The Arizona Diamondbacks made two major moves this offseason by signing Zack Greinke to the most lucrative contract in baseball history (based on average annual value) and acquiring Shelby Miller from the Braves. The rest of the baseball world immediately panned these deals. Ken Rosenthal (FoxSports) wrote:

“The contract is insane, everyone knows it’s insane, and just as with the Red Sox and David Price, the only question is when the Diamondbacks start to regret it.”

Regarding the Braves’ haul for Shelby Miller, Jayson Stark (ESPN) said he has heard the deal described as the “heist of the decade”.

When you see decisions that could cripple a team from both a financial and talent perspective, it makes you wonder, who’s running that team’s analytics department? The answer: Dr. Ed Lewis.

During the early 2000s, Dr. Lewis was a special assistant to Tony LaRussa in St. Louis and has reunited with his old partner-in-crime in the desert. Lewis runs Arizona’s analytics department. At first glance, Dr. Lewis looks like a smart investment by the Diamondbacks. He has an advanced degree, for example. The problem is that Dr. Lewis, while obviously smart, has no formal mathematical training: he’s a vet.

No, not former military. An animal doctor.

It gets better. When a local newspaper asked Dr. Lewis about his qualifications, Lewis stated that he had been a veterinarian for 18 years and has traded “pretty aggressively” on the stock market.

To be clear, Ed Lewis isn’t solely to blame for the Diamondbacks’ disastrous decision-making. The veterinarian profession is noble. But skepticism regarding analytics runs deep out in the desert, evidenced by Dave Stewart, the Diamondback’s GM, stating, “We’ll use it [analytics]. It stops before the first pitch is thrown. … It’s not that we devalue it. We value it when it’s used appropriately. We do not value its intrusion into the game.”

It’s this attitude at the top that drives the Diamondbacks’ weak investment in the maths.

What’s more, franchise-crippling contracts aren’t rare. Consider: Barry Zito (7 years, $126M; 4.4 total WAR); Ryan Howard (5 years, $125M, -2.2 WAR in the first four years); BJ Upton (5 years, $75M; 0.4 WAR), to list a few.

The argument for better math goes like this: It can help clubs avoid contracts like those while also identifying talent to for organizations to lock up before players hit arbitration. The poster child for this argument is Evan Longoria. The Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a 9-year deal only six days after his MLB debut. Longoria’s deal will pay $47.6M through the end of 2016. He has already produced roughly 42 WAR (more than $200M dollars in value) for the Rays.

Big-contract mistakes could have been avoided with investment in analytics. For example, the best research on aging curves in the post-PED era shows that players age more quickly and aging varies by position compared to the steroid/amphetamine era. Investment in forecasting models that added more accurate regression projection for players after the Joint Drugs Agreement might have led to the conclusions that clubs needed to give older players more days off and also avoid signing long term deals until the labor market stabilized. During the transition years, teams didn’t just lose one or two million dollars, but tens of millions.

Consider the following thought experiment: Say a robust baseball analytics department improves a team’s decision-making, on average, by one percent. In 2015, the average payroll for a MLB team was $113 million. What does $1.13M buy you in the analytics world? (Short answer: a lot).

The Low Cost of Good Math

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the average starting salary for someone with a BA in Science Technology Engineering and Math in the United States is $43,000. Payscale estimates that a masters degree in a STEM field will up the starting pay to $80,000-$89,000 and hit $120,00-$171,000 mid-career.

If you make the poor life choice to go for a Ph.D., an academic statistician can expect between $80,000-$94,000 their first year and $120,000 mid-career (AMSTAT). For academics in the field of physics, pay is a bit lower.

In the private sector, Payscale estimates that a director of analytics will make between $87,000 and $187,000 in total compensation. These numbers are pretty close to the estimate at other websites. Glassdoor estimates that the average salary of a statistical consultant is about $75,000.

