Finding Mickey With A Pencil

By William Coppola- Contributor Bronx Chronicle Sports

The search for the next Mike Trout or Max Scherzer has taken on a new partner. That being, analytics and algorithms. Today professional baseball organizations, have asked their scouts to give them more than the eye test when evaluating talent. 

Now that may sound like a logical thing to do, as there is so much new technology available for them to use. Like radar guns, video equipment, lap tops etc. When you see a guy lugging around a giant back pack or rolling carry on at a ballpark, you are looking at a professional scout with all his modern equipment. Tom Greenwade, the guy who discovered Mickey Mantle, carried a two inch note pad and a pencil. 

I do recognize that things change and being able to adapt to these changes will in fact help a scout at the AA, AAA and Major League levels. The older more experienced scouts do use these new tools to gather more information.

It does help them to see if they missed something about a player and in some cases it will reaffirm their findings. But its mostly information for the analytical mathematicians back in the front offices. Numbers they will gather, that will be used to make up all the new sabermetric formulas. With acronyms that are becoming harder for the average fan to understand.

Things like BAA, wOBA, wRC+, OPS+, BABIP and FIP. Seriously, how many of you will be googling that stuff right now? I don’t know about you but I knew if a player was good, middle of the road or headed to the bush leagues, by looking at his home run total (HR), runs batted in (RBI) and batting average (BA). 

For scouts though, there is more to it than that. They need to see a player over a length of time. One big time scout would tell me, “You would never want to use a report from April to make a trade in July.” Videos? He also told me, “Robin Yount’s HS video, was the worst ever.” and that “Boots on the ground is imperative, in all phases of scouting.”

In other words, the scouts eyes and experience should be the most important information for a GM in evaluating of a player. 
There is no algorithm or sabermetric way to evaluate a players poise, aggressiveness or pichability. All things that are a part of his makeup. Wow, he throws 96 mph, but he couldn’t hit the ocean! He can run to first in 3.40 seconds, but can’t steal a base.

Or he has a cannon for an arm behind the plate, but he can’t catch a watermellon! 

The bottom line is “Can he play?” When I worked with the great scout Tom, TBONE, Giordano, I asked him what “KP” meant on his notes for a players evaluation. He told me it meant “Can’t Play” and that’s all he needed to know.

In other words, “KISS” or “Keep It Simple Stupid.”

By the way, the scouts who work in amateur baseball who are looking for the next major league star today, have no analytical help at those levels. A veteran scout can usually evaluate a player on just a few at bats, innings pitched and a couple of ground balls or fly balls because of his experience and knowledge.

The availability of analytical numbers increases little by little as a player moves from high school to college. So these scouts are going out with a radar gun a stop watch and a small note pad. Let’s just say, a smaller back pack and no luggage. 

And you know who they find? The next Mickey Mantle. Just like Tom Greenwade did with his two inch note pad and a pencil. 

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