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View Full Version : Old school scouts vs. Sabermetrics discussion


hose
01-16-2005, 06:50 AM
2 statheads go at it with 2 old school scouts in a pretty candid discussion at ESPN.

........GARY HUGHES:" It makes no sense whatsoever. Oakland, all this stuff, and the two best players they had were the Latin shortstop and the high school third baseman. To eliminate that . . . it's arrogant. It's foolish."

The article is pretty long but very interesting......screw Billy Beane:cool:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=schwarz_alan&id=1963830

SoxFan48
01-16-2005, 09:46 AM
The Stats v. Scouts debate is not going to end anytime soon. With Harvard MBAs entering the front offices in droves, the advancement opportunities for old line scouts are not what they once were.

Here is another take on the debate from Rob Neyer:

http://proxy.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=neyer_rob&id=1966043

Mohoney
01-16-2005, 03:02 PM
This was, perhaps, the most intelligent statement in the article.


EDDIE BANE: We'd need at least a three-pitch mix already. Command already. We'd not just take an arm in the first round. We're trying to get our scouts away from the radar gun as much as possible. So a three-pitch mix with makeup.

Jerome
01-16-2005, 03:20 PM
It seemed to me like the stat guys were saying pretty much 'if the guy doesn't have the stats in the minors, how is he gonna have them in the majors?'.

row18
01-17-2005, 01:31 AM
Not to totally disregard stats, but if I had to choose I'll got with a scout, those guys are baseball lifers, and they know the intangleables that do not reflect in the stats.

hose
01-17-2005, 07:42 AM
Not to totally disregard stats, but if I had to choose I'll got with a scout, those guys are baseball lifers, and they know the intangleables that do not reflect in the stats.

The next generation of scouts will all be computer literate and probably using some of the sabermetrics to some degree.

What's the value in strictly a numbers cruncher with no baseball background evaluating talent in the future?.....you could outsource that job to India.

SoxFan48
01-17-2005, 07:55 AM
Not to totally disregard stats, but if I had to choose I'll got with a scout, those guys are baseball lifers, and they know the intangleables that do not reflect in the stats.

And what exactly are the intangibles?

voodoochile
01-17-2005, 08:57 AM
And what exactly are the intangibles?

Attitude, raw athletic talent, the ability to learn, patience, a rubber arm, the ability to throw if not command three pitches, bat speed, etc.

idseer
01-17-2005, 10:05 AM
Attitude, raw athletic talent, the ability to learn, patience, a rubber arm, the ability to throw if not command three pitches, bat speed, etc.

ability to learn is a big one. these kids are still just beyond puberty, for crying out loud. they haven't even finished growing (both physically and maturity-wise).

Dadawg_77
01-17-2005, 10:10 AM
From Rob Neyer article about this article.


Last month, there was a great piece in Slate (http://slate.msn.com/id/2110977/) by Henry Blodget, in which he enumerated all the ways that investors fool themselves. All of it's instructive, but I found this highlight particularly applicable to baseball: Conservatism Bias and Confirmator Bias: Once we form opinions, we tend to overvalue information that reinforces them and undervalue information that undermines them (conservatism bias). We even tend to seek out supporting information (confirmatory bias). Thus, we irrationally cling to incorrect conclusions, and, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.


But everything's different now. The rules have changed, and there's no use trying to put the clowns back in the little car. A couple of years ago, I asked Paul DePodesta to name some of the books that guided his thinking, and the first that came to his mind was Thomas J. Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." And it's right there, on page 150 Both [groups of scientists] are looking at the world, and what they look at has not changed. But in some areas they see different things, and they see them in different relations one to the other. That is why a law that cannot even be demonstrated to one group of scientists may occasionally seem intuitively obvious to another. Equally, it is why, before they can hope to communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling the paradigm shift. Just because it is a transition between incommensurables, the transition between competing paradigms cannot be made a step at a time, forced by logic and neutral experience. Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once (though not necessarily in an instant) or not at all.

