Monday, December 19, 2005

Quality Start

"The Player who can retain his joy for baseball is the one who has not let others' needs intrude upon his own. He is also the one most likely to perform the best, and that, in turn, will help keep the fun in the game. His senses won't be dulled; his being won't be threatened." -- The Mental Game of Baseball.

Found: Carson Bailey, a thirty-something wonderboy looking to find the next Albert Pujols with his PC. Not to mention that he's my new bird dog for south Florida. We ate lunch at a small pizzeria on the circle in Hollywood. In looking back on how things went, I can honestly say that today was quite a day for "firsts." Until today, I've never seen anyone put mayonnaise on their breadsticks. Until today, I've never seen anyone bring a Starbucks latte into a pizzeria explaining that it brings out the best flavors in a pepperoni pizza. Until today, I've never heard of anyone emailing the GM of a club with some uniquely arranged data on college players and being offered a job on the spot. Not even Goldie was so fortunate. I believe it took him at least three emails to get the GM's attention.

Until today, I had never heard the term "Sabermetrics." Hopefully I spelled that correctly. Anyhow, I couldn't get Carson to shut up about it. Even worse, he insisted on trucking through his pizza while talking at the same time. Little bits of pepperoni flew out of his mouth all over the table, including on my own plate. When I wasn't picking the extra topping off my pizza, I tried to discuss my philosophy on scouting. Unfortunately, Carson has an advanced listening impediment which causes his tongue to never slow down. I couldn't hardly get a word in edgewise. At least Goldie let me talk. Now whether he was listening is another story.

When I was able to ask for some sort of bio, he reached down for a well-worn Manila folder and pulled out what resembled a resume. The corners of the paper were dog-eared and there looked to be a round coffee stain from a Starbucks coffee cup, no doubt. He confessed that he didn't expect that I would ask for the resume and then proceeded to hack through an awkward apology for its appearance. Taking a quick glance, it was all business related and computer stuff. He got his MBA from some school in Philadelphia, worked on Wall-Street for a couple years, left to start his own computer company and is now in the process of trying to sell it.

"Any game experience?" I asked.

"Does little league count? I batted clean-up," he replied sarcastically.

I ran my fingers through what little hair I have left. That's just great. He's a smartass too! Where's my cigarettes? When does the sports psychologist come to town? Not a minute too soon for me.

Not really knowing what his capacity for the game was, I decided to give him some homework. Two traveling teams were scheduled to scrimmage in Kendall tonight in order to prepare themselves for a tournament over the holiday break. I had roughly three legitimate draft prospects that were to be in action. One of which was a third baseman named Xavier Pacheco. I watched his kid last year rally his high school team to a district championship as a junior. What impressed me the most, however, was his mental focus during the district championship game.

The opposing team's players, parents, students, and even the mascot where shouting bizarre and downright offensive comments at Xavier every time he entered the on-deck circle, took the field at third, and stepped in the batter's box. It was non-stop and incredibly distracting even for me just watching. Apparently Xavier had transferred from that same school a year earlier and everyone got the great idea that he was a traitor and deserved to be abused in the worst way.

Anyhow, he hit the game winning RBI and went 3 for 4 that evening. I asked him afterwards about all the shouting and name calling, and how he could maintain his focus for nine innings. He responded bluntly, "Somebody was calling me names? Who?"

Xavier simply detached himself from the "real world" and became the game. The "intruder's" weren't even given a chance to enter his field of play. In the end, their attempts to frustrate Xavier and to ultimately make him lose concentration, were futile. It is rare for a junior in high school to possess such mental focus in a clutch game. I have been one of his biggest fans since that game. I know his game inside and out. That is why I sent Carson to scout Xavier and to write a scouting report for me to review tomorrow morning. Not only do I want Carson to see the type of player that I'm looking for, but I want to see how good Carson is at seeing it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your deal against performance scouting? I don't think any of the Moneyball teams exclusively use performance scouting; if they are, they are idiots. However, just simply evaluating some guy on "tools" is also ridiculous. I think there is a time and place for both. If a guy has no track record, then you may be skeptical of his tools. However, a guy with the best OPS in the world may not be a big leaguer unless he has something special to seperate him.

I guess what I am saying is to use your bird-dogs to your advantage. These guys are looking at someone cold without ever seeing them play. The bird-dogs have numbers for you. Now take what you know and apply that to those numbers. If there is an overlap, great. That is a good prospect for you. But if there isn't an overlap (ie, the guy has good numbers, but you don't like his tool OR you like the prospect's tools but his numbers stink), take some time to review what and critique both analyses. But wholly rejecting one approach is stupid and will get you fired.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

uh... anonymous, don't get all worked up... it's quite the other way... this is a numbers guy (not an actual scout) relating a fiction story of being (eventually) won over by the numbers guys... be patient.. he'll get to it... and by the way, Mr. Scout... high school games are seven innings, not nine -- everywhere in the country

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if it's fiction, it's good fiction for a blogger on baseball.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, well...i guess to each his own... "good" fiction? it's not authentic and it's pretty shallow... but whatever floats your boat

11:00 AM  

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