White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija had this to say about analytics yesterday:
“Sabermetrics, nyeh. Sounds like a lot of hot air . . . I think there are definitely positive aspects to it. I think there is some information you can take from it that’s important. But ultimately from a player’s point of view, you want a coach that can relate to you. Can help you with adjustments mid-game.
“I think preparation with numbers and stats and all that’s great, but when the bullets are flying, you need a guy that knows your personality, can relate to you and get you to change or fix what’s going wrong. If you don’t respect the guy that’s telling you that information, you’re not going to listen to him . . . (Metrics enable) a lot of people to have jobs in baseball, I think. But is it necessary? Yes and no.”
The article in which those quotes are delivered anticipates some blowback for Samardzija and, I presume, someone somewhere on the Internet will provide that blowback. But really, I see absolutely nothing controversial about what he’s saying here. Not a single thing.
While front offices and, to some degree, managers and coaches, need to pay attention to advanced analytics, players don’t. They really don’t. They need to play baseball and they need to be comfortable doing so. Knowledge of analytics is not at all critical let alone essential to that mission.
What Samardzija is saying here about having someone who knows your personality who can tell you information is all about coaches who can convey the lessons gleaned from analytics — and scouting and everything else — to the players in a language they understand and in way which can best put them in a position to practically apply those lessons in a manner consistent with what the team wants from the player. Which has been the entire point of coaching since the first baseball game was ever played.
It can be cool if a player knows stuff about analytics. A nice bonus for a guy who may be more comfortable thinking about baseball in those terms than other players may be. But it is by no means necessary. And, if what every player tells you about keeping things simple and keeping one’s mind clear, it could very easily cause a player to overthink or lose focus.
If I own a team, I want a front office who knows everything they can possibly know that is relevant to winning baseball games, and that includes analytics. I also want coaches who can carry out game plans which reflect the insights gained by my front office, can adapt those insights to the roster which they are given as best as possible and who can communicate with the players in ways that the players best understand.
From my players, though, I basically want them thinking “HULK SMASH.” Everything else is gravy.