Phillies Close To Hiring Their Numbers Nerd

Jeff Zelevansky

It's been a long time coming but, finally, it appears the Phillies are close to hiring a nerd to run their analytics department. TGP runs down the list of possible candidates.

Ruben Amaro and the Phillies front office have never really been down with sabermetrics. In fact, their position on the subject may best be described this way...

Yeah, all those numbers and formulas and algorithms and such, that hasn't been for them. The Phils are one of the last remaining organizations to rely primarily on scouts, while largely ignoring some of the newer metrics of baseball, when making personnel decisions.

However, earlier this year, Amaro made some waves when he said the team was going to hire a person to handle analytics for the team, in an attempt to at least start utilizing all of the tools available to them.

"We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization," Amaro said last month, "But I think it's important to get all the information and analyze not just what we're doing, but how other clubs are evaluating players when we talk about possible trades and other sorts of things."

This was a breath of fresh air, and inspired some hope that maybe, just maybe, the Phillies saw the success of teams like the A's, Cardinals, Rays and Red Sox, and decided to get in on the things that were working for those teams.

To be fair, the Phillies made the playoffs five straight years doing things the way they always have, so you can understand why they may have felt a pivot to analytics was unnecessary. But after their second straight October-less season, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports the Phillies may finally be close to hiring their numbers nerd.

And happily, we here at The Good Phight have managed to pilfer the team's short list of potential candidates for the position. Surely, one of these great minds will help lead the team into the 21st century.

These are exciting times.

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Lewis Skolnick

Pros: Skolnick is comfortable in his own skin, and that confidence comes through in his job performance. Even though he is just a recent college graduate and has had trouble fitting in with others in the past, his ability to bring people together, all while maintaining his intellectual integrity, will be important as he tries to integrate his numbers-based approach with the scouting-heavy tradition of the franchise.

Cons: Skolnick's baseball experience is light, and he can sometimes show poor judgment. He can also be a bit gullible at times, and his desire to ingratiate himself and be accepted by others may lead him to acquiesce to the stronger positions of others. The Phillies need someone who can force Amaro to listen to him, and it's unclear if Skolnick has the temperament to forcefully voice his opinions to power.

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Steven Urkel

Pros: Urkel's brilliance is unquestioned. Though he is young (still in college by all accounts) he has accomplished a lot in his young life. Urkel's "transformation chamber," a device that allowed him to become a more confident, better looking version of himself, was groundbreaking, and has still never been duplicated by modern science. A mathematical mind such as this would pay huge dividends for the organization.

Cons: Urkel's annoying habits, neediness, and clingy nature could make him an overbearing personality in the front office. Urkel also seems to be driven by matters of the heart, which could be a distraction for a team that really needs an analytics man who is devoted to the team 24/7. Urkel would be tasked with starting this operation from the ground-up, and his constant need for affection from someone has the potential to interfere with his work. In addition, many of his inventions and ideas resulted in catastrophic failure. A better success rate would be preferable.

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Milhouse Van Houten

Pros: Van Houten is a bright young mind, with years ahead of him. Although he's just eight years old as of this writing, his greatest value would come in that the Phillies would be getting him right at the start of his career. He would likely give the Phils the best bang for their buck.

Cons: Because of his age, immaturity would be an obstacle. Plus, it's not clear he knows anything about the economics of baseball. He also has a reputation as being a target for bullies. Again, the Phils need someone with a backbone who can stand up to the old regime and force them to usher in this new analytical era. This is not Van Houten's strength. Still, he wears glasses and is a nerd, so his inclusion on this list cannot be easily discounted.

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Paul Pfeiffer

Pros: As a Harvard graduate and mathematics aficionado, Pfeiffer's educational background is perfect for the position. While not a big sports fan, Pfeiffer has shown a desire to work hard and an affinity for numbers and, if the deal is right, could be lured away from other, more lucrative opportunities.

Cons: Pfeiffer's athletic career was poor to say the least. However, it did improve as he got older, and taller. Pfeiffer's main negative his availability, as offers outside of baseball might be of more interest to him.

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John Nash

Pros: Obviously, it would be a coup to bring aboard a Nobel Prize winner in economics. Nash's areas of expertise include game theory, differential geometry and partial differential equations, all of which have been used in areas such as market economics, evolutionary biology, accounting, politics, military theory and more (thanks Wikipedia!). Frankly, this is the best pure mathematical mind available. I mean, look at all those equations on the window! WOW!

Cons: He's crazy. No seriously, he sees people and things that are not there. Remember the little girl in that movie? And the government dudes that follow him around and almost force him to drown his baby in the bathtub? Yeah, that kind of crazy. Plus, at age 85, he may be reluctant to embrace the 60-70 hour work week this job would likely entail. And the Phillies would probably rather not kill someone on the job.

And finally, there is one more candidate that was brought to my attention this morning; a candidate that cannot be ignored...

Pros: A graphic calculator is cheap. They can be found in any Office Max or Staples for under $100.

Cons: Amaro can just throw this thing out the window when no one can figure out how the TAN button works.

That said, there are plenty of quality candidates for the analytics position. All have their strong points and all have their flaws. The key will be finding the candidate, nay, the right nerd, who can convince Amaro to listen to him, embrace the analytical revolution (if you can call something that has been around for more than 10 years a "revolution"), and usher in a new era of Phillies baseball.

Here's hoping Amaro makes the right choice.

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