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.