Great moments in False Dichotomies: the Twins stats guy

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The only instance I’ve ever heard of a sabermetric-oriented front office actually believing that scouting was for suckers came about 11 years ago when — rumor had it anyway — J.P. Ricciardi of the Blue Jays was actually peddling that stuff. And even then it was likely just big talk from a guy who was in over his head as a general manager.

In every other instance, the teams which have most famously embraced advanced baseball analysis — the A’s, the Rays, the Red Sox, etc. — have made the smart and, in reality, obvious and pragmatic decision to utilize and value the insight and data gathered by scouts as well as whatever they’ve gotten from their research people. There is literally no baseball team which has some dudes in rooms with laptops upon whose data they exclusively rely.

Yet we still read things like this from Mike Bernadino of the Pioneer Press, describing how the Twins actually do, contrary to popular opinion, have a stats guy on staff:

While major league front offices increasingly lean toward youthful Ivy League types weaned on the writings of Bill James and, more recently, publications such as Baseball Prospectus, the Twins seemingly have held the line on such supposedly outdated concepts as “makeup” and the “2-through-8 scouting.”

All of that is the basis for introduction of Jack Goin, the Twins’ Manager of Major League Administration and Baseball Research. Yes, the Twins stat dude.

I don’t know why Bernadino, like so many other writers, feels it necessary to set this up as some shocking reveal or major dichotomy, but that approach to this is the sort of thing which just perpetuates the dumb stats vs. scouts culture war in which many in baseball’s chattering classes engage. All teams have stats guys. All teams have scouts. Some may rely more heavily on the input of its scouts, some more on the input of its analysts, but everyone is gathering as much information as they can.

This should not be a shock, but it’s so often presented as though it should be. I find that baffling.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.