On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
Pirates' Locke cleared of game-fixing allegations
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014,
DETROIT — Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke wonders why a former childhood friend whom he hasn't seen in years would tell people Locke threw games at the behest of sports bettors during the 2012 season.
“You could say it's because I come from a small town with envious people,” Locke said. “No one else from there is doing what I do. There's a lot of jealousy.”
According to a story by The Center for Investigative Reporting in the Aug. 18 issue of Sports Illustrated, a sports handicapper named Kris Barr sent text messages claiming Locke intentionally was throwing games during the 2012 season.
An MLB investigation into the game-fixing allegations cleared Locke of wrongdoing.
“Everything came back 100 percent clean,” Locke said.
Pirates spokesman Brian Warecki said the team was aware of the inquiry from the outset and cooperated fully with the league office.
After reading the SI story, which he called “gut-wrenching,” Locke spoke with reporters at Comerica Park before Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers.
“This stuff happens,” he said. “It's extremely frustrating for me because I feel I have to defend myself for no reason.”
Barr, 27, of Prescott Valley, Ariz., and Locke, 26, were grade-school pals in Conway, N.H. They drifted apart in 1998 after Barr's mother won the New Hampshire lottery and he moved to Arizona with his family.
Through his website, VIPSportsInvestment.com, Barr handicaps pro football, baseball and basketball games. According to SI, Barr, who also used the alias James Hunter, is alleged to have told at least one prospective client to bet against the Pirates when Locke pitched in 2012.
“My best friend is pitching today. His name is Jeff Locke. He will not have a good day,” said one text from Barr. Another text read: “Tell your biggest people that pirates game today is fixed. My friend will be throwing this game.”
The SI article said Barr carried a grudge after Locke turned down a friend request on Facebook.
MLB assigned senior investigator Rick Burnham to look into Barr's texts. When Burnham confronted Barr on an Arizona highway in February 2013, according to SI, Barr said his texts were only “something stupid” and not an actual conspiracy.
“From the players' association's standpoint, it's kind of scary that someone made accusations about something as toxic as this,” said Bob Lenaghan, assistant general counsel for the MLBPA. “My understanding is the investigation was pretty thorough by both law enforcement and MLB, and there was no evidence at all (of wrongdoing by Locke).”
In 2012, Locke pitched in eight games (six starts) for the Pirates and went 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA. Last season, he went 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA and was named to the National League All-Star team.
Locke was unaware of MLB's probe until after it was complete. He learned about it during a phone call with Lenaghan early in the 2013 season.
“It wasn't that big of a deal to me at the time,” Locke said. “Obviously, it turns into a much bigger deal when everything becomes public. But when I heard about it, I had just made the team and everything was going fine. It was never a distraction for me. I went out and made the All-Star team, so it wasn't that hard to focus.”
Locke said MLB did not confiscate or examine his cell phone at any point. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment on the methods used by investigators.
“We have policies regulating cell phone communication and other electronic communication to and from MLB clubhouses,” Courtney said via email.
Players are not allowed to use equipment such as cell phones, laptops and texting devices while on the bench, in the bullpen or on the playing field once batting practice has begun. They also cannot use those devices in the clubhouse within 30 minutes of the start of a game.
In a prepared statement released via email, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington supported Locke.
“MLB conducted a thorough investigation of the claims against Jeff Locke and concluded that Jeff had zero involvement and that he had done nothing wrong,” Huntington said. “Jeff has been and continues to be a consummate professional. Our belief in Jeff did not waver and remains strong. MLB long ago determined these claims were bogus and that this is a non-story. Our focus has been and remains on continuing to push toward the postseason.”
Orioles may have struck gold with Hunter Harvey
Despite elbow issues that ended his 2014 campaign prematurely, the Orioles may have gotten the best high school pitcher in the entire 2013 draft with the 22nd overall pick.
