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John Henry says Red Sox will rely less on analytics

Discussion in 'Red Sox Forum' started by The Gray Eagle, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. The Gray Eagle

    The Gray Eagle Member SoSH Member

    Cafardo surely typed this in a state of pure glee.

    "Red Sox principal owner John Henry revealed a major shift in organizational philosophy Wednesday when he said the team was deemphasizing its reliance on analytics in making major decisions.

    “I spent at least two months sort of looking under the hood, and came to the conclusion that we needed to make changes,” said Henry, who also owns the Globe. “One of the things that we’ve done — and I’m fully accountable for this — is we have perhaps overly relied on numbers, and there were a whole host of things.

    “We have a very hands-on president of baseball operations [Dave Dombrowski] and a general manager [Mike Hazen] who worked extremely well together. We have made significant changes. The biggest thing is players on the field have to perform.”

    Original headline was probably something like "Henry to Stat Nerds: Drop Dead". The actual quotes are a lot less inflammatory, and are actually pretty obvious:

    “Over the years, we’ve had success relying on numbers, but that has never been the whole story, as we’ve said over and over again. But perhaps it was too much of the story... Perhaps there was too much reliance on past performance and trying to project future performance. That obviously hasn’t worked in three of the last four years... “We were never as far toward analytics as people thought we were,” added Henry. “And even now, I’m an analytics guy, I think we needed more of a balance. I started reaching it last season."

    "Summing up the new approach, Henry said, “I would put it that we’re more holistic and with a broader approach. These aren’t revolutionary but for us call it evolutionary.”

    It's never been the whole story, as they've said over and over again. Even so, Cafardo blithers on: "The Red Sox still employ Bill James, considered the father of analytics, as a senior adviser, and they have not reduced their analytics department. But the shift is toward using it as just a tool rather than the be-all-end-all." It's never been the whole story, says Henry. This big change means it won't be the be-all-end-all, says dopey sportswriter.

    But it is interesting that Henry went public to talk about this. Not sure why.

    Edit: goddamn autocorrect, can a dope change the SL from "reply" to "rely"?
    #1 The Gray Eagle, Feb 24, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  2. staz

    staz Intangible Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    If part of this is because Ben's numbers told him he could go to war with Buchholz/Porcello/Miley/Kelly/Disasterson, then I'm all for a different approach.
  3. TheoShmeo

    TheoShmeo Skrub's sympathy case Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    One of the reasons why I so love Belichick is that he tosses out nuggets of information about how his team operates as if they were manhole covers. How could it help the Red Sox to reveal this change in approach? And despite Nick's elation, this is NEVER the sort of thing that is binary in any event. So they shifted emphasis, fine. But, as the OP asks, why open the kimono that wide? Makes absolutely no sense to me. JWH couldn't possibly think it would help at the gate if the Sox announced they were de-emphasizing analytics, right?
  4. ifmanis5

    ifmanis5 Member SoSH Member

    Let's sign Steve Garvey!!!
  5. Papelbon's Poutine

    Papelbon's Poutine Homeland Security SoSH Member

    While I agree it doesn't seem like it would help anything, I also don't see what it can hurt. I don't find it analogous to BB discussing preparation for opponents, how they intend to counter certain things or even how they build their roster. I find it completely benign, to be honest. Admitting a reduction in statistical analysis when evaluating trades or FA signings, without any details or specifics about how they do either, means very little in the big scheme. Or at least I'm failing to see how it might.
  6. Trautwein's Degree

    Trautwein's Degree a Connecticut bicycle attorney in General Motor's Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Translation: "Ben took the Jeremy Brown chapter of Moneyball - that it doesn't matter what our players look like in jeans - way too far when he spent 95 million of my money on Panda".
  7. Harry Hooper