Remember that $1.3 million – the cost of shaving 1 percent off payroll by using advanced math? Let’s use it to hire an experienced director of analytics at $190,000, three researchers with MS degrees in statistics at $95,000 each, and six data crunchers at $50,000. Our analytics department would cost $775,000/yr. Add in software and technology and you’re looking a cost of $925,000 for a fully armed and operational battle station.That hypothetical firepower would be at the top of MLB in quality and quantity.

Back in the real world, it’s hard to get an accurate accounting of analytics department staffing and spending. I’ve heard the median department is around 3 full-time people.


The Reds are moving in the right direction. They promoted Sam Grossman from director of analytics to assistant GM. The front office added two additional positions to the Reds analytics division.

These changes, though, are incremental and limited. More aggressive spending, not only on entry-level people, but experienced analysts with advanced degrees who have worked for other baseball organizations, presents a real opportunity.

The Reds rebuilding effort is often compared in a positive way to what the Cubs and Astros have accomplished in recent years. Those clubs made decisive, all-in commitments to analytics, not half measures with one foot in old-school methods and another in modern thinking.

Like many decisions in business, how you weigh cost depends on what you think of the benefit: If the team leadership doesn’t believe analytics can improve baseball decisions, then it doesn’t matter if the Reds compare these costs to their annual revenue ($227 million), player expense ($130 million), or team value ($885 million).

We’ve heard the maxim that if you think knowledge is expensive try ignorance.

Well, if you think analytics are expensive, go ahead and sign Jason Marquis, or Willy Taveras, or Kevin Gregg, or Skip Schumaker, or Brennan Boesch or …

57 Responses

  1. larry papania

    This is a small step in the right direction. I’m hoping as WJ moves to his advisory position, that he moves physically to MO or some other state, and removes the “claw” from the current GM’s shoulder.

  2. larry papania

    …so that he can be freed up to add analytics as he pleases.

  3. WVRedlegs

    Nice article. I always enjoy the analytics discussions. Analytics departments surely can pay for themselves each year. This is one area where the small market teams can level the financial field against the bigger teams.
    Don’t throw too many barbs in the D-backs direction just yet, they are still considering BP as a possibility for their 2B position.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Great point about how analytics – hiring a smart statistics staff – is a way for smaller market teams to gain an advantage on big market teams, at least until the big stacks figure out that even they would benefit from saving money.

  4. Steve Mancuso

    It’s really incredible how inexpensive a strong analytics department is compared to error margins for payroll decisions. And I mean a top-notch department, one with credentialed, experienced (in other organizations) people in charge. Mike’s example uses 1 percent as the jumping off point. But it’s easy to imagine smart analysis saving several percentage points of payroll each year. Easy. One percent pays for a world-class operation. Just depends on top decision-makers to see the value.

    You would think the years and years of millions wasted on last gasp contracts for washed up players would be sufficient to make this clear.

  5. James

    …or trade for Barndon Phillips, draft Joey Votto, sign Johnny Cueto… (you’re cherry picking–those of who us have made the poor life decision for a PhD can spot a logical fallacy)

    • Steve Mancuso

      Your examples oversimplify the issue. Plenty of great decisions have been made with and without being based on statistics. Some are the product of good luck – and others of bad luck. Everyone has stumbled into positive and negative decisions in their lives. But that doesn’t mean at the margin, you don’t want to be as smart as possible. I want my team to be as well informed and intelligent in their thinking as possible when they enter negotiations with other clubs or free agents. Don’t you?

      • James

        Sure. I was critiquing the way in which the writer was making his argument–not terribly effectively, in my view, and riddled with bias. I think you have to make a good argument to convince readers; otherwise, you’re just preaching to the choir and everyone else is talked to like they’re a little bit stupid.

        But I also don’t entirely agree with the all-in argument. Let’s take it from Theo:

        “The only thing I know for sure,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said Monday, “is that whatever team wins the World Series, their particular style of play will be completely en vogue and trumpeted from the rooftops by the media all offseason — and in front offices — as the way to win.”

