual favors. But obviously Stan did not care at all for Jimbo and I believe that Kasteb was thinking of leaving the Nats but fortunately for all Nats Fans Jimbo's crap caught up with him and it caused him to lose his job. But that took three years and it really set the Nats back. But now everything is right and I know
that this team will be competitive in 2010 and will be winning the division in 2011 or 2012. AMD THE NATS WILL BE THIS CITY'S MOST BELOVED TEAM!!! That'll teach Danny boy!!!

Posted by: eddie5 | November 19, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"I have been saying this for quite sometime."

Most of which obviously occurred after Verizion FiOS brought internet access to your padded cell.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Take that, you pointy-ball-game owner, you! ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Uh, I meant that Snyder person, as I understand he's called.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

DAVE -- the "new hierarchy" link is bad...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

You've got an extra http// in there, should be
http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/team/front_office.jsp?c_id=was

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Say what you want about Sabermetrics, but clearly, Zim wouldn't have won the gold glove without the fielding range measure. For those who watched him every day, it was a case of the advanced metric backing up what the eyes told you, just what Rizzo says he looks for.

Posted by: nats24 | November 19, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

On the SABR vs. scouts question, I'm all for hoping that the numbers match up with the eyes. Then it's easy. The question is what happens when the numbers don't match the eyes. Sounds like Rizzo with his 60-40 split will rely on the eyes. Having just started Moneyball (a great read by the way), I'm not sure that's very reassuring.

Speaking of numbers, I'll take Boz's bait, what does "the Nats' offseason probably just graded out at "80"" mean?

Posted by: Section222 | November 19, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"80" is the highest score scouts give on a 20-80 scale.

Posted by: sec307 | November 19, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"On the SABR vs. scouts question, I'm all for hoping that the numbers match up with the eyes. Then it's easy. The question is what happens when the numbers don't match the eyes. Sounds like Rizzo with his 60-40 split will rely on the eyes. Having just started Moneyball (a great read by the way), I'm not sure that's very reassuring."

That's why the more sets of eyes you have, the better. If the numbers don't match up with what a majority of the eyes are seeing, then you discount the numbers.

"Speaking of numbers, I'll take Boz's bait, what does "the Nats' offseason probably just graded out at "80"" mean?"

I believe that 80 is the highest score on the grading scale scouts use when assessing prospects.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Section 309.....the only thing padded is your brain.

Posted by: eddie5 | November 19, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Sabermetrics ... its all about statistics. Attempting to quantify what on the surface may seem unquantifiable. Attempting to find anomalies, little "spikes", in the midst of gigantic haystacks. As yet they have not found a way to gauge or measure the ontological or noological aspects of a player's game. So, for this they rely on a scout's intuition honed by many years of experience.

There is a story which concerns the protagonist of a "beautiful mind". Dr. John Forbes Nash Jr. Probably during his severe schizophrenia he invented a number he dubbed, "the Beautiful Buddhist" Number: 22 * Pi + 4 * e = 79.9881656928 ... 22 is the Buddhist Master Builder number and is also semi-prime .. 4 the first non-trivial square. Pi and e are both important transcendental constants. Where did all this interest in numerology lead Nash?

He was able to somehow use it and his computers to figure out the Princeton Match Department chairs social security number ...

You just never know ... maybe some of these baseball types have schizophrenia? ~smiles~

Posted by: periculum | November 19, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

baseball perspectus has an article about minor league FAs out there. what about signing gotay as a backup plan at 2B??

===
Ruben Gotay hit .295/.351/.421 as a 24 year old for the Mets in 2007, getting 36 starts and appearing primarily as an early-inning pinch-hitter. He got caught in a roster crunch the next spring, was let go and then claimed off waivers by the Braves, a move that killed any career momentum he had. Despite spending almost the entire season on the roster, Gotay started just nine times, and it's no surprise he hit just .235/.322/.343. Gotay had shown decent plate discipline through '08, walking in about seven percent of his MLB plate appearances, and about 10 percent of the time during his days in the minors. In '09, he landed in the Diamondbacks' system and made a startling change, drawing 101 unintentional walks in 479 PA without any uptick in his strikeout rate or loss of performance on contact. His .429 OBP was remarkable not just for its own sake, but for the fact that the D'backs, desperate for OBP, never called upon Gotay for even a bench role.

Gotay turns 27 on Christmas Day, and while his defense isn't anything special—he's below-average at second base and a nightmare at third—a player who draws 101 walks at Triple-A while sustaining the rest of his game at age 26 is a fascinating player. There's a comp here to Felipe Lopez, who wandered around the league for a while before becoming a credible leadoff hitter with some defensive issues. Gotay doesn't have that kind of speed, but when you look at how many teams get nothing from second base, Gotay looks like he should have many, many suitors. He'd be a better player than Freddy Sanchez, just to name one, given comparable playing time
===

Posted by: sec231 | November 19, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

New post up, from Chico.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

whoa, that's either a way-too-obscure-for-me compliment, or an uncalled-for slam.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

don't know why that didn't paste:


Section 309.....the only thing padded is your brain.

Posted by: eddie5 | November 19, 2009 2:45 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Or a response in kind. Not that I'm advocating that. I'm just saying...

---

whoa, that's either a way-too-obscure-for-me compliment, or an uncalled-for slam.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 19, 2009 5:08 PM

"I have been saying this for quite sometime."

Most of which obviously occurred after Verizion FiOS brought internet access to your padded cell.

Posted by: section309 | November 19, 2009 2:07 PM

I have been saying this for quite sometime. Jimbo kissed Mark Lerner's butt. Mark Lerner was just taken in by Jimbo's charms and I would not rule out that Jimbo may have given Mark some sexual favors. But obviously Stan did not care at all for Jimbo and I believe that Kasteb was thinking of leaving the Nats but fortunately for all Nats Fans Jimbo's crap caught up with him and it caused him to lose his job. But that took three years and it really set the Nats back. But now everything is right and I know
that this team will be competitive in 2010 and will be winning the division in 2011 or 2012. AMD THE NATS WILL BE THIS CITY'S MOST BELOVED TEAM!!! That'll teach Danny boy!!!

Posted by: eddie5 | November 19, 2009 2:04 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 19, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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