Feb
24

A look into the world of pro scouting

By

In a piece for The Journal News, as opposed to the blog, PeteAbe took a look into the Yanks’ world of pro scouting. Instead of taking the time to sum up what these guys do, allow me to quote:

The pro scouts watch players in the major leagues down to the lowest levels of the minors. Their job is to gather information to allow Cashman to make the best-educated decisions about trades, waiver claims and other personnel moves.

When Cashman gained full control over the team’s baseball operations in 2005, one of his first ideas was to better organize how the Yankees went about obtaining and organizing that information. He promoted Billy Eppler, a young team executive based in Tampa, to run the department.

“You see how much work is done on the amateur scouting side, where they have cross-checking, they have meetings, they have regional meetings. They spend so much time and effort for that one day. Why can’t we do it like that on the pro side?” Cashman said.

Run by ex-scout Billy Eppler, the department has a group of twelve scouts spread all over the country, and they even handle Japan. It’s a thankless job, because if Derek Jeter goes 3-for-4 with two doubles he’s the one that gets the credit, but there’s nary a mention of the scout who informed the team that Matt Garza tends to tip his breaking ball by fanning out his glove. I recommend you give it a read, but I also want to take this opportunity to talk about the Rays’ pro scouting department.

Tampa, you see, is going to eschew human advance scouts in favor of statistical analysis and video. The whole idea is to provide the field staff with the most in-depth info possible, while drawing off a much larger sample.

“When an advance scout goes in there, he’s seeing it for three, four days,” [manager Joe Maddon] said. “The data we’re going to accumulate goes over a longer period of time, which would indicate it’s more correct and not as much one man’s subjective opinion. We feel as though this may be the next level of advance scouting.”

Now, it’s important to note that they’re not getting rid of human advance scouts entirely, they’re just going to use them in a more localized way. A spreadsheet won’t tell you that Jason Bay has been in a bit of a funk lately and can be gotten out with off speed junk away because he’s stepping in the bucket, and so that’s where the human scout comes in. He can provide updated info on the “feel” of a team as well as recent tendencies, but the stats and video can be used for everything else. And, of course, you still need human scouts to watch the minors because those stats are unreliable, especially the farther away you get from the bigs.

Frankly, I think what the Rays are doing is brilliant. They’re using their resources more efficiently and taking advantage of state of the art information. It’s a copycat league, so it’s only a matter of time before we see more and more teams doing this. What do you guys think?

Categories : Analysis

27 Comments»

  1. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I have a feeling that Foghorn Leghorn’s of baseball has been taken over by the Egghead Jr.’s of the world.

    (Tommie, can I have a screencap please?)

  2. jsbrendog says:

    i think its mind blowing how much technology has changed the game. but at the same time youve gotta hand it to a once punchline franchise setting the bar and being the first to revolutionize their implementation techniques and move forward into the next era of the game.

    Those guys in charge over in tampa really know what they’re doing.

    side note, whats the deal with RAB fantasy baseball?

  3. Matt says:

    I agree; great move by Tampa.

  4. An important note: The Rays aren’t even using scouts less, they’re merely outsourcing portions of their scouting operation to a larger conglomeration of scouts.

    These statistical resources they’re using are compiled by scouts. Statheads watch video replays of these games and chart things just like normal scouts do and use that visual data to generate their stats.

    It amuses me to see an anti-stat-guy doubt the veracity or usefulness of a stat like UZR/150 by saying that you can only judge a player’s defensive worth by watching the games because stats like that are generated by some guy sitting in a room watching game after game after game and charting the location and result of every ball put in play and then quantifying that scouting process in numerical, graphical, identifiable form.

    • jsbrendog says:

      because stats like that are generated by some guy sitting in a room watching game after game after game

      we all know they do it in their mother’s basement while she makes them meatloaf and tells them how special they are and how one day they’ll find a girl who will see that like they, their mom, does

    • Tom Zig says:

      Joe Morgan says you don’t love the game enough.

    • Matt says:

      It amuses me to see an anti-stat-guy doubt the veracity or usefulness of a stat like UZR/150 by saying that you can only judge a player’s defensive worth by watching the games because stats like that are generated by some guy sitting in a room watching game after game after game and charting the location and result of every ball put in play and then quantifying that scouting process in numerical, graphical, identifiable form.

      I never thought of that. That’s an excellent, excellent point. Aren’t advanced defensive stats all based on analysis of play-by-play data anyway?

  5. Expired Milk says:

    Lets wait until after the 2009 season before we praise the Rays for their brilliance.

  6. J. Brent Cox's Rookie Card says:

    Joe Maddon is intelligent and somewhat of a renassiance man – and the Tampa Bay braintrust overall is very sharp. Meanwhile: a former MLB executive I spoke to says the Yanks Minor League operations continue to evoke much less respect – especially with Billy (Kei Igawa could be the Asian Ron Guidry) Eppler on the scene. Have faith but don’t hold your breath waiting for Cashman & Co. Home Grown Yankee All Stars.

    • La Costco Nostra says:

      ^^^^lmfao

    • Current “homegrown” Tampa Bay Rays starters:
      Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, David Price

      Current “homegrown” Yankees starters:
      Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera.

      Guys like Kazmir, Garza, Carlos Peña, Matt Joyce, Jason Bartlett, Dioner Navarro, Iwamura et. al. weren’t nurtured by the Rays farm system, they were acquired via trade by the Rays front office.

  7. anonymous says:

    I thought all last year we had a pro scouting problem that the blame of which was falling on Kevin Long. I saw alot of instances where our team just looked lost and disorganized that had nothing to do with the injuries. While other teams knew exactly how to attack us.

    Sitting guys in a room and watching video doesnt really sound like next level technology. Why arent they doing that already with the scouting staff?

  8. Pete Abraham says:

    I should have clarified this in the story. The pro scouts are used by the Yankees almost solely for transaction purposes. Their advance scouting is largely done in-house via video.

    In essence, if their considering a move, a pro scout will follow that player. Advance preparation is an entirely different department.

  9. [...] to speak to him. Eppler has been Brian Cashman’s most trusted advisor since 2005, and runs a department of 12 scouts who cover the big leagues and Japan. At just 33-years old, this should be the first of many GM [...]

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