      • Steve Mancuso

        That quote from Theo is talking about the substance of thinking in how a front office approaches its team – emphasis on power, pitching, base running, shutdown bullpen etc. He’s saying there is more than one way to have a successful baseball team. Kansas City won last year, so teams tend to model Kansas City.

        That’s not at all the same as saying he’s indifferent to how much analytics a team uses. That’s about the process. No matter what substantive strategy is chosen, you want to be the best at obtaining it. And that requires great analysis of statistics as well as scouting.

        Regarding Mike’s post, he can defend himself. But all you did was critique the last sentence of a 1000-word post, ignoring the detailed way he structured and backed up his argument.

      • Mark Tokarski

        I agree with that Mr. Mancuso. But as I read the article I found myself hoping not that fans read it, but team personnel.

      • James

        Steve, I had some problems with the way he opened, as well, with a straw man fallacy, meant to be easily torn asunder as a way of strengthening the author’s real argument: find a particularly idiotic example from the opposing POV, characterize it as the center/totality of the opposition, then tear it down to build your own argument. It’s easy to look good when your portray an opposing POV as incompetent.

        That aside, I was struck by your claim that a modern baseball organization should employ both advanced statistics and scouting. In my world, we call that “mixed methods”–using quantitative analysis to locate broad trends and make predictions, employing qualitative analysis (in baseball, scouting and coaching) to cater more to individuals and sub-groups. Macro/micro, something like that. It seems to me that both approaches are valid. And yet they always seem to be placed in opposition to one another. I’d be interested in considering the ways in which stats and scouting are used in tandem, and a real discussion of their strengths and limitations. That just seems like a richer discussion.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Teams use both scouting and analytics. Some emphasize one more than others. I don’t think any sabermetrics person thinks there is no role for scouting. The only times I’ve seen them put in opposition are by those who oppose analytics and set that up as a false choice.

  6. Reds an

    +1 James! That quote from Theo is right on!
    After all, ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.
    Just not sure who this team is imitating….nor do I see a tremendous uptick in good, sound reasoning.
    What I do see is a lot of knee jerk reactions as opposed to good proactive decision making.

    As for the Dbacks, well they seem to be trying to reinact their past success in signing the Big Unit and Curt Schilling. I have a strong hunch they will NOT be as successful this time. No matter how many times teams throw big money at players and no matter how many times that fails, the lure of free agency is very strong.
    That’s why I appreciate the direction teams like the Cards have taken. As much as we may hate on them, they are pursuing the one thing everyone seems to universally agree is the best way to build a solid franchise. A strong farm system! Easy to say hard to actually accomplish. Our favorite team certainly has not done so. We are all holding our breath.

    • greenmtred

      Some observers feel that Reds’ farm system is strong, and the recent trades have probably strengthened it. Pitching rich, yes, but that seems to be the general condition of baseball, for now.

  7. Chuck Schick

    It’s very possible that this is a bad baseball deal. However, given the new cable AZ has, their margin for error has increased dramatically.

    They signed a 20 year, 1.5 billion dollar deal….which works out to 75 million on average. In all likelihood, the deal starts at 60 million per year and increases about 2.5% per year and by year 20 it will be around 96 million per year. Per published reports, they were receiving 31 million per year, so they have 30 million in additional revenue right away….and that increases each year.

    The population of Arizona is projected to increase by 1/3 over the life of the deal so their subscriber costs only need to rise about 1% per year to pay for the deal. Given that the D-Backs also received an ownership stake in the RSN this could be incredibly lucrative since revenue growth from new subscribers could easily exceed their expense growth.

    In a nutshell, perhaps a bad baseball deal…who knows….but they can afford to take the risk at this point.

    • lwblogger2

      That’s a good call on the new cable deal. It shouldn’t be an excuse to spend it unwisely but yes, they can certainly gamble more.

  8. Fish

    Investing in infrastructure is not usually a bad investment for any business. The problem is that the reds do not seem to consider statistical analysis to be necessary or at least to the degree you are suggesting (I, for the record, am 100% in agreement). A team that is heavily invested in statistics doesn’t trade for Jose Peraza, dump Chapman for a bucket of baseballs & sign aging vets for above league minimum. The reds can SAY they are league average at using statistical analysis, the evidence shows something very different. . .