As Stat work progresses it becomes better and greater tool, where as scouting and rating tools hasn't really progress. The question that has to be asked when evaluating any existing process, "if we hadn't always done this way, we would do this way", doesn't arrive at a great conclusion for scouting. As stat work and other metrics improve, today's scouting methods will become more and more out of date. Numbers don't lie but personal biases often do.

Sabermetricians always want more data since more data allows you to make more concrete decisions. Scouting provides some data but with technology and other methods improving, your traditional 80/20 method won't be worth much soon. Want to see if a pitcher has a "rubber" arm, use motion capture system to see his mechanics and compare them to proper mechanics. This will show how much strain a pitcher puts on his body and odds on when/where and how badly he will injure it.

PaulDrake
01-17-2005, 10:23 AM
From Rob Neyer article about this article.




[/indent]As Stat work progresses it becomes better and greater tool, where as scouting and rating tools hasn't really progress. The question that has to be asked when evaluating any existing process, "if we hadn't always done this way, we would do this way", doesn't arrive at a great conclusion for scouting. As stat work and other metrics improve, today's scouting methods will become more and more out of date. Numbers don't lie but personal biases often do.

Sabermetricians always want more data since more data allows you to make more concrete decisions. Scouting provides some data but with technology and other methods improving, your traditional 80/20 method won't be worth much soon. Want to see if a pitcher has a "rubber" arm, use motion capture system to see his mechanics and compare them to proper mechanics. This will show how much strain a pitcher puts on his body and odds on when/where and how badly he will injure it.
[/indent] In every facet of life there are always statistical "outliers". The Stat Geeks will miss them every time.

Dadawg_77
01-17-2005, 10:48 AM
In every facet of life there are always statistical "outliers". The Stat Geeks will miss them every time.

For those who aren't familiar with statistical work. Outliners are data which is out range (2 SD) of what your other data is showing. Before labeling the data point as an outliner, and toss it out form the data set, one should take a closer look at it to make sure it is an outliner. In baseball world, a great example of a outliner would be Brady Anderson 50 homer season. I don't think "stat geeks" miss them but I will grant some do undervaule them. Also your point doesn't address how many "outliners" scouting and other methods miss, which is greater then what stat work misses.

Flight #24
01-17-2005, 11:15 AM
For those who aren't familiar with statistical work. Outliners are data which is out range (2 SD) of what your other data is showing. Before labeling the data point as an outliner, and toss it out form the data set, one should take a closer look at it to make sure it is an outliner. In baseball world, a great example of a outliner would be Brady Anderson 50 homer season. I don't think "stat geeks" miss them but I will grant some do undervaule them. Also your point doesn't address how many "outliners" scouting and other methods miss, which is greater then what stat work misses.

The other problem with being primarily or completely statistically driven is that it's reliant on the ability of past data to help predict future performance. With say high school kids, that's not really the case (or maybe the appropriate statistical tools haven't been identified yet).

IMO the correct approach is the one apparently being taken by Hughes (the Anaheim guy). Stats are another datapoint to be taken into consideration along with the more traditional scouting data & evaluations. The ideal scenario is to have scouts who understand the statistical measures and can blend all the available data to provide the most complete assessment of the player.

The problem, as evidenced in the discussion is that the 2 sides each seem to want to be the primary/only method and devalue the other. That, IMO is the result of Moneyball and the comments from Beane, etc contained inside.

Dadawg_77
01-17-2005, 11:25 AM
The other problem with being primarily or completely statistically driven is that it's reliant on the ability of past data to help predict future performance. With say high school kids, that's not really the case (or maybe the appropriate statistical tools haven't been identified yet).

IMO the correct approach is the one apparently being taken by Hughes (the Anaheim guy). Stats are another datapoint to be taken into consideration along with the more traditional scouting data & evaluations. The ideal scenario is to have scouts who understand the statistical measures and can blend all the available data to provide the most complete assessment of the player.