    Harry Hooper Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    The real takeaway is JWH is saying he's pretty pissed about the results obtained over the last few seasons, which is why Dombrowski and Price are now here.
  8. bankshot1

    bankshot1 Member SoSH Member

    Henry wanted Ruben Amaro to feel at home.
  9. Adrian's Dome

    Adrian's Dome Member SoSH Member

    Especially if it's the same analytics system that thought Hanley could play OF, Sandoval was a worth a 5-year commitment, and that you can consistently build winning bullpens out of scrap parts like Ross Jr, Breslow, and Ogando.
  10. johnnywayback

    johnnywayback Member SoSH Member

    Were those mistakes the result of prioritizing analytics too much, though? Or did Cherington just make a series of judgment calls that didn't work out? I think all of these calls were defensible, even if they weren't the ones I would have made, and while I understand if you want to get rid of Cherington as a way of holding someone accountable, I don't get how they represent an indictment of analytics itself.
  11. Adrian's Dome

    Adrian's Dome Member SoSH Member

    That's the point. We don't know. Ben may've been clouded by the success of 2013 and thought he could consistently build winners out of undervalued assets or perhaps it was the thought process of the entire regime for some time now and he fell on the sword for it, but whichever it was, it wasn't working.

    If this is Henry's idea of moving away from that line of judgement and continuing more with cashing in assets and finances to get guys like Price, Kimbrel, and Smith while retaining the truly elite young talent, well, I can't speak for all of you, but I'm all for it.
  12. TheoShmeo

    TheoShmeo Skrub's sympathy case Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I don't see any reason to allow teams the Sox might trade with or agents the Sox might negotiate with to know how the Sox evaluate or don't evaluate players. I think the Sox would negotiate from a greater position of strength if counter parties were less knowledgeable.

    I don't see this as a huge issue but I do think that there's not a lot of reason to share this insight. Or said differently, why reveal it? Does it help them in any way to do so?
  13. P'tucket rhymes with...

    P'tucket rhymes with... Member SoSH Member

    I don't think it tells anyone anything they didn't already know. He hired Dave Dombrowski and handed a 30 year old pitcher $217 million a year after the team wouldn't meet Lester's price tag because the numbers show that older pitchers aren't worth the risk.
  14. Papelbon's Poutine

    Papelbon's Poutine Homeland Security SoSH Member

    Again, I'm failing to see how he has tipped the hand of the FO in any way, certainly a negative one.

    So, in essence, 'we used to lean more towards one avenue of analysis, but now we will blend that with a more traditional method; we will use both'.

    End result, the agent or team has no f'ing clue what they are doing and how to approach them in any kind of advantageous way. I'd argue they are now, in fact, less knowledgable than they might previously have been. Now instead of harping on statical analysis to show why they should sign their client, the Sox are saying, "that's not the end all, be all it used to be for us."

    I'm seriously having trouble envisioning a scenario where this is detrimental. Perhaps you could provide a hypothetical for me demonstrating your view on it?
  15. Saints Rest

    Saints Rest Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    As someone aptly said in the Panda thread, Henry and Werner need to talk less.
  16. pantsparty

    pantsparty Member SoSH Member

    I assume he's just trying to tell fans "yeah we were shitty the last two years but now we're doing things different so we'll be better!" even if very little in their approach actually changed.
  17. Andrew

    Andrew broke his neck in costa rica SoSH Member

    Doing a shitty job of analyzing numbers doesn't mean analyzing numbers is wrong. This is stupid.
  18. Average Reds

    Average Reds Dope Staff Member Dope V&N Mod SoSH Member

    I had completely blocked this fact from my consciousness.

    Damn you.
  19. Lowrielicious

    Lowrielicious Member SoSH Member

    On the other hand, recognising that your ability to analyse numbers to predict the future is imperfect or limited and acting accordingly is not stupid.
  20. dynomite

    dynomite Member SoSH Member

    It is particularly bizarre given that the organization has been one of the most successful in MLB during the Henry tenure.

    This feels like an awful lot of soul searching for a franchise that has won 3 of the past 12 World Series trophies.