  9. vegastypo

    And from beating-a-dead-horse department, this article makes me wonder if the Diamondbacks really WERE willing to overpay at the trade deadline for Chapman.

  10. Chuck Schick

    There has been an enormous amount of thoughtful, reasoned conversation around the need for the Reds to be more analytically progressive. The Reds claim perception doesn’t equally reality so who knows.

    Their are lots of reasons to invest in analytics…the most beneficial is to find inefficiencies that are useful to that specific team. Why invest in analytics when you can look at Fangraphs for free? Unless you want to seek information that isn’t widely known, appreciated or accepted. Doing what everyone else does adds no incremental value.

    Perhaps the players that have been recently acquired project differently as Reds than Yankkees, Dodgers etc. under their analysis.

    For example, Paul O’Neil was a decent Red and a great Yankee. While I’m sure there are dozens of reasons for that transformation, did he benefit from playing in a stadium with large power alleys and a short right field fence? Were the pitchers in the AL East a better match up for him than the circa 1992 NL West? My point is, a proprietary analytics data base finds things that can be helpful….it’s not just looking at public information on baseball prospectus. You invest in data to find unknown information, not to just do what everyone else does….and sometimes in the surface it makes no senses.

  11. ohiojimw

    You make a very good point. We don’t know what orgs know or how they interpret the raw the data they have in hand. I suspect that as more data becomes available to teams, they will be eating away at defining, explaining, and eliminating at the margins of now is called random or luck.

    For instance, I saw just in the last week or so where there are starting to be whispers that some orgs are taking longer deeper looks of BABIP and starting to think it may not be nearly as random as has been commonly accepted.

  12. David

    In my limited comprehension, sabremetrics/analytics are great retrospective tools for looking at where a player or a team is weak or strong, of value or to be avoided (can you say….Skip Schumaker? Gritty). Obviously, an older player past his prime would also give clear warning signs in terms of deteriorating performance statistics. Something even us dull fans would have had to say about Jason Marquis and kevin Gregg, but seemed to elude the wishful thinking of Brian Price and Walt Jocketty. Analytics should be presented to management to stop wishful thinking about vets long past their prime.

    Analytics should play a clear veto role in acquiring older players that are obviously in decline. Surely, there are older players that are justified in terms of a certain limited role, as long as they are not overpaid.

    Analytics are harder to parse for young players because there is a limited amount of data, and the players are still maturing. Do you believe the poor year they had in “A” ball, or the breakout year they had in High A? Here is where scouting (good scouting) can be of real help in determining just how valid player stats are, and whether the player “to be acquired” has a high or low ceiling, and is improving. Actually interviewing the player to determine their attitude and baseball IQ would be invaluable to determining how coachable a young player might be. That’s scouting.

  13. SabrChris

    Much of the commitment to analytics will be shaped by the overall organizational philosophies. The focus on high OBP and slugging and thus a willingness to tolerate low contact seems to be the default sabr method. KC has been successful with a belief in high contact, speed, and defense first development path. Depending on philosophy will lead teams to what data sets teams value.

    Sure its easier to make analytical driven decisions as the data sets on players increase, but even at the high school level we can still use big data to find it those raw skills translates to production.

  14. James

    Why do business majors take accounting why do they also take management because numbers of small part of every equation. Sabermetrics was used to evaluate the ridiculously stupid contract ofJason Heyward an average player at best. War also dictates that Ben Zobrist is better then Andrew McCutchen. I don’t know why they would want to simplify everything it takes the details away from the individual stats and what they mean. It’s like trying to look at the US economy and GDP alone. Second of all as a fan I am plenty smart enough to learn all these equations but also enjoy a real life away from baseball so do not want to take the time to have to learn advanced mathematics to enjoy the game.