Entering the 2013 Draft, reports on Hunter Harvey sounded a lot like the reports of many high school pitchers. He was a right-hander from Catawba, North Carolina. MLB.com reported that Harvey could run his fastball up to 94 MPH, had an inconsistent curveball and changeup that had a chance to become Major League average, and the physical projection to add more velocity. At just 6’3" and 175 pounds entering the draft, Harvey was about as generic of a first round high school pitcher as one could create.
The Orioles, finding themselves in unfamiliar territory towards the back of the first round, selected Harvey with their first round pick. Along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Harvey became the third pitcher selected in the first round by the O’s in the past three years, all of which have proven to be good selections.
At the time, the selection of Harvey was rather uneventful and met with little fanfare, as Harvey was not a household name or even a name that was common in the showcase circuit during his amateur years. Son of former Major League pitcher Bryan Harvey, the younger Harvey was wise to follow the tutelage of his father by staying away from most of larger amateur scouting events. According to Baseball Factory, Harvey appeared in the Under Armour All America Game at Wrigley Field and the East Coast Pro Showcase, but other than that only played locally in North Carolina. Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com pointed out that this prevented many area scouts from seeing Harvey more than once or twice, which could have hurt his draft stock slightly but also helped limit the mileage on his young arm.
The Orioles were happy to select Harvey 22ndoverall, and he quickly proved that they were wise in doing so. In 25 innings split between Rookie Ball and Short Season Aberdeen, Harvey was nothing short of dominant as he recorded 33 strikeouts while allowing just 21 hits, six walks, and five earned runs. It was a small sample, but scouts had certainly taken notice of Harvey for more than his bloodlines.
Baseball Prospectus blew up Harvey’s name in the following offseason, ranking him 58th on their Top 101 Prospect list. To put that in perspective, BP ranked Harvey just one slot behind highly toutedAstros’ first baseman Jon Singleton, a few slots ahead of Mariners lefty James Paxton, and well ahead of feared Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. Other publications were a bit more hesitant to rank a player that had yet to reach full-season ball that highly, but as Harvey began dominating at Low-A Delmarva this season, even BPs ranking began to look conservative.
Harvey was recently shut down for the season with elbow issues that do not seem to be much of a threat to his long-term outlook, but when he was healthy he dominated. In 17 starts spanning 87.2 innings, Harvey struck out a whopping 106 batters, walked 33, and only allowed 66 hits. Opponents batted .206 off of him, which does not seem like a fluke considering his terrific 10.88 K/9 rate and reasonable .291 BABIP.
Even more encouraging, the scouting reports have matched the dominant statistics. I haven’t had a chance to see Harvey live this year, but from video and reports from others, his development has gone extremely well. Most significantly, the talk of Harvey having a chance to have a Major League average curveball is gone and in it’s place is discussion of whether Harvey’s curveball is one of the better curveballs in all of the minor leagues.Baseball Prospectus’s Tucker Blair filed a report on Harvey after his July 18th start where he graded the curve as a present 65 (on the 20 to 80 scouting scale) with a future projection of a 70. That’s a far cry from an average pitch, and gives Harvey a knockout offspeed offering that could be one of the best in the game.
His fastball, which was his carrying pitch in the draft, now sits comfortably in the 92-94 MPH range with good command and life. Still not close to being filled out, it is easy to project Harvey adding a few more ticks on the radar gun as he develops. Blair rates the pitch as present 60 pitch with the potential to reach a 65, noting his ability to cut the pitch or generate arm side run, attack hitters on the inner half, and hold the velocity through the entire outing.
This gives Harvey two present plus pitches with remaining projection, a combination that no South Atlantic League pitcher other than the Nationals’ Lucas Giolito can rival. His third pitch is a changeup, an offering that is serviceable but lags behind the others in terms of present utility and development. This makes sense as Harvey was able to dominate high school and the lowest levels of the minors with just the fastball and curveball, but as he progresses he will need to improve his third offering. Perhaps Harvey would be well served by taking a page out of Giolito’s book and abandoning the breaking ball for a start to focus on learning how to get outs with the fastball and changeup, or maybe Harvey can develop the pitch with measures less drastic. Either way, neither Blair’s present 45 grade nor future 55 grade are cause for significant concern, as those grades indicate roughly a Major League average pitch.