    Edit: To be clear, I realize they've had some dreadful years of late and have only made the playoffs in 1 of the past 6 seasons. Overall, this remains a bizarre organization. In some ways, Henry seems as confused as we are.
  21. Fred not Lynn

    Fred not Lynn Dick Button Jr. SoSH Member

    I think the thing is, now, EVERYONE is using analytics...you're not really getting ahead continuing to rely on that sort of approach. Analytics aren't cutting edge anymore, they're common. The guys who led the way into something by being progressive should be the first guys to move on, really.

    I am surprised they'd publicly say so, though...
  22. The Price Is Wrong

    The Price Is Wrong Banned

    Why would you damn him? The fact that a man who, last year, was Generally Managing the Phillies is now our first base coach is a matter of the highest hilarity, and yet somehow doesn't negatively impact the Red Sox in any way. It really is Henry's trolling masterstroke.
  23. johnnywayback

    johnnywayback Member SoSH Member

    Yes, exactly. And being reluctant to trade prospects for veterans or spend money on high-end free agents isn't the same thing as believing in analytics.
  24. threecy

    threecy Cosbologist SoSH Member

    Why throw him a bone? Because Henry owns the Globe.

    Why announce other factors? Perhaps other teams had figured out how to predict Boston's decisions using their analytics and this is a tactic to mix things up a little bit.
  25. JimBoSox9

    JimBoSox9 will you be my friend? SoSH Member

    I think this audience generally underestimates the positive reaction this sentiment will get in the fanbase at large. This is just a hump of pretty meaningless PR for the cheap seats. with apologies to the lawyers among us who have understandably developed a bunker mentality over the past year. Obviously DD is here and BC is not, so this offseason contained a bit more than the usual amount of organizational philosophy rewriting, but there's neither a larger truth about analytics or negotiating leverage to be had here. Teams can no more operate without some analytics in their approach than a regular business can operate without using the Internet.
  26. joe dokes

    joe dokes Member SoSH Member

    I agree. It's a bone to the masses. The difference isn't that there will be less info going to the new GM. The difference is that there's a new GM.
  27. PayrodsFirstClutchHit

    PayrodsFirstClutchHit Member SoSH Member

    Translation: The saber guys can suck it! Intangibles are back!
  28. Savin Hillbilly

    Savin Hillbilly loves the secret sauce SoSH Member

    Did Henry say analyzing numbers was wrong? I missed that.

    And it's not necessarily as simple as "doing a shitty job of analyzing numbers" unless you interpret that phrase very broadly. There's also the possibility of leaning too hard on the quantifiable. When a factor is hard to put a number on, that does not necessarily mean that factor can safely be ignored. "Intangibles" are one obvious example--the signing of Pierzynski would be the case study there. Another example would be investing as much as $110M in a free agent predicated on him moving to a new position that he'd never played in his life before, when he had a history of defensive mediocrity at two positions. That was arguably a foolish risk. But I think the foolishness of it would have been hard to quantify.
  29. JimD

    JimD Member SoSH Member

    This organization would be much better served if ownership would speak as little to the media as possible and let the GM do the talking.
  30. threecy

    threecy Cosbologist SoSH Member

    Except the organization literally owns local sports media, so they have a vested interest having stories for the media to cover.
  31. Buzzkill Pauley

    Buzzkill Pauley Member SoSH Member

    Yeah, this is about as far as I took JWH's comments.

    Henry must be extremely disappointed about having last-place results in three of the last four years, while his team both bankrolled the 3rd-highest payroll in MLB and also got only one really good asset from two consecutive deadline fire-sales of some really high-quality players.

    Those historical results demand taking a different approach in the future, which it appears JWH is committed to. I don't like Cafardo's slant on it, but I appreciate his not being satisfied to continue trusting a process that didn't work.
  32. The Allented Mr Ripley

    The Allented Mr Ripley holden Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    The irony is that signing Panda was a horrible move from both an analytical and "eye test" standpoint.

