💩 scouts, stories, and sabermetricians

The biggest change in sports has been in tracking during (competitions) and after (health). Among this change are three groups; scouts, story-tellers (the media) and sabermetricians.

Let’s momentarily defend scouts, the Richard I of their era.

Before analytics joined the team, sport scouts were the best way to get information on a player. And though they are maligned today, they did a good job. The 'five tool' baseball player was just a basic quantification. Today it seems rudimentary but for classification and ordinal rankings it did the job well.

Once more data, different people (i.e. different perspectives), and new models and maths came along, the smartest teams used those quantification techniques. This process was conveyed in Michaels Lewis's best-selling book Moneyball and then glamorized in the movie by the same name, starring Brad Pitt.

As Scouts gab, Beane/Brad mimes.

Analytics introduced a data deltas. Sabermetricians knew more than scouts and story-tellers.

The game of baseball hadn’t changed, but the sensors had. The scouts just didn’t notice. Imagine that in ten years your car gives feedback on your driving. Each time you exit the car there's a report about how many lines you crossed, how closely following a car would have made stopping in time a superhuman feat, or how inefficient you were on the gas. Driving has the same rules but there's more data. The same for scouts.

The media is similar to the scouts but with a different angle. If scouts want to win games, the media wants to make things interesting. That means stories and good stories mean conflict.

The scouts, story-tellers, and sabermetricians story plays out nicely in the book, Big Data Baseball, about the Pittsburgh Pirates rebuild. The media and scouts ripped the 'Moneyballers' because their data was different.

This is a warning story because though scouts and media were outsiders to the front office it didn't mean they were more right. Or couldn’t be informed. The outside view doesn't mean "not us." The outside view means what normally happens.

Tomorrow we’ll see this story through the lens of my favorite word and least favorite emoji.