The Mets followed the trend in baseball by hiring a manager who is open to using analytics. But Carlos Beltran takes it to a higher level…
The Mets left the old school of managing behind them in 2017 when Terry Collins moved upstairs to make way for the new wave stressing communication skills and analytics. The hiring of Mickey Callaway and, more significantly, Carlos Beltran solidifies the team’s transition to the 21st Century big-league manager.
Baseball has always been about numbers. Everything from who gets into the Ballball of Fame to arbitration salary settlements is based solely on numbers.
Likewise, Gerrit Cole will soon become the highest-paid pitcher in the game for one reason – the numbers he put up in 2019.
But today, numbers have morphed into something quite different from the norm we’re used to seeing.
Analytics – A Practical Definition
Analytics takes numbers to a higher level by introducing probability into the game. In simple terms, analytics takes a group of inputs (stats) and outputs (results) to produce the next probable outcome.
For instance, over ten starts let’s say, Mets starter Marcus Stroman‘s pitches are tracked. It is determined that when his slider (input) is thrown on a 3-1 count to right-handed hitters, the pitch goes for a base hit (output) four out ten times.
But when Stroman uses his four-seam fastball on the same count to the same batter, a base hit is the result only two times. Ergo – analytics tells Stroman not to throw his slider in that situation.
That should simplify things, but usually, they don’t, as many teams and coaches jump too fast thinking they have the “aha” moment.
But what if Stroman realized his four-seam fastball was not there for him that day, even during his warm-up in the bullpen? What then?
Throw it anyway, because that’s what your pitching coach has told you to do in that situation? He could, whispering to his coaches later, “See, I knew it.”
No team wants this conflict, but analytics can easily lead here if someone with a taste of common sense doesn’t step in – enter the Mets new manager, Carlos Beltran.
The Mets new manager has a unique approach
Carlos Beltran has an alternate approach to analytics that is as unique as it is refreshing.
Beltran sees analytics as information that is readily available to anyone associated with the game of baseball as it’s played today. Here it (information) is – do with it what you deem best.
To illustrate his thinking in practical terms, let’s take an example where our doctor shows us our recent blood test results.
The doctor concludes that our diet is way out of whack, causing an unneeded and unhealthy gain in weight. The doctor presents a referral to see a dietician as a way to correct the problem.
The doctor (coach, manager) has done his due diligence by providing the necessary information. Now the ball is in the patient’s court.
Let’s stay with the Stroman scenario to complete the point. Marcus Stroman is not a babe in the woods, as say Chris Mazza might be.
Whereas Mazza is likely to be “strongly encouraged” to throw that slider, Stroman is a full-fledged major league pitcher capable of acting on his own with the information given to him.
These pitchers carry their analytics catalog around in their heads. Any of them can reel off the sequence of pitches they threw to Batter A the last time they faced him – with the good or bad results – stamped on their brain.
Admittedly, the categorization by Beltran equating analytics to information was just a blurb during his introductory press conference on Monday. And sometimes, theory and practice don’t work in sync with each other.
Beltran transfers accountability to where it belongs
But baseball fans like myself, who see analytics as a dark cloud hanging over the game, reducing ballplayers to robots, may take heart in Beltran’s attempt to lighten the load a bit.
Mickey Callaway, to his credit, always preached that his players must be held accountable. Beltran is, in effect, raising that bar, telling his players – here’s what we know (information) – now you take it from here to make the right decision that results in a win for the team.
It’s the same as parents telling their children – I’ll guide you with a list of choices that accent the one we think you should choose – but from there, it’s on you to make the “right” choice.
It’s heady, it’s risky, but it’s far better than having a bunch of robots marching two steps to the left and three back to defend against a particular hitter – or else! Bravo, Carlos Beltran.
And by the way…
This isn’t something Carlos Beltran stumbled upon recently. His use of the word information as a synonym for analytics has been in his vocabulary since 2017 (short video here).