The Reds Caravan rolled through Bloomington yesterday. This edition of the traveling side-show featured Marty Brennaman, Eric Davis, Assistant GM Bob Miller, new guy Brayan Pena, minor leaguer Tucker Barnhart, and Big Red Machine glue-guy Doug Flynn. After Marty introduced everyone, he opened up the floor to questions. I asked Bob Miller about the status of the Reds’ Analytics efforts. He tried to convey the vast amount of data that the team collects, including over 90 data points for every pitch thrown. The Director of Baseball Research/Analysis is Sam Grossman, who heads a team of three programmers. The team also employs over 20 scouts, which are especially necessary for understanding high school and foreign talent where the data on the player’s performance is sparser/non-existant.
While I appreciate the honest and helpful answer from Mr. Miller, I wonder whether having three people doing analytics for a team that is going to spend $100M+ each year on player payroll is enough. Do other teams have more analytics professionals? The Reds, under the Dusty Baker regime, tended to ignore a lot of largely accepted analytics wisdom:
-Baker consistently batted his shortstop in the top 2 spots in the order, despite the Reds not having an above-average bat playing shortstop
-The Reds left Aroldis Chapman, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, to languish in the closer roll for 2 years, where he pitched a total of 135 innings over 2 years, having a minimal effect on the game. Mike Leake, the Reds’ 5th starter, registered 371 innings in those 2 years.
-Baker wanted his hitters to be aggressive at the plate, which lowered their walk rate, sometimes to comical levels. Getting on base is important, and walks are a way to get on base.
I’d like to see the Reds become more cutting-edge in accepting data-driven wisdom that will improve their team’s performance. As a skilled analytics developer, its frustrating for me to see my team frequently mocked by those individuals who work full-time in baseball analytics. Maybe they’ll hire me as a consultant. I can fix them.
Maria wrote a wrap-up of the Bloomington Caravan stop for Redleg Nation. You should check it out here!