As for the delivery itself, Harvey employs a simple, balanced motion with a high three-quarters arm slot. There is little wasted movement in the delivery, which aids his balance and ability to repeat the motion. His stride is relatively short, but he stands tall throughout the motion, helping him stay on top of the ball and generate good downward plane. Harvey also adds a bit of deception by stepping across his body slightly, but the step is not extreme enough to be a hindrance in any other aspect of the motion.
One quirk in his motion is a slight hesitation just before foot strike. Clayton Kershaw is the best Major League example of a pitcher incorporating a similar hesitation, although Kershaw’s occurs slightly earlier in his motion and is a bit more drastic than Harvey’s. I don’t see the hesitation as a negative, as it seems to help Harvey gather himself prior to exploding through his backside and delivering the pitch. Harvey does a very good job finishing the pitch and as a result, is able to get good life on his fastball.
The final pieces to the puzzle are Harvey’s pitchability and mound presence, the former of which refers to his ability to properly mix his pitches and locations and the latter of which refers to his feel for the game, baseball instincts, and understanding of his craft. Harvey earns terrific reviews in these categories, as Blair writes, "He shows an innate ability to pitch, displaying extreme pitchability and cognizance of the situation surrounding him." As Harvey moves up the ladder, these aspects of his game will be tested more frequently, but the Orioles should be confident that Harvey will pass those tests with flying colors. Any pitcher with two plus pitches should be able to excel in the lower levels of the minors, but as he faces more advanced competition, he will need the pitchability, presence, and the changeup to a greater degree.
Harvey is still very young and not close to the Major Leagues, but the Orioles ought to be thrilled with his development thus far. He has two present plus pitches that he can throw for strikes, a third pitch that should be roughly Major League average, pitchability, mound presence, and advanced understanding of his craft. In my eyes, Harvey is currently the best high school arm from the 2013 draft, and the only player who can rival him is Twins’ righthander and number four overall pick Kohl Stewart. The Orioles’ picked later in this draft than usual, but they certainly got more than their money’s worth. Baltimore fans no longer talk about just Bundy and Gausman as future rotation cogs, they now talk about a future rotation featuring Bundy, Gausman, and Harvey, and with good reason.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Life as a player for the Oakland 'Mathletics'
By Sean Doolittle, Special to Insider
Baseball is a game of numbers, and we at the Oakland Athletics keep track of everything. From the number of hits in a given number of at-bats to the number of runs allowed to the number of stolen bases, there are numbers for evaluating every aspect of the game.
As far back as 1964, when Earnshaw Cook published the book "Percentage Baseball," baseball statisticians have been providing us ways to get as deep into those numbers as possible to determine just how valuable a player might be. In 1971, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) was formed in Cooperstown, New York, and lent both its acronym and advanced mathematical functions to analyze the game. Bill James, the pioneer of sabermetrics, defined them as a way to provide an objective view of baseball.
Sabermetrics finally let us enjoy baseball the way it was meant to be enjoyed: with a TI-89 graphing calculator.
Many of you are familiar with the movie "Moneyball," which chronicles the Athletics' use of sabermetrics to successfully assemble a winning team on a decidedly small-market budget. By thinking outside the box and favoring players' on-base percentages over their batting averages, those A's were able to build a productive lineup of affordable players en route to a 20-game win streak and a division title.
Since then, the use of sabermetrics has continued to change the way players are evaluated. Metrics such as OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) and wOBA (weighted on-base average) provide a much more comprehensive and accurate evaluation of a hitter's overall productivity than, say, batting average. Meanwhile, the wRC (weighted runs created) and wRAA (weighted runs above average) categories help quantify a player's total offensive value to his team in the form of runs created over the course of a season.
