SABR Analytics Conference
Stat of the Week
by Peter Liubicich
SABR Analytics Conference
This post was written by Peter Liubicich on March 22, 2012
Posted Under: Stat of the Week

In continuing from Monday here are some of the pieces of information I learned from the brightest minds in MLB.

In SABR President Vince Gennaro’s presentation “Top 10 Value Plays for Building a Roster,” the Diamond Dollars author spoke about how every team in MLB is looking for value and there are a number of ways teams hunt for value.

One point Gennaro made was exploiting data bases and that although metrics have advanced so far in the past decade, metrics are still imperfect as they often neglect secondary factors which create value or wins.  Examples of ways teams can exploit data bases is by looking at pitchers who pitch deep into games, something that is not captured in WAR or FIP, but still has a profound effect on the bullpen.

The deeper a pitchers goes into a game, the more outs lower quality relievers will not have to get in the 5th or 6th inning which over the course of the season means that starting pitcher is saving that team a greater amount of runs by going deeper and not letting inferior pitchers come into the game

The GM Panel featuring Indians GM Chris Antonetti, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and Brewers GM Doug Melvin touched on topics such as defense, free agency, and pitching, but the most revealing information I found was when they talked about how there needs to be major advancements in terms of medical analytics and measuring the human element in baseball.

The three GMs found these areas to be the next frontier as some teams end up paying players millions of dollars to rehab at their facilities and don’t add value to their team.  Further Dipoto noted that aside from the five tools the Angels look for in players, a player’s mental makeup may be the most critical area of evaluation.  They try to look at a player’s work ethic, character and willingness to win.  Antonetti then elaborated on this point by saying for a GM, evaluating players is more of an art than a science and that the Indians are looking for players motivated by winning collectively.  Melvin, who had the most old-school mindset of the group, then took the conversation into the dugout by saying that for the mental aspect of baseball to place less of a strain on players, they need a manager who understands that baseball is a tough game to play and that the players themselves need thick skin.

Finally, the panel with Mark Shapiro, former GM and current President of the Indians touched on a number of topics including the mental makeup of players and the lack of predictive medical research in baseball currently.  A couple of interesting insights that I found was that teams need to take more pride in their minor league system, especially the AAA team, as if can build a winning culture at that level, when a team calls up their players they’ll be bringing with them a winning attitude.  Shapiro also said that although fans look first to the free agent market to improve their team in the offseason, Major League Free Agency is actually a very inefficient market.

In all, the SABR conference was definitely a worthwhile experience that I would recommend to any fan of baseball in the future.  The sharing of ideas of where baseball stands currently and the avenues in which sabermetricians can explore to further the game in the future was both revealing and inspiring.  I hope to see some of the readers of the website there next year!

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