    I still think the Sandoval and Hanley contracts were handed out based on pressure from the ownership group (a la Crawford), so to hang the failures of the club on analytics -- and therefore BC -- is conveniently disingenuous.
  33. lexrageorge

    lexrageorge Member SoSH Member

    To address a couple of points in this thread:

    First, it's not reasonable to expect the Red Sox ownership team to never speak to the media. There are a lot of reasons for that, but baseball is not football, and, like it or not, Henry and Werner are relatively active owners when it comes to the operation of the team.

    The idea that Henry revealed some state secret that will ultimately hurt the team is laughable. They will still continue to scout, sign, and trade for players. It's not like they told all 31 teams that they are eliminating their analytics department, and therefore the other teams will be able to fleece them and obtain the next Kevin Youkilis for a relief pitcher that chalks up a lot of saves.

    I view Henry's comments that they will be perhaps a bit more flexible when it comes to making decisions about obtaining players. Yes, the analytics say that closers are overrated. But the analytics also say that ace relief pitchers are certainly valuable. So picking up a relief ace and using him as a closer is something that should be done if the situation demands it. Hence the Kimbrel acquisition. The numbers say that paying big $$$ to older pitchers is usually a bad investment. However, the Sox still have to field a competitive team, and there are still excellent pitchers still pitching in their 30's. Hence, David Price.

    But nothing he said about the above, or about Sandoval, is going to impact the team's preparation this spring, or its performance on the field.

    The side "benefits" to Henry's comments: it makes 2 of his employees (Cafardo and Shank) ecstatic. It will give Felger, Mazz and the rest something to talk about the rest of the week besides Sandoval and Ramirez. And it helps answer the dumbest question of all: Why did the Sox sign David Price just 12 months after deciding John Lester wasn't worth the money....
  34. Smiling Joe Hesketh

    Smiling Joe Hesketh All Hail King Boron Dope

    Not to mention that Theo, who helped bring the club WS titles in part due to his analytical approach, has rebuilt the Cubs along the same principles and taken them from 95 loss seasons to a playoff team.

    You'd think the ownership might have noticed that.

    JWH owns the team and the Globe so he can say whatever he wants. But IMO it's stupid for him to say anything about the team's strategies for building a winner. Any idiot can see that Ben was cashiered in part because he spent a lot of money over the last couple of years and the team stunk. The hope is that the large amount of money they spent this offseason (as well as the trade for Kimbrel) will show better results. Assigning blame for the last two seasons to analytics is simplistic and wrong. Analytics might have pointed out that it's not smart to hand a huge fat guy a big contract for his early 30s without a weight clause. Common sense would have said that too.
  35. lexrageorge

    lexrageorge Member SoSH Member

    Except he didn't say any of that. He actually said he takes responsibility for the approach the team had taken, didn't like the results, so they will be changing their approach, like any good organization. Cherington could have stayed on as GM, except he chose not to.

    It would not be surprising that the analytics department said that Sandoval, Ramirez, and Crawford all predicted positive WAR for all 3 players. There are some charts and numbers in the Sandoval thread that can lead one to optimism.

    This whole thing could also be Henry's way of saying that Dombrowski is going to have the freedom to make the final decisions on matters related to baseball, something that prior GM's and Baseball Ops guys did not truly have to the degree that they wanted. We know that Epstein never had final authority, and neither did Cherington. Maybe that's the change, but Henry did not want to state it in that terms. But Dombrowski would have been unlikely to take the job if every decision he made was going to be questioned and potentially overruled by ownership.
  36. troparra

    troparra Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    In 2011, Miguel Cabrera put up a .344/.448/.586 line as a 1st baseman. It was his 4th year with Detroit, each of which he played 1st base. He would turn 29 at the beginning of the 2012 season, and he was signed through 2016.
    Had the Tigers used analytics, one thing it should have told them was they did NOT need a slugging, slow-footed, mediocre fielding 1st baseman.