Just as metrics for hitting have advanced past on-base percentage, pitching metrics are going far beyond earned run average. WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) measures the number of baserunners a pitcher allows, on average, per inning. FIP (fielding independent pitching) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) assess a pitcher's abilities based on results he can "control" -- K's, BBs, HBPs and HRs allowed -- and have proved to be very reliable predictors of future performance.
And it turns out WAR is good for something after all. The wins above replacement category quantifies a player's overall contributions to his team and quantifies how many wins a player is worth to his club, compared to a league-average stand-in.
Although these might be some of the more commonly used calculations in evaluating a player's value, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
The A's use of advanced statistics
The Athletics' front office has remained on the cutting edge in its use of sabermetrics to evaluate players. From the offseason right up until the July 31 trade deadline, the A's have signed several free agents and negotiated several trades -- and some of these trades and deals left even the most patrician baseball folks scratching their heads.
So exactly which metrics do the A's value most when assessing potential players? I think I've finally figured it out:
BDP (beard dependent pitching): While FIP eliminates defense and focuses on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, BDP assesses a pitcher's value in relation to the league average by isolating outings during which the pitcher has a beard.
WPA/3+C (win probability added with three-plus catchers in the lineup): Athletics manager Bob Melvin is a former catcher, so he values backstops and looks for ways to get as many into the lineup as he can. By playing Stephen Vogt in the outfield or at first base, either Derek Norris or John Jaso can get behind the dish while the other slides into the DH spot. It's worth noting that Josh Donaldson made his major league debut as a catcher and did not convert to third base until 2012, so there are instances when the A's have four players in their lineup who are capable of getting behind the plate.
LOH-Wins (length of hair wins): This metric estimates how many wins a player adds to his team as the result of the length of his hair. For instance, you could look at the direct correlation between the length of Norris' mullet and the number of wins since its conception.
rfFSR (right field fan scouting report): The fan scouting report (FSR) is a metric used by sabermetrician Tom Tango that estimates a player's value based on fan observations and online voting. The rfFSR evaluates a player's value based on reports and polling of the fans in the right field bleacher section at O.co Coliseum. Those are some of the best fans in the game, so it comes as no surprise that this metric is one of the most reliable when predicting future performance.
wOPS (weighted overhead press): This gem calculates how strong a player is to determine whether he can carry a team. In Oakland, no one player carries our team. We all have very similar wOPS numbers.
BABIP: That's batting average on balls in play, right? Wrong. It's baseball averages compared to Bip Roberts. According to Baseball-Reference.com, over 12 seasons, Bip Roberts held a .294 batting average and a .358 on-base percentage and had a 162-game average of 36 stolen bases per year. Roberts played his final season for the A's in 1998, but sabermetricians still use his stats when evaluating players.
HR/FB: That's home runs per fly ball, yes? Think again. It's home runs by a fullback. When you're a small-market team, sometimes you're forced to think outside the box. When you also share a stadium with an NFL team, it never hurts to see if any of their players can use their size and strength to drive the baseball out of the ballpark. No word yet on when Raiders fullback Marcel Reece will be given a chance to hit for A's scouts. And the jury is still out on whether this also can be applied to a wide receiver such as Jeff Samardzija.
Contact percentage: This metric is out of this world -- literally. This number indicates how often a player is able to successfully decode messages received from outer space (just like Jodie Foster's character in the 1997 film "Contact"). Although this is an interesting metric, it has nothing to do with baseball, so it's not a great indicator of future performance. But "Contact" is a great movie.
BB percentage: If you're guessing this particular sabermetric indicates a hitter's walk percentage, guess again. It's called "Baseball is Best." This metric helps indicate a player's intangibles because it shows just how much a player likes baseball. When a team is considering signing a player to a long-term contract, it's important to find out if baseball is the sport he likes to play the best.
