In recent days there has been a firestorm brewing in Redsland. The controversy centers around 700 WLW-AM radio talk show host Paul Daugherty and column he wrote in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Daugherty’s assessed the validity of sabermetrics and how they help or hinder the outcome of managerial decisions on the baseball diamond.
The original column appeared in the March 9th issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer and was entitled, “Baker Judges by His Senses: Knowing What Makes Players Tick More Important Than Stats”. Daugherty argues that fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants managing, a style that new Reds manager Dusty Baker employs is the best way to manage because “players are not numbers.” On his most recent radio show on March 11th, Daugherty goes on to describe sabermetricians “college professors” who “are ivory tower types” and calls out managers who use sabermetrics as “not confident in their managerial skills.”
We understand that there is a natural aversion to sabermetics. Traditional baseball stats and their importance has been passed down from generation to generation. However, a different passion is found when talking about baseball and sabermetrics. Just like some people enjoy a technical aspect of movies, most people only want to know who won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Similiarly, sabermetricians want to look deeper at two fundamental questions when it comes to the game of baseball:
Why are teams successful? Unsuccessful?
What can a team do better improve their chances at winning?
No sabermetrician is forcing people to look at baseball in a different way. It is a different level of appreciation. If you prefer to go to the ball game, have a few brews, and enjoy a nice summer’s night, then you can do that. If you want to keep score, follow the stats and dissect the game on a different level then you can do that.
In business, you want to have every advantage possible for success. It is the same in baseball. In our view, sabermetrics is akin to nothing more than a detailed auditing of the performance and how to get more return for the same amount of investment. If an accountant knows more ways to save the company money and find a way to maximize productivity, any CEO would be willing to make the necessary changes to remain competitive and to get an edge on the competition. Successful General Managers like Mark Shapiro in Cleveland and Kevin Towers in San Diego recognize the importance of incorporating sabermetrics into the “traditional” way of thinking when evaluating talent and putting a winning product on the field.
Sabermetrics is not the be-all, end-all way of thinking. Nor should Dusty Baker and the Reds continue a single-minded approach when drafting players, developing their minor leagues, and deploying specific in-game strategy. Daugherty claims he has an open-mind about the practice of sabermetrics, but was more than dismissive of his guest on the radio program. The old saying goes “If you keep doing what you do, you’ll always get what you’ve got.” If the Reds keep employing the same approach, they will always have the same result. They should try to implement all possible avenues to become successful.