We have WAR. The WAR from Fangraphs and baseball-reference.com.
Then there’s FIP. UZR. WPA and wOBA.
There’s more, but it might take days to list all the categories and what they really mean.
It’s called sabermetrics and while it’s taken baseball by storm the last few years, the Texas Rangers and several other teams are increasing their usage of it.
Arizona Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa said he’s hired someone full-time to explain it and how to properly use it.
“In the old days when I started hitting the pitcher eighth, all the sabermetrics guys loved me because they thought I was doing all this innovate stuff,” said LaRussa, a Hall of Fame manager, who was the skipper for three teams and won three World Series titles. “I believe there’s a lot of sense to it, but it helps you get ready to compete. You just can’t let it get in the way of how you compete. Right now there are people who tell you stolen bases, strikeouts are not a big thing. Batting average ain’t going to matter. There’s a place for everything, that’s why I love that term. Once the game starts, it’s about observation analytics and you watch and you make decisions.”
The sabermetrics of the game is attributed to younger general managers who attended Ivy League schools, such as the Rangers' Jon Daniels, who when hired in 2005 was the youngest GM in big league history at 28.
Daniels said he values the words of scouts and their eyeball test of players. Yet, while Daniels might still be young with a degree in applied economics and management from Cornell, he said the Rangers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to sabermetrics.
“The analytics side, people think we're ahead of the curve in all of these areas,” he said. “We’re much more scouting and developing people in the field. That’s really where a lot of our focus has been. I think a lot of technological information improves. There’s a lot I need to get better at and caught up to speed at ways to looking at things.”
A thin line exists between balancing the information from scouts and what the numbers say. LaRussa said it’s difficult to compare analytics on high school, college and some international prospects to big league players.
So in those situations, scouts become vital. When you evaluate big league talent, especially in free-agency market, sabermetrics are important, but you can’t dismiss what the scouts see on a regular basis.
“The industry has come a long way in that regard,” Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein, 40, said. “It used to be a novel concept. We get our analytical (guys) in the room with our scouts and have them exchange information almost like two different species interacting. Now most organizations do it the way where analysts and scouts are trying to answer the same questions, using a lot of the same information and they’re just coming at it from two different directions. So the best organizations combine those two schools of thought.”
Sabermetrics or analytics are here to stay.
While you’re trying to figure out WRC+, +ERA, DRS or BsR, just remember the bottom line is still wins and losses.
“Once the game starts, it’s about observation analytics,” LaRussa said. “You watch and you make decisions. (The analytics) is great stuff, (but) the bat speed, how he’s throwing a fastball and the other things of the game, you can’t take that away from your managers or coaches.”