Sabermetrics are becoming more popular as we continue to strive for a better understanding of the game. And as the game evolves, so will the metrics. Hmm, maybe someday there'll be a metric to quantify clubhouse chemistry (the JON/nY GoM.E.S. phenomenon?).
Critics will argue sabermetrics don't paint the whole picture. Some say a player still must pass the "eye test," and the only information a manager might need to make a decision is a past experience or a gut feeling.
Others argue there are intangibles that cannot be quantified. Or they say the formulas are becoming too complicated for people who didn't ace calculus and don't know the mathematical order of operations or how to use a graphing calculator. Sabermetrics might not tell the whole story, but the numbers never lie.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about to be shoved into my locker.
How Burke Badenhop uses Pitch F/X data
Published: August 12, 2014 08:13 PM
BY TIM BRITTON
Badenhop first learned of the site, originally conceived by Tufts University experimental psychologist Dan Brooks, two years ago while a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Since then, the right-hander has used its measurements of velocity, movement, release point and spin to break down his individual performances and make the necessary adjustments as a pitcher.
What can Badenhop glean from the site after an outing? He recently pulled up the data from an outing last week against the Cardinals — a one-batter appearance in which he struck out Matt Holliday on four pitches.
The first thing he looks at is velocity. Although Badenhop generally finds velocity overrated, there’s obviously value to knowing how hard he threw in a particular outing. Often, the radar-gun readings say more about his effort level and his aggressiveness on the mound than, say, his level of fatigue. He pointed to a game earlier this season when he walked Jose Bautista on a full-count sinker at 88 mph.
“The two [pitches] before that were 91-92,” he said. “So I guided that one there. I wasn’t pitching to contact. I was trying to stay away from anything.”
(For what it’s worth, BrooksBaseball measures velocity from 55 feet and not 50 the way MLB.com’s Pitch F/X does, meaning its readings are generally a tick or two above the norm.)
Next, he examines the site’s measure of his vertical movement. Brooks’ readings on vertical movement measure the amount that spin causes the ball to move up or down, compared to how it would move without spin. These readings don’t factor in gravity’s influence, which explains why sinkers actually have positive (read: upward) values. For a sinkerballer, the smaller the positive number, the better. Badenhop feels good when his sinker has a vertical break under three.
Badenhop appreciates the precision of the measurements — something he can’t deduce from watching video of himself. One confounding factor in video analysis, he said, is the different camera angles used at different parks. For instance, Fenway Park uses a camera positioned almost directly behind the pitcher at a higher angle, rather than the old-fashioned camera positioned out of left-center field.
“A lot of places now have those vertical cameras like we have at home, which I hate. It takes away the up-and-down component of things,” he explained. “My sinker just looks like it doesn’t move whatsoever. The angle they give on the camera, that’s not a true representation at all of how a pitch is. It’s tough to tell up and down.”
That’s why Badenhop also likes to review the strike-zone data after each outing, to again gain a precise understanding of where he was locating.
For Badenhop, maybe the most important thing he looks at is his vertical release point. Badenhop usually employs about a three-quarter arm slot from the right side, though there are times when that drops on him. Often, though, a dip in his release point is less a result of dropping his arm down than of him collapsing on his back leg during his delivery.
Furthermore, Badenhop has a tendency, like many pitchers, to release different pitches from different angles. If the gap between the release points of his sinker and his slider grows too large, he’ll start tipping pitches to an observant hitter.
Visualizing that data in chart form helps Badenhop go about making the minor adjustments he has to from outing to outing.
“It’s kind of helped me make adjustments,” he said. “You get in trouble when you try to make the ball move. For me, it’s maybe I’m not finishing my pitches, maybe I need to be on the ball a little longer, maybe I need to get on top just a little better. That’s kind of what it means to me.”
