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.

Astros greeted with boos in first spring training game

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The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.

Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.

There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.

That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.

The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.

One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.

Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.

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