Well, a lot or very little, depending on who you talk to. It's certainly a subject of plenty of debate, and while things have improved recently, I don't think anybody takes the position that the sport is running at perfect efficiency.
Let me point out first that I don't mean this in a social or legal sense. I'm not here to bemoan the overinflated salaries of these man-children throwing a ball around and how they make more in a year than a teacher does in their lifetime. That's obviously an illustration of misplaced priorities in our wonderful capitalist economy, but it's also a discussion that's been had a hundred times.
No, this is Moneyball 2.0. Statistics are here to stay; we've fixed the overemphasis on that. But what is still not being done well? Where are teams continuing to fail? It's a question I'm sure many of you have considered repeatedly and formulated perhaps very complex answers on, but I don't know if I've seen a dedicated place to discuss it.
So I'll start.
1. I'm an econ guy, so I see a lot of inefficiencies in how teams are spending their money; the biggest pet peeve I have is the tiny size of most scouting departments and baseball ops in general. Most teams employ something like 20-30 scouts, many have fewer than that. They're paying major leaguers millions of dollars. If a scout costs $100,000 a year (salary+expenses), it takes ten scouts finding one guy you can pay $1M instead of $2M for the same production, and you justify their salary.
The decision to draft Mike Trout has probably paid for the entire scouting budget of the Angels for the last two-plus seasons, and will continue to justify a lot of those expenditures. Over 20 teams did not make that decision, many of whom didn't even scout him apparently, and probably would have changed their minds with better or more scouting. Oops.
2. I like databases, and I like trends. I don't know much about how teams go about finding amateur talent, but I suspect that not only are there a lot of kids missed due to manpower problems, but most of the talent they see is for the first time. Add scouts, but also create a way for them to communicate with each other and the major league team. This is my dream:
The MLB team has enough scouting manpower to not only hit pretty much every high school and college in the country at least once, but they're taking a look at freshman and J/V teams as well as the varsity squads. Why? Because if you've got a 15-year-old at some high school throwing 92, I want to know about it now. When he's draft-eligible, I want to know where is. Is he at 95 now? Or is he throwing 88? Did he develop an offspeed pitch, or is he just relying on the fastball? That tells me whether he's rising or falling (or staying the same), whether he wants to get better despite dominating the opposition with an overpowering FB. That's crucial information, because it might be the difference between a kid that's losing or gaining velocity, and a kid that's getting to the park and picking up a slider and a changeup as opposed to just throwing heat all the time. Gather the information, and use it come draft time.
3. Some people have mentioned this one, but add minor league affiliates. They really don't cost that much (plenty make money) and it's worth it to give regular PT to some fringe prospects. Because you never know. At a few million dollars a year, I'd rather have 25+ guys with full-season numbers and regular chances to play and improve than a utility infielder. There have got to be potential All-Stars, probably MVPs and Cy Youngs too, that just didn't get enough chances in the minors.
4. Another one that's been brought up is nutrition. A bunch of young kids, most of whom have no money, traveling around with their also-young buddies and getting $20/day to eat? Of course they're gorging on burgers. You just invested a bunch of signing bonus cash and a roster spot on that player. Get a cook or at least monitor their food so they're getting the right things to eat and in enough quantities. The right food will help them so much.
5. Better coach evaluation. There are really no standards for becoming a coach, and while I'm not that concerned about abuse in the pros, I feel like a lot of managers and coaches are skating by because someone else hired them, so they must be good. Or they've been here forever. But are our players improving year-over-year? Are the guys we bring in getting better? There needs to be a system that objectively evaluates coaches. It's hard, no doubt, and it shouldn't be the only evaluation, but it seems necessary.
That's all I got right now. It seems to me like baseball does get a lot of things right, and they've made quite a bit of progress recently. But say you're the president or GM of a team: what do you change?