By: Holly Horning
Nothing exemplifies the significant changes baseball is experiencing more than the battle between the old and new schools of statistics. The war between those who prefer the eye test and all degrees up to those with noses pressed to the calculator instead of eyes glued to the diamond.
But what’s happening now is the movement by many who cherry pick their stats from both groups, no longer having to select one side or the other. They are finding happiness using some of the traditional stats that are easy to understand and give a very quick snapshot of how well a player is doing – but balancing it with certain sabermetric stats that help neutralize team-centric strengths and put the player’s skills in better perspective in comparison to the league.
But much as the fans are divided on which stats school to use, so are MLB teams. Not all teams think the same way, nor have they developed statistical departments similar to anyone else’s. As of last year, the AL teams employ over 40 sabermetricians while the NL has 23.
The Tampa Bay Rays (#1 in MLB) alone employ 8 full-time sabermetricians while the Rockies, Braves, Phillies and Marlins employ none. The Royals have 4 full-time while the Indians rank #3 with 5. As Yoda would say, “Tied with the Yankees, they are!”
The Tigers come in #23 with only 1 part-time analyst – and are in a dead-heat with the Twins for last place in the AL Central. Part of this may be a residual effect from having Jim Leyland as manager who expressed his refusal to use sabermetrics.
It is not surprising that Brad Ausmus won’t categorize himself (a story for another day) on these non-traditional stats so we really don’t know the extent or frequency of how he interprets any numbers put up by the Tigers’ part-time analyst. It was interesting to read last year that Dave Dombrowski was quoted as saying that anything Ausmus needs to support this statistical system, he’ll get for him.
So let’s keep our eye on the Tigers’ sabermetric department. Hiring more analysts, or not, will tell us how much weight Ausmus gives to this method.