David Laurila of FanGraphs had the opportunity to pepper Cardinals assistant general manager Michael Girsch with some questions. Girsch provided a great deal of insight into how the team operates in the front office under GM John Mozeliak.
The Cardinals, of course, fell two games shy of winning their second championship in three years as a direct result of having one of baseball’s most modern approaches to player evaluation. They were beaten by the Red Sox, a team that is at the forefront of front office modernization. Observing the success these teams have enjoyed in recent years, more and more teams are embracing analytics, using it side-by-side with scouting information. Only a handful of teams, most notably the Phillies, do not use analytics in some form.
Anyway, as much as I’d like to quote the entire article here, I’ll just quote one part that was of particular interest, then send you off to FanGraphs to read the rest.
On the RedBirdDog and Dashboard systems: “[RedBirdDog] is what we call our report-writing system. Scouting reports for amateur and pro, international, minor-league game reports, player-development progress reports — all of that is done through a website we call RedBirdDog. It’s basically a data-entry system for our staff to create reports.
“On the front office side, we have a separate site we call The Dashboard. It’s not for high-level summary data, but rather where we go for information on players. Everything we have about a player is there, from medical history, scouting reports from before and after he was drafted — all of that is in one place. Basically, we use The Dashboard to summarize and review those reports.
“We also have systems on the major-league side for advance scouting purposes. We have an advance-scouting portal that makes data — things like spray charts — available to our major-league staff. We have a group in our clubhouse doing video advance work, using BATS, to help the staff with advance scouting.”
The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.
The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:
- Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
- Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
- There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.
Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.
If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.
We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.
StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.
Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.
That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.