The Giants have been into stats for a long time. After they won the World Series in 2010, they revealed that it was the nerds who advocated for Aubrey Huff, not the scouts. Bless those nerds. There were still some old school baseballisms baked into the front office, but Yeshayah Goldfarb has been around for almost two decades now. The Giants employ all sorts of statistics in their decision-making. This isn’t new.
When it comes to analytics, though, they’re admitting that they’re behind.
Herges comes from a Dodgers organization that is on the cutting edge and has a huge office at Dodger Stadium dedicated to analytics and new ways of attacking the game. In discussing the reassignments of Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner last week, Evans hinted that the next pitching coach would have more of an analytical background.
And it seems like there’s some confusion on the ol’ internet about the Giants finally getting around to Moneyball around the time all of the players in the book have retired, which makes them sound waaaay behind the rest of the world. That’s not exactly right, though.
Every team looks at stats. They all have armies of people churning out stats, trying to put numbers into better context. They’re accounting for park and luck, looking for the hidden gems that can’t be found with a few FanGraphs searches. They have proprietary numbers and metrics. The Giants are one of these teams.
Where they’re behind, apparently, is where the numbers and the physical components of baseball meet. It’s one thing for someone to hand Dave Righetti a tablet with every Giants’ spin rate. It’s another thing for Righetti to be actively seeking this stuff out and getting ideas on his own while working with his pitchers. It’s one thing to for Hensley Meulens to embrace the new era of launch angles and free swinging. It’s another thing for him to understand this innately and communicate it well because he’s always believed in it.
The problem isn’t that they’ve been statistically averse, but that they haven’t been applying whatever they’re finding as deftly as they could be. The coaches weren’t asking the right questions, perhaps. The analytics team had troubles communicating what the Giants needed, maybe. This is all speculation on my part, of course, but it looks like the organization is trying to have their crab sandwich and eat it, too, keeping around the baseball minds they respect (Righetti, Meulens, Ron Wotus) while nabbing executives and coaches from the organizations that have been better at everything than the Giants over the last three years.
One of those organizations was the Cardinals, and that’s where David Bell comes in. The Giants hired him to be the Director of Player Development. Now the Giants get to pick his brain.
EVANS: Soooo. We would love to know how the Cardinals produce so many hitters. How did they fix Kolten Wong? What’s a Tommy Pham? How do they always have an outfielder ready for the majors?
BELL: I have no idea. I was the bench coach. I told the infielders where to stand. Sometimes I would check with the video replay team to see if we should challenge!
EVANS: Well, sh
Jokes! Bell is probably pretty well-versed in whatever the Cardinals were doing. It’s not like he has the Cardinals Way tattooed on the inside of his eyeballs, but he can likely incorporate some outside ideas that can help fill the void.
I would guess that Bell is just the beginning. The Giants are looking for a new hitting coach and pitching coach, and I have a hunch that they’ll come from Teams That Know What They’re Doing. Bell (Cardinals) and Herges (Dodgers) are the first steps, and we know they were interested in Chili Davis (Red Sox) for their hitting coach gig, and that they’re interested in Victor Rodriguez, who was his assistant. I would think that we’ll start to hear names like Mike Maddux (Nationals) and Alan Cockrell (Yankees), who are both well-versed in the organizational analytics of Teams That Know What They’re Doing.
I keep seeing people on Twitter complaining about these moves. The refrain goes something like, “Oh, yeah, like it was the coaches’ fault. Like this game of musical chairs is going to help,” and it’s very, very odd. I don’t know if moving on from Righetti and Meulens will help, but I can certainly appreciate how difficult it must have been for the Giants to make those moves. They sure think they needed a fresh perspective from both positions, and considering how awful they were at ... everything ... last year, it’s hard to disagree.
The new coaches will be well-versed in the analytics deployed by smart teams, most likely. Think of it as benevolent corporate espionage, and it’s probably a good thing. The Giants were with it, but they changed what it was. Now what’s it seemed weird and scary to them. But they’re working on fixing that! It’s just about all we can ask for until the offseason starts.