    But Dombrowski went out and signed exactly that - Prince Fielder - thereby necessitating Cabrera's move to 3rd base.
    It worked. Cabrera won the triple crown and MVP as a 3rd baseman in 2012, Prince put up a line of .313/.412/.528 in 162 games, and the Tigers made it to the World Series.

    To me, JWH's comments mean that Dombrowski is free to make moves like this despite the howling disagreement of the analytics division.
  37. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

    What analysis told some people years ago is not necessarily what it is telling the Red Sox right now. All of these teams are figuring out new ways to look at the same data, and finding new data to look at. To think everybody who is doing numerical analysis is coming to the same conclusions, and will come to the same conclusions forever is just not right. Closers and top relief pitchers seemed to change hands for higher costs this offseason. Maybe a few people are weighting their impact higher than previously.
  38. Smiling Joe Hesketh

    Smiling Joe Hesketh All Hail King Boron Dope

    A couple of points:

    - Cabrera actually declined from 2011 to 2012. Of course he declined from 179 OPS+ to 164 OPS+, so it's not like he was awful. He was a great player before Fielder was signed, and he remained a great player afterwards. And in 2013 he was even better than in 2011 or 2012.

    - Fielder had an excellent season in his first year in Detroit (151 OPS+), but it was worse than his year before, and he did EXACTLY what you'd expect a big fat slugger to do from age 29 onwards: he declined steadily. His last year in MIL his OPS+ was 164. Since then: 151, 122, traded to Texas for the rotting corpse of Ian Kinsler (caution: hyperbole), 102, 126.

    Fielder's signing was a poor one because they signed him to a 9 year, $124 million contract and got only 2 good years out of him before having to dump him on Texas and paying $30 million of his salary to do so. And it was entirely foreseeable that this might happen because Fielder apparently loves to cosplay as Barbapapa.

    If this is ignoring analytics then count me as not bring a fan. The Sox have EXACTLY the same situation here with Pablo, except that Fielder was good in his first year with his new team and Pablo stunk.
  39. Danny_Darwin

    Danny_Darwin Member SoSH Member

    Here's what it comes down to in my reading of the quote - they spent so much time on analysis in the last few years that they lost sight of the bigger picture. To use the Sandoval example, I read (sorry about the lack of link) that one reason they liked him was because they thought his lack of plate discipline would be a good way to combat the expanding strike zone. The starting pitchers they selected last year were also chosen to take advantage of the zone. We saw how well this worked out (in year one, at least). Was it really possible that nobody took a step back and said "hey wait - we just gave a ton of money to a guy whose body might not age well and a bunch of pitchers with iffy track records - are we sure this is a good idea?" I hope not. But I think Henry might simply be implying that "common sense" could be getting more of a voice from now on.

    Put differently, I remember the last few years people describing the FO as "out-thinking" themselves and looking for creative solutions, bounceback candidates, and players who fit what they thought might be the next hot trend in baseball (RH power, sinkerballers, etc). This year, though, they just went out and got the three best players available at positions of need, as opposed to signing, I dunno, Kazmir and Fister (preserve those draft picks!) and leaving us fans to pore through their FG profiles to come up with some way of proving how those two guys are going to equal the production of Price.
  40. lexrageorge

    lexrageorge Member SoSH Member

    Consider the bright side: Dombrowski had his Fielder moment, just like Cherington had his Sandoval moment, and Theo had his Crawford moment. Bottom line is that every GM is going to have one of these moments, no matter how much analytics are used.
  41. Smiling Joe Hesketh

    Smiling Joe Hesketh All Hail King Boron Dope

    Absolutely agree with you here.

