Archive for the ‘Front Office Intrigue’ Category

jaysanalytics

The Jays’ analytics deparment hard at work crunching numbers.

So this feels like a better time to discuss the piece about the Jays’ shamefully small analytics department that was posted by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet late Wednesday night, doesn’t it? No vultures circling, no hopeless, mindless negativity surrounding the club. Shit, last night J.A. Happ took the bull by the horns a little bit, even — at least as much as a fifth starter can do — and for a time Juan Francisco was sporting a higher wRC+ than Yasiel Puig and Giancarlo Stanton. The Jays, despite being just 21-21, are a mere one-and-a-half games out of first place in the AL East. Things are alright, right?

They’re at least alright enough, for the moment, to maybe not lose our minds as we tackle some of the stuff that folks — myself included, to an extent — were seething about the other night. None of that is about Davidi’s work, which as usual is excellent, and in particular is valuable by lifting the veil on a corner of the Jays’ organization that is intentionally little seen by the public. For the club allowing such a profile, though, the instinct for me — and I would assume most analytically inclined folks — is to view it as a misstep. Here we have the club, through the proxy of the TV network that is subsidized by their content (and the lack of competitive bidding needed to acquire the right to air it) ham-fistedly trying to boast about their progressive credentials, instead painting themselves as hopelessly out-of-touch when it comes to their usage of the thing called analytics — the thing our old friend Parkes, at his old blog, Fanatico, succinctly and perfectly a year ago called “measuring performance through the best available metrics, and then attempting to implement what’s been learned as a means of improvement.”

If “hopelessly out of touch” sounds harsh, that’s because it is. An organization attempting to compete with the likes of the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays has absolutely zero excuse for not clawing with their fingernail for ever additional inch of competitive advantage. Period, end of sentence. An organization that doesn’t run, arms open, towards analytics as — at the bare minimum — a means of acquiring extra information their opponent may not have, is beyond dumb as fuck and deserves to lose. No one — at least not at this point, or at least not anyone worth listening to — in the divide between analytics and traditional evaluation sees one or the other as the be-all, end-all, so I’m not even saying this as though I demand that the Blue Jays organization applies every detail gleaned from advanced, proprietary metrics and research to better the team, but holding themselves up and patting themselves on the back for saying “we don’t disdain this stuff,” as they’re trying to compete for the division with the Tampas and the Bostons? And for the Wild Card with the Clevelands and the Oaklands? That’s not just hopeless, it’s frighteningly fucking job-undeservingly out-of-touch!

That all said, let’s not lose perspective here.

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BBWelcome1

Don’t get too excited here, but it looks as though the Jays have a rather interesting opportunity.

A few of them, actually. Currently listed on Rogers’ jobs site are listings for a Baseball Operations Analyst, as well as a scouting intern, and an analytics intern.

Why do I say not to get excited, you ask? Those sound like pretty exciting opportunities, you say?

Well, actually yeah. They are, if that’s your bag. But for one, I can’t help but wonder if the actual position– less so the internships– might not be a posting for a job that’s already been earmarked for someone, even though the company still has to go through the formal process of putting up a job posting. Don’t companies do shit like that? I’m entirely just speculating baselessly on that, but my immediate thought was that it sure would be a hell of a process, having to go through a torrent of applications from the public, full of all sorts of dubious research credentials and over-eager dreamers hoping to get a foot in the door.

Or maybe not. I don’t know. And it doesn’t really matter, because secondly, I’m pretty sure the guys behind the brand new Jays-focussed analytics blog Breaking Blue are going to own us all in a matter of months anyway, so the Jays will probably be snapping them up any minute now to take whatever position is available.

Obviously I half-joke, but their work– which first came to my attention after Chris Carruthers’ post at FanGraphs Community Research (which is also on his own site) on the effect R.A. Dickey had on pitchers following him was getting all kinds of Twitter love yesterday– is slightly terrifying. In a good way, I mean– in terms of ingenuity and execution, and also in making me (and several other folks sitting around here in theScore’s blog jail) feel mighty old. Mighty fucking old indeed.

