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Gabe Kapler: players need to get with the new statistics

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Former major leaguer and former minor league manager Gabe Kapler pens a column over at WEEI today about how, even as people inside the game of baseball have moved on from the old statistics to new metrics when it comes to player analysis, the players themselves haven’t:

Times have changed, but substantially less among players. While progressive front offices have altered the way they evaluate us, we have lagged far behind in the way we grade ourselves. It’s akin to unhealthy communication in a relationship … The player still thinks he’s going to make a boatload of money because he’s hitting .300, and he might … but not because he’s excelling in that statistic. He may be shocked to find that he’s not in as high demand as a guy dominating a peripheral measurable.

Kapler goes on to make a case for the players to get with the times.

He has some good arguments, but even as a fellow traveller of the stat set, I think players getting hip to advanced metrics is pretty unimportant. Sabermetric measures of players are important to evaluate the players, sure, but the players themselves don’t play a huge role in player evaluation. Teams should know these things when building a roster. Agents should know these things when arguing for the player’s value in arbitration or free agency. Analysts and writers should know this stuff in describing what happens in a game and why certain things matter.

But if I’m running a team or advising a player I just want him to play baseball. Yes, he should absolutely know what plays are dumb and what plays are smart. He should, broadly speaking, know what is valuable and should carry out the will of the manager (who in turn is carrying out the will of the front office). But he should, more than anything else, do his own thing the best way he can.

For some that may be taking walks and doing things statheads would love to see him do. But that’s not the case for every player. Pitch recognition has a pretty big talent component to it, for example. If a guy is never going to be a patient hitter because he sucks at pitch recognition I’d hope he’d try to best salvage that by swinging violently at pitches that he thinks are at least close to the zone.

More broadly: stats are about understanding, explaining and in many ways predicting the game. Let the players play and let the rest of us worry more about the stats.  I don’t think Kapler is arguing anything in conflict with that — and I think he makes a lot of good points about how players are not the best at understanding the game even if they are the ones who play it — but I do think players’ study of advanced metrics should be in the broadest possible terms, not in any sort of detailed way.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a designated hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.