    • Steve Mancuso

      No one forces you to read a single WAR value or visit a website, for that matter. If you don’t want to take the time and you don’t find it enjoyable, that’s up to you. Can we agree that a person with that attitude shouldn’t be making roster decisions for a billion-dollar baseball team? I don’t understand (or care) how to do an appendectomy, but I sure want my surgeon to know. And do you realize how cranky it makes one sound to say they don’t want to learn something, and then go to a website where other people do want to learn about that, and complain about it?

      Back to the substance of your point: At the end of the decision making process teams have to choose one player over another. Teams can’t say I want McCutchen’s base running skills and beautiful dreadlocks but Ben Zobrist’s defense and position flexibility. Teams have to make bottom-line value assessments, so they have to find a *scale* that can accommodate the wide variety of attributes. Defense and offense, power and on base, etc. If you want to add intangibles (unmeasurables) go ahead, but *at the end* you still have to put it on a common scale to make a decision. Teams either do that rigorously or not. I’d guess for most teams, that scale has to do with runs – runs prevented and runs created. But each team has it’s own in-house version. Just like FanGraphs is different from Baseball-Reference which is different from Baseball Prospectus.

      That’s all WAR does. It boils all those individual stats down to one number for the purpose of comparing the bottom line value of a player. Teams have always done that, either implicitly or explicitly whenever they make a decision to prefer one player over another. Always. It’s unavoidable. Every team may have a different idea for what skills produce value, but they still need a bottom line number. Again, they can be rigorous about it, or not.

      That doesn’t mean teams don’t invest enormous time into looking at individual statistics. They have to. Down to the smallest details. A huge part of running a ball team today is dealing with all the new individual statistics that are coming in. Spin-rate and mph on pitches. Route-efficiency, speed and first-step on defense. That just scratches the surface. Those are all individual statistics that measure a player in different ways. But at the end, teams have to combine it all into one assessment of the total value (net runs) a player provides.

      That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just trying to figure out how good at defense a player is, is tricky. Then you have to translate that into runs saved so you can compare that to the runs created on offense. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. I can’t even imagine what the alternative to doing it would be, leaving things out?

      The Dodgers are one team. There are plenty of analytics-based teams (although they pretty much all are now) who have won World Series and reached the postseason. The Dodgers analytics guys have been there just a couple years and they inherited a mess. I wouldn’t judge them yet. And given that so many teams are invested in analytics now and only one team can win the World Series (and less than half reach the postseason) there will always be examples of big-time analytics teams who don’t have winning records. That’s math. So it really isn’t much of an argument to point at one.

      Question: Do you want the team you cheer for to be looking at and using all the available data in the smartest ways they can think of?

      • lwblogger2

        Actually, I’d like to add something to what you said about coming down to those bottom-line value assessments. Individual teams most certainly have their own algorithms that basically do the same thing that WAR does. They weigh different aspects of a player’s game differently and quite likely factor in a lot of things that WAR doesn’t. Basically though, these are just each team’s proprietary version of WAR, or what WAR basically is to a particular team. You’re right, they are doing it every day and also, as you said, perhaps there is even a component that represents some of the intangibles that you talk about. Or perhaps they have their analytical evaluation and then discuss the player’s intangibles with other members of the baseball operations staff.

        It’s my hope that the Reds do have their own in-house version of WAR and a substantial database and stock reports that can be pulled from various statistical sources including the old reliable numbers as well as the tons of new data available from MLBAM. I’m hoping they’ve dumped that stuff into AWS Dynamo and are using AWS Redshift to run proprietary analytics workloads, factoring in all those wonderful data-points that you mention.

        Other teams are doing this. Most teams are probably doing this. Rather the casual fan cares or not about how the analytics piece of the puzzle comes about doesn’t matter but even casual fans should hope that their favorite team is doing this sort of work.

