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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

6/6/24 : Just Sayin

It’s great that the Phillies are playing outstanding baseball and that interest in the team is at a peak once again.  Sure beats the down years when seats were empty and losses far outnumbered wins.  While to some it may  seem like it happened overnight the construct of the current team took strategic thought, a cutover in approach and even a bit of luck.  Embedded in the structure is a core philosophy of an expected standard which engulfs baseball operations and player development.

To get to this point a blended process of what many refer to as “old school baseball” coupled with technology, data analysis and video review has occurred. Yet that’s not only with the Phillies but throughout professional baseball. Teams that are successful value and have incorporated a robust approach.

Scouting and talent evaluation is an area where such blending is an example.  Recently I posed the question of how important in person scouting remains as compared to video and data review to multiple baseball operations folks from six different organizations. Included in my survey were baseball operations leadership, scouting directors, scouts and player development personnel.

Here is a synopsis of the responses :

It is very dependent on who is scouting and the philosophies of each organization.  If you have a great evaluator of talent, I like when they see a player in person.  However, there are other people who feel statistical information and video is as effective or more.  Ideally there is a combination of all the information.

All are obviously important. I think a lot of people in the industry believed that data review and video scouting could be sufficient, however, the 2020 Draft changed many people’s minds and they realized the ongoing importance of in person scouting.  As for me, if I had to pick just one it would be in person scouting.  Hope all is well!”

“If the choice is scouting versus video, I would think scouting. But really, the answer is that we are always going to try to use as many information sources as possible. Hope to see you around soon!”

“The more information you have the better the evaluation will be. So I believe the combination is the best answer.”

“You pose an interesting question, one that is a constant debate in the baseball circles. I definitely think both are important. As video and data quality continue to improve, particularly at the professional levels, we've been able to gather more and more insights. Most teams see it similarly. But there is still a role for in-person scouting. Ultimately I think blending the two perspectives makes for a really sound evaluation process.”

“I feel having a scout in the seats as well as all the analytical and video data is extremely important in making decisions. Hope all is well.”

“Hi Steve, Hope all is well!  I think that context is important in answering your question. The answer would vary based on level of competition, comfort level, background information, history on the player, make-up, etc..  A combination of both would probably be ideal for me in "evaluating" a player.  Always appreciate and enjoy your work!”

“Steve, I feel when making a decision that both are important. I will always be a proponent of in-person looks over video looks. I just feel that you can see more in-person and can get a better feel for how the player’s tools and pitches play within the speed of the game.  For example, we noted that when we had to scout off TV that some breaking balls looked much better than they would have in person.  It was tough to get a good feel for the finish and type of power they had. The same was true of fastballs and how some have that late life which is easier to see in-person from behind the plate. Also, when watching a player, as you know, there is a lot you can see that happens in between pitches that the video does not capture. With all that said, I do think referring to video to get a more technical look at a hitter's swing mechanics or a pitcher's delivery can be useful, especially once you have seen the player live.  As for the data, being able to marry that to the players evaluation can really help paint the picture on a player. Hope you are well.”

“Hey Steve, honestly, I like a mixture of both, and I get a ton of visual information from both. In person, you get the feel of the game, the body language and reactions of players, and you get to see guys when they are on base, how they run, how good their reads are off the bat when on defense, how well do they get out of the box, etc. You get to see how a pitcher gets through innings, how the chemistry is with the catcher, if he has a habit of laboring through innings or not, how coachable he is, players are in the dugout, etc.  The video part allows you to stop, pause, rewind, slo-mo and you get a full read of a guy without all of the dead time in between pitches. You see so much in both instances but if I had to pick, I would pick being in person and using my true natural feel / past experiences and applying it to what I am seeing.”

“The biggest thing for me is having boots on the ground - video and reading stats don’t tell you about a player’s on the field character or makeup like how they handle failure and success along with finding out off the field makeup and character. As you know that’s the hardest thing to quantify. Clubhouse chemistry is something you cannot measure and it truly does make or break a big league team on their present or future success - video and stats can’t measure that.  I also feel though that all aspects need to be part of the solution.”

“Steve - It’s a question each organization has likely asked itself.  Some organizations have moved almost totally to data and video with just a few scouts in the field to render an evaluation, others choose to use a more blended approach and yet others prefer scouts at the lower levels and let the data and video be the judge at AAA and the major league level.  I have always felt like the more information you have the better evaluation you should be able to make.  Hopefully the scouts eye will work ahead of any data, good or bad, to help the club make the best decision.”

A blended approach is the prevailing answer - it’s  common sense to utilize as much information as possible and to also acknowledge and value input from those on the ground accumulating the type of observations that data and video can’t portray.  From my perspective in any venture the value of first hand input when coupled with technology and data create the perfect storm of information.  To not acknowledge the entire lot would simply be a shortcut and I think that any winning standard protects and values a thorough understanding.  I get very tired of the “old school” vs “new school” debates - the compromise of blend as some may see it isn’t a compromise at all but rather an absolute advantage - just sayin.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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