clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Giants, scouting, and analytics

It turns out the Giants like making good decisions

This is not the Juan Perez catch from the article, but it is a Juan Perez catch, and that's pretty good
This is not the Juan Perez catch from the article, but it is a Juan Perez catch, and that's pretty good
Rob Carr/Getty Images

If you remember the ESPN article on every Big 4 sports team's use of analytics, you probably remember its evaluation of the Giants as a team that kinda uses stats and kinda doesn't. On the "kinda uses stats" side were several aspects of Bruce Bochy's in-game strategy, their use of defensive shifts, and the fact that they used PITCHf/x and FIELDf/x before any other team did. On the "kinda doesn't" side: people don't think they use stats. This is a very complicated case. Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.

So let's be happy that Christina Kahrl, also with ESPN, wrote a little more extensively about the Giants' use and opinions of defensive stats. The main thing she addresses is that scout/stat divide, which is a ridiculous arbitrary binary, argued about mostly because people like arguing about things (BLUE AND BLACK IT WAS BLUE AND BLACK). The stats give information, and the scouts put it into context. Or, to put it another way:

“I think the best example I can give is our belief on how and when to adjust,” Wotus said. “We have the information everybody has, but for instance, if you look at attempted bunts, with Pablo [Sandoval] for instance, if there was a possible bunter, we always kept him way in. So they didn’t bunt; that’s a simple adjustment for a player. If we feel there’s a possibility for a bunt, maybe Casey [McGehee] will play in more. We look at the counts when people bunt and when they’re most likely to do it; we put a lot of detail into that information, and in the season, I’ll be passing that information to all of our infielders."

They have the stats that talk about bunts, and then they adjust. Great. Then the other team adjusts back by not bunting. Also great. But maybe Casey McGehee needs to play in more than Pablo Sandoval did because of their respective skill levels at handling bunts, or maybe the stats show that the hitter never bunts in a 3-1 count, so McGehee can play back, but after the batter fouls off that 3-1 pitch and is very late on the fastball, then McGehee has to adjust a couple steps. Scouting and stats, sittin' in a tree...

But the reason you should go read Kahrl's article is the insight it gives into not only the Giants' decision-making process, but the general mindset of how baseball teams create innovative solutions to disrupt the paradigms of a 19th century game being played in a 21st century environment. Apps, Deepweb, The Cloud. That should game those Google rankings a little. And the way they approach it is by using every piece of information they have, filtering it through people with decades of experience, and then winning the World Series. Seems like a good plan to me.