  15. James

    Just to get to it before someone else does just because I disagree doesn’t mean I do not understand. Many teams are starting to lean this way with their hiring decisions. The Dodgers and national are two examples. The Dodgers GM one of the higher and analytics guy to manage the team. Knowing this is not a role for a math major ownership stepped in and made them hire a true baseball guy. Analytics people always assume there is no error in their numbers. This is very arrogant. A good or bad guess can be based on numbers or intuition. Areanalytics departments worth the money, of course,but I would never leave one in charge. I also would never leave a manager in charge they did not incorporate this into his decision making. All you have to do is look at the Dodgers to realize what a joke they are. All the brains and money can’t buy them a championship. Where all these top prospects we keep hearing about. More like flash in the pan

    • Steve Mancuso

      Please provide evidence for your claim that: “Analytics people always assume there is no error in their numbers.”

      • James

        No matter what you say to saber people if it’s not there way it’s nothing. The evidence is the countless articles about how they are right every single day that come out in the press and how stupid the rest of the people are think scouting is worth anything. It’s great that they have found a way to to contribute to the sport. Be honest though it is about athletes and scouts who make it happen. I will say it again sabre is a great tool but only a tool. You don’t let the accounting department decided restaurants menu. Not everything in life can always be determined by statistics. Where is the value added for excitement. Where is the value added for fan base enthusiasm. Once again not trying to say saber is worthless there should be enough data in my words for you to determine that. But anyone who believes that war is not flawed is crazy. And once again your own eyes will provide this evidence for you. Put down your computer and watch a game.

      • Chuck Schick

        Is arrogance limited to saber people? Don’t many ” traditional” baseball people exhibit the same degree of smugness?

        Was Dusty Baker open minded to alternatives? Didn’t Bob Howsam set the Reds back by not embracing the new paradigm of free agency? Didn’t the Phillies recently fall from grace by not using advanced metrics on the likely decline of older players…particularly 35 year old pitchers and overweight power hitters? Did the Angels lack of analytical prowess cause them to over pay for a 33 year old first baseman?

        The Dodgers are extremely well positioned for the present and the future by mixing scouting and analytics. As are the Cubs. The Cardinals mix old school and new school better than anyone.

        Success often breeds arrogance and that limits future progress. Arrongance is not limited to people who know how to do a regression analysis. The Phillies are the poster child for ” old school” arrogance and they lost more games than the Reds

      • Takao

        Personally, I wouldn’t be telling one of the head writers on this site that he’s arrogant while using his site, but that’s just me.

        You’re correct that analytics are a tool for front offices. Scouting is also a tool. Front offices need to use both to ID the types of players that will be successful in the future. Your comment about how you “wouldn’t let the accounting department decide the restaurants menu” is actually false. Restaurants do that all the time to cut out menu items that don’t make them money.

      • Steve Mancuso

        1. I can tell you’ve never run a successful restaurant.
        2. I’m surprised you think the 150+ Reds games I watch each year aren’t enough.

        Personal insults violate the comment guidelines of this website. If you keep up with them, instead of my taking the time to edit them out, I’m just going to take away your commenting privilege.

      • jdx19

        It never ceases to amaze me when folks’ arguments boil down to “your side is stupid because they think their way (SABR) is the only way!” and then say things like “Be honest though it is about athletes and scouts who make it happen.”

        I have never seen a single sabermetrically-inclined author say anything akin to “scouting is worthless” and I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of baseball articles over the last several years during my baseball fandom revival. Every single “analytics person” I’ve ever read or spoken to agrees that scouting plays a role in baseball.

    • jdx19

      In response to your statement, “Analytics people always assume there is no error in their numbers,” I will proffer the equally ridiculous statement of “Non-analytics people always say they understand, and then proceed to make a post that clearly shows they don’t understand.”

  16. TR

    I don’t think anyone in the analytics (statistics) department is saying it’s my way or the highway as far as building a winning team. But it is an important tool in that process. As far as accounting, or a more modern word might be infomatics, it reflects how your organization is doing and can be the pathway to a better job.

  17. jdx19

    I enjoyed the article, Michael. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

    I wish all FOs across baseball (mostly ours) could see the silly high ROI you could likely realize from investing in smart, trained human resources.