BrooksBaseball tracks that data going back to the 2008 season, so Badenhop also takes a look at how he’s measuring up over a longer span of time. (That’s particularly important to him when it comes to his release point.)
BrooksBaseball is a prime example of the way more refined data is being incorporated into the game. Badenhop may be an early adopter among players in the clubhouse — “I don’t think it’s commonplace,” he said — but it’s certainly been employed in front offices across the game. A few of Badenhop’s conversations about the site have been with general manager Ben Cherington.
“It’s just awesome because of how much stuff can be tabulated in a baseball game,” said Badenhop. “I wonder how things are going to morph over for hitters, maybe mapping guys’ bat paths and who knows. It can help explain a lot of things.”
Inside the secret world of the Cleveland Indians' baseball analytics department
By Zack Meisel, Northeast Ohio Media Group
on August 12, 2014
TOP SECRET LOCATION, Ohio -- Twenty years ago, scouting reports in the Indians' offices resided in filing cabinets near general manager John Hart's desk. Statistics were kept in cumbersome books that rested in executives' laps as they congregated to debate trade opportunities or potential free-agent signings.
Now, all of the information is stored digitally and the Indians -- as well as every team in the league -- have their own analytics department. Every statistical projection, used as one of a handful of perspectives incorporated into the conversations that the front office holds before executing or refraining from a transaction, is derived from a three-person team employed by the organization.
Tucked in the back corner of the fourth-floor offices at Progressive Field are a series of cubicles that funnel in toward Keith Woolner's office. Two desktop computers and a Dell laptop rest on his wooden L-shaped desk. A large framed photo from an Indians postseason victory against the Yankees in 1997 takes up most of one wall.
A giant dry-erase board takes up most of another. Aside from a short note written by his son in the bottom left corner, the board is empty. That is no surprise. No cues or clues can be on display when an outsider visits.
After all, an analytics department is akin to a CIA unit. The Indians won't let anyone know exactly what statistical programs they operate. They could be using the same methods other teams adopt. Who knows? Everyone involved remains tight-lipped. No one can say for sure how much advanced statistical analysis influences the decisions that front offices make or, a step further, how much they contribute to the product on the field and the overall team results.
So what, exactly, does an analytics department do? The specifics, few will ever know. The basics, however, are instrumental in the modern makeup of a general manager's line of thinking.
"We're very forward-looking," Woolner said. "'What is this player going to contribute to the club this year, next year, in three years? How are these prospects going to develop? What is the makeup of the team going to look like and how competitive is that going to be?'"
Keith Woolner, the Indians' director of baseball analytics.Courtesy of the Cleveland Indians
Woolner worked with software and technology and wrote forBaseball Prospectus in his spare time. He never anticipated that his hobby would evolve into a career until a few jet-setters crossed over from the baseball blogging realm into teams' front offices in the early 2000s. In 2007, Woolner became the Indians' first employee whose position was fully dedicated to analytics. He worked alone for a few years, but the Indians considered his contributions worthy of expansion.
The group aids in the assessment of both short- and long-term decisions. Should the team pony up the extra pennies to sign a particular free agent? Which players should the club ask for in a trade? How does a certain minor leaguer project over the long haul?
"How can we help in drafting, player development, scouting?" Woolner said. "What are the ways we can take the information that we have and make the internal processes better?"
Before the first-year player draft, Woolner, Sky Andrecheck and Max Marchi focus on scouting reports and college data, which they interpret and present to GM Chris Antonetti and director of amateur scouting Brad Grant. Leading up to the trade deadline, they evaluate the components of all potential exchanges.
"There's a lot of conversations out there, most of which never amount to anything," Woolner said, "but you don't know which ones are going to come to fruition, so you spend a lot of time evaluating a bunch of possibilities, most of which are not going to be realistic, so that when that one comes along, you have the information in place so that Chris can make the best decision.
