The hiring of famed baseball historian and statistician, Bill James, as a senior baseball advisor for the Boston Red Sox in 2002 marked the start of a philosophical shift throughout baseball.
Prior to James’ hiring, baseball teams relied almost exclusively on talent scouts in order to determine the best possible players available to them at each position on the field. The scouts would provide a subjective analysis of how each observed player performed, and that analysis would be used to project the player’s likely future success within their organization.
James saw things a little differently.
In the 1980s, James gained notoriety in the baseball world as one of its most respected historians and statisticians. He began an annual publication titled “The Bill James Baseball Abstract,” which sought to analyze baseball performance through objective, statistical data, rather than through the subjective assessments of talent scouts.
And while he never intended for his statistical analysis, which he coined ‘Sabermetrics’, to actually replace scouting, his appointment by the Boston Red Sox indicated that the baseball world might be ready to do just that.
Since then, the emphasis on advanced statistical analysis has skyrocketed.
Today, there isn’t a single discussion about Cy Young contenders, MVP Candidates, or Minor League prospects that doesn’t include at least a mention of Sabermetrics. In the great Albert Pujols free-agency saga, the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) statistic is one that has been used to discuss just how valuable he has been to the St. Louis Cardinals organization. And now, 17 different Major League teams have bought Bloomberg Scouting Tools, a new sports analytics service that will surely be put to use in at least supplementing the scouting programs of these 17 franchises.
With so many different franchises now tying their organization’s future viability directly into the new science of sports analytics, what does this mean for scouting?
Has too much value been placed on stats, at the expense of the good old fashioned gut feel of scouting a player?
According to Loyal Homer, statistics cannot match human instinct, and there are some things that just cannot be quantified. On the other hand, Sports Geek argues that the validity of these new statistics cannot be denied, and they are proven more meaningful every day.
Until now, scouting was always perceived as an inexact science. Have the number-crunchers found a way to change that?