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From: Article: Your Turn: What Do You Want From A GM?

Posted by ashbury , 01 June 2016 · 717 views



ADVANCED STATISTICS

This is one that people think that the Twins are so far behind on. I don’t think we really know. However, if there were a change, and you were in charge, how much focus would you put on it?
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let’s be productive and each of us jot down our thoughts on what makes a good GM, and what type of candidate we would support the Twins signing.

The GM is responsible for so many things, and Seth touched on them so completely, that a full answer would be quite a treatise. The GM can't be an expert on every aspect, but that's why he gets to hire assistants. Ryan has seemed good on many of the nuts and bolts aspect of the job. But the area mentioned above, loosely considered as "statistics", is the area I would like to focus on.
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I think it's a misconception to believe that the team needs better statistics, per se. A purely sabrmetric approach wouldn't be very likely to succeed. But what I see missing from the team, and seems to be present with other teams, is a broader area called Business Analytics. I take for granted that areas under Dave St Peter's purview, setting ticket prices and so on, use some measure of this. But I have gotten nothing from what little I've read from Jack Goin, and definitely not from Terry Ryan, that suggests Business Analytics has much role in the baseball operations side of their business, nor that they are abreast of the state of the art.

Business Analytics can be broken into roughly three areas, in increasing sophistication.
  • Descriptive Analytics. "Where are we now?"
  • Predictive Analytics. "What are the trends going forward?"
  • Prescriptive Analytics. "What steps can we take?"
Businesses in areas as varied as Airlines, Forestry, Petroleum, Finance, Logistics, yadda yadda yadda, make use of these tools every day, to manage their valuable inventories. If you've ever heard a corporate sponsor called The MathWorks mentioned on NPR, that's the general area.

The analogy to a baseball team stands out a mile, in my mind.

If you don't even have the first level, Descriptive Analytics, there's a huge value in catching up to the state of the art. A lot of the value is just in seeing what data you don't already have, and going out and getting it. The ability to process large amounts of data has exploded in my lifetime. I think the Twins probably are OK in this regard, although it may be that further improvements could be made, such as in keeping tabs on every player in professional ball. (I don't mean just the stats, but internal scouting reports and so forth, sortable and searchable to any desired degree.) Basically if the GM can ask his analytics team, "find me every power hitting first base prospect with a decent eye and OK contact skills, and no red flags on his makeup" when he wants to construct a trade, he's fine. Not that trades are the main aim - you mostly want to know how your players stack up, especially in terms of dollars and cents - what do each stats do to create wins, and what are wins worth in terms of dollars.

The second area, which also can be loosely thought of as Forecasting, is where the better organizations start to separate themselves from their industry peers. Modify the above trade scenario, to add "show me first basemen with latent power that may develop later on". I can't help but harp on the Phil Hughes contract extension, as evidence that they do not seem to have a good handle on baseball forecasting - a good year from a pitcher with an inconsistent record should be cause for rejoicing because of the favorable contract, and result in at most a 1-year extension, bringing the risk back to what it was when the contract was originally signed. Note that it's not simply forecasting the future, but tying it to dollar value. Ryan is a good man, and his sense of how to deal with the human side of the game is not to be ignored, but I gather from his public statements that he doesn't trust predictive analytics, much to his detriment.

The third of these areas gets to be even more arcane, but again holds rewards for those who can apply the tools. Prescriptive analytics can be tied in with Systems Analysis, and attempts to go beyond looking at individual components (players etc in the case of baseball), and tries to formulate solutions of an entire system. For example in the trade scenario above, "which of the first base prospects I can go after in trade will give me the most bang for the buck based on our forecast lineup 3 years from now, or would I be better off going after a catcher? Give me a dollar and cents answer." Obviously there is no exactitude in the answers you get, since the input data is so probabilistic, so you run scenario after scenario and eventually see what pattern develops. And it depends on the quality of your Predictive Analytics, since it does you no good to plug Ricky Nolasco into an "equation" to see if he's a fit and what size contract you should offer, if you're penciling him in for a steady ERA of 3.50 every year. In my posts at Twins Daily I sometimes throw in words like "constraint" to describe the effect that a 25-man Active Roster has on planning - you can't sign 200 0.25 WAR players and win a pennant. Buzz words like constrained optimization, linear programming, stochastic processes, all require more than simply assigning an average industrious MBA to master. I am convinced that some of the better teams are at least dabbling in these areas, and I think that adopting some of the mindset behind these techniques would benefit our team.