    It amazes me that FOs will think nothing of signing an aging veteran to a 1-2 year deal for a few million bucks per, while expecting replacement-level play that they could have gotten for $520k per year from any number of AAA players, while not hiring several qualified academics to run the analytics side of the house. Simply mind-boggling!

    • David

      This is actually, in substance. something the Reds have been doing WRONG for several years; banking on old Free Agents to fill bench slots, while they should have been using young players and grooming them to become starting players. I think there is no more pernicious foolishness than continuing the myth of “veteran presence” as an asset to the team, and signing old players who have little value in place of promoting young players. At the end of the 2014 season, why was Jack Hannahan played at 1B, instead of Neftali Soto? Soto may have been a disappointment as a Major Leaguer, but maybe 150 AB’s at the end of 2014 would have found that out. Jack Hannahan’s career was over with his shoulder injury, yet the Reds continued to play him And Ryan Ludwick, and Skip Schumacher (end of 2014, again), when the Reds were clearly out of the race.

      • lwblogger2

        See my response above to JDX19 because it also partially applies to your post. Where I fully agree with you is in playing those veterans over the young guys when it no longer really mattered. They blew a chance to see if they had anything in guys like Soto and Lutz. Once the team is mathematically eliminated, not playing the younger guys over the veteran bench players was a missed opportunity. The only caveat to that in my opinion, is that nobody else seems to be playing Soto or Lutz so maybe the Reds already knew they weren’t MLB players.

      • lwblogger2

        Whoops, that response is actually below.

    • lwblogger2

      One thing to consider is the cost of starting the service time clocks for a player and then not using him regularly enough to justify doing so. The teams need to consider “Do we think this guy can be an MLB starter?” If the answer to that question is “Yes” they need to factor if starting their service clocks in a part time role outweighs the cost of signing that veteran in the longer term. Now, in general I agree with you when it comes to guys that mostly project as bench/utility players anyway. Signing a veteran instead of promoting a guy like that makes very little sense assuming the team thinks the young player is ready to see MLB action. I’m old-school enough to think you need a little veteran presence on your team and in general, some veteran players who’ve been in utility roles more often than not, are better equipped to handle a utility/bench role than perhaps a young guy who’s been starting his whole baseball life. I think that may play a role in some of the decision making as well and I think it should. I do however believe the Reds allow it to play too much of a role in their decision making.

      • ohiojimw

        The Reds tend to dumpster dive for their veteran presences rather than pay a little more for guys who still have some get up and go left in them. 🙂

      • jdx19

        Certainly a good point on the service time. But, as you allude to, I was mostly referring to bench-type players who only really project to be “replacement level”. There’s really no reason to ever pay someone more than the minimum unless they project to be an everyday regular (1+ WAR maybe).

        We are on the same page, I think!

  18. ohiojimw

    Just read that Corky Miller will be the “catching coach” for the Dayton Dragons in 2016. Guess this means Tyler Stephenson rates a personal position coach?

      • David

        I think Stephenson is on the fast track to the Major Leagues. There could be fundamental doubts about Mesoraco’s long term viability as a catcher.

    • Shchi Cossack

      The Reds have a lot invested in Tyler Stephenson, beyond signing him as a 1st round draft choice. Mesoraco is under contract through 2018 and is entering his age 28 season. Mesoraco will play his age 31 season in 2019. He will not (and should not) be playing his home games in GABP wearing the wishbone C in 2019. The Reds have no catcher in the minor league pipeline, other than Stephenson, capable of starting as a major league catcher, so it’s Stephenson or bust in 2019.

      I can think of no kid coming out of high school and capable of playing major league catcher outside of JB. High school kids playing catcher are just raw and need a LOT of work and development.

      Stephenson had a good season offensively at Billings: .712 OPS, .352 OBP, 19% SO% & 10% BB%. Then defensively there’s a 27% CS% which translates to YIKES! The kid needs development as a defensive catcher and that’s normal for high school catchers. The idea of assigning Corky to assist Stephenson as a personal catching coach in Dayton is sheer genius. Stephenson has to clear 4 levels of minor league ball in the next 3 years and develop both offensively and defensively to be ready for opening day in 2019. Corky can help with Stephenson’s development a lot. I hope Corky follows Stephenson the entire way through his minor league career.

