My line of work is basically all Internet, so I stumble across some strange things. Today, it was a Wall Street Journal article about how baseball teams are using the wisdom of fans to make decisions. We know, thanks to Peter Gammons, that front offices read blogs. This piece goes a little deeper, citing a few specific instances of teams using the aid of fans for strategic advantage.
The first is of a Cardinals program called One for the Birds, wherein fans send in bios of lesser-known college players. The powers-that-be then review these fan submissions and send scouts to check out the most interesting of the crop. This is absolutely free for the Cardinals to try out. While they’ll have to spend the money to actually scout the players, they’ll have a decent idea of who’s worth it and who’s not. The pay-off for a real discovery by these means would be astronomical.
And then there’s the infamous Internet story of U.S.S. Mariner’s open letter to M’s pitching coach Rafael Chavez, urging him to fix Felix Hernandez’s pitch selection. Through a simple analysis, Dave Cameron, the site’s author, determined that King Felix was far too reliant on the fastball. The letter was penned on June 27th, the day after Felix got lit up by the Red Sox for five runs in 5.2 innings–a far cry from his near-no-hitter back in April. He ended up tossing 16 innings over his next two starts, allowing just two runs, both in the first bout. The funny thing is that he struck out only seven over those two starts, which isn’t usually Felix’s game. However, he only walked three, which surely aided in his success.
This actually plays right into the philosophy espoused in the book Wikinomics, which, coincidentally, I’m in the middle of reading. It’s about harnessing the awesome power of mass collaboration. Which is really what we do here on baseball blogs. We talk, you comment, and we’re all a bit more knowledgeable as a result. While some baseball front offices tend to shun blogs, some are embracing them as source of collective knowledge. We at RAB — Mike, Ben, myself, the commenters, hell, even the lurkers — might not have more knowledge than Damon Oppenheimer and Brian Cashman. But because we’re all working together, we might think of something that the two of them couldn’t. And that, my friends, is how we’re all doing part to help our beloved Yankees.