Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy

If you’re painting the Giants as some sort of anti-Moneyball team you’re delusional

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Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle has a column today in which he praises the Giants for being a scout-based anti-Moneyball organization, claiming that they have no use for advanced analytics, that they base their decisions on “visual evidence” and that they are superior to “organizations cutting their scouting staffs and stocking computers.”

He then predictably paints a ridiculous caricature of statistical analysis and those who find value in it:

Numbers, they believe, tell the entire story – and their approach is worshiped by thousands of fans and bloggers who wouldn’t last five minutes in a ball-talk conversation with Tim Flannery, Mark Gardner or Ron Wotus.

Jenkins then goes on about the way the Giants put together their two-time World Series championship team, claiming that it’s all about old school scouting and experience and grit and all of that stuff and how the people who employ advanced analytical tools to build baseball teams have it all wrong.

It’s bad enough on its own, but it’s much worse when one realizes that Jenkins simply has his facts wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Wrong to the point of basic journalistic malpractice.  Why? Because he doesn’t once mention the name Yeshayah Goldfarb. Who is Yeshayah Goldfarb? Glad you asked!

Goldfarb’s title is long and clunky: He’s the Giants’ director of minor league operations/quantitative analysis.

What that means is that Goldfarb had a role in just about every player personnel decision the Giants’ baseball operations department made to shape this year’s team — from past amateur drafts to in-season trades to off-season free-agent signings.

“He’s one of our ‘Moneyball’ guys, if you will,” Giants president Larry Baer said last week, alluding to the process of finding valuable players that other teams might overlook. “He does a lot of our really important analysis on player acquisitions.”

Goldfarb’s job, that 2010 article from JWeekly.com notes, is to “focus on taking a mountain of statistics and data and “putting it into a simple, understandable format for people that need the information.”  And it’s not just some make-work job to satisfy some affirmative action for computer geeks requirement:

Goldfarb and his cohorts in analytics also were instrumental in re-signing Uribe before the season, trading for two relief pitchers in midseason (including lefty specialist Javier Lopez) and going after mid-season discards Burrell and Ross. He also helped convince officials to draft college stars Lincecum (2006) and Posey (2008).

That article is from 2010, so it describes the key, improbably useful pieces which helped the Giants win that title. Jenkins notes the similar improbably useful pieces that went into the 2012 title and would have you believe that it was all a bunch of lone wolf, Clint Eastwood scouts finding those guys. I have no doubt that the Giants’ scouting operation is top notch, but I’m willing to bet that Goldfarb — and his statistics — was every bit as important to the building of the 2012 champs as he was in 2010. Yet Jenkins doesn’t mention his name once and denies that his job function has a place on the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants President and CEO thinks this stuff is important. So too does the general manager. They both go out of their way to praise Goldfarb and the kind of work he does, crediting it with helping the team win a world championship.  How, in light of that, people like Bruce Jenkins can write the literally counterfactual sorts of things like he wrote today is beyond me.

There is no baseball team that sees the world like Jenkins thinks the Giants see the world. There is likewise no baseball team that sees the world the way Jenkins’ caricature of statisticians sees the world.  Every team uses advanced and often proprietary analysis. Every team has scouts and uses them.  Yet for some reason Jenkins and his ilk continue to fight a false war on bad information.  It boggles the mind.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.