    • lwblogger2

      Man, I would have loved to have a player like that as what’s pretty much a personal catching coach. Holy smokes Stephenson has to be excited. There are a lot of things that Miller can pass on to him. I hope he has his good listening ears on.

    • Tom Diesman

      Miller had the same role last season and is simply returning for his 2nd season with the Dragons.

  19. desertred

    Cleveland Browns hired Mr. Moneyball Paul DePodesta. I think that says something about the organization when the Cleveland Browns make you look bad.

    • Chuck Schick

      I’m not sure how that makes the Reds look bad…..should they counter with Bill Parcells? I don’t doubt that analytics can add value in the NFL,but the same guy who made the hiring decision is having his wife assist in the search for a Head Coach.

      • jdx19

        Your first line made me laugh out loud at work. Thank you, sir!

  20. james garrett

    I love the analysis of JDX19 as he refers to signing an aging vet.We had a roster full of those guys last year and could have got the same play from any number of guys in the minors.Anybody remember Skip,Gregg,Marquis,Boesch etc etc that we left camp with last year?The stats must have been overwhelming on these guys since so many teams wanted them and of course several scouts must have been blown away.My point is that data or scouting wasn’t used at all so if we choose to look at a few stats or do a little scouting going forward then that’s great.Thanks Michael for the article and I wonder how many good analytical guys we could get for what we paid the players I mentioned.

  21. WVRedlegs

    Alex Gordon signs back with the KC Royals. KC is said to be ready to quickly fill in a couple of other holes including 2B. Could get some BP to KC talk going again.

    • lwblogger2

      Honestly, I think that if BP doesn’t want to go to Washington to play for a possible winner and Baker, I don’t see him wanting to go anywhere. For whatever reason, he wants to stay a Red. I don’t see him moving at least until after the season starts, unless there is some money that ends up in his hand in the form of deferrals coming due, a cash bonus of some kind, or some changes to his contract. I think BP stays a Red through 2016. Just my gut feeling.

  22. WVRedlegs

    In the Whatever-it-takes-to-have-to-get-it-done department, the Reds have to do what is necessary for Brandon Phillips to waive his no-trade right. Whatever it takes, pay his deferred money. But getting prospects of any value back is probably off the table, unless some creativity is involved. The Nats have filled their 2B need and the D-backs are about to.
    It would more than likely have to be in the salary swaps category. A 3-team deal where each team is looking to unload a bit of salary at one position and could take on some salary at another position and an addition of a prospect from positional depth could be the route to take. A Cincinnati-Boston-LA Angels trade could help each team.
    The Reds get OF Allen Craig ($9M in ’16 and $11M in ’17) from Boston and 3B Kyle Kubitza from LAA. Craig is now healthy and could regain his high OBP ways, and could be ideal candidate for Epstein Flip when Winker is ready. Reds could get a better return for a healthy Allen then, than what they could get for BP now. Kubitza becomes Reds 3B with Suarez now more ideally at 2B. Kubitza would be a great get.
    The LA Angels get BP ($13M in ’16 and $14M in ’17) from Boston to play 2B for an amazing INF pairing with SS Andrelton Simmoms. LAA also gets 1B/OF prospect Sam Travis from Boston and LHP John Lamb from Cincinnati.
    The RedSox get SP CJ Wilson ($20M in ’16, FA after) to be their #2 or #3 SP.
    Risks are high with each team and rewards are possibly large for each team.

  23. Mark Tokarski

    The analytic aspect can be over-emphasized too. As I read Mr. Williams words a while back after assuming GM, I was a little spooked, as the guy seemed to have his head in investment banking clouds and talked over everyone. I wonder if with the Alfredo Rodriguez deal that someone did not step in and put the kibosh on a disastrous signing, and if Mr. Williams had a hand in it. One can only hope that deal is dead.