Hey, but that’s alright. Good on ‘em. And shit,  there is precedent when it comes to big league clubs hiring analytics writers from the web– in particular, of course, when it comes to Baseball Prospectus, who’ve had a number of guys hired away by different organizations.

One of those guys is Mike Fast, now with the Astros, who offered which I can only assume is some excellent advice today– all of this stuff is pretty much entirely above my pay grade (yeah, but how well can these guys squeeze “fuck” into the middle of common, everyday words, huh????)– on some prompting from our own @DrewGROF (as well as Noah Sherman, whose work you’ll probably recognize from Bluebird Banter) based on the “qualifications” section of the Jays’ job posting for the analyst position.

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yangomes

The regular season has ended, and yet Yan Gomes is still playing. The Clevelands are fighting for their playoff lives, hoping for a chance to take a crack at the Red Sox in the ALDS, awaiting the winner of tonight’s Tampa-Texas tiebreaker, and the addition of Gomes– worth 3.7 wins per FanGraphs (2.7 per Baseball Reference) in just 88 games– has been a huge part of that.

So, it should be noted, have the additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Danny Salazar, Scott Kazmir, and a re-born Ubaldo Jimenez– meaning, the Francona-is-magic brigade can kindly take a seat, thanks.

Regardless, given the atrocity that Jays fans have endured behind the plate this season, which Alex Anthopoulos still won’t commit to replacing– though given that means submarining what little is left of his theoretical value, I suppose it’s understandable– there has been a lot of post-facto hand-wringing around here among those who’ve taken notice of the season Gomes has had.

That’s not remotely close to unfair. Esmil Rogers has had a very good season himself, but you simply cannot give up MLB-quality everyday catchers for a middle reliever, no matter how good or versatile he may be. Especially when you’re committing to J.P. Arencibia.

Frankly, the Jays are lucky that Rogers had as good a year as he did– thanks in no small part to bullpen coach Pat Hentgen and the introduction of a power sinker to his repertoire. Otherwise dealing away Gomes would look even more like an unmitigated disaster.

Even without the Rogers component, however, there are reasons to not fly too deeply off the handle about it– even if they may illuminate something not too pretty about how the club operates.

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dunedinlacava

I don’t want to write too much about this, because Minor Leaguer over at Bluebird Banter has done the heavy lifting, so you should all head over there and read his piece, but, to make a long story short, well… um… read what the title of this post says.

To make the story slightly longer, Minor Leaguer asked Bob Elliott to clarify what happened regarding the excised comment from his Tom Burns piece in the Toronto Sun– which I wrote about yesterday– that had originally suggested a behind the scenes “turf war” was ongoing between Jays front office staffers Tony LaCava and Dana Brown, and that some of the turnover in the scouting department was as a result of this.

Money quote:

Elliott responded by saying that he had filed the story during the day and was at the Rogers Centre covering Tournament 12 this past Saturday when he got a call at 10:10 pm from his source. The source told him that, after reading the story, he realized the information he passed along was “dead wrong” and apologized to Elliott for the inconvenience. Realizing the error, Elliott called the Sun office to delete the paragraph around 10:12 pm.

So… it sounds like the Jays clearly didn’t exert direct pressure on a journalist to make a story more favourable to them. That’s good! Indirect pressure, though? Via the source? Maybe. Or maybe some anonymous NL scout was telling tales while shitfaced and thought better of it in the cold, sober light of day.

As much as we’d perhaps be inclined to believe that this behind-the-scenes stuff had to be coming from somewhere, and wasn’t just invented out of thin air, we still have no idea. And even if some sort of conflict is happening, like I said yesterday, it’s not like you’d expect a completely harmonious front office, following a season like this. Especially, if I may allow myself to briefly speculate, a front office with so many voices– perhaps too many voices– in it. Know what I mean?