"'Hey, we got a call from this team for this certain player. Who do we like in their system? Who should we be asking for? Who do we think they might be down on for whatever reason?'"
When Woolner first relocated to Cleveland, his neighbor approached him in the fall and said: "Well, the season's over. You must just be kicking back and going into work at 11."
Not quite. During the winter months, they work to assemble the roster for the following year. They recap the season that was, diagnosing the club's strengths and weaknesses and determining a set of offseason priorities. They identify holes that must be filled and they rank available free agents based on statistical projection, value and fit. They examine the farm system and suggest which minor leaguers appear ready for a promotion or which areas of the organization could be shored up via tare. They partake in the winter meetings and arbitration dealings and hot stove discussions.
They have their hands in every facet of the front-office proceedings, but they attack the decisions with sabermetric reasoning. Andrecheck estimated that 70 percent of their time is devoted to building up long-term projection models. The rest of their time is spent assisting with potential transactions and drafting.
It's hard to know exactly what other teams are doing, which is OK because that means they don't know what we're doing.
"Different times of the year, we're focused on different theories," Andrecheck said, "and we get pulled into basically almost every area of baseball operations. We get a lot of variety and a lot of exposure to different things that go on in baseball operations."
The feedback they provide is supplemental to that of the actual scouts, who travel the country and sit in stadiums so they can offer first-hand accounts of a pitcher's mechanical tendencies or a hitter's habits.
"[Antonetti] wants to know, 'Is this enough value in this trade coming back? Are we doing a favor by doing this?'" Woolner said. "'Between these three deals, how would you have them ranked?' But that's one piece of information. He's asking a lot of people across the baseball organization what they think of different situations. He's taking all of that information and making a decision. He's not coming to me or Sky and making a decision based on what we think player development is going to be able to do.'
"We're a separate department from scouting, but we have a lot of crossover and interaction. We're working toward the same goal, we just have different tools for doing that."
Those tools remain secluded in secrecy. Woolner and Andrecheck declined to even mention an example of a player on which their statistical analysis either hit or missed.
"I'm not too sure I want to get into specifics," Woolner said. "The specifics of what we're working on are considered pretty proprietary. Chris doesn't want any of that information getting out. To a certain extent, we're probably working a lot of the same problems and information that a lot of teams are, but you don't know where you overlap, so you have to assume that all of it is something that shouldn't be leaked."
Andrecheck said they maintain a pulse on what other baseball researchers are writing, but the communication between major league analytic departments is minimal.
"It's hard to know exactly what other teams are doing," he said, "which is OK because that means they don't know what we're doing."
A native of the northeast, Woolner grew up a Red Sox fan. Jim Rice was his favorite player, though now he might scoff at the Hall of Famer's minus-0.4 WPA (Win Probability Added) in 1981. Woolner studied the backs of baseball cards as a kid, noting the home run and RBI totals some of the league's stout sluggers amassed. He believes the day in which the backs of those cards contain such sabermetric tools as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage) and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) is not far off.
Do others in the office call refer to them as nerds or stat geeks?
"Not to our face," Woolner joked.
While his middle-school classmates were presenting book reports on The Great Gatsby or Nineteen Eight-Four, Andrecheck was scouring the Bill James Handbook, an annual document that contains hundreds of pages of baseball statistics. Not surprising for a kid who calculated his own batting averages during Little League.
Even then, Andrecheck couldn't quite quantify his value to his kid-pitch team. The Indians are confident that their analytics department has provided an edge. To what extent is difficult to measure. Some day, perhaps, Woolner and Co. will develop an algorithm for that, too.
"I can't tell you exactly how many of those 92 wins [last year] are based on what we do here," Woolner said, "because there's such an interaction between what the scouts are doing, what [manager Terry Francona] is doing with the players in the clubhouse.
"The decisions that were made to create that roster, did we contribute to that? Yeah, but it's very hard to pull it apart and say, 'We're responsible for five of those wins.' It doesn't break down like that."