Terry Ryan brings a lot to the table, but in this day and age I think he's better suited as a nuts and bolts assistant, to a GM who understands baseball inside and out but also is fully immersed in the use of Business Analytics. That's the kind of guy I'd like to see the Twins bring in as GM, because I'm very confident they do not have anyone remotely fitting this description in-house, unless Jack Goin surprises me greatly, or (God forbid) Rob Antony reveals some unplumbed depths. And then they need to hire an assistant GM with potential as good as Terry Ryan, and keep Antony doing contracts or whatever he does.

Questions raised here in this thread, e.g. of how to proceed with the current roster, or attempt a complete teardown keeping only a few key parts, derive from this, so I would not jump the gun by presuming an answer at the outset.

Just for grins, for anyone who made it this far in a "tl;dnr" kind of post: take a look at this guy's resume on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/arikaplan I'm not advocating him as the guy for GM. But this phrase caught my eye: "Optimized $110M payroll". For the Cubs. Prior to Epstein, apparently. People often use the word "Optimized" loosely. As an analytics specialist, his use of the word might not be quite so loose. I'd be a little curious to chat with him. And I want the GM the Twins hire to be comfortable relying on a Caltech guy like that, instead of assigning a St Thomas MBA to get up to speed.



Source: Article: Your Turn: What Do You Want From A GM?

  • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this



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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jun 02 2016 12:37 AM
Didn't see your original post. Loved Seth's challenge but didn't make it too far into the thread. Will maybe circle back to it.

As far as an analytics staff, I would bet that a couple of bright guys with a good working relationship and some creative ideas will trump an army of fresh MBA's taking instruction from someone still convinced of the methods that worked for them in the past. I don't know. Not sure how those things work on the inside. StatCast will be a game changer. Not sure how scouts are evolving. Not sure what the Cubbies were thinking by putting Schwarber in the outfield :)

My gut tells me the Twins have a lot of very good people who are good at jobs, if not the jobs they are presently assigned to perform. Around the league, there are bound to be enough teams at any time who are doing it right, as you described above, that a team like the Twins will always be playing catch-up no matter how good their players are.
    • ashbury likes this
I looked at the Kaplan link. It completely boggles my mind to think the Twins would go from the Ryan era to a new GM/Kaplan era. I don't see anyway this could be integrated, it would have to be a total blowout. The resistance from an organization engrained in philosophies that accept bunting in the second inning, bringing in the infield in the third, not understanding the value of a strikeout on either side of the game, and still thinking you can find that one magic bean i.e. Johan Santana, every year would make simply a change at the top unworkable. This also would be a massive investment, both financially structurally for the Pohlads. I don't think that is in their DNA. You mentioned Ryans dealing with the personal side of the game, which in a manner, is one of his faults. Not moving veterans, not selling a FA acquisition high when the season collapses, etc. Thats the most frustrating part of the analytics discussion for me. It doesn't take analytics to know that Hughes, Nolasco. Dozier, Plouffe, Grossmann, Suzuki, Centeno, etc, etc, etc are who they are. Many if not all have established histories. Wishing and hoping that because they are now MN Twins, they will turn into a carriage and stay that way are what gets us to where we are. Don't get me wrong, I am not against analytics, but I don't need them to tell me that you cannot take low SO, fly ball pitchers, and team them with a crappy defensive OF. There really cannot be just a new GM and or analytics dept here, it needs to be blown up.
    • ashbury likes this