The problem, as evidenced in the discussion is that the 2 sides each seem to want to be the primary/only method and devalue the other. That, IMO is the result of Moneyball and the comments from Beane, etc contained inside.

So there isn't problem with scouts that complain a fellow scout was fired by one the larger scouting staff out there due to the "moneyball" problem. I guess scout are infallible and shouldn't be fired no matter what. If Bane really likes Weaver, why doesn't he hire him instead of making him a straw man argument. The scouts are a problem in their comfortable way of life is being attacked by new ideas, so they are trying to repress those ideas.

Flight #24
01-17-2005, 11:38 AM
So there isn't problem with scouts that complain a fellow scout was fired by one the larger scouting staff out there due to the "moneyball" problem. I guess scout are infallible and shouldn't be fired no matter what. If Bane really likes Weaver, why doesn't he hire him instead of making him a straw man argument. The scouts are a problem in their comfortable way of life is being attacked by new ideas, so they are trying to repress those ideas.

It is a problem if a guy with good scouting skills is fired because someone thinks those skills are no longer useful. That was the claim from Bane. That he hasn't hired him doesn't really mean anything. Maybe he has better scouts, maybe he doesn't have available budget.

My point was exactly yours, except reversed. It's bad for scouts to question/demean new tools that are coming up just as it's bad for statheads to demean the usefullness of traditional scouting tools. I don't think either provides a complete and accurate picture, they need to be used together. But the attitude from the statheads exemplified in your comment that "the scouts are a problem" is exactly what I'm referring to when I say that Moneyball has IMO been a primary factor in creating the division between the methods.

SoxFan48
01-17-2005, 12:17 PM
The Scouts v. Statistics debate is just starting and will go without resolution because the life experiences and view of the baseball world are different.

Both have their place. The key for me is that Bill James altered forever the way we look at baseball statistics and will one day be in the Hall of Fame (if Peter Gammons is correct). The field experience is of stat heads is also something to note. Bill Beane has kept his team at or near the top of the AL West for years with one of the lowest budgets in the majors. Theo Epstein with a big time payroll still found Moneyball players like David Ortiz and Kevin Millar were released by their respective teams and became keys of a World Championship despite their limited defense and speed. Paul DePodesta, GM of the Dodgers, has made some questionable moves this winter (signing Derek Lower to a 4 year conract), but did win a division in his first year as GM. If track records count, the statheads are making their case by performance in the front office.

Dadawg_77
01-17-2005, 02:09 PM
It is a problem if a guy with good scouting skills is fired because someone thinks those skills are no longer useful. That was the claim from Bane. That he hasn't hired him doesn't really mean anything. Maybe he has better scouts, maybe he doesn't have available budget.

My point was exactly yours, except reversed. It's bad for scouts to question/demean new tools that are coming up just as it's bad for statheads to demean the usefullness of traditional scouting tools. I don't think either provides a complete and accurate picture, they need to be used together. But the attitude from the statheads exemplified in your comment that "the scouts are a problem" is exactly what I'm referring to when I say that Moneyball has IMO been a primary factor in creating the division between the methods.

I should have said apart of the problem. My statement was in reaction to your complete whitewashing that part of this problem originates with scouts who feel threaten.

Ever think maybe the Astros didn't like the scouts scouting skills. I don't see the Astros as one of the more progressive sabermetric teams nor do they have any listed as a statistician on their payroll. So to make the claim the guy was fired because stats caused his value to lessen is weak argument at best.

Dadawg_77
01-25-2005, 10:56 AM
http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/050123debate2.html

Alan Schwarz writes about the aftermath of the debate. Some quotes

If any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true . . . Since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
John Stuart Mill
"On Liberty," 1859

....

In the end, it's the pure value of new ideas that elevates them above the old. All the other stuff is really just noise.