The day that many Phillies fans have dreamed about is finally here: The Phillies have hired a statistical analyst! After years of relying solely on scouting for their player evaluation, the team has finally joined the rest of baseball in embracing the statistical revolution….or maybe not.
As originally reported by Todd Zolecki, the Phillies have hired Scott Freedman, formerly of Major League Baseball’s Labor Relations Department. Freedman worked on salary arbitration cases, provided financial guidance to teams, and in doing so, gained a deep knowledge of advanced metrics.
This move seems like a radical change for an organization that has been notoriously resistant to statistical analysis under the regime of general manager Ruben Amaro. But based on this quote from Amaro, this hire isn’t going to mark a seismic shift in the team’s methods of operation:
I don’t know if it’s going to change the way we do business, necessarily. We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization, but I think it’s important to get all the information and analyze not just what we’re doing, but how other clubs are evaluating players.
This implies that the Phillies aren’t planning on changing how they evaluate talent, but they’ve become curious why other teams seem so high on certain players. For example, it could tell them why many people seemed to think that Nate Schierholtz was a much better option in right field than Delmon Young.
Similar to Amaro, assistant GM Scott Proefrock did not imply that a new era in Phillies baseball was at hand:
We may find something we are intrigued by, and we may find something we’re not intrigued by. But we need to do more investigation and more research internally before we come to some conclusion about what may be right for us, in conjunction and certainly not to supersede what our scouts do.
In other words, don’t expect the Phillies to suddenly become the “Moneyball” A’s.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm by the team’s executives, it’s hard to see this move as anything but a positive for the organization. Many people have criticized the Phillies for handicapping themselves by refusing to acknowledge all of the potential data available. Now at least they will have the information, even if they choose to ignore it. That’s a small step in the right direction.