    It's rather amazing that Just a couple of years after dumping all those bad contracts on the Dodgers in 2012, Cherington was out of a job here because he managed to replace those bad contracts with more bad contracts, even as he was a WS in between. Strange career arc to be sure.
  42. lexrageorge

    lexrageorge Member SoSH Member

    There's a couple of items I am curious about when it comes to Cherington's moves:

    Was it Cherington looking for the quick fix in the Panda/Ramirez signings after injuries and aging turned the 2013 team into a last place team? Or was it Lucchino? Werner? Henry?

    Was it Panda/Ramirez that resulted in Cherington being unpromoted? Or was it the rather questionable return from the Lester/Lackey/Cespedes trades, among others? I'll assume that it was a combination of all the above for both questions, but it would be interesting to hear the inside stories on these questions.
  43. chrisfont9

    chrisfont9 Member SoSH Member

    This is definitely my assumption. That plus a little red meat to the CHB to shut him up for a while. [I haven't seen anything as infantile as his name-calling at Billl James in a while. God, what a loser.]
  44. shaggydog2000

    shaggydog2000 Member SoSH Member

    Sandoval wasn't signed because statistical analysis or scouting exclusively. It's not like they had no plan, punched some data into a computer and it spat out "you must sign Pablo Sandoval!", and they went along with it. They had come off two straight seasons of Will Middlebrooks being a disaster at 3B, had no prospects anywhere close to contributing at the position, when they asked no one was available in trade (although there was when somebody else asked, who knows how that worked), there were only really two viable options in free agency, and neither of them were great. Choosing between the pretty average/limited upside Headley and the higher upside/higher flop potential Sandoval was pretty much the same decision whether you trusted scouts or stats geeks. Everybody pretty much agreed about their qualities, it's not like the Sox were blinded by a crazy random stat Sandoval excelled at. They had to sign a free agent, or they were going to have a giant hole at 3B. So they signed what turned out to be a giant hole at 3B for a long term and lots of money. And both options went on to suck last year. Just one sucked more and for more money. But he also has some potential to turn things around this year. Strange stuff happens. Even to portly fellows who don't like to talk about their waist lines.
  45. ALiveH

    ALiveH Member SoSH Member

    I took JWH's comments as pretty devoid of real substance, but vague enough that it gives some fans more hope. Hope is a powerful emotion. And, after a miserable season you need to give fans hope to keep them interested.

    Remember the discussion on this board of how awesome Sandoval & HanRam's spray charts would look at Fenway? The common sense / eye test guys ended up being right and the guys who relied on the spray charts were wrong.

    Also, we had a lot of options to fill 3B. We could have slid Bogaerts to 3B & found a Free Agent SS. We could have had HanRam move to 3B after he'd just played all year at SS (in this scenario he wouldn't have bulked up like he did). We could have had Brock Holt be our full time 3B.
  46. RustyKuntzwasnotastripper

    RustyKuntzwasnotastripper lurker

    The way they were promoting all the panda stuff last year after the signing made me feel marketing had some pull in the descision as well.
  47. BusRaker

    BusRaker lurker

    Less analytics = more dream boat players! They're going after the pink hats!
  48. phenweigh

    phenweigh Member SoSH Member

    "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." - Albert Einstein
  49. InsideTheParker

    InsideTheParker Member SoSH Member

    From what I have heard, he was:
    1) regretting not giving more weight to what they had heard about Sandoval resisting a weight-loss regimen and Ramirez not putting in maximum effort, and
    2) putting too much faith in the analytical predictions of beneficial Fenway Park effects on the production of Sandoval and Ramirez. He was trying to be deliberately vague, because he would have had to insult those players if he had been more specific.
  50. YTF

    YTF Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    I have this same question. Think back a couple of years back to something Tito wrote in his book about (and I'm paraphrasing here) the organization's need to bring in sexier players to boost ratings. Not sure what the definition of "sexy" was here, but coming off a shit year following a World Championship the Sox made a big splash in the FA market by signing Sandoval and Ramirez. I really question how much of that was Ben. Oh and by the way, a year later both Ben and Larry (the guy that Theo could